Last week, Ichika made a rash, impulsive decision and set the timer on a drama bomb before dropping it right at Futaro's feet. This week, we sit and wait for that bomb to go off. And wait. And wait some more, until it starts to feel like the whole thing might just be a prank because boy, this bomb sure has been ticking for a good long while without exploding.
That's what the first half of this episode feels like, anyway. I've seen some talk about how this arc tanked Ichika's popularity among manga readers, but honestly I'm fine with characters behaving badly so long as it's a) entertaining and b) the show recognizes the gravity of whatever messed up things they do. So I'm all for one of the girls being underhanded or devious if it makes for an entertaining episode, and we get a teeny tiny bit of that this episode, but otherwise this again feels like a case of the anime shoving too much disconnected material together into a single episode, and it leaves everything that happens in it feeling half-baked.
Take the shiny lad from last episode: I still don't remember his name, refuse to learn it out of principle, and the same goes for Futaro. Apparently this guy's been in 2nd place in their grade the last two years thanks to our hard studying tutor, but the dip Futaro's grades took amongst all the family drama allowed Sir Sparkles to finally claim the top spot, and now he wants to claim the role of the sisters' tutor to boot. Not one to be looked down on or hand over his quintet of not-girlfriends, Futaro bites at the challenge and declares he'll improve the sisters' grades AND claim one of the top ten spots on the national mock exam. And with that the race is on!
...for maybe 5 minutes. For what feels like the thousandth time this season we speed through what could be an entire episode's worth of conflict in a few scant scenes, and it sure does take the wind out of the show's sails. The image of Futaro so bedraggled while juggling both tutoring and personal studying would have a lot more weight if it was around for more than two scenes, and since it's also splitting time with the subplot about the girls getting him a birthday present, the resolution feels totally unearned. Yes, it's very sweet they each leave a paper crane for him as thanks, and sure it's funny to see Nino and Ichika openly declare war for their prospective man, but the whole thing is finished before the eyecatch and that can't help but feel underwhelming.
The second half fares a bit better. For one, we actually get some quality solo time with Yotsuba for the first time in ages, as Futaro awkwardly tries to find a thank-you present for her. It's here that our lead is at his most relateable, because I also suck nuggets at picking out presents, and desperately wish my friends and loved ones would just link me their Amazon wishlists every December. The little not-date also shines some light on Yotsuba's tendency to put everyone ahead of herself, and the scene on the swingset is just adorable. I've long been bewildered by some of my friends' stalwart dedication to this girl and her bunny ribbon, but if nothing else this season has helped me understand a little better. The concluding argument about how to divide up groups for their school trip is also decently funny, and props to Futaro choosing the option that leaves nobody happy without even trying. That boy's got a talent, I tell ya.
Those additions keep this from feeling like a total nonstarter, but it's definitely still disappointing after how last episode left off. We're entering the final stretch of the season and I am thirsting for some nice, juicy drama. Hopefully things will come to a head with this school trip, or there'll at least be some payoff for Ichika's gambit, because otherwise this season might come off feeling flat regardless of how many shakeups to the status quo it's delivered. So come on Quints, take chances, make mistakes, get messy, I promise you'll be better off for it.