“Everyone has a feeling they can’t give a name to. Everyone does. And it makes all of us hurt inside.”
-Kunio Yaobi, Tamako Market episode two.
Yuyushiki‘s obsession with constantly shuffling its cards gives way to a far more straightforward hand in its eighth episode. Rather than continue to deliberately pair off characters from the two groups of three to point out the various relationship dynamics present, episode eight shows the cliques interacting more directly with each other in the classroom as both usher in a new school year. For the primary trio of Yui, Yukari, and Yuzuko, a new year means much of the same: their afternoons in the Data Processing Club, teasing their teacher, and setting Yui up for whatever joke catches their attention at that moment.
In contrast, the secondary unit of the series (made up of Chiho, Kei, and Fumi) is still in a bit of disarray. Chiho furthers her attempt to draw closer to Yui, Yukari, and Yuzuko, although the series makes every opportunity to remind us that she doesn’t fit in with their weirdness. When teased by the Yuzuko she doesn’t know how to respond, and when set up for the same jokes she doesn’t know how to finish them. Yui may be the “straight man,” or the most direct member of the primary trio; however, she is always willing to acquiesce to Yukari and Yuzuko’s craziness, something that Chiho is unable to wholly commit herself to doing. Meanwhile, Kei continues to long for Chiho without the self-awareness to recognize her own feelings. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you view her interference, she has Fumi.
“You actually like Chiho, don’t you Kei?”
-Fumi Hasegawa, Yuyushiki episode eight.
Fumi remains fascinating to me, with one half of her genuinely wanting for Kei to recognize her own feelings while the other half calls Kei her plaything. Straddling the line between supportive friend and master puppeteer, she executes her own experiments through pointed remarks that she directs toward both Kei and Yui, albeit at separate times.
To Kei, Fumi says the above before remarking on how happy Chiho looks while she’s talking to Yui. To her credit, Kei doesn’t become immediately flustered and deny these feelings. Instead, she thinks on them before becoming jealous enough to take her frustrations out on Fumi by bopping her on the head repeatedly. Still unable to give a name to her feelings, she reacts awkwardly to both Yui and Chiho throughout the entire episode. This begins in the very first scene of the episode, captured above, where she instinctively claims Chiho for herself by giving her a bone-crushing hug in front of the main group. It ends below, visually book-ended in an off-balance and stiff conversation with Yui about Chiho.
Kei’s battle to come to terms with her own feelings, and the fact that Yuyushiki treats it at all seriously, brings to mind the recent series Tamako Market and the similar situation that Midori Tokiwa must deal with. In her realization that she has romantic feelings for her best friend, Tamako Kitashirakawa, Midori stews over her emotions for the entirety of the second episode before accepting them. Additionally, in spite of her acceptance, Midori comes to recognize not only her inability to express her feelings to Tamako properly, but also the futility of them.
Tamako Market is not nearly as concerned with shuffling its pieces to reveal the hidden depths of its characters and their dynamic; however, it does wholeheartedly focus on the genuine nature of the relationships that they develop with each other. Midori is pitted against the hapless Mochizou Ouji, Tamako’s childhood friend, in her bid to capture Tamako’s heart. The nature of their rivalry comes to a head in the fifth episode where Midori awkwardly asserts her dominance, and position as Tamako’s best friend, over Mochizou’s attempts to confess his own feelings to Tamako. Following a dust-up between the two, of which Tamako is blissfully unaware, Midori asks Tamako how she feels about Mochizou. Tamako answers predictably, saying that he’s her childhood friend and “mochi-making buddy.” Midori then asks how Tamako feels about her and Tamako responds with an immediate, “I love you!” Her face falling, Midori replies with a heartbreaking thank you, knowing that her feelings will never be returned.
“Oh, shut up.”
-An exchange between Midori and Mochizou (respectively), Tamako Market episode five.
At the end of the episode, Midori and Mochizou end up reaching an understanding. Neither of them confesses their love to Tamako and they settle into a comfortable pattern of teasing each other, as shown in the exchange above. Having a similar interest in Tamako, along with being placed in like positions when it comes to following through with said interest (although Midori’s position is more precarious and difficult) allows them to support each other, if only for this one episode.
Fumi may be in a similar position, as the series ever-so-slightly hints that she may have feelings for Kei. Her conversation with Yui can be seen as an assertion of dominance, either as a friend or otherwise; however, it can also be taken as a warning for Yui, Yukari, and Yuzuko not to mind Kei’s sometimes awkward and stunted behavior. Like Midori’s treatment in Tamako Market, Yuyushiki will most likely not fully address Kei’s romantic feelings, but it continues to do an incredible job of showing how nameless emotions simmering underneath the surface of everyday interactions can have incredible power.