Introduces a tsundere childhood friend of Ichika, who is also romantically interested in him. But wait, you say, that was two episodes ago! Ah, but that was the first tsundere childhood friend. There’s another one. This one’s Chinese.
But before childhood friend the second (Ichika actually calls her this… twice) appears, there’s a bit of Cecilia x Ichika as they perform IS maneuvers as a class example. Ichika performs possibly the most mentally retarted landing he could have, causing Cecilia to fuss over him and making tensions between her and Houki.
Cecilia gives up her position as the Class Representative to Ichika, probably as an effort to win his favor. A party is held to celebrate Ichika’s becoming the representative, in which Cecilia tries to get closer to Ichika. Of course, Houki disapproves. In Ichika and Houki’s room at the end of the day, Houki acts a bit bitchy, but apologizes later when the lights are off.
As the class representative, Ichika will participate in the inter-class tournament. As his class is discussing the tournament, the third girl and IS representative from China, Fan Ririn, appears.
Ichika recognizes Ririn and seems quite close to her, so with her comes a wave of speculation about who she is and what her relationship is with Ichika. The two are closely observed during lunch, and eventually Cecilia and Houki ask him who Ririn is to him. A childhood friend, he says. Relieved that she is not Ichika’s girlfriend, Cecilia and Houki bicker a bit with her about who is closer to Ichika, while he passively and cluelessly observes.
A private conversation with Ririn after an IS training session reveals to her that Ichika is sharing a room with Houki, causing instant jealousy. Ririn tries to get Houki to switch rooms with her, leading to a minor confrontation involving aggravated assault. Ririn brings up a promise she made with Ichika as a child, that if she became good enough at cooking, she would cook for him every day (as his wife). Ichika remembers this promise as an offer for free meals. Ririn slaps him and proposes a challenge – the winner of the upcoming inter-class match will give the loser one request.
Two childhood friends, and both tsunderes… a rather uncommon setup. However, it’s not bad, since their personalities and actions toward Ichika are very distinct. Ririn is a lot more aggressive and sure of her feelings, trying to get Ichika to like her. Houki on the other hand, is quite passive and seems to get involved mostly for the purpose of keeping other girls away from Ichika. Speaking of differing personalities, Cecilia’s complete turnaround of personality from last episode to this one was quite amusing. Though that kind of personality change is seen only in schizophrenics, I completely prefer the new Cecilia. It was entertaining to watch her, the stuck-up elitist from one or two episodes ago, fluttering over Ichika and trying to get his attention – unfortunately for her, she is mostly ignored. Of course, Ichika, like most harem leads, is mentally handicapped when it comes to girls. If it had not been for the scene where he agonizes as Houki changes in close proximity to him, I would not have thought he was in possession of a working pair of testicles. I do think that any harem lead has to have a certain degree of cluelessness to maintain the ‘harem’ label.
This episode was pretty successful in the comedy department. Several good moments were woven into the romance without disrupting it. The scene where Ririn slaps Ichika was my favorite – unexpected and still cute, followed by Houki’s even more unexpected reaction that made me laugh out loud. If this episode is any judge, Infinite Stratos will be a lot less focused on action/fighting than romance, and it seems that the battles are mostly tools to advance the romances. It’s doing well in both the action and romance sections, with good romantic comedy accentuated with action and mecha. A Stratos battle between two close-combat types and the resolution to Ririn’s challenge is on the way.