The second episode of Oregairu’s third season is Yui’s episode. But since it takes 20 minutes to get to her big scene, we’ll likewise save her for the end. First, the rest of the episode, which after the mostly introductory material last week, moves the season’s plot season forward considerably. Important developments make it so that episode two is heavy on the drama and info drops, and light on humor.
The action actually begins by going backwards. In the last episode, there’s a skip ahead to the fun Kawa-something meeting and touching Komachi scene, meant to slowly ease audiences back into the series. But episode two fills in the gap, with Yukinon making good on her declaration to speak with Haruno about her intentions to talk to their mom, and the latter finally acting like a big sister (though the argument could be made that she’s been an effective onee-san all along, if not exactly the warm and cuddly type).
After their conversation, including Yukinon’s explanation about moving home (and Yui’s volunteering to help her pack), Haruno walks to a convenience store with Hiki, the two chatting about adulthood and drunkenness. Haruno insists she’s not inebriated—and judging by how serious she becomes when talking to Yukinon, she’s indeed probably just buzzed—and theorizes that she may not be able to get drunk; she then whispesr to Hiki that he’s probably the same, creating an analogy insinuating that both of them find it difficult to ever be themselves, free like a drunk person, without inhibition.
Back at school, the best Oregairu character (or at least my favorite) makes her entrance. Yep, enter Irohas! Always looking to make a splash, she comes to the club with a request that they help her throw a prom. And thus sets the stage for the next big activity involving club members. But, similarly to the Christmas event, this won’t start as a club activity; Yukinon wants to assist on her own.
Iorhas is just elated that she’s getting help.
But the most significant part of this episode is the last five minutes, the portion which suddenly puts this faux romance series into full, actual romance mode, and which helps reveal Yui’s character more fully. Her sideways glances for all these many episodes finally turn toward inner monologue, and we hear thoughts (even if they’re still masked a bit) about her relationship with the other club members.
Oregairu builds much of its drama by hiding things—motivations, thoughts, feelings. You would think that would be hard to do for this long, but it works largely because of the structure of the show. We know far more about Hiki’s thoughts than anyone, so we should know exactly how he feels, but he’s an unreliable narrator in a sense because he isn’t ready to admit certain things about himself and is impacted so greatly by past hurt. Yukino isn’t a whole lot different—she’s not who she presents herself to be, but that’s largely because she really doesn’t know who she is.
And Yui—well, Yui we know the least of all, especially since the anime doesn’t feature much of the prologue material from the light novels that help us as readers get into her head. She’s at first presented as an airhead, and so the audience immediately perceives her to have little depth, stereotyping Yui as a one-dimensional character who is never a serious threat to the love triangle being posited. But as the series progresses, and in fact almost immediately from her entrance, Yui shows herself to be more thoughtful that we think. In fact, as I’ve said before, she’s actually the most thoughtful and mature of the three, as well as the most sensitive to the others’ feelings.
That knowledge and kindness is what causes Yui to hurt, and it’s also what makes her a compelling character. At the end of this episode, we see her dilemma and, I think, understand it (at least I do): This whole time, she’s been walking the line between getting what she wants and sacrificing for others’ sake. Yui loves her friends so much, but she wants to be happy, too.
A huge roadblock to that happiness suddenly becomes visible while Yui helps Yukinon move. While the latter leaves her room to attend to a call, Yui heads immediately for the stuffed Pan-san on her bed. As she pets it, a package shifts out from behind. Yui hesitates, but eventually opens it and sees a photo from their visit to Destinyland of Yukinon holding onto Hiki, and it serves as confirmation of what she’s known all along: Yukinon likes him.
But it’s so much more than that. The existence of that photo also reveals how much Hiki means to Yukinon. It’s a punch in the gut, for it’s Yui that spends time with her, eats lunch with her, visits her home, and helps her pack, but it’s Hiki that changes Yukinon. There’s a special relationship there, one that Yui doesn’t have with either.
So all at once, Yui realizes that she can’t be with Hiki (she values her relationship with Yukinon too much to try to make such a play) and that she’s the odd man out of their friendship as well. Little hints were dropped throughout the episode emphasizing that she’s been thinking about these things, though the words she says are those she’s been saying all along. In her heart of hearts, Yui knew she’d have to sacrifice both friendship and love, but she ignored those thoughts while trying to build something for herself, a friendship trio in which each side holds an equal part, an equilateral triangle.
In this way, Yui is like Hayato, trying to create this fake relationship because she values it, even if it’s not “authentic.”
Of course, what Yui doesn’t realize is that her feelings are genuine, too. There’s authenticity to what she’s been trying to do, even when that meant denying her own desires and pushing the group toward a direction that the other two don’t necessarily want to go.
But despite what Yui declares at the end of the episode, despite the disgust she likely feels at herself, she’s a loving friend, a good girl, and a special person. While Yukinon and Hiki struggled to find themselves, Yui continued to love on them; even her selfishness was focused on making something lovely for them all.
As inferred by winks from Haruno to her demonstrating that she understands, Yui is just a little too grown up for her friends, and as often happens when that’s the case, she suffers because of it. And yet, she moves forward for the sake of her friends, out of her deep love for them. That’s just who Yui is.
Yui Yuigahama: One of the best characters in anime.
Oregairu can be streamed on Crunchyroll.