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The Spring 2022 Preview Guide
Aharen-san wa Hakarenai

How would you rate episode 1 of
Aharen-san wa Hakarenai ?
Community score: 4.0

What is this?

Short, quiet Reina Aharen sits next to Raidō in class. Aharen is not so good at gauging the distance between people (or personal boundaries), and Raidō initially sensed some distance between the two of them. Then one day, when Raidō picked up the eraser that Aharen had dropped, the distance between them suddenly became uncomfortably close. From "way too distant" to "way too close," Aharen is simply unpredictable.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is based on Asato Mizu's romantic comedy manga series and streams on Crunchyroll on Fridays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore

Romantic comedies about awkward turtles seem to be all the rage lately. Whether they be shy teens or emotionally immature adults, most anime romcoms come with more than a dash of fumbling and socially-stunted quirkiness. Not that I'm complaining; when I first got together with the man who would become my husband, our friend described our flirtation as “the world's most awkward swans honking at each other in distress from across the lake,” so you can probably guess that I find these kinds of series more relatable than love stories between two functional people. Still, as with any genre trends, there are going to be a whole lot of pale imitators to go alongside the creative and original.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai lies somewhere in that middle ground. A lot of its tropes and plot devices are similar to other current, popular shows, if not lifted outright, but I found myself not minding at all. The chill mood reminded me of Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, a series I thoroughly enjoyed, even if it isn't necessarily a romance. Or maybe it was, depending on how you interpreted it. You know, these things are really best left up to audience interpretation. But I digress. Romance or not, Aharen-san's gentle comedy of two deadpan teens on similar wavelengths vibing together will either work for you or it won't.

Unlike a lot of gentle comedies, however, Aharen-san has actual jokes. Gags! Japes! And a lot of them are actually really funny! Humorous! They tickled my funny bone! The nice thing about Aharen and Raidou being so soft-spoken is that it means the humor can't lean on the characters CONSTANTLY YELLING and instead has to find other ways to make a joke land. This made me very happy, because I don't find headaches fun and humor-screeching is the fastest way to give me one. Instead, the physical comedy varies from making me smile to making me laugh out loud, because how could I not at the sight of a tiny girl throwing herself into her tall friend's skull like a purple-haired missile, shortly after pelting him with folded-up slips of paper all day?

So even if Aharen-san isn't the best or most original rom-com on the market, it's sweet and it's certainly funny enough to justify its own existence. Maybe it's because I watched it shortly after I got home from a truly exhausting work week that included two nights away from home, but the chill vibes were truly what I needed at the moment. Perhaps they're what you need too.

Richard Eisenbeis

There's nothing egregiously wrong with Aharen-san wa Hakarenai and I can see a lot of people liking it. The characters are cute, and their attempts to better themselves and the problems they face are easy to empathize with.

Raido is one of those kids who had their growth spurt early and has a mean “resting bitch face” that makes him seem unapproachable. On the other side of the equation, we have the titular Aharen who speaks in an exceedingly soft voice and has trouble understanding personal distance. She's either up in people's personal space or so distant it seems like she's ignoring them. Luckily, the two freshman are keenly aware of their issues and want to overcome them through building a friendship with each other.

Watching them do their best, fail, and try again is cute. I mean, it seems to be the entire premise of the show. Some of the best gags in the show involve nothing more than Aharen shoving food in Raido's face or draping herself across him in an odd pose.

But just because it was cute that doesn't mean it can't be boring. The pacing in Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is painfully slow; the jokes just drag on seemingly forever and more than once I almost skipped ahead to the next scene—and I would, if I hadn't needed to write this review. So, all in all, this is one of those anime I want to like far more than I actually do. I won't be coming back for episode 2, but maybe on some lazy Sunday down the line I'll check out the manga where I control the pace of the story simply by how quickly I turn the pages.

James Beckett

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is one of those shows that I went into with literally know background knowledge of what the show was about, and since my Japanese is a little rusty, the very straightforward title didn't clue me in nearly quick enough. However, once our meek protagonist Raido got done catching the audience up on his meek and lonely existence, he starts desperately trying to make friends with his classmate, the titular Aharen, and it didn't take more than a minute or two for me to figure out the show's main gimmick. In the parlance of Seinfeld, the girl is a low-talker.

This is not unfamiliar territory, necessarily. Outside of classic 90s sitcoms, other anime have explored this exact same trope, and very recently, too. Komi Can't Communicate has a nearly identical setup, where a protagonist with no social circle to speak of befriends a girl who is so incapable of basic verbal communication that it is genuinely disturbing how no adult in her life has tried to seek professional medical help for the child. The main difference between Komi and Aharen-san, it would seem, is that instead of relying on incredibly boisterous humor and outstanding production values to get its audience's attention, Aharen-san is content to simply have its characters whittle away time while slowly learning how to understand one another. Very slowly.

I'll be honest: While I wanted to like Aharen-san, this premiere was tough to get through. It's not awful by any means, and some of its visual gags actually made me laugh out loud (I specifically loved any time that Aharen would take one of Raido's communication experiments way too literally and proceed to pelt him with paper notes and/or her own skull). However, in between the one or two scenes that elicited a chuckle out of me, I was agonizingly bored.

I totally get the appeal of watching two socially awkward youngsters learn to overcome their communication issues and all that. It's just difficult to become invested in this coming-of-age when both of the lead characters are literally designed to be unmemorable. I simply got nothing out of Raido's exceedingly underwhelming adventures with Aharen, because Raido is a big old nothingburger of a protagonist, and Aharen feels less like a real human person and more like a marketing guy's vision of a perfectly merchandisable plush doll come to life. A veritable Moe Golem. I can see how Aharen-san wa Hakarenai could easily become a crowd-pleasing favorite amongst its target audience, but I will be happy to leave it off of my Spring watchlist.

Rebecca Silverman

Aharen is my personal nightmare – someone with very little concept of personal space. She seems to come by it honestly enough; her voice is so astoundingly quiet that she almost has to get in someone's face in order to be heard. She's also carrying a bit of trauma from her middle school days, when she threw herself so wholeheartedly into friendships that she ended up scaring would-be friends away, and she claims to be afraid to repeat the same mistakes now that she's in high school. But…is she really? Because almost the moment Raido, who sits beside her and wants to remedy his own middle school issues, expresses interest, she's all over him with the boundless enthusiasm for physical closeness of your average pup. Even Raido's not quite sure what to make of it.

I can't quite decide if this is meant to be funny, sweet, or just soothing. Possibly my confusion stems from the fact that I found the episode's pacing glacial and the resulting viewing experience somewhat stultifying. I could easily see how Aharen's intended to be appealingly cute – she's physically tiny and has an endearing devotion to making her friendship with Raido work, even if she's not particularly good at it. Besides climbing up him, she also does things like pass/throw him notes while he's in the bathroom and spend hours carefully studying the angles of a crane game so that she can be sure to win plenty of creepy duck-face plushies for him. That he's also trying to win one for her is very sweet, too, and I could see this turning into a low-stakes romance that slice-of-life fans would find very enjoyable. It's clear that Aharen's heart is in the right place even if she doesn't have the experience to back up her good intentions, and really, since Raido doesn't seem to object to her sitting on his lap or draping herself across him to take a nap, we perhaps shouldn't either.

I admit to finding this dull. It could certainly improve from here as Raido learns more about Aharen, and the probable rival character who comes in at the tail end of this episode could shake the pacing up in a positive way. But with lackluster visuals and a dragging progression, I don't think I have the patience to wait this one out.

Nicholas Dupree

This is one of those shows where the title tells you everything you need to know going in. Or it would if the powers that be hadn't just left the title romanized for whatever reason. The gist of it is that Aharen-san is indecipherable, inscrutable, and just a god damn weirdo. Pretty much every joke or plot development across this episode is built around that single conceit. There's this tiny, impossibly soft-spoken girl in Raido's new high school class, he can never tell what's going on in her head no matter what he tries, hijinks ensue. It's the kind of premise that's so sparse and simple, it can only get by on pitch perfect execution. While this anime isn't quite there yet, it does, at least, hit the right notes more often than not across this episode.

It all comes down to tone and timing here, and while some segments of this episode don't quite coalesce, when they do it strikes a similar tone to Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, where the humor comes from the combination of laidback tone and absurd circumstances. The best is definitely Raido's escalating attempts to overcome Aharen's impossibly quiet voice through any means possible; notes, lip reading, something called “bone conduction”, and culminating in smoke signals and messenger pigeons. It's all very silly, and made funnier by Raido's unshakable stone face, looking deadly serious through every second of it and never so much as raising his voice.

That more than anything is what makes a lot of these gags work – they'd be ruined if Raido were a shouty straightman overreacting to every eccentricity from Aharen, but are made way funnier with how much he just rolls with it all. It works because both character are established to be awkward weirdos trying to force their way out of their shells, so no matter how bizarre their shenanigans get, they both seems to be having fun and genuinely want to be around each other. It doesn't hurt that Aharen's whole gimmick about misjudging personal space means that to all outside observers these two are already dating – going home together, sharing desks and textbooks, Aharen straight up sitting in Raido's lap when they share lunch, all classic romcom stuff that these two have walked blindly into in a very endearing way. It's all cute as the dickens, and while this joke could wear itself out, I'm hopeful that the series can build upon this solid foundation and make for a quiet, endearing little comedy.

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