What They Say:
Opposites may attract, but putting them together can result in chemical burns, electric shocks, and explosions. Enter Hachiman Hikigaya, a pessimistic high school student with no friends, no interest in making any, and the firm belief that everyone else’s cherished high school experiences are either delusions or outright lies. Hachiman finds himself coerced by his well-meaning student adviser into joining the one member Service Club. There he encounters club founder Yukino Yukinoshita, a smart, attractive, walking superiority complex who looks down on the entire student body. These two negative personalities are quick to attract Yui Yuigahama, who’s cute, bright, cheerful, and needs the Service Club’s help to…bake cookies? Is this a recipe for romance or the precursor for a nuclear meltdown? Will there be cookies, nookie, or a reason for everyone to play hooky? Get ready for rom-com gone totally wrong as the barrage a trois of the Service Club is unleashed on the unsuspecting student body in MY TEEN ROMANTIC COMEDY – SNAFU!
The audio is just as acceptable as the video. Since it was only shown on TV and there’s no dub, there’s only 2.0, but that’s hardly a problem for me. No one’s hard to hear and any music or effects don’t overwhelm the voices.
The video does not actually look all that bad here. The subtitles are a little distracting because they’re huge and yellow, but they’re visible, which is the most important. The show doesn’t call for spectacular video quality anyway, and this does just fine.
Sentai seems to have nailed down exactly how they want packaging done, and why fix what’s not really that broken? The packages always feel a little cheap, but whatever, they hold discs fine on a shelf. Just don’t throw it across the room or feed it to your pet. Oh, also, mine has this weird problem with closing improperly, but maybe I don’t know how to close packages. There’s an ass shot of one of the characters too. I can’t tell who because the butt’s bigger than the head, but I fear it’s the little sister.
The menu is typical Sentai with the episodes shown on either side and character art gracing the other side of the screen. I actually really like the character designs, so the character art is nice to look at. But damn, I listened to the ending in 15 second increments for what had to be like 20 times while browsing twitter and writing this.
Nothin’ but a clean opening and closing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My Teen Romantic Comedy is an anime that understands high schoolers, teen angst, character interactions, and the characters themselves. At a time when kids are the most vulnerable, it puts two characters who have on one hand a superiority complex and on another hand an inferiority complex with a weird sense of confidence despite it. From the get-go, it complicates matters for itself and not just juggles that complication well with its ever-growing characters, but also doesn’t tell too much when an ever-prescient, and almost always telling, narrator talks over the show. To say that it is perfect is a very, very big stretch, but to say that it does a lot of things very, very well is not.
For all the telling it does, My Teen Romantic Comedy knows when to show. It shows character, it tells what characters think. And telling what the characters think show more than just a little facial expression could. Hikigaya is a cold and cynical teenager—or you could just say he’s a teenager—and his inner monologue speaks to that. Yukinoshita is a girl who is so “book smart,” yet fails to grasp “street smart.” They’re both characters that are so terribly flawed that you want to just hug them, only for them to recoil away and wonder why you’re giving them affection. They don’t understand human interaction and, through 12 episodes (and an extra episode), they learn.
They learn through talking with each other and talking with other characters. Most of all, they learn from helping other characters. In their first mission as Service Club, they have to help third main character Yuigahama bake cookies. It’s a perfect setup episode that teaches us everything that we need to know about Hikigaya’s current worldview. Lines like “Guys will take any slight hint of attention as affection” ring so true for boys of that age that it hurts to remember those days myself. A love mistaken can hurt just as much as one lost and we see it later in Hikigaya’s flashback. A girl who’s really laying down the truth doesn’t have this look in her eyes, she has that look. At the tender age of 17, Hikigaya is battle worn and he’s sick of interacting with people. While he has a plan for his future, he has no idea how to deal with other human beings. He mistakes pity for love and then mistakes love for pity—a show of his previous dealings with this exact situation. Without knowing it, he shuns the only person who’s not family that cares for him and barely scoops together the pieces when it all falls apart.
Yukinoshita is, in ways, opposite of Hikigaya. She has a superiority complex compared to his inferiority complex and their back-and-forth dialogue full of wit and teenage cleverness means they’re the perfect foil for each other. She starts a Service Club to help people, but no one else joins (by choice, until Yuigahama) and seemingly no one comes, they’re just sent. She’s lonely while constantly reaching out for companionship. She’s alone by circumstance, not by choice as Hikigaya is. When she finally gets friends surrounding her, she struggles to accept help from them. She created the Service Club to help, not receive help. Perhaps that’s why she’s at odds with her sister. What should be her closest family member has always been just out of arm’s reach because of an age difference that can’t be compensated for and because Haruno is just a little bit smarter than the already brilliant Yukinoshita. It’s the eldest daughter’s job to take care of things, after all, as Haruno says.
My Teen Romantic Comedy understands pacing underneath all of its clever dialogue. By episode four, the seeming perfect interaction Hikigaya, Yukinoshita, and Yuigahama have begins to fall apart. Because of a misunderstanding between Hikigaya and Yuigahama, things get tense and misunderstanding is only piled on top of more misunderstanding, leading to Hikigaya’s default mistrust. To overcome everything, their world has to be “reset.” Hikigaya has to go back to his own misunderstanding and Yuigahama has to go back to pining. These high schoolers hardly know life, but they already know they have to fake it to get through it. Their own coping mechanism is escaping from the reality they know into the reality they knew. While facing someone who stares reality in the face—Saki Kawasaki—they delve deep back into their own recesses.
Hikigaya and Yukinoshita face their own cynicism in a girl at a summer camp, Rumi Tsurumi, who can’t be older than 10 and has the same view on the world as they do. They stare in the eyes of the girl who they once were and the girl who they could have become: someone with the courage to stand up to what’s wrong and to help her friends even if it’s too scary to do so. They tell her, full of their own cynicism, that she can’t just make new friends in junior high because the one or two classmates that went to her elementary school will shun her all the same and the other students will follow suit. The same thing’s happened to them not because of their inability to talk to other classmates, but often their unwillingness. Rumi stands up and talks. She stands above Hikigaya and Yukinoshita and, while they helped the girl, they can only leave the camp with shame.
The final arc puts a nice cherry on top of an already good series. It wraps up an arc for Hikigaya and Yukinoshita that was perhaps unexpected from a series that had thus far perpetuated their stubborn nature. But no, slowly but surely these characters are changing and growing. From the moment that Yukinoshita turned around and waved goodbye to Hikigaya (which, completely related, was adorable as heck), it was obvious they were changing. Yukinoshita was, just a very tiny bit, beginning to reach out to her friends, even if she didn’t admit they were friends. In the final episode, she reaches out to her sister, who she perhaps despises the most, because she knows she has to. To be the most successful, she reaches out to her sister to get the band back together, to Yuigahama to sing, and to Hikigaya to find the missing Sagami.
It’s also in this final arc that we get some of the most eye-opening commentary from the series. It strikes directly at leadership as a farce and pats the back of those figureheads who find themselves in this position, much to the chagrin of those who actually did work. Yukinoshita, under the name of vice chairman, does all the work that Sagami supposedly signed up for. And to what ends? She wants the adoration and recognition of the “work” she did. She constantly pines for comfort from her friends and, in the worst and cruelest way, Hikigaya breaks her down. In hindsight, she’ll see him as the dick that pushed her forward. Hikigaya is the guy that went just a little too far for the sake of someone else.
For what? The end of his arc is the teacher pointing out that it doesn’t have to be this way. But as he says, he doesn’t know how else to do it. Cruelty from his peers is how he grew this hardened shell outside of him. How else to teach the masses?
A dub is missing from the set and I’m kind of glad for it. While I would LOVE a dub of My Teen Romantic Comedy, it’d have to be on the levels of Spice and Wolf to be satisfactory (the way Michael Tatum and Brina Palencia work off each other is just too good!). As it is, the combination of Takuya Eguchi, Saori Hayama, and Nao Toyama work perfectly in the subtitled version. It’s a mixture of angst and acting that melds perfectly into a cartoon of this level of quality.
It’s the characters that push My Teen Romantic Comedy forward. It’s the characters that always, always, always make or break a series. A show with poor plot can become tolerable or even great with good character writing. My Teen Romantic Comedy’s character writing is superb. It fully understands what it means to feel like you know everything. It fully understands how to show that in dialogue. It fully understands that they don’t actually know everything. Hikigaya and Yukinoshita may not be the most accessible of characters and they also may be characters that hit a little too close to home, but they represent something much larger than themselves. They’re a whole group of people that feel isolated from their world yet are surrounded by other people. That alone is enough to give the show high marks.
Japanese 2.0, English subtitles, Clean opening & closing animation
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Running Time: 325 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
PS3, LG 47LB5800 47” 1080p LED TV, LG NB3530A Sound Bar