Reviewby Nick Creamer,
Dagashi Kashi Season Two
Kokonotsu Shikada may just be a part-time worker at his dad's dagashi shop, but he has big dreams - he's going to write a best-selling manga, and choose his own destiny! Unfortunately, between his father's desire for an heir and his strange friend Hotaru's obsession with dagashi, Kokonotsu generally ends up sending more time ranting about candy than practicing art. That's okay though, as nothing helps summer days pass by like good friends and great candy. Join Kokonotsu and all of his friends as Dagashi Kashi returns, and the queen of candy Hotaru once more claims her throne!
The first season of Dagashi Kashi was a very pleasant experience, though I'd hesitate to call it a genuinely great show. The show proceeded as a mixture of madcap candy-focused comedy and rural slice of life, with its best episodes clearly evoking the appeal of lazy summer days spent with good friends. While our protagonist Kokonotsu, along with his friends Endo and Saya, provided most of the slice of life appeal, his overeager new acquaintance Hotaru provided both absurd comedy and even a dash of educational intrigue. Episodes would split the difference between silly, imaginative vignettes regarding the origin of various candy snacks, and low-key hangout sessions with the cast actually enjoying their spoils. It wasn't all that consistent in its humor, and the production's merits were only so-so, but it was a reasonably entertaining time on the whole.
For its second season, Dagashi Kashi has undergone a variety of major changes. Not only has the director shifted from Shigehito Takayanagi to Satoshi Kuwabara, but the entire production has jumped studios as well, with new artists offering a new take on the characters' designs. Additionally, Dagashi Kashi has shifted from full length episodes to half length shorts, packing its candy-crazed energy into a much smaller shell. Given all these changes, does season two ultimately feel like the same Dagashi Kashi we know and (presumably) love?
Somewhat, I suppose? The most important thing that Dagashi Kashi's sequel has carried over from the original is the clear sense of affection shared by its characters, and the natural ease with which they interact. In spite of Hotaru's wild ramblings about candy creation, the cast of Dagashi Kashi feel like genuine, convincing teenagers and friends, and their idle adventures feel naturally rewarding as a result. My favorite sequences of Dagashi Kashi's first season leaned heavily into its slice of life appeal, and though neither season possessed a particularly noteworthy directorial perspective or sense of tonal holism, that sense of “lazy days in the sticks with friends” still comes through clearly. It feels naturally soothing to watch these silly characters enjoy each other's company.
That said, outside of that particular appeal, a great deal of Dagashi Kashi's original priorities are heavily downplayed here. While the sequel's first episode revels in the same style of dagashi origin stories as its predecessor, the dagashi-specific vignettes don't really continue from there. The focus here seems to be on the experience of the show's stars, not the candy itself, and so sequences which the first season might have dedicated to a rambling story about how a certain chocolate got its signature packaging, instead focus on the natural banter of the main characters sharing snacks together. Though I personally prefer this focus on character over absurd comedy, if you liked the first season for its creative digressions, you'll probably be disappointed by their absence here.
That shift in priorities is echoed by this season's other big narrative turn - the exit of Hotaru. Though she still receives top billing in the show's packaging and promotional materials, Hotaru actually leaves town at the end of this season's fourth episode, and doesn't return until the ending. In her absence, Kokonotsu is forced to deal with issues like renovating the shop, competing with a new convenience store, and hiring someone to work the front desk. In the place Hotaru would normally occupy, we instead get a bunch of new hire Hajime - bumbling and charming in her own right, but no replacement for the scheme-propelling energy of Hotaru.
As a result of all these changes, Dagashi Kashi's second season is far less of an absurdist, skit-based gag comedy, and more of a continuing, comedy-seasoned coming of age story. Kokonotsu actually grows up a decent amount over the course of this season, and though there's plenty of silly gags, those gags exist within a larger dramatic structure with a real sense of momentum. This momentum naturally counteracts the “endless summer” timelessness of the first season, leaving us with a story that genuinely catalogs a period of turmoil in Kokonotsu' life.
So do all of these changes actually result in a better show? Personally, I'd say this style is an improvement over the first season, but not a significant one. The absence of Hotaru carries with it such a profound switch in tone and even genre that your reaction to it will likely reflect your own genre preferences, but as a coming-of-age comedy in its own right, Dagashi Kashi is a little too underwritten to really sustain its own drama. Its characters are endearing, but very simplified, more suited to idle adventures than seriously considering their own futures - and what's worse, the fact that we're still adapting from a continuing manga means this season doesn't really build to anything, either. The grand finale of Dagashi's second season is “Hotaru is back!”, which is not something you get to celebrate when you're also the ones who took her away.
In terms of visual production and sound design, Dagashi Kashi's second season feels like a minor step down from the first. There are few of the tonally-focused sequences and environmental shots that helped create the first season's sense of atmosphere, but the backgrounds are still fairly attractive, and the characters themselves expressive. Dagashi Kashi's soundtrack leans heavily on upbeat, quirky melodies that sound like they're played on a slide whistle, which actually feels perfectly appropriate for a show about cheap children's snacks. The show is rarely beautiful, but its aesthetic qualities are also never a hindrance to your enjoyment - it looks as good as it needs to look.
Dagashi Kashi's second season comes in a standard Funimation slipcase and bluray case, housing the show on both bluray and DVD. There are no physical extras, and the digital extras are limited to the show's clean opening and ending, along with a commentary featuring the dub cast. That dub might actually be one of this show's best features - every voice actor feels appropriate for their role, and Tabitha Ray absolutely possesses the energy needed to bring Hotaru to life. It's a very strong dub for a show that can really benefit from one, with the easy conversational banter of the cast helping to bring the show's idle adventures home.
All in all, Dagashi Kashi's second season is dramatically different from its predecessor in many ways, and yet still feels like a natural continuation of the Dagashi canon. The show has jettisoned a variety of elements that were initially central to its premise, but through doing so, it has honed in on and improved the things it's actually best at. Moving Hotaru into the background seems like a crazy choice, but it really helps the other characters shine. Cutting back on the absurdist candy vignettes is a bold shift, but it helps the show lean into the conversational humor it does best. Dagashi Kashi still isn't a great show, but I appreciate this sequel's willingness to change its formula and set its own path.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B
+ Prioritizes the best aspects of the first season, offers some actual growth for the characters
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