This week took a break from the ongoing tragedy that is Hina’s middle school experience to look a character who has, up until this point, gone largely without explanation, other than that he is Rei’s Shogi Rival.
The first half does deal briefly with Hina, as it opens on Rei’s homeroom teacher exploding in anger about what Hina’s teacher said to her.
This time, it is Rei who actively has to restrain him, because the situation has gotten to the point to where even Mr. Hayashida is ready to rush into the situation without thinking, the exact thing he warned Rei not to do just a few episode earlier. It also shows Rei looking to Mr. Hayashida both for emotional support and for guidance, as he has at previous points in the show.
I have talked previously on these episode reactions about my ongoing frustration with Rei’s character and being so idiotic in his approach to helping Hina, thinking that if he wins enough money that it will somehow help the family and Hina in dealing with their problems. Thankfully Mr. Hayashida shut that idea down fairly quickly, in what was likely the most satisfying scene in the whole episode.
We also learn about the status of the Kawamoto’s father, and that he ran away with another woman, leaving the sisters to fend for themselves. And, like any sane human being, Mr. Hayashida got even more pissed, turning into a monster ready to tear down anything in its path. In all seriousness though, it almost felt like someone writing loser on your forehead after being hit by a truck. The sisters have already been through so much, so its hard for that to even register.
Mr. Hayashida tells Rei that the best way to deal with his problems is by dealing with them one step at a time. The first half of the episode finishes with Rei winning his semi-final match at the newcomer’s tournament and contemplating Mr. Hayashida’s advice. There is also an appropriately placed sign that says “remaining calm is the way forward.” As Rei walks out of the building thinking about Nikaidou not being in the finals with him, he overhears Shimada and Jinguuji talking about Nikaidou and him being in the hospital.
The second half begins with Rei asking about Nikaidou’s condition and Shimada blowing him off, to which Rei quickly catches up with them as they walk out the door. Rei instead about Nikaidou life prior to the two having met. Shimada then tells him about Nikaidou over dinner.
Shimada remembers the first time having met Nikaidou at a kids Shogi tournament. His first impression of him was not a pleasant one, but rather Shimada remembers him as a spoiled brat, jealous of his wealth because he grew up in a childhood filled with poverty. Shimada was a guest speaker there, so he simply made assertions about why Nikkaidou played shogi without giving it much thought, assuming that he would give it up after losing.
Shimada quickly learns, however, that his assumptions were all wrong, and that Nikaidou played Shogi because it was one of the only things he could do. His illness made it so that he could not do the things that other kids could. He was weak and helpless, which is why he had to have special lunches. Shimada realizes as soon as he saw the score sheets for Nikaidou’s matches that he was more than just some rich kid.
Shimada also recalls a time where brought books from their master and he decided to play Nikaidou in Shogi. He learned after one match that Nikaidou did not like it when he was let win. This came as a surprise to Shimada, but Nikaidou explained that if people could not take him seriously in Shogi, then there he was nothing but a weakling.
It was quite a surprise seeing this stark contrast between the Nikaidou we know as the big round goofball and the one who has had his whole life dominated by illness. It does not seem like they are even the same person.
The episode ends with Kiriyama wiping away his tears, and defiantly vowing to win the Newcomer’s tournament, presumably for Nikaidou.
This episode was indeed a powerful one, and also rather unexpected coming from someone who has not read the Manga. What do you guys think? Did you like the episode? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!