by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Homecomings can be tough. Anyone that has gone through trauma in their lives can tell you that the physical space associated with those memories can often be just as difficult to navigate as the memories themselves. I can absolutely empathize with Sayu not wanting to go back to the place where she lost her friend, and lost her own sense of self-worth on top of it all. In that way, it's really an unambiguously good thing that Yoshida is there with her, because if nothing else, he can offer the stability and support that he provided back in his home as Sayu comes face-to-face with the part of her life she's spent so many months running away from.
So, “Resolve” definitely works as a step in Sayu's journey of healing, but does it make for an exceptionally compelling episode of television? Not quite, unfortunately, and the reason for that comes down to how Higehiro tends to struggle when there isn't a strong central conflict at the heart of its stories. For instance, when Sayu was struggling to come to terms with her romantic feelings for Yoshida, or when Yoshida needed to hash out his complicated relationship with Airi once and for all – these worked as the central thrusts for their respective episodes, primarily because other characters were able to push against and pull away from each other in dramatically meaningful ways. Sayu needed to make an active choice to either let her feelings for Yoshida simmer down, or to act on them and risk ruining their dynamic; Yoshida had to work up the courage to directly confront Airi about her rejection; Airi had to navigate her complicated emotions in a way that wouldn't drive Yoshida away.
Here in Resolve, though, the emotional stakes for Yoshida are more muted than usual, and Sayu is stuck reliving and partially overcoming her past trauma in some fairly predictable ways. It also doesn't help that the episode is essentially divided into two long scenes, with the first being decidedly less interesting than the second. This is where Yoshida and Sayu kill time in Sapporo while her brother tends to some vague business, and wind up having lunch in a fancy café. It's a fine sequence, I guess, in that there's a baseline level of enjoyment to be had in watching Yoshida and Sayu open up to each other and be kind to one another, but I can't help but suspect that there isn't much you'd miss if the whole thing got cut from the episode altogether.
That may just be because the second scene carries so much of the episode's weight that whatever came before it was bound to feel like filler, no matter what it was. This is where Sayu tells Yoshida and her brother that she wants to go back to her school one last time, and to try and make peace with Yuuko's death at last. These are honestly the kinds of story beats that I kind of feel bad for criticizing, because I end up sounding just like Sayu's shitty mom when it seems like I'm saying, “Can you just get over your dead friend and stop it with the waterworks, already?” It isn't so much all of the crying and introspection that I mind, but rather the particularly familiar, melodramatic flavor of it all.
Much like how I took issue with the original flashback to Yuuko's death, this scene where Sayu finally unloads all of the grief and blame she's been shouldering is a solid idea that suffers mostly in its execution. When you get moments like when Yoshida slams Sayu against a chain-link barrier and insists, “You were both each others' only friend! You cared about each other! But you just cared too much!”, it doesn't feel anymore like Sayu and Yoshida are real people. Instead, they come across like…well, like actors that are reciting lines from a cheesy anime.
That said, I've come to care about these two too much to completely dismiss Higehiro's attempts at pathos and catharsis, no matter how corny or half-hearted they may seem. However, I'm much less interested in how Sayu is going to reckon with the loved ones she's lost than how she could possibly find a way to live with the ones she's got left. When she arrives back home for the first time, Sayu's mother greets her first with an ice-cold glare, and then a hard slap to the face. It's not a great way to begin this most inauspicious of reunions, that's for sure. And who knows if Yoshida's presence will bring the support and healing that he is intending, or if it is just going to be another excuse for Sayu's mother to go off the handle and secure her title as Anime's Worst Mom of the Year. I guess we'll just have to see how the chips fall when Higehiro brings it all to an end in the coming weeks.
Higehiro is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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