Sure enough, this episode primarily focuses on the two-man team race between Kyoto Fushimi and Sohoku, with the main focus being on Aoyagi. We get a flashback of Aoyagi’s childhood, as well as how he met Teshima and became friends. We also get to see some of the interactions Aoyagi had with Tadokoro prior to his third year.
Yamaguchi, meanwhile, is determined to win this race so he can see his final phase through. He makes it clear to Funatsu (his teammate) early on in this episode that the two of them are considered to be expendable and that after this race, there’s no way either one of them will be finishing the Inter-High. The race itself is very tense, between Yamaguchi’s drive to win and Junta and Aoyagi’s determination to not lose this two-man team race. The commercial break bumper doesn’t come until after the race ends, and I was like, “We’re only halfway through the episode? I swear it’s been longer than that!” It turns out that the commercial break bumper showed up rather late in the episode, so there really wasn’t too much more left after that. I guess it was decided that there just wasn’t a good place to take a break in the episode during the race, so it was better to wait until the race was over.
Prior to the race being determined, there was a scene of the other Sohoku riders that featured Kaburagi talking about Aoyagi. This scene makes the viewer think that maybe Kaburagi has started to mellow out a little bit when compared to his introduction and to the earlier days of this Inter-High. It was cool to see Onoda giving advice to Kaburagi, although as we see later in the scene, he thinks Imaizumi and Naruko are making too big of a deal out of what he said. While Onoda may still have some of his awkwardness about him, he’s starting to grow into an upperclassman who can help dispense advice and encouragement to his underclassmen. It was kind of nice getting a scene focusing on Onoda in this episode, since we haven’t really seen much of him at this point in the season. But with what happens at the end of the episode, I feel safe in saying we’ll be seeing more of Onoda and the other Sohoku riders during the rest of the season.
I had to feel for Yamaguchi during this episode, though. This is a guy who was depicted as being rather quiet for most of his appearances in the series, so seeing him being so driven to fulfill Midousuji’s plan was kind of hard. Although I have to give him credit for stepping up to the plate and being a leader to Funatsu. This season really showed some character growth and progression for Yamaguchi, which I was glad to see.
According to the preview for the next episode, it will be titled, “Seniors.” This is making me think the emphasis is going to be on the third-years. Whether this would apply only to Sohoku or would also apply to Hakone Academy as well remains to be seen. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Inter-High race progresses from here.
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