Full disclosure: this review was done using a pre-release copy courtesy of Manga UK.
We’ll begin by touching on the contents of the Blu ray. It comes with 12 episodes and an extra episode across two discs with around 24 minutes per episode. The second disc features a clean opening and ending (no credits) as well as trailers for upcoming releases from Sentai Filmworks.
In one of the most well-written shows I’ve ever seen, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (quite the mouthful!) is an anime brimming with authenticity. Taking place in a high school, we follow the every-day lives of the cynical smart-arse Hachiman Hikigaya and the cold, brilliant and beautiful Yukino Yukinoshita. Accompanied by the bubbly Yui Yuigahama, the trio encounter various authentic high school scenarios in their capacity as members of the school’s Service Club.
Within the first few minutes of the show, I appreciated how unique Hachiman (lovingly referred to as Hikki by Yui) turned out to be as the main protagonist. He’s bitter but not annoyingly-so, he’s sarcastic but doesn’t overdo it and he’s pragmatic. Having discarded the concept of “youth”, Hachiman spends his days alone, attempting to blend in to the background until his teacher and student counselor Shizuka Hiratsuka throws him in the deep end by enrolling him as a member of the Service Club. Hachiman’s defining features are his “dead fish-eyes”, to which characters make reference to in several jokes.
Yukino Yukinoshita is the sole member of the Service Club. Upon their meeting, Yukino deems Hachiman unworthy of her assistance before reluctantly giving in to Shizuka’s request to have Hachiman join. The back and forth between the two would form the core relationship in the series and is the source of much of the humour, as Yukino takes every opportunity to condescend Hachiman and his blase attitude, the majority of which Hachiman brushes off easily due to his disinterest in those around him. Yukino is sharp, motivated and over-confident. Though they differ in terms of natural talent, Hachiman and Yukino mirror each other’s social awkwardness. Neither of them embrace their peers, with Hachiman feeling friendship to be pointless and Yukino considering her intelligence to be above her class-mates. The difference being that Yukino is highly regarded by the rest of the class while Hachiman has succeeded in becoming invisible to them, or “creepy” at the very least. Either way, they’ve taken their individual paths to the same goal, and that’s ultimately what brings them together. They’re different and yet they’re the same.
Their connection to the rest of the class comes in the form of Yui Yuigahama, a quasi-popular girl with the in-crowd at school. She initially seeks help in dealing with the leader of her group of friends because she can’t express herself to them. On that note, I’d like to applaud the way that this show deals with the “popular” crowd. They’re not vilified, even when it seemed like they could be. The leader of the popular girls, Yumiko Miura, is at first depicted as a tough-talking Mean Girls type until she’s cut down thoroughly by Yukino’s observations. This allows Yui to muster the courage to express herself to Yumiko, and Yumiko accepts the explanation and they remain friends despite the obvious tension. As the series progresses, we learn about the deeper connection between Yui, Hachiman and Yukino, explaining the nervousness Yui has around Hachiman. Yui gravitates to Yukino because she’s “cool” and outspoken, looking up to her for being able to do the things she can’t. Yukino is uncomfortable with this at first but this is the relationship that helps to bring down Yukino’s defenses and reveal her humanity beneath the cold shell. Yui is undeniably adorabe and is easily the most likable of the main three, though Hachiman and Yukino have better character development.
In the process of Yui’s request to the Service Club, we’re introduced to the front-man of the popular guys, Hayato Hayama. He’s not the typical jock-type in personality. In fact, he’s the polar-opposite of Hachiman’s outlook, which is why Hachiman has a hard time accepting him and his kindness. He’s outgoing and caring, keeping the popular group in-line with no ulterior motive in sight.
The series has a satisfying beginning, middle and end. The effort to make Hachiman embrace the people around him doesn’t exactly pan out, but that’s what makes it realistic and relatable. Yukino’s struggles are much more complex, revealed when her sister is introduced to the series, and that gives her character more depth than her usual, seemingly cold self. Yui’s apparent affection for Hachiman results in many an entertaining and sometimes frustrating scenario, including a fireworks display that had me wanting to punch Hachiman in his face for seeming so dense, until he points out that he understands the situation and isn’t “that dense”, almost in an eerie responsiveness to my thoughts at the time. It captures the awkward romance between young people perfectly, with neither side being able to outright state how they feel, though for Hachiman it’s because of years of rejection and for Yui it’s out of sheer nerves. Yui’s progression from a nervous-but-bubbly to a slightly more assertive person makes for an enjoyable journey within the group’s dynamic. Hachiman finding affection for other people within himself but still repeating the same mistakes has a long-lasting impact in the end, and then there’s the air of a love triangle with Yukino and Yui both being viable candidates for Hachiman to eventually end up with.
Speaking of romance and comedy, they go hand in hand when we’re introduced to Saika Totsuka. Often mistaken for a girl due to his androgynous appearance, Saika is a kind hearted young boy that Hachiman falls in love with immediately. The humour stems from Hachiman’s usual dislike for others being swayed by the cuteness of Saika. His ability to make those around him melt just by saying a few words makes for some intriguing moments from a comedic perspective and helps to humanise Hachiman in the eyes of the viewer. He’s also an interesting twist on the usual “Loli” character type found in other shows, humourously sexualised to great effect without he himself being provocative.
Numerous other side characters contribute well to the plot and the themes. Hachiman’s younger sister Komachi is a free-spirited kid that embraces Hachiman’s group and deviously attempts to push Yui and Hachiman together. She also helps to add depth to Hachiman’s character, proving that he does indeed care for somebody other than himself. Yukino’s older sister Haruno is a drop-dead stunner with as sharp, if not sharper, a mind as Yukino and is the source of Yukino’s inferiority complex it seems. Haruno is the representative of the Yukinoshita family and is hell-bent on shipping Yukino and Hachiman. Their teacher, Shizuka Hiratsuka, is a chain-smoking single woman that looks out for Hachiman, forcing him in to scenarious outside of his comfort zone in order to build character. She has an obsession with being “young” and lays in to Hachiman with a gut-punch every now and then for his smart-arse remarks. I could go on for days but, suffice to say, there’s a great cast of characters that are instrumental to the plot and add so much to the comedy. Hina Ebina and her Yaoi obsession is hilarious in her constant attempts to see some boy-on-boy action.
What I appreciate most about the romantic elements in this show are that they’re light-hearted and evenly spread out. Though I’m easy to cater to as the white, heterosexual male demographic (catered to by Yui, Yukino and Haruno mostly), Saika’s appeal as an androgynous male is comedic but not belittled and Hayato draws in the female attention. There’s nothing too heavy in this show with regards to romance but the air exists and it’s a well-balanced air at that.
As I’ve already stated, the writing is superb. When first referred to as having “dead fish eyes” by Shizuka, Hachiman responds with “Do I look that rich in omega-3s?”. I didn’t expect it. It caught me off guard, believing Hachiman would just take the insult or respond with something basic. This is only the beginning of a great back and forth between most of the cast. I also appreciated the way the show would explain a concept that might not be clear in white subtitles from time to time. Being a slice of life series based in Japan, naturally some aspects of their high school life and language don’t translate well to English, so the additional information given from time to time had me pausing to gain a greater appreciation for the scene, like during the planning session in the Extra Episode.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a joyous, authentic look at what it’s like to be young. It captures the struggles of many high-school students well and presents them with a hand that’s not too heavy. I particularly love the way they end the first season, though the extra episode undermines it slightly, despite being a great episode in its own right. Though the exchanges between Hachiman and Yui can be frustrating, it seems to be intentional in an effort to convey the awkwardness of their possible-romance. I really can’t fault the series in the things it attempts to do. It features Teens. It features romance. It features comedy. It absolutely features SNAFU, and if we assume the “My” is in reference to Hachiman, it literally does what the title says it does.
Looking For More?
We’ve only recently begun our entertainment coverage here at My Games Lounge, but you can find our video game reviews in their very own tab. If you’re in to anime, you might want to check out our reviews of Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth or Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4.
Game: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Complete Season 1
Review Format: Blu-ray