Dagashi Kashi 2 (2018)

Episode 01 – 12

Snacking is Serious Business.

I found 2016’s Dagashi Kashi so splendidly scrumptious, so was stoked to hear that the slice-of-life anime earned itself a second season. Like the first, this Dagashi Kashi follow-up is based on a manga series written and illustrated by Japanese cartoonist Kotoyama — but you should all know this if you’ve already come across my Season 1 review. So, in theory, it should mean more absurdist candy antics from the busty, Loli Goth-dressed Hotaru Shidare, who’s now one of my all-time favorite anime gals — just check out this delicious rough character sketch by series creator Kotoyama.

Sadly more Hotaru isn’t exactly what we get here as the crazed candy enthusiast is MIA for a good two-thirds of the series, disappearing abruptly at the close of episode 4, ‘Homerun Bar, Fireworks Festival, and …’ (*spoiler alert*) only to return in the last few minutes of episode 11, titled ‘Homerun Bar Winning Stick, Snow, and …’. You’ll notice the similarities between the episode names because there’s a running storyline about protagonist Coconuts optimistically holding onto a Homerun Bar winning stick prize for Hotaru to claim, not sure when or if she’ll ever come back.

Simply put, yanking one of the main drawcards out of your series is a bold move, and a tad risky. Does it pay off? Well, I’m not quite sure.

Snack Attack!

This second season of Dagashi Kashi kicks off immediately after the former — we’re dropped right into Shikada Dagashi, where we’re reunited with the Snack Pack, and it feels great to be back. Nothing has changed. Kokonotsu, or Coconuts, is still torn between inheriting his father’s sweets shop and becoming a professional mangaka; his childhood friend Saya is still secretly crushing him, running Café Endō, the family business, in her spare time (it’s still Summer break); and Coconuts’ classmate Tō, Saya’s sometimes perverted Hawaiian-shirt wearing older bro, is goofing off as per usual. And of course, Hotaru is bursting through the candy store door, dropping amusing dagashi details and getting the kids caught up in her silly snack larks, which continuously get poor Kokonotsu flustered.

However, after Coconuts and Hotaru share a magical night at a fireworks festival, everything changes. Hotaru drops out of sight and Kokonotsu’s drive for all things dagashi dips, his father’s shop falling into disrepair. With the Candy Queen missing, who made staffing the store a daily adventure, Coconuts has hit a slump, and Shikada Dagashi is on the verge of shutting its doors forever, this due to poor sales and our hero’s lack of motivation — it’s now Winter, so some time has passed since Hotaru’s unexplained departure.

‘Wanna play Candy Crush?’

Fortunately, after a bit of a reality check from Saya, Kokonotsu decides to clean up the shop for Hotaru, in the hope that she’ll eventually return to town — all of her scheming was, after all, for him to inherit the store. And things begin to look up. But not for long, as Coconuts’ somewhat juvenile father, Yō, breaks his toe while managing the snack shack, which puts him out of action for a while, leaving Coconuts in charge. And to make matters worse, the crew soon discover that a convenience store (named Towns Mart) has just opened across the road, selling everything from dirty magazines to small albeit overpriced cakes, the big-city operation threatening the future of Shikada Dagashi, a smalltime business that’s been keeping the Shikada family’s head above water for generations.

With Satoshi Kuwabara, Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions (2016), replacing season 1 director Shigehito Takayanagi, Dagashi Kashi 2 has a slightly different flavor. Apart from a change in director, there has been significant remodeling behind the scenes — Tezuka Productions is on animation duties, taking over from Studio feel., while the crucial role of series composition has been handed to Mayumi Morita, who replaces Takayanagi and Yasuko Kamo. Furthermore, Nana Miura has stepped in as character designer, standing in for Kanetoshi Kamimoto.

Warning: Grumpy When Hungry

So, with such a sizeable reshuffle behind the scenes, Dagashi Kashi 2 isn’t quite as scrumptious as its predecessor. Obviously, the absence of Hotaru leaves a gaping hole, so I can understand if many were to jump ship mid-season, but there have been other alterations to the overall structure, which are of equal notice. The episodes themselves are fun-sized — 15 minutes as opposed to 24 — and stuffed with more story, this second bite shockingly much more plot-driven, pushing the ‘goodie of the week’ formula aside. Of course, we still get those real-world dagashi vignettes, but they’re just not as front-and-center.

As a result, Dagashi Kashi 2 is a bit bleaker and not as bubbly as its forerunner. Thematically, it’s very much concerned with Coconuts, who’s a lot more vulnerable here, transitioning from adolescence to burgeoning adulthood throughout the 12-episode anime. Our protagonist learns some hefty life lessons as he weighs his dream of becoming a manga artist against his responsibilities as a shopkeeper; it’s a career that, much to Coconuts’ disbelief, turns out not be the ‘life sentence’ he initially perceives. Given a lot more independence and the ability to make his own decisions (he employs a helper at Shikada Dagashi), Coconuts is faced with some hard-hitting truths, the chief one being that he may not have the skill or talent needed to make his artist aspirations a reality; he finally finishes his ‘Spin’ manga manuscript, submitting it into a big-league contest — and this is a real eye-opening moment for him, discovering that his friends, who constantly aid and support him, may be his biggest blessing.

‘Now, put it in my mouth.’

But this is not a cheerless affair, no sirree, as there’s plenty of conversational humor and character banter to be found, much of this brought about by the show’s fresh faces. The most notable newbie is Hajime Owari, a quirky and intelligent yet laid-back twentysomething woman hired by Kokonotsu to look after the shop while he’s at school; this brown-haired, bespectacled, blazer-wearing babe is a bit of a slacker, begging Coconuts for a job after she gets fired from across-the-street competitor Towns Mark for her lateness and laziness. Plenty of laughs derive from her outlandish agreement with Coconuts, who decides to give her a room and board at Shikada Dagashi as a substitute for pay. We also meet Beni Yutaka, the eccentric and assertive, purple-eyed convenience store manager of Towns Mark, who bears an uncanny resemblance, in both appearance and personality, to missing person Hotaru, the rivalry between Beni and Coconuts adding some often-needed riotousness to the proceedings.

A bit of a Catch-22, Hotaru’s absence — which is wholeheartedly felt — has allowed Kokonotsu, and a handful of the periphery characters to grow in ways that are unexpected and rewarding. Kudos to everyone involved for trying something a little unorthodox. The season wraps up rather optimistically, giving hope to both its characters and the audience — I’d like a third season, thanks! — leaving the door wide open for potentially more munchy-themed Hotaru Shidare mischief.

Living the sweet life!

Dagashi Kashi 2 is a surprising anime in many respects. While it may not be as memorable, inventive, or outright bonkers as its break-out season with its zany WTF weirdness about it, Dagashi Kashi 2 is yummy enough to satisfy anyone with a food fetish, and it’s a worthy continuation, both visually and narratively. Oh, each episode is nicely bookended by the tasty opening, ‘Oh My Sugar Feeling!!’ performed by Ayana Taketatsu, and mouth-watering closing by Hachimitsu Rocket — although, I can imagine that sitting through the intro and outro every ten or so minutes will become exceeding irritating for those binge-watchers out there!

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by S-Littner

Dagashi Kashi 2 is released through Madman Entertainment Australia