At the end of the last episode of Sprout (スプラウト), we left the four principal characters in what seemed like a stable arrangement. Miku (Morikawa Aoi) had tried to keep Souhei (Chinen Yuri) away from his girlfriend Miyuki (Kojima Fujiko) for just one night, and failed miserably. With Souhei rushing to meet Miyuki and thus reaffirm their bond to each other, Miku finally embraced Hayato (Lewis Jesse). Oh, by the way, did I mention that this is a teen romance series?

Equilibrium 1Equilibrium 2

Ah, young love! But is it real, or is Miku just desperate for comfort after being rejected by Souhei. Either way, I think Hayato believes it’s the start of something beautiful.

Good Times 1Good Times 2

At the other end of things, Souhei promises not to make Miyuki uneasy again.

SouheiMiyuki

The next day, Miku appears absolutely delighted by Hayato asking her to be his girlfriend, but haven’t we been here before?

Miku Giddy With Joy 1Miku Giddy With Joy 2Miku Giddy With Joy 3Miku Giddy With Joy 4

Looking on, Takigawa (Hashimoto Ryosuke) has precisely the right idea about why Miku’s so happy, but uses his game lingo to describe it (which might be a better way of putting it, anyway).

Takigawa Explains It All 1Takigawa Explains It All 2Takigawa Explains It All 3

Miku is just a delight to watch at this point . . .

Miku Gets a Message 1Miku Gets a Message 2Miku Gets a Message 3

. . . but what’s going to happen when she sees Souhei?

Miku and Souhei

The awkwardness is there:

Miku and Souhei Awkwardness 1Miku and Souhei Awkwardness 2Miku and Souhei Awkwardness 3

They both apologize for their confrontation the previous night.

Miku and Souhei Apologies 1Miku and Souhei Apologies 2

But then we get the thoughts going on in her mind, and it turns out Miku’s condition is stable – no cardiac arrhythmia:

Inside Miku's Head 1Inside Miku's Head 2

Has reciprocating Hayato’s love for her finally allowed her to move on from Souhei, or is she just trying to fool herself into thinking so?

She Sure Looks Happy

I love seeing them take tests on stuff I recognize (and can still, thankfully, do):

Math is Universal

Arata (Yasui Kentaro) and Takeru (Tanaka Juri) are jubilant at the end of the test, and since Miku was in a good mood, perhaps she did well, too.

Arata and Takeru Celebrate

Arata and Takeru are totally stunned by her exuberance.

Totally BouncingStunned

Hayato is going to have to raise his tension (excitement) level by a few orders of magnitude, or he’ll look like a block of wood next to Miku if she keeps behaving like this. But where is she rushing off to?

Miku on the Run

. . . oh, no . . .

YoroshikuUh-oh

Well, whatever they did to her, Arata and Takeru didn’t recognize her when she flew past them afterwards, though they thought she looked cute:

Who Was That? 1Who Was That? 2

They find out what’s up soon enough, though.

Miku's Secret

Why do Arata and Takeru look so uncertain when they’re told that Miku is dating Hayato?

Keep It to YourselvesReally, Just Keep It to Yourselves

Maybe it’s because they remember seeing this:

Yeah, That

Well, if they kept that from Souhei, surely they can keep it from Miku, right? Right? They’re not going to ruin her little slice of joy when that hug wasn’t even Hayato’s fault nor anything he wanted, are they?

For now, Hayato can still have an incident-free first date with his polka-dotted princess (how the heck did Arata and Takeru not recognize her?).

Meeting the Polka-Dotted Princess 1Meeting the Polka-Dotted Princess 2Meeting the Polka-Dotted Princess 3Meeting the Polka-Dotted Princess 4

Hayato has an interesting smirk on his face as he rises and Miku approaches:

Meeting the Polka-Dotted Princess 5

On the flip side, Souhei breaks the news about Miku and Hayato getting together to Miyuki.

Couple One Talks About Couple Two 1Couple One Talks About Couple Two 2Couple One Talks About Couple Two 3

Miku and Hayato practice being on a first-name basis (which is the cutest bit of awkwardness in the entire episode, and quite telling about how intimate using another person’s first name is in Japan).

First Name Basis 1First Name Basis 2First Name Basis 3First Name Basis 4

They don’t quite manage it on the first try. Will they be able to fulfill their goal, and be able to call each other “Miku” and “Hayato” by the end of the first date?

First Name Basis 5First Name Basis 6First Name Basis 7First Name Basis 8

That’s not the only struggle they’ll have on their first date. After all, there’s still the matter of holding hands:

I Want to Hold Your Hand 1

Can she hold his hand without ripping it away like she did before?

I Want to Hold Your Hand 2

These are really idiosyncratic problems to have on a first date, aren’t they? Well, I’ll leave you to find out how they did on them.

There is a struggle on the other side of the love square, except this one is entirely in Souhei’s head. Consider his expressions when he sees Miku and Hayato together:

Got Angst? 1Got Angst? 2Got Angst? 3

Wow, it looks like the tables have really turned, haven’t they? How will Souhei deal with this twist in his life?

In terms of acting, Chinen-kun is really earning his position in the credits now, and though some of it felt a bit forced, a lot of what teenagers do seems forced anyway, so wasn’t too far off the mark. Jesse-kun was believable, though his character’s range of expression is so limited, I hesitate to say too much about his acting. Morikawa-chan remains excellent, and has really kept up her performance standards from episode one on. The character of Miyuki is so uneven and frustrating that it’s tough to understand what’s going on with her. I think Kojima-san has managed to tread a fine line – the viewer has to see Miyuki as Miku’s rival, but we can’t quite bring ourselves to hate her. Yet.

This episode was a yawner, but I think it was necessary to give Miku and Hayato a chance while moving more of the pressure onto the Souhei-Miyuki side, which had started out as so blissfully perfect that it was nauseating. I think we’re going to get more Souhei-Miyuki chaos in the next episode, judging from the preview, so expect that trend to continue.

I have just one hope going forward – that Arata and Takeru keep their traps shut for a while. I doubt the fact that they saw Miyuki’s hug of Hayato was thrown in without the intention of putting it to use, but Miku and Hayato deserve a couple more episodes without that wrench being thrown in, don’t they?

Thanks to arisu subs for the subtitles.