It's the harem anime that's not a harem anime that became a harem anime anyway!
I had moderate expectations going into this series; general buzz around the internet said that the light novel and manga were hilarious, with a minimum of harem antics. The first half of the show lived up to that, with the majority of the fanservice taking place in the OP. It was genuinely entertaining to watch this group of characters try to figure what they needed to learn in order to make friends, not realizing all the while that they'd already found what they were looking for. The banter between Yozora and Sena was great, and the same goes for Kobato and Maria. I also wasn't expecting a trap character, and Rika was hilarious. "UNIVERSE!" should be a meme. However, something felt off in the presentation of those first couple episodes, as if someone behind the screen was saying, "Yeah, yeah, but you're not really here for this friendship stuff, are you?" Posts comparing the anime and manga started to crop up, and I wondered if this would really turn out to be the show that I'd hoped it would be.
Then the swimsuit episodes happened. Not one, not two, but three in a row. I have no idea what the point of that was. Had they run out of stereotypical group activities to exploit (since they saved the festival episode for the end)? In any case, my enjoyment of the show started to drop from there, since it was moving away from the aspects of the show that I liked the most in favor of appealing to the common denominator to sell merchandise. The character relationships started to get overplayed; in the case of Yozora and Sena's "friendship," Yozora's digs at Sena became increasingly mean until she just became downright cruel. Her actions made me dislike her character so much that I could've cared less about the "reveal" at the end of the series, since at that point I only saw her as jealous and two-faced. However, at the very least I did leave the series more interested in the novels and the manga. Maybe they do a better job at portraying the aspects of the show that I liked best, when it was about a band of mismits just trying to make friends, not about how many swimsuit episodes a series could have.
Images from Funimation.com.