「僕は山田に近づきたい」 (Boku wa Yamada ni Chikazukita)
“I Want to Be Closer to Yamada”

New classroom, and some new faces. Primarly Kankan (Iguchi Yuka) and Hanzawa (Ueda Reina), both old friends of Moe. Everyone except for Adachi (RIP) and Hara (I’ll miss her in-class moments with Kyou) makes it safely into the same class. While not stooping to the low hanging romcom tropes, Norio-sensei isn’t afraid to reference them, tongue in cheek during Ichi and Adachi’s conversation. What Adachi wants is the bouncy ecchi middle school experience of his dreams, but as anyone who has been that age knows, what he gets is reality which falls far short of that (though which carries more substance than an ecchi romcom).

The look on Kyou’s face when Anna gives him a belated birthday present was adorable. Anna, fashionista that she is, gives him a wallet chain, which he initially mistakes for a necklace. Though, it being Anna, her gifting him a collar wouldn’t be totally surprising.

Kankan is going to be the stick of dynamite in the group. Throwing a flash mob to push a couple together- that sounds like a train wreck. Relationships need time to take their course when both people are ready and forcing them before then just isn’t going to be productive in the long run. As proven by the short run of that poor couple’s relationship. But, your average middle schooler isn’t going to think like that. Kyou and Anna are already on such high alert around each other at school, fear of a flash mob is the last thing they need, and being in the center of everyone’s attention is the stuff of nightmares for Kyou.

Moe’s got a morbid streak there- you could see her gears running at the thought of seeing a squeamish Kyou. Anna almost got to the point of defining the relationship, but quickly retreated with a “that’s what they think”. Not time yet for them- but you can see them getting closer and closer to it with each week one or both of them considering it.

With Anna, Kyou becomes more comfortable being vulnerable, opening his expressions, his heart to her. It’s to the point where it becomes apparent to everyone- you can see the light on his face. Compare that to the boy of last year who hid in the shadows. It’s really such a beautiful thing, to allow someone into your life like that, to help you become comfortable with yourself.

At this point, there’s no point in hiding from everyone, it’s just going through the motions, really. Most of the guys and girls in their circle know what’s up, and it’s the dominating topic on the first day of school. After hiding from the eyes of their curious classmates, Kyou’s chain gets stuck on the floorboard, and he and Anna get embarrassingly caught with his pants down– literally. The irony being that after Adachi’s boy talk, the only pants Kyou saw were his own. Kyou’s relationship with his bros is pretty tight at this point, going home together despite being in different classes. He even blatantly admits to himself that Adachi is his friend, and cares enough to take his comment about Anna head on, rather than ignoring it. Kyou’s learned to own himself over the past year, and there’s a sense of confidence you can see coming from that.

The episode did a great job of showcasing the push pull between Kyou and Anna. There was definitely a sense of growing separate from each other in their individual friend circles, the way one hung on the outside while the other was with their gang. This is a healthy development, it’s important in any relationship to not have one’s social life centered solely around one person. You need to have your own separate friend groups. I also got a sense of isolation in Kyou’s panic around the Kankan ticking time bomb. Kyou lost sight of the fact that this is something he doesn’t need to worry about that alone anymore, that Anna can handle it with him. It can be easy to forget that at times and shoulder the burden on your own. Which I think the letter helped him realize (and more on that later).

At the same time, there is the sense of growing closer together through sharing the experience and joy of marking milestones. That scene when they marked off each other’s heights was so sweet and intimate. It almost felt like we, the audience, were intruding on that moment. Anna and Kyou have each other as a reason to grow up. It’s not something they’re afraid of anymore, knowing that maturing as individuals inches them closer to standing on an equal level with each other (and I don’t mean just physically).

This push pull dynamic gives a realistic feel of the stressful balance in budding relationships of “soon but not too soon”, figuring out where you stand as an individual and with each other. At this point, there’s no doubt about the other person’s feelings, the question is just timing- namely, their timing, and not one contrived by outside forces. Kyou almost got to the point of taking that final step, if it weren’t for Hanzawa. Hanzawa meant no harm, it turns out, she just wants to understand romance better, and what better study material than the couple blooming in front of her. Anna reminds me so much of a dog, the way she immediately befriends almost anyone and wins them over (not to mention her lack of awareness of personal space).

While Anna is a dog, Kyou is a cat. The star of today’s episode was by far Anna sticking up for Kyou with her note, gently asking Hanazawa to back off. Notably, this is one of the rare times when Anna’s internal voice provides the narrative, vis a vis the letter. Because Boku Yaba, while about Kyou, doesn’t completely sideline Anna, it’s her journey too. Unlike some other romcoms where the one partner to be gets totally overshadowed by the other and is only there as a support service, Anna does get her moment in the grand narrative of things, though obviously, not nearly so often as Kyou, since this is Kyou’s story.

Anna describing Kyou as a cat was just so perfect. She understands him so well, that he needs space and that being slow to warm up or being introverted is not the same thing as “not interested”. One of the biggest steps people can take in any relationship, friendship or romantic, is understanding the other person’s pace and learning to adjust to each other’s pace until you find that equilibrium, which Anna and Kyou are certainly finding.

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