Freelancer Michael Iaboni dives into this long-titled anime to find out if it’s one worth watching (spoiler: it is).
Don’t let the title fool you. Higehiro is a surprisingly wholesome show. A salaryman, Yoshida, houses a teenage girl, Sayu, for the night after his crush rejects him. The next morning he finds out she’s a runaway from Hokkaido sleeping with men for places to stay. Upset she’s resorted to this, and of men using her like that, he lets her stay as long as she needs. He asks only that she do some chores around the apartment.
The anime explores two different themes. A question can best describe the first: can a person with an unflinching set of morals influence and affect somebody else to have their own, and is it the right thing to do? Yoshida realizes the risk of what he’s doing and even researches kidnapping laws and cases. But, per his thoughts while smoking on the patio, what else was he supposed to do? Leave her on the street for loser guys to take advantage of her? He rejects Sayu’s advances—and between episodes one to three Sayu tries hard to get Yoshida to sleep with her—always telling her to think about herself more.
In the second episode, Yoshida goes to buy Sayu a phone with his best friend Hashimoto. Yoshida says he wants to buy a phone Sayu will like and Hashimoto advocates for either black or white. But this has a deeper essence. It’s best to be direct with people to avoid tumbling into a grey area. To fend off mixed feelings or a misunderstanding. Or in the way Hashimoto presents it, black or white—the second theme the anime explores.
One of the main draws of the show is how Yoshida disobeys the stereotype of an isolated man in anime. These characters either lack social skills, cannot talk to women, are overt perverts, or a combination of two or all three. Yoshida’s a little isolated, but he has social skills, talks, or isn’t afraid to talk, to women. And although his eyes stray, he isn’t a full-on deviant. He’s shy around Gotou, but that’s because of his crush. He’s not afraid of his co-worker Mishima, enjoys a simple meal with her, and even scolds her when she does something wrong.
I enjoyed the light and dark shots during the premiere. It starts at night and ends during the day, symbolising both Yoshida and Sayu’s bleak worldview at the beginning of the episode and how they’ve begun a more optimistic view at the end. It’s also great to have Yoshida and Sayu meet under a lamplight while dark, illustrating the light they bring to each other’s lives considering each of their dreadful situations (Sayu’s more-so, I admit).
Character designs aren’t anything to get excited over. But it’s a slice of life anime, so you don’t need something over-the-top. It’s enough that I’m able to tell Sayu and Yoshida apart from other characters on screen at first glance.
The biggest joy you get watching Higehiro is seeing Sayu growing into a capable young woman because someone out there actually cares about her. And because one person cares her network of support starts to grow. There’s still drama, but I’ll let you discover the twists and turns for yourselves.