Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT – The artist formally known as………Pegasus……
March 12, 2013 Leave a comment
One of the most fascinating elements of Haganai is the way people approach the notion of friendship and what it means to be popular. As we already know from previous episodes, and indeed, previous season, the members of Rinjin-bu all have rather curious, and at times, warped perceptions of what it means to be popular with others. Furthermore, the various characters that occupy the Rinjin-bu are also (mostly) oblivious to the fact that their very presence within the club, and the increasingly close relationship that these characters have constitutes a form of friendship. Rika and Kodaka are clearly conscious of their current situation; although in Kodaka’s case we get the impression that he remains oblivious to everyone around him. Haganai also helps to present the notion of judging a book by its cover in relation to its central characters, particularly Kodaka and Sena. In the most recent episode for example we learn more about how Sena is viewed by the rest of the student population through the ranting of Yusa Aoi.
The relationship that Kodaka has with all of the Rinjin-bu members is a rather curious one, as if he is deliberately keeping them at arms reach rather than wishing to get into any closer relationships with them. But what this particular example also brings up is how the rest of school views the Rinjin-bu and its members, especially Sena, who as we know is rich, beautiful and talented. Yusa Aoi perfectly describes the public perception of Sena as a rich, beautiful and talented individual that excels at everything she does, and by extension (at least in the mind of Yusa Aoi, although it is easy to see how many others may think the same) must be incredibly popular. When Yusa Aoi suggests that Kodaka is Sena’s boyfriend, his immediate reaction is to deny it and ask how on earth he could be her boyfriend. However, this particular comment demonstrates how easy his relationship with Sena and the way he addresses her on an incredibly informal basis can be viewed by those on the outside. Unlike everyone else in the class, and perhaps the school, Kodaka does not call her ‘Sena-sama’, and doesn’t fawn over her like she is some sort of queen. He treats her normally, like one would treat any normal individual be they a girl or boy, and particularly the way people normally treat their friends. This ability to talk to each other on such an informal basis, coupled with how much time they spend together may clearly lead casual observers to believe that these two individuals are going out with each other.
This simple encounter also demonstrates how easy it is to create a particular version of someone in your head based off of, often very simplistic information. To Yusa Aoi, Sena must be incredibly popular based on her appearance and abilities, things that are in many respects incredibly superficial. The reality is very different, with Sena in the first series practically crying to get into Rinjin-bu. Because of her looks, position within the school, and a personality that swings from neurotic to incredibly arrogant she is a social outcast, much like Kodaka, Yozora and Rika. Her greatest assets (at least on a superficial basis) such as her athletic and academic abilities, coupled with her beauty work against her, with other girls avoiding her as if she were the plague itself. Far from being popular, Sena is an incredibly lonely individual, and one who is completely socially inept, someone who is unable to really understand why she is in her current situation in the first place. As Kodaka points out in his internal monologue, Sena is a rather clumsy individual, someone who is capable of putting more effort than anyone else into the things that she is interested in. Her high-test scores and athletic ability aren’t necessarily the result of a genius, but rather that of someone who can utterly focus on a single thing. As Sena herself points out she has never had any special tutoring or training, and has instead generally focused in class and taken proper notes. Her aloof personality is partly the result of her upbringing and family life, since being the daughter of the schools chairman Pegasus, and coming from a wealthy family has meant that she has had access to almost anything she could ever wish for.
If we look at Sena in this light then her social isolation can be linked to two key factors that overlap to create her current situation. Sena is someone who disregards anything that doesn’t interest her, which includes other members of her class, and has meant that she has never even bothered to talk to the other girls, who she appears to view as a mere nuisance. This isnt necessarily out of spite, and is arguably because of Sena’s personality and the way she approaches life, chasing after the things that interest her while ignoring everything else. The problem is that such an attitude, coupled with her personality gives the impression of someone who is aloof and perhaps think they are too good to talk to ‘normal’ people. This perception is further reinforced by her upbringing, and her ability to essentially do anything she wants. Kodaka points out that her family life means she is completely free and uncontrolled, with the circumstances to live like she, something that could easily make others hate and despise her. This freedom to do whatever she wants, and ‘oujo-sama’ personality reinforces the many problems that Sena has and makes it incredibly easy to see why her disregard for anything that doesn’t interest her at that particular point in time could be construed as thinking she is too good to talk to ‘normal’ people.
This element of her personality also helps to explain Sena’s utter fixation on Kobato, and the creepy levels of her devotion to the things she likes. Her addiction to eroge, coupled with her passion for Kobato are relatively simple to explain and lead into the way she completely focuses on things she loves to the detriment of everything else. Such obsession with Kobato however comes across as incredibly creepy, but is understandable once we know how her personality works and the way she approaches life and the things she likes. It does however mean that she can be incredibly overbearing, which only complicates her already socially inept way of interacting with others. That she can talk to Kodaka in such an informal, and generally ‘normal’ manner perhaps demonstrates how much trust she places in him, and close their relationship is. She isn’t focused on him like she is on Kobato, but still socializes with him on a daily basis as part of the club and their club activities, but in this case in a relatively normal manner. It was interesting to discover that Kodaka and Sena are engaged, something that was arguably easy to recognize considering the way Pegasus acted whenever Kodaka was near. Sena’s utter fixation on Kobato doesn’t do their situation much good considering the way she answers her fathers questions, although it is easy to see from her own expression that there may have been an element of her answers that did in part relate to Kodaka. The way she reacts to telling Kodaka the news, coupled with his own reactions further reinforce that she has feelings for him.
This situation at least partly explains why so many people clearly think that Sena and Kodaka are dating, since Pegasus has been going around and telling everyone that they are engaged. What followed was also rather fascinating, and we get to see Sena’s reaction to the reactions of everyone else in the Rinjin-bu, further reinforcing how much she cares for the club, even if she would never admit it. Slapping Yozora across the face with a fly swat mirrors Yozora’s actions in previous episodes, but holds far more emotional weight behind a relatively simple action. Whereas Yozora acted out of spite and a sadistic desire to annoy Sena, we see Sena genuinely upset at Yozora’s complete lack of emotion and ability to interact with everyone as she usually would. Throughout the series Sena seems to have been happy at being a part of the Rinjin-bu, and regardless of the physical and verbal abuse that was thrown at her seems to crave Yozora’s recognition. Such an emotionless and lifeless response to the news that Sena and Kodaka are engaged, regardless of their response seems far worse than any amount of verbal or physical abuse because it means that Yozora cant even acknowledge her existence within the club as a distinct individual.
Through this episode not only do we see how easy it is to create a mental picture of someone based off of a few obvious characteristics, but also how delicate the balance is within the Rinjin-bu, and how central Kodaka is to keeping it going. Sena’s public image is that of a ditzy blonde girl, and although she may be intelligent, with good grades and athletic ability, it is her looks, and personality that get the most attention. As we saw during the first series, Sena is fawned over by all of the boys in school, and despised by all of the girls, partly out of jealousy of her social background, looks, and ability. She is however isolated and socially inept, a character that has no friends because of her appearance, ability and the way she approaches life. Indeed, we know from the effort she puts into all of the Rinjin-bu activities – going as far as to spending 24 hours straight playing a computer game – that she is a fundamentally lonely individual. The Rinjin-bu, and all of the relationships that she has built up as a part of this club are therefore essential to her, because it remains the only place other than her own house where she can be herself, without having to worry about external appearances. That we constantly see her playing a new game, or getting caught up in her own fantasies of Kobato reinforces this, and demonstrates that despite her rivalry with Yozora she feels at home.
The Rinjin-bu is a place where those who feel they have nowhere to belong can come and create strong social links and relationships, thus fulfilling its original purpose, even if unintentionally in the case of some individuals. However, the reactions that the sudden revelation of Kodada and Sena’s engagement suggests that the club is actually quite frail and delicate, with Kodaka acting as the glue that keeps everyone together. Individually they are all striving to become more popular, although how much effort they are putting in is often questionable. But, through the club activities we see how strong their friendships have become, with the current film project acting as a perfect demonstration of how easily they can work together in a group. Kodaka is the one character that allows this to happen, and it is perhaps largely because he continues to be ignorant (although it now seems to be more of an act rather than true ignorance) of the romantic feelings that all of these girls have for him that keeps this group together. They work as a single unit because by taking part in the club activities they can actively get closer to him and spend a significant amount of time with him either at, or after school. This doesn’t mean that they are sheep, far from it, with friendships being created in a more organic fashion as a result of their constant interaction. It is just that despite all of the more organic relationships and friendships that are formed because of the Rinjin-bu, Kodaka still remains at the very center, so without him around the club effectively falls apart.