Sophomore Slump? Not for Umaru or Hoozuki!

Welcome, all, again, and happy Thanksgiving to those who so celebrate.  Today I’d like to discuss two series which are currently airing second seasons, Himouto! Umaru-chan and Hozuki’s Coolheadedness (Hoozuki no Reitetsu).  I was a fan of the first seasons of both shows (and own both in my personal anime library), and have found myself pleasantly surprised at the sustained quality and  ambitious direction of their new seasons.  And I quite purposefully say direction, as both shows seem to share a pronounced emphasis this season on character development, particularly that of their respective protagonists.

Ladies first, so we’ll begin with Himouto! Umaru-chan R.  Like so many of us, Umaru displays a distinct change in behavior and mindset between her public self and her private self.  She works hard to present a public image of being self-contained, effortlessly beautiful, polite, and humble.  Once shut away from the world, however, she morphs into a spoiled, whiny, self-absorbed junk food and gaming addict.  And when I say “It ain’t pretty,” you can take that any number of ways and probably still be dead-on right.  She is her older brother’s pride and poison as he takes care of her in the apartment they share.  Season 1 established her split personality and let us watch as she conveniently compartmentalized the people and other things in her life.  Things became so complicated, in fact, that at least two of Umaru’s classmates believe that they each know two separate and distinct people who are both actually Umaru.

Season 2 begins to humanize our heroine somewhat as she begins to both recognize and regret the difficulties she causes her brother, and to also loosen up around her friends.  Of course, this increased openness with her friends allows us to discover more about them as well, particularly her best friend Ebina.  This creeping maturity in a character who for so long so easily mimicked responsible behavior is a well-played plot progression that has, in my opinion, revitalized the show.

Meanwhile, Hozuki’s Coolheadedness is traveling a similar path, in this case humanizing its lead by exposing elements of his past even as he plays at becoming something of a family man.  That’s right, we finally get an origin story for Hozuki, Great King Enma’s stern Chief-of-Staff, and it was nothing like what I expected.  But nor did I expect its roundabout catalyst, Hozuki’s seeming to dote upon two new visitors to Yomi (the Japanese underworld), twin zashiki warashi.  While nonchalantly explaining away their presence by asserting that many supernatural beings visit Yomi, Hozuki seems quietly fond and blatantly protective of these two, even giving them names.  (It should be noted that they specifically saved that request for Hozuki.)  In turn, Ichiko and Niko respond to Hozuki quite singularly, even seeming to become a bit clingy at times.  Mind you, this is no Usagi Drop, but you can’t help but feel happy for all three–they almost seem to have needed each other.  And Hozuki’s character has certainly gained a pronounced depth through this exposition and development, especially his interactions with the girls.  Now, I just wonder if the sudden presence of children around Hozuki will lure Peach Maki back into his orbit?

And speaking of Peach Maki, she has also returned in this second season, and is now part of an idol duo, Maki-Miki.  Moreover, the show’s closing sequence is given to her (sans Miki) in a music video format.  Which of course leads me to comment upon the artwork–exquisite, just as we’ve come to expect from this series.  Recent viewing seasons have seen an uptick in the artistic quality of various anime offerings, but this remains one of the most beautifully drawn and colored series that I’ve ever seen.  It is, in fact, uniquely visually beautiful while remaining cuttingly funny.  I’m hooked.

And there you go, two very different shows walking down the same path as their second seasons progress.  I approve and applaud.

 

Author: David

Southern gentleman of Irish heritage. Family man--proud husband, father, and grandfather. Wiccan with a dose of residual Catholicism. Background in food service, military (US Navy), and law enforcement.

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