Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m eager to return to Adachi and Shimamura, where the tension is heating up as we approach their Christmas day utterly platonic friend-cherishing celebration. Though Adachi wanted to ask Shimamura on a genuine date, a combination of her own fear and Shimamura’s clear hesitance prompted her to append some qualifiers to the invitation, and assure Shimamura that this is purely about not wanting to be alone. And for her part, Shimamura was happy to embrace that deception, rather than risk fracturing their fragile bond.
Both of their fears are completely understandable, but it is also clear that their current dynamic cannot last. In spite of her anxieties, Adachi is steadily moving towards admitting her romantic desire for Shimamura. In contrast, Shimamura isn’t even sure if she wants a romantic relationship, or what Adachi truly means to her. This mismatch of desires is making it harder and harder for each of them to feel satisfied with their relationship, and is furthermore creating an unequal power dynamic, where Adachi must subvert her own desires in order to keep Shimamura from abandoning her. Though it’s been framed as a platonic outing, I have to imagine this Christmas meetup will only exacerbate the tension of their unequal desires, offering us plenty of that painful friction that makes character dramas so satisfying. It’s time for some emotional fireworks, so let’s get to it!
Like last episode, we open on a glimmering letterboxed fantasy of how Adachi thinks the Christmas date might go. Letterbox formatting does seem like a pretty graceful way of denoting when we’re watching a character’s personal fantasies
Though she’s repeatedly telling herself to not get too hyped about this date, her procession of brightly lit fantasies emphasize that it’s not really working
Interesting tremor of cultural disconnect here. Christmas in America is pretty rigidly defined, but as a loose, generally romance-associated holiday in Japan, Adachi has a much vaguer idea of what a “successful Christmas” is supposed to be like
This OP always feels a bit tonally inappropriate for this show, just a tad too slice-of-life cheerful. OPs frequently suffer from anime’s production committee-based funding system. A director won’t necessarily get to choose the OP of their show; if some record label is investing heavily in the production, then the OP will be whatever they choose to promote. Oftentimes songs are written explicitly for specific productions, but not always, and in the worst cases this can create an awkward sense of tonal dissonance at the beginning of every single episode. Ah, the joys and perils of art within capitalism
“Is a date where you do something interesting with the person you like to get closer to them? Then this is sort of a date.” Adachi embodies a common adolescent frustration, where there’s this body of knowledge about dating and socializing and whatnot that you assume everyone else got the notes for, but which somehow passed you by. In truth, everyone’s muddling through and figuring stuff out as they go – but actually admitting you don’t know what you’re doing is never allowed
The two of them are close to opposites when it comes to presenting their feelings. Adachi always wears her anxieties clearly on her face, while Shimamura takes pains to make sure she always looks like she’s half-asleep (which isn’t hard, given her depression-verging emotional dissociation)
Adachi runs into Hino alone, who joins her for lunch. It’s unusual to see Hino by herself, and I appreciate it. One of the best ways to flesh out a character and exhibit more sides of their personality is to move them outside of their usual dynamic or comfort zone, and see how their personality handles it. Seeing Hino by herself might reveal a different side of her than she shows to Nagafuji – and might also reveal something about Adachi, as well
“Do you know what Shimamura likes?” “Does Shimamura have anything she actually likes?” Harsh but fair
“I believe there was a certain tea she thought smelled good.” Anime’s common focus on finding the Exactly Perfect Gift always makes me feel a little anxious about my own lousy gift-giving talents
I love Hino’s “ah, that’s how it is” look after she asks if Adachi can take Shimamura herself
As Adachi reflects on Hino and Nagafuji’s closeness, her thoughts drift back to their gym hideaway. Intimacy, but only so much, and always mediated by those bars
“There’s definitely a difference in how I feel about Shimamura and vice versa.” Good, I’m glad Adachi has noticed this
Hino has to make basically all the conversation on their outing, since Adachi has no idea how to talk to people. And in true Hino fashion, she points this out directly as soon as she notices it
They notice Nagafuji and Shimamura passing by. Is Shimamura actually getting her a present!?
One of the tricky things about Shimamura is that she’s very good at denying her feelings, even inside her head. So she’ll tell herself “I don’t really think of Adachi that way,” but she’ll still end up fighting Adachi’s mom on her behalf. Her emotions are still there, but she isn’t connected to them – a reflection of her uncertainty, and the general depressive shroud dimming her feelings
“I thought I was the only one that got to hang out with Shimamura alone.” Oh, Adachi
“Just the sound of her name was enough to get me through this winter.”
Elsewhere, Yachi amuses Shimamura’s sister with her continuously inexplicable antics
Hilariously, Adachi still believes Shimamura doesn’t realize Adachi is infatuated with her. Yes Adachi, all of your come-ons have been incredibly smooth and subtle so far
“The closer you get, the more things get across.” Yep. Adachi really wants to get closer, but they’re reaching a point where continued closeness would require more honesty than either of them are comfortable with
Adachi experiences the paralyzing insecurity of a vague text from your crush. If you ask for clarification, you’ll just look like a dork, so the only choice is to stew in anxiety for the rest of your life
Shimamura starts their date off with an incredible power play, as she immediately debunks Adachi’s “no, I just got here.” Shimamura, you already have all the power here, please be gentle with Adachi
Oh my god, she’s wearing her work uniform because Shimamura said she looked cute in it
Suddenly, Adachi remembers that Shimamura has hands. You can hold hands!
“You don’t need to panic. No one’s going to steal my hand away from you.” “But I’m not the only one who gets to walk next to you…” Obviously Adachi is fretting over something that isn’t really a meaningful concern, but the root of her desire is a completely understandable one. Adachi wants some confirmation that she is truly special to Shimamura, that their relationship means more than an idle friendship, and Shimamura is generally unwilling to provide that assurance. As a result, Adachi gets even more insecure, and casts about for any sort of marker that would define their relationship as special
Interestingly, the letterbox formatting returns as they play air hockey. It seems like Adachi actually got her wish – this sequence feels like a fantasy to her, even though it’s really happening
It seems to also be used to emphasize how Adachi is sinking into a mental reverie, as she reflects on the improbability of the two of them meeting
Games provoke a bit of a competitive streak in Shimamura, putting a crack in her usual disinterested affectation
And Shimamura actually has a gift for Adachi! She really was going gift shopping with Nagafuji! Granted, it’s a friggin’ boomerang, but it’s (mostly) the thought that counts
Oh my gooood. She builds all the way up to another confession, but this time only manages “I want to be your best friend.” This girl is going to kill me
Goddamnit Adachi, that was your chance! This whole episode was one agonizing buildup to that moment, and then you just asked to be friends again! I mean yes, the addition of “best” friend echoes her general desire for some special marker for their relationship, but she’s still once again sublimating her actual desires, and accepting a position as something more like Shimamura’s pet. Maybe that’s enough for her, but it’s certainly not a sustainable or even healthy dynamic; at some point, their vastly differing expectations of this relationship are going to shatter this peace entirely.
In the meantime though, I’m most interested in hearing Shimamura’s own take on how this not-date played out. Next episode, ho!