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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.