It’s finally time for the regional tourny and it seems that Nitori’s private practice has finally paid off. He’s finally able to rejoin the team, and now Rin has constructed his Samezuka ‘Dream Team’ – as though there was any doubt that it wasn’t going to consist of established characters only. Both the Samezuka and Iwatobi teams end up staying at the exact same (fancy) hotel for the duration of the tournament, and most boys seem to be in relatively high spirits…except for Haruka and Sosuke.
Sosuke’s shoulder injury is still a secret to everybody else – especially Rin, and after Haru finally confronts him about it after an incredibly tense elevator scene he demands that Haru not let Rin know. Which is awkward, because it seems like it’s getting worse and worse.
Haru has his own issues to deal with, though – the increasing pressure on him to ‘impress’ the numerous university scouts in the audience, to set new records and to swim for reasons he himself simply doesn’t swim for…soon reaches breaking point in a dramatic way.
Well, so this is what the past few episodes have been building up to re:Haru’s issues, and despite the polarizing opinions on this episode that seem to be all around the internet, I think something like this was actually overdue. Had they dragged it out any further before the ‘climax’, it would have gotten annoying pretty fast.
The personal drama Haru is going through is something that I think ought to be relatable for quite a few people, particularly those who are constantly told how ‘gifted’ they are. There’s this weird mindset people have that ‘talented’ people don’t actually have to put any effort into things and that they can make use of their talents as easily as breathing, which is actually a rather dangerous mindset to reinforce. It’s why you see so many kids start to freak out in highschool and university once they realize they actually don’t know how to study – they’ve lived their whole lives until now being told by their parents and peers that they’re ‘gifted’ and ‘naturally smart’ and thus haven’t needed to study. And then when the time eventually comes when they don’t live up to their expectation, they go through an unreal sense of self-hatred and failure. I think this kind of thing is very similar what Haru is going through…which makes it yet another interesting thing to have this series show. Again, I’m pleasantly surprised with what this season is doing and the subtle commentary it seems to be making on such things (see: that episode about Nagisa before). One could argue that I’m trying to look at the show too deeply here -and hey, it could be true – but that’s certainly how I’m seeing it right now.
The show certainly did a great job of depicting Haru’s breakdown though – from his terrifying dream to the eventual scene of him stopping mid-race. And then, of course, his confrontation with Rin, which actually left me with the biggest impression because wow, Shimazaki Nobunaga is a great actor. It’s potentially the first time we’ve ever heard Haru speak with such emotion, and it was just portrayed really well. Haru does say that he still wants to swim the relay to the best of his ability – mostly because he’s swimming with his friends and not for points and times, so I’d like to see how that goes down in the next episode.
Meanwhile, Sosuke’s shoulder injury is bothering me. By which I mean…why is it only hurting him after we’ve found out about it? Either it’s gotten a lot worse (or he somehow made it worse) or there’s some rather bad writing here, and it makes the scenes of him wincing dramatically in pain less serious and more ‘seriously?’ to me. …That and the segue from ‘excrutiating shoulder pain’ to the happy-go-lucky Future Fish end theme was probably the funniest thing to happen in the episode.