Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends Season One received an average reception on The Otaku’s Study when it was reviewed last October. To its credit, the first season featured some very nice extra content for a home video release, while the plot was supported by a diverse character cast with quirky characters that worked well with the comedy genre. Unfortunately where it faltered was a predictable “last episode” plot twist that was obvious from the first couple of episodes, a compilation of cliché school-comedy episode types and for the most part didn’t contribute to an overall plot. Despite this, it still turned out to be a simple yet enjoyable watch. With Madman Entertainment having released season two, Haganai Next, as part of their July 2014 anime release slate, its time to see if a second outing with the Neighbours Club is any better.
With Kodoka finally realizing that Yozora was the childhood friend from his memories at the end of the first season, what has changed for the Neighbours Club? The answer to that is… very little. Deciding to keep their previous history secret from the other members, their club activities and plans for what they will do when they finally find friends continues. As with the first season, many of the episodes detail random club activities of the original club members – from what happens when they decide to take a club trip to a theme park to how the “light vs dark” relationship between Maria and Kobato fares when Maria suddenly appears on the Hasegawa household doorstep one night.
The activities and moments shared by the club are in general highly entertaining, with the quality and consistency of such moments increasing from the first season. There are a few other subtle jokes such as episode titles referencing other franchises including “My Little Sisters Are This Cute – Oreimo” and “Stray Cats Overheat – Mayoi Neko Overrun” which were also creative additions – especially since these references were generally retained during localization. Despite the improvements, some of the elements retained from the first season including the excessive verbal punches thrown between Yozora and Sena and an overuse of the words “Poo” and “Poopy” get old fast.
The first season primarily centred around Kodaka, Yozora and Sena, and to an extent the main event for Haganai Next still revolves around the trio. However the writers to their credit decided to give all other Neighbours Club members a chance to shine and receive much needed development. This opened the door for them to take advantage of each characters unique quirks, most of which were rarely utilized in the first season. While still leaving room for more development should they produce another sequel, Kobato, Yukimura and Maria all receive some degree of development throughout dedicated episodes. It is Rika Shiguma, the clubs resident genius, however who shines the most amongst all the characters, especially in the final episodes that gives more weight and development to her and Kodaka over anyone else.
Haganai Next has once again received the blu-ray treatment, and with both media format releases being marketed at the same price ($59.95 AUD), I would recommend going with the blu-ray release whenever possible. The visual quality does occasionally deviate throughout the episodes, however both character and environment designs were pretty good, with slight improvements over the first season. Fanservice is prevalent across all episodes, including low camera angles of the characters (With no panties in sight), the occasional scene of nudity (Once again, this is more prevalent with the younger characters) and an assortment of the usual fanservice-oriented attire.
Both opening (Be My Friend) and ending (Bokura no Tsubasa) themes are performed by the six female Japanese voice actresses who represent the six female Neighbours Club members (Marina Inoue, Kanae Ito, Nozomi Yamamoto, Misato Fukuen, Kana Hanazawa and Yuka Iguchi). While neither song stands out as much in comparison to their counterparts in the first season, they are still enjoyable songs in their own right. The remainder of the soundtrack for Haganai Next is a mix of new and old tracks, once again providing average and no-frills musical backing.
While I was neutral to the English voice cast in my review of Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends, my opinion has changed upon watching Haganai Next. The original English voice cast was retained by Funimation Entertainment, and they manage to put a lot of evident enthusiasm into this set of episodes. Highlights once again are Alexis Tipton as Rika Shiguma and Jerry Jewell as Kodaka.
Funimation often provide a nice set of bonus on-disc content with their anime releases, and Haganai Next is no exception. Once again the company has provided a plentiful compilation of two audio commentaries and a video commentary, providing the comments, ramblings and discussions between different production team and voice cast members. All were enjoyable, and well worth listening to. Another notable addition is a special 5-minute episode titled “Black Dragon: Cries of the Damned”. During Episode 4 where all club members go to a theme park, everyone goes on a frightening roller-coaster where each screams out of fear. This special episode plays what is shouted by each character individually, whereas the viewer is only originally provided with small snippets of it. Other additions include an assortment of Blu-ray/DVD/TV spots, a promotional video, US trailer, textless opening/ending sequences and trailers for various Funimation titles. In the Australian DVD release, these trailers may be changed to reflect different licenses held by Madman Entertainment.
It isn’t exactly clear where they plan to go from here after the conclusion of Haganai Next. While there are many loose ends and characters that could stand to benefit from more development, the series ended on a decent note with a conclusion that gave an impression that everything is over. Irrespective of loose ends and the future of the anime adaptations, the decision to focus on developing all members of the Neighbours Club and still managing to provide solid school-life comedy resulted in Haganai Next being a significant improvement over the last season.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Next (僕は友達が少ない NEXT)
Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Funimation Entertainment (North America)
Light Novel series written by Yomi Hirasaka and illustrated by Buriki
DVD / Blu-ray
English / Japanese
M for Sexual References, Animated Nudity and Coarse Language
Madman Entertainment for providing a review copy of this title