-Haganai NEXT : [Anime Review] The Season That Made It Right-

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Upon a few glances over wikipedia to see the progression of Haganai, full title ‘Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai‘ (meaning “I don’t have many friends”) I noticed that season 2 seemed to make a lot of progress with its characters and events, so I decided to watch it despite my previous hesitation. I’d already written about how the character Yozora was a sour note to the anime’s first season and I was afraid that her attitude would affect the second season as well. All too often I’ve seen uncompromising anime ‘heroines’ use their rancid attitude to make both seasons of an anime next to unwatchable. Oreimo I’m looking at you.

However, Haganai season 2 is a pleasant surprise in more ways that one. And the primary reason, if any, for this season earning my respect towards the end is this: the main character isn’t dense. That sounds shocking, especially since this is a harem anime, but trust me; if you hadn’t already picked up on the subtle hints and gestures throughout the first and second season then they spell it out for you towards the end. In fact, it’s that revelation that makes all the decisions of the main character in the first season make more sense and it really illustrates what kind of person he is. Kodaka, our bleach blonde haired protagonist, on the surface seems like every other typical harem anime main character; laid back, surrounded by girls a lot, makes cheesy jokes, gets made fun of all the time. But there’d always seemed to be this exception to him; he wouldn’t freak out or act weird about perverted situations, he wouldn’t go ages wondering what people are talking about and he had a pretty good read on the girls. Yet many couldn’t understand why all too often the anime used a very annoyingly consistent cliché of a girl muttering something under her breath and the guy saying “huh, what was that?”. It happened a decent amount at first but towards the 9th and 10th episodes its frequency increased to the point of absurdity and it even began to bother me. However, when the truth about Kodaka is revealed you’re going to either hate him forever or respect him as one of the best main characters in a harem anime. He was put in a tough spot and he made a decision that no man would feel comfortable making. The only other anime I’d seen recently where someone had to commit social suicide for the sake of others was Oregairu, and I respect that anime’s main character just as much.

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Seeing her cute side helped her character a lot

But what about the rest of the cast? Interestingly enough, everyone, yes everyone, manages to develop and be hilarious throughout. I primarily enjoyed every other character than Yozora in the first season but season 2 manages to make even Yozora a likeable character. I know, I was shocked too. Yozora goes from being the self-important, infallible ice queen to being a girl who emotes way more, gets embarrassed a lot and even admits to being wrong on several occasions. In fact, the major step forward in her character is how she goes too far with Sena at times and she feels guilt about it or she does something to the group that they catch onto and they all call her out on her bs. It’s this kind of development that needed to be done; enough of this moral superiority high ground. It wasn’t right how Yozora was allowed to act like a complete bitch to Sena and it was played off like it was ok. Kodaka, and the rest of the group, never approved of Sena’s attitude and whenever her Queen Bee persona pops up in the second season Kokada’s usually the first to sigh or exclaim at it.

Every character within this anime has a bad habit that they do too often but it gets balanced by either being hit comically or being reprimanded, something which never happened to Yozora up until now. In fact, it’s her development in this season that led me to be more sympathetic to her overall. She learned to stop being overly prejudice about what other people liked, she learned to take how others feel into consideration and most importantly she learned that her icy attitude of shunning others could end her up lonely for the rest of her high school life. There was an episode where she played a galge for girls where the roles are reversed and it’s the girl dating guys, and through her decisions she found that the main character ended up being hateful to all guys except one, whom even then realized she was too good for him. It was a sad but necessary lesson she needed to realize and it was the development in her character I was waiting for. It’s what makes her inevitable decision at the end of the season less absurd, though it was still a bit surprising.

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Rika – the genius and the mastermind

I’ve talked a lot about Yozora, a character that went from ice queen to tsundere, shy girl who’s sometimes unsure (which was very cute in a lot of scenes actually), but there’s enough praise to go to the rest of the cast. Even though in the last season a lot of characters were either glossed over or put in the background to focus on the development of Sena and Yozora, every character is given their time to shine. Rika is easily one of the characters that stands out the most this season, through not only her continued crazy love of Boys Love games and manga but also through her constantly shifting hairstyles. She abandons the obvious fujoshi-girl look and cycles through a variety of looks that make her look pretty good and manages to impress Kodaka on several occasions, to the annoyance of the other girls. Rika’s development is really interesting and it confirms what I’d already known; that while she’s an over the top yaoi lover she’s actually the most down to earth, and the one who knows Kodaka’s emotions best. Trust me, you’ll want to see how those two develop.

Kobato, Kodaka’s sister, continues to be cute and funny, consistently acting out the persona of the anime girl she loves so much and argues with Maria, the little girl Nun who’s the moderator of their club. Kobato’s development isn’t huge but we do get to see more into how she feels about her brother and find out more about how she is in her own middle school. Maria also gets a decent amount of screen time, and through her we get introduced to her older sister Kate, a girl that gives off the aura of a lazy, crude aunt-like character that drinks a lot. Despite this outward demeanor, and the consistent ‘old woman’ insults from Maria, Kate cares a lot about her little sister and manages to nag Kodaka a lot to take care of her. Yukimura gets focused on way more this season too, and while his character doesn’t do anything outlandish or out of character, there’s a pretty big…plot twist down the line, which doesn’t affect the show but it does make his character more interesting. Yukimura’s also the character that remains most steadfast despite the turmoil of some of the events in the anime, claiming that he’ll always follow Kodaka no matter what, which is quite admirable.

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Sena continues to develop and earn my respect

You’re probably wondering why i haven’t talked about Sena much, and it’s because Sena’s progression is something that doesn’t need too much explaining and it’s worth watching more than anything. She was a bigger focus in the first season and the second season is the inevitable result of that progression. Her interactions with Kodaka manage to deepen her feelings for him and a great many interesting plot twist come along to shake up what seemed to be a conventional harem anime setup. Sena still remains to be a girl who shamelessly likes eroge and galge, getting embarrassed when asked to read it aloud, and still has an unhealthy interest in Kodaka’s little sister (which is funny in its own way). But Sena earns my respect even more by showing that she’s not just a doormat and that her feelings are not to be trifled with. She manages to give Yozora a taste of her own medicine and play the ice queen on a few occasions and it makes for some hilarious moments and some more serious moments. Episode 10 is a turning point for the series where a lot of events occur all at once and the truth about Kodaka is revealed, something that boosted the show’s rating for me.

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Seeing the characters come together was heartwarming

All these characters together on the surface seem to be your typical 1 dimensional anime characters that fit a stereotype and stick to it, but it’s season 2’s progression that reveals that not all is what it seems. Kodaka’s mantra, and a running theme of the anime, is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It mainly has to do with how he’s treated like a delinquent and feared because of his looks and disposition, something that’s prevented him from having friends. This is a theme that’s reflected in the events of the anime where certain characters’ assumptions are shattered by the reality, providing them with insight that they’d never imagined. In a way, this anime can be seen as a social commentary on the way people perceive others and how they actually are. These characters fit stereotypes, yes, but they’re not defined by them and it’s through their development that we see characters that are down to earth human beings that care about one another. It’s all very subtle, but Haganai does a good job of telling a story through just laughs and gags but also through specific character hints.

Of course no character can be liked by all and by no means is any character in this anime perfect, but that’s what mattered to me; that these are characters fit social and anime stereotypes and make several silly mistakes, but they try to go past that. Kodaka isn’t the oblivious, always likeable harem anime main character, Yozora isn’t the total ice queen, unsympathetic bitch, and Sena isn’t the popular rich girl queen bee she seems to give off. Growing to understand these characters and relate to them despite their original impressions is what made me so impressed by this season. The jokes and gags were way funnier than the first season, as this time it felt like it was just trying to make the viewer laugh rather than do something unique and half-ass it. Many moments in the first season felt like the anime didn’t know what it wanted to be, and it struggled between copying other anime and doing its own thing. However, in the second season I’m content to say that it gains its own voice and message and leads to a final episode that isn’t completely over dramatic but was a necessary climax to the anime’s events. In fact, a lot of the drama, shocking reveals and plot twists in the anime aren’t overblown or dragged out to the point of absurdity; every event is dealt with swiftly and the anime doesn’t forget that it’s a comedy anime. It manages to create feels without dampening the mood and doesn’t just descend into a mess of everybody crying and people hitting each other. It manages to still be a very funny anime but it has an honest heart at the core of it. In fact, it’s the execution of the second season that makes a lot of what happened in the first season feel worth something.

There’s a lot of continuity and no event is forgotten. The only unfortunate difference is how the art style changed a decent amount and this visible difference is what takes away a little bit of what made the first season unique. Haganai’s art was very defined and the close-ups of the characters gave the girls a very cute and pretty look with well drawn lines and curves. Season 2’s art is similar but it’s much softer and the close-ups don’t have the same feel. While I admit they still manage to make every character look great and Rika’s changing style earns a lot of moe points (I guess, haha) it was sad to see that unique style go. I don’t mind too much though, because the art is still great and there’s plenty of cute, moe and sexy moments in this show to keep the fans happy. There’s not as much forced fanservice however, which is both a let down and somewhat refereshing. However there’s a lot of pretty girls in different outfits in hairstyles throughout so what more could you want, haha.

“We’re all already friends”

Ultimately, it boils down to this: Haganai NEXT is an anime season that takes the groundwork that season 1 laid out and builds upon it in a big way. It’s not perfect and any pre-formed convictions against any of the characters will remain that way for the most part. But this season did a phenomenal job of making every character enjoyable and hilarious to watch, it redeemed Yozora’s horrible attitude and gave a lot of good progression to Sena. It showed how Kodaka’s a character that puts other people first but made a very harsh and tough decision to do so, and it shows how Rika is easily the most down to earth out of all of them. Haganai NEXT didn’t sacrifice funny for feels nor did it sacrifice feels for funny. The jokes were never too cheesy and the dramatic moments never get nauseating. Where the series goes from here though is unknown. I hear that the light novels are still going on so I imagine there could be a whole third season but personally I believe that this series can be finished off with a 4 episode OVA just to tie up some loose ends. Though I imagine there’s still some slice of life fun to be had, as long as it doesn’t over dramatize everything. Still, I wouldn’t have recommended Hagani before, but I will now, and it takes watching the first season to appreciate the second one even more. I’m not a fan of number ratings as it definitely doesn’t do something justice, but just like my My Anime List score I give this anime a solid 9/10. A great watch from start to finish and a harem anime that realizes it’s a harem anime in more ways that one, yet still manages to be fun and funny throughout.

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One thought on “-Haganai NEXT : [Anime Review] The Season That Made It Right-

  1. Pingback: -My Top 10 Animes Of 2013- | JusticeSoulTuna

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