The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Moyashimon Returns

Title: Moyashimon Returns
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: Shirogumi
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 1 Jul 2012 – 14 Sep 2012

Synopsis: Sawaki Tadayasu and his friends continue their brewing adventures at their agricultural university. However, their core of friends is shaken up when Hasegawa Haruka, their postgraduate student friend, is suddenly whisked away to France to be married. Tadayasu and bumbling buddies Kawahama Takuma and Misato Kaoru must then fly to France to get her back home where she belongs.

The Highlights:
Comedy: Occasional glimmers of the humor that made the first season so charming, but overall not nearly as funny.
Drama: Much more of a focus. Unfortunately, most of it is weak and dull.
France: Makes for a nice, soothing setting for the second half of the season.
Character designs: What in the hell happened to them?

The first season of Moyashimon is a fun, clever comedy with a cadre of likable characters. These same characters return for a second outing, but they lack the edge they had in the original. This season focuses on the maturation of the characters, in particular Haruka, who is forced to confront the family issues that are the crux of her choice to spend so much time buried in postgrad studies. This could be the foundation of an interesting story; however, for the most part, Moyashimon Returns abandons what made the first successful and mires itself in dull, slow-paced drama.

What’s the main problem with the series? The second season of Moyashimon simply isn’t funny often enough. There are brief flashes of humor — in particular, the episode where Tadayasu and friends raise money for the trip to France is quite funny, although it does consistently remind the viewer of the first season’s vastly superior spring agriculture festival arc. Otherwise, there are some chuckles here and there in episodes, but they don’t come often enough. Where did the show’s sense of humor go? Maturation doesn’t make people into boring killjoys (or so one would hope), so why must Moyashimon become so serious as the characters grow up?

This wouldn’t be such a huge deal if the show’s drama were actually interesting at all. This is not the case. Entire episodes go by in the first half where nothing of note happens whatsoever. For instance, the season’s beginning tries to build up a big mystery about what Prof. Itsuki is hiding in a building’s basement. The payoff to this is OK; in particular, Oikawa gains new resolve from the purposely anticlimactic reveal. The trade-off, though, is that the first four episodes are spent on a dull mystery where nothing entertaining occurs. Forgive me if I’m not exactly enthralled by this. The show gets better when it goes to France, but it’s mostly because Tadayasu, Takuma, and Kaoru are such a likable trio that they can make just about any misadventure at least a bit amusing. The vast change in setting is nice, too. The part of France in which the trio finds themselves feels like it belongs in Moyashimon. It’s pleasant, quiet, and, of course, filled with alcohol.

Unfortunately, the drama in this section also quickly wears out its welcome. The crew meets a French girl, Marie, who is a distinctive, strong-willed girl. She wants to escape a life of being tied to her family’s winery. That’s all well and good, but her family is boring. Marie herself has plenty of personality; however, the story she is saddled with is not all that compelling. Marie provides a place for our heroes to stay, a decent foil for interaction and a spirited performance from Sawashiro Miyuki, but not much else.

Still, she is the best part of the France arc, if only because Haruka’s story is sleep-inducing. Yes, it’s terrible that all that her family is forcing her to marry someone she doesn’t love against her will. Yes, there needs to be an event to give Haruka the kick in the ass she needs to grow up and realize what she wants in her life. That doesn’t mean, however, that the drama that ensues is interesting at all. It involves much emotional flailing about and recalling of childhood memories. Everyone learns their lesson at the end. Rejoice! Yawn. To be fair, there are a few nice moments. Haruka discovering Tadayasu and friends during a dinner party is amusing. Haruka and Kaoru have a nice talk under the stars. Those moments, though, are few and far between. The path to reach these moments is a boring slog that is hardly worthwhile.

I was excited when I heard Moyashimon would finally receive a second season. I’m not dramatic enough to say I wish it didn’t happen, because there are entertaining parts here and there, but Moyashimon Returns never comes close to matching the sheer joy and fun of the first season. It’s a shame.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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