May 6, 2012

Finally! This is the long awaited female version to the male dominated Slam Dunk! That’s right, now we have girls doing the dribbling, jumping and shooting. But if you are thinking you’re going to see some bouncing boobs, you’ll be sorely disappointed to know that almost every girl here is as flat as the washboard because you’re talking about lolis playing basketball. Oops, sorry for the insult. After what happened with the sports themed Softenni, I was also expecting somewhat the same with Ro-Kyu-Bu but if you want to compare both series in terms of fanservice, this one isn’t as bad and mindless as the former.

Oh wait. Did I mention lolis playing basketball? And I really mean little girls from elementary school playing basketball. What’s wrong with that? Well, if you’re trying to look for grammatical errors in the sentence then you won’t find any. You know basketballs are usually played by tall people, right? So see my point now? How the heck are they going to pull off any cool slam dunking moves when they can’t even reach the hoop?! But that is not going to be the issue though it is a point it kept bugging me throughout the series. Unless they readjust the height of the hoop, that is. I mean, there’s a reason why they call it mini basketball in this series. They can’t be referring to the players only, right?

Like in many sports themed animes, it is tempting to give the main characters a special skill or two. Be glad to know that the exaggeration factor is almost non-existent here and the moves are more down-to-earth. So don’t expect to see jaw dropping moves of someone who can jump higher than the building or throw the ball so fast that it is on flames so much so the opponents can’t touch it. Really. That is what I thought if you’re going to put mind blowing moves in this anime. Though we have a fair share of screen time of the girls in action on court, what drives this anime most is the interaction between the girls in the team and their coach, who happens to be the only guy in the team. Harem? Love triangle? Fanservice hijinks? Heck, maybe better than those exaggerative moves I mentioned.

Episode 1
High school student Subaru Hasegawa reluctantly drags himself to Keishin Academy to be the coach of the elementary division girls’ basketball team. The girls comprising of Tomoka Minato, Maho Misawa, Saki Nagatsuka, Airi Kashii and Hinata Hakamada greet him dressed in maid outfit! Are they trying to land a good impression on him? As the girls go change to their proper attire, Subaru remembers how his aunt Mihoshi Takamura (f*ck! I thought it was his sister!) wanted him (blackmail is a more appropriate word) to coach them for 3 days. Why? Because she was appointed as the basketball club’s advisor but know nuts about the game. And since Subaru has experience in the game since middle school, why not? Only thing is, Subaru thought he had disassociated himself from the game since his basketball club was suspended for a year when his team captain was caught in a scandal having an affair with the coach’s daughter. So the only way to get Subaru to say yes to her wish is to threaten to tell everyone his embarrassing ambition essay about how he loves mommy dearest so much. Subaru starts off with coordination exercises on offence and defence. He thinks Airi should play the defence since she is tall but she starts crying! Airi has height complex and she is one of those girls who think big is weird. The girls have a hard time consoling her out of this one. Later Subaru sees Tomoka nailing a successful free throw and wants her to show it to him again. The girls take a shower as Airi apologizes for wasting precious time during their practice. But they are okay with it and think her size is proof that her body is growing at the right pace. I guess it’s a cue for them to grope her boobs. What the hell is this groping combo?! Back home, the girls must really love the game because they are seen doing basketball related stuff like playing a video game, reading manga and drawing. Next day, Airi gives her friends each a charm (as read from the horoscope) and hopes Subaru’s opinion on them will improve. The second day continues with Subaru giving more basic coaching as he observes their movements. For instance he can tell Tomoka has experience in playing the game judging from her shooting and passing while Maho can jump high and is fast. Subaru notices Tomoka practising using her own training menu when excited Maho thinks they can level up several times a day to reach the prefectural games in no time. However Subaru has to bring her down the ground because levelling up will take a month the fastest. Maho becomes upset because they can’t wait that long and runs off home. Subaru finds a note in his locking instructing for his resignation. The final day comes as Subaru’s mom, Nayu talks about the team he is in charge and how worried Mihoshi wanted to keep him in contact with basketball in any way she could. Subaru didn’t like what he heard and excuses himself. In school, his childhood friend and former basketball club member, Aoi Ogiyama invites him to go watch street basketball later but he turns her down since he has coaching to do. As Subaru makes his way, he runs into a group of boys led by Natsuhi Takenaka, who has business with him. The girls do some stretching while noting Subaru’s tardiness. Is he still mad over yesterday?

Episode 2
It seems the boys are the ones who sent the letter. But upon finding out he’s only coaching for 3 days, they felt relieved (they thought Maho’s bragging about finding a real amazing coach was a threat). Because Subaru is in the dark, Natsuhi lets him on some information. Seems the boys and girls basketball team are going to have a match next Sunday over the gym hall time usage. The boys are ambitious and want to seriously practice to go further than last year. However Natsuhi thinks the girls can’t improve and are just fooling around. Sharing the hall is no go since practising with those losers will be a waste of time. So when both teams take it to their advisors, the argument (praying mantis vs tiger aura?!) ended up in a match showdown. If the girls win, they get to practice the usual 3 days a week. But if the victory goes to the boys, they will have 6 days a week and the girls must disband. Subaru maintains he is on nobody’s side seeing that it is impossible to turn the girls into pros within 3 days, much to the boys’ relief. Subaru returns to the gym and as the girls are about to apologize, he lets them know what he has learnt. He apologizes he can’t make them win and there is no other way. Just when you thought Maho was over that incident, here she goes again throwing another tantrum before running away. This time Saki chases after her. Later Subaru and Mihoshi discuss about things. She thinks he is running away and the fact that he didn’t agree to coach because of her (I think she’s still partly responsible). Even if he’s still not interested, is he going to just abandon the girl (Tomoka) whom he thinks has great potential?

Next day, Subaru meets up with Aoi and Kazunari Uehara. Kazunari teases him for losing his touch since he quit basketball and challenges him to do 10 free throws. Subaru takes up the challenge and amazes the crowd with each amazing clean shot. However with each perfect shot, he feels unsatisfied that he can be better. By the time he realizes it, he has finished and scored them all, winning the bet. Then he leaves and meets Tomoka on his way home. Seems she wanted to practice basketball at school but the gym is being used by the volleyball club. He invites her to play at his home. After preparing the necessary equipment, Tomoka doesn’t want to just practice herself but play a 1-on-1 game in which if she wins, he must continue to coach them. Subaru agrees and sets several handicaps for himself which may seem unfair but he thinks otherwise. He won’t jump and Tomoka wins if she can score a point. Tomoka surprises him with several fast reflexes and moves but at the end, she is still no match for experienced Subaru. As they take a break, Tomoka explains that she would not play basketball other than the team she has now. It’s because of them she gets to play the game. Before she transferred to Keishin, she was in a basketball club and was so passionate and practiced hard every day that she snubbed her teammates’ feelings and began isolating herself. After her transfer, she was a loner and one day Maho and Natsuhi were in an argument so Mihoshi let them settle it out via basketball match and picked Tomoka as part of the team. The girls won though Tomoka singlehandedly did everything herself. She thought she might be hated again but Maho was so impressed and decided to form a basketball club together. The rest is history. That’s why she feels they are important to her and have taught her a valuable lesson. So if the girls lose next Sunday’s match, she’ll never play basketball again. Not because she hates the game but she would rather stay with her friends. After she leaves, Subaru suddenly has a change of heart and wants her to continue playing. He feels she just can’t quit basketball like that. Not after the amazing talent he saw. He vows to do everything he can to protect both her place and passion. Oh Subaru, you made a loli cry… Subaru sees Mihoshi to get any information on the boys’ team. Yeah, she already knew this was coming and handed him a box of info! I guess this means he’s back as their coach. Hooray! Though their winning chance may seem slim, the fun part is turning that around. Being the underdog is always fun. If you’re a favourite, you get lots of pressure. Next day as Subaru returns to the gym thinking of apologizing to everyone, the girls greet him in their maid uniform once more. Deja vu?

Episode 3
The girls apologize for not taking things seriously and vow to train harder. After Subaru coaches Saki and Maho on shooting practices, he sees Hinata collapsed outside for pushing too hard. I guess he got motivated being called “onii-chan” so he rushes her to the infirmary on his back. Hinata likes his back so much that she is literally ‘healed’. Really. Plus, she won’t let him put her down when he’s supposed to take off his shoes. Then they come across Natsuhi who isn’t happy he is still coaching the girls. He panics thinking Hinata is hurt but is relieved when it’s nothing serious. Hmm… He may have a thing for her. Still, coach or no coach, he is confident the boys will win. At the infirmary, they meet Touko Hatana who has a penchant of giving students nicknames. All except for Tomoko whom she hasn’t come up with one yet. As Subaru puts Hinata on the bed, Hinata mentions she loves basketball very much and will do her best. Even if this means practice will be tougher from now on. Bring it on! Late that night as Subaru studies the videos of the boys in action, he gets a call from Tomoka. She is concern about Airi. She seems troubled. Subaru thought if Airi was the centre due to her height, they could cover more area but it’s going to be tough with her complex. So conscious that words like small or big can mean life or death. Getting superstitious, eh? However Subaru has an idea. Next day during practice, Subaru tells Airi that she has gotten shorter! Actually she didn’t notice him standing on his hind legs. Airi thinks sleeping in the closet made her growth stop! WTF?! Isn’t like sleeping in a coffin?! Later as Subaru goes over the game plan with Tomoka, he needs her help into tricking Airi and keep this from everyone else. For the next few days, everyone practises and trains hard. They get enough motivation to do their best. Match day arrives and as soon as the game starts, the girls quickly take the lead and surprise the boys with their fast pace and steals. Mihoshi is impressed especially Airi’s improvement. Subaru reveals when he was going over the player positions, he made Airi a small forward. He wanted Tomoka to have this position but he has Airi take up the challenge failing which he will have to change her position with Tomoka, which is the centre. And they call that Big Man. Scared enough? Better do a good job. So practically Airi is actually doing the role of the centre in the game but thinks she’s the small forward since she’s not the main attacker but Tomoka. Plus, with Airi close to the basket, her shots will be easier. During time out, the girls take a healthy lead as Subaru predicts the boys’ team will realize a man isn’t enough to cover Airi and will use two-man defence instead. In view of this, they will exploit this one-man opening. The trick is working because the ball is passed to the girl who is not guarded, confusing their opponents. However as time passes, the girls start to tire and make blunders. This allows the boys to catch up as the score is levelled.

Episode 4
During time out, Subaru changes his strategy for the girls to pass around to stall for time and for Airi to receive any rebounds. However it’s not working as the boys manage to steal and take the lead for the first time, stretching it by 6 points. But the girls didn’t give up and fight and claw their way back. When Natsuhi has the ball, Subaru gives the cue to Hinata to block him. Taking advantage of his love for her, he is in a dilemma. Hinata feigns a collision offence when Natsuhi passes close to her (as previously instructed by Subaru). In the dying seconds, the boys lead by a point as they try to stall for time. Three of them are trying to guard against Tomoka. Then she shoots. But it’s a fake shot. She actually passed it to Maho who successfully nails the ball in before the buzzer reaches zero! The girls won by a point! What a dramatic comeback! Time for a big emotional group hug! They celebrate at Subaru’s home as Airi thanks Subaru for her small forward position. But Subaru starts apologizing for deceiving her. To calm her down, Subaru mentions of her courage and beauty so Maho thinks he is proposing to her! Tomoka starting to feel irritated… As Subaru setups the fireworks, Tomoka wishes Subaru to reconsider coaching for them because without him, they wouldn’t be where they are now. She wants to continue receiving his lessons. He still thinks they need a proper coach other than an amateur like him. Mihoshi suggests that if Tomoka manages to do 50 consecutive free throws, he must continue coaching. But he thinks it’s simply unthinkable. Next morning, he receives a surprise visit by Tomoka who wishes to practice her free throws. Since they didn’t set any deadline, looks like she’ll be coming here till she gets 50 in a row. At school, Aoi and Kazunari tell Subaru that they are assembling people who want to play basketball after school twice a week. They decided this after seeing him bat and should do so to prevent getting out of shape. Subaru attends the meet and even coaches several girls nearby, something that Aoi mentions he would never have done and only to guys. Tomoka continues to practice her free throws but doesn’t reach her desired target. As change of pace, he shows her videos of Japan’s basketball team in last year’s FIBA World Championship. Subaru is confident she can do it and it’ll be hard not to see her throw those shots. On another practice day, the sky suddenly started raining but Tomoka continues to throw. Finally she successfully lands the 50th shot and Subaru saw how beautiful she is and calls her Shiny Gift. Something about a flower blooming after the rain. I don’t know if the rain affected her throws… So with Subaru back as the girls’ coach again, it’s that déjà vu scene again. But this time, the girls greet him in a swimsuit apron outfit. Yeah, I guess a change is sometimes good.

Episode 5
Seems Mihoshi has set up Subaru to take the girls go on a training camp since he’s free. Yeah, very free alright. The girls make him onigiris (coming in all shapes and sizes!) and also miso soup. He praises Saki that she can be a good wife so the other girls also want to hear that comment from him. He just didn’t say who would be their husband, eh? Since their next opponent is Class 6D, it will be another match against the boys. Subaru thinks of roping in Natsuhi since he is in Maho’s class but was told he moved on to football. Something about wanting to avoid playing basketball with Maho. As the girls go practice, they are surprised to see Natsuhi practising basketball. Subaru is called in to break up Maho and Natsuhi before the fight gets worse. As mentioned, he did want to play football but his teacher messed up and put him into basketball. So no choice he is here to practice. Subaru confirms this with Mihoshi who says that Natsuhi didn’t refuse the offer when asked if he was fine competing in basketball even though he wasn’t supposed to. But as for mediating the argument part, Subaru will have to figure it out. I guess being a basketball coach isn’t enough. Subaru tries to ask Natsuhi himself and to practice together but was being mocked that he’s a lolicon, since the girls’ basketball team still exists. Maho wants to settle with Natsuhi through basketball to see who will make the regular team but he refuses because it’s not worth seeing her play. Maho’s blood is boiling and if her pals didn’t hold her back, she could’ve exploded. Subaru asks Tomoka for help seeing he can talk openly to her than the rest. Though she feels she isn’t good, till she learns he was going to ask somebody else did she change her mind to try her best. They start off with video games. Team Maho-Natsuhi is doing well. When Saki switches with Tomoka, the former team lost badly and they start blaming each other how they suck! Yeah, another fight! Tomoka still playing the game by herself… Next is a card game but the rivals start arguing when they think each other is holding the game up. I don’t know about the next plan to cut onions together. It’s odd to see them pick up a vegetable weapon and fight while crying! Radish against cucumber? Subaru sees Tomoka to redo their plan. Tomoka thinks it’s her fault but he doesn’t think so. Because it was dark, Saki saw them and misinterprets they were having that kind of relationship. She even assured them she didn’t take pictures with her handphone? You mean, she planned to do that? Anyway Subaru dismisses that thought. Late that night, Subaru has Natsuhi accompany him to buy some stuff. He asks her about his strained friendship with Maho. He reveals Maho will quit basketball. Since young, she has this skill to learn things very fast. As not to lose out, Natsuhi practiced like hell and once he is able to master it, Maho lost interest and moved on to other things. In short, once she gets good on something, she’ll quit. He couldn’t stand it if she does it for basketball and to prevent that from happening, he severed their friendship. So the only thing left for her to master is free throws. When they return, they see Maho practising free throws alone. Subaru says that even if there’s no club meeting, she’ll still practice every day. Not for herself but for the girls of her basketball team. That’s why he thinks she’ll not quit. He also thinks Natsuhi has reached his target to not play around but make her dedicate herself to something. The team didn’t exist for a while, so it took more time to realize it.

Episode 6
A short flashback sees young Natsuhi and Maho arguing. Saki threatens she’ll leave if they don’t stop fighting. In an instant, they did. Saki notices Natsuhi practising together and could guess Subaru worked his magic last night. He also tells them what happened so Saki mentions Maho’s pride began when she entered the basketball team by giving her a pair of eye guard glasses even though Saki couldn’t play the game. And since she can’t turn her down, she started playing basketball. Later Saki, Maho and Natsuhi are cleaning the gym together. Saki hints what she knew from Subaru and tells him that this is his chance since nobody else is around. Natsuhi goes up to Maho and apologizes for avoiding her. Maho is so surprised (she really didn’t expect this) that she is starting to feel weird inside. When everyone else returns, they are glad to see the duo back on good terms practising together. Though, the ‘friendly’ argument and teasing are still there. Subaru announces tonight’s dinner will be okonomiyaki. The rest seem alert. It’s not that they hate that food, it’s rather Saki suddenly turns into a strict slave driver in making okonomiyaki! It’s understandable since her family runs that kind of shop so she wants the dish to be perfect. In the ends, I guess she does everything herself. After dinner, they realize Hinata and Natsuhi missing. No Maho, he didn’t kidnap her. Saki thinks he may have taken her to the shrine seeing Natsuhi once created a basketball hoop there. Because Maho is afraid of the dark, she glued 3 torchlights to her forehead!!! Along the way, they see something strange on the ground. Subaru goes to investigate and is surprised to see Hinata’s panties! He has no choice but to keep it and give an excuse as some cloth scrap. The gang see Natsuhi coaching Hinata in throwing shots. Subaru realizes Hinata mistook her handkerchief and brought her panties along instead. They leave them practice for a while more after hearing Hinata’s determination to play well so that everyone can be happy. Back at the shower, Natsuhi must be one happy guy because Hinata gave him a high-five after landing a successful throw. He is surprised to pick up Hinata’s panties in the basket. When Subaru is about to come out of the shower, he has no choice but to hide it and make a run.

That night, Subaru wakes Natsuhi up on a stealth mission to return the panties. Yeah, he left it there in hopes one of the girls would picked it up. So both guys equally at fault? They manage to sneak in and as Subaru is about to put it into Hinata’s back, Maho’s sleep talking startles him and causes the futons in the closet to drop over him. The girls wake up (except Hinata who sleeps through everything) while Natsuhi abandons Subaru and dashes out. Subaru needs to hide somewhere quick before he is busted. The girls roll and put up the futon back. It seems Subaru is hiding under Tomoka’s futon (she allowed him). Later he goes out when all is clear. Tomoka wonders what happened so he gives an excuse he left some basketball material and came to get it though it’s not important. When he goes back to his room, Natsuhi is still awake (apparently who can sleep after that close call). Natsuhi reminds Subaru about the game rules that unless a player is injured, he cannot substitute them. This means he has to choice which of the 6 will play in the game. Natsuhi wants Subaru not to bench Hinata because she is working hard. But Subaru has no intention of benching anyone. Well, you can’t let all 6 play, right? So how? Next morning, Natsuhi leaves the girls so they can participate by themselves. They aren’t happy he’s leaving so Subaru says he is leaving because he thinks they can win without him. Natsuhi adds that he may reconsider rejoining if they can’t win without him. I guess with him saying that, they can’t back down and take up the challenge. However Subaru makes Natsuhi the coach from now on and he’ll be just an outsider. On match day, Subaru is watching in a vaulting horse box. Well, he really did want to watch so Mihoshi had made arrangements for him. Haha. Just don’t get caught. The game ends with the girls winning the match with Hinata using all she learnt from Natsuhi to throw the final shot in. A teacher notices the box and carries it back to the storeroom. Then the girls come in and Subaru thought it’s his chance to ask them for help to get him out. However, they start changing their clothes. Yeah, best view of the game alright. Hinata bought a new pair of panties since she lost hers during the training camp but the girls feel Subaru and Natsuhi couldn’t be the culprit. How confident are they? Oh, somebody is going to get the towel on the box… Oh Subaru! Is this Doomsday?! Is he going to be busted for good?! Is his status as basketball coach going to turn into lolicon voyeur?!

Episode 7
Subaru brings Tomoka to the sports store to get a new pair of shoes since hers is worn out. He panics upon seeing Aoi and her friends coming in but manages to get out without them spotting. Tomoka thinks back that her pals teased and supported her over her ‘date’ with Subaru. He gives her a packet of towel as thanks for always practising with him in the morning. She is happy and will treasure it. Meanwhile Aoi’s friends talk about her and Subaru. Aoi mentions they don’t hang out as often as before so they get an idea in tomorrow’s group meeting. They suggest Aoi to coach Subaru for his exams next Sunday giving an excuse they won’t reinstate him in the basketball team next year if he doesn’t do well. Obviously it’s a plan to get him and Subaru together but Kazunari couldn’t read the atmosphere and offers to coach Subaru himself. And got punched in the gut. During basketball practice, Subaru notices something bothering Airi as she’s not concentrating. Since she won’t say, Subaru has to mention ambiguous stuff like how irreplaceable she is to him, causing the other girls to misconstrue his words. They thought it was a second confession. He learns they will have swimming lessons next week but Airi can’t swim. Subaru offers to teach them next Sunday. Erm, isn’t that his ‘date’ with Aoi? Apparently he went to beg to Aoi to give the next group meeting a miss but will make it up to her next week. Realizing his folly, Aoi isn’t ready to forgive him and lands him a straight kick. Later, Maho and Hinata ‘ambush’ Subaru to ask his opinion on their swimsuits. They were caught and reprimanded by Saki. Subaru and Tomoka arrive outside Maho’s house for the swimming practice. Make that mansion. Very HUUUUUUGE mansion. They are greeted by the household maid, Hijiri Kuina. The girls get into proper attire and it seems Airi is very ashamed of showing herself. When Maho unwraps her, she panics and accidentally heads straight into the pool. Subaru dives into save her from drowning but she’s clinging like a leech. More like a certain body part of hers is suffocating him. Subaru promises to hold Airi’s hand when they enter the water. Due to his restricted movements, he got into an ambiguous position with Tomoka so the other girls also hop into the fray. This is called teamwork? So Subaru is out for the second time as the girls argue about their flat washboards. Hinata unhooks Airi’s top but Tomoka snatches it back to restore order before Subaru ‘revives’. During the break, Airi reveals her fear of water because she fell off a boat into a river alone when she’s young. Airi breaks down as she berates herself as a useless coward slowing everyone down. However Subaru is confident even if she’s slow, she’s making progress and that everyone is with her. She should do things at her own pace. This motivates Airi to do her best and back to the pool practice, she manages to submerge her head to the count of ten with everyone’s help and support. One day when Aoi goes looking for Subaru to give him notes for the exams, she couldn’t find him in his classroom. Then coincidentally she spots him riding a bus and tails him to Keishin’s gym. She is horrified to see him playing with a bunch of lolis. I’m sure any girl would if the guy they like looks the part of a lolicon.

Episode 8
Luckily Mihoshi was there to explain he’s been coaching this team of girls that he has become proud of. As they’re about to leave, Airi comes up to them and ekes out her thanks. If Subaru hadn’t forcefully shut Aoi up, she would’ve mentioned about her height and its advantage on the court. As for Subaru’s exams, Mihoshi has arranged for him to study at a hotel and she can arrange for Aoi to study in the same room if she wants. I think she’ll pass that. Aoi learns about Airi’s height complex when she gets home. Next morning, Tomoka’s concentration is a little off during her practice. She thinks it’s not good to continue coming here to practice as it will bother Subaru and his girlfriend. But to her relief, she was told Aoi is just his childhood friend and from the same basketball club in middle school. What is more important is Tomoka’s practice. Tomoka relays the good news to her pals. Are they glad they can monopolize him again? Aoi sees her friends and they learn about the failed study lesson. Flashback reveals Aoi and Subaru were captains of their respective basketball team so much so they’re like husband and wife. Aoi decides to go hand the notes again but finds him not at home. She manages to find him at Airi’s residence and instantly becomes upset upon seeing him frolicking with lolis in bikinis. Now she’s on fire! Aoi forces Subaru to return because she is worried he may flunk his exams but Subaru is adamant to stay and coach the girls. The argument escalates with Aoi noting he’s too nice for his own good and when it comes to basketball, he picks up responsibilities left and right. Tomoka and co go into Subaru’s defence and don’t want Aoi to take him away. Subaru adds everyone here re-lit his basketball passion and will definitely affect him when the basketball team is revived next year. The other girls also say without Subaru, they wouldn’t be here together and they need him. Aoi challenges them to a basketball match with Subaru at stake. If Tomoka and co win, Subaru can continue coaching. Otherwise, you know what’s going to happen already.

Aoi ropes in her pals for the game. Why are they in swimsuits? So they can dip in the pool after the game? The first side to score 10 points wins and to make it fair due to the age gap Tomoka’s team outnumbers Aoi’s team 5-3. Tomoka’s team makes a good start as Aoi praises Tomoka and also observes the other members. She can tell from her role that Tomoka is the centre instead of Airi. Soon Aoi’s team make a comeback because they can read their younger opponents like a book. They are just 2 points short of winning the game. During time out, Aoi eavesdrop into Subaru’s tactics. She praises Tomoka’s speed and form and not to lose confidence. However it won’t work against her anymore because of her height and you need someone equivalent or taller to stop her (hinting Airi). She wants them to think over what basketball means to them. Subaru thinks they may lose but Airi stands up and will do her best. When the game resumes, Aoi continues to pinpoints the girls’ movements and how they should improve on them. Then facing Airi who is blocking her shot as the defence, she can tell she is afraid of approaching her. She wants her to show her feelings for basketball are real or else she will snatch Subaru away. Not wanting that, Airi panics and manages to successfully block Aoi’s shot. Though she landed on her. Aoi mentions their team’s great teamwork and withdraws seeing they can’t beat them (even though they’re in the lead). She is also confident Airi can keep supporting them team like this. So Subaru gets to continue coaching the girls provided he does well in his exams and properly revives the basketball team next year. Aoi also coaches Airi how to swim since there is a limit to how much a male coach can teach a female student. The girls now have a favourable view on Aoi as Airi makes gradual improvements in her swimming. She no longer fears water. After the test, Subaru watches videos of Airi’s swimming progress but got kicked by Aoi thinking he’s ogling at lolis in swimsuits. The footage was taken by Kuina for them to watch. Subaru gives back the notes and thanks Aoi for being a great help but the tsundere denies it.

Episode 9
This time the gang will be heading to Maho’s beach villa for the summer. Why the need to buy swimsuits again when they had fine ones the last time? To attract Subaru? Or is it a certain part has grown? At least that’s what Tomoka feels. Aoi could’ve tagged along but she caught a cold. Yeah, a cold on summer. How ironic. Meanwhile Hinata’s sister, Kagetsu doesn’t want her to go for the trip but Hinata is adamant seeing Kagetsu always wants to tie her down. So at the beach, the usual show-your-swimsuit-to-the-guy, Airi’s swimming takes a drastic improvement (she can even swim in the sea without fear), playing tag with the girls becoming ‘it’ so that they can do anything to Subaru if they win but he’s so fast and agile they can’t even catch him and finally does when Mihoshi hints he is good at basketball and mediocre at everything else. So to stop him from running, they corner him in the ocean. Just as Tomoka is about to grab him, she got too close to him that their bodies contact and her top came off. Mihoshi was somehow there to give the lolicon a super kick. Either way, Subaru pays the penalty as the girls build a sand castle over him and tickle his feet. During lunch break, the octopus that took off Airi’s top became their meal. To their surprise, they see Kagetsu and she came here courtesy of Touko. She wants Hinata to go back with her this instant but she’s not budging. Subaru thinks Kagetsu should stay but she points him as a suspicious person. Someone who pretends to be a coach to touch her sister! It doesn’t help when the teachers somewhat agree. Hinata warns not to badmouth Subaru who is important to her so Kagetsu apologizes.

As she joins them for lunch, Touko explains to Subaru and Mihoshi an incident that happened 3 years ago that made Kagetsu always worrying about Hinata. It was a cold winter when their parents were out. Kagetsu was waiting for Hinata to return home from school but fell asleep. When Hinata returned and rang the bell, naturally sleeping Kagetsu didn’t answer. She was left waiting outside till Kagetsu found her collapsed outside. Though she was rushed to the hospital, she only ended up with nothing more serious than a fever. Hinata may be okay with that incident but Kagetsu continues to worry about her seeing Hinata was born with a weak body and was also the reason she was against her playing basketball. She is afraid she might collapse again. Although it might seem alright now for Hinata and her passion for the game is still there, the rate at it’s going, it’s not going to end well for either side. To rid of Kagetsu’s sinful consciousness, Subaru suggests Kagetsu do club activities with them. Kagetsu goes up against Hinata doing several special training activities. She is still worried and thinks Hinata is hiding her tiredness. Hinata suggests running a marathon together and her cute charming face convinced Kagetsu to agree. Yeah, that face. Putting aside Hinata’s endurance, but can Hinata win seeing Kagetsu was last year’s marathon competition winner. Subaru will run behind them for safety. As they start off, Kagetsu doesn’t push but Hinata wants to see her go all out. As she runs, Kagetsu remembers the times spent with Hinata. She looks back and is surprised to see Hinata still following close behind. As they reach the finish line, Hinata does a final spurt and I think they end up crossing the line together. Both sisters make up and Hinata apologizes for making her sister feeling playing with her wouldn’t be fun. In fact Hinata was able to be happy with everyone and run a lot today. Kagetsu goes up to Subaru to apologize and wishes for him to look after her sister. She is confident she can cheer for Hinata from now on. As the girls soak in the hotspring, Hinata mentions how Kagetsu will help with her basketball practice tomorrow. They talk about the fun they had today (including swimsuits slipping and octopus grabbing – something Tomoka and Airi don’t really want to remember). Hinata spots a gecko and follows it to the other side of the bath. The men’s side. Subaru is super shock in seeing her and for Mihoshi, it’s like she has this radar that detects any shameless situation that Subaru gets into and instantly pops up to give him another kick.

Episode 10
The girls continue to practice hard and Maho can’t wait to level up so much so she can play an official match. They have another chance to play an away friendly match when a relative of one of Aoi’s friend is a teacher at Suzuridani, a school at the outskirts and she is also the mini basketball advisor. Of course Aoi is also coming along as part of her friends plan to bridge the gap between her and Subaru and to see if that guy is indeed a lolicon. Because at this rate, the lolis are going to steal him away from her. Don’t want that to happen, eh? Halfway driving to Suzuridani, suddenly the MPV comes to a crashing halt. It’s not like Mihoshi wanted to see some ambiguous position between Subaru and Tomoka, her tummy pain is for real. So much so an ambulance is called in. However she wants the rest to continue with the game so they hike all the way to Suzuridani and meet Hatsue Nobidome, Suzuridani’s mini basketball advisor. Hatsue seems very strict and doesn’t take lightly Mihoshi let her team come all the way here alone. Then she brings them to their camp and won’t introduce her team because it would ruin their schedule (b*tch!). Oh, did she mention camp? Yup, they’ll be camping outside and making their own tent with the materials provided. I don’t know what’s the problem of letting them stay in the gym or dorm because Hatsue needs to check things out first. Aoi is concerned that there is a guy among them. Not to say that he’s a ‘wolf’ but you can never be too sure. In view that they have not come prepared for camping, Hatsue suggests cancelling the friendly match. Subaru is okay with everything and will put up with anything so long the match isn’t cancelled. As the girls set up their tent (fooling around included), Manaka Nobidome comes by to greet them (she isn’t sure why the message of accommodation arrangements didn’t reach them). She is Hatsue’s sister and a second year in Suzuridani’s high school division and also the basketball team’s coach. Subaru and Aoi remember seeing her team play in the finals before because of her habit of scoring shots from the perimeter. However she will be out of action for the time being and is on crutches.

Manaka takes them to a great clear spring water and on the way, Maho tries to snap a picture of a stag beetle and Aoi is pretty concerned that Subaru is interacting way too close with his girls. Subaru gets a call from his mom who is by Mihoshi’s side at the hospital. She is expected to undergo appendicitis surgery but nothing to worry about. Subaru informs the updated developments to Hatsue (meaning, Mihoshi won’t be able to attend the practice match) and thanks to Manaka’s ‘negotiation’ (she called her a bully), the match is still on and they get to stay. Since this is an all-girls’ school, looks like Subaru have to bath outside (if there is a proper one) while the girls head in for a hot bath. The usual antics as the girls wonder the connection between Airi and Aoi’s big boobs. They even think it’s because their names start with the letter ‘A’. Saki suggests Maho to call herself ‘Aho’ (Idiot). Manaka can tell by Aoi’s body reaction that she likes Subaru and will gladly help support her. Yeah, she has plenty of chances during this training camp. Meanwhile Subaru is doing push-ups with 1 hand (?!) semi-naked when a girl (Maho clone?) caught glimpse of him and runs away in fear, thinking she saw a giant salamander! After the bath, Tomoka brings Subaru to view the beautiful and starry sky. Returning to the camp, now the problem is where he should sleep. Subaru is okay to sleep by the entrance so Aoi thinks she should sleep next to him so that he won’t do anything funny to the lolis. However she got too conscious about it (because their sleeping faces were so close) that she couldn’t sleep well and was wide awake. Next morning as they meet in the gym, the girl who thought Subaru as a salamander, Miyu Aida is also part of the basketball team and is shocked to see a guy as a basketball coach (is she from some backwater town? I know the school is only all-girls and far out in the woods, but this…). She couldn’t expect a group of amateurs to practice with them so Hatsue thinks of letting them practice with the bench players. Maho stands up and insists they are a strong team and is confident of taking them down. But Miyu laughs them off to even note that they can’t even compete in the official mini basketball match because they need at least 10 people to make the cut (furthermore, they don’t even have their own uniform). Only Tomoka and Subaru knew this fact so the latter apologizes for not telling. Maho didn’t take this too well and runs away.

Episode 11
Hinata is unfazed and wants to practice and since they’ve come all the way, it would be a waste not to. Suzuridani sees Keishin in practice and thinks their moves aren’t bad but Miyu still thinks they’re novices. Soon Saki goes off to look for Maho. She finds her alone at the stream and talks some sense into her and bring her back to the ground. She shouldn’t be getting worked up and ditching practice because the 5 of them playing basketball should be fun. Manaka also talks to Subaru about things. Though she has a torn ligament grounding her, she still loves basketball and coaching is her way of doing basketball. Maho and Saki return as they seek to challenge each other one on one. Subaru becomes the referee to a game whereby one gets a point whenever she steals or defends the ball for 20 seconds. The one who scores 3 points wins. Soon the other girls come by to see them in action and join in. Subaru notices how much fun they’re having. In the end, Maho apologizes for being selfish and Subaru did the same about keeping quiet (Tomoka also wanting to share the blame). Saki knows he did so for their sake as they get pumped up to not only do their best but enjoy the game from the bottom of their heart. Subaru goes see Hatsue to request a match with the regulars but was turned down seeing she can’t waste any precious second of their practice as they need to stay focus to win their upcoming game since their reputation is at stake. Subaru wonders if that makes it fun and reminds her about their duty as coach to teach them how much fun basketball is. Hatsue agrees upon reasoning that it would be bad for their reputation if they decline out of fear of losing. With Subaru promising to do everything he can as Keishin’s coach, the girls are more motivated that ever. Manaka could tell Aoi is in a dilemma over her feelings for Subaru. As their coach, she wants the best for them but can’t help feel jealous at the same time. She reminds her of her promise to help her out.

That night when Subaru is making strategies, Manaka has booked some time for him to take a bath in the mist sauna. Suddenly Aoi comes in with just a towel, thinking it was Manaka who invited her. Before long, they knew it’s a setup. First thing Aoi did was to punch him (I wonder how many times he has got beaten up over situations like this). Then she tries to run out but the door is locked. This followed by her tripping and falling down on him, knocking him out. Manaka unlocks the door realizing her Operation Sex Appeal didn’t work out. Subaru comes to outside and wishes everything that happened was a dream. Next morning, Subaru and Aoi talk things over and she will let this one slip. In short, Aoi wants to help Subaru in coaching the girls. As the girls practice, Maho is all fired up to beat that ribbon b*tch. Later Subaru sees Saki and wants her to play the important centre role. The girls continue to come up with strategies against their opponents so much so they fell asleep and Subaru puts the blanket on them and comments on each of their abilities and personality. Next day, the match between Keishin and Suzuridani begins. Suzuridani makes a good start seeing Maho is making slip ups due to her hot head. The opponents take a healthy lead at the end of the quarter (Keishin couldn’t score) so Subaru thinks it’s time for Saki to be shifted to point guard. The match resumes and Keishin is able to make steady progress and their movements better due to Saki’s ability to assess a situation coolly and calmly. A tactic that tricks Miyu into guarding Tomoka so that Maho could shoot lands them their first point. Subaru feels that if Saki keeps up with a steady viewpoint and relaying it to everyone, Tomoka can focus on the offense and winning this match won’t be just a dream.

Episode 12
Keishin makes a comeback and draws level with Suzuridani. We see Hinata being the small one slipping pass by the defence and successfully throwing in her reverse shot and Airi unafraid to block shots from opponent. Now it’s Miyu’s turn to feel agitated so much so she can’t keep her focus. Maho’s turn to mock her? It’s like these 2 girls love trading insults when their side is winning. Manaka warns Miyu to buck up and not treating this as a serious game. If she keeps this up, she will replace her. I guess the threat is enough for Miyu to return to her serious and cocky cool self and get Suzuridani back into the pace of the game. In the final quarter, Subaru feels it’s time for his team to unleash their ‘one centre, four shooters’ strategy. With tall Airi at the centre, if she is double guarded, the unguarded member will take a shot and if it’s a one to one defence, a powerful centre and tall shooter will do the trick. It’s not complete yet but still the tactic works on several occasions. As the seconds are ticking away, the Keishin girls are running out of stamina. But they each think back why they continue to love and play the game with everyone thanks to Subaru and each other’s support and encouragement. In the dying seconds, Suzuridani leads by a point and the ball falls into Saki’s hand, she makes a jump shot… Did it go in?

Well in the aftermath, apparently it did not. Otherwise why would Subaru be looking so depressed? Tomoka runs into Natsuhi at the train station and though he heard they lost by a point, he thinks they played well. Saki looks dejected, blaming herself over the team’s lost but Maho snaps her out that it is a team game and it is thanks to her that she was able to control her anger. Mihoshi calls Hatsue to apologize and thank her for letting her team play with her regulars. However Hatsue wishes to thank her instead because they remembered something important that they have forgotten since they were too focused on winning: To have fun. As Subaru returns to Keishin’s gym, he is surprised to only see Tomoka in a maid outfit greeting him. She will do anything to cheer him up and promises to win the next match. Subaru takes her up on her offer and the rest come out of their hiding disappointed because they thought they would see something more interesting and heart throbbing instead of just Tomoka doing a successful jump shot. The girls planned this of leaving them both alone because they saw him depressed this morning and since they thought Tomoka was closest to him and the best way of cheering him up. However Subaru clears the air he wasn’t depressed and was just thinking what to do after the match. He apologizes for making them worry and notes they played a very good game. Just that they ran out of luck and stamina. So what else to do than to practice, practice and more practice, right? As reward, the girls think of giving him a massage as motivation for him to stay longer as coach. Didn’t he already promise to be their coach till graduation? Maybe they think he needs more? Then Mihoshi and Aoi come in with snacks for everyone only to be horrified to see them in an orgy! But would they listen even if it’s not? While the girls get treated to the snacks, guess what Subaru got from Aoi? Don’t they see their coach in pain? I guess the snacks were a better distraction, eh?

Well, what else can there be for the girls and their coach put to persevere and continue practising. After all, practice makes perfect as they say. They may still have a long way to go before becoming a real competitive team or even start thinking about getting into real competitions but they have notched up many levels in terms of their friendship and teamwork. You could say that they have grown closer than before. Not to say that they were not close in the first place but basketball and Subaru ties them up closer than ever before. So all we need is a chance for things to work out or to prove oneself. In Subaru’s case, he was being apathetic to basketball once his team was suspended. He didn’t want anything to do with the game anymore just because of that one bitter episode. After realizing he shouldn’t be imposing his misery onto others and that the girls have a bright future, he now goes all out to make sure their passion for the game is intact and most importantly to have fun. And the reason why they work so well it’s because it’s a two-way relationship between coach and players. Not because Subaru is a lolicon, mind you. Though he loves the girls but as his precious students and not in the otaku sense. It’s sometimes too bad that he gets into ambiguous situations and gets what he doesn’t deserve to. Well, no pain, no gain. Oh wait, that’s not rightly applied.

Initially you thought Tomoka would be the main star of the series seeing she is the one who had prior basketball experience. However it is a good thing that she doesn’t hog all the screen time during matches. In addition, basketball is a team game so it won’t be so good if you’re just focused on a player. Each of the other girls also play their vital part in the victories or the recent close defeat they encounter. Each giving them precious experience and memories. After all, you can’t be dejected after losing 1 game, right? No team is perfect, not even the best team and besides, they’re just a bunch a rookies so dreaming of a perfect undefeated record should be the least of their concerns. But it’s understandable and frustrating to lose so close a margin at such a climaxing do-or-die situation. It’s also good to see some of the girls overcoming their weaknesses for the betterment of their team. Airi puts behind her fear of being big while Hinata doesn’t let her weak body get to her. Maho as the cheeky and ‘noisy’ one of the pack should learn to take a little anger management and cool her head but I guess that is what Saki is there for. She is the most cool-headed among the girls and able to assess the situation and make necessary adjustments if deemed necessary. Even if these girls have lots more to do, you could say that each of their strengths also complement and cover each other. So as not to make this series a Tomoka-centric series, we also have episodes that focus on her friends like Airi’s fear of water and Hinata’s sister and her objection of her joining the basketball club. Hatsue and Miyu might seem like ‘antagonist’ at first but I guess they were just a little lost on their goals. That’s why we need underdogs like Subaru and his girls to make such teams who have lost themselves high up in the sky and bring them down. Once they’ve realized that, they’re not such bad people after all.

For those who are hoping to see any love triangle development, don’t put your hopes too high up. Obviously basketball and coaching the girls is what is all on Subaru’s mind. Too busy to even take a hint that his childhood friend has a crush on him. I guess you can’t blame him because with Aoi being tsundere, it doesn’t help much, eh? It is also obvious that Subaru’s girls also do like him but the more obvious one in terms of romantic relationship would be Tomoka. After all, she is the closest one whom he has spent time with, practising her shooting every day at his place. So it’s no surprise that Tomoka would develop a crush on her coach. Hmm… Maybe it’s best if that romantic relationship do not even blossom a bit for now. Remember what happened to Subaru’s basketball team? Yeah, that. As for the others, they still do love him but not towards anything that would lead to anything as romantic as lovers. For instance Hinata would most likely view Subaru as her onii-chan while Maho may be bold in saying and admitting her love, it feels like she doesn’t know the depths and meaning of it. It’s like she’s just saying for fun. Plus, they don’t really think that all of them could become his bride at once, right? I shiver to think once that happens because it will mean a dip in their friendship and performance. So yeah. Being ignorant in that kind of love for him should be beneficial for all parties for the time being. I’m not sure if Touko is a bi or what. She did hint that she is really prepared for that kind of love with Mihoshi, though the latter would pretty much rather not. Then she too loves seeing Subaru and his girls together, hoping something more would come out of it.

The next episode preview is an amusing section. We see the girls in their chibi avatar form either ranting or panicking away on some unrelated topic so much so they didn’t realize the limited time they have to do the next preview. Speaking of the chibi avatar, it seems the girls have an internet chat group of their own. Each time they log on and chat with each other, you can see them dressed in a particular theme at a particular place, whether it’s an exotic location or an ordinary scene. The mid-intermission is filled with not only bio-data of the girls of Keishin but some of the other minor female characters too. I find some of the information to be odd. I mean, it’s okay to know their height, blood type, specialty and their nickname (as given by Touko) but what the heck do you need to know when or what their first swimsuit was?! Even putting their grades at studying isn’t so bad. I’m sure the chest size information won’t be such a turn on to some, eh?

There is something I want to mention about the drawing and art of this series. I thought it looked very similar to those in Clannad or Air. However it is not Key or Kyoto Animation that this series is from but Project no. 9/Studio Blanc instead. Thus I was wondering what the heck was Air’s Haruko doing as Mihoshi or Negima’s Nodoka in Tomoka. Hey, am I seeing shades of Hayate No Gotoku’s Nagi and Air’s Misuzu in Maho too? I thought there was a live action adaptation of the series. However they only made that music video to promote the 2D anime and the video features the voice actresses of the Keishin girls. Makes you feel that the 2D version looks much cuter, eh? Okay, that may be bias because I still prefer 2D over 3D anytime :). Speaking about the fanservice, there are a handful of scenes such as when the girls bath together and when Aoi gives Subaru her super kick. The former will mostly be conveniently covered with steam so I guess it’s another one of those motivations if you want to see way past the steam. Get what I mean? For the latter, seems like the censors slip past the censorship scissors because you’ll get to see Aoi’s stripped panties each time. And as compared to Softenni, the fanservice here is not as mind numbing and kept to a minimum level. I guess in a way it is a good thing not to put fanservice is one of the main focus of the series. Otherwise, you’d be totally distracted by it than the game and character developments. By the way, the games may not have lots of action to satisfy sports junkie fans and doesn’t really last long (it may seem like it lasted 2 episodes but that’s because it started late in the previous one and brought over to the next so it’s safe to say the most it’ll be just an episode worth of a particular match).

Speaking of voice acting, Kana Hanazawa was definitely identifiable as Tomoka. That kind of voice, you can’t really run if you hear it the umpteenth time. Not as airhead as the titular character in Kobato or mysteriously cheeky as Shiro in Deadman Wonderland, though. I thought I heard that squeaky high pitched voice in Maho before. Then I found out it was Yuka Iguchi. Yes, that annoying sister Index in To Aru Majutsu No Index. I guess this kind of noisy loli role is best suited for her. My favourite Mamiko Noto (Enma Ai in Jigoku Shoujo) also has a role albeit a minor one as Nayu. Ayako Kawasumi (Saber in Fate/Stay Night) as Hatsue was also recognizable. I’m starting to think that Kanae Itou’s voice may be fit to play tsundere roles too. After that obsessed squid wacko Kanae in Shinryaku! Ika Musume and the cheery Saten in To Aru Kagaku No Railgun, I guess as Aoi here wasn’t so bad after all. The only voice which I find rather slightly unsuitable was Yui Ogura’s Hinata (Mint in Yumeiro Patissiere). Hinata sounded like a carefree girl and while it may be part of her character, it sounded like as though she’s somewhat of an airhead (maybe she is too). Each time she talks, it’s like as though she is talking from dream land. Other casts include Yuuki Kaji as Subaru (Akina in Yozakura Quartet), Youko Hikasa as Saki (Mio in K-ON!), Rina Hidaka as Airi (Konayuki in Katanagatari), Shizuka Itou as Mihoshi (Haruka in Amagami SS), Minako Kotobuki as Natsuhi (Tsumugi in K-ON!), Mariya Ise as Miyu (Riko in Hidan No Aria), Satomi Satou as Manaka (Wendy in Fairy Tail) and Rina Satou as Touko (Negi in Mahou Sensei Negima). Oddly, for a show with lots of lolis, I was expecting Rie Kugimya to have a role. But I guess not. You can’t have her voicing tsundere and loli characters in every anime, right? Both the opening themes are sung by the girls of Keishin basketball team, though I don’t find both appealing. The opening theme is the energetic SHOOT! The kind of song that is supposed to energize and get you motivated into the game. The ending theme, Party Love – Ookiku Naritai feels like an anime all-girl idol group. Just put in some basketball terms into the lyrics.

If the producers want to continue this series, I guess there are lots of potential to see this underdog team turn into a formidable one. Yeah, turning out to be a shonen type of story flow, eh? Power up, fight powerful opponents, qualify for the next stage, practice and power up more, battle even more powerful rivals, old ones become friends, repeat cycle. And maybe they can throw in love triangle and complicating romance relationships into the equation while at it as distraction. It’s always a challenge to train and coach amateurs who know nuts about the game into a team of players worthy enough for top teams to take notice of. But like the saying, it is often the journey that is more important than the destination. With Subaru around, the girls will be assured that they will not only have their skills level up in no time but have lots fun together for a long time to come. Sorry Maho. Having said that you still need to take months and years to reach that kind of professional level like you see in America’s NBA. No short cuts, cheat codes or magic spells to hasten the levelling up. Who says you need to be big and tall to play basketball? As long as you have the passion, you can score with the right attitude, teamwork and tactics. I have to admit that I once liked the game when I was young but didn’t really take it up besides watching it on TV. In that case, can someone get me a female instructor because I can’t seem to even do a proper dribble. And I think I did a ‘home run’ with that jump shot… Now where did that ball fly too?

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