I’ve still pretty confident only Minami will get off the starting line, but the third competitor in the race is finally introduced here. Not before some more hijinks with the Fuyuki family (I thought we might meet the younger sister here, but it’s only Mom – who might be a sort of wild card in this whole event – making an appearance). It’s finals season, and Minami, unsurprisingly the worst student of the trio, invites Tsubasa and Sayuri over for a study party. He’s already been over to her house of course, which draws a rather explosive reaction from Sayuri.
Apparently the libation of choice for Hokkaido teen studying is “Ribbon Napolin“, yet another dose of Hokkaido realia. It’s some sort of orange soda and apparently quite popular up there. As for the studying it seems to mostly be Tsubasa tutoring the other two, and Sayuri is clearly the better student. But Tsubasa panics when he realizes it’s 6:50 and he’s missed his curfew, and takes off in a panic. After literally running into Fuyuki-mama he gets a lift home (among other things), along with her sincere thanks for the Valentine’s piano thing (which is all her daughter has been talking about).
Obviously a high school student having a curfew isn’t in itself unusual, but it’s pretty obvious that Tsubasa’s home life is. His grandmother is pretty tyrannical, decidedly old-fashioned, and continually threatens to send him back to Tokyo (I’m not clear on why that would be such a terrible thing, taking Minami out of the equation). Grandma rips Tsubasa a new one and orders him to come home immediately from school every day until finals. There are obviously more revelations to come where Tsubasa’s home life is concerned.
Enter Natsukawa Rena (Ueda Reina). She’s the third gal from the OP (and title), a fair-haired beauty who seems to be half-Japanese (the very definition of exotic but not enough to be scary). Observant viewers will have noted that the three girls’ names contain fuyu (winter), aki (fall), and natsu (summer). The natural assumption would be that there’s a “Haru” girl out there waiting to be introduced (especially since the protagonists’s name doesn’t check that box), but I can’t find any evidence of that.
Natsukawa-san makes a big first impression on Tsubasa, chasing off a murder of crows from the local garbage spot (she’s Tsubasa’s neighbor). Minami is pretty infatuated with her herself, in fact, noting that she’s won the school beauty contest two years on the trot. Tsubasa next meets her in the library – where he’s retreated for temptation-free study time – asleep behind the counter and apparently dreaming of the Battle of Sekigahara. Finally, she drops by to deliver the neighborhood bulletin and swoons over Tsubasa’s traditional Japanese attire, donned to practice tea ceremony as an antidote to hormonal distractions.
Based on the already-established cast, I certainly expect Natsukawa to be a fully-fleshed out character in her own right, even if she has no chance with Tsubasa. At the moment, though, I’m most curious about what’s going on with Tsubasa’s weird family situation – why is he so sheltered, why was he whisked away from Tokyo, and where the heck are his parents (we know his father is local, but we’ve seen nothing of him)? Maybe they’re just stuffy rich people but I sense there’s more going on here than that.
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