This week’s episode was all about rediscovery of a player’s passion and identity; what tennis meant to themselves. Through a concentrated effort by the tennis clubs in Kanagawa, Ei-chan gets to participate in special training along with other fellow prodigies within the region – Araya, Miyagawa and Iwasa included. That’s only on the boys’ side though, as we get to see a familiar female face return. Shimizu Aki obviously has a massive crush on Ei-chan, but like most sheltered girls, she’s barely even at the point of understanding why she’s feeling the way she does, and as she gets to observe him more during the special training sessions, she sees a difference between the two of them (as well as Natsu by extension).
Ei-chan is new to tennis – being only introduced to the sport for 2 years before plunging into intense training to go professional out of his own free will. Natsu also plays out of her own free will, albeit she’s obviously found her love for tennis at a much earlier stage. Shimizu Aki on the other hand, belongs to the other side of the spectrum…..whichever side she is on. She’s conflicted – at that age, as her mother says, at an age where she’s beginning to really consider her own happiness and think about what would make her truly happy and fulfilled. As much as she loves her mother, respects her mother and appreciates the success her mother has (lovingly) brought to her, she’s never made a decision for herself before, and that gap between her life and the rest of society is beginning to show. I really like how her crush on Ei-chan is part of her experiencing all these new feelings and thoughts for the first time, she’s so confused and it’s almost adorable. In a way, the difference between her and Ei-chan may be what she finds attractive – that he knows exactly where he’s headed, that he’s not afraid to make decisions for himself and work for them by himself, and that he’s able to truly enjoy tennis in a way she can’t quite understand.
The last quarter of the episode focusing on the bus ride home between Ei-chan, Natsu, Miyagawa and Araya was also a rather lovely moment, as we get to see how tennis has genuinely become a part of each player’s life in fundamentally different ways, that even the word ‘love’ is insufficient to express their true feelings towards the sport. Next week should prove to be an exciting episode though – Takuma match and some fun times at the beach based on the preview….