With Sprout’s successor series – Piece – already airing its first episode, I think it’s time for me to give a final review of this drama.

Are we expecting any surprises in this episode? Miku (Morikawa Aoi)’s going to get with Souhei (Chinen Yuri), isn’t she? Well, not for a while, apparently. You see, not only did they move forward a year at the end of the last episode – from the end of one summer to the start of another – but we also have an extra half-hour to spare. On the bright side, at least we’ll get a last dose of excellent screenshots before I have to be critical about this drama.

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We begin with Miku’s voice-over telling us that nothing has happened since Souhei left a year ago (I’ll comment on this lost year later in the review).

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Boys are still trying to win Miyuki (Kojima Fujiko) without luck, leaving Takeru (Tanaka Juri) to think he might still have a chance:

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The next scene has Miku, Souhei and Hayato crossing paths, but saying nothing to each other except standard greetings. At least Souhei and Hayato are still friends.

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So, they’re just classmates. Agenda for the episode: get Miku and Souhei together. Who’s going to be up to the task? Well, not Souhei and Miku themselves, since they haven’t managed it for a year.

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In completely unrelated events, Souhei is made captain of the soccer team, and Hayato’s younger brother Kou (Jinguji Yuta) is now on the team, giving his senpai a broad smile.

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Could it be that Miku’s friends will get her to break the ice with Souhei? They seem to understand Miku is still pining for him, but unwilling to act on her instincts.

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She remembers the moment he became her “fated person”:

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But now, even though she sees Souhei practicing and her friends try to push her, Miku resists and walks away, denying that Souhei is fated for her.

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Souhei sees her walking past without a glance at him.

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Takeru and Arata (Yasui Kentaro) talk over the situation between Souhei and Miku. Well, if Miku’s friends can’t push Miku, these two won’t be able to get Souhei to move – there has to be a symmetry to these things.

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Miku mopes. Has she been doing this for the whole year?

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But, reaching home, she sees a bicycle in the yard and a familiar face at the barbeque.

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As he’s about to leave after the meal, she rushes out to him. Could this be it?

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They walk together up to a corner, but manage to say nothing of substance to each other, and part with a longing in their hearts that they lack the words, or the guts, to express.

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Someone slap some sense into these two! Ah, I think I see one of the two characters left who might be capable of it:

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So this is it, huh? Miku and Souhei have to get the blessing of Miyuki and Hayato, right? That way, there’s no guilt at all and their romance can proceed cleanly.

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Sure enough, after Miyuki broaches the subject of Souhei with Miku, we turn to Souhei meeting Hayato:

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And, of course, Hayato starts the conversation about Miku.

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Wait a minute – you mean they haven’t talked this over in the better part of a year, and both Miyuki and Hayato decide to do it on the same day? This is taking symmetry a bit too far.

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One thing that wasn’t symmetric – Hayato literally knocking some sense into Souhei:

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Well, now that Souhei and Miku have permission, there’s no stopping them, and after a few flashbacks of the events of the series, they poetically seal the deal in the very place where it all started.

Sweet. By the way, have I mentioned symmetry yet?

The trouble is with symmetry is that it contains far too much order – it lacks the unpredictable turns that make a story interesting. There’s a beauty to it, but it is an unrealistic beauty.

The drama ends to the tune of “Tsunagu Te to Te,” and random shots of scenery mixed with shots of Miku and Souhei.

Before I begin my rant, let me just say that the acting was fine. Morikawa-chan helped me survive the start of the series, and Chinen-kun picked it up in the second half. Except in the last couple of episodes, Kojima-san was inscrutable as Miyuki, but maybe that was the way she was meant to be. I feel like Jesse-kun’s character was just plain abandoned, so he really didn’t get to show much by way of acting chops.

The problem throughout this series was with the writing and the pace. For instance, most of the episodes ended in cliffhangers that promised an increase in tension and conflict, but that invariably fizzled out at the very beginning of the next episode. Many promising situations – Arata and Takeru seeing Miyuki hug Hayato, for instance – were taken in the least interesting direction possible. At every turn, the writers sought to avoid conflict and strife between the characters, and thus robbed the story of nearly all the interest it could have had. There was angst, but instead of letting it release in dramatic fashion, they just slowed the pace to let it cool.

Instead, they relied solely on lack of communication between the characters – an unwillingness to admit to feelings – to move the story along. Does this happen in real life? Yes. Does it make for an interesting story? Not without some side intrigue or characters with intricate depth (see Jane Austen).

Speaking of depth, the character really never developed an adequate amount of it. Miku was probably the best developed character, but her feelings for Souhei stayed shallow throughout the series – he is, from start to finish, her fated person because of that moment where he gave her his hand. She doesn’t learn more about him, or find other things to like about him (as far as we could tell, even when we could read her thoughts). Of course, he has a nice personality, but what about his personal struggles? She knows nothing about them. She never learned anything about his trouble with his parents, even though that was what brought him to her house. If his issues with his parents had played a larger role in the story instead of being something distant, their relationship could have grown into something substantial through it.

The delay of a year was a way to avoid the complicated feelings that would result if they got together too quickly. To clear the way even more, the writers had Hayato and Miyuki give their blessings. All this was to keep the characters blameless, so make sure that there was no way viewers could think ill of them. That’s been true at every turn. There was an attempt to portray the main characters as saints, even as they were unfaithful. But, you know, the stories of saints are only interesting if horrible things happen (or could happen) to them. Having a cast of unblemished characters is a total yawn, since there wasn’t an apocalypse outside their door. Miyuki and Miku had tiny edges to them, but not enough to scratch.

I really got the feeling that the writer/writers didn’t have any empathy for Hayato and Miyuki. They were simply plot devices to complicate matters for Souhei and Miku, and were forced to do what they did accordingly.

I could probably go on, but I’ll leave it there. If you think I’ve been unfair, please say so – I knew from the beginning that this series was meant for somebody very different from me, and I’d welcome that point of view. My expertise with teen romances is very slim.

To end on the positive, the cast was the best part of the series, and I hope to see more of them in the future – especially if it’s in a series that’s more in my line.