I guess there will be some Haganai spoilers lower down. It’s not really the type of show that has big twists or anything but I do reference events from season two. Please keep that in mind before reading on.
I quite liked the first season of Haganai. As far as classic mildly Ecchi harems go, I think it’s one of the best. There’s a lot of qualifiers there…in any case, I thought it was a fun watch and that’s in no small part due to the characters. Of course, Rika is my favourite because: Rika
But Sena was in second place which is saying something when you consider that the cast includes adorable Kobato. Sena is spoiled, embarrassingly rich, beautiful and actually very smart. A real princess type. And she feels like she needs to join a club for people with no friends where she’s the only one who’s not welcomed.
Of course, the fact is that on paper Sena should be the most popular girl in school (and the show does tell us that she is quite popular with her classmates), yet she still feels like an outcast and is a huge dork at heart. This is actually the joke if you will. It’s a standard subversion of expectations played for laughs. But when you stop to really think about it, the show is rather harsh to its resident princess.
For one Sena*is* isolated. Having lost her mother very young she lives with a doting but often absent father and spends her days with servants in a huge, mostly empty house. She doesn’t have any practice at being part of a loving group and it shows. So she fakes it by playing the role of the girl people expect her to be. It’s draining.
And her club room, the one place she can get away from society’s expectations or her father’s “hopes”, is marked with constant strife and personal altercations. Even when she does feel comfortable enough to be herself she is either met with open animosity or gentle rejection. And you could say Yozora is in the same boat but it is Yozora’s club so she holds the power, putting her in a better position. And more importantly, Yozora doesn’t get rejected. That makes a pretty big difference.
Sena is actually something of a trope. One of those cross genres, cross-medium tropes. She’s the patsy. Sena herself is by no means a bad person. She’s a bit petty and occasionally childish but she’s also often kind and generous. Nothing she does throughout the entire series would mark her as any worse than any of the other characters. In fact, she’s one of the more emotional and empathetic people in the club. Yet the show seems to think we should dislike her just a little bit.
What I mean by that is the character is framed and introduced as if it was an antagonist even though there’s no story to support it. For one she’s privileged. And by that I don’t mean she’s merely rich. Sena is *everything*. Whatever the audience may be a little jealous of and therefore likely to dislike a character for on principle, she’s it. Yes, the money, and a loving father willing to use it to get her anything she likes. And she doesn’t have a “wealth is a burden” side story to balance it out. She’s beautiful, and not just anime pretty like every anime girl is pretty but an acknowledged in-universe beauty. And she KNOWS it, occasionally even uses it. And it works! No one likes that type of pretty. She’s very smart, gets great grades with little study but is also good in social situations. She’s athletic, discovers video games and instantly masters them. Sena is a young lady blessed with prodigious gifts and seemingly no drawbacks.
It’s extremely hard to relate to a character like that which is why every teen movie has them as the bad guy (or girl). If she was just a bit meaner or more selfish, she would be boilerplate villain material. And just in case the viewer also happened to be perfect and managed to somehow find Sena relatable, there’s the Yozora issue. The first few episodes of Haganai clearly set up Yozora as the leading lady. Self-assured despite being socially awkward with a will to change. She gets a much better personification and much more development than anyone else. It seems clear that the narrative is on her side. By making Sena an instant antagonist and rival to Yozora, the plot was setting her up to fail. On some level, the writers of Haganai thought their audience would accept and not be put off by Sena’s repeated loses. After all, she has so much already.
Pooh to that. Sena shouldn’t be “punished” just because she got genetically lucky. It’s not her fault. You have to admit, she’s doing her best under the circumstances. I know I’m not supposed to be but I’m team Sena all the way! Actually no wait. I’m team Rika. Does Rika even have a team, I feel like she may be too awesome for such things! I guess even I’m not team Sena.
See what I mean. Poor pretty rich girl.