The final episode of Bad Boys J is at hand, and it begins with Tsukasa (Nakajima Kento) finally finding Sasaki and starting the climactic battle. Why do I still get the feeling Tsukasa’s going to end up psychoanalyzing Sasaki, even as they’re punching each other?

Before we get to that, though, there’s the matter of the second-in-commands – Gokurakuchou’s Youji (Iwamoto Hikaru) and STP’s Ishimoto. Unlike the leaders, these two have a history – Ishimoto wants some revenge against Youji for humiliating him years ago.

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But more than just wanting revenge, Ishimoto is also a firm believer in Sasaki, and eager to fight for his leader. It beats me why, though – Sasaki has done absolutely nothing to deserve this kind of loyalty. Wish they had, you know, given us more background on STP so that we could understand this devotion. Later on in the episode he says that Sasaki was the first person who treated him like a human being, but we’re left with no real sense about what that means – especially since Sasaki doesn’t seem to treat anyone like a human being.

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Meanwhile, Hiro (Hashimoto Ryosuke) is having a much more interesting battle against . . . did we even get this guy’s name?

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Anyway, this is the best fight in the episode as far as I’m concerned, because Hiro shows enough awareness of his opponent’s personality is to come up with a way to get the upper hand in this fight (remembering that he’s just come out of the hospital and probably at his limits after his efforts in the last episode).

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Thankfully, hospitalization hasn’t dulled his wits. This was solid Art of War stuff.

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Danno (Nikaido Takashi) prefers the more direct approach, minus the pithy comments:

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But that leaves him depleted.

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Even though Youji is still the better fighter, Ishimoto does his best impression of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail – he isn’t going to concede the fight no matter how many limbs he’s lost.

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The main event is a slugfest, but the camera work and lighting here was a noticeable step down from the big fight in Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou.

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The fight choreography wasn’t bad, though.

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And we just keep going back and forth between the fight scenes . . .

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. . . until we get the expected discussion between Tsukasa and Sasaki. It begins with Sasaki saying that he doesn’t understand how someone could feel so desperate for someone else (again, I don’t understand how Ishimoto thought Sasaki felt his pain or sympathized with him).

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That comment started Tsukasa pontificating in his usual pattern.

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Let the psychoanalysis begin!

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In the other battle, a special guest intervenes.

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For some reason, Ishimoto thinks that guys like Youji are blessed and soft because the live at the top, but I have no idea where this all comes from. He talks like they’re upper class while he’s a street kid, but Gokurakuchou has never given the impression of being that sort of organization – not like Nights. What are the hardships that Ishimoto has experienced that Youji hasn’t? Just getting bullied in school and not being allowed into Gokurakuchou? We just don’t know enough about him to make sense of this.

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Finally, the two scenes start to merge as Youji, Eiji, and Hisao come over to the Tsukasa-Sasaki fight, but the focus is still on the two leaders.

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Tsukasa is in full talking mode now. Will he really be able to end this fight without another exchange of punches? Or will Tsukasa finally have to end it with a knockout?

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Again, we get the idea that Tsukasa and the Gokurakuchou members have been blessed with everything and Sasaki has been through serious trauma, but how the heck does Sasaki know that the Gokurakuchou members haven’t been through traumas of their own? How is it that he can so easily come to that judgment, as if he had their full biographies at hand?

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I’m not going to give any more the fight away, but I’ve already made note of the issues I have with the way the episode was handled. The fact that the writers had failed to build up STP properly, giving us a better picture of Sasaki and Ishimoto, really hurt how this episode played out. We should have seen flashbacks of Sasaki’s trauma in episode 10 or 11. There should have been more time spent on the kind of pain Ishimoto had been through – we only got a minute’s worth of that, and it wasn’t enough to give much of an emotional impact.

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Overall, I think the final fight played out as it should have, forgiving the lack of setup.

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But it moved too quickly from that to a haphazard dénouement that took the latter third of the episode. I guess this is where the time constraints played a part. You see, we have to give each of the main characters a proper send-off, and considering the huge cast, that takes time in this case. It started with a Hiro-Erika (Triendl Reina) scene:

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And they also snuck in a moment with Kenjiro (Yasui Kentaro) and Jun (Hagiya Keigo).

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The Danno-BEAST moment was so short that it was insubstantial.

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The Gokurakuchou scene was fun, though.

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The Tsukasa-Kumi closing was . . . have I mentioned that I don’t do romance? Have I also mentioned that Kumi has been a uniquely uninspired character from the get-go, giving us no reason to root for this relationship in this series?

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So yeah, I could have cared less about how this turned out. The fact that they ended with this scene supports my contention that this was a weak romantic comedy disguised as an action-comedy. Otherwise, they would have put a Gokurakuchou moment last.

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I guess I also have to mention that there’s a Bad Boys J movie on the way. If it looked like a novel story, I’d be more excited, but it looks like Tsukasa faces yet another new villain with the help of Hiro and Danno.

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Bad Boys J featured some noteworthy performances from Iwamoto Hikaru-kun, Hashimoto Ryosuke-kun, and Triendl Reina-san. I’d also give Nakajima Kento-kun credit for his attempt to pull off a difficult and often inconsistent role and Fukusawa-kun for helping out with the humor in the series. Otherwise, I found the acting bland, and have to reserve special scorn for the uninspired work of Hashimoto Nanami-san in the role of Kumi.

Nothing in this series fell flat like the romantic subplot. The writers spent plenty of time on it, but they showed no understanding of what makes an audience root for two people to get together.

Because of the atmosphere and lighting, the fight scenes lacked the intense feel we saw in Shiritsu Bakaleya Koukou. The director did not attempt to match the artistry of that earlier series.

Comedy was this drama’s strong suit, and the writers were so much more comfortable with humor than with anything else that they often put funny scenes where they weren’t really appropriate. Still, even though stuff like the eating challenge at the start of episode 8 felt out-of-place, it was executed well, as were all the scenes where Tsukasa was amusing.

Nothing really held the series together – it was a collection of discrete stories without an overarching plot. They tried to tie it into a package by foreshadowing the final fight in the first episode, but that was a minimal attempt.

Altogether, it wouldn’t have been hard to make this series substantially better than it was. I was left with the distinct feeling that the original manga was being adapted rote, without any regard for the peculiarities of the television medium. They would have done better to take the basic premise, but otherwise craft a fresh story out of it. A lot more could have been done with the idea of a young man like Tsukasa being sucked into the world of Hiroshima gang warfare than what we saw here.