Anime which feature real, complex relationships where teenagers talk with one another in meaningful ways are rare—anime in which boys and girls are treated as equally complex and emotionally vulnerable even more so. I think series like Isshuukan Friends (One Week Friends) make the world a better place by respecting their audience and showing us genuinely good but flawed characters who care for each other and want to find someone to share their lives with. Series like that will always be a rarity in the current climate of the anime industry, but they do have an audience—and it’s reassuring to know that there are still those in the industry willing to reach out to that audience. This is a story that dissects the concept that we, as people, are a mystery, not least to ourselves and not least in adolescence. And it’s never easy to expose yourself to potential hurt by opening your heart to another person, but learning how to do that is a big part of finding ourselves and finding happiness.
Based on Matcha Hazuki’s manga, One Week Friends follows the story of Yuuki Hase, who comes to notice that his classmate, Kaori Fujimiya, is always alone and seemingly does not have friends. It’s an extraordinarily simple story built around two people and one hook. The hook is that Kaori Fujimiya has a medical condition where every Monday she forgets all the people (except for her family) that she spent time with the week before. Despite the challenge, Yuuki goes on to befriend Kaori, again and again, each week in the hopes that she will one day remember him. It’s really sweet and keeps things simple, that is the charm about this series, it doesn’t go for the over-the-top melodrama. In essence, the anime is a light and honest tale of a high school life for two teenage friends. The plot of the story is well put-together and revealed early on within the series, which leaves little to no room for guessing or wondering. In saying that it does have a few twists and turns, some episodes have the classic Venus Flytrap scenario—draws us in with sweet, sweet nectar and then closes the jaws of death to deliver the emotional sucker punch.
One Week Friends gets straight to the point and delves right into Kaori’s condition and Yuuki’s determination to remain her friend. With such a lovely story about friendship and the kindness shown to Kaori, it really has that feel good aspect that is most welcome while maintaining a constant undercurrent of sadness, the execution of this is quite remarkable. Though the first half of the series is slow, the little events and happenings that occur shape the narrative and allows for each of the characters to develop. Character development is a factor that is often one of the most important aspects of an anime as it allows viewers to connect and feel a kinship with the characters. One Week Friends does this well and builds up each character at a pace which viewers can be comfortable with and allows for them to care and invest in them. Then you have their others—Saki Yamagishi, a clumsy and forgetful girl, but cheerful all the way. She is determined to be close friends with Kaori, and Shougo Kiryuu, who happens to be one of the best wingmen in the history of anime, is reliable and sharp serving as someone to steer Yuuki right when he loses control of his emotion.
When the characters come together, the show is at its best. They’re wonderful, likeable and most importantly believable. Their personalities all complement each other and the chemistry is there, especially when it comes to Yuuki and Kaori, the chemistry works. It doesn't feel as if the characters are forced into a relationship by bizarre circumstances. Rather, the show is about the journey of becoming good friends and maintaining that friendship. Because this is a show of little action, many of the episode plots are heavily character driven mostly through dialogues and small gestures. A downside to the series is when Yuuki starts to show a few cracks, while understandable, it does get quite annoying when Yuuki falls into the pathetic fallacy. It lingers a bit too long on this but what saves this situation from becoming out-of-control is his self-awareness, knowing he isn't the sharpest tool in the shed but doing his best for Kaori, his actions do prove rewarding.
Brains Base was the perfect landing spot for One Week Friends, the perfect studio to adapt this kind of series. It hasn’t changed a lot from the source material, but the little touches—like Akira Itou’s backgrounds and the lovely music of American-based composer Nobuko Toda serve the function they need to by making Hazuki’s pages come alive. Visually appealing, it did a fine job in portraying the soft tone of the original work—it’s not sharp, loud, and colourful; rather soft, light, and soothing. The tone used throughout the show and the simple character animations helped bring 'life' to the anime as opposed to relying solely on great background visuals. In this way, watching the anime felt relaxing. The pastel colour palette combine with watercolour like texture makes the anime a real joy to watch. The anime does a good job at matching the weather with the mood to add in a little drama which I think works really well. Admittedly the character designs, especially the faces can be a hit or miss for some, they do have this ‘derpy’ look to them and in some segments, you will notice some features on the faces of our characters vanish.
I really love the musical direction that this series takes, it helped add to the light and heart-warming atmosphere. The score is great as subdued as it is with the composer prioritizing a lot of string and piano pieces. One of my favourite examples would have to be the main motif, “Tomodachi no Kioku”, where the strings like guitar and violin start off strong, but then piano leads from a dream-like to moderate tempo. Very beautiful and uplifting. The Opening, “Niji no Kakera” by Natsumi Kon is upbeat and full of energy, it sets the mood for each episode. The Ending, "Kanade" by Sora Amamiya is very fitting for the themes portrayed in the show, and for it to be sung by the voice actress of Kaori is a fantastic touch. She hits notes that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. And the voice acting all around had solid performances, a special mention to Yoshimasa Hosoya who voiced for Shougo, his performance was the standout and a very big reason as to why Shougo became a very likeable character and my favourite of the series.
One Week Friends does rank among the handful that was pleasurable as they are easy to digest. Obviously, it isn’t the most creative story—although, it really doesn’t have to be or need to be when done well and avoiding habitual tropes. Even though the ending itself doesn’t provide the most conclusive answer—it is just like the math problems that Yuuki is so terrible at, but doesn’t realize he solves in Kaori. Sometimes when you reach an incorrect response, you just need to try again and from a different angle to see what you can learn about it. And if that isn’t an endearing message the show possible lends itself too that everyone can benefit from, I don’t know what is. The series is more about the journey than the destination, it has a lot of heart and manages to tug on a few tears along the way.