I know what the two of you who take what I say on this blog seriously are going to bring up. Didn’t the second season of Oregairu come out in 2015? Why are you reviewing an anime series that’s so old and has most definitely been discussed to death at this point, particularly by Kim, who actually reads the light novels that haven’t been adapted yet and writes about them? Well to answer the non-vocal minority’s question, I’ve decided this year that I’m going to treat the “no anime series that’s more than a year old” thing as more of a guideline than an ironclad rule. And if there’s a good reason for me to go back to anime’s past, then I’ll take it.
As for my reasoning with Oregairu, I noticed that the original light novel series is nearly at its end (assuming it doesn’t get delayed again), which means that we’re due for one more season to wrap up the story less the end material just be left in un-animated limbo ala the last two volumes of Genshiken. Also, I’ve never really talked about the show bar my early years when I pointlessly attacked the first season to the point that a bunch of fans left me sleep-deprived on my move to Dallas. But in my defense, I did rewatch both seasons of the show recently to refresh my memory of what exactly happened in it, and the first season is still an average anime whose glimpses of brilliance were buried under mediocre animation, a load of character introductions without much development from said characters, and episodic plots that didn’t feel as important as they should have. Also, I don’t think Oregairu in general is suitable for weekly watching. It’s more of a big picture series than something that’s defined by individual moments, which really puts stakes in the pacing at times.
If you’re wondering why I’m reviewing just the second season rather than the whole series, the fact that not a lot actually happens in said first season is a big part of it. However, the main reason I’m just doing the second season is because it is a lot different from the anime’s debut in 2013. The genre is different, going for more of a full-on drama than a slice-of-life teen comedy with some dramatic moments. The production team is different too, going from the visually bankrupt guys at Brains Base to the more talented people responsible for the Hinamatsuri anime. A lot of the more throwaway characters from the original are reduced to mere cameos to make way for new characters with more personal arcs, as well as allow our main trio to actually showcase their inner demons. It’s still unmistakably Oregairu, but it’s one that’s grown up in a way that deserves its own individual time in the sun.
Mind you, you will need to have base knowledge of the predecessor to fully appreciate this sequel, so let’s quickly go over the important pre-details. Oregairu is a series about a cynical teenage boy named Hachiman who is forced to join a club that helps high school kids with various problems. Said club only has one other member named Yukino, a black-haired beauty who is incredibly cold to others, and loves insulting Hachiman every chance she gets. However, they are soon joined by a third member named Yui, who’s part of a popular clique in the school, but is attracted to Hachiman after he inadvertently saved her dog from a limousine that Yukino happened to be in. Whilst solving various problems within the school, the trio grow closer to each other, but Hachiman’s negative attitude prevents him from fully accepting his new female friends, as well as causes him to solve problems in self-destructive ways.
Oregairu 2 is pretty much all about Hachiman confronting the personal demons that he’s been shown to have from the very start whilst developing on key points that were only briefly hinted at in the Brains Base adaptation. The first two episodes deal with the trio being asked to help with a romantic confession during a field trip to Kyoto, but Hachiman realizes the girl has about as much interest in dating as I have in playing volleyball, and thus prevents the confession by making his own in front of everyone, causing Yukino and Yui to realize just how far of an asshole he’s willing to make himself look in order to make others happy.
The next three introduces Isshiki Iroha, a fan-favorite character and unofficial fourth member/wheel of the Service Club who wants to get out of being elected student council president whilst maintaining her image. In order to help Isshiki, Yukino and Yui run against her, which would cause them to leave the Service Club if one of them won due to the responsibilities that come with said position. During this arc, Hachiman must also deal with a girl he previously confessed his feelings for and who was indirectly responsible for making him jaded in the first place. All of this ultimately ends with Hachiman lying to his friends in order to keep them as well as manipulating Isshiki into accepting her job as student council president.
Oregairu’s pacing problems rear their ugly head with the third arc, which not only lasts five freaking episodes, but is a direct continuation of the second arc with Isshiki needing help in setting up a Christmas event. Due to the events of the last arc, Hachiman doesn’t want Yui and Yukino to get involved and decides to help Isshiki on his own. However, the constant distancing from the two girls eats up Hachiman inside, forcing him to realize how much they actually mean to him and he eventually requests their help. It’s an arc that’s a little hard to take seriously since there was no real downside to having Yui and Yukino help out with event organization, plus a lot of the screentime mostly consists of conversations regarding event planning, which could have easily been trimmed down to reach the obvious conclusion a lot sooner. It does lead to a heartbreaking confession from Hachiman that sort of makes it worth it, but then there’s still two more episodes left in order to have the trio grow closer and Isshiki deal with a crush before we discover the results of the Christmas event and set up the rest of the episodes.
Things get a bit more episodic for the final trio of 22-minute chunks. The first of these final episodes deals with Hayato, a guy who is Hachiman’s foil, Yukino’s childhood friend, and the leader of Yui’s clique all rolled into one as he tries to disprove a rumor that he and Yukino are dating whilst dealing with his future and winning a marathon. The second is focused on Valentine’s Day and how the main trio deal with their growing feelings for each other whilst Isshiki needs help with organizing another event. And the grand finale of this season focuses on the trio going on a date that ends with them realizing that things can’t stay the same between them. This final chunk is tied together by Yukino’s personal issues regarding her family, as well as her older sister Haruno’s determination to oppose the trio, but you’re going to have to wait for a continuation before we actually see what comes of that.
First off, let me just say that I like Oregairu 2. It just doesn’t seem to return the favor at times. The two main girls are pushed to the sidelines for a good chunk of the runtime in order for Hachiman to hang out with the new waifu who the show makes very clear isn’t going to win anything. Yukino finally does some actual bonding with our lead (something that was kind of lacking in the original series), but not enough to the point that her feelings for him are very clear. And Yui’s desire for everyone to be happy by forcing them to confront the problem is kinda heart-tugging, although the show ends Aku no Hana-style before we can see where that storyline goes.
Unlike almost every other light novel adaptation out there, Oregairu 2 actually has direction, even if it doesn’t always seem to be in a hurry to get there. The story has always been about teenagers trying to be more honest with themselves, but this time it’s focused on the teenagers that actually matter. And more importantly, by the time the show was over, I felt like things were close to actually ending. Not that having a conclusion has always worked out for light novel adaptations, but one of the big issues with these shows and Netflix dramas is that they just won’t fucking die as long as they keep making money. A lot of Rising of the Shield Hero readers have complained that the series went to shit after the first arc if you want a recent example of how longevity can hurt a product, and Overlord has gotten fucking nowhere after three seasons.
But overall, I was really impressed with how much the characters grow throughout the show and how much of said growth actually sticks. Yukino and Hayama in particular are actually interesting this time rather than just being the popular voices of reason that occasionally show glimpses of something more. And thank Christ that Oregairu 2’s creators know the meaning of show don’t tell during the emotional moments, allowing the body language to be just as important as the actual language. I think the expository dialogue that generally plagues light novel adaptations only really shows up during the student council meetings and otherwise it’s limited to just character building moments that culminate in two potential lovers awkwardly staring at each other for twelve seconds. I almost resent that Kei Oikawa didn’t adapt the first season as well, especially when they show scenes from Oregairu 1 except drawn in the new style.
My favorite moments of the series are still when the main trio hang out, because it’s rare to see a “two girls and a guy” group that actually respects and depends on each other so much, even if it can’t escape the love triangle curse that generally plagues those sorts of pairings when it’s not a female who’s the main protagonist. One moment that really shines to me is when Hachiman is being belittled by his former love interest from middle school during a double date, only for the two current girls in his life to walk in on them as Hayama’s plan to make it clear that Hachiman isn’t as big of a loser as people think he is. Plus, there’s just something inherently fun about the trio hanging out with each other, away from the school and their other friends compared to when Isshiki hangs out with Hachiman. I think you can guess what my favorite part of the OVA that consisted of 2/3 of the latter and 1/3 of the former was.
Oregairu 2 isn’t something we necessarily need more of, but it definitely breaks the mold on all of the cliches built or exemplified by high school rom coms like Kimagure Orange Road and To Love Ru, and I really like that, even if the solution is about as simple as “give these characters some actual characterization dammit”. I like how Yukino’s beautiful older sister is actually somewhat sinister underneath her cheerful facade or how interconnected everyone is in general so it doesn’t look like a random group of people are just hanging out because of the plot. I could do without some of the supporting cast though, especially Saki, who seems to just exist in the series with everything regarding her brother being completely forgotten. Also, where are Hachiman’s parents again? How come it’s only him and his sister?
It just goes to show how much I’m willing to forgive certain problems if I find a character to be interesting. Hell, sometimes strong characterization can turn negatives into positives, as few things in anime are inherently bad. It’s just that the majority of anime makes them to be bad. That said, if this was animated like the first season was, Hachiman’s tearful speech in Episode 8 would have looked really awkward. As anyone watching anime who has an actual brain can attest to, animation does matter in anime. That’s why there are some (emphasis on some) people getting hyped for the new Garo: Crimson Moon movie despite them agreeing with me that the series being one of the most forgettable piles of dogshit on the planet.
- As for my opinion on whether Hachiman looks too normal in this sequel, personally he still looks kind of shady to me.
- Apparently, Yui has the most porn doujins drawn of her according to nhentai, even if you account for all of the duplicates uploaded there.
- Incidentally, Google is not good at hiding spoilers when you use their search engine.