At its core, ViVid Strike! is a story about two friends, Fuuka and Rinne. With the backdrop of a championship battle, it seemed obvious the final showdown would be between the two primary characters. At least until the story threw a giant wrench into the gears.
[Note: This article contains major spoilers for ViVid Strike!]
The divide between Fuuka and Rinne lies in the tragic events that changed Rinne from a sweet little angel into a violent clobber machine. Rinne views her weakness as the reason she let herself be bullied and was unable to be with her adopted grandfather at his death. Since then, she has devoted her life to being strong. Not just strong; the strongest.
Her entire identity lies in her strength, which she proves through the Strike Arts fighting competitions. However, to Rinne, the sport is only a means to an end. She’s not in it to compete, she’s in it to win and nothing else matters.
Fuuka, on the other hand, has always seen herself as a guardian for Rinne. The strongest of the children in the orphanage where they were raised, Fuuka fell comfortably into the role of surrogate guardian for the children. However, after Rinne was adopted by a wealthy family and the tragedy that followed, Fuuka and Rinne had a falling out which ended in Rinne defeating Fuuka.
Since her childhood friend turned on her, Fuuka was left hurt and confused. Her salvation came when she encountered Einhard Stratos, the Strike Arts Under 15 World Champion, who sees potential in her and convinces her to join Einhard’s Strike Arts gym.
With both the series protagonist and antagonist competing in the same sport, it’s only a matter of time before the two cross paths in the Strike Arts Winter Cup. It seems obvious the series is setting the two up for an epic showdown when the series takes a sharp turn in episode eight where Rinne is up against Vivio Takamachi, the only opponent who has ever claimed a victory from Rinne (though only due to a technicality).
By this point, the series has done an excellent job of setting up the fighters so that you feel empathy for all of them. You know their backstories and motivations–and while they are antagonistic towards each other, you don’t really want to see any of them lose. The series plays it out expertly. With Vivio’s skills against Rinne’s brute strength, the anime really makes you feel like the stakes are high and there’s a legitimate chance that either one can lose.
But, the positions of the characters in the narrative have already been established: Rinne is the main antagonist and her fight with Fuuka has yet to happen. So no matter what advantages in skill Vivio may display, it seems obvious that Rinne is going to be the victor.
But surprise! Rinne loses. And not only that, but due to the damage sustained in her fight with Rinne, Vivio withdraws from the tournament completely, leaving the other fighters and the viewers stunned.
The immediate fallout is pretty drastic. Rinne, whose entire identity has been based in proving her strength, has been defeated not once, but twice by the same fighter. While winning means nothing to her emotionally, losing utterly breaks her spirit. The minute a single crack appears in her armor, she shatters. Despite the fact that she’s been a cast-iron icicle up to this point, you can’t help but feel sorry for her.
Nevertheless, a concluding fight between Rinne and Fuuka was promised and the series serves to deliver. Rinne is given another chance in an offer by Einhard, whose champion belt is what Rinne has been after. Einhard tells Rinne that if Rinne fights Fuuka and wins in a private match outside the tournament, that Einhard will accept Rinne’s challenge to fight for the title of world champion. Tossed into the depths of despair and then given a ray of hope, Rinne accepts, leading the series protagonist and antagonist to their fateful battle.
In a way, by having the huge twist with Rinne’s loss and then still giving us a showdown between Rinne and Fuuka, the series is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Even so, on an emotional level, it feels forgivable and even satisfying.
ViVid Strike! can be viewed with English subtitles on Amazon Prime Video (UK).