Romance anime is a genre filled with stories that follow this simple pattern: a male protagonist is dissatisfied with his life because of his lack of direction, romance, money, or all of the above. However, their boring life is shaken to the core when, for whatever reason, they have to live with a beautiful young woman and keep it a secret to avoid complicating their formerly boring life even further.
The circumstances of the fated meeting vary, but the general idea is that two people who have never met before now live together and must take on the challenges of life together! Hige wo Soru, Soshite Joshikosei wo Hirou (Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway) is a show that follows the same format, but there are several things that make this new anime stand out. With only one episode out so far, there’s only so much we can tell about a new show, but perhaps we’ve seen enough to know this show’s deal!
Higehiro follows the 26-year-old salaryman Yoshida, who is rejected by the woman he is romantically interested in and goes drinking with his close friend and colleague to vent. He goes home drunk and stumbles upon a 17-year-old girl named Sayu who claims to have nowhere to go and asks Yoshida if she can stay over at his place for the night. Yoshida tells her that no one would want to let a stranger stay over at their place for free, so Sayu attempts to seduce him, implying that she will perform sexual favours in return for housing. Unwilling to leave the young girl alone by herself, Yoshida lets her stay over; however, it grows increasingly clear that she has not had a stable place to stay for quite some time and he is taken aback by her brazen offering of sex in return for his hospitality.
While at his place, Sayu attempts to seduce him several times, but a drunk Yoshida keeps telling her that he has no sexual interest in a child like herself. With each attempt, Yoshida begins to clock that Sayu has been staying with bottom-barrel human beings who would use her situation to their sick advantage and decides that he will let her stay with him at least until she is ready to get back home. The only thing he wants from her is for her to do all the household chores and get a part-time job to make money for herself.
Yoshida is a fairly nice guy, but different from the standard main character in his situation. While he has moments where it feels like he is leering at his new roommate, he is resolute in his adult decision to not expect or solicit sexual favours from a young girl. Sayu herself has been out on the street for 6 months having run away from her home all the way in Hokkaido, so there is no telling what kind of things a young girl out on her own has had to do or see to survive for that long. The show is promising and sets things up for a series that could turn out to have lots of wholesome moments, but it is most definitely uncomfortable in certain respects, particularly the age difference and fan service.
An incredibly unsettling trend with slice of life or romance anime of this variety is their tendency to have characters involved in rather inappropriate, age-gap relationships. In Higehiro, our main character Yoshida is a 26-year-old salaryman, while the high schooler he takes in is only 17 years old. Many anime that came before this one have gone the romance route with such a pairing, but there are several problems that come with the romanticization of a romantic relationship between an adult and a minor. Such relationships are normalized by so many different types of media, especially anime, so Higehiro is set up in a way that implies such a direction.
While we do get uncomfortable amounts of fan service in the first episode, it is used to reveal certain contextual elements about both our characters—firstly, that Yoshida is attempting to be a responsible adult who has contempt for people who take advantage of others (possibly because of his very recent rejection) and secondly, that Sayu is in a situation so precarious that she is desensitized to using her body in return for a roof over her head.
Whatever it is she has gone through must have been truly traumatizing. Yoshida’s consistent awareness of the age gap between himself and his new companion is refreshing and instantly makes him a different, more likable kind of generic nice-guy protagonist. His rejection of Sayu’s “advances” because he is an adult, not because he thinks of himself as an upstanding citizen or an exceptionally nice person, makes Yoshida, and Higehiro by extension, possibly part of a pantheon of wholesome age-gap relationships in slice of life and romance anime.
Following up from the Winter 2021 season is not going to be the easiest feat for the anime this season; however, there is a healthy crop of brand-new shows. Higehiro is interesting and sets itself up in a way that makes us want to see where it will go. We liked the humour and the characters; however, we’re not totally sold on the story just yet—we’re in love with the potential. As time goes on, we will be able to see what colour this story takes on, but in the meantime, drop a comment below and tell us what you thought about Higehiro episode 1!