Haganai Next

  • Genre:  Harem, romance, comedy
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: AIC Build

 

Making friends can be very tricky for instance you can be in the same club as a group of people for almost an entire year. Having fun, playing games together, doing great activities. And yet, still not have any friends. You would think that Kodaka, Yozora and Senna would be a little more than acquaintances by now but you would be wrong. It seems that the hopeless members of the Neighbors Club  are still eternally friendless. But this year, there’s a storm brewing and relationships must change. Let’s join the intrepid members of the Neighbors Club  as they somehow managed to fail becoming friends despite clearly being friends.

You know I just wrote that synopsis  as if making friends is something easy, it’s not. I know that I have struggled with it even though people actually come to me. It’s not just a question of having people interested in you. There’s more to it than that. Forming a connection with someone is a type of magic. That’s why I’ve always been drawn to stories about friendship. Choosing to be with someone without any material gain from it. Without the biological, hormonal push of sexual attraction. Just for the simple satisfaction of sharing the human experience with someone, because you find their company pleasant. That’s a bond you can’t fake and one that won’t come along every day. To me, it always seemed particularly special. So I sympathize with the Neighbors Club, even if the end result may not go quite as planned. If there had been one in my high school….I probably would have been too shy to join….

Haganai_ep12_end
Just look at these cool b*, you wouldn’t be intimidated?

Season 2 of Haganai has one of the most drastic visual upgrades I’ve ever seen in a series. It looks like a different show. The characters are recognizable (well not Rika, I literally wondered who that was on at least 5 different occasions) but the art style is almost completely different. They may have gotten a boost in budget because everything looks, cleaner and crisper. It’s much closer to modern anime aesthetics. All those slightly unusual design quirks and colour choices have been smoothed out. It’s pretty, arguably prettier, but also a lot less interesting. It looks like a harem anime. That’s it.

This said, where the production choices of the first season ran the risk of being divisive, season 2 is a safe bet and most elements are sure to be appealing to the majority of viewers. In fact, had I not been so taken by the unusual look of season 1, I probably would love the technical aspect of Haganai Next. The animation is great, the art is extremely consistent, the storyline allows for a lot of different outfits and the designs were almost always fun. I don’t have any real complaints. I mean, Yozora’s voice is still odd (to me).

haganai25d
also she cut her hair

The actual narrative though, was a bit of a different story. Season 1 wraps up with Kodaka finally realizing that Yozora is his childhood friend and we are left with the idea that they are now going to recapture that deep friendship and possibly more.  Again I hate calling romance more than friendship, they are different things…

In  order to have season 2 remain a harem, they throw in a few contrivances. Kodoka is suddenly stunted and unable to form the friendships he longs for and everything seems to have taken a step back. As if the characters all went on holiday between seasons and didn’t speak to each other for months. By itself, this isn’t much of a problem, it’s a bit artless a solution but it isn’t a bad way to more or less reset the narrative. Unfortunately, much like the art, the storyline seems to have gone for a much more traditional harem approach and in the exercise, sapped out all the quirky charm of the first season.

Characters seemed hollowed out. Reduced to tropes. Where they had a few eccentricities that were played for laughs before, those traits are now brought to extremes and made into the central premise of the entire character. The subtlety and complexity has been sucked out and in most episodes the characters are all one note.

The season is much more slice of life in structure, with more or less unrelated hijinks and little to no overarching storyline. This wasn’t much of an issue for me, I enjoy slice of life. However, since the characters got dumbed down, the less intricate storyline doesn’t give you much to chew on. Nevertheless, episodes were mostly pleasant and a few actually fun.

Haganai weird
this scene in episode 1 goes no where and is never mentioned again

Considerably less enjoyable was trading the frequent presence of best loli Kobato for super annoying loli Maria. I disliked this character in the first season and they made her worse in season 2. They also added a big sister fanservice character (well they’re all fanservice characters…) which really throws fuel on the garbage fire. Maria is annoying enough on her own, but seeing her interact with her big sister (whose main contribution is fart jokes) is just a complete waste of time. Both charas should have been cut and replaced with more Kobato and more Pegasus.

And speaking of fanservice (nailed the transition!). Once again, it suffered through convention. There are no more instances of nudity at all. But where the fanservice use to be a bit gratuitous but generally fun and harmless in the first season. Season two pours it on to excess, and occasionally gets into some rather creepy territory. Personally, the scenes where the camera leaned into and lingered on the almost completely exposed cleavage of a sleeping 10 year old while a teenage boy commented that she was a woman now, made me a bit uncomfortable. These are not infrequent so if it’s not your thing, you may want to stay away.

Let’s be honest about this, I am not the intended audience for this show. What’s more I honestly enjoyed the first season a lot, so I went in with some pretty high expectations. Trading aspects of the show that I genuinely liked for elements I find boring or simply don’t care for, felt like a personal betrayal. As such I’m sure I’m judging Haganai NEXT more harshly than warranted. This will not necessarily be your experience.

haganai18a
I’m walking it back…relax

For instance, I looked up the MAL ratings and season 2 is scored a bit higher than season 1. I honestly couldn’t tell you why no matter how hard I tried. So if your tastes match the average MAL user more than they match mine, you might also prefer this second season. I did not. I don’t regret watching it, but if this had been the first season, I would not have picked up the second.

Favorite character: Pegasus

What this anime taught me: when in doubt, add more lolis

“She was the third beer. Not the first one, which the throat receives with almost tearful gratitude; nor the second, that confirms and extends the pleasure of the first. But the third, the one you drink because it’s there, because it can’t hurt, and because what difference does it make?” 

Suggested drink: Turf Club

  • Every time Sena cries – take a sip
  • Every time Maria says poop(y) – take another
  • Every time Kodaka doesn’t like when people judge on appearances – nod
  • Every time Yozora reads in the club room – take a sip
  • Every time Sena gets tricked – take a sip
  • Every time Kobato is terrified – take a sip
    • if it’s of Sena – take another
  • Every time Rika gets scary – shudder
  • Every time Yozora feels sick – take a sip

haganai22a

19 thoughts on “Haganai Next – What Happened to My Friends?”

  1. I agree. Season one was better because it seemed quirkier. Season two was technically better but the plot (what little there was of it) and the characters weren’t quite there.

    The problem with the members of the club is they they don’t know what friends are so they don’t realize it when they became them.

  2. Not disagreeing with anything you said, but…

    “Kodoka is suddenly stunted and unable to form the friendships he longs for and everything seems to have taken a step back. As if the characters all went on holiday between seasons and didn’t speak to each other for months. By itself, this isn’t much of a problem, it’s a bit artless a solution but it isn’t a bad way to more or less reset the narrative.”

    I’ve actually been through this transition IRL. Started making friends, went on holiday, and everything was different and awkward. That might well be one of the reasons this show resonated with me,

    The second season had my two favorite scenes: the scene with Kodaka and Rika on the roof and the scene where Sena blurts out what she blurts out (trying to avoid spoilers!) — and the situation blows apart. I’ve lived through Kodaka’s reaction. It’s horrible! I can’t think of a scene that nailed the dynamic quite as well as this one.

    “Favorite character: Pegasus”

    Wasn’t he great? I think I might have actually felt sorry for him at one point…

    1. was there actually any time lapse in narrative between seasons? I’m pretty sure they’re all still in the ame year since s1 was already suppose to be their last year in high school and their last chance to make friends. I understood that i was an overnight change .

  3. Hm, to be honest the show sort of runs together in my memory. I don’t remember being disappointed by season 2, but reading your two posts, most of the scenes that came back to me come from season 1. So in retrospect, season 1 certainly has the edge. I do remember scary Rika, though. Who wouldn’t.

    I do remember that they introduced Maria’s sister, but I have no memory of the character at all. I very vaguely remember some plot points – not enough that I could talk about it – but not the character.

    I remember being quite captivated by the drama at the time, but it didn’t really leave that many traces when I think back.

    In comparison, season 1 is far clearer in my mind. (And, yes, season 1 character designs were more fun.)

    1. s2 is more disjointed with less connection between episodes. That may be why it left less of an impression. Overarching stories tend to be easier to remember.

  4. I really didn’t have much of a problem with season 2 but I can certainly understand it’s criticisms. There are certainly more memorable moments in season 1. I actually felt that season 2 was a solid extension of the story of season 1- the characters come to realize that they had found what were searching for in the first place and that inevitably has consequences. However, I agree that season 1 was better.

  5. I’m with you. I enjoy the first season quite a bit because I enjoy learning about the characters. Season 2 doesn’t really add anything to their characters other than some tacked on romance tropes and it actively makes some of the characters less interesting. I’ve rewatched the first season because it was just fun. Then when it came time to continue onto season two the second time I suddenly found something better to do.

  6. Yeeeeeeeah. The second season’s a bit of letdown. I had read a good portion of the light novel, so reading what came after this is, to some degree, all the more dramatic and loaded with… shock value, I guess. Lots of drama and harem funky-junky. Kind of a mess. Good write-up.

  7. Definitely can relate to the first part of your post: I have always had trouble making friends as well: and I guess I still do. The friendships I do have though: do feel like magic indeed. And since coming on wordpress I have also made a lot of wonderful friends that I may never meet for real: but still they feel like true friendships😊 And of course you are one of those friends 😊 So exactly as you say: I have always been drawn to stories about friendship myself. Too bad this second season of this anime felt so different. Luckily you will have the memories of the first one still with you😊

Leave me a comment and make my day!