We’re back with another fantastic episode of Love All Play, and it was definitely better than the last! A big part of that was the fact Sakaki Shouhei, the twins and Matsuda Kouki were all great and likable characters. It was great to see Ryo click with them, and the five of them become close over the course of the months they spent training together. But perhaps my favourite part about this episode was not only did they drop some clues as to the kind of potential coach sees in Ryo, but we also received validation from other characters like Shouhei that despite Ryo’s tournament record, there is still something very special about the way he plays.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about the ace in the room, because good grief, he sure didn’t leave a good impression on anyone. He sure behaved as a haughty brat when he was bitched to them about ‘don’t get in the way of practice’. As one would expect, the boys were pretty stunned and put off by his obnoxious attitude. Shouhei in particular really got heated about it and became to determined to one-up the guy, to little success. But I have to hand it to Ryo for not being fazed by it. He was certainly startled, but in the end he still admires Kento as much as he did even before he saw this side of him. I think a big part of that has to do with Ryo’s ability to quite literally, look past one’s character, and recognize what kind of talent, or as we have seen earlier, quirk they have.

In contrast to Kento leaving a horrible first impression, the boys on the other hand a great and friendly bunch! Gosh I love them!

I can already tell you I am quite fond of Shouhei’s character. Sure he is a loud guy who has a ton of energy, which is admittedly not for everyone as we saw with Kouki, but he also has an incredibly endearing side of him as well. I thought it was so cute that he remembered Ryo from the time they’ve competed against each other in the tournaments. Despite Ryo’s poor record and having lost to him every time, it turns out Shouhei loves the way he plays badminton and thinks he has something special.

It was hilariously adorable how he managed to make it sound like a true confession of love! Ryo was understandably taken aback because he doesn’t know what makes him special yet, but later  when the twins were teasing Shouhei for his “love confession”, by playfully suggesting they can start off as friends. But in all seriousness, it turns out Shouhei decided to join Yokohama Minato because the coach told him that Ryo was going to be there. For Shouhei, if he has the opportunity to, he would love Ryo to be his partner in the Doubles. He believes if they team up together, they can claim the Inter-High triple crown. So you could say Shouhei is quite serious about how he feels about Ryo, haha!

While Shouhei certainly has a record to be proud of, he does have one glaring weakness: He is the type to get too hot-headed. As the coach said, he needs to work on his control and mental fortitude because it doesn’t do him any good to get easily provoked by his opponents. It sets off a challenge streak of a sort, causing him to try to force things to happen instead of following his instincts. And we saw the result of that, of being unable to hit a single target.

Then we have the twins, but we actually didn’t get to see Ryo interact with them too much. They are a playful duo, and interestingly seem to be able to mirror each other’s forms so well that Kouki likened it to watching a replay of the other.

As for Kouki, he is another character I have quickly grown fond of this week. He’s a quiet guy who would rather not get involved in groups, nor does he care to get involved to talk bady about others, even if he agrees they have a terrible personality. In fact, perhaps the biggest surprise was that he even went as far to point out that he hasn’t decided on which High School he wants to attend yet, so even if he does attend Yokohama Minato, that he might not even join the team because he is not a fan of older and haunter students like Kento. That’s the kind of thing that sort of makes you wonder if he has had bad experience with crappy senior members, or it’s more of just in his nature to want steer clear of those types of individuals. Either way, both cases are very much valid reasons to not join the team, because honestly, I suppose with the exception that are you determined to go pro, these kinds of things can really just sour the whole experience, so generally speaking, I think most would agree it would be best to avoid getting involved in those kinds of teams. Yet, despite saying that, Kouki continued to attend the joint-practice every Thursday with the rest of them.

And the reason nobody recognized him was because he has only recently transferred into his school during the second semester after living in Shanghai for some time because of his parent’s work. His father and Coach Ebihara are old acquaintances, so he was encouraged to come to this school and join the Badminton team. However while the coach had scouted him, Kouki won’t be coming on any Special Recommendation. Instead he will be taking the entrance exams just like everyone else.

When he mentioned this, it made me think back to Ryo and wonder why wouldn’t he just do the same thing considering he has proven he has the grades to obtain the Academic Recommendation? I guess it might have to do with the tuition cost? I’m not sure to be honest, but either way, Ryo choosing the hard path of the Academic Recommendation is something that has been on my mind since the last episode. The more I thought about it, I started to realize that he might have unknowingly set himself up for trouble. Since he is getting in through Academic Recommendation, what would happen if he is unable to academic scores while giving it all in his training? It is really difficult to pour your energy into both, and seeing how much work the practices are, it’s no wonder we see him snoozing off during class in the Opening. So this potential conflict will be something I will keep pinned in the back of my mind going forward.

And while we are on the topic of Ryo! Man I really appreciate that they finally threw us some clues as to what Coach Ebihara sees in Ryo, and received further validation for it when Shouhei said he has something special, which played a big part as to why he remembers him despite Ryo’s poor tournament record.

It appears Ryo has quite a keen eye. Our first hint of this is when he was already able to identify which of the twins (Taichi) had gone up. The second time was the way he was trying to remember and mimic Kento’s form. He was able to successfully do it one time and managed to knock over one of the four targets. While that may not sound amazing, it is worth noting was actually a successful feat for his first go. For context, Kento who did the demonstration of course hit every single one of his targets. Kouki hit 3/4, the twins both hit 2/4, Shouhei 0/4 because he let Kento’s taunts get to his head, and Ryo managed to get 1/4! It’s also worth noting that Ryo was the only one who was still standing after the first day of the joint-practice session. So he definitely has good stamina too! Or perhaps this is what the coach meant by good legs? Haha!

And finally, time flies and before he knows it, Ryo’s chapter of his Middle School adventurers with his friends has come to an end. I really liked the episode ended with Ryo and his friends reflecting on the past three years they’ve spent together. It was a bittersweet moment, but it was also very nice to see. It is too bad they won’t be able to continue being a team into high school, but instead they all enter their next phase of their lives with being rivals with each other. It’s certainly not the worst of things considering they will have the chance to face up against each other again at the tournament, and best all off, it looks like Ryo already has found a potential partner to participate in the doubles, so hopefully he will be able to uphold that promise since I would love to see him and Shouhei work together and compete against his friends! Who knows what’s in store for them, but regardless I am excited to see the next chapter of their lives!


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