Volume eight begins the best stretch of the My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected (Oregairu) light novels, culminating in what is the true climax of the series, well before the actual end. The most moving and powerful moments start to occur here, not only because the story is trending this way, but because volumes eight and nine are Watari-sensei at his best, his writing most poetic, his pen most striking.
It begins where volume seven left off, not just in story, but in its uneasy tone. Hikki has once again thrown himself under the bus to respond to one of the service club’s requests. The first 50 pages of volume eight burn with discomfort; Hikki is grumpy, and takes it out on Komachi, beginning an accumulation of drama that seems like it’ll conclude with the appearance of the great instigator, Haruno, but just continues forward with Hayato playing a strong role and the introduction of two new characters of note—Hikki’s middle school crush, Orimoto, and underclassman Iroha, who will go on to play a major role through the remainder of the series.
And yet, with all this heavy tone, Watari-sensei never forgets to include levity, adding a needed balance to story. A double date, for instance, is a major plot point in this volume, and it is at once “hilarious” (as Orimoto would say) and cringeworthy. Appearances by Totsuka, Zaimokuza, and Kawa-something are humorous and keep the latter arc, focusing on Iroha’s service club request to help her avoid being elected as student council president while still saving face, from becoming too cumbersome in both its resolution and in Hikki’s mounting problems.
And troubles are indeed getting to him, as demonstrated by Hikki’s ill-temper as the start of the volume. They are mostly of the relationship variety, coming into familial conflict, the social kind, and a quieter, more troublesome type with Yui and Yukino, his fellow the club members. At one point or another in this volume, he seems to lash out at everyone. But as Hikki opines, “There is no one but me in my world. With the events that I face, there has only ever been me.”
Until, of course, that depressing pronouncement is no longer true. An important theme building through this volume is the idea that as you open yourself to people, you begin to care for them and they for you. Hikki thinks to himself that this concept is easiest with family, and his relationship with Komachi reflects as much (while interestingly being compared to Haruno’s relationship with Yukino), but all the events tug and pull at the loner facade he’s so strongly developed, and he’s not taking it well, while the same can be also said with Yukino and hers’.
Meanwhile, though relegated to a small role in this book, Yui’s most important action is an emotional one that nearly brought this reviewer to tears. She’s also significantly involved in a more prominent theme in volume eight, which is regarding how much we can really know one another. Time after time, Hikki reflects on how others project their ideas on him and visa-versa. The climax of volume eight occurs when he does this toward Yukino. It’s such a well-crafted moment, set up not only by all the previous events of the volume, but also by Hikki’s thoughts and speech, which express that no one is likely to be hurt by his suggested resolution to Iroha’s problem. But he realizes too late that he may be wrong, and concludes, “The delusion of understanding each other is a harsh form of make-believe.” Meanwhile, it’s Yui, the most emotionally intelligent member of the club (by a mile), who shows Hikki that maybe we can understand one another.
As volume eight ends, we also get a glimpse at the words most commonly associated with the series—”something real” (or authentic or genuine). That moment is mere chapters away. But if this was my first time reading through My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected (which it is not), I wouldn’t know what was to come, and would instead feel the same unease I had all through this volume. Yes, all the wondrous things I’ve loved about this series from the beginning are still here, but it feels as if Hikki, Yukino, and Yui are on the edge of cliff, growing as people, yet close to disaster.
I think that’s where Watari-sensei would have us be. It’s a testament to his writing that our care for Hikki and the rest is a desire to see them through and hope for the service club members’ best, even if that best will be—as it is often is in our own lives—accompanied by a great deal of tumult and hurt.
My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected Vol. 8 can be purchased through Yen Press.