I think I’d rather have rewatched Kamen Rider Saber than have watched Kamen Rider Saber.

It’s a series that improves in the memory, even with less than a day since I watched the final episode. So many of the early choices that annoyed me end up paling in comparison to the joy the final string of episodes delivered. It’s all one unit of entertainment in my brain now, and it’s almost all positive feelings and associations: the delight of a show dedicated to the almost biological need for storytelling; the warmth of a cast that only ever became more entertaining; the excitement of a stunt team that left it all on the field. It’s a hard show to dislike, when it’s all said and done.

It’s also a hard show to like in the moment, which is the one negative feeling I’ll probably keep with me forever, right alongside Rintaro’s charming guilelessness and Mei’s unstoppable support. So many decisions in the early-going (and even a few later in the run) prize narrative coherence over dramatic appeal, and it makes the Getting To Know You stage of this show more of a slog than it needed to be. Effects frequently debut before causes, as the show rushes to fill out its world and bulk up its roster. We’re left early on with the feeling that This Is All Important Somehow, rather than being swept away with tight plotting and relatable situations. There’s so little to hold onto, just as the show is throwing more at you. Eventually all of those things make sense, have a place, but it’s rarely when they’re first presented.

Like, even in the late era of the show, when everything feels intentional and compelling: the Four Divine Sages. Isaac mentions them as a thing, but then immediately tells us that they were all killed off-screen. It’s, at the time, needlessly distracting information. A thing we never knew existed (or was maybe mentioned in passing once) was extremely important, but it’s also already dead and don’t think about it. Except, it’s crucial to drop that in the show at that point, because the show’s going to need those four to be outstanding sub-bosses for one of the best finales a Kamen Rider show ever had. It’s never pointless, even if it’s dramatically frustrating on your first watch.

And that’s sort of the whole show for me? That anecdote? It literally all works, even if it also completely doesn’t for large stretches. There’s an argument to be made that the producers valued the book over the chapter, which is probably the way I’d negatively describe this show. But, god, what a book.

I do think I loved it, at the end.

It’s the cast, if I need to pick a favorite thing. I liked what the show was doing thematically, with how storytelling needs to be defended in a world that wants to either weaponize it or invalidate it. I liked what it said about belief and faith, even if those topics aren’t as exciting for me to explore as others. (Sorry!) I liked the setting of a bookshop, even if it was only Kento that managed to bring any customers in. (Another minor gripe: the show barely used the bookshop setting to generate stories. Maybe three times, over the whole run?) I liked the workplace dramedy structure, where the Sword of Logos and its goals were as big a threat to our heroes as any monster. But, no, it’s the cast that made this show for me.

Almost absurd that a cast this large, an ensemble this deep, should all be so integral to the show’s success. If you’d only given me Touma, Rintaro, Kento, and Mei, I’d still herald this show as one of the best casts. To then enhance it with Ogami, with Daishinji, with Yuri, with Desast, with Reika, with Ryoga, even with Ren… gosh, it’s hard to imagine another show topping this one for acting talent and cleverly-written characters. I’m going to be thinking about these sword-wielding goofballs for a very long time.

I had a good time with this show, even if it frequently didn’t feel that way. I enjoyed the experience. But I’m really looking forward to rewatching it someday.