“Faith is a state of openness or trust.” —Alan Watts
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Zoku, or OreGairu Zoku for brevity, has finally come to a close. Since the second episode, Hikigaya has assisted Isshiki Iroha with various duties associated with being the head of the student council, including a Christmas event, and in the process, learns of his own desires to share a straightforward, more honest relationship with Yui and Yukino. His character undergoes a more noticeable shift relative to the first season, and by the series’ end, it appears that Hikigaya’s outlook has shifted dramatically from what it was when the first season first started: he truly wishes to be friends with Yui and Yukino, but also realises that what they had done thus far might not be genuine. Whereas the Hikigaya of season one was perfectly okay with operating alone, there is no denying that the Service Club has grown quite close through their shared experiences, whether it be pulling through and helping Isshiki with a Christmas event, accompanying both Yui and Yukino to an amusement park, and coordinating a Valentines’ Day event to help Hayato’s friends out without forcing Hayato into an uncomfortable position.
While social factors, such as belonging, self-image and denial, do make an appearance in OreGairu Zoku, this anime is not a commentary about the present state of interpersonal dynamics amongst high school-aged students in general. The changes in Hikigaya’s beliefs and character illustrate the underlying strengths that can form amongst a group of individuals who have worked together, sharing experiences that allow them to learn far more about one another than might be otherwise possible through standard interactions. This forms the core message in OreGairu: after Hikigaya directs his attention towards helping Isshiki, a conversation with Shizuka helps him realise that distancing himself from Yui and Yukino will achieve the opposite of what he had intended. Far from helping them, he’s hurt them instead, and this leads him to understand that, despite Yukino’s outward appearances, she and Yui care for him as a friend. Similarly, Haruno’s dialogue implies that Yukino lacks a strong sense of self, despite her outward appearances, leading Hikigaya to wonder whether or not their interactions thus far have been a sham. While his reasoning might lead to this conclusion, I note that Hikigaya’s time spent with both Yui and Yukino (such as their visit of an amusement park and making Valentines’ Day chocolate together) provides subtle hints about Yui and Yukino’s true selves. It is this glimpse that leads Hikigaya towards wanting more honesty and openness from both Yui and Yukino.
- A year and then some might have passed, along with an entirely new season, but I’m still of the mind that Yui and Hikigaya are the most suited for one another; while Yukino gradually opens up to Hikigaya more (with Haruno’s meddling), if what Yui mentions is true, then the true self that she’s concealing might be better counteracted by Hikigaya’s kindness. I think this and Hibike! Euphonium mean that I’ve watched two anime based off a light novel this season.
- I’ll cut straight to the point and outright say that I absolutely hate marketing and management jargon: these words do little more than signify pretension and hold very little intrinsic meaning. Apparently, corporate jargon originates from the 1960s-1970s, when major corporations were trying to find a means of making employees feel closer to their work. What it actually does is obfuscate any real work, as Hikigaya finds out when meeting with the Kaihin students when he’s tasked with helping plan a Christmas event.
- I’ll probably either be a sought-after person or utterly despised for my capacity to get straight to the point and convey what’s important without wasting time on jargon. What matters to me is getting the job done, rather than trying to look/sound smart. Rumi makes a return, and as with the previous season, Hikigaya gets along with her just fine.
- One of the more touching moments in OreGairu Zoku was Hikigaya remarking to himself that he might’ve fallen madly in love with Shizuka had he been ten years older. One sympathises.
- Compared to Brain Base’s Komachi, I think I find the aesthetic of Feels’ Komachi to be more refined. Komachi plays a slightly larger role this season, giving Hikigaya advice and help whenever he seems down. In return, he often helps her pick up household items, as well, and makes an effort to fulfill some of the items on the wishlists she gives him during the holidays.
- After his conversation with Shizuka, Hikigaya gives into his emotions and asks for help from the service club. When they see that Hikigaya is being honest about how he feels, they decide to help him and gain a firsthand experience of Kaihin’s incompetence. Shizuka suggests that they take a step back, and with Hayato’s friends, Hikigaya, Yui, Yukino and Isshiki visit the regional amusement park to gain some ideas of what their own Christmas event might encompass.
- This image was not modified, and unfortunately reflects on how Hikigaya is still somewhat of an outcast despite having made so much progress since season one. In spite of this, the day at the amusement park proves to be fruitful for both Christmas event planning and also helps Hikigaya learn a little more about Yukino: Shizuka is of the mind that of everyone, he’s the one most suited for helping her open up.
- Yui is more down-to-earth compared to the likes of Yukino and Hikigaya, and consequently, has quite an impact on both Yukino and Hikigaya. I’ve noticed that numerous discussions out there that OreGairu is supposed to be a social commentary, but the second season seems to emphasis Hikigaya’s personal growth more strongly. This invariably happens with light novels: because they’re organically written, they might feel less cohesive and focused compared to traditional novels.
- Watching Yui’s dynamics with Hikigaya suggest that her feelings for him have endured after all this time. Watching subtle hints of a dawning relationship in OreGairu was always a little painful for me, not because they were poorly done, but because the pacing is quite convincing. One can empathise with how Yui feels, and perhaps in part out of frustration at the series’ end, she outright states that her facade conceals a fervent desire to achieve her aims through any means necessary.
- At the same time, Yui’s friendship with Yukino might act as something of an impediment, and consequently, Yui finds herself conflicted, knowing that outright asking out Hikigaya would probably devastate the Service Club’s status quo. Naturally, such actions may also indicate that Yui is aware (at least to a limited extent) of Yukino’s feelings, as well, and all of this was accomplished without any explicit dialogue.
- Yukino’s background is only explored in brief through dialogue between herself and Haruno, or in some cases, with Hikigaya. Despite her demeanor and mannerisms, Yukino is said to lack a definitive personality, instead, striving towards an unrealistic ideal to impress her family and all the while resenting her position. Shizuka was astute enough to surmise that out of everyone, Hikigaya would be able to help her open up and find her true self, and by the time the season concludes, it appears they are taking a step down that path.
- Isshiki is turned down after asking Hayato out. Hayato holds (presently) unrequited feelings for Yukino and also holds a small grudge concerning people’s expectations for him, even amongst his friends. Despite outwardly excelling at academics and athletics, he’s unwilling to disrupt the status quo for fear of causing heartbreak somewhere.
- Thanks to Hikigaya, Isshiki buckles down and the Christmas event proceeds without a hitch. Throughout OreGairu Zoku, the pasts of the various characters are only hinted at. There’s no complete picture, but contrasting Hibike! Euphonium, where the main theme was music, in OreGairu, the focus is on people. To really help the audience understand each character’s motivation (especially in Yukino and Hayato’s cases), it becomes necessary to delve into their pasts.
- Failing this, Yukino and Hayato merely appear to be paperweights throughout this season. Speaking freely, this second season lacks the same spirited as the first: as matters of acceptance and honesty come into play, OreGairu Zoku only presents a partial picture of the emotional burdens that they carry.
- I would suppose that this is something that would necessitate a third season to explore, and consequently, how OreGairu Zoku ends is in fact quite similar to the ending of Halo 2‘s ending in impact: the audience is now left waiting for a resolution that may or may not occur.
- Saki and Yumiko spar here over Valentine’s Day chocolates; the latter hasn’t had much of a presence throughout this season. After Yumiko comes to the Service Club to figure out how to best give chocolates to Hayato, Hikigaya decides that a joint cooking event might be able to keep everyone happy without violating Hayato’s wish of not accepting any chocolates from anyone.
- The Valentine’s Day event provides further hints about how Yukino and Yui really feel about Hikigaya. The events do signify Hikigaya’s growth as a person, as Shizuka remarks, but the episode’s ending has Haruno throw a wrench into things, claiming that the entire event was a sham, and that Yukino is completely lacking in personality.
- While I typically disagree with or find inadequate explanations elsewhere about anime, I did find a particularly good account of Haruno’s character out there. Said discussion surmises that Haruno’s intervention may very well prove to be the most substantial impediment that Yukino faces. Their justification, that Haruno’s role as a puppeteer of sorts, and the fact that she’s still an unknown as far as characterisation and motivation goes, provides a compelling argument for how Yukino and Hikigaya will ultimately need to find the strength to find themselves in spite of her words in the upcoming story.
- The final episode of OreGairu Zoku does not feel like a finale at all, concluding on a somewhat anti-climatic note as Yukino, Yui and Hikigaya visit the aquarium and share a heart-to-heart talk, with Yukino finally appearing to open up to Hikigaya and Yui.
- This post was surprisingly difficult to write, and with due respect, I’m glad to be finished. The verdict on OreGairu Zoku is that, while it’s a reasonably entertaining ride, isn’t as polished as the first season. It merits watching, but the ending may come off as abrupt. With the last of the Spring 2015 anime done, I turn my attention to the summer 2015 anime: I’ll be following Non Non Biyori Repeat and Sore ga Seiyuu on a weekly basis. The former will be given a first episode impressions post, and both will be given an ‘after-three’ post this month. Outside of anime, I’ll be putting out a talk on Wolfenstein: The Old Blood at some point before episode three of Non Non Biyori comes out.
OreGairu Zoku ends on a rather sudden note: after thirteen episodes, the season closes off. While cliffhangers are usually detrimental as a story-telling device, from what I’ve heard, OreGairu has caught up with the source material. Given that this is still going, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that a a continuation is in the works. OreGairu Zoku concluded with Yukino opening up to Hikigaya and Yui, and traces of Yukino’s personality (or lack thereof) began making an appearance. Thus, it is logical that a third season would deal with Yukino learning to stand for herself. This is the reason why I have opted not to discuss Yukino in further detail: to do so would be to make inferences purely based on speculation, and in the end, it is what OreGairu‘s author, Wataru Watari, considers as important that makes the difference (as opposed to fan opinion). Thus, rather than assume Yukino’s backgrounds and motives, it would make more sense to allow a third season to yield a more complete picture.