「俺はこの勝ち方しか知らない」 (Ore wa Kono Kachikata Shika Shiranai)
“It’s the Only Way I Know To Win”
I suppose you can’t change completely overnight, and while Minato is still very much a jerk of a guy, he is showing gradual improvements over time. Yes, his comments can still be nasty and yes, he is not a warm guy to be around, but one thing I did notice is the emotional lash outs have started to die down as his focus and energy are returning to water polo. With the prefectural match coming up, no one is showing more heart in their training than Minato, and while he is still a haughty and arrogant guy, there’s no doubt he is the reason the team is pushing themselves harder than ever.
Inspiration is Contagious
On the terms that Minato will return to his prime physical condition and form, the team agrees to go with the plan of revolving play around Minato, as it is indeed the only way he knows to win. While reluctant at first to go through with this plan, Minato’s day-to-day training, determination, and hard work seem to be rubbing off well on the team, as they can see from his example what it really takes to be a champion. If the “happy” Minato was the more liked version, then the “angry” Minato is surely the more respected version. From Babayaro and Yoshiharu heading his training advice to Eijiri consulting him about doing push-ups the night before the match and Eitarou asking him about match nerves, the team very much looks up to Minato as their knowledgable leader and are slowly growing more comfortable with confiding in him for support.
Minato’s Inner Light
Perhaps a key factor as to why the team is feeling good about Minato is because of the subtle reminders they get that he is still the same Minato that they all grew close with during the formation of the club. Whether it was Minato’s discipline in training, dedication to water polo, or his quirky way of saying “Lez do this,” the team was given several lowkey hints that he is still the Minato they once knew. Now with the mindset of a champion, Joujima and co. are putting their differences aside to work as best they can with Minato and really see how far they can go.
Minato’s inner light seems to have been noticed by his family too. The Kiyomizus certainly seem to feel more comfortable talking to him, and seeing him do what he loves has brought a smile to Mr. and Mrs. Kiyomizu while giving little Asumi that push she needs for her music contest. From hearing the sound of Minato practicing his ball tosses on the wall of his room to hearing him advise his teammates over the phone, all seems to finally be heading in a good direction for the Kiyomizu family.
It seems that everyone is aware of Minato’s inner light, as small as it may be, and you could say things are on their way to work out better than ever before as Minato has the opportunity to become a champion again, but in the right way. I believe a critical factor for this is Minato being in a better, more positive environment than when he was playing for the toxic coach at the elite school. Now surrounded by teammates who have the best interest for him, as well as a family who see the light in him, Minato is surrounded by people who can always pull him back on track should he begin to lose himself, and I think that is the best gift that “happy” Minato has left us with.
Chinu x Minato Still on the Table
The final sequences revealed some interesting facts about Chinu and her senpai Ichinose. While last week I did not have concrete evidence about it, this week has revealed without a doubt that the Chinu x Ichinose ship has indeed sunk, with Ichinose happily pursuing a life in table tennis and even having a new sweetheart of his own. Chinu still confides in her senpai before her matches and even shows to be happy for his new direction in life nonetheless. So where does this leave Chinu x Minato?
Well if you ask me, their relationship is still very much on the table, and here’s why. Unlike Minato’s teammates and the Kiyomizu family, Chinu simply has not seen that small glimmer of light in Minato yet since regaining his memories. With nothing left to believe in regarding Minato, Chinu is a little stuck in terms of having a partner to pursue, and fair enough for feeling that way, I mean, Minato has shown no desirable traits of a loving partner since returning to the darkness. Regardless, the fact of the matter is Chinu x Ichinose has sunk for good, and that gives Minato all the time in the world to prove himself to Chinu and show her that he does indeed have a little bit of good in him.
The prodigy is indeed on his way back to the spotlight, and his journey is getting more and more interesting to follow.
Let me know your hot takes in the comments below!