On their way to school one morning, Ryuuji and Taiga see Minori playing softball. Ryuuji is mesmerized by Minori’s refreshing smile and voice, and when Taiga notices how he’s looking at Minori, she pokes him in the eyes. Ryuuji later finds out that Minori works at decorating cell phones, and she even offers to do one for him. At home, Taiga gets tired of hearing Ryuuji talk to himself about Minori and not listen to her instead, so she kicks him in the stomach. Ryuuji then realizes that their rice cooker is broken, so he and Taiga go to the family restaurant where Minori works part-time. In fact, Minori also works part-time in a convenience store, a karaoke box, and a shabu-shabu restaurant. She works because she has time and feels that she needs to work, and Taiga once again pokes Ryuuji in the eyes when she sees him admiring Minori. Both of them later discover that Minori is working at a liquor store as well, and the owner needs extra help, so Ryuuji offers himself and Taiga. The owner assigns Taiga to make a delivery, and the beer gets loaded onto a bicycle, but Taiga turns out not to know how to ride one. Because of this, she pushes the bicycle to the destination instead of riding it.
On the return trip, Taiga takes a break after tripping while pushing the bike back. Right as she’s thinking that there was no need for her to work so hard, Kitamura suddenly appears and notices that she’s got a bike with her. He’s surprised that she can ride a bike and knows that she didn’t used to be able to since he had observed her a lot last year. Hearing Kitamura talk about the bike motivates Taiga to try to ride the bike back to the store, and although she falls, she keeps trying. Because of this, she returns to the store all scraped up and subsequently gets pissed off when the liquor store owner doesn’t know where Minori and Ryuuji went. While Taiga was gone, Ryuuji and Minori had gone out the storeroom to get some shouchuu, but they end up getting accidentally locked up inside. Minori and Ryuuji at first spend their time singing and then playing softball with empty bottles as bats. During the latter activity, Ryuuji notices that Minori’s hand is shaking as if out of nervousness or fear, but she denies it, claims that it’d be pointless, and instead declares that she’ll knock out weakness. Minori then notices that there’s a window high above them that they can get through, so they start stacking boxes to get up to it. All this makes Ryuuji realize that the reason Minori always seems to shine is not only because she’s energetic, but also because she believes in knocking out weakness. Unfortunately for Ryuuji, his happiness with Minori is short-lived. As soon as he reaches the window, he sees a pissed off Taiga on the other side staring back in at him, and she kicks him in the face through the wooden bars. This puts Taiga in the storeroom as well, and the ladder she used to get up to the window has now fallen over, stranding all three again.
Well, the first thing I noticed about this episode was that there was a noticeable dip in animation quality this episode. It didn’t look horrible, but did seem inconsistent from shot to shot. This isn’t a huge complaint though since we’re past the first few episodes now, and it’s not unexpected that quality will vary from week to week. Having said that, I did rather like the shot of Taiga staring off into the sunset across the city after talking with Kitamura. In fact, that scene and the later scene when Ryuuji reflects on Minori were probably my favorites. The rest of the episode was kinda slow as they set up to get to those points, but I’m not terribly surprised given that this was mostly an anime original.
What I still question is why the director and writers raced through the first volume of the novel if they’re going to serve up so-so episodes like these. Even if they wanted to focus on different characters each week in the beginning, given the fact that this series is going to be two seasons long (based on how there are going to be 8 total DVDs of 3-4 episodes each), you’d think they’d have taken their time with the established material. In short, I’m fairly happy with the series so far, but I think better decisions could have been made about the progression and pacing.