After spending an entire night with Akira, Haruo must now face a new challenger for his heart. Some guys have all the luck.
— When most people are frustrated, they find someone that they can open up to. They find someone who will listen as they vent their frustrations. Not quite the same with Akira. Instead, she’ll let Haruo talk and talk until he finally understands her. The only affirmation she’ll give is a slight tilt of her head. Whatever works for these two kids, I suppose.
— Too bad Haruo isn’t the most sensitive guy. After reaching out to his own mother for help, he returns to Akira and starts teasing her for running away and her overall recklessness. Normally, he pays attention to her facial expressions in order to understand her, but when he’s teasing her, he won’t stop until she has to physically retaliate. Dude never learns. Hell, maybe Haruo even likes it. He certainly seems like the only person who can get such a reaction out of Akira. That makes him special in a way.
— So the kids end up in a hotel room for the night. Haruo is embarrassed to share one with a girl, but at least it isn’t a love hotel. Plus, it’s got two beds in it. His mom is a single mother, too; she ain’t got money to throw around. Hell, I’m even more surprised that a hotel is cheaper than a taxi. Akira could’ve just stayed at their place until she was ready to go home.
— At one point, Haruo tells Akira that he’ll just trust her to explain the situation if the hotel staff goes to check up on them… so she can talk. Just not in front of the audience.
— Akira’s probably more embarrassed about being alone with him, actually. She finds herself blushing a lot throughout the night.
— Then he goes and teases her again — this time, about a killer crawling through the windows.
— Haruo feels as though they should have a lot to say to each other after so spending such a long time apart, but I mean, he should be used to this dynamic by now. If he wants to get a conversation going, he has to get the ball rolling. But instead, it seems these two kids are stuck watching some cheesy ad for… whatever this turd-shaped thing is.
— The kid is so bored that he starts fantasizing about every iteration of Street Fighter II. Geez, at least throw in a different game or two.
— What the hell? This dude apparently just bought a Famicom earlier. Plus, the cartridge might say Final Fantasy on the label, but it’s not actually Final Fantasy. What a shame.
— But honestly, I find it pretty hard to go back to the older FF games. I guess I’m just spoiled by all the quality of life stuff that you can find in modern games. Y’know, stuff like auto-saves, mini-maps, fast travel, quick healing, so on and so forth. The beauty of setting my party to AI and letting them do the grinding for me is a godsend. Sorry, but hitting one button over and over just to “Fight” is not gameplay. When I tried to replay FFI through III (the real II and III), everything just felt like a huge pain in the ass. I dunno how my young self managed to endure it back in the day.
— I know the dude loves all sorts of games, but something like this would probably bore me to tears.
— Akira looks simultaneously happy and bewildered.
— In the middle of the game, he tells her he wishes he could do something to help her, but realistically speaking, he can’t. All he can do is be there for Akira when she finds the rare moments to slip away from her toxic home life. This may seem cynical, but honestly, I just don’t see how Haruo would have a chance with Akira. Sure, she likes him back — hell, she might even love him — but until she becomes an adult, she’ll be yanked every which way by her parents. Even when she becomes an adult, judging by the burden placed upon her shoulders, Akira will still likely find herself under her parents’ thumb. It’s kind of a Western thing for people to move out of their parents’ homes once they reach adulthood. And even then, things are rapidly changing in our precarious economy. More and more people find themselves stuck living under their parents’ roof until their 30s.
— But let’s assume that Akira’s more than willing to abandon everything — her family, their zaibatsu, their legacy, so on and so forth — just for Haruo. Can he wait that long? True love often prevails in our made-up stories, but in the real world, is it even real? Probably not.
— In the end, the guy ends up tiring himself out first, so Akira has to tuck him in. She then proceeds to watch him sleep for an unspecified amount of time. Who knows what’s running through her mind right now? Maybe she’s happy that he came looking for her. Maybe she wants this moment to last forever. Maybe she even wants to kiss him.
— I like Haruo waking up with the Famicom controller imprinted in his left cheek. And as soon as he wakes up, she seems to wake up too. Maybe she’s a light sleeper. Or maybe she never even went to sleep in the first place. Personally speaking, when I want a moment to last, I wouldn’t even entertain the thought of sleep. Sleep would make things end too quickly. Akira knows that she’ll eventually have to go home, so if she stays up, then maybe this private moment with Haruo can feel as though it lasts longer.
— Brushing their teeth together, huh? They almost seem like a married couple.
— He then leaves for work, telling her exactly when he’ll be back so they can checkout of the hotel together. She sees him off at the door, so these two kids definitely feel like a married couple now. Judging by her flushed face, this is probably the happiest that Akira’s been in a long time.
— As Haruo walks to work, he tells himself that he wish he could be a pillar for Akira to lean on. Well again, if we’re being realistic, then he really needs to get his shit together. He needs to take his future seriously. We see him working harder than ever at his part-time job, but he’ll need to aim higher if he wants to support a family. More specifically, he needs to not abandon his studies just because he failed once to get into a top school.
— That’s cute: the kid races back to the hotel room after work. I was almost afraid that Akira might have already gone home without a word, but she’s just sitting there waiting for him.
— For now, the best Haruo can offer Akira is that if she ever needs to run away again, she’s more than welcome to stay over at his place. His mom definitely wouldn’t mind. Last but not least, he tells her not to keep her emotions bottled up all the time, but that’s easier said than done. I imagine if she even tries to speak up, her tutor would just get even louder.
— After the commercial break, we get to see Koharu impress all the boys at the arcade. But of course, she gives them no mind. Instead, she’s deep in her own thoughts, mentally torturing herself over the fact that she and Haruo still haven’t gotten any closer over the past year and a half. It’s hard to compete with someone’s first love.
— It’s not that Haruo can’t like Koharu at all. He just really doesn’t see her that way. It took forever for the guy to realize that he even liked Akira in the first place. Only after she disappeared from his life for a couple years did he realize how much he enjoyed spending time with her. How can Koharu get through to a guy like that? She would have to beat him over the head with her love, I suppose. I doubt Haruo is into subtlety.
— Some weird dude tries to hit on Koharu, but she instantly compares him to Haruo in her mind. Man, she’s got it bad for the main character.
— Speak of the devil, Haruo just randomly shows up out of nowhere. I guess he’s already taken Akira home and this is a completely different day? Kind of an odd transition from the commercial break…
— Poor Koharu is just happy that someone mistakes Haruo for her boyfriend.
— The thing is, Haruo probably has fun hanging out with Koharu too. Everything that he wants to do with Akira, he does with Koharu (play games, go on and on about future games, etc.). But just like how it was with Akira, he won’t realize how much the blonde girl means to him unless she makes a dramatic gesture to show her feelings.
— Pity also plays a big role in his relationship with Akira. She has it hard, so he feels like he wants to support and protect her. She’s his damsel-in-distress. Despite her outward appearance, Akira is truly unhappy on the inside, and only Haruo knows that. That makes him special in a way.
— On the other hand, Koharu is just a normal girl, so Haruo doesn’t feel compelled to be there for her. He’s a nice guy deep down, and if someone’s in trouble, he’ll help them out. Koharu doesn’t need his help, though. Other than her inability to draw his attention, she has a perfectly normal life. There’s nothing wrong with that, and in the real world, you would want someone who doesn’t have so much baggage. In the real world, even if Akira and Haruo end up together, she’ll probably need years to work out her issues. But in our fantasies, we think it is somehow romantic to be able to save someone from their shitty life, so Akira feels like the better choice.
— Every time Koharu hangs out with Akira, she starts off by calling him childish, by eventually, she can’t help but smile as she watches him play games. Love is so inexplicable.
— Hell, she doesn’t even get to play with him… kinda. Haruo wants a rematch, but she refuses to give him the satisfaction of getting his revenge. As a result, all she does is literally just watch him play.
— Later that night, Haruo’s mother teases him about spending a night with Akira at the hotel. Speaking of Akira, the story only now tells us what had happened after she eventually returned home. Her family got mad, but she didn’t get disciplined. Well, that’s good to hear.
— But while Haruo is deep in his thoughts, thinking about Akira, Koharu suddenly shows up to his home. The girls have been over to his place, but I don’t think he’s ever been over to their houses, huh? The closest he ever got was right outside Koharu’s family store.
— Oooh, Koharu brought the big guns. Let’s see how our resident “I won’t betray my Sega Saturn” hipster reacts.
— Of course.
— Even his own mother is perplexed by his luck with girls. This gamer nerd keeps reeling in all the cutest girls. What’s up with that?
— Honestly, the original Playstation controller was pretty lame to hold. The latest Dualshock 4 is fine, but I still think the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller feels the best in my hands. The only things that the Dualshock 4 has over it are better analog sticks.
— In return, Haruo offers to let Koharu borrow his Saturn. He happens to own D. What an odd game to be in his collection. I still don’t know if Eno Kenji should be considered a good developer or not.
— While he goes to find a paper bag for the console, Koharu takes the chance to look around his room. That’s when she spots his less than flattering photos with Akira. Still, this completely torpedoes her mood. Koharu doesn’t share anything special with Haruo. She knows that he only sees her as a friend.
— Damn, his mom just slaps him in front of company. Harsh.
— While walking home, Koharu tries to bring up the fireworks event that’s going on tonight. Maybe she hopes that she could share a special moment with Haruo if she could convince him to give a damn about them, but the guy isn’t the least bit interested. Earlier in the night, he had told his mother that fireworks bore him after ten seconds, so instead, he just starts talking about fighting games instead. I mean, this is who he is. I can’t really blame him anyways. Personally speaking, I also find fireworks pretty damn boring.
— Well, the girl can only take so many losses before she decides to do something about it. As a result, Koharu comes right out and asks Haruo if he’s dating Akira. Talk about getting right to the heart of the matter.
— Of course, he denies it. So she follows up by asking him how he feels about Akira. Naturally, the kid is too embarrassed to admit his true feelings. He only just recently admitted to himself that he likes her. He’s not about to proclaim it to the whole world.
— But this is where Koharu shines over the other two characters: with tears in her eyes, she tells Haruo that she likes him. I gotta give Koharu props, man. She’s never been one to just sit back. She seemingly got better at fighting games all by her lonesome, so it doesn’t shock me at all that she has the gumption to come right out and confess to Haruo.
— When the guy tries to react, she smacks him with the console that he’s letting her borrow. Et tu, Saturn? But seriously, it looks like whoever he ends up with, he’ll get beaten up.
— Koharu then turns and faces Haruo head on. She’ll give him a rematch, but there are stipulations. If he wins, she’ll leave him alone. But if she wins, then he has to go out with her… like just a date or series of date? But unfortunately, this is where the episode and the series comes to an end. That’s… that’s not much of a conclusion. While this is a good cliffhanger for Koharu, I feel like Akira got no sense of closure.
— After Haruo’s shock fades away we are left with a message that we’ll soon get just three more episodes. Well, that’s a shame.
— All in all, High Score Girl has a sweet story once it got going (the first two episodes were slow), but a few nagging issues drag it down. First, we don’t really get much of a conclusion. I don’t read the manga, so I’m not sure where they could’ve ended this story, but finishing it here feels a bit… unsatisfying. Second, once the story started taking Haruo and Akira’s relationship seriously, I think it could have relented just a tiny bit and let her speak. A couple words. Maybe even a couple sentences. Just give me something. If she wants to be a complete mute in a comedy that I don’t have to take seriously, fine. But if I’m watching a heartwrenching story about an adolescent love that can never be, sorry but her steadfast refusal to never utter a single word takes me out of the moment.
Final grade: B+