OP: “Yuki no Oto (雪の音)” by Novelbright
Shoujo number two of the winter season bows, and it’s certainly the more important prospect for me. Yubisaki to Renren is a more familiar shoujo genre for anime, romance. And it tilts more towards the jousei side of the demographic than Momochi-san, to be sure. Ajia-do has done some pretty good adaptation work as a studio, thought there’s not a lot of star power in the staff credits. I would say my take going in was cautious optimism, driven mostly by the generally very strong reviews for the manga.
A Sign of Affection is the story of a hearing-impaired college student named Itose Yuki (Morohoshi Sumire). Yuki is self-aware about her condition (her word) and the discomfort it causes in some people without being overly self-conscious about it. One day while riding the train home from school she’s approached by a foreigner (for most Japanese this just became horror rather than romance) and asked for directions. I have to say it’s extremely rare for foreigners to randomly accost locals on the train – especially a man a single woman – for directions, and I’ve never once seen one grab a shoulder like that. But in shoujo, sometimes things like that happen because the plot needs them to happen.
The guy can speak Japanese just fine as it turns out, but Yuki doesn’t know that and panics. She’s bailed out by college classmate Nagi Itsuoumi (Miyazaki Yuu), who helps the gent on his way (he’s English-fluent himself, as it happens). Interestingly Yuki recognizes Itsuoumi from school, but he seems to have no recollection of her. The sparks fly immediately on her part, and Nagi doesn’t seem put off by Yuki’s situation. I was struck by his putting his hand on her head when he left the train – it immediately hit me as very forward and borderline condescending – but as Yuki notes herself later in the episode, she’s “only seeing the good” in everything Nagi does. And again, this is shoujo.
Yuki’s friend Rin (Hondo Kaede) is not only in the same club as Nagi, but in love with his boss Kyouya (Ohsaka Ryouta, yet again completely fooling me into not recognizing his voice) at the restaurant and bar where they work. So the next course of action is obvious, and once more Itsuoumi proves himself to be strikingly unconcerned with personal space. But other than that he seems like a nice kid, and Yuki is so completely smitten that it wouldn’t matter anyway. Itsuoumi is a world traveler, multilingual, a cultural adventurer – if any boy was ever designed to appear exotic to a sheltered girl like Yuki, it’s him.
There’s a certain easy charm to this premiere that I found appealing, but to me events seemed a little forced at times (like that little dance of Yuki’s at the end of the episode, which we got to awfully quickly). Yuki is interesting in that she clearly places a high value on being independent, yet subconsciously is continuously making allowances due to her hearing loss. And still having a curfew despite being in college is another suggestion of this disconnect. As for Itsuoumi his impassive demeanor and forcefulness don’t immediately ingratiate themselves to an audience, but it’s way too early to make a call on what sort of guy he really is. I’m pretty much withholding judgement on Yubisaki to Renren at this point – this was a solid premiere but nothing like a deal closer.
ED: “snowspring” by ChoQMay