In the first half, Yozora looks back on when Kodaka first transferred. She recognized him instantly, but he never remembered her, and she was scared to be the one to bring it up. It wasn’t until her hair was singed and she had to have it cut short that he recognizes her, and even then, they can’t just go back to the way things were ten years ago, when he thought she was a boy. While they aren’t the friends they were, they’re still…something.
Haganai resists the urge to close with yet another beach episode. We can be thankful for that, at least. But we’re still a little disappointed that everything basically went back to the way it was. We should have expected as such; ten years is a long time, and considering Kodaka never knew Sora was a girl, it’s understandable it wouldn’t even occur to him that Yozora is Sora. All I know is, I was never in doubt as to the gender of my childhood friends, so I can’t say whether I wouldn’t be just as clueless as Kodaka in his situation.
Of course, this episode had to include everyone else, and unfortunately that meant one last unfunny Rikagasm and forced cosplay, because now the club can’t recognize Yozora with short hair. Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. She looks exactly the same aside from the hair; in the real world, it would be impossible to mistake her for a boy. They don’t have the ten-year excuse. The series is left very open-ended, with Yozora continuing to run the club, and her and Kodaka’s future together left ambiguous. Which pretty much sums up our feelings for this series as a whole.
At the end of summer vacation, the club attends a festival, where Kodaka samples various inferior takoyaki, Rika wins an XBox, adn Sena and Yozora are constantly competing over the games. They settle down, regroup, and fire off some fireworks, but Yozora’s hair catches fire. Kodaka douses her with water, but Yozora goes home in a snit, and isn’t seen again until she arrives in class on the first day of the new school year, with a new ‘do that makes Kodaka instantly recognize her as his old friend, Sora. Yozora is overjoyed he finally remembers.
The first four fifths of this episode were nothing to write home about, nor write much of anything about; it was pretty standard festival fare with a couple tired rivalries mixed in. But it foreshadowed what was to come when Kodaka has a dream the previous night about his childhood friend. They give each other unique names; she calls him Taka, he calls her…well, the name is “sparkled” out, but at this point, you know he’s just on the cusp of remembering.
What elevasted this episode from mediocrity and into standouthood was the final scene in class. It was a very touching moment that was a long time coming. In the end, all it took was a haircut! Of course, with only one episode left, the series can go one of two routes: continue from this moment, with Kodaka and Yozora/Sora reconnecting, or with a silly, self-encapsulated episode that takes place before or independent of this payoff. Rewinding would truly be a shame, though…we want to see this development further explored, as it totally changes their relationship.
The Neighbor Club spends a weekend at Sena’s beach house. They hang out on the beach, eat food Kodaka cooks, and tell awful ghost stories. Then the girls visit Kodaka in his bedroom one by one because they want him to protect them as they go to the bathroom, or in Rika’s case, sleep with him.
There’s not much to say about this episode…not much happened. Despite having done two pool episodes, they decided the series could bear a beach episode as well, along with a yukata episode next week. So it’s basically now just a vehicle for fanservice.
The true tease is that there would ever be any character development between Kodaka and Yozora. Yozora had another perfect opportunity to bring up the subject of their past friendship, in which Kodaka thought she was a boy – but nothing happened. All that’s still on hold. Boring cliches apparently take precedence.
Sena invites Kodaka and Kobato to her house so he can meet her father, who was good friends with his father. He turns out to be very formal and serious most of the time, but is also a lightweight when it comes to drink. Sena terrories Kobato in the bath to the point she runs away, and Kodaka sees Sena naked, but the next morning, pretends he was drunk and didn’t remember. Sena’s father give him his blessing vis-a-vis his daughter.
Ah, meeting the father of the girl you like. Always a potentially awkward situation; and it’s very much that here as well, but Kodaka has a few advantages. First, beause Sena’s dad knows Kodaka’s parents, looking at him reminds him of them, which comforts him. Of course, that make us wonder why Kodaka never met Sena in the past. I guess Sena was the potential childhood friend he never had because his dad was usually pretty distant. Though we like how Kodaka won’t let his dad be called “trash”. “Idiot” is acceptable.
Kodaka’s only real friend ever, it would seem, was lil’ Yozora, whom he thought was a boy. As Kodaka doesn’t see either as a serious love interest as of yet, or indeed even as friends, and he manages to reassure both of them in the end, we’re still pretty much clueless who if anybody he’ll choose. But out of the whole Neighbor’s club harem, Yozora and Sena are the only seriosu and viable contenders. Now he needs to meet Yozora’s dad.
Vexed by extremely warm weather, the Neighbor Club makes a trip to the pool park. However, both the bus and the venue are extremely crowded, making the antisocial Yozora and Rika ill. The club is only there for a brief while before Sena gets a text that Yozora and Rika took off. Kodaka and the others leave too.
Like Ben-To, Haganai tries to put its own mark on the done-to-death fanservice fest that is the pool episode (the second of this series) by having two of the characters so socially awkward, they don’t even change, which is a refreshing twist. The final scene, with everyone going home in a somber mood that’s played for genuine drama, also jumps out of us as something that goes against the type.
Otherwise, there’s not much we can say; there was a ton of service, much of it focusing on Sena’s huge cans (the hugeness seems to vary greatly), Yukimura’s questionable gender, Rika’s dirty mouth, and Kobato’s inapproprately revealing-for-a-middle-schooler swimwear. Also, there were precious few minutes of Yozora-Sena bickering, though it was replaced by Maria-Kobato bickering, which is worse.
Frustrated by not knowing who’s going to show up for club when during the summer, Kodaka suggests they set up a system for that purpose. However, Sena and Yozora refuse to use the internet, and they can’t join an SNS without an invitation, so they determine cell phones to be the best tool for the job. Sena doesn’t have one though, and ends up buying one just like Kodaka’s the next day.
I understand that people without friends can quickly fall behind on technology, and the moment where Yozora and Kodaka rejoice upon successfully exchanging addresses was worth a chuckle, but otherwise this episode just kind of lagged, dragging the cell phone troubleshooting bit along for way too long.
Kobato’s stupid “ku-ku-ku” is long past played-out, as is the pattern of Yozora directing barbs at Sena followed by Sena running out in tears. Yozora and Sena’s petty, silent rivalry over a clueless Kodaka certainly has a precident in real high school life, but it’s starting to get boring here. And the solution for an engaging, entertaining comedy isn’t more fanservice.
Yozora arranges for the club to go to a karaoke box, however she and Sena purchase separate booths to “game the system”, while Kadoka gets one for Kobato, Rika, Yukimura and himself. When everyone has sung themselves hoarse they leave, but Yozora promises there’ll be more club activities throughout summer vacation, like any other club. She bristles when she learns Kadoka is going to visit Sena’s house to meet her father.
Yozora may have founded this “Neighbor Club”, but let’s call it what it is, shall we?…a harem. He’s now got four girls (not counting his sister or the nun) following him around. Not that extra guys would be better – they’d probably just put him in a choke hold and muss his hair. But while Rika is all about…progressing their relationship and Yukimura wants nothing else but to be his slave, Sena and Yozora are the ones constantly twirling their hair (a lot) in hesitation. We have to admit, their childish bickering may have reached a new low (‘You’re stupid!’ ‘No, you’re stupid!’)
Naturally Kodaka is trying to keep this all nice and professional, so as not to choose favorites, but not telling Yozora that his dad simply knows Sena’s dad is a pretty dense move. Of course, we don’t see why Yozora doesn’t just come out and tell him she was his childhood friend whom he moved away from without saying goodbye. Of course, she’s the one who never showed…perhaps reuniting herself with Kodaka but not revealing who she is is…penance, of some kind? We wouldn’t put it past her; she’s quite odd.
Kadoka starts making lunch for Maria, garnering the suspicions of his sister. An idol wish by Sena for the whole world to be a game results in Rika breaking out head-mounted VR game systems that let the club participate in an RPG, taking on various jobs. Kadoka’s job is a useless ‘wizard’, and when the first boss they come across wipes everyone out, but not before Kobato makes a brief appearance, having taken a sleeping Maria’s headset. She came to investigate Kadoka’s lateness, and Yozora allows her to join the club to be with her brother more.
The club’s first episode as a complete group (not counting episode 00) turns out to be a rather pedestrian affair, brimming with brazen though tame fanservice and lots of little kids bickering at each other. This was our first “RPG episode” since Sket Dance (though that was in their imaginations, this was actually technology), and it was a little less clever and a little more liberal with the skin. The ultimate lesson learned was that the group hasn’t quite pulled together yet, but they’re steadily working on it.
Another overarching theme was siblings; either real or imagined. Yukimura wants Kadoka to be her brother, and so does Maria when he starts cooking for her. But in all the time he’s spending at club with his new, well, friends, his little sister gets neglected. Not being good at making friends is a Hasegawa famly trait, it would seem, so the most logical place for her to be is by his side in the club…leaving aside the fact that lil’ runts like Maria and Kobato have no business being in a high school…
When she returns to what was her “naptime room”, ten-year-old nun Maria is manipulated by Yozora into signing off as the official moderator of the Neighbor Club. Kodaka is weary of a potential stalker, who turns out to be first-year named Yukimura, who looks like a girl from any angle, but is actually a guy. With Yozora’s approval, he joins the club and serves as Kodaka’s underling, and Kodaka is charged with making him more manly. When Kodaka hears an explosion in the “science room”, he runs in and carries an unconscious girl to the infirmary. When she recovers, this girl, Rika, thanks him profusely and joins the club as well, revealing her extremely dirty mind as she “seeks his DNA”
Had this episode been all about Maria’s introduction, or Yukimura’s, or Rika’s, it might have worn a little thin by the end. But by introducing all three in one episode in a steady progression, the comedy stays fresh and interesting. Now the whole cast from the sneak peek in episode 00 has been unveiled. Back then we unavoidably formed opinions on these three characters. Assuming Kobato was a classmate, when she’s actually Kadoka’s sister. Assuming Yukimura’s a girl, when he’s actually a very girly man in drag. This episode rewrote those characters in our heads, and they’re better for it. Having met and gotten to know the three mains of Kodaka, Yozora and Sena,, these three are the side dishes to the ‘Neighbor Club bento’, adding spice and variety.
While Maria’s youth and naivete and Yukimura’s submissiveness make for somewhat passive characters occupying the background, I like Rika the most so far. Yes, her filty mind and lewd commentary is a little overdone, but one has to admire her stubborn honesty and forwardness in contrast to the pussy-footing of Yozora and Sena vis-a-vis Kodaka. She’s on screen for only a few minutes and is already able to do what they never could – outwardly express their feelings. Her ‘mecha-as-ecchi’ bit was also pretty spot-on. Meanwhile, as most of the school still fears him and takes every word he says out of context, Kodaka may be correct that the club is actually making his reputation even more infamous. But he cannot deny that the club has netted him new friends he lacked previously, which is the point of the club. Sure, they’re all weird, but a club full of ordinary kids would be painfully boring.