Haruto hasn’t responded to Hazuki’s message in three days, and that must suck. I’ve been there before. It’s agonizing when the person you like takes more than a few hours to respond, so I don’t even want to know how it must feel to be stuck in limbo for three whole days. Hazuki doesn’t like Haruto yet, or does she? She says she wants to give his confession a proper answer, but does she? Midway through the episode, Eita drags his best friend back to the baseball field. If Haruto can hit a home run again, then he has to respond to Hazuki’s message. He’s scared of what she might have to say, but nothing gets the adrenaline going like hitting dingers (I hear girls love them too). And this time, all of the girls — Mio, Hazuki, and, as always, Ena — are tuning in.
Foul balls after foul balls rain from the sky. Both guys push themselves to the limit, and Hazuki suddenly bolts from her seat. She races to the band room and picks up a trumpet. The last time Haruto tried to summon up enough courage, she was rehearsing with the second years. It’s been a long time since she’s picked up an instrument, however, and she feels that her ability has diminished. Haruto is in love with the girl who could inspire him with her music, but that was then. She wonders if she can even live up to his idea of her anymore, and this fear reveals the bigger picture: part of what makes Hazuki hesitant is that she’s afraid to let others down. This is understandable when you consider how much and often she’s relied upon. She can be a good daughter and a good older sister, but can she be a good girlfriend? It’s nothing she’s ever done before. And when you consider all the factors like she has — like how she’ll have to leave for Hyogo when she graduates — the odds are stacked against them as a couple. What kind of girlfriend would she be?
But as we learned in last week’s episode, even Hazuki has to admit that Haruto’s been on her mind ever since his confession, so she now wants to give Haruto’s confession a proper consideration. It’s the least she could do. If she really wants to give the idea of them a chance, then she’ll have to do her best too. Step one? Pick up the trumpet. Unfortunately, even if Hazuki ends up falling for Haruto, she might still hold herself back for Mio’s sake. When he finally replies to her message, she ends up ignoring him not out of spite, but out of fear for the consequences of her actions. Haruto is over the moon that he still hasn’t struck out yet, but he has no idea how complicated things have become.
Mio wants to do her best too. She wants to make things clear with Haruto, and in doing so, she’ll also sort out her own feelings. Like Hazuki, Mio watches the boys hash out their emotions on the baseball field, but her attention isn’t really on Haruto. Something’s changed. This time, she appears to be paying closer attention to Eita: “What, are you taking this seriously?” With every pitch, Eita looks as though he intends to win. More importantly, he has always been serious, and this duel reminds Mio of that fact. Even by Haruto’s admission, Eita doesn’t play around: “You’ve always been this way, Eita. Bein’ a man with few words.” Mio must be thinking back to their conversation on the bus:
Mio: You didn’t mean anything by it, right?
Eita: I guess.
Mio: So why did you say that?
She is slowly coming to terms with the fact that Eita has always been serious. He may lie, but he wouldn’t kid around like that, especially not about his feelings for her.
Afterwards, Mio finds the chance to talk to not just Haruto but Eita as well. Notice how her friends are not within earshot, but when Eita tries to leave to give Mio and Haruto privacy, she tells him to stay. She won’t take long, she says, because whether she realizes it or not, she’s attempting to make things clear to both of them. She proceeds to hand a very confused Haruto an eraser. She explains:
“I thought I’d give you another eraser. Or I guess I should say I always forgot about it. Well, something came up.”
Naturally, Haruto has no idea what Mio’s getting at, and Eita ironically remarks, “Figure that out yourself.” It’s funny, because he doesn’t get it either.
“I thought I’d give you another eraser.”
Mio had a crush on Haruto, and always planned on confessing to him one day.
“Or I guess I should say I always forget about it.”
But she always put it off for one reason or another.
“Well, something came up.”
That was then, though. Her crush on him was in the past. Something else has come up, or to put it more accurately, someone else has come up. The anime cuts to Eita when she utters this line. This is why Mio wanted Eita to stick around. It’s not that Mio is now suddenly in love with him, but his inability to let go of his past feelings ironically helps her realize that it’s nigh time she moves on. After making things “clear” to Haruto, she lowers her gaze to her own eye level. Haruto is taller than everyone, so she’s not looking at him anymore. She smiles, briefly closes her eyes and keeps smiling, before looking back up to the same person. The only person she could be looking at is Eita.
A couple days later, we find Mio attempting to study and hang out with her friends at the same time. One of them wants to know if anything happened between Mio and Haruto. “No, not really,” Mio says, “I just returned his eraser, after all.” Slowly but surely, she’s letting go. She doesn’t blush or feel any sort of embarrassment when they talk about Haruto, and this is a complete reversal from how she reacted in last week’s episode whenever Eita was brought up. She just nonchalantly remarks, “That’s why you gave me [a lucky charm for love].” Her friends warn her that she might lose Haruto to Hazuki, but Mio has no reaction. We don’t even get to see her have no reaction; she’s entirely offscreen at this moment. In the following scene, Mio spells out her feelings even further:
Mio’s friend: Do you really like Soma? If you don’t know, then we won’t know what to do for you.
Mio: I don’t really know anymore. I thought I was just elated. But ever since that day, I felt refreshed. It was like being done with homework.
Towards the end of the day, we see Mio at the bus stop, but she’s not cramming for her exams. She seems lost in thought until someone walks by and jolts her back to reality. It’s only then that she picks up her book and attempts to study. “Something came up,” indeed. For the girl, there’s been a major paradigm shift over the past few days. Unfortunately, she later runs into Ena wrapped tightly around Eita. He’s always serious, isn’t he? So in her mind, Mio can’t help but wonder if he and Ena are serious too.
Ena is a calculated girl. She has yet to succeed in getting what she wants from Eita, but she’s nevertheless clever about it. Ena understands that Eita never turns his friends down when they need his help. As a result, all she has to do is become his friend. This means having lunch with the lonesome guy everyday. Not only is he an outsider, he doesn’t even get to join a class like most typical anime transfer students. Instead, he’s stuck in a room by himself, and left to his own devices for hours everyday. Ena might be pushy and annoying, but she’s honestly the only company he’s got. His friends know he’s here, but even Haruto doesn’t visit Eita as often as he should. Whether or not she really wants to be his friend, Ena’s the only person who shows up regularly. Unfortunately, her ulterior motives might result in a “cry wolf” situation down the line. If and when she does develop feelings for him, how will Eita know that she’s being honest?
When Ena and Eita start eating their lunches, I almost thought she had committed the age-old anime tradition of making him a bento box, but the girl’s more devious than that. Without permission — as if she would ever ask for permission — she swipes one of Eita’s tamagoyaki and compliments his mother’s cooking. In exchange, she gives him something from her lunch box. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s probably chicken karaage. He tries to return the favor by complimenting her mom’s cooking, but she reveals that she had made everything herself. Did she? It doesn’t really matter if she’s lying or not, because Eita wouldn’t know anyways. She’s trying to make Eita feel as though he’s indebted to her, and I like this scene; it reveals a lot about Ena’s playful character without bogging everything down with needless exposition or explicit dialogue. Unfortunately for her, it’s difficult for most normal people to stay perfectly neutral.
At the start of the story, Ena might have only wanted to save her photography club, but the more she hangs out with Eita, the more she’ll start to care for him. During his duel with Haruto, we know that if the latter manages to hit a home run, then he’ll have to listen to what Hazuki has to say. But what will Eita get if he wins? He confesses that he intends to make things clear too, and we see Ena react strongly to his answer. She knows how he feels about Mio. She even notices how he plans to get into the same prestigious university as the girl. In the end, however, Eita gives up a home run, and looks dejected at his failure. From afar, Ena mutters to herself, “What is this feeling?” Whose feelings, though? His? Or hers? Afterwards, Ena goes through a roll of pictures she had taken of the duel, but Eita is the only person in any of the photographs. Did she even bother taking any pictures of Haruto?
Ena tries to take heed of her clubmates’ advice and avoid Eita. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, so who knows? It doesn’t really work, however, because he’s not yet invested in their relationship. Plus, she amusingly stares at the guy right before passing him by. In a hail mary attempt, Ena tries to move on from Eita completely. We see her in multiple locations around town, snapping pictures left and right in hopes that she can find anything remotely suitable for the upcoming competition. It’d be best if her hopes of saving the photography club didn’t rely completely on a guy who is in love with someone else, but unfortunately, fate is cruel. As it begins to snow, Ena finds herself in trouble for taking pictures of people without their permission. It’s not certain what Eita does to help the girl out — if he even did anything at all — but he cares enough to let her lean on him in the middle of this inclement weather.
Why is Eita trying to get into Joei University, i.e. Mio’s first choice of schools, if he wants to leave the past in the past? Why does he take his duel with Haruto so seriously, but throw nothing but fastballs that his friend will eventually time perfectly? He wants Mio, doesn’t he? He doesn’t want to lose her to Haruto, right? If she makes things clear with Haruto, then the two of them might end up together. As a result, Eita tries to pump himself up. He needs courage too. But most of us can’t change our nature quite so easily. Plus, Ena is right about him; he always helps his friends when they need his help. Eita’s first pitch to Haruto is a fastball up and in, and it manages to scare Haruto a tiny bit. But in the end, Eita goes right back to grooving pitches right down the middle, and he inevitably loses. Did he sabotage himself for his best friend’s sake?
Eita stares at the sky long after the home run ball had been hit. There’s no way it stayed up there that long. Eita then looks down and dejected once more. The game doesn’t matter. Haruto has always had the courage to confess, so it returns to him when he needs it. He just needed a nudge from his best friend. On the other hand, Eita has never had the courage to confess, so it doesn’t come to him when he needs it most. He only said anything to Mio in the first place because she had hurt him with her words. The most he can do now is operate on the periphery. This means doing things like signing up for entrance exams even though he already has a recommendation. All around him, his friends are doing their best. Haruto, Mio, Hazuki, and even Ena are giving it their all. On the other hand, Eita gets a free ticket to college. We even find out this week that he’s been skipping class. So even though he still lacks the courage to tell Mio how he really feels without her provocation, he’s got to at least confront his future head-on. It’s a start.
Just one quick aside before I close this post… I don’t really care who ends up with whom, because none of the characters honestly annoy me. I’m simply interested in seeing how their relationships develop, because I’m quite impressed with how the show portrays their emotions. Ena’s my pick if there’s a gun to my head, and early on, I stumped for the girl to inject a little of my own personality into these posts. But at the end of the day, it’s all the same to me no matter what happens.