「七咲逢編 最終章 コクハク」 (Nanasaki Ai-hen Saishuushou – Kokuhaku)
“Nanasaki Ai Final Chapter – Confession”
Between Ai and Junichi running the girls swim club’s oden booth and Itou Kanae walking away with the Miss Santa championship because Haruka was a no-show, the founder’s festival as a whole didn’t quite have much relationship-related development in it. The two of them were alone together, but too busy serving the endless line of customers that the other members of the swim team were bringing in. As such, there was never a Junichi x Ai moment to be seen in the first two-thirds of the episode, and instead we got some quirky humor from a traditional flavor test by the Tea Club’s Ruriko and Manaka, plus a hammered Takahashi-sensei not too long after.
Needless to say, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting from the big final chapter in Ai’s arc. The only thing keeping me hanging onto a great finish was the preview last time showing her at a hot spring with Junichi, and maybe the full-size Gundam that was on display. (Just maybe.) I wouldn’t say it was a bad start to the final episode in Ai’s route, but it sure went against my presumption last time that her relationship with Junichi was well ahead of the curve. The one thing that I can see transferring onto future episodes though was the focus on Tsukasa again, which gives a pretty unsettling feeling with the way she stares down Ai before finally smiling at her. We won’t get to see exactly what her peculiar behavior is alluding to until a good month later, but I’m already getting the impression that she’s secretly the jealous type. This is the first time I’ve felt that the writers are really pushing some cross-arc foreshadowing, so it’ll be interesting to see what we’re in store for in the final arc of this adaptation.
Aside from a brief cameo of a sub character named Kurosawa Noriko, i.e. the Ayatsuji Tsukasa rival of sorts, the remainder of the episode was more in line with what I was hoping to see. Oddly enough, I didn’t find myself ogling over the sight of Ai in nothing by a bath towel and lying about how she had her swimsuit on underneath, nor her eventual confession that she couldn’t even face Junichi to say. In retrospect, it was likely due to the order in which things happened, as I did get a better feel for the emotion involved when Junichi reciprocated those feelings and Ai drew him in closer before lunging in his arm and pressing her naked body against his. That scene actually had a much more sentimental feel to it than any sort of erotic one in my eyes, so it probably would have had more impact if she done that first and then confessed in his arms.
Had that happened, Ai would have given much better indication that she couldn’t contain her feelings for Junichi any longer and totally went out on a limb in hopes that he would accept them. This is Ai we’re talking about after all, and no man in his right mind would refuse if a girl like her confessed in such a manner. (I dare say he would have to be gay!) Instead, they went with Ai’s usual respectful attitude when it came to the confession where she remained at a distance and was expecting to be rejected. To that approach’s credit, it did continue to stress that Ai wasn’t too confident in herself and that definitely has a very cute side to it. In retrospect, Ai’s story actually felt like it hit the climax last episode when Junichi dove into the pool after her, and this last episode served as more of an epilogue to make their relationship official, which may also explain why I’m feeling it didn’t have as much impact. I’d probably feel differently if I could get in on that lap pillow though. Damn 2D, bring on Rihoko so I don’t have to see Junichi all lovey-dovey with Ai! >:(