Episode 9:「そして、雪ノ下雪乃は」 (Soshite, Yukinoshita Yukino wa.)
“And, Yukinoshita Yukino Is…”
We’ve gotten the concerned and angry emails and we’re sorry. Well, I’m sorry. Say hello to a recent graduate (proof here) who is all sorts of done busy, wrapped in a combination of facing reality, being burned out, and looking for a job. Unfortunately no writers were both available and caught up to sub in for me, so please excuse this wait once more.
Where do we currently stand now? Better than the past few episodes, that’s for sure. After Hachiman hit a complete rock bottom in episode 7, going through a rebirth and showing his vulnerabilities in episode 8, we’re finally seeing some progress in episode 9, at least when it comes to our trio. Everything is still pretty tense and far from resolved, but at least our characters are finally learning to lower their defenses and show their weaker sides to one another. All of this came at a costly price though, beginning in a downward collapse starting at episode 3. After so many episodes of an uneasy stalemate, it’s so…fulfilling to see how much Hachiman has developed due to this collapse in his philosophy.
It’s really hard to condense into even a thousand words how I feel about Oregairu, because oftentimes I find myself unable to capture all the subtleties an episode had to offer, nor a potential commentary on the solutions that the characters attempted to construct. It’s actually…quite a struggle (and part of the reason why I’m so bad at posting on time). Of all my years watching anime, this is perhaps the most complex, deepest, and overall most realistic portrayal of human relationships that I’ve had the pleasure of watching; it makes for an amazing challenge in writing about, because even these characters continue to baffle me, yet come off as characters I could easily see in real life.
To illustrate, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso was very natural for me to cover. Although a great show as well, it was fairly easy to follow the character’s intentions and their reasons for doing so, even if the network was fairly complex. I understood how things worked there and as a result, I could push out gushes of my own thoughts because of the confidence I had in what I believed. On the other hand, Yahari makes me doubt every single word I write, mostly because I’m still trying to debate in my head so many factors, much like Hachiman would. Was that subtle sign something important, or a red herring meant for us to over analyze? What would be the best course of action for them going forward realistically? Have their feelings actually changed, or have these past few episodes been an exercise in futility? In fact, when I switched over to Ore Monogatari! to take a writing break, the dramatic shift in being able to ‘read’ the characters and their intentions was so clear, one has to wonder just how much of a genius the author is when it comes to creating characters with a serious amount of depth.
Just like reality, trying to actually figure out people is tough business, much less trying to figure out what to do after you figure them out. For Hachiman, his goal of trying to preserve the friendships he’s made isn’t as simple as just using his past experiences. We’ve seen that message hammered in these past few episodes, with episode 8 being the culmination of his deconstruction. No longer can he just rely on his sister’s optimism to lead the way. No longer can he just be a pariah and shoulder all the work. In fact, it may be that we can no longer call our Hachiman our Batman of anime. These sorts of attitudes have clearly failed in several ways, resulting in the low point that episode 8 starts off on. For awhile, it seemed utterly hopeless that Hachiman, and even the audience, would be able to navigate through these stale waters that slowly rot away at their friendship, but somehow, Hachiman did it. It wasn’t the perfect solution and it came dangerously close to failing–Yukinon was still very sensitive and defensive at this point–but it seems Hachiman found it, somehow, a small hope that things could get better.
Even though there are still several questions and problems that linger, especially considering Yukino’s bed of problems, Hachiman, in my opinion, did the absolute best thing he could by admitting emotional defeat. Instead of taking the high ground of trying to find a solution by himself, his tears and his speech lowered his pride, showing the one glint of truth in a sea of these protective lies and fake smiles–he wants to understand. He wants Yukino and Yui to try and understand. Everyone wants to understand. Thus, this is what saves their relationship, where the admittance of defeat in so many areas allows them to say, “We don’t have so many answers, but the one thing that’s certain is that we want to stay together and try.” For Hachiman, Yui, and Yukino, it’ll be a sensitive trip moving forward, but now that each of them admit they don’t have a clue what they’re doing, they can instead focus on the mutual desire to see things through to carry them through all the problems these misunderstandings (or lack of understanding) create.
After having watched that particular emotional scene twice, it really is hitting quite close to home with the themes it expands on. Human connection, a genuine one, is fairly hard to find. For Hachiman, Yui, and Yukinon, their struggle is very much representative of the hardships of navigating tough waters, where there simply may not be an easy solution at hand. However, in times like this, assuming good faith and lowering one’s defenses can do wonders, even if everything else is an indecipherable mess. Considering how the three of them are from vastly different walks of life, it is a miracle they’ve made it this far. I really look forward to covering the rest of this series (hopefully on time from now on), because it’s always such a challenge, a rewarding challenge, to write about and deconstruct. With Iroha’s rejection ending episode 9, there’s still a lot to see, but already, if the series had just ended on episode 8, it would’ve made for one of the best sequels ever, as well as one of the best series airing this season. It’s a shame I haven’t been more available to cover this more regularly, but I hope we can see the finale to the end!