by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
We're only a few weeks out from the end of Higehiro, and the only major story beat left is ostensibly Sayu's return to her family in Hokkaido. It makes sense that we'd get that journey in the last handful of episodes, and I feel pretty confident that the series will have plenty of time. That said, Higehiro has struggled just a little bit in recent episodes to tie all of its emotional threads together in a satisfying way, before Sayu and Yoshida embark what may possibly be their final journey together.
Last week, “Past” stumbled in the telling of Sayu's tragic backstory because its narrative ambitions couldn't quite be met by the show's middling production values and direction. “Proof” isn't as melodramatic as “Past”, but the wonky pacing and editing still makes a messy product out of what should have been a very straightforward story. Yoshida wants to do right by Sayu and send her on her way back home, but he is also struggling with how much he has come to care for her, and how badly he feels he needs her in his life. That's all there is to this episode, when you get right down to it, and all of the conversations Yoshida has with the people around him are merely stepping stones to getting him to decide whether he wants to bid farewell to Sayu now or see her all the way home, even if it ends up making the goodbye that much harder.
The brief scene that Yoshida has with Sayu's brother works well enough, even if it is simply spelling out in explicit dialogue something that we already figured out a long time ago: Sayu's relationship with her mother was broken long before Yuuko's suicide, and Yoshida might be the closest thing to a father that Sayu's ever had, since her and Kazuto's biological dad flew the coop when Sayu was born. It's blunt, but serviceable, and if nothing else it provides even further evidence for my “Sayu and Yoshida should never, ever sleep together” thesis.
After that, though, the episode begins to feel rather sloppy and aimless. There's a cute scene where Sayu presents Yoshida with a recipe book she's made for him, since he'll have to take care of himself from now on, but the rest of the episode is just Yoshida making hilariously inept attempts to hide his emotional distress from his workmates. Yuzuha casually suggests that Yoshida should just take Sayu to Hokkaido himself, since he's so obviously distracted with worry for her, and when he argues that would be too “weird”, she deadpans, “Everything you've done this whole time has been weird.”
This would be a fine scene on its own, especially if you consider how fed up with Yoshida's drama that Yuzuha must be, but it feels redundant when we later get some incredibly forced drama that comes when Asami calls Yoshida in a panic, as she is unable to get ahold of Sayu. This is when Hashimoto steps in to drive Yoshida around to look for her, which is really just a pretense for him to also get some lecture time in. He gives Yoshida the usual spiel about how he's pissed at how much waffling Yoshida is doing, even though it's obvious to literally everyone what he wants to do.
I'll be honest: I had completely forgotten that Hashimoto was even in this show, for all of the presence he's had in the story, and it's weird that his big moment is an over-dramatic confrontation for the sake of a point that Yuzuha already made. It feels doubly weird when it turns out that, whoopsie, Sayu just went to surprise Yoshida by meeting him after work, and there was never anything wrong in the first place. The point of this, I guess, is to show Yoshida being protective and paternal to Sayu some more, but, like…we get it. Someone literally spelled it out in plain Japanese (with English subtitles) at the top of the episode.
Given how much of a big deal that the show made out of Airi forming her own little bond with Sayu, it's weird that she has had basically nothing to do lately, and I can't help but feel like all the time spent on Hashimoto's silly scene would have been better spent getting Airi to have some sort of Come-to-Jesus moment with either Yoshida or Sayu. Hell, I would even have taken another lecture from Yuzuha; sure, it's been a bit irritating how persistently she has inserted herself into drama that isn't really any of her business, but at least the audience knows who she is. She might not have much romantic chemistry with Yoshida, but Yuzuha has done more for Yoshida as a friend than Hashimoto has.
That said, I like how the show handled Yoshida's bittersweet time with Sayu, even when it made me hella nervous the moment she asked to share a bed with him one time before leaving for good. I didn't expect them to start furiously making out or anything, but even little romantic teases would have felt exceptionally awkward, seeing as Sayu herself asks him, “If you were my dad, do you think I would have grown up to be a normal girl?” Thankfully, outside of a single awkward blush from Yoshida, nothing comes from it. His decision to accompany her to Hokkaido ends up feeling like a genuinely loving act after all, but it's a familial kind of love.
Pacing has never been this show's strong suit, though, so with all of the messy exposition and decision-making out of the way, I'm hoping these final few episodes can end the series on a strong note. I'm still bracing myself for whatever shenanigans the show might try to pull at the very end when it comes to who Yoshida ends up with, but that is a problem that Future James can deal with. For now, I just hope these two weird and wayward souls can find some peace in their remaining time together.
Higehiro is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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