If you haven’t watched My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU yet, you probably should before reading this. It’s in its third and final (I think?) season, so now is the time. The spoilers here will be huge. This is your only warning.
My problem with rom-com protagonists is that they often suffer from a lack of depth. Their pasts and personalities are just bland and forgettable so that the audience can project themselves onto them. Normally, I wouldn’t mind that too much; I do love shounen, after all. But in romance, you need that depth to craft an interesting narrative!
Going into My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (what even is that title?), my expectations were pretty low. I thought it would be fun, dumb, rom-com trash that I’d binge in a day and forget about. What I got was the literal exact opposite!
So, with the third season underway, I wanted to take a look at my favorite aspect of this show: its main character. Because I’ll be real: as cute as the girls are and as great as the dialogue is, this is the guy that keeps me watching! And his name is Hikigaya Hachiman!
Hikigaya is pretty much the polar opposite of most rom-com protagonists. He’s a nice guy at heart and he gets along really well with his sister. But he’s so pessimistic it makes me look downright optimistic, he loves being alone so much that he straight-up pushes people away if he can, and the dude tends to use his people-reading skills to get under their skin. On the surface, the dude seems like a completely intolerable, creepy asshole.
But then you look beneath the surface and find one of the most complex, likable characters in the genre!
The Wound: Forever Alone
Not gonna lie: this one strikes really close to home. Uncomfortably so.
Hachiman didn’t exactly have the happiest childhood. In grade school, he was bullied relentlessly. In middle school, he was treated like a germ by every girl he ever talked to. Then, on his first day of high school, he got hit by a limo while saving a dog.
What a strange way to meet your two love interests.
After… all that… he pretty much vowed to spend his days alone. If people didn’t want to be near him, then he may as well return the feeling. Better to be the smart man left alone than to deal with all the idiots.
Or so he tells himself.
The Lie: A World Where No One Gets Hurt
Here’s the thing about Hachiman: he really is a nice guy. If someone comes to him for help, he’ll do all he can. Granted, he is in the Service Club (and by in I mean forced into), so that is his job. But if he really wanted to, he’d have quit after the first day. He does want to help people.
Except there’s a problem: he has a unique way of doing it. A self-destructive way.
They say nothing brings people together like having a common enemy. Hachiman is a firm believer in that philosophy. So, to help people, whether it’s to kick them into gear or to bring them together, he’ll play the role of villain. To a fantastic effect, I might add! He is really good at passing people off!
Essentially, he believes that it’s better to be hurt yourself if it means that others don’t get hurt. That, in an ordinary story, would be considered a good thing. Sad, sure, but heroic.
But whether he’ll admit it or not, Hachiman has people who care for him. So, by letting himself get hurt so badly, he’s inadvertently hurting them too. His methods are thoughtless and destructive, not just for himself, but for those that love him.
Not to mention that they don’t even work all the time. In season two, we revisit a character that he tried to help earlier in the story. To his dismay, he finds that not much has changed. In fact, from what we see, nothing has. His solution failed to do anything but traumatize some children.
Which, good for him! But that wasn’t what he set out to do.
The Want: The Real Thing
For a significant chunk of the story, Hachiman doesn’t seem to have any clear goal. He just seems to want to get through the day without anyone bothering him. His only strong desire seemed to be ‘leave me alone’.
But as the series progresses, he starts to think back on his life and decisions. He wonders if his methods were the right thing to do. He even questions if his life of isolation was really what he wanted; whether he liked it or not, he had gotten attached to his friends in the Service Club. And more than anything, he finds himself looking enviously at the friend groups gathered in his classroom.
Hachiman doesn’t want to just be alone. He wants to have what everyone else seems to have: connections. Genuine friendships and relationships. That’s why, when the Service Club is threatened to disband, he does everything in his power to keep it together. To not lose the place he belongs.
However, to do that, he needs to find a new method of doing things. If he keeps trying to destroy himself for others, he’ll only sever those connections that he so desperately wants to protect. He needs…
The Need: A New Approach
One of Hachiman’s biggest struggles in the series has been trying to find a new way to solve problems. He realizes his old ways don’t work, so he needs to find some other way. A way that’ll protect those around him and get the job done at the same time.
Not that it’ll be easy. He’s been pushing people away for his entire life. Changing that dramatically isn’t easy. Dude’s got some major trust issues and, despite how good he is at reading people, he’s got a hard time properly connecting with them. Frankly, he’s got no clue what he’s doing.
So he does the only thing he can think of: he makes a request.
Admittedly, I may have been too quick to write this article. For all I know, the story is going to go in a wildly new direction in the final stretch and make this entire article irrelevant. But I’m pretty confident that it won’t do that. Or at the very least hopeful.
Cause I really don’t want to see this show flop. Seriously, it is shockingly good!
Hikigaya Hachiman is, I feel, one of the best protagonists in the romance anime genre. Not only does he have an insane amount of depth, but he also doesn’t spend all his time focusing entirely on trying to get laid! He’s honestly one of the most fun and compelling characters I’ve run into in a long time!
Now I just need to analyze Yukino. And Yuigahama. And… that’s it, actually. Those are the only three I really care about.