This episode, again, was more on the introspective side than emotional narrating. Rei reaches a character-building epiphany during his final match in the Newcomers’ tournament and Hina openly acknowledges Rei’s support. Nothing much other than that happens- but this one ends on a warm note.
The Kawamotos (along with Rei) are having dinner, or rather, a feast; and Akari has cooked Katsudon for Rei- to give him support for his final match in the Newcomers’ Tournament. The sisters talk about Hina’s school trip that will start the next day, and seemingly upon bringing up the topic, Hina resigns from eating, claiming that she has a stomachache. Rei is quick to pick up on her sudden shift in mood- Hina is dreading that her classmates will continue treat her like they do in the classroom throughout the whole trip. But when Akari suggests her that Hina shouldn’t go after all, Hina vehemently argues that she will definitely go, or she will regret it later in her life.
Rei connects with what Hina just then said as he shared the same sentiment when he was talking to Takahashi about regrets on not doing things. Rei realizes that people are always fighting for themselves in their own worlds- and he must keep on doing the same thing.
He wakes up on an alarm clock, like anybody who’s having their first morning in a new place, he is disoriented but he soon remembers his purpose upon the rustling of Nikaidou’s game records. As Rei visits the supermarket to pick up some nutritional supplies for his potential 10 hour match, he overhears a couple of shogi players commenting that Yamazaki played ‘with proper player etiquette’ against Nikaidou, and that he can’t be blamed for playing so defensively. As Rei goes up the elevator to his match room- a sudden recollection of Nikaidou pops up in his mind, where he says, “I want to have my shot at the title… If I didn’t have anything on my mind, how could I go on?”. Rei wonders how strongly Nikaidou felt when saying those words.
The two players meet and with a heavy press of that brass in the soundtrack, the anime attempts to set up how foreboding the final match is and how uptight Yamazaki is, with some comedic effect sprinkle in- because that’s how the show ‘keeps it real’. But things fall silent, just like any other shogi match.
Taking this calm as his opportunity for introspection, Rei begins to take things in perspective, and starts antagonizing the playing style of Yamazaki, who waits for his opponent to make a mistake rather than using his own ability to win the match. Rei declares a mental ‘screw you’ and goes on the offensive. A sequence plays out where Rei moves sharply and as he comes close to laying out his aggressive attack- Nikaidou’s voice breaks through, and Rei immediately retreats. He remembers of the time when Nikaidou told him not to show off and persevere instead. Now, Rei’s outlines become softer- indicating that he has become more aware; he realizes that he hasn’t really considered the things other people do for him and that he is always quick to focus on himself. He feels that he was just being pathetic with his angry, retributive mental rant. That he was almost being the same cold, self-centered people that his recent opponents were (Yamazaki and Hachiya).
And with that realization, his consequent win isn’t really his- Rei didn’t triumph over his opponent with vengeance and truly ingenious play, it’s rather because of Nikaidou’s infectious wisdom and the Kawamoto’s love. So it isn’t really a celebratory moment for him, it’s rather a moment of realization that playing shogi isn’t necessarily just about yourself.
Rei doesn’t take long to throw himself back into Hina’s situation, he takes some medicine for stomachaches and sets off on a bullet train to Kyoto to meet Hina- all in a quite dramatic fashion. Rei soon realizes the impracticality of the situation, but then he gets a flashback of his own experience in solitude when he was in a school trip; and he connects that with his observation that Hina always likes to share her overflowing emotions with the river. And boom! Sherlock is onto the trail. But no, in all seriousness- it was nice moment where the anime solidified Rei’s sympathetic, or rather emotional, connection with Hina.
He spots her right around where he expected her to be. He sees Hina with that empty, void look in her eyes (similar to that we saw at the end of episode 6). Her reaction upon seeing Rei is pretty cute and genuine- from surprise, to anticipation to emotional breakdown (on hearing that Rei was worried about her- which was also enduring to watch). She hugs Rei, in tears. And he says, “You are hanging in there. I am proud of you.” and starts making sincere, mental notes to himself that Hina might catch a cold in the wind. It was a sweet, warm moment; one that I am sure everybody has been waiting for since episode 4.