「はるの嵐」 (Haru no arashi)
“A Spring Storm”
I say this with love, but watching Yesterday o Utatte is going to leave me looking like one of those heads carved out of dried apples. I feel like every episode ages me about a decade. I’m still totally bought in, and the series is working for me because the situations aren’t contrived – they’re real. But real relationships can be incredibly trying. And annoying, and frustrating. And by God, Yesterday is all of those things. I’ve noted it before, but sometimes I really wish for a bit of storybook fairy dust to break through all this emotional realism.
It says something that we’ve reached the point where creepy, clingy, needy Haru and cocksure, needy, entitled Rou-kun are less annoying than the two “adults” in the room. Those two are irritating in that teenage way, but their directness and self-absorption at least has a sort of honesty to it. Rikuo and Shinako are so stifled emotionally that it can be more torturous to watch them than the kids. One must credit this series for so artfully portraying the huge gap a few years signifies when we’re talking about four people of this age bracket. If they were in their 30’s or 40’s, it’d mean little. But as they are now? It’s a geological age.
The thing is, none of these four are blameless for what’s happening. And none of them are bad people. They’re just frail, flawed human beings in a culture where emotional openness can be a challenge at the best of times. We can start with Rikuo, who certainly does the right thing by going to Haru’s place after it’s broken into, but unforgivably punts on the chance to hell her than he and Shinako are (finally) dating (sort of). It can be argued that he was being chivalrous for a while by giving her a chance to take a hint, but at this point he can’t possibly still believe she’s capable of taking one. Now he’s just being a coward.
One could be pretty harsh towards Rikuo and Shinako as a couple, and it would be hard to refute that argument. To keep their relationship a secret at this point is silly, and they’re enabling each other’s tripwires at the moment. But I wouldn’t be so quick to belittle what they have. There’s nothing wrong with comfortable, sociable and supportive – lifetime relationships have been built on less. This is what Shinako needs at the moment, and Rikuo is so empathetic (and smitten) that he’s willing to settle for it. But it has to be a stage, a bridge to something more. And so far, one can’t assume that it is based on what we’ve seen.
If Rikuo abdicated his responsibility by not telling Haru the truth, he’s at least made the effort to indirectly do so. Shinako really hasn’t even done that much with Rou. Rou is the youngest of the quartet and the least mature (and that’s a high bar), but he’s a big boy now – he should be able to handle the truth. In his mind, his no longer being Shinako’s student removes the last formal barrier to their being a couple – she could now date him without facing professional repercussions. In his straightforward worldview, there’s nothing standing in their way now – and Shinako has given him no reason to believe otherwise. And his being the most forceful of the four, he’s not going to dick around and play games like the others.
Rou confronting Shinako and Rikuo is theoretically a disaster, but in practice it’s probably a good thing. Just as Haru walking in on the two of them is. The adults have abdicated on the chance to set things straight by doing the adult thing – better that the kids do so by doing the juvenile thing than that it never happen at all. Three months dating and not even a kiss is frustrating – and despite Rikuo’s eternal patience not a scenario that can last forever. But three months of keeping their relationship a secret is really inexcusable. Haru might be a stalker who refuses to take a hint but she’s not wrong in lamenting Shinako’s attitude. She’s still treating Rikuo like a security blanket – hoarding him but not truly committing (though it’s not like there’s any risk of losing him to anyone else).
I don’t know if anything is going to happen with Rikuo and Shinako – if they ever will be able to “switch gears”. As I said I don’t dismiss what they have – and I think Shinako’s openness in telling him what she thought of him in college was actually a good sign, and rather endearing. But at some point they – well, she – are going to have to make the decision to move forward (or not). If Rikuo won’t force the issue – and I mean, that ship seems to have sailed – I’ll take Rou’s clumsy intervention as the only port in a storm. Neither of the adults owe Rou or Haru romantic affection but they should at least have been honest with them by now. Ironically, it may be the youngsters’ bluntness that finally forces them to be honest with themselves.