This show is so adorable and fluffy that it’s killing me. No seriously, I’m writing this from the grave, there was so much cute in this episode that it killed me. But I had to come back because this much awesomeness has to be shared.
Our couple finds that spending some time apart might just be what they needed to become closer. Perhaps absence really does make the heart grow fonder?
Episode 7: Serve Ace of Love
Irie-mama and papa try to dissuade Dad from leaving, but Dad remains firm. He wants Kotoko to be able to give up on Naoki. Irie-mama says she’ll convince Naoki, but Dad points out that this is between Naoki and Kotoko. Aww, I feel really bad for Irie-mama; she says she wouldn’t have just accepted any girl that moved into their house and that she really likes Kotoko because of her guts and cheerfulness.
Kotoko sulks in her room after packing, thinking back to the first day she moved in and how Irie-mama had treated her so well. She looks around tearfully before saying goodbye.
On moving day, only Irie-papa sees them off. Irie-mama’s still a wreck, Yuuki’s happy to see Kotoko leave, and Naoki remains indifferent. Kotoko thanks the Iries for treating her as if she was their own daughter. She looks up at Naoki’s window and tells herself that everything ends today. She gets in the truck with her dad, unable to hold back her tears any longer.
The new house isn’t ready yet, so Dad and Kotoko are staying in a little apartment for a week. Dad didn’t want to continue staying with the Iries any longer because he knew it would be harder to move out.
Kotoko looks around the small apartment and thinks: “A house without Irie-kun. Today, my life without Irie-kun begins.”
Kotoko tells Jinko and Satomi that she’s moved out of Naoki’s house. They point out she’ll lose her only connection with Naoki, but Kotoko is surprisingly fine with it. She declares she’s given up on Naoki for good this time and though they call BS, Kotoko says she’s really changed. Her dad’s words about how Naoki isn’t interested in her and that just following him around wasn’t getting her anywhere had made her see what she was doing was futile. She’s determined to make the best out of her college life and find a better guy than Naoki.
As if on cue, Kin-chan shows up presenting a giant omelette (or cake? But it looks like an omelette) with candles and “Happy Birthday Kotoko!” scrawled across it. It’s not Kotoko’s birthday, but Kin-chan says it’s to celebrate Kotoko’s rebirth since she’s given up on Naoki. He says he’ll help her forget about Naoki, so she should cheer up.
Naoki comes home and finds his dad and Yuuki cooking. Irie-mama’s still upset about Kotoko leaving so everyone else needs to pick up the slack at home. Later that night, Yuuki asks Naoki what’s wrong with their mom and asks if it has anything to do with Kotoko. Naoki avoids the question by telling Yuuki to stop hanging out in his room all the time, but as soon as Yuuki leaves, he gives up on reading and looks troubled.
Kotoko’s not doing well either as she has to get used to coming back to an empty house. She imagines coming back home to the Iries, with Irie-mama greeting her with dinner, Yuuki making fun of her as usual and Irie-papa reprimanding him, and of course, Naoki waiting for her at the dinner table and welcoming her home warmly. Aww. She quickly snaps herself out of it, reminding herself that she’s supposed to give up on Naoki and that she won’t return to the Irie household.
Though she said she’s giving up on Naoki, Kotoko keeps going to tennis practice. Once she starts something, she always sees it through to the end and besides, Naoki never comes to practice anyway, so it’s not like she’ll see him anyway.
The few remaining freshman left have been upgraded from muscle training to collecting tennis balls. Yuko sees Kotoko picking up balls and, being the Second Lead Bitch she is, sends one her way, almost hitting her. I was okay with you last episode, but we’re going to have to fight if you keep treating Kotoko that way.
She’s surprised that Kotoko hasn’t given up yet and says that her effort is for nothing since Naoki isn’t coming. Kotoko says she isn’t doing this for Naoki and Yuko gives a look like “Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it,” before pointing to a row of balls for Kotoko to pick up.
Kotoko picks them up, her eyes rooted to the ground before noticing someone’s stepping on one. She’s about to get mad when she sees it’s none other than Naoki. She asks why he’s here and he says obviously because he’s on the tennis team, but I’m sure we all know the real reason you showed up. Kotoko seems to be thinking the same thing as her eyes can’t help but follow Naoki across the court with a goofy smile on her face, but she quickly reminds herself that she’s going to forget about him. She thinks to herself that Naoki doesn’t understand her feelings and how hard she’s trying to give up on him.
Sudo’s thrilled Naoki’s here and challenges him to a match. Naoki’s fine with it and even agrees to whatever conditions Sudo sets until Sudo says they’ll play doubles; he’ll play with Yuko and Naoki can partner with Kotoko. Everyone knows it’s unfair and Naoki protests, saying if anyone can win with a partner like Kotoko, they can be the world champion. Haha, sad, but true.
Sudo stands by his conditions and provokes Naoki, asking if he’s really going to back down, so Naoki grudgingly accepts his terms. He tells Kotoko not to try to hit the ball and to not get in his way. As they prepare to play, Kotoko thinks that she feels like Naoki’s been telling her to stay out of his way since they were in high school.
Kotoko does as Naoki says, but even perfect player Naoki gets tired playing for two people and Kotoko tries to hit the ball just as Naoki goes for it which leads to the strange picture above. They lose the game of course, much to Sudo’s delight. He challenges Naoki to a rematch and surprisingly, Naoki accepts and actually seems confident about winning; they’ll have a rematch in a week.
Poor Kotoko doesn’t even get to have a say and laments to Satomi and Jinko about having to spend a week practicing with Naoki. She doesn’t have the confidence to get over Naoki if she still sees him everyday. Jinko says this might be a chance for Naoki to have a change of heart, but Kotoko puts that down; she spent a lot of time alone with Naoki in high school and his feelings never changed, a week practicing tennis won’t make a difference. Even so, she can’t avoid Naoki forever, so she’s determined to become better at tennis and get over him.
Unfortunately, Sudo doesn’t want to take any chances, and bans Kotoko from playing on the court during practice since she didn’t pass the performance test. Even though they can’t practice, Naoki gives Kotoko some advice to improve: open your eyes and look at the ball. Kotoko spends practice time trying to watch the balls flying her way.
Practice ends and Kotoko’s exhausted, but Naoki plans to start training now. Kotoko thinks she’ll get out of it when it starts raining, but even that doesn’t stop Naoki and he says they’ll practice in the morning as well. They spend the evening practicing in the rain.
Kotoko’s passed out when Dad comes home and he notices all the brusies on her arms and legs.
Kotoko’s too tired to even eat because of practice, so Kin-chan delivers her a special lunch while she dozes in a classroom. He spots the bruises on her arms and tentatively asks if she’s practicing so hard because she wants to be with Naoki and if she really can’t forget about him. Kotoko says that Naoki said to not get in his way while Kin-chan said that it’s her new birthday. “To be reborn as a new person, I need to stop getting in his way.” She had said she would get over Naoki, but she was just trying to be tough. She thinks now that she won’t be able to.
Poor Kin-chan looks disappointed for a moment, but he puts a smile on and says that he understands. She’s on a journey to forget about Naoki, so he’ll support her, even if it takes a long time. But he reminds her that he won’t give up on her either. Kotoko thanks him for supporting her.
We get a nice little montage of Naoki training Kotoko and he’s not messing around; he’s working poor Kotoko to the bone, though she never complains. Yuko spots them training together and she doesn’t look happy to say the least. Serves you right.
Irie-mama really misses Kotoko, so she comes to the campus in disguise so Naoki won’t find out, but she sticks out like a sore thumb and is found by Satomi and Jinko instead. Jinko lets slip that Naoki and Kotoko kissed and Irie-mama’s so happy that she lets out a “Yahoo!” Armed with this information, she becomes more determined than ever to get Kotoko to come home and runs off laughing. Irie-mama can be scary sometimes.
Kotoko is practicing her serve with no luck when she finally manages to get a ball over the net. She’s so happy that she starts hugging Naoki and he just looks at her like this.
Geez, would it kill you to smile Naoki? She backs off quickly, apologizing.
Naoki: “It’s great that you have so many things to get excited about in your life. Sometimes I envy you.”
Kin-chan has prepared some katsu(winning) sandwiches for Kotoko for good luck. She eats them in the locker room when Yuko walks in to change. She sneers at her sandwiches and asks Kotoko if she’s aware of how much trouble she’s causing Naoki. Kotoko says she’s working hard not to trouble him, but Yuko says that effort is already causing him trouble.
Naoki is the person that gets humiliated when they lose and he’s wasting his time by training Kotoko. She asks how Kotoko doesn’t feel bad about troubling someone she loves so much. If I could reach into the screen and slap this girl…
Before the match, Naoki gives her some last minute pointers and tells her to not let her hard work go to waste. He tells her he’s here with her, so she shouldn’t be afraid. Were those…words of comfort? Is this still Naoki talking? Have we entered some alternate universe?
The match starts and Kotoko has improved a lot, much to everyone’s surprise. She still can’t hit the ball over the net, but the fact that she’s no longer running around screaming with her eyes closed or frozen stiff is a big deal for her. Sudo starts getting fired up, angry that Kotoko is able to hit the ball, so he tells Yuko to target Kotoko instead of Naoki.
A new game starts and Kotoko has realized that since she’s no longer afraid of the ball, she can easily hit it, since Yuko and Sudo’s serves are much slower than Naoki’s. She looks over at Naoki who gives her a reassuring nod before the next game starts. Sudo serves and the ball heads for Kotoko. Naoki calls her by name (for the first time?) and Kotoko moves towards the ball, her eyes open, and hits it back.
The ball flies over the net, passing Yuko and Sudo, before bouncing inside the court. Everyone’s surprised since none of the other female players besides Yuko has managed to return Sudo’s serve and give a round of applause for Kotoko and even Naoki acknowledges she did well. Sudo has a mini breakdown, but victory is short lived as Kotoko collapses in pain. She’s sprained her ankle and Naoki decides to call off the match since she can’t play anymore.
Unable to walk, Naoki carries her princess style from the court. Eeeee, who are you and where is Naoki? Screw it, I don’t care if you’re Naoki or not, you’re just awesome right now. Kotoko, you are free to swoon, I’m swooning, you should be swooning. She apologizes for making them lose again, but Naoki says he never thought they’d win anyway. Aww, I see that small smirk Naoki, you just trained to spend time with her.
Kotoko: “God, if I said I love Irie-kun even more, would you be mad?”
Kotoko gets patched up and Naoki helps walk her to her new house. The two cutely bicker because they can’t find the house though if I didn’t know any better I’d say Kotoko was making them walk in circles to hold onto Naoki a little longer.
Kotoko points out that when Naoki called out to her, it was the first time he called her by name, but Naoki pretends not to remember since he was so concentrated on the match. Kotoko just nods and smiles, but she remembers and that’s good enough for her.
They finally find the house and Naoki prepares to leave, but Kotoko begs him to come inside and see her dad, so he agrees. They ring the doorbell, but instead of her dad, an old man comes out. Naoki asks if he’s Kotoko’s grandfather, but Kotoko doesn’t know him. Kotoko’s so shocked that she just blurts out “Who are you?” to the old man and he replies that this is his house. Kotoko, more confused than ever, wonders what’s going on.
Thoughts: That…was a really weird place to end. It’s not exactly a cliffhanger since we know they’ll end up back in the same house. I guess they just ran out of time and didn’t want to throw Kotoko and Naoki back together after separating them for less than an episode, but if that’s the case, they could have just ended it when Naoki carried Kotoko off the court.
Setting that aside, this episode was A-MAY-ZING. So far, Kotoko’s actions have been driving the relationship forward which is frustrating because it’s boring (and sometimes creepy), so it was a nice turn of events to see Naoki find ways to be around Kotoko. And he was nice to her too? This is the kind of Naoki I can get used to. The dynamic between the two hasn’t dramatically changed since Naoki’s still the one holding the power, but with these two, even little steps forward is a miracle.
This episode made me think that Kotoko’s tougher than I usually give her credit for. Maybe it was just me and I know Kotoko admitted to everything being a bluff, but this was the first time I thought sh’d be okay without Naoki around. There was never any doubt she’d cave (this is Kotoko after all), but despite being separated from Naoki, she never moped or cried after that first day and was determined to move on with her life. Just seeing her try to stay positive despite clamping down on her feelings made me respect Kotoko a lot more.
Though Naoki pretty much owned this episode, I also liked that little scene with Kotoko and Kin-chan. Honoka Miki and Yamada Yuki actually don’t have that much that chemistry, but that doesn’t make their friendship any less heartwarming to watch. It’s not going to get him the girl, but I love that Kin-chan can put his feelings aside and be someone Kotoko can confide in and depend on.
And because I couldn’t pass up on posting this picture…