Seeing as how the last episode ended right as Shimamura hangs out with Tarumi on the eve of Valentine’s Day, I figured this episode would immediately begin with that. Surprisingly, the episode shows Adachi and Shimamura’s “date” first and then flashes back to the latter’s hangout with Tarumi. The two days then effectively run in parallel. In fact, they play similarly too each other as well, right down to the location as Adachi buys the same chocolate from the same store that Shimamura does the day before (cheeky, I know). Putting the two scenes back to back makes for a more compelling experience as you get to see how differently Shimamura interacts with Tarumi compared to Adachi. Whereas Shimamura has gotten to known Adachi more recently and has grown close to the latter, it’s been years since she last saw Tarumi and it shows.
I still expect Tarumi to serve as a sort of rival to Adachi. It’d be quite the subversion of expectations if it isn’t the case and she really is just an old buddy of Shimamura’s. That said: if Tarumi is to play that role, I like and prefer that she doesn’t do so immediately. She hasn’t seen Shimamura in years and Shimamura seems like someone who largely attaches herself to the people she’s around at a given moment. That much is made clear when Shimamura initially can’t remember what nickname she gave to Tarumi when the two of them were kids. It simply makes much more sense that this first hangout plays out rather awkwardly.
As a result, I sympathize a bit for Tarumi. You can tell that she had a specific picture in her head how the day would play out and tagging along with Shimamura buying a gift for a friend wasn’t it. What really works here is playing the scene back to back with Adachi and Shimamura’s Valentine’s Day. Our two main characters have their usual shenanigans and banter and meanwhile, you watch Tarumi awkwardly and sometimes even silently spend the day alongside Shimamura. The former effectively acts as what Tarumi would like to experience in contrast to what she ultimately gets. In a way, I’m glad that Shimamura eventually remembers Tarumi’s nickname. It’s definitely a move that opens the door for Tarumi to further involve herself in the story but after such an awkward episode, you do feel for her as her day doesn’t end on an awkward note.
Considering how Christmas went, I did not get my hopes up for Adachi to finally confess to Shimamura and sure enough, that ultimately doesn’t. In fact, Adachi doesn’t contemplate doing so at any point in this episode. It’s all in line with what we know about her but you really have to wonder if not these two big holidays, when will Adachi ever come forward (if at all). I suppose there are some baby steps to consider. As silly as it is for Adachi and Shimamura to get each other the same brand of chocolate, that they end up with the same gift is saying something. With how differently they approached Christmas, I consider it an improvement that they thought more along the same lines this time around. You also have the part where Shimamura shows Adachi the message she submitted to a TV network’s Valentine’s Day event, resulting in the latter hugging the former. Only now do I realize this is the first time the two of them share a hug. I guess that’s a step up from holding hands.
What might Shimamura’s message say about her? Even though she apparently intended the message to be for everyone in general, that she admits that Adachi was the first person to come to mind when she wrote it is noteworthy. It’s necessarily romantic so it’s hard to say if this means Shimamura would reciprocate Adachi’s feelings if she ever found about them. At the very least, it’s another and more blatant sign that she considers Adachi someone important to her. As always, it’s baby steps with this relationship and that’s of course enough to make Adachi happy. Being more than a mere friend is all she ever asked for.