「恋人たちの予感」 (Koibito-tachi no yokan)
“Premonition of a Couple”
Author’s Note: Real life has intervened for MissSimplice, so I’ll be stepping in with Yesterday o Utatte from this week. Miss, thanks for your great coverage and your continued help with capping!
It’s a powerfully good sign that Yesterday o Utatte is actually improving at the 7-week mark. The last two episodes have been absolutely stellar even by this series’ high standard, though this one didn’t do my heart any good. I’m reminded of some of the great Woody Allen movies of the 80’s – Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters – at times with Yesterday. The cultural context is obviously very different, but there’s the same sense of hyper-realistic human interaction – as if you’re eavesdropping on the lives of real people rather than watching a work of narrative fiction.
There’s a lot of pathos here, that’s for certain. I may not have enjoy Haru as a character as much as the others, but I do feel for her – because she doesn’t have a ghost of a chance. It’s her choice to keep believing in a fantasy of course, and Rikuo isn’t guilty of leading her on in any way. But there are moments when you think that kind people like Rikuo and Shinako would be kinder in the long run by taking the “cruel to be kind” approach with their young suitors. It’s easy for people to give that advice (as Fukuda-san does Rikuo, and he himself Shinako) but a lot harder to look in the mirror and say it.
Part of the problem with this relationship web, of course, is that we’re dealing with characters at different places in their lives. And that matters more than romance authors would care to admit. It rears its ugly head most obviously with Rou and Shinako of course – it’s bad enough that their age gap is the largest among all the prospective couples in Yesterday, but the specifics of their lives make the gulf even wider. I feel for Rou too, because he’s the youngest and most innocent of this quartet, and his feelings are both the most pure and the most unrealistic.
Rou faces a truly Sisyphean curse – the memory of Yuu-kun is a mountain whose summit he can never reach. Yuu will always be the 17 year-old that he’s staring up at and Shinako loves. And the more Rou comes to resemble his brother, the more she’ll see his brother when she looks at him. Everything regarding this two has an air of tragedy to it. I even find the presence of Rou’s Dad to be quite moving – the way he quietly drifts down to Tokyo and hovers in the background of his son’s life, not to be an authority figure but just to be a reassuring presence in the life of his adult-sized child who’s still a child. It’s a quietly powerful example of parental love.
Like Rou, Rikuo is struggling to define who he is, and this has a profound impact on the relationships in their lives. The contrast of the two of them – the impatient and brash 17 year-old and the 23 year-old whose life is already tempered with regret – is one of the fascinating elements of this series. Rikuo is genuinely trying to move forward, but you can see the eternal tug-of-war between self-doubt and aspiration in him. Is it already too late to pursue a dream like professional photography? Is he good enough to even consider it? He has friends and mentors trying to push him forward, the lucky lad, but he has to be willing to make the strides himself – no one can do it for him.
Fukuda-san is one of the ones pushing him, both in the personal and professional sense. And his offer to let Rikuo photograph his wedding (which he springs on him as a total shock) is a significant gesture in that direction. He also urges his friend not to be so patient with Shinako, but that’s a hard sell – in Rikuo’s mind, he’s giving Shinako exactly what she asked for. But Shinako is adrift, and maybe what she needs is different than what she thinks she needs. Rou-kun is not wrong that Shinako is insensitive – incredibly so, in fact. She’s not the only one she’s hurting with her drift and indecision, but a theme here is that while Shinako is arguably the character screwing up the most, she has an ability to realize that’s the case and at least try to act on that realization.
Poor Rou – he feels as if his promise to protect Shinako can change the world, but it can’t. She doesn’t want to be protected by him, and never will. It’s a sad chain of futility we see here. Shinako is in love with the memory of someone who’s gone, Rou with the fantasy of his childhood (and replacing his brother at last, which is how he defines becoming his own man). Haru is in love with a fantasy too, a random event which didn’t even register in Rikuo’s memory. It’s really only Rikuo’s love for Shinako that’s based on something real and sustainable – except that if it’s unrequited, it’s neither of those things.
But is it? Of all the things that have been said over the course of seven episodes, Shinako telling Rikuo that she “wished he had some of Rou’s pushiness” was the most genuinely hopeful in terms of their relationship. These are dragon-infested waters to be sure – Rikuo’s lack of self-belief and Shinako’s chains to the past (and potentially, guilt over breaking them) are huge obstacles to be overcome, and there’s a very real danger that she’s unconsciously using Rikuo’s confession as an opportunity to push herself forward. But at least there’s genuine possibility here – and I’m not sure we can say that about any other potential romantic relationship in Yesterday o Utatte.
ED2: 「Aoibashi」 by (Sayuri)