「ROUND 19」

I’ve noted in the past that as much as I love Hi Score Girl, I would probably feel even more connected with it if I’d been a more serious gamer when these events were taking place. I was a dilettante at best, but even I can see the symmetry in the game this episode was built around. And that’s exactly why Oono-san chose it. Not only was the Final Fight series the one that she and Haruo first played together, it pretty much sums up what’s about to happen in the story.

If last week’s episode was all about Koharu, this one was all Akira – and HSG tends to flow that way so it isn’t surprising. There’s only one word that springs to mind for that trip home on the Den-en-toshi Line, and that’s “awkward“. How could it be otherwise, with that scene that played out in front of the family restaurant? But in the moment Oono-san seems oddly conciliatory. She never says much (okay, that’s an understatement) but the tradeoff is that her face betrays everything she’s feeling. Here’s it’s clear even before she makes a peace offering of suckers to Haruo and Koharu that her mood is contemplative, not vengeful.

The same can’t be said of Makoto-san and of Haruo’s mom. Though, truth be told, he seems to be right that this is more about busting his chops for fun than any real outrage over his “playboy and delinquent” ways. The irony of course is that if there’s any 16 year-old male to whom those labels don’t apply, it’s Haruo – and deep down they both know this. But they are right about one thing – his lack of clarity is causing a lot of heartache for both the girls that love him. It’s not his fault, because one thing that’s totally clear is that Haruo is in way over his head – he’s just too innocent to have any skill at these sorts of games. But he does know what he wants – he just doesn’t know how to process it.

Eventually Akira does what she has to do and takes matters into her own hands. She takes advantage of a day off for Moemi-sensei and has Haruo kidnapped – a manifestation of her dark sense of humor, Jiiya says. As Makoto discreetly steps out of the picture and spends a (very strange) night at the Yaguchi house, Akira and Haruo spend the night on a historical retrospective of the Final Fight series – starting with the newest and ending on the original. Akira freaks when Haruo tries to play as the blonde girl, and chooses all the girl characters herself (a first for Haruo to see) but apart from that nothing happens. Separate beds, separate bedrooms.

If you sensed disappointment from Makoto and Namie-san at that, you aren’t alone – I did too. But that wasn’t really the point. After Shibuya Akira felt the need to even the score (which is actually 2-2 now, if you consider the class trip missed train and love hotel incidents), and she’s done it. But fighting games don’t end in ties, Final Fight or any others. And that means there’s one more round to come, which lends a rather momentous air to Oono inviting Hidaka out and taking her to the arcade.

It’s always fascinating to watch this polar-opposite pair interact alone together. Anyone alone with Akira is odd because of her perpetual silence, but somehow with Haruo they always seem to be having a conversation even though he’s the only one talking. With Koharu it’s stark tension – Oono is always thinking and Hidaka’s always thinking out loud. The silence unnerves Koharu even as Haruo is comfortable with it, and in a funny sort of way that suggests that he’s more compatible with the one than he is with the other. Or perhaps it’s just that anyone being compatible with Akira is so unlikely that Haruo being so makes their relationship seem like kismet…


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