In my heart of hearts, I’ll always support Sorata x Nanami, even though I know I shouldn’t.
Sakurasou is one of those rare cases in a story where I actually give a hoot about the main character’s love life over the beta couple. A lot of it had to do with how I could relate very much to what Sorata was going through at the time. I’ve since gotten over it, more or less, but I don’t deny my shipping of Sorata x Nanami was driven by personal feelings. I didn’t want to see Sorata beating himself up because he didn’t think he would ever be good enough for Mashiro. I wanted to see him with Nanami, who accepted him and who he felt he could connect to as an equal. At the same time, it’s a doomed ship and I can never under any circumstance see it happening.
It’s been a while since Sakurasou finished airing, so I’ve had some time to mull over the love triangle and this is what I’ve come up with. Before I can really expound on why I like Sorata x Nanami, I feel as if I need to write a few words of explanation about Sorata x Mashiro first.
A Relationship Between Equals
Sorata and Mashiro’s relationship is practically built around this idea of inequality. Physically, Mashiro is completely dependent on Sorata, but mentally, Sorata is inferior to Mashiro. He puts her on this pedestal, seeing her as this aloof genius who motivates him from afar. Either through obliviousness or sheer insensitivity (I see it as a bit of both) he refuses to acknowledge Mashiro as a girl. Frankly, Sorata’s feelings of ineptitude are a huge barrier most of the time. Unless he can bring himself to accept himself for who he is, I don’t see him ever really accepting Mashiro as a lover despite his ginormous crush on her.
I do see this situation between them improving somewhat by the end of the series, but Sorata is just a guy who is easily discouraged from anything he tries. As soon as he fails, he starts lashing out at Mashiro. He can’t separate his feelings of love from his jealousy.
The point, of course, is that you need to love yourself before you can really love another person. Sorata and Mashiro’s hookup scene is held off on that very principle. The point isn’t whether or not they will hook up but the why and the how. If I view this as a story, I would be mad with anything but a Sorata x Mashiro endgame.
But, assuming this was real life and Sorata came to me asking for advice, I would tell him to pick Nanami instead.
If you read my other shipping posts, you might be picking up a trend here. I like relationships that lack a heavy emotional burden. The important thing about Sorata x Nanami isn’t that they are equal – it’s that they perceive themselves as equal. They relate to each other a lot. They don’t feel intimidated by the other’s talent and they inspire each other to work hard. While Sorata has all this budding chemistry with Mashiro, his relationship with Nanami is much less dysfunctional and much more likely to survive in the long run.
When Sorata is with Nanami he is less of a tsukkomi and more of an actually normal teenage boy. Now make no mistake, I love Sorata as a tsukkomi character. But in a series full of wackos he needs to have someone nice who will keep him sane. I like the side of himself that he shows around Nanami. He’s less frustrated, more self-confident, kinder, gentler.
I think this really hit me during the Valentine’s Day episode. The sheer extent to which Sorata put everything aside just to help out Nanami when she was in trouble touched me deeply. It’s times like that which make me realise that for all his plot-induced stupidity, Sorata really is a bro, and it’s not hard to see why Nanami would fall for him.
But of course, this is a pairing that will never happen, because for all the camaraderie he has with Nanami, Sorata is fixated on Mashiro, and that will never change.
But What If Sorata Never Met Mashiro?
I have a headcanon for this. Would Sorata have fallen for Nanami if he never met Mashiro?
Since I ended up imagining a really elaborate scenario here, I’ll show it instead of tell it. The following is an abridged excerpt from a longer story I wrote, The Colorless Green. It is a bit long, but it should draw out the situation fairly evocatively:
Sorata finally managed to get out of Sakurasou in the fall by finding a kindly old lady two suburbs away who was willing to take care of his cats. “Make sure you feed her lite milk, not the full cream,” he said to the cat’s new owner. “Hikari likes crabsticks a lot, but only give them as a treat! Hikari, I’ll visit you every week, okay?”
“Kanda-kun, you really love cats, huh?” Nanami said to him afterwards, laughing. “I think one day you’ll be a darling old cat lady yourself.”
“I’m not getting a sex change anytime soon, thanks.”
“Oh, I was complimenting you!” Nanami insisted. “I think you’re very kind. I think that’s really nice to see in a boy.”
“Not really,” Sorata mumbled, scratching his cheek. “I think you’re the nice one.”
They laughed a little awkwardly at that and cast frequent glances at each other when they were on the train. They made a habit of doing this every week whenever they visited Hikari and the other cats.
At that time, Sorata did not feel entirely satisfied with his life. At first, he had been ecstatic about leaving Sakurasou. Yet deep down, he found himself – not missing Sakurasou exactly – but feeling somehow bored. Like he was waiting for something to happen that never did.
His life drifted along more or less aimlessly. He was still a sophomore, so there wasn’t much point thinking about entrance exams. He played video games during his free time and sometimes he came up with ideas for a good game in his head, though he never wrote them down. His parents sent him an allowance, so he didn’t need to work. Inevitably, his mind turned towards girls. He found himself getting closer and closer to Nanami as the year progressed. Eventually, she eclipsed all other thoughts.
Characteristically enough, it took him a long time before he could make up his mind whether or not he liked her. He decided that he did during the school festival, when he felt relieved after hearing that Nanami had turned down their classmate Miyahara, who had confessed to her. Of course, after that, he could not bring himself to make a confession of his own for fear that she would reject him too. He figured it was okay like this. At that time, it was impossible to imagine Nanami out of his life.
“It would be great if you could achieve your dream,” he would keep saying to Nanami.
And she would smile and thank him and tell him she’d keep working hard.
Time continued to pass. The anticipation of seeing Nanami at school made his boring, colourless days more bearable. One day, instead of finding her in the classroom where he expected her, she was gone. Anxiously, he looked all over the school for her. But she wasn’t there.
So he asked her friends. They looked at each other uneasily before they answered him.
“She’s transferred out,” they said, and Sorata’s heart sunk.
“What do you mean? Where is she?!”
“She failed her audition.”
“She’s gone back to Osaka. Her parents never approved of it. They only gave her one chance.”
Sorata was numb. He turned around and quit the conversation.
He spent the rest of high school in a sort of daze, not remembering anything much. Nanami had not told him that she had failed. She had left, leaving no burden of responsibility or guilt upon anyone. She had kept all her pain and sorrow to herself. It was so like her. He had never felt so betrayed.
At the same time, he knew what he should have done. He should have told her all his feelings sooner. Then she would have trusted him with all of hers. The two of them had reached a converging point in their destinies and he had not acted when he had the chance. Now it was too late.
As the years passed, he felt less bitter about what happened, but the faint tingling sense of regret still remained. He never did experience that sense of crushing disappointment Nanami must have felt that day she learned of her failure. He never committed himself fully enough to be hurt so deeply. Sometimes, he found himself wondering what Nanami was doing from time to time, but as the years went by, he thought of her less and less. She became just another amalgam of his regret, needing no name or face.
Then, three years ago, just before he had moved into his flat, he got a letter from Nanami. She was getting married. She had tracked him down to ask him and a few other old school friends to come to her wedding. It was like a high school reunion, except he didn’t know half the people at the ceremony. He stuck with Miyahara and talked about old times. When Nanami came by, her face a perfect picture of a blushing bride, Sorata said, “Congratulations.” He meant it.
Later on, during the reception and after the two of them had had a few drinks and loosened up, they talked about their high school days together.
“Did you know?” she said to him, her face red from the alcohol. “I had a huge crush on you back in high school.”
“Same here,” he admitted. They laughed about those old feelings. They had been in love with each other but had never told it to each other. How silly that was!
Then she told him what had happened to her dream about becoming a voice actress. After finishing her higher education in Osaka in adherence to her parents’ wishes, Nanami had went back to Tokyo and tried, once again, to pick up a few voicing roles. It never became her primary occupation, but she did manage to have supporting roles in a few obscure anime. And that, to her, was enough to justify all the hard work she had ever done. She said she was proud of herself. Nanami Aoyama had lived through many disappointments but never through any regrets. She no longer needed him.
After the wedding, he decided not to keep in contact with Nanami and not to tell her about his changed address after he moved. It wouldn’t be proper for a bachelor like him to be so close to a married woman. Besides, he heard that she was having a child soon enough and that would keep her busy. But most of all, he had realised that the paths they walked were so completely different now.
She got married in the fall. The sakura leaves had dried up and died, scattering in the winds, a symbol of lost and withered dreams, never to bloom again.
Sorata x Nanami will never happen.
You’re free to disagree with my headcanon though. That’s what the comment box is for.