I love this shit. I love the goofy-ass magazine pack-ins and Net Movies and just all of the ephemera that goes along with a Kamen Rider series. I like how much they can screw with the format, how much they can let one random-ass idea play out without worrying about the context of the series... they're fun. I like that that can sometimes be enough.

And this is fun! Shinji goes into a mirror, teams up with generous, friendly versions of Knight, Zolda, and Ouja, and fights monsters. They work alongside Agito (Shining Form) to defeat Agito (Burning Form). Then Shinji wakes up from his dream, gets teased by Ren, roll extraordinarily long credits.

It's maybe eight minutes long, once you drop the credits. It's mostly fight scenes, and they entirely happen in Kamen Rider Warehouse. Like, there's not a lot of thematic heft to this one. It's something to get kids excited about watching Masked Rider Ryuki once a week.

But what's amazing to me is that so much of the run-time is given over to Ren giving Shinji shit, and Shinji getting upset in ever more clumsy ways. Nearly as much as time, it felt like, as the monster fights with a Legend Rider. That's fascinating to me. The producers have this opportunity to, basically, pitch Masked Rider Ryuki to a group of kids who may not be watching it. So they pick the most important things to include in this special: a henshin, Vent Cards, four main Riders, a Special Guest Star, monsters, explosions... and Ren acting like an asshole-with-a-heart-of-maybe-bronze-but-not-gold to Shinji. That's the thing they thought was a pillar of Ryuki. Not just the relationship, the warrior's bond, but Ren calling Shinji stupid with a smile on his face.

And, goddamn, not wrong! That very specific tone of their friendship, it's indelibly Ryuki to me. If you watch enough Heisei series, it can feel like you've seen every Rider/Rider variation, how they get along or don't or whatever. This, though, I don't feel like I've seen this thing in any of the other friendships or rivalries. The way Ren cares but doesn't care, the way he sincerely likes to see Shinji get mad at him, the way he never lets Shinji feel like he's in on the joke, I love it. It's outstanding chemistry, and I totally get how that could be the hook to get people to watch Ryuki.

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