How would you rate episode 5 of
Whatever Higehiro's faults may be, it's always cool when a show can produce a successful, satisfying episode of television out of what basically amounts to a couple of conversations. They're not even heated or especially tense conversations, either; this is very different from Attack on Titan's recent “Declaration of War”, that's for certain. Instead, “Reality” simply follows up on the kinda-cliffhanger from last week and sees Airi coming home to Yoshida's to talk shop with Sayu. At a certain point, Yoshida acquiesces to the girls' need for some private time, so he heads out to do some grocery shopping, whereupon he runs into Yuzuha, who gets him roped into some Real Talk™, too.
That's pretty much it! It's a testament to the consistently impressive depth and care that Higehiro displays with its writing, considering how well the episode ends up working, especially when this episode once again proves that the show's strengths absolutely do not lie in its visuals. Despite the often awkward and stiff presentation of these parallel discussions, though, Higehiro wins out by continuing to avoid the easy way out and ensuring that its protagonists treat each other like real, reasonable, and reasonably intelligent people. It's just…very refreshing, you know?
First off is the main event of the episode, where Airi gets about as frank as possible with Sayu. I love that literally nobody in the show buys Yoshida's half-assed explanation of knowing Sayu as a kid, which means Airi can get right to business and figure out who Sayu is, what her relationship with Yoshida entails, and how she might best assist in Sayu's messy journey towards self-actualization. Their whole conversation hits all of the points that I was hoping it would hit, too: Airi understands (and believes, so far as we've seen) the platonic nature of Sayu and Yoshida's arrangement, but she's also not naïve enough to miss Sayu's obvious romantic attachment to her new mentor. Not only that, she plainly addresses how, even though Sayu seems to have found a genuinely safe and nurturing environment in Yoshida's home, the girl cannot stay there indefinitely. She's still a child, and no matter how game Yoshida is to serve as Sayu's adoptive older brother or whatever, there is inevitably going to come a time when the wrong person catches wind of the fact that Yoshida is still kinda-sorta committing some crimes by harboring an underage runaway.
More importantly, Airi argues that Sayu will never truly mature and heal if she cannot accept and confront whatever caused her to run away from home in the first place, so taking advantage of Yoshida's kindness will only do both of them harm, in the long run. This is a slightly trickier position to untangle, since neither the adults in Sayu's life nor the audience knows exactly why Sayu ran away to begin with. Was she being abused, or neglected? Are her parents actually dead? Is she in some kind of legal trouble? Based on the flashes of memory we saw last week, it seems like the suicide of a friend or peer is involved, somehow; point being, we don't actually have any guarantee that Sayu would be safe back at home.
I get it, though; the episode doesn't necessarily have the time or wherewithal to break down the complicated path towards therapy and legal counsel that a real-world version of Sayu would be needing, and I don't think Higehiro is headed down the path of becoming a nuanced courtroom drama or anything. Besides, the bond that Airi and Sayu develop here is sweet, especially when Sayu flat out asks Airi if she loves Yoshida (to which Airi answers, “Yes. I'm not interested in anyone else.”). This girl has needed a hug and a solid cry session for a while now, and I think it's objectively good that Sayu was able to connect with an adult that she didn't have a complicated emotional attachment to.
Yoshida and Yuzuha's chat is more complicated, naturally, since Yuzuha is basically trying to be Yoshida's life-coach and platonic friend, while also clearly wanting him to reciprocate feelings for her. In addition to bluntly asking if he would be willing to have her over for a one-night-stand, Yuzuha admits to basically stalking Yoshida long enough to catch him bringing Airi back to his place, even though Sayu is still there. Does she want him to kick Sayu to the curb and pursue Airi, or is she secretly hoping that the situation implodes so she can swoop in to claim his affections? Probably a little of Column A, and a little of Column B, plus a healthy mix of genuinely wanting what's best for him. The stalking is a problem, sure, but I think Yuzuha really does mean well, the same as most everyone else in the show.
In truth, none of these people should be dating each other, period. Yoshida is Airi's junior and Yuzuha's senior at work, and it is all kinds of iffy for either of these women to be as involved with Yoshida as they are; this whole love triangle was going to be a huge mess even before Yoshida took in an emotionally volatile and confused young girl. Though Higehiro has continually surprised me with how well it has handled its tricky subject matter, this isn't even the halfway mark of the season. I can only assume that there is some manner of other shoe that is just waiting to drop. Let's just hope it's the kind of dramatic turn that will enrich Higehiro's story and make for compelling drama, and not the kind that would, you know, ruin the show completely.
Odds and Ends
• There's a post-credits scene this week! A familiar-looking boy is working at Sayu's part-time job, and though I might be mixing up his bland character design for another, I'm pretty sure he's the dude that Sayu was having sex with in the opening of last week's episode. This can only end poorly.
Higehiro is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.