I don’t know if I’ll call this my favorite episode, but it’s certainly one of the best. The Hippocratic oath for Haganai is “First be funny”, and that was certainly accomplished this week – and that hasn’t been the case every week. And as this show does at its best it managed to add some deeper elements on top of that, and had a strong presence by everyone in the main cast. Starting with Kobato, things were good and kept getting better. I loved how she was inspired to change into summer clothes (which she looks much cuter in than her goth loli garb, IMO) by her heroine transforming on television. I’m not so sure I need that much fanservice with a character that young, but I guess you have to remind yourself that she’s a teenager despite her appearance – and it was nice to see Kodaka finally acknowledge the fact that she looks absurdly young for her age.
On the subject of service, I thought this was the week that Yukimura’s cover – and I’m more convinced than ever it is a cover – would be blown, but she managed to skate by. Yes, “she” – sorry, but there’s no effing way that’s a guy. You can see curvature, first of all, and I’ve seen enough traps and reverse traps to recognize that her behavior isn’t that of a conventional trap. It might be possible that she even thinks she’s a boy, but at the very least she’s adamant that she wants to be. There’s irony in the notion of a girl who wants to be a boy trying to become one by pretending to be a boy dressing as a girl, but then this show is good at irony. I about lost my lunch when Maria said she almost “broke the cigar off this she-male”. Pretty absurd dialogue a ten year-old would never say, but hilarious nonetheless. And did I mention that I find what Yozora is doing to Yukimura and Maria pretty despicable?
Speaking of irony, it’s become clear that the central irony of this show is that the members of the Neighbors Club have become friends, do everything that friends do, and yet go through the motions of being friendless and looking for friends and seem to have no idea that they’ve already accomplished their goal. Sure, their friendships are dysfunctional but let’s be honest, most friendships are. That absurd reality is the spine that runs through the whole series, with everything building off that, and it’s a good premise. I suppose it’s just a reflection of how socially clueless they are, and more than ever this week I felt sorry for the lot of them, even Yozora in the end. It’s certainly sad that she and Rika were so genuinely uncomfortable in the massive crowds at the water park that they jumped right on a bus to go home. That was uncharacteristically serious but still in line with the overall tone of the show, I think – and a reflection of how their social awkwardness isn’t just a gag, but a real disorder bordering on phobia.
Despite all that, the episode still managed to be very funny. And it managed to do it at the expense of its misfit characters without being too mocking or unkind, which is a delicate balance Haganai usually (bot not always) manages to walk. I continue to yearn for more Rika, who consistently makes me laugh. Her offer to play “strippy strippy” with Kobato, first of all, and then her declaration that Yozora saying “I won’t gag” was turning her on, even as she was fighting nausea herself (not to mention her litany of swimsuit options). The whole notion of Sena and Rika’s obsessive interest in Kobato was a bit edgy, perhaps even wrong, but still sort of in character. There’s that balance thing again.
So next week we finally get the visit to Sena’s house to meet with the Chairman, and it looks like Kobato will tag along. Any opportunity for Kodaka/Sena development is a good thing (we saw a bit of it poolside this week). Sena isn’t a trope that I’m normally crazy about, but she’s totally won me over. Perhaps it’s because her tsun side is so completely transparent – this is an insecure girl who desperately wants to be loved (and I don’t mean sexually), specifically by Kodaka but really by anyone who’ll have her. Ironically for a galge addict Sena is a complete innocent – naïve about the way people behave (which makes her an easy target for Yozora’s cruelty) and about how hurtful they can be. I adore the way she throws herself into everything she does, whether it be gaming, a cell phone, a group outing, with complete enthusiasm and abandon. It’s easy to picture her as a girl who grew up in a sheltered and privileged environment, but probably a somewhat sterile and cold one as well. Sena’s vulnerability and desire for affection is the heart of Haganai for me, and she exemplifies the true nature of the series better than anyone else.