Everyone wants to grow. We all want to look back at ourselves in a year’s time and say “I’m better now,” whether at some craft, at school, work, or our personal goals. We want to be able to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We all want to succeed. We all want to grow.
But what does growth look like? After all, it isn’t exactly the easiest thing to track. What even counts as success? How many chords do I have to know before I can tell people I play guitar? And even after learning all those chords, progress is excruciating and painful, and exhausting. You get to the end of all your practice and find yourself singing the same tune.
And Bocchi The Rock! gets this. If you haven’t watched the show these past few weeks, well, fix that. You’re missing out—not only on some truly incredible Hitori screenshots, but also on a work with surprising depth in both animation and story.
In episode five, Bocchi the Rock! asks, What does it really mean to grow? Why is the process so painful at times? And how do we move forward? The show doesn’t provide clear answers to those questions. But it does invite us to join Hitori and her friends on their musical journey. So let’s take the series up on that invitation. Let’s reflect together on that journey: on that nebulous concept we call “growth.”
Struggling to Grow
Growing up, shy, lonely Hitori Gotoh always struggled to make friends. Though that’s obvious from her name, which translates to “soliloquy” or “monologue.” (Word of advice to any anime parents out there: don’t seal your child’s fate when you name them. It never goes well.) But when middle school rolled around, Hitori came up with a plan to break out of her social anxiety-induced shell. She would start a band. She’d serenade some classmates with her guitar skills. They’d get up on stage at the culture festival, and she’d play her heart out alongside them, and she’d make something of herself.
And now, five episodes later, she’s a member of Kessoku Band! Easy, right? It only took getting to high school and being dragged to perform at a live house against her will. Not only that but she’s moved past her self-described shut-in tendencies and mustered the courage to Speak To Strangers. And all while making eye contact!
So she’s made it, right? The show’s over now?
Eye contact 👁️👁️
Well, not quite.
For starters, while she’s great at guitar on her own, she’s not great with others—social anxiety and all. And that becomes a problem, especially when the band finds out they can’t perform again at their live house without passing an audition first. So with only seven days left until that audition, Kessoku Band kicks into high gear with their preparations.
But their progress is disheartening. “Growth isn’t always visible,” one of her friends quips before practice, and Hitori sort of agrees. She’s been putting the effort in, but the results don’t line up. I mean, has she really progressed that much if she can’t really talk to a stranger without collapsing into a pile of nerves afterward? How is she supposed to play on stage?
After so many years, she’s got the band she always wanted. So why doesn’t it feel like anything’s changed?
I think it’s easy to relate to Hitori here. Just speaking for myself, when I was an adorable college freshman moving into the dorms four years ago, I had grand ambitions for myself. I wanted to be researching within the year; I wanted to have a book written by the time I graduated. I wanted to grow as a person; I wanted to overcome my penchant for procrastination and my social anxiety. I wanted to become someone great.
Well, it’s been four years, and none of those things ended up happening. Of course, that’s not to say that I haven’t changed. I’ve definitely grown as a person, I’m a little better at talking to people, and I’m doing some research now. But those are all largely invisible changes compared to the grand goals I set for myself all those years ago.
And sometimes, in the middle of all the busyness of life, I look back, like Hitori, and wonder: What happened?
Remembering to Dream
In those moments when growth seems unattainable, we need to step back and reconsider what we’re aiming for. We need to recall the reason that we want to grow. And sometimes, we need to be reminded to dream again, because dreaming gives us the strength to press on. After all, writing a song is an exciting idea until you actually have to write, and then you find out, along with Hitori, that it’s a lot harder than it seems. If we’re too focused on the writing, we can burn out halfway through. But if we focus on the song we want to write, we might just find that we can make it.
Nijika Ijichi, the leader of Kessoku Band, is a great example of this. helps us realize these things. Halfway through the episode, Nijika notices that something’s not quite right with Hitori. Simply put, she’s not all there, quite literally lingering almost outside of the frame under Nijika’s gaze. So Nijika catches Hitori while she’s making her way home down the lonely, dim streets. Truth be told, she’s a little concerned that maybe Hitori doesn’t actually want to be a part of the band—that she dragged Hitori in without asking first. And it shows. The entire interaction is a little forced, and Nijika is a little more pushy than usual.
Nijika is the opposite of Hitori in a lot of ways. She’s outgoing, cheery, confident in her decisions, and the first in line to take charge when others hesitate. Those things could make her come across as overbearing. But it’s more that she’s motivated: spurred on by a certain dream. Earlier on in the show, we’re told that Nijika wants to take her band to the national stage. That’s her dream (at least, as far as we know). That’s why she wants this band to succeed. That’s why she pushes the band forward with everything she has. That’s why she’s looking into the light, in contrast to Hitori, whose gaze is drawn to her feet and cloaked in shadow.
Nijika isn’t worried about the band’s poor performance now because she’s looking ahead to what’s next. Though progress is slow and disappointing, she presses on—because that bright stage is awaiting her at the end of it all.
Sometimes, we get a little too focused on trying to define growth in each and every moment of our lives. We’re so focused on the here and now, on the failure and exhaustion that we’ve encountered today, that we can’t see beyond our own two feet. Nijika reminds us that we need to look up. To keep our dreams front and center, and let them motivate us to keep pushing forward when we feel like nothing’s changing. To trust that our efforts will succeed, even when it doesn’t seem that way.
Nijika reminds us to fix our eyes on the light that’s ahead. Because when we do, we find that our path becomes a little bit brighter. We start to see where we are—and how far we’ve come—a little more clearly.
And that’s what happens for Hitori. After that late-night talk about Nijika’s dreams, Hitori spends some time thinking about her own. Why does she keep spending time with Kessoku Band? Why does she push herself to serve customers at the live house? Why does she go on all those outings with her new friends when she’d rather stay in the comfort of her home? What is all of this for, anyways?
And through these reflections, Hitori figures out that her goals have changed a little bit. She still wants to make something of herself and overcome her social anxiety. But now the dream’s a little bit bigger. It’s not just about her, but about the whole band. She’s got real friends now: friends to laugh with and struggle with and perform with. Friends whose dreams she wants to come true as much as her own.
She can’t afford to let Kessoku Band fail. So she takes a confident step towards her friends—out from the darkness into the light.
It’s funny. Despite all Hitori’s worrying about whether she’s grown or not, whether her playing is good enough for the band or not, the audition shows that she’s changed a lot since the beginning of the series. After all, she played her first concert from under a cardboard box, and now she’s bold enough to play openly on a stage, to perform alongside her friends, and smile all the while.
It’s possible to grow. And Bocchi the Rock! reminds us of that.
Maybe, like Hitori, you feel like you’ve been working day in and day out on that thing you love, but you can’t see the joy in it anymore, and you’re wondering why you’re not making any progress no matter how much you try.
If that’s the case, remember that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel. The chords are leading to a beautiful resolution, even if things feel dissonant right now. Remind yourself that there’s a dream worth going after. Take some time to rest and reflect on that dream—you might find that you’re further along than you thought.
And seek encouragement from friends. Rejoice with them. Labor alongside them. Chase their dreams alongside them, and let them come alongside you too.
Live your life for their sakes, and not just for your own.
To wrap up on a more personal note, I’ve definitely grown over the four years that I’ve spent at college. Maybe it’s not in the ways that I wanted to grow: maybe not in fame or in academic prestige or whatever. But I’ve grown through the encouragement of friends who listened as I shared with them the things I was passionate about with them. Friends who encouraged me to pursue those things, and shared with me their own passions so I could encourage them in return. Friends who laughed with me and supported and challenged me. Friends whom I’ve been able to support in turn.
I worry so much about whether or not I’m growing toward my goals. Watching Bocchi reminds me not to worry. Growth does happen. Change is possible. All I have to do is believe it—and keep going.
Bocchi the Rock! can be streamed on Crunchyroll.