My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (aka My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected) is the modern light novel anime that reminded me to never judge a book by its cover. While on the surface it looked to be another series about a cynical protagonist who ends up surrounded by attractive girls, it quickly became clear that what the series is selling is less a fantasy and more observations of reality—namely the ups and downs of growing mentally and emotionally in the messiest yet sincerest ways. Now, the final anime season has arrived, and what we’re left with is a satisfying conclusion that stays true to the series’s identity.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax! once again revolves around loner Hikigaya Hachiman, bubbly Yuigahama Yui, and no-nonsense Yukinoshita Yukino as they run the Service Club: a group dedicated to problem-solving for any student who asks. All three are very different in personality, which makes their views on how to fix a given issue very different, but they complement one another well. This season, their main obstacles are pulling off an American-style prom, dealing with Yukino’s impossibly perfect mother who maps out her daughters’ lives to the letter, and the three main characters (at long last) resolving their feelings.
All three storylines come down to battles of words and wills, and it’s this angle that highlights just how important language is to SNAFU. This series loves its wordplay—it’s why all the character names sound like superhero alter egos—but it doesn’t end there. SNAFU absolutely revels in both utter verbal ambiguity and extremely precise word choice that the Japanese language is so frustratingly good at.
Take a couple of the keywords that showed up in the second season and present themselves here in full force: tasukeru and honmono. Tasukeru can mean “to help” or “to save,” and the ambiguity between the two gives a certain weight to Yukino’s words when she says it. But it’s also precisely because the characters can be so roundabout that they find a certain kinship. Honmono, introduced by Service Club faculty advisor Hiratsuka-sensei, can be translated as “genuine article,” “real deal,” “something real,” and so on. What exactly that means can change with context (is it more physical or more abstract?), and it’s not even clear whether Hachiman himself quite understands—other than it might just be worthwhile even while the fear of losing what you already have (even if it’s built on lies) is ever-present. Each character is both hurt and helped by how they utilize language, and it’s their strong friendship that brings them both smiles and tears.
The title of this series was originally about how the kinds of teenage romances celebrated in media are a lie, and that Hachiman’s life is anything but picturesque. By the end, but the meaning has morphed into the idea that it might not have been what the cool and popular kids get, but it’s something just as special. In a way, it’s perfect that SNAFU Climax! puts such emphasis on a prom, that classic symbol of Hollywood and American rom coms. The fact that the battle over the prom is more important than the event itself is especially fitting.
I’m happy to see this series to the end, but it also makes me aware of how different my own life and perspective has become since I watched the first season seven years ago. Back then, the sinews of high school and college social interaction still felt somewhat fresh in my mind, and I could see pieces of myself and friends I knew in Hachiman. Now, my interaction with SNAFU has transformed from relatable experience to nostalgia. It’s as if I started as Hachiman the student and became Hiratsuka-sensei.