All about Akutsu versus Ryoma. With a lot of watching and a bit of commentary from Tezuka. Also Dan Taichi. Packed with flashbacky goodness!
45. The Devil on the Court
So, when we left off, Ryoma had just hit Akutsu in the face with Drive A. Akutsu seems amused. "That's for Kachiro," Ryoma says. Kachiro gets a little blushy over it.
There doesn't seem to be any reaction from Tezuka over this. Does he think it's okay for Ryoma to deliberately target Akutsu? Nanjiroh looks happy though.
I do love Akutsu's weird stance. And, my god, when he comes up from behind the net! It's chilling.
Nobody can figure out his style, not even Inui. But I think Nanjiroh wants to adopt him.
Everyone gets their chance to say something about Akutsu. When Fuji says Akutsu's tennis is completely different from Tezuka's, Tezuka says that's a compliment. I would really love to see them play.
I wonder if Akutsu is a possible path for Ryoma. Like there's the Tezuka path and the Akutsu path and if Ryoma isn't socialized properly, he'll take the wrong path.
Dan talks about The Wonder That Is Akutsu-senpai and gets all blushy as he fondles his headband.
Flashback to Akutsu's difficult childhood. He has no respect for tennis! Hence he will eventually -- years and years later -- be defeated. He crushes the older players in his tennis club. His crime seems to be being too good. Just like -- guess who? -- Tezuka. Only Akutsu taunts his elders while Tezuka is respectful. And Tezuka is the one who gets beaten up.
There's a lesson in there somewhere.
I wonder why Akutsu had all that special tennis coaching when he was young. I wonder how his mother paid for it.
Dan flashes back to his fateful meeting with Ryoma. Ryoma is so wonderful! Dan doesn't know which one he wants to give his love to now.
And flash back to Dan's fateful meeting with Akutsu. Dan is pretty clearly infatuated with Akutsu. Blush, blush, blush while admiring Akutsu's physical attributes. It's not even worth my making a joke over, because it's all so obvious in the text.
Dan picks up Akutsu's discarded sweatband. He keeps it as a souvenir. And this memory makes him certain. His true love is Akutsu, not Ryoma. Akutsu must not lose.
La la la, the game continues. Ryoma is losing.
46. Samurai Spirit
La la la. Ryoma is losing. He's shaken up pretty badly.
Flashback to Kawamura's Karate Days. The best karate student is a young J. Jonah Jameson. He beats Akutsu in karate, but Akutsu just beats JJJ up. Then he beats everyone else up. (Well, not Kawamura.) Kawamura is clearly traumatized.
He follows Akutsu and they talk. Akutsu makes like he's going to punch Kawamura, but just hits him lightly. Kawamura touches his cheek where Akutsu's fist has been. "...and it felt like a kiss."
Clearly, Akutsu has a soft spot for his fanboys. He doesn't harass Kawamura any more than he does Dan.
This match goes on for freaking ever because of all the flashbacks. It's like they stop the game and set up a projector and screen on the court every two minutes.
Inui gives a long explanation about why Ryoma is losing which boils down to "Akutsu is better than Ryoma".
Every time we see the team members, they look shocked and dismayed, except for Tezuka who has had his arms folded and his face set for about three episodes now.
Now Ryoma takes a ball to the face. I think this possibly causes Tezuka to unfold his arms, though we don't see if he actually gets a facial expression or not. And apparently Ryoma headed the ball or something because he takes the point.
Oh, well, Tezuka's arms are folded again. Actually, I think that's just a cardboard standup of Tezuka. He left it there so he could go on a date with Atobe. After the match, Ryoma takes it home and sets it up in his bedroom.
Oooh, flashback to the Ryoma-Tezuka match. The voice of his buchou and the memory of getting a ball past his father spurs Ryoma on to do some weird-ass thing and take a point. He strikes a cool, Fuji-like pose.
Tezuka has left a tape recorder behind the stand-up, to murmur his thoughts: people evolve when they face an overwhelming opponent. Now, show me, Echizen! (He uses that bit of the tape again later, in a different context.)
Ryoma provokes Akutsu some more. Because he just can't help himself.
47. Will Not Lose
Or maybe Will Not End.
Ryoma has evolved the ability to fly like a hummingbird so he's able to take a point by changing direction in mid-air. Inui can't figure out how this is possible, since it's clearly against the laws of God and man. Fuji asks Tezuka and Tezuka says it's possible. Ipse dixit.
Ryoma also evolves the ability to control the course of the ball telekinetically. Sengoku says it's scary that Ryoma hasn't reached his full potential, somehow forgetting that they are all in freaking junior high school and still have many years to reach their full potentials.
Momo says Ryoma is really strong and Kaidoh agrees with him. This causes them to bicker with each other. The Storage Closet Afterglow has already worn off.
Another flashback, this time to the match that Nanjiroh played in against Banji's team. Banji and Ryuzaki are wearing the same outfits that they do now, more than a decade later. Oh, but Banji doesn't have the stripes on his collar back then. They must be like notches for something.
Nanjiroh leaves the game. He's definitely interested in what Ryoma does next, so I'm not sure why he doesn't stick around for it.
Flashback to Banji feeling Akutsu's arms and shoulders in a creepy manner. He tries to seduce Akutsu into tennis by promising him he won't be bored.
The game grinds on. Nanjiroh eats lunch. Inui pontificates. Tezuka gives a homily on how mental strength can influence the game. Ryoma taunts Akutsu.
Ryoma is at match point! And the episode ends. But not the match.
Tezuka is doing the "watch Ryoma" thing here again. He and Nanjiroh both, waiting to see if Ryoma can push through yet another barrier. I wonder what Tezuka actually would do if Akutsu attacked Ryoma. I wonder what he thinks of Ryoma hitting Akutsu with the ball. (I think we get more of that next time, so maybe there will be some reaction from Tezuka.)