After a year of only being able to finish a few reviews each season before work/school/whatever else ended up taking time away from the shows I really wanted to talk about, a review revamp was in order. That's not to say that I won't do long-format reviews anymore, but I'm hoping that this style will fit better into my schedule.
Where do I even begin with this thing? When it started airing, I could only really enjoy it for it's crazy animation and references. While the outfit designs that leave nothing to the imagination didn't put me off, I do remember frowning at certain parts in earlier episodes. At one point, Ryuko is surrounded by shards of glass that act like mirrors so that you can see everything from every angle, clearly for the benefit of the male otaku audience. Aside from it's energetic animation style, not a lot gripped me in the first part aside from Mako (who is the best character of 2014, I'm calling it now). There were even weeks when I forgot that it was airing.
However, that changed in the second half when it all kicked into overdrive. The characters, the storyline, the power-ups, the plot twists, the animation, everything went up to levels of insanity that I haven't seen since Gurren Lagann. This was the only show that I ended up consistently following in the Winter season when I was two to three weeks behind on everything else simply because I wanted to know how the heck it was going to top itself next. This show has several episodes that were finale worthy by any other standard, yet it still kept going. Even the nudity stopped bothering me, since the characters got to a point that they were so strong in their personalities that it didn't matter what they were wearing (or not wearing, depending on the episode). I'm not on board with the whole "it's deep and symbolic" train--it's a show about alien vampire school uniforms, come on--but it still deserves a lot of credit for making me completely forget about those concerns in the final few episodes.
There's not much more I can say without spoiling it (just be aware that Ragyo has stolen the title of Worst Anime Parent from Gendo, and that's putting it lightly), but I'm glad that I came back to it despite the first several episodes not really working for me. I'm not sure if it'll end up as one of those big pillars of anime fandom (a "must see" show, that is), but it's definitely an experience that I don't regret if only for the sheer entertainment value of the whole thing.
|Definitely my kind of nonsense|
And now for something completely different! I was a little concerned that this season wouldn't have a lot to cover after the solid finale from the first season, but the premiere episode was fun enough for me to stop worrying. That said, this season is a lot more meandering and unfocused than the first season was, taking over half the episodes to get to the main plot involving Shichimiya, Togashi's past as a chuunibyou, and his growing relationship with Rikka. I felt like Shichimiya in particular got the short end of the stick here, since I thought that she was a pretty interesting character that didn't get nearly enough screentime. She's a good foil to Rikka (or maybe the term I'm looking for here is alternate version?) in that they're very similar but have made different key decisions about how they want to move forward with their lives. I would've liked to have spent more time with her.
In addition, something that really confused me was how they treated the fantasy battles this time around. In the first season it was my favorite running gag; one second you'd be looking at a fantastically choreographed and animated fantasy fight sequence, and then it would cut to reality where their giant swords were actually brooms and their armor was cardboard or something. This season, they treat the fantasy battles as real for some reason. And this isn't just with the chuunibyou characters; Togashi and Nibutani get into it too. I couldn't really enjoy any of these fights anymore because I kept expecting the show to cut out to something else. Since it never did, I was left wondering what was really happening instead of just enjoying the scene. It was a great gag. Why did they decide to play it straight?
Overall, I can only recommend this season to people who liked the first one, and even then only to people who really enjoyed the character interactions and don't mind watching them do random stuff before the little bit of plot kicks in. But if you were happy enough with the first season, it might be better to pass on this one, since not a lot changes. It's a fun diversion, but lacks the emotional pull that the first season had.
Images from Crunchyroll.com.