Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: Episode 1

It’s time to start going over the episodes of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, starting with the first episode. In this episode, we meet up with each of the three main characters, and learn a bit about each one. So, for this episode about the opening episode, why not look at each of the three main characters in turn as they’re shown in this episode…

Hachiman Hikigaya

Our dead-fish-eyed male lead.
First up is our cynical male lead, Hachiman. He’s not cynical without reason, though, as he’s gone through his fair share of painful experiences… well, mainly thinking that girls liked him and finding out they didn’t. But hey, for a teenager, that can be rather painful. (There may be other things, but we haven’t seen them yet.) As such, he’s rejected that youthful fervor that’s characterized his past for his current cynical worldview.

Not that he’s forgotten that youthful fervor. In fact, he seems to still be affected by it, most notably when he realizes that, thanks to all the troubles Yukino has gone through, maybe, just maybe, the two of them share a connection… the emotional music starts building, he asks her if he can be her frie—shot down instantly.
You kind of have to feel for the poor guy.
Indeed, I think one of the reasons why Hachiman is so relatable is that looking back over at my own teenage years, there were definitely moments of high emotional fervor and times when I did silly things that I wish I hadn’t done now. And yet, that’s really what the teenage years are like: our brains aren’t quite fully developed yet, so we end up getting caught up in all sorts of things and making silly (and perhaps downright stupid) decisions. Of course, a lot of anime involving high school students portray this, but this show looks to capture the ambivalent feelings we have towards it: we know life won’t be your typical rom-com, but back then, in many ways, we acted like it would be, and we’d sometimes hate ourselves for it.
(If your high school life wasn’t like that, then, uh… congratulations, I guess.)
There’s another thing about Hachiman, and that is his philosophy that people should just accept him for all the faults he has and not force him to change, standing in direct opposition to Yukino’s philosophy (discussed in the next section). This does speak to the human desire to be loved for who we are and not for what we might become, which is certainly important. However, while love does accept people as they are, does that really mean it’s okay to let people stay that way without changing, perhaps for the better?
I’m sure we all have answers to that, but for now, the show does not take any sides, simply presenting each side’s philosophy, and then making them help a third party make cookies (in which Hachiman takes advantage of his experience with youthful fervor to convince Yui that her subpar handmade cookies will be plenty sufficient for winning a guy’s heart). As the show goes on, the events that transpire might start to change their view on life, which should be interesting to watch.
One final little philosophy of Hachiman’s is that in the end, one can take solace in doing one’s best, even if doing so is not enough to attain your dreams (in fact, according to him, it probably isn’t). It does make sense, but will this philosophy also change later on in the show? (For example, what about the regrets you have because you know you did not try your best?) Again, no answers yet; it’s only the first episode, after all.
Yukino Yukinoshita

Angel wings not actually included.
The lone member of the Service Club, Yukino is known among the school to be one of the smartest, most beautiful girls in the school. Despite this, she doesn't have any friends, because she's convinced that any guy that approaches her has ulterior motives... and as for girls, they're all jealous of her and have done mean things to her. This has caused her to view the world as an ugly and unfair place filled with weak, jealous people and where those who are doing better in life have it harder, so she ends up on a crusade to change people for the better.
Again, this is something that can be easy to empathize with for anyone who's been picked on for being smart, talented, or considered one of the better-looking people in school. (I'm more familiar with the first two cases than the latter, myself.) But moreover, we've all experienced just how depraved humans can be. We see it in the news, and we see it in people in our lives who have done things to us or people close to us out of pure malice. We would love it if we could get even one of those people to change their ways and become someone that could be considered a nice person.
This philosophy, though, stands in direct contrast to Hachiman's "accept me for who I am and don't force me to change" philosophy, which Yukino visibly reacts to. There's very likely something painful in her past that the show has yet to bring up beyond her troubles with jealous girls, but that will probably have to wait for later.
In the meantime, Yukino has a sharp tongue and a sharp wit, one that allows her and Hachiman to exchange verbal jabs reminiscent of those between Koyomi and Hitagi in Bakemonogatari. She's also got one other thing, though, that both Hachiman and Yui are drawn to: she's true to herself, and not the sort of person to adapt herself to others. She could easily just adapt to the ugly society she's in, but she does not care about adaptation. She says what's on her mind, however harsh it may be, and yet despite all this, there's almost something resembling kindness in that. Maybe. Or maybe it's just something that's far preferable to deception.
At any rate, like Hachiman, Yukino might find her own worldview changed by the events that are to come. Only the coming episodes will let us know for sure, though...
Yui Yuigahama

The cheerful redhead.
Forming the third member of our power trio is the cheerful Yui Yuigahama. Compared to the other two jaded leads, Yui is far more simple-minded, but because of this, she finds herself trying to go with the flow of the people around her; she goes to the Service Club for help in making handmade cookies because she feels that asking her friends for such a serious request would be out of place. Yukino calls her out on this, and her harsh, honest words make her start to admire Yukino for not being fake about herself, and encouraging her own self to stop trying to match the people around her (so maybe they did have the intended effect?).
Yui's cheerful simple-mindedness does provide a nice contrast to the other two, and is just another part of what makes this show a lot of fun. She feels at home among these two misfits, and is able to just be herself and react to the various things that happen around her without worrying about how people will see her... perhaps a bit too much, as she starts being more affectionate with "Yukinon" than Yukino is comfortable with. There's also a strangely sweet moment where she presents "Hikki" with a cookie she made, "just to say thanks"... Hachiman is sure this is a bad omen, but hey, he just got a handmade cookie from a girl; who wouldn't be at least a bit happy about that?

Even if it does taste like charcoal.
Overall Thoughts
I spent this post looking at each character because this particular anime has clearly chosen to live or die based on its characters. The focus seems to be much less on hijinks and much more on seeing how these characters and their warped worldviews start changing after meeting each other. Right now, it looks to be a very interesting journey. This might not be the romantic comedy Hachiman knew not to expect, but it still looks to be a very fascinating rom-com all the same.

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