「陽向と美咲と碓氷くん」 (Hinata to Misaki to Usui-kun)
“Hinata, Misaki, and Usui”
While the title had me thinking the love triangle would reach new highs and lows, this episode turned out to be a surprisingly sentimental one revolving around Hinata. His rivalry with Usui remained completely civil like it’s been, so most of the time was spent fleshing out his backstory further. More specifically, it continued to emphasize that his childhood feelings for Misaki are about as genuine as they come. There’s no denying that they’re childish and wishful, but it does say something about his unwavering commitment when the thought of another girl in his life has never once crossed his mind. Even when he was a baseball ace in middle school and had girls flocking to him and giving him chocolates on Valentine’s Day, it was nothing but “Misaki tunnel vision” for Hinata. I almost want to say he’s obsessed after learning that he kept the wrapper from a piece of candy Misaki gave him before he moved to his grandparents’ farm, but it’s kind of hard to rag on him about a keepsake he later used to make charms for his baseball team when Usui’s been a blatant stalker all this time. Oh yeah, Usui made him cry too, by being the smooth criminal that he is.
Starting with the puppy dog eyes that caught Misaki off-guard, Usui even used Maid Latte’s fortune-telling day to his advantage when Erika burst the news that he and Misaki don’t have a future together unless they overcome some big trial together. Compared to Hinata’s being optimistic towards the deflated paper balloon that Erika saw in his fortune, Usui just rode the sympathy card and got Misaki to encourage him not to give up so easily on their relationship. Oh how the mighty have been manipulated, albeit Usui didn’t even expect her to spout out something like that all of a sudden. Clearly, Misaki noticed too late to take it back, whereas Hinata didn’t arrive late enough to miss witnessing it completely. Now I know Usui is the leading male of the series and the one who’s bound to end up with Misaki at some point, but I still feel bad for Hinata standing there in silence before turning around and walking away. He’s not the kind of guy to be irrationally insistent if Misaki chooses Usui herself, so it was like witnessing his heart break right before my eyes. He just can’t seem to compete with Usui even when he finally got to spend some time along with Misaki by helping her clean, as our blond-haired perverted alien comes swooping in to save his president when she inadvertently gets soaked.
To Usui’s credit, he isn’t just a cold-hearted bastard who takes the “love is war” approach. As soon as Hinata was down and out at the relief seen in Misaki’s eyes, Usui gave off a playful bark to snap him out of it and get him motivated to struggle on. Granted, Hinata already feels like he’s lost once reminded of how his middle school friends suggested that he better be prepared for the possibility that Misaki already has a boyfriend by the time he finds her, but it did spare him getting extremely depressed about it on the spot. Regardless, this may very well be the conclusion of Hinata’s role in the anime, as the focus is now shifting to the Yumesaki school festival that Sakura convinced Misaki and Shizuko to come watch Yumemichi perform live and meet the changed Kuuga. The real interest though is Usui ended up alone with Misaki as a result of Sakura and Shizuko getting swept away by rabid fans. With the next episode being the finale, it looks like the time they spend together and Usui giving Misaki a necklace is what this adaptation will conclude around. At this point, I can’t decide if her bright red face is more adorable or the look she has while being fed takoyaki, so it’s nice to know we get both next time.