Not gonna lie, this episode felt the weakest out of all the episodes thus far. However, it was still quite enjoyable despite the weird jumpiness of scenes. Especially since the character I’ve been waiting for has finally appeared… in the second to last episode. Aw man, I’m going to miss this anime…
Anyways, the episode starts off with Narumi going through the pictures she took of her and Hirotaka’s date at Starbox. And in this very Starbox, does the final cast of our colorful characters appear. I’ve been waiting for ‘em to appear for a while and was wondering when they were going to show up. Funnily enough, Nao thinks this new person is diligently studying… only to find them actually just playing video games. Nao becomes a little curious about this person because they remind him of his brother and becomes more and more interested in the game they’re playing because he recognizes it as the one he was one shotted in. Though, when this person realizes Nao was watching, they immediately apologize and hilariously rush out in a hurry, forgetting a paper that Nao picks up.
And coincidentally, Nao finds out this person goes to the same university as him. I absolutely love Nao’s reasons for going over to interact with Sakuragi. He sees his brother in Sakuragi and we all know how sad Nao felt for him being alone for so long. And being the absolute treasure that he is, goes to try and talk to Sakuragi. It’s actually really sweet and adorable of him to just patiently wait since his brother would get mad at him for interrupting him while gaming. When Sakuragi finishes up the level, freaking out ensues and Sakuragi immediately apologizes and attempts escape again. However, Nao catches Sakuragi and gives ‘em back the paper they dropped. And despite Sakuragi’s excessive apologies, Nao just takes it in stride and accepts it as a strange habit of theirs.
But man, the fact that Nao is trying to reach out to Sakuragi because they remind him so much of his brother is really sweet. He knows how lonely Sakuragi must be. Especially how he sees how happy Hirotaka is surrounded by his otaku friends instead of just sitting in front of the tv playing games by himself. Nao continues to be an absolute treasure and asks to be friends with Sakuragi. Though, Sakuragi seems to misinterpret it as Nao asking for a friend request in the game. Oh well, baby steps Nao, you’ll get there. And then the bomb is dropped that Sakuragi is actually a girl, though Nao seems quite oblivious about it. Guess we have ourselves a Haruhi and Tamaki situation in a sense lol. He’ll figure it out eventually… though maybe not in the anime.
Afterwards, Naoya apparently had asked the main group if they could help him level up in the game Sakuragi was playing since he didn’t want to slow her down with his low level. Usually, I don’t really like the overly nice and “cute” guy characters, but Nao is somehow a special case and I absolutely adore him. Even his avatar is freaking cute, to which Narumi agrees with. The only one missing is Hirotaka, who is busy playing a different game in the same room as Nao.
What I don’t like about Hirotaka is how easily he waves off Nao when it comes to games. He won’t get better if no one freaking shows him how to play! I know Hirotaka is a pro gamer, but have a little patience, would you? Nao is seriously trying to learn how to play and I appreciate that Narumi is trying really hard to help him. Unfortunately, the quest they take on is overwhelming them and is on the brink of failing until a mysterious player comes in and wipes out the enemy in a single shot. Narumi believes it to be Hirotaka, however, Nao immediately recognizes it as Sakuragi. Nao immediately texts her a thanks, which Sakuragi responds with her typical apology. Oh Sakuragi~
The next part felt really out of place and it honestly didn’t feel like it had any business being in this episode. I feel like they were just trying to put at least some Narumi x Hirotaka in, but I feel like it would have been smoother if they just focused on Nao and Kou. Anyways, Narumi is running late… again and runs into Hirotaka on her way. At first, I thought it was only someone who looked like Hirotaka… but I was obviously wrong. Turns out that Hirotaka accidentally broke his glasses and hasn’t had time to get new ones. And probably because of all the video gaming, his eyesight is TERRIBLE. Considering he has to get close and personal to anything and anyone to even see. And hilariously gets very close to Kabakura’s face to discern if it was him (which earned him a violent headbutt to the face), much to Hanako and Narumi’s delight.
It’s interesting how this episode brings up Narumi’s attraction to Hirotaka. It’s still a little difficult to discern exactly how Narumi feels about Hirotaka. While I do feel like she’s slowly developing more feelings for him, it’s almost like she’s not completely aware of HOW MUCH she actually likes him. Without his glasses, Hirotaka is garnering more attention from the female coworkers, causing an unease within Narumi. Despite her claiming his face isn’t her type and she’s probably just used to how he looks since they were childhood friends, she still sounds unsure of her attraction. Seeing how unproductive Hirotaka is without glasses, Kabakura sends him off to go get a pair to fix the problem and sends Narumi with him since she wasn’t getting any work done either due to worrying about him.
As the two head out to get glasses, Narumi notices that whenever Hirotaka looks at her, he doesn’t squint and doesn’t seem to be focusing quite as hard as he was with the others. I love how Hirotaka just casually (if not a little shy) states how he knows it’s her even without seeing her, causing the girl to go doki doki. Though she plays it off by saying he should switch to contacts. And can I say that I am more impressed than I probably should be that there’s just this glasses booth in the middle of the city. Is that actually a thing? Or is it just in Japan? I’ve never seen one around, unless I’m not paying attention which is highly likely, but I digress.
Back to the main event between Naoya and Sakuragi. Naoya personally thanks Sakuragi for helping him and his friends out in that one quest. But also apologizes because he didn’t want to slow her down, but she ended up helping them anyways. Turns out she doesn’t mind helping Nao out. Awwww~
Later on, Nao goes over to Hirotaka’s apartment to use his gaming computer. The bit where Hirotaka tries to get Nao to notice his new glasses was pretty funny. Nao meets up with Sakuragi in game, having failed his solo mission. However, Sakuragi encourages him to keep trying so that he can achieve higher ranks, giving Nao a moral boost. Unfortunately, he continues failing until Sakuragi offers a different suggestion. Now THIS is what I’ve come to really like in the relationship between Sakuragi and Nao. She’s willing to offer suggestions to how to improve his performance and give him an easier time instead of getting fed up and giving up on him like most people (AKA HIROTAKA) tend to do. And I just love how Nao immediately realizes that Sakuragi is actually very different from Hirotaka. From this point on, he starts to view her as her own person rather than just a similar person to his brother.
Nao leaves the room for a moment to answer his phone and Hirotaka takes the opportunity to experiment with his avatar class. At this point, I thought that after Sakuragi witnesses Hirotaka’s gaming skills, she’d fall for him or something like that. Thankfully that’s not the case as after Nao regains control of his avatar (after throwing Hirotaka off lol), she seems more concerned about him rather than his brother. What really got me was when Nao decides to just quit since he thinks Sakuragi will just get annoyed at his constant failures, Sakuragi reassures him that she won’t get mad and honestly just wants to keep playing with him. The fact that she’s willing to be patient with him and try and help him along the way instead of getting frustrated and giving up on him hits my heart right in the feels. I just love her delivery of “I won’t get mad” and “So let’s play together” was just so adorable and it felt like the payoff for Nao’s attempts to reach out to her. Her little smile at the end though… UGH SHE’S A PRECIOUS TREASURE TOO. I feel like no one put that much effort into spending time with Sakuragi as well, so I bet Nao’s insistence of playing games with her touched her heart. These two are just precious~
I think the biggest problem I have with Sakuragi is how late into the series she came in. Which isn’t her fault but it’s the second to last episode and she’s just now being introduced so we don’t get as much time to get to know her as the others. But this episode was enough to convince me that she is second best girl (after Narumi) and is just a precious bean who seriously needs a hug. I also love how she was immediately added into the opening along with the other girls. It looks like next week is going to be the final episode and I’m not ready. I honestly don’t know what they’re going to do to finish off the series since they’ve already touched upon 80% of the manga that is already out. Hopefully it’ll finish strong and end with a bang rather than a whimper.