If I were a fantasy villain and my opponent was a Japanese teenager wielding a sword literally destined to conquer all and unite the world, I’d really just give up and retire to a beach to sip pina coladas while I still had assets to leverage into a nice beach house. But professionals have their pride, and they’ve at least got to put on a show before going down in flames. Too, their plan at least involves an equally legendary sword and a man determined to do his job.
Not to say you would guess that was what the episode was about from the first fifteen minutes. Instead, we got the Japan-side episode I’ve been waiting for since the show started. And a double helping of wayward sons getting slapped by their parents.
It’s a firm opinion of mine that the best group dynamics (i.e. the details of interactions that make character fun to watch together) come from selfish personalities. Hajime no Ippo would be a lot less funny if Takamura wasn’t constantly messing with people in the shower. In that respect, Kannagi makes an ideal party member. Clearly and obviously pushing his own agenda, lazy to a fault, and slow to forget his bad blood with Arata, his presence elevated the everyday lull scenes at the start of this episode a tier upward in fun.
And he makes it look easy
The same way it was sad to see Kotoha pining for someone who wasn’t the same person anymore, it was somewhat touching to see other-Arata dealing with the same situation in Japan. Sure, his mom may not have to deal with false murder charges, but she’s dealing with a son she cares about who’s going through tough times. I mean, between being bullied previously and the current awkward atmosphere due to other-Arata’s breakdance-in-a-minefield handling of his current circumstances.
The body language tells all
Between that and an impressive fleshing-out of Kadowaki’s personality ultimately leading to his body swap, the Japan side of events has done really, really well with the screentime it’s gotten.
In a number of potential scenarios, that last paragraph would have ended with the sentence “In fact, I wish I could watch a show that was just that.” But this show doesn’t deserve that sentence. The core component is solid enough, and has continued to prove itself against many of my doubts. There wasn’t as much of it this week, true. But the bit where the Six Sho showed shrewd competence, sending a guy to body swap his way into prominence by taking on all of Kadowaki’s hatred, progressed the otherworld plot enough to sate me until next week. I’m getting a pretty good picture of how the type of ending the series is setting up for now.