"Oh what I'd do
To waste an afternoon with you
Eating obscure, looking at girls, shopping for jeans
Learning how to be and not to seem"

-Superchunk, "Your Theme"

For an episode that has the phrase Drawn Together in it (or at least the OZC translation has it at that), the two stories in this episode could not feel further apart. There's an Oni storyline where Ibuki and Todoroki are drawn together (!) to fight two sets of Douji and Hime; and a Hibiki/Asumu storyline where they have idle chit-chat until Hibiki leaves Asumu and Hitomi to watch an old woman writhe in agony. It's... man, it is not a seamless episode!

The Oni stuff was pretty entertaining, I thought. It's just well-executed tokusatsu action, and it ain't like I hate that stuff. There're multiple run-ins between the Oni and the monsters, with a real sense of motion throughout. Ibuki spends minutes chasing a Makamou through canyons, while Todoroki jumps down a series of levels as he tries to hold off a Douji and Hime. It's nicely kinetic visual storytelling, with some tense escalation.

The problem is, there's just not a lot to it? It's fun to watch, but we're really in The Enemy Has Plans And We Don't Know What They Are territory. Clockamou is observing everything, but we don't yet know to what purpose. There's a very clear feeling that things are getting worse for our heroes, but the scope of it is still nebulous. As a result, there's just not enough story-wise in the Oni part of the episode to hold onto. It's very fun to watch! But there's just not enough beyond that to get much out of, for me.

The Hibiki/Asumu plot is an entirely different kettle of incredibly weird fish.

Hibiki's got a day off, and Team Hibiki Bar and Grill (try the Todorocakes) needs him to drop something off for a tea ceremony. Asumu's hanging around, typically thirsty for that sweet Father Figure interaction, so Hibiki invites him to tag along.

What follows is a largely pleasant, occasionally pervy conversation between Hibiki and Asumu. It's Asumu wanting to learn more about what Hibiki does (partially spurred on by a hilariously aggressive phone call from Danki), as well as Hibiki trying to figure out if there's anything more to Asumu than working at a restaurant and, like, existing.

It's fun, honestly. It's Hibiki trying to approach a starstruck Asumu like a human being, like a friend, and it going kind-of weird. There's not a real natural rapport, thanks to Hibiki having a... it's like a gregarious tactlessness. He's just asking questions, but they're more familiar than Asumu is expecting.

Equally unexpected is that, when the show has Hibiki asking Asumu whether or not he's interested in dating Hitomi or Akira, and Asumu's getting flustered, they're shooting the scene from the vantage point of a young woman's chest that Asumu keeps sneaking looks at. Which is funny, but so weird.

Kamen Rider feels like a sexless franchise, and as its target demo is prepubescent children, that's probably exactly right. But now we're telling a story about teenagers becoming adults, which means we have to talk about physical attraction. And, this isn't Love, a high-minded emotion that can be demonstrated in a variety of ways. This is Teenage Hormones, and that means noticing other bodies. It's, relative to most stories on teenagers, pretty inoffensive. It's a teenage boy getting distracted around an attractive woman. Asumu isn't being a creep, he's being a hormonal teenage boy who this is all very new to. But in the context of a Kamen Rider episode, it felt jarringly pervy. I don't know. Maybe not a big deal, but it felt so weird to me. Not at all what I was expecting in the middle of a Hibiki episode.

And then, as if that wasn't weird enough, the next scene is a reveal that the old woman that Hibiki's supposed to deliver to is in desperate need of medical attention. So... Hibiki runs off to get help, like he's Lassie. It is incredibly weird. Hitomi, smartly, asks if they shouldn't just call an ambulance. And we don't get an answer, because Hibiki's already gone, leaving Hitomi and Asumu to just, like, stare at this dying woman.

It's a bizarre scene, but it's really just one more bizarre scene on the non-Oni side of this episode. They're so disconnected it's almost frustrating. I kept waiting for some reason for both of these stories to be happening, and the episode stubbornly refused to help me out. There's bits and pieces of quality character stuff with Hibiki and Asumu, and some great action with the Oni, but this thing just did not come together for me. Hopefully by the second part!