Although Shizuku's relationship is hardly all wrapped up with a bow, it is at least in a stable state at long last (further helped along by a little bribery on Shizuku's part to keep him from interfering with her time at cram school) - that leaves us free to explore things from Natsume's point of view for this penultimate episode of My Little Monster.
To some degree, it seems as if Natsume is caught between a rock and a hard place - setting aside the fact that she's fallen hard for Mi, on the one hand she still finds herself immensely irritated whenever there are guys on the scene, but whenever she's away from the crowd (and more specifically her friends) she feels overwhelmingly lonely; something that no amount of time spent online can resolve.
Luckily for her, a random phone call from Shizuku offers Natsume exactly the chance that she needs to invite herself over to her friend's place for the New Year, dragging Haru along with her to boot. Eventually, the trio wind up meeting up with the rest of their friends for the traditional New Year shrine visit before taking to the batting centre roof to see the sun rise - a night which confirms Natsume's reliance upon her friends, but also an event which brings home her concerns about what Haru and Shizuku getting together will do to their friendship with him. With her love for Mi looking ever more unrealistic in nature and her friends potentially drifting away from her, it's a decidedly despondent Natsume that we see closing out this episode.
With so much focus on Shizuku, we haven't really had a chance to dig in to Natsume's deeper personality, and thus this week's episode is arguably a much needed one which really gets under her skin and brings us another fascinating character - flawed, almost tragically so, but still fundamentally a girl who you can't help but sympathise with and root for. With only one episode to go, I hope that her story gets some kind of conclusion, but it's hard to imagine the focus shifting anywhere other than back to Haru (who offered the only low points of this instalment once again) and Shizuku. The fact that it has a number of strong characters to mine speaks volumes about the strengths of the show as a whole, which makes it all the more of a shame that other aspects of the series occasionally managed to undermine it so spectacularly.