I really enjoyed last episode, where the focus was on Hayama, with his own troubles, with his own humanity, and dignity, and trying to do the right thing where everyone, including himself, is happy. He knows there are no magic solutions, but he’ll try. He knows who he is, and he owns it. He’s more mature than most of the rest of the cast, but he’s still trying. Hayama is jealous of Hachiman, just as Hachiman is jealous of him. It’s much easier being jealous of masks when you don’t see the situation from inside someone’s mind. We all have our crosses to bear. Heck, last episode was filled with moments of people carrying their own crosses, full of great scenes, with Miura’s confession of weakness and caring, to the Haruno scenes, to Iroha and Yukino.
But where are we now? Well, done with novel 10, so no more LN-reader spoilers/teasers/complaints. New material for everyone. So, what are we going to have? Hachiman is still growing up, he’s still using his Hachimanism to get things done, but he knows it is a tool, and a dangerous one at that. We have the group of friends living life together, and we still have Yukino’s home situation, looming around behind every scene, every moment where she’s shown for the last 3 episodes, and also in the background of much more content. Will we keep exploring Hayama’s “arc”? I suspect not, his thematic arc feels “done” for the moment, but we’ll still see its ramifications, because that’s life.
Before this episode was over I was going to comment on how this episode continues the trend of most episodes since episode 8, where one half is pretty light, but then there’s one half, or at least parts that are much more light-hearted. Well, it’s certainly true, and the Waifu Wars or Waifu Bowl had certainly had a go at it this episode, with Yui, Iroha, and Yukino all acting seemingly protective over Hikki, and Hikki showing some purported interest in Iroha and Yui, and of course Hayama and his followers, and the two “anime-ism jokes” thrown in for good measure (Ebina and Totsuka).
But after the episode ended, even some of those purported harem concerns (such as Orimoto showing interest in Hikki, further solidifying the “harem” feel), took on a different light. While watching the episode I even noted how everyone perked up over it (point 5.4), and it seemed to fit right into the anime-ism of harems and waifu wars, but now I think it was over something different, because you will note Kawasaki also looked up in surprise, and I don’t think her having emotions for Hikki is something the show set up (though it could happen). I think there’s something else going on here, which is the main theme of this entire episode.
And that theme is that relationships are built on perceptions. Forget what people are “truly like”, as that is impossible to ascertain, even for the people themselves. Relationships are built on how you perceive people to be. If you think someone is a troll, you’ll treat everything they say accordingly. At some point, even if they won’t be trolling and will be trying to engage in genuine discussion, their points and arguments will still be read as if they’re made in bad faith.
All of this ties into, well, everything. Is Haruno trying to challenge “the real Yukino”, or trying to bring it back out? If Haruno were Sensei, I’d argue she’s trying to push so hard against and about “the real you” so everyone would realize it’s a lie. But I don’t think Haruno is there. Haruno is constantly reflected and contrasted with Hayama. Both of them have to keep changing to placate others, which is contrasted with Yukino and Hikki who supposedly are allowed to be their true selves, their unsocial self, but true to themselves. Haruno challenges “the real Yukino” because she feels betrayed by her ideal, the one she couldn’t be not living to its potential, to the opportunity given to it, that she never was. The same is now true of her statement to Hikki.
Of course, Yukino and Hikki “hate” Haruno and Hayama for the opposite reason, that “their true self” is one that allows them to not be miserable alone. And here’s the kicker, none of these are these characters’ true selves. This is all how others see them. Hikki and Yukino do not enjoy their forced solitude, and Hayama and Haruno, even though they might like the results of their “appointed selves” (Hayama only having the option to be a self that keeps his friends happy, he’s happy about his friends being happy at least), they do not like the external force.
How does it relate to the so-called Waifu Wars early on? Relationships and communities are built on each person fulfilling their appointed role. Not the role that’s “necessary”, but whichever one was assigned to them. Hikki suddenly appearing as if he’s desireable is the social order breaking down, and there’s nothing scarier for intensely social creatures than not knowing how to interact in an unknown social situation (see Yui and Hikki whenever Yukino’s mother is present), which is why people apply labels to one another, and then try to force them to not step outside of them. This also explains Miura and Kawasaki’s interactions.
P.S. Speaking of Hayama and Sensei, Sensei’s words are all about what Hikki said last episode in his inner monologue during the race, about how at the middle of the race you can’t give up and have to keep going forward, and this is true both for chasing ideals and for growing up – you will never reach the ideals, so never stand still, at least until you realize the old ideal is corrupt and bankrupt, find a new one, and then start chasing that one.
Thoughts and Notes:
(Subsections 1 and 6-9 are the more relevant ones.)
1) A Family is Suffering:
1) This scene is all about trust. Notice how guarded Hikki is around Haruno, he’s seen how she plays him and how she hurts Yukino, but it’s all in vain, as he still ended up going to meet her, and he still ends up getting played by her whenever she wishes it. And then Hikki is acting all bashful after Haruno notes Yukino trusts him, because he’s not used to being flattered, seeing he’s used to being a loner.
Besides, how much “trust” does one need to tell someone else what they filled on their future career survey? Yet in this show, you will note how seriously everyone takes it, the show takes it seriously, even if I don’t necessarily. Because all those characters care very much about their futures which they think the present will carry onto, and more importantly, for Yukino, just like Hikki, even though it should be a non-issue sharing it, she’s been so scarred that she hides everything, holds everything close (and thus, the same is true for Hayama?). Most importantly, Yukino isn’t sharing it with her sister, so Haruno is noting that Yukino trusts Hikki more than she trusts her. She’s probably hurt by it, and this is how she lets it out.
2) And here we go, Haruno reads everything Yukino does in light of one trait she ascribes to her, and she reads it negatively. Yukino can do no right in Haruno’s eyes. “Yukino thinks she doesn’t need to change, and thinks it’s fine,” and this is a big question, because Yukino told Hikki he needs to change, but she does seem to think she’s mostly fine, doesn’t she? Which is part of why she ran out in episode 8 when assaulted by “anti-logical emotions”, but then in episode 9 she said she’d like help from Hikki in the future, which intimates willingness to change, perhaps?
“I hate that about her.” This line, in context of last episode is not so simple. Does Haruno “hate” that about Yukino, or does she envy Yukino with her self-assuredness, of thinking she is in the right and doesn’t need to change in order to placate others, to fit into the role her family’s given her, as Hayama does, or to be popular, to have been the Student Council President?
2) Pre-Valentine’s Day Blues:
1) Miura looking crestfallen once she hears Hayama doesn’t accept Valentine’s Day chocolate, but she should be aware of it. Then again, last episode opened with The Hayama Games beginning, and even if she knew it, the reminder now that she owned up to her feelings for him in public (even if not directly to him) still hurts. More importantly, Valentine’s Day shenanigans are upon us, seek the nearest shelters, the waifu wars are here (in which I take no part, just trying to hide from the ricochets).
2) “Handmade stuff might seem clingy,” and now Yui is taken aback, because this is how she first came to the Volunteers Club, to make handmade cookies to give Hikki, and I guess she was going to try again this year. And here, the show actually reminds us of that sequence.
3) “These might be the best days of our life.” And doesn’t he look happy? He’s thinking it’s all going downhill from here ;-)
“The past makes you wanna die out of regret, and the future makes you depressed out of anxiety.” Sure sounds positive, Yui! Though it sort of does, he’s justifying living in the moment, because anything that is not in the moment is scary or sad, so why waste time on it? But man, that delivery.
4) Yui has time, but she has to think about whether she wants to meet with Hikki, and the blushing, and Valentine’s Day. The anime-ism romance is truly here in earnest now.
3) The Waifu-Wars are Here:
1) “Seriously, what are you even doing here?” I often think of Iroha as a mini-Yui, she looks the part at least, right? And this is sort of how Yui ended in the club as well, she just stayed there repeatedly until she became a fixture of the place. And so is Iroha unofficially joining the club.
2) “It’s not like I c-care or anything (baka), but do you like sweets?” Yes, I added the fake stutter, but man, so much Valentine’s Day. Of course, there’s courtesy chocolate as opposed to love chocolate, and Hikki did help Iroha out with her duties. But here is where it gets tricky, both in terms of the anime and for Hikki, because anime thrives on us trying to guess whether it’s courtesy chocolate or standing for something more, and Hikki too, with his “nice girls” speech, and the “self-consciousness monster”, will keep trying to read the subtext, or act as if it’s all courtesy chocolate, to protect his maiden heart. But yeah, it’s probably more for the anime watchers/light novel readers to get waifu wars ammunition.
Oh, unexpected, Hikki answers the real question, about Hayama. He sidesteps the question to him, and is answering the question of “What sweets would you like if you were to get any?” while also hopefully avoiding more burnt cookies he’d be the guinea pig for.
3) Yes, yes, “courtesy chocolate”, but that’s not going to stop anyone from assuming there’s more going on. Then again, it shouldn’t. It’s not like most of those characters are good at admitting what they like, but considering Iroha did confess to Hayama, I’d think she’d be able to tell Hikki she likes him if she did.
4) The Humanity of Chocolate-Giving and Problem-Solving:
1) So, Miura wants to try making some chocolate, seems Hikki can’t escape tasting home-made sweets that might not be all that good. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh? Yui has a point, but she should know the answer, Miura is doing something she spoke against, because people don’t always do what’s logical, and sometimes people are clingy.
2) Two alpha personalities clashing. Man, it must be very awkward in that room, what with Miura and Yukino’s relationship, and Kawasaki’s and Miura’s… But now I’m curious who Kawasaki wants to give chocolate to, but does it even matter? The point is exactly what Miura’s pointing at by saying the opposite, that she’s a teenager, just like everyone else in this show, she’s a person. Just like the rest of them.
Heck, the only one who’s not talking about making chocolate, the only one who’s acting like a “viewer” only, rather than a participant is Ebina.
Oh, for her sister. Right, Saki was built as someone who cares about her family, her little siblings in particular, in the first season. So this makes sense in terms of characterization.
3) “Am I right? I dunno.” Hikki admitting he’s just throwing out ideas. But look, rather than just giving people what they ask for, he’s trying to give them what they actually want, the opposite of his role thus far, of giving them what they asked for instead of what they wanted. Hikki knows what Miura (and Iroha) wish for isn’t what sort of chocolate to make, or how to make it, but a way to give it to Hayama.
4) Regardless, the most important note here is that the Yui x Hayama ship has been given a push by the author. Ok, more seriously, since everyone is reflected by everyone else, Yui is painted as similar to Hayama, as someone who cares for how others around them feel, for the nature of social interactions, and try to smooth things out to make it work for everyone else, because to them what matters the most is the group as a whole. But Ebina and Miura in episodes 1-2 also showed signs of this trait. The question is where the focus lies, on protecting the self via protecting the group, or protecting the group, which also helps the self.
It did hurt Yui a bit to hear it, just as it hurts Hayama, because as Yui herself told Hikki, one has to think about one’s own feelings and not keep sacrificing them for others.
5) I’m also amazed the idea of everyone making the chocolate together took this long to come up. It feels it was forcefully delayed until Hikki’s idea of “taste-testing Hayama” so it’d solve that as well, though it was the obvious solution to the requests from the get-go.
5) The Conceit of Genuine Deceit:
1) “Tee-hee!” with her tongue out. Iroha really is like a little sister to Hikki. Heck, she’s like the little sister he already has. But yes, foxiness, once more we’re organizing a huge event in the community center, and springing it on Tamanawa unawares that he’ll have to contend with the people who’ll call him to task if things don’t get done. But sheesh, all this for some sweets-making? Well, let’s see.
Ah ha, getting someone else to pay for your chocolate. How… yeah. That sort of defeats the purpose of you buying chocolate for someone, out of your pocket, and making it with your time >.>
2) Yeah, I think Iroha has ulterior motives here. Is this to help Yukino, whom she looks up to, or to make Yukino, who makes her uncomfortable, be uncomfortable as well? Who knows what sort of things run through Iroha’s mind? Is she like Yui, looking out for others, the opposite of her that is not looking out for others, or an evil Yui, who’s looking to create uncomfortable situations for others? Hmmm.
3) “Everyone can act natural, a great idea.” This sounds ironic, because the whole conceit is one of deceit, of acting natural to pass along something that normally would not pass. It’s possible Hayama is commenting on that, and that he’s seeing through it, but I think he’s got another point. Regardless of their goals, everyone is actually busy and involved in the chocolate-making, in working together.
4) Look how everyone perks up when they hear Hikki might have received chocolate before. The waifu wars are ongoing even as we speak. But Tamanwa also perks up, under all of his chatter, he’s just a boy too.
6) The Meddler, Well, Meddles:
1) Haruno, seeing how everyone’s on edge by Valentine’s Day chocolate, and knowing how almost everyone here likes either Hayama or Yukino in one way or another, creates a misunderstanding, which naturally enough, Hayama clears up. I wonder about poor Hayama and Haruno, in the sense that Hayama is tired from having to look out for everyone else, even if his nature demands it, and Haruno keeps forcing him to do it. Does she allow herself to act in this way because she knows he’ll patch things up, or to force him to eventually snap out of it and think of himself? Or of course, because she enjoys it.
2) Yui, we said she’s like Hayama earlier this episode, right? So after Haruno leaves Hayama’s side to create more trouble without his interference, here is Yui to patch up the situation she’s created now. Of course, Yui’s handling of utensils is cool, but what matters is what you do with them (Here is just the loopable gif).
And yes, Yukino “had no reason to get flustered”, which is exactly what she was flustered about, about being worked up over what others would see as nothing. She’s being self-conscious in other words, because she had a small emotional outburst. That’s what her sister gets out of her.
3) Haruno looks disappointed. Once more, Yukino relied on someone else to smooth out the situation for her. I think Haruno wants Yukino to shout, to be angry, and to state clearly how she feels and what she wants for once. And I think Haruno wants Yukino to patch things on her own, so they could actually communicate directly. I said this several times this season, and it was said by the show itself in episode 8, but relationships require the willingness to hurt and be hurt, and to keep making the effort to communicate. Haruno is willing to hurt her sister, and I’m sure she’s hurt by her sister pushing her away, but Yukino isn’t willing to hurt her sister, thus the very “correct” and cold approach, and is also unwilling to be hurt by Haruno. Yukino is unwilling to put effort into this relationship, and that’s what Haruno is trying to fix.
7) The Race of Growing Up is Never Over:
1) Sensei dropping her adult-bombs, “It’s fine, but you’re nonsensical, and so is everyone here.”
2) “If you continue to spend time and grow up with someone, you’ll gradually grow to understand them.” Sensei trying to give some hope to Hikki after episode 8, you might never understand people fully, but you’ll be able to understand them better. Also, there’s one more target to address this to, one’s own self. We spend time with ourselves, we grow, and we gradually come to understand our self. And if we keep changing, we have to keep learning to understand ourselves too, naturally.
3) “However, I’m glad to have been able to see this up close and in person.” Sensei, you’re the best. Sensei is the author’s voice, and the audience’s voice. But also, “The more progress you make, the more you feel betrayed by your expectations when you don’t reach them,” this makes so much sense. You made so much effort, you kept pushing yourself past your old boundaries, you kept being hurt, and you still did not reach your goal. I feel this might apply to Hayama, who’s reminded at times that no matter how much he tries and sacrifices, his “ever-happy group” is an ideal that can never be fully realized.
8) How Others See Us:
1) “Oh? Is that what you call “genuine”, Hikki? Are you really that boring? I expected more out of you.” Damn, Haruno really is on a non-stop roll of pointed meanness this episode. She might have a purpose for it, but ouch.
2) “I thought I’d get used to it, but she saw right through us.” This feeds into Hikki’s talk with Sensei as well. Hikki did not abandon his old ideals yet. He still considers them ideals, but he’s taking what he can right now. So now that he stopped at this point that is so much better than where he started, he’s still reminded he has an ideal that’s “better”, and that he abandoned it, that he’s fake, that he betrayed his old self. Hopefully at some point he’ll realize his old ideal wasn’t all that ideal, and was poisoning his life and interactions. Not because it can’t be achieved (and it can’t), but because it is actually hurtful if it were to have been achieved, it’d only give one the genuine relationship of one’s own company.
But Hikki’s still on the road, he’s still not there, so the thought of being what he looked down on others for being hurts. There is something more here of course, in the context of “The Waifu Wars” this episode’s been, and that’s that these guys are being “dishonest”, that they’re not telling the others in what ways they like them. Haruno is also referring to that, that the joint cookie-giving is “enough”, when these three want more, but that “more” of the personal might run into the “more” of the group. And that’s the old Yukino that Haruno is missing, the one who does what she wants over what the group wishes of her.
3) Yup, not trust, but fearing the fragility of their relationship, as a group, if they were honest with one another.
4) “If you stay out late, your family will worry.” A metaphor for the entire situation Yukino is in, where she’s been left out far too late by her family, and that her family, and not just her mother, still care for her and worry about her, and see her as a family member. Also that still obscure reference to Yukino’s future plans, which Hikki did not tell Haruno of, so we’ll have to see what they meant.
“I want you to stay true to yourself and live free.” – See the above comment about placing the group above herself, and trying to fit in with others by lying to herself.
9) How We See Our Multiple “Selves”:
1) Hikki gets it for once. There are several images we all have. How others see us, how we see ourselves, and the one that’s apparently the most significant one, the one of how we think how others see us. How we think others see us is the image that has the most effect on how we’ll actually act. And the “Be true to yourself” comment, are people telling us to be true to our image of our own self, or to how they view our true self? And which of these images is the “real us”? And of course, we have a different “me” depending on who we’re talking about, and the composite image is never perfect either.
These are questions with no answer, and while some might say there’s value in the asking, that’s also how you end up as Hikki, trapped within your own mind, afraid to interact with others and check how any of these images handle reality. Some might say the true value is to think of these questions, and then put them behind, because while the asking is valuable, the dwelling is not.
2) “I feel like that’d be unfair of me.” The waifu wars. Also relates to Yui’s unwillingness to meet with Hikki at the start of the episode. This relates to Haruno’s barb, that all of these kids have something they want, and Iroha’s remark that Yui will place others before herself. None of them is willing to act on what they want, and Haruno’s barb that struck home is just going to make it even harder for them, because they’d be more self-conscious about it. Yui can’t face Hikki while saying this.
3) “I much prefer the Yukino of old,” was that Yukino the “real” one, and now Hikki and Yui are only interacting with the fake one? Is this the real one and that one fake? No, they’re both real, to someone. They’re both alive, you don’t have to actively deal with one and not the other. But to these guys, that question is worrying, because it’s not “trust”, it’s a lie, it’s hiding one’s true self, whichever one it might be, which leads us to Hikki’s wondering.
4) Hikki’s right again, in asking “If our own self, our perception of our self, never matches reality, how can it be genuine, or anything our self interacts with?” But he’s forgetting the answer he’s already been given by Sensei – the “Something Genuine” is not an article, it’s the journey for one, it’s in the acting of it. No, I can’t say it in a way that makes sense, but that’s the truth. Our “self” is always genuine. Our self is genuine to us, our self as we see others seeing us is genuine in how it makes us interact with the world, and our image as others actually see it is genuine in terms of how it makes them react towards us. All of these are things that exert pressure and weight upon the world and affect our every interaction, and so they are genuine.
I’d pull a Kant here, they’re genuine not because they’re the objects in the world we see, they’re genuine because they’re the goggles through which we see the world and affect everything we do or is done to us.
5) That post-episode section, the distance between what we want and what is expected of us, the distance between how we see ourselves and how we think others see us. That’s the idea we’re ending this episode on. Sounds as if Yui will choose herself, and that’s not what’s expected of her, the one who takes one for the team. Is the lie that’d be good enough the “result”, or the expectation of her?
Shorter Notes / Asides:
- Look how both Yui and Yukino look away after Iroha accuses Hikki of being into younger girls. They can’t deny it. Yukino did call him a creeper when they first met, didn’t she?And right on cue, Yui’s accusing him of being creepy too :P
- Ebina pls. Everyone knows Zaimokuza is Hikki’s true bro.
- “And krispies sounds kind of like kitties, so it’s cute.” Yes, I know it was something that sounds like “neko” in Japanese, but the point is, Yukino knows what’s up. Preach it, sister.
- Yes, making chocolate out of chocolate is not rocket science… it’s already processed chocolate >.>
- LOL, Tamanawa is talking to his cohorts while everyone else is busy making chocolate. So he’s paying for chocolate-making while making none himself, but as Hayama said, each side does what comes naturally to them, what they’re here to do, be it chocolate-making or hearing the sound of their own voice, and hopefully getting chocolate from the other side after, too.
- “So somebody is going to get some.” L-lewd.
- Of course we’re having a Totsuka moment.
- Yukino and Yui best couple. Yes, plenty of cute moments here.
- Hikki steeling himself before eating Yui’s cupcakes, heh. Then again, that fits his comment about how none of them progressed any. Believe in Yui’s (cooking) progress, Hikki!