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 advisor 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?
Set in 2.0 Stereo in Japanese only, the track had no real issues in terms of standard quality or regarding delays to lip flaps or transition to subtitles. It is quite annoying when there is only one track considering the price (and lack of extras) however there was no need to change my default settings with the audio so it is more than acceptable, just pretty much standard and that is it.
Video wise, colours were fine and flashy, and no issues in terms of video to audio on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio though set NTSC style with top/bottom wide screen, no problems video wise with subtitles synching, no video freezing or any slack animation when pausing the show and the colours do come out very vividly and look rather good on a Blu-Ray set up – no problems found so overall very strong.
There was no packing for this test release.
The menus are pretty basic – the first menu has a shot of Yukinoshita on a white wallpaper like background with the second disc having the same except with Yuigihama – both have the same set up which is the episodes list only on the right hand side scrolling down, with disc 2 having a special features tab – there isn’t a Play All so you select episode 1 and that is your Play All (and no audio select as Japanese only though you can manually turn off the subtitles from your options selection whilst watching) – there is a popup menu as is no standard but there is no real point as all you can do is switch episodes – it does its job fine but the lack of anything makes it very basic.
The only extras for this release is a clean opening and ending animation, and trailers for shows that are licenced by Sentai in the US but NOT licenced as of yet in the UK so this is a clear transfer from the US version to the UK, which makes this extras mostly obsolete (though this time there is a release that is in the UK namely Haikyu!) – the series trailers are for Is This Order a Rabbit, Haikyu, Hayate The Combat Butler and Love, Chunibyo + Other Delusions ~ Heart Throb.
This is another series I had no knowledge going into, and the title itself gave me a confused ‘huh’ when I got the review discs. And the title is pretty ridiculous because the series itself whilst is at heart, a romantic comedy, the romance part is actually very subtle which in this case actually works as it sets up well for a sequel, and no real obvious conclusion to who (if anyone) the male lead will get with. Combined with three very interesting lead characters, this definitely was better than it had any right to be – combining slice of life, comedy and a bit of romance with some actually interesting takes on certain life lessons…
Our main character is Hachiman Hikigaya, who from the offset you can tell his character – a loner, pragmatic, and enjoys it – however his teacher Shizuka is not impressed with his way of life, so as punishment for a rather unusual essay, she forces Hachiman to join the Service Club, which has one member, a beautiful young woman named Yukino Yukinoshita – who despite being similar in terms of wanting to do stuff on their own, Yukinoshita is more ostracized because of her looks than a loner who wants to get things done through, and the two clash to the point Shizuka designates a competition in helping people at the club. The first person who asks for help is our third main character, Yui Yuigahama who seems very social and bubbly, but in the first episode wants help with cooking where the two use different methods to try and help her (Hachiman’s MO is in full ploy as he uses psychology rather than showcasing). This sets up the clashes that Hachiman’s way of advice can be either not what you expect (yet it works) or downright brutal (yet the truth hurts) – Yukinoshita is surprisingly similar and can be quite brutal with her comebacks to Hachiman but the unique relationship begins between the two, added with Yui wanting them to be more social joins the Service Club herself.
The story, if it is that, is basically the slow build of Hachiman and Yukino getting back into society with some help from Yui and others who may actually get along with them. For example, one of Yui’s friends seems more like a bully named Yumiko, who gets jealous when Yui seems to be friendlier with outcast Yukino – who in turn abruptly calls Yumiko out for her selfishness whilst Yui is learning to be more accepting of her. Some fun moments like a rather over the top Power Rangers style fan boy named Yoshiteru writing a huge light novel that the group do read and brutally tear it apart actually is appreciated for honesty, or the tennis match when Yumiko try to take over the tennis court from the dangerously attractive shy boy Totsuka (Hachiman and most of the boys react to him with more interest than the girls, meet the Hideyoshi of the group ^^) which leads to the proper introduction to one of the supposed token jock characters in Hayato, a handsome man who is Hachiman’s polar opposite – nice, handsome and caring…though by the end of the series there maybe clashes between the two due to Hachiman’s way of thinking…
A lot of the episodes seem very problem of the week (episode 4 is about Hayato’s three friends who all have been spread rumours about, whilst we also get episodes involving Hachiman’s sister, and an episode introducing what appears to be a delinquent female named Saki staying out late) but there is some underlying stuff which suggests that all three leads knew each other beforehand – there is a subplot with Hachiman had saved Yui’s dog in the past from being run over by a car…which we later discover had Yukino in it. Hachiman does try to revert to his ways of being alone so Yui doesn’t feel grateful, whilst with Yukino there is some tension when Yukino doesn’t seem to mention it despite the other two knowing. Things are cleared up, but it does add some actual plot to what appears to be three random people coming together for the club…
Whilst the episodic nature and slice-of-life storyline seems predictable, the results do throw you a curve ball thanks to Hachiman’s distinct personality. The two best ones are the mini-arcs at the end of the series which cover a few episodes which showcase whilst Hachiman is sociable in his own way; he also has his own way of doing things. The school trip arc showcases an event where the Service Club and most of the other named characters are helping a school camp, and a young girl named Rumi is deliberately shunned by the rest, which unsurprisingly Hachiman can relate to. The clash between him and Hayato’s methods is most obvious here – Hayato always tries to cheer her up, but doesn’t see how uncomfortable she is thinking being with the other kids will make her happy, whist Hachiman sees her problem and Yukino understands that it could escalate into something worse. Hachiman’s solution? Actually causing conflict during a test of courage and revealing what the kids are really like to shatter any form of bond. The surprise twist is that Rumi actually saves the girls, but the fact was that the plan was to split apart to slightly improve Rumi’s life. It is a strange lesson in a show that is supposed to be a romantic comedy, but it is one that shows that not everything can be sunshine and rainbows, and it is quite a unique approach this series has, mainly helped with the very unique character Hachiman is.
The second mini-arc which showcases this is during the culture festival – Hachiman is forced into helping out, whilst Yukino volunteered. The real focus is on a new character named Minami who seemed to want Yukino to be the committee member, but when Minami herself is nominated, she seems happy – it is definitely shown that she only wanted the spot for her own ego, and not really focuses as much on the work. This is showcased when Yukino is far better at it than Minami is, but with Minami in charge as it were, it leads to a lot of slacking off, even making Yukino sick – to the point Hachiman works his magic by focusing the blame on other members and the idea people can rely on others, though of course he still questions it. He does manage to get work back on track with trickery (and making people hate him, something he doesn’t really care about) but Minami gets more and more embarrassed to the point she refuses to come out to announce some winners. She is upset that Yukino stole the spotlight from her which Hachiman calls her out on, rather brutally which leads to the mentioned fact that Hayato may not all be that goody-goody to everyone…
It is actually a bit sad about how Hachiman pretty much is the most self-sacrificing character in the series – his way of talking, his philosophy and psychology are very unique for a lead male in what is effectively a harem comedy series – heck, the reaction to him is similar to what an audience reaction to him would be – mixed. Is he someone who you should be inspired by because of his honest ways of thinking and views of the world? Or is he very condescending and out of touch with reality? Is he right in what he does? Should he be criticized in what he says? Is he sympathetic? He is easily one of the most intriguing and unique protagonists I have come across in a long time, and considering the title of the show, I certainly wasn’t expecting to say that in this review. Added to that the other two characters also can be looked at in different ways – Yukino is a beautiful woman who has been shunned because of her beauty, yet feels in the shadow of her older sister (who is a very fun character herself – she seems Yukino’s opposite in personality and seems to like the idea of her and Hachiman together, but also has her own demons and even jealousy) yet you wonder if she should fix her own problems, instead of fixing everyone else’s. Yui is in the middle – a much more standard heroine, bubbly, beautiful, actually seems to connect with Hachiman and Yukino; however her feelings seem to take control of her way too easily. These core three work really well together and because the show seems destined for a sequel (there was a bonus sports festival episode which was quite comic but not really focused on the story) there is definitely no obvious ‘winner’ yet in terms if there is going to be a romance (Hell, the running gag is that Hachiman seems to be mostly attracted to Totsuka, a guy who is way more cuter than 90% of the girls in the show ^^).
It is interesting that there are hints of the other cast being far more involved at some point – I am especially intrigued by Hayato’s outburst in episode 12, grabbing Hachiman after he calls out Minami hating his tone despite him having a point suggests there is more to him than the friendly good looking jock. For most of the series he has been trying to get along with Hachiman, but that one moment suggests there is clear anger and maybe even hate for him – is it because of his ways or is it something deeper? Hopefully the sequel will bring that out more.
The strange thing is that for a show that is a romantic comedy, the romance part is lacking yet the comedy part is still really good despite a lot of the deep talk that goes on throughout. Yukino is a great foil to Hachiman in terms of biting back some of his remarks, the whole Totsuka’s running gag is hilarious because anyone would fall for him, some of the cat fight style remarks between Yukino and Yumiko, and Yoshiteru whenever he is on screen (especially with the token yaoi fan girl in tune in Hina, a character I haven’t mentioned but is hilarious – her nosebleed reactions to a play that has Hayato and Totsuka as the leads makes her and a whole room of fan girls squee) is a walking moment of funny.
The show doesn’t really have a huge plot (basically the teacher trying to help out a loner, teams up with another loner but for different reasons – add a fairly normal girl in the mix to help and sort out problems with some hijinks on the side and a tad of romance – Yui and Hachiman definitely have something at times) but it isn’t a series that relies on it. This is pretty much a standard slice-of-life series, with good comedy and some excellent characters. Definitely not in my ultimate must buy list, but definitely enough for a watch or two.
SNAFU is strangely named, and a strange little series. Not one of your big epic series of recent years, but there is nothing actually bad about it. The intriguing characters with a unique sense of the world makes you question if they are right or wrong, the comedy is top notch, the set up for a sequel is actually really well done, and whilst the romance is actually subdued, there is enough there to make the viewer actually wonder if the lead will pick one of the two girls. Added with a bit of history, and some good morals and questions learned/asked, this is a nice sleeper series that is definitely worth the watch.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: March 21st, 2016
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.