This episode opens with a flashback featuring backstory for Hiyori. I’m glad to finally understand why he feels so possessive about Ikuya. It’s still not OK for him to be this possessive, but at least the audience finally understands his motivations for his actions. This, at least, helps to make Hiyori seem less like a villain than he had before now.
Most of the focus of this episode is on Ikuya and Hiyori. Ikuya’s times keep getting worse at practice, and he is withdrawing from everyone because of it. It turns out that both Ikuya and Hiyori liked Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid when they were growing up, and we see Hiyori making allusions to the story as he thinks about what he can do to help Ikuya. This culminates at the end of the episode, when there is a major confrontation between the two of them, culminating with Ikuya actually showing anger toward Hiyori. But I was concerned about Ikuya during this scene, though, because the way he was talking he almost sounded suicidal.
But there was some interesting subtext going on with Hiyori in regards to Ikuya, especially in that final scene. Is there something more legitimate going on with that subtext, or is this simply a kind of “fan service” for the audience?
Haru plays a slightly lesser role in this episode. Through Makoto, he is able to reunite with a former senpai from their middle school swim team days, and share with him how Hiyori treats Haru and how he’s actively keeping Ikuya away from them. This senpai listens with a sympathetic ear, and gives them his take on what’s going on.
A mysterious man who appeared at Haru’s school cafeteria in an earlier episode reappears here, and we finally learn his identity. I liked how his identity was first revealed through a scene with Rin and his coach in Australia, and more information comes out on him through Asahi’s brother-in-law (who is a sports reporter). This character, who is named Ryuuji, appears to be a swimming coach that is trying to scout out Haru. But Ryuuji does plant a bug in Haru’s ear, asking him why he only swims free. We see that Haru doesn’t have an answer to this question. It’ll be interesting to see if Haru ends up taking on Ryuuji as a coach or not.
Since there was such a focus on the high school characters in the previous episode, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that they don’t make any kind of an appearance here. So much time needed to be devoted to Ikuya and Haru’s storylines, that there simply wasn’t any room to include the high school students as well.
From the preview, it looks like the next episode will see our college characters competing, so we’ll likely see the swimming action that this franchise is known for.