It’s only episode two and I’m already on the verge of tears. In the first episode we really got to jump into Rikuo’s present day life existing as “a failure of society” and how he’s essentially managed to put his life on hold because of this mantra. This episode, however, focuses more on his college crush, Shinako, as she shows her struggles with loss as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom.
In the first episode we see Shinako as a rather bright and helpful individual and, as Rikuo puts it, someone who is always forward thinking. But what’s on the surface isn’t always all that there is. As it turns out, no matter how many steps she takes, she always finds herself back where she’s started. And in the context of what we learned in this episode, that moment six years ago, is where her life is stuck on hold. No matter how “successful” she is at life, emotionally she is still held back by her loss. Overall, I think it’s really interesting to see how our older characters are stuck in this “Yesterday” state. They both aren’t really present in the present day. Instead, they are constantly stuck with what they miss from “Yesterday”. For Rikuo it’s his relationship with Shinako when they were in college, for Shinako, it’s the time before Ryou’s older brother passed away.
On the other hand, we also have Haru and Ryou, who was introduced to us in this episode. Both of these characters, despite being younger currently act as if they are in the present. Arguably, Haru’s crush or obsession with Rikuo is something from the past, but generally she’s not letting anything hold her back. In short, her life really isn’t on pause right now. She’s in the moment and acting on things that she wants closure on, whereas Rikuo and Shinako have not been (well, Rikuo did confess so I guess that’s a step). Even now, she sees that Shinako blames herself for Haru dropping out of school and has even gone out of her way to mention that it wasn’t Shinako’s fault that she left in both episodes that have aired. Ryou, I would also argue is currently acting in the present. From what we’ve seen, he’s pretty protective of Shinako primarily because of the relationship that they had growing up – almost as if he’s trying to take the role of his brother or at the very least, a protective sibling. He seems like another complex character, but since he’s only been introduced in this episode, I don’t really have more to say on him yet. But I’m digging the paperclip earring.
Throughout this episode, I noticed that we are consistently visiting the same scenery. The convenience store and it’s alley way, the park, Shinako’s apartment, and the path by the railroad tracks. I know that in a slice of life anime, recurring scenery and locations are pretty significant, but I think this is really the first time I’ve actually thought it relevant to note. For me, it brings a sense of closeness between all the characters and their environment… It honestly makes me feel like I’m with them, rather than watching. And when a new location is brought up, the moment, I think provides significance for the story. The school setting draws up Shinako’s feelings with Haru, but also we are able to be introduced to Ryou, and the bench by the lake gives us the opportunity to see Haru declare war on Shinako. Arguably, every single one of these very limited locations is significant though. The park is where we see Haru and Rikuo really connect for the first time, but it’s also where Shinako is found when she’s once again “in the same spot”. Now that I’ve written it out, it seems like a weird thing to pick up on, but I’ll probably keep looking out for these locations throughout the remainder of the series.
Lastly, I just want to say that I love the development that we are getting with the characters. Usually, I’m a “show don’t tell” kind of person, but after watching these past couple episodes I think it really depends on the context. If anything, they do a good job of showing than telling. For instance, Shinako’s flashbacks & consistent down mood around the cherry blossoms, weren’t super clear as they were happening, but after hearing Ryou provide the story to Rikuo, it all falls into place. (Genuinely, I thought she was going through just a “I friendzoned someone and now our relationship is weird” type moment, but oh man…. I was not prepared for what it actually was.) The interactions these characters have with each other really build up the development and sometimes it’s not even the character doing the talking that is being developed. By the end of the episode, it truly feels like puzzle pieces are falling in place. I also just wanted to briefly talk about Shinako’s line “I think I’m tired of being in love” because that… really hurt. There was just so much pain in that statement. It felt as if it was her call for help. That she’s realized that she’s trapped and can’t move on. The thought of love for her only brings her pain because she lost the one that she loved… So if she starts to love someone else, what’s stopping her from getting hurt by love all over again?
I know we’re only on the second episode of this anime, but I’ve just adored every moment of it. The characters are interesting and the art is just really pleasing to look at. It’s slow paced, but the moments of impact… really do have a lot of impact. I have incredibly high hopes for the direction this anime is going to go.