The framework of the final season of Oregairu is so interesting. In bringing the final arcs of so many characters to a close, but most fully and resoundingly with Hiki, Yukinon, and Yui, the vehicle of this “CLIMAX” season is less important than it has ever previously been. The prom is just the device, and whether it succeeds or fail is secondary. What’s more important is that it is a mechanism by which the personal growth of the main characters, and any romantic relationship that may develop, will occur. This episode takes a major step in that direction, so strongly in fact, that what might have been vital scenes in previous seasons don’t have quite the impact that they should.
The one I’m talking in particular about boils down to a single word: co-dependency. For fans of the light novel, it holds almost as much meaning as “genuine,” and was teased earlier this season when Haruno whispered it (inaudibly to the audience) into Hiki’s ear. But it comes up more fully in episode four as the character who can most be viewed as a villain in Oregairu returns. Yukinoshita mom brings the strength of her position and family against the poor little kids trying to put on a prom. Curmudgeons that are involved with the Yukinoshita business are worried about the morality of a prom, and though small in number, want their reservations heard and addressed, maybe to the extent that the event is canceled. And so, most of the major characters join together with her to discuss what this means, and as usual, Hiki intends to get involved, but Yukino pushes him away, as does Haruno, leading to the flashback of what she tells Hiki their triumvirate is built upon.
If all the characters are learning something this season, Hiki’s lesson is to understand that relationships are complicated. I know lots of people like Hiki, and I am that person, too, sometimes, wanting to solve a problem immediately both to ease stress and to help someone out. But the truth is that doing that can create this codependency that Haruno warns of (in her horribly dismissive way). It’s not wrong to help, but help can be harmful, and Hiki has to realize this, to let his loved ones suffer if suffering leads to something good. That’s a lesson for all of us to learn, and though we may know it, the doing—going through the hardships—is the hardest part to accept and accomplish. How much more so with a teenager!
Yukino, meanwhile, continues to grow and mature. She wants to handle things her own way (possibly to a ruinous end, as Haruno inferred in an earlier episode) so that she can become strong. For one so young, Yukino is at such a significant point of life already. Who will she become? Will she always depend on Hiki or some other boy, or will she learn to stand on her own?
But all that takes a back seat in this episode, as does some levity including Hiki taking a selfie in front of a MAXIS machine (the type of moment I live for), because of the emotional final five minutes.
The end of episode four demonstrates the sudden shift this season in how Yui Yuigahama is presented. From the very beginning of the series, we as the viewer are given hints that she’s not as bubbleheaded as she seems, that she knows a whole lot more than Hiki or Yukino or any of us, in fact. But all this is getting vomited out now in season four as Yui’s internal monologue is provided, and as she comes to terms with the kind of person she is, the person she wants to become, the value of her relationships, and what she really feels toward her best friends. But it’s a lot for the viewer as she moves from the character we know least about to us knowing far more about her currently than either of the other two.
But all that knowledge of Yui’s mindset makes for some really good moments.
Like the other three, Yui is experiencing growing pains. As always, the doalogue is vague, but an inference is that Yui continues to try to balance her relationships, and manipulate them as well, to everyone’s happiness. But that’s difficult to do, and Yui is placed in a tough spot—Yukino and Hachiman are hurtling toward each other like two heavenly objects about to collide and Yui can no longer love them as she has and keep that from happening.
Of course, she’s also very hard on herself. We all have selfish desires, and there’s no reason that Yukinon deserves Hiki more than Yui does, but that’s how she is—always thinking of others and how even the most subtle things will help or hurt them. And because she’s thinking of these complexities when the other two are still elementary in developing relationships and emotional maturity, and isn’t quite grown up enough yet to admit to herself that it’s okay to want what she wants when it’s in conflict to what her dear friends want, there’s not much Yui can do but cry as she makes these choices that will either hurt her or hurt Yukino.
And so, Yui Yuigahama is all alone.
- MVP of the episode is…that awesome MAXIS machine! Still wondering how MAX COFFEE isn’t being advertised this season. Could they not get the proper permissions in time because of COVID slowdowns?
- HIratsuka is the real MVP, but I’ll save that for an episode where she fully shines.
- The end song…OH MAN. Tears tear tears.
- Can’t wait for more Yui Mama! It’ll be a nice contrast to Yuikinoshita Mother.
- More MAX Coffee in the preview btw…could we have MAXIS in every single episode this season?? If so, it’s going to get more screen time than half of our supporting characters.