I gotta give Aharen-san credit: it really does have a dramatic range. Sure it’s already shown that it can handle quiet moments of sweetness, and its bread and butter is pure comedy. But this week Aharen-san takes things a step further, delving into unnerving horror the likes of which Higurashi could never dream of achieving.
At least for me. See, here’s a fun little bit of my own anime backstory: when I was a young kid, my mother had a doll made that looked exactly like me, as what was apparently a gift to my grandparents who lived several states away. That might sound like a cute little idea for anyone who hasn’t rotted their cerebral cortex with horror movies, but let me tell you there’s nothing more horrifying than walking into a room and seeing a tiny, dead-eyed version of yourself as a child . And they would move it around frequently when redecorating rooms, meaning every visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a minefield of psychic terror. So when Reina made a perfectly identical, life-sized doll of herself and then gifted it to Raido, I genuinely wanted to crawl out of my own skin in order to escape it. Truly terrifying work from all involved. Great job.
Outside of giving me night terrors, this is another scattershot episode of Aharen-san, though thankfully the jokes are a lot stronger than the last time that happened. While they don’t transition all that well in between each other, the various skits of this episode are all pretty solid stuff, with each featuring at least a couple of great gags. And really, when you have solid punchlines who needs transitions? Mitch Hedberg never bothered with those and people still quote his best jokes nearly two decades after his death. Granted, Aharen-san has yet to match the comedic elegance of “I wanted to buy a candle holder, but the store didn’t have one, so I got a cake” but I believe they can do it one day if they try. If eschewing narrative structure and turning into a series of animated shower thoughts and skits is what we need to get there, then by all means go for it.
And this is definitely an episode where I find myself enjoying the small swerves and flourishes the show can add to its gags. By now we’re pretty used to the formula of Raido going on wild inner tangents over simple situations, but tiny additions can make that predictable rhythm ridiculously funny all on their own. Like the joke about carrying Reina for the rest of her life is some fine escalation, but the cherry on top is giving Old Reina a mustache too. Or Raido try to Light Yagami his way through Old Maid, only to overthink having himself out of a win. I especially loved checking back in with Futaba after her bento skit, since the first thought I had “wouldn’t that lunch spoil overnight?” and lo and behold. These aren’t world-changing punchlines, but they add just that extra bit of silliness to the whole affair to make it memorable.
On the other side, if I have one complaint about this episode, it’s that the new characters formally introduced here are pretty forgettable. None of the secondary cast have been so amazing, but Futaba and Oshiro at least have unique personalities that clash with our leads in some funny and entertaining ways. Ishikawa and Sato could be replaced with faceless mannequins for all they bring to the table. That makes it even weirder that they’re apparently prominent enough to be included on multiple key visuals and the OP, because I could not tell them from Adam or Eve based on design or attitude. It’s not enough to kill any of the gags – our main duo are as rock solid as ever when sharing scenes with these guys – but it’s still disappointing to see the rest of the ensemble struggle to keep up in the comedy department. Right now our strongest bronze medal candidate is Reina’s dog, and that’s mostly because they’re a very good doggy. Yes they are. Yes they are..
Again, it’s hard to complain too much when Aharen-san is doing just fine with what it knows works. While the weaker cast members might keep this from being an all-time comedy, that doesn’t mean what we’ve got already isn’t good all on its own.
Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.