A.K.A: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
Directors: Ai Yoshimura (S1), Kei Oikawa (S2)
Writer of Original Light Novel: Wataru Watari
Animation Studios: Brain’s Base (S1), feel. (S2)
Version Watched: Subbed
It actually took me two attempts to get through Oregairu, as after the first season it didn’t seem to be much more than an average romcom. I’m very glad I gave it another chance, however, as it was much more enjoyable the second time around and the second season blows the first out of the water. There are few productions that manage to achieve characterisation as complex as Oregairu, so if you’re after a character-driven drama with a hint of comedy and a ridiculous amount of subtext then this show is for you.
Hikigaya Hachiman is an outcast in just about every meaning of the word. By his own admission he hasn’t even talked to a girl in years and can count the number of friends he holds dear without any hands at all. His every waking moment would be a struggle, if he actually cared about what anyone else thought. His impressively cynical attitude ends up getting him forced into the newly formed Service Club by a worried teacher, with the only other member being the similarly isolated Yukinoshita Yukino. Naturally, the two can’t stand each other, but as they work together to help others as part of their club duties they find opinions and attitudes of rubbing off on them and, along with the bubbly but conflicted Yuigahama Yui, desperately fight to navigate the complexities of normal high school life.
That summary…doesn’t really capture what Oregairu is, but it’ll have to do for now. What begins as an average romantic comedy goes on to become Interpersonal Relationships: The Anime, and does so with style, though the show also has an agenda that it pushes relentlessly (which I’ll get into later). Each character is repeatedly shown to have more and more layers of personality to be explored, meaning that even those who appear to follow simple archetypes can’t be taken at first glance. The drama and emotion are poignant throughout the second season with some refreshing and effective comedy scattered here and there, while the first season merely serves to set the foundation for what the series aims to achieve. Overall, however, the balance between tension and light-hearted everyday living is handled beautifully. It’s worth noting that an entirely different studio took responsibility for the show half way, which may explain some of the difference in quality.
Remember that agenda I mentioned earlier? The author’s thoughts on what social strategies constitute an acceptable and effective way of pursuing individual and interpersonal growth fuel the majority of plot developments and to be honest I found that a little disconcerting. It gets to the point where multiple characters appear to connect to some intangible hive-mind to all receive the exact same opinion of any particular event, when I feel that in a real situation differing views would play a greater role. That said, however, even when I disagreed with any particular sentiment the anime sought to convey I still enjoyed the story as a whole and I’m sure that many viewers would eat all that subtext with a great big grin. Though if it rubs you the wrong way more than it did me you may be in for an uncomfortable ride.
Visually Oregairu is generally very pleasant. I found that the second season’s artwork fit the series better and helped the characters come to life that much more, but at the same time some of the animation is horrific (read: every time anyone’s legs have to be shown while walking or running). The BGM also fits well with several enjoyable tracks in the second half.
Summary – From the fan craving material to analyse deeply to the individual seeking an entertaining drama, Oregairu succeeds in catering to multiple audiences and has a great deal of fun while it does so, though the second season is much better than the first. For complex character interaction and drama in a high school setting you can’t do much better. At the same time though, whether you find the writing clever or obnoxious will have a major influence on your enjoyment. I personally am happy to recommend Oregairu.
Season One: 7.5/10 – Enjoyable
Season Two: 9/10 – Great
Overall Score: 8.5/10 – Good