Reviewby Theron Martin,
Date A Live II
BD+DVD - The Complete Second Season
A few days after the events of the first season, things have settled back into a normal a routine – or as normal as it can be for a high school boy who has to help manage the emotional state of two sealed Spirits. Despite an occasional flare-up and misunderstanding, Shido manages pretty well until a class trip to Arubi Island brings him into contact with Kaguya and Yuzumi, twin Spirits who claim to have once been a single Spirit and are battling for which identity will survive when they merge again. Naturally that means that Shido will be caught in the middle, but those aren't the only new Spirits due to pop up, and threats from other angles may make for unexpected bedfellows with a former enemy when Tohka is endangered. Origami, who is serving a lengthy suspension for her prior actions with White Licorice, hasn't given up on Shido, either, and Kurumi is still spinning her schemes, too. And healing and sealing Spirits aren't the only abilities that Shido seems to have. . .
With nine months in between its first and second parts, Date A Live II is more a second series than a second season. Either way you look at it, it is still a direct continuation, one which assumes intimate familiarity with earlier material and provides recap only in bits and pieces. Hence I do recommend skimming through the first series to refresh your memory before watching this one.
The first series grounded its antics in one of the more ridiculous – and yet in some ways sensible – premises for a harem series: the girls are all otherworldly beings who are (wittingly or unwittingly) a threat to our world and can only be peaceably stopped by being won over emotionally by the main character during a date. The 10 regular and one OVA episode composing this season continue that pattern. Keeping the base element from getting stale means coming up with new variations on the standard challenge, which in this case means using twins literally contesting with each other for survival and an apparent lesbian. (Whether or not you can truly call Diva a lesbian is debatable, though, as her distaste for men and preference for girls is grounded in a sense of betrayal rather than sexual preference. This is also where the series' logic is shakiest, as it seems to be implying that Diva believes that female fans wouldn't be so faithless.) This part of the story works passably well, although the writing does sometimes shoot itself in the foot by carrying on the back-and-forth banter to the point of repetitiveness during those interaction scenes. The bits where the Ratatoskr crew votes on the best course of action for Shido are back, too, as are some of the funny options, but that is turned to much less often this time around than before.
This season does expand the story some, though. It brings DEM Industries into the picture, an organization which has special interest in Spirits (especially Tohka) and whose boss seems to know a suspiciously greater amount about them than anyone else. Kurumi is back, too, and questing for the “first Spirit.” It also indicates – surprise surprise! – that Shido may be something more than human, as he learns a couple of powerful new tricks this time around which make him at least somewhat combat-proficient. We also get further evidence that someone or something may be going around turning humans into Spirits – in other words, that Kotori may not be an isolated case. Frustratingly, though, the season ends with all of this still up in the air; in fact, none of the aforementioned are even remotely close to being resolved, leaving viewers with nothing but questions. All that really does get settled is the storylines of the three new Spirits. And since last year's movie is an original story, it (presumably) doesn't answer any of these questions, either.
Fortunately the characters carry the series. Kannazuki is as fun as ever with his masochistic shtick, but he also shows that he is shockingly capable in a crisis. Though Tohka's “loud airhead” personality originally irritated me, it has also grown on me over time, and Shido capably anchors the series with his mix of sincerity, patience, and incredulity. Less interesting are the new Spirits, the new wizard Ellen, and the DEM boss, and Origami still all-too-often feels like dead weight, but all of that is more than made up for by the prominent presence of Kurumi. She truly shines when not consigned to being purely villainous, particularly as an ally of questionable trustworthiness. She also stars in what is easily the best episode of this series, the OVA episode numbered in this release as episode 11, which both shows a new side of Kurumi and cleverly spins off of something which happened in the first series which didn't seem at the time as if it would have long-term consequences. (It also may be connected to a brief scene in episode 6, but that's open to interpretation.) Mana does pop up again, too, but this time she has little impact.
The mix of humor, dramatic action and character development, and fan service which defined the first series continues in this one, to the point that anyone satisfied by the mix in the first series probably will be here, too. Though hardly a high-end comedy, it does have its moments, and the often-corny narration is back, too. The action scenes take too many shortcuts to really be considered dynamic, though they are perhaps a little more prominent here, percentage-wise, than in the first series. The fan services remains relatively tame in what it shows (it passes up a couple of golden opportunities for full nudity, for instance), but not in what it suggests or in its volume.
The series' production studio has switched from AIC Plus+ to Production IMS, but most of the principal staff continuing from the first series means that any difference in artistry or technical merits is minimal. Amongst the designs for new characters, Diva is theoretically supposed to be the prettiest but actually comes off as the most plain, with both Ellen and the twins looking sharper and sexier. The design work also does a great job of subtly distinguishing between the twins; for instance, when they make comments about how one has a bigger chest, those comments are borne out, but you have to look closely to tell the difference.
The musical score remain the series' strongest merit, with Go Sakabe having lost none of the deft touch he showed in the first series; in fact, if anything the mix of haunting vocals, dramatic string pieces, and peppy, low-key J-pop songs is even more effective here. The saThe cme quartet of seiyuu who sang the first series' opener return to perform new opener “Trust in You,” which captures both the sound and rousing feel of the first series' opener while still being a fundamentally different song. As with the first series, the closer is less remarkable.
The English dub brings back the entire cast from the first series, which means that this is again a hit-or-miss effort. The main problem with the first series remains: while there are some strong performances (particularly Michelle Rojas as Tohka and Alexis Tipton as Kurumi), there are a few female roles which are either miscast or weakly-performed, especially the teacher for Shido's class. (Fortunately she has a very limited role this time.) Choices and performances for new roles are better on average. Like with the Japanese dub, a voice actress was chosen to replace the male actor for the Shiori, but whereas the Japanese dub opted for a purely feminine voice, the English dub went with the boyish-sounding Ryan Reynolds, which leaves much more of an impression of a boy trying to pass as a girl. Again, the English script is competent but feels restrained compared to other Funimation titles.
Funimation's release of this series comes only in a standard DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack, complete with slipcover and a reversible case cover; a Limited Edition version does not seem to be offered this time around. On-disk Extras include clean opener and closer, an advertisement for the franchise movie released last summer (and not available yet from Funimation as of the time of this writing), and English audio commentaries for episodes 1 and 8. The most interesting observation out of the latter is that this is the second time now that Ms. Reynolds has voiced the female version of a Josh Grelle character. (It also happened in one of the Lupin III titles.)
Despite some frustrating aspects, the second series is, overall, a slight improvement over the first. Just be aware going in that you probably are not going to get much satisfaction out of its ending.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Swimwear designs, some enjoyable characters, OVA episode.
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