April 7, 2012

Finally. This is the girls’ version and answer to the bishonen of Prince of Tennis (POT). So I thought. However Softenni (derived from Soft Tennis) comes nothing close to being an epic anime to match the popular POT. I mean, with only a dozen of episodes as compared to hundreds in POT (excluding its OVAs that lasts for who knows how long – I wasn’t a fan of POT so I didn’t really bother to find out), there isn’t going to be much development for the characters and plot. Heck, will there even be tennis play?

Actually I didn’t even know there was a thing or difference in tennis. So if there is soft tennis, there should be hard tennis, right? I’m not a tennis fan so I didn’t bother to find out ;p. The only thing I know is that Wimbledon is hard tennis (none for soft tennis) and the ball they used in soft tennis is softer. That’s why it’s called soft tennis, right? And even so, I only knew this fact was because I was watching the anime and they mentioned about this. Sheesh.

So why the heck am I watching this series if I have no interest in tennis whatsoever? Besides the attributes of the game, why is this anime called so? I have the same answer for both questions: Fanservice. Having pretty girls in short skirts (so short that if they bend over by 5 degrees, you can see their slip) is somewhat an excuse to insert lots of fanservice into a game to garner interest that hardly receives any worldwide popularity. That’s why for the second question, I always thought that the ‘soft’ in the title meant soft porn. Everyone hail fanservice!

And though we have a group of wacky middle high school students playing soft tennis, however due to the randomness and nonsensical nature of the skits and of course the overwhelming fanservice, it overshadows the sport more than anything else. You might be wondering if this dark horse group of girls will be able to power up and increase their skills in time to even reach the Nationals. No wait, will they even pass the preliminaries? Don’t put your hopes high on it, though. Admit it. You’re just here for the fanservice, not the sport.

Episode 1
Asuna Harukaze isn’t just a farm worker on a ranch with her mom, but she is also a soft tennis club member. Seems normal? Till you find out she is a perverted girl who loves fantasizing perverted things. Very easily. Weirdo number 1. With 2 months to the tournament, she starts running to school as practice but gives in to her temptation to ride the bus. So her fellow club member, the ambitious and headstrong Kotone Sawanatsu (weirdo number 2) reprimands her for taking the easy way out. Shiratama Middle High School is a newly opened school so don’t be surprised to see it like a dead cowboy town. The girls meet up with their club coach, You Mishimagi AKA Misshi for morning practice. Kotone has a crush on him while Asuna loves fantasizing the forbidden love between them. The club captain, the bespectacled Chitose Akiyama is a glutton. Third weirdo. The only thing she is good at is food and eating it. Her tennis skills suck. Big time. As good as she never joined the club. It’s amazing that she is the club’s president. But the club’s prodigy and genius goes to the enigmatic Kurusu Fuyukawa. By enigmatic, I don’t mean in a serious manner. She may look stoic and emotionless but you can’t really see what’s on her mind. She loves wearing very strange full body costumes and can do so in a flash. Despite all these, she is the best bet the club has if they ever want to make it to the next round. Still, that makes her weirdo number 4. So besides the introduction of the main characters, we see the girls doing some practice, some fanservice, more of Asuna’s fantasies, Chitose’s flop (she can’t even hit the ball once) and some soft tennis tips from Misshi (are we really interested in this?). All in the usual comical fashion that you will come to expect for this series. Whether it’s picking up balls (cue for Asuna’s fantasy to run wild), milking cow milk (what the heck has it got to do with tennis?), tennis balls that look like tasty daifukus (at least to Chitose), Kurusu throwing a daifuku to Chitose in which she instantly leap in her quick reflex to accurately grab it with her mouth (but she still misses every other ball shots), Kotone’s super jumping serve ace which ends in a fault and the tennis ball ended up stuck in Asuna’s racquet.

Episode 2
Kotone’s father runs a dojo. And with 20 guys lunging at her, they still can’t beat her. She takes them out with no sweat. Useless guys. Kotone calls Misshi early to school because she wants to have a special tennis training with him. He points out her bad habit of swinging her entire body when she swings her racquet. Kotone also tries tying the racquet to her feet as her unique style but that is against the rules. Asuna and Chitose see them both so close to each other that a certain pervert thought they already went so far together. Kurusu scares the daylights out of Kotone. Then they put fake boobs to make it up for her. You can see Kotone’s face lighting up over her sudden growth till the fakes drop out. When everyone gathers, Misshi has them train by hitting empty cans. Misshi demonstrates and is able to knock them all with ease. Wondering who this bugger is, the girls refer to a magazine and learn he was a former national soft tennis champion! All the girls start hounding Misshi to teach his special moves, beating Kotone to it. Because of that, Kotone takes out her frustration on the dojo guys. Asuna’s class gets a new transfer student from England: Elizabeth Warren AKA Eri. Sitting next to Asuna, the pervert learns she too plays tennis back in UK and invites her to join the club. With her in, that completes the weirdo quintet of Shiratama soft tennis club. Chitose thinks of coaching her but instead the power balance reversal with Eri surpassing her within an hour. Then when Misshi comes in, Eri instantly hugs him. Seems they know each other. When Misshi was part of the All-Japan soft tennis training camp at UK and stayed with Eri’s family. Eri’s return to Japan was stemmed by a promise they made: If she continued to love tennis after growing up, he’d do anything. Even marry her. The shock is too much for Kotone to bear so she beats the coach up and runs away. Flashback reveals how Kotone fell for Misshi. He invited her to join the tennis club since she was the top of her league in the karate class. Misshi advised that to continually stay at the top is unexpectedly tiring. If she wants to conquer a different summit as a challenger, feel free to join him. That was a year ago. So the same thing almost happened now. Only thing Misshi forgot what he wanted to say to her. Kotone’s blood boils easily, doesn’t she?

Episode 3
On a stormy day, Misshi gathers the girls to have a singles league because the next tournament is based on single matches and this is the perfect chance to get rid of their weakest link. Oh Chitose. You’re screwed. Actually he’s just joking. It’s to rank the members only. Haha. Everyone is burning with passion to be at the top. Competition is good, right? Though it starts raining, this doesn’t damper their spirits to play on. So we’ve got lots of antics like Chitose giving herself a handicap head start, a 5-minute rally between Asuna and Kotone (the wind is always blowing it back to Asuna), Kurusu being blown away to the sky, it’s raining fish (and shark!), Chitose riding a Japanese salamander naked (WTF?!) and a long streak of censor over the entire screen (WTFFFF???!!!). Once the storm gets too heavy, Misshi takes the girls down to a secret level beneath the school. Behind the giant metal sci-fi like door lies… A hotspring? So the girls soak in along with another teacher, Kyouko Miyoshi, take a sauna, ride a water slide (is this an amusement park too?), wash themselves clean and sleepover for the night. Feels like a training camp if you ask me. Oh, the pressurized water that Kurusu made with her hands caused a hole in the wall. It’s like a laser beam! Kotone thought she could drink a strawberry flavoured milk but it turns out to be something spicy. As they prepare for bed, the only pyjamas available are Kurusu’s weird costumes. I guess they would rather sleep naked rather than don those embarrassing outfits. Oh, it must be vegetables theme tonight. And I supposed Eri is the only one who takes after Kurusu’s weird fetish. They’re like a comical duo from now on. Due to the storm, nobody could sleep so they pass the time by practising their tennis. Misshi joins them and because they stayed up too late, they got reprimanded the next day for being late to school. Oh, as for the rankings: 1) Kurusu; 2) Asuna; 3) Eri; 4) Kotone; 5) Chitose. As expected.

Episode 4
The girls are going out to shop for soft tennis items with Misshi. Can you imagine all of them cramped into a car? So they borrow Miyoshi’s SUV. You can’t have an outing without ‘trouble’, right? See Kurusu fitting herself in a bag? See Kurusu and Eri trying out clothes that are over or under sized. As Asuna tries to get her dropped coin underneath a vending machine, Leo Amachi spots her and fell in love at first sight. Maybe it’s because of her panties rather than her angelic smile. He tries to strike up a conversation but it seems both of them are talking different things. As we know Asuna is here to find a new racquet but Leo misinterprets she’s here to find a new lover. Kotone thought she has found her dream racquet but she picks it up at the same time with Sumino Kiba. Both are hot-headed, both are stubborn, both aren’t giving it up. They learn Sumino and her captain Seriha Amamiya (I thought she look like a bug devil) are from Akadama Middle High School’s soft tennis club, their neighbouring school and powerful team that qualified for the prefectural tournaments every year. Kotone and Sumino continue to talk big about becoming champions so the only way is to settle it with a tennis match. Oh, Leo is Akadama tennis club’s manager. Kotone and Sumino are getting physical even before the match so Seriha tells them about some ancient Greek legend of how tennis came about. The word ‘te’ in tennis means hand because the used to hit the balls with only their bare hands. Wait a minute. Greeks know Japanese? Even if it was a load of crap, the stubborn ones believed her. Totally. Leo was made the referee and is in a dilemma to call which side is out. If he sides his team, he might lose Asuna and if he sides the opponent, he might get beaten up from his own. Eventually he screams out he wants them both to be happy. Eh? What? So the duo continue with their hard hitting moves complete with ridiculous techniques with equally ridiculous names and illusions. Just when they are to call it a draw and shake hands, Leo instantly gives them his massage as he believes this is to reduce muscle fatigue and for the body to stay in top condition. Well, he is so good with his hands that it may look something so stimulating… So good… So perverted. You can say he has God Fingers and comes from a family of famous masseurs. At the end of the day when the girls part and leave, Chitose feels that they are missing a few people. Yeah, Eri and Kurusu are doing some flower dance? WTF?! At least they got some money from their performance.

Episode 5
Misshi announces that they will be doing practice runs with Akadama since they offered a challenge. But they have no time for training because the match is tomorrow. Still that doesn’t stop them to do last minute tactics like the use of flashy moves to distract them. Asuna comes up with useless ideas of entertaining opponents, in-depth English study to make soft tennis a global appeal and a fashion show. Chitose then gives pointers to her mates (except for Kurusu who is perfect) on their weakness but she couldn’t do it for her own. Then she leaves for training in the mountains the salamander. Meanwhile Kotone gets irritated each time she sees Eri and Misshi together. So pissed that her Zero Gravity Lightning Lob sends the ball flying into the sky like a rocket and crashing down almost killing Misshi. Then she tries to impress him with her Ancient Dynamite Cut and almost murdered the coach. Luckily it was just a portion of his hair that got cut. While Kotone is upset about this fact, she thought she saw naked Chitose riding on a salamander like a wild horse. She’s chasing after her wild boar stew… Next day as the girls prepare for their match, they see how Akadama is really serious. They have a bunch of dedicated guys cheering out loud for the team and the number of members that could easily fill a football team. Since Sumino and Seriha are up first, this means Kotone and Asuna will be going up against them. Somebody wants to settle a grudge… Kurusu cheers them on with words, “If you die, there’ll be a replacement”. That’s not very supportive, isn’t it? Maybe it’ll work as reverse psychology.

Episode 6
As usual, Kotone and Sumino trade insults and taking big with their hyped confidence. The Akadama pair easily exploits of Shiratama duo’s weakness and earns an easy point. During time out, Misshi advises his girls, for Asuna ‘to show off her legs more’ (he meant running not being a sexy female panther) and Kotone not to get worked up and not use her brain but her instincts and play. With renewed motivation, Asuna and Kotone are able to make impressive comebacks to stun their opponents. However in the end, they still lose though it was a good fight. Meanwhile a girl comes rushing in to the tennis court. Actually ‘she’ is Leo cross-dressed as a girl, Leona. Is he defecting to Shiratama? I don’t know. Perhaps something to do for his one-sided love for Asuna. Next is Kurusu-Chitose pair. Chitose is confident that she brought something back to help for her game. My, THAT’S A GIANT RACQUET!!! You don’t need to even move to return any shots! But isn’t that legal in the first place?! They’ll be up against Azusa Mizumori and Ayaka Kazamada. Azusa unleashes her Seven Coloured Somethings (you see illusion of 7 balls) but was easily countered by genius Kurusu. And by Chitose because of her ridiculously big racquet. In the end, the big racquet turns out to be a big liability as the ball’s momentum was too powerful for Chitose to return, thus whacking her own head. With Chitose out means they lose the match by default. For the final game, Eri thought of pairing with Misshi but Leona offers to be her partner. They will be against Shouko Tsuchida and the very tall Shiho Nagumo (as found out, she wanted to be an actress). Leona’s reason for wanting to join the game is to show off to Asuna. Shouko sympathizes with Leona and gives ‘her’ an easy ball to take. When Leona does so, the wig came off. Leon shouts to Asuna if she had saw it all but his team noted they saw clearly everything that is happening. Prepare to face their wrath. At the end of the game, both sides shake hands over the practice match. Shiratama still dreams big of aiming to the top even though they lost all of their matches. But Seriha notes that an easygoing team like them might go further. As for Leo’s punishment, he is made to run back chasing after the bus.

Episode 7
The mysterious captain of Kurotama Middle School soft tennis club is asking her fellow club mate, Yura Hiratsuka to spy on the Shiratama soft tennis club girls. Yura happily accepts her assignment. Till she drools over that she’ll go as far as investigating their sexual desires and fetishes! Privacy invasion! Oh no. Another pervert. Yura’s job is going to be a tough one as she spies on Asuna reading a sex novel in class, Kotone’s super willpower to get up and finish her run (she was just acting), distracted by Chitose’s boobs, watching Eri do some voodoo doll curse as a love charm for Misshi and the mysterious Kurusu in a masked wrestling costume. Yura thought her presence was busted by Chitose but that dimwit thought she was interested in joining the club and invites her to look around. What an easy infiltration. Then meeting the members, she is made to put on a swimsuit outfit since they don’t have spare tennis clothes. This attracts the stares of the guys. The other girls also come back in swimsuits and Kurusu beats up the boys. Yura may get more than she bargained for when she gets hit by a returning serve and Chitose refusing to play with her citing she is not up to mark when we all know it’s an excuse to escape. Lastly, Yura ends up playing water with the girls. So when Yura returns with her report, all she has to say is to be thankful of the fun times. She sure enjoyed her stay, eh? Captain not happy… What was the point of this investigation again? Soon the Shiratama girls are happy to know they’ll be going on a training camp. But all that expectation of the clear blue sea by the beach and sunny skies came crumbling down when they start hiking deep into the mountains. Are they lost? Resting by a river that has unique attributes of a hotspring, they use stones as makeshift tubs to enjoy their bath. Suddenly they feel someone staring at them and even getting this weird feeling in the water. Turns out to be the salamander. Then as they prepare to leave, they encounter a giant bear. So huge that it’s taller than the trees! Kurusu fights it and it ends in a draw. So much so the bear acknowledges her and they shake hands. Did Kurusu just tame the wild beast? The bear gives them a ride to the training camp. The girls make their way to the tennis court but see the Akadama girls being beaten to a pulp. Seems the Kurotama captain, Misaki Shidou is disappointed that they couldn’t handle the warm up.

Episode 8
I don’t know. Akadama got beaten so badly that one of them was crushed into the ground. So deep till her butt is just showing up. One of them just the head sticking out. It’s like a war zone. But what is Kurotama doing here? Well, the mountain area belongs to them. So before even going through the prefecturals, they’re already at the ‘big boss base’. Oh, did I mention that Misaki is the current national champion? Shiratama is in real sh*t. Misaki invites to do several secret warm up training beneath the building. If they can pass it all, it means they have finished the warm ups without problems. But you’ll notice how the Shiratama girls breakthrough each one not with their sheer skills, but luck and coincidence. First test: Crashing Wave Dash to test strength and agility by jumping over hurdles; Breakthrough: Kurusu throws a daifuku for Chitose to crash through so the rest could run over with ease. Second test: Hand-eye coordination that will electrocute you if you don’t hit the ball at the sweet spot; Breakthrough: Asuna’s daydreaming perverted fantasy. Third test: Balance Heaven which has sitting on balance balls and bounce up the narrow path; Breakthrough: Kurusu dons the ball like one of her outfits and pulls the rest up like a train. Fourth test: Boobs Straining Hell is actually monkey bars; Breakthrough: The Shiratama girls start falling down and each grabbed onto the other’s leg till the last one pulled down Misaki’s panties and skirt. This has heart swing them away to the other end. Fifth test: Scorching Closet is just a hot sauna; Breakthrough: Just sit through for 20 minutes. With the trials over, Misaki hopes to get all the footage from Yura who was secretly filming them all. Unfortunately all she filmed are Misaki’s panty slip and cat ears… “Delete all that!”. Akadama has freshened up as they meet their Shiratama counterparts. As they prepare to sleep, they spot a kiddie-like futon which belongs to Misaki, though she denies. Yura is capturing footage of the girls frolicking in the room. She has been warned that if she films more unauthorized footage of her, she’ll end up in solitary confinement. I’m sure she would love to continue taking lewd photos and videos of her captain, eh? Better buck up this time. Then she accidentally took a footage of Misaki slipping on a banana slip (courtesy of Chitose) and revealing her private assets. Asuna and Leo talk outside and the latter finds the former more erotic than usual. Just his imagination? Elsewhere, Eri sees Misshi at the vending machine. She is happy to be with him now. To Kotone’s dismay, she sees them very close together. Close enough to kiss! In tears, she runs away. But actually Misshi was just trying to take off a civet that somehow crawled up Eri’s back. Asuna spots a very emotional Kotone. Because the way she ambiguously put it, Leo misinterprets something erotic must have happened to Kotone (notice the bloody background of the girls fighting each other?). Once it’s time to shut the lights, everyone cuddles up to Chitose because she feels warm. But she can’t breathe… Next morning, everyone is rudely awakened by distressed Asuna. She has found a note from Kotone that she has gone on a journey.

Episode 9
Seems there is a sophisticated tracking facility in this camp too! Is this an experimental lab or what?! Everyone is so infatuated with the place instead of listening to what Misaki has to say. They manage to locate Kotone but since they also detected Misshi close by, they think he went after her and everything will be okay. Kotone is still upset and her thoughts are so distracted that she falls off a cliff. Luckily Misshi grabs her hand. But he also falls off… Kotone throws a tantrum that she doesn’t want to go back because she saw him having fun with Eri. Misshi understood that she too wants to enjoy the flavours of an adult. Is Kotone ready for this? Well, he gives her a Haba-Peach drink. What was she hoping? What were we thinking? Still, she doesn’t want to go back because it’s embarrassing if she returns too quickly from her journey. Kotone is afraid of the scary ‘faces’ in the cave (somebody thought this was a short cut) so Misshi carries her all the way. As for the others, everyone has a practice match with Misaki. Sumino thinks it’s revenge time and unleashes her ultimate killer technique, Moratorium Jet Fire but Misaki counters that easily with her Invisible Counter. The ball vanishes and appears right before Sumino and blasts her through the wall and away into the sky. If the ball is faster than the speed of light, don’t you think Sumino would’ve been blown away even before they finished talking or noticed that the ball is ‘missing’? Then Ayaka. Not even Seriha’s flashy named Flower Under The 16th Night’s Moon, Azusa’s Ten People Ten Colours and Shiho’s Paparazzi Requiem could defeat Misaki altogether and they end up the same fate as Sumino. Misaki thought there was all to Akadama but I guess after seeing people being blasted away, Shouko stays quiet (she’s acting as the referee) and agrees that there are no more Akadama players left. Outside, Kotone thought there was a human cannonball competition after seeing a few people flying away. But Kotone tells Misshi that she has powered up. Which part? Her heart.

Meanwhile the Shiratama girls are having a rock-scissors-paper game to see who fights Misaki next. Why do they all end up the same hand? It’s a ploy to stall her because they don’t want to be the next victim. Because everybody else finally volunteered to be next, Asuna felt she too has to play her part and volunteers. But it’s a set up for her to go next. Of course Asuna is scared because she doesn’t know how many kilometres she’ll be blown away. To stem that fear, Kurusu pairs up with her and puts make-up on Asuna to increase her confidence as a female panther. But still they are no match for Misaki. Kurusu pulls off a sly tactic by using a salamander as a shield. Misaki knows she’ll be done for if she hurts this endangered species. Because of that, Asuna gets targeted and is sent flying away. However she is caught by Kotone who has just returned. Kotone pairs up with Eri as Eri asks her if she likes Misshi. She can’t say so Eri gets straight with her and admits she likes him. Kotone doesn’t want to lose out and tries to be straightforward too but got smacked by the ball in the face and sent flying into the sky. So Eri thanking Kotone was it because she admitted her love or she took the hit for her? So the final one is Chitose. Oh, doom befalls everyone. However Chitose has psyched herself to see the ball as chewy daifuku so that’s why she is able to grab them all with her teeth! Because this goes on for several rounds, Misaki got tired and her ball hit the net. Would you believe it? It was Chitose, the first one who scored the first point against Misaki. Everyone leaves for home at the end of the training stint (the giant bear really does make a good transport). Of course they vow to score real points next time they meet in the real tournament. To Misaki’s dismay, Yura is still videotaping everything on her to the point of mimicking her voiceovers. So it’s confirmed, the solitary confinement for her.

Episode 10
When Yayoi Hiragishi was young, she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her sister in soft tennis but onee-chan was killed in a car accident. Asuna-Kotone pair defeats Chitose-Kurusu pair in a soft tennis practice. Wait a minute. The Kurusu team lost? Unless Chitose is totally useless that even a soft tennis prodigy can’t help. Because they felt sorry that Eri is always being left out without a partner and doing referee duties, they decide to recruit more members. However, the way they recruit seems to be scaring everyone away. What’s with those space idol-like jackets? They spot Yayoi spying from afar and their desperate instincts have them chase after her like a wild animal. They corner her to a river and they thought she was desperate enough to jump in. Actually she slipped on a banana peel. Who throw that skin there? Yayoi is saved by the salamander. She mentions that it isn’t her that wants to join their club but her sister. Big sis was a student at Shiratama. Was? She died 2 years ago on her way to a soft tennis tournament. Yayoi has a little experience in the game so they invite her to try out and demonstrate her skills. Unfortunately she is no better than Chitose! Yeah, her experience meant 1 year of experience. Suddenly Yayoi starts doing shadow boxing. Is it part of her training? Well, the truth is she can actually see dead spirits. Oh sh*t! That’s why she moves like that to avoid them. Oh, there are spirits everywhere! Even at school! As Yayoi continues to practice, we can see how clumsy and slow. Suddenly her aura changes and she turns into an evil-like person!!! WTF?! WHO IS THIS?! This profanity spewing tough chick is Yayoi’s elder sister, Uzuki and you could say this girl has somewhat a split personality. When she changes to Uzuki, I thought she looked like Grell from Kuroshitsuji… When Yayoi returns to normal, she explains that Uzuki’s soul continue to live in her. She can’t go over to the other world till she has a shot with that tough opponent she’s supposed to play with on that tournament day. So this means the girls will have to take Yayoi/Uzuki along to their matches and if they screw this up, she’ll haunt their f*cking b*tching lives forever! OH SH*T! So this girl is going to be Eri’s new partner? Well, she doesn’t mind.

Miyoshi hands out test results to her class. Because she likes Asuna’s nice reply, she gets free 5 marks. Only thing is, she still fails her test. 15 points only? The other failure is Kotone and she is unfazed since her priority is the club not studying. However she has to start thinking of improving her grades when Misshi informs that the school will not allow those who fail their upcoming mid-terms to participate in tournaments. Remember Uzuki’s warning? Better buck up. So for some reason, the girls decide to use Misshi’s apartment to study. But first they have to clean up the bachelor’s filthy place. Causing more ruckus than anything. Especially when Kotone thought she touched his boxers, it actually belonged to Kurusu who purchased it at the 100 Yen Shop. Because Yayoi sees ghosts, I guess there are lots of them in Misshi’s place too, eh? The girls go through the numerous trophies Misshi won. But he just chucks them into a box. It’s like he has no respect for them. However he disagrees and says some of them are useful. Uhm… Why is he growing plants in them? Asuna sees a racquet with loose strings so Misshi explains this was the racquet that made him a champion. Though he lacks power and speed, he had accuracy but wasn’t good enough to go against big shots across the country. Everybody gets prepared to study so Chitose is willing to help them since this will be her last year and wants everyone participating in the tournament. However after seeing she can’t help them answer their questions, she changes her stand to say that they still have next year to participate. Late into the night, Misshi wants the girls to go home but they insist of staying. How did he agree? There are ghosts lurking in his place… The girls are surprised to see Shiki Nishioka coming in. She is the former soft tennis club’s president and to their surprise, she is Misshi’s cousin. And Kotone thought she was intimate enough to come over and cook for him. Shiki agrees to help Asuna and Kotone to pass their mid-terms. How? With instincts. She flips up all the books and randomly circles the pages. Then she tells them to remember the check marked parts. Oh my. Isn’t that just luck? And what do you know, everything she circled came out so the failures not only pass their mid-terms, they score a perfect 100! Shocking, eh? Next time I should just follow my guts too!

Episode 11
Again another training camp to focus on their teamwork. But this time it will be the Shiratama girls. I guess they want to make up for last time so bad that the training camp this time will be at the beach. Bikinis, sand, sun and fun. So where is the training actually? As Chitose points out, it’s about taking a break from training and refreshing your mind in preparation for the main event. So it’s like killing 2 birds with 1 stone because you’re levelling up and relaxing at the same time. Sounds neat but feels more like an excuse. As the girls prepare to dig in their BBQ lunch, they don’t see Yayoi around. Misshi spots her at the cliff alone and decides to call her. However he sees her talking to a spirit of a dead fish and changes his mind! After this, I guess he got so spooked that he went on a journey to visit different temples. All 88 of them! Kotone and Asuna have a series of competition but Kotone tops them all. Kurusu notes that her athletic performance heavily depends on her mood. Kotone teases Asuna to try harder or she can’t be her partner at this rate. Meanwhile Chitose returns with a giant shark! Ingredients for New Year? On the drive back home, everyone falls asleep except for Asuna and Miyoshi (she’s at the wheel). Asuna feels they’ve forgotten somebody. Yeah, they left behind Yayoi and she’s still talking to the dead fish spirit!

Back in Shiratama, Kotone’s words are affecting Asuna that she’s been slipping up a lot in practice. She is worried that she is not up to par as Kotone so much so she didn’t see a racquet coming her way (it slipped out of Chitose’s hand. Don’t ask). The racquet hits bulls eye at Asuna’s head and though the good news is that she didn’t die, the bad news is that she can’t remember who her mates are. Temporary loss of memory, eh? Kotone thinks her body may not have forgotten about soft tennis but it seems she totally does when Asuna plays the racquet and the ball like a circus monkey. They need her to regain her memories before the tournament so Kurusu has a chair that will jog her memories. Besides doubling up as a massage chair, it also sends shocking (literally) electric currents through Asuna. Is she screaming in pain? Asuna is sent back into her memories, the day she enters Shiratama as a first year. Many clubs were recruiting newbies but Asuna felt she wanted to join a club that can polish her feminity. Till she saw Chitose from the soft tennis club in her underwear. I guess that settles it. Yeah, Shiki thought such brilliant idea will attract members. They’ve got lots of perverted stares from the guys. What more a pervert like Asuna. Yeah, the first thing she did to join the club was to pull down her skirt! This club only attracts weirdoes. Soon, Kotone joins in for some personal reason of her own. The newbies are given the basic training by Chitose (seriously can she?) but Shiki doesn’t give them any since she would prefer them to practice by themselves and do whatever they want. She believes each one has their own style and if there were 100 people, there would be 100 different styles. Shiki observes that though they are weird, with more power and effort they should improve in no time. At the end of the day, Shiki announces that Asuna and Kotone will be a pair since she has her hands full with Chitose. But Kotone doesn’t want to play doubles and prefers to go alone. And if Asuna wants a partner, she’ll have to find another one. In present time, Asuna continues screaming… I wonder how long has it been.

Episode 12
Naturally the chair overheats and explodes. What do you expect? Because of that Asuna ends up in coma in hospital. Her flashback continues. Asuna is down and really thinks Kotone is really bent on going solo since the latter is asking if she has found a partner yet. Though they still practice together, Kotone’s powerful shots has her always hitting it out. Kotone thought Asuna was holding back while serving a weak shot but as told she always gives her best. She doesn’t believe it and will gladly teach her how to use her full strength in exchange for learning how to hold back. They practice so hard till it’s nightfall. On their way home, Asuna asks one more time if she would like to be her partner since she couldn’t think of anyone else. This was the first time she had so much fun that she lost track of time. She is sure it’s because of her. But Kotone still wouldn’t change her mind. In present time, Akadama members and Misaki pay Asuna a visit. Leo wanted to wake her up with his God Fingers but was taken away. Sumino is worried that Kotone doesn’t have much time to find a partner before the tournament. So Kotone remembers how Asuna was bloody persistent in asking her to be her partner. Yeah, she popped up just about anywhere. Shiki notices this and persuades Kotone to pair with Asuna against a handicap match with her. During the game, the pair got into each other’s way while being awed by Shiki’s amazing power. Kotone gets frustrated when she can’t return a single shot so Shiki tells her that what she’s doing is just gambling. All she does is rush to get the ball and if she hits it, how many points is she willing to lose? To put it bluntly, she may have athletic abilities but have no talent for tennis. Kotone is shocked by her words. Back to the hospital, Kotone continues to stay by Asuna’s side. Chitose feels that if Asuna doesn’t wake up in time for the tournament, she wants Kotone to pair with Eri. However Kotone says that if Asuna isn’t her partner she can’t do it.

More flashbacks as after that scathing remark, Kotone goes into overdrive training mode. Shiki meets Asuna to tell her she knows Kotone’s fault and that a partner is something of an equal relationship like a master and slave. Hope she didn’t get the wrong idea. Shiki wants them to play the same handicap game with her again tomorrow. As they start, Kotone starts losing confidence when she still couldn’t return a single shot. Shiki adds to Kotone’s misery by saying that only Asuna’s shot landed in her court even if it’s far from perfect. And since Kotone can’t even return a single ball, she doesn’t feel like this is a handicap at all. She confirms Kotone has no talent and will make them both single players tomorrow. To add salt to injury, Shiki says she won’t tell her to quit the club seeing she is serious but since she can’t let a useless player go up, she’ll just make her a bench warmer. Seeing Kotone crying, Asuna steps in for her and requests Shiki continue their game. She extents her hand to Kotone and imparts words of confidence. Kotone misses another shot but Asuna has got her back covered. It doesn’t matter how many times she fails, if they combine their strength, they can win. Shiki notices the teamwork between the girls and notes what she said to Kotone was only true if she was a singles player. With a partner that covers up her weaknesses, she’ll have unlimited potential. A player with wild beast instincts and a technical player who backs her up may seem like an odd combination but there isn’t a better pair if they know what they’re doing. Though in the end they still fail to land a single shot, Kotone agrees to become Asuna’s partner. With that, Asuna wakes up in hospital and has her memories intact. Kotone is so relieved that she hugs her so tightly that she could’ve killed her for real. Later both girls assert their togetherness and will move forward with their best. I don’t know why they keep the chair in the club room but the electricity is still running so it causes a chain electric shock for the girls when they touch it. So shock that could they have seen the future? Hmm… Looks like a pretty dramatic supernatural movie-like preview. Which of course will not happen!

These are actually short clips you get when you buy the DVD lasting around 3 minutes. It’s about the girls soaking in the indoor hotspring underneath the school while they chat about. Naked. The first one has them talking about the time Asuna was in coma. They note a mad bull came rampaging into the ward where she was. It is revealed it is her cow Hanako that she grew up with. Her mom tasked her of taking care of it but as soon Hanako grew bigger than her, their roles got reversed. The second special sees Kotone talking about her life growing up at the karate dojo. She practiced hard so she could be as strong as her dad who could take down bears. She won every competition undefeated and asked her dad if she could win if she fought a bear. He didn’t answer but smiled. Frustrated, she increased her training to the extent of going around picking fights with livestock. WTF?! With no true opponents, she was beginning to doubt herself when a ‘witch’ appeared before her and hand her a book with instructions on how to become strong. Turns out to be a ninja manga and she did test out one of the moves. To stand on water. Didn’t work of course. Chitose is supposed to tell her story in the third special but she wouldn’t reveal it and the rest are pretty much occupied with her big boobs. I wonder how many times they need to change the hotspring water each time Asuna goes into a nose bleeding frenzy. Kotone notes that around a year ago Chitose’s boobs weren’t that big. In fact it was flat like them. Eri starts pressing it and feels it’s as soft as pudding. I guess now it’s Asuna’s turn as she starts fondling Chitose’s boobs and wants to know her secret. Chitose is already knocked out in the fourth special. I think it’s not because of the heat but a certain people playing her boobs. Kurusu is supposed to tell her story next but she passed. Yayoi volunteers but the girls are surprised she could talk! Hasn’t she all the long? They even had some whispering discussion and when her aura turned scary, they relent. Seems this morning, Yayoi and Eri went on a day trip to several places and saw several ‘things’ like a Nessie-look-a-like (is that just finger shadow?), ‘two things’ connected by chains, some elephants and a park with bodyguards in strange outfits.

Chitose is already knocked out by the heat in the fifth special. Kurusu thinks of using this chance to do something dastardly. When she returns with a Dracula cape, behold! Beneath it, her boobs have magnificently matured!!! So much so it sends Asuna into a nose bleed frenzy. I think the water will be tainted at this rate…. Hey, even Liz and Yayoi sport big boobs now! WTF is happening?! Kurusu starts explaining about human evolution and pheromones. Yawn… We’re here to see boobs not hear your theories on them! So what she’s trying to say is that big breasts are essential to catch a man’s attention. Kotone gets pissed off with her explanation but Kurusu points out to her own big boobs. Woah. Now Kotone too has them. While she seems ecstatic, she realizes she hates this piece of junk and tears off the fake boobs. It landed on top of Chitose’s boobs as the girls note its resemblance. Double pair of boobs… Continuing in the sixth special, Chitose wakes up to realize that the girls have their boobs matured. Except for Kotone. She assures them that everyone has their own growth rates but the way she confidently says that pisses Kotone off. It’s like she’s bragging. Then realizing the fake boobs, she has a feel of it and finds it familiar. Kurusu explains that they are perfectly reproduced silicone boobs replicated from Chitose’s. Realizing Asuna is still drowning, Kotone goes to save her. Because Kurusu is fooling around over her, Kotone throws the fake boobs at her but lands on Asuna. When she wakes up, she notices her boobs grown big and starts fantasizing her horny delusions. Oh no. Another nose bleed bonanza. Just when you thought she is revived, here she goes dying again and dyeing the water redder. On to serious stuff, Chitose reminds them the tournament is in a week and though the girls get motivated to do their best and win. Time to get out of the bath and practice, eh? Chitose suddenly felt the extreme pressure. I guess she’s the one who has to work the hardest.

Soft Porn Tennis
So this is how it ends? Not very much, isn’t it? Very much of the series sees the odd and eccentric characteristics of the Shiratama soft tennis club girls and their misadventures. Nothing more. Heck, the supposed tournament hasn’t even start. It was never the focus of this series anyway. Therefore don’t expect to see it raking up to triple digit number of episodes like a certain tennis anime counterpart, each complete with their own special, flashy and impossible-to-pull-off-in-real-life moves and the tougher opponents they will fight that will eventually become their friend. Should this series be like a shonen genre? That’s why if you’re expecting all those, you might find yourself totally disappointed and thus it is better if you lose yourself in the wacky silliness this short series has to offer.

Having said that, it is pretty much the characters that make up for the story and plot of this show. But judging from the way it went, there wasn’t any deep character development besides the series ending with how Asuna and Kotone came to become inseparable pairs. The characters basically were the same as they were at the start of the series. Asuna is the ever perverted girl who wants to strut her feminine by any means so much the simplest misunderstanding could mean something perverted and sexy for her. She should’ve been a porn artist with such a creative mind. Sometimes I feel when she starts having those perverted fantasies, she reminds me of Maria+Holic’s disgusting lesbian, Kanako. It felt like she could burst into that nose bleeding lesbian just about any time. The only other pervert second to her is Yura if not for her crazy obsession over Misaki. Better watch out over your shoulders. Should’ve kept her in solitary confinement forever. Kotone dreams big and talks big but whether she’ll achieve her dream or not is another matter. Besides, she won’t achieve her dream of playing in Wimbledon. You already know why. If Kurusu was a genius, why hasn’t she been scouted by the national soft tennis people? Maybe her weird outfits are a turn off? Where does she get them by the way? The rate she wears those costumes, she could win the speed changing cosplay competition.

Chitose is still the lousy player from day one and she has never hit a ball. That one using the over sized racquet doesn’t count. She should’ve been in some food club or something. Her enormous appetite and love for food could be on par with Monkey D. Luffy. On second thought, it is better she did not stay in a food club or else she’ll eat up the world’s resources. See how determined she was when she was chasing down the wild boar for her stew? I was expecting a love triangle between Eri and Kotone over Misshi but even if that jealousy thing did happen for a moment, it lost momentum and never returned. So are they still love rivals in this area in the end? The love relationship for Leo and Asuna didn’t materialize too. Simply because it’s just one way and that guy just simply went ahead and assumed everything. Yayoi as the new member came too late and about after 3/4 of the series has passed. So it feels like she has no impact on the show. Like a ghost. Mind the pun. Badass Uzuki could’ve brought more hell to the club if she had appeared more. After all, the Shiratama soft tennis club only attracts weirdoes. That’s why in my theory if they should go into the tournament and play the usual way they are, they may surprise some big names and even landing the championship title. Not only their weird antics but their close knit friendship as well. Okay, maybe not so close but at least they treasure each other’s friendship and trust to work as a team when it matters most.

The Akadama soft tennis clubs members are equally as quirky as the Shiratama counterparts but just that they aren’t given more prominent screen time. Heck, this show is about the Shiratama girls, right? Though being just a practice match, it is the first and only real soft tennis match ever shown in this entire series (I consider the one with Misaki to be just a handicap practice game). Even that lasted for just about an episode. Which is much better than lasting for several episodes for a group match, right? Fast, funny and fun. Misaki may be last year’s national champion but she too is a girl beneath that exterior. So if we can take away that armour and expose some of her girly side, I guess anybody can take the crown from her. At first I thought the Hanako gag was going to be apparent at each end of the episode. Before the episode ends, Asuna will always be awakened by her mom in the middle of the dead night to find and secure Hanako who has somehow gotten herself loose. This gag stopped when the first training camp commenced and after that just to be safe, Asuna tied up Hanako to avoid her nightly wandering! Should’ve done that a long time ago. Besides Hanako, I feel the salamander seems to be another mascot of the series and Chitose’s ‘best friend’. It’s an endangered species in Japan after all.

I need to mention something about the fanservice. Yes, you have your typical panty shots zooming in and all but the annoying thing are the censors. But it’s not like the censorship is doing a good job anyway and it feels like they are doing a half baked job. Some scenes you will see the censors covering the girl’s ass. Then in other scenes the censor is absent and you can have a good view without any obstruction. It’s like as though that scene slipped through the hands of the censors who were probably half asleep while editing on what to censor. It’s like musical chairs being played. Each of the Shiratama girls has their own unique animal as their censor. It is always the cow censor that covers Asuna as with the salamander for Chitose and the bear for Kotone. I’m not sure if Eri’s one is a moth, butterfly or some bug. Sometimes you don’t need to pull off any flashy moves just for the fanservice. Get what I mean?

I’m not sure if Kanae Itou has been stereotyped to play perverted girls role. After that obsessed squid lover Sanae in Shinryaku! Ika Musume and the skirt flipper Saten in To Aru Kagaku No Railgun, is it any wonder if she plays Asuna here? Aki Toyosaki is very identifiable as Yura. If she was that airhead Yui in K-ON!, now she’s an obsessive pervert as Yura. And she sounds very convincing when she starts drooling about Misaki… Sayuri Yahagi is the voice behind Eri and I find her trying to make a foreigner trying to speak Japanese with an accent a little odd. It’s understandable that there will be some accent when British tries speaking Japanese but when her character says some English lines, it’s like as though there is some Japanese ‘Engrish’ accent to it too. So it’s a wonder if she’s trying too hard or on purpose. It’s not like she sounded like that in her other roles such as Suzu in Seitokai Yakuindomo, Miyoshi in Bakuman and the titular character in Karin. Other casts include Eri Kitamura as Kotone (Rin in Kodomo No Jikan), Satomi Akesaka as Kurusu (Chrome in Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn), Shizuka Itou as Chitose (Hinagiku as Hayate No Gotoku), Haruka Tomatsu as Yayoi/Uzuki (Lala in To Love-Ru), Ayahi Takagi as Shiki (Otome in Da Capo II), Minako Kotobuki as Misaki (Tsumugi in K-ON!), Marina Inoue as Sumino (Kana in Minami-ke series), Kokoro Kikuchi as Seriha (Akito/Agito in Air Gear TV series) and Miyuki Sawashiro as Leo (Shinku in Rozen Maiden).

This series didn’t get me interested in the world of tennis after all. After seeing how a bunch of weirdoes going about, I am more inclined not to even pick up the sport. Not even if they include lots of teasing fanservice as eye candy treat. Would that constitute disrespect to the sport? Heck, Asuna’s delusions may be causing a great disservice to the game itself already. Like in every sport and team games, it takes a lot of effort, determination, teamwork and trust to be the best, the cream of the crop. But if you are like this bunch of jokers and misfits, luck would definitely help. Lots of it. Hope they don’t turn it into a freak show and sully the reputation of the game while they’re at it. Out, 40-love, game over.

%d bloggers like this: