by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 10 of
"Ippon" Again! ?
Community score: 4.2
One of the neat things about sports is that you don't always have come out on top to win. Sure, a resounding or impacting victory is always the goal, but sometimes the currents of destiny and athletic ability coincide with a chance for the underdog to, if not win, at least play the spoiler towards their opponent. Sure, I was sad last year when UNC lost the NCAA championship, but that disappointment paled next to beating Duke and retiring Coach K in the semi-finals. Sometimes, fate conspires to make you the mathematically eliminated Detroit Lions, with a chance to beat the Packers in Week 18, keeping Aaron Rodgers out of the post-season in possibly his last game in Lambeau. This week, it's nerdy, timid Sanae taking on Megumi, the opposing team's overpowering Ace, and being the biggest pain in the ass possible.
Seriously, while a good underdog win is always fun, there's a unique satisfaction in seeing somebody drag their superior opponent so far into the mud that they burn out their motor trying to get back on solid ground. Sanae's match is grueling, but that's the whole point. I may not know much about real-life judo, but I've seen enough MMA matches to know this is the exact kind of bout most fighters hate. It's a strategy that takes the fight to the floor and turns even simple moves or actions into a struggle, ramping up the opponent's irritation and exhaustion until ten seconds feel like ten hours. The scorecard might say Sanae lost, but anyone watching knows that it was ultimately a win for her own judo journey and her team. It absolutely rules.
Himeno's bout is less immediately visceral, but watching her play subtle mind games through the entire match is no less appealing. She's got by far the most experience at West Aoba and knows how to fight smarter as well as harder. We still haven't gotten super into the weeds with competitive judo's intricacies, but it's fun seeing the cast implement things like floor spacing. Even if she's physically outmatched, Himeno capitalizes on how drained Megumi was after Sanae's match to control the whole fight to her advantage, patiently biding her time before striking at just the right time. On top of being an emotional victory for both her and Sanae, it's a unique approach compared to her younger teammates that help her stand out as a competitor.
The opposing team doesn't get any backstory this week, which is fine since they're meant to be more of an immediate, physical obstacle rather than a narrative one. I do like that Megumi has such a bulky, wide-set physique, and in a rare move for an anime, there's not a single joke about it. There are no cracks about her weight or gimmicks about eating a lot. She's just a big girl, and that build helps her dominate in the ring. Any mention of her size at all emphasizes her physical power, making her both imposing and impressive. It's a small detail in the grand scheme of the episode, but it's another pleasant way that "Ippon" differs from the sports anime norm that I appreciate.
We're getting down to the wire now, and with the girls up against a powerhouse in their next match, it's looking less and less likely that we'll be seeing a rematch with Amane's squad – at least not without a second season. Regardless of where we end things, if the show can keep up this kind of engrossing sports action while still being its charming self, I'm more than happy to see where it wraps up.
Also, I don't have anywhere else to put this, but I love that Nagumo wears Sanae's glasses while the latter has her match. Absolutely adorable detail. 100/10, no notes.
"Ippon" Again! is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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