12 Days of Anime #4: “And, Yukinoshita Yukino Is…” December 23, 2015Posted by navycherub in 12 days of anime, Anime, Essay, OreGairu.
Tags: 12 Days of Anime, Anime, Essay, OreGairu
We’re back to a Christmas episode it seems.
Sometimes, I suppose, we have a tendency to remember the big moments and are prone to forget the smaller, more subdued ones. In this episode’s case, I decided to revisit it for what I very clearly remembered – one of a few Big Moments in the show – but apparently forgot that the vast majority of it is actually the slow fall out from a previous Big Moment. Where I was expecting to rewatch one of the most dramatic episodes in the show, I ended up with a much more understated but great episode I had almost forgotten.
But I’m glad I ended up with this episode instead, because OreGairu‘s handling of intimate moments between its awkward and insecure cast members is really what makes it such a well-composed and honest drama. The episode even starts by decompressing – Hachiman falls onto his couch and lets out all the steam from his embarrassing confession of sorts. That is, until his sister walks in and pokes fun at him for having such a seemingly out-of-character meltdown, leading to a short but sweet loving sibling exchange between the two. It’s a funny sequence, a sincere form of comedy that lends itself to more sympathy and humanization of the characters while also putting the drama that could overwhelm the show in check.
Really, the entire episode is made up of these small character-defining moments that prove OreGairu is a show where things progress at a natural but stumbling pace that nicely reflects our own awkward reality. Hachiman and Yukino are the first to the club room; their mutual embarrassment and difficulties with opening up cause them to retreat to their respective comfort zones, like true introverts. The extrovert among them isn’t much better, though. Yui is much more enthusiastic about the new potential closeness that Hachiman opened up for the group, but her own flaws – not really knowing how much is too much, an unrestrained eagerness – keep her from being able to properly follow up on Hachiman’s opening move, and things seem to be going nowhere.
That is, until a series of (unfortunate) events leads Sensei to giving a set of passes to a local theme park to the Service Club. Yukino retreats into her shell a little more, while Yui takes this chance to be even more honest about her desire to grow closer to her friends. It is Hachiman though, in a rare moment of both social awareness and earnest compassion, who meets them in the middle by mentioning how his sister would like a souvenir. This little trick gives everyone an excuse to go without immediately acknowledging their true desires, so it isn’t an ideal solution, but it is a fairly mature one that puts them on the right path – a great example of the slow and steady growth that defines OreGairu‘s best ideas.
So begins a fun montage of Christmas and theme park shenanigans all wrapped up in one. There are plenty of moments to find here, such as Yui taking a picture with her friends quickly because they “would have said no,” as well as scenes with the now quite large side cast pushing the plot along toward what will end up happening later.
For our purposes, though, there are two key scenes. One is between Yui and Hachiman in the souvenir shop. Yui is taking the chance to play around and get Hachiman and Yukino to express themselves a bit, leading to a very awkward moment as she accidentally reprises Hachiman’s earlier confession. She also mentions wanting to come again sometimes, and Hachiman is initially hesitant, but once again finds a middle point, bringing up a nearby theme park that might be “more quiet.” The souvenir shop itself is potentially the most appropriate place for these steps toward a more earnest relationship to happen, since it was also the initial cover Hachiman invented for them to go in the first place. It represents their hesitancy to being completely honest while also promising that things are becoming better, one awkward exchange at a time.
The second is between Hachiman and Yukino as they go on a ride. Yukino is scared of the ride – mostly her sister’s fault, we come to find out – but was willing to go on it with Yui. She expresses her fright, and Hachiman tries to talk her out of going on it, but she says she’s fine. She went on it with Yui, so she should be fine now. It is indirect in a way that is practically a trademark for Yukino at this point, but is just as significant as Yui’s own much more straightforward request to come out to the theme park again – though framed differently, and perhaps too indirectly for Hachiman’s thick skull, Yukino is still admitting that their friendship is at a place of comfort and trust.
This episode is incredibly satisfying for anyone who has gone along with the Service Club’s shenanigans up to this point. All three of the principal cast members have matured in their own ways, and while their situations aren’t quite perfect, the little ways they understand each other and express that understanding are effective and sweet.