「僕は負けたくない」 (Boku wa Maketakunai)
“I Don’t Want to Lose”

I really like what this ep did in drawing a contrast between last year and this. Given the leaps and bounds Kyou has made in his personal growth, it was only fitting that we should have a reflective ep like this. Kyou has come astronomically far from despising Anna (She looks down us, what a bitch), to the supportive, mature outlook he has now, not to mention the confidence. He didn’t know her then and spoke to only what he saw- or rather- wanted to see, which frankly, wasn’t even scratching the surface of Anna’s character. Now he knows her, the determined, insecure, kind, talented Anna who goes so much deeper than a pretty appearance. I appreciated the way Kyou spoke out on that during his battle – you have a relationship with someone, not merely because you think they’re cute (though that does play a role), but because you know, care for, and respect them for all of their qualities. It’s so easy to boil someone down to an appearance or to your own vision of them made on a snap judgement. Kyou got a glimpse of what that would have looked like, had he continued on the same one track mind as Adachi, as Pig Man, where you become consumed with the one dimensional image you formed in your mind. To Adachi’s credit, I think he can move beyond that in that he’s at least making efforts to confront the relationship, as opposed to Pig Man who does not.

The whole internal conflict over liking Anna but valuing their friendship with the other guy has been hanging between these two for some time. It was going to have to come to the surface eventually. What pushes Adachi over the edge is seeing Anna and Kyou together and putting two and two together with the White Day date. Adachi knows he’s lost at this point, but isn’t going to go down without a struggle, prompting a man to man challenge that Kyou accepts. Obviously who wins or loses isn’t going to change the course of Anna’s relationship with either of them, and they both know that. But for the sake of friendship, they want to face each other like they mean it.

Kyou is putting more effort into this than anything before, even taking up jogging. He can now put forth the effort he never did before because he now has something that means something to him. He’s learned the meaning of friendship. Yes, while this is essentially a fight over Anna, it’s not just that. It’s really about his friendship with Adachi and Kyou being able to face himself and his bud. There really was no way for Kyou to move forward in his relationship with Anna without coming to terms with Adachi.

First opening his feelings to his sister, Papa Yamada, and now Adachi, he’s clearing one hurdle after the other, freeing himself from the weights of expectations of others. The fear that what he wants (Anna) will be met with downright disapproval or hurt from those around him. One by one, each person has proven him wrong. The more he learns that he can be himself, he can own his ambitions without fear of irreparably hurting the people around him, the more confident he can become, the more grown up he can become to match Anna. That’s the thing with paranoia, it assumes the worst, it isolates you from the people around you, traps you in your own worst nightmares. It takes so much courage to face that, but it’s a true release when you do, because most of the time, it turns out you were wrong. Kyou still has some work to go, the big hurdle being the exam failure, which continues to lurk in the recesses of his heart, but he’ll get there.

Anna shows up just when Kyou needs it for some support, and puts him, as usual, in the limbo of awkward hell and erotic heaven. This time, insisting on a race with the finish line at Anna’s house where more training awaits. (“Stuff?” “a quickie?” lol). Wantarou, as dogs are wont to do, knows exactly where he shouldn’t be and decides to sit there, resulting in an awkward save by Kyou. Anna drags out Papa’s huge weights, expecting Kyou to lift them, never mind that he’s half Papa’s size. That was actually a really stupid thing to do- Kyou could seriously have thrown his back out, and they’re damn lucky that didn’t happen.

Everyone is geared up and ready to go, the day of- Anna with the “makoto” (“sincerity”) written on her forehead in imitation of the spokesguy for the Mouko Tanmen Ramen shop over here that sells spicy ramen. In an adorable moment, she writes a secret word on Kyou’s forehead before tying on his hachimaki. (Seriously, how did he resist running to the bathroom to check it out- I don’t know that I would have been able to).

Anna and Kyou have a close call with Kankan trying to out them via the scavenger hunt. Anna pulls her parents in to save the day (what a perfect moment). Unfortunately, Kankan screwed her team over and disqualified them from that event (how did they not skewer her after that- that was a really selfish move- but then again, welcome to middle school).

That calvary battle scene with Adachi and Kyou was wow, just so well done. It was moving to see them face each other head on and work out the conflict while still remaining buds at the end of it. It shows they care enough about the other person to deal with their feelings properly, lay everything out in the open. That raw honesty- no hemming and hawing, no sidestepping the issue, baring their hearts out to each other was some heavy stuff. The pouring rain was the perfect backdrop for this weighty heart to heart. Adachi handles his loss with grace, stepping out of the way for Kyou- Adachi knows who won the battle, even if he was the one who grabbed the hachimaki. While Anna doesn’t know the details of what’s going on, she knows that this is a man to man fight, a defining moment for Kyou, and you can see her watching over him, believing in him.

Even though losing the battle doesn’t mean losing Anna, Kyou still feels the sting of defeat (I mean, who doesn’t like winning, especially after going all out). The only thing to show for the fight is a bump on the head (nursed by Adachi’s mom). Adachi showed some real maturity there in giving Kyou and Anna some alone time rather than kicking up a hissy fit. Moe is waiting right outside for him with a (wet) towel- I have to wonder if she eventually might have a thing for Adachi or if she was just trying to be considerate of his disappointment in giving up on Anna.

Anna comes in like a champ, cheering him up with sumo-sized bento (seriously, those karaage onigiri are massive) and advice from Mama. “You can only move on by embracing the disappointment, carving it into your memories.” What wise words from Mama Yamada. If you hide from it, it will continue to pursue you, the way Kyou’s exam trauma continues to pursue him. That he can acknowledge that as his stumbling block, is a huge step towards surpassing it. What a man Kyou is becoming, and everyone else around him sees it too. His rivals even realize they can’t measure up to him when it comes to Anna.

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