This is a tale about Kaori, a girl who has had an accident, and as a result, she loses her memories of her friends every Monday. Since then, she has given up on making friends at school. This is also a tale about Yuki, guy who won’t give up on Kaori even if she always fails to remember their friendship. Right off the bat, the anime’s premise is very reminiscent of 50 First Dates, but I’m not too interested in talking about the film. Still, I will mention one quick thing: like the movie, there is an upside to our heroine’s condition. There’s a reason why the early stage of most relationships is considered by many to be the honeymoon phase. She can forever relive the exciting, edge-of-your-seat part of the relationship where the possibilities are limitless. You may know next to nothing about the other person, but at the same time, there’s nothing you would rather do than to spend all day finding out as much as you can about them.
Right from the very start, you’ll notice that the scenes in this anime are often blurry or full of bloom. The edges are usually washed out and ill-defined, and this might not just be a stylistic choice. Surely, if the story’s premise involves the volatility of short-term memory, the blurry, bloom-y backgrounds would serve as an apt metaphor for the impermanence of our memories. Our heroine is pretty much confined to living in the moment. After all, she always loses her memories within a week’s time. When you try to translate this condition visually, it’s like a person who lacks peripheral vision. What she sees before her is what she remembers. Everything off to the side of her vision, on the other hand, are things destined to be forgotten. Or even worse, they have already been forgotten.
This sort of repetitive short-term memory loss is also known as anterograde amnesia, and it has been explored in other works. Most notably, in Memento, the protagonist tries to cope with his condition by obsessively leaving himself notes all over the place. He even tattoos the most crucial bits of information on his own body. We quickly find, however, that notes aren’t necessarily a perfect solution to the problem. When you’re dealing with a tricky situation along with untrustworthy people, notes can become misleading because they can lack context. Having said that, the tone at the onset of Isshuukan Friends hardly suggests that we’re strapping ourselves in for a mind-bending psychological thriller. As such, I doubt very much that our heroine Kaori will have to deal with the unreliability of her own note-taking. So perhaps this is where the narrative can develop as the relationship between Kaori and Yuki “deepens.” She may lose her memories of him every Monday, but she can take notes, draw a picture, or do whatever it is that she needs to do in order to make the process a little easier each time their relationship resets.
And perhaps this is why the OP looks the way that it does. Usually, shoujo series adopt a watercolor or color pencil aesthetic simply because it’s cute and/or feminine. For Isshuukan Friends, however, the stylistic choice — much like the blurry backgrounds — can be a little more meaningful. Technically, Kaori can still hold onto her memories of her friends and the time she spends with them; she’ll just have to work harder at it than most us usually bother to do. Instead of having a crystal-clear picture of some special occasion in her head, Kaori will perhaps have to immediately commit the short-lived memory to paper, canvas or whatever it is that she has at her disposal. Then when Monday inevitably rolls around, her art can stand in for the memories that she’s lost. Of course, this process is hardly perfect, but then again, memories themselves are hardly perfect either.
Kaori’s reluctance to form friendships at this early point in the narrative combined with Yuki’s persistence raises an interesting question: who’s more vulnerable in this relationship? At first glance, we might naturally think that the guy has more to lose in this exchange. Every Monday, she’ll forget all about him and the time they’ve spent together, so it makes no difference to her if their friendship is lost. How can you grieve for something you never knew existed? Yuki is left to pick up the pieces by himself. Not only that, he’ll only have himself as motivation to keep pressing on in his quest to renew their friendship. On the other hand, what is it like to be in Kaori’s shoes? What is it like to continually see disappointment in people’s faces because you can’t seem to remember who they are and why you’re so important to them? Yuki might suffer as the “one who is forgotten,” but in that same spirit, Kaori is suffering too as the “one who forgets others.” Kaori would feel not only confusion but guilt as well.
Time adds another dimension to the drama. Kaori’s anxiety must undoubtedly creep up on her as every Monday draws near. She knows the memory loss is coming, and there’s nothing she can do about it. Few things in life feel worse than complete helplessness. This is why the following scene is so emotionally powerful:
Kaori slumps to her bed shortly after glancing at her calendar. We already know what she’s thinking. The golden hue of the window doesn’t suggest the warmth of the sun at all. Instead, it tells us that the sun is setting, and soon, her young friendship with Yuki will set too. The scene concludes without a single word being uttered. Later in the week, the scene has become remarkably colder (inconsistencies in the scene aside):
By this point in time, she has already revealed her condition to Yuki. But we see the room one last time in this episode. This time, it comes in the ED, which itself is a departure from the OP. Here, we not only see the room from a different angle, but the sun is even rising as the beams of light slowly sweep across the floor and the walls:
The story can even pattern itself after its own episodic, weekly format. Every week, we’ll watch an episode, we’ll get to know Kaori and Yuki all over again, sympathize with them and their situation, then as the week progresses, our memories of the show fade until the next episode comes out.