Didn´t you get the feeling that everything about rinharu was not... quiet right the entire season? I mean, ok, Rin helped Haru find his dream, and Haru thanked him and so on, and they share the same dream and future, but, agh, Rin cares so much, but Haru? Honestly... why everything about them suddenly became so so... dull? Like a dull light. I really can´t help but think that this bond had so much potential but was somehow ruined in the second season :(
I thought long and hard how to best answer this question, because in many ways it’s extremely loaded – that is to say, something I have inadvertently also thought about, but kind of not felt sure how to put into words. Because while I wouldn’t necessarily use a word like “right” or “ruined” (although that was probably just very conscious hyperbole), there was definitely something different about how their dynamic ended up being handled this season. I might need a couple of re-watches of all of the episodes to fully grasp it more objectively, so please keep in mind my response revolves more around initial impression than any through introspection at this point in time, and regard it accordingly.
In short, yes. I do know what you’re talking about. I’ve known it all throughout this season, as much as I kept telling myself that I was just imagining it. Truth is, I was always relieved that Haru and Rin spent so much time apart from one another, because the last thing I wanted was to have doubts on whether Rin’s influence was too much of a factor on Haru’s choice; as much of a shipper I am, to me it’s always been more important for these characters to grow as individuals, so they can properly be equals without the weight of emotional expectations weighing them down. Since S1 “rewarded” me for that same conviction by reuniting them in spite of their differences, I don’t feel I was wrong to anticipate S2 would do the same.
In some ways it did. In some ways, it really, really didn’t.
In a sense, it’s a difficult topic for me because I simply cannot divorce Haru’s relationship towards water from his relationship with Rin, as the show has shown the two of them so closely intertwined. So when KyoAni opted to show Haru logically explaining his reason as opposed to making us feel that conviction, it easily paralleled how detached I felt from his emotions regarding Rin: the lines were all there, but they did not feel like they came from that place beneath reason, the place we have all seen Haru capable of tapping into, in S1 – because it simply mattered so much, back then. While one would think there is literally nothing more important than Haru’s future, we never got to see that same, passionate side of him again; and since the show has always referenced Rin during moments of Haru “being fired up”, it’s easy to understand why detachment with one would lead to my detachment with the other.
Compare, if you will: we all know Rin is 100% serious about swimming. This is something the season made sure we didn’t forget. But another thing the season also didn’t want us to forget was how absolutely, 100% serious Rin was about Haru – whether through constantly referencing him, Sousuke making jabs about him, Sousuke telling Haru Rin “needs” him, or Rin dragging Haru to another country to admit his admiration (twice), this could not have been more plainly obvious. So when I say, “I wish Haru had told Rin how much he admired him, too,” it’s not because I feel Haru owes Rin anything for his feelings, but because they are in direct parallel with his attitude towards his entire future, and by failing to muster up any visible enthusiasm towards that future, it unavoidably affects how I see him perceiving that future with Rin.
(i’m gonna keep using this screenshot until it no longer breaks my heart)
People like to handwave a lot of the aforementioned away by only calling S2 a thematic parallel to S1 (which it definitely also is), but I think that approach invariably also forgets that in many ways, S1 was already a parallel – to High Speed. The fact that Haru wanted to grant Rin that “sight” at Rin’s lowest point in life spoke volumes of how important it had been, once upon a time, for Haru to witness the exact same thing. This is why I’m personally not fond of the idea that Australia happened simply because Rin “had a favour to return”. As I said, it’s far easier for me to read it as Rin’s commitment to his future, one he directly expressed he wanted to share with Haru; given that up until now Haru had specifically avoided having to make a similar commitment to anything, I sure as hell wasn’t expecting him to conclude that emotional journey with reciting his decision to the Iwatobi kids like a recipe off a box of Honey Nut Cheerios.
No, I did not need Haru crying all over Rin with undying gratitude. No, I don’t think he owed Rin anything in the first place. Yes, I did expect to see Haru more fired up about his future, of the potential and possibilities, because the show has repeatedly alluded to that part inside him that is capable of being fired up to that extent at all. Yes, KyoAni deciding not to visually represent this spark unavoidably affects how I ended up viewing Haru’s current relationship with Rin, too.
I don’t feel admitting this means forfeiting some kind of cosmic war of ships (there is literally nothing more infuriating about this season than Haru’s entire future becoming nothing but a pawn in the MH vs RH war, as if Haru as a person doesn’t matter at all); I don’t feel admitting that means I’m being pessimistic about their future, either. Nothing that occurred in S2 (or rather, didn’t occur) can ever take away from the impact of S1, and merely the promise of a future (together?) implies that there is so much room for growth and change. A future is full of promise, which is why I never felt like I had any real reason for disappointment. It was what I wanted, after all. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss seeing that dynamic now, having already grown, the way KyoAni taunted us already in the first episode of Season 2: of the companionship, the teasing, the spark that made us roll on the floor after the duet drama CD.
Or, to put it in less tl;dr terms – remember when we were all saying “oh, who needs fic! who needs doujin! canon is wilder than we could ever imagine!” And how many of us are retreating back to fic, doujin and art now – just for the sake of any emotional closure at all?
Again, when it comes right down to it, all of the above is fine. If this is the Haru they wanted to give us, then it is the Haru I will accept and readjust my personal perception to accommodate. But I also can’t help but question the logic behind that execution all the same: if they wanted us to believe Haru’s conviction of being a professional swimmer, was that really the way to accomplish it the best? If they wanted to present Rin and Haru as equals, why did they find it more important to portray this through having Haru reminisce over flashbacks of Rin to the Iwatobi SC, as opposed to doing what he did in S1 and actually expressing these same thoughts to Rin? I mean, I can come up with a thousand logical excuses or reasons for both questions, but at the end of the day I doubt none of it will ever stop me from returning to the question I brought up in regards to how KyoAni decided to handle the Sousuke + Haru dynamic:
what, exactly, did we gain more through this portrayal of Haruka instead?