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This Week in Anime
Aharen-san is the Sleeper Comedy You Need to Watch

by Monique Thomas & Steve Jones,

Two weirdos brought together by a fortuitous class seating chart. Raido and Aharen might share one braincell but lucky for you they're also hilarious.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet


Steve
You know, Nicky, the name of this show could be translated as “Aharen-san is Unfathomable,” but personally, I find this puny anime girl plenty able to be fathomed. I mean, this is exactly how I've been feeling for the past week/month/year/decade/eon.
Nicky
I'm in the same boat so I think this show should be renamed to "Aharen-san is Actually Very Relatable."
"Aharen-san is Big Mood."
Anyways, This Week in Anime we're talking about Aharen-san wa Hakarenai. Aharen-san is technically a romantic comedy, but it leans more heavily into gag comedy and slice-of-life. Which is to say, it's probably the most chill show I've watched all season. Just the right kind of refreshing treat to cool off with between all the other hot contending anime.
I agree! It took me a bit to warm up to it though. As with all other comedies airing right now, it's in the unenviable position of having to be weighed critically against Kaguya-sama, one of the greatest to ever do it. But while Kaguya-sama revels in madcap aesthetic anarchy, Aharen-san carves out its own far more easygoing niche. So after spending more time with it, I think it's less like these shows are in competition with each other, and more like they're both having in fun in their own separate sandboxes.
I stated that last season had a fair showing of romance and comedy anime, but this season really doubled down on that. So much so that I actually skipped out on this one at the beginning of the season. Between Kaguya-sama, the second half of Komi Can't Communicate, Love After World Domination, and many others, I was certain that one of the many shows was going to end up feeling insufficient in comparison. It can be challenging to get into something more relaxed when you've been spoiled with so many plates at the dessert table. But it really turns out to be more of a "Two Cakes" situation with Aharen-san. I'm grateful to have a season with so much variety where each offering feels unique.
And Aharen-san, to its credit, carves out its identity by REALLY leaning into the laid-back side of things. I mean, our two leads are a guy who has 1.5 facial expressions and a girl who is so soft spoken that she almost goes the entire premiere without requiring a voice actress. This is an anime that pushes the boundaries of how infinitesimal you can make an anime girl's mouth. You could have a 4K monitor and her gob would still take up one entire pixel.
Calling it laid-back can also be misleading. It's nothing like the rapid-fire over-the-top antics of Kaguya-sama but it doesn't ease back on any of the jokes, and even has a fair bit of face game! It's well-animated, too.

I heard it favorably compared to the past Tanaka-kun is Always Listless but that show actually makes me fall asleep (but not necessarily in a bad way). Aharen-san's jokes are just funny enough to keep me awake and on my toes between the mundanity.
Re: that screenshot, we absolutely need to see more round-headed anime characters tilting their noggins up at the Charlie Brown angle. It's too good.

And yeah, the show does largely work as a comedy. Once you get used to the deadpan banter between its leads, it flexes with some surprisingly sharp jokes. Plus, they are very cute together. That's important.

The structure of the comedy is fairly simple tho. Raido tends to overthink everything into illogical extremes, and Aharen is a weird little soft-spoken hobgoblin. That's pretty much the foundation.

It's a chill round of miscommunications. It's hard to call it a romance at first because of how lax the leads are but that comfort also reflects a reality of some relationships more than some of the more intensive doki-doki storylines of first love you often see in anime.
I do love that we have Tobaru-sensei there as a kind of audience surrogate who loses her mind (and several liters of blood) every time she bears witness to how cute these two oddballs are together. Like, it's less about the romance and more about the deadly potential of unrestrained adorableness.

Weapons-grade moe, as it were.
I do also really mean it when I find the two extremely relatable, though. To me, both leads come off a certain way. Their issues stem from something more than just your average shy or self-conscious anime high schooler. They're both fitting into common anime archetypes and exaggerated for the sake of comedy, but it's really easy to read both of them as being recognizably neurodivergent-coded in different ways. I speak this lovingly, because it's a very gentle representation of two people who struggle with social cues, because their brains work differently, accommodating each other.
That's all very true and very sweet, and because I don't have anything to add onto that, I'm just going to post the sketch about Raido forgetting to zip up his fly.

Which is also very relatable, albeit in a slightly different way.
I point it out because the biggest pitfall with the premise of "guy befriends his overly shy and cute female classmate" is infantilizing her a bit too much. It's a moe power fantasy over someone perceived as helpless. (This was my big worry with Komi, too) But, Aharen is surprisingly capable, sometimes even hyper-competent. She struggles with making connections but it due to crippling anxiety. Speaking way too quietly isn't a quality that she has to fix. Raido simply got better at understanding and listening to her. It's an interesting metaphor!
Communication is definitely a big recurring theme, too. Like, it's less of a focus after the premiere, which is almost exclusively about it, but it continues to pop up in a lot of the skits, as Raido and Aharen get to know each other better and find more avenues through which they can connect. Like rap.

This is a landmark season for hip-hop in anime.
Even if Aharen needs help or struggles to do things sometimes, it's pretty earnest. Some of the best comedy (and whatever slight drama) the show has arises more when she tries to do things herself and fails because she doesn't want to cause trouble for others. Also yeah, I too suck at putting in eye drops and I thank this show for reminding me to moisturize in this dry-heat.
The show strikes a pretty good balance of helpless Aharen bits and badass Aharen bits. Yeah, maybe she needs a little extra assistance putting chapstick on, but when the zombie apocalypse comes, I know who I want in my corner.

Put another way, I slapped this together in like five minutes on my phone earlier this morning because I had to.
There's also some good bits where Raido tries to help or impress her but turns out to be less-than-capable than he assumes he is and causes Aharen to pity him instead. Which is why she completely wrecks his perfect IV monster in the show's version of Pokémon GO.
Using of course a very fair and legitimate strategy that nobody in competitive Pokémon ever got mad over.
And then there are also segments where they're both helpless. It's adorable how the dependencies really even out between them.
I think my favorite iteration of this relationship is the baseball game, where Aharen's shrimpy stature makes her strike zone measurable in nanometers. Raido can't pitch in it, and she can't bat anyway, but that's a combination that means she wins.
Sometimes she just lucks her way into beating him. But there's a few iterations of this kind of joke and it still manages to feel creative, which I think is a subtle flex on how it challenges expectations just like our unassuming Arahen.
I also enjoy the ones where Aharen doesn't necessarily beat Raido, but instead inspires him to get better at something. While I mean no disrespect to the lad, a born rapper he is not.

It should also be stressed that a lot of these bits are also just plain silly, and those are good too.
I'm surprised the fidget spinner segment was as funny as it was. Including the part where she gets done with it immediately after trying to obsessively figure it out.
That sketch is also anthropologically important, as it unequivocally dates the manga as starting in the first half of 2017.
I don't think about time anymore. It's the only way for me to stay sane.
It's just so funny to me how there was literally like a six month period where fidget spinners were the biggest thing before they completely dropped off the face of the planet, and it perfectly correlates with Aharen-san's publishing date. It's like if an undated monastic text happened to reference a particularly short-lived king's reign. Scholars centuries from now will find that information invaluable.

The show also branches out from the Raido and Aharen comedy hour from time to time. There's a growing cast of side characters who spice things up a bit, such as Girl who is Big and Will Cry.

I wasn't sure to think of oshiro at first since her gimmick of stalking Aharen for her safety could be pretty iffy, but like everyone in the show she's very sweet. Her jokes don't make me laugh a whole lot but it's nice to have something different. Plus sometimes she's skilled at things that neither Aharen or Raido could be like swimming, haircuts, or make-up.

Plus, she has some great visual gags.

Including, Raido imagining Aharen with crazy anime hair from different Jump series characters.
Looks like normal Aharens to me.

Speaking of Aharens plural, actually, we've also been getting to know her family bit by bit. Although I'm still not sure if these are her real siblings, or if this is just what happens when you get water on Aharen or feed her after midnight.

Or if you clone them!
I'm just saying, we have yet to see evidence that she doesn't reproduce by budding.
Her little brother was a funny surprise because of how clearly different he acts compared to our Aharen where it becomes obvious to the audience but hard for Raido to put two and two together. Until Raido noticed that this Aharen wasn't eating half her body weight like usual.

It was also a neat casual bit of watching a kid experimenting with their gender expression. Ren likes to borrow his sister's clothes simply because they're nice.
He's a good kid, and Reina is a good sister.

Eru is also a good sister, but for different reasons.
Knife skills run in the family, you see.

Unlike Reina, Eru comes off as more standoffish to the point that Raido assumes there's some sibling drama but she's actually quite considerate. Which is more funny!
Situational comedy is fine and all, but what if I am just a simple anime watcher who thinks nothing is funnier than goofy anime faces? Well, thankfully I've got a veritable vault full of them now.

The real prize...
A king's ransom of rubber-faced goodness. There's also some avant-garde horror for you higher-minded folks out there.
dw It's just a doll. There's a few other characters that provide some decent situations outside of the main two. There's some stubborn elementary schoolers and the shipping teacher has a pretty good half-episode fantasy that includes ridiculously handsome Raido.
Mmmm, the patented sexy Dorito chin.
It's fun when the show just let's the imagination run wild. Lots of characters, especially Raido, like to let the little actions become more fantastical and extreme and the show just runs with it. Plus, Aharen's massive dog.
I mean, Raido literally says as much at one point, so at least he's aware of it.

Not that this stops him.

Really just wanted to post that so we could all admire Aharen's sweet 'stache. Worthy of Wilford Brimley.
Little Aharen-san wa Hakarenai might not be my biggest heavy-hitter comedy this season or get my heart fluttering faster than a hummingbird but it definitely earned me some sensible chuckles and the main couple is worth rooting for in their coziness. Don't underestimate it for its seemingly smol stature and initial quietness.
It's nice heartwarming and wholesome experience, and I think it's worth giving a whirl. Plus, it might be in your best interests to do so...or else...

You're gonna get bopped.

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