Aharen-san wa Hakarenai

4 out of 5

Directed by: Yasutaka Yamamoto, Tomoe Makino

covers season 1

Aharen-san is a tiny girl, with a whisper of a voice. Uh huh, and…? And this is the premise for one of the most consistently pleasant, laugh-out-loud fun, and indirectly sweet animes of 2022, I dunno what else to tell you. (I mean, besides the forthcoming review.)

Sure there’s a bit more: Raidō-san is compatibly awkward, his lack of expressiveness and general social discomfort making it hard for him to make friends. On the first day of high school, he pledges to talk to the student next to him, who happens to be Aharen-san. …Who promptly ignores him. …And then holds his arm during the walk to their respective homes after school.

This is where Aharen-san wa Hakarenai begins to emerge from its quirky stylings of boppy music and Takuma Terashima’s hilariously naive voice acting as Raido: whereas most shows would immediately turn this clinginess into meet cute stuff, Raido always assumes both the most ridiculous things, or the most innocent things. He allows Aharen-san to hold him close, and then at class the following day, to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with him, reading from the same text book. And to get really, really close when she speaks… allowing him to finally hear: that she also struggled with social anxiety, and because most considered her clingy, she tended not to have friends. Raido was thus the first person to reach out to her.

Their friendship is just a fact from then on, and it’s a gorgeous, silly thing. There’s no question in the air about, say, Raido propping Aharen (voiced by Inori Minase) up on his shoulders during class, or for the always-ravenous Aharen to feed Raido meatballs she’s cooked by hand. And Raido keeps up with his assumptions, as each episode has him learning something new about Aharen, and jumping to the silliest explanation first. Yes, the is predictable, and it equates to some stupid episodic hijinx on occasion, going way out of its way to be goofy, but on the whole, Raido’s thoughts are so left field that they can’t help but make you giggle (especially accompanied with Felix Film’s bright and well-timed animations, illustrating his imaginations), and more often than not, the show circles back around to a smart and clever resolution for that week’s problem. Plus: there’s a good memory on the show, which appears to be purely episodic, but then it shows that it remembers events from week to week, and is using those to deepen Raido’s and Aharen’s relationship, allowing the dialogue to get a bit denser as we go along. That’s very rewarding.

This helps to cover up something of a gap: that our inital premise is off. Both Aharen-san and Raido-kun appear to be able to make friends rather easy, and in fact, already have friends. So their bonding over their isolation is a bit of a farce, but that’s okay. I’m just glad they got together, and that I get weekly installments of their lives.