「はじまりの新年」 (Hajimari no shin’nen)
“A New Year of Beginnings”
Amidst the exquisite torture that was this episode of Yesterday o Utatte, it really struck me. A whole generation of people has been deprived of the experience of twiddling with the phone cord when you’re nervous. It seems silly, but that really makes me sad. It’s such an elemental experience – seeing Shinako do it brought back a flood of memories that many people will never know. Every generation has stuff like that – things which disappear and aren’t missed because they were never experienced. But for some reason this one is kind of poignant for me.
Relationship dramas have a capacity to make you crazy that no other anime genre really does. And Yesterday does just that. It frustrates me, but it’s a good sort of frustration. I see so much reality in this story. Partly it is a generational thing, but mostly because the series is so grounded in realism. It’s so simple – no heavy BGM, no special effects, no catch phrases. The animators tell a story with faces that runs parallel to the dialogue, in much the same way Hyouka did with background art. Both are shows you could watch with the volume (and subs) turned off and still know what was going on. Though for quite different reasons.
Taka-chan’s advice to Rikuo to “stop overthinking it” was so on-point, but that’s the problem. Do you think Rikuo doesn’t know that, and desire to act on it? Do you think all nice guys don’t know that trip wire exists? Of course we do – but knowing it and doing it are two different things. “Stop overthinking it and just go for it” is probably the single hardest thing in the world for guys like Rikuo to do (whether someone offers to pick up your bones isn’t the point). Despise them for it if you must, but don’t try telling me it’s not realistic.
It’s Christmas, and Rikuo has just given Shinako a lovely moonstone necklace (even with its backstory). Yet nothing happens. Maybe this is just fate, and this relationship is doomed – I don’t know. I do know that Shinako is pretty much spot-on in her assessment – most of this is her fault, but some of it is Rikuo’s fault, too. If he wants her badly enough, he should stop treating her like bone china. If he sees she’s hesitating, sweep her along in his enthusiasm. Stop making it so easy for her to abdicate a decision – she’s all but pleading with him to do just that. But still he persists in not persisting. What possible justification can he have for not calling her for a week after she suggests they ring in the new year together?
Meanwhile we have Haru, and I think the same assessment applies here, except Haru lacks Shinako’s self-awareness. Most of this is her fault, but some of it is his fault too. Just saying “you really need to stop” is not cutting it – why can’t he see that? Haru (whether you call her a stalker or “clingy”, as she prefers to think of it) is clearly incapable of stopping on her own. She either can’t see how much trouble her behavior is causing for Rikuo or can and doesn’t care. Which one doesn’t really matter – either way, it’s a function of her complete self-absorption. She’s taking advantage of the fact that he’s too nice to force the issue, but in the process she’s making it harder for him to m ove forward with the woman he loves.
If Haruo cared enough for Rikuo she’d see that and stop – but if she proves she can’t, it’s his fault for letting her keep doing what she is. And if one was hoping New Years would do what Christmas couldn’t and change things fundamentally with Shinako, I don’t think it did. Rikuo does finally pick up the phone and call her, and they do go out on New Year’s Eve. But when she asks if he wants coffee after their date and he says “I think there’s a vending machine close by”, you just throw up your hands. He does finally follow her home and actually go inside this time. But what now?
I think it’s an open question – do these two people want this enough to make it happen? I loved the hug Rikuo gave Shinako – such a contrast to the awkward cringe when Haru hugged him. But “take it slow” has its limits. Sure it was awkward at her place, but you either power past that stage or you give up. I don’t see the justification for taking it any slower than they already have, and I even think Shinako is ready for Rikuo to say the same. But until he does – and prepares himself to accept whatever happens – these two remain in limbo. That’s very sad – but damn, it sure as hell ain’t unrealistic.
ED3: 「Yesterday wo Utatte」 by (annyyy)