Fate is a major theme that runs across these two episodes, which are best taken together as a miniature arc of sorts. The focus is on Hiro Segawa, a girl trapped by her own fate to marry someone and take over the family shrine. Much like Nagi and Erika, the adults in her life have decided how her life will be shaped, and as a “good” daughter, ascendant, and future wife, she’s not supposed to complain. It’s a familiar story that any kid who’s ever been expected to be capital-m More understands. And while my parents never expected me to marry, I felt the same pressures Hiro did to excel and represent my family, which is why I’ve really taken a shine to her.
A lot of episode 5 is comprised of gags derived from Nagi having to get used to Erika being at school while Segawa gets close to Erika as a secret fan of hers. It’s perfectly love triangle-ish, but doesn’t feel disruptive since Erika and Nagi are still in the “won’t” part of their relationship. What does start to butt up against the lightheartedness is the reality of the plot coming in: that is, the fact that now, Nagi and Erika have to hide that they’re living together.
There’s something so indescribably touching about Shikimori and Izumi just being so genuinely into each other, especially in a genre where portrayals of courtship can be uncomfortably misogynistic (some, not all, because there’s a heck of a lot of good romcoms, but there’s definitely some stinkers). Izumi doesn’t have to neg Shikimori to get her to like him, and Shikimori doesn’t have to go full Tsundere Mode on Izumi. Instead, this is just the tale of two teens who are in love and who you’d like to see stay in love through the end of this cour and beyond. I like to think that Izumi and Shikimori will be a lifelong couple, high school sweethearts forever tethered together by these halcyon days.
Episode 4 is a decidedly light-hearted fare: Segawa continues to be literally the nicest girl in Nagi’s entire school and gets set up as a somewhat dramatic love interest despite her own pending nuptials, Sachi is just the cutest little sister ever, and the cast continues to become more and more fleshed out as individuals collectively thrown into a topsy-turvy situation.
But it’s the climax of this episode that really shines. Izumi decides to carry Shikimori up a lengthy series of steps leading up to a shrine (largely because her feet are killing her due to her sandals) so they can watch the fireworks with a genuinely gorgeous view. It’s romantic, it’s sweet, and it’s really good for conveying just how much these two care about each other. The show could have easily chosen to have Izumi trip and fall for comedic effect, but instead, he makes it to the top, settles Shikimori on a bench next to him, and they just watch the fireworks together with no incident.
Overall, episode 3 is pretty darn good on the characterization front: Nagi and Erika have grown quite a bit more likable, enough that I’m earnestly looking forward to their romance eventually beginning. Of course, a potential plot wrench has been thrown in with the “will they, won’t they” of Segawa, Nagi’s classmate and test exam frenemy. Still, this is yet another couple I kinda wanna stan as things get complicated and a bit more curious between those storked kiddos.
There’s lots of good tidbits this week, though I’ll admit that the gag about Shikimori secretly being a bad cook definitely josses my idea that this series is gonna do anything with how it initially poked at gender roles. It feels like a minor loss but… it is what it is, you know?
A lot of episode 4 is just friendship: there are some romantic moments, sure, but the bigger story is that of friendship, and just how wonderful platonic love can be. It’s nice to see the show open up to that message: while I’m fully here for ShikIzumi, I’m also very much starting to get invested in their friends, and the beautiful simplicity of their joyful, everyday lives.
A lot of Nagi and Erika’s relationship is going to be proverbial bridges. Despite being integrated into each other’s families, they’ve got a lot to do before they’re even close to being friends, nevermind a couple that is able to understand and empathize with one another. There are worlds between them, and I’m intensely curious to see how these cuckoos overcome them in future episodes.
Like I said in the premiere, I have no clue if this will develop towards actual commentary about gender roles; if anything, I expect that it probably won’t, and it doesn’t need to be – just watching the genuine chemistry between these two teens is more than engaging enough.