My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
by Nick Creamer,
Haruno Yukinoshita is a jerk.
There's no way around it. You could certainly frame her actions as attempting to push the kids forward in her own way, but if that's her goal, she makes a consistently terrible job of it. In fact, her interference generally does the opposite - instead of guiding Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui forward in order to build them up, in the way Sensei does, she mainly just traps them in their existing insecurities, and makes them doubt their choices and friendships. She abuses weaknesses in their self-image that certainly do exist, but her meddling doesn't result in them arriving at some “greater truth” - it simply makes them less sure of what they currently have. She constantly frames her actions in terms of “I'm bored” and “you guys just acting nice to each other doesn't interest me,” and though there's obviously more to her motivation than straight malice, I'm inclined to take her at her word. She's essentially an older, crueler version of the original Hachiman, who sneered at niceties for his own selfish reasons, which perhaps explains why she spends so much of her time emotionally manipulating high schoolers. She is not a nice person.
Sometimes we have to deal with not-nice people, though. We can't always choose our company. This episode took a long time getting there, but the eventual points it struck at hinged on how our identities exist within a larger context, be they our family's expectations or the demands of our social environment. This has always been true of Hayato, as last episode made clear - he feels a constant pressure to be the person others want him to be, and though he's a strong and generous enough person to manage that, he sometimes shrugs under the weight. The central conflict this week was partially focused on maintaining that burden, as the approach of Valentine's Day promised all sorts of flustered drama and “what do you mean to me” shenanigans.
The first half of this episode was shenanigans incarnate, and honestly wasn't that strong because of it. It basically all took place inside the club room, and involved a series of dorky conversations about chocolate and valentine plans that played in a much more stereotypically romcom space than SNAFU usually occupies. Yui acted flustered about giving Hikki chocolate, Iroha trolled everyone, and Yumiko and Saki both showed up to prompt a Service Club request and act tsundere about making chocolate. The scene was light, which wasn't a problem, but it felt unnaturally heavy-handed in its adherence to genre bits, and the characters often felt like they were “playing to type” more than acting as fully realized people, making it one of the weakest segments of this second season.
Things improved somewhat in the second half, as the team decided to host a chocolate-making event in order to allow people to share chocolate without any drama. In spite of their recently renewed friendships, Hikki, Yukino, and Yui are all still in an awkward place, unsure of exactly where they stand relative to each other. The introduction of valentine nonsense only exacerbated this, but the real problem was the presence of Haruno, who basically lives to create chaos. Though it was initially Hachiman who said Yukino's feelings towards him “weren't exactly trust,” it was Haruno who ran with this idea, and who in the second half used these understandable insecurities to drive a wedge into the group.
Which was unfair of her, of course. Though Hikki says he “doesn't feel like he's grown,” growth doesn't tend to express itself in terms of noticeable level-ups, and is always a gradual process. Haruno is able to make these kids feel like they're lying to themselves, but that's because she's confident and older and has no qualms about being deeply cruel. She is their shoulder devil, in contrast to Sensei's shoulder angel. Haruno's final act of callousness informed the episode's last scene, as we learned that she'd actually told Yukino's mother of her future school plans. This is a conversation Yukino would obviously have to have at some point, but because of Haruno's choices, she was confronted with her close friends present, when she was already feeling extremely vulnerable. SNAFU deserves a lot of credit for having Komachi demonstrate how strong and valuable a sibling relationship can be; I suppose it also deserves credit for letting Haruno represent the other end of family bonds.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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