The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Final Reflection

This is the greatest anti-socialising of all time.

A year ago, I mentioned that Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabu Kome wa Machigatteiru (“My youth romantic comedy is wrong as I expected”, referred to as OreGairu for brevity from here on out) was on the list of things I would watch for Spring 2013, although for one reason or another, I kept putting it off until it was nearly a year later. The focus is on one Hikigaya Hachiman, a high school student with a distorted view on life and no friends or girlfriend. Out of concern for his well being, his instructor, Shizuka Hiratsuka, gets Hikigaya to join the Volunteer club, which happens to have the school’s prettiest girl, Yukino Yukinoshita. So begins a rather unusual, but excellent series about high school life from an unusual perspective. When the series concluded, I saw a series that was able to portray the kind of interactions and sociology surrounding high school students, as well as Hachiman’s dogged persistence in following his own beliefs, even if it came at a severe cost to himself. While it may be an anime, various aspects from adolescent sociology make it into OreGairu, whether it be status-building or conformity: Hachiman views these as farces, believing that youth is an illusion people create to give their lives more meaning even where there is none. Throughout the series, as Hikigaya is assigned to help various people, even though he maintains his original beliefs, he becomes closer to Yukino and Yui Yuigahama, and despite his beliefs about change, gradually changes himself and gaining a better understanding of cooperation and friendship.

  • The three members of the volunteer club are, from left to right, Yui Yuigahama, Yukino Yukinoshita and Hikigaya Hachiman. Initially, Shizuka forces Hikigaya to join the Volunteers club in an effort to open his eyes and make him less cynical, following a poor paper that he submits. It’s now been a very long time (I’m not saying when, since that leaves me open to extortion) since I was a high school student. During those days, despite being known around the school for being among the top five students and participating in a number of extra-curricular events (most notably, the yearbook club), I didn’t socialise that much and preferred the company of a small group of friends.

  • Here are the members of the more popular clique at the school: from left to right, either Yamato or Ouoka (I can’t quite recall who’s who), Hayato Hayama, Yumiko Miura and Hina Ebina. While Yumiko is presented as a little arrogant, Hayato is the opposite, and in fact, bears resemblance to one of my friends in that they are easy-going and friendly, being quite willing to help people where the need arises. The page quote is inspired by Cr1t1kal’s YouTube videos’ video descriptions, which usually take the format “This is the Greatest [something] of all time”.

  • Komachi is Hikigaya’s younger sister who cares deeply for him despite his personality. She is his polar opposite and enjoys trying to get either Yui or Yukino together with him, cleverly asking Hikigaya to help her with shopping. After inviting either Yui or Yukino, she then makes an exit, saying something has come up, leaving Hikigaya alone. Carefully note that most of the characters have alliterative names where characters from their given name are a subset of the characters for their family names (e.g.{Yui}  {Yuigahama}, {Yukino}  {Yukinoshita} and {Saki}  {Kawasaki}, to name a few, and for tropers reading this, too bad if you can’t understand set notation).

  • Early on in the series, Yui’s interactions with Hikigaya subtly hint at her interest in him. Quite personally, I think Yui is a better match for Hikigaya, and although romance takes a backseat in this series, it does serve as a driving point that eventually leads Hikigaya to understand what kindness is.

  • Saika represents the traditional “guy who looks like a girl” and approaches the Volunteer club early on for help with tennis. Whenever he smiles, sparkles permeate the air, and Hikigaya is filled with an unusual feeling that is humourously passed off as love.

  • Hikigaya chuckles at Hayato’s fate after his attempts to talk to Saki fail. Earlier, Shizuka gets shot down when she attempts to talk to Saki about the latter’s night activities, but is promptly countered and defeated when Saki mentions that Shizuka is single. Relationships are covered as a secondary element in good enough detail such that OreGairu could justify having “romance comedy” in its title, and Hikigaya wonders if girls who are nice to everyone are more than is initially apparent.

  • The Volunteer Club ‘s ventures include helping out Taishi Kawasaki, Saki’s younger brother, who raises concern after the latter begins showing up later. After figuring out where Saki is going (and donning more formal attire), the club figures out that she’s working the night shifts at a bar to help finance her university tuition without straining her parents. Thanks to Hikigaya’s suggestion, Saki later decides to apply for scholarships instead.

  • Haruno is Yukino’s older sister and surpasses Yukino in all fields, while having a more sociable personality. She constantly tries to set him up with Yukino, much to Yui’s chagrin. With respect to the point raised earlier, I would tend to agree with Hikigaya’s thoughts about relationships, given that various circumstances (read “someone else gets there first”) have imparted a rather bitter understanding of how they work for me. With that said, kindness is not an option, and I disagree with Hikigaya’s beliefs about effort and benevolence.

  • If I were to post this somewhere where anime was relatively unknown, I imagine that most people would imagine these two to be a couple, and indeed, on a shopping trip to get Yui a birthday gift, Yui does encounter the two and assume that they’re dating. It takes a bit of maneuvering after to convince her that this is not the case.

  • During the summer, the volunteer club is assigned to supervise a camp for elementary aged children. The dynamics seen here are surprisingly similar to the sort of bullying students in elementary school may encounter, and back in my day, such behaviour usually was not punished. As a teaching assistant for kindergarten students, I step in to resolve things quickly enough and encourage peaceful, effective solutions. As an elementary school students years and years ago, the bullies eventually subsided after I began helping people understand schoolwork, and eventually became friends with more people after that.

Despite bearing “romantic comedy” in its title, OreGairu is driven by sociological themes pertaining to high school life. Through his interactions with Yukino and Yui in the Volunteer club, Hikigaya is drawn into socialising far more than he is wont as he helps the Volunteer club solve problems experienced by their classmates. One of their earliest assignments is to help Saika Totsuka with tennis; after this passes, Saika and Hikigaya speak with one another more frequently, hanging out with Hikigaya on occasions. Another noteworthy assignment is when Hayato Hayama requests the Volunteer club get to the bottom of a chain letter scandalising his friends. Hikigaya realises that Hayato’s friends do not get along particularly well in his absence, and so, decides that his friends must learn to become friends with one another as well, achieving this by setting them in the same group on a careers field trip without Hayato. Hikigaya’s methods, though unorthodox, are remarkably effective: he claims that he is a master of non-verbal communication and is quick to figure out effective solutions for social problems the various individuals in the series encounters. Hikigaya succeeds because his solutions depend on his cynical views of society, counting on obscurity to dampen the effects of his actions. During the Cultural Festival, Hikigaya selects an array of hurtful words to motivate Minami Sagami into doing her role, drawing fire away from her to ensure the Cultural Festival ends on a positive note even if he must become the most hated person on campus. I’ve seen comparisons drawn between this and the Batman’s choice to take the blame for Harvey Dent’s murders in The Dark Knight to ensure that the mob is beaten. This comparison stands to some extent because in both cases, the protagonist takes the fall for someone else so that something bigger than themselves can continue forward. However, whereas Bruce Wayne does what he does out of his unwavering belief that he can save Gotham, Hikigaya initially acts to spare people of the suffering he experienced back in middle school. Hikigaya believes that to change is to give in, but time with Yui and Yukino gradually opens his heart up. Bruce Wayne’s determination to do good and resolute belief that Rachel was going to wait for him, on the other hand, means he is unable to move on following Rachel’s death in The Dark Knight, until The Dark Knight Rises sets him a new series of trials that allow Bruce Wayne to move beyond the cowl. This occurs over a much longer period than OreGairu, where Hikigaya slowly realises that there are people who stand in his corner, and by the end of the series, Hikigaya decides that youth is something that can be enjoyed, after all.

  • As I’ve seen during my time as a teaching assistant, trying to mediate disputes between children can be challenging because, aside from the scope of conflicts, the nature and motivations are essentially the same as conflicts that adults experience. People tend to dismiss conflicts amongst children because it appears that the only thing at stake are friendships, whereas with adults, projects, collaborations and other elements might be at stake. Nonetheless, when we strip away the additional elements, and factor in the idea that children are impressionable, it is important to teach children good conflict resolution skills so they are familiar with it for the future.

  • This scene proves that Yui is hotter than Yukino, although as I have noted and will note again later, the reason that I prefer Yui with Hikigaya is for her personality, rather than assets; then again, practically everyone has Yukino beat in that department anyways.

  • Thanks to some clever maneuvering from Komachi, Yui and Hikigaya wind up going to a summer festival on a date together of sorts. After watching fireworks together, Yui tries to confess her feelings to Hikigaya again, but is interrupted by a phone call. Hikigaya is astute enough to pick this up, although he feels that he isn’t worthy of dating someone and notes that rejection is a part of most relationships anyways. In the recently announced second season, it is quite possible that the focus will be on romance rather than social issues.

  • The last major arc in Oregairu is the cultural festival: Hikigaya is drafted onto the committee and, through his methods, unites the committee against him after suggesting that the motto should be “hito” (人), since one stroke is leaning off the other, rather like how some members of the committee are not pulling their weight and letting others take on the extra work. This clever observation is appreciated doubly so when one has extensive background in Chinese or Japanese: the Hanzi 人 was actually derived off the human posture for walking.

  • Hikigaya invokes the entire school’s wrath (and even tests Hayato’s patience) after he uses choice words to force Minami to accept her duty as the committee leader and speak at the closing ceremonies, claiming that she took up the position to further her own social status and attain self-actualisation in the hopes of doing something meaningful with her hitherto meaningless high school career. Whether or not Hikigaya believes this is irrelevant, but the fact is that it produced results, meaning that the time the others bought was not in vain, and the Culture Festival can end properly.

  • Ever since K-On!, a lot of anime with high school students have had a light music band of some kind and put on performances worthy of being performed at full-on concerts. Yui and Yukino have excellent singing voices, while Shizuka and Haruno retain their skills from long ago.

  • Despite pummeling Hikigaya with her fists every now and then for bringing up sensitive topics, Shizuka cares deeply for him and tells Hachiman that helping others should not be a reason for Hachiman to hurt himself, as there are others who would feel pain seeing Hachiman hurt. Shizuka reminds me somewhat of my old high school instructors (especially my old art instructor), who taught classes with enthusiasm and made the subjects fun: despite only taking art for a semester, my art instructor also happened to be my yearbook advisor. When the year picked up in March, other yearbook members started disappearing, but I alone of the entire team stuck around and got things done, prompting a similar scene after we got the yearbooks rolled out.

  • I am similar to Hikigaya in that I don’t like celebrating extravagantly after something major is over, instead, preferring to hang out with the people that matter most to me. At the series’ end, Hikigaya notes that after everything that has happened, he will regret that these times will have to end at some point in the future, illustrating how he’s changed since the series began. Even if he does not show it visibly, Hikigaya is not as cynical or apathetic, participating in things to ensure they get done. Yukino realises that she doesn’t know much about him, and expresses the desire to get to know him better even if the two don’t consider one another as friends.

  • Strictly speaking, I consider the episode after as an OVA rather than the proper ending because the mood feels a little different: it seems that everyone has forgotten Hikigaya’s antics during the culture festival, and most people are on reasonable terms with him again. Here, Shizuka agrees with Hikigaya’s statement that despite higher-ups working their staff harder, the benefits (and wages) never increase correspondingly after Hikigaya suggests outsourcing the theme of the special activity they are to plan out. About a year ago, when OreGairu was airing, one member of AnimeSuki used Shizuka’s image in an avatar and adopted the title “熱血青春先生” (nekketsu seishun sensei, or “hot-blooded youthful teacher”); Shizuka is indeed thus, and this is, curiously enough, what caught my eye and got me into watching OreGairu.

  • Yukino and Yui wonder about the ludicrious nature of their costume pieces for the special event during the sports festival: the idea for a historical battle came about from Hina and Yoshiteru’s machinations, while the costumes themselves were designed by Saki. By all definitions, they look quite nice and are appropriate, even if they are out of place in a Japanese historical battle. Thanks to the Volunteer club’s efforts, the sports festival is successful (even if Hikigaya’s tricks end up disqualifying his team), and the episode demonstrates how far things have come for everyone since their first meeting, with Hikigaya resolving to make the most of his time as a high school student.

The “romantic comedy” elements come in subtly throughout the series: based on the setup, either Yui or Yukino will become closer to Hikigaya. On one end of the spectrum, Yui is very energetic and optimistic, offsetting the gloomy air that surrounds Hikigaya, while on the other end, Yukino, who shares Hikigaya’s world views but exercises more finesse when dealing with people. While Yui is likely to try and cheer up Hikigawa or storm off when he says the wrong thing, Yukino prefers dueling him with words. After Yui tries to make her feelings known to Hikigaya early on, the latter replies that it is likely that the former likes him out of a misplaced sense of gratitude (i.e. for saving her dog). This sense of bitterness stems from his past failures, and rather than experience false hope, he prefers to ignore all signs of romance, leading him to turn down Yui. Similarly, when Yukino and Hikigaya are left on their own to find Yui a birthday gift after Komachi (who’d set this up) leaves, Yukino’s older sister wonders if the two are dating. Both girls have interesting interactions with Hikigaya; it is no understatement to say that both of them uniquely contribute to Hikigaya’s growth throughout the series, helping him re-learn what benevolence is by experiencing the tougher times with him and coming out a little stronger. For better or worse, Hikigaya’s experiences with the Volunteer club do wind up changing him, and as it stands, OreGairu winds up being a highly entertaining series. This anime can fire up the viewer’s thought centers while watching Hikigaya’s rationale for his actions while simutaneously leading to damn good comedy elsewhere. The high school setting may be done to death, although OreGairu manages to keep things refreshing through taking a bold step by using novel characters. I believe there is a second season that is set to come out somewhere in the future. Now, first seasons of shows like these (think OreImo and Haganai) have always been brilliant works that hit all of the right points, while subsequent seasons have always delved deeper into the romantic elements: if this trend follows, while I’m not too sure how OreGairu will turn out, I will watch it with an open mind and brace myself for romance. Naturally, I’ll be rooting for Yui, since she seems to balance out Hikigaya and is a better fit for him as far as personalities go, pulling him from cynicism with her own cheerfulness.

2 responses to “Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Final Reflection

  1. Sandhya July 17, 2014 at 09:06

    Yeah i totally agree you. I’m also rooting for yui and hachima. And i wish yukino n hayato end up together as they were childhood friends too. I hope yukino will open her mind/heart too

    Like

    • infinitezenith January 3, 2016 at 14:08

      As of season two, the process has begun, but as is expected, it’s not quite as smooth as everyone would like. I’m still curious to know what the eventual outcome is, and it appears that this will be something left for a third season…

      Like

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