Now that they finally have the band all together, the journey of SHARK has finally begun. So . . . does that mean we’ll be getting some less predictable storylines?

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Well, the start of this episode sure makes it seem that way, because we get a glimpse into the mind of Mizuki (Hirano Sho) as he narrates his thoughts. We got some narration from Ichika (Yamashita Rio) last time, but that wasn’t as surprising because we always had a clear idea of her thoughts, anyway.

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I’m not sure I wanted his motivation to become so clear so quickly, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise.

The group is in the middle of a photoshoot for a special TV feature on SHARK. How will it go?

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Ichika keeps checking her watch, wondering how the photoshoot is going and waiting for a chance to contact the group members to find out. This irritates her boss, though, who orders her to move on from SHARK because they failed the audition. We can appreciate his point-of-view – he’s got a person on his staff who isn’t properly scouting groups, and is instead doing what is best for SHARK rather than what is best for the company.

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She understands his reasons, too, and tells Kai (Hamada Takahiro) that she’ll be too busy with work to come over to watch the TV show with them.

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When she then says she’ll be too busy with work over the next few days to see their next live performance even before he gets to tell her when it is, Kai senses that something is up, but he doesn’t get to ask her about it before she hangs up.

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He does tell the guys, though, and says that she sounded the same as when their debut was canceled.

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Mizuki is surprisingly petulant here, saying that he doesn’t care about Ichika and that they should look for another company to sign them. While it’s in-character, it still feels a bit cold when Ichika was the one who fought so hard to get him into the group in the first place. Is there something more behind this attitude?

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Mizuki says that Ichika will eventually betray them because of her work, and Kai remembers when Ichika said they couldn’t début with their own song – that it had to be a song made by the professionals at the company. Now, we know that Ichika finally got her boss to accept one of their songs, but I don’t remember if any of the surviving members of SHARK know that. So, this ends up reinforcing Mizuki’s belief that they shouldn’t be tied to Ichika.

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That’s not the way the others feel about it, though. Despite the fact that Ichika seemed to betray them a year ago, they all feel like she’s a part of the group. So, in a strange reversal, the question is whether Mizuki can accept Ichika as part of the group or not.

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So, while this plot is a little less predictable than the previous ones, we’re actually sticking to the same pattern for one more episode, and I’m still waiting for the point where SHARK’s energies will be directed outward instead of inward.

Back at the office, Ichika gets the usual visit from Okawa Miku (Mano Erina), but she’s got that TV show on her mind, anyway.

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I don’t think it’s any surprise, so I won’t consider it a spoiler – the feature on SHARK did not go the way the group though it would, and was pretty much problematic right from the start. It portrayed SHARK as a tragic group that had lost its leader a year ago and was struggling . . .

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. . . now led by new vocalist Mizuki . . .

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. . . who used to be a child star who rode a boom and bust. Now that was a neat surprise. It’s sort of funny, though – the Japanese seem to do a much better job of keeping their young stars employed in entertainment as they grow older than Hollywood. Still, it’s never easy for the kids.

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Mizuki storms out at this point . . .

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. . . and bumps into Ichika, who rushed over as soon as she saw how the TV shot was going. He clearly doesn’t want anyone to know he was once a child star, but he especially seems to have issues with Ichika. He accuses her of already knowing about his early career and deliberately picking him because she knew it would be a good story to take advantage of.

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We know that’s not true, but Mizuki is in hyper-defensive mode.

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You know what he needs?

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. . . a talk with his counselor!

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Konno Kaede (Kawaei Rina) has been rather inconsistent of late. For a time, it looked like she was getting better and better at dealing with Mizuki, but her attempt to express her personal feeling for him got in the way this time.

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Instead, Kai calls him about a live performance at Sonic Hall, and that snaps Mizuki into action.

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Meanwhile, Ichika approaches the producer of that TV show, trying to get him to give SHARK a proper chance.

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Outside Sonic Hall, there are some guys in leather jackets who make snide remarks about SHARK and Mizuki, and naturally Mizuki decides to confront them . . .

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. . . and that fracas somehow leads SHARK to lose their chance at the gig.

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Kai advises Mizuki to fight back with music rather than fists.

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After this, we get a glimpse into what happened to Mizuki as his early stardom declined, including why he feels the way he does. I won’t discuss anything further, since this is all definitely spoiler territory.

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So, is SHARK going to be able to pick themselves up after this setback?

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This was an excellent episode and a marked improvement in terms of writing. We saw some real surprises, good glimpses into the backstory of a main character, and solid acting. Oh, and some character development – mustn’t forget that.

The ending was rushed – they clearly needed two more minutes in the episode to set that up properly – but there was no way to get around that. They already compressed things as much as they could otherwise, so it’s not like they could have made room by cutting something out.

And it looks like the next episode will finally, finally, introduce a proper rival group. I’ve been waiting for this for ages, and just wish they had started sowing more seeds earlier. For instance, the rival group just got a new vocalist, too, so they could have been mentioned as competition to SHARK that was also out hunting for a vocalist. Early on, Mizuki might have even threatened to go try his luck with them and Ichika would have to talk him out of it. They could have been really good in the audition, but also losing because they didn’t have a new vocalist. It’s amazing what a few seconds here and there can do to set plots up.