My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
Episode 5

by Nick Creamer,

Hachiman ended this season's first arc disgusted with himself for preserving a “fake” status quo. Acting against his alleged principles, he sacrificed himself to maintain a set of friendships that he didn't believe were worth saving. Yukino was also upset with this choice, both because it went against what she thought he believed and because she's tired of his self-destructive methods. And now, as the student council arc draws to a close, Hikki has once again acted out of the fear of losing a comfortable stasis - but this time the stasis was his own.

We opened this week with a much-needed warm scene between Hikki and Komachi. With all of his friends working to sacrifice themselves either for the good of the club or the preservation of their self-image, Hikki has no one to turn to, and so he ultimately breaks the ice with Komachi, asking for her help and apologizing for his prior rudeness. There's a great bond between these two siblings that goes well beyond what most anime manage. They're extremely different people, but you can see in their exchanges how the weight of time has made them comfortable with each other, and the ways they've actually kind of influenced each other. The execution of this scene also really helped bring home the emotional tension and release of their fight, with a meeting in silence and darkness eventually giving way to what sounded like a tinkling music box as the two of them reconnected. And Komachi's ultimate request played perfectly into what she knows about his character. Hachiman has terrible difficulty making bold choices and demands for his own sake, since it's both against his fundamentally passive nature and a betrayal of his indifferent, emotionally shielded self-image. But if Komachi asks him to help her friends Yui and Yukinoshita, he can try to honor her request.

Hachiman's plans began to take form in the next couple scenes, as Zaimokuza, Totsuka, and Kawasaki all pitched in with support and ideas. Zaimokuza got some pretty funny lines throughout this section (I loved his “Look at me, reaching out to the weak,” and even his “It is I” phone response was pretty great), but I think my favorite thing about this segment was how Hachiman's friends didn't accept his problem as he framed it. They challenged his feelings (“why shouldn't your friends run?”), and Kawasaki even mentioned how he himself would be a reasonable president. It's a small thing, but it's these collected moments that respect all the characters as independent agents with their own thoughts and desires that really help elevate SNAFU's core strengths.

The next scenes saw Hachiman putting his plan into action. Instead of sabotaging Isshiki and honoring her request to the club, he took a different angle - simply make it possible for her to win, and convince her to consider rising to the opportunity. This scene was less emotionally charged than the others, and thus somewhat less engaging, as Hachiman simply used his falsified pile of supporters and ran down his list of reasons for her to run (people want you to, it'll spite the people who wanted you to fail, it's good for your resume, your status will allow you to slack off, and it even might bring you closer to Hayato). It was a fine argument, and a surprisingly confident step for Hikki, but not a highlight.

The last scenes certainly were, though. The final club scene started as awkwardly as the last several, with only Yui able to say “I really value this club and your friendships, and so I don't want to lose them.” Hachiman revealing that he'd actually convinced Isshiki she could win prompted Yukino to declare the case closed, but it seemed like only Yui was happy about this ending. As Yui tried once again to reach out to Hikki (the disconnect between her clearly expressed feelings and his willful ignorance is getting more painful each week), he reflected that “if they're not given a problem, if they're unable to find a reason, some people can't bring themselves to act.” It was a line meant for Yukino, but it was equally relevant to his own Komachi-prompted actions this week. And the episode's last scene hammered in the tragedy of that fact, as the old president revealed her own plan had been to prompt Yukino into running so that Yukino, Yui, and Hachiman could make a new club together within the student council.

Which really goes to show the sad limits of Hachiman's philosophy. For all his talk of hating the status quo, he can't imagine a better future, and so he clings to the partial happiness he knows for fear of losing it all. If Yukino and her friends had joined the student council, their friendship would likely only have been strengthened, and the three of them would have been able to use their very real talents to help people in a more consistent way. But every member of this club is afraid of change, and neither Hikki nor Yukino have the confidence to act unless action is demanded of them. Once again, Hikki “solved” a problem by staying inside his worldview-box, while missing the opportunity for a better future if he just engaged with the world a bit more honestly. It's not much of a victory at all.

Rating: A

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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