(noah haley helped with the writing of this article)
So, originally this was going to be a review/analysis of Futility, the really crappy novella that people only remember because it “predicted” the sinking of the Titanic in much the same way Blues Brothers “predicted” this guy crashing his SUV into the Woodfield Mall. It was going to be a lot of fun and I was going to make many funny jokes at the expense of some dead guy and his shitty proto-Incel protagonist, but then I watched this week’s episode of Higehiro and so instead of having fun taking the piss out of a 130 year old book, I’m going to be angrily yelling an anime no one is watching except me, Charlie, and some guy over at ANN.
So, for the everybody who hasn’t been keeping up since the premier, the last few episodes have revolved around Sayu’s brother showing up out of nowhere to bring her back home. After two weeks of moping around, Yoshida decided to go with her so he could talk to her mom and assure her he’s not a creepy scumbag sex pest so please don’t call the police, ma’am, and then last week’s episode ended with Sayu’s mother slapping her as soon as she walked through the door, which is pretty much #1 on the list of things not to do when your runaway child returns home.
Now, for the first half of the episode, things were going well enough. They sat around to talk things out over drinks, and Sayu got a chance to give her mother a piece of her mind for not supporting her while she was grieving her friend. Then Sayu’s mother tells Sayu that she never should’ve given birth to her…
…and Yoshida muses on things for a moment before saying he’d like to adopt Sayu…
…only to immediately walk it back with this bullshit:
Now, I am well aware that Japan is not great about taking care of children who can’t or shouldn’t live with their biological parents, but Sayu has a brother, and her brother is an adult with job that pays a lot more than Yoshida’s job. And unlike their mother, Issa loves Sayu and genuinely wants what’s best for her. If Yoshida insists that Sayu must be taken care of by her biological family, there are other options. She doesn’t need to be left in the care of a woman who doesn’t want her and just rejected her very existence.
Another issue arises with just how easy it is to read Sayu as queer. While her sexual history with men was an important factor early in the series, it’s clearly shown to be a result of desperation before moving in with Yoshida, and her early attempts to seduce Yoshida were a result of trauma and insecurity. The distinct lack of genuine interest on her part in something many members of the queer community will relate to, especially those who are asexual or aromantic.
In an age and society where 40% of homeless youth are queer, it comes across as dangerously tone-deaf to send the message be that the people who have rejected and abused you are the only ones who can be relied on to raise you properly.
Sayu’s mom has the resources to care for her, but doesn’t want her. Yoshida wants Sayu, but doesn’t have the resources to properly care for her (she needs her own room, and also therapy). There is a very obvious solution to this problem that doesn’t involve leaving the depressed and grieving child in the care of her emotionally unavailable and thoroughly unsupportive mother, and several other very good alternatives (like her living with her brother, for example) they could have considered. But instead, they went diving headlong into the worst possible outcome that’s all but guaranteed to resolve literally none of the underlying issues that led to Sayu running away in the first place.
There’s one more episode, but it seems unlikely to involve Yoshida going “Oh, wait, that was a bad thing I just did, actually. I better go back and do something significantly less dumb.” It really sucks, too, because up until this episode I really liked Higehiro. It has some issues with framing that often had me bracing myself for the worst during scenes that should’ve been cute moments of familial bonding, but was overall a sweet, found family story full of characters that feel like real people. But then it had to go and fuck it all up with a shitty take that minimizes Sayu’s past struggles with her mother and replacing these reasonable, realistic characters with props that can be convinced to change their entire personalities just by being asked nicely, all while potentially doing actual harm to any queer kids in the audience. It reminded me a bit of the resolution to Dr. Ramune‘s first episode, and we all know how well that worked for me.
This is still a better way for it to shit the bed than by having Yoshida and Sayu’s relationship turn romantic, but not much better. Even my anger toward it has worn off, to be replaced mainly by disappointment and the sense that caring about these characters and this story was a waste of time. And that’s just not good.