Suzuka - 8: Distance

Episode:8: Distance
Much to his own surprise and to both Honoka's and Yasunobu's bewilderment, Soichi can now announce Yamato's as new member of the track&field club. Yamato tries really hard on his first day, only to become aware that he underestimated the required effort for at least keeping up with the other runners. He's exhausted after the "goldfish dropping" warmup already, and Suzuka scolds him [image1] for slowing down the whole team. But Hashiba Miki, a female team member and a sprinter like Yamato, welcomes him and takes him under her wings.
Next is a sequence of interval dashes, more to the liking of Yamato but again too much for his physical fitness; with his sides already cramping, Yamato pulls himself together. After the training Soichi invites Yamato to come along for dinner with the group, but the boy is completely beat; fortunately, Yasunobu and Honoka-chan have arrived to literally carry Yamato home. When everyone else has left the sports field already, Suzuka is still practicing high jump; Miki tells Yamato how she hated this "cool perfectionist" who never even smiled when winning a competition, but now that they're in the same team she respects her for aiming so high.
The next days are going to be a tough time for Yamato, but he stays with the pace as good as he can. Honoka can almost feel his pain and wonders why he's pushing himself so much; Yasunobu mocks at her watching the track&field training every day - she might as well join the team then, but she would be too slow of course. Honoka runs home, only to be outpaced by two elementary school boys; frustrated she starts to pet Gorou-chan, talking about her crush on Yamato - much to the surprise of Saotome who immediately invites the girl to the bath [image2], offering her "advice on romance problems". Saotome is surprised to hear that Honoka considers Yamato serious and reliable - how could he be so when becoming hopeless after being rejected... oops! So Honoka learns about Yamato's confession to Suzuka... now she understands why he entered the track&field club. Lost in thoughts she walks away, opens a door and...
Honoka is still weeping when Yamato tries to apologize for what happened. Then the boy takes Honoka home, observed by Suzuka from her balcony. When they pass the convenience store, Honoka asks Yamato to wait for a moment... and when they arrive at the temple, she sits down on the stairs and hands him one of the two croquettes she just bought! But even though one of her dreams came true now, she quickly notices [image3] that his heart is still with Suzuka even though they're alone. So she makes a decision, as to be with Yamato as much as she can...
The next day, Honoka introduces herself as the new manager of the track team [image4] - to Yasunobo's bewilderment and to the delight of some male team members. Miki is immediately aware of how close Honoka is to Yamato, but when she ponders whether this might be his girlfriend Suzuka isn't particularly pleased. Being in the team for one week already Yamato now begins to keep up the pace of the group, but when he mentions his aching muscles Miki gives him a shoulder massage [image5] - only to make Suzuka appear and scold both of them for fooling around! Yamato wonders what the point in joining the team was, and Miki is seriously worried about Suzuka's recent behaviour: Shouldn't she at least acknowledge the hard work of the boy? When Suzuka observes Yamato, Honoka and Miki talking and laughing together after the training, she gets really pissed - and fails to vault her usual training height! [image6] Which brings back memories to her...
(2005-08-29, Devil Doll:)
The best episode of this series so far, packed with story development and charming little scenes (Miho's massage, Honoka's daydreaming, Miki's face after the interrupted workout...). That's the series I was hoping for! And I have to take my hat off to two seiyuu today: Both Honoka's and Miki's voice actresses are doing a great job, expressing the different moods of these girls extremely well.
Right at the start of this episode, Kobayakawa listened attentively to Yamato's comment on the 50 meters dash race - and when Yamato didn't brag about it, he might well have opened a door for himself. Let's check what we know about Kobayakawa so far: He's a named character (and probably for a reason), he got scouted to the school for his sprinting abilities (and may serve as worthy opponent later), he slightly encouraged Yamato after the first training session, and he blushed when he met Honoka for the first time. Another interesting side character, or so it seems. I am quite pleased as for how Megumi disappeared from the show, and finally even Saotome contributes to the storyline (by not keeping Yamato's secret). Less silly-ecchi stuff, more character development - great!
Both Soichi and Miki can be most helpful for Yamato: Soichi places trust in him and encourages him (exactly what Suzuka does not), and Miki can teach him to become less of a whimp, and thus make him more "Suzuka compatible". With Yasunobu retreating from the stage, Miki might have to take his position as Yamato's (and Suzuka's) friend and advisor; her potential influence on both must not be underestimated.
For the first time I am fully satisfied with Yamato's performance! Except for occasional daydreaming, he didn't make any overly stupid mistake this time (he's a beginner in track&field after all), and he is fighting it out when realizing the amount of effort required for the training. On the other side, note how Suzuka, the girl in perfect control so far, is carried away to holding an embarassing loud soliquy for the first time!
No less than three female characters get to touch Yamato's body today: Honoka helps carrying him home, Miho gives him an intense massage for his aching muscles, and Miki joins him for the workout. Not to mention the one scene in the bath... but the boy's mind is focussed on Suzuka alone, so none of these scenes matters.
Honoka is unflinchingly following her path - which is still leading nowhere. Although her endevours are most honorable, she didn't manage to grow above the Shinobu level yet: Doing laundry isn't exactly what she was joining the team for. Then again, with Suzuka permanently criticizing Yamato she can provide an alternative at least; maybe Saotome is right, and she will get her chance pretty soon? Yamato is already questioning why he joined the team - but he probably won't leave now, just when he is beginning to understand the world that Suzuka lives in for so many years already.
Suzuka's memories at the end of this episode give us an idea which marks Yamato left with her: She actually enjoyed slacking off with him, even though she always criticized him for being irresponsible. But now that Yamato took her words literally and started to become more responsible, she is irritated: This isn't the Yamato she knew before. She should of course be aware of the reason, but I'm afraid she didn't fully understand how seriously Yamato loves her. Honoka, on the other hand, is aware of this (given the information she received in the bath), which only boosted her fighting spirit so far. Of these three lead characters, two are on track for a positive character development, and one is left behind for the time being.


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