Isshuukan Friends Ep. 7: Romantic undercurrents

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Things seem so happy for our main characters in just seven weeks. Kaori is easily making friends now with everyone in her class, and of course, this includes Yuki. In fact, he no longer even needs to ask her every Monday to be his friend, a rather quaint and charming ritual the two kids once shared. Kaori will instead take the initiative these days and ask Yuki to be her friend. This is ultimately for the better. It was, after all, a ritual, and thus a coping mechanism for a problem that might not be so large anymore. But again, things seem so happy now. We’ve got a handful of episodes to go, however, so something will have to change. One Week Friends has luckily never been much of a melodramatic tearjerker, but it has pulled a few sappy stunts before. Remember when Yuki skipped school just to search for Kaori’s notebook? So yeah, I’m just wondering at this point how the story will turn.

For instance, One Week Friends could go the boring route like Usagi Drop and just conclude the adaptation on a series of loosely-connected vignettes. While this would keep everything happy and peachy keen, Usagi Drop lacked that really strong narrative to really get me emotionally attached to the characters. As for the other option, One Week Friends could then suddenly re-introduce an element of trauma to Kaori’s life. After all, her affliction isn’t physical. Something in her past made the girl want to forget her friends, even if she tells you that it’s such a nuisance to lose her memories of her friends every Monday. It almost seems like this is where the narrative will take its turn now that things are looking up for Kaori. In the past few episodes, she has certainly learned the true value of friendship, but it isn’t enough. In the end, she’ll have to confront her “demons,” so to speak, and come face-to-face with what made her so forgetful in the first place.

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So like I’ve said, Kaori is making progress. Yuki, however, can’t seem to help but find the downside to everything. This time, he whines, “…the special times the two of us shared are growing rarer and rarer…” But it’s obvious that he can’t monopolize the girl as his friend. For the average non-introvert, having lots of friends is a good thing. So yeah, Yuki is being silly, especially because the answer is staring him in his face. If he wants the relationship between him and Kaori to remain special and exclusive, there’s only one option to take: for him and Kaori to become lovers. Well, maybe that’s a bit much. They don’t need to be lovers, i.e. physically intimate with each other. But c’mon, if you want exclusivity, you gotta become her boyfriend. But although this is a show about high schoolers, it may as well be a show about nascent middle schoolers because the thought of romance legitimately scares both kids.

Which is silly to me. I really wish anime wouldn’t take such a pure-minded approach to its high school characters so often. No, I’m not saying that Yuki should be a horndog and constantly try to get into Kaori’s pants, but let’s be real. You want to tell me two teenagers in high school are this oblivious about romance? Have you ever talked to a high schooler? They’re full of puppy love and sappy crushes! More importantly, we know Yuki wants to become Kaori’s boyfriend. He so desperately desires it… on the inside. But every time he gets an opportunity to get closer to the girl, he suddenly morphs into a giant prude. After all, in last week’s episode, he acted as though it is wrong for two friends of the opposite sex to study together in the same bedroom. But is that really Yuki’s personality? Or is this just anime’s weird approach to teenage love rearing its ugly head? Because I gotta tell ya, I don’t buy it. I don’t buy the idea that a 16 or 17 year old boy would react that way to a potential 1-on-1 study date.

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Well, we are in luck, because it seems Yuki has finally decided to take a teensy, tiny step forward. Yuki asks that Kaori once again tutors him in math, but this time, he would really like it if the study date is just between the two of them. Still, don’t make the mistake of thinking the kid has turned the corner or anything. If anything, he’s still rather unaware of what he truly wants. He says he just wants alone time with Kaori, but it’s more than that. He wants more than that. And until he admits it, he won’t have any luck bringing the equally clueless Kaori along with him. After all, it’s now Kaori’s turn to play the oblivious fool as her newfound friends teasingly suggest that perhaps Yuki is the perfect guy for our heroine. So as you can see, Yuki’s got his work cut out for him, and he’s not making it any easier on himself by asking such banal questions like, “What is your favorite number?” Yeah, of course, try to engage the girl on her interests, but her favorite number? Really, man? C’mon, step your game up!

Like, y’know, calling her cute. Which freaks the girl out. Which then freaks him out. Ahhhhh, these kids. This is what I mean when I say Yuki’s still rather unaware of what he truly wants. He’s not being honest with himself. He tries to backpedal when there’s no need to. Even if they’re just platonic friends, the word “cute” is so harmless anyway that there’s no need to retract it. But as expected, things take the turn for the awkward as the two kids now sit there in silence despite it being a tutoring session. And it’s not as though Kaori didn’t try to lighten up the mood: “That’s the first time a boy’s called me cute, so I was just surprised. But I’m really happy to hear it.” Still, Yuki is a dork so he remains uncommunicative when, to me, he should see the silver lining in the situation. After all, Kaori specifically mentions that it’s the first time a boy has called her cute, and thus, she’s “really happy to hear it.” This shows she’s not completely oblivious about the matters of the heart. But Shogo’s probably right. Yuki is perhaps a bit self-centered. On a somewhat related note, I wonder if Kaori will write in her diary that Yuki called her cute…

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Anyway, the rest of the episode is just Yuki being his typical wimpy self. He wants to continue hanging out with Kaori over the upcoming summer vacation, but he doesn’t know how to broach the topic. As usual, the guy confides in his best friend, which must be frustrating for Shogo since he seems far less nonsensical by comparison. Hell, Shogo literally kicks Yuki in the back — “playfully,” of course — because the latter is so utterly scared of simply asking a friend to meet up over the summer. But all’s well that ends well as Yuki eventually gets the job done. He just has to make to every single thing such an arduous ordeal. Nevertheless, the payoff is big as Yuki and Kaori find each other on the school’s rooftop. All of a sudden, Kaori now feels as though she’s always known Yuki. The episode then ends on this rather hopeful note.

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9 thoughts on “Isshuukan Friends Ep. 7: Romantic undercurrents

  1. Bobduh

    Obviously anime does have a tremendous problem with maintaining this arbitrary, unreal “purity” in its characters, and I think One Week Friends overplays that to an extent, but I also think this is somewhat key to Yuki’s character specifically. More than anything else, I’d define him as a war between what he really wants (to actually be dating Kaori), and what he thinks “the right/proper thing to do” is. He’s kind of a selfish and self-absorbed person, but he’s continuously “correcting” himself with this naive, invented idea of what a “good person” would do. I actually think it’s kind of a neat tension character-wise, and I hope the show actually goes somewhere with all this.

    On a side note, I really liked the moment this week after Yuki and Kaori’s study session was interrupted by their classmates. I think it was a nice bit of natural storytelling to show Yuki just sort of sitting and enjoying the feeling of Yuki having complimented her as an irrelevant little drama played out in the background.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      More than anything else, I’d define him as a war between what he really wants (to actually be dating Kaori), and what he thinks “the right/proper thing to do” is.

      I don’t know, that’s kind of describes everyone. I don’t see any special about Yuki in that regard. We’re always stuck in the middle between our instinctual desires and what we think society wants of us.

      Reply
  2. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

    I don’t understand why romance is such a fearful subject in anime. It’s either “pervert” or “prude” with no in-between. Even most adult characters are either aloof to the subject (and thus “cool”) or teasing about it.

    Come to think of it, did you write a post about romance in anime a long while back? I think you dedicated the whole thing to it, just like with the Christmas Cake post.

    Anyway, I agree with your idea that the turn will occur when her trauma is finally revealed. I wonder how things will change, and if that change in itself will be positive or negative. Yuki being so typical about romance could be foreshadowing his reaction to the reveal. If, let’s say, her trauma happened to be something like rape, it would realistically make him incredibly self-conscious about intimacy with her, which would then make her feel like she’d ruined things because of her honesty about what happened. This, if done poorly, would lead into a cycle of pining and self-disappointment that would frustrate everyone involved. Basically, melodrama.
    _Whatever the trauma actually is, I almost hope Yuki does react like this. Not at first, of course. He’d be as kind and comforting as any of us would expect, and hope. But as the show went on, his reactions to certain things would change, and so would their relationship. It would be one of the few shows that details how coming out about your past wounds isn’t just a one-time hurtle, and that such knowledge can and does change everyone who learns it.
    _The trick then would be for Yuki to overcome his insecurities about the subject and Kaori, and for Kaori to not blame herself for her honesty with Yuki and to finally overcome her past trauma in full. If written well, it’d be a very real and hopeful piece of human drama.

    That’s just me, though. I’d rather the show avoid needless complexities that could lead it down a melodramatic path, but at least it would prevent it from becoming another Usagi Drop. Either way, there’s still plenty of interest to come from her disorder and her confrontation of it’s cause, so maybe we don’t even need to worry about that. Still, I’d find it interesting if it ended well.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I don’t think the trauma will be so heavy. I think we already speculated that Kaori was on her way to meet a very special friend before she got into the car accident. It’ll probably just be another boy, i.e. the dreaded childhood friend. And knowing the dork that Yuki is, maybe he’ll have made tons of progress with Kaori on the romantic front, but he’ll just drop it all on a whim because this boy from her past shows up. Well, that’s just a guess anyway.

      Reply
      1. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

        It’s the most common conclusion most come to with the topic of a trauma in a [young] woman’s life. It’s how it is since it’s been used so many times. It’s also why such a trope is heavily mocked by many because of how common it is.
        But yeah, I agree that most stories should look for other events to act as traumatic experiences, but whenever the character is female and/or young the first conclusion jump to (since it’s the most frequently used) is sexual abuse of some sort.

        Reply
        1. Archmage

          YOU are the one jumping to it here, based on the blog posts the story didn’t even hint about it. If you know how bad of a trope it is stop using it as the conclusion for spectaculation and discussion.

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