Boku Wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT – 01

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It didn’t take long for Haganai to remind me of everything I like about it, and everything I don’t.

OP: “Be My Friend” by Marina Inoue, Kanae Ito, Nozomi Yamamoto, Misato Fukuen, Kana Hanazawa and Yuka Iguchi

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[Mazui]_Boku_Ha_Tomodachi_Ga_Sukunai_NEXT_-_01_[7F653193].mkv_snapshot_00.35_[2013.01.11_11.36.31]This is an odd, odd show.  There are very few comedies about which I would apply the term “twisted”, but Haganai is definitely one of them.  There are moments that are incredibly funny because of that, but the sheer perversity of the show is almost unsettling sometimes.  I’m never quite sure I have a handle on just what the series is trying to be, and this premiere certainly leaves me no closer than I was before.

[Mazui]_Boku_Ha_Tomodachi_Ga_Sukunai_NEXT_-_01_[7F653193].mkv_snapshot_01.14_[2013.01.11_11.37.10]The first part of the episode was an instant reminder of why I was worn out by the end of the first season.  The endless cycle of Yozora torturing Sena (this time with Rika’s assistance) had long-stopped being funny to me by then after seemingly endless repetition, and it didn’t exactly thrill me to see “NEXT” kick off with that same theme.  This time it’s a very cruel gag about the “heap” hairstyle, which leads to Sena leaving for home with fried shrimp and dead bugs piled on top of sausage curls.  I didn’t find it at all funny, though it certainly led to one of those “straight to doujin” moments this show is so good at delivering.  The “torture Sena” gag just doesn’t work for me – I know it does for some viewers and that’s fine.  Comedy is like that.

[Mazui]_Boku_Ha_Tomodachi_Ga_Sukunai_NEXT_-_01_[7F653193].mkv_snapshot_02.09_[2013.01.11_11.38.05]I also can’t say I’m thrilled with the direction Sena’s character seems to be taking based on this episode, though it’s too early to say for sure.  To be plain, her character has been the best thing about the series for me so far – she manages to be genuinely sweet despite her quirks.  Her ojou-sama preening is an obvious overcompensation for her ridiculous levels of insecurity, and she’s never stooped to Yozora’s level despite enough provocation to test the Dalai Lama’s patience.  But her behavior in this episode was pretty over the top, implying a yandere obsession with Yozora that might be a running plotline this season.  This thread climaxes  with a scene that will surely please the masses, but which surprised the hell out of me – even coming from Haganai.

[Mazui]_Boku_Ha_Tomodachi_Ga_Sukunai_NEXT_-_01_[7F653193].mkv_snapshot_05.17_[2013.01.11_11.41.50]On the other hand, I’ve liked pretty much everything connected to Sena’s family, including her weird father Pegasus and his sly “gentlemen’s gentleman” Stella – and MC Kodaka’s visit to the Kashiwazaki estate this week was no exception.  Apart from Sena’s somewhat startling “It puts the lotion in the basket” moments, these scenes were a riot – though even by his Pegasus was pretty over-the-top with the bath stuff.  Stella giving Kodaka condoms was a classic Haganai moment – screwball comedy with a lot of sexual undertones and perfect timing.  This series is certainly capable of producing those, and occasionally some genuinely heartfelt stuff too (it’s a series about a bunch of losers who turn to each other because they have no one else, after all) but it’s also capable of real mean-spiritdness.  I like the edge that gives Haganai, but there are times – and were this week – where I feel it crosses the invisible line that takes it from black comedy to plain black.  I’m also annoyed that Kodaka refuses to lift a finger to stop what’s being done to Sena despite his obvious disapproval, despite later telling Pegasus “I’ll protect her from bullying.”  Why not protect her then, Jackass?  It’s ironic that Kodaka made that comment to Pegasus, because as the first act was playing out I was already pissed at his inaction.  Adding insincerity to the mix doesn’t exactly help his case.

[Mazui]_Boku_Ha_Tomodachi_Ga_Sukunai_NEXT_-_01_[7F653193].mkv_snapshot_05.30_[2013.01.11_11.42.02]As for the rest of the cast – elfin Index-lookalike Maria, there’s-still-no-way-I-believe-that’s-a-guy double-reverse trap Yukimura, and occult-obsessed little sister Kobato, we have only pictorial introductions and brief appearances this week.  They each have appeal as comic characters, especially Kobato (whose “relationship” with Sena provided some of S1s biggest laughs, along with Rika’s ecchi obsession), though it’s clear that the real depth in this series belongs to the three characters at the center – despite occasional turns in the spotlight, the others are there as comic devices.  For me as a fan, Haganai has to walk a tightrope because I find Yozora thoroughly unlikeable and there are as many facets of the series that irk me as ones I like – but the things I like, I like an awful lot.  Buriki’s character designs are still among my favorites, Sena is a gem (at least so far), and the fact is that sometimes Haganai can be very, very funny – and ultimately that’s the main job of a comedy.  For me it’s a frustrating show to watch, but impossible not to.

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ED: “Bokura no Tsubasa” (僕らの翼) by Marina Inoue, Kanae Ito, Nozomi Yamamoto, Misato Fukuen, Kana Hanazawa and Yuka Iguchi

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  1. K

    I could not agree more. I can't see a single redemable feature from being friends with Yozora. She is always mean and a sadist.

    Usually Sera tries to be a good person and then after some nonstop ribbing from Yozora gets into the insults. It does get old fast. I can only hope that Yozora evolves past this phase.

    The OP and ED are both nice for this series.

  2. S

    Well that was a little disappointing, I was actually a fan of S1…what did they do to this show!?? I mean, I think between the panty-less spanking and bath scene awesome Pegasus is kinda ruined for me and not to even mention the ending climax. Aside from those obvious concerns, the comedic timing felt off and so did the whole episode in fact.

  3. A

    Yeah, tell me about it. The "torture Sena" doesn't work for me, either!!

    One thing I don't get is how the heck they make Sena the top of the class, thus incredibly smart student, then at the same thing, incredibly dumb blonde with big boobs and so gullible? They could try to justify that like, 'oh, because she is just innocent little girl who believes anything she's told to" and try to justify the bulling by making her acting high and mighty, but c'mon.

    Full disclosure: like Enzo, Sena is my favorite character of this show. Yep… But that's not the only reason I don't find this constant bulling funny (a part of it, though).

  4. I will say in Haganai's defense that I've known of people who are "book smart" like Sena but have absolutely no social sense at all, and this causes them to be manipulated and sometimes bullied by other less "smart" people. It's not totally an unrealistic plot contrivance.

  5. k

    Mark Twain said "Common sense isn't very common".

  6. i

    On the topic of "Book Smart" people, Maria is supposed to be a genius who skip classes and is currently a high-school teacher. Despite being somewhat too childish even for her real age and severely uneducated on the topic of Sex Ed.

    Just don't think about it too much.

  7. f

    Fair appraisal here, especially about the comedy. Haganai's jokes are definitely a mixed bag; torturing Sena really makes me feel uncomfortable too. Will you be blogging this series or just watching it?

  8. Read my posts on S1 and see the direction I was headed the last few episodes. I'm certainly going to give it a little time, but in truth, it airs on a very tough day for me – Thursdays, as so often is the case, are brutal.

  9. f

    Thank you! I hadn't noticed you'd blogged the first season – I looked for the full title instead of Haganai, silly me. Part of me does wish you'd keep on covering this show, but your time is important. Thank you, anyway.

  10. H

    For whatever reason, I see their interactions a little bit different than you guys, possibly because I see more of an undercurrent of actual friendship as the basis for the interactions between everyone in the Rinjin-bu. Because of that, what could be overtly cruel bullying in another context seems more to me like playing pranks on your gullible friend, especially when it appeals to their vanities. And in this first episode's case, I think this view of it was really reinforced by Yozora and Rika's uncoerced apology. It's not that they got caught and were forced to apologize, it's that they realized they overdid a prank.

    That underlying foundation of actual friendship is what I think really is the gem of the show. It always amuses me when this group of people who thinks they don't have any friends gets together for a completely elective club where they just spend time with each other, and then think about "Well, what do people who are friends do? We should do that to practice for when we have friends." That's the big meta-joke of the series: They actually have friends, and they're doing the things people do with their friends!

    If they weren't friends, why would they keep going? That's not the only place Kodaka is, and if he was the only reason for either Sena or Yozora, they could certainly figure out other ways to see him, instead of going to the club and subjecting themselves to the rest of the members.

  11. H

    I'll also be honest that Sena is not my favorite character in the show. I prefer Yozora much more, and get put off by Sena's self-aggrandizement. So maybe that colors my opinions of their interactions. But I still think there's more between them than just being enemies.

  12. S

    Oh, I took that apology to be thoroughly insincere, timed perfectly to rob Sena of the ability to laugh it off, which kind of undermines that aspect of deep friendship developing. That said, I do agree with you that there is a bond between them slowly growing.

  13. I agree – I took that apology exactly the same way, as a calculated coup d' grace for their little prank.

  14. H

    Well, I guess people are going to see what they want to see. In my interactions with my friends, apologies aren't part of the joke. Plus, initiated by Rika, I find it hard to put that interpretation on it, especially since the show didn't give us any scheming between Rika and Yozora prior to that, which it's not shy about showing in other situations (like when they were doing her hair in the first place.

  15. Or, you could have a major blind spot when it comes to Yozora. Just saying! 😉

  16. H

    Yeah, I include myself in seeing what I want to see. That wasn't clear from how I said it.

  17. i

    I think haganai is probably one of the few shows i strongly think your wrong about Enzo. Its probably the only one were I cannot understand why you like it because I feel it goes against your usual tastes. I only see it as an ecchi franchise behemoth with little merit other than perhaps animation. Its not just that I don't find it funny, but also that I think its just like a hundred different titles.before it.

    I really don't get why you like it. I read the post but I just feel it goes against your usual anime.

  18. T

    Well going into this with slight spoilers I could say its enjoyable but I agree with it walking the tightrope. As far aa my take on the episode, I did at least laugh at Yozora and Rika baiting Sena in because it was so friggin obvious, All I really thought of wen she got spanked for it (besides how wrong that can be taken out of context) was "well you should have seen that comming, better luck next time." TBH however, I can agree that out of the two Sena's my favorite, simply because albiet she has such a ojosama aditute, like you said its a front and there is a likable character in that, where as Yozora is so outwardly mean spirited, and this is comming from a guy who can generally shrug off anitcs fron Haruhi for petes sake. I too hope that Sena's revenge driven borderlining stalker sensibilities dosn't lead into a trainwreck but for the momment I'm hoping that if it does, its merely Tom and Jerry antics, I can shrug that off at least…

  19. D

    Haganai is always an odd mix for me. I don't like Yozora as a person, but I do like her as a character. Her presence and actions make things "work" in this world, and all the other characters would be worse off without her around (despite also being "better off" in the more classical interpretation).

    Likewise, I love Sena, but can recognize that she'd end up being a horrible person if not surrounded by people who can 'break' her.

    There was also that very telling comment at the end of the hairdo sequence: that Sena was upset with Yozora and Rika's apology since it took away the opportunity for her to laugh about the whole prank together with them. On the one hand, Yozora and Rika definitely improved in the 'maturity' category by actually apologizing for their prank, but on the other hand they've not yet learned to approach it with the idea that everyone is going to be able to laugh about it at the end, that they can be mean, but a friendly mean, not a vicious mean.

    Sena's gullibility in the whole affair was also a set of conflicts. On the one hand, it's hard to believe anyone can be that gullible, particularly with her intelligence. On the other hand, maybe she just really is that gullible. On the other other hand, maybe she's that gullible because of an intrinsic level of trust she has in this group of friends, even though they prank her to no end. On the other other other hand, maybe that gullibility is -deliberate-; maybe she wants to play the fool, because that's the role that she's found best lets her stay and interact with these people she really considers friends.

    After all, she obviously should know better than to trust Yozora. She's got her entire room plastered with reminders of all the horrible things Yozora has done over the months. There is literally no reason for her to ever trust anything Yozora says, not if she really is as obsessed about revenge as she claims. Yet at the same time it's clear that that isn't anywhere close to her real feelings.

    Similar thoughts could be said of Yozora, in her actions and behaviors.

    It really is a twisted, and ofttimes black, comedy, but I always get the feeling that it knows to stay well away from true black. It cares too much for its characters.

  20. H

    This is similar to my feelings on the show. Sena was definitely shown to be a pretty horrible person before joining the club, with a retinue of boys that she treated with utter disdain.

    My interpretation of Sena's complaint that now she couldn't laugh about the prank was that it was more that she hadn't realized it was a prank until they apologized, and was trying to cover for that fact by acting angry and running off. To me this is reinforced by Sena seemingly not realizing that's why her father made her clean it all out and spanked her (I don't really get that part, tho, why punish Sena?). I don't see how the recognition by all the characters that it's a prank precludes laughing about it later, even right after such an apology. It was only Sena's reaction that precluded that.

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