The day of Ai’s training group entrance exam has finally come! Will she be able to convince her parents to let her continue playing shogi?
It’s the night before the test, and Ai who was told by Yaichi to take a rest for tomorrow asked him for something “to let her feel him” (which is a double entendre with a sexual connotation), and Yaichi ended up giving her a fan with the word “courage” inscribed on it by himself.
Ai’s training group test began, with her friend Ayano as her first opponent. Quickly coming upon a chance for a victory, Ai didn’t hesitate in seizing that chance and claimed her first win. Kuruno-sensei, the manager of the training group, appointed himself as Ai’s next opponent after seeing her talent.
Playing with a Rook and Bishop handicap, Kuruno noticed that Ai was already familiar with the recommended moves for handicapped matches, so he opted for an unconventional move in order to test Ai. It didn’t take long for her to prove her ability was more than meets the eye, And Kuruno even needed to bring one of his “seven tools”, the air purifier. Nonetheless, Ai managed to score her second win, earning Kuruno’s appreciation.
As Kuruno met Ai’s parents and praised their daughter’s gift of having a “strong heart”, her mother questioned him on its relevance to a game like shogi. Kuruno explained that in shogi, most of the games ended with a “forfeit”, which means the losers themselves have to admit defeat. This calls for a strong heart to be able to keep fighting even with such odds, and the determination to stand back up again even after a loss. It’s obvious that by starting shogi, she will come to lose against a lot of strong players, but she will never be able to become stronger without experiencing these losses. Therefore, as long as her will prevails, it’s not truly a loss. This is why a strong heart is the greatest talent for someone who plays shogi.
Still hellbent on her previous deal, though, Ai’s mother asked Kuruno to continue the match. Kuruno then revealed Ai’s third opponent, which was actually Ginko, Yaichi’s anedeshi and an apprentice school member. Being a Honorary Member who is currently ranked 2-dan and is aiming to become a pro, Ginko is being regarded on a completely different level than any female pro. This is because one only need to be ranked C2 to become a female pro, while becoming an apprentice school member requires someone to be at least rank A or S depending on age.
Despite Ai gaining the advantage in the early game, she ran out of time to use which allowed Ginko to continue seizing the initiative. Making mistakes after mistakes and even having her pace of breathing controlled by Ginko’s relentless attacks, Ai was driven into a corner as Ginko managed to overturn the situation. However, still refusing to give up, Ai struggled to create another endgame despite knowing that it was impossible. As she ran out of pieces to drop, it was over with her loss.
It was later revealed, that Ginko had planned to end the match quickly but couldn’t. Recognizing Ai’s talent, she resolved to beat her next time with the minimum number of moves. However, a promise is a promise. Preparing to take Ai home, her mother told her to say her greetings to her master and everyone else in the training group. But, Yaichi interrupted her and begged her to let Ai continue playing shogi under his tutelate, as he lowered his head and kneeled on the ground. Ai who broke in tears followed suit and bowed next to his master.
Telling Yaichi to raise his head, however, was Ai’s father, who said that he is leaving Ai in his care. Saying that it doesn’t matter whether Ai becomes a female pro or not, he believes that Ai’s experience of fighting in the world of shogi would become a precious life lesson for her. Ai’s mother then asked Yaichi about his number of siblings and his yearly income. After getting his answers, she told him that she would allow Ai to continue playing shogi with a condition: if he can’t make her a title holder when she graduates from middle school, he will have to marry into the Hinatsuru family. Reluctant at first, Yaichi ended up agreeing to the deal, betting his life on grooming Ai.
In the end of the episode, Yaichi and Ai reenacted their first proper meeting at his house.
I was a bit worried about how the anime was going to handle an important match like this, but I’m glad they properly managed to convey the essential aspects of the scene. Kenji Kawai’s soundtracks are always amazing to listen to, and it gives you the necessary tension to enjoy the match. I’m a bit saddened by the way the cut a few lines that Ai’s dad was supposed to say in the scene (I had wanted to listen to Ichirou Mizuki saying “You don’t have to be a pro. Learn shogi and become a Meijin in life.”), but it was overall an enjoyable episode.
Anyway, have a smiling Char.