Or rather, the efforts Reiji puts into saying the three magic words.
Since the beginning, there’s no question regarding his attraction to Shibayama Misaki. Since the beginning, Muraoki has been encouraging him to confess to get the ball rolling, which he keeps postponing doing because 1) he feels he has conveyed his feelings through his actions, 2) deems it too risky a move, and then 3) is too embarrassed to do so.
His belief that relationship doesn’t necessarily start from a love declaration appears to be corroborated by the fact that one of his staff was able to marry a former model without “I love you”. However, Muraoki’s insistence makes him yield and start planning the big moment, like using his featured mushroom shot as a conversation starter:
“Do you like mushrooms?”
“Yeah, i love them. As much as i love you.”
“I love mushrooms. And you as well.”
Amid doubts that would work, Reiji decides to come up with new projects and has Misaki included in the planning team as coincidentally as possible, like choosing her proposal or inviting her to inspect the upcoming hotel site together. She’s excited at the opportunities, which he takes as mutual interest, especially after learning that she chose Samejima Hotels over Stay Gold. Things begin to look up between them — he even manages to indirectly declares “…suki nanda!“, the double entendre which contextually means he likes it (the name she selected for the puppy: Gosuke) but could also be interpreted as “I like you” — before his soaring emotions are dashed by her take on lightning romance between a new hire and the company’s president: it’s creepy.
Her frank opinion crushes his heart so much that he goes on an impromptu business trip to a place no one can hurt him, which really is a retreat to mend his broken heart by diverting his attention onto his other fixation: mushrooms. That’s where Wada finds him. He offers him advice on how to win a-woman-like-Misaki’s heart as the self-proclaimed office romance expert. I found it odd that he readily agrees to help Reiji when they’re business rivals and he himself has the intention to poach Misaki. It’s even odder for Reiji to accept his help when his initial reason for wooing her is to impress Wada — that takes away the surprise and wow factors, no?
Reiji seems awed by Wada’s track record, though the latter attributes it to the affinity forged by physical closeness (they’re squished inside the small tent at the point of discussion). Regardless, Wada shares several key pointers, which Reiji jots down eagerly like a good disciple and puts into practice right away: 1) asking a throwaway question to pique her curiosity, 2) devising a work trip just for the two of them, 3) driving a compact car and loosening up, and then 4) sealing everything with a confession — get intoxicated if needs be! What ensues is cute, silly, giggly sequences; i was amused by his comical expressions/reactions to Misaki’s responses (despite my initial reservations about his characterization).
Reiji manages to tick the first three boxes with ease and expectedly struggles with the last point. He repeats the ambiguous “…suki da!” statement and after unable to do it till the very end, it finally dawns on him that it isn’t embarrassment but fear of rejection that renders him tongue-tied. So, the hardest word to say may not be “thank you” or “sorry” after all — it’s “i love you.”
I’ve wondered what will make Misaki fall for Reiji for quite some time now as she doesn’t seem to be the type who’s easily moved by mere kindness or attentiveness. She was pretty harsh toward him in the first two weeks before softening up in these two episodes. I still think his interest is plain obvious — sulking after her “kimochi warui” and lighting up after her approaches — and doubt she has seen him in a different light. Following up a random question doesn’t suggest a romantic interest, and it’s arguably nice to be on one’s boss’ good side, although she does seem a bit too relaxed around him: frequenting the company’s gym when the only other person present is the young, single, handsome shachou; ain’t thinking much of him behind the wheel when he has a personal chauffeur; and inviting herself to the medaka‘s egg hatching session, at night, when everybody else has gone home.
That last scene was definitely one of episode 4’s highlights. It might have been an utterly unexpected turn had i not spoiled by those live tweets. It was an adorable beat for Reiji to be planning to use his passion for mushrooms as the pick-up line or capitalizing on his works to further impress her all this time only to belatedly realize he could say the impossible over medaka (his other passion). His surprised-cum-mortified face afterward was gold.
The other highlight for me was the exchange between Reiji and the potential head chef for Gosuke. Reiji is supposedly an admirable shachou despite his age yet i never felt/saw that quality in him…until that moment. He may not have a way with words (or flattery like Wada) so he opts to convey his intention through actions and hopes it shows. Sometimes it works, sometimes it needs to be spelled out. And that scene was well-played.
The interaction between Reiji and his assistants continues to be my favorite thing about Sekamuzu. Their rapport is undeniably genuine there is no need for the backstory/flashback, really, although of course it’s nice to know how it all began. The latest development between Muraoki and Wada was predictable though, you can just sense there’s a hidden agenda behind those secret meetings. I don’t know what to feel about it because she deserves a good man and Wada is too much a charmer for that. *shrug*