Uneventful as the ep might have been, it was low-key, a nice experience. Of course, Kazemai gets bewildered when looking at Kirasaki’s installations – that thing is a damn fortress, even impressing Minato, who was only used to the middle school shooting range back in his time on the academy. It’s absurdly huge, fitting for the absurdity of the difference in skill that (presumably) separates Kazemai and Kirasaki. It’s a point that I’d like to see better addressed over time: Kazemai did beat Kirasaki last time and I had assumed it was a result of their improvement, seeing as they were just the team who had come together for the first time. But every match since the season 1 finale hasn’t done much to support this idea, heavily implying that it was only the prduct of a fluke. But was it, though? Where does each of these schools stand in their respective skills? It’s kinda hard to picture any other team nabbing the nationals’ trophy if not for one the three we follow, but I’m sure a final match among Tsujimine and Kazemai would be much more entertaining to watch than if it were Kirazaki in their stead.
Everyone is surprised by Ryohei shouting, “Shuu-kun!” from across the other side, especially the annoying twins. I’m glad to see this is a friendship that will carry over, but did it really need to involve the annoying twins? I admit that they weren’t as annoying as their prime time in season 1, but because of said time, I’ve pretty much given up on them and just sorta shut my brain off whenever they’re on screen. Granted, I was kind of excited to see the topic of the Target Panic being explored by another archer in the show, but most of it was offscreened, it seems. I do understand that showing the same exact thing Minato went through in the first season would be boring, but my point is that Manjiro’s demise (and eventual come back) to the team feel all shallow to me. It happened for no reason, had no real major implications, and that was it about it. It’s kind of a missed opportunity, if I do say so myself.
About the match itself, it was fine. Of course, being the one to open the shooting, Masa-san had to do it with all the style and flair only he possesses. That was a very clean shot, and if Kirasaki planned to scare Kazemai out by playing “our turf rules,” that shot pretty much closed the deal for who Kazemai are. It was reflected upon the match itself (which is a relief), losing only 16-18. A clear improvement from their chunky start at regionals, even featuring some moments of ikiai in it. Clearly, the boys are not quite there where they need to be yet, but improvements are being made, and that’s what’s the most important thing right now.
Nikaido still operates like the odd factor in this equation. The contrast of Tsujimine’s conditions to Kirasaki’s (and I guess to Kazemai as well) are pretty gritting, and our man does not make any effort to hide his clear intentions to utterly crush the two aforementioned schools out of existence. In the end, his goal is a simple one of grabbing the win and taking the trophy home. Once again, we do receive more insight into his character, and it’s revealed to us that  is, in fact, his uncle, responsible for teaching him “everything he knows,” in his own words. There are a few things being implied in the exchanges he shares with Minato in that flashback scene – that part where his face turns when Minato tells how he got accepted to be trained by Sayionji-sensei is a special moment to pay close attention to. But in the end, the truth about Nikaido boils down to as much as I wanna get involved in his story, the pieces just aren’t adding up. Tsurune isn’t the kind of show to feature villainous antagonism, I know that much, but in order for Nikaido and Tsujimine to be relevant, I feel like we would have had to focus as much on their story as we did we Kazemai. Maybe if I had reasons to empathize with them just a little more, I could be more invested into it all, but at this moment, sadly, it isn’t the case.
The final bits of the ep at the dorm heavily support the idea that there was some tension between Shuu and Seiya in the past. This is the sort of plot that will certainly be explored in the future (and I do look forward to it, because except for giving advices to everyone around him, Seiya’s been kind of faded into the background – and yeah, he isn’t the most pleasing member of the cast, but at least some things move when he’s involved). The rest, like I said, is fine. There are only 4 episodes left, and I’m here wondering how this season will finale will be. I have no idea if that’s enough to feature the entirety of the nationals the story decides to give focus (there aren’t any relevant teams besides those three after all), but if KyoAni did this anime twice (and a movie to top it all), a third time isn’t that much of a far-fetched possibility, right?