Oregairu 2 – 03

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This was a pretty dark and depressing episode, one I thought I’d respect more than outright like, due to its necessity: it’s always darkest before the dawn. But I ended up liking it anyway. Having created a rift with Yukino and Yui, Hikky ends up further exploring his predicament through other women from both past, present, and future: apropos for Oregairu’s own Scrooge.

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Is it just me, or does he look way further away than when he and the girls were on better terms? Just as he refused to tell his concerned sister anything, that everything is normal, after downing an extra-bitter can of Georgia Extra Mountain Blend Black coffee, he walks back into the club after school like nothing’s the matter. But something is the matter, and nobody’s buying his feigned apathy anymore.

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Fortune seems to favor Hikky and his desire to slip back into normalcy when Shizuka brings them their latest client, Isshiki Iroha, who has been nominated to run unopposed in the student council president, but wants to lose. Only Isshiki is the kind of girl who juggles guys and makes enemies of the girls. He immediately tears down her kind in his mind, believing he knows everything he needs to about her without actually knowing her.

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Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it’s Yukino who is unable to keep things professional. When Hikky suggests another superficial easy-way-out plan (something involving a sacrificial campaign speech that will erode Isshiki’s cred), Yukino rejects it, and makes this about more than just Isshiki’s job.

Yukino walked away quickly after Hikky’s false confession to Hina with good reason: she can’t be around Hikky too long right now without losing her cool. That just speaks to how much she cares about him, but also to the depth of their impasse. Yukino isn’t just disappointed in Hikky; she’s wondering if she ever really knew him.

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Shizuka seems to understand, especially when put on the spot to reveal the current “standings”, as the three agreed a while back that the winner could order the loser around however they want. Yukino probably hoped she could order Hikky to stop his nonsense, but Shizuka points out not only that it’s a dead heat depending on the measure, but that Hikky, Yukino, and Yui are all but impossible to evaluate independently, as they depend so much on each others’ contributions.

Even in its darkest hour when the service club threatens to tear itself apart, Shizuka makes sure to point out that the club really has worked, and no matter what evil stares Hikky gets or gives, the work he’s done has proven to her he’s a good person. He just needs to come to terms with that himself.

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After Yukino again tells him off for his hypocrisy over the superficial confession, Hikky retreats from the clubroom entirely. He looks over superficial flicks to take his mind off things, but eventually finds shelter in a “Master Donut”, peddler of sweet-looking but ultimately superficial confections, that if not consumed in moderation, can also be detrimental to one’s health.

There, he finds Haruno, who like Komachi lends an open ear but doesn’t get much, while she tells him Yukino may hate her family, but she doesn’t want them to hate her, so she goes through motions like mailing them gifts from her school trip.

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Hikky also encounters Orimoto Kaori, a girl he liked in middle school who rejected him. Like Haruno, Orimoto acts like a with-it grown-up, recalling those days with fondness before happily saying none of that middle school stuff mattered because it was ages ago. Yet it’s as clear as yesterday in Hikky’s mind. Orimoto scarred him, and helped turn him on the path of avoiding contact out of fear of rejection. What’s even more biting is that she’s clearly moved on, having no idea how much torment she caused Hikky back then. Hikky’s quick assessment of her is one-sided and unfair to Orimoto, but it fits his self-destructive narrative of being beyond “this kind of girl.”

Haruno brings Hayama into the mix so Orimoto’s friend can meet him, but Hayama is really there to tell Hikky how Haruno only ever kills people she likes (like Hikky) with too much attention or crushes those she doesn’t like, without much middle ground. We shouldn’t be surprised then, that when Hikky spots her, she’s all alone in that donut shop.

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Yui the mediator gets Hikky back in the club, to at least listen as they discuss what to do about Isshiki’s election, but this latest attempt to reconstruct normalcy from the shattered shards of last week goes nowhere. Yukino admonishes him again for avoiding the real problem and taking reckless easy ways out, both with Hina and here. As long as Hikky remains stubbornly taciturn and haplessly defending methods even he isn’t sure are right, there will be no rapprochement.

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As Isshiki Iroha thanks Hikky for his help in her subtly manipulative “boy-juggler” way (as Hikky sees it, anyway), her performance no doubt calls to mind the easy, friendly, slightly flirty way Orimoto Kaori gave her email to him years ago. Hikky didn’t think about whether it was just out of courtesy or pity; he merely started to gnaw at the bone he was thrown, not realizing it was all he’d get from his crush.

But Yukino and Yui aren’t Isshiki, and they aren’t Orimoto. They represent Hikky’s only hope of moving beyond the romantic traumas of his past. I just hope he realizes that before their rift grows too wide. They both seem to be waiting for him, but no one’s patience is unlimited.

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Oregairu 2 – 02

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Jokes about Hikky’s non-classmates dreaming about him playing Uno…this show has range

If Nagato Yuki-chan is my go-to Feel Good show this Spring, Oregairu 2 is the place where more sophisticated, less comfortable feelings bubble and brew. But that means its the far more realistic and ultimately rewarding of the two shows, because rarely are things in real life as simple as finding your confidence, as they are for Nagato Yuki.

The characters of Oregairu—and I’m not just talking about the core trio, because the show puts great care into everyone—aren’t so lucky; it’s a constant balance of little lies and little fronts to protect the happiness that they have, even if the inevitable compromises erode their self-respect.

There are no easy answers or solutions…only complicated ones that can be given a sheen of simplicity with rationalization. And romance ain’t got nothin’ to do with rationalization!

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Great variety of reactions here

True to its title and its penchant for not taking the easy or well-tread routes of its genre, Oregairu 2’s second episode embraces the complexity of the situation. Tobe’s desire to get closer to Hina is clear cut, yet threatens the delicate high school equilibrium many are invested in, while Hina’s request is revealed as a means of gently heading off Tobe’s designs.

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You’re not REALLY reading that, are you?

It’s clear Hina is not going to go out with Tobe, or anyone else, as Miura says when she confronts Hikky about his meddling. Hina’s turned every confession her way down, and Tobe’s not the kind of guy who’s going to end that streak, period. That means the Service Club’s goal must shift to minimizing the damage to the circle of friends Tobe and Hina inhabit.

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There’s a knowing look in those eyes.

Hikky doesn’t have much that’s “tasty” for Hina in his progress report on the camaraderie of the guys, but the school trip isn’t over and there’s still opportunities to get her what she wants, which is the same thing Miura and Hayama want—for boats not to be rocked. Hina leaves it in Hikky’s capable hands.

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Hikky should probably file this reaction for future encounters

The club scouts out the a bamboo grove similar to the one Tamayo and Kato walked down in Saekano 00, and both Yui and Yukino agree it’s a good place for a confession. They’re talking about Tobe confessing to Hina, sure, but they’re also talking in general terms.

Both in the haunted house and while hanging out sharing food or simply spending time in that gorgeous, romantic grove, Yui and Yukino seem pretty happy and content themselves, because they’re in a place with Hikky where they can still imagine possibilities, despite the underlying problem of liking the same guy.

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Speaking of gorgeous, this episode is certainly that in terms of settings and backgrounds. The episode is replete with ideal spots in an non-ideal world. So it’s appropriate that Hayama and Hikky confer on the Tobe/Hina situation in a place that wouldn’t be a bad spot at all for a confession.

When Hikky calls the entente Hayama and Miura and Hina all seem to want as superficial and dishonest, Hayama asks him what he would do, and in his head Hikky isn’t honest with himself:

How I think or feel means nothing whatsoever, and it’s pointless to think about.

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He denies his own stewing thoughts and feelings and tacitly agrees to do something that will keep everything the same, but that way lies only further frustration and despair, by speaking and acting in ways that don’t respect the feelings of others. Yukino and Yui put their faith in Hikky, and just before a nervous-as-all-get-out Tobe is able to blurt out his confession, Hikky steps in an confesses to Hina in his place.

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Taking a bullet for Tobe gets the job done, but neither Yukino nor Yui can accept the means Hikky used. Yukino storms off rather than allow Hikky to see how much his actions hurt her, but Yui remains and tries to explain it to Hikky, but she’s hurt too and has to walk away in tears. Considering how much both of them saw this as an ideal place for a confession, Hikky’s stunt crassly trampled on their feelings. The mission is complete, but at what cost?

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Hina, who has quickly become one heck of a supporting character. got her happy balance back, and even muses non-jokingly about Hikky being a suitable mate for her, since she sees that they’re both “messed up” people. Hina avoids romantic relationships because she values the friendships she has so much, they’re both a security blanket and a ball-and-chain. It’s pragmatic and understandable, but it’s also profoundly sad.

She hates herself for relying on the equilibrium Hikky preserved, but it’s not just her: the tapestry of little lies and fronts is something everyone in that circle contributes to, and doesn’t want to see torn…so they stay stationary. Tobe’s confession would have torn that tapestry, a tapestry he’s a part of whether he’s aware or not.

Hikky is well aware he has his own tapestry of equilibrium with Yukino and Yui, but cynically tore it to fulfill Hina’s request. The lie neither Yukino nor Yui will accept is the lie that he doesn’t care about their tapestry, and that his feelings are meaningless. Hikky knows he erred, and isn’t sure how to mend it, or even if he can.

This adds greater stakes to the impending addition of a fourth club member. But even if there were no fourth member pending, Oregairu 2 is and would remain a complex, emotional powerhouse that is balancing its comedy, romance, and drama superbly.

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