A few days ago, my six-year-old neighbor told me that people have been telling him that he can’t be friends with girls. While I wish this sort of garbage wasn’t still going on, this week’s episode of My Clueless First Friend covers some similar ground, in a couple of different ways. The first is the product of Kasahara’s former friends, who have reformed an unholy trinity around the girl with the bun: they try to convince Takada that he’s breaking some sort of law by “fraternizing” with Nishimura. It’s a pretty standard play from the bullies’ book, and were it not included in an episode that sees our adorable duo grappling with the looming shadow of romance, it almost wouldn’t be worth mentioning.
But it is in the same episode that has Nishimura getting dolled up to go to the zoo with Takada, the Kitagawa gang accusing them of going on a date, and Takada witnessing a kiss that makes him think about his emotions where Nishimura is concerned. Normally, I don’t love it when a story tries to foist a romance plot off on little kids, but in this case, I think I’m okay with it. That’s largely because it feels like an organic evolution for the characters. Takada has been attracted to Nishimura from the start, and that’s not necessarily just a romantic thing. He wholeheartedly embraces her for who she is, and if he begins to put a different, less platonic spin on things, that comes from his initial attraction to her personality. Nishimura, for her part, has a special place in her heart for Takada as the first person who gave her a chance and defended her against the Kitagawas and Kasaharas of the world. If they’re growing from best friends into something a little different, that’s okay.
And while Takada may have been the first person to befriend Nishimura, he’s certainly not the last – he’s just the one who showed her that she’s a person who deserves friends. Nothing showcases that like Kasahara, who has come to realize that she didn’t want to be the bully anymore. In her way, she’s just as fragile as Nishimura, stuck with an idea of who she’s “supposed” to be. But as she’s gotten to know Nishimura and watched her with Takada, Hino, and Adachi, Kasahara has been forced to rethink her position. She fully expects Nishimura to tease her about thinking a plastic bag was a cat because that’s what she would have done before. But Nishimura doesn’t and instead invites her over to meet Kuro. We don’t see that visit, but it makes a huge difference to Kasahara: it’s the point where she says aloud that she and Nishimura are friends. She doesn’t seem to have repudiated her old clique, but she’s also clearly no longer hanging out with them, and that can’t have been easy for her. Just like Takada and Nishimura, Kasahara is changing and growing as a person, and it’s every bit as important as our main duo’s growth.
For every character who changes, there are going to be those who don’t. Kitagawa’s gang and the new trio of mean girls haven’t learned their lessons yet, and they may not. But Nishimura’s world is bigger and brighter than ever before, and the monsters don’t matter as much as they used to. She and Takada can keep moving forward – and if the series wants that to be a little romantic? That’s not such a bad thing, even if boys and girls can just be friends.
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