"Yeah, I'm being stupid. I know that it's out of question. I know how this will end. I'll be left with nothing. Even so, I want us to think, writhe, struggle... and find... something genuine." - Hikigaya Hachiman
Oregairu is a pilgrimage destination for people who set out to quench their thirst for finding something genuine. It takes its characters, and you, the reader, on a journey to explore the themes of self-realization, inferiority complex, cynicism, and social awkwardness.
The seasons have changed. Compared to my teenage-self, I have gotten better, become more open-minded, met new people, found people that I love, and have stopped hating
myself. But one thing that has remained the same, is my love for Oregairu. Its bittersweet aftertaste still lingers. Even though, sadly, I no longer relate to Oregairu.
[Story & Writing] The story and setting of Oregairu is a simplistic high school club-themed slice-of-life, which is good, considering what it is trying to achieve. The story is just a device to dig deep into the psychology of teenagers, in order to explore its themes. Going in expecting a prioritization on romance will disappoint you, but for me, it is the least important aspect of Oregairu.
The novels are written from the main character's point of view so that the readers can see and judge the thought process behind every action he takes. Additionally, Oregairu is written in a roundabout manner, the monologues and the dialogues are all very vague and open-ended which means that the reader is free to form his/her own opinion on them. So even if you think that it is all bullshit, it doesn't mean you are wrong, it just means that Oregairu is just not for you.
That being said, Oregairu did not know where it was headed for the starting 3 volumes, and hence these volumes feel disjointed from the rest of the series. Mind you, they are still entertaining but they certainly lack the true Oregairu essence. Needless to say, they could have easily been compressed.
[Art] In the author's own words-- "The story is penned by the author of the light novels in order to create cute scenes for the illustrator to illustrate". Luckily, Oregairu had the pleasure of being illustrated by Ponkan8 (also drew Shirobako's character designs). Their art kept on improving with each passing volume and is certainly an eye-candy. Although, the last couple of volumes suddenly saw a huge downgrade. I still wonder what happened.
[Character] Oregairu's characters follow the basic archetypes that you will find in similar light novels, but what differentiates them is the layer upon layer of characterization the author has put with each chapter. The way the characters grow throughout the series is nothing but a sight to behold, it is subtle and yet significant enough.
Hikigaya Hachiman is my teenage-self. He is a pessimist, a hypocrite, a coward, an edgelord, cynical, anti-social, and a loner. Until high school, he tried to be a normie but failed. Now, he has completely given up and has ended up deceiving himself in believing that his current self seeks and needs no modifications. He performs actions in a way that, even though produces the outcome, ends up sacrificing himself. He is adamant about not forming new relationships and maintaining the status quo but slowly by slowly, he comes to self-realization that he is the way he is because he is afraid of getting hurt.
Yukinoshita Yukino is another loner teenager, with a lack of self-esteem because of her exceptionally talented elder sister. Even though she herself is talented, she constantly keeps on comparing herself with her sister. She keeps people at bay because of the consequences of her own talents and beauty. Throughout the series, her self-esteem gets hit more and more.
Yuigahama Yui seems to be your typical normie teenager and has developed a crush on the protagonist. The novels do an exceptional job to flesh out her characters by guiding the readers through her actual personality.
Most of the side characters in the novels are given enough screentime and a proper characterization that separates them from the original archetype they were originally based upon.
[Enjoyment] Enjoyment is highly subjective. Personally, I was engrossed enough to devour two novels in a single sitting. Sometimes, the drama can get too heavy but honestly, that is the best part. A warning-- Initial 3 or 4 volumes might give a fake impression of what Oregairu actually is.
Oregairu might not be the greatest fiction on the planet, but for me, it is more than that. Oregairu is an easy recommendation for people who want to dig deep and want something genuine.