Things finally begin to get serious on terms of Flying Circus competition in episode three – the arrangements made for the training camp between the high school Masaya, Asuka, Misaki and co. attend (Kunahama) and the “local powerhouse school” (Takafuji) that Reiko, who appeared at the end of episode 1 and the beginning of episode 2, is from. Looks like the Phys-Ed teacher Kagami-sensei does indeed have contacts in the realm of Flying Circus (did she herself play at some point?) and whoever she speaks with (we find out who this might have been later in this episode) is able to arrange things immediately.

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The training camp serves as a primer for immersing the viewers more into the “basics” of competition level Flying Circus. (It is also here that we finally meet the purple haired young lady that has been inadvertently stumbled upon by Masaya twice before now while changing – her name is Ichinose Rika, and she is a starter on the Flying Circus club at Takafuji … in other words, she is quite skilled.) As some viewers might remember from last episode when the newly revived Flying Circus Club from Kunahama went to procure some competition level grash boots, there are three general types of grash players: the speed types, the combat types, and the all rounders. Essentially the “speed” types specialize in gathering points by zooming between the buoys, the “combat” types in gathering points by touching the opponent’s back, and the “all rounders” who can do both. It turns out that the Takafuji Flying Circus club’s training regime is rather intensive, but it is exactly the sort of thing the new members were in need of, it seems.

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After the first day or so of the training camp the Kunahama club members are … exhausted (no big surprise), and while the club members relax and unwind their muscles in the hot springs Rika and all the visiting school club members get to know one another, and the latter learn that Takafuji’s high school’s Flying Circus captain is actually considered to be the best player in the nation, and is actively recruited by other countries (!) to play on their national teams. From there we switch to Masaya studiously going over the video records of the practice sessions near the shore by himself when a tall young man strolls up and introduces himself as … the very Takafuji Flying Circus captain that was just being discussed in the hot springs session: Shindo Kazunari.

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The conversation between Kazunari and Masaya is extremely revealing. We find that it was Kazunari that Kagimu-sensei contacted about the joint training camp, and a little bit of why Kazunari accepted so unreservedly – it was because Masaya was part of the club. Masaya apparently did indeed used to be an incredibly high level player – so much so that Kazunari dreamed of one day being able to finally defeat him in a match. But something has obviously happened to Masaya, and he is stuck somehow. Kazunari seems to (correctly?) think that in a way Masaya “training” Kunahama High Flying Circus club members (and Azusa in particular) is an indication that something is beginning to move in him finally, and himself becomes interested to catch a glimpse of just what it is that Masaya has seen in Azusa. Towards this end, taking advantage of the training camp setting, arranged matches are drawn up between Kunahama and Takafuki players. Rika (a “speed” type, interestingly) will play Azusa, Reiko will play Mashiro and Kazunari will play Misaki.

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The training camp matches pretty much cover almost half of the episode, and I found them very interesting to watch – particularly because of the “in-match commentary” from various people showing the viewers some of the “ins and outs” of the Flying Circus game. It is nowhere near as simple as simply “getting more points than the other team”, but the difficulty level is not based on the complexity of “rules” as the fact that, well … folks are flying, and not only flying (and fighting and dodging – almost like a sort of aerial based martial art) at extremely high speeds but in a very large three-dimensional space. This is the heart of the series on show here for the first time, and it did not disappoint me.

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The results can be summarized as: Azusa once again shows not only flashes of incredible talent, but seems to be learning at inhuman speeds. Mashiro is without a doubt the weakest player in the club at the moment (no surprise, she joined because Misaki did), and Misaki … well … Misaki is extremely talented and experienced herself, yes, but specializes primarily as the “combat” type. While she can (surprisingly) go toe-to-toe with Kazunari in a combat based engagement, she was totally (and I mean totally) outclassed in the realm of speed. Kazunari can do either at super high levels of skill (he is an “all-rounder”, as they call them).

From hereon out it seems the training will continue, yes, but the “short term” (long term?) goal at the moment is the Summer Competition rapidly approaching. I wonder how quickly it will arrive? More than that … the practice matches gave the outlines of where each of the club members is at present. I wonder if we will begin to see Masaya give individual coaching to each of the other club members? In many ways it feels (this is an eroge adaptation, you remember) as if the route has been a common one thus far and from here the source material might veer off down various “routes” based on this one-on-one training and coaching. We will see. I am admittedly curious which “route” the series will take. At the moment of all the “potential heroines” Misaki seems to have the most development and interest….

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Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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