Ishhuukan Friends – 10

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I’m starting to re-think a few of my assumptions about Isshuukan Friends.

I know I said last week that this isn’t the sort of series that has villains, but Kujoe Hajime is starting to make me doubt myself a bit.  At the very least, he’s doing a fine job of convincing me that he’s a full-on A-hole.  In truth it’s way too early to say he truly is a “bad guy” in the literal and narrative sense, and he does stand out more because most of the cast in this series is nicer than the high-school average by a wide margin.  But he’s certainly coming off as a small person in many ways.

We were certainly never going to get through this season with everything going smoothly and Yuuki and Kaori’s relationship progressing in uninterrupted fashion, but it’s still hard to see Yuuki cast into the Sisyphus role.  I like the fact that the selfish side of him is once again acknowledged – when he speaks of “all my hard work” being wasted, it could certainly be taken that way.  But selfishness is a part of love, especially romantic love, and acknowledging it doesn’t diminish the kindness and decency that defines both his character and his relationship with Kaori.

Things don’t start out so badly.  Yuuki sucks it up and starts over from scratch, saying those magic words – “Let’s be friends” – yet again.  And so the cycle begins anew, with the head start that Kaori can tell from her own diary entries that Yuuki is someone that’s very important to her.  But this is even harder for Yuuki than he’s letting on, and when Kaori gives him the bento she’s made for him but in doing so reveals that she’s lost all memory of why the number 18 is so special to them as a couple, Yuuki loses it.  And really, who can blame him?  Seeing all of that gone is a lot to take.  But he soldiers on, slowly rebuilding what’s been lost, and the pair agree to meet for crepes after school (Yuuki should realize by now that crepes are bad luck for him where Kaori is concerned).

Meanwhile things are progressing with comparative lightning speed on the Shougo-Saki front – if rather bizarrely.  Saki reveals that she does at least have enough CNS functionality to realize that something is amiss with Kaori, and it’s Shougo she elects to discuss it with.  It’s a pretty revealing conversation about both of them, as Saki pretty much owns up to the fact that she’s terrified of being alone and determined to glom onto someone at all times because she’s incapable of doing things herself.  What she delivers next is sort of a marriage proposal, though the fact that it comes immediately after saying she wishes she could marry Kaori if only it were possible (not yet in Japan, Saki – maybe someday) sharply dilutes any romantic inference.

Shougo’s reaction is telling, though – he scolds Saki for joking about such things (she denies that it was 100% a joke) before blushing and rushing (off).  This is pretty much inescapable proof that he’s sweet on Saki, which is where I figured we were going and was hoping we weren’t.  It is nice to see Shougo get some Shougo-centric development, but this is rather predictable and personally, I don’t buy these two as a couple.  I’ll withhold judgment, though, as we see the first signs of Saki being given a bit of depth this week and a lot more of that might just change my mind.

Back on the main stage, everything builds-up to another crepe-related tragedy (how many adolescents must have their lives ruined before crepe shops are banned?).  As Yuuki is stuck behind on cleaning duty Kaori is stuck waiting for him – and Hajime shows up with two of their female pals from sixth grade.  Again, we see Hajime acting like a real jerk here – I’m trying hard to understand his position, and I know what happened must have felt like a betrayal to him.  But he seems utterly disinterested in hearing Kaori’s side of things, and indeed to revel in the distress his words have the power to cause her.  By the time Yuuki arrives Cujo’s already gotten her to dredge up some very had memories – it seems there was a major confrontation with the other two girls about Kaori “stealing” Hajime before the accident – and she’s fled the scene.

Should Yuuki have taken it on himself to tell Kujoe about Kaori’s condition?  Judgment call, but I think it was appropriate and in-character (in fact I was really hoping he was going to punch Hajime, but that wouldn’t have been in-character).  It’s Yuuki nature to give the benefit of the doubt and try to accommodate, but Hajime’s reaction is to accuse Kaori of faking her memory loss and dismiss her friendship with Yuuki as “pretend”.  No one is blameless in all this, and it can’t be ignored that Kaori’s condition is essentially self-inflicted.  So no, Hajime isn’t the source of all evil here, but he’s the one who seems to be playing the victim and acting out of spite.  In the end I think Hajime’s behavior is only going to reinforce Yuuki’s belief that he’s handling things the right way, and that Kaori really is worth all the effort that’s required to be her friend (never mind to be more than that).  With a little help from Shougo and Saki they should get through this, Hajime or no Hajime, though I still expect the season to close on a fairly open-ended note.

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  1. A

    Seems to me that Hajime still has a massive chip on his shoulder about something that happened a long time ago, and needs to get over himself.

    Shougo and Saki are an odd couple, for sure, but for me that's their charm as a couple. Works for me!

  2. t

    it's always so easy and quick to destroy something rather than build and nurture it.
    unsurprisingly, that applies to relationships as well. and Hase is learning it in the hard way it could be – one small remark and everything has fallen apart. not to mention how later on Koujo put Hase off balance, but that's natural because right now Hase is lost.

    and it is really painful for Hase, and us too, seeing all his efforts wasted completely, even now with the "let's be friends" phrase coming up again..that's not giving both Hase and Fujimiya the same feeling it had, and that's what the most painful for them, and us too I think. although the latter can't actually remember it, she still struggles to understand how and why Hase is so called "special friend".
    I like it how Saki noticed that change between Hase and Kaori. it's so true for her to do so and try to intervene in order to help them. Shougo knows better that time is probably the best for now.

    it's a great complex of the story and from each character, both by behavior and perception, is so realistic and feels so true, even from Koujo. I don't think he is "villain" by definition, but for now he is kinda the bad-guy. not because necessarily he is really bad, but because of circumstances that led him to be indifferent (at least from the inside), kinda like Fujimiya is, but less problematic obviously.
    it is quite very possible that he will be part of the group in some point.

    this episode's course of events felt right and I am into the story and characters' feeling, ready for next ep.
    it seems like we are heading toward the tough part of the series due to the current gap in emotions and behavior between Hase and Kaori. things will be a bit dramatic, but I trust the author and brains base to put the right touch to it, I believe they will.

    as for Shougo and Saki as couple, I agree it's a bit odd and even convenient/predictable, but so far nothing was really shipped. besides, I find that moment very charming due to these characters-type. especially Shougo who blushed. of course that's not because of love (for now) but it was charming to see that behind his type, he can be sensitive to those remarks as well. I think it was cute in its own way and I don't think the series is focused on shipping them or anything so easily.

  3. S

    I'm honestly getting annoyed by how this show is clearly set to end not only in an open way, but in a pretty unsatisfactory one at that. If the resolution is that Koujo finally sees the error of his ways and makes peace with Kaori all we'll have is… a love triangle setup, God forbid, because it's clear that he was a bit more than a friend back then. In general, this series failed to explore the most interesting aspects of the memory loss issue and spent too much time teasing a relationship we know we won't see before this anime ends anyway.

    Plus I'm with you in calling bullshit on ShougoXSaki. Like, really? She basically tells you outright that she wants a babysitter and you fall for her? You're smarter than that, man.

  4. Except it's obvious he'd fallen for her long before – probably in grade school.

    This is an ongoing manga, and a very new one at that – I'm OK with open-ended and we might even get a S2. I don't see the possibilities you list as the only possibilities, but we'll see.

  5. t

    I don't think he fall for her as you guys are saying.
    I think it was just nice to him that somebody shows a bit of interest in him. and it's important to Shougo as a character as well, because behind his facade there is actually a middle/high school student here..and isn't it nice for someone in his age to feel a little blush because of interest in him?even if it's someone like Saki whom you can't take serious half of the time. and actually he did say to her she is talking nonsense.
    I don;t think the series is trying to ship them or something. at least not now and not immediate. I think it was just a nice scene. true – quite odd and convenient, but nice. especially for us, seeing Shogo blushing.

    as for the other thing you talked, well, as Enzo said, it will be open-ended, probably with some drama a bit, but something open that relief the current gap, with possibility for S2 since the manga is ongoing.
    in that case..well SImone is right somehow, because it's a bit annoying getting 1cour that its story still open because the manga still ongoing. I think I've said it once, but I'd liked to see much more adaptation of material which has come to an end. I understand that the idea is to boost manga sales..but for us, sometimes, that's a bit annoying.

  6. S

    I'm actually more frustrated with the fact that I don't really see where the story can go from here without generating into a sort of romcom. And I mean manga-wise too. Even if we got a Season 2 I can't see it being as good as this one started out… it just feels like the well of ideas is running dry and the author is falling back on the relatively safe ground of "he, she and the other" relationships. Then again, maybe I'm just a bit bitter/frustrated at the lost ground. If the payoff is good I'll excuse it.

  7. s

    Simone, even if they aren't "officially" a couple at the end, does it really matter? They've really gone far beyond teasing in terms of establishing the two leads as a OTP in my opinion, and Koujo's behavior makes a future love triangle really problematic. I think you're right the manga might have problems sustaining itself in the long run, but even if the route is a bit artificially circuitous, I think I have a good enough sense of where things are going already–even if the two leads just back to being "special friends" at the end.

  8. v

    Mixed feelings about this episode. I feel equally as frustrated as Hase – 9 episodes of development and then this guy comes along, pressed the reset button and we're back to square one. Like what the heck? Feels very unsatisfying as a viewer.

    On a side note, damn, I love those sunset scenes.

  9. w

    Very good episode for Hase's strength as a character. I honestly don't know how anyone could dislike him at this stage. That scene where he excused himself to cry was heartbreaking. He's obviously broken up about Kaori's memory loss, but his determination to continue with her hasn't wavered in the slightest. That mix of resolve and vulnerability is impossible not to root (or cry) for.

    As for Cujo, I agree with Shougo's assessment. Though his reaction to finding out the truth might slightly nudge him towards villain. Definitely kind of a jerk either way.

  10. b

    I kinda sympathize with Kujoe on this one. His best friend (and possibly more) from middle school doesnt even remember who he is, and broke the promise they had (im guessing it was to stay friends after middle school).

    If i was in his situation i would also initially feel really betrayed and think Kaori is being a total bitch, and not accept that she lost her memory (in the real world who would believe that a high school girl forgets her friends,when she was fine a few years ago)

    Obviously he could handle things better, but I think its a good portrayal of how a teenager in his situation would act

  11. A

    The thing I found telling about Kujo's character was his reaction when Hase told him about Kaori's condition. Doubt would have been completely understandable, after all Kaori's condition is pretty unbelievable. But the right reaction is to also question oneself, to say "If that is true I've been a huge jerk to her." and then try to find out if it is true. Instead he attacks Hase, and Hase and Kaori's relationship. He is quickly cementing himself as a vengeful, self-centered and possibly jealous little toad.

  12. s

    Enzo, like you, I kinda wanted Hase to hit Kujo. As a teenager, *I* probably would have done that. Heck, in middle age, I might still do that. Or at least do the threatening grasp Oreki used against Satoshi in the Valentine's Day episode of Hyouka. But you're right–that would have been totally out of character. I was really worried that the series would take the route of Hase withdrawing from Kaori for a bit, only to come back–and that this would be the requisite "drama" to create some conflict–but thankfully, they kept him in character. He's still the same insecure, slightly naive, but tenaciously kind guy we've seen from the beginning.

    As for ShougoXSaki, which has led to some discussion. Hmmmm… I get the skepticism, but seriously, it's not as extreme (and certainly not in the same way), but I know married couples where the pairs have pretty different personalities (not values, though). Probably the same could be said of myself. I agree that Saki needs development, especially since Shougo has been so well fleshed out and Saki only oozes moe so far. The "proposal" didn't come out of nowhere–it was foreshadowed last ep (well, *sorta*). And it is *great* seeing the unflappable Shougo so unbalanced–and looking back at earlier eps (without rewatching), I think Shougo was genuinely annoyed Saki never remembered him before, because he's had a crush on her. And now he's discomfited by her noticing him.

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