So, last episode was, rather than a return to normalcy, our cast taking their first step on their renewed path of togetherness, friendship, and willingness to be hurt, it also had a lot of fun and shipping-ammo moments. Yui told Hikki she wants to spend time with him, Yukino told him she was envious of him, and Iroha confessed to Hayama who turned her down. All the girls revealing of themselves and trying to bridge the gap. Now we still have a party for the elderly to organize, and the party and emotional repercussions of Iroha’s confession – let us see what Hachiman deprived Tobe and Ebina of in the 2nd episode.
Post Episode Thoughts:
The post-ED segment dovetails perfectly into what I wanted to open this discussion with. In my weekly round-up where I covered episodes 8-9 I pointed out that in most movies, series, and books, episode 8 would be either the final shot, or the one preceding it and the denouement, if it weren’t one that actually came up early. It’s the conclusion of a long journey Hachiman has been undergoing since before the series even started, from knowing he’s miserable to admitting it and then acting on it. But it’s also the start of a new journey, because as the final catalyst for the change and the episodes since have kept pointing out, it’s the actual effort you make that brings about change and is worthwhile. “Yay! I need to change!” is only the start.
Episode 8 felt like a season finale, and this episode’s first half, ending with the conclusion of the most momentous arc, even accompanied by an insert OP song, felt like the real end of the show, that “denouement” of Hachiman’s change that could’ve come. And yet, we keep on going. Which brings us to what I’ve constantly been repeating this season – it’s not just Hachiman who’s afraid of being alone and not understanding people, who can’t throw himself out there, and who takes on himself blame for others’ sake, including when he fails to act. This is true for almost every single character in the show. Yes, Hachiman and Yukino lead this charge, but Iroha, Hayama, and even Ebina are there with their self-loathing for chasing something “fake”, and for not being as strong as they could be.
The same idea is expressed by the post-ED segment, where every single character, almost, blames themselves for being cowards, for hiding the truth within themselves, and now they are ready to face the truth, and try for something genuine, even though it will hurt. You can’t rely on others doing the work for you, understanding you without you speaking, without you making a move, because, as this segment says, as I said, everyone else is waiting for the same thing. And when everyone is waiting for someone else to make the first move, nothing gets done.
This realization is dispensed by Yukino in the meeting. It’s also given by Iroha, with her willingness to be hurt in order to have a chance at attaining happiness, after being inspired by Hachiman. And so, Hayama gave us in this episode’s first section the direction the show is taking from now on, with Hachiman who now knows the way being aided by his friends in actually transforming into someone who can rely on others, and them being inspired by his willingness to open up to them and rely on them into trying for the same goal. Everyone’s changing, together, because changing on one’s own is too hard. Hayama is still missing half of it, that Hachiman is changing and inspiring everyone around him, but Hachiman is only able to do so because he’s inspired and aided by those around him in turn.
So long things are allowed to change, allowed to grow, then everyone can change. And this is why Hachiman had to be the one who changed first, because up until now, he made sure to give everyone their wish, as a malevolent Genie, the wish that resisted change. And when no one changes, and when you don’t tackle your problems head on, they can only fester, and everyone can only hide by masks, as Yukino and her family does. And perhaps that is why Haruno moved the linchpin that is Hachiman first. It is time to wake up. It is time to accept our inner warts, and one another’s, and continue onward to a wart-filled future, where being loved and loving others is actually an option, because self-loathing can be let go of.
One more thing I want to think of, pointed out in the notes, which I almost forgot, exemplified by Hachiman’s “anti-wish”, and also seen in Yukino’s statements. They now know and accept that hurt and effort are what actually makes something genuine, and only waiting for things to occur on their own is how things stay the same, but now they look on their newfound insight and use it to decry others’ relationships as “fake” once more. They’ve grown, but not completely. They still lack the maturity to understand not all relationships are the same, and you cannot decide for others whether their relationships are real or not.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Rejection Hurts Both Sides:
1) “I ended up hurting Iroha.” But he did it nevertheless. Hayama says it’s because he’s not that nice, but accepting Iroha’s confession when he doesn’t actually care for her would’ve been crueller, unless Iroha only wanted to date Hayama for the social status, which might be part of it.
Hayama did say “There was more to it,” and “Her words were actually meant for…” the first and obvious meaning of the first part is that Hayama actually loves someone whose name starts with “Y”, but the second part’s obvious meaning is that Iroha actually likes someone else. And then when we add Hayama’s line about how Hikki changes those around him, they all point out to Hayama saying it’s Hikki whom Iroha has feelings for. But there’s another possible read, an interpretation that is not nearly as nice, which is again, that Iroha was taught by Hachiman how to manipulate those around her, and her words, like Hayama’s, are self-serving, and designed to boost her popularity. That’s probably a bit too mean, but it’s still a cute read, so I’m throwing it out there.
2) “When I praise you, I do that for myself.” This makes sense alongside “I’m not as nice as you think I am.” It’s what many people who are in the Hachiman way of thinking use to declare “There are no nice people”, because everyone who’s nice only does it to feel good about themselves, as “nice people”. It’s similar to “People hurt one another in relationships, so relationships aren’t worth it.” The maturity comes when you realize that this might be all “niceness” is, but it’s enough. Also, Hayama taking some credit for helping Hachiman grow? Perhaps.
3) After the show made so much of Hikki having to ask for Iroha’s bag (offering his support), and then her giving him her bag without mentioning it (getting used to leaning on him, but also a classic Iroha moment), here we have her actively seeking help. The “fun times” at the amusement park have been too much for her to carry on her own. She needs help with the burden. And she trusts Hikki. That might’ve been the change Hayama spoke of, from a girl who was fearful of rejection (and thus didn’t want to run for Student Council Presidency), to someone who’s actually willing to confess, to take that risk.
2) A Brave and Tearful Face:
1) “I expected something unflappable, but instead I got this. How could I not be moved?” A nice mirror to the waterfall moment last episode, where you can’t help but fall in love as you fall down the waterfall, looking into another’s eyes. Iroha might not have fallen for Hikki, but seeing an emotional outburst from the most unexpected of places moved her to believe she could do better, similar to how people report being moved to do better by good stories. Especially when the person she sees is someone she also sees a lot of herself in – scared of being hurt, manipulates others, but actually desires acceptance and relationships.
2) “I won’t let it get me down, in fact, this is the best move! Now everyone else who likes Hayama will be unable to make a move!” Oh, that sure is Iroha. It also doesn’t work, because it might work with your friends who will not want to make a move after you made your feelings known (which is how anime usually paints this sort of thing), but it doesn’t work with your senpais who look at you as a cute and helpless kitten, and who probably knew how you’ve felt from the get-go.
3) “Besides, wouldn’t you think of someone you rejected? Feel sorry for them?” It works when you’re already friends with them, as with Hayama and Iroha. But Orimoto probably didn’t spare much more thought to Hikki. And there we go, Iroha is only putting on a brave face, she’s still sad. She was still rejected.
4) “Take responsibility” with misty eyes and a foxy look on her face, after “You made me change.” Oh my, this sure is Iroha, and she sure keeps switching between the sad and the forward-looking outlooks. Of course, “Take responsibility” here has two options. The first is to help her land Hayama, as he had to take responsibility for making her Student Council President. The other is to date her.
The real issue is he has to give her something genuine. Maybe friendship will do. I mean, that’s what Iroha wants – she wants genuine relationships where she won’t feel lonely. Many people think romantic relationships are the best way to get there, the ones where you’re “most sure”. But it’s not true, and it doesn’t matter. So long as Hikki gives her something genuine, or tries (which is enough), it doesn’t have to be romantic.
3) Preparing for War:
1) “The problem is in the meetings. Everyone gets their say, but nobody’s actually making any decisions.” DICTATORSHIP AHOY! And that’s why in workplaces there’re people who are paid to take responsibility and make final calls.
2) “Let’s stop trying to make friends, and have a meeting full of rejection, opposition, and confrontation, but with a clear outcome.” That sure sounds like old Hachiman, doesn’t it? Well, only somewhat, because old Hachiman tried to make sure everyone else remained as friendly as possible. The question is what is the actual goal, and not harming people for the goal. But if people might get harmed, it’s fine? Nah, there is quite a bit of old Hachiman here too, because you don’t change completely overnight, but he’s letting others pull their own weight. Also, he’s right, no one wants to feel lonely, but never objecting to anything is just as likely to get you friends, especially real ones, as always objecting to everything.
3) And of course, Iroha immediately turns and asks for another’s opinion, rather than face the difficulties of making the decision on her own, or even just voicing her own stance clearly and then asking another’s opinion. People are confrontation-averse. So yes, they raise good points, but these good points are how we got to this bad situation.
“You’re right, but we’re still gonna do it!” Nice! Not as good as saying you plan to do it before simply rejecting feedback you asked for, but this works too, especially narratively, it means, “All your points are good, but even though I’m aware of them, I’m still going ahead,” which gives it more weight and conviction. Showing Iroha striving for “something genuine” in her own way, and not just in relationships. Though still hiding behind her “name”, her appearances.
4) Hachiman’s Never-ending Sacrifice:
1) “Why are you opposed to a two-pronged approach?” Such a great question. It sounds like something wise, but the key word is “opposed”, as Tamanawa tries to shy away from conflicts, so painting him as opposed to anything, as an individual, puts him in a rough spot. It’s forcing him to say what he wants, so they might get somewhere.
“Is there any need to work together at all?” That was the thing I noticed most about Iroha’s suggestion, it’s essentially, “We’ll each do our own thing in the same place. Each will own their success and failure,” an attempt to leave this sinking ship.
2) And here we have Hachiman saying it as it is, blaming it on inflated ego, scheming, trying to have others take the fall. He’s looking down, because he hates it, it’s him reprising his role from the Cultural Festival arc, with Yui and Yukino looking on in horror as Hachiman (especially as he’s saying how easy it is to let others take the fall) is throwing himself under the bus again. Well, Hachiman might know this is not the best way to do things, but he still doesn’t know any other solutions. Time for Yui and Yukino to shoulder some of it on their own. I mean, Hachiman could somehow turn it around on his own, but I don’t think he’s ready just yet.
3) “This just feels like a breakdown in communication to me.” No, this is the result of said communication being the goal rather than the method, which is a form of breakdown in communicating how to actually achieve the goal. Take that, lingo-monster.
5) It’s S-S-Smackdown Time!:
1) “You’ve done nothing but spout meaningless prattle. If all you want to do is play pretend, please do it elsewhere.” Yukino rising to the challenge of putting the smackdown!
2) “Is pretending to be [upper management] with words you just picked up that much fun?” Anime tells us it is. It’s just another form of chuunibyou, of dreaming you’re a writer, or gonna be an astronaut, etc.
3) “Mistaking vague statements for actual communication and understanding, while never lifting a finger.” Yukino is also talking about Hachiman and herself, here. Yukino who had expectations of Yui and Hikki to tell her their thoughts, without actually making an effort to find out. Or Hachiman who sat outside society looking in, mocking others while not trying to take part, and thinking he understood others and the subtext of their interactions.
Yes, most communication breakdowns are the result of people not actually taking the effort to communicate clearly, and in an emotionally open manner, which is an effort. “It will never create, improve, or help anything.” Help is a key word considering last episode. Yukino is doubling down on her willingness to reach out, to act.
4) And so it goes, Yui raises an idea, Iroha agrees, and now Orimoto does too – because shooting down ideas, especially after being dressed down, is hard. Besides, an opportunity to run away from Yukino, Hachiman, and further dreaded confrontations. In the end, Hachiman said they’ll try to reach one vision, but his method turned out to be a way for them to stop having to deal with the other school entirely.
6) A Fun Respite:
1) “I hate to break it to you, but a voracious reader like myself can also read between the lines.” Hikki, stop hitting on me. Also, Iroha, they already told you that “ruining the mood” is what’s necessary beforehand. Guess it’s still hard to go against your nature, and what one’s been raised to do – avoid conflict.
2) LOL, “She just said my words are justified, why would she yell at me after that?” – That’s exactly what Sensei said, that they agree with your thoughts doesn’t mean that they agree with you emotionally, or think you missed the emotional impact of your words.
3) “You’re friend material. You’re funny.” And then another “It’s hilarious” replied to by “No, it’s really not.” Orimoto, again, hiding behind “funny” in order to avoid putting herself out there, behind her own opinions. Everyone’s afraid of being hurt. But also, her words, that Hikki is “no longer boring,” as if he’s just a monkey to amuse her. What a friend.
4) “I don’t need your help,” but hurt when Hachiman moves to act based on her words, rather than her feelings. She expected him to help her anyway. But hey, she’s a kid. “I could do it myself” – “That’s stupid” is the real discussion between them, saying there’s no reason/way for him to do it on his own, and thus, also not for Rumi. As far as she can go to say she’d actually like the company/help.
7) The Results of Growth. Also, cakes!:
1) OP-insert time! Time for stuff to happen!
2) Oh right, Yui originally came to Yukino and Hachiman for help baking cookies. She’s trusted making cookies now, which is progress, but still not allowed by the cake :P
3) Cake-bearing angels. I could get behind such a world.
4) “Good luck, Prez,” Iroha, finally leading her Student Council, taking the lead, and the responsibility. The school is safe.
5) With all the shots in the club focusing on the tea-kettle, and with all the small Hyouka-like moments, this is a really nice moment, especially with, “Why must you be the only one drinking from a paper cup?” This symbolizes Hachiman’s permanence in this club, that he’s not here only for his “bet” with Yukino. He can no longer be told to just not arrive, that it’s not his place.
6) “I figured it out, but you might be better off not knowing.” After all, Hikki made two requests on that day. The first was to help Iroha, and the other was, “I want something genuine” or “I don’t want to be afraid anymore.” And that’s the request that wasn’t yet fulfilled, and might never be fully fulfilled. The effort, remember?
7) “If wishes could be fulfilled, then I wouldn’t wish for anything. The things you’re handed on a silver platter are never genuine or everlasting. And that is why I will always keep searching.” See, the effort I mentioned. Of course, Hikki is as silly as ever. He replaced one set of restrictive goggles for another. Yes, this set is better for him, so it’s progress, but he’s still such a kid. Sometimes you can be lucky enough to be handed something and lucky enough for it to hold, but it’s rare. At least he’s aware now that “Relationships that aren’t hurtful because no one ever disagrees and nothing arises that may break them up” are untested, and much less “genuine” than ones which made it through disagreement and hurt. But they’re still real, little Hikki. And it’s fine to wish for relationships that were real and didn’t come with hurt. It’s not a bad thing to desire, just to think this is the only real thing.
8) My Teen Romantic Comedy Can’t Be This Lovey-Dovey:
1) Those two. Nothing’s without subtext in relationships. First she asks him to join her for gift-buying for their mutual friend, and then when he accepts it’s as if they’re going on a date. Such dorks.
2) Speaking of which, “te-he! Komachi” using her forgetfulness as an excuse to leave Hikki alone with Yukino. Shipping subtext over the last two episodes has been reaching an all new high.
3) “Hachiman is not even an insult!” – LOL, rather than ask why he’s being insulted to begin with. And yeah, Komachi is working overtime on shipping her brother.
4) Yukino grabbing onto Hachiman’s shirt, just as Iroha had done this arc as well. They’re all clinging to him for support, in hopes he’ll pull them ahead. Also, more shipping ammunition. And as with the cup, awaiting their joint future.
5) And here we have Hikki’s eyes focus on Yui’s yuis, as they say, as he did in the first episode as well. Well, it’s realistic. And it’s something she has over Yukino, definitely. Yui is so excited. That’s for sure. And yes, glasses Yui is cute.
And of course, she too clings on to him.
9) Families are Hard:
1) Hikki is making a nice point. “If it doesn’t matter whether you go or not, you may as well go.” No fear of messing things up, as has paralyzed Iroha and Tamanawa, or fearing he’d poison the club atmosphere, himself. But this is Yukino speaking of her loneliness, because part of the “I want something genuine” is not just wanting to understand others and to be able to rely on them, but also them understanding you and relying on you. Yukino does think of her relationship with her family as the most fake thing of all, it’d seem like. Hikki is pointing out that without pretense of closeness, it might be more genuine than it seems? Perhaps.
2) Man, that cold treatment between the Yukinoshita sisters. More interesting that Yukino is coming. Yukino knows Hachiman exists during vacation, but doesn’t feel the need to spend time with him. But she’s coming when he’s there with his sister. To save him from her evil sister’s clutches (and to make sure some incriminating information isn’t given). Also note, this whole scene also means Hayama and Yukino are childhood “friends”. I think it was mentioned somewhere in the first season.
“I was shopping with Hikki when we were captured.” No one can escape Haruno, thus Yukino coming to the rescue.
3) Talk about an awkward moment, of Yukino’s mother noticing her almost like an afterthought, and then that pointed lack of warmth between those two, “Oh, you came.” You know what it’s like? It’s like Yukino, Hachiman, and Yui after Hachiman found out about the car accident in season 1, after the school trip arc, and after getting Iroha elected. It’s people who don’t know how to interact with one another and are very afraid, of being hurt, and of hurting the other. Not internalizing, or not accepting, Sensei’s teaching. Ok, that’s a bit unfair of me, even if you know relationships can hurt, you can still fear the pain.
4) Oh man, so many meaningful glances. Here’s mother, making the invitation for Yukino. What was Yukino about to do, which her sister cautioned(told?) her not to? Accept it? Deny it, and rebuke her mother? It seems as ifYukino is looking at Hikki and Yui, seeking help, or fearing their reactions? And Hayama looking both uncomfortable and sad, with Hikki glancing daggers at him, for not helping Yukino, for having pity for her?
Who knows, but meddling with a family’s relationships, when you don’t know the backstory is a source of intense unease for everyone involved. Yes, there are volumes of subtext and background here to which Hikki, and us, are not privy to. All we can do is look on, and hope they resolve it on their own, or for Yui to cheer them on. I don’t think Hikki pulling his Hachiman act in a family’s internal working will pan out well.
Also, that post-ED segment. Well, we’ll talk about it soon enough [In the post-episode section, above].