Sunday, May 25, 2014

Spring 2014 Anime: One Week Friends

When I read the premise for One Week Friends, I was kind of excited.  I anticipated a dramatic story about tragedy.  So far however, One Week Friends has generally been neither dramatic nor tragic, which was disappointing at first but also pleasantly surprising.

One Week Friends largely revolves around two main characters; Yuuki Hase and Kaori Fujimiya, both high school students.  Hase is a somewhat socially inept (but not any more than you'd expect anyone his age to be) but kind young man who notices that one of his classmates, Fujimiya, is always alone and seems to have no friends whatsoever.  Steeling himself, he confronts her and asks her if they can be friends (in a manner normally reserved for romantic confessions, I might add).  She refuses.

Hase isn't so easily dissuaded however, and after some persistence he manages to convince Fujimiya to stop distancing herself from him.  After further interaction, she slowly reveals that the reason she avoids relationships with others is to prevent hurting their feelings.  You see, Fujimiya has a mental condition that limits her ability to remember her friends to a single week.  Each Monday she wakes up with no recollection whatsoever of anyone that she has befriended in the past week.  Naturally, this has made it quite difficult for her to maintain friendships, and so she has long since stopped trying, and for the benefit of others tries to avoid getting too close to anyone.

However, Hase isn't ready to give up.  He wants to help Fujimiya and prevent her from feeling lonely, even if that means suffering the pain of being forgotten by her every week.  One Week Friends follows his efforts to cure Fujimiya's condition while also gradually reintroducing her to the concepts and activities that come with friendship and social interaction.

Truly, this is the setup for a gutwrenchingly sad and depressing show (a la Ef), but One Week Friends is neither.  Instead, it takes a refreshingly optimistic approach that is both lighthearted and realistic.  It can be serious, but is never depressing and rarely sad.  Further, the cast--though small--is quite strong.  Hase can be infuriatingly clingy and foolish at times, but his heart is generally in the right place.  And he has his friend Shougo to keep him in line.  The straight man to Hase's idealistic tendencies, Shougo is a straight shooter who will never bullshit you, even if that means telling you something you don't want to hear.

So far, my only problem with One Week Friends has been the nature of Fujimiya's illness.  It's an oddly specific condition that only targets friends; acquaintances, family members and anyone else she knows are unaffected.  The problem here is that friendship is an inherently nebulous concept.  At what point are you close enough to Fujimiya to be a candidate for her to forget you?  How do romantic relationships factor in?  Questions like these plagued me throughout the show, and though it has begun to expand on the origin of this condition, it's hard for me to shake the feeling the writers are exploiting its vagueness.

One Week Friends is an uncomplicated show with a lot of heart and boundless optimism that even extends to its colorful visuals and simple art style.  I'm still disappointed that someone isn't crying their heart out every other episode, but I'm also very interested to see where it goes instead.

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