With virtually every aspect of Softenni improving weekly, there’s been one characteristic that has remained constantly pleasing from the very beginning. It was an initial quality of the series that helped hook me onto this anime and has yet to disappoint me in any way. The camaraderie in Softenni is one of the more overlooked yet charming attributes of this anime. The girls seem to have perfect chemistry with each other and it really supports everything the anime tries to do.
A common theme in sports animes is focus on the team as a single, functioning entity that either crumbles in the face of obstacles or endures them while stronger characters emerge. Sofuteni really shouldn’t be put in the same category as other sports anime since it’s like the part-time worker who performs their assigned duties during the day while trying to fulfill their dream on the side. You could say the tennis is what supports the series from the ground up while it aspires to be something beyond a sports anime, really some sort of ero-comedy anime. But even if it wants to be something else, the sports side of Sofuteni is always present and this theme is clearly defined, especially considering the accomplishments of this episode.
The fact that everything in Softenni involves the team doing activities together is one of the aspects I love about this show. Everyone does everything together and they actually enjoy doing what they do, be it recruiting a new doubles partner for Elizabeth or having a cram sessions to make sure Asuna and Kotone retain their eligibility for the upcoming tournament. Seeing everyone work together, so happily and trouble-free, really compliments the series and builds the team and friendship themes of the show. There are no needed hardships to test the durability of the team in Softenni, the team is already strong and everyone likes everyone else. Really, the friendship in Softenni is delightful. Having everyone smiling around each other encourages the enjoyment and tranquility of each scene and is one of the brightest qualities of this tennis anime. I absolutely love Asuna’s friendliness and her big, dumb smile that she always has.
And while on the topics of team togetherness and friendship, another new character has been added to the soft tennis club finally giving Eli a doubles partner for the upcoming tournament. Here, we meet Yayoi, a spiritually-aware, shy, and skillfully unskilled tennis player who can become randomly possessed by her dead sister’s spirit to transform into the most skilled player the club has ever had. With such a vivid personality, you might think she’d fail to integrate into the group and stick out, especially since the other girls have been together for so long and the absence of Yayoi from the opening and ending sequences might hint at that outcome. That or you think she’d just hang around Eli since they are no partners and then become secluded from the group, especially when the scenes are focused on Asuna and Kotone.
Instead, we see Yayoi instantaneously become accepted with open arms into the soft tennis club, immediately interacting with others and forming bonds without taking away from the other characters. Sure, it’s somewhat lame to have a shy character open up so easily and the relationships in Softenni have about as much tension in them as an overcooked piece of vermicelli so they can be uneventful and boring, but this isn’t a drama anime. I like the relaxing, easy atmosphere Softenni creates, so seeing someone smile and join in with the group only feels appropriate. It’s supposed to be fun. You can tell by the way everyone smiles and plays around with each other that this is supposed to be merely an entertaining anime where you enjoy the comical and ecchi adventures of the soft tennis club. It’s just that the team chemistry, friendship, and characters help make the anime that much more entertaining. Now if only they could animate some tennis matches…
And while I went on and on about the team concept in this post, I would like to see some individual development in Softenni. Virtually every scene is either at the tennis court with the girls practicing or elsewhere doing indirectly tennis-related activities. That’s great for the story and reinforces the point that this is a tennis anime but I would’ve expected some more slice-of-life scenes to show the characters outside the school and on their own. We’ve seen Asuna’s home and farm a few times which are welcome changes of scenery and we’ve seen Kotone in her family’s dojo, but we’ve never really seen what the lives are like of the other girls. You naturally forget that these are just middle school girls who return to their families after tennis to spend time with their siblings, eat meals, help out with chores, and do non-tennis (but probably still comedic) activities. It’s a simple and overlooked aspect of the show I wish we got to see more of, such as the brief scene where Asuna’s mom helps a sleepy Asuna get ready for school to start the second episode. With all the wild and silly jokes, you never really realize that Asuna has a loving mother who feeds her, worries about her, and runs the family dairy farm. I kinda wish we saw that sort of family relationship more with Asuna and the other characters, so that we could see their lives beyond tennis and their closest friends.