「背比べ / 寒がり / お誘い / 二択クイズ」 (Sekurabe / Samugari / Osasoi / Nitaku Quiz)
“Who’s Taller / I Hate the Cold / Invitation / Two Question Quiz”
In this episode, Nishikata and Takagi’s back-and-forth between each other is starting to raise suspicion among their friends and classmates on what the nature of their relationship is. Mina was the first one to catch onto their bond once she caught a glimpse of Takagi teasing Nishikata with her cold hands, but the idea that they might be an item has spread much quicker than she could’ve predicted. The invitation section in particular was interesting as it was Nishikata’s time of reflection where he has to hash over what it means for him to prefer walking home with Takagi over plans with other classmates. He doesn’t want to get home without attempting to get Takagi back, but at the same time, he has to approach the idea that he might be fond of the attention that Takagi gives him despite not being a fan of her teasing. The fact that their classmates are paying attention to how much time the two spend with each other hammers on the point that there’s only so much time before they end up seeing their own antics as more than just teasing.
This concept is solidified further in the Two-Question section when his plan to give her challenging hypotheticals backfires when she starts asking them back. It lends itself to the idea that Nishikata is so focused on seeing Takagi as only getting off to teasing him that he doesn’t take into account that the questions she would ask directly involve how much attention or affection he would want from her. Both of her questions confront him on this as he wouldn’t want Takagi to disappear to prevent himself from being teased, but would rather kiss her than fail any exam he ever took. He is put on the spot for her hypotheticals, and only has time to reflect on the question about Takagi disappearing, but it emphasizes the shift in tone the series has been transitioning towards from Takagi playing practical jokes on Nishikata or sabotaging his school life to having her send him on an emotional rollercoaster with hints of affection.
Content-wise, this episode was very clever with its transitions and callbacks. The Mina and Sanae teasing Yukari with how cold their hands are merges immediately with Takagi using her hands to tease Nishikata, giving Mina the information to work with in the Invitation segment. While many of the segments are fragmented or set at different points of time, the two segments play off of one another and the shift from Cold Hands to Invitation is seamless and natural with how Mina’s suspicions are explored with her and Nishikata’s friends. Similarly, it was ingenious for the height-measuring contest to be kept at the beginning so that it sneaks back up around the end when she leans in close for what looked like would be the kiss Nishikata chose in the hypothetical… only to confirm who was taller. The series composition is commendable for being able to orchestrate these chapters to bounce off of each other in such a pattern that they all fit this well in an episode.