Moyashimon Returns – 11 (Finale)

What made the original season of Moyashimon a celebrated and beloved anime were its awkward and lively characters and the zany comedy that accompanied the lives of freshmen at a wacky agricultural university outside of Tokyo.  The second season, Moyashimon Returns, was doomed to mediocrity from straying from this effective recipe, instead opting to delve heavily into drama and introduce new characters who never assimilated to the golden standard of this anime.  However, this occurrence of a sequel failing in comparison to the original is not something exclusive to Moyashimon.  In fact, I’d be inclined to say that’s the norm for sequels in anime, a disheartening trend based on a number of critical factors.

There are a number of sequels that have disappointed, though I am having trouble recalling their names… Regardless of their names, many sequels that have failed to match their predecessor or continue to maintain the level of entertainment and success.  And while each example is different and certainly open to opinions, as with any evaluation for any anime, there is a general trend within these sequels that help predict or determine their achievement.  Not every one of the previous examples will fit these assertions as these are trying to be tailored to Moyashimon Returns in comparison to Moyashimon, so save those criticisms if a favorite anime was singled out before in regards to this fateful tendency.

Perhaps the most obvious are the expectations that are placed on a sequel.  Though I’ve written in the past that lofty expectations for a sequel are a poor way to evaluate an anime (and on a sequel nonetheless), the original series of an anime always plays a part in building, and unjustly elevating, our expectations.  While it is unreasonable to predict that Moyashimon Returns will outshine Moyashimon in terms of its comedy and characters, it’s not unreasonable to expect the second season of Moyashimon to involve the same type of stories and show the same cast as the original.  And that’s one of the failures of Moyashimon Returns is that it deviated from its original formula of a college campus comedy with a set number of students and instead told the story of a struggling family in France along with an unhappy arranged marriage.  Introducing these new characters, these new unfunny characters, and expanding on their drama was a disastrous choice for Moyashimon Returns as it gave the anime an altered persona, one dissimilar to the original series, one that many of us were unprepared for and likely opposed, too.  I didn’t come in thinking Moyashimon Returns would be better than the original series (though I did hope it would be), so no fault there, but my problem with this is that it felt like an entirely new and unfamiliar series.  And this is a trend common to sequels in anime, changing the formula that worked in the original to try something new or tell a distinctive story.  Why this is a negative trend seen in many sequels of many anime is that it changes what we enjoyed about the original, giving us something we weren’t expecting or necessarily wanting.  Because of this, we often assign expectations to a sequel that just aren’t satisfied and the sequel suffers as a result.

Another point where Moyashimon Returns found itself ineffective is with its new characters.  Don’t get me wrong, Marie was fantastic, a blossoming character who thrived as her arc progressed, matched the personality and demeanor of the series, and responded well to and with the main cast of characters.  But Marie’s family?  Ryuuta?  Effectively eliminating Oikawa, Mutou, and Professor Itsuki in favor of those unsuccessful characters and their stories?  That’s where Moyashimon Returns made its momentous error.  Not only did the sequel sacrifice its limited time for these characters to be developed and have their story described, but it had to remove some of its greatest characters in doing so.  And to compound the issue, these characters weren’t the wacky, crazy, or lovable characters that we’ve come to expect and enjoy from Moyashimon.  Remember the stark contrast from this episode when the cast returned to Japan and the anime became entertaining again?  Yeah, the anime should never squandered as much time in France as it did with this final arc.  And this again, this example of introducing characters that fit like a square block in a triangle hole, these incompatible characters, is another general development where sequels find themselves in trouble.  Though new characters are often hit-or-miss with the audience and it varies greatly between anime, more often than not new characters who are given significant screentime at the expense of the regular cast are often met with scorn and disapproval, regardless of how their characterization and stories perform.  That isn’t the case with Moyashimon which replaced its most lovable and endearing characters with boring saps from France who can drink wine or ugly guys who are timid around girls or blah blah blah whatever, it was tedious and boring.  For Moyashimon, the cast was one of its greatest assets but the sequel mismanaged this strength and reduced the sequel to the lesser result that we witnessed.

After those two foremost declarations, the other points seem minor or nitpicky and are likely to be more variable among the fans when comparing the sequel to the original.  And though I’ve been voicing my disapproval with the sequel, this season did perform well in a number of key areas including its development and progression of Hasegawa’s character, improving the animation and involvement (not story related) of the microbes, and showing flashes of success with its comedy between story arcs and during story downtime.  What remains from these scenes is hope that the series will rediscover what made it an enjoyable and cherished anime should it return for a third season (which the ending tried to hint at).  Whether or not this actually comes, be it another 5 years or more, there will be hope that the next Moyashimon will outperform this one, and maybe even the original, though there are a few key details that it needs to remember in order for it to do so.  If not, then yet another sequel will join its brethren in that same, unfortunate trend that we continue to see with anime sequels today.

And though I was difficult on Moyashimon on a number of occasions, not only this post, I will miss this anime.  Despite articulating my issues with this season in this post and trying to generalize it to many anime sequels, I did enjoy this anime (though not as much as I should have) and still have a favorable impression for the anime.  I do hope the series receives another sequel and within the near future but only if its mentality and style returns to that of the first season.  Had this season continues much longer and with this same design, then perhaps my opinion would be altered, but for now, I still have some hunger for Moyashimon that has remains unsatisfied from the beginning of this season.  Should it eventually come, then yeah, I’ll watch Moyashimon again.  If not, then I’m not going to shed a tear except for maybe knowing that the final scene was a tease that’ll never be satisfied on the televised screen.

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