My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
by Nick Creamer,
“It's everyone else who's being selfish,” says Yui at the end of this week's episode. And she's right to, because they are, but they're also trying to be better, trying to be kind, and trying to be themselves. Almost any character this week could have uttered that line and had it feel almost right - the drama of friendship and identity is getting heavy and relentless, and all these characters are having their values and self-image tested as they try to square who they are, who they want to be, and who they care about. SNAFU is at its best when its characters are feeling their worst, and by that metric, this show has never been better.
We open this week with Hayato asking Hikki to go out with him and Hikki's old middle school acquaintances, in typically layered SNAFU fashion. Hayato opens his request with an assumed “oh, you didn't know? we're going out this weekend,” shifts to the offhand request “you should come along!” when Hikki responded negatively, and ultimately resorts to bowing and begging for his company as a favor when Hikki flatly refuses. Hayato generally rides a seemingly easy mastery of social graces that lets him get his way without much trouble, and it's interesting seeing that slowly be picked away by Hikki's refusal to accept the concessions of normal conversation flow.
Unfortunately, Hikki is not ultimately spared from the double date, as Yukinoshita's sister Haruno ends up calling him and strong-arming him into participating. Haruno's a real wild card in SNAFU - she's far enough away from the protagonists' high school perspectives to easily skewer them (“You're a self-consciousness monster,” she tells Hikki), but not above manipulating them to entertain herself. She's essentially the evil version of Sensei, well aware of all their failings and insecurities, but far crueler in her methods of "helping" them rise above them.
The date goes about as well as you'd expect, with Hikki's old crush Orimoto and her friend spending most of the time ragging on Hikki and building up Hayato - that kind of easy cruelty that certain people can fall into as a conversational prop. This was a painful sequence to watch, and demonstrated how narrow Hikki's mastery of people really is. He really needs someone like Yukino around to actually be his full self, and when someone's being legitimately cruel to him, he can't banter back. We generally see Hikki at his most confident, but it's important to see why he has such a narrow shell, and its limits. This sequence also served to add great texture to Hayato's character, as well as further explain the kinship he feels with Hachiman. “We've probably never truly liked anyone… you and me both,” he says to Hikki, confirming his own possible distaste for social games. Hayato and Hikki share a certain kind of sensitivity and a certain kind of ego, even though the way they choose to act on those feelings couldn't be more different.
That assumed style of action is completely flipped in the date's final moments, when Hayato finally directly states his feelings. He doesn't like when people attack others like these girls, and he thinks less of them for it. Hachiman isn't a loser, and in fact he actually has real friends, friends who accept him for who he is. It's a satisfying rallying moment and also a completely immature, wrongheaded performance, but it works perfectly for Hayato here. Hayato feels a real solidarity for Hachiman, and it frustrates him to see Hikki continuously being abused for things that not only aren't Hikki's fault, but are things he personally agrees with. Additionally, Hayato is suffering under the weight of knowing Hikki sacrificed his own friendships to save Hayato's. Hayato never wanted that, and he certainly doesn't want the weight of the responsibility for it. He frames Hikki as an unnecessary martyr, simultaneously validating (you're right about people) and criticizing (you're wrong to act this way) Hachiman's actions while acting as a friend, as someone trying to mitigate personal guilt, and as someone who's really trying to justify their own beliefs. “I wish I could have done it better, but this was all I could do,” he says, and he's right to - this was an inept plan that only hurt more people. But he was trying.
Hachiman doesn't take kindly to being framed as a sad self-destructive puppy, and understandably lashes out at Hayato for his “help.” “Don't force your disgusting idea of sympathy onto me,” he says. “I don't need your pity.” Hikki doesn't want sympathy for his actions, not only because he's just as proud as Hayato, but because sympathy means he wasn't making his own choices for his own reasons. Hayato feeling sorry for him only digs in the knife of his own hypocrisy, of the fact that he really does care about the people around him, and that his every action betrays his ostensible belief that he's surrounded by fakers and phonies not worth investing in. “Why the hell would I sacrifice myself for any of you?” he thinks to himself, standing alone in the dark as a train full of busy, connected people passes by in the distance.
That whole date sequence would have been enough for one episode, but Yukino and Yui also got excellent moments this week. Though Yukino initially planned to have Hayato run for president, her sister's manipulations (“You don't need to do anything, do you? Someone else will always do it for you?”) stab directly at Yukino's own insecurities, and her refusal to accept personal hypocrisy means she ends up offering herself as a candidate. That cruel conversation leads to Hikki's one selfless statement this week, as he asks Haruno why she would do that to Yukinoshita, and Sensei's later urging him to save Yukino from herself prompts him to bring it up at their club meeting. Hikki isn't able to do much to dissuade her, but Yukino's choice ends up prompting Yui to also throw her hat in the ring, in a beautifully shot final sequence that strongly demonstrated the strength of her character and her honest feelings for her friends. If anyone's going to save these dizzyingly self-conscious kids from themselves, it might have to be Yui - though Hayato urges Hachiman to “realize how much you're worth,” it's the girl who truly doesn't think she's much of anything who's the furthest along the path to honest engagement with the world.
SNAFU remains layered, poignant, and beautifully articulated in this fourth episode. What a show.
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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