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Hiro and his traveling companion Ando Masahashi, weary from their long journey from Las Vegas, stop at the Burnt Toast Diner for breakfast. Not yet caffeinated, Ando complains about the lack of food choices, while Hiro is just happy to be out of the car. Charlie is their server and asks to take their order. Hiro is immediately attracted to the waitress and kicks himself for not knowing enough English to talk to her. He tries to have Ando (who speaks English fairly well) talk for him, but Ando doesn't want any part in helping Hiro hit on "some poor defenseless girl". Charlie listens to them speaking Japanese and tries to use some words she learned from a Japanese phrase book she got for her birthday. She says that lately she has been able to remember everything she reads. They settle on their order, and Charlie leaves to continue working.
While she is gone, Hiro laments his bad luck in love, but feels that today is his lucky day. He debates asking Charlie out on a date, and Ando doesn't have any faith in Hiro's luck with women. When Hiro works up the courage to talk to Charlie, he gets scared and excuses himself to the men's room. There, he wrestles with his confidence, painfully remembering a bad experience he had with Miyoki Akayawa. Finally deciding that this time would be different, Hiro walks out of the bathroom full of confidence. However, the atmosphere in the diner is suddenly completely different. Ando approaches Hiro, says "It's Charlie", and motions to the diner's storeroom. In there, an officer is sobbing and giving orders, a waitress is on her knees, and everybody is whispering, crying, and scared. Charlie is dead.
Hiro remembers that in his final year of high school, he met with the guidance counselor and told her that he believed his destiny was to follow in his father's footsteps, work at Yamagato Industries, and eventually take over the company. But when asked what he wanted to do, Hiro expressed his desire to become Bushido warrior.
Years later, he finds himself working at Yamagato. Bored and frustrated with his life's direction, Hiro manages to turn back time by about one second. He excitedly tells Ando, who doesn't believe him and teases him instead. That night on the subway home, Hiro successfully teleports to Times Square in the future. He sees a 9th Wonders! comic book with his picture on it, and decides to seek out the comic's writer-illustrator, Isaac Mendez. However, when Hiro gets to Isaac's loft, he sees a painting of an explosion in New York City, paintings of himself, and he finds Isaac murdered with his brain removed.
In the present, Hiro connects Isaac's murder with Charlie's murder, calling the killer "Brain Man". As Sheriff Davidson mournfully interrogates suspects, Hiro resolves to go back in time one day and somehow save Charlie Andrews. Ando protests, and tries to encourage Hiro to stick to his original missing of saving the world. Hiro leaves anyway.
When Hiro was four, Kaito explained the meaning behind the small plaque that was kept on the wall of his his office. The plaque read, "This is not a fairy tale". Kaito explains that there are no happy endings. Hiro agrees, but is more interested in the "happiness in the middle".
Hiro opens his eyes believing he has successfully time traveled one day prior. He is relieved to see Charlie alive, but frustrated that she doesn't know him — or Japanese. But any conversation Charlie and Hiro have is interrupted by Charlie's birthday party. Hiro takes a picture of the partygoers, and then has his picture taken, too. He tries to tell Charlie not to go to work tomorrow, but she doesn't listen. Hiro watches the party and tries to tell Charlie about the "very bad man", but he is interrupted by Lloyd who has made reservations for the two to go to lunch. Hiro notices that it is raining outside, and realizes that it wasn't raining yesterday: Hiro has accidentally time traveled to April 24, 2006.
Alone and frustrated in the Midland Motor Lodge, Hiro contemplates what to do next. He considers time traveling again, but is afraid he doesn't have control over his powers and might end up being eaten by a dinosaur. Instead he decides to stay where he is, take stock of what he has in his favor, and try to change Charlie's fate during the next six months. He decides he has a good motel room, his abilities, and six months to save Charlie. He calls Ando for advice on what to do next, but instead speaks with himself from six months ago. Hiro worries about creating some kind of rift, but realizes that maybe his past self didn't recognize his own voice on the phone. After hanging up, he is frustrated that he can't communicate with Charlie, but has a sudden realization that he should buy her a Japanese phrase book — the one that she received at her birthday party six months ago!
After some language barriers, confusing public transportation, and one very helpful elderly woman, Hiro arrives at the Music City Mall in Odessa. He takes a cue from Kimiko's retail therapy and buys almost six hundred dollars' worth of new clothes. He loses his way in the mall a little and is thrilled to stumble upon a comic book store. Hiro peruses the titles, but the young sales clerk shows Hiro a storage drawer with Robogirl comics in them. Hiro feels a kinship with Robogirl, the robot who was "constantly searching for connection, a way to feel like she was part of things, like she belonged." Hiro determines that Robogirl wouldn't give up on her mission just because she was scared and alone, and so Hiro wouldn't give up either.
Unable to sleep in his motel room, Hiro stays up worrying about how to save Charlie, and eating Cheetos and drinking Coke. The next morning, he goes to the Burnt Toast Diner and notices a "Help Wanted" sign. He applies for the job as a busboy, but worries about not being able to legally work in America. Waitress Lynette assures him that it'll be okay, that they will pay him in cash. Charlie insists that Hiro move out of his hotel room and rent an apartment.
Hiro remembers his father using the Hasaii Personality Index test to keep tabs on Hiro. Kaito would always use Hiro's test results as a way to yell at him for not applying himself. He would always threaten, "If you don't straighten up and get busy, you're going to end up washing dishes for a living!"
Hiro spends his time bussing tables at the Burnt Toast Diner. He is impressed with Charlie's enhanced memory and wants to talk to her about it, but worries about bringing up the topic too soon. Hiro and Charlie go apartment hunting and find an apartment that Charlie thinks is too small, but Hiro accepts. Mr. Roiz, the landlord, gives Hiro the keys.
Charlie arrives at Hiro's apartment for the housewarming. Hiro freezes time and frets about making sure everything is perfect for his date with Charlie. He calms down, decides that he's done the best he can, and opens the door.
Charlie arrives at Hiro's apartment for the housewarming. They talk about Robogirl, the seven principles the samurai lived by, and Takezo Kensei. Hiro is "profounfdly affected" by Charlie, and they talk about their relationships with their parents.
Hiro and Charlie continue their housewarming, drinking wine and eating pizza. Charlie says that the first two stops she wants to take on her world travels are Munich, Germany, and Venice, Italy. Hiro agonizes over how to kiss Charlie goodnight, but when she puts her hand on his arm, his knees buckle. Charlie gives Hiro's cheek a gentle kiss, then leaves.
Hiro enjoys his time bussing tables at the Burnt Toast Diner, counting it as some of the happiest moments of his life, growing closer to Charlie. Despite his happiness, he is at odds with Lloyd. Hiro recalls Lloyd telling somebody that Hiro can barely grow a mustache and "doesn't even have hair on his yin-yang". Charlie overhears the conversation and passively aggressively spills coffee on Lloyd's lap. Another time, Lloyd tries to ask Charlie on a date to a baseball game. When Hiro expresses interest in going to the game too, Charlie invites several friends to join the not-so-intimate date with Lloyd. This helps Hiro gain confidence in his growing relationship with Charlie.
Hiro remembers the "birds and the bees" talk that he had with his father, which ended with Hiro receiving Kimiko's book, I Like Me: A Growing Guide for Girls. Hiro enjoys the book immensely, especially the photographs. However, his sister thinks the book is lame, and Hiro is even more confused about girls than ever.
One day after work, Hiro goes over to Charlie's apartment to watch the Japanese version of The Ring. They talk about all the exotic items from around the world that Charlie has in her apartment. Hiro looks through an old photo album and enjoys looking through pictures of Charlie's past, including seeing a picture from the diner's grand opening in 1976. Charlie tells Hiro all about the murder of Barbie Travis in the early days of the diner, and Hiro can't help but think that Barbie's murder and Charlie's murder are somehow connected.
Hiro remembers that during spring before he started 9th grade, he went to Madrid with his father. A business associate bought them tickets to see a bullfight, but Hiro did not enjoy the show. He preferred to hide behind his video camera. Similarly, he had a hard time thinking about Isaac's murder, and preferred to turn his mind towards happier times. Hiro recalls when he teleported and time traveled to Times Square and used the 9th Wonders! comic he found to guide his next steps. He recalls the horror he felt at seeing Isaac's mutilated body, and the fate of New York City in one of Isaac's paintings. But that horror didn't feel real since it was in the future, especially in comparison to thinking about Charlie's murder, which felt very real. He decides that it's time to "get serious".
At Music City Mall, Hiro runs into PJ, who gives him a new copy of Robogirl #215. PJ decides that the lesson of the comic is "You can't lie to women." After some pondering, Hiro decides he needs to tell Charlie about his superpower, and that would convince her to stay away from the diner on October 9.
Hiro tries desperately to prove to Charlie that he can stop time, but Charlie consistently thinks Hiro is performing magic tricks. After literally performing magic tricks at Sammy's birthday party, Hiro is despondent that he he will never convince Charlie and never save her life.
Hiro tries one last time to convince Charlie that he is telling the truth about being able to stop time. He decides to create 1,000 origami cranes, which also might grant him a wish. Hiro's wish comes true, and Charlie believes that Hiro. Charlie kisses Hiro, and Hiro is excited that a girl has kissed him for the first time. He kisses her back, but opens his eyes to find himself in his cubicle at Yamagato Industries.
Hiro finds himself back at Yamagato Industries on the same day. Scared to teleport inaccurately, he buys a plane ticket back to Midland. Before leaving, he sees Ando and tells him he met and kissed a girl, but doesn't explain anything about Charlie or his ability. Ando insists that Hiro should bring his new girl a gift, much like he would do for Niki, his stripper from the internet.
In the Narita Airport, Hiro buys a reporduction of one of the Kensei Tapestries for Charlie, then flies for 34 hours to Midland. He walks into the diner expecting a triumphant return, but he only receives the cold shoulder from Lynette and Bob. Charlie is furious that Hiro literally disappeared. Hiro explains that he accidentally teleported, and Charlie says she was just worried about Hiro. As they reconcile, Lloyd comes out of the bathroom and punches Hiro square in the face, and Hiro blacks out.
Hiro recovers from his one punch knockout, and finally gets to talk openly with Charlie about his ability. Hiro tells her that he can control aspects of his ability (like stopping time), but other aspects are unpredictable (like time travel). They go back to Charlie's apartment, and Hiro gives her the reproduction of Kensei and the Dragon. Even though that story has a sad ending, they snuggle and Hiro says that their own story is just beginning.
Hiro and Charlie enjoy a date at the Midland County Fair when they run into Lloyd. Hiro becomes jealous, Lloyd becomes confrontational, and a carnival game becomes an intense competition. Hiro wins the game against Lloyd and earns a giant teddy bear for Charlie. Despite his victory, Hiro still worries that Charlie and Lloyd have feelings for each other.
Hiro and Charlie leave the Midland Fairgrounds and go to a local Dairy Queen, "one of the prime make-out spots in all of Midland". Hiro and Charlie talk about her past relationships, and Hiro asks about Lloyd. Charlie explains that she and Lloyd went out a couple of times, but that they're just friends now. Relieved, Hiro kisses Charlie passionately.
Driving back to his apartment, Hiro talks to Charlie about her enhanced memory, and convinces her that it's a gift, that she could use it to change the world. Outside the apartment, they sit and talk for a long time about her power, its potential, and its limitations. Hiro also explains that all superpowers have both good and bad sides. As the conversation turns to the topics of destiny and Robogirl, Charlie tells Hiro to shut up and kiss her.
Hiro and Charlie begin what he refers to as the "Summer of Love". They challenge each other to a game of chess in the park, and Charlie easily beats several men, earning $140 towards her trip abroad. Despite the good times, Hiro still frets about the quickly approaching October 9, the day the "Brain Man" would come to kill Charlie. He finally decides that the way to keep her safe is to bring her to Japan.
Hiro goes to the library and buys two tickets to Japan for Charlie and himself, set to leave on September 23. To surprise her, Hiro freezes time and transforms Charlie's apartment into a beautiful Japanese garden. They make sushi together, enjoying the evening, finally calling each other "boyfriend" and "girlfriend". Hiro surprises Charlie with tickets to Japan, and both are very excited about their upcoming trip.
At the Jackalope Ice House, Hiro watches Charlie dance on the bar, excited that "not only did he get soft, sweet Charlie, he got wild and crazy Charlie, as well." Terrified of dancing himself, Hiro pushes himself to dance to "Achy Breaky Heart" as a way to show Jake that Charlie is his girlfriend. Later, Charlie and Hiro slow dance, and Hiro enjoys being close to her.
At Lynette's Labor Day Barbecue Blowout, Hiro worries that Charlie will see him in his bathing suit, and that he will feel inadequate compared to all the shirtless "enormous rippling Texas farmhands" at the party. But then Hiro realizes that he will also see Charlie in a bikini, and he forgets about his own insecurities. When he sees her, he is excited, but also feels comfortable with the fact that they haven't had sex yet, and doesn't feel the need to push their physical relationship to quickly.
Despite excitement that he has found a way to keep Charlie from "Brain Man", Hiro still feels uneasy and can't relax until Charlie's life is actually saved. While getting ready for their trip, Charlie is "attacked" by a brown recluse spider, which terrifies her. Hiro takes her to the ER, where they take her blood, but don't find anything else wrong with her — not even a spider bite.
At Hiro's apartment, Hiro and Charlie watch Varsity Blues until late at night, and then decide that Charlie should sleep over instead of heading home. While lying in the same bed, they kiss, engage in foreplay, and are interrupted when Hiro involuntarily teleports elsewhere.
Determined to focus on his mission to save Charlie, Hiro leaves the morgue and takes the bus to Midland. He waits in a hotel room until time catches up with him. Hiro goes to Charlie's apartment on September 9, 2006, the day after he accidentally time traveled away, but gets a less-than-warm welcome from his girlfriend.
Hurt and dejected, Hiro accepts a ride home from Lynette. She explains that Charlie doesn't get close to many people and just needs time. Mr. Roiz tries to help by giving Hiro a Viagra, but Hiro is just disgusted. He turns to PJ who suggests that Hiro just be open and honest with Charlie.
Hiro and Charlie play chess, and though things seem fine, Charlie tells Hiro that she can't go to Japan with him. She announces that she has a blood clot in her brain. Hiro is confused because he thought he was supposed to save Charlie; she tells him that he already did. They deckare their love for one another, and Hiro accidentally teleports to Yamagato and time travels to two days after Charlie's murder.
Hiro feels he has failed in his mission since Charlie has been killed. But he takes courage thinking of Kensei and the Bushido code, and decides to try again. Concentrating, Hiro successfully time travels back to the Burnt Toast Diner, prior to Charlie's murder.
At Barbie Travis's funeral, Hiro sees a painting of Saint Nicasius and notices that his head has been hemicapitated. Hiro takes this as a sign that he needs to focus on getting back to Charlie. He time travels to the Burnt Toast Diner in July 2006, then sprints to Charlie's apartment.
At Charlie's apartment, Hiro looks at the painting of Saint Nicasius again and reads that the top of his head was removed to "let out the evil spirits." He reads further about trepanning, a similar process of opening the skull to let evil spirits out. Trepanning was used by the Zapotecs, some of whom would grind up the skulls as a way of "stealing their enemies' power". Hiro wonders if that's what the Brain Man is trying to do. But Hiro is suddenly teleported to an ancient scene where a Zapotec shaman is performing the trepanning ritual in front of him. Before he is noticed, Hiro teleports away again.
Hiro finds himself at a funeral in the 1960s alongside his teenaged father, distraught at the death of his beloved Satsu. But before he can get more information, he is involuntarily teleported to the execution of Merle Eckels.
Hiro's time traveling goes out of control, and he involuntarily finds himself in several places, sometimes for just a few moments: with Charlie, at Erika's wedding, in the Texas Prison Museum, at Charlie's grave, in his childhood home watching Tami Oyoki, at the scene of the accident where Charlie's parents were killed. Frustrated, Hiro uses all his concentration to teleport to July 1, 2006.
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