It’s been quite a season for OreGairu, hasn’t it? But here we are, 8 AM on a Saturday morning, all ready to watch the finale. I’ll leave talk of the season as a whole for the post-episode/season write-up, but man, this is the season where all the things left unsaid in the first season were said, and acted upon, and drama and the quest for maturity were embarked upon in earnest.
So what did we have last episode, that was filled with notable scenes? I’d say the most common refrain was Haruno’s jealousy of Yukino (because “I hate [x]” in this show is now code for “I’m jealous of them”), and how she kept meddling. That’s on the plot-level. Thematically, it was all about how we handle our self-image in the face of expectations, how we think others expect us to behave, and trying to navigate between our image for ourselves, and the image we think others have for us.
Yukino, Hachiman, and the rest, are all dealt a blow when they realize they’re “not being genuine,” by their own definitions. And it seems as if Yui is going to take matters into her own hands, one way or the other. She’s always been the one driving everyone forward. We’ll have to see how it shakes out, and at what cost. Everybody hurts, and that’s what relationships are like.
Ok, we’re going to start with the post-episode write-up and then a short something about the season as a whole. Just so you’d know how this section is going to be organized.
This episode was relatively quiet, as many of this show’s second half has been, with one half being relatively light and quiet and “easy”, and the other half being more “impactful”, or “heavy”, if you wish. But while nothing much happened on the surface, the whole water park trip was fraught with constant allusions by the characters to themselves and one another, by way of the marine animals. This isn’t something that was just “happenstance,” not even merely the author using this angle to have the characters comment on things. No, it’s the characters trying to act as if everything’s “normal”, and as episode 3’s write-up spent a lot of time talking about, it’s a lie, and when everyone knows it’s a lie, then everyone is uncomfortable, and things leak out. There’s also the other side of it here, which is that the characters want to be understood (while also fearing it), so they keep dropping hints and waiting for someone else to make the first move for them.
And that brings us right back to what is being built up as “The Yukino Arc”, which is purportedly doing her own thing, living life as she wants it, but actually being given that option had made her lonely, and weak; weak enough that she can’t actually do what she’d like to and fits in just as much as she would’ve in the situation she rejected previously, because she can’t handle it otherwise. Haruno resents her for throwing away the “choice she never had”, which she did have, and not understanding that Yukino is facing just as many external pressures.
And here we have Yui, who’s willing to make the first move. Because the one willing to make the first move in a situation where no one is willing to gainsay anyone else, for fear of hurting them and being hurt, wins it all. But Yui’s “win it all” speech is actually one she knows will end with a poisonous atmosphere, but she’s willing to take the blame on herself, to be the pariah for her friends. Yui knows that when you act first, it might be “win win”, but it’s also “lose lose”. Either she’ll get her group to stay together, or Yukino will be forced to move forward. She wins either way! But also the reverse, either Yukino ends up being hurt, or the group ends up being hurt. And this is the Hayama+, or Hayama with a sprinkling of Sensei understanding – knowing that you must hurt those you care for, and/or be hurt yourself, but still trying to maintain the present, and your friends’ happiness.
Was Yui “nice”, in being willing to sacrifice her own desire to end up with Hikki for the sake of the group? Were she “mean” in trying to force a decision out of Yukino, or in trying to force the decision out of Yukino’s hands? I don’t think this applies. Yui tried to do the right thing. It might not have been the thing that’d make any of them happy, and it could backfire, and it’s lying to herself – she’s saying clearly what she “wants”, and she truly wants it, but in so doing she’s also hiding everything else that she wants. She’s prioritizing one part of herself over another. She says she’s being greedy, but she’s not. To be greedy would be to wish for the party to remain unchanged while also wishing to end up with Hikki.
Speaking of Yui as a “nice girl”, and of how people have multiple selves, and they define themselves, and make choices, based on what others expect of them (Hikki is deathly afraid of others recognizing him as weak, but is also acting as Hachiman to a large degree because others expect him to solve issues for them, by sacrificing himself. Something for which they blame themselves later), and Yui’s “I value the group over my own self” is her acting as is expected of her, as is expected of Hayama. Unlike Yukino who was being forced out of her decision, Yui supposedly made this decision on her own, but as Hayama has said, if it’s the only decision those around you will accept, will accept as your decision, aren’t you also forced into it? And so, if Hikki is unwilling to be “understood” and dictated to, he can’t do the same to others.
You might notice in the write-up how I think Yui is doing one thing while she’s doing another. And that makes sense. Because Yui wants several things that contradict one another. Her words say one thing, but are still references to other things she’s not saying. Just like everyone else, Yui wants someone else to solve the situation for her. But we can’t wait for a hero to save us, can we? We have to take it on ourselves, to become villains, and heroes, try to havesomething.
And here is a small note that may have flown under many people’s radar: If Hikki no longer thinks of Yui as “a nice girl”, that means she’s not nice to him just because she’s nice to everyone, and he has to accept that she’s nice to him because she likes him.
Hikki is trying to liberate his friends and himself out of the paralysis that comes out of fear of losing what they have. He’s telling them it’s okay to be greedy, but more than that, it’s ok to make mistakes. And they’ll be able to keep trying. But they have to try.
Now, about this season as a whole. It’s important to start by noting that while I liked the first season, I didn’t love it. It was pretty standard, but nothing extraordinary, as far as I’m concerned. Rewatched the first season in February and my opinion didn’t change. But this season, man, I sure loved this season. It took a lot of what the first season kept as subtext and undertext and made it explicit. That in and of itself isn’t “good” if you just flat out say what’s there, but since the show deals with characters saying it out loud after coming to terms with what they did not say before, and as an outgrowth of all those events where they did not say things having ramifications, both for their relationships and for their personalities, it all makes sense.
The character designs in this season took a while to grow on me, and the show often was very minimally animated, and characters often appeared off-model, but the focus on the small touches and the facial animations when they didmatter enhanced the show greatly, giving it a very deliberate, very intimate atmosphere. This season sure was heavy on the drama, but it felt earned. This show as a whole, and this season in particular might have leaned a bit too heavily on mirroring as a way to explain characters (Hayama and Hachiman, Hayama and Yukino, Yukino and Hachiman, etc.) but it worked, adding some depth to the characters even when less time was spent clearly spelling out everything. Even “I hate you” as code for “I’m jealous of you” brought us back to the first season all but saying Hikki is miserable, but leaving it for the second season to say it plainly, and keep hammering it in.
What do I think of how the series ended? I don’t really feel it’s a cliffhanger. Following this arc, it’s going to be about Yukino finally finding her legs, standing up to her family, as her own person. There’s nothing with “tension” in how the show ended. Yui tried to keep things normalized, and Hikki rejected it by offering a “normalcy” that keeps striving forward. Yes, things will keep on changing, but just like Yukino’s arc, this is reflective of a show about people growing up. It’s not a cliffhanger, but inevitability. I’ll give this season somewhere between 8.8/10 and 9.1/10. Good stuff.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Uncomfortable Silences:
1) “That’s what mothers do.” I was all ready to say how Hikki, just like in Komachi’s case, is at least willing to admit his care for families, but then he goes on to say “They live to nag and complain.” In the eternal words of Yui, “Hikki!”
And so, we return to Komachi, the “comfortable side of family,” and the situation has been defused, without us making much of Yukino’s family situation, because everyone in this scene knows it’s a metaphorical minefield that their (relation)ships might not be able to navigate unscathed.
2) “Just me? What about Hikki?” combined with “I too have been trying my best” brings us back to “The Shipping Wars” that truly went on in earnest last episode (especially with this light music playing), but as I said, everything there was about what people expect of us, and here it’s the same, trying to navigate between what people display and what they want. Is Yukino expected to give Hikki some cookies, or expected not to give him some cookies, and is Yui to take the lack of cookie-giving as “permission”? And is she trying to create a wedge between Yukino and Hikki with her question, or trying to bring them closer together? She’s acting as expected of her, though.
3) Everyone’s getting crushed once more under the weight of unsaid things. If they keep not saying it, while everyone knows they have what to say, things might yet again end where they’ve been in episode 3, with them unable to face one another, even if it doesn’t come following an outright argument, because it shows the same thing, that they are unable to face one another, to go the distance to bridge the gaps in communication. Though, it sort of did come following them feeling bad about their engagements with one another, and wanting to sidestep around Yukino’s “situation”.
“What do we do about this?” What a candid question. Yui wanted to leave, as expected of her, to let Yukino have a chance at Hikki, but then Yukino is horrified by the gesture, and Yui no longer knows what’s expected of her, what she’s supposed to do, who she’s supposed to be. They don’t know their roles in this relationship, there’s no map to chart their course.
2) Ripping Off Yukino’s “Mask”:
1) Here we are. Haruno saying what she’s thinking, straight out. And since this is a story told from Hikki’s perspective, this means she says it where others are present. Here we see Haruno’s resentment, “You’ve been left free to make your own decisions, but you’ve never made any, just following others’ decisions. Do you even have a self of your own?” And Haruno feels herself to be in a situation of one who always had to follow others’ decisions without even being given the option of making her own, so resents Yukino who had the opportunity and threw it away.
This also provides another possible read to last episode’s “It’s not trust, but something more sinister,” not merely relying on Hikki to solve her issues, but copying Hikki’s life, to avoid making her own decisions. Of course Haruno ascribes to the same wrong ideas about “selves” as the rest of the cast, thinking there’s a “non-decision”, and “fake selves”. No, it’s all masks, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s fake, but that the masks are all our real selves. But since Yukino and Haruno don’t understand this, it is meant to hurt, and it does.
2) “It’s not like you’ve got anywhere else to go,” the unspoken part of that sentence could’ve been “Because that place is your home,” but it sure didn’t sound like that, did it? Sounded more like, “You don’t have the ability to make your own choices.” Is it that Yukino can’t stand up to others (according to her sister) because that’d require making a decision, or that she can’t make a decision because that’d require standing up to others? Also, back to Yukino’s “house”, she’s got her apartment, right? Unless that’s where Haruno is waiting for her.
3) And of course, Yui understands what Haruno is talking about, what she said last episode, that they have to make a decision and be honest about what they want. It’s all revolving around Hikki. He always thought everything in the world revolves around him (not really, I joke), and now it does. Life is hard as an LN protagonist.
4) The shock over Yukino repeating Hikki’s words verbatim, because this is exactly what Haruno accused Yukino of doing, of repeating others. “You’re so nice, Hikigaya,” from Haruno obviously wasn’t a compliment. She’s saying he’s letting Yukino be un-genuine, helping her even.
3) Maritime Metaphors:
1) But of course, this is Yui’s choice, and how she’s similar to Hayama. She doesn’t want Yukino, she doesn’t want Hikki. It’s not even that she wants both of them, but that she wants the group, and she wants things to stay unchanged or as close to for as long as possible. She wants to have fun with both of them, and to be with them as they’re having fun with one another. She’s having a date with both of them. Is this really what she wants? Yes, it is, it just might not be what she wants the most, but I think it is. Does she knows it’s somewhat futile? Sure, but she’s going for what she really wants. She’s being true to her self, or the self that others see her as.
2) “It says they live in muddy waters and don’t swim much.” A metaphor for all of them, and especially Yukino, eh? Unwillingness or inability to move on, living in the murky waters of youth and indecision. And bad home atmosphere.
“Gobble up prawns and stuff that passes by, living the dream!” Sitting by (at the edge of the class), and sniping easy targets, eh? Sure sounds like someone’s dream, but the one he purported to have, not one he actually enjoyed living.
3) “I don’t know if you can call them cute, but they certainly are endearing,” and “They live life as best they can, don’t give them such a hard time.” Awww, the fish metaphor is so cute.
4) “That’s just like you,” and here it is again. Is this the consideration for others, or keeping her distance so people will not be worn out, not willing to keep wearing down their defenses? Both meanings work, but it’s like a slap in Yui’s face. What did Hikki always have the most reaction to? When others understood him, when others definedhim (to him), such as when Hayama pitied him, or when Haruno called him a self-consciousness monster. Here too, being understood by others is scary, especially when their understanding can “define” you.
5) “I’m not the nice girl you think I am.” Similar to Haruno’s assessment of Yukino, but coming from Yui’s own mouth here.
4) Lack of Progress:
1) “I lock away the feelings I want to express.” The song is telling us what’s going on in case we missed it. Yui offered to leave Yukino alone with Hikki multiple times before, and last episode ended with Yui unwilling to stay alone with Hikki because it wouldn’t be nice and fair. But after admitting she’s not so nice, maybe she’ll be willing to make her movenow.
3) “Unable to find a place to belong without a pillar of support.” Another song callback, to the ED this time. But hey, season finale is indeed the spot for insert songs. “Hiding in the crowd, going with the flow, and following in others’ footsteps.” Fitting in, because one is lonely. Following others’ footsteps, because one is lonely. Ironically, you need support, to not be lonely, to be able to walk your own path. Without support, you’re more likely to follow others. Sounds funny, but it’s actually true. No one is really alone, and there’s only so much hardship one can take on. If you can handle some of it by sharing, that means you can handle some more elsewhere, such as going against the grain. Of course, you usually go against one grain while following another. Support is all about following those who’d walk alongside you the path you want to walk.
4) “There’s no point in going to the same places again.” Again with great metaphors. Revisiting past decisions is something Hikki and the others have far too much experience with. The struggle is making new decisions, experiencing new things. But revisiting the past isn’t meaningless. Some would say friends are all about new experiences, but it misses the point that long-term relationships (childhood friendships, families, etc., not just romantic ones) are also a bridge to the past, and yes, the attempt to try and not let go of “those same places”.
A Ferris wheel obviously runs counter to that idea, of not revisiting the same places again, as it keeps treading the same pathway. Another analogy to the wheel would be a swimmer, or someone drowning – every so often you get to see the light, you get to be at the top of the world. It might not be a new experience, but it’s still good when you get to break past the waterline and take a breath of fresh air, even if you’ve done so before.
5) Facing the Situation:
1) Yui is about to cry. Look at Yukino and Hikki’s faces, this is exactly like the scene in episode 8, where Hikki was breaking down, and the two girls stared at him speechless. It’s hard to know how to react to someone in an emotional turmoil, especially if you care for them.
2) Interestingly, even on her date with Yuigahama, Yukino brought her cookies for Hikki. It’s because she’s been carrying them with her ever since she left home, and hadn’t given them to him yet. “This is as thanks to you,” meaning it’s being offered as “Courtesy Cookies,” but also as a sign of progress, and a reminder of where they used to be, the only way to track progress. But this scene is really directed in a way that promises more than simply “courtesy”.
“I want it all,” another callback to episode 8 with Hikki’s “I want it, even if it’s impossible” speech. “I want what we have now, and what we’ll have in the future.” Yui wants to save the present, to not do anything to risk it, but also wants the future that requires giving up on the present. Yui wants to have Hikki all to herself, and still have her uninterrupted friendship. She knows it’s impossible, but that’s what she wants. So what will she be willing to sacrifice? The present, the future that mimics the present, or the future that’s unlike the present? Hikki’s example helped her realize she’s allowed to try and be greedy, and hope for support from her friends. Except her greed might cost her at least one friend. And it’s greed because she wants to keep the friend, and get it regardless. But it’s alright to want it all. You just need to know it doesn’t actually happen.
3) “If we figure out how each of us feels, I don’t think we’ll be able to stay the same.” Such a good line. A verySensei-line, isn’t it? Of course they all know how they feel. What they haven’t figured out is how to act on it. She’s saying they’re lying to themselves so they won’t have to actually face their desires. Because if they face their desires and act on them, their situation will change, and if they face their desires and don’t act on them, then they’ll come to resent themselves and one another, which is where they’re at. Right now they’ve been trying to keep everything “normal”, and episodes 3-4 had been all about how “everything is normal” is a bandaid to hide how everything is not.
4) “The final request, our final task, is to fix our own problems.” Oh shit. This is another theme that was unspoken in this show, which episode 8 did something with, how Yukino and Hikki need people’s requests in order to help them, but they can’t help themselves, and no one (but Sensei) is asking them to help themselves. So here we are. Not helping others in order to avoid facing our own issues. Yui knows she might lose more than she’d gain, that she could lose it all, but she’s making the request because she’s true to herself, because she cares about her friends. And because she cares about herself, and the current situation is untenable. You can’t force stasis.
6) Forcing the Decision:
1) Here we are, the dramatic piano. “I know the solution to your problem, and it’d resolve ours as well.” Yui who’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, having the solution that Yukino can’t see, or won’t admit to seeing. As Hikki says, they all know what they’re talking about, but not saying it outright allows them plausible deniability. The way this scene is going though, it’s all about Yui mustering the nerve to actually say it loud, so no one will be able to sidestep the truth any longer. She’s going to smash their group in order to forge it, and its constituent relationships anew.
As Sensei said, and as Hikki said of Tamanawa and Iroha, and as was the case with Ebina and Hayama as opposed to Tobe in the first arc – they all think the present is everything they have, and they can’t imagine the future, so they’re unwilling to risk the present for a better future. They think they could lose it all. Yui though made a reference to the future. She’s showing a willingness to risk it “all”, for something better. But she’s still one of them, she’s still deathly afraid of risking what she already has. Meaning that like the others, Haruno’s words hurt her, hit her deep, as if they’re saying, “What you have isn’t all it’s supposed to be, it’s a false front.” Yui, like Hikki, just wants something genuine.
2) Huh! Yui is saying the exact opposite! She’s saying “I want us to stay this way forever.” Yui is saying that the present is the optimum scenario. Not for her, but for everyone as a group. She’s putting preserving the group ahead of everything else. Such a Hayama thing to do. “It’s not fair, but it’s the only thing I could think of.” That line puts it as if she’s being unfair to Hikki, who might want to go forward with one of them, and Yukino, whom she knows has feelings for Hikki, but what of herself? No, it’s not fair to her either, and to her own feelings.
But she did say “I’ll take it all if I win,” so is she trying to not win, to not have it all, or is she saying that her “take it all” would be the decision to keep everything as it is, to stop Yukino from being able to act on her desires? I think Yui is going to say something more, do something more.
3) “I’m playing unfair”, Yui said. Back in episode 8 Yukino said Yui is unfair, and when asked what she meant, my answer was that Yukino can’t say no to her friend, to her emotional friend, and can’t refuse her appeals, or handle appeals to emotions (also because she can’t accept her own emotions). Hikki is saying that Yui is playing dirty here because she’s asking and relying on Yukino not making the decision, but letting someone else decide for her, again.
Me? I think Yui is pushing Yukino, and is making a gamble where she’ll win either way. Either Yukino will give in and the group will remain “normal”, but which would actually be a pus-filled wound that’d slowly sour, or Yukino will be forced to reject it, stand strong on her own, and say what she desires. For Yui, who is Yukino’s friend, that’d be a victory as well. Of course, just as Yui will win either way, she’d also lose either way.
7) Doubling Down On Past Decisions:
1) So much growth! Yes, Hikki had an idealized version of Yukino and was jealous of that, just as Yukino had an idealized version of Hikki with which she was jealous. That’s not what I meant. It’s the theme of “Which is our real self?” I’m talking about – if we understand how we react to the concept of others deciding for us who we are and how it affects us, the next step is to realize how that image we have of others might shape their actions. Yui’s “proposed solution” is the epitome of “The Nice Girl” (sort of, as she could also just bow out and let Yukino have Hikki (and what of Hikki’s wishes?)), which she’d been pushed into because that’s what everyone expects of her. But this is what happens when you don’t act based on what you want, it’s easy to twist it.
2) Hikki repeating his episode 8 mini-speech. “Let us suffer but find the truth, have genuine relationships.” The opposite of Yui’s speech, supposedly, since he’s willing to risk it all and end with nothing so long it might actually give him what he wants. It’s not actually the opposite of Yui’s desire, since they both want the same goal. It’s just the method they might differ on.
3) “We’re allowed to be wrong, because we can keep searching for the right answer.” That’s what Hikki’s little speech said. Fits into “This isn’t the final anything,” as there’s no decision you can’t get past. Rejecting the idea that the present is everything and if you lose it, you end without anything
4) And of course, “I have a request, would you listen to it?” and here we end. Coming right on the end of “Don’t tell me how I feel,” I think it’s finally time to address Yukino’s home situation, which is related to her coming to terms with her “self” being her self.
Shorter Notes / Asides:
- LOL, Commie adding an 8man-Batman mask onto Hikki in the OP :D
- “Tomorrow, we’re going on a date!” – Well, Yukino did give Yui cookies. It only makes sense. The best couple of the show, at long last, together! (Well, they are the best couple of the show.)
- Hikki does care for Komachi, wishing her off, asking worriedly if she has everything she needs. This would’ve been a good shot to show their mother, too.