4. The Man Called Mamushi
[ much fangirling over Kaidoh deleted ]
Ryoma is downright rude to Kaidoh in this episode. I think he senses how much it will bother Kaidoh. But I note that although Kaidoh is verbally agresssive to all the first years, he stops short of putting the smack-down on them, which pleases me. (Of course, he does send that tennis ball at Kachiro while Kachiro is videotaping him. Hmm.)
Tezuka is watching Ryoma again. Of course.
Anyhow, Ryoma is still being his cocky, snarky self. I don't like him when he blows off Kachiro, after Kachiro has got injured trying to help Ryoma. Is Ryoma truly not interested in seeing the recording of Kaidoh's match? Or is he using a disinterested front to cope with being in a strange country and school? I think more the former, actually. Ryoma never seems to need to cope with anything, at least not until much later.
And a lovely InuKai moment: Oishi and Inui are talking about D-Block and Oishi says he feels sorry for Ryoma, having to play Inui. The subtitles get very muddled right here, but from the manga, both the scanlation I have and the Viz edition, Inui laughs and says that there's another guy, that second year, that Ryoma has to worry about. In the anime, Inui calls him "Kaidoh-kun" -- the only time he uses the honorific with Kaidoh.
Kaidoh is right there, sitting under a tree. "Are you trying to pick a fight, senpai?" he says.
[ more fangirling deleted ]
Everyone is out to watch the Ryoma-Kaidoh match, including, you guessed it, Tezuka.
5. Snake Shot
So, why does Tezuka choose Kaidoh (and Inui, but we'll get to him later) to play against Ryoma? I suppose to see how he'll do against a second-year. (Ryoma has already played Momo and Momo seems to be still recovering somewhat from his sprain.) Also, Kaidoh wouldn't hold back at all in his play. His specialty shot is quite unusual and difficult to deal with. And he's intimidating.
I'm taken aback by how much Kaidoh grins during this episode. An eeeeeeeevil grin. It's pretty creepy. I don't think we ever see it again. I guess because this is the only time he's set up as the bad guy. (Poor baby!)
Tezuka is watching Ryoma. There's a closeup of Tezuka's eye, then it dissolves to Nanjiroh's eye, beginning the parallel between them.
When Ryoma hits the buggy whip shot Tezuka is so shocked his mouth drops open. To me this says he wanted to see how well Ryoma would do and wasn't expecting it to be this well. He later has an internal monologue about his surprise over Ryoma's success in the match, but I get the feeling it isn't very well translated, so it's hard to figure out what he means.
ETA: Kaidoh is also shocked and unnerved. In fact, this becomes a theme for him over the course of the show. It's psychologically damaging for him when someone turns his special moves back on him. He actually seems quite fragile that way, for all his determination. [ end edit ]
I still find Kaidoh's rage and self-punishment shocking. I feel like I haven't incorporated that into his characterization very well. (But I also think he's past reacting quite so badly now.)
Inui tells Kaidoh that it's too bad he lost. It seems on the surface that he's trying to be comforting, but I'm not sure it's that simple. Maybe it's a mind game since Inui and Kaidoh still have to play. Kaidoh, of course, reacts by saying he'll never give up his spot on the regulars. Never!
6. That Man, Nanjiroh Echizen
Hey, there's a girl's tennis club! Who knew?
There's an interesting conversation between Tezuka and Ryuzaki-sensei about Ryoma. Again, I feel like the subs are a little muddled, but she asks if Tezuka is starting to like Ryoma. No, Tezuka says, he hasn't grasped Ryoma's strength yet and wants to match him up against different types of players. She accuses Tezuka of being cold-hearted and he says he's just acting as the club leader should.
Sakuno, tragically not crushed, enters to ask where Ryoma is. After she leaves, Tezuka comments that all the great players have a charisma that draws people to them. Ryuzaki gives Tezuka a very sly look, but I'm not really sure what she means by it. She teases people a lot. I like that about her.
I think that Tezuka must be interested in Ryoma beyond what he thinks he ought to be (not that it is necessarily a romantic interest) and is trying not to let that influence him. Certainly, he's drawn, as a person, not just as buchou.
And then on to fanboy Inoue and the Mystery of Nanjiroh's retirement. Another Nanjiroh-Tezuka parallel: they both focus on Ryoma's development, Nanjiroh up til now and Tezuka after this. Nanjiroh says what Tezuka notices later, that Ryoma's skills are just a copy of Nanjiroh's.
Interesting note: Ryoma tells Sakuno he tried to quit tennis but couldn't.