I’m getting old.
It’s not the kind of aging on which Sing “Yesterday” For Me has trained its sights on.
That type of aging, at risk of offending the majority of people who read this who will definitely be significantly younger than me, is a relatively young type of aging. It’s the post-university ennui. You’ve been told time and time again by people older than you — and that one acquaintance who actually managed to get a good job upon graduation and is rather obnoxious about it — that you really should have figured out what you want to do by this point in life. These same people also may have told you that whatever you actually wanted to do in life — photography, in the case of Sing “Yesterday” For Me‘s Rikuo Uozumi — wasn’t lucrative enough to have a career in. They (probably) meant the best for you by saying this, or at least thought that they did.
Sing “Yesterday” For Me not only reminded me of my past self at this specific time, but also the self that immediately followed. The one that looked back on that initial, fresh-from-graduation self and thought with a relieved sigh, “I’m so happy that I finally got through all that.”
My fresh-from-graduation self was a bit of an asshole.
Rikuo is at this exact point in his life, fresh from graduation with no job other than being a part-timer at a convenience store. He’s also not unaware of his situation, nor does he blame anyone else but himself for landing in it. This, as several other characters point out to him, is an obnoxious and toxic self-fulfilling prophecy. Rikuo deliberately sets low expectations for himself and doesn’t try as a precursor “gotcha!” whenever others, he himself, or the universe at large calls him out on it.
He’s already beat you to the impending insult.
I’ve been here. It’s not a good place.
At the presumed time of Rikuo’s graduation, Japan was in the initial throes of an economic stagnation. A cursory glance at any article about “The Lost Decade” reveals a landscape eerily similar to that which faces United States’ university graduates currently, only with a growing pandemic and an ineffectual government on the top. It doesn’t excuse Rikuo’s behavior, but it makes it even more unsurprising. His type of self-centeredness is as grating as it is resonant.
Rikuo seemingly only cares about two parts of his life. The first is his relationship with former classmate Shinako Morinome, who he appears to have put on an alarmingly high pedestal, admiring what he perceives as security from already having found her life’s calling in teaching. Whether this is actually true remains to be seen.
The second is photography.
Photographs are one of the only things that Rikuo has bothered to put away in his mess of a room, showing a care and attention to detail that he lacks with everything else in his life. Even his jean cuffs are ripped — we see this as he’s lazily slipping out of his tied shoes and stepping directly on them — either because he cannot afford new ones or simply doesn’t care. Hilariously, the first photograph he takes is the stereotypical dude with camera shot of a cute girl in Haru Nonaka for the completely unrelated “Snow White” demo tape that Kinoshita handed off to Rikuo at work. (It’s definitely not a coincidence that Rikuo’s closest coworker is in a band and working at the convenience store presumably to make ends meet.)
Rikuo is relatable, but too gloomy to carry this show for me. He doesn’t even believe in yesterday himself, knowing that his own lack of direction or motivation helped lead him to where he is now.
Despite its prescient nature to current events, Sing “Yesterday” For Me ultimately made me feel old because I’ve already been there and come out the other side (hopefully as a better person but honestly it’s always a work in progress, I’m still remarkably self-centered). Perhaps watching this will inspire me to examine my own thoughts on aging, albeit an aging that will happen to these characters down the road.
Ultimately, it’s Sing “Yesterday” For Me‘s visual direction that instills the most hope, despite a setup that could easily become a rote love triangle complete with quirky Haru as Rikuo’s “muse.”
And if that happens, I can always rewatch Honey and Clover.