Stripey and I often have very different favourite characters from anime series that we’ve watched. Our Haganai favourites, Kashiwazaki Sena and Mikazuki Yozora respectively, couldn’t be more different or antagonistic. Before I started watching this series, I remember being surprised by (and also thus motivated to watch this series) when he said there were times he felt like giving Yozora “one tight slap.”
Hontou Ni’s resident goth-loli-siscon tanuki is a chivalrous raccoon dog so for him to even countenance violence, of any form, against any female character, especially one as gorgeously designed as Yozora, boggled my mind. But I found myself becoming a Yozora partisan the moment she slammed the door on Sena, telling her – and other popular people living full lives – to speedily go to their deaths. It’s stuff like this, and worse, that roused Stripey’s ire. Yozora’s constant stream of verbal and physical abuse directed at Sena is something that comes up often among bloggers’ criticism of Haganai:
The character relationships started to get overplayed; in the case of Yozora and Sena’s “friendship,” Yozora’s digs at Sena became increasingly mean until she just became downright cruel. Her actions made me dislike her character so much that I could’ve cared less about the “reveal” at the end of the series… (Confused Muse)
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai was almost a series of two halves – ferociously funny at times when it was on-form… but depressingly fan service-centric and overly concerned with Yozora’s bullying, abusive tendencies at others (Hanners)
Why did Sena keep coming back for more? I’ve lost count of the times she’s run away in tears with the parting words: “Yozora, you idiot!” But she’s always returned without having to be asked. Not only did she not mind how Yozora addressed her as “Meat”, she was even a little happy to have it as her first nickname. Right off the bat, following Yozora’s first outburst, Sena still persisted, practically begging Yozora as the latter tried to close the literal and metaphorical window of opportunity on her, to be allowed to join the Neighbours’ Club. Did Sena, to reverse that other Groucho Marx quote about this topic, have a mind to join a club and be beaten over the head with it by Yozora?
Yozora comes off as a complete jerk with no redeeming qualities. In the manga, she was rude and obnoxious as well, but you could tell that she actually wanted to make friends. In the anime version, all she seems to care about is Kodaka (draggle)
Sena, quite plainly, wants Yozora to be her friend but I read Yozora quite differently from draggle (I haven’t read the manga though); Yozora does want to make friends but does not want to make friends with Sena, someone who represents everything she’s hated about everything. So why did Yozora let Sena join the Neighbours’ Club in the first place?
The quote most used in the C80/81 publicity materials that I saw wrt Sena was her wail of “I want to have friends too!!” which immediately follows the above scene (which underlines what the two girls have in common) but, for me, the scene screencapped above was the magical moment and hook that got me to continue, finish watching and become a fan of this series (after being enticed by Buriki’s beautiful character designs and Stripey’s quip). My understanding of what Sena said above was somewhat different: “I’m not here to window shop! It’s because I saw the ‘Recruiting Friends’ poster!” [冷やかしじゃないわよ！「ともだち募集」ってポスター見ってたんだから！] IMHO Mazui under-emphasizes how Sena understood the coded message that Yozora put into the poster. And this, in turn, reduces our awareness of the impact that this had on Yozora.
Despite her earlier confidence in the face of Kodaka’s scepticism that the poster will soon bring lots of new like-minded members, she’s clearly shocked that Sena ‘got it’ – evinced by how the screen cut away to show Yozora’s widening eye and we heard her gasp of surprise. The supreme irony is that, out of all the other members who subsequently joined the Neighbours’ Club, Sena is the only one who showed up only because of Yozora’s poster. I think that Yozora relented in a moment of weakness when she was stumped that Sena understood her desire for friendship better than anyone else (and the poster had worked perfectly though with this unintended consequence). However after the effect of the surprise had worn off, Yozora went, in feal87‘s words, “hard tsun” and spent most of the rest of the season trying to get Sena to quit the club that she had created for a singular purpose. Thus the abuse. (Well, I suppose her sadistic disposition doesn’t help either.)
It’s not insignificant that the series re-emphasizes the initial spark of the Yozora-Sena relationship in the last episode, after the Taka-Sora sub-plot has been conclusively wrapped up (it’s been almost six months, a geological age in the internets, since this aired so the statue of limitations on spoilers should have kicked in by now):
Sergio’s almost offhand observation about Yozora “fiddling with her hair… when she does that, probably because she’s actually nervous” hits the nail on the head. This gesture seems to me to be a defensive tick, that Yozora might not be aware of herself, which is triggered whenever she’s off balance and needs to perform before she reasserts control. Sena has the ability to do that to her and this probably provokes a lot of mixed feelings in Yozora, like: Here is someone who knows and understands me. Who wants to be my friend. Here is someone whom I can’t stand. Who has everything I don’t. Who is a nuisance presence in my project to friends with Kodaka again.
They say that you can choose your friends and not your family but sometimes having choice brings its own difficulties: Yozora’s dilemma has been a central driver in my enjoyment of Haganai and hopefully this will get developed if we get a second anime season. Or maybe I should read the manga/light novels.