One Week Friends and Distancing

One Week Friends is available to stream on Crunchyroll, HiDive, and VRV.


Anime has a tendency to pull some weird concepts out of its collective hat.

See, for example, the the buddy comedy film where Buddha and Jesus share an apartment. Or the show about an after-school club for piloting (remarkably accurately-drawn) tanks as a sport. Or the manga about a retired yakuza thug, turned into a house-husband who becomes intensely dramatic over household chores.

(Please see that last example. It’s called Gokushufudou, and it’s fantastic.)

Then there’s One Week Friends, which is less overtly odd insofar as other stories have taken memory loss as a serious, dramatic subject. But the female lead in One Week Friends (because tragedy disproportionately targets Japanese teenage girls) has a hyper-specific form of amnesia, promptly forgetting the last week’s worth of memories relating to extra-familial people at 12:01 AM every Monday morning.

It sounds more like the main mechanic of Majora’s Mask than any realistic scenario.

And it makes a very useful story right now, oddly enough.

Something I admired about One Week Friends is how – at least in the anime adaptation – the story resists purely victimizing lead heroine Kaori. Our boy protagonist worries about her, sure, but he’s also the wishy-washy Charlie Brown sort. He seems to gravitate into his own worried state when left to his own devices.

Kaori, on the other hand, is super on-top of her malady. She knows what its affects are, how to work around them, and where to set all her expectations. And, as a result, she’s remarkably stable in the face of it all – possibly the most level-headed about it of anyone in the teenage cast, albeit overly-cautious at first (which, for certain situations, may be the correct decision). The show makes no bones about her feeling isolated, to be sure; but it also provides plenty of examples of her doing healthily.

On these matters, it’s best to learn from the experienced, after all, And all I need to know about social distancing today, I learned from Fujimiya Kaori.

Preempt Your Own Needs

Even losing her memory week after week, Kaori has outsmarted herself. She leaves herself notes on what she’s been doing, obligations that may have slipped by, and threads of information and topics of personal interest to follow up on. It’s as deep as her journal, and as simple as sticky-notes on a mirror. The actual method is inconsistent, but what’s important is that she has systems in place so that Sunday Kaori can help Monday Kaori stay up to speed.

So get your environment into a shape that you like early, while motivation still strikes you. That might only take the spring cleaning that was going to wait until April so that you’re not begrudging the state of your 24-hour quarters. It may mean taking a swing at the KonMari method you’ve been reading about so that you feel less claustrophobic. And it could manifest as creating a more sustainable at-home working space, or gathering what you need for a long-term project while you still have motivation and better access to hobby supplies. But prepare for the future, and iron out the speed bumps well before they happen.

Communicate Clearly

While she spends most of the first few episodes being especially guarded and playing her situation close to the chest, the one thing Kaori isn’t ambiguous about right out of the gate is her expectations. She flat-out tells people when she can’t do things, she states in no uncertain terms what her boundaries are, and sends all manner of non-verbal signals as to what’s out of bounds for her. In fact, for better or for worse, the story only gets off the ground because persistent protagonist Kase chooses to interpret her explicit words more as suggestions.

Flipping this around a bit, airing your issues early helps keeps things running smoothly long-term (which is always true, and evidenced by the billions of conflicts in various dramas that could be circumvented with a single conversation). If your work life is adversely affected, level-set with the right people as to what the next month or two might need to look like. If you feel uncomfortably crowded, saying so politely has a sky-high success rate. And for goodness’ sake, change or cancel your appointments sooner rather than later, especially if it’s with someone living in a place with a different sense of urgency. Assuming everyone acts civilly, the more lead-up you give, the less hard feelings there will be.

Mind Others

It feels prudent to note that even early in the series, when Kaori was being particularly distant, she could still remember her classmates’ names off-hand. And, as noted, it’s not just a name game; Kaori’s habit of writing little dossiers on all her friends – including how she wants to remember them – helps her to keep their relationships thriving despite her circumstances. Her natural distance makes her vigilant for gaps in her own memory, hinting at where she might have brushed up against other people – and so places where she owes a follow-up on what could become a missed connection.

So, while it’s important to set healthy boundaries, the “healthy” end of that phrase includes not setting those boundaries too far away. You may not be seeing other people often, but that makes it even more important to check in with them. Send a message along, especially if you haven’t heard from them in a while or know they live in a one-person household; goodness knows they’ll be home to receive it. Find some other way to maintain your usual meet-ups, like converting your board game nights to online games, or scheduling a separate-but-together dinner hour over video chat. One-on-one conversation erases that distance for everybody involved, without ever leaving your respective living rooms.

Journal Friends
Just because they’re only in her sketchbook Monday morning doesn’t make them less real.

Now, is it a titch silly to be taking advice from a cartoon character, especially one so initially moody about their own situation?

Absolutely.

Does it make the suggestions any less helpful?

For me, at least, not particularly.

It’s always been a useful practice for many to look to fictional role models in a crisis. They’re not especially bound by real world logic, and have character elements designed in a writing-room to make them maximally admirable (and, likewise, tailor-made faults to create spicy drama). But, much like people quote the square-jawed Steve Rogers as an idealistic paragon who you wouldn’t necessarily want to emulate in daily life, I like to follow the example, if not the exact practices, of more down-to-earth characters responding to personal crisis in the same way.

We’ve been through our issues up ’til now, and there will certainly be more to come. But having something uplifting to follow, even in an abstract way, can help ease our way into a sense of normalcy for the time being.

Remember kids: wash your hands, twenty seconds at minimum, and get those easy-to-miss spots. Be cautious, and follow your local and regional guidelines; they’re there for a reason. Stay informed, and always check your sources on any new information. And for goodness’ sake, go watch some cheery anime theme songs to lift your spirits.


Context for Future Readers

This article was published on March 23rd, 2020, a little less than two weeks after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global health pandemic. At this stage, most readers were under advisory to maintain a “healthy social distance” from others outside their immediate household, including not leaving their home unless necessary.

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