Weekly Digest 1/23/23 – Tenchi Souzou Design-bu, 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team

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Tenchi Souzou Design-bu – 03

Tenchi Souzou Design-bu continues to be a lot of fun, and pretty smart in the way it goes about its business too.  There’s a nice combination of wholesome and twisted in the comic style, and in the context of a screwball comedy it does a pretty decent job of staying in-between the scientific white lines.

One thing I especially appreciate is that in this series, the designers don’t get free passes thanks to magic or superpowers.  They represent evolution of course, and in evolution everything that happens has to pay for itself and have a purpose.  A unicorn or (this week) a dragon can’t exist simply because it’s cool – it has to pass the stern test of evolutionary biology.  Even as a combination of horse and snake (Tsuchiya and Mizushima’s signature creations) a dragon just doesn’t work biologically, and no amount of mouth farts can change that.

This week introduces Kenta, the grandson of Tsuchiya-san and a budding designer of sorts.  Because he doodled it on his grandpa’s design – and because Grandpa is too indulgent to change it – the sea horse has to have a reversal of the usual biological gender roles.  And he scribbles a weird design that gets accepted by God which terrorizes the unit until they manage to size it down on a technicality.  This is the Hallucigenia, which actually was depicted upside-down and backwards when it was originally documented.

The last bit of the week focuses on heat dispersion.  Again, it’s a quite clever and scientifically accurate enough depiction of a very important evolutionary qualifier – done on the pretext of having to come up with a creature capable of fetching Kenta-kun’s design from under the nose of his terrifying creation.  Thus emerges the elephant, with its giant heat-sink ears (larger in the African than Asian varieties, thanks to the differences in climate).  It’s really a nicely-executed sequence, as most of them have been so far in Tenchi Souzou Design-bu.

2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team – 03

For me that was easily the best episode of 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team so far.  And of course when a show is on the bubble you always want the most recent ep to be the best, so the trend line on this one is positive.  We’re nowhere near a decision (the three-episode rule falls short more often than not) but the game is still very much on.

The transition to the titular high school arc happened quickly and without preamble, as predicted (maybe even more so).  Eleven months have passed, and Kimichika is still being emo, holding out on joining the Seiin team after the unsightly ending to his middle school career.  The focus turns to the captain and co-captain of the mediocre Seiin team, Oda Mitsuomi and Aoki Misao.  They’re a likeable if not especially compelling pair.  Oda is another little giant, short in stature but with a good leap which allows him to play on the wing.  Aoki is huge – taller even than the now 184 cm Yuni, who is on the team – and a middle blocker (crucially, there’s no mention of the setter).  The club itself has a thoroughly pedestrian track record.

The drama isn’t super-subtle here, but it is effective.  Kimichika thoughtlessly accuses Oda of hoarding his position despite being too short to play it (Aoka bullies him for it).  Oda stresses over his clock running out and his fundamental flaw as a volleyball player that he can do nothing about.  Yuni continues to be a mess of nerves and useless under pressure.  He does want Kimichika to join, but Ryu definitively does not.  And Kimichika broods over having ruined Yuni (which he kind of did, at least in part).  The school ball sports day gives organizer Aoki a chance to manipulate events to get Haijima and Aoki playing together, and bring things to a head between Haijima and Kuroda (by telling the latter to throw the match).

None of this is super-subtle or emotionally devastating, but it does pretty much work.  It fulfils its main purpose of setting up an interesting scenario at Seiin.  It also explains the title – it’s all about the competition height of the net, which as a volleyball naif I was totally unaware of.  The visuals here are certainly good enough not to be a distraction, which is also critical given how high Haikyuu!! set the bar there.  It’s worth noting that everything 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team does it has to do in 12 eps, unlike Haikyuu!! which has all the time in the world – so by nature things are going to move a lot more quickly, and with less character development.  It’s another unfair but unavoidable way 2.43 has to stand comparison with volleyball anime’s 800-pound gorilla.

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