Sing “Yesterday” for Me – Anime Review
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Synopsis: Kei Toume’s eighteen-year youth ensemble classic gets its long-awaited animated adaptation. A story of love and humanity, following four boys and girls trying to live their best lives through hardship and turmoil, in a small town on a private rail line just outside of Shinjuku. Minor misunderstandings lead to big complications, and their various feelings become entangled. A story of daily life lived 49% looking back, 51% looking forward. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Sing “Yesterday” for me starts strong; seemingly presentied as a down to earth, laid back slice of life show dealing with more real life relevant themes that should appeal to older anime audiences. Themes such as indecisiveness, self doubt, lost love and past regrets, themes that are bound to resonate with viewers and draw them in as they sympathize and empathize with the altogether relatable issues the characters are facing. It’s this opening salvo of more adult-oriented themes concerning love and belonging that make Sing initially so compelling.
Tom: Adding to the series’ heartfelt appeal is a considerable amount of artistic care and attention to detail from the staff at Doga Kobo. It’s clear this title is a passion project for the Director and the rest of the staff as the original manga has been given an anime adaptation that almost screams cinematic at times. The attention to detail in the way characters move, interact with their environment, and more makes Sing “Yesterday” for Me this incredible title on visuals alone, putting it miles ahead of just about anything else offered over this Spring. In fact it’s this level of visual quality that becomes the most consistently appreciable aspect to the series, particularly once the show’s moral center starts to feel way off balance.
Linny: Before we dive into Sing’s many, many missteps I still would like to address and acknowledge the rest of what it DOES get right. Sing “Yesterday” for Me follows four characters who quickly become entwined in each other’s lives in one big love-
triangle square. We start with Rikuo, a young man who’s lost his career drive and now works at a chain convenience store. The story starts as two women walk into his life, Shinako, a former crush from his college days, and Haru. When we first meet Haru, there was this fear that she’d turn out to be a tropey manic pixie dream girl character, thanks in part to her sudden appearance and bizarre accompaniment of a pet crow. Haru pops into Rikuo’s life with an out of place cheeriness and energy that really made it seem like she existed simply to renew the life in Rikuo and change him for the better, as manic pixie dream girls tend to do. But Sing avoids that trope completely by gradually grounding Haru in other ways, and simply never allowing her bubbly personality to become her entire character. Even though it doesn’t explore Haru’s character and backstory as much as the others, there’s no doubt that she is more than just a tired trope and I am immensely thankful for that. Another thing Sing manages to present well is the idea that getting too wrapped up in a past infatuation and personal fantasies isn’t okay. It isn’t healthy to idolize someone from your past and it can end up affecting not only you but the also the people around you. Even if you do end up finally being able to get with someone you’ve longed for for years, you may find that it isn’t a happily ever after and reality will bring you crashing down. It’s messages and developments like these that might keep some viewers hanging on but sadly, what’s ahead is likely to render all these positive points moot.
Tom: For the first six episodes Sing “Yesterday” for Me truly captures the encompassing drama as Rikou, Shinako, Haru and eventually Rou find themselves all pulled together in the quest for love. Rou is the little brother of Shinako’s high school love interest, and after Rou’s brother’s passing she has trouble viewing him as anything but a connection to that, despite his apparent feelings for her. This creates a web of love that all the characters fall into as Haru and Rou pursue Rikou and Shinako respectively, while Rikou and Shinako begin a slow dance of actually trying to get together. And as I said, that works for six episodes. But after that the series gradually starts to feel like it’s spinning its wheels. Part of the problem is that Sing seems disinterested in having these characters learn even one lesson in their pursuit of romance. We dance around the same issues that plague all four characters again and again, dragging the drama out longer than feels interesting, rather than letting it evolve. It’s a constant repetition of the same issues we started the series with, and rather than gradually making progress we’re stuck on phase 1 of learning these same lessons for the entire run, only growing out of that at the tail end, and not in a good way.
[Warning: Major Spoilers to follow, skip to avoid.]
Linny: Sing absolutely becomes frustratingly bizarre towards its back end. One example is Rou. He reveals himself to be more and more of a disturbingly, unlikable character as he straight up expects Shinako to be at his beck and call and claims some sort of ownership on her; so much so that Shinako cannot even tell him that she is dating someone new without fear of him having a childish outburst. Yes, Shinako does mess up by treating Rou as a stand in for his deceased brother and she owes him a sincere apology for that. But she also clearly treats and views him as her younger brother so it becomes all the more disturbing and even wrong when the final episode insinuates that they are in a romantic relationship now. The show practically rewards Rou for his unhealthy obsession and that’s yet another level of disturbing. Truly Sing ends on such bizarre, unhealthy and unconvincing ‘happily ever afters’ for all four characters. Rou and Haru both end up with the people they’ve been aggressively pursuing, despite the earlier message of how idolizing someone doesn’t necessarily mean you should end up with them or will find happiness with them. In fact, when Rikuo ends up pursuing Haru he openly admits that he seems to be doing so not because of any attraction to her but because he enjoys how she worships him. To be fair, Haru herself has a rather shallow obsession for him to begin with. The show indicates that she fell for him based on one brief interaction and that alone was enough to have her pursue him relentlessly, even when he made it clear time and again that his interests lay elsewhere. Thus, them entering a relationship at the end feels like a disaster waiting to explode; just like Rou and Shinako. The way Sing seems to paint its ending as a deep, well earned and meaningful conclusion is the ultimate frustration point for me, as anyone who has been following the series can clearly see that it is not that at all.
[End Major Spoilers]
Tom: To be fair I’d say Sing “Yesterday” for Me has a bit of wiggle room thanks to it being an adaptation of a manga, and one that sought to try and adapt the entire story in just a handful of episodes. You might not realize it as an anime only viewer, and this perhaps speaks to how expertly this adaptation was condensed, but Sing’s 12 episodes essentially encompass a 113 chapter manga, making for something on average of 10 chapters an episode. According to manga fans this is achieved by cutting out a large amount of side story content, focusing on additional characters, rearranging story beats, and the like. It’s possible that Sing’s manga remains as the best way to experience the story, as I can see more tangential tales to distract from the core, slow-moving romance would perhaps offset how frustratingly unwilling to learn our leads are. That said, this does nothing to address the ultimate conclusion to the story, which Linny laid out above. Ultimately, I think Sing “Yesterday” for Me is perhaps still appreciable as a visual triumph from the Spring season. It’s quite a looker and can be remembered for that at least. But with the way the series chooses to conclude things I can’t help but find myself disappointed and sure that despite the presentation’s assurances that where they end up is nothing but a happy conclusion, I have to agree with Linny that in truth all four seem headed for an even bigger disaster.
Linny: I started Sing “Yesterday” for me with so much hope and excitement, yet its finale ruined even the tiniest shred of approval I had for it. Any positive messages it presented are drowned out by its disturbing conclusion. People are rewarded for shallow, obsessive and unhealthy behaviour and the show paints it all as a happy ending. Even though Shinako and Rikuo both learn significant lessons about themselves, they then both go on to make other, equally significant missteps. It’s an ending that’s bound to leave most frustrated and ultimately why I cannot recommend this series. If you’re a more forgiving viewer, there’s a chance you may still find the series enjoyable thanks to its praise worthy art and its uncommon themes but for the majority, Sing “Yesterday” for me ends as nothing more than an exercise in frustration.
Sing “Yesterday” for Me is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com