I know it’s unreasonable to review an anime before finishing it. To be fair, I caught ten episodes before giving up. It just feels like I can’t not warn people about Sing Yesterday for Me, because this show was so damn annoying that I feel obliged to steer people away from it. The show starts off fine, sure, but the further into it you’ll go, the more you’ll feel like you’re wasting your time. That was certainly my experience with it.
My first complaint is with how the show moves. Let me be clear, I like the art. It’s clean and crisp and it looks good. Care clearly went into making the art style of the show look good. The characters are well done, and stand out against backgrounds that are boring and empty, if at least drawn and colored well.
The actual direction, however, is really dull. While the shots may be pretty, there is hardly any dynamism to any of it, with whole scenes playing out as nothing more than heads talking at each other as seen from lifeless angles. Where a well-directed show like A Place Further than the Universe might make use of the physical setting to give a little more story and energy to otherwise plain conversations, Sing Yesterday for Me instead has its characters stand around throwing words at each other in scenes otherwise removed of energy. It bored me to tears.
On occasion we slip into a flashback as we examine a characters’ memories. Here, the animation is at its worst. Why? Because there is no animation. A decision was made at some point to have these flashbacks told in still images with narration playing over the top. I can’t imagine what the reason was for that, but the effect was that I don’t remember a single one of them, that’s how boring they are to watch. Without the dynamism of an animated scene – which they could have totally done, given that this is ostensibly an anime – there’s just nothing for my memory to grasp onto.
Next are the characters, and honestly, I struggle to think of a single character that I liked. The main cast is unbelievable. Spritely Haru is the epitome of manic pixie. She’s given no other reason to exist in the world other than to inflate the ego of Rikuo, whom she has a crazed crush on ever since encountering him in a meet-cute that really was just insulting to her entire character. Rikuo, for his part, is the most unbearable of an already-dislikeable cast, content to botch any moment of evolving character development for no discernible reason whatsoever other than – and he explicitly states this – because he is “high on the idea of being an outcast.” He himself is an unaware asshole content with stringing along a high schooler like a pet while lamely pining for Shinako who can’t seem to commit to a single decision in her life – quite like Rikuo, honestly, so I suppose they’d make a good, if toxic, pairing. Side characters pop up whose names I frankly can’t even remember because they have literally nothing to do before disappearing from the show once more. The only character I would actively spend time with is Rikuo’s convenience store co-worker, by virtue of him being the least awful.
Aside from being irritating, the main cast isi ncapable of practicing any agency whatsoever. The show pretends they do, teasing some life-affirming decision or other in one episode, only to snatch it away right the next. One episode teases a confession from Rikuo toward Shinako, and, well, finally, I thought to myself, given how long he’s apparently been pining for. Then the next episode he completely blue-balls himself, throwing the setup out right out the window. This happens with career decisions and life decisions, and after grand revelations and proclamations from characters to finally work on themselves. The show itself doesn’t believe in its own characters. A good, engaging slice of life should have its cast undergo some form of personal growth by the time the finale hits, in a way that is interesting to watch. Sing Yesterday for Me doesn’t seem to even to want its characters to grow to begin with.
I don’t know how the manga of Sing Yesterday for Me plays out. If it’s anything like how the anime turned out, I probably won’t like it. The best anime out there are true character journeys, following colorful casts as they strive to become better versions of themselves through sometimes bombastic, sometimes subdued moments of fist-clenching, tear-inducing, sweet, sweet character development. Sing Yesterday for Me, unfortunately, does not have the energy to achieve any of that.
Look, anime, just – enough with the sadbois.
(+) Genuinely good art and character design
(-) That good art is wasted on scenes with no energy
(-) A truly terrible cast will leave you rooting for no one at all