The tone of OreGairu has always been peculiar for a self-declared romantic comedy – sarcastic, depressing, persnickety. But throughout most of season two, particularly the episodes since Hikigaya has been helping out “Irohas,’ the show has developed a nervous feeling to it as well. Simultaneously as the audience is on edge about what will happen both to the service club and with the student council project, we’re made more and more aware that almost every character is changing and/or preoccupied with something uncomfortable – and all that makes us uncomfortable as well.
Even though we’re only privy to Hikigaya’s thoughts, we can especially in episode seven guess about the preoccupations of the others – Yui is worried about the club and their friendships; Yukino, perhaps, about her inability to be the person she would like to be; Iroha about her responsibility and budding feelings toward Hikigaya (the latter to an extent with Kaori); Rumi regarding her continued problems establishing friendships; and Hayato’s jealous/admiration toward our lead. Hikigaya, we know, is dealing with how to help others, as he comes to the realization that his methods aren’t working very well.
What surprises me is that Hiki is not preoccupied with the fact that his entire way of thinking is falling apart. He actually takes it in stride that his methods, so core to his belief system, aren’t working with practically anyone right now. He’s more concerned with the fact that he’s not able to help those he’s come to care about.
At the beginning of season two, my guess was that, in traditional anime fashion, the cour would culminate in some grand scene in which Hikigaya would suddenly realize the error of his ways and the value both of relationships and depending on/working with others. Some emotional climax may still happen, but subtly, ever so subtly, transformation for Hikigaya has and is already occurring. We know it by his actions and his thoughts.
The Hikigaya from the beginning of the school year was satisfied being alone and not being involved with anyone. Even in season one, he was resolved to just do things his own way, a cold method that didn’t take others into consideration. But this episode reveals this much – he can’t do that anymore, not just because his ways are practically flawed, but because he cares.
Hikigaya now wants something more than to prove himself right or to finish the job – he wants his friends to be happy.
All too often, we live like the old Hikigaya, like a rock in ground. And although many of us speak of social justice issues or resolve to help those in need in some way, we live more like pre-service club Hiki, caring only about ourselves and staying away from entanglements with those in need. Maybe it’s because we know what Hikigaya is now discovering – you can’t become involved with others and their troubles without starting to love them, and when you love someone, you can’t just stay where you are – you have to move. Because love is an action – it’s a doing.
A lot of Christians, unfortunately, don’t understand this, even though it’s vital to scripture. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and mind” is paired by Jesus with “Love your neighbor as yourself.” They are inextricably connected. As James tells us, faith without works is dead – you can’t claim to love God without loving others, and you can’t love without doing.
The change going on in Hikigaya is related to his heart understanding what his mind might not right now – that he loves his friends and he is moved to help them, even if it means humbling himself in a way that crucifies his beliefs and becoming a sacrifice in a way that is ever more difficult for him than his martyr methods in the past.
Ultimately, that is love – more than talk and more important than our pride and comfort. And if you’re unable or unwilling to do the same for others, maybe you should look at Hikigaya and evaluate yourself in him – are you a self-absorbed Hikigaya or the new, changing one? The answer might indeed do what OreGairu has been doing to us all season – make you uncomfortable.