“Chapter 70 Small Palm / Chapter 71 In the Sun”
Saturdays at 12:30 pm EST on Crunchyroll
Mr. Kokubu’s efforts to end the bullying reach their final stages, as Hina’s tormentor is finally forced to give an apology. Working through her feelings, Hina receives a letter from Shiho bringing consolation and hope. Later, Rei learns of the news, and has his real worth drilled through his thick skull.
Hot on the heels of last episode’s stellar performance, we get into the nitty gritty of dealing with a bullying problem. Mr. Kokubu works very well as a teacher who knows what his real responsibilities are. The only thing I wonder about is if he is new to the school. From the reaction Hina’s old teacher had, the bullying problem has existed in the school uncontested for years, but now he comes in to try and fix the situation. Has he received new training, or is it just that her old teacher’s unwillingness to come down on the bully has let such behavior slide over the years? Either way, hearing Hina talk about how she could feel the hope returning to the classroom as everyone is forced to deal with the fallout is incredibly reassuring.
I knew Shiho was going to come back into the picture eventually, and Lion picked the absolute perfect moment to do it. Hina has a lot of frustration still pent up, we can see that plenty in how she’s unwilling to forgive her unrepentant tormentors. It doesn’t matter how much has changed Shiho is gone and that can’t be fixed. With Shiho’s letter, she finds the peace to start her own healing. I hope we get to see their eventual reunion, as the scene is such an affirming one and it would be another great way for Lion to show how someone can overcome being hurt. With Akari able to be at her side for the whole letter, she too gets a bit of closure after feeling like she wasn’t able to do enough during the parent teacher conference.
Finally, we get to the most heartwarming part of the episode. Rei is very oblivious due to his stunted childhood, so every opportunity to help him grow out of his wounds and learn more about himself has been important to his overall development. Honestly, I’ve found it to be a very true stereotype that men can’t help but want to fix things, especially for women they care for, when in reality all they want is their love and support. In this way, Hina shows Rei his true worth and reminds us that, unbeknownst to him, he had been doing the best he could for her from the very beginning. This scene almost shot for shot the way it was in the manga, but the little touches that Shinbo gives breathe life into the scene like nothing else. That was the most emotional I’ve gotten from an anime in a while as Hina thought on all the scenes where Rei had been there for her in the past few weeks.
The big debate I had with Jel and Artemis over this episode is where Rei and Hina’s relationship goes from here. It is true that, up until this point, their friendship has been purely platonic. The most obvious moment in support of this is when Mr. Hayashida became the audience proxy for all the shippers, and yet Rei’s responses to his teasing questions seemed to show no hint of romantic overtones. I do think you can interpret Rei’s statements romantically or platonically, so I don’t think a romantic involvement is inevitable, and it may be the wrong message to send to say the two of them have to be linked romantically now that they’ve become so close. Still, I don’t necessarily think that would be a bad thing. Romance should totally be about finding people who support you and encourage you to be a better person. Rei’s constant concern for Hina gave him drive in his life professionally and personally, and Rei’s support was the pillar she could lean on as she overcame her trials. You could certainly find a worse match. Now that this chapter is over, we go on to the match with Souya, and if the preview is any indication, another heart-to-heart with Mr. Hayashida. I’m more than satisfied with how much attention the show has lavished on Rei and the Kawamotos in recent weeks, so I think I’m okay with a return to some shogi action.