How would you rate episode 13 of
Higehiro was probably always going to end this way. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I even called it at one point in a previous review! The show was, at the very least, aware that it couldn't have Yoshida actually sleep with Sayu without completely ruining his entire character, but if we get a bit of a flash-forward where Sayu comes back into Yoshida's life as a completely legal 18-year-old? Well, that's just fair game…right?
To the series' credit, this isn't exactly what happens in “Future”, but that's primarily because the finale spends an inordinate amount of time faffing about, instead of dealing with the whole “future” thing that the title promises. The opening scene is, frankly, a bit baffling, because it is essentially the emotional climax of last week's episode, except that it's been awkwardly sutured on to the front-end of this finale for reasons I won't even try to guess at. It's also dumb: Sayu goes to her mother after chatting with Yoshida and her brother, and after delivering an apology that feels more than a little insulting on her own behalf, she gets her mom to display the bare minimum of maternal affection. That's all we get, after all these weeks of setup. Cool.
If lame attempts at resolving years' worth of childhood trauma over the course of a single conversation aren't your bag, though, then don't worry, the show has you covered with another 10 minutes' worth of repeating old beats over again. Sayu sneaks into Yoshida's bed one last time and tries to see if he'll have sex with her, and it's cool because this time she's into it or whatever, and once again, Yoshida refuses and insists that he doesn't see her that way. This is a good thing, as always, but outside of more pointless romantic tension that won't ever lead to anything because the show is going to end in less than fifteen minutes, the only point of this scene is for Yoshida to reaffirm that he won't ever forget about Sayu, and so on and so forth. The big whammy line of this exchange is when Yoshida says he'll always remember Sayu because “A man and a woman who aren't family or lovers spent half a year together.” This is exactly the moment where I realizes that Higehiro was never going to recover from the stumbles its experienced in the final half of its season, because it reveals so much about the series' mindset.
When Yoshida and Sayu revealed themselves to be well-rounded, interesting, and realistically written people in Higehiro's first batch of episodes, it felt very refreshing, because it seemed like the show was going to put the will-they-won't-they romance aside to focus on more pressing dramatic issues. All these weeks later, though, and all Higehiro has done is repeatedly remind us that Yoshida is an extremely cool and respectable guy on account of how he doesn't want to fuck a teenager. He even lived with a girl for, like, six months, and he didn't get up to anything shady! It's like the show is so damned proud of itself for accomplishing something so basic, and I honestly have to wonder if the author of the light novels is genuinely taken aback at the idea of a guy and a girl living together as platonic roommates. Especially since, you know, Sayu has never once shut up about how much she wants to sleep with Yoshida, and their already-too-lengthy final goodbye is punctuated with Sayu asking Yoshida to wait until she's an adult, so she can finally "have a shot".
In other words, just as I feared, Higehiro chose the completely cynical path in the end. Sure, the finale spends all of its time hemming and hawing about how not interested in Sayu he is, but it isn't because the show wants to make any kind of earnest statement about his character, or the healing nature of his relationship with her. It just needs to make sure that the wish-fulfillment harem fantasy is alive and well until the credits roll. The only glimpse into the future we get comes during a credits montage and a post-credits stinger, where the status quo is exactly how it has been for months now. Sayu is back at work, with a boss and a colleague who have both expressed their love for him, even though neither of them have acted on it after two years for some reason. Asami is even all chummy with Yoshida now, too, and she's sporting a spiffy new haircut to boot.
Why is he the one who gets to help her achieve her dreams as a writer, now, instead of Sayu? I suspect it's the same reason that the show ends with Yoshida happening upon an “all grown up” Sayu in that same alleyway where they met the first time, so she can ask him to for a place to stay all over again. Higehiro can pat itself on the back all it wants for Yoshida's gentlemanly behavior, but it all feels a lot less wholesome when the end result is simply that Yoshida gets to add a couple of new route options to his dating-simulator life.
The choice was either to tell a complete and meaningful story about real human emotions, or to make sure that all of the show's fans can argue in perpetuity as to which of the girls is Yoshida's “canon” ending. Higehiro picked the option that was the easiest, and the safest, and the most likely to generate merchandise sales in the long run. This doesn't make Higehiro an irredeemable mess or anything, but selling out is selling out. I reckon it won't take more than a few weeks for it to start receding from my memory completely, and if I ever do think about it again, it'll probably only be to wonder at what kind of anime it could have been, if only it had more of a spine to back up all that big talk.