That has to be one of the more natural crossovers in recent anime history.
I suppose people are going to react to this episode based on which sort of Haganai they like. For me, this was very good stuff, even though I’ll be the first to confess it was some of the most low-key material the series has done. When you factor in that the long tease about “Taka and Sora” has finally been brought to a close, and you have a real success. But I know some fans like this series with it’s teeth bared a little bit more, and I think that’s just a matter of personal taste. If I can go an entire episode feeling sorry for Yozora more than loathing her, the episode is off to a good start.
I don’t mind that Haganai pretty much plays it by the books as far as hitting all the tropes, because that’s sort of the point – really, this is a satire of those tropes in a somewhat similar way to its stable-mate at AIC Build, Oreimo. That’s why I wasn’t at all surprised to see four very familiar figures when Rika was describing her aborted trip to Comiket. For all its outlandish humor and ecchi content, there’s an undercurrent of sadness (just look at Kodaka’s speech about his hair) that runs through this show and it was much in evidence here. Rika and Yozora are both broken, and in fact everyone in the show is broken to some extent. That’s why they fit together, as a confederacy of badly-fitted people, and I think that’s something a lot of people (certainly a lot of otaku) can identify with. So when Rika described her failed attempt to go to Comiket I didn’t find it funny so much as very sad – here’s a girl who loves doujinshi dearly yet due to her own demons is unable to enjoy the world’s largest celebration of the art. For all her sexual bluster, she’s basically shy and lonely.
Yozora is certainly lonely, though certainly not shy. So when the Matsuri episode got its turn in the trope spotlight, it figured she’d tag along (Rika as well) and turn it into a personal battle with Sena. For her it was a big day as well, as she’d never been to a festival before. The difference of course is that Sena embraces new things in a way Yozora doesn’t – she won’t even wear a yukata when Kodaka says she’d look good in one – but Yozora wasn’t about to let Kodaka go off somewhere with her rival without tagging along. For Kodaka it was a quest to find takoyaki as good as he had in Osaka (a failure), for Maria to gorge herself on twice her body weight in whatever food the others would buy for her, and for Yukimura a chance to be around the guy she likes.
Naturally Kobato and Maria paired off in one rivalry and Sena and Yozora the other, but the irony here is that for three of those four people, this is effectively a friendship. For the younger pair there isn’t so much baggage, so they’ve just basically segued into being bickering sisters, but the interesting dynamic is between Sena and Yozora. Sena – for whatever reason – obviously views Yozora as someone worth trying to be friends with. They’re both lonely, but for Sena the remedy is to try and engage Yozora. For Yozora, it’s to do whatever she can to keep Sena from getting close to her. That’s the fundamental difference between the two of them, really, and I haven’t seen much evidence in 11 episodes that Yozora is growing out of it. I was happy for Rika, though, who fared quite well once the two enemies went off on their own to engage in a private death match (best choco-banana scene since Chokotto Sister). She was adorable in winning the Xbox 360 for Kodaka – “Pretend it’s me and play with it all day” – though he completely whiffed on the hint.
Of course there’s one person for whom Yozora is willing to let her guard down. After she reaches her low point in the series, slinking off in humiliation, drenched, after her hair caught on fire due to a small fireworks mishap (even I felt sorry for her) I could see where things were headed. And indeed, after a week of seclusion she shows up in class with short hair, and the synapses in Kodaka’s brain finally fire. The question is, where does the series go with this information? It’s obvious that there’s no way the anime can have a real “ending” as the story has barely gotten started, but a major milestone has been achieved with the reveal and I’ll be curious to see where it goes from here. I certainly don’t expect any pairings but the dynamics of the group will change with this news, and there’s the matter of Yukimura’s identity as well (though they’ve trolled us for a full season, so maybe they’ll leave it hanging). I wonder if everyone will realize what’s been obvious for weeks – they’re all friends. Objective achieved, in its own bizarre fashion.