Apparently, some of Hinata’s “friends” have come by to see the group’s relay test. They are from the Hanyu Daisan High School track team, and they must know Hinata well enough if they’re going to take time out of their day to see her. The short girl hinted at her deeper issues way back in episode six. To quickly recap what we learned that week, she didn’t like how her former teammates felt obligated to help her. She didn’t like that they would pretend to be nice around her, but whenever she left the room, they’d immediately talk behind her back. Hinata confided this to Shirase and Shirase alone; the other two have no clue that the girl has such major hang-ups. In any case, these girls the same ones from back then. It’s possible that they’ve grown up and realized the errors of their ways. On the other hand, they might only be here to relieve themselves of their guilt. After all, why go on air to apologize? Why not just reach out to Hinata privately?
Later in the episode, the girls are supposed to send out New Year’s cards, but Hinata only made one out to her manager at her part-time job. We knew she didn’t have any friends outside of Mari, Shirase and Yuzuki, but what about her family? Anyways, Mari wonders why Hinata didn’t make any cards for the Hanyu Daisan girls. The former track member quickly changes the subject then runs off to privately let off some steam in the cold, Antarctic air. Since Shirase is the only person who knows anything about Hinata’s deeper issues, she goes after the girl. Hinata really doesn’t wanna deal with this, though. As a result, Shirase doesn’t even know how to react; she’s just speechless. Has Hinata been bottling up her feelings of anger and betrayal all this time? When she returns to the group, however, she’s back to being all smiles. Is she just good at compartmentalizing her feelings or is she just putting on a brave face? We’ll have to wait and see. As for Shirase, all she can do is stew in her worries throughout the course of the day. She wants to talk to Hinata about her issues, but their schedule is jam-packed with activities. Plus, since Mari and Yuzuki don’t know anything about Hinata’s past, it’d be awkward to bring the topic up around them.
I’m surprised that Hinata still has those girls on her phone if she dislikes seeing them so badly. Still, she can’t quite bring herself to delete them, so it’s obvious that she hasn’t quite moved on from the past. Those girls won’t give up either. They’ve sent an email addressed to the entire expedition team probably because they can’t reach Hinata directly. Shirase knows she shouldn’t read an email that is meant to be private, but she feels as though she needs to know what’s going on with Hinata. It’s a tough call. I don’t think I would’ve done it, but I don’t blame the girl for doing what she thinks is necessary to help her friend. I don’t blame Hinata for being mad either. I’d be pissed too. I’m stubborn, though. If I don’t want my friends’ help, then I don’t want my friends’ help. I know this is an anime about friendship and teamwork, and as such, the other three are supposed to help Hinata get through her issues. But everyone approaches their problems in their own way. I prefer to tackle mine on my own and at my own pace. Until it adversely affects the rest of my life, I don’t see the need to get outside help. I’m just speaking for myself, though. I’m sure Hinata will be glad that Shirase couldn’t help being nosy by the end of the episode.
So what really happened back then? Hinata was one of the best runners on her team, but at the same time, she wanted the third years to have their time in the spotlight. She ended up being chosen to compete over the upperclassmen. Her friends said they supported her, but around the third years, they were too scared to voice their true feelings. They lied instead and inadvertently badmouthed Hinata. I believe that was the case. I don’t think they necessarily betrayed her. You would have to assume the worst to come away with that sort of interpretation. In truth, Hinata’s former friends were just a bunch of frightened girls. Not only that, they felt they had to respect their upperclassmen since Japanese culture puts a huge emphasis on that sort of thing. I think Hinata overreacted in that moment. She later claims that people went on and spread rumors about her. I can’t defend that, but I wonder who the true culprits were? Her friends? Or those third-years? Still, nothing got resolved because Hinata simply ran away. She ran away from the track team, and she ran away from high school.
Hinata says she wants to go an empty place with no one to tie her down, but it’s not as though she’s tied down at all back home. She doesn’t go to school, and she even earns money for herself. For all intents and purposes, she already quite independent. She’s clearly still bothered by the past, but she’s overcompensating here so that her friends will drop the issue. But Shirase’s the most stubborn out of all of them, so she’s not going to drop anything. She forces the one-on-one conversation anyway later that day. It’s not that Shirase has any quick-fix solutions to offer, but she at least wants to empathize. After all, she’s been the subject of cruel rumors before. Maybe she feels as though Hinata doesn’t have to be all smiles all the time. Shirase doesn’t feel the need to lie about her feelings. If she’s pissed, you’ll know she’s pissed. Hinata appreciates the gesture, but the independent girl still wants to take care of her own issues on her own. She re-iterates that they are different people, so they don’t need to approach everything the same way. That’s why she can put on a brave face despite everything. I want to agree with her, but the story clearly doesn’t. Again, Shirase is stubborn, so near the end of the episode, she decides to lend a bit of her “piss off” attitude and tells Hinata’s former friends that the girl isn’t hung up on them at all. If Hinata won’t confront them, then she will. Mari eventually picks up on the thread and joins in. As for Yuzuki… she’s an expert on friendship, I guess. Hinata can’t help but be overwhelmed with emotions.
But honestly — and I’ll probably catch flak for this — I’m ambivalent about this episode’s conclusion. We only get to hear Hinata’s side of the story, and even then, I feel as though she overreacted by quitting the team so suddenly. Like I already said, I can’t defend the rumors that were spread about her, but we don’t really know who spread those rumors, do we? Plus, even if her former friends are only here because they feel guilty, there’s no need to tell them off. Just let it go. What’s the difference between Hinata kicking around some snow in anger and getting on air and telling three girls to piss off in anger? Is one supposed to be better than the other? They are both cathartic in their own ways, but I guess we now get to feel as though we’ve taught some high school girls the lesson that we think they sorely deserve. No one’s even denying that Hinata has gone forward and accomplished something cool without her former friends. They just want to apologize. She doesn’t have to be friends with them again, and she can tell them that privately. I just don’t like Shirase telling them off in front of a camera. It’s one thing to be petty in private, but this is really immature. Not only that, Hinata is still hung up on them. If she has moved on, she wouldn’t have reacted at all to her former friends’ sudden reappearance. She also still had their contact info on her phone, which she struggled to delete. What did we end up solving this week anyway? I think I would’ve preferred to see Hinata handle things in her own way instead of just adopting Shirase’s world view. Oh well.
Misc. notes & observations:
— Cabin fever is real, folks.
— I like the callback to last week’s episode about sunburning. In last week’s episode, Mari was warned about taking off her protective gear when working outside, but the girl didn’t heed the advice. As a result, even some familiar faces can’t help but laugh at her. Mari resort to quick remedies, but as expected, they don’t work.
— The instagram gifs that also double as title cards are always so amusing.
— It’s also time to confront the past in other ways. Even though this episode is all about Hinata, the story is still doing the legwork to set up the final few episodes.
— Some poor girl is despairing over the lack of contact between her and her boyfriend. Long distance relationships are tough, man. I would know.
— A Place Further Than The Universe isn’t the best looking anime this season, but it’s no slouch either.
— That lovesick lady is going nuts.
— I rather like Hinata’s honesty: “If it would make me feel better, I might [forgive my former friends]. But when I imagine them looking all relieved afterwords [sic], it gets under my skin.” Then again, I’m also petty.
— Oh, that crazy lady finally got an email from her beloved. She’s so happy even though she has no clue what the message has to say.