Hige o Soru, Soshite Joshi Kousei o Hirou is another of those modern anime afflicted with a paragraph for a title. I don’t understand how we went from single word titles to “After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Student.” You see this extra-long-name thing in the memes all the time now, it’s gotten to such a ridiculous stage. I mean, what’s wrong with just…

Wait, none of that matters!!! You did what???

The premise of this anime cannot be ignored! A grown man takes in a high school girl off the streets? What the fudgzilla hellfire sauce flavored lolipops is this??

I’ll tell you what it sounds like. It sounds like the thing that shall not be named, that’s what it sounds like. But also, I’ll tell you what it really is. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt tale of a poor girl in a difficult place in her life who happens to run across one of the sweetest male anime characters you’ll ever find. That’s what it really is.

A tricky story handled pretty well, beautiful characters that touch your heart, and amazing artwork and cinematography, this show managed to prod a lot of our senses in a lot of different ways. And while I won’t go so far as saying this show was anything more than just good, it was certainly remarkable, and for more reasons than you might think—well, mostly just the one reason.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 7

Kana Ichinose, most famous for Ichigo (Darling in the Franxx, her first role) and Yuzuriha Ogawa (Dr. Stone), has one of those instantly recognizable voices that’s such a prized rarity in voice acting. While I admire the skill and talents of voice actors who can vary their voices so distinctly and still do a great job (many of those are some of my favorite seiyuus of all time), there’s something to be said for a VA who’s voice is consistently the same and remarkably recognizable. Such is the case with Ichinose-san’s wonderful characterization of Sayu Ogiwara.

Sayu has run away from home. She went through a set circumstances surrounding family and friends that leave her utterly devastated, something no child anywhere should have to go through. After running away, she manages that devastation in a very unfortunate manner: soliciting men in exchange for a place to stay. This has gone on for a while by the time she meets Yoshida, who fortunately relieves her of this destructive behavior pattern.

This is a very sad character, and Ichinose-san gives her life and sentimentality that only she can. She’s nicely designed. Her situation might seem a little contrived, but it’s also understandable. The experiences she goes through are not impossible or even super rare in the real world unfortunately. Her reaction to them is believable. She’s a very human character in this sense, and that always makes a sad character’s plight much more heartfelt. The episode where she finally reveals her backstory and why she ran away from home is very difficult to watch. I can only imagine what those of you who went through anything remotely similar to Sayu’s situation, or have experienced the kinds of feelings she’s experiencing, must have felt during that episode. And so her situation saddens me even more than it does by itself.

She’s certainly very young. Often high schoolers in anime are portrayed beyond their years (in more ways than one), but here we see a very childlike character in Sayu. She has a childish playfulness about her that always shines through. Perhaps you could call it immaturity, but it’s a good kind of immaturity I guess. It makes her situation that much sadder, because we don’t want her to lose that youthfulness to this grating sadness and abuse that the world threatens to continue to wreak upon her.

Mercifully for her, Sayu finds herself in the hands of Yoshida-san. Or Yoshida-man, as she calls him at one point in a moment of humor! I know there’s a nice handful of really nice male characters in anime history. They might be really considerate, very self-sacrificing, very loving, very empathetic, very ethical, all those virtues that men often find difficulty exhibiting. So these characters are always fairly remarkable in anime. Such is Yoshida. I like to point to Nasa from Tonikawa as a great example of a male anime character that’s too good for this world, but Yoshida is right up there with him and other such characters. He’s an average male up to the point he meets Sayu, with typical shortcomings and vices. His chance encounter with Sayu only happens because he’s stumbling home drunk (Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid anybody?) after having been rejected by Gotou (hence the title). But from there, his life changes, and he shows us how shiningly bright humanity can be when it pushes away the inferior evils of the world and instead accepts the blindingly bright good of responsibility, love, courage, and service. He is a beautiful character.

A tight spot for Yoshida-man.

I was very concerned that his choices were going to crash down on his head. People would’ve gone ballistic if that injustice had occurred to him. He made a tough choice and chose it at his own potential expense. I didn’t want that thrown back in his face. And thankfully this show didn’t go that direction. Everyone around him was very understanding, and he didn’t brush up against the powers of government that so often judge matters too superficially in their distance from ordinary people. More than likely the authors didn’t want to take this route because it would have taken the focus completely away from Sayu’s situation and its injustice. If they’d chosen to include two different sets of gut-wrenching injustices in this series, for one thing they would’ve needed more than 13 episodes, but also, it probably would’ve been too much. This show would have become mind-numbingly depressing, entering a realm of sadness and depression that it wasn’t intended to enter. So on several levels I’m happy Yoshida’s actions didn’t cause him undue suffering. He certainly didn’t deserve it.

I really like Asami! I always love the gyaru characters, even if they’re just a little that way like Asami. She’s a very energetic person that is totally there for Sayu when she needs her. She’s another really good person in this show. So much modern literature is fixated on showing a flaw in its main characters, so it’s good to see characters where their flaws are either completely invisible or at least subservient to their personal virtues. Yoshida almost reaches that level, but Asami certainly is a good example of that. She doesn’t take anything too seriously, unless it’s defending her friends of course! I love her jocular manner and her interesting linguistic choices. She confuses the hell out of Yoshida most of the time, and it’s really fun to watch.

I presume there is universal dislike for the Ogiwara matriarch. This poor woman has only a small set of excuses to explain away her devilish behavior, and while those explanations might have some weight, you don’t care about any of them during the show—not one bit. Her treatment of Sayu makes the blood boil. Yoshida’s goodness is highlighted once more with his conduct during those last few episodes, but I don’t think anybody would’ve judged him if he’d taken up the criminal banner one more time and channeled his inner Jotaro Joestar and socked the life out of Mrs. Ogiwara. But he didn’t, and it’s better that way regardless, and it all works out well enough in the end. But enough about Ogiwara-kasan.

I’ll touch on Gotou and Mishima a bit more later as I address the elephant in the room in the Story section below. There’s not much to them other than their role in regards to Yoshiba. Elephant….

Overall, very sweet and very human characters adorn this interesting show. Their circumstances are very relatable, if a tiny bit contrived. But the contrivance is easily forgivable given how each character is developed and how the show ultimately unfolds. They don’t rely on stereotypical tropes a lot either, which is always a big plus for me. They’re very unique and very individual. I will always give a show good marks for such creative effort. 

Artwork

Rating: 9

Faces. Anime is ultimately entirely about faces. This is part of the humanness of anime at its core. The shows that recognize this and therefore place primary importance on faces in their artwork are always exceptional. Higehiro is definitely one of those shows.

The girls’ faces are very different than the males’ faces. That’s to be expected of course, but the difference here constitutes a lot of what makes this artwork great. Sayu, Mashima, and Gotou’s eye shape compared to Yoshida look like different species! That might sound bad, but what it does is draw a lot of the viewer’s focus to these girls’ faces. It’s very effective.

Those female faces themselves are a little bit on the unique side in the anime world. Their eyes are very far apart and very large, sloping in a wide ovular shape down to very low corners. It’s not a stretch to say that the outside corners of Sayu’s eyes regularly fall below the centerline of her eye, regardless of her expression. Certainly this is a particular female eye style in anime, and we’ve all seen it in various similar forms before. But it’s very remarkable here. I’m not sure what effect the artists intended for this style, but I suspect it’s meant to add to the the expressiveness of these faces. That’s very general I know, but they certainly are expressive. I don’t mind summing it up in a general idea in this case. It describes it very well.

The other remarkable effect on the female faces is the glossiness. This artwork is on the very glassy end of the anime artwork spectrum. Lighting is severely affected by this glossiness, highlighting every sparkle of Sayu’s eyes and every color tint on her cheeks. Often we get almost a halo effect around her face because of this lightness. It’s really pretty. 

The faces are set off very well with the “cinematography” (for lack of a correlate word in anime). We zoom in on full frontal face shots. We get depth shots with focal points on two faces. We get closeups with two faces, usually Sayu crowding the unreceptive but tolerant Yoshida. We see Sayu’s face from above a lot of the time, probably to enhance the fact that she’s underage, and to great effect. Above all, you can tell the artists took a lot of care with this aspect. It wasn’t an afterthought at all.

Resistance is futile. Or so she thought.

I wouldn’t describe the female faces as amazingly beautiful however. I know this could simply be a matter of preference—beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that—but I never looked at any of these faces and felt my heart skip a beat. That may not be a very objective measure of beauty, but it’s a telltale sign for me. And I never felt that here. In Sayu’s case, perhaps it’s simply because of her age. She looks very young, probably intentionally so. I tend to not react in those ways to most high school age female characters (at least the younger high school characters—if the girls are portrayed as mature beyond their age (ahem) that’s a little different, but that aside). And while we see Mashima and Gotou a fair amount, they don’t get so much attention that you can feel any attraction to them that might enhance their beauty either. Regardless, whatever’s going on here with the art, as “beautiful” as I’d describe these drawings, the females themselves don’t strike me as super “beautiful.”

Fanservice was inevitable for this story. Sayu’s whole deal initially is using her body to seduce men into offering her a place to stay for a while. And she doesn’t completely overcome that instinct all the way through the final episode. She’s regularly partially displaying her body to Yoshida. Gotou of course has her defining physical feature that was the primary shallow reason Yoshida was initially attracted to her. And of course we have the famous bit of dialogue from Sayu regarding size difference and availability, which I’ll just leave as it is. But there’s not a lot apart from that. And it’s not that massively (er, word choice) egregious kind of fanservice that we expect from ecchi or certain comedy genres. It’s not in your face all the time, but it is present throughout the show. 

But that doesn’t detract from the quality of the artwork here. I’m left remembering the expressive eyes, the lightweight hair falling around the faces, Yoshida’s uncomfortable side-glances, and the glassy coloring and lighting. It’s very high quality. The artists recognized the importance of faces to a story like this, and they hit it right on the mark. I was highly pleased.

Story

Rating: 6

This is a sad story beyond all doubt. It’s tragic even without tragic loss (excluding Sayu’s poor friend’s suicide). Mrs. Ogiwara’s grudge against Sayu leads her to accuse Sayu of playing a role in that poor girl’s suicide, hence Sayu can’t take it anymore and simply leaves home. And so our story unfolds.

It’s difficult to even think through a story like this. It’s so blindingly sad. I can hardly even analyze it at this rate. Attempting to view it as impassively as possible, I say that it works here. One could accuse it of being melodramatic, but it’s realistic and believable enough that I wouldn’t go that far. But certainly it’s completely designed to take your heart out of your chest, throw it in the blender, then fling it out into the cold world to burn and ache. And it pretty much does. It’s a heavy emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end.

But I will add this: it feels lighter than you’d expect given such a story. I think this is intentional, and it’s accomplished through a couple of means. First, obviously the letter-of-the-law illegality of Yoshida’s actions hangs heavily over the show. Second, the interactions between the characters are very normal, and often quite light-hearted. Sayu’s mood is always on the somber side, but she’s learned to smile and laugh gently through it, and in time even comes to express those happier emotions naturally again. The conversations are lively, emotive, and fun most of the time. The serious conversations come, the hurt happens, and then it passes like a summer storm and the characters return to their normal behaviors. So to be very dramatic and sad, this story doesn’t weigh on you like a Your Lie in April or a Violet Evergarden does. You’re not always on the verge of tears like during those shows. I like that effort by the storytellers here. I love a good buckets-of-tears show, but I also like how this show paced its sadness, and so you only needed the tissues occasionally.

Enough people have talked enough about the legal issues on display in this show. I won’t add to that raging pile of burning whatever. I will simply say this: it is simply a matter of legality (in most modern societies I will add, and certainly in Japan). Those laws are there for a reason, but not all laws can apply equally to every situation. Laws should follow ethics, but sometimes they must separate. Yoshida certainly is “breaking the law,” but given his motives and his subsequent behavior, he certainly didn’t do anything unethical or immoral, by any standard. So I’m not overwrought about Yoshida’s actions in a legal sense. He did what he thought was right, and the law should allow that in the end. Plus, he knew it was illegal, and he took that risk for a good reason (not for the evil reasons of Sayu’s previous “benefactors”). If anything it speaks to Yoshida’s goodness rather than to some “omg that’s so illegal!” dialogue. So I don’t mind this here. It does a lot for this story and it’s handled properly.

Now for the elephant in the room aforementioned. This is a harem show. I’m not sure if it was intended to be that, but that’s what it ends up being. And while it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, it’s undeniable that Yoshida has three attractive females throwing themselves at him, all in different ways. Usually the harem protagonist has girls all over him just because he’s the harem protagonist (speaking of contrived), and while that’s still the case here, at least Yoshida probably deserves the attention. He’s a good dude. 

I know you’ve seen it.

But it is harem. And this hits me wrong here. This is a really sad show. It’s a really sad show because it displays certain facets of the human suffering people can inflict on each other even in what should be a peaceful environment otherwise, and how people react to that suffering in often pathological ways. Harem? This is a very unusual combination. It feels out of place. Combine that with the legal thing going on, and I begin to suffer from a psychological issue myself: genre confusion. This is a bad thing.

In Higehiro’s case, this effect is not overwhelmingly detrimental however. For one thing, the sadness is what you’re left with, and the feels in general. That’s what you remember about this show. The legal thing doesn’t backfire on Yoshida, and at least it’s only three girls in the harem, and they’re not undressing every time Yoshida walks into the room. So while those distracting aspects are there, they don’t overwhelm the primary themes and emotions that characterize this anime. One could even argue they play a strong role in that “lightness” I mentioned earlier. The show isn’t always throwing sad stuff at you. On the contrary, we have to consider the question of whether Gotou (Yoshida’s mature yet mildly tsundere manager), Mashima (his twitterpated junior coworker), or Sayu is best for Yoshida—well, we have to wait a few years for Sayu, like she herself says, but still. So you could argue these “distractions” play a positive role, and I would certainly listen to such arguments.

Nevertheless, genre confusion is still genre confusion. Yes it’s drama because that’s the impression everyone is left with (rightly so), but mixing harem in there still makes me pause and wonder. It makes me wonder if perhaps the authors lost control of the direction of this story a little bit, and it evolved into this mix of sad drama and edginess (legal issues) and harem beyond their control. If that happened, as always I must hold that against the authors. Control your story! Stories can get out of control and take on a life of their own. Anybody that’s done much lengthy creative writing will tell you that. It usually detracts from the quality of the final product. 

But even if this was done intentionally, I question why. The answer is probably to contribute to the lighter aspects of this story, aforementioned, attempting to suppress the sadness in this story just a little and leave the whole thing less depressing to watch. it certainly does that, but it’s an odd choice. I don’t even know if I dislike the inclusion of these aspects—certainly the legal issue plays a positive role, and the harem-ness isn’t overt—but they cause me a certain level of confusion that’s more distracting than any of those aspects themselves. It’s a little bit of negative on a mostly positive experience.

Overall: 7

This is a beautiful show. Between the core of the story and the fantastic artwork (and the voice acting), it is deserving of that most praiseworthy adjective. The distractions mixed within the show only detract a little bit, even if they are very noticeable distractions. My overall impression is very positive, if not exuberantly ecstatic.

What’s up with these giant titles? It’s gotten very out of hand these days (2021). I mentioned this humorously above, but seriously, what’s going on here? I guess it only can be humorous; it’s certainly reached a comical stage! In this show’s case, it lends itself well to a nice nickname, “Higehiro.” Most of these long titles end up being shortened in common usage, and that’s a good thing. For one thing, obviously we can identify the shows better that way. Imagine saying that whole title every time! But more importantly, we the viewers end up getting some input on the naming of the show, which indirectly lets us contribute to the creation itself. That effect is not to be underestimated. That connects viewers to the creators of an anime in ways neither might even recognize, but does so quite powerfully. So I guess big titles have some big benefits!

I bet they will try to sneak in a second season of this show. I don’t know the state of the LN or manga as I write this, but if it’s still ongoing, that always leaves open the possibility of a second season. I hope it doesn’t get that second season though, because I fear Yoshida will finally get in legal trouble for what he did, since that was an open avenue to add drama in this first season and the authors didn’t go down that route. Sayu will keep anticipating the day she turns eighteen and that will enhance the harem aspects of this show once again. I don’t want all that to happen. It ends nicely as it is. I hope Project No. 9 studio lets this one remain as it is. There’s something to be said for a nice ending, even if it feels a little open-ended. 

What should you expect of this show? Lots of feels, a little discomfort, and lots of what makes anime great. Humanness, humanness portrayed in a very non-human manner, relatability, heartfelt moments, and beautiful artwork to show it all off. I was pleased that I chose to watch this in Spring 2021, and you won’t regret watching it.

2 Comments »

  1. I’ve heard a lot about this show, some good and some bad, but it’s enough to get me to try it. It does also sound a whole lot less objectionable than that other age-gap show, Koikimo. Though to be fair I haven’t seen either yet.

    On that note, I’m not a big fan of these long light novel titles. Feels lazy, like you can’t come up with something both memorable and meaningful, so you just print the premise of the work right on the cover. But I guess it’s an industry standard now so no use complaining, and it does result in a few funny titles.

    Like

    • I think it’s entirely comical at this point, the long titles. We’ve had long titles before (i.e. KonoSuba) and if you remember Gintama, each episode has a really long title, also for comedic effect. But the long names are everywhere suddenly!

      I haven’t seen Koikomo. It didn’t look interesting to me. I knew it was similar in concept.

      Liked by 1 person

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