Sing "Yesterday" for Me
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Sing "Yesterday" for Me ?
Sing "Yesterday" for Me's now-historic late-90's setting doesn't just date it in terms of social or relationship sensibilities. There are all sorts of incongruous elements to be lost on a modern audience, like a scene in this episode where Rikuo helps Shinako hook up a VCR to her CRT television! Ancient technology isn't the only connection to Rikuo's past he grapples with this week, of course, as the ‘Yesterday’ in Sing Yesterday continues to be the most operative part of its title. These people's past connections to their school days just keep coming out of the woodwork, this one bringing in Rikuo's high-school ex-girlfriend Yuzuhara to drip-feed a few more revelatory life-lessons into Sing Yesterday's slow-burn psychological struggles. The difference now is that the show seems to be actively taking to task how much the hang-ups it's heaped on its characters should actually be holding them back.
Rikuo's rocky ongoing relationship with his own self-respect powers a lot of how he gets re-involved with Yuzuhara here, and it invites all those juicy, personally-self-reflective questions the show wants us to ask. How bad does a situation have to be for us to consider letting someone who hurt us back into our lives? It seems his issues with Shinako are not an isolated case, as it's revealed here that Rikuo's also carrying some major baggage from his failed relationship with Yuzuhara, fixating on the cryptic way she broke up with him. Virtually everybody in this story has a problem with keeping potential loved-ones at arm's length, and in Rikuo's case they seem to be suggesting here that it stems from worry about not ‘understanding’ people the way Yuzuhara accused him of. So many of our problems can be rooted in singular incidents in our past, and just getting over those moments can seem as herculean as pursuing a dream or new career.
Sing Yesterday, in this episode, demonstrates an understanding of the entangled exhaustion that comes with taking the past of least resistance in an awkward situation. It also leaves Rikuo's reasoning ambiguous: Does he allow Yuzuhara to stay with him simply because he's a pushover, or is he actually concerned for her wellbeing? One interesting point is that he displays no attraction or sexual tension towards her in all the time they stay together here, with one moment simply being a fake-out due to him falling ill instead. Yuzuhara lets slip here that she might not mind hooking up with Rikuo in this situation, but nothing comes of it. So unlike the simmering-crush tension of Minato towards Haru in the previous episode, this one's more of a platonic post-relationship reflection. One last toe dipped in the past before Rikuo, the others, and the story (hopefully) realizes it's time to grow up.
That of course doesn't preclude elements of sub-drama from cropping up as a result of Rikuo and Yuzuhara's spontaneous cohabitation. On the one hand, Shinako and Haru discovering the situation out of context and becoming upset with him is that most trite of dramatic devices, but the show, to its credit, plays a lot of the reactions for effective laughs. Rikuo waking up and realizing how screwed he is is actually pretty hilarious, with little touches like the door in the back of the store just sliding closed as Haru storms in looking for him. This is an aspect of the episode where the production overall really carries it, in fact, with the dramatic difference in Haru and Shinako's body language selling their post-revelation reactions, even as we're aware that, say, Shinako's petty concealed handling of her stress on the subject isn't the most original of characteristic plot points. The show loves contrasting the character animation of people on-screen together that way, with Rikuo being extra-deferential to the women in his life this week, or Yuzuhara's easy self-serving confidence coming through when played against Shinako's straining formality.
That point of contrast begets the bigger-picture sensibilities that Sing Yesterday is trying to make its characters, and us, aware of at this point. After several weeks of it being this huge lynchpin of her emotional immobility, there's something refreshing about Shinako's co-workers incredulously laughing off her complete lack of relationships since the Nicholas-Sparks-ass tragedy that defined her. Sometimes the hang-ups we tell ourselves we have are simply conveniences for not making the effort to try anything new. That sentiment of it never being as serious as we treat it especially comes through in the big revelation of this episode, that Yuzuhara didn't actually break up with Rikuo due to some deep-seated need for him to understand her- She'd just found another guy she wanted to date and made up an excuse on the spot. Rikuo's agonizing struggle with whether he could ever be loved was based on someone else's spur-of-the-moment lie, and I think that's an amazing reveal for a series powered by these kinds of dramatics. Sing Yesterday doesn't even take Yuzuhara to task for her formative serving of BS, hammering again its larger point that the past is the past and we can't let it define us in the present; It's Rikuo's ‘fault’ for rolling this one issue around in his head for so long as an excuse instead of just moving on and trying again. And it's another place where I feel like the show is calling out the fixations in its viewers who may need to hear it.
Yuzuhara serves her purpose as a very cutting character here. I can't believe that after all this time, it took her directly stating it to make me aware of the symbolic role of Rikuo's job at a convenience store, acting as a tether to his excuses for not trying harder, and marking him as the relationship of convenience he currently occupies for both Haru and Shinako. Yuzuhara, like Minato, acts as a microcosm of the show's motivation to moving on, with Rikuo's apartment serving as her own convenience store, which she leaves by the end to pursue her own dreams. The difference, I hope, is that with characters like Rikuo and Shinako having their past fixations challenged by more well-adjusted (for a given value) members of the cast, that they really will make an effort to move on to the next phase of their lives and the story's plot. This episode's end credits finish by zooming out on that cork-board we've seen different photos pinned to each week, revealing they were all part of one display interconnecting the events of all the characters until now. It's a solid illustration of the strengths Sing Yesterday has embraced as an ensemble piece, and would seem to mark this as the first hurdle of an arc cleared. The way the show undercut its own angsts seemed to be a real breakthrough here, it felt earned, and it looked especially great doing it.
Sing "Yesterday" for Me is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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