Okawari follows on from Minami-ke starting the morning after New Year and once again follows the lives of the three Miname sisters as they enter their third semester.
When an anime changes studio’s it’s always worrying, especially on the back of such a successful first series. These fears are realised in Okawari and there are large differences in story styles between the first and second series. Firstly Okawari plays a lot more on the slice of life genre, whereas the previous Minami-ke had some ridiculous, but none the less hilarious moments (Who can forget Kana tying Chiaki up to ward off the rain), this series tones down the ridiculousness and concentrates more on the character interactions. Also changed are the episode styles, whereas in the first series each episode was split into miniature stories, Okawari dedicates the entire episode to one storyline.
This may not seem like a bad thing and there are plenty of series that pull it off but whereas the first series jumped from incident to incident with little need for build up, Okawari has to build up each joke and follow it up with some relevant storytelling to get to the next laugh which is a little long winded. I found this especially hard during the 7th episode when Kana continually foils Chiaki’s good work and actually got me annoyed at Kana’s character. Kana was probably my favourite character from the first series and for it to turn round to me actually finding her irritating is a prime example of bad storytelling. There have also been a few losses in the studio takeover with the rest of Touma’s family disappearing (I thought Natsuki and Haruka were getting on nicely) and the addition of a new next door neighbour who does nothing for the storyline and is a pretty pointless character.
However much I may complain that the story isn’t up to the excellent standard of the first series, the majority of the storylines are decent themselves, and it still provides a good laugh from time to time, with the addition of some fan service from the girls (not that I felt the series needed any of it) in the traditional onsen sketch and then on every occasion the girls get to jump in the bath.
I have to admit, I fell in love with the first season’s ‘soft art’ (serious poses aside) so I was worried to see what the new studio would change. It’s a pleasant surprise then to find that without notable exceptions the artwork is still the same soft art styling as before, and does contain the serious posing. What the new studio has added to the anime is better backgrounds – Okawari has lots of small unnoticed background objects that look like they should be in focus and also takes place in far more locations than the first series all of which are animated beautifully.
My main complaints stem from character design changes and one of the biggest one for me being a layout change to the Minami household. The first shot of the first season shows each of the girls waking up in their respective rooms, whereas somewhere lost in the time which is New Year is the wall between Kana and Chiaki’s room. They have been shifted into a smaller room separated by a curtain which doesn’t really make sense from a continuity or production viewpoint. Secondly are the character changes to the eyes and hair, the eyes are given more depth and more colour – but I was seriously put off when viewing Haruka’s eyes turn red (I checked back in case I had missed something and they were definitely light brown in the first series), the hair also is given brighter colours and even two tone colours – Chiaki’s hair turning from Haruka dirty blonde into some blonde/dirty brown two tone combination which just looks weird.
Once you get used to the changes you hardly notice them, but for the first few episodes it does sometimes take your attention away from the story when you are trying to figure out if someone on screen is a main character which it will be if they don’t have a blacked out face. The credible art of rendering additional background characters to a high standard, with lots of variety is utterly defeated when the studio isn’t going to actually add in facial features and just blacks out the rest of the character. It looks really odd, and just doesn't fit it with an otherwise fantastically animated show, ruining what is almost a perfect mark.
All of the voice actors have stayed the same, so there is no change in the characters. The OP doesn’t really work well with the series I don’t feel, it’s not quite lively enough for the series nor is it catchy enough, it’s alright but a lot of songs out there would have been better choices for the OP. The ED is better than the OP but again doesn’t really catch the essence of the series which is a bit disappointing, the animation sequence with Kana wiggling her bum as she walks is a bit odd as well, there’s just something not quite right about it. The background music throughout the show is the same brilliant work as in the original however and sets up the jokes well.
The main characters all stay the same and are all brilliant. The only completely new character in the series is Fuyuki, who moves in next door to the Minami’s and is such a disappointing character. He’s a restrained good guy type character, always doing things for other people etc but he never really makes an impression on the series at all, even though he may be mentioned or involved with more than half the show you never actually miss him or want the girls to become distracted with him.
As for the cast from the previous series we get a lot more Touma, Fujioka, Hosaka and Makoto (mainly in the guise of Mako-chan), with the banter between the characters bringing the extra dimension that was in the first series. Gone however are the rest of Touma’s Minami’s which I thought was a shame as I liked Natsuki’s character as a counterbalance to Hosaka’s weirdness.
With the new episode format and the move to a more slice of life type show I think that a little bit of the Minami-ke charm has been lost in the mix, it’s just not as fun to watch as the first was. However comparing it to what is probably the most enjoyable show I’ve watched recently is perhaps not very fair, Okawari is still very fun to watch and the escapades in which the characters get into as still very enjoyable to watch once you get over the new styling.
If you break the scores down its actually 7.6/10 but I really felt that Okawari was probably more than one mark away from the original (which I gave a 9), while still being good in its own right. In the end what brings the score down is the changes involved in the story, with the story focusing more on slice of life than humour the enjoyment of the series decreases, and the addition of Fuyuki is detrimental rather than positive. It’s still a good show and if you enjoyed the first series then I would recommend it, but with the warning that it is not Minami-ke as you know it.