「ハルカナオモイ」 (Haruka na Omoi)
Sparks fly in the conclusion of this arc to settle things once and for all between Nao and Sora. Haru is nowhere to be seen either, as the bus stop goes up in flames when the two girls meet. It was a life and death struggle… to save Sora’s black rabbit! While the sound of that may actually disappoint some viewers, I for one am glad this arc didn’t end in some twisted manner. Given the build-up, the possibility was definitely there for Sora to either lash out in a jealous rage or commit suicide from being unable to cope with the idea of losing Haru. In fact, I was getting a bit nervous about the latter happening after Haru decided to go to school with Nao instead of staying home with her. Up until now, that really hasn’t been too much cause for concern, except this time Sora actually tried to stop him and made him choose between her and Nao. This was after she had texted him to see if he’d come running home to check up on her too, which he did, only to find out there was nothing wrong with her at all. As Sora’s cries for attention were getting more and more blatant, Haru started caring less and less, making her eventual decision to leave the town somewhat ominous. It sort of became a roller coaster ride from that point on, because just as she’s shown leaving with Haru’s bicycle and not suicidal in any way, she falls off the side of the road into the riverbank. Before long, everyone was searching for her and it started looking like she had drowned herself or been washed downstream. To top it off, there was also scenes with Haru feeling at fault for neglecting Sora, and dropping to his knees and crying out for her to really drive that fake-out home.
I can’t say I like being misled and constantly second guessing myself on which direction the story will take, but it sure made for an interesting finish to this arc. Sometimes predictability is good if highlights good screenplay, but other times the feeling of not knowing and constantly juggling possibilities isn’t bad either. It sure kept the tension high anyway, like when Nao found Sora huddled up against the wall inside the bus stop, much like how Haru found her when they were younger. In all likelihood, the similarity to her own situation is what prompted her to reach out to Sora, who unsurprisingly didn’t want anything to do with her. What was a bit unexpected was the way that Sora tearfully revealed that she’s scared Haru will completely abandon her given how much he’s changed since coming back to their hometown. Nao wasn’t really forcing the issue at that point, so it was more or less Sora getting fed up to the point that she had to get it off her chest. As someone who’s been straddling the line and not trying to take sides prematurely, learning about Sora’s insecurities and fear of being alone made me much more sympathetic towards her side of the things. It wasn’t until lightning struck the bus stop and Nao charged fearlessly into the fire to retrieve her rabbit did her fears really come to light though. Mention of her deceased parents and how Haru is the only person she has left in the world made it much easier to be understanding of her situation. It still doesn’t warrant all of the disdain she’s shown towards Nao, but it does explain why she’s been carefully watching all the girls Haru interacts with every arc. In any case, I really liked how that scene played out, even though it got pretty ridiculous how long Nao was in that bus stop when she didn’t have to travel more than two meters of distance inside. I realize the dramatic effect they were going for, but that was excessive no matter how I look at it. In a way, it reminded me of episode six of To Aru Majutsu no Index where Touma seemed to be running forever to get across a tiny room.
Ultimately, it took Nao putting her life on the line for Sora’s sake to change her opinion of her. I still find it a little hard to believe that Sora would completely okay with Nao right after — to the point that she’s actually helping Haru get on better terms with her — but I’m not the least bit opposed to the happy ending that followed suit. As a bonus of sorts, we also got to see Sora in her yukata, Kozue without her glasses (far right), and Nao with her yukata barely on and in full display for Haru. I guess Nao wears it the (supposedly) traditional way without any underwear. In retrospect, Nao’s arc ended much better than I thought it would, which is actually saying a lot since it got pretty rocky in the middle. As such, it’ll be interesting to see if any of those spiteful feelings are reciprocated in the final arc involving Sora. Episode seven is supposed to be serve as a common episode in Sora’s arc after all, where Haru had already made some progress with Nao. Judging from the preview, it looks like we’re going to be taken all the way back to the cliffhanger at the end of episode one, so I’m guessing there will be some yet to be seen development that will have Haru rethinking things with Nao.
* P.S. I could really use a doner kebab sandwich after Akira kept talking about it.