Sing Yesterday for Me appears banal on the surface. A show about nothing (to use Seinfeld terminology,) but boring exterior belies an ability to trigger fierce opinions about love and relationships. The show is so true to life at times that it can be uncomfortable and downright painful to see these characters struggle through their problems.

This anime is purely about relationships and the way they can intertwine and change us. Whether it’s for better or worse is a matter of opinion, the one certain thing is that it’s messy and this anime is not shy about exposing that.

Sing Yesterday follows four characters intertwined by love in its various forms. Some are in love some are out of love, while others are demanding it from another. One character struggles with whether love is even the right thing at all. Watching them work through it is an experience best done with friends.

These are some of the things the characters end up teaching us:

Rikuo and “The Friend Zone:”

Rikuo is the main character and the most divisive character on the show because his angst is something relatable. He is a college graduate working at a convenience story with little direction or drive in his life. His love life is haunted by the college friend who he could never make a move on: Shinako Morinome.

His indecisiveness and inability to commit or decide on anything is his most maddening quality. It’s a reaction to so much unmet expectation in his life. Never making a decision means never failing and never getting hurt. This reaction is something that haunts him early and often throughout this show.

It happens first with Shinako, with whom he reconnects when she walks into the convenience store during his shift. While having a cup of coffee and reminiscing with her, Rikuo is reminded of the love he missed out on and fails to see that she is looking for a friend and not romance. Struggling with his circumstances and the regret of not admitting his true feelings, he confesses love to her and gets rejected.

His first mistake was not realizing he was in the friend zone, which seemed obvious to anyone with a clear head, but Rikuo isn’t in the right frame of mind.

His second encounter with the friend zone is the opposite scenario. Haru Nonaka is, for all intents and purposes, a stranger who very clearly likes Rikuo. It’s actually a bit stalker-ish how she knows so much about him without them ever actually meeting. Yet, her utter conviction and persistence combined with his indecisive nature allows the seeds for a relationship.

A more confident person shuts this down right away and makes clear they are in the “friend zone” but he isn’t and so the drama persists.

Rikuo should have established a boundary in their relationship, but he didn’t – or perhaps couldn’t – do it. Whether he should even be in a relationship or not at this point in life is one point that is up for debate and the other is if his indecisiveness is harmful to Haru and others around him.

Haru’s Persistence

Haru is one of the younger members of the cast and little is given about her past and motivations for pursuing Rikuo. The one thing she has is conviction about her love and there is a danger in that too. A relationship is consensual, and the danger of a one-sided love is dealing with the consequences if the other side doesn’t share your feelings.

Her pursuit of Rikuo was the impetus of many life changes for her. Tired of being ignored and being invisible to him, she changed her look and personality. There is an argument to be made both ways about reinventing yourself for the sake of another person is a healthy act or not, but of the four characters, she has the clearest idea of who she is and what she wants.

Boldly pursuing that path, declaring other women rivals, and being pushy about being a presence in someone else’s life carry risks. Haru plows forward despite them and stakes her claim in a very winner-take-all fashion.

Whether this is healthy or not is a worthy discussion to be had.

Friendship, Tragedy and Shironako

Shironako is perhaps the most complicated of all characters in this show and her indecisiveness mirrors RIkuo’s in some ways. Where Rikuo’s trauma as rooted in some form of regret, hers is rooted in loss. That inability to let go makes her love life a difficult one.

At first, her decision to outright friend zone Rikuo moments after rejecting his declaration of love is a cruel one. It seems to be a curious decision to outright kick someone to a curb and ask someone to be friends, yet both of them agree to the situation. This seems like a recipe for disaster and many awkward moments in the future.

Then there is the revelation that the person she did fall in love with died before she could confess. Also, the fact that she still hangs out with his family and cooks dinner with them. Then it goes further with the little brother Ro Hayakawa having a crush on her, which she does nothing to discourage.

There are many reasons for her indecisive nature regarding love, but it’s frustrating to watch it play out in one awkward scene after another. She needs to move on from the past before falling in love.

Ro and the unhealthy relationship

Ro and Haru have a few things in common, which makes me think they are perfect for each other. They both share conviction in their love, and dubious choices about the objects of their desires. Ro is in love with Shironako, the almost girl friend of her dead brother.

His two largest obstacles are ones that would make any normal person turn away from ever pursuing this. First is that Shironako struggles to see any man and not think about the person who died. Second is that she literally sees him as the kid brother and not a person to be in love with.

The only thing that seems to keep him in the game is Shironako’s indecisiveness. Her biggest sin is that she refuses to shut down his advances outright and allows his hope for a relationship to fester.

Ro’s quest is the longest of long shots and it probably sends the wrong message if he somehow succeeds. Unfortunately, we are relegated to watching him try which is a cringeworthy experience.

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