The conclusion of the Rihoko arc brings an end to the long awaited question of whether she would ever manage to formalize relations with Junichi. In this episode, we had Rihoko successfully fend off a potential suitor, followed by 17 minutes of awkwardness before Junichi made his move. Altogether, this wasn’t a particularly great episode. However, for those who wanted closure, it successfully accomplished its mission.
So first, the episode picks up with Makabe in the alley. After she confesses to him her feelings for Junichi he backs off. This is entirely necessary just for it to make sense in the Amagami world. While there are undoubtedly people out there who would want Rihoko to end up with any random guy off the street because Junichi (delete as desired) doesn’t deserve her/want to see Junichi humiliated, Makabe has to move on. His scattergun approach to dating just has to be rejected in favor of Junichi hooking up with the girl he’s been close to the whole time. The world just seems too cruel otherwise.
The awkwardness that followed for most of the rest of the episode pretty much fits in as well. It is incredibly difficult to take a relationship that has been firmly in the childhood friend category. They each knew what their own feelings were for the other, though Junichi was safe in knowing that his feelings were reciprocated. However, Miya kept getting in the way at the worst possible time.
Fortunately, her interference came through in the end. Her taste for combining every single shaved ice flavor into a single mountain of flavor meant that her sleeping pattern was disturbed to a heavy extent. So she tried to use the bathroom in Junichi’s room. In the process, it woke both Junichi and Rihoko up so they could have their all important conversation.
It’s actually a pretty well done scene from the beginning. Sparklers mark both the start of their friendship and the start of their relationship. A whole 12 years of history between the two marked by something they did every summer as kids. Coming at the same time as they should be transitioning into something resembling adulthood, it is great symbolism. As Junichi stumbles and the last sparkler stops, it truly marks the end of their childhoods. The summer vacations of their past would be replaced by the feelings for each other that they could not put into words until now.
Now onto the important question of why this arc had to take 6 episodes to get to confessions rather than 4 for all of the other characters. I think the plodding along as friends for over a decade tends to make it harder for them to make the leap to the next stage of their relationship. It had never been defined in romantic or sexual terms when they first became friends.
This is why Makabe’s approach is relevant. He effectively forced Rihoko into framing her relationship with Junichi in different terms than what she was used to. Her overheard confession had the same effect on Junichi. Before, he had just thought of her as a friend with assets that were nice to look at from time to time. Now, he had to ditch the friendship angle and think of her as a woman. That he did so in a single night should actually be commendable from a lead character like him rather than waffling for dozens of episodes doing nothing.
So next week the show moves on to the Ai arc. The first time through had its share of haters, though having watched it recently I couldn’t fault much beyond the infamous talking ramen scene. However, apart from seeing her struggle at swimming again or a new rival arriving, I don’t see how they could manage to add much to the original arc. Then again, the same applied to Tsukasa.