Adachi & Shimamura is a slice-of-life anime that succinctly depicts the complex nature of adolescent relationships. Originally published as a light novel series by Hitoma Iruma, Adachi & Shimamura has been adapted into both manga and anime. Both mediums follow the same core storyline about two high school girls bonding after a chance meeting in their school gym. Season 1 of the anime depicts the budding romance between Sakura Adachi and Hougetsu Shimamura as the two navigate the throes of adolescence and high school life. It's clear the two girls care about each other deeply but do they love each other in a healthy way?
Observing the behavior of both girls, certain patterns start to emerge. Both Adachi and Shimamura are loners in their own way and have trouble forming meaningful friendships. They become attached to each other in a way they are unable to achieve with their other classmates. Both appear to be living in financially stable households but aren't particularly close to their parents. Shimamura appears to be attracted to one type of girl, which becomes evident when her childhood friend Tarumi comes back into her life. Given both characters' developments, it begs the question of whether or not their relationship is evolving into a normal adolescent romance -- or if it borders closer to codependency.
Codependency in Adachi & Shimamura
Originally coined by self-help author Melody Beattie in her 1986 book, Codependent No More, Beattie defines a codependent person as "one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior." A more modern definition of codependency by Discover Recovery describes it as a form of love addiction in which one or two people seek love on the basis of feeling insecure or inadequate. In Japan, codependency is known as "kyouizon" which is also defined as a form of relationship addiction in which two people are overly dependent on their relationship to function.
In both definitions, codependency describes a behavioral tendency to use relationships as a form of external validation because one or both partners is unable to validate themselves internally. Some of the hallmarks of codependent behavior include having low self-esteem, feeling responsible for the feelings of others, having poor communication, weak boundaries, lack of trust, and even feeling the need to control situations and the behaviors of others. Both Adachi and Shimamura present some examples of these behaviors in some capacity.
In Adachi & Shimamura, Adachi is the one who more strongly suffers from low self-esteem and has seemingly struggled with it all her life, according to some classmates. As a result, she has no concept of personal boundaries and struggles to trust other people, including Shimamura. Related to that is her inability to communicate her thoughts and feelings in socially appropriate ways. When she doubts Shimamura's investment in their friendship, she tends to test boundaries to see both her level of receptiveness and investment. She especially finds Shimamura's friends threatening to their relationship and can get depressed and withdraw when she feels "rejected". This is one way Adachi attempts to control Shimamura's behavior.
By contrast, Shimamura doesn't appear to suffer from low self-esteem but does show symptoms of depression. Shimamura is aware she used to be more outgoing and invested in her friendships. Now, however, she presents a more cynical attitude, rationalizing that few relationships remain strong due to the fact people change over time. As such, she doesn't think it's worth the effort to invest, which informs the way she connects with Adachi and her other friends. This includes a tendency to not communicate her thoughts and feelings and rarely establishing healthy boundaries. Still, she has some level of investment in Adachi, whom she likens to her little sister. When she notices Adachi's absence from school, she'll sometimes check up on her.
Adachi & Shimamura: Attachment vs Connection
Another way Adachi and Shimamura relate to one another is in their attachment style, which is largely informed by their relationships with their parents -- who are shown to be emotionally neglectful of them. Both girls' mothers provide the bare minimum accommodations of food, shelter and clothes, but beyond that, they have no real involvement in their daughters' lives. This no doubt informs their ability to connect with others as opposed to forming an attachment.
In Adachi's case, it's clear early on that she doesn't like to talk about her parents or her home life. In Episode 4 of the anime, where Shimamura encounters Adachi's mother at a local gym, she learns how profoundly out of touch she is with her daughter. During a conversation with another woman and ultimately Shimamura herself, Adachi's mother reveals what she thinks about her daughter, describing her as a "shy, depressing and troublesome" child to the point where she's at a loss of what to do with her.
Adachi's mother similarly admits her daughter never says what's on her mind and never knows how she's feeling. "If she's actually happy, I wish she'd tell me," she communicated to Shimamura. "She just shuts herself off from everyone, no matter where I take her. I have no idea if she's having fun or anxious." When asked about how long ago she started noticing this behavioral pattern in her daughter, Adachi's mother says it started around the time she was four or five.
This conversation suggests Adachi's mother is more than likely just as critical of her daughter in person as she is when speaking with others. Adachi most likely internalized her mother's criticisms from a young age to the point of forming what is known as an avoidant attachment style, which is characterized by a tendency to disconnect from parents and ultimately other people as well. Individuals with an avoidant attachment style are known to lack emotion, which is how Adachi comes off to everyone in her life.
Shimamura's mother is equally critical of her daughter and openly points out many of her daughter's flaws, such as her tendency to skip class and not be terribly bright. When done in the presence of her own friends, Shimamura tends to express annoyance at her mother in the moment, but long term, the constant criticism may have caused Shimamura to withdraw from friendships and become depressed. As such, she also has an avoidant attachment style.
Adolescence Is Full of Crossroads In Adachi and Shimamura
Despite Adachi and Shimamura having personality traits and attachment styles that cause them to behave in codependent ways, they are also teenage girls in a place of transition in their lives. They're starting to explore who they are as individuals, developing self-concepts, and getting to know themselves as sexual human beings and what their leanings are.
While Adachi has more pronounced codependent traits than Shimamura, she's also the one who does the most evolving in Season 1. Shimamura has remained largely unchanged so far, but Adachi gradually shows progress in areas she previously struggled with. At the start of Adachi & Shimamura, Adachi had a profound lack of interest in relationships. Through meeting Shimamura, she started learning to trust another human being. To an extent, she even began spending time with classmates she otherwise would've avoided. While she's still not fond of her classmates, Adachi opens up to them in an effort to remain part of Shimamura's world.
Another area Adachi improves by Season 1's end is her communication skills. While she still struggles tremendously with establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, she does understand the importance of honest communication. Though she is still not in a place where she can fully admit how she feels about Shimamura, she starts showing those feelings in very subtle ways. At one point, Adachi even summons the courage to hug Shimamura and tell her how important she was in her life, even if Shimamura doesn't fully understand what she means due to her level of detachment.
Though Adachi and Shimamura arguably have all the hallmarks of a codependent friendship at the start of their journey, their current behaviors and attachment styles are not set in stone. They're still learning about themselves, which means they still have opportunities to change these unhealthy behaviors to healthier ones as they get older. Adachi and Shimamura may be codependent now, but they can learn to love each other equally as fully realized individuals.