Never expected to be saying this after last week’s rough going, but that was rather pleasant (in the end), wasn’t it?
I was kind of expecting Yesterday wo Utatte to pivot to letting us see a little bit more into Haru this week given the fact that Rikuo had his moment in the premiere and Shinako took focus last week. Giving us a relatively objective look at the three main characters through their own headspace and lives was always needed to happen to prepare a solid foundation for the story going forward, and that’s what we’ve now got. For my part, I’d like to see this kind of rotation maintained going forward, as balancing them in such a way helps it feel like they have their own stories—rather than just being actors in any one character’s tale.
In Haru’s case, it’s especially nice to see her life and some of her significant relationships outside her attraction to Rikuo and weird student-teacher/love rivals dynamic with Shinako. It’s always been clear that there’s more to Haru than the happy-go-lucky persona she usually puts on around Rikuo, but I appreciate that rather than painful backstory we just got a bit of a look around her daily life: her work, seeing her mom, and trying to pursue her unrequited romance. As one does.
It’s maybe not the most healthy of lifestyles, emotionally, but as she says herself, she’s pretty happy with how things are at the moment. And, for the most part, that seems to be true.
Then again, asking the guy you like—who knows you like him—to go to a movie with you isn’t exactly the most status quo-preserving action one could take. Haru’s decision to go ahead with such an effect, and her subsequent musing about her feelings on him standing her up (after a lot of venting to her coworker at the bar), tell what’s always been obvious: she’s not afraid to take action to try and get want she wants. Her assertiveness is admirable.
At the same time, it’s nice to see that Haru still has the restraint to maintain appropriate boundaries in the relationship. Her qualms about contacting Rikuo by phone (of the rotary and pay variety, lest you forget the manga was written in the 90s) speak to a desire to do things the right way and not invade his life without his permission. Her affected mannerisms and the childishness of her age aside, there is a welcome maturity to her at times, even if some of her jaded cynicism (like her line about love being an illusion) seems a relatively immature, naive sort of maturity.
Still, as we’ve seen from the very first episode, Haru’s not an invincible, endlessly peppy person. Given the right pressures—and those don’t seem to be lacking in her life—her facade crumbles pretty easily. Watching her attempted movie date with Rikuo go south was especially difficult to watch, perhaps especially because his mistake was a genuine one, yet also precisely the one that could hurt her the most. The shot of her waiting on his steps in the rain, in her clothes chosen carefully for the day (shown above) contends painfully well with the very best of last week’s visual treasures in displaying, wordlessly, her hurt.
As a side note, wow, Rikuo and Shinako really suck as this “not being friends” thing, huh? Nothing like bringing food over to a sick stranger or going to a sick stranger’s apartment to care for them.
The other element at play is that asking Rikuo to the movie is a movement toward her letting down the facade with him. Taking that risk and immediately being hurt is understandably a hard thing to swallow. Haru doesn’t realize it until the end (wonderfully rendered in an explosion of character acting animation that had me so mesmerized I forgot to take screencaps—way her hand bounces when she points at Rikuo!), but she can’t actually stay happy with the way things are. So she makes a genuine introduction of herself. Going back to her decision to not to push into Rikuo’s boundaries, she’s instead given him an invitation by opening up her own. It’s a new beginning.
And so this is probably where our story genuinely starts. There’s still more to Haru for us to learn about—such as her history with the father whose name she still carries—but we’ve now seen enough that she’s evolved beyond being a cute, quirky potential love interest into being a more fully realized character. It’s hard not to root for her, seeing how earnestly she tries to live and make her own happiness despite a life that’s clearly not gone smoothly.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m hoping for her to achieve her goal of Rikuo falling in love with her, but anyone who’s trying their best in the way she is deserves to be rewarded in some way. That’s what I think.