「Round 21」

There comes a point when all the efforts of even the best wingmen and big sisters hit the wall.  Rivals and supporters fall by the wayside with no distinction, and only the two principals remain standing.  For all the build up in Hi Score Girl, all the wonderful supporting characters (indeed, it seems disrespectful even to use that term with Koharu) it was always going to come down to this moment.  The strange, half-silent mating dance between Haruo and Akira couldn’t go on forever, and we only have three episodes remaining.

While there’s a healthy element of messing with him just for the fun of it (even Miyao admits to doing so “about a third of the time”) any young aspirant in affairs of the heart would be lucky to have the support Haruo does.  His mom for starters, despite her love for teasing, has always allowed Haruo to be who he is and seen through the dismissive labels society (and sometimes he himself) stuck on him.  A truer best friend than Miyao could hardly be imagined – especially when considering, let’s not forget, that he crushed on Oono-san himself.  And when it comes to the Oono household he’s had allies on the inside, too…

Makoto crosses over these groups – she’s a platinum member of the Haruo-teasing club – but her main role is to advocate for her sister and push her when necessary.  Of course, there’s another element to this and the truth is, all this is the least Makoto can do considering her role in forging the bars of her sister’s cell.  Makoto blew off her responsibilities and left Akira to deal with them, and Akira was too dutiful to follow in her footsteps.  Makoto understands this now of course, which I’ve always felt was the main reason she became so invested in trying to couple up Akira and Haruo.  But it might just be a case of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

The immediacy of all this has ramped up exponentially, which was the reason for Akira’s coldness towards Haruo-kun when he rode up on his new steed to woo her.  Her parents are moving her to LA permanently, within the month no less – which Jiiya and Akira knew, but Makoto has only just found out.  Ironically Akira’s behavior at that moment has had what’s no doubt the opposite of the intended effect – steeled Haruo’s resolve and pushed him to confront his feelings once and for all.  He’s leveled up to “Haruo X” and admitted his true feelings – but Haruo is blissfully unaware of the truth.

Doi-kun of all people comes up with the logical next step for Haruo’s quest – the “Street Fighter II” national championships in Osaka (fate at work, it seems).  Is Haruo’s commingling of his “battle” with Oono and his love for her an emotional crutch for him?  Of course – but at this point, that rivalry is so integrated with his feelings for her that I think he can be forgiven for clinging to it now.  He needs to prove he can beat her in a legit contest (not one with mechanical failure) to feel as if he’s worthy of asking for her hand.  And thanks to Moemi-sensei putting her charge’s feelings first for once, he’s going to get the chance.

What Haruo doesn’t realize of course is that rather than a fateful showdown that will determine their fate as a couple, this is looking like a final fling – a last chance to experience the joys of a childhood adventure before the harsh reality of adulthood rips them apart forever.  The ongoing narrative of Guile and Zangief makes a fitting soundtrack for this last childish fling, where gaming reigns supreme one last time before reality breaches the walls.  If Akira wins – as history suggests she should – the endgame seems pretty straightforward.  But if Haruo pulls the upset it’s a much more complicated situation.  But then, adulthood is pretty damn complicated.

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