「棚町薫編 第三章 ウラギリ」 (Tanamachi Kaoru-hen Dai Sanshou – Uragiri)
“Tanamachi Kaoru Chapter 3 – Betrayal”
With the way things ended last time, I really didn’t know what to make of this episode coming in. The family drama aspect hasn’t been touched upon amidst all the kissing fetishes, so this third chapter of Kaoru’s arc gave some unexpected depth to the series as a whole. However, when I actually finished watching this episode, I was surprised that the entire showing involved Junichi frantically searching for Kaoru and helping her cope with seeing her mother with another man. I didn’t mind the time spent going down this route since it did put a different spin on things, but was left wondering if the short four-chapter arcs could spare it. While the flashbacks Junichi had helped emphasize his relationship with Kaoru up to this point and how he’s still straddling the friendship line, he didn’t show any indication that he’s crossed over.
He did the right thing in my books by refraining from making any sort of move on her when she was troubled with family affairs and he was still unsure about exactly how he feels, so it’s possible this is a more sentimental means to the same end. Either way, it’s a stark contrast to Haruka’s arc where confessions were flying left and right and the flirting was happening non-stop, that’s for sure. As such, I initially had doubts about Kaoru’s story matching up to Haruka’s in light of this turn of events. It’s pretty easy to compare where Junichi was with Haruka three episodes in and see how much farther along they were after all, but then it hit me that his relationship with her didn’t start off on the same grounds as Kaoru’s. What happened in that arc had a lot to do with Haruka herself and the senior/junior type of relationship she had with Junichi, so it’s an entirely different ball game when it’s a middle-school friend with three years of history.
Looking at things from that perspective made me appreciate what Junichi and Kaoru have going on a lot more. The fact that they have a history naturally changes the course of their development, which quite honestly I haven’t ruled out the possibility that they may even remain just friends. It probably goes without saying that I’d like to see them wind up together, but their hesitation towards making that happen is understandable. All one needs to do is try and picture a friend of the opposite sex as something more to get a feel for how strange of an outlook it can be (assuming you didn’t like them before). With the final chapter in Kaoru’s arc is titled “Progress”, it’s very likely that they will hook up before it’s all said and done though. Regardless of the outcome, if there’s one thing that I’ve taken an unexpected appreciation of with this omnibus format is that it depicts how drastically different things can turn out depending on the circumstances.
To some, Junichi was quite a failure of a human being in Haruka’s story. In Kaoru’s, the same people might see him as a good friend deserving of her affection. The question is, has Junichi’s character really changed or is it just how the girl he’s with affects it? Given how every arc starts off with the same premise, I’d personally consider Junichi a constant in the very beginning, who changes depending on the girl he takes interest in. Not only does he end up with a different girl in each variation, but Junichi himself changes based on his interactions with her. While the game’s character designer Takayama Kisai has mentioned that the omnibus format is intended to highlight each of the girls, I’m starting to view it as a means of highlighting Junichi as well. Rather than comparing who he had the most interesting or eyebrow-raising story with when we’ve gone through all six arcs, I’m curious to see who brings out the best in him. I’m already labeling him as the submissive one in a kinky marriage in Haruka’s, and the very opposite in a playful one in Kaoru’s. He may have more fun in the bedroom with Haruka, but in public he looks like he wears the pants with Kaoru by his side.
Junichi proved that here with the way he realized that she’s not really upset about her mother betraying their decision to live alone together, but by how it affects her memories of her mother with her father (who I presume passed away based on the sound of things). What’s more, him remembering that she’s into seasonal, limited time variation of snacks emphasized how thoughtful he can be. I’d say without a doubt that this Junichi is a lot cooler than the one that Haruka ended up marrying, even though he’s not hitting it off as quickly with Kaoru. I gather that will change during Christmas Eve next episode, seeing as Kaoru has a whole new image of Junichi for understanding her feelings — except the one she may need to make clear herself. Now that would be an interesting change-up, Kaoru confessing to Junichi first. Ai, Sae, and Miya look like they’ll be around as well, after all their talk about blue, red, and green colors, which I’m still not sure what they were alluding to. Pssh, first-year girls. 😛 (<3 Ai though.)