I was going to review this series after its final season. But to be honest: I couldn’t emotionally handle the ending at the time. But now time has passed and my wounds have healed, so here I am to finish the task!
Oregairu is a show that changed wildly throughout its three season run. Both in tone and style, each season stands out completely from the other two. If you showed someone a screenshot from season one, then one from season two, they’d have to take a long pause before recognizing that they’re the same show. If they do at all!
This show is a rollercoaster of emotions. At first glance, it’s just a typical rom-com with a few dramatic elements. More funny than it is depressing. Then, as the series progresses, the writer decided “Nah, fun’s over, time for tears.” Then they kept going like that right up until the last minute.
And I’d go back and watch the whole thing in a heartbeat.
Story: Romance Ain’t As Fun As Ya Think
You know, for a show with the word ‘comedy’ in its title, this story sure loves to tear my fucking heart out.
Our story centers around Hikigaya Hachiman, a lonely and cynical teenager who hates the world. In an attempt to fix this, his teacher, Hiratsuka, forces him into the Service Club with Yukinoshita Yukino. Together, along with the bubbly Yuigahama Yui, they work to help their fellow students with their problems. Teenage drama and romance ensue.
This story is a rollercoaster of tones. The first season is very light hearted for the most part, focusing more on the comedy than the drama. Then, come seasons two and three, the comedy aspect of the story is practically dropped entirely and focuses entirely on the character development and the drama.
Which would be a problem, if the drama weren’t so effective.
This is a story about socially awkward, self-destructive people hurting themselves and the people around them. Our main characters spend most of their time throwing themselves on a spear and pushing away the people they love for fear of being hurt. It’s a romantic drama where the losers don’t just shrug it off and walk away; they get their hearts fucking ripped out and trampled!
All this drama is supported by our main three characters, all of whom are absolutely phenomenal. Watching these three dorks try so hard to figure out what their relationship with each other really is and struggle to keep it together is incredible. Plus, they have great chemistry; Yui’s bubbly attitude that can pierce even the toughest barriers works super well with Hikigaya’s ‘dead inside’ attitude and Yukino’s ‘ice queen’ persona.
Unfortunately, the side characters aren’t all great. Some of them are solid and add an extra layer to the story. Others are basically one-note gag characters who only ever show up when Hikigaya needs a little helper.
While I’m on the subject of criticism, this story can be a bit all over the place in terms of tone. It can go from comedic to tragic so quickly it would give you whiplash! This problem was at its strongest in season two, particularly near the beginning. Luckily, it doesn’t last all that long. It does manage to find a balance eventually.
But to end this section on a positive note: can I just say how refreshing it is to have a romantic drama that actually has a proper ending? A good one, too! It wraps up all the threads in a satisfying but open way, leaving the audience with plenty to interpret for themselves. It sticks the landing and it’s damn cute doing it!
Unfortunately, I can’t show you why it’s so damn cute. You’ll need to watch it and find out for yourself.
Presentation: A Dramatic Evolution
God damn, this show took leaps and bounds in terms of visuals! Seriously, just look at this!
This is a screenshot from the first season. It doesn’t look incredible, but it looks pretty good. It’s colorful, the characters are expressive and decently designed, and the background, while a bit blurry, is pretty decent. In motion, it looks a bit rough, but it still looks better than average.
See that? Got it in your head? Kay, cool. Now look at this shot the later seasons.
Look, no disrespect to season one. But holy shit, this looks so much better! The characters are even more highly detailed and somehow even more expressive! The backgrounds are crisper, more detailed! The animation goes from ‘decent’ to ‘holy shit this looks like a goddamn movie!’ No joke, I have never seen such a dramatic spike in quality in any anime I’ve ever seen!
Music wise, however, I can’t say I was especially impressed. The score isn’t bad by any means, but it’s generally not a good sign when the only really memorable tracks are the OPs and EDs. Given that most people tend to skip those. All the music works, but none of it really stands out as especially impressive.
That animation, though? God damn, I never thought I’d be so impressed by seeing a teenage girl cry so much!
Show that to a friend out of context.
Oregairu is one of the most interesting romance anime I’ve reviewed yet. It started out so small and normal, then evolved into something absolutely beautiful and incredible! The show I started on a whim quickly sunk its hooks into me and refused to let go!
Then it proceeded to twist those hooks deeper into my chest, pull my bones apart, and rip my heart out.
I’d highly recommend checking out Oregairu. It isn’t a flawless series, but it’s still a rock solid romantic drama. My only regret is that I didn’t review it sooner, when the iron was hot. Oh well! Better late than never!
Just ask Yui.