Fuuka reminds me of a certain someone.
Despite technically moving away from a tournament context, Strike seems to have set itself up for a surprisingly tournament-style finish. I will admit I’m a little disappointed that there was no major ‘shock factor’ event like almost every other episode has featured – if anything, this is the point where we start veering towards a traditional ending for an entry to the Nanoha franchise, and I’m almost certain it’ll be as everyone predicts. To stray from that would be simply heretical. It would have been nice to have had an antagonistic turn of events, however – there was a rather popular theory that Rinne would do something bad (like trashing the city) and that it’d somehow be up to Fuuka to stop her, leading to their promised fight. Another idea had to do with Jill, and I must admit I got really worried when Nove saw her at the hospital. Strike has definitely played around with the idea of making Jill evil, so anything concerning her wouldn’t have come completely out of left field. I certainly didn’t expect that they would actually fight in a ruined city, except only the replica of one and the same training stage that was featured before the Inter-Middle. Speaking of which, Lutecia got… noticeably older.
I’m also not sure what to think of Einhart having proposed what she did. The overall result means that very little (but a significant little, as I’ll mention later) has changed as a result of Rinne’s loss to Vivio. In the context of the Winter Cup, Rinne isn’t progressing because she lost (I think some were speculating last week that she’d take Vivio’s place in the next round because the latter forfeited). That must be correct. It’s not like Rinne will be called back because Vivio dropped out – Rinne lost, and after progressing, Vivio has withdrawn from her match with Fuuka, leaving Fuuka (whose match was sadly shafted aside yet again) to win by default and progress to the finals against Einhart. With the setup that Einhart has suggested to Rinne, Rinne must beat Fuuka before Einhart will agree to a title match. Which is exactly what the Winter Cup rules would have imposed on them all had Rinne beaten Vivio. Putting aside any debate as to whether she should have or not, the issue now is: what has actually changed as a result of Vivio’s win?
Has Rinne’s smile been restored? Anything but. She mentioned something about not feeling anything when she wins, but losing makes her feel empty too (incidentally, if you’d asked me near the start of the season how all this would play out, I would have probably said she’d win it all and feel empty after winning the championship, before seeking out Fuuka to be befriended). Have Victor or Jill helped by meeting her? Not really. They helped to relay messages, I guess. The really important difference that Vivio’s win has made is the setting and context to the upcoming fights. By moving away from the restrictions and limitations of the Winter Cup, the outcome of Rinne vs Fuuka could change entirely. No amount of friendship power could possibly change the 99.9% likelihood that Rinne would win if she fought Fuuka in the semi-finals. Even Victor agreed when Rinne said that she’d immediately have a title match against the Champion if she had beaten Vivio. But that’s no longer so certain in a no holds-barred stage where there are no limits to downs or time. If Fuuka is anything like Vivio, she’s going to keep getting up.
That said, neither are there restrictions on grappling or throwing. Rinne is going to be even more dangerous than what she displayed in the Winter Cup, and there may possibly be magic involved as well. I do want her to win, I’m not going to lie. And it’s not only for waifu reasons – I just think it’s illogical for Fuuka to be able to reach Rinne’s level after a mere few months of training – especially training that we’ve hardly seen, given that she hasn’t been the focus ever since the first three episodes or so. Even as far as getting to the Winter Cup finals are concerned, Fuuka didn’t run into anyone noteworthy, the other skilled competitors having all conveniently removed each other for her. Rinne has trained ridiculously hard, and I don’t want all her vomiting and fainting to mean nothing in the face of a friendship-filled Sky-Severing Fist. It’d be demeaning to everything she worked for over the past few years – she may not have acted with the right mindset, but she put in the work nonetheless and I want her resolve to bear fruit.
However! I’m not saying she won’t be saved. In other words, I don’t think her victory and her being saved are mutually exclusive. I hope she will come to learn something and understand more about herself and Fuuka after trading blows with her and properly talking to her. What’s important is that, first, she comes to realise that Fuuka isn’t just a stepping stone to her match with Einhart and that she’s an opponent worth taking seriously. If she has to be knocked down several times for that, then fine. But I don’t want Fuuka to befriend her by delivering a stunning knockout blow a la Vivio, because that would mean Rinne’s world ranking is rendered all but meaningless despite the series having hammered home the difference in their power level for an entire season now. There must be some other way.
Finally, Rinne under a blanket is cute. CUTE!