Hanebado! – 12 – Crossfire

Hanesaki Ayano is good, but not invincible, and while she wins the first game, it’s not a blowout but a 20-16 eke-through, because Nagisa refuses to play the game Ayano thought she’d play. Put simply, Nagisa goes on the defense, forcing Ayano to be the aggressor, which gives Nagisa time to think and keep Ayano off-balance, all while sapping her stamina.

Nagisa’s knee is a concern, but Tachibana examines it and she seems to be okay. Erena hears from Ayano’s mom that her intent, however monstrous, was to get Ayano to become a better player by playing for herself, not for the sake of her mother. Abandoning her made her hate her mother, and thus made her find a new reason to improve: revenge.

But while she won the first game and is determined to beat Nagisa in straight sets, it just doesn’t go that way. Nagisa keeps up the defense and keeps hanging in there long enough to finally release her jumping smash at the most devastating moment. It’s everything Ayano has not to completely melt down on the court.

That’s because despite her brave face and resolve to reject her mom, Ayano still fears abandonment over everything else. By losing the second set, she feels she’s on the cusp of being abandoned again; this time by everyone who isn’t her mom. She enters a tailspin, going down 0-8 in the third game, causing some to consider the match over before it officially ends.

But then something happens: despite how badly she treated her teammates, they still cheer her on and urge her to do her best, not just for her own sake, but for the sake of the team, who can say they sent two teammates to the Nationals. Erena adds her voice to a crowd that is suddenly on Ayano’s side, as if sensing the emotional turmoil in which she’s roiling.

The sudden surge of support works. No longer afraid she’ll be discarded for being useless, Ayano breaks out something new from her back of tricks: she ends Nagisa’s 8-point scoring streak by scoring a point of her own, with her right hand. Could it be she’s a natural righty even though she’s been playing lefty all this time? Or is she simply ambidextrous?

In any case, she’s back in the game. Also worth looking for in the final episode: whether Ayano’s come-from-behind win is really in the cards. Maybe Nagisa will upset her, but then again, maybe Ayano needs to learn that she doesn’t need to win all the time to avoid being abandoned.

Chihayafuru 2 – 21

Ayase Chihaya, Wataya Arata

Chihaya struggles early against Yuube, but once she stops overthinking, goes with a more basic approach, and flips around the cards on her own side to make them easier to take with her left hand, and eeks out a win by two cards. Arata and Shinobu quickly defeat their opponents, and all the other Mizusawa players advance. Nishida has to face Arata in the next round, and while he puts up a passionate fight, he ultimately loses. Chihaya moves on to the Final 8, but rather than Arata, her next opponent is Shinobu.

Wow, this individual tournament is moving along at quite a clip! In a single episode we go from 32 players to just eight; Chihaya figures out how to switch her game from right to left, defeats two players, and with four episodes left, Chihaya is about to face off against her nememuse, the Queen herself: Wakamiya Shinobu. As a result, while she was saving her right hand for Arata (that just sounds wrong…), she knows she’ll have to use it against Shinobu. That’s a huge gamble, especially when last week a single tentative swipe caused intense pain.

But while the odds are very much against her no matter what hand she uses, Fujisaki’s loss proved that giants can be slain. If Chihaya defeated Shinobu to finally face off against Arata, you can be assured we’d pretty much lose it. That would be like a whole season of Kyousuke and Kuroneko dating. Arata, meanwhile, is just scary good, and even with all the negative energy directed at his game (his parents want him to lose so they don’t have to pay for his college in Tokyo), he eliminates his first opponent and barely breaks a sweat dispatching Nishida. We hope Chihaya’s journey doesn’t end with Shinobu doing to her what Arata did to Nishida.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)