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PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:55 am
by bakamatt
Highschool of the Dead may be at the top of my “guilty pleasure” list forever, but put Haganai high on the list too.

The title is a contraction of a phrase meaning “I don’t have many friends,” which is the premise of this misfit college students comedy: for various reasons, such as avoiding the humiliation of being a second-year student joining a club, the cast bands together in the “Neighbor’s Club” and sets out to learn how to make friends.

If Haganai treated itself even remotely seriously, I think I’d hate it. Much of the cast isn’t sympathetic: Yozora (the slender brunette) is often cat-sand mean; Sena (the busty blonde) is utterly stuck on herself; Yukimura (presumably male but gender ambiguous) and Maria are doormats. The show is cheesecake heavy – Sena is often represented on screen by her bosom, and things get more than a little pedo on occasion. The characters don’t grow and don’t learn, and as the (12-episode plus one OVA) season progresses, jokes become shtick.

But I can’t really claim to be honestly bent out of shape by the two pool episodes and two beach episodes – not only does Sena look quite fetching in her bikini, but Yozora’s peculiar Victorian style head-to-toe swimsuit amuses me in a “winking at the audience” way. And the other half of the cast isn’t abrasive: male POV character Kodaka is another of those “heart of gold but is mistaken for a thug” characters who keeps his blond hair as a tribute to his dead, English mother; his little sister Kobato is appealing in her Goth obsession for a vampiric video game character, sort of reminiscent of Kuroneko; and mad-scientist Rika is refreshingly forthright about her libido and fondness for hentai, especially a peculiar sub-genre,
Spoiler: show
mecha yaoi – that’s right, the ‘bots do it.

Yozora and Sena are tsundere as hell; the former, in particular, has a genius for finding ways to induce other characters to humiliate themselves. Both are attracted to Kodaka, of course, but neither will particularly admit it even themselves. Yozora and Kodaka also have A History. The running joke is, of course, that the club members do eventually become friends of sorts, but it’s never very warm-and-fuzzy; the foibles remain dominant throughout. In particular, Yozora and Sena never stop competing or trying to score off each other. It’s a strange and pitiable dynamic: Yozora starts calling Sena “Meat” as a cruel nickname; Sena knows this but cherishes it anyway because no one’s ever given her a nickname before. This sort of over-the-top melodrama is one of the things I love about anime.

I got something between a few chuckles and some laughs-out-loud from just about every episode. The humor generally takes two forms: parodies of anime culture and the cluelessness of the characters. Yozora’s cynical manipulation of their Catholic school’s faculty was funny. As was the way the characters kept treating making friends as something to be practiced or trained, as if there were friendship kata drills or exercises they could do. I was also amused by Kobato's ingenious rationale for abandoning her heavy Goth garb in the summer heat.

I’ve also been following the manga. The three volumes published so far here correspond roughly to the first half of the anime, and they’re not so tightly in lock-step as some manga/anime.

I dislike pretty much all the opening and closing music.

So, in no sense is Haganai “good”. It’s goofy, tacky anime comfort food wherein, if things slow down the (male, at least) viewer has the consolation of knowing there’s another pool/beach episode just down the road.

Re: Haganai

PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:20 pm
by ZeroRyoko1974
Loved the show. I read the light novels that the anime and manga were based on. They were good to. The second season of the anime really made me fall in love with Rika. Inversely I didn't really like some of Kosaka's actions. I guess you really couldn't call them inexcusable but I didn't like it none the less

Re: Haganai

PostPosted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:47 am
by bakamatt
In the above opening review, about the most I could say for Haganai was that I liked it. Regarding the second 12-episode season, Haganai Next, I was honestly sorry to see it end in a way I rarely feel about an anime. I haven't compiled a list lately, but at this point the franchise might have clawed its way into my top 20.

There are two main reasons for this. The first is that the story continues to defy convention or, at least, falls into line with convention very slowly. While the cast members are starting to rely on each other in some respects, it still remains an open question whether or not most of them are any better off for knowing each other. Sena and Yozora continue to treat each other like dirt. Yozora continues to try to humiliate Yukimura - although circumstances eventually cause these efforts to backfire. Rika continues to refuse to conform to any norm. Kodaka proves to be more than a mindlessly feckless male lead of a harem show - he's feckless for a reason. Kobato and Maria still squabble in the first half, although in the second half they seem to have become reconciled to each other and are starting to take pleasure in each other's company. And only at the end do we get one explicit proclamation of friendship. In short, the story pretty much continues to not be the story you keep expecting.

The second reason is that, a ZR suggested above, Rika becomes a sympathetic, interesting, and ever more attractive character. No longer simply an amorous loon, she really does emerge as the genius she claims to be, in unexpected ways. However, do not make her angry. Again, I haven't done so lately, but if I were to compile a list of my favorite female characters, she'd be on it, as of this second season.

As is often the case, we have a predominantly female cast with the male lead providing the moral compass. But in the case of Haganai Next, that compass goes awry and some of the other members of the Neighbor's Club are anything but gentle in getting him back on track.

Also, unlike the first season, I like both the opening and closing themes this time.

We get three new characters of any consequence, all of which feel superfluous and bolted-on to me. Kate is Maria's older sister, who serves only to provide some eye candy and reveal something about Maria. And we meet the student body president and vice president, who are used only to
provide a brief threat to and alternative for the Neighbor's Club. Neither is a convincing or interesting character; by now the new has worn off of people being able to accept Kodaka. Perhaps they're earmarked for future use. That, and the cliffhanger ending, are my only complaints.

Re: Haganai

PostPosted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 9:35 pm
by Tsunami3k
Wow. I've been intrigued by the series from the get-go but top! I wonder if it'll make its way to my top 20...whatever it's up against at this point. Thanks for the meaty review.

Re: Haganai

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:36 pm
by ZeroRyoko1974
Damnit, I am caught up to all the translations of the light novels (there is only 2 books out right now that haven't been animated. The anime covers the first 7 1/2 volumes and there are 10 out currently but more are planned)

Re: Haganai

PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2016 7:46 pm
by ZeroRyoko1974
A little drama put on by the voice actors of Haganai, role playing their characters

Re: Haganai

PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2016 5:26 am
by bakamatt
That's really fun. I'm also surprised to discover how easy it is to tell who's who.