Ao Haru Ride – 05

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Futaba’s team may not have been the most organized or cohesive on the orienteering trip, and they ended up dead last after getting lost, but they did end up sharing happy memories they’ll look back on with fondness, which was precisely what Futaba had hoped for, and which Kou expounded on in the meeting last week.

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Sometimes it’s better if things don’t go so smoothly. Had the Aya not ignored Futaba’s insistence they consult the map, they wouldn’t have gotten lost and had adventures, which included Kou carrying her after she hurt her foot. Futaba also learns a bit more about the new Kou: hates celery, likes cats, superficially teases, is a nice guy deep down.

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While she liked the old Kou, the new one is definitely starting to grow on her, now that she has him a little more figured out…and vice versa. Of course, Kou is also nice to Yuuri, calming her down so she can cross the river, and there’s a cost to that, at least where Futaba is concerned: Yuuri, unaware of Futaba’s feelings for Kou, thinks she’s fallen for him. Dun dun duuuuunnnnn!

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Futaba and Yuuri formed a fast friendship, but no one said that friendship would be easy to maintain. After all, Yuuri is shunned by other girls at school because she’s so cute and girly, attracting the guys. She and Futaba promised never to leave the other alone, both knowing what it feels like. Yuuri and Futaba both liking Kou will put their promise to the test.

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One Week Friends – 04

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With Kaori heavily relying on a Chekhov’s gun of a diary to remember Yuuki each week, it was only a matter of time before it went off, i.e. got lost. Losing important things is as much a part of life as having friends, and when you rely on one for the other, you’re living dangerously.

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Kaori loses the diary after her first fight with Yuuki, which is entirely his fault. He’s pissed that Kaori’s friendship with Shogo is publically recognized by the class before his. He doesn’t like how Shogo seems to be talking to her behind his back. And he really doesn’t like it when Kaori talks at length about how great Shogo is. Shogo+Shogo+Shogo=a fight, fueled by Yuuki’ selfishness.

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His punishment is swift, due to Kaori not only losing the diary but also the sign on the wall reminding her Hase is her friend. The next week, she doesn’t remember him, and acts just as cold as when they first met. But Shogo assures Yuuki what Yuuki already knows: she didn’t throw the diary out intentionally, over one little spat. Yuuki’s initial appeal to Kaori doesn’t go well, so he skips school to look for the diary.

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During this time, Kaori gets the feeling she’s forgetting something) really important to her. Urged on by Shogo, she seems to remember enough to end up at the riverbank where she lost the diary, where she finds Yuuki covered in mud and hand cuts, and finally finds it with her there. By then, she already knew what the important thing was that she forgot: Hase-kun.

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I really liked this episode, which felt less like forced drama and more an unfolding of what was a very likely scenario—losing the diary—combined with that time-honored friendship milestone of the First Fight. The ending in particular was very touching. I will say it’s probably in Kaori’s best interest to keep a back-up diary, or possibly a private blog. And it would seem Yuuki can rest easy: if Kaori liked Shogo or even considered him a close friend, she’d have forgotten him…right?

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One Week Friends – 03

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After a month, Kaori’s diary seems to be working, insofar as it’s allowed her to quickly learn about Yuuki and re-befriend him. She even slaves over the stove to make twenty-one different kinds of tamagoyaki, urging Yuuki to tell her which is best so she knows to make it that way moving forward. While it’s a very sweet gesture, it’s also a little strange, and it occurs to Yuuki that Kaori might benefit from other friends besides just him.

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This is somewhat ironic, considering that besides Kaori, I can’t recall Yuuki hanging out with anyone other than Shogo, the person he decides to bring up to the roof. It seems at first like a decision he’ll come to regret: he immediately asks Kaori if she has Multiple-Personality Disorder, is put off by the fuzzy, lovey-dovey atmosphere Yuuki and Kaori create, and then tells Yuuki he’s being too trusting, warning him that Kaori could just be putting on an act. What’s interesting is that Kaori doesn’t instantly deny that charge; she just stays quiet.

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While he could’ve been less harsh about it, I welcomed Shogo’s fresh insights on the situation. And armed with the truth about Kaori—that act or not, she has trouble interacting with people—he even helps her out by going in the classroom where two girls are gossiping about her, shutting down said gossipers, and retrieving Kaori’s all-important “Memory Note.” That act motivates Kaori to speak up to the girls why the notebook matters so much.

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So it seems that introducing her to Shogo wasn’t so bad after all. Even better, her decision to really nail down Yuuki’s egg preference (18g of sugar) results in her recalling the memory of cooking for him and getting a pang of emotion from writing “18” on the chalkboard. Progress is slow, but steady so far, which is why I’m weary of Yuuki’s little voice-over at the end of the episode about him feeling optimistic “at that time,” indicating that unfortunately won’t always be so.

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One Week Friends – 02

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As she had warned, Kaori’s memories of Yuuki have reset, leaving him at square one. But it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be to reonnect with her. The main reason for this is that she doesn’t remember eating lunch all last week, which means she was eating with a friend she had made. So ironically, the very phenomenon preventing her from remembering friends helped her remember Yuuki, lending credence to his story.

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Everything Yuuki and Kaori do in this second week is very similar to what the did the previous week: they chat with each other and have fun doing things, learning about each other in the process. With Kaori’s memory sure to reset next week, wiping it all out, Yuuki figures out a way to help her, while keeping score at a volleyball game: all she needs to do is keep a diary. She hints that she might have done this before, but is enthusiastic nonetheless, and starts jotting down as much as she can.

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It’s notable that Yuuki gets even closer to Kaori this week, taking her out on a date, meaning his jogging of her memory made this week more productive, friendship-wise, than the first go-around. This all seems neat and tidy untill the third week begins. Kaori reads the diary and tries to pretend as if she remembers it—that Yuuki’s plan worked—but it didn’t, as her tears betray. Yuuki blames himself for selfishly forcing matters with his enthusiasm.

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But when he apologizes, Kaori decides to write that down as well, providing more information on Yuuki for her future self; specifically that he’s in her words, and kind and wonderful person. But all of this raises the question of whether she kept a diary before, and if so, why she stopped. I can probably surmise that the more she writes, the longer it takes to read and process it all, until there isn’t adequate time to do so before her memory resets again.

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One Week Friends – 01

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This episode chronicles the sour beginning, sweet middle, and bitter end of a friendship, before starting back at the beginning. It’s almost like a time loop, only it affects just one person: Fujimiya Kaori. The premise of this show is that all of Kaori’s memories of friends made within a week are lost at the start of the next week. Needless to say, this is a heartbreaking scenario.

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The show doesn’t come right out about this (though its title serves as a sizable hint), as we approach her from the same perspective as her classmate Hase Yuuki, who likes her and wants to befriend her. She repeatedly rejects her, but he persists, without getting too stalk-y about it, and she gradually lowers the armor it’s later revealed she’d built up, layer by layer, after untold weeks of making and losing friends.

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You get the feeling the kind, honest, talkative, lively girl Yuuki comes to know in the week this episode covers is the true Kaori, or at least the Kaori that would exist if she didn’t have this peculiar memory problem. I’ve been here before: Golden Time dealt with similar themes of ephemeral happiness and making the most of the time you have. But where Banri never knew when the other shoe was going to fall, Kaori knows exactly when, and that it will keep happening, like clockwork.

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It’s no surprise then that she avoids contact with peers, leading to a reputation of coldness, which is only logical with the limited information said peers possess. Not willing to simply give up on Kaori, Yuuki resolves to make friends with her all over again every week, if that’s what it takes. Obviously, he’s not going to try the same thing every time—we’d be nearing Endless Eight territory—so I’m interested to see how he’ll mix things up. Who knows, maybe he’ll end up “lifting the curse”…or maybe he’ll just fail over and over, and may not even be the first to try what he’s trying.

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In any case, I’m fascinated, and it certainly helps that it’s great-looking show (because Brain’s Base). Kaori’s soft, gentle voice, provided by Amamiya Sora, sounds a bit like a younger Nazuka Kaori, one of my favorite seiyus. I also appreciated the show’s dexterity, taking a subtle dig at itself by having Shogo point out how corny Yuuki sounded, then building an atmosphere of dread around Kaori as the week’s end approached with equal savvy. It’s quality, and I am a man who appreciates quality…despite the fact I drive a Daewoo Lanos.

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