WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki Episode 11, "A Single Choice Can Change Everything," now streaming on Funimation.
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki Episode 10 left off with the mother of all cliffhangers: Hinami and Tomozaki alone in a forest late at night, seemingly about to kiss after he teases her. But the anime's conclusion makes a fascinating change from the light novel -- and it works incredibly well.
In the novel, Tomozaki dodges Hinami's advance at the last second. Unimpressed, she tells him that he has a long way to go. In the anime, Tomozaki again backs away but this time Hinami laughs, teasing him by saying "I won this round!" It's a very important switch because here, Hinami keeps her cheery outward mask on, which sets the scene for two difficult conversations later in the episode.
Aoi Hinami is the perfect heroine to everyone around her. She gets the best grades, scores the best running times on the track team, and serves as Student Council President. Her entire persona is carefully crafted to be whatever everyone else needs in the moment while achieving her life goals with efficiency. However, this philosophy can clash with those who prefer to live in the moment and be truly open and honest about their own feelings. This is how Tomozaki operates deep down -- and it's inspired someone else.
During the final night of the gang's summer camping trip, Mizusawa finds Hinami alone and -- with Tomozaki hiding nearby -- confesses his feelings for her. He tells Hinami they're very much alike, both having cheerful outward personalities but hiding their true selves underneath. He admires people like Nakamura and Tomozaki for stumbling along, being their most honest selves and going after what they want most in life. Mizusawa wants to live more spontaneously, and tries to get Hinami to open up too. Hinami smiles and gives a generic response about how everyone keeps parts of themselves hidden while trying to act in accordance with the people around them. Mizusawa, who knows there's another side of Hinami deep down, is not impressed.
Aside from a couple of rare moments with Tomozaki, Hinami never takes off her mask. It's always changing and growing to ensure maximum efficiency in everything she does. In-the-moment feelings are pointless, she believes, because they will soon pass and aren't worth paying attention to. Tomozaki has followed her instructions and advice as stringently as possible and has benefited greatly. He has friends, acquaintances, went on a first date, and has come to enjoy life. Without Hinami, he would still be friendless, miserable and living largely without purpose.
However, the two share a core fundamental difference: Tomozaki still feels most comfortable living in the moment, speaking from the heart, and considering what he desires most. Hinami believes everything in life is a goal to be set and achieved for the purpose of personal growth -- including Tomozaki's potential relationship with Kikuchi.
After Tomozaki and Kikuchi go out to a fireworks show together and have a great time, he meets up with Hinami at a train station. She had set the goal of Kikuchi becoming his first girlfriend and told him to confess to Kikuchi during their second date. Tomozaki did not do this, realizing he needed time to ponder his true feelings. Does he really want a relationship with Kikuchi, or is he just aiming to achieve the goal set for him by Hinami? Surely it isn't fair to treat Tomozaki's or Kikuchi's feelings like an arbitrary hurdle to overcome?
As Tomozaki shares all this, Hinami grows increasingly disgusted. He's essentially rejecting the core of her overarching philosophy and, in her eyes, he's also rejecting her as a person. Unable to find a compromise, Hinami declares their training is over and returns the gift he'd bought for her, leaving him alone at the station. As Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki heads into its Season 1 finale, can a stunned Tomozaki save their friendship while sticking to his own personal principles? For all of Hinami's valuable teachings, perhaps Tomozaki can teach her a life lesson in return.