After a middling showing last week, I’m happy to report Aharen-san is back with a vengeance – both the show and the character. They even gave her gun! Everybody put on your bulletproof kneepads and codpieces, because there’s a tiny terror with a thirst for blood scuttling just below your eye line!
Really though, this episode sees Aharen-san returning to the tried-and-true formula it’s thrived with before, but with a specific focus on sports. Raido, obsessed with finally achieving victory over the multitudinous talents of his dear companion, challenges Aharen to all sorts of physical competitions in hopes his staggering height and broad build will allow him the sweet taste of victory at last. However, this boy is also about as coordinated as a post-surgery cat coming down from anesthesia, leading to a parade of failure as embarrassing as it is hilarious.
There are just so many small but pivotal touches to each gag. The way Raido slaps the water as he “speeds” through it. Or how proud he is of his “newton serve” right before Aharen figures out the trick, delivering the slowest, softest ping-pong rally ever animated. Or the incredible mouth noises Raido makes as he granny shots a gutter ball at the bowling alley. Despite the first five or so segments of this episode basically being the same joke, there’s enough variation in the delivery and timing that it never feels repetitive. That’s the kind of presentation that sustains the series at its best, and I’m glad to have it back.
Thought it’s not all sports chicanery, as the final skit introduces some new supporting cast. Now I’d spotted this character in the OP, so I knew pretty quickly the Aharen that Raido ran into was a sibling, not a body snatcher. That honestly made it funnier, seeing the weird places Raido’s mind went (Amnesia? Body doubles? CLONES???), and the reveal came quickly enough that the joke didn’t outstay its welcome. What I didn’t expect was the reveal that Ren was Reina’s younger brother, or that Ren likes to casually raid Reina’s closet and cross dress. Nor could I predict how both casually and sweetly it would treat Ren in the episode’s post-credits scene.
Perhaps I should have, though. Because part of Aharen-san‘s charm this whole time has been how positively it’s treated its cast. Throughout its run so far the show has never really punched down at their quirks or eccentricities: Raido and Aharen are presented as goofy, certainly, but that silliness is presented as infectious, inviting the audience to laugh alongside them, not at them. Some viewers read Reina as neurodivergent, and while I don’t feel qualified to make a call on that, I can absolutely see why, and also how that makes the series more endearing for it. The show is all about Raido and her other friends giving Aharen support, working to understand her and get to know her despite her initially distant appearance. Whether that coding is intentional or not, I think a lot of people with problems socializing can relate and enjoy seeing a narrative like that – as somebody who spent years working through severe social anxiety, I certainly would have loved a friend group as earnest and nonjudgmental as Raido has been.
Similarly, the series is quick to reaffirm Ren in a gentle, non-dramatic way. Whether Ren is some flavor of LGBT or just a young kid experimenting with self-image who likes looking pretty like their older sister, what’s important is that he’s happy and has the support of the people closest to him. So Reina hugging him and telling him in no uncertain terms that he’s welcome to her clothes was just heart-meltingly pleasant. It’s a super sweet moment that caught me by surprise in the best possible way. Combined with the comedy’s return to form, it makes for easily the best episode so far.
Aharen-san wa Hakarenai is currently streaming on