Series Review: Da Capo Second Season

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"Do you still think that, in this world, everyone is happy?"

A fitting adage for the second season of Da Capo (not to be confused with the currently airing sequel, Da Capo II) would likely be, "Too many cooks spoil the broth."

Or perhaps in this case, one cook can spoil the broth for everyone else.

However, to throw out the broth would be rather a waste. Although connoisseurs might turn up their nose at D.C.S.S, certainly the layman who just enjoys eating food (or, watching harem series) will find this effort a passable one, if not a spectacular one.

Da Capo is one of the megaliths of harem shows, with somewhere along the lines of 8 visual novels, 2 mangas, and an anime series essentially 52 episodes strong. As such, it has a pretty die-hard fanbase among the harem lovers.

Unfortunately, this is the audience that will probably be turned off the most by this second season. D.C.S.S follows the great(ly annoying) formula of keeping about half the old characters around while shifting the focus to a new set of characters.

It's good for keeping things fresh but fans of the series will have likely established strong favorites by the end of the first season (since every girl really did have her moments in the spotlight), and will feel shafted that the focus of the show, admittedly, is on the New Girl, energetic Aisia.

Unfortunately energetic in this sense comes across as annoying, as D.C.S.S. seems like it's predecessor to be a 13 episode series stretched out to twice this length.

It can work, but the place where the first and second season differ is that while the original shifted around the focus from girl to girl rather frequently, most of the slow episodes in D.C.S.S. focus on said focus girl Aisia and the all-too-frequent trope of Misunderstandings Occur.

Which is good for one episode, bad for ten. D.C.S.S. definitely hits a stride later on but if you're a fan of any of the 'minor' characters you'll definitely be dissapointed.

The show has definitely a bunch of characters with very likable traits, whether it be a meganekko doujin artist, a shrine maiden, resident 'boku' girl, or one of the returning characters from first season, but when you consider that the de facto harem size starts at seven and grows, it really becomes a shame that none of the lesser haremettes get much time to shine.

Nevertheless the drama and the storyline does improve just past the halfway mark, the apparent maturing age for any good harem show, as things begin to Actually Happen. Anything I can really say will be wildly spoileriffic - albeit probably a little bit predictable - but short story shorter there definitely are a few welcome (or unwelcome) surprises in store, depending on your character alignment.

The best way to describe Da Capo Second Season is "more of the same," which is ironic given that the title alludes to a musical term meaning "to repeat," which it does very well. If you liked the original story, if you liked the original characters, you'll like the second season; at least near the end of things when the focus really does return to where it should be.

If you've never seen the original, arguably it's a different series that is often considered better than the second season. A true statement, although certainly the second season is still watchable by many. It's not a harem show for the ages, but rather a harem show for people who watch harem shows.

(1) Intro segment
2) Jump
3) ???
4) Spoilers!)

A lot of a fan's enjoyment of D.C.S.S. will depend on one's ability to accept certain facts, certain things that you've seen before in Da Capo, and, true to name, will see again.

The fact is, many people don't see D.C.S.S. as part of the same universe as the first season. Many expect Jun'ichi to chooose someone different this time, since this show is "new", and at the beginning Nemu has been taken out of the equation.

This is patently false. In the same way that frequently the couple conflicts near the end of the show (true even in the end of this season!) quite often the ones that are the closest are the ones that are the farthest apart. Love knows no bounds, etc.

While Nemu may not be physically present for the beginning part of the show, she certainly had a presence for a large part of the show. And one has to accept the fact that, since Nemu is present, she is going to win. Period.

This isn't a dark harem show. Jun'ichi is a nice guy. As friendly as he can get with Kotori, Aisia, Sakura, Mako, Moe, Nanako, Alice, Miharu, Misaki, Yoriko, and Tamaki (no short list), he remains devoted to his actual love (and, yes, sister) Nemu.

Unfortunately Kotori fanboys are the firey type and it doesn't help that brother-sister relationship are looked at in a strange light, despite the fact that, as in all anime, there is no such thing as Blood Related Siblings. So Nemu, and Nemu winning, could certainly be a turn-off for a lot of the show, especially compared to such idols as Kotori, who I won't deny certainly deserves more.

The second obstacle is Aisia, who as advertised is very grating on one's nerves. Aside from going from zero to energy girl (plus "goshujin-sama" for a few episodes) in 25 minutes screen time, a large part of the hatred and of the show is her amazing sense of idealism.

I admire her belief that everyone should be able to be happy, that Jun'ichi should be Everyone's Jun'ichi, that magic is a thing used to make things happy. For the most part, her character in the closing parts of the show consists of the first two parts, which work very well, and very entertainingly.

But, the entire first half of the show seems to be made to drive the third point home with a large, pointy stick; there's not getting it, and then there's Not Getting It, which Aisia takes a ridiculous amount of time to understand. Maybe it's that I have a lower tolerance of stale jokes than I do even for Random Fanservice, but the formula of "Aisia wants to make people happy. Hijinks ensue." gets old. Fast.

Luckily, as mentioned, a lot of the rest of the characters do manage to keep the show afloat, as D.C.S.S's strength lies in again it's fact that, essentially, the harem race is locked up. It's very interesting to see more of a focus on the girls coming to terms with their feelings, instead of the guy just going "Hmm, who do I pick."

For example, Kotori's, and arguably everybody's, struggle with pushing herself away from Jun'ichi was a very compelling and at times emotional part of the show, as D.C.S.S. manages to explore the other side of the spectrum. It ignores the long, dull build-up to confessions (although one from Aisia, who arguably did a lot of work not just for everybody but for herself, would be nice), instead replacing it with the constant battle between enjoying just being friends, and yearning for something more. Almost reminiscent of a lot of School Days, except a lot less ugly.

The clash between the viewpoints on magic between Sakura (who has had to learn the hard way) and Aisia was well welcomed as well. Instead of just becoming another player in the "race", Sakura took on almost a villainous role, or at least one of strong opposition to Aisia. While she may not have gotten as much screentime as she should, or could, have, Sakura definitely made her presence made with her long debates with Aisia over the justification of reviving the sakura tree.

And inevitably one will be able to find a fan favorite in the 10-odd characters that make recurring appearances. Mako and Suginami are the best and most awesome comedy duo since Mayumi and Itsuki (these four seriously need their own spin-off show). Kotori will probably get at least a few pity points for everyone. Nanako and Tamaki were my underdog favorites, the type where you consider a dedicated episode or a confession to be a moral victory.

The repeated themes really do a lot towards making the show better as well. Nemu and Jyn'ichi fighting and making up (out) over and over again. Kotori and the lesser haremettes facing the issue of just what to do with unrequited love, over and over again. The tree cutting off the relationship between Nemu and Jyn'ichi, for unknown motives, over and over again. It's really a show that rewards the observant, especially in the last few episodes where you can't shake that sense of deja vu.

Relatively objectively, there's not much to say about D.C.S.S's production values. Aside from the strange shift in Jyn'ichi's hair color from the first season, the second season was pretty solid if not spectacular in animation values. The music was spectacularly average as well; the OP theme was a great song but the background music is all but forgettable.

In the end, D.C.S.S., like Aisia herself, is a show with good intentions and a great effort, yet with a misguided focus. Still, it's a very watchable and entertaining show - just not a blockbuster nor the dramatic tour de force (at least near the end) that D.C. was.