Expectations can really screw you over. By looking at a seasonal anime chart, you have very little to go off so you set your expectations on little more than a short paragraph. This can end up surprising you (Date A Live, Gin no Saji, Tari Tari) or it can end up fucking you over (SAO, Coppelion, KoiChoco). What could seem like the greatest show ever with heaping piles of potential turns out to be harem hijinks with a pinch of bad, and vice versa. So when the Spring anime season of 2013 rolled in, the same pattern of choosing which show you would destroy or praise for the next 12 to 24 weeks or so came into play. Now, that Spring season was filled with some rather neat surprises, some good, some bad (I’m looking at you OreImo S2). Some of my favourite shows ever made came from that season. One of these shows is Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru or just OreGairu…yeah, just OreGairu.
With a name like “My youth romantic comedy is wrong as I expected” and using buzzwords like “antisocial high school student” and “distorted view on life” used in its synopsis, you could just smell the mediocrity from a mile away with a hint of edgyness. Seriously, an edgy young teenage high school boy is forced into a club with only him and a long haired beautiful brunette. To boot, a genki girl is introduced to the club later. To be honest, it was smelling a lot like Haganai by the second. Who would of thought that it would be more like The Dark Knight by the end?
The characters are what makes OreGairu so fantastic, mainly Hachiman. What I thought to be an edgy, introverted loser turns out to spit out some wise ass soliloquies and have a great insight into the daily doldrums of high school life. I tend to criticise Light Novel authors for self inserting themselves into their own stories so they can get a stiffy to their own creations but with OreGairu, it works like a charm. Now, I don’t know if the author even sees a slice of himself in Hachiman but it just feels like the author went through all the shit that Hachiman went through. What I’m trying to say is that everything that occurs around Hachiman, it all feels so real, like it could actually happen. I don’t know why this is a compliment but in the light of recent LN adaptations, it certainly feels like it.
Hachiman is quite a complex character. I could talk about just him for this entire post and still not get my point across on why he is so amazing, so selfish, so generous, so asshole like, so narcissistic and so fucking nice. Contradictions are fun, aren’t they? The best way I can describe him is that he is the love child of Hachiken from Gin no Saji and Judar from Magi. He is an asshole but with good intentions…I guess. The scene with Hachiman and Shizuka in episode 12 sums up Hachiman very well. She says something along the lines of “Your methods of dealing with Sagami were good but I can’t find it within myself to compliment you”. The scene as a whole is fantastic to watch. She also says “There are people who’d be hurt by watching you get hurt”. I watched Hachiman for the entire series and I never really thought of how he was feeling on the inside. I always thought “Damn, this guy isn’t afraid of getting shit done…little harsh though”. I had sensed it but at that moment it hit me like a sack of bricks, Hachiman is human, even if his actions contradict it.
Episode 12 was the pinnacle of the anime. Including the scene I already mentioned, it has some of the greatest anime scenes I have ever watched. Its remembered for the scene on the school roof where Hachiman confronts Sagami. Its this scene where we see his side of not afraid to get hurt to achieve a goal. He barrages Sagami with insults, humiliating her in front of her best friends and crush. There is a hint in his facial expression that he does seem to be enjoying the humiliation, almost like he is getting back at the people who cause him so much grief. Its great that his asshole side comes out whenever he tries to do good. It seemed like he was going to go on forever before Hayama shoved him against the wall and told him to “Shut up for a second”. What occurs next always sends shivers up my spine. You don’t see the upper half of his face but what you do see is a malicious grin and chuckle in the face of Hayama. This could mean so much. Could he be putting up a tough-guy front to hide his inner pain? Maybe that’s what he was doing the entire time. Could he be that he genuinely enjoyed the barrage and his laughing about his actions despite being grabbed by Hayama? I tend to swing to the former rather than the latter for his intention but its still a just reason.
So that’s it. Hachiman accomplished his goal by going on that rooftop. He knew that Sagami would screw up the speech so he needed a way to get the embarrassment off of her and get the hate onto him. It worked just the treat. With the three girls in attendance, rumours spread like wild fire and Hachiman became the epicentre of it all. However, before Hayama left the roof, he said “Why is that the only way you know how to do things?”. Hayama is more or less an acquaintance to Hachiman. Their only interactions they had with each other was at the Summer camp and the business with the tennis club. Despite this, he figured out Hachiman’s intentions and even questioned his methods. Maybe this is just telling the viewer that Hayama is just a good judge of character but I believe that its showing the viewer that even someone like Hayama knew what Hachiman is truly like, something, at least I, wasn’t aware of. This 30 second or so gap between the girls leaving the roof to the concert scene where we see Yui and Yukino singing is quite something. After Hayama leaves, Hachiman twitches his wrist and falls to the floor to a pathetic position on the floor. Again, we cannot see Hachiman’s intimidating eyes. There is no music to be heard or any sound other a sigh let out by Hachiman. This scene is so…gripping in its direction. The way the music suddenly cuts off and we are left in the silence with him is just…intense. Hachiman was so strong and steeled in the series but know we see him just broken.
It then cuts to the QUALITY filled concert scene with Yui, Yukino and folk. The lyrics aren’t really important but the Engrish before the chorus just feels awkward…well, the same could be said about all Engrish. This isn’t a legitimate criticism by the way, it was just bugging me is all. Hachiman is then seen at the back of the gymnasium, almost sulking in his despair. Only now do we see his dead, cold eyes which quickly disappear as a slight smile stretches across his face. A smile that came only by seeing Yukino and Yui on stage, people who he had nothing but mostly friction with the entirety of the show. This smile is just vague really. Even now, I’m not completely bought on the reason I have behind it. Is he happy that he accomplished his goal and can look Yukino in the face with pride? Is he happy that, after what just happened, he has people he can turn to? Or maybe, he is just putting on a self-assured front for his own good? This ambiguity created was something I really appreciated. I love it when something can leave you questioning something that is right in front in your face.
Damn, I think that’s enough on just one episode for now. I will return to that episode for just one more scene with Hachiman but before that, I need to discuss one quite important girl, Yukino Yukinoshita. Before I go on, the author has a thing for repeating patterns in names. Most the characters have a repeating pattern in their name or something like it e.g Yukino Yukinoshita, Yui Yuigahama, Hayama Hayato; The actual author’s name is Watari Wataru and the OP is sung by Yanagi Nagi. Not really a criticism or a compliment but I thought it was pretty neat when I found that out. YEAH, YUKINO. LETS DISCUSS.
To be honest, I didn’t like Yukino when she was introduced, and I think the vast majority would agree with me. She was cold, malicious, and just a down-right up-tight bitch. But what I love about the show is that it uses this judgement on her and, without really changing her drastically, this judgement turns a 180. There is a common theme of “False perceptions” running through OreGairu as it is present in Yui and rather strongly in Hachiman. She really doesn’t change throughout the show other than her opening up to Hachiman, which delights shippers all around the world. What makes her grow on you is learning her background from others. The information provided can be so subtle that you miss it on your first watch or it could be as obvious that it would make you sigh. With the help of her sister, her living conditions and her general daily routine, in a kind of juxtaposing way, she develops without really…developing. She’s still cold but we know of a warm side. She’s still malicious but you can understand her fighting intent behind it. She’s still a bitch but that’s because the world has been a bitch to her.
So in the final moments of the almighty Episode 12, she is met in the clubroom by Hachiman when he returns. What is great about this scene is just how natural and flowing their conversation is, despite the actual content of it. Its in stark contrast with the 1st episode, clearly indicating Yukino’s “development” in the show. Like even by their body language, you can see the growth between them. Yukino looks him in the eye and Hachiman looks back, she is smiling at him, she stops what she is doing to talk, she’s talking a softer tone. Its an actual conversation. Hachiman notices this and steadies himself for the all important question, Will she be his girlfriend. She politely and readily declines, saying that its impossible for them to be friends and that she didn’t know him before, but she knows him now. This pretty much tells you that they have changed in regards to their relationship and are ready to be…”friends”.
Yui interrupts their moment to invite them to invite them to an after party. This scene does really carry any real value other than showing how similar Hachiman and Yukino are in terms of social awareness. They both didn’t even know what the after party entails and they both declined to go. Its very typical of them to do this same action despite having contradicting living conditions. Kinda like a birds of a genetically engineered feather flock together or something like that.
All the characters in OreGairu play a certain role throughout the happenings of the show, just not as heavily as Hachiman and Yukino. Yui plays the genki, lovable girl that is friends with everyone. She carries the guilt of injuring Hachiman on that faithful day which eventually causes her to gain a crush for him. Her role is needed in the show as the Volunteer club would collapse without her but she isn’t necessarily vital for the overall plot. Shizuka Hiratsuka, or Christmas Cake-sensei as I like to call her plays the lovable teacher role that gets angry whenever you mention her age, her relationship status and…well just being Hachiman. On paper, she does seem to be a rather dull character but she turns out to be one of my favourites in the show. She’s capable of cracking really wise lines, like “Helping someone out is not a justifiable reason for you getting hurt” when talking to Hachiman in Episode 12. She plays the onlooker role throughout the show, she’s always observing their activities, whether it be at the camp or even running errands at the club, she is there to give her input at the end. That’s really her role in the show, to offer some wise words of advice to the club members even if they don’t want it. The advice she gives can be translated to the real world as well, like a moral of the story type thing.
Character wise, that’s all who really shines. Yeah sure, every character down to Hachiman’s sister has an important role to play but not nearly as intense as the ones previously mentioned. That doesn’t necessarily make them “bad characters”. The popular kids are don’t have any deep tale to tell as they are just popular kids to Hachiman. A distant breed of creatures that he doesn’t quite understand. Haruno’s primary role is to just develop Yukino in the way I mentioned. Oh, and Yoshiteru, as much as a bro that guy is, he is more or less useless. Sorry.
OreGairu is made by BrainsBase. They did a good job on it but its nothing to put on a pedestal. Its smooth when it needs to be and when you are telling are great story, that’s all that really matters. The music is nothing really to behold also except for the three solo piano tracks. I do want to compliment some members of the seiyuu cast. Eguchi Takuya usually voices the lovable baka high school student. The only other role that I appreciated him was Kujó in Gosick but that’s mainly because I love Gosick. But he really goes against the grain with Hachiman. He usual high pitched demeanour is swapped for an asshole like grainy voice that fits Hachiman perfectly. Saori Hayami was also great as Yukino. I feel that Hayami is real wasted talent in anime. Her biggest roles are Ayase from OreImo, Saki from “Eden of the East” and Chiriko from Ano Hana. In one anime she wants to fuck an incest crazed cock head, in another, she is utterly useless without her male counter part and the other she is either acting monotone or screaming at the top of her lungs. Not great roles if you ask me. So seeing her as Yukino felt really refreshing. Oh, and Inoue Marina is fantastic as playing the bitch blond of the class. She played the bitch in Aura and she was perfect there as well so she really needs more roles like that.
I do realise that this was me just plugging how great Episode 12 was rather than a review but DAMN that was a great episode. It embodied OreGairu so well and its constantly creeping back into my mind. It had one of my favourite scenes in anime, one of my favourite lines in anime and…well a lot of other favourites. OreGairu stands to be, in my opinion, the best character written “school” show ever created, and one of the best character driven shows ever to boot. Why? Because the characters feel realistic. They actually feel like they exist in this day and age. Really, that shouldn’t be a compliment but with the heaps of mediocrity coming from Japan, its nice to see an unexpected diamond in the rough. I can, without shame, put my hand on my heart and say “OreGairu is one of my favourite shows ever made” Oh, and I will fight you if you insult my OTP.
Hachiman x Saika forever.