Anime Review – Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukanai – Making friends, the surrealist way
December 28, 2011 3 Comments
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (quite literally this means I Don’t Have Many Friends and is abbreviated to Haganai) is a series based off of a light novel series written by Yomi Hirasaka and illustrated by Buriki. The story is relatively simplistic in nature, but nonetheless it has been an enjoyable series to watch.
This is a pretty strange anime with a fairly simplistic an often relatively nonexistent plot. The premise of this anime is that Hasegawa Kodaka and Yozora Mikazuki both discover that neither has any real friends, Yozora therefore decides to create ‘The Neighbors Club’, whose express purpose is to make friends. That is the plot in a nutshell, not the most inspiring piece of script writing ever. What makes this show worth watching though is the interactions between the characters as well as the characters themselves.
The Neighbors Club starts off with just Kodaka and Yozora, but gradually we get strange and bizarre people gravitating towards it. There is Sena Kashiwazaki, the blonde, wealthy daughter of their schools head teacher, someone who excels in everything she does, and be it academics or sport. She is however very arrogant and has real difficulties in making friends. She is a strange girl, who despite her looks gets utterly involved in dating sims and even eroge, often role-playing the characters, essentially a closet Otaku in many ways.
We also have the genius Rika Shigamura, a shut-in who finds it nearly impossible to be in crowded places. She is also very, very weird and gets obsessed with things like boys love and many other kinds of dounjinshi, a classic otaku I guess. Yukimura Kusunoki, a ‘boy’ who looks very much like a girl. He has great respect for Kodaka and calls him ‘aniki’ (something like showing respect to a superior in a gang/yakuza). Apparently Yukimura does turn out to be a girl in the light novels.
And finally we have the two ‘loli’ characters of the series, Kodakas sister Kobato Hasegawa and Maria Takayama. Maria is a sister (the school is a catholic school), and apparently is a genius, who is a teacher at the school and The Neighbors Club advisor. Kobato is obsessed with a gothic loli show and is also role-playing as the vampire main character. These two are constantly bickering and fighting over Kodaka’s brotherly affection.
This show doesn’t have any flashy effects, fight scenes or dramatic plot twists, it is about the interactions (albeit slightly strange interactions) between all the characters in the club. It’s great watching the constant cat fights between Yozora and Sena, with Yozora nicknaming Sena ‘Meat’ after her large breasts and Sena retorting with ‘baka yozora’. We also have the fights between Kobako and Maria, which are great as well, especially when Kobato drops her act and turns into just another little girl who wants attention from her big brother.
Yozora is a fascinating character, someone who is sharp and very hard to get on with. She is forever insulting Sena, coning Maria into believing whatever she says and generally being abusive and brittle towards everyone. There are occasions where she goes to far, such as the prank texts to Sena when she get a new phone, however we do learn that she is generally a sweet girl. Yozora is essentially a typical anime girl who has a crush on someone, wants their attention and wants friends, however because of her character she finds it incredibly hard to make friends, let alone interact normally with anyone really.
Sena being the other main female protagonist is very similar to Yozora actually, since she is very haughty and sometimes impossible to get on with because of her character. She is quite probably the weirdest character in many ways, getting utterly obsessed with eroge and going after Kotabo in a way that suggests she is a bit of a lolicon. What makes this whole thing funny is that she is essentially the perfect high school girl, with a great figure, excellent looks and brilliant in her studies. When you take such an apparently perfect character and then show how utterly weird and perverted she really is that has great comic potentially, especially when she is pushed together with Yozora, a girl who is apparently her opposite but is also essentially the same. They both
The show centers around Yozora and Sena arguing over every little thing really, which is spurred on by the Kodaka being so dense. It is blindingly obvious that both Sena and Yozora have massive crushes on Kodaka, but for various reasons he seems incapable of noticing it. We also have the irony that the club was created in order to get friends, yet no one appears to notice that by being in the club and interacting with each other they are already friends in some way. The club activities are all designed to apparently help them become popular, and yet they always go wrong, thus giving the show a constant source of comic amusement, while at the same time being quite sad in places.
There is a particularly nice scene near the ebginning of the series, where Sena and Kodaka go to the swimming pool and Kodaka uses his yankee image in order to save Sena, berating her for being too arrogant and not being conscious of her surroundings and her own strengths. This is not only a nice scene, but of course has plenty of fanservice since it of course involves bikinis, and the inevitable problems one might encounter with a bikini. This show has elements of your typical harem show, while not entirely falling into that trap. We have two clear love interests in the form of Yozora and Sena, but of course this is often overshadowed by their constant bickering and generally arguing.
I really like the artwork, Buriki has a special talent for drawing faces and especially the eyes, making girls and women look especially sensual at just the right moment. Buriki also did the character designs for Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, which is great, but at the same time worrying. For all the cuteness involved in Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, its ending was atrocious, in fact it was the worst none ending I’ve seen in ages.
The ending of Haganai is both interesting and slightly disappointing, although not entirely unexpected. It is a relatively classic harem ending, with no real change in the relationships between the main characters, and no real conclusion on the love triangle. We do however have some clarity shed upon the relationship between Kodaka and one of the main characters, which is partly shown through half of the last episode being a flashback over the series telling the story of certain parts from the heroines’ perspective.
Now, Hagani is adapted from a light novel series, so I am assuming (probably rightly) that the story continues and there is some sort of conclusion between Sena, Yozora and Kodaka, along with more light shed on Kodaka’s childhood. But again we fall into the classic trap of sort, 12 episode anime series, too much source material and not enough time to really explore it. The series feels rushed in places, desperately trying to introduce all the characters, but not necessarily having enough time to properly flesh them out.
We also have an open ending to the series (possibly deliberate to allow for a 2nd series), which, while partly clearing up some plot points leaves an awful lot enticingly, and probably exasperatingly open, with no real end in sight. While I really enjoyed this series, it feels half-finished, this is especially true with an ending that feels like its actually the beginning of the real story.
Overall I really enjoyed this show, Buriki’s artwork is wonderful (I haven’t found an artist who can draw eyes and faces that look quite so sensual) and the story has a lot of potential. But this series in many ways, while being great fun to watch doesn’t necessarily live up to that potential, it feels half-finished, with no real conclusion to any of the plot points. The interactions between the characters is great however, and we see a group of oddballs, people with their specific problems getting along in their own, quite special club. I like the idea of a club designed to help you make friends, where everyone involved ahs yet to fully realize that they are already friends with everyone in that club itself. A good series, but as I said unfinished and definitely needs a 2nd season to really get the story going, which actually reminds be of Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, another similar series that had a lot of potential, but then just ended without really finishing off or explaining anything.