The Cat The characters in Daytime Shooting Star have names that share a common theme: animals. Yuyuka Nekota’s is the cat (neko = Japanese for cat). A lot of different characteristics are commonly attributed to cats, many of which describe Yuyuka as well: They’re said to be independent and self-reliant (Yuyuka’s tendency to fend for herself), clever, cunning and intuitive, but also watchful and secretive, flexible and adaptable (emotional agility in Yuyuka’s case), single-minded (as in goal-oriented), curious and selective. A cat, like Yuyuka, also gives you a clear no if it doesn’t like something, whether by marked lack of interest or through physical warning signs. Cats stand for grace and poise and are associated with regality and feminine power; due to their finicky nature, they enjoy high authority in their own world.

A link is made between cats and darkness as they are nocturnal, with darkness being connected to the hidden and unknown — just as Yuyuka hides her true personality. Cats are often depicted as protectors or companions (e.g. a witch’s familiar), which matches Yuyuka’s role as Suzume’s best friend and guide. In symbolism, cats are associated with restorative power, renewal and rebirth (along with the belief that cats have several lives); this, in turn, is demonstrated in Yuyuka’s character arc, in how she find a “new” self and in the way she rises anew time and again without being discouraged.

Fashion Yamamori’s characters are very well-dressed, their hairstyles and outfits never staying the same for too long. In May 2014, Daytime Shooting Star received a women’s clothing line of its own — a collaborative effort between Mika Yamamori and the popular Japanese fashion label earth music&ecology. Yamamori provided the art that the articles would be based on, and each piece is associated with a character in the series.

Yuyuka’s set consists of four items: a checkered gingham dress with embroidered stars, a cardigan with a star-shaped button and flower lace neckline, a cat motif pearl necklace, and hairpins with star and cat motifs. Each item is available in two colours. The full line-up with detailed pictures can be seen on earth music&ecology’s Tumblr, a side-by-side comparison to Yamamori’s art along with pictures of the release exhibit on Anime News Network. Unfortunately, the items are no longer in stock.

Alter Ego Yamamori’s first series is Sugars, which is comprised of oneshots spanning six volumes. The short stories share the same setting, with previously introduced characters reappearing in later chapters either in the background or as protagonists of their own story. The common element across the chapters is the importance of a sweet (whether a simple candy or snack or an elaborate dish) to the respective character’s story; in fact, most of the series’ chapter titles feature one such sweet. Unlike Daytime Shooting Star, I’m more than happy to recommend Sugars to all kinds of readers due to its solid writing and the wide range of characters, themes and feelings portrayed in its stories — it’s one of my favourite oneshot series (and I only found out about it while working on this shrine!) and it truly captures the bittersweet nuances of its genre: living each day to the fullest, giving your best and failing, finding the courage to start anew, being afraid of falling behind your peers, impatiently wishing to grow up faster, melancholically looking back on your days of school, experiencing different kinds of admiration, accepting the fleeting nature of many things while still learning to appreciate them, and so on. Many stories feature romance, but romance isn’t necessarily the primary focus — it’s youth.

A character who shows up in the very first chapter in the role of a supportive best friend is Mami Shirakawa, a pretty and popular girl with an expressionless and somewhat cold exterior who is often confessed to. Just like Yuyuka, she’s sharp and encourages her friend in matters of love, and just like Yuyuka, she doesn’t hesitate to employ simultaneously extreme and subtle means to give her friend a little push. (Short version: She makes her friend believe that her “love potion” is real; compare this to the aquarium incident already mentioned.) Only three volumes are available to me as of writing this, but Mami is featured again in chapter two (The Sugarless Girl and the Banana Pancake), her own story, and chapter seven (Sweet Escape), where she is the catalyst for another character’s growth following her own experiences.

Mami dislikes sweet things, sweet attitudes and flattery, and states that she doesn’t understand what love — another overly sweet thing — is at all. She admires her friend’s ability to show emotions so openly, something that she can’t imagine herself doing. A series of interactions makes her warm up to an energetic junior who manages to get her to let down her guard through his simple-minded and carefree outlook on life, but just as she starts to feel the gradual change in herself and is able to show different kinds of expressions, she learns that there’s already someone special in his heart — a discovery that she reacts to by harshly rejecting the usual self-made banana pancakes he offers her. Perhaps in defiance due to him telling her that his special person loves sweets, Mami later orders an overly sweet dessert and devours it with an extra dose of chocolate syrup.

Everyone, everywhere, sweets and more sweets, I can’t stand it. I always… I like my coffee black, and I’m not a “sweet” girl. I always act cold when someone likes me and they give up, but if there’s something I can do, I’ll do it. I’ll become sweet for your sake.

Realizing the nature of her feelings for the junior, she runs to him to apologize and to confess. Though her confession is rejected, she is able to become a more gentle and relaxed person by finding herself, someone capable of showing expressions to others.

Mami’s similarities with Yuyuka (or, well, the other way around, since Sugars was first) go beyond what’s seen in the first chapter in her support role: Her facial expressions are often cold or unenthusiastic (though not as extreme as in Yuyuka’s case, who tends to be grumpy and easily annoyed), her relationship with her friend brings out her caring side and is written with mutual respect and admiration even though they’re very different people. Both Mami and Yuyuka speak their mind, are self-confident, adept at reading others and understanding themselves, and though they’re aware of their own flaws, they’re tense and controlled around other people, going as far as saying hurtful things to mask their own hurt.

Most importantly, the pivotal element of both their character arcs is learning to get over that pride and control and to speak how they really feel inside. They both confess to the person they like knowing that they’ll be rejected, but realizing before and afterwards that it’s an important step in their growth — much in tune with the rest of Sugars, which subtly sends the message that there are certain experiences that are necessary and essential to make at certain stages of your life. I like all stories I’ve read in Sugars very much, but both chapters that focus on Mami set themselves apart from most oneshots in the series by ending on a bittersweet note and without the realization of a romantic relationship — something that is not portrayed negatively, but as a celebration of discovering a new self, being happy about the evolution that has taken place in oneself, and thus finding or reconciling with oneself. It is for the same reason that Yuyuka’s side story means so much to me.

I told him my feelings, but in the end I was rejected (I knew that would happen). It’s okay though, because I discovered a lot of feelings I didn’t know about before. Next time, if I like someone, I’ll be more honest with my feelings from the beginning. And… I’ll ask that person to make me some banana pancakes.

Pride may not be what I associate with Mami first and foremost, but it’s clear that like Yuyuka, she dislikes losing, whether it’s forcing herself to eat something extremely sweet to childishly emulate the person whose role she’d like to have, or by stubbornly continuing to eat sweets even after that episode has passed, even though they are laced with sad memories. In chapter seven, where Mami is a major side character to someone else’s story, she, too, is shown as someone who hides their pain, but whose countenance and strength inspires others.

Further similarities include their interest in manicure, their explicit portrayal as “tsundere” (an initially cold person who slowly starts to show their warm side) and their blood type AB (a carefully chosen trait in Japanese media). Their differences mainly lie in the fact that Mami, unlike Yuyuka, doesn’t hide her true personality, and Yuyuka, once comfortable with showing everyone her real self, is far more vocal and expressive.