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(4.5 STARS) Hilarious Gakuen Comedy
on February 13, 2013
On the surface the story of "Haganai" is that of a typical Japanese "gakuen comedy" genre, comedy based on everyday school life. The difference is that most characters (including one teacher) are "misfits" at high school St. Chronica Academy, who are not very good at making friends.
The comic begins with the "yaminabe" ("nabe in the dark") episode, a prologue in which the club members and advisor are introduced. If you find it confusing, skip it and go directly to the first episode. The protagonist is a male transfer student Kodaka, who overhears his classmate Yozora, a girl always looking grumpy, talking to her "air friend." Then Yozora forms "Neighbors Club" so that she can recruit those who are inept at making friends, and the first one to join, albeit reluctantly, is Kodaka himself, who is often mistaken for a delinquent.
The comic's premise reminds us of "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya" and "Toradora!" and like these popular series (both started as hit light novels) the strength of "Haganai" lies in the two strong-minded heroines, Yozora Mikazuki and Sena Kashiwazaki. The club's activities (like playing a dating sim game) often results in hilarious and unpredictable consequences.
Seven Sea Entertainment's comic "Haganai," illustrated by Itachi, is based on the on-going light novel series by Yomi Hirasaka. "Haganai" (four-syllable abbreviation frequently used in Japanese anime/manga) stands for "Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai" ("I Don't Have Many Friends"), which is the original title of the hit novel/anime/manga. Illustrator Itachi has a unique drawing style that may divide opinions, as unlike the anime version, the characters of the comic "Haganai" are drawn in an exaggerated way, giving an emphasis on their facial expressions.
I for one liked the manga version for the interesting characters and solid storytelling thanks to the simple and effective panel layout. This is a very entertaining read with a few clever offbeat jokes.