BokuBen – 03 – Acts of Defiance

In direct and efficient 78-second cold open, Yuiga’s mission is suddenly made tougher: Furuhashi and Ogata must receive an average score or higher on the upcoming midterms. Both the headmaster and their former tutor (pink hair) believe its in the best general interest to steer the girls towards the fields of study in which they excel, believing their desire to study elsewhere frivolous.

The ex-tutor even considers it negligent not to press more strongly for the girls to get in their lane. The adults aren’t factoring Furuhashi or Ogata’s dreams or happiness into the equation. But Yuiga has been here before himself, and so he’s uniquely equipped to empathize with and fully support them in their bold endeavor to forge their own paths based on their passions, not their natural gifts.

Of course, only Furuhashi and Ogata overhear the headmaster and tutor, and now feel the pressure to succeed lest another tutor—and their favorite by far—be relieved of his duties (though I can’t imagine that would have stopped him from tutoring them anyway). Takemoto wonders why they look so down; she can sense the sudden heightened pressure now on their shoulders, and Ogata’s commitment to get results.

Now that all parties (save Takemoto) are aware of the raised bar for those results, Ogata, whose Japanese midterms come first, asks Yuiga to come to her house to supervise her studying. The fact she’s so comfortable not only inviting him, but also interacting with him at her family’s udon restaurant, speaks to the evolution of their relationship from adversarial and suspicious to something far more like a real friendship.

Meanwhile Yuiga isn’t just doing this so he’ll get a free ride; he has a philosophical horse in this race, plus he just likes these girls and wants to help if he can…not to mention Ogata looks fantastic in her restaurant outfit. He doesn’t know he’ll be fired if they fail, so Ogata simply asks the rhetorical question of what will happen if she fails. His answer—they’ll just keep studying for the next test—is comforting…as is his patting of her head.

When the day of the test comes, Ogata is immediately fearful when she sees parts of the test are areas she didn’t study as thoroughly, but resolves to do her best, and lo and behold, she scores an above-class-average 71, to her own bewilderment and Yuiga and Takemoto’s delight. Ogata refrains from mentioning out loud that a little bit of dumb luck factored into that score, but that’s just another reason to keep at it.

That means it’s up to Furuhashi. Only problem is, she has a cough and a high fever. Yuiga suggests she delay and take the make-up test; she declines, as it would mean an automatic 20% deduction in score (which hardly seems fair). To prepare, she invites Yuiga and Takemoto to her house…which turns out to be huge, with a genkan with more square footage than Yuiga’s living room.

Being unaccustomed to visiting female classmates at home, Yuiga takes Furuhashi’s “just come on in” too literally and walks in when she’s topless. Yuiga realizes the error of his ways and stays out until needed.

Just like he saw Ogata in a new light at her home, Yuiga learns something new about his old pal Takemoto: she’s a superb cook. When he likens her appearance to that a new wife, Takemoto’s imagination conjures a scene of domestic bliss between her and a salaryman Yuiga.

Turns out Takemoto was right: some hot food and rest were just what Furuhashi needed, and she feels ready for the midterms. Like Ogata, she voices her hope that he’ll keep tutoring her, and that she trusts she’ll reach her dreams if she sticks with him. Yuiga is flattered, but urges Furuhashi, whos pajamas a a little see-through, return to bed.

Furuhashi manages a score higher than average as well, impressing the headmaster and further irking the former tutor. Yuiga and the three girls celebrate at a family restaurant. Yuiga may not know that his tutoring job and VIP consideration was just saved.

With Ogata and Furuhashi out of the woods, the second half of the episode focuses on Takemoto Uruka, and IMO reinforces her standing as Best Girl. Her swim club friends, impatient with her pureness and lack of progress in nabbing Yuiga, take matters into their own hands by taking her to a hip clothier and dressing her up all adorable-like; a way in which she can’t help but feel extremely self-conscious.

In this suddenly out-of-sorts state achieved by her caring friends, Takemoto has no idea how she’d act around Yuiga, but immediately gets her chance as the two cross paths in town. Since she’s right next to the bookstore, she tells him she’s going to buy some textbooks; he decides to join her, while failing to remark on her very different and extremely cute new look.

While initially weary, Takemoto soon finds comfort and joy in being so close to Yuiga; feeling the warmth of his shoulder and feeling his breath in her ear as he talks. A little boy points at them and declares them a couple, and when a kid does that you know you look like one.

Outside the store, they come across a store selling an accessory Yuiga’s sister wants; but the competition to win it is couples-only. Sensing another opportunity, Takemoto seizes Yuiga by the arm and leads the way.

The competition turns out to be a “princess carry” endurance contest, and Takemoto is worried she’s too heavy because she’s recently gained a lot of muscle in swim club. She soon tears up about the prospect of being too heavy for Yuiga, but he interprets those tears as abject embarrassment over having to be held by him, and he commits himself to winning the contest, which they do.

Takemoto is happy beyond words. Her friends dressed her up cute so she’d more easily “attack” Yuiga, but the fact is she’s always wanted to be a princess; people have just noted her athleticism and placed her in the “tomboy” mold, and inertia has kept her there.

It was immensely fun to watch Takemoto’s girly side openly expressed. She was the third of three girls this week defiantly moving against the grain set for them by others, and her resulting glee really emanated through the screen. She may not have confessed—and perhaps never will!—but spending a day as a couple was at least something, and seemingly enough for her for now.

Free! – 03

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In order to secure membership to a gym in the colder months, the new Swim Club needs a budget that the school will only provide if they deliver accomplishments. That means placing in a tournament, which requires a fourth member. Nagisa takes pains to recruit Ryuugazaki Rei, but he’s on the track team. When Gou arranges a joint practice with Samezuka, Rei agrees to accompany them as a trial member, but only if he doesn’t have to swim. He ends up having to anyway, and everyone learns he can’t swim when he nearly drowns. But after watching Haruka, he decides to formally join.

Ryuugazaki’s multiple and concerted rejections of Nagisa aside, the promotional art, OP and ED all heavily featured Rei as a main member of the cast, so his joining the club was never really in doubt; this episode was more about what swayed him after he was so insistent on not joining. He’s a bit of a nerd, you see, with a strict “sense of beauty”, and believes splashing around in the water to be beneath a species that had already crawled out of the ocean eons ago. He dedicates himself to track, particularly the high jump, but while he has perfect technical form, he lacks anything else, which will hamper his growth no matter the sport.

What sways him is Haruka, and the promise, through watching him and swimming with him, of finding the “freedom” he sees in Haruka’s form. That is to say, freedom from theory and calculation. Haruka possesses something that cannot necessarily be taught, but it can be emulated through observation. Rei is mindful that Haruka’s isn’t just a step-by-step method of swimming; it’s a totally different way of thinking and looking at the world. Yet despite their many differences, in a way Haruka and Rei are alike in that they both lack the drive to improve without support and inspiration from others.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 Stray Observations:

  • Gou and Nagisa’s “Call me Kou” routine calls to mind a similar situation with Norie and Kaoru in Tamayura. In both cases, it’s not that funny, and we wish they’d stop it already.
  • That  said, we like Kou’s role as the club’s manager, getting them a practice with Samezuka quickly thanks to her charms.
  • We like how Nagisa shuts down Rei’s nerdy ranting, though the ranting itself is pretty damn funny. Rei’s one weird kid!
  • Whatever female-centric fanservice the likes of Monogatari can dish out this season will be evened out by the male-centric fanservice in this. Look at those deltoids!
  • Rin proves he’s not a total detached jerk when we see him sneaking a peek at his old friends as they swim practice laps.
  • Not only did this episode make us want to swim, but the ED had us wanting to go clubbing as well. And traveling to some Arabian trading post.

Free! – 02

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After Haruka and Rin race, everyone gets into trouble for trespassing. Nagisa and Makoto bump into Gou/Kou, who arranged for Rin to meet them at the abandoned swim club. Nagisa suggests they start a swim club so they can swim with Rin again. Their teacher Amakata Miho agrees to serve as their advisor. Kou visits Samezuka and learns her brother isn’t on the swim team. Haruka, Nagisa and Makoto commence restoration of their school’s dilapidated pool.

Kou learns that Rin beat Haruka in their night race, but wasn’t happy about the win. Kou decides to join the swim team as their necessary fourth member, in hopes they can help bring the “old” Rin back. Later that night Makoto learns the old swim club is being torn down, and runs into their old coach , Sasabe, who tells him Haruka and Rin met while Rin was home from Australia. Haruka beat him in a race they had, frustrating Rin. Knowing his win hurt Rin, Haruka quit competitive swimming.

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When you have a situation in which two good friends are really good at the same thing, there’s always going to be the possibility of a rift forming. No matter how tight the bond of friendship may be, there can still be only one winner, and winning it all is what it’s all about, right? That’s why Rin went all the way to Australia to train, presumably. And when he came back and Haruka beat him anyway, that rift grew even wider. Haruka was no longer a treasured friend – he was an obstruction.

When Makoto learns of this pivotal event in Haruka and Rin’s lives, he corrrelates it to Haruka’s sudden loss of interest in competitive swimming that followed up until the present, when Rin reentered their lives and re-lit some kind of spark. If that’s true, Haruka is a more layered character than we initially expected. In joining the swim club founded by his friends, Haruka seems open to giving swimming another chance, perhaps hoping the same sport that rended his bond with Rin can mend it as well.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Kou may be far more forthright in her desire to get the “old Rin” she loved and admired back, but Haruka seems to share her sentiments on some level. 
  • Kou knows nice muscle when she sees it. At first we thought she was into Haruka, but she had the same reaction to the Samezuka swimmers.
  • We also loved Kou’s reaction to being called cute by one of the Samezuka guys: “Thank you! Where’s my brother?”
  • We understand his reasoning, but we still thought Nagisa’s suggestion that they start a swim club seemed a bit…sudden
  • We dig the club/desert/oasis-themed ED.

Car Cameos:

Medaka Box – 06

The Swim team continues to dominate the aquatic events, due to their extreme and risky methods that show no regard for their well-being. It comes down to the surprise final event, a cavalry battle that pits them against the student council. Medaka makes a ‘pretentious appeal to innate goodness’ by deducing their insatiable greed is fueled by past trauma, which turns out to be correct. Even so, while beating them in the final challenge, Medaka lectures them on treasuring their own lives and each other before money, as she does. The Judo club wins the overall meet, and the Swim club president Kikaijima Mogana agrees to join the student council as treasurer.

We here at RABUJOI are unabashed capitalists; it’s just how we were brought up. We too sometimes dream of owning an olympic pool full of money…or water. Scrooge McDuck always looked so happy diving into his money bin. Though when you really think about it, bills would cause nasty papercuts and coins would cause bruising. Not to mention the nightmare of keeping that much cash clean…and above all, secure. It’s more trouble than it’s worth. But it’s a nice dream. Medaka thinks so too, which is why she doesn’t urge them to rethink their lives – only to reevaluate their priorities. Money is worthless if you’re dead.

This episode still had a couple problems: Nabeshima and Azo are right up there in the running for most irritating characters (you could almost make a drinking game with all of Nabeshima’s ku-ku-kus) and Shiranui continues to piss us with her non-stop eating. But at least the Big Bad swim team was cut down to size and got some (brief) backstory:  brought up stinking poor, and like one of our cats, they think every meal could be their last, so acquisition is their lives. We also thought the totally ridiculous swimming pool with its NERV-like mechanical doors and seals was a pretty strange and funny little detail…here we are talking about how there isn’t enough money to go around, and yet this pool complex must have cost at least five billion yen!


Rating: 5 (Average)

Medaka Box – 05

With fifteen different clubs requesting budget increases, the student council must allot them in a creative but fair fashion. To that end, they arrange an inter-club aquatic meet composed of four unique challenges, the first of which is underwater ball-basket. Medaka raises the stakes by announcing she’ll triple the budget of any club that beats the student council, which is also competing, much to the chagrin of Kouki and Zenkichi. Several teams tie at 20 points in the first round, but the opportunistic swim team manages to earn their points faster than even Medaka.

Ah, just when we thought it would be one to two stores per episode, they throw a two-parter at us, in which only one of the planned four challenges is completed. By episode’s end, Medaka has performed well, but the cutthroat swim team did better, though risking their lives to do so. Her two associates are non-factors, as their flotation devices prevent them from reaching the bottom of the olympic pool (though curiously, Medaka’s natural flotation devices fail to slow her).

Does a two-part pool episode slow the momentum of this series? In a word, yes. We would have preferred if this were all wrapped up in one part. The color commentary by Shiranui (as she snacks constantly, as she is wont to do, which isn’t funny) is uninspiring, and her banter between fellow dwarf Aso is clear padding. The Swim Team, meanwhile, is equally ho-hum; we see two possible outcomes next week: Medaka beats them and puts them in their place…or they beat her, but she takes the usual high road. Either way, it’s likely she’ll change swimsuits at least one more time.


Rating: 4 (Fair)