Daytime Shooting Star receives high praise from me due to putting so much emphasis on the importance of female friendship by the way the relationship between Suzume and Yuyuka develops. Whereas I spoke of devotion as part of Yuyuka’s personality, the points in this section are about the way Yuyuka and Suzume interact and how they affect each other, along with reasons that make Yuyuka such a significant character to me as far as shoujo manga are concerned.

Guide As Suzume’s best female friend, Yuyuka makes an amazing guide — not just because she’s so devoted to her friend, but because her strong personality makes itself known each time she enters the picture. Out of Daytime Shooting Star’s major characters, she is the most introspective and has a great grasp on her own as well as other people’s inner workings. If there’s one person in the manga who knows what they actually want and how to get it, it’s Yuyuka, and it is that passion and courage, the way she faces her feelings head-on (at least inwards), that Suzume admires about her from the very start.

The many routine progress talks that make an appearance in the series aside, someone like Yuyuka is exactly what Suzume needs: As an even-tempered person with a tendency to think things over for far too long before taking action, Suzume needs someone to give her a push and tell her that it’s okay to act on her feelings and to accept her feelings the way they are even when she can’t put a label on them. For example, when Suzume is unsure about the exact nature of her feelings for Shishio, Yuyuka tells her:

Silly girl. You wouldn’t get an answer no matter how much you think about it. It’s not Japanese or math. It doesn’t need thoughts or reasons. You will be aware of it when that person is next to you.

Time and again, Yuyuka is the one to make her friend realize that instead of trying to rationalize, she ought to pay attention to her own feelings, and very often when Suzume finally decides to take initiative, she does so with Yuyuka’s words on her mind. (Which, amusingly, often makes Yuyuka the one character responsible for driving the plot forwards.) Talking to Yuyuka thus gives the usually reserved Suzume an opportunity to verbalize her feelings so as to order her thoughts. Further examples of this are when she decides to start working to buy a birthday present for Shishio or when she’s being told by Yuyuka not to be overly considerate (as it’d paralyze both parties involved) when asking him to spend time with her on Christmas.

Yuyuka is also the person Suzume turns to when she doesn’t know whether or not the way she is feeling is justified and whether those feelings make her a bad person (i.e. feelings of jealousy both as far as Shishio and Mamura are concerned, at different stages in the series), as Yuyuka can be trusted to speak the truth, even when she does take pleasure in teasing. And though she may get annoyed, she is a reliable judge of Suzume’s growth:

You really don’t get it… Jealousy, blurting things out, constantly thinking about it… Aren’t they all part of love? Love isn’t always sweet. […] But you really are growing every day. When you first came here, you were pretty much a nobody from the countryside, but right now, you make a pretty good girl in love.

In her capacity of a guide, I think the few situations where Yuyuka steps back and chooses not to give her input are very telling of her personality and values, because as wise as she may be in her advice, she also recognizes other people as being distinct from her and that it’s sometimes not her part to say how others ought to act. In the case of Suzume’s muddled feelings for Mamura, she says:

At times like these, you shouldn’t depend on people’s advice, but think about it thoroughly by yourself and make a decision. As there’s no right answer when it comes to love, whatever your answer is, if it’s your own choice, it’s right.

And in Shishio’s:

Stop. Are you saying that to me or are you saying that to yourself? I get that you’re confused, but it seems as if you’re trying to convince yourself with those words.

Parallel Growth What’s remarkable is that Yuyuka’s continuously extended helping hand is not one-sided. Even after their first clash and becoming friends, Suzume continues to offer Yuyuka just as much support as she receives. It’s not as pronounced in the series, but I do appreciate how the two cheer each other on in their own way, and how they grow alongside each other. This is best noticeable in events where they cross the finish line together, so to speak, as in when they make similar steps around the same time.

This starts with them becoming friends, of course: For Suzume, Yuyuka is her first and closest female friend in the new city, the one person she knows she can always confide in and the one person to listen to her love troubles, whether there are any news to report or not. For Yuyuka, Suzume is the one whose presence she can be honest in no matter what, the one who makes her regain confidence to make new friends, and the one who teaches her to cherish those feelings. A lot of this has already been addressed in other parts of the shrine, but one incidental scene in the story demonstrates this particularly well: On Christmas, Yuyuka spends the evening with her family, as is tradition for them, but in the year that Suzume arrives, she asks them whether they could stop that tradition so that she can spend Christmas with her friends in the future. Her sister’s surprised reaction speaks for itself: “I didn’t even know you had friends (who aren’t servants)!”

Perhaps the most obvious instance of parallel growth is when Suzume confesses to Shishio, gets turned down, and is then confronted by Yuyuka, who has already sensed that Mamura holds feelings for Suzume. Their quarrel dies down very quickly precisely because they both suffered heartbreak at the same time and cry not just for themselves, but for each other. It’s that mutual sympathy that makes any negative feelings vanish almost immediately, and neither of them hold hard or unspoken feelings for the other after the confrontation. Yuyuka, in fact, even encourages Suzume as they walk back to Suzume’s place together:

… You know what. No matter who Mamura-kun is in love with, it doesn’t really matter to me. I might just be talking though, but, whoever it is, my feelings for him will never change. Besides, a selfish one-way crush won’t be too bad, I guess. That’s why you’ve gotta do your best too… in everything!

I believe this incident also teaches Suzume as far as her recurring question of “what is right and what is wrong?” is concerned (as quoted above, Yuyuka plainly states there is no right or wrong), and that in matters of love, all involved people can get hurt. Another lesson in regard to other people that Suzume learns through Yuyuka is that some people are the type to worry alone, and that just because they don’t show their hurt, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. At a later stage in the manga, Yuyuka is turned down by Mamura. While Suzume is not as perceptive as Yuyuka, she notices her friend’s unusual behaviour around Mamura afterwards and addresses it, only to find out what has transpired. Back at home, Suzume feels very downhearted and useless for not having paid attention to Yuyuka sooner and leaving her friend alone with her pain while she herself was having fun with her own crush during the festival.

Perhaps this, in a way, contributes to Suzume becoming more considerate towards others in the future, namely Mamura (when she turns him down and when she learns to cherish him) and Yuyuka (when Suzume does eventually develop romantic feelings for Mamura), but also Shishio (in the final parts of the story when she finally speaks to him in honesty). If it weren’t for Yuyuka walking beside her and making similar experiences, Suzume might not have learned her lessons as effectively, and might not have come to the realizations that she makes in later parts of the story.

The last step that they both make around the same time is when they find and move on to a new love, something that both of them have difficulty grasping at first for different reasons. In Suzume’s case, she initially hesitates to go to Yuyuka for advice when her feelings for Mamura begin to stir, out of fear that she might hurt her friend — even after Yuyuka has told her that she’s in love with Togyuu. Part of it is genuine concern, part of it might be Suzume unconsciously using that consideration for Yuyuka as an excuse so as not to move forward. Either way, Yuyuka asserts forcefully that she has no lingering feelings for Mamura. A very beautiful moment between the two girls occurs on the morning Suzume decides to confess to Mamura, as the first thing she does is calling a sleeping Yuyuka to make her intentions known and to apologize. This apology, in my opinion, is of formal nature and is not so much directed at Yuyuka’s emotional reception, but at her pride — but Suzume, too, needs that last formality as encouragement to run towards Mamura, something that Yuyuka understands without explanation. In response, she says: “Because it’s you, I’ll forgive you.”

Just as Yuyuka is the one to give Suzume the final push she needs to confess, Suzume is the one to do so for Yuyuka. Whenever Suzume was in need of advice, Yuyuka would tell her to stop hesitating and speak about her feelings openly with the one she loves; by stressing the importance of communication over and over (even though Yuyuka does not manage to speak honestly in such matters herself), I think she unintentionally enables her friend to help her later on: When a stubborn Yuyuka refuses to spend time with Togyuu during the sports festival, Suzume literally pushes her friend and tells her it’s “now or never”. As Yuyuka is dragged away by Togyuu, Suzume herself runs off to cheer on the person she loves.

It’s quite touching how Suzume is moved to tears when she learns later on that Yuyuka has started a relationship with Togyuu, and immediately thinks back to all the times she witnessed the various expressions Yuyuka made when speaking of love, whether it was fighting with her, feeling betrayed or losing control. Yuyuka has come an immensely long way, and just as Yuyuka acknowledges Suzume’s growth, Suzume is the person who best recognizes Yuyuka’s — because they’ve been there for each other every step along the way.

Admiration Here’s the thing about the relationship between Yuyuka and Mamura — or rather, the lack thereof: From a romantic viewpoint, it would have never worked. More importantly, it was never meant to work, and therein lies its strength. Unlike some romantic conflicts involving three people in the genre and beyond, there is no actual conflict between Yuyuka and Suzume in regard to Mamura: Yuyuka’s romantic interest in him is neither used to define her as a character nor to cause drama in her relationship to Suzume or within the series. Yuyuka’s growth is not equated with the outcome of her confession; instead, moving on from Mamura is written first and foremost as a stepping stone in her self-discovery and development. Sure, Mamura’s links to anyone other than Suzume may not have been given enough attention in Daytime Shooting Star’s writing, but as far as Yuyuka is concerned, that’s more than fine — because it never was about Mamura.

When Suzume asks Yuyuka as early as in volume one why she likes him, she says:

It’s not anything special. His seat was next to mine during our entrance exams and I wanted to say something nice to him because he was pretty good-looking. But he actually responded with “You’re annoying”! But Mamura-kun is like that towards other people as well, not just me. That’s why I started wondering what kind of face he’d make towards someone he has opened up to, and what it’d be like if that someone were me.

In her side story that concludes after she has confessed to Mamura (and most likely before she develops strong feelings for Togyuu), the time between the entrance exams and Suzume’s arrival is filled with Yuyuka observing Mamura as she slowly falls in love with him. She wonders why it is that he doesn’t seem to care about popularity or what others think about him, which impresses her because it’s something she just cannot understand. Yuyuka, at that stage, is just as stunned about her feelings: “Countless people have fallen for me, but this is the first time I have fallen for someone. He is the only person to have entered my world apart from me.”

And yet, Mamura’s presence in that side story fades away quite quickly (reflecting the quiet way her feelings for him died down after her confession in the main story) as Yuyuka states that she has come to realize several important things, one of which is that most of her “love” for Mamura was actually just admiration. This is tremendous not just because it’s easy to confuse admiration with love at that age (even though fiction rarely addresses it) and because it acknowledges the importance of strong feelings aside from love, but because it puts Yuyuka’s character arc into perspective while stressing that her part in Daytime Shooting Star is about her own growth, not a romantic relationship.

Admiration also helps explain Yuyuka’s behaviour around Mamura: After her friends discover who she is beneath her mask, she stops wearing it — the sole exception to this being her continued bashful, nervous and overly sweet behaviour around Mamura. Yuyuka admires Mamura because he follows his own path rather than choosing to make up a persona as she has (though in her admiration, she also fails to recognize that Mamura is avoiding his helplessness around women by being dismissive of them), because she perceives him as someone who is able to be himself even as his personality is not appreciated by others. It is because Mamura is, in this respect, Yuyuka’s unreachable ideal, someone who she desperately wishes she could be like, that she is unable to behave naturally around him: Mamura’s judgement of her true self is something she fears more than the judgement of those who have led her to construct that fake persona in the first place.

In the end, Yuyuka and Mamura as they are written could never have worked as a couple because she admires him too much to be herself around him, whereas he is too oblivious to see the real her. As Yuyuka’s growth is all about honesty, any kind of relationship (not just romantic ones) involving her requires the people involved to be honest to themselves and to each other so as to show their real selves. Both Suzume and Togyuu create the space Yuyuka needs to be herself, which is why they are far more important to her story than Mamura despite her being introduced via Mamura.

There are two more things that I like a lot about the writing of Yuyuka and Mamura’s (non-existent) relationship: Firstly, it is only after Yuyuka has confessed to him that she can greet him properly and with confidence. Secondly, their entire relationship is distinctly told from the perspective of Yuyuka and Suzume’s relationship; in the narrative, it primarily serves to strenghten both Yuyuka and Suzume as characters as well as the girls’ friendship. Mamura is the (indirect) reason the two of them become friends, Yuyuka is the one Suzume absolutely has to call before she accepts Mamura’s feelings, and the two or three strongest scenes between Yuyuka and Mamura (i.e. scenes where they actually talk with each other properly and Mamura does not treat Yuyuka like air) are all about Suzume. In fact, the sole instance where Yuyuka directly speaks to Mamura in an undistorted manner (grumpy, annoyed and loud) is by the end of the series when she is concerned about her friend.

Daytime Shooting Star The manga is named after a phenomenon Suzume witnessed as a kid when getting lost on her way home: a shooting star in broad daylight, an image that she cannot shake off and that becomes a recurring metaphor in the series. Although Suzume no longer knows whether it was real or imagined, she keeps being on the look-out for it as a teenager, remembering and treasuring the excitement and happiness she felt back then. The image of the daytime shooting star in the series changes over time and is applied to different things.

Once Suzume has settled in and grows closer to the people around her, her feelings for Shishio begin to stir — and not just hers, but also Mamura’s (in regard to Suzume) and Yuyuka’s (in regard to Mamura). Suzume describes those feelings of hers as “somewhat weird and as unattainable as the stars from back then, yet irresistible in their pull”, and considers those rising sensations in herself as a shooting star that has just begun to shine. As her feelings for Shishio deepen, it is the same gleam — the same feelings — that she vows to cherish, and when she finally gathers the courage to confess to him, she tells him of her shooting star:

Seeing you reminds me of that feeling from back then. It’s the same joy, the wish to cry, to chase after that star and to capture it. Its light blinds me, I get dizzy, my heart starts to race, and I no longer know what to do… All of a sudden, my entire world changes completely.

Later on, after a period of tension and awkwardness, Suzume and Mamura reconcile under the evening sky while watching a shooting star pass by. The star of that moment is thus associated with happiness and a feeling of joy for the first time in a while.

When Shishio tells Suzume that he loves her, he does so by building on her previous confession:

Before, you described me as your daytime shooting star. Unfortunately, I have never seen a daytime shooting star before. But I think I’m starting to understand what you meant, a little. I feel like you’re also my daytime shooting star.

The sole instance where a shooting star is visible, but isn’t mentioned by name is in Yuyuka’s side story — the story that starts with her saying that she has always thought the world revolved around her, continues with her realizing that she has somehow become the sole inhabitant of that world, and concludes with the words “Today, my world is still radiantly spinning along with its many actors”, signifying her growth and the new connections she has made.

Lastly, the manga ends with the following words, neither spoken or thought by anyone nor directed at anyone in particular (in the magazine version, only backgrounds accompany those words, whereas in the final version, volume twelve, images of all characters flash by):

When the stars fall into darkness, I will quietly shine for you. During happy times, during sad times, I will always be there for you. Your hand, your smile, your everything. For as many years to come, I shall watch from the place closest to you. My existence will become your daytime shooting star.

Why all of this? Because it is interesting to think about what exactly a daytime shooting star represents in the context of the series, what it means to be someone else’s shooting star, and who’s whose shooting star — not to mention it can be amusing to popcorn while others include that last question in their shipping wars and make attempts to pinpoint the identity of the “I” and “you” in that passage. As rushed as I think the ending is, the openness of that passage is very fitting considering it’s a series where the major characters contribute to each other’s growth: Maturing does not happen in isolation and is not attributed to a single person. It could be a general you, it could be several people simultaneously, it could be different speakers thinking about different cherished ones (especially since several characters Suzume isn’t close to are included on that page), it could be Suzume in her position as the protagonist becoming a daytime shooting star for the people whose life she has affected.

As for “personal” daytime shooting stars, a strong argument can be made for Togyuu being Yuyuka’s: After all, he is the one to see her inner-most, to embrace all of her qualities and the one person to have something in common with her in the way they present themselves and the reasons for it (though he isn’t aware of it). Suzume, however, is a far stronger contender. From the passages cited above, a daytime shooting star is a feeling that guides you, an unforgettable memory and a feeling of happiness to cherish, something that pulls you along, fills you with new sensations and changes your world, but it is also something that grows inside you as you grow, and the joy of making new connections and becoming a better you.

Yuyuka’s side story is about her living in her own world, wherein she regards others as disposable actors. That world crumbles when Suzume enters it. Suzume is not just the central figure of Yuyuka’s side story, but the most important character in Yuyuka’s character arc within the series: Her stepping into Yuyuka’s life is world-shattering because she knocks down Yuyuka’s walls and redefines that world by showing her how to appreciate friendships again and how to let people in. Suzume is the person who brings light into Yuyuka’s world after a period of darkness; just as Yuyuka guides her, Suzume guides Yuyuka and pulls her along to show her new sights. The turning point of Yuyuka’s chapter is marked by these thoughts:

For the first time in my life, I have people I don’t want to lose. […] Perhaps I didn’t need someone to admire, but someone who really understands me. Someone who feels with me, accepts me for who I am, hits me when I’m wrong and sees the real me. That would be the most special person to me.

This inner monologue is spoken as if in a dream while Yuyuka’s memories of her time with Suzume flash by, a sequence that ends abruptly with Togyuu’s hazy silhouette and an actual call from Suzume, who asks whether Yuyuka would like to come out for some fun. Suzume and Togyuu are both integral to Yuyuka’s growth, and both of them are very important people to her — but there’s something incredibly charming in how Yamamori writes relationships between girls and how the narrative frame is presented to emphasize their value.

As all the topics in this section illustrate, a large part of the manga has the bond between these two girls as its focus, and acknowledges their relationship as the most important bond within Yuyuka’s side story, which ends with Yuyuka’s thoughts on Suzume rather than a romantic love interest — a detail that is all the more impressive when you consider that Yuyuka is a character heavily fixated on romantic love. In the same vein, the manga closes with Yuyuka watching over Suzume from afar (which might just be the best part of the ending, all things considered) before being followed by the passage cited above.

To me, Suzume and Yuyuka being each other’s daytime shooting stars is a reading that carries just as much significance as the many romantic relationships in the series, and the care that goes into writing their relationship is not to be overlooked.