I'm actually kind of blown away with how this series even got a Season 2. I mean I wanted one, but man, it was popular enough to warrant a sequel? Here's hoping for a trilogy!
So what does a sequel mean for a series like Karaki Jouzu? More teasing, more charming moments between two youths spending time with each other, and lots of boy blushing and girl laughing are viable answers. A lot of the season is still wrapped around A and B plots of the boy trying to best the girl that sits next to him in some kind of game or another, but the important thing above all else that the sequel provides is 'growth' and a lot of audience satisfaction.
What separates Karakai 2 from its previous season really comes down to the different interactions that the titular characters have with each other. Based on some of the later chapters in the manga, a surprisingly large amount of the season isn't devoted to games as it is just having the pair spend time with each other in various ways, be it after school, outside in the summer, or at a local shop. Not only that, the previous disconnect that the series seemed to have with A and B parts of different events is absent as entire episodes can go through entire story threads of different events to create a seamless narrative that feels much more rewarding to watch as one thing leads to the next before ending the episode with some kind of cute payoff.
This becomes an even stronger selling point for the story as scenes using the "Ashita wo Doyoubi" characters help give episodes more narrative flow by transitioning one scene involving the main duo into the three girls talking about the same or a similar topic. Over time the series embraces its more varied cast of characters by giving its limited cast of kids more and more time in the spotlight, as each of them gives the current topic at hand more flavor with their different POVs. In a way, the Karakai 2 becomes more about the slice of life element rather than wholly focusing on the romance element where we sit and watch one boy try and best the girl who's fallen for him. That being said, romance is still its main selling point, and my god does it deliver on that front.
Adding to Season 2's goal of building on the previous season, a larger majority of the scenes involving Nishikata and Takagi become centralized on their relationship with each other, especially with Nishikata's feelings towards this girl he's trying to best. Games still make up a lion's share of their interactions with each other, but I feel like the series does well to find a good middle ground between teasing Nishikata and just watching the two spend time with each other. The storytelling between these two becomes even sweeter when a lot of A and B parts show Nishikata proactively making concious decisions to move the story forward with the gears in his head turning on what his relationship with Takagi is.
Compared to previous seasons, the sidecast gets a lot more prominence in the series than it did before. While the trio of Mina, Yukari, and Sanae still take up a larger majority of the sidecast's screentime, more lesser known characters like Mano get time in the spotlight to flesh out their relationships with other characters more, and other even lesser known characters like Takao and Kimura are actually given time to play out and participate in gags and other story beats rather than being primarily fuel to give Nishikata the boost he needs so he can crash and burn later on when he uses his newfound knowledge against Takagi.
Finally, I want to bring up both Houjou and Hamaguichi, new characters brought up in this season that to my knowledge are almost non-existent in the manga. Their dynamic is essentially asking the question, "What if it was Nishikata and Takagi, but their schtick was about maturity instead of teasing?" I bring this up mostly because they feel like very underutilized characters, sporting about the same level of importance as the series's other couple of Mano and Nakai with little substance to their interactions. I honestly wished there was a little more done with them because they have potential to contribute to the series, they just don't right now.
I've gone on record in my review of Season 1 that Shin-Ei's artwork is not all that great. It's very average that that while serviceable, doesn't really make Karakai pop out in any kind of special way. It still doesn't do that given the consistent level of quality of Season 2, but I'd again be hard pressed to say that anything is particularly bad with the show's appearance.
If anything, the quality of Karakai 2 is ever so slightly better when compared to Season 1. I think it's in part because the series has wider, grander, and more varied shots for the characters to be in since the scenery changes a lot more than just 'school'. Regardless, it's still nice and simple, harking back to Yamamoto's artstyle with color and a surprising amount of really picturesque scenes among its cast that help build up the tension to make the episode climaxes all the sweeter.
Yuiko Oohara's "Zero Centimeters" is a very similar to the song she sang back in Season 1, being a whimsical and instrumental piece that speaks about the daily lives of these characters. By comparison, Zero Centimeters is a little less energetic but still serves the purpose in drowning the audience in the sugary sweet relationship between this cultured 'young love'.
And just like Season 1, Karakai 2 sports several EDs, most of which I personally don't really find much difference in, all again sung by Reiri, Takagi's VA. The only standout one happens towards the end of the season where, because why not, we get Season 1's OP back as an ending. Beyond the way that the song sound like are the lyrics. Pretty much all of the songs featured in this series are sung from the perspective of Takagi just talking about being close and spending time with one another; they're love songs. If that doesn't add in another layer of syrup to this already deathly sweet show, I don't know what does.
I didn't think it was possible for a series to make me like it more than I already do. Given how Karakai Jouzu is already one of my favorite romance series, seeing Season 2 elevate the kind of 'young love' storytelling possible in this series with its longer story beats and various endings that come up during key moments between the main couple was more than I could ever hope for. This point becomes even more noteworthy on account of how many of my favorite chapters were adapted into the show and just how well a lot of them flow together when put side by side as A and B parts.
I also really liked how more of the cast came into play in the series. It made the show more about 'youth' than just about these two characters and this trio of girls, thus expanding the kinds of stories the series could tell in addition to overall just varying up the story content so it's not the same thing over and over again.
The one thing that I don't appreciate about this series is the godforsaken Chapter 31 tease. I hate it because I know I'll never actually get to see that chapter adapted into an episode. And if we do, it's going to mark the end of the anime adaptation, and I don't really want that to happen. Because given what we have here, I'm excited to see what they could potentially do with some of the later chapters. (Though as of right now, they don't have that much material to work with.)
As a recommendation, the Karakai Jouzu series is definitely one worth picking up if you're a romance fan. It's definitely a step up from what was shown in Season 1, and the show is just a relaxing romance/slice of life series without much drama to be had. While some things like how some side cast members are handled and how often the show decided to do 'teasing Nishikata' chapters instead of wholly committing to moments them just spending time with one another weren't particularly great, there's still a lot to love here, and I hope to god we get to see their High School days some day. Because if this is them in middle school, what happens later down the line?