My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected, Vol. 2

By Wataru Watari and Ponkan 8. Released in Japan as “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” by Shogakukan. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

In many ways, this second volume of OreGairu does not have a heck of a lot going on. There are school ativities and discussion of career plans, as befits high schoolers. There is the Service Club and their attempts to help people, which features two cases this time around, both of which are solved relatively quickly. But that’s appropriate, as the problems are very much those of typical high-schoolers – feeling like the odd man out in a group of friends, and trying to find a way to pay for higher education. They’re also solved relatively quickly because both Hachiman and Yukino are both amazingly intelligent and observant, and normally they’d be praiseworthy. But they aren’t, mostly because of the reason anyone would read OreGairu in the first place: to read about these horrible, broken people lacerating each other with words.

I read this book right after reading Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody, and the contrast between narrative style is mindblowing. Hachiman’s cynical bitterness overflows every page, and his defensive asides only serve to make him more pathetic and yet strangely endearing. His insight into human nature, particularly the way that high school students interact around each other, is high-level stuff, and if he was looking for a career at all I’d suggest he move in a direction where he could use those talents for the better good. But his crushing apathy and disaffection ensures that this isn’t going to happen. Yukino is similar to him, though without the outward self-hatred. I say outward because this second volume shows us that there is a topic that really upsets Yukino and cracks her jerkass facade, and that’s showing family issues in her face. Clearly Yukino’s issues are family-related just as Hichiman’s are peer-related, and I have no doubt that future books will explore this in agonizing detail.

Thank goodness for Yui. I feel a little bad for her, as much of the time she feels like a character from a far more cliched light novel trapped inside this series. But she’s desperately needed to offset the bile coming from her two clubmates, and her relatively normal reactions to everything show off both how intelligent and broken Hachiman and Yukino are. She’s also tied to the accident at the start of his high school life, something he is now aware of, and this culminates in a stunning final scene where she gives him a perfect opening to get closer to her and possibly lead up to something more, and he just shuts her down as callously as possible. This series would never work if Hachiman’s attitude was fixed as quickly as this, so the pushback was expected. But it’s beautifully, heartbreakingly written, and you feel bad for Hachiman while wanting to kick him in the head. And Yui needs a hug.

That said, the actual plot is mostly irrelevant for this series, which runs on snappy dialogue and clever characterization. It’s not a happy, feel-good series at all, but it’s absolutely worth a read for light novel fans.

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