Making friends when you have none continues to be one of the hardest things to do.
What They Say:
Yozora’s an abrasive loudmouth whose only friend at school is imaginary. She knows she’s difficult – which makes her better off than Kodoka, a new transfer student who picked up an undeserved bad reputation the second he stepped on campus. Inspired by their shared status as social catastrophes, the two loners unite and start the Neighbors Club, an organization dedicated to finding other misfits and making friends.
In no time, a third member joins their ranks: Sena, a pretty, popular rich girl who annoys Yozora to no end. With Kodoka in the middle of the chaos, the brash brunette and the blonde boy-magnet go ’round and ’round, even as the Neighbors Club begins to grow. Hopefully, the girls can get past their rivalry, because sometimes the friendship you’re looking for is right in front of you, and sometimes the best friends are the friends you never even wanted.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is fairly straightforward FUNimation style in that we get the original Japanese language track in stereo and a new English language dub that’s in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The series is one that while it does take place at school, has a number of outlandish moments that allows it to go a big bigger than most standard school comedies and that mix helps with that as some of the action is fun and placement of the dialogue works well. There’s plenty ofs scenes where we get a number of characters together talking over each other across the forward soundstage and it comes across cleanly and with enough depth and placement. The music does tend to be the bigger player here overall but there’s plenty to like with this presentation and the fact that you can flip between tracks during playback. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series and OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by AIC Build, there’s a lot to like here in general with the color design of the series, the fluid animation and obviously some of the fanservice as well as it doesn’t look like a show that cuts corners and the high definition presentation captures a lot of this. Colors are clean and free of problems such as line noise or cross coloration, but there are a few areas where some of the solid colors of a darker nature, such as some of the browns and greens, have more noise and minor breakup in them. But this is the equivelant of a few seconds out of several hours worth of material. With some bright and bold colors along the way, it’s definitely easy to enjoy the presentation overall.
The limited edition version of this release comes with a heavy chipboard box that holds two Blu-ray cases inside, one which holds the DVDs and the other which holds the Blu-ray discs themselves. The box is pretty nice and colorful as the front cover has the two female leads together, giving us a darker and brighter contrast, wearing their school uniforms and having good expressions to their faces. The back cover goes for an ensemble look to it with all of the members of the Neighbors Club here while both covers have the bright pink and yellow logo with its full subtitle. The two cases inside are pretty nice as well as we get different character configurations, with one having the lead trio while the other has some of the supporting cast. The back covers are very simple with a mostly white background that provides a breakdown of the discs contents for that format by episode number and title as well as the extras involved. The two cases each have artwork on the reverse side that uses the cast in different situations with real world backgrounds that allows them to pretty much smile and be happy. No show related inserts are included in this release.
The menu design here goes for the very simple as we get a series of relaxed and mostly calm clips that play throughout the piece as we see the various characters walk through parts of their lives and interactions with each other at the school. THe logo sits along the center top in its pink and yellow glory which is cute while the lower left has the menu navigation itself in white with a fun font. The problem is that since there’s no background color strip to it, when you watch it during regular playback of the show it can be a problem because of subtitles being on and how they overlay on each other. Submenus do load quickly and it lists which episode you’re on clearly when you look at it during playback. Language selection is a breeze and none of the tracks are locked.
The release comes with a couple of new English language commentaries by the production team which is fun to listen to since they just have fun in how they interact. That’s on the first disc while the second disc has more traditional extras such as the original TV commercials, spots for the home video release, promotional videos and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Based on the ongoing light novel series Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai by Yomi Hirasaka that began back in 2008, Haganai is a twelve episode TV series with an additional OVA. School based comedies are obviously a dime a dozen and I’ll admit I didn’t pay much attention to the show when FUNimation picked up and streamed it and then did the same with the second season. With its focus on characters that have a hard time making friends and coming together with a small group of likeminded people, it has a certain bit of predictability to it. What can separate a show and help it to stand out from the pack is how the characters interact and some of the quirks that come from it. With Haganai, it certainly has its quirky characters and an amusing bit of fanservice and dialogue to it that stands out from other shows where it almost feels like it has a chance of being somewhat realistic.
The series essentially runs along two main storylines, both of which are pretty fun and intersect in some natural ways. The first story is one that is sort of bookended with the series with nods throughout it in that we’re introduced to the two primary characters, high school students Yozora and Kodaka. Kodaka and his younger sister have just moved into town to a house where they grew up in years ago but had to move due to their father and his job. The two are a bit different than other kids as their mother was English, so they have a different appearance overall and have always felt just a little bit on the outside. Kodaka is pretty much a decent guy though, but has a hard time making friends while his younger sister, Kobato is pretty smart but has adapted to being different by being sucked into an anime series and believing she’s a vampire, or at least playing it up well, and inhabits the role without ever being overbearing.
When they come back to town, there is some history to it but it’s nothing that really registers for Kodaka, which is unfortunate because a girl there that he spent time with all those years ago never forgot him, though she did change from being a tomboy to a good looking young woman. When she realizes who Kodaka is – very early on – and realizes that he doesn’t recognize or remember her, that sets her to creating a club that allows the two of them to spend time together so she can either just mess with him or nudge him back to remembering so she can see if there really is something between them. While their childhood time together from ten years before is just that, childhood time, it does have some good meaning to it and you can understand why Yozora is so intent on trying to recapture it while for Kodaka, it’s just below the surface and has been eating away at him slowly but surely for so long. Watching as it nudges out and comes to a reveal at the end works rather well here since it’s not overly forced and there are some good emotions tied to it.
The second arc of the season involves the Neighbors Club itself, which Yozora starts in order to make friends but sets it so that it will juts be her and Kodaka. Of course, she’s just a bit too clever for her own good and that leads to others discovering the club and joining up. Because of how she designs it, it only attracts a certain type and it fills out quickly in a fun way. The first to join is Sena, the daughter of the school president. Her father was a friend of Kodaka’s father and helped the two kids get into the system here. Sena has no real connection to him, but she’s a strong and fun character with blonde hair and a sizable chest that just grates against Yozora since Yozora sees her as a threat to her when it comes to Kodaka. Kodaka is kind of blase at best about any of the girls which just makes it all the more amusing, though hard to believe. The dynamic between Sena and Yozora is really fun to watch, especially early on since it’s just the core trio for the first few episodes and the knives are out from both girls when it comes to each other since they just rub each other wrong.
As it goes on, it gets a little more diverse and just kind of silly, but it still works well. A young man named Yukimura ends up stalking them for a bit and gets drawn in, but he’s more interested in dressing up as a girl – a maid no less – which makes it difficult for him to make friends. The club also acquires a really fun character in Rika, a freshman who is the classic mad scientist type who is highly creative and has free reign at the school because of what she brings to it. But she’s also hugely into erotic material, though not direct erotic material. A lot of what she reads are things like mecha manga and she puts such an erotic spin on it that it’s hilarious and priceless. She sexualizes a lot of the situations quickly and it’s just a hoot watching her interact with everyone. The other character that gets mixed into things, though is more problematic, is a ten year old teacher/advisor named Maria who is also a nun and ends up being a foil to Kobato a lot of the time while treating Kodaka as an older brother.
Like a lot of shows, it really does all come down to the way the characters act. Since it’s not filled with strong friendships here, though they all get closer along the way, the more adversarial aspects are fun and the sexuality of it works nicely. What gets to be really amusing is watching the kind of language that both Yozora and Sena use with each other as the insults fly and they’re a bit more than the normal ones we get. There’s a lot of shaming going on which can be awkward, but the way it’s done here allows you to laugh at it. There’s also some of the scenes themselves that are fun, where they imagine themselves playing a game at one point while another has them in a VR game. Water park material goes as expected, but the fanservice is balanced with fun character material – and even some really good stuff that allows Kodaka to man up in a way that surprises others that shows a side of him that’s not always there. While these kinds of episodes overall can be a bit annoying on some level, there’s a real polish and pleasure in watching them unfold as it does add to the overall narrative.
Other than seeing a few clips before it hit, I had little in the way of expectations for Haganai. What I got with this series is something that was a whole lot of fun. It’s got the prerequisite quirky cast of characters, a longer back story that defines it as a whole and a good deal of fun all around. While it’s doing its best to pair Yozora and Kodaka, I really find myself drawn more to Sena and Kodaka. But there’s a lot of good growth that comes from Yozora as we see more of her past and what was going on when we weren’t looking at her in the early stages of the series. When looked at as a whole, there’s a lot to like here but it also works very well with its individual parts. Though some of that OVA episode at the end just gets a little too creepy for my tastes at times, but the style of humor that the characters use with each other allows it to work somewhat. The more I watched of the series, the more I wanted to see, making for a very good marathon session.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Blu-ray & DVD Spots, Original Commercials, Promotional Videos, TV Spots, Textless Opening and Closing Song
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.