“This is my response to the heart-racing ecstasy you gave me! This is who I am!”
Going into Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume, I had some level of expectation for the show. My friends had been hyping it up and comparisons had been made multiple times to Saki, another sports anime mixed with cute girls that I greatly enjoyed. As I’ve already said in both my review of the show and my write-up about its OP, which has become my favorite of all-time, I absolutely adored the show and enjoyed the hell out of it. However, what Shakunetsu gave me was more than a fun, hypey romp of an experience filled with lovable characters and intense match scenes, it introduced me to one of my new favorite characters…
On a surface level, to those who know me, it would seem pretty obvious from her design why I had taken a liking to Agari. To those I interact with on a regular basis, it’s pretty obvious that I often like twintails as a part of a character’s design. Several of my favorite characters, such as Nico Yazawa, Karin Miyoshi, and Azusa Nakano, feature the aforementioned hairstyle and a couple years ago, I went so far as to start doing weekly write-ups about the glories of the hairstyle and how much I adore it as a part of a character’s design. However, to attribute my love for Agari to her hairstyle alone would be a disgrace to everything I’ve grown to love about the character. Her attitude within the show and her characterization falls in line with some of the traits I look for the most, while also cutting straight to the heart with her growth throughout the series.
During Koyori’s first introductions to Agari, Agari is set up to be the school’s “ace player”. Agari is the top player in the Suzumegahara Table Tennis club and she carries a certain level of pride with it. Her pride comes on full display in her interview with the girl from the school newspaper. The newspaper girl builds up the club, talking about their performance in local and city tournaments, but Agari quickly downplays the club by talking about their performance and the level of competition nationwide. Agari references the club’s lack of an “X factor” to push them over the edge, while foreshadowing Koyori’s quick rise through the club. While the scene is short and mixed with Koyori’s introduction into the table tennis club, it works to introduce Agari’s drive and ambition. She won’t let herself settle for being a strong team on the city level, instead comparing the team’s performance to that of teams competing on the national level.
This scene in a nutshell sums up why I love Agari as a character. Agari shares another trait with some of my favorite characters I had referenced before, in particular Nico and Karin. Just like Nico wishes to be the “#1 idol in the universe” or Karin to be the strongest Hero, Agari holds a passion of her own. Agari has a passion for table tennis and a drive to improve herself that shows in her character. She fears Koyori becoming the club’s “ace”, fearing that, if Koyori proved herself better, that the club would leave her to fawn over Koyori instead. Agari wants to be the best, she wants to prove that she is the best and it is because of that reason that she always strives to improve herself. She starts using a forehand smash in order to try and beat Koyori, she jumps at the chance to play against other players who have played at the national level, and she constantly looks to improve herself through Koyori throughout the course of the series. Agari’s drive and ambition carries throughout the series and defines her character.
The last major point, but arguably the most important, about Agari I’m going to cover today has to do with her relationship with Koyori. Upon Koyori’s transfer to Suzumegahara Middle School, Agari is the first person she meets and the person who introduces her to the table tennis club. As the club’s ace, Agari holds a lot of pride in her own play and is quickly surprised by Koyori’s prowess at the game and her rapid rise through the ranks within the club. This rise initially makes Agari feel threatened by the idea that Koyori would surpass her and steal from her the legion of follows she had gained through being the “ace”. However, the ranking match between the two changes something in her. Playing against Koyori makes Agari remember her own love for table tennis. Koyori awakens the adoration in Agari that had gone dormant underneath Agari’s desire to be the best and Agari begins to enjoy the game again. Her heart races when playing with Koyori and sets up a rivalry and friendship between the two that carries throughout the series. The two characters work off each other and build on one another to become better at table tennis, while at the same time becoming inseperable friends. The interactions between Agari and Koyori are likely my favorite character interactions in the entirety of Shakunetsu and for good reason. The two complement each other and play off one another to create an interesting, happy, and also competitive dynamic that syncs up well with the overall feel of the series.
While I could likely go on for far longer about how much I’ve come to adore Agari’s character, I’ll leave it concise and say that I adore Agari’s character. She has quickly risen through the ranks to become one of my favorite anime characters of all time. She has the passion and drive to improve that I find so endearing in characters while also hiding weaknesses and insecurities about herself as a table tennis player and also as a person, which are personally very relatable. When I started watching Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume slightly over a month ago, I had expected a cute, fun romp through cute girls playing table tennis. What I never expected to find was a relatable story with themes of passion and self-improvement told through a character that would rank with my personal favorites.