Did not think I'd hit a wall so fast in this thread, but boy I sure just did.

Spent the last twenty minutes picking away at these two episodes, and then just deleted it all. Wasn't... there wasn't any flow to it. Honestly, I'm not sure what I'm trying to say about these episodes?

I dug watching them, absolutely. Yaguruma is a great new antagonist, and the way these episodes executed their action sequences were pretty fun. There are some great gags (all of the rivalry shit in 07, that bowl measuring joke most of all) and a few scenes building out the Hiyori/Tendou dynamic that are, at a minimum, delightful.

But the core of these episodes, the way Yaguruma comments on and distorts Tendou's character... that's the biggest thing in these episodes, and yet I don't really have as much to say about it as I thought?

Like, the whole gimmick in these two (beyond Yaguruma Is Hiding Something) is that Yaguruma is the opposite of all of Tendou's deficiencies. He values teamwork and compromise. He abhors grandstanding. He views any victory as illegitimate unless his whole team participates. As a character, he exists to critique Tendou.

But what keeps me from being able to analyze that is the show is already doing that, often times in the text. It is so purposeful in the way it's currently contrasting the two characters that it feels like all I can do is just, like, gesture at the episodes. Me breaking down how Yaguruma contrasts Tendou would just be me transcribing the dialogue.

It's not a real deep couple episodes, I thought? It's a lot of setup for what's to come, and that makes it hard to do more than deliver the foundation that's about to be upended. I mean, the story isn't Yaguruma Is Great Forever, because who would want to watch that? The story is in what Yaguruma's hiding, in what Kagami will do as things get worse, in how Tendou will deal with Kagami's Very Strong Feelings. (Tendou is already starting to regret being friends with Kagami and his Very Strong Feelings, so buckle the eff up.)

There's a lot of fun to be had in these episodes, for sure. The way Yaguruma nad Tendou immediately get on each other's nerves to the degree that they need to have an Iron Chef cookoff is... I mean, it's one of those story ideas that's almost too perfect to believe it actually happened. (Hiyori confessing to Sally that the only reason she picked Yaguruma's dish is because she prefers hot food is such a beautiful touch. Perfection is a subjective quality! That's kind of what the theme of these episodes is! Never change, Hiyori! You're the only objectively perfect one on this show!) Seeing Kagami throw the difficult Tendou aside for the new golden boy (literally?) of Yaguruma is, y'know, of course. Of course!

And that's sort of the problem, once we get past the tofu battle: everything goes pretty much how you'd expect? Kagami puts himself deeper in Yaguruma's shadow, by, uh, joining Yaguruma's Shadow. Tendou shakes his head at Kagami's fickleness. Yaguruma's cool facade begins to crumble, Kusaka-style, as Tendou's successes mount. It just keeps ticking away, getting us closer to things falling apart.

That last scene, though! Worth it? Maybe worth an episode and a half of by-the-numbers storytelling. (I mean, that scene of Tendou dressing up like a priest and reciting his own scripture is no slouch, either!) It's a magnificently shot fight, with Kabuto and TheBee (a wasp, not a bee) cast in silhouette against a blazing sunset. Feels appropriately mythic, you know? I just wish what preceded it was more... something.

I don't even know what I'd say was specifically wrong with these episodes for me. They were fun to watch, with some great gags, bold new characters, and exciting action. But the pacing. I think that's it? The second half of 07 and all of 08 just, like, hit their marks and that's it. Once you see Yaguruma start to lose it, everything else feels perfunctory. It's a show biding its time, and while it does it stylishly (Tendou as a priest!), it still feels like a stall.

Maybe I'm being unfair? Maybe! I can certainly see this being a set of episodes that other people are going to rave about, and I don't blame them a bit. (That tofu battle is highlight-reel material.) For me, they felt a little hollow, a little predictable. Not bad, not at all, but very much the prelude to what looks to be a more interesting and unpredictable story.


Kabuto and TheBee (not a bee) have their highly-anticipated duel at the end of 08, but I'm sure we can all agree that the tofu battle in 07 is more iconic. Indisputable! It makes sense that Tendou would feel so strongly in his ability to prepare tofu that he'd risk disappointing Juka to prove his superiority. If you challenged someone to an honor duel, what skill of yours are you confident enough in to make that the terms of the duel? Like, what skill do you think you're strong enough in to best a stranger at? And do you think you'd perform better or worse if you competed against a blazing sunset?