Sawako and Kazehaya don’t talk or even look at each other at first, but when she slips in the snow, he catches her. Once the two realize how close they are though, they separate in embarrassment. Watching from the bushes are Chizuru, Ayane, and Ryuu, and since it’s frustrating for them to see this, they call Kazehaya to give an excuse for why they aren’t there and to break the ice between him and Sawako. Thanks to this, Kazehaya suggests to Sawako that they go get some amazake, and the two walk side-by-side into the shrine. Delighted by this progress, Chizuru and Ayane head into the shrine as well to make sure that no one interferes, especially not one of their classmates. Kazehaya and Sawako meanwhile get cups of amazake, and Sawako becomes embarrassed when the booth lady calls them a couple. After trying the amazake, Kazehaya claims that this is the first time he’s thought it tasted good, and Sawako is happy to see this “first time”. Kazehaya, however, points out that she’s been witness to plenty of firsts for him, including his first time going on the first shrine visit of the year with someone and his first time buying a cellphone strap for a girl. He’s also wearing a haramaki, the one she gave him, for the first time.
Kazehaya then asks Sawako about her email address, so she sends it to him via a message with her phone. The message thanks him for everything this year and expresses how happy she is that he’s with her today. Seeing the 1231 in her address, Kazehaya realizes that today is her birthday, and fortunately for him, there’s still fifteen minutes until midnight, so he’s able to wish her a happy birthday. He wishes he could have gotten her something, but she feels that he already has by letting her know more about him and by being with her now as she turns 16 years old. Wanting to get to know her better, Kazehaya asks about her childhood, so she tells him about school and how she played by herself a lot. His comment on how she’s good at finding fun things causes her to realize how much he was thinking about her, and she then finishes telling him about everything leading up to high school and the point that they met. Thinking about the past year and the impact that Kazehaya made on her, Sawako realizes that the year and the birthday that she was able to spend with him are both about to end, and a new year is about to begin.
This was a decent episode thanks to some funny moments in the first half from Chizuru, Ayane, and Ryuu, and because of all of the Sawako and Kazehaya relationship development in the second half. But for a next-to-last episode, I was expecting that something a bit more significant would have happened between the main couple. In fact, when Sawako wondered if there was a way for her to convey her feelings in a single word or phrase, I felt the urge to yell at the screen to tell her that there was. Alas, there was no confession in this episode from either side, and the episode didn’t end up being very powerful emotionally. As much as I like seeing Sawako and Kazehaya get closer, I’m starting to feel like Ayane did early in the episode. Of course, a lot can still happen in the finale, and I’m hoping for a strong finish. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s some sort of epilogue at the end of it since I know that the manga is still going and that they might eventually animate a second series.