Isshuukan Friends Ep. 9: The revenge of the childhood friend

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Ah, it’s the ol’ triparoo and fall on top of the girl trick. And to top it all off, Kaori makes the first move… if you can even consider that a move. Oh sure, she’s just getting lint out of his hair, mm-hmm. Kaori’s mom is a total wingman, though. I mean, Yuki’s the biggest prude around. He even runs after the mom to insist that what she sees is nothing more than an accident. Shit, dude, does it look like she minds? The mom even says, “It’s quite all right. You high schoolers need your space. I consider myself fairly understanding of these things, you know!” Yuki obviously likes the girl, but he’s got no libido whatsoever. But c’mon, he’s in high school. How can he have no libido? I’m not saying, “Lay that girl out and ravage her!” Nevertheless, I find his behavior bizarre.

So anyway, the majority of the episode deals with a very happy and light-hearted study session between our four friends. After all, summer is about to end, and if you’ve seen your fair share of anime, there’s always a rush to complete the summer homework at the very last minute. Just to emphasize that he beats to a different drum, however, Shogo announces to his friends that he’s already finished his summer homework ahead of time. So, uh, why is he here? We’ll soon find out that he’s got a particular reason to tag along today, but for now, we can make the obvious connection that Shogo clearly enjoys hanging out with his friends more than he lets on. Sometimes, he seems bored, especially when he immediately turns his back to the group in order to read manga. Nevertheless, he’ll peek over his shoulder every once in a while when the rest of the study group starts to get going. Maybe Shogo just likes to sit back and observe, but why? Again, it’s hard to say. Shogo’s never been a particularly developed character. He’s just a reliable pillar that Yuki can run to — literally a supporting character — whenever the latter starts freaking out over something small and petty. Other than that, Shogo’s hardly been fleshed out. We know almost nothing about him nor his background.

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We do know at least one thing about Shogo’s background, though. As you’ll recall, he and Saki used to be in the same class in elementary school. This doesn’t really make them childhood friends, however, since you still sort of need the whole friendship component to seal the deal. After all, Saki’s not completely forgetful; she can remember fun things. That about says it all, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, Yuki seems particularly eager to hear whether or not Saki might’ve remembered Shogo from their elementary school days. He then teases his best friend later: “…despite what you say, you worry about her.” Later in the episode, Shogo reveals that he had been secretly doing Saki’s homework for her during the study session. Not only that, he helped her out this way in elementary school as well. It really makes you wonder why he cares this much. I will say one thing, though: if we could just keep that worry platonic, that’d be great. Please, if there’s anything the anime can spare us from, don’t try to pair Saki up with anyone. With her personality, it’s just creepy to think about.

Besides, is Shogo really helping Saki? If she really has this much trouble focusing on her education, shouldn’t this be reflected in her schoowork? This way, someone — perhaps a teacher — can hopefully find the girl the help that she needs. If she keeps skating by, however, what will Saki do later in life when her friends cannot continually bail her out? Then again, maybe Saki wouldn’t get the help she needs from the school. Maybe if she fails, she would just be ostracized for it. After all, she was teased in elementary school for her forgetfulness. Still, her inability to even do her homework can’t be ignored forever. It’s hard to really say what’s the best course of action, because the anime is too light-hearted and carefree that we can’t really think about any of the potentially negative implications. Maybe the solution can be found in Saki’s own words: “…I always dreamed of having someone that dependable to take care of me.” But if this is the only future she can see for herself, that’s kind of sad. Oh well, I think we’ve exhausted this particular topic, so let’s move on.

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Likewise, Kaori has also finished her homework ahead of time, but unlike with Shogo, Yuki claims it’s not a personal attack when she says so. Maybe Yuki’s just oversensitive. Like I’ve said, our male protagonist likes to freak out over small and petty things. So at the end of the day, it’s just Yuki and Saki who are struggling with their schoolwork. Well, it’s hard to say Saki ever struggles, because she never really engages herself to begin with. But anyway, when Yuki expresses his frustration over his lack of aptitude in math, Kaori starts to wax poetic about the subject. Hell, the camera even slowly zooms into her as soft music plays in the background. The anime is seizing us by the shoulder and whispering, “This… this is poignant.” Well, is it? I suppose there’s always clarity in math. Well, at the lower levels, anyway. And I suppose for someone with Kaori’s condition, it’s nice to have problems in her life that do have definite answers. When she faces a math problem, there are no gaps nor arbitrary mental setbacks to deal with. If she puts her mind to it, she will eventually find the solution even if she has to go about it in a roundabout way. This is more than she can say about her retrograde amnesia.

Later, Yuki starts to fret over whether or not he’s really helping the girl. After all, her problem hasn’t fully been solved. At the moment, this seems like such a silly worry. He’s happy and she’s happy, so what’s the big deal? Like always, Shogo steps in be his friend’s pillar of support. At the end of the study date, the Kaori conspicuously gives us a summation of the show thus far. Oh, you know, stuff about how Yuki has changed her life and everything. You just know the story’s about to throw a wrench into the mix. Whenever you make progress — whenever people are happy — something bad is always about to happen. That’s just how fiction works. To nobody’s surprise, therefore, we have a transfer student the very next day. Not only that, he gets to sit right next to Kaori. It’s pretty obvious that this is the childhood friend from way back, i.e. the source of the girl’s trauma. When the new guy goes to take his seat, he is annoyed to learn that she doesn’t remember him at all. He then bitterly remarks, “Well, it’s no wonder. You broke our promise, after all. I guess I was so insignificant that you forgot all about me.” Wow, man, don’t be such a bitch. Then to twist the knife even further, he calls her a traitor, which causes Kaori to faint from the shock. To top it all off, when Kaori recovers, she no longer remembers who Yuki is. Oh man, trauma is helluva drug.

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I’m not sure how I feel about this latest development in the story. If there’s anything I can say for certain, I think it’s a bit silly to turn up the drama now with only a few episodes to go.

Stray observations:

— If her mom and Kaori’s doctors are positive that the girl’s short-term memory problems are not the results of physical brain damage, why hasn’t she received any sort of therapy? The problem is obviously mental. Even a general practitioner should be able to hazard a guess that Kaori’s situation can be attributed to some sort of trauma. Is this a gap in the show’s logic, or is this an inadvertent reflection on the lack of mental healthcare in Japan?

— Sometimes, I have to remind myself Kaori didn’t suddenly put her hair back and that it’s really Kaori’s mom who’s speaking. The show’s art style makes it hard to differentiate between the children and the adults other than that the latter are taller.

— I like how Kaori’s father’s face has been blanked out when Yuki looks at Kaori’s childhood photos.

— This sounds kinda creepy, actually: “I just wanna sit in the back so I can watch Fujimiya-san.”


3 Replies to “Isshuukan Friends Ep. 9: The revenge of the childhood friend”

  1. I couldn’t find anything on outpatient care, but inpatient health care in Japan is horrifying. Patients are constantly drugged up and not only have to deal with other mentally ill patients but also drug addicts, since they share the same facilities. Patients can’t leave until doctors say that they’re ready (which can take a very long time) and even then it’s only if a friend or relative comes to pick you up (otherwise you’re stuck there forever.) I’ve also heard that the system is very corrupt, as companies make huge profits from selling all of the drugs they use.Though I’ve never been to Japan, there seems to be a very negative stigma around mental illness and mental healthcare.

  2. “But c’mon, he’s in high school. How can he have no libido?”

    Uhm, he has but simply does not want it to come out because he’s afraid? Plus he belongs to a culture so sexually repressed that they actually have a birth problem. Their population is literally declining because people (men especially) doesn’t care enough about fucking. So yeah.

    1. Uhm, he has but simply does not want it to come out because he’s afraid?

      There’s a difference between having a libido and being afraid to show it, and well, not showing any signs of it whatsoever. When you’re literally on top of the girl of your dreams, and she is the only one to make any sort of move, I think that is more than just being afraid. Being afraid of sex doesn’t mean people can’t cuddle, kiss, hug, or any other form of physical intimacy.

      Plus he belongs to a culture so sexually repressed that they actually have a birth problem.

      I know the problem you’re referring to and I don’t think it’s that simple.

      And the “Um…” is condescending.

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