When we are all old and dying at the various corners of the world, I am certain there will be critical questions we face as tertiary aging sends us into one last deep introspection. Did I choose the right career? Did I leave enough of a positive impact on my children? Why did J.R. Smith not know the score of the game when he grabbed that rebound with 4.7 seconds left? Why did I not tell Stephanie I thought she was cute and invite her out to dinner instead of watching Monogatari that entire weekend we were in Seoul? Why did I believe my mother when she told me dancing dirty with a girl at homecoming meant I would have to get married?
Most important of all, we will probably ask ourselves questions about anime. Because, let’s be honest, even if we want to remember the names to faces of those we love, or the memories that defined our lives, we are going to probably recall some random moment from an anime. With that said, we will likely wonder what the greatest sports episode in an anime was.
“Ewh, no way Dil- stop dragging me into your hypothetical!” you cry out to me.
You’re going to remember sports episodes and you know it. Maybe it will be the baseball episode from Haruhi, or the episode of Death Note where L and Light play tennis. Perhaps you will recall Little Busters! which was an anime loosely about using baseball as a means for you to justify picking your waifu from a lineup consisting of a Russian, a twintails who has an emotional breakdown and begins believing you are her brother, a smelly cat girl, your token antisocial reader, girl who looks like a 30 year old woman and has enough power in those legs to destroy an entire door, silly girl, silly girl’s twin sister who emits powerful “step on you” energy, and, of course, girl with a handgun.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze in excruciating detail what I find to be the greatest sports episode in an anime. Obviously, I’m leaving actual sports anime out of this, so Haikyuu! and that one episode of Kuroko I adore simply because it has “guy with big heart and shitty knees...like me!” in it aren’t included. Instead, I would like to discuss the episode “3 on 3" from Clannad. It is a legendary episode I have subtly referenced several times throughout my writing history with AniTAY but never dove into. That changes today.
So let’s get into some background on this episode first. At this point in the story, Nagisa has recovered from being nearly killed by a scattered rain-shower and her friends are determined to help her dream of running a drama club come true. They hit a snag in the plan, as the world’s smallest choir club of three unremarkable anime girls doesn’t want to give up their advisor. How will the gang ever convince them to change their minds?
Tomoya’s best friend,
Greg Ayres Youhei has an idea- they need to play a game of basketball to show the choir club how serious they are about the club. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Before we continue, I have to say that Youhei’s little sister who is visiting from out of town, Mei, sounds like she is in her mid 50s. It is also pretty clear Youhei wants to impress his sister and is looking for an excuse to hoop. Gotta respect the boy’s itch to get out there and ball.
Youhei gets Tomoya to agree to play only after we are reminded for the fourth time in two episodes that Tomoya’s alcoholic father injured his shoulder. Trouble hits the team when they realize they need a third player. This drama is short lived as Kyou agrees to not only join the team, but also be the team captain. At this point, Requiem readies his usual WNBA joke GIF that pisses me off, but just you wait. Kyou has a few things to say about that discrimination.
Our girl Kyou doesn’t ball out for free, however. She joins with the condition that she gets to have lunch with Tomoya. The only shot she has blocked this entire episode comes when Tomoyo swats her shot away and steals her man away from her (if you’ve never seen Clannad, Tomoyo x Tomoya is a very confusing ship to see written, I know). Feeling threatened, as all great team leaders do, she yanks him away. She tries to play matchmaker for her sister, but it is painfully obvious she was super into him (see her After Story).
At long last we are at the morning of the big 3 on 3 game against the basketball club. Kyou gets really fired up and asks Tomoya if it would against the rules to commit a flagrant foul (at least she has the decency to ask unlike another anime girl who plays basketball aggressively). Nagisa tells Tomoya to watch his shoulder, like all ride or die soulmates do before a guy plays one too many pick up games at the local YMCA.
The basketball club appears to pick their three worst players from their freshman squad for reasons that become clear a few minutes into this upcoming game. The rules are laid out as a continuous 20 minute clock with no timeouts and “all other basketball rules apply”. In real time, this game takes place in six minutes (rare for basketball in anime, I know).
The worst possible lineup of spectators arrive between Nagisa, Ryou, Kotomi and Mei. Don’t worry, more from them later.
Our game starts with Tomoya playing at the top of the key, Kyou on the left wing (his right) and Youhei on the right wing (his left). The opposing team is a man-to-man defense, with Youhei’s man playing him really tight and Kyou’s laying off of her, clearly afraid to touch a girl. Tomoya’s man is clearly not very quick, because he is nearly six feet away from him at the check-up, afraid of being driven past.
Not even a second from the whistle, Tomoya somehow manages to blow past the guard, with his man remarking “Damn, he’s fast!”. I want to remind you that Tomoya cleared about six feet of distance from his man, clearly playing off of him to try to keep in front of him (likely because his team captain warned him of Tomoya’s speed), only to get blown past in a second. Either our boy has the quickest speed since A.I. or this guy has never played a half-court defense in his life.
I’m assuming they’re playing pick-up rules where, from the beginning of a “check-up”, the person with the ball can’t shoot, because he takes three massive strides into the paint (clearly with no one in front of him), and chooses to kick the ball out to Youhei to his left.
While the beginning of her play is not shown, it would appear that Kyou sprints to the top of the key, pops out to the far side of the court, calls for a pass, and squares up for a three. So, to show how bad the defense is here again, the goal of basketball defense is to stay between your assignment and the basket. The positioning of this guy suggests that he over-committed on following Kyou up to the top of the play. Let’s assume this was at the same time as Tomoya dribbling past a kid who probably has a poster of Trae Young on his wall and never considered that being a point guard meant you had to play the other half of the game stopping the other team from scoring. This would mean the brown hair guy here would have had run past Tomoya, who was driving clear to the basket. I understand not leaving your assignment open, but by the point Tomoya was at, he had a clear hit at the basket. Maybe he knew Tomoya wouldn’t shoot because of his shoulder. Fine. Give that to him. This screenshot suggests that, before she pops out to the far end of the court, this guy had his left side planted at the top of the key. I don’t care how fast Kyou was, unless she was standing completely still up there, you should never plant so hard that you can’t just shuffle in front of your assignment. He also has his left hand out like he was clearly not watching where the ball was going.
Kyou plants herself about two feet back from the high school three-point line. Considering that the high school three-point line is regulated at 19.75 feet and that the NCAA line (college) is 20.75 feet, she clearly has college level range. She raises up with a textbook right-handed jumper, remembering the fundamentals of BEEF (Balance, Elbow, Elevate, Follow-through)
Ryou and Nagisa are dumbfounded as Kotomi enlightens them that three-pointers are, in fact, worth three points.
“That was luck!” the brown hair kid scoffs as he checks the ball up with Kyou at the top of the key. He fakes right by moving the ball to his right but does not move any part of his body to the right, clearly broadcasting he is going to go to his left. It appears that he might have Kyou beat, but Kyou fiercely gets in front of him. “Damn it, I can’t shake her off!” he swears, four seconds removed from calling the last play luck.
We are given an immediate cut to glasses boy with a bowl cut raising up for a jumpshot, to which Youhei is defending with his hands straight up in the air (for all transparency, this is not an awful way to defend a shot, since it avoids contact, but a decent shooter can still turn it into a foul by targeting arms that might not be moving completely vertically)
The shot misses, and Tomoya nabs a high jumping, one handed rebound with his left. At this point I consider why didn’t he just try to learn to shoot left-handed.
Tomoya dribbles the ball back up to the top of the key, allowing his team to have their turn on offense.
Another cross-court team passing effort, raising concern that a team of three defenders cannot only figure this out, but allow the ball to skip across the most heavily populated passing lane to get back to all-star sharpshooter Kyou.
Like all solid gameplanning should go, the captain of the other team says “grr, in that case, we’ll just have to keep her covered!” directly to Tomoya. Tomoya replies with “You think I wasn’t expecting that?” before passing out to Youhei.
The boy who was bold enough to combine the bowl cut with glasses decides to try to talk some shit by saying “C’mon shoot, I dare you!”. Youhei smirks and does a behind the back right-to-left dribble move and blows past him and pulls up for a perfect shot immediately. The defender turns and says “Huh?!” forgetting he just encouraged his opponent to try to score on him.
“Come on, wake up. You guys can’t hold back against them. Show them what you’re made of” the varsity team captain barks to the three worst high school players in Japan.
Tomoya realizes that the other team will soon bring in players who aren’t incompetent and decides it is imperative for his team to push and run up the score.
After a montage of Kyou and Youhei scoring a pair of shots with defenders draped over them, the score is now 15-8 in favor of the drama club.
“Stay cool!” Tomoya tells his team, to which they recover.
While the play develops off screen, we quickly see Kyou shoot an under-handed floater, which goes in off the glass. “Who are they?” Tomoya asks as a group of seven girls with a giant banner celebrate the shot. “Don’t ask me why, but for some reason, I am popular with the underclassman girls” Kyou says bashfully.
It is clear by the discussion the varsity basketball players are having that their current team had no prior knowledge to Tomoya’s shoulder injury. The varsity team captain tells his guys to force Tomoya right and eliminate him from plays, putting focus on their defense of the shooters.
The freshmen get subbed out for all seniors, and Youhei looks like he is about ready to pass out. This is at the 15-minute mark with a score of 25-14.
Tomoya gets crossed-up by a smooth left-to-right dribble move by the varsity captain. Youhei, exhausted, overcommits over and says “Stop right there!”. Rather than pass the ball out to the open man, the varsity captain not only does one spin move, but he sees Kyou in the way of the basket and proceeds to do a second consecutive spin move before throwing a sky hook into the basket. At this point, it is clear that he dribbled past one defender and into two more (completely ignoring two open teammates) just to score, cementing his candidacy as a regular for “Noon Ball” at local YMCAs.
Youhei looks further exhausted, Kyou looks pissed, and Tomoya looks like he has yet to break a sweat thanks to not scoring a basket yet.
A rare miss by Kyou, as a ripped man a foot taller than her disrupts her shot.
The varsity captain beats Tomoya to the rebound and resets the ball at the top of the key.
The varsity captain throws the most aggressive chest pass to another guard, who looks bored as he blasts past Youhei, who looks like he will need an IV any moment now.
Kyou throws a tantrum, swinging her fists in the air after she fails to make it into the frame where her assignment was shown shooting a perfect jumpshot.
The varsity basketball team goes on a 8-0 run as Nagisa informs the other girls that there is a minute and twenty seconds left
The varsity players take the lead at 25-26 as the girls note how exhausted Youhei is.
Youhei’s 50-year-old sounding little sister shouts “Come on guys, you can do it!” as Nagisa shrieks there is only twenty seconds left.
Tomoya has an existential crisis as the other team is pulling off the bold “half-court press at a pick-up basketball game” technique, questioning why he is doing this anyways.
Youhei gets stopped at the rim, so he shovels a pass off to Tomoya.
Tomoya gets absolutely clobbered in what might go down as one of the worst no-calls in pick-up basketball history as the varsity captain throws himself into Tomoya, sending him flying backwards
“Who am I kidding? We can’t win this. These guys practice every day. What about me? I spent the last two years wasting my life away. I knew how this was going to end. This is stupid. I shouldn’t have agreed to this. It just makes me feel miserable. So miserable.” Tomoya says as he slowly falls and turns to grayscale.
“OKAZAKI SHOOT THE BALL!” Nagisa kindly shouts to Tomoya, as he remembers the objective of the game.
In the worst shot attempt ever, Tomoya cocks the ball back to his right and then lobs it upwards. The ball rattles around and goes in as everyone celebrates the worst shot attempt in history going in.
“Hey, you had that look in your eye. Maybe you can still play after all.” The varsity team captain smiles to Tomoya as everyone sprints out of the gym because the varsity basketball coach arrives on the scene, angry.
Everyone is shown in a celebratory sprint out of the gym, with Youhei faceplanting from exhaustion on the pavement. Ryou is shown laughing at him mercilessly.
Kyou and Tomoya are shown happily running with Nagisa, raising concerns about just how much effort the Drama Club might have put into that game just now
Everyone teases Youhei for “running out of steam towards the end (of the game)”, reminding viewers why you never win if you go all out playing in pick-up basketball.
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