Isshuukan Friends – 11

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Seems like the reservation for four at Heartbreak Hotel hasn’t been cancelled.

In a way, watching kids be casually cruel to each other is more painful than any Urobutcher despair-fest.  It’s because it’s something we’ve all seen and experienced in our own lives (much unlike any Gen series I can remember), and of course no one is better at being casually cruel than kids.  And one thing I certainly remember from my school days is that as bad as guys could be, girls were usually the ones who were really cruel – especially towards other girls.  While the kind of idiotic hazing that boys engage in is no bargain, what girls do somehow seems more personal and pointed, and often to leave deeper scars.

I’m not going to come out and say that Hajime is a sympathetic character now, but now that he’s gotten a little background it’s easier to see what made him the way he is towards Kaori.  Hajime is blessed with an annoying personality, but he may not actually be a bad guy.  It was nice enough of him to call his old school friends out to try and fill in the blanks for Yuuki, for starters – though I suspect it was partly motivated by the chance to flaunt how much better he knew Kaori than Yuuki does.  And his reaction to their story seems quite genuine – he really was surprised and dismayed to find out what actually happened.

As to what actually did happen, it might seem as if it’s nothing so terrible as to cause someone to lose their memory.  But to have all of one’s same-sex friends turn on them in that fashion over a guy, as a sixth-grader…  I could see that traumatizing someone in a big way.  To have one’s entire world come crashing down around them like that, on top of losing the person she was crushing on and then being in an accident, was probably a sort of perfect storm of pubescent angst – enough to make Kaori just want to crawl into a hole in her own mind and disappear.  Obviously this is a fictional drama we’re talking about, not a documentary, but I pretty much buy the general theme as presented.

I think it’s actually interesting to speculate on whether sixth-grade Kaori was genuinely innocent in all this, or whether she wasn’t in-fact trying at least a little to pre-emptively claim Hajime before her friend Naomi did.  But either way what Naomi and her other friends did to Kaori was cruel indeed, and they no doubt spread the word after their crocodile-tears hospital visit that Kaori was faking memory loss to avoid admitting the truth.  I think it’s very possible Kaori even switched schools to avoid them after she got out of the hospital, or at the very least made sure to choose a different middle school.

In any event, though, it’s not the past that’s the real issue now but the present – and yet it’s the past that’s causing issues in the present.  Yuuki now knows more about Kaori than he ever did before, and she seems to have come to terms with what she’s been forced to confront (she’e retained the long-term memories, but still loses the short-term on Mondays) and retained her desire to be “special friends” with Yuuki.  Yet now, of all times, Yuuki seems to be pulling back from Kaori just as she’s trying to edge closer to him.  Just what the heck is going on here?

Well – I’m no fool, I’m not going to pretend I know when we’ll all find out in a week anyway.  But it seems to me that Yuuki is just tired – he’s been the one doing all the heavy lifting to make up for the elements of the relationship that Kaori is unable to provide due to her circumstances.  I also think that while Kaori’s condition was more or less a mystery, it was easy to cast is aside as merely an obstacle to be overcome – now that it has a concrete form, Yuuki has to decide what he wants based on a complete picture of who Kaori is and how she got to the that person.

I’m sure it will be a common interpretation that Yuuki’s simply freaked out by what happened when Kaori was in sixth-grade – by her obvious interest in Hajime and perhaps even because he feels she did betray her friend.  I don’t think that’s likely, personally, just as I didn’t think it was likely Hajime was a real villain – Isshuukan Friends just isn’t that sort of series.  I think Yuuki is simply feeling worn-down and unrewarded, and having second-thoughts about whether he has the patience and stamina to do what seemingly needs to be done to have a real relationship with Kaori.  And I think he’ll realize that he’s making a mistake – that he does have what it takes and that Kaori is worth it – and the story will pick up from (and leave off, as an anime) there.

By the way, Shougo and Saki’s little side-plot isn’t forgotten either.  Saki’s current behavior is feeding the conspiracy theories that she actually remembers a whole lot more than she pretends to, and that she’s been playing up the helpless card for all it’s worth because she doesn’t think she can fend for herself.  She certainly remembers her “proposal” to Shougo in excruciating detail as she’s too embarrassed to face him, and the girls’ busybody friends intervene to enlist Kaori into helping set the two of them to rights (until more dramatic events take center stage).  I still think Shougo’s primary role in the finale is going to be to try – as usual, the eternal wingman – to smooth things over between Yuuki and Kaori.  And while I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have doing that, ultimately the impetus is going to have to come from Yuuki himself.

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  1. S

    I thought Hase was more on a typical "am I hurting her?" streak of self doubt than the reasoning that you suggest – which would be way more interesting imho. Sadly, this episode he had his best moment yet, and it was when he started jokingly suggesting that Hajime might like Kaori. He surprised me there, one would expect it not to be a joking matter to him and instead he was very witty and calm about it. More moments like that would make him a much more likeable character.

  2. S

    I don't think he was joking when he asked Hajime if he like Kaori, or at least that is how I took that scene.

    I don't think he's pulling back because of the "am I hurting her?" trope, but more because of the guilt he feels that he is in the way for the restoration of any possible Hajime/Kaori friendship.

    He now knows
    1. Hajime liked (and still does) Kaori
    2. Kaori (in the past and possibly still does subconciously) considered Hajime a special friend because of
    a. Her like of maths
    b. Her favorite number being one (it looks like the character for Hajime's name)

  3. S

    I didn't mean he was joking, but he acted in a witty manner. He teased Hajime and even pulled a prank on him forcing him to drop the mask. That's more than what we've ever seen him do with Kaori (is always very tame, afraid of saying something out of place) or Shogo (whines and asks for advice).

  4. w

    I agree, it was pretty nice seeing him showing some guile. Hase when he's not worrying about everything. I also highly doubt he's planning on stepping aside for Hajime.

  5. w

    I think 'tired' pretty much nails it. You can see it in his interactions with her before he even finds out the truth from Kujo. Having all his progress with her erased really took it out of him, and he feels like he's just going through the motions this time around. He's far less enthusiastic, and he realises this. I can understand why he'd be legitimately concerned about whether he's capable of committing to Fujimiya (hint: he obviously is).

    The conversation with Shoubro was very well done, I thought his point about Yuuki being willing to commit to Kaori even when he expected to get nothing out of it was especially interesting. You kind of realise that this was true, and part of why he's so upset is because he had actually gotten somewhere despite that.

    Of course, there is the genuine issue of whether he can bring himself to finally tell her how he feels after so long, and I really hope we get a resolution there..

    You know this series is really reminding me of Hyouka in a way. The plot and subplot (Saki) both revolve around the girls problems, with those as the driving forces behind the scenes. But it's used to show how the boys react to it, and how their characters develop as a result. Both series are also pretty damn beautiful.

    By the way, I don't mean to sound gushy but you've been doing a fantastic job analysing this series. I've really enjoyed reading into the characters and their motivations, and I rarely have much to comment on your posts since you cover everything so well. You really seem to get the characters and show, and these have been some of my favorite posts to read this season.

  6. Very nice of you to say, thanks. I do feel as if I'm on the same wavelength as this series, more or less. The Hyouka comparison is an interesting one I hadn't thought of, and I can see some merit to it.

  7. m

    Younger guys tend to be more vicious and allow for far less weakness to be shown than younger girls, but girls tend to not have that inherent "line" that they wouldn't cross. Bill Burr had a funny stand up joke about that idea based on the fact that girls don't hit each other. Guys don't cross that line because every guy knows if you say something that goes too far, you're getting punched in the face. He plays it off in a hilarious way, but it really is true that girls can be a lot more cruel. Even the notion that you could "try to get ahead" of someone when it comes to stuff like that, or that you should not go meet someone you care about, when they ask you to meet them, before they leave is crazy. The fact that all the girls accepted that is even crazier. Not in a "this is unrealistic" kind of way, but it just makes that whole thing that much more painful for Kaori. Not only was did one of her closest "friends" pretend to like her and hide the fact that she hated her and was jealous of her, but she used slowly manipulated everyone to her side behind Kaori's back. In a way that never gave her the opportunity to defend herself.

    I personally don't think she was trying "to get ahead" of her friend at all, she doesn't seem that way and I don't think that would fit with the essence of the show. I don't think Hajime is a bad guy, or even has a bad personality. I think he liked Kaori more than he was able to understand at his age, and not knowing why she never showed and seemingly forgot his existence really hurt him. Yeah it's bitter and pathetic to keep holding a grudge against someone you haven't seen in so long, but it's so typical of that age that it'd be surprising if he acted otherwise. It's just the other characters are such great people that in contrast he seems so much worse than he is. I think the real "bad guys" are Kaori's old classmates. Even in the diner they had this obvious tone when they said "and she pretend not to know anything" that showed they were not only feeling guilty, but were trying to put blame on Kaori to relieve that guilt. Not a terrible thing in general, but by this shows terms that makes them the worst people around.

    I agree that Yuuki is tired of doing the same thing over and over with no real reward. I don't think he had any serious inclination of "I don't want to hurt her" affecting his decision to start pulling back. If anything I think he empathizes with Hajime and sees himself in him. Seeing all the pain Hajime is in once he found out all of the facts seems to have terrified Yuuki. I think he's finally spent enough time with Kaori that his feelings have gone passed just a crush, and he realizes how much he could be hurt down the line if she has her memory completely reset again, and with all that's going on I think he feels like it could happen at any time. I agree that it'll prob be Shougo who gives him the push towards finding the courage to get back in the game. Probably with the intention of helping her move on from her past and fix her memory issues for good, though that obviously won't happen in this season.

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