As a teenager, I often daydreamed about what life would be like in my twenties. As I sat at home, watching Friends, I envisioned a similar life to those characters—establishing lifelong friendships, hanging out all the time, doing cool things, attending parties, making money, and even living in New York City. But my twenties weren’t much like that at all, and I would hazard to guess, the wide dissonance between dreams of young adult life and the reality of it might be the same for you. In fact, if you’re like me, a better bedfellow than Ross and Rachel might be Rikuo and Shinako from this year’s listless anime romance, Sing Yesterday for Me, and their more awkward, challenging transitions into adulthood.
By episode nine of the series, which largely takes place on Christmas (or Eve?), the various relationships are at their most strained. Rikuo still likes his college crush, Shinako. Shinako doesn’t seem to really know how she feels about Rikuo as she continues to stay attached to her former boyfriend, who passed away long ago, while now dealing with the crush that boyfriend’s younger brother harbors on her. Rikuo, on the other hand, has turned down runaway, Haru, who insists that she’ll stay away from him (she’s basically been stalking Rikuo), but can’t help herself from doing so.
And so, on Christmas, nobody is dating who they want. And to boot, they’re all overthinking these potential relationships.
While it’s Rikuo who is most often the recipient of advice about overthinking life—and indeed, he sometimes does—the others are just as guilty. Haru can’t stop thinking about Rikuo, and by this point, is developing a bit of self-hate for continuing to run after him instead of letting things progress more naturally. And Shinako—well, despite seeming to be a little more chill than Rikuo, Shinako is probably the most “thoughtful” character of the bunch, in that she frequently contemplates other’s feelings and her own, though her actions won’t always align. In this episode, for instance, she remembers taking Rikuo out for lunch when the two were college freshmen—their first date, if you will—though he doesn’t remember it at all.
While love triangles and such circumstances may not be as commonplace in real life as in anime—I certainly know that I never experienced as much in any substantial way—relationship troubles are common. And at least for me, I often overthought things, especially in my twenties, and this for someone who doesn’t deal very much with anxiety (see Rikuo), didn’t encounter many substantial life difficulties (Haru), or suffer with PTSD of some kind (Shinako). Yet, I still worried about life and relationships, and was either often paralyzed in moving forward or just avoided doing so. I think that for me, the amount of free time I had (less than college but more than I would in married / parent life) and the lack of life experience and wisdom at my age led to this overthinking. In other words, my twenties—and maybe yours as well—were absolutely primed for anxiety, worry, and fear.
In a sense, what twenty-somethings often go through, as well as the protagonists of Sing Yesterday for Me (including the nearing-twenty Haru), is a “filling in” of unanswered questions with their thoughts and worries, some of which are unrealistic and others unfiltered by experience and wisdom and comes with age and maturation. Their lives are like Zoom calls: While in a normal in-person meeting, silences can be filled in with asides and chatter; the digital space often doesn’t allow for the same and silences become awkward and must be filled in. In the silence of one’s thoughts, especially when those thoughts turn to relationships and romance, one can overthink, which then often leads to worry and pain.
In episode nine, as the protagonists work through these issues, they’re given a brief respite on Christmas. Rikuo and Shinako spend time together at a small party, and he even gives her a gift. Later, Rikuo invites Haru, who has been waiting for his return home, in from the cold instead of pushing her away so quickly as he might normally do. Defenses are down, and if only for a day, everyone thinks a little less, and does a little more.
Their awkward silence has been filled in.
While there’s no definitive answer to the problems for these characters by the end of the 25th, for one that day, they could put aside their worries for the most part and just do. For a moment in time, they can have peace.
This Christmas season, you might be sitting in the silence as well. It could simply be because you’re sitting in your twenties, with life not quite yet figured out. Or it may have to do with any of a number of other worries, including those brought on by COVID or social unrest this year. But in this awkward and sometimes fearsome silence, there is a response, a better one than our own overthinking voices, and it has everything to do with the season.
The first Christmas was largely about waiting: a mother waiting nine months for a baby to be born; a couple waiting to see the angel’s words come true; an old man waiting to see the Messiah; and a nation waiting some 400 years for for a savior and prophecy fulfilled. And on Christmas Day, the response was given, not just for those living then, but to everyone for all times, including you. No matter your struggle, no matter your worries, the answer was given on that day 2,000 years ago by the one who brings joy and peace.
This year, you may be working through troubles—in fact, you almost certainly are. The 25th will pass and the troubles will still remain, but even so, there is an answer out there. There is a response in the silence. There is peace in all circumstances, brought by a savior born to give it to you as you tune out the noise, listen to his words, and find deliverance in his promises.
That’s the peace and hope of Christmas.
Sing Yesterday for Me can be streamed through Crunchyroll.