「Legend of Love」
We’re in for an eventful episode this week as each of the girls makes their grand move at the Bonfire festival. What happens at this point will come to define the direction the series goes as we’re left in the last moments to reflect on Rika pledging to be more forward with Shun, Momoko breaking off the one relationship that would prevent her from moving forward, Hongou seeing that she doesn’t have as much of a chance in getting closer to Milo-sensei, Izumi finally confessing to Kazusa, and Niina’s next course of actions in her plan to take Izumi away from her closest friend.
Before we get into the dramatic sections of this episode, let’s start out with something far more palatable. As with every week, Rika’s perspective is the one most rooted in reality as her struggles come from overcoming her guarded nature for her new boyfriend. The past couple episodes kept their relationships on the rocks when Rika’s reluctance to come out as a couple with Shun hurt his feelings to the point where he found more solace hanging out with other friends and acquaintances than taking a glance at Rika, who had only reminded him of how she insists on only having a relationship when no one’s looking. It isn’t until she gets a deeper understanding of her new friend Jujo and her personal connection with love that she realizes that she’s been hurting Shun by like she’s ashamed of their relationship. As a side note, Jujo is my favorite character so far with how down-to-earth her personality is as a dim yet honest girl. The story definitely tries to subvert the gyaru stereotypes that Rika is infamously repulsed by with how her boyfriend from another school turns out to be a cute bookish-looking boy who comes to visit her for the festival. But through her understanding of what kind of person Jujo is for taking any grandstanding expressions of love to heart, Rika is compelled to openly sumo-stomp on Shun’s shadow and declare her love for him in front of the bonfire. What results is an incredibly cute moment where Shun looks away for a quick second to think only to leap into her arms and look as happy as he did when she accepted his offer for a date.
The wholesome and teary-eyed moments that come from Rika and Shun’s development are quickly dashed away though by the main attraction of the show; Niina and her continued efforts to try to dunk on her best friend Kazusa. She’s become increasingly forward in recent episodes about wanting to find some kind of spark with Izumi at the expense of her friendship with Kazusa. Knowing that Kazusa wanted to use the Lit Club story as a way to confess to Izumi, Niina uses this knowledge to sabotage her plans by dodging her footstep and grabbing Izumi’s chest in front of everyone. Saegusa’s presence can be blamed for the measures Niina took as he’s been constantly planting seeds of doubt in her head as to whether she actively pursue a guy that her best friend is interested in. It’s also very clear that Niina is a broken person whose psychological abuse at the hands of a pedophilic teacher left her highly distrustful of everyone around her except the one guy who’s been predatorial to her all these years.
On the other hand, her paradoxical nature has transformed her into a spiteful tornado of deceit, ready to wipe into all of those in her way no matter who it may be or how they might feel about her. The rage she feels about Kazusa’s insecurity issues and her inability to make the first move caused her to channel all of the years she’s been accused of man-stealing into the desire she has to utterly destroy Kazusa. She pities herself and her situation, yet at the same time feels nothing from humiliating her best friend, causing trouble for the Literature Club as they try to play damage control, and putting Izumi on the spot by forcing him to react to his childhood friend being thrown under the bus by choosing between her and the girl who is pursuing him far more aggressively in front of everyone in attendance. Now that Momoko was able to eavesdrop on Niina and Saegusa’s conversation at the end, it will also come into question whether her interest in Niina will interfere with letting Kazusa know of what she heard. After this stunt, it will be difficult for both the Literature Club and the student body to be as welcoming of her presence as they used to be given how public Niina’s betrayal was, and it will be hard to gauge what the tone of the remaining episodes will be as the rest of the cast will have to take into account what Niina did and how it will affect their personal involvements with both her and Kazusa in the future.