Aaand it’s over. Season two of Oregairu, the season that handily elevated a show that was already one of my all-time favorites, has come to an end. And honestly, I don’t even really feel that sad; this conclusion worked perfectly, it resolved the critical dramatic arc-threads that were still lingering regarding Yukino and Yui, and it acted as an affirmation of everything Hikki resolved to work on back in episode eight. It was also one more precious episode of the main trio just hanging out and enjoying time together, which we certainly didn’t get too much of in this drama-packed sequel. Oregairu has come to an end, but it’s already given me everything I’d hoped for. I’m just happy it exists at all.
With the season cooling down, we got an episode of Oregairu that actually felt more like a season one episode – that same somewhat uneven mix of archetypal stuff and really smart, poignant character stuff. Haruno is basically a big mean-spirited wrecking ball here, who seems to more or less represent what Hachiman would become if he stayed bitter and insular and emotionally distant. If Yukino and her friends were older, they wouldn’t be made so insecure by her petty tricks, but they aren’t, and so insecurities abound. I’d honestly be fine with the final episode just being Sensei shaking Haruno by the shoulders and then telling her students not to listen to her, but I’m guessing things won’t resolve quite as simply as that.
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!
This week, we finally got something that I’ve actually been hoping for for a while – a Hayato focus episode. Hayato’s a compelling character who’s very different from the majority of the cast, so it was nice to see him given some time in the spotlight. And I definitely made the most of it in my writeup – yeah, other stuff happened, but this was Hayato’s day goddamnit! Though I do somewhat regret not being able to also highlight Iroha’s top-tier trolling this time, from interrupting Yukino’s birthday part in order to ask her about rumors to doing that ridiculous slow motion arm-flip run towards Hachiman. Iroha is pretty good.
We had a lighter episode this week, as the student council issues essentially worked themselves out now that the emotional issues tying all these characters down were cleared up. It was great to see the whole team working together again, with the scenes from the halfway point onward all demonstrating the stuff that was initially so appealing about this show. Hikki and Yukino have a great conversational dynamic, and Iroha’s become a pretty natural extension of the whole group. The characters are able to honestly express that they care about each other now, meaning it feels a lot less stifling just watching them interact. It’s just rewarding to spend time with these characters now.
No rest for the ‘rohas, apparently. Hikki’s finally repaired his relationship with his friends, and this episode did a wonderful job of conveying both the old sense of easy banter between them and the new degree of honesty all three of them share. But the big moments here were the last two – that gorgeous moment on the rollercoaster, and Iroha’s long-awaited confession to Hayato. Season two just keeps giving us these unexpected gifts of presentation; normally it comes down to the animation, but here, the framing was just so damn on-point. There’s no stopping this train.
Holy crap did this week have some peaks. God damn. Not all the episodes here were great, but the ones that were… I’d be surprised and ecstatic to see Oregairu and Euphonium’s episodes here somehow be challenged for positions in the top 5 episodes of the year. They were both just That Good – that full of everything that makes their respective series great, and that satisfying as a realization of everything that had come before. Those two episodes were stunning, and I feel lucky to be watching two shows that good in the same season.
Anyway, some other episodes came out too, I guess. Let’s run ’em down!
Hoooly shit this episode. This was the one we’d been waiting for – the one the whole show had been building up to, really. Sensei finally gives Hachiman a full diagnosis, and Hikki responds by doing what he always should have done, but never really could do until now – telling the truth. That second half was just a goddamn rollercoaster, employing all of this season’s heightened emotive storytelling tricks to hammer home the most honest moment in this friendship to date. This was definitely an episode.
And we’re right back into the dramatic thick of it this week, with Hachiman finally grappling with his own identity issues only to be demolished by Yukino. There were a lot of individual excellent scenes this week, and the show is continuing to use framing and body language to elevate its stellar conversations. I particularly liked the two long, silent cuts – the first with Hikki and Iroha as they’re crossing the street, and the second when Rumi gave Hikki the silent treatment. Yui also got another great scene this week, and the banter between Hikki and Iroha is really growing on me. They actually seem more comfortable together than either of them do with many of their other friends, since they don’t have anything to prove to each other. As Hayama sadly notes, she feels more comfortable relying on him than the friends she refuses to be more honest with.
Time again at last. Episodes have passed, cartoons have risen and fallen, and the moment has arrived for us to once again slot stories into a reductive hierarchy that cheapens the very idea of media consumption. Does ranking shows inherently contribute to a system that commodifies art and undercuts the complexity of emotional engagement? Are we essentially belittling ourselves by implying that our relationship with the stories we choose to consume can be summed up through a simple “eh, at least it’s better than this other one?” Will any of the people whose attitudes I’m critiquing in this opening paragraph possibly not skip to the numbers themselves, rendering this sarcastic thought experiment totally pointless?
Maybe so. But goddamnit, we’re gonna do it anyway.