It both got better and got worse. Somewhere, there’s a physics law that was just broken. Right here, there is an anime fan that was broken.
Futatsuki no Kishi—translated as Knight of the Twin Moons—is the follow-up to the first season of Zero no Tsukaima. Like its source material, it picks up soon after Saito has refused a chance to return to his world to save his tsundere master Louise from certain death and partially revolves around the what now? aspect such a choice leaves him in. Considering the nature of the first arc, the story really could have ended there, and so the fact that we are shown characters dealing with the consequences of their actions, the story of Futatsuki no Kishi could have been a masterstroke in exploration and adventure. Unfortunately, Saito is too happy to leer at boobs to follow through.
Whereas the first season of the show is fairly standard plot fare—special powers, love-or-hate relationships, agonized heroic decision—the second season had a great opportunity to take the story in new directions. Instead, everything it does do right is overshadowed by the emphasis on fanservice and perversion. While at no point in the first season does Saito seem overtly distracted by the female of his species—no more than any teenage boy would be, at least—here he seems to try too hard to go out of his way to comment, leer, drool, and make a fool out of himself over women while constantly evoking Louise’s ire. If you watch Futatsuki no Kishi right after finishing the first season, this drastic change in characterization is even more noticeable.
The only saving grace is that the characterization is not the only noticeable change in the series. Animation to an already well-done show only improved. As per its origin materials, characters who only had brief background appearances now come to the forefront and steal the show. Pacifist teacher Colbert and witch-princess Henrietta completely upstage the central cast of the first season, while newcomer Agnes gets in her digs as well. Two out of these three fare decently in the show, though unfortunately what was deep and meaningful character development in the novels is reduced to a focus on, well, the royal tracts of land, if you take my meaning. You’ll know the scene the moment it crops up.
Ultimately, the problem is simply in the direction the show went. The source material itself, while it has these issues, is overshadowed by the actual depth and exciting adventures the characters undertake. The anime tried too hard to overcome its lukewarm response to the first season by overemphasizing the ecchi moments in the show to appeal to its primary audience. Had it stayed true to its origins, it might have done so naturally, organically. Instead, it tries too hard and falls all the more for it.