Sometimes coincidence and off-chance meetings are all it takes, which is
most definitely the cast when Azuma and Ko meet a young woman named
Akane who is new to the neighborhood as her family is opening a shop
there. To make things really awkward, Akane looks very much like Wakaba,
just aged a few years, and she even has a bag in her hand with the name
Wakaba on it. Ko's not exactly blindsided by all of this, but it slows
him up some and gets his mind moving just a bit. He does his best to
cover it up a bit though as you can see something in his eyes, almost
what may be a little edge of sadness.
With Akane's family bringing a noodle shop to the neighborhood, next to Ko's no less, the general impression of others before meeting her is that Ko will be there all the time due to his love of noodles. It's amusing in a way since everyone is generally positive and interested in what's going on there, but you have to wonder what reactions they'll have once they meet her. The reinforcement of the Wakaba side does feel a little forced at times, especially with the memories that surface for Ko, but with a lot of the show being focused on the somewhat filler-ish games for the last ten episodes or so, getting back into the more emotional and character driven side is necessary and highlighting the memories of the past has been important. It may be a little much sometimes, but it's never done to a maudlin or disturbing degree.
It does get a little close at times. There's a somberness to much of the episode as it progresses as the kids go about their lives. There's one scene showing Ko coming across Akane that has her standing against a sunset in her kimono for the festival where it just highlights how much like Wakaba she is. What makes it a painful scene is that just after that, with the two of them going to the festival together, Aoba sees them and can only see her dead sister walking again, even though she knows fully that it's not. It's not exactly a regular theme, but as they make their way through the festival and come across others who knew Wakaba six years ago, it's only hitting home all the more for them just how much she looks like her. It's even more striking when Akashi sees her and you really end up feeling for him since he was in love with her as well and has changed so much since then.