Original Run: January 7, 2008 - March 31, 2008 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life Based on the Series Created By: Coharu Sakuraba
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Minami-ke Okawari. Reader discretion is advised.***
Welcome back to the Minami residence; home of the sisters Haruka, Kana, and Chiaki (voiced respectively by Rina Sato, Marina Inoue, and Minori Chihara).
As it was before, this trio spends most of their time together; often with a little company thrown in for good measure. Slowly but surely, the three’s list of friends and acquaintances grows longer and longer. Thus, there is hardly a day when there is nothing to do or no one to talk to.
Haruka, Kana, and Chiaki wouldn’t be who they are if they didn’t have their sisters at their sides. Knowing they are a team, nothing is going to break them apart. Come what may, there is one thing that will not change no matter what:
The Minami sisters are always there for each other.
Let’s start off this review by addressing the white elephant in the room. If you have seen season one but have not seen season two, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Something does look off.
The original Minami-ke (Minami-ke) and its sequel Minami-ke Okawari (Okawari) were done by two different studios – Daume for the former and Asread for the latter. And yes, this was in no way subtle. To describe the change in the best way that I can, Okawari was like the anime-ification of its predecessor.
I recognize how crazy that might sound.
To give this animation style some credit, it was more compatible with this series’ brand of high-energy comedy. Although Minami-ke did fine given its more relaxed, easy-going visual appearance, there were instances in Okawari which felt and looked like a better fit.
As such, Okawari wasn’t a bad continuation. But it was nowhere near as good as the original. Many of the issues that plagued season one made their return and ended up being more problematic in season two.
However, the opposite of that was true as well.
Plenty of what Minami-ke did right also made a return and was expanded upon in Okawari. It would be a bald-faced lie if I said I didn’t have fun with this show. So, should you be concerned about a full-on tanking in quality, I wouldn’t worry too much about that.
And regardless of how this season looked when compared to the original, there was one crucial element which held the two installments together – making the fact they came from two separate studios mostly irrelevant.
The Minami sisters were still the best thing about this series, and they were what allowed Okawari to be as enjoyable as it was. Short of completely repeating what I wrote about the girls in the Minami-ke review and without you needing to go out of your way to read that post (although if you’re so inclined to do so, who am I to stop you – hint-hint nudge-nudge), allow me to briefly explain why these three remained great characters.
Haruka, as the eldest, was always juggling the two sides of her personality. On the one hand, she was a teenager who had to start thinking about her future. On the other, she had chosen to step up as the caregiver for her younger sisters. In the first instance, Haruka was studious, as well as the quintessential good-girl character of your typical high school slice-of-life anime. In the second, Haruka was extremely responsible – when necessary. At home, she was more open to silliness when she was with her sisters.
Chiaki, being the youngest, was a lot more consistent in her temperament than her oldest sister. She could quickly grow annoyed whenever and where ever. Any real distinction was determined by who Chiaki was around.
When she was with her friends, Chiaki showed more signs of being the elementary schooler she was – imaginative and often quite gullible. When at home, though, Chiaki was both Haruka’s right hand and little sister. Although she wanted to assist Haruka as much as she possibly could – whether knowingly or not – she occasionally embraced her status as the youngest sibling; a state of being more likely to occur whenever Kana was involved.
Speaking of which, I don’t believe I said this in the last review, but Kana is my favorite character of the first two Minami-ke seasons (we will see if her streak continues in seasons three and four). Unlike her sisters, there was only one side to Kana – energetic. She was the element that benefited the most from this series’ visual change. Her larger-than-life personality made more sense in a style that allowed for more expressions.
In addition, Kana’s influence was so significant to the events of this show, if I had to pick a single main character, it would be her.
All that notwithstanding, I feel there is a reason why the Minami-ke series takes the name of the three sisters and not one individual. Each of them alone was not enough to make this show what it was. They had to be together, and when they were together, Okawari was at its best.
Nowhere was this more evident than in a scene from this season which has stuck with me ever since I first saw it several years prior to this review. It was a definitive moment which illustrated just how close the trio was.
Minami-ke and Okawari could not have worked if it wasn’t for Haruka, Kana, and Chiaki.
So, let’s really talk about the stark visual change between season one and season two.
If the only reason you liked Minami-ke was because of its animation and art design, then you are going to be massively disappointed when you get to Okawari. Other than that, though, I am not going to say this shift was neither bad nor good. The two seasons just look different.
Be that as it may, there were some design choices I thought were strange.
For instance, all the background characters didn’t have a face. This would have been one thing had everyone merely stayed as filler, but screw that I guess. The main cast would sometimes interact with these characters. Honestly, it seemed lazy to have a fully expressive Minami sister interact with a literal blank slate.
Also – and if I am wrong about this next point, please call me out on it – Okawari was much more willing to throw in fanservice. It was always awkward and out of place whenever the first season did this. Therefore, naturally, the second installment’s response was to bring the cast to a hot springs resort in the very first episode. And yes, we got a lot of time with the sisters during their multiple baths.
Before I get ahead of myself, I need to remind everyone that more fanservice is not the same as heavy fanservice. Minami-ke is considerably tame in this area. Still, you tend to notice when the horse you are riding suddenly goes from trotting to dashing.
Visuals aside, Okawari’s biggest crutch was its side characters. Although a problem in Minami-ke to a lesser degree, in season two, everyone who was not one of the Minami sisters was irrelevant.
The people around the Minami family – which by this point had grown quite a bit – came and went so often that no one had any time to leave much of an impression. In the interest of fairness, though, the side character who held their own the most was Toma Minami (voiced by Nana Mizuki) – no relation to the sisters.
There were moments in this show where the Minami sisters were almost non-factors to whatever was going on. Needless to say, these were not the better moments of the season.
In the end, Okawari was a definite downgrade from the original. Like I said at the beginning:
This wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t as good.
Even after a change of hands, this series remained wonderfully enjoyable – even if less so.
In some ways, this season continued with and built on top of what its predecessor did well; namely, focusing mostly on the three sisters. In other ways, though, this follow-up doubled-down on rather than address the problems of the original.
I won’t lie, if you like season one, season two will take a second to get used to. Luckily, when that does happen, you will quickly see the truth.
This is still Minami-ke and Minami-ke Okawari has earned a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Minami-ke Okawari? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.
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