So, I reviewed Asura Cryin' and claimed that it crutched very heavily on the fact that there was going to be a second season to deliver on all the promises and allusions they had made. As a standalone series it managed quite well, but all things considered, it felt 'incomplete;' nonetheless, I tried to gauge evenly how it stood alone while keeping in mind that it (very obviously) relied on the second season to help things pan out. With Asura Cryin' 2 slated to deliver a steep order left behind by Asura Cryin', how did it stand up to its job?
Continuing from the events of the first series, Asura Cryin' 2 leaps right into storytelling assuming viewers have seen the first season (and as well they should have); thus, it gets right into the thick of things and, before the first episode is even up, the plot has already picked up and is racing. The main cast finds themselves relegated to pool cleanup, as the Science Club has been causing everybody headaches. While doing this, Ania runs off chasing a 'koala'; in pursuit of her, the entire crowd, koala included, wind up in the 'La Croix ruins,' causing Tomoharu to have quite an interesting recollection of events... that he cannot recall having ever experienced, or even that they took place at all.
Keeping to the same fast-paced, shot-for-shot storytelling while simultaneously adopting a more consistent mood that builds up an underlying plot through the anime, Asura Cryin' 2 corrects the errors of pacing in the first one by matching intensity with intrigue. The result is an extremely pulling experience; when the fast-paced action doesn't keep you glued to the edge of your seat, the intrigue of the events unfurling beneath Tomoharu's world will manage to pull interest further. Ready to pick up the slack, Asura Cryin' 2 delivers rather fully on the promises of plot, intrigue and with the character development already adequately handled in Asura Cryin', it has plenty of wiggle room to create and resolve conflict in the build-up to the climax.
The climax, too, is very satisfying; in fact, I was even surprised by the way it turned out (in a way, at least). The storytelling has definitely kicked it up a notch since the last series.
All that said, I award it a 8; there are some dubious plot holes and there is certainly a good deal of stuff that seems planted in to be plot armor. Thankfully, it doesn't deter wholly from the experience that Asura Cryin' 2 attempts to deliver; it does, however, water down the experience at certain points. Because of that, I don't really feel that a higher score would really be doing justice to the truth.
It's still up to the same tricks as last time, here; the beautiful uniquely-rendered CG robot battles are present, and action scenes flow smoothly (though they can get quite cluttered in the presence of the Kurogane). It keeps action scenes interesting, attractive and ultimately holding the flair that made them good in the first season. There's not much more I can say without repeating myself from my Asura Cryin' review, so to paraphrase it, the animation does a great job of accenting moods in scenes; from intense determination to ensuing hilarity, the animation gets the point across, and it does it quite well.
What's more, we appear to have more or less come off the fanservice; no longer are panty-shots abound, and we certainly see a lot less of the harem taking center stage inappropriately. Were it not for the bizarre clutter the mech fights can very clearly become, I would easily award this a 9, but it earns a comfortable 8 for applying its efforts correctly-- if, perhaps, sometimes a bit too earnestly.
The sound is even better here. Perhaps it's because the events taking place are of far more gravity than the first season; however, the music seemed to be much more adequately used, and there's a good many tracks that have an atmosphere all their own that add so much more emphasis and feeling to choice scenes. The sound gets its job done extremely well, and impresses with both a unique feel and an expert handling. The opening and ending are done-- as they were in Asura Cryin'-- by Angela, and the opening, Alternative, is a song both fitting and very catchy.
10/10; it leaves very little room for much to be desired, and goes a long way in giving the anime a feel all its own.
With character development handled almost entirely through the first season, Asura Cryin' 2 does-- as said before-- place a good amount of emphasis on the plot progression. Nonetheless, even in that, the world and the events within still shape the characters. While they still have that fantastical element that makes them adorable anime characters, they feel at least fairly believable; they react appropriately to situations. They question themselves, they doubt themselves, and they react to optimism and reassurance. They influence each other, and through that they grow. Rather than feeling like they're at a standstill personality with a bunch of egregious flaws they can't drop, a good many of them overcome and conquer their flaws-- or at the very least, they manage to learn to live with them rather than against them.
Old character arcs are tied up, and some ongoing ones see some answers; characters remain true to themselves and behave consistently while growing and developing off of the bases planted firmly by the first season. The promises set forth are all adequately delivered upon, and it is a wholly rewarding experience.
Except the bloody harem thing persists and like any solid fanservice harem gimmick, it doesn't really... adequately end. I'm shamelessly willing to drop the character presentation from a 10 to a 9, simply because it falls victim to a fanservice trap and can't allow the idea that a sixteen year old might just be mature enough, after all the transpiring events, to choose a girl. It doesn't make me angry because I'm akin to a squealing fangirl and require romance to be in my anime; it frustrates me because, in this case especially, it feels like they just wiped a three-or-so-episode story arc off the drawing board all for the sake of creating romantic tension to fuel fan-fiction. It's a really, really annoying stunt.
Juusoukikou Dancougar Nova showed us that, with 13 episodes, a loveable cast and awesome robots, it's very easy to screw up a show to the point where enjoying it becomes a bit of a task unto itself. It showed us that 'short and sweet' doesn't always exist, and sometimes, leg room is a necessary evil-- not everything can achieve being a good thing in a small package. Asura Cryin' and Asura Cryin' 2 showed us that 13 episodes, a loveable cast and awesome robots can be used to create quite an intriguing little piece of work with an interesting, though not necessarily wholly unique feel to it, with characters who grow and develop and a plot that unfurls beneath the ongoing conflicts. While neither anime would hold up very well to bigger titans on their own, as two parts of a whole they function extremely well; Asura Cryin' 2 is just the crown jewel that Asura Cryin' needed to feel fulfilling, rewarding and fun. And honestly, that's exactly how they feel: fun. They're not trying to be the next ground-breaking anime that everyone's talking about. They set out to create a lighthearted atmosphere with some good storytelling and fun characters. Do they succeed? Yes. Do they exceed? By quite a fair margin, I'd say; while this package is chock full of rocket-launcher-girls and gigantic robots, not to mention a good many explosions, beneath all that is a rewarding storyline with only a few plot holes, and considering the content matter, that's fairly admirable given the circumstances. It's most certainly not without its flaws, but they shouldn't deter from at least giving Asura Cryin'-- and more importantly, Asura Cryin' 2-- a fair chance, with an open mind and the same light-heartedness with which it carries itself. It's worth every last point of that 8-- both in flaw and in quality-- and perhaps, in a small way, it's better if it's taken with a few grains of salt like that.