This episode was really, really exciting. It’s close matches between heated rivals like this one that make sports anime so much fun!
Rena Shut Down
I cannot adequately describe the relish with which I enjoyed watching Rena get owned. People like her, who complain that something “isn’t fun” just because they’re losing, deserve a smack upside the head. She’s the kind of person who has never really had to try at anything in her (short) life, and she uses disinterest as a defense mechanism. From the standpoint of my marginally longer life, I can tell you how dearly wrong this is. Hard work makes a victory all the better – if you can manage to obtain it.
If I had to critique something, it’s that Rena learned her lesson and integrated with the team awfully quickly. This is one of those departures from reality that I’m fine with though. Sure, it’s not realistic, but if I wanted realism I’d go watch actual basketball. Rena becoming a (partial) team player amped up the tension as Keishin had to face not only Chibi Ribbon and three 6th graders, but Rena and Aya too. A break from reality, yes, but as I’ve said before, realism in fiction is overrated.
Maho Down, 5th Graders Rising
I enjoyed how Subaru’s plan was to exploit Rena’s ball hog tendencies into forcing fouls. Or perhaps that was an unintended side effect – stolen balls and missed shots would have likely been fine too – but being in foul trouble rendered Rena completely unable to guard Tomoka (as if she ever had a chance). I nearly exclaimed aloud when Rena’s last foul ended up injuring Maho though. You injured Maho! You bastard!
It did lead to one of several amazing moments of this episode. Maho was itching to get back in the game, and none other than TsubaHii calls her out for not trusting her teammates. The twins finally beat Maho, in the best way they possibly could – by being team players and dragging her back to her senses when she got lost in the heat of the moment. Also, HNNNNNNG. You’re so greedy Maho, taking both twins for yourself. You need to learn to share.
Maho’s injury did open up a great opportunity though – to finally see the 5th and 6th graders mixing on the court. Between that, the uniforms, and the fact that everyone was cheering as their teammates played, the girls of Keishin are finally a real team.
The Crowd Goes Wild!
Some of the skills these girls exhibited was totally nuts. Rena being able to copy Mimi’s move after seeing it once stretched my suspension of disbelief, and her alley-oop was nearly as unbelievable. Most of the rest of it was just solid good play though, from Hina ducking under the competition to Aya getting up in everybody’s faces and rebounding like a pro.
The moment I loved the most, though – actually it was one of the two best scenes of the episode – was Tomoka’s floater. As soon as she announced the shot she was going to take and Subaru stood up and cheered her on, I literally raised my hands in the air and exclaimed aloud. That’s good foreshadowing! That’s great storytelling! That’s damn exciting basketball, woohoo!!
Many people doubt this show because they think it’s fanservice for lolicons, but as I’ve said many times, it’s actually a good sports anime, and just a damn good story at the end of the day. One hallmark of good storytelling is building up characters slowly over time, and foreshadowing something far before it happens. How many of you, going into the last scene, were consciously waiting for Saki to take the final shot? As soon as they flashed back to the last shot she missed against Suzuridani last season, I instantly remembered it, but up until then I didn’t expect it. Then Masami passed the ball behind her back to Saki, and I knew what was coming.
I doubted it, I’ll admit. I knew she was probably going to sink it, that that’s what was “supposed” to happen, but like good storytellers the studio only gave me a little time to think about it – barely over a minute – so I didn’t have the time to think about it totally rationally. What if they subverted expectations? What if she missed and they lost it after all? But no, Saki shot and Saki scored, and the crowd erupted once again – and by the crowd, I mean I literally cheered aloud. On to overtime, fuck yeah!
Looking Ahead – Overtime
With only one episode left, I honestly don’t know what will happen. Keishin will probably win, but since we won’t be able to see the rest of the tournament, they could just as easily lose. (Or perhaps the rest of the tournament will be saved for a hypothetical season 3.) What I do know is that if they keep up the excitement they showed us this episode, it will be one of the finales I’ll be looking forward to the most.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Rena shutdown, Maho injured, the girls came together, Tomoka flew, & Saki sunk the shot to extend the game. & the crowd goes wild! #rokyubu
- It bears repeating that Aya is a great character for all of her growth, and for how she called Rena out for the coward she was being.
- Maho x TsubaHii, sittin’ in a tree, h-u-g-g-i-n-g. Wait, what did you think I was going to say?
For more from yours truly, check out my blog on writing, art, and the book I’m working on at stiltsoutloud.com.