In which I shed many tears over the genuine love shared between a couple of friends.
So, wow. Yeah. That episode was phenomenal. Easily the best 25 minutes Ore Monogatari!! has done all season. Definitely among the best episodes of the season. Subtle, adorable, melancholic, touching. Special. I’ve cried over Suna moments before, but this…this was something else entirely.
Even more than the climactic conversations and moments of the episode, the thing that stood out most to me in this week’s Ore Monogatari!! was the melancholic undertow that was present almost ubiquitously throughout the episode. I mean, of course there were the usual forays into silliness (like Takeo’s job at the muscleman café), but even some of the more lighthearted scenes (like Suna laughing over old memories with Takeo) were shaded by the darker hints of something bothering Suna and the obvious dynamic of change generated by Suna passing over the physical locations tied to those memories to Takeo’s birthday planning for Yamato.
It’s been teased before, but this episode effectively revealed that yes, Takeo is the only friend Suna has. This young man, who is so perceptive and thoughtful and caring, is all but alone in the world besides his oft-absent mother, college sister, sickly father, and one great friend. Which is kind of sad—although it doesn’t seem like Suna really shows all that much interest in trying to reach out to anyone who isn’t Takeo. That’s the backdrop established by the haunting red light of sunset at the beginning of this episode, and I couldn’t get it out of my head the whole way through. With the episode constantly feeding us visuals emphasizing Suna’s solitude and loneliness despite his spoken protests to the contrary, that subdued somberness filtered into the way the rest of the episode came across.
Contrasted with the very “together” bliss of Takeo and Yamato’s new relationship, Suna’s isolation is all the sadder—and in his desire to see his one friend happy, he’s sacrificing his own need for companionship and support. As much as I want to decry Suna’s resistance to Takeo’s offer to come with him to the surgery as unhealthy, I can’t quite get there simply because his reasons for doing so are so incredibly relatable. In a situation where things are already outside of his control and where he already feels bad, the last thing he wants is another thing to make him feel worse—that is, taking away the happiness of someone else. Ideally, I’d love to see Suna able to be happy without having to vicariously apprehend happiness through Takeo, but life, I guess, isn’t always that easy.
Nowhere in the episode is this as painfully obvious as during Takeo and Suna’s brainstorming session for Yamato’s birthday schedule. Here, we have Suna symbolically passing off his own treasured memories with Takeo to allow his friend to plan the best birthday ever. In the midst of his father’s potentially terminal hospitalization, Suna’s still able to laugh over the memory of Takeo palming a bowling ball or getting stuck in a construction whole—at the exact same time as he generously gives those memories away to Yamato. We’ve had a lot of great Suna moments thus far, but none struck me as so genuinely heroic as this one. You guys know well enough how sentimental of a person I can be, and the thought of allowing the memories you once shared exclusively with a special person to be, in a way, appropriated by another…well, let’s just say that it would be really difficult for me.
The other painful element of all this is how little Takeo remembers about any of this. Suna doesn’t seem to be bothered, but there’s something profoundly sad in watching Suna saying, “Hey, remember this that we did here?” and Takeo going, “Eh, no, not really,” each time. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Suna remembers these things because they’re directly related to Takeo (or indirectly so), but the disparate relative weight they each give to memories serves again to highlight the fact that there’s still a divide between these two friend, close as they are. And while it’s not the sort of situation where you’d blame either one of them—Takeo for being so focused on the immediate, or Suna for not making clear what’s important to him—it again circles back around to that feeling of melancholy running underneath the silliness of the surface.
Of course, all of this climaxes as Takeo dashes to Suna’s door and confronts his friend, and once again we see the differences in their priorities and personalities manifest in stark contrast. Takeo’s willingness to cancel his plans with Yamato to be at Suna’s side is both selfless and a bit selfish—selfless because his willing to forgo something he really wants to do for Suna’s sake; selfish because he hasn’t even stopped to think about whether or not that’s what Suna wants. Suna, likewise, embodies both selflessness and selfishness in his desire to maintain Takeo’s ability to birthday with Yamato and to use Takeo’s happiness as a source for his own comfort, respectively. It’s fascinating that two people manifesting the same abstract qualities can arrive at such different conclusions based on their personalities and motivations.
The upshot of all this is really just to point out that Suna and Takeo clearly care for each other a whole heckuva a lot, even if they express that care in radically different ways. But you don’t need me to tell you that. You can just see that in the episode.
I suppose the only thing I really haven’t touched on yet is the whole life-death theme that was sort of trickling downstream throughout the episode. If I’m being honest, Takeo’s reflections—”People are born into this world”—didn’t do a whole lot for me besides continuing to characterize the simple profundity of his thoughts. Until we see the end of this mini-arc, I’m not convinced the duality of Yamato’s birthday versus Suna’s father’s illness has been adequately grounded to say anything meaningful to the audience. This, of course, doesn’t preclude it from saying something important to Takeo and, frankly, I think that might be better anyways. I think he’s already being taught a lot by this situation, and the fact that this arc deals with Suna, rather than Yamato, throws the English translation of the title, My Love Story!!, into a new light. But I’ll leave that one for you to ponder yourselves.