For general information on this novel: My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected entry
This review is for the fourth volume of My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected, AKA Oregairu. This series is written by Wataru Watari and features illustrations by Ponkan8. So far there are four volumes available in English, with the next set to release May 2018. There are 12 volumes in Japan at the moment, plus three side story volumes.
This is the first volume of Oregairu to focus pretty much on just one plot, rather than telling two or three unrelated short stories. I remember back when I watched the first season of the anime adaptation years ago, that this particular story arc was my personal favorite of the series, so I was looking forward to seeing how well everything played out in the original source.
Volume 4 has Hachiman and fellow service club members Yukino and Yui roped into helping out at a summer camp trip for sixth-grade elementary school students. Our lead characters are joined by most of the remaining important members of Oregairu‘s ensemble cast, including Totsuka, Komachi, Hayama, and Miura. They all have to work together to cook curry for all the children, and guide them through a “test of courage” haunted trail event. Things don’t go too smoothly (as I Expected), but the central conflict involves a quiet girl named Rumi, who is being ostracized by her classmates. Our high school characters would like to resolve the issue, but they can’t fully agree on what the core problem is, or how to go about solving it–or even if it is something that can be solved.
I feel that this is the volume where both the author Wataru Watari and the protagonist Hachiman hit their stride. The foundation for how Hachiman thinks and operates has been firmly established, so now we can see him put his cynicism to good(?) use in clever and surprisingly meaningful ways. The conversations between him and all the other characters flow more naturally now, and the reader can readily anticipate how Yukino, Yui, and the rest will all react to the ideas and viewpoints they share with each other. In turn, Wataru Watari seems to have improved in regards to the story’s pacing, and knowing when to tell a joke and when to focus on more serious matters. The comedy and the drama are both strengthened in the process.
As with the previous three volumes, the highlight here is the unique prose and Hachiman’s amusing narration, which continues to shift back and forth between pathetic and insightful (or some uncomfortable blend of the two). There is more of a running theme to his musings in this volume though, which is established at the very start with a copy of his middle school book report on Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro. This gave a little more weight to the general message of the story, though I suppose it can be debated if the story has a message so much as an observation on how groups of people tend to operate under certain circumstances.
A fun and “twisted” story! The ending to this one also adds another reveal for the central plot of the series (involving significant events to the major characters’ pasts), which we can only hope will begin to develop a bit more in the next few volumes.
Cho’s Rating: Strongly Recommended
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