Man, I feel like such a dick for saying this, but I sort of bounced right off of this one?

Some of it is that, I don’t know, it’s a lot of people yelling TOUMA and KENTO for twenty minutes? Even for the Kento Dies (well, “Dies”; we’ll get to that) episode, this veered into the histrionic end of the acting spectrum pretty quickly. I can handle maybe a couple minutes of that per episode. Once it becomes Mei blowing out her vocal chords to find an even louder version of TOUMA to scream, it’s beyond diminishing returns; it’s actively taking me out of the story. It’s the sort of acting and/or directing choice that kills my ability to see past the artifice and enjoy the narrative. I’m just like Find A Different Note To Play, and that hampers my emotional investment.

(This is a minor part of my coldness to this episode, but: when and why did this become solely Touma’s problem to solve? This is a story about the power of friendship, and how Kento’s martyrdom robbed him of the best tool to defeat Calibur. But the second half of this episode is everyone screaming at Touma to save Kento, and then everyone laying there while Touma generates a powerup to defeat Calibur single-handed. It would’ve been nice if this episode about the power of friendship used that friendship as more than just a way for Touma to feel supported and become powerful enough to do things by himself!)

There’s stuff I liked here, though. A little bit of the beginning, where it’s all silent and still. This isn’t a show that loves quiet moments, so I’m glad it slowed down enough to sell the stakes. I liked Mei immediately failing at her one job of guarding Kento, because keeping Kento from throwing himself unprepared into a deadly situation is the one villain this show can’t defeat. I liked the episode just refusing to follow up on the previous cliffhanger of Tassel showing up, because why bother, I guess.

But, weirdly, the thing I liked the best this time is what I usually roll my eyes at, which is Kamijo saying Universal Truth as an unquestionable justification of his actions from the last 15 years. I liked it here because it brought the metaphor into focus: Universal truth is the antithesis of storytelling and fiction. Universal truth is verifiable, and objective. Storytelling is subjective, and personal. Calibur loses because his goal doesn’t allow for unexpected events or empathy, the two things fairy tales and folklore thrive on. Pitting a novelist against the cold logic of Calibur is an incredibly clever concept, even if the show tends to reduce Calibur to a remorseless supervillain with a couple catchphrases.

(Very funny that Tassel’s recap refers to “Calibur and his goons”; I definitely feel like it’s always been the other way around? They never seemed like they worked for him, despite them being his terrible sons that he loves very much.)

The bulk of the episode, though… it was pleasant in that Explosions and New Suits way a Kamen Rider episode can be, but I never felt like it moved me. Kento’s death/”death” felt so… I don’t know, forced? Kento’s been trying to get himself killed for the last half-dozen episodes, and it looks like he finally succeeded. Touma’s anger and self-recrimination over being unable to save Kento felt like someone being angry at themselves for not stopping a sunset. Kento’s not a person you can save, man! Just ask Mei! Like some of my problems throughout the first act, this development feels too rushed to feel organic or preventable, which are the things that usually make character deaths hit hard. Suicidal Swordsman Gets Murdered isn’t a plot that shakes me up, you know?

But, like a lot of Kamen Rider deaths, it feels erroneous to discuss it as an end to Kento’s story. It certainly looks like Calibur’s sword exerts a necromantic pull on swordsmen, where each victim becomes the next host. I’m assuming Kento’s dad killed Kamijo 15 years ago, which is when Kamijo became the new bearer of the Sword of Shadows. Now it’s probably Kento, at least for an act or two. But we’ll find out soon!

Sorry I didn’t like this one too much! I don’t like being this guy!



PUT US BACK TOGETHER RIGHT



“I don’t understand him,” Mei said, sniffling. “He’s so stubborn, and selfish, and…” Her words trailed off as the tears rolled down her cheeks once again.

Rintaro’s mouth turned almost imperceptibly down at the corners, and his eyes moistened ever so slightly, so Mei was certain he was beside himself with sorrow. This was his sad face. It was incredibly close to his happy face, and his normal face, but Mei had gotten pretty good lately at detecting the minor variations necessary to gauge Rintaro’s attitude. She’d considered making up a photo guide for the Sword of Logos members, but she hadn’t found the time lately. Looking at Kento lying in his bed, unconscious, she didn’t feel like she’d be getting any time back soon.

“Why did he do it? Why did he run off to fight Calibur all alone?” Mei’s question was directed at all three men in the room: Rintaro, Touma, and Kento himself.

“It was his duty as a swordsman,” Rintaro said with a shocking amount of pride, considering the state of Kento. Rintaro loved talking about the duties of swordsmen, but this wasn’t the time to commend Kento for his dedication.

“By himself? After you’d just had to almost sacrifice yourself to save him from the last time he went to fight Calibur all alone?” Mei couldn’t believe that Rintaro could so easily forget her and Touma standing over his bed a few days earlier, hoping he’d pull through. “How could he be so reckless?”

Rintaro pursed his lips for a moment in concentration, before answering. “He–”

“He did it for me,” Touma said loudly. “He did it for me.”

“What? Touma, you weren’t even there,” Mei explained, almost sputtering at Touma’s attempt to take the blame. “You were halfway across town when–”

“He did it because I failed him, and I failed Luna,” Touma said to the group. He never looked up from Kento’s sleeping face, even as his voice took on more force and volume. “I couldn’t keep my promise, so Kento put himself at risk to make it right. He’s not selfish, Mei. He’s not reckless, or stubborn… okay, he’s maybe stubborn. But he’s a good friend, and he was trying to help me, even when I didn’t know it. Because he cares too much about his friends, Mei. He cares too much.”

Touma was crying now, his head buried in the side of the bed by Kento’s shoulder. Mei had questions, so many questions, but she stayed silent while Touma cried.

After a few brief seconds, Touma raised his head from the mattress, and turned to face her and Rintaro. His eyes were red, his cheeks wet. But there was conviction written all over his face, a kind that she’d seen more often these last few months. He took a deep breath, let it out, and then looked back at Kento.

“He’s going to wake up, Mei. And when he does, we’re going to let him know how much we care, too. He’s not in this by himself. He’s got all of us, just like we have him. And that’s why we’re going to win.”

Touma grasped the book he’d brought with him when he and Mei had left the bookshop earlier. It was a weathered pop-up book, one she couldn’t quite make out the title of in the dimly-lit room.

“Friendship always wins,” Touma said quietly.

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