Sunday, April 28, 2013

Haganai: I Don't Have Many Friends, Vol 1, by Itachi

     School can be pretty difficult, there are tests, homework, crazy teachers, and personally I never thought that the lunch period was quite long enough. Perhaps though, the most difficult part of school for many of us comes down to the tricky process of making friends.
     In Itachi's seemingly lighthearted story, Haganai: I Don't Have Many Friends, we are introduced to a set of three main protagonists who each struggle socially in their catholic high school for different reasons that contribute directly to their individual characters. While seemingly lighthearted, the grim social realities of high school are woven into the story which takes on a classic manga format and style.
    Kodaka is a recent transfer student who has a history as a loner because of his inability to create friendships. One day at school, he hears a girl speaking to someone, but notices there is no one there. Through an awkward series of questioning he realizes that his new potential friend, Yozora, has similar social issues. Instead of embracing the normal life of a loner, Yozora has taken to speaking with her imaginary friend. The two establish (with tense social interaction) that they both are in need of interpersonal skills. The two decided that based on the social climate of their school, starting a club is the best solution. This club will not be an athletic club or a academic club, but rather a club geared toward engaging in activities that are conducive to finding and making friends. It is called the Neighbors Club based of the Christian ideal of being neighborly, this was chosen by Yozora in order to cleverly win the approval of her catholic school to make the club official.
Yozora explains her "Air Friend"
    Once the club begins, the third member shows up to join. Sena is a beautiful and wealthy girl, but also a girl who's self-absorbed and less than polite demeanor have cast her into the same friendless zone as the other two club members. Together, the three misfits seek through a series of humorous social experiments to better understand the mechanisms behind friend making. The group utilizes popular video games to better understand teamwork, and gender based relationships, and their clashing personalities provide several incredibly funny interactions. They later find a fourth member briefly before Volume 1 concludes who is obsessed with Kodaka because he himself lacks any discernable form of masculinity, and therefore gets bullied. The beginnings of true friendship can be seen germinating between the characters in the midst of these interactions.
    Itachi creates a story that many middle schoolers and high schoolers can relate to in very sensitive ways. Being a teenager seems to necessitate some degree of social awkwardness, and making real friends seems to be an issue that all of us had to deal with to some degree. Itachi's story relates the idea that those who are different can in fact make friends, and in this particular story the reader becomes quite aware that it is the clashing of the character's varying personalities that seems to be the spark that begins their friendship. The ideas of teamwork, self-acceptance, honesty, and flat out humor are all integrated into this easy to read and visually stimulating graphic novel. Classic Japanese inspired manga animation brings to life each frame with over the top emotional responses from characters that serve to emphasize the messages behind the text.
    Any student from the 8th grade of above would both enjoy and benefit from the social massages in this book. Teachers may find value in the Manga style in comparing it to other styles of graphic novel writing, and maybe examining how Japanese culture presents itself in this particular style.


Alexandra Klitz said...

As a kid who was bullied in Catholic school, I find this really interesting. I think that bullying is a huge problem at schools, and there should be more literature to address the issue. I think that the development of imaginary friends is kind of a dark side effect to bullying that may force kids to think twice before picking on some kid for being different.

maria hernandez said...

This book is very similar to the one I read. A devil and her last Song. Both books talked about bullying at school and how the kid character handled the situation in different ways. Very interesting I may have to read this book too.

Laura Coyotl said...

I like books like these because students can see what are some of the consequences of bullying. I agree with Alexandra, there should be more books, with these topics. I am starting to like graphic novels, because they are easier to visualize, especially since I am a visual learner.