I mean, look at that image. Look at our pop-up book opening, reconfigured to not just include the returning Kento, but every other hero on the show. It’s as thrilling a victory lap as I can imagine, seeing that troupe of warriors marching off for their next adventure. The episode that followed it, though? A little bit more of a mixed bag.

When this episode stuck to its combination of tentative reunions (Ren/Kento) and heartwarming team expansion (Kento’s reinduction, the Shindais grumpily signing on), I was thrilled. After last episode’s cacophonous climax, you desperately need an episode to decompress; to spend some time establishing a new status quo, and let the big emotions of last time find some subtler notes. When this episode decided to breathe a little, it was exactly what I wanted.

Unfortunately, Touma takes a trip to the Southern Base to interrogate/rehabilitate Isaac, and I sort of don’t know what the show’s doing here? On the one hand, I like that Touma – even after everything Isaac has done – needs to try one last time to see if that guy can be swayed from supervillainy. It’s the bottomless empathy of the main Rider, to not even see a cackling global terrorist as irredeemable. Sure. Okay.

But just last episode, Touma was like You’re Not Even Worth Talking To, right? That was one of my favorite parts! Where Touma could clock that a guy like Falchion was maybe misguided, while Isaac was an unrepentant murderer. Isaac already told Touma (and the rest of Team Saber) that he was only in this for laughs. He laid out his motivation, which is that he’s a nepo baby and wanted to try torturing humanity for a few centuries as a change of pace. There is no deeper level to Isaac; that’s the whole point of him. So for Touma to try one last time to reach him, and to be infuriated by Isaac’s flippant disgust for humanity… like, did using Xross Saber give Touma amnesia again? Did he completely forget learning that Isaac was a psychotic villain with zero humanity? Why is this scene even happening?

Like, it’s acceptable as the setup for a fun fight, but that’s about it. The fight’s great, but it feels poorly motivated in the aftermath of last episode’s climatic defeat of Solomon. This ends up being a weird rerun of that battle, with next to no stakes. (Like, Solomon wasn’t exactly mounting some new offensive or anything? Touma and Rintaro show up and it turns into a fight.) It brings down what’s an otherwise warm and sweet episode of reconciliations and new directions. I wish, like, a different fight had happened, if this episode needed a fight so badly.

But, hell, everyone’s in this one, and that’s nice. I love this cast to pieces, and it’s great to see them all utilized so well. As always, when the show plays to that strength, it’s almost unbeatable.



UNLEASHED! THE LARGE-HEARTED BOY



“Do you know why I asked you here today, Daishinji?”

“I don’t, no. Sophia just said ‘Mei needs to speak with you in the bookstore.’ What is this about?”

“So, it’s about swords.”

“...I’m listening.”

“Swords are pretty cool, aren’t they? They’re something you like.”

“If by ‘like’ you mean ‘dedicated my life to the service and care of’, then yes, I 'like' them.”

“That’s great! I always want you to feel comfortable talking about what you like. This is a safe space, Daishinji.”

“This is a bookstore, Mei.”

“And there’s a lot of great books to choose from, now that you mention it. There are books that can help us understand… new feelings, maybe ones that we don’t understand yet, and they make us feel funny.”

“Uh… what?”

“Like, sometimes when you see a sword. You can get… a little excited. Which is fine! No one’s judging! But you need to be respectful of the sword.”

“I– I am ALWAYS respectful of swords! I care for them, and maintain them, and listen to them when no one else does! HOW DARE–”

“Whoa whoa whoa! Sit back down! This is a safe space! A safe space!”

“This is absurd. I don’t know what you’re on about, but if Sophia has an issue with my duties as a swordsman, I’ll just go take it up with her. Good day.”

“Nononono come back WAIT Sophia asked me to talk to you because Yuri tried to file a complaint with HR because he read about that in a comic but the Sword of Logos doesn’t have an HR and also Touma said you were weirding him out with how you’d lick your lips when you looked at the Xross Saber and I definitely didn’t find your drawings of Yuri and the Xross Saber and I feel like you’re going to do something really weird soon if you don’t deal with this stuff and I’m sorry I didn’t say this better come on come back and sit down pleeeeeease.”

“I just… I really like swords, Mei.”

“That’s okay, Daishinji. It’s okay to like swords, but this is still a workplace, and we need to be respectful of other people’s – and swords’ – feelings. Let’s talk about that some more. This is a safe space.”

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