Halfway through the latest anime season, I wrote two articles covering nine anime — the five anime you should be watching and the four anime you could skip. Yet, readers berated me for skipping one anime in particular. And it's a good thing they did as My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is an extraordinarily witty anime.
Good — The "Daria" of Anime
Like MTV's classic animated show Daria, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is the story of two high schoolers that are social outcasts: In this case, the friendless loner Hachiman and the most intelligent and attractive girl in school, Yukino. While both are outcasts for very different reasons, the result is quite similar: they feel no need to conform to the social standards of the rest of the school. Thus, they are free to say or do whatever they want as they don't care about the social repercussions.
Hachiman, as the narrator, gives us a constant running commentary from his perspective as a proud loner. Moreover, his pessimistic understanding of human nature is not only comedic but also insightful.
Despite the advantages his outlook gives him, it is also the driving force for many of his problems. To avoid being hurt, he has simply removed himself from any possible social situation in which he might get emotionally hurt. And in this way he denies himself happiness more than once during the series.
Good — The Surefire Way To Unify a Group
[Skip to the next section to avoid major spoilers.] Yet, as the story goes on, Hachiman does develop through his social interaction with Yukino and Yui — though not as you might expect. At the start, Hachiman is in self-imposed exile from the rest of the class. He isn't hated or even consciously ignored; he is simply a non-entity as far as the class is concerned.
Hayato, on the other hand, is the polar opposite to Hachiman. Not only is he a soccer star and the most popular boy in the school, but he is also kind to everyone, popular or not — including Hachiman. He often plays the peace maker and tries to keep everyone happy.
However, despite Hayato's best efforts, he can only do so much. In many cases, he is able to unify the class, but sometimes, not even his charisma is enough.
But the trick is that Hachiman, with his pessimistic outlook on life, realises that there is a much more surefire way to bring people together than by being a hero to them: It's by being the villain opposing them. And while he still doesn't care about keeping the social peace or about the welfare of his classmates in general, he does clearly care about Yukino and Yui — so much so that he is willing to become the single most hated person in school to help them.
Beyond Hachiman, it's interesting to see how everyone else reacts to this situation as it speaks volumes about their characters. Yukino, for example, laughs in bemused comprehension. Hayato, responds with dismayed rage.
Good — Too Real For Tropes and Clichés
From the start, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is set up as a deconstruction of romantic-comedy anime. Hachiman himself is very genre savvy and knows the ins and outs of the romantic-comedy formula. Thus, he constantly compares his life and circumstances with rom-coms and curses "the god of rom-coms" for setting him up in what would be a stereotypical love triangle situation and getting his hopes up.
And in the more meta sense, the series does a great job of avoiding the typical romantic anime clichés. There is no accidental groping, no romantic sister love, no tear-streaked confessions, and little fanservice. In fact, the only time a big rom-com anime cliché happens — walking in on girls while they're changing — is the punch line of an elaborate meta joke.
Good — "There's No Girl Who Doesn't Love Boys Love"
Some of the best jokes in the series come from Hachiman's reactions to Totsuka — a boy so feminine in appearance and mannerisms that Hachiman seems unable to comprehend his masculine gender. And to the credit of the series, it is not homosexuality that is the butt of the joke but rather Hachiman's seeming incomprehension of Totsuka's gender.
This is then coupled with the behaviour of Hina, a popular girl who is overly passionate about "boys love," to create a multifaceted comedic situation that never stops being funny. By the end, I was almost hoping for Hachiman to take the "Totsuka route."
Bad — Lack of Payoff
[Skip to the next section to avoid major spoilers.] If there is one downside in My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, it is that there is absolutely no romantic payoff. While confessions of love are teased occasionally, the love triangle remains completely unresolved — without even a cliffhanger or a one-sided confession. And while the series did end on a logical conclusion point story wise, I couldn't help but feel emotionally unfulfilled.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU. The characters were great, the situations believable, and the humour spot-on. Best of all, nearly all of the clichés common in romantic-comedy anime today were avoided or handily deconstructed. If you are looking for a non-cliché anime or enjoy pessimistic, witty humour — aka, want to see what Daria would be like if it had been an anime — My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is definitely worth your time.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU aired on TBS in Japan. It is available for free with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.