After the tension-filled meeting with Yukino’s mother about the other prom, Hikigaya and Yukino proceed with relief. And as the last episode has shown us, this relief from tension also eased up whatever tension that is left that is hanging between Hikigaya and Yukino, and their feelings for each other are laid bare. Oregairu’s last episode provides us not with a book-end, but a beginning. Day one of Hachiman and Yukino’s relationship. As most beginnings start, what is left to do is to resolve all the other things that might get in the way.
Oregairu’s concluding episode starts out calmly: an empty hall with Hikigaya, trying to open the locked room of the Service Club. Yukino arrives and throws the key to Hikigaya. As the past episodes have established, we are expected to see them roll out their plans for the prom. And as with the other Graduation prom episode (10), we know that the prom itself is not important. And this is what sets this very season’s unique character: that Oregairu is not interested in explosive frames or spectacular events. The characters – the student council and the Service club – are those who remain in the background, and what happens behind the scenes is most important. No scene-stealers.
The first days of Hikigaya and Yukino as partners are also depicted in a similar manner. We see the two adjusting to this new life: from friends to lovers. Still doing the same thing as friends, with sprinkles of change rather than eventual transformation. No special spots for them to hide and express themselves to each other, but a populated park on a holiday. Everything is dreamy.
I would not go far and say that this is a “realistic” depiction of early phases of a relationship. But within the context of the two protagonists, and given the pace the narrative has unfolded, this is quite its logical trajectory. The third season of Oregairu is set up in such a way that the tone of the show will be consistently brought to this instant of transition, unlike the dramatic peaks that characterized the second season.
But where is Yuigahama? Last episode, we are left with an image of her crying in the arms of her mother after realizing that she is, indeed, in love. How would the new lovers face their friend? As with the two lovers, this is also the first day for Yuigahama. How can she begin again? What clearly is Oregairu’s answer to this is their trust with their friendship.
Yuigahama is not alone. The three seasons exposed her to more people she can now confide to as friends. Iroha proclaims the obvious: there isn’t any law against liking someone with a girlfriend. As alarming as it is, Iroha is telling it to Yuigahama as a friend who’s dear to her. Whether or not this should impede their friendship is something that Yuigahama must resolve for herself. But a lesson from this is something that is quite rare as an expression in anime: that one must face conflict head on and it is not a hindrance for co-existence.
The opposite might be true: conflict actually enriches experience. The prom that the Service Club and the Student council is organizing at the bayside is anything but smooth. Their lack of manpower made them dependent on people with whom members of the volunteers may have had reservations with: Zaimokuza and friends with Iroha or Hikigaya with Hayama’s gang, or Yukino with Yuigahama. Them coming together in one room really stamped this episode as a conclusion.
Ultimately, this is a new beginning for Hikigaya. Despite the flatness in his tone, Hikigaya is most conscious of the changes that have happened to him and for everybody. How is he going to deal with Yukino’s cuteness now that they are open with each other? When Yukino said the magic words to him, he approached it initially with the same smug and cynicism that we know of him, but with a glimmer of hope and happiness. His search for the genuine, as his teacher Shizuka asks of him, may have just started with these first days.
What does it mean to begin? The circumstances that initiates a beginning, for philosopher Edward Said, includes a sense of loss. As Shizuka reminds Hikigaya of his older self, he’s become conscious of how immature that thought was. To come of age is to have lost some of his prior claims of self. It’s not that Hikigaya is not the same cynical teen that we know him from the start, but rather, he’s in the process of changing.
To begin to mature is a process rather than an event or happening. To begin is to act: to provide and fulfill what’s been lost, to create new ones in the process. The beginning as a conclusion fits Oregairu as a show for teenagers. We start off with characters, kids who act like adults who think they know better, and end with actually knowing and acting up as they come of age.
Oregairu ends with promises. A promise that the kids, or the show’s audience, are not alone, and that one day, with a little help from everyone, maybe we can begin again. But as the past episodes have shown, Oregairu also demystifies the ideal friendship established through smooth interpersonal relationships. The idea shared by the show is a reconsideration of people’s differences by placing oneself at a distance, or even at an outside, to see objectively and inform ourselves what we should really do about it.
This is somehow an appeal to a friendship established in rationality. Oregairu concludes with highlighting the differences that enriches relationships. The show does so by making these differences more apparent to all characters and not just with Hikigaya. That a conscious Yuigahama knows herself in relation to her friends at the present may give her ways to get what she wishes for. The same goes with Yukino: that by not acting as a grown up, but knowing that she will be, will inform her of better actions for everybody’s benefit. This appeal to reason is also a leap of faith: that maybe, by beginning to think and to know, we can do things right.