I came into this episode fully ready to yell at Aoi, but I’m really excited about the way this episode developed. By the end of it, I really wanted to stand up and cheer for Asari, Aoi, and Kuroda. There really was such a big shift in this episode and it was so cool to get the commentary to break it down!
I loved the realizations that came out of this episode. Don’t get me wrong, there were times where I wanted to groan and shake the players by the shoulders, but once everything clicked all that frustration melted away. In the end, I’m not a fan of the “I am the only player that we need” trope, because I can only yell, “There is no ‘I’ in team!!!” so many times within an episode, but I think it was handled pretty well in this episode seeing as it was just a connection that everyone made on and off the field without having to be explained. I mean, of course as viewers we do get the breakdown from the viewers and everyone’s thoughts.
It seems like Asari’s comment from the previous episode is rustling everyone’s feathers and I really can’t blame them. It’s clear that it’s gotten to Ohtomo and Tachibana, and later in the episode even Togashi decides to comment on it. I know Asari was incredibly angry in the heat of the moment and probably should have kept it to himself rather than having an outburst. But at the time he was dealing with someone that he truly felt wouldn’t understand his intentions. But, in the end that comment does seem to work out in his favor… Sure, it would have been better if he didn’t say it, but sometimes it’s a shock that helps some people out in the end. But thanks to this, Togashi decides to piss off the rest of the B team by adding on to the comment that Asari had made later on which of course would only cause more of a rift in the team. If it weren’t for Aoi jumping in and shutting Togashi down things would have been much worse. (And for the record, I think if these comments were made in some of the earlier episodes, Aoi would have been right with him jeering at the promoted players.)
But that single moment of pushing against what Togashi had said, at the very least softened some feelings between Kuroda, Asari, and Aoi. Personally, I don’t think Kuroda was as mad at Aoi as Asari was – Asari really has been stewing in his feelings since the tryouts. Kuroda, being a friend to Asari obviously wants to keep his friend, but I don’t think he had any distinct hatred for Aoi. Sure, he was mad at the practice match, but when someone makes a poor play due to a dumb mistake, I get why anyone would be mad. So, good on Kuroda for actually saying thank you to Aoi. It was a nice way to shake Aoi enough to realize that he was doing something good.
And on that note, I am going to call Kuroda the MVP of this episode. I think he’s always wanted to get along with everyone, but he does still have the promoted experience and mindset of other players. After Aoi realizes the distance between the three of them, it clicks that they need to work as a trio to get the goal. When Aoi was on his old team, he was already better than everyone else and could just steamroll through. Now that he’s on the Youth team, the teams he will be playing against and playing on are on a completely different caliber. Aoi has to come to the realization that he cannot be the sole player on the field and needs to work with others. Can he still make big, impressive goals? Yeah! But he needs to rely on his team to get him there. And while the first time he realizes this, he thinks exclusively of Asari. He moves the way Asari wants and only thinks of Kuroda as an afterthought. Kuroda gets the MVP award simply for giving feedback to Aoi – both in his ‘thank you’ and his thumbs up. Without that, I don’t think Aoi would have made his full connection.
But once that connection is made, these players that had such bad blood between them became unstoppable on the field with hardly any words with each other. They were so in sync with their non-verbal communication that they realized that they could all trust each other. We only got this perspective from Aoi’s point of view, but I really think they were all more focused on what would be best for the others rather than themselves. Which of course is something new for Aoi. “Where does Asari want me to be?” “What would be the most helpful for Kuroda”. It was really cool to see that shift. They were supporting each other all the way down the field.
Like I mentioned above, I really wanted to cheer for them in this episode!! The high five between Aoi and Asari was one of the most satisfying high fives I’ve seen in a while. Yeah, it’s not a major game in the grand scheme of things. But after all the tension that has been building up, I feel like we are finally moving in the right direction! I can’t wait to see what happens next! Does this relationship continue to build and grow, or will they still falter along the way? What new challenges with the Youth team experience in the coming episodes! I’m at the edge of my seat, I just want to keep going!