Oregairu has really built up quite a reputation ever since it first aired didn’t it? Whilst the reaction to it was a mixed bag of “Haganai if it was actually good” and “ugh, this is pretentious garbage” back in 2013, two years of steadily increasing attention from the light novel community and such have turned it into the only post-Spice and Wolf light novel adaptation that people can say is actually good with a straight face. The fact that Studio feel was attached to the new season did make some people moo a bit, but not enough to prevent it from reaching the top 100 on MAL upon airing of the first episode. And of course, with huge popularity comes a huge and quite frankly f*cking awful fanbase that I’m going to swiftly ignore because I have it on good authority that reading their comments actually causes eye cancer and it shouldn’t really affect any personal judgments about the show anyways.
As for my own personal judgment, I remember being really harsh against this show back when it first aired, but I honestly can’t remember why. In fact, I barely remember what happened in the first season beyond Hachiman joining a club with two troubled girls named Yui and Yukino who may or may not have a crush on him, and helping people out in his own cynical self-defeating way. I remember the visual design being kinda meh because Brains Base hasn’t done a good job at offering anything more than stale colors for years, but they were still a better alternative than feel’s usual output. So discovering that the animation and direction in this season actually put Sankarea’s Shaft-like surprise presentation to shame was more of a pleasant surprise than Nintendo finally releasing a new IP. Third-person shooter, you say? Wonder how long it’ll take for them to milk that into oblivion.
I do remember the first season feeling like a load of build-up for a climax we never got though. Things happened, but the only real contribution to the story was some characters going through minor realizations that they had yet to use. I’m fully aware that conclusions aren’t the final judgment of quality and that buildup is important too, but you’ve got to use that buildup for something or else you’d just be like the anime version of Destiny: always on grind. So does the second season of Yahari fix that? Sure…in some alternate universe where good anime is more plentiful.
The anime continues from the conclusion of the school festival arc in the first season when Hachiman is confronted about his self-defeating personality and how it can be really troublesome to people around him. But that doesn’t stop him from putting it to use in order to break up a confession surrounding one of his male companions and a girl he likes, which causes a rift to form between him and his fellow club members, who agree with him about as much as I agree with anybody who continues to deny the existence of global warming (how blind can you be to not notice our abnormal weather, you idiots?). This rift starts to grow wider when some girls from his middle school life, including one that he confessed to, show up around the same time a student council election occurs and the club is asked to help one of the students bail from it by nominating themselves. From there, Hachiman is put through the ringer regarding his own personal demons and if he can’t get past them, he’ll lose the few people in his life who actually do care for him.
A good drama in theory, but the show enters Spice and Wolf territory in that it has a weak base conflict and it doesn’t even really follow up on its potential. Imagine if you were watching a drama and the base conflict for much of the story was about some dude refusing to admit that he hated bananas. You may be thinking “wait, that sounds f*cking stupid”, and that’s what I said with the majority of the season minus the f-word. It was impossible for me to hold student council elections on the same level as the highschool version of Jesus’s sacrifice because A) it didn’t work when Degrassi* did it B) you can still hang out with each other and stuff if the club doesn’t exist anymore. There isn’t any sacrificing schoolwork and your future for the club with no guarantee that you’ll succeed. It’s just really personal conflicts that aren’t given enough grounding to make any sense, and it dragged out far longer than it should have.
I wouldn’t call the conflicts as bad as Spice and Wolf’s because there’s more to Oregairu that makes it one of the better LN adaptations than furthering relationships – or as much you can nail relationships in regards to LN-like characters. Unlike Lawrence, and Holo to a lesser extent, these characters have some ghosts in their life and the relationships are a means to exploring them, even if it still doesn’t do as much with them as it should have. One way to fix that would have been to reveal what Yukino’s problems actually are. Yeah, we know she’s bad at socializing, not helped by an annoying older sister who acts like a cocktease boyfriend stealer from a crappy doujin or an even crappier gross-out comedy, but the show is as fast to reveal useful information as video game companies are to release actual reasons to get hyped for their products. The name is there and it looks nice, but how about some actual gameplay, huh?
So there were multiple times when the show just kind of lost me, mired in the very idea of its self-loathing that it forgets to really develop it beyond its base premise and goes into Catching Fire-levels of “holding out but have faith in us” right down to having a very similar style of ending. And it annoyed me here just as much as it annoyed me in that movie, because it looked like it was finally going to get interesting regarding the relationships and inner-problems that the characters have been going through in its last two episodes. The characters make up and come to realizations about their current situation, but the future is still vague and you need to take more than the small steps you just went through in order to achieve real personal growth.
But nope, the show ends at what seemed like the middle of a story that has had too much devoted to its buildup and we’re not going to be getting another season anytime soon given how many of the light novels there are at the time this review goes out. It frustrates me to no end to see what anime could have been, only to come off as unfinished. Maybe you could say that the realization that the characters love their life and their friends and are even capable of romance is enough for you, but that feels kinda weak to me. There are plenty of shows on the Disney Channel that say the same thing, and being better executed isn’t enough to really make Oregairu any different from them. Sure I wouldn’t have been comfortable with sitting through love triangle drama, especially if it involves a man named Armani, but sometimes you’ve just got to rip off that bandage rather than peel it slowly and prolong the pain by 10x the amount it would have taken otherwise.
*I never actually watched Degrassi so I don’t know if it overdramatized student council stuff, but it wouldn’t surprise me either way given how much else it overdramatizes.