I like Rintaro.

That was almost the entirety of my post about this episode, because that’s sort of all there is to it? There’s a little bit of exposition about the Sword of Logos, and some boilerplate-ass This Masked Villain Betrayed Us mystery about Calibur, but I can’t really care a lot about that right now. (I honestly never care about these types of mysteries? I am always more interested in the ramifications of a resolved mystery than I am in speculating about an ongoing one. It’s just not what I’m here for.) The only thing of any substance in this episode is the introduction of Rintaro, and his interactions with Touma and Mei.

I’m pretty happy with how they swerved away from the semi-obligatory The Secondary Is A Gigantic Humorless Asshole Who Wants To Fight The Primary, regardless of how much I’d eventually come to embrace your Geizez or Fuwas or Hiiros or Makotos. It’s nice that Rintaro’s difference from Touma isn’t in how dour or cruel he is, but in how little ego he has. Touma’s a writer, and that requires a belief in your ability to create something on your own. There’s isolation in writing, which leads to a faith in your own instincts and point of view. (On the flipside, it also leads to an almost fatal dose of Imposter Syndrome, but we’ll see if that gets dealt with down the line.) Touma’s central trait isn’t the strength of his heroism, but the amount of faith he has in himself.

With Rintaro, there’s humility in his nobility. He comes into the episode with a quiet politeness, the perfect compliment to Touma and Mei’s constant mugging. (I like them both, but this was very much a Wacky episode for our bookstore cast.) He’s trying to gently explain that Touma is in over his head, and gets adorably flustered when his logic is rebuffed by an emotional decision. Rintaro’s reaction isn’t to berate or threaten Touma, but to assume that he’s just explaining himself badly. A deteriorating situation isn’t a cause for blame, but a need for reexamination and conversation.

I really like that? I like the sense that Rintaro is used to working within an organization, and has a basic grasp on interpersonal skills. That’s a huge step up from our normal Loose Cannons and their troubling tendencies to escalate minor disagreements into death-duels. Rintaro comes off level-headed and egoless this episode, and I found that choice from the production team to be fascinating. He’s just some guy, trying to do his job well, and willing to reexamine his biases and assumptions when they prove to be incorrect or unhelpful. That’s actually really cool?

The problem is, it doesn’t really leave this episode with much else to say or do, beyond showing off bikes and form changes. Those are cool, but they’re only worth watching when they’re in service to an actual story. Here, it’s just two Megids trying to destroy a neighborhood, but without even the child-saving stakes of last episode’s plot. This is barely a step up, narratively, from the Henshin Lesson toy marketing videos we usually get at the beginning of a series. Great for tie-in sales of WonderRide books, maybe not so awesome if you’d like to invest in a story.

But: Rintaro! I’m a fan of him, and the weird normcore energy his polite swordsman brings to Team Saber.

(Not a fan of the theme song, unfortunately.)


She shouldn’t care so much about a toy at a bookshop. She kept telling herself that, as though the thousandth time would make sense of her obsession.

Well, not “obsession”, surely. That was overstating her interest. Yes, “interest”. Nothing weird about an interest. Interests were normal. Curiosity was healthy. There’s nothing to beat yourself up over, just because your happiness seems to fixate on the toy train at a childrens’ bookshop.

She was too old to make such frequent trips to a bookshop that catered to the overactive imaginations of grade-school children. She was 12 years old now, and too mature and sophisticated to still find delight in a tiny locomotive; too grown-up (she noted with pride) to be delighted at a toy for children.

But it had figured so prominently in her day-to-day the last few years, and she could never explain why. A studious girl by nature, to the surprise of her parents, she never cared much for stories and toys and all the rest of the childish affectations her parents hoped would sway her from more serious pursuits. They wanted her to be happy, and eventually realized that her happiness was based in science, in math, in facts. She was a happy girl, if not an especially whimsical one.

It was on one of her parents’ many early excursions to broaden their daughter’s horizons that they’d taken her to a tiny bookshop, tucked away in a repurposed cottage. It was another failure, of course. Piles of books featuring princesses, knights, monsters and more: all discarded with disinterest. She’d humored her parents – they meant well, she reminded herself – and waited until they’d taken her hints that this was to be another fruitless trip. (She’d always tried to be patient with them, and their occasional lack of comprehension.)

It was on the way out that she’d noticed the train.

Something about it… she couldn’t describe why it stuck in her brain so forcefully. She was never at a loss for words; she’d frequently note that her reading was at a collegiate level, and she needn’t be condescended to by adults. But the tiny toy train in that tiny bookshop… it was maddening, her inability to explain its significance.

And it WAS significant. There was no denying that. She’d made daily trips to the bookshop on her way home from school – surreptitiously, of course. The last thing she needed was her parents thinking she’d gone off on some fanciful adventure, ready to lose all logic in favor of superstition. This was… she didn’t know WHAT this was, sadly. So she’d keep going back to view the train, until it eventually made sense to her.

It didn’t help that the shop was owned by such a hapless clown.

She’d known he was a novelist, from the display in his shop. (A minor effort; some clever imagery, but a shocking amount of overwrought symbolism.) He was an enthusiastic proprietor, if far too pushy. He’d greet her every afternoon, try to engage her in some storytelling or games or whatever he thought a child might respond to, and then he’d sulk briefly as she made it clear to him that she wasn’t a child, but a young woman. (She’d wished she hadn’t needed to come to the shop in her school uniform, but it was the most expedient route. She wasn’t obsessed.) She wasn’t there for his company or his shop’s offerings. She was there for that frustratingly opaque train. What was it about that stupid thing?

“Welcome back!”

The shopkeeper’s voice distracted her from what she was sure was the point where the secret would be finally unlocked. She’d nearly had it, surely.

“Yes, hello,” she said curtly, ready to retrain her focus on the train.

“Isn’t it a neat train? It’s one of my favorites, too.”

Neat. ‘Neat’. Absurd. The man was supposedly a writer? But, sure, it was neat, cool, fun, what have you. But it… what WAS it? She needed to understand why she felt… whatever it was she felt.

Her reverie prompted him to continue.

“I’ve always liked thinking about trains. They seem like they can only go in a couple directions – forwards and backwards – but that’s so boring, isn’t it? So much more fun to think about what it’d be like if they could anywhere: if they flew, if they twisted around, if they could go to places we only ever dreamed about. More fun to consider the tracks as only a suggestion about where our journeys might go, don’t you think? Where would you want this train to take you?”

She’d gotten so distracted by his question that she’d forgotten her own curiosity for his. A train that could go anywhere? What did that even mean? Where would she want to go? And why?

Her silence prompted him again. He reached out his hand. “Hi, I’m Touma.”

She reached back with her own. “I’m Hana.”