Oregairu 3 – 11 – The Best Time to Buy In

“There are infinite ways to express a single word,” says Shizuka-sensei, literally illustrating that by writing all the rather harsh negative words she can conjure to describe her relationship with Hikki, then scribbling them all over until the word “love” remains. She tells Hikki if he can’t find a single word, use all the words he needs (he’s no stranger to this practice). If words aren’t enough, pair them up with actions.

This week, Hikki does just that. He finds his words—not the ideal words or the words easiest to understand—but the words that are at least imperfectly sufficient to get his point across, and he pairs them up with bold action. The next day after school Hikki shares an afternoon of nothing with Yui, and she tells him her wish is for Yukinon to be part of them.

With the end of the service club, that seems unlikely to be east or even possible for Hikki, who is so bad at expressing or responding to people’s feelings. The word he uses most is associated, as in he does not want to stop being associated with Yukino.

When Yui hears this, a heartbreaking display of emotions runs across her face, but to her surprise and pride, no tears come out. They do, however, come out once she comes home, and her mom is there to hug her. For all the words Yui and Hikki said, the ones that are meant are “Yui, it’s not you, I love…it’s Yukino”. What she knew all along.

On to Hikki’s action. With the prom over and the service club disbanded, he decides to take his fake decoy prom out of mothballs and make it an actual thing, lack of resources be damned. This provokes an emergency meeting with Yukino, Yukino’s mom, and Haruno, the latter of whom seems to finally be getting satisfaction from how Hikki is doing things.

In effect, Hikki is setting himself for abject failure…unless Yukino takes charge and “saves” him. As someone who ran the first prom so splendidly her mother acknowledged her, Yukino couldn’t save face if she turned this down, and the Yukinoshita family would suffer a blow to its vaunted reputation. So she accepts.

In return, Hikki says he’ll “take responsibility” for anything and everything that results from this supposedly ill-fated venture. Even though none of the words explicitly indicate it, the exchange sounds an awful lot like Hikki is asking Yukino’s mom for her daughter’s hand in marriage.

In the end, the PTO had no say in whether the fake prom became real, so Hikki wasn’t negotiating with Yukino’s mom or Haruno. It was all about creating a new opportunity to regularly associate with Yukino…and she took the bait. That night while walking home, Yukino is confused about what Hikki thinks he’s doing, when she told him to respect Yui’s wish.

Since Yui’s wish is for the three of them to remain together, Hikki tells Yukino he’s fulfilling Yui’s wish by doing this. This angers Yukino, who doesn’t like all the verbal gymnastics being used and wants to “get better at doing this”, but Hikki is more pessimistic: in the process of trying to get better, he believes they’ll drift further apart.

Hikki streamlines these sentiments with a pretty cool line: “If I let you go, I can’t grab hold of you again,” backing up the words by grabbing her hand as she power walks away. He then clarifies that saying he’ll “take responsibility” isn’t sufficient to express his true emotions about it. What he really wants is to have responsibility; for her to let him have it.

Initially Hikki hesitated in telling Yukino what he wanted, but Yui told him he had to tell Yukino anyway, even if it’s not the same thing she wants. So he does: he wants to remain involved with Yukino, not out of obligation, but desire. Putting it only the way Hikki can, he asks for the “privilege of distorting” Yukino’s life.

Yukino is a little put off by the innate harshness of such a word as “distortion”, but Hikki points out that distorting each other’s lives is not only unavoidable, but not a bad thing. And while he knows he doesn’t have a lot to offer her, he pledges anything and everything if he can be involved in her life.

A flustered Yukino tells him she’s troublesome and will cause nothing but problems and will eventually become more useless when she relies on him. He responds that he’ll just have to become more useless. After she play punches him and he tenderly takes her hand and holds it at his hear, she hugs him and asks her way: “Please allow me to have your life.”

“A bit stiff,” as Hikki says, but he’s hardly in a position to complain! And that, my friends, is how these two crazy kids confess to one another and ask to continue to be part of each other’s lives. I feel bad for Yui, but she’ll be okay. And that’s the point: no matter how much of a SNAFU their relationships have been or will be, they’re still young, and still learning what romance is and how love feels. They’re all going to be okay!

Oregairu 3 – 10 – One Word Isn’t Enough

Prom Night is upon us, and everyone is markedly calm. Yui will be helping at the reception desk while Hikki will be up in the sound booth assisting Iroha. His conversation with Yukino is both natural and a little stiff at the same time; but still little more than cordial pleasantries.

In the booth, Iroha gets up quite close to Hikki after suggesting he, Yukino and Yui all simply join the student council so the four of them can continue helping each other help others. Hikki regards it as an enticing offer but is politely noncommittal.

As the prom unfolds, everything goes swimmingly, as expected from an organizing team at the top of their game. Hikki gets to share a dance with Yui as per her latest of many small wishes, but she assures him after this she’ll only have one more.

Up in the booth, Hikki chats with Yukino via headset, and from this greater physical distance they’re able to cleverly verbally spar like they always used to. She pretends to forget he’s up in the booth because she’s not used to looking up at him (rather than down on him). Yukino tells him she expects him to grant her wish—which is to grant Yui’s.

After the prom concludes, Yukino’s mom arrives with Haruno in tow to congratulate her daughter on a job well done. When Haruno mentions that Yukino is considering the position in the family company Haruno herself has been groomed to take, their mom can’t quite hide her pause before telling Yukino if she’s serious about it than she’ll support her.

Before Haruno leaves, she tells Yukino, Hikki and Yui that she won’t yield her position easily or nonchalantly, even if she doesn’t really care who’s ultimately in what position. She doesn’t believe the year Yukino has spent growing into a more complete person can compare to Haruno’s twenty years of grooming. Bottom line: she’s not satisfied with the outcome of the three as it stands.

That’s because Haruno has a keen nose for deception, being a skilled lifelong practitioner herself. After she leaves, Yukino declares this to be the time and place to end things. Ever the go-alonger to get-alonger, Yui concurs, though she’d also be fine with continuing. The two turn to Hikki for what they expect to be a consensus…and he wavers. He lets the fortuitous bell that is Iroha save him and leaves without answering, but Yukino follows him and grabs his sleeve.

She’s not there to get an answer out of him, but to thank him for his help tonight and throughout their time together. Whatever else she’s holding back, in this Yukino is completely earnest and genuine. She almost looks like she expects…something from Hikki in response (like a kiss, perhaps?) but Hikki only slowly, tenderly removes her grip, gives a curt goodbye and walks away. Yukino looks…dissatisfied.

He bumps into Haruno, who insists on him and the others properly satisfying her by giving her some kind of ending—one that isn’t coated in a thick layer of artifice and cordiality; something genuine for someone who believes there’s no such thing. She tells Hikki that Yukino’s wish was “an act of compensation” and not what she truly, genuinely desires.

And yet there were Yukino and Yui, ready to accept the “outrageous lie” that this is the best time and place and way to end things, when it is really none of those things. Haruno offers her advice as someone who feels like Hikki is going down the same road: don’t let it end that way…even if you can’t get “drunk”.

Thankfully, neither we nor Hikki are left only with Haruno’s skepticism and cynicism to chew on until next week. That’s because Shizuka offers to drive Hikki home, but only after a stop at the batting cages where she shows off her talent for dingers.

It’s the hopeful, optimistic Shizuka who tells Hikki what he really needs to hear from someone with authority: that he, Yukino, and Yui do not have a codependent relationship. They don’t have it because what they have, and how they feel, cannot be condensed down to that word, or any one word. From where she’s sitting, if there’s any end happening between them, it is only the end of a beginning.

Oregairu 3 – 09 – The Secret Ingredient

One morning over coffee Hikki is so honest and upfront with Komachi, she’s a little creeped out. It’s just not like him…only now, it kinda is. Bottom line: things happened. A lot of things. Komachi asks for details, and he promises to tell her everything “when it’s all over”. Until then, their celebration will be small and family-only, to avoid awkwardness.

Hikki’s awkwardness with Yui only lasts as long as she allows it, which is not long at all! She scolds Hikki for communicating through LINE messages rather than just talking. Her breaking the ice helps make Hikki more comfortable for when he takes her aside, by the swings, to ask her what her wish is.

Before that though, Hikki simply revels in being able to pleasantly chat with Yui like this, saying “nothing of importance” and pretending everything is normal…but considers simply going on doing that to be betraying himself. So he asks her something important, and Yui takes advantage of the request to basically stall, asking for a number of little things while she thinks about the main thing.

We’re already well aware of what Yui wants: she wants it all—And frankly, she deserves it! She wants Hikki, romantically. She wants to remain best friends with Yukino. And she wants the three of them to continue to be together. All of those things at once aren’t possible, and yet one cannot separate one part of that wish from the others and still have it be her wish…any more than you can pull the sugar and flour out of a baked cake.

Throughout the episode, Touyama Nao’s voice acting is phenomenal in its bittersweetness, and Yui’s face game is truly god-level. The next morning, at the shoe lockers, Hikki is confronted by Yumiko, who is direct in her intentions: Yui is a friend mine, so don’t be half-assed about this” or I’ll be royally pissed. Hikki is heartened by the gesture; Yumiko really is a good person!

Hikki also runs into Yukino and Iroha while he’s walking with Yui (a fact Iroha is quick to point out), and some extremely cordial chit-chat about how they’re doing ensues. Yukino labors to find the words for their situation, which is neither peachy nor dire, but waves off any attempts for Hikki to help; later Iroha tells him he’s free to do so whenever he wants as far as she’s concerned.

After that almost painfully diplomatic exchange, Yui takes Hikki aside and invites him to her house on Saturday…to make a cake for Komachi, like they’d planned earlier. Yui informs him her mom will be joining them to offer pointers.

Hikki expects the ensuing visit to be awkward, and it kinda is, especially when Yui’s mom isn’t around when he first arrives, and he and Yui simply sit close together while she looks over recipes. Then Yui’s mom pops up like a shinobi, the trio is off to the grocery store and from there, Hikki is in Yuigahama Heaven.

For one lovely evening the awkwardness generally melts away and Hikki and Yui go about making cute little fruit tarts with and without chocolate, one of which he feeds him by having him say “ahh”. When her mom brings up the absolutely crucial “secret ingredient” and asks Hikki to guess what it is, instead of saying the obvious “love” he says “devotion”…which is very on point for Hikki.

As Yui walks Hikki home, they both agree that making things together was and is a lot of fun. Hikki gives Yui the gift of cookies to repay her for those she made him (another Hikki trait: never taking a gift without offering renumeration) He again wishes he could continue living his days granting all of Yui’s wishes one by one, but dismisses that as “impossible fantasy”.

Speaking of awkward, with all the Hikki-and-Yui quality time this week, the shift to the seniors’ farewell ceremony, including emotional speeches from Iroha and Meguri-senpai, felt a little out of place, as if it was tacked on to the end of the episode because there was extra time left.

That said, Iroha uses the opportunity to tell Hikki she has a little job for him to “throw his back into” with his usual vim and vigor. Her impending request and some scenes from the preview suggest that despite Yukino’s insistence on it not being necessary, Hikki will be lending a hand with the prom after all.

Oregairu 3 – 08 – The Person in Charge

It’s the much-belated appearance of Hayama Hayato, the only person who comes right out and tells Hikki that he shouldn’t be going about things this way. Hayato is already helping the StuCo, but frankly he partially blames himself for helping out in a previous scenario that didn’t turn out so well.

Hikki, while grateful for his friend’s candor, insists this isn’t about codependency, but personal pride and satisfaction. That pride extends into the purchase of a high-end camera and learning how to use it for a beach photo shoot that will be the hero(ine) image on the website.

Despite this, Ebina Hina still has to flip a couple of switches on the camera so it will take the most dramatic pictures, just as she, Yui, and Yumiko have to take off their shoes in the freezing cold water for it to seem “genuine”.

The final product speaks for itself and looks fantastic, and the Gaming Club nerds are again surprised by Hikki’s formality and gratitude for their and Zaimo’s assistance. Little did I know this would be all he’d call on them to do, since the “dummy prom” effort comes to an end this week!

With the site in place, Hikki needs his fake prom plans “leaked” to the PTO (AKA Yukino’s mom) and recruits Haruno for the job. Like Hayato, Haruno won’t stand in his or Yui’s way but doesn’t see how his argument for it not being codepenency is anything other than a battle of semantics.

She suggests they simply “watch over” Yukino as she works towards her goal alone, and Yui is the one to rebut that. Watching over someone, to her, isn’t any different from staying away from them, even abandoning them. That’s no way to “end things properly”, as all three of them desperately wants to do.

The next day (or so), thanks to Haruno, her mother has gotten word of the second prom proposal, and quickly outmaneuvers Hikki’s slipshod preparation for the meeting by declaring the gig is up, she knows his prom is a decoy, and as such isn’t going to move the needle on the PTO’s position.

That said, Hiratsuka (who prior to the meeting asked Hikki out for ramen sometime) offers a solid assist to Hikki in stating that the current options on PTO’s table are to look over the adjusted proposal for Yukino’s prom and retain some influence on the event, or risk the rebellious elements of the student body hold the event outside school grounds and rules.

Yukino’s mom still doesn’t show her cards, but to add a game metaphor, Hikki considers her the queen in a game of chess, and as such someone he can turn into an ally if he uses a very specific underhanded tactic only he could use: his name, which she recognizes as the boy who got hit by her car.

This has the intended effect, thankfully for Hikki, since after that he’s probably out of moves. Yukino’s mom is impressed with his “remarkable intrepidity”, even unfolding her fan as if to concede his point. Responding to her question about his leg injury by telling her it’s stronger than ever and he’ll display it by dancing at the prom…chef’s kiss.

We backtrack a bit to Yui visiting Haruno again on her own to take exception to her use of the term “codependency”. Haruno proceeds to harunosplain it to Yui, but Yui doesn’t budge. When Haruno dismisses her dream to be together forever with the other two as “not genuine”, Yui doesn’t see how it can’t be, considering how much it hurts.

Let it be said Haruno practices what she preaches. She and Hayato were an item, but it wasn’t sufficiently genuine. And things she deems not genuine aren’t simply an annoyance, they are repellent, and she’ll say and do what she thinks she must to stamp them out.

Hikki visits Yukino in the Service Club room to tell her that her revised plan was safely approved by the PTO, making her the winner of their prom rivalry. She begs to differ: because she went along with his decision to make a competition at all, and trusted that he’d succeed in getting her prom approved, she feels that he is the one who won.

Yukino takes this trust in him as further evidence of her dependence on him, but Hikki still maintains that because her prom was approved, she won this particular rivalry. She takes it the next step to say that if he insists she won, then he has to do what she says, which is to grand Yui’s wish.

Yukino tearfully tells Hikki how much she’s cherished the time the three of them have spent in the Service Club, but the “seemingly fake” relationship that has resulted from their continued interaction is “wrong” and different from what Hikki “desired” for them.

Therefore it’s time to end that relationship right there. Hikki leaves without argument while Yukino hopes this is the “correct ending”. Later, Yukino meets with Yui and while she doesn’t explicitly say the relationship they had had is now over, Yui can see it in Yukino’s smile.

Still, by essentially placing the ball in Yui’s hands, there’s a chance that even if one relationship between the three is coming to an end, it doesn’t mean a new beginning isn’t in the cards. The question is what form that beginning takes. After all, it’s certainly not Yui’s wish that the three stop talking or seeing each other.

In this way, Yukino is doing the same thing with Yui’s wish she claims to have done with Hikki’s alternate prom plan: relying on it, knowing full well she will find a way just as he did. Haruno’s strict ideal of what is properly genuine—maybe these three are simply destined to keep relying on one another as they continue to stumble towards adulthood.

Oregairu 3 – 07 – The “Psycho” Project

Zaimokuza introduces Hikki and Yui to Hatano and Sagami of the gaming club, who harbor a very crude opinion of Iroha. Hikki manages to convince them they’ll be better positioned to influence next year’s prom if they help him this year—and that one eventually comes to see Iroha’s “wickedness” as “cuteness” in time.

As the newly-formed team forms some broad strokes, Yui suggests they try to ally with a neighboring school they’ve already had dealings with in order to make their project both more realistic and more likely to be pooh-poohed by the PTA. That’s right, Orimoto Kaori and Tamanawa are back!

While Tamanawa has ditched all the corporate lingo, the gesticulating and weird ticks remain. So naturally, his and Hikki’s discussion of the feasibility of the plan in its current state unfolds as a EPIC RAP BATTLE, complete with Kaori punctuating verses with her trademark vapid 2-3 word comments.

I cannot convey with words how unexpected and delightful this was. It kicked all the ass. Tamanawa and Kaori like the idea, but the former wants a little more focus and detail before committing to cooperation. They’re also enthusiastic about hanging out socially some time soon.

Back in the gaming club, Yui vetoes the rest of the committee’s decision to make her “Yahallo” their official greeting, while Zaimokuza comes up with a name for said committee: “The Saiko Project.” Sadly, his explanation is cut off by Hikki…I wanted to hear it!

Hikki steps out to speak to Hayato about collaboration, but spots Yukino with the same coffee he usually drinks, taking a break by herself. Hikki approaches her and she makes room on the bench, and the two proceed to be extremely cute, cozy, and cordial in their dialogue, like two soldiers on opposite sides of the battle calling a brief time-out to shoot the breeze.

Then Yui arrives, and made what had been pretty comfortable situation a lot more awkward. Yukino gets up to leave without saying anything, leading Yui to ask if she’s avoiding her. Yui informs her that she’s helping Hikki, but once the prom planning competition is over, she hugs her and lists all of the things she wants to do with her, and how everything will be okay because those things are on the horizon.

While these are all nice things to aspire to, they also can’t help but smack of desperation, as if not saying them straight-out might mean they won’t happen. But more than that, Yui seems to be getting a bit ahead of herself. I’ll always hope the three can remain close in some capacity down the road, but the fact is we and they just don’t know that yet. Even so, neither Hikki nor Yukino were ready, willing, or even tactless enough to talk Yui down.

Oregairu 3 – 06 – If There Is a Choice, Something Must Be Chosen

This week is an episode full of conscious and unconscious choices, in which one of two things must be chosen—and the other rejected. The first is when Hikki buys drinks and Iroha must choose between his favorite coffee and red bean soup. Last week Iroha had gone over in her head what she wanted Hikki to take “responsibility” for her the same way he was with Yukino.

Here he does so, but only so far as apologizing for getting her caught up in everything. That said, Iroha doesn’t consider her prom duties a burden; she wants to send Hikki, Yukino, Yui and all her other senpai off properly and not have any regrets. Of course, if she doesn’t want to regret not letting Hikki know her true feelings about him—despite the possibility of rejection—she’ll have to act soon.

Komachi gives Hikki the next choice, between two seemingly identical bowls of stew/hotpot. After dinner he asks her about all the various events her school is doing to celebrate her graduation from middle school. Her mention of a friends-only class trip activates his Big Bro alarm, but like many things it’s all a part of his sister growing up

When he reveals his school is having a prom, Komachi is super-excited for him, even flashing her fang. Telling his sister that a prom is definitely happening basically seals Hikki’s fate, and he knows it: even if he has no idea if a prom will actually happen or what his plan for countering Yukino will be, the goal is in place, and he’s staking everything on that result.

Remember Yuigahama Yui? Coral hair, burnt-orange eyes, could pass as one of the Quintessential Quintuplets…and former member of the Hikki-Yukino-Yui love triangle? Well she makes a triumphant return here after not appearing last week, while Yukino is the one to sit this one out. Things start out pretty awkward, but improve when Hikki immediately asks if she’s okay over yesterday.

She lies that it is, and since he only saw a small fraction of the tears she shed, he lets it be. He then brings her up to speed. Yui assumes that he’ll be working with Yukino a lot more from this point on, meaning they’ll be seeing less of each other, so she’s shocked that things took a completely different direction, and his plan is to compete with Yukino.

Hikki doesn’t ask, but Yui declares she’d like to help him out. With no other staff or budget he can hardly refuse, so off they go to a family restaurant. There, Yui serving Hikki salad and watching him turn up his nose at a tomato like an 8-year-old, she can’t help but rest her head in her hands and gaze in pure joy.

Before eating, Hikki explains the general concept of their alternate prom plan: they’ll be proposing a prom that is even more objectionable than Yukino and Iroha’s, but still legitimate and serious enough that the PTA is forced to make a choice. He cleverly likens it to choosing between regular ice cream and “light” ice cream with half-calories.

Straddling the line between serious and undesirable will be tough, especially with no money, time, or manpower. On the last front, Hikki and Yui reach out to their friends, and while neither Saki nor Saika can help out (Saki is on team Yukino, but Hikki has her bashful blessing, while Saika is busy with tennis), they do manage to score Zaimokuza, who is his usual delightfully chuunibyou-inflicted self.

Before Hikki makes his proposal, Saika asks him what he wants, so they’re all on the same page. Saika seems heartened to see that Hikki knows exactly what he wants to get out of this: making Yukino’s prom a reality by creating a less acceptable one to give hers cover. Hikki says this while Yui holds his hand for support.

From there, Hikki and Yui head to an internet cafe, but due to the time of day, their selection of a “pairs” office suite, and the prom-themed movie Yui watches, it has the distinct aura of an illicit trip to a love hotel. As when she smiled at Hikki being picky at the restaurant, Yui savors every moment she has with Hikki here, and doesn’t their time there to end.

Because they have privacy, she even decides to be a little more assertive and pretend to fall asleep on Hikki’s shoulder. Whether he knows she’s faking or not, he covers her with a scarf and keeps his shoulder still so as not to wake her. In her head, as the tears well up again, she prays/begs anyone who will listen: give her just a little more time like this.

In a heartbreaking, poetic closing inner monologue, she promises she won’t hope for anything to happen, and that one day she’ll be able to stop the tears and along with Yukino help “bring this relationship to its proper end”, whether it ends for good or changes into something else. But mostly, for now, she just doesn’t want what she has right here and now to end.

Hikki may feel like he’s in a good place and has a way forward, and Yukino may feel the same, but lost in the middle is poor Yui, who is having the hardest time reckoning with impending change.

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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