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"Suzuka Volumes 5 and 6" Uncool Runnings

by on June 4, 2008

Track is one of those odd sports that seems important if you’re involved in it, but is completely ignored by everyone else. It’s like soccer, which nobody cares about except the kids who play it, their moms, and some chunk of the world.

Same thing with the relationship between Akitsuki and Suzuka. I don’t care what they’re doing, because it’s not me, and it’s just uninteresting for the people watching. So, sitting through the final two volumes of Suzuka is like sitting through a track meet and just not caring.

Episodes included on these discs:
Suzuka Volume 5
Episode 19: “Break Up”
Episode 20: “Support”
Episode 21: “Regret”
Episode 22: “Preparation”

Suzuka Volume 6
Episode 23: “Encouragement”
Episode 24: “Disappearance”
Episode 25: “Loss”
Episode 26: “Cool Wind”

Volume 5 starts off with Akitsuki still coming off dating Honoka, the team manager. She’s being distant to him, obviously. Suzuka decides that, because she’s the other main female in the show, she should coach them on their relationship. But as they’ve had their final kiss, Suzuka just continues to think that Akitsuki is an idiot who wasted a relationship.

If you have a good group of friends, you know how it is when you break up with someone. They all offer their advice and opinions, but you don’t care. Miki, another one of the runners on the track team, starts to hang out with Akitsuki. You wonder whether she’s going to swoop in and make a move on the man, or whether she’s just being a good friend. Given the lack of clarity, you know that she just ends up screwing up his pancakes.

With “Regret”, we hit the point of the series that drives me nuts. As the series tends to go in and out on the track plot, it’s almost as if the producers realized that the series was ending soon, and wanted to squeeze all the track stuff they could into the last few episodes. Akitsuki is having trouble with batons in relay races, and in his own Spider-Man 2-esque way of figuring out his performance anxiety, he realizes that he’s still thinking about Suzuka. To be better at a sport, he ends up confronting Suzuka, telling her that she is the reason he broke up with Honoka, leading somewhat to a renewal of feelings between the two. For the rest of Volume 5, we get the “fun” of semifinals, where Akitsuki is beat by a guy named Arima who is a last-second addition as an enemy for Akitsuki, but who feels more like a last-season introduction of a Seven or a Cousin Oliver.

Finally, in the last volume, Akitsuki gets a goal and a drive. He decides that, once he becomes the best track runner in all of Japan (thus getting revenge on the enemy runner from the previous volume), he will announce his love for Suzuka. Following this decision, he tries to improve his speed with a few suggestions, mainly making it so he hits his peak later in the race to beat Random Blonde Enemy Guy. Of course, his plan doesn’t really work when he goes ahead and tells Suzuka that he’ll tell her he loves her. It’s like when you tell someone “I’m not saying you’re fat, but… you’re fat.” Good job screwing up the one or two minutes of domestic bliss that he had going there.

Things just go to hell in the next-to-last episode, “Loss.” Following Akitsuki’s announcement of his inevitable announcement, Suzuka runs away. Turns out that the last time anybody said they would declare their love for her when they got a certain Achievement Unlocked, the guy was run over and killed on the way to the track. The dead almost-boyfriend that looks a lot like Akitsuki has apparently hurt her by dying.

With everyone looking for Suzuka, Akitsuki manages to find her in the rain. Geez, the number of clichés keeps building and building. Akitsuki finds her, confronts her, and kisses her …

… the cliché would be perfect if it weren’t for the fact that Suzuka, in one of the most “WTF?” moments of the series, proceeds to slap Akitsuki. Repeatedly. Hard. He admits he can’t quit her, and they go visit the grave of the guy who can’t dodge buses, with Suzuka apologizing that she’s no longer in love with a corpse who couldn’t run that well. As the series ends, they walk to class holding hands.

Seriously? That’s the ending to the show? Suzuka just eventually realizes that Akitsuki’s a good guy and she shouldn’t be so nasty to him? Akitsuki kind of is awesome at track running, but isn’t the best? Their relationship isn’t full-on love, but holding hands walking to class is good enough?

Screw it, I’d love to have a girl hold my hand.

Both volumes have the same set of extras, with volume 5 getting a notable addition. On both, you get the “Aoba High School Yearbook”, trailers, and textless songs. But Volume 5 has a commentary with the ADR director and the voices of Yasunobu and Honoka.

Suzuka wraps up too much like the sport it features. As it starts, you’re vaguely interested. People running fast on a school track team isn’t initially horrifying, but when it overtakes the love story at the heart, you realize track just barely translates well to a medium that has the phrase “walk cycle” in its glossary. The title character is too angry or unchanging to care for, falling into the Naru Narusegawa pattern of “Complain, complain, complain. How dare someone love you”.

It’s a decent enough off the starting blocks, but the execution just makes you realize how slow running is.

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