Despite being the beach episode of the show, episode 12 actually gives us a lot more than a good look at the girls in swimsuits. The haremettes remain skeptical of Eita and Masuzu’s relationship, thanks to some very unconvincing acts the two put on during the train ride. Previously, it was debatable whether Eita was playing the part purely because of Masuzu’s ability to blackmail him. Here, it’s made very clear that this is not his motivation. Unable to convince the girls, Eita consults Masuzu, and she suggests a nonchalant goodnight kiss in front of the others to erase all doubts about their being in love. Realizing the potential consequences of such an act, Eita protests at first. But instead of forcing him to go along with it like usual, Masuzu does something completely different this time. She actually gives Eita the freedom to decide whether he wants to go through with it, or whether he’ll back down.
As fate would have it, Eita never does get the chance to carry out the act, but we see that he did in fact resolve to do so after a brief moment of hesitation. It’s just that Chiwa managed to unknowingly cockblock him by creating a mood in which such an act would be very awkward. Whatever the case, this is irrefutable proof in my mind that Eita actually does have feelings for Masuzu. Sure, they didn’t exactly get off on the right foot thanks to the whole blackmailing business, but everything Eita has been doing for Masuzu since Saeko shook things up felt genuine to me. He may not have realized it himself at the time, but I don’t believe Eita would left Masuzu even if she returned his notebook. And that’s just as well, because this is exactly what Masuzu offers him when he confronts her after the failed kissing attempt.
But let’s back up for a moment and return to the failed kissing attempt. It was suggested last episode that the rest of the girls have managed to become friends with each other, yet none of them have reached out towards Masuzu. This misconception is corrected rather quickly, as the girls reveal that their scheming was actually to surprise Masuzu with matching cellphone straps for the whole club. This was a unexpectedly touching moment, which took even the usually cold-hearted Masuzu by surprise. And it seems her realization that the other girls consider her to be a friend despite their being rivals is enough to finally push her over the edge. We’ve watched Masuzu sort of mellow out throughout the show. But it still comes as a bit of a surprise that she’s offering to let Eita go, even though this is obviously something that would happen eventually.
Which brings us to the long-running question of how genuine her feelings are. Did she like Eita from the very beginning? At first, I didn’t think this was the case. But the way she warmed up to Eita so quickly has me wondering if her sights were always set on him. As if to answer the question, none other than Mana abruptly shows up. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the feisty imouto, and in fact her last appearance didn’t leave a very good impression of her. Here, we learn that despite her previous poor treatment of Masuzu, she’s actually just a tsundere for her big sister. She also reveals to Eita that Masuzu has lived a lie her entire life, putting on an act just to please her father. This took a toll on her, however, and eventually she couldn’t take it any more and ran away. So what does this tell us? I guess no, she really didn’t have feelings for Eita at first. She’s been acting all her life, and probably thought she could solve her latest problems by putting on yet another act. I personally would have liked the alternate possibility, but at least this one works well for what the show has set up.
We’re left off with Masuzu feeling guilty for everything she’s done and probably thinking that she doesn’t deserve Eita. But it’s pretty clear that Eita has his heart set on Masuzu, perhaps consciously now. So unless OreShura throws us a massive curveball, I’d say the final shipping is set in stone. We’ll likely get some sort of flashy confrontation or perhaps confession at the contest, and the rest will be history. My condolences to the other girls.