The Winter 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Real Girl season 2
How would you rate episode 1 of
Real Girl (TV 2) ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
Although I wouldn't rank it among the best series of 2018, Real Girl always had my attention. It had a bit more depth and emotional resonance than your typical anime romantic dramedy, and I found many of the characters to be eminently relatable albeit sometimes annoying. So while this continuation was not one of my most-anticipated titles of the season, I'm definitely pleased to see it back for another round.
Things certainly don't start off tame, with the thirteenth episode already confronting head-on one of the biggest dangling plot threads from the first season: Yuto's romantic interest in Sumie. I have to give Yuto credit for summoning up the will to confess to Sumie, but his timing definitely could have been better; with her feelings still in flux over being turned down by Hikari, she wasn't in the right state of mind to be dealing with anyone else romantically. At least it does lead to a big step forward for him, and it's at least modestly realistic turns of events like these that have helped keep me interested in the story. I do wish the writing would lighten up a bit on Hikari's self-loathing, as its drag on the story has always been my biggest quibble, but in some sense Hikari wouldn't be Hikari without that kind of attitude.
This episode also continues to show that the series can be effective at humor, even if it doesn't generate much for laugh-out-loud moments. Hikari getting roped into being the class rep for the culture festival – something he despises with a passion – has already shown all sorts of amusing little possibilities, and Iroha's exchange with the other girl over the beauty contest was gold. I also continue to like what the story has done with Arisa; this kind of character too often ends up being a pathetic hanger-on (and to an extent she is that), but she has firmly staked out her territory as the reluctant “normie” friend.
Unfortunately, the artistic effort hasn't improved at all and continues to be a weak point, both in animation and in consistency problems. Still, I've never watched the series for its visuals, so I can't imagine anyone who's watched the series to this point being disappointed with this new installment.
Writing our streaming reviews for the first season of Real Girl occasionally felt like an exercise in frustration for me, as the series took a perfectly decent premise and weighed it down with mediocre execution. Story arcs fell flat, antagonists and rivals were often poorly developed, and the promise of the first few episodes gradually fizzled out. The good news is that the series appears to be in a comfortable groove as it kicks off its second season, with all of the characters filling their respective roles nicely. Whether this is the start of a genuine improvement or just another short-lived flash of potential remains to be seen.
From a narrative standpoint, the cultural festival provides a good excuse to drag Tsutsui out of his comfort zone. Instead of looking inward to his small circle of friends, he's now forced to deal with the entire school population. Between attending committee meetings and trying to lead his own class' project, there should be plenty of opportunities for Tsutsui to either step up or fall down. This new story arc also looks like it'll have the added bonus of not requiring a male antagonist, which is a character role that Real Girl has consistently struggled to fill. Instead of competing with some generic rival, Tsutsui's current struggle pits him against high school life in general. There's also some decent comedy to be found in the main characters' reactions to the idea of participating in the festival; the variety of gripes and complaints raised by Tsutsui, Ito, and even Iroha are pretty entertaining.
Romance is in the air as always, but at this point Tsutsui and Iroha are playing second fiddle to Ito and Ayado. Real Girl continues to resist the temptation to pair these two up, and at the moment that choice is paying off. Ito's confession and Ayado's decision to turn him down start the new season off with an unexpected bang, and the two of them have some charmingly awkward interactions as they try to recalibrate their friendship afterwards. Compared to all that, Tsutsui and Iroha don't appear to have much going on apart from a dispute over the beauty contest, which makes for an underwhelming conflict at this point in the story. It might produce some fireworks later on, but right now I'm less than impressed.
The visuals remain slightly below average, and the series continues to use a soft watercolor style to distract from a relative lack of detail. Overall, there's enough going on here for returning fans to be cautiously optimistic, though for me the caution outweighs the optimism by a healthy margin. Real Girl remains a plausible option if you're starved for a romance series, but I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to watch it unless this new season can take a big step forward.
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