Recap: After walking out on Sena, Kodaka can’t bring himself to return to the Neighbor’s Club. He passes time working for the Student Council, but it’s not long before Rika decides she’s had enough of his running away.
Jel’s Thoughts: Did we all just get trolled? Was the final episode of Haganai NEXT almost completely devoid of Yozora and Sena? Did Rika win??? WHAT IS HAPPENING ????? Whatever it was I loved it, as it totally swept the rug out from under everything the series has built up over the past 2 seasons. I mean at one point Rika was literally beating up the concept of the harem protagonist (more on that in a moment) and, if it’s safe to say this, deconstructing the idea that you can just be nice to a bunch of girls and all their problems will be magically solved.
The only issue I really have is why haven’t we gotten to this sooner? I understand this episode leaves off right where the light novels end, so maybe that is more of a question about the source material. But ending the anime here does leave us in an awkward position. Just as the Haganai was picking up steam and ready to smash the genre, it’s over. Done. I suppose we can hold out hope for a third season, but it will take quite awhile for the novels to get far enough ahead for that.
Regardless of the big picture though, I was impressed that Haganai made such a bold move in the first place. It felt like validation for all my trying to explain why this show was different than all the other harems, and it was probably the best way they could have ended the series at this point in the story.
Jel: Back when the first season of Haganai was wrapping up and I was off running my own blog, this is how I summed up my thoughts on the series:
Haganai is an easy show to write off as another brain-cell-destroying ecchi comedy, but it doesn’t take long to see there’s something different about it. The show builds an outline of a harem comedy only to kick it in the teeth and laugh at it while it’s on the ground.
Considering the first season was full of naked lolis and girls slathering “suntan lotion” on each other, it was kind of hard to defend that statement at the time. Even I was starting to doubt the direction of the series as season 2 dove deeper into conventional harem antics. Instead I should have been paying attention to the signs that statement was more correct than ever.
Right away Haganai NEXT gives off a different vibe than its predecessor with a considerable shift in the art style. The softer colors and outlines are your first hint that things are going to be a little different this time. Sure there are still some pretty bold moments like Sena uhhhh “thinking” about Yozora and the occasional projectile vomiting, but overall you can tell the show’s creators want you to take this story more seriously.
Despite the new direction though, I still found myself struggling at times to do just that. For this kind of modern day school drama to work it takes a certain amount of plausibility, and Haganai really stretches the limits of your suspension of disbelief. As the series soldiered on it was getting harder and harder to accept that these people did not understand they are now friends and can stop bickering with each other like they aren’t. Add that to their already exaggerated personalities and it makes any attempts at genuine drama tough to swallow.
Another thing to consider is the fact that no matter way you spin it, Haganai still spends most of its time as a fairly standard harem comedy. It’s not until really late in the series that the curtain gets pulled back on what’s really going on. In the meantime there’s plenty of the girls fighting over Kodaka’s attention, with all the usual hijinks we’ve come to expect at this point. I kind of think of it like an undercover cop who gets in his assignment too deep – sure the writer has his mission to break down the genre, but the line between observation and practice starts to look pretty blurry after twenty-something episodes.
But like I said in the intro Haganai is ultimately about punching harem comedies in the teeth, and as season 2 comes to a close there’s no denying it does just that. A lot of the credit for that goes to Rika, who has really been the engine driving the story this entire time. She was already bailing out the show with her humor and plot-moving inventions, so it was great to see her take more of a lead role this time around. The fact that she gets the most screen time down the final stretch is in itself a jab to conventional harem wisdom, considering she’s never billed as one of the main heroines like Yozora and Sena.
Rika embodies Haganai’s bold, brutal and irreverent sense of humor, which ultimately is the reason the series is worth watching. While it does take awhile for the show to find its purpose, overall I was satisfied with the outcome. At its best Haganai manages to laugh with the good while laughing at the bad aspects of harem comedy and otaku culture in general. Maybe it takes a very specific taste in anime to enjoy that, but I’d count myself as one of those people.
Lifesong: Rika and Yukimura have been glue that kept me watching Haganai all this time. While I never hated the rest of the cast, they grew tiresome for me quickly. Sena and Yozora seemed to be the driving force of this story for most fans and for a long time it felt like this anime would always bow to their popularity, no matter what the story might call for. Well color me surprised, this ending built into something that put Yukimura and Rika at the front and center of the story.
I feel like the entire fandom has been trolled by Haganai and yet at the same time, this bait and switch fit so well. Is it okay to call Haganai a deconstruction of harem? Maybe that is going too far. Either way, Rika ran away with the show at the end. I haven’t seen much reaction out of the fans at all, I think they are probably in shock. As for myself? I loved every bit of this ending and looking back I wish I had invested more faith into this anime earlier on. The second season tells a more focused story than the first and it took an ending with Rika and Yukimura in the middle of it all for me to notice.