Hachiman Hikigaya is a loner who finds morose pleasure in isolating himself from other students. Forgoing friendships and potential love interests, he harbors righteous disdain for average teenage youth, calling them “normies” and wishing they would all “die in a fire.” Hikigaya gets himself into trouble after penning a homework assignment that reads like a “prelude to a school massacre.” As punishment for this manifesto, Shizuka Hiratsuka—Hikigaya’s cigarette chomping teacher and fan of the good old sucker punch—forces him to enroll in the school’s Service Club. The club’s only other member is Yukino Yukinoshita, whose cold personality isolates her from the rest of the school. Hikigaya and Yukino seem like they’d be two peas in a pod, but their first meeting ends in disaster. Can these two kindred spirits work together, or will they be kept apart by their mutual dislike for social interaction and each other?
The overall premise of My Youth Romantic Comedy involves the Service Club handling requests from students in need; it functions, more or less, as a problem-solving organization to resolve personal conflict. How Hikigaya and Yukino deal with these problems is more than half the fun. It takes a while for the series to come to a boil, but once the club starts gaining new members and personalities, things take a more positive direction and schemes become more elaborate. There’s a lot of psychology at play in this series as the characters try to rationalize and understand the minds of the average teenager, and anyone who has attended high school may find themselves nodding along with their analysis.
Hikigaya as a character is not immediately likeable, as he comes off as a whinier version of Holden Caulfield. He applies labels to people he doesn’t even know, saving some of the more hurtful jabs for female students; he frequently calls the talkative, friendly, and outgoing girls of his class sluts, despite there being no evidence of any sexual promiscuity. It’s the familiar refrain of someone who is angry at the world, and in Hikigaya’s case, the event that changed his outlook on life seems highly disproportionate to his mentality against other students. Thankfully, by the end of volume two, a different Hikigaya begins to take shape.
Yukino has her own reasons for being cold towards others, stemming from her belief that students should rise above and meet their potential. This attitude makes it hard to keep and maintain friends for any extended period, though one never gets the impression that this bothers Yukino. She and Hikigaya see the Service Club as an albatross to carry, but after a student’s request has been fulfilled, their own personal catharsis encourages them to help others. Although Hikigaya and Yukino maintain their stoic fronts, the presence of other students causes cracks to form in the walls they’ve built around themselves.
My Youth Romantic Comedy is full of age-appropriate material. It’s funny in spots and sweet in others, and there are also a lot of references to various manga franchises like Dragonball and One Piece. The physical violence is played for laughs (mostly in the form of Ms. Hiratsuka’s punches) and there is no sexual content outside of a brief panty shot and subsequent discussion about said underwear as it relates to a Service Club mission. Hikigaya’s possible, subconscious attraction to an androgynous young man is treated as a joke, and there’s a bit of pointless and gratuitous innuendo involved, but it never feels offensive. However, when Hikigaya finds out that the first Service Club patron is his classmate Yui Yugiahama, he thinks of her as a slut and calls her a bimbo because of her large chest. I guess it’s supposed to be funny, though I wasn’t too thrilled; frankly, Yui is a total sweetheart, and in every scene she is depicted as a cheerful, caring, and friendly young woman who used the club to gain independence from the school’s queen bee. Hikigaya’s slut-shaming goes too far, and I will gladly fight him or anyone else who besmirches Yui’s good name!
It took a great deal of warming up before I found enjoyment in My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected. The title alone brought back grim memories of reading No Matter How I Look At It, It’s Your Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular, a manga that starring loner who is far more socially awkward than Hikigaya (now that I think about it, this is prime crossover material, and I’d be interested to see how he’d react after spending a day with someone as awkward as Tomoko Kuroki). However, I was grateful to see the positive effect that being surrounded by other students had on Hikigaya and Yukino’s attitude. This paves the way for great character growth, which is important in a series like this; if the character is unable to use their experiences to become a better person, there is no point in sticking around waiting for it to happen. Given the cheerful and promising vibe of the bustling Service Club by the end of the second volume, I have a good feeling that the story is moving in the right direction.
My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected, vols. 1-2
by Wataru Watari
Art by Naomichi Io
vol 1 ISBN: 9780316312301
vol 2 ISBN: 9780316318105
Yen Press, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)