Oregairu 3 – 05 – Making It Work

After enduring a heartbreaking ending last week, Yui doesn’t appear in this episode, which is just as well as Hiki, Shizuka, Iroha and Yukino are more than sufficient. As Shizuka lays out the situation to Hikki, he laments that the prom already in danger of being checkmated.

The “anti-prom faction” most likely led by Yukino’s mom has already sown the seeds of negativity regarding the event. “The prom might be cancelled” can become “The prom should be cancelled” much easier than overcoming the naysaying. In effect, the detractors are using the original “social media”—word of mouth and inertia—to undermine the prom.

Hikki wants to help. He also knows Yukino considers making the prom a reality to be the ultimate personal trial, and will surely reject any offer of help, lest it descend into undue dependence as before. While she chain smokes Shizuka helps Hikki determine the proper language with which to approach this complex problem.

Having shot the breeze with a sensei, Hikki moves on to his kohai in Iroha, who stops him from entering the StuCo room without her knowing how he’s going to deal with Yukino. He ends up surprising her (which he does a lot anyway since her surface opinion of him is so low) by making this about taking responsibility for the complication of both the prom situation and his relationship with Yukino.

Like Shizuka, Iroha gives Hikki her blessing in his imminent confrontation with Yukino. But while Shizuka was mostly joking about having to marry him if she ends up fired over her role in the prom scenario, Iroha is still harboring some pretty strong feelings for this guy, with which she’s not sure quite what to do, resulting in frustration and her refrain he and his friends are a “pain”…which they most certainly are!

When Hikki and Yukino finally meet in the StuCo room (with Iroha watching), he comes right out and asks to help, using a lot of qualifying language to underscore how it won’t be like other times when she’d come to depend on him; he’d be moving as instructed and not interfering. He gives this argument everything he’s got, because in the moment he thinks it’s best.

Yukito appreciates the offer, but is resolute in making the prom happen without Hikki; as Shizuka said, it’s a matter of personal pride as much as wanting to grow beyond her dependency. When he mentions how he wants to “save” her, it’s a word that catches Iroha totally off-guard, while Yukino understands immediately, and is happy just to hear it, even if her position remains unchanged.

Hikki is of the mind that they’ll need more than just a Plan A to get the prom out of check, and so he didn’t come into that room without a Plan B for how he’d end up helping Yukino. He proposes something that came up last time they had a “difference of opinion” when it came to how to accomplish a job: a good old-fashioned showdown.

Rather than helping Yukino directly, he’ll go his own way and use his own methods to bring the prom to fruition, foiling those who want it to fail but don’t want to be the ones actively stamping it out. This appeals to Yukino’s desire for independence as well as her competitive spirit and love of winning. They even set up stakes: whoever loses the showdown will have to do whatever the winner says.

What had been palpable tension suddenly lifts from the room and the two launch into good-hearted trash talking, the parameters for their interaction having been established. Iroha, who is privy to all of this, feels like a voyeur listening to either a confession, a lovers quarrel, a breakup, or any combination of the above. Watching the two affectionately bicker is a glimpse into another world where Iroha is baffled by the dialect and local customs.

Yet her impressively eloquent thought: “Seriously, I never imagined their talk would get this complicated while being so clear and precise”, could just as well be describing Oregairu’s dialogue, in general, which is always about more than the sum of its words. Finally, she’s frustrated that while Hikki is so determined to “take responsibility” for things with Yukino and Yui, he has yet to take responsibility for how he’s come to make her feel…and how uphill her battle truly is.

Oregairu 3 – 04 – Gradually Becoming Useless

Hikki and Yui are asked to take a look at the practice prom pictures and choose which to use on social media. Hikki leaves it to Yui, who makes sure to pick a couple of nice shots of her and Hikki dancing. After that, when they ask what’s next, Yukino tells them that’s all for now; the StuCo will handle the remainder of prom preparations, but she’ll reach out to them again if she needs any additional help.

Since neither Hikki nor Yui are busy, they decide to hang out together, with the ostensible mission of buying a gift for Komachi. Hikki geeks out at the new coffee vending machine, and the two end up in an IKEA showroom, which is a repository of various living spaces meant to inspire and entice customers. It’s apropos that Yui mentions the future and the dreams they both had as kids in such a place, where it’s never entirely possible to forget that the places aren’t real—only life-size dioramas.

That said, things seem to be going well with the prom plans until they’re not, by no fault of Yukino or Iroha. Yukino and Haruno’s mom represents members of the PTO (this schools version of the PTA) who are bristling at the idea of a prom after seeing the pictures, believing it to be “unbecoming” of high schoolers (clearly they’ve never been to an American high school dance!).

They want to cancel the prom, and Iroha’s impertinence in protesting that position and splitting hairs with the “initial consent” doesn’t help their case. Hikki can tell that Yukino’s mom is no joke, but he still reflexively tries to help by getting the school’s more positive opinion from Shizuka, and Haruno accuses him of being the “big brother” again. Yukino herself wears a defeated smile, telling Hikki if she accepts help whenever he offers it, she’ll eventually become “useless”.

Haruno later tells Hikki that his self-described “love triangle” with Yukino and Yui is really a triangle of codependency, but she’s letting her deep pessimism overlook the progress the three made. Yukino’s main issue is that she’s decided to shut Hikki (and Yui) entirely out of the prom, believing it the only way to demonstrate to her mom (and herself) that she can do it On Her Own.

That’s pretty damn harsh, if you ask me. People, be they high schoolers or adults, help their friends out when they need help! While I understand the moral objectives of a few parents (without agreeing with them), I find this absolutely-no-help, hands-off edict regarding Yukino…distasteful. No one person can organize a prom on their own, period!

What it comes down to is the reason Hikki wants to help, which is that he truly cares about Yukino, not because he needs or seeks anything in return. He and Yui are about to make some homemade cake for Komachi, but Hikki is drawn away by a text from Iroha indicating the PTO has gone forward with cancelling the prom outright.

Hikki calls Shizuka for the skinny, but she makes sure to ask him the reason he wants and needs to get involved, and after briefly clamming up, he tells her: because he “promised to save her someday” (which he did in season 2, episode 9). It’s as simple as that. When Yui hears that, and Hikki prepares to head back to school, a couple of tears fall, then stop; she claims they’re out of relief.

As Hikki runs away from her and towards Yukino, the tears start falling again, and they won’t stop. Part of her wishes they hadn’t stopped when they did, since Hikki might’ve stayed. But between Hikki running off like he did and the photo she found in Yukino’s room, the love triangle Hikki mentioned is looking more and more like a straight line.

Oregairu 3 – 03 – Prommin’ It Up Like “Yay!”

Before Yukino and Yui and Iroha, there was Totsuka Saika and Hiratsuka-sensei. Oregairu finally gets around to having some sustained scenes between these two and Hikki, but the fact they’re in the margins is proof that Hiratsuka-sensei’s gambit paid off, and Hikki has truly branched out socially. To that end, Hiratsuka-sensei seems poised to leave the school, while Hikki is disappointed Saika can’t find an opening in his schedule for a long-belated date.

Their chat is interrupted by Saki suddenly running out, and the two boys run after her. As expected, Komachi has passed her entry exam, and she collapses into her big bro’s bosom with tears of joy and relief. Saki is also pleased that Taichi passed, though she initially acts like she can’t believe it. When Taichi (re-)introduces himself, Hikki promptly tells him not to call him “onii-chan.”

The subject being a big brother (and having little sisters) is something on which Hikki has very strong and unwavering opinions. When Iroha comes to him hoping to get him to help her out with the prom preparations, he warns Iroha not to rely on Yukino, who doesn’t have the stamina for her workaholic pretensions.

Iroha labels Hikki as overprotective, like a big bro or even dad would be, but notes that no girl is “happy being treated like a little sister.” To Hikki, there is only one woman for whom he is a big brother, and that’s Komachi, because she literally is his little sister. Anyone who uses those terms for anything else needs to “repent”.

Hikki dispenses with Iroha’s notion that he’d one day try to flirt with her by stating “I can’t think of you as a little sister anymore”, and Iroha acknowledges it, albeit not with a little bit of her usual “polite-rejection” act. Iroha gets Hikki to help her out, but not because she’s his little sister.

It’s clear Hikki kept his distance from prom prep in part because Yukino really wanted to pull this off on her own, but there’s another more practical reason: he was out of the comms loop due to his virtual non-participation in social media. No matter; if he’s not clear what a “prom” is, Yukino, Yui, and Iroha are fully prepared to show him.

Yukino wants to film some marketing materials for the prom to be used both on social and the official school website. To that end, she’s fitted out the gym/auditorium in full prom regalia, while various boys and girls have been recruited to portray prom-goers dancing and having fun.

This also means dressing the part, and Yukino, not wanting to tax a potential prom king, decides to portray the king herself, in an a suit and tailcoat that’s dapper all get out! I LOL’d at Hikki describing his reflection as a washed-up pianist, but Yukino’s adjustments of his cufflinks and handkerchief make a big difference.

And then there’s Yui, whose gorgeous black-and-white dress is being adjusted by Saki and who does her makeup like this is the real thing. She even feels too self-conscious when Hikki is staring at her intently, but once they’re out on the floor, the lights go down and the music comes up, Yui gets some genuine giddy joy out of this dry-run practice prom, because at least for a few lovely moments, she’s in the arms of the man she likes.

As for Hikki, when the lights turn from blue to red, the music bpms go up and the dancing get more playful and primal, he stands off from the crowd. Now he gets the gist of the prom…and that it’s just not his thing at all! I don’t know how or even if the real prom will resolve the Hikki-Yukino-Yui triangle, but on the matter of Yukino Gettin’ Shit Done, it’s mission accomplished so far!

Oregairu 3 – 02 – This Has to Be Done Now

The tipsy Haruno invites everyone upstairs so Yukino can say what she wants to say, and even pops out some solo champagne as she listens. The  operative word there is listen: she actually does so, now that she can tell Yukino has something to clearly say.

Haruno says she’ll support Yukino in her efforts as a big sis should, but warns that if she goes back home, she may not be able to leave for a while. Yukino already knows the difficulty of what she’s doing, but she can’t win (her independence) if she doesn’t play, so she’s decided to finally take the field.

As Yui stays over to help Yukino pack her things, Haruno walks with Hikigaya, and expresses her astonishment over her little sis finally making herself clear. The ol’ Haruno cynicism is still there, citing that “nothing will change” whether thing works out Yukino or not, but that giving up on “various things” is part of becoming an adult, and it’s good to see Yukino take those first steps.

She also confides in Hikki that she’s not actually drunk, even though her face is flush and she’s favoring his shoulder. The flushness suddenly fades and she stands straighter, and her demeanor and voice suddenly more closely resemble Yukino’s.

No matter how much Haruno has drunk, a part of her has always been able to stay calm and observe and temper herself. And she has a sneaking suspicion Hikki is the same, whispering “you can’t get drunk” in his ear.  Whether it’s alcohol…or love.

The next day at school, after a slight problem unlocking the club room, the trio are back at their places sipping tea when Isshiki Iroha makes her first appearance this season. She hooks up a portable projector and plays a TV drama, but not to just goof off. Instead of the end-of-year “thank you” party for grads, she wants to throw a prom, like Western high schools.

With so little time to prepare, it’s going to be a close call whether Iroha can actually get such an undertaking off the ground, and it wouldn’t even be for her class, but she’s determined to make it happen, stating her desire to be Prom Queen to be her primary motivator.

When Yukino tells her she’ll be queen for her own prom in two years even if she doesn’t “lay the groundwork”, Iroha stands her ground, insisting the prep is crucial to achieving her goals. Left unsaid is that within her selfish motivation there likely lies a desire to see Hikki, Yukino and Yui have a prom.

Yukino can probably sense this, and considering she has a lofty goal of her own, she’d be hypocritical if she pooh-pooh’s Iroha’s. So she agrees to help Iroha, but as an individual, not a Service Club member. She also tells Yui and Hikki they’re under no obligation to help her since it’s not an official request, but a personal one.

While they realize she wants to try to do this on her own, they’ll always be around to help out when needed (which is certain to be the case).

When Yui comes home and sees the photo of her between Yukino and Hikki, she frowns, and tells herself to forget the thing she saw while helping Yukino move: a photo of Yukino holding Hikki’s arm on the water ride, hidden behind the stuffed animals on her bed. Of course, Yui can’t forget what she saw, because it’s just another confirmation of the “place she can’t get into”, no matter how many times she stands in front of the door.

She interprets Yukino’s treasuring of that photo as further evidence she has feelings for Hikki. Yui has feelings for Hikki, but also loves Yukino, thus leaving her perpetually on the outside looking in. She’s had to be content with that limbo, in which her and Yukino and Hikki’s genuine feelings—and the conflicts they create—have been left unsaid, clearly or otherwise.

But with Yukino starting to speak clearly, that’s coming to an end. There’s an unavoidable element of destruction inherent in all acts of creation—in this case Yukino’s New Start, but also the overarching physical and psychological transition into adulthood. Yui sees that on the horizon and fears she’s unprepared…but isn’t everybody?

Oregairu 3 – 01 – Robot Tears

In the park, in the gentle snow, Yukino submits her request to Hachiman and Yui, a request non-readers have been waiting to hear for five years. When Haruno once asked her if she even has a “self”, Yukino pondered an answer and found the results disheartening. She wants to find that self, a self that isn’t following in the footsteps of Haruno or her mother.

While she’s enjoyed faux independence to this point, now she seeks the real thing, even when it means moving back home. Her request, then, is for Hachiman and Yui to support her in her efforts. They accept, walk with Yukino back home, and encounter a tipsy Haruno. Yukino wastes no time getting things moving, telling her big sis they need to talk.

The next morning, Hachiman stows Yui’s much-improved cookies in his desk and greets Komachi, who has already made him breakfast and is preparing for a strenuous day of interviews for entering high school. Their semi-antagonistic banter may feel a tad performative to an outsider new to their interactions, but that’s mitigated by the fact the banter flows so organically and is studded with moments of genuine sibling affection.

While waiting for Komachi to meet up with him for some shopping, Hachiman runs into Kawasaki Saki and her own imouto, Keika, who’s a lot younger than Komachi. Saki remarks how Hachiman is so used to spoiling his little sister, he’s totally unaware he’s doing the same to hers. Then again, at a time when Komachi is growing up fast—entering high school, ye gods!Hachiman is happy to pamper a little sister without pushback.

Hachiman brings up Saki’s brother Komachi shows up, elated and hyper, then when Komachi arrives, Saki observes more of their brother-sister banter. Considering her extreme reaction to Hachiman’s offhand “I love you” during the cultural festival, and her reactions to Hachiman here, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s developed a teensy little thing for him.

From there, Hachiman and Komachi go on a multi-vector shopping trip, though Komachi earlier remarked that any attempt by her bro to call it a date was “creepy”. Still, the two clearly have a ton of fun flitting from one place to another, culminating in buying groceries for dinner, which Komachi prepares after doing all of the house chores without Hachiman’s help.

These are all efforts by Komachi to make up for slipping in her chore duties during her high school entrance prep. Hachiman never made a big deal out of any of it, but the fact Komachi wants to make it up to him, and he doesn’t resist, says a lot about how much their relationship has improved even as the two go through such major changes in their lives. She then kneels, bows, and formally thanks her brother for taking care of her to this point; she’s to a large degree the person she is thanks to his care and love.

Like Yukino, Komachi doesn’t want to be pampered and spoiled forever as she ends up following a pre-determined path. The two women seek to strike out and prove to themselves they’re capable enough stand on their own and choose their own road to travel, while still accepting moral and practical support from their family and friends.

Hachiman can’t help but tear up over Komachi’s mature display. Rewarding days, months and years lie ahead as Komachi will continue to make him proud…but his days of wiping chocolate from her face are over.

Oregairu 2 – 13 (Fin)

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My, how time flies when you’re engrossed in a long-standing love triangle of friends! Oregairu wisely pared down its cast to just the main three this week, and gave those three an arresting send-off in more or less the same awkward state they’ve been in for most of the season, but at least knowing where they can, if not should go, along with where they’ve been and where they shouldn’t go.

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Ah, Haruno-chan. The lighting, BGM, and close-ups always seem to cast her as the villain, an interloper who likes watching the world burn. But more than a force of malevalence, she’s an agent of change, for Yukino if not herself (her own personal and emotional issues are not a big focus of this show, which is both a shame and a relief). The time is soon coming for Yukino to make her own choices in life. If she doesn’t, her mother and Haruno will make them for her. Will she let herself be washed along in the current, or swim against it?

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For now, she seems to be caught in some netting cast out by Yui and Hikki, not to catch and eat her, but to keep her in the pleasant stasis Yui wants to keep going on forever but knows it won’t.

Outmatched outside the school, when Yukino calls Haruno, she decides not to lend her more potential ammunition, and instead parrots what Hikki told her: neither sister is thinking clearly, and a night apart is indicated.

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Throughout Oregairu Yui has indicated on numerous occasions that she wants to “make a move” vis-a-vis Hikki at some point, but this isn’t that time. Instead, she invites both Hikki and Yukino to a date at the aquarium.

Hikki isn’t the sort of guy you’d expect to be on a three-way date, but it’s not like this is going to be The Episode Where One Girl Gets Dumped so that a couple can emerge and progress into adulthood.

Rather, the aquarium trip is billed as a kind of last hurrah for the trio in their current state, a nostalgic look back before turning towards an uncertain but increasingly close future where stuff like this is not guaranteed.

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Thus follows a sequence of the three making comparisons between the traits of aquatic wildlife and themselves, with the metaphors flowing wildly. The camera’s insistence on shoving that sign with the mated pair of penguins, the fish in the muddy water, being contained, and the life-partner penguins grooming each other—all of it reminds them of what they are.

But an aquarium is a place that doesn’t exist in nature: a kind of training center where one learns about the ways of the aquatic world, the world humans left when they exchanged gills for lungs and fins for legs. The parallels are never not on-the-nose, but not obnoxiously so, and they also happen to all ring true.

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The Deadman Wonderland Ferris Wheel the three ride is one last elemental symbol that the three of them are spinning their own wheels. They feel like they’re going somewhere, but always end up at the same place in the end; the progress is an illusion—just like the “world where nobody gets hurt” Hikki believed he’d created back at the season’s start.

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Pretty soon that ride has to end. When it does, the Service Club might be toast. But if you wanna make a life omelette, you gotta break some eggs. Yui, who has thought all of this through, thinks she knows how to help Yukino with her family issues, and brings up the bet that, if she wins, she gets to “take everything.” She almost gets Yukino to go along, just as she appropriated Hikki’s words to Haruno.

What Yui seems to be suggesting is that things continue going on, finding answers for one another, like three penguins grooming one another (which I doubt happens often in the wild). But Hikki intervenes before Yukino goes along with it he thinks Yukino should find her own solutions or she’ll grow, and neither will he or Yui.

Now, I knew going in this wasn’t the kind of show that would rush into confessions. It did come close with its many confession-friendly atmospheres set up this week, but what with three people present there were never going to be any. But everyone’s eyes are open now, both to what the three of them are and that they have to choose between stepping back on the Ferris Wheel together, or starting off on a long road they won’t necessarily be able to share.

This felt like so much more emotionally complex a show than the first season, and I imagine if there’s a third it will grow even more so. But even if there isn’t one, I’ve really enjoyed the run, and content with the open ending.

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Oregairu 2 – 12

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Haruno gets the ball rolling from the get-go this week, calling into question Hikki’s efforts so far to find that mythical “real thing” he spoke of tearfully to reconcile with Yukino and Yui after his fake confession to Hina.

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Things seem back to normal for the three, but a tension remains, one that’s probably intensified by the presence of, say, Iroha, who is now all but an unofficial member of the club, while the balance between Hikki, Yukino, and Yui, was delicate before she showed up.

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The normalcy with a film of tension continues when the club gets Yumiko and Saki as clients, both wishing to make chocolate for the impending Valentine’s Day, a day when people typically give chocolate either out of obligation or affection to the recipient.

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Iroha uses her resources and the other school they worked with before to share resources and organize a big chocolate-making workshop. The girls cook with varying degrees of success while the guys taste.

Here, after a previous incident in the episode where Iroha seemed flattered Hikki didn’t consider her younger than him, Iroha seems similarly flattered when he praises her cooking skills, but hides it with another rapid-fire rejection before shoving a spoon in his mouth. Their push-pull, along with Kaori’s promise to make Hikki chocolate this year (likely out of obligation), paint the picture of a Hikki who’s more popular than ever.

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Then there’s Yukino, who seems increasingly nervous and flustered around Hikki, and both panic when they both touch the same bowl. Their behavior is plain to see, especially to Yui, who can’t mask her discomfort with the moment of closeness between the other two.

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Things get increasingly awkward throughout the workshop, especially when Haruno further stirs the shit, Orihara Izaya-style. The elder Yukinoshita bemoans the fact the three youngins before her are “boring”, and questions both the existence of the “real thing”, and calling into question Hikki’s resolve to achieve it.

As he eloquently puts it, Haruno is always there to remind him of things he’d rather not think of, just as another older mentor in Shizuka is less aggressive and cynical in her meddling. The olds are sitting around watching the youngs, and they want something to happen. I can relate!

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The cake is taken when Yukino’s snooty mom shows up in her Toyota Century in traditional clothing to scold Yukino for being out so late doing who-knows-what and expressing her fear her daughter’s on the “wrong path” to the future.

She claims to want Yukino to live her life, but maybe that’s something she told herself before Yukino got to the point where she actually would, a time that’s is already here. She can’t help but want to set her straight, no matter how intrusive it looks.

That puts Yukino on edge, and also increases the awkwardness between the trio, all three of whom, we must remember, are still, with just one episode left, trying to figure out who they’re supposed to be, and what happiness is supposed to be…and still struggling mightily.

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Oregairu 2 – 11

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Okay, so last week we weren’t quite witnessing an omiai, but rather a party for Yukino, with family and friends old and new assembled. But it still creates the rumor that she and Hayama Hayato are going out. And Hayama Hayato is supposed to be “Everyone’s”, in the way exceptionally handsome and talented school idols are.

Iroha knows such rumors could open the flood gates of girls “testing” Hayato for openings, as she most effectively demonstrates on Hikki. But Miura Yumiko is not amused. If Hayato is the King of the School, she’s the Queen, and while to a degree a king belongs to his subjects, Hayato is hers, and she wants to get to the bottom of this upsetting rumor.

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Only all they can get out of either subject of the rumor are unsatisfying answers. While the idea of these two going out feels ludicrous, it’s not like are privy to their every move, either. But let’s say they’re not and move on, because that’s what everyone is going to be doing soon, either to liberal arts or sciences.

Which one Hayama chooses could help everyone figure out what he’s going to do with himself, and who he’s going to do it with, but he volunteers no information to Hikki upon being asked. Turns out Everyone’s Hayama is No One’s Hayama.

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When the Service Club shows up to help Iroha rearrange a room, Yukino and Yui don’t only see how Iroha acts towards Hikky when she thinks they’re not behind him (they are), but the alumnai who show up to help include Haruno, who doesn’t know anything more about Hayama’s future plans.

Making Hikki walk her home (not a bad deal for Hikki, really), she shares in the growing frustration with not knowing the path Yukino and Hayama will choose. But she does know Hayama was hoping Hikki would ask him like he did.

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The next day there’s a marathon, and after we see Yui’s adorable “Ganbatte!” face, we see what Hikki planned with Saika: the tennis club holds the field back to let Hikki run alone side by side with Hayama. Hikki tries to capitalize on the emotionally vulnerable state of someone at the halfway point of a long trial to get more out of Hayato…and he succeeds!…sort of.

Faced with Hikki’s smug assertion Hayato has been using Yumiko as a shield against other girls, and telling him if his goal is to keep them away, he should choose the Sciences, Hayato tells Hikki he doesn’t like him, and they could never be friends, because as much as he’s tried to be equals with him, he can’t help but feel inferior to Hikki.

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Hayato may be able to find another gear and win the footrace, as the setting of high school is his wheelhouse, but he doesn’t think he’ll win the battle he wants to against Hikki. Not necessarily the battle for Yukino’s heart, but something more abstract: the battle to find “The Real Thing.” High School is ultimately just practice for such a thing.

In thanking only Iroha and Yumiko in his victory speech, Hayato quells the rumors about him and Yukino. Then Hikki heads to the nurse’s office to tend to his skinned knee, and Yukino is there, having forfeited her race. She insists on dressing his wound, which puts the two in direct contact and even within kissing distance at the perfect time of day, but understandably (and somewhat infuriatingly), neither can pull the trigger.

That’s not all bad though, because these two, plus Yui, are in a good place. And it seems all three will be going into Liberal Arts, so they’ll be together at least a bit longer.

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At the after-party, Hayato formally apologizes to Yukino for getting her mixed up in the rumors, and when he has him alone, Hikki declares he doesn’t much like Hayato, either, something hardly anyone’s ever said to his exalted face, and almost seems to make him happy.

But Hayama Hayato, the one with seemingly all the choices in the world, stalwartly refuses to choose anything, no matter who it may confound hurt, calling it his “self-satisfaction.” It’s a fence somebody like him, with his particular lot in life, has decided to continue standing on, and it’s hard to judge him for it.

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Yukino’s Takedown

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If you want to play pretend, could you do it elsewhere?

You’ve been saying all kinds of things that have no meaning.

Is it so much fun for you to pretend you’re working by using words you just learned and mimicking a debate?

You use vague terms to feel like you spoke up, to feel like you understand, but you take no action whatsoever.

You’ll never move forward that way. You won’t create anything. You won’t gain anything. You won’t give anyone anything. You’re just a pretender.

Could you refrain from wasting any more of our time?

Oregairu 2 – 10

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So this is how it’s all poised to end? With Yukino marrying Hayato to form an alliance between their families? And this is how Haruno decided to break that news to Hikky? Man, that’s harsh! Nagato Yuki getting hit by a car harsh!

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But let me back up: this was another solid and thoroughly enjoyable episode of Oregairu. Irohas’ non-flirtation flirtation, along with her not-so-easily-concealed growing affection for him (paired with yet another quick rejection, even as she herself stings from the same thing), starts things off right. Sakura Ayane is doing a nice job as Kosaki’s sister over on Nisekoi:, but she really shows her stuff here, with a far better script in her hands and a meatier character to chew on.

If my hardly-groundbreaking theory about Yukino and Hayato holds true, it means both Hikky and Iroha are alike in being rejected by the members of that couple. Misery loves company, yes?

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Putting aside romantic entanglements real or envisioned: the cavalry arrives a week earlier than it does in Preston’s DanMachi, as Yukino cuts through the other school’s verbose president like butter. I don’t know what it is about Hayami Saori and rants, but her swift, biting, brutally accurate takedown is her best performance since Hatoko’s Rant, and was a lot longer in the making.

It wasn’t just a takedown of the haughty synergy nut, either. A lot of what she said also, somewhat devastatingly, applies to her present situation.

This is what Hikky had been missing: someone who knew what to say and wasn’t afraid to say it. Better still, Yukinon opens the door for Yui, Hikky, and Iroha to take the reins of the meeting and finally hammer out what they’re going to actually do for the Christmas event.

And lest I forget, Hikky lays his past mistakes bare before Yukino pipes up. After the display, Kaori comes to him, both impressed and admitting she was wrong about him. While dating remains as out of the question as ever, she wouldn’t mind someone like him as a friend, if he’ll have her.

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LOVE how quickly the event flies by, in montage-form. Sometimes, you just need a montage to barrel through something that in a longer form would only take away valuable character time. Suffice it to say, Iroha and the other Prez manage to shine and the event is a smash hit, thanks to the efforts of the Service Club.

Back in the club room, Hikky not only finds Yukino pouring tea again, but the girls got together to get him a special teacup as a Christmas present, which was all kinds of sweet.

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When Yui brings up getting a present for Yukino with Hikky, he asks her when she’s free to go shopping, with phrasing that could be easily construed as asking her out. Later, Komachi ditches Hikky and Yukino, leaving them alone on the train, where she grabs his sleeve as much as she dares when they hit a bump.

But there was something so final about those doors closing on the softly smiling Yukino, as she said she was looking forward to the next year. Could that be because it’s her last year as a single woman?

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I’m with Yui: glasses DO make you look more intelligent. That’s just SCIENCE, man! ; )

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All of Hayato’s seemingly guilty self-deprication and strange comments to Hikky; all of Haruno’s meddling; the presence of Haruno, her and Yukino’s mom, and Hayato at the same mall where Hikky and Yui happen to be shopping for Yukino; Haruno calling Yukino and telling her to join them; it all feels like Yukino and especially Hikky being ambushed. With Yukino being ambushed into participating in the ambush of HIkky.

Is this Haruno’s way of presenting The Truth to Hikky, and by extension us, the audience? If so, it’s Classic Haruno: cruelty with a smile. Hikky has certainly had a lot of other options placed in front of him, but while I’ve at turns shipped for him and Yui or Iroha or even Kaori (Hilarious!), part of  me has always felt like the show was going to somehow get Yukino and him together. After this week, whatever went on here, the chances of that kind of ending seem bleaker than ever…

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Oregairu 2 – 09

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Happiness is:

  • Hikky dreading going back to school after the club’s big conciliatory catharsis.
  • Komachi doing a pitch-perfect impression of Hikky’s condescending mumble, before remarking that she likes this “scum-niichan” just fine, and Hikky agreeing with her.
  • Hikky returning to a very brightly-lit club room to find a perfectly civil, downright chipper (for her) Yukino.
  • An elated Yui wanting to sit as close to Yukino as physically possible.
  • Yukino being both happy and a little uncomfortable with the closeness.

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Happiness is:

  • Yukino and Yui attending the event meeting with Hikky. The cavalry has arrived!
  • Yukino and Yui’s priceless reaction to Hikky and Irohas’ little bag exchange ritual. “What was THAT all about?” their eyes seem to ask…
  • Yukino and Yui both agreeing with Hikky’s opinion of the other president dude, but being unable to enact instant change. Fixing will take some doing.
  • Shizuka giving Hikky, Yukino, Yui and Irohas tickets to Destiny Land to celebrate the club pulling through.
  • Hikky’s demand for someone to marry Shizuka already, before he’s forced to.
  • The gradual reveal that Yukino is not only a yearly member of Destiny Land, but doesn’t want to go during the busy season.
  • Yui and Hikky working together to convince her to come anyway.

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Happiness is:

  • Iroha inviting her crush Hayama, which leads to Miura, Ebina, and Tobe also tagging along. One big happy family. (Unfortunately absent but probably for the best: Kawasaki and Totsuka).
  • The resulting dynamic of Hikky with his two girls (Yukino and Yui), Hayama and his two girls (Miura and Iroha) and Ebina and Tobe, a pairing that Hikky worked so hard to prevent, which led to all that unpleasantness that is now behind them.
  • How Hikky is cut off in the group photo, but the one closest to him is Yukino.

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Happiness is: This photo.

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Happiness is:

  • Yukino teasing Yui about how there will never be a “next time” in which she’ll allow her photo to be taken.
  • Hikky’s realization the two are only joking around and are actually closer than ever.
  • Ebina properly thanking Hikky once more for what he did, knowing what it cost.
  • Hikky telling Ebina his, Yukino’s and Yui’s problem had nothing to do with her request; it had been brewing before; at best it was a catalyst/last straw.
  • Hikky smiling unironically. I know; I’m scared too!
  • Yukino demanding absolute silence on the Panda Battle ride.

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Happiness is:

  • The adorableness that is Yui getting up in Hikky’s face with a panda puppet.
  • The moment Hikky believes Yui is making “the first move” she told him she’d make (last season), rather than wait.
  • The way Hikky agrees to a date at the theme park next door (Amaburi?), “someday,” which is enough for Yui for now.
  • Yui slipping animal ears on herself and Yukino and having Hikky snap their picture.
  • Everyone wanting to give Komachi gifts. She got the ball rolling on Hikky’s redemption, after all. But more than that, she’s just a very cute and lovable sister.

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Happiness is:

  • Circumstances working out so Hikky and Yukino end up separated from the others.
  • Yukino taking Hikky’s sleeve in her hand, asking him to “save her someday,” just before their boat takes the plunge. DAT PLUNGE. The silence…pure poetry.

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Happiness is: Yukino making relative peace with the fact she isn’t like her sister, or Hikky, and may not “have what they have,” but that’s okay, because she still loves them both. (She doesn’t say that part, but it’s pretty evident.)

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Happiness is Hikky, Yukino, and Yui side by side by side, watching the park’s fireworks show, being bathed in warm and cool flashes of light as they wear smiles on their faces.

Happiness is Yukino’s many smiles throughout this episode, in particular that last one looking up at the sky, and Yui whispering to Hikky, again getting as possible close to the person she loves.

Happiness is NOT watching Iroha confess to Hayama, only to get flatly rejected and run off, more upset than we’ve ever seen her.

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However, as unhappy an event as it was, I was very happy with how it was portrayed: from the POVs of the others, in particular Hikky; without words, only expressions half-concealed by the shadows. All the planning in the world to create an opportunity for Iroha to get closer to Hayama didn’t mean a thing, because Hayama didn’t want to get closer to her.

Will she now turn to Hikky, fulfilling the prophecy in the OP of Iroha taking her place among the other three Service Club members, filling the void between Hikky and the others? Whatever happens, and as sadly as this episode ended, there was still plenty of happiness to be found.

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Oregairu 2 – 08

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After living a tentative dream stumbling both with his one-man service request and his “replacement triangle” of Iroha and Kaori, Yukino splashed cold water on him before walking away.

(*VROOOM VROOOM*…a red Aston Martin DB9 pulls up…)

Oh, Shizuka-sensei, thank God you’re here! I’m not going to ask how a teacher can afford that car—I’m guessing an on-the-side service club-for-profit of her own—but I am glad she’s arrived in Hikky’s darkest hour to counsel him.

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As far as mentors go, Komachi is too young and Haruna is Yukino’s sister with her own baggage, so Shizuka is the right woman for the job. And goddamn it, if a gorgeous woman in a suit picks you up in her British GT, drives you to a bridge, tosses you a coffee and lights a cigarette, you listen to her.

You listen as she talks about how mental states and emotions one feels are not always equal. How if you can only think in terms of calculations, calculate. How it’s impossible not to hurt people; it’s just a fact of life. That instead of worrying about how not to hurt someone (again, an impossibility), try to find out why you don’t want to hurt them in the first place.  How caring for someone means knowing you’ll hurt them from time to time.

Shizuka’s saves her wisest and coolest words, and one of the central lessons of Oregairu—and growing up, period—for last:

Right now isn’t everything, but there are things you can only do now, and things you can only have here. Now, Hikigaya. Now is the time. Think. Agonize. Struggle. Worry. Otherwise, it’s not the real thing.

Hikky makes Shizuka blush by telling her all the men she’s courted have had terrible taste—a very Hikky compliment—and in his head, wonders what might have been had they been closer in age. I’m thinking “Dude, when you turn 18 and she’s still single, don’t hesitate!”

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But that’s then. This is now. So he thinks, agonizes, struggles, and worries, through the night. And the next day after school he knocks on the door of the service club; not as a member, but as a client: The joint Christmas event many of his own actions led to is a hot mess, and he can’t fix it by himself. But this isn’t about swallowing his pride or admitting he was wrong.

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Yukino tells Hikky that people who made messes on their own should fix them on their own. Hikky agrees; Yui doesn’t, calling Yukinon unfair, and all of a sudden the discussion is no longer about his request. The event, like Komachi’s request, was simply the means to get in the door, a reason to spur action, but not the reason; the one Hikky agonized over. He cuts off Yukino and Yui’s sniping about being unfair and the efficacy of understanding through talk.

Hikky has been uncharacteristic from the start in this scene, first by knocking, and then sitting so he faced Yukino and Yui. But he really catches them off guard when he himself tears up in preparation reveals his true request, or rather desire. He doesn’t want words or mutual understanding or acceptance of each others’ “ugly self-consciousness”…he just wants the real thing, which he tearfully proclaims after a montage of all the times he believes he experienced it. But what is that?

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No…not that, but for many, including me, Coke is so irresistible because of nostalgia: it tastes like childhood; like a simpler time, long before we were aware of the concept that we all hurt each other, and that understanding others can be extremely difficult. But I don’t guzzle a two-liter every day. It’s a temporary retreat, not a replacement for life. Diet Coke, on the other hand, tastes like being six feet under. Just one guy’s opinion.

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Oh. Sorry about that!

Hikky wants “the real thing” even though he’s not entirely sure what it is, let alone how to get it. But there’s value in knowing that he doesn’t have it and that he doesn’t know how to get it. Of moving beyond what one doesn’t understand and instead trying to figure out why one wants to understand.

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He also believes all three of them want it. Yui is able to express that right off the bat with a smile, but Yukino still doesn’t understand. She’s terrified of not understanding, and flees while clutching her arm as if she’d just been shot with a dose of radiation.

Hikky is paralyzed in the moment, but yet again proving she’s the essential fulcrum of their group, Yui snaps him out of it and urges they chase after her. Whatever Yukinon’s problem is, they can’t let it end without knowing, or trying to know. She takes him by the hand—a romantic gesture in most Japanese high schools—but Hikky’s grip loosens; not because he isn’t going with her but because he “can walk himself.”

And who is it who know where she went? Why Iroha! Yui and Hikky’s shortness with her underscores how special their three-person group really is, and how far Iroha still has to come to being as much of a priority.

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Thankfully, her aim isn’t to break their momentum, but to point them in the right direction of their wayward member (on the school rooftop at sunset, for maximum dramatic impact!) There, Yui takes the lead, telling Yukino none of them understand, but if they talk more, maybe they will…and even if they don’t, they’ll at least understand that they don’t understand. Yui doesn’t even understand what she’s saying, but like Hikky, and like Yukino, she doesn’t like the way things are now.

Now, when there are things you can only do and have. Yui tears up again, as does Yukino, who calls Yui “unfair” again as they tightly embrace. Yukino says it’s unfair because they’d just fought a battle of sorts: a battle Shizuka hoped Hikky and Yui would win before someone else does later in life: the battle to get inside Yukino. With Yukino accepting Hikky’s request—upon further consideration, tears, and hugging, and perhaps even the tiniest sip of the real thing—victory is in sight again.

Last week was so grim for the service club that I’d gone ahead formulating contingencies in case it simply wasn’t to be, something Shizuka touched on during her bridge chat. This was an outstanding episode not just because it chastised its characters for having holed up inside their own heads, but it chastised me and anyone else whose hope had faltered, making me feel foolish for ever contemplating lame backup scenarios. Hikky, Yukinon, and Yui are the real thing, and their time is now. Thank God!

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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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