To The Observatory!
Good old counsellor Mifune leads the Scouts in a campfire song: Conquest! Conquest! Conquest! Only Ryoma and Sanada are impassive, no doubt due to the tinfoil lining in their caps.
Next day, they do punishing amounts of racquet swings, runs, volleys, etc, while Mifune berates them and denies them merit badges. They begin to forget all about the existence of the outside world...
Back at U-17, Oni wins his match and Courts 3 and 5 switch places. Atobe wakes up from his dreams of Tezuka and has to find a tennis bag to hold in front of him.
Meanwhile, that white-haired guy whose name I never learned tricks Irie into revealing that his arm is just fine, thank you very much, and it was simply
Atobe's passion, actually, is expressing itself as he demands they now aim for the Court of Kings, Court 1. The coaches up in their video castle quickly cut together an Atobe Special Dream Video with footage from his match, his training, and his shower. There's still no 800 number where I can order it, though.
They are, however, kind enough to include a gratuitous shot of Tokugawa.
He is hitting ten tennis balls at once. This is in case they are under attack by zombies later and need to bombard the zombies with grenades. Well, probably not, since that would be useful. In fact, it's to remind us that Tokugawa was himself once abused and brainwashed by Mifune on top of that lonely mountain.
Speaking of super-hot tennis players on top of lonely mountains, Sanada, instead of of trying to merely serve ten balls at once, gets a bunch of power-players to circle him and hit balls at him as hard as they can: Hadoukyuu, Viking Horn, etc. Apparently, Sanada had a formative experience with dodgeball in elementary school.
But the real question is: who is that kid in the background? Have we ever seen him before? He's in white, so he must be a middle schooler. Is he really the Tenth Seigaku Member and I just never noticed him my first eight times through the anime and manga?
Whoever you are: get a haircut.
Sanada can't return every shot and takes a hadoukyuu to the face. But he demands they keep pummelling him. I'm not sure how this is going to be effective against the zombies, but Sanada is so incredibly incredibly hot like this, I don't care if the zombies eat all our brains and our guts too.
Meanwhile, Inui leaps from rock to rock in the water, also returning the balls of many other kids (you know what I mean) but somewhat less hotly. Also, since it's Inui, he pratfalls into the water.
Yanagi looks on, trying to remember whether or not Inui can swim. Without his old data, he's not quite sure. But Inui and Yanagi argue about percentages and call each other by their love names, kyouju and hakase, and I wish they would just build a cabin on top of the mountain and live there together forever. ♥
Okay, now we come to what is either the most remarkable shounen sports transformation caused by the driving passion of the middle schoolers' pure love for tennis or evidence that this has all been Horio's dream:
THE REDEMPTION OF A SASABE! This is the fourth Sasabe we've seen in the series (or maybe the fifth?) and they have all been terrible jerks who were beaten by Ryoma and remained terrible jerks. But now this one is all vim and vigour and burning youth and do your best.
It's rather sweet. (He'll probably be disinherited when he gets home, though.)
Ryoma, meanwhile, is also trying to return several balls fired at him at once. Momo and Kaidoh do their own version of synchro, which is cute, though badly drawn.
Since Inui is all busy with his ♥kyouju♥ and Sanada is canoodling with Ryoma in the moonlight every time he turns around, Kaidoh is forced to make do with Momoshiro, who he could totally have had anyway at any time so it's not the special
But back to Ryoma. He can only manage up to seven balls. This makes him sad, since he figures Tokugawa won't have him for less than ten. Which isn't true -- it's just that Tokugawa won't respect him after.
Kintarou and Kaidoh get into a spat over whose turn it is to go next. Kintarou calls Kaidoh kemushi -- caterpillar. "It's mamushi," Momo corrects him. Presumably, he also has to stop Kaidoh from beating Kintarou to death, but we don't get to see that part.
At night, in the cave, Sanada, looking hot in an eyepatch, goes over to Ryoma's sleeping bag (this really happens) for a little more canoodling.
But Ryoma is already at their secret spot, so Sanada goes out to find him. The romantic mood is somewhat ruined by the high schoolers out for midnight practice. I'm sure canoodling was had, even so.
The next day, Mifune introduces yet another sadistic and highly weird training exercise. Not as weird as the balloons, though. In fact, I'm still not sure that balloon thing even happened. (Probably I had a fever that week.)
In this exercise, they have to climb a steep rock and try to hit a tennis ball that an eagle drops on them. Whichever group, middle- or high-schoolers, hits it first will get a reward! Probably a puppy and a trip to Tokyo Disney! But it's too steep and nobody hits the ball and Kintarou falls and breaks all his bones again.
Then there's a training montage. I recommend you turn down the sound and play I'll Make A Man Out Of You instead. That's what I just did and it was AWESOME.
The Power of the Montage never fails and next thing you know, the kids are running up the steep grade, which would be impossible without the musical accompaniment
To claim their reward, the middle schoolers have to go to the darkest, misty-est part of the woods and line up. My assumption is that it's a firing squad. I think it's Momo's, too. Kintarou, on the other hand, is still expecting takoyaki and puppies. But what they really "get" to do is run as fast as they can down a path, returning tennis balls that will fly at them out of the woods.
Before they leave, Mifune takes Sanada aside and hands him a key. (This really happens.) I'm just surprised this didn't go down a lot earlier. Or maybe Mifune was saving Sanada for last.
So they run through the mist, hitting tennis balls. Ryoma has to return several at a time and they keep increasing.
Can I just say:
They are almost at the end of the dark path and up ahead a bright light is shining. A peaceful feeling comes over them and dead relatives and Elvis beckon them onward. Only Ryoma has to return eight balls before they can pass on to a better place and, if you recall, pre-montage, he could only ever manage seven.
Everyone who has a voice actor there cheers him on. He hits the first seven but the eighth floats behind him. Dark closes in around them and there's brimstone in the air. "Hit it!" Sanada orders. And no one can disobey Sanada.
Yanagi and Inui (who has been in mummy-mode since the montage, but I've been trying to ignore it because it's so stupid) somehow figure that they should have the last word, instead of Sanada, and blurt out their 100%. Sanada makes a note to smack them both later. So do I.
Ryoma returns the ball and leads them into the Promised Land. They look back to see the high schoolers who were hitting the balls to them out of the woods. The high schoolers return to hell, after Sasabe agrees to use his fake ID to buy sake for Mifune.
The middle schoolers find a suspicious locked shack. But Sanada has the key. Stupidly, they fail to check for traps first, but are not blown up. Inside the shack, they find the rotting corpses of other students who came before them. Also, their U-17 uniforms. Well, actually those were on the corpses, but they weren't hard to get off.
And they're back, challenging Court 2 to a match.
Next week: The end. :( :( :(