Greetings people! Welcome to a series of posts that is based off the anime known as Yahari Ore No Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru, also known as My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU. SNAFU offers a rich, realistic, and thought provoking social commentary into school life which many identify with including me. Hence, I thought that it would be apt to share the many life lessons that one can reap just from a single episode of SNAFU, and my personal thoughts on these. Minor spoilers ahead!
“Youth is a lie. It is evil.
Those who claim to enjoy it are deluding themselves and others. They fit the events and environment around them to the youth mold as self-confirmation. They will fit any commonly held interpretations of life events to this mold in the name of youth. To them, lies, secrets, sins and failures are but seeds of spice in their youth. Supposedly, such failures were an indication of youth, then one who has failed to make friends must also be at the height of his youth. But, they would disagree on this point. Everything must fit into their pre-constructed mold.
To conclude: Fools who enjoy this thing called “youth,” should go and freaking die.”
Hikigaya Hachiman, Episode 1
Hikigaya Hachiman is not merely bored with his high school life. More so than Oreki Houtarou’s minimalist outlook and energy conservation principles which at most result in indifference, he harbours a deeply rooted distaste for how his peers’ actions and behaviours revolve around the social fabric of school. By making logical deductions from confirmation bias, he summarises his cynical outlook in monologues. His conclusion on the abomination of what ‘youth’ is is harsh, and borderline extreme. Right as the curtains are drawn for the first episode of SNAFU, we are thrown this monologue that aptly marks Hikigaya’s social standing.
Yet, his view is not necessarily unfounded or a product of resentment of shy, unsociable loners who are secretly envious of their seemingly more glamourous peers. In defining what it means to be young, one would firstly define it as a concept that encompasses everything one ‘should’ be and ‘should not’ be. This includes making rash decisions, mistakes of all sort, ‘lies, secrets, sins and failures’. Everything that is morally grey is given a pinkish tint as one dismisses it as a sensation of youth. The act of being young. If it truly includes everything, then why does the notion of being ‘alone’ or not having friends so intuitively discordant with this idea of youth? This inconsistency clearly does not sit well with Hikigaya, and the hypocrisy of this concept irks him.
As someone who mostly proceeds about things alone in school, way removed from what school social hierarchy deems as the ‘popular’ and ‘happening’ clique, I can’t say that I don’t empathise with his views. Even though my own ponderings are not worded in such drastic language, I do note the irony of it all in the same way. Yet I can’t help but wonder whether my own views are only the result of an inherently limited social circle and experiences. Relatedly, Hikigaya is clearly restrained by this as well, especially when he is basing such conclusions on middle school experiences in a society where herd mentality & fitting in with the crowd is arguably more prevalent than mine.
It is thus interesting to envisage how Hikigaya’s mindset is going to change throughout the series. This would likely be one of the main angles that SNAFU will take, given that the story starts with such an emphatic monologue. As we see shortly, Hikigaya is forced into the Service Club by his violent but well-meaning sensei, where he meets one of the big names of the school – a poised, well-mannered but lightly sarcastic ojochan by the name of Yukino Yukinoshita. Together, they respond to requests for help by the student body.
The first request comes in the form of Yui Yuigahama, whose attempts at cookie-baking ends in charcoal-like objects. As she proceeds into the typical light self-blaming that the archetypal ‘helpless’ anime girl character does whenever they ‘mess up’, Yukino cuts her off by stating that she is merely making excuses for herself.
“Those who don’t even put in the minimum effort have no right to begrudge those with talent. Those who can’t do something can’t imagine the effort that someone who can puts in.”
Yukino Yukinoshita, Episode 1
Often, we are envious of what people appear to have. However, we tend to forget that appearances can be rather deceiving. What we call ‘talent’ or the flawless, effortless execution of an act are the fruit of hours of labour, sweat and blood. When we try to emulate that outcome and meet the first herculean roadblocks, our first instinct is to console ourselves for our ‘lack of talent’, that we are of a different world from those people, and hence we can never hope to be like that. But we are really only trying to justify the fact that we give up on even trying to overcome the obstacles that stay in our way. As such, we are in no position to even contemplate the gargantuan amounts of efforts that these other people put in.
SNAFU reminds us that many times, things are never what they seem from the outside. Those who seek to pin the blame on others will never truly improve, so before we resort to that sort of defense mechanism, it will probably do us tremendous good to remind ourselves that a whole of goals that look impossible are not quite what they seem to be.