「揺れ, の, その先」 (Yure, no, Sono Saki)
“Jiggling, Then, After”
After the conclusion of Episode 06 left us with the general impression that Kazusa would be unconsolable about the possibility of losing against Niina if she was ever interested in Izumi, we’re given a little closure at least to her inner turmoil about her new friend for the time being in this episode. It marks a point in the series where we see the inner-workings of the slowly building tension emerge from each of the girls. Their conflicts haven’t exactly hit their fever pitch, but it sets the scene for future developments that will prove to be explosive once we hit those crossroads.
It hasn’t been much of a secret that I’ve preferred Rika’s side of the story because it’s the most down-to-earth the series gets when she’s the main focus. From her perspective, she’s just trying to get by in high school and put in all of her effort towards her work. And yet, when love rears its head at her, she’s given more of a chance to come outside of her shell and achieve the happiness she never thought she would have ever felt. However, this only sparks her love of the concept of love as her negligence towards her boyfriend Shun will definitely come back to bite her if she isn’t more open about being in a relationship with him. For as much as she talks about finally having doors open for her and finally being able to enjoy the feeling of love, she doesn’t care much for openly expressing it, and it’s coming off as far more hurtful for Shun.
And while Rika faces this double-bind, Momoko is going through some interesting development as well. This episode marked the moment where Momoko is opening up to being attracted to women. As she talks with Rika about not really being into love, Momoko mentions how she has become uninterested in guys on a surface level as well as through sheer attraction. She is repulsed by how men look and behave, going on to elaborate on how women are easier to connect with and admire how soft and smooth women are. There are multiple context clues as well with her personal interactions with Niina taking on a different light when she is taken aback by the nape of her neck and can’t help but remember how she looked in the shared bath. At the same time, the guy who is currently interested in her ends up getting on her nerves, constantly sending her messages she doesn’t care to see.
The most intriguing developments in this episode happen from Kazusa and Niina’s points of view. After a perfectly timed pillow fight ends up dissuading Kazusa from seeing Niina as a threat, she finds herself taking positive steps to be more open to Izumi about how she feels for him. These strides also work in her favor as Izumi is being more reflective about what Kazusa means to him. Although he mainly saw her as a sisterly kind of friend, there were moments in his childhood that reminded him that as much as she enjoys his company because he is fun to hang out with, she is still a girl who would be prone to falling in love with him.
For Niina, however, she doesn’t share the same resolution since her habit of instigating and picking fights didn’t resolve her issues with Kazusa like she would’ve hoped. She kept forcing a confrontation to happen by goading Kazusa into admitting that she thinks Niina is a threat to her love for Izumi, but that only caused Kazusa to shut down. It seemed like she got what she wanted later on when Kazusa cleared the air with her and said that she shouldn’t have doubted her about seeing him. But on Niina’s side, her feelings for Izumi are complex enough where she was looking to have somebody give her permission to destroy her friendship with Kazusa and pursue Izumi. That’s where she comes back to visit her creepy acting coach, Saegusa, who allows her to kiss him to see how she feels about it. Despite not feeling much from their kiss, she feels guilty because she wants to experience it with Izumi. Saegusa, being the worst role-model of all time, uses Niina’s efforts to open up as a means to encourage her to take Izumi because people weren’t made to belong to one another, he wants to watch her lose her virginity, and he doesn’t want Niina to turn into a boring woman. As much of a super-creep as Saegusa is, Niina isn’t the most stable person for asking him for advice, to begin with, and it seems like things will only escalate for worse if she keeps humoring the idea of pushing away friends who would be healthier for her to have.