「ハードに火をつけて」 (Haado ni Hi wo Tsukete)
“Light a Fire Hard”
I don’t think there was any doubt that Takenaka Natsuhi would become more central to the story than as a stepping stone for Tomoka and the others to elevate their game. After all, he provides an outsider’s take on the girls and is quick to call Subaru a lolicon too. What’s new to me is his relationship with Maho — and not Hinata — that’s used to drive the next part of the story.
That’s all fine and dandy, but I don’t know how sympathetic I can be about Natsuhi’s problem with Maho after learning what it is. If anything, it just comes down to being jealous that she’s a natural athlete. What I don’t understand is why he has such a big complex about Maho quickly getting bored of something and decided to quit soon after. It’s not like she’s taking his starter position with her halfhearted interest and he’s watching from the bench, albeit that does appear to be the setup for this upcoming inter-class competition. Instead, he’s treating her behavior like a denouncement of his basketball religion, solely on the hunch that she’s not going to take it seriously enough. What’s more, she hasn’t even shown any signs of quitting and he’s already taking the initiative to get her away from basketball. No matter how I look at it, that just reeks of a complex on Natsuhi’s part.
I’m holding out for the possibility that there’s an added reason that Natsuhi hasn’t told us about yet, such as the two of them agreeing to play a sport together and Maho suddenly deciding to quit, shattering his hopes of playing with her. If something like that were to come up, I’d be more understanding of the situation now, even though Maho playing on the girls basketball team doesn’t affect him in any real way. From my perspective, their problem with one another seems overly trivial, but then again, so do most personal problems when viewed from the outside. Because of that, Miho deserves some praise for being as perceptive as she is about their situation and making Subaru help them reconcile, which helps reinforce her image as a teacher even when her appearance doesn’t. Subaru may have inadvertently made some progress, but I gather Natsuhi’s not entirely convinced of Maho’s resolve even after seeing her practice at night and that he’ll be testing her resolve next time.
Overshadowed during the training camp is of course Subaru himself, who continues to mislead the poor girls with his innocent gestures. We’re probably in store for many more moments like that, along with the subsequent misunderstandings, as the series continues to poke fun at the lolicon aspect. When it comes to a young maiden’s heart, the possibility that Subaru will be put “under the gun” is definitely there. Whether he does anything more than blush in response is another matter though. I don’t see it happening, at least not in this adaptation.