"Time and transition is a wave that will put you overboard
Where the darkness is a bed and you can sleep
'Til someone tells you that they know you and they do"

-Superchunk, "My Gap Feels Weird"

I keep forgetting to mention it, so, apropos of nothing, let me talk about how much I love the end credits.

I mean, the song alone. "Hit the beat! Keep yoooouuuurrr beat!" It's this very lovely song about a boy on a journey to being a man, and how he needs to believe in himself, how he needs to find a path and a passion and a purpose... and the whole thing is Asumu literally following the lead of Hibiki. It's so perfect a distillation of this series' strengths and themes. And to have it all be with these little pop-ins from the other cast members, the serenity of it all... I can't think of a stronger way to end an episode of this exceptionally kind and generous show.

It frames everything that happens as important not because of Hibiki's heroics, but because of Hibiki's example. Defeating a monster isn't cool, being respected by people is cool. (Defeating a monster is a little cool, objectively.) Asumu isn't awed by Hibiki as an Oni, he's awed by Hibiki as a strong, confident man that is surrounded by people who care about him. These lessons that Asumu's learning, it isn't making him a Kamen Rider, it's making him a man.

It's another unique thing the series does. It's taking the subtext of every single Kamen Rider show, and making it text. Like, every Kamen Rider series is trying to instill lessons to the children watching at home. (And the impressionable adults talking about Kamen Rider on the internet.) It's trying to teach them empathy, confidence, integrity, determination, compassion, and how to throw a belt and cell phone to someone who is about to be mauled by a monster. (That one doesn't get called on a lot in adulthood, but it's a good skill to know you've got.) It usually couches those things in allegory, where a superhero has to demonstrate some life lesson to find a way to defeat a monster. OOO needs to believe in himself. Snipe needs to have integrity. Garren needs to acknowledge the existence and interior life of someone other than himself. It's always some weirdly flawed adult who has to show a kind of growth that a child can apply to their own lives.

(Real quick: I love those characters. I love those shows. It's not a bad way to tell a story that way, but it is a typical way.)

What Hibiki does is say, Look. If we need to have a Kamen Rider show kids how to become responsible adults, let's just make a series about a Kamen Rider showing a kid how to become a responsible adult. That's it, that's the mission statement. As a result, we don't need to have Hibiki falling apart emotionally or acting childishly. We can have Asumu get freaked out by a challenge he feels unprepared for, let him feel unprepared, let him look for an escape, and then just have Hibiki say What Do You Think "Pretty Well-Trained" Means? It doesn't have to be a grown man figuring out that success doesn't come easy. It can be a grown man saying to a child I Am Only Successful Because I Worked Hard At It.

I like that approach. I like that this is a show where Hibiki isn't variously competent/mature, as the plot demands. Asumu's the one who gets to freak out, worry, be needy, make bad decisions, because he's a kid. Hibiki gets to be a weird adult, but he's still someone who I'm not afraid to leave on his own. (Tachibana!)

This was a solid episode, made up of a bunch of very cute scenes (all of the stuff with Ibuki getting dissed by Ichiro because Ibuki's hot for Kasumi, all of the stuff with Ibuki just assuming Asumu is Hibiki's apprentice, all of the stuff with Ibuki) that are laser-focused on creating a space for Asumu to, even if he doesn't feel confident in his chances on the exam, he can feel confident in trying to feel confident. He can keep studying because he sees from Hibiki that getting knocked down isn't the end, and that proper training can give you the confidence to face insurmountable odds. Success isn't guaranteed, but neither is failure.