Title: Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends (Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukinai)
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, Romance
Publisher: Media Factory (JP), Funimation (US)
Original Creator: Yomi Hirasaka
Director: Hisashi Saito
Script: Tatsuhiko Urahata
Original Release Date: August 6, 2013
(Post is NSFW)
I remember watching Haganai when it was streaming a few years ago, but I decided to put it on hold, as a few other anime kept my attention at the time. In re-watching it, I still feel it was justified in keeping it on hold because the first three episodes were at least interesting, and did make me laugh. Little did I know that it would manage to take what was supposed to be about some anti-social or socially inept high school students trying to make friends and flush it down the toilet for the remaining 9 episodes (not including the 13th episode, which I’ll consider a special). From its lackluster character designs and boring music to its actual attempts to advance the plot, there is no reason to actually watch this anime, unless you want to try and watch the sequel to find out if it’s better than the first.
Kodaka Hasegawa is considered a delinquent and a person you don’t associate with at St. Chronica Academy, with his blond hair and his yankee demeanor, except Kodaka isn’t what they think he is. He just screwed up by being late to his first day at school and announcing himself in the most intimidating way. He hasn’t been able to recover since then. One day however, in going back to the classroom to retrieve a book, he catches Yozora Mikazuki, a girl he considers kind of unsociable, talking to an imaginary friend. That is when after talking to each other, Yozora gets the idea of starting a club, known as the Neighbors Club, and she gets Kodaka to join as well.
Not long after they start the club and advertise it (obscurely), they get a member to join in Sena Kashiwazaki, a yellow haired academy student who is the daughter of the school’s President that wants to actually make real friends. While there are general arguments between the two main female leads that involve lots of slandering and name calling, this trio tries to actually do activities that encourage friendship. But during this time, Kodaka’s childhood memories start to resurface while teaching Sena how to swim, and after mentioning a line that an old friend of his said to him at the club house, Yozora reacts with genuine surprise. What is the situation between Yozora and Kodaka? Did they meet up with each other before? And how did it come to this?
On a concept level, the idea of Haganai is novel. It’s a story about how people who, for one reason or another, can’t find that one true friend — or any friends — with general ease, and how they somehow manage to come together. Throughout the series we see generally how these people react to each other, and then to how they react to the people outside of their circle. The reactions are pretty surprising, but at least I can see it as possible, especially if interacting with others is not a strong suit. It then mixes that a bit by throwing around some anime and game references at certain moments in Haganai, resulting in a few well timed jokes and all at the expense of some of the characters. If the show had focused on trying to make friends and jokes, or maybe just had kept it to the three main characters that appeared in the first three episodes, then Haganai probably would have been an interesting exploration into making friends, or at least made me laugh consistently.
Except it didn’t do that. Instead, it introduced their adviser (a 10 year old nun), a boy that’s not really a boy, and a science lab genius deep in the bowels of shipping characters and enjoying porn. It then made Kodaka’s little sister become a prominent fixture in a high school club. It never made an attempt to improve the friendship between Yozora and Sena, unless crapping on each other on an every meeting basis constitutes being funny. And maybe this all could have been acceptable if any of the events that took place to get everyone involved — from playing a prototype virtual RPG, to karaoke, to going to a summer festival — were remotely interesting enough to make up for the characters. They were mostly sleep inducing.
But I probably just need to accept that none of the characters really end up helping the anime. Well, Kodaka turned out to be fine enough, and his little sister by herself was tolerable. Everyone else managed to be annoyingly useless and awful. The relationship between Yozora and Sena is supposed to be funny, and early on I could live with it, but it managed to somehow get worse, with probably the breaking point occurring when Sena, for some dumb reason, let Yozora rub sunscreen on her back. The lasting memory is seeing a ton of lotion on Sena’s back, crude words out of Yozora’s mouth, her foot placed on Sena’s back so she couldn’t move, and Sena had to deal with that abuse until she finally got up and managed to expose her breasts for all to see. This was a supposed training camp episode. This happened in Episode 10. I guess they were both supposed to be unlikable — which makes their moments of vulnerability seem unnatural since their reasons for hating each other play within my mind constantly.
You then have Maria, the 10 year old nun. Let’s just say if any attempt to take the anime seriously was a possibility, it ended with her actions. I have no idea how she matters, but the anime makes sure she does. You then have Kusonoki, who apparently admired Kodoka enough to stalk him, except all that really happens is he turns into the maid of the clubroom. And then you have Rika, who obviously has some issues, but with the cast she has to work with, her random shipping and her constant usage of saying her name in a sentence is grounds for annoyance. I still fail to realize these characters’s exact usage in this anime, except for eye-candy.
And that’s kind of how I see Haganai — eye-candy. It’s not making an earnest attempt to discuss how difficult it can be to make a friend, it’s just going to make sure it focuses on all the girls in many different angles to replace actually having a plot. It can’t get away with that because its situations are boring or horribly paced. It’ll get a joke or two in an episode, and one part that made me laugh happened with Sena chasing after Kobato in the nude, and Kodaka seeing her naked. That timing was perfect since Sena’s infatuation with Kobato was obvious and it finally turned against her in this situation.
The timing for other moments was not, and so it can’t get away with that. Instead, all it can get away with was being ok enough to get another season. I wonder if any of the issues I had with Season 1 — from the characters, the situations, to the music — improve at all. I sincerely have my doubts. And while the dub is actually not as bad as I feared it’d be (though it’s hard to replace Kana Hanazawa as Kobato, Alison), with lackluster extras and the inclusion of a pretty poor unaired episode, well, I sincerely hope you find some other anime to take a look at than this.
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