Yesterday wo Utatte; What is Love?

Ra’al Ki Victorieux

Relationships and love are a very important part of life. If we find love and a group of friends, we can feel loved, and they help us to be the best version of ourselves. On the contrary, if love eludes us or we elude it, we find ourselves in solitude, as if lost in the landscapes that form cities. Yesterday wo Utatte is an anime series that confronts us with the question: What is Love? Is it that we are willing to acknowledge what we need in our life? Or is it that we find ways to lie to ourselves to justify our loneliness with shields of longing for a past that will not return or for a future that will not be?

Initially, it was a seinen manga written and illustrated by Kei Tōme, from 1997 to 2015, being compiled into eleven tankōbon volumes. It was later adapted into an animated television series, produced by Doga Kobo, and premiered in April 2020. It is directed by Yoshiyuki Fujiwara, with scripts by Fujiwara and Jin Tanaka, and character design by Junichirō Taniguchi. The first 12 episodes of the 2020 animation present us with a story of love and humanity. Four youngs try to live their best life through everyday hardships and emotional turmoil, in a small town on the outskirts of Shinjuku. Some misunderstandings lead to complications and your feelings get tangled up. The protagonist, Rikuo Uozumi, feels like a person outside of society, does not want to go through the ups and downs of looking for a job and does not even try, he decides to survive as an employee of a small convenience store. He is fond of photography but does not give it much importance. He has loving feelings towards an ex-schoolmate, but it is difficult for him to encourage himself to confess and expose himself to rejection. Haru Nonaka, a girl who has adopted a crow as a pet, crosses her path, she has also dropped out of school, struggles to socialize, and tries to be happy while working in a cafeteria-bar to survive.

It is a story that catches you without much pretense, there are no superheroes, space travel, or talking animals, there are simply ordinary people who try to survive and find meaning in life. They realize that they have to be honest with themselves and that this is tremendously complicated. They get excited in the presence of the person they like, or they are amazed at causing romantic feelings in another, they are surprised at the oddities of those with whom they live, they learn to be patient. There is a beauty in learning to listen to our hearts, in giving ourselves permission to live, in honoring the past, in memory, and yet not spending life going around in circles, in daring to walk forward. These trivial things are transcendent because it is from small moments and precarious decisions that we build our life and the happiness or sadness that it brings us.

They say that to tell a love story you have to start with nostalgia, Yesterday wo Utatte is built from melancholy. Shinako Morinome, a beautiful young woman, despite her young age, experiences intense mourning that traps her in strange chastity. Their presence brings out feelings of tragedy, illness, attachment, deep sadness. Are you also talking about the submission of women to gender, family commitments; to this conception that they are the ones who should walk a step behind the men, and take charge of the kitchen and the emotional support of those they consider theirs? Rō Hayakawa is a young aspiring artist, and as we watch him strive for his professional studies in drawing, we are also witnessing the excitement of his passions. He is very aware of the memory of his deceased older brother, however, he puts all his concentration on growing up and achieving “being someone.”

The episodes pass smoothly, presenting us with the ways of living and walking of each young person. They like to take night walks, they find a way of meeting, living together, getting closer, creating a relationship. Also sharing food brings them closer. Sometimes it is easier to be close to another, without words, and that just makes us happy. This work can make us feel identified if we like art since there are characters who enjoy photography, drawing, music. The comings and goings of the characters, making mistakes at times, achieving fortune at other times, reminds us that life surprises us: Sometimes it gives us more than we expected, and other times it seems that we are the ones who therefore want to be well, we cannot open our eyes to the gifts live puts at the door. So if you ask yourself, What is Love? You will surely enjoy this work and its sweetness.

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