Another Japanese Sunday, another perfect BokuYaba episode, another pageful of notes. I could go 20 paragraphs with most of these posts easily, but I try very hard to limit myself because truthfully, a series this good speaks more eloquently for itself than I ever could on its behalf. I must say, though, that if this isn’t the finest Valentine’s Day episode in anime, I don’t know what is. Sasaki Norio uses all the tropes of romance manga, but she completely reinvents them – not subverting them so much as cutting through the usual BS and getting right to their essence.
Real-life experience subtle changes the way I view a series like Boku no Kokoro no Yabai Yatsu. Having worked in Japanese junior high schools I know that they almost universally forbid the exchange of chocolate on Valentine’s Day. And agree or disagree, this ep gives one a good idea of why. I’m also struck with a sense of familiarity in watching the street scenes here, having pilgrimaged to Senzoku to explore some of the places close to the heart of this series (like Anna’s “Fairy Mart”). Say what you will about anime tourism, but it does change one’s perspective on a show as grounded in real-life as BokuYaba is.
As with most American (let’s be honest, Saint’s Day or not that’s what this is) holidays, Valentine’s Day undergoes a sort of funhouse mirror transformation in Japanese hands. It’s all about ritual, hidden messages. And chocolate of course, always chocolate. Girls have it easy in that sense – at least they know what to give boys. On White Day the boys have to actually decide how to reciprocate, which increases the difficulty level (and danger) by an order of magnitude. There’s also the girl-girl (and not in the yuri sense) ritual, where friendship – or in this case, idolization – choco is given out. And most crucially, the whole “giri” vs. “honmei” chasm. Bayashiko carving the former on the latter would have fried the boys’ little pubescent brains, so it’s probably for the best those weren’t actually distributed.
There’s so much gold here. Anna doing the whole runway thing to gather chocolate was hilarious, even if she did have an ulterior motive. And then we have Adachi-kun as usual getting the wrong end of the stick, mistaking a vaguely heart-shaped nut on one of Moeko’s giri choco for a coded message (never mind that she had no idea who would take what piece). There’s one piece on Ichi’s desk – put there by Moeko – but Anna nips that in the bud. Not because she’s a glutton (though she is) or jealous of Moeko, but because she wants the only chocolate Kyou gets on that day to come from her.
Anna’s method of surreptitiously giving Ichi chocolate is just so adorably Anna. During library time she invents a nonsensical game of shogi with the giri she mined from the first-year girls, all so she can give them to Kyou without it being overt. He does drop the ball by not giving her the “didn’t see that coming” service she was hinting at, but never mind, mission accomplished. Kyou even has a moment of weakness and shows off for the guys a bit after this, slyly letting them know that he received some chocolate from a girl for the first time.
That’s not the chocolate she really wants to give him of course, but that’s much harder to do. She gives herself a ride on his bike again, trying to work up the courage, and sparks a conversation about the message a guy takes from the chocolate he gets. I’ve never been 100% sure how much intent was behind Ichi’s “I’m not sure I’d know unless I was told” reply – is he fishing for affirmation here, or just being honest? The MacGuffin (MacMuffin?) still burning a hole in her bag, Anna asks for a stop at Fairy Mart, where she buys a choco-man which she eventually gives to Ichi (depositing a dollop of chocolate on his face, which she eventually sculpts into a very rough heart).
It’s all a cascade effect from here. Kyou surrenders to impulse and buys Anna a “Melty Kiss” since, you know, she said she was a “guy for the day”. Even given this additional chance, she still can’t bring herself to give him what she has in her bag, leaving her to (presumably) curse her timidity while he curses himself for what he sees as a cringy choice of gift. Eventually she works up the courage to call him out (at 7:26 PM) on the grounds that she’s just passing by while walking Wantarou, and in the little park just outside the station, finally gives him the “Su” cupcake (if you recall, we saw her cutting out the “su” last week), as a companion to Chi’s “ki”).
“It’s OK even if you get the wrong idea” is such an incredibly beautiful romantic moment, the perfect way for this girl to tell this boy how she really feels. One of the things that this series – the anime every bit as much as the manga – is so good at is communicating just how deeply, how intensely these two love each other. With an intensity and purity that’s maybe not possible for anything except first love. With Kyou, this happens partly through knowing his internal thoughts but with Anna, it all has to come across through her actions. She cries because she feels she got it all wrong, and of course none of this happened the way she played it out in her head. But she certainly didn’t get it wrong, as evidence Kyou’s reaction. The message has been received loud and clear.
In case you weren’t aware, the book Ichi is imagining is “How Do You Live” (Kimi-tachi wa Dou Ikiru ka), the novel Miyazaki’s film was theoretically based on (and a prominent fixture at every Japanese bookshop, before anyone knew all Miyazaki really used was the title). And Ichi is thinking “how will I live for the next month?” – as in, figuring out how to reciprocate on White Day. Adachi persists in his fantasy, which Moeko tries to turn into a set of earpods. And then our old friend Nanjou appears (in a foreshadowing moment) for the first time of the season. Paisen is on the same committee as Adachi, and naturally the latter sees the former as a mentor in the ways of the heart.
Needless to say, this whole exchange represents a status check on just how far Kyou has come in a myriad of ways. He self-deprecatingly mocks his fear of change in contrast to Anna’s embrace of it, but no one is changing more than he is. In the first place he considers Adachi a friend now, and is willing to speak openly to him in a way he never would have before Anna changed his life. And he speaks openly to Paisen, all right – pops his balloon fearlessly, says exactly what he thinks (about Nanjou and otherwise). And most importantly, makes it absolutely clear to Nanjou that he considers Anna his girl both through his deeds and his words.
Nanjou is IMHO not actually a bad kid (others disagree) but one thing he clearly sucks at is taking a hint. Which is ironic, given the praise he gives himself for his “read the room” ability here. Teenage boys can certainly be that way, and you get the sense that Paisen is a “believes his own press clippings” kind of guy here. But as is often the case, his directness – and his mere presence – pushes Anna and Ichi to be more open about their own feelings. That Kyou would do so without any crutches is testament to both his intense feelings for Anna and his own growth, and she reciprocates in kind (though it’s more in-character for her).
I saw a couple of “this is peak, it can only go downhill from here” comments after last week’s episode. Oh, how little the anime-onlys know… I’ve been saying all along that this season of BokuYaba would break the internet, if anyone would just have listened. Maybe we’re in the foothills, but they’re the foothills of the Himalayas. And K2 and Everest are out there, just waiting to be summited. Better strap on your oxygen bottles now – you’re gonna need them.