This episode felt like it had a slow start, but quickly built up the excitement as we touched up on all our characters. By the end of the episode, I became incredibly pumped for the final minute of the game (I mean, overtime is still possibility, but) it feels like we are nearing the end of this very intense match! For this episode, I was particularly fond of how we started out talking about the necessity of stamina, something that has been prevalent in the more recent episodes and how that slowly evolved into passions, desires, and dreams expressed in the various things that the characters want to protect.
Every week, I find myself sitting here thinking about the newest episode and it really amazes me just how much content we are able to fit into each episode. Sometimes it’s hit or miss with how something is implemented or how much focus it gets, but I really do appreciate that we don’t always get a “one and done” situation, instead things that continuously build upon each other giving us a lot more depth. I enjoyed the interaction between Kite and Kojima early in the episode. It not only touched upon the topic of stamina, but it very subtly let us know that you cannot really judge a person’s history, which is nice to see especially with Kashiwagi’s back story. Everyone thinks that Kite thinks that he’s too cool, too good for everyone else. And with his skills, I can’t really blame him. But to have Kojima call him out for the lack of stamina for not going to practice in middle school for a self-absorbed reason only to have it turn back around to Kite’s sister, was honestly a solid moment. Of our main 5, I find myself forgetting about Kite’s origins more often than I would like to admit, which is strange because I enjoyed his introduction and back story. But since it’s not always at the forefront of his actions I find that the moments calling back to his family are pretty impactful. I really like the dynamic character motivations this series provides and it’s just as exciting to see how each character acts upon them!
Circling back to Kashiwagi, I thought it was a little weird that his back story was split up into two episodes, but looking back on it, it was probably for the better. It was nice to sit with what we had learned this week and timing wise; I don’t know if it would have done justice finishing it out in last week’s episode. I thought I was satisfied with what we got last week for him but seeing a little bit more of his connection with Takahashi, just before his free throws just made me want to cheer him on! “A hopeless punk” like him was able to find something to be passionate about in Basketball, thanks to the kindness (obliviousness?) of the captain. Even though it went by quickly, it still brought a smile to my face. I also like that a similar sentiment was brought up with Chucky and Nabe. They aren’t necessarily emulating anyone, in fact out of everyone one the court, they probably cared the least about the sport to begin with. There aren’t dark pasts or major obstacles to overcome, like most of our main cast, but instead they were still able to find something they are willing to put their time into and officially pursue their passion. And while they are reduced to comedic characters, being able to look at their perspective is fantastic! Personally, I feel that it is a unique perspective that isn’t often explored.
Turning our attention to our protagonist, I was really surprised that he actually collapsed from exhaustion. I know stamina was a big focus recently, but I honestly expected him to persevere through the odds and do the impossible. And yet, I’m glad that he didn’t. It’s a bummer that he had to be taken off the court when the end of the game was their reach, but if he hadn’t collapsed we wouldn’t have gotten Yuka and Madoka’s interaction, which I think impacted me more, than just Sora saying he has to work harder. Having Yuka outright say that Sora can’t just do what everyone else does really shows just how much of an uphill battle he’s fighting. If he wants to keep playing and prove himself, he must put in a lot more work because he does not have height. (From the same interaction we get an invitation for Yuka to become a coach, which I thought was nice, but I don’t know if I have too much to say on that yet). And the best part is the sentiment that Sora must work harder doesn’t stop there, it continues on the bench with Mokichi which was a pretty phenomenal interaction.
Understandably, Sora is beating himself over his inability to stay in the game and he begins spiraling down the “if only” path. He doesn’t feel as if he can stand out on the court like he wants to, he doesn’t necessarily have the skills that he wants as a player and is instead jealous of his teammates. And I think out of all the teammates, I’m glad that Mokichi was the one on the bench with him to combat those thoughts. Mokichi’s relationship, like the other’s is complicated, but he was a person who was put into a box. He fit the criteria and so he was stuck there, no opportunity to try something else. Yeah, his height is helpful, but it really locks you in to what kind of player you can be. And so, it was nice to see how that translated into potential for Sora. Sora doesn’t have to fight against a box instead there are many ways he can shine on the court.
All in all, when I look back on this episode it really grew on me and I thoroughly appreciated the heavy focus on passion and dreams. It really does go to show you that they all have something to protect :^). It doesn’t necessarily need to be a person, or a thing, but there is something that they’ve found through the sport that brings back hope for the players. It stresses me out knowing that we are nearing the end of this match, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this arc. Even so I’m absolutely pumped for next week’s episode!