My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected
Voice Actors: Takuya Eguchi, Saori Hayami, Ami Koshimizu, Aoi Yūki, Mai Nakahara, Marina Inoue, Takashi Kondo
Studio: Brain Base
Ha, the second anime I viewed from my Spring Preview Picks turned out to be this one with an elaborate title My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru). It catches the attention of everyone I mention it too. I loved it so here is a long post full of images like Attack on Titan. I’m keeping it relatively simple with plenty of images to avoid boring you guys to death.
I totally underestimated how smart the show would be. Anybody who loves school-based anime and those cynical about such things (and life in general) will find something here.
Japanese writers and directors manage to capture how I feel as a person far better than anyone from a culture closer to my own. The comedy Fine, Totally Fine brought home to me everything I feel and some of the ways I act in my post-adolescent drift towards adulthood while the central character in the anime My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected was pretty much cynical me during high school… well a more extreme outsider version of me…
The anime follows Hikigaya Hachiman who is a pretty antisocial high school student with no friends or girlfriend and a very, very cynical view on life. His thoughts on those fellow students taking part in clubs and activities and falling in love are not kind: The people who enjoy their youth will eventually fall apart.
He has seen through the lies adults, the media and society tells everyone, that everybody matters and there’s someone out there for everyone and it’s all a rom-com waiting to happen. Hate to break it to you kids, it’s not that sweet. It’s better to accept reality and all of its ugliness, so why bother trying to fit in, right?
His cynicism is a great cover for his cowardice, an excuse to do nothing and avoid contact with people and ultimately avoid being put in potentially embarrassing situations and grow as a person. Heck, he has enough reasons to justify this because he can recall every embarrassing moment when he misinterpreted a girl’s smile or comment and the horrifying levels of embarrassment such a simple faux pas caused him…
If life’s a game and people can lose as well as win, I refuse to play and risk losing.
He is clearly a victim of the hedgehog’s dilemma… Or maybe he’s justified in his thinking? Whatever the case he’s a fantastic character to follow because he is so cynical and intelligent. The anime never directly criticises him but actually shows how his approach to life might work which is surprising, engaging and fun. Not that it washes with everyone.
His cynicism is revealed in an essay which sums up youth as…
This leaves his school teacher Shizuka Hiratsuka none too impressed.
She gives Hikigaya a hard stare and then says, “Your eyes are like a dead fish’s.” Ouch. Harsh words but he does have a tired and sinister look about him.
As punishment for his “half-assed report”, Shizuka forces Hikigaya to join the volunteer “Service Club” which is run by the school’s prettiest girl, Yukino Yukinoshita, a little miss perfect who is very aloof and condescending and actually perfect in what she does because she puts the effort in like a perfect anime heroine (and possible tsundere). This has led to her being ostracised by others and so she has developed a cold personality.
Shizuka introduces Hikigaya thusly “He has a rotten heart to go with his rotten eyes. Those two things make him pathetic and lonely.” Then she adds, “He’s a spineless hooligan.” Whoa, talk about merciless. Yukino is not impressed.
There is a point to Shizuka’s harshness. Shizuka wants Yukino to teach Hikigaya to be able to act like a normal person and appeals to and challenges her ego when foisting Hikigaya on her. For all of her harsh words, Shizuka understands her students much more than they realise and has set up this experiment in existential growth. And so she leaves the two of them alone in a room so they can better connect.
What follows is a sequence full of banter which, believe it or not, is not dumb or pointless like a lot of school club anime but actually an example of great comedy and character building. The dialogue and characterisation are sharply defined so that they reveal the philosophies and backgrounds of the characters.
The characters engage in a conversation that is witty but not so witty that it drifts off into fantasy like US teen movies/TV. There are many awkward moments and characters will shut down embarrassing conversations and each other with waspish put-downs full of real viciousness. The characters are all full of the over-sensitivity that adolescence brings. Hikigaya and Yukino are both very defensive due to bitter past experiences, and riddled with a heightened awareness of self and being outside of society. Furthermore they totally buy their respective view points.
But both have interesting and viable takes on how to live life. Yukino represents the traditional ‘anime’ approach to life (dream big and work hard!) while Hikigaya subverts her traditional anime and manga approaches to life (dream big and work hard? Bah!) and is quite prepared to find a reason not to work at all and remain on the outside.
Yukino sees through Hikigaya’s front of casual indifference and derides how he can be “so laid back and easy going.” In turn, Hikigaya sees through Yukino’s front of perfection and begins to ponder whether this is the perfect set up for a rom-com but then Yukino shatters any such dreams with a perfectly timed insult.
Can they ever stop just being horrible to each other? The anime could carry on like that but Shizuka has a plan. Introduce another element into the mix, Yui Yuigahama.
The first thing we see of her is a pair of bouncing breasts and I rolled my eyes expecting the anime to lose me with fan-service but the dialogue continued to be witty. While Yui was a initially bit of a wet blanket as a sunny but ineffectual girl who does not mind being dominated she played a vital role in showing Yukino and Hikigaya’s approach to life through her club request.
She cannot bake cookies and she wants to learn how in order to give them to someone ‘special’.
Yukino immediately decides to teach Yuigahama to bake a perfect batch but it seems like Yuigahama just cannot cook. Hikigaya suggests that, instead of trying hard at baking she just does her best because it’s more about the effort she put in than the actual result… Well I guess if someone like Yu Aoi gave me cookies she worked hard at baking I’d eat them and smile (and probably cry tears of happiness because it meant she knew I existed) regardless of the taste.
Yui takes on both philosophies and comes up with a cookie that is… unique. And by the end of the first episode there is hope that both Yukino and Hikigaya’s viewpoints might be able to co-exist and borrow each other. It’s just in the form of a burnt cookie.
In my preview I stated that I expected this to be a lot like Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (Haganai) in the sense that it’s about an outsider guy who gets involved in a school club with cute girls and they all do random things. It’s a common subject for many anime and one that I would run away from but the difference is that the writing is much more intelligent than that. It’s post-modern so it plays with the tropes of school stories but with its eloquent characters who have a demented but justifiable view of life it proves to be deeper and much more irresistibly amusing. I really enjoyed the first two episodes but I wonder how long it can last before the concept gets tired. I will definitely continue watching this though and I am excited about who else will join the club.
It’s better than Haganai.