I think the most Faiz thing this episode does is to make sure that the Ryusei School kids suck.

God, I hate them. I’ve always hated them. All that school did was churn out charmless martyrs and remorseless killers. Every single time one or more of them would show up in Faiz, it meant the story was going to get bogged down in earnest pleas for characters to immolate themselves on the pyre of generational warfare. It was always a bad sign, and this episode – for its faults – stays true to that repeating disappointment.

I don’t care about Karin and Sakuma in this story. It’s bloodless melodrama. Sakuma’s feelings are histrionic and unconvincing. He’s just sweaty, constantly, as though that fills in the blanks of his relationship with Karin. Karin, naturally, is no better. She’s desperate to sacrifice herself for Sakuma’s freedom from guilt, and she’s beatific in her weird particle dispersal (?). None of it feels like a real person's behavior or actions; either of them, both of them.

The idea of a story built around sacrifice – that it’s easier to die for someone than live for yourself – is something that feels more indebted to the Ryusei School dinks and their mascot, Delta, than it really does for either Takumi or Kusaka. It’s not really how I remember either of them? Kusaka dies from his sacrifice, sure, but it wasn’t exactly a series-long motivation. And Takumi… Jesus, it took Takumi most of a season to even fight for people, let alone care enough to sacrifice for them. (I mean, there’s the iconic If Fighting Is A Sin, Then LET ME BE DAMNED speech, but I always took that as more about society’s judgment than, like, death.) The idea of trying to ground a story of sacrifice in two of the most aggressively antagonistic and homicidally opposed Riders in all of Heisei (and that counts the ones from the battle royale seasons) is… what? No. No, I’m not seeing it.

Same thing for Sougo trying to land the episode’s themes on Team Zi-O? He’s all like We Have To Stop Sacrificing Ourselves For Each Other, but none of them were doing that? It was a pretty straight-ahead Time Mission, and most of it was with split teams. Geiz and Tsukuyomi were putting together clues, while Takumi and Sougo were doing some Time Orphan-style surveillance by just standing around Karin and talking about her lack of bathroom breaks. No one in this story on the hero side was doing anything extra sacrifice-y this episode?

That inability to tie everything together thematically, while trying VERY VERY HARD (that stupid Uncle speech about fixing radios!), sort of tanked the episode for me. Every speech a character gave rang hollow, and the two Ryusei dinks were flat as hell for me. It’s a good message, moving forward with your life and all, but it felt completely misapplied this episode.

It wasn’t a total loss, though. The action was phenomenal, especially/exclusively the Geiz/Another Faiz fight. I don’t love the Faiz Armor (the cellphone shoulder pads are a bit of a shrug, design-wise) but the fight choreography was really fun to watch. There’s a lot of lateral movement in the blocking, making the one-on-one brawl feel like a fighting game. There’s also… there’s this shot when the RIDER mark shoots onto Geiz’z mask, and the camera pulls in with it, that I really liked. Fun action photography!

And, hell, I can’t ever be too mad at an episode that tips in a bunch of goofy Faiz details: Takumi being unable to drink something hot; the dry cleaning points card; Takumi having Keitaro’s dream (!!!); Kusaka being a grim weirdo who makes everything worse, always, forever. I don’t even much care that they’re just Playing The Hits, you know? It’s probably not even as good as their emotionally-destructive reunion in the Heisei Vs Showa Taisen movie, really. (It’s hard to top Kusaka coming back from the dead specifically to tell Takumi to kill himself!) This is just Reunion Special stuff; low-impact. But I love Faiz, and I don’t care a whole lot if these guys want to just goof around for a week.

This wasn’t… it wasn’t a very good episode? The thematic stuff is trying way too hard, which means it’s not really working. The new characters are either badly-acted or badly-written. Most of it doesn’t apply to Team Zi-O, despite the first part being a lot about their weird friendship, or lack thereof. It never really coheres in a convincing way, across its multiple storylines.

But, FAIZ. I can’t be too upset!


I’m not sure which gag I liked better: that Takumi and Kusaka are collectively so untrustworthy and abrasive that Team Zi-O bails on them without even saying goodbye, or that this installment just relentless buries the Faiz Legend Riders and worships at the altar of the Fourze guys who were too busy making Bleach to guest-star in this series.

It’s great, though. Takumi and Kusaka’s increasingly thin attempts to connect Faiz and Fourze are a delight, nearly reaching the point of suggesting that cellphones send signals through space, and Fourze is a space Rider, so they’re totally connected. I could watch the two of them unconvincingly bullshit about Kamen Rider shows forever. Good bless these two lunatics.

And look at that final (cursed) image!