「愛とはなんぞや」 (Ai to ha nanzo ya)
“What is Love?”
To break my silence, I was originally going to be covering Oregairu as my only show this season – only it got cancelled amidst the COVID outbreak. Huh, I’ll have to go with Plan B then. Oh, Yesterday o Utatte looks pretty promising. I’d heard Enzo and Miss Simplice singing praises for this series – and I definitely trust the opinions of my two colleagues. Guess I’ll be giving this a shot.
*3 Episodes Later*
Yeah… I think I’m going to have to pass on this one. More specifically, I don’t think this is my cup of tea. Since I freshly graduated out of university a few months ago, had something of a Rikuo career phase for a while before starting a graduate job someplace, my memory is still a bit too fresh to experience this series as some kind of nostalgic tribute. But I can definitely empathise and relate with Rikuo’s struggles about what he wanted to do. Job-hunting is really soul-crushing if you’re met by constant failure, and it’s more convenient to use the sour grapes excuse ‘I wasn’t interested in that career choice anyway’ – which is what I sense Rikuo doing here. To that end, Rikuo comes across as a shell of his former self – low on confidence and too ashamed to face his classmates at a reunion when he doesn’t have any meaningful career progression to show them.
However, there’s something about this series which fails to spark genuine excitement from my heart. Perhaps it’s the snail’s pace at which it tries to expound its narrative, without any real sense of urgency. It feels a bit too mundane, and while people would correctly point out that Haru is a source of excitement sprinkled throughout the show, I don’t really care about her character and find her annoying for the most part. Though I did feel extremely sorry for her when Rikuo flaked her on the movie. But I digress. You can’t help loving who you love, so that’s not something I can fault Rikuo or Haru for despite the bad faith exhibited by the respective target of their affections. Fact is, I’m just not a fan of the romance between Haru and Rikuo – which I feel the series is trying to push by making it clear that Shinako isn’t into Rikuo (See the extra omake for Episode 2). For a romance series, if I can’t buy into the romance, that’s really a bad sign.
Which is a shame, because I can definitely get on board with how its trying to explore characterisation. The grieving Shinako who hasn’t gotten over her deceased lover even after many years (Rikuo notes that she comes across like a widow to him). A pessimistic Rikuo who pines after Shinako, beset by self-esteem issues because of his present occupation yet remains unsure about his future. The hot-headed Rou who perpetually lives in his older brother’s shadow and feels threatened by Rikuo’s existence in Shinako’s life. And Haru – a mysterious and energetic genki girl with a bad habit of compulsively lying who’s attached to her previous father and estranged from her mother. The combination of Rikuo and Haru feels like a throwback to NHK ni Youkoso in terms of the interactions between Satou and Misaki. Only that doesn’t really do this series any favours, making Yesterday o Utatte feel like an inferior sibling at what it’s trying to do.
Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. Sorry for throwing out my complaints like that, especially if you’ve been enjoying this series so far. These are just my opinions, and I’m very aware that I’m in the minority here. MissSimplice has offered to pick up the series again, and at present time, I’m working with the RandomC team to find a solution to ensure that you’ll be getting your weekly dose of gushing about Yesterday o Utatte. We’ll keep you updated on the situation, and hope you all stay safe and happy during these trying times.