This episode really hit all the right buttons for me. I felt like there was a good balance between the sports and the family drama. I don’t know if I would call it my favorite episode, but it was definitely something I needed to keep me wanting more content rather than just looking for answers. Don’t get me wrong though, I have soooo many questions that I’m worried won’t get answered by the end of next week’s episode. But who knows, it’s not too late to announce another season, right?
The episode starts off with Maki and Toma preparing to take on Joy and they clearly aren’t the fan favorite. But before we get into that we get to see a very energetic Nao who in this moment seems to be realizing and expressing his love for the game! As a whole, I really came to like Nao a lot in just this short episode! I mean, it definitely doesn’t excuse anything he did during their practice match with the girl’s team, but seeing him light up over the game really warmed my heart. But of course, the real struggle is Nao’s mother. And let me tell you, I was watching with headphones so the stress of the phone ringing, getting louder and louder, sent shivers down my spine. It was intense! And what was great about this episode, is they actually revisited Nao’s mother later on rather than leaving us wondering what she’s up to. Instead, she’s still in full on helicopter mode and what I like about her, is that her monologue that she gives isn’t super wild or out there. Yeah, she takes the helicopter parent to the extreme, but her justifications for it are very realistic. However, it feels like Nao’s mother, of all the mothers and fathers, gets the most screen time despite Nao getting very little spotlight himself. It’s interesting, but I haven’t quite put my finger on why they would choose to go this route.
But enough about Nao, let’s talk about the Sports! We come full circle to the idea of “It takes two to play doubles” something that this anime has definitely made clear, but explicitly and implicitly. They’ve said it a few times, but the support that each of the pairs on the soft tennis team emphasizes the bonds they’ve made giving each other someone to lean on. I don’t know I’m a sucker for things like that. It makes me happy to watch relationships grow and for others support each other. And, without that trust and support from yourself or your team members that can come back and bite you in the butt. I was kind of expecting more out of Joy, but now I realize he was only a minor obstacle in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, I wanted to like him, but I found him rather obnoxious because he only cares about the fame and glory of his fans. Heck! I lost all respect for him when he called his teammate dead weight! Rude! Who do you think sets you up??? Either way, Joy essentially becomes the equivalent of the kid who left our team shortly after the first episode began.
As a whole, this episode had quite a bit of soft tennis playing, and I was definitely digging the soundtrack throughout the whole episode. And I think among the soft tennis playing that is where this episode really shined. They sprinkled in flashbacks (which I, personally, love when they add these in, it really shows you how far they’ve come and I can’t help but cheer for them!!) and really gave the watcher a chance to get invested in the match and cheer our team on. AND THE HUG!! THE HUG! It takes me straight back to the confrontation with Maki’s dad. I mean the stakes were certainly different, but both of these instances where they provide the support to their partner! Maki would not have stood up to his father and having Toma there, helped him confront the father. But in the same way, winning a single match was really important to Toma, and Maki helped him with that. Ahhh, I can’t even find the right words to say. It was just something that was really wonderful to see!!
If we look beyond the sports we get deeper into the drama that was set up in the previous episode. And this is where all my questions come from: What decision did Toma’s mom make? Why does Ryoma say he has precious little brothers? Who is Rintaro’s real mother and is she someone who we’ve actually already met? I’m just on the edge of my seat, I can hardly wait for the next episode to come out! And while I am excited about watching next week’s episode, I’ll echo my concerns from previous entries. I’m worried that they won’t be able to wrap everything up nicely. They done a pretty solid job of setting up certain story lines, but to fit them all into one episode and give sufficient closure seems like it would take a miracle to happen. I am still holding out for the announcement of another season because I personally believe this anime would be absolutely phenomenal provided they are given the opportunity and time to explore everything they want to explore. So, I’ll cross my fingers, but whatever the outcome, I am genuinely looking forward to episode 12.