Score: A-

This turned out even better than I expected. The Judo tournament wasn’t a long one for the main cast, but it was eventful. This delved nicely into Nagatoro’s background and that’s something the season has been hinting at pretty consistency. And it was simply nice to see this pair cheering each other on and growing a bit closer through that process. They didn’t clash as hard as they did during the school festival last season. But things could have gotten a bit tense if Naoto hadn’t shown the willingness to be honest with Nagatoro. These two have really established themselves as an enjoyable couple and that makes me hopeful for where things can go in the future.

Those expressions tell the story

It was good to dive into Hayase’s background. The show has been teasing about this and now we get the full picture. Nagatoro was a really gifted athlete and that carried her along quite a distance. I don’t think she lacked the ability to work hard, but I’m sure there was some leaning on her natural senses. It’d be easy to sum this up as a clash of hard work vs talent, but I think there’s a bit more to it than just that. It wasn’t just Orihara working hard and steadily catching up that shook Nagatoro. But I think the overall passion and emotional chase was a big part of it. You could see younger Nagatoro looking uncomfortable and almost panicked with how Orihara just kept coming at her. And when she was surpassed, it was a burst of growth that left her utterly shaken.

Just having Orihara chasing after her seemed stressful for Nagatoro. So, I can imagine the idea of having this girl beating her time after time would be disheartening. She lost her confidence and could only see a path forward where Orihara just kept getting better and would only beat her harder with time. She couldn’t see her own potential and throwing in the towel just seemed less stressful. Orihara just did everything at full power. She cried hard when she lost, trained hard, and came at Nagatoro just as hard in matches. Unless Nagatoro was ready to dig equally deep I can imagine that Judo became something no longer fun for her.

Hopefully Nagatoro keeps up with Judo

Part of me hopes that this does lead to Hayase throwing herself back into Judo. She’s good and even without competing competitively in quite some time she put up a serious fight against Orihara. That makes sense since she was still participating in that Gym and was obviously staying physically fit in her own time. She may have lost the will to compete in Judo, but her natural athleticism wouldn’t let her do nothing at all. And she was close to winning this one. I think being able to see a chance to win will keep her motivated going forward. I’m not sure she’ll join a Judo club, but I could see her putting more time into it now. And that’s all the truer with her having a personal motivation to do so. Naoto may not have promised a kiss if she won…but you never know.

Naoto really did his best

Naoto simply must push himself hard to get anywhere. And I’m glad if he pushed himself in any respect that it came during Nagatoro’s match. It would have been very much in character to step back after people started commenting on his support for Nagatoro. And it would have been easy to back off when he talked about Nagatoro not acting like herself. The start of season 1 version of him couldn’t have handled that. He’s at least reached the point where he’s willing to be selfish. Nagatoro’s life is hers. So, it is selfish for him to make declarations. But at this point he cares enough. He doesn’t want to see Nagatoro depressed or despondent. And for that reason, he’ll push himself to support her in whatever way he can.

It’s a shame that he didn’t win his match, but that’s fine. It wasn’t a good matchup and I’m sure if he had some decent luck that he could have won the first round. In the end though he did try and was close. It took a while both for him to really try his best and for Nagatoro to cheer him on. But at least both those things happened. And that allowed both parties to feel some satisfaction. There’s hope for the future.

I’m glad he didn’t lose his nerve

The end of the episode showed some of the purest honesty we’ve seen from Nagatoro. If Naoto stopped thinking long enough, he could absolutely take that as a confession. But at the very least it shows that Nagatoro is willing to be open about her desires. It might just be an emotional high after an intense match though. She at least realized how bold she was there and really ran for it at top speed! These two still have a long way to go. But at least it feels like they are heading towards the goal together. There’s still some awkwardness and a long way to go. But this episode showed how they can elevate each other to greater heights. And at the very least it showed that Naoto is growing strong enough to hold his ground even when uncomfortable.

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An older member at 25, yet a new addition to Anime Evo. Recently graduating University and in the difficult point between school and a true career. Anime being a salvation and blogging a good way to put all those hours of writing essays to some use. Enjoys talking about series, yet not taking on so many that the quality dips. A Canadian who enjoys his anime and hearing what others think about the series he enjoys watching.

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