Saturday, February 10, 2018

Maturity in What Did You Eat Yesterday

One of my favorite slice-of-life examples of how people change and grow with time comes from What Did You Eat Yesterday?, namely Shiro's relationship with his parents.

At the beginning of the series, Shiro and Kenji have been together for about 3 years. Shiro has a normal age-40ish fond-but-exasperated relationship with his parents, specifically with his mom. He loves them but...

Consequently, he complains to Kenji about going home for New Year's (which in the U.S. is rather like complaining about going home for Thanksgiving PLUS Christmas).

To Shiro's surprise, Kenji is miffed (see panel). Startled (since Kenji is normally a happy-go-lucky kind-of guy), Shiro agrees to "go be good to his folks." This one time agreement turns into several years of Shiro spending New Year's at his parents' rebuilding their semi-aloof relationship (they were never estranged, simply not close).

When a later New Year's visit to his parents with Kenji doesn't go well (Shiro's parents request Shiro not to bring Kenji the next year), Shiro decides that he needs to commit more to Kenji--he should be spending his New Year's with his long-term partner. He should invest (see post on Ross and Rachel) in the relationship that will probably see him into old age.

He informs his parents in a calm manner of his decision. He is blunt but not angry or blaming, and he assures them that he will still visit to help them with cleaning, hospital stays, and such.

Here's where Fumi Yoshinaga truly excels: although Shiro apologizes to Kenji for leaving him alone for so many New Year's, Shiro was not in fact ready at the beginning of the series to make the decision that he ends up making. His "I don't want to spend New Year's with my parents" at that time was childish (as Kenji recognized). His decision several years later is thought-out and mature.

The outcome might be the same but the thought process, the growth, is completely different. It is a remarkable instance of character building and proves, moreover, that non-melodramatic character growth can be as profound and interesting in its own way as a million soap operatic moments.