The conclusion of the Ai arc brings with it terrible acting, an escape from an encampment, a pairing that will never happen but should and also a date between Junichi and Ai. After the events of the festival, Ai heads into the city to buy her brother a gift that she forgot to buy. She then runs into Junichi who had broken away from the cram school training camp for the evening so they could have their promised date. Thanks in part to Umehara’s intervention, it goes successfully.
The first thing which I really should have commented on at some point is the similarity with which she treats her brother Ikuo and Junichi. That may be due in part to the simple fact that experiences involving Ikuo and Junichi blended together often. In this episode, after spotting the action belt on sale in front of the store, she remembered how Junichi had one before and the fun time they had playing around with it. The mere thought that he wouldn’t be around this Christmas Eve drove her to tears.
It also helped that Junichi acts like a younger brother because Junichi doing very little adapting in this relationship. All he has to do to seem somewhat reliable to Ai is to appear to study for college and simply show up for the date. I’m actually willing to just let this go. The tension of not being able to see him for the date was relieved by the fact that he was willing to pull off a very much unplanned escape. He didn’t even think of bringing a coat on a cold December night. Fortunately, he solves that problem in a childish way by borrowing Ai’s old coat after he buys her a new one. There’s no planning or forethought in how he acts around her, which makes him so much like a younger brother.
In this episode in particular, I was more impressed by how some of the minor characters acted. Miya didn’t do all that much other than continue to be the acceptable conduit for the viewer’s fantasies with Sae. Umehara, though, had himself one hell of an episode.
He first comes into the episode complaining about not having a girlfriend on Christmas Eve. His first contribution is to mislead the men chasing after him from the cram school training camp, but that would not be all. In following Junichi and Ai around, he also found himself in the same hotel district. His last attempt at finding a girlfriend that evening was a little awkward.
Junichi and Ai panicked after a sober Takahashi Maya had exited one of the hotels. They ran off before she could react. Umehara was there to try out his pickup line on her. Which seemed to work until they both realized who the other was. The whole scene ran just 30 seconds but there’s a lot there that plays off of the viewer and characters themselves.
First, Maya comes out of the hotel alone. There’s no implication that she was in the hotel for any reason other than to rest after probably drinking too much. Her character was always rather forlorn about romance coming up to near 30 years of age and still being single. Umehara also was coming up to another milestone and forlorn about a lack or romance coming to the end of his high school days. His pickup line is rather effective in implying interest as well as making her feel younger. Ultimately, however, it seems that the forbidden line of teacher and student would not be crossed between these two. Though we don’t get any more from this scene, one can only think they laughed it off and parted awkwardly.
It seems as if the reverse order from the first season has been reversed for the 2nd half of this sequel. Instead of Sae’s arc, we instead get Kaoru. It’s probably better that way as there’s more to explore of the latter’s background. Sae’s arc always was a little different from the others anyway.