What do we have? We have another breakdown between Hachiman and Yukino, over some disagreement in how they do things, in how Hikki hurts himself and everyone around him to defuse the situation rather than actually resolve the underlying issues.
But what Yukino and Hachiman do isn’t too different on some level – Hachiman is going to try and make Iroha lose by shouldering everyone’s hate, and Yukino is going to make Iroha lose by shouldering this responsibility she doesn’t care for, by becoming the next student council president. They both make themselves into martyrs. “Nothing changed,” but they only hurt further and further, and everyone around them knows it.
(This might be my longest episodic write-up yet. It’s long. It might also get a tiny bit rambly at the end.)
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Hayama Hayato, Hachiman’s Shiny Mirror:
Hayama’s “Is that so?” could refer to any and all of Hachiman’s statements, let’s go in reverse order, because the reasons became less revealing and incisive as Hikki kept bringing them up, “I’d like to at least chill during the weekend” shows that Hachiman doesn’t want to help, and engage with others, that he’s an introvert and that helping others comes at a cost to him, or rather, that he finds it stressful.
Second, “You don’t need my help,” which shows that Hachiman thinks Hayama can solve his own problems. That Hayama is like the vision Hikki has of himself, of someone who’s self-sufficient. “Is that so?” from Hayama here is perhaps the most important for himself, because he’s an unsure teenager, just like everyone else, something supported by the 2nd episode of the school trip. But I actually think it’s something else, deeper. When does Hayama need Hikki’s help? When he needs to stop change and be mean and doesn’t want to do it himself. Hayama wants Hikki to turn down Orimoto for him, and Hikki is telling Hayama he can do it himself, and to stop making him the villain.
Third, and most important, for Hikki, “There’s nothing I can do to help.” – This is Hachiman who may not admit it, but who took in Yukino’s words, because he knows them to be true. Hachiman knows he’s not helping. He’s avoiding the situation altogether.
And final point, alluded to above, it’s not that Hayama is trying to get Hikki out to engage with people, I suspect, as much as he wishes to avoid this mess Haruno pulled him into. Though seeing it’s Hayama, the side-theme of trying to help Hikki or bond with him might not be entirely missing. Do note Hayama made the request and bowed in front of Hikki where others could see it too.
2) The Proud and Lonely Hikigaya Hachiman:
1) Haruno just wants the dirt on Hayato. Or so she says. One can’t trust her words. The next sentence seems much more telling – “It’s so romantic, you’ll get to go on a date with the girl you used to like!” – Haruno wants to toy with Hikki’s heart, with his scars. Yes, she also wants him to grow past it, but she also enjoys toying with him.
2) “You’re like a monster of rationality,” – “I’m not.” – “Fine, you’re a monster of self-consciousness.” – This is very much related to when Hikki’s eyes grew large after Haruno said that Hayato is far too proud to bow his head and ask for help. Here we’re using Hayato as a mirror for Hachiman. Hachiman keeps suffering, but is far too proud to admit it and ask for help. Others ask him for help, and if he accepts, he’s far too self-conscious, far too proudto then turn to others and ask for their help in turn. He thinks it’s all about himself. Haruno is telling him he’s just as selfish now as he was with his old infatuation. Far too full of himself.
3) Talk about distant body language. Now I almost wonder if Haruno wanted Hikki to go on this date so he’d grow past it by seeing how laughable Orimoto is. Perhaps she even wanted him to ruin the date, and so grow out of it. And yes, also embarrass Hayato. That sure sounds like Haruno.
4) Ah ha! Much more insightful and grown-up from Hikki than I expected! “She was nice to me because she’s like that to everyone,” which is what, well, led to his “I hate nice girls” monologue. So he realized this before, but now he realizes this isn’t a reason to hold a grudge against her, to feel slighted. Thus, growing up.
3) Real Emotions:
1) This little underclassman sure is bossy, sure wants to know everything about Hikki. Is she into him, or is she just a busybody like Haruno? Hikki has a point – Iroha doesn’t care whether Hikki likes her or not, but it means she’s willing to spend time with him even without his love. Reminds me of Kawashima Ami from ToraDora.
The important take-away is how important it is for Iroha to be loved.
2) “I wasn’t really in love with anyone, it was just a misconception.” – Another moment designed to draw parallels between Hayato and Hikki. Doubly so after Hayato says “Neither you nor I”.
3) “I don’t like how you two are acting,” sure isn’t what two girls want to hear from the guy they’re crushing on, after a several hours’ worth of date. Heck, no one wants to hear that. I’d be surprised Hayato said it here, rather than either earlier or not saying so at all, but I’m not, because it’s following last scene, where we’ve had the two of them shown to be parallel to one another. Also touches on Hachiman’s “Glad I could act the clown for you” internal line earlier – he’s not, but Hayato is also willing to be mean for others’ sake now and then.
4) Oh man, Hayato set up this smackdown in advance. Haruno is here because she wanted to see it – see Hikki in an awkward position of others praising him, of seeing his romantic entanglement with the girls, of seeing Hayato be mean to two girls, and seeing two girls getting smacked down. This is such a pressure cooker. And Hayato is actually forging ahead, quite bluntly.
5) Talk about an awkward situation. While it can be highly entertaining, it’s also very unpleasant to see people being mean to one another from close up. I’d say “This situation sure got resolved far faster than I expected after that setup,” but Orimoto saying she doesn’t care to sit down and be lectured to makes sense. I wonder how much more we’ll get from this scene, with the two girls and Hikki. Well, let’s see.
4) Forcing Growth:
1) Hayato running for election would certainly work. That’s not the way the drama would be at its highest though, that’ll only be if Yukino is forced to run herself, though she doesn’t wish to. But, will Hayato sacrifice himself for others, for his image? He just might, because he’s similar enough to Hikki. Also, who’s to say he doesn’t wish to be the Student Council President? I doubt he’ll agree though, if only because it’d help avoid the problem at hand, in the club, and that’s Hikki’s part, not Hayato’s.
2) Oh man, if this is the time for brutal truths, then this time it’s Yukino’s turn, courtesy of Haruno. Haruno is saying that this time it’s not Hikki who’s like Hayato, but Yukino who is like Hayato – asking others to sacrifice themselves for her sake. Haruno is saying that it’s very comfortable for Yukino to have Hikki suffer for her, and then feign innocence. Of course, Haruno delights both in being right and throwing Yukino off her game, but being ever so slightly wrong, to try and tempt an outburst and change from her sister, aided by comparing her to a family member whom she hates to hate.
“So, that’s what this is about.” – A double meaning, a sibling and family feud, but more importantly, about Yukino using others rather than stepping into the ring herself. This isn’t just about Hachiman, but also about Hayato who stood next to him. “You want to resolve this elections issue? Then don’t force someone else to be the Student Council President for you. Do it yourself.”
3) And that’s Haruno’s true objective, as surmised last episode – she wants Yukino to outgrow her, to take a different route than merely being her sister’s shadow. Haruno talks of Yukino using others for her purposes, but that’s exactly what Haruno’s done. Haruno set up this entire double-date ordeal just so she could end up making Hachiman suffer enough for Hayato to want to embarrass the two girls, just so she could get Yukino to move how she wants her to. And yes, get some laughs at everyone’s expense. Scary indeed.
5) Self-Imposed Blindness Hiding Overly-Sensitive Eyes:
2) Ok, let’s get a bit more serious here for a moment. Haruno is talking about what I mentioned in my first episode’s write-up, that Hachiman’s self-imposed blindness to how people might feel about him is a way to protect himself from subtext he might be imagining, and then the truth will crush him.
But this self-imposed “blindness” goes hand-in-hand with actually seeing subtext everywhere, with trying to gauge how others feel and think. It shows one cares. Hachiman acts as if he sees no signs because he sees them everywhere, and it’s overwhelming him. That’s a big part of why he finds social interactions so tiring, because he constantly tries to parse the interaction and all of its infinite possible meanings, aside from what people actually say. And then he acts as if he understood nothing at all, that also takes its toll. This self-imposed blindness, and what one sees, they’re both born out of fear though, out of not being sure in one’s position. Fear born from caring.
3) We’re now seeing the fallout from the 2nd episode, from Hayato’s point of view. “I feel terrible. I don’t ever want to do something like this again.” – This is why Yui and Yukino are so hurt by Hachiman’s actions. They too know the pain involved, and that he’s doing it, again and again. Hayato always had the empathy the two girls possess, but after he still went on about it, calling on Hachiman (as Hyouka told us, to have expectations of someone else means you’ve given up yourself. Alternately, that you don’t want to suffer yourself, and are willing for another to suffer in your stead), he figured he now needs sympathy as well, to place himself in Hachiman’s position, seeexactly how bad it is. Real bad.
4) “You need to understand your self-worth. And not just you, the people around you too.” – There are two ways to understand the second part of this sentence, that are related. The first is that aside from needing to understand his own self-worth, Hachiman needs to understand that others around him have worth as well, that he can rely on them, and that he can’t trample over it, and their potential growth, when he tries to help him.
The second meaning is probably what was intended, and this is the answer as to why Hayama crushed Orimoto and her friend – people around Hachiman need to understand how much he’s worth, they need to understand they can’t trample his dignity, and that they can’t put their happiness above his. Of course, that’s what humans are like, so it goes further – they need to explicitly recognize just how capable Hachiman is, that they keep relying on him. They need to understand how much he actually cares, and reciprocate it, because he’s, well, worth it. A loyal friend.
6) Self-Imposed Blindness, Lest I Disappear:
1) “Don’t you think it’s time you stopped sacrificing yourself?” – And now someone finally presents it as outright pity. Not like Yukino who expresses anger at Hachiman for not considering how others feel, or solve their issues, not Yui’s sadness over the hurt. But actual, reasoned, pity.
2) And here is where it backfires. Hachiman can’t back down, especially when the truth is spelled out to him, because to do so would be to admit he’s been wrong all this time. It would undo him. It’s asking him to change all at once, rather than slowly and gradually, which is what his time at the club could’ve been, what it shouldhave been, except he keeps throwing himself under the bus every time he’s making some progress. But that’s not entirely true, he’s still making progress, slowly, with those around him.
3) “Sacrifice myself? Don’t make me laugh, that’s normal to me.” – Well, last episode was all about how “normal, nothing changed,” is a lie, and in this case, that’s something “normal” doesn’t mean it’s fine – isn’t that what you were saying with all of your scathing critiques of the fake social order, Hikki?
4) “Other people don’t factor into what I do.” – Haruno already told us how this is a lie, spelled it out, in case someone somehow missed it up to now – everything Hachiman does is out of fearing malice from others. To say one doesn’t care is to say one isn’t affected. But that’s a wish, not reality.
5) “The things in front of my are part of my life, and my life alone.” – Haha! That’s a bold-faced lie and you know it. That means if people turn you down, as Orimoto did, it’s part of your life and not hers, or part of her life and not yours? Hikki is desperate here. He’s witnessed at the end of episode 2 how others are telling him his life is part of their lives, that he is part of their lives. This is too much responsibility, responsibility he can’t shake off by sacrificing himself, though he tried that as well, by saying he doesn’t care about how others feel. He’s trying to become lonely again, where others can’t hurt him. Except they can. Far or near, Hikki’s hurting.
6) “Don’t you help others because you want others to help you?” – This show is spilling all its beans, spelling all its motifs. Must wonder if the author got tired of people somehow idolizing Hachiman as right, and decided to break the truth to them. Sort of what I’m doing with my write-ups this season.
7) “Who’d want to sacrifice themselves for you, to be your scape-goat?” – And that’s exactly the irony in Hikki’s behaviour, that he’s playing his role for a society he says he despises. The functionalist theory of Sociology would say society needs outsiders to band against them. The first season spelled it out, that Hikki is coming as outside interference so everyone else could work better together. By rejecting society, Hikki has been incorporated into it. But since he knows what he’s doing, it is indeed self-sacrifice, but somewhat forced on him as well.
“My conviction, the one thing I shared with another, and now lost.” – Meaning, he’s losing his self-sure nature, he knows Hayato to be true, that he’s not doing it out of superiority. He knows he’s a hypocrite. Or it can be the reverse, that he’s still telling himself he’s lonely and sure of himself, and that the goal is the only purpose, and it’s Yukino who’s not honest that he doesn’t share convictions with (see also her “lie” to him last season). Or, third option, it’s not the conviction he lost, but that other person with whom he shared it. Which is the natural outcome of placing convictions above people. Regardless, Hikki’s fraying.
7) Fallout. Failure. Everyone’s Blind Together:
1) Yukino running to Student Council President was obvious from the moment the topic came up. But this is Hikki’s true failure. First and foremost, it means that the club, his own little piece of hellish heaven will end. But it also means he’ll allow his friend to sacrifice herself for their shared convictions, rather than what will make her happy. He’ll have to admit she’s his friend, first, though.
2) “I’m doing it because I want to.” – Hikki knows the lie of that. And here’s Yui, noticing their precious club will go away first and foremost.
“It won’t end up being a burden.” – A repeat of the Cultural Festival – Yukino takes it all on herself. Yukino’s self-sacrifice. Hachiman should recognize everything in this scene, and if he cares (and oh boy, does he care), he should also realize where others’ pity is coming from. Of course Hikki realizes, which is part of why it hurts him so much – he hates himself, so others caring about him is only hurting him more. He believes he should be punished.
3) “If you think everyone cares enough about you to hate you, then you think far too highly of yourself.” – Ouch, but said with moist eyes. Yes, the people who care enough to hate you, or feel pity for you, aren’t that common. The ones who see your worth. Remember, Orimoto didn’t even remember he confessed to her, he didn’t even register in her mind. This goes back to realizing one’s self-worth, and to Hikki’s ridiculous line about “Anything I see in front of me is part of my life, and my life alone,” that line makes one sound as a solipsist. But others exist, and to many of them, you’re just a peripheral character, one who manages to be a third wheel in a double-date.
4) “So that’s how Yukinon does things.” – Just like Hachiman, she spells things out in a hurtful way, and she ends up sacrificing herself. But whereas Hikki does so to try and avoid people growing, and pushing out of the way those people and feelings that make others uncomfortable, Yukino is trying to use these as platforms for change. Same methods, same objective goals, but one does so by changing, and the other by stifling it.
8) Three’s a Party. Everyone’s a Fool Together:
1) “I’m going to flip it around, my weakness, that I have nothing to offer, into a source of strength.” – Hikki, isn’t that what you’re doing? Turning your loneliness, your pariah status, into weapons to try and help people?
2) Ah, yes, everyone’s telling Hikki the same thing, “Sorry I pinned my hopes on you, and sat by while you were crushed by them. It’s time for me to share some of this load you bear, so move over.” They’re trying to rob Hikki of his weakness, they’re trying to rob Hikki of his strength.
3) Dammit, music. Yui crying a wee bit made me tear up a tiny bit too. Yui is stressing out that Hikki is already not alone, already part of a group. Of course, he’s part of numerous groups, as even “outsider” is only defined by its relation to a group.
4) “If Yukino and Yui truly believe they’re making the best choice, then I don’t mind. But I don’t think they do.” – Ah, convictions. Hachiman doesn’t care if people make the right choices, he’s just trying to make them not feel hurt about choices they didn’t have to make, about the unfairness of the world. Hikki is trying to help people he sees to be in his position, with uncomfortable situations forced upon them. But he’s unwilling to accept help for the first person he knows in said position, himself. He’s also unwilling to accept that others might think he doesn’t truly believe he’s making the best decision himself. He sure thinks highly of himself. But it’s human nature, to attribute decision-making to ourselves and being influenced by outside factors to others.
Shorter Notes / Asides:
- There is no escaping Haruno. Everyone knows the way to reach Hikki is through his little-sister :P
- Hikki is having so much fun, can’t you tell?
- Hikki manages to be a third wheel in a double date situation.
The show is certainly spelling out everything, spilling all the beans, this season, and this episode in particular, isn’t it? Let’s talk about that for a moment, from a meta perspective, before diving into the episode proper. As I outlined in my first write-up for this season, and my reason for it, I always found this show to be deeply critical of Hachiman, but apparently many people found him to be a positive role model, and his position vindicated. This season is doing away with said willful blindness of its audience as it does away with that of its cast.
I can imagine the author having to sit through countless events with fans who tell him how much they like his characters, how much they agree with them, and how terrible nice girls are. I can imagine him looking like Hikki, his eye twitching and his inner voice telling him how he’s happy to be their clown. I can imagine him being sick of it and then making sure no one will mistake how his characters feel and work, and always have. I can also imagine him telling the anime staff to make sure that these things don’t go over the viewers’ head, or the anime staff feeling that way on their own.
Of course, if that’s all it were, then this season wouldn’t have worked nearly as well as it did thus far, or been nearly as good (and it’s been exceedingly great). That is because as much as the meta-answer to the meta-question is entertaining, the other possible answer, the in-world one, makes perfect sense as well. This is the natural outgrowth of everything that occurred up to now. Even if Hachiman is right and his actions don’t differ now from those he carried out in the first season, the social context in which he carries them out now is entirely different, and thus, his actions, his social actions, are different.
Those around Hachiman can see the cost he’s incurring to help them. They can see his suffering, and they can understand it. This means that with each and every act of help Hachiman is carrying out, the price paid for the gain increases, as the objective reached must also pay for the emotional suffering of everyone around Hachiman, and it’s getting harder and harder to balance out. Pain and annoyance, if they do not scar over, have a tendency to mount up. The same act is not something one can sit through the same way. When someone insults you the 3rd time, it’s not necessarily the same as when they insult you for the 30th time. I wonder at Hayato, who had to sit there quietly while Orimoto and her friend insulted Hikki, and had to bite down on his reply. He didn’t sit quietly because he wasn’t bothered up to that point, but because he had to wait for Yukino and Yui to get there. He felt terrible for bringing the two girls over with the knowledge he’ll end up hurting their feelings, and for the knowledge that Hikki’s feelings will also have to be trampled for an entire evening. He truly did do things in Hachiman’s way.
Hachiman too knows he’s changing. Hachiman is terrified. Being told outright how he operates, being told he’s been seen into, and that others know him to be someone who keeps deceiving himself, just like everyone else, hurts. It hurts like a bitch, you guys. Change is gradual for many reasons, and a lead one of them is that this way we don’t have to outright admit we were wrong before, especially not until we finish evolving out of that stage, and don’t have to compare the sharp edges between the us now and the us of the literal yesterday. Hikki isn’t being given this luxury by those around him.
Hikki is sharp. Don’t get me wrong, he’s far from stupid and blind. But he’s in that precocious stage that sees how everyone works, and he’s actually right to a large degree, but he’s not yet at the stage where he sees he’s working in the same way. This is why he doesn’t have empathy. He has empathy for others, which is why he’s helping them. Hikki feels pity to others even as he rejects it for himself. He has empathy, which he will not admit to have, but he has no empathy for himself. He has empathy for everyone but himself. This is why it chafes to have those he looks down upon, those he pities, reach out to him, and tell him he’s just like them.
This is the danger of turning your weakness into your source of strength. When all you have are convictions, you have nothing at all, but something to keep between you and the world. A lie that acts like armour. Hikki knows Yukino is suffering, and he sure as heck knows that Yui is. He’s incapable of admitting that others know he’s suffering. Hikki has his loneliness as the source of his insight, so where will he be if someone as Hayama shares his same insight, if someone as Hayama can be just as lonely?
He’d be truly alone, because he’d be forced to admit he’s just like everyone else. He’d be alone because he’d be forced to admit he’s not. He’d be alone with his scars, and with the knowledge everyone else has theirs. That he only caused more scars while pitying others, for himself, and for them. Think of the girl in summer camp, who is forced to scar over her hard time with her friends, rather than resolve her moment of separation and alienation, and allowing them to act as if it hasn’t been a big deal.
Hikki’s deathly afraid of changing, because he’d have to admit he’s been wrong, and sad, and lonely. He’d be forced to admit that he wasn’t entirely wrong, and there’d always be a distance between him and others, but that even so, he’s striving for them, and their happiness. He’d be forced to admit he deserves pity. He’d be forced to admit he hurt his friends.