Let's say that someone made a show about a cynical protagonist and how he thinks his high school life isn't all it's cracked up to be. This show then took this opportunity to mess with the love triangle trope and several common high school tropes. The result, is that-show-with-a-really-long-title!

This series was originally suggested by Aiden Ryan.

Not much to say as an intro here. SNAFU is a look at the common High School Romantic Comedy that Japan regularly tackles. The three characters in the show are members of the "service club" whose job is to help out their classmates. What follows is a show that decides to just mess around with the whole romantic comedy genre in every way it can.

The Good:

This series is notable for its genre savvy protagonist; Hachiman is a cynical high school student that gives us a running narration of his high school life. He is a social outcast in the series as he chooses to avoid being noticed, adding to the list of subversions that this series is generating in regard to the standard romantic comedy series. He constantly makes reference to (in his narration) how his "romantic teen comedy" is as wrong as he expected it to be.

The cynical, anti-social Hachiman gets two main characters alongside him as well. The series puts him into a club with two girls: one girl (Yukino) refuses to conform to social standards like Hachiman (although for very different reasons), and the other is incredibly perky and talkative (Yui). The three's personalities mesh rather well in the dysfunctional love triangle that is the service club, although this is yet another instance of the series playing with a well known trope. Hachiman and Yukino don't get along incredibly well as one might expect in a series like this, in fact they don't get along at all in the early episodes. Hachiman and Yui are a bit more complicated though, Yui tends to try to get closer to Hachiman whenever the chance arises, whereas Hachiman... err... doesn't.

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With a cynical protagonist driving this series, it was only natural that we'd see the "Teen Romantic Comedy in High School" plot in a rather cynical manner. It lampshades at least a few of the common tropes, plays with others, deconstructs others, and repeatedly subverts yet more. The main character, despite being right in the middle of a classic love triangle, doesn't show much of an interest in either love interest. This is probably the biggest trope that gets played with in the series.

Yet, at the same time, the series doesn't really take these tropes off the table. The writers deftly avoid implying "yeah, we don't think it would work this way either", so this series isn't a deconstruction exactly. While they don't conform to the trope standards inherent to the genre, they aren't writing them off entirely. In my opinion, the reason that this a good entry is because it is just something I haven't seen before. It is difficult to describe exactly what the series is trying to do since it isn't playing the genre straight, it isn't parodying it, and it isn't deconstructing it. Instead, it exists in an intriguing grey area between the three.

One trope they play gloriously straight though, is the Zero Approval Gambit. Hachiman is so genre savvy that he realizes that, in many situations, the only way to get people to work together is to be the enemy. If you're the enemy, then people will unite against you, plain and simple. Having chosen to be an outcast, Hachiman is willing to fulfill this role if it helps the situation. This is another subversion for the series, the main character doesn't really come out looking like the good guy in at least one situation in the series.

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Lastly, the show gets in here, gets what it wants to done, and gets out. It is best described as "short but sweet". This sort of show could have easily overstayed its welcome, but it is a rare series that feels like it understayed.

The Great:

Only one "great" item today guys.

The series makes an interesting distinction between choosing to be isolated and being forced to be isolated. It takes this as a theme and uses it throughout, particularly during the camp arc. As a person that chose to do the former for my early high school years, this theme resonated rather well with me. Many people don't realize that there is indeed a distinction between the two, so I applaud this series for actually taking this one on.

The Bad:

The biggest (and really only) problem with this series is how everything kinda treads water. If you think about it, you'll realize that the plot for the series literally didn't go anywhere. At its core, this show was purely about the three main characters.

But somehow I felt like even the character development for the three was a bit lacking. When it comes down to it, they all don't change that much at all. The only real change was how they perceive one another, which was a bit interesting in a way, but this is just symptomatic of the "treading water" policy the series has.

My friend has pointed out that this might even be lampshaded by the show itself. The opening depicts two of the main characters color-shifted against a group of characters fading in and out (implying time passing) while they go about their lives rather slowly. Where one may expect the main characters to have a significant amount of growth in the series, they really don't seem to. The opening might be lampshading this subtly. I have no idea if there is anything to this theory, but it is at least something to fill space.

The Verdict:

This review is short for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that I strongly feel that this series is subject to a ton of interpretation. The second reason is that this review is just difficult to write. The series is, in my opinion, good and worthy of considering if you're planning on watching a romantic comedy genre series.

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Unfortunately, it feels like show just isn't very ambitious at all. It plays it safe at every moment. The plot isn't really thought-provoking, but it isn't nonexistent. The characters are developed, but they don't get explored to a very large extent. The relationships are there, but nothing really happens. The setting is the usual high school, nothing special.

Look, the upshot here is this: It is well executed, well written, well animated, and the theme song isn't bad either, but there wasn't much of a push to do anything bold or ambitious. This can swing either good or bad for many people. I enjoyed the series, but there is a very real chance that the "boringly safe" storytelling will make some people annoyed.

Still, the short length of the series makes it hard to pass it up. As I said, it goes in, gets what it wants to done, and gets out. It's short, so you've got little to lose by going for it if you're vaguely looking into a romantic comedy show (or a deconstruction of one).

Information:

My Romantic Teen Comedy SNAFU is available for streaming on Crunchyroll and Hulu.

As usual, I claim no ownership of the images herein.

Oh hell, I have no idea what next time, just go with it.

This is part of my Anime Review Marathon that I began in October 2013 to record my thoughts as I watch a variety of anime on my ever growing backlog. These reviews won't come out on a consistent basis, they'll come out when I feel I have seen enough of a series to pass a judgement on it, although usually I will finish the whole series before the review.

You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.