Isshuukan Friends – 06

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Looks like Kaori-chan better watch her back – she has some competition in the Hase department.

Can a single character – or seiyuu performance – ruin an otherwise good show for someone?  It’s an interesting question, and in the abstract my experience tells me that the answer is absolutely “yes” – I know that from experience.  But usually I’d say it has to be an especially awful instance or a show that isn’t all that good.  I’m ambivalent about Saki as a character, and downright negative about Ookubo Rumi’s performance.  But Isshuukan Friends is a good enough show to overcome it, at least for now.

I’ve liked everyone else we’ve met on this show, and that certainly includes Kaori’s mother Shiho (that she’s played by the great Nakahara Mai doesn’t hurt).  Sure, she may be a little too nice to be wholly believable, but she fits well with the overall point Isshuukan Friends is trying to bring across.  It’s probably best that we had the blanks about Kaori’s memory filled in by Shiho-san because she’s the right messenger, both in the general and specific sense.

All this comes about because Yuuki-kun is in trouble over the results of a math test (32% was the improvement he achieved and somehow a passing grade, so I don’t even want to know the original score) and begs Kaori to tutor him before the make-up test.  She asks him over to study at her house, and Yuuki reacts rather normally, but it truly seems that Kaori is innocent of the implications (further evidence of her social awareness being frozen in elementary-school time).  This is a pretty funny exchange, especially when Shougo (who’s probably my favorite character at this point) matter-of-factly says “See how pure she is.”

The problem is “solved” when Saki invites herself along for the same reason as Yuuki, and he ends up dragging Shougo along for moral support.  I won’t dwell too much on how annoying Saki is here, except to say that she’s a complete clichΓ© and for me at least feels totally out-of-place with the rest of the show.  Some things are pretty evident right away during this visit, not least that Kaori’s mother is very much unused to her having visitors.  It’s also clear from Shiho’s behavior that Yuuki is someone Kaori talks about a lot, and before the three depart Shiho slips Yuuki a note asking him to meet her at the park the next day.

The scene itself is quite charming – Shiho makes a joke (or is it) about people thinking they’re having an affair, but things get to the point pretty quickly.  In short, Kaori’s condition is as much a mystery to Shiho as anyone else.  Kaori had an accident on her way to meet a friend while in 6th grade, was hit by a car and suffered a concussion, but according to the doctors has no physical damage to her brain.  Shiho tells Yuuki all this in refreshingly direct and matter-of-fact terms, and speculates that there’s some sort of emotional trauma her daughter is protecting against by blocking out these memories – but as to what that is, she seems genuinely puzzled.

I don’t think the cause of Kaori’s condition is the main point here, to be honest – as I said, I see Isshuukan Friends as more of a parable than a traditional drama – but it’s the elephant in the room so I’m glad it’s been acknowledged.  The larger issue for me, really, is whether there might come a point when Yuuki quite understandably grows weary of having to start over every Monday and decides he wants more from the relationship than Kaori is able to give.  I suspect that may be the trigger that finally brings Kaori to confronting her issues – though I further suspect that it won’t happen in the timeframe covered in the anime.

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  1. S

    Man, Saki REALLY grinds your gears XD! I don't find her too annoying per se (though she is sort of stereotypical, I guess she's whimsical enough to get a pass from me. Like when she decided to "call off" the mission to make Kaori and Shogo friends. Also, Shogo for best character). The thing that annoyed me the most about her is that she kinda slowed down the progression between Hase and Kaori – their chemistry is still the one I like the most and I wish the anime hadn't stopped to show us their moments alone a few weeks ago. It feels like they're actually growing more distant, and I don't think that's how it's supposed to be – it's just that they get less airtime and the show is like taking for granted that they still spend a lot of time together and now focuses on the other characters. Also, the way her presence forced Hase to become a rather creepy stalker for the sake of being a plot device. But this was a very cute episode – again – and well, I hope this anime reaches its own self-contained satisfactory conclusion, because I doubt we'll see the whole manga adapted.

  2. m

    Saki is pretty annoying in the manga, and that is increased exponentially in the anime. I don't know why but I never imagined her being so monotone. She sounds like what you'd expect a sleepy turtle character from an Aesop's fables cartoon to sound like, and its really obnoxious.

  3. m

    I half expect her to pass out, wake up in the hospital and say, "I forgot people need to eat and drink to live."

  4. K

    I honestly think they picked the worst seiyuu for Saki, that "trying to be cute" voice has just the opposite effect than intended. Unless the character is supposed to annoy you lol.

    Strange that she gives me the direct opposite feeling of Kaori who is so naturally cute I just want to hug her.

    Kiryuu is definitely my favorite though, he does a good job to help balance out all the cuteness.

  5. w

    I'd like to see more character development for Shougo. I know that's not likely to happen since it's not his story, but some background on him or insight into his thoughts outside of the Hase/Kaori situation would be nice.

  6. P

    Indeed. Saki has kind of ruined the show for me so far. It's come to the point that I haven't been able to finish watching episode 5 so far. I can only watch 1 or 2 minutes at a time before her voice compels me to just want to throw the computer out of the window and do something else. So far I'm in minute 8 after a week and a half.

  7. K

    Just put the volume on mute when she comes on, you have subtitles πŸ˜‰

  8. It's not quite that bad for me, but it's bad. I can't do the volume thing, it just breaks up the rhythm of the episode too much… Rumi Ookubo is stamping herself as someone I'd rather avoid, sadly.

  9. v

    I liked how this episode blended some good humor and drama together. Saki continues to annoy me but at least it's not show breaking.

  10. K

    Hase probably got a 12 on his last test & I'm guess Saki got a 7.

    Shogo's been my favorite character since episode one and he is still probably consistently my favorite part of the show. I'm with you on Saki, at the very least her role her was somewhat minimal, only really appearing in the first half, leaving the second half to focus on the stuff that I actually enjoy. & I think it was incredibly well-done.

    As long as Saki doesn't become too intrusive, I'll probably continue to enjoy the show.

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