It's a strong Season 2 of a show I'd already liked a fair bit. Season 1 was perhaps a bit lighter and funnier, but that's not to say that this year is all doom and gloom. I still enjoyed it. I think it makes the relationships stronger and more heartwarming to have seen the characters having to fight through their issues. The existence of those episodes improves the whole series. I like it even more now. Season 1 on its own was good, but not special. The two seasons together are, I think. Besides, let's not overstate the difference. Season 1 showed our heroes just as capable of martyring themselves, catastrophically failing to communicate and smacking painfully into their own flaws.
The original light novels haven't finished yet, so I'm hoping they'll make a Season 3. There's also an OVA 14th episode coming in July 2016.
It's a show about misfits and loners. There are many such shows, but what makes this one different is that it's not hero-worshipping their flaws. Hikki and Yukinon are very funny and extremely intelligent, but they're also crippled, lonely people who can't even communicate properly with each other when it's really important. The Service Club can be awesome, but it's only when they're working together that they can cover each other's flaws. Hikki is great at analysis, but self-destructive when it comes to actually doing anything. He knew that the insanely annoying Kaihin Sogo student council was a waste of oxygen, but he still sat through meeting after meeting without making anyone listen to him. Resolving the situation took Yukino's "melt them with acid" debating techniques (and then Yui's people skills to pick up the pieces afterwards).
1. Hikki is the main character. He's every snide, self-justifying loner you didn't notice in school, unless of course you were seeing one in the mirror. (Even if you weren't a full-blown Hikki, you might have had a bit of Hikki inside you.) People don't remember his name. Girls think he's creepy. He generates an anti-matter universe of negativity and even takes pride in that. However he's also perceptive (being a full-time watcher of life and a zero-time participant in it), kind and even dependable in his hostile, grumpy way.
2. Yukinon is the kind of girl who probably drinks liquid nitrogen to cool down and has icicles in her heart. That's how she comes across, anyway. Some of her put-downs to Hikki are magnificent. However by now she's actually thawed quite a lot underneath and we can see her vulnerabilities. By the end of the season, you can see her react just as much as Yui when she thinks another girl's coming on to Hikki. She's actually quite raw emotionally. She'd just never admit it.
3. Then there's warm, lovely, insecure Yui. She can read everyone's hearts, including Yukinon. The end of Season 2 appears to show a fundamental impending resolution of some kind, but we have no idea what it will be. Whichever way it goes, it'll surely be rough on all three.
One interesting thing about the show is that we're starting to see how damaged everyone is. It's not just the obvious loners. Popular, attractive people can be weird and messed up underneath too. Is there any such thing as an intelligent, well-balanced teenager? Anyone would want to be Hayato, right? Good grief. Ebina is the goofy yaoi fangirl comic relief character, but she's also in some ways more sad and worrying than Hikki. It's as if stupidity is the best protection against hating yourself.
The show could perhaps have made things a little easier for its audience. I think Brain's Base did it better in Season 1. Firstly, I sometimes struggled to keep track of all the cast. The character designs aren't that distinctive (and have got slightly more generic) and there are lots of very similar names. The alliteration and repetition (e.g. Saki Kawasaki, Meguri Shiromeguri) help, but even so we have Hachiman, Hikigaya, Hiratsuka, Hina, Hayama, Hayato and Haruno. Those are the H-names. Then there's Yoshiteru, Yukinoshita, Yukino, Yumiko, Yui, Yuigahama, etc.
The other non-obvious thing is reading the psychology. You'll have to be alert and trying to look beneath the surface to pick up on the nuances and implications in all the dialogue. Yui helps. Hikki and Yukinon have to explain their thought processes to her, because she's not as quick as them. However there are key beats that I'm sure were clearer in the novels, in which motivations and inferences have been left for you to infer. It's there for you. The information's available. Personally I quite like being expected to work. However I do wonder if that crept in partly as a result of adapting novels to a very different medium without rethinking certain aspects of them.
The show also betrays its light novel origins in making Hikki a girl magnet. Despite all that bloody character dissection, there's still a tendency for any girl he gets involved with to end up showing signs of interest in him. (Mind you, these signs are often fleeting and super-subtle, buried under brutal comedy put-downs and pre-emptive rejection.)
I like this show a lot. It's entertaining and often funny. I always looked forward to watching it. It's possible to get deep into analysis and make it sound heavy-going, with pain and melancholy, but it is still also a comedy. Well, when it wants to be, anyway. I've become really rather fond of these fragile, heavily flawed clever idiots. I hope everything works out for them. Recommended.