So good! It's so good right now on Ryuki!

Obviously, a lot of that is down to Kitaoka. Kamen Rider Scumbag is maybe one of my favorite secondary Riders of all time? After maybe three episodes? Every scene he's in kills, from his mentor relationship with Shinji, through his gross come-ons with Yui and Reiko, to his Don't Hate The Player shit with Ren. He's so perfectly smarmy, with his Greed Is Good ethos and his manservant and that he hates kids... why is it that everything that's horrible about Kitaoka is so awesome? (Honestly, I felt like a total asshole watching these episodes. Every time Kitaoka or Ren were dicks, which was so often, it was cracking me up. There's a point where Ren's being horrible to Shinji, when Shinji's been falsely imprisoned, and Yui goes "Leave him alone, Ren," and I out loud said to the show, "Do NOT leave him alone, Ren. Never leave him alone." I love it when Riders are awful to each other! That's what Ex-Aid did, and by God it's the right way to do it.) These two episodes are chock-a-block with Kitaoka, and they are sterling. Kamen Rider Scumbag forever.

The other big thing now, I guess, is the tea shop? We're there a lot now? Masked Rider Ryuki seems all-in on the tea shop, and I'm of two minds on it. (Also, why are they all reading maps when Shinji shows up late at night? Are they all taking a trip together? Who just kills time by looking at maps?) My gut reaction is Too Many Settings. We've already got ORE, do we really need another workplace for comedy? I still don't love Auntie, despite her schtick being toned down a lot, and I feel like we've got plenty of space to tell Shinji Is Bad At His Job stories with ORE. It feels redundant, I guess is what I'm saying. On the other hand, the tea shop scenes do an outstanding job of fleshing out the Ren/Shinji rivalry, so it's hard to be too mad that they exist. If anything, it makes it seem like maybe the ORE stuff should go? The tea shop, it just features more primary characters, seems more convenient for a lot of the Rider Battle storytelling. I don't know. I'm not loving them trying to do two workplace comedies in one show, and the tea shop just feels more economical, story-wise.

That said, holy shit am I not loving how the show's been using Yui. The more she's left out of the Rider Battle story, the more she's just some girl for Ren to feel protective of or Auntie to talk over, the more frustrated I get with seeing her. I don't want to feel like that! I liked Yui in the first few episodes! Since Ren and Shinji aren't doing a whole lot of monster fighting recently, and no one wants to clue her in on the Rider vs Rider stuff, it's like the show can't figure out what she's there for, so she gets the worst The Girl story beats. (It's not, like, Mai-from-Gaim bad, but it's getting to the point where she might as well be a literal object for men to protect and covet, like a sturdy cabinet, or a commemorative plate. She's barely a character right now!) Between spending all of her spare time staring at a picture of her brother and not saying a word when Kitaoka is an unbelievable creep, I'm not at all sure why the show is putting Yui in the doghouse.

If only she had got the kind of attention that Shimada got in part of this story. That self-date night! Hilarious. I probably could've watched another ten minutes of her having an incredibly romantic evening with a giant stuffed doll she won at an amusement park. It was, sincerely, better than just about any sequence Yui's been in since episode three. I'm glad the show's finding room to write fun stuff for one woman on this show...

Oh, hey, Rider fights, lemme talk about those for a minute. There, uh, aren't a lot of them in these two episodes. There's the Ryuki/Scumbag (I know he's got a different name but they ain't said it yet on the show so he's Kamen Rider Scumbag in my heart) fight, after Ryuki knocks out the last Mirror Zebra, and a minute or so of a Knight/Scumbag/Like A Mirror Boar Or Something fight at the end of episode nine. The Ryuki/Scumbag fight, that's the meaty one. I really like how each Rider (so far?) has a different color base suit. Big bright red, or green, or orange, plus a black suit for The Cool One. It's a great visual cue, that These Are The Riders. From that one-color base suit, there's plenty of room to layer on gears or vents or grills or whatever. It's a great, flexible, dynamic design philosophy. Oh, and the fight was great! Kitaoka comes off as a very weasley, intellectual character, so watching him beat the hell of Shinji rounds him out as an antagonist. He can be cunning, but he doesn't have to be. But, like, just because he can win in a fair fight doesn't mean he won't stack the deck (reference!) by cheating. It's... he's so great.

He's so great.