Haganai NEXT continues the story of the social misfits of the Neighbors Club from Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends. In this installment, the group continues their quest for friendship by practicing social activities that normal kids would participate in. After my disappointment with the first season, I told myself that I wasn’t expecting the sequel to be better, though I was just a little hopeful. However, the series’ problems appeared to be getting worse in the very first episode.
Yozora continues to bully Sena, and although the bullying is no longer sexual in nature, one of the other club members joins in and it seems as though the situation is escalating. It is then revealed that Sena has developed an unhealthy, stalker-like obsession with Yozora: she tells Kodaka that she looks at dozens of pictures she’s taken of Yozora and sniffs a wig that Yozora has worn in order to remain focused on her eventual revenge. In a scene towards the end of the episode, Sena is apparently masturbating to pictures of Yozora, suggesting that the girl has truly come unhinged. It is also during this episode that the topic of bullying is finally discussed. After Sena’s father sees the results of Yozora’s latest trick, he asks Kodaka if his daughter is being bullied. However, Kodaka vehemently denies it and claims that if Sena were being bullied, he would stop it. There is no mention of the extreme bullying that Kodaka ignored in the first season, leaving the viewer to wonder how he would define bullying if it does not include this kind of behavior.
In this season, character development does improve to some extent. We finally discover whether the androgynous character is male or female, although the writers never provide a good explanation as to why it was a mystery in the first place. Rika, the erotica-obsessed science student, is revealed to have more substance than just her overcharged libido, while Yozora proves she can admit her mistakes and even apologize. In a significant plot advancement, the club members finally see that they are actually friends. Unfortunately, there are a number of dropped plot threads that leave the viewer confused.
Since Sena’s obsession with Yozora and their ongoing bullying issues are so prominent in the first episode, one would think that these would be major factors in the rest of the season. However, the bullying phases out after this episode (no thanks to Kodaka). At the end of the first episode, Yozora and Rika apologize to Sena, and though Yozora continues to pick on Sena, it is not nearly as violent as it was before. Their relationship is more like a mutual rivalry than a bully-and-victim dynamic. Frustratingly, no reason is given for the sudden change in Yozora’s behavior. Likewise, Sena’s stalking is only mentioned once or twice in subsequent episodes, which makes one uncertain as to why it was included in the first place.
New characters are introduced in the final episodes and a cliffhanger ending leaves the door open for a third season. However, the low quality of this anime simply does not warrant an extended series. Most 24-to-26-episode anime series leave the viewer quite satisfied, but Haganai has progressed very little in 25 episodes. For a similar story that is better told, try The Pet Girl of Sakurasou.
Librarians should be aware that this series is classified as “ecchi.” While it is not pornography, it does include significant sexual content that will make some uncomfortable. Masturbation, up-skirt angles, provocative depictions of young girls, and raunchy sexual descriptions are all common features of this anime.
Haganai NEXT: Season Two
FUNimation Entertainment, 2014
directed by Toru Kitahata
300 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