My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 7

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.

After the bleakness of the last volume, it’s good to see that this one is at least slightly more light-hearted, though as always the author can’t seem to resist ending on a downhearted note. That said, things are a lot warmer here, and the extra side-story that adapts a drama CD even tries to retcon the last book by showing that Hachiman was eventually roped into an after party anyway. This brings together most of the main protagonists, and features what may be the funniest part of the book, where Hachiman’s “hobbies” are found to be wanting (people watching doesn’t count) and they try to find him some new ones. It does reinforce a running theme of this series, though, which is that as much as Hachiman wants to push everyone as far away from him as possible, there is a growing core of people who worry and care about him. The trouble is, some are also falling for him, and at this point, that’s not a good thing.

It’s time for the traditional trip to Kyoto, with temple visits galore, something that has most people excited, even Yukino, who seems to be far more into the trip than she pretends. That said, the Service Club also has a new request, and it puts the “romantic comedy” back in the spotlight. Tobe, best known so far as “Hayama’s #2”, is in love with Ebina, best known so far as “that BL fangirl”, and wants to ask her out, but is nervous, so wants to enlist the help of Hachiman’s group. Needless to say, given this group, this involves 2/3 crushing verbal abuse and 1/3 sympathy, and even Yui is finding it hard to bring the sympathy. The trouble is, as it becomes apparent, Ebina does not want that sort of relationship – not now, and not with Tobe. And that makes everyone nervous, because the way Hayama and Miura’s cliques are set up, if a confession results in awkwardness and pulling away, it will destroy both groups.

If you guessed the solution to this was “Hachiman taking things on himself so as to deflect everything to him”, then congratulations, you are familiar with how this series works. That said, much as it was interesting to see a more serious and even poignant side to Ebina, the “main” romance is mostly there to highlight the main love triangle of Hachiman, Yukino and Yui. There’s plenty of ship tease between him and both girls here, as he holds Yui’s hand as they go through a dark and creepy temple set, and sneaks out for ramen with Yukino and Shizuka (a chapter that features Yukino at easily her cutest and most vulnerable in the series to date). But, just as everyone knows with Ebina and Tobe, the reader is aware that if the love story advances further, the core friendship of these three is going to be broken. Especially if Hachiman keeps up his “please crucify me” solutions to everyone’s problems.

So the question is, what’s next? Can the Service Club maintain its status quo? Well, my guess is yes, as the next volume is “7.5”, and is a collection of short stories. (Note that unlike, say, Devil Is a Part-Timer, these .5 volumes were not released as DVD extras, and are therefore able to be licensed here.) That said, this seventh volume of OreGairu is a bit less bleak, but you’re starting to see that the train is rushing forward towards a final destination that may simply be “crash”.

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 6

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.

This volume was pushed back a month or two, and when it finally did come out I didn’t have the time to read it except in short chunks. This is probably one of the reasons that I feel so exhausted after reading it, but the other is the subject matter. For a book that’s supposed to be a “romantic comedy”, which does have a generous helping of humor, it can be extremely depressing. It doesn’t help that this is exactly what the author is going for – after yet another problem is solved by Hachiman getting everyone to unite in hating him (and thus supporting the girl with the problem), his teacher reminds him that while Hachiman may not care about everyone’s bad feelings, there are others that worry about him. This includes her, as well as Yukino and Yui, but learning this lesson is, I think, going to take a few more volumes. Meaning that I may still be glum about this humorous series.

The subject of the book is the school’s Cultural Festival. Hachiman’s class is putting on a production of The Little Prince, which is not BL despite the best efforts of its adapter. Hachiman himself is on the festival committee, despite his best efforts, in the “Records and Miscellaneous” department, which rapidly becomes “defer everything we don’t want to do to here”. The supposed Festival Chairman is Sagami, a young woman with confidence issues who tries to get herself back in the “cool kids” group by taking this on, but in reality everything is being done by the vice-chairman, Yukino, almost to her physical and mental detriment, because since the chairman is flaking on things, everyone else decides to flake as well. And there’s also Yukino’s older sister lurking around the festival, making things worse in the way that only family can. Is this festival really going to be OK?

Well, yes, it pretty much is. There are no major festival disasters on this watch, mostly as Yukino is very good at organization (delegation, not so much). We are gradually seeing her warm up to a few people, particularly Yui, who remains the bright ball of sunshine in this series despite not having all that much to do in this book. The trouble, of course, is Hachiman, who once again narrates the book in a jaded, cynical and otaku-ish tone that serves to belie the fact that he really does care about these people and, when push comes to shove, wants to help them. But because of his self-image, he feels that it’s fine to solve a problem by throwing himself under the bus. Which is ironic, given how our three leads’ lives interacted at the start of the series. Despite being reminded that there are people who value him, the book ends with Yui taking a reluctant Yukino to the after party, while Hachiman resolutely doesn’t go.

I realize that once Hachiman learns from his past mistakes, we’re reaching the end of the series. And this is still very well written with interesting characters I want to see succeed. But man, it’s a slog, and right now I don’t really want either Yukino *or* Yui to end up with Hachiman. (There is a yuri fandom for it, right?) Definitely recommended for fans of the series, however.

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 5

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.

If I said that the pacing of the series had become glacial by the last volume, here it comes to a complete stop, as this is a selection of short stories designed to show off the cast and pad out the time before the new semester begins in Book 6 and the author is forced to actually advance the plot. From what I understand, the majority of this book was jettisoned from the first anime season except for the longest, most plot-relevant story, whi9ch makes sense. These are good character portraits, and show off Hachiman’s cynical yet on point analysis very well, but they aren’t really essential. They’re a meandering tale of a hot summer break. That said, we do finally have Hachiman connect the dots upon seeing the Yukinoshita limousine once more, so now all the participants know about his accident at the start of school. Getting Yukino to open up, though, will likely be another story.

Saika is featured on the cover as if he’s a heroine, which makes sense given that his short story basically involves asking Hachiman on a date. This allows the author do do his usual schtick, though fortunately Hachiman is not quite as bad as usual this time around. We also see Hachiman and his sister agree to babysit Yui’s dog while she’s on vacation, which allows us to see that Hachiman is actually quite a pet person. In fact, a lot of the se stories are good at pointing out that Hachiman has the ability to be kind and considerate, he just constantly undercuts it with everything he says. Indeed, Yui spells his personality right out to us, in another scene that makes the reader realize that she’s totally fallen for him, and is absolutely going to get her heart broken.

The story that did get adapted for the anime involves Yui inviting Hachiman to a fireworks festival (Komachi tricks him into accepting), and the evening that follows, which alternates between cute and awkward as Hachiman is constantly thinking of what normal people would do in a situation like this. I think it’s important to Hachiman that he disconnect himself from others like this – the ongoing use of (LOL) every time he says “normies” reads more like a verbal tic than a conscious choice. That said, the meat of this book is the scene at the fireworks with Yukino’s sister, who is in VIP seats, of course. Her scathing chat with Hachiman and Yui reminds us that Yukino was dragged home at the end of the previous book, and is almost completely absent from this one. The whole novel feels like it’s setting things up for an explosion once school starts.

Which is fine, though if the 6th book turns out to be marking time as well, I may throw my hands in the air. Sometimes you really do need forward development. It doesn’t help that the next book is not out till November, meaning a longer wait to find out if anything blows up. Still, fans of the series will want to get this to see what parts the anime left out, and as always reading Hachiman’s narration is an experience.