Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Omamori Himari hits the halfway mark, the more serious side of the series takes center stage. Fans of the fanservice side will still be mostly pleased, though it's not exactly as heavily overt as it has been in previous episodes. This episode works out rather well as it kicks out several of the characters so it can really just focus on Yuto, Himari, Shizuku and the newly introduced Kuesu. By doing so, you reduce a lot of the clutter that keeps the characters from learning things and actually making some forward progress. As much as I like Rinko and Liz, all they really add at this point is more hysterics and screaming.
The introduction of Kuesu plays well against what we learned from Yuto's trip back home and the return of many of his memories. While he believed he grew up playing with Himari at times, it turned out that it was not her that was his first kiss but rather someone else. With it being revealed that it was Kuesu of the Jinguji family, Himari is ready to kill her and Yuto really doesn't know what to make of it. Yuto's stunned even more when he learns from Kuesu that the two of them are in an arranged marriage which is why she's come to keep an eye out for him at his grandfather's request and because it's important to both families. Kuesu's definitely your strong and brash type, but as we learn it's fairly justified as the Jinguji family is the most recent of the twelve families and they're not well respected, especially as they use foreign magic. Her approach is completely in line with her life, and her understanding of what Himari and Shizuku are, but it clashes with Yuto's own experiences which makes for a very difficult first meeting to say the least.
The flip side to the episode, there's a good bit of material that delves into Himari and Yuto's relationship while Shizuku makes her own attack against Kuesu to figure out her strengths. That adds a lot of action to the episode, but I rather preferred watching Himari stress over the fact that she thinks she's losing to Kuesu and wonders whether Yuto really does prefer her, now that he's kissed Kuesu three times. She's very much a young girl in this regard and the way something so simple dominates her mind and she expresses a lot of questions to herself, but like most people (kids and adults!) she's to afraid to voice them out loud and find out what's really going on. Instead, she tries to get him to kiss her, even just on the cheek, so she can start to build a new rapport with him and figure out how he really feels about her. As much as a clich as these two are, it's easy enough to root for them to figure it all out and get together. Himari's emotions and questions during this are good to watch, even as they mix up some fanservice into it to make sure you're captured by it all.