Review for Haganai NEXT: Season Two
‘More of the same’, an oft used phrase in my reviews that can either be good, bad or indifferent. It’s all down to the context of course, but with plenty of anime getting sequels, it’s a useful descriptor if you have a good idea of what the original series was like. More of the same when the first season was an eclectic anthology show can be spectacular. I’d love to have more of the same Space Dandy for instance. It can be good when there is an ongoing storyline, as you need the consistency of writing, and production value to keep your collection all of a piece. You also look for ‘more of the same’ when you’re watching something like a slice of life show, or a sketch comedy. But when the original series was complete in and of itself, ‘more of the same’ can raise a warning flag. Once your story is done, all that’s left is surface, character quirks and fan service comedy, as the original series has already spent the heart and pathos a story might have. That’s a problem that afflicted the second series of Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions, which had told its story with the first series, leaving the second series a limp sop to the fans. I quite enjoyed the first season of Haganai when I watched it, but it too seemed to complete its story, develops its character arcs to a logical conclusion. Suddenly I’m wary of what the second series can offer in addition to that.
Kodaka Hasegawa has a problem. His appearance, particularly the blond hair inherited from his mother makes him look like a delinquent. That hasn’t made him a lot of friends, and now that he’s transferred to the St. Chronica Academy, history is repeating itself, with most everyone fearfully avoiding him on sight. He’s not the only one who lacks for friends, as in his class, a girl named Yozora Mikazuki has the kind of personality and attitude that keeps her isolated. Then one day, Kodaka walks in on Yozora uncharacteristically chatting happily away... to her imaginary friend. It becomes clear that they both need help, and Yozora has an idea, starting the Neighbours Club in school to make friends and gain confidence in social situations. This second season sees the antics of the Neighbours Club continue, with Sena, Rika, Yukimura, Kobato and Maria, all joining in once more.
12 episodes of Haganai NEXT are presented across 2 Blu-rays (and 2 DVDs) in this combo release on the Classics label from Funimation.
1. My Teen Years SNAFU
2. Homo Game Club
3. My Little Sisters Are This Cute
4. A Man is Among Them
5. That Kind of Play is Not Allowed... And.. My Worldview is Disturbed When You Are Around
6. Unbreakable Strange-Girl
7. He’s My Brother, But as Long as There’s Love, It Doesn’t Matter if He Gets More Sisters, Right?
8. My Childhood Friend is Too Much of a Battleground
9. Stray Cats Overheat
10. The Sad-Case King and the Stone-Cold Story
11. Dismay of I, The Chicken
12. I _____ Many Friends
Haganai gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer that is clear and sharp, offering smooth progressive animation without any visible compression, or aliasing, although digital banding is apparent in darker scenes. It’s just what you want from an anime on Blu-ray, and given that Haganai is a bright, colourful, comedy show with simple, but appealing characters, and warm backgrounds, there’s not a lot here that challenges the limits of BD technology. It’s a harem comedy, so expect plenty of fanservice, and even some animated nudity.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo Japanese with optional translated subtitles and a signs only track. I was happy enough with the Japanese audio, the cast gave spirited performances, the action was portrayed well, with the stereo giving it sufficient space, and the music suited the comedy down to a tee. There are no problems with glitches or dropouts, and the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. The English dub exists.
You get the 2 Blu-rays and 2 DVDs in a Blu-ray Amaray, with one disc either side of two centrally hinged panels. This time the sleeve is not reversible, and it’s all wrapped in an o-card slipcover. The Blu-rays boot to animated menus.
Disc 1 autoplays a trailer for Date A Live. There is an audio commentary here on episode 7 with Jerry Jewell (Kodaka), Christy King (Maria), and Brina Palencia (Kate), and just when you think Funimation audio commentaries can’t get any more pathetic...
Disc 2 autoplays a trailer for Cat Planet Cuties.
There’s a video commentary on episode 12 with ADR Director Joel McDonald, Jad Saxton (Sena), Whitney Rogers (Yozora), and Jerry Jewell. There is also a normal audio commentary on episode 11 with Joel McDonald, Jad Saxton, and Felecia Angelle (Yusa).
One of the most fun extras on the disc is the “Black Dragon”: The Cries of the Damned featurette running to 4:57. In episode 4 they go to a theme park, and suffer incoherent panic on a rollercoaster. This featurette unpicks the audio from that scene so that you can hear what each character was screaming at the time. This is in Japanese only.
There is some seven minutes worth of Japanese promo material, BD/DVD/TV Spots and a special Promo. You get the textless credits and the US Trailer for the series.
Finally there are Funimation trailers for Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail, Aquarion Evol, Karneval, Heaven’s Lost Property, Is This a Zombie? and Anime Classics.
Haganai NEXT manages to entertain on the strength of its comedy, and how much fun the characters are to be around. It’s a silly, harem comedy of the sort that anime is renowned for, and while it adds little to the genre, it doesn’t get anything wrong either. Haganai NEXT is a worthy follow on if you enjoyed the comic aspects of the first series. That’s a good thing, as when it comes to narrative, and progressing with the story that the first season so adeptly explored in its run, Haganai NEXT just falls flat. The first thing is that season 1 didn’t leave too much in the way of loose ends to pick up on for the second season. It stopped at a pretty decent point, with protagonists Yozora and Kodaka having realised that they actually knew each other as children, and redefining their current relationship in that light. The second thing is that what storylines the second season does progress with, either rehashes that which was covered in the first season, or it undercuts it completely. I was certainly not satisfied with the story in this collection of episodes.
One example of the undercutting is that at the end of season 1, when Yozora and Kodaka realised that they were childhood friends, Yozora decided to keep it secret from everyone else, so that the dynamic in the Neighbours club wouldn’t change. Only in episode 5, the secret is revealed, but it’s all treated with a big ‘Meh’ especially from Yozora. Another character who gets a turnabout in this collection is Yukimura, who everyone thought was a girl, until he told them that he was a boy, after which point Yozora though it apt to have him dress as a maid in the club. Only in this collection, it’s revealed that Yukimura is actually a girl who refuses to accept that she isn’t a boy, at which point she’s made to dress as a butler thereafter. It’s one of those ‘cake and eat it’ characterisations that doesn’t sit too well, although I have to say that I was tickled by the Mayo Chiki references.
About the only ongoing storyline that has some meaning is an exploration into Kodaka’s own personality weaknesses, which it turns out to be an inability to commit, and a fear of closeness, which quite understandably comes to a head as his harem grows ever closer to him. His panicked flight is triggered by the reveal that he and Sena were betrothed as children, and made even worse when Sena thinks it’s a good idea.
If the story doesn’t have the same appeal as in the first season, it’s the character moments that make Haganai NEXT work. The Sena, Yozora and Kodaka triangle is still good value, with the fly-swatter to the face a punchline to many comic moments. Rika’s obscene in-your-face attitude is toned down a bit in this season, and her hidden maturity and wisdom sneaks through, although her profane ride on the rollercoaster makes up for that. Kobato, Kodaka’s Chunibyo sister is just as much fun as ever, her delusions only shattered by the obsessive attentions of Sena, and Maria the foul-mouthed child nun-teacher is even more entertaining when her older sister, Sister Kate shows up, a lusty but flatulent nun.
Even as the show heads to its final episode, it’s still progressing its story, introducing new characters, including Yusa and Hinata from the school’s student council, but somewhere early on, the story stops having any import. The show also is open ended, obviously counting on an eventual third season. Season 1 was strong in terms of story and comedy, and while it had what felt like a decent conclusion, you wouldn’t have begrudged a second season. Now that I’ve seen the second season, and been entertained by its comedy, but disappointed by its story, I hope that there isn’t a third season. Haganai NEXT is great if you want more fun with the characters, but it’s hardly essential.