It’s incredible how quickly things turn around for Kuzu High. One moment they have their best line-up on the court and they’re truly taking charge and working well as a team to pull ahead and the next they’re running out of stamina just hoping to hold out a little longer against Shinjo High. Even if it’s a small thing, I’m pretty happy that they decided to bring up stamina as an important factor of the sport. It’s all well and good if a team can dominate in the first half, but it also matters that they can carry through to the end. Letting up at any point gives the other opportunity to step in and turn the whole match around. So even though Kuzu High was finally starting to find their groove… if they can’t maintain it, they’re in for a struggle as we close into the end of the match. Keep on going guys! The game isn’t over till the final buzzer sounds!
I appreciate the intensity that this episode continues to build around the match. We start out by focusing on Kojima who is really pushing himself on the court. It was point out in the last episode, that just by having him on the court has completely reinvigorated Shinjo High. Yeah, he’s not the strongest player on the court in his current state, but his passion and drive help to push the rest of the team to keep fighting. I found the back and forth between him and Takahasi to be really interesting because they talk about the internal battle of wanting to win, but also to take care of yourself (really it shows a pretty significant difference of what one thinks on the court vs off), but I also appreciate Kojima adding that he’s “worthless on the court if all [he] does is stand around”. Last week, I talked about how painful it was for him to watch from the sidelines – to lose and not have the chance to do anything. But now he’s on the court and he has to give his all to pursue what he worked so hard for, slacking on the court doesn’t help him or the team at all – watching helplessly from the sideline and not giving your all on the court can lead to the same kind of despair if Shinjo lost this match. So, with him putting his all into the remainder of the match with Takahashi and the team by his side, Kojima is able to give the rest of his team the spark needed to really power through to the end.
And as a result, I loved the way that Kuzu High ultimately responds! At this point, they don’t want to make it seem like they are feeling the pressure because it could easily cost them the game. So, Sora showing up and sinking a three pointer and not even watching his shot after it left his hands? That was so cool. If I were near that court, any confidence for Shinjo that I had after Kojima’s shot just went out the window. And to have a spectator add the line of “Never let your opponent think they have a chance” really help to solidify that neither of these teams are going to back down. It’s an important mindset, especially so late in the game, letting up even a little bit can cost a lot.
I’m really happy that Sora’s mom got the chance to watch part of the game. I’ll be honest, I got pretty emotional as soon as she got to the school. I don’t really have too much to say about her role in this episode, but I really enjoyed hearing her comments and seeing her reactions to Sora playing Basketball. It may have not added any stakes to the players on the court – since they were unaware of her arrival – but as a viewer, I’m reminded just how much Sora wants to show her the inter-high trophy. It would be sad if they lose in the first round, but I am glad that his mom got to watch him play.
But let’s turn our attention back to the court where poor Chiaki is shaken up again. I really liked the way that the episode played out after his technical foul because it opened up a completely new perspective on Kashiwagi. I’m definitely guilty of thinking Kashiwagi was a poor sport and definitely not someone who would be considered a team player. So, both Kojima’s comments and Chiaki’s memory of Momoharu changed my perspective about him. Yeah, he’s not the best at showing kind emotions to others, but he’s passionate about the game and has someone he aspires to be like. Even though his segment wasn’t incredibly long, it really does cement just how much this match means for everyone. It’s easy to just focus on Takahashi, Kojima, and our main crew from Kuzu High, but hearing more about another character really intensified the stakes. His passion for the sport wasn’t really a surprise to me, but the way he pushed himself did. Yeah, he doesn’t help his team mop the floor during practice, but he comes in early and practices earlier to truly strive to be like Takahashi and just the thought of that makes me smile. And to have it followed by Chiaki’s story of Momoharu and the dog reaching the conclusion that the eyes weren’t terrifying, but rather “eyes of people with something precious to protect […] pure and resolute eyes” really hit the idea home for me. I also appreciate Chiaki acknowledging that it’s difficult to fight against those eyes – pure dedication and determination towards a goal is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
I’m definitely interested to see how the next episode will play out. I can definitely see this match lasting at least two more episodes as the two teams battle it out until the very end. Things just keep getting more and more interesting with each episode!