The Idol who Forgot how to Sing Analysis
Setsuna spends most of this story in a state of excruciating pain. It could be characterized a few different ways—limbo, a rollercoaster, a spiral, or even a combination of these. It’s understandable: the end of her high school life was marked by an enormous betrayal by the boy she was dating, and the loss of her best friend, and it quickly becomes evident that no resolution has been reached since. No breakup, no reconciliation. Haruki is avoiding her, and her own will to chase him down is unreliable, because trying to contact him might mean learning that he has her number blocked, or having a conversation that leads to an even more excruciating conclusion. The stress takes a major toll on her, fraying her nerves and putting cracks in the mask she used to wear so effortlessly when engaging with others. One might go so far as to call the situation “toxic”; these are problems that go beyond those that would normally be expected in a healthy relationship.
Setsuna laments to herself at one point that she can’t throw everything away that isn’t Haruki, the way that Kazusa did, but she does come to disregard everything—and, more to the point, everyone—that isn’t Haruki, even when she has no idea how they stand. One particularly startling instance of this is on her birthday, when the announcement that she has a visitor recalls to her that “someone” had told Haruki to talk to her again. “Someone,” of course, was Io on the phone, mere minutes earlier. Even Io—one of Setsuna’s oldest, closest friends—is mentally reduced to a nebulous “someone” when set next to the mere possibility of Haruki having just shown up at her door.
It’s not as though Setsuna never tries to shake free of this spiral she’s in—she does make other friends, as Io suggested, and she makes her attempt at separating herself from Haruki by building a list of things she hates about him. But the first measure fails because all she can focus on is what news of Haruki she might get second-hand from these other friends, almost like doses in the midst of withdrawal; and the second fails because, as she realizes all too late, finding things to hate is just another emotional extreme, like love. If she wanted to eliminate her feelings for Haruki, she should have looked for indifference, which is what she ends up showing to everyone else instead. Therein is the circular nature of her trouble: the problems caused by the absence could only be solved by the person absent, because that is where her mind keeps returning. But neither of them can get up the gumption to cross that gap in any real way, so the problems persist.
There are also others making their own attempts to help Setsuna when she has trouble acting herself. Takeya and Io are the most overt about it, setting things up so that she and Haruki end up alone at the festival, and trying to talk Haruki into taking some action of his own. But even when their “scheme” works, when Setsuna and Haruki take the opportunity to spend the day at the festival together, Setsuna’s sense of her experience of the present is muddled up in her recollections of the past. She comes so close to taking a major step forward, but simply hearing that song on the university radio station freezes her definitively. She is too trapped by memory.
The other major figure who comes into play is Haruki’s new “best friend,” Hiroki Tomochika, who bonds with Setsuna as they plan the spring break seminar trip together. One would argue that Tomochika does not act out of line in making his romantic overture to Setsuna on her birthday—having spent a good amount of time with both her and Haruki, having that two-sided grasp of their situation, it isn’t unreasonable that he would figure a breakup was in their future, and he isn’t pushy about it, either. His remark that a situation like Setsuna and Haruki’s can only go on for so long, that it might be better for her to move on from him so that she can stop suffering, is also quite rational. This is not, of course, to declare whether Setsuna should or shouldn’t have accepted him; there are some flaws in the overture itself, too, like his offer to be a “replacement” for Haruki, or to let her keep “using” him for information about Haruki, instead of putting himself forth as a complete, independent person. But Setsuna went cold the moment she saw that it was anyone other than Haruki at the door, and while that might be excused to some extent, or at least explained, by what she’s going through, Tomochika is well within his right to be hurt by it.
Tomochika is also the one who finally calls Setsuna out, to her face, during their final conversation, for being so single-mindedly hung up on Haruki and so blatant in her lack of interest in what any other guy thinks or feels. This could have provided a crucial wake-up call for Setsuna, coming, again, from someone with a close familiarity with both her and Haruki. Instead, all she really hears, or cares about, is the part where Haruki called a sudden, violent halt to his friendship with Tomochika because of the confession. Haruki rejected and hurt someone who had come to trust and care about him, on her account: this is all it takes for the rollercoaster to hit a high again. It’s clear enough, too, that she has no intention of trying to mediate a reconciliation between Tomochika and Haruki, even though she can tell that’s what the former is hoping for. Why would she? Tomochika’s role in all of this, as far as she’s concerned, is that of a rival for Haruki’s special attention. Now the rival has been eliminated.
Even though she’s been avoided for so long, even though she’s suffered so much in so many ways on account of this relationship and the limbo in which it has spent the past several years, all it takes to keep Setsuna hanging on is the thought that she’s something special to Haruki. She doesn’t know whether he loves or hates her, but she still gets to have special significance, shown through his extreme possessiveness. This makes some sense when tied in with her obsession terms of address, as demonstrated throughout the series—first names, last names, honorifics, even which word for “you” someone uses. (She seems to project a bit of this onto Takeya as well, at the very end, wondering how he’ll feel when she tells him that he is Haruki’s only “best friend.” Even though Io hassled him a bit earlier in the story, suggesting he was jealous of Tomochika, he never demonstrated anywhere near Setsuna’s level of worry or fixation on the matter.)
The final image of the story, Setsuna taking off running after having paced in place for so long, has a positive connotation, but when the details are set in the context of the whole arc of the story, it looks as though a number of chances for real change and progress were given—and missed. While Setsuna may be in an uplifted mood after what Tomochika told her, whether she has actually undergone any growth at this point that might improve the long-term health of her relationship with Haruki is unclear.