If something gains a great deal of attention from a community, does that make it overrated? Do highly advertised and over-publicized series tend to fall flat for those who expected too much? Let’s take a look in this My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU review!
**This review will cover both seasons. I’d also like to note I’m writing my review in a different format this time. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.
I’m not gonna lie to you guys. I really wasn’t expecting that much from this series from the get-go. I was in the mood for some solid comedy and maybe some well executed slice-of-life shenanigans. As I was searching for titles that may fall into that realm, I almost immediately stumbled across this little number and thought it would be fun to give it a test drive seeing the relative praise it received on MAL and how one of its characters won “Best Girl of the Year” and all. As such, I thought it would be capable of filling up my hunger for a comedic rom-com, but didn’t expect it to make any type of distinct impression on me.
Boy was I mislead–and pleasantly, too.
SNAFU is a series that took me for a fun excursion that reminded me of a cross between Hyouka and Nisemonogatari. It swept me off my feet with a force comprised of witty and tactfully written dialogue, precisely timed dry humor, and the perfect dash of tension between the characters peppered in. I, in all honesty, was delightfully surprised by how well the writing was done in the series. In retrospect however, the writing had to be strong considering how mundane the premise actually was. The premise basically boils down to a high school recluse that is unwillingly placed in his school’s Service Club after being a bit of a smart-ass in one too many papers. Thereafter, the viewer follows the previously mentioned smart-ass, Hachiman, and the other two female members of the Service Club, Yukino and Yui, in their attempts to solve the relatively uninteresting and petty issues of their classmates.
I can’t fault anybody for saying the premise is uninteresting…because it’s generic. Luckily, it only serves as a vehicle for the juicy development of the characters in the series. If there is one thing that SNAFU does correctly besides its detailed and witty writing, it’s the development of its characters. Also, when I say characters, I don’t just mean the main trio.
What I appreciate about SNAFU is how delicately it handles the development of its characters. The series throws our main characters into seemingly harmless situations that, in turn, challenge their expectations or perceptions that they have of each other. Each new circumstance presents our cast with a set of obstacles that force them to either reveal slightly more of their true personalities than what the others are used to seeing, or to overstep personal boundaries that they rarely cross, if ever. I felt that at the end of each episode, the status quo had been altered in some way, shape, or form. These minuscule alterations aren’t always detectable at first, but the series does a stellar job at eventually conveying them through subtleties in dialogue or character action. This allows for gradual and believable character development that not a whole lot of other anime contain, character driven or not.
I absolutely loved the way the writing in the series allowed for personal interpretation. Although the actions and the dialogue of the characters steadily changed throughout the progression of the series, the writing left some concepts vague enough for the viewer to externalize their own experiences onto. This made the themes of the series and the character interactions that much more meaningful and relatable. However, there were a few points in the series where the dialogue was so vague that it became difficult to pick up what the characters were referencing, even with the attempts at clarity via the inclusion of Hachiman’s inner monologues.
Backtrack to what I said about the challenging and changing of expectations that occurs with the characters. SNAFU is a series the revolves around the idea of breaking peoples’ expectations of one another and it does this in more ways than one. If you took the time to read what the original Japanese title of the source material, it’s not My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU; that’s just a shitty localized title that makes even less sense than it’s original one. The original name isMy Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected. The reason I bring this up is because of how brilliantly the series delivers this concept. It does exactly what it says on the tin and I–and others I assume–was completely blindsided by it. This series doesn’t do what you expect. Instead of spending time weaseling plot points to build up to a romantic relationship, the series chooses to highlight the bumpy road of three people–two of which feel no need to communicate regularly with other students at all–becoming comfortable around each other and learning that life doesn’t always have to be faced alone. This focus on the developing hard earned trust with others and personal growth is something I honestly wasn’t anticipating and it made for an infinitely deeper and more intimate experience than what I had previously bargained for.
Speaking of which…
Depending on what you were anticipating, you could either be alright with or completely deterred and confused by the conclusion of the second season. This is because…well…it’s not what most viewers expected, especially with the ending being with Yukino in mid-question and all. I was okay with it because it ended in a way that was up to interpretation which was what I wanted from it**.** I would like to utilize this time to take note of how many times I wrote the phrase “not as I expected (or some variant of that)” in the past few paragraphs. In my eyes, the series is masterful in the way the viewing experience can–and in my case did–mirror the most integral theme of the series: the breaking of forced expectations. For a majority of the series, the characters constantly notice how other characters fail to adhere to their own preconceived expectations of how they should be acting and reacting. Personally, I find this not only greatly enjoyable but also refreshing.
Now is as good a time as ever to delve into what I believe to be this show’s strongest asset. At first glimpse, the characters in SNAFU are all some variant of an archetype that viewers have seen in other slice-of-life/comedies before. Remember though, this is a series that stays true to its core value of shattering misconceptions and expectations. SNAFU is actually home to some of the deepest and downright complex mental anatomies that I’ve seen in anime in while. These characters aren’t as complex as say…characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion, but they’re leagues better than what a majority of anime has to offer and definitely ascended above my initial impression.
Hachiman is a snarky, social recluse that feels everybody in high school is just putting on a mask to maintain the status quo of life. He thinks everyone goes out of their way to be as fake as possible just to retain whatever previous image others had of them, no matter what they’re truly feeling at the time. For this reason, he believes nobody is worth his attention, thereby spending most of his spare time alone and thinking pessimistically about the future.
Yukino is the other resident outcast with a take-no-shit demeanor and an arsenal of sarcastic wit big enough to rival Hachiman’s. She, too, believes that nobody is really worth her attention. However, this is because she sees all of their imperfections and how they fail in comparison to herself–or at least that’s how she chooses to come off to others. She also enjoys working alone because she follows the Joker’s philosophy of “you can’t rely on anyone these days. You gotta do everything yourself.” By that I mean that she believes that working alone is the most efficient means to go about things because it entails not relying on incompetent people to hold up their ends of the bargain. Even though they both are dry-humored and self-reliant, Yukino and Hachiman commonly bring up how different they are from one another due to how polarizing their own unique agendas are. It’s also a method Yukino utilizes to put up a wall between them for a portion of the series.
Yui is the glue that holds the trio together. She’s the oil that counters all of the cynicism, sarcasm, and pessimism that constitutes Yukino and Hachiman. Her jubilant attitude and naive nature allow her to be the semi-anchor of both Yukino and Hachiman. She also provides a distinctly optimistic and carefree tone that is necessary to balance out the trio.
Alone, these three are good enough characters to warrant noting. However, as a cohesive unit, these three make for one of the strongest main casts that I’ve witnessed. The situations that the club find themselves in are used as a mechanism to draw formerly unseen sides of the main cast out from them, whether they want others to see these new sides or not. This means that their views of each other constantly evolve from one new experience to the next. Yukino and Hachiman’s sense of complete self-reliance is often greatly tugged on to the point there they are forced to put faith in other people, and at points, ask for help which is a huge feat. These challenges are a main source of change in the main characters’ respective outlooks. It’s so enjoyable and satisfying to see trust and chemistry built between the main cast and even the side cast–which I would like to add, is spectacular. The support cast receives a considerable chunk of focus at some portions of the series which further confirms Hachiman’s notion that people typically have more sides to them than what they let on. Honestly, I absolutely adore the side characters in SNAFU and believe that they culminate into one of my favorite supporting casts in any anime I’ve seen.
But I’d like to isolate Hachiman for a moment.
I believe Hachiman has one of the best written and physically noticeable character developments I’ve ever had the joy to view on-screen. Now, I don’t mean that he looks a ton different by the end. What I mean is that his actions–especially his interactions with Yui and Yukino–morph drastically throughout the series, though more prevalent in the second season. Hachiman best encapsulates a theme that I don’t often see executed well, if at all, in anime: inner-change, self-acceptance, and the monstrous amount of growing pains that comes with it. What makes this more palpable is the fact that Hachiman is our narrator; we see everything through his eyes. He is constantly witnessing people he once thought he had mentally pinned down go through a visible metamorphosis of sorts. The viewer witnesses his peers maturing right in front of his eyes just as he does. But what the viewer also gets to see is Hachiman’s realization of his own inner-change and his brutal struggle to attempt and remain the same. He’s like Ebeneezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The main difference being that instead of being visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, he’s visited by the ghost of Christmas imoutos (Komachi), the ghost of Christmas student council presidents (Iroha), and the ghost of Christmas best girls (Hiratsuka-sensei). Although none of the characters develop particularly gracefully, Hachiman’s development is probably the roughest, specifically because the viewer witnesses his thought process and his near inability to accept that he’s no longer the same person throughout the series’ run time. His journey of hardship and self-realization peaks in the middle of the second season in what I can only describe as one of the truest epiphanies/breakdowns I’ve ever seen done in anime. All of this highlights how believable he is as a character. Realizing you’re changing as a person is never the simplest thing to reconcile with and SNAFU handles this concept with a considerable deal of tact and care. For that, I thought it deserved mentioning.
Because I don’t believe animation to be as integral in a series such as this, I’ll keep this short and sweet. The animation for the initial season was done by Brains Base (Baccano!, Durarara!!, Natsume’s Book of Friends). The animation was colorful and bright, but it never did anything substantial–not like it needed to or anything. However, the second season was handed off to Studio Feel for whatever reason. These are the people responsible for Outbreak Company and other unique butterflies such as Bikini Warriors, Yosuga no Incest, and Kiss x fucking Sis. Thankfully, they ramped up the animation budget throughout the series. Special mention goes to how they filtered most of their animation money into the emotion-intensive scenes which not only looked absolutely stunning, but really aided in drawing out the raw emotion from each character. Kudos to you, Studio Feel.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a series that flipped my own expectations on their head. The series partially advertises itself as a romantic comedy which leads most viewers into believing that romance will be the centerpiece of the series. Oddly enough, romance isn’t the focal point at all. Believe me, it isn’t. Instead, viewers receive a much deeper and gripping experience that spotlights the breaking of expectations and the inner-struggles involved with emotional growth. The series becomes what could be described as a quasi-character study of three high school students learning just how important they are to each other. It’s a story of subtleties and nuances that are reflected in how truly dynamic the cast is. And none of this is what I expected it to be. Hell, the series tells you exactly what it is: My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected. It almost seems as if the series was mocking me for settling into the false sense of knowing what I was getting myself into. Honestly though, I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.
Sure, the believable development of it’s characters comes at the cost of making things slow to occur. This also entails that a few of the episodes present the feeling that no real progress is happening. But that also comes with the territory of any rom-com so one should’ve prepared for that already. The ending may also leave some viewers either screaming or scratching their heads depending on what they desired. However, what I received from this series is some of the richest and most likable characters I’ve seen in recent years, a whole trove of dry comedy and brilliant scripting, and a phenomenal character study/coming of age story that I think is worth most people’s time. There’s more I’d like to say about the idiosyncrasies with each main character and I want to spend more time on the supporting cast, but that’s another article for another time (possibly) and I feel I’ve said enough to get my point across.
Now, I’ve been incubating the possibility that objectively rating a series based on a numerical scale may be pointless. And honestly, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that it is. For any entertainment medium, I believe objective scrutiny to be utterly impossible and a futile endeavor. So, from now on I’ll just tell you whether or not I think the series in question is worth your time. And in this case with both seasons of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, it’s a resounding yes.
Watch or Don’t Watch?: Watch
The only reason I’d say not to at least give it a shot is if you hate all high school anime in general and just wanna watch people kill each other or girls tits flop around. In either of those cases, this show ain’t for you.
P.S. I don’t know what all this constant yammering about who the best girl is. Trust me when I say that I love Yui and Yukino; they’re wonderful characters. But the true best girl is the teacher, Shizuka Hiratsuka. No, I’m not joking. Debate me…I dare you.
Anyway, keep watching anime and stay tuned for more!!