I know I said last week that this isn’t the sort of series that has villains, but Kujoe Hajime is starting to make me doubt myself a bit. At the very least, he’s doing a fine job of convincing me that he’s a full-on A-hole. In truth it’s way too early to say he truly is a “bad guy” in the literal and narrative sense, and he does stand out more because most of the cast in this series is nicer than the high-school average by a wide margin. But he’s certainly coming off as a small person in many ways.
We were certainly never going to get through this season with everything going smoothly and Yuuki and Kaori’s relationship progressing in uninterrupted fashion, but it’s still hard to see Yuuki cast into the Sisyphus role. I like the fact that the selfish side of him is once again acknowledged – when he speaks of “all my hard work” being wasted, it could certainly be taken that way. But selfishness is a part of love, especially romantic love, and acknowledging it doesn’t diminish the kindness and decency that defines both his character and his relationship with Kaori.
Things don’t start out so badly. Yuuki sucks it up and starts over from scratch, saying those magic words – “Let’s be friends” – yet again. And so the cycle begins anew, with the head start that Kaori can tell from her own diary entries that Yuuki is someone that’s very important to her. But this is even harder for Yuuki than he’s letting on, and when Kaori gives him the bento she’s made for him but in doing so reveals that she’s lost all memory of why the number 18 is so special to them as a couple, Yuuki loses it. And really, who can blame him? Seeing all of that gone is a lot to take. But he soldiers on, slowly rebuilding what’s been lost, and the pair agree to meet for crepes after school (Yuuki should realize by now that crepes are bad luck for him where Kaori is concerned).
Meanwhile things are progressing with comparative lightning speed on the Shougo-Saki front – if rather bizarrely. Saki reveals that she does at least have enough CNS functionality to realize that something is amiss with Kaori, and it’s Shougo she elects to discuss it with. It’s a pretty revealing conversation about both of them, as Saki pretty much owns up to the fact that she’s terrified of being alone and determined to glom onto someone at all times because she’s incapable of doing things herself. What she delivers next is sort of a marriage proposal, though the fact that it comes immediately after saying she wishes she could marry Kaori if only it were possible (not yet in Japan, Saki – maybe someday) sharply dilutes any romantic inference.
Shougo’s reaction is telling, though – he scolds Saki for joking about such things (she denies that it was 100% a joke) before blushing and rushing (off). This is pretty much inescapable proof that he’s sweet on Saki, which is where I figured we were going and was hoping we weren’t. It is nice to see Shougo get some Shougo-centric development, but this is rather predictable and personally, I don’t buy these two as a couple. I’ll withhold judgment, though, as we see the first signs of Saki being given a bit of depth this week and a lot more of that might just change my mind.
Back on the main stage, everything builds-up to another crepe-related tragedy (how many adolescents must have their lives ruined before crepe shops are banned?). As Yuuki is stuck behind on cleaning duty Kaori is stuck waiting for him – and Hajime shows up with two of their female pals from sixth grade. Again, we see Hajime acting like a real jerk here – I’m trying hard to understand his position, and I know what happened must have felt like a betrayal to him. But he seems utterly disinterested in hearing Kaori’s side of things, and indeed to revel in the distress his words have the power to cause her. By the time Yuuki arrives Cujo’s already gotten her to dredge up some very had memories – it seems there was a major confrontation with the other two girls about Kaori “stealing” Hajime before the accident – and she’s fled the scene.
Should Yuuki have taken it on himself to tell Kujoe about Kaori’s condition? Judgment call, but I think it was appropriate and in-character (in fact I was really hoping he was going to punch Hajime, but that wouldn’t have been in-character). It’s Yuuki nature to give the benefit of the doubt and try to accommodate, but Hajime’s reaction is to accuse Kaori of faking her memory loss and dismiss her friendship with Yuuki as “pretend”. No one is blameless in all this, and it can’t be ignored that Kaori’s condition is essentially self-inflicted. So no, Hajime isn’t the source of all evil here, but he’s the one who seems to be playing the victim and acting out of spite. In the end I think Hajime’s behavior is only going to reinforce Yuuki’s belief that he’s handling things the right way, and that Kaori really is worth all the effort that’s required to be her friend (never mind to be more than that). With a little help from Shougo and Saki they should get through this, Hajime or no Hajime, though I still expect the season to close on a fairly open-ended note.