Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai – Solitude’s Strengths (and Weaknesses)

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Note: Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai has not finished scanlating at the time of this writing. That in mind, note that my overall reflection of the piece’s quality may change (slightly) upon the release of the final chapters. With 79 of 81 chapters released, however, any major feelings are unlikely to change.

One may look at the name for this manga and think to themselves, “Oh, this may be similar to Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.” I wouldn’t blame them, as there seems to be a decent market for stories with an outlet for a group of (usually female) people surrounding a single male individual. Lacking friends, which has seem to become prominent in the new age of technology, is just a new catalyst for this type of setting.

But they would be wrong. This is not similar to Boku wa Tomodachi ga SukunaiYugami-kun makes Haganai read like gibberish.

I’ll say outright that my stumbling upon this story came from a chance encounter of a MAL peer updating their list and my seeing it. Its synopsis and generally good reviews had me take a chance on it, despite my already-crammed-full reading list. What awaited me was deception, with the story doing everything in its power to usurp my expectations of Japanese media.

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Let’s go back to Haganai for a moment. It fashions a group of people (most of them gorgeous, albeit with weird personalities) who cannot make friends wishing to do so. The story goes to decent lengths to expand upon the reasoning for their lack of friendships, such as Sena’s popularity being intimidating and her rather obtrusive persona* scaring people off. Even so, she’s gorgeous (regarded as the beauty of the school*) and she can at least act decently, so if she desired to make friends, why couldn’t she? Is it really that hard to find a decent person who will at least initiate the possibility of kinsmanship? The same goes for most of them, strange personalities and all. I can buy them all being too shy, but some of them even fabricate energetic gusto. It seems fake.

* I have not seen Haganai in some time. A few details may not be entirely accurate.

This set expectation of absurdity tends to seep into other works, especially surrounding this type of scenario. Yugami-kun decides that this is stupid and avoids it like the plague. Y’know why Yugami doesn’t have any friends? Because he outright rejects them. He is a completely “objective” individual who values his time and benefit over anything else, and despises being bothered by things outside his interests. This is what makes an actual loner—someone with believable intent to shun the world. Look at Hikigaya from SNAFU. He’s a cynical brat who thinks everything is bullshit. He’s a believable loner, shunning the world around him. Haganai? Please.

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Even with this, the environment surrounding Yugami isn’t necessarily hostile, just cautious. When new transfer student Chihiro comes into play, she comes to understand Yugami’s situation. He’s a nice(-ish) guy, but just wants nothing to do with anyone unless it benefits him. He’ll go out of his way to help… then demand money as compensation. His trust is divided among people who can realistically (with historical evidence) aid him in his ambitions. That sort of thing. He’s not a bad person, just really, really selfish. Classmates routinely comply with his wishes, leaving him alone at every opportunity. It’s a mutual understanding that benefits both parties. Thinking like this is commonplace in Yugami-kun.

Weird as it is, Yugami’s insistence on solitude paired with Chihiro’s desire for the opposite is precisely what makes this story works. The two make an odd couple that depend on one another for a variety of things, even though these experiences signify two strangers walking down the same path. And it is because of this distance that they (and conversely others with Yugami) have that makes the more wholesome, human portions of the story so magnificent. What this story does with the “objective” label is everything SNAFU and Bunny Girl Senpai wishes they could do without having the present story crumble to pieces behind tons of melodrama. Does one need to label themselves a “friend” to be one? Or is it simply there?

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For all you sports fans out there, Yugami is the ace pitcher in his school’s baseball team, and he’s damn good, too. Yugami-kun spends a decent amount of its chapter count dedicated to participating in games and/or training for said games. Ironic, isn’t it? Yugami, a loner who desires solitude, playing a team game like baseball. Yugami-kun is filled with ironic situations, as Yugami is also very fond of rakugo, which deals heavily with the human experiences of togetherness. A loner who plays a team sport and listens avidly to rakugo speak of human stories, living his life objectively and without the frivolities that come with personal relationships. Funny, isn’t it?

It is, too—funny. This manga actually had me laugh on a number of occasions. Regular readers here know that I find Japanese media (manga, anime, whatever) rarely funny ever. To have me laugh not just once or twice, but a collection of times is an achievement as large as Yugami’s praise. Irony is one thing, it’s also the frankness of it all. With Yugami operating on an objective level, he easily sees behind the fake faces of the crowd to provide 100% accurate assessments of people’s motivations and desires. Again, a loner who can read people like a book. He could be a counselor. How absurd! The way he tends to affect general situations without even taking part in them is also quite amusing. It seems that the harder one struggles to be alone, the more people desire to invade that solitude in a variety of ways.

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A comedy style not quite like others, its general continuity works similarly. Typically with high school slice-of-life’s, there’s an episodic approach to situations that tend to deviate from one another in liminal space. With Yugami-kun, it all feels connected (y’know, like an actual story?). Whether through subtle reminders to recent events or the continued struggles of high school life, cues are placed evenly to create a thread of consciousness that keeps everything focused. Think of it like a car ride that goes from one point to another without stopping, whereas other slice-of-life’s will make stops at every major point along the way. It helps tremendously with keeping everything in place and showing genuine development of the characters and their relationships.

Speaking of characters, they’re all great… the major ones, anyway (I love Yugami and Chihiro). So rare it is to find characters that aren’t at least partially inspired by the archetypes incorporated to appeal to the masses. These characters act like actual people, reacting accordingly to the intricacies of conversation (except Yugami, of course). And again, that humorous bluntness of characters is on full display a number of times, with one of my favorite lines coming from Chihiro when she says, “DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME” to some asshole who won’t stop playing with her hair. While the term “objective” is something of a retrospective term here on Visualist’s Veranda, Yugami-kun uses it with such grace and irony that it makes situations feel all the more silly.

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Generally, the story is pretty silly, but more accurately “down-to-Earth.” Deeper than that, though, is a story about the beauty of interpersonal connections and the opportunities of life. I may have had a sociological bloom in the last couple years that has made me insert the beauty of human connection into everything I read, but this is serious this time! For all the talk of objectiveness and solitude that Yugami-kun spouts, the kinder, memorable moments all come upon the heels of Yugami acknowledging the importance of dependency (or someone else interpreting it as such). More than anything, I believe this is a story of growth and understanding, to provide a (somewhat dumb) story about the benefits of both solitude and togetherness. Some jabs at bandwagoning and getting lost in trends applies, too, but I think that’s a minor focus.

All in all, it’s a wonderful story that I would wholeheartedly recommend to most. At 81 chapters spanning between 25-35 pages on the norm, it’s just the perfect length to tell a story without dragging and providing enough detail to remember it fondly. Ironic, insightful, and typically humorous, there’s a lot to dissect with Yugami-kun that I’d be thrilled to discuss with others. If you’ve read this manga, tell me what you thought in the comments. It’s become among my favorite manga ever.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

If you’d like to see more reviews like this, feel free to look at my full list of manga reviews!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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