How would you rate episode 6 of
Note: The discussion of this week's episode of Higehiro will involve topics concerning abuse and attempted sexual assault.
So…fuck this Yaguchi creep, yeah? Seriously, it was easy enough to guess that he was probably at least a little sketch, considering his status as one of the guys who casually exploited Sayu's fragile mental state for easy hook-ups, but it isn't more than five minutes before he sprinkles in a little bit of emotional blackmail on top of that, threatening to expose Sayu's “past” to her new support system unless he is allowed to invade her living space in an obvious attempt to coerce her into more sex. And by “coerce”, I mean he literally assaults her in Yoshida's apartment. She's straight up yelling “No” in his face and trying to push him off of her, but he keeps going until she begins to rationalize her rape as a necessary evil, because Yoshida might suffer those legal consequences everyone is always warning about if Yaguchi decides to open his big mouth.
This scene is incredibly hard to watch, both because of the general insidiousness of Yaguchi being a despicable piece of shit rapist, and because of how his crime is so specifically targeting Sayu's personal trauma and penchant for self-loathing. Really, the biggest failing of this entire episode is the fact that Yaguchi is even allowed to get away with what he's done with a mild beating and a harsh talking to. Later on, after Asami thankfully slaps the bastard right in his smug face, Yaguchi halfheartedly cops to “going too far” with Sayu, though he pointedly refuses to “apologize” for “asking” if Sayu was in the mood for sex. You know, as if he didn't literally threaten her psychological and physical wellbeing just to get inside her house, and then immediately shove her to the ground and threaten her some more before she was ready to give in?
Sayu says that she's “not ready to forgive” Yaguchi, but she also tells him that she's over her anger, which…I mean, I won't deny her the agency to make that choice as a make-believe person with make-believe autonomy, but this guy also deserves to choke on a Hefty Bag filled with Port-O-Potty runoff and week-old animal carcasses, you know? If we're lucky, Yoshida and Asami will team up to curb stomp the guy right in the dick and brain a few dozen times before the series wraps up.
And that's what this episode is actually about, and it's the thing that saves it from being an exploitative look at all the ways that men continue to traumatize this poor teenager. Instead of lingering on Sayu's pain, “Starry Sky” instead chooses to emphasize the newfound strength and self-confidence that Sayu is building, thanks to the growing network of people in her life that give a shit about her. Yoshida's role is the obvious and predictable one, but I'm not going to lie to your face and tell you that I didn't cheer when he kicked Yaguchi right out on his ass (he earns bonus points, too, for making sure he wasn't jumping to conclusions by confirming that Sayu was not consenting to anything). Is it cheap and a little self-serving for Higehiro to play up the “Dad Simulator” aspect of Yoshida and Sayu's relationship? Absolutely. Does it resonate with the Lizard Brain part of my mind that absolutely falls for the Dad Simulator tricks, time and again? Absolutely.
More than Yoshida, Asami stands out as the true MVP of the entire episode. Not only does she immediately catch on to Sayu's desire to keep her past to herself, even when Yaguchi keeps trying to dredge it back up, she also slaps him in the mouth when he finds out what a skeezoid he is! I know I mentioned that already, but I cannot stress enough how badly I needed to see her do that. I may or may not have rewound the scene five or six times, just savor the moment.
She also has a great heart-to-heart with Sayu, where she takes Sayu to experience the titular starry sky, and explains her own family issues, and the secret dreams she's striving towards. The girl wants to be an author, instead of the lawyer her mom was apparently grooming her to be, and Sayu jumps at the chance to offer the usual “I will support you however I can!” spiel that forges the greatest of anime friendships. The show needed this break as much as Sayu did, because it's high time we start seeing more of Sayu as a person, and not just as Yoshida's pet project. The more she can stand on her own as a well-rounded individual, the more Higehiro will be able to do justice to its premise, instead of just using it as an excuse for cheap rom-com antics.
I still could have done without the attempted rape, though. Higehiro may have just barely skirted by this time, but if the show decides to make a habit of using sexual violence as a cheap crutch, we're going to have some words, I'll tell you what.
Higehiro is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.