And so we have the final wrap up of the summer tournament and are given more insight and details of the game of Flying Circus proper. And in the midst of it all we see many things – the cold, raw power of Saki, the swiftly blooming might of Asuka, the limits of Shindou’s ability at present and the psychological undermining (or perhaps the weakness?) of Misaki as a player. We also see one other thing. Saki does not appear to be the “villain” of the series. She is rather the willing weapon of the antagonist, who is Irina. I don’t know what Irina’s problem is, but I would really like for her to eat a slice of humble pie, and would love to see Asuka be the one to shove it down her throat. XD

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For the sake of brevity and catching up (I have been sick with some kind of stomach flu, so apologies for falling behind on the series) I am going to summarize two episodes here is as concise and condensed a manner as possible. In many ways I think that the main focus character wise of the summer tournament has been Misaki. The main focus of the series thus far seems to be malleable – Asuka, Masaya, Mashiro, Misaki and then … ? From all appearances it still seems Asuka is the main character, and the main focus of the adaptation is the game of Flying Circus rather than romance, with (at least at the moment) the aspect of personal and character development taking second place after the game of Flying Circus proper. But at the present place in the story the focus is falling squarely on the shoulders of Misaki and on her struggles.

Episode six focuses a lot on Misaki, yes, but the catalyst for Misaki’s struggles comes through the character of Shindou and the approach and attitude he brought to the match he played against her and then against Asuka. In a nutshell he went all out against Asuka since the latter pushed him to the wall in an official match, whereas against Misaki, even though she tried extremely hard, he still held back and defeated her with a sort of patronizing approach – he never felt threatened or not in control (or perhaps even really interested) in his match against Misaki, whereas Asuka was the opposite. The result was Misaki actually getting a glimpse that Asuka had surpassed her in an incredibly short time period, even while she was watching with her own eyes. It deals quite the blow to her confidence.

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Episode seven gives us the showdown between Shindou and Saki in the final match, and we have Shindou being treated by Saki in a very similar manner as he treated Misaki – Saki was in control the entire match and never showed signs of being threatened. Saki’s tactic seeks to exploit a rule of the game (the fact that a player can’t go for the buoy after taking a shortcut unless they score a point from the opponent or get shaken off first) to force the opponent to chase after her indefinitely. That’s why the tactic is called “the caged bird.” Shindou literally could not give up the chase unless he had forced Saki to engage in dogfighting first. But Saki avoids dogfighting for the most part and just runs away the whole time without even trying to go for the buoy herself. This forced Shindou to engage in an exhausting and pointless chase as the rules did not permit him to go for the buoy directly. What Saki did was not “against the rules” per se, but it does go against the spirit of the game.

But what was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the match was how from the very get-go Asuka instinctively perceived what kind of battle was unfolding, and what Saki’s tactics were in contrast to everyone else present, including, perhaps, Masaya … although probably not Aoi-sensei. And then there’s how radiant Asuka was when Saki won. Misaki felt that she no longer could understand Asuka, who was clearly thinking on a different level. Misaki is one of those sorts who is used to succeeding at anything, so quite often she exerts only just enough to get by and in doing so succeeds spectacularly. For someone so gifted as Misaki, then, the sudden appearance of someone like Asuka (perhaps a little bit of an “idiot-savant” in the realm of Flying Circus?) is downright threatening and perhaps frightening.

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After the match between Saki and Shindou was over and everyone present (except Asuka, perhaps?) was in shock we are exposed to a very interesting conversation between Saki’s second, Irina, and Kagami-sensei. The tactic of “the caged bird” that they employed was apparently first utilized by Kagami herself in the years when she was still playing Flying Circus. More than that, Irina seems to have been inspired to take up Flying Circus to begin with thanks to seeing that ruthless side of Kagami’s playing style at the time, and somehow sees herself as carrying on that mindset as her guiding reference and using Saki as her “weapon” to bring crushing, humiliating defeat to those who face off against them. Not quite sure why she has decided to behave like that, but she shows herself to have quite a nasty streak.

Unsurprisingly Misaki, in the face of an insurmountable obstacle for perhaps the first time in her life, gives up. Yes. She gives up on Flying Circus, and curiously the catalyst for it is a conversation with Shindou. Shindou learned from the experience of being handily defeated and was continuing to strive and get better and better. But Misaki did not. And interestingly Misaki’s faintheartedness may be an unexpected wake-up call for Masaya, who may have experienced something similar psychologically but had completely given up on the game. What an interesting contrast between Misaki and Mashiro – the latter when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles faced them and strive to overcome them, whereas the object of her adoration gave up, and gave up pretty quickly.

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As for what appears to be on the horizon, the next episode seems to involve the attempt to bring Misaki back to Flying Circus. It may be that just as Asuka’s disposition is what began to bring Masaya back around to the game, in a similar manner Misaki might be affected. And if this becomes a consistent theme or approach it is quite the contrast with how Irina approaches the game (at the beginning of episode when Asuka defeats her opponent to go on to the match against Shindou her opponent angrily expresses confusion at how Asuka can be so happy and cheerful in such a serious situation as a competitive match). Keeping this in mind a showdown of perspectives towards the game and raw skill externally between the persons of Saki and Asuka would make total sense … and with a Fall Tournament coming up as well it would be no surprise to see them face off against each other! Now THAT would be something to see…. ^^

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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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