Girls are scary.
There’s a funny sort of reversal happening with Sukkite Iinayo. Usually you have fans of the source material decrying the shortcomings of the adaptation, and how it never manages to capture the magic of the original. Here, there are seemingly endless “Yeah, the anime seems really good but…” posts warning of the shortcomings of the manga. I’m at the point know where I’m thinking it’s time to accept the possibility that the anime might just be as good as it seems to think it is.
Sukitte isn’t perfect, mind you, not even the best shoujo romance of the season so far – but I find it refreshingly direct and even brutally honest. It seems to have escaped the twin terrors of shoujo extremes, butterflies & rainbows fantasy and virtually dystopian despair. It’s just a good, solid romance series that’s grounded in real experience and does a good job of portraying the emotions of adolescence without exaggerating much in either direction. It’s also very stylish and attractive visually, from a studio not renowned for such things.
One thing we’re definitely seeing a lot of this season is depiction of just how cruel teenaged girls can be to each other. I must say this episode showed it pretty much as I remember it – the guys physically bully the weak and the girls savagely brutalize each other verbally, targeting each other’s weak spots with unerring accuracy. Mutou Aiko (Uchiyama Yumi) is the focal point of the karmic violence this week, turning her jaundiced eye on Mei after a chance meeting in town when Mei and Yamato are on their first “date” (though she’s clueless about what that really means). Aiko is one of the many girls Yamato has slept with and tossed aside so her irritation is somewhat understandable, but her conversation with Mei in the bowling alley is still a brutal thing to see, and it’s no wonder it turns Mei from a turkey-rolling bowling genius into a shambling mess.
There are no heroes here, so far. Aiko casually toys with her current “boyfriend” Tachikawa as thoughtlessly as Yamato did with her. Yamato carries the responsibility for the many times he’s toyed with girls’ affections, and for failing to help his friend who was being bullied in middle school (getting angry about it doesn’t excuse inaction). Adolescence can be a dangerous and terrible place, and Sukitte isn’t shying away from that experience, but it’s depicting it with a lack of florid embellishment, letting the inherent drama speak for itself. I like that, and I like the series so far. It would be nice to see Mei step into herself a bit more and become something more than a piece of driftwood being buffeted by forcer greater than she – she’s sympathetic but lacks the strong identity that Shizuku has at the center of Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun. Plus, Yamato’s personality swings from week-to-week are a bit too dramatic. But these are small quibbles – on balance, this show is definitely a keeper, and deserves to be judged on its own merits.