Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT – A question of friendship
February 24, 2013 Leave a comment
As most people may know, friendship is hardly an exact science; we can’t always choose who our friends are, or even work out exactly why we became friends in the first place. Friendships, while important are also a curious aspect of human interaction and can create lasting relationships, or simply be a brief period in our lives, but one that is no less important than longer lasting friendships or relationships. The central aspect of Haganai is that of building or creating friendships in a highly artificial, and often rather bizarre way. This series brings up some rather fascinating points about friendship and closer relationships in general, and particularly in the context of anime. The majority of high school anime involve a close group of friends, and for the most part we don’t really know why or how they became friends, just that they are, and this is the group that the series will be focussing on. Generally speaking these groups are far from being particularly well known or popular, although they are at least acknowledged in their classes. What we see in Haganai however is the complete opposite; instead of an already formed group of friends we are introduced to a number of different character who for various reasons lack any real human interaction or a deeper friendship with those around them.
The central premise of the Rinjin-bu is flawed because it is arguably impossible simply to ‘make’ friends, and simply learning a few social skills wont necessarily help its members. The irony of the club is of course due to the members becoming ever closer while still striving to make friends through a series of increasingly bizarre and slightly strange activities. All of Haganai’s members have their own skewed versions of what it means to be friends and how they should go about expanding their social circle. They all have their own problems and attitudes that make them as individuals incredibly difficult to approach or socially awkward. If we look at the central characters, and in particular Sena, Yozora and Kodaka, we see that they all have issues making friends, or even creating a social circle due to their characters, looks and personalities. Because of their problems they all have particular attitudes towards what friendship means that often complicates their current relationships and ends in argument and general dissatisfaction. But, they exhibit certain basic attitudes and elements of friendship in their ability to argue and insult one another, and yet go back to the Rinjin-bu everyday and participate in their activities. These characters are all after an easily defined version of friendship, one that arguably only ever exists in stories; a form of friendship that is easily obtained through a simple selection of activities and games. Every single character in Haganai fails to realise the importance of the Rinjin-bu and how taking part in even the most apparently meaningless activity with others can result in stronger relationships and friendships forming.
The most fascinating character in the entire series is (arguably) Kodaka, largely because he has made a good group of friends that all deeply care for him without even realising it. As an individual we see Kodaka continuously struggling with his appearance and the negative reactions that it tends to generate in anyone who sees him. Because of English mother he has the look of a yankee, a delinquent; a look that runs counter to his personality, but has ultimately led to social segregation and a feeling of being unfit to have friends. Because of this and the constant movement that he has gone through he clearly has problems getting to know others, and we see him clearly embarrassed by social interaction at numerous points in this and the first season. That he has inadvertently gained a harem, with five of the seven girls in the Rinjin-bu would like to date him, having become increasingly aware of their attraction towards him as an individual, while the other two want him to dote on them as an older brother and someone who they can play with seems to pass him by. This is arguably not because he is dense or in any way oblivious to their affection, but arguably because he doesn’t see them in that way. During the most recent episode Kodaka comments to Sena that someone like him without any friends doesn’t deserve a girlfriend, thus demonstrating that he doesn’t realise the increasing affection of all the girls around him because he was never after that to begin with. He entered to Rinjin-bu to find friends and views all of its members as being a part of that process, therefore suggesting that he cannot see them in any romantic fashion because he was never after that to begin with.
By arranging for everyone to meet up together to buy presents for Kobato, Kodaka demonstrates that he views everyone equally, while also completely missing what are the obvious signs to us the audience that they all view him in romantic terms. He isn’t being mean, or rude, rather he views the girls in the club as simply other club members who all want to buy Kobato gifts on the same day, so coming as a group makes absolute sense to him as an individual. In a way, Kodaka’s actions are perfectly understandable, and reasonable when we take his thought process into account. When we also look at his habit of vocalising his internal thoughts, coupled with his ability to notice the various changes that these girls put into their appearance, even though he never says anything and we begin to get a picture of the kind of character Kodaka is. He cant grasp that the Rinjin-bu are his friends, largely because he views it as merely a club with members that are all after the same thing as himself. He is kind to everyone largely because he as an individual is caring and worries about those who he interacts with, perhaps because of his own experiences as half-English. His comments about how cute Rika had become were simply that, comments, with no ulterior motives behind them, which is what makes them so frustrating to everyone present. Because he doesn’t perceive himself to be deserving of a girlfriend, coupled with the way he appears to view the Rinjin-bu, Kodaka is therefore entirely oblivious of the feelings that these girls clearly have for him.
This thought process does appear to have created an emotional wall around him as an individual, one that no one can really break, which complicates matters when he is present in all of the main characters lives. In a sense, Kodaka is too responsible for his own good, and his upbringing, along with looking after Kobato have turned him into someone who is kind to everyone, while also thinking about himself in a rather negative way. The scene when he inadvertently sees Kate naked further reinforces his responsible nature and demonstrates that he doesn’t have any ulterior motives in his current relationship with all the girls in his life. He knows that he shouldn’t be looking at her, although he still has his own innate desire to continue looking, whole also realising that he should take responsibility for his own actions. Unlike in other high school anime there is nothing that Kodaka does on purpose, rather he goes out of his way to be kind and considerate to everyone he meets, perhaps because of his own experiences as a social outcast. This attitude is most pronounced in the most recent episode when he invites everyone to go shopping with him (although the attitude is also present in numerous other episodes). From the language of their text messages it is obvious to the viewer that they want to go on a date with him, but Kodaka doesn’t see it that way because romance doesn’t even factor in his daily life. Instead he is so focussed on making new friends, coupled with the way he views the other members of the Rinjin-bu that it is arguable he doesn’t necessarily see them as anything other than fellow club members.
It doesn’t help that the other members of the Rinjin-bu are all rather socially awkward and can never seem to ask the right questions or say the right things to make Kodaka notice their true feelings. As with Kodaka they are all a part of the Rinjin-bu to make friends, largely because they appear to have their own various issues surrounding socialising with others. Sena for example is effectively a social outcast precisely because she is beautiful, intelligent, and generally good at everything she does, which on its own wouldn’t necessarily be bad, but she is also narcissistic and often exhibits a terrible personality. Yozora is similarly troubled with a horrible sadistic personality along with her fear of crowds. Rika is the most forward looking member of the club, but even she never really says or does the right things and instead relies on Kodaka noticing her. All of these girls (including Yukimura, and perhaps Kate) try to get his attention but are too vague in their advances, while also having to cope with their own problems and eccentricities. That Yozora buys nice clothes without even realising how sexy they are, only to end up wearing a tracksuit due to feeling embarrassed further reinforces the problems that they have to deal with. They are all too vague, and instead of being far more upfront and obvious about their affection for Kodaka continue to hide behind their vague suggestions and hope that he might notice them. This is only complicated further by their own inherent issues with socialising, and other general social anxieties.
Kodaka isn’t trying to intentionally hurt their feelings, but his kindness and thoughtful attitude, coupled with his own feelings of not deserving a girlfriend or romance makes for a certain amount of frustration. Not that this is a bad thing because Kodaka’s kindness is one of his greatest assets and arguably the reason why all of the girls in his life are able to get so close to an individual that has the looks of a delinquent. What we do see in Haganai and the current relationships between these characters is the complicated nature of friendship and the reasons why the Rinjin-bu’s stated aims are rather ridiculous. They are all friends even if they don’t know it; no one could act the way Yozora, Sena and Rika do if they didn’t have a relatively close relationship for example. They can only act this way because as a club they have all become incredibly close to one another and are able to participate in various activities, such as going shopping together. That they don’t even realise how close they are further demonstrates the curious nature of friendship and how you can never really tell whom you will be friends with in the first place. It also further reinforces why Kodaka hasn’t noticed these characters increasing affection for him – he is so focussed on making friends he cant see the wood from the trees and his fairly gentle and caring nature simply means that he cares for everyone equally rather than think about them as individuals with romantic feelings or attachments. This episode helps to demonstrate how complicated friendship, and by extension, romance, really are; with the central characters all looking for an easily defined form of friendship without realising that the relationship they all currently share is precisely what they are looking for.