Wow, it's been a while. Fairly crack-light due to a Tezuka-Ryoma match. But on the other hand, a Tezuka-Ryoma match!
74. A Message for Echizen
Tezuka is at the sports complex, feeding coins into a ball machine. He's dressed in lovely lavender and he's hitting with his right hand. He remembers everyone's faces when he told them he was leaving. Possibly there is an emotion lurking on his face, maybe hiding in the corner of this mouth or somewhere in his hair.
At school, Horio is freaking out at Ryoma about Tezuka going away. Ryoma is staring out the window and he can't quite make it look like he doesn't care (since he hasn't yet become Tezuka), although it seems to fool the ichinensei.
Everyone is upset. Fuji and Eiji talk in their classroom, Inui and Kawamura in the hall.
In the gym, a bunch of boys play basketball in their school uniforms. Momo and Kaidoh stand against the wall. They are clearly standing together for comfort, but far enough away from each other that they could deny it if anyone accused them of it. They snipe at each other half-heartedly and challenge each other not to lose any matches. (Oh, honeys.)
This is my very favourite MomoKai scene. It shows so well the connection that underlies all their antagonism. They don't go find anyone else when they're upset over this; they're together.
Oishi is in the library, brushing up on tennis rules as a coping mechanism. Tezuka comes up to him.
While my favourite thing to hear Ryoma say is "Buchou" my favourite line from Tezuka will always be "Oishi." There is always so much feeling in it, everything that Tezuka can never say, all in that one word. And he says it now.
"I have a request," he says.
In Ryuzaki's office, Inoue and Shiba hang around like vultures for any news of Tezuka's injury. When Shiba hears he's going away, she's all, "Oh, I won't be able to see Tezuka-kun for a while." Inoue says, "You mean Tezuka-kun's play, right?" "I guess you could put it like that." See? I don't make this stuff up.
Inoue talks about how Tezuka could travel around in the EU and see a lot of tennis. It suggests to us that maybe Tezuka won't come back in time for Nationals. Maybe. After all, Germany is a long way away.
(This is really a huge difference from the manga. Kyuushuu is not that far and I never felt like there was ever any question of Tezuka not coming back. In the anime, it's all more uncertain.)
Tezuka asks Oishi to be buchou, now that he's leaving. They look at each other a long moment. Oishi refuses. "You're the only one who can be our captain, Tezuka. But I'll be the temporary captain until you come back."
Nobody wants to think that Tezuka won't come back. And this way, Oishi obliges him to. After all, it's for their dream. And Tezuka says it again. "Oishi." Everything is there, everything between them. As Tezuka leaves, Oishi says, "Tezuka, be sure to come back." "Yes," Tezuka says.
God, these two always rip my heart out.
At practice, Tezuka comes out dressed to play, with a racquet in his hand. Everyone stares. "I wanted to play one more time before I leave these courts."
He walks behind Ryoma, who is rallying with Momo. Ryoma is so aware of Tezuka here, he's wondering what will happen, he's probably mad at Tezuka for leaving.
Tezuka warms up with Fuji, using his right hand. Everyone stares. After practice, Oishi announces the transfer of power and Tezuka instructs them to win the Kantou tournament and work hard with Oishi. He dismisses the practice.
And then he calls Ryoma. "Get on the court. We're going to have a one-set match." Ryoma's face lights up.
Oishi is the chair ref. Ryoma asks Tezuka if he's had any real experience playing right-handed. "Yes," Tezuka says. Ryoma wins the serve. They both turn to walk to their ends of the court, then stop, their backs to each other.
"I'm not going to go easy on you," Ryoma says.
People worry that Tezuka won't do well playing right-handed against Ryoma. And Ryoma takes the first point with a Twist Serve. And the first game. Everyone is worried for Tezuka, except for Fuji and Inui who do their usual "we have a secret that no one else knows" thing. (Hopefully, several secrets.)
Ryoma is almost cheeky to Tezuka. "You do pretty well with your right hand."
But Tezuka, oh, Tezuka is strong. As Inui says, he's sacrificing the score to try something out. And his side to side movements become smaller and smaller, until there it is: Tezuka Zone.
Ryoma is so shocked, he gets a push-pull, like he's in a Hitchcock film or something. And he's all worked up now. But the Zone, the Zone is working. And it's got the craziest visual effects. It really seems like magic.
Ryoma is pretty ticked off. But at the same time, he wouldn't want to beat Tezuka if Tezuka weren't at his peak. "Echizen," Tezuka says, "Can you beat me?"
"Mada mada dane."
Oh, it ended. Damn.
75. Farewell, Tezuka Kunimitsu
He's controlling my shots, Ryoma thinks. The lights over the court come on. Tezuka is frightening in his power. Everyone remarks on it. No wonder no one really gets close to him. He's just too intimidating.
Momo is standing in between Kaidoh and Inui and I curse that they have the wire fence in front of them because this is the exact shot I need for an icon.
Everyone wonders what Ryoma will do. There's no doubt that he'll try something. But no one is sure of the outcome, now that Tezuka has shown the strength of his right arm.
Tezuka is going all out and his service ace makes Ryoma smile. Ryoma muffs the next return and send up an easy lob. He starts Drive B to deal with Tezuka's expected smash, but Tezuka puts the ball away and takes the game.
It's hard to comment on this match because I get caught up in watching it and forget to type anything. Suffice it to say, they are both playing well and everyone, me included, is tense and gasping.
Ryoma stands on the court, holding the ball. Tezuka thinks: When your opponent begins to evolve, how will you overcome this hurdle? But Ryoma knows there has to be a way and he resolves to find it. Oh, the light in his eyes!
Another thought: Echizen, a support pillar can't buckle, no matter what. Oh god, Tezuka! Are you saying that you didn't buckle in your match with Atobe or that you did? Probably the former.
Everything Tezuka wants Ryoma to know, he thinks, he doesn't say. Ryoma has to learn it from the match.
The game continues. The Zone returns. Ryoma can't deal with it. But he keeps trying and trying. Finally, a heavy ball breaks Tezuka's return, even though it was in the Zone. Tezuka's strings snap and he changes racquets. And that gives Ryoma an idea.
Can you truly become Seigaku's pillar of support?
Ryoma switches to his right hand. "Buchou, I'm going to catch up now," Ryoma says, smirking back over his shoulder. "With my right hand."
Nobody knows why. Except Tezuka. Ryoma has problems at first but he's got a lot of power. Inui and Fuji work out that this is to defeat the Tezuka Zone.
And it works. IT WORKS. At first, his shots go out, but they break free of the Zone. Tezuka has to run across the court now. And because Ryoma's control isn't as good with his right hand, the course of the ball is harder for Tezuka to predict and handle.
Ryoma puts a shot across that shocks even Tezuka. "Is this okay, buchou?" Ryoma says. "Good shot," Tezuka replies. "Now," Ryoma says, "let's not get careless."
Excellent performance, Echizen, Tezuka thinks. Become Seigaku's new pillar of support. And there's a flashback to their first match.
Tezuka takes the match with a right-handed Zero Shiki. There is silence around the court. Oishi makes the call. Ryoma and Tezuka meet at the net.
"Should I raise your hand?" Ryoma says, referring to the Atobe match. His eyes are hidden, his cap shadows his face.
"No," Tezuka says. "Before we play again, become strong enough to beat me."
"Of course," Ryoma says and smiles up at Tezuka. Tezuka is nearly smiling back. Everyone applauds.
Tezuka flies away. (In an airplane, not with those giant angel wings from the OVA OP.) At practice, Ryoma looks up at the sky.
This is a really amazing match and it is only in the anime, which has interesting consequences. In the manga, Tezuka and Oishi focus on firing up Momo and Kaidoh as well as Ryoma. It's very much about the team. But in the anime, it's all about Tezuka and Ryoma.
The match achieves several goals:
First, Tezuka gives all the players confidence before he leaves. He shows them that he is not broken, that he is still someone for them to live up to.
Next, Tezuka spurs Ryoma on and fires him up. Even more than the rest of them, Ryoma needs to have confidence in Tezuka. Because he's not playing for the club the same way the rest of them are. He's playing for himself and for Tezuka. And Tezuka is playing for him, teaching him.
And Ryoma levels up here, plays a more sophisticated game and is glad, even though he lost.
As well, giving Ryoma this send-off means that Ryoma isn't resentful of Tezuka leaving like he clearly is in the manga. He's so pissy in the manga when Tezuka returns, like your cat after you get home from vacation.
And finally, this match must make Tezuka feel better about himself. He's still got it going on.
An amazing match, worthy of Tezuka's departure.
76. Seigaku vs Jyousei Shounan
I think the main question we have to ask here is why? Why make up the Jyousei Shounan matches instead of animating the Midoriyama matches? We could have got another IK doubles match and seen that cool scene with Nanjiroh and the other former pro who were both pushing their kids to play tennis. Does anybody know?
I'm a little better with these matches now, but the first time I saw them, I was appalled because here we were in the second round of the Kantou tournament and the whole tone was like a crack episode, not a serious episode. It really confused me and, frankly, still does.
Inoue and Shiba are at Jyousei to write an article. It's a school with high standards and state-of-the-art equipment that emphasizes "co-ordination". I'm still not sure what "co-ordination" is. Cross-training?
In the tennis club, the kids are all working out. Hanamura is giving her android a tune-up. She's hot, which is nice.
Back at Seigaku, Ryoma is tearing up the court. He's all fired up since Tezuka left. Momo destroys Arai and Kaidoh demolishes Ikeda. Too bad it wasn't a doubles match.
"Oh, Mamushi," Momo calls out. "You're quite into it too. Polish up your Snake as much as possible, okay?" He grins. "Unless you'd rather I polish it for you."
"Shut up, monkey," Kaidoh yells. "People will get suspicious." Arai and Ikeda mutter that they should get a room.
Ryuzaki is, as usual, standing in a classroom, watching out the window. But instead of Tezuka by her side, it's Inui. Maybe since he can't defeat Tezuka, he's decided to steal his identity instead. Only he'll fail because he won't be able to stop himself from calling up Tezuka to tell him about it.
Oishi is there too and they discuss the line-up for the Jyousei match. Oishi is going to play injured to give Kawamura time to recover. They are all so stupid. Just let Arai sub in for this match. What's the worst that could happen?
Ryuzaki ticks Oishi off but Oishi invokes the magic name of Tezuka, which none can deny. Also, he hits her with, "Don't you want to see Eiji and I try out the new formation that you taught us?" Somehow, it doesn't even sound dirty!
"You've become such a smooth talker," she says. And it's true. "For the other
Yay! I yell and dance about the room, delirious with joy because my dear sweet boys get to play doubles together once again, displaying the strong bond of their eternal love for all the world to see.
Or I did the first time I saw the episode. Now I know better. Stupid Inui says that Kaidoh has to play singles. he gets Ryuzaki all riled up with a magazine article where a Jyousei player disses Kaidoh along with Seigaku's coaching.
Wakato laughs at all the strange names Seigaku has for their shots. Which, really, is completely justified. They are all so very stupid. But then Wakato laughs at Kaidoh and for that, he must die!
Ryuzaki goes into a fighting rage and declares that Kaidoh will be singles 3. She won't back down from a fight! And neither will Kaidoh, so that works out nicely.
So, why did Inui do this? Does he want Kaidoh to get more singles experience, now that he's mastered the Boomerang Snake?
Is he maybe feeling guilty because he was cheating on Kaidoh with Tezuka and now Tezuka is gone and Inui wonders if all those times he wished something would happen to solve his problem for him actually caused Tezuka's arm to fall apart and so now he doesn't deserve true happiness with Kaidoh by his side?
Is he trying to keep his options open by
Or does he just like to fuck with Ryuzaki's head?
At Jyousei, Hanamura lectures on harmony and training. She shows off her "masterpieces". They are all freaks. Okay, except for Kajimoto. Wakato hits on Shiba and for once, she seems nonplussed in the face of jailbait booty.
They demonstrate all their bizarre abilities for Inoue and Shiba. Kajimoto serves by bending way, way back like an 8-year old female gymnast. I think they use the same Foley as for when Tezuka can barely lift his arm and it sounds terribly painful. But apparently it's normal. He can serve faster than Ohtori this way. He's spring-loaded!
And now, the twins, Youhei and Kouhei. They are cranky when Shiba asks them who is older. They are super fast. We don't see the rest of the freaks because then the actual matches would be too boring.
Flash to the day of the match. Wakato's fangirls surround him. Ryoma walks up and gets pounced on by Hanamura. She tries to recruit him, rather like Mizuki, only with larger breasts.
Tomoka and Sakuno are dressed as cheerleaders in quite brief outfits. Horio disses them, but that's just to get Tomoka to come over and beat on him. Sakuno is embarrassed when Ryoma shows up and sees her bare midriff. He's a bit taken aback as well and chokes out a "ganbatte" before he passes by.
Maybe there's a hormone or two lurking in his system after all! Too bad Nanjiroh isn't there to see it. It would probably make him even happier than Ryoma's tennis improving.
The team is all together. "Yudan sezu ni ikou!" Oishi says. "Sweetie!" I say. He holds out his hand and Momo piles his on top. Everyone else just stares. Eiji says it's childish and embarrassing! Eiji! But Ryoma joins in, then Fuji, then Kaidoh. Inui, of course, has just been waiting until he's sure of getting his hand on top of Kaidoh's. Eiji is forced to participate because everyone is being "mean" by "leaving him out". I swear, I will never understand him.
"Leave the cheering to me," Kawamura says. Momo hands him a racquet and he combusts, screaming that they'll get all-you-can-eat sushi if they win and a year's supply of wasabi sushi if they lose.
"All you can eat sushi!" they yell. Oishi looks horrified. Eiji is crosseyed. Ryoma is being crushed by Inui and Momo.
"All you can eat victory!" Tomo yells and shamelessly flaunts her cheering in front of the impassive boys. Sakuno, holding her pom-poms to cover her shame, stands off to the side, sweatdropping.
Horio, Kachiro, and Katsuo have also been assigned pom-poms. They are less than pleased but fear the wrath of Tomo-chan.
Inui shows Wakato to Kaidoh, to get Kaidoh fired up. Girls are fawning over Wakato and Kaidoh seems to think he's an idiot. Because only an idiot would have anything to do with girls.
Momo proves he's the straight one by getting a boner for Hanamura. (Well, not literally. Only in Hajime no Ippo have I seen actual inappropriate erections.) Ryoma says Hanamura was hitting on him earlier. Possibly he's confused her with Shiba.
Surely, I think, the episode must be over by now, but no, we have to get the start of Doubles 2. Inui-Momo vs the cranky twins. The twins don't like being called a pair -- they're a "Unit". For some reason, this upsets Momo. "Unit?" he all but screams. (He's jumpy because of the special doubles warm-up exercises Inui tried to force him into before the match.)
Inui tries the hand on the shoulder technique. "Don't get so excited. We haven't even started yet."
"Senpai," Momo says. "Being held by you isn't quite enough to get me excited."
"Sorry, Momoshiro. We haven't got time for anything else."
And the match begins. The cheer squad forms a pyramid, but they lack a sixth person to be at the apex. Where's an American exchange student Mary Sue when you need her?
Momo serves and finally, finally the credits roll.