"I take it back, I was never alone
My censored thoughts, mild and monotone
I took a train to Berlin today
When I called last night you felt so far away"

-Waxahatchee, "Sparks Fly"

I liked this episode! It's hard to talk about!

This one felt very very much like the first half of a two-parter. I mean, all of these stories so far have been, but this was very... unfinished. It's asking a lot of questions, but not really doing much in the way of answers, so I don't have much to dig into.

On the one hand, it's sort-of unfair to criticize a two-part story for not delivering enough content in the first part. It's something that'll be rectified by the end of the next episode, so why sweat it? But, on the other hand, the unit of entertainment being produced is the episode, not the story, so I think it's fair game to point out when the episode is maybe a little thin.

Like, this thing is not without its pleasures. It's fun to see Asumu succeed in his exams, even if I'm not sure this was a show that was going to see this kid study hard and fail to get into Jounan. Not really in the cards. But! It's delightful to see him cheered on and congratulated by his friends, by AsuMum, by AsuMum's coworkers (who I briefly felt a pang of Oh Man Uber Put Them All Out Of A Job about), and by Kasumi and Hinaka. It's really fun to see so many smiles.

The conversation Asumu has with Hinaka is very cute, with her both encouraging him to reach for the dream of being like Hibiki, while also chiding him for assuming that just anyone could be like Hibiki. It's a very confusing bit of guidance, which is a nice alternative to the regularly helpful kind that Hibiki might dole out. Not... not 100% sure if she's cheering him on or warning him off! Still, she tells Asumu how to get to the mountain Hibiki's training on, and this is the point where I really liked the episode but can just vaguely gesture at it while saying Just Watch The Episode I Guess.

So much of the Asumu/Hibiki stuff in this one is Hibiki training and Asumu trying to reach him, and... I mean, this is what I'm referring to when I struggle to talk about this first part of the story. It is literally just Hibiki training and Asumu trying to reach him. It's shot well! It's fun to watch! It is a very surface pleasure! It feels like one scene stretched over an episode. It's important to keep them apart, but it leaves the episode feeling like it's killing time, in a way. It's never boring! But it feels a little thin.

The big deal in this one isn't even about Asumu or Hibiki, though. It's the debut of Ibuki as an Oni, and the debut of his assistant, Akira.

Akira's a big ol' question mark at this point, which is one more thing about this episode that's tough to address. We don't really know her deal yet, other than that she's also going to be attending Jounan (what a lucky break for the conservation of cast!), and that she's already more of a hero than Asumu.

There's really only the one Akira scene to talk about, and it's a great one. A pregnant woman gets on a train, and there are no empty seats, so she stands. Asumu wonders if he should give up his seat, but he looks around to see if anyone else will first. No one gets up. He frets about whether he should say something, whether he should get up, and the seconds keep ticking away. Meanwhile, Akira gets up and gives the woman her seat. Problem solved.

It's Asumu's recurring problem, isn't it? It's his hesitation on the ferry, his hesitation in front of the bookstore. He couldn't risk his physical safety then, and he couldn't risk being noticed by others now. But Akira sees what needs doing, and takes care of it.

It seems like that's the parallel we're getting at in this story. Rather than Asumu reflecting Hibiki, we've got the Asumu/Hibiki relationship reflecting the Akira/Ibuki one. Feels like that's what a lot of the next episode is going to be about.

And, hey, Ibuki! Love that suit. Love it. I think I prefer it to Hibiki's? I'm a fan of the pipes coming around the shoulders and torso, and up into the collar. I love his Trumpet Gun or whatever. I like his jazzy Henshin music. He's a fun looking character, and I like the differences between his fighting style (ranged, quick) and Hibiki's (close, powerful). It's real interesting the way the musical styles and instruments get spun out into approaches to combat. Can't wait to see more of Ibuki in action!

Anyway, yeah, I liked this episode. Not one that's going to stick real hard in the memory, but a really pleasant twenty-odd minutes of storytelling. Worked for me!