May 22nd, 2015.
Note: This piece’s post-episode notes is posted in the form of an editorial and can be read here.
The Ineffability of the Human Experience
Remember my write-up for the first episode of this season? I discussed how for all of his pithy lines and self-assuredness of his way, Hachiman is not only miserable, but actually knows that he’s unhappy, both in general, and with his own actions. I also insinuated the basis for the claim that the Yukino adoration and hate groups are both equally weird, because she is just like Hachiman, lonely and miserable.
Well, last episode certainly made all of that clear, with an understated episode that called back to various moments from the show up to now, with Hikki not knowing what to say, and being unable to simply say he cares for others. But he’s finally ready to admit, both to himself and to others, that it’s a mask, that he’s really not cool (he’s not), and that he’s also unsure about the efficacy of his methods. Yukino admitted the same. Both were so wrapped up in their own confessions they couldn’t hear the other’s, and simply say “I love you”, as Komachi suggested. In fact, both actually rejected the other actively.
And now we have two lonely teenagers who wish for the other’s comfort and unhappy with themselves, how will they manage?
Thoughts and Notes:
1) Fear of Failure:
1) Opening with the scene immediately following the double-confession of weakness, and double rejection (“I never lied” was a form of rejection, of stressing the distance, which mirrored Yukino’s same phrase back in the first season regarding her car hitting Hachiman), Hikki’s mind focuses on the rejection. Understandable. Especially for one so scarred and fixated on every time he’s been rejected (“I hate nice girls”, years after a rejection).
2) A detour with sensei? I can already hear all the shippers going wild, but me, I’m happy for another reason. Sensei has always been the one who had shown the most warmth and empathy for Hikki. I’d say she hurt even more than Yui for the pain she saw inside him, because she saw much clearer than Yui. Well, Hikki definitely needs some of that warmth now.
3) Sensei, not coming with demands or claims, just asking questions to get Hikki to open up and speak his own mind. Well, she has experience with this sort of situation, she’s an actual adult. The only one in the show, in fact.
4) “Tamanawa and Isshiki are both scared of being the cause of failure.” Yes, yes! I said this in my write-up about last episode (point 4.4), where I mirrored Tamanawa with Hikki, and pointed out he’s afraid to make any decisions. His “let’s accept everything and not shoot anything down” is because he’s so afraid of shooting down ideas (and his being shot down in turn), of conflict, and of actual decision-making. Hikki realizing this might mean he realizes how similar to himself Tamanwa is, and perhaps, how afraid of decision-making he himself is. That’s what this entire arc and season are about.
2) Understanding Before Solutions:
1) “You have a keen eye for what people think, but you don’t understand how they feel.” That’s a very cool line, and generally true, but you’re going to have to show us how it applies here, Sensei. Understanding the reasons for people being afraid of decision-making is accompanied by knowing they’re feeling anxiety and fear, here.
2) “People’s decisions don’t always reflect their thoughts, that’s why sometimes their decisions seem nonsensical.” Are we still talking about Iroha and Tamanawa, or Hikki and Yukino? :P
Ok, we’re definitely talking about the club. Sensei does want to help the students, thus she sends them to the Volunteer Club, but she wants to help its members first and foremost. And who was the first person Sensei tried to help, the first member of the club? Yukino, of course.
3) “The root cause is the human heart.” Sensei, you’re really coming off too cool here, you better stop, you’re the one closest to my age in the show, and aside from smoking, you’re basically my type. Okay, this is important though, there’s one more thing underlying this whole conversation – Hikki has a very keen into others’ issues, but he’s incapable of looking at his own situation in the same way. And that’s the purpose of Komachi, and Sensei, to point him at his own issues, and give him the tools to tackle them. He just needs to summon the willingness himself. The willingness to change.
4) I feel there’s a bit of a disconnect between what Hikki and Sensei are saying, and insinuating, here. Sensei says that when Hikki has his solution, he’ll also obviously understand, or rather, she’s implying that understanding the situation is a necessity for actually resolving it (it can actually go both ways, it’s possible to have the solution which you know is “true”, and then from it backtrack and try to figure out what are the conditions for it, to understand the involved people). Hikki is saying something else though, which is especially true if you have an instinctive and not entirely explicit understanding of others’ reasoning, he might arrive at the solution, but he still won’t understand the feelings involved. Especially since he might arrive at an incomplete solution, as he always has, up to this point.
5) Interesting. Human feelings aren’t the data, they’re the answer. This brings to mind Komachi’s line last episode, “Just say I love you,” as an answer, not merely as an act, but as feelings.
3) Being (A Social) Human is Hurting:
1) “If you came to the same realization [as Yukino], then it’d make sense for you to try and avoid hurting your friends by pushing them away.” Wow. Just wow. There are two things going on here, one that’s obvious (to me), and one I haven’t considered up until now, but makes perfect sense, and so this is similar to Meguri’s talk with Hachiman as episode 5 ended after the elections arc ended.
Ok, let’s run it down. First, with the obvious, that Hikki had accepted the task on his own to try and help the club, by removing his presence from it, by not pushing more strain onto Yukino by trying to avoid having her help people. This is also not the right call, because just as Meguri said, Yukino actually needs the excuse to go and help people, as that’s what she really desires.
Second, notice Sensei’s words, “Same realization,” meaning Yukino, who is just like Hikki, is pushing Hikki away not because he’s hurting her, but because she’s aware she’s hurting him. This means that last episode when both of them “rejected” one another, it’s not because they did not hear the other’s plea for comfort, but becauseof it, because they feel the best thing they can do for the other is to stop hurting them by pushing them away.
Of course, as Sensei said, it’s important to focus on the right point, and both Yukino and Hikki focus on how they hurt the other by their presence, and more than that, on how they themselves hurt, by the other’s closeness, and by hurting the other. They’re doing the old Hachiman, where they sacrifice themselves for the sake of another. And we all saw how well that worked out thus far in the show.
There’s also the fact both of them hate themselves to a degree, and seek to punish themselves for being who they are, so they hurt others, which causes them to seek to punish themselves even more.
2) “But that’s not what you should be thinking about, but why you don’t want to hurt them.” Whether or not you’re hurting people answers the question “What is the problem?” but it doesn’t answer “Why is it a problem?” and even more importantly, it doesn’t deal with “Why do I want to solve this problem?” – So that’s the point Sensei wants Hikki to focus on, on his feelings. Of course, Sensei is back to what she said earlier, what Hikki doesn’t understand, and what she needs him to understand – that with an understanding of the emotions involved, he’ll be able to solve this situation, by acting on said emotions, said feelings.
3) “You don’t want to hurt them because you care for them.” Sensei, so much for giving Hikki a “hint”, you just gave him the whole thing! Of course, the real test isn’t knowing what one should do, but actually acting on it. Good luck.
4) Man, Sensei is full of truths for Hikki this episode. Now we have the other half of The Hedgehog Dilemma – people hurt one another not only when they are close, but when they ensure they’re not close as well. People hurt one another by just existing in relation to one another. And if that’s the case, may as well also comfort the other, rather than only hurt them. If you hurt together and you hurt apart, may as well hurt together.
“Caring about people is preparedness to hurt them,” as in, you’re going to hurt people anyway, but only for people you care for you’re aware of it, and care about it. And caring about it means a willingness to not only be hurt by them, but willingness to keep on hurting them. Well, no wonder Sensei’s alone, and no wonder Hikki feels she’s a kindred spirit, heh. This is one of those lines that has some truth, but sounds better in a fortune cookie. It’s not the truth, but it points as the truth, because the opposite of this statement is equally untrue, but it points to a nuance that’s often ignored.
Also, this statement mirrors what Hachiman told Hayama in episode 2, and what Yukino told him last episode, “If this is all it takes to break us apart, then perhaps the relationship wasn’t that strong to begin with.” It’s about a relationship that’s incapable or unwilling to keep going after one side hurts the other. Not necessarily because the one being hurt breaks it off, but because the one doing the hurting does. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Relationships are about both sides working and fighting to keep it going.
4) The Genuine Article, The Real McCoy:
1) Yes, Yuigahama’s shell, being misunderstood, the need to change. Everyone focuses on Yukino and Hachiman as the obviously miserable and lonely, but as this show keeps hammering home, this is the human condition. Everyone is suffering to a degree. Everyone’s caught lonely inside their own minds. Everyone, and that includes Yuigahama of the Cheerful Façade, whom the last few episodes keep reminding us is suffering as well, and feels as if her friends keep her closed off. Or, she means Yuigahama might help Yukino as well. Well, it doesn’t matter, they’re all hopefully going to help one another, including Yukino breaking through Hachiman’s shell and understanding him.
2) “The present isn’t everything, but there are things you can only do here. The time is now.” Fortune Cookie time with Sensei.
3) “If you don’t suffer, then what you’re going through isn’t the real thing.” More Fortune Cookie lines! “Genuine” is something Hikki deeply strives for, ever since the first episode, but the quest for “The genuine article” is itself the biggest lie of all. It assumes there are “fake relationships”. There aren’t. The relationships as they exist are always real, even if the things they’re based on are lies. The relationship, not things like “love”, but the interaction, it actually exists.
Also, two more things I find problematic about this statement. The first, it’s the very thought that some feelings and relationships are fake that lead you to question what you have and look down on others’ relationships, as Hachiman has done before, and it also paints a picture that’s very romantic, “The true artist will create no matter what, even if they starve for it!” Please. That everything in life involves suffering doesn’t mean you actually have to glamorize it. It just is.
4) And yes, Hikki’s right, there’s also the logical aspect – that everything that’s genuine makes you suffer doesn’t mean that everything that makes you suffer is genuine.
5) The Dark Night of the Soul:
1) “Why am I already turning to rely on others? Human relationships are a kind of a drug.” – Hikki is still resisting the siren call of change. He’s got a point, though, to a degree. You can’t rely on others all the time, or use it as the first and final answer to any situation, or you end in Iroha and Tamanawa’s situation, of wanting someone else to solve your problems for you, and being unable to solve things on your own. The real issue is coming up with a solution, and then getting the help you need to make it come true.
2) “I need to find a reason for myself, and act on it.” Again a call back to what Meguri said in episode 5, with Yukino needing excuses given by others to act. But the real reason is her desire to act, and the cause for said desire, the care for other people.
It’s interesting. Hikki isn’t trying to find an answer to the current situation, but to find out why he acted last time. It’s not just because of the “hints” Sensei has given him, but because he realized he was wrong before, so he’s second-guessing himself, he wants to make sure he makes the right decision, based on the right reasons. This is a dangerous time, as Hikki can either use it to grow, or he can use it to regress into loneliness and “cold logic”, and sacrificing himself for whatever “answer” he finds.
Yes, humans lie all the time, to themselves more than others, but focusing on it doesn’t actually yield much, except more Hachimans.
3) Hikki’s final realization in the night, “I wanted something.” Hikki wants a lot of things. He wanted Yukino and Yui to be happy, or at least to not suffer. He wanted to help people. He wanted to not feel lonely himself. So here’s part of the answer to everything – he wants his friends to help him, he wants his friends to help him achieve all that he wants, and he wants them to be happy as a result of it as well. He wants to fix all the things Hachiman has done (yes, Iroha ending up as the President but without the conviction to do so herself is a mistake he made as well), so he could be Hikki on the outside as well.
6) The Blame Game:
1) “Are you saying this is your fault alone?” Yukino asked this twice, “Then perhaps you should solve this on your own.” Before watching forward, I could notice from the first time what Yukino was going for. First, I’m going to mention Meguri’s line again, of Yukino wanting to be relied on. Hikki is deprotagonizing Yukino here, saying every choice is his alone, that him pushing her away and her standing to the side has nothing to do with heragreeing to stand aside, that her not speaking up is not a decision she’s made. It also feeds into the self-sacrificing and self-flagellating Hachiman act, where now he takes all the blame, and also into keeping things “proper”.
Friends can shout at one another, and be angry with one another. Part of what Yukino referred to last episode with “If our relationship can’t survive this,” and what Sensei referred to with “A genuine relationship is one where you hurt” is that a real relationship can sustain anger. The only relationships where people never get angry and are always proper are formal ones, “fake” ones. It’s not just that Yukino wishes to be blamed, or for Hikki to be angry with her (but it might be a part of it), but that she wants to share the responsibility with Hikki, she wants to be a peer, and she wants her decisions, including those for inaction, to be recognized as such. As those of an active agent.
2) And here comes Yui! Willing to call others to task, to say she’s hurt, and to tell others they’re the ones who hurt her and they better cut it out right now. An emotional outburst that is the symbol of maturity, and friendship, rather than their lack.
3) “We’re just as responsible for leaving it all up to you.” Episode 2’s lines, both from Yui and Hayama. The shared responsibility for the acts of the martyr who carries everyone’s wishes. Yui is also not afraid of telling Yukino she’s to blame as well, while Yukino, like old Hachiman, ascribes the blames on others. That’s what shells are for, for blame to slide off of.
7) Trying to Understand:
1) “Hang on. That’s not what I came to talk about.” Silly Hikki. Sensei told you, and the way your thoughts turned out last night was also you knowing the truth, even if you’re unwilling to admit it. The whole Iroha situation isn’t the real issue. It’s never been. It’s all about you guys. Then again, isn’t Hikki also trying to use the Iroha situation to help with the club situation? Which is of course the wrong order of things.
2) “But sometimes you can’t get through to people even if you spell it out. I probably wouldn’t accept anything anyone said at face value.” There’s a reason my first episode writeup is titled “Willful Blindness.” If a girl were to confess to Hikki (say, Yui), he’d just ascribe it to getting it wrong, and them just being nice. And if they said so again, he’d just ascribe it to them wanting to play with him. This line hurt, because I know what he means, and because, well, it hurts. It hurts to be like that, and it hurts to admit it. This is the shell of cynicism Hachiman constructed, the one he was hiding behind, and blocking anything anyone said, because no one but himself was genuine, right? Of course, this is the most disingenuous position of all.
4) They’re both right. This is part of what Sensei spoke of. You can’t understand people if they don’t speak, but them speaking out doesn’t guarantee understanding either. There are no guarantees, only the constant effort to understand and be understood, of being together.
5) “I never cared about being understood, but about understanding people completely. Not understanding, being in the dark, terrifies me.” This is why Hikki is acting out as a Monster of Rationality, while truly being a Monster of Self-Consciousness, and why he keeps reading between the lines (episode 4), because he’s afraid of missing things. His cynicism is an attempt to explain people entirely, because no matter what it is they do, he can ascribe it to ulterior motives – they’re being self-serving? Good! They’re being non-self-serving? It’s only because they’re actually self-serving! At least Hikki knows his shell for what it is now. He knows it for an armour protecting him against the darkness of not knowing, the darkness of being a human, of being hurt by relationships.
And here is the final kicker. His wish not only misses the point, but is self-focused, self-serving, and deprotagonizes others. It’s everything Hikki criticizes in others. He’s not trying to understand himself, but ascribing reasons to others so he won’t have to actually try to understand them, so he won’t have to bare his own soul in order for them to bare theirs, without even the assurance anything is genuine.
8) I Want the Impossible:
1) “Even though it’s impossible, I still want something genuine.” Don’t we all, my boy. I actually expected him to go farther, to spell it out, but I guess it’d be meaningless, after saying that guarantees nothing :P So what did he say? He said he wants to try. Even if the words won’t guarantee it, it can’t be any more fake than reading into others’ lines, of ascribing one’s own motives onto them.
Still, Hikki is saying he wants, and will speak up. No guarantees, except that of trying.
2) “It’s now or never!” The repeat of Sensei’s words. No, Yui doesn’t know what to do. None of them do. They, that is to say, us humans, just make it up as we go along. Of course Yukino doesn’t understand, because Hikki is saying he wants something he can’t have, but will try getting it anyway, or will act as if it’s true. Yukino is also not yet ready to shed her shell. And most importantly of all, Yukino doesn’t understand what she can do, what they want her to do. When you’re told things directly, if you keep relying on reading between the lines to keep people away, you just don’t know what’s expected of you when people tell you things outright in ways you can’t ignore. People are demanding closeness from Yukino, who doesn’t feel very close to the people she’s obligated to feel close to, her own family.
3) Yui is explaining what the genuine thing is. Yui is saying she doesn’t understand it, but they’ll talk about it, and then spend all their times trying to understand what it is others told them, and what they told others. The understanding isn’t the point, it’s the trying to understand, that the relationship can withstand the not-understanding, but that they keep trying that is its genuineness. That’s what Yukino intimated without fully cognizing it last episode. “I don’t understand what it is that is alright,” and that’s part of it. It’s all very schmultzy, but you can’t really explain at all times why you like or dislike someone. We come up with reasons after the fact. It is what it is.
4) “You really do play dirty.” Using emotions, saying things clearly. Very dirty. Yukino has two options, to either tell Yui she’s trying to emotionally blackmail her, or to give in. But since she cares for Yui, she only really has one option. Yui has a point, “We might not get anywhere, but what we have right now is terrible, so let’s try to find something else.” This is why Hikki’s willing to change as well, because he’s at the point where no matter how bad baring his soul might be, not doing so is even worse. Of course, he’s young and stupid, things can always be worse ;-)
5) Yui and Yukino close together, and Hikki a bit to the side. Sure is the Volunteers Club. Back to normal. And yes, that’s an intentional lie, as I belaboured discussing in episode 3.
Shorter Notes / Asides:
- Hikki fell asleep, was the ride that long, or is it from the emotional exhaustion of the day?
- “Well, I am trying to act cool.” Note, not that she’s cool, but trying to act that way, just like Hikki himself said recently.
- Hikki standing by the bridge’s rail. They’re really pushing a cool loner look for him this episode. Looking fine.
- “Logic your way out, think of every possible solution and eliminate them one by one.” In before “I can see the ending!” (Keima Katsuragi, The World God Only Knows reference).
- Hikki saying Sensei’s alone because men don’t have taste, and thinking he’d have fallen for her if he were older? Man, I can hear the Sensei-route fanboys. I’ll admit it was a cute moment, but Sensei blushing and going allteenager anime-stammering was a bit out of place for her character.
- Komachi sleeping with the cat, so cute! I hope she brushed its teeth, cat-breath can be terrible :P
- Hikki, his whole manner, he’s coming to the club not as a member, but as a supplicant asking for help, isn’t he?
- “I don’t understand it,” and all the talk of “Can’t understand people if they don’t speak” makes me think of Hayami Saori’s monologue in Inou-Battle, heh.
- Man, that tiny piano soundtrack playing as Yui is talking to Yukino is doing real work, not just for how little presence it exerts, but because of it.