Three episodes in, it’s still pretty self-aware.
The defining traits that made me fond of SaeKano back in its debut season was the interactions between characters and the writing’s penchant for poking fun at harem cliches. Thus far, neither of these things are as charming as they were back then, with the writing feeling a little too smug and the characters not as important as they once were. To describe the experience would be akin to the time I went and saw Pitch Perfect 2 without seeing Pitch Perfect. All of the characters suited their roles with not a lick of effort in providing additional depth, perhaps justified by their effort in the first film, while the writing gave everything it expected the audience to want to come from a “successful” sequel. SaeKano 2 isn’t as monotonously uninteresting as its film comparison, but it provides a similar line of thinking.
Ironically enough, the first season was such an up-and-down experience for me that it was just as frustrating to watch as it was meaningful. Its second season is somewhat the same, as the expectation of improving upon the original is beginning to wither, though it provides enough of a spark to think worthwhile events have yet to occur. It’s almost as though this isn’t a second season at all, rather a direct continuation of the first season, as a lot hasn’t changed for the better or worse. In a way, it’s disappointing to see how little things change. Of course, I’m only three episodes in.
Artistic expression is still prevalent and shiny, with a lot of frames becoming multi-layered in a specific color for no reason. Sexual fan service is still sprinkled throughout the episodes via angle shots of the rear and close-ups of the chest. It’s not so much that it’s exaggerated, just very targeted. I actually don’t recall sexual fan service being so recurring in the first season, though I remember a number of risque scenes. In any case, SaeKano 2 chooses to show its large female cast in a very close-up way. With solid animation and sleek designs, it’s more a benefit than anything. Its appreciation overall depends on the viewer, though.
As noted above, characters are a tad less important so far, with Utaha hogging a lot of the spotlight in terms of importance to the plot. Others are shared within the scenes for reactions and various other shenanigans, which feel ultimately inconsequential. A fine line is set between making fun of harem tropes and embracing them, while justifying its placement by reminding the viewer that it’s a parody with an out-of-place line. Does that really justify it, though? Three episodes at my disposal, the drama the series exudes reeks of overdramatic, pseudo-intellectual harem filth. It’s possible in time Eririri and Kato will end up shining within the spotlight, but until that time, Utaha needs to calm herself and share.
Potential is still present, as up-and-down the series has been, which is surprising considering I went into it pretty hyped. To say I’m disappointed wouldn’t be entirely accurate, but my expectations have quieted as the series continued to play. Much like its first season, issues with pacing and control over what it really wants to be prevent it from being a solid recommendation. For those who enjoyed the first season, they’ll fit right at home in its second.