Michiko and Hatchin arrive by boat in a small town while her bike needs to be serviced, and check in at an old hotel. A man falls asleep on Michiko’s shoulder while she’s waiting, so she bumps him over to wake up. He seems pretty relaxed as he rolls some tobacco into a cigarette, and Michiko actually appears flustered for once as he catches her looking in his direction. He offers her the cigarette he just made and lights it for her from his own. Coming close, he allows her hair to slowly fall between his fingers. Hatchin calls for her to go, so Michiko speaks the first and only words between them (“Thanks”) and rushes away to the hotel room.
Inside the hotel room that night, Michiko seems a little grumpy, but Hatchin is in high spirits as she gets in bed. Michiko comes over to smell her hair and is disgusted, so she sends her to take a shower. Hatchin opens the curtain to find a shower full of rust and mold, but no soap. When she comes back to the bedroom to explain why it’s impossible to take a shower tonight, Michiko is already gone. Michiko finds herself in the lobby staring at the empty chair where she met the man with the cigarette earlier today, and asks herself what the hell she’s doing after briefly hoping that she might see him again.
The next morning, Michiko yells at Hatchin for not taking a shower last night. Hatchin doesn’t mind the occasional slaps to the face (sometimes she deserves it), and asks Michiko if she took a shower last night. Michiko says she did, but Hatchin caught her in a lie because if she really did then she should have known there was no shampoo. They bicker a little more before Michiko tells her to go buy some soap, so Hatchin begrudgingly leaves the hotel in a small boat.
In the middle of the water, 3 boys on a raft force Hatchin to stop, and jump onto her boat. They begin to fight as the leader tries to take her shoes, and she kicks him hard in the face to protect herself. In response, they throw her overboard and take her soap money as well as her shoes.
Meanwhile, Michiko is being ferried by an old man to a beauty salon, called “Bruno and Anastasia’s.” Coincidentally, it seems Bruno is the man she met yesterday. After Bruno walks out quietly, Anastasia trims Michiko’s hair, and informs her that the tobacco in the cigarette she received from him yesterday is actually hers. Afterwards, Bruno ferries her back, but Michiko rejects his hand as he offers to help her out of the boat. She walks past him quickly but he grabs her, quickly handing her a folded note before smiling wordlessly and returning to the boat.
The note said he’d come to see her tomorrow at 1:00. If she doesn’t want to meet him, it’s fine if she just leaves the hotel room. He won’t mind. That night, Hatchin tries to explain what happened with the boys on the boat, but Michiko isn’t listening at all because she’s too wrapped up in her own thoughts. Upset because of Michiko’s insensitivity and cold shoulder, she runs to the closet and starts throwing clothes at Michiko’s face. In the end, Michiko doesn’t retaliate, or even say any words of apology as Hatchin just stands there crying.
The next day, Michiko is dressed up while Hatchin grumpily lays on the floor. As it nears 1:00, Michiko realizes she’s got to get Hatchin out of the hotel room, she gives her some more money and urges her to cheer up and go buy some shampoo and some lunch. She rides away on the boat and Michiko begins to primp in front of the mirror. Suddenly, a memory of Hiroshi flashes in her mind. Bruno speeds by Hatchin on his motorboat, and she recognizes him in the rain.
Michiko is smoking a cigarette in her room when Bruno enters. She’s uncharacteristically nervous and jerks away when he sits down and his knee brushes against hers. She tells him he’s got the wrong idea, and she was just about to leave. Hatchin brings her boat back to the dock to see why that man’s boat is also parked there. Michiko asks him why he’s interested, and that it’s strange. He just says there’s a reason, and he understands it’s strange, but doesn’t seem to care. He rolls a cigarette and offers it to her, but when he takes her hand instead, she stands up abruptly and walks away. He stops her in the middle of the room and swings her around into an embrace. Michiko says she wouldn’t have flirted if she had known he was already married, but he writes it off as fate. He’s glad he met her, and comments that she must have her own share of worries.
As Hatchin watches through the front window, careful not to make a sound, Michiko tries to tell Bruno that there’s already a man that she loves. He asks if he loves her and why he’s not with her, which upsets Michiko so he hugs her closely. He doesn’t like such a sad expression on a girl like her, and finally asks her name. Caught up in the moment and her own troubled emotions, she tells him her name as he pulls her in for a kiss.
Hatchin comes home that night quite moodily and falls straight onto the bed, and the two girls don’t say anything to each other. The next day, Michiko drags an ungrateful Hatchin to Bruno and Anastasia’s salon to wash and cut her hair. She notices Bruno as he stands up to leave, but doesn’t have time to express her anger at Michiko before her haircut begins. Anastasia asks her if Michiko is her mother, but Hatchin says no. Anastasia thought as much, but admires their relationship because if two people are fighting it means they care about each other. If there’s no communication and no arguments, you can’t become close to one another. While washing her hair, she notices Hatchin’s dirty, bare feet, but doesn’t say anything.
Outside on the deck, Bruno likens Michiko to a fish (though perhaps a little more romantically than my explanation), and says he’d like to swim freely with her. She asks him again why he’s interested in a girl like her, but he simply tells her that he likes her, and kisses her again.
The next day, Michiko is daydreaming on the front balcony of the hotel room, oblivious while Hatchin furiously packs her own bags. Michiko tells her that she’s been thinking about swimming more freely, like a fish. She gets angry when Hatchin calls her fickle, so Hatchin points out her overreaction as being childish. With her bags in hand, Hatchin says she’s going to search for Hiroshi herself. Michiko tries to stop her but Hatchin is fed up. She can do it herself, and she doesn’t need someone like Michiko to help her anymore. While Michiko is still in shock, Hatchin stomps on her foot sharply and runs away. Michiko’s immediate pain isn’t the only thing stopping her from chasing after her.
In the growing rainstorm, Hatchin confronts the 3 boys on the raft, and challenges the leader to a competition. The winner will take not only the shoes they stole from her, but the leader’s cape (the only clothes he has besides underwear) as well. They wrap up the shoes and the cape in a plastic bag and throw it into the river. Hatchin and the boy jump in the water, swimming after the bag as it sinks to the bottom. The boy gives up about halfway down, grasping for air, but Hatchin makes it all the way to the ground. She elatedly picks up the bag, but chokes out her last remaining breath. Realizing she can’t make it to the top again, she floats upward slowly.
While Hatchin was battling it out with the boys at the river, Anastasia stopped by Michiko’s hotel to bring some shoes she thought would suit Hatchin. She searches for the ashtray and finds it upside down on the floor in the corner of the room. Leaning over to pick it up, she clearly notices several of her husband’s cigarette butts on the floor, as well as a few with lipstick on them. She puts out her own cigarette after placing the ashtray back on the table, and turns to leave. The thoughts circling in her mind have a chance to come out before she walks out though, and she asks Michiko if she really plans on being with Bruno. Things intensify between them as she tells Michiko that this isn’t the first time he’s done something like this. He becomes wrapped up in another girl and then suddenly treats them coldly as his interest fades, and throws them away. Michiko asks about Anastasia’s feelings, and she haughtily confesses that while Bruno may think he’s the fisherman, in reality he’s actually just another fish. Furthermore, his true desire is only to be fished by her. As she leans over the table, she asks Michiko what was so good about him.
Hatchin wakes up to find herself still alive, lying across the bench in the hotel lobby near an old man holding a guitar. Her shoes and the boy’s cape are arranged neatly on the floor beside her. He tells her it appears that Michiko knew how to use a boat after all, and points Hatchin across the room where Michiko is sleeping on the floor next to several empty bottles of beer and a knocked over chair. As the clock strikes 12, Hatchin realizes that she just turned 10 years old. The man congratulates her and begins playing guitar. She looks at Michiko lying in the floor with a sad expression on her face, full of thoughts.
God, this is the way it’s done. The scenes with Michiko and Bruno were amazing, despite the complete lack of verbal communication for the first several encounters, and here’s why… It’s difficult to tell what Bruno was feeling (but I don’t really care because he’s just some slimeball side character anyway), but Michiko’s emotions were palpably complex. She was completely caught off-guard by her attraction to this guy, and simultaneously ashamed of herself for betraying her love for Hiroshi. While conflicting feelings battled it out inside her heart, the clash of those two emotions also materialized outside of her, as she inadvertently strayed from Hatchin’s side (and thus the search for Hiroshi). Hatchin felt this detachment in full force, and reacted to Michiko’s new noncommittal attitude with pure rejection. By the end of the episode, I don’t get the feeling she’s completely forgiven Michiko for the abandonment, but I think she’ll get the opportunity to redeem herself. Well, I hope so anyway.
I wonder how Bruno would react if he could see Michiko’s real, strong personality instead of the silent bashful one that came out for the first time in this episode. This is as far from the main plot as they’ve come in recent episodes, but that’s hardly a bad thing. I don’t feel like a single moment of silence in this episode was wasted, and the mood is about 248 degrees different than the end of last week’s episode.
As usual I am pleasantly stunned with this series, and urge everyone to try it out despite a blatant lack of high school, harems, or main characters who are in a romantic relationship of some sort. Substance in anime? What’s that all about?
To those that were waiting for this review to be posted, thank you for your patience. My big Japanese 試験 is finally over, and I can begin preparing for next year’s 一級! Best of luck to anyone else out there suffering the same horrible fate, and also to those of you finishing up college finals this semester.