Well, it happened both faster and slower than I expected, but at last things are coming to a head after Ichika’s attempted sabotage. We reach the short-awaited school trip to Kyoto this week, and kick things off with seemingly every sister hell-bent on ruining the trip in their own special way. Itsuki, having spontaneously discovered Futaro’s old photo with his first love, is caught up in trying to get him to remember that fated meeting for reasons that…well we’ll get to those later. Nino is just out to get her man, but also keeps getting distracted by a random photographer taking creep pics of them all. Miku is determined to finally confess to Futaro, with Yotsuba acting as her wingwoman.
And then there’s Ichika.
Honestly, I’m kind of regretting giving Ichika so much credit at the end of episode 9. It seemed like that move, impulsive and poorly considered as it was, promised larger schemes and trickery in the future. But besides trying to get the jump on Futaro’s birthday present, she never actually tried anything, and it turns out that’s for good reason: Ichika’s as much of a dumbass as her sisters. So she of course puts on her Miku disguise right on time to walk into the real Miku, and her house of cards (OK more like a pop-up tent of cards if we’re honest) comes crashing down. And for good measure Yotsuba blurts out Miku’s plans to confess just in time for Futaro to overhear them, because if there’s one thing this boy is good for, it’s absolutely horrible timing. It’s a 5-car pileup of fuckups that ends with Miku fleeing the scene, Ichika collapsing in shame, and everyone else staring on like deer in headlights.
Though surprisingly, after the initial shock wears off, Futaro shows a heretofore unseen emotional clarity on the whole thing. He admits to Yotsuba he had noticed Miku’s feelings, but also understood the difference between knowing and her telling him, and had kept his mouth and ears shut tight until she decided to do so. And he offers some pretty poignant advice to Yotsuba, who feels like she’s bungled up her entire family’s love lives in one fell swoop.
“Some kinds of happiness are gained only by competing and taking from each other. When you choose to have something, you choose not to have something else. Someday, you’ll have to choose.”
It’s a simple idea, but very much something Yotsuba needs to hear as she continues her doomed quest to juggle her sisters’ feelings while ignoring her own. But it’s also some good advice for himself – at some point Futaro’s going to have to decide how he feels about all of these girls, romantically speaking or otherwise, and there isn’t really a way to do that without somebody getting hurt. Well, ok, there is one way, but if we’re being realistic Futaro barely has the emotional wherewithal to maintain one relationship, let alone five. He’d be an absolute disaster in a polycule. Plus nobody besides Nino seems eager to emphasize the “sister” half of “sisterwives” if you know what I mean. Still, it’s an option at least one of them should broach before this series is over, if just for some good gags.
On the topic of Nino, she continues to barrel forward like the love locomotive she is, but also wants to do it in as straightforward and honest a way as possible. Granted, her tactic of tackling Miku on top of a bed and telling her to either step up or step aside is…questionable at best, but it makes for a strong kick in the tights, and gets Miku out of her slump enough start moving forward again. It’s also a pretty strong rebuke of what Ichika’s been trying – somebody is bound to get hurt in resolving this love polygon, but that doesn’t mean they can or should purposefully try to hurt one another.
Then we get to Itsuki and…sigh…okay. I was already confused when Itsuki started getting itchy about the photo, since that seemed like a weird, obfuscated way to reveal she was the girl Futaro met all those years ago. But after it got lost in the shuffle of the other half-dozen subplots of this episode I nearly forgot about it, just in time for them to drop the reveal that no, actually it was Yotsuba he met that day, and Itsuki was trying to jog Futaro’s memory for her sister, not herself.
That’s still a strange, roundabout way to go about all this, and more importantly it feels extra pointless when we started off this season with a story arc explicitly about Futaro moving on from his old crush and embracing his relationship with the girls now. So this whole question of “Rena” and her true identity feels like a total misfire. I just don’t care about which of the girls happened to meet Futaro when they were 10. Both of them are vastly different people than they were before, and while that history might be meaningful to the characters in its own way, the idea that it’s more important than that just bores me to tears.
So now we stand on the precipice of the season finale, and I have no clue where we go from here. This season has felt so frantic and inconsistent that next episode could do just about anything and it wouldn’t feel out of place. Yotsuba reveals she’s a time traveler? Futaro gets hit by 5 different trucks trying to save the sisters? Miku reveals her headphones have been fake this entire time? Anything and everything seems possible, so do your worst, Quints.