There is an entity that invades all friendships, one which gravitates toward steady relationships and seeks to veer them toward a different course. This object is called “change,” and it’s unavoidable. Volume ten of My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, the Yen Press light novel series upon which the recently concluded Oregairu anime is based, revolves around the concept, both as it relates the most recent request for the service club and to Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui—the club members themselves.
After the heaviness of previous releases, volume ten has the service club accepting a request that seems comparatively mild. Miura asks the trio to discover Hayato’s course concentration decision for his senior year. He’s unwilling to tell the choice to his friends, and Miuria is particularly concerned about that friend group falling apart, as well losing the potential of one day dating Hayato. But the usually affable and always dependable soccer club captain remains mum, and presents an especially hard case to crack for Hachiman, since he’s the one person toward whom Hayato is sometimes cold and aggressive.
As with previous volumes, Wataru Watari creates an engaging read through the mindset of his main character, Hachiman. Much of the charm in the series is that Hachiman is at once clever, naive, self-conscious, prideful, learned, and self-deprecating. Although his struggle (as well as Yukino’s, and to a lesser extent, Yui’s) is with communicating his authentic self to others, his internal monologue is fully on display for readers, and his takes on the situations as they unfold are often wickedly funny. He’s a most attractive narrator, with insights far more compelling than the more mundane plot of the story. Watari-sensei’s other characters are also quite likeable; Hayato, of course, gets much of the attention in this book, as Yui and Yukino fall a bit to the background, but Iroha, Zaimozuka, Totsuka, Saki, Miura, Ebina, and the cover girl, Haruno, all get a chance to shine as well.
The choice of how some of these characters are used in the volume, particularly Haruno, Hayato, and Ebina, is important in adding weight to the story and keeping the tone from being purely happy-go-lucky. As mentioned earlier, relationships are beginning to shift. Hachiman seems satisfied to relax within the confines of a newly recreated service club based on his something genuine speech, but advice and asides from these and other characters, as well as his own readings and ruminations, cause him concern. Have Yukino, Yui, and Hachiman reached something genuine? Is there even such a thing?
The choice of the service club’s focus in this volume is especially astute because even though the task seems relatively minor, especially compared to some of the earlier requests, it matches a subtle theme and questions that will eventually roar their way to the forefront: What will these characters do when confronted by the reality of who they are and what they feel? Will Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui continue to play the part and act as if what they have is both authentic and enough, or will they move forward and try to achieve something “more” real, even if that realness also leads to hurt and, potentially, broken friendships?
Future releases will certainly trend toward these more uncomfortable topics, but in volume ten, they remain on the outside, merely indications of what’s to come; the rest of the story remains permeated in good humor and captivating moments. It’s a lovely bridge toward what Watari himself mentions is the final stretch, and yet another example of why this light novel series is both an extremely popular and fun read, and one that many—including this reviewer—are passionate about, emphasizing it’s depth and quality.
Yen Press should be commended for this release: the translated text reads smoothly, with the accompanying translation notes functioning as both a critical and enjoyable element of the work. I highly recommend fans of the series purchase this volume, and that fans of romantic comedies who haven’t yet started the series (and frankly, anime and light novels in general), take the dive: The conversations and inner monologue are delightful, the illustrations sharper and prettier with each released volume (Iroha fans will be happy to see a pullout of their favorite underclassmen in this book), and the story continues to shape up into something that is totally unlike what one expects from romantic comedies, featuring complexity and depth to accompany the usual cuteness and angst, meaning that whatever you’re looking for, Hachiman and the club have it for you—and in abundance.
My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong Vol. 10 is available from Yen Press, which provided a review copy for this article.