When Nemoto, a yakuza, threatens to raise the rent of an arcade the NEETs frequent, they convince him to take part in a bet. If the NEETs beat him at baseball, the rent stays the same. To their surprise, it’s a real baseball game, not a video game, they have to participate in. Nemoto also fields ringers and is himself a former ace pitcher. To beat him, Alice and Narumi need to know what kind of player he was.
I have a soft spot for baseball episodes – even DS9 did one for crying out loud – especially when they bear some resemblance to the sport of baseball. This episode did, somewhat. You had your signs, your uncaught strike three, your out pitch, et cetera. Baseball is every bit as much about brains as it is about brawn, and considering the NEET team had more than a few capable players, I wasn’t that outraged that they won. Whether Narumi could actually hit a home run off of Nemo just because he knows what’s coming is a stretch, to be sure. But as an in-between episode it wasn’t bad.
The arcade at stake is apparently where the NEETs spend a lot of time; the owner calls them regulars. Yet nine episodes in and I believe this is the first time we’ve seen them there. Usually they’re just in the alley behind Min’s ramen shop. It was hard to care about the stakes considering this episode was the first time we learned of the arcade’s existence, and Narumi & Co.’s fondness for it. Still, I liked how they still needed to do some detective work to “solve the case” (win the game). And Alice actually going outside and participating in athletics? Unprecedented.
Narumi steps up to the plate, becomes all but initiated within the Shibuya underworld, and even spearheads the plan that will get Meo’s dad out in the open, a very clever gamble involving a huge amount of tiny deposits to his bank account.
A big assist gos to Souchiro the Hirasaka group: after Narumi shares sake with him, they provide a lot of needed muscle. Alice is almost an observer this week, as she gives the show to her new underling, confident that his heart will lead him to the proper solution.
Sure, he gets punched a couple times, but when the dust clears, Meo is safe, her father is safe, and the two are reunited. Narumi not only achieved what he set out to do, but proves his worth to Alice and the others in the process. He even remembers to grab a DoKuPe from the back of the fridge. On to the next case!
This week Narumi settles into his role as Alice’s manservant. As I mentioned last week, he’s surprisingly gung-ho about it, considering how it disrupts the ordinary life he was having. But unlike Huey and Dalian, this isn’t even close to a relationship of equals. Alice’s powers of observation and deduction are vastly superior to Narumi’s.
Narumi’s strength is his heart, his kindness, his courage, and his inoffensive and harmless presence. All of these skills serve him well as Alice’s assistant. He even surprises himself when he ignores Souchiro’s warning to stay out of what could end up a very bloody Yakuza case. He can’t, because he promised the client – Meo – he’d help her find her father.
Everyone has something to do this week, and despite the serious case involving the rogue money launderer and his unwitting Yakuza-bait daughter, there are still moments of levity. Ayaka and Meo invade Alice’s “cave” to wash her hair, while the reason Narumi ends up at Souchiro’s is to fix the PC his underlings filled with pr0n and malware. Hiro, Major, and Tetsu all do their jobs.
They aren’t bothered that their lives are on the line – and, Narumi has learned, that’s the case with him too. The client comes first. Rating: 4