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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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 – 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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