Most of the time, whenever I read a light novel (or watch the anime adaptation of said light novel), everything in the delivery goes as smoothly as expected. This is credited to the viewpoint characters usually being either interesting enough to continue reading for the sake of their commentary or just manageable to the point you can go the whole time without really thinking much into them. Usually, the changes in a main character either move plot along or affect the other characters (which most certainly could be argued as the focal points of a work with someone else as the viewpoint character leaves a lot open for interpretation). Very rarely in the tiny span I have been reading/watching has there been a person with a personality or opinions that carry more weight than any other character in the story. Of the few times I have seen this, the one in question would sprout a metamorphosis that turns them from a complainer into a devoted person or something to the effect of it.
That being said, not every narrating character will be cut from the same neatly sorted cloth. Some are so unorthodox and bold that they draw you into their unique design and patterns. There are no easy takes on this cloth, everyone who passes by this particular kind see something different than the last. One cold November day, I chased down the rabbit hole that was trying to decide on how I felt about a certain viewpoint character and the impact it had on the story. It would take me almost a year before I decided, and was my first time really going against the grain of public opinion on a (fairly) recent anime of the time. After so much contemplation into the matter, I found the most complicated answer for connecting to the one viewpoint character that stormed the anime world- Hachiman Hikigaya.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (OreGairu, SNAFU, etc.) was the smash hit series of 2013 with a scorching hot follow up hit in the summer of 2015. Not much else of an introduction is needed, as the lead characters have been the apple of almost everyone’s eyes. On the surface, we have a standard slice of life genre anime that illustrates the drama you’d expect from a high school (almost perfectly, honestly) with a twist. That twist, of course, sparks a dancing flame that burns through the surface and shows the many layers to the series. The main characters are all connected by a single event that occurs on the first day of school and by their own devices and desires commit their time to a club whose purpose is servicing others.
Where the show really gets to where it counts is the way Hachiman narrates the events with his unique takes and stubbornly commonsensical stances. The commentary is witty and refreshing, however the norm is diverged with just how much these takes lead the young man to take matters into his own hands whenever a situation has an opportunity to be concluded by his actions. These create large rifts with the various people affected by his actions and their feelings towards him. Pretty routine cause/effect plot progression at first, but if one were to get a read on how fans are reacting to the series as it progresses, there will be a really fond feeling growing for the cast with each passing “sacrifice” Hachiman makes.
Without riding in the wagon, I found myself asking how I felt about the cast through it all. My gut would tell me that it was a great story, but the way it was transcending the listings and favorites for people was flabbergasting. It wasn’t like it was a matter of taste that was preventing me from loving it; my friends joke around that I am “Prince Slice of Life” after all (a title I don’t agree with). So where does the hold up come from? I avoided forums and opinion articles, trying to form my own solution to the last big mystery I had for 2015.
When it came down to it, there was no love or hate to be found in my opinion on the matter. I rewatched scenes I really liked, and the others I found particularly frustrating. What a lot of people found relatable in a particular scene (pick one of the many examples- Hachiman being that guy on the roof or fake confessing so that a group of friends stays close come to mind), I found really irritating. It wasn’t in the worst of ways, however, as these helped humanize everyone in the show (him especially). His classmates would take their own course of action for what they were presented with, and he would simply observe and intervene as he saw fit. Call it meddling, expected, or just plain dramatic, but it delivered exactly how Hachiman wanted. The iconic scene in season two finds Hachiman opening up for the first time to anyone with his desires for something genuine, and even before doing so, highlights exactly what SNAFU is all about.
Ultimately, scenes will strike as powerful and will be loved, and others won’t be. The characters all stem their highs and lows from the driving force of it all, Hachiman. With him at the point, there are plenty of characters to feel torn over their direction that it could very well be off-putting. Someone’s going to feel torn on how Yukino gets taken advantage of but doesn’t want to let go of her heart’s desire to help, they’re going to feel torn (slightly less possibly) over Yui being on the fence with showing her true cards with fear of isolation, and of course over Hachiman going all out for the sake of what he thinks is helping.
Hearing teachers speak of the pain those who love someone feel when that person gets hurt or sisters troubleshoot in their own quirky ways add tremendous touch in a tough pitch for someone who is expecting straightforward character development and plotlines here. In the end, it will always go down as one huge emotionally draining tempest of a show; as the way it carries itself will not only strike heavier than most, but it will make even the most skeptical viewers respect the series at the very least.
What was a show you felt torn over? Did you give it a second chance? Perhaps did you find something to appreciate you didn’t before? As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you have an awesome day!