Given the last-gasp romantic drama of last week's Kids on the Slope, there are no prizes for guessing who is the talking point of the school as this penultimate instalment begins.
With Yurika's elopment to Tokyo the talk of the town, Kaoru's first concern is for Sentarou's mental well-being - a needless worry it seems, as after a small moment of melancholy he's back to his usual self, if only outwardly. This allows Kaoru to turn to his own problems, and more precisely the question of the mysterious mittens - were they really meant for him, and are they a proper present or simply some "left-overs"?
Even when he figures out that yes, they are a proper present, Kaoru still doesn't seem bright enough to realise what Ritsuko is trying to tell him as he ponders why she would possibly have given them to him - something that he asks her directly, which isn't exactly a good move and causes Ritsuko to simply walk away. Such is Kaoru's tendency to feel sorry for himself following Ritsuko's earlier rejection that he looks set to both jeopardise his position and Ritsuko's feelings for him before finally redeeming himself with an impressive (albeit cold-ridden) confession. Fast-forward to summer and this appears to be about as far as Kaoru and Ritsuko's relationship has progressed, but all of this looks likely to become secondary as a ghost from Sentarou's past comes back to haunt him and his siblings...
You know the drill by now, and I'm not sure there are any more relevant superlatives I can use for Kids on the Slope as it continues to deliver sharp, emotional drama as it twists and turns throughout its story. Admittedly its sudden time-jump forward from the cusp of spring to the midst of summer felt a little jarring and too quick for my liking, it is but a small complaint amongst much top-notch characterisation, direction and delivery with plenty of moments to leave you practically gasping for breath amidst its emotional intensity right through to its big cliff-hanger to take us into the series finale. Let's just hope it can deliver a fitting end, as it still has rather a lot to cram into a single episode.