Okay, so any hope I had that Pin to Kona (ぴんとこな) was something more than a love-square story with some kabuki off to the side is pretty much out the window. So, can they at least give some depth to the romance side of things?

In the last episode, Kyonosuke (Tamamori Yuta) tried his very best to win over Ayame (Kawashima Umika) but she (rather irritatingly at this point) remained steadfastly dedicated to Ichiya (Nakayama Yuma). Ichiya had temporarily lost his groove, but got it back thanks to a talk from Kanjiro (Yamamoto Koji).

Unable to really win Ayame’s favor, Kyonosuke at least wants to make sure Ichiya doesn’t hurt her.

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That’s going to be a bit hard, because Yuna (Yoshikura Aoi) is now actively plotting with Shohei (Matsumura Hokuto) to break up the Ichiya-Ayame pairing. Shohei’s first move is to tell Kyonosuke that Ichiya is dating Yuna at the same time he’s courting Ayame.

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Kyonosuke doesn’t have any real strategy to do anything about it . . .

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. . . and though he’s in turmoil, Ichiya is still the one receiving all Ayame’s emoticons.

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Kyonosuke talks over Ichiya’s infidelity with his best friend Haruhiko (Jesse) . . .

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. . . but is befuddled when he finds out that Ichiya gave Ayame a cell phone for her birthday (does he pay her monthly payments as well? I thought the reason she didn’t have one was because she didn’t have the money, but surely the major cost is that of the plan? Once again, the writers are being wantonly inconsistent with Ayame).

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Don’t worry, though, the sight of Kyonosuke choking Haruhiko to death will wipe that clean out of your mind. It sure gives Kyonosuke the idea he was looking for. He should choke Haruhiko more often.

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While Ichiya gets the role of a lifetime – the opening performance at a new theater . . .

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. . . Kyonosuke maneuvers to get Ayame to be his tutor.

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In the only decent Ayame scene in ages, she sees Kyonosuke’s father, goes all mushy fan on him, and begs him to do part of a performance she remembered seeing him do ten years ago. To everyone’s surprise, he agrees. To my disappointment, we don’t get to see it.

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Kyonosuke’s father is concerned about his son’s intentions with Ayame (it’s quite possible that he feels warmer toward fangirl Ayame than toward his son), but Shizu (Enami Kyoko) says she’s got it covered and will keep a watchful eye. She sure has so far.

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In fact, she interrupts at the perfect time – when Kyonosuke’s daydreaming almost led him to do something that he’d regret.

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But even though he has her as his tutor, Kyonosuke still has no hope in terms of prying her from Ichiya. I’ve got to give him points for persistence, but that only makes her faithfulness to Ichiya more tedious. I’m really getting irritated with Ayame, just because she’s so blind to Kyonosuke’s attempts to court her. At least she should be able to recognize his motive, but the fact that she doesn’t almost makes it seem like she doesn’t regard him as human or someone worth thinking about.

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Kyonosuke says that if she faces any difficulties (and we know he means if she finds out Ichiya has betrayed her) that she should come to him. Well, here at least the fact that she doesn’t suspect that he has feelings for her helps him out . . .

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. . . much to his own dismay.

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Ichiya tells Ayame the good news about him getting the role, but the news that she’s Kyonosuke’s tutor comes as a shock.

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At this point, Ichiya is completely delusional. He says that if the play is successful he’ll live on his own without the support of Sawayama and, more importantly, Yuna. The problem with that, of course, is that his success has been due to Sawayama pulling strings for him because of the impression that Ichiya would become the heir of the Sawayama school. If Ichiya tries to break away, those strings will suddenly be pulled against him, and we all know that sort of influence is everything in entertainment.

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The message seems to be that no matter how good Ichiya is . . .

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. . . he’s always beholden to Yuna in the same way Kyonosuke is to the family he was born to. He tries to distance himself from her, but that’d only bound to make her own efforts to pull strings more intense.

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Ayame tells Kyonosuke about the role Ichiya got – a role Kyonosuke thought he had in the bag because of his family name.

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The two rivals bump into each other, and Ichiya tells him about the plan to leave Sawayama house and to live with Ayame. I don’t think Kyonosuke was relieved to know that Ichiya was planning to be faithful to Ayame (even though this plan is badly thought-out).

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To take his mind off of it, Kyonosuke goes for some karaoke with his friends. Haruhiko, though, knows what’s up and begs him to give up on Ayame, pointing out that he’s already lost to Ichiya (and arguably lost a decade ago).

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Kyonosuke doesn’t take this friendly advice well, possibly taking out his anger at Ichiya on Haruhiko.

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At the same time, Sawayama asks why Ichiya was seen consulting a realtor (getting a bit ahead of himself, isn’t he?). Ichiya stupidly reveals his plan to try to leave Sawayama house, and you can be sure both Sawayama and Yuna are going to plot to prevent that now.

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That fight with Haruhiko in the karaoke bar lands Kyonosuke in a spot of trouble . . .

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. . . and while he might have supposed Shizu would come down to get him, it was his father instead.

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This was a good episode for Kawamura Sesaemon (Kishitani Goro).

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We get to see some kabuki practice . . .

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. . . but the real story is happening behind the scenes. I hope I don’t start to get a visceral distaste every time I see Hokuto-kun because of how much I despise his character in this. Of course, it’s nice to have a character to despise – it makes things so much more fun.

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At this point, I’ll break off the summary. What is Shohei’s plan to do Yuna’s bidding? And since Yuna is dedicated to Ichiya, what’s Shohei asking in return for his services?

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Will Kyonosuke at least get Ayame to tell her about her troubles – to be honest instead of being the blankly smiling girl I’m getting irritated with?

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And what about Ichiya’s performance? We do get it at the end of this episode, but how will it go?

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So the good side of all this is that Kyonosuke is still a dynamic character, Shohei is a wicked enemy that we’re going to love to hate, and Kyonosuke’s father seems to be developing more than his son (which is fine, because it’s a more interesting way to go than just having the younger generation adapt to his elder). Oh, and we got some kabuki.

The problems are Ayame and Ichiya. Ichiya has suddenly become the most naïve character in the show with this unrealistic plan to leave Sawayama house, which makes him the perfect match for Ayame, who was the previous record-holder for naiveté. I just don’t get it. On top of that, I find myself agreeing with Haruhiko and rooting for Kyonosuke to find another girl – he’s too good for Ayame, who is so dense that she can’t see that he’s bending over backwards to win her favor.

The only reason the romantic side of this drama has any appeal at all is that we are hoping that Ichiya gets free of Yuna, but somehow Kyonosuke wins over Ayame? Because, frankly, I don’t want to see Yuna win, but on the other hand this entire series has been about Kyonosuke’s pursuit of Ayame, so seeing him finally losing to Ichiya would be quite a letdown. The whole thing already feels like we’re treading water. But then, if Ichiya is free of Yuna, but can’t get Ayame, that sort of leaves him alone? Is that allowed? I don’t really know the rules of love stories.

For the first three episode, I didn’t like Ichiya, but I respected the character because he seemed confident, intelligent, and talented despite the fact that he didn’t have the advantage of birth. Since then, he’s lost confidence, seems stupid in his plan to move out, and it seems that his talent is actually questionable based on his distraction during the performance with Kyonosuke at the end of episode three. So while the audience might have seen the merits of both Ichiya and Kyonosuke early in the series, now our sympathies seem to be exclusively tilted toward the earnest if hapless Kyonosuke.