I love Christmas episodes (only 209 days away!). So much so, in fact, that every December, we discuss anime Christmas episodes each day leading up to the 25th. I’ll chat more about the Christmas-y elements of this one then, as spare as they are (as noted by the characters themselves).
But despite the Christmas setting, it’s again relationship dynamics, as usual, that take center stage in episode nine of OreGairu (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU). Dozens and dozens of relationships have had the opportunity to develop over the course of the series. Usually, they are problematic (we again see this in the closing minutes of the episode as Iroha apparently confesses to and is rejected by Hayato). But what the animators want us to see in this episode is that the core relationships between our three leads are moving on an upward trajectory. Yui is cozying up with Yukino, and she allows it; Hachiman and Yui continue to become more intimate; and Yukino opens her heart a bit to Hachiman, who in turn is becoming better at seeing what she really wants instead of just what she externally communicates.
But in OreGairu fashion, the dynamics are awkward. It’s as if the players don’t know how to interact with each other. They’ve started a new, intense state of their relationships, as they seek to genuinely develop friendships with each other. There’s realism here – bumps are common when change occurs, especially when big change happens, the kind that’s so out of character or overwhelming that it might make you kick your legs in the air and fall off the couch in your living room (I love these little looks into Home Hikigaya, don’t you?).
For a Christian, there’s no bigger change in one’s life than when he or she comes to faith. What God asks out of us isn’t a little commitment – it’s entirely different way of life. In fact, it’s described as the death of our old lives (Romans 6:6) – we crucify ourselves and live lives of surrender to Christ, letting the Holy Spirit work his way in us. The result should be something extraordinary.
And this transformation should then be obvious, as it’s obvious the characters in OreGairu are undergoing change. Hikigaya is kinder and more pleasant; Yui is more forthright; Yukino is starting to find herself. They are still themselves; their personalities are intact, but they are changed. And when we come to Christ, so are we – we are fully the same and fully different.
And as with our trio, there are bumps in the road. The awkwardness between and among the three remains all episode long – their dynamics are not quickly resolved into buddy-buddy relationships. They’ll continue to have to find their path through the overgrown branches of their newly discovered friendships. They’ll get lost a bit along the way and encounter thorns and other unpleasantness, just as a young Christians will have trouble living the lives they have gained. In that sense, at least for us, conversion is the easy part – transformation is where the work comes in.
And it does take work. It takes a step of faith. Yukino shows as much by her small actions with the ice water ride when she decides that despite her fear, she’ll board with Hachiman:
I wasn’t too sure at first, but I was fine when I rode with Yuigahama, so I can probably handle this, too.
If you’re struggling in your walk after you made a decision to follow Christ, know that the struggle is normal. It’s common. It’s part of the pain in getting a new heart and crucifying your old ways. But as we move forward in faith and trust God’s promises, often with asking for help from others (as Yukino does with Hachiman), we find we’ll grow strong in the face of difficulties. And also like Yukino, you’ll find that you can “handle this, too.”