Sing "Yesterday" for Me
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Sing "Yesterday" for Me ?
So the good news is that last week's cliffhanger turns out to mostly be a device of dramatics to keep our attention. The attempted break-in at Haru's place is practically glossed over in the grand scheme of things in this episode, with her a bit shaken-up but otherwise fine. The whole exercise instead turns out to work as a way to maneuver her and Rikuo into more direct contact with each other again, demonstrating that he still cares for her in some way. It's the primary spark of all the drama fireworks that start going off in this episode, and if I feel a bit over-manipulated in the worries Sing "Yesterday" for Me saddled me with for the past week, that's also ample reason for me to praise its storytelling up to now. This show's got me caring about what happens to these characters, and this incident with Haru was to remind me of that as much as it does Rikuo.
Pushing Haru back into the story after a couple weeks of her feeling too in the background is another reason for me to see this dramatic device as an absolute win. With her primary role this episode being interfacing, directly and otherwise, with the now-ongoing Rikuo/Shinako relationship, everything surrounding that turns this into an episode full of the stuff I love about this show. Rikuo and Shinako's easygoing courtship turns out to be as adorable to watch as the awkward lead-up to it. Seeing them shop for dinner together and talk about meeting up after work is downright cozy since we're familiar with the preceding ten episodes of effort it took them just to get to this point. My satiation at seeing them like this is only outclassed by my anticipation for how this is all almost certainly going to come crashing down somehow.
It's a combination of factors external and internal that conspire to constern our happy couple's fledging exploration of their feelings at this point in the story. The most obvious issue is the influence of the dumb kids still in orbit around their lives. At the outset, a point is made that Rikuo and Shinako have not told Haru and Rou respectively that they're now spoken for with each other. The need to do so is obvious just from the first scene with Rikuo at Haru's place post-break-in, but the age-old adult excuse of ‘not the right time’ comes up there and again as Shinako interacts with Rou. The specter of ‘convenience’ as a motivator in relationships continues to rear its ugly head even as Rikuo and Shinako overcame it as a block to them coming together romantically. They don't want to shake up the dynamics with their other friends whom they know have their own relationship aspirations that might cause them to break off altogether.
That kind of lived-in tension of communication with people is the tone underscoring all the best messy bits of this episode, coming to an especially outstanding head at the halfway point, where Haru purely by accident finds out she's lost the Rikuo Bowl. Far from the sudden shock of the cliffhanger ending last week, this big moment gets by on extreme amounts of build-up. As a viewer it's like trying to warn someone to get out of the way of an oncoming train, a climactic moment of trauma you know is coming but can't look away from, with fallout that speaks for all the characters involved moving forward. The direction of the whole scene is as carefully calculated as anything Sing Yesterday has done so far, with special praise going to the animation of Haru's facial expressions right before we cut to a POV shot from her slowly blurring out from sadness. This is the epitome of the exhausting elements of human interactions that are my favorite thing about this series, and their ability to execute like this with still several episodes to go only fuels my faith that I'll get this kind of good food several more times before the show's over.
In fact, this episode ends primed for a mirror of that confrontation as Rou gets a turn walking in on the revelation of Rikuo and Shinako's dating game. But that's another cliffhanger the series leaves us with, and Rou's particular strain being left for next week underscores the other issues stemming from within for Shinako and Rikuo. Haru absolutely wrecks herself in the wake of that pivotal scene (even seeming to have quit her job at Milk Hall, as Rikuo finds out with concern) but Shinako has the seeds of her own issues planted by the encounter. She feels guilty because of Haru's accusations of not playing fair in getting together with Rikuo, that she simply jumped onto the first relationship option within reach after moving on from Yuu.
Speaking personally, I disagree with this accusatory assessment, as Shinako and Rikuo opting to get together represented the culmination of huge amounts of growth for both of them, as opposed to one person taking advantage of the other's convenient momentary availability. Not that it stops them both from keeping the relationship in an awkward holding pattern, learning as we do that they've spent three months going out with zero movement in terms of physical intimacy. It's possible, nay, inevitable from a narrative standpoint that their coupling will end up not working out, but the two of them should still share the relationship as this step on the road of their lives. This is primed as a learning experience as well for the younger characters Rou and Haru, needing to realize that the world doesn't revolve around the story of their own crushes anymore than it's obligated to let Rikuo and Shinako have a happily ever after.
This makes for another stellar episode for Sing Yesterday, which has seamlessly transitioned to a messy relationship drama that is wonderful to watch. What pushes this up more now is the clarity that the central themes of coming into your own life and consciously exiting the ruts of convenience are still integral to the story, even as its presentation has become more actively character-based. Adding to that is the point that Rikuo and Shinako being a couple means they can share a lot of focal scenes, which clears room in the script for Rou and Haru to both have time as well. So we've got all four main characters active in the story at the same time, with that narrative being as engaging to watch as ever. It took some manipulation and more obvious mechanical plot devices to get us here, but if this is the result, I'm not going to complain.
Sing "Yesterday" for Me is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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