「ROUND 17」

After easing us back into the story last week, Hi Score Girl II dives in headfirst in its second episode. With only nine eps this season things will be progressing pretty quickly, but that should be enough to do the remainder of the manga justice. In truth the “Extra Stage” OVA’s can properly be thought of as the first three episodes of this season, because rather than standalone stories (as OVA’s often are) these directly set up the events starting to play out now. And Koharu is right at the center of that.

Koharu is also right at the center of the drama in the first part of the episode – the continuation of last week’s cliffhanger. The tension is so great in Haruo’s room, in fact, that both Miyao and Makoto flip out in spectacular fashion – Miyao scarpers altogether, and Makoto returns to her dirty Shiratori with Haruo’s mom. That leave the core trio alone, and while Haruo certainly isn’t immune from the tension he’s still a bit too much the innocent to fully grasp its meaning.

Hidaka-san challenging Oono to a “Virtua Fighter II” match is certainly interesting from a psychological standpoint. As in all things, Akira is silent but deadly – despite ceding Haruo’s lone Saturn arcade controller to Koharu, she triumphs in relatively easy fashion. But she’s no happier than Koharu at the close of the drama – she totally gets what’s just been going down here, even if Haruo doesn’t. As for Koharu it’s the usual routine when trying to measure up against Akira, but she as always deals with her feelings in exactly the opposite manner from Akira – with much more fanfare but much less self-awareness.

The most telling Koharu moment of the episode, for me, come when she tells Nikotama-san that her personality seems to be at its worst lately whenever she’s around Haruo-kun. This is just after she’s failed to defend him from the Mizonokuchi Force, her self-appointed knights (very) errant who’ve taken to bullying Haruo for breaking her heart. This persuades Haruo to ditch the local arcade and not come back, which is exactly the last thing Koharu wanted. The poor girl is – unlike Oono – a non-stop wall of words, except in the moment where she actually wants to say something.

As for Haruo, he ends up in Shibuya – which for a kid from Mizunokuchi is definitely “bright lights, big city”. As a kid who spent his early childhood years in a suburb of a big city (Chicago) I totally get Haruo’s fascination and awe about Shibuya. For someone who knows how relatively tame even Tokyo is compared to an American metropolis the fear factor here might seem silly, but believe me – for someone in Haruo’s (or Miyao or Doi) shoes it’s completely on-point. Fortunately for Haruo he scores some points with the local Shibuya Squad by defeating (using Oono’s strategy) the unbeatable General in “Kaiser Knuckle” – sparing himself a tickling (hey, this is still Japan) and finding himself a refuge from the troubled waters of Mizunokuchi.

Oh, what a tangled web we have here. Koharu has been reluctantly drawn into the looming turf war between the Mizunokuchi Force and the Shibuya Squad – which now has Mizunokuchi boy Haruo as its top dog. And not only that, Haruo has turned “delinquent” – though in the only adorable way such a sweetheart of a kid in such a safe town as Shibuya could ever do. Though I admit, the girls are actually kind of scary – and I had no idea what BK meant. Only the arrival of a couple of their teachers prevents the boys from getting “Blown The Fuck Out”, but the real battle – of the heart and the arcade – is still to come…

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