On their way up the steps to a shrine, Koyomi and Suruga pass by a girl who Koyomi doesn’t recognize, and although she recognizes him, she doesn’t say anything. Koyomi is here because Oshino had given him a task to do – place a charm at the shrine – and he’s brought Suruga along. Hitagi didn’t come, but she knows about this and wanted Suruga to report back if anything happened. And since she’s not around, Koyomi takes the chance to start to plan what he should do for her upcoming birthday. He and Suruga also talk about her left arm and how Oshino told her that it’ll return to normal by the time she turns 20. The two eventually reach the old shrine, and Koyomi notices that Suruga is acting a little weird, but she claims she’s just tired. While Koyomi places the charm, she goes to look for somewhere to set up a picnic, but once Koyomi’s done, he finds Suruga staring at a sacred tree. She directs his attention to the chopped up and bloody pieces of a snake that have been stuck to the tree, and Koyomi suddenly realizes that the girl they passed earlier was Sengoku Nadeko, someone he knew a long time ago.
The next day, Koyomi goes with Tsubasa to the book store to look for reference books because he’s becoming more serious about what he’s going to do after high school. His talk with Hitagi about it has motivated him to want to go to the same university as her. He also tells Tsubasa about how he and Suruga buried the snake corpse at the shrine, but they found more chopped up snakes in the area. Koyomi thinks that it was part of some ritual, and Tsubasa happens to know that the shrine was devoted to a snake god. She’s also concerned about how Koyomi was out with Suruga and how they were walking arm in arm. Koyomi tries to defend his actions by citing how Hitagi didn’t want him to be rude to Suruga, but to prove her point, Tsubasa almost kisses him, and he’s too shocked to push her away. Tsubasa thinks that Hitagi doesn’t want him to be too friendly with Suruga, and she warns Koyomi that being kind to everyone is irresponsible.
On their way out, Koyomi asks Tsubasa about her own plans and is surprised to find out that she intends to travel the world for two years instead of going to a university right away. She then gets a headache and runs off by herself, leaving Koyomi alone in the bookstore to notice that Nadeko is there as well. Nadeko leaves before he can talk to her, but he realizes that the book she was looking at was about snake curses. Based on that, he decides to call Suruga out again to the shrine, and he explains how Nadeko was a friend of Tsukihi’s. At the shrine, the two find Nadeko about to stab another snake, and Koyomi stops her just in time. He takes the girls back to his home, and once there, Nadeko takes off her clothes and reveals that her body has streaks of snake scales all over it. She doesn’t want her body to be this way, and she asks for Koyomi’s help.
For a setup episode, this was pretty good. It started out a little confusingly because I didn’t understand why Koyomi appeared to be going out with Suruga instead of Hitagi, and I’m still not entirely sure why Hitagi just didn’t go with him, but mainly I thought that the pacing was fine and that they’re developing a lot of interesting things with the characters. At least, I feel like I’m at the point now where I know enough of the story and how SHAFT highlights hints to be able to tell what’s noteworthy about how the characters acted. For example, I’m pretty sure that both Suruga acting weird at the shrine and Tsubasa’s headache will be factors in the near future. It also appears that, based on the book she was looking at, Nadeko is the victim of some snake curse, and that’s probably why she was killing them. Her taking her clothes off like that was a surprise though (I’m sure SHAFT had a lot of fun animating that scene), and I found this shot pretty amusing since it’s a reference to the reaction guys. Maybe they had too much fun with that scene though because, as it was pointed out to me, SHAFT wasn’t very consistent when animating Suruga’s bandaged left hand; several shots of it showed no bandage at all.
In any case, I enjoyed this episode despite the relative lack of Hitagi. I do hope though that she shows up more later or in the final arc. Suruga’s not a bad character, but it feels weird having her around so much when Hitagi is supposed to be Koyomi’s girlfriend.