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.
Let’s start with the ending, because we know how these books all go. Things look like they may finally resolve happily, and then you plummet to your death. It is a frequent fact that behind an “icy” romantic lead in a high school light novel is an even worse mother, and that proves to be the case here. We’d known before that Yukino’s mother was the sort to make her daughter feel terrible about everything, and seeing Yukino try to face her down and fail so miserably is painful to read. Then of course we have Haruno, who makes a very good point about the relationship between Hachiman, Yukino and Yui. Unfortunately, it’s not really a point I agree with, but it’s certainly a point. The argument is that the three of them are codependent on each other and therefore what they’re doing is a mistake. Which, y’know, I’ve talked before about the characters making bad decisions, but I think they HAVE to here, or Yukino’s life going forward is doomed.
That said, the first 80% of the book is fine, and can even be called fun and heartwarming. This despite the fact that we get a recap episode in text form from our three leads to start us off. Hachiman is mostly waiting on tenterhooks to find out Komachi’s test results, and this results in cute scenes like hanging around with Saki (also waiting for her brother’s exam results, and still being the worst tsundere in the world) or heartwarming scenes like every scene he has with his sister (this book is hands down one of the best non-creepy portrayal of a close bother-sister relationship, even as it also asks how it feels to be TREATED like a little sister). He and Yukino and Yui are getting along very well too, despite The Elephant In The Room. Then along comes Iroha. What follows is not technically her fault, but…
We’re only a couple of volumes from the end of the series by now, and one thing I’ve noticed is how easy it is for Hachiman to walk up and have conversations with everyone now. Sure, he still has his inner monologue of snark, but it feels disconnected with what he’s actually doing or feeling. If this *is* due to being codependent on Yukino and Yui, I can only call it a good thing. He’s also aware enough of the love triangle he’s in to CALL it that, if only when talking to Haruno, but he still can’t quite admit the real reason he wants to help Yukino with the prom. And then there’s Yui, who is the most aware of how everyone feels (especially when she gets her proof early on in the book), but is also the one who least wants to do anything, possibly as she knows that she has “romantic runner-up’ tattooed on her forehead.
I have a feeling things are going to get worse before they get better, but it will be interesting to see how Hachiman takes on Yukinoshita’s mother, and for that matter tries to help recover Yukino’s self-worth, which is probably buried somewhere below the floor by now. If you were reading this to see Hachiman push back against the “normies” of the world… well, you’ve likely dropped it by now. For everyone else, still good soao opera.