Minami-ke Okawari: when second helpings don’t taste as good
In its first season, Minami-ke could pretty much do no wrong for me; it may have seemed like just another anime about schoolgirls and their everyday lives, but it hit all the right notes in terms of delivery. With that in mind, I was looking forward to thirteen more episodes of the same- except that what I was going to get was going to be to the first season what the Popstation is to the PSP.
Despite airing directly after the first thirteen episodes, Okawari was handed over to a brand new studio and production team, resulting in a tone and presentation that was very different to what we had become used to. On the plus side, the character designs were now closer to the original manga, but that was about the only benefit of the change- for what had once been an amusing and thoroughly entertaining series had now become something far more mediocre.
Where once the jokes had been built into ongoing threads to keep them fresh and entertaining, this time around they were merely run into the ground; for example, the whole “Mako-chan” cross-dressing episode became ever more stale and tiresome as Kana refused to let him out himself. In the old days, even simple cooking scenes had been amusing, but now everything was just dull and predictable; oh look, Chiaki left her dessert unguarded- I wonder if Kana might eat it now? Oh no, Kana got away with pretending to be ill and now she really is sick but can’t admit it! It just all gets to the point where it’s almost painful waiting for a blatantly obvious punch line to come along.
In the same vein, the characters that we had come to know and love during season one seemed far more disappointing this time around. Whilst many supporting characters were shoved into the background to become annoying one-trick personalities, even the sisters themselves suffered- with Kana in particular going from a likable troublemaker to the kind of Miu-esque stirrer who you just want to administer a good slap to. Perhaps the worst decision the series made, however, was to introduce a completely original character in the form of neighbour Fuyuki, a bland do-gooder who got far more than his fair share of screen time- to the point where viewers must surely have been cheering when he finally moved away again.
Visually, although Okawari is arguably slicker and smoother than the first season, somewhere along the way the individuality of the series’ look has been turned into something more generic, with even the delightful drop-shaped mouths appearing less. One particular annoyance this season is the way all background characters have been given blacked out faces- a rather creepy and surely unnecessary look given that they could have just been given generic peach-coloured faces. Meanwhile, although a new OP and ED have been introduced, background music remains largely unchanged.
Although the first season of Minami-ke left me eager for a second helping, when said follow-up came along, it proved to have swapped almost all of the humour for a big fat slice of mediocrity and disappointment. Fans of the first series will probably end up watching it anyway for the sake of completion, but it can hardly be said to be worth it- if you need more entertainment from the Minami sisters, just turn to the manga instead.