Oregairu is a special property for me. I started writing episodic criticism about anime all the way back in 2013, and Oregairu was one of the very first shows I tackled that spring. Presenting a young man with a deep well of sadness and a vastly inflated sense of his own perceptiveness, I saw my own teenage self – bitter, lonely, genuinely pretty smart, and desperately wondering why other people seemed so happy, but I felt so empty.
Hachiman, like many lonely boys, chose to comfort himself through pulling at the uncomfortable seams in the relationships of others, while claiming that he himself chose the “path of the bear,” and willfully accepted isolation. But seasons have come and gone since then, and Hachiman has learned that genuine human connection, as painful as it often seems, is the only thing truly worth seeking. Mutual understanding may be impossible, but in Yui and Yukino, he has found two friends who are at least willing to seek it with him, embracing the pain and the joy of leaving yourself truly vulnerable.
Yui is no stranger to this process; she’s been accepting the pain of seeking honest connection all along, even when Hachiman and Yukino’s emotional defense mechanisms led to them stonewalling or lashing out at her. Without Yui’s strength and kindness, Hachiman and Yukino would never have reached this point – but now, her tendency to sacrifice her own needs for those of her friends is leaving her incapable of pursuing the relationship she truly wants. Yui has had a crush on Hikki ever since they first crossed paths, but knowing what that relationship might do to Yukino, she’s learned to bite her lip and suffer alone.
Finally, Yukino’s problems are the most intractable of all of them. Though she has consistently struggled with the same sense of social isolation that haunted Hachiman, and felt similarly disdainful of her peers’ superficial relationships, unlike him, she chose to rebel through excellence. Acing every test and challenge placed before her, she made herself a living example of her brutal standards – a tactic she undoubtedly learned from her family life, where actively failing was out of the question, and only proving her isolated excellence allowed her to maintain any sense of autonomy. But now, just as Yukino is reaching out for genuine connection with her friends, that family has appeared again, demanding their prodigal daughter return to the fold. As we enter season three, Yukino’s family situation looms overhead, while the end of high school lurks in the distance. Can this fragile bond survive the upending of their entire social paradigm?
“In Due Time, the Seasons Change and the Snow Melts.” A bittersweet title for our first episode. The cast is approaching their third year now, meaning they can’t help but look forward to the end of high school, and whatever comes next. But at the same time, this title points back to a hopeful line from Hiratsuka – how, in spite of the main cast currently seeing this moment as everything, the truth is that life is made up of countless stages, and you can always try and do better the next time
And we start off with the key revelation of last season’s finale: Yukino announcing she has a request for the group. Earlier in the series, Hachiman himself was able to use the club’s function as a way to mitigate the discomfort of directly voicing his feelings; rather than “I need you two to help me as my friends,” he could employ the less vulnerable “I have a personal request for the group.” Now, Yukino seems to have reached that same point, which is massive for her; after all, the first season’s final act largely hinged on her inability to ask anyone for help
“I just knew that a definitive answer would spell a disastrous end.” The closeness these three enjoy can only exist within this liminal space – on the border lines of any more concrete relationships, and also within the play-acting adulthood of late high school. While all three of them care about each other deeply, they also know that actually working to “resolve” their emotional conflicts would very likely lead to some kind of separation, or at least the end of their current, precious bond
The OP includes their now-traditional lead parade, this time with the three of them trudging on a snowy beach. I thought last season was the sad one, goddamnit!
Oh my god, Yui and Yukino dancing is too cute. Don’t you dare break these kids’ hearts, Oregairu!
Love the slight awkwardness of Hikki refusing payment for the drinks
Normalcy is somewhat restored through insult theater, though; Yukino and Hachiman might be most comfortable when Yukino is ragging on him
Once again, we get a beautifully redone scene from season one, as Yui recalls Hikki telling her that it’s the fact you give someone cookies that matters, rather than the quality of the cookies themselves. She’s getting extremely direct in terms of propositioning Hikki, at least in her own way
This scene is both charming in its own right, and also a solid refresher in terms of their characters and relationship dynamics. Season three is mostly just choosing to plow ahead with the ongoing drama, which I feel is definitely the correct choice (people watching this years from now won’t care that there was a five year break between seasons), but they’re still doing some light catch-up work here
“I heard it was snowing the day I was born. That’s why my name is Yukino. Simple, no?” She’s come a long way, to idly share stuff like this
“My mom chose it. Though, that’s just what I heard from my sister.” A statement that reflects just how distant she is from her mother, that she generally receives her mother’s thoughts second-hand
And then Hachiman takes the next step, directly asking her, “Yukinoshita, would you tell us about yourself?” From experience, he knows it’s easier if you’ve got someone holding your hand along the way; for him, it was the ever-reliable Hiratsuka
And Yui stands as a pillar, as always, both physically and emotionally supporting Yukino
Apparently Yukino actually did want to follow in her father’s footsteps, but that responsibility fell to her older sister. For both of the sisters, her mother’s control has been a heavy burden, and it’s ultimately led to them resenting each other. Yukino was told to “live her own life,” but without further instruction than that, she didn’t really understand how to integrate into general school life without betraying her mother’s desires
Yukino was afraid of the definitive answer she might receive by voicing these desires to Haruno, so she never mentioned them. But as Hachiman well knows, without speaking your desires, no one will ever understand you. An adolescence spent attempting to tease out the mechanics of socializing and human nature through pure observation, and he’s arrived at a couple simple truths: people are far more complicated and multifaceted than he believed, and to understand or be understood, we must actively work to communicate
Though she’s accepted the idea of relying on her friends, she wants to see this through on her own. Haruno’s words are definitely still playing in her mind; she knows Haruno would immediately pounce on it if Yukino confronted her with her friends at her side
And so Yukino makes an unsurprising choice: she’s actually going to go back home, and talk frankly with her family. Though she has to do this alone, it’s only with the support of her friends that she’s gotten this far, and chosen to articulate her own feelings
Welp, Haruno’s drunk. I’m sure this can only go well
As Haruno herself said though, she’s not actually the kind of person who gets genuinely drunk. She’ll look and act tipsy, but that’s not her letting her guard down – that’s her inviting the people around her to let their guards down
I love the casual familiarity shared by Hachiman and Komachi. While Hachiman desperately seeks that genuine connection with his friends, he’s already solidified a mutually supportive bond with his sister. They each understand and accept all the parts of each other, and can speak freely as a result
“I can keep on working if I get a meal paid for by my brother.” And the two actually have a lot in common, in the end. They’ve developed a similar style of snark, and a similarly mercenary attitude towards favors
Ever since her initial appearance, Saki Kawasaki has largely been used for intense bursts of gap moe, as her delinquent attitude is punctured by embarrassment. It’s pretty good
Really great, expressive animation for Saki and her sister arguing through the window. This animation team is clearly pretty biased
Saki and Hachiman bickering over spoiling Seika is adorable, too. I certainly don’t mind this episode balancing the heavy weight of that first half with some delightful fluff
“Don’t fight!” Seika channeling P4 Nanako
Hachiman can actually offer some genuinely helpful insight on her brother’s feelings now, though of course he ruins it by bringing sister complexes into it
This episode is bullying the heck out of Saki. Now Komachi arrives, and of course immediately drags Saki into her exuberant shenanigans
We actually get a flashback to a scene we never saw before – Saki helping Hachiman during the festival, after which he shouted “I love you, Saki!” over his shoulder. He clearly considers them pretty comfortable friends at this point, though Saki can’t really handle that kind of frank teasing. I also like how this flashback demonstrates that Hachiman was actually awkwardly booking it all around the school; in the first season, we only saw his cool exit and cool arrival, but this scene gives away his actual panic at the time
Rather than food, Komachi actually just wants to go home and do some chores. Stranded on the edge of a new life, that makes sense; Komachi’s excited about the future, but she wants to hold on to some sense of continuity and normalcy, too
In the end, the two of them actually do sorta end up going on a date. A celebration of their sturdy bond, and a comforting embrace of Komachi’s threatened sense of normalcy. Having learned so much from his relationships with his friends, Hachiman is now capable of effortlessly supporting his sister, and asserting that regardless of what happens with her exams, he’s still be there
“Pampering you is my hobby” my god these two are charming
To Komachi, working around the house is also a way of asserting her competency and growth. It feels good to exercise skills you’ve mastered, and in this case, these skills are a key part of the adult she wants to become
Komachi genuinely, earnestly thanks Hachiman for supporting her, which is a level of emotional honesty he’s still not quite certain how to deal with. So he turns away, and plays it off with a joke
And now he’s holding his head up to keep his tears in via gravity. Oh Hachiman, you prickly teddy bear, you
Ah, that was so very nice. I’d say “it feels great to be back,” but to be honest, having spent the last few weeks rewatching the first two seasons, it doesn’t really feel like I’ve been away. That itself is definitely a good sign for this adaptation; it feels like a natural, seamless continuation of season two, and though the context of these characters’ lives is changing, the tone and their feelings remain the same.
As for those changes, it seems like we’re finally reaching the point where our heroes have to look towards the future. After a season full of conflicts based around maintaining the cordial emotional stasis of high school, the future is now rapidly approaching, with Yukino’s familial troubles soon to be complemented by the whole cast thinking about their post-high school lives. Oregairu has demonstrated remarkable insight, sensitivity, and compassion as it explored the psychologies of its unhappy leads; now that they’ve finally come to trust each other, I can’t wait to see how it articulates the next steps in their journey.