「よみがえる約束は修羅場」 (Yomigaeru Yakusoku wa Shuraba)
“Promises That Come Back are a Battlefield”
Alright all you Ai fans: I can see now why the second childhood friend is liked by her fans. It wasn’t apparent to me just how Ai could gain such popularity, until I witnessed this–the dere is strong in this one. Tsun is nice in small doses, though Ai’s defining character strength, her innocent affections, arose from a somewhat ironic development. Most scenes during this episode portrayed a sweet side to Ai, without a Kaoru or a fake story to hide behind. When Ai and Eita crashed through the door, she shed her mature facade, revealing an almost child-like nature. I’m glad that Ai’s burden was visibly lightened this episode–for all the suffering she’s caused herself in the previous episodes, it’s a relief to see her not in a constant blushing-awkward scenario. For Eita, Ai is no longer the hall monitor nor a fellow aspiring cram student: Ai is now A-chan, the first (and still childish) childhood friend. She almost made me abandon Himeko’s ship…if not for crazy diaries and marriage proposals.
In comparison to other weird happenings in Oreshura, the diary isn’t so bad after all. Since Eita can fully relate to recording your daily delusions, the connection this creates for them is actually, in a slightly twisted and crazy way, sweet. After all these years, Eita still knows how to make Ai smile–a small justification for Ai’s decade-long interest in Eita.
Having said that, I’m not calling out anyone’s tastes here, yet one must admit that Ai is a bit crazy due to her dedication to marrying Eita. A small part of me admires that Ai was able to latch onto a promise for ten years, all while the majority of my mind yells, “She’s delusional! Seriously, who upholds a contract made during childhood?” What was a prop during kindergarten has been leveraged by Ai against Eita’s harem. That. Is. Scary. We have seen similar dedication from Shouko towards Yuuji in Baka to Test, as both involve significant “shielding” of the male protagonists until they finally sign the marriage contract (if ever). For anyone who’s seen Baka to Test though, Ai’s dedication spells nothing but trouble for Eita. If anything good came out of digging up the past, it’s that Ai’s dedication has made everything painfully clear to Eita, so much that ignorance is impossible–Eita must act.
Contrary to my predictions, Ai peacefully submitted herself to reopen the club and join as a member, meaning Masuzu’s influence over her is currently limited. Perhaps Ai recognized that by keeping the club open, she could forward her relationship with Eita while easily keeping tabs on the other girls. Even if she closed the club, Ai recognized the amount of contact Eita has with his harem would be unaffected–perhaps upon seeing Chiwa and Himeko at the festival, Ai decided to use the club to her advantage. So what does this mean for the group as a whole? While Masuzu’s affections are hidden behind a fake relationship, Chiwa’s are clouded by childhood friendship, and Himeko’s by a ton of chuunibyou, whatever Ai was hiding behind is pretty much moot. Even as a childhood friend, Eita knows full well the extent of affections that A-chan has for him thanks to her ridiculous forwardness (even more so than Himeko), making running away an ignorant and disrespectful move. The next episode will probably feature Ai’s continued offensive, though perhaps with a counter from the other girls as well, but how will Eita react?
I felt this arc was one of the better arcs, on par at least with Himeko’s introduction. I cringed less, empathized more, and laughed at Eita’s chuunibyou freely. Maybe I’m becoming desensitized to the awkwardness, but the show has definitely become more pleasant to watch, even though the characters still make me shake my head from time to time. Now that the team has assembled, I still wonder what kind of drama they will introduce to finish off the series and, more importantly, how it will most likely relate to Masuzu and her family issues. But no matter what happens, this group of maidens, though dysfunctional, will probably stick up for each other in the end, as all (good) harems eventually do.