Sprout (スプラウト) is a half-hour teen romance series based on a popular manga by Nanba Atsuko. It stars Chinen Yuri as Souhei, Morikawa Aoi as Miku, Lewis Jesse as Katagiri Hayato, and Kojima Fujiko as Ozawa Miyuki. In the last episode, we saw the tension and conflict level pick up perceptibly, as all the characters, not just Miku, are getting rather confused about their feelings. Finally, halfway into the series, it looks like we’ve finally got three real characters, but Miyuki remains a real puzzle. Maybe her personality will become clearer in this episode.

When we left Miyuki, she was hugging an entirely unwilling Hayato, right after telling Souhei that she couldn’t live without him. Hence the frustration I had with her character:

Get You Hands Off Him!Hayato Looking Awkward

Meanwhile, Souhei, who reciprocated Miyuki’s feelings, now realizes he has feelings for Miku (I think Miyuki probably caught onto this before he did), and feels appropriately guilty about it. Of course, he doesn’t know about Miyuki’s longtime crush on Hayato.

Souhei Wants to Check on Miku . . .. . . But Turns Away Guiltily

Though she had an interesting way of emphasizing it, Miyuki tells Hayato to get a firm hold on Miku, confusing him. This, however, is an age-old logic – if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with. So, it looks like Miyuki wants to make sure Hayato keeps Miku away from Souhei, and in exchange, she’s willing to keep Hayato at arms’ length (after the hug, presumably) and stick with Souhei. This is almost certainly not going to work, since we’ve got too many episodes left.

Miyuki and Hayato 1Miyuki and Hayato 2Miyuki and Hayato 3Miyuki and Hayato 4

It’s especially not going to work, because Souhei’s friends, Arata (Yasui Kentaro) and Takeru (Tanaka Juri), see Miyuki’s embrace of Hayato.

Takeru and Arata 2

They decide not to tell Souhei about it, but there’s a good chance that silence won’t hold up, either.

Takeru and Arata 3

Things are going to get complicated in the Ikenouchi household, with Miku and boarder Souhei now knowing their feelings for each other . . .

Miku MopesSouhei Solemn

. . . or is it? Of course, this angst isn’t helping Miku in school, either, but Souhei surprisingly pops up at the classroom window:

Miku Still DepressedOut of Nowhere

He doesn’t seem reluctant to close the distance with her at all, but she turns away. He tries to make arrangements with Arata and Takeru, then leaves . . .

Shocked MikuTurns AwaySouhei Uncomfortable

. . . with her eyes then looking longingly at his back:

Only When He's Not LookingHer Eyes Can't Leave Him

*sigh* But then there’s another girl in the picture, noticing how Miku’s eyes stare:

The Other Girl - Haruka

That girl, Haruka, who has appeared before with harsh words for Miku, now approaches Souhei with the same bluntness, asking him whether he likes Miyuki or Miku.

Haruka and Souhei 1Haruka and Souhei 2Haruka and Souhei 3

His face shows his current confusion:

Haruka and Souhei 4Haruka and Souhei 5Haruka and Souhei 6

As we expected from Haruka’s sharpness at Miku in the earlier episode, she has her own ambitions for Souhei. Is she going to be a real player for his affections?

Haruka and Souhei 7Haruka and Souhei 8

Now Souhei knows that he’s too popular for his own good, and it starts to show:

Too Many Girls . . . 1Too Many Girls . . . 2Too Many Girls . . . 3

This is more like it! It’s about time he started feeling some pressure, and we start to see some weakness in that ever-present smile.

The virus is spreading, too. Not only do we have Haruka in the picture, but Takeru has shown a hint of feeling for Miyuki before. Now, his expression as he sees her speaks volumes about what he’s thinking (kudos to Tanaka Juri-kun for pulling this off – making his sentiments clear despite being given so little time and no direct dialogue). He now knows she’s not inextricably tied to Souhei, so there’s a chance for him. He also knows that, as a friend, he can tell Souhei what he honestly saw – maybe he should tell Souhei. Of course, sowing that division between Souhei and Miyuki . . . well, that gives him an opportunity, doesn’t it? But taking that sort of advantage is not the sort of thing a friend would do, which is why he didn’t want to tell Souhei in the first place. I don’t know if all of this is going through Takeru’s mind as he stares at Miyuki, but there’s no doubt about what he wants.

Takeru and Miyuki 1Takeru and Miyuki 2

Miyuki gets more and more of an indication that Souhei’s eyes are turning to Miku. At the same time, Miku doesn’t get that sense at all.

The Primary TriangleWhere's He Looking?

We’re missing a character, aren’t we? Hayato has been out of the picture since the opening, but then Miku meets his younger brother Kou (Jinguji Yuta). When he tells her that it’s his fifteenth birthday, Miku decides that a bigger party is called for . . .

Little Brother KouTurning 15 in the Third PersonMiku Has an Idea

. . . so, much to the dismay of Hayato, she invites both Kou and Hayato to the packed Ikenouchi house.

HayatoThe Katagiri Brothers 1The Katagiri Brothers 2The Katagiri Brothers 3

Miku’s mother makes them welcome, calling Hayato part of the family. I wonder how that hit him.

Like FamilyFamily?

He tackles Kou after Kou, as usual, reads his mind:

The Katagiri Brothers 3The Katagiri Brothers 4The Katagiri Brothers 5The Katagiri Brothers 6

In the midst of this cute brotherly play, Miku walks in, and it can’t help but put a smile on her face. It certainly shows a side of Hayato neither she nor we have seen before.

Miku SmilesHayato NoticesA Side of Hayato She Hasn't SeenHis Cute Side

Somehow, we’re still left rooting for Hayato. Among the four main characters, he’s the only one that hasn’t shown conflicted preferences. Will he stay true to Miku until the end?

Miku and Hayato

Why do we get the feeling that Miku only came up with this birthday party idea to bring Souhei back to the house and break up his alone-time with Miyuki? Oh, yes, because Kou is Souhei’s soccer buddy and she messages Souhei to tell him about the party.

Souhei Gets the Message

Miyuki immediately appreciates the plot, too, and you can see the shadow pass across her face.

Miyuki's Protectiveness 1Miyuki's Protectiveness 2

She likes it even less when he refers to the Ikenouchi house as “our house.” (The term “uchi” is a more intimate term than the English words imply, since it also means “our family,” so it’s a surprise that Souhei would use it when he’s just staying for the summer.)

Souhei Says "Uchi"Miyuki's Protectiveness 3

Souhei can’t resist the party invitation – after all, it would sorely disappoint Kou when the party is being held in the home where Souhei lives. Miyuki is amiable to the idea of breaking their burger date and surprisingly rejects the idea of attending the party, saying that she’s going home.

Souhei and Miyuki 1Souhei and Miyuki 2Souhei and Miyuki 3

Of course, this is meant to put pressure on Souhei to choose her over Kou (over Miku, really, but Souhei doesn’t quite understand that). Their relationship is in trouble, because Miyuki is unwilling to come right out and say what she’s thinking, and Souhei’s not the best at reading other people. She should know that, after being with him so long, so the fault is with her.

Souhei Doesn't Get It 1Souhei Doesn't Get It 2Souhei Doesn't Get It 3

That brings us to the halfway point in the show, and I think I’ve done more than enough summary. How will the party turn out? Will Souhei figure out what made Miyuki upset? With Miku apparently angling for Souhei at this party, will Hayato be able to take the opportunity to mend the awkwardness between them? Will Miku’s Dad let them get on with the meal?

Permission To Begin 1Permission To Begin 2Permission To Begin 3

Can Kou blow out all the candles at one go?

Blowing Out the Candles 1Blowing Out the Candles 2Blowing Out the Candles 3Blowing Out the Candles 4

Ultimately, maybe Souhei should have stuck with his thoughts from middle school:

And they all seem to like you . . .

This episode mostly kept up the pace of the last episode. There was a definite build in the mutual anxieties of Souhei, Miyuki, and Miku. To a large extent, Hayato was not as affected, though he benefited from character development through his interactions with Kou. We learned more about the background between Souhei and Miyuki, getting some really essential facts. Souhei was the biggest beneficiary of this episode, and we got to see more sides of him than ever before.

By the end of the episode, things appear to have reached an equilibrium, which is good. I didn’t think the show could keep ratcheting up the tension indefinitely. I think the burden will continue to be firmly on Souhei’s shoulders in the next episode, and I look forward to seeing more acting from Chinen-kun.

Thanks to arisu_subs for the excellent subtitles.