In SHARK 2, the main character Saku (Shigeoka Daiki) is struggling with the fact that, since his band Cloud5 debuted, his songs have been rearranged to be more pop, and he feels like he’s betrayed his art. Not only that, but his best friend and guitarist of the group Kota (Yasui Kentaro) feels the same way, as does Makoto (Kaede), the friend they both share an apartment with.

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The man doing the rearranging is Matsuyuki Hisashi (Toyohara Kosuke), who tells his aid Samantha (IVAN) that he doesn’t care about Cloud5’s sense of music – he wants to create some drama around them, and interest people in the group that way. If you remember the first season of SHARK, Mizuki (Hirano Sho) at one point accused Ichika (as Komatsu Ichika) of bringing him into SHARK for exactly that purpose.

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In the middle of this, and with Kota suspended for a month because of a fight he got into, steps Kai (Hamada Takahiro) – SHARK’s guitarist. Now, the previous episode ended with him telling Teppei (Yasui Kentaro) that he was going to quit SHARK, but the writers/director were being mean with us there – we find out this time that he’s only leaving for a week to fill in for Kota. Next time he should really save Teppei from the potential heart-attack (not to mention the dismay of the viewers).

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But even though Kai is just trying to keep his skills fresh while Mizuki is trying to recover, will he end up getting sucked into the drama that Matsuyuki is trying to create?

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Well, Ichika seems minimally worried, and we definitely know she’ll look out for SHARK’s best interests, whether they ever debut or not.

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Kai faces a ton of adversity when he shows up for rehearsal with Cloud5, though. Not from the mild-mannered guys – Saku and Haruya (Hagiya Keigo) . . .

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. . . but rather from the only character (except for Kota) with any fire in his belly – Aruto (Abe Aran). Sure, he’s obnoxious (especially with his advances toward Ichika), but he’s sort of like an over-confident Mizuki. And while he was rude, he’s also telling the truth as he gets angry with Kai and Saku – Kai wasn’t playing to the best of his ability and Saku is the cause of Kota’s departure and needs to mend his relationship with Kota. I still view Aruto as the only interesting character in this whole picture – everyone else is lukewarm.

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Haruya only gets one chance to say much in this one, and he comes off as quite ambiguous.

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Saku continues to brood over Kota’s broken guitar.

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Makoto wants him to make up with Kota, and suggests that he get the guitar fixed.

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So he goes to the shop where the shopkeeper Onodera Tsutomu (Ujiki Tsuyoshi) knows what’s going on and suggests that Saku tell Kota that Cloud5 needs Kota.

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Saku gives a lame excuse – that he can’t find Kota . . .

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. . . but that gets remedied pretty quickly, as Kota walks in.

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Even though Kota expresses his feeling that Cloud5 doesn’t need him, for some reason Saku can’t bring himself to say exactly what Onodera told him to say – that Cloud5 really does need him. WHY?

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Well, there is a word which describes a person who continually broods about their problems but consistently fails to take the steps that they know will make things better: depressed. And as harsh as it sounds, I really don’t want to spend my down time watching a drama about someone who’s depressed, so I hope Saku gets his act together soon – like, by the end of this episode.

Meanwhile, Aruto continues to be obnoxious to everyone and I hope he develops another dimension, too.

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Still, he keeps me interested.

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Ichika imparts some inspiring words to Saku . . .

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. . . and Kai and Saku talk about debuting, and why bands aim to do it.

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Meeting Teppei later, Kai decides not to go skip out on practice the next day to see Mizuki, saying that he really needs to do things properly – like Aruto said.

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Nice to see a smile from Saku finally . . .

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. . . but he still has some reflecting to do.

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Meanwhile, Matsuyuki is convinced he has the key to turning Cloud5 into a compelling drama. Good, because the sooner he comes up with something new, the quicker this fight between Saku and Kota gets resolved.

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So, will there be any change at all in the situation by the end of this episode, or will Saku continue to test the entertainment value of despair?

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If Mizuki gets better, will SHARK eventually compete with Cloud5?

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And let’s say that Saku gets a backbone – will that mean bringing Kota back in only to push Aruto out?

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In terms of plot, everything is satisfactory, though developing slowly. We gets hints of more interesting things in this episode, but nothing definite. As you could probably tell, I felt this episode dragged a bit in terms of pace, but at least the conflicts were compelling.

Shigeoka-kun continues to do a great job as Saku, but I really have trouble sympathizing with a character like this. Not that I can’t see the appeal – I just personally prefer more outgoing characters. That confrontation between Saku and Kota in the guitar shop annoyed me – I really don’t understand what was going though Saku’s head there. It seemed deliberately contrived to drag things out.

We didn’t actually get much of Kota in this episode, and that probably contributed to how slow it felt. The first episode was much more engaging because we had him in the mix, and he’s got a bit more fire to him.

Abe-kun did a spectacular job of being an asshole who happens to be right. He’s much more of an asshole than Mizuki was, which is good because we don’t want him to be a complete duplicate, and there’s every indication that his strong desire for popularity will drive this story in interesting directions.

Ichika continues to seem much more mature and thoughtful in this season compared to her more emotional and impulsive approach in the first season, and I’m of two minds about the change. I like her developed personality, but I also think watching the old Ichika be passionate about the group would help to keep me interested in their fate. In any case, Yamashita-san is excellent as always.

So, the acting is fine, the characters still need more work (especially Haruya), and I’m looking for some of the characters to introduce new plot complications.