So the girls are going to have to do all the work, huh? Well, I guess it can’t be helped. After all, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and in Japan, the ladies do all the gift-giving (don’t worry, the lads can return the favor in exactly a month’s time). And as a result, we’re going to have a chocolate showdown. How will Mio’s store-bought candy fare against Ena’s homemade treats? If anything, it feels like the second-year has all the advantages in the world. She’s already gone and confessed her feelings. On the other hand, does Mio interact with Eita even once in this week’s episode? I don’t think so. Not only that, Ena gets to see her crush day and night; she even knows exactly when and where to wait for him when he takes his break from studying. It’s kinda scary when you think about it.
There’s a heart-warming series of events in the middle of this week’s episode. First, we see Eita busy studying at home. It gets to be around that time in the day, so he stops to take a break. As we’ve learned before, he always goes jogging every night. He even has the same route every night. We next see Ena waiting outside a conbini and she’s smiling. As soon as she spots Eita in the distance, she dashes into the store and buys a bottle of green tea (I have the same brand at work). When he stops to catch his breath, she “just happens” to be there to support him. She drives the point home, too: “Just so you know, this isn’t a coincidence; it’s an ambush.” So you gotta wonder about their two “chance” encounters at school earlier that day. Those weren’t coincidences either, huh? I mean, we’ve all done this before, haven’t we? Whenever we have a crush on someone, we always try to find ways to “innocently” bump into them.
In return, Eita goes and buys something warm for Ena. Satisfied with the results, she gets ready to head back home, but not before dropping a not-so-subtle hint that the guy will definitely receive chocolates on Valentine’s Day. She’s just so in love with the guy. She literally waited in the cold of winter just to see him. Like I’ve said, it’s a heart-warming series of events… bittersweet, actually. Again, it looks as though everything is stacked in Ena’s favor. She’s the one who gets to spend all her time with Eita. She’s the one who knows what Eita is like now. Mio might have gone to the same middle school with the guy, but they’ve also been apart for years. Does Mio know that Eita is studying his butt off? No. Does Mio know that he goes jogging every night? No. Does Mio even know where he’s locked up everyday at school? I can’t really tell… it’s not like she’s ever bothered to pay him a visit, and the longer it stays that way, the more we start to wonder why. Why can’t friends just see each other? Basically, Ena should win this thing. But somehow, you just know that Mio and her store-bought chocolates will prevail.
I mean, if the OP isn’t a dead giveaway, there’s also the fact that Eita doesn’t appear to be all that moved by Ena’s confession. He’s kind to her, but he’s kind to everyone. He’s like a train on rails. He has his routine and he’s going to stubbornly stick to it. Part of that routine is doing everything he can to prove his love to Mio… except actually confessing his feelings. In any case, we’re only seeing him and Ena together so much lately, because it’ll render the girl’s inevitable fate all the more heartbreaking. At the end of the day, she can’t compete with the sort of love that tends to pervade anime. It’s this pure, idealized love that seems too perfect to be true. Studio Ghibli films are filled to the brim with this kind of love. Just Because! has it too albeit not as extreme. So even though Eita and Mio do not share a single scene in this entire episode, there’s a sense that they’re always thinking about each other — that they’re always meant for each other.
We don’t need to spell things out on Eita’s side. We know he’s obsessed with her. He’s studying like mad to ace Suizan University’s entrance exam even though she no longer intends to go there (this is why communication is important, fellas). Mio takes her sister’s advice from last week’s episode to heart and decides instead to shoot for Joei University. Eita’s claim that he has a recommendation to the school probably factors a bit into Mio’s decision. Where does she want to be in the future? Well, it would help to have him by her side, wouldn’t it? The only question now is whether or not that recommendation actually exists. If and when those two finally admit their feelings for each other, will they even end up at the same university? If I’m not mistaken, however, Eita started off by studying for Joei. If you go back to the fifth episode, he bought a study guide for Joei first and foremost. He only started studying for Suizan later. If he’s smart enough, he could ace both tests, so maybe there won’t really be a problem here whatsoever. Well, we’ll soon see how this all plays out.
Still, Eita and Mio have been apart all these years, so maybe they can withstand a few more years at different universities. Like I’ve said, anime tends to romanticize pure, idealized love, so even if they end up at different schools, it doesn’t mean their relationship is doomed. Hell, it’s 2017; lots of couples do long distance relationships nowadays. Anime couples can even go without talking for years and the love between them will still remain strong! Just look at Your Name. Mitsuha and Taki were literally separated for five whole years, and yet, you get the sense that their love never once waned.
But even though the destination appears to be set in stone, the journey is not exactly going to be easy sailing for Eita and Mio. He still has a picture of Ena as his phone’s background picture, and Mio will eventually see it. She’ll naturally jump to the wrong conclusions about his feelings, and he’ll have to chase after her and get over his fear of confessing. Basically, that picture of Ena is now the goddamn Chekhov’s gun of the series’ third and final act. Which of the two girls will give him their chocolates first? Which of the two girls will run off in tears as a result? It’s too bad that I kinda like these characters, so I’m not exactly looking forward to one of the two girls’ inevitable heartbreak. Eita’s been kinda boring the past couple of weeks, but I can still relate to the guy and his hesitancy. I’ve even warmed up to Mio; it’s clear she and Eita belong together. And of course, there’s Ena; she’s the only person who never hesitates. These last few episodes won’t go down easy.
Oh yeah, Haruto and Hazuki still exist. The girl shows up to class with her new hairstyle (even though I can barely tell the difference thanks to the show’s production values), and almost everyone approves. Mayuko is the sole exception, but the story has yet to tell us why she has such a beef with the third-year trumpeter. It feels so odd to have this hanging side story waiting to be resolved, too. More importantly, however, Haruto also holds himself back. All of a sudden, he’s full of hesitation. He later explains, “…I wasn’t interested in the fuss that the people around you were makin’. So, I missed the chance to tell you.” Maybe he doesn’t want to be the same as everyone else. Maybe he doesn’t want to blend into the crowd and sing the exact same boring praise as his peers. He wants to be her boyfriend, after all. So he should naturally stand out above the rest. When he praises her, it should mean something. But Haruto is not exactly the smoothest nor would anyone ever mistake him for a poet. His multiple attempts at confessing his feelings throughout the series can attest to that. And so he hesitates. Still, in direct contrast to his passive best friend, even Haruto can eventually muster up the courage. The best he can muster is “It looks really nice,” but it’s better than jogging your nights away. And again, he finds his fighting spirit on a baseball field. Since Eita is too busy studying to play ball, Yoriko comes in as the relief pitcher.
Notice how Hazuki doesn’t react positively to his compliment, though. Instead, she immediately breaks eye contact and stares at the ground. She’s hesitating, too. Hazuki has another 1-on-1 with Mio in this week’s episode, and she couldn’t help but ask about Haruto. She is curious to know if Mio still has feelings for the guy. The latter admits that she did once have a one-sided crush on Haruto, but she has since moved on. She’s truly, truly moved on. In fact, she adds, “Besides, there’s someone I actually like.” But looking at Hazuki now, it doesn’t seem as though she’s convinced. Rather, it almost feels as if the girl has an inferiority complex. Maybe in her head, she’s thinking, “Oh, I’m just a simple farmer’s girl. I wear dowdy clothes, and boys have never really noticed me. Not only is Mio prettier than me, she’s smarter than me as well. Is it really fair for me to go for Haruto?” Maybe Hazuki thinks that if the guy is finally aware of Mio’s feelings, he’d change his mind. It doesn’t work that way, but Hazuki is clearly in unfamiliar territory. It’ll take more than an embarrassed Haruto mend the girl’s wavering composure.