Warning: This Essay Contains Spoilers
After the review by Gigguk, I decided to give Three Days of Happiness a read because the message of living life to its fullest resonates with me as a core belief. The story follows Kusonoki who decides to sell his lifespan. It’s determined that he likely won’t live a very fulfilling life and he’s offered the equivalent of three thousand USD for his remaining 30 years. Kusonoki accepts the offer and sets off with 3 months left. In the end he finds love and lives more in three months or arguably even the final three days than he ever could have in thirty years.
I personally loved the ending and thought it was a satisfactory resolution to the story’s conflicts except for one: his childhood friend Himeno. They’ve known each other since infancy and became closer after Kusonoki saved Himeno from falling off a viewing platform. A key memory for Kusonoki is his promise to marry Himeno at the age of 20 in the case neither were taken but he hasn’t seen her since she moved shortly after their promise. Miyagi, a near omniscient observer working for the life selling service, informs Kusonoki that Himeno is living an unhappy life as a single mother and high school drop out. Himeno would jump to her death in a few years time. Both at the top of their class as children, Kusonoki and Himeno are now similarly miserable.
Himeno’s last contact was by letter three years ago. Now desperate to reconnect, Kusonoki uses the address to find her and the two catch up over dinner. At dinner Kusonoki breaks down telling her that he’s sold his lifespan and is dying soon. Himeno thinks he’s going crazy but believes him as she knows her childhood friend well enough to catch him in a lie. Himeno then disappears after going to the bathroom but leaves Kusonoki a note:
At the viewing platform, I had meant to have you wait below and fall right down next to you. Maybe you would say you didn’t realize but I always despised you. For never responding to my cries for help then casually appearing before me now, I couldn’t hate you more. So now that you consider me someone you can’t do without I thought I’d kill myself.
However she changes her mind believing that getting revenge on an insane man would do no good. She closes the letter telling him she hopes it’s true that he’s dying soon.
It’s revealed that Miyagi knew of these details and the suicide she informed him of earlier was exactly that scenario. Himeno was plotting to jump from the viewing platform to convey the message that Kusonoki failed to save her this time. It would seem this tragedy is caused by their separation, an unavoidable situation as it becomes apparent that they needed each other.
The original timeline predicted by Miyagi shows us that no path could have possibly led to a good outcome for Himeno. Originally she commits suicide as an act of revenge, in the actual course of events she leaves him, and had she potentially accepted him back into her life Kusonoki would be dead in a few weeks. While it appears there was no way out for Himeno, her character is entirely culpable despite the situation.
The cries for help Himeno refers to was her singular letter to Kusonoki. Kusonoki admits that writing the letter was far out of character for Himeno. It’s easy to see the difficulty in directly asking for help from a childhood love when pregnant with another man’s child. Regardless Kusonoki failed to recognize the benign letter as a distress signal, as she made no mention of hardship. Not only that but Kusonoki can’t be blamed for Himeno’s actions or circumstance, he wasn’t even in the same vicinity. And now that Kusonoki had finally come, Himeno believes it’s far too late.
Taking a step back from the situation, they’re both in their early 20s and Himeno had no awareness of Kusonoki’s impending death upon meeting. It was likely that she interpreted his sudden appearance as an attempt to make good on their marriage pact 10 years prior. From the age of 20 the two potentially had the rest of their lives to support each other. In the original timeline, had Kusonoki not sold his life, the two could have lived happily ever after if Himeno could muster the realization that her hatred was unfounded. Himeno not accepting Kusonoki and instead committing a suicide revenge scheme is a primary factor in why Kusonoki’s life goes downhill after college making the rest of his life in that timeline worthless.
Now for the real character flaw: Kusonoki admits that he’s going to die very soon. It’s obvious at this point that Kusonoki is facing the gravest misfortune and Himeno hasn’t been there for him either. In retrospect, had she found him, Kusonoki may not have decided to sell his entire life span. She too unknowingly failed to save her friend. The difference is that now, Kusonoki tells her in no uncertain terms that he’s facing his demise, no cryptic letters involved. This was her chance to save Kusonoki when he couldn’t do the same for her. Instead, in a completely hypocritical reaction, Himeno disappears and leaves a letter praying for his impending death.
Kusonoki actually saves Himeno’s life as she doesn’t commit suicide in front of him as predicted; though the theme of this story values lifetime happiness over years so Himeno is far from saved. This characterization may have been necessary because the author needed a reason to end her potential as a love interest. However, the first half of the story from the opening scene revolves around the ray of hope that was their childhood relationship. This part of the story is highly unsatisfactory to me and I consider it a loose end blocking a gratifying resolution.
It’s a matter of taste, I personally don’t like pure tragedy. The tragedy of Kusonoki’s death is reconciled by the fact that he traded for a net profit in lifetime happiness. The Tragedy of Himeno, is just a tragedy.