Second Seasons: Second Rate? Part One: Picking up where you left off

If you like something, it seems only natural to want more of it- anime included. After all, if it comes down to a choice between more episodes about your favourite characters and settings, or watching something new and unproven, the former may well sound infinitely preferable. Unfortunately, the saying “too much of a good thing” exists for a reason; not every franchise can weather the demands of supplying additional content, resulting in worn out, recycled scenarios, tiresome, unimaginative filler, or an attempt to be different that destroys the very heart of what made it good in the first place.

Fair enough, you say, if the existing material is complete and self-contained, but what about stories without a proper ending? Don’t they deserve some kind of conclusion, be it in OVA or TV series form? This is indeed a valid point, and in fact, several series, such as Fushigi Yuugi and Hunter X Hunter, have successfully continued or concluded with the help of a few extra OVAs. The problems arise, however, when the writers either end up with more episodes than they know what to do with, or don’t have the courage to actually put an end to the series. After all, if a second season can generate some more profits, why not leave the door open for a third? Who needs to worry about quality when you can just squeeze as much from a franchise as possible? And in that case, are the fans equally at fault for continuing to support their favourite shows long after they have ‘jumped the shark’?

Regardless of the reasons behind their existence, the fact often remains that as a viewer, second seasons all too often fail to live up to the standards set by the first- and what better way to quantify this effect than to look at some specific examples? Note that for this article, only direct continuations are considered- alternate universe spin-offs, retellings, or follow-ups based on different characters will be covered in Part Two.

Were these continuations a good thing?
Series in red did not fare so well compared to their respective first seasons. Those in black were able to maintain quality or even improve upon it. Linked titles lead to existing rants and appraisals about the series in question.

Ah! My Goddess Sorezore no Tsubasa
There were only so many times we could hear “Keiichi-kun!”, “Belldandy!” without getting bored of the situation, and where 26 episodes would have been fine, 52 were far, far too many. Four episodes in, the series seemed gently entertaining, but by the tenth, each instalment was nothing more than a 25 minute stretch of tedium and pain.

Aria the Natural
Although it probably wouldn’t be the case in practice, Aria is one of the few series that feels like it could go on forever without losing its charm. Since there are plenty of manga chapters to draw from and no main plot to worry about in the first place, The Natural’s 26 episodes are easily able to stand with the thirteen instalments of the original series.

Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid
(Fumoffu qualifies for Part Two)
Neither FMP nor Second Raid are particularly good, but with its shorter episode count and lack of filler, Second Raid manages to pull ahead of the original by some way.

Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig
Although I will no doubt incur the wrath of fanboys for only the 500th time since I started writing about anime online, I really don’t rate Stand Alone Complex as the ‘best thing ever’ that most people make it out to be. Yes, it has excellent music, and it’s fairly entertaining, but as far as I can see, it isn’t so much clever as ‘lengthy exposition scenes masquerading as something clever’. Nonetheless, 2nd Gig manages to come in ahead of its predecessor for one simple fact- it actually had some episodes devoted to character development. At last, the likes of Saito and Paz could finally be characters with more depth than “guys who stand in the background and support the main three”, whilst even Motoko and Batou became more interesting personalities.

Honey and Clover II
My feelings on Honey and Clover II should already be well-known, but nonetheless I’ll be reiterating them here. I absolutely loved season one; from start to finish, every episode seemed to be right on the mark as far as quality was concerned. Then along came season two, and everything became a lot more inconsistent; some episodes were undoubtedly good, but others had a meandering focus, unable to settle on which tone or storyline they wanted to adopt. Mayama became a one-dimensional stalker, debating on whether or not it would be better to break into Rika’s locked room, Shuu’s love of Hagu became almost creepy, and minor character Kaoru suddenly surged into the spotlight from out of nowhere.

Keroro Gunso season 2
Admittedly, I have only seen a short way into Keroro season two, but so far, it just doesn’t quite capture the spark that made season one so entertaining. The early episodes of the season clearly suffered through a lack of Giroro and Dororo, but even their return hasn’t brought things up to speed- what once was hilarious is now merely partially amusing.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s
The first season of Nanoha was so completely and utterly by the book that A’s couldn’t help but improve upon it to some extent. The story may have been only slightly more interesting than the original, but A’s pushed itself forward with new characters and powered up battles to feast the eyes upon. Better still, Nanoha now actually seemed to be contributing to the battles a little more, rather than just standing there and letting Raging Heart do all the work.

Maria-sama ga Miteru ~Spring~
Both seasons of Maria-sama are equally drenched in angst, but ~Spring~ had the advantage of having already introduced the characters and setting. Where the first thirteen episodes had been a bit of a slow burn that took some getting used to, ~Spring~ could just pick up right where they left off, and thus proved a more consistently enjoyable experience.

Meine Liebe Wieder
Meine Liebe will never be renowned for the complexity of its plot, but season one more than compensated for that with some absorbing character studies and intriguing one-off stories. At first glance, Wieder seemed to promise a lot more, such as new characters, shifting relations and even simmering tensions with another country that must inevitably lead to war. Unfortunately, whatever potential Wieder had was lost in the mires of parody as the series itself devolved into character angst, undeveloped additions to the cast, and a main storyline that proved to be a carbon copy of the first season (oh look, Beruze is behind yet another generic duke who wants to overthrow the king! I didn’t see that coming!).

Rozen Maiden Traumend
Like Wieder, Traumend was series that tried to convince us it would be more epic than its first season, and in exactly the same fashion, it failed to deliver. The new characters were dislikeable, the storyline seemed to contradict season one in places, and the promised battle royale not only failed to materialise until the last possible moment, but was given a disappointing ‘let’s leave it open for a third season’ ending.

School Rumble Nigakki
When School Rumble’s second season began with a battle royale style survival game, it immediately became clear that this series would be aiming for ‘wackier’ humour than the last. Nonetheless, if never up to the standard of the first season, for a time, it was a highly enjoyable experience- until slowly, a rot crept in. At first, each three-part episode would have one segment that was a little too nonsensical or pointless to be worthwhile, but over time, such segments became increasingly common. By the latter half of the season, the vast majority of episodes (now with added filler) completely failed to entertain, until finally the whole thing limped home to a sorry ending.

Tsubasa Chronicle season 2
Whilst Tsubasa can hardly be said to be top quality at the best of times, the first season at least had the advantage of drawing from the manga for 25 of its 26 episodes. Unfortunately, everything went horribly wrong in season two, when the anime went too quickly through the Piffle arc and ended up in danger of catching up with the source material. In order to stave off the threat, a series of filler worlds began to appear, each more dull and pointless than the last, filled with generic characters, tedious storylines, and a distinct lack of animation. With a third season still to come, the future does not look bright.

Final Thoughts
Based on this somewhat limited study (unfortunately I can’t include what I haven’t watched), it seems as if second seasons aren’t always bad news after all. Nonetheless, with good series so easily able to be brought low by sub par sequels, and dull shows like Jigoku Shoujo equally likely to be renewed for yet more tedium, it is no wonder that I will always regard news of any follow-up season with apprehension.

8 thoughts on “Second Seasons: Second Rate? Part One: Picking up where you left off

  1. Ah, this is an interesting topic! Maybe one day, I’ll blog about this too (when Emma 2 has come out, maybe? *hrr*) I think Hollywood movies nearly always suffer under the “bad sequel” illness but I, too, have noticed that this isn’t necessarily the case with anime.

    I don’t totally agree with you on Marimite ~Haru~ though. (Honey & Clover II either, but that’s because I’m a Hagu and a Kaoru fangirl.) Personally, I found the first season very entertaining and often funny, especially the last 2 episodes which were the highlight of the whole story. Season 2, however, seemed a lot more cheesy – it was all about overly romantic relationships (Shimako and Noriko -.-) and needless problems (“Oh, oneesama, in the end, you do like me and you were only worried about your grandmother!”). To me, it felt like cherry blossoms flying around the whole time. ^^;;;

  2. The second season of MariMite was great. =) There is never too much cherry blossoms and the end made everything seen before worth it. I’m praying with both hands and legs that new OVA is even better.

  3. Argh… don’t even get me started on School Rumble Nigakki. They overloaded it with filler from the bonus chapters when they should have been covering the story (YES it does have one) but instead elected to go the way of the bipolar.

  4. Marimite was something of an acquired taste for me. I didn’t really like the Cinderella play arc that started it all off (perhaps because I was expecting it to be paced differently) and from there it took me a few more episodes to properly get into the series, whereas with season 2 I was able to enjoy it from the start. To be honest, both seasons were enjoyable and both had their flaws (imo) but I just preferred s2 that little bit more.

    Wererat42, I’m more worried about the “School Rumble will continue” at the end of the series; the last thing we need is an even worse third season.

  5. [Neither FMP nor Second Raid are particularly good, but with its shorter episode count and lack of filler, Second Raid manages to pull ahead of the original by some way]…

    I agree with your assessment of second season in general, but this review on FMP series certainly damage the credibility… or at least showing that the reviewer has a different taste than the mainstrem anime fans

  6. I make no secret of the fact that my tastes are different from the ‘mainstream’ fan, and certainly I did not think a great deal of Full Metal Panic (nor am I particularly enamoured with generally popular titles such as Eva and GITS). I’m not here to represent those fans, merely myself and my personal tastes.

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