Hijiri as a character fascinates me and is a large contributor to how and why I came to love the alleged worst route in Key’s history. As I have touched on before AIR ultimately is a story about the formation of a family and Yukito’s assimilation into the Kirishima household is a wonderful expression of this idea. Hijiri is a great example of what I like to call Nasu writing, in which a character’s motivations and ideals are painted out beneath their outward actions. In this way the reader gets a feel for how the character thinks outside of their superficial actions. Where this applies to Hijiri is primarily in her interactions with Yukito as the story progresses. Both Hijiri and Kano grow a slow but steady and effective affection for Yukito as the arc runs, but the evidence of this affection is written so smoothly and superbly that is really felt organic. The reader is not told outright that Hijiri is growing to like Yukito, as that is not the kind of person that Hijiri is nor is that sort of blunt monologue organic or deft, rather we see it in her actions.
Things like her allowing Yukito into the clinic and ultimately the emotional hard hitter of her asking Yukito to work at the clinic, stopping his journey and joining their family are not only a more meaningful way of displaying Hijiri’s affection than outright stating it, they also do wonders to characterize Hijiri as a person who is, in an amusing way, rather dishonest with her feelings when it comes to any character besides her sister Kano.
Hijiri’s most defining feature is her devotion. She works hard without complaining and wants simply the warmth of family and well being of her sister that was all she had for the longest. Hijiri cutting into the government stipend that keeps them afloat to pay for Yukito to remain in town, to stay with Kano and her, bringing more happiness into their lives, was touching. And this is all done, as stated, in the Nasu school of subtle and flowing writing, of characterization through action. Hijiri gets few moments as a character to be introspective, we very rarely get a peek into her head, but in spite of that by the end of Kano’s route I have a firm understanding of her character, her, Kano, Yukito, and Potato feeling like a real family.
It is here that Kano’s route excels. The construction of this family is genuine and tangible. By the end Hijiri stands out to me as one of the better supporting characters of any Key story. The Key stories have often had a slew of sub characters that exist only in the context of a single route. But among the Amanos and the Komari’s grandpas, Hijiri stands a cut above as a truly realized secondary character and I think that’s amazing.
AIR is the best.