So, I’ll be honest right out of the gate in the fact that I actually really enjoyed this episode! Speaking from a strictly anime-only opinion, I think they were able to collect the story better than they have in the past couple of episodes. Was it a little bit rough? Sure, but I think we still got some decent introduction and development across the board. I’ve really appreciated seeing our opponents get fleshed out, we get to see what motivates them and why they keep coming back to the court. It really adds an extra layer of investment to the story.
I loved getting to see Taiei get developed, even if the primary focus was on someone who wasn’t previously on our radar. I think they did a much better job expressing his struggle with just being “normal” better than they did with Chiba’s (arguably they are different, but they actually gave Mineta a story that was beyond just quick inserts on the court). I liked the inclusion of Mineta’s story because 1) we get to see Taiei from the perspective of someone who isn’t a star player and 2) it emphasized the passion and dedication individuals have for the game (as we’ve seen with most characters) and the realization of that passion. Prior to this episode we’ve only had the chance to spend time with Shiraishi, who is incredibly skilled and has a clear, solid goal, and we’ve also dealt with Hyou who is just on a completely different level from a lot of other characters we’ve seen before. And then there’s Yozan, who we’ve seen briefly before – he’s focused and determined, but he’s stuck in a similar situation to Sora, but not he has to compete against all of these tall and skillful players. But, compared to them… Mineta seems like the “average” player. He was good in his Middle School and decided to continue playing in High School, but now he’s found himself with a lot of others in the same situation, thus he just becomes another member of the team.
As a result, I liked seeing the interactions he had over the course of his segment and how it ultimately solidified his own desire to play Basketball. Yeah, it sucks to hear Shiraishi be such a jerk to Mineta, but it played out nicely because of the questioning that Mineta had to go through. Without that immediate shut down, he very well could have just continued to push himself less than he was capable of. If he hadn’t opted to quit the day before he would have never had the conversation with Hyou expressing that playing in High School is not the end goal – they have much loftier things in mind so instead playing for Taiei is just a stepping stone for them to reach what they want. So! I’m happy to see that he came back, and I’m interested to see his growth if he ends up playing in the Kuzu v Taiei match.
Outside of development for another Taiei member, it was nice to revisit our team and see how they were prepping for the upcoming match. I don’t have too much to say about the specific team meeting, but I am thinking back to Nao and Sora when they were on their way to the tournament match. Kuzu High doesn’t seem like a divisive team and they consistently mention Momoharu needing to prove himself worthy to them, but they haven’t shown that existing distrust. Chiaki already wrestled him, Sora just wants to play Basketball, and Kite is a lone wolf. Everyone seems to be acting relatively normal. I wonder if this has to do with the exclusion of Yasuhara content…. in which case…. it’s a bummer that we don’t get see him shine. But as a whole I did like that we got to see our team improving. Nabe is learning how to shoot 3s which is a really big step forward for him and his Basketball Journey. He’s becoming more of a team player rather than just a guy hanging around because that’s what all his friends are doing. I liked the segment we had with Sora going to visit Taro to learn one of his moves. I loved the standoff nature that Taro gave, but in the end sneakily helped Sora figure something out. Taro is definitely growing on me as a character 🙂
But I think my favorite segment and concept from this episode came from Kite and his story. I liked that they were able to articulate him as some who was skilled but not developed and it’s impressive that he made it this far. It encapsulates his play style. He can do many impressive things, but he just bulldozes his way through, never improving his “sense” for the game but his skills are incredible. As the lone wolf type character this would make sense as he is able to do what he does best, but he’s still trying to figure out how to work with the team and work with the support he has. And as a result, I really liked the way that they changed the narrative of “get the points” because I was previously lead to believe that it was Kite’s way of charging through and taking all the shots that fulfilled that goal. But after seeing him make a shot, I understand it more as searching for opportunity and striking where you can and as often as you can. It’s not just about brute force, but about considering the other factors around you. So, I’m looking forward to how that idea will play out in these upcoming episodes.
All around, I thought this was a solid episode. I appreciated being able to learn more about Taiei and one of their players, but I also appreciated seeing Kuzu High strive to be better than they were yesterday. Goals can be lofty, and you may not always see the finish line, but if you just aim to be better than yesterday, you’ll eventually find that goal and reach it.