Higehiro has been a wild ride for me. The tale of a runaway high schooler, Sayu, who finally finds solace by staying with a man, Yoshida, who wants to help her heal rather than use her for sexual pleasure, has at times been high-minded and dealt authentically with difficult issues; it’s also sometimes gone the opposite direction and felt rather hypocritical, while also running the gamut between being engaging and entertaining to soporific and boring.
There’s also this conglomeration of simple and complex, subtle and obvious. The storytelling is mostly very straightforward, but there are glimpses of depth here and there which I think are purposeful. So while the theme of “help young people who are struggling” and “be a good parent” are pronounced, there are maybe more profound ones running beneath the surface, ones like, “The unwise path may still lead to that which is good.”
And certainly, Yoshida’s path is unwise. By taking Sayu in, he is walking a thin line. There’s no doubt he’s attracted to the beautiful girl (if we as an audience are unsure of how pretty she is—after all, even “homely” anime girls are often drawn quite attractively—his best friend notes in the most recent episode that Sayu is prettier than Yoshida had described her to be), blushing pretty much all the time when the two are in close proximity. He has decided to be a proper adult around her, but is constantly dealing with the temptation of living with girl who is willing to sleep with him, and as they get closer, to engage him in a relationship that’s even fuller than a physical one.
I’ve seen tweets about the series that poke fun at it—we’re supposed to appreciate Yoshida simply because he’s not sleeping with a minor? Yes, yes, those criticisms are taking the high ground, but, I think, yeah, we should admire him. Maybe I’m just a terrible person (scratch that, I know I am), but if I was in Yoshida’s situation, I have no doubt I would have given in. No doubt. The temptation would have been too strong for me.
All those around him also feel the decision Yoshida has made is weird. Lots of nods, wrinkled foreheads, and questioning expressions are given by Yoshida’s co-workers, while Sayu’s only friend and later, her brother, are more upfront about doubting the man’s intentions. They are all charmed by Sayu and trust in Yoshida’s character (as much as one can—Sayu’s brother says that he trust Yoshida about 95%), so they support him, mostly, as he decides to take her in.
But everyone, including Yoshida, as demonstrated by plenty of sideways looks and pauses himself, knows that this solution isn’t a solution at all. She’s underage. There are legal problems associated with this arrangement. Sayu’s a runaway. She isn’t at school. She isn’t with her family. And…do I need to go on? As much as Yoshida wants this strange relationship to work, and as safe as Sayu feels with him, the whole situation between the two living together isn’t wise. It isn’t right.
But it works.
I’m no stranger to going the unwise route in an attempt to do something right myself. For instance, many of you know Holly, our former podcaster and my partner at the now inactive Anime Pop Heart account. She is a family friend, but I’m particularly close to her. I think we could frame our relationship, at it’s most intense, as a discipleship as I met with her in one-on-ones as we shared very personally.
No one said anything about this, but I can imagine people around us must have been like Yoshida’s co-workers with their sideways glances and thoughts about how the relationship was a little inappropriate (from a very conservative perspective—I should be clear that there was never any type of tension between us like with Sayu and Yoshida). And like his co-workers, I think they’re right.
But also like Higehiro, the end result, I think, ended up being pretty great. Beneath the Tangles grew because of Holly’s involvement. And I do think she grew because of my investment in her. Like Yoshida, I grew, too, even if the path was unwise, even if it was imperfect.
But why did these relationships work out in these situations, even if maybe they shouldn’t have? For Sayu and Yoshida, it’s been really reliant on the latter’s integrity. He has resisted the struggle and done what’s right, though not by himself—he is the product of very many things, and we’re privy to just a few, including his past relationship in high school and the friendship and support of his co-workers. He is able to walk the straight path until the end (I’m assuming—a couple episodes remain).
Mine is simpler. As unconventional as our relationship was, it was about God. And I have no doubt that any good that came of it was God’s doing. The older I get, the more I realize that I’m both unwise and prone to making things all about me rather than him. But he works regardless.
I think that can be said about the world in general. How many wise decisions are we really able to make anyway? Our “wisdom,” after all, is often just pride. We’ve figured it out. Even in church settings, the reliance on ourselves and how we want to interpret scripture, rather than humbly following it as best we can, is often hypocritical and overwhelming.
But even further, we live in a fallen world. Everything around us in imperfect. And thus, the choices we must make often are as well. If I didn’t disciple Holly, would someone else have? Maybe, but maybe not—too many make the choice not to invest deeply in others because it’s just too much of a hassle. And for Yoshida and Sayu, what would have happened if he hadn’t decided to do things his way? Well, it’s no stretch to believe that Sayu would have become the victim of something even worse, of assault, sexual violence and perhaps, ultimately, death.
Maybe the windy road can be the best option in a world where there aren’t any good ones. And maybe, sometimes, God will bless that tangled path even if it’s not the one that should be taken.
And that is a relief. It’s a freedom—not to make poor decisions time and time again—but to trust that good can come out of bad, healing out of pain, blessing out of idiocy.
Yoshida’s example demonstrates that lovely things can happen when you do your best to be good. It won’t always occur so serendipitously, and honestly, could lead to a “bad end.”
But Yoshida’s example also begs the question: Even if the path is ahead is quite bumpy and fraught with complications, would it be best if you did nothing at all?
Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway can be streamed through Crunchyroll.