My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
by Nick Creamer,
Today's episode focused on one of the unsung stars of SNAFU - Hayama Hayato. Always hanging at the periphery of the story, and often being used as a direct foil for Hachiman, Hayato is, like all SNAFU characters, a fully-realized person with his own desires, insecurities, and imperfect self-image. And with the Service Club's big issues out of the way and course selections imminent, the show took some time to examine his position a little more closely, offering reflections on Hikki's own journey along the way.
The episode opened with two big questions: “sciences or liberal arts?” and “is it true that Hayato is going out with Yukinoshita?” These questions propelled basically all the drama of the episode, as Hayato's frustration with the assumptions of identity that surround him bled into the question of whether he'll be joining his friends in the liberal arts track, or letting their group fade away. Iroha proposed the second question to Yukino directly, at her birthday party, as troll Iroha is prone to do, and Yukino's answer was perfectly in line with her character: “that obviously isn't true. These are just the petty suspicions of a lowlife.” For Yukino, that works; as she states when Yumiko poses the same question, she's used to toxic rumors, and “as long as the people closest to me understand, that's enough.”
For Hayato, the situation isn't so easy. As Iroha says, “Hayama is everyone's Hayama” - everyone has an expectation of who he is, everyone orients themselves in his context. Hachiman and Yukino can simply retreat from social responsibility, if they want to; Hayato is too connected and invested for that. Yumiko is so upset at the thought of losing Hayato's friendship that she actually comes to tears in the service clubroom, and requests they find out his class choice so the group can stay together. But what about Hayato's feelings?
Hayato is tired. Hayato has been tired all season long, ever since the drama of the first two episodes. It's clear that Hachiman's unconsidered words, when he accused Hayato of maintaining fake friendships, have actually had some effect on him; Hayato is buckling under the weight of expectations, and as he confessed to Hachiman earlier, he doesn't feel he is or maybe even wants to be the person everyone expects of him. Hayato is competent and collected and clearly invested in everyone around him, but he's still an insecure teenager, and his darkest thoughts make him doubt he can really be “everyone's Hayama.” He refuses to tell Hachiman his career path, and even snaps back with “can you stop being so intrusive?” - a phrase he takes back, but clearly one he thinks might actually be representative of his “true self.”
In the end, Hachiman is able to force an answer by isolating Hayato for another talk and playing up his own Hachiman-ness. He opens with the intentionally cruel “was Miura handy for keeping girls away?”, and then directly states that Hayato wants to stop being “everyone's Hayama.” He acts like everything you'd expect of a Hachiman, and Hayato is grateful for the reminder; he frankly responds that he dislikes Hachiman, and felt inferior to him, so he won't play into Hachiman's backhanded plan for letting the group dissolve without damage. Hayato and Hachiman each see something of themselves that they dislike in the other - Hayato sees his own least charitable thoughts in Hachiman's philosophy, Hachiman sees his own “hypocrisy” in the way Hayato manages friendships and expectations. Neither of these insights are the great identity disasters these characters make them out to be; they're mainly just reflections of their own insecurities, as well as more evidence that people are complicated and have many sides. This mutual “dislike” makes for a unique kind of friendship between the two of them, as Hachiman gives Hayato a chance to essentially indulge in a side of himself he's not really comfortable with - but by the end of the episode, Hayato has returned, secure again in who he is for now. Living under heavy expectations can cause you to doubt yourself, but sometimes you live under expectations because you're the kind of person who can actually meet them.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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