At the conclusion of the first episode of Kinkyori Renai (近キョリ恋愛), Ririko (Adachi Rika) asked stepbrother Haruka (Abe Aran) if she could stay with him after getting into a fight with her boyfriend. Considering Ririko moved all the way from New York back to Japan in order to be with this boyfriend, she is necessarily confused and distraught.

Also at the end of the previous episode, we saw a preview of scenes involving adult Haruka (as played by Yamashita Tomohisa-kun) which I took to be part of this series. Thankfully (since those scenes deal with issues I don’t find entertaining), that’s all going to be part of a movie that I’ll never watch (not my kind of thing). This series is actually the prequel to that movie. That relieves the worry I had about Yamashita-kun’s part in this series – he in fact has no part except in the intro.

So, that leaves us with these three fun-loving characters:

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This installment begins with Mirei (Ishibashi Anna) and Kanata (Kishi Yuta) being concerned after hearing how Ririko had to seek refuge at Haruka’s place. Even though they just met Ririko, they’re worried about her and the possibility that, after falling out with the boyfriend she had done so much to be with, she might do herself harm.

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Kishi-kun was especially brilliant at injecting over-the-top dramatics to this possibility to keep it from being too morbid.

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Haruka doesn’t thing much of the possibility, though, noting that while Ririko is very passionate, the feelings don’t have much depth.

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Haruka’s two friends return home with him, and Haruka asks Mirei to check Ririko’s bedroom, noting that he doesn’t feel right about walking into a girl’s bedroom when that girl is basically a stranger to him. Here we see the first signs that Haruka has a certain sense of propriety which Ririko, from the way she ran up and hugged him at his school with the rest of the students gawking, probably doesn’t.

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Mirei also discovers that Ririko doesn’t really clean up after herself very well.

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Since Ririko isn’t around, Mirei insists that Haruka should call his stepsister, still worried about her. Haruka doesn’t want to do the talking, so he hands the phone to Mirei.

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When she hears a male voice at the other end, though, she hands it back.

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And right as they figured out that Ririko accidentally left her phone with her boyfriend, she shows up.

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And since Ririko has no intention of asking her boyfriend for her phone back directly, she asks Haruka to go over there as a favor.

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This is not high on his to-do list, but Ririko is good at eliciting sympathy, and both Mirei and Kanata are 100% on her side, insisting that he should help her out as a younger brother. It’s pretty clear that he doesn’t consider her a sibling at all, but he does respond to pressure from his friends – the only people he really interacts with.

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Mirei is totally in the Ririko fan club. There’s no clear explanation why at this point, but I would posit that she sees Ririko as her opposite – willing to express feelings freely while Mirei is extremely reluctant to take the plunge to say what she really thinks.

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Kanata continues to be hilarious. Even single move he makes is funny.

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Haruka walks into the classroom of Ririko’s boyfriend – Tachibana Shogo (Nagayama Takashi) – and is asked to wait as the art professor continues a piece he’s working on. Tachibana already knows who Haruka is.

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These two are such a fun pair to watch, too:

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The fact that they seem to like and care about Ririko make her seem much more likeable than she did in the first episode.

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Ririko had told Tachibana about her cute younger brother, but had neglected to mention that they had different last names because their parents each had them before remarrying.

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Ririko threw her phone at Tachibana, and at first we wonder why, since he’s so amiable and he seems to still want to be in a relationship with her.

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But then a girl walks in, and Tachibana’s manner towards her and the fact that he avoided saying that the cell phone was his girlfriend’s (saying that it was Haruka’s instead) lead Haruka to conclude that Tachibana is a blatant liar, and a good one at that.

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Ririko continues to show the passion that draws Mirei to her, saying that there’s nothing in Japan for her without Tachibana, and that if Tachibana isn’t with her, he might as well be dead.

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Mirei finds this so cool that she wants to call Ririko her master. Ririko is surprised by this, noting that she just got betrayed by her boyfriend, so she’s not much of a model for romance, but Mirei is undeterred.

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Haruka returns home and gets the phone back to Mirei, but he doesn’t know how to talk about what happened with Tachibana.

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Ririko prepared dinner for them after asking Mirei and Kanata what he liked to eat. She had to cook for herself and her father after her mother left, so she’s fairly good at it.

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She gives him a dose of elderly sister advice about girls, but he says he has no interest. Indeed, despite their age, neither he nor Kanata have shown much sign of giving real thought to that side of things.

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When she presses, he points out she has no right to be giving him advice, and this is where he mentions what he discovered about Tachibana (or, at least what he thinks he knows).

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But love isn’t a rational thing, and we’re not sure what the truth of the matter is right now, anyway.

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In a rare moment in this episode, Haruka decides to cheer Ririko up after those heavy words by smiling and saying the food is delicious. So, he does have some sensitivity, after all. The fact that he was otherwise grumpy through the episode certainly made this scene stand out.

Mirei once again types a message to Haruka that she won’t send . . .

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. . . and Haruka goes back to being grumpy as Ririko invades his room, saying that she’s lonely in hers.

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There isn’t much by way of spoilers in this episode, but I suppose these last few minutes qualify. What do you suppose is going to happen as they have this heart-to-heart in Haruka’s bedroom?

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Other than that, what happened in this episode was more or less what we would have expected going in. We knew that there would be some development of the relationship between Ririko and Haruka after she moved in with him and also exploration of the relationship between Ririko and her boyfriend. That was more or less the bulk of the episode.

What I didn’t expect was the enthusiastic way Mirei and Kanata brought Ririko into their circle – like part of the family. That was a very good choice, and will probably make further developments more poignant.

And that’s not to say that Mirei didn’t wonder whether Ririko was a rival for Haruka’s affection – she did, as she revealed in her unsent message to him. She decided, though, that Ririko probably wasn’t interested in Haruka in that way.

The acting was solid, as in the first episode. As I mentioned, I’m judging Kishi-kun’s performance in comic terms, and so far it’s brilliant in that light. Aran-kun and Ishibashi-san continue to give gravitas to everything, while Adachi-san keeps Ririko light as a feather – ever-changeable and a good contrast to the two leads.

The pacing was a tad on the slow side, though the show offered a couple of surprises (especially the way Mirei and Kanata acted). It’s tough to manage twenty minute episodes like this, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one. It ended at an appropriate point and still moved the plot along. I’ll only complain if it seems like we’re not getting anywhere, and that wasn’t true of this episode.

So far, so good. I don’t have any idea what comes next – we’re through all the expected stuff – so I’m hoping that the writers have some good twists for us in episode three.