I haven’t made any qualms about feeling that the final act of Oregairu is the weakest, both in the light novels and thus far, in the anime. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find it to still be extremely well thought out (Wataru Watari used those several years well in completing his series!). This specific episode is a great example, as it’s fully about the final couple of minutes, which are understated but extremely important. As hinted at by the episode’s title, “Gallantly, Shizuka Hiratsuka Moves Forward,” Shizuka’s actions again carry a significant amount of weight. Even though so much occurs in the first 20 minutes, everything else in the episode is just a prelude.
The central event of episode ten appears to be the prom. “Anime only” watchers may be surprised—very little time is spent on the actual event. It’s through ten minutes into the episode, though the prom does provide one of the series’ sweetest moments: Yui asking Hikki to dance, and then him asking her.
Afterward, Yukino finally tells her mom that she wants to be the heir to the family business; her mom gives a positive (if not fully affirmative) response, while Haruno continues to prod and poke, even though she was largely the one who allowed this moment to happen.
Later, when the three service club members are alone, they discuss the ending of their club, but Hikki avoids the conversation and walks away. His ensuing talk with Haruno confirms the game that he’s been playing all along—Hikki has said he desires authenticity, but continues to struggle with offering his authentic self. Much like Yui, who is more upfront about it (in her thoughts at least), he’d rather continue to play as friends as long as he can, avoiding the messy ending he expects. Haruno calls him out on all this, while revealing her own regret.
Hikki needs to hear this from her, to be confronted with his disingenuous actions, so that he can accept that he is acting this way.
But you know what? Tough love, the kind he receives from Haruno and which he often gives himself, isn’t always what leads to transformation.
Enter the “gallant” Hiratsuka-sensei.
As she tends to do, Hiratsuka demonstrates both compassion and experience; she understands that Hikki, Yui, and Yukino are teenagers. Haruno’s expectation that Hikki will rise above his immaturity and create a lasting relationship is built upon her best wishes for her little sister and the pain she’s endured by making similar choices, not on a deep knowledge of Hikki or care for him. Hiratsuka, on the other hand, cares very much for her pupil, and is old and wise enough to both realize that there’s a lot of pressure being placed on these three and understand that if she’s to help him, it will be through encouragement. It’s always by kind words that she’s helped Hikki be brave. And the night of prom, when in America attendees would be partying and spending time with their friends, it’s a casual but meaningful conversation late at night between teacher and student that will create a lasting memory; it’s also perhaps the impetus that will lead Hikki over the hump and into the genuine relationship he longs to find.
- The MVP of episode ten? Easy. Hiratsuka sensei. Best anime teacher ever? She’s certainly close.
- MAX COFFEE appearance in this episode? YES, during the preview for episode 11. I’ll count it!
- Meguri appears in a couple frames during prom, making good on a promise during last episode that she would see the crew there.
- Hikki removing Yukinon’s fingers one by one was both gentle and brutal. She’s desperately (and literally) clinging to Hikki, waiting for him to make that move. But he’s just not there yet. He needed a gallant teacher to point him back in the right direction.
- Fast pitch machines are free? I’d take that. But have you ever tried fast fall from a hitting machines? Difficult and painful.
- I hate the casting for Yukinoshita mom. I feel like that grandmother-type voice is too often used for the wrong characters in anime. She sounds like she’s 80 but looks like she’s 35, when the truth is somewhere in between. Can’t the voice, at least, reflect that?
- The end is ALMOST HERE. ;_;