As I look back on the second season of Shinryaku!? Ika Musume, an honest assessment forces me to admit that it wasn’t as good as the first. It was very good, mind you, consistently funny and entertaining and occasionally drop-dead hilarious. But there definitely weren’t as many of those knockout moments this season, and the overall quality bar was just a bit lower than the first season’s. But that’s setting the bar pretty high, and it was still one of the better shows this season and one of the better comedies of 2011. Just not an instant classic.
Despite that, I find myself more emotional at the prospect of this series ending than I do with the other comedies I’ve enjoyed this year, including the second season of Working, which was probably better on the whole. I think it’s because as absurd and sometimes hard-edged as the comedy is, Shinryaku Ika Musume is always more in touch with its warm side than any of the other true comedies in the top tier. The level of affection for the characters is obvious in the writing, and the depiction of family is artfully done. It’s that family vibe that’s at the heart of this series, and that gives it all of the emotional punch that can elevate it above any other comedy currently airing.
Despite that, I think the balance of this season was just a bit off, and the writing pulled its punches a bit too often. The overall tone of the season was more wistful and warmer than the first season, and while the emotional payoffs were no less effective, there was less of the hard-edged comedy that provided the biggest laughs. I think it’s mostly a matter of the chapters that Diomedea chose to adapt, because the format has stayed pretty much the same – three chapters per episode, and each chapter (normally 8-10 pages) padded considerably to fill out the episode. The season finales have been pretty much the only anime-original material, and even those have been loosely based on manga outlines.
There were some wonderful highs this season though, even if not quite as many. The exercise sketch where Ika systematically laid waste to a third-grade class doing stretches on the beach was one of my favorites for pure hilarity. We had a couple of visits from Mini-Ika, which is always a welcome thing. But I think the best sketch of the year was the one where the Aizawa siblings went to the local amusement park, only to find out that it was closing that day. It was filled with classic absurd “Ika” humor, but it was also deeply and sincerely emotional, as Eiko reflected on the trips she’d made there with the Aizawa parents (still no explanation there, I’m afraid). No other comedy series I know can bring those elements together the way this one can, and that’s why I think it’s the best comedy series in anime when it’s at the top of its game.
The question of a third season is paramount on my mind, of course. When S1 ended I was certain S2 was coming, but it’s more of an open question now. Whatever reasons you ascribe it to, the initial BD/DVD sales numbers look likely to come in below what the first volume did last year. There’s hope, though – this is probably Diomedea’s signature property, there’s still a market for “Ika Musume” goods, and it’s very possible that BD/DVD sales will pick up. There’s certainly plenty of manga left to be adapted, including some of my favorite chapters such as “Aren’t You Siblings”? There are lots of interesting threads to follow, too, such as the mystery of Octopus Girl and the evolving relationship between Ika and her human siblings (Takeru is taking “pick-up” lessons in the manga now, so osananijimii romance may be on the horizon) and hopefully, an answer as to what happened to the Aizawa parents. As with Working I think this series has a lot of story still to tell, and while it may have slipped a notch in terms of pure comedy it’s lost none of its charm. This is a wonderful cast of characters and I certainly hope we get to see more of them soon.