I watched the 2nd and 3rd WUG movies last night, so that might explain why I wasn’t very impressed by this first episode. But, that’s not necessarily the only thing that affected my enjoyment. After all, the animation studio has changed, and so has the director. I’m glad to see Shin Itagaki take over for Yamakan (whose particular approaches to direction I have problems with), but I do miss the visuals that Ordet created for the original series and the movies.
Story-wise, though, this first episode lived up to its prequels. The group dynamics are still the same, though maybe presented slightly differently, and the drama aspect is there: WUG are not as skilled, popular or successful as other idol groups, and working on improving all of those is what the show is about. So I will continue watching it for now.
Verdict: Slightly disappointed with the visual downgrade, but I’ll watch it
I felt like the first season of this show stagnated a bit in its latter half, especially when it shifted focus from Rei’s own shougi games to other characters’ ones, and when the Kawamoto sisters almost completely stopped showing up. Rei did continue developing as a character during this time, by watching adults play shougi and learning things about his own ambitions and sources of motivation in the process, but I honestly found a lot of this pretty boring. And unfortunately the first half of the first episode of Season 2 felt like more of the same in that respect.
But, the second half, the chapter called “Ramune”, reminded me of why I love this show. There was a science lesson, because why not, and it turned out to be really interesting. It also led to Rei being able to break through one of his mental barriers and actually enjoy spending time with people at school. In essence, it was a relaxing slice of life chapter that ended with a hugely cathartic moment. Afterward, Rei visits the Kawamoto sisters, and he smiles when he sees them. God, this is exactly what I want out of slow-burning drama shows.
Verdict: The second half of the episode was fantastic. Absolutely continuing.