It was destiny, probably. Or fate. I wrote a huge thing about how I love the starts of series, how terrific it is to invest in a new Rider and their cast… and then I got this episode.

God, basically a complete misfire for me?

It starts and stops with Sougo, who I completely don’t get. We’re introduced to him as the future Oma Zi-O, a cruel despot who – say what you will about his genocidal bonafides – at least understands that anniversary Kamen Rider seasons deserve to start with a massive battle at Kamen Rider Quarry. (Our first Legend appearance!) It’s a strong sequence, laying out the stakes for our title character: his destiny is to be a tyrant.

That’s a fun story to tell, hypothetically. Plenty of Rider shows have explicitly or implicitly dealt with Power Creep as a pathway to villainy, or how the accrual of power for altruistic reasons can curdle into megalomania. A series about how to avoid becoming a monster while fighting for justice with a monstrous power… that’s just a Kamen Rider series? That’s the template of Kamen Rider. As an anniversary theme, it’s a solid one.

But Sougo… I can’t get a handle on him, as a character? Not even as a protagonist or a hero or a lead, but as a character. He wants to be a king, but like, as a career? That’s ludicrous. I’ve seen plenty of ridiculous motivations in Kamen Rider (and I love Tsurugi, who is a preposterous bundle of Bizarre Achievements in an ascot), but this is beyond the pale. You cannot study to become a king. You can’t fill out an application to be a monarch. There isn’t a good school to major in the regency arts.

It’s the sort of stupid, stupid motivation that I normally adore, because the thought process behind it is usually so specific and bonkers that I am enthralled. Tsurugi’s quest to be the Best At Besting is drawn from his traumas, his desires, his isolation, his responsibilities, his etc. But Sougo wants to be a king… because it seemed like a good idea?

As a defining trait goes, it’s terrible. It’s an absence of definition for his character. It’s generic: I Want This instead of I Want This Because. There’s room in the episode for it to be purposefully generic, certainly. The overriding feeling of the episode is that of inevitability, that Sougo couldn't ever become anything other than the King Of Time(pieces), and that outcome has trickled backward to his present. But it’s never portrayed as a burning drive, or a path he can’t veer away from. It’s portrayed as perfunctory; a concept as necessary for reflection and analysis as blinking. Becoming king – something utterly ridiculous – is treated as an autonomic process.

It is a crucial mistake in the introduction of Sougo, and it’s, sadly, only the first crucial mistake this episode makes.

The second one is in the way this episode never really pushes back on Sougo’s motivation? His friends and family (an uncle, since it’s Heisei Phase 2 and All Dads Are Dead) shrug it off as some quirk, like Takumi’s dislike of hot foods in Faiz, rather than an absolutely terrifying life choice for a teenager to be making. When someone says that they don’t want to take college entrance exams because they’re going to be a king, that’s bad! That isn’t a life choice! That is them throwing their life away! You don’t follow up that declaration with a cute anecdote about not letting chances pass you by! You follow that up with an intervention!

It only gets worse once Tsukuyomi shows up.

Which is not because of Tsukuyomi! She’s one of only two characters in this episode I felt invested in! (Her and Gates, that's it. Give them the show!) She’s great. I love the heroism of her mission; the belief that even the worst of us have a moment where we could’ve been good. Her coming back in time to show Sougo that his dream of becoming a king is really a nightmare for the world, in the hopes of dissuading him before it’s too late, that’s awesome. That’s a Kamen Rider hero. That empathy. (Also, her getting him thrown in a river as a test is some great chaotic energy.)

But then Sougo again lets me down, responding to her story of genocide and heartbreak with a Cool About Me Being King But I Guess It Sucks For You. It is, even more than the rest of this episode, an insane story choice. It made me unbelievably mad to have the title character blow off his own potential for apocalyptic destruction, while delighting in his dream coming true. It’s… why?! Why would you make your brand-new character this unrelatable? And unlikable? Why have him not show an ounce of sympathy for Tsukuyomi’s hardship, and then still have him get praised for stopping a fight? Why have him not care about being a warlord, and then give him an ending where he rushes in to save an innocent stranger?

And it all comes to a frustratingly plotted finale, where Sougo heroically vows to be a Good Tyrant.

You– you cannot be a good tyrant, my dude. Good Tyranny is an oxymoron. It’s a colossally stupid thing to say, and the fact that this episode views it as a) something that doesn’t require explanation, and b) a thing a hero says? That makes me enormously worried about this series. Enormously.

I can sort of see the edges of where this episode thought it was landing. The mixture of destiny and foreboding in Woz’s appearance helped to frame Sougo’s actions as Maybe Not A Good Thing, but everything in the performance of Sougo undercuts that ambivalence. There’s a massive tonal dissonance throughout the episode, between the things we’re being told, and how the characters respond to them. It’s way more than just How Is This Sweet Dope Going To Become The Personification Of Armageddon, it’s Why Doesn’t This Guy Care About Becoming The Personification Of Armageddon. Sougo’s distracted nature and utter lack of drive makes the events of the episode disjointed and unbelievable; huge stakes are blown away in the face of amiable disinterest. Instead of excited acceptance or terrified rejection, we get this uncompelling middle ground of a lead character, who is vaguely okay with becoming a dictator, then decides to be a Nice Dictator, and the show just doesn’t question it.

It’s terrible. Tsukuyomi makes sense, as a character who believes that even devils can become angels if you get to them early. Geiz makes sense, as a character who wants to snuff out evil before it becomes a wildfire. Woz even makes sense, as the kind of historian who loses scale and human cost in favor of Narrative and Myth.

But Sougo’s our lead, and I can’t understand him at all.


Oh, it’s cute. It’s a cute little bit. It’s like a Net Movie, where the actors are in-costume but only vaguely in-character.

This one’s about the three main heroes’ names, and what they mean. It’s not really my thing (it’s a ton of Japanese wordplay), but it’s a cute presentation. Having Geiz get thrown off by Sougo’s "ad libbing", or Woz being all offended at his co-stars' rude follow-up questions? That’s neat.

THAT SAID! I completely don’t understand how you have two characters in a story about where their names come from that are named “Woz” and “Gates” and you don’t even mention the founders of Apple Computers. Like, what is the point of this episode if you’re going to be like Oh Gates Are A Thing That Kings Have (?), like that’s even close to being relevant information.

Own the dumb background work of your writing staff, you big babies!