My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
by Nick Creamer,
Yui Yuigahama is very good to her friends.
She's been that way essentially from the beginning. She's always been the supportive one, the one who takes emotional risks, the one who prompts the others and honestly declares the feelings that lie beneath their actions. She gives of herself to make sure her friends are happy, and puts her own feelings aside if she thinks they'll hurt anyone. She's deeply insecure about her value and identity (something which goes a long way towards explaining why she holds these friendships in the first place), and so doesn't see herself as the great person she is, but without her, her friends fall apart.
Unfortunately, Yui both can't and shouldn't protect her friends forever. In this season's final episode, we opened with two more scenes of Yui pushing her friends forward, as she first prompted Yukino to share her cooking with Hikki, and then tried to excuse herself from the scene when Yukino struggled to give Hikki the gift she'd made him. But Haruno's arrival broke the spell of their friendship, as she once again loudly articulated the conflict that Yukino's been struggling with all season long. “You've always been allowed to live as you pleased. But you never made any decisions for yourself. Even now, you don't know how to act, do you?” Haruno is needlessly cruel, but she's also right. Yukino has been sheltered from difficult choices up until now, kept from the kind of painful, honest growth Hachiman's been experiencing by both of her friends.
Haruno ended this speech by announcing she was now going to be living with Yukino, which prompted Yui to offer Yukino her own house for the night. After an adorable scene starring Yui's mom that once again enforced how closely Yukino follows in the footsteps of her friends, Yui dragged both her friends out to the aquarium, for a long sequence that seemed to suggest the ending of something precious. Not all of this sequence's jokes landed, but it was great overall to see these three bantering and sharing memories like they used to. Yukino admitted how aware she was of her own problem, and Yui confessed that she's not as nice a girl as Hikki thinks she is (though she is, but when have insecurities ever had to make sense?). And as the day ended, the three of them watched snow fall on the park from the top of the ferris wheel, burying children's rides in white as Yui murmured “it's almost over.”
Yui's insistence on enjoying this trip together gained context in the final scene, as she turned to her friends and bluntly asked what would become of their friendship. Yui's been waiting for her friends to be honest with themselves, but she can't wait forever. She has clear feelings for Hikki, and she knows Yukino does as well, and that any movement here will likely disrupt what the three of them have together. And so she hands Hikki her own cookies as a thank-you, but firmly declares them to be only that, before turning to Yukino and essentially urging her to either confess or agree to preserve the group. Even though she can't wait forever, Yui remains selfless to the end, promising to help her friend in the way she always has.
But Hikki can't accept that. Yukino “winning” here, or nothing changing, would not help her grow. This is the solution Yui would come up with, because she thinks in terms of what she can do to make her friends happy. But Yukino's immediate happiness is a lie, and Hikki says as much. Relying on them again won't help her in the end.
This is a bold and potentially abrasive declaration for Hikki, but Yui only smiles, and says that she thought he'd say that. It's encouraging to see they've come far enough that they can contradict each other, even in matters of the heart like this, and still trust and respect one another. “It's okay to be wrong,” Hikki thinks. “When we are, we'll just ask again, and keep on asking.” Growing up is a long process, and there will be far more pain and speedbumps along the way. But these three care about each other, and in the episode's last moments, we see that Yukino is perhaps ready to take a step as well. “Will you listen to my request?” she asks, and Yui smiles again. They'll walk forward together, one step at a time.
This was a fitting end to an insightful and emotionally rich series. SNAFU's second season has risen above all the faults of the first to emerge as a piercing, evocative exploration of not just adolescent identity, but trust and identity in general. I'm sad to see it go, yet somehow feel encouraged by how far these lovably unlovable characters have come.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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