OP2: 「春が来てぼくら」 (Haru ga Kite Bokura) by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN
“Chapter 68 Black Mist / Chapter 69 Light”
A Teacher’s Perspective
On the one hand, it’s difficult to feel sympathy for Hina’s teacher. We saw firsthand exactly how she let evil escape unpunished, and the despair that Hina and Chiho subsequently experienced for it. However, Umino Chica attempts to convey an alternative predicament, even if it doesn’t justify every consequence resulting from inaction. A teacher can have all the passion for passing down knowledge to the next generation. But if they lack the charisma to rule over a classroom of kids, then their suitability to the position can be called into question. Hina’s teacher demonstrated a considerable weakness of will, and commits a cardinal sin of the teaching profession – losing faith in her students and ignoring repeated cries for help.
This enables bullying to spiral out of control, bringing untold misery upon countless innocents. Hina’s teacher ultimately pays the price though, when the matter escalates into a nervous breakdown, marking the end of her career. The signs were always there, indicating that Hina’s teacher suffered from severe anxiety, and lived dangerously close to a breaking point. But when when Hina finally takes an affirmative stand against Takagi’s bullying, the process is further accelerated. Confrontation comes swiftly and the teacher’s composure irrevocably frays – her guilt for ignored victims and resentment towards unaccounted perpetrators rise to the forefront. Following a frenetic display of unconstrained emotions, she collapses on the spot in front of her class, and is never to be seen again.
Perhaps this capitulation didn’t come soon enough to save Chiho, but I have no qualms recognising that the teacher herself was also a victim within this flawed system. Even if she is not fit to be a teacher, there exists a general stigma against mental health issues, which probably prevented her for getting the help and emotional support she needed anytime sooner.
Takagi is a difficult name for me. I simultaneously hold affection and hatred for it, with the one from 3-gatsu drawing my ire for her smug attitude and lack of remorse. But as the proverb goes – bad apples don’t fall far from the tree. Once we get a glimpse of Takagi’s mother, everything clicks together and you can guess where the bully got her nasty streak from. The disrespectful and condescending way Takagi’s mother treated Akari made me furious. Unreasonable demands for ‘proof’ were made, and Akari was being horribly bullied. That made it all the more satisfying, when the headmaster verbally smacked down Takagi’s mother. He was an absolute boss, refusing to be cowed by her ridiculous antics, and even turned the tables of proof onto her. What’s more, he behaved like a complete gentleman towards Akari, consistently reassuring she had done no wrong. So why can’t more teachers be like him?
While the headmaster might set the standards for how a teacher should respond to bullying, what he does isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s easy to claim a moral high ground and pass judgement. But how can people know with such certainty that they would better handle a similar problem themselves? A particular tenacity is required to remain composed and professional when dealing with difficult parents, especially ones who find every excuse under the sun to defend and enable their children’s horrible behaviour. Most people don’t have it in them to continuously stand for what’s right, and even those who do wouldn’t necessarily seek a career in education, meaning these kinds of teachers become a limited and finite resource.
Shaft deserve praise for their cinematography, where they used darkness to metaphorically engulf characters who had lost hope, and bring back light to signify its restoration. As you can see, this was particularly prominent where Akari featured in this episode. It was heartbreaking how she tried her best, only to be left feeling like she had let everybody down. When you find out she promised at her mother’s deathbed to look after Hina and Momo, it hurts even more. But considering Akari cheered up Hina by treating her to nice food, and was present at a time of need when Someji couldn’t go, I’d say she did what she could. Factor in Akari’s youth, and I would be hard pressed to fault her for buckling in the overbearing presence of Takagi’s mother. She surely deserves credit for raising such a compassionate sibling, who can proactively distinguish between right and wrong.
But the real star of the show was Hina, who displayed the unyielding spirit of a champion fighter. She refused to fall for Takagi’s baits, while standing firmly by her convictions. Her oath to never give up really resonated with me, because she’s right – you should never let the bullies win. The greatest revenge is to survive, then graduate, and live the best life you possibly can. With that sort of unwavering determination, a brighter future certainly awaits her, and I’m optimistic for next week’s closure, where the headmaster might finally put this situation to rest.
ED2: 「I AM STANDING」by RUANN