Lately, it seems as though Akira has to drag herself out of bed. After all, she has to start thinking about her future. Her latest school assignment is to fill out a career survey, and honestly, this is a rather common exercise in every high school all across the world. Nevertheless, I suspect she has avoided thinking about her future ever since she suffered her Achilles injury. Faced with such a daunting prospect, the girl tears out one of her notebook’s pages and makes a paper airplane. She then stands at the edge of a hill that overlooks her school and watches as her peers get to play in a world in which she no longer belongs. Akira pauses then nearly lets the paper airplane fly. She wants fate to carry her and her dreams. After all, she’s always chased the wind, so she now wants the wind to carry her wherever it may. At the last second, however, she holds onto the paper airplane. Deep down inside her, she knows she has to take responsibility of her own future. She knows she’s the only one keeping herself from running again. The paper airplane wouldn’t get very far in the rain anyway.
Change is coming, and it’s coming in every which way possible. Soon, Akira’ll have to enter adulthood, and even if she thinks that the diner can be her refuge, that may not necessarily be the case. Kondo has been spending a lot of time at the head office, so his employees can’t help but gossip in the backroom. Kubo suggests that the 45-year-old manager may finally get a promotion, but the cooks aren’t quite so optimistic. Nevertheless, Akira now starts to worry, because Kondo won’t be managing the diner anymore if he moves up the corporate ladder. The team would have a new boss. Of course, it’d be wrong for her to want her manager to fail, but the heart can often be selfish. Not only that, this is yet another potential change that she has to deal with. Later that night, it’s raining rather heavily, and it’s not hard to imagine why. The weather is seemingly tied to Akira’s temperament.
When Kondo actually does get to spend time at the diner, he continues to torture himself over next month’s work schedule. Like with the Akira’s schoolgirl crush on him, he knows what her heart desires, but he also knows what’s best for her. As somebody who is nearly 30 years her senior, what will he do? He can be her friend, but he’s also a father. He can’t forget that the girl is young enough to be his daughter. Later that night, Kondo doesn’t return to the diner after he’s done with his affairs at the head office. Instead, he comes directly home to throw himself back into his writing. Ever since Chihiro dropped by his apartment, it feels as though the 45-year-old man has redoubled his efforts to finish a novel. He goes through packs and packs of cigarettes as he slaves over his desk until the sun comes up. What particularly pains Kondo, however, is that he can’t help but realize that his work remains flawed. He literally finds holes in his writing. What’s notable, however, is that he won’t give up.
Likewise, Haruka can’t give up either. On one particularly cold morning, she’s reminded of Akira. It’s like all she can do lately is think about her friend. She feels as though she shouldn’t have said anything to her former best friend. She feels as though she only made things worse. She admits, however, that what’s done is done. She can’t take back her words. Plus, I disagree with her. If Haruka wants to claim that she still cares about Akira, then she definitely needed to say something. And after nearly an entire season of inaction, I’m glad that she did. Even if Akira never changes her mind about running, Haruka needed to at least try. Later in the episode, the girl spots a pair of middle schoolers checking out the campus, and she can’t help but be reminded of Akira again. She remembers how they both decided to attend this school together. How could she forget? As a result, she can’t give up. She has to keep pressing the matter with her former best friend even if it’s unpleasant — even if there are many hurdles to overcome.
Akira soon gets this same lesson from an unlikely source: Kondo’s son. Not only is the kid back, he apparently heard from somewhere that Akira is good at running. Kondo must’ve told him. After all, who else would he hear it from? We know what’s coming; Yuto soon asks the girl to teach him how to run fast, and there’s no way she can turn him down. Probably like his father, he’s quite clumsy and finds himself tripping over his feet over and over. Akira asks the boy if he would like to take a break, but he refuses. As a result, Yuto puts his unyielding spirit on display. He won’t let a few setbacks to rain on his parade: “I’m going to run till the end even if I fall and come in last. I’m not supposed to give up.” What clinches it for Akira, however, is when Kondo’s son adds, “That’s what my dad said. He said he’s going to work hard too. He said he’s not going to give up.”
Everything starts to come together for Akira. She understands her manager a little better — why he keeps his study in such an unkempt state, why he’s been busy at the head office so much lately, why he’s taking care of a little hamster, so on and so forth. At the end of the day, Kondo is not only a writer, but a manager and a father as well. He’s not great at any of those three aspects of his life, but he hasn’t thrown in the towel on any of them either. It’s not the end of the world if you’re not the best at what you do. Deep down, Akira knows that she can still run. She’s just afraid that she can’t do it as well as she used to. She’s just afraid to let everyone (including herself) down. But as Akira continues to watch Kondo’s son run around the empty parking lot, she is reminded of Haruka. She is naturally talented, so she taught herself how to run well. On the other hand, her former best friend always had to play catch up. As young kids, Haruka always found herself chasing after Akira. Even now, however, Haruka continues to run and lead her team. It’s not the best track team in the region, but they haven’t given up either.
Later that night, Kondo bumps into Akira, and they make small talk about Yuto. He jokingly suggests that the kid will eventually give up on running, but Akira insists otherwise. After all, Yuto had made a promise to his father. Upon hearing this, Kondo opens up a little about his writing. He, too, made a promise to write a novel, and even though it’s been a bumpy ride ever since, he can’t help but admit that he’s been enjoying it. Writing is fun for him even if he never ends up finishing his novel. So again, Akira is being taught that results aren’t all that matter. Rather, it’s the journey that she should cherish. Kondo then tells the girl that he gave her the shift that she requested, but he also adds that she must have a promise of her own to keep. When Akira returns home, she digs out a few old notebooks that reminds her of just that promise. Next, she picks up a book on rehabilitation. It won’t be easy, but at the same time, it’s okay to fail.
Case in point, Kondo stands in front of his team the next day, and announces that he failed his test. Was it a test to advance up the corporate ladder? No. It was just a test to learn the new menu. And thanks to his failure, his branch is the only one that won’t get to launch the new menu (that’s silly). But look at the guy. Look at that face. Does he look bummed out? Does he look like he’s given up? Certainly not. In fact, he’s back at it again. Of course, it’s not like Kondo has a choice. Either he learns the menu by heart or he loses his job. But the man’s positivity is worth admiring. When he clumsily leaves behind an important binder again, Akira has to quickly return it to him before the bus leaves. He’s far off too, so she’ll have to run fast if she wants to catch up to him. Unfortunately, she doesn’t succeed even though she does try to jog up to him. But again, the results aren’t all that matter. During this short time, she remembers how Haruka continued to cheer even after she fell on the field. She remembers how Haruka still clapped for her even after she barely crossed the finish line. Most of all, she remembers their promise.
After returning the binder, Akira bows and leaves when Kondo has to answer his phone. But when he calls out to her afterwards, Akira suddenly takes off sprinting back to him. She and Kondo embrace each other, and they promise to let each other know once they’ve each fulfilled their respective promises. Akira hasn’t stopped loving her manager, but this leaves the status of their relationship up in the air (as most of us surely suspected). It is at this point that we need to reconsider her love for Kondo from a new perspective. It may very well be the case that she never ends up for him. Certainly, I hope that she doesn’t. Even when she’s in her mid-20s, he’ll be in his mid-50s, and that still makes me cringe. But that isn’t to say that this experience hasn’t been fruitful. After all, the results aren’t all that matters. This relationship that they share — whatever you want to call it — has been something that Akira can rely upon over the past year or so. Their romance never amounted to anything. Rather, what’s been most valuable to Akira has been the times Kondo stepped up to be a father figure. Haruka soon receives a message that she’s been waiting so long to receive. We also see Kondo’s hands tidy up a stack of papers, which suggests that he finally managed to finish a novel.
Alright, time for some final thoughts… man, this has been quite a season. I don’t love Koi wa Ameagari no You ni as much as A Place Further Than The Universe, and I won’t pretend to. In fact, I hated this love story. I won’t lie about that either. I came into this show as open-minded as I could, but I was never going to approve of any possibility where Akira ends up in a romantic relationship with Kondo. That was a complete non-starter right from the get-go. Nevertheless, I respect the show’s craftsmanship. This is a beautiful anime. Not only that, it’s a beautifully told anime. What I particularly admire about the show is its willingness to relinquish its reliance on dialogue. Anime in general is plagued by terrible writing, and as a result, we often have stories that feel the need to spell everything out. Seconds rarely go by without a character insulting our intelligence with some inane voiceover commentary about their thoughts and feelings. Koi wa Ameagari no You ni avoids this pitfall entirely by allowing its visuals to tell the story. Even when the characters do speak, they are metaphorical with their words. Take, for instance, a scene near the end of this very episode. Kondo asks the girl if she feels okay. After all, she just ran towards him. She fittingly responds by telling him that the rain will soon stop. That one little sentence tells Kondo everything he needs to know about her feelings.
Of course, I disagreed with some of Kondo’s actions throughout the course of the series, but that’s not exactly the show’s fault. Rather, he’s just a flawed human being like you or me. In the end, the most he ever did was hug her, which I suppose I can live with as long as the buck stops there. Maybe the manga has a different ending, but that doesn’t matter. Something else that bothered me was how Ryosuke’s subplot kinda just disappeared on us. On the one hand, I’m glad we didn’t have to deal with his predatory nature any further, but on the other hand, I don’t think the story would’ve suffered one bit if they had left his subplot out entirely. Finally — and again — the show is beautiful, so this is a very, very minor complaint, but man, Akira’s long neck still bugs me. Of course, I know it’s weird for me to harp on this considering how anime is all about exaggerated proportions.
Final grade: A-
Misc. notes & observations:
— I know it’s like… a romanticized thing for writers to indulge in substance abuse. Luckily, Kondo doesn’t seem to do hard drugs, but cigarettes are still extremely harmful to his health. Staying up all night can’t help his focus either. And at the end of the day, he still has a son to care for. When the kid grows up and looks back on his childhood memories, you don’t want him to think, “Dad’s home had nothing. He barely even had any food in the fridge. The entire place just stunk of cigarettes.”
— They all have pockets of their own, don’t they?
— Akira’s not alone. Most people tend to avoid answering speculative questions about their future in such a definitive way.
— Yui, on the other hand, knows what she wants to do in the near future. The blonde (I imagine she gets it bleached), spritely girl will attend beauty school. And even though her career hasn’t started, she already has a regular customer.
— This moment is cute. Lately, it seems as though Yoshizawa has all but forgotten his crush on Akira.
— Lost in their own little world, Yui does her best to confess her feelings to Yoshizawa. Warmth and hope bubbles up in the scene. In typical anime fashion, innocent love is rarely ever direct. Akira had no problems telling Kondo that she liked him, but of course, there was the age gap to mind. But for Yui and Yoshizawa, everything should go well, right? As a result, both characters coyly dance around the issue as if they’re young for love. He cheers the girl on and asks her to promise to cut his hair. That’s the best you’re going to get. The girl is so overwhelmed with emotions that she’s in tears. It would’ve been nice to see Yoshizawa follow up by embracing the girl, but unfortunately, their love is meant to be innocent. As a result, we cut away to Akira in the diner.
— I’m not saying it’s true, but the ability to drink black coffee is often associated with adulthood and maturity. So to contrast what we just saw between Yui and Yoshizawa, we see Akira attempt to drink black coffee, but she still hasn’t quite developed the taste for it. She’s still a kid. Even with milk, she struggles to get it down. It’s okay, though. I’m deep into adulthood and I still think black coffee is ass.
— This scene looks amazing.