Others have already written much on the drastic difference in animation quality from the first half of the episode, compared to the second half. But I had to see it for myself to believe it. And yeah, it’s quite stunning actually. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the animation in the first half is great – I think everyone looks a little too shiny and there were a handful of scenes where lines didn’t look like they were drawn quite right – but it’s so nice to see some attention paid to shading and highlights, to characters looking like well-proportioned humans, and some experimentation with non-standard camera angles, that it just feels like a huge improvement from what we’ve seen so far (and what we see in the second half). It was like going from watching old Hanna Barbera clips to the latest Pixar jawn. Definitely good enough for a slice of life.
Round 1: Spring brings out all the bakayaros
Nekko-Chiaki wants to take a nap in the sun, while Kana sends her minions to convince Chiaki to go sleep in her room. Alas, the argument skills of Uchida and even Maki are no match to a well-timed, utter condescending “bakayaro” retort, which means Kana’s gotta go in and do the job herself. But Chiaki stands her ground, vowing not to leave the warm, sunny spot. However, fate intervenes, as Haruka arrives (looking like the beautiful Haruka we’ve come to forget vs. the geometric monstrosity we’ve seen this season) with some sweets in hand, Chiaki finds herself torn. Kana, the Champion of Arguing, pushes just the right buttons, keeping Chiaki pinned, choosing between pride and sweets. But when Chiaki breaks for the sweets, Kana goes for the kill.
Round Winner: Kana
Round 2: Let sleeping girls lie
It’s not just the animation that’s different, but the design style is significantly different as well. Everyone has slightly rounder faces, softer angles, and big rounded eyes. Personally, I really liked the look. It’s different from any of the designs I remember seeing from seasons 1-3, but besides season 1, I think I liked this the best. It just made everyone look cuter, which fits the show well.
Maki’s haunted by an old memory of waking up to her friends laughing at her, and wants to get to the bottom of this. She asks Kana to watch her sleeping face to see if it looks strange in any sort of way. Seeing as how this is a good way to get guys or something, Uchida decides to jump in on the fun too. Neither of these gals have been known for their sparkling intellect, since asking Kana to watch over you while you sleep is like asking the wolf to watch the sheep. Mako-chan meanwhile gets beat up by a girl. Is there special meaning in this? To get beat up by a girl, while pretending to be a girl? To be fair, Maki’s a high schooler, but I couldn’t help think that this was the final step in the transformation of Mako-Chan.
Round Winner: Kana.
Round 3: The Melancholy of Haruka Minami
As a part of the Hosaka brigade, I’m not sure how I feel about Natsuki being the first one in the show to see Haruka with her pants off, figuratively speaking. Especially after brutally punishing Maki. Anyway, we’re back to the crappy animation version, which is a shame, because the latter two segments were funnier than the first two segments. Chiaki accidentally cuts Haruka’s skirt in half, and she and Kana act quickly to cover it up. Obviously, they end up doing a slipshod job and it just so happens that Maki is the one to unravel it all. Lucky for Natsuki, but my mind boggles at how Hosaka would’ve responded.
Round Big Winner: Natsuki
Round 4: Keeping the bakayaros in check
There was something particularly hilarious about Kana freaking out when Chiaki calls her bakayaro, one last time. I mean, I’m cracking up just looking at that screenshot. I couldn’t tell if she was being serious or playing more mind games with Chiaki. Either way, Chiaki goes for it hook, line and sinker, fumbling to find the best possible back-handed apology, before punching out Kana. Kana wonders where Chiaki went wrong and decides that she needs to show Chiaki more love to lead her away from the perilous path she’s walking. This is all very unnerving for Chiaki, as she’s not used to this sort of kindness and justly wonders what Kana’s true plans are. Until it reaches a boiling point in which Chiaki realizes she can no longer find safe haven in her own bedroom, because of the caring monster that Kana has become.
Round Winners: Kana for the freakout. And also Chiaki for her cute response to the freakout.
This was the most Minami sister action we’ve had in a while. Minami-ke’s got a great set of quirky and hilarious supporting characters, but I always love it when they focus on the sisters just being sisters. Now if only they’d let Banchou Haruka in on the fun. She needs some air time man!