I have to give a quick shout out to Rukawa for being the most talked about character in this episode despite having very few lines. Actually, I feel like Ayako did the most explaining in this episode especially when she and Haruko started arguing about the players. Overall, this episode seemed to serve as more exposition than actually letting us see how the Freshman and Upperclassmen fared against each other.
This episode can be broken up into two parts: The introduction of the coach and the start of the match. Right off the bat, they introduce Anzai as a bit of a meek looking character and someone who Hanamichi can’t really comprehend being a legend. He’s quickly pushed away by the girls screaming over Rukawa in both of his attempts to get into the gymnasium and when he’s finally in the room he gets bullied for his size by the one person in the room who doesn’t know who he is. Aside from that, he comes to let the team know that he’s set up a practice match with one of the top 4 schools in their league and wants to see the skills of the team. Otherwise, he just sits pretty quietly in the corner on his folding chair sipping his tea. But Ayako let’s us know that he was actually an All-Star player and was previously known as the White-haired devil. Letting us know that he was probably very strict in his coaching style to get everyone up into shape. Nowadays, he’s known as the White-Haired Buddha and it shows. So with this, we can see that Anzai has an impressive resume. I can’t wait for him to show it off.
When we get to the start of the match with the tip off between Captain Akagi and Rukawa we are able to see that there is a match of strength. It’s captain versus the star newbie, the biggest difference is that one seems a little bit more cocky than the other. To me, I think, Akagi represents more hard work and dedication where he treats every practice, practice match, and match as something he wants to give his all too. There hasn’t been any rumors surrounding the brother as being a prodigy in the sport. So unless they tell me otherwise, I am going to assume he got there with hard work and dedication. Rukawa on the other hand, is really good. Whether that is from dedication or not, he’s coming straight from middle school with the expectation that he’ll likely be in the starting line up. He’s surprised that he’s evenly matched with the captain. Probably showing him that there are people that can play on his level. I’ll give my predictions now: Rukawa is good at playing basketball, but he is not good with teamwork. He gives off the vibe that he’ll take care of everything himself. In this episode he only passed the ball once, and that was likely just to get into a better position to take it back, rather than giving his teammate an opportunity. But! I will have to wait and see if that’s true. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong.
The rest of the episode takes place on the sidelines. First we have Hanamichi doing his mental math about how Akagi beating Rukawa will mean that Haruko will fall in love with him. It’s honestly funny how simple things are for him when it comes to her. And it really highlights that he and Rukawa aren’t necessarily rivals in basketball; rather, Hanamichi just wants Haruko to like him instead. I anticipate they will be true rivals on the court going forward, but for now it seems his only beef is that Haruko does not crush on him like she does on the other. Then, we have our second sideline conversation – Haruko vs. Ayako. It all starts with Haruko trying to decide who she wants to win more, her crush or her brother, but her mind is quickly made up once Ayako straight up says that there is no way that Rukawa can beat Akagi. Things devolve into a fight from there, but more so because Ayako is riling the other up. Each of them have unique perspectives on the two they are talking about. Ayako has actually seen both of them in practice and during games. She went to Middle School with Rukawa and is currently the manager for Shohoku. Haruko on the other hand has a whole lot more experience with Akagi being his little sister and she has a very tailored view of Rukawa as she only sees him on the court. None of the “sleeping through games” nonsense. And honestly, maybe she should see a little more of him than just the perfect version she’s managed to create. But I still think it’s funny that she immediately dropped the idea of her brother winning when someone spoke slightly poorly about him.
My predictions for now are – Upperclassmen are probably going to win, but not without some intensity from the Freshman. More specifically, Hanamichi and Rukawa will get on the court and things are either going to great or super poorly. But at the end of it Anzai will see the potential of the new players on the team. Will I be proved wrong, I guess I will see soon!