Do any of you reading this remember Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun? I assume if you’re watching Aharen-san then the answer is yes, and you’ve probably watched it multiple times through at that. But if you haven’t (Spoilers), one of the most devastatingly rude moments in Anime RomCom history comes in its closing episode, best summed up by this iconic video. It’s to the point where you just have to say that you love fireworks to set off a fight-or-flight response in the people still loudly clamoring for a second season nearly a decade later. It stands as one of the most deviously cruel moments in romcom history, and one we as a society must never forgive.
I bring that all up because what Aharen-san pulls this episode might actually be crueler than even that. See, it’s standard in these kinds of shows for love confessions to be misinterpreted or interrupted. Sometimes it’s because a character chickens out, or there’s a sudden drama that forces romance to the sides, or a random baseball flies through the admit window right before Onoderas it because the manga gods are cruel and chaotic. That’s what we get during Raido and Reina’s stargazing, and I figured that’d be the end of it for this story. But nope! Thanks to a remarkably selfless pep talk from Oshiro, Reina finds the courage for a midnight confession among the wildlife…OR DOES SHE!?
Yep, not only do we not hear exactly what Reina says OR how Raido responds, we essentially get Schrodinger’s Love Confession as she seemingly kisses him before running back to her tent in tears. And in classic teenager fashion they spend the rest of the episode just…not addressing it. At all. Even the other characters are perplexed about this, as even if they don’t know about that maybe/maybe-not spark of romance, they expected something to change. But nope, they and the audience are left to squirm, made all the more painful by how in-character it would be for these two stonefaced dinguses to start dating and then behave exactly the same way as before. Are they a couple? Did Raido reject her? Did they not say anything at all, and that kiss was just Reina sucking a stray ramen noodle off Raido’s cheek? Any or all of those scenarios are equally possible and that means we’re left in limbo. It’s devious. It’s possibly a violation of the Geneva Conventions. It’s perfect.
Hyperbole aside, this is a genuinely strong even if the jokes largely fall by the wayside. Though there are definitely some good gags – Oshiro hanging suspended like a window washer outside the class window is a perfect visual gag made all the better by nobody even mentioning it. Nui returns to prove he’s the goodest boy ever yet again, in possibly this series’ best running gag. The “crazy adult driver” shtick is an old comedy chestnut, but I do like that we see Miyahira-sensei Tokyo Drifting in real time, seemingly just to terrify her students. Heck, even Sato and Ishikawa start pulling their weight a bit by revealing themselves as AhaRaido shippers. Good for them.
But there’s also some genuine insight into our characters, especially Oshiro as she has a heart-to-heart with Reina. I might owe Momo-chan-sensei an apology, as while Oshiro never says it out loud, the way she reacts to Reina’s crush on Raido sure does read like heartbreak. She hasn’t been around all that much, and from the presentation of everyone up til now I figured she was just as friend-hungry as our central pair, but if she’s been harboring love for her diminutive friend, that makes her encouraging Reina to confess all the more bittersweet. And it makes the extended cliffhanger all the more unbearable. Like the viewer, Oshiro’s trying to puzzle out just what happened on that camping trip, so she’s here in this uncertain hell right with us.
(Though speaking of uncertainty, I think we all need to pray for Miyahira-sensei. Not only is she trapped in her own romantic comedy spinoff with Momo-chan-sensei, she damn near has a kabedon-triggered heart attack this week, in possibly the greatest joke of the show so far. Like damn, I wish I could be that smooth when I’m imagining anime characters smooching. If they aren’t careful, both these teachers are going to die from shipping overdose.)
Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.