Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (a.k.a. ‘Haganai’ or ‘I Don’t Have Many Friends’) is a short 12-episode school harem comedy anime series produced by AIC Build and that aired in the fall of 2011. A lot of people seem to brush off school harem anime as rubbish, and considering the premise of some of them, I’m not surprised. The description of the series on MAL makes it sound more interesting than your average school harem comedy:
Hasegawa Kodaka has transferred schools, and he’s having a hard time making friends. It doesn’t help that his blond hair tends to make people think he’s a delinquent. One day, he runs into his bad-tempered solitary classmate Yozora while she’s talking animatedly to her imaginary friend Tomo. Realizing that neither of them have any actual friends, they decide that the best way to alter this situation is to form a club and start recruiting.
That is how “Rinjinbu”, The Neighbours’ Club, was formed, a club specifically designed for people who don’t have very many friends. As other lonely classmates slowly join their little club, they’ll try to learn how to build friendships through cooking together, playing games, and other group activities. But will this group of relationship-challenged misfits really be able to get along?
Admittidly, it wasn’t the genre or story that got me interested in the series, it was the fact that the character designs were done by Buriki, the same artist that worked on Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko. I started the first episode expecting everything except the animation/character designs to be utterly average. When I finished the first episode, I had a smile on my face and realized “hey, this anime is actually funny”. Yozora’s excuse for talking to herself (having an air friend) instantly made her my favourite character (until Kobato came along). Her decision to not let Sena, the school’s hottest and most popular girl, join the Neighbours’ Club was also ironically funny because the point of the club was to make friends.
I should point out that the humour in Haganai isn’t like the typical slice-of-life or slap-stick comedy you find in most anime. There are no explosions or girls pulling random objects out of thin air; it is based on being able to relate to certain characters’ motivations and logic. Each of the main (female) characters are brutally honest and frank when they speak out. This means that nearly all of the funny parts come from conversations, but the series doesn’t suffer from “talking heads” syndrome, which is a bonus.
One of the worries with comedic anime like Haganai is that the humour would eventually wear off when they start re-using old jokes. There were a few recycled moments, but for the most part, each episode was fresh with new content. When video games started to get old, they moved on to other things like karaoke, figuring out cellphones, and going to the beach.
While comedy is the driving force behind this series, there is also a touch of some drama, mainly a love triangle between Kodaka, Yozora, and Sena. Little headway was made in that area by the end of the series, which really begs the question of why they decided to include it anyways. I’m sure the light novel that Haganai is based on gets further into it, but looking at the anime as a stand-alone product, it felt more like a road to nowhere.
The character designs were attractive, as I had expected from Buriki, and the animation quality was great for the first episode. Sadly, as the series progressed, the animation quality dropped, reaching an unbearable low in episode 8. The quality improved somewhat after that, but was still nowhere as visually appealing as the first episode. I was more upset than usual because one of the main reasons that I was watching the series was because I liked the character designs. It was definitely not something I was expecting from the studio that produced Ore no Imouto.
Despite its shortcomings, I found Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai to be extremely entertaining. Whether you have friends or not, I think everyone reading this post can relate to and/or laugh at the things that the characters say and do. I therefore highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys comedy anime.