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Dated 19 March 2006: Ginban Kaleidoscope

Sakurano Kazusa
Sakurano Kazusa

After seeing it mentioned in the Animeslice blog, I grew curious about Ginban Kaleidoscope. This show is the very model of the AYAKO DOCTRINE at work. Mamiko Noto, Chiwa Saito, and the voice of Hibiki from VanDread also contribute to Ginban Kaleidoscope, if you need additional reasons to watch it.

The show seems to be a shoujo sports anime, but is heavy on neither shoujo nor sports anime idioms or cliches. Kawasumi Ayako plays the lead character, Sakurano Kazusa, an aspiring figure skater trying to make the Winter Olympics. She becomes possessed by the ghost of Pete Pumps, a Canadian stunt pilot who died in a plane crash.

Pete and Kazusa
Pete and Kazusa

I'm no fan of figure skating, even though I thought the Tanya Harding v. Nancy Kerrigan drama of yore was great entertainment of the highest order. Despite my ambivalence to figure skating, I found Ginban Kaleidoscope pretty interesting, if more for the verbal gymnastics than anything else. Hearing Ayako's English outburst in the first episode sold me on the show, and her brief conversation with Mamiko Noto in English was icing on the cake. I should note that Mamiko speaks in Russian in Ginban Kaleidoscope, although she doesn't have nearly enough lines.

Thanks to the ever-welcome Ayako Kawasumi, I didn't miss Mamiko's presence much. Ginban Kaleidoscope is a surprisingly dialogue-heavy show, featuring lots of banter between Kazusa and Pete. I can't exactly claim this is Ayako's best work, but it is a good part in that it affords her the opportunity to do quite a bit of ranting, which I can't get enough of. Ayako Doctrine adherents can't afford to overlook Ginban Kaleidoscope. Seriously, it has Ayako bitching people out in English, Mamiko speaking Russian, and peculiar mix of background characters regularly speaking thickly-accented semi-Engrish and fluent English. What's not to love?

Sakurano Kazusa
Sakurano Kazusa

Ginban Kaleidoscope is a short 12-episode series with a heartful, realistic ending. Well, as realistic as you could hope for a show about an Olympic-level Japanese figure skater possessed by the ghost of a Canadian pilot. I didn't have any objections to the ending (significant in that the majority of anime series seem to falter with regard to their endings), and I found the series to be an enjoyable and engaging diversion from more heavy-handed, serious fare. For example, the "waitress" episode was cute (although I would have liked a "maid" episode as well as a nod to Ayako Kawasumi's automatic maiden sweetness in Mahoromatic), and seeing Kazusa grow to accept Pete's presence over the course of 12 episodes was satisfying. Perhaps as one final compliment—I would have liked more episodes; Ginban Kaleidoscope left me wanting more.

Dated 6 November 2006: Soukou no Strain

Sara
Sara.

AYAKO DOCTRINE invoked.

Soukou no Strain came at me entirely under the radar. I had never even heard of it, but after discovering two episodes on the loose and finding that the series boasted an Ayako Kawasumi-voiced mecha pilot as its lead character, I was sold.

Young Sara
Young Sara.

Soukou no Strain opens with some backstory on its lead, Sara, and a little information about the persistent war at the heart of the series. From there it leaps forward and races relentlessly. The first episode is pitched with battle and action, and does not dwell long on the character elements. This pace works well and keeps the story engaging coming out of the gate, saving the character-driven moments for the second episode. (Also, damn, those bitches better back the Hell off of Sara.)

strain
A Strain.

Some have favorably compared the C.G. mecha battles to VanDread. I think this is fairly accurate. The style of fighting is very reminiscent of VanDread, indeed, with quick, darting attacks and lunges.

The fan service is nowhere near as high as in VanDread, though. However, we do discover that Sara's snug flight suit lacks sufficient space to permit a brassiere. (Well, there's also some creepy nudity in the OP.)

Older Sara
Not-quite-so-young Sara.

I don't care for the mecha cockpits. These entirely encase the pilots up to their necks, Captain Christoper Pike-style. This reduces most of the in-cockpit battle cuts to stills of motionless heads screaming senselessly. I must conclude that this is grossly inferior to the favored practice of allowing full freedom of movement so that a mecha pilot can shove a lever forward at full force while bellowing the colorful name of the intended attack.

Sara in the heat of battle.
Sara in the heat of battle.

In addition to doing a fair amount of hollering and screaming in Soukou no Strain, Ayako Kawasumi also does the next-episode previews and the sponsor messages. Oh, and Tanaka Rie and Yukana are both also in Soukou no Strain if you care about that sort of thing.

Allegedly, Soukou no Strain is loosely based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Wait, what?

Dated 9 August 2007: THE AYAKO DOCTRINE

Kawasumi Ayako
Kawasumi Ayako.

Origins of the Ayako Doctrine: Circa 2002, with J.C. Staff riding its recent successes of Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar and the Azumanga Daioh anime, members of the Something Awful anime forum developed the J.C. Staff Clause (i.e., an anime produced by J.C. Staff should be watched), and invoked it when speculating about the quality of unreleased shows.

Kazusa
Ginban Kaleidoscope.

As an aside, "J.C. Staff Clause" itself likely benefited from its name's similarity to the "J.C. Crew," a band of Internet miscreants with ties to Something Awful's forums. But I digress.

Yuki
Princess Nine.

Later (likely 2003) a member (probably ricequeen) of the channel #raspberryheaven or its offshoots applied the J.C. Staff Clause reasoning (an anime by J.C. Staff will be good) to his fervent devotion to the seiyuu Kawasumi Ayako, bringing the "Ayako Clause" to the #raspberryheaven vernacular (and effectively adding the clause itself to the Raspberry Heaven common law).

Miu
Piano.

In 2004, a participant in #marimite, Evirus (yes, that's right), unilaterally determined that the principles defined by the existing variants of the Ayako Clause, as practiced, constituted dogma: THE AYAKO DOCTRINE.

Chikane
Kannazuki no Miko.

The Ayako Doctrine simply dictates the following axiom:

Any anime featuring Kawasumi Ayako should be watched.

Note that the Ayako Doctrine does not claim every anime featuring Ayako Kawasumi will be good, nor does it dictate that these anime must be watched to completion. The Ayako Doctrine merely compels the viewer's consideration, reasoning that her presence can only be positive. Ergo, ceteris paribus, Ayako anime should be prioritized over other shows.

Fuu
Samurai Champloo.

So ordered.

Dated 10 December 2008: Viewer mail in re Scrapped Princess

I noticed you didn't mention the AYAKO DOCTRINE for Scrapped Princess, I must say even though Winia was a secondary character, it deserves mention.
-Epi

Ah, quite right.

Dated 9 January 2009: Piano is the Ayako Doctrine at work

Miu
Miu has serious hair.

I still can't believe RightStuf licensed Piano. I hope I'm not the only person to have bought the DVDs. Piano is a 10-episode series that seemingly few people watched to the end. I'm not saying Piano is boring, but it's very slice-of-life, not a whole lot happens, and Miu spends most of the series mildly unhappy the way only a young teenage girl can be. So it's a hard sell even if Miu has the second best hair in the history of anime.

Ayako Kawasumi
The Piano DVD collection also features a number
of shaky-cam interviews with Kawasumi Ayako.

I originally watched Piano because of the Ayako Doctrine. The Ayako Doctrine applies to Piano a bit more than it typically does since Kawasumi Ayako (a skilled pianist) not only voices the main character, she also composed the opening theme and presumably plays the piano as Miu.

Yuuki
Yuuki also has serious hair.

There's not much else to say about Piano. It is a pleasant little show about family and relationships. Miu doesn't really have her act together, but it's forgivable since she's still a kid. Her greatest challenge during the short series is struggling against the temptation to just give up when things get tough. To that end, she performs much better than say Satou from Welcome to the N.H.K. Beyond that, there's not much drama. You're not going to see anyone bent over a baby grand, for example.

Shirakawa
Miu's stern piano teacher.

Is Piano still worth watching? Well, I like it. And if you follow the Ayako Doctrine, viewing at least the first two episodes is compulsory. Despite starring Kawasumi Ayako in a piano-based series, there really aren't many similarities to Nodame Cantabile. In fact, there aren't many similarities to very many shows now that I think about it. I suppose you could say that's its main draw: Piano is unique in being so ordinary.

Dated 22 May 2009: Pandora Hearts is so good I can't even tell what's going on

Alice
Pandora Hearts celebrates Alice's thighs as Kannagi did Nagi's.

I started watching Pandora Hearts for three reasons. First, the AYAKO DOCTRINE. Second, Kajiura Yuki composing the musical score. Third, Savage Genius contributing the ED.

Alice
Warning: Alice will boot to the head without hesitation.

After seven episodes, I'm still not really sure what to make of the show. The music is great, but it isn't as memorable as Kajiura Yuki's best work. The style and appearance of the show remind me a little of American McGee's Alice—or at least remind me I never finished it. It's probably all the clockwork and Victorian madness. Kawasumi Ayako does play a character named Alice, and there are definite influences from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but Pandora Hearts has less to do with that book than Soukou no Strain has to do with A Little Princess.

Alice
Alice is displeased.

Alice is my main reason for liking Pandora Hearts so far. She has great hair and insane grins and so much verve. I get the feeling Ayako is having a lot of fun voicing the character. Alice makes every scene she's in captivating, even if it's just about her eating chicken.

Oz
Oz about to get fucked up by some dolls. Good luck, guy.

Curiously, despite the numerous groups fansubbing Pandora Hearts, I am the only person I know actually watching it. Then again, I'm the only one I know watching Cross Game, the fifth season of Major, or Fresh Pretty Cure. Everyone's too busy watching K-On! over and over, I guess. Anyway, if you feel like giving Pandora Hearts a try, the widescreen versions are up to episode three now; you'll need to watch that far to see Abyss. The video quality on the HD upscales are horrible, though.

Dated 3 June 2009: I dropped Eden of the East and K-On! but I'm still watching Queen's Blade

Reina
Reina is always back-to-back with Death.

Queen's Blade is awesome. No, wait. It's horrible. Actually, it's awesome because it's horrible. Or is it horrible because it's awesome? You kinda have to see it for yourself. On the one hand, it is wall-to-wall fan service. And I don't mean soft core Hatsukoi Limited fan service, I mean hard service of the "Look at all the tits! There must be...57 tits!" variety. And also the snake-rape and acid-lactation variety. No, really. And it goes on like that.

Tomoe
I wonder if Tomoe even knows what kind of show she's in.

But it also has A-List seiyuu in nearly every role. Kawasumi Ayako plays the lead girl, an inept middle-child named Reina who manages to lose nearly every single fight. (Really, a victory for Reina is a loss during which she doesn't piss herself.) Ayako isn't in Lafiel mode by any means, but she's taking it a lot more seriously than her He Is My Master role, for example. And it has Noto Mamiko playing an absurd miko character, also dead seriously. I guess it's a chance to get away from her Shimako typecast.

Airi
Of course there's a maid character.

And it has Hirano Aya yammering at a thousand words per minute about all sorts of insane crap related to this "Queen's Blade" reality television show she's trying to promote, albeit with only dubious success. That's what Queen's Blade is technically about: a ridiculous contest, but none of the characters seem especially motivated. I can't really blame 'em. Nanael is crazy.

Nanael
I still think Nanael is making it up as she goes along.

On a whole, Queen's Blade isn't a show you watch for its merits—you watch because it's a curiosity. Still, it's a freak show, not a train wreck. If it were a better show, Queen's Blade would be boring and pointless. If it were any worse it probably wouldn't be any fun. As it is, it's brilliant slack-jawed entertainment and I can't stop watching.

Dated 12 January 2010: The Anime Experiment of Winter 2010

Ladies Versus Butlers! random screenshot
Entirely random Ladies Versus Butlers! screenshot.
That someone gets groped comes as no surprise.

I am looking for a currently airing series to watch exclusively on my Playstation Portable. This will have to be a low-expectation series I would not otherwise care about, because I don't want to "waste" a show for a dubious experiment. Hopefully this will work out better than this experiment.

Ladies Versus Butlers! random screenshot
Another random Ladies Versus Butlers! screenshot.
Holy crap, that is a lot of hair.

Every single anime series I've watched for the past six years or so has been on a television (aside from episodes on a computer while traveling or times I re-watched something without giving it my full attention). My theory is that everything is better when viewed on a home theater setup instead of on a computer monitor, and even more so when compared to the streaming video formats that have grown so popular recently. I believe these practices make some viewers less tolerant of shows they might otherwise enjoy were the viewing conditions more ideal.

Ookami Kakushi random screenshot
A random Ookami Kakushi screenshot.
I want to mow my lawn with a scythe.

So, I'm going to find a series for which I have low expectations and try by to watch it entirely on my PSP to see how it all pans out. Besides, I never use my PSP for anything. The only question now: Which series? I'm thinking Ladies Versus Butlers! because of The Ayako Doctrine. Another possibility is Ookami Kakushi, mostly because I love FictionJunction Yuuka. Hell, maybe even Chu-Bra!! if SDS is serious. I don't really care what it is, as long as it's not unwatchably bad or so good I'll wish I had watched it on a TV. However, regardless of the show, I refuse to do my own re-encoding even though it's pretty easy to do. It's a matter of principle.