The tournament arc is fast approaching its climax, and everything has finally been set up for Setsu and his gang to step on the stage and show us what they got, but this will have to wait for next week. This week’s episode was something special, in that many sideline characters had moments in the spotlight which helped to build up the hype for next week’s episode. At the same time, this episode answered many of the questions I had pondered in last week’s review, and boy were my predictions wrong! Let’s break down the events:
Yui’s Concerned Expression Explained
My take on Yui’s look of sadness and worry at the end of last week’s episode turned out to not be as deep an issue as I predicted, and it turns out she was simply anxious about the tournament and letting her team down. Nevertheless, the director did a good job to foreshadow the theme of this week’s episode, as we were given insight into Yui’s childhood with Shiru. While I hoped there would be more depth to Yui’s story and feelings, it turned out to be a classic case of “the strong character showing their weakness“, as Yui begins to come to terms with her inner self-hatred of being a burden on others.
Rai is a Hype Machine
The happy, go-lucky Rai showed the kind of fighting spirit that the team so desperately needed, especially as morale began to drop after hearing the brilliant performances of the other teams. The blue-haired beast was quick to show his inner tiger and showing us a reaction to the performances that was different to the nervous expressions we’ve been receiving from the others, as he yelled “I’m all fired up!” and calling the team to action. Just as it seemed Yui and Shiru were going to break down in an emotional exchange away from the group, Rai shows up with the boys with a hilariously determined expression as he bellows “Don’t underestimate this event!”
Not only has Rai been established as a comedic relief character, but at a time like this he is exactly what the group needed: a voice of confidence. This tall and eccentric character did not stop there, and did plenty of work behind the scenes to help Setsu thrive into the leader he was destined to be. As a viewer, even I felt relief each time Rai spoke, and it seems he’s able to get the best out of everyone’s feelings at the critical moments. As the group steps out on stage in the closing scenes, Rai smiles and leads the way into the spotlight, exclaiming “Let’s go have some fun!”, as he breaks down the tense atmosphere felt by both the team, and us as the viewers.
Mai’s Stunning Performance
Dramas and feelings aside, let’s not forget the incredible performance put on by the gorgeous Mai Tanuma this episode, and I would have to say this was my favourite shamisen sequence of the Matsugorou Cup so far. The modern sound she puts on the instrument was different to anything we’ve heard so far, and her performance definitely places their school among the top teams to beat. The sequence of flower petals and the accompanying high and low notes of the supporting players made this a piece to remember. Be it possible romantic feelings for Setsu, or the simple drive to defeat him as a rival of the shamisen, one thing is for certain, Mai absolutely stole the show in this week’s episode.