Minami-ke is probably my favourite of the slice-of-life cute-girls-doing-cute-things comedy shows, despite my initial dislike of it, at least in the moé-dominated period that came after Azumanga Daioh and Ichigo Mashimaro, which I probably put top of my list. Minami-ke has an edge over the likes of K-On! and Manabi Straight because it doesn’t need a gimmick or strange setting.
It doesn’t need to be frantic like Lucky Star or out-and-out weirdness like Nichijou (though all of these shows I enjoyed to a greater or lesser extent). It really is just a group of sisters and their schoolmates and the silly things they do, with nothing more surreal than a weird sweaty guy who likes to do dramatic monologues and unbutton his own shirt, and a boy who likes to dress as a girl. And after all, boys dressed as girls aren’t exactly unusual in anime – see MariaHolic, Hourou Musuko et al.
And I have to say, boys who pass as girls are something I always enjoy in anime, especially if there’s cute but awkward comedy, and this also has the reverse I enjoy just as much – a young girl who is often mistaken for a boy. Both in the same anime, supplying some of the big laughs – that has definite appeal!
And the anime has soldiered on and on. It’s changed studios several times now – the first series was from Daume/Doumo, then Asread took over for the next two seasons and first OVA, but now the continuation comes from Da Capo II animators Studio Feel.
The funny tear-shaped mouths are still there, and the overall character design, but it does look subtly different – a little clunkier in movements, but a little more consistent in staying on-model, which might be ironic if we judge Feel for being made up of ex-Pierrot staff (various videos exist of the laziest slapdash art from Naruto and Bleach) but for a slow-paced and pretty show like this the art looks nice.
There’s no structure to this 13-episode season apart from the loose changing of seasons, which was also the theme of the Omatase, the OVA Feel put out prior to this season. It feels mostly like checking in with a familiar old group of friends. We get an April Fools episode, which includes a funny moment where Fujioka very nearly finds out Touma’s gender. We see that Touma’s big brother is excellent at barbeques and that Touma has some impressive skills with needlework. Makoto gets into a girls’ swimming costume and helps Chiaki learn to swim, while the girls are put in yukata, maid outfits and wind up without towels after the bath – all of which somehow manages to avoid coming over as blatant, annoying fanservice because it genuinely seems like the comedy comes first and the camera doesn’t do the horrible blatant things that made Kyou no Go no Ni (from the same mangaka) so sleazy.
Fujioka and Hosaka continue to dwell on their crushes on Minami sisters in their very different ways, and somehow Chiaki comes to regard Hosaka as her ‘curry fairy’ from the supermarket. The only episode segment that’s a bit of a mis-step is the one about a television show that hypnotises people, which breaks too much from the realism of most of the comedy, even if it comes with a cute dance and a brilliant fantasy sequence with Chiaki and Hosaka.