Growing Up is Hard to Do: Oregairu and Hachiman

Alright, big ol’ essay time! This one’s all about Oregairu, and Hachiman more specifically. I could honestly write a piece about almost any of that show’s characters, but Hachiman sits at the center, and his issues are partially reflective of everyone’s. Where his attitude comes from, how it gets expressed, how Oregairu slowly drags him forward – we’re talking about ALL OF IT today. Let’s get right to it!

Growing Up is Hard to Do


16 thoughts on “Growing Up is Hard to Do: Oregairu and Hachiman

  1. A question that’s not really related to the work itself but does ANN demand those seperate headlines? I prefer your old way where just pictures make cuts more. The read “flows” better without those headlines for me.

    • I actually chose to include the headlines, which I’ve done on a few other pieces (Utena, Shiki, etc). I tend to do that whenever I feel a piece is composed of specific sub-ideas and not just one big central one.

  2. Wow, that was a really nice, thoughtful essay!

    I thought you hit pretty much everything important about the show’s development of Hikigaya and its social philosophy.

    There was one thing I wanted to add though. You highlighted the show’s deep understanding and empathy for Hikigaya’s situation and how that enables it to reach out to him (and by extension those like him in the audience) and help them up. To this I want to add that another equally important quality that the show exemplifies is respect. Kindness and understanding, without respect merely becomes another form of looking down on someone and trying to help someone without first respecting them more often leads to the opposite effect. As someone passionate about (and will be making a career in) education, this is something really close to my heart. A teacher who does not respect their students will often just destroy what they are trying to build — this is something I have seen far too often and frankly have been guilty of myself.

    What I really love about this show is that it actually gets this! It really does respect Hikigaya, it sees him as someone with real value and takes as much time to demonstrate his strengths as well as his weaknesses. I’ve seen some people on the internet who seem to take this as a sort of pandering or affirming of the “Hachimans” in the audience, but it’s not — it is in fact crucial to the general philosophy and development of the show. And, in fact Hikigaya does have many things that are truly admirable. He has a great sense of personal responsibility and work ethic. His taking responsibility for Iroha’s situation and his involvement with the Christmas even demonstrate that well. That event also showed him to be a natural leader — even without explicit authority people gravitated towards him and he used his influence to push people forward and dynamically address the issues that arose (so called “360 degree leadership”). The way he dealt with his fight with his sister also showed a level of maturity I rarely see in teenagers. And, frankly, how he took Hiratsuka’s lecture to heart immediately and acted so boldly on it was down right impressive. Last, but not least, he is kind — he hurts when others hurt and is moved my the struggles of the people around him. This can, of course, be dealt with badly, but it is also a powerful and vital quality.

    This recognition and affirmation of Hikigaya’s worth is the starting point of Oregairu’s project to “improve” and “mature” Hikigaya. Sensei understands this. She respects him, as well, and affirms him before showing him how he is wrong. It isn’t: “Hikigaya, you are a truly flawed person. Because I am mature and understanding, let me help you up from above.” Rather, it is closer to: “Hikigaya, you are a wonderful person, but everything you have will be in vain if you carry on with your self-destructive attitude. Let’s work together to move forward.”

    Anyway, just thought I would add in my thoughts, since I enjoyed your essay so much! Hope it wasn’t too off base.

    • Thanks for your comment! You’re absolutely right – it’s critical that this show, and that people in general, actually possess and express respect for the people they’re considering. And yes, Hachiman does indeed possess many great qualities; they’re often qualities that he himself fights against and doesn’t want to acknowledge in himself, but they’re the reason he gains such loyal friends.

  3. Fantastic work. It’s really nice to see the ANN gig working out like it is. The parallel you drew to Eva I thought especially appropriate, since Eva and Oregairu are really similar in their relationship to their target audience. They each ferociously challenge the teenage loner mindset, but hold such overwhelming empathy for it that they don’t drive the kids their trying to influence away.

    • There’s something to be said for how many of the greatest pieces of media are explorations of the “Everything is AT Fields” concept.

      • It’s a topic that never really gets less relevant, adolescence or not. Communication and connection are tough.

    • Yeah, you can’t really target these perspectives without understanding them, and can’t hope to change people if you don’t care about them. I see plenty of “Hachiman is right!” around, but I have to hope the show also speaks to people struggling to move beyond that moment.

  4. That was a great read, thanks for your essay. I agree with many points you raised, and one thing that always struck me about Hachiman is that despite the grumpy, very cynical image he’s typically seen as, he might be a very idealistic person instead. I mean, lines like “if a relationship breaks so easily, then perhaps it’s not valuable to begin with” means that he actually wants a relationship with complete honesty that can withstand anything, and anything short of that isn’t worth having. That might seem cynical, but it shows that he actually have a very high expectation of what people and relationship should be, and only put on the cynical “armor” because he’s been hurt and disappointed before, that he always look for lies to avoid ever being lied to again. Despite all his cynical rants, it feels more like something he repeatedly said to convince himself, instead of something he truly believes in.

    This is why the confession in episode 8 is such a huge turning point for him. After talking to sensei, he’s finally able to:

    Admit to himself of his nature, that he actually wants something genuine above all else
    Actually admits this to someone else in Yui and Yukino, showing clearly how close he’s getting to them
    ASKING FOR HELP for something as close as personal as this to them

    All this is such a huge character development for his character – while him wanting something genuine is probably already there from even before season 1, but all the events in the episodes shows clearly and naturally what brought him to this development.

    Another thing that I think you really nail in your essay is that Oregairu isn’t just Hachiman and the Service Club’s journey as a teenager to grow up, but what’s behind it all is sensei. She’s the one who convinces Yukinoshita to start the club, literally force Hachiman to join, and probably nudge Yui there too. She sees the problem children in Yukino and Hachiman and what great potential they may squander if they don’t really grow up, and so takes it personally (though not by her own hands, she’s wise enough to know it will never work that way) to make sure that happens. While season 1 in particular makes it seem like the show is fully agreeing with Hachiman’s philosophy (which as I mentioned, he himself might not even fully believe himself), sensei is the writer’s form of showing how wrong it is, how often she has to berate Hachiman to desperately force him to grow up.

  5. kind of sucks that the anime is probably gonna end on some “buy the LN” cliffhanger

    Doesn’t even affect me all that much since I’ll read it anyway, but why can’t I get to watch the ending to one of my favourite stories in animated form. Hopefully they’ll at least make an OVA adaption of vol12 or whatever

    • And it wouldn’t hurt so much if feel hadn’t done such a damn fine job with season 2. At least oregairu has one of the best fan translators around…

  6. Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and I thought I would participate for once.

    Thank you for this essay, it is very well written and I really enjoyed taking the time to read your interpretation.

    I wonder how much enjoyment of OreGaIru is linked to how much the viewer relate to some of Hachiman’s views and struggles. I’ve been there too in some way, and learned most of the lessons you describe nicely in this writing. I enjoy watching him grow out of his castle in the sand, finding meaning in the interactions and friendships he previously despised.

    However, as you pointed out yourself, shows about cynical teenagers is not really a rare thing, and I did not find in most what I enjoy thoroughly in OreGaIru: the writing. How not only Hachiman but most of the characters in the show are shown learning from their mistakes, modifying the way the interact with the world. This is in my mind one of the hardest thing to do for an author: showing compelling characters with their qualities and faults change as they interact with each other. Not bad people becoming good, pure saints, uni dimensional characters or any tropes you find in most animes. Hachiman is flawed, Hayama is flawed, Yukino is flawed, but they all evolved at their pace to something not necessarily best, but different.

    This is for me the real strength of this show. I viewed it more as a piece-of-life, character development driven anime, than as a romantic comedy its title seems to imply. It shows its values not in the first few episodes but in the long run, as parallels can be drawn and familiarity with the characters and their philosophies are fully integrated. This isn’t unlike Evangelion you talked about, which I struggled to get into but grew to enjoy what it brought to me.

    I don’t think I bring anything new to the table but just mostly agree with what you said. Thanks again for the great read and I hope you’ll forgive for not being able to write as well as you do 🙂

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