There is one unmistakable fact in SHARK Season 2 – Matsuyuki (Toyohara Kosuke) absolutely hates Cloud5 and takes extreme delight in bringing them down. Sure, he claims that the struggle will be for their good, but I wouldn’t trust a doctor who grins so malevolently when giving me an injection, nor a surgeon who talked excitedly about the need for surgery.

Of course, Matsuyuki isn’t the only frustrating character in this series. Kota (Yasui Kentaro) and Makoto (Kaede) are another two. Get ready for a lot more sneering and snide remarks from Kota and nonsensical remarks from Makoto.

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Can you believe that Makoto actually tried to get Kota to come back by tapping into his concern about the pet fish, even though she knows that the original fish died because of her lack of care and the current one is a sneaky replacement? Got to hand it to her, she’s got some nerve.

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Despite giving us the impression that Saku (Shigeoka Daiki) had rallied the band together at the end of the previous episode, Aruto (Abe Aran) is still non-cooperative and afraid to perform because he feels he can’t compete with Asahi (Iwahashi Genki). Why the other members don’t immediately sense this, I have no idea.

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Ichika (Yamashita Rio) arrives to report on the newest event to delight Matsuyuki and cause trouble for Cloud5 – stories in the press which claim Kota left the group because they had sold out.

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The ridiculous thing – and in this drama there’s always a ridiculous thing – is that the band’s next scheduled interview was canceled as a result. WHY? The journalist would certainly want to get Cloud5’s reaction to the story, and Cloud5’s management should want them to respond firmly as soon as possible. The longer accusations in the press go unanswered, the more they’re allowed to fester and become something intractable. (Of course, that would suit Matsuyuki, but I remain confused about his influence over Wonder Records.)

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The group members wonder who leaked the information about Kota, which doesn’t seem like their biggest problem right now. In fact, strictly speaking, no one had to leak the information. Once Kota was seen as part of BtS, the article could have been written as speculation on the reason for his departure – entertainment news isn’t exactly held to very strict standards (and nor is political news these days, for that matter).

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Nevertheless, the first order of business is Aruto confronting Kota (who just happens to be passing by) about the article and whether Kota had leaked the information.

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Kota, in his very prickly way, just smirks and gives Aruto the silent treatment.

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Saku says Kota is the worst, but then Kota asks him whether they should be focused on finding a culprit – exactly my own reaction.

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And Kota seems to make sense in this scene – I just wish he didn’t have to act like such a [insert derogatory term here] all the time. I mean, doesn’t it get tiring, being so constantly spiteful?

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Saku-Makoto scene.

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Saku wants to arrange an appearance, but Aruto absolutely refuses to take part. Here’s the thing: if the writers wanted to show that Cloud5 was becoming a better group, the members should have figured Aruto out by now.

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Unfortunately, the Aruto situation is going to be drawn out for the rest of the episode, which only reinforces the sense that Cloud5 is still not a coherent group with members who understand each other.

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Kai says he doesn’t understand this part of Aruto, but at least he has an excuse since he hasn’t spent much time with the group.

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Haruya eventually figures it out, but only by noticing how Aruto reacts as Asahi passes by. This series is really big on the way people coincidentally pass by just at the right time to move a conversation along. It’s getting annoying and it’s also not at all necessary. Haruya could have figured out that Aruto was worried about matching up to his BtS rival without actually seeing Asahi walk past.

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On the bright side, if they’re going to focus on a single member in Cloud5 in this episode, I’m glad it’s Aruto.

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Was the Makoto-and-the-fish scene really necessary?

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Saku makes the mistake of reading comments about Cloud5 and getting frustrated.

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We finally turn to BtS with the first scene in which all the members get lines. They’re not very good lines, though – mainly comments on a rumor that Cloud5 used Matsuyuki’s songs without permission (another Matsuyuki stab at Cloud5) and sniping at each other. The writers are in a bit of a quandary, you see. They have spent eight or so episodes making Cloud5 look horrible, and now that Cloud5’s antagonists have finally appeared, they need to make BtS look even more distasteful. That means that there’s no indication of group cohesion, they seem like they’re constantly angry, and there’s active animosity between Kota and Azuma (Jinguji Yuta).

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In fact, even Asahi and Azuma don’t seem to get along with each other.

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The funny thing is that, even though the writers are trying so very hard to make BtS into a dark enemy so that the eventual success of Cloud5 might plausibly feel good to the audience, they at the same time show that they don’t realize what makes Cloud5 so unpalatable. The problem is that Cloud5 is weak, ephemeral, and lacks direction, all of which make the group uninteresting. BtS may be dark, broody, and malevolent, but the characters convey a sense of strength, solidity, and purpose which make them interesting antagonists. Cloud5 simply no longer has the time to make the transition and gain those traits. If the series had skipped the useless early episodes, maybe the situation would be different.

Ichika tells Saku that Cloud5 is basically getting canceled all over the place . . .

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. . . and because he can’t figure out Aruto, his renewed attempt to book an appearance for Cloud5 gets interrupted by Aruto saying that he won’t do it.

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Will someone in Cloud5 finally be able to talk to Aruto, or are they going to continue this pattern which has persisted since episode one?

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Or will something else come out of nowhere to resolve things?

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Insofar as there was supposedly a resolution in this episode, I didn’t really buy it anyway, but perhaps that’s because they took so long to arrive at it that it seemed like every other time something is apparently resolved in Cloud5 – entirely temporary.

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Would Cloud5 losing to BtS in the final episode constitute an unhappy ending? I don’t think the writers have spent the time to make the group likeable and, as a result, it’s difficult to imagine actually rooting for them in the finale.

One problem is that the group has hardly seemed to develop. Sure, Saku is apparently taking more of a leadership role now, but he’s clearly not very good at it. Meanwhile, pretty much every conflict Cloud5 has faced in this series has boiled down to a communication problem, and they’re still having communication problems. Perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope, but at the rate things are going, it would take another season before this band is really ready for prime time.

I can’t even imagine how the writers think they can end this series with just one more episode – albeit a double-length one. I suspect that they’re going to demand a lot from viewers when it comes to suspension of disbelief.