The beginning of the episode jumps us right back to the race that was in progress at the end of the previous episode. Imaizumi, Midousuji, and Yuto are fighting to reach the second day’s finish line. Midousuji is getting pissed because the crowd is cheering for Imaizumi and he mocks the spectators for their simple thinking when it comes to road racing. Oh boy, another grotesque looking transformation sequence for Midousuji! The expression Yuto gives here perfectly illustrates how I feel when I see these sequences.
After the opening credits, we see Midousuji desperately trying to catch up with Imaizumi, and going on about pests and prey. Oh, man, some of the animation for Midousuji… this is almost surreal. He seems to have a rubber body now.
Oh, it’s another flashback backstory for Midousuji. We were getting hints of this with some shots that were showing up of hands trying to hold on to something during Midousuji’s speech. Now we see it’s connected to a memory concerning fireflies. What a nice touch! This flashback is about Midousuji trying to catch fireflies so he can take them to his mother, who is sick and in the hospital. We see him successfully catch one, and declare he’s taking it to his mom. The adult with him (an aunt, maybe?) tells him that fireflies don’t live long, at least not long enough to take to the hospital. He refuses to let go, and starts squeezing his hands tighter. Uh-oh. He accidentally killed it. We then see him talking to his mom at the hospital about the fireflies, and then he tells her about catching one and holding it too tight. His mother praises him for being good at explaining things, and it made her feel like she was there. Midousuji’s mother was a sweet lady, and it makes me wonder how Midousuji might have turned out differently if she hadn’t passed away when he was a child. This flashback is starting to make me tear up. We then hear Midousuji’s voice over about that summer and how the time he spent at the hospital was like an oasis. And seeing his mom talk to the nurse about him… she’s right about the qualities he has, and it’s sad how much those qualities became twisted after her death.
Oh no, this gets even sadder. We see the season has changed to fall, Midousuji’s mother has passed away, but he still comes and stands outside the hospital. He seems to have not accepted the fact that his mother has passed away.
We now return to the present, and see Midousuji desperately going for first place. After thinking about his mother telling him that anything that’s dear to you, you have to hold on to gently, he makes it clear that he isn’t going to let victory go. Grab it with both hands, but gently, so it won’t break. He’s neck in neck with Imaizumi with less than 100 meters left.
Yuto, meanwhile, is sizing up the situation. Even though he’s a climber, he finds he’s still tingling with excitement over this race. Now we see him thinking about how his older brother was a great sprinter, and how he would ride with his brother. This is a sweet flashback, seeing Hayato and Yuto as little kids riding together. When we return to the present time, Yuto joins in the battle for the second day’s finish line. Oh, but we return to the flashback, and see just how far Hayato had gone in middle school, and how Yuto felt like he was left behind, and how always hearing about how much better Hayato was than him made him start to practice even more so he can try to catch up. He finally wins his eighth race, but instead of being celebrated for who he was, he was being celebrated at Hayato’s little brother. He hears the spectators talking about how great Hayato was in grade school, and no one talking about him and his current race. After that day, things became awkward between Yuto and Hayato, and they stopped talking, and we see a flashback showing that this happened. But after this flashback, it’s easy to see why Yuto has become so driven, and why he was so upset when he first tried to join Hakone Academy’s team and was simply being referred to as Hayato’s little brother. But he’s still confused about why he’s so excited about going for this finish line… but then realizes that when they kids, Hayato had taught him how to sprint when they would race each other. I can’t believe I’m actually seeing tears in Yuto’s eyes, because I could never have imagined this earlier on in the series.
Oh, we see that Yuto can become a demon too when he’s competitive, just like Hayato. This is kind of interesting, since we saw Hayato turn into the demon when he was racing against Midousuji for a sprint checkpoint back at the first Inter-High. Yuto catches up, so now all three are neck-in-neck. Oh, not only that, he passes the other two. What an exciting race! The episode ends with only 50 meters left until the finish line.
Wow, this episode had a great mix of flashback/character development and intense racing. I have a feeling we’ll see who takes the finish line in the next episode, but at this point, I can’t predict who’s going to cross the line first. I expect it’s going to be an exciting final 50 meters, though!