I’ll stand by my contention that Junichi and Kaoru are one of the more pleasant couples in this series to watch, if not the most exciting. They have a nice chemistry together, though I’m not sure if it’s romantic chemistry. Whatever it is, apart from a few highly clichéd moments regarding thrown buckets and face-slapping (though I did laugh when Junichi mysteriously remembered being slapped before, about as sly and self-referential as this show gets), it was fun watching the two of them together on their misadventure. It put me back in mind of teenaged road trips, where things always seemed to go wrong but if you were with someone special, that didn’t seem to be such a bad thing. The fact that these two are so at ease around each other is a major positive from a viewing standpoint, and even their childish and petulant behavior when things started to go haywire was perfectly realistic when you consider the situation and their age.
That said, I find it awfully interesting that even after all that happened, we got nothing more than a chaste kiss on the beach, “From Here to Eternity” style. But it was much sexier in that 1953 Hollywood film, frankly, and while part of it may be a relative lack of romantic “spark” with this pairing most of it is probably due to the change in tone this season. Kaoru said it was hard to tell where the line between being friends and lovers was with Junichi and herself, and that’s true from an audience POV as well. But here’s a clue – if you’re in a ryokan – the only guests in a ryokan – and you don’t make love, you’re probably not lovers. The setting was perfect – a serendipitous mishap brought them to that comfortable room, alone together in a romantic setting, and I can’t help but think that last season that would have reached its logical conclusion. Here, Junichi fell asleep. Has AIC lost their nerve with this material?
I suppose the ultimate test will come with the last arc, when the girl who had easily the most erotic S1 arc and most physical chemistry with Junichi takes the stage. In the meantime we have the Sae arc to get through, and I’ll try and keep an open mind as my feelings about the girls in S2 haven’t always matched up with the first season. Sae’s arc in S1 was a chore to watch, as they were about the most poorly matched romantic pair I’ve seen in any anime I was supposed to take seriously. But as Tsutomu said, you have to do the things you don’t want to before you can do the things you really want to – so bring on Sae’s chapter. In the meantime I’ll muse on how wonderful little onsen ryokan in the Japanese countryside are – those atmospheric baths, the amazing in-room dinners, walking around in yukata all night… A better way to spend an evening you’d be hard-pressed to find.