Watching Hachiman, Yukino and Yui suppress their feelings and not being able to talk out their issues frankly was tough. If you read my summaries of volume 12 and volume 13, you’ll understand what I mean. The fact that this was all taking place over the course of years made it more agonising.
Volume 14 finally brings closure to these characters. Finally, after all these years. In this blog post, I will spoil everything about it, so strap yourselves in for a wild ride!
The book is roughly divided into two parts. I like to think of the first part as “the bad end” like what you’d find in a visual novel. With the Service Club disbanded, Hachiman and Yukino gradually start to drift apart, but life goes on anyway. Hachiman thinks to himself, “I’m sure that one day the distance between us won’t feel strange to me. We become close, and at the end of it, we drift apart. I’m sure I’ll get used to that.”
At the end of volume 13, Yukino told Hachiman, “My wish is for you to grant Yuigahama-san’s wish.” So Hachiman calls Yui to a park and asks her what she wants. Yui says vaguely that she wants “everything.” When Hachiman presses her for specifics, she finally comes up with two suggestions: help see the prom through and throw a party with everyone.
“And after that… after that, I want to grant Hikki’s wish.”
Because Hachiman doesn’t actually know what he wants just yet, he finds this whole “wish-granting” thing hard. But for now, he decides to make good on his promise to Yui. He ropes all the side characters together and they all hang out at karaoke.
The karaoke scene is 100% the realest social interaction that is written in the book, and it reminded me a lot of the kind of story Oregairu used to be in its early volumes, when comedy was a bigger focus. Zaimokuza and the Games Club guys have no idea how to talk to Yumiko and her gang, so it’s all very awkward. They end up having a good time when Hayama joins the fray to smooth everything over with his impeccable social skills, but Hayama and Hachiman dislike each other, so now things are awkward for Hachiman.
When Hachiman briefly goes out to grab something from the drink bar, Yumiko has her first real conversation alone with him. She flat out asks him, “How do you feel about Yui?” When Hachiman doesn’t really respond, she continues, “I’m not really your friend and I don’t care about you either way, but I do care about Yui. So don’t half-ass things with her, okay? It’ll piss me off.”
Unfortunately for Yumiko, Hachiman “half-asses” things with Yui for the rest of the book. She never actually confesses her romantic feelings to him so he never explicitly rejects her, and they have barely any scenes together in the second half of the volume. They do have a cute scene together where they go shopping and do some cooking in chapter 3, though. Hachiman momentarily wonders what would happen if he granted each and every one of Yui’s wishes, and then concludes that it’s an impossible fantasy. Sorry, Yui fans.
On the other hand, things aren’t looking good for Yukino either. The preludes interspersed between the early chapters of the volume reveal that after Yukino broke things off with Hachiman, she went to Yui’s house and admitted that she likes Hachiman. She immediately regrets this, because by saying the words out loud, it became something that she felt that she could no longer take back. She cares about Yui that much, knowing that they share the same wish. So even after admitting her feelings, she continues to suppress them, hoping that the day will come when she can smile and put it all behind her.
In response, Yui says that she’s greedy and wants everything – the good times and the heartbreak as well – which was her way of saying that she’s willing to accept an outcome where Hachiman doesn’t choose her as long as they all still get to be friends. But Yukino is determined to end things, and she holds onto that resolve right until the day of the prom.
“Please, Hikigaya-kun… You have to grant her wish.”
When the final song plays, Yukino looks at Hachiman and silently waves her hand. She murmurs those words, and Hachiman understands.
…But is this really the outcome that he wants?
The prom was Yukino’s chance to prove herself to her mother that she can handle responsibility and succeed the family. As far as her mother is concerned, Yukino handled things admirably. But Haruno suddenly throws a spanner in the works, saying that she can’t accept this outcome. She can’t accept how Yukino has decided to stand up to her mother so abruptly without giving a reason for any of it. What made her change so suddenly? Perhaps at this point, Haruno is just as tired of Yukino dancing around her feelings as we the readers are. She says as much to Hachiman, claiming that as far as Yukino’s wishes are concerned, the outcome of the prom was nothing but a consolation prize.
After the prom, Hiratsuka-sensei takes Hachiman to a batting center and has a chat with him. She offers Hachiman some advice: When it comes to conveying how you feel, you don’t have to boil things down to a single word. Say as many words as you need and show it through your actions. She tells him that he’ll be okay, even when she’s gone. “You’re my greatest student,” she says.
And it’s during this conversation that Hachiman decides that although he’s fine with things ending, the way it ended is wrong. If they got this far through circling around each other’s feelings and being too scared to hurt one another, then their relationship has become twisted and fake. Hachiman decides that he’ll end this screwed-up youth that he himself was responsible for creating.
A few days after the prom, Hachiman meets up with Yui and tells her what he’s thinking. He doesn’t want his relationship with Yukino to fade into mere “acquaintances.” He wants to become closer to her. If she is actually unsatisfied with her “consolation prize” because of him, he’ll take responsibility–
Hachiman abruptly realises that he’s saying something quite lame and hastily apologises. Yui says she has no idea what exactly he’s trying to say, but she has a vague idea. She reiterates for Hachiman that she wants “everything” and encourages him to go for it. When she gets back home, she smiles and laughs, but she also cries.
“I couldn’t tell him after all,” she thinks. “The words wouldn’t come out. I couldn’t say the simple words ‘I love you.’ This feeling that came before all this, that supersedes all of this. This impossible feeling. It was the first time I fell in love. It’s the first time we fell in love.”
(This is the first time the word ‘love’ is mentioned explicitly in the text, by the way. It’s on page 345.)
Hachiman then launches his plan: Prom 2.0. The previous prom was just for the seniors. This time he wants to do a joint prom between Sobu High School (his school) and Kaihin Sogo School (Tamanawa and Orimoto’s school). He makes Zaimokuza and the Games Club kids update the site for the dummy prom to announce this as if it’s an official thing in order to force the school’s hand. It’s honestly a stupid and scummy plan but somehow he gets away with it because Yukino sees the hidden intent and decides to take responsibility for it. And because Yukino has proven her worth already, her mother concedes to her.
Yukino is pissed off with Hachiman afterwards, though. She asks him, “Why did you do that?”
Hachiman tells her frankly, “It’s the only way I could get involved with you.” Now that the Service Club is gone, there’s no pretext for them to see each other anymore.
Yukino is stunned. She asks Hachiman why he’d go to such lengths, and he tells her, “You told me to grant her wish. It was to spend idle days with you after school, she said.”
“In that case, you didn’t have to go out of your way to do all of this.”
“I did. A familiar face, acquaintances, friends, classmates… Call it what you like, but I have no confidence that I’d be able to maintain a relationship like that.” He hesitates as Yukino shuffles a few steps ahead of him, and then says, “If I let go of you now, I’ll never be able to catch hold of you again.”
He reaches out and puts his hand around her wrist.
“You might not want this… but I want to continue being involved with you. It’s not out of obligation, it’s my own will.” A pause. “So give me permission to mess up your life.”
Yukino is understandably confused and asks him what he means. He explains that while he doesn’t have the power to change her life in a big way, if they become involved with each other, they’ll be stepping on each other’s toes, so her life will probably end up being a bit messed up. In exchange, he promises to give her everything he has.
They keep talking, and the more Hachiman says, the less sense he makes. They both acknowledge that he is spouting the first bullshit that comes to mind. But that’s fine. Even if his words make no sense, he’s saying these things because he wants to convey his feelings. And that desire, above all else, is what gets across to her.
Finally, Yukino caves in and rests her head on his shoulder.
“Please give me your life.”
Those are rather heavy words, as Hachiman remarks, but he accepts them anyway. Words can’t capture the feelings, but they get across through the warmth of their touch.
The rest of the book is an extra-long coda. After sorting out the logistical difficulties, everyone in the extended cast gets together for the joint prom. Hachiman gets to say his final farewell to Hiratsuka-sensei and reflect on what a long year it’s been for him. And Yukino actually manages to say, “I like you,” to Hachiman’s face. They have difficulty describing their relationship to others, but “partners” is what they manage.
As for Yui, she hasn’t entirely given up on Hachiman. Iroha, much like the rest of the cast, has pretty much figured out what went down between Hachiman, Yukino and Yui. Iroha tells Yui, “You know, there’s no law against liking a guy who’s got a girlfriend.” (She asserts that she has no feelings for Hachiman herself, but well, if he came after her, who’s to say how a girl would react? But no way would she actually expend any effort.) She also says, “It’s okay for girls not to know when to give up. That’s their privilege!”
Yui thinks that Iroha is talking nonsense, but she’s still kind of touched anyway. With renewed energy, she dashes towards the place she wants to be.
And that place, of course, is at the side of her best friend and the boy she loves.
When the new school year starts, Hiratsuka-sensei is gone, but Yukino decides to reinstate the Service Club anyway. At first, it’s just Hachiman and Yukino, but soon enough, Yui, Komachi and Iroha join them. The last scene has them all gather in the empty classroom where they meet for the Service Club. This is where Yui makes her request:
“There’s a person I like, and there’s someone who’s kind of like a girlfriend to him, and that person happens to be my best friend… but I want to be friends with them forever. What should I do?”
Yukino invites her to stay. Yui’s request may take a long time to fulfill. Yui looks straight at Yukino and says, with an honest laugh, “Yeah, it might take a long time. It might not end today, or tomorrow, or the day after… I think it’ll continue forever.”
“Yeah… I think it’ll continue forever.” Nevertheless, Yukino accepts her with open arms.
Meanwhile, Hachiman watches this scene and comes to the conclusion: “My youth romantic comedy is wrong, as I expected.”
And that’s it. That’s the end of the story.
If Oregairu’s final volume ends with a title drop I will flip a table lmao
(Please don’t confirm or deny whether this is the case)— 🐸🐸 Frog-kun 🐸🐸 (@frog_kun) November 23, 2019
Jokes aside, what a rollercoaster ride that final volume was! I feel bad that the contents leaked a few days before it actually came out, though. The story is structured in a way that there’s genuine uncertainty that anyone will actually act on their feelings for the first 300 pages. For a while, it really seemed like the future that lay ahead for Hachiman and crew was this depressing fanfic. God, I’m glad they averted that future.
It’s been eight-and-a-half years since Oregairu started, and now it’s finally ended. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it was the defining high school light novel of this decade.
I was the same age as Hachiman when Oregairu first began in 2011. Although I wasn’t reading light novels at that time, when I experienced the anime in 2013, it was the first time I felt like I saw my own high school experience reflected in a work of media. I’d always felt somehow alienated by the teen experiences depicted in English YA literature. Oregairu was what got me to read light novels in earnest; I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
After I became an adult, I stopped being so invested in Oregairu. Or rather, it stopped mattering to me where these kids ended up. I wasn’t that curious about the romantic resolutions; I just knew with conviction that they were going to be okay when they grow up.
In the afterword of the 14th and final volume, Wataru Watari writes: “It was so long ago when I was in my second year of high school, but now it feels like my second year of high school has finally ended. It was the longest year of my life.”
You’ve done well, Watari. You can graduate now with no worries in mind. Thanks for everything.