Animes about kids in high school are a dime a dozen in this day and age. In fact, if your anime isn’t set in some sort of school setting, then chances are it’s not really an anime… unless it has titans or something. While on the surface, this would look like a run-of-the-mill show, it dares to offer something different that most high school animes don’t dare touch… and that is reality itself. With a (translated) title such as My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, you would think that this would be a slice-of-life comedy with all of the tropes tossed into the pot in order to generate merchandise sales, right? That is where you are seriously mistaken! So how were you mistaken? Well…
Not all of us are popular in school. Sometimes we just don’t fit in because of the way we are and then there are others who reject everyone around them, isolating themselves from the rest of the world. Hachiman Hikigaya is a young man who symbolizes the latter. After turning in a paper expressing his twisted inner-most thoughts about social relationships, he is relegated to the Volunteer’s Club, run by a rather blunt and straight-forward girl named Yukino Yukinoshita. It is here that Hikigaya will take the requests of students in order to help others with the end goal of this serving as some sort of self-reflective therapy to help Hikigaya understand those who are around him better.
The story of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is rather straight-forward with a clear beginning and a clear goal set for the end; however, it is one of those shows that run mini story arcs over the course of two to three episodes while trying to tie all of it into an overarching story. The result allows the characters to slowly develop while building a world in which our characters thrive in. With each request the club takes, you get to see Hikigaya apply his cold logic to solving the requests and while they do generate results, they are done in some pretty cruel ways that don’t really take other people’s feelings into account.
One nice little touch that I liked is that each time they successfully solved a request, they would add a corresponding sticker to the classroom sign outside of the club room’s door. If they failed to solve a request, then a sticker would not be affixed. The show, between their two seasons, never showed them placing the stickers up there, but whenever a new request was about to begin or conclude, the scene would always cut to the sign to show their progress.
Of course, granting requests is just part of the overall story here. The show also dives deep into the psyche of the three club members and their struggles with each other. For the better part of the second season, there was high tension and drama among the three club members as they all were seeking something for themselves, but at the same time, they kind of loathed how they had become. It’s a pretty complicated thing to describe because even I didn’t really understand what they were moping about at first. Heck, even the characters didn’t really understand what was going on, either. The show is written in such a way where it’s supposed to apply to a broad range of viewers. It never outright states just what each person is seeking, but at the same time, you actually knew what each one wanted and you could reflect that upon yourself to relate to it. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU isn’t something you can take at face value. I mean, you can, but you won’t get the full effect of it if you do so.
Judging by the title alone, I didn’t expect this kind of a story out of a show like this. I was pleasantly surprised by what was given. The story made you think.. it made you connect.. and it made you feel not only things about the characters, but things about yourself as well.
Speaking of the characters, while there were many supporting characters throughout the two seasons, only three of them got the most attention and while, in most shows, this would really be a problem, the way this show was handled made you realize that focusing the attention on our three mains was the right thing to do.
I thought Miharu Rokujou from Nabari no Ou was about as apathetic as they came as far as anime characters are concerned, but then I met Hikigaya. Honestly, though… I could personally relate to Hikigaya because he and I are very alike. Hikigaya is like the voice in the back of your head that wants to call other people out on their BS ways of life and while Hikigaya doesn’t exactly lash out, per se, he does go about things in such a manner that inflicts his dejected views of reality onto others. I relate it to using the cold hard truth on others as he doesn’t tend to sugar coat much of anything. While he isn’t really wrong with his conclusions to problems, he just doesn’t take people’s feelings into consideration because, to him, feelings don’t really mean much when a problem has an obvious solution.
His development over the two seasons has been pretty stellar. I love the fact that they don’t truly “fix” Hikigaya’s dejected views of the world, but rather have him begin to realize what he truly wants. What he wants is something that is also intangible to others, but also connective in an odd sort of way. By that, I mean Hikigaya just wants to experience what is real. He still doesn’t really care that much about friendships or whether people like him, but that’s where the show channels its self-reflection at. By stating that Hikigaya wants something real, it makes the viewer ask themselves what they want. What might be real to Hikigaya, may be something completely different to the viewer. By keeping it vague, Hikigaya is a character that can apply to almost anyone. It truly is a brilliant main character.
She is the model student. She is well-spoken and does well in her studies. She seems to be good-natured due to her being the president of the Volunteer’s Club, but that is something you would assume. The reality is that Yukino has been granted the nickname of being the Ice Queen due to the fact that she has little desire to interact with the rest of the student body. She’s also rather blunt and straight-forward in a logical way to those who wish to talk with her. If a problem cannot be solved because it would be better for the person requesting help to solve it themselves, then she will have zero trouble telling that person to go kick rocks. However, she will also accept requests just based on her ideal that it is the duty of those who are exceptional to aid the “lost lambs” of the world.
Yukinoshita also comes from a well-off family, if you didn’t get that from the last sentence in the aforementioned paragraph. This also ties into a side-story in season one where Hikigaya was involved in an accident when he was younger. Yukinoshita was in the car that hit Hikigaya. This kind of makes things awkward between then, but it’s about to get just a little more uncomfortable with our next character. Regardless of that fact, she does have a rather tough shell to crack and Shizuka Hirastuka (Hikigaya’s teacher who placed him into the Volunteer’s Club) does have a separate agenda by placing Hikigaya into the club. She doesn’t just want Yukinoshita to try and change Hikigaya, but she’s also hoping that Hikigaya can also pierce through that shell and become a friend to Yukinoshita.
She comes to the volunteer club one day with a request to help her learn how to make cookies…. And then she ends up joining the club because she feels that the club would be a perfect fit for her. Unlike Hikigaya and Yukinoshita, she has an outgoing and bubbly personality that serves two real main purposes here. The first is to be the dumbed-down explanation of what is going on in the story and the second is to be the third point in our little love triangle. In fact, it becomes severely apparent when Yui develops feelings for Hikigaya early on while it’s more subtle with Yokinoshita.
However, that’s not the awkward part I was eluding to earlier. You see, Yui’s dog ran out into the middle of the street and it was Hikigaya that made a mad dash to save him and that, in turn, caused the car Yukinoshita was in, to collide with Hikigaya. This is a story that serves as a base for all three’s character development, but don’t expect them to dwell on this in season two because all of this wraps up in season one and almost completely gets forgotten about in the back half of this 26-episode series. While I did enjoy Yui as a character, I did find her a bit annoying at times… especially towards the end of the series where they all were moping about for very vague, yet, deep reasons.
The drama between the characters seems really minuscule. It’s like they’re moping over each other for petty reasons, but you have to realize (in fact, it’s even outright stated in the second season) that this is being presented from a teenager’s point of view. These petty reasons are, in fact, petty to young adults who may watch this show, but to a teenager in high school who has yet to experience the real world, these petty reasons ARE the world to them and, therefore, are very important issues.
Also, I’m sure I can’t do this section of the review without mentioning a certain character…
There are plenty of anime shows out there with trap characters and, honestly, I think this character actually fails as a trap. The reason being is that they just try TOO hard to force the trap notion onto you. I know every trap character can’t be Hideyoshi from Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, or Nagisa Shiota from Assassination Classroom, but they also don’t force the trap notion like they do with Totsuka. They constantly remind you of the fact that he’s a guy and all he truly does is give girlish smiles every now and then. Yeah, he is a very effeminate male character, but the fact that everyone KNOWS he’s a boy, kind of takes away the allure of it being a trap. They really should have teased his gender throughout the show, then it would have been a bit more successful.
Despite my qualm with the way the show handled the character, the character itself was pretty fun to watch. I did crack a smile each time Hikigaya experienced confused boner syndrome and each time I did see the two of them on screen, I could just imagine Hina’s nose exploding with blood. Hina Ebina, by the way, is one of the supporting characters and is just a huge fujoshi… i.e. someone who loves to pair up boys with each other and “ship” them.
Art, Animation, and Sound
The artwork for My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU was pretty decent in season one, but I felt that it was detracted from a bit in season two. Brain’s Base fell off a bit in the back half of the series, but still, it wasn’t something that was completely unwatchable because of the art style. Due to the time gap between both seasons, some people may not have noticed, but for someone like me who did a marathon of all 26 episodes, the quality drop off was a bit apparent.
The character designs were also a bit flat… especially when it came to Yukinoshita, Haruno Yukinoshita (Yukino’s sister), and Shizuka Hirastuka. All of their designs were rather similar with a few different nuances thrown in to make them stand out just enough to be different. Hell, in season one and season two, there were a couple of episodes where Hikigaya had to deal with an elementary school girl named Rumi who looked like a miniature version of all three aforementioned characters. The dark purple hair and blue-eyed girl design was way overused throughout this series.
Other than that, I loved the attention they gave to Hikigaya’s eyes. They gave him small, beady little eyes and that was a great reflection on his character as a whole. Most of the time, a character will look like the others and will usually have their personalities reflected through facial expressions as the situation warrants it, but in this case, they gave Hikigaya the same expression throughout the whole series with different variations from time to time. This set his design away from the rest of the cast and caused him to stand out like a true main character should. Well done!
The rest of the art was nothing to write home about. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU was in a school setting after all. Chalkboards and desks looked like chalkboards and desks. What can I say? The animation quality was decent as well. It seems they blew their budget during the concert at the end of the culture festival and just said screw it to the rest of the series. You ever notice that if there is a concert in an anime, that the budget goes WAY up for that short couple of minutes? Even though it’s pretty typical, I’ve seen better quality upgrades for concerts in other animes. Angel Beats! comes to mind…
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a show that you can’t judge it by the title alone. There is hardly any “romantic comedy” in the show as it focuses on the drama of teenage high school life. It takes a jaded view of the world through its two main characters and tries to balance it out with a bubbly third character. The formula works and works well, but while the character development and overarching story is the star of the show, the side-stories (i.e. the requests through the Volunteer Club) seemed rather bland and looked to serve as a paddle to push the story canoe down the river.
Then again, having bland requests does reflect a more realistic high school life so I feel like it was done on purpose. Any other true comedy show would probably have just thrown trope after trope at us and then sprinkle in some generic humor, but you’re not going to get any of that here because, well, this really isn’t a comedy, and second, the show is trying to connect to like-minded individuals in a vicarious way through its main character.
I can’t say it enough. The characters are brilliantly written and you should watch this show just on that merit alone. You will find yourself connecting to at least one of them in some sort of way and when you do, you realize just how much you relate to them and it’ll make you wonder things about yourself. If you want to watch this here in the US, it is licensed by Sentai Filmworks or you can scope it out on Crunchyroll where you should be able to watch it without a paid subscription. I do recommend that you do so because it is a pretty damn good show.
I also wanted to give a shout out to Prashant Tak who sent me a request to watch this show. Thank you for your recommendation and long-winded review aside, I just wanted to say that I did thoroughly enjoy it!
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My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
It takes a typical high school anime and flips it into a show with a dark main character that causes you to see the world through jaded eyes. It is a show a lot of people can relate to, especially if you suffer from socialization issues.
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