Review: Haganai (I Don’t Have Many Friends)

UNIVEEEERRRSE

Haganai promo art

A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment

What does Moar Powah’s Inverseman think of Yomi Hirasaka’s light novel Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai  or I Don’t Have Many Friends, a comedy of the socially awkward and misunderstood? Let’s dig in!

Well, for starters, not gonna lie, this show is a harem show, no buts about it. While you could be anticipating a wonderful cringe-fest of awkwardness that you could relate to from your own teenage years, instead we have girls, girls, and more girls.

Haganai - Kodaka's first impression

Kodaka Hasegawa is a new transfer student who, in spite of his responsible good nature, has the appearance of a delinquent and is often misunderstood as one . One day, his loner classmate Yozora Mikazuki starts the Neighbors Club, a club for people who have no friends. Looped into the fray is Sena Kashiwazaki, the rich well-endowed daughter of the private school’s president who is also quite lonely. Add to the mix the ten-year-old loli nun “faculty advisor”, Kodaka’s little sister with a bad case of chuunibyou, and perverted mad scientist genius girl, and suddenly this starts sounding like a real harem now.  We have all our bases covered really, from chests A to G, fujoushi, imouto complexes, and even traps. There are a lot of old cliches to be had boiling down to the characters and premise, one look at the eyecatches can tell.

Haganai eyecatch

As a fanservice show, there are plenty of conveniently contrived points where the cast will have an opportunity to show off some boobs or have a swimsuit episode, and by the way, there are four of them. At least that’s somewhat to be expected; however, it gets painfully obvious when you remember the original setup for the show. We have one dude, five girls, and a trap chillin’ n’ grillin’ in a club room and going on adventures to make friends. They go to karaoke and the beach… And they all individually still “have yet to make any friends” in spite of all the shenanigans. As much as I hoped for something a bit more snarky in humor, it is what it is.

Haganai horse scene

The character dynamic and jokes are kind of hit-or-miss. Yozora and Sena essentially reenact Mean Girls on a regular basis but with Kodaka acting as a voice of reason, so it can get tiresome soon after the first few times the girls try to screw each other over in a video game. On the other hand, I quite liked Sister Maria’s attachment to Kodaka and Kodaka’s little sister Kobato responding with jealousy. Yukimura’s “desire for manliness” and Rika’s antics also outpaced the main girls’ feuding, so it wasn’t as one-note or grating. So while there’s lots of pandering to be had, there are some redeeming qualities to be had outside of the gag boob fanservice when the writers do try.

Haganai Yozora reading

The other moment that felt more tolerable was the budding love triangle between Sena and Yozora over Kodaka. While it was expected, it felt like there was a bit more meat to the series at those points where the usually sadistic Yozora comes to sense her budding, and actually well-based, affections for Kodaka, and Sena starts spending more and more time with our lead man. The anime doesn’t cover all of the light novel series, so season two may or may not develop that drama.

Haganai - Sena is a neckbeard

Animation-wise there wasn’t much to say about the quality from AIC Build; it was just okay-ish, and the acting was alright. As for the dub, it was similarly “par for the course”. I also couldn’t say much for the OST either. The DVD came with a few actor commentaries too, and you could tell some of the VAs for the dub had some fun with the show, especially the way some of the lines are both written and delivered. I gotta credit Americans for coming up with such creative insults.

Haganai main cast

Overall, if you can deal with cliches or are even looking for fanservice, you might find Haganai entertaining. When the series tries and doesn’t choose to pander, it can be funny, but overall I can’t really say it’ll be a series I’ll remember forever as among the greats, even for its kind. I give season one of Haganai a mediocre or so-so 3 out of 5. If it’s your type of thing and wind up liking it, check out season 2 which is coming soon to DVD. Join me next time when I transcend to wizard-dom.

Pros

– Some gags are actually funny

– Tidbits of plot and drama

– Some character dynamics work well

Cons

– Plenty of fanservice and pandering and cliches even for those departments

– Other gags get old, and quickly too

– Not much to write home about production value

Rating: 3/5

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Miscellaneous details:
Studio: AIC Build (division of AIC)
Director: Hisashi Saito
Writer: Tatsuhiko Urahata
Character design: Buriki (original), Yoshihiro Watanabe
Music: Tom-H@ck
Original creator: Yomi Hirasaka (light novel)
Original run: October 6, 2011 – December 22, 2011

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Inverseman

The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

Inverseman

The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

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