My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
by Nick Creamer,
Things fall apart.
There's no helping that. People and their priorities change. Circumstances change. Life goes on. Hikki has been trying to hold on to things well past their breaking point, and they're beginning to crumble in his hands. The club is the first of Hikki's crumbling treasures, and thoughts on its future bookend this episode. But the other treasure is Hikki's entire worldview, and as he runs into sad friend after sad friend, this episode seems to mark a point of personal realization on that front. He can't be the person he used to be - it's not working anymore, and maybe it never worked at all. He has to grow up, and if he doesn't change soon, he might even lose the friendships that have brought him this far.
We opened this week with one more endearing scene between Hikki and Komachi. It's really gratifying seeing how comfortable Hikki is with his sister compared to everyone else in this cast - they can idly insult each other, banter easily, and even apologize if they hurt each other's feelings. That scene formed a marked contrast with the following walk with Yui, when Hikki both once again left the classroom before her and, when confronted about working with Iroha, continued to stress that it was no big deal, and that he didn't need help or sympathy. Hachiman wants to both follow through on the choice he made with Iroha and keep his friends from being implicated in that decision, but his stubborn actions only hurt the people he cares about. Just like how Yui wants to be seen leaving the classroom with Hikki, she wants him to be able to lean on her. But instead he just pretends to be okay, and so she pretends to be okay in turn, and they only keep hurting each other. The scene ended with Yui addressing the elephant in the room, the idea that Yukino becoming president would likely have been the best for all of them. And though Hachiman acknowledged this, he had nothing else to say.
From there, the episode eventually made its way back to Iroha and Hachiman working together on the Christmas project. Iroha can be a frustrating person, but she's actually become a real friend to Hikki - his conversations with her are often more earnest than those with his other friends, and they have a real chemistry that both of them seem very comfortable with. Her initial smug dismissals have basically just become a way the two of them express camaraderie, and their bond is actually apparent enough that it even comes across to Hikki's old middle school crush. Their new closeness was emphasized by one long, carefully animated shot at the end of their first meeting, when Hikki ran to catch up with her, they exchanged some words we were too far away to hear, and then Iroha grudgingly handed over her bag of snacks. It's continuously nice to see a show that's always been so focused on dense dialogue also gracefully conveying things visually.
From there, we moved to another fruitless meeting with ol' Jazz-Hands, the most useless of all school representatives. Hachiman once again attempted to clarify the actual scope of their project, and once again was swept away by the meaningless yes-man buzzwords of his new foe. It's difficult to hold a conversation with someone who speaks incessantly but never says anything at all.
It's clear Hikki is out of his depth in this assignment, but he's still having trouble admitting it. A later meeting with Totsuka ended about as successfully as the first Yui conversation - though Totsuka both called out Hikki for looking stressed and implored his friend to rely on him if he needs support, Hikki continued to brush off the extent of his troubles. But later, alone, Hikki was finally able to articulate something the entire show has been leading towards: “I'm just being stubborn so I won't betray the image that I've decided I should have.”
In order for Hachiman to believe the world works the way he originally felt, he must play the role he's cast for himself. Unfortunately, the world is no longer willing to play along. Hachiman isn't a lone hero in a jungle of self-deceiving jerks - he's a kid in over his head, surrounded by close friends who want to support him, playing the martyr in order to not lose his chosen identity while hurting everyone he cares about. “Am I really doing the right thing?” he asks himself. He knows what the answer is, but it's a bitter pill to swallow. Later on, he even admits he doesn't know what the actual solution is, and who he should be trying to be - an important step, but one that might be arriving a little too late.
After all those moments of personal reflection, it was a cruel trick to end this episode with Hachiman's old habits catching up to him. Running into Yukino after another meeting, he ends up being once again confronted about helping Iroha - and instead of criticizing him for lying, Yukino says that he doesn't need her permission to act, and that he shouldn't bother coming to the club room if he's just doing it to be considerate. Yukino is essentially walking a parallel path to Hachiman at this point (made clear by her own questions of whether she actually had figured anything out), and her suggestion mirrors the worst parts of his behavior. Hikki's other friends want him to lean on them, but Yukino would never be able to admit what she wants, either for herself or in relation to Hikki. Through his overall plan with Iroha and the council, Hachiman has acted selfishly under the guise of acting kind - pushing Iroha into a role she never wanted, and distancing himself from his friends in the bargain. In suggesting Hikki leave the club, Yukino is matching his actions, validating his choices because she's stuck in a similar position to the one he's realizing no longer works. These two could bring out the best in each other, but instead they're enabling each other's worst beliefs, and their inability to back down is pushing them apart. Friendship can be pretty tough sometimes.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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