Reviewby Theron Martin,
The beginning of the new school year advances the gang to second-years but also brings a new girl into play: Kosaki's sister Haru, who is now a first-year. She's heard nasty rumors about Raku, so she's fully intent on keeping her sister from being victimized by such a playboy. Meanwhile, Kosaki and Chitoge continue to fret over expressing their feelings for Raku, while Shu and Raku ponder whether or not Shu should make his own more problematic romantic feelings known. In the midst of all of this, some pool cleaning has to get done, various characters get sick, and a substantial chunk of the cast gets involved in a magical girl story.
This release covers the second half of the series – episodes 7-12. This run of episodes is average by franchise standards, including both the weakest entries of the season and one of the strongest. Aside from a sad magical girl parody done Pretty Sammy-style, it's most notable for two things: formally introducing a new character to the main and accomplishing almost nothing in the overall story.
Actually, that last statement is not entirely fair, as this volume does feature one important bit of character development; we finally get to see who Shu really has his heart set on, and it's not who you might initially think. This episode where Raku helps him work through a love that cannot be (episode 10) is arguably this series' best, even if I don't agree with the decision that was made to resolve it. Beyond that, most of these episodes are just doubled-up vignettes, and even then the mini-stories are mostly just variations on common romcom gags or fretting over romantic feelings. Kosaki and Chitoge each get focused turns at the latter (including a flashback showing how Kosaki came to fall in love with Raku), but with no kind of resulting progress. The series basically ends on a “there's no rush to change anything, since we still have more than half of our high school life left” note.
The one major new cast addition actually made a cameo in the first half, in addition to appearing prominently in the opening theme since the start: Haru, Kosaki's younger sister. However, because that story (about Marika's parrot) was animated out of order, she was included without explanation and exited before Raku actually came into the picture. This time, she gets introduced properly as a first-year in the same school as the rest of the gang – at the same time that Paula McCoy is revealed to be a regular cast member too. If the Type A Little Sister character is the lovably cute one, then Haru is a Type B: the hostile girl who's dead-set on protecting her sibling from the supposed predations of the protagonist. That in itself is slightly ironic, since Raku really does have romantic intentions toward the older sister in this case, but of course the bigger irony is that Raku – unbeknownst to her – is actually the “prince” who rescued her from the unwanted attention of delinquents (another romcom cliché). In fact, Raku is the kind of guy that she could easily fall in love with if not for her preconceived prejudices. So yes, that means yet another peripheral harem candidate, still the franchise's bread and butter after all this time.
Overall, these episodes are just more of the same for the franchise: an occasional serious element mixed in with mildly humorous content, all heavily dependent on everyone being unable to admit their true feelings to their crush. Each episode has at least one or two decent gags, such as how Chitoge's father met and courted her mother, Seishiro's reactions to Raku's question about how she would act if she had a secret love she couldn't act on, or the snide directions about what magical girls must do to maximize their power. (This is also the one place where the writing seems to be trying to make a point.) However, the content still rarely elicits more than a chuckle or two; it's not even in the same league as better anime comedies out there.
The visual style remains par for the course. Viewers get treated to many further shots of the fantastically elaborate school or Chitoge's seemingly massive bedroom, all with the signature light color scheme. The design effort to make Haru look like she's clearly related to Kosaki and their mother, while still being a distinct design, also impresses, though the animation still isn't anything special. This run of episodes has a little more fanservice than most other parts of the franchise, primarily coming from the pool-cleaning vignette and the camera's "Raku gaze" tendencies. Still, it remains mild compared to most other harem series.
The musical score simply continues the standards established in the first half. It uses an alternate opener for episode 8 (which starts with the magical girl parody) but otherwise keeps the same opening theme throughout. Four different closers are used during this span, with one-shots for episodes 7, 10, and 11, while the other three are repeats of the most common closer from the first half. None of them stand out much.
As with the first half, the episodes are split across two Blu-Ray disks, which include clean theme songs as the only extras. The case comes in the artbox-styled cover which also includes a set of eight art cards featuring one or more of the girls illustrated by a variety of different artists, including both staff members and guest artists like Atsushi Ohkubo (the manga-ka for Soul Eater) and Hikaru Nakamura (the manga-ka for Arakawa Under The Bridge). As with the rest of the franchise, it's undubbed and the price point is steep.
In the end, this series just ends without even coming close to resolving anything. The manga seems to have recently concluded with a decisive ending, so perhaps we'll see another sequel in the future finish the job. Until that happens, the series remains what the franchise has always been: a mildly entertaining romp for those who like harem romantic comedies.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Some strong vignettes and episodes, good musical support
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