“And hey, it’ll be nice
To be see-through for a while
And hey, it’ll be cool
To be feather-light for a while”

-Say Hi, “I Think I’ll Be A Good Ghost”

This one… not sure it 100% worked?

I’m likely to be initially skeptical of any episode of Hibiki that foregrounds the monster plot, even upgrading it to a legit Monster Mystery, but I think this episode had problems beyond that.

But, hey, let's start with the Monster Mystery. It’s a very standard Kamen Rider plot, where what seems like an open-and-shut monster plot suddenly takes a few unexpected turns, leaving the heroes playing catch-up. Ibuki and Akira are out looking for a flying Makamou that Hinaka can’t quite narrow down (probably some form of giant bee), which ends up probably not being a flying Makamou after it crushes a car and maybe strips two dudes (???) before fleeing down a mountain. Meanwhile, Hibiki is putting his recent training to good use by detonating a giant ant with his newest maneuver, Unified Burst Fire Style. It’s an episode with a whole lot of monster tracking and fighting.

Which, I’ll just say it: I super don’t give a shit. In general, I don’t care that much about the monster stuff in Hibiki, but here I just found it incredibly dull. The biggest problem is how isolated everything in this story feels, including the two monster plots. Hibiki fighting the ant is a fun visual, but there’s zero setup for it in the episode (his first scene is him defeating the Douji and Hime) and it never really connects with anything else in this one narratively. Even Unified Burst Fire Style is just him saying Unified Burst Fire Style a few times before simultaneously hitting the ant until it explodes. (Again, cool visual! Not disputing that!) It’s Hibiki stuck in a dull and formulaic plot, with next to none of the style that usually makes those parts of the story more palatable to me. (He does make a dumb pun after fighting the giant ant, to absolutely no one, and I sort-of respect that.) We don’t really see any of the cool minutiae that Kasumi and Hibiki get up to, or the funny camaraderie they share. It’s just him as an action hero, and that’s just not enough for me.

(Also, going back to that first Hibiki scene, it's the third time in a row this episode where they play the Hibiki theme. Once for the actual intro; then for Asumu's dream sequence, where it's got more of a lullaby tone; and then again, done straight, for Hibiki's fight. A) it's too many times in a row for any song, and B) it's a little lazy for the first fight to not have any cool, unique music. That's this show's brand!)

The Ibuki stuff isn’t so bad, but it’s mostly just setting up the next episode, and it eats up a ton of time to do it. It’s another plot in isolation, with Ibuki not interacting with Hibiki and Akira not interacting with Asumu. We get to see Team Ibuki working to defeat a monster, but it really doesn’t tell us anything new about them, which a plot like this really should be doing so soon after their introduction. It’s, like the Hibiki plot, pretty basic and not that unique.

All of that would’ve been less important to me if the Asumu plot (also completely in isolation, this episode was like watching three different shows) had delivered and… I guess there’s such a thing as being too opaque? You can read a lot into Asumu’s dilemma with the shoplifters here, but there’re no definitive answers to be found. He’s got no one to talk to or confide in, so we’re left with what looks to be a continuation of Asumu’s tendency to choke when he needs to be decisive, but, y’know, maybe it’s not? He’s all internal in this one, which I’d normally praise a show for, but there’s enough ambiguity to what’s motivating Asumu here that I really need someone to clarify what’s happening with him. Does it have anything to do with him being aimless over Spring Break? Or Hibiki not being around? Or Akira? Or his friends finding him unreliable? Or the sheep in his dream? There’s a bunch of things happening to/with Asumu in this one, but very little that’s being said about him, at least for me.

So, yeah, didn’t really work for me. Everything was too isolated to feel like I was watching one story, and the individual pieces were either too straightforward or too vague. I feel like this script needed a few more passes to be a Hibiki-level story.

P.S. Please don’t shoplift from bookstores! You’re more likely to be taking money directly out of the owner’s (very meager) pockets, rather than committing a “victimless” crime. Replacing stolen stock is not cheap, and stores can lose sales due to inaccurate inventory. Please don’t steal from bookstores!