Caution, Web Surfers: Big Raves Ahead.
We pick up right where we left off, as The Important Day arrives for all of our characters. The episode is neatly divided into two halves, as the mid-episode eyecatch tells us: The “life” half and the “death” half, with Yamato’s BirthDate dominating the first part and Suna’s father’s surgery taking center stage in the second. And, as wonderful and charming and hilarious as the first half is, it’s the second half where the episode makes good on all the connections its built between the characters (and the audience) over the past nine episodes and proves itself as skilled at emotionally affecting drama as it is at romantic comedy.
Despite all the BirthDate cuteness, there’s a shadow cast over the early scenes because Takeo’s thoughts are never far from Suna. Takeo’s conflict is framed as an internal battle between responsibilities and desires, between doing what he thinks others want and what he wants. But, contrary to the usual narrative expectations, where Takeo would want to be with his girlfriend but feel honor-bound to do the “right” thing and go to the hospital, it’s almost the opposite.
Not that he doesn’t want to be with Yamato, of course, but the way he keeps mentioning Suna makes it clear that his heart isn’t really in it, and that the only reason he didn’t cancel the BirthDate was because Suna pretty much ordered him not to. So Takeo’s fight between “should” and “want” (or even selflessness and selfishness) is flipped—and, eventually, his own desires win out over Suna’s request.
Yamato’s reaction is just as sweet as anything else that happens this week. She’s more upset that Takeo didn’t tell her right away than she is that he’s canceled on her, and, like Takeo, she tries to do the thing that will make others happy by enjoying the schedule the boys planned for her. Her tears as he leaves are (like the rest of the episode) simultaneously simple and complex, a frustrated question of the “right way” to feel/act versus how she wants to feel/act.
And, again like Takeo, Yamato’s own desires win out in the end and she makes her way to the hospital, where she doesn’t try to intrude upon the guys but instead waits in the lobby, folding paper cranes, Takeo’s gawdy brooch pinned to her shirt like a badge of loyalty (this episode is full of subtle, unmentioned visual touches, and this is one of my favorites).
This flipping audience of expectations about what counts as a selfish versus a selfless act leads to some lovely, heartwarming moments, because it shows how often the two can overlap, and that people can genuinely want to do the altruistic, difficult, or just plain unpleasant thing when it’s for someone they love.
OreMono is an optimistic series at heart, but it doesn’t shy away from the fact that interpersonal relationships are complicated, tricky beasts, and that it’s often impossible to know the “right way” to act based on the competing, often contradictory factors of what someone you love says they want/need, what they actually want/need, what you yourself want/need, and what you feel like you “should” do (based on cultural expectations, request from others, personal morality, and so on).
Ultimately, though, all you can do is be honest with yourself, pick the best road you can, and try not to have any regrets. Or, as Takeo himself puts it in his simple yet profound way:
“Suna, I have no idea what you really want, what you’re really thinking, or what the right thing to do really is. But I’m your friend. Let me stay.”
Geez, over 500 words in and I’ve barely mentioned my Beautiful Suna-min Roll yet, likely because I’m worried I’ll try to dive through my computer to give the guy a hug. I adore Takeo and Yamato, but Suna’s hands-down my favorite character, and I love the work OreMono does to show his closeness with Takeo (and growing closeness with Yamato) in almost entirely nonverbal ways.
Suna is quiet, introverted, and rarely emotes, as demonstrated by how quickly his cool-headed mask goes back on once his mom and sister arrive at the hospital (and speaking of nonverbal cues, Takeo’s talking T-shirt is a clever way to show how he wears his emotions more-or-less literally on his sleeve, but that he also knows when to keep quiet, as he thinks “liar” when Suna tells Ai he’s fine but lets Suna keep his pride in front of his family). As such, you have to pay attention to the little touches in the animation, from Suna’s soft smile when Takeo arrives at the hospital to the way he loops Yamato’s paper cranes around his neck like a lei, showing how much they both mean to him.
His scenes with Takeo are a series of silences and physical gestures (fist bumps and back pats loaded with Feels), punctuated by that one heartbreaking monologue where Suna finally tells the story of his father’s collapse and admits to carrying a mountain of guilt around about it, even blaming himself for his dad needing surgery.
Takeo naturally rejects this point-blank, and I think it’s this forgiveness more than anything that finally allows Suna to break down. Takeo understands more than he gives himself credit for when he realizes that Suna couldn’t tell him about this before—it was just too painful—and the moment passes in empathetic silence, without judgment or unnecessary words, but just the quiet, supportive presence of friends.
We began and ended this episode with Suna in the very reddest of Madhouse’s signature sunsets, and he tells us during the last scene that before he moved to his current apartment (“and became friends with Takeo,” he doesn’t say), sunsets made him feel “uneasy.” As anyone who consumes fiction knows, sunsets are frequently tied to deaths, endings, and oncoming darkness, so it’s not surprising that Suna would feel this way. But he says doesn’t anymore, and while he never explains why, the juxtaposition of lonely Suna in the opening scene and Suna with Takeo in the ending scene gives us reason enough.
As these past two episodes have shown, life and death are inextricably intertwined. Sunsets happen, and chilly darkness inevitably enters our lives at some point. There’s nothing we can really do about that. But the presence of someone we care about and who cares about us can, at least, make the sunset a little less frightening, and the dusk a little less cold. And there’s something quite beautiful about that.