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Manga / Sing "Yesterday" for Me

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Uozomi Rikuo has been spinning his wheels ever since he graduated college. Rejecting the pressures of social conformity, he took a job at a convenience store and lost touch with his friends. All that changed one night, when a girl shows up at his store with a crow on her shoulder. The girl, a high-school dropout named Nonaka Haru, takes an instant shine to him, and starts dropping in on him at work. Around the same time, he has a chance reunion with Morinome Shinako, an old flame from college with a Dark and Troubled Past who is now a school teacher — at Haru's old high school. The two women meet, and Haru declares romantic war on Shinako. But Shinako has other obstacles keeping her from Rikuo— she's still not over the death of her high school crush, and she's also being pursued by his younger brother Rou, an artistic teen in his last year at her school. Will our characters be able to let go their feelings of yesterday and move on to a new future?

Sing "Yesterday" for Me (Yesterday wo Utatte) is a manga series by Kei Toume which was serialized from 1997 to 2015, spending most of its run in Business Jump before moving to Grand Jump in 2011 after Business Jump ceased publication. It received a 12-Episode Anime adaptation in 2020 as part of the Spring season, directed by Fujiwara Yoshiyuki and produced by Dogakobo.

Tropes found in Sing Yesterday for Me:

  • Accidental Misnaming: In one of Rikuo and Shinako's first meetings, Rikuo accidentally calls the latter "Morita-san," and she corrects him, saying her name is Morinome. Amusingly enough, Shinako ends up working with a teacher named Morita.
  • Adapted Out: Because of the Compressed Adaptation nature of the anime, some characters like Amamiya and Rio never appear.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Fukuda's wife calls him "Taka-chan."
  • Amicable Exes: Rikuo has one genuine example, and one on and off example. Rikuo and Shinako break up, it's the most honest and open they ever are with each other, and they agree to stay friends afterward.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: In the last episode of the anime, Rikuo becomes increasingly agitated over his romantic turmoil in a long monologue as he hurriedly journeys to confess his love to Haru. Once he finds her, he emotionally declares his love for her and demands they start dating.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Toward the end of the series, around the time, Rikuo and Shinako break up with each other, Rikuo asks one of Shinako.
    Rikuo: What about you? Me or Rou? Who's really more important to you?
  • Book Ends: Haru first met Rikuo when he was running for the bus. At the end of the series, they get together after Rikuo runs up to her while she's waiting for the bus. Likewise, at the start of the series, Haru visits Rikuo at his convenience store job, and at the end, he visits her at the Milk Hall.
  • Brutal Honesty: Fukuda doesn't hesitate to say what's on his mind around Rikuo, or to shut Rikuo down when he makes excuses. When Rikuo says he'd feel awkward coming to his class reunion after he failed to get a job, Fukuda says Rikuo didn't even try to get one.
  • Character Development: Over the course of the show, Rikuo goes from an aimless nobody just biding his time to someone with goals and direction. He initially works at a convenience store out of rebellion against society's demands, but eventually is able to reconcile this principle with character growth by pursuing his passion into an unconventional photography career. He also becomes more self-assured and aware of what he wants, which causes him to step up his pursuit of Shinako, and then eventually Haru.
  • Christmas Episode: Episode 9 and part of 10 of the anime takes place on Christmas. This being Japan, the event is an opportunity to advance the romantic plot. Haru spends the evening at work in a special Christmas cosplay outfit. Rikuo spends the evening third-wheeling at a "party" with his college friend and his wife, and invited Shinako, though she declines to spend it with Rou. Shinako couches her Christmas gathering as continuing the tradition of spending the day with family (Rou), but he clearly understands the romantic subtext and passes over a party with his friends to try to make a move on Shinako. Shinako leaves early after rejecting Rou yet again and patronizingly telling him to study, and shows up unexpectedly at Rikuo's party. Rikuo uses this opportunity to re-gift her a necklace, a romantic gesture that pushes them closer towards being a couple.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Amamiya breaks up with Haru to go look after his Not Blood Sibling Mimori, and Shinako and Rikuo decide that they're Better as Friends.
  • Cliffhanger: The anime adaptation has a few.
    • Episode 7 ends with Shinako asking Rikuo if he wants to visit her at her apartment. Rikuo's response is not shown until the next episode.
    • Episode 10 ends with Rikuo getting a phone call that shocks him, but the viewer isn't shown who called or what that person told him. The following episode reveals that Haru called to report that someone broke into her apartment.
    • Episode 11 ends with Rou spotting Rikuo and Shinako together and demanding to know what their relationship is.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The anime adaptation is 12 episodes, based on a manga that lasted 110 chapters. This has caused some controversy.
  • Cool Loser: Rou is an attractive and artistic teen who should have lots of friends, and seemingly does off screen. However, he invokes the trope by avoiding them and looking down on people at school because he feels he's more mature than them due to his relationship with Shinako, and prioritizes her over his social life.
  • The Ditherer: Rikuo's indecisiveness is the main reason why he settles for a convenience store job and didn't pursue Shinako, but he gradually grows out of it. After Rikuo quits his convenience store job immediately following getting hired full-time at a photography studio, Haru tells Shinako that Rikuo "takes forever to make up his mind, but when he does, he goes forward without asking for anyone's opinions or anything," and Shinako agrees with her.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Almost everyone.
    • Early on, Rikuo tells Haru he's not interested in her, but she decides to pursue him anyway, and spends a lot of time bringing him leftovers, showing up at his work, and arranging "accidental" run-ins with him in the hopes that he will change his mind.
    • Rikuo isn't exempt from this trope, either. He loves Shinako despite her rejecting him both in college and at the beginning of the story, and hangs around her maintaining an uneasy friendship while he hopes for more, periodically taking tentative steps to advance the relationship.
    • Rou is this to Shinako. even though Shinako has made it clear she sees him like a brother, eagerly spends as much time with her as possible and periodically makes grand, angry displays where he demands that she return his feelings.
    • The most explicitly successful of any of the cast in this trope is one of Rou's art school friends, but unlike everyone else this is played squarely for laughs. He falls in love with a girl who smashes her own statues, and despite getting beaten by her every time he tries to ask her out, he eventually snags her when he touches upon her insecurities and gets her to cry.
  • Excessive Mourning: Shinako is still not over her high school crush five years after his death, and centers her whole life around his memory, regularly bursting into tears at reminders of him. Meanwhile his father and younger brother rarely talk or think about him and seem to have moved on with their lives.
  • First-Name Basis: Haru is rather casual about using first names, such as with Rikuo, her old teacher Shinako and her boss Kyouko.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Haru met Rikuo when she was still in high school in a fleeting encounter where he dropped a ticket while running for the bus. Haru retained this memory for years, and when she met Rikuo once more was determined to have a relationship with him.
  • Friendly Rivalry: While Haru views Shinako as a romantic rival, she generally gets along well with Shinako. Whenever Rikuo seems closer to Shinako than to Haru, Haru is generally sad, rather than angry at Shinako.
  • Genki Girl: Haru is a cheerful, energetic, and determined girl who spontaneously shows up at Rikuo's workplace and brings energy into his life.
  • He Is All Grown Up: Zig-zagged with Rou and Shinako. Rou desperately wants Shinako to see him as a man worthy of romantic love, and despairs that she still sees him as a child. Halfway through, Shinako realizes that she wants to watch him grow up and pledges to pay more attention to this. There's a moment where she suddenly realizes how tall he is and how his arms are more muscular, but is instead reminded of his dead brother rather than being attracted to him for himself.
  • Hey, You!: Rikuo seems to deliberately avoid referring to Rou by name when speaking with Shinako, referring to him as "the kid" or other terms, and only calls him by name in the final episode.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The anime episodes are referred to as "Scenes."
  • Like Brother and Sister: Shinako sees Rou, the younger brother of her dead crush, as a little brother figure, and treats him in a motherly fashion, cooking his meals and nagging him about his schoolwork. This is not at all mutual, however, as Rou harbors romantic feelings for her.
  • Loser Protagonist: At the beginning of the story, Rikuo has fallen out of touch with most of his friends and is living an aimless life as a convenience store clerk, a big no-no in Japan, where holding a salaried position is highly valued. Over the course of the story he gets his act together somewhat.
  • Love Triangle: Haru likes Rikuo, who sort of likes her but is more in love with Shinako. Shinako is friends with Rikuo and enjoys his company, but is still fixated on her dead high school crush. Meanwhile, Rou is also in love with Shinako and is far more assertive about pursuing her than Rikuo is.
  • Maid Cafe: Haru works at what mostly seems like a normal cafe, but she, and not any of the employees, wears a Meido outfit at work. Apparently, it was her boss's idea.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The young, quirky, determined, Haru is a breath of fresh air in Rikuo's life, and once he meets her Rikuo gets out of his funk and decides to do more with this life. Despite livening up Rikuo's life, she has little development of her own, and it's unclear what her goals and motivations are besides getting together with Rikuo.
  • Maybe Ever After: The manga ends with Rou leaving Europe (and Rio) to pursue Shinako again. The manga makes it unclear if his latest attempt will be successful, but the chapter ends on Shinako looking up to the sky as if she's waiting for someone to return to her. The anime handles it a bit differently, with Shinako showing up at Rou's apartment, having come to rethink her relationship with him after breaking up with Rikuo, but the anime doesn't show what happens after this point.
  • The Mourning After: Five years on, Shinako is still not over the death of her high school crush, as she was deeply involved with caring for him as he died. She shies away from a relationship with Rikuo because she's still not ready for a relationship, and spends most of her free time lingering around her dead crush's family rather than living life on her own terms.
  • Oblivious to His Own Description: This happens when Minato talks with his old classmate Haru in Episode 5.
    Haru: Are you in a relationship with anyone, Minato-kun?
    Minato: I had a crush back in high school. We ran into each other again recently, but she's already in love with someone else.
    Haru: Oh, yeah? We're the same. I feel a little better.
    Minato: (thinks) She's so dense.
  • Oh, Crap!: Rikuo, exhausted from taking care of Shinako, falls asleep at her desk. When he wakes up, he looks at the clock, and, noticing that he missed his meeting with Haru, gasps and cries out, "Shit!"
  • Out of Focus: In the second half, Haru gets much less screen time as the narrative focuses more on the Rikuo-Shinako-Rou dynamic and all of their respective personal hangups. Once Rikuo completely leaves his convenience store job, Haru has less of an excuse for seeing him and her visits with him become more contrived and less frequent. Eventually, she moves to a different neighborhood.
  • Parents as People: Haru has a distant relationship with her mother, to the point at which she lives on her own and uses the Nonaka name, but her mother seems to care for her. Toward the end of the series, when Haru moves back home, her mother says Haru shouldn't feel indebted to her, since this is her home.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Rikuo almost always has a slight frown on his face.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Shinako was devastated by the experience of caring for her high school crush as he slowly died of a terminal illness. She fills the emotional void he left by caring for and nurturing his brother Rou and their father. She shows hints of possible attraction to Rou, but only because he reminds her of his brother, and is incapable of seeing Rou as his own individual man rather than a clone of his brother or a child to be cared for.
  • Romantic False Lead: The series has several of them:
    • Rikuo's younger photography partner Minato, a pretentious and hot-headed go-getter who serves as a rival for Haru's affections for one arc before disappearing to travel to the world. Rikuo dislikes him for his self-important snobbiness, but his confidence and clarity of goals contrasts with Rikuo and spurs him to improve himself on that front. Minato has feelings for Haru, who apparently never noticed them, but decides not to pursue her, since he notices that she's in love with Rikuo.
    • Towards the end of the manga, Amamiya becomes Haru's main love interest. While Amamiya was pleasant and affectionate enough, Haru wasn't all that interested in him even while they were dating, and in the third-to-last chapter Haru makes him realize that he cares more about Mimori than he does Haru.
    • Rio plays this role for Rou. Their relationship begins as a platonic one where she occasionally models for him, but sooner or later she asks him to date her for a while. She even gives him the opportunity to live with her for two years abroad, but she makes him promise that if he still has feelings for Shinako by the end of the two years, he's free to leave her. He does, so he leaves.
  • Secret Relationship: Towards the end of the story, Shinako and Rikuo get together, but are too afraid to tell their other romantic rivals and directly reject them. Haru finds out when she sees them together, but when Rou catches them together, Shinako and Rikuo's relationship is dead in the water when Shinako refuses to offer an explanation and then apologizes to Rou instead of admitting she's dating Rikuo.
  • Sibling Triangle: Shinako sees Rou and his father as family, and treats Rou like a little brother that she feeds and cares for. She is still emotionally committed to Rou's brother, which would make Rou her brother-in-law. However, Rou has romantic feelings for her that he demands she reciprocate, and while she doesn't feel the same way, she refuses to give him space or sharply reject him, and even breaks up with Rikuo because she's afraid of hurting Rou's feelings, which emboldens Rou to keep pursuing her. The result is a weird quasi-romance between the two with strong Brother–Sister Incest undertones, even though they're not actually related.
  • Sick Episode: Rikuo catches a cold at the start of Episode 3, so Shinako visits him. Shinako ends up getting sick later that episode, possibly catching her cold from Rikuo.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: In the last episode of the anime, Haru punches Rikuo on sight because she thinks he's a ghost or hallucination, and out of anger for how he dropped her. After he confesses his love to her, she kisses him forcefully on the mouth.
  • Slice of Life
  • Speak in Unison: Near the start of Episode 8, Shinako is about to invite Rikuo over to her place, but retracts the invitation at the last second, resulting in her going drinking with Morita, a fellow teacher, and him visiting Fukuda and his wife. After hearing about what happened, Morita and Fukuda make their remarks, then say "Unbelievable," together, with a split-screen showing them in their separate locations.
  • Stepford Smiler: While Haru has an outwardly cheerful demeanor, her life isn't the best, from having a distant relationship with her parents to dropping out of high school. Whenever she feels troubled by Rikuo's closeness with Shinako, she usually forces a smile.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Shinako insists that Rou call her "Morinome-sensei" at school, although he generally ignores her requests.
  • Third-Person Person: Haru refers to herself as "Haru-chan" when she's acting especially cutesy.
  • Through His Stomach: A major theme.
    • Shinako spends all her time making food for Rou and his father. Rou takes this as a sign of her interest in him, and proudly shows off her homemade bentos to his friends at school, only to be chastened when a friend also has a homemade bento, made by his mom. In one scene, Rou demands she keeps cooking for him after he goes to college, drawing parallels with how he demands her love. This contrasts him with Rikuo, who is grateful and determined to repay Shinako for her food (and love).
    • Similarly, Haru shows her love for Rikuo by spontaneously bringing him food from her workplace. She finally becomes convinced that he's not into her first when he is underwhelmed by the breakfast she makes him, and then when she finds him with Shinako after rushing to bring him a cake she made at work.
  • Title Drop: In Episode 12, Shinako, reflecting on why her relationship with Rikuo fell apart, concludes that she and Rikuo both took "the long way," which is the title of the final episode.
  • Unequal Pairing: Shinako and Rikuo both have a love interest that is about five years younger than them, a notable difference when the oldest is in their early 20's. Shinako and Rou are particularly unequal because Shinako is a teacher at Rou's high school and sees herself as an older sister/mother figure to him.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Rikuo and his old friend Fukuda. Fukuda often snarks at Rikuo, and doesn't hesitate to criticize his aimlessness in life, but is one of the few friends still in touch with Rikuo, and encourages him to get his life on track. Despite often finding Fukuda annoying, Rikuo tells Shinako that if not for Fukuda, he'd still be working part-time at the convenience store, which is why he's grateful to him.
  • Webcomic Time: The manga was written over nearly 20 years, but covers about a year of in-comic time. The story continued to be set in the 90's even as time progressed and society changed dramatically in real life.
  • Will They or Won't They?: The whole point of the series is to resolve what combination of the Haru-Rikuo-Shinako-Rou love quadrangle will get together.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Shinako is a demure, reserved and conservatively dressed woman. She spends nearly all her free time serving and cooking for her adopted family, the father and brother of her dead high school crush, seeing it as an extension of her nursing of the crush on his deathbed. She does this out of a self-centered sense of obligation, as the family neither asks for nor particularly appreciates this motherly role. This deference to the family and sense of obligation keeps her from becoming the lover that Rou wants, but also keeps her from her own happiness or personal growth. Her sense of obligation to the family and Rou keeps her from getting together with Rikuo, and keeps her constantly sad and obsessed with the memory of her dead crush. While she shows some signs of a backbone, being willing to lecture Rou in a motherly way if she thinks it's best for him, she's overall something of an Extreme Doormat, finding herself completely unable to stand up for him or clearly explain her own feelings, which ultimately ends her relationship with Rikuo.

Alternative Title(s): Yesterday Wo Utatte