Wagnaria!! Season 2
This second series continues the various everyday misadventures of the staff working at the family restaurant Wagnaria, somewhere in the heart of Hokkaido.
Stig has already covered the first season quite well, and if you enjoyed that, then you'll certainly enjoy this second season, which is essentially the natural progression of the ongoing relationships and friendships at this wacky little restaurant in the far north.
Are you going to see any sweeping sea-changes in characterization? No - this isn't a psychological drama, so don't expect anyone to fully let go of their psychoses, but there is a gradual sense of the characters developing and maturing, which is good because if they'd stayed static, Wagnaria!! would start to lose a lot of steam after the first season. There is a certain charm in the unexpected relationship between Souta and Mahiru, largely because they essentially have to face their fears to even coexist, much less progress as friends and perhaps more. What's telling is that Souta understands that Mahiru's continuing androphobia is not actually part of her core personality, but rather, something forced upon her by a borderline-abusive, overprotective lying-crapsack father, and they're attracted to each other *despite* everything, which is something you don't normally expect in a slice-of-life comedy series about wacky, obsessive people. It's also nice to see Souta finally get read the riot act for consistently seeing Popura as "cute adorable little thing" instead of an actual person to be respected (a bit of character development sorely needed, and perhaps not entirely forgotten in future episodes).
We also get to see a lot of the other characters, so if you've got a favorite Wagnaria employee, they've certainly got their day in the spotlight here (even, yes, Maya again). The cast does get expanded somewhat, with mixed results - Kirio "Yamada" in particular being an epic fail of a character who I was glad to note only shows up for one episode before getting punted into the stratosphere by a completely surprising character who I won't name here. We also get to see more of Souta's sweet and innocent (or is she?) little sister Nazuna, meet Kyoko's old gangmates the Mashiba siblings, and even run into Otoo's long-lost wife Haruna (in a hilarious guest appearance by Junko Iwao - Tomoyo Daidouji in Card Captor Sakura). Of course, the scene stealer no matter what is Kana Asumi as the irrepressible, hard-working, way-the-heck-too-cute Popura. You can't help but root for her - she energizes every scene she's in, and Asumi does a really great job voicing her without ever seeming insincere or cloying. Even the character I initially was most leery of in season one, pathological liar and malingerer Aoi "Yamada", somehow ends up being utterly endearing, and it is a rare series that can make me appreciate (no, love!) a character like that.
If there is one major change in this second season, it's that there seems to have been a noticeable animation bump compared to the first. It's like the Wagnaria restaurant has gotten a facelift - it's not that the setting has changed at all, but everything looks that much more detailed. The characters themselves don't change much, but the lines are a bit cleaner -- perhaps the success of the first season led to more money being thrown at this, and it shows. And unlike Stig, I found that the musical themes pretty well fit the mood of the show, and there's a certain catchiness to them -- both season one's "Someone" and this season's "Coolish Walk" have landed welcome spots on my playlist.
About the only objections I have here are that the Mahiru-on-Souta violence does get old, and even though the series does take great pains to actually address and deconstruct the "violent girl" archetype (something taken for granted in dozens of series dating back through Love Hina and even Urusei Yatsura), it's still a bitter pill to swallow in an otherwise fun show. Thankfully the one or two characters I actively dislike do get their comeuppance through the course of the series, and yet again, the last episode, while being a nice stopping point, leaves me wanting even more misadventures with these strangely over-the-top yet equally strangely lovable characters.
I almost added that fifth star just for Popura, and some of you may very well do that anyway. This is a strong ensemble series and everyone involved with it ought to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. I would TOTALLY go to this restaurant if it were real. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: There is a fair amount of violence (mostly Mahiru hitting Souta) which, while initially played for comedic effect, is depicted with a frankness and realism that is unusual for a comedy. Apart from that, there may be very mild fanservice and a few slightly off-color jokes here or there, but nothing that should trigger any but the most sensitive audiences. Recommended for teens and above, as younger children probably wouldn't get the humor anyway.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital Source, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Wagnaria!! Season 2 © 2011 Karino Takatsu / Square Enix / Wagnaria!! Project
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