You and Me
In their second year of high school, friends-since-kindergarten Shun Matsuoka, Kaname Tsukahara, and Yuta and Yuki Asaba acquire (with rather mixed feelings) a new member, Chizuru Tachibana, and together they tackle the challenges of daily life as well as the early stirrings of maturity.
I have to admit at first I found the cast of You and Me a bit off-putting, but I changed my mind when I got to know them better. The first one we meet is Shun, who's not exactly traditionally masculine: we see him initially with long hair, he speaks in a gentle tone (and is the peacemaker of the group), likes to cook, and is occasionally actually mistaken for a girl.
Next we have identical twins Yuta and Yuki. At first they really seem utterly identical- they have the same sleepy eyes, they speak in the same monotone deadpan manner, and they both enjoy harassing Kaname (in a droll manner of course, since that's all their flat delivery can do.) Another thing they have in common is that they can do almost anything effortlessly, but there IS a difference here, for while Yuta has used his capabilities and joined numerous clubs, Yuki- well- just doesn't want to make the effort. (In one later episode, in particular, we'll see just what a slacker Yuki can be.) It takes several episodes, including one mostly featuring just the twins, to establish their relationship for the viewers, but in short Yuta feels like he has to be the "responsible" one, as the eldest (but since they're twins, that's surely not by more than minutes), and spends a great deal of time telling his brother to do more at home. (We'll also get to see where these traits come from.) Yuki does, with considerable cajoling from all, eventually join a manga club (and his efforts there- or lack of same- lead to one of the show's most visually funny episodes.) As the "rebel", Yuki's share of the show's attention eclipses his brother's; he even develops a romantic interest toward a cafeteria worker (whose face is actually drawn a lot like that of the twins.)
One's first impression of Kaname is as just a crabby curmudgeon with glasses. He's the sort who complains profusely if his familiar routine is disturbed (and thus is particularly annoyed by Chizuru, a routine-disturber of extraordinary magnitude who we'll meet shortly.) On the other hand, we see that even in kindergarten Kaname was the guy who sacrificed himself for the others, and still basically functions as the group's (rather martyred) mom. He's also surprisingly good with kids, given his irascible nature. There's a weird thing going on with his own mom- she often acts strangely immature, more like his neglected girlfriend than his mother. He rather brusquely brushes her off when she's like this, but maybe shows some evidence of a mother complex himself in an obsession with older women. His first crush was on his kindergarten teacher, and he currently has one on the older of two sisters who live next door, Shizuna Aida, though Shizuna's younger sister Hisako, Kaname's classmate, seems more likely to return Kaname's feelings, if he'd just direct them her way. Here and elsewhere in this show, it's painful to watch people being unable to say what's actually on their minds, maybe more so because of our own regrets about things we wish we'd said at that age.
Chizuru seems to add discord to the bunch, but his personality actually complements theirs. He's half-Japanese; they don't just draw him blond, his "straw-colored" hair gets referenced in their conversations, and when he first met one of them, Yuki, years earlier, he couldn't even speak Japanese. He's exuberant and irrepressible, a "class clown" who's tactless and awkward, a well-meaning soul but one whose poor judgment and lack of caution frequently get his new pals in hot water. He has a crush on a girl named Masaki Sato (who he calls "Mary"), but in classic triangle fashion Masaki only has eyes for Shun.
Speaking of Shun, he has a younger brother named Fuyuki, who's quite the opposite of Shun, acting boorish in that way that many adolescent males seem to feel obligated to act. Fuyuki even has a girlfriend, but his first attempt to get physical with her doesn't exactly go as he thought it would, in one of those rare depictions of teenage sexuality that recognizes how even taking the first step can introduce unexpected complications in an inexperienced young couple's feelings about each other. This is a genuinely adult consideration of the opening stages of sexuality, and shows just how juvenile much "adult" fare really is by contrast.
The show has quite a bit of humor, but it tends to stay low-key and realistic above all; episodes where the humor dominates over the drama, like the manga one, are less common. I kept having bouts of deja vu throughout the show; I could recognize bits of myself and my own experiences at their age in Shun, Kaname, and Chizuru; not so much in the twins (I was never one of those folks who could do things effortlessly, and was certainly never that charismatic), though Yuki did have one thing happen to him that struck a familiar chord.
I suppose the main complaint I have is that I thought there should have been more time given to some characters, and less to others. Yuki and Chizuru get a lot of screen time, maybe deservedly so as the show's reprobates, but Masaki gets a lot of attention too, and I thought she was a rather weak character. On the other hand, Kaname seems an interesting case study, particularly in regard to the women in his life, and while we see a good bit of his childhood, we don't see that much that might be of interest about his current relationships with women (mom excepted), until an episode near the end of the Second Season, an episode that in its way is as emotionally complex as the episode with Fuyuki and his girlfriend. It's a meditation on the idea that sometimes vague hopes and dreams must yield to reality, and in its "grass sumo" game it finds achingly beautiful symbolism for its bittersweet message. So much of the dialogue here is laden with implicit meaning, but it's completely accessible to the audience; we know exactly what's going through everyone's heads here, whether they can say it or not.
It's a show that portrays the borderline of adulthood with all its optimism and enthusiasm-but also its awkwardness and disappointments; with its blossoming of feelings- but also its inevitable chances of hurting others, or being hurt oneself. It isn't always brilliant- there's some filler, it's slow-moving at times, and as I said I would have divided up the characters' "stage time" a bit differently-but it's often as honest a depiction of teenage life as I've ever seen, and I ALWAYS give extra points for honesty. Five stars. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: I would guess that the only thing here that anyone might have problems with is Fuyuki's crass adolescent posturing and his attempt at getting physical, but the latter is utterly honest in how it's played and not a bit exploitative. Older teen to adult OK.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (26/26)
You and Me © 2012 J. C. Staff/TV Tokyo/Kimi To Boku Production Partners
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