“You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” –Sam Keen
After his kokuhaku is shot down by supervisor and coworker Airi Gotō, Yoshida wanders off into the night after downing a few too many drinks, and encounters a high school girl under a lamp post. She introduces herself as Sayu Ogiwara and makes him a proposal: in exchange for letting her crash at his place, she’ll boff him. Shocked, Yoshida immediately declines, but allows her to stay anyways. The next morning, he learns that Sayu has made him miso soup, claiming that he’d been talking in his sleep. With the effects of the alcohol gone, Yoshida wonders what to do next, since Sayu is a runaway from Hokkaido who’d been going from place to place, trading her body for a place to stay. Worried about Sayu, he reluctantly lets her stay with him until she can go back home, on the condition that she help him with household tasks and not make any advances on him. Yoshida’s coworker, Hashimoto, hears about this situation and promises to keep quiet about it. At work, junior Yuzuha Mishima’s inexperience causes a project to go off schedule, and Yoshida sticks around to help her rectify her mistakes. She repeats a rumour floating around Yoshida, wonder if he’s got a girlfriend now that he’s looking well-kept. As a result of working overtime, Yoshida decides to pick up a mobile phone for Sayu, and explains that it’s to help them keep in touch should anything arise. Later, after spotting Yoshida with Yuzuha, Sayu becomes jealous and runs off. She coincidentally runs into Yuzuha, who offers her some advice before Yoshida arrives to bring her home. Sayu tries to seduce Yoshida again, wondering why he’s been so kind to her, and he explains that ever since she’s arrived, his life’s become more colourful, making him look forwards to coming home each day. Hige o Soru. Soshite Joshi Kōsei o Hirou., or Higehiro for brevity, has been a very curious series insofar: its premise was certainly attention-grabbing, and as Yoshida is quick to comment, opens the floor for disaster if not handled properly.
While Higehiro appears to be walking a tightrope with its content, the series immediately sets about conveying a story of emotional closeness over physicality: Yoshida immediately spots this about Sayu, and openly states that he’s into older, well-endowed women. He rebuffs Sayu for even considering seducing him, and constantly warns her not to do so. At the same time, he treats Sayu kindly as a result of his own nature; at work, Yoshida always picks up after the messes his coworkers leave behind in addition to getting his own work done. Yoshida is someone who wants what’s best for those around him, even if there’s a cost to him, and as a result, his actions for Sayu are strictly that of a friend’s. Indeed, Yoshida is an admirable character, although his manner means that, similar to myself, he’s not attuned to what’s around him. Yoshida is someone who knows what he wants and is confident in stepping up to the challenge, but when things blindside him, he’s unable to regroup. This makes his character immediately relatable, and while he certainly doesn’t see Sayu as a love interest, he does come to greatly value the warmth and companionship that Sayu brings into his life. In this area, Higehiro excels; Sayu seems to represent what most anime would do given such a premise, and then in the opposite corner, Yoshida represents what any reasonable person would go when placed in such a scenario. Where the two opposing approaches clash is something that Higehiro presents as a part of the journey, sometimes heartwarming, sometimes poignant, and sometimes humourous. I am therefore pleased with how the series has chosen to handle a most unlikely meeting and its consequences, as the story is moving in a direction that creates a very pleasant sense amongst viewers: Sayu is in a better place and can take the first step towards her recovery, while Yoshida now has something in his life to look forwards to beyond his work, and as a result of Sayu entering his life, Yoshida will undergo change that will help him to move on from his failed kokuhaku.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Higehiro‘s opening begins in a manner I’ve bore witness to: Yoshida is a hardworking and successful individual, but lacks luck in his love live. After working up the courage to make a kokuhaku to his senior and supervisor, Airi, he is shot down in a most painful manner. Unlike Yoshida, however, I tend to drown my sorrows in a good book or game – my acetaldehyde dehydrogenase enzymes are less effective than that of the average person’s, and since I glow in the dark after drinking a few, I choose not to drink at all if I can help it. I joke to my peers that my weak enzymes mean that my sorrows have learned to swim. Further to this, unlike Yoshida, who runs into Sayu after getting wasted, I’d previously slept things off and woke up the next day with the resolve of bettering myself.
- If Yoshida’s life had run the same way as mine, however, there’d be no Higehiro, and as such, we’ll allow highly improbable events to run their course to accommodate the story. Almost immediately after Yoshida and Sayu return to his apartment, Sayu attempts to get the party started, only for Yoshida to fall asleep immediately and groggily mumble that he’d totally be down for some miso soup. The next morning, Yoshida is shocked to find a high school girl in his apartment: he’d been so drunk he’d had no recollection of anything, and Sayu takes the time to explain what had happened the previous night.
- Things thus get to an awkward start, since Yoshida is at a loss for what to do next after hearing Sayu’s story. However, her miso soup proves to be excellent, and despite entering Higehiro with no a priori knowledge, that Yoshida takes a liking to Sayu’s soup foreshadows what will happen next. It sounds like despite his physical attraction to Airi, Yoshida had also desired a deeper connection to her. Thus, when Sayu whips up the same miso soup he’d expect Airi to make, Higehiro suggests that despite a rough start, Sayu and Yoshida will develop the sort of emotional connection that the latter had most wanted from a relationship. This is what I seek from a relationship – I wish most to be depended on, reliable and there for someone at all times.
- In the absence of a partner, I work hard for those around me so I can pursue my one great love, of giving back. While Higehiro is very much about the emotional aspects of a relationship, Sayu has very little understanding of this and initially, believes that her only way of repaying Yoshida’s kindness is with her body. She comments that she’s got very nice figure for someone of her age and would have no objections to Yoshida seeing if she’s comparable to Airi. Naturally, Yoshida declines to comment and settles on a solution – as long as she doesn’t try anything funny with him, he’ll allow her to stay while they determine what Sayu’s next steps are.
- At the office, Yoshida seeks counsel from Hashimoto, his coworker and friend: unlike the serious Yoshida, Hashimoto has a more laid-back personality, although he is every bit as competent and efficient as Yoshida is. Yoshida trusts Hashimoto a great deal – he’s the first person Yoshida gripes to after losing Airi, and he confides in Hashimoto about the whole Sayu situation. Hashimoto suggests keeping quiet for now and seeing what he can do to get Sayu back home to Hokkaido. Unfortunately for Yoshida, Sayu’s mere presence induces a slight change in him: he begins shaving regularly, and his female coworkers notice that his shirts are now ironed. They suggest that Yoshida must’ve found a girlfriend of sorts, which could become problematic if the truth got out.
- For me, I shave every morning, even on weekends, mainly because I hate the feeling of facial hair, and I iron my own shirts and pants. In Yoshida’s position, I imagine even the most eagle-eyed individual wouldn’t be able to notice the difference, since I tend to have a pretty good poker face about such things. After noticing that Sayu’s posture has worsened, he decides to get her a futon. Sayu is perplexed by Yoshida’s kindness: previously, to keep the men who’d taken her in happy, she put on a fake smile and offered her body as payment for lodging, but with Yoshida, she cannot see why he’s doing this for her without expecting something in return. Sayu’s reaction to Yoshida’s looking out for her is actually a saddening one, suggesting that despite her friendly personality and dazzling smile, she’s got a bit of emotional baggage coming in.
- Consequently, Higehiro would do well to show how kindness and openness is a powerful tool on the path to healing. The ten-year gap between Sayu and Yoshida means that Yoshida sees Sayu as a child. He treats her as a teacher might a troublesome student, going the extra mile to keep an eye on her and as often as he can spare them so she can get back on her feet. He picks up moisturiser for her here and contemplates getting her a phone so he can reach her in event of emergencies, but she declines the phone, feeling it to be a burden and also fearing it will put her in further debt with Yoshida.
- Because of Sayu’s beliefs about repaying debts and the fact that Yoshida can see through her fake smiles, I expect that Higehiro will eventually cover how Yoshida will begin helping Sayu to understand that debts incurred between individuals can and should be dealt with by way of returning favours, rather than through sex. This really speaks volumes to how rough Sayu’s had it, and even without her explaining what had led her to run away from home, it’s clear that she’s made a series of poor decisions. Yoshida, however, indicates that running away shows that she’s probably spoiled – someone with the resilience and faculties to deal with situations when things don’t go as one would hope wouldn’t run away, but seek to solve their problems. However, given what Sayu’s gone through, being with Yoshida is something I imagine will kick start her recovery: despite all she’s done and gone through, Sayu’s still kind at heart.
- Yoshida’s junior, Yuzuna, is the typical ditz who barely manages to get by, but despite her comparatively poor work ethic, she respects Yoshida and is competent enough when the moment calls for it. After Yuzuna submits a build riddled with bugs before a release, Yoshida makes her stay after hours to iron out the issues. In exchange, he buys her dinner from a nearby convenience store. While Yoshida works for an IT company, and he and Yuzuna are seen working with an IDE, it’s hard to pin down whether they’re in IT or software – any software company using Agile will likely have a CD/CI system and QA teams, so that things are pushed and tested thoroughly before reaching customer hands. Fortunately, how software companies work do not figure in Higehiro, and I’ll accept that their work is similar enough to mine, but inconsistencies will not impact overall thematic elements for me.
- After returning home late from work, Yoshida finds that Sayu’s prepared dinner for him. While Sayu feigns anger at his coming home late, she reveals that she’s not actually mad at him, and finds his reactions amusing. He promises to eat in the morning, and here, I note that Yoshida’s on the money when he notes that Sayu is more like a child than a peer, naïve in the ways of the world, and also cute in her own right.
- Initially, I thought this moment, of Airi and Yoshida having dinner together, was a flashback, but it turns out that Airi is curious to know how Yoshida turned around so quickly. The truth would violate several laws, and Yoshida notes that nothing interesting had happened. In exchange for having answered her questions, Airi allows Yoshida to ask her any one question, and Yoshida immediately asks what Airi’s bust size is. Airi consents to answer, revealing that in this area, Sayu’s completely beat.
- After Yoshida gives Sayu a phone, the two exchange contact information. For Sayu, this is a symbolic moment, indicating a fresh start and a chance to learn things anew (such as how to properly express gratitude). While Sayu can come across as a spoiled brat who is ignorant in the way of the world at times, Higehiro has done an excellent job with the characters insofar, and I find everyone likeable, respectable enough for me to hope that they make those critical discoveries that will help them along.
- Sayu begins feeling uneasy with the arrangement she has with Yoshida: whereas previously, men had immediately jumped on the “benefits” piece of such an arrangement, Yoshida’s done nothing of the sort, and instead, simply has her keep busy around the house while he’s at work. Her insecurities kick in here, and she wonders if Yoshida will soon see her hit the bricks if nothing should happen. This is, of course, contrary to the sort of person Yoshida is, but it also says a great deal about how much Sayu’s gone through. At the third episode’s beginning, there’s a flashback (or perhaps a dream) in which an unknown individual is getting it on with Sayu, but Sayu’s eyes are completely lifeless.
- While Yoshida’s other coworkers have no qualms about the unexpected changes in his style, Yuzuha is taking exception to all of the rumours, and it’s clear that she’s smitten with him. Of course, Yoshida sees Yuzuha as an unreliable but well-meaning junior who needs more supervision, seemingly oblivious to her feelings. Of course, this infuriates Yuzuha, who kicks Yoshida in frustration. Yuzuha is voiced by Kaori Ishihara, whom I know best as Rinne no Lagrange‘s Madoka Kyono and The World in Colours‘ Hitomi Tsukishiro.
- As thanks for having bailed her out again, Yuzuha invites Yoshida out for a movie. However, while out and about, Sayu spots Yoshida with Yuzuha. Consumed with jealousy, she runs off – while Sayu had initially thought that Yoshida was at most, an acquaintance and therefore wouldn’t be attached to him, as she had with the previous men she’d stayed with before they’d evicted her, the sight of Yoshida with Yuzuha elicits a different response.
- Yuzuha meeting Sayu is pure coincidence, and her words to Sayu suggest that she should step her game up. Yoshida catches up soon after, and it was a bit of a tense moment, as I wondered whether or not things could get out of hand here. However, I imagine that Yuzuha sees the relationship between Sayu and Yoshida as that of family: she doesn’t ask questions at all or even suspects anything, so I conclude that at least, for the time being, nothing crazy will happen. It is conceivable that the truth could get out towards the end of the season, but whether or not that happens will be a bridge to cross once we actually get there.
- Sayu’s actions can therefore be thought of as a manifestation of her own lack of confidence and insecurities. She’s desperate to know why Yoshida seems resilient to her advances, but eventually stands down and explains that this is how she came to scratch a living after running away from home. There’s a desperation in her voice, and in this moment, Yoshida understands where Sayu’s coming from.
- Yoshida’s hugging Sayu is more an act of compassion more than anything: with this embrace, he’s saying that he gets where Sayu is coming from. With this being said, he’s not in love with her, and that certain acts are reserved only for people he’s genuinely in love with. With this in mind, assuming that Higehiro will go with a route that resembles reality, I would think that the best possible end goal for this season would be to eventually see Sayu return home and make amends, then get her life in order. Once this is resolved, I’d be okay with whatever ending the author goes with, as emotional closure would’ve been achieved.
- Because Yoshida is resolute and strong-willed, the same traits that allow him to succeed at his job allows him to convince Sayu that her advances are probably not coming from the right place. She subsequently realises that Yoshida is as truthful as can be about what he thinks of her: Yoshida’s life has become much more pleasant, as he’s able to look forwards to something beyond work. Yoshida’s remarks speak to the idea of appreciating the ordinary, and that in a world that is as hectic as we know it, knowing that one can come home to a quiet conversation and meal is very reassuring indeed.
- Realising that she can be true to herself, Sayu notes that while she and Yoshida might be lonely and pathetic, they’re now lonely and pathetic together. Even in spite of himself, Yoshida concedes that Sayu’s real smiles are cute. With this, my talk on Higehiro after three draws to a close. Ever since I’d read about the premise, I’d been curious to see how this one turned out, and thus far, I am not disappointed. With this post in the books, I intend to write about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo at the halfway point and may do the same with 86 EIGHTY-SIX. In the meantime, it’s time to go file my taxes, hang out with some mates via ZOOM (or whichever tool of their choice is), and then kick off my Modern Warfare 2: Remastered experience.
As I am a complete novice where Higehiro is concerned, I have no idea as to what will happen next. However, what Higehiro has done in its first three episodes is establish that this is going to be a story about understanding one another, the idea that togetherness is more about the mental aspects than the physical, and that unexpected events in life oftentimes help people to contemplate their past stumbles and come out stronger for it. Together with an immensely likeable cast, Higehiro has proven to be remarkably entertaining and encouraging. Rather than go down a slippery slope, Higehiro instead chooses to explore the human side of relationships, of things like trust, conflict resolution and honesty: having established that Yoshida has integrity, viewers can be reasonably assured that Higehiro will not likely devolve into crude jokes, and instead, draw humour from the interactions between a man and high school girl as they strive to make their current arrangement work. In doing so, both Yoshida and Sayu are expected to learn more about one another, as well as themselves: this is about all I can say with reasonable confidence with what I’ve seen insofar, and I’ve got no idea of where Higehiro actually ends up going beyond my own guesses. With this being said, as long as Higehiro stays true to the route it’s already established, this could prove to be an entertaining series with interesting insight as to what romance and relationships entail, well beyond the physical components. As such, I’m looking forwards to what happens next in Higehiro; this setup is as every bit as outlandish as what was seen in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, but three episodes in, Yoshida has proven to be a much more reliable and relatable male lead than Kazuya Kinoshita, whose indecisiveness and weak will was to that series’ detriment. Of course, my thoughts on Kanojo, Okarishimasu will be a story for another time.