My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
Hachiman Hikigaya's fellow Service Club members (and some others who care about him as well, even if he doesn't acknowledge they do so) are growing weary of his tactic of solving problems by being the fall guy, and in the wake of the latest egregious example almost everyone seems to have given up on him. Can he find a way to repair his relationships and be a hero without being a martyr? And if he does repair those relationships, what THEN?
"If we each find out how the other feels, I don't think we'll be able to stay the way we are"- Yui Yuigahama
And so, Yui finally mentions the elephant in the living room.
I normally define a harem show as requiring more than two girls interested in the male lead, and we've only two here- there are other girls this season, sure, but those girls state IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that they're not interested in Hachiman, and just in case he might get the wrong idea, they sometimes feel the need to reiterate it. (One of my favorite Hachiman quips here: "How many times do I have to be rejected by this girl?") Still, Yui's quote cuts to the heart of a dilemma that harem shows refuse to face. Maybe SNAFU Too!'s relevant girls aren't quite ready to face it either, but at least it's now on the table. This is, as I believe it's called in The Lord of the Rings, the Doom of Choice, and this season of SNAFU is steeped in examples of it; many of our cast face the dilemma of growth-related choices in a variety of contexts. We see Hachiman and his fellow classmates again and again faced with decisions on whether to move forward or stay put, on such matters as choosing their academic track, or whether to run for school office, or choosing whether to follow one's sibling's path or forge your own, or, again (and for several parties) whether to pair up, or instead just continue to hang out with everybody. Hachiman's schemes are right in the middle of all this, and it seems that some of the ones he orchestrates this time might be major blunders, and it turns out that one he performed in Season One didn't really work out so well either. Hachiman has to navigate a minefield this season, including quite a few mines he created himself but that didn't end up at all where he intended.
One path he ends up taking with some trepidation involves a solo mission to help the newly elected student council president, Iroha Isshiki, negotiate a joint Christmas celebration with another school, because he feels responsible for Iroha. (It's a long story.) The problems are that Iroha herself is a bit of a nitwit, while the representatives of the other school can only speak in vacuous management babble, seem incapable of making actual decisions ("We mustn't come to a conclusion right away"), and don't like Iroha very much. Hachiman thinks it shouldn't be that hard to bluff them into doing the proper thing by using the same incomprehensible lingo they do, on the likely supposition that they don't understand what they're saying any more than he does, but maybe he doesn't have the rhythm right, or perhaps his accent's wrong, and things veer off in a completely undesired direction. For fans of Dilbert, this is probably the most authentic (and most hilarious) homage to Scott Adams' take on meetings that I've ever seen, though I'm not sure it's really even that much of an exaggeration- I've BEEN in meetings that were a lot like this. The whole story arc (this goes on for several episodes) ends a bit abruptly (as does another part of the show), but it DOES demonstrate that sometimes only a woman has the testicular fortitude to get a task finished.
I've always preferred the characters in SNAFU to those in Haganai because, while having some uncomfortable similarities with Haganai's, SNAFU's characters seemed a bit more like real people, at least to me. It's particularly true in the Second Season; even Ebina, the yaoi-obsessed character, turns out to have a reflective side, and to also have a surprising amount of insight into herself. Iroha is a new character this season; she's vain, shallow, as noted not especially bright, but having a certain talent for emotionally manipulating unwary men- in short, she's the kind of character I'd normally hate, but the show is surprisingly good at making her a sympathetic character. (Her character design is a bit too close to Yui's, though.) We meet a girl who rejected Hachiman in junior high, and she turns out to still be a marvel of insensitivity. We find out who the one person is that Hachiman cares so much about that he's willing to abandon his pride to seek forgiveness from, and in a sweet and yet somewhat melancholy scene that person shows a surprising depth of understanding of our near-antihero. Popular student Hayato Hayama is still trying to break Hachiman from his habit of self-immolation, and yet there's still something he wants from Hachiman, so maybe it's not entirely altruism. (I think we may also glimpse some of the "not so nice" aspect of Hayato's personality that he's occasionally referred to himself.) It was a delight to see the return of the grumpy Kawasaki. I guess her heard-it-all-before-don't-bother-me attitude was either developed during, or at least encouraged by, her stint as a bartender in Season One.
Yukino's older sister Haruno also returns, to toy with Hachiman and to publicly direct some nasty comments at her younger sister. Since Season One the show has been dropping hints about Yukino's family situation, and I certainly felt that it was time the show started fitting the pieces of that puzzle together. I won't say whether Season Two does much of that, though we DO finally meet Yukino and Haruno's mom- briefly- and she doesn't seem to be quite what I expected from Haruno's description in Season One.
Yukino herself is subtly different this season. She's as reserved as ever, but her barbs directed at Hachiman seem to drip a lot less acid than they did last time, and she even defends him at times. She turns cold toward him for a while, and the remarkable thing is that despite her perpetual pretense of calm, detached sarcasm you can easily discern these shifts in her mood. We also become more of a party to her struggle to decide whether to follow in her sister's footsteps, or to instead find her own path and escape her sister's shadow.
Yui is still, well, Yui. Always the cheerful one, almost always the optimist (she does get exasperated with Hachiman from time to time), everyone's sweetheart (but having a special place in her heart for Hachiman), the one person in Hachiman's little group who's also close friends with Hayato's clique of "popular" kids. I'm really not sure if Hachiman would be a good match with either girl in the long run: Yui, I think, would eventually get worn down by Hachiman's cynicism, unless he can change even more radically (he DOES do some major renovation on his attitude this season, and has even been spotted smiling a few times); while Yukino is so similar to Hachiman that I fear they would feed each other's weaknesses.
I almost went for five stars this time. The things that killed the deal were a bit too much abruptness in a critical place, and the fact that very often there was a lot of verbiage but I couldn't really tell exactly what all the words were driving at. Still, I certainly did get the gist of what's going on, and on balance I remain pretty impressed with this show. I hope that Season Three- which seems required, now- finds everyone ready, at last, to commit, like it or not. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Mild violence, mature themes (though not the "sexual" kind, and if you were expecting that, you ain't getting it.) 15+ OK.
Version(s) Viewed: Stream courtesy of crunchyroll.com (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (13/13)
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! © 2015 Wataru Watari/Shogakukan/Brain's Base/TBS,
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