山神東堂 – Toudou, God of the Mountains
It is the start of the mountain segment of the Hakone race – a winding climb that rises 800m. As the title goes, this episode was a tribute to one of my favourite characters, Toudou. While I would like to say “enough said”, I guess that really would not be doing him justice because Toudou is just SUCH a character.
Sorry Makishima. Before we focus on this episode’s feature character, let’s back up a little to Souhoku’s little (or rather, huge) pinch. Onoda’s fall really thwarted Souhoku’s plans and as a result, the rest of the team suffered. However, nobody suffered more than Makishima. Instead of ‘going wild’ and helping the team secure the top spot for the mountain segment, the unfavourable circumstances forced Makishima to draft for the team and lead them to the peak. Gone was his prospect of claiming the Mountain victory, as well as the opportunity to keep the promise he made with Toudou (more on that later).
Not much of a friend. Makishima was clearly putting on a brave front. And although his little squabble with Naruko ended with him saying that he just ‘isn’t much of a friend’, I chose to believe the contrary. In fact, I believe that his decision showed a large extent to which he is a friend. So he chose not to wait for Onoda. However, in making that decision, it meant that he chose the other four members of the team. This was not only a for the team move, but also a for my friends move. It was clear that he was thinking about what was best for the team, but also what was best for the four other people in the team, two of whom I am sure he calls friends.
Toudou v Makishima. We were given more insight to the relationship between these two climbers, as we saw flashbacks of how these two met and the rivalry which sparked from their first encounter. Fast forward to the present, and it’s 7 wins & 7 losses each, with this Inter-high being their very last chance to settle the score. The fact that Makishima couldn’t was painful enough, but Toudou’s cries of desperation and Makishima’s strained restraint made it all the more heart wrenching.
Sleeping beauty. Well, you can’t name the title of an episode after a character if you aren’t going to feature said character. And so, it’s time to focus on Toudou and his super power cycling abilities. His specialty is called the “Sleeping Climb” (LOL, isn’t it hilarious how there’s always a name for a certain special move in all these sports series?) – the ability to accelerate without making a sound. While I could not help but snigger at the name of this move as well as Toudou’s nicknames (Sleeping Beauty, Forest Ninja), I was also very appreciative of the vast imagination that the writer has in coming up with all these super powers for the various characters. And I have to admit, Toudou’s is possibly the silliest most ridiculous power so far. Not I don’t appreciate it, because it just makes him an all the more interesting character.
Perma-smirk. In a way, I guess his move really suits his personality as well, being all ninja by creeping up on his opponents, only to shock them before pulling way ahead of them – having such an ability is definitely something worth smirking about and this ability is probably where his smugness and pomposity stem from. Whatever the case, I just really enjoy watching this character and I am glad for all his cheeky and silly moments.
Because he is adorable. I can’t like a character without inevitably liking the seiyuu (either before or after, doesn’t matter), and much of my affection for Toudou can be attributed to the seiyuu who plays him. Kakihara Tetsuya is doing a brilliant job giving this character so much life and energy. Although his take on Toudou sounds very similar to his Natsu (Fairy Tail), there is this nuance which makes him much more tolerable as Toudou. Perhaps it is the deceptively sunny disposition that conceals a darker and meaner persona kind of vibe that I get from Toudou (which the straightforward Natsu seems to lack), but whatever the reason, Kakki has brought his A game with his delivery of this character. And if you haven’t been listening out for him (it’s hard not to though), I strongly urge you to.
The next episode is the ‘100 man barrier’. Will Onoda catch up? (pffft well of course he will, but not before we see lots of drama). And before ending off, it’s abs, abs, abs~