Before we begin, let me just formally state for the record that I found the whole bit with the Jeffry McWild screen idle sequence to be absolutely hilarious. That includes Haruo’s mom reacting to it, of course. It’s just such a silly spectacle to begin with, with those clunky CGI still shots. Then when you put it in context and add the way it was shot, well – genius. Comedy is an odd alchemy, and there’s a point where showing something on-screen can go from long enough to too long – but then, if let it run, loop back to being perfect. Selling out the joke as far as it can go takes guts, but the rewards can be considerable.
Before that, of course, we had the “final showdown” between Koharu and Akira. Given the choice of venue, Koharu picked “Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo” – having been promised by Akuma that he’d win the day for her. My limited experience with fighting games notwithstanding, I know SSF2X is supposed to be pretty damn hard, which makes it a fitting choice. Indeed, both girls punt getting the character they want the first time around, so Koharu suggests a do-over before it counts (and Akira agrees). One think about Oono-san – she never Bogarts the advantages. She’s always content to let the opponent have any advantage they can – which is really the ultimate expression of confidence.
This whole scene is beautifully brought off, as Koharu’s inner turmoil is contrasted with the absurdist images on the console. Koharu never has an unexpressed thought or a moment of inner peace, it seems, and she basically talks herself into losing. “Taking every advantage you can is a valid strategy” is basically true, but Koharu lets Akira shame her into fighting on her terms. The symbolism here is not lost on anyone – when Hidaka fights Oono on a level playing field, she never really has a chance. She could have won this match – but given what the battle was really about, that would have been much sound and fury signifying nothing.
Meanwhile, Haruo is planning on getting his motorcycle license (which he is old enough for in Japan). Miyao-kun continues to rack up endless wingman points, taking it on himself to make sure Haruo understands the difference between racing games and actual streets (which is a legit worry, in my view). Miyao has his own ideas about Haruo’s real motivation for this move, and while he lets himself be talked out of them, the truth of course is that he’s pretty much on the money. While there’s basically no difference in their ages, it’s pretty clear who’s the big brother in this relationship.
I think the whole scooter thing says a lot about the larger nature of Haruo-kun’s relationship with Akira. Most boys, deep down, want to be knights in shining armor where girls are concerned – especially romantics like Haruo. A scooter is a steed of sorts to be sure, and every gallant champion needs one. Makoto promising to give him her bike if he passes the exam (she can obviously afford it) proves where her rooting interest lies in all this. And I also like the way Namie-san deals with this. The stereotypical mom reaction to her 16 year-old getting a scooter would be to freak out, but while she’s not unconcerned (including about the Jeffry study video) she’s supportive of her boy trying to move forward.
All this seems to be building up to something, and the blush on Akira’s face when Haruo gallops up on his new charger to show off betrays no reason to think otherwise. Neither does the smile on her face when he veritably bubbles over with pride in explaining how this will improve their lives. But then she pulls away, quite literally – leaving Haruo confused and unsettled. Nothing that happens in the buildup to this moments explains why it exists – which means the explanation will be revealed next week, unfortunately for new viewers.