Boring, boring. Not BokuYaba (obviously), but my reactions to it. I feel like Sasaki Norio has created effectively the perfect first love romance here, and in Akagi Hiroaki found the perfect director to do it justice. In a funny sort of way it sometimes strikes me as the romcom version of what Baby Steps is to sports manga (and that one is basically perfect in that context). There are just no details missed – everything is spot on. And while Baby Steps had an OP that perfectly captured its essence in “Believe in Yourself”, that sentiment plays very much at the heart of Boku no Kokoro no Yabai Yatsu too.
This started out looking as if it was going to be a relatively calm episode, but (and it just happens to fall this way, fortunately) as is so often the case the third act was packed with some big moments. We start with that rarest of species, the BokuYaba cold open, which has the girls (at Moeko’s suggestion) talking about having a get-together to make “giri choco” for the guys in class for Valentine’s Day. But Yamada commandeers the moment and steers the event to her place, seemingly so she can invite Kyou (or does she?).
That Moeko has lamped onto what’s happening between Anna and Ichi is not really news, but she’s really in the driver’s seat for much of this episode. First there’s the matter of going to the Yamada apartment – and when Bayashiko (especially) and Serina act surprised to see Ichi there, he begins to doubt himself as to whether he was invited at all (despite having gotten a LINE from Anna with confirming the time). Moeko makes certain he doesn’t slip away, literally dragging him back, and that’s when the fireworks really begin.
Yamada-mama is unsurprisingly surprised to see a boy with the group, and Kyou is unsurprisingly tongue-tied about how to respond (is he a friend?). Moe steps in and declares him to be her boyfriend, which seemingly has Mama even more perplexed but buys time. Moe fully embracing her wingman role while enjoying it a little too much is spot-on for her, and Anna certainly isn’t immune to insecurities about Moe’s method acting. Serina spends a lot of time poorly hiding the limited express train of thought running through her head, and Kobayashi completely takes the bait and wistfully bemoans the fact that another of the group has climbed the steps to adulthood.
Here’s where that Baby Steps thing kicks in hard. Moeko tries to help Ichi by fishing for Anna’s likes and dislikes for White Day (hint: “Likes – food”), but she’s embracing the GF role too hard for Serina, who snaps. Kyou panics and heads for the john (Serina notices his confidence of direction), where Lucifer Nigorikawa is waiting to scold him over his passive approach to what’s happening. Is he really OK with Mama believing he’s Moeko’s bae, knowing the awkwardness that will cause once she knows the truth? Well, he reasons, it’ll never be a problem if that moment never comes. And if he’s never really going to be Anna’s boyfriend, it never will. “Believe in yourself” indeed.
It takes courage for Ichi to tell Mama the truth (well, half of it). But the real test of courage is only beginning. Enter Yamada-papa. And when Papa (Yoshimasa Hosoya) enters, he really enters. Even the girls are shocked by his kyoujin-like aura (he immediately takes over the chocolate mixing). It doesn’t take Kyou long to put two and two together and get the giant that he met coming out of the elevator after the bath incident. Yamada-papa is huge and scary, but he almost immediately moves from being surprised to see a boy to asking Ichi if he games (he does). No one else in the house does, he bemoans (Anna denies this, an obvious lie) and soon the family is gathered around the TV for a surreal gaming session.
I find it absolutely hilarious that Bayashiko puts a “giri” stamp on honmei (homemade) chocolate. This giri-honmei distinction is everything with Japan Valentine’s Day, so I suppose giving homemade obligation chocolates would scramble the boys’ already hormone-addled brains otherwise. Anna makes sure Kyou has a taste of what she’s made (“Gi”) to try and get a read on what he truly likes. She’s sulking about the whole Moeko thing, but as usual as long as Kyou is close she can’t stay mad for long, especially since as usual none of this is really his fault. The gang leaves, and Anna asks Papa what he thought of “her friends” (oh, the transparency). He hopes “Yamada-kun” comes back – so he can share his friend code (but that’s enough to make her happy).
It’s back at home, though, that my favorite scene of the episode (and one of my favorites in the manga) happens. Kana is great, that should be obvious by now, but I just adore the way this sibling relationship is written. She cares so much about Ichi, and for all his prickliness towards her it’s obvious he trusts her completely. She knows where he’s been, and immediately demands an update. She’s drinking, and quite transparently longs to be able to have a drinking session with her little brother. As that’s impossible she offers him an amazake (it can be either non-alcoholic or low-strength) and the fun begins.
Kana imagining Kyou at the heart of a harem is pretty funny, but things do get serious quickly. He obviously longs to talk about this with someone non-imaginary, she wants to help despite what one suspects may be a lack of much personal experience, and that amazake may be 1% or so. This is an achingly real moment, and Ichi’s agony all the more poignant for that. Kana’s advice is good, if general – there’s no rush, your feelings will change, you’re only in middle school – and I always read (others disagree) a bit of trying to soften the blow of Anna being out of his league in her advice here.
Even if it’s the amazake talking, Kyou admits the truth to himself (as he sees it). His feelings will never change, but it probably doesn’t matter because Anna is already out of his reach. Her world is so much bigger than his – her work, her friends, the adoration she inspires in people (like boys) around her. Kyou sees himself as small in so many ways literal and symbolic, and Kana is really helpless to offer much solace here. What he doesn’t see – because he’s unable to step back and do so clearly – is that his own world is expanding dizzyingly fast. His feelings for Anna are changing his reality every day, he’s becoming a part of her circle (Moeko and he are already indisputably friends). And most importantly, Anna unequivocally sees him as much more than just a friend.
In the end Kana finds the right advice – just go for it, hopeless or not. And Kyou admits the truth out loud. Finding the courage to do that, and to tell Anna that she shouldn’t give out chocolate to anyone else (which was what she wanted to hear), is all part of the process of growing up emotionally. It’s hard to overstate how hard it is for an introvert lacking in confidence to say “maybe I should just try for what I want a little”. But that’s what BokuYaba is about, as much as anything – Kyou’s journey towards loving himself. A great romance – like a great sports series – can only achieve greatness if it’s also a chronicle of a person’s (or persons’) journey of discovery and growth. That this one succeeds spectacularly as both those things is a testament to just what a masterpiece it is.