So I got around to this episode this past Wednesday. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from classes but I got some downtime so I figured I’d catch up while I can. I heard that this episode was full of the feels but I didn’t think much of it. Season 1 got very emotional at times so I was sure I can stomach whatever this episode would throw at me, even in spite of my own personal fatigue.
Man……..I chose a horrible time to watch this. I was so fixated on what was happening on the screen that I only vaguely realized that tears were welling up in my eyes. Even when the episode was over, I just sat back, stared at my screen, waiting for a weight on my chest to lift off, and let all the crying flow out. Simply put, this was a doozy.
This episode hits pretty close to home even though I must admit that I was very fortunate to go to schools that takes bullying very seriously. I won’t get too personal but I very much fell in the middle, someone with enough anxiety and anger management issues that either made for a potential victim or a potential bully. I’m very thankful to the people who made sure the times I did get picked on stopped before it could escalate and stopped me when I was crossing several lines and on the verge of making things worse. Where I think this episode of 3-gatsu resonates with me is that it depicts something I had always feared of dealing with in school. The teachers would ignore you, your classmates would remain silent, the bully gets away with everything, and you’re afraid that if you did speak up, things would only get worse.
There’s a lot that I admire about how this show went about with this scenario. I appreciate that this show didn’t go take the easy route and have students pick on Hina from the get go. Instead, we’re given a more realistic situation. Hina realizes her friend, Chiho, is getting bullied, tries to help in spite of several obstacles, only for Chiho to transfer schools to be free of the pain. This causes Hina to attack the bullies but that only persuades the latter into making her their next target. It’s messy, it’s harrowing, and it perfectly captures the predatory nature of bullying. Normally, I’d be annoyed that all of this is explained via exposition but even that narrative choice is very believable. We’re only now finding out that Hina’s been dealing with this and in real life, you find out about incidents like this secondhand, sometimes too late even.
My take on how Hina handled the situation is fairly simple. She did her darnedest to help her friend and while she technically fails, that she even does anything is incredibly admirable. Her violently tackling her classmates is perhaps where she could’ve done better. Just speaking from experience, that kind of action really doesn’t do you any favors. Still, that was a very realistic response (again, speaking from experience) and I wholeheartedly agree with Hina that she shouldn’t regret her action, let alone apologize for it. I completely understand how emotionally fragile Hina is feeling from this ordeal. Who wouldn’t be? But I do hope that after this episode, she can hold her head high and be proud of the effort she made. I can’t imagine Chiho isn’t thankful for what Hina did for her either.
Naturally, this is a time where everyone in the Kawamoto family comes together to comfort Hina and everyone plays the parts that you’d hope they would. Akari consoles her like a mother, Someji offers the kind of wisdom a grandfather ought to offer to his granddaughter, and while Momo seems too young to fully understand what’s going on, she offers her support nonetheless. Even the cats recognize the gravity of the situation. They refrain from their usual comedy routine of asking for more food (you don’t even hear their consciousness speak) and instead express concern for their owner.
And of course, Rei is there to help as well. You see him chase after Hina when she runs off and later meets her after school to make sure she’s alright. There’s been plenty of times in the past where Rei has lend a helping hand to Hina but I don’t think he’s ever tackled a dilemma of hers on such a personal level until now. Given his own past, Rei sees a strong similarity between what he has dealt with and what Hina is going through right now. And if his time with the Kawamotos has taught Rei anything, it’s that you need the kindness of others in order to recover from such pain. In a way, the situation has been reversed. Whereas it was Hina supporting Rei, it is now Rei’s turn to repay the kindness she’s given him and in a situation very similar to his own no less. Frankly, it’s downright uplifting to see Rei outright make it his mission to help Hina and I couldn’t think of a person more suited to such a task.
Color is a particular striking element in this episode. In the case of Hina’s flashback, it is worth noting how some shots are still brightly colored to reflect how optimistic Hina’s perspective usually is. As Hina is confronted with how awful and/or incompetent people can be, the palette darkens significantly. Conversely, Rei learning about the bullying is consistently drawn in a grayer palette, therefore matching the wearier outlook Rei possesses. When Rei confronts Hina in the streets, the streetlights are positioned behind him. This frames Rei as a beacon of sorts to Hina as well as signify the role he is about to play for the remainder of the episode. Compare this scene to the one where Rei and Hina examine the ladybug he was curious about from the previous episode. As the ladybug flies up, the sunset casts right over them, effectively painting the scene as perhaps the happiest and most comforting moment Hina has felt in quite some time.
I also find it interesting that for one scene, we have Hina narrate the story. Kana Hanazawa even voices the character in the calm manner Kengo Kawanishi uses when narrating as Rei. It threw me off for a bit but I’m not against this change as frankly, we needed to hear directly from Hina about how she is currently doing. As emotionally fragile as she is right now, there is something reassuring to hear Hina speak about her time with Rei. This may be a low point for her but she hasn’t given up just yet. I wonder if we’ll hear Hina narrate a scene again in this season. I would certainly like to see that happen again, especially since this arc is far from over.
True to how 3-gatsu no Lion depicts life, there is no clear cut resolution to the dilemma it presents here. The episode does end on a very optimistic note, and I think such a tone is completely justified, but it is possible that the bullies will strike again. I’d like to imagine Someji and Akari filed some serious complaints to the school but even if they did, who’s to say, things will get any better? Who’s to say the bullies has stopped or will stop? Rei very clearly wants to do something but he can’t exactly confront the bullies in person. Even if he could, him lashing out at them wouldn’t solve anything.
That Rei is still pondering on a solution reminds me of how Hina wished she could do more when she was supporting Rei with his problems. There is definitely something admirable about this but I do hope that no one is selling themselves short here. Sometimes, just being there for someone you care about is enough to turn things around. As an example, I think back to Episode 17 of Season 1, where Hina musters the courage to give some food to Rei even when the latter was in a heated argument with Kyouko. It’s a simple act but one that really brightened Rei’s day and made it easier for him to deal with his stepsister. In this episode, much of what Rei does help Hina doesn’t solve her problem at school. Yet, it’s those simple acts that help Hina begin her road to recovery in the first place and that alone cannot be downplayed.