“These are my favourite chords
I know you like them too
When I get a new guitar
You can have this one
And sing me a lullaby
Sing me the alphabet
Sing me a story I haven’t heard yet”

-The Weakerthans, “My Favourite Chords”

Best. Episode. Yet. I’m only a few minutes into watching it and I’m already brimming with things to talk about. Let’s run it down in real-time!

1) That new version of the theme song! What a goddamn statement of intent! It’s a rollicking, shredding version of the infinitely flexible Hibiki opening song. (We even get a muzak version later in the episode!) I like the way Hibiki’s signature instrument, the drums (hi i hope this isn’t a spoiler), end up creating a reliable base for other instruments to rotate in and out. Those powerful drums keep it sounding like The Hibiki Theme, no matter if there’re horns, guitars, vocals, or nothing else at all. But the guitars are very very cool!

2) Perfect first Asumu scene, with a lot of neat touches. (Speaking of touches, WHAT THE HELL, did they really do a gag on a Kamen Rider where AsuMum thinks she walked in on Asumu, uh, polishing his drumstick? Unbelievably funny.) It’s always cute to see Hitomi and Asumu do their adorably awkward teenage flirting. I mean, I obviously stan Akirasumu, but this is a pretty solid diversion. The body language is especially on-point, with the two of them fidgeting in excitement at hanging out later. Terrific opening scene.

3) And then we’re at the first Zanki/Todoyama fight, and, man, those guitars! I really missed them! It just makes a fight scene more hyped, more entertaining. They’re not right for every tone, but if you want to have two new dudes come off like five-star heroes, yes, guitars. The fight itself peaks early, with Zanki flinging a terrified child sixty feet into Todoyama’s waiting arms (I can’t imagine Ibuki trying that with Akira, but I’d love to see it at least once), but it’s still pretty fun for this early in the episode. Zanki in particular gets an absolutely gruesome finish on the Douji (the way the camera holds on its face before it explodes!), getting covered in Monster Goo. The Hime gets away, and the Oni try to track it down.

4) And just so we don’t completely forget what show this is, it’s Hibiki! Training! With Ibuki and Akira! And because this show loves me, we’re back to Hibiki dreaming about being some sort of Obscured Rider, with his sunglasses and his Honda bike. (Honda’s all over this episode, with Takeshi having some fleet contracts to keep every Oni in an Element.) I genuinely adore that the show is making But He Doesn’t Ride A Bike into an ongoing storyline, when it’s easy enough to write off as something that doesn’t fit the life of a camping superhero. (Although, Ibuki!) It’s nice that he’s not good (yet) at something so core to the Kamen Rider aesthetic, so we can see him earn it. Very happy with this concept!

5) Meanwhile, Ibuki and Todoyama finish off the remaining Douji Or Hime (it’s usually the Douji who survives, because of misogyny, but I thought it was the Hime this time) and the Makamou with some LIGHTNING and HURLED GUITARS and MAJESTIC SHREDDING. It is precisely as awesome visually as it is sonically. (There’s actually a neat touch for the two string Oni, where Todoyama’s motif is more bass guitar, and Zanki’s motif is shredding lead guitar. Zanki's theme is front and center, while Todoyama's provides support. It’s just like their partnership! So goddamn smart!) The monster explosion is great, even as they’re feeding in the idea that Zanki is maybe not at 100%. Which, man, are you telling me this dude could be more of a bad-ass?!

6) I enjoyed the conversation between Hibiki and Akira quite a bit. For one, it’s something we don’t really get to see a lot on this show, the two of them getting a scene together. For another, it’s really nice to see Hibiki in that Casual Mentor role, considering we’re spending a lot more time with masters and apprentices than we have before. Seems like everyone’s got someone to look out for except Hibiki!

7) Hinaka being very into Todoyama and putting him on the spot while he’s trying to call in about a defeated monster, yes. One thousand times, yes. She’s at her best when the show lets her get weird, and she is so weird here. It’s this middle ground between Aww and Yikes, and I thought it was funny as shit. That extreme close-up and red filter! She looked like a Makamou that needed to romance an Oni! And then, punchline, she’s been saying most of her aggressive date suggestions to Zanki, who has something to tell Ichiro that almost definitely isn’t related to Zanki’s struggles to finish off the Makamou or Hibiki’s discussion with Akira about replacing Ibuki someday. It’s probably just about how great the Honda Element is!

8) Asumu reads out AsuMum’s note, and they layer AsuMum’s voice over Asumu’s lip movement. Even the “ha ha”. Amazing. A+ episode for that touch alone. I almost feel like deleting everything else I wrote and leaving this post as just this paragraph. So thoroughly this show to find that shading.

9) Zanki is epically chill, the kind of unflappable protagonist that it’s easy to see Todoyama feeling inferior to. Zanki has a tough fight, one that exposed him as less than 100%, and is like Yep Done. That’s it. No heartfelt chat with his apprentice. No long walk where the weight of a thousand victories makes the next battle seem impossible to face. Dude just feels he’s done, sees the strides his apprentice has made, and quits. It’s great! It’s so goddamn cool! And it’s even cooler for Todoyama completely freaking out and running away from Zanki, while Zanki shakes his head in amusement. Just the best episode, you guys.

10) Hibiki is coming to dinner! YES!

11) Even the more straightforward exposition scenes are killer, with the camera zooming into and alongside Team Zanki?’s Element at the start of a scene, and then separating and zooming at the end. The content of Ichiro and Zanki’s conversation is largely about conveying info, but I like how when Ichiro brings up Zanki’s sudden retirement, Zanki just goes, “Yeah. Sorry.” He’s so cool!

12) THAT. HENSHIN. Gotta be in the Top 5 Henshins ever. They call down lighting and explode into superheroes. Unbelievable. This is the most jaw-dropping, metal episode of this show yet, and it’s one of the first where I’m salivating for the next one.

13) Hey, real quick because I forgot to mention it: I like the Zanki/Todoyama suits! The guitar strings work great as a series of straps, and the show even came up with an over-the-shoulders variation for Sabaki. Todoyama’s white markings on his helmet work a little better for me than Zanki’s brown stripes, but both look good. Really fun way to incorporate guitar motifs into the Hibiki aesthetic.

This episode was… oh, man, I needed it to be good, and it was stellar. A+++, best episode yet of the series. Cannot wait to see more!