Isshuukan Friends – 05

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This episode certainly poses the age-old question – can you have too much of a good thing?

My tolerance level with Isshuukan Friends is pretty high, in every respect.  I take a lot from this series that I might not with most because I admire what the show is trying to do in the larger sense, and because it manages to present itself with completely straightforward emotional honesty.  It seems to me very clearly the work of a young mangaka – it’s hard for me to imagine someone in their 40’s or even 30’s being able to convincingly tell this story with this perspective.

That said, this episode finally did lose me at several points.  I wholeheartedly expect it to be the most well-loved of the series for obvious reasons but I think the balance Isshuukan Friends precariously maintained for four episodes finally slipped a good deal.  In terms of contrivance and in terms of abject cuteness, the show was already past the point where I’d normally start to have a rejection reaction if I judged it intellectually – but this episode was just a little too contrived and unashamedly needy for me to buy it even judging it with the heart instead of the head.

I’m sure Yamagashi Saki (Ookubo Rumi) is going to appeal to the target audience, but she’s the first thing in Isshuukan Friends that really comes off as calculated to me (I swear, it’s true).  Calculated to advance Kaori’s storyline, calculated to score moe points with the audience – and no doubt, successful on both fronts.  Again, I see this series as a parable, more or less, so a certain level of contrivance has been present since the beginning.  But we all have out limits, and this turn seems to have pushed the story outside mine for the moment.

I definitely think the idea of Kaori making a female friend is a vital part of the parable – it had to happen for One Week Friends to tell the story it’s trying to tell. I just didn’t really buy it as it came off.  For one thing Ookubo’s performance was pretty insufferable.  I didn’t realize at viewing that she also played the supremely grating Tohko in Servant X Service but it sure didn’t surprise me when I found out – neither this character or the performance is the disaster that instance was, but it’s still not a good combination.  It sounds an odd critique to make of this show of all shows, but that’s just not how friendships happen.  Forgetful and pushy little girls certainly exist, but the way she obsessed over Kaori and intruded herself into every aspect of her life just felt like the ultimate plot device.  Maybe if there had been a bit of foreshadowing or it had been toned down a bit, it would have worked better.

Clearly Saki isn’t going anywhere and actually, I don’t have a huge problem with that because there’s reason to believe it’s the introduction that’s the biggest part of the problem with the character.  The performance isn’t going to change, but I’ll just have to live with that.  There’s certainly the potential more issues here but if the character is toned down a little, Saki can be a necessary catalyst for Kaori’s story to move forward, as well as her relationship with Yuuki.  Will it work out that way?  Who knows – but all I can do is hope for the best.

What does come out of this episode is a sense that the nature of Kaori’s condition might be changing.  She certainly did forget about Saki on Monday – her reaction bespeaks the fact that she read about her in her diary – but she seems to recognize Yuuki.  And the smile she gives him is definitely a “friend” smile – perhaps it too comes out of the diary but it didn’t feel that way in the moment.  If the moral of Isshuukan Friends is what I think it is, all of this – Yuuki, Saki, all of it – is a metaphorical device intended to make a broader statement about adolescence and the human condition.  The manga is ongoing (and relatively new in and of itself) so we’re only going to get a partial answer to all that from the anime in any case.

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  1. F

    Heheheh… well, fair enough. My tolerance levels for the kind of things that shook you out of the narrative this week were always larger capacity wise, so in one sense I am not surprised, but no biggee. If something doesn't work it doesn't work – what can you do? For me it worked very well indeed, and knowing the manga source material I would even say that they did an excellent job in making Saki come more alive and 3-D in a way.

    A very good adaptation that improves on the original is rare, but that perhaps part of the effectiveness occurs because a viewer is fully yanked into the embrace of the narrative to a large part (not necessarily an all or nothing thing here).

    Well, even tho it disrupted your waa a bit it didn't rudely toss you out of the entire series from the fourth story window, so to speak (like Kawaisou ep 3 did for me for that series).

  2. I think a couple fewer "D" with Saki would have helped me…

    No, this wasn't a fall from the fourth-floor window – just a stumble. I am worried, though, just as I am by the PVs for Kawaisou and Sordemo Sekai.

  3. B

    yayy! i was waiting for this review since yesterday 😛

    she was pretty pushy, and it did come close to being annoying, but i think being happy about the fact that there was someone who was willing to do the pushing felt more important. because yuuki has taken it slow with her and done things the way she wanted . he has had some result, but at a smaller place. but maybe she needs someone like saki to question her and push her a little forward. like when she told her that she couldn't talk with her in class. and saki kept asking her why, it helped for her to push through that boundary and that was a major breakthrough. so for saki to say let's go to the mall, let's try clothes etc etc, giving her that extra push helped kaori since she is shy. i am like her in that aspect so i can relate.

    of course that is totally my opinion. i get yours too. hope the next episode is more fulfilling for you!

  4. v

    Urgh I am really ticked off by the voicing on Saki – the way she enunciates each word a little slower to emphasize on the moe factor. And yes, her character really felt like the ultimate plot device. I hope that the storyline will further develop her character.

  5. w

    I'm …actually surprised by how much I liked Ookubo's performance as Saki. I can certainly see how it'd grate on you but I thought it was really fitting, and did a great job of getting her character across.

    I'm really bought in on your parable assessment, which is why any contrivance here didn't bother me in the slightest. Every episode plays out like a little self-contained short story, with a lesson learned at the end. Really Saki is pretty much the perfect person to befriend Fujimiya-san. She is someone with similar issues who represents a sort of counterpoint to the shy, outwardly cold Kaori. She could represent an important tidal change in the way Kaori views herself and her condition. Calculated? Completely. But for me it works, the same way Hase finding her diary exactly as they got over their fight worked last week.

    I'm also starting to think this is just as much about Hase's development as Kaori's. In order for him to move forward with her, he'll need to get over his insecurities and be truly honest about what she means to him. I think we'll be seeing more of that side as the series plays out.

  6. On your last point, I don't think there's any doubt about it whatsoever.

  7. s

    Like you, and unlike Enzo, I actually liked Saki. I found in the voice to be a sort of languid persistence that I actually found charming. Oh, I see the criticism about plot contrivances, and I understand on an intellectual level the somewhat jaded reaction to "moe"… but for me the lesson of Saki is learning to be comfortable with oneself so one can make friends with others. Until Hase showed up, Kaori was trying to deal with her problems by running away from them and isolating herself by pretending to be something she wasn't–a cold and aloof loner. Hase is so patient that he was willing to let such absurd restrictions as the ban on talking outside of the roof to go on indefinitely, and I think it's useful that Saki shake things up a bit. And I think you're right that Hase's development needs to be pushed along a bit by an outside force.

    For the, the whole plotline of this series is absurd, but the emotional pitch continues to just… work.

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