After the unfunny disaster that Okawari was (no thanks to that useless shota Fuyuki), I wasn’t sure what to expect from Okaeri. But after seeing the OP (freaking YouTube, always deleting videos and rendering old video links useless. Damn you! *ahem*), my high hopes were rekindled. And for the most part, I give Asread credit for going back to the drawing board and putting in the work to try to reclaim Minami-ke’s golden first season glory. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought it was definitely a success, as Okaeri was exponentially funnier and more enjoyable than Okawari.
- The Minami brothers, woefully ignored in Okawari, were back and kicking it in Okaeri. This also included arguably the funniest scene of the season, Natsuki’s visit to the Minami sister house.
- Riko/Fujioka/Kana love triangle was back, with some sharp insights from observer Keiko.
- No Fuyuki. Yeah that dude sucked. What the hell were those Okawari writers thinking? In another life, I’m positive that Fuyuki grew up to become either Saji Crossroad or Kururugi Spinzaku.
- The side characters. MK’s always had really solid side characters, like Mako-chan, Fujioka, and Touma, of course. But I was glad to see a little more love spent with Uchida, Hayami, Hitomi (the 5 minutes that she existed for), the Minami Brothers, and my new moe princess, Atsuko.
- Kana-love. Of all the Minami sisters, I think Kana got the most love from the writers this season, which is cool, because she was always my favorite Minami.
- I haven’t mentioned his name yet. Because he doesn’t even need an introduction. Mr. Let’s Be Friendly. Mr. Curry Yousei. The Future Mr. Haruka Minami. Yes, the one and only Hosaka! And while he seemed to be forgotten about in the second half of the show, he stole every scene he was in.
- The writing. Just generally sharper, wittier, snappier than Okawari’s writing. Again, it didn’t quite capture the glory of the first season, but it made a heckuva run at it.
- Well, the art wasn’t… horrendous for a slice of life… and, um… I was glad the two-toned hair was gone… and once in a while, certain characters looked good, but… AGH. Who am I kidding. Maybe my eye has become more discerning, but Okaeri was the absolute fugliest show that I’ve ever seen. I can’t even count how many times I noticed characters with bowed, matchstick-thin legs looking at the screen with fishbowl eyes and misshapen heads. It was awful. I can’t describe it in words enough. If I could give a negative score, I would.
- The cast is getting too large. They introduced Hitomi, then we never saw her again. Later they introduced two more of Kana’s friends, and I assume we’ll never see them again. The Minami uncle had a pretty prominent role in the first couple episodes, then completely disappeared, not even showing up in the final montage. Not enough Atsuko. Not enough non-Natsuki Minami brothers. And an inexcusable absence of Hosaka in the last half of the season. And where the hell was Haruka? This was the second straight season where they shafted Haruka. And this season, not only did they shaft her screentime and character, they butchered her looks.
- The joke-meter’s running low. While I enjoyed all the comedy throughout the season, I think the writers are getting close to running the barrel dry. You can only repeat the same jokes and storylines so many times. A telltale sign is the flanderization of certain characters.
I enjoyed Okaeri enough to be amenable to a 4th season. But under one condition: someone besides Asread needs to produce it. Not just because of the epically terrible design and animation – although that’s a key reason – but because I think if there’s a 4th season, it needs fresh eyes. Someone who’ll look at all the characters with a new perspective. Someone who can tease out new story angles and jokes. And yeah, fix the broken animation too. Seriously? If Asread didn’t have enough budget to make 13 episodes look reasonable, they should’ve just cut the length in half.
If this was indeed Minami-Ke’s swan song, which I suspect it was, it was definitely a nice rebound from Okawari. Now instead of my last MK memory being filled with bile and cursing towards Fuyuki Crossroad Spinzaku, I’ll remember it fondly as the lovable, enjoyable 3-season slice of life, in which the 2nd season never existed.