Minami-ke: A Second Helping
This is another plain depiction of the days and the lives of the Minami sisters. Please expect more of the first season, except possibly even better.
Time does funny things to my memory of anime. Sometimes, something I immediately thought was good sours when I think of it again a few weeks later, and sometimes, something I didn't like grows on me long after I finished it. My review of the original season of Minami-ke sounds surlier than I remember, and as time went gone by, characters that I said were "crowded" and "one-dimensional" had grown on me. Truthfully, I didn't realize how much I liked that series until I decided to track down its sequel. Miname-ke: Okawari aired in the beginning of 2008, and even though I had only tried to track down torrents of it six months after it finished airing, all of my usual sources had failed me, even though the series remained unlicensed. I began to panic, and literally spent hours crawling the Net, looking for someone, anyone who had the series archived and could reseed it. It took some time, but when I finally found the complete second season and turned it on, all the effort seemed completely worth it.
Now, for those of you who were with me last time, you will remember the exciting twists and turns of the first season, and that shocking cliff hanger from the last five minutes of the final episode. Well, for the second season... no wait, sorry, wrong show. I had mixed up my notes from Minami-ke with the ones for Code Geass. Sorry. So, what really happened in the last season of Minami-ke?
That's right; not much of anything. It was just about the "days of the lives of the three Minami sisters." And their friends, and the friends of their friends. The show had a very large cast for a twelve episode series. But even though I had complained about the size of the cast in the first season, I was surprised by how many of the characters I was able to remember off-hand. There's Takeru, the pathetic cousin and salaryman who supports the sisters financially, but is usually the odd man out when he comes over to visit. There's Toma from the other Minami family, a girl who was raised as a boy by her three older brothers. There's Fujioka, who is head-over-heels in love with Kana. Kana always seems to misinterpret his affections as threats, though, doesn't she? There's Uchida, Chiaka's cute but very dim witted friend, and her other friend Makoto, also known as Mako-chan. Isn't he a little young to be cross dressing? And who could forget Hosaka, the man with some very wild dreams about Haruka, and a tendency to start stripping once he thinks about her for an extended period of time? I don't know whether I should feel sorry for the bloke or be creeped out, but he sure is funny. And I remembered most of that without the help of Wikipedia.
Now that the cast is fully assembled, the series runs smoothly. The jokes worked more often for me this time around, and the humor was a little more even. The first two episodes are the exception to this, though, when Studio Asread puts in more fanservice than the entire first season had, along with some pretty falty jokes. But I forgave them once the series really hit its stride after episode three.
There was even a charming theme I hadn't noticed before that showed up. It goes like this: the Minami family are very open. They hardly ever spend an evening alone, and with guests coming in and out all the time to visit and hang out, their front door may as well become a revolving door. And after watching how inseperable the Minami sisters are from their friends for some twenty episodes, it hits me who the Minami family actually is. It's not just Haruka, Kana and Chiaki. It's all of their friends who come over for one of Haruka's famous snacks, to study, or just to get away for a little while. Even though most of them aren't related by blood, they are as close as families get. It's a large, sprawling clan, and it's touching to watch their mundane lives mix together.
As I mentioned earlier, the series has changed hands since the first season and is now being produced by Studio Asread, who I have never heard of before. Apparently, though, a lot of the staff also worked on Shuffle!. If Tim's review is any indication, this is a much better series. You will notice some stylistic differences from the first season, though, especially when it comes to minor characters. These folks normally get some stock character design that are the visual equivalent of white noise, but what Asread does instead is simply black out anyone who isn't important, even if they have dialogue. It's actually pretty distracting, and is the only noticeable blot on some otherwise good animation.
And I'm sure there are other weaknesses in this series. For me, though, I realized I like Minami-ke as much as I do not because it's a near-perfectly executed work, or a stellar example of comedy. Honestly, neither of those things are even close to true. It works for me because of the characters. And I know that sounds so cliche, but it's extremely important that something like Minami-ke, which is very similar to a sitcom, to have strong characters with distinct personalities that the audience really comes to love. I haven't had a cast grow on me like this since I watched all three seasons of Galaxy Angels last year. The two series actually have something in common: when the plot or the jokes run thin, the series pulls itself through on the strength of its cast. I thought this season had more hits than misses, and it really sold me on wanting to follow them through as many seasons as possible. In my opinion, that's enough for a pretty high grade and a strong recommendation.
Think of it as the full blossoming of everything the first season promised. Recommended for fans of comedy and slice of life. — Bradley Meek
Recommended Audience: This season is racier than the first with a generous helping of fanservice in the first few episodes, but nothing else is worth noting.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-licensed digital fansub
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Minami-ke: A Second Helping © 2008 Starchild, Studio Asread
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