Recent episodes of Yowakutemo Katemasu (弱くても勝てます) have been iffy, but largely because there was a lack of focus and the sloppy plotting also led to questionable characterizations. At the end of episode four, though, we found out that the Joutoku team would be facing their first match since their game against Dougaku. Hopefully, that will serve as a focal point for the episode and we’ll finally get to see whether the team is actually improving.

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Tarumi (Arimura Kasumi) brings the team some word about their opponent, Takemiya High School, but it sounds like she’s reading from a promotional pamphlet about the place and doesn’t include much information about the school’s baseball team.

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It’s not a formidable team, but every team is better than Joutoku. Reporter Riko (Aso Kumiko) has some more pertinent information: Takemiya recently got significant funding from Akaiwa (Fukushi Sota)’s father, who got angry at Joutoku because they abandoned his gifts to them. That money was used to hire a manager who has taken a team to the Koshien – the high school baseball championships.

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Aoshi (Ninomiya Kazunari) is unfazed by this news, and reiterates his philosophy for the team. I’m not really sure I can find the words to explain this philosophy, since I barely feel like I understand it (and then only for a few seconds every ten minutes or so).

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We get to see Akaiwa’s father talking to the coach he hired for Takemiya, and it looks like they’re planning on letting Joutoku win in the beginning, and then coming back to beat Joutoku in the second half.

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This sort of petty behavior from Akaiwa’s father really disappoints Tarumi Kaede (Yakushimaru Hiroko), who laments how childish the man is.

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Back at school, Aoshi is totally obsessed with baseball in class again. He doesn’t do as good a job of connecting it to biology (which is what he’s supposed to be talking about), but that only impresses the members of the team who are in the room. They detect that their coach and manager is fired up about the match, and the sentiment is contagious.

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Each of the members finds their own way to get themselves ready for the match.

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Including, in Okadome (Mamiya Shotaro)’s case, facing down the members of the Track and Field team, where he had failed so miserably.

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But getting the team pumped up is easy – they’re eager to play baseball even if they’re horrible at it, so that already speaks to a certain tenacity. Trying to get them to hit the ball on occasion is the tough part (now that the team has switched to an all-offense strategy).

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Aoshi tells them that their swings are too weak because they’re too concerned about their timing. He tells them that swinging at any time between when the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand and when the catcher catches it is fine – just as long as they swing with all their might on the off chance that they actually hit the ball. After all, if they actually make contact, it would be a shame if the ball didn’t get very far.

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Not for the first time, I wonder whether the writers of this series know much about baseball. Technically, there’s a chance to get onto base without swinging at all – a fast runner can bunt him- or herself onto base, especially if the catcher, pitcher, or first baseman for the opposing team is bad at fielding. You’ll note that the writers are often very vague about discussing baseball, and there are three possible reasons for this. One, it’s because Aoshi and his team don’t know much about it and it simply reflects their knowledge. Two, it’s because the writers don’t really think the intended audience knows much about baseball and doesn’t want to scare them away by actually talking about the sport. Three, they really don’t know the sport. I suspect the reason is number two, but I can’t be sure.

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After practice, for reasons I cannot fathom, Akaiwa accuses Shirao (Nakajima Yuto) of being too forward with Tarumi. Now, maybe I missed something, but I swear I didn’t see any indication of this at all. Shouldn’t they make it a bit more obvious if they’re going to have Akaiwa go ballistic like this?

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Anyway, Shirao basically tells Akaiwa off for being spineless and jealous – unable to acknowledge Tarumi’s affection but unwilling to let anyone else woo her. This is definitely one of Akaiwa’s annoying points.

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Kamezawa discovers that his front door is open when he returns home . . .

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. . . and nearly bashes his parents with a tree branch that he uses as a makeshift baseball bat when not in school.

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As always, Hongo-kun’s performance here was delightfully eccentric. Gotta love his complete lack of reserve and ability to pull of the kind of sudden transitions in behavior that are typical in anime, but rarely possible in real life dramas.

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Kamezawa’s meeting with his parents is very different from Akaiwa’s. There are clearly a few things Akaiwa and his father need to straighten out, but they don’t manage it here.

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Is there any episode where Aoshi doesn’t visit Dougaku? You’d think they’d be sick of him by now.

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Anyway, he gets some trivial info about the new Takemiya coach, but then pisses the Dougaku coach off. I have no idea why this scene was in here at all, unless the actor playing the Dougaku coach had it in his contract that he had to be in every episode.

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Back at Joutoku, Aoshi has them practice a two-step swing. Will it be any help?

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Kamezawa collapses in the middle of practice, and when they bring him around, he reveals that his parents’ business is failing, and he feels like he’s an additional burden on them.

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Okadome asks Riko if it’s all right if he joins her when she does an interview at Takemiya next. He wants to scout out the other team. Is this allowed?

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The surprise comes when he asks Ebato (Yamazaki Kento) to join them as captain of the team. Looks like Okadome wants to make up for the way he bullied Ebato before, and to help the captain be more at ease around him. Maybe.

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Watching the boys at batting practice, Aoshi reflects that he never once swung with all his might at a ball when he was on the high school team. It seems like a lot of Aoshi’s coaching revolves around his own regrets.

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By the way, aren’t they using the equipment that Akaiwa’s father donated? I thought there was some vague reason they dumped all that, but here they are again.

Well, it looks like it’s not normal for students from the opposing team to visit their rivals, because Okadome and Ebato have to dress up as members of her staff. Unfortunately, the Takemiya coach sees through all of this and has told his players to pretend to be horrible. So, this scouting excursion is a bust.

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At least Ebato and Okadome get to have a good talk afterward . . .

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. . . and Shirao and Akaiwa get the same.

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At the Tarumi place, Aoshi is much less confident than he usually seems in front of the students, and says he’s not sure of anything because they lack experimental data. Well, I’m sure everyone hopes that he’ll start gathering some data, because so far his approach has been haphazard at best. Not very scientific, to be sure.

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When I read the plot summary before the show started, I expected Joutoku to try and win in a clever way that would play to their strengths – their academic ability to analyze opponents.In fact, that little infiltration of Takemiya would have been the right idea, except they weren’t very clever about it. That’s the thing: these students are supposedly very intelligent, but they act phenomenally stupid. It’s often difficult to credit.

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I’m not going to discuss the rest of the episode, since we’ve already got the outlines of the plots at work: the game, Akaiwa-Shirao, Kamezawa, Ebato-Okadome. As usual, there are lots of plots going on, and at least the writers are doing a better job with them this time.

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Ultimately, my sole interest is in how the game goes. The only player I’ve developed any sympathy for is Kamezawa thanks both to Hongo-kun’s acting and the character’s backstory.

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So, how do you think the game will go?

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While there were some flaws, I think this was the best episode to date, and a good comeback from the weak episodes that preceded it. It had many of the positives that made the first episode worth watching.

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Shirao and Akaiwa had been irritating me in previous episodes, but they were much better in this one. Altogether, the characterizations were vastly improved, and even Aoshi’s pronouncements were more logical.

The pace was on the slow side. Even though there are so many subplots, the fact that they’re mostly talk and don’t demand action makes things drag out.

The writers are doing a better job of developing the Kamezawa subplot than any of the others, and they decided to end with it as a cliffhanger. What kind of talk will Aoshi give to deal with the Kamezawa situation? I guess we’ll find out in the next episode, but I hope it’s paired with another baseball game – just for the sake of having a bit of action in the midst of what would otherwise be a lot of dialogue.