Oregairu S3 – Episode 2

4 weeks ago 20

After two long seasons of internal struggle, Yukino has made a decision. She cannot keep relying on the patience of her mother to maintain a double life, and simply avoid the family for as long as possible – she values her chosen life enough to fight for it, even if it means open confrontation with the family she fears. She’s spoken honestly with her friends about her feelings, and also about the potential consequences of this choice; but Yukino is Yukino, and if she didn’t approach this problem with the honor and forthrightness she approaches everything, she’d be lying to herself.

In structural terms, Oregairu’s three seasons have conformed relatively neatly to its three leads – Yui thanked Hachiman and helped solidify the group in season one, Hachiman admitted to his desire for honest friendship in season two, and now Yukino must reckon with her family, a task that promises to be the most difficult of all. But she knows now that she’s not alone, and though I’m sure we’ve got some painful episodes ahead of us, I’m eager to see this crew tackle them together. Let’s return to the fantastic Oregairu!

Episode 2

Stark sunlight against dark shadows for these opening shots, along with low-angle shots that emphasize that visual tension, and promise conflict to come

Hayato already knows what went down with Yukino. It seems like he and Haruno stay in pretty frequent contact – or rather, that Haruno is always happy to burden him with her problems

“I wasn’t talking about your little sister. I was talking about that other little sister.” Hayato’s unique relationship with the Yukinoshita family means he naturally sees Yukino in the context of her family situation – Hachiman would never think to refer to her as a “little sister,” because that’s not the Yukino he sees

The contrast of Yukino and her friends politely sitting on one couch, while Haruno drapes herself across the other with wine in hand, is striking. Haruno frequently uses her flippant nature and straight-up audacity to gain the upper hand in conversations, establishing confidence and putting her opponent on edge. It’s helpful as a front, but also immediately turns every conversation into a contest, rather than an honest exchange of ideas

“Alcohol helps make life go down a bit smoother.” Haruno has indeed acquired some wisdom over the years

“I want to talk about you and me, and Mom.” “This doesn’t sound like something I’d want to hear. Right?” Haruno attempts to deflect by aiming this question at Yui, who couldn’t possibly answer it, but Yukino steers the conversation back around

“I know what you want to say. If you’re serious about it, I’ll work with you.” Haruno’s flippancy frequently seems like a defense mechanism; like she’s been so beaten down by her mother’s commandeering nature, that she now sees all relationships as transactional, and all genuine beliefs as a front. She disconnects to protect herself – but even though she frequently acts as her mother’s avatar in interactions with Yukino, she still possesses some sense of responsibility towards her sister

“If Yukino goes home, she probably won’t be set free again so easily.” And here’s some honest advice. Yukino’s mother accepted her freedom because she saw it as a harmless lark; if Yukino comes back with a list of demands, she’ll likely be much harsher in her life management strategy

And Yui, supportive as ever, offers to help pack, and soften the blow of separation

Hachiman attempts to slink out as usual, but Haruno ambushes him in the lobby

“They wouldn’t let me leave.” Haruno idly reveals that even her drinking was likely serving some meet-and-greet purpose, presumably at her mother’s behest. She is her mother’s strongest chess piece

“Shouldn’t you tell her if she’s making the wrong choice?” “She wouldn’t listen to me. Besides, I don’t care anyway. Because nothing will change. Whether it works out or she gives up. Everybody becomes an adult by giving up on various things like that, you know.” Her words pinpoint exactly how her mother has imprinted this defeatist attitude. Contrasted against the approaching car lights, they land like a cynical beacon from the future, underlying the approaching crash of high school’s end

And Hachiman, to his immense credit, is no longer rattled by a statement like that. In season two, Haruno pulled exactly this kind of trick, and caused Hachiman to immediately second-guess his friendships. Here, his response is the sharp “did you have that kind of experience,” implying he understands that Haruno’s jaded attitude is not The Official Truth, but simply the result of what she’s experienced and internalized

Haruno also knows Hachiman a bit better than he knows himself; when he asks why she doesn’t act like a supportive sister all the time, she replies “no way. I can’t be like you”

“No matter how much alcohol I drink, a part of me always stays calm. I can even see what kind of face I’m making. Even if I laugh and get wild, I feel like it’s not actually me doing it.” All of Haruno’s actions seem like performances because they are performances; there’s always the disconnected, rational voice in her head, calibrating precisely how “soooo drunk” she should look in order to accomplish some conversational objective. Many people would consider that a strength, and she certainly employs it to strong effect, but it’s ultimately a reminder of her mother’s hold over her, and her inability to truly, honestly live in the moment

“I thought she’d never change.” Once again, Hachiman has resolved a conflict that Hayato thought unfixable

And of course, Haruno’s parting shot is her belief that Hachiman “can’t get drunk” either – that he can’t honestly commit to things emotionally, and will always have that observer’s eye in the back of his head, frankly assessing and adjusting his ostensibly honest reactions. I’m not sure she’d say that if she saw his “real thing” speech, but either way, it’s close enough to his own anxieties to linger in his head

Three seasons in, and Yui still has to chase Hachiman out of the classroom in order to walk to the club with him

Nice cut to a straight-on shot from well down the hallway, emphasizing how close they are within their environment

Gawd, these two are way too adorable together. Yui ineffectively using this blanket in her arms to disguise her expressions, Hachiman awkwardly trying to make small talk in spite of only knowing how to speak in snark or accusations

Yui seems like an emotional ping-pong ball at this point, bouncing between elation at her friends’ increased emotional honesty, and terror at all the approaching threats to their group dynamic

Iroha’s here, and she’s bought a projector with student council funds

Apparently she has big plans for their prom. Every step of this process is so Iroha – using school funds to buy a projector, “researching” proms by watching TV dramas, and making sure to watch those dramas in the clubroom, so it doesn’t look like she’s slacking off, but also doesn’t have to work at home

And all of this so she can become a prom queen. I love her smug smile as she declares this, as if she’s certain that with her grand intent revealed, her plan now makes perfect sense

The group agrees it’s not feasible, and so she moves on to Bambi-eyes at Hachiman

After Iroha declares her intent to have the student council work on the project even without help, Yukino asks why she doesn’t just plan for a prom for the next year. Iroha’s reply, that she has to use her current leverage to ensure that prom might even exist, resonates with Yukino – she sees a bit of herself in Iroha’s behavior, as she attempts to establish her identity, and use whatever power she has to ensure she can be herself. Iroha naturally embodies the healthy level of autonomy and self-interest Yukino wishes to gain, and so Yukino feels compelled to help her

Goddamnit this show has good character writing. And it’s so confident, too! No one outright explains what caused Yukino’s mind to change, it can only be inferred from the natures of Yukino and Iroha. I love it when a show trusts its audience to infer key emotional beats like that; I know most media can’t afford to do that, because most audiences aren’t really looking to do that kind of work, but the shows that do reward this sort of close character study feel so much more naturalistic and insightful for it

Yukino attempting to shove Iroha off herself is a good gag

And having seen how Iroha is attempting to define herself, Yukino feels a desire to do the same, and carry out this task on her own

“But promise me, you will absolutely not overexert yourself.” Where would this group be without Yui to take care of them

Oh noooo. Yui found Yukino’s treasured image of her and Hachiman on the water slide, and now she’s once again decided she’s going to sacrifice herself for the good of her friends. The closer they get to that genuine mutual understanding, the further she feels she’ll slip away

And Done

Oof, what a brutal episode stinger that was. Though Yui regularly chides Hachiman for taking all of the suffering and blame upon himself, she’s just as good at bottling up her own feelings, and letting herself suffer for the sake of her friends. Heck, she’s been doing that all series long – it’s been clear that she’s had a crush on Hikki from the start, but she’s perpetually held back, unwilling to potentially hurt Yukino. And now, at last, she’s received confirmation that getting together would hurt Yukino, likely more than anything else she could do.

It all sucks for our favorite characters, but oh my god was that episode generous in terms of its character development, and richness of conversational nuance. After a relatively light premiere, we are right back in the weeds at this point, navigating the complex negotiations of anxieties, past scars, and aspirations that make up this cast’s personal identities. I’m not sure I can see a happy ending coming, but I know that whatever happens, it’ll surely respect the human complexity this show has exhibited all along.

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