It’s quite natural to set a teen romance like Kinkyori Renai (近キョリ恋愛) in the summer. First of all, there’s summer vacation, which the class celebrates at the start of this episode:

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Well, all except for Haruka (Abe Aran), who seems a bit less enthusiastic. He and Mirei (Ishibashi Anna) are both concerned about Ririko (Adachi Rika), who is planning to go back to New York, but hasn’t managed to tell her two-timing boyfriend Tachibana (Nagayama Takashi) that.

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The second reason is, of course, the obligatory beach scene (or scenes). Kanata (Kishi Yuta) is the one who proposes the beach party in this series, but it was bound to happen somehow. He also wants to make it a farewell party for Ririko, but it sounds like that’s just a plot from the basketball team to get Ririko to the beach.

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Which she’s all too willing to do, of course. She immediately aims to get a swimsuit to . . . well, to make the basketball guys happy, let’s just say.

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Mirei and Kanata have a little talk. It starts with Mirei saying that she’s thinking about becoming a teacher, but quickly turns to her status with Haruka.

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Kanata laments that they’re trying to go back to the way they were before, but Mirei is adamant that she doesn’t want him to influence her into getting romantic with Haruka again.

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You know, I had been wondering if Kanata would at some point get interested in Mirei, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. That’s a shame, though, since it would add some interesting tension in this series that doesn’t exist. After all, we know the future state of Haruka and Ririko from the start of the series, so there’s only a little suspense about what happens between Haruka and Mirei – their ups and downs, if you will. That plot alone is charming, but can also get a little slow, and the only antidote seems to be to throw in suggestive dialogue between Haruka and Ririko to spice things up and confuse the viewer.

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Oh, and there’s the Tachibana thing. Tachibana actually shows up when Ririko isn’t around and has a talk with Haruka.

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And all I can think of during this talk is how creepy this guy is. I mean, maybe the actor was trying to play a guy who was foolishly smitten by two women and couldn’t pick between them, but he seemed like someone with a serious social disorder – possibly due to some trauma in this childhood.

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Now, Haruka really does have trauma in his childhood, but while he has trouble interacting with people other than Kanata and Mirei, at least he can be thankful that he’s not actually creepy.

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By the way, I didn’t realize until this conversation that the Japanese use the word ‘policy’ to mean something more like ‘scruples’. So, when Haruka accuses Tachibana of not having a policy about how he deals with people, what he really means is that Tachibana is unscrupulous.

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Discussing whether character are creepy or not, Ririko can be disconcerting. Haruka decides not to tell her that Tachibana stopped by. Frankly, the sooner Ririko distances herself from Tachibana, the better.

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Mirei is troubled because, after confessing to Haruka, her feelings for him have grown. She is increasingly willing to start something new with him rather than simply keep things the way they’ve been, but is Haruka ready for that?

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Haruka himself is confused by the way Ririko seems to draw close to him whenever she feels alienated by Tachibana, and the feelings he gets from that.

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Enough! Time for the beach party and the predictable scene with the basketball guys ogling Ririko in her swimsuit as that same song plays – you know, the one they always use when Ririko is being portrayed as an object of attraction rather than a human being. I think this is an attempt to render similar scenes from the manga, and another example of how manga doesn’t translate to real life very well.

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Ririko notices that Haruka isn’t messing around with the other basketball guys and how aloof he seems. Indeed, he seems to have changed from the Haruka we were introduced to in the first episode, where he eagerly played around with his team and with Mirei. It’s also interesting that while he is uncomfortable about his potential feelings about Ririko, he also doesn’t use the games as an excuse to keep his distance from her.

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Other girls in attendance notice that Haruka is more comfortable around his sister than, say, around them. I have no idea why this should come as a surprise – not when he’s also comfortable around Mirei because they’re longtime friends.

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Mirei, though, gets a bit jealous about how close Ririko is able to get to Haruka.

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Not that she hates Ririko for it. Yet.

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Wow, this guy seems to take pains to remain alone and apart:

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His eyes seem to go back and forth between Mirei and Ririko, but it’s tough to tell what his feelings are. I wonder if Abe Aran-kun even clearly knew what his feelings towards Ririko were supposed to be.

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Mirei is troubled by the distance between her and Haruka now – a distance that wasn’t apparently there in the first episode.

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Ririko is also having a tough time with her Tachibana issue, and she discusses it with Mirei.

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Mirei sees Ririko as somehow an ideal romantic because they’re opposites and Mirei thinks she’s hopeless at it herself. So, hearing about Ririko’s problems makes her feel like there’s even less chance for her to be happy.

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So, in a weird turn of logic, she insists that they (herself, Kanata, and Haruka) should do something about it – help Ririko talk to Tachibana (especially about the fact that she’s going back to New York).

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I don’t think Haruka is thrilled with this idea. Like I said, from his perspective, it’s probably better if Ririko doesn’t get sucked in by Tachibana again. If Tachibana doesn’t know Ririko is leaving, there’s no way he can convince her to stay.

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But whatever he might think, he certainly doesn’t want to see Mirei cry, and neither does Kanata.

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Thinly veiled behind her concern for Ririko is the fact that Mirei is also distraught about her relationship with Haruka, and it seems like Haruka understand that.

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So, what will happen between Tachibana and Ririko?

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Oh, wait, I don’t care about that at all.

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Rather, what’s going to happen between Haruka and Mirei?

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While the psychology in the previous episode was fairly straightforward and believable (unusual for this series), it was all over the place in this one. It’s pretty clear that Aran-kun, while a very good actor trying valiantly to pull it off, has trouble figuring out exactly how to react to Ririko. After all, with that subplot being so borderline, it’s easy to oversell it.

Haruka isn’t the biggest problem, though. After Ririko saw Tachibana making the same moves on the other girl in the previous episode, all the tension in the series got placed on that relationship, but Ririko’s behavior is all over the place. Granted, I’m no specialist on the behavior of women in love, but I would at least like to have some sense of what she’s thinking. Right now, I can’t fathom it.

I am, however, a guy, and can therefore state unequivocally that Tachibana is a creep. It is weird that this drama seems to take his words seriously, and I hope girls watching this drama because their favorite idols are in it don’t get the impression that this is at all acceptable behavior for a man in love. It is a travesty that both women involved don’t have enough self-esteem to be outraged and dump him immediately, and I’m getting impatient for those kinds of fireworks.

This was a pivotal episode for Haruka and Mirei, but it leaves the question of where things go from here, and I’m . . . concerned about that. Then again, I’ve been similarly concerned all the way through, and very little has happened.