Haganai is better than Oregairu.
Perhaps it’s because I can’t get over the similarities but Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru, Oregairu for short, comes off as an inferior Boku wa Tomodochi ga Sukunai, otherwise known as Haganai (light novel names, love ’em or leave ’em). Although I’ve never been a particularly big fan of the latter, which I haven’t even seen the second season of, it’s difficult not to think of it as vastly superior when an episode of Oregairu may as well be twenty-three minute nap.
The similarities seem striking: a misunderstood teenager who stands out due to his looks forms a club with an always upset, witty, and undeniably pretty black-haired girl. Both are later joined by a popular eccentric who truly lacks any real friends. Hijinks ensue as their egos collide and as the club tries to form genuine relationships with each other and so forth, etc etc.
The characters are similar, the set-up is the same, and the jokes are equally as lowbrow (okay, Haganai’s are way, way less thoughtful but I can manage a chuckle on a fairly regular basis). But as similar as they are, the approach is radically different and one approach happens to be five times as interesting as the other.
Although Haganai’s characters are about as copy ‘n paste as can get, there’s a genuine interest in that their personalities are completely unrestrained and surprisingly genuine. On one hand, you have Yozora, who’s loud, obnoxious, judgmental and so instantly dismissive of the people around her that she’d rather talk to an imaginary friend. On the other, you have Sena, the beautiful but socially inept otaku who is unable to recognize how uncomfortable she makes others due to her own selfishness. Yozora, seeing Sena who’s progressively falling deeper and deeper down the galge rabbit hole, brutally berates her hobbies, makes fun of her, and enjoys it while the everyman Kodaka, who just wants to have friends, is caught in the crossfire.
From here the split between the shows is obvious: if Oregairu is about making friends, Haganai is about putting up with them. The show doesn’t apologize for the character’s awful personalities, it revels in them. Kodaka is caught between two genuinely obnoxious girls and has to put up with them because at the end of the day the only person he has to hang out with besides them is his just as awkward middle school sister. It’s a brutal beatdown between two ladies, but there is no dancing around their personalities as they verbally beat each other to a pulp. The other girls who join The Neighbors’ Club later on could not be more different from Kodaka as well. He doesn’t hate any of them, but everyone’s constantly intruding his personal space and breathing his own air. They’re all fast friends, just not good ones.
The question imposed is “would you stay with this club’s crap just not to be lonely?” and my answer is hell no. But Oregairu goes the opposite route and tries to force three people who clearly lack chemistry into not only friendships but a romantic love triangle. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing to see a bunch of a gears being forced together when they just don’t fit, period. Do you have to be the same person to be friends? Obviously not. But although Yukino, Yui, and Hachiman are toned down counterparts of Yozora, Sena, and Kodaka respectively, the former three just don’t fit together. It’s forced chemistry and even the way they cajole, argue and talk into the sunset about their complexes is mechanical and boring. Friendship is not a monologue into space.
Maybe it’s that I penned Haganai for a lesser show than it really is or, maybe, Oregairu just sucks. Whatever the case, Haganai is better.