Having backed off after hearing who Rihoko already likes, Makabe attempts to hit on Haruka only to apologise and run off when he seemingly recognises her and Hibiki. Following which Rihoko arrives just as Junichi arrives back, the ice cream he had set out to buy having melted.
Aside from that there also appears to now be something between him and Rihoko as he starts acting awkwardly around her, finding it hard to talk to her as she cooks dinner. A meal made with a bit of help from her upperclassmen Rukka and Manaka, who at this point wish Rihoko luck as they fish, managing to hook something big as the focus switches back.
Where as it would so happen the focus is on them and how they’re in the tennis club now, and not that long after dinner Miya gets a phone call from Sae about going to an amusement park, giving Rihoko and Junichi a bit more time together with things still fairly awkward before they go onto dessert. Having to have shaved ice instead of ice cream, with Miya going a little overboard with hers. Following which it also starts to rain, so they decide to invite Rihoko to stay at their house for the night, with Junichi looking at old photos as she takes a bath, resolving to let him know how she feels.
Other than that Junichi also lends her a pair of his clothes which he’s taken away by when he sees her in them. And sometime after this Junichi has to carry a sleeping Miya to the bathroom when she randomly shows up in his room, leading to Rihoko getting up and finding him on the porch just as the rain’s stopped, and with things less awkward between them he asks her if she wants to light up some fireworks. Bringing back more of their memories together as kids, looking back on how fast everything went and when the matter of the future is brought up, he reflects on how long they’ve been together and how nice it would be if they could stay together. With him soon confessing that he likes her, he just hadn’t noticed it until recently.
It may have had the benefit of being a bit more gradual but I still liked this episode, after six episodes and over a year in terms of real time and time within her arc Rihoko finally received the ending that she deserved. As the childhood friend character she overcame that unbeatable barrier and managed to win the protagonist, Junichi over in the end.
For that aspect alone this ending was a great one, it must be something of a trope for the childhood friend character/heroine to always fall short in these sorts of shows, there’s really no example that comes to mind of one winning when I think about it. Unless this season was always in mind when they were making it, the staff were even cruel enough to have Rihoko lose in her own arc when every other heroine had managed to succeed. But anyway, with this episode that matter is now out of the way, it may have taken a few more episodes but this was the sort of ending that redeemed that, with a little bit of a push she finally managed to close the distance between her and Junichi get him to realise that he had fallen for her.
If anything I also think that the extra two episodes that Rihoko had for her arc made it a lot better, with them things weren’t rushed and were able to be a little more gradual as she attempted to win him over, where as those for the others will be mere side stories. Not only was more time dedicated to her plight, but the little things as well, things that weren’t exactly essential and could have been left out were able to be included and gave a much more gradual feeling that suited the style of Rihoko’s arc and the difficulties she was facing. Having been together for over ten years it was either going to take a while or something big was going to be needed for her to win him over, most likely both, in this case Junichi inadvertently overhearing Rihoko confess that she likes him.
For which seeing them act awkward around each other afterward was even something of a relief, the moment Junichi started acting that way the ending was pretty much sealed, it was just a matter of getting there. And after that it also felt as if we got him back as the protagonist, the dense idiot disappeared and his usual self came back for the end, it really made the point where they decided to light some fireworks together a nice one, complete with a flashback to their childhood. Aside from that it was also pretty nice to get a glimpse from his side of things, we already knew that Rihoko keeps photos of them together as kids on her wall but I don’t think we knew that Junichi has them compiled in an album. But finally the ending itself was just great, it may have lacked a proper epilogue (though yes, you could say that this was the epilogue) but it was still pulled off nicely in how it all played out. It was precisely because of all that time that they spent together that he wanted to be with her, it made for a pretty nice moment between them.