Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: Episode 4

Episode 4 rides on the momentum of the previous episode to introduce yet another new character, provide deeper insight into the characters of Yumiko and Hayato, and expound on the backstories of the main cast, all without losing the witty banter and other humorous moments that have made this show such a joy to watch.
My Little Sister Can’t Be This Normal!
The new character we get introduced to is none other than Hachiman’s younger sister; I don’t recall a name being given in the episode itself, but ANN lists her name as Komachi. Little sisters are nothing new to anime, especially light novel adaptations, but I found Komachi to actually be fairly refreshing in how… normal she is.
With these little sister characters, they all too often fall into one of two extremes: either the little sister that totally adores her older brother to near- or downright incestuous levels, or the highly bratty little sister that smacks you if you so much as look at her friend funny. The latter is definitely more uncommon, but I believe there’s a popular example of the latter in a currently airing show, someone whose name starts with “ki” and ends in “rino”…
Actually, it was the latest episode of OreImo Season 2 (Episode 4) that reminded me that a middle ground can exist, thanks to a new character introduced there that is simultaneously adoring yet cheeky and annoying in that way younger siblings have a talent for being. However, Oregairu is a show that really puts forth a younger sister that avoids both extremes.
Komachi is definitely no tsundere, but at the same time, she’s not overly adoring of her onii-chan. She’s cute enough, but as Hachiman states, no matter how cute she is, he feels nothing for her. She obviously has no problem undressing in front of him and throwing her clothes in his face, which to him are just pieces of cloth. She’s a bit spoiled and selfish as she leaves the house without cleaning up after herself and expects her older brother to bike her to school. All in all, rather normal; about the only thing she does that is stereotypical of anime little sisters is this “whoops!” gesture she does when she realizes she messed up:

Not pictured: What happens when Hachiman tries the exact same gesture towards his teacher.
That said, she does care for her older brother, perhaps a bit more than average, in part because Hachiman is revealed to have gotten hospitalized after an accident on the first day of high school, saving a dog from an oncoming car. I’d say that’s a reasonable reason to at least not take your older brother for granted. All in all, I would love to see more of her, as long as they keep this balance they have of making her actually somewhat normal.
My Guy Friends Can’t Be Uncomfortable With Each Other
The main plot for this episode features Hayato, of all people, seeking help from the Service Club, as a mysterious-and malicious-chain mail slanders his three friends. Hachiman deduces that it’s because of the upcoming work observation activity, in which people must form up into groups of three, so in Hayato’s group of four, someone must go… thus, one of his friends must be trying to sabotage the others (slandering himself as well in order to avoid suspicion).
It is here that we see more of the sort of person Hayato is. Despite being one of the “popular” guys, he’s perfectly willing to seek out Hachiman’s help and listen to his advice. Consider it a sign of humility from him, or perhaps, as I mentioned before, he’s just the sort of standard rom-com hero that wants to be friends with everyone, including the least popular; Hachiman even describes his intrinsic ability to unite people as “The Zone”.
In the end, Hachiman figures out that Hayato’s three friends aren’t particularly close with each other, and are only hanging out with each other by default because of their individual friendships with Hayato. Here’s yet another scenario that may be familiar to some, especially the more socially awkward (read: myself) who might bond to one friend but feel out of place when hanging out with that friend’s friends. Hachiman, though, offers Hayato a solution, which Hayato takes up: he opts out of grouping up with any of his friends, allowing the three of them to be their own group and perhaps finally bond with each other.

Meanwhile, Hayato joins up with Hachiman and Saika to form the group voted Most "Who The Heck Thought They'd Form A Group?!"-Inducing
My Alpha Female Can’t Be This Morally Principled (And Her Friend Can’t Be This Into Boys’ Love)
Besides all of this, a scene gives an interesting further look into Yumiko’s character. Before, all we’ve seen of her is her haughtiness and general unpleasantness, but in this episode, we see some surprising parts of her. When Yui tries to invoke that crazy thing called “girl talk” to get information out of Yumiko about the boys, Yumiko calls her out on talking about people behind their backs being a bad idea. Now, then, raise your hand if you expected Yumiko to have a problem with gossip…
As if that wasn’t enough, we finally learn more about Ebina, the silver-haired, bespectacled girl seen with Yumiko’s group… and it turns out she’s a hardcore fujoshi (yaoi-fangirl otaku) who’s shipping her male friends hard. That Yumiko would be friends with someone like her might be surprising for some as well.

Even accounting for her "try to blend in more--and clean up after your nosebleeds" attitude towards her.
To be fair, I’ve always figured that it’s simply a case that the show hasn’t shown us the nicer parts of Yumiko. It’s all too easy in watching shows (as well as in real life) to categorize characters into “good” and “bad” people, without realizing that in real life, people have both their good and bad parts. I’ve said this before, back in the Episode 2 review: Yui wants to still be friends with Yumiko, so there’s probablysomething good about her, and here we get to see some of that.
Yumiko could easily become one of the more interesting characters in this show; she could be an interesting, more multi-faceted look at the alpha-female character. I really do hope we get to see more of her different sides and really get to understand just what kind of a person she is… and perhaps allow her to go through some development, too.
Closing Thoughts
The flashback to Hachiman's hospitalization also explains a couple of things for our main characters. We find out that Hachiman was actually quite eager to start his high school life, but his hospitalization put a stop to that; undoubtedly a lot of his cynical outlook on high school life comes from this disappointment. We also find that it was none other than Yui's dog that Hachiman saved, and a lot of Yui's interest in Hachiman probably comes from this (plus some conflicted feelings in finding out just what kind of a person Hachiman actually is, perhaps).
Besides this, there's a lot of the other things that have made Oregairu so entertaining so far. Yukino's tongue is as sharp as ever, this time taking all of Hayato's "nice" descriptions of his friends and interpreting them in less-than-flattering ways ("easygoing and mood-maker" = "class clown who can't do anything but goof off"). Meanwhile, Saika is still around and making Hachiman confusedly interested in him... and in the process the two move to a first-name basis, to boot! Hachiman may be moving towards actually having friends here...
It really is things like all of these that make me look forward to this show so much. The cutting remarks about school life are fun, but seeing the different sides of these characters and watching them develop slowly but surely is what's making this show right now one of my favorites from this season.

1 comment:

  1. This has definitely been an entertaining show - I've also been looking forward to it each week, and I've been surprised at how much I've enjoyed it.