Things are tense between Setsuna and Haruki on the way home, but Haruki calls her later that night, and apologizes for not telling her he stayed at Touma’s to practice. She tells him how her friends stopped talking to her back in middle school due to misunderstandings, and is afraid of losing friends again. Haruki promises he’ll never leave her; before hanging up she makes him call her by her first name. The next day, during a test, the teacher confiscates Touma’s music book. She loses her temper, grabs it, and runs out of the classroom. Haruki and Setsuna join her in skipping class and practicing. Later, at home, after completing the last song for the fair, Touma collapses from exhaustion.
In a friendship, sometimes withholding information is as bad as lying. Setsuna’s been there before; it involved a boy, and her friends abandoned her one by one. So she has every reason to suspect history is repeating itself when she finds Haruki’s toothbrush in Touma’s bathroom. But as Haruki tries to efficiently get to the vital points of things, he doesn’t let the discomfort he felt with Setsuna on their walk home linger to the point where a rift between them would widen. He apologizes, she tells him why she acted the way she did, he understands, and he promises her he won’t leave her like her other friends did. It’s a long phone call, but we like how it unfolds and progresses, especially when she abruptly ends it after finally getting a “Setsuna” out of Haruki.
So everybody’s happy, right? Well, not quite. Touma is putting so much into the music, it’s unlikely she’ll graduate along with her club-mates without their help. She doesn’t even bother filling in the blanks on a test that will affect her grade, and worse, she shows up a teacher, not letting him take her music book with Kitahara’s name on it. But she’s also working so hard, she may not have any more gas for the actual performance; staying up for days on end is no healthy way to live. And at the end of the day, Haruki is developing feelings for two girls, and vice-versa. Just because Haruki and Setsuna are on amiable terms now doesn’t mean another misunderstanding or two isn’t lurking on the horizon.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
Touma sets to work whipping Haruki into shape, making him practice 10 hours a day at her house until he can play “White Album” without any mistakes. When Setsuna and Takeya join them for a full band practice, they’re delighted by Haruki’s progress. They agree that the second song they’ll play will be an Ogata Rina number, which requires quite a bit of technical guitar playing, but Touma promises Haruki that he’ll can do it, even with just a week to practice. After showering at Touma’s house, Setsuna notices Haruki’s travel kit by the sink, proof he’s been spending the night there.
White Album continues on a safe, steady path, neither embarrassing itself nor knocking any socks off with its earnest, un-ironic storytelling. The more Haruki hangs out with Touma, the closer they seem to come together. With practically the entire school save Haruki not really knowing the true Touma, it’s not surprising that even Touma isn’t quite on the ball about her confidence; in fact, she doesn’t believe she has any talent at all, at least not compared to her famous mom. Like Haruki, she works incredibly hard to maintain her skill level, but when he masters that song, its as if she’d suddenly started to believe anything is possible, which wasn’t the case before.
Of course, Touma’s new-found closeness with Haruki presents a problem: Setsuna likes him too, and looks pained and betrayed when she sees his toothbrush in Touma’s bathroom. Even if in reality nothing’s going on, her mind is sure to race at the possibilities. The scene when Setsuna is flirting with Touma at lunch while his friends look on awkwardly is mirrored when she and Takaya watch Touma laughing at/with Haruki, showing how close they’ve gotten in so short a time. We can see why Touma chose not to bring in Setsuna until Haruki was good enough, but in doing so she may have inadvertently opened a rift in the new band – likely the first of many to come.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Haruki throws caution to the wind and asks Ogiso to join the light music club. The next day she respectfully declines, but when he visits her at her secret part-time job, he asks again, and she tells him to meet her in an hour. At karaoke, where she sings by herself every week, she agrees to join the club. The next day she meets the third member, Iizuka Takeya, but thinks he’s the pianist. Haruki and Takeya search for the pianist to no avail, until Haruki happens to bump into Touma Kazusa after school. When he hears the piano, he climbs out to the window of the locked music room, and is about to fall when the window opens and Touma herself grabs his hand.
This was an episode full of discoveries. Haruki learns of Setsuna’s secret rooftop singing, part-time job, and karaoke nights, and learns that the girl who sat next to him is the elite pianist who played along to his guitar. He may only be seeking their services to augment his decimated light music club, but the ramifications of seeking out and courting them both with reach beyond club affairs to matters of the heart. We know this because of the helpful, somewhat spoilery prologue. But as is usually the case with these kinds of romances, it’s not about whether or not Haruki enters this triangle; it’s about how that happens: the journey.
He’s inadvertently made a lot of progress with Ogiso already; the more he learns about her, the more she warms up to him. Touma, meanwhile, is a much tougher book to read (when the episode deigns to show us her face) and nut to crack. She seems put out saving Haruki from falling. Someone who values their privacy so much would be hard-pressed to join a music club with “inferior talents” and ultimately fall into a love triangle. Still, Haruki’s only ever been nice to his desk neighbor, and she did play along to his guitar for some reason. Recruiting her will be tricky, but not impossible.
Rating:7 (Very Good)