Oh wow, it feels odd to be back here! Haven't dropped in since...June, apparently! It's been a wild and crazy couple of months, but I doubt either of the two or three people who might give this a look will be interested in hearing about all that, so.
So! Over the last week, I've watched most of Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! (off topic: does anyone else find it annoying when shows incorporate exclamation marks into their titles? Baccano! and Negima! were bad enough, but then things escalated with titles like Durarara!! and Negima!?; what gives?). The first season came out of nowhere and impressed me with its fun animation quirks and occasionally twisted sense of humor, so I definitely looked forward to this one after hearing about it. Did the second season live up to my high hopes?
Pretty much, yeah.
The characters are still as watchable as before; Akihisa persists in being an oblivious idiot, Yuuji continues to lead the class while suffering his clingy would-be fiancee Shouko's violent shows of affection, and Hideyoshi is still more feminine than his twin sister. Meanwhile, Shimada and Himeji still pine after Akihisa even as they torment him with spectacular displays of violence and lethally awful cooking, respectively. All of the cast get some time in the spotlight, and a few get more than decent character development; Akihisa and Shimada probably get the most airtime of the lot, which makes sense, as several episodes focus on their rocky relationship. Of course, all the delightful side characters are still present as well. The FFF lurk in the shadows with pitchforks and clubs at the ready, Kubo is just as infatuated with Akihisa as ever, and Miharu still hasn't given up on her quest to butcher Akihisa (the poor kid just can't catch a break) and get into Shimada's pants.
Ni! consists mostly of two- and three-episode arcs, as well as a few flashback episodes interspersed among the rest, but otherwise things are mostly the same--by no means a bad thing. The animation is as fast-paced and unpredictable as ever, with wild art shifts at every moment. The humor is more twisted than ever; each episode is sure to draw out a few laughs, even the serious one.
Yes, you heard that right; Baka and Test actually has a couple of moments of genuine (if short-lived) drama, including one episode that, while not devoid of laughs, is certainly the closest that the show has come to taking anything seriously. Thankfully, it's executed pretty well, and said episode was probably one of my favorites of the season.
All in all, Ni! continues to do what the previous season of Baka and Test excelled at. The animation is flawless, and the charming cast manages to stumble into insane but well-written and hilarious situations on a regular basis. While there are a few notable deviations from the first season's formula--as mentioned above, there are flashback episodes, and one of them is very different in tone from the rest of the season--all of them only add to the show's impressive overall quality. I can definitely recommend this one to any of the two or three people reading this.
Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! is available for viewing on YouTube here, as well as on Hulu, and presumably on Funimation's own video site as well (but why would anyone touch that ugly thing?). The first season is available online as well, but a prior viewing of that isn't necessarily necessary (I think I just broke the English language; man I'm awesome). From what I can tell, there's just one episode left for this season, so now's as good a time as any to give the show a whirl!