Fans of slice of life will tell you about one of this season’s unique titles—Hige wo Soru, Soshite Joshikosei wo Hirou (Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway), an anime about a drunken salaryman who, after getting rejected by his senior at work, stumbles into a lone high school girl sitting by herself under a streetlight. In his drunken state, Yoshida interrogates the high schooler about her situation. When she tells him that she is running away from home, he drunkenly offers her a place to stay. When he wakes up the next morning, he is horrified to find 17-year-old Ogiwara Sayu in his room. At this point in the series, Yoshida and Sayu have been living together for two months, having faced a number of obstacles. Truthfully, we’ve expected this series to fall off and explore the well-explored anime trope of age-gap romantic relationships, but we’ve been blessed with seven episodes that, despite their occasional and very concerning reference to a deepening romantic connection, have been extremely wholesome.
When the series began, our first article interrogated whether Higehiro is a wholesome slice of life with some really dark themes, or yet another weird depiction of a relationship between a grown man and some little girl. While the series isn’t over yet, we might be seeing one of the best shows this season, at least if you enjoy the constant stress and worry that this show can give you. What’s working for Higehiro this season and what isn’t? Let’s get into it!
The reason why we’ve been holding our breath on this show is that it continues to threaten to go down a road we’ve seen too many times before: a protagonist has to live with a strange, and often out-of-the-ordinary new roommate. Many different anime titles have worked with this general premise in the past; however, Higehiro aims to subvert this by giving us a potential age-gap relationship that appears to acknowledge the cursed route the show could go, but it seems that at the very least, Higehiro is going to take us through this journey without any Bunny Drop-style surprises… we hope. The truth is, Higehiro still makes an uncomfortable number of contextual and subtextual messages that seem to support a trajectory where Yoshida’s relationship with Sayu could turn into the dreaded age-gap.
Yoshida is a protagonist who is shown as a decent guy. At the very least, he’s better than any other man Sayu has ever come across. He claims to have no ulterior motives regarding the situation, and he has even rebuffed Sayu’s advances multiple times. As uncomfortable as those scenes can get, Yoshida’s heavily emphasized lack of interest in someone that young saves Higehiro from the jaws of certain death time and time again. Be that as it may, his rejection of Sayu in that way can seem rather uncertain and Yoshida has been showing up for Sayu in a lot of different ways. We can’t be sure it’s going to end well, but we do hope the romance takes a backseat for something a little more different.
Is This Another Harem?
While the focus of Higehiro is the growing relationship between Yoshida and Sayu, the premise is kicked off by Yoshida’s senior at work, Gotou Airi, rejecting his proposition to begin a romantic relationship. Bummed out by the rejection, Yoshida gets really drunk and ends up stumbling upon a lone high school girl. The rest is unfolding as we speak. While we forget about Gotou for a while, Yoshida’s popularity at work skyrockets as people begin to notice his ironed shirts, elevated mood, and how he dashes home as soon as work ends.
Early in the series, we are introduced to Yoshida’s junior at work, Mishima Yuzuha. Surprise, surprise, she develops a crush on him after Yoshida trains her, swooping in to claim him for herself after Gotou rejects him. Mishima is a little awkward, with her attempts to connect further bounding off of Yoshida. The two go on a date, but Yoshida’s already preoccupied with nursing his unrequited feelings for Gotou and making sure that Sayu’s taken care of, so he barely recognizes Mishima’s attempts to establish a deeper connection. It also doesn’t help that the women around Yoshida think very highly of him and believe that he’s a really nice guy (not in the pejorative sense), so as time goes on, he attracts more female characters. At this point in time, it seems that Yoshida and Gotou are the show’s chosen ship, but we can’t be sure, especially considering that the anime is now beyond the manga in terms of content.
Despite all the romantic overtones that sometimes threaten the wholesomeness of the entire series, there is something very positive about the depiction of Yoshida and the people we can consider to be his friends. The first person ever to find out about Sayu is Yoshida’s friend at work, Hashimoto, whose sole purpose in the series is to be the best “Friend-kun” he can be. He guards Yoshida’s secret and is always around when Yoshida needs to vent or ask for advice.
Despite being rejected by her initially, Yoshida quickly earns Gotou’s interest when she sees him being happy without her, but also because of the rumours that Yoshida has a new girlfriend. Gotou later tries to peek into Yoshida’s life, but given that she has already rejected him, he is apprehensive around her, even more so while trying to protect Sayu. However, both Mishima and Gotou eventually find out about Sayu’s existence and her circumstances.
The best thing about this show is that while most other shows that are built similarly tend to focus more on creating humour through misunderstandings and making the protection of the secret the main thing, Higehiro has abandoned silly mind games by removing the threat of Yoshida and Sayu being found out, at least by the people closest to Yoshida in the show. Another positive is the realistic element in this show—no one in the series is under any confusion about the illegality of Yoshida and Sayu’s actions, and everybody who finds out asks the same old question: “How long are you planning to keep this up?”
When Sayu asks Yoshida for permission to find a part-time job, she ends up working at a convenience store alongside fellow high schooler Asami Yuuki. Asami quickly takes to Sayu, and treats her a lot like a younger sibling, especially at work. Yuuki’s intuition is also pretty good, as she can tell within a single day of meeting Sayu that there’s a lot of things that aren’t quite right about her situation. Asami forces a visit to Sayu’s “home” with the intention of speaking directly with her guardian himself. After assessing the situation, Asami gives Yoshida her blessing, saying that he’s someone she can feel comfortable leaving Sayu with. When Mishima and Gotou meet Sayu themselves, the looming romantic rivalry in either situation isn’t the focus, but rather, like adults, Gotou and Mishima try to be empathetic about Sayu’s situation.
The wholesomeness about Gotou’s acceptance of Sayu and Yoshida’s arrangement comes from the fact that Sayu had been worried that she’d be thrown out onto the street the minute Yoshida got a girlfriend. This has happened before and coupled together with the trauma of having grown men coerce her into doing sexual things with them in exchange for a place to stay, Sayu’s mind grew dark with the prospect of someone who finally treated her decently, not even well, just decently, tossing her aside like the other horrid men before him. However, both Mishima and Gotou were very understanding, and after meeting Gotou for the first time, Sayu is comforted somewhat by Gotou’s kindness.
Higehiro also has a bit of a sensitivity problem, particularly when it comes to the intricate details around Sayu’s six-month escape from her home in Hokkaido. When Sayu starts her part-time job at a nearby convenience store, she is shocked to find that one of her coworkers is someone she stayed with at an earlier stage, someone who took advantage of Sayu when she was in his care. This character manipulates Sayu into inviting him over to Yoshida’s apartment, where he tries to force himself on her. This kind of content needs to be covered a lot more sensitively to avoid hurting people who watch the show, and it is by far the most uncomfortable moment this show has. The same character is later shown to be yet another “pretty nice guy”, helping Sayu out on numerous occasions; however, it’s unrealistic for Sayu to be as comfortable with a person like that as she is.
It may still be too soon to say, but if Higehiro continues in this vein, it could be one of the best shows out this season, especially in the romance and slice of life genres. It still teeters between weird and wholesome, but few other shows of this nature have held out this long without completely tarnishing everything they have built. We can only hope that Higehiro grows from strength to strength this season, but so far, it’s been a good journey. What do you think about Higehiro? Drop a comment below and tell us your thoughts!