OP: 「春擬き」 (Harumodoki) by やなぎ なぎ (Yanagi Nagi)
「何故、彼らが奉仕部に来たのか誰も知らない。」 (Naze Karera ga Hōshi bu ni kita no ka Daremoshiranai.)
“Nobody Knows Why They Came to the Service Club.”
Yahari stops for no one; the show keeps chugging through as if it had never stopped. After two years of absence, one of romantic comedy’s most awkward and uneasy works of art has returned for round two. Despite changes in the art, studio, and the budget, the show has kept up well for its first episode, maintaining the same dilemmas and subtleties that drew fans to season one. Now, the review in detail.
Leading up to the release, most people were worried–and still are worried–about the character design changes from season one to season two. Complaints were abound especially concerning Hachiman’s new look, which sacrifices his darker and awkward design for a more ‘pleasing’ one. Though I would agree with the audience based on pre-showing images, in practice Hachiman’s own appearance and others have not significantly affected the series…yet. In some ways it’s an improvement, with smoother animations and overall cleaner character designs for a better aesthetic experience. On top of that, it seems studio feel has managed to not lose much of each character’s core traits through their appearances. Hachiman still looks like he’s on the bottom end of the attractiveness spectrum, while also preserving the look of continual contempt that he wears on his face. Yukino is still just as able to exude a sarcastically friendly face just as well as her dere side, while also maintaining the aura of control that her physical appearance exudes. As for Yui…she’s still Yui! Now, this is not the first time that I’ve had to deal with graphical changes, with Moyashimon Returns under my belt, but this change seems to overall be for the better. Aside from the benefits mentioned above, it seems the new designs are close to the light novel material as an added bonus, staying more true to the source than season one. Although the continuity failure is a shame for those immediately coming off of season one from a re-watch or a marathon just-in-time, for the rest of us who have been keeping cool, the transition shouldn’t be too bad in terms of visuals. Studio feel is doing a great job, but now I hope those improved animations are something to stay, rather than a hook to dissipate from lack of funding.
Aside from graphics though, how is the season doing so far? Although I am worried about director Oikawa Kei’s decision to rush the series forward right out of the gate, the fast pace strangely fits with the overall theme of the show–a constant uneasiness pervading most of the characters, hiding behind the supposed ‘comedy’ of the series. One of the reasons why Yahari has appealed to me so much is its insistence on making its audience and its own characters uncomfortable. Hachiman says something edgy, yet brutally true. Characters show their fake selves and only momentarily let that cover crack. Whatever sweet moments of the show are quickly swept up by overarching consequences which transform them into bittersweet resolutions. There is no easy way in Yahari, especially under Hachiman. Today’s episode captured those season one sentiments perfectly and continues to be unrelentless in mixing cute romance with the brutality of a sharp tongue.
The best example from today’s episode was straightforward, coming from the absurdly impolite Tobe Kakeru attempting to pursue the fujoshi Ebina Hina. Already is this not a straightforward task as Hayama Hayato is already expressing his unease with Kakeru’s plan. Hachiman, being the sharp observer he is, already notices this unease and registers it in the back of his mind, to be brought up as evidence later as the plot thickens. Yahari is not content with making any plot pure, but rather implicating it in a battle where there WILL be losses along with the resolutions that will be made. After all, Hachiman made great sacrifices for people to succeed at the music festival, causing Hayato to question why Hachiman would resolve things this way. The same is unraveling here, as Hayato sees the potential consequences of Kakeru’s success. Perhaps its that if HIna and Kakeru get together, it will further splinter the ‘popular clique’ even more as members give more attention to each other? Or perhaps its a plot twist that we don’t know something about Kakeru that Hayato knows. Whatever the reason, Oregairu will ‘balance’ things out, where nobody will leave unscathed in the process. The show has done a great job keeping to its roots and as such, I’m excited to see what kinds of plot developments can result.
Of course, Oregairu isn’t all serious, with lots of enjoyable comedy in between. Totsuka continues to be one of the best traps ever, as her girlish charms continue to capture Hachiman’s heart as well as many others. Yukino still is a great character with huge potential for ‘dere’, with today’s episode end a testament to her power. The show is able to jump to these moments to the uneasiness smoothly, without a moment feeling out of place. Rather than avoiding awkwardness, Oregairu embraces it and tells a compelling story that hits hard to home. Although I have some worries about the pacing, so far the show is off to a great start, and every viewer of season one should definitely pick up this show ASAP. With character introductions out of the way, Oregairu has all the time to make this romantic comedy something that’s pretty much ‘all f***** up’.
ED: 「エブリデイワールド」 (Everyday World) by 早見 沙織と東山 奈央 (Saori Hayami and Nao Touyama)