First of all this is a great follow up to the previous episode as there were many mentions of what Yggdrasil has in mind as well. In the previous episode Micchy asks his brother if he told Kouta anymore than the truth f the forest and the end of the world as he mentions the Scalar System and Project Ark. In that same episode we find out what the Scalar System was, but now in this episode Project Ark is revealed. Another good aspect of this follow up is that things are going based on what Micchy has been afraid about. He said having Kouta knowing more about Yggdrasil is dangerous since he can do more damage than Takatora thinks. Even the information regarding Yuuya has been revealed to Kouta in this episode which was the first thing Micchy tried to hide from him. The series really knows how to keep its flow moving as it is holding a big secret right now, but we are given little details here and there. Some of these little details are pretty big though especially for Kouta as he wants to protect the city and now his justice is put to the test now.
Reminding me of Kouta, he was absolutely at his best in this episode. First I did love how he thought of protecting the city inside of the forest to prevent Inves from going through it. Then it moved onto him having to put a truce up for a while since Ryouma wants to keep the secret hidden for a tad bit longer. After fighting for some time, Kouta has a longer talk with Ryouma and there he finds out about Project Ark. As the name is referencing to, Yggdrasil is planning on keeping one seventh of the human population alive! This is because of the fact that in the time span of ten years there will be at least a billion drivers made. Sadly there are around seven billion people in the whole world and they cannot let those people live on since they will turn into Inves and could kill the rest of the human population. Kouta is in shock about this, but keeps up the truce for the time being and when the rift closes he jumps back into action. He first gets Yoko off guard and takes her Energy Lock Seed away and then rides off towards the HQ. That scene was perfect as Kouta never get rids of his heroics and quickly thinks of the next plan. I mean he got Yoko off guard!
Inside of the HQ now, he fights off the Kurokage guards, but what's interesting is how he fights them. He is not trying to hurt them in major ways as he knocks them out with his fist or blunt weapons. Even when Kouta fights he isn't a hypocrite as he wants to help people and not hurt them. When Zangetsu appears, he has to match his power as he uses the Lemon Jinba Arms. Surprisingly, Gaim actually takes Zangetsu down! Now the fight got interrupted because Takatora had an idea. Still for Takatora needing to do this was a surprise because I would think he would just try fighting his way to victory. Takatora shows him the footage of Yuuya becoming an Inves and Kouta remembers that was the first Inves he defeated. This completely destroys Kouta as he falls to the ground in despair. For the whole time Kouta talked about not having sacrifices, but him even being an Armored Rider had spilled blood. Kouta doesn't know how to think right now as his search is now over and it ends in him finding out he is Yuuya's murderer. Takatora even mentioned that sacrifices were needed and in this regard he is correct and again Kouta's way of thinking is put to the test. How can Kouta possibly continue on knowing since the very beginning he betrayed his own way of thinking?
A moment on with Takatora then as in the previous episode he mentioned before that if Kouta loses hope he will stop having second thoughts. Takatora completely puts Kouta to the test and sadly he falls into despair. So does this mean that Takatora will go ahead with Project Ark? There is no doubt the second thoughts were about Project Ark since sixth-sevenths of the human population will be killed off! This is no easy task for anyone, but to keep the world intact and for humanity to survive he knows this is needed. Again this just screams Kratos from Tales of Symphonia since he is a man who led many people to their own deaths for a common goal in his organization. Sacrifices are needed for these two as they do still battle with their thoughts if they should continue and thanks to the heroes of both stories they get more thoughts about the whole situation. Now the question is that will Takatora go on with what he said in the previous episode? With Kouta in despair will he quit having second thoughts and go on with the plan?
With Micchy he knew about Project Ark and decides he needs to save his friends while Kouta defends the rift. Ryouma thought that things won't go well and was telling Micchy his doubts, but not being obvious so that Kouta would find out. Micchy is an odd character, but it's not bad I swear on that. He is in between on both sides here and it makes me think what will happen to him later on. First of all, is Micchy fine with the idea of killing off people just so that one billion people can live on? I guess he is fine with this since he just wants to make sure his little paradise isn't broken so he wants to keep his friends alive. It's bizarre since he is fine with the plans of Yggdrasil and yet he still has this overall good to himself. Then in previous episodes we do see his darker side. I am just expecting for one of his sides to burst out and take over as Micchy could become a hero or an antagonist. Also I love seeing Micchy react to how much knowledge has been spreading out with the other characters like Kaito even knowing about the Scalar System. He is angry with this since he doesn't want any information leaking, but the one is doing it the most easily has something on his mind.
Ryouma is easily a puppet master right now. He is pulling on so many strings that there is no doubt he is doing his own things. First of all he is having Kaito do research for him and even told him about the Scalar System and who knows he could have even told him about Project Ark. Then for some reason he wants Kouta to know more about Yggdrasil's plans and even wants him to take action. He knows Takatora is at the HQ, but for some reason I feel that he doesn't want him to win and defeat Kouta. Ryouma is having some issues with his boss since no matter how much work he does, he cannot make things better. For example his technology cannot make rifts close any faster, but he is forced to work on this. Also for some reason he doesn't even fight as Duke. Is he trying to keep that part of his identity a secret from the other riders or is he hiding his power? Again if he is planning on betraying Takatora he needs to be able to surprise him completely and with his strength he could take him down. Overall, Ryouma is an interesting character since he is acting quite strange and is letting things happen like he wants them to happen.
For the action everything was on Kouta as he pulls of some amazing stunts. First of all he uses the Cherry Energy Lock Seed to use the Jinba Cherry Arms. This new form gives Gaim a speed boost as he can zoom right towards one enemy after another. Too bad this form didn't get used all that much in the overall scheme of the episode, I personally would have loved to see Kouta fight Marika in that form. Still I can easily take the fact that he tricked Yoko and even got her off of him. Then again I loved seeing Gaim fight the Kurokages, but not in his usual fashion of fighting as he was knocking them out. Then the quick little fight between him and Zangetsu was great. In the beginning, Gaim is knocked around, but still keeps his guard up from Zangetsu's weapon. Then when Kouta hears about the past sacrifices he snaps and lets Zangetsu have his full strength. He knocks his guard away and slashes him hard enough to make him fall into another room. It was a nice close encounter fight as the wall was used quite often with Zangetsu pinning Kouta down. Then the comeback is just showing how much potential Kouta has as a fighter.
Episode twenty-two is absolutely perfect in many regards. It follows up with what the previous episode has established before and even follows up on previous plot points like Yuuya's fate. The character building is strong as Micchy is showing his anger and his soft side, Ryouma pulling the strings in the background. Takatora with his really first evil act in my opinion as he makes Kouta fall down. Finally, there was Kouta as he's character building is amazing and some of the best in the franchise right now. At first he started out as a boy who stumbled into power and even used it without much care and now he has become a full blown hero and is still thrown into some tough corners. This episode gets an A+ as I can't wait to see how Kouta gets back into action.
Next Time: Kachidoki Arms!