And we are back on track with the crack. Everybody gets a chance to shine, even Kachiro and Arai. And I get to go on about sports series. Some images under the cut.
69. Who Will Be A Regular?
Ryoma's breakfast: a whole fish, complete with eye. I do not know what kind of fish, since I'm neither an ichthyologist (my world is not the undersea world) nor a fishmonger.
Morning practice. People discuss yesterday's game. Nobody can believe that Tezuka lost. One of the random second years is voiced by Kiyasu Kohei and I have to take a moment.
Kachiro is upset and his eyes are even bigger than Ryoma's. In every universe but this one, Kachiro is the protagonist of the show, which follows his struggles to become a regular and earnestly excel at tennis. For some reason, an episode of that show came through a freak wormhole and was broadcast instead of the usual Ryoma-centric ep. I wonder what all the other universes saw instead.
Maybe the day that a snow cone vendor stiffed Momoshiro on syrup and so Ryoma challenges the vendor that if he can hit seven snow cones from 100 feet, then he has to give them all free servings. And Horio eats too many and gets sick. Either that or he and Momo order 100 pizzas to be delivered to Atobe.
"Everybody here?" Ryuzaki says, but Tezuka is absent. Oishi dares to mention his name and everyone gasps. Ryuzaki says Tezuka's up on the roof and they can't get him down.
Oishi clearly had no idea that Tezuka would be away from the club for a while. I sigh over him. Tezuka, you dummy, talk to Oishi!
"We can't have injured people playing in matches," Ryuzaki says. I pause the video in disbelief.
All the non-regulars, who are blue-suited second years, no green-suited third years, get super fired up in case they can become regulars. Because of course the cast could completely change at this point in the series. Well, I guess there was the last season of Dukes of Hazzard. Hmm, I wonder how much Okiayu is demanding per episode.
Momo mouths off about his regular spot, even though he's just in normal pleb sweats. Ryuzaki ticks him off. "I'll be a regular next time," Arai says, completely forgetting that he is Crewman Number Six, doomed to die on every planet they beam down to.
And for a brief shining moment, Arai gets to pretend he is Momo's rival. But then he finds out that being Momo's rival also involves certain ... intimacies. He slinks off to find Ikeda who is Just His Friend, That's All, None Of This Rival Stuff.
Inui has a special training menu for the Regulars. Fuji accidentally gets the extra special menu Inui prepared for Kaidoh and there's a moment of awkwardness. "Have you ever heard of a Freudian slip?" Fuji says and he and Inui repair to the clubhouse to discuss it.
Poor Kachiro. He's upset that everyone seems to be practicing as though nothing happened, even though Tezuka is not there. He sits on the ground and rubs dung into his hair. Oimoi, oimoi, o talan! Arai boasts that he will take the Regular spot and this makes Kachiro even more upset.
You know, it's interesting that Tezuka isn't there. It's not like he seems to practice a lot at practice. He could still supervise and inspire by his silent and commanding
What must Tezuka be feeling right now? He probably has no idea whether he'll play tennis again. It's probably like a huge weight sitting on him, crushing him. And the knowledge that there was nothing else he could have done. He can only hope that it was worth it.
Eiji and Fuji have a tender meeting underneath the trees. "What are you doing, Fuji?" Eiji says. "Well, I was just making out with Inui in the clubhouse," Fuji says. "But he's so possessive, I had to get away."
"So you were here," Inui says, showing up behind them. "Eiji, stay away from Fuji. Also Kaidoh. And Momoshiro. Oh, and Tezuka, if he ever shows up again. Oishi and Kawamura are fair game, though." To Fuji he says, "Stamina first." Ah, young love.
Ryoma is knocking milk boxes off a wall. He shows us his serious face. He is, of course, brooding over Tezuka.
In the clubhouse, Arai and some other random second-years (sadly not, I think, voiced by Kiyasu Kohei) are blathering on about how there were a lot of injuries and Tezuka can't play and they should gather rosebuds while they might, old time is still a-flying.
Kachiro gets mad. Oh, god, he is so, so damned cute. I sort of wish I lived in one of the other universes right now. He confronts Arai: "Are you so happy that Tezuka-buchou is injured? Aren't you ashamed of calling the members being injured a 'chance'?"
When Arai tries to leave, Kachiro runs in front of him. He essentially calls Arai cowardly for wanting to become a Regular because of other's injuries.
Arai utters the immortal words: "If you want to lecture me, beat me in tennis first." So Kachiro challenges him to a match. The loser will have to acknowledge the other's point of view and quit the club.
Kachiro is a little fireball here. He won't back down. I want to squish him, but that would hurt his dignity.
Oh, the sexual tension between them! Well, it's just regular tension. Or non-regular tension, since neither of them are Regulars. Ha! I kill myself.
Tezuka rides the train home alone, holding onto the strap with his right hand. It's the saddest moment of all.
Hoiro and Katsuo try to talk Kachiro out of his match, but they can't. Horio appeals to Ryoma, who says he can't do anything. "The current Kachiro can't beat Arai-senpai." This gets Kachiro even more fired up. Isn't Ryoma even worried about Tezuka? Ryoma just drinks his milk, but we know that deep down he is worried.
But doesn't Ryoma complain about having to drink milk? And here he's drinking so much that he has a whole line of milk boxes to knock off the wall. Maybe he's trying to get stronger even faster now.
Kachiro thinks Ryoma is the same as the second years. Poor muffin, he's so mad, he cries.
Match time! Ryoma isn't there to watch. Kachiro decides he's going to do his best to take as many points as he can, to upstage Arai. Tomoka is praying for a miracle.
The second years are heckling Kachiro. Ryoma is there after all, secretly watching from behind a tree.
Arai is playing seriously, so he's kind of muffin-y too. At least he's giving Kachiro that much. And Kachiro is starting to return Arai's shots! He's evolving as they play.
As above, so below.
Kaidoh, Kawamura, Eiji, and Fuji turn up to watch. Katsuo asks them to stop the match, but they won't. Arai falls and nobody knows why.
Oishi shows up, along with Inui. For the first time that I can recall, people say, "Oishi-fukubuchou!" He usually just gets called Oishi-senpai, even by the first years. When Tezuka isn't there, Oishi goes into buchou mode. He's not soft on them at all.
He ticks Arai off for playing and for letting it be about who quits the club. He must be flashing back to Tezuka and Yamato and such. He assigns everyone 20 laps. But he tells Arai to take his ankle weights off first. Hayashi and Ikeda are wearing them too.
And so Kachiro realises that Arai really is training hard to earn his place. Inui
Kachiro apologises to Arai. Arai apologises to Kachiro. And now they are in love.
Arai/Kachiro is so next year's Golden Pair.
70. Tennis vs Ping Pong
Another day, another breakfast at the Echizen's, though we don't get to see what Ryoma is eating today. Nanjiroh is clipping his toenails! Ick! Why did they have to show that? The sounds of the clipping make my skin crawl.
Today is Mix Club Day, also known as Filler Episode Day also known as Hal Gets Worked Up Over Sports Series Day. Ryoma is going to play ping pong, so, of course, he's bought a book on it to study up so he can win.
Horio is playing soccer! This gets me very excited, since I'm following four different soccer series (Whistle!, Aoki Densetsu Shoot, Hungry Heart Wild Striker, and Captain Tsubasa). Sadly, Horio sucks because he does not have two years soccer experience. He tries to head the ball, but just gets knocked down.
Tomoka reads the club boards, but she misses the lacrosse board which is there, I swear, just behind a tree. Tomo and Horio argue. They so want each other.
Oishi and Eiji are playing volleyball! I've only got one volleyball series on the go and it's shoujo (Crimson Hero). Of course the Golden Pair are perfectly in sync, whether it's tennis or volleyball or ballroom dancing and they bump, set, and spike their way to a touching shared victory. There are other people on their team, but they don't really get to play.
Ryoma stands in line for ping pong. This kid who seems to be the Kirihara of ping pong taunts and challenges him. "I want to be entertained today." Ryoma ignores him.
Next, baseball. Right now, I'm only following one baseball series (H2), but there are two more I have my eye on (Princess 9 (shoujo) and Major). It's the bottom of the ninth. No runs. Kawamura is at bat and Inui is pitching.
Inui is so suited to be a pitcher. He looks amazing. I want to see him play more and more baseball. (Him and Yanagi.) Kawamura goes into burning mode when he picks up the bat, which raises some interesting questions.
Now we come to the very best part of this episode: Inui pitches, after a ten-minute analysis period, during which Kawamura calls him "Mr Inui". Kawamura hits the ball and starts rounding the bases, the bat still in his hand. The ball hits a lamp post on the field and rebounds back to second base, where the second baseman catches it. Kawamura slides, but he dropped the bat and he's short. Out-o!
And Inui says: Just as I calculated. If Taka-san hits the inside pitch, there is a 90% chance that it will hit the pole behind second base. With Taka-san's power, the ball will bounce back directly towards second base. Everything is calculated. Oh, god, Inui, you can't even make yourself believe that, let alone us.
Ryoma is swotting up his ping pong under a shady tree. Then he naps.
Momo is playing basketball. I have three basketball series and one more that I've yet to start. (Dear Boys, Slam Dunk (which Onosaka was in), I'll Generation Basket, and Real.) He slam dunks and it's so cool. But as he goes up for a second dunk, he gets hit in the face with a badminton bird.
"Oh, sorry," Kaidoh says. "I used too much power." He's looking all cool himself in his lovely blue warm-up suit and his bandana and his badminton racquet. You know, Kiyasu Kohei is in four of my sports series. (Prince of Tennis, Whistle!, Dear Boys, and Hajime no Ippo.) But I have no badminton series at all.
Momo accuses Kaidoh of doing it on purpose, which is as completely obvious as the fact that Kaidoh wants to throw Momo to the floor right there in the gym and do unspeakable things to him. Or really, things that aren't unspeakable, just that he wouldn't be able to talk while he was doing them.
They give each other the LOOK, then argue some more. Sadly, there is no gym floor smexing or even any collar grabbing.
Back to Kaidoh's badminton game. He foolishly hits a Boomerang Snake, which is out by the rules of badminton. Momo laughs at him and then they do get into one of their lovely forehead-leaning growl-and-hissing god-I-want-to-have-you-now-now-now fights.
They don't show up again for the rest of the episode. Because they are together in the janitor's closet, pulling at each other's clothing and swearing between every angry kiss.
Ryoma is actually in the ping pong area. (I have no ping pong series either.) I guess this was meant to be building suspense, but I can't say it worked for me. Did it work for you?
Ping Pong Kirihara hassles him some more. Then Tomoka et alia show up to cheer him on. She even has a sign. Fuji, Oishi, and Eiji are already there and then Inui and Kawamura show up.
Kawamura slides in next to Fuji. But Inui leans across Kawamura to tell Fuji, "I have some time before my next game." I swear I'm not making this up.
Who is voicing Ping Pong Kirihara? It's making me nuts. I'm sure it's someone who voices a rival school player. I can almost see him across the net...
PPK flicks a ping pong ball at Ryoma. And everybody gasps, like it's Akutsu serving rocks again. It's a fricking ping pong ball! Of course, it puts Ryoma's eye out and he can never play tennis again. But still.
It turns out that PPK used to be in the ping pong club, but he quit the club just so that he could play against Ryoma on Shounen Sports Fest Day. It seems as though there's a flaw in that plan: what if Ryoma didn't play ping pong? Why not just challenge Ryoma to a ping pong game?
(Of course, if he had done that, we would have had to spend the whole episode on ping pong and I'm just not up to that.)
PPK has never lost a game in a tournament. Ryoma looks unimpressed, but he's excited that he gets to crush the dreams of yet another pitiful opponent. It's in my contract, he says. Then he does a lame magic trick with the balls.
Okay, Inui has advanced one level of creepy in my book. (Why did I forget this?) He has data on Ping Pong Kirihara. Musashi Kaishou is his name. Inui even knows that he quit the club last week and that he's been playing ping pong in China since he was five years old. He's won all 26 matches in the inter-school tournaments. Also, I think Inui has a glamour shot and a lock of his hair in there.
(According to this site, Musashi is voiced by Horie Hikaru, but that's not someone I've ever head of before (or could find any info on).)
Ryoma and Musashi begin their game. They are playing to determine who will be the main character from here on in. (Maybe Minagawa is asking for too much money too!)
According to Oishi, since ping pong is also called table tennis, Ryoma might be good at it. Just think if they renamed hockey ice tennis! Ryoma would become Mario Lemieux. Or golf as grass tennis. He'd defeat Tiger Woods. Or boxing as ... er ... fist tennis. (Well, there was this guy in Hajime no Ippo who had a punch called Tsubame Gaeshi.)
Musashi is good. Ryoma is not so good. Inui gives the usual boring speeches, only about ping pong this time, explaining how the grips make tennis and ping pong different. Did you catch that? The different grips. You hold the paddle differently than a racquet. This is an important point, so try not to forget it.
Musashi gets a great internal monologue about how even though his fic is so much better than Ryoma's, Ryoma gets all the feedback and fangirls and so Musashi's going to show everyone once and for all that he's a better writer and should be a bigger BNF. Or something similar. Involving ping pong and tennis.
Oh no! Ryoma is losing. So he CHANGES HIS GRIP so he can play tennis style.
At this juncture, Musashi makes the very good point that Ryoma is being disrespectful of ping pong. And we all know what happens to people who are disrespectful of sports, right?
They hit Twist Serves and win.
I weep for poor Musashi. Ryoma is really abusing his Main Character Powers. He does all his best tennis moves and Musashi ends up on his knees on the floor (and not in a good way). Ryoma taunts him and Musashi resolves to go back to the ping pong club and try to get good enough to beat Ryoma. Really, I think he should just hire some thugs to break Ryoma's legs with baseball bats.
Now it's Fuji's turn. He's curling. (If you decide to watch Hice Cool, do it for the pretty boys, not the curling, because there is next to no actual curling.) He is the only one. Zero participants, championship is mine, he thinks. They don't even show if he got the rock over the hog line.
And that's it for now. I think the only sports series I didn't get to mention in passing were Eyeshield 21 (football) and Ace wo Nerae (tennis).
71. It's a Date!
This will probably be like gilding the lily or MiSTing Godzilla, but here goes.
Ryoma is upset that there's no practice. Momo is upset because he has to meet a girl. Tachibana Ann called him up and asked to meet because she has to tell him something. Ryoma tries to leave, but Momo won't let him. "Protect me from the girl, Echizen," he says.
"I'm not so bored that I would interrupt someone's date," Ryoma says.
Momo hits the roof. He hadn't even considered that this might be a date. Momo is wise and suave man-of-the-world when it comes to other people's dates, but he just flips out when he thinks he might be going on one himself. Possibly because he knows if Atobe finds out Momo was seeing anyone else, there will be hell to pay in a way that only Atobe can deliver.
Momo has to physically drag Ryoma with him, Ryoma yelling all the way.
Ann is looking just as cute as usual when they meet up with her. Momo apologises that Ryoma was so slow. Ryoma tries to take off again and Momo yanks him back.
She says that she was thinking of going on a date with Momo. And Inui's spider-sense begins to tingle. He can sense whenever something this important is going down, due to his finely honed psychic abilities. Or maybe he heard Momo screaming, "Date-o?" from across the street.
Ann invites Ryoma to come along as well, showing how truly progressive she is. Momo chokes. Atobe is going to torture him for weeks over this.
Inui pulls out his mobile and calls up ... Eiji. The first time I saw this, I thought that was pretty random, but it makes sense that Eiji would most want to accompany Inui on a mission of Stalk and Harass the Kohais.
When Eiji hears that the three of them are on a date, he figures it must be a love triangle, not a threesome. Oh, Eiji, how quickly you forget Doubles for Three!
So, for the Big Date, Ann takes them to street tennis. I think this is to save on drawing new backgrounds. "Oh, we're just here for tennis," Momo says. "Yes," says Ann. "A tennis date!"
Eiji mishears this as a tennis competition and he figures that Momo and Ryoma are going to duel for Ann's love. He wonders if he'll ever have to duel anyone over Oishi's affection and thinks that maybe it was a good thing Tezuka hurt his arm after all.
He's ready to rush after Momo and Ryoma, but first Inui has to call up Kawamura to join them. Then Inui calls Tezuka to invite him along. Tezuka hangs up without saying anything. Tezuka, by the way, is in a fetching lilac shirt today, open at the collar, with a pendant around his neck.
Kawamura arrives and Inui has clearly led him to believe that Ryoma and Momo are on a date with each other. It makes me wonder what he told Tezuka. Then Oishi roars up on a bicycle. He's all worried that Ryoma and Momo are going to fight each other over this date. (I think the word he's using has connotations of violence and war.) The loser will be scarred emotionally!
Clearly, Inui is telling everyone a different story to gauge their reactions and get better data. Not because he like to fuck with people's heads.
At street tennis, we find Kamio and Ibu. Kamio is so happy to see his beloved Ann-chan! And less happy to see his beloved Momoshiro beside her. It's his worst nightmare, except for the one where he's at Wimbledon, playing in the finals, and he's naked and double faults on his first serve.
Ibu, of course, has eyes only for Ryoma. Ryoma tries to remember who he is. It's not Momo-senpai, because he's right beside me. And it's not buchou. Can I go home now?
Actually, he does remember their Grip Tape Encounter, which was almost as good as a date. At least almost as good as Momo and Ann's date, which so far seems to be pretty lame-o.
Inui-tachi argue about what to do. Should they follow at a distance? Should they interfere? Inui calls Tezuka again, who hangs up again.
Kamio finds out about Momo and Ann's previous tennis affair and loses it. "But then Atobe showed up," Ann says, "and took Momoshiro away with him in his limousine."
When Ann tells Kamio that she and Momo are on a date, Kamio wigs out. And so does Momo. Ann finally gets ticked off that Momo seems so opposed to be dating her and tells him off.
"No!" Kamio yells. "Anyone but him!" He and Momo argue, rehashing the whole bicycle thief incident, and generally getting all close and personal. "Hey," Momo says. "Only Kaidoh is allowed to fight with me like that! And there's no closet around for after anyhow."
Meanwhile, Ryoma and Ibu talk in bored voices about grip tape. For them, that's some pretty hot flirting.
Just to make the day more purple and gay, Mizuki shows up, along with Yanagisawa (dane) and darling Yuuta. I don't think I noticed this any of the other 37 million times I watched this ep: Yanagisawa has his warmup jacket unzipped and he's not wearing a t-shirt. He has man-cleavage!
"Who's this?" Ibu asks and Ryoma sums it up: "A guy who lost to me, a guy who got crushed by Fuji-senpai, and the guy who got blown away by Momo-senpai."
Ann tells everyone that she and Momo are on a date, which causes more frenzy. Meanwhile, Yuuta and Ibu fight over Ryoma like he's some kind of kewpie doll, to be owned and then tossed aside. Ibu tells Ryoma he wants the rest of the grip tape. "There's not enough left for a racquet," Ryoma says.
"But there's enough to tie you up with, right?" Ibu says. "Because I'm kind of into bondage. Most people aren't into bondage. But maybe Echizen is." Yuuta, sensing something in the air, asks about the tape, but Ibu tells him it's just between him and Ryoma.
Inui is still trying to call people up. Eiji is getting impatient to be after Momo and Ryoma. "They could be having fun and I'm not there to join them!"
Inui calls Tezuka again. Tezuka is out by the koi pond, feeding the fish. His grandfather, also in purple, is there too. "Do you know where Fuji is?" Inui asks. "I can't contact him." Tezuka hangs up.
I am in love with how Inui keeps calling and calling and Tezuka answers and hangs up every time. It's foreplay. At the end of the day, Inui will call one more time. "I'm outside your front door." Tezuka will hang up and come out to meet him and they'll stand by the koi pond and make out, Inui bending Tezuka back just enough to let him know who's in charge here.
But since he's not having much luck getting Tezuka to come out and be his date for the date-stalking expedition, Inui calls up Kaidoh, with the lame excuse that if it concerns Momoshiro, Kaidoh should know. What Inui wants Kaidoh to know is that Momo is on a date with a girl and therefore is no longer available. Hint, hint.
Inui invites Kaidoh to join him at the street tennis courts. "It's a date," he says, "I'll be waiting." And hangs up. (This actually happens.) Kaidoh freaks out because he thinks Inui has just asked him out on a date. Which is so obviously what Inui meant him to think.
There must be some kind of mistake, Kaidoh thinks. I just have to call him back and check. So he does. "About before..." "Oh," Inui says, "were you surprised?"
"What did you mean, senpai?" Kaidoh says, oh so plaintively, but his mobile battery has run down. He crouches on the street, head in his hands. "What should I do? But it's a request from a senpai."
I have a question about this dialogue. That's the sub. But I wondered if the context was meant more to be "it's a request from Inui-senpai who has helped me so much with my training and therefore I am obligated to him" rather than "it's a request from an upperclassman at my school".
I know that this is a crack ep and so I shouldn't weight it too much for characterization, but it does have some significance. And it's interesting that Kaidoh has no problem abruptly refusing Inui's offer to play doubles with him but agonizes over turning down an invitation to a date.
And I don't think it's because Kaidoh secretly wants to date Inui. In my Grand Unified Theory of InuKai, this is the event that does trigger that awareness in Kaidoh, but not until afterwards. At the moment, he's just terrified. So why can't he say no to this when he could say no to doubles?
Anyhow, he's very cute either way.
At the tennis courts everyone is fighting, either over Ann or Ryoma. Fuji shows up. He reports to Inui that the love triangle is actually a love square, since he's including Kamio.
Then Fuji notices Yuuta and his face lights up like the first bright rays of the morning sun. He forgets about Inui and everybody else in this dreary world and goes to the source of all his happiness. Yuuta seems uncomfortable.
Inui calls Tezuka for advice. Tezuka hangs up.
Poor Kaidoh, he keeps walking back and forth. He should just give in and go. After all, he ended up playing doubles with Inui after he said no.
And speaking of doubles, it's Echizen-Ibu vs Momo-Kamio. Nobody is happy with this match-up but me. Momo and Kamio scream at each other, but then Momo whispers something low and tender in Kamio's ear and everything seems to go much better after that.
Fuji notes that Momo and Kamio might be a good pair. He's worked out that Ann brought Momo here to fix him up with Kamio so they'll both stop bothering her. Her scheming ways surprise even Fuji and he begins to chat her up himself.
Momo and Kamio are destroying Ibu and Ryoma, but Ryoma has a secret plan to destroy their combination by stirring up their jealousy again. "Which one is really Atobe's boyfriend?" Ibu asks. "Momo-senpai," Ryoma says. "He said so himself."
At the bottom of the hill, Oishi can't wait any longer. "A love square is the biggest thing to happen to the Seigaku tennis club since its inception!" I guess they really did lose a lot before this year.
They go up without Kaidoh. Momo and Kamio lost and they're fighting, contrary to Ann's plans. Ann runs off and Fuji says she said something about a date ... with her brother.
And Fuji says. Fuji says: Yuuta, should we go on a date too?
"He probably hated you before because of comments like that," Mizuki says, which is likely true.
Inui and the others show up, but everything is over. No girls in sight. As usual.
Kaidoh waits alone at the bottom of the hill. "D-date-o," he thinks, and the credits roll.
Two days later, he wakes up in a cold sweat from a dream about Inui.
And for all you new kids on the Prince of Tennis block, music you should really have:
* Tenisu no Boifurendo by Freezepop
* He Whipped My Ass In Tennis (Then I Fucked His Ass In Bed) by Pansy Division