After last week’s adrenaline spike, it was inevitable that things would have to calm down. This isn’t a production built to keep that much tension and movement up for multiple back-to-back episodes. Still, while the conclusion to Hiura and Amane’s match isn’t as visually dazzling as its beginning, it’s a fitting way to end their side story for now. The girls’ regrets, admiration, and thanks all come through perfectly fine, and that’s the most crucial part. Having Hiura use the same move Amane taught her to pull out the win is an excellent bit of punctuation, but the payoff to this match was always going to be in seeing these two reunite without the baggage of their old circumstances.
From there, we move on to Michi’s match, which wades into more traditional sports anime territory. By that, I mean there are many more cutaways and commentary from those on the side. It’s decidedly slower than last week’s approach. Still, it does a good job of fleshing out the intricacies of judo for plebeians like myself while giving us more insight into Michi’s relationship with the sport. I love the detail that when the match is really on the line, she gets so focused she stops shouting out her attacks, only to start it up again when she gets really in the groove. It’s a credit to the show’s writing that, despite Michi and her opponent having no real connection to build off of, I was still caught up in their bout all the same.
I also love that Michi isn’t content to go on the defense when she has a points lead. Sure, that’d be the intelligent thing to do if all she was aiming for was to win in a tournament setting, but this girl’s got a fire that isn’t going to be quenched by eking out a technical victory. It’s ippon or bust, and I adore how the rest of the club (and Nagumo) cheer her on over it. If you’re the kind of sports aficionado who thinks win percentages or who takes home a trophy is of utmost importance, then this must be absolutely infuriating to you, but I fully support this little dumbass and her determination to win her way, or not at all. The magic of sport is about the act itself, not the final result.
However, that loss means that the club won’t be going to nationals, which shifts our focus back to their day-to-day lives. Specifically, we start digging into the braggadocios Nagumo and all the angsty teenage feelings she’s stewing in when it comes to the judo club. We don’t get a full idea of what’s going on in her head, but to me, it seems like she’s feeling left out of the judo club’s growing camaraderie and trying to decide if giving up her years of kendo training is worth it just to be closer with her friends. She’s also obviously harboring some Big Feelings over Michi. We’ve yet to see their friendship before high school, but it’s clear Nagumo deeply cherishes their connection. Considering how quickly Michi defended her in episode three, it’s easy to infer why. In all, it’s a smooth return to “Ippon” Again!‘s designated wheelhouse of low-key personal drama and charming comedy, and it has me eager to see Nagumo’s decision next week.
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