A question first: Why is "Ryoma" always written in katakana? Obviously it's a Japanese name (and meant to remind us of the samurai connection). Why no kanji? Did his parents just not pick any? This has long puzzled me.
7. Two Ryomas
In this episode, Kaidoh scares Tomoka. It's funny.
And it's on to Ryoma versus Inui.
So, as before with Kaidoh, why Inui? I think it's because Inui's data tennis will reveal a lot about Ryoma, just from how Inui plays. And to see how Ryoma will deal with it. I don't think Tezuka anticipated that one of Kaidoh and Inui would lose their regular spot.
Side note: If Tezuka asked Inui for Ryoma's data, would Inui hand it over? (And would the answer depend on whether or not Inui has a crush on Tezuka? *g*)
[ much fangirling over Inui deleted ]
Ryoma isn't quite as cheeky with Inui as with Kaidoh. He must know that it won't irk Inui. And Inui is a little, well, I don't want to say that Ryoma is intimidated, because clearly he's not, but Inui does have a tall and unnerving presence.
Tezuka doesn't make an appearance here, sadly. Fuji is watching, though, and he tells the first-year trio that Inui has beaten Kaidoh three times before.
And that's about it.
8. Split Step
Ryoma taunts Inui by telling him exactly where he's hitting the ball. For some strange reason, Inui stands there and lets the ball hit the frame of his racquet. Perhaps he has been hypnotized somehow. Kaidoh watches open-mouthed.
Ryoma says he had planned to save his split-step for Nationals. It's interesting that he thinks he'll make it all that way without having to go full-out. He soon learns differently. But not today.
This episode is really about the destruction of Inui's confidence. Necessary, but painful to watch. But it's good for Inui in the end.
I always thought that data tennis was weak. It depends so much on being able to observe your opponent outside your own game with him, so against an unknown opponent, you're very vulnerable, as we see later on. It wasn't until much, much later that I gained respect for Inui's tennis. (As opposed to Inui himself; I respected him all along.)
9. The Hard Day
Inui seems so shocked by Ryoma. He clearly wasn't expecting to have his data tennis broken like this. But Ryoma's snarkiness amuses him, which I like. I'm sad Inui lost, but as noted above, it's necessary for his future development.
Kaidoh is super glare-y at Ryoma whenever they meet. Clearly, he's mightily pissed off about his own loss and wants to smack Ryoma down. I can't blame him.
So sad we don't get to see the Inui-Kaidoh match in all its glory. Someone -- Inoue? -- reiterates the 3-0 match record for Inui. But it's Kaidoh who wins and I so love that last shot where Inui hits the ball into the net and then the focus shifts to Kaidoh who has his hand in his pocket. So easy, he seems to say.
The game is 7-5 so it's not actually easy for either of them. But Inui must have made assumptions about Kaidoh's play instead of actually observing him. (He should have got Kachiro's tape!) And Kaidoh is, of course, still very angry at losing to Ryoma. He's got to prove himself in a way that Inui doesn't seem to feel. Not to mention, if Kaidoh loses to Inui, he's losing to the guy that lost to Ryoma and that kicks Kaidoh really far down the ladder of losing.
Inui is less concerned with how others perceive him -- he has specific goals and that's what he's working towards. Public opinion doesn't seem to matter. Kaidoh, though, is very invested in how he's seen. (Which is why he gets tortured so much by all and sundry, including me. Sorry, sweetie!)
I don't subscribe to the theory that Inui lost to Kaidoh on purpose. He hates to lose, just like the rest of them, and he knows that real match experience will improve his skills better than just practice. And he's 15, or I think still 14 at this point. He's not going to be that altruistic.
But Inui is much more philosophical about his loss than Kaidoh was. Inui seems to gain more passion as the series goes on; he's rather phlegmatic at this point. And he's glad that Seigaku will be stronger for it.
All the first years chase Ryoma around everywhere, even though Ryoma ignores them. Ah, that charisma again! I bet he secretly enjoys the adulation.
I really like Coach Inui. Frankly, this is where his strength lies. He's a great player, at least later on, but he's an awesome coach from day one. Do you think he asked Ryuzaki-sensei to let him coach or did she ask him first? I'm inclined to think she asked him. She seems to know what each of them need to improve themselves.
This is the first appearance of one of my most-hated story elements: Inui Juice. It's not unreasonable that Inui would like to concoct various health-drinks, but it's all very inconsistent. Sometimes, it seems like he makes them just for health reasons and is all surprised when people dislike them.
Other times, it's deliberately for motivation and punishment. Not to mention the exaggerated effect they have on people. I just can't quite stretch my disbelief to everyone passing out from them all the time, even in crack episodes. And then he's allowed to continue giving them to the players!
I hate having to write about it too and sometimes I ignore it, but really, you can't write about Inui and not write about the juice. Bah.
Okay, said my piece there. Lovely shiny glasses Inui moment, though.
It seems like this is the first public appearance of the juice at Seigaku as well, though later episodes seem to indicate Inui has been making it all along. I suppose he's never been in a position to hand it out like this before.
I love how Inui teases Tezuka about needing to smile more. Not many people will tease Tezuka, but Inui never seems intimidated by him (except perhaps when they actually play).
Ryuzaki-sensei talks to Tezuka about his rehabilitation, suggesting he take it easy. No, he says, his only concern is the team and the tournaments. Our first hint that something is wrong with Tezuka and our first intimation of how dedicated he is to the team, over and above his own well-being.