Delicate friendships grow gradually overtime when you first meet people who you may or may not get along. That is the case for the characters that inhabit Oregairu, or SNAFU. Disfunctional and down-to-earth to their inner characterization, it’s an anime that is about as slice of life as one can get. With its surprising debut exceeding expectations for many people, me included, it was evident that we needed to see what was next in our journey through difficult, awkward friendships. I don’t think anyone was expecting something this compelling for a sequel.
I never expected much from Oregairu when I first came across it last year. My thoughts of it have been on the spectrum of the positive side on the critic scale. It was a nice refreshing take on the slice of life genre that explores many themes based on social interaction and alienation. They involved quasi-philosophical narrations by our unlikable hero, named Hachiman or his numerous other nicknames, and brought us deeper into the psyche of the loner that we might have became at some point of our young lives. With its sequel under the belt, it still has those same qualities we liked before but adds unprecedented development to our main characters that will make them unforgettable from here on out.
The plot is driven based on character development since this is a “character story,” meaning a story that focuses on how the characters grow in the story. So it would be logical to go through each character one by one and show how the writing improves from the previous season to this one. And by each character, I mean our three main protagonists, since they are the most important out of the rest, which will get their own critique.
It would be wise to start out with the new cultural phenomenon in the anime world in recent memory, Hachiman. It perplexed me how this character started to struck a chord for many people during the first season. Now that the 2nd season has happened, I can figure out why. Hachiman has become the new Shinji to this current generation of anime fans, although I would say Hachiman as more in common with another infamous outcast character before Shinji, Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. Both are despicable in how they interact with people and how they interpret life in their own selfish line of thinking. This comparison is by no means a negative, in fact its a positive as I can push myself to.
It’s great to see characters that fit into the description of being “selfish” or “egocentric” when they are written well. By written well, I mean that they do have some characteristics to their selfishness that you find sympathetic to him. It makes the character strong and likable in this regard. Hachiman is no different from this description of a character driven into his or her own ego. This season is where we finally get to see his gradual growth come in full circle and is handled with delicate care and emotional resonance. I won’t give away the specifics of what happens because it is one of those moments that has to be experienced in order to grasp it fully that words can’t describe.
Our two heroines, named Yukino Yukinoshita and Yui Yuigahama, have similar attributes to our main hero, although Yui is less so than Yukino. Yukino has a more dignified personality than Hachiman when dealing with other characters and situations that arise in her life and school. Yui is the most cheerful out of the bunch and cares deeply for people close to her. All three of these characters share a nice bond that continues to fuel up the charming chemistry they possess. Just like Hachiman’s development, Yui and Yukino have the same amount of growth that continues on to season 2 that helps make them more three-dimensional than when you were first introduced to them. That ensures you’re doing a great job in making these characters memorable after you’re done watching it.
There is the new addition to the cast, named Iroha Isshiki. I did enjoy her introduction to the series, however I wasn’t as engaged in her development as I did with our other main characters. Not bad in any way, just wasn’t as up to snuff with the other characters. The supporting cast has the distinction of being just there to help develop our main characters with nothing special to add to their roles.
Many complain about all of the characters being boring and bland than your typical slice of life anime. My response to this argument is by simply defending the “dullness” of the cast based on context to the show’s atmosphere. It isn’t your typical high energy slice of life anime that we are predisposed to getting used to over the years. Their aspects all amount to them just being dull human beings because the direction gives off a realistic view of social life between young adults maturing through the tough times of being a high school student in Japan. Not that this approach can’t always be good, but with Oregairu it actually adds depth to the story in creating a naturalistic tone to the show.
One noticeable change right off the bat is the art design of the characters. This I’m really on the fence on whether I like this or not. While I do think the art itself is good, I still think the 1st season’s art work was better in how colorful the characters were and were not saturated with a bright white tone to their designs. Almost similar to To Love Ru Darkness’s new art style change, except that was an actual improvement. Not a bad art style, just not the greatest decision for the studio’s part to put into fruition.
I’ll leave off this by saying, Hachiman is not the only thing that makes this series great. Many will just remember the series for his presence, which is not just what makes this series enticing. This sequel is just the icing of the cake that puts the series at one of the greats in the hierarchy of slice of life anime. Though it may borderline on melodrama, it isn’t always forceful to the point where it seems fake. It’s not the perfect portrait of high school life, but then again, nothing else will be.