by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Something I am really appreciating about Higehiro so far is that, for the most part, the characters are all very good about telling each other what's on their minds. Not Sayu, obviously; if being a runaway teenager with abandonment issues wasn't enough for her to deal with, she's also got some serious trauma she's working through based on “Part Time Job's” final scene, but we'll get to her later. The rest of the cast, though, consists mostly of functional adults, who are able to engage in the usual rom-com shenanigans without having to get completely lost in melodramatic teenage bullshit. Sure, they've mostly just traded up for messy, melodramatic adult bullshit, but that is an area that has been woefully underrepresented in anime for some time now, so I'll take what I can get.
First, though, something light: Sayu made a new friend at work! Her name is Asami Yuuki, and she follows in the grand tradition of spunky anime gal pals that only need to spend a single shift at the local convenience store with the heroine of the show before they decide to be BFFs. It's typical stuff, but it works well with Higehiro's whole setup. The minute that Asami discovers that Sayu is living with an “older brother” type that is nine years her senior and definitely not her brother, she decides to scope out Yoshida for herself, just to make sure he isn't, you know, a sex pest or anything. It's a breezy sequence, and pretty cute, mostly because Asami also doesn't waste too much time with shenanigans. She plays along with the pair's lame lie about being childhood friends that are also nearly a decade apart in age, but she quickly confronts Yoshida to try and figure out what the actual deal is. His answer – “If she wants to say that I'm her brother, then that's what I will be” – is as apt a description of his dynamic with Sayu as anything we've heard so far.
The more interesting part of the episode comes when Airi asks Yoshida out on another after-work totally-not-a-date when she gets a bit suspicious of how much time he's been spending texting and staying home lately. After last week, I was already getting a bit weary of how long the show was going to drag out her façade of not being into Yoshida when she totally is, but to my surprise, the two hash things out quite clearly. Yoshida is understandably confused at why the woman who explicitly rejected him in favor of another man would keep asking him out, and Airi confesses that she made that whole excuse up. There never was another man, and we later learn that she's never slept with another guy before, period. She obviously has a crush on Yoshida, but she never felt that “the timing” was right, so she panicked when he asked her out, despite wanting to say yes. Hell, when Yoshida half-jokingly suggests that she sleep with him to prove this isn't some prank at his expense, she basically says that yes, she'd one-hundred-percent like to lose her virginity to him. Even when he walks that back, he does manage to secure a promise that, someday, when she's ready, Airi will ask him to be her boyfriend.
Granted, “The vague promise of someday being asked out by the girl that has already admitted her romantic feelings and expressed a desire to do the nasty” is only a step above the usual anguished pining of high-school romance anime, but it's a step all the same! The bigger complication, obviously, comes from the fact that if Yoshida were ever to bring Airi home, he'd have to explain why he is currently sharing a one-bedroom apartment with a homeless teenager that also cooks and cleans for him. Yuzuha is already weirdly cool with the arrangement, but surely the dam will break sooner or later, right? Yoshida and Airi's arrangement isn't something that can be permanent, nor should it be. We see that, when Yoshida leaves Sayu alone for dinner on account of the date, she is once again crippled with loneliness and fear, and some flashes to memories that are clearly very painful to her cause her to vomit up her dinner completely. Yoshida has undoubtedly been a positive influence on Sayu's life, but what this girl really needs is a stable home, and some kind of family or support structure that doesn't consist of people that Sayu might fall in love with.
Then again, the line between romantic-comedy and fantasy is always very thin, and perhaps Higehiro is building up to a ending wherein Yoshida can become a real kind of family (and not in the “PornHub's Top 50 Hottest Videos” way). When Sayu is at first crushed to think that Yoshida is asking her to sleep somewhere else so he can bring his new girlfriend (?) home, Yoshida corrects her: Airi wants to meet Sayu herself. In the real world, this would probably be the worst possible idea that Yoshida ever could have come up with, but in Cutesy Anime Land, I'll buy it. If Higehiro is actually going to let the increasingly complicated love-triangle between Yoshida and his coworkers play out without involving Sayu herself, then maybe we might all end up getting lucky, and Sayu will score herself a weird little found family in the process. Just, for God's sake, someone please get the poor kid an actual therapist.
Odds and Ends
• Since Higehiro isn't the type of show that's trying to wow you with spectacle, I likely won't harp too much about aesthetics unless the show does something especially heinous, but it's worth pointing out at least once that the show is honestly pretty bad looking. Character animation is stiff and awkward, there's a general flatness to the colors and background layouts, and the direction is barely more than functional. The writing has been good enough that I'm not too bothered by the ugly visuals, but it could be so much better than it is, too.
• Speaking of janky visuals, what the hell is up with this nasty looking close up of Yoshida and Airi's barbecue? Am I wrong in pegging this as a barely filtered photo of someone's actual, overcooked meat? It just…looks like it's from a different show entirely. Why?
Higehiro is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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