So, we’re already past an arc! The first arc doubled down on reminding us why the characters work as they do, and gave us insight as to their characters – they’re lonely, even as they cling to others. They’re suffering, and they hate themselves. But they, like everyone else, has to make do with the situation they’re in, which includes lying to themselves about their suffering, and thus, hating themselves even more.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) “But I think any news is better than no news.” – Hachiman is bored. You know why he’s bored? Because he’s alone, because no one will interact with him, or make him part of their activities. Though it goes both ways, it means he’s not going out of his way to interact with others. As he keeps demonstrating, he thinks his only real strength is his loneliness, so he will not let it go.
2) “You’ve always been prone to saying dumb things, but they get even dumber when you’re feeling down.” – After thinking for a moment, this line actually matters. What are the dumb things Hikki says? “I blame society,” “I hate nice girls,” etc. Meaning, Hikki is lashing out at society verbally, because he’s feeling down, because he’s feeling hurt. His “insight” isn’t something born out of joy, but a defense mechanism.
3) No “Yahallo!” from Yui to Hachiman. It’s almost as if we’re back to season 1, where she doesn’t want to be seen with him in public. Only Tatsuka, who’s surprised Hachiman replies to him as if nothing changed, which are Hachiman’s words – a group that resisted change. Except, he’s the one who enabled it. But of course, things didchange, and everyone knows they did, so it’s literally living the lie of “nothing changed,” which is what Tatsuka’s little comment is saying. Hachiman knows things changed too, but the lie of “nothing about the situation did” enables him to overlook it
4) Lonely Hachiman, where is Sensei when you need her? She’d probably cry though.
2) SNAFU – “Situation normal, all fucked up.”
1) “I see you came.” – “The same as ever.” – Hachiman had to force himself to act the same as he always did. Likewise in class, everything isn’t simply the same, but carefully arranged to be the same. Everyone is going out of their way to act as if nothing changed. But everyone is also going out of their way to not meet Hachiman’s eyes about it. Blaming him? Afraid he’s hurt? Both.
2) There’s a stark difference between the situation being normal and everyone acting as if it’s normal, and knowing everyone else thinks it’s not normal. This episode up to now is all about hammering about this point. Why does it do that? Because it wants to show us not only that Hachiman’s “unchanging loneliness” is not a source of strength, but that he failed last episode – everyone’s acting the same, but the group was changed. Things are very much not the same.
3) “So, that’s what you consider normal? You’re saying you won’t change, aren’t you?” – This is the million dollar line, right here. It’s not that Hachiman sees it as “normal”, as much as he’s afraid of anything else even more. Afraid of the loneliness. Also, for Yukino, Hachiman was sent to the club in order to change. And since Yukino and Hachiman are mirrors, seeing he won’t change is also a blow as to her belief that she herself could change, alongside him.
3) Projecting Past Grievances:
1) Hachiman already projects past hatreds onto Iroha. Not for who she is, or what she’s done, but for control she exerts over people like him, and for being popular without trying.
2) “But losing would make me look super lame.” – Yes, she cares about how she looks like to others, but losing a vote where you’re the only nominee sucks. It’s not like you can’t understand her.
3) The moment Hachiman asked about who’s giving her speech, it made perfect sense what he’s going to do – he’ll give the speech, bear the blunt of the blame. Also, what sort of school elections are these? Give nominees the ability to bow out, I mean, seriously.
4) Hikki and Yukino, but especially Hikki, operate on a level where it’s “all about the results,” where feelings don’t matter. As last episode showed us, it’s a big fat lie. So Yukino has to give Hikki a reason as to why she’s rejecting his scapegoat act. He’s not a martyr, he’s not suffering for what he believes in. He’s a scapegoat.
4) Running Away from a Contest with no Winners:
1) Amusing, being reminded of the silly premise that started it all. Of course, it’s played for anything but laughs here. This is serious business. This is asking the adult whether results are all that matters, or whether how you go about things also matters. And whether they’ll both remain in the same environment after the verdict is given out, that’s also at stake here.
2) Silly Yukinoshita, there can be no clear winner. Sensei just told you, it all depends on how you look at things, and it takes the three of you together. One to plan, one to carry it out, and one to make sure the group actually works.
3) “And if you stick to your methods, you won’t be able to help someone when you most want to.” – Is she talking about hypotheticals? I think she’s talking about the club. She’s talking about wanting to help Yui, Yukino, the club itself, and himself. If all he knows is how to take the blame, then he can’t help the people who are troubled by him doing that (or Yukino with the car accident), and he certainly can’t help himself by blaming himself further.
“I thought we hated superficiality above all else,” Yukino said when Hachiman left. It could refer to Hachiman maintaining superficiality last episode, but helping appearances remain afloat, but I think it was born more out of Hikki leaving the room when he’s given the okay, as if he only spent time in the club because he’s been told to keep appearances, not because he was their friend, or cared for the club. It’s related to the above point, as Hikki only solves problems by running away. Taking it all on himself makes it so people don’t have to actually work through things themselves.
5) An Annoying Aside We Call Relations:
1) Speaking of which, “Hey, no need to run away!” – Yukino’s sister, Haruno, who’s the opposite, all about rubbing people’s faces in what they’re trying to escape.
2) And speaking of keeping up appearances and superficiality, Yukino buys souvenirs, because it is proper, yet she doesn’t actually care to meet with the people for whom she’s buying them. Everyone’s a troubled teen in this show.
Ooooh, Haruno actually has something else to say, “She hates us, but she doesn’t want us to hate her in turn.” – Is this superficiality? Nah, no one wants to be hated. No one includes Hachiman. Does Hikki hate others? With how he speaks of them, it sounds like that. And he acts as if he doesn’t care if he’s hated by others. But I think for Hikki, neither is true. He’s trying to hate others so as to convince himself he doesn’t hurt when they hurt him, and so he brings about their hatred for which he purports to not care, which fuels his resentment of them further.
3) “So Yukino won’t be Student Council President?” – Silly you. The moment Yukino suggested an alternative method, it was pretty clear that the prospect of her running was in the air. I was actually surprised no one mentioned it in the club meeting. Makes you wonder if this isn’t all an elaborate ruse to force her into the position.
6) Rubbing It In, Scabbing Over, Scarring:
1) “Not your girlfriend? Figures! I knew she was out of your league! Smart? News to me, but since you were practically mute in class, guess it was news to everyone!” – Ouch. Ouch. See the source of all of the scars Hikki bears.
“Yeah, it’s all in the past now, who cares about it?” – See, that’s the thing about scars, they serve to remind us. Hikki can do nothing but remember, and act accordingly. Yes, to Orimoto, it was nothing, to Hikki, it was enough to launch him on a thousand tirades, such as, “I hate nice girls” :P
2) You know what might be the most hurtful thing to Hikki about this whole thing? Orimoto is not being superficial. She’s coming out right with the punches. Hikki’s not at all enjoying it, and it’s wounding him.
3) “[Haruno] smothers the ones she likes, or destroys the ones she hates.” – And thus, Yukino’s weird relationship with Haruno. Being smothered by Haruno, by being compared to her, that’s what’s destroying Yukino.
4) Yukino coming up with the pledge, the goals, the agenda? That means she needs to find someone who’s in perfect agreement with the mission statement, and preferably “someone amazing” for Iroha to lose to. Meaning herself. This is where my last note about Haruno becomes relevant. What were Haruno’s last words about Yukino in that scene? “I was never student council president,” and “that’s lame.” – What is lame? That Yukino only tries to live up to her sister, and not surpass her. This is finally a way for Yukino to do something that her sister did not, to leave her own mark, as herself.
7) “I’m Only Here For Results, Tee-Hee!:
1) Poor Iroha, caught in the crossfire of a deeper conflict, of which she knows nothing. Well, seems Yukino did in fact refer to the “simple” superficiality, of not actually tackling the problem. Hikki is a master of orthogonal solutions, where he doesn’t tackle people bullying others, or their feelings for one another, just makes sure they can go back to before the actions were carried out. Hikki is all about running away. Even “I hate nice girls,” is a way to run away from having to admit he has feelings for nice girls, and likes them, and would like them to be nice to him.
Though yes, he’s doing what is asked of him. Hikki makes the problematic situation go away, by scabbing over the negative emotions. Hikki is leaving everyone around him with scars, just like himself.
2) “Nothing changed,” Hikki thinks of himelf and Yukino. I’ve covered numerous times why this is a lie. But last episode I covered why he can’t let go of the lie.
3) The post-ED sequence. Unlike Hikki’s classmates, Iroha is straight out telling Hachiman she only cares for the results, but she does so from a position that lacks understanding and knowledge. She takes Hachiman at his word, that she’ll be saved in “the worst case scenario,” not realizing Hachiman saving her would perhaps be even worse, like a malignant genie.
Iroha doesn’t know how Hachiman operates, and she also doesn’t know how much his “solution” will cost him. Would she care if she knew? Perhaps not.
Shorter Notes / Asides:
- Freezing when he’s bringing the food to his mouth, focusing on his hands. This is some KyoAni level of attention to small detail to bring the characters to life, via the smallest of gestures. Not as pretty, but it’s the same spirit. Even the cat agrees.
- “See? Something did happen!” Is Komachi talking to herself, their mother whom we never met? I wonder. But Hachiman is left alone, again.
- New OP art. Very colourful. Focusing on the characters.
Post Episode Thoughts:
Interesting. This was an episode that talks about how nothing changed, while repeatedly demonstrating, rather than telling us, that it’s a lie. Think even to Orimoto, because in Hikki’s classroom, even though he barely speaks, everyone knows he doesn’t simply shut up, and everyone actually remembers his contributions. Supposedly, Hachiman’s sitting at the corner of the class, ignored, just as he did in the past. But everything’s changed, and the show was so strong this episode because not once did it tell us “Things changed,” but it just showed it, via tension, via the glances people stole at one another, and via how pointedly others did not glance at Hachiman.
That’s what the episode had done masterfully, so what did I find to be interesting about it? That in many respects, the show does indeed feel as if “nothing changed,” as we’re back to Hikki and Yukino don’t talk to one another, as happened over the realization that Yukino didn’t tell Hachiman the truth. In both cases, it’s about superficiality, it’s about being cordial, and trying to not ruin friendships through information that might change them. In other words, just like what we’ve had in this season thus far.
But what’s different? Is anything different? Yes, there is. Yukino maintained superficiality in order to bond with others, to try and strive further. Hachiman is being superficial in order to remain apart. And Hachiman is being superficial about his lack of superficiality – he’s working extra hard to remain separate from others, that he’s only working for the greater good, while his anti-lie platform is in itself a lie.
But if I had to pick out my favourite segment of the episode, it’s the one involving Yukino’s sister, Haruno. Though the show had repeatedly shown us that Hachiman is the way he is now because of past events (“I got turned down, so I hate nice girls. I’ve been left alone, so I hate “friends”.”), the scene with Haruno actually showed us his scars, the scars that develop into spines that keep him apart.
And since Yukino and Hachiman are mirrors of one another, it’s also shown us her own scars, so very gently, by very obliquely referencing that it is Haruno’s love for Yukino that smothers her, and her need to live in her shadows. Also, since Yukino is Hachiman, and Hachiman is Yukino, what followed also made sense – Yukino berated Hachiman for his superficiality, but she’s also berating herself for hers. They both know what they need to do to advance, but neither of them is willing to change.
And here is where the two differ. Yukino wants to help others change, even if she cannot. Hachiman is more interested in creating more Hikkis, by maintaining a false status quo, returning the situation to how it was before people harmed one another, but you can’t undo the actions, and you can’t undo the harm, so all he’s doing is scarring people, scabbing their hurts over, while they grow gangrenous underneath.
They both hate superficiality, and they’re both superficial, but only one is trying to change. Hachiman rejects Yukino’s desire for change, her thought that change is in fact possible. Hachiman also rejects any possible future between them.
(P.S. I have a reason as to why I sometimes refer to him as Hikki and sometimes as Hachiman. They’re not the same character, or rather, they’re not the same mask.)