So, as you may know I just recently finished watching the absolutely excellent Re:Zero, so what’s the first thing I decide to do in that show’s wake? Well, the only logical thing, of course; satisfy my morbid curiousity! Otherwise known by the long winded names of Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru, or My Teen Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected, Oregairu could’ve been more aptly named “We Live in a Society, the Animation”. But, to be fair, the same could be said for plenty of other shows; in fact, the anime that I finished up just before watching this one, Oresuki, is not only very similar in concept (parodying the traditional romcom), but even shares the same naming convention used here. Lemme break it down for you; our protagonist, Hikigaya Hachiman, is a self-professed loner with no friends who sees the joy of youth as being nothing more than a lie people tell themselves, and our introduction to the show involves him being chastised by a teacher for trying in embarrassing fashion to justify his pessimistic worldview and paint himself as being intellectually superior to his peers. As a punishment for being a smartass, that same teacher decides forcing him to join the “Volunteer Service Club” (or at least I think that’s the name because the translation of it was not consistent throughout episodes of the sub I watched) is a good way to try and at least help him to understand the plights his fellow classmates face, forcing him into a position where he’s obligated to solve their problems. Naturally, that same club has a couple of other members, the infamous Yukino Yukinoshita and her eventual friend Yuigahama Yui. So, it’s about as normal a basic high-school anime formula as you can get; main character joins wacky club through weird circumstances, hijinks ensue. Of course, the setup is done this way because the show is trying to parody that same type of basic formula; so compared to Oresuki, which for the most part I enjoyed, what does this anime do so wrong in contrast? Well, when I think of the experience I had with this show, three words come to mind that summarize it pretty well: trying too hard. But let’s set that aside for now, and focus on what I was told before watching the show. As I mentioned prior, the decision to watch this was made for the sake of satisfying my morbid curiousity; after all, it’s not every day that I’m outright told a show is bad. In fact, before watching Gamers which I delved into for almost the exact same reason I did here, I was never told anything about the show, I just made an assumption it would be mediocre based on its basic synopsis. So naturally I was going into this one with a rather strong bias toward the primary thing it was apparently infamous for; its male protagonist. From the general description I gave earlier, you probably have a pretty good idea about why that’s the case, but let me set the record straight; I like what they tried to do here, but the problem is the execution. Hikigaya Hachiman is, seemingly, not supposed to be a likeable character, except that at times it feels as though the show tries really, really hard to make you like him. Yet it fails, because it misunderstands the primary reason why his character is so hateable; it’s because he has a martyr complex. He feels justified in his shitty behavior because he sees himself as being an outcast who is persecuted by his peers, and so he has deluded himself into believing his self-reliance is a status symbol that makes him unique; an intellectual with a high IQ who immerses himself in philosophy and challenges the status quo, so utterly self-absorbed and holier-than-thou he goes as far as to profess his love for himself. So when the show tries to make you sympathetic towards Hikigaya by showing all the ways in which he “selflessly” makes himself into a villain for the sake of others, it rings hollow; and it certainly doesn’t help that none of the characters feel as though they’ve grown at all by the show’s end, making the whole journey feel frustratingly pointless. But you know what? The male protagonist is not the show’s most unlikable character. At the very least, he has depth, even if it’s not a whole lot; he has a deceptively simple but relatively realistic backstory that helps to give you an understanding of his way of thinking and makes him a bit relatable. Even if he’s extremely pretentious and tries really hard to sound smarter than he actually is, he still has a rather interesting way of thinking during some segments of the show. No, Hikigaya Hachiman is not the show’s worst character—the worst character in Oregairu is his foil; Yukino Yukinoshita, the female protagonist. Hikigaya and Yukino are two sides of the same coin, with a lot of similarities; much like Hikigaya, Yukino believes she is intellectually and emotionally superior to her peers, going so far as to directly state that her classmates only see her attitude as being holier-than-thou because they are aware of their inferiority, which is nothing short of an admittance to her perceived superiority. In fact, just about everything I’ve stated about the male protagonist runs in parallel with the female one, foremost among those being Yukino’s martyr complex. Both the male and female protagonist are initially hostile towards one-another, but eventually their relationship evolves to the point where despite seemingly little has changed, the two are essentially exchanging what they perceive to be extremely witty banter—except they’re actually just making complete fools of themselves, but I digress. The point is that they see eachother as being kindred spirits; but whereas Hikigaya at least has the decency to, as he himself puts it, not cramp anyone else’s style by way of being a nuisance, Yukino does not deign to extend that same kindness unto others. Instead, she’s extremely confrontational and talks down to others in blatant fashion, acting as if she is an absolute authority on human nature and simply knows things that other people are too stupid to understand. Unlike Hikigaya, her background has her outcast from regular social circles because she is seen as a genius at the center of society’s jealous envy. Over and over again the show depicts her primary character flaw as being incapable of compassion despite her apparent desire to help others, and it makes the actual reason behind her selfless volunteer service abundantly clear—martyrdom. “The ice queen is oh so generous that she’s decided to lend a helping hand to the struggling peasants who are incapable of solving their own problems. Out of the kindness of her heart, she sacrifices herself for the sake of others with nothing to gain.” But you and I both have the basic common sense required to see that Yukino is acting not for the sake of the people she’s helping, but instead so that she can delude herself and others into believing that she’s a good person. Here’s a fun comparison; what Yukino is doing is practically no different from the shitty YouTubers that claim to be no different from the average person and then post videos of themselves using cash to make it rain on random homeless people. Real fucking class act bro, way to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. Now, her character is one thing; actually, were she portrayed differently and the story taken in a different direction, her character could’ve been really interesting (which ties into a running theme of missed potential that pervades the show). Instead, though, what we get is a scenario where the writer is somewhat capable of understanding the male protagonist is not really supposed to be likeable, but the female protagonist is portrayed as being a figure we’re supposed to look up to, the one who slowly but surely “course corrects” Hikigaya over time through sheer force of personality, and it fucking sucks. It makes her character absolutely fucking unbearable, crossing the line from being simply unlikeable into being flatly hateable. In fact, probably my favorite part of the entire show is when Kawasaki (one of the side characters) essentially just tells Yukino to fuck off and stay out of her business; boy oh boy was that satisfying. And really, I could go on about both the male and female protagonist, but I’ve said enough; going any further would just be a waste of everybody’s time. Instead, let’s wrap back around to that little comment I made earlier about the show trying too hard. It’s supposed to be a parody of romcoms, right? Well, yeah, except unlike Oresuki, Oregairu doesn’t really have much of anything interesting or meaningful to say to the viewer. I call it a romcom parody, except there isn’t all that much romance; Yuigahama develops a crush on the male protagonist, sure, but nothing really happens related to that out of sheer virtue of both everyone’s awkwardness and Hikigaya’s flat refusal to believe he’s interested. Right from the get go, the entire idea behind Hikigaya’s character is supposed to be that his view of reality is warped and twisted, except that the show can’t help but do seemingly everything in its power to try and reinforce that same worldview; everything around him and his friends is, as the title says, wrong, to the point where it stops being an accurate imitation of reality and descends into the realm of unintentional comedy, one overdone tragedy and comically shitty person after the next. It tries to give ham-fisted messages about the most basic of basics, to the point where I couldn’t even tell you any off the top of my head because I legitimately cannot remember a single one, and I literally finished the first season like an hour ago. Even funnier, the plights of the people the so-called Service Club is supposed to be helping feel secondary when contrasted against the interpersonal drama between the three main members of the show’s cast. Because the show is incapable of creating drama through anything besides sheer happenstance and convenience, all of the members of the club were acquainted not long before meeting eachother properly by means of a car crash that takes place before the show begins, where Hikigaya is established as being “actually a good guy” because he jumped in front of the car to save Yuigahama’s dog. Now, that at least gets a pass as being not too unrealistically convenient for the story’s sake, but what doesn’t is that the car involved in the crash is none other than Yukino’s, and her primary character drama with the club’s other members involves her guilt and inability to say anything about her involvement in the incident for fear of confrontation, etc. If that all sounds really underwhelming, it’s because it is; none of it ties into the core concept of the show, and it feels separate from everything else that happens in the story. Worse, despite being the show’s main source of drama, it’s just not done very well, to the point where it even feels annoyingly melodramatic. I have bellyached about this before, but let me just say again for the sake of clarity that I really, really dislike melodramatic shit, and it doesn’t help when the protagonist feels the need to overthink everything serious that happens in the show for the sake of sounding like a philosophical intellectual. Now, you may have noticed that I have talked very little about characters outside the main group of three in the service club, and that would be because there isn’t a whole lot to talk about. Most of the other side characters are relatively one-dimensional and boring if not unlikeable with only a few redeeming ones. And even those few characters that are actually likeable, like Totsuka and Kawasaki, are that way for minor reasons; Totsuka is the primary subject of one of the show’s few good running gags, and Kawasaki is likeable purely because she tells Yukino off midway through the show (and then barely shows up again after that unfortunately). Aside from that, I couldn’t even tell you the names of many of the other side characters, and none of them ever take the forefront except during episodes where the Service Club is supposed to be helping them. And don’t get me wrong, the whole idea of the Service Club does not give way to an inherently bad formula, but there’s no doubt its execution here was poor; the story lacks any real sense of narrative cohesion and proper continuity, and progresses at such a snail’s pace you’re left bored throughout its entire runtime. Oh, and I might as well take a moment to mention the chuunibyou character (of whom I can’t remember the name); he’s about as stereotypically chuuni as it gets, so I didn’t have any strong feelings about his character beyond him and the male protagonist being a sort-of naturally fitting pair, but I did think it was a shame the idea of the male protagonist’s former best friend being a major chuuni along with the male protagonist having his own dark past of acting similar was never really utilized at all. For real, go watch Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai if you want a good show that focuses on chuunibyous (and just one of my favorite shows in general). Anyways, I’ve said a lot of shit about this show up to this point, but as bad as I make it seem, it’s really not. It’s not the sort-of show bad enough to watch for the sake of laughing at it. There were very few moments in the show bad enough to make me laugh at them, bar incredibly bad lines from the male and female protagonist—one of the worst in my opinion being a scene where they are gift shopping for Yuigahama and casually make an in joke about her liking frilly pink dresses because she has a low IQ… fuck me that scene is awful, to be honest its less comedic and more irritating. I spent pretty much the show’s entire runtime being bored as sin, chin resting against my palm and just wanting to get to the end so I could properly convey my thoughts about it. And a lot of that boredom has to do with the show being not utterly awful, but painfully average—so painfully average and uninteresting that it took me longer to drag myself through it than it likely should have. Perhaps one of the only things helping to ease that pain is the show’s presentation; the art is good, the music is decent with a relatively catchy opening song and some good tracks on the OST, and you can tell there was clear effort made in trying to give the story a good visual adaptation. While a good chunk of what I said in the review makes the show sound dreadful, it actually ends up just dragging it down to the point where its uniqueness fades into the background and it feels like you’re just watching another super-generic high-school anime; and honestly, there’s a part of me that sees that as being sadder than a complete and utter comedic failure like Gamers. When I reviewed Gamers, I expressed that I couldn’t even bring myself to feel let down by the lackluster ending and instead just felt glad it was over, but this show actually disappointed me because of how by-the-numbers it ends up being; and for a show that’s supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek parody, that’s about as horrible a failure as I can imagine. Now, I’ve only seen one season of this show, but I will not be watching the others. Even if I did want to do so for the sake of total completeness, I’m not sure I’d be able to drag myself through two more 13 episode seasons of this just to get more of the same or worse. I’ve mentioned before in passing that I only review “shows I’ve completed”, but there are plenty of other instances where I review only a single season of a show, or more commonly review seasons separately. Hidan no Aria is a great example of a show I disliked enough to watch only a single season of, though that is far more terrible than this one. And from what I’ve heard, the remaining seasons don’t get any better or more interesting, so I’ll go ahead and leave this one behind for the foreseeable future and warn you against watching it, go watch Oresuki instead if you’re interested in something with a similar premise.

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