High Score Girl Ep. 8: Punch-drunk love

Your boy doesn’t realize how much you care about him? Punch your way into his heart! Sorry for the super long post, but longtime readers should know my shtick by now. I’m a rambler. It’s what I do. In my day job, I have to be concise and precise. This blog is my outlet to scream as many words as I can into the void. Anyways…

— Onizuka claims that her ass is too big for the pillar hole. I dunno, it must be really big if that’s the case, ’cause the actual hole in real life looks pretty sizable. I’d like to think any normally sized human being should be able to squeeze through that. But who knows, maybe it’s a smaller than it looks. Koharu manages to crawl through, but not without some effort.

— Miyao continues to voice his intention to confess to Akira. I wonder if he suspects something between her and Haruo, and as a result, he’s trying to subtly push his best friend towards taking action. I mean, it is pretty pitiful that Akira is even all by herself on a school trip. Haruo looks a bit worried, but I don’t think he’s put two and two together. And by that, I don’t think he realizes why he’s worried. Miyao doesn’t really stand a ghost of a chance in winning Akira’s heart, but if he did, Haruo would lose his inspiration, his muse, his raison d’etre. Well, maybe not that dramatic.

— Haruo quickly changes the subject. Since this is their free day on the school trip, he wants to escape to a Street Fighter II tournament that is an hour away by train. When Koharu overhears this, she wants to know why he has no interest in the local culture. After all, all of the major Japanese cities are special in their own little ways. That’s true, but at the same time, it’s not everyday that you get to compete in a tournament with other like-minded gamers.

— Still, the crux of problem here is that these kids are still too young and too embarrassed to voice their true feelings. Hell, they can’t quite articulate it even if they wanted to.

— For instance, Koharu wants to be able to spend even more time with Haruo. It is their free period, after all. Even though she did just spend an entire day with the guy in last week’s episode, we always want more, don’t we? But for a girl her age, it’s much more natural to nag a guy for caring too much about video games than actually confessing her true feelings. Everyone fears rejection. The thing is, however, is that she can’t wait too long. Once Haruo understands just how much Akira means to him, it’ll be too late for Koharu to get through to him.

— On the other hand, Haruo wants to show Akira how good he’s gotten at Street Fighter II. This is his way of communicating to her that he’s been missing her all this time. It’s the same as saying, “While you were overseas, I couldn’t stop thinking of the day you came back.” But he can’t just come right out and say that. He still doesn’t know what love is.

— I also think Haruo’s desperation hints at a certain level of deep insecurity, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

— Ooh, Miyao with the direct hit to the girl’s heart: “So what made you for such a guy, Hidaka?” I think he knows more than he lets on, especially regarding Haruo and Akira.

— On his way to the SF2 tournament, Haruo’s hands tremble with anticipation. So as usual, he starts seeing and hearing his favorite video game characters speak to him. I dunno, that’s a little scary to me.

— The kid would probably get pretty far in life if he’d just devote a fraction of his passion for gaming into his studies. He doesn’t have to like school, but someone should try to convince him to consider the big picture. If you want a lot of free time later in life to play games, it would behoove you to maybe study.

— And of course, Akira is here. I initially thought that she just came because she overheard Haruo talking about the tournament with Miyao. But it turns out you need to apply ahead of time to participate, so maybe not. Still, if they both win out, Haruo will finally get the rematch he’s been wanting so badly. The only problem is that she won’t understand why he wants it. They may very well be soul mates, but we still gotta use our words from time to time.

— The same goes for her too, obviously. But she’s a little harder to understand (again, for obvious reasons). I’m not sure how she’s feeling towards Haruo right about now. I guess I’ll just have to keep watching in hopes that I find some clues.

— I am actually curious now: when was the first official Street Fighter II tournament?

— For real? The grand prize is a bath set? What gamer wants a bath set?

— It must suck to come out here all dressed up for the event just to lose to a middle schooler.

— Haruo and Akira are even on opposite sides of the bracket, so they won’t meet until the finals. What a nice setup.

— Honestly, I hate the commentary in every sporting event (with some rare exceptions like Tony Romo), but the exaggerated sort that you find in Japan are the worst. This reminds me of something I’m currently playing, actually. In Yakuza 0, there’s a fun minigame where you manage a caberet club. The minigame is back in Yakuza 2 Kiwami, but for some damn reason, they just had to add a wacky, over-the-top commentator to spew dumb nonsense for every single action I take. There are manchildren who speak in silly voices and gyrate spastically on camera for money, and it works. It really, truly works.

— It’s cute to see Akira try to hide herself in her hoodie to no avail. She’s always at the center of attention in every arcade that she visits. It’s hard not to when you rack up a 100-match win streak as a girl in the 90s. As a result, one would assume that she’s used to having so many eyes on her, but I guess being on stage changes everything.

— Miyao had said earlier that Haruo is an idiot, but he’s actually warm and kind-hearted. Too bad we’re now seeing our lover boy point and laugh at Akira. Is this the sort of thing where you like someone, but you don’t know how to deal with your feelings, so you pick on them instead? Or is he trying to cut her down to his level? Maybe he’s truly just an idiot. Well, I guess these things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

— Every time Haruo tries to show off his elite SF2 skills, it’s just the same as him crying out, “Notice me, Akira!” This is just his form of peacocking. Instead of having the most magnificent plumage, the kid wants Akira to see how big his combos have become.

— Oh wow, that guy really wanted that bath set.

— I’m sure Akira is rooting for Haruo. I just wonder if she actually wants a rematch anywhere near as badly as he does.

— Are you really allowed to use Gouki (Akuma) in a tournament. I know some tournaments will declare a character too imbalanced to use. I guess this one just doesn’t care. I actually don’t remember how good Gouki was back then. I know he’s pretty good again for some reason, but there was a time (I want to say around SF3-ish?) when he wasn’t top dog. Not bad, but y’know, not in the top three.

— The other kid screws up and gets stuck with Ryu. It’s kinda interesting, however, that he would own with Gouki but be completely clueless with Ryu.

— Finally, the match we’ve all been waiting for.

— Haruo is winning, but as a result, he can’t shake the uneasy feeling that Akira is treating him differently. She’s not playing as well as in her previous matches. So of course, he starts jumping to conclusions. Is she not taking him seriously? Is she ignoring his feelings? Even in this world and on this stage, he’s still not good enough for her? But all of a sudden, the girl takes the second round, so maybe not.

— The pressure is getting to him, and there’s nothing quite like a 250-pound Russian man bearing down on you.

— In the end, Haruo wins the trophy, but his triumphant moment is soon cut short when Akira has her usual non-reaction. Again, he missed her when she was overseas, so now that she’s back, he wants her to realize how much he’s been thinking about her. You have to care a lot about somebody to practice as much as he did. Hell, he didn’t even know if she’d ever come back, but he never stopped believing, did he? But these feelings get lost in translation when two individuals can’t use their words to communicate, so she doesn’t see that. She just sees a guy who cares a lot about beating her in a game.

— I said up top that I think Haruo is insecure about Akira, so I’ll explain what I mean now. By all common standards, Akira is untouchable for a “commoner” like Haruo. She’s rich, she’s pretty, she’s popular, she’s smart. She’s essentially out of his league.

Even if she does like him — and she does — the moment he shows up to her household, he’d be thrown out on his ass by her servants. In her world, Akira’s meant to marry another equally rich, hot, smart, popular dude one day. Sure, she can try to buck convention, but that’s easier said than done. So this is Haruo’s struggle. This is what truly bothers him. Yeah, he misses her. But deep down inside, whether he’s able to articulate it or not — and the answer is probably not — he knows that he can’t have what he really wants. He’s able to be so carefree up until now, because all he has really wanted was to play games in his free time. But thanks to Akira, he finally has to consider things beyond the limited world of gaming: “If I want to get closer to this girl, I have to be more than what I currently am, but I’m not capable of that.” So in a way, this rematch is kind of like a concession. It’s like, “Look, look, I know I don’t deserve to even breathe the same air that you breathe, but if I can just be your equal in just one thing, I’ll be happy.”

— The backbreaker comes when the kid overhears a staff member say something about how the buttons on Akira’s cabinet are broken. Basically, Haruo eked out a 3-round victory over someone who couldn’t even punch. He thought he had finally closed the gap between them in the SF2 world, but apparently not.

— For Haruo, the rematch was his feelings laid bare, and because Akira didn’t complain about her broken cabinet, the guy feels slighted. But let’s be fair to the girl. First, she doesn’t talk, so why would she start now? He should know that she’s not going to vocally complain about her cabinet. That’s never been her style. More importantly, she probably didn’t even realize that her buttons were broken until the match had already started. Akira likely doesn’t know exactly why this rematch means to Haruo, but she’s not so dense as to not realize that this whole thing means a lot to him. She just didn’t want to ruin his moment.

— So like in the past, when words fail, it’s time to get physical. Every time he says something incorrect, she retaliates. Was this fight not serious for her? Wrong.

— Haruo tells Akira that he’s been practicing hard just to fight her on equal terms. Eh, still not good enough. He’s still not getting the heart of the matter. That’s not the real reason why he practiced so hard. Not only that, this means nothing to her. He needs to be honest. I truly do think he feels insecure. Just listen to his words: “…your grades are amazing as ever, the guys fawn over you, and your gaming skills are so over the top that you can go on a 100 battle win streak!” This is why Haruo was so worried when Miyao kept talking about wanting to confess to Akira. He’s thinking, “God, I could really lose her.” He just hasn’t quite gotten to the point where he understands why this bothers him so much, so he says something dumb again: “I knew it. All you are is a thorn in my si-…”

— He says something wrong again, so she hits him. Twice, actually.

— Haruo finally gets physical with the girl, but pinching her cheeks is about all he can do. It might be double standards, but you’re not going to see him punch a girl.

— The girl only stops punching when he finally confesses that he’s been wanting her to return all this time. He could’ve saved himself so much pain and frustration if he had just used his words right from the start. Ah well.

— And in return, Haruo notices that she still has that cheap but priceless plastic ring. Every time she sees it, she’s reminded of Haruo. So needless to say, she was also thinking about him the entire time she was overseas.

— Long after the dust has settled, Haruo finally realizes why Akira didn’t raise a stink during the finals. But of course, he needs “Guile” to tell him this. Guile is his SF2 main, so this may as well just be an alter ego of him.

— It looks like Akira used the bath set to clean herself up. On the other hand, Haruo’s face is still covered in bruises. Ah well, a memento to remember her by? I still don’t really care for the violence, but I just have to assume it wouldn’t really happen in real life. The only reason we see the violence is because this is an anime at the end of the day.

— For once, she actually seems to feel bad about hitting him. That’s something, at least. Baby steps.

— Haruo tells Miyao that Akira is like his master, so he’s given up on the rival thing for now. At the very least, they are friends. In any case, Miyao gets the hint. He knows his best friend shares something with Akira that he could never truly approach. I doubt he was ever really serious about her anyways.

— The next day on the train ride home, Koharu can’t help but remark on a certain change within her crush. Despite all his bruises, she feels as though something good has happened to him.

— That’s not the most interesting part, though. Miyao brings up the fact that Samurai Shodown III is coming out, so he thinks his bud must be excited about that. But instead, Haruo looks wistfully away from his friends and starts talking about his education. Yo, whaaaaaaaat? Is our boy really gonna do it? Has he finally realized that he needs to take the rest of his life a little more seriously in order to get closer to Akira? If the girl’s willing to hold onto a cheap, plastic ring for this long, then y’know what? Maybe he can close the gap between them, and I’m not just talking about SF2.

— Miyao and Koharu can’t believe what they’re hearing. Maybe Akira’s punches concussed Haruo. Maybe this is just punch-drunk love.

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2 Replies to “High Score Girl Ep. 8: Punch-drunk love”

  1. This episode is good. Haruo is still annoying, but he at least got more personality than your standard animu protagonist. The story also realize that his bad traits are bad and push him to fix that up. I need to see the result to have more opinion about that, though. I do wonder for how long are they going to do Akira’s “not-talking” gimmick.

    “Honestly, I hate the commentary in every sporting event (with some rare exceptions like Tony Romo), but the exaggerated sort that you find in Japan are the worst.”

    Damn straight. They don’t just do it for sporting events, though. I remember watching a youtube video about promotional events for games I’m interested in Japan and damn, the commentators aren’t only loud and annoying. They don’t stop rambling at all. Then, I find out all of those videos are just like that. I never watch video about gaming events in Japan after that. I have enough.

  2. This show is turning into one of the best anime coming-of-age/romance stories I’ve ever seen. Perceptive, heartfelt, funny, and deeply melancholy, like life itself. I’m praying it’s able to stick its landing a few weeks from now.

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