Fastest Finger First Episode 9
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Fastest Finger First ?
In “High Road x Low Road,” Fastest Finger First did something you don't often see in sports anime: it presented an actual villain. Normally in competition-themed anime, you'll see antagonists whose motivations and tactics may be different from those of the protagonist, but whose equally-powerful love of the game makes them rivals, not bad guys. Though villain Sonohara Akira has been signaled for weeks, his awaited introduction still caused a stir. A character who initially felt like a tired trope turned out to be deviously clever, throwing a wrench into Koshiyama's quiz bowl experience and making the episode way more interesting.
How many truly bad guys are there in sports anime? The closest thing I've seen is another Akira—Midousuji Akira in Yowamushi Pedal, who used dirty tricks and bent the rules in order to get ahead. But even Midousuji loved his sport, and it's not yet clear whether Sonohara even respects quiz bowl at all. What is clear is that Sonohara is vastly intelligent, and he uses his wits to find loopholes in quiz bowl, pissing off everyone else in the process. “To Akira, this is just a game,” his big sister says. “A mean spirited game he plays only to rile up others and toy with them.” He relies on shock tactics, one of which Mikuriya flat out calls “a dick move.” He's cruel but fascinating. Unbound by the rules of civility that govern everyone else's quiz bowl etiquette, you never know what he's going to do next, and that makes for great TV. Additionally, his tricks are very cerebral, not anything I would have thought of myself. While I'm busy trying to answer the question, he's scanning the big picture for loopholes.
On the other hand, Fastest Finger First's author is establishing Sonohara as a provocative character in more ways than one. It's not only his intellect that's precocious but, we're led to believe, his sexuality. His crossdressing is portrayed as a deviant behavior, and his suggestion to Koshiyama to “press my button too” is loaded. His crocodile tears take his team captain Niina off guard, because they're both childish and girlish. I was not surprised to learn that Fastest Finger First manga creator Iqura Sugimoto has published several yaoi titles. That said, Sonohara is a middle schooler, so I find this approach unsettling. This kid is perfectly fascinating already without having to delve into the “effeminate boys are evil” trope.
Thanks to his devious tactics, Sonohara is absolutely the “Low Road” referenced in this episode's title. Just as we've settled into the rules of quiz bowl, his presence invites chaos into the mix. We've learned the “High Road” tactics for earning the right to answer first; now it's time to see just how psychological the dark side of quiz bowl can get. I'm certain we're not going to see any of this going on at the real life Japanese high school quiz bowl occurring next week, as advertised at the end of this episode for some cool anime/real world synergy. I don't like everything about Sonohara's character, but I like the new angle on looking at the quiz world that he represents.
Fastest Finger First is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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