March 14, 2009

Finally after hearing and getting infatuated with the opening theme of the anime series Suzuka many years ago, I eventually managed to pick up and watch this series. Yeah, I myself even wonder why it took an awful long time to watch it and the real reason for not watching it when I heard the opening song the first time. Too many other animes to watch at that time? Yeah right.
I wouldn’t really say that this anime series is a sports-themed one but rather that the setting for the anime is so. The track and field in particular. Over the series, you are not going to see very exaggerated and flashy moves nor is the series going to divulge itself into explaining certain terms of the track and field area. So for those who don’t really know about athletic stuffs, I’m sure you can just hop in and watch this one or just feel a little disappointed because of so.
Instead, this 26 episode series focuses and is more of a drama-romance genre with lots of teen angst in it. Hey, there’s love in the sports lane too, you know. Well, I feel that the whole series is just about that. Couple in with some love triangles, uncertain moments, self-reflecting moments, and you’ve got yourself another one of those teenage love stories. So is this series that boring? I wouldn’t say so unless you are the kind that cringes at this sort of genre.
Meet our main guy in episode 1 named Yamato Akitsuki. He has come all the way from the Hiroshima prefecture to Tokyo in hoping something in his life would change for the better. Luckily, he’s got an aunt, Ayano Fujikawa, who runs a student dorm complete with a public bathhouse, so he doesn’t have to worry about any place to live or even pay rent. Heck, she even cooks his meals for him. Of course, Yamato has got a little cousin, Miho, who seems to be really anticipating his arrival. Does she have big brother fetish? I mean, she does call him onii-chan. Unless it’s a respect for elder guys like him.
On the way to Ayano’s place, Yamato spots a girl, Suzuka Asahina doing a high jump practice at school. You could say it’s love at first sight for him. Yeah, just like an angel jumping over gracefully over the pole. Upon reaching his destination, in order not for him to be a total freeloader, he has to help out by cleaning the bathhouse. Some female customers, Yuuka Saotome and Megumi Matsumoto, come in and as expected due to Yamamoto’s clumsiness (partly due to Yuuka’s teasing), he ends up slipping and on top of Megumi. To make things worse, Suzuka appears and spots his misdemeanour, even if it was just a misunderstanding. Later when he decides to retire to his room, he is surprised to see Suzuka in his room until he finds out that he entered the wrong room. Yeah, his room is just next to her. What a way to make a bad start and impression on the girl he likes. That night when Yamato goes to clean the bathhouse, Suzuka has been inside the sauna for too long so much so she collapsed. Luckily Yamato was there to save her. Unfortunately when she comes to in her room, Suzuka isn’t appreciative of his efforts. Because of that, she wants Yamato to help her with her high jump practice the next day. Yeah, she’s a high jumper athlete. She tells him to fix the bar while she prepares to make her jump. It seems that Suzuka is having a hard time jumping over this one and barely makes it, even though this jump was supposed to be a warm up jump. But she soon finds out that Yamato had actually placed the bar a little higher (he didn’t know how to set the height at 164cm and unknowingly set it as 169cm) and that she has unofficially made a personal best record! With that, Yamato gets to see her smile.
Well, in most episodes it will be something like this. Yamato tries to get closer to Suzuka but you know that girl is quite moody and somewhat a tsundere. And being the tough chic she is, she can’t really show her soft side to him and usually scolds or lashes out at him. Though as the series progresses, you’ll find that her actions may indicate that she harbours some feelings for him but she’s still the girl giving Yamato the cold shoulder. Yes, it’s like a roller coaster ride. Up and down, up and down. Hot and cold, hot and cold. Oh yes before I forget, I want to mention that university students Yuuka and Megumi loves to hang out in Yamato’s room getting drunk sometimes. Other’s people’s place is better, huh? Besides, Yuuka being the flirtatious one, the one thing amusing about the soft-spoken bespectacled Megumi is that whenever she gets drunk, she becomes real depressed and spills out how all the guys to her are only interested in her boobs and sometimes wanting to get a boyfriend of her own. Still waters run deep.
Episode 2 introduces more characters. Like Yamato’s old buddy, Yasunobu Hattori, the lady-killer and has a way with words about flirting with them. Ironic to see that he’s still not attached. Perhaps the thrill is still being one? Though Yamato finds him reading some magazines in his room (what’s with these people, entering his room as they please?), we find out through a short flashback how sneaky Yasunobu used Yamato so that the former could land in the bosoms of those female customers in the public bathhouse, making Yamato look like a perverted bad guy. Because Yamato knows of Yasunobu’s flirting ways, he tries to prevent him from getting close to Suzuka by saying that girl is an ugly 50 year old woman. Oh, in great timing Suzuka heard that. Relationship going downhill once more. Later that night as a celebration for Yamato’s entry to their school, Yasunobu and Yamato had to go out and buy some snacks when they ran into Suzuka who is doing night training. Yasunobu tries to hit out on her, which causes Yamato to volunteer to be the one who will accompany her back. Yasunobu then says how he is a late bloomer. Though Yasunobu’s a flirt, you’ll see that he has a mature side and cares about Yamato, sometimes offering some advice to him in later episodes. So the usual spat but when Yamato said how she looked cool when she jumped, Suzuka is all smiles again.
Yamato starts schooling in episode 3 but is approached by a pretty girl named Honoka Sakurai who claims to know him. However Yamato doesn’t. Of course he soon remembers and we see a flashback that they knew each other when they were kids. Honoka’s parents worked and lived in a nearby temple shrine and that time, Honoka broke the temple’s bell and was pretty scared about it because if her dad ever finds out… Yamato came along and helped her fixed it and even made a promise to her that this event will be kept a secret among themselves. Ever since then, Honoka had a crush on him. And she still does. In present time, because Yamato has been waiting for Suzuka to turn up so that he could help out with her chores, he comes down with a cold. Honoka and Yasunobu comes to visit him (yeah, and Yamato thought it would be Suzuka at his doorstep) but Yasunobu soon leaves the duo alone together. Suzuka’s thinking of visiting Yamato but when she spots Honoka coming out from his room, she changes her mind. Later when Yasunobu and Yuuka visit Yamato, Yuuka still had the cheek to play doctor with him (what’s with that nurse getup?). Yeah, she’s making things worse. Not only that, the duo ate Yamato’s dinner especially made by Honoka. Later when they have left, Suzuka comes by to make some honey and lemon drink with eggs. Is that supposed to cure his flu? After drinking that weird combination drink, Yamato had the eggs blown up in his face because Suzuka microwaved it. Thankfully, he didn’t die. ;p
The school that Yamato attends specializes in sports so in episode 4, the gang takes a physical test and measurement. They did a vertical jump and Yamato becomes disheartened to know that Suzuka and Yasunobu could jump higher than him. Well duh, Suzuka’s a high jumper, isn’t she? Then we find out how in the past Yamato was an anchor in a relay race and did very badly. Later at a sprint test, we see that Yamato is a rocket starter (in the sense that he has both his feet parallel to start off instead of the usual strong feet behind the weaker feet) and to everyone’s surprise, he beats the other competitor. Though Yamato is thrilled, Suzuka isn’t. The next day, Yamato wants to go home with Suzuka by sharing an umbrella with her but she got whisked away to her club activities. Honoka takes this opportunity too but Yasunobu whisks her away. Thus Yamato decides to wait till Suzuka finishes her club activities and go home together with her. Eventually he manages to do so but the atmosphere feels a little awkward as they walk home. On their way, a speeding car splashes a puddle of water on Suzuka. In Suzuka’s instant reflex action and surprise, she hugs Yamato. Well, it’s like she’s embracing for quite a while there. I wonder what’s on her mind. So when she realizes what she is doing, she walks away in the rain while leaving Yamato pretty much stunned.
In episode 5, Yamato gets suspicious (and jealous) when he spots Suzuka talking to her senpai, Souichi Miyamoto. Is he her boyfriend? Try not to be an obvious stalker, please. So to take out his frustrations, he invites Yasunobu to go karaoke with him as Honoka too tags along. But he still feels upset and leaves. Honoka wants to follow him but Yasunobu stops her and forces her to listen to him singing (what a horrible rendition of this series’ opening theme!). When Yamato comes back to his apartment, he finds out Miyamoto is on the school’s track team and the reason he’s talking to Suzuka is because he wants her to talk and persuade Yamato to join the track team after yesterday’s surprising performance. Phew, thank goodness he isn’t her boyfriend. But Yamato declines to join. That night as Yamato does some deep thinking in his room, a blackout occurs. Suzuka comes into his room because she is afraid of the thunder and gets close to him. She tells him how she goes back to her hometown every weekend when another round of thunder occurs, causing Suzuka to tightly hug Yamato. Before anything could happen, the power came back on. The next day after reading his horoscope luck on love (seriously?), Yamato even goes to consult from Yasunobu on some tips on how to confess his feelings to Suzuka. So of course when Honoka joins them and Yamato asks her about love and confessing, she gets flustered and puts too much salt in her meal. On the way home, Yamato spots Suzuka and decides to confess to her but I guess he still couldn’t find the courage to do so and just say how he’ll help her out with her chores instead.
A weird but adamant newspaper girl tries to persuade Yamato to subscribe to a newspaper in episode 6. But I guess Yamato is more interested in the free tickets to an amusement park he’ll get if he subscribes and without a second thought, he does so that he could ask Suzuka out on the next weekend. Unfortunately, his tickets were shredded by their cat, Gorou, when Yuuka comes teasing him on what he is planning to do with them. There goes his chance. But he soon finds out that Suzuka too has tickets there (see how persistent that newspaper girl is?) and because Yamato had a hard time saying he wants to go with her, Suzuka offers him to accompany her instead. At the amusement park, they tried several rides and Yamato notices how Suzuka is having fun even though earlier on she said how she wanted to go home after riding the first one. I mean, it’s raining and all the indoor rides are filled with people. Night falls and the duo manages to catch a light parade. Yamato manages to hold her hand and finally sums up the courage to confess that he loves her. Suzuka is surprised and thinks it’s a joke at first but when she realizes that Yamato is serious about it, she rejected his confession. Yamato comes back to his room dejected only to see Yasunobu freeloading there. He explains what happened and his rejection. Yasunobu decides to leave him alone and gives him a pack of tissues, in which Yamato cries uncontrollably after that.
It’s natural for someone who gets rejected to be all depressed. That’s how Yamato is feeling in episode 7. However, Yamato gets an unlikely advice from Yuuka herself. She tells of her own confession and rejection story back when she had a crush on a certain guy. Yeah, back then she was just a plain Jane. Even though she got rejected after confessing to him, Yuuka vowed never to give up until he accepts her love. With that, Yamato gets encouraged and his self confidence back. So Yuuka’s not a busty bimbo after all. So after consulting Yasunobu for more advice, Yamato decides to join the track team in order to be closer to Suzuka. But Yasunobu is against that idea and wants him to apologize to Suzuka instead. So when Yasunobu accompanies Yamato to go apologize to her, he gets surprised when Yamato tell Miyamoto on how he wishes to join the track team instead, delighting him very much but leaving Suzuka pretty much confused.
Now that Yamato’s officially part of the track team in episode 8, he finds that it isn’t a bed of roses. I mean, even though he’s joining as a 100m sprinter, he still needs to have endurance and stamina. Yeah, he gets tired after some warm up. We are introduced to the track captain and shot put athlete, Tetsuhito Kinugasa, and another sprinter, Miki Hashiba, who is Suzuka’s friend and looks up to her a lot. Initially Miki didn’t like Suzuka very much because of her cold expression but soon realizes her ideals and goals. At the end of the day, Yamato is too exhausted so much so Yasunobu and Honoka had to carry him back. Because Yasunobu notices how Honoka is watching Yamato practice everyday, he suggests her to join the track club but she declines, giving an excuse that she is slow. That night as Honoka and Yuuka are taking a bath together at the bathhouse, Honoka finds out about Yamato’s rejection from Yuuka. Must be feeling heartbreak, huh? Honoka decides to leave but because her mind has been clouded with this newfound knowledge, she opens the wrong door whereby Yamato is fixing the bathhouse heat. Yamato is in a panic and starts apologizing when he sees her naked but actually Honoka’s tears were more on the thought that Yamato had confessed to Suzuka. Later Yamato accompanies Honoka back and after eating some croquette snack, Honoka realizes that he still has Suzuka on his mind. But in order not to give up, the next day Honoka joins the track club as their manager to be close to Yamato. The boys must be thrilled to have a cute manager. So what does a manager do? All I can see is that she gives them hand towels, bottled drinks and does their laundry. Is this what managing is all about? As Miki is giving Yamato a massage, Suzuka thinks he is fooling around. Miki thinks Suzuka is too hard on him but Suzuka is pretty sure that with his attitude, he’ll give up and leave the track team. But Yamato is bent on working harder so that he could get closer to Suzuka. As Suzuka prepares to do another high jump, her mind is pre-occupied with Yamato so much so she doesn’t clear the minimum height.
Yamato gets used to the training in episode 9 and with the upcoming Metropolitan tournament, the track team needs to do a selection. Though Yamato isn’t confident about his skills, he manages to beat his other team mates and clocked a time of 10.98. Now that is considered quite an achievement because not many runners their level could run at a 10 second bracket. Kinugasa tells Miyamoto how Yamato resembles so much like that person. But when a ecstatic Yamato goes to tell Suzuka about his time record, she gets upset and tells him how she hates him instead. Over lunch with Yasunobu and Miki, Yamato is still upset about Suzuka’s indifferent attitude. Yamato can’t quit the club like that now as Miki tells him how Suzuka hates people who do things half-heartedly as joining and leaving the club is irresponsible. You’ll also notice that Yasunobu and Miki will have little squabbles among themselves but it won’t turn out into anything much. Meanwhile Miyamoto tells Suzuka how Yamato resembles a lot like Kazuki Tsuda, in which Suzuka denies. Then Yamato overhears Suzuka talking to Miyamoto about how she’s going back to her hometown to see Kazuki, which of course sends another jealous ring down Yamato’s mind. Because he has been thinking who this Kazuki guy is, he hadn’t had much sleep. He comes down and asks Ayano where is Suzuka, but she told him she had already left for her hometown. In his room, Yamato follows playful Gorou into Suzuka’s room through the balcony and spots a photo of Suzuka and a guy which resembles so much like him (that’s Kazuki alright). After receiving a note from Suzuka as given by Miho, Yamato without any hesitation decides to go after Suzuka.
He manages to arrive at Suzuka’s hometown in episode 10 and to his surprise finds that her house is bigger than the average home. Yamato bumps into Suzuka’s elder sister, Suzune, who upon finding out the reason he is here, brings him to see Suzuka. Yamato gets another surprise when he sees her praying at the grave of Kazuki. Suzune explains that 2 years ago, Kazuki died in a car accident on his way to a track meet. Kazuki was also dubbed the Rocket Starter and one of the fastest sprinters in this region. Upon knowing it all, Yamato decides to go back and wishes Suzune not to tell Suzuka about his presence. As Yamato heads back, he begins to think that Suzuka may be seeing him as a replacement of a dead guy. Likewise, Suzuka recalls the time when she and Kazuki didn’t like each other, quarrelling most of the time and his care-free attitude was somewhat like Yamato, only livelier. Even with his irresponsible attitude, Kazuki still managed to get into the Nationals while Suzuka herself failed to make the cut. Then when Suzuka was in her 2nd year of junior high, Kazuki gave her some words of encouragement and had Miyamoto take a photo of them together. Kazuki also confessed his feelings to her just a day before the meet. But Suzuka didn’t give him an answer and will never have another chance to do so because he died the next day. In present time, Yamato’s depression has made him skipped several training and practice and has the team members worried. That night, Suzuka comes to talk to Yamato in his room and soon it turned out into another argument. Yeah, he’s even thinking about quitting the track team. Suzuka then slaps him when he crosses the line by saying how she’s comparing him to a dead guy and that he is NOT Kazuki. As Suzuka rushes out and back to her room, Yamato wonders why he has done to deserve this slap and decides not to go to the meet.
The day of the track meet arrives in episode 11 and Yamato is not showing up. At the meet, the region’s current number 1 sprinter, Emerson Arima, is hogging the spotlight. Miyamoto was hoping that Yamato would be their best bet against him but Suzuka gets upset upon hearing Yamato’s name so much so she said out loud how Arima is not on level with Kazuki. Of course Arima has heard this and couldn’t let this slip by. Meanwhile Yasunobu has managed to drag Yamato to the meet and when they arrive, they spot Suzuka being confronted by Arima and his pals. They want Suzuka to apologize to Arima for insulting him. At that point, their overwhelming presence seems to make Suzuka shiver in fear, crying and unable to do anything. Yamato then steps in to stand up for her saying that he will personally beat Arima. After the commotion has settled down, Suzuka chides him for making such an irresponsible statement but Yamato says it will all eventually work out. For his sake, he’d better because the loser has to get down on his knees and apologize.
The first heat begins and Yamato finds that he is in the same heat as Arima. When the race starts, Yamato has a hard time catching up to Arima. Yamato’s pals are watching and think he’s not going to make it. And Yasunobu thought it would be interesting to see if he could pull something off. Then it’s like Yamato heard some ‘inspirational’ words from Suzuka when she yelled "NANI ITTE N DA YO, BAKA?! (What are you doing, idiot?!)", did Yamato got some power to finally catch up side by side with Arima. Imagine just the words of a girl could power up a guy like him. Honoka must be worried because Suzuka’s words manage to reach his heart. Now Arima is starting to sweat. But even with Yamato’s strong determination to beat him, suddenly his body stops moving as he collapses. He didn’t finish the race. Kinugasa says this is what happens when he skipped 3 days of training and practice. Later as Arima confronts Yamato, he tells the latter to get away from his face but Yamato says he’s not giving up yet and runs away. What was that all about? Arima must be a little pissed off for an unknown fry like him to make him work so hard during the early rounds. Suzuka finds Yamato under a tree and nurses his bruised knees (she put too many band aids on it!) and tells him to come to practice tomorrow. This lifts up his spirits because she didn’t get mad at him for failing to walk the talk.
That newspaper girl is back in episode 12 and this time working for some TV company and if Yamato subscribes to some channel he gets 2 free tickets to the pool. Since he knows her trick, he refuses. But she ends up giving the tickets free to him and tells him to go out with a girl. I mean, he needs a break seeing that he has been given a gruelling punishment of doing many dashes and laps for missing practice. While Yamato is seeking Yasunobu’s advice on inviting Suzuka to the pool, Honoka too had the same idea for Yamato (yeah, she got the idea from that newspaper woman) but she got Miki to come instead. Surprisingly, Suzuka too decides to join them. Get ready for a little fanservice shot with girls in their cute swimsuits. At the pool, both Yamato and Honoka try to impress their beloved ones but fails. As the gang heads back, it amazes me why nobody realizes Yamato fell down because of his shoe laces. So okay, Suzuka did. But as the fireworks begin to display, Yamato grabs her hand when she tries to get away. The rest of the gang catches up to them before anything could happen and Honoka is deeply saddened by what she had saw. The next day, Honoka wants to walk home with Suzuka. On their way, Honoka mentions how close Suzuka is to him but all Suzuka had to say about him were just complains. With that, Honoka asks if it’s okay that she confesses to Yamato since she has loved him way before Suzuka knows him. So why is she telling her this? Honoka feels that Suzuka likes him in which Suzuka strongly denies that she is in love with that idiot. You know what? Yamato has happened to pass by and heard it. Honoka starts to panic and runs away. Though Suzuka tries to apologize, Yamato didn’t get angry but says that he knew it all along and walks away. Suzuka feels bad about saying that.
The gang are taking a train to an Inter High Tournament in Hiroshima in episode 13. Kinugasa is all over Yamato saying how he has prepared some special training menu for him and wants him to improve further even after he retires. Hey, why is Yasunobu tagging along? He did mention how he had nothing better to do than to cheer them on. Perhaps hitting on chics too? Meanwhile Honoka is worried that is she doesn’t confess to Yamato soon, Suzuka may take him away from her. Thus Yasunobu suggests that Honoka do so. At Hiroshima, Yamato bumps into Arima but the latter ignores him totally. Also, Miki has a chat with Suzuka on Yamato. Speaking of which, he is doing some night training and notices his time isn’t improving. Honoka comes by to cheer him up. Honoka then spots Suzuka coming from behind and since she doesn’t want Yamato to see her, she quickly kisses him! Yamato is very surprised as Honoka rushes and runs pass Suzuka. She then comes by to sit next to him to give him some words of encouragement. Though Yamato still feels that he likes Suzuka, he can’t deny the face that Honoka’s lips were soft. The next day as Yamato watches Suzuka compete in her high jump event, Honoka comes by to apologize for last night’s event. And to celebrate Suzuka’s 3rd placing, the gang holds a celebration for her that night. Kinugasa notices Yamato isn’t around and wants Miki to fetch him. Yamato is outside trying to sort out his feelings when Honoka comes by. As they chat, the fish in the pond splashes a little water on Honoka, causing her to quickly go into Yamato’s arms. They stare at each other for a while before Yamato thinks that he likes Honoka and kisses her. At the same time, Miki spots the duo and is taken aback on what they are doing.
With that, Yamato and Honoka has become a couple in episode 14. Miki wanted to tell Suzuka about it but after seeing how happy Yamato is, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. So how happy is that guy? Well, he turns down Suzuka’s offer to go shopping with her. Yeah, he’s like, forget her already. After practice, Yamato receives a note from Honoka to meet her. There, she tells him of her feelings for him ever since the day they met. When Miki talks to Yasunobu about this new development, he is already aware of their relationship. Miki is upset that he didn’t do anything about it but Yasunobu replies that it isn’t his business. The next day, local boy Yamato tries to take Yasunobu, Honoka, Miyamoto and Kinugasa to a famous okonomiyaki store but got lost instead. Must be embarrassing. They ended up eating at a ramen shop instead. Honoka gives Yamato a matching handphone strap while Yasunobu rues why he himself doesn’t have a girlfriend. That night when the gang departs on a train back to Tokyo, Yamato is running late because he was buying juices for everyone. Since he’s carrying lots, he drops them just before boarding the train. Suzuka decides to help him pick up the pieces when the train door shuts. Miki is wondering where the duo are when to her surprise spots them outside her window trying to catch up with the train. Yamato, I know you’re a sprinter but that doesn’t mean you can beat the train, right? Now they’re left stranded. Honoka is worried about Yamato and tries to call him on his handphone but that guy left it on the train. Miki tells Kinugasa about it as he contacts Suzuka on her handphone. He tells them that they have to get back to Tokyo tonight no matter what. But they can’t because that was the last train for the day and there are no bus services at that time. Unless you plan to be on the waiting list. No choice, they have to find a place to stay for the night now. Honoka must be worried that Yamato and Suzuka are now alone together. Oh yeah, it could’ve been her and him.
In episode 15, the duo are thinking their next step but without much money, they can’t do much. Yeah, a drunk guy thinks they’re a couple and suggests for them to go to a love hotel. Yamato then gets an idea to call his dad to come pick him up while Suzuka stays at a hotel (borrow some money from his dad, that is). With that, Suzuka calls Kinugasa and tells him about their plans. Just then Honoka picks up the phone to talk to Yamato, in which he assures her everything will be okay since he won’t be spending the night together with Suzuka. After waiting for 30 minutes, Yamato’s dad finally arrives but gives his son a knock on the head as a warm welcome for being an idiot. Then he scoffs off the idea of Suzuka to stay in a hotel all by herself and invites her to stay with them too. The next morning, Suzuka joins Yamato and his weird family eating breakfast. Yeah, everyone literally teases him. Later Yamato asks Suzuka if he wanted to see the fireflies, which means they need to stay an additional night. She declines his offer and tells him that he should think about Honoka. Soon he calls Honoka and tells her what has happened and will be back in Tokyo by tonight. But that evening as they are about to leave, Suzuka changes her mind and decides to go see the fireflies. Yamato takes her to a dark spot near a bridge but to his disappointment couldn’t see a single firefly. He recalls another screw up like this when he was younger. After seeing how serious he was to show her the fireflies (initially she laughed at his corny story), Yamato then notices a firefly on a bellflower. It looks as though the flower is illuminating. Suzuka wants him to enact a love confession to her. He takes the illuminated bellflower, gives it to her and confesses he loves her. Even Suzuka is surprised because he was so darn convincing. Like a real confession. She takes the bellflower and accepts his confession. Now Yamato wonders if she’s serious or not because her words too was so convincing. As their eyes adjust to the darkness, they can now see the beautiful lights of the fireflies. Just then Suzuka tells him that she was joking about accepting his confession and laughs. Poor guy. And he thought she was doing it for real. How heartbreaking.
Honoka stops by at Ayano’s place to ask about Yamato in episode 16 but was told that he won’t be back till noon. Yamato and Suzuka manage to catch the morning train back to Tokyo and Yamato is still upset that he took Suzuka’s confession seriously. When they arrived, Yamato spots Honoka there waiting for him. As Suzuka leaves them alone, Yamato then realizes his love for Honoka as they both kiss in the crowded station. Unless you’re in love, many would find that public display of affection real embarrassing. Get a room! Next day at school, Yamato and Yasunobu are talking about the former’s direction in his new relationship when Yasunobu suggests that Yamato have sex with Honoka because it’s natural for couples in love to do so. That night, Yamato is thinking of a way to get Honoka over (can’t believe he listened to that playboy’s advice) when Honoka shows up at his doorstep to cook him dinner. As Honoka starts cooking, Yamato’s mind once again is in a dilemma about his feelings for Suzuka. So without further thinking, he pushes Honoka on top his bed and starts kissing her. Of course Honoka starts to panic and gets scared. She pushes him away before running out. What has this guy done now. Honoka passes by Suzuka when she leaves Yamato’s room and Suzuka gives him her usual lecture about his insensitivity when Yamato slams the door after saying it’s none of her business. A taste of her own medicine? Honoka didn’t turn up the next day for her track club duties so Yamato decides to go and apologize to her at her home. She accepts it and wonders if Yamato hates her. He doesn’t and says it was his fault to begin with for forcing on to her. Then Honoka made a weird statement how she doesn’t mind being forced upon if it’s Yamato. That sure is ambiguous.
In episode 17, Miki smacks Yasunobu when she learns about him trying to get Yamato to have sex with Honoka. Meanwhile Kinugasa has Yamato do some weights to increase his strength. After practice, Yamato is thinking of calling Miho to come fetch him with an umbrella since it’s raining and the fact that Honoka was busy with something else. Surprisingly Suzuka offers him one. Deja vu? Even if Miki asks her if she likes Yamato, Suzuka denies it. Later when Yamato goes out with Honoka, he spots an ad of a famous singer Nana Shirakawa. Then at the cafe, Yamato gets a surprise to see the singer herself in person coming up to their table. Yeah, Nana is Honoka’s friend too. A flashback of how they met and it didn’t start on a friendly note. Nana was even an idol when she was still schooling and when Honoka caught her smoking in her shrine compound, they got in an argument. Because Honoka treated her like a normal person, that’s when their friendship began. They soon have to go elsewhere as the other customers start to recognize her. Meanwhile Suzuka and Miki are having a karaoke session when they heard a familiar voice singing next door, which is Yamato along with Honoka and Nana. Since Suzuka doesn’t know who Nana is, she thinks Yamato is two-timing her and starts lecturing him. On the other hand, Nana thinks Yamato is three-timing Honoka because Suzuka sounded like his girlfriend. After clearing things up, they decide to have a karaoke competition among themselves. After Yamato and Nana walks Honoka back to her home, Nana questions him if he truly loves Honoka. Even though he’s a nice guy and doesn’t want to hurt her, Nana notes how Yamato’s actions are merely being influenced by Honoka’s feelings. Something like he’s not being himself and just acting to be a good boyfriend but without getting close to her. I’m not an expert on this area so I can’t really say much. Just like Yamato, I’m stumped too. But even so, Yamato doesn’t even know much about Honoka, not to mention her birthday. Nana tells him her birthday is just around the corner, September 16th to be precise and if he doesn’t want to break up with her, he has to look at her more.
Yamato is thinking what to get Honoka for her birthday in episode 18. When Honoka hints if he is free on her special day, Yamato lies to her by saying that he has something to do with Yasunobu. Yamato later asks Miho and Yuuka for their opinions on what to get as Honoka’s birthday present as they argue about what is ideal to them. Poor Megumi wishes she had a guy to give her presents. Well Yamato, looks like you have to eventually think about it yourself. Yamato goes to the store to get some hints from a magazine when Suzuka comes in and thinks he’s reading porn. He soon asks her opinion in which Suzuka replied a necklace. He also asks her to come with him to help pick out the necklace tomorrow, in which she agrees to meet at a faraway district. The reason being that it would be odd if familiar faces catches them shopping together. As Honoka is reading a magazine at a store, Yuuka and Megumi comes by and Yuuka’s slip of a tongue causes her to say that Yamato is buying Honoka a gift as a surprise. Honoka is happy that he didn’t forget about her birthday and decides to do something for him as well. Meanwhile Yamato and Suzuka go from one shop to another but couldn’t find the perfect necklace till they meet that newspaper lady now selling novelties at the roadside. Yamato has Suzuka try on the necklace and buys it after seeing how perfect it is. When Honoka finishes her shopping, she spots Yamato and Suzuka departing from the train station together. Looking like a happy couple, aren’t they? On Honoka’s birthday, Yamato shows up at her doorstep to present his gift. Honoka tells him that he already knew from Yuuka so Yamato also comes clean about his lie being with Yasunobu. Then he went on ranting his day in choosing the necklace with Suzuka. Honoka has had enough about it (because his conversations always seem to have Suzuka in it) and decides not to accept his present as she goes back into her house in tears. When Yamato returns to his room, Suzuka asks him how did it go and Yamato told her what happened. Gloominess descending on everyone again…
Yamato once again consults Yasunobu on his views in episode 19 but the latter thinks it’s his fault and wants him to go apologize. Even during the track club practice, Honoka avoids talking to him. Suzuka feels guilty for going shopping with Yamato and thinks she is the reason their relationship is strained and goes to apologize but Yamato admits that it’s his own fault at first. Meanwhile, Nana is seen comforting Honoka. Later Yamato decides to have a 2nd go at giving his present to Honoka at her house. She once again refuses saying that she can’t accept a present which he and Suzuka chose happily together. I mean, of all the people, why choose her to go select a present. Girls, can’t understand them ;p (I’m the one to say!). Honoka then suggests that they break-up, in which he agrees. It is that time in which she decides to accept his present as a token of remembrance as they once dated as a couple. She then gives him a goodbye kiss. Yamato returns to his room to find Yuuka and Megumi drunk. He isn’t in the mood and wants them to leave after telling them of his break-up. Suzuka happen to pass by and heard this unfortunate news. While Megumi pours out her own miserable boyfriend-less story, Megumi says it’s a good thing they broke-up because Yamato is being irresponsible. After the drunkards left, Suzuka comes in to apologize for all that has happened. But Yamato lies and says that he was the one who dumped Honoka, which made Suzuka very upset as she storms out of his room wondering why she cared so much about this idiot. Yeah, she’s starting to hate him again.
More depression in episode 20. Yasunobu and Miki tries to cheer up Yamato after learning of his break-up while Nana does the same for Honoka, who still thinks Suzuka pretty much occupies Yamato’s heart. Plus, Honoka hasn’t turn up for track practice ever since. When the club members found out about their break-up they get upset because there won’t be anymore cute girl to be their manager. Except for 1 member who isn’t angry about him (because he has been a long time secret admirer of Honoka so with this break-up he thinks he has a chance with her. Dream on…) and even goes to console Yamato. One day out of the blue moon, Honoka makes a surprising return to the team and gives those guys a much needed morale booster. I don’t know what she’s thinking but Honoka decides to win back Yamato’s heart. Hey, didn’t she wish for this break-up in the first place? Also, Kinugasa wants Yamato to be part of the relay team. Eventually Miki found out the real reason why he broke-up with Honoka and wonders why didn’t he just tell Suzuka the truth. His reply is that he doesn’t want to hurt her as she will feel that she’s the cause of their break-up. Later Miki has Yamato treat her to some okonomiyaki and on their way back, she advices him that he nothing would come if he does nothing and wants him to continue to be on the track team as other people’s have expectations of him.
Even with Yamato’s newfound determination in episode 21, he still can’t concentrate on his relay, dropping the baton each time and upsetting his senior team mates. Obviously he’s got Suzuka on his mind. Miki decides to help Yamato with his relay at a nearby park. Yamato decides to tell Suzuka the truth himself after reflecting that his actions were sort of irresponsible. After school Yamato tells Suzuka about it and his reasons for doing so but this causes her to get even more upset. Later as Yamato heads to the dhoby to do his laundry, he sees Suzuka there doing hers. He tries to make conversation or sharing his croquette but she isn’t in the mood for one. When Yamato decides to go to a convenience store (so that Suzuka could take out her laundry of underwear which she doesn’t want him to see), Suzuka mentions how she would like to have some croquette but wouldn’t want to eat it alone. When they return to their rooms, Yamato gets a call from Miki to see if he has already made-up with Suzuka. After that, Yamato gets a little annoyed when the phone rings a 2nd time but gets a little shock to hear it’s Suzuka who wishes him to do well in his races because she doesn’t want to be blamed for his failures (hint hint). With that, Yamato realizes that he still likes Suzuka after all.
Another track meet in episode 22 but before that Yamato tells Yasunobu that he still likes Suzuka. As Miyamoto shows up to tell Yamato to get ready for their race, Yasunobu finds out more about Kazuki. Even though he has an irresponsible attitude, he’s like a genius when it comes to those sprinting race, breaking the record for the junior high tournament. And even if Kazuki and Suzuka argued quite a lot, Suzuka still liked Kazuki and still does even after his death. Of course Yamato couldn’t stand anymore of this Kazuki talk and yells for them to shut up, attracting the attention of the other people nearby and embarrassing Suzuka. Yamato tells Yasunobu that he is going to be number 1 in Japan so that he could win Suzuka’s heart. During the heat, Yamato and Arima are in separate heats and even if Yamato won his semi-final bout, he qualifies for the next tournament without having to face off with Arima in the finals. Something which he isn’t happy about since he really wants to beat him. Furthermore, since he went all out during his semi-final run, some of his pals think that he’s using too much energy and by the time the finals come, he won’t have any energy left. But you know, Yamato will still do it his way. Later Suzuka finds Yamato a little dejected because Arima still beats him in terms of time, relegating him to 2nd place. He then starts to ask Suzuka technical questions about his running (hey, she’s a high jumper lah!) before rushing off. He’s dead serious on being number 1, is he? All for the love of Suzuka…
In episode 23, Miyamoto helps Yamato improve his time and technique by drawing up some graph and charting each run. We learn that Yamato reaches his top speed faster than Arima but is unable to maintain it. So part of the plan is to change his running style. But can he do it within 2 weeks before the next meet? As usual, Suzuka gives him the cold shoulder as she doesn’t care how he runs. And after Yamato chats with Miki about his goals, Miki feels that even if he becomes number 1, it doesn’t mean that Suzuka would fall for him. At the same time, Honoka is still finding solace in Nana’s advice. Since she’s still worried about Yamato and Suzuka (yeah, she feels she’s got no room between them anymore), Nana just tells her to forget about him and find a new boyfriend. Easier said than done. As Yamato continues with his practice, he made some improvement to his time but Suzuka still doesn’t care. So much so that Yamato blew his top and wants to know what is it about him that she hates so much. Yamato walks away when Suzuka tugs his shirt and apologizes before running away. And I thought she didn’t like him with his irresponsible attitude. Now that he is serious, she’s like getting all so bothered. Can’t understand her either.
The track meet begins in episode 24 with Suzuka easily qualifying for the Kantou Tournament. Likewise, Yamato gets ready to face-off with Arima. The race starts and Yamato and Arima are side by side. Then halfway through the race, Yamato loses speed as everyone else zooms past him and he ends up in last place. What a disappointment. Which means he did not qualify for the next round. Bummer. Back home, Yamato thinks he can’t face Suzuka after that dismal performance but to his surprise Suzuka comes by his doorstep. She gives him some advice of her personal experience to cheer him up and brought some eggs as well (hope she doesn’t microwave it like the last time). Yamato is grateful for cheering him up but Suzuka gives an excuse that she had bought too many eggs and wanted to give him some excess. Before Suzuka leaves, Yamato once again confesses to her that he likes her but she doesn’t have to give him an answer now and that he will practice and train even harder from now. So when he becomes number 1, only then she can tell him her answer. Suzuka doesn’t want to hear any of it and tells him to stop as she runs away because at that point Yamato reminded her so much of Kazuki. Rejected a second time? The next doorbell rings and Yamato finds it’s Miho looking for Suzuka to help her with her homework and since she can’t find her in her room, Yamato tells her that she may have gone out to do some errands. However several hours passed and Suzuka still hasn’t return. Yamato is worried and decides to go look for her with the help of Miki. Meanwhile Suzuka is seen crying on the steps of the shrine.
Episode 25 has Suzuka remembering of her time with Kazuki. Well, nothing different from her usual spat with Yamato. That cheeky guy got the cheek to write their names on a school desk to make her an accomplice after she found out that he’s doodling the desk that he wants to be the number 1 sprinter. The day before the tournament, Suzuka was quite nervous of how Kazuki would be faring when Suzune teases her that she likes him. However the next day, she gets a call from Miyamoto saying that Kazuki has died in an accident. At his funeral, Suzuka didn’t even shed a tear but in contrast, Miyamoto was devastated and inconsolable. After the funeral, Suzuka volunteered to get Kazuki’s stuff and spots the table with their names and drew a love umbrella. It is that time when Suzuka realized her feelings for Kazuki but was too late to let him know. In present time, Honoka decides to get some stuff from the convenient store when she spot Suzuka sitting alone on the steps. She chats with her as Honoka tries to bring some senses to her like how her attitude is causing everyone else around her to suffer and even calls her a liar for running away from important issues. Though Honoka doesn’t understand how it feels to have a loved one die, she definitely knows how it feel to have a loved one being stolen away. She wants Suzuka to tell her true feelings to Yamato but that girl just ran away (just proves what Honoka said, right?). After some thinking at the park, Suzuka decides to go home when Yamato spots her. She tries to run away but he grabbed her hand. Suzuka starts to break down and mentions how she doesn’t want to experience love again because she fears that the same thing might happen to him if she does. Yeah, I mean after building up so much hope for it and in the end, it all goes down wasted. Plus, since Yamato looked so much like Kazuki, it’s like as though God is playing a cruel prank of her by making history repeat itself. Of course Yamato thinks he’s not the same as Kazuki and before Suzuka knows it, Yamato forces a kiss on her! She didn’t slap him once but several times! SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! Ouch! Getting run down by a car isn’t this painful. Okay, just kidding.
In the aftermath of that sudden kiss, in episode 26 Suzuka is still sorting out her feelings as she stares at the photo of Kazuki and herself. Yamato on the other hand tells Miki that he has found Suzuka and to call off the search. The next day, Suzuka ignores him on her way to school so Yamato confronts her and says that he will not lose to this Kazuki guy and refuses to apologize. Yeah, he won’t back down until she faces him. Their commotion attracted the attention of Ayano, Miho, Yuuka and Megumi. It seemed like a typical lovers quarrel until the ladies found out that Yamato did a forced kiss on Suzuka. Can’t blame them if they get upset. The next day after practice, Honoka convinces Suzuka to walk home with her. Honoka tells Suzuka that she plans on quitting the track club because since she still likes Yamato but he has only eyes for Suzuka, she feels she can’t cheer on for such a person with all her heart as at this rate she can’t move forward in life. Thus she wants Suzuka to make it clear to Yamato once and for all since Honoka notices how they both look like they’re in so much pain. And that’s not good for them both. Later Yamato learns from Miho that Suzuka is visiting Kazuki’s grave so he rushes to her room to stop her. Surprisingly, she wants him to accompany her there. As Suzuka prays at Kazuki’s grave, she apologizes to Kazuki that she can’t go out with him because there is someone else she likes even if that person is irresponsible and clumsy. Hmm… What an odd place to indirectly confess her feelings. When she’s done and Suzuka says to go home, Yamato notices at that point Suzuka’s cutest expression. The next day, Yuuka and Megumi spots Suzuka waiting for Yamato to go to school together. So when Yuuka asks if she’s waiting for him, she gets embarrassed and rushes off. Yamato then comes by and Yuuka tells him Suzuka has rushed off because he made her mad by waiting. Of course he chases after her. With that, Yuuka wishes him to do his best because the hard part starts now. Yamato finally catches up to her as they hold hands while walking to school. His life did changed for the better.
So finally he gets the girl. I guess many viewers would hope that it would turn out this way. I know that there are some which wanted to pair Yamato and Honoka together but since the anime title is named after a particular character, you can’t argue about that, could you? As mentioned, there isn’t much focus on the sports action and even so is just for a short moment. The main focus here is the character development of the characters. Especially Suzuka who has been clinging on her past for so long and it’s a good sign that in the end she managed to let go of it and move forward with Yamato. I mean, if a guy who looks and acts so similar like the one she loved, what are the chances that the same thing might happen to him? I guess that’s why Suzuka is so afraid to fall in love with Yamato and acts like the cold tsundere girl she is. Come to think of it, is Yamato a reincarnation of Kazuki? But it’s a good thing too that Yamato didn’t qualify for the Kantou Tournament because if he does, he might get into a car accident like Kazuki. Just kidding. Touch wood. And I can’t believe that in an earlier episode, Suzuka did say to herself how Yamato and Kazuki are definitely NOT alike. Must be in denial.
The other characters too play quite a role in the development between Yamato and Suzuka. We know that Honoka has longed harboured a deep crush on Yamato and when she got to be with him albeit a short spell, she realizes that she can’t possibly stand up to Suzuka in Yamato’s heart and admits defeat. Yasunobu and Yuuka too have their plus points in giving Yamato his confidence. It’s alright for a guy who got rejected once, having second thoughts about confessing again in fear of the same thing may happen. So don’t think that a playboy and a drunkard are totally useless. Though I was hoping that Miki would get into the love triangle but she’s just there to provide support for them both, just as in Nana’s role to Honoka.
Earlier on in my blog I did mention that the opening theme was the one which attracted me. It still does. Entitled Start Line by COACH, I’m not sure if this pop piece is suitable for a sports genre like this. But then again, this isn’t really a sports themed series. All the ending themes are also done by COACH and the 1st ending theme is another lively piece called Aoi Field while the 2nd ending theme is a slower ballad called Kimi No Koto. There is something which bugs me on the opening credits animation. The entire animation only features Suzuka alone! I know that she has the series named after herself, but no other characters appearing as well? The 1st ending credits animation isn’t so bad as it features other girls in the track attire though the art here is mainly silhouette drawing. Then the 2nd ending credits animation is another eyebrow raiser because it has those DNA double helix floating around onscreen! Is it a subtle message to say don’t do drugs in sports? Anyway, the 2nd ending animation too mainly features Suzuka herself, unless you want to count those half body parts feature from some character which my guess would be Yamato.
For a drama series like this, I can say that the voice acting is good (okay, maybe sometimes rather flat. This is a drama series, isn’t it?) especially Yamato and Suzuka who are giving out a lot of angst. Yamato is voiced by Daisuke Nakamura (Colonello in Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn) while Suzuka is voiced by Kanako Mitsuhashi (Killhua in Hunter X Hunter). Other casts include Seika Hosokawa as Miki, Takanari Ouyama as Yasunobu, Masami Suzuki as Yuuka (Amelia in Slayers), Takeshi Maeda as Miyamoto and Yuki Kaida as Ayano (Fuji in Prince Of Tennis). I noticed most of them don’t have a long list of anime roles under their names. Surprisingly to me, I found out that 4 out of the 5 members of the all-girl group COACH do lend their voices in this series. They are Yumiko Hosono as Honoka, Satomi Akesaka as Miho, Hatsumi Miura as Megumi, and Michie Kitaura as Nana. There are several nice background music ranging from dramatic to those exciting sports tune. But the ones which I liked best are those piano pieces accompanied with strings.
If you listen closely to the lines of the next episode preview, you will notice that those lines will be said somewhere in the next episode although during the next episode preview, those lines and the onscreen animation doesn’t necessarily match. Sometimes, it may give off a misunderstanding. The titles of each episode are simple (in the sense that if translated into English, it would be one word) and mostly are related to feelings or actions. However the final episode’s title still had me in stitches. Though the hiragana puts it as ‘Ryoufu’ which means cool breeze, but the kanji writing is exactly the one as in Suzuka’s name. Can it be pronounced differently as well? Ah, the wonders of Japanese kanji. Besides, I first made a mistake of pronouncing her name as Suzukaze (suzu meaning cooling/refreshing and kaze meaning the wind) when I saw her kanji writing.
There are tiny bits of fanservice here unless you consider girls in those skimpy track suits to be a turn on. I know there’s the pool episode and the several times Yamato accidentally got his face onto Megumi’s boobs. That shouldn’t be a big problem if you’re thinking of watching this with your family or girlfriend. And no, there is no harem in this series too. Perhaps a love triangle should be a more accurate term.
I know I’ve said this many times before and after watching so many of such genres, I should by now myself know that love isn’t such an easy and smooth ride. But then again, life in the tube may differ significantly in the real world. Hopefully, Yamato and Suzuka would continue their romance as they should. Just try not to get slapped multiple times, okay? I think that’s very ‘suey’ no matter how you look at it.

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