I’ll once again open with the post-episode editorial, because this episode’s write-up is so very long, and you might just want to read the bottom line. Well, lines, I expect there’d be quite a few of those. I know myself, which is a large part of this show’s theme, appropriately enough.
(Note: Click here for the full episode notes, where I broke down almost every single utterance or statement as I watched the episode. It’s long.)
I often find it useful to start from the end, because a single journey can lead to more than one conclusion, and it is by the conclusion that you look back and retranslate everything’s meaning.
Speaking of translation and words, we have some pretty cool words for things that cannot be said, words such as “ineffable”, often said as “the ineffable”. Even the word “Sublime” often refers to an experience that transcends, not understanding, but words. Sublime works of art if they use words may use many of them to describe something, but that experience in the end is given to what is merely hinted at, pointed at, experienced.
The sublime, the ineffable, is often seen as “beyond the human experience,” until Lacan who treated it as the core of humanity, and unlike Freud who tried to translate everything, he pointed out its inherent ineffability, its resistance to translation.
Hachiman is Freud. He reads between the lines. He ascribes deeper meanings and ulterior reasons to everyone. He does it so he wouldn’t have to deal with their true natures. Hikki is afraid of not understanding, so he does away with the need to understand, in part by keeping everyone away, and so locks understanding even farther away.
This episode’s final part, from the moment Hikki spoke of his desire and Yukino said she doesn’t understand was very messy, and not entirely logical. I’m not using “not entirely logical” in the sense of “things did not follow one another,” but in the more formal sense, of people saying and doing things that while rational, are not “cold-logic based” (I wrote a 20 page paper on “multiple rationalities” several years ago, so let’s not get into “logic == rationality”, please). Hikki knows what he wants is impossible, in part due to his nature, but not entirely – you can never really know what people are thinking, you can’t ever be sure of your own thoughts, so others? Forget about it. But even knowing he can never understand people, and thus that true closeness, which he says is not what he wanted are impossible, he still wants it, and is still willing to strive towards the impossible goal.
As an aside, Hikki is not suddenly free of his nature. No one ever is. He says he doesn’t seek friendship, only understanding. But does he seek understanding for friendship, or friendship for understanding? He seeks it all because he’s afraid. He knows he is. He knows Iroha is afraid, and Tamanawa is afraid. He knows everyone’s afraid. But if the goal is to stop being afraid, you can use friendship as well as your shield. Hikki’s biggest realization which he said, but did not spell outright is that he blinded himself with his “truth”, to make sure he doesn’t have to stare at the actual truth in the face, a truth which gives others their own agency and motivation, which put them beyond his ability to understand.
Hikki’s biggest concession, his biggest change in this episode isn’t that he’s willing to try and understand, which is impossible, but his acceptance that he does not understand. How does it work? If you think you know everyone and everything perfectly, there’s no need to understand people, because you do. Hikki is willing to accept the fact he’ll never understand, that he’ll always be in that dark place, but that he won’t run from the darkness, but try to fight it back, try to give and take strength from his fellow travelers on this starless night, his fellow humans, his friends. Yes, all of them, whom he’s trying to help.
Yukino doesn’t understand what she’s expected to do, what she’s being relied on for, how to expose her weakness to others, how to take down her shell, and how to react when others take their shells off in front of her, without her being able to brush them away for having ulterior motives, because they’re her friends, and that’d deprotagonize them, it’d void them.
This isn’t logical. There’s nothing clear-cut here, there are no well-written lines that give you sudden revelation into the nature of the universe. This is not sublime literature, but very human literature instead. Literature that focuses on the human condition, and the inability to say wise things, smart things, logical things. Humanity that sometimes breaks down and cries, because it tries to reach for the ineffable, and there’s nothing more ineffable than the hurt itself, for which we don’t have words, but sounds.
And when you do try? You end up with Sensei’s words, many of them sounded positively fortune cookie-esque. Sensei understands, and Sensei has empathy, and she has maturity (which Yui is making great strides towards as well), but Sensei doesn’t have words any more than anyone else, so she just tries to point at the direction. Her words appeared clear and full of cool lines, but that is exactly where they missed the point. They weren’t “good”, but they were the best she had. Sensei too knows about the ineffability of pain, the pain of the human condition, the ineffability of it, and that all you can do is keep trying.
Keep trying at being human, and keep trying at putting it into words. Others may not understand, but wanting to be understood, and wanting someone to walk these dusky paths with us is the core of the lonely, and terrible, and oh so ineffable, human experience.
(As before, I’d like feedback from readers on splitting this piece. This is a more general piece that could be more universal, so I wanted to split it from the episodic notes in order to help engender discussion even from those who aren’t as interested in reading every single moment being broken down.)