A lot of Inui and Tezuka today, with some TezuRyo implications. And, of course, the usual crack.
51. Inui's Challenge
There is testosterone in the air. Inui states that he will win. Tezuka is impassive. They play. They each take one game. They're playing evenly, the spectators say. "Not bad, Inui-senpai," Ryoma says.
I wonder how Ryoma would react if Inui beat Tezuka. I think he wouldn't be averse to seeing Tezuka work hard for the match, but if Tezuka were to lose here, I think that would be a big blow for Ryoma.
Tezuka, though, looks very determined now. Inui knows that look. They both have super sparkles as they play.
Whoa, Tezuka gets some internal monologue! "It's not the Inui that I know," he says to himself. "I can feel the strength in his jump and power." He returns Inui's smash with a drop shot, but Inui, oh Inui is ready. Everyone, including Tezuka, is surprised. Game to Inui.
But Inui can't keep his data to himself, he has to blab to Tezuka all the things he can predict about him. If Inui ever committed a murder or a bank heist, he'd get caught for sure, because he'd come to school the next day and tell Tezuka all about how he pulled it off.
Actually, he'd probably call Tezuka up while he was in the middle of it. "Tezuka, I just dropped the left arm into the tub of lye and it's dissolving nicely. Do you think I should do the legs next or the head?"
Tezuka replies that Inui didn't just improve his data. (That's during the match, not the murder.) I love their interaction so much. They always seem to relate as equals. And Inui really is very, very impressive. He's clearly worked incredibly hard both on his data and on his training.
Kaidoh says that Inui practiced at least twice what everyone else did. (Though I imagine Kaidoh himself isn't included in "everyone else".) The ichinen trio note that the Regulars training menu is so tough, it's a wonder they have time to sleep. Clearly, they are hallucinating. The Regulars always seem to have time to go out for hamburgers and stalk their teammates and generally goof off.
In any case, Inui's Kaidoh-sense tingles and even though he's on the court, looking ready to serve, he stops to correct Kaidoh and note that it's really 2.25 times the usual training.
Of course, Shiba's highly-trained eye for jailbait notes that Inui's body is more toned now than before. Even though he's wearing his ugly baggy trackpants! I think her camera has that special kind of X-Ray vision that lets you see through clothes.
People seem a little worried for Tezuka now.
Oishi figures Inui and Tezuka have played at least 30 times over the last few years. 30 times seems like a lot, considering that Tezuka seems to hardly play anyone at all.
Flashback! Since it's been at least two episodes without one. It's second year and Inui is stalking Tezuka, taking all his data during a game he's playing with someone else. We know it's second year because Inui is wearing the ugly jacket that goes with his ugly trackpants.
Sidebar on tracksuits: Every cohort seems to have their own colour and Inui's cohort is green. Now, in the flashback, the green tracksuits are plentiful, much as the blue ones are now. But do you recall seeing anyone except Inui in a green suit in the current day? Is he the only third-year non-regular in the club? Did the others drop out from shame or boredom?
(I imagine Inui doesn't wear the jacket now because all his weight training and steroids have bulked him out so that it doesn't fit over his massive shoulders.)
Second-year Oishi appears. He's a Regular even then! And his hair is pretty normal looking! Kind of like Tachibana's, a bit. (The dark hair, not the blond.)
Inui is really, really, really obsessed with Tezuka. Like, I would be getting a restraining order and carrying a hatchet in my bookbag if anyone were that obsessed with me. Though if it were Inui, I might still hope he'd ask me out.
Back in the match, Inui takes another game and it's 3 all. Ooh, Fuji is quite admiring of Inui. Maybe Inui will get a special surprise from Fuji later for doing so well.
Inui takes another game. He looks really grim. People start to wonder if Inui really will do it.
Ryuzaki tells the ichinen that before now, Inui had no determination. I can't see how that can be true, given the level of obsession he exhibited, so I figure she's just doing that to spur them on.
Tezuka must be really enjoying this. I bet that's why he put Inui in this block, so he'd have a good game with someone.
Inui can read Tezuka's drop shot and Tezuka is shocked. He opens his mouth and everything. After taking another point, Inui kind of taunts Tezuka. "You didn't see that coming, did you?"
There's a cool comparison of the Inui-Ryoma game and the Inui-Tezuka game. Though the roles are switched, of course.
Something happens and everyone is super-shocked. Including Inui. Tezuka has awoken. He's very scary. And the episode ends.
52. Seigaku's Biggest Crisis
Ryoma and Kaidoh are watching the match. "My boyfriend can beat up your boyfriend," Ryoma says. "Yeah, but I could beat up all three of you," Kaidoh replies.
Tezuka has just taken a point, in a way that shocked everyone but that we, the viewer, did not get to see. Like we never got to see what was in the buzzing box in Belle de Jour. "Now Inui," Tezuka says, "the game isn't over."
I love how we get to see Tezuka's competitive spirit here. Up until now, he's won so easily, we only saw his wooden expression. (Well, not against Ryoma, but that was a bit different.) But he's not going to lose. It's a good way to show us that side of him before Hyotei as well.
Focus again on Inui's bracelet. Oh, how curious I am! Who gave it to him? A girl? Fuji? His mom?
Okay, here's my theory: the bracelet is made of Tezuka's hair, carefully harvested by Inui over the years. It looks about the right colour.
Tezuka spins gracefully, due to the dance classes he takes on Sundays. He even gets a spotlight for his performance.
Of course, it's the Tezuka Zone, which Inoue saw before, when he played Nanjiroh. I don't think anybody ever refers to the Nanjiroh Zone, though. Just another way that Tezuka is parallel to Nanjiroh.
People are shocked -- it seems like no one has seen this before, even Ryoma. While we know that Tezuka had to go all out against Ryoma, is he maybe playing even harder now against Inui? Though Oishi doesn't flip out over Tezuka's arm, so maybe not. Hmm.
You know, when Nanjiroh does the Zone, I can completely believe that it's his skill. When Tezuka does, especially in later games, it just seems like magic. Are you allowed to use magic on the court?
"Hey, he's using magic," Inui says. "Is that fair?" Inui turns on his Shiny Glasses, but they are no match for the Zero Shiki. His voodoo hair bracelet drops to the ground.
Ryoma is sweating and makes some interesting noises that I could interpret perhaps one way, perhaps another. He's relieved that Tezuka will definitely win. It would shatter him if Tezuka lost here.
Somebody pulls the string on Tezuka's back and he says his catchphrase. We don't see the end of the match, but it's a foregone conclusion.
Meanwhile, nobody is paying attention to poor defeated Momoshiro, who leaves his Regular Jersey in the clubhouse on the way out.
Flash to lunch a few days later. The ichinen are brooding over Momo, who hasn't come to club. Oishi tells them off and they freak out. They also annoy Kaidoh, who is sitting behind them, also brooding over Momo, his salty tears dropping into his bento. "It's been three days since I got any," he sniffs.
Ryoma is brooding over Momo as well. He's so broody that he forgets to be rude to Sakuno and Tomoka. Which I think is his true self, actually. His usual cheekiness is just attitude.
After eating the cafeteria food, the ichinen trio is hallucinating Momoshiro everywhere. Oishi goes looking for Momo in his classroom and gets mobbed by his (Oishi's) second-year fangirls. He's so popular!
Banji shows up to ogle the ichinen at practice. He begs Ryuzaki to let him have two or three of them. All the ones at his school are used up by now.
Inui is wearing his Regular jacket even though its like 30 degrees out. And no more ugly green trackpants for him! His
Oishi is so upset about Momo, he's hassling everyone. Eiji is also upset -- that Momo isn't there for him to make fun of. Oishi can't believe, simply can't believe, that a junior high boy could be so cruel as to tease another junior high boy. He worries that Eiji may also be a serial killer
Oishi actually yells at Eiji and all activity on the court stops. Eiji, who must be dense as a black hole, teases Oishi about his inside-out shirt.
And the universe holds its breath as Oishi smacks Eiji.
"I love you and I'll never do it again," Oishi says. "I don't know what came over me. Please take me back." But Eiji has finally had enough and says he's leaving for good. Taka-san gives him the phone number of a shelter.
"Partner swapping can be good," Inui says, and suggests a key party. Eiji latches onto Ryoma, who looks around for Tezuka to save him. Alas, Tezuka is out on another date with Atobe, so Ryoma is stuck. "Kaidoh, you go with Oishi," Inui says.
"I thought we agreed we weren't going to do this anymore, after that incident with Mizuki," Kaidoh says. "I like to watch, so get over there," Inui says.
Tezuka returns. Atobe was extra pissy that day and refused to put out, so Tezuka is in a bad mood, especially when he finds Eiji
Fuji wants to read the little story that Inui just wrote up about the mix-and-match, but Inui won't let him. "I'll need more incentive than that," he says.
Since Ryuzaki won't hand over any of her first-year students, Banji begs for Tezuka. Then Ryoma. "My students do not engage in compensated dating during the tournament season," she tells him.
It's interesting how Banji brings over the information on the US study program. His motive seems to be to weaken Seigaku. And Ryuzaki obviously hadn't looked into this on her own. But she does feel obliged to mention it to Tezuka.
53. The Momo Who's Returned
Tezuka looks at the study abroad program and takes the material with him.
Momo is at street tennis beating the crap out of the Gyokurin pair. God, they must suck. Then Tachibana An shows up and they flirt a bit. But Momo never admits that he's off the Regulars.
Back at Seigaku, we get a visual of shirtless first-years from one of the hidden cameras. Probably Banji's camera, then. Or Yamato's.
Momo and An play a bit. She's pretty good. Momo kind of coddles her, though, and it ticks her off. She uses her feminine wiles on Momo, but he doesn't seem to have actually entered adolescence at this point and they aren't that effective.
Ryuzaki is back in her office. She thinks that for the Kantou and National tournaments, Tezuka is irreplaceable. Tezuka is on the train, looking at the brochure.
Meanwhile, Momo has a personal breakthrough about tennis and cute girls. He nearly kills An with a Dunk Smash. It gets her all hot and bothered but he doesn't really notice. I guess the breakthrough was just about tennis after all.
Oh, Hyotei is lurking. I think they want to pretend they're a gang of some sort. Why the hell are they out at this street tennis court? Is Atobe stalking An and needs everyone to come along with him?
Ryoma shows up because
Momo is all better now, thanks to the love of a good woman. He comes back to club, Oishi and Eiji make up, and the Ponderosa is saved after all!
Tezuka refuses the study program, because he wants to lead Seigaku to the Nationals. Kaidoh makes plans to ambush Momo after club, when he's too weak from running laps to resist.
And all's well that ends well.