There has been a general theme when I watch this anime and it’s “I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t that.” Generally, I should just be on my toes, because this anime is really willing to throw all sorts of things our way. One minute we’re happily moving in one direction, but then we take a sharp, unexpected left turn and suddenly we’re into some stress inducing drama. And deep down, these are realistic things that happen! But for some reason, watching them happen in the anime just makes them feel so unexpected.
At first the episode started off with just a friendly dinner between teammates and neighbors but man oh man, tensions are definitely still high within the soft tennis club. We move quickly into the first game of tennis for the anime and it was definitely the classic “the new guy is a hot-shot and we’re not too thrilled about that so let’s knock him down a peg” type of moment. I mean, they do have a point – it doesn’t feel all that great when you’ve been practicing something, but someone strolls in and just picks it up. Granted we don’t know anything about the other person, but it still doesn’t feel all that great but I digress. And yet the soft tennis club continues to become more and more aggressive to the point where we see a glimpse at Itsuki’s violent side as he targets Maki. And man oh man! That’s barely the tip of the iceburg because shortly after their practice matches Maki says something that provokes the rest of the team, but definitely gets to Touma and it keeps going down from there.
Touma heads home, and essentially gets chewed out for not trying hard enough and basically being pretty worthless (and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t hit close to home). But now the rest of the team has to cope and continue to function without his presence for some time. And it becomes pretty clear that without him there a lot of them have lost the drive to continue to practice. And I don’t want to claim that he’s the glue holding them all together, all practice essentially ceased once he was gone. And while I thought, that was the most drama we were going to get into the episode some of Itsuki’s classmates decide to show and mock the club as well as taking it a step further and mocking his home life. Now, here’s what I thought would happen 1) Maki steps in, stands up for his teammate and basically shuts the bully down or 2) Itsuki pulls the “how about a match” and then destroys the bullies. Of course, neither of those things happen, instead Itsuki just straight up takes out the bully while his teammates scold him for his behavior. And yet, Maki comes in and manages to calm (which isn’t quite the word I’m looking for) the rest of the team, but mentioning he has a somewhat similar situation, but it’s still not a good idea to ruin a racket in that way and then… for the most part what Itsuki did is kind of brushed to the side with “well, that guy deserved it” and let’s tell you about what has happened to Itsuki.
I… don’t really want to get too into the flashback, it’s pretty self-explanatory and quite frankly I was anxious and tense during that scene, that thinking about it just brings those feelings back. What I will say, is that I felt that the transition to the flashback felt really… awkward. Maybe it’s because I missed something, but it seemed really strange that all the club members collectively agreed to tell Maki why Itsuki doesn’t change around him – despite them all agreeing that Itsuki didn’t want Maki to know. But it certainly was able to set up the remainder of the episode.
And from there, it appears that Maki sees something in the club rather than just a way to make money for his own home situation (but he won’t admit to that). It appears that each of the club members seem to have some skeletons of their own hiding in the closet. I can definitely see that the club could definitely become a kind of support group for these boys and something is going to come to light in each episode that just ends up bringing them closer together. And personally, knowing that this is only episode three, I’m a little afraid of what this anime will throw at us in the upcoming episodes. Not only are tackling pretty darn heavy topic, but the animation and musical suspense that they build up only to have it cut out right at the climax sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it.
So, we’ve just finished the third episode and if you’re here to see if you should pick it up I strongly recommend you do so with caution. This anime definitely has the potential to the dark horse of the season or even the year, but has already hit on some themes that I know not everyone is comfortable watching. It certainly keeps you on your toes and engaged enough to want to know what happens next.