Last arc ended in the same place as where it started, with a couple of variations. That is to say, the “normal situation” has been maintained, so “nothing changed”. Except that this time Hachiman knows that he messed up, and Yukino actually said so herself, though understanding why was hard until the final scene with Meguri (write-up on episode and breakdown), and the other change is that Hikki is still trying to change, while considering his friends’ feelings.
Incidentally, since I quite like it, here’s my single paragraph summary of OreGairu, specifically S2, and specifically episode 5, which deals with where we’re at, theme-wise:
Hachiman’s mature realization – Since his personality can’t change so rapidly, faced with the same situation, he’d make the same choice every time. It might be wrong, but one does not have a choice when one only has one option they know how to pick. And that’s Hikki’s story in a single line. And trying to grow out of it or dealing with the ramifications is what this show is all about.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Frozen Smiles, Caving Hearts:
1) Hikki, still sitting far away from the girls, but listening, because he wants to, even if he can’t allow himself to turn his body fully towards them. But he’ll admit it when called on it.”Our frozen daily routine, just like Yukino’s smile, fighting the desire to run away.” – Hikki knows they all would like to be elsewhere. Run away, or run ahead, to progress? He’s aware they’re now maintaining the often loathed “comfortable social lie”. We’re actually spelling out the stuff outlined in episode 3, how “nothing changed, everything’s normal” is a lie – the more actively “normal” things are, the more it hides the realization it’s not.
2) “You’re staring too much,” with that semi-blush, a cute moment. Hikki trying his hardest to understand, and to look at social interactions and compare them to his. Do note, Hikki always spoke badly of those who try to maintain the status quo, when that was all he was doing, and now the group he maligned is organically moving on, with each person doing their own thing.
3) “Feel free to drop by, even if you don’t need anything.” – An answer to Hikki’s question, of why was he looking at this happy group – he wants his own social context filled with people he feels comfortable with. He wants to spend time with people, and is taking to heart that he doesn’t need an external reason to do so, the lesson learned from Komachi’s motivation and Yukino’s failure to communicate her desires.
4) “Let’s go to the club together.” – This small moment ties it all up. I actually thought that Yui came to Hachiman for help, as her second community is also fraying at the edges, as each member asserts their individuality over the communal spirit. But as Totsuka pointed out, she usually doesn’t speak with Hikki in class, which symbolizes both that the glue of the “class-community” is falling apart, and her desire as an individual to save the “club-community,” or to fight for Hikki(‘s happiness).
2) A Fragile Unpeace:
1) This episode is leaning very heavily on eyes and looks thus far, about characters looking at one another. Well, when they can’t speak, but wish to, all they can do is rely on their eyes. That’s part of “can’t make a different choice,” as none of them can bring themselves to speak, but can only blame the others when their unspoken desires aren’t met. Of course they can speak, but they don’t see it. To be a teenager again.Hot damn, seeing Yui steel herself before entering her “comfort zone” to meet with her “friend”, just as Hachiman has done in episode 3, and him being able to see it too. Things are so bad.
2) “We gave it a shot, but it’s not really working out.” A perfect metaphor for this show, and the truth behind relationships. I remember a married friend giving a similar observation, in how keeping the marriage is about putting in the effort to make it work. “We gave it a shot but it didn’t work” is what you say when you don’t really care. You do a lot more than give it a shot otherwise. And no, playing along as if nothing happened isn’t putting in the work, that’d be actually talking it over. Except that hurts, and Hachiman and Yukino’s society of broken hearts is all about avoiding being close enough to get hurt, except that now they are.
3) “So just like old times!…” and that horrified look. Because it’s not old times any longer. Bringing it up might draw attention to that fact. Also, old times weren’t all that hot.
4) This is progress, even if it doesn’t seem that way. Two fronts. First, Hachiman understands that he needs to let people rely on themselves, and succeed or fail by their own hand, or they will not grow and will not learn to work on their own. Of course, it could just be a cover for his natural inclination to sit by, but let’s be optimistic, eh? And more importantly, he realizes he needs to help two groups, and can’t just do it by sacrificing himself. He’s going to have to help one group by leaving the other out of it… by sacrificing himself. Except, he’s not sacrificing himself, he’s offering to help. Baby steps.
3) Iroha’s Reverse-Hachimanism: Plain Old Hikkinism:
1) It’s entertaining to see Hachiman banter with Iroha, because he can’t parse romantic advances, while she parses everything as romantic advances – she’s sort of what he’s afraid of being, except she hasn’t been burnt as he was. Or were she? “Enough with the foxiness already.” – This actually matters. Iroha always keeps up a front. She’s never genuine. Hikki withdrew to hide his true self, while Iroha became sociable, but for the same purpose, and perhaps for the same reasons – were she in fact nominated by 30 people to “soft-bully” her? I do seem to remember that when Hachiman came to her class, she was sitting alone during lunch break.
2) “Perhaps it might be better for us to spend our time without any trouble arising.” – That defeated look on Yukino’s face. “If so, what have we been doing all this time?” – Spending time together. No, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, Hachiman. You helped solve other people’s problems, but the point is that you also built a working relationship with someone. And as you just said previously about the situation with Iroha, what’s good for one party (being helped) might not be good for the other party (helping others at a personal cost).What you’ve been doing is finding an excuse to help others and spend time together. A reason to act. The acts are what mattered, not the excuse that led to them.
3) “How many times do I have to be rejected by her?” – And does he mind? This isn’t where he confesses to a girl and gets rejected, and isn’t the same situation as with Tobe either. It’s just him and her, and her being silly. It feels more like Hikki’s gained another younger sister than him truly getting rejected. He doesn’t mind because he sees no subtext here, as opposed to everything else.
4) Business-Wisdom Stupidity:
2) Orimoto, did she come just to say hi because she’s so very social, or did she come hoping to get more laughs out of Hikki, or to see who he came alongside with? Because once she’s seen he’s alone and got her laugh, or finished her pleasantries, she moved on. That laughter though, it seemed like a sort of “social laugh,” one that obviates the need to actually say meaningful and connect with the other. She’s coming off as a mirror to Iroha, who’s using cuteness to keep people from actually seeing her, and Hachiman, who’s using his anti-social nature to keep others away. I mean, after you laugh at nothing, it sort of breaks the discussion and allows you to depart or strike a new conversation.
3) “We need to wear logical thinking hats while adopting a logical mindset.” – Funnily enough, this is exactly the issue – you’re putting on the appearances of thinking and maturity without actually doing it.
4) “Well, I guess they’re talking about pretty complicated stuff,” – No, they’re talking about simple stuff in an overly complicated manner. True understanding is to put something as simply as possible without losing anything. “Well, going “Wow!” or “I’ll do my best too!” seems to be working,” and this is exactly what her cuteness is all about, what Hachiman always speaks against, and what he’s been busy doing – smoothing things over without actually fixing the underlying issues. Yes, he’d get kids to play along by getting them to stop ostracizing someone rather than act as if no one’s ostracized, but he’s not solving why people were ostracized, so it’s just different depths of potato (not a typo, “potay-to”, “potah-to” analogy).
5) The Return of the Cultural Festival Double Ungood Unwork (Go go Doublespeak!):
1) “I’m not aware, I’m just self-aware.” – A good line, and of course, a lie. Well, Hikki knows what biases he suffers from, and even recognizes them as biases, he’s just unable to see without them. Then again, who can? He pays attention to everything, it’s true, but filtered through his lens.
2) This is a repeat of the Cultural Festival arc, where the “leader” talks about all the things to do, and then leaves all the actual work for someone else. Except here it’s an entire contingent of people who speak about how important it is to work and think properly, but all they do is talk. And here is the downside to Iroha’s “roll-over tactic”, that she ends up with all of the actual work, which probably includes actually thinking of how to make it work. And Iroha? Her classmates, more specifically.
3) “Will this do?” – “I’ll check.” – This is exactly like the Cultural Festival arc. I take it back, those kids aren’t just aping middle management, they’ve nabbed it perfectly (or at least the stereotype) – you don’t do any of the work, but you get all the accolades when it succeeds, and those you have do all the work for you even have to come and ask you whether it’s fine. You get to lord it over them, you get to tell them whether their work is fine or not without actually doing any yourself. Seriously, Iroha, if you do all the work, you should decide whether it’s good enough or not.At least Iroha knows things aren’t going well, so made a move to help her remedy the situation. Guess that’s something.
4) Iroha, sitting far away from the rest of the council, that’s now how things will “get better eventually,” and another mirror to Hikki in his own club. His job description is to help with the activity with the other high school. His initial reluctance was that Iroha should stand on her own, not rely on him to bail her out each time the Student Council needs something done. This is why his actual job is to get Iroha to work effectively with the rest of the Student Council, so they could solve situations on their own, to solve their own social situation. Of course, he’s the worst man for the job.Also of note, in Hachiman and Iroha’s scene later, Hachiman basically says that Iroha being nice and cheerful is an act, a mask.
5) “I’d like to take this chance for us to really leave a mark,” – by not doing anything, just being there. just like the Cultural Festival arc.”Maybe we did decide on something too minor.” – I mean, why care about how much effort and time something takes, if someone else is going to be doing all the work anyway, right? Right?
6) Growing Past Constraints by Letting Others Work:
1) “In a brainstorming session, you don’t reject ideas that others bring to the table.” – If your goal is to jerk off, sure, not when you’re actually trying to get things done.”If our constraints limit us, then we move on to discuss how to deal with those constraints.” – That’s fine, but that’s not part of brainstorming, and is exactly the part where you move beyond brainstorming to actively pick something. Except you’ve never brainstormed, this is you picking a solution and going ahead with it, not raising multiple issues. But he does have a point, once you pick something you want to do, you check how to make it a reality, rather than only pick based on what’s already feasible. How else will you change, how else will you make your Club work, when you’re only willing to look by what’s already there, Hachiman?
2) Hachiman bullshitting with the best of them. On one hand, you can’t shoot down one objection and not another just because of how they’re presented, but there is a difference here – Before Hachiman shot down the suggestion for logistical reasons, and here he’s presenting why this solution isn’t one they even want. This is also how you can manipulate a situation to have your own solution accepted – just give all the reasons everyone else’s suggestions are bad ideas.
3) “In order to gain more eyeballs and a clear consensus, we need a partnership where we can transparently crystalize a manifesto…” Ok, now Hachiman is just saying nonsense, lol. Nothing’s clear here, and “more eyeballs” stands in contrast to transparency”. I guess he’s saying they need to agree on the ground rules before inviting more people, maybe?Why would you want to have grade schoolers on board? It’s more work for you, well, for Hachiman’s school. This is the problem with stereotypical “”marketing business direction”” – once they’ve set their mind on something, originally as part of the solution, it’s now become a goal in and of itself. I recommend everyone to watch The Expert (drawing 7 red lines, with blue ink, etc.).
4) Hachiman isn’t doing much. He’s not blaming others this time, to get them to do what needs to be done at a cost to himself, but he should, I don’t know, tell Iroha what she needs to do? Then again, this is the line I expect everyone to say watching this episode, but it’s… nonsense. Iroha knows exactly what the issue is, she just can’t bring herself to actually do what needs to be done. She brought Hachiman along exactly because she wants someone else to resolve the situation for her. What to do? I’d recommend getting his school’s Student Council to present a unified front.
5) And Hachiman is protective of the inexpressible thing that is his social environment, his friends, as he watches a defeated and lonely Iroha slink off, with one who treats everything she doesn’t understand as a joke, and thus, not in need of being understood and related to.
Shorter Notes / Asides:
- Everyone’s looking at everyone! Quick, do something!
- “If it’s just you I’d find it much easier to manip” – IROHA!”Besides, the “Adorably clumsy” act only works with simple tasks.” – IROHAAAAAAAAAA!
- “Influencers,” “groundbreaking innovation,” “disrupt the established thinking.” – All this in a single sentence? Someone’s been drinking his own piss.”That said, a win-win for both us and the community is critically important core deliverable.” – HELP! I NEED EXTRACTION! MAKE IT STOP!
- “Let us reinitialize the brainstorming session!” – How to not get things done 101. Also, how committee leaders control their outcomes, they can keep seeking for new ideas until the one they wanted all along is accepted cause everyone gives up.
Post Episode Thoughts:
This wasn’t a very enjoyable episode. Now to think about whether that made it even better, or is related to it being a weaker episode. I did laugh quite a bit at all the aped business speech, but this episode was centered around the cloying atmosphere of weaponized soft power, social power. An analogy would be if we’d’ve spent an entire episode in the Summer Camp arc as one of the little girls, seeing all their interactions and little cruelty.
This episode was instructive though on how social power can be used, on how you can simply wear down the opposition until they accept your ideas, by shooting down their ideas, and shooting down their attempts to shoot yours, and how utterly exhausting it is when people run ahead with stupid ideas after making what was originally intended to be a tool into its own goal.
And this leads to exploring the emotive work the show is doing here. Ironically, the show works by pulling a Hachiman on the watchers, something that often goes unnoticed. What do I mean? The other school’s Student Council President? The show is making him a jerk, it’s making us hate him and want to see him torn down, to see others rally against him – the show is doing to him what Hachiman does to himself, it’s painting him as a non-character to help foster “togetherness” and empathy to the other side on the watchers’ end.
But unlike Minami in the Cultural Festival arc, he’s not a character yet, so it feels a bit cheap. It’s up to us to realize that he’s just an insecure teenager like everyone else here. Still a jerk, but also a human. The emotive work done in this arc is to get us to think, “Oy, Hachiman, take him down!” but this is exactly part of Hachiman’s growth, that he will not. He also doesn’t have Yukino to protect here, but they’re slowly building up Iroha.
Wrapping up this part of the episode, it was the weakest episode in this season yet, and felt a lot like a season 1 episode, with characters not saying what they think, not saying what they feel, not taking action, and even their inaction not being as significant. It really does feel a lot like a rehash of the Cultural Festival arc. That arc did indeed lead to the best moments of the first season, and build-up is necessary, but when the episode is about dealing with a cloying environment, it ends up feeling cloying. The unprogress leaked over.
Ok, a final section about the Volunteers’ Club and everything around it. Orimoto’s laughter is exactly an example of “soft power” and “not dealing with the truth underneath,” as it serves her to deflect situations and as a replacement to understanding. Iroha is doing the same with her “cute behaviour,” except that rather than using it to avoid understanding others, she’s using it to hide her self from others peering into it. The Club is showing us why, because the silence where you can feel everyone’s pain, the silence when you’re not simply comfortable together, is hard to bear.
What everyone wants, and what Hachiman is asked to create for others while he can’t provide for himself is exactly the sort of environment where people laugh and act nice because they truly feel like it, an environment of trust.