Multiple takes on Yurika’s actions in episode nine of Sakamichi no Apollon.
Yeah, yeah – I used the Nihonese name for it, bite me. I get that Kids on the Slope is the official translation, but I find Apollo on the Slope as a title more appealing, particularly as we finally get the nod to it in episode ten (or maybe it was nine?) with Sentarou and Kaoru merrily dashing down the titular slope.
So, Yurika runs off with Jun. I was half irritated and half happy about the development, which is a bit of a confounding state to be in. But I realized that it came from the fact that I was of two very different minds regarding it, specifically either a. wow, smart move, running off with your boyfriend instead of finishing high school!, or b. TWU WUVVVVV. And, really, if I’m being honest, the second one makes me just feel even more annoyed because, really? Really, Day? You’re going to go all mushy-brained over that?
I do think we are supposed to take it the second way, honestly. Sakamichi no Apollon at times hints at being a bit deeper, but it never quite gets around to it – for example, early on it seemed that a big portion would be about Kaoru’s relatives being cold to him and disapproving of his jazz efforts, but this piece never really materialized. That we don’t see Yurika in the next episode sort of confirms to me that we aren’t meant to think about it too deeply; I’m not expecting to suddenly see in the finale shots of Yurika overworked and underpaid as a hostess or something in Tokyo. It’d just be so atonal.
However, while I do think the show means us to smile and feel all warm and fuzzy about it, I also think there are a lot of different takes on it. First off, half of my initial reaction, which was that, wow, this is really stupid. Yurika’s eighteen years old, she hasn’t finished high school, and she’s essentially pinning her fortunes entirely on a guy’s feelings for her, and on the notion that he’s somehow going to be able to make a living wage at this as-yet nonexistent publisher. What happens if Jun stops being in love with her? What happens if the publisher goes belly-up or never gets off the ground at all? Yurika’s a pretty proud girl, ultimately, and I can’t see her crawling back to her parents in shame very easily. But she’s a high school dropout, and has never held a job before. At least wait to get your diploma, geez!
But then there’s the part of me that sees her actions as her standing up for herself, rejecting the socially acceptable role that her parents are trying to foist on her. She walks away from an arranged marriage meeting, a deliberate denial of that as her fate. So I can appreciate that she’s got the will to leave behind a life she didn’t want for herself. And yet… if Jun hadn’t grabbed her at the last minute, she would’ve stayed behind and submitted to an arranged marriage.
On a different track, is Yurika really behaving all that differently than she typically does in asking to be taken along with Jun? Yurika seems to be a girl who is used to getting her way, and her runaway act with Jun can be seen as simply a continuance of her general attitude. Yurika’s father berates her for her involvement with Jun, and forbids her from seeing him again, but he’s actually pretty easy on her; there is no evidence at all that Yurika is punished for her behavior. And this even in light of the fact that her parents think she’s had sex with Jun; witness that her mother has her see the gynecologist. But her mother doesn’t display any anger with her daughter for having to see a gynecologist – she’s just worried about her. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that her parents come across as fairly easy to have as parents. Sure, there’s the arranged marriage factor, and that sucks, but we also don’t know much about it – are they forcing her to get together with guys she hates? Will they only let her get married through this if they like the young man, too? I think its unfair to malign them with so few details; would you want your high school kid messing around with a disowned college dropout? And does Jun seem much a prince from what we do see of him?
There is also previous evidence that this isn’t a sudden break on Yurika’s part with subservience to her parents, or, at least, with going along with what she is told. She’s stubborn outside of the bar where the guys are going to play jazz, refusing to be turned away. She also sits outside of Jun’s new apartment and refuses to leave until he invites her inside, and when he tries to scare her off, she has none of it. Jun tells her fairly point blank that she needs to forget him and scram, and her reaction is to cut her hair, insisting that she can become a different person.
Now, yes, Yurika does apparently give up on running off once Jun tells her no, she cannot come along, but I’m a bit skeptical as to whether she actually believed he would stick with that. He doesn’t, of course, and we aren’t given any internal monologues from Yurika beyond her short one reflecting on Jun’s statement of going to Tokyo, so I can’t say for sure. And I suspect we are meant to take Yurika’s apparent acceptance of Jun’s departure as evidence of her maturity, but I can’t quite accept that. It nags at me.
I don’t think Sakamichi no Apollon meant for us to read Yurika’s actions as demonstrative of her never taking no for an answer. But there’s a good case to be made to see it as such. I think Yurika as a character was woefully underdeveloped, and that this is part of why I can craft so many lenses with which to see her behavior. Its just too bad that if the show was going to give her such an important storyline that they neglected to develop it better from the get-go.