Aoi Hana – 7
My view of Sugimoto is softening ever more now, even after the emotionally tumultuous ending of this episode.
This episode — particularly the way Sugimoto acts around, and is treated by, her family — has me more convinced than ever that many of her actions that hurt people are unwillful on her part. She is just as emotionally confused as Fumi, but it is more difficult to see because Sugimoto projects such an aura of calm and confidence outside of her home. I think the doubt that Fumi has in her right now aggravates Sugimoto to an extent, because she is not used to having anyone other than her family look at her that way. Catching what seems to be a regular dose of shit from her sisters, especially Kuri, probably made the whole thing affect her that much more.
I feel kind of bad now for looking at Sugimoto with such suspicion, really, haha. It is really interesting seeing the dynamic she has with her sisters versus what she has going at school, especially as someone who is much different around my family than I am with other people. (Although it is a bit different with me — I am more confident and open with my family, and a bit more reserved around other people.) Sugimoto has shown flashes of vulnerability around the drama teacher, but this day with her family is the first real extended look at the doubts she has and what she is trying to deal with. Kuri particularly just tears Sugimoto down and takes no prisoners.
What Kuri says to Sugimoto is pretty damn mean and vicious, but in a way it is also a reality check for Sugimoto. Kuri clearly does not believe Sugimoto’s relationship with Fumi will last. “So you love her currently?” Kuri asks. The implication is obvious — Sugimoto loves Fumi right now, but how about a week from now? A month? A year? From the way they speak to Sugimoto, I assume the family knows about her touchy feelings regarding the drama teacher. (I read a very interesting theory that Sugimoto’s sister, Kazusa, the one who taught at Acchan’s school, may have had a fling with the drama teacher, which is why Kuri accuses her of being guilty. I like that idea.) This is kind of a cruel way to get Sugimoto to confront those feelings, but as I wrote near the end of my post for ep6, I don’t believe Sugimoto can truly love Fumi until she resolves those feelings. And, for now at least, it appears as if Sugimoto does not believe she can come to terms with her past.
Before I get more into the episode, I want to give some props to Mai Nakahara for her performance as Kuri. She is a vastly different character than those I have heard from Nakahara in the past, and I doubt I would have been able to guess it is her if I had not looked it up. Maybe the second-most surprising voice of the season for me, behind Maaya Sakamoto as Alphard from Canaan (where Sakamoto is completely unrecognizable). Well done. Nakahara really nails the subtle sarcasm and weariness of this character. The way she deals with Sugimoto, you get the sense she has grown long tired of the way Sugimoto acts, haha.
Anyway, I feel bad for Fumi, too, because she does some things that make Sugimoto raise her eyebrows a bit and possibly edge a bit closer to the decision to break up, but Fumi is not really doing it on purpose. First off she drops her knowledge that Kazusa was a teacher was a teacher at Acchan’s school, which definitely surprises Sugimoto. And, if the Kazusa x drama teacher theory is correct, it probably opens up some bad wounds, as well. (Also, when Ikumi first tells Acchan about Kazusa, she also mentions that Sugimoto had invited Ikumi to meet the family, as well. I like the subtle foreshadowing there that the family meet-up will not go so well, since Ikumi and Sugimoto’s relationship did not end on a great note. Sugimoto’s bizarrely cold invitation to Sugimoto also reinforces this. Maybe, in the back of her mind, she knew this would happen all along?)
Then Fumi sort of hands Sugimoto an out by bringing up her past crush, which leads Sugimoto to think that Fumi is on the rebound, as well, and that their relationship will not work. Sugimoto feels legitimately bad later on about making that suggestion; however, that solidifies in Sugimoto’s mind that she is not yet mature enough to love Fumi. What makes me feel worse for Fumi is that she means no harm by bringing up her past troubles. She is just trying to make a connection with Sugimoto and showing her that she is not alone, despite what she may believe. And it just isolates her from Sugimoto even more. Poor Fumi.
Good episode as usual. I don’t know if Fumi and Sugimoto will drift farther apart, or if this hardship will bring them closer together, but I hope it is the latter, because I have grown warmer toward the idea of them as a couple. If the family drama develops the way I believe it will, however, then there is more rockiness to come.