A while back we discussed Watanabe You, and her role as a traditional “Childhood Friend” character for Takami Chika. Childhood Friends thrive in a static environment, where they don’t have to confront their feelings for the protagonist. So stories with them almost always start with a disruption, very frequently the unexpected arrival of a new love interest. Enter Sakurauchi Riko.
If Chika is the Protagonist and You is the Childhood Friend, then Riko of course is the Mysterious Transfer Student. Ok, maybe not so much on the mysterious, but definitely a Transfer Student. Riko comes into Chika’s life during a fairly clever meet-cute that ends with both of them tumbling into the ocean. Afterwards Chika regails Riko with her love of School Idols, and reveals to her why she wants to be a school idol so much.
But what about Riko, what does she want? Well, Riko didn’t come to Uchiura to become a school idol. Not at all. She came to escape. Its quickly revealed that Riko is an avid pianist, but during an important recital she froze up and was unable to perform. One of her goals in Uchiura is to learn the sound of the ocean, in the hopes it will help her move forward. Riko doesn’t have any desire to become a school idol. At this point, performing in front of people is one of the last things she probably wants to think about doing. Chika, however, is nothing if not persistent.
Late at night, Riko sits down in front of her piano. She looks up a song Chika said she loved. Yume no Tobira (The Door of Dreams). This is the song that made Chika love School Idols, its the song she wants to use as a guide for conveying her own feelings about how much she loves School Idols. Riko opens up her piano and begins to play and sing.
I’ve been looking for the door of dreams
I was searching for our connection
She turns and discovers Chika staring at her through her window. It turns out that their houses are next to each other, something neither realized before this. Separated by a gap that may be miles for all that its just a few feet, Riko reaches out to Chika for the first time. Riko has lost the thing she loved the most, its door slammed shut in her face. Now nothing she does is fun or feels meaningful. Chika reaches her hand across the gap and asks her to become a School Idol. To become a School Idol to find a way to change, to find her way back to loving the piano. For Chika, a School Idol is about putting a smile on people’s faces, and she wants to help Riko find her smile once again.
Chika stretches out even further, doing her best to reach Riko. Riko reaches out, but then retreats. “We probably can’t reach” she tells Chika. But Chika refuses to give up. Leaning out as far as she can till finally, their fingers touch. Chika had to go further than Riko, but thats ok. Sometimes you need to go a bit further to help someone. As they touch, their faces light up. A path forward opens up for both of them.
Sometimes the door to your dreams is right in front of you, all you need is the courage to reach out and open it. Riko’s dreams weren’t permanently cut off when she couldn’t perform. The door just closed for a while. She needed to find a way to open it up again. She can’t do it alone however, as Yume no Tobira says, she needed to find a connection. Riko doesn’t love School Idols the way Chika does. She barely knows anything about them, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that she finds a new path forward. Whether it be back to piano or towards being a School Idol.
On that moonlit night the space between them became a door to both of their dreams.