Review/discussion about: OreGairu Zoku
A famous adage goes along the lines of, “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” Putting it differently, romance is something that everyone should go through no matter the outcome, because despite the difficulties it generates, the heart-skipping, cheek-blushing, and smile-bringing make it all worthwhile. But what if that was not the case? What if, against our better judgement, the “anti-romance” took center stage? That is whereYahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku comes in. As one of the premier anti-romance anime – focusing on the throes and pains of love, not the jubilation and elation it oft produces – OreGairu Zoku has one goal in mind: finding the “real thing.”
Many aspects of the world are formed as polar opposites, such as with romance and anti-romance. Usually called dichotomies, more concrete examples of this phenomenon are: black and white, up and down, and nice and rude. Their power comes from the distinct contrast they generate, because it is easier to see and understand an object when it is compared against everything that it is not. Another of these pairings is positive and negative, and in OreGairu Zoku’s case, it strives for maximum negativity, creating a dichotomy that leads to the “real thing.”
OreGairu Zoku steeps its narrative in negativity, which can readily be seen when its conflicts are broken down. More specifically, who they involve, where they take place, and what they apply reveal its constant negative vibe.
The “who” part of the conflicts is the easiest to surmise. The plot does not mainly focus on Yukino and Yui, but rather the rest of the cast. This seems obvious, given the purpose of their club. However, unlike the first season, it is not the two of them working together with Hachiman to solve the problems at hand but rather a disjointed effort. Indeed, much of this season shows the triangle separated until later episodes. Worse still is that even when they are around, either other characters such as Iroha and Hayato are looked at or their scenes are saturated with gloom, signifying how much emphasis is placed on everyone besides Yukino and Yui.
“Besides” is appropriate given the context because “where” these conflicts take place is, too. Before, the majority of the issues centered around the school – the track field, the gym and rooftop, the student council room, and so on – but in OreGairu Zoku, the locations mostly shift away from “home turf.” The beginning of the drama happens on a school trip, the collaboration with another school is conducted in a neutral building, and Iroha’s confession takes place at an amusement park. Even the climactic conflict occurs at the local zoo and not the school. As a result, the conflicts come off as distant, uneasy, and therefore negative because they do not occur in a known, comfortable setting. The negativity is amplified further when the non-focus of the main trio is taken into account since not only are the locations unfamiliar but also the people nearby are as well.
Amplification nears its peak when the “what” of the conflicts is investigated. While the people involved undergo these problems, the conflicts apply indirect pressure on Hachiman and the two girls. The cohesiveness of a group, the delicate handling of two sides butting heads, and the failed relaying of feelings are meant to mirror and highlight the most important conflict: the one brewing between the three main characters. Thus, negativity builds as Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui refuse to address their own issue despite the numerous signs being raised around them, pushing the main conflict to the breaking point. OreGairu Zoku’s conflicts also have a “why” – the resolutions are roundabout instead of upfront – and a “when” – as seniors, there is little time left – that induce the crestfallen mood further. Coupled with the dismantling and displacement of the “who” and “where” respectively, the negativity is almost undeniable.
Negativity is what OreGairu Zoku breathes and lives. It is not more Yukino and Yui, but less of them. It is not direct conflict handling, but indirect. It is not honesty that is valued, but dishonesty. The writing of the anime itself is often misleading, with nobody ever outright saying what needs to be said or what exactly is going on, choosing convolution over clarity. Indeed, much of this essay uses negative language – “disjointed,” “unfamiliar,” “failed,” and so on – because the narrative has to inherently be described as such, demonstrating the pervasiveness and therefore the strength of its motif.
The plot is constantly mired in this theme of negativity, and subsequently the drama that ensues gains more weight because everything is wrong at every turn. Nothing ever seems to work as intended, and even when it does, there is still the larger, looming conflict between the main cast that solidifies the negativity’s foothold throughout the season. It is this theme that leads to the show’s whole point of finding the “real thing”: long-lasting relationships.
Discovering the “real thing” is not easy because negativity covers it, wraps it, and pushes it to an unreachable area. Fights ensue, feelings are hurt, and friendships are tested as the negativity is waded through. But it is this insane amount of negativity that accentuates those positive moments that much more. Picking out presents with others, having a close friend heal a wound, and making chocolate with a bunch of people are so much more rewarding for Hachiman and the others because the relationships they share, despite all of the negativity being thrown their way throughout the season, stand strong. The adversity does not ruin them. Rather, camaraderie and understanding are achieved, leading ultimately to the connections that they always wanted to have.
So, while the negative connotations of who, what, where, when, and why threaten relationships, it is the second half of the dichotomy that makes them worth fighting for.
OreGairu Zoku’s spree of negativity persists in its visual presentation. Low lighting is used to paint individual scenes in a somber tone. Coloring likewise is lowered, in the sense that dull hues – browns, blacks, and greys – make up most of the art, washing the audience in darker feelings. The backgrounds, while lacking gross variety (arguably another form of negativity), are often crisp, detailed, and simple. This is especially noticeable when compared to the first season; rather than a cartoony style, OreGairu Zoku adopts this more realistic one, foregoing fun in favor of finesse. Collectively, the visuals ooze negativity, following the anime’s overall theme.
The character designs and actual animation also see an elevated amount of attention. First, Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui each have designs that reflect their personalities. Hachiman’s posture and fish-like eyes match his loner attitude. Yukino’s long, black hair and crystal-blue eyes make her as calm, cool, and collected as possible. As for Yui, her bun and large breasts coincide with her bubbliness. Second, actual animation is quite nuanced, showcasing deft hand, eye, and body movements that capture the characters reactions and improve the already realistic representation.
The series is called “My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU,” with the sequel adding on the word “too” at the end. Not “two” number-wise, but “too” meaning also. Because the anime is not about Hachiman’s snafu but rather the snafus of the other characters, and therefore the relationships involved. However, and weirdly, OreGairu Zoku has a peculiarity when it comes to its characters. In essence, each member of the cast is, with the exception of Hachiman, considerably weak but is used in unison to further expound on its theme of negativity and the “real thing.”
Two elements of the anime cause said weakness of the characters: the direction of the show and the general antipathy towards putting its characters outside of their singular roles. First, as a byproduct of OreGairu Zoku’s narrative structure – where the focus shifts away from Yukino and Yui and to the rest of the cast – a lot of the development for the main girls is lost or at the minimum hastily strewn together. The beginning pushes Hachiman and the girls apart and the middle sections do little with them. It is not until the end where shells start to crack, but by that point it is “too little, too late,” leaving next to no room to witness the effects of the changes hinted at. Again, the exception is Hachiman who does gain a new perspective after his memorable breakdown, which caused him to, however slightly, become more empathetic towards others and their feelings. This is visible in his dealings with his sister, Iroha, and Yukino, each of who have relational problems with Hachiman that are taken care of as his person slowly changes. Second, practically each member of the cast is forced into one role. Komachi is her brother’s rock, the person who will always understand him. Shizuka is the nice teacher who keeps her students following the right path. Iroha is the girl meant to represent the “bad end” for Yukino and Yui. The worst offender is Haruna, Yukino’s older sister, who acts as nothing more than an instigator. In other words, the majority of the characters are convenient devices that push the plot where it needs to go rather than people with development or growth of their own. Hachiman is, once again, exempt from this type of treatment because his role changes based on the events taking place. Where the rest of the cast is set in stone, he adapts into the aggravator, the thinker, or the motivator depending on the conflict.
The original statement sounds conflicting on its own. After all, how can characters who are subpar on an individual basis produce a meaningful message? Interestingly, the majority of the cast is not supposed to be looked at individually but rather in comparison to Hachiman. Consider a few characters and their characterizations. Yukino on the outside is intelligent and independent, but on the inside she is scarily reliant on other people. Yui on the outside is the nicest person on the planet, but on the inside she is strangely selfish. Iroha on the outside is beyond cute, but on the inside she is manipulative and sinister. In short, the cast have positive and negative halves. They are two-faced, masking their true, negative selves with a positive exterior that hides who they really are. The only person who is notlike this is Hachiman. Hachiman is not two-faced, he does not put up a mask; he simply acts and behaves normally, refusing to conform to a set “standard.” Thus, he appears strange, but that is only because everyone else around him blends together since they hide their true selves. So, though unintuitive, he is the single positive shield guarding against a negative onslaught.
Even more profound is how this negativity, like the story, reveals the “real thing” that are stalwart relationships. For OreGairu Zoku, the relationships it has are not only its strongest facet but also reinforce its themes. The best relationship in the anime is one that is rarely shown: Hachiman and Komachi’s. There are around seven small scenes in total showcasing the brother and sister, but it perfectly captures two siblings’ connection with their joking, teasing, and worrying. Another is between Hachiman and Yui, where Yui’s overt kindness does not affect him as much as everyone else. Haruna, despite being one of the weakest characters in the show, has an interesting relationship with Hachiman, where he acts as a proxy for Yukinoshita. But no matter the relationship, the common thread between each is Hachiman. He is that pillar of positivity that everyone flocks to because he is exactly what they need. Thus, his relationships prove how, when negativity is beaten, when that sword is dodged, blocked, and defeated, said relationships blossom and strengthen. They are more steadfast because the brunt from the hilt is over, and what is left are relationships that have nothing left to fear.
They are, simply put, the “real thing.”
The opening theme is pretty powerful, due to the noticeable guitar chords, the strong vocalist, and quick beats with contrarily slow lyrics. Just for good measure, the piece also blends positivity and negativity, with it sounding both hopeful and melancholic simultaneously, and therefore fitting the motif of the anime nicely. The ending theme is not as powerful, but its oddly positive vibes and multiple vocalists continue with the notions of negativity and relationships, respectively.
The rest of the soundtrack, however, is lacking, with many of the pieces working as intended without being memorable in execution. The best track offered is an acoustic guitar arrangement for the content times, but otherwise they are not much more than nice background filler.
Voice acting is not filler, but instead superb. Takuya Eguchi as Hachiman provides a wonderfully cynical voice, Saori Hayami as Yukino nails the cool beauty speaking, and Nao Touyama as Yui provides the happiness in waves, with much of the cast giving similarly well-done performances.
I am not sure how many people know it, but I am not a fan of this series, and my views on the first season are evidence for that. It was too comedic for its own good, the narrative subplot between the main cast was poorly fleshed out, and too much attention was given to Hachiman. But I digress.
The second season, to put it lightly, thoroughly impressed me. The comedy is there, but appropriately timed, the subplot with the dog and the car is gone, and Hachiman is no longer the only object given attention. The anime also relied less on Yukino’s cat infatuation and Yui’s breasts, favoring instead the relationships they shared with Hachiman. The kitties and the boobs are still present (and Iroha more or less becomes the comedian to replace the other two), but its prioritization of the serious over the goofy was a welcome sight.
Also welcoming was the return of Yukino’s insulting but playful banter with Hachiman, Iroha’s rejection skit that always made me chuckle, and Komachi being, well, Komachi. I am not a huge fan of Hachiman’s more philosophical musings but when his inner talks were used for quips and “the voice of reason,” I was often smiling then as well. But more than all of this is how valuable its theme is. I am someone who cherishes the relationships with the people I know; I want to be friends with everyone I meet. So watching this show give as much importance as I do to such connections was the biggest surprise of them all.
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku is an anti-romance anime that pushes the “anti” portion to the brink. The narrative is strong, the characters thematic, and the visuals stunning. While there are minor flaws with parts of the cast and soundtrack, it is still easy to say that this one did, in fact, find the “real thing.”
Story: Great, very strong theme of negativity leads to heavy drama and the “real thing”
Animation: Great, negativity persists in the art style alongside fitting character designs and above average actual animation
Characters: Good, weak characters thoroughly support Hachiman, with everyone expounding on negativity and the “real thing” even further
Sound: Good, OP and ED continue the negative, positive, and relationship themes, with an average soundtrack and above average VA performances
Enjoyment: Good, impressive leap in quality compared to the first season, with some fun characters, interesting relationships, and a relatable theme to boot
Final Score: 8/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3