What team? KAZEMAI!
The day of the group matches has arrived, and the Kazemai boys are feeling bad all around. Considering what happened during the individual matches, they’re all feeling intimidated — and the stakes are raised even higher when Masaki informs them that they’ll be going up against Kirisaki. The gang tries hype each other up before the match while the girls, Masaki’s brother (Ren), and the Kyudo shopkeeper take their seats. Everyone except Seiya and Nanao royally screw up their shots, and it leaves them feeling more defeated than ever.
Kaito goes off to mope in the woods, and Nanao razzes him for it. Kaito leaves and Nanao explains to Minato that his motivation behind his kyudo skill is to keep Kaito grounded. Minato then realizes that the reason he’s missing his shots is because he’s forgotten his motivation behind shooting.
The gang then goes back to the match for the second round — with all of them keeping their motivations in mind as they shoot — Kaito’s is his love of the sport, Ryohei’s seems to be the promise he made to the shop-keep, and Minato’s is probably his #DeadMom. The boys all hit their targets, ace the round, and manage to make it into the Prefectural Tournament. The boys celebrate and lift one another up.
Syu then encounters Minato afterwards, telling him that he’d like to see his skill at its 100%. Minato promises him that he will. Seiya then warns Syu not to mentally trip Minato up because he’s just gotten back on his feet, and Syu accuses Seiya of not truly loving kyudo after explaining that Minato was bound to come back to the sport, with or without Seiya’s help.
It seems the tables have finally started to turn for Minato and the crew. After episodes of practice and gradual character dynamic development, this was the first episode wherein all the boys succeeded somehow. Motivation was a solid solution to everyone’s target faults, and it seems to be a plot device that will yield a lot more emotion within the show, making things interesting and more intense when it comes to the characters and their character dynamics. The big punch at the end of the episode was definitely Syu’s interaction with Seiya. As their entire conversation revolved around Seiya’s devotion and loyalty to Minato, it was heavily implied that it isn’t kyudo that Seiya loves — it’s Minato. Considering Seiya even followed him to an entirely different school than one he could have gone to, it’s a wonder about whether this may even take a romantic direction or not.
Motivations and dynamics aside, it was just simply rewarding as a viewer to finally see Minato overcome his target panic for the first time — alongside his friends who also succeeded in hitting their targets. There was a sense of comradery in watching them all overcome their weaknesses with each other, as opposed to having the focus solely be on Minato. The emphasis put on Minato’s arrow as it fired into the bulls-eye had some nice visual/audio touches that allowed the audience to become immersed in the moment as well.
Other noteworthy things: animation/coloring/general art seems to have a steady increase in quality, as previously mentioned. It was also interesting to see how energetic and lively Minato was as a child, considering his now stoic self. A few more developments on certain characters and their personalities could really get the ball rolling — and give them all a chance to shine outside of the kyudo range, and not just on it.
All in all: one of the best episodes.