山頂 – The Summit
JINPACHI~~~ MAKI-CHAN~~~ okay, so I know this was a really exciting race and all.. but I simply could not hold back my laughter, giggles and sniggers as I watched this episode. Rivalry and a hunger for victory against a worthy rival aside, this episode has me convinced that Toudou totally has a crush on Makishima.
Okay, so maybe Toudou doesn’t have a crush on Makishima per se, but he is DEFINITELY obsessed with Makishima. Goodness, who calls their rival three times a week? And just to check if he is feeling well/in good condition? Talk about a stalker.. Makishima’s reactions provide such a contrast to Toudou’s incessant fussing though, that I can’t help but appreciate all their conversations (oh, but minus the JINPACHI~~ and MAKI-CHAN~~~ moments).
We essentially spent a good 40% of the episode hearing Toudou express his utmost disappointment at not being able to truly compete against Makishima, and a further 40% of the episode hearing Toudou express his utmost delight at finally being able to compete against Makishima when Makishima finally caught up. And I have to say, a hearty well done to Kakihara Tetsuya for giving us such a colourful range of emotions while delivering Toudou’s lines. I just FEEL all the emotions – from the abandonment, the loss, the resolve, the disbelief, the happiness, the excitement, the relief.. Toudou really is such a character. It’s a shame that we probably will not be seeing or hearing much of him in the episodes to come (since he’s kind of had his time to shine.. he’s had his two episodes of fame.. bummer).
Moving on.. After the race, Toudou thanked Makishima and told him that he would not have become such a fast climber if it weren’t for Makishima. That’s the thing about sports.. rivalry plays such a huge role in one’s progress. The desire to be the best is what spurs people on; and having a worthy rival, someone whom you so desperately want to beat, is what provides the motivation to work harder. I mean, just look at Toudou. If not for the fact that he shouldered the responsibility of clinching the mountain victory for his team, my guess is that he probably would have thrown the race. In a way, I guess his feelings were understandable – it isn’t really a race if there isn’t anyone whom you can race against. That, as well as the fact that it is always more fun when you have someone who truly is worthy of going up against.
All in all, what an intense and hot-blooded race. And after all that melodrama, the climb to the summit of Mount Hakone finally came to an end. Admittedly, I felt sad for Maki-chan. Even though it was expected that Souhoku would lose (since they took the first leg of the race.. so yeah it was pretty obvious), I was still unable to suppress my disappointment. And I think that when a sports series does this to you, making you feel sad/happy with regard to the team/character you are supporting, then it is definitely a series worth watching. Furthermore, the fact that I was rooting for Maki-chan despite Toudou being my favourite character, speaks volumes about how skilful the writers are in subtly influencing viewers to support the main team. How they do it, I honestly can’t explain.. but fact is they managed it (because I really was rooting for Makishina) and that’s what matters.
To end off with a quote from the episode: The finish line of a climb is always the same. The winner looks up at the sky, and the loser reproachfully looks at the ground.