*And immediately I have to make a disclaimer that Oregairu is technically not over, as I found out while looking up things for this piece of writing—there’s a series of short light novel volumes currently being serialized. I couldn’t resist making that the title, though, so forgive me for the intentional falsehood.
This post will contain spoilers for Oregairu Seasons 1-3.
I watched Oregairu’s first season in November of 2014, during the first semester of my senior year of high school. It wasn’t too long since I had started watching anime, but it was the first show which made me want to look for the source material. And I did, finding fan translations of the light novels online and eagerly awaiting new developments. The second season came five months later; I kept up with the series and its corresponding weekly discussion threads on reddit, excited to see my favorite scenes adapted into motion and color and voice. From there on was the English licensing, the long-awaited final three volumes, and, at last, the third and final season. Being too scared to watch it while it was airing, I put it off and off, until after a long six years, I’ve come to the conclusion of this special series.
There are a few things I remember distinctly from when I first watched the anime and read the fan-translated light novels. First, I was a huge Yukino fan. I gobbled up the date scene in Episode 6 of Season 1, and the moment on the roller-coaster made me lose my mind. Second, despite being in high school at the time, I didn’t really relate to Hachiman. Perhaps it’s because I had read analyses of the series beforehand, but throughout the series, I had the mentality of “Hachiman’s thoughts are immature and I’m here to see him grow out of them.” Third, I loved Meguri-senpai. Episode 13 of the first season was super cute, and after reading the novels, I named my new smartphone at the time Megurin Power.
As I’m sure everyone reading this knows, I completely changed on the first point. I still love Yukino as a character, but, well, I couldn’t ignore a certain presence because of how brightly she shone. And as my tweets reveal, I still hold to that third point. Megu Megu Megu☆rin Megurin Power!
The second point, though, is something I’ve pondered over every time I re-engage with the series. Ironically, in some sense I feel like I’ve grown in the opposite way of Hachiman. Hachiman’s unreasonably cynical beliefs are full-blown at the beginning of the series, and they slowly get tempered down over the course of the three seasons. However, over the past few years, I’ve found myself empathizing more with some of his thoughts when I’ve re-watched some of the earlier episodes, or thought about his monologues in certain life situations. Maybe it’s because I need to learn how to be cynical before learning how to be un-cynical?
I think the more likely answer, though, is that Hachiman wasn’t necessarily wrong. As Hiratsuka-sensei so, so, so crucially points out at the end of Season 3 Episode 10, people can come to radically different conclusions looking at the same thing depending on the lens they wear.1 She speaks it in a specific context and time, but I believe that what she says can be applied to the series overall, and to us as well. Ultimately, due to the ways in which experiences upon experiences have piled themselves up uniquely in each one of our lives, we may not see the same thing in the same way.
This brings me to a topic which is probably the point on which I disagree with the series the most. A bit before that scene, Hachiman has his final one-on-one conversation with Haruno, in which he states that he “coerced both of them [Yukino and Yui] to swallow that incredibly outrageous lie.” This is really the conclusion of a thought that’s floated around the series for many episodes, but it’s one that is influential enough to be worth exploring—that Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui’s relationship is a “lie”, or at the very least, not genuine. High schoolers do tend to make things overcomplicated (does that mean I’m still a high schooler?) but I vehemently disagree with the core concept of this idea. It is true that the three of them avoid expressing their feelings on the unanswered questions of romance in the latter half of the series. But that alone doesn’t erase the hours whiled away in the Service Club classroom chatting, the excursions doing things probably only Yui had experience with, the disagreements, clashes over differing opinions, hurt, and reconciliation. This may just be because of the lens that I hold, but these are the things that form the foundation of relationships. Because of this foundation, the genuineness they’ve already shown to each other, they should trust that the worryingly opaque clouds that surround them right now will eventually clear as they continue to grow individually and together, even if it’s only in small steps.2
In the end, our three precious children are able to reunite in the room they love with the people who’ve been by their side, in a way that’s presented as pretty much a return to normalcy (which I feel like reinforces my position, but…). Yui doesn’t get time to affirm or resolve or express anything to Hachiman or Yukino as individuals (my second major gripe about the third season), but perhaps that’s the show’s way of doubling down on its position that words ultimately aren’t able to convey what we want to convey. Instead, she presses on in the way that I so love about her, happy both because she gets to be with the people she loves, and because the people she loves are happy. If someone was watching Oregairu for the first time, but knew about my taste in characters, I’m sure they’d be able to predict that I would fall in love with this kind, compassionate, determined, selfish-but-selfless girl. I’ve laughed at her retorts, wanted to yell at her joyful embarrassment, felt my heart clench at her tears, and smiled at every “Yahallo!” I’m not sure if I’ll come across another character who I’ve wanted so strongly to both be with and be.
To quickly address the logical question/assumption that I may not have liked the romantic ending, I think I’m satisfied with it. I believe that there was a reasonable way for Watari to write the story into either romantic ending, and I’m not upset that he chose what he did. My romance-loving heart couldn’t help but jump while watching the extended confession scene and subsequent date, as much as it hurt for Yui.
This piece ended up being somewhat long and rambly, with transitions I myself am not entirely convinced by, but allow me to jump into one final thought. My favorite line in Everyday World, Season 2’s beautiful ending theme, is right at the beginning of the first chorus. “If this is love, then the strength known as loneliness seems like it will disappear.” People will hurt and be hurt because we’re all sinners, in the literal meaning of the word. It’s easy then, to conclude that rejecting people is the position of strength, as Hachiman had. But, as he discovers over the course of the series, it’s so much better to be “involved” in another’s life. As Hachiman and Yukino awkwardly yet eloquently articulate at the end of Season 3 Episode 11, love (and not just romantic love, as used in the Japanese lyric) is giving your life to someone else. It’s something that will hurt and come at a cost. But in the end, what you get is so much more. Hachiman hated his deception. Yukino hated her cowardice. Yui hated her selfishness. This loathing isn’t gone by the end of the show. What has changed, though, is that they now know that they are willing to be hurt, willing to sacrifice a part of themselves, to stay by each other’s side.
Thank you for reading. I hope I was able to make clear the world I see through my lens.
1 Because I would be bothered if I didn’t add this: This doesn’t preclude a lens being faulty, which also in turn does not mean its wearer is to blame.
2 I worry that I come off as prideful when I write this, but I really do believe it! Hachiman would definitely disagree with me, though.
Afterthought: a lot of things about this were unplanned. I originally wanted to just put down a bunch of random thoughts about Oregairu, but the (feeble) connections drew themselves and I was surprisingly able to string them into a semi-coherent piece of writing. What was more surprising to me was how the last paragraph ended up. But, I don’t think I should be surprised that I was able to find something like that in a piece of media that I love.