“I Don’t Care if It’s a Lie”
You know what’s better than the obligatory hot springs episode? Why the hot springs episode paired with a wedding of course! KtU has largely gone around in circles the past few weeks, but it seems we will finally get something tangible for all the trouble. Neji has been called out, the girls are pushing, and with only one episode left something has to give. It may not be the most perfect of endings, but KtU has left Neji with no more room for manoeuvre.
Given how most romance shows go, I’m not all that surprised Ririna stumbled across Neji’s little lip locking. Shocked Neji actually initiated yes, but not that it was witnessed. These moments are the prime method for jolting the romantic competition into action, and no matter how contrived and convenient a situation (it’s a running theme in KtU at this point), it was necessary for force Ririna’s hand. This love triangle has been a little too stable for a while now, between the girls remaining friends and Neji never really encountering any pushback. Ririna’s encouragement to Neji to pursue Misaki is just the logical conclusion for the situation, particularly given Misaki remains (in the show’s mind at least) Neji’s “destined” lover. It doesn’t really tilt Neji’s choice in any specific direction, but it does create some sense of consequence which is always needed for proper emotional bloodletting. Neji’s pick will hurt one of the girls, no doubt about it.
What makes this humorous for me is that Neji is finally (finally) starting to realize this. He knows he’s hurting Misaki and wants to do something about it, but hasn’t yet accepted breaking it off is his only real option. Comforting Misaki only delays the inevitable when adult responsibility and societal demands start factoring into personal choices. Neji can either have the love of his life, or a normal life with a different lover, he cannot have both. KtU slyly points this out too, between having a
commissar matchmaking agent preside over a wedding, encouraging teenage weddings by showing the “glamour” of the ceremonies, and the ever subtle parental involvement. Every facet of society is devoted to making the pairings work, from the bottom up showcasing of successful pairings to the top down enforcement of the system. We have not seen this aspect featured much in prior episodes (except maybe the sex ed one), but the consequences are made very clear here: take what you’re given, or lose everything and everyone you ever knew.
With the chips more or less on the table, it all now falls to Neji to make his choice. Normally I’d expect Misaki to win hands down, but thanks to the matchmaking system (and the Hanazawa curse), I only really see two choices: Neji chooses Ririna, or Neji further kicks the can down the road by ambivalently agreeing with Ririna. With KtU’s manga still ongoing it’s unlikely we will see a proper conclusion (which hints to the latter option), but hey you never know—we could easily wind up with an anime original ending and a choice Ririna-Neji kiss. Given KtU’s earlier imaginative use of romance tropes, I wouldn’t bet on a shocker finale being entirely out of the question.