Sing "Yesterday" for Me
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Sing "Yesterday" for Me ?
A big indication of how the narrative in Sing "Yesterday" for Me has progressed thus far, about halfway into the series, is the noticeable shuffling of the relationship dynamics. The clearest example of that in this episode is Haru asking the question of whether it's right to stay friends with someone you still have feelings for. This is the exact same situation that Rikuo was in with Shinako back when the show started, so Haru's in his shoes now. How that's going to inform her decision to continue associating with Rikuo remains to be seen, understanding as she does thanks to her boss that staying friends with someone you have a crush on differs in its implications from person to person. But it's still an obvious sign of growth for both her and Rikuo, that they occupy specifically different roles in the story of their characters than they did when they first met.
Incidentally, it's made ever-so-slightly clearer that staying friends may have worked out in the long run for Shinako and Rikuo's now-burgeoning relationship. That adorable awkwardness between them is still on display in their conversations this week, but Sing Yesterday has also deployed another really effective trick of framing to sell the tension between them to the audience. Several times in the past couple episodes, we've cut to Rikuo having walked Shinako home to the entrance to her apartment, leaving as she silently watches him walk away. There's such a clear expectation there, the potential possibility that these two might get a second chance at a consummate invite up for intimacy, that we're anxiously waiting even as we know the spectacular retraction of the first time would make another attempt monumentally more stressful. That's a very good thing as a humanizing storytelling device, and shows just how well Sing Yesterday ‘gets’ this kind of layered interpersonal interaction.
Shinako owns her own conflict aside from Rikuo as well right now, still dealing with the fallout of Rou's exhausting efforts to be more direct with his feelings. Rou continues to be the sketchiest member of the cast, with a lot of his language trying to reconcile with Shinako after his botched love confession echoing that of abusers. It's frustrating, because I want to give him the benefit of the doubt for growth, member of the main quartet of the cast that he is. However, just as I'm actually thinking Rou is apologizing as a genuine realization of how badly he's messed up, he's back to taking Shinako's care of him for granted and using his connection to her to manipulate her into spending Christmas Eve with him, with full awareness of the cultural implications of that.
Oh right, this one's also a Christmas episode, a consequence of the long-term timeline storytelling ambitions of a series that premiered in April. In that respect it's using the seasonal setting well, the Christmas cohabitation milestone marking potential progress for the various couple combinations the series is teasing. The obvious big one is the ping-ponging of Shinako between Rou and Rikuo, as she realizes, perhaps slower than she should have, exactly what may be on Rou's mind regarding a Holy Night visit with just the two of them. She's perhaps willingly ignoring the strain that Rou's unreciprocated crush is putting on their connection, as she values the near-family relationship she has with him and his dad as a comfort of convenience. It's the darker side of Haru's professed “Feed the crow and let him hang around you” strategy, as people like Rou will latch onto you for being nice even if you don't have or show any romantic interest in them. Compounding things is the revelation that Shinako's been feeding sad boys and inadvertently earning their affections since their college years, which it turns out is how it happened with Rikuo. That things actually have progressed between him and Shinako to the point of near-romance should just go to show for Rou that you can't predicate a relationship simply on mutual friendly existence around each other. Rikuo notably forgot all about the Gingko nuts Shinako gave him that originally caused him to latch onto her, their current courtship now revolving around actually getting to know each other as people. Rou contrasts by throwing out all sorts of childhood connections he does remember with Shinako, but that only serves to remind her that such stated familiar connections are no substitute for actual emotional intimacy.
That does mean I feel like, adorable awkwardness aside, Sing Yesterday is still underselling the Rikuo/Shinako connection a bit. We can tell from those aforementioned apartment-front interactions that there's definitely something there, but we haven't gotten to see a lot of the conversations they're having on the way over. Even Rikuo shrugging off the attempted nostalgia of the Gingko nuts is just a springboard for the two of them to go back to reminiscing about the past anyway. I want to see what's working for these kids in the present. Thankfully, the worked-up wingmanship of the Fukudas (who continue to be the best characters in the show) looks like it might pay dividends with the end of this one. Christmas or not, I'm looking forward to seeing how the evening turns out next week.
That all leaves just Haru still waiting in the wings after the blow to her confidence in the last episode. What bits she does get here are very good, still rocking the best character animation in the show with her frustrated bed-wriggling. As well, her positing the question I mentioned up top about struggling to remain friends with a crush who doesn't like you back is the cornerstone of the framing for the ideas of this episode and the show moving forward. But that makes it frustrating that after such a big shift, we hardly see her do anything going forward. They're teasing us with possibilities, as she skulks around Rikuo's apartment deciding how direct she wants to be with him now, but she's merely a curious shadow this week, hovering just outside all the Rikuo/Shinako/Rou drama. Sing Yesterday's storytelling always seems to be leaving one member of the quartet in the wings, but Haru was such a force of nature in that story before that her near-absence is very much felt in the show's energy. There overall seemed to be a good amount of stalling for time this episode as characters were maneuvered in place for this climactic Christmas, so hopefully the characters and plot get a bit more proactive next week.
Sing "Yesterday" for Me is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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