HigeHiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway
After being rejected by the girl he was pining for and gotten the post-rejection drunken rant/ramble at a local bar out of his system, Yoshida stumbles home somewhat drunkenly when he happens upon a high school girl sitting under a streetlight. Her name is Sayu Ogiwara and after some back and forth, she offers him the opportunity to "do her" if she can stay for the night. While Yoshida rejects the offer, she somehow ends up in his apartment anyway, and so begins their rather odd relationship.
There is something to be said about a show that manages to navigate itself through a veritable minefield of a topic and come out on the other end looking good. Higehiro doesn't quite manage to get out on the other end unscathed, but given how many things could have gone wrong here, I think you can still watch this show with some confidence. Just be aware that Higehiro is playing its strongest cards at the start from a dramatical standpoint, while the second half kind of becomes the weakest link. My main opinion of this is that I think more could be done with what we got, although it is at least encouraging that the show itself realizes that Yoshida and Sayu's arrangement can only be a short-term solution.
It also needs to be said that what Yoshida does -- and the show acknowledges this -- is very, very illegal, even when both parties have the best intentions. Sayu, for all her maturity, is legally a minor, which puts her under the jurisdiction of her parents. Well... calling her "mature" might be a bit of a stretch. She's fairly levelheaded and has a pretty good head on her shoulders, but the show makes a good case on why teenagers can be independent to a certain level, but that doesn't mean they're quite ready to live on their own and shouldn't necessarily be made to. In Sayu's case, it's quickly revealed that she's been using her body as payment for a place to stay, and while she somehow considers her situation empowering, events in the show itself quickly points out how it's anything but. And while it's not that Yoshida doesn't find her attractive, he still has a good enough head on his shoulders to realize how bad it would be for both of them if he really did take her up on her offer.
Of course, it's not like Sayu's presence is a bad influence on Yoshida either. The title is pretty self-explanatory as it is annoyingly long, and him straightening out a bit and losing that doggedly tired look does get noticed by two of his female work colleagues, one of them being the woman who rejected him at the very beginning. As it turns out, her "I've been seeing a guy for five years already" line was a bit of a fib, but she also gets some added competition from Yuzuha, one of his coworkers. Of the two who noticed the change, Gotou is the one who comes right out and says it, which leads to her being the first of his two interests to meet Sayu herself and learn of their somewhat odd and kinda illegal arrangement. Part of the reason why I enjoyed the first half of HigeHiro so much is that most of the cast are adults acting like adults. Which does not mean infallible, mind you. Yoshida isn't entire unphazed by Sayu's charms. He's just mature enough to not act on them. Gotou is probably the most level-headed among the female main cast, but that doesn't mean she can't jump to (understandable) conclusions, but is still mature enough to stand corrected and take that rather well. Yuzuha is also fairly level-headed throughout it all, but she's also clearly the most unrequited of Yoshida's potential partners, and she knows this. Out of them all, she's probably the one who's liable to get on people's nerves, as she does come across as a bit of a know-it-all, inserting her opinions on things whether they're wanted or not, enough that I had some concerns she'd end up as a bit of a "villain" at some point.
As for Sayu's social circle, well.... aside from Gotou and Yuzuha getting to know her, she also makes one good friend in Yuki, who's a bit of a gal-type working at a nearby convenience store Sayu starts working at. The two bond quite quickly, mostly on Yuki's urging, and Sayu learns that she dreams about becoming an author one day, a dream she had a bit of a fight about with her parents. There's also Yaguchi, one of the guys Sayu slept with for room and board, and who later try to rape her.
Be warned right now: the attempted rape that plays out in HigeHiro is very, very realistically played out, and it feels surpremely uncomfortable to watch. Part of the reason is that Yaguchi is clearly far too used to say whatever he wants to get what he wants, a lot of which feels far too much like emotional blackmail or just plain troll rethoric. If you have been subjected to even just an attempt at the same, it's probably going to feel even worse watching this, particularly the scene where Sayu stops fighting him and decides to just endure it until it's done. Yaguchi is clearly portrayed as the rapist he is, mind you, so the attempt does sorta tie in with Sayu's past. It doesn't help that you also get to see the act with the very same guy earlier where she technically "consented" to it, even if that doesn't make it in any way legal. The dead look in her eyes during the act just sells the uncomfortableness of the scene itself.
And yes, Sayu is running away from a past we'll get to learn about. I know therapy in anime isn't exactly common -- in fact, I can't even remember if the topic has ever been brought up, like... ever -- but Sayu could clearly have used some. For all the good Yoshida does in Sayu's life, he is not a therapist. Instead, Sayu's past is portrayed as something to be confronted, and although she doesn't have to do that alone, I still think she could use some professional help dealing with obviously traumatic situations. The Japanese are probably still not big on therapy in general, but it is an option they have, and one which I think anime should explore more. I know I somewhat recently reviewed a show centered around prostitution that was also all sex-positive and stuff, but there is a difference between paying for sex and using sex as payment. Or rather, maybe I should say that using sex as payment is usually more of a last resort thing, and it puts an unfortunate power imbalance into the whole situation. Sayu isn't having sex to live somewhere. She's having sex to avoid being thrown out again, and because -- in her mind -- it's preferable to go home and face her past.
One giant plus about the show is that it's so deliciously straightforward. The situations the show portrays are serious enough that it doesn't feel like it needs to beat itself to death with needless drama. Rather than mire itself in depression and longing, its characters sit down and have surprisingly honest conversations. Nobody has all the answers from the get-go, and most of the adults even make some assumptions that prove to be wrong in the long run. There isn't anything wrong in particular in wanting to be desired or loved, or even just wanting to do better for someone else, even if it's partially out of some sense of self-gratification. Despite finding her attractive, Yoshida refuses to sleep with Sayu because he understands that it's a very wrong thing to do, or even just to mend his post-rejection heart. Sayu, who has basically sold her body for a roof over her head, doesn't immediately understand why anyone would want to let her live with them without taking advantage of her hospitality. And then there's Gotou and Yuzuha, who both are mature enough to believe Yoshida when he says he isn't letting her stay there to have his own sex doll at his beck and call, even when they notice how he straightens himself up a bit after she started living there.
Which leaves the question: how exactly does this show not live up to its beginnings. Well... part of that lies squarely on how it chooses to end, lack of (professional) therapy aside. That Sayu had to deal with her past was probably a given, and that could also have been good, had not the pacing been shot to hell in the process. In fact, her past pretty much came looking for her already midway in the show, from where it spent basically half that runtime having Sayu mentally prepare herself and then three episodes actually doing the legwork.... except all of that got started and then resolved in two episodes flat. In a sense, the end of HigeHiro felt about as rushed as the one for Chaika ~the Coffin Princess~ was, with most of the leadup to that being HigeHiro reaffirming its stance on whether it was right of Yoshida to take her in, and how right it was for him not to have sex with her. Some people might also not appreciate how a lot of the.... shall we say "less admirable personalities" get off far too easy. Yaguchi first takes advantage of Sayu, and then later tries to rape her, and he's basically being let off with what pretty much amounts to a slap on the wrist. He isn't the only one, of course, but... spoiler territory and all that. That also goes with whether Yoshida will end up with Sayu.... or anyone else. And yeah, don't say you didn't suspect it, or even fear it. Some of you might even, like me, have gotten that particular plot point unexpectedly thrown in your faces after reading through Bunny Drop, which probably doesn't help. HigeHiro does kinda skirt too close to uncomforbableness at times, even when it doesn't really need to, but I guess I can say it ends about as tastefully as one can expect.
Some other things to keep in mind is, unsettling sex scenes/rape attempt aside, the show has a few scenes that could be considered fanserviceish. The ANN episode reviews questioned the necessity of those centered around Sayu, although given the subject matter, it's almost as if the show is daring every guy watching to ask themselves whether they'd go for it. Nevertheless, they're there, mostly when Sayu is trying to seduce Yoshida. No nudity, though.
On the technical front, the animation work is.... OK. It's not terrible, and maybe I would have thought better of it if not for the fact that I recently started watching the newest season of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid. I do like the character designs, which leans more towards realism than some of the slice-of-life participants I've been watching recently. That being said, HigeHiro survives more on what's being said rather than what the show looks like, so it's probably never going to impress. The music is equally just... present, except for the opening and ending themes, which I honestly found to be kind of obnoxious. (Personal taste and all that; won't reflect in the rating.)
I do wish I could have given HigeHiro my full recommendation, I really do. It actually gets off to a strong start and keeps that momentum going for a good while. The characters -- that is to say our main characters -- act with an encouraging amount of maturity without coming across as too good for this world, while our two main lead actually do come across as being very good for each other for as little time as they had in each other's presence. And... well, despite the concept of this show being based around what amounts to an illegal act that can get people jailed. If the show would've had a stronger last half as well as maybe not gone with a few of the decisions it made, this would've been a no-brainer.
Guarded recommendation. Subject matter is going to heavily depend on how you feel about a lot of the things that happen in this show. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: A warning to those triggered or otherwise sensitive to depictions of sexual assault: There is an attempted rape in this show which is extremely uncomfortable to watch, particularly in light of the behavior of the attacker in question. The show also touches upon the subject of bullying and suicide, so there's that too. The earlier scene where said rapist is also having sex with Sayu happens onscreen, and also there's the scene with Sayu sitting naked on a bed, which heavily implied that she had masturbated.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
HigeHiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway © 2021 project No.9
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