Shizuka-sensei is scary…
This week’s SNAFU takes us on a trip to the mountains, where the Volunteers club deals with troubled kids and Hayato’s posse. The show has recently taken a focus on more serious social matters, and I’m liking this direction.
Bullying and Exclusion
First up we have the troubled elementary school girl, Tsurumi Rumi. At first glance, she just appears to be a loner shunned by her classmates, but the ugly truth is soon revealed. The situation results from an innocent yet malicious practice amongst the elementary schoolers of excluding a targeted classmate just for fun. I say “innocent yet malicious” because I want to believe that the elementary schoolers are too young to fully understand what exactly it is that they are doing.1 But I’m sure subconsciously they have an inkling that what they’re doing is wrong and just choose to ignore it, just as Rumi did before she became the next victim. Actually, the whole situation is reminiscent of a one shot manga I had read recently, Koe no Katachi. The fall from bully to bullied is present just the same, but in Koe no Katachi the initial bullying was instigated because of a disability as opposed to on a whim. Which makes SNAFU’s case all the more sour. Now that’s not to say that bullying because of disabilities is any more acceptable. But just the thought that the elementary schoolers here move from one victim to another like a pack of wolves strikes me as far worse than the kids in Koe no Katachi settling upon a victim because of a certain characteristic. At least the latter seems to have marginally more “logic” to it, in spite of the fact that any bullying for any reason is just as unacceptable.
But I’m not here to talk about Koe no Katachi, so let’s get back to SNAFU. Bullying is a tough topic to address as it is more pervasive than we would like to think, and I have to give props to SNAFU for tackling it. Understandably, this is just an extension of the usual “loner” spiel we’ve been getting about Hachiman and the Volunteers club. But it is a logical next step in the theme of social troubles and group psychology. Isolation, misunderstanding, conflict; it’s all there. And watching Hayato repeatedly try and fail to correct the problem only reminds us of the bitter truth that oftentimes bullying goes unresolved because outsiders tasked with breaking it up don’t understand what they should do. Directly confronting the bullies might have the reverse effect of aggravating their treatment of the victim when they blame him/her for getting them in trouble. From my own experiences and as Rumi herself mentions, it usually takes the bullies themselves deciding to move for the bullying to end. Otherwise, the only way to end it prematurely is to simply remove the source of the problem by moving away. And that’s not so much a real solution as it is giving up. As an analogy, consider how declaring bankruptcy is not simply a get out of jail free card; there will be a black mark on your credit history.
So just what can Hachiman and co. do fix the problem? The bullies are unlikely to listen, and Rumi herself is not welcoming any help out of a sense of guilt. Honestly, I don’t know. It’s a good thing I’m an engineer and not a counselor. We know this much: trying to reintegrate Rumi by forcefully pushing her in with the group isn’t going to work. Yui suggests that maybe they all really want to get along, but they’re being forced to play out the roles they’ve placed upon themselves of the bullies and the bullied. This being the case, I hazard that it might just be possible to get them back together with a bit of group activities and some strategic nudging, but the preview for next episode alluded to this much. Maybe some of you more discerning readers have a better idea of what needs to be done, but I’m afraid I myself fall into Hayato’s position. I’d want to help the girl out, but I just wouldn’t know what to do. If this were a shounen, the answer would obviously be to beat up all the bad girls, but SNAFU isn’t that kind of show.
Some Usual Programming
Rumi’s predicament aside, we have yet more development on the part of Yukino. Near the end of the episode, Hachiman comes across a pensive Yukino gazing at the stars. In spite of his attempt to make a strategic retreat, he is spotted and the two engage in a rather interesting conversation. Yukino mentions that Rumi might be similar to Yui in that the latter probably went through a similar experience. We know that Yui has had trouble fitting in, but at least she isn’t outright ignored like Rumi is. But that’s just an ancillary observation. The exact form of treatment the two received is irrelevant; what matters is they aren’t being accepted. And as Yui has provided the most useful insight on Rumi’s situation so far, I’m guessing she will play a pivotal role in fixing things next episode, despite her bird-brained nature. Moving on, Yukino proceeds to casually inform us that she and Hayato are childhood friends and their families are longtime friends and business partners. The immediate and cliche complication of this is that SNAFU might pull some arranged marriage drama somewhere down the line. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Finally, there’s very brief mention of Haruno. It was clear from last time that Yukino doesn’t exactly like her sister, and here the reason is made apparent: she feels like she lives in Haruno’s shadow. In her own words, she’s just a substitute for her larger than life older sister.
In spite of the strong language and word fencing between Hachiman and Yukino, I really get the impression that the two bonded a lot during their brief conversation.2 And to be fair, they also did spend the majority of the episode observing Hayato’s failures and making snarky remarks about the situation. While Yukino may not have directly gained any “romantic points”, I’m sure the exchange helped close the distance between the two outwardly hostile teens. And if I may be allowed to indulge in a bit of shipping, it’s almost as if Yukino’s outspoken and unapologetic nature complements Hachiman’s nonconfrontational and evasive personality. The two would certainly make for an entertaining couple.