Who would have thought a four-eyed, fluffy-haired, creepy pervy bean sprout Senpai could rekindle Hayase’s long extinguished passion for judo? I did, because I could see it coming a mile away. But of course it’s not whether everything would work out for these two lovebirds at the judo tournament, but how it would work out.
Obviously Naoto feels he owes it to Hayase to try to snatch at least one win as thanks for her lessons. But he also wants to impress the girl he likes, and show her that he’s not a complete wimp (though she already knows this). On the other hand, while Hayase easily beats her first round opponent, her next opponent is Orihara, a candidate to represent Japan, who easily beats Gamou (who unlike Sakura is no slouch herself).
Not only that, Orihara is the very person who caused Hayase to walk away from judo altogether. Since she was a kid she loved judo, and was good at it. She regularly beat Orihara, who didn’t have as much raw talent, and Orihara bawled her eyes out every time. But she got better with every match, and the day she finally beat Hayase, she was just as elated in victory as she was distraught in defeat.
It wasn’t that Hayase was being a sore loser per se, just that she had never dealt with defeat before and tied the constant victories to her love of judo. When she leaves the dojo to sulk outside and Naoto checks in on her, she finally opens up to him about this, then walks in wanting to get the loss over with.
Naoto rightly says she doesn’t sound like that Nagatoro he knows. She shoots him a furious look, asking what the hell gives him the right to talk like she knows her. But he does know her, and knows she’s strong and skilled enough to make it a fight. And as he says during his match, he’s decided he does have the right to not want her to make that forlorn face.
Hayase decides to make things interesting: If he can walk the walk and win at least once, she’ll give Senpai an honest-to-God smooch. While flustered by the idea, it nevertheless motivates Naoto. Even when he’s up against a musclebound brute of an opponent in Sasai, he remembers her training, and how size and brute strength aren’t always what decide a judo match.
He fights so hard, Hayase’s friends start to cheer for him, and eventually even Hayase can’t help but cheer for him too. He doesn’t let Sasai get a full point, and while he loses by ref’s decision, he never gave up, and wins not only Hayase’s adoration, but Sasai’s genuine respect.
Next up is the title bout, and as soon as it gets started, it’s clear the two black belts are in a different league than everyone else assembled. But what’s also clear is that even if she’s a bit rusty from being out of the sport, Hayase can still hold her own against a national candidate. That’s not only due to the fact she knows Orihara’s fighting well, but because she too is fueled by the cheering on of the person who likes her.
Like Naoto, Hayase fights hard and with heart, and even gets to show off her signature throw against Orihara. Unfortunately, she’s out of bounds when she does it, and like Naoto, loses by ref’s decision. Finally, she and Orihara shake hands in mutual respect. Hayase promises she’ll beat her next time, and Orihara is looking forward to it. Just a couple of golden-hearted, tough-as-hell ladies throwing down…What else could you ask for?
A kiss, perhaps? A real one, not a peck on the cheek or forehead or with lips separated by something? Well, the deal was Naoto had to win, and he didn’t, so no kiss this week. But Hayase comes up with a new bet, with the kiss this time dependent on whether she beats Orihara next time. She wants to beat Orihara, ergo she wants Senpai to kiss her. She could technically just skip to the kiss, but that’s not how these things work in rom-coms!
When he gets all flustered and decides she’s just messing with him again, she tells him, with a straight face and neutral tone, that no, despite the title of the show, she is not messing with him in this case. Then she sprints off before her face turns completely pink in front of him.
Thus a challenge has been leveled, and one of the more satisfying, sweet, and heartwarming episodes of Nagatoro-san comes to an end. But with Sana’s little sister(?) about to enter the mix, will our couple’s heretofore smooth sailing hit stormy waters?