It’s just one thing after another with these two, isn’t it? It seemed like we were making some genuine progress through their Christmas date, but then Adachi pulled her usual disappearing act, resurfacing just in time to get anxious all over again about Valentine’s Day. Then, when it seemed the two of them were actually inching towards some sort of mutual understanding, Shimamura’s original Adachi-like lamprey appears, eager to rekindle a personal relationship with her. Considering Adachi’s profound insecurities regarding her importance to Shimamura, I imagine we’re in for a real charnel house of a Valentine’s Day celebration.
That said, our leads have made some key, undeniable steps forward in terms of their psychological conflicts. Both of them have admitted that the other’s presence has “returned some color” to their world, a clear enough metaphor for rising above the muffling haze of depression. Additionally, they’re each starting to recognize the differences in how they perceive each other; Adachi understands that Shimamura doesn’t reciprocate her overwhelming passion, while Shimamura is doing her best to respect Adachi’s intense feelings. They’re close enough now that the idea of genuinely honest conversation is no longer a distant dream – so of course, here comes Tarumi to throw a wrench in the works. Let’s wince our way through the fallout for another episode of Adachi and Shimamura!
And so the fabled day arrives
We open with a Yashiro sequence in that signature letterbox format, as she demands chocolate from Shimamura. I’d specifically associated the letterbox with moments of heightened fantasy for the characters, which generally meant something like Adachi’s romantic daydreams, but I suppose every moment with Yashiro also applies
Shimamura is clearly still mostly asleep, qualifying this as one of those experiences where you’re not sure if it really happened or you just dreamed it
Yashiro and Little Shimamura handling Valentine’s Day with more honesty and maturity than our intrepid leads
Meanwhile, Adachi is a mess, and couldn’t sleep at all the night before
Her room is basically depression incarnate; no decorations, and everything cast in a suffocating blue shade
“Can you still hang out?” “I sure can.” How is Shimamura so good at conveying her snarky, disinterested tone through three-word text messages?
“Maybe Shimamura started hibernating in her kotatsu and wouldn’t come out.” Adachi knows her too well; she was hibernating in her kotatsu just last episode
And Tarumi sends Shimamura another text in the morning. Shimamura has so far been able to accept Adachi’s affection without any real conflict, because Adachi wasn’t competing with any other strain on her time or affection. Now, Shimamura might be forced to actually choose Adachi, which is a far more meaningful emotional step
“I got it, so don’t worry.” Shimamura reassures Adachi about the chocolate, but it actually has the opposite of the intended effect, as Adachi now feels like Shimamura’s puppy. But I mean, she basically is Shimamura’s puppy – hopelessly in love with someone who’s more often just politely accepting of her affection, rather than capable of reciprocating it. Adachi’s desperate passion and Shimamura’s tolerant curiosity make for a wildly uneven power dynamic
“But I mean, if I was a puppy, Shimamura could hold me. I could curl up on her lap…” GODDAMNIT ADACHI YOU’RE MISSING THE POINT
The two head to Nagoya, so Adachi can actually buy some dang chocolate
This show’s color filters are quite effective for conveying stuff like the warmth of Shimamura’s smile from Adachi’s perspective
“You don’t have to change to your Chinese dress, do you?” “I-if you want me to…” Oh my god these two. Adachi actually does her best to reciprocate Shimamura’s flirting, but can only manage one of her usual puppy squeaks
Shimamura actually seems far more upbeat than usual – she’s got a lot of energy, and is consistently making jokes and pushing the conversation forward
The two play a game of shiritori, every translator’s least favorite game
As the two at last exchange chocolates, we learn that Shimamura actually bought from this same exact store, on her outing with Tarumi. This fact is an emotional landmine; Shimamura has no idea how much learning about Tarumi would impact Adachi
Oh my god, they basically had the same exact date that Shimamura’s now sharing with Adachi
Tarumi seems to have grown into a fairly confident teenager, and speaks easily with Shimamura
“I used to be insanely cheerful, super friendly, dumb, and free… I wonder if that’s what Tarumi expects me to be now.” Oof, that one cuts deep. It’s a tough thing, reuniting with old friends and being reminded of your own past selves, versions of yourself that you can no longer recapture. We are always changing, but our memories hold firm – and when our memories are contradicted by our changing identities, we acutely feel the loss of the people we once were, and the closeness we shared with old friends who’ve also become new people. Worse still, we all change at different paces, meaning old friends can make you feel either the guilt of leaving others behind, or the terror of being left behind
“That’s why being with Tarumi is sorta uncomfortable. It’s different, but I feel a bit like Adachi right now.” Good insight by Shimamura. She now feels Adachi’s need to constantly be performing for someone else, playing some version of herself that won’t drive that person away
“Reality doesn’t change as gracefully as memories”
Shimamura accompanies her chocolates with a sterile “congrats.” I love this girl
I really appreciate how well this show captures the frequent aimlessness of both conversations and life more generally as an adolescent. These two have wandering conversations to fill space, and strain to think of activities that generally find them right back at the mall. There’s so much awkward dead air as a teenager, so much nervous silence and waiting for something to happen
Adachi seems to actually get one over on Shimamura here, making her genuinely nervous when she offers a hand-fed chocolate
Oh damn, Shimamura had her own Valentine’s Day activities planned, too! I think this is the most we’ve ever seen her actually commit to a date with Adachi, and not just consent to being dragged along
“I think we were expecting this to be a lot more fun. There were probably more things that should have happened.” Man, Shimamura’s outing with Tarumi is intensely real. It’s such a hollow, melancholy feeling – meeting up with someone you were once close with, and feeling like a stranger in their presence. It’s no one’s fault, and you both wish it were otherwise, but sometimes the spark of a relationship can only linger in memory, not in reality
In contrast, just receiving one of Adachi’s clumsy texts brings a smile to Shimamura’s face. Through the emotionally inert reality of this meeting with Tarumi, hopefully Shimamura will be better able to recognize how much she actually enjoys being with Adachi
Incidentally, I’m delighted the story is using Tarumi to illustrate the vivid melancholy of growing apart, rather than throwing in some contrived love triangle business. AdaShima has trounced my expectations!
At last, she remembers Tarumi’s old nickname, offering at least some catharsis to this reunion
“My past is connected by briars, so when I try to reflect on it, I’m hurt by my incomplete self from the past. And yet there are times I want to reach into the briars. Even if that means I prick myself and bleed.” This feels like a big step for Shimamura! Before, she’d basically abandon any sort of relationship the moment it became difficult, as she had no emotional investment in basically anything. But now that Adachi has given her a bond she cares about, she’s beginning to see the value of her other bonds, and accepting that the pain is worth it to stay connected to these people
“What exactly did you mean by ‘I hope we stay close?’ Like, friendship?” Oh Adachi. Once again, her principle strategy is “slowly nudge closer to Shimamura until she admits we’re married”
“No more surprise glomps!” Now that’s a word I haven’t heard in a long, long time
“You want to hug me? Uh, why?” Shimamura you are so cruel
And of course, Adachi instead trips and headbutts Shimamura’s boobs
Ahh, what glorious messes these two are. I am beyond thankful to acknowledge that this was nothing like the disaster I’d imagined. Instead of Tarumi instigating a wave of jealousy and insecurity on Adachi’s part, she actually served to reaffirm Shimamura’s emotional growth, illustrating through contrast how much Shimamura values Adachi’s friendship. At the same time, her reunion with Shimamura was also just a rich emotional experience in its own right, as Shimamura experienced the exquisite melancholy of looking at your own former self. This was a poignant, insightful episode on the whole, and in the end we even received a generous helping of the lovey-dovey clumsiness that makes our lead pair so charming. A successful Valentine’s Day after all!
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