I had a rather a hard time wrapping my head around the thought process taken up by the scriptwriters of this show. They had an almost infinite pool of ideas to work with, from the origin story and reasoning behind the Hell's Gate manifestation to endless detours that could have been taken up using the Contractors and Dolls as parables for sociological issues plaguing current society; the possibilities were endless. It seemed that with all the mysterious themes being left in a shroud of ambiguity and the multifaceted approaches to tackling them just on the cusp of being explored, any route could have been taken that would have resulted in a decent sequel. Taking a shot in the dark with any one of these ideas should have yielded something worthwhile. But for reasons beyond comprehension, instead of trying to provide a solid answer to its mysteries or even using it to flesh out its world's lore, they threw that all away. And for what you may ask? Well, lolis, forced comedy, talking squirrels, character resets, raging alcoholics and a sleuth of more idiotic plot twists.
Still wondering why and how the Heaven/Hell Gates appeared? Still wondering why they brought on an augmented sky that warped into the new one? Still wondering why contractors and dolls became a product of this? Still wondering why their lives are correlated with fallen stars? Still wondering what the motivation of the syndicate was? Still trying to decipher this show's bullshit?... Well, join the club. In this second season, the writers said "fuck it" once again, as they followed up the events of the first by managing to create something that felt terribly dated from the moment it rolled off the assembly line. It's a husk of the show's former self in every regard. The story, despite being more streamlined this time around, was still very uneventful. All it does was drag us along to a nonsense-filled finale that will likely leave all its mysteries and hackneyed bullshit permanently unanswered. It's the kind of narrative structure when the intent felt like reverse-engineering gone wrong. This is studio Bones after all. A studio that's become infamous for thrusting their own concepts up their asses.
The 1st season of DTB went from passable action romp to inflated pseudo-concepts by the final stretch of it. And as if that wasn't enough, now it felt like the staff gave up on having decent coherency among its pseudo-thematic jargon and settled for whatever came to mind instead. So this time around, even the pseudo-concepts don't make sense. Like a rough draft of a script passed along a circle of "fuck its" and shoulder shrugs, as they rake in the money, tossing what little ideas they had towards the finished product without so much as batting an eye.
Speaking of tossing shit together, the art seemed to have become a victim of complacency as well.
I don't know how this is possible, but with fewer episodes to worry about and more years to perfect the art style, the 2nd season felt like it brought no visual improvements to the table. By a side by side comparison, very little was made better, instead, a 2-year gap in its production cycle seemed to have left it in a state of stagnation. It's like the animator team made it back in '07 and just let it gather up dust until it was time to release it. And when placed against other titles made in the same year, it just pales in comparison. And this isn't to say that studio Bones couldn't do any better. They've already proven that they could improve their visual and animation efforts as time goes on. Just looking at the visual output between Eureka Seven's 1st and 2nd season shows that. So seeing how little they cared about improving their craft for DTB's sequel felt like a cheap blow. It's a mediocre patch-job that doesn't deserve any credit whatsoever.
And while I can't offer it much credit, an aspect of this season that might register with some was the new choice of music.
The great jazz/blues fusion soundtrack of season one took a backseat to a more contemporary House-electronic sound. It's not a bad soundtrack but when compared to the prequel's, it feels out of place. It inadvertently strips the show of its familiar charm and alienates it further from its predecessor. The neo-noir backdrop feels out of place when the smoky croon of a Jazz track is replaced by what's effectively a rave-party anthem. It simply sucks the atmosphere out and replaces it with something more "in the now" as opposed to the timeless feeling. Since musical taste is subjective, I won't harp on it any further and leave you to decide where you stand on it.
But what isn't a decision that needs much debating over was the new cast.
With fewer contractors, more people characters in their place, there's still no decent characterization to be found. They made a big deal about contractors having no irrational emotion in season one but there's very little differentiating them from other people when they all remain one-note. Also, that sense of maturity that the first season carried for its characters was thrown out the window and replaced with bombastically over-the-top eccentricities. This causes a HUGE tonal shift in how the show is presented and perceived. Similarly to what the switch in musical tones did, this too was a decision that watered down the poignancy that occasionally flicked through in season one. Now, everything was glaringly carefree. They even changed the classy cat to a flying squirrel. LIKE SERIOUSLY? FUCK YOU DTB!
The biggest issue comes with Suou, our new protagonist. She takes up more screen time than necessary and is only good for two things: being an inconsistent character that flip-flops from one tonal speed to the other, or loli fanservice. And if that wasn't bad enough, she was degraded to becoming a contrived plot-device halfway through the series.
Hei isn't even the same badass we use to love. The writers added over-bloated angst to his characteristics and made a man who was already lacking in emotional range, to begin with, to be presented as a complete nut job of polarizing extremes. In place of the calm and collected demeanor he once had, we're instead given a raging alcoholic who slaps little girls in his spare time and drinks himself silly when he felt like it. Of course, he still kills contractors like the cool electric Batman we grew to love but his conflicting characteristics with his supposed "emotionless state" makes it harder for anyone to care for him anymore. He simply became a puppet of the poorly written screenplay, being inserted whenever the writers saw fit.
But perhaps the worst replacement was that of the side characters introduced for this season. The cast included a tranny bartender with a lolicon obsessed son, Misaki the walking plot-device, antagonists that border on luny, and a sleuth of people that aren't worth the mention. Needless to say, the cast here was far inferior to the show's previous standards. They served no other purpose than being aggravating tagalongs that no one ever wanted.
And really, this season itself was just that: an aggravating tagalong that we're forced to accept as a continuation. Instead of getting a decent successor, we're instead given a half-baked effort that couldn't stand on its own. Bones dropped the ball in every conceivable level.
Disappointment... I found nothing here but unsubstantial fights and cheap attempts at fanservice. This is NOT how you do a sequel to a neo-noir action romp. It doesn't even work as pure schlock entertainment. Apparently, even Pizza Hut said "oh hell no, fuck that" since they too were nowhere to be found, wanting nothing to do with this uninspired continuation.
There are bad sequels then there's DTB's sequel. A sequel that literally scrubbed the show of its previous identity and STILL didn't answer any questions. As it is now, I can only recommend this to completionists. An underwhelming mess that sullied what little credentials the series was desperately clinging onto.