Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends Review

Anime

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Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends
Studio: AIC Build
Publisher: FUNimation
Format: Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Price: $69.98 – Available Here

Overview
Usually in anime, a main character is presented to viewers with either a slew of friends from the start or is able to quickly attract friends or allies due to their unique personalities. However what happens when a number of misfits come together? Well that is what the anime Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends, also known as Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, explores. Now that the first season of the anime has made its way to North America, is it worth checking out?

Story
Kodaka Hasegawa has had no luck finding friends after transferring into a private Catholic school. Not for lack of triyng of course, since despite his best intentions everyone around him seems to think he is nothing more than a brute and gang member. This may be due to his naturally dirty blonde hair (a common Japanese “gang member” sign) and angry looking demeanor which causes even teachers to shrink in fear from him.

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Whenever he tries to spark up a conversation with someone, they usually always run away in fear before he can explain himself, causing numerous rumors of his ruthlessness to circulate throughout the student body. Finding himself friendless and alone, he suddenly finds his fellow classmate Yozora Mikazuki standing alone in a classroom talking to herself. It turns out; she wasn’t talking to herself, but an “air friend.”

After some discussion where the two find out that neither of them have any friends, Yozora creates the “Neighbor’s Club,” a club for people who have no friends to try and find ways to make some, though she does so in such a way that only those desperate enough for friends will apply. It just so happens that within minutes, a new girl appears wanting to join the club. Much to Yozora’s chagrin, it happens to be the most popular, talented and busty girl in the entire school, Sena Kashiwazaki.

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It turns out that although boys fawn all over her, Sena has no real friends of her own since guys only want to be near her for her looks and the girls all hate her because of her unwavering popularity. The club grows in number throughout the rest of the season, seeing the inclusion of a Rika, a brilliant but isolated scientist who admits that she is a complete pervert who only cares to join the club for Kodaka, the “bullied” and feminine looking Yukimura who wants to be Kodaka’s lackey to become more manly, the club’s advisor, Maria who happens to be a ten year old nun who is highly intelligent, but has a habit of simply calling everyone poop and even Kodaka’s little sister, also lacking in friends due to her obsession with an anime that sees her dressing up in gothic clothing, speaking like a vampire and wearing a red contact lens.

Every time that the Neighbor’s Club comes together, they try out numerous activities that one would do with their friends, including playing video games, singing karaoke, going swimming at the pool or beach and even staying at a camp overnight to tell ghost stories. While each of these activities usually would be run-of-the-mill in a standard anime, the fact that each of these characters are so broken makes each activity unique in its own way.

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Haganai is clearly presented as a harem comedy as it quickly becomes apparent that most of the characters have feelings for Kodaka, even if the man himself is too dense to realize it. Thanks to the fact that most of these characters have never had friends before, their awkward interactions with one another and attempts at the simplest tasks create numerous hilarious scenes. It also helps that thanks to the broken nature of their characters, they each have running-gags throughout the series which are constantly played for laughs.

Sena and Yozora are always at odds with one another, often with Yozora tormenting Sena about her breast size or sheltered lifestyle (though the venomous Yozora does take things too far at times), Maria and Kobato (Kodaka’s younger sister), devolve into child arguments as they fight over Kodaka, Yukimura’s feminine body and Yozora’s purposely misleading advice and even Rika’s constant perversion all create a highly entertaining series that takes a light-hearted tone throughout much of the series.

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It is worth noting that while the series does place all of these misfits together, it doesn’t do much else beyond that.  While hilarious more often than not, there is little in the way of progression for any member of the group and while there is some character development for the three main members of the cast, the misfit group remains just as they were even as the final episode on the release plays. While a second season has already aired in Japan and will likely see release in the West, the “status quo” nature of this first season will leave viewers wanting much more by the time everything ends.

Visuals
Perhaps one of the first things I should mention about Haganai is the fact that the series has quite a lot of fan-service accompanying it. One of Sena’s highlighted traits are her large breasts, which usually are the focal point of many camera angles, including shots at the characters’ butts and numerous swimsuit appearances. There are also numerous suggestive looking scenes where no nudity is shown, as well as a handful of sequences where a girl’s breasts are fully exposed with nipples, including the loli characters. This is by no means a negative to the series, since it is a harem comedy, but it is worth noting for those who may not appreciate such a focus on fan-service.

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Anyways, Haganai features some rather well designed looking characters, each with a unique look and numerous outfit changes throughout the season. The character animation does suffer a bit at long-range and even at mid-range, but everything is smooth looking and impressive. This includes the numerous background scenes that are shown throughout the season, including a number of religious looking areas since the school is meant to be a Catholic institution.

Audio
Since this is a FUNimation release, Haganai has been given an English dub to accompany the original Japanese voice track. Surprisingly enough, the English voice work is quite impressive given the range of characters and the back-and-forth that most of them have with one another. It is worth noting that Yozora’s “Meat” nickname for Sena is retained but shifted out occasionally with other jabs at Sena’s large breasts, but outside of that their interchanges are unaltered and presented clearly in English.

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There are a number of inserted songs including a handful of songs sung by the English cast inserted into the anime which is a nice touch, especially considering the fact that the background music used throughout the series is basic at best. The opening theme for this first season is “Zannenkei Rinjinbu” and it is sung by all of the female members of the Japanese cast and the ending theme is “Watashi no Ki-mo-chi” which is sung by Yozora’s Japanese voice actress. Both of these themes are nicely animated and also enjoyable to listen to, making them hard to simply skip past.

Extras
As far as bonus features go, Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends comes with a standard set of extras, though it is padded out a bit with some extra Japanese promotional footage. Included on the disc are Blu-ray and DVD spots, original commercials, promo videos, and TV spots in Japanese as well as the US trailer, trailers for other FUNimation releases, clean versions of the opening and ending theme as well as two commentary tracks.

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The first commentary track is for episode 2 and features Jad Saxton, the voice of Sena, Whitney Rodgers, the voice of Yozora and Jerry Jewell, the voice of Kodaka. The three spend most of the commentary discussing random things as well as events in the episode itself, including Sena’s nickname and the obvious fact everyone watching the series will figure out by the series ends. The second commentary is for episode 8 and features Zach Bolton, the voice director, Alison Viktorin the voice of Kobato and Kristi Kang who voices Maria. These three spend the nearly all of the commentary discussing the episode itself though they do spend a bit of time focusing on Kobato in particular.

Overall
Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends offers a hilarious first season with such a broken cast of characters that it will be impossible to forget about them once the last episode airs. With great visuals, an over-abundance of fanservice and a nicely handled English dub, Haganai brings a lot to the table but unfortunately doesn’t do a whole lot with it beside give viewers plenty of laughs. This is great for what it is but will leave some viewers hoping for some actual development whenever the second season heads stateside.

8-0-capsules-out-of-10

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As a big fan of anime and games I'll be quick to cover anything that happens to be of interest.

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