OP: 「Special days」 by Gotou Yuuko (後藤 邑子) / Hanazono Hikari (華園 光).
Watch it online in high quality here.
“Pride Pro Wrestling”
The S.A class goes over the test results from their recent exam and unsurprisingly find themselves in the same ranking order. Kei continues to rub this in Hikari’s face with his “Ni-i-san” (Rank 2-san) remarks. Shortly after, we also find out that Hikari’s the daughter of a chief carpenter (i.e. she’s not from an overly rich family). The main focus of the episode comes to surface when student council president / top student of class 2-A, Takei Hajime, along with his supporters Oogawara and Takahashi (introduced in episode 1), issue a written challenge (挑戦状) to the S.A class. Apparently in the morning, Hajime was brushed aside by Akari (who took absolutely no notice of him) and then trampled over by all the S.A fan girls. Much to Hajime’s surprise (and Kei’s dismay), Hikari actually goes on to support his challenge since well, she loves challenges. :\
The challenge turns out to be a pro wrestling match where the student council has picked a couple of ringers to represent them (…something that is conveniently within the rules for the challengers only). Hikari gets fired up at the thought of a wrestling match and the S.A class unanimously select Kei as her partner (ah, the fated couple pairing…). The two of them go on to train together, but are ambushed by people hired to injure them before the match. Hikari, being a bit of a dunce, brushes off the inconspicuous attacks as nothing, but Kei takes out his attackers and rushes off to find Hikari. As a result of these attacks, Kei ends up lying to Hikari by calling her a nuisance and asking for a replacement partner, just so that she wouldn’t get hurt during the match. Hikari, being as clueless as she is, just gets angered by this and goes off to train on her own.
On the day of the match, Hikari insists on participating and Kei lets her, but decides to go out first (probably without ever intending to tag her in). However, the two of them get tricked by a pre-match bouquet gift and end up handcuffed together. During the match, Kei does everything he can to protect Hikari and ends up putting her outside of the ring while he gets stomped on. (By the way, I thought this was a tag-team match, so I have no idea why both the opposition are in the ring for the entire time… o_O) Hajime, as one of the announcers, ends up insulting Hikari which angers Kei, so he breaks the handcuffs. (If Kei could do this so easily, it makes you wonder why he didn’t just do so earlier. Anyway…) Free from their shackles, Hikari and Kei end up winning the match with a “Jumping Double Elbow”. As per an earlier competition, Kei also ends up winning the most number of techniques executed (16 to 15) and ponders on what to make Hikari do.
「おにぎり・まごころ」 (Onigiri / Magokoro)
“Onigiri / Devotion”
First off, the OP scene/song. I’m always a bit apprehensive when I hear that Gotou Yuuko will be singing, but I was surprised to find “Special days” a bit worse than even I expected. Please note that this is putting it fairly nicely too, since I’m quite tolerable to bad singing. (I listen to a fair share of character CDs.) Granted, her Suzumiya Haruhi character songs were pretty bad because she was singing in a Mikuru voice, but her Night Wizard character song, Darkness, was actually alright. I think the main problem with “Special days” is that it sounds off key more often than not. Regardless, the song actually sounded better the more I listened to it, but I’m not sure if this was simply because I became more tolerable to it or not. (heh…) Anyway, if you’re listening to it for the first time, I’m pretty sure it’ll irk you the wrong way, so prepare yourself! Given this and the all male cast ED song, I can’t help but wonder what the producers were thinking at the time. :\
As for the actual episode, I found the re-introduction of all the S.A class (name, background, and rank) a bit redundant, but I’ll assume that the writers were simply trying to familiarize the viewers with the characters. (If they do this again in the third episode though, I’ll probably start thinking otherwise.) Unsurprisingly, the episode focused on a pro wrestling match (as per the title), but it was interesting to catch glimpses of Hikari and Kei’s freakish strength. They also reiterated the fact that Kei is really protective of Hikari (and thus probably likes/loves her), despite his cold attitude towards her in front of the S.A class. I was actually starting to think that Kei was going for that cool/distant attitude in order to attract Hikari, but his quick verbal defense of her in front of others throws that idea out the window. In any case, I found Kei’s attempts to protect Hikari during the match a bit cheesy, but I know the effect the writers were aiming for, so I can appreciate that scene in that sense.
Joke-wise, the “Ni-i-san” (Rank 2-san) / “Ni-i-tte, yuu na!” (Don’t say Rank 2!) bit appears to be a mainstay as I originally suspected. I know some people will probably find this gag overused already, but I don’t mind it because I see it as Kei’s childish way of expressing his interest in Hikari (akin to a boy teasing a girl that he likes at the playground). In a way, it’s almost endearing. (For all you ARIA fans out there, this is the time to proclaim, “Hazukashii serifu kinshi!” (Embarassing remarks aren’t allowed!). :P)
After two episodes, I find Special A to be mainly comedic with flashes of romance her and there, which is an approach I personally don’t mind at all. I made the comparison to School Rumble and Ouran High School Host Club before and I’m really starting to think we may be in store for something similar. (i.e. The romance theme is always in the background, but never really accumulates to anything happening.) I haven’t read the manga though, so I could be mistaken here. Either way, I guess it’s something we’ll find out as we go along.
– Hanazono Hikari (華園 光) / Gotou Yuuko (後藤 邑子)
– Takishima Kei (滝島 彗) / Fukuyama Jun (福山 潤)
– Toudou Akira (東堂 明) / Nabatame Hitomi (生天目 仁美)
– Karino Tadashi (狩野 宙) / Shimono Hiro (下野 紘)
– Yamamoto Megumi (山本 芽) / Takagaki Ayahi (高垣 彩陽)
– Yamamoto Jun (山本 純) / Yonaga Tsubasa (代永 翼)
– Tsuji Ryuu (辻 竜) / Horie Kazuma (堀江 一眞)
– Takei Hajime (筧 肇) / Fujita Yoshinori (藤田 圭宣)
– Takahashi (高橋) / Satou Yuudai (佐藤 雄大)
– Oogawara (大河原) / Ichiki Mitsuhiro (市来 光弘)
– Female student (女生徒) / Nabei Makiko (鍋井 まき子)