Haganai is an odd little series in that it could be viewed in any number of different ways, both in terms of genre and tone. For me that seems to change a lot from week to week, but after watching the karaoke episode, what it feels like is a series about a group of people who are fundamentally broken in some way. Each of them has a personality quirk or a set of circumstances that lead to their being both social outcasts and unwilling loners. It’s sort of sad to watch them fumble their way through social interactions even with each other, but with eps like this one you could also take heart in the fact that they’ve found each other at all.
Through that lens it’s hard not to be a little forgiving towards Yozora, who despite her verbal sophistication is as much a loner as the rest of them. It seems apparent that she hasn’t had a friend since she and Kodaka hung out as grade schoolers, and she had to pose as a boy even to accomplish that. Yet it’s the very reason that she is an outcast that makes it impossible for me to like her so far – she uses her powers for evil. She drives people away with bitter sarcasm and cutting humor that’s a little too on-the-money. She’s smart at picking up on people’s weaknesses, and she attacks them for sport. It’s a form of self-loathing that makes her do that, and knowing that makes me understand her and feel a little sorry for her. But it doesn’t make me like her – not yet, anyway.
Sena is much more endearing, at least for me, as indeed is the rest of the cast. I treasure the rare moments when Sena actually manages to come out on top when sparring with Yozora, not least for that rarity. She’s broken too, of course, as they all are, but she wears her desire for human contact much more guilelessly than Yozora. As for Yukimura, my trap-dar is telling me more and more every week that the writers are using a trick deck here – that’s a girl, I’m almost sure of it. And she’s obviously crushing on Kodaka, but then so are the rest of them, though Rika is the only one willing to be open about it. Her suggestion of karaoke was meant as a date before Yozora hijacked it, but it did lead to some interesting group dynamics.
Nothing in the last couple of eps has been as hilarious as this series at its best, but there have been subtle pleasures in watching the interactions unfold. Yozora and Sena prove once again that their stubbornness outweighs anything by buying separate rooms just to stick it to the karaoke salon, despite the fact that it belies the whole point of the excursion. The interplay between Kodaka and Kobato is really starting to work for me, and I loved how he turned the girls’ arrival times into a story problem for her to solve – and her delight when she solved it. No big laughs there, but it was very authentic, and it’s charming to see how he humors her weirdness and clinginess without being so obvious as to hurt her feelings. And Rika, well, she’s just Rika. She peppers the conversation with double entendres and practically give the microphone fellatio (how often do they sanitize those things?). But Rika sometimes doesn’t even bother with a double entendre when a single entendre will do – “Did you come?”
Of course the irony of the episode is that while everyone was theorizing and blaming each other for why no one in the make friends club had made any friends, they had made friends – each other. It’ll be interesting to see how that group dynamic shares focus with the obvious romantic subplot that’s forming. Kodaka will be visiting Sena’s house as a result of the friendship of their fathers (I loved the way Sena used that as a rare trump card to upset Yozora) and he’ll presumably be finding out Yozora’s true identity soon enough – they certainly flagged it hard this week. Yukimaura and Rika are into him too, and Kobato is a mostly non-romantic brocon, but I don’t think anyone besides Sena and Yozora is to be taken seriously in that battle.