Oregairu 2 – 07

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In shopping list she slipped into her brother’s bag, with whom she’s on good terms again, Komachi writes that what she wants most is his happiness (and detergent). But he’s increasingly unsure of how to get that happiness. All he knows is that saving people with his methods hasn’t quite done the trick.

Something is missing: “His responsibility…the answer” he needs. And as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, there may be no more answers in the Service Club, which he now attends increasingly for Yui’s sake, haunted by what would happen if he wouldn’t and Yukino’s “smile of giving up.”

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He may not realize it yet, nor does she, but Hikky’s answer may lie in Iroha, and hers in him. He is someone she can be herself with, after all, and who insists on carrying her bag even though it’s not heavy. I initially thought Iroha’s presence on the show would lead to cliched conflict, but we’ve instead been blessed with a far more complex and satisfying dynamic as the two tentatively circle one another.

The way the camera stays on the other side of the street as they cross and make the bag hand-off had just as much power as past close-ups of said hand-offs, if not more. Hikky isn’t just settling for handling Iroha’s tough stuff; he wants to support her in the little things too.

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If only it were that easy. Hikky hasn’t been this earnestly hands-on a “service client” like this before, nor has he faced quite as formidable and opaquely frustrating an opponent as the other school’s talky president, who continues to spew unproductive bullshit as the clock ticks on the Christmas event. Among the elementary kids they’ve recruited to assist is Tsurumi Rumi, whom I think I’ll call “Mini-Yukino” due to her not-at-all-not-coincidental resemblance to Hikky’s emotionally estranged club mate.

The council quagmire is the challenge he’s facing now, but Rumi is a symbol of someone he saved before with non-ideal, imperfect methods: sabotaging the bonds of the peers who bullied her so they’d no longer trust one another or level coordinated attacks on her, while leaving her just as alone in the end.

Later that night Hikky is treated to someone on the other end of the spectrum: Saika, who thinks it’s cool the way Hikky’s always working hard for others without complaint. Saika’s opinion is valid from his point of view, though he’s not in on the whole picture.

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Someone else who doesn’t have the whole picture is Orimoto Kaori, who bumps into Hikky and Iroha on the streets and, perhaps due to her proximity to her classmates, her vague language about her past with Hikky pique Iroha’s interest. Is it just me, but it feels like Yukino and Yui fade out of focus whenever Hikky is with Iroha, and having Kaori around makes a triad—a new triad.

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In fact, when Iroha very overtly puts her hand on Hikky, it looks every bit like a gesture of possession, not idle flirtation, in the presence of another girl Hikky may have had “dealings” with. “This is my man now,” so to speak. She seems happy that such a scenario may have occurred, though, because it reinforces the part of her that sees Hikky as a suitable mate. Whoa, sorry for gettin’ all Discovery Channel there!

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Bag hand-offs and arm-touching aside, in semi-public Iroha still plays her rapid-rejection card when she senses Hikky is flirting with her, but like Hikky, she’s maintaining a facade that doesn’t express her true feelings about the way Hikky is treating her.

That facade always mentions some quality she believes Hikky doesn’t possess or never will, in the process painting the picture of an ideal guy she’s never met, and maybe never will. Meanwhile, here is Hikky, staunchly by her side, worried he may be carrying too much of Iroha’s load with regards to the event, but still feeling responsible for her being there to begin with.

I should also mention that Hikky reaches out to Rumi even though he doesn’t have too, simply sitting with her and helping with decorations so she won’t be alone, then encouraging her to go to the others. If Hikky were the guy his facade less and less convincingly attempts to assure us he is, he’d never bother, but he can’t help it, especially with someone he feels an obligation to be nicer to after providing only an imperfect solution to her problems.

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Which brings us to an understated but ultimately pretty heartbreaking closing scene as Hikky bumps into Yukino. He’s been nothing but submissive, contrite, and polite to her since she’s been able to occupy the same room as him, but he only told her a half-truth about being busy with Komachi’s exams. In reality, he’s busy with Iroha, and enjoying it as well. Yukino knows this, and knows there’s little she could contribute.

She also believes Hikky is only still attending club out of obligation. For Shizuka, who brought them together, but tellingly has been nowhere to be seen of late—maybe the experiment is over, with mixed but still valuable results? For Yui, who not only wants to walk to the club with him, but wants to be seen walking with him by others.

But Yukino, without any hint of bitterness, tells him he doesn’t have to beg her pardon or ask her permission or force himself to attend. Yukino’s analysis may be right—Hikky is certainly deriving happiness from helping Iroha—but she also walks away before Hikky can at least attempt to respond to it. Maybe he just likes attending club. Or maybe it’s time to move on.

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Oregairu 2 – 06

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Hikky, Yukino and Yui are again in a situation where they can sit in the same room together, stand each other, and even enjoy each other’s company somewhat without threatening to walk out or run for president. But the big question this week is: Now What? The Service Club may still exist…but why?

Shizuka originally paired Hikky and Yukino together to learn from one another, but have they finally reached an impasse? And has the club’s purpose of late only been to maintain the delicate balance of their love triangle with Yui?

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Yui never really feels like one of the “it crowd” despite their acceptance of her, so when Hikky stares at that crowd too long, Yui notices and points it out to him. Of course, after gaining perspective from Komachi, Hikky is a little more aware of how his methods repel others, and seems to be trying not to oppress others as much, even if he’s still quick to judge them in his head.

Walking to club together with Hikky makes Yui both excited and nervous, because it does upset that status quo she seems so intent on maintaining, even as the other two are wondering what comes next.

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When newly elected President Isshiki rolls in in a panic, it’s almost like the universe trying to throw the club a bone: Another job! Validation for existing! But Hikky doesn’t see her latest problem as something for the Service Club, and instead takes it on as a “personal” project. He’s taking responsibility for the situation he himself facilitated: Iroha is president even though she didn’t really want to be at first.

Hikky and Iroha’s conversation in the hall is very interesting, because this is something new for him: rather than two-on-one, he’s dealing with a single girl, who he’s starting to understand the more he interacts with her.

He notices the “sneaky” side of her, but it’s clear she’s being sneaky with herself as well: She gives the excuse that she didn’t go to her beloved Hayama with her problem because she didn’t want to bother him; but in reality, she doubts his competence, especially compared to Hikky, who has already proven himself capable of making things happen for her. Her agreement to work personally with him on this new problem is a ringing endorsement.

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Of course, by going it alone with Iroha, Hikky is further muddling or undermining the club’s reason for being…or maybe he’s clarifying it: the Service Club isn’t a “jack of all trades” operation, as he puts it: meaning he doesn’t want to include “regular student council consultation” in the clubs repertoire.

But the result of keeping these two things separate is that Yukino continues to maintain a “fine, whatever” attitude, even remarking that perhaps it’s better if the club doesn’t take on any more requests. She’s still dug into her “doing nothing” position, something her sister mocked her for. Is she content with this limbo of an outwardly-functioning but internally rotting club, even though on its present course it will surely die?

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Hikky is certainly invested enough in Iroha that he has a pretty wide berth in which to compartmentalize the existential issues of the club in favor of helping the prez on his own. And while Iroha strongly rejects him again without a hint of nuance, even in her rejection spiel she admits her heart “fluttered for a moment”. When Hikky is with Iroha, he’s focused on Iroha, and the larger problems in his social life fade away. They’re dancing a delicate dance.

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As for Iroha’s problem: partnering with another high school for a Christmas Event? It’s a vehicle for hilarious comedy, as the other school fancies themselves a corporate board, whose discussion sounds good and thoughtful on the surface, but is mostly…no, entirely meaningless double-talk, accompanied by overly zealous hand gestures. Never has so much been said without anything beind said! SO many absurd quotes. What’s scary is that this is how people actually talk in the corporate world.

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And yet, Hikky not only sticks with Iroha, but comes back for another round the next day. Each time, he takes the grocery bags Iroha is carrying; a classic gesture of easy chivalry that both he and Iroha acknowledge…and yet she still seems moved by it, and with Hikky’s devotion to her in general. He probably isn’t the guy she saw herself someday falling for, but she can’t argue that he’s coming through for her. He’s just as “sneaky” as she is to him.

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Hikky can’t help but be drawn in and try to play by their rules. He ends up impressing the other school officials with his word salad, but confusing both Iroha—and himself! Meanwhile, Iroha’s Veep and underlings seem to have a problem with Iroha, but it’s not being communicated, so the council’s rot festers as the other school fizzes and pops with vapid enthusiasm.

In an interesting move, his old crush Kaori just happens to have tagged along with the council as he did with Iroha, being a student at the school they’ve partnered with. Kaori’s interactions are always eye-opening and a little uncomfortable, but they’re also unique, like Hikky’s interactions with Iroha, Komachi, Haruno, and Yui. And unique is always good!

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It’s refreshing and not even that surprising that someone like Kaori let the unpleasantness of their last encounter slide off so easily and she’s back to interacting cordially with him like nothing happened, because nothing that did happen really affected her or her friend that much.

It’s also interesting that as teflon-y as Kaori is, she’s still perceptive enough to see what’s going on with Hikky and Iroha, even if they don’t quite see it yet: she assumed he’d moved on from Yukino or Yui and is now going after Iroha. And you know what? Maybe he has! And when he mentions he’s in the “Service Club”, Kaori LOLs at the wishy-washy absurdity of such an organization, even breaking out her first “seriously!” of the day.

Hikky understands Kaori’s reaction, and can’t blame her for it…but for him it’s no laughing matter—It’s his life.

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