Which one of these is not like the others?
Yeah, so that could very easily be a quiz reference – as last week’s episode pointed out, in these “two right answers” rounds, figuring out which possible answer is different than the others is crucial if you buzz in early. But it also applies to the cast of Nana Maru San Batsu. It’s an interesting and diverse group of kids, but there’s no question which one jumps out as the odd duck here – and that’s Sonohara Akira, who burst onto the scene like a bull (in a dress) in a china shop, and most definitely doesn’t fit in with this straight-laced quiz bowl crowd.
I won’t say cross-dressing is the least provocative thing Akira does, but there’s no question this is a boy who loves to stand out. He also loves to irritate and unsettle people, and as we saw in that arcade, he seems to have taken a special interest in Shiki. It’s a bit of a plot contrivance (Akira is clever but not enough to rig a draw of lots, I don’t think) that Akira-kun and Shiki end up partnered in the final second round heat – though there were only six players, so there was a 20% chance.
Why has Akira taken such a strong liking to messing with Shiki? Maybe he finds Shiki’s earnest geekiness too tempting to resist. Maybe he likes boys, and he likes Shiki in that way – and like many boys his age (he’s a third-year middle school at Sekigawata), shows his romantic interest with teasing and bullying. Maybe he just finds Shiki interesting. Whatever the reason, he’s all-in on the trolling – and not just of Shiki-kun, but of the entire tournament and its protocols. And that includes his sister, which I don’t think is incidental to all this – though I also think there are signs of a great deal of mutual affection between them.
Shiki is continuing to figure out how to adapt to the ever-changing formats in his own straightforward way – like the “string quartet” question with its inevitable “wrong” answer (the two violins). But Akira-kun is a clever little troll, make no mistake – seemingly pretty good at trivia to begin with, but a savant when it comes to gaming the system. The loophole he finds in the rules – if you buzz in immediately, you’ll get to hear a bunch more of the question before anyone else has the balls to – is insanely clever. A “dick move” as Mikuriya says, and only good for one question – but insanely clever nonetheless.
The next ploy Akira pulls, though, is really beyond the pale in terms of sportsmanship – even it was successful in getting he and Shiki through to the third round. There’s no rule that says you can’t use one button to push the other – thus guaranteeing your team both first and second answer, and the potential three points that go with it. I was kind of disappointed that Shiki played along to be honest, even if he was desperate to face off with his fated rival – it may not technically be cheating but it’s ugly. I felt bad for Sasaki-kun (Akira’s teammate at Sekigawata) who by all rights really was the one who deserved to advance.
We’ll see where 7O3X goes with this – obviously what Akira has done here is awful sportsmanship, though in a sport where gaming the rules is a large part of the battle, I think the line is thinner than one might think. Akira certainly has no shame, as witness the way he plays poor old Niina-kaichou when he tries to discipline him for his breaches of etiquette. But he’s a fascinating and entertaining chaos element introduced into this plot, and any good series can always get even better with a little dose of that.