Hey, before I get to the post proper, I have something to say:
Japan’s currently in the middle of a national crisis. You know the story already, so if you haven’t already, please consider donating. I’ve donated to both the American Red Cross and the Japan Society, but there’s more out there if you look. I recommend the Japan Society, since 100% of the donations go to relief efforts. And trust me, with entire towns wiped off the map, they need the money.
I was actually supposed to be screwing around in Tokyo right about now, but given what’s happened, I’m still in the States.
Anyway, onto the post…
This is actually going to be very quick (by Analog Housou standards), as actually reviewing Mitsudomoe as a whole would probably require watching both the first and second seasons once again to really do it justice. But for the time being, I just want to say that Mitsudomoe’s second season, the appropriately titled Zouryouchuu, tops its predecessor by a good margin.
Everything I’ve said about Mitsudomoe in the past holds true, but the second season demonstrates a higher level of sophistication in its writing. (And since I’m talking about writing, I’m going to assume these comments hold true for the original manga, as well.) But when I say “sophistication,” I don’t mean that the show has graduated from sexual humor and toilet jokes. With that said, the writing in the second season is more varied than the first season’s. While I more or less enjoyed Mitsudomoe’s first season, I felt that it dragged somewhat in the middle due to it constantly resorting to the same gag. That being: Character A sees Character B do something out of context, Character A perceives this action as sexual, and Character A will proceed to act weird around Character B until the sketch is over. While this can be Pretty Funny, it did grow stale after a while. The first season did manage to mix things up a bit, but not to the point where this formula didn’t feel old.
Thankfully, the second season gets off to a running start and never lets up. For starters, all of the series’ mainstays are there: the demented characters, the toilet talk, and the larger-than-life approach to everything. In fact, season two injects even more power into these aspects of the show, making them funnier, natch. But what really gives season two its depth is its beautiful metamorphosis in a true-blue situation comedy. Rather than relying on the formula I ran through earlier, season two relies more on character based humor, which is arguably the funnier part of the first season. Rather than create a situation by entering some interchangeable factors into a formula, Zouryouchuu opts to take a normal situation and let its characters spin the whole thing out of control.
A small dispute about whether or not to have the air conditioning on during a hot summer day results in an entire room being more or less destroyed due to the extreme and contrasting personalities of the characters. Similarly, bringing in the new year turns into chaos when all of the Marui triplets have to use the one bathroom in the house. But what really exemplifies this shift to character driven humor is the sport’s day sketch in Zouryouchuu’s final episode. Basically, the students are having a tough time practicing for a relay race due to everyone’s difficult personalities. As such, Chiba–the show’s token sex maniac and schemer–concocts a plan to make things move smoothly. Basically, Chiba does various things to the baton that play off the characters’ quirks in order to make them deliver it as fast as possible. For example, in one instance he makes the baton out to look like a scroll containing a love letter in order to excite the class’ romance obsessed girly-girl Yoshioka, resulting in her delivering it to its recipient (the next person in line) as quickly as possible. Even though this sequence primarily focuses on side characters, it does a good job of highlighting what makes them tick.
I suppose Sakurai Norio just got better at writing humor as the series went on, but at the same time I think the more formulaic approach to the first season helped to establish the characters very well. It certainly leaned on that formula a bit too much, but it wasn’t a bad show. But at any rate, with the characters fully established, Zouryouchuu just lets them loose and watches them go.
PS: One thing I’m particularly curious about is whether or not Zouryouchuu adapts the manga stories in order. This season had more than one Christmas episode, and there are sharp changes in seasons between sketches. Is the manga like this, or is the anime picking and choosing the better chapters from the manga? Inquiring minds want to know!