Welcome to another month of OWLS sprinkle.
Wait. You are meant to welcome me back!
If you really do enjoy the touring format of OWLS Bloggers then please consider checking out Lyn’s post which precedes mine!
Preparation of tissues is highly advised for when you read her post, not mine.
This time I figured that I would take on a currently airing show that perfectly fits the description of the month’s theme of Squad:
Although some people may like to be alone at times, we all have that one special friend or a squad of friends who we kick it and have some good laughs and fun with. However, there are friendships that don’t last a lifetime and usually, they end due to a falling out or a misunderstanding. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring some of the best friendships in anime and pop culture as well as the friendships that ended suddenly. We will talk about what a true friendship means to us, what we learned about ourselves and others through broken friendships, and our definitions of a “good friend.”
Winter 2018 offered me Sora yori mo Tooi Basho and its timely directional storytelling. A few of the lead characters have short but really great backstory to them. Though when it comes to the topic of friendship, two characters most fitting for this post is no other than the lovely Shiraishi Yuzuki and Miyake Hinata.
I still think it will be much better off for me to write about all of them individually since… squad.
Yorimoi’s running themes include adventure, overcoming various types of personal phobias and of course, your every day, light-humor filled slice of life. I really did not realize until later on that the show subtly spent its first nine episodes exploring ins and outs of what a friendship can be between a group of girls and then blew it all out in one of the most satisfying ways on the tenth and eleventh. Yes, this is undeniably a cute girls doing cute things show so I cannot pretend it is going to be logically the exact same for males.
I could be asking myself right at this moment:
“What are friends, really?”
“What does it take to be a friend?”
“Who did I consider to be my friends back then and who do I consider to be my friends now?”
I’m in my early twenties and still am baffled by the philosophies surrounding friendships, the intra and inter-species bonds that formed from what exactly?
Is it mutual interests?
Is it mutual repulsiveness?
Is it differing personalities coming together to form a harmony?
Friendship is born, ages and dies with time. The former one is true to Mari and Shirase while the latter two are true to Yuzuki and Hinata. Let us begin the squad formation right at this moment!
Squad Member Shirase
She is in her second year of high school. She has beautiful black hair and beautiful eyes, and is a little shy. Her schoolmates see her as eccentric because of her plan to go to the South Pole and call her the “Antarctica”.
I have intentionally used the word schoolmates and not friends. That is because she does not have anyone she could consider to be such. She may be thick headed, stubborn and always the first one to rain in harsh but true words, all of her actions however have some heartfelt impact behind them. The things she does; she means it, even if the end result is bitter. From a certain angle, others view her as a threat to their dirty secrets. From another angle, she is seen to be brimmed with lie-shattering honesty. And luckily for Shirase as she keeps believing in and sticking up for herself, it is her honest quality that becomes very attractive which later allows her to meet people she can happily call friends.
Shirase is probably having it easiest when it comes to the whole friendship concept. Not only that everything about her is laid bare for everyone to see; Shirase gives nobody the minced words so there is absolutely no need to read between her lines. On the other hand she is also at times quick to jump into conclusion so she definitely needs someone to fit some lines in between.
Her time spent with the other three allowed her to become more confident in tackling sensitive issues, though she still went and did it her style which is glass half-full, bold and reckless. Living true to her lie-shattering, honest self, Shirase makes sure that none of her friends will have anything regretful hiding inside.
The chaotic good type of girl.
So, what is a friend to you, Shirase?
“People who are willing to put up with me; people who are not half-hearted with their lives.”
Squad Member Kimari
Mari is a second-year high school student. Her friends like her because she is passionate and energetic. Liking someone for their superficial trait is not anything new to mankind which makes her a great example of the society’s tool. People around her will always be having a great day not only because of her bubbly and persistent side but also the fact that she cannot do anything well. Even if Mari herself smiles to her failures, everybody else around her (before the time she meets Shirase) uses her failures to leverage on their confidence. Nobody wants to be the worst at anything but instead of looking up and working their ways to their role model, some people instead choose to look down and pick a target to set their low standard.
“If you think I’m bad then look at Tamaki Mari; she can’t even beat me!”
“As long as I’m doing better than Tamaki Mari then it will be okay.”
That kind of mindset — It is pretty low if you ask me, Megumi!
Eventually came the time when she is looking for something to do with her youth. Mari had met Shirase and learned she planned to go to the South Pole, she decided to go with her.
The thing is, Mari sees everyone as a friend right from the moment she talks to them. And most of the time the statuses of each individual friendships are not even for her to decide but much rather from the other party. This is where having her rejected Megumi’s proposal of friendship break-up served as a strong reminder that she is about to overcome many expectations. Mari will no longer be the low standard for people around her and unlike those people, she has been looking up since the beginning albeit without a role model. Now that she has Shirase to look up to, things are only going to be bright and most importantly fulfilling to her youthful life.
Mari is surely stupid but she is also quick to bring out stupidity from others around her, usually Shirase.
I am going to say this part of Mari is mostly what makes Yorimoi a humorous watch. She is the powerhouse of harmless fun for the squad and depending on which of the three other girls are involved, it will be different kinds of laughs throughout the series.
She also tends to get physical when it comes to dealing with depressing moments. She is really quick to hug her friends and even those who have yet to become her friends because she believes everyone deserves the same love she gets. Forwarding the love would be her motto by the end of the series.
What is a friend to you then, Kimari?
“A friend is someone who can understand and replies to/with even smallest of things.”
Squad Member Hinata
Strange and curious, and hates boring things. Hinata is a girl who behaves like a child in elementary school. She is nice and friendly to anyone and very social.
Yet she claims that she has no friends!
Her backstory is quick and dirty. She along with Yuzuki have become the culprit of watching their ‘friends’ slowly disappear because they are too powerful of individuals — too much for average people to handle.
Her sprinting ability was shown as early as the third episode. Seeing how well animated her movements were, I was certain about her having an athletic past. My hunch was right when hints about her high school times and athletic club were dropped in the sixth episode, only to fully expose the entire ordeal in the eleventh. I was very certain that I had seen this type of backstory from another anime character somewhere upon watching Hinata dropping hers. It did not take long — Hinata is basically a supreme sprinter version of Kousaka Reina from Hibike! Euphonium. Both of them are extraordinary yet they lived in the pressure from their upperclassmen because of having raw abilities which exceeded the latter. Both of them are also strange and hate the idea of having to conform—to ‘fit in’. Ultimately, both Reina and Hinata seek one simple quality from a person they would be proud to call a friend. That quality is not trying to fit in, or in other words honesty.
I will leave Reina alone now since this is a Yorimoi post…
Seeing Mari and Shirase together was like witnessing an enormous aura of honesty for Hinata, thus her decision to move forward from her old, oppressed self. Though not everything could be left behind as Hinata continued to constantly, internally reseal her past wounds even when having introduced herself to the ‘honesty duo‘.
After having reached success in actually landing on the South Pole, Hinata got a wake up call from that reopened wound; her teammates from Hanyu Daisan High Track Club have reached out to her despite knowing full well of both parties’ past. So going back to Hinata’s past story once more because this time it will sting a little more:
She was able to run faster than all of her upperclassmen, which would guarantee her a spot from the selection process (basically an audition). It started out with her having supports from three others, only to end up alone due to those three being pressured by upperclassmen for giving her encouragement which caused them to lower their interactions towards her, eventually to nil. Hinata then became the sole subject of targeted bullying from mass which had her ultimately decided to quit school altogether.
There are a few things we can take from this simple yet powerful backstory of Hinata’s:
One is that bullying takes all forms; it can start small and grow exponentially. What all types of bullying have in common is a target, which brings us to the next point of Hinata being extremely powerful and brave — the most she did was quitting high school and proved her worth by taking tests outside of the national academic system on top of having a part time job. Bullying of this kind is one of the biggest causes of teenage suicide in Japan. And I would not be surprised if I am to find out that Hinata’s story is taken from a real person, otherwise the messages behind her backstory are quite well thought out.
It did not end there for Hinata however as those three came back to her life when she least wanted them to. It had been long enough for her to even ask herself if she had any friends from the past.
Up until the moment I hit publish on this post, I have been looking for a possibility that the three girls came to Hinata with pure and good intentions, so this is where I will really praise the writing for this show because I’ve never managed to find light at the end of the tunnel. And now from my personal experience of having witnessed bullying in high school, there are a few hints as to why I am certain that the three girls came to do something personally consider low (I will tell you later):
When it comes to bullying, there has the be the bully and the target. It can literally start from just those two people and only time will tell how it grows. In most cases, the bullying side gets bigger because of the ‘blackmailing’ pressure. Everyone has their dirty past and I do not blame you for having interacted and share your past with the future-to-be-bullies. But think about the time when they really become bullies; what do you think they are going to do with your past?
Humans are damn gullible I tell you. Through trials and errors, someone will eventually give into the pressure and live their life with the “if you can’t beat them — join them” mindset.
Okay, so now skipping the build-up part and getting to where these three girls are standing in Track Team’s social sphere with Hinata the bullying target. It was clear that the number of senpai made the majority of the Track Team and it were these three girls who gave into the pressure as three. I have never in my life seen a group of three people breaking free from the bullies, let alone a single person. In the case of a single person; it mostly happens when they, who joined the bully, becomes the bullied (think about Shouya from Koe no Katachi).
The fact those three girls are still together on that day means they are not exactly free from any guilt; they gave into the pressure as a group (even after abandoning Hinata) once so they can definitely give into pressure from different bullies again. This is a whole new definition to squad, I tell ya.
Another thing about their approach which signaled my bad alarms was the timing and the method to go with it. No, seriously. Why do it in public and more importantly when Hinata has reached Antarctica?
I smell attention seeking from this move. It is either purely that or just bad manners. I will stick with the former because for all three people to be lacking manners when it comes to sensitive subject… no. Just all of my what.
I do not actually know what good will come for them, but sometimes even the feeling of relief can be big of a return after a great mess-up. And in no way was their friendship with Hinata not messed up. They have even said it themselves that, “it has been a while!” so to have waited for Hinata to physically be very far away from them—in order to feel enough courage to apologize—is actually showing the opposite; it is cowardice at best.
Now this one will ring a bell for many of you, especially if you have someone you know who is achieving very big things in life right now.
Don’t you just want to congratulate them?
Talk to them more?
And of course, spread the word?
There we go, these three girls contacted Hinata knowing that she is in Antarctica. The first thing they could have really done was to congratulate her for the achievement alone.
Just how do you spread the word of your friend’s success?
Of course it will have the two important key words in your sentences and they are: “my friend“.
Mari’s parents would have already spread the words about their daughter being in Antarctica. And no wonder Hinata does not remember having any friends until she meets Mari, Shirase and Yuzuki.
What is a friend to you, Hinata?
“My friends will not be forever living in my past while I am walking in the present, towards the future.”
Squad Member Yuzuki
She is in the first year of high school. She lives in Hokkaido. She has been working since she was a child because of her mother’s policy, so her mind’s age is greater than her age.
Yuzuki’s backstory is relatively simple and thankfully she has personally summed most of it up in less than two minutes. Watch the video!
Treating friendship like multiple layers of impressions was exactly where Yuzuki went screwing up. Due to the fact that she was already a star in agency by young age, it made normal conversations a rarity for her. Up until the moment she got befriended by Mari, all of the things she had said were to do with her job and much less about herself or those she interacted with. To make it worse, they were depressingly monotone as if she was just a cute AI.
Even after having reached Antarctica, Yuzuki’s head still had to adjust to all of her ‘first timers’ which included making friends the natural way.
Yuzuki basically had her chance at childhood completely taken from her, leaving room for mostly the adult stuff. Her birthdays never got celebrated. Even her past temporary friends were only after her fame, but they were still her first few friends ever so she would still keep a memory of them.
People like her are among the easiest to please. They get all emotional for every little things they know that they could have done a decade sooner. As for Yuzuki, allowing Mari, Shirase and Hinata into her star-studded life was her first personal achievement and the biggest one yet. It became a feel trip for her as the other three walk her through the path of normal happiness. For every firsts Yuzuki does with her squad, we get to drink her tears. They are filled with great happiness and are less salty than seawater!
So, what is a friend to you, Yuzuki?
“My friends will take me for who and not what I am.”
Four girls, each from different backgrounds and having unique ambitions for one common goal. To have the four of them be together and feel cozy enough to call each other friends, a lot is to be considered.
There will be hardships but everyday the girls remind themselves to stay optimistic. Friendship can be fragile because it contains nothing worth strengthening. It can also be the tightest bond in existence when strengthened with love, compassion, dedication, perseverance and selflessness which can even last against conflicts, compromises, disagreements and arguments. A fulfilling friendship is the ultimate quest for people who can dream. For Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki, their dreams lead them to Antarctica, and so they will be The Antarctic Dreamchaser Squad!
And that is the friendship journey put to an end!
Introspection of friendship is among many great things Yorimoi has to offer for anime fans looking for more things than just Japanese cartoons. I cannot recommend this show enough. Cute girls doing cute things has never been refreshed this well, so I am sure this is the one show I will never hesitate to point my fingers to if ever asked by those who are looking for giggles from a squad of comedic girls.
I will unlikely be participating in the April blog tour, the decision however is hardly final so scream it in the comments on whether you want more of Shoka or not!
Thank you for reading and if you are still following the touring format, Takuto will see you back in his cafe soon, with his special OWLS Blend!