Not only has Tsukushi’s father been laid off, the family is also 5 million yen in debt. In order to find work, Tsukushi takes a leave of absence from school, which alerts the F4 that she’s in trouble. Looking for work one day, she’s approached by a man offering 100,000 to photograph her in her uniform. Of course, Tsukushi finds out too late that it’s a scheme to get her to do a pornographic film, but fortunately, Rui finds her and saves her. Rui later suggests that it might be the Domyoji matron who’s responsible for their financial troubles. Returning home, she learns that her parents have had no luck searching for jobs, and it seems clear to Tsukushi that something else is at work here.
When confronted, Tsukasa’s mother openly admits to being behind everything, all because she doesn’t want Tsukushi to be with her son. Tsukushi storms out after telling her off, though Tsukasa himself chases and catches up to her not long after she leaves. After promising to always protect her, he suggests they get married. Fortunately for Tsukushi, Tsubaki offers a better alternative: the Teen of Japan (TOJ) competition where the prize is exactly the five million yen that her family needs. It’s a test of all the qualities of that an upper class lady needs, including English, music, etiquette, etc. And just to add a little more pressure, Tsukushi learns that both Shizuka and Tsubaki are past champions.
With the resources of the F4 backing her, Tsukushi goes into a crash course on everything she needs to know to win the competition. Each task is tough for her, and she eventually breaks down from failure. To compound her problems, she finds that the people around her, including her family and the owner of the confection store where she works are now being affected. When she returns to Tsukasa, she tells him that she wants to quit. Tsukasa provokes her into hitting him to show her that she’s still strong, and she ends up crying on his shoulder after hearing his reassuring words. He tells her that the rest of the F4 are helping her family and Okami-san, and that he believes in her.
At the competition, Tsukushi seems prepared and ready, but there’s one last surprise in store for everyone. Tsukasa’s mother has called in Kurimaki Ayano, who’s Tsukasa’s fiancé, to also enter the competition. Visibly shaken and feeling out of place, Tsukushi gets ready to go on stage. As she walks out through the curtains, unbeknownst to her, Tsukasa has been knocked out and kidnapped.
I enjoyed this episode, by itself, even with its share of corny and endearing moments, but in perspective of it as the next to last episode, I worry about everything that’s left to resolve. That includes the competition, Tsukasa’s mother accepting Tsukushi, and Tsukushi and Tsukasa officially hooking up. It’s all very doable in the extended time period next week, but I’m more afraid that they’ll take a semi-predictable route to finish the series. Something like Tsukushi wins, Tsukasa’s mother sees how much her son loves Tsukushi, etc etc. Hopefully they’ll prove me wrong and throw some interesting curve balls into the story while not making the pacing feel rushed.
Along those same lines, it seems to me that Ayano’s appearance onto the scene is coming rather late in the game. Basically, it’s hard to see her as a true rival when she’s introduced at the end of the next to last episode. I just hope they don’t make her evil and instead keep the qualities she had in the manga (refined, ready to challenge Tsukushi). Again, the relative short length of the series could make this a problem.
I still find it hard to believe that next week is the final episode, but a lot’s riding on how it turns out, so I’m excitedly waiting to see it.