Since Mei doesn’t immediately recognize her and only finds her familiar-looking, Sanae introduces herself as 17-year-old Isogai Sanako. Tomoya and Nagisa think that Sunohara might be taking Sanae out to a good restaurant for their date, but he brings her to a simple eatery where he comes often for katsudon. This doesn’t sit well with Sanae though, so she instead cooks for him and the others. Seeing such a great girl with her brother makes Mei tear up because she pities Sanae. Afterward, Sunohara takes Sanae out to the arcade and the CD shop instead of going to the movies or shopping, much to the dismay of Tomoya, Nagisa, and Mei. As afternoon turns to evening, the group happens upon a bunch of boys bullying a little girl, and Mei initially stops Tomoya and Nagisa from helping. She looks to Sunohara to do something, but she instead sees him dismiss it as a part of growing up. Fortunately, the little girl’s brother comes running in and saves her. Sunohara considers everything settled and wants to move on, but Sanae feels that something is strange and goes to talk to the kids.
As it turns out, the two are lost after having come out on an errand, and Sanae wants to help them get home. Sunohara doesn’t care, and he’s disappointed when Sanae and the others help the kids get home anyway. He sulks for the rest of the night, and when Sanae asks him if he’s angry, he emphasizes how they were on a date. Mei gets angry when she hears this, but Sanae holds Mei back and claims that she wants to see him again. Sanae also uses the chance to remind him that although she’s happy that he considers their time together important, there are sometimes things which are more important. Sanae wanting to see him again cheers Sunohara up, and the happiness stays with him into the next day at school. He thinks that Sanae has really fallen in love with him, and he even goes as far as to suggest that he and Tomoya would be related if he married Sanae and Tomoya married Nagisa. After school, Sunohara rushes back to the dorm to wait for a phone call from Sanae, and he feels that everyone is intruding when Tomoya, Nagisa, and Mei show up at his room. He suggests that Mei should be returning home soon, but she refuses because there’s something she still has to do. Mei surprises her brother by claiming that she came to see the person that she likes, and before she leaves to go meet this person, she hopes that her brother enjoys his love.
Tomoya urges Sunohara to chase after his sister, but he refuses to budge because he’s waiting for Sanae’s phone call. When Tomoya leaves the dorm, he finds Mei and Nagisa outside, and Mei is disappointed to see that her brother didn’t come after her. She later admits that she wanted him to prevent her from going, and she was even ready for him to hit her. Mei can still remember how he always saved her from bullies when they were young and how good at soccer he was in junior high school. She feels that the current Sunohara isn’t her true brother because her brother wouldn’t abandon a girl being bullied, and he’d be worried about her. Mei has realized by now that her brother having a girlfriend is all a lie, and Nagisa admits that it was her mother. Despite Mei knowing now, Sanae is still willing to go on another date with Sunohara, and when Akio catches them preparing, Mei claims that it’s for a play. Leaving Nagisa to deal with her father, Tomoya and Mei try to follow Sanae and Sunohara, but they can’t find them and decide instead to have some fun in the meantime. Mei thinks that it’d be better if Tomoya was really her brother and starts calling him onii-chan, but he has a hard time dealing with that and forbids her from saying it. Unfortunately, Kyou, Ryou, and Kotomi overhear Mei and think the worst.
Mei ends up convincing Tomoya to buy her a large crepe and then to go into a purikura with her. She chooses a sticker set that has hearts all around and hugs Tomoya’s arm in the picture as if she really loved him. The two are caught, however, by Sunohara, and after he sees the stickers, he demands to know what’s going on. Tomoya uses the chance to claim that he is Mei’s boyfriend and that he’s breaking up with Nagisa. He even suggests that Mei stayed with him last night and starts to walk off with her. Sunohara almost tries to stop them, but he doesn’t and instead goes the other direction in frustration. Mei now feels that her brother doesn’t care about her and refuses to return home with things like this. Her solution is to get him to play soccer again because she thinks that will return him to how he used to be. Tomoya knows that that will be difficult given what happened between Sunohara and the soccer club, but Mei sees no other options.
Although most of this episode was a lot more serious than last week – with Sunohara acting like a jackass while Mei is concerned about him – it still managed to be pretty amusing at parts, especially when Mei treats Tomoya as her real brother (and how they’re caught by Kyou, Ryou, and Kotomi). I swear Mei looked more and more like a Lucky Star character every time they draw her in a cute way. Perhaps more importantly, it was interesting to see the a stark contrast between how likable Sunohara is when he’s the butt of jokes and how insufferable he acts towards his sister and anyone who gets in the way of him and Sanae. I assume something will happen that will cause him to care more about his sister, and that something could be Mei having an accident or Sanae talking some sense into him or maybe even the soccer idea will work.
In any case, this particular plotline is apparently going to keep going, and it has me rethinking my earlier assumption that AFTER STORY wouldn’t feature character-focused arcs like in the first series or in Kanon. Not that having them is a bad thing – I just thought there would have been a whole lot more on Tomoya and Nagisa by now. I’m curious to see how the rest of this series is structured, and for the time being, next week looks like it might be the conclusion to this Sunohara/Mei arc.