For this episode, there are two parallel stories going on. The first concerns Ai. Despite her aggressive attitude, it turns out she’s quite bad at deciding what to do with her free time, which often leads to her wasting her days trying to choose something. Fortunately for her on this specific day, Pikari and Futaba show up and pull her along on a shopping trip. With shopping complete, the girls decide to go to the beach and try out their new swimsuits. It’s here that the second story, which had been building in the background, plays out – Futaba is concerned that, even if she does pass the pool course, she’ll never feel confident enough to go diving alongside Pikari. Pikari responds with the equivalent of “If you’re in doubt, push on anyways, and whatever happens, happens”. This reassures Futaba, who regains her motivation and finally passes her pool course at the episode’s conclusion.
I’ve seen some shows take their sweet time making story progress, but good Lord this show is on an impossibly slow roll. This episode follows what has become the standard for the show – despite all of her progress on a similar issue last episode, Futaba manufactures yet another reason to feel self-doubt, Pikari cheerfully helps her resolve that doubt, and then a small amount of progress towards the ultimate goal of actually diving in the ocean happens essentially off-camera.
If this were any other show, I would expect the other characters to someday confront Futaba about being a drama queen or mental hypochondriac, but here it’s just another chance for Pikari to come along and effortlessly soothe Futaba’s jitters with a patented “whoop” or two.
As it is, I can’t imagine what would happen if someone were to confirm Futaba’s fears or belittle them; she’s so fragile she’d probably shatter into pieces (and tears) instantly. It doesn’t help that today’s particular fear is more absurd than usual. Basically, Futaba is worried that she’ll never be “real” buddies with Pikari. Here, have some pictures.
Thank goodness Pikari is able to salve yet another set of Futaba’s concerns. It must have been International Moping Day, because in addition to this, Futaba has a whole different concern that she brings up to Pikari’s grandmother: that Pikari is always so friendly and outgoing, but Futaba herself feels that she never gives anything back.
Now, that’s basically true, and for once I thought the show might be on to something, maybe leading up to an episode where Pikari finally has a problem of her own that Futaba can help her with. Instead, Grandma takes a long pull on her cigarette, looks wistfully out towards the ocean, and, with one of the more tortured and extended metaphors I’ve seen in a while, declares that Pikari is essentially some kind of Sun God: A being of pure goodness and light that radiates joy and cheer in every direction, an inexhaustible supply of positive emotion that Futaba should feel no qualms about basking in.
So basically, Futaba can’t use up the sun by being in its light, and that light shines on everyone, so she shouldn’t worry about never giving anything back to Pikari. That’s… pretty terrible advice, actually. It’s also the strongest indication to date that we’re never going to see an episode in which Pikari develops; the show is telling us that she’s already perfect.
As mentioned, Futaba’s actual progression towards diving largely happens off-screen, but as of this episode, she can finally swim and is ready to start real diving training.
Also, there was a bunch of stuff about Ai’s indecisiveness that really didn’t go anywhere.
About half of the episode was devoted to shopping, but if you’ve seen anime before, you can probably fill in the details of a shopping/trying-on-clothes montage; there’s nothing special here.
In summary, this episode was exhausting. So much happened, yet so little of it made a difference. Futaba’s self-doubt machine continues to dominate the narrative, to the exclusion of all else, and my hopes for there being any real diving in this show are fading fast.