- Genre: Harem, comedy romance, slice of life
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: AIC Build
We all know that moving around all the time is though on a kid. You have to adjust to a new school and nee people every time. For a kid like Kodaka this this s particularly difficult since he’s always had such a hard time making friends. It’s not even his fault or anything. It’s just that with the dishwater blonde hair his inherited from his late mother and his lack of skills when it comes to smiling, people always mistake him for a dangerous delinquent. After all this time he’s gotten so use to being by himself, he’s not even sure how to make friends anymore. Lucky for him, he’s not the only socially challenged teenager in school (imagine that!). When he catches beautiful but abrasive Yozora talking to an imaginary friend, she ends up roping him into a new school club dedicated to making friends. Maybe Kodaka was better off being a loner after all.
Haganai has been on my to watch list forever. I was just so charmed by the tag line: I don’t have many friends. As a kid who moved around a whole lot myself I can really relate. What I didn’t realize before watching it is that this is a harem show. I definitely can not relate to having one of those in high school…
This show was really not what I expected. Even visually. You may not be able to tell from the stills, but the art style is somewhat unique. I would call it protomoe. The idea of modern Moe aesthetics is there. Rounded soft lines and slightly subdued colours, insistence on the ladies’ more popular attributes. However, it’s not quite the look we’re use to. The edges are still a little sharp and features more squat than anything else. The colours aren’t so much pastel as washed out. As for those lovely attributes… well actually those are pretty much what you’d expect.
Although it’s not a glaring departure from the norm. I have to say that I have never really seen a show that looks quite like Haganai. Visually, perhaps the most striking distinction is the heavy use of shadowing. For the most part though, it’s really just a collection of slightly unusual artistic choice that add up to a unique looking anime.
I can’t say I really noticed much about the overall production values. Maybe this was because I was too distracted by Yozora’s voice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful voice (a really really beautiful voice…) and a great performance but for some reason it never quite meshed with the character for me. Can you experience auditory uncanny valley? If so, that’s what I got. I just couldn’t accept that that voice belonged to that character. I kept trying to imagine what the voice actor looked like instead. I googled it, turns out it’s the fantastic Marina Inoue.
I must insist that this isn’t any type of reproach on either the voice itself or the performance which were both great. But the eerie (probably entirely in my head) feeling of dissonance was so prevalent that it took over my attention all the way to the last episode.
As I already mentioned Haganai is a school club set harem. I must say that story wise it’s pretty stereotypical. I was very heavily reminded of Snafu (a club of socially awkward kids who don’t quite fit in despite being gorgeous and smart) or the more recent Masamune-kun’s Revenge. The usual players are here. The misunderstood main character who’s shunned by the masses but is actually a really nice guy who all the girls fall for. The fragile otokonoko. The fiery tsundere. The soft big chested idiot savant with Yuri tendencies. Not one but two lolis just to be safe…
Despite the similarities though, I enjoyed Haganai much more than any of these other shows. I would put it on par with S1 of Love, Chuunibuyou and other Delusions which is great praise indeed. For all it’s pretences at romance, at it’s core Haganai is still about the very relatable state of feeling alone and isolated as you grow up, and not knowing how to go about changing that. I think a lot of us have been there at some point and Haganai captures that feeling perfectly. It’s not high dramatics or raging anger at the world. It’s that quiet wonder at how people magically manage to come together for no apparent reason and that frustration at not being able to do the same.
Overall the tone remains firmly optimistic and jovial. As for those staple characters, even though they were all fairly pro forma, I still grew very attached to them. Haganai strays quite a bit from Kodaka’s strict pov, as such most characters get some time to establish their motivations and personalities. Their reaction are of course ridiculously over the top but they make sense in context. I have watched so many harem shows (even good ones) where the ladies would from time to time become complete lunatics. I remember rewatching episodes to figure out why some girl was suddenly all sad and crying, and I never could… In Haganai, I always understood the logical cause and effect.
I should warn you however, there is some not too detailed full frontal nudity and you do see quite a few nipples, sometimes on very young characters. There’s also a plethora of less explicit fanservice as you would expect from the genre. But you know, to me it always felt joyful rather than exploitative. The instances were woven into the narrative often serving some story purpose as well. If you are easily upset by this sort of thing, it may get a bit too much for you but it didn’t bother me at all. In fact, an early scene with a character bending over to get a better look at a video game was quite fetching.
The one thing that did bother me was Maria. She’s the second loli and is written as sort of a mashup of all the most annoying traits of small children. I’m not sure who this appeals to but it is not at all me, and the scenes with both lolis (the first being Kobato who is delightful on her own), are effectively ruined by Maria’s presence in my opinion.
Let’s wrap this up shall we. If you’re looking for a classic harem that’s high on comedy and low on both drama and romance, I recommend Haganai whole heartedly. It’s not revolutionary but it does take some unusual creative approaches in both concept and design which are worth seeing for yourself.
Favourite character: Rika
What this anime taught me: Boys can wear capris too
Reality is an illusion that occurs due to lack of alcohol.
Suggested drink: a Mutual Friend
- Every time Kodaka blushes – take a sip
- Every time Yozora and Sena argue – stretch
- Every time Sena gets obsessed with a game – take a sip
- Every time Kodaka genuinely looks like a thug – take a sip
- Every time Sena storms out or away – raise your glass
- Every time Kobato does her chuuni laugh – awwww
- Every time we see Kodaka’s childhood friend – take a sip
- Every time Kobato is clingy – take a sip
- Every time anyone calls someone stupid or an idiot – take a sip
- Every time Rika gets rowdy – take a sip
- Every time someone mention’s Kodaka’s hair – take a sip