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Ooi! Tonbo – 06

Ooi! Tonbo is nothing but win for me. It’s good at what it does, and I like what it does. The sports is good, the drama is good, even the comedy works most of the time. Cute girls doing sports is a minefield, but this series totally makes it work by the natural way the girls (yes, now it’s plural) act. The main event is the complicated but winning relationship between Igaiga and Tonbo, but the rest of the palette is likewise completely winning.

As was teased last week, Igaiga is off to the big city (Kagoshima) to put his plan to lure Tonbo into “real” golf into action. He’s also there to buy a motorbike, and running into Youko-san on the ferry (it’s an island, not as much of a coincidence as it seems) makes that easier as she knows a guy. This is totally being set up as a romance, sorry Bunpei. There’s more going on with Youko – Igaiga sees her going into a women’s clinic and despite his assumption, she’s obviously there for her own health reasons. Igaiga also reveals during this sequence that his family “left him”, which at least implies that they’re both still alive.

Ultimately the plan is to find someone to come out to the island and give Tonbo motivation, though just how Igaiga planned to persuade some teenager (and their parents) to do that I’m not exactly sure. Fortunately, as we know Youko has a niece who’s good at golf, which she reminds him when they meet at the ferry port for the return trip. He practically begs her to invite the girl to Hinoshima when he finds out that not only is she in middle school, but the niece also won the Kyushu Junior Amateur.

The best part of the episode is the atmosphere waiting when Igaiga returns to the island. First off everyone welcomes him like a family member, a stark reminder of how different this place is than what he’s used to (especially having lost his family). But Tonbo is not so welcoming, Igaiga having left without telling her. She was convinced he was never coming back and in despair until she saw all his belongings were still there. It never occurred to him that this could be a problem, but Igaiga hasn’t yet realized what Obaa-san has – that Tonbo has come to see him as a father figure (or that he’s come to see her as a daughter).

Tsubura (Kitamura Eri) comes ashore like a hurricane from Okinawa. She does so on the flatbed of a truck where she’s fallen asleep, and the ferry sails with her clubs and clothes still on-board. But Tsubura’s moods swing as fast as tropical winds, and she’s soon bonding with Tonbo over their shared adolescent dunderheadedness. It’s one thing for Tonbo to have another golfer on the island, but just having a kid her own age is the biggest deal – there are none of those living there, after all. The two of them are different but similarly genki, and before a club has been hefted in anger Tsubura and Tonbo strike up what seems like a solid friendship.

Tsubura is anxious to hit the links, Tonbo never has to have her arm twisted, and that’s the whole reason Igaiga engineered this so he’s certainly not complaining. He’s already taught Tonbo a new trick, watching the ball with her left eye to keep her front side from flying open (like most things she picks it up annoyingly quickly). Tsubura is a different animal – intensely coached and self-analytical on the course. She uses only three-quarter swings and is astonished that Tonbo (by necessity) tweaks her swing on every shot she plays. Tsubura says she’s never used anything higher than a 6-iron (not counting woods of course) so she has to borrow a set (Bunpei’s) in order to play in her usual style.

The two of them are fun to watch – hardly peas in a pod. Each can learn from watching the other, and one of the things Tsubura preaches is that what Tonbo plays isn’t “real” golf. All the while Igaiga is increasingly looking like the cat who ate the canary – he could hardly have scripted this any better (so far). I love the moment when Tonbo hits a gorgeous lofted chip because she thought it would be “fun” to use the wind to stop her ball on a dime, and Tsubura scolds her because it’s the “wrong” shot for the situation. Tonbo then proceeds to play a bump-and-run – tweaking her stance and clubface as usual – equally stone-dead. A reminder of what a little instinctive demon she is, and I think Tsubura’s scolding over having re-hit her shot is tinged with annoyance at how easy Tonbo made it look.

I can see this developing into a really fun rivalry – both these girls are strong-willed and talented. But it’s not going to go as Igaiga plans it, you definitely get that sense. 15 year-old girls are raw, unpredictable forces of nature, as dangerous as a tropical storm. And having unleashed these two against each other, Igaiga can’t possibly control what happens. Whatever that turns out to be, it seems certain to be quite entertaining.

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