By Wataru Watari and Ponkan 8. Released in Japan as “Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatte Iru” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jennifer Ward.
The first half of this book is rough going, as it continues to mine the trough of awkward despair that our heroes are going through. Hachiman is still dealing with the unspoken fact that he screwed up the Student Council Election for Yukino, though honestly the bigger problem is that it IS unspoken. Isshiki is now student council president, but is having trouble dealing with the rest of the council and also out of her depth. So when she has to come up with a Christmas event with the help of another school, she naturally comes running to the Service Club. Unfortunately, Hachiman’s guilt makes him take on helping her on his own, and he has to confront not only the most irritating character in the entire series to date, but also Orimoto, that girl from middle school, who goes to the other school. And, as a result of his doing this secretly, the Service Club is falling apart. It’s all very depressing.
Thank God for Hiratsuka, then. Acting a bit more proactively than she usually does, the teacher is there to give Hachiman the push he needs to finally confront the club and show actual emotions. This is very much the best scene in the book, and a real emotional breakthrough, at least for him. Yukino is a bit of a tougher nut to crack (as always), but a trip to an amusement part even allows her to open up about her rivalry relationship with her sister… and with Hachiman. Yui doesn’t feature as heavily, basically reduced to her role as the emotional center. That said, solving the situation requires all three of them – Hachiman plans, Yui bonds with everyone, and Yukino takes a firm hand in telling people when to shut the hell up and decide. Which is desperately needed.
As I indicated above, I don’t think I’ve ever found a character quite as punchable as I did Tamanawa, the student council president from the rival school. Honestly, I’d almost have liked it better if he were evil, or at least doing this on purpose for some petty reason. But no, this just seems to be how he deals with things, with the rest of the council (sans Orimoto, who like Hachiman is a dragooned helper) joining in on his business-talk doublespeak. This is hilarious at first, with even Hachiman having trouble following the plethora of buzzwords, but gradually the reader gets as exhausted as he does, and by the end of the book you just want a steamroller to run over Tamanawa (this does not happen). It was also odd seeing the return of Rumi, the young girl Hachiman tried to help in a previous book, though it goes along with the theme of this book and the last one: Hachiman’s help doesn’t always really work. Rumi is still having troubles. Maybe the play will help.
This book is about as well written as the previous one, but the fact that it ends on a big, positive note makes all the difference, and makes it feel much better overall. Not having a sour taste in your mouth is key. Next time, we get another book of short stories as we leap back in time with Vol. 6.5 (which, in Japan, did indeed come out after Vol. 9).