The Summer 2020 Preview Guide
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax
How would you rate episode 1 of
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax (TV 3) ?
What is this?
The long and winding road that the Service Club of Soubu High School is drawing to an end. Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui have made a lot of friends during their time together, they've grown and matured immensely, and they've managed to weave a complicated web of unspoken feelings between one another as well. With huge life changes and graduations looming on the horizon, Hachiman and Co. will discover the greatest challenges that lie ahead as they face the climax that awaits even the most irregular of teen romantic comedy scenarios: Growing up.
How was the first episode?
When I was first getting into anime criticism back in 2013, one of the shows that seriously sparked my interest was My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU. While most high school-centric anime seemed primarily focused on either validation or nostalgia, SNAFU was quite different - though protagonist Hachiman was a particularly articulate and thoughtful articulation of the classic “jaded high school loner,” the show itself did not share his myopic perspective. We lie to protect ourselves, and to avoid the pain of rejection - but it is only through embracing sincerity, and seeking honest connections with others, that we can grow beyond these cynical, adolescent selves. SNAFU understood and sympathized with Hachiman's perspective, but also knew its self-defeating limitations, and did its best to draw him towards a mature, happier self.
SNAFU's second season actually improved massively on the first, as new director Kei Oikawa and his team at studio feel were able to match the show's thoughtful, incisive writing with equally accomplished direction and character acting. And through the course of that season, Hachiman himself reached a clear breakthrough - speaking honestly to his friends Yukino and Yui, he admitted that he wanted “the real thing,” a friendship unburdened by lies or artifice. After two full seasons of anxiety and self-doubt, SNAFU's stars were at last able to engage with each other honestly, and truly pursue a happier life and self-image. And after five long years, Kei Oikawa and his team are back, ready to bring this poignant story home.
You wouldn't know it's been five years from this episode, though. Season three hits the ground running right where the last season left off, with Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui concluding their snowy date. The time between seasons melts away in moments, though, as SNAFU immediately reminds us of its singular sharpness of dialogue, and richness of characterization. Even in the incidental comments between these three, the growth of all of them is abundantly clear. Though Hachiman still has the same sarcastic sense of humor as ever, he's learned the value of directly articulating his feelings, and consistently seeks a greater mutual understanding with his close friends. Theoretically incidental lines like Yui telling Yukino that “you do have a sort of clueless side” are here weighted with two seasons of characterization and growth, echoing not just their core personalities, but also the quirks of their mutual history, and the trust they've gained in each other. Dialogue built on character-writing fundamentals like these is sort of like an iceberg; every comment might feel small or incidental on its face, but they all bob and shift with the weight of mutual history and carefully textured character writing.
Though this episode jumps in right after the conclusion of season two, it still manages to integrate enough history to hopefully get old fans caught up. SNAFU handles even its exposition with characteristic grace - this episode is adorned with a series of flashbacks to scenes we've never actually seen before, or at least not from these perspectives. It's a trick I've never seen used before, but it makes perfect sense; instead of simply catching up audience members who don't remember the earlier seasons, these flashbacks simultaneously flesh out SNAFU's world and remind us of major
prior events, turning potential exposition into welcome new material. At the same time, Hachiman's current adventures reintroduce us to the majority of SNAFU's key players, with this episode's whole second half serving as a celebration of his charming relationship with his sister Komachi. Ultimately, the conclusion of Komachi's high school entrance exams returns us right back to SNAFU's dramatic heart, ending with Hachiman tearfully realizing how much his sister has grown, and how much he must grow as well. Sharp-witted banter evolves naturally into a poignant expression of mutual support, in a scene that embodies SNAFU's wit, wisdom, and undeniable love for its characters. It's been a long time, but SNAFU remains a uniquely thoughtful and utterly compelling character drama. It's a privilege to greet these friends one last time.
As a side note, while I didn't have any major complaints with the episode itself, there were a number of clumsy or clearly incorrect subtitles throughout this episode (particularly in the crucial first half), which meant I at times had to basically just use my own understanding of the characters to parse a scene's emotional intent. While some anime don't necessarily require both accuracy and artistry in their subtitles to convey the show's intent, SNAFU is clearly an exception - it is specifically about all the subtle nuances of human conversation, and simply does not work as a show without excellent subtitles. I can only hope this issue is addressed in subsequent episode releases.
I hope fellow fans of this franchise took the time to at least rewatch the last episode of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFUU TOO!, because this newest (and final) season of the series picks up literally seconds after SNAFU TOO! ended. Given that we've waited five whole years to get this send off for the beloved dorks of the Service Club, this makes for a somewhat clunky transition, and I will admit that the first half of SNAFU Climax's premiere didn't grab me like I hoped it would. The clumsy and relatable dynamics between Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui remain as sweet and charming as ever, but I wasn't exactly bowled over by the reveal that the Service Club request that Yukino began to make at the end of Season 2 was for her friends' help in patching up the chaotic family drama between her, her sister, and her parents. It makes perfect sense as a narrative move for the character, but Hachiman's inner monologue and the intentionally uncomfortable mood of the dialogue just felt off to me in a way I find hard to pin down.
I am very invested in seeing where Yukino's story goes, and the fact that our trio is able to have such a heartfelt and intimate moment together is a sign of how much they've grown as characters since the first season. Thankfully the episode really hits its stride when it skips forward to the next day and focuses on Hachiman spending time with his little sister, Komachi. The cutesy in-between stuff with Keika and Saki was good too, but I've always found Hachiman's relationship with Komachi to be very endearing; if you're going to have a main character makes jokes about having a sister-complex, this is pretty much the best way to go about it: Make it incredibly obvious that the joke is just a joke, and have the sister in question deal out as much shit as Hachiman gives.
The Komachi material also captures what I imagine must be the central theme of this season perfectly, which is the melancholy and joy that comes with big transitional periods in life, like graduating from school. Komachi is growing up, and though her bond with her brother is as strong as ever, her gestures here are proof that she's going to be just fine as an independent young adult too. When she interrupts her and her brother's usual banter to sincerely bow and thank Hachiman for genuinely caring for her and supporting her, I was blubbering like a baby.
Maybe it's because I'm at the time in my life where my youngest siblings have all just become adults with their own lives and dreams, and maybe it's because these days I'm especially sensitive to stories about people being good to each other, and helping each other grow. Either way, whatever reservations I had about SNAFU Climax's premiere were gone by the time the credits rolled. I missed these goofy and awkward kids, and I absolutely cannot wait to see how their story concludes.
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