As Hatsukoi Limited continues to "do the rounds" of the various girls in the centre of this series, so we finally come to Nao Chikura, a girl who hasn't featured prominently all that much at all up until now. Of course, one thing we do already know about Chikura is that she's caught the eye of Hiroyuki Sogabe, who is thrilled and delighted at the start of this episode as he gets to walk home with the object of his affections.
The trouble is, Chikura is in love.... with a painting. Or rather, to start with she's in love with a painting, a beautiful scene of cherry blossoms painted by someone who has already left and moved on to high school. This being anime of course, next thing she knows the guy responsible for this work of art is in the same room as her, as he pays a visit to his old middle school haunts. Next thing we know, he's helping Chikura out with her own painting on a daily basis while he waits for his high school graduation ceremony, with Chikura later learning that once he has graduated he'll be flying off around the world on voluntary work, most likely never to return to Japan again...
While I've been impressed by a few of Hatsukoi Limited's story arcs so far, this particular episode has easily blown me away as the most beautiful and poignant of the bunch. Chikura's love developing from a simple painting might sound like a fanciful plot device, but it reverberated with me entirely - If someone shares the same interests and passions as you, falling for someone based simply upon their manifestation of those interests (be it writing or painting or something else entirely) is more than possible, as is those feelings being confirmed when you meet and find out more about that person after your initial impressions based upon their work. Compared to some of the arguably shallow bonds which join some of the other characters in this series, Chikua and Yukito Renjou's relationship felt very close as far as it went, and that served to make the ending (inevitable though it was) all the more heart-breaking. Yes, I did cry, before you ask.
It's funny really how a series that has at times laid the fan service on thick still seems to be just as capable of tugging on the heart strings and delivering relationships or yearnings for others that resonate in their sense of reality - Even the most unlikely of pairings (read Kei and Kusuda) work in their own eccentric ways, and when more genuinely compatible elements are thrown together the result is both sweet, entertaining and (in this case) utterly beautiful too, rolling up the good and bad, the heart-warming and heart-breaking, into one single package.