As soapy as the show can get, Araburu sure knows how to build tension and hit hard when it needs to. This episode utilized its top-quality direction by giving us one scene after another of hair-raising, heart-sinking suspense as the girls navigate harrowing and troubling situations while they’re at their most vulnerable yet.
While it was difficult to be objective about Hongou’s storyline, they did a great job at building up a sense of dread as we’re left guessing about the motives of both Hongou and Milo. For Milo, it became clear over time that he was giving her exposure therapy, trying to discourage or scare her out of it by intimidating her with the possibility of having sex in a cheap love motel. But for Hongou, it was hard to gauge how far she was willing to go when the ball is in her court for initiating with Milo. The episode plays up the standard bait-and-switch conventions with Hongou’s plans to make a move at a red light being thwarted by a series of green lights and Hongou spending time hunkering down in the tub to desperately look up ways for her to initiate. However, when she eventually attempts to force herself on him, she’s completely taken aback when she finds out that he’s entirely unaroused by her and her advances. Milo is definitely going about the situation in a risky way as he’s willing to get stuck in a love motel with a student and expose herself to him regularly so that he would inadvertently feed into Hongou’s wildest fantasies and her infatuation for him. However, it is hard to watch Hongou fall apart as she is far from mentally sound, tearfully demanding him to explain what makes her different from the teacher he has a crush on, and what it is about her body that doesn’t give him an erection. It might be the most eccentric storyline in comparison to the others, but it does create a reason to be concerned about the well-being of Hongou and Milo after this when they’ve submerged themselves in the grittier, seedier, and riskier aspects of sexuality that it will be hard to see a situation where Hongou’s self-esteem wouldn’t be torn to shreds or a situation where Milo wouldn’t get caught red-handed trying to dare Hongou to be sexually expressive.
One key moment in this episode was Momoko’s confession to Niina. After a phenomenal cameo appearance from live footage of Street Fighter V, Momoko had the resolve to reach out to Niina to talk more personally about her feelings for her. But the situation grows dreadful when Sugimoto pulls the (for a lack of better words) fuckboy routine by turning around and degrading her after she rejected hanging out with him at the festival. His drastic measure to grab her arm ended up being the complete 180 that would reinforce her decision to confess to Niina even harder, specifically telling her that she needs to purify her by touching the arm that he soiled with his grip. Now, this scene was particularly striking as a well-directed moment because of how it was arranged. A drunken man’s karaoke rendition of a song about rejection is the backdrop of the scene as the song lingers about while Niina mournfully reflects on how her feelings of inadequacy have her feeling as if no one would ever reach out for her when she’s suffering. The situation is initially set up to have Niina mirror the same feelings Shinji has before meeting Kaworu in Evangelion where the lack of any solid bond or relationship in their lives would make them susceptible to becoming attached to anyone that would offer them unconditional affection. Niina wishes her Kaworu was Izumi and that she’d be able to fill the empty void in her heart with Izumi’s attention and/or lust as her one means of gaining that connection. But instead, she is given a Kaworu in the form of Momoko, a friend who is vaguely associated with her who expects Niina to be the girl to help her explore her budding sexuality. Niina’s feelings are left up in the air as we’re left with the final image of her scrunched up in the street while Momoko tearfully regrets the possibility that she ended any possibility of even staying friends with Niina if she gets rejected by her. It’s a highly evocative scene that really wrenches out the misery and sorrow the two characters are facing now that they’re both at their lowest points.
For Niina, her lowest comes from being rejected by Izumi in spite of his own wavering resolve to stay with Kazusa. In what will be the beginning of a rude awakening for Izumi, he discovers that Niina not only is interested in having him cheat on Kazusa with her but do so under the pretense that he would be able to do sexual activities with Niina that Kazusa would be too shy or scared to try. By presenting the idea of having Niina as a friend with benefits, Izumi is left thinking about how much of a role sex plays in his desires from a relationship. Kazusa fills the emotional void of having someone who he’s been fond of since he was young. But as a kid with raging hormones, he’s also hooked on porn and is thinking about sex far more than Kazusa. With this in mind, Niina always had the upper hand in being fully fascinated with the idea of having sex to the point that she knows exactly which buttons to press to get Izumi’s mind racing. Izumi’s situation is depressing in the sense that it dooms his relationship with Kazusa
when his curiosity about sex is heavily contrasted with Kazusa’s utter fear about facing anything remotely sexual. She might want to take it slow, but will Izumi have the constitution and fortitude to wait? What really was on Izumi’s mind when he said he loved Kazusa with such a sad look on his face? At the same time, Izumi being worried about neighbors catching him with Kazusa is also the beginning of the end, or rather the tipping point as their relationship starts to careen far down into the bottom of the river until their log flume crashes head-first into a thorny abyss of lust. It’ll be spicy to see just how far Niina’s interference will go to sabotage this relationship, but sadly, the episode ends on the unfortunate news of Jujo leaving school due to her sudden pregnancy. Rika has had it relatively easy because Shun is an absolute angel, but her connection with Jujo was important enough that it will be bound to cause ripples within her psyche to begin to feel personally responsible for trying to put her prudish past aside to reach out to a student who happened to be a pregnant teen who engaged in the immoral acts she always frowned upon.