“There are two things you should remember when dealing with parallel universes. One, they’re not really parallel, and two, they’re not really universes.” –Douglas Adams
When he was seven, Koyomi Hidaka learned about the existence of parallel universes from his father, a physicist and researcher who’s in the middle of a divorce. After his grandfather’s dog, Yuno, dies, Koyomi is saddened and wonders if in a parallel universe, Yuno might still be alive. While waiting for his father’s workday to finish, Koyomi encounters Shiori, the daughter of the facility director. She helps him use a special device that allows people to explore other realities, and Koyomi is able to see Yuno again. However, in this world, Koyomi’s grandfather passes away from old age. The next day, Koyomi helps Shiori to find a world where her parents do not divorce, but Shiori’s mother finds them and prevents Shiori from travelling to another reality. Although the pair are discouraged from messing with other realities, they soon strike up a fast friendship, and upon reaching secondary school, Koyomi and Shiori have fallen in love with one another. To their great surprise, Koyomi’s father and Shiori’s mother have fallen in love with one another and are planning on getting married. Worried they’ll no longer be able to marry, Koyomi and Shiori try to escape to a parallel reality, but here, Shiori is hit by a vehicle and dies. In her original universe, Shiori enters a coma, and devastated, Koyomi blames himself for Shiori’s accident. He resolves to pursue quantum dynamics and research on parallel universes with the aim of saving Shiori. Upon graduating secondary school, Koyomi formally joins the research team and pushes himself to the limits, working tirelessly at the expense of his health. One evening, his parents approach him and implore him to clean up: an up-and-coming new researcher is set to join their institute, and to Koyomi’s surprise, it’s Kazune Takigawa. Unbeknownst to Koyomi, Kazune had spent the whole of her youth frustrated that Koyomi always pulled ahead of her, and Koyomi reveals his reasons for being so invested in his work. Upon learning this, Kazune decides to help him, with the declaration that it’ll be a race to see who reaches a solution first. Over the years, the government incorporates the institute into a part of their programs, and one evening, while sharing a drink with Kazune, Koyomi realises there is a way to save Shirori after all: if they can intervene and prevent Koyomi from having met Shiori, then Shiori will never suffer her accident and thus, be able to live a normal life. However, the trade off is that Koyomi and Shiori will lose all memory of one another. In this alternate timeline, Koyomi ends up falling in love with Kazune instead and lives a full life. One day, this Koyomi is surprised to have a reminder notification that he doesn’t remember creating. He travels out to the intersection where Shiori’s accident occurred, and as familiarity overtakes the two, they embrace. This is Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e (To Me, The One Who Loved You), one of the two science fiction romance stories penned by Yomoji Otono in 2016. In 2022 October, film adaptations of both this and the companion film, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e (To Every You I’ve Loved Before) were released. Thes two movies offer two different perspectives of a love story, utilising the notion of parallel universes and alternate realities to speak to how, even in the presence of extraordinary circumstances, the fickle realm of love remains one for which there is no easy solution beyond playing things by ear.
Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e conveys to viewers the idea of how important it is to live in the present. After losing Yuno, Koyomi becomes intrigued in a world where his grandfather’s dog lives and shifts into it, only to learn that here, his grandfather ends up dying early. Upon returning to his original universe, Koyomi is shocked, but his chance encounter with Shiori also changes his life as he begins spending more time with her. Over time, Koyomi accepts Yuno’s death and develops a deep friendship with Shiori. These feelings eventually blossom into love. However, when Koyomi’s father and Shiori’s father, both of which had divorced their original partners, end up falling in love and plan on getting married, Koyomi and Shiori feel that their own future will be threatened, leading to their decision to find a parallel reality they can find happiness in. However, this decision is what proves so disastrous for Shiori: she’s hit by a vehicle in another universe and dies, which in turn severs her consciousness from her body in her old universe. Devastated, Koyomi ends up dedicating the remainder of his future to exploring parallel universes with the aim of saving Shiori and merging her consciousness back with her body such that they can resume. Although it was admirable for Koyomi to commit his life for Shiori, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e also shows how the world advances ahead: Kazune has now become a renowned physicist and is determined to catch up to Koyomi. It is revealed that in another timeline, Kazune and Koyomi had fallen in love and found happiness as they worked towards a shared goal of understanding parallel realities, but without the weight of Shiori’s death on his mind, Koyomi was able to live a more fulfilling life. Through its portrayal of alternate realities, in seeing what was possible with Koyomi’s life, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e shows that all too often, people are so focused on what they believe they want, that they fail to appreciate what else is around them. Admittedly, this is not an easy ask, and it is only through the realm of fiction that these alternate outcomes can be seen – although the many-worlds interpretation is one of the interpretations in quantum mechanics that suggest every decision causes a branch, similarly to what was seen in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, no evidence of these parallel realities have ever been directly observed. By abstracting out the physics and allowing for the existence of observable alternate realities, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e suggests that, even though it is admirable for Koyomi to have continued his pursuits into his research with the aim of saving Shiori, ultimately, it was also possible for him to move on and find happiness anew.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s execution and premise brought to mind Hello World, which similarly featured a love story wrapped in a setting where science fiction elements were prominently used as the narrative’s driver. Before delving further into Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, I note that although a great deal of terminology is utilised here to explain how the parallel universes work, it’s not necessary to have any background in quantum mechanics to appreciate or understand what Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e is going for.
- Out of the gates, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e makes use of a trauma to motivate Koyomi’s curiosity in the parallel universes; when his grandfather’s dog, Yuno, dies, Koyomi desires to see a reality where Yuno is still alive. However, in this parallel universe, Koyomi’s grandfather ends up passing away instead. The sense that I got was that certain wishes carry a cost, and while these costs are plainly presented to viewers, Koyomi is not able to see this himself. This is what drives the flow of events in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e.
- Because of his initial grief regarding Yuno’s death, Koyomi doesn’t really think much of Shiori: beyond readily accepting her help in operating the Imaginary Parallel (IP) device, he doesn’t even take the effort to learn her name. The device is supposed to help people jump between realities, and earlier, Koyomi’s father suggests that people unconsciously do so, making an example of how when people misplace objects, only for them to turn up precisely where one had already searched. In reality, experts suggest that this is a consequence of lapses in our conscious memory, but some folks do believe that the existence of other realities (and a limited ability to shift through them) is a possible explanation for this phenomenon.
- When Koyomi returns, Shiori next asks to enter another reality: her parents are amidst a divorce, and she wants to see what the world is like if things don’t proceed in this way. Before they can use the IP device, Shiori’s mother appears and warns them on the dangers of misusing experimental technology, before delving into a lecture about alternate realities. This shuts down any hopes that Shiori might’ve had for seeing a parallel universe, but the moment also does something more significant: it formally brings her and Koyomi together.
- That Shiori’s preferred casual attire throughout Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e was always a bit of a haunting bit of imagery for me; symbolising purity and hope, the white sun dress is an iconic representation of the Japanese summer, but at the same time, the dress also is evocative of the white kimono that onryō (vengeful spirits) are portrayed as wearing. This comes from kabuki theatre, making it easy to identify who’s a ghost and who’s alive, but with the advent of Japanese horror cinema, the imagery invoked by a young woman with long, dark hair and a white dress immediately creates a sense of unease.
- In fact, after what happens to Shiori in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, her preference for white clothing appears to become a bit of foreshadowing, signifying her ethereal, transient presence in Koyomi’s life. This makes her accident all the more poignant: after Koyomi and Shiori meet and decide to live their lives out rather than worry about alternate “what ifs”, Koyomi’s life becomes significantly more colourful as he spends the summer with Shiori. Here, the pair go hunting for cicadas and rest along the riverbank in a moment that many would think of when thinking of a Japanese summer.
- What’s significant about Koyomi befriending Shiori is that it lets him to accept Yuno’s death. There is a degree of irony in that the younger Koyomi was able to move on: he hasn’t forgotten Yuno, and in one moment, is shown visiting his grandfather (and Yuno’s grave) with Shiori. I would imagine that one of the key differences here, however, was that because his connection to Shiori was stronger, cultivated over a much longer timeframe, meant that his memories and feelings were much more firmly entrenched and therefore, difficult to manage.
- Koyomi and Shiori’s friendship endure over time, and by the time the pair are in secondary school, they’re as close as can be with one another. Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s choice of portraying Koyomi and Shiori as biking together under the summer skies reminds me of Tomosaki’s The Blue I Saw Back Then, a wonderful photobook she published back in 2022. In this photobook, Tomosaki highlights nostalgic photographs of the Japanese countryside and Kyoto by summer. The book is divided into chapters delineated by the time of day, and my favourite photographs in this volume portray students enjoying their youth under such weather.
- If there is such a thing as rebirth, I do not mind admitting that my first choice would be to respawn as someone who could experience the sort of nostalgic, idyllic youth that the Japanese excel at conveying. Throughout the earlier segments of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, Koyomi and Shiori’s conversations do have a more stilted inflection about them: while it is evident the two are close, the voice acting conveys a feeling of distance that separate the two. In spite of this, as their latest summer wears on, the two do end up falling in love.
- Thus, when Koyomi’s father and Shiori’s mother make the announcement that they’re going to marry, Koyomi and Shiori are shocked. The premise of step-siblings falling in love and learning they’re not related by blood is a plot device that many works of fiction have previously employed, and this element has always been bothersome for some viewers. Here in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, it is interesting to see a different portrayal of things, as both Koyomi and Shiori are not blood related, and their parents have fallen in love quite separately. When this news surfaces, Koyomi and Shiori decide to run away, at least for a while such that they can gather their thoughts.
- Anime that deal with love among step-siblings (e.g. True Tears) typically do so as a means of creating conflict, and the resolution of this is usually one that requires a season to do so. Here in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, however, this is merely a catalyst for what comes next, and admittedly, Koyomi and Shiori’s initial response is rather more measured compared to other love stories. In the 2017 film, Fireworks, Norimichi and Nazuna run away with one another, and while the movie’s events leave things quite ambiguous, it is implied the pair did end up running away.
- Both Koyomi and Shiori are portrayed as being more rational, but still immature – after a day spent together, the pair decide that they should consider another route, but this option entails using the IP device, shifting into another universe and living their lives out there. Evidently, Koyomi has forgotten about how here, parallel universes result as a branch of divergent decisions, and as a result, will have minute differences compared to the world one is familiar with. Having said this, if Koyomi had been thinking straight, the film’s events would not occur.
- I’ve been around the block long enough to know how storytelling works, and as a result, do not begrudge authors for allowing their characters to make mistakes – erring, and then learning from their decisions is one of the elements I look for in a given story. As it was, the naïveté of youth is in full swing here, and had Koyomi and Shiori approached their parents to talk things out, a conversation would result, and then Koyomi and Shiori’s futures would be assured. Logical and rational, it would also make for quite an unremarkable story: people love seeing struggle and overcoming adversity, so this is an aspect of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e (and virtually every work of fiction in existence) that I readily accept.
- Although Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e makes extensive use of the verbiage and jargon from quantum mechanics, any viewer who does have functional knowledge of this discipline is unlikely to find as being helpful towards the film’s main themes; had Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e made quantum mechanics a prerequisite for understanding, it would preclude any meaningful attempt to look at what happens to Koyomi and Shiori from the perspective of a fellow human being, rendering the film an impenetrable fog to everyone, save those who majored in physics. Instead, here in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, the parallel universes and quantum theory simply serves as a part of the setting, present to facilitate the story’s progression.
- One recurring element in most works of fiction dealing with parallel universes or alternate realities is that, if one sustains injuries or dies in one universe, then they will suffer severe consequences in their original universe. The Matrix had explained this as how whatever the mind experiences makes something real, and the fact that this can happen here in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e hints at how the author believes that, irrespective of how many timelines there are, one’s consciousness is a singleton, unique and immutable; to this end, it is worth cherishing. This moment is the turning point in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, the rising action that precipitates the remainder of the film’s events.
- In the aftermath, Shiori’s consciousnesses ends up in limbo, and in this world, her brain activity ceases even as her body continues to operate. The movie provides a scientific explanation for how this came to be, but the simplest analogy is that Shiori’s experienced what happens when one unplugs a storage device during the middle of a file transfer. This results in that part of the hard drive ending up with a corrupted file that cannot be opened. Shiori’s consciousness remains in the parallel universe intact, but since she has no body to return to, she can’t interact with the world, and in the old universe, her body has no consciousness and therefore, cannot operate.
- The state of limbo that Shiori finds herself in results in a situation where she’s bound to the spot, visible to none other than Koyomi, and in this spectral state, only Koyomi can interact with her. I wonder if this is why there’s been an uptick of searches for Summer Ghost of late; while Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e does have moments set in the summer, and Shiori has become a ghost in a manner of speaking, the two films differ dramatically in terms of premise, themes and execution. For the present, being able to communicate with Shiori gives Koyomi a glimmer of hope.
- Besides the more scientific side of things, a conversation with his father and Shiori’s mother gives Koyomi a startling revelation: since he and Shiori were never blood related to begin with, he would’ve been able to marry Shiori even if his father and Shiori’s mother married. It was here that Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e hints to viewers that decisions aren’t to be made lightly, and that a measure of patience can save a great deal of difficulty later down the line. Koyomi wonders why his father and Shiori’s mother aren’t more upset with what happened; they don’t hold Koyomi accountable for what happened owing to the unpredictable nature of the parallel universes, and in the end, allow Koyomi to pursue research into the parallel universes.
- Outside of spiritual discussions, there are no known means of capturing and restoring a consciousness back to its body. Koyomi’s research would, in reality, be seen as folly, since the consciousness itself is not something that is well understood, even with all of the advances that have been made in neuroscience. Even in works that do try to add a scientific account of how things might work, the technology can only be described as soft science because there is no real-world basis for how they would operate. The closest work of fiction I can think of that allows a machine to capture and store consciousness are the psychoframes in Gundam‘s Universal Century, and even here, their operation has long been counted among viewers as being more magic than science.
- In this timeline, Koyomi devotes himself into parallel universe research, and after completing secondary school, he immediately joins the institute his parents work for. Thanks to his innate familiarity with the principles, Koyomi is able to make headway despite lacking any post-secondary background in quantum mechanics. Quantum theory and associated disciplines are counted as being one of the most tricky fields to understand because there is no easy analogy for explaining their behaviours in an approachable fashion, and because the underlying mathematics are extremely demanding.
- There are people with a talent for understanding and present this material in a tangible way: giants in the field, like Steven Hawking and Brian Greene, have published works on quantum mechanics and presented things in a way that makes concepts approachable even to laymen. Things like Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Greene’s contributions to NOVA’s The Elegant Universe have helped me to grasp the fundamentals of quantum theory at a very basic level, offering a very accessible and visual means of explaining concepts that otherwise would be quite incomprehensible. With this being said, while such works do make complex concepts easier to grasp, they are no substitute for decades of expertise in the field.
- As Koyomi presses onward with his research, his colleagues worry about his health and well-being. The promise of bringing Shiori back is undoubtedly a powerful motivation, but at the same time, it also leaves him with tunnel vision. This is a recurring problem that people frequently face: when confronted with a challenging problem, one may lose sight of other things in their lives to their detriment as they divert all attention and focus towards solving this problem. As a software developer, this is something I strive to remain vigilant about – just because I’m dealing with what seems like an insurmountable problem does not mean I should allow this problem to interfere with my other work or daily life.
- Managing one’s priorities and learning when it is okay to take a step back is a vital skill to have. Different people have different ways of managing this, and for me, I mitigate tunnel vision in two ways – depending on the circumstances, I set aside a particularly tough task and start working on something else, or otherwise, will go out and get some fresh air. There is no doubt that this is what Koyomi is missing in his initial research, and there comes a point where, when Koyomi relates things to Shiori, she tries to reassure him that the thought of him doing so much for her is already sufficient.
- Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e disrupts things further when Koyomi’s father and now step-mother have an announcement for him: to help his work along, a new researcher will be joining the institute, and moreover, this new addition is said to be an award-winning PhD holder. While Koyomi is disinterested in having someone else on his team, primarily because his research objective is off-the-books, his parents convince him to at least meet her anyways. Over this time, Koyomi’s stopped taking care of himself, so his parents implore him to shower and shave properly.
- As it turns out, this top-tier researcher is none other than Kazune. In this timeline, Koyomi was so fixated on his objectives that in secondary school, he’d left all of the other students behind and spent very little time socialising. Kazune had found Koyomi a curiosity, but he never bothered approaching anyone, and being a determined student herself, Kazune became frustrated at the fact that Koyomi would upstage her in every conceivable subject. Koyomi’s choice of a hangout spot, the local karaoke joint, is quite unsuited a place for first impressions, but at the same time, the privacy offered allows Kazune to be quite candid about how she felt about things.
- This sort of setup would, in any other story, lay down the groundwork for a familiar theme – Shiori is functionally gone, and Kazune is in the present, so if Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e had been set in one timeline, then it would be logical to show how even Koyomi would eventually come around and learn to appreciate what’s in front of him, rather than what is now a hypothetical. However, being a story with parallel universes, Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e is able to do something different, and in this way, the film was able to keep things compelling.
- Kazune learns that Koyomi’s been diverting some of his funds into driving his own project, and agrees not to report him on the condition that she be allowed to work with him, and further to this, they’re still on to see who makes the breakthrough first. Kazune’s determination to overtake Koyomi underlies a desire to become closer to him, and once Koyomi agrees to work with her, the two begin making strides. Even so, the complexity of their topic means that progress is slow, and a few more years pass. Over this time, Koyomi and Kazune’s relationship appears to have improved, and Koyomi’s objective goes from reuniting with Shiori to seeking out a way of making it so that she won’t ever experience the car accident and be granted a shot at a normal life, albeit one where she and Koyomi never meet.
- One evening, Kazune convinces Koyomi to take a break from his research, and she brings in a fancier beer (a Guinness, if I’m not mistaken). Out of habit, Koyomi makes to drink the beer directly from the can, only for Kazune to stop him and invite him to drink out of a glass instead. Upon seeing the bubbles in the beer sink into the drink and hearing about the properties that make this possible, Koyomi suddenly finds himself face-to-face with the solution he’d been seeking. What Koyomi experiences here is something that occasionally crosses my path: inspiration can come from unlikely sources, and I’ve found that as far as problem-solving goes, I’ve drawn solutions from the most unusual of places.
- With a solution laid out, all that Koyomi desires seems possible. He works out that it would be worth it if Shiori can live her life out in happiness even if the pair end up losing their memories of one another, and in order to accommodate this, Koyomi must reach the end of his life and nudge his original self away from meeting Shiori. If this can happen, the pair will have never fallen in love and thus, never feel the need to travel to another universe. Kazune disagrees with this plan and wonders if there is value in going to such lengths for one person even if it comes at a great cost to oneself, but ultimately relents and agrees to assist Koyomi if it means helping him make peace with his past. In this way, Kazune proves quite selfless, showing that despite Koyomi’s single-minded drive that ventures into selfishness, she’s willing to help him find his happiness.
- In another set of realities, Koyomi sits down to dinner with his family and wonders about the existence of alternate universes and how different things might not always be as desirable as they appear. Moments of normalcy are something that I’ve come to appreciate in all of the series I watch, and over the past few years, I was reminded time and time again that they are not to be taken for granted. Over the past weekend, the WHO declared that the global health crisis is no longer an emergency, and this coincided with my celebrating a birthday in the family. For the first time in four years, I was able to sit down to dinner at a local The Keg, where I went with their prime rib with sautéed mushrooms and twice-baked potato. After the main courses were done, our server brought a complementary slice of ice cream cake that was large enough to share amongst four: I had indicated in the reservation that we were celebrating a birthday.
- The complementary cake rounded off a pleasant evening, and being able to go to a steakhouse to celebrate in this manner again was wonderful; although some caution should still be observed in crowded spaces, it is remarkably liberating to see that normalcy has returned to the world. Back in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, viewers are subsequently shown what would’ve happened if Koyomi and Shiori never met, and for me, this part of the film was the most poignant. Despite being set to an upbeat vocal piece, there was a feeling of melancholy in the knowledge that, had things turned out slightly differently, Koyomi may have lived a more fulfilling life.
- This aspect of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e was what stood out most for me: in another timeline, Koyomi was able to have a more fulfilling youth despite not being quite as impressive of a student. Such an outcome inevitably leads viewers to the question of how their lives may have ended up if circumstances had differed slightly. Earlier in Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, Koyomi had found that regardless of the timeline, every outcome has its pluses and minuses. Here in this reality, as exchange for having never met Shiori, Koyomi manages to find happiness in another way. Exploring topics like these are confined to the realm of fiction: alternate paths and their outcomes within reality are unknowable simply because of how many moving parts there are in life.
- Whether it be careers or relationships, I would find that it is none too helpful to dwell too deeply on what could have been. For instance, when I recount my old aspirations to become a medical doctor, my decision to accept an offer to graduate school when my applications to medical school failed might be seen as a fork in the road. However, the reason why my application was unsuccessful was because of insufficient community commitment and ethical know-how. As a result, the application’s outcomes are the result of earlier actions, and it is likely the case that, had I put in a more concerted effort to become a successful medical school applicant, I wouldn’t have enough experience or a deep enough skill set to have transitioned over into computer science. If something like this already looks complex, then one can only imagine how trying to work out the withertos and whyfores of relationships would become even more challenging.
- As it was, when Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e shows Koyomi marrying Kazune, I regarded this with both a combination of warmth and melancholy. The film shows that yes, it was definitely possible that Koyomi and Kazune both would’ve found their happiness. However, the same time, knowing this means that the Kazune and Koyomi of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e‘s central timeline had also spent most of their lives longing for something that they could never quite have, despite their remarkable achievements in the realm of physics.
- In the original timeline, Kazune and Koyomi are close as friends, and while a scene suggests that the two might’ve had a physical relationship at some point, Koyomi’s devotion to Shiori would’ve made an emotional connection much more difficult to make. As Koyomi and Kazune reach old age, Koyomi prepares to make one final shift with the goal of keeping Shiori from being hit by a vehicle, liberating her from her fate. Kazune’s words to Koyomi suggest that she’d long accepted that this would be what Koyomi needed to do, and while she once had hoped to be closer to him, Kazune does end up succeeding where Koyomi failed: she’s able to let him go and understand that it is sufficient for him to be happy.
- When the day finally arrives, Koyomi explains his plan to Shiori, who becomes overwhelmed at the thought of forgetting everything about him; for her, being bound to this spot, however unpleasant it was, a persistent reminder of the time she’d spent with him. In literature, the thought of wishing to have never met and fallen in love with someone who would, unintentionally or otherwise, end up getting their heart broken is commonplace. Alfred Tennyson’s enduring remark, that it is “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”, suggests how the experience of loss and heartbreak is an essential part of being human, and it is through this suffering that one comes out stronger for it.
- For Koyomi, his guilt at having denied Shiori her life leads him to pursue the approach that he did, and even now, Koyomi believes that Shiori is owed a fulfilling life. However, being the forward thinker that he is, Koyomi offers Shiori a promise: he will meet her at this intersection a month into the future. By shifting into the reality where Shiori was able to live her life out, Koyomi briefly trades places with an alternate version of himself and makes one small adjustment, adding a reminder to this Koyomi’s calendar.
- In the end, Kazune’s devotion to Koyomi was unwavering, and reading between the lines, I got the sense that to some capacity, the pair do express their feelings for one another, in turn showing that Koyomi was able to move on from his attachment to Shiori. Under this interpretation, Koyomi’s desire to save Shiori is not motivated by romantic love alone, but rather, the desire to return what he felt he’d unfairly deprived her of. Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e is ambiguous in this regard, and one must draw their own conclusions about what the film’s primary aims were.
- Ambiguity is something I generally dislike, but in storytelling, vagueness can actually be to a narrative’s advantage, allowing viewers to interpret things in their own manner of choosing and prompting them to draw their own conclusions. Generally speaking, when ambiguity is a part of a story, the expectation is that the characters’ growth as a response to whatever they experience is consistent: this provides grounding that gives viewers something to focus on. Here, I remark that an ambiguous story is not the same as a confusing story: the latter results from inconsistency with the world-building or leaving elements unexplained.
- With Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e now in the books, I set my sights on Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e. I’ve heard that some folks indicate that there is a recommended order in which to watch these pairs of movies in, but since I’ve only got one of two movies completed, I’ll decide whether or not this recommendation holds any merits once I’ve crossed the finish line for Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e. At that point, I’ll also deliver a verdict on what I made of these two films as a whole; it seems quite unfair to grade the movies separately when they were meant to be watched together.
The notion of alternate realities as having “absolute points”, events that cannot be altered regardless of the reality, is something that other works have explored. In What If‘s fourth episode, Doctor Strange ends up using the Eye of Agamotto in a bid to save Christine Palmer after a car crash, and with each iteration, Strange progressively loses his humanity. Ultimately, he is only able to briefly stop Christine’s death, and the universes subsequently collapse, leaving Strange to grieve his losses alone. The message in that episode of What If had been simple enough – some things in life just aren’t meant to be, and no amount of intervention will alter things. As powerless as humans are, the thought of having the means of altering the outcome of an event would be an immensely attractive one. However, in both Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e and What If, the takeaway message is that, when things happen in life, one is supposed to “improvise, adapt, and overcome”. When adversity appears, one must make do with the hand they’re dealt and make the best decisions possible in that given moment; it is likely the case that even with such power to alter reality, one may not always get their desired outcome, and so, rather than trying to resist, one can instead elect to make the most of what they have. In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, for instance, the story of Pete Best was recounted. Best was a drummer for the up-and-coming band, the Beatles, but in 1962, he was fired owing his bandmates’ machinations. Six months later, the Beatles became the largest rock band in the world. Best fell into depression and began drinking, even caming close to suicide in 1968. Best never would form another band or gain worldwide recognition. However, by 1994, Best was interviewed, and in this interview, he stated that in retrospect, he was happiest as he was now because being fired from the Beatles led him to meet his wife, and when he started a family, his priorities changed. A life with the people he cared about most was more valuable than fame and wealth, and Best did still play the drums from time to time, allowing him to continue on with his passion for music. Manson tells Pete Best’s story to drive home a simple point: bad things happen, but these negative emotions are a part of life, and moreover, the discomfort they cause can force people to re-evaluate their priorities. In the case of Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, viewers are given a saddening outcome: Koyomi evidently could have found happiness, but he remained trapped by the loss of Shiori. His steadfast desire to save her therefore becomes simultaneously commendable and despicable because, at once, he is sticking true to his goals and working towards achieving them, but at the same time, one could also that his desire to save Shiori is also hurting those who are living, as he worries both his parents and Kazune alike. Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e suggests that Koyomi ends up living a half life and eventually picks a costly solution to ensure Shiori can find her happiness. Mason’s suggestion to all this offers a resolution to the problem Koyomi faces: if people learn how to reprioritise and value better things, they can find healthier solutions to their problems without looking to parallel universes. At least, if Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e was all there was, this would be the conclusion I’d reach: there is a companion film, Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e, that shows another side of the coin, and I expect that I’ll have a complete measure of what both films sought to convey once I wrap the latter up.