「碓氷、敵に回る」 (Usui, Teki ni Mawaru)
“Usui, Turns Into The Enemy”
There’s been an amazing dearth of volleyball anime since Urano Chikako’s Attack No. 1 from 1968, which always strikes me odd since the sport’s pretty big in Japan. I normally prefer the indoor variety since the plays involving six players are much more exciting, but I’ll take anything I can get at this point even if it’s a Maid-sama episode fully dedicated to a beach tournament. All that was really needed was a pretext to get the games going here, which Nagisa promising to let Aoi cross-dress if he can win the Prince & Princess Beach Tournament providing just that. Apparently, she’s okay with him dressing up in drag if he can first show how manly he is in sport. Go figure. Again, I’m not complaining because Misaki was quick to offer to be his partner after seeing how earnest he was about winning (…and cross-dressing), even though she’s not that familiar with beach volleyball. As they briefly glossed over in the episode, it’s a totally different sport that relies a lot more on positional play and shots than drawing blockers by running tandem plays and powering the ball through. What’s more, jumping on sand feels like it cuts your vertical down to half of what it is indoors on a gymnasium floor, so hitting a ball at some absurd angles on beach isn’t easy if you don’t have the height. Fundamental skills go a long way, but the style of play is completely different when it comes to beach volleyball.
Naturally, none of that really matters when Misaki’s an anime character that can make due in any situation and pound the ball so sharply that no one can dig it up. If she were truly an Asian though, there would be no way she’d get her shoulders that high over the net. It’s just not in Asian blood to grow that tall or jump that high, especially not Japanese blood that tends to be one of the shortest on average. Usui’s an exception of course, since he’s super man. With his green eyes and glistening blond hair, I’m inclined to assume that he’s half anyway, so you can forget shoulders over the net in his case when it’s more like hips. Most Asians would be more like Aoi in terms of height and vertical, and get stuffed by the likes of Caucasian players who put up a wall of a block like Takumi did here. I do applaud Misaki and Aoi putting up the good fight, plowing through the rest of the competition, and making it to the finals as Evil Misaki and Evil Aoi (…now with the Raging Demon). They technically won by default after Takumi injured himself saving Misaki from crashing into the pole, but it was more or less a one-sided slaughter leading up to that. If Misaki and Aoi really wanted to win, the strategy should have been serving Erika all day to prevent Takumi from taking the third ball (and crushing it), but that wouldn’t have been very interesting for us as the viewer. (Also, only volleyball fanatics would probably appreciate it.)
In any case, this was a pretty fun volleyball episode simply because Misaki, Takumi, and Aoi are athletic enough to make things interesting. It wasn’t without its relationship-building moments either, as Misaki blurted out her frustration asking why Usui has to be her opponent. It was funny to see how that got through to him for a second, before he went back to teasing her by saying she’s selfish and asking if she really wants him that much. Upon hearing him say that, my immediate thought was pretty much, “Oh she does Usui. She just doesn’t know it yet.” After all, Takumi sacrificing himself to protect Misaki only scored him additional brownie points towards winning over the tsundere president completely, who actually moved in for a kiss herself this time around. I guess that was an example of being caught in the moment, which was only spoiled by the fireworks in the background. Most people would be saying “Tamaya~!” to that, but I think the correct reaction to the first firework going off in this case would be, “Nooo~!”. It’s not like they haven’t kissed before, but after Takumi said he didn’t like the idea of people exploiting Misaki by dressing her up for photographs if she won the tournament, it felt like the perfect moment to make an unforgettable summer memory. All the exploitation was going to be left for Aoi anyway, who was happily prancing about in his full-out princess get-up.
It’s probably worth noting that these past two episodes only spanned two back to back days during their summer vacation, which is a stark difference compared to most episodes where days fly by multiple times during a single episode. Story-wise, it doesn’t really affect anything, but I found it interesting how we got two beach episodes one after another as a result. The next one looks like everyone will finally head back to school, with Tora and some of the other Miyabigaoka crew making a return as well. What really caught my attention in the preview though is Miko Day at Maid Latte. Misa-chan as a shrine maiden? I’m game.
* It’s weird how only Usui’s last name is used in the versus match-up. I guess it’s because no one calls him Takumi in the show…