Episode five of After the Rain begins as if it’s almost a throwaway episode, one in which Tachibana dreams of domestic bliss with Kondo. But it ends up being about more than that—episode five is an exploration of what it means to accept someone as they are, and how you have to push beneath the surface, the lovely parts (as Tachibana sees them) and even the smelly ones (you’re so mean, Yui!), to find the person underneath.
But as I mentioned, the episode begins benign enough. Kondo’s son, Yuto, visits the restaurant to show his dad the new hamster he picked up. His father is off for the day, however, so Tachibana volunteers to take Yuto to Kondo’s house. He’s out getting a meal, which allows her to begin her dreams of domesticity.
There’s a shot where Tachibana arranges the shoes for Yuta, Kondo, and herself in order—father, mother, and son—and blushes. This is the life she wants.
She goes on to see Kondo’s life, the messiness, the earnestness (books about managing and about magic, reminding her of the trick he did the first time they met), and the side she doesn’t know (he studies literature—does anyone know what kind?). Tachibana also cooks a meal for Yuta, who tells her they should play a trick on his dad and pretend she’s not there. They do so, and it’s good for some laughs (Tachibana’s fried omelet rice apparently needs less salt), but the closet in which she hides is too hot and Tachibana passes out. The situation becomes even stranger when Yuta accidentally spills barley tea (my favorite btw) all over her blouse.
Later, this makeshift family goes for a walk and Tachibana stops Kondo to tell him, “I want to get to know you better.” This is a key piece of dialogue—perhaps for the first time, she’s had a chance to see her crush in his private life, the things he doesn’t want anyone to see, and she gobbles it up. She’s seen the hidden side of him, and wants more.
Kondo doesn’t necessarily react to this on the spot (though he feels increasingly awkward around her following that confession), but his own development as a manager mirrors this idea of the need for sincerity. At work, he’s struggled to build a bond with his employees, but the new hamster has changed all that. The staff can’t get their duties done the next day because they’re so obsessed with the new hamster and Kondo becomes the center of positive attention. Finally, the staff is starting to accept him.
Kondo wonders why he’s feeling this way, the need to be accepted by people around him (and perhaps also the budding desire to start a relationship with Tachibana). And I think the key is that he wants people to like him for who he is—don’t we all? The staff has either ignored him up to this point or seen him poorly, and as a guy who is sensitive and caring and thinking, it hurts Kondo. He’s just mature enough to mostly write it off.
Still, that connection between Kondo and his employees isn’t genuine. His sudden popularity isn’t based on himself, but a hamster, which is why I think the last scene is significant, too. While the staff yucks it up around Kondo, Tachibana comes charging in and demands they get back to work, befitting of her strong character, but there seems to be a tinge of jealousy there, too, as she goes up to the manager and hands him a note with instructions for hamster care and asks him to ask her if he has any questions. It’s as if Tachibana is saying, “Don’t listen to them—their adulation will be gone soon. I’m the one who knows you and really cares, hamster or not. Come to me.”
Kondo doesn’t realize the depths of Tachibana’s feelings yet, but as he continues to develop and realize his own emotional needs, he’ll see her dedication to him, too. What he needs is right before him—whether he realizes it or not, and whether it’s a relationship that can even ever happen.
After the Rain is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.