Softenni – 11

So the story behind Softenni, or what I’d like to think was a story, was Asuna and the rest of the soft tennis team aiming to play in the national tournament and eventually end up as national champions.  With only one episode left in the anime, it has become obvious the girls will never become champions, let alone play in the tournament.  That shouldn’t be surprising, seeing as the manga is still continuing and this is only a 12-episode season, but that’s quite a tease they put on us.  Still, it’s a thousand times better, at the very minimum, than making an anime original ending.

The eleventh episode of Softenni had two distinctive and somewhat unrelated halves.  The first half was a mildly amusing trip to the beach, featuring standard comedy with each of the characters (I really like Yayoi since she’s funny on her own and Mishi now has someone to joke around with) and actual swimwear instead of the standard school swimsuits the club donned for the seventh episode.  There was a connecting point between halves meaning this episode did not have two randomly selected chapters of the manga used for storyboards.  The difference in athleticism between Asuna and Kotone was displayed through various beach games in which Kotone conquered Asuna.  Afterwards, Kotone playfully said to Asuna that she needs to improve her athleticism, or at the very least attitude, or she couldn’t be Kotone’s partner.  Those words, coupled with Asuna’s serious mood (how could she not fantasize about Kotone finding a new partner?) stuck with her long after the beach vacation.

The second half of the episode began with the girls training on the tennis court for the never-to-be-viewed tournament.  After struggling to return a return, Kotone gets on Asuna for her lackadaisical play.  Again, Kotone is being encouraging to Asuna, in her own unique way, but Asuna begins to overthink things, wondering how long she can play with Kotone.  Well, a quick racket to the head will clear up matters in no time, leaving our protagonist with amnesia.  Seeing as she’s forgotten who her friends are and how to swing a racket, Kurusu resorts to shock therapy which is used as a literary device to segue into what seems to be the final saga of this anime: a flashback to when Asuna and Kotone met as first-years.

The flashback showed the soft tennis club of yesteryear, featuring then only Shiki and Chitose.  Asuna and Kotone both express interest in joining the club and begin to learn how to play tennis.  Shiki, being the laidback leader of the club, allows them to develop their own individual play-styles, which allows Kotone to stay in her overpowered, cocky personality, while Asuna probably tries something athletic for the first time in practicing her serves.  Shiki, however, brings up the most important aspect of soft tennis which is doubles matches, and suggests the two first years pair-up.  Asuna happily invites Kotone to be her doubles partner but Kotone wants to follow her own path to see if she can rise to becoming world’s greatest in a new sport.  So, despite the two main characters being the best of friends in the present, their relationship started off rather distantly and cold.

With the episode ending there, aside from the quick flashforward to the present for a well-timed and hilarious gag, we will likely see the conclusion of this memory where Asuna and Kotone become the best of friends and form a doubles-pair.  Quite a bit different from the assumed national soft tennis tournament.

Honestly, I am happy with the sudden change in direction for the ending of Softenni by focusing on the relationship of the two dominate characters rather than writing their own ending in which the girls somehow overcome all odds and become national champions.  A clichéd ending like that would spoil the improvement the series has seen since the halfway point.  Although I would’ve been happy with tennis matches in the tournament, they likely would’ve been rushed to reduce all gameplay to a montage of stills showing the girls in action poses with their panties visible.  Thankfully, instead we are shown a bit of backstory for Asuna and Kotone (and Chitose and Shiki, too) which does not seem fitting for an ending, but will conclude the anime on a higher note than any other imaginable ending in the present.  And it will likely include a match between Asuna and Kotone, hopefully a dramatic one with some comedy and no fanservice, that shows the birth of their current friendship.  So instead of dreading the finale of this anime, I’m actually looking forward to seeing the last episode (and not because it will be over but because it should be fun and meaningful).

Anyone notice the sudden increase of pants in the series?  Not only is it Yayoi in the present but Asuna and Kotone in the past, too.   And in the tenth episode, too, the girls dressed in casual clothes when visiting Mishi, and wore pants or something other than those miniature tennis skirts.  Certainly reduces the fanservice in the show, which I appreciate, but it seems a little strange now since tennis in anime is synonymous with miniskirts.  I’m not going to complain at the reduced fanservice but I do think the girls look better in their tennis uniforms rather than these red jackets and pants.  Actually, I’ve been meaning to say this from the first episode but never really had the chance, but I love the design on Chitose’s shirt, with the flames coming out from the side.  Shiki wears the same style, too, so it’s a little less unique now but still awesome to look at.

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