When I watch Yuzuko Nonohara, I am oddly comforted. She also makes me a bit sad.
Yuyushiki has layers upon layers of friendships, beginning with the original trio of Yuzuko, Yui Ichii, and Yukari Hinata, and extending outward to a tertiary trio of Chiho Aikawa, Kei Okano, and Fumi Hasegawa. Each relationship between pairs is different. Each relationship between trios is different. Additionally, these relationships are framed by characters’ inner thoughts. Although the audience is not directly privy to personal reflection from each individual all too often, their thoughts are expanded upon through stunningly expressive visuals and nuanced actions.
For example, Chiho Aikawa is an acquaintance who yearns to be part of the original trio, but holds herself back. She finds herself unable to fully commit to the silliness that Yuzuko and Yukari bring, while simultaneously admiring them for it. To her, the three appear impossibly tight-knit, without cares or worries, and although she yearns to be a part of it, she can’t let herself go enough to commit. The end result is that she becomes closer to the three, but remains on the outside. She continues to admire their friendship from afar, while they continue to see her as an ideal student and all-around good girl.
Delving a bit further, Yuzuko herself is a bit of an outsider within the main group of three, although an outsider like Chiho would never recognize it. Episode five reveals that Yukari and Yui are childhood friends, having met and incorporated Yuzuko into the group far later. This automatically places Yuzuko a bit further than both Yui and Yukari, as those two have a shared history without Yuzuko. Unlike Chiho – whose restraint is made obvious – Yuzuko commits to being silly with the group, with her and Yukari forming a fierce pair while Yui plays the straight man. However, Yuzuko is still holding herself back in terms of opening up to her two closest friends. She would rather be silly than be seen as studious – in spite of the series making a point of her intelligence – and her overexuberance covertly places her slightly further from, not closer to, Yukari and Yui with their natural chemistry.
Opening up to others is scary. It sounds stupid to say it. It is also obvious to a vast majority of people, including myself and possibly you who is reading this post. Yuzuko is relatable in the way she uses over-the-top gestures and jokes to get a grin out of anyone and everyone while additionally keeping them at arm’s length. There are many ways that one can do this – my personal, preferred, method is through self-deprecation – but the end result is the same: if you don’t fully commit to opening up to others, you may not make a lot of close friends. This is the situation that I find myself in currently and it hurts, but is no fault of anyone but myself. It’s also a pattern that I’ve found myself in on multiple occasions. I will become just close enough to a person, or group of people, before putting up a wall. Suddenly, they are still close, if not closer, to one another, while I’m slightly outside of the group. If I persist with keeping myself distant – often afraid to intrude or barge in – I will become not Yuzuko, but further removed from the group like Chiho.
Watching Yuzuko is comforting because it reminds me that there are possibly millions of Yuzukos out there, just like me. It becomes sad when I think of all the missed opportunities I, and those other Yuzukos, may have had. Thinking about it now, it also makes me hopeful, as Yuzuko is still very close with both Yukari and Yui. Yuyushiki‘s twelfth, and final, episode shows the main trio goofing off and having fun with each other over summer vacation, before the start to another school year. Their actions are framed by a conversation that their teacher, Yoriko Matsumoto, is having with one of her high school friends whom she is presumably still close with. Yoriko speaks of how her perspective on summer’s end has changed; however, she still sounds happy, chatting with her friend about how much they used to dread the upcoming school year.