There’s less than a week left before X-Day, and both Eiko and Kabetaijin need to be at the top of their game. Eiko has at last found her passion for uplifting people with her music, earning her DJ Kido’s respect and a promise to arrange her song. Kabe has reconnected with his roots and is ready to take on Sekitoba. With no time to spare and two music careers on the line, will all of Kongming’s hard work and strategic preparation pay off?
We’re coming up fast on the Summer Sonia festival, and all of our characters are pushing forward with gusto this episode. Eiko and Kabe have both found their footing after a lot of uncertainty, while Nanami and the other members of Azalea are struggling under the weight of their manager’s demands. Even Kongming is starting to feel the pressure as Eiko’s newfound passion reminds him of what called him to service during his first life.
The first major beat (ba-dum-tish) is Kabe’s showdown with Sekitoba Kung-Fu. Despite being energized by reuniting with his old friends and navigating his anxiety, he’s still incredibly nervous before the battle. I always enjoy seeing character growth highlighted this way – even though he’s stronger and more confident than he was, his anxiousness hasn’t just disappeared. He’s just able to manage it better and rely on the supportive energy he got from his friends, Eiko, and Kongming. His confidence and rhythm are back, and he demonstrates a greater flow with the music than he did before.
The rap battle itself is fun, but much shorter and less dramatic than the one between Kabe and Kongming, which is a real shame. With Sekitoba having been rightfully set up as a major rival, it would’ve been a great opportunity to pull out some of the cool stylizations that we had in the last battle. I know it’s not the main focus, but it’s still disappointing and is my only real knock against the episode. Regardless, the sportsmanship and camaraderie on display by Sekitoba is great to see, and makes him one of my favorite supporting characters even with his limited screen time.
Once the rap battle is finished, it’s time for Eiko to begin recording with DJ Kido. We only get to listen to a small sample of the new arrangement, but even that little bit is promising. It has an odd, timeless quality that I can’t quite put my finger on, and I’m excited to finally hear the entire song. It’s also great to hear Eiko singing her own song again after relying so heavily on a single cover for the middle part of the show.
There’s an entertaining cut just as Eiko starts singing to keep us from hearing the entire performance before the big finale that thrusts Kongming briefly back into his past memories. He recalls his meeting with Liu Bei, and how his concern for the people under his rule moved him, much like Eiko’s music moves him now. It’s a touching scene, made more poignant by a complete lack of music until we hear Liu Bei humming a lovely melody. I really have to credit the artists and performers for making this moment feel weighty and meaningful. Even though we’ve seen so little of Kongming’s life, the impact of these little scenes always impresses me.
All of this further confirms what I appreciate so much about Kongming – his greatest strength is supporting others and setting them up for success. His crafty strategies from the beginning of the show were fun to watch, but have given way to just putting his friends in the right place to show their strengths. Eiko and Kabe are both moving forward on their own merits – Kongming is there to facilitate their rise and deal with unexpected problems. He’s a real mensch, is what I’m getting at.
While it serves mainly as setup for the big showdown at the festival, this is a great episode that highlights how far all of our characters have come and focuses on their joy and excitement. It’s incredibly positive and uplifting, and just what I’ve been needing while going through some challenging times. I can’t wait to see how everyone comes together at the end, and whether Kongming will need to pull out his trademark stratagems again, or let our young artists carry the day.