Akira can’t stop reliving her confession to Kondo. The moment even haunts her in her dreams. He didn’t seem to understand her feelings. In fact, he brushed it off with a laugh. Should she have chosen her words differently? Is there really no way forward for them? If she cannot go forward, then where can she go? Can she go back to the way things were? The thought depresses her. At school, she’s slumped over at her desk. Her classmates — not her friends — are making idle chit-chat about nothing again. Something about snacks. Maybe they can help. Akira briefly considers asking them for advice… she rarely asks them for advice. But no, they can’t help her. She can’t go back. She’s nothing like them, she thinks. She’s not a child like them, she thinks. All she shares with those girls is an age.
On the way home from school, a girl on the track team stops and addresses her. It’s her replacement. After some pleasantries, her replacement drags her back to school, back to where she used to practice, back to her old teammates, back to the past. The skies are clear. Akira sits at a desk far away from her old teammates. Why is there a desk in the middle of the practice field? No matter. This is the past. She doesn’t belong here. She doesn’t belong with them. She’s a student who somehow found herself lost on the practice field. She watches her replacement run. She used to run like that. She watches her old teammates celebrate with her replacement. They used to celebrate with her like that. No, she really can’t go back.
The girls want to hang out. They ask if Akira would like to join them. They’re all headed for a family restaurant. Storm clouds begin to brew. Say, doesn’t Akira work at a family restaurant? Imagine that. Someone as taciturn as Akira doing a customer service job. The thought tickles them, but she’s hurt. Hey, where is the family restauran–… Akira cuts them off. Not only do they belong in the past, she won’t bring them to her future. The two worlds can’t meet. It begins to rain. Akira feels she can only move forward. Even if there’s no path ahead of her, she must find one. She thinks back to the incident. She had taped up her right ankle because it was starting to feel weird. Maybe she should’ve gotten it checked but she didn’t. She ran on it. She overworked it. Her Achilles’ tendon snapped. That path is closed for sure. She needs a new one. One where she isn’t a disappointment. One where she isn’t handicapped.
Back then, when those dark moments would come, the cafe was her refuge. It is her home. It often protected her from her past, but not right now. She marches on through the rain and through her sadness. In the office, Kondo takes a break from his work. He peers out the window and spots a figure in the rain. It’s Akira. She walks right up to Kondo’s window. He opens the door and tells her to come inside. But she can’t. Not yet. Not until she opens up that path. Unless she does so, she’s stuck in a liminal space. Until she opens the door for herself, she’s trapped between her past and her future. She doesn’t want to come in as a lost child in the rain. She wants to come in as a grown woman who thinks she loves him. So she confesses to him again. Then she walks home. She hopes this time that her words have sunken in.
Afterwards, Kondo finds himself staring mindlessly out his windshield. The rain is obscuring his way forward. His thoughts are muddled. He tries to clear the raindrops away, but they keep coming back. And lost in the fog ahead of him is simply Akira: “It’s sort of like trying to do something about something you can’t change, and while tracing my desultory thoughts, I’ve been listening to the sound of the rain on Suzaku Avenue.” It’s dangerous to go any further. After all, the gap between them is just too large. What should he do? How should he treat her? The following day, she shows up to work as if nothing had happened. Kondo is confused. Again, his thoughts are a mess. And again, he tries to clear his mind by cleaning his reflection in the mirror. But the more he thinks about it, the less it makes sense. Maybe it was just a prank. The more he tries to clear his mind, the more of a mess he makes. It just doesn’t make sense.
Later in the office, Akira returns to make sure Kondo understood her. She won’t go back. She tried to look back, and all it did was brought back her depression. She can only look forward, and all that she can see ahead of her is Kondo. Yui tries to invite her to go karaoke with the rest of the coworkers, but Akira vociferously shoots the girl down. No, she’s not a child like Kondo is suggesting. She will not hang out with her peers. Kondo feels he has no choice but to have a one-on-one discussion with the girl. Once again, Akira and Kondo share a moment “indoors” and away from the rain. She becomes hopeful. The way forward is unclear, but it is not dark. It is illuminated. Perhaps she has carved a path forward for herself after all. Kondo begins to voice his objections. What will people think? It doesn’t matter, she says. But I’m old enough to be your father. But you’re not my father, she says. She won’t back down. The atmosphere is heavy. He’s starting to sweat. He needs to escape.
It’s clear at this point that Kondo is too nice. And along with that, he is too foolish. He wants to let the girl down gently, but every step he takes ends up becoming a stumble towards her. Unfortunately, his clumsiness seems to charm the girl evermore. He thinks by leaving the car, the cold air in the park will sober them both up. In reality, it sounds like a romantic walk through the park. The girl is shining. She’s more hopeful than ever. And in this moment, Kondo falls into a trap: in order for Akira to necessarily go forward with him, he must go backwards. After all, he’s 45 and she’s 17. She has her whole life ahead of her. He does not. For Kondo to even entertain the idea of them as a couple, he has to reverse his maturation. He has to grow “down.” Why else would any grown man date a young girl? The harsh reality is that women his age don’t want him. He’s not mature enough for them. On the inside, he’s just, in his own words, “an empty middle-aged boy.” Becoming a teenager again is the only way he can picture himself standing next to the girl. This is not nostalgic, this is pathetic. Even if only temporary, this is the sad delusions of a middle-aged divorcee with no ambitions or successes to speak of.
Think back to the first episode. Think back to Akira describing the guy she likes: “…someone who has bed hair, and leaves his fly down sometimes. And someone who sneezes loudly.” Does that sound like a mature 45-year-old man who’s got everything figured out? No. And when Kondo asks Akira why she likes him, she doesn’t give him a straight answer. She only says, “Must there be a reason to like someone? I just like you.” She knows what she likes about him, and she knows that what she likes aren’t positives. But she’s fixated. And we can add another flaw to Akira’s list: Kondo’s inability to clearly and firmly shut Akira down shows his immaturity. What a shame. Again, Kondo tries to let Akira down gently, but he inadvertently stumbles towards her. He tells her that if she goes on a date with him, she’ll realize how unattractive he is. The girl is all too eager to accept the challenge.
The girl will cope with her loss the way that she needs to. It’s obvious that Akira hasn’t moved on from her injury. She wants someone who will not look at her as a damaged person. On the other hand, Kondo should know better. Act your age, man.