How would you rate episode 8 of
I am incredibly happy that we’ll finally be getting to see Sayu’s past in next week’s flashback episode — or at least, it had better be a flashback episode. If Higehiro promises an episode named “Past”, complete with monochrome snapshots of Sayu’s school days, and it somehow doesn’t provide some meaningful answers about what brought Sayu to Yoshida’s doorstep? There’ll be rioting in the streets, I tell you what.
At the very least, yours truly will be quite miffed, because “Summer Festival” is an episode that contains just a bit too much wheel spinning for my tastes. It isn’t a bad episode, and we technically address some meaningful points regarding Yoshida and Sayu’s relationship, but I have to tell you the truth: I spent most of the runtime screaming “We get it already!!” at my television and (metaphorically) throwing popcorn at the screen, because…you know…we get it already.
The opening scene between Sayu and Yuzuha was the roughest part of the episode, by far. Yuzuha fares better here than last week, since she doesn’t take up so much screen time with her meddling, and she does make good points to Sayu about how it won’t be so easy for her and Yoshida to just “break up” when Sayu returns home. The problem is that the scene just boils down to Yuzuha explaining the concept of co-dependency and intimate relationships to Sayu, and while the lovesick teenager might need to brush up on her psycho-social analysis skills…we already know the score. And same goes for when Yuzuha can barely hold back her tears when she sees how familiar Sayu and Yoshida are with one another; we’ve been over all of this before. Sayu is in love with Yoshida; Yuzuha is in love with Yoshida; Yoshida loves Sayu but he (hopefully) isn’t in love with her; Yoshida likes Yuzuha just fine, but he’s definitely not in love with her. Et cetera, et cetera.
The second half of the episode is stronger, even if “two platonic friends go to a summer festival together and some sparks may or may not begin to fly” is so worn out a cliché that it doesn’t even work if Higehiro is trying to be ironic about it. It’s the most that the show has ever framed Yoshida’s feelings for Sayu as being anything close to romantic, what with a single stray blush and some awkward fumbling over Sayu’s pretty yukata, and how Yoshida might not be ready to see Sayu exit from his life after all. Sayu’s earnest speech about how Yoshida was the first guy she ever gave her real name to is sweet, admittedly, and even though these two absolutely need to find some way to live apart from each other soon, it will be undeniably sad to see them part ways, even if it is only for a little while.
So far as any explicitly romantic undercurrents go, here’s what I have to say about the whole show in general: Chemistry is a difficult enough thing to get right in live action, and it’s a thousand times harder in animation. You don’t have the benefit of real human bodies interacting in real spaces, and most of the times the voice actors for the characters in question never occupy the same room outside of a table read. Chemistry between romantic leads is the one thing that it is impossible to artificially replicate – it either hits or it doesn’t — and animation is literally all about making a completely artificial world feel real.
It’s one of the biggest reasons why so many anime rom-coms go for bland, self-insert Potato-kun protagonists and simple archetypes for the harem of love interests; if the viewer thinks the ladies are all hot, and the main dude is simply a vessel for the viewer’s fantasies, then chemistry is almost beside the point. Higehiro, ironically, is too good to work that way. Yoshida, as overly nice as he can sometimes be, comes across as a real guy, and all of the women in his life are mostly on the same level. The camera may ogle Airi’s boobs way too much, but she’s a complicated woman who isn’t just going to trip crotch first onto Yoshida’s face at the first opportunity. She’s also the only character that Yoshida shares a mutual attraction towards, which means that the two of them have the most chemistry out of anyone by default.
This is also why Yuzuha’s constant pining for Yoshida can come across as a bit frustrating, even when the character is objectively right in her assessment of some of the things she’s seeing other people do. She just doesn’t have any chemistry with Yoshida. Like, at all. Even when he’s being nice to her, he interacts with her like one might with an exceptionally friendly cousin that you bump into at a family reunion. That could change, given time, but right now it means that, for as much as I empathize with Yuzuha when she’s crying over not being noticed at karaoke, I also want to tell her that she needs to start scoping out other, more emotionally available people.
Then there’s Sayu. There’s a lot of romantic tension at the festival, and a smidgen of it might even be coming from Yoshida; they hold hands, he eats cotton candy out of her hand, fireworks are bursting constantly – all of the good stuff. But, if anything, this outing of theirs just reinforced how positively catastrophic it would be if the two ever hooked up. If Yoshida were a generic main character whose sexuality transcended basic human decency, and if Sayu were written in that same unrealistically adult way that so many anime teens are, things might be different.
In just the same way that Yoshida feels like a real (if emotionally stunted) twentysomething, though, Sayu feels like a real teenager. And just like it would be if you saw a real twentysomething hanging out with a real lovesick sixteen-year-old, Sayu and Yoshida’s interactions are the exact opposite of sexy. Even if Yoshida does finds Sayu attractive, he’s smart enough to know that they can’t ever be in a proper relationship. She’s a child. They have literally nothing in common outside of how much each other’s company has improved their lives.
A kid usually thinks that’s all you need to be in love with someone: “They’re hot, and I like being around them.” An adult knows better. You need chemistry, both on a physical level, and an emotional one as well. Sayu’s brother returns, at the end of “Summer Festival”, to take his sister home again, and Sayu has basically come to terms with this turn of events. While it still doesn’t feel like an ideal situation for anyone involved, something had to change for Sayu and Yoshida. I don’t think dragging Sayu back home without warning is necessarily the answer, and I’m not foolish enough to think that Sayu will be out of Yoshida’s life for good. I just hope that, wherever the two find themselves next, Higehiro is smart enough to keep its central relationship from imploding completely, because it would likely take the entire show with it.
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