That said, things did get good when I started to cheer for the bad guys, which I don’t think was the intent. Oh, and it got good when the Adachi Tribe crew showed up, thereby jossing my idea that they’d all absolutely died. (I think I posited that at some point: I am steadily losing touch with what ideas I’ve made up in my head and what ideas I’ve actually put into a review.)
Watching Tribe Nine is like paying Funimation to give you whiplash: they take $7.99 a month and in return, I get a plot that I fully expect to hurt me, but also, a plot that fully knows I’m on the hook just enough to like the pain. I thank Funimation for the food, even if this food has given me indigestion for weeks on end. At least it’s back to being this side of corny to be entertaining. That’s not to say that this episode is perfect, but hey: it’s leagues above what we’ve been served up for the past month.
Slow Loop casts the line and always reels in a big one: episode 10 is no exception, especially since it leans into Koharu’s serious side by indulging both her and the viewers with a fantastically fishy subplot that just slaps. With a combination of fly fishing lingo, a sweet series of scenes with Hiyori and Futaba, and just so much charm, it’s an easy episode to sink into, and a wonderful way to spend a half hour of your day, drifting away on the waves and thinking fond thoughts of all the delicious creatures drifting in the sea.
It feels bad to so strongly dislike both this episode and this series as a whole because it could just… lean into being an over-the-top story about SFF baseball and give us all the drama in the world. Instead, it’s a kind of tepid take on a game where the rules are there’s very few rules. As a result, Tribe Nine is… unfun: stale, mediocre, and mild. That said, I did laugh when a character died, which… feels indicative of where my head’s at.
So often, middle school relationships are heralded as the beginning of feminine cattiness, borne out of a brutal social minefield that punishes those who don’t wear the right things, behave according to socially acceptable norms, or perform your (assigned) gender in all the right ways. And while this is often the reality for a lot of teenagers, there’s something beautiful about friendship being upheld as such a powerful tool for good, which Akebi consistently does.
By and large, Slow Loop has so far been a show about Hiyori, Koharu, and their community. It’s reflected in their fishing companions throughout the season: initially with Koi and her father, then with Ichika, and now with just Koi and no “adults” present. It’s a small thing that builds in the background until you notice it: a kind of subtle, “Oh, yeah, I guess this is their first solo trip!” moment that when resolved feels right because it ultimately bonds the family even more.
I cannot, for the life of me, explain why it is that this show keeps me tangled in its web. I think a lot of Tribe Nine’s ongoing appeal for me is because I genuinely want it to pull some sort of Akudama Drive-level twist in its finale. Or at the very least evoke Danganronpa V3, which it’s trying very hard to be without any of the philosophical posturing that made that game such a fabulous sendoff.
I suppose that’s why this slow and steady episode of Akebi’s Sailor Uniform resonates with me in a way that makes me yearn. It makes me want to be a better friend, makes me want to dive into the sea of friendship anew, fresh-faced and willing to see things from all sorts of angles, just like Komichi. Then again, I suppose that’s the power of really good slice of life series: they make you yearn.
Grief doesn’t get smaller with time: it stays the same size, ebbing like the ocean. Yet in episode 8, I feel like I’m seeing a Hiyori that’s healing, becoming a larger vessel for the memories of her father by forging new ones with Hiyori. And episode 8 is lush with little moments like the one mentioned above that enrich Hiyori’s life, develop her as a character, and build upon her relationship with Koharu at the same time.
Ultimately, the experience of watching Tribe Nine is one of intense whiplash. Some episodes, the hype is real, but there are also times when I have to bride myself with snacks to focus on the screen. Episodes 6 and 7 are a mix: the action has this certain flow state that’s really fun to sink into once it’s gets going, but when it slows down—or when we’re spending time with the cast, really—all you’re left with are outlandish character costumes and a pretty baller soundtrack. And thank the baseball gods for the music, because at times it’s all that’s keeping me here.