I'm fond of this series. It'll never get much attention, being four-minute vignettes with no action and indeed only one speaking character. (It's like lots of little one-woman stage shows, but with the camera representing a silent male viewpoint character who's expected to become the girl's romantic interest.)
Personally, I enjoy it a lot and I was excited to see that it was returning. This batch of episodes is still good, but it has a feature that might be a slight barrier for most viewers. Seasons 1 and 2 were both split into three 4-episode blocks, each concentrating on a single character. This one, though, only has two such blocks, with the other episodes being shared between girls from Seasons 1-2.
This is nice... but good luck trying to remember who they are. I didn't and I'm a fan of this series! Season 1 was in 2017 and Season 2 was in 2018. Do you remember everyone you met a few years ago, for less than twenty minutes?
Worst of all, I wasn't sure if Yui Hanasaka (eps.11-12) and Natsuki Momohara (ep.5) were the same character, since they have similar anime faces and the same hair colour. (Every episode has the girl's name in the title card, but you never hear anyone saying these names.) This was confusing and alarming, since Natsuki's the sister of her silent camera character, whereas Yui's going to marry hers and bear his child.
I'm going to have to rewatch it all, aren't I? (I'll skip Room Mate, though, which is its gender-flipped sibling series.)
FIRST VIEWING (BEFORE REWATCH)
Akira's problem is that she keeps transferring schools, so these days she keeps the world at a distance. She's freer and more relaxed with her senpai in the gardening club, but even with him she's suppressing things.
Saya's initial problem, conversely, is that she crawled into the wrong apartment while drunk. She's not a party girl, though. She's a serious person and ends up giving the camera-protagonist exam tuition, but she has honesty problems (and mistakenly thinks she's capable of telling lies convincingly).
The rest are all perfectly okay. Nice little episodes that do a lot in the short running time. I enjoyed them all... but the four-part blocks are obviously, inevitably taking us on deeper character journeys.
SECOND VIEWING (AFTER REWATCH)
There are seven girls across the three series:
1. HANASAKA YUI = Season 1 eps.1-4 and its OVA ("Another"), Season 2 recap ep.0 and eps.1-4 and its OVA ("Extra"), Season 3 eps.11-12
I was impressed with how well they sustain the story. You'd think Yui's story might have ended with Season 1, when she agrees to become the camera character's girlfriend, but then Season 2 has couple-problems and Season 3 gives us another "whoah" jump in their relationship. In S2 ep.1, she's not ready to get physical. In S2 ep.2, the camera character's increasing the distance between them, working more hours at his part time job. They have an argument! You might be wondering how this would work when the camera character is invisible and inaudible, but they do. In S2 ep.3, she's sulking.
S3 ep.11, though, is a leap in both time and relationship terms. Yui's always been easily embarrassed (and still is), but by now she's comfortable enough to buy a potentially naughty card game for them to play together. S3 ep.12 is basically just nostalgia and tying a bow on it all, though.
S1 Yui is hardly fit to go out on her own, incidentally. Later seasons try to justify this by calling her an airhead who leaves herself wide open, but frankly she comes across more as brazen. She asks a stranger to be her free tutor for university entrance exams, takes up his time all evening in his apartment and then expects this to continue until the exams! Does she think the world owes her a favour, or is she planning to pay him back? If so, how? Like that? A chap could get the wrong idea, although here that wouldn't ultimately be wrong. Furthermore, the camera character ogles her so blatantly that you're half-expecting him to turn out to be a serial killer.
Incidentally, even the recap S2 ep.0 is worth watching, because the recapped scenes are basically just a montage underneath Yui talking about herself. Also, the swimsuit OVA ("Another") made me laugh with "this is my school uniform".
2. MOMOHARA NATSUKI = Season 1 eps.5-8 and its OVA ("Another"), Season 3 ep.5
Natsuki's the funniest of this show's girls. She's the camera character's little sister... and yes, the show goes where you're imagining, but always briefly, before retreating with "ahaha, just joking" etc. That aside, though, Natsuki's pushy, rude, smug, disrespectful of boundaries and pleased with herself. In other words, she's highly entertaining. I also like the squawking, bratty voice her voice actress gives her.
S3 ep.5 tells us that Natsuki's only 14 or so. (It's often hard to tell with anime characters.) She's also serious about wanting to move to Tokyo to study design at a specialist high school.
Crazy vampire eyes. Those are great too.
3. AOSHIMA MOKA = Season 1 eps.9-12 and its OVA ("Another")
Of the three Season 1 girls, she's the only grown-up. Also, her story's downbeat (although its romantic side ends happily).
She's trying to be a musician, while her childhood friend (the camera character) is trying to be a novelist. They're both unsuccessful. She's wondering whether or not to give up.
4. NANAHASHI MINORI = Season 2 eps.5-8 and its OVA ("Extra"), Season 3 ep.6
Theoretically, it's as downbeat as Moka's story, but Minori's much cheekier and flirtier. She's running a bathhouse that doesn't have enough customers and might get turned into a parking lot. It has enough tradition that it could almost be used as a metaphor for Japan itself, in a discussion in Season 2 ep.7.
Minori makes it fun, but the economic problems are real and still haven't gone away in Season 3. It hasn't gone under yet, though. Minori and the camera character are still hanging in there. (That extra episode doesn't add a huge amount to the story, to be honest.)
5. AMATSUKI MASHIRO = Season 2 eps.9-12 and its OVA ("Extra")
Like Natsuki, she's her season's comedian. (A bit, mostly in her first episode.) She immediately takes against the camera character and keeps calling him Mr Pervert.
She's also a gymnast who got injured, retired and is having no luck with job-seeking, but her story's lighter and happier than Moka's and Minori's. I'm still surprised by how dark Season 2 is, though.
6. KOTOKAWA AKIRA = Season 3 eps.1-4
It's lovely, because, boy, does Akira need to break out of her shell. She thinks she's okay with being alone and actively seeks a state of friendlessness. She's convinced herself that she's okay with always transferring schools and being forgotten by her classmates. Her policy is to avoid everyone. When she breaks this rule and gets close to her senpai in the gardening club, we see that she's actually lively and fun, but even then she'd been planning to keep a lid on her feelings and quietly transfer away without making a fuss.
"I went and said it."
7. ORISAKI SAYA = Season 3 eps.7-10
Oddly, this one's as much about the camera character's issues as it is about the girl's. He's a gender-flipped Hanasaka Yui, with Saya volunteering to help him study for his entrance exams. There's also some overlap with Mashiro, since both girls are out of work. Saya's main problem, though, is that she tells three big lies in her first episode and then doesn't come completely clean until her final episode. (She's impressed with the camera character for being able to say openly on first acquaintanceship that he's an exam failure.)
It's still a charming romantic series. (I'm mildly freaked out by fanboy internet theories about how it's the same camera character for all seven girls, with a hypothesised chronological order.) Everyone's nice, as are the episodes. I considered trying to rank the stories in order of preference, but gave up because I can't. I like them all. The animated acting is detailed and very good, as it should be since the whole thing's an extended character study. The art can be beautiful, especially in evening light.
I'm in two minds about the floating point of view. I can't help thinking that the show would have been stronger had it been stricter about that, but it's not only used for mild fanservice. Sometimes it is, yes, but sometimes it's just to break up what could have been visual repetition and give us more angles on the acting.
I like the breadth of ages, for anime. They're not all in high school. There are plenty of adults too, usually with work problems, and then there's Natsuki. Season 3 is definitely lighter than Season 2 and I think it was a questionable idea to have four sequel episodes... but rewatching the whole series made me grateful for it. I'm hoping we get Season 4.