While quiet around others, Haruka (Abe Aran) started Kinkyori Renai (近キョリ恋愛) entirely cheerful around his two friends – Mirei (Ishibashi Anna) and Kanata (Kishi Yuta).

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But then his stepsister Ririko (Adachi Rika) returned to Japan from America and ever since then, Mirei and Kanata can’t stop talking about her.

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They begin this episode by noting that Ririko seems to have quickly recovered after being dumped by her boyfriend. When Haruka points out that Ririko and Tachibana (Nagayama Takashi) have actually gotten back together, that throws the other two for a loop and they demand answers.

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Haruka didn’t ask Ririko about it and certainly doesn’t want to talk about it now. In his internal monologue, he even says he hates Ririko, though he doesn’t explain why.

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Not that Ririko has offered any sign of positive traits, mind you. Her overriding trait so far is being smitten by Tachibana, who may or may not be a total louse.

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But Mirei and Kanata seem to absolutely love Ririko, and Mirei sees a silver-lining to the reconciliation with Tachibana – it means that Ririko isn’t going back to New York.

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Disgusted at the thought, Haruka admits that Ririko plans to stay at Haruka’s place, and Mirei and Kanata cheer and give each other a high-five in reaction.

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Haruka wonders if Ririko is an idiot, to which Kanata says that you have to be an idiot to be in love (the same saying that elder Haruka quoted in the first episode). While being in love might make a silly, I think there’s an open question about whether Ririko was already a bit silly regardless of being in love. Anyway, Kanata’s reaction cheers Haruka up for a few moments before he turns introspective again.

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And I guess he’s the type who falls asleep in class . . .

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. . . and Mirei texts in class (confiscate her phone!). Of course, she’s texting to Haruka with no intention of sending the message again, and she thinks back to the first time she thought of Haruka as a guy.

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He eventually wakes up and she whispers to him to pay attention – as if she was paying attention while reminiscing.

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Her internal monologue here was a somewhat disappointing repeat of what she already said in the first episode, but it doesn’t last very long.

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Ririko walks onto campus to the same music, some of the same camera angles, and a similar reaction from the students. Honestly, don’t the Japanese consider it rude to stare and gawk like this?

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Haruka finds out that he left his practice clothes at home . . .

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. . . finds out that Ririko is on campus . . .

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. . . and we get a scene with the other members of the basketball crew meeting Ririko. Considering it seems to be summer, wouldn’t Gaito (Tajima Shogo) be a bit hot wearing that vest? (I know, it probably matches the manga, but still.)

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There was a great moment when Gaito does the same “mabushii” move when saying “yasashii” about Ririko, and Ririko mimics him. That was brilliant.

Ririko brought Haruka’s basketball clothes, so it’s time for practice!

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And thank goodness, because we’ve been getting far too many ominous looks between Haruka and Mirei. What exactly do they know that we don’t about the bad things that are going to happen? Nothing about what they’ve said or even thought in their internal monologues justifies the grim looks they keep casting.

I do agree with Ririko about one thing – I appreciate people when I see them trying their best. That’s a big chunk of this site in a nutshell.

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There’s a bit more tension between Ririko and Mirei this time, even though they’re both smiling. Mirei asks Ririko which of the basketball players she prefers, and Ririko outright says that Haruka is her type, and even says she might have fallen for him (if they weren’t brother and sister). That wipes the smile off of Mirei’s face, but Ririko is blissfully unaware (or seems that way).

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Don’t worry, though – Mirei pays Ririko back by asking about Tachibana and whether he has dumped his other girlfriend. That got the smile off of Ririko’s face.

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Ririko says she hasn’t asked Tachibana about it, though she knows the answer.

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She’s adamant that she’ll only love Tachibana – it has to be him no matter what. Well, that’s a relief – can she stop hinting that Haruka might be option number two?

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Anyway, will Mirei take Ririko’s lead and focus on Haruka in the same way, or are her feelings more complicated

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Haruka and Kanata have a chat about Haruka’s attitude toward Ririko. There’s a sense that, even if Ririko is just playing around with him, he’s worried about her presence.

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Mirei can’t quite admit to liking Haruka when Ririko asks if there’s someone she has her eyes on. She tries to get some validation for her current in-between state, and gets a rather in-between answer from Ririko that first gives her hope then immediately dashes it.

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Ririko surprises everyone – especially me – by suddenly running up to hug Kanata when he makes a basket. I like it when people try their best, but not as much as she apparently does.

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After practice, they’re walking along merrily . . .

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. . . when they pause in their tracks and faces turn grim (again).

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They see this guy . . .

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. . . with glasses that seem a bit wrong on his face. He’s Mirei’s elder brother, and he tells her off for spending time with the basketball team, saying that she doesn’t have free time.

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He tells her to return home because their mother texted him that they were having yakiniku for dinner, but Mirei didn’t get any such message. Well, we’re getting some much-needed family background and potential conflict here.

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Mirei doesn’t want to leave her friends and seems reluctant to go home. Ririko is incensed on her behalf, upset about the way Mirei’s brother treated her.

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But this leads Haruka to get outright angry at Ririko for the first time. He’s quite consistent here – he really hates it when people interfere with the business of others. I wonder why, though. Seems like there should be some backstory or explanation of that, too, down the road.

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Kanata interrupts Haruka and Ririko walks off with tears in her eyes.

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When Haruka returns home, Ririko is still not back. What do you suppose will happen here?

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That night, Mirei returned to a spot where she had once gone when running away from home – possibly running away again here, though it’s not clear. That time in the past, Haruka had been there to comfort her. This time, it was Kanata, and possibly it’s not the first time for him, either. Just how often does Mirei run away from home?

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Well, there you have it. We got some decent development in this one and the pacing continued to be reasonable for the genre.

It’s now pretty clear that Haruka’s nervousness around Ririko is due to a desire to avoid unacceptable feelings for her, and it looks like Mirei is getting ever-closer to just explicitly admitting her feelings for Haruka. There’s a limit to how long Mirei can keep all her thoughts in unsent messages if this drama is going to get any traction.

As the conflicts build up, I trust things will pick up a bit. While the pace we had here was fine for a third episode, it definitely can’t stay this way for the rest of the series.

Otherwise, no problems so far and the acting is fine – though the grim faces thing got somewhat tedious. I wonder how uncomfortable they’re going to make me with the Haruka-Ririko thing.