A month or so ago, I was looking at the “Recommended for you” page on Amazon, and the number one item was Haganai. I don’t buy a lot of anime these days – I don’t buy a lot of physical media at all – but it was something like 30 bucks to pre-order the blu-ray set and the reviews made it sound like my sort of thing, so I bought it sight-unseen and promptly forgot about it until it showed up in the same box as my Equestria Girls disc.
It was a good anime to watch while exercising, because it’s not especially deep and has energetic music and characters, and in my particular case that’s all I really need from anime these days. I prefer watching shows like Psycho-Pass that actually have, you know, a plot and stuff, but for the purposes of working out all it takes is bouncy character designs and slapstick humor, both of which Haganai delivers.
That being said, I don’t think I would have thought very highly of it if I was just sitting on the couch and marathoning it. It’s YET ANOTHER after-school club harem anime with a paint-by-numbers set of characters, as illustrated:
From left to right:
Boy #1: The Nice Guy. Misunderstood at school, people think he’s a hooligan because of his blonde hair. Dead mother, father working overseas. Cooks and cleans, abused by his little sister and pretty much every other character.
Girl #1: The Mean Girl. Shares Mysterious Childhood Past with Boy #1. Organizes club, then systematically abuses all members.
Girl #2: The Eye-Candy. The school’s spoiled “princess” character. Father is president of the school. Has a deep rivalry with Girl #1 for the affections of Boy #1, while Boy #1 seems clueless to this. Addicted to male-oriented eroge because OF COURSE SHE IS. Normally you’d think this was the Nice Girl, but she’s actually Another Mean Girl.
Boy #2: The Trap. May or may not actually be a boy. Certainly thinks she/he is.
Girl #3: Genius scientist hikkikomori fujoshi type. Has a particular fondness for erotic mecha manga.
Girl #4: The Little Sister Of Boy #1. Thinks she’s a vampire. Has a brother complex because OF COURSE SHE DOES.
Girl #5: The Teacher. No, really. It is hilarious because she’s a little kid but still a teacher. Shoot me now.
Anyway, the Plot Hook is that none of these characters have any friends at school, so they organize a club whose supposed purpose is to learn how to make friends, and the meta-joke is that none of them realize that they actually have friends now. This is actually pretty funny when done right – there’s an episode where they realize that they should all exchange telephone numbers, and one of the characters has a call log history showing that he has only ever gotten calls from home and from his sister.
I also thought that Rika (See Girl #3, above) doing Dramatic Readings from her disturbing manga collection was, I believe I am allowed to say, “a hoot”.
Downsides: All of the characters are still complaining that they don’t have any friends, even after a dozen episodes of shared community hijinks, and I kind of wanted to smack them after a while. Also, the level of fan-service, and here I’m going to sound like a bit of a prude, WAY overdone. To be fair, I usually watch anime from off-air recordings, which are censored for broadcast, so it’s possible that I’m just not used to the amount of nudity that gets thrown into shows of late… and, along a similar vein, I thought that the video-exclusive OVA was in really poor taste.
It did, however, have an ending that I originally had one opinion on and then, after some thought, came to the completely opposite opinion, and I like shows that make me do that. Some more on that, since of course massive spoilers, after the More tag:
Specifically, I was quite upset that Kodaka and Yozora finally realize that they ARE the Friends From Their Youth who they have been missing for the last ten years, and yet their relationship doesn’t change – they still don’t use nicknames in the club room and they don’t acknowledge their previous friendship around any of the other club members.
On the other hand, I realized that, on some level, Yozora realizes that she now has a circle of friends, even if none of them admit it, and that they are really still being held together by the illusion that it’s Them Against The World. Having her and Kodaka suddenly turn into Best Friends Forever is something that she originally wanted, but it would probably break up the club and leave the members friendless again.
So there’s that. I still think it’s a bit of a shameless hook for the sequel series, but it’s at least justifiable.