When I look back at this season I don’t feel any of the anger or disgust I do when I look at Blood-C.
Mostly, it’s just sadness and puzzlement. I’m sad because a series I loved so much (it was #6 on list for 2010) is now one that I find barely watchable. I’m puzzled because I just can’t understand the choices Oonuma Shin and the team at Silver Link made in adapting the material for the season. I’m also puzzled as to why – at least if you go by the reviews on sites like MAL and Animeplanet – this season seems to have been just as well-received as the first, if not better. Wha?
I suppose the warning signs were there, and I shouldn’t have ignored them, in the OVAs. I didn’t find any of the OVAs nearly as funny or as engaging as the first season of the anime, but what the hell – I figured that was because they were OVAs, and those are often a step down for TV anime. But that does call to mind another interesting point, because it was two characters from the OVAs – the “Summerfags” – that Silver Link chose to focus upon for the final arc of the second season. It’s a symptom of a larger problem, and part of an interesting trend. It’s almost as if the broke down all the elements that worked best in the first season, and those that worked worst, and decided to focus almost entirely on the latter and ignore the former.
So there you are, maybe that’s why I feel so differently about this season than many – a matter of what you liked about the series. What did I like? The defiant, “us vs. them” team spirit of Class F. The sense of fighting injustice, and the clever social commentary that was attached to it. The summoning battles. The glorious celebration of adolescent male stupidity in the face of universal scorn. And the comedic antics of Voyeur and Hideyoshi, who are pretty much guaranteed laughs every time they appear on screen.
So what did we get an overdose of in S2? The romance aspects, which were always awkward and worked best when played for laughs. The sadism of the main girls in the cast, which was the most unpleasant part of the first season. Frankly pretty lame convoluted “plots” like the nonsense surrounding the peeping incident (that lasted what, four episodes?) and the silliness with the Summerfags in the last arc. And all at the expense of the elements I loved about the series which were all but absent for the entire season bar a couple of short bursts.
That’s not the only problem, not by a long shot. The writing seemed less sharp than last year, and the humor was quite simply not as funny. The order of the episodes seemed almost completely random, especially regarding the two funereally serious flashback episodes which many viewers considered the highlight of the season. They were OK episodes on their own, but they made absolutely no sense in the context they were presented – they were islands with no buildup and not much outflow. What sense did it make to paint Minami as a psychotic for seven episodes, and then turn around and devote an entire episode to showing us just how black-hearted she truly was for treating Aki the way she did in the first seven eps? None of the chapters seemed to fit – the opening arc didn’t feel like an opening, the ending didn’t feel like an ending… And almost all the arcs seemed to go on too long.
There were a few high points, primarily regarding mishaps with the summoned beasts. Minami’s summon during the “true nature” shoukanjuu event of episode 12 was probably the single biggest laugh of the season, but for me the best story was the one where the summoned beasts said exactly what was in the subconscious of the summoner. That was really funny and quite strong from a character insight level, and my favorite chapter of the season. And the final two-episode arc, while only moderately funny, at least wasn’t as annoying to me as much of the previous 11 episodes. It was like Baka-Test, anyway – just not very good Baka-Test. It was like a Baka-Test cover band, but that’s still better than whatever it was we had for most of the season.
So there you have it. If the romance was your thing, I can’t imagine even you’re that thrilled with the ending – as it appears Aki is no closer to making a decision between Minami and Himeji (though at least he might know they’re into him. But not poor Kubo…) I fully expect there to be a third season of this, as popular as it is, and it goes without saying that I’ll go into it with substantially lower expectations than I did the second. But that doesn’t mean I won’t go into with hope, because the memory of what this show can be is still fresh enough in my mind. Cut back on the sadism, big-time, and bring the focus back on the class battles and the baka guys acting like lovable bakas. Recognize that Hideyoshi is your signature character and Voyeur your funniest, and use them! Bring back Milktub for a testosterone-driven, defiantly stupid ED. Do all that, and maybe the magic can be recaptured. I’ll hope for it, but I won’t be expecting it.