Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru
Genres: Comedy, Romance, School
With a single glance most frequent anime watchers can probably identify the sort of series that Yahari is and might dismiss it without a second thought. You can take one look at the above picture and the synopsis given for the series on anime website and no whether or not you'll be watching this series. On the surface Yahari is as formulaic as they come, set in a highschool we follow the day to day life of our main male character Hachiman Hikigaya, a loner who keeps to himself. He's suddenly thrown into an unexpected (only to him) situation where he's forced to interact with one of the school's most popular girls. Yukino Yukinoshita is that common anime breed of intelligent, beautiful girl who couldn't have less interest in a relationship with someone so out of her scope as the main character (but could easily end up falling for him anyway). By the end of the first episode they're joined by Yui Yuigahama an excitable, energetic girl whose mood switches with every few sentences. Ultimately it looks like almost any other highschool series to appear in the anime listings in the last few years.
When you start to look a little deeper at the series, it does have it's own quirks that give it its own identity, but doesn't make it unique or different. The main draw of the series is clearly going to be its characters, their personalities and the interactions and experiences they share. It breaks no new ground and doesn't introduce any novel ideas. That said, it's first 2 episodes are inoffensive and if a romantic comedy set in a highschool is what you're looking for at the moment, while you could do better, you could also undoubtedly do worse than Yahari.
The three main characters that have been introduce so far have each been given distinct personalities from the beginning and while they all brush with the popular archetypes none of them quite fall directly into cliché. Hachiman is a loner by choice, with a suspicious and cynical personality. Despite this he appears quite self-sufficient and surprisingly intelligent in comparison to many lead males, though his abrasive character can be off-putting at times.
What I've found generally makes him interesting enough to stick by, however, is the security he has in his own reasoning for his beliefs. He's rude, uncompromising and is happy to keep to himself, but when questioned about these behaviours he can actually articulate genuine motives with an ability to rival those that do. A key weakness in this aspect of his character, however, is that the writers still find ways for him to play the deep down, good guy role. This usually works as a way of making the lead character relatable, but clearly clashes with Hachiman's personality even if he tries to explain it away.
His best moments, I feel, are when he's in discussion with Yukino. At it's core Yukino's personality is very similar to Hachiman's, cold, impersonal and distant, if a little more self-serving. Yukino has a very high impression of herself and sees it as her place to help those less fortunate. To do so, she is the only member of the Service Club when Hachiman first arrives, and helps people try to better themselves to solve their problems. Her disposition is very dividing, at times being polite and helpful (though never what one would call friendly), yet at others being blunt and belittling.
Having said this, Yukino has still quickly become one of my favourite characters this season, primarily due to her strength of character. While she may frequently be blunt or unkind I still feel she is well-presented as intelligent, firm in her beliefs, willing to help others and unyielding in the face of adversary.
Despite the shortcomings in their respective personalities, these two work together in the series because of their fundamental similarities and that they can talk to each other on an equal level, even if they don't see that in each other. Because of this, while not up to the standard set by some other series, the discussion and conversation between the leads can be both entertaining and engaging.
The last of the current three main characters, Yui, is distinctly separate from Hachiman and Yukino, being warm and personable. She can often still be direct (mostly when talking to Hachiman), but is far less so than the other two due to her insecurities about being her own person. It is these insecurities that might be the most interesting thing about her, however, as they nicely set up room for character development over the course of the series.
The series' artstyle is appealing, reaming consistently clean and crisp throughout. The animation is standard for modern slice of life anime, not outstanding but not poor either, merely sufficient. The music is similarly average, suitably backing each scene but not leaving any real further impression. The OP and ED serve as an apt opening and close to each episode respectively, but again don't particularly stand out from the crowd.
All together Yahari is neither a unique nor special anime, however it has enough of its own personality that if you enjoy series of this genre it's worth giving it a try. It doesn't do anything to make it stand out from the abundance of these series, but is entirely inoffensive in its existence. If you've looked at the genre before and decided its not for you, Yahari certainly won't be the series to change your mind.
[Subs used: FFFansubs]