How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? – 05 – Relay Chase, Sauna Race

Summer is over, and with the Fall comes Sports Day, a day Hibiki has been dreading. Worse still, students are appointed for events based on lottery, not skill, so she finds herself the anchor of the final event: the 400m relay.

Hibiki is not a skilled runner (nor is Satomi), but Machio has pointers for them both: leg curls work the hamstrings (the “accelerator” muscles) without working the quads (the “brake” muscles).

Leg curls also tone your bottom, which fires Hibiki up; she may have missed the chance to have a hot summer bod but she’d still working towards a hot winter bod. Unfortunately, her overzealouness leads to her pants splitting.

When the day of the relay arrives, Hibiki finds herself competing directly against Akemi, who doesn’t know that Hibiki has been secretly working her lesser-known iliopsoas muscles located in the back, crucial for sprinting. Akemi may be cleaning up for her Class A team, but Hibiki aims to make a race of it.

Unfortunately, the baton transfer fails and Hibiki ends up way behind, but still rallies to finish second behind Akemi, impressing both of them. It’s just too bad her second-place finish is wiped out by the fact the runner who dropped the baton didn’t pick it up, leading to her disqualification.

The loss really eats at Hibiki, but she finds an opportunity to exact her revenge when after a day of training, the four girls decide to hit the sauna after the showers and have a little competition: whoever lasts longest in the sauna will get all of the four raffle tickets Machio gave them (the show makes sure to warn viewers not to try this at home).

Ayaka is the first to hit her limit and leave, followed, rather surprisingly, by Akemi. Hibiki is flagging, but Satomi looks cool as a cucumber…until Hibiki realizes she’s so burnt out she’s basically stuck in place. That makes Hibiki the winner! Too bad she doesn’t win a trip to America with her tickets, but four T-shirts she doesn’t really want, and gives to Akemi anyway. So ends another entertaining and informative Dumbbells.

P.S. This show is also super strong with the twisted reactions, critical asides, and of course, fourth-wall breaks:

…Though characters seem to have stopped commenting on the eroticism inherent in Machio’s training lessons. Like Machio himself, I guess they just got used to them!

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Bloom Into You – 09 – Ready, Set, Yuu

Sports Day has arrived, and the StuCo is so busy Yuu and Nanami hardly see each other, to say nothing of anything more. Just as Yuu is thinking about this as she’s leaving the storage shed, Nanami appears and the two go into the shed.

Yuu lets Nanami kiss her, but when Yuu pulls her off, Nanami agrees to behave until Sports Day is over, whereupon Yuu promises to give her a “reward” of her choosing: instead of Nanami initiating, Yuu will kiss her.

The Sports Day unfolds as one would expect: Yuu does her class relay, demonstrating she’s fast for a short kid, owing to her long-standing friendship with the far taller Akari. Yuu then gets to talk with Maki for the first time in a while, still adamant she has no feelings for Nanami despite his suspicions. She tells him she can’t fall in love with anybody, which in theory would make the two of them the same…but Maki doesn’t buy it.

There’s every reason to put stock in his doubt, considering how he’s basically carved out a life of observing relationships from afar rather than participating directly. As such, Maki has seen a lot of faces of both lonely and content people, and Yuu’s face looks lonely…too lonely for someone incapable of falling for someone.

Meanwhile, in a continuation of last week’s thread, Sayaka greets Hakozaki-sensei’s live-in girlfriend, who shows up to secretly watch her run in the teacher’s relay. When it’s time for the StuCo to do a relay against the basketball team, Yuu sees how much Nanami really wants to win, as well as her and the basketball captain Serizawa exchanging trash talk.

Yuu does her best, and manages to keep pace with the far more athletic Akari running beside her. She hands off to Sayaka smoothly, and Sayaka does the same with Nanami. As Yuu watches Nanami run with everything she’s got, everything else in her world fades into the light and it’s just the two of them. Perhaps a rare instance of her actually feeling that “special feeling” she claims she’s unable to feel?

The ballers win in the end, but it was close, and despite having to deal with Serizawa’s gloating, Nanami is happy her StuCo worked so hard. Then, with Sports Day in the books, Nanami and Yuu retire to the storage shed once more. Yuu is nervous, as she didn’t think Nanami meant immediately after Sports Day was over, and when Nanami waits for Yuu to come to her with her lips, Yuu feels like she’s crossing a boundary she shouldn’t, because she doesn’t like Nanami.

She tells Nanami to go instead, and she does, including putting her tongue in Yuu’s mouth for the first time. We haven’t seen the telltale blushing on Yuu’s face until that happens, because when Nanami pauses and asks if she should stop, Yuu tells her it actually feels good.

So Nanami keeps French kissing Yuu, as Yuu thinks about all of the positive physical and behavioral qualities Yuu finds comfort in. She considers them all “normal” and not something to be considered “special.” But as Maki would tell her, someone as incapable of love—and as comfortable with same—as Yuu claims simply wouldn’t be going around looking lonely or making out with someone.

That being said, just because Yuu seems to be on the road to falling for Nanami (if she hasn’t already), unless she’s actually aware she’s on that road and acknowledges it once and for all, her vacillating is doomed to continue.

That she’s still trying to explain/excuse her rapidly escalating romantic entanglement with Nanami after nine episodes suggests the series just might end without Yuu ever coming to believe she’s in love with her. Fortunately, four episodes is plenty of time to resolve this one way or another, and whatever the outcome, it’s been a wonderful ride.

Orange – 10

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Kakeru continues to look and act forlorn, and even Naho in a cheerleader outfit doesn’t change that. What ultimately does is a team effort by Naho, Suwa, Hagita, Azu and Tako, which is not only used to help Kakeru carry a futon (kind of a bizarre errand in the middle of a sports festival, if you ask me).

The metaphor is not subtle, but effective: his burdens will be lighter because they’ll help bear them. Kakeru feels safe enough to reveal the cause of his less-than-stellar mood: he’s unsure if he should be laughing and having fun when his mom could be watching.

Well duh, any mom would want their kid to be happy, and to not let himself be happy would only worry her, jsut as it worries Naho and the others.

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It becomes clear to all that there’s no way they’ll be able to dissuade Kakeru from participating in the relay, so they have to carry it out, doing everything they can on their end to make sure it’s a victory, and hoping fate doesn’t rain on their parade in the form of Kakeru worsening his injury, losing the relay to the blue team, and restart a spiral of regret and self-hatred.

Just before the relay, both Suwa and Kakeru are given extra motivation to win the whole thing: a kiss from Naho, which she neither agrees nor disagrees to (she’s too shocked by the prospect). As for Azusa and Hagita, yeah, this is starting to get old. Just date already. Right now. Do it.

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I never thought I’d get all excited about Emotionally Significant School Relay #937…but with some serious stakes in play, I daresay I was. A strong lead by Suwa starts to erode when Tako and Azu run, but Hagita manages to pass a few people.

After Naho’s leg, Kakeru summons heretofore unsummoned athletic ability and hits the finish tape first, no down cheered on by the telephone-style message constructed by his teammates, ending with the sentiments that they’ll all be together in ten years

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After the race, Kakeru’s grandma recalls a relay in the past that his mother attended not long after getting divorced, when Kekeru looked down-in-the-dumps…until he won, and flashed the same smile he flashed today. So all’s well that ends well; Naho & Co. change the future again, without any further speed bumps in the relay phase.

That only leaves the matter of Naho’s “promised kiss.” When coming in close to bandage his shoulder scrape, Kakeru ends up stealing a little kiss to her cheek before running off, no doubt over the moon. Naho reacts exactly the way you’d expect: stunned silence, followed shortly by a warm expression of acknowledgment in said kiss’s power.

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Orange – 09

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Now that it’s confirmed everyone in Naho’s circle has letters from their future selves guiding them support Naho and Kakeru, we see the first instance of someone other than Naho and Suwa reading their letter and acting on it. In this case, it’s Azusa, whose letters are a lot more fancy and flowery than Naho’s austere correspondence.

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The letter instructs her, during her birthday, to make sure everyone refuses to let Kakeru borrow their umbrella, so that he and Naho can share one and walk home together. It works like a charm, and just like that, Orange has arrived in episode 9 where Momokuri got in it’s second half-episode.

Naho even holds out her hand for him to take, insisting once isn’t enough. But the two still maintain they’re fine with things they way they are, rather than officially going out.

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That’s a not entirely honest position that is put to the test during the sports festival, when the group of friends are to participate in a relay. There are a number of events preceding that race, during which we get a look at everyone’s parents.

Suwa makes sure Kakeru’s grandma comes so he’s not too lonely…but he still feels lonely, because he’s not sure how long it will be before he has to move, before he “disappears.”

Suwa elects to rattle his cage, asking him if it’s really okay to not be going out with Naho, and if it’s really okay with him if he went out with Naho. Kakeru, gloomy and dejected, says that would be fine; not even a bad idea. He’s still speaking from a place of self-hatred and resignation to an uncertain, lonely life in the wake of his mother’s suicide.

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Things take a turn for the worse between Naho and Kakeru when the former dresses Suwa’s wound with the same care she bandaged Kakeru a ways back. The timing sucks, and when Naho offers to dress his wounds too, Kakeru recoils, even slapping her hand away. Immediately ashamed, he scurries off, and Naho wonders what she did wrong (nothing, really).

But Suwa is still optimistic that he’s put Kakeru on the right track to more forcefully and confidently stake a claim and pursue that which he wants – Naho. I’m…less optimistic. Even with the whole circle of friends working toward a single goal, it isn’t going to be easy to bring Kakeru and Naho closer together.

Not when they’re so cripplingly inept at courtship, and possess so little self-worth, thinking the other person too good for them. I don’t envy their friends: this isn’t going to be a smooth ride, and a future where Kakeru is with them is far from assured when he’s still speaking with dark permenance about the certainty of ‘disappearing’.

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Orange – 08

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This was not the strongest Orange—indeed, it’s the weakest yet—but it’s still pretty damn good; hardly a dud and still very recommendable. But despite the revelations contained in this outing, it still felt a little slower than I’d like, and that it was covering already-tread territory.

Azu and Taka don’t unreasonably assumed that because Naho and Kakeru made their love for each other, they’re now officially “dating.” But neither Naho nor Kakeru believes this is the case, as both are worried that going out would somehow “hurt” the other. I’m not really a fan of that line of thinking.

Also, considering how closely Naho has follows the letters, it seems a little arbitrary and shortsighted to start questioning them after Kakeru faints during soccer. And abandoning the rest of the letters altogether borders on reckless.

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And yet, that’s what Naho does: she puts the letters away and starts acting in the way she thinks is best for Kakeru. The letters tell her and Suwa not to let Kakeru anchor the class relay, since he’ll twist and ankle and lose, but instead, all five of Kakeru’s friends stand up to share the relay duties with him, since he wants to run, but is also worried he’ll let everyone down if he fails. This way his load is lightened, but the letter isn’t being followed to the letter.

A letterless Naho turns out to be a nearly rudderless one, as each time Kakeru holds out his hand to hold hers, she has no idea what he’s doing, and ends up frustrating him. I know the two aren’t used to physical contact, but the gesture he’s making could only mean so many things, especially when she knows he loves her.

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This latest “problem” with Kakeru almost leads Naho to go back to the letters, but instead Suwa is found out by Azu and Taka, who ask Naho what the trouble is and laugh when they learn how simple and easily solved the “problem” is: just hold hands with the poor guy!

Suwa encourages Naho to tell them the rest of the truth, about the future letters, and as expected, they respond by revealing their own. All five friends wrote to their past selves. All five regretted what went down with Kakeru, and all five are committed to saving him.

Now it’s all out in the open…except for Kakeru himself. Even if they all have the best intentions, the fact they all have this secret they’re not sharing with him could have serious problems down the road, no matter how hard they try to hide it.

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Free! – 11

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Rei confronts Rin, asking why he’s swimming in the prefectural relay, what happened in Australia that led to him abandoning the others, and what he wants from Haru. Rin turns it around and asks Rei what he wants, and Rei says he wants to swim as a member of the best team in the tournament, and warns Rin not to interfere. Believing him ill, Nagisa, Makoto and Haru stop by Rei’s house, surprising him with how much they care.

The next day the team heads up to the city hosting the regional tournament, check in to their hotel, have a meal, and go to bed, but Haru can’t sleep and goes for a run. He runs into Nagisa on the street, who’s looking for Rei. Rei meets up with Rin, who tells him about his woes in Australia, and how Haru didn’t cause him to quit, but rather inspired him to keep swimming when he returned to Japan. Later, Rin’s captain informs him he won’t be in the relay.

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As evidenced by his bookshelf full of books on swimming, Ryuugazaki Rei is someone who doesn’t enter into any activity lightly, preferring to thoroughly study the theory before putting it into practice. As Nagisa warns, that can get him into trouble where swimming is concerned, but it’s how he operates, and it obviously served him well at track. Last week, Rei had gathered enough theory on the perplexing dynamic between Rin and Haru and Rin and the team he used to be a member of. Armed with his theories, he’s approaches Rin and doesn’t mince words. It’s the most fired-up we’ve ever seen him.

Like us, he wanted answers, and while he doesn’t get them immediately, Rin is moved by his passion and forthrightness, and decides that it’s alright after all to confide in Rei, and by extension us. He confesses that, far from killing it in Australia, going abroad made him feel inferior and hopelessly outmatched. He comes to blame his past relay swimming for his troubles in individual swimming, though he doesn’t blame his old teammates. Now that we know his side of things, Rin’s become someone we can empathize with. When he learns he won’t get to swim in the relay with Iwatobi, it’s as much a blow to us as him.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Now that they’ve won something, the club’s fanbase is gradually growing.
  • We loved the two birds eye views of the hotel rooms as the four swimmers couldn’t sleep. Tellingly, Nagisa’s side was a mess while Rei’s was immaculate, with everything at right angles.
  • Haru really warms up in this episode, assuring Rei that he’s a crucial member of the team, then later thanking Makoto for being there for him, and thanking Nagisa for making him join the team.
  • The pool where the regionals take place looks awesome, especially at night with its tranquil blue glow.
  • If Nagisa and Rei are 15 (10th grade) and Haru, Makoto and Rin are 16 (11th), they’ll all be 22 or 23 in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo – the same age as Michael Phelps when he won eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008.

Free! – 10

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In a flashback, Rin transfers to the same school as Haru, Makoto and Nagisa, and convinces them to swim with him. Back in the present Sasabe Goro starts coaching the team, and whenever they reminice about the past with Rin, Rei gets more upset. He confronts the others about what caused them to drift apart from him. Haru tells him about how he raced and beat Rin. Afterwards Rin said he’d quit swimming, which led to Haru quitting out of guilt. Rei confronts Rin outside the practice facility.

This week we see some sustained flashbacks in which the guys with the girly names have girly voices as well, but they’re very much the same people, just younger, smaller, and higher-pitched. The series finally dives in the past that formed the lads we’ve followed thus far, but also presents the perspective of someone who had nothing to do with that past, namely Rei. He’s not delighted to be constantly reminded that he hasn’t always been around, nor does he like what the past is doing to Haru.

Once Rei learns what actually happened between Haru and Rin, he’s even more upset with the one he essentially replaced on the Iwatobi Swim Club. Returning from Australia, a cocky Rin challenged Haru and lost, but then made such a meal of his loss that he manipulated Haru into quitting altogether. What’s worse, Rin was lying – he returned to swimming, gaining a head-start on Haru. Sure, no one told Haru to nail himself to the cross by quitting, but the fact Rin has such a strong power over him irks Rei to no end, and he can’t abide standing by and letting him get away with it again.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The multi-angle film sequence was pretty cool, though we kinda wonder how Sasabe has the time to coach these guys gratis. Who delivers the pizza…ITSELF?
  • Hot pot on a hot summer day with no A/C…kinda sweat-lodgy. Sounds healthy, in any case.
  • We finally learn about Amakata Miho’s past too: she was a swimsuit model, not merely and Coach Sasabe recognizes her because he has a stash of her mags lying around his flat. Sweet, gross, or both?
  • Rin is strangely absent from all the flashback scenes.

Free! – 09

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Haru swims the final leg of the relay and seals a victory for Iwatobi. Rei watches as they celebrate and is reminded of the past. After the school acknowledges their win, Gou gets them back to training for regionals immediately. Haru seems down, so Nagisa, Makoto and Rei take him to the Hachiman-sama summer festival. When Rei and Nagisa discover Rin is there too, Rei follows Rin to keep Haru away. Later that night, Haru decides he’ll swim in the relay, and the next day Gou informs them her brother will be swimming in it too.

The cold open wastes no time showing the result of the relay, as Haru overtakes everyone and ekes out a win, complete with plenty of warm camaraderie and jubilation, all witnessed by a gobsmacked Rin. In that moment, Rin is starting to realize that merely beating Haru and winning isn’t enough, just as Haru is realizing that simply feeling the water isn’t enough either. And so by episode’s end, Rin goes back on his impulsive promise never to swim with Haru again. And let’s not forget who to thank for their future rematch: Gou, who only wanted her brother and Haru to get along and enjoy swimming together like they used to.

The theme of both characters going with their guts and finding the results lacking, Rin also learns that Haru wasn’t just a hurdle to clear on his path to Olympic glory. Haru is and will ever be his rival, and as much as he may think he’s surpassed him, he can’t help but compare his progress and achievements with Haru. On the other side, Haru thought he didn’t know he had to have a reason to swim, and didn’t think he needed to win. Losing to Rin taught him otherwise. And now that Rin realizes Haru is actually competing for a reason (to help his friends), he wants a piece of the action.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Rin and Nagisa don yukata for the festival, while Haru and Mako wear street clothes. It’s almost like a double date…
  • This episode was a most effective commercial for numerous preparations of squid. We must pay a visit to the H-Mart soon.
  • Rei does his best to get detected following RIn, but somehow Rin never notices him, or possibly just doesn’t care.

 

Free! – 08

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Dejected by his defeat and unsure why, Haruka hides in the showers, but the others drag him out in time to watch Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin. No one advances to the finals, but Gou suprises them by announcing she’s entered them in tomorrow’s medley relay. The team goes to Haru’s house, doubtful he’ll agree to swim. When he comes home, everyone has left but Makoto. Haruka hears the voicemail they left him and agrees to swim. The next day Rin catches wind that Iwatobi is swimming again, and gets to watch them swim, recognizing their strokes from years ago.

Wallowing in what is obviously a rare loss, Haruka protests not becoming “free” after racing Rin. He wasn’t supposed to care about winning; he didn’t think he cared about winning. But he clearly does care. When Makoto, Nagisa and Rin bump into Rin in the hall, Makoto sees the attitude Rin has adopted and takes him down a peg by reminding him it was he who taught Haru that there was far more to swimming than winning. Rin snubs it off, but he knows Makoto’s right, and thus can’t even go the rest of the day feeling good about his win.

Rin was just as happy about winning as he was showing up Haruka, but the next day when Haruka is right back out there, ready to swim, it shocks Rin as much as losing shocked Haru. Worse still, watching Makoto and Nagisa dregs up memories of swimming with all of them, and he’s reminded how well he knows them all. He’s also disgusted by Rei’s “excuse” for a butterfly, and even a little jealous that Rei’s swimming in his place. We don’t see Haru swim, nor do we learn the result of their medley, but there’s a possibility Rin’s vow to never again swim with Haru may have been premature.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • In the individual events, Haruka and Makoto are close, but no one ends up advancing. Realism!
  • It was incredibly sweet for Haruka’s concerned friends to break into his house and hang out there awaiting his return. Those are some friends right there!
  • We love being reminded that yes, there remain some people just don’t give a shit about cell phones. Good for them; it’s an extraneous device (though one would have been quite useful to the protag in White Album).
  • Haru’s moonlight swim, like most of the swimming scenes, made us want to go swimming really bad! Unfortunately the public pool is closed for the season, so the creek it is!

Kotoura-san – 05

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Kotoura returns to school. Moritani is nice to her and she joins the ESP Society, using her Moritani Fighting Style to snuff out candles as proof of “psychokinesis”. They have a sleepover party at Kotoura’s new apartment, and when Kotoura falls off the bed and onto Manabe, Yuriko snaps a pic. Manabe gives Kotoura an embarrassing picture of a young Mori to keep her cheered up, even after she falls while in a class relay that she practiced hard for.

Now that she’s at peace with her main rival, Kotoura slips back into the ideal of a high school girl’s life: friends, joking around, club activities, parties, sleepovers, and, eventually, being cheered on by her entire class on field day. This sounds utterly mundane, but not when you consider the hell Kotoura has been through. We are also still scratching our heads over how Moritani didn’t really face any serious consequences for putting a hit out on Manabe, aside from her own guilt.

After a few very emotionally heavy episodes, this one is a bit on cruise control, with very little in the way of new conflict, aside from Kotoura coming to grips with her feelings for Manabe. But what it has in spades is peppy comedy. The ESP society all know each other well enough to riff off one anothers’ qualities, and they do so consistently, though never with ill intent. Kotoura continues to show patience with Manabe’s perverse daydreams because she can tell at his core he’s a good person.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)