Sing "Yesterday" for Me
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Sing "Yesterday" for Me ?
Okay I know I said last week that it would be best for the characters of Sing Yesterday For Me if they didn't date each other, but I wasn't counting on the sheer entertainment value of the awkward interactions between Shinako and Rikuo. They don't get together in this episode either, but it's a near-miss, and the fallout from that is some delightfully disastrous chemistry struggles between the two for the rest of it. They're frankly adorable opposite each other at this moment, which helps to sell the story's current point that the romantic tension between them isn't as one-sided as it once was. So it's developmental and fun to watch.
Rikuo and Shinako actually run the whole gamut of emotions in their interactions across this episode, picking up right from the dramatic leave-off of last week. The walk together up to Shinako's apartment is just a masterwork of conveying the awkward tension between the two of them. In the short stretch it occupies, we completely understand the mounting nervousness of these two young adults who aren't entirely sure what they've gotten themselves into, so stressed by it that they end up mutually, tacitly calling the whole thing off before Shinako even opens her door. It's an exhausting mix of relief and confusion surrounding this little reverse walk of shame that motivates everything else that happens in this episode, and how Rikuo and Shinako's attitudes towards themselves and each other evolve.
Once again the pair's relationship fumbles are taken to task by their more emotionally-intelligent friends, roasting them pretty well for our amusement. But as salient as their argument is that the two should have just gone for it, like Rikuo replaying the scene over in his head we wonder how right that might be in this case. Was it a single-opportunity moment of truth? Or was it just the wrong time for both of them, a sign of how much growing up they needed to do? At one point Rikuo alludes to the idea that you must love yourself before you can actually love someone else, and the lesson indirectly imparted by parting with Shinako outside her apartment is one he finally takes to heart here. After spending weeks as Sing Yesterday's most immobile character, Rikuo at last quits the convenience store and goes full-time as a photographer.
This monumental shift in the show's status quo is communicated via a tidy montage, making just a bit of a time-skip apparent. There are little touches accenting the change as well, like Rikuo starting to dress himself noticeably nicer as his self-worth and satisfaction increases. His resolution is tangible, and rendering that via subtler aspects is a testament to Sing Yesterday's production quality. The show's firing on all cylinders again this week, doing a great job of communicating elements like that aforementioned awkward walk up to the apartment, or the way Haru's sight-line watches Rikuo as he walks past, her expression shifting from cheery to agitated the way through. That works as a slice of this episode's concept parallel to Rikuo's growth: The changing perceptions his potential love-interests have in the wake of him finally getting his shit together.
I've repeatedly regarded Rou as the most painfully-relatable character in Sing Yesterday, but Shinako gives him a run for his money this week as she struggles with her perception of her possible interest in Rikuo. There are layers of qualifying these feelings she's clearly working through: The question of whether she's only interested in him because she knows he is in her, as well as now thinking he may have moved on from her now that he's found a modicum of fulfillment and self-respect. The narrative walks the fine tightrope of not ‘punishing’ Shinako for not giving Rikuo a chance before now that he's made more of himself, making clear that she's not interested in him just because of his newfound success. Instead, it's more that how he attained said success made clear what she did like about him, his drive and determination he displays whenever he does manage to find his resolve. Notably, this is imparted earlier as the same thing Haru primarily likes about him, signaling that the two girls may at last be formally competing over this guy just as he actually becomes worth fighting over.
An easy path for the show to take would have been to have Rikuo start reveling in the more overt attention the ladies in his life are giving him, or perhaps lamenting his struggles of being forced to choose while also working full-time. But there seems to have been some real emotional growth after all accompanying the glow-up of his ambitions. Apart from Shinako's worries, it's made clear that Rikuo still is very much interested in her, but has convinced himself that missed opportunity at her apartment was his only chance. Their adorably awkward interactions make clear that there is something there between these two, and if their friends could see them they'd probably be screaming at them to just kiss already. And on an emotionally opposite development, Rikuo seems to have realized that affording Haru's attention towards him is bad for both of them in its current state. Whether he was keeping her around, effectively leading her on, just to make himself feel better isn't entirely clear, and that would lend a certain harshness to him trying to gently let her down towards the end of this episode. I like to think Rikuo's better than that, that he's not cutting her loose simply because he doesn't ‘need’ her anymore, but it's more that his sense of self-actualization simply gave him the courage to finally say no to the young girl's potentially-misguided affections. Which doesn't make it any easier for Haru, but everyone in this show is going to need to be put through the emotional wringer a few times, we can tell.
This was a dense episode of Sing Yesterday that accomplished a lot, plot-wise. It presents a realistic batch of emotions for its characters to work through in long-term, complex ways, and that lets us better understand the conclusions they end up reaching. Getting a better job doesn't magically solve all of Rikuo's problems, and in fact it looks to be creating whole new ones. But that's to the credit of Sing Yesterday as a story, continuing to move forward and change as we urge these people within it to.
Sing "Yesterday" for Me is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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