「未だ、彼の求める答えには手が届かず、本物はまちがい続ける。」 (Imada, Kare no Motomeru Kotae ni wa te ga Todoka zu, Honmono wa Machigaitsuzukeru.)
“Still, The Thing He Seeks Is Out of Reach, And He Continues to Mistake What’s Real.”
Of all the characters that hold the most influence, Haruno ranks high on the list. While this episode showed Yukino’s mother holding a terribly strong influence on Yukino, Haruno has been most active in manipulating both Yukino and Hachiman on a consistent and strong basis. Her ultimate goals and motivations are remains secret, but at face value, she’s a fairly hard pill of a character to swallow.
It seems most appropriate to talk about Haruno now, considering how over two seasons, she has influenced many people without much change on her own side. As Hachiman and Yukino both pull and push away from her influence and transform in the process, Haruno continues to be the character that can see through the smoke and mirrors effortlessly while simultaneously hiding behind her own illusions, obfuscating her own insight and feelings. She’s much like a riddling trickster, who knows exactly what buttons to push to get an interesting response, all while frustrating everyone else. Take for instance episode 12’s casual discussion on Yukino and Hayama’s past chocolate give-and-receive: she knew exactly what was going on and in response, decided to ruffle things up for a little chaos. Only a small drop of information is required to make big ripples in a very precarious romantic standoff.
From a storytelling standpoint, Haruno’s role in Yahari is critical. For Yahari to avoid falling into that stereotypical pit where everyone is happy but competing under the smiles, Haruno is the bitter catalyst that’ll break apart that fragile false peace. This web cannot last forever–the longer it simmers in the background, the worse the emotional fallout will be when it all blows up. However, what motivates Haruno to act in this manner is still largely a mystery. It’s been noted that she’s most meddlesome with people she likes, so it’s unlikely that she’s trying to purposefully sabotage the relationships she sees. However, her own guiding philosophy does come into direct conflict with Hachiman’s, whose desire for compromise comes at odds with Haruno’s strict disdain for the false and shallow. The show thus far has cumulatively resulted in a battle of relationship morality, where although Hachiman and Haruno both seek the genuine article, both doubt its existence and question the way to reach said genuine moments.
In my opinion, I believe that although Haruno is definitely moving the story forward, I do question whether it is optimal for her to meddle actively in calling out bullshit. Considering how our trio + Iroha managed to get past their lowest point relationship-wise a mere two months ago and are just now recovering, it seems almost cruel that Haruno would throw another wrench into a still fragile web. True, that there is a huge white elephant in the room where everyone is playing nice to one another, but at the same time those surface feelings of enjoying high school life and one another aren’t so bad in themselves. In fact, Hiratsuka-sensei would be butting heads with Haruno right now. Whereas Hiratsuka-sensei points out that there is value in the relationships Hachiman and friends have formed up until now, Haruno finds little value in these relationships, instead guiding Hachiman and Yukino to face their problems head-on and deal with their problems now. However, it seems…disagreeable that Haruno should rush things so quickly. Though her stance is definitely economical and utilitarian, this black-and-white philosophy on the validity of relationships is troubling. I am personally proud of what Hachiman, Yui, Yukino, and Iroha have managed to form, considering the odds against them. Their conflicting personalities and unlikely backgrounds make for terrible theoretical matchups, but they somehow made it work. Attempting to destroy that in the name of finding something genuine is counterproductive and unnatural.
Thus, to conclude, I thoroughly believe Haruno to be an antagonist of the series, though most definitely not the only one, or even the ‘main’ one for that matter. I believe in Hachiman and friends to come to a solution, even in the face of Haruno’s meddling, though at this point it’s not going to be pretty. Hachiman’s journey thus far has been dealing with the conflicting beliefs and occasionally misguided courses of action proposed by others. Seeing how he’ll synthesize these ideas into something of his own, to meet his own goals, will be the final treat of the series. Yukino continues to be chained by her family, a powerful one at best. With Haruno constantly meddling and the matriarch of the Yukinoshita’s applying uneasy pressure, the new question is how Hachiman will solve this massive problem, all while managing the other problems stewing on the side.
It’s really a shame that the second season is coming to a close, but it has been a satisfying show thus far. Here’s to hoping I can post on time for the finale!