OreGairu time! Goddamn! Well come on now, there’s no time for dilly-dallying, lets get right ahahaha just kidding, time for another fucking essay.
Please, feel free to skip this if you’re not into this aspect of my shtick. This one’s honestly pretty skippable – it’s more a general media analysis piece than actual required reading for my writeup. In fact, I’ll even go ahead and mark the tangent with some kind of
Delightful Bobduh Semi-Related Tangent Time
I don’t quite understand myself. It’s something I’m working on, but it’s obviously a work in progress. However, one pattern, something I’m confident enough in to even consider a theme, is my artistic preference for passion over perfection.
I love stories that try really hard and fail; hell, I love people who try really hard and fail. Or that succeed, but with a huge asterisk. Or that triumph, but do so by making their original goal kind of a moot point. I think this kind of ties in with that “optimism in the face of tragedy” attitude I talked about a couple weeks ago – telling personal, relatable stories is damn hard, and I see great humanity in stories where both a person’s passion and flaws are clearly visible. While I always look to feel empathy for the characters within a story, I also try and extend this empathy towards the creator as well.
I bring this up because I don’t think OreGairu is a flawless work, or even all that close to one. In fact, on some level I agree with many of the complaints that are leveled against it here – it doesn’t always rise above the tropes it’s lampooning, it’s oddly speckled with jokes undeserving of its sensitivity and intelligence, its visual aesthetics are never more than serviceable. Maybe, in the absence of these flaws, I would enjoy it even more. But honestly, I don’t think the amount of empathy and understanding this show contains could impress me to a greater extent that it currently does – as far as my appreciation of this show is concerned, I doubt it could be all that meaningfully improved.
I can certainly appreciate more or less perfect things. For instance, I think Madoka’s only artistic flaw is Shaft’s unwillingness to curb their self-indulgent love of melodramatic pans and head tilts – other than that, I think it’s basically absurdly polished, aesthetically perfect, and thematically/narratively sound in every possible way. And hell, it’s actually one of my favorite shows. But for me, honesty and acuity of intent are miles away the most important factor in any work – for example, Evangelion is much more “artistically flawed” than Madoka, and whole elements of its production (its’ plot for example) are borderline incoherent. But there is so much honesty, passion, and truth in that production that aesthetic complaints strike me as hilariously misguided – for me, that’s like disputing whether it’s a 13 or 13.5 out of 10. In situations like this I always feel tempted to ask, “Yes, but what was your impression of the things the show cares about?”
I’m aware there’s some pretty silly hypocrisy in someone as wedded to the nature and value of craft as I am talking about how some times elements of craft just aren’t relevant. And I think there’s something to that – I try to judge a show according to how well it fulfills its goals, but in my mind, not all goals are created equal. For instance, last season, I heard from many people that GJ-bu was essentially the ideal version of a plotless slice-of-life comedy, and pretty much dropped the mic as far as that genre is concerned. Meanwhile, in my personal estimation, Maoyuu was an extremely flawed but absurdly ambitious attempt to deconstruct the high fantasy genre in a way that meaningfully reflected on the historical course and ultimate potential of our actual human nature, while simultaneously acting as a coherent story in its own right. If both these statements are true, I would rate GJ-bu a solid 7/10 and Maoyuu (as I did) a 9/10, and I would not feel any less justified in those ratings because GJ-bu has fewer “flaws” relative to its genre and goals than Maoyuu did. Please keep in mind, I’m not trying to establish an objective system of worth here – I am saying that, to me personally, some ambitions are just more valuable and meaningful than others, and reveal a creator passion and humanity that is one of the things most poignant to me in art. Whether or not they succeed, they are trying to connect and say something powerful, and that’s amazing, goddamnit. That’s what art is all about.
And I think OreGairu is aiming straight at the pain and hardship and insecurity of adolescent identity, a rich and universally poignant topic. And I think that, in every way that matters to achieving that goal, it is killing it.
End of Bobduh’s Delightful Tangent
So now that I’ve finally cleared out any illusion of objectivity for well and good, let’s get on with critically evaluating this week’s episode!
0:48 – I already like this episode. Normally, the bubbly love interest doesn’t get an interior monologue – but goddamnit, Yui’s thoughts are just as valuable as anyone else’s. The characterization here is good enough that I’d welcome a full episode from either Yui or Yuki’s perspective
2:38 – Damnit OreGairu these awkward polite silences still infest my life stop being so insightful
3:35 – A pretty great bit of scene setting here, with Yuki and Hikki’s non-Yui-influenced dynamic being each of them seated at opposite ends of the conference table, books out, leaning away from each other
3:53 – Another moment where I question the Bakemonogatari comparisons. Yuki knows she’s getting further and further away from the truth here – her guesses at the conflict aren’t insightful, they’re self-indulgent. She’s having almost Chuuni-esque fun with the situation, and the joke is kind of at her expense. She knows this, Hikki knows this. Their dynamic is very good
6:10 – These two have such good… not-rapport. Unrapport. They’re far too spiky to have an honest conversation, but they are so close to being the same exact person. It’s fantastic
7:20 – Dat twintails. Do what you must, OreGairu. I won’t judge
7:48 – Hikki’s sister is a very crafty matchmaker. I approve; these two would never get anywhere on their own
Also, thanks for your input, Commie. I certainly needed an OreImo joke right about now, lest any of us forget how witty and attractive you are
10:22 – Jesus christ, I thought Aku no HANA was uncomfortable. In the absence of proles to act superior to, these two just fall into the most awkward patterns of ego brinkmanship imaginable
It’s fucking adorable
10:43 – Yui really ought to invest in a new leash
11:07 – Goddamnit this writing is good. Simultaneously make a great joke about how Yuki can only judge clothes according to their relative durability and slip in a personal acknowledgment that she was never personally relating to Yui in the first place. Why not?
11:50 – “How does it look?” “How am I supposed to respond… it looks great on you, I guess? Although I think Yui would like something more dumb-looking.” “Sadly, I have to agree.” I should probably just stop commenting, because I think I could watch these two spend afternoons together for literally any amount of time and be perfectly entertained
14:25 – … What can I even say. This is… this is my episode. Of anything. These two are so adorable. Goddamnit. They’ve built these characters perfectly, and at this point they have no fear, no need to act defensively towards each other. Stop, OreGairu. Stop this thing you are doing to me
16:09 – This episode is such a (welcome) shift from the series so far that it’s difficult to even judge. The show sat in a status quo of solidifying character relationships for five straight episodes – now, when those relationships are challenged, all three protagonists are forced to abandon the comfortable facades that have sustained them for this long. I think it’s being handled incredibly well and very honestly, and the deftness of character shifting here is honestly just more agile than my ability to critique it. I think I recall having doubts about this show at some point?
20:30 – Kinda funny that in a show so concerned with social fronts, this reconciliation between Hikki and Yui contains more emotional honesty than most shows manage in their entire run time.
Well GOD FUCKING DAMN. This one’s a tricky episode for me to evaluate, because… well, mainly because a couple of the Yuki-Hikki conversations in this episode are already my favorite conversations between fictional characters that I’ve ever witnessed. So that’s tough! It’s tough to see dialogue and character writing I’ve already been so impressed by used to such devastatingly endearing effect, and it’s tough to haughblahgagaha I just can’t be objective anymore. Goddamnit you guys this show is so good. So fucking good. Jesus tapdancing christ. Goddamn.
Yeah. Not only did this episode have no actual flaws, but… guh. Master class in character writing, and in organic dialogue, and in acuity of psychological understanding. What else is left to say? This was my favorite episode of my favorite show of the past six mo… no. Fuck it. Past several years. Thank you, OreGairu. Thank you for existing.