Masaaki Yuasa’s fourth TV show wraps up in a fairly satisfying way with a briskly paced and nicely animated climax that brings emotional closure to the story with a cathartic showdown and thread-tying coda.
Peco and Dragon battle it out in a fierce match, and Peco’s victory paves the way for a climactic showdown between old friends.
Peco blazes through the tournament, but his knee begins to act up, leaving his future in question. Only Peco, Smile and Ryuichi remain at the end.
Peco catches everyone off guard at the High School Championship Qualifiers with his newfound skills, skunking Kong in a reversal of the events of the previous championship.
Kaio finally tries to poach Smile, Peco gets into the National Training Center with a little help from the old lady, and we learn about coach Koizumi’s storied past. This episode was largely devoted to character development, and finally brought into focus just what a complicated web of character interrelations Yuasa has woven out of the original source material, much as he did in Mind Game. There was no single major driving plot element, but rather various themes and plotlines gradually converging. By this point it feels like what we are seeing is more Yuasa than Matsumoto.
Half a year on from the events of the previous episode, it’s a winter of the soul for the various protagonists. We see just how much has changed in the intervening months through the kaleidoscopic lens of one Christmas Eve.
Reading beforehand what this episode was supposed to be about, my mind completely went somewhere else. Steven’s at that age when boys want alone time for a very specific reason and while I was 99.9% sure Cartoon Network wasn’t going to go that far, I thought they’d at least allude to that idea of adolescence and growing up. Instead we dived into the real reason (sort of) that Steven wanted to be left alone, and dug a little deeper into the idea of his parental units via a room and a weird, very strange world created by said room.
Ryuichi Kazama continues his victorious streak with a singles win at the Youth Olympics, while Sakuma and Peco realize they aren’t cut out for the sport after witnessing Smile’s continued improvement. At the halfway point in the story, we seem to be in a transitional stage in which the relationships of the players to one another and their attitude towards the sport are changing. The episode didn’t have much tension to it partly as a result of that. There was no strong driving narrative force. That made it one of the less memorable episodes so far.
While this week’s “Steven Universe” opened a lot of doors as far as characterization and parallels, it was simply okay. Mr. Pizza was comical relief but other than that you had to dig for the entertainment.