Narukami backs off and observes Shiba interacting with Hina. Her daily routine is full of reluctant meals, a minimal physical exertion, and basic learning time. Through it all, Shiba is gentle and patient in all of her interactions, knowing when to stimulate and encourage and knowing the precursors and remedies to Hina’s tantrums.
Youta feels like a big, unruly wrench in Shiba’s delicate clockwork of care. He’s not a pediatrician or behavioral researcher, and it shows; he’s way out of his depth when it comes to the proper way to treat this Hina. He’s also under the mistaken impression that if he simply provides the right stimuli or flips the right behavioral switches, the Hina he knew will suddenly re-appear.
Shiba, who has no choice but to accept his perfectly forged credentials, nevertheless harbors a healthy weariness of Youta’s erratic, ad hoc methods. She knows the jist of what happened to Hina—an “innovative machine” was removed from her brain. She makes the devastating (but very plausible) suggestion that the “Hina he knew” was nothing but that machine processing stimuli and producing the proper responses.
This means he never knew “the Real Hina”—the girl lying in that room now. Rather than worrying about the simulacrum with which he interacted once, she believes everyone who cares about Hina should focus on the memories and progress she makes going forward.
Youta already fears he has no idea what he’s doing, but Shiba’s words send him into a fresh spiral of doubt and despair. Fortunately, he gets some well-timed calls and texts from Kyouko, Ashura, Sora, and the others, not only expressing their love for him and Hina, but their unwavering certitude that the Hina with whom they shared their summer was the real one.
With a fresh infusion of confidence and hope, Youta thinks of ways to stimulate Hina beyond what Shiba is doing, and comes up with the games she loved so much; specifically video games. Shiba is dubious of exposing Hina to the “addictive” games, but grudgingly allows Youta to proceed.
As Youta was hoping, playing the video game does perk Hina up, but he makes another mistake you’d expect of someone simply not trained to care for kids with special needs: he gets all pedantic about how the game is played. It’s also not at all a basic game, which means when Hina’s inputs cause an unpleasant outcome, she gets frustrated and upset.
Shiba comes to the rescue once again, and we delve into her past to see why she is so passionate about not just the practical minutiae of taking care of Hina, but making sure she’s happy. Shiba’s own child died in its infancy due to a similar developmental condition.
She fell into a pit of despair, but was saved by the kids she met at the kind of pediatric facility where she now works. Watching them perservere and grow and knowing how she could affect positive change in their lives, her heart gradually re-filled.
While Shiba is initially presented as an obstacle to Youta’s progress with Hina, in reality Youta wouldn’t have gotten anywhere at all with Hina if he hadn’t simply sat back at a respectful distance, watched, and learned from Shiba’s gentle example.
Youta realizes he’s been trying to make Hina do things, while Shiba stays close and waits for Hina to do them on her own. It’s why when Youta draws little picture cards of their circle of friends and she tosses the one of him away not once but twice, he lets her action stand.
He also realizes if he wants Hina to be happy playing the video game, he has to level up her character so he’ll be able to deal with whatever situation Hina gets him into. This is a long process, and Youta pulls an all-nighter upping the character form Level 4 to 47, but it pays off, and Hina is not only re-engaged, but actually smiling in his presence for the first time!
It’s a huge breakthrough, now that Youta understands the limits of what he can do. But just when he seems close to getting Hina out of her shell, Shiba does some digging and determines that Youta is an impostor filing false reports. She communicates this discovery to him via curt chat messages.
Hina may be making progress with Youta, but the fact Youta came to the facility with an assumed identity and in reality had no right to ever be there in the first place, should prove to be a fatal betrayal of Shiba’s and the facility’s trust. Good intentions or not, what Youta did was bad.
I don’t see how this doesn’t result in another swift separation of Youta and Hina, only this time without the benefit of a goodbye, as Hina’s not quite there yet. Frankly, I don’t see how he avoids criminal charges—and then there’s the matter of how much longer Hina has to live. In short, he’s going to need another miracle or two. The question is, does he have any miracles left?