- 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….
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).
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.
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.
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