By the end of the last episode of Kimi ni Todoke, Kazehaya was teaching Sawako some of the finer points of football (that's right, football, not soccer) - Come this ninth instalment, it looks as if his training has paid off, as Sawako gets to show off her skills in the latest practice session for the upcoming tournament. Come to think of it, she could probably get a spot in Arsenal's starting eleven at the moment...
Anyway, things don't just seem to be going well for Sawako on the football field, as she continues to enjoy her "new life" around school as well, with the highlight of her day after football practice being a meeting with Kurumi which ends in being complimented as she's told that she "looks like a doll". At least, it was a compliment to Sawako's ears, although Kurumi's true meaning was clearly aimed elsewhere.
Indeed, Kurumi's influence seems to have gripped Sawako somewhat, as she becomes something of a role model for our naive heroine, even to the point where she considers changing her hairstyle to something close to Kurumi's own - A thought which, when shared with Yano and Yoshida, brings about some hilarious (and occasionally disturbing) imaginings of how Sawako would look with basically any hairstyle other than her current one. There is a bit of a flip side to Sawako's admiration of Kurumi however, and of course that comes when she seems Kurumi hanging out with Kazehaya, or even hearing him talk about her, bringing about feelings of jealousy that she's still unable to comprehend. Of course, we could see this love rivalry coming a mile off, but it's certainly building apace here.
You're probably bored of seeing me write this every week about Kimi ni Todoke these days, but I really can't help it seeing as it's the truth - Once again, I found myself smiling manically throughout this ninth episode, as it sprinkled this show's usual blend of humour, love and downright adorable naivety upon everything it touches. Sawako's reactions and conversations seem to become funnier and sweeter by the week, and watching her spacing out over Kazehaya, or indeed Kazehaya blushing and stumbling over words like an idiot in front of Sawako, is certainly becoming one of my guilty pleasures each week. Even when it's arguably trying to skimp on the animation quality with all of the stylised characterisations, it still manages to work really well to keep Kimi ni Todoke ticking over as one of the sweetest and most genuinely enjoyable shows that I've watched not just this season, but over 2009 as a whole. Right now, I don't think there's any part of this series that I don't love utterly and completely, and I'm not ashamed to say so.