Can I continue to build a case for Ena? Look, she’s a cat person, so that’s already a huge plus in my book. As for dogs… eh. I don’t hate dogs, and I could even live with one as long as I didn’t have to walk it. But they need to be big dogs. I don’t want to deal with those tiny, yelping pocket dogs. At that point, they may as well be shitty cats that you have to walk. Ena’s also got a better hairstyle than Mio. Is that too superficial? Well, I mean, the real reason I think she’s better is because she’s assertive, but people seem to find that aspect of hers annoying, so what can I say? I like that she has an actual passion beyond studying broadly for exams. I like that she can playfully tease Eita, and not just smile like a perfect, little angel all the time. Personally, I don’t mind butting heads a bit so long as we can hash it out like adults afterwards. Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, I’m trying to lead the campaign to make anime romances great again. Stop picking the quiet, awkward heroine. She doesn’t even like you, my guy. Most of all, Mio’s screwing herself on her exams — and thereby her future — over a boy. A boy who isn’t even all that bright or ambitious himself. A boy she only likes because… he gave her an eraser? C’mon. Then again, what Eita likes most about Mio is that she’s awkward. Kids…
Again, Ena is persistent. For now, she’s really only after one thing: saving her club. She’s ready to pull out all the stops in order to accomplish this. But I can respect that. I can respect her drive, quick wit, and resourcefulness. Meanwhile, Mio continues to drown in her feelings, trapped between being a good friend to Haruto and confessing her love. But lest we become Hazuki, being selfish once in a while is a good thing. And maybe Ena is a bit too pushy. Maybe Ena is being a little too blatant about her aims. She’s not hanging out with Eita because she wants to be his friend (for now at least). But she’s also not hiding anything. Ena’s very honest about what she wants, and in a story full of hidden feelings, stolen glances, and hesitant hearts, I like Ena’s ability to cut right to the chase. Too bad I feel like this might change soon. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I feel that if she ever caught actual feelings for anyone, she too would devolve into a shy, easily embarrassed shoujo unable to confess her true feelings. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But even so, we also already know who’s going to win out in the end. For now, I’ll just continue to root for the honest girl.
The other girls can’t help but lie. No, they’re not bad people. Lying isn’t always immoral. After all, they’re not really lying to anyone but themselves. The episode opens with Hazuki and her brothers at the supermarket. She’s picking up groceries for dinner, whereas the kids are hunting for candy. It’s just what you do, isn’t it? The adults are busy working to put a roof over their heads, and now that she’s almost an adult herself, she has to chip in. Even though Hazuki’s just a teenager, she has the responsibilities of a mother. She has to take care of her siblings. She has to make dinner. She has to make sure they do their homework, bathe themselves, then go to sleep on time. When it’s all over — when she has to go to college because, again, it’s just what you do — she can finally hand her responsibilities down to her kid sister. The cycle thus repeats itself. It’s a reminder that even in this day and age, some families depend on having a large family in order to keep the business running. In these households, child-rearing resembles a family quilt. No kid is raised in isolation. No kid has a single set of parents. Every older sibling sacrifices a bit of themselves, leaving behind a patchwork of familial love and care.
But I still feel sad for Hazuki. She’s too focused on her family to reveal what her heart really wants. Even at the shrine, she makes no mention of what she desires. Instead, she only wishes for her friends and family. When it comes to anything else, Hazuki nonchalantly hides behind those sleepy, placid smiles of hers as if nobody will notice. She’s a natural; she’s been at this for a long, long time. But still, we need not look any further than a tiny, seemingly insignificant moment between her and her younger sister to steal a quick glimpse at Hazuki’s inner desires. “It’s gonna be a lot of trouble looking after Mitsuru and Yuzuru,” Hazuki’s sister whines, “Living along sounds nice. And it sounds super fun, too!” In this scene, she serves as Hazuki’s mirror, and the reflection is not exactly a happy one. She wants to be excited about going off to college on her own, but in reality, she feels too much guilt. She’ll have to leave her family behind, and without her, life will definitely be harder for them. The two sisters are cut from the same cloth, but the younger one hasn’t learned to hide her feelings yet. But don’t get me wrong. There’s genuine joy in Hazuki’s voice when she speaks about her brothers, so being the dutiful, care-taking oneechan is not the problem. Hazuki lacking any sort of identity is the actual issue at hand.
Everyone had planned to do the first shrine visit together, but in truth, the others just wanted Haruto and Hazuki to finally have some time alone with each other. So Yoriko, Mio and Eita all make excuses to duck out of the event. As the night progresses, Haruto slowly gains courage. Sure enough, he finally summons enough spirit to confess his feelings. Give it your all, kid! Everyone’s rooting for you… even if some are reluctant about it. Haruto pulls Hazuki away from the festivities, and alone under the cold, winter sky, he asks her to go out with him. With perfect timing, a passing train delays Hazuki’s answer. It gives her time to think. It’s as if she has too much time to think. We know she would never act impulsively, but the train made sure Haruto had no chance of hearing a favorable answer. She doesn’t get flustered. She doesn’t look away. Rather, she seems prepared as if she knew this was coming. She returns his gaze without pause. To nobody’s surprise, Hazuki rejects Haruto. She doesn’t provide a reason, but we don’t need one. As the way things are now, she has no time to date. Soon, she’ll be off to college. Until then, she has to take care of her siblings. So when exactly would she have time to date? “I can’t go out with you,” is what she says. Not “I won’t go with you.” Even if Hazuki finally allows herself to be selfish, something else would have to give.
But it goes even further than that. It may seem as though I’ve been advocating over and over for the girl to prioritize herself for once in her life. After all, I think she’s destined for a life of self-resentment if she continues to neglect what her heart truly wants. But at the same time, you can’t just snap your fingers and instantly change your life. Finding the time and energy to devote to herself and just herself will be a process. It will take time. It’s not as easy as simply saying yes to Haruto’s request, and that’s why she said no. Haruto’s simple-minded. So far, he’s the most straight-forward and uncomplicated character out of the main cast. He isn’t considering Hazuki’s situation at all. He isn’t considering what their relationship would even look like when she has to go to college. He’s barely considering his own future. So even if Hazuki could afford to date, why would she choose him? He’s not a bad guy, but he hasn’t proven himself to be dependable whatsover. He’s barely spoken to her till now, and most damning of all, he can’t even be sure it’s her trumpet that he always hears on the practice field. She’s just a concept to fill a gap in his life. The rejection doesn’t mean Haruto’s chances are over, but he has some serious reflection ahead of him.
Hazuki’s rejection isn’t the only rejection we got tonight. Mio is full of contradictions. She needs to focus on her entrance exams, a fact which she brings up repeatedly like a broken record. She is therefore not just trying to convince others, but she’s also trying to convince herself as well. Her mind says she has more to worry about high school romance and an unrequited love. It’s just a pity she can’t convince her heart to share the same sentiment. Why does she nevertheless continue help Haruto? Mio is rationalizing. She is spinning up more lies, which she can use to excuse herself from studying. It’s okay if she spends time with Haruto, because she’s actually helping him confess to Hazuki. If he succeeds, she reasons, then that door will be closed to her forever. She won’t have to confess her feelings, which means she won’t have to confront them either. She won’t have to move on. But in truth, all she’s really doing is hurting herself, and this pain has a curious and unintended side effect. It constantly reminds her that her feelings for Haruto are real. Her feelings for him are serious, and as a result, they will not go away. They cannot go away. If they weren’t serious, why would they hurt so much? You can’t just tell yourself to forget someone. You can’t bury unrequited love by exposing yourself to it.
Despite the show’s poor production values, I actually appreciate the way it can convey the characters’ feelings through their facial expressions. Mio isn’t good at hiding her feelings, and Eita can tell. Even her damn dog can tell, a fact which makes me crack up every time I see that concerned face. Sadly, the only person who can’t tell is Haruto. But if he can’t notice a friend in pain even when she’s right in front of him, he has no luck navigating Hazuki’s carefully veiled feelings. Mio can’t hide behind her words either. Even when she’s alone with Eita at a shrine full of sights to see and things to do, the conversation always loops back to Haruto and Hazuki. She wonders, “…I wonder if he was able to ask her out,” but deep down, she really hopes he can’t. “I hope it doesn’t turn out like the last time,” she says. She thinks he shouldn’t have led off with “I’m free tomorrow.” In truth, she’s hoping Haruto’ll goof up the confession the same way he goofed up his first attempt to ask Hazuki out. There’s an optimism in her voice, but it’s not for his sake. It’s really for her sake. She then drags Eita to draw love fortunes, hoping to assuage her anxious heart with words of the divine. Mio can’t help but grimace when her fortune is not as positive as she would like.
Naturally, Eita’s responses to Mio are also attempts to hide his true feelings. “Who knows” is really “Who knows if I can do the same?” “It’s amazing that he tried” is really “I don’t think I could ever do it.” But as it turns out, he could and he did. Eita is frustrated that Mio keeps hurting herself, so he calls her out on her lies and excuses. She lashes out by more or less saying it’s none of his business. To her, he’s just an outsider who doesn’t understand how she feels. He’s just a casual friend who came back after a long absence. What does he know about her unrequited feelings? She keeps bringing up the fact that he didn’t recognize her the first time they had seen each other in a long time. I believe he did recognize her, though. And along with that, he recognized that those feelings he had tried to bury in the past — the same sort of feelings that Mio has for Haruto — were suddenly rushing back into his mind. He was at a loss for words, and she mistook that for him not recognizing her.
Sadly, Eita knows all to well what it feels like to see someone you care about only have eyes for someone else. Oh, if only she knew. So he evens the score and confesses to Mio. Once he realizes what he’s done, he starts to head home. He’s not waiting for her answer, because unlike Hazuki, she doesn’t have a response. Of course she doesn’t. He didn’t ask to go out with her nor did he ask to become her boyfriend. He didn’t confess because he had hoped things would change between them. For so long, Eita had been setting his own feelings aside, because he resembles a wallflower. He doesn’t like being the center of attention, and he seems more comfortable in one-on-one situations. But despite it all, even Eita realized he couldn’t be silent anymore. He had to tell her what she doesn’t have the courage to tell Haruto. And in a way, he confesses his feelings in order to hurt Mio. Not maliciously. Not cruelly. But like a figurative slap across the face, he hopes to set the record straight.
When Mio first hears Eita’s confession, she furrows her brows then turns away. She doesn’t verbally reject him, but she seems almost resentful. Does she think he is lying to her? Does she think he’s being bothersome? As if she didn’t have it hard enough, he’s complicating the situation even more. Even he feels as though he has wronged her, so he apologizes: “That was uncalled for. Sorry.” Eita then walks past Mio to head on home. She tries to maintain her anger at first. He raised his voice at her, and now he has the audacity to leave? But when she glances at him, she finally notices the rueful expression on his face. He shouldn’t have said anything. He’s ruined everything. Even if she accepts the apology, how can they hang out as just the two of them anymore? Meanwhile, Mio appears stunned for a brief moment. Has it finally dawned on her that his feelings are genuine? That he isn’t just making things worse to get back at her? Her face then relaxes as if she’s beginning to think. She’s beginning to reflect. Her mind is perhaps in overdrive, poring through every moment they’ve spent together — even moments she thought she had forgotten from years ago. How? When? Why? Then finally, Mio turns her gaze downward again, and only melancholy remains in her expression. The girl stays motionless until the episode comes to an end. We won’t know what conclusion she’s drawn (if any) until next week’s episode.
An untold confession is little different from an unsent letter that one might refuse to throw away. Why? Because what we have written deserves to be read. We’ve simply also accepted that nobody deserves to read it. The letter is too important to us — too precious — to be entrusted to the person it is addressed to. We know in our hearts that they can’t appreciate the letter for what it’s worth. So we hold onto the letter, affirming its content more than ever before. And in our dreams, we send the letter to the fantasy equivalent of our addressee, whom we can count on to truly understand what we hope to say. We treat our confessions in much the same way. To truly free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, we must confess. But for better or worse, our fantasy would then have to disappear as we come face to face with the subject of our affections. So oftentimes, we choose to lie to ourselves so that we may continue to dream. We hold onto that unsent letter, so that when we close our eyes, we continue to see those perfect moments that no one else can take away. Not even the person we love.