It’s hard to imagine what the original light novels from which this anime was adapted must be like – Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (somehow shorted to “Haganai”) is a wacky parody of otaku tropes mixed with bits of the harem genre and some strangely serious pieces as well.
The first season contains most of the parodic material, which is extremely specific: Monster Hunter, Tokimeki Memorial (?), The Sacred Blacksmith, the SaGa series (?), Microsoft (renamed “LargeHard”), and other stuff I don’t recognise. Various situations are mocked as tropes (eg the mob nampa dudes at the swimming pool, comparing childhood friendship versus childhood betrothal), and there are some excruciatingly funny pokes at various genres: for example when Yozora and Sena dare each other to read out lines from their favourite otomege and galge respectively – Yozora gets a bunch of cool lines, and Sena embarrasses herself and everyone around her. Or when Kodaka picks the “Wizard” character in a game and ends up as a kimo-ota with no abilities (I guess he’s level 30 though…), lol.
Towards the end of the first season and for basically all of the second season, the parody all but disappears and the tone becomes much more serious, as the much-begged question “aren’t they already friends” is answered. The crazy joke-character fujoshi Rika takes a more central role (and goes through a barrage of hairstyles), becoming a catalyst for character development; Kodaka’s obliviousness is questioned; Sena takes the initiative; and the supposed heroine Yozora hits complications as her Machiavellian schemes backfire. The second season ends in an inconclusive state, though apparently the anime was pretty successful so more is likely to follow. (Though the original author Hirasaka Yomi worked on the anime scripts and thus she is behind with the light novels.) There are a few killer scenes though, like when Kodaka explains to Rika the non-existence of the “yaoi ana”, or when Yozora and Sena take down Aoi. For some reason, despite the production house remaining the same, the second season uses lighter colours and outlines.
The apparent heroine Yozora is surprisingly unlikeable despite some funny lines (“Air tomodachi!”) – she basically bullies the gullible Sena (and occasionally other characters) non-stop. In the twilight hours of the second season there are indications that she’s a more complicated character than she lets on, and I became surprisingly sympathetic to her. (She should have kept the long hair though.) The main character’s sister, Kobato is a charming change from convention; obsessed with some kind of Gothic mahou shoujo anime, she speaks 90% of the time in an melodramatic vampire style that I found hilarious.
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai is one for the ota-crowd, who will understand the jokes, recognise the minor trope subversions, and appreciate the slightly deeper characterisations.