- やはり俺の青春ラブコメはまちがっている — “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” — My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as Expected
- The novel: Amazon.jp — Books Kinokuniya — YesAsia
- The fan translation (by Wintermance): NanoDesu
- MAL Entry — Forum
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When people think of popular light novels in recent years, what often comes to mind may include long titles, high school setting, and romcoms with fanservice. The long-winded My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as Expected (which I’ll refer to by the Japanese shorthand Oregairu) meets each of these expectations, yet manages to tell an engaging number of interconnected short stories regardless of its reliance on familiar plot elements and character archetypes. It’s worth noting that this particular series has achieved great success in Japan, even placing first in 2014’s Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! contest rankings.
What is it that makes Oregairu stand out from the crowd? If I were to pin it down to one thing, it would surely be the protagonist and viewpoint character, Hachiman Hikigaya (who placed first in 2014’s ranking for male light novel characters). Hachiman is a pragmatic loner who views the notion of idealized high school youth as a complete farce, and spends much of his time brooding about the hypocrisies inherent in modern student life and society. The story places him in a volunteer club against his will, which serves as a means for him to interact with other classmates–namely two girls who serve as foils to Hachiman in different ways: the elite and cavalier Yukino, and the trendy and simple-minded Yui. They end up assisting a number of students in slightly unorthodox ways, which makes for a plot that is both seen through and propelled by Hachiman’s cynicism.
This strong and unique viewpoint is what makes Oregairu effective in its themes, character interactions, and various story arcs. More so, I imagine many readers will find it easy to relate to Hachiman, and find there’s a lot of sense to his twisted interpretations of all that makes up day-to-day school life. It’s a Watamote-like experience you don’t find often in the world of light novels, anime, and manga–and manages to hook the reader with both its humor and its more down-to-earth character drama.
All that said, I personally found myself bored with Oregairu‘s first volume for much of my readthrough. Part of this may be due to the translation, which seemed to have a dozen footnotes every few pages to explain the story’s many, many Japanese pop culture references (to the point I eventually just stopped bothering to read them). And another part of this may be due to my having seen the first season of the anime already. But really, the biggest reason comes down to the fact the story just rambles on and on and on and on and on. Hachiman’s stream of consciousness turns out to be a double-edged sword–the vehicle for the book’s many memorable spiels also serves for page after page of delving into needless details, constant rehashing, and bizarre non sequiturs. To some degree this can be considered part of the book’s charm, but for many readers it may just be too much (in which case I’d say stick to the much snappier pacing of the anime adaptation).
Overall the book is an interesting read–and at times surprisingly exceptional in its prose and content–but I will still note the one caveat that it’s not going to be a particularly smooth read.
Cho’s Rating: Maybe Recommended