It’s funny how even when he’s the center of attention, Suna is never really the center of attention. This is his moment – after twenty episodes of buildup, the long-awaited exploration of what’s in Suna’s heart. But the first episode of this two-parter explored the question mostly through Takeo as the point-of-view character, and this one mostly through Yukika. Not only is Suna forever on the periphery of Takeo’s story, he’s forever on the periphery of his own.
The amazing thing is that despite all that, he still manages to be easily the most interesting character in Ore Monogatari!!. It’s the allure of the mystery I suppose – that which we don’t know is inherently more interesting than that which we do. There’s also another fact of life in play here that I suspect the mangaka is fully aware of – people in love generally find both the notion of being in love and each other fascinating, but to everyone else that’s not the case. If you like them it can be cute and amusing (as is the case here), and if not, it’s insufferable. And cute and amusing isn’t quite enough to carry a long-running series – something else was needed to bring a lot more intrigue to the party.
All of that ties into the fact that the episodes which focus on the fringes of the main story are generally the best, and that the bittersweet moments have more emotional weight than the sweet ones. This was a pretty thoughtful and nuanced episode all the way around, and it inspired some conflicting reactions in me. All in all I was happy that Kawahara-sensei chose to end it the way she did, because if Suna and Yukika had ended up together it would have felt like a betrayal of the message this series seems to have been trying to convey for 22 episodes.
Do I like Yukika? Again, it’s complicated, and I’m conflicted. I think one would have to be a pretty cold person not to feel some empathy for her – she’s desperately in love with someone and completely lacks the self-belief to pursue it, and that fact has effectively ruled her entire life since she was six years old. But unrequited love and self-doubt are things almost everyone has felt, and most of us don’t become stalkers in response. At some point we need to take responsibility for our lives, and if we choose not to act on our true feelings we need to be prepared to live with the emotional consequences.
Still, I do think Yukika is basically harmless and ultimately a kind person. The bigger problem for me is this – Suna is under no obligation to feel for her what she does for him. Everyone means well – Yukika of course has every reason to finally come clean, and Takeo and Rinko are trying to give Suna something they think he needs. But in the end it’s none of their business, and it feels to me as if the whole thing is kind of unfair to him – he’s being pressured here whether that’s the intent or not. And Suna is simply too kind to come right out and say that, whether he feels it or not.
Again, I think it’s better this way – both as a drama, and for the characters themselves. Yukika certainly shouldn’t end up feeling worse because she’s unburdened herself and I’m glad she got some closure, but it’s clear that while Suna was genuinely grateful that she cared so deeply for him for so long, he simply didn’t feel anything for her romantically. Maybe she got a friend out of it in Rinko, but at the very least she no longer has to go through her life wondering what might have been if she’d spoken up – her “PRIME TIME” doesn’t have to have been left behind in first grade. And Suna doesn’t have to wonder who it was that kept giving him chocolate in silence for all those years.
As to just what is going on in Suna’s heart, that remains largely a mystery – and again, I think it’s better that way. That has to be the reveal that comes at the very end of Ore Monogatari, whenever that is. What I think we did learn for certain is this: not even Suna really knows the answer. Maybe he’s just one of those people fated to go through love not loving someone else romantically. Certainly, as Yukika says he loves Takeo as a friend, and that’s as genuine and deep a relationship as most people will ever be lucky enough to have. But whatever that thing that has to happen to make us fall in love is, it hasn’t happened for Suna yet. Maybe it will, maybe not – and if it doesn’t it doesn’t mean he has to be miserable or incomplete, and indeed he’s anything but. And that (among other things) makes him the most compelling person in this series, and one of the most compelling in anime this year.