Around Akiba proudly presents our weekly Dive!! anime review
Episode 4: “The Strong Men”
This week on Dive!!, an epic rivalry is rekindled… except, well, it’s not so much epic as one-sided and pathetic. (And kind of gay.)
The mysterious interloper from the end of last week’s episode turns out to be Atsuhiko Yamada, a preternaturally gifted diver whose utter fixation on Yoichi causes him to lose every single competition he’s in despite his talent. He’s one of a group of four new characters – elite young divers from around Japan – who are guesting at MDC for training purposes. Their colorful personalities and interactions really help make this episode much more entertaining than its predecessors. The guy who’s so plain no one ever remembers him (fittingly enough, I can’t ever seem to recall his name) is particularly hilarious – his Eeyore, woe-is-me persona is both uproariously funny and endearingly pathetic.
Strength: Character-based comedy
Yoichi’s self-styled rival is equally memorable; he’s a relentlessly over-the-top guy whose nickname is Pinky, due to his hot pink diving shorts. (I am not making this up.) He also likes shouting sentences like “I’ll send you to hell with my diving!”, which is clearly amazing. The dude is extra. There’s a moment where one of Tomoki’s peers wonders, essentially, “Why is Atsuhiko so obsessed with Yoichi?” I actually stood up at this point and yelled, “Because he clearly has a huge crush on him!”
In general, this show’s strengths lie in character-based comedy. Sacchin, my favorite, has been the standard-bearer in this respect, up until this episode. His interactions with the new characters made for some of the most enjoyable moments this week. I still keep thinking about him staring, round-eyed, at Pinky’s fluorescent crotch and gasping, “So shiny!” and helplessly cracking up.
Finally, something for fujoshi
Meanwhile, tensions are building between Tomoki and his two eighth-grade compatriots, who are so bland I have not even bothered to look up their names. They resent the special attention and personalized training Tomoki has received from Coach Asaki, and things come to a head at the end of the episode. There is, of course, an extended, very passionate kabedon for the amusement of the fujoshi, the show’s targeted audience. Then there’s a delightful moment where Tomoki’s angry teammate rants, “The only time things turn out happy for everyone and they all advance together as friends is in manga” (that’s a paraphrase, but hopefully the idea is clear). It’s a surprisingly sharp moment of self-awareness from a show that has failed to show much depth (ha!) up until now.
Episode 5: “The Days of Gray”
This week, real conflict has finally broken out amongst the eighth-grader trio, and a dejected Tomoki ends up turning to older mentor figures for advice and comfort.
It’s an episode for what one might term the main trio of the show, as it consists mostly of extended conversations between Tomoki and his two senpais, Yoichi and Shibuki.
Actually pretty heartwarming
The talk with Yoichi is the more interesting of the two; he makes a point of encouraging something approaching ruthless ambition in Tomoki, an exciting development for a character who has thus far been rather blithe and boring. It’s good to see Tomoki showing something like complexity, at long last, and it made me more invested in his journey to greatness than I had been previously. It also does the show well to adopt a more morally complex tone than the standard “everything will be fine thanks to the power of friendship” one it’s mostly adhered to since the first episode.
The scene with Shibuki is, conversely, actually pretty heartwarming. It’s the first substantial moment between Tomoki and his new teammate, and Shibuki reveals a somewhat softer side around his kohai. He also opens up more than he has with others about his motivations and emotional state. It’s sure to be interesting, watching this relationship develop over the course of the series.
Believable friendships between sports teammates
Following this little heart-to-heart, Tomoki finally masters the three and a half turn in a hugely triumphant moment. To top it all off, things with his teammates also get neatly resolved off the screen by Coach Asaki. (Too neatly, in my opinion, considering the buildup that’s occurred towards the whole situation). The three of them can establish a new, more complex relationship of friendly rivalry and comradeship which seems very authentic, to this reviewer at least, to real-life friendships between sports teammates.
Tomoki’s happiness is short-lived, though, because, upon his return home from practice, he’s greeted by a shocking revelation. His girlfriend Miyu might be cheating on him… with his little brother! (Cue scare chord.)
To be honest, I find this to be an utterly tiresome turn of events. Cheesy teen drama? Really? Tomoki’s internal dialogue as the episode fades out is incredibly trite: “I felt like I was sinking into an ocean of darkness…” Sure, Gerard Way.
And really, where does he get off being so upset? Let us recall that over the course of five episodes, Tomoki has paid this long-suffering girl an amount of love and attention equaling approximately negative five hundred. When he’s not obsessing over diving, he’s mooning over some gratuitously-muscled senpai or other. Knowing all that, it’s hard to sympathize with him and his Evanescence theatrics.
And on that cliffhanger, we’re left to wait for what I hope will be a somewhat worthwhile resolution to this new conflict, coming next week.