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"Ippon" Again!
Episode 11

by Nicholas Dupree,

How would you rate episode 11 of
"Ippon" Again! ?
Community score: 4.0

©Yuu Muraoka (AKITASHOTEN)/Ippon again! Production Committee

You know, it's rather auspicious that I'm covering this show—and its tournament arc—right in the middle of the most chaotic March Madness I can remember. For those of you allergic to real-life sports, that's a national college basketball tournament that is held every year, famous for often producing surprising upsets and Cinderella stories, and is making very good on that reputation right now. At the time of writing, two of the top four teams have been eliminated in the opening rounds, with one of them going down to what was considered the worst team to make the tournament. There have been multiple shocking, last-second upsets across the board. It is utter chaos, and I love it.

Partially I love it because watching Kansas basketball lose always puts a smile on my face, but mostly it's because of the surprise of it all. Post-season contests like NBA or MLB playoffs are ruthlessly efficient at crowning the superior team in any given year, but tournaments like the one in "Ippon" Again! mean that even the most dominant contender is just one bad night from going home early. We saw it last week with Sanae and Himeno overthrowing a national-level athlete, and now we're hoping to see it against their heavily favored opponents at Tachikawa Academy.

We apparently also have at least one more episode than I was expecting, as this week is spent largely establishing the girls' new opponents, with the first match just barely beginning by the time the credits roll. That's good for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it really does make the results feel unpredictable. Tachikawa's casts are established to be just as vibrant and likable as our heroines, with their own foibles and established dynamics, which assures us that they won't just be temporary obstacles. When all of them have established specialties and personalities, there's no sense that they're filling space until our leads reach their predetermined destiny in the finals.

Though, the odds do seem more stacked against our girls when their first two opponents are the ones getting built up the most. Odagiri managed to take out a whole team by herself, but more importantly, is wrapped up in an even more elaborate fantasy about her potential love life than Michi. By the laws of Anime Character Writing, that makes her an even match at the very least. Emma is the rare blond foreigner character who's not from the U.S., but rather from France. While part of her character is missing idioms in Japanese, I also dig how excited she is to go up against Aoba West, seemingly recognizing their strength before any of her teammates. However, the real crown jewel of this episode is Tachikawa's coach, Inui. Not only does she know Shino-sensei, but the two were actually judo teammates back in the day, and Inui is obviously still harboring a big fat crush on her princely senpai. That they're now rival coaches facing each other in a high-stakes tournament makes me want an entire spinoff about their story. Just imagine the drama, two women who were once so close, forced apart by time and injury, have found each other again on opposite sides. They know they must keep their distance, stand by their wards and be professional, and yet... these feelings won't just go away…

My future fanfic notwithstanding, it's a fun way to characterize the opposing coach and immediately establish her as a meaningful threat. Each instructor wants to prove herself to the other and lead her team to victory. With both sides fleshed out and having something worth fighting for, it's a great lead-in to this (presumably) final bout. If I have one complaint, it's that Michi's new nickname just doesn't have the right ring to it. “Ippon Michi” is too close to “Johnny Football,” and we all know how that turned out.* Here's hoping that's not the fate of our lead next week.

*Note: I have been instructed by the editorial department that most of ANN's readership does not, in fact, “know how that turned out.” For further information on one Football, Johnny, please see any of the countless “Why Johnny Manziel Failed” videos available online.


"Ippon" Again! is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

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