Sing “Yesterday” for Me (イエスタデイをうたって) is a seinen, coming-of-age anime adaptation of the original manga series authored by Kei Tōme. It aired during the Spring 2020 simulcast season and was produced by Doga Kobo with direction from Yoshiyuki Fujiwara. The series ran for twelve episodes and a handful of shorts. When the Spring season began, this was one of the few serials that immediately caught my eye due to its premise, genre, and overall artistic style. While the finale was not exactly satisfying, the anime as a whole was quite excellent, especially for more mature watchers of the medium.
Sing “Yesterday” for Me revolves around three main individuals. There’s the university graduate, Rikuo Uozumi, who’s having trouble finding decent work post-college. The woman he had a crush on during his Uni days, Shinako Morinome, who is suffering from the long-term grieving process of losing a loved one. Finally, Haru Nonaka, an eccentric young girl with a pet crow who has developed romantic feelings for Uozumi. Their lives are loosely intertwined as they navigate their present existences towards an uncertain future.
This was an excellent anime in multiple ways. The more technical elements that I enjoyed were the artistic style, the soft musical score, and the scrumptious Japanese dishes. While these things really make the show standout aesthetically, the main themes that are explored is ultimately what drew me in week after week. As someone that is addicted to character-focused narratives, watching three individuals trying to stay afloat in a sea of insecurities and past baggage was truly fascinating and engrossing. In the end, the anime was a marvellous piece of wisdom about learning to place the past completely behind us in order to make the most of our futures, and also with opening up opportunities for us to grow as people, particularly where romance is involved.
When some of us have a crush on someone, we unintentionally place expectations upon them. We fantasise about what it would be like to be in a relationship with them. Shared interests sparkle in the imagery with differences being endearing and cute. However, when we do that, we also set ourselves up for immense disappointment because it closes us off to the possibility that they shall be far removed from the fantasies that our hearts and minds have conjured up.
For example, when Uozumi sees Morinome and builds a friendship with her, he has no idea that she has a devastating event in her past that has emotionally incapacitated her, stunted her ability to look past that event and plan for a future with another person. Instead, he sees this very attractive, quietly reserved, and sophisticated woman that he is drawn to. His dreams of dating her blossom from these expectations that he’s built inside of himself. As they engage more and more with one another in the present time, he’s always referring to these and other delightful moments from their college years that keeps his feelings for her alive.
This whole portion of the anime is what I loved the absolute most because of how powerfully relatable it is for many, many people. Being in a situation that makes you unhappy makes it incredibly easy to ruminate over things that once did bring us joy. Such has hanging out with old chums, going on camping trips, pushing back beers—all that jazz. It becomes irresistible to fixate on it and to constantly try and bring those memories back to life. It’s safer to live in the familiarity from the happiness of the past than is to search for joy in an uncertain and murky future. The whole anime is about just this thing.
With Morinome, she experiences great loss in the adolescent chapters of her life, which prevent her from opening herself up to anyone for many years afterwards. There are two individuals who pine for her. The closeness and intimacy of her bonds with each of them differ. Some part of her recognises that she’s leading them on emotionally; she knows she has to decide, yet she’s completely unable to do so because of the fear of loss that debilitates her. They are the only people who help her manage her intense loneliness and she doesn’t want to lose their comforts. This inability to part ways with her grief and her past prevents her from finding joy in the present; the uncertainty of which individual is the “right” choice forces her to hold on to that same grief because it’s familiar and reliable.
When we refuse to leave the bubble of our histories, especially when they were more pleasant and exciting and even comforting than our presents, it causes us to become so far removed from the present and moving forward that we stay stagnated, sometimes for years or decades. But realising that the past is gone and can’t be duplicated, then understanding what that means and finally accepting it—that’s what growing up is about, and ultimately what it means to move beyond Yesterday.
I know many watchers had issues and complaints with how indecisive Morinome was being with the two folx who cared for her or with how Uozumi kept Nonaka at bay (due to his refusal to let go of the idea of what his crush represented, which was the carefree effervescence of being young), and while they did frustrate me at times, I also felt that the tension it created was perfect for this exposition of getting trapped with the familiar faces of a long-lapsed youthful remembrance. That’s why I believe that more mature watchers, people who have probably felt the charming pull of their memories and have yearned for the same sort of experiences in their present, may relate to this anime much more than the younger otaku folx. I know that this theme really smacked me hard and was so deeply relatable as to even help me recognise why I was feeling thoroughly cemented in place and hopeless. (Additionally, this is a common theme in a lot of Japanese literature, which I’m vehemently obsessed with, so that may be another reason why I was so taken with it.)
The animation quality is gorgeous. It’s so dainty and elegant with very thin and soft outlines, the attention to detail of facial expressions, scenery, and shots of food. The colours were delicately muted, reminding me of a faded picture. The flashbacks were done in a narrower widescreen format with textured backgrounds and more watercolour-infused artistry, some of them even had a sepia-ish filter to them. The concentration on yesterday or events from yesteryear were just so gracefully done. I absolutely love it when anime serials get creative and integrate the visuals into the narrative’s motif, which is exactly what Sing “Yesterday” for Me does.
The same can be said about the musical score. It wasn’t heavy-handed at all but utilised a decent amount of classic instruments to help evoke emotions during pivotal scenes. Most of the anime elapses in near silence, making the dialogue exchanges more impactful, but when the score does arise, it’s a superb complement to whatever is unfolding on-screen.
Overall, Sing “Yesterday” for Me is probably one of my favourite anime for the year. I do feel that if the final episode were split into two segments, given the exchanges and events that occur within it, it would have really made everything near perfect. Having it smooshed down into a single 24-minute viewing just made it feel way too rushed, which was an injustice to the gradual pacing and overall storytelling style of the series up to that point. Either way, though, it’s still a wonderful anime that I highly recommend to people that don’t mind a slower-burn, coming-of-age tale that’s very much character-centric. If you’re indifferent to those things, then watch it for the visuals at the very least. It’s truly beautiful.
You can catch Sing “Yesterday” for Me over on CrunchyRoll.