It’s been a week since that fateful night, and Haruto is still down in the dumps. He bared his heart to Hazuki only to be rejected. At home, he mopes and shuffles around listlessly like a forlorn zombie. His grandmother will chide him from time to time for sleeping in on the weekends, but his family will always love him. At school, however, he tries to put on a brave face and act as if nothing’s wrong. So much so that Yoriko seems to suggest that he should be more bummed about it. Well, he is. Haruto feels left behind. Everyone’s talking about entrance exams and going to college. They have their futures ahead of them. On the other hand, everything has already been decided for him, and he feels powerless. After graduation, Haruto will begin working in a factory. His friend says, “Must be nice that you found a job, Haruto. I’m seriously jealous!” But the grass is always greener on the other side. Thinking that nobody is watching, Haruto tosses his baseball glove in the dumpster. His carefree youth will soon be over, so why not throw it away now? He might as well move on, right? Maybe Haruto is ashamed of his past. In his eyes, he never accomplished anything. He didn’t do well enough in school to go to college. He couldn’t even swing a bat well enough to win anything. He wasted his youth, and as a result, he now has to join the losers:
Eita: Which team?
Haruto: The losing one.
At the baseball game, Haruto is shocked to see how much fun the men were having. They’re not at all what he expected. After all, all his mom does is work all day. We thus discover the root of the problem: Haruto is afraid of becoming his mom. But what is so wrong with that? It never feels like she has any fun. Haruto doesn’t want that life, and that is why he put it all on the line and confessed to Hazuki. It’s not like he ever thought he’d be a scholar, so of course university is out of the question. Deep down, he always knew he wasn’t destined for greatness as a baseball player either. Every boy dreams of Koshien, but few actually see it as a realistic goal. But when Haruto heard Hazuki’s trumpet, he felt as though he had at least one person in his corner. So he tried to secure that future. If he was going to toil away in a factory for the rest of his life, he wanted at least something to give his sacrifice meaning. Unfortunately, none of this is fair to Hazuki. I know practically every guy in my generation seems to idolize Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so maybe it’s an overrated movie. But a scene from the movie has always stuck with me even to this day:
Clementine: Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.
Joel: I remember that speech really well.
Clementine: I had you pegged, didn’t I?
Joel: You had the whole human race pegged.
Hazuki is her own person. She’s not a fucked-up girl, but she’s still just a girl with her own set of dreams and problems, wants and desires. She’s not on this earth to make any guy’s life whole. She’s not here to be Haruto’s cheerleader. What does Haruto really want? Does he really want her, or is he just afraid of his future?
Haruto needs to confront his future, and yet, he is unable to if he is ashamed of his past. But this is what true friends are for, so Eita steps up and hands Haruto his baseball glove. “Until the last balll” is written on the inside. In other words, don’t give up. Give it your all. The glove is a reminder that Haruto hasn’t always been giving it all, but at the same time, it also reminds him that he doesn’t have to quit. After all, even though Hazuki rejected him, at least he gave the confession his best shot. The rejection didn’t kill him. He got a broken heart, but we’ve all been there before. It’s time to stop pitying himself, and start giving his all again. The ball comes flying in his direction, and because he gives it his all, he catches the ball and potentially saves a run (I assume). Haruto finally sees that the factory job isn’t hopeless. He’ll still have friends to hang out with, and he can still play baseball. Most of all, he won’t be defined by his job.
Still, the most important lesson is still to come. On his way home, Haruto bumps into his mother. He tells her he’s surprised that the factory workers still try so hard to win a meaningless baseball game. Of course, it’s not meaningless to them, and they don’t have to stop trying just because they’re older men. Haruto can see that now. His mom is glad that he’s finally cheered up a little. Even though she works all day, she still notices him. She still knows when her son is down in the dumps. She won’t say it, but it probably hurt her to see him so depressed too. He asks her how her day is. “I’m fine, though,” she answers, “Well, I suppose it’s hectic and, sometimes, very annoying. But occasionally, there are good things about it. Like when my son carries my things for me.” Haruto is confused by her answer, but she says he’ll understand once he has kids of his own. Her sacrifices means her son will grow up to be a respectable adult, so even if she has to work all day, her endless toiling has meaning. So we come back to the original question: what does Haruto want? He doesn’t have the exact answer yet, but he’s closer than ever before.
Hazuki asks to speak to Mio alone. She hasn’t had a chance to confide in Mio about her situation with Haruto. Sure, Yoriko is her best friend, but Mio knows Haruto better than them. She proceeds to confirm what most of us concluded from last week’s episode: even if she had all the time in the world to consider Haruto’s confession, she still would’ve said no. They don’t know each other that well, and even then, their relationship would’ve been short-lived since she’s leaving soon for college. For a practical girl, dating Haruto just didn’t make sense logically. But the matters of the heart are rarely logical; Hazuki admits that Haruto’s been on her mind ever since his confession. On the first day of school, she pauses right outside their class to observe him. What does Hazuki want? For the first time, we see a look on Hazuki’s face that is neither sleepy nor placid. When Yoriko alludes to that fateful night, the girl’s face flushes red with embarrassment. So if Haruto wants to hang his hat on anything, he’s at least managed to chip away at her facade. This is the same girl who wouldn’t answer her best friend’s question regarding who she likes. She probably would never do what Haruto had done. Like Haruto, she feels as though her future has already been decided for her, but she doesn’t hide from it. She always considering what she needs to do next. But something always has to give, and she’s tossing her feelings aside for her family’s future. For the girl, the question is slightly different: what do you want right now? Well, one thing for sure, Hazuki can’t move on if Haruto is always on her mind. With Mio’s help, she decides to give Haruto a proper answer.
Before we get to Mio and Eita, I would like to briefly reiterate that Ena is the only main character who currently possesses a clear and straightforward goal: she needs to save her club. She knows exactly what she wants, and she’s pursuing it to humorous ends. We see her rampage through the school, stalking Eita like prey. But as she continues to enmesh herself in their affairs, I’m sure her situation will likely evolve in melodramatic directions. Even though I’ve been singing Ena’s praises pretty hard lately, the truth of the matter is that she’s still just a side character. She hasn’t gotten anywhere near the same amount of emotional development as the other characters. Her time will come, but there’s honestly little to talk about right now. She barely even has a role to play in this week’s episode.
Unlike Haruto, Mio is unable to confess her feelings to the one she loves. So she turns to the future to hide herself and her vulnerabilities. She uses her entrance exam as an excuse to ignore what her heart truly wants. But as we’ve seen from previous episodes, she couldn’t help but get herself entangled in the very mess she was hoping to avoid. Even though it hurt when Eita called her out, there was a kernel of truth in his words. She’s mad at him for criticizing her, but she’s also sorry for pushing a friend away. But more than anything, she’s not sure what Eita really wants. He’s not sure he knows what he wants either, but we’ll get to him eventually. He’s always cared about her? What does that even mean? If he wants to confess his feelings, then he should have confessed his feelings. But as I postulated in last week’s post, the reason Eita even said anything at all was out of anger; he was getting back at her. In her mind, she can’t help but consider how they hadn’t seen each other in so long. She still believes he didn’t even recognize her when he first saw her again. So how can she honestly believe that he has feelings for her? He didn’t give her a straightforward confession, so Mio is left in an awkward position. She certainly wants to apologize to him, but if she doesn’t know what he wants from her, then how can she decide what to do about it?
Mio’s attempts to at least apologize to Eita hits a snag, however, when she sees him with Ena in tow. With the nosy photographer around, she can’t just go up to him and ask to discuss an extremely personal and private matter. We know Ena doesn’t really take no as an answer either. But more importantly, there’s frustration and disappointment on Mio’s face when she sees the two of them together. After all, she’s still attempting to parse Eita’s words from that night. How can he mean what he said if he turns around and hangs out with another girl? It’s not that Mio suddenly has feelings for him, but at the same time, nobody likes being deceived. So much like Hazuki’s situation with Haruto, she can’t help but have Eita on her mind. Even if she doesn’t have feelings yet, she can’t avoid not thinking about him in that light. The idea has been seeded in her mind. This is why she overreacts when one of her friends jokingly teases that she seems to like both Haruto and Eita. When Yoriko bumps into Mio later in the episode, the former asks, “Whatcha doin’ there?” Mio isn’t sure, so she can only reply, “I don’t know.”
Luckily, Mio’s one-on-one with Hazuki appears to give the girl some much needed clarity. Again, Hazuki will attempt to give Haruto a proper answer. Earlier in the episode, Mio’s friends gift her a pair of luck charms: one for her exams and one for love. Combined with Hazuki’s resolve, Mio is inspired give it her best shot too. No one emerges from this week’s episode with all of the answers, but she at least knows now what she has to do next. In previous episodes, she helped Haruto only to hide her feelings. She didn’t take proactive steps towards anything her heart truly wanted. Like her friends, she was trying to run away from her feelings. In contrast, Mio will now try to get closure that she needs before she leaves for college. Maybe Haruto will accept her feelings. Then again, maybe he won’t. But no matter how he responds, she can at last move past this obstacle. If she wants to move forward, she has to confront her past.
Mio fortuitously bumps into Eita at the bus stop. She has wanted to talk to him privately all day, and she now finally has her chance. Unfortunately, Eita isn’t ready to talk.
Mio: What did you buy?
Eita: Nothing special.
Mio (teasingly): What a creep.
Eita: It’s just a manga.
Mio: I was just kidding. You don’t have to take it so personally. Sorry.
Eita: It doesn’t bother me.
Mio: Sorry about the other day, too. I think I went too far when I told you that it didn’t involve you.
Eita: I was the one who said more than I should’ve. Sorry.
Mio: You didn’t mean anything by it, right?
Eita: I guess.
Mio: So why did you say that?
Every single statement he utters is a lie. If he wasn’t serious that night, why did he say what he said? Mio wants to know as much as we do, but Eita completely dodges the question by calling for the bus to stop. He knows that even he can’t lie about this. Unlike his friends, Eita emerges from this week’s episode more lost than ever. When he moved away after junior high, he got the perfect excuse to leave his past behind. It can’t be helped. He and Mio were cities apart, so there was no point even thinking about it. But now that he’s returned, he can’t keep the past lost and buried. Worst of all, he isn’t emotionally equipped to deal with his own feelings. The gakuran uniform not only designates Eita as out out place, but also out of time. Unlike the rest, his feelings never got the chance to develop and evolve. His feelings for Mio are anachronistic. He liked her then, but who’s to say he would like her now? Like Mio, he is unable to truly confess his feelings to the person he loves, but he can’t even be sure Mio is the same person he fell in love with. What he’s afraid of is what we’re all truly afraid of, and that is having to mourn the dead. At the start of the episode, Eita wonders, “Natsume might’ve realized.” He doesn’t really want to know the answer to that question. At the end of the episode, after a difficult conversation in which Mio reveals that she intends to set things straight with Haruto, Eita is even confused than before: “Did she realize or not?” If Eita goes looking for the answer, he might find a rejection, and he doesn’t want a certain idea to her to die. I am reminded yet of a poignant scene from another Charlie Kaufman movie:
Donald Kaufman: Oh, God. I was so in love with her.
Charlie Kaufman: I know. And you were flirting with her. And she was being really sweet to you.
Donald Kaufman: I remember that.
Charlie Kaufman: Then, when you walked away, she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. And it was like they were laughing at me. You didn’t know at all. You seemed so happy.
Donald Kaufman: I knew. I heard them.
Charlie Kaufman: How come you looked so happy?
Donald Kaufman: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn’t have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
Charlie Kaufman: But she thought you were pathetic.
Donald Kaufman: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago.
Eita isn’t as emotionally mature as Donald Kaufman, so he isn’t ready to keep loving Mio even if she rejects him. But he also doesn’t want anyone to take his love away. As much as he wants to bury his feelings in the past, we are only human: “What’s all in the past? I took it so personally! God!” That’s why he lashed out in anger in last week’s episode. He was content to keep everything bottled up inside until she prodded him enough to crack. And maybe Eita is a bit ashamed that he hasn’t and still can’t move on. After hanging out with Haruto and seeing his friend embrace the future, Eita tries to move forward in a similar fashion. He goes to a bookstore and picks up a book on Jouei University. You get the sense, however, that he never intends to resolve things with Mio. The same way she used her entrance exams as an excuse, Eita’s now trying to turn to the future as a way to escape his current situation. But with his family not going anywhere anytime soon, he’ll have to move himself, so to speak. Haruto couldn’t go forward without accepting his past, so it stands to reason that Eita must do the same. “Why are you running away from Mio-senpai?” Ena inquires, but we receive no answer. What does Eita want? Eita doesn’t really know. He just knows he wants to run away.