「社会のはみ出し者は自己変革を目指す」 (Shakai no Hamidashisha wa jiko henkaku wo mezasu)
This season is surprisingly full of…well, surprises. ‘Yesterday wo Utatte’ piqued my curiosity early on when I got a glimpse of Nonaka Haru (Miyamoto Yume) in the PV released earlier this year. I had a feeling she would add a little spark in my day-to-day, the same way she does with protagonist Uozomi Rikuo (Kobayashi Chikahiro).
This premiere, to say the least, has me anchored – for now. I have a feeling I won’t be straying away from the series anytime soon. It’s never easy to know exactly how an adaptation will turn out after watching just one episode, but I can say with confidence that this first episode left me with a wealth of emotions and thoughts that I am happily sharing with you now.
I don’t know if sometimes you feel this way too. But when I watch a show, it leaves me with a specific energy. For example, once I’ve watched Vinland, I’m left a little bit baffled, and somewhat energized from the outcomes of the episodes. And when I finished ‘Yesterday wo Utatte’, it left me with a little tingle in my heart, because, well… Haru.
But before I get into Haru, let’s look at the main character of this seinen adapted from Toume Kei’s original work of the same name. Uozomi Rikuo is a young university graduate who works a basic part-time job at his local convenience store. By no means does he have an exciting life, but he seems, for some odd reason at peace (for lack of a better word) with what he has. He isn’t looking for more, he isn’t by any means an achiever, and finds no reason to try harder.
Like many college graduates, Rikuo represents a part of the young adult population who complete their degrees and find themselves with…what? I know I felt that way when I finished school. No job lined up, not sure where to start looking, and no idea what I wanted to do. Rikuo fits the mould, and I bet you, whether in Japan or elsewhere, many young graduates feel the same. It’s an interesting topic to bring up in an anime series, one that has definitely been explored before, but nice to bring it back to light from time to time.
“It’s not like anyone is working a job that they want to anyway.”
In a society like Japan’s where this might be true for most rather than some, becoming part of the larger collective and doing your civic duty as a contributing worker are important aspects that define you as a person…your worth. That’s a lot of pressure to live up to and let’s face it, we all experience this to a certain extent.
What Rikuo does is try to remove himself from that pressure by fitting a different mould, one expected of him. If he can continue to feed his own story and live up to almost no expectations, he has nothing to prove. And so, he continues to work a part-time job, has no ambition, and basically feels sorry for himself whenever he can. The truth is, the boy is his own worst critic, and also, his own obstacle. This story he tells himself is his defence for his actions, which in truth is just sad and lonely.
But now he’s found Haru. She’s younger but has a story very much like Rikuo’s. They’re more alike than he thinks, even though she’s an eccentric girl with a troublesome mouth and a crow for a friend. What are the circumstances that made it so she dropped out of high school? What exactly brought Rikuo back onto her radar? Was it just perchance he found himself feeding her pet crow?
Haru’s overall demeanour, on the outside, is one of lightness and nonchalance. She voices whatever is on her mind and isn’t afraid to express her feelings honestly. Her personality is curious and childlike but also holds hidden darkness making her as mysterious as she is outgoing. She quickly familiarizes herself with Rikuo, calling him by his first name, hugging him and pouncing whenever she can, and making inappropriate remarks. Whatever ‘illusion’ she built in her mind must have brought her closer to Rikuo in a way…
But what is even more interesting than the characters individually, is this cast of characters together. The final piece of this story lies with Morinomi Shinako (Hanazawa Kana), a high school teacher and Rikuo’s ex-classmate from college. Only six months after graduation, she’s found her dream job as a high school teacher in Tokyo. She represents the ideal citizen, and basically, the exact opposite of what her counterparts represent. But something tells me she’s not all sunshine and daisies. Her history with Haru, although ambiguous now, will most likely become an important point of the story. And her history with Rikuo, well, only time will tell if it becomes history.
That brings me to the execution of the show. The art style is so soft and intricate, it feels almost like you’re walking in an impressionist painting. And the details in gestures, body languages, the close-ups, all add to the overall feeling of, well…humanness. For example, when Rikuo fesses up to Shinako. He didn’t have to hear her response, he just noted her body language. Subtle, uneasy, and distant. It was enough to say what had to be said. And then Rikuo’s conversation with Haru in the park. What she was expressing to him, although bizarre and other to him, captivated his attention to the point that he barely had time to take a drag from his cigarette. It just comes to show how much detail was put into adapting this manga.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this goes and what comes of Rikuo’s friendships with these two women, both enigmas and on different ends of a spectrum.
I mean, did Rikuo feel that spark when Haru smiled at him through the lens? Because I sure did.
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