Anime Corner had the wonderful opportunity to interview Wataru Watari, the author of My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected (Oregairu/SNAFU), and Hironori Hoshino, the editor for the story, on Saturday at Otakon 2023. Besides the popular rom-com series, Watari’s works include Girlish Number and Qualidea of Scum And a Gold Coin (co-written by Sou Sagara). Hoshino is currently the chief editor at Gagaga Bunko, Shogakukan’s light novel imprint. He joined the light novel editing department in 2008 and even assisted with the My Teen Romantic Comedy anime series.
Q: First off, it’s an honor to be able to interview both of you today. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! Hoshino-san, Watari-san has previously mentioned that he originally had no intention of writing a romantic comedy until he saw the demand for it. What was it like between the two of you when discussing the story for My Youth Romantic Comedy before it even started? And what were your personal thoughts on the idea behind the story?
Hoshino: Watari-san’s debut story was about a samurai, a samurai story. It was very interesting. So then we decided that for the next story, we wanted something that would cater to the demand, [what] people would like, and that it would be a hit. We wanted to, sort of, represent this cynical boy in the story. But I didn’t really know if Watari-san would be able to really do that. But seeing a lot of his SNS [social networking service] and social media posts, I saw that they were really funny and somewhat cynical. So I thought he would be the one to make this happen.
Q: Contrast is a big part of any form of storytelling. When we take a look at the main group in My Youth Romantic Comedy, Hachiman and Yukino are similar upfront but had different bases. Meanwhile, Yui is exceptionally different on many levels. Was making them contrasting characters an idea you had going into the story or were their little, individual differences something that just came along as you wrote the story?
Watari: About the main characters, that was the attempt before writing the story. As you said, Yukino and Hachiman are somewhat similar characters but at the same time, they’re very different. The motivation behind doing that is that we wanted to make some sort of paradox and illustrated the paradoxical nature of social interactions. So they’re similar but in some ways the most different. By introducing Yui, we also start to see the paradox. Maybe some people who are the most different can end up being, or appear, more similar as they interact more.
Q: Hoshino-san, were there any specific ideas that you had for the series that were eventually implemented in the final product that many fans might not know about?
Hoshino: During meetings, I would give a lot of ideas to Watari-san. But Watari-san ends up adding a lot of his own interpretations to the given ideas. So it ends up being something that’s unique to him and sort of different from my original ideas. So looking back to my ideas and what he ended up with I sort of can’t recognize any of my original ideas in the story. (laughs)
Q: Watari-san, you said in a previous interview that while writing Hachiman you even wondered yourself why he is so skeptical. Were there other times like this when you were questioning the characters you were writing?
Watari: Almost all of the characters actually! (laughs) So I often think with certain characters, “Why are you doing that?” or “You should speak up, Yukino!” A lot of things like that. So I really wanted to illustrate the drama among the characters by intentionally adding questionable aspects of the characters.
Q: You’ve mentioned before how much fun Iroha was to write. Could you explain a little in detail about why that is for the fans, especially the ones that shipped her with Hachiman over Yukino and Yui?
Watari: Ohhhh! Iroha is a very unique character and I refer to her as the world’s cutest annoying girl (laughs). A lot of the things that she does, it sort of ends up getting resolved. So I really enjoy writing her!
Q: Yui can be seen as the most troubled character with a lot of character development, possibly more so than others from the story. Is her growth while being troubled a primary reason that her own side story started being published? Or was there simply a big demand from fans?
Watari: There wasn’t really a fan demand [for the Yui spin-off]. We really didn’t take that into consideration. It was more like a, “Oh, let’s just do it” kind of thing. (laughs)
Hoshino: So as we were writing the story, there were a lot of different possibilities to the story that branches off. So as we were writing, we thought that there could be another story going on at the same time.
Q: It’s unfortunate that we’re short on time because I have a million questions I would love to ask both of you. But I’ll leave with one last question. How would you describe this incredible journey with My Youth Romantic Comedy?
Watari: Ahhh! Well, to continue this great journey that’s why my name is Wataru Watari! (laughs) So yeah, I would really love to continue this great journey! [Note: The Kanji for Wataru (航) can mean “to cross over a border,” while Watari (渡) can mean “cruise”. When put together, Watari-san’s name can be read as “journey” or “voyage.”]
Hoshino: Just looking back to when our debut story about the samurai didn’t hit as expected, we didn’t really think [My Youth Romantic Comedy] would be this much of a hit. So we were both very surprised. I just feel really lucky. The luck just kept layering on top of more luck to make this happen. And if we were asked to do it all over again, I don’t think we would be able to!
Thank you again to Watari-san and Hoshino-san for their time! And thank you to the staff at Otakon for making this interview possible. The original light novel series of My Youth Romantic Comedy (illustrated by Ponkan8) came to an end with volume 14 in 2021 as did the manga adaptation, My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected-Comic-, with volume 22 in 2023. Watari and Hoshino are working on the Yui Yuigahama spin-off novel titled My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected. Connection, which currently has two volumes published.
The anime adaptation of the series celebrated its 10th anniversary and released a brand new OVA earlier this year as part of a bundle that includes a limited edition version of the new game for Nintendo Switch and PS4 that’s based on the anime series.
Photo credits: Brian Howard (Twitter)
Translator: Seiya Furukawa (Otakon); Assistance: Jeremy Sauer, Emi Tanaka