Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends

Haganai: I Don't Have Many FriendsHaganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends is about a club for students who have trouble making friends. The Neighbors Club begins with two members, Mikazuki Yozora and Hasegawa Kodaka, and grows to include five more. Over the course of the story, the club members engage in various “normal” teen activities in an effort to learn the skills necessary to create and sustain friendships.

Having enjoyed the first volume of the Haganai manga, I was eager to watch the anime, but unfortunately, the show does not live up to the manga’s initial promise. Aside from a little backstory on Kodaka and Yozora, the characters are not fleshed out, nor is there any progression in their personal development. Even in Kodaka and Yozora’s new backstory, nothing changes, and each character ends the season exactly as he or she begins it.

A troubling lack of plot development accompanies Haganai‘s lack of character development. Since the goal of the Neighbors Club is to make friends, one would expect that the characters would begin to grow together as friends in spite of their differences, but this is not so. By the end of the final episode, they remain a group of disparate people who have embarked on various adventures together, unified only by the fact that all the club members are interested in Kodaka.

Bullying is a pervasive and unaddressed issue in this series. Yozora, co-founder of the Neighbors Club, and Sena, one of its first members, do not get along. What appears to be an equal exchange of competition and insults in the first volume of the manga takes a diabolical turn in the anime series. In the manga, Yozora refers to Sena as “Meat.” This unflattering nickname is also present in the anime, with the addition of cruel and dehumanizing remarks about the size of Sena’s breasts. Yozora’s taunting grows increasingly demeaning and aggressive throughout the course of the show. During a trip to the beach, Yozora pins a topless Sena to the ground with her foot, calling Sena a pervert and insisting that her victim enjoys the humiliation. In the final bonus episode, the characters play a game of Round Robin and Yozora writes a scene in which Sena is raped by a monster. All of these actions are taken by a character with whom the viewer is meant to sympathize, but the other members of the Neighbors Club do nothing to stop it. This anime is a comedy, but there is nothing comic about these scenes; they are a frighteningly real portrayal of the relationship between an abuser and victim. Since there is neither plot nor character development to resolve this aspect of the story, one is left to wonder if the show’s creators understand the gravity of what they have written.

The animation and English dub are both good, but not strong enough to balance out the missing character and plot development. There is a sequel called Haganai: NEXT, which may attempt to resolve the issues present in this season, but given the show’s failure to advance the story over the course of 13 episodes, I’m not holding out much hope. This anime also contains a significant amount of mature content—from topless girls to an erotica-obsessed science student—that makes it appropriate only for adults.

Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends
FUNimation, 2013
directed by Hisashi Saito, Zach Bolton
325 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, DVD/Blu-Ray Combo Set
Company Age Rating: TV-MA
Related to: Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends by Yomi Hirasaka