After 20 episodes of build-up, the moment has finally come. Happily, Ore Monogatari wasn’t trolling us, and we really did get an episode about Suna’s heart (I had a nagging fear right up to the end that we were being teased and tortured). Episodes that have had as much build-up as this one often have a very difficult time living up to it, but happily that was anything but the case here. It was everything I hoped it’d be and more.
I think the key here is that the series was very true to itself in telling this story, and the characters very true to themselves in playing it out. Suna didn’t miraculously become an open book, or Takeo dark and mysterious. As Takeo says himself, “Suna’s feelings are very hard to read” – and while Takeo isn’t exactly the most perceptive guy on the block, he does know Suna better than anyone in the world, probably. I wouldn’t wanted the mystery of Suna to be quickly unraveled because he was finally the center of an episode. To be honest I don’t want it unraveled at all – not completely.
When I say the series was true to itself, I mean stuff like the fact that while Suna’s love life was the center of the episode, it was still told from Takeo’s perspective, and Suna’s reserve was kept largely intact. And the funny thing is, Takeo is more interesting in this role than he is in the traditional boyfriend role. Watching the way he dealt with this completely unfamiliar scenario was really fascinating and charming. I loved little moments like when he clasped Suna by the shoulder when talking about the past, and especially at the end of the episode when he told Suna it wad OK to say no when offered a date – “Your feelings are what’s important here.” That was such a classy and protective thing – these two truly are loyal and devoted to each other, and seeing a friendship like that depicted on-screen is a rare treat.
As for that mysterious girl, her name is Amami Yukika. And happily Madhouse got another stellar seiyuu to play her, Kayano Ai. Yukika is not materially different than I imagined her to be based on the foreshadowing and the circumstances – she’s a painfully shy megane girl who’s been pining for Suna since he protected her during a dodgeball game when they were in kindergarten. She’s been watching Suna in silence for a decade, and make no mistake, there is something a bit creepy and stalker-ish about that. But when push comes to shove Yukiko is someone you can understand, because she struggles to be happy simply because she thinks she’s not good enough.
Takeo is the one who unravels the mystery, detecting Yukiko’s presence when she’s following he and Suna and then causing her to drop her latest anonymous love letter in the river. Takeo being Takeo he jumps in after it, and Takeo being Takeo he adopts a straight-ahead strategy of pushing Yukiko to come clean. He and Suna are exquisitely opposite in so many ways – Takeo is as transparent as Suna is opaque. I think he initially assumes Suna is going to reject Yukika outright, but he doesn’t go off the rails when Suna remains noncommittal – as much as Takeo wants Suna to have what he has with Rinko, he doesn’t push his friend too hard.
So what does Suna really feel here? Well, as always, I think that’s the great unknown of Ore Monogatari. I suspect Suna was going to say no initially, but Yukika preempts him in what I think is actually a pretty clever way – she quite accurately points out that he can’t possibly know her well enough to like or dislike her (though he does know who she is, unlike Takeo did). It’s a pretty self-deprecating approach but it was Yukika’s best shot, and it works – perhaps out of a sense of curiosity, Suna agrees to think about it. Of course Takeo’s attempts to get Yukika to follow through on her promise to let Suna get to know her fail abjectly, but eventually he and Rinko do convince her to mail Suna and invite him for a group date.
I don’t know if this is headed towards a real relationship for Suna or not (though he does finally get the voice over in the preview, and the “me” in the next episode title finally belongs to him). I don’t even know if the situation is going to reveal what’s made Suna so self-protective and emotionally guarded. But I do know that it feels like this is the real defining moment of Ore Monogatari despite its superficial appearances, and it feels as if the mangaka knows this too. I’m a bit torn – I want to see real growth for Suna and movement in his character arc, but I also want to see him remain as fascinatingly inscrutable as he is now. I’ll be very interested in seeing how the show works this out – especially as the manga is still ongoing…