Haganai NEXT: Season Two Collection Review

Anime

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Haganai NEXT
Studio: AIC Build
Publisher: Madman
Format:
Blu-ray (reviewed), DVD
Release Date: July 23, 2014
Price: $59.95 – Available Here

Overview
Are you feeling lonely? Are you in dire need of more friends of even a friend? The creator of Haganai, an abbreviation of “Boku ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai” or “I Don’t Have Many Friends”, answered the calling of many anime viewers faced with this dilemma.

Haganai is centered around a group of strange misfits coming together in the school’s Neighbours Club in attempt to learn how to make friends. The ensuing antics were a riot during the first season and Haganai NEXT attempts to continue the laughter with round two.

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Story
To recap, the Neighbours Club was formed by classmates Kodaka and Yozora and its member list was soon expanded to include Sena, a busty and attractive girl who can’t make friends despite her looks, the science girl Rika whose high IQ is downplayed by her extremely perverted mind, the effeminate Yukimura who is gender confused despite wanting to be manly and finally a bratty little girl who happens to be a nun. Oh and there’s Kodaka’s little sister too who likes to cosplay as her favourite vampire character.

While the humour was centre stage throughout all of Haganai, it wasn’t without its plot and more serious elements. Kodaka realised at the end of season one that one of the club members, Yozora, was his childhood friend. The reason he couldn’t remember was because Yozora sported a tomboy look back when she was a kid. Nevertheless, the two agree not to tell the other club members in case anyone got the wrong impression that they are more close than they seem.

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In contrast, it’s Kodaka’s interaction with Sena that seems to be the main point of this season. Kodaka’s father is friends with Sena’s father, who is ridiculously named “Pegasus”, so the two are linked whether they like it or not. More than that, Kodaka’s hilarious alone-time with Sena’s dad ends with a promise to protect Sena from being bullied at school.

But the comedy still comes first with episodes such as where the gang all visit a theme park for the first time in their quest to find the meaning of friendship. Spoiler: they don’t find it. Which is the brilliance of Haganai in a nutshell, here are a bunch of people hanging out and doing what friends normally do yet they aren’t actually “friends”, or at least they don’t realise that they are friends all along!

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The final few episodes of Haganai NEXT take a more serious turn as Rika becomes the main star of the show, confronting Kodaka about his feelings and motivations. Out of all the seemingly clueless characters, Rika is the one that is the most perceptive. Fans of Rika will love the attention she gets while others might not enjoy the plot elements that sometimes take centre stage of what is basically a comedy show.

The story here ramps up considerably in the end and it’s a lot more satisfying than just leaving things as they are like in most comedy anime. All the characters become more developed and fleshed out in some way, with a couple of new characters and a few game-changing secrets thrown at the viewers (oh my, Yukimura!). But if this is truly as good as it gets for our socially-challenged band of misfits, I can’t wait to see them graduate and enter society as adults!

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Visuals
I loved the luscious character art in Haganai, with designs similar to Denpa Onna or Psychoelectric Girl, and Haganai NEXT only improves on what we received in the first season. With regards to fan-service, there’s still plenty of it. But the impact of the fan-service is a little less than the first season as you won’t see a bare-chested Sena this time around. The Blu-ray makes this show such a treat to watch. Haganai remains one of the prettier slice-of-life/comedy anime out there in terms of character art and animation.

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Audio
The music accompanying Hagani NEXT is as amusing and fitting as ever, matching the antics happening on-screen. The opening theme of “Be My Friend” is a fast-paced “did you miss us?” sort of song, sung by the Japanese cast, while the ending theme “Bokura no Tsubasa” is a slow and thoughtful song set to some beautiful character art.

The English release of Haganai NEXT retains the Funimation voice actors we heard in the first season and suit the characters quite fine. But the rabid emotions among the bickering club members is on a different level when heard in Japanese, where the various puns and jokes are literally translated in the subtitles for full effect.

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Extras
On the discs Madman has been kind enough to include the full short film that the characters made in the anime called “Black Dragon”: The Cries of the Damned along with your usual TV spots and trailers, commentaries and textless songs.

It’s worth mentioning that the English release of Haganai NEXT has been censored. There is a disclaimer on the back saying “Episode 2 contains select footage from the Japanese broadcast version.” Raunchy scenes on Japanese TV are often censored only to get revealed in the show’s DVD/BD release. Unfortunately they decided a certain scene was too raunchy for the overseas audience.

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Overall
Haganai NEXT will fill you with plenty of laughs thanks to some crude, mature and in-your-face humour and inside jokes that otaku will love. The cast of unusual characters took some time to get together in the first season, but here it’s comedy with everyone involved from the get-go.
There is also some unexpected and serious character development here, particularly towards the emotional end, that reveals plenty of additional plot elements.

But you’re not here for the plot, are you? Haganai NEXT maintains the humour in the show’s outlandish, polar opposite characters. It’s also a quasi-harem without the romance thanks to the male MC and the girls around him. If you want to see one of the funniest anime shows in the last couple of years you’d do well to grab Haganai and Haganai NEXT off the shelves. You don’t need to be friendless to enjoy it, either.

8-0-capsules-out-of-10

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

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