Summer anime season is here and despite the pandemic, there are still plenty of fantastic shows coming out of Japan. This includes the third season of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU or OreGairu. I had heard about the show from some of my fellow anime fans and I finally bit the bullet and began watching last month. Since then, it has quickly become my second favorite slice-of-life anime of all time, after Fruits Basket (2019). You’ve read the title, so I imagine you are asking yourself “What is My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and why should I watch it?” Let me break it down for you.
1. The Characters
Being a slice-of-life anime, OreGairu is heavily character focused. This allows for every major character within the show to have a set of goals and unique dynamics with the rest of the cast. This is most clear when looking at the three characters at the center of the show.
The protagonist, Hachiman Hikigaya, is a loner who begins the show without any friends. He typically sticks to the background, only drawing attention to himself when he believes it is the only way to resolve a situation. The solution he comes with, especially in the first two seasons, is to commit “social suicide” by placing the blame for a terrible situation solely on himself to save others from a negative outcome. This all changes when his teacher, Shizuka Hiratsuka, forces him to join the school’s Service Club, a club focusing on helping students in need. There, he meets our love triangle participants, Yukino Yukinoshita and Yui Yuigahama. Because of his mistrust of girls, Hachiman finds it difficult to befriend them at first, but a bond slowly grows between the group.
Yukino, like Hachiman, is also a loner, preferring to accomplish tasks alone. This led to her being the president and only member of the Service Club until Hachiman was forced to join. Yukino and Hachiman begin to bond over their shared dislike of being around other people and their traumatic upbringings. Yukino’s rough past primarily comes from the expectations placed on her by her mother and older sister. Yukino wants to forge her own path in life, but that dream comes into conflict with her wish for her, Hachiman and Yui to remain friends. Her connection with Hachiman could potentially lead to more than just a friendship.
Yui is the opposite of Yukino. An energetic extrovert, she finds enjoyment in helping others and has trouble working alone. She goes to the Service Club to gain help with her cooking. She joins the club soon after, quickly becoming friends with Yukino. Yui constantly pushes Yukino and Hachiman out of their comfort zones. Hachiman has a particularly difficult time befriending Yui, as he believes she has a shallow ulterior motive throughout the first season. Fortunately, he realizes there is no actual evidence for his belief and the two begin hanging out together often outside of school. However, there may be more than just a friendship blooming within them.
Being members of the Service Club, the three of them often come in contact with various students from their school. However, only a few of them become recurring characters throughout the series. The ones that do usually threaten to break the group’s dynamic apart, such as Hachiman’s rival Hayato Hayama, the popular girl Yumiko Miura and Yukino’s sister Haruno. Despite this, Hachiman does have a few friends outside of the club including the overly feminine boy’s tennis team captain Saika Totsuka and “aspiring” student body president Iroha Isshiki. The large cast allows for some great comedic moments, but also aids the more dramatic moments found throughout the show’s second and third seasons. Speaking of which:
2. The Transition From Comedy to Drama
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU‘s first season is mostly a romantic comedy, as the show’s title would lead you to believe. The art style and animation by Brain’s Base (Durarara!!) is simplistic, but allows for some absurd comedical moments. Character designs are more cartoony, which is most apparent in Hachiman’s design as he has a fish-like face with gloomy green hair.
The show’s second season (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too!) and third season (My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax) saw the production be taken over by Studio feel (Tsuki ga Kirei). This, combined with an increase in budget, caused the art style to be vastly different and improved the animation quality. The more serious character designs and intricately detailed settings deepen the atmosphere to create a more dramatic tone throughout the second and third seasons. It is one of many reasons the show has been nicknamed “My Teen Romantic Depression” by fans.
This change in tone would seem jarring if it was not for the Culture Festival at the end of the first season. The Culture Festival is the first time the show plays with drama, and the influence is seen again when the events of the festival are replayed in season 2 with the new art style. Because of this, the focus on dramatic tension and further developing and destruction of character relationships turns the show from a light-hearted romantic comedy into a dramatic analysis on high school relationships. I have seen many shows attempt this kind of drastic change and OreGairu is the show that does it the best.
3. The Romance (or Lack Thereof)
Wait, were you expecting romance in an anime with romance literally in the title? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but OreGairu mostly flirts with romance as the characters have a very difficult time expressing their true feelings for one another. That is not to say there is no romance, as the show would be nothing without the complex love triangle at the center. Just don’t expect the sappy romance cliches you see in a romantic comedy film. OreGairu is all about relationships and how complex they can be and this is reflected in the way it deals with romance.
4. The English Dub
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU uses its characters and setting to explore relationships in a meaningful and thought-provoking way. There is no singular answer to the characters’ struggles with romance and what it means to them. The amount of subtext within this show can make it a difficult watch, especially for non-English speakers. While the voices in Sentai Filmworks’ English dub do not match those in the original Japanese broadcast, the dub voice actors are still doing a fantastic job with the material.
I tried watching this show subbed first and I found myself missing a lot of subtext due to my lack of understanding of the Japanese language. The dub may not translate things 100% correctly, but it definitely contains much of the same emotional value as the sub. The entire cast, especially Adam Gibbs as Hachiman, Melissa Molano as Yukino, Cat Thomas as Yui and Luci Christian as Iroha, do a great job conveying emotion through their voicework. The voice acting has made me cry multiple times so far during season 3, and only the first four episodes have been dubbed. There are a couple mispronunciations in the first season, which is likely due to how new much of the cast was to dubbing at the time. However, I can overlook these small errors because of how much emotion they bring to their roles.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is an emotional ride that starts off light-heated before transitioning into a romantic drama. The heavy themes, great characters and beautiful animation (especially in the second and third seasons) form one of the best romance anime I have ever seen. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is available to watch dubbed on HiDive or subbed on Crunchyroll.