Where’s Admiral Ackbar when you need him?
In a sense Nana Maru San Batsu and Ballroom e Youkoso are the polar opposites of my summer anime calendar. Both are sports manga (loosely-defined) adaptations, but for me the similarity ends there. I knew basically nothing about ballroom dancing when I started “Youkoso”, and it’s been vexing but enlightening to learn on the job. Quiz bowl, on the other hand, is a sports theme I know more about than any in my anime experience, because of my experience (tennis would be a close second). I’ve walked the walk on this one, and part of the enjoyment for me has been seeing something close to me portrayed on screen.
That said, it would be a mistake to label this sport as a straightforward and easy to understand exercise – or to say that I had it mastered going into 7O3X. No, the more we see of competitive quizzing as presented by this series the more fascinating and Byzantine it becomes. There are a lot of formats here I’ve never seen before, each requiring nuances of strategy that’s aren’t immediately obvious. Even without the coming-of-age story and the character drama that would be really interesting – pairing the two elements together makes this one of the more engaging shows of the season.
Naturally enough, we have yet another format change for the next round, with the 18 survivors split up into two groups of nine to try and be one of the final six. The seeded players (the high scorers on the written test) are split into the two groups by rank, With Sasajima headlining the first group and Ookura the second. Mari is in that first group too, and Shiki and Mikuriya-kun the second – along with Sonohara Akira (because, rivals!). As for the format, it’s insidious. Two parts, first three to 20 points win. The first part is simple enough – a multiple answer challenge (the twelve Apostles, for Group A) with your total score carrying over into the second part.
But here’s where it gets nasty. Everybody gets to answer on their whiteboard, but only the player who buzzed can win three points instead of one for a correct answer (or lose points with a wrong one). They also get an extra point if only their answer is right. But the kicker is that they can choose to keep their points, or use some or all of them to deduct from a rival’s score. Does one buzz aggressively or play it safe, with risk-free answers? And how does one use the system to attack their rivals?
One thing remains constant – Sasajima-sempai is a quiz beast. He’s literally perfect to this point – every question in every round correct with maximum points, and be blows through after three questions (and using his 1 extra point to dock a rival – a badge of honor, that). But things get tense when one of his opponents marvels at “Sasajima of Kaijou!” – because, of course, Sasajima has never told his new teammates about his past. That’s of especial interest to Mari-san, as she still has no idea why her brother decided to quit quiz bowl – but Ookura-san makes it clear that he and Sasajima were fierce (and unmatched) rivals in the Kaijou club. Why did Seiji quit, and Gakuto transfer? Not even Ookura knows – and Sasajima-san doesn’t seem keen to share.
Sadly for her that revelation momentarily puts Mari off her game, and despite a spirited late rally she falls short of advancing. But the real drama seems ticketed for the second group, once more thanks to that scamp Akira-kun. Not only is he missing when Group B is called to the stage (his Onee-san’s reaction is rather amusing), but the reason is that he’s busy changing into his preferred uniform. That will surely annoy the hell out of his sister, but I think the main reason he’s doing it is surely to mess with Mikuriya and (especially) Shiki’s head. And the kicker is that it’s not so much that he cares about beating them, but because he’s going to enjoy messing with them. That’s a true chaos element at work right there.