Editorials · On Characters

Haganai is better.

If I posted an Oregairu picture, I'd probably fall asleep. Source: めろ
If I posted an Oregairu picture, I’d probably fall asleep. Source: めろ

Haganai is better than Oregairu.

Perhaps it’s because I can’t get over the similarities but Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa MachigatteiruOregairu 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.

7 thoughts on “Haganai is better.

  1. You criticized SNAFU. Expect to be called out soon enough.

    Kidding aside, I mostly compare Oregairu to Welcome to the NHK (which I know you haven’t seen). It’s trying to tackle dark social issues as well, but I feel like I’m getting manipulated by a bunch of actors reading their lines rather than actual characters, and it doesn’t help that the show doesn’t really go far enough with its problems. A pity too because I kind of like the setup. Animation is pretty lifeless too.

    Haganai, I’ll admit, is more fun that most wish-fulfillment LN adaptations due to how it revels in its characters’ awful natures as well as its fanservice. I think the second season is better than the first due to how insane it got at times as well as a production value upgrade. Still not a very good show though because its friendship morals are pretty bullcrap.

  2. I think you’ve broken down the thematic similarities and differences here. Neither series is perfect, but I honestly enjoy both quite a lot. The thing with Haganai is that as it goes along, it loses track of its themes in favour of harem shenanigans – the kind of stuff that contradicts the original intent of friendship. I also find Yozora to be a much more unpleasant and a less nuanced character than her counterpart in OreGairu.

    I think you should definitely watch the second season of Haganai since it was quite funny (as long as you accept this series has turned full-on harem) and the ending was balls-out entertaining.

    1. Yozora is basically the worst person ever. I give her personality one star.

      I heard the second season took a very different direction from the first and instead of using the two female leads for solely for their unpleasantness, they fleshed them out and tried make them more human. I ended up not watching the second season solely out of time constraints, but now you’ve got me interested.

  3. I heartily disagree, but I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Haganai (it seemed focused on broad archetypal characters and to revel in otaku humor, neither of which are gonna catch my eye), so my opinion is pretty invalid here.

    I will say that it seems the shows have very different priorities – Haganai strikes me as more of a straight sitcom, whereas OreGairu is a character piece focused on the elaboration and very slow maturing of some very insecure people. You say there’s “no dancing around their personalities” in Haganai – well, in OreGairu that dancing is kind of the point, since it’s about smart but defensive and insecure teenagers, so their psychological shields are pretty front-and-center.

    The lack of chemistry thing I just don’t see at all – Yui obviously is a very different person from Yuki and Hikki, but those two have been bantering from the very start, it’s gotten successively more playful in a way that strikes me as very authentic, and their worldviews are clearly pretty complementary. Hell, last episode had a joke about how their obvious flirting was making everyone else uncomfortable. They seem to me like the rare example of chemistry done RIGHT.

    1. It isn’t so much of the bantering which throws me off but rather the attempt to put these characters in meaningful relationships when more often than not they’re shown as incompatible. I’d say this becomes especially noticeable around the halfway mark, where Yui’s attraction to Hikki becomes more pronounced when it’s revealed he saved her dog. Although there’s nothing wrong with using flashbacks to flesh out characters, it’s reliant on these flashbacks to create an attraction between two lead characters which comes off as rather weak. I’ll take attractions and relationships which flow naturally develop in the present over holding onto the loosest of straws from the past anytime.

      Edit: Also, holy shit this is a late response. Sorry about that, man.

      1. I actually completely agree that Yui and Hikki don’t have chemistry, but I think the show’s aware of that too. Yui seems to gravitate towards Hikki purely because of the rare honesty of their interactions – I think it’s largely her insecurities and lack of faith in her other friendships that make her feel anything towards him romantically. Meanwhile, it seems like Hikki is perfectly aware they’re incompatible, and gets very uncomfortable whenever she alludes to them being a couple. It was only the chemistry between Hikki and Yuki that I was referring to, which in my opinion comes off as very natural – their banter constantly reveals the places their worldviews match or compliment each other, their senses of humor are very complimentary, and the reasons they respect or even admire each other are made very explicit.

        No worries about the late response. I’m definitely struggling to find time for my own pieces…

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