Season aired: Spring 2020
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Slice of life, Drama, Romance
Thoughts: Boasting beautiful visuals, subtle animation, and excellent voice acting, Sing “YESTERDAY” For Me’s technical aspects alone were able to hint at an evocative, sorrowful story. It continuously rose on the Anime Trending charts, and it soon gained momentum within the anime community. But ultimately, what was the anime about?
In a suburban area, four characters’ lives are inexplicably tied to each other. Rikuo, the main protagonist who successfully graduated from college but did not have the motivation to search for a steady job, works at a convenience store. There, he meets Haru, a girl with a pet crow who claims she’s in love with him, and finds out that Shinako, his college friend and senior whom he had a crush on, is working at the local high school. Unbeknownst to him, Shinako’s own past, in the form of a cheeky teenager, Rou, has also entered the battleground of life, and soon all four of them are tangled up in their mundane activities.
It’s a slice-of-life story that you expect to be more mature. For the first part, aside from Rou, the other main characters and supporting cast are all adults. The second is the atmosphere that the series paints immediately. Calm yet inviting music, small nuanced noises such as birds chirping, and very careful dialogue alongside beautifully animated minute moments such as a single strand of hair falling from one’s ear — it’s easy for the audience to get sucked up into the story and the lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the results of these technical achievements are less than thrilling. I could just write this entire article praising the production process that went into it. There are the beautiful compositing and layouts, and the minute animations truly are a beauty to behold. There’s one particular scene where a woman smokes by the window and the wind rises ever so slightly to raise her hair, and those few seconds is absolutely breathtaking to watch.
However, when I’m watching anime, and even if I love these subtle animations and marvel at how the team managed to create it, I’m mainly here for the stories and the characters. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any at the end.
The slice-of-life elements quickly took a back seat to romantic drama as the series progressed. However, that’s not my issue, because I honestly love watching and reading well-written romantic dramas. The issues are the emotions that these romances are supposed to elicit, which is usually supposed to be joy, excitement, and swoon. Instead, I find myself frustrated, annoyed, and ultimately very unsatisfied at the end. Even worse, I can tell the story was supposed to end as a satisfying sigh of relief for the audience, and instead, I found myself rolling my eyes because of how undeserved the relationship was. However, exploring my issues with the relationships in the series would be so long it’d take a separate article to write, so instead I will move forward. After all, it’s not just the ships I have issues with.
The second issue I have with the show is its abandonment of one of its opening themes: the fear of moving on. All of the protagonists have issues with the future and striving towards it. Rikuo found himself lacking the inspiration to try a steady job. Shinako didn’t want to move forward from a lost love back in her younger years. Haru didn’t want to decide on her future and where she wanted to go. Rou desperately held onto a past “view” even as people changed and left. And for half of the series, it did strive to address these issues, and while the development progressed slowly, you could still see it happening as subtle as they are.
Then halfway through the series, the direction of the plot completely changed and decided to focus only on the relationships, and with that, the character developments also took a pause. That was incredibly upsetting because not only did I think the progression up till that point happened quite smoothly, I also found the theme poignant in today’s world. Many people do feel scared of the future and are frozen in place because they don’t want to think beyond the present. I wanted to know if certain characters failed and if certain characters succeeded to get past that fear. Instead, I got a complete redirection of plot focus and felt thoroughly unresolved on this matter with almost all the characters except Rikuo, and even his development felt like an afterthought in the end.
I think what makes this whole series so disappointing in the end is that it honestly started out very strong. The dialogue rarely goes into internal monologue when characters are interacting, so you’re actually watching as a third party. Only when the characters are alone do their internal thoughts get voiced, and even then, they happen in a broken way that actually resembles how all over the place thoughts can be. This unique style to tell the story really called out to me because I don’t usually see it done in anime. Then when the themes began about grief and fear of the future, coupled with supporting characters who often nonchalantly offer genuine and heartfelt advice, I really thought the series was setting something beautiful up.
In the end, however, I found myself confronted with a “romantic” ending that left me more annoyed than feeling any resemblance of joy, relief, or satisfaction. Psychology classes often speak of an experiment where the last half of your experience influences your overall view than the first half. I found this to be particularly true for this series because from now on, every time I think of Sing “YESTERDAY” For Me, I can only think of what it could’ve been instead of what it became.
Voice acting: 8.5
FINAL SCORE: 75