"I better ace that interview
I better ace that interview
I should tell them that I'm not afraid to die
I better ace that interview"

-Mitski, "My Body's Made Of Crushed Little Stars"

Literally everything in this episode about a superhero trying to find and defeat a giant crab is spinning around one teenager having anxiety about his exams, and I love it.

Like, man, man. Basing so much of this one episode on how stressed Asumu is, such a great idea. It's to the show's credit that it never feels like you're missing out on something, by following Asumu around. It's as captivating to watch as any (two-move!) Hibiki fight scene. It's a plot that doesn't need a single supernatural thing to happen in it, because it's already epic.

That's... I think that's the secret to why so much of Hibiki works so well. The monster stuff, the Hibiki parts of Kamen Rider Hibiki, are all downplayed, made mundane. It's funny and relatable to see Hibiki and Kasumi going through their routines, treating monster extermination like a sales call for a small business. But then the teen drama is made mythic by its dominance of screentime, with Asumu's anxiety feeling as apocalyptic as any giant crab attack. This is a show that makes the heroic stuff look boring, and the boring stuff look heroic. Just a fantastic idea.

The Asumu plot, on its own, is nicely open-ended. After a brief (episode-highlight) meeting with Hibiki, Asumu feels confident in his upcoming exams. Except he's not. He's completely terrified that he's not good enough, that he's stupidly put all of his eggs in one basket, that he's going to embarrass himself, that he has no other options.

It's a plot that's bubbling under the whole time, likely to explode in the next episode. Asumu seems frantic to tell someone, anyone, that he feels underwater, but the words never come out. It's like he's taking the wrong lessons from Hibiki. He sees an upbeat, successful loner who preaches self-confidence, and decides that that's all he needs to do to succeed. Just believe in yourself, and you'll win! But that's not nearly the whole story to Hibiki. He's had years of training, and a support system that keeps him in strategies and disc animals. Hibiki succeeds because of all of the people that he can depend on, not because he can breathe purple flames. (Not to discount the purple flames! Actually a pretty big factor in Hibiki's successes!) But the interactions that Asumu's had with Hibiki keep him from understanding how much of a loner Hibiki isn't.

I mean, even Hibiki isn't clear on how much he needs people, so it's a fair thing for Asumu to miss. In the same way that Asumu is trying to tamp down his anxiety, and failing, Hibiki's trying to act all nonchalant about a kid he clearly sees as having the potential for greatness, and failing. Ichiro doesn't miss it for a second, but he's nice enough to (I assume) let Hibiki start to figure out on his own that he wants to take Asumu under his wing. He's trying to be respectful of Asumu, let him live his life, but these two need that mentor/apprentice relationship like crabs need to grow to the size of a studio apartment.

And, on the topic of the monster plot of the TV series where a superhero fights monsters... some good, some bad. I liked the rhythm of the search, as usual (it's that Kuuga thing of We Need To Show You Every Single Step In Detail, but padded out with great dialogue and relaxing outdoorsiness), but the fight against the Hime, come on. It's literally just some distractions by the disc animals, and then two moves by Hibiki. Come on! Give me a little bit more meat on that bone, show. The giant crab is... not my thing, but it's fine for the few seconds it's onscreen. Not really worth talking about.

(Similarly, I don't really care to talk about Zanki or Ibuki yet. It's cool that they just mentioned them, like other traveling salesmen for Team Hibiki Bar and Grill, but there's really nothing more than that to dig into. I'm excited to meet them, though! Although I assume I already did, judging by that parking lot scene with Asumu's mom!)

It's almost dumb how invested I am in Asumu's anxiety about getting into the right high school. If they'd never even had Hibiki suit up to fight a monster this episode, I don't think I'd've noticed or cared. It just feels so epic, Asumu's journey. I'm 100% in his corner.