As episode 5 begins the reset button has been hit for this game adaptation, and we enter the platonic friend/tomboy/bed hair arc as Kaoru takes center stage.
Thing start much the same as the Haruka arc did, with Junichi being stood up at the park on Christmas Eve. This time, his friend Kaoru shows up and, seeing how depressed he is, demands a ride on his bicycle and extends an invitation to spend Christmas Eve with her mother and herself. Did Junichi accept? At this point we don’t know. But as before, we flash forward two years to find Junichi napping in the classroom, only to be rudely awakened as Kaoru nibbles his ear. Over the course of the next 20 minutes she proceeds to chomp the other one, punch him in both the stomach and arm, pound him into the ground with a wrestling throw and send him to the infirmary – unconscious, mind you – with a punch to the head. It isn’t hard to see this is a girl in love.
And that’s what the rest of the episode is about, really – Junichi and Kaoru slowly discovering that their feelings towards each other have been evolving beyond friendship (or were beyond it all along). Junichi gets some pantsu service, visits Kaoru at her waitress job and is transfixed be her zettai ryouiki. He also reveals that he thought her invitation to meet him after school was going to be a confession, while in fact it was to solicit his (sound, as it turns out) advice for a friend. As Junichi’s hormones kick in Karou finds herself oddly embarrassed at this turn of events, to the point where she spills coffee and eventually has to remove herself from Junichi’s presence altogether.
All of this was rather well-done and somewhat charming, and the episode proceeded along at a slow pace – clearly a setup episode if one ever existed. I was a pretty big Haruka fan, so it’s not completely easy for me to set those feelings aside and settle in on the new girl. And of course, this being the series it is, that’s going to happen three more times – which makes it an interesting premise but also provides some real pitfalls. It is interesting to see little bits of the other girls seeded into their rival arcs, while the focus of the story remains on the girl de jour. I like Kaoru well enough so far, though there doesn’t appear to be anything new or original to her character – so I can’t prejudge her arc yet. What will perhaps be more interesting it to see whether Junichi behaves in an appreciably different manner as the arcs progress. I rather liked him as a male lead with Haruka – despite clearly being the junior partner in their relationship both literally and figuratively, he was deceptively forceful and decisive. Here, he’s in a much more level playing-field – with Karou it’s clear that both parties dish it out as well as take it. How Junichi behaves as the relationship turns romantic will be very interesting to see.