I really hadn’t planned to post on Yahari this week, and after the first half of this ep I hadn’t seen any reason to change my mind. But there were – as usual – elements of the episode that stood out as quite affecting, so it seems I’m hooked in for one more week, at least.
The problem I have with Yahari is I’m still not getting anywhere – the same things that drove me crazy about it in the premiere are still driving me crazy. It truly amazes me that a series can ring so false so much of the time, and yet have moments of real truth like the last five minutes of this episode. It’s hard for me to convince myself to sit through more of the male lead getting punched by a teacher (seriously, in this day and age, are there still anime fans that find that funny?). It’s hard to psych myself up to deal with Yukino for another weak – truly, she’s one of the most unpleasant characters I can recall from any anime in a long time. It’s hard not to get irritated by yet another female character with the stupid naming trick.
But then, there’s those last five minutes. And I suppose it’s better to have a series that can make you feel something at least, positive or negative, than one which leaves you completely cold. The side-story this week was actually rather decent as well: Kawasaki Saki (Koshimizu Ami) is a remote and distant classmate of Hikki. She’s been coming home at five in the morning, which has her little brother Taishi (Ayumu Murase) worried, news which finds its way to the Club because he’s friends with Komachi. Turns out she’s been working at a bar (lying about her age) to earn extra money to pay her school fees, to make it easier on her family. It’s all told in low-key, believable fashion, and Saki is probably more interesting in her brief appearance than any of the main girls in the series.
Where the episode really strikes gold is when Komachi lets it slip that it was Yui that brought Hikki sweets after the accident (i.e. it was her dog he saved). On the school field trip, Hikki tells her that he knows all about it, and she doesn’t need to be nice to him because she’s worried about him – he’d have been just as much a loner even without the accident. Naturally, Yui has other reasons – but Hikki is so beaten-down and cynical that he can’t see past his firm believe that nice girls are trouble. He hates nice girls because if they’re nice to him, they must be nice to everyone else too – and getting any other ideas get only lead to heartbreak (heck, he applies this to Hayato too). Damn, that’s a cold, dark place for a series to go – what a brutally sad and pathetic way to look at the world. It’s not that often that you see adolescent pain portrayed in such a blunt and ruthless way – and that’s always been something Yahari had in it to do, even with all the other crap that’s layered on top of it.
But there’s a fundamental problem with all this. Yui isn’t a very interesting character, and though Hikki’s loneliness certainly was given its most stark portrayal with this incident, there’s been nothing in the series to make a potential relationship between them an interesting prospect. And I have no doubt we’ll get a poor little rich girl development with Yukino, where we see why she’s the mean-spirited viper she is, and are told to feel sorry for her. They’re the main girls, and that’s how it works – but it doesn’t really work. If the series were about Saki, who has an interesting real-life problem, or Saika – who’s been the only one to truly open himself up to Hikki without any qualifications or pretenses – or Hayato, who’s a genuinely interesting enigma, it would be a lot more interesting and a lot less formulaic. Hikki is a depressing lead most of the time, but his loneliness has a core of truth to it, and it’s strong enough to be a centerpiece of a very good series – if the elements that revolved around it were different than they are. You never know, I suppose, but it just doesn’t seem likely that the essence of the series is going to change, and for me that means it’s always going to be a question of how much of the pretentious drivel I can stomach in order to get to the genuinely profound truth underneath it.