I was never the first to do anything of my group of high school friends. As we all slowly trickled into adulthood at different speeds, it was the responsibility of whichever person who experienced something first to report back to the rest of us, usually at our cafeteria lunch table.
Therefore, when my friend Jackie became the first of us to have sex, we eagerly awaited her report. Naturally, she struggled with placing an intangible feeling within the limited realm of the English vocabulary. In the end, she described it as something awkward, followed by “the stars exploded.” These exact words stuck with me far beyond what I presume Jackie intended. We drifted apart once we both began attending university, not for any reason other than the standard one of moving in different directions. However, when my time did eventually come, I immediately thought of Jackie’s words after the fact and laughed.
The yuri manga Octave, by Haru Akiyama, presents a similar situation to my personal experience through the character of Yukino Miyashita who, in attempting to understand her own sexuality and what sex means to her, thinks back on her friend Mika’s succinct description of sex as, “WAAHH~”
Complicating the situation far more than the simple act of friends drifting apart, as Jackie and I did, is the fact that Mika and Yukino were formerly in the idol group She’sN together. Mika has gone on to become an incredibly popular idol under the alias of Kurusu Chisato while Yukino is struggling to discover what she truly wants for herself. It’s telling that when Yukino thinks of Mika, this “WAAHH~” remark is one of the first things that comes to mind.
Yukino constantly tells herself that she and Mika no longer have anything in common thanks to Mika’s fame. Where Mika was once her closest friend, Yukino only sees her as a relic of her own failed past, and uses the excuse of Mika’s career achievements as a way to further distance herself from not only Mika, but the group that she was once a part of and her own previous life goals. She presumes that Mika feels similarly, and is only attempting to stay in contact with her out of pity. When Mika invites Yukino to spend a rare day off together, Yukino sets out reluctantly, telling herself that it will be acceptable to leave early as Mika will quickly discover that they have no common ground. Thinking of Mika in tandem with her description of sex as, “WAAHH~” only serves to help Yukino further visualize the gap between her and Mika. In Yukino’s mind, they are different people due to Mika’s successful idol career and additionally her experiences as a person prior to said accomplishments. When Jackie leaned in over that lunch table to share her experiences with us, the uninitiated, it felt like an odd rite of passage that we couldn’t possibly understand fully.
It’s incredibly easy to distance yourself from others, especially if they are lauded as successful in comparison to yourself, or you identify them as having more experience than you. Yukino is told repeatedly, by a few different parties, that she should have used Mika’s success to restart her own career. When Yukino tells Mika this, her response is nothing but supportive and positive, the very opposite of what one would presume a successful idol would think of a friend’s attempt to ride her coattails. For every attempt that Yukino makes to distance herself from Mika, Mika pulls her back in, presumably using Yukino as an anchor, allowing herself to move forward without losing sight of what was once, and arguably still is, very important to her personally. Through their reunion, and resulting conversation, Mika admits that it was Yukino’s affirmation that, of all people, Mika would be able to have success as an idol, that inspired her while working towards that goal. Subsequently, Mika pushes back on Yukino, who is continuously making excuses for herself as to why she hasn’t accomplished her own goals.
“There is no common ground between us anymore. It is all because…no matter what I do, I’ve always left things unfinished. I’m such a fool.”
-Yukino Miyashita, Octave, Volume 3, Chapter 16
Yukino goes in to her day with Mika with the mindset that the two have drifted far apart thanks to Mika’s success. However, following their conversation, Yukino realizes that this is the case due to her own perception, not Mika’s. When one drifts apart from someone, it’s all too easy to blame them, or their station in life, as the cause. The reality, like Yukino’s realization in this chapter of Octave, can be an entirely different story. Mika doesn’t remember her own “WAAHH~” line, but she remembers is Yukino’s encouragement and friendship.
One is rarely able to guess at how others will remember them. An awkwardly-phrased comment about what an orgasm feels like, or a strong affirmation of encouragement can carry weight in the mind of another that far exceeds their initial intention. If I want to reconnect with others, like Yukino, I’m going to have to learn to put aside my own self-doubt, fear, and perception of how others see my position in life in order to communicate just how much I actually care. I haven’t finished Octave, and I’m certain that there will be many more bittersweet moments as Yukino struggles with her own transition into adulthood, but I am certainly eager to see how Yukino will move forward from this point.