The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai

Title: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai aka I Don’t Have Many Friends aka Haganai
Genre: Comedy
Company: AIC
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 7 Oct 2011 – 23 Dec 2011

Synopsis: As a new transfer student, Hasegawa Kodaka is experiencing difficulty making friends. Some bad luck and his naturally blonde colored hair has given him the image of a delinquent who no one wants to get near. One day he comes across the solitary Mikazuki Yozora in a class room talking to her imaginary friend Tomo. After both find out that neither of them have any sort of social life, the idea of The Neighbors Club is formed. Their only goals are to socialize and gain social skills. Soon after, more social misfits join the club and Kodaka’s new life begins.

The Highlights
Downward slope: Starts out well, but quickly degrades.
Comedy: Some genuine laughs are around, but often is awkward and unsettling.
Characters: Amusing at first, but ultimately stagnant and unsympathetic.
Ending: Unsatisfactory, hardly anything resolved.

Haganai was certainly a shameless show; there was no shortage of fan service, inside otaku culture jokes, or harem comedy. It showcased a combination of typical stock anime tropes with usual boring school life scenery, which made one wonder if Studio AIC‘s motto here was to “be as lazy as possible.” And considering that the staffing and budget was nothing to get too excited about, I could not help but get the impression that this would be as forgettable and mundane an experience as there is.

In spite of all this, Haganai was initially surprising. Although it seemed to be nothing more than a shallow slap stick comedy harem, it actually was not devoid of any sort of depth or themes. Really, there were many things going for this anime early on. In particular, the premise revolving around a bunch of social misfits gathered in some sort of club with the stated purpose of trying to make friends was highly amusing. It also managed to bring forth interesting and relatable topics regarding social anxiety and ostracism that anyone, friends or no friends, could relate with to some degree. But, perhaps most importantly for any comedy, it truly brought me some genuine laughs.

Unfortunately once Haganai moved past its initial stages it started to encounter problems as there was just a general failure to go anywhere with its premise. The hateful antics of the characters, which were at first amusing, began to wear thin as any semblance of character progression was seemingly nonexistent. Some of the side cast members had explosive entrances into the show, but later became so stagnant, that other than their comedy routines, they were no better than props for the background. The cast just grew to be entirely boring, flat, and unsympathetic.

Most problematic, however, was the devolvement of the show’s comedy. At times Haganai would put the viewer in the awkward position of not knowing whether something was intended as comical, or just sad considering the semi-serious subject matter at hand. It almost resembled dark humor, but it lacked the deft touch of good dark comedy. To me the amusement of dark comedy stems from its dry, yet playful and ironic nature. Haganai fails here because too many times the hateful diatribes and antics of some of the characters invoke a sense of disgust in the viewer instead.

Perhaps there was some sort of point to all this and maybe the viewer was supposed to question the nature of the characters’ actions in such a manner. But what makes this especially disconcerting to me is how the type of comedy would often change up to more typical gag comedy. I did not particularly like it to begin with, but it also blended in badly, adding further to the confusion. If it were not made bad enough already, the ending of this show was incredibly unsatisfying. There were several plot threads started and left unfinished, leaving us with a definite lack of closure.

In the end, no modicum of depth present here was able to stem the tide of mediocrity that eventually overcame this series. I did have some genuine laughs throughout Haganai, particularly at the beginning, so I will at least give it that, but you can be sure that there will be hardly a reason to jump up for a possible season two in the future if it is ever made.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Reckoner

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