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Overtake! – 06

I think Overtake! is my first series this season to be half-over (not counting Houkago Shounen Hanaku-kun, at four episodes).  And that’s a real shame too, because it feels as if the plot here is just getting started.  It’s probably a miracle that it got produced at all these days in a Kadokawa-ized anime industry, so no sense in complaining that it’s not going to get the three of four cours a series like this would have once.  But any sports anime that’s going for authenticity and real depth in the character arcs is going to struggle with a 12-episode run.

Overtake is also yet another fall series that deserves way more attention than it’s getting.  Last week was largely a throwaway ep, with a couple of important moments at the very end.  But as if to make up for that this week’s effort is seriously intense.  It combines the racing and character sides of the story more effectively than any episode to date, giving both Haruka and Kouya the chance to reveal a lot about themselves.  I know Kouya isn’t Haruka’s dad (even Futoshi technically isn’t) but I was really feeling him here.  If I had a kid I don’t think there’s any way I could let him or her race cars – the stress would be unbearable.

As we saw at the end of Episode 5 Kouya seemed to have finally broken through his personal barricade with that photo of Futoshi hugging Haruka.  He’s able to do a photo shoot with a model without too much trouble (once he gets started).  His battle with his personal demons seems to have inspired Haruka too, giving him new resolve to fight his way to the podium for his own reasons and no one else’s.  It’s nice to see these two inspiring each other in a mutually beneficial way, but that’s going to lead to some problems on the next race day.

The track this time is Suzuka, Home of Formula One’s Japanese Grand Prix and one of Japan’s most dangerous circuits.  Haruka is still on a high and qualifies fourth for the race, only one car between he and the Belsorriso brothers.  All signs point to “yes” and Kouya is snapping photos of drivers all over the place, but everything changes once the rain clouds move in.  Having read up on the crash involving Haruka’s father, Kouya flat-out tells him he doesn’t want him to race.  There’s zero chance Haru is going along with that of course, and the next round of debate turns to the question of tires.

I get where Kouya is coming from here, as I said.  But you can’t stand in the pits and tell a driver he shouldn’t be racing – that’s bad form, planting negative thoughts in his head.  Haru, in fact, doesn’t want to change out his slicks for rain tires (Belsorriso is doing the same).  Competitively it makes sense, but it drives Kouya’s (and Futoshi’s) anxiety levels through the roof.  In the world of F-4 with its short races where a pit stop is a ticket to certain defeat, whether to swap out slicks for rain tires is make or break – you can’t correct for a bad decision later.

Should formula races even continue in the rain?  That’s certainly a debate, but they do.   Haruka pushes the envelope, does very well. But eventually Kouya’s words start to mess with him.  And one spin-out later, Haaruka rethinks the wisdom of what he’s doing and returns to the pits (much to the relief of Futoshi, whose hands are shaking from the tension).  The Belsorriso boys stay out there, and eventually Satsuki makes contact with a lapped car and spins out.  With heavy rain like that formula cars throw so much spray that visibility falls close to zero, which also contributes to Satsuki being T-boned by a trailing car unaware of what’s happened.

We’ll see how serious this turns out to be – as others have noted, the drivers in Overtake are not wearing HANS devices.  But the look in Satsuki’s eyes brings all the demons rushing back in for Kouya, seemingly depositing him right back at square one.  It’s a tough and brutal business, auto racing, one where death is an occupational hazard and no amount of bravado can change that fact.  It’s no place for a photographer with the sort of traumas Kouya is carrying with him, truth be told.  This is the sort of intensity most sports anime never achieve, with stakes to match.

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