I think this is the first episode to really interrogate the idea of a Good Despot, and it made for one of the better uses of that part of Sougo’s character.

It’s an intensely stupid idea, a Good Despot. It’s insane that Sougo, a student of history, should look at centuries of bloodshed and subjugation and go But Maybe They Meant Well. It’s making a case for fascism, for authoritarianism: that One Good Person should be in charge of everything, forever, and we’ll all be better off for it.

But this episode starts to explain how Sougo could be deluded enough to think that it’s super neat to secede from Japan and declare yourself sovereign ruler of your own breakaway republic -slash- mansion. It’s because he’s literally too sweet to see the bad in people.

Much like last episode took the Hero’s Journey part of a Kamen Rider series – the whole Making Friends and Finding Collectibles part – and turned it towards an intensely foreboding future, this one starts to look at the downside of boundless enthusiasm and limitless empathy. Sougo can’t conceive of anyone having the power and authority of a king, but not using it to make everyone’s lives better. It literally doesn’t occur to him. The fact that people could be hurt by it, or that the person in charge could choose to hurt people… that’s the most absurd thing in this story to Sougo.

But he also knows that, unfortunately, he could become that guy. Geiz tells him repeatedly that Oma Zi-O is a merciless tyrant, and Geiz is not one to exaggerate for dramatic effect. He can’t understand that motivation of his future self. He reads about Nobunaga – whose last name might as well be Ambition – and only sees the positive outcome, not the compromises made along the way. He needs to know why someone would choose to use their authority and power for negative reasons.

Enter Kuroto.

He’s a brilliant choice, for no other reason than he is so OBVIOUSLY a megalomaniac that it, at first, makes Sougo seem even more obtuse than normal. This isn’t someone who seems nice, and Sougo fell for the ruse. This is a dude who cackles maniacally and imprisons dissenters. This is someone who beats women that he plans to force into marriage. He’s a villain, and the most unsubtle one imaginable.

Which makes him the perfect person for Sougo to study under. Sougo needs to see what not to do, and Kuroto is the most blatant What Not To Do character in maybe all of Heisei. Working alongside a Bad Despot, even briefly, is a way for Sougo to understand where he might go wrong, where he could lose the empathy that he thinks could be what keeps him from becoming Oma Zi-O.

It’s a crazy plan, of course. It’s Sougo thinking the ends justifying the means, just like Geiz was afraid of. I imagine Sougo is biding his time before betraying Kuroto (just like in the Nobunaga anecdote), but in the meantime, people are being hurt.

Just like last time, we’re in a very nebulous space for Sougo’s character. On the one hand, he’s all smiles, every single scene. He’s confident that he knows what he’s doing, and that what he’s doing is right. But he’s also cozying up to a lunatic, and battling his teammates. He’s so sure that he’s right, that he doesn’t seem too broken up about injuring the people who’d stand against him.

This show’s doing some really smart work adding depth and shading to one of its most tricky character choices, and I’m incredibly excited to see how Sougo continues to evolve. Or, uh, maybe devolve?


We’re at near Peak Kuroto in this short. (It’s a bit less than the main episode, where he’s clearly like Kuroto + Desire = Way More Cackling.) He’s not a character you really interact with, this version. He’s a character you withstand. Woz and Sougo do a decent job of existing in a scene with so much charisma!

And it’s a funny little short. Woz and Sougo are both goofing around a bit here (there’s a Woz ad-lib that causes Sougo to break character for a second), and I’m always a fan of these shows trying to sell merchandise directly. I can spend a page talking about the thematic resonance or intriguing character arc of an episode, but let’s never forget that these shows exist To Sell Toys.

Solid short, because of – not in spite of – its blatant plugs for toys.