Ahhhhhh a Madoka episode!! (Well… at least half of it was anyways, but I’m happy about it nonetheless!). As a standalone, I felt this episode was a decent mix of charming and exciting, but it did feel like a mixed bag of content in the overall story. I liked that we were able to spend some time with Madoka – it felt like a breath of fresh air to see how things are going for her off the court and provide additional information of her personal life. On the other hand, I wasn’t expecting Nao and Sora to go watch the Playoffs between Maru and Taiei, so I’m hyped for the potential that that match will bring (also a bonus that they ran into Takahashi and Kojima on the way!)
I found it really interesting that a good portion of this episode was dedicated to Madoka without any real reference to Sora and the rest of the team. As I mentioned earlier, it felt like a breath of fresh air because it allowed us to take a step back from the Boys’ Basketball team, but also it helped to shape Madoka as her own separate character. It feels a little late considering there’s only 12 episodes left, but I guess it’s better late than never ? I don’t really have too much to say about her portion of the episode though. It was nice to see her as her own person, and not as just “the girl who supports the team”. I liked that they showed her recognition of her own failings towards the sport, be it lack of dedication or ability. And overall, I liked that they showed the importance of something precious to her and a special relationship that she has. I will be a bit frustrated if the earrings or that relationship with the married sister doesn’t come back though, I feel as if it was just a glimpse rather than a full story. If it doesn’t return… then I wonder… why they would opt to include it. I suppose some of the boys from the Karaoke outing could make a reappearance, but if I’m honest, none of them really stuck with me.
When we actually return to the team, there… really isn’t too much to say in this episode. We essentially got a recap of the previous episode laying out the stakes of their match with Taiei. We get a bit of “here’s our current situation and how much time we have to train”, but we don’t really get to see any solid development for the team. They’re practicing on a public court, Sora is breaking in his new shoes, and Chiaki pretty much has to justifying their current situation for Nao whenever someone questions why they are doing what they’re doing. When Nao and Sora take a train to the playoffs, there’s a brief narration that the team seems more divisive than before, but they don’t really explain what that means. Have there been further conflicts that we haven’t seen? Has there been a bigger change that we’re not aware of? It seems odd that they would mention the team’s division now, given that they haven’t really been the most cohesive group thus far…
As for the last portion of the episode, I must admit that I’m excited to see the match between Shinmaruko and Taiei, the first team to dominate Kuzu High and their newest opponent, it’s bound to be a good match. It does lead me to wonder how much of the match they are actually going to show, since I’m assuming, we still have to include Kuzu High vs Taiei in the remaining episodes. Still, it was nice to see the pre-game anxiety from Chiba even though, I’m not too sure it was as impactful as it was intended to be.
Overall, I think this was a pretty fine episode with quite a bit packed into it. The biggest thing that threw me off during the episode was that it seemed to lack connection overall. Things felt as if they mashed together a lot of development scenes where it feels like they were just “trying to fit it all in” as we go into the final arc of the manga. Still, I am looking forward to seeing what next week brings because I’ve kind of been missing seeing a match!