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.

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 4

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.

I think I have to come to terms with the fact that the pacing of this series is going to be glacial at best. Much as I have been clamoring for a bit less isekai and a bit more real world in my light novels, I’m pretty sure that other slice of life books must have plots that move faster than the main one in OreGairu. That said, the author is clearly settling in for the long haul, and I’m not sure if I’m just used to him or if he was less appalling, but Hachiman was not nearly as punchable this time around. He’s still a cynic and misanthrope of the worst order, but his analysis of group dynamics, once unpacked from his own mindset, is very clever and not entirely wrong. He works best when paired off with Yukino, who is very similar to him though I think they’d both rather not admit that. As for Yui… I want to give her a hug and send her to a different series.

Despite Komachi starring on the cover, she’s more of a supporting character this time around. The premise, which is actually quite a good one, is that over summer break the teacher gets the Service Club and its auxiliaries, as well as the Cool Kids group, to help supervise an elementary school camping trip. While they’re there, they notice, as often happens with a class of students, that one girl is being shunned by all the others. Hachiman sees her attempts to power through it and be cool and uncaring as Yukino; Yukino sees her desire to be one of the gang but awkward failures as Yui; Yui just sees a sad young girl she wants to help. That said, the attempts to try to fix the group dynamics are somewhat terrible, and it’s only after Hachiman comes up with a clever but incredibly cruel plan that things are even vaguely helped. And even then you aren’t sure if it did any good.

We get a bit more development of Hayama and his group here, and see he has a past with Yukino that I think makes him a bit jealous of Hachiman. And yes, Saika is here as well and we get endless accounts of how attracted to him Hachiman is, which I’ve come to accept is simply never going to go away. But as always, the best reasons to read the book are the prose, particularly Hachiman’s twisted narration, which can be utterly hilarious, brutally on point, or just plain pathetic – sometimes all three at once. In particular, his strange desire to tell stories of his incredibly pathetic childhood, with only the occasional “this happened to someone else” attempt at a cover up, borders on the needy. But it’s what makes this series compulsively readable, and it’s another good, solid volume for this series. That said, the only major plot development happens on the last two pages. Perhaps that bodes well for the next book.

My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected, Vol. 3

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 third volume of OreGairu actually moves backwards: having seen Hachiman seemingly blow up his burgeoning friendship with Yui in the second book, much of this third one consists of he and Yukino trying to get Yui to return to the Service Club, if only as the teacher demands a certain number of people in the club. They are impeded by Yui’s hurt awkwardness, Yukino’s inability to really interact with people normally, and above all Hachiman being who he is. The point of this series to a degree is amusing the reader with Hachiman’s narration and analysis of himself and others, and I am frequently amused. But I do hope that eventually we get some sort of deconstruction of this mindset or attempt to take it apart, because it also reminds you how incredibly annoying this kind of guy really is. For someone in their late teens, Hachiman must seem awesome. He frequently exhausts me.

Yukino, on the other hand, does get quite a bit of attention devoted to her as well, and we start to see a few reasons why she is the way she is, first and foremost being the appearance of her older sister. Haruno is bright, vivacious, communicative, and seemingly nothing whatsoever like Yukino… except Hachiman, who is quite clever in ways that don’t involve himself, realizes is a false front. I’m not sure if Haruno is meant to be a villainous character here – she doesn’t actually seem to be secretly needling Yukino as you’d expect if she were, and the delight over Yukino having a boyfriend seems genuine, false front or no. Yukino is also more apparently making an effort to get closer to Hachiman, though because of who he is and who she is, this doesn’t go far at all, even with Hachiman’s sister trying to set them up.

The book ends with a “bonus chapter” that is the novelization of a drama CD included with the volume, but you get the sense that if it hadn’t come with a drama CD the author would have included it anyway, as it’s in no way irrelevant. By the end of the story Hachiman and Yui have made up and gone back to baseline, they’ve all had a cute birthday party at a karaoke place, and Hachiman has had romantic thoughts about his cute male friend Saika about 80,000 times, which has gotten less amusing as the book go on, and I wasn’t all that amused by it to start with. That said, there are also some very funny jokes here as well – I loved Yui completely misreading Hachiman’s present to her, as well as the brief narrative from Shizuka’s POV, showing that the teacher is every bit as bad as the students who she’s trying to rehabilitate.

The main reason to read this is still Hachiman’s first person snark and the jokes. But so far if I wanted to read a series about a quirky cynical narrator and a frosty socially awkward brunette beauty, I have the Monogatari Series. I’m hoping that in the next book we try to do a bit more with these people than just circling each other warily and grudgingly getting along.