Trigger and Spoiler Warning: If you happen to have trouble with themes of sexual assault, parental abuse, coercion, trauma management, and suicide, you may want to skip this post, as well as the anime series for Higehiro. Yes, that's a lot. We get heavy today.
I went into watching this show, not really knowing what to expect, but certainly figuring on it being something different from what it turned out to be. With the only information I was given being that a Japanese salaryman picks up a high school age girl on his way home from work, and has her live with him, given the history of anime, I assumed this was going to go a particular way. This wound up being a really hard show to watch at times, because I shared a lot of experiences with our cast, and had a moment in my life where this was very nearly me, but I wouldn't have been so lucky in the end more than likely.
We've established that the beginning concept of this series is that Yoshida, a salaryman who is drunk on his way home, invites a girl named Sayu to stay at his place for the night, because she's run away from home and has nowhere to go. This turns into a deal to have her stay with him, until she can manage to sort some things out.
Very quickly you see that this girl is far more broken than she seems. She's using survival mechanisms commonly seen in abuse victims, and Yoshida, not knowing this, often gets frustrated by it because he wants her to learn to be genuine. On more than one occasion, Sayu pushes for sex, eventually saying that she doesn't understand what worth she has there if he isn't taking it from her body. The only sense of self worth she has is via her sexuality, because it was how she survived for months on end. Sayu is turned down however, to the point where she is told that if she pushes again, she'll be told to leave.
As Yoshida shows her further kindness, and encourages her to do for herself, she eventually gets a part time job, where she starts making her own friends and connections. Sayu is then further encouraged to use her own voice, and not just depend on the tactics she's needed just to stay alive. Even with running into someone else she had stayed with, and his attempts to blackmail her into sex, she manages to build a support structure of people in her world, who give her the gentle guidance she needs to find herself, and become a strong, and whole person.
Later in the series, we find out that Sayu has had to use some amount of these abuse survival tactics her entire life. Her home life was horrible, and when her only friend winds up killing herself due to dealing with bullies, Sayu's own mother accuses her of killing the friend, taking on victimhood of how she'll be seen, as Sayu is still in grief. Sayu ran away to process, and work past the abuse she had grown up in, only to find more as soon as she left. She has never known a life outside of being in survival mode, and has no idea how to function when she has moments of relief from it.
Even when she eventually does go home, she's immediately attacked by her mother, who doesn't spare a moment before moving right into physically abusive behaviors. This is the kind of thing that I've seen people wind up having legitimate triggers from, and spend their lives trying to grow past in years of therapy. In the end, she's basically told to finish school before she's getting kicked out of her family, but at that point, she knows she has the support waiting for her that it's a blessing in disguise.
There's so much here. The writing is solid, especially for those who know the signs of abuse in victims. It shows the gentle guidance necessary for growth that doesn't create dependencies on new people. It shows that over time people can get past their traumas, and develop a strong sense of self. That trauma management is a long process, that takes time even just to feel safe acknowledging, before ever getting to work on actually healing.
Even on Yoshida's end, as a character who is turned down, and lightly manipulated through the series, we see him getting over a fear of intimacy, and building a platonic love and connection. We see relationships form on multiple levels, and the importance of having others in our lives.
I expected a lot of typical anime tropes from this. I expected this to verge on hentai, and I couldn't be happier to be wrong. If it's safe for you to watch this series, and especially if you haven't dealt with these things in your own life, this could be incredibly eye-opening to many on how unlucky some people are in the life they begin with. It's not a happy fun show, but it's an important one.