Yuyuka may have great presence throughout the story due to her function as Suzume’s pillar of support, but she, too, changes over time. Her growth happens gradually and is closely tied to the realization that she has to let go of some of her pride and control in order to make new experiences — and the people she learns to cherish and the new feelings that are born along the way may just be worth that “loss”. Below are the four major steps in her development, represented by her relationship to four (groups of) people: friends, Suzume, Mamura and Togyuu.
Unmasking After befriending Suzume, Yuyuka gets used to being with the new girl at school quite quickly and acts naturally around her when the two of them are alone (i.e. grumpy, easily annoyed, vocal in her opinions). How much at ease she feels around Suzume to the point of letting down her guard completely — remarkable, considering what a controlled person Yuyuka is — is demonstrated when Suzume and Mamura’s groups of friends decide to hold a study session at Suzume’s place: While attempting to explain an exam subject to Suzume, Yuyuka slowly grows annoyed at her friend’s lack of attention and eventually blows up in true Yuyuka fashion while reprimanding Suzume for her rudeness, much to her classmates’ surprise. The one showing the biggest shock, however, is Yuyuka herself, as she didn’t want her true personality to be found out — especially not in front of Mamura.
Grasping the delicate situation, Suzume spontaneously decides to defuse it by revealing Mamura’s secret: By grabbing his arm and causing him to blush due to his shyness with the female gender, she turns Yuyuka and Mamura’s embarrassed faces into less of an awkward and shocking situation and more of a comical one that is well-received by their friends. After the laughter has settled, their friends are genuinely perplexed that Yuyuka would hide her true personality: “This is so much better!” As a similar outburst was witnessed by other students during the previously mentioned field trip, it is from this day on that Yuyuka shows her true face at school.
Suzume’s involvement in this is twofold: By stubbornly befriending Yuyuka, she gives the girl the first opportunity in a while to be herself around someone else and to be understood as the person she is, and by accidentally causing Yuyuka’s outburst — again, a result of them having become so close — and handling the situation well, she paves the way for Yuyuka to open up and let others in so as to weave genuine bonds, not superficial ones.
Confronting Suzume Suzume is Yuyuka’s first real friend in a long time, the significance of which cannot be overstated. Yuyuka’s fake personality may have kept her out of arguments, but has also built a wall between her and other people due to nobody knowing the real her, and conversations not going beyond the trivial. In Yuyuka’s side story, Yuyuka laments the fact that she hasn’t had anyone to confide in or anyone to cheer her on regarding her feelings for Mamura. However, Mamura, much like Yuyuka, owes a lot to Suzume befriending him, and thus develops romantic feelings for her. When he expresses them, Suzume (who doesn’t reciprocate his feelings) keeps his advances from Yuyuka so as not to hurt her feelings — unsuccessfully so, as Yuyuka’s attentiveness alerts her of her friend’s unnatural behaviour. Yuyuka’s hunch is confirmed when she tries to invite Mamura to another casual get-together in some way or another after the previous study session, his response being: “If that person is there, I’ll come.”
Yuyuka makes attempts to address her suspicions, going as far as visiting Suzume at her house, but ultimately resorts to small talk and avoiding the issue despite spending the night there; while Suzume wonders why her friend has come over, she doesn’t dwell on it long enough to ask. Although this could easily be regarded as a matter of pride, it isn’t so simple: More than pride, I strongly assume that Yuyuka was immensely afraid — more so than usual — of the loss of control, as a confrontation could easily make her lose her precious friend and the only person who truly understands her.
This is why it’s important to recognize what a big step it is and how much courage had to be summoned when she finally does bring it up later: “You’re lying. Say it. Just tell me what happened.” Although Yuyuka slams the door and leaves Suzume’s house after hearing that Mamura asked her friend out, Suzume runs after her barefooted. Yuyuka was trying to hide her own vulnerability once again, but when Suzume catches up to her, she openly shows her friend her hurt face.
Why didn’t you say anything until I noticed? Why do I have to figure it out after all this time? You’ve been sympathizing with me and pretending to be my friend after all, haven’t you?
This is just my interpretation, but I believe that Yuyuka is just as hurt — if not more so — by her friend apparently having betrayed her than by the fact that Mamura has feelings for someone else. As she has clashed with other girls in the past who severely misunderstood her intentions, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that in this moment, Yuyuka is afraid of Suzume leaving her as well (and just like back then, it’d be over a guy). Suzume, however, is stunned by her friend’s accusation, sincerely apologizes, and reveals that she has in fact just been turned down by Shishio, who she confessed to after school:
That’s wrong. I do feel sorry for not telling you about it, but I also couldn’t make myself tell you. Mamura, Yuyuka-chan — both of you are precious to me. I didn’t want to hurt you guys by saying those words. Besides, I know how it feels when the person you love doesn’t love you back. I know as much as you do… I’m painfully aware of it…!!
The conveyed sincerity in both the girls’ tears, the feelings of heartbreak that they share and the way they show each other how much that friendship matters to them through their hurt is ultimately what makes them reconcile almost immediately afterwards. This episode, to me, really highlights how much Suzume means to Yuyuka — but also how strongly that feeling is reciprocated.
Confession Over the course of the series’ first few volumes, Yuyuka is repeatedly shown trying to approach her crush Mamura: On several occasions, she tries to speak with him, though the conversations never last due to her nervosity and his indifference, and them really not having anything to talk about — this in spite of her running after him or tagging along several times while making up excuses to be close to him. Mamura, however, barely acknowledges her presence. (And no, this is not just Yuyuka’s responsibility — in my opinion, Mamura is extraordinarily insensitive around girls who are not Suzume at first, which is… alright considering what his development was supposed to be about. Though it gets better later on, including his very few sincere interactions with Yuyuka, his separation of “Suzume” and “every other girl” remains, which has its positive and negative points, but is not addressed satisfactorily by the end of the series.)
During preparations for the school’s cultural festival, Yuyuka’s friends enter her as an actress for the school play so as to boost her popularity, seeing how she intends to participate in the festival’s beauty pageant. Much to her annoyance, Togyuu Minagawa, an outgoing upperclassman and fellow actor in the play shows persistent interest in her, intrigued by the discrepancy between her first impression and her real personality. During a meeting for the play, he attempts to flirt with her and claims to have heard that she’s not in a relationship with anyone. When asked whether there’s anyone she likes, Yuyuka’s face briefly betrays her, though she tells him it has nothing to do with him. To her surprise, he manages to see through her cool exterior quite effortlessly:
With your personality, there’s no way you can express it smoothly, right? You’re most likely far too proud to fully convey your emotions to your crush.
With his words lingering on her mind, Yuyuka’s frustration grows even bigger (most likely because she realizes he has hit the nail on its head), which causes her to accidentally lash out at a passing Mamura when she bumps into him. Feeling down about him seeing that side of hers, Yuyuka retreats, choosing to mull over her personality by herself rather than accept Suzume’s support. Instead, Togyuu approaches her to make casual conversation, refusing to leave her alone even though he correctly guesses that she’s having love trouble. As Yuyuka is at her lowest, appearances don’t matter to her in the least and she starts talking about her “nasty mouth and personality”, as well as the frustration she feels over being passive in matters of love even with the many opportunities she has had, and what an awful person she is for having yelled at Mamura. Togyuu listens to her intently, but disagrees: He reassures her that she’s the only one to think that harshly of herself, and that he is quite fond of her “unexpectedly straightforward nature”.
I believe that both Togyuu’s provocation and encouragement are what lead Yuyuka to be “straightforward” with her feelings for Mamura, too: During the festival, she asks Mamura to come see her. As mentioned before, it takes her one more rejection from Mamura (in response to her pretending to confess on behalf of a friend) to finally tell him how she feels about him. Though he turns her down, she thanks him for hearing her out and says that she feels better now that it’s out. Later on, she tells Suzume that she knew she was going to be rejected, but also:
Mamura-kun rejected me very seriously and sincerely. That’s why I believe this is good enough. It was painful, but I don’t regret anything.
New Feelings There are three people in the story who are capable of making Yuyuka lose her composure, all in different ways: Suzume, Mamura and Togyuu. While Suzume understands her friend, embraces her wholeheartedly and unquestioningly and covers for her in difficult situations, Togyuu unsettles Yuyuka with his keen insight that is able to see through her. There’s also the fact that he does not hesitate to point out what she deems her undesirable sides (her pride in particular, which I’ve addressed as her defining trait), yet still listens to her and still likes her. Though she is annoyed at him at first (perhaps due to his personality which makes it difficult to guess what exactly he’s thinking and whether or not he’s just picking on her), to Yuyuka, this means a lot: After all, a big part of her back story and the importance of the relationship she shares with Suzume is nobody knowing her true self — and thus being unable to truly befriend her — for a long time because she deliberately shut them out, something that she, in truth, doesn’t want to be that way either.
After Yuyuka takes Togyuu’s words to heart and confesses to Mamura, Togyuu finds her crying by herself, and stays with her to offer her comfort in silence. It’s interesting to note that the three instances in which Yuyuka is seen crying (all depicted on this shrine; there’s a fourth in a flashback as she thanks Mamura for listening to her confession) are acknowledged as the moments the people around her (Suzume, Togyuu — but also Mamura, who consciously greets Yuyuka in the aftermath) feel closest to her as they are finally able to see her true feelings. It is not when Yuyuka is proud and controlled that she is at her strongest, but when she sincerely shows what matters to her. Impressed by Yuyuka’s flawless performance in the school play in spite of her emotional turmoil shortly before, Togyuu confesses to her:
At first, I just wanted to tease you. You seemed cute and arrogant. But as I got to know you better, my impression of you changed. You express your emotions easily. You confessed but got rejected. You were obviously hurting, but still stayed strong. […] I’m trying to say that I’m serious about you.
Yuyuka does not respond positively to this right away — understandably so since she still considers Togyuu’s personality troublesome, not to mention that she hasn’t fully processed her feelings for Mamura yet. A whole while later, she finds out by accident that Togyuu works as a pizza delivery guy outside of school time, something which he asks her to keep secret from fellow students. When asked why, he reveals that his family is actually poor — much to Yuyuka’s surprise since his personality makes one think he’s from a rich family. What follows is an explanation that deeply resonates with her even though she doesn’t show it:
If they found out about it, they’d pity me by sharing their lunchbox with me or treat me. After all, everyone has certain ideas of other people, and when those expectations aren’t met, they start to look down on you or speak ill of you behind your back. I’m just trying to avoid that.
When Togyuu gets sick some time afterwards, Yuyuka is the only one he can ask to come over with medicine due to her being the only one in the know. When she complies and visits him, he shows her sincerely how glad he is that she came, without teasing her the way he usually does, and asks her to stay a while longer. By then, Yuyuka has already noticed that the last remains of her feelings for Mamura have passed as she was able to sit next to her former crush casually without feeling anything special or being her usual nervous self around him. Hesitantly, she confides in Suzume that she might be holding feelings for someone new:
No way, no way!! I finally said it!! If I said it, it means that I admitted it!! Do you get it?! It’s so irritating!! […] I don’t understand it either!! And I’d like to know the answer too!! How could I, who was madly in love with Mamura-kun, end up falling for that guy!!! That guy!!! […] This was not supposed to happen… What should I do now…?
The usually composed Yuyuka is now experiencing for the first time what it means to lose control completely over her emotions in matters of love, a stark contrast to the distanced and measured approach she took concerning Mamura — a change welcomed by Suzume, who sees the obvious difference in her friend’s behaviour and calls it cute. Though the first step is made, Yuyuka still fights with her pride; her incapability to be honest makes her unable to face Togyuu after she has admitted to herself that she’s in love with him. This eventually leads him to believe that she might be avoiding him due to having seen his poverty firsthand.
During the school’s sports festival, she turns him down coldly several times when he tries to approach her, not reacting even when he says she’s his first choice as a partner in the activity he’s part of. It takes Suzume’s forceful intervention for Yuyuka to submit, creating an opportunity for the two to have a heart to heart. Togyuu tells Yuyuka how much he has been worrying about her perception of him lately, and how anxious her lack of communication makes him, thus conveying sincerity and straightforwardness that impress Yuyuka. Encouraged by Suzume’s words (“If you’re not honest now, then who will you show your true feelings to?!”), Yuyuka finally and sincerely puts her feelings into words. And though they’re vague, it’s more than enough for Togyuu, who knows her so well, to understand and to accept.