A Character Experiment with One Week Friends

Call me observer of the century, but I’ve noticed how anime girls tend to be on the easy side. In what other medium do you see a girl fall for a guy because he helped her up after she tripped over a snail? There’s a general explanation for this widespread phenomenon, and the name of that explanation is Male Fantasy. But I’m not here to preach feminism or chastise lazy writing. I bring this up as my introduction because One Week Friends has an instance of this when local ditz Saki Yamagishi suggests to local sloth Shougo Kiryuu that they get married. Initially, my reaction to moments like these is to roll my eyes while grumbly reminiscing ’bout the good ol’ days, when women were prizes the hero had to earn after he pulled the sword from the stone and slew the big bad wizard and his pet dragon, but I didn’t because the reason Saki gave for wanting to get hitched with Shougo wasn’t to be a surrogate for lonely male readers, but because she wanted him to be her maid.

There’re a few disclaimers to go over before we go any further, the first being that my initial interpretation of this scene—which is the topic of this post—is far more complex than the author intended. The manga implies that the “let’s get married” faux pas is just your typical confession, albeit in a more extreme manner, skipping the whole dating phrase which typically proceeds matrimony. My own interpretation, on the other hand, is extreme in its own right, being more morally ambiguous than the manga’s target demographic would care for, so the remainder of this post should be taken as a fun experiment of mine rather than an earnest rewrite because I wasn’t satisfied with the canon.

The second disclaimer is about the purpose of this post. It’s my goal when I write these to offer up some morsel of wisdom for all my writing brethren and sistren out there, which was the plan going into the rough of this, but somewhere along the way, I realized I had absolutely nothing to say. More accurately, I had something to say, but I couldn’t fit it within a context of “character motivation” or “character depth,” which were both topics I entertained, but deep down, my sole motivation was to have a fun little editing session about a scene from a manga I read a little while back.

Saki the Intellectual I

Down to business, now.

Saki Yamagishi’s defining character trait is that she’s incredibly forgetful and won’t retain any important information, even if you beat her over the head with it. To compensate, she’ll use others as a post-it note to remind her that food needs to go inside her mouth if she wants to eat it. This becomes her main driving force behind befriending Shougo, and she’s quite open about how he’s a crutch she leans on. This sort of relationship is an oddball one as it is, but it struck me as incredibly fascinating in the aforementioned scene where she casually mentions how they should get married so that she can keep relying on him to remind her that humans need oxygen to breathe or they’ll die.

This won’t come as news to anyone who isn’t living in ancient times, but two or more people get married because they love each other, so Saki blindsiding Shougo with a nonchalantness about something most grannies get their knickers twisted over puts her outside the boundary of the social standard.

Murder, the general populous agrees, is bad. But then you have your odd apples who are down with murder and skip about the town square on killing sprees to prove that murder is objectively inconsequential when you compare it to something like the heat death of the universe. Another Shougo, this one Psycho-Pass’s Shougo Makishima, doesn’t commit heinous crimes because he’s got nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, but to unveil the flaws immanent to the Sibyl System, which is what makes him a fascinating villain to watch.

Murder probably isn’t an equivalent example for adolescent romance, unless we’re discussing School Days or something, but the underlying principle is the same. A collective society has an opinion on a matter, and anyone with a dissenting opinion is considered an outlier.

Saki the Intellectual II

Saki’s incompetent, and she’s fully aware of her incompetence, so to compensate, she decides to keep Shougo at her side, since he’s the only associate willing to put up with her, and she’ll use knot-tying as an excuse to do so. A roommate or tenant might fill this need on paper, but a husband will throw himself over top a puddle while crossing the street if it means he’ll get the chance at seeing a nipple later that night.

She’s a gold digger, except instead of hooking up with some rich miser because he’ll buy her a $10,000 purebred teacup chihuahua, she gets with a guy because he’ll remind her that only barbarians insert the toilet paper roll under. False relationships aren’t unheard of, but those are assembled quickly due to spur-the-moment circumstances. What I wanted to see was the means Saki employed to elevate her relationship with Shougo from friendship to lovers, with only one half of that plural feeling the first four letters.

In order to write the story from here, we have to place ourselves in Saki’s shoes and ask ourselves one question as many times as we need to: How do we get Shougo to fall in love with us? This is her one want, and her every decision from this point will be an answer of some kind to that question. Once she tests out an answer, there’ll be a reaction from Shougo, she’ll ask herself that question again, and the cycle will repeat. So for example, Saki might ask him out on a date, he grudgingly accepts, and after he displays some degree of having enjoyed his time with her, she’ll fall back to the drawing board to decide what to roll out next.

There are as many next moves she can make as there are brain cells in her head, so where her plot goes from here is up to us to pull from the air. Things are likely to progress like a normal romantic relationship, and if she gets stuck on how to go from hand-holding to kissing, she might study other couples or interview some. If she was feeling particularly experimental one morning, she might work to hook up Yuki and Kaori so that she can study their budding feelings up close and personal. It’ll also have the side benefit of giving their relationship actual bloody closure.

Since Shougo is the second deuteragonist of this play, it’s equally important for us to ask him what he wants from all of this and how he would react to Saki coming onto him. He’ll shuffle from it at first, as he does in the manga, and if he’s completely against the idea of dating Saki, she’ll eventually write him off and search elsewhere for a butler at the ready. But if he starts reciprocating her “feelings,” that’s where we start slurping on the juicy drama.

Crushes eventually end when the one party says “Thanks, but no thanks,” but this one would carry on, and it would carry on, from an outsider’s perspective, like a normal, healthy relationship, and for Shougo, that might be how it appears to him as well. If things pan out according to Saki’s plans, they’d get married, and it’d be a happy end. But that’s boring, and stories are infinitely more interesting when stuff goes wrong, and what’s a drama if the characters aren’t at each other’s throats?

Saki the Intellectual IV

Shougo would rather stay at home and siesta the day away, but he’s also a smart cookie. Even if he finds himself catching feels for Saki, he might also catch on to the fact that she’s only as willing to hold his hand as he is to beep when the pastries in the oven are done. So the moment he finds out that she doesn’t see him as more than a tool for her day-to-day needs, that’s when we unpack the straws.

Ever have someone you’re close to—a best friend, a lover, a three-legged dog—and your relationship can’t get any better, but it definitely gets worse when you find out they don’t hold you in high regard? Doesn’t feel great, does it? Feels like a betrayal, and this would be how Shougo reacts. Unable to properly put together the pieces of someone who had only been pretending to be in love with him, he would confront her for answers, hoping deep down that he’s misinterpreting things, and that’s not if he just immediately breaks up with her.

An important note is that while Shougo and some audience members will paint Saki as the villain, Saki herself won’t see herself in the same colors. She’s not gonna turn around and start cackling maniacally after every interaction with Shougo, and she won’t call him a fool too easy to manipulate for her diabolical schemes. From her perspective, she’s giving him something (dates, kisses, sex) in exchange for reminders on her calender’s schedule. It’s a B2B transaction.

The ramifications of all this would gut Shougo. Feeling betrayed by the girl he loved, he would find it difficult to trust the future women he meets who would hold genuine affections for him and thus push them away. It’s possible he might never open up his heart again.

I’ve said all of this, but there’s an African land mammal that’s been glaring us in the face, and it’s that this “true personality” I’ve made up of Saki contradicts her memory hiccups, since someone forgetful enough to not recall whether it’s toast or bread you put in the toaster wouldn’t simultaneously be cunning enough to manipulate those around her to her benefit. But she doesn’t need to be a craftswoman to attach strings to his hands and feet. Light touches, sweet words, and a smile from a woman are all it takes for some guys to turn into putty. If Saki tries for long enough, she’ll find an adequate replacement for Shougo, one who’ll stick around despite his role in their relationship.

Saki the Intellectual III

I didn’t hold high praise for One Week Friends in my review of it, but the series holds a special place in my heart as being the first anime I watched which inspired me to read the manga to find out if the two leads ever kiss and hold hands. I don’t believe this plotline I’ve come up with is what the series should’ve had or is how I imagined it being, but it is a fun what-if and an exploration of the sorts of characters we can mold from a single motivation.

 

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