Is this a new friend?
After everyone was blown away by the first episode of Kotoura-san, can the second episode hold up, or will it regress to the mean? And can she make some new friends, or will it just be her and Manabe?
Haruka starts off this week waking with a smile, for perhaps the first time in a long time, and talking to her empty apartment with the trappings of a ‘normal’ girl (saying “good morning” and “I’m off!” to nobody) underscores the change that the idea of a person who knows about her power and still wants to be her friend can make. And Manabe shows that he just wants to do more things with Haruka, walk to school with her, be in a club with her, and just be around her. This is great for Haruka, even if part of Manabe’s hopes are perverted fantasies, but it is also brewing trouble for her, because Moritani is upset that this new girl has come in and immediately grabbed the guy she’s been interested in.
Manabe’s just a nice guy.
And we find out why Moritani was interested in Manabe through a flashback: Much like Haruka, she was considered an outcast because her family runs a karate dojo, and she is in line to take it over, not exactly a ladylike thing. But Manabe thought it was really cool, and since that time she’s had a crush on him, only to be rebuffed (probably more than once) by Manabe’s inability to take a hint. So after Haruka scoops up his attention, and is obviously the focus of his fantasies, Moritani doesn’t want to lose to a ‘freak’.
Mifune and Muroto
The other big development in the show is the entrance of Mifune Yuriko (voiced by Hanazawa Kana), the president of the ESP Research Society, who is super excited to meet Haruka, a person with actual ESP. Unfortunately, her ulterior motive is to use Haruka to prove that ESP powers exist, in order to clear the name of her mother, who was an esper who was labeled a fraud and hounded until she took her own life. Scarred by that event, Mifune will use whatever cheap tricks to get Haruka’s sympathy.
The intersection of these two girls’ feelings happens when Mifune tries to raise ESP awareness by staging a mind-reading event in the school, and when Haruka can’t really focus on people she can’t see, she tries to please Mifune (her first senpai) by taking over. But Moritani uses this as a chance to taunt and bully Haruka, eventually making her throw up in front of everyone. From then on, Moritani and her cohorts bully Haruka in the same ways she’s been bullied before: writing on the board, throwing her books away, sticking notes on her back. Haruka suffers in silence, not telling Manabe or Mifune, and indeed her reaction to this bullying is different, because she keeps seeing Manabe, a lighthouse that shines in her darkness and always brightens her smile, so she keeps hiding it from him. But eventually he finds out, when he pulls a note off her back, and gets angry, and even though Kotoura doesn’t want him to do anything, and won’t say who’s doing it, Mifune (who was told about it and realizes she has to do something) fills him in and he confronts Moritani, as Mifune comforts Haruka. Listening from the doorway, she hears Manabe defend her, saying that Moritani’s mind is so disgusting that it made Haruka threw up, that Haruka never asked for anything and bottled all her pain up inside her. And when pressed on why he always takes her side (as if Moritani’s actually been wronged), Manabe says it’s because he likes her, a confession in front of the whole class, even if not directly in front of Haruka (who hears him from the hallway).
Will this be the start of them being a couple? How close will Manabe and Kotoura get? And while the OP shows that Moritani is in their group of friends and the ESP Research club, it’s hard to see how that happens when she hates Haruka for stealing Manabe, and she’s just been smacked down hard by Manabe. But this is anime, so turnarounds happen all the time.
Mifune’s initial selfishness in trying to prove that her mother’s ESP was a possibility leads to Haruka getting hurt, and Mifune realizes that this kind of thing is exactly what her mother dealt with. We’ll see how much exploitation Mifune keeps trying to foist on Haruka, but it seems that she’s realized that this is a feeling she doesn’t want, especially with someone like Haruka who wants so much to trust her.
I think everyone can figure out that the blame that Moritani assigns to Haruka for ‘stealing’ Manabe from her is unwarranted, and her actions of revenge are the lashings out of someone who was emotionally hurt by, essentially, the rejection she took from Manabe. This is a common occurrence both in anime and in real life: the one you like can’t be at fault, so it’s the interloper that assumes all the blame. It’s hard to accept the fact that “he’s just not that into you”, but that’s the plain truth.