Do you remember that kid from elementary school that everyone called the “teacher’s pet”? The kid all the adults loved because they were responsible, mature, and generally did everything expected of them? Koi Yoshinaga from Slow Loop probably grew up as that kid. And while it’s nice to get all that praise for doing well, growing up under that weight of expectations has serious downsides. It’s tiring to have to be the perfect kid all the time. It’s tiring to have to be the perfect adult all the time!
So if you find yourself weighed down by responsibilities or others’ expectations, or even your own expectations, Koi’s story is for you. Relax, pull up a chair, and read on.
You see, Koi is “painfully responsible,” in the words of one astute reviewer. Everyone in Koi’s life expects her to act the serious and mature type, and so that’s the persona she’s been playing for years. After all, her mom’s always off on business trips, and her dad’s way too obsessed with fishing, leaving Koi to take care of the family shop and her two brothers. The adults in her life don’t treat her the same way they do the other kids. One of them outright says she’s more responsible than the others. So this responsible-ness has become her identity. And while she doesn’t resent that fact, it can all be a bit exhausting.
All this floats to the surface during a fishing trip she goes on with her friends. From the beginning, Koi has her “mature” persona on. Aiko, an elementary schooler who tagged along for the trip, comes to Koi at one point expecting advice: Aiko’s friend recently rediscovered her love for fishing, and ever since, Aiko’s felt further and further away from her.
Which is ironic, because Koi feels that way too about her own friend, Hiyori—at least a little. Ever since Hiyori’s mom remarried, giving Hiyori a new sister, Koi’s felt a little distant from her childhood friend. Hiyori’s changing. She’s becoming less shy. She’s beginning to enjoy the things she enjoys for herself, without restraint or fear of rejection or failure. She’s beginning to smile more, to laugh more, to talk more. She’s not the same person Koi’s known all these years. And while Koi’s happy for her friend, she’s also a little frustrated and, truth be told, a little jealous.
But she’s not supposed to have those feelings! Especially since both Hiyori and her sister look up to Koi as the responsible one in their friend group. Hiyori’s sister continually comes to Koi for fishing lessons and to update Koi on her progress. And Hiyori’s always dragging Koi out on her fishing trips, to the point where she’s gotten used to setting up on the shore to watch her friend. Not that Koi minds, of course. She loves spending time with her friends, and she’s grateful for them.
But she’s exhausted.
Not to mention that Koi’s done a shoddy job of being the responsible one, anyways. For some time now, she’s been haunted by a certain memory from a few years ago when Hiyori’s mom was considering remarriage. Hiyori didn’t know about it, but Koi did, and she ended up spilling the beans one day when they were walking home from school. It was a super awkward moment, but Koi doesn’t feel embarrassed as much as she feels guilty. Guilty for slipping. Guilty for making her friend feel uncomfortable. Guilty for making a mistake and failing to meet expectations.
“Being her best friend can get heavy sometimes,” she confesses to Aiko. And Koi knows that more than anyone.
Maybe we can find ourselves relating to Koi here. We too find ourselves burdened by the weight of a thousand unspoken responsibilities, some of which we didn’t choose to take on. Some of which we’d not rather have to bear. And yet, we’re afraid to lay down the burden, to lower the mask, to drop the persona. After all, what would others think? Wouldn’t they reject us? Wouldn’t they hate us?
And so we, along with Koi, hoist the ever-growing burden higher onto our backs, adding to it the weight of our own fear of failure.
The next morning, when Koi meets Hiyori fishing on the beach, Hiyori coincidentally brings up that memory Koi’s been thinking about. Koi hastily apologizes, but Hiyori’s confused: what’s Koi got to apologize for? After all, it didn’t end up being a big deal anyways; she talked to her mom and worked things out.
But Koi just can’t accept that. Who cares that it worked out? Hindsight is 20/20. She still messed up. She still missed the mark. “I try to act all mature, but deep down I’m still just a thoughtless child,” she thinks to herself, lowering her eyes.
The more she tries to meet everyone’s expectations, the more she’s bound to fail. That’s how it’s always been.
But Hiyori doesn’t think that way! “It’s because you congratulated us that I was able to take a step forward!” she insists. Regardless of what Koi did, or whether or not she did the right thing, Hiyori cares for her. Koi doesn’t have to feel like she failed, because Hiyori was able to rest in her friendship with Koi despite her changing family circumstances. Koi doesn’t have to bear the weight of a thousand unspoken expectations and responsibilities, because sitting right next to her is someone who won’t leave her no matter what.
Only then do Hiyori’s words finally begin to sink in. Koi lifts her eyes in gratitude, a smile playing on her lips. Because she’s finally free of the burden she’s been carrying all this time.
Koi doesn’t have to know everything. She can rest in her friends’ love.
And so can we. In Hiyori, we catch a small glimpse of the love of God for his children. We try to meet a hundred million expectations placed on us by ourselves, by culture, by friends and family, and instead, we find ourselves worn out. We wonder if God is disappointed in us, and convince ourselves that he is.
But when we finally lift up our eyes, we see a Savior with a somewhat puzzled look on his face. After all, what’s there to apologize for? That sin that we’ve been carrying this whole time? He cast it into the sea of forgetfulness when he was nailed to the cross. That regret we’ve been too ashamed to admit but can’t stop replaying in our minds? He silences it with his love.
We don’t have to know everything. Instead, we can entrust ourselves to the care of the only one who does. And we can run to find refuge in Him.
Slow Loop can be streamed on Funimation.