We see the typical high school setting through the eyes of Hachiman Hikigaya (or Hikki), and in so doing become complicit in his pragmatic, pseudo-philosophical outlook. Although he likens himself to the strength and seclusion of a bear, his peers describe him more as creepy and dead-eyed. He’s a far cry from the stroppy loner or the quintessential quiet type. Instead he’s a portrait of disenfranchisement, at odds with the community spirit encouraged by high school. There’s even a sense that he’s shedding his cultural identity through isolation.
Hikki turns in an essay which is more a meditation on his high school experience, much to the chagrin of his hard-arsed language teacher. As punishment, she forces him to join the school’s Service Club, whose purpose is to rectify and resolve the numerous social shortcomings faced by the student body. The sole member is Yukino Yukinoshita, who’s charged with rectifying Hikki’s nihilism. Underneath her intelligence and authority, is someone who’s almost as ostracised as Hikki and they quickly find a common, if unstable, ground.
Hikki claims rom-com scenarios don’t happen to him, and he’s determined to sabotage any possibility of romance with Yukino by making him hate her, in so doing inevitably creates a rom-com in the process. But this set-up takes a back seat to Hikki’s coming of age, even if it does unfurl at a glacial pace. Instead, they band together to help whoever’s in need of the club’s services.
To fill the emotional no man’s land between them is Yui Yuigahama who’s a shamble of ditsy excitement and plucky energy brilliantly voiced by Nao Toyama. For Hikki, Takuya Eguchi takes the opposite approach to his tremendous voice work with Takeo on Ore Monogatari!! Instead, he has great snarky delivery and perfect timing, especially when it comes to his inner thoughts. Together, they go about helping folks in a roundabout way, but doing so shows Hikki the necessity of friendship, even if he doesn’t realise it himself at first.
Flashbacks of rejection and embarrassment offer an insight into Hikki’s mind and it’s revealed that one event links all three characters together. Crucially, he doesn’t undergo a complete personality change. He begins to integrate, sure, but he never loses sight of his fundamental beliefs, rather he realises how they can adapt. In lesser hands, perhaps the series would have seen a complete flip.
Shotaro Suga (adapting Wataru Watari’s light novel series and the various manga adaptations) weaves snappy dialogue with more than a few great gags. He strikes a balance between philosophical observations, humour and even a little fanservice. Take the peripheral yaoi obsessed character Hina Ebina, or the chuunibyou Yoshiteru Zaimokuza.
There’s something earnest and refreshing about presenting the bonhomie of school life as something suspect, especially in the bouncy art direction, and the series is a fascinating discourse of teen angst. It might count friendship among its themes, but My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is more about the many social struggles faced by its students day in day out… Maybe Hikki had it right all along.
Clean opening/closing animation and also available from Sentai Filmworks.