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Dated 13 December 2009: Slowly watching Futari wa Precure Splash Star

Cure Bloom and Cure Egret
Cure Bloom and Cure Egret discover new powers.

Futari wa Precure Slash Star is the redheaded stepchild of the Pretty Cure franchise. It "only" ran for one 49-episode season whereas the original and the Precure 5 series each had about 100 episodes. (It looks like Fresh Pretty Cure will join Splash Star after its current run; it is already due for replacement by Heartcatch Precure.) Because of its close similarities to the original series, Splash Star is often regarded as a ripoff.

Mai and Saki
Mai and Saki get along better than Honoka and Nagisa did at first.

However, after giving Splash Star a chance, I am prepared to suggest its similarities to the original series are more evolutionary than derivative. Obviously Toei realized it was giving Splash Star very similar elements to the original Futari wa Pretty Cure. While these parallels were likely motivated by conservative financial considerations, they aren't direct copies. For example, the Splash Star fighting styles are noticeably softer, with many more circular sweeps and flourishes than straight linear strikes. As a result, Splash Star might have some of the prettiest fights in the Pretty Cure franchise.

Mai and Flappy
Mai has an observatory dome and telescope on her house.
I hope that doesn't violate local zoning codes.

Each season of Pretty Cure seems to have more beam spamming than the one before it. Yes! Precure 5 GoGo! is famous for it. But back when it was still okay for musclebound goons to punch 14-year-old girls in the face, Cure Black and Cure White in Futari wa Pretty Cure, the first and most openly violent series of the franchise, spent quite a lot of time trading blows with humanoid opponents. This is a far cry from the current series, Fresh Pretty Cure, which has foregone hand-to-hand combat almost entirely; the Labyrinth goons are almost always content to monsterize some random nearby object to do all their fighting for them.

Cure Egret
Beam spamming is for losers, Kira.

Because of this progression, Splash Star occupies a nexus of sorts between the two styles, combining the two forms to mix flowers and sparkles with kicks in the gut and energy beams blasting down from the sky. It's a good combination, and had I watched Splash Star before, I would not have been surprised Cure Bloom and Cure Egret had the most telegenic attack of the first Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie.

Cure Egret and Cure Bloom
I can see my house from here.

Admittedly, I've not seen enough Splash Star to conclusively determine whether or not the criticisms levied against the show are wholly unjustified or not. However, from my initial impressions, it seems very likely a lot of potential viewers simply dismissed the show out of hand (as I originally did) without giving it a chance. So far, these aren't ripoffs—they're the sincerest form of flattery, and they don't prevent me from declaring Futari wa Precure Splash Star the most underrated title in the Pretty Cure franchise.

Dated 16 December 2009: Heartcatch Precure clarification

Heartcatch Pretty Cure
Cure White could choke both of these chicks out, easy.

Richard V. writes:

Just a bit of info about Heartcatch. It seems that it is actually going to be the second season of Fresh! Pretty Cure rather than a replacement. Info found at chartfag.wordpress.com.

I believe that chart contains incorrect information. My understanding is Heartcatch Precure will be a new series with new characters as depicted above.

Dated 13 April 2010: Winter 2010 season wrapup

Kou
I liked the manga version of this scene better, though.

Cross Game and Kimi ni Todoke went down to the wire as to which show would claim the top spot, but Cross Game pulled ahead for the win at the very last episode because it had a great ending and Kimi ni Todoke didn't have an ending at all.

Kurumi
Ume > Sawako.

To be fair, the Kimi ni Todoke manga is still running, so there wasn't much else the anime could do without making Kazehaya a vengeful bounty hunter years in the future after a sudden timeskip. On the other hand, Cross Game took a good manga ending and adapted it so well it's better than its source.

Chiaki and Nodame
Damn, Chiaki, give the kid a break.

I already said why I like Nodame Cantabile: Finale so much.

Ed
Here is a screenshot of Ed instead of Winry
again since it is technically his show.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood remains as solid as or better than the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime. I'm still perplexed why so many viewers who were excited by the first anime are apparently completely uninterested in the current show. I guess maybe they outgrew it. Brotherhood continues during the Spring 2010 season.

Noloty
The Book of Bantorra needed more Noloty.

I liked The Book of Bantorra mostly because it was so different. Imaginative and perplexing at nearly every turn, The Book of Bantorra kept me interested because I never knew what to expect from any episode. That, and I liked how the most powerful and dangerous librarian's primary weapon consisted of hucking very small rocks. I was also amused she spent a good portion of her spare time embroidering little bunny rabbits. Hamyuts was pretty well-rounded for a sadist.

Celty
I promise not to make any head jokes.

Durarara!! is a good show that I would enjoy more if I cared about any of the characters. They aren't badly written characters by any means; I just don't find them interesting for some reason. I don't even care about Celty—probably because she gets flustered so easily. It's like finding out your hot date is infected with moe. Yeah, you can get a shot to clear it right up, but sometimes the burning sensation just isn't worth it. I guess I kinda like the girl who smiles in every single one of her scenes and the perpetually angry dude who throws vending machines at people. DRRR!! also continues Spring 2010.

Cure Berry
Cure Berry needed more funnels.

Fresh Pretty Cure really took a dive after the Cure Passion arc. The ending was completely lackluster. When you compare it to the ending of the original Futari wa Pretty Cure series or the ending of its Max Heart sequel, it's blatantly obvious the Precure franchise is playing it safe and taking no chances anymore. The ending of the original Futari wa Pretty Cure was a complete downer that probably didn't traumatize many children but doubtlessly left many of them sad. Too bad, kids; life is real. The ending of Max Heart was a multi-episode fist fight between Zakenna dudes that didn't fight fair and the outnumbered Cure Black and Cure White. (Shiny Luminous was on the bench with too many fouls at this point.) Then they basically had to fight Lilith from The End of Evangelion. It was awesome. The Fresh Pretty Cure finale, on the other hand, faced off four Cures against a bad guy Kirk and Spock would have outwitted without leaving the bridge. And they received battle costume upgrades in the form of angel wings for some reason. Except for Cure Gundam Berry. Just had to be different, didn't you, Miki?


Okay, there was some misinformation in Chu-Bra! as well.

I didn't expect much from Chu-Bra!! at all. This was my PSP experiment show. Results from the experiment were inconclusive in this case, but I believe it would have made a difference with a show where the video and audio mattered more regarding one's enjoyment of the series. Instead of the fan service bonanza and a lot of pandering, Chu-Bra!! instead turned out to be the low-brow anime equivalent of a +5 Informative Slashdot post. It wasn't especially ambitious, but Chu-Bra!! surprised me by not being crass. Honest. Many of the underwear scenes were drawn extremely simplistically to presumably minimize the amount of fan service in the show. In fact, I think there were fewer gratuitious T&A scenes than there were underwear lessons in the style of the Gunbuster science lessons. I kid you not.

Kate and Hana
Hirano Aya is perfect as Katja.

Seikon no Qwaser is basically porn that's not intended to titillate. It's anime one-upmanship. Episode one: Junior high kid sucks high school tits to boost his shounen fighting powers. By episode 11 the show moves on to twincest lesbian S&M rapists. I'm dead serious. And it's planned for 24 episodes. I, for one, am looking forward to another cour with a great Hirano Aya character and the only Kawasumi Ayako game in town.

Hinagiku
I guess Hinagiku was all right since she had a yakuza posse.

Hanamaru Kindergarten was the least Gainaxy Gainax show I've ever seen. I would have liked it better if it had Gainax kicks, or if the lead characters weren't so despicable. I swear, Tsuchida could have learned a lot about ambition and guts from Love Hina's Urashima Keitaro. Yamamoto was supposed to be a Belldandy-type perfect woman, but she's dumb as all Hell.

Vamp
Vamp and Kayoko should get married.

Astro Fighter Sunred is about as good as it ever was, I suppose, but 40+ episodes of essentially the same jokes over and over gets a little tedious. I'll keep watching it if ANBU keeps subbing it, but Sunred really should have been a 13-episode series. I'd still rather watch a Kayoko + Vamp cooking show about bachelor chow.

Dark Precure
Cure Kero-chan.

Heartcatch Precure appears to be the most popular Pretty Cure series thus far, at least as far as mainstream acceptance goes. I'm really unimpressed by it, however, probably because Cure Blossom is a dojikko and her worst-Cure-ever shtick is not endearing at all. Needs more Dark Precure and Cure I-Know-It's-You-Hisakawa-Aya Moonlight. A mid-season replacement for Fresh Pretty Cure, look for Heartcatch to run at least another 40 episodes.

Dark Precure
I bet Dark Precure's original designation was Cure Sunshine.
[Update: Oops, there's already a character called Cure Sunshine.]

Final Tally: Cross Game > Kimi ni Todoke > Nodame Cantabile: Finale > Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (50) > The Book of Bantorra > Durarara!! (12) > Fresh Pretty Cure > Chu-Bra!! [PSP] > Seikon no Qwaser (11) > Hanamaru Kindergarten > Sunred II (40) > Heartcatch Precure (8). Dropped Winter 2010: None.

Dated 17 July 2010: Spring 2010 summary

Hawkeye and Mustang
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was the best show of Spring 2010.

I can't understand why Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood wasn't more popular. Many fans of the first anime refused to watch it at all, citing unconvincing reasons not to give it a chance. Personally, I suspect one reason they refused to watch it was because at least subconsciously they believed they had "outgrew" it and didn't want to sour nostalgic memories of the enthusiasm they had for Fullmetal Alchemist in their youth.

Misato attacks Keiichi as Aoi looks on
Misato standing in for the homunculus Lust. Misato is dirty.

True, the first 12 episodes did cover a lot of the same territory as the first anime, so it felt like a clip show to those who had watched the previous version, but starting from the episode where they freaking crucify Greed and sink him screaming and hollering into a pool of lava (oops, spoilers), everything is new. You'd think people would be willing to at least give it a chance. There's an entire year's worth of new material, for crying out loud.

Panthers Stadium
How odd. Panthers Stadium looks so much like Dodger Stadium.

Taking second place is the first half of the sixth and final season of Major. I started watching this baseball epic on a goof because I was so dissatisfied with One Outs and how it depicted actual gameplay in the show. I figured I'd try something aimed more toward actual baseball fans. I'm glad I did, because Major has been consistently good and offers the viewer a rare opportunity to follow characters from childhood to adulthood throughout a single mostly unbroken arc. I don't expect non-baseball fans to be as enamored with Major, though.

Kosuda and Yamada
What is it with anime girls and libraries?

B Gata H Kei would have scored a lot higher had it not squandered precious middle episodes fumbling clumsily with Yamada's rival. It's the anime equivalent of not being able to work a bra clasp. However, when all cylinders were firing, B Gata H Kei actually got things moving. It's really refreshing to see anime acknowledging again that sex exists. Compared to his typical Male Protagonist peers, Kosuda is a stud comparable to the likes of James Bond, Sam Malone, and dare I say it...The Fonz, even if he does suffer—as Eddie Murphy put it in Delirious—from occasional difficulties at "finding the pussy."

Kanae
I wasn't expecting to find Minori from Toradora!
in Mayoi Neko Overrun!, to tell you the truth.

Mayoi Neko Overrun! was not a good show, but it had good moments. I also liked its gimmick of changing directors every episode. Thanks to the best tsundere love confession I've ever seen (no, really) in episode three, two solidly brilliant episodes (four and seven), and consistently amusing portions sprinkled throughout (such as bits of the Jenga battle and basically everything Nozomi did as the sole rep for the "bloots" faction of the bloomers v. spandex shorts war), I'm willing to rank Mayoi Neko Overun! fourth—way higher than I expected when I first started watching it. I would definitely watch more if it got a second season.

Katja
Just so you know, it takes a lot to surprise Katja.

I've only seen 22 episodes of Seikon no Qwaser, so its position in the ranking could change once the remaining uncensored episodes are subbed. [Update: Watched all 24 episodes. No change in the rankings. Looking forward to season two.] Remember how Queen's Blade was so bad it was good? Seikon no Qwaser is so bad that it's AWESOME. This show is amazing. It's unpredictable and consistently manages to impossibly one-up itself as its viewers gape slack-jawed in disbelief. Fullmetal Alchemist could take some lessons from Seikon no Qwaser regarding how to astound viewers with sudden plot twists and intriguing developments. As a bonus, Katja is also one of Hirano Aya's best roles ever.

TK
Angel Beats! never explained why TK was
trapped in Japanese high school purgatory.

Angel Beats! Now there's a show that's so bad that it's good. I'm sorry, I could not take a moment of this crap seriously. Nevertheless, it was consistently entertaining and it always inspired—by far—the most discussion of any show airing spring 2010, at least in the cynical IRC enclave I know best. Angel Beats! definitely proved a show does not have to be good to be fun. Unfortunately, I suspect I've now offended many of its fans who disagree with my view of the show. Presumably they have a higher tolerance for Jun Maeda traumadrama than I do.

Cure Blossom
Cure Blossom, the worst Cure ever.

Heartcatch Precure is my least favorite Pretty Cure series thus far. I have two principal complaints about the show: First, Cure Blossom and Cure Marine are the weakest Cures of all time. I understand that's actually supposed to be a plot point, but it doesn't make them any more endearing. What it has done, on the other hand, is make me appreciate Cure Dream from Yes! Pretty Cure 5 a lot more. In her Nozomi guise, Cure Dream is a complete doofus and about as sorry as Tsubomi and Erika when it comes to day-to-day affairs. However, as a Cure, she's pretty solid, even if she does play for the Pretty Cure equivalent of a corporate softball team. Cure Blossom and Cure Marine, on the other hand, shouldn't even be playing in this league. Go back to the minors, losers. My second complaint about Heartcatch Precure is that the monster of the week is always bad feelings. Bad feelings? Really? Heartcatch Precure needs more Dark Precure—a lot more. I bet she doesn't have to take a God damn bus to go fight Pretty Cure when they're out of town.

Erika, Togusa, and Walker
Erika without her hat might as well be naked.

I wanted to like Durarara!! but I couldn't stand Masaomi, Anri, or Mikado. This show would have been a lot more interesting had it been about the crazy stalker girl, the motorcycle cop, and hatless Erika. It's no Baccano!, that's for sure.

Popura and Inami
Squirrel-girls? They all suck too.

I dropped WORKING!! after the first episode because I didn't like any of the characters. Well, the only ones I actively disliked were the "minicon" dude and Popura, mostly because I'm tired of anime's obsession with small girls. I heard the show gets good later on, but I've got more Detective Conan to watch. Speaking of which, I didn't include Detective Conan in this lineup because I'm still hundred of episodes behind, but there's a chance you might see it in the summer 2010 wrap up in a few months.

Dated 13 August 2010: Searching for the two hottest minutes in Pretty Cure All Stars DX2

Erika and Tsubomi
Erika and Tsubomi before they learn their place.

It turns out the second Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie is really the first Heartcatch Precure movie in disguise. Whereas the first All Stars DX movie was basically a greatest hits album of fan-favorite Pretty Cure attacks and moves, All Stars DX2 sort of has a narrative as we watch the two least effective Cures of all time stumble their way through battles way beyond their abilities. I've accused Cure Blossom and Cure Marine of being the worst Cures in history before, but that has always been part of their personae; Heartcatch Precure itself accuses Cure Blossom of being the worst Cure ever. While this is generally true during Heartcatch episodes because Cure Blossom is a dojikko, capable of only fighting bad feelings (no, really), it's especially true in All Stars DX2 because Cure Blossom and Cure Marine are the rookies and somebody at Toei does take the whole Cure Senpai bit seriously.

Miki, Setsuna, Erika, Tsubomi, Love, and Buki
Try not to laugh in their faces, Fresh Cures.

All Stars DX2 does allow the Heartcatch Cures to take the first stand and act as if they're going to solo the newly discovered enemy by themselves, but then the movie subjects them to the humiliation of being patronized by the Fresh Cures (who themselves spent most of the first All Stars movie incapacitated by sticky, sticky goo) before being promptly bailed out of trouble. The express train of shame doesn't stop there, however. The Fresh Cures end up saving the hapless Heartcatch duo twice during the course of the movie. Really, if you count Love keeping Tsubomi from getting pegged in the face by a plastic flashlight any other character in the Pretty Cure franchise could have easily dodged (including that walking mailbox thing), Fresh saves Heartcatch three times. By my count, one or both of the Heartcatch Cures is rescued no less than six times in the course of a 70-minute movie. No wonder the other Heartcatch characters with cameo appearances in the movie pretended not to know them. Oh yes, there are cameos. Everyone and her mother is in this movie.

Love and Erika
Purses are so Freudian, Love.

If the first Pretty Cure All Star movie was the Home Run Derby (and it kinda was, really, with Cures just teeing off at will), DX2 is the actual game. There's an assortment of "All Star" bad guys from seasons past in DX2, most of which I'm pretty sure returned from beyond the grave. No David Bowie, though. Sorry. Take it up with the Ghost of Olivia Newton-John. No Zakenna butlers either. Man, those guys sure got shafted. They probably weren't even evil!

But I digress.

Although previously vanguished enemies return, it's obvious the Precure All Stars movies cannot be canonical. Besides the temporal anomalies and the characters playing fast-and-loose with their secret identities and those of the mascots, there's just no clear way to rationalize the various inconsistencies and contradictions among the various Precure generations. For example, Max Heart non-combatants conveniently pass out during Zakenna attacks. Conversely, the Fresh-verse populace suffers the kind of gruesome fates you might expect of civilians on the mahou shoujo battlefield; they simply just don't care. (I think Clovertown should probably be named after a different plant.) Even differences in character designs have to be handwaved away just so the successive generations can play ball.

Buki and Love
After hanging around Erika and Tsubomi, Buki and Love got a lot less...aerodynamic.

In the case of Fresh Pretty Cure and Heartcatch Precure, it means the amount of time characters from both series are in the same frame simultaneously is limited, and the Fresh girls' famously pronounced bosoms are whisked away, leaving all the characters uniformly flat. [Setsuna: Ha! Now you know how I feel!] They also don't stand shoulder-to-shoulder much, since Miki would be about two feet taller than Erika, for example.

Setsuna
Poor Easy. First they took her powers, then they took her adulthood,
and then they took her bust. Now they've taken her nose.

Towards the end, this conglomeration of vastly disparate character designs gets mushed into a rightfully maligned CGI battle that doesn't fit with the rest of the movie at all, but probably heralds the future of Pretty Cure animation if I don't miss my guess.

CGI Cures
It's the circus, Pretty Cure.

One thing All Stars DX2 did get right was addressing the disparity in the limitations each Cure generation faces. For example, Nagisa and Honoka are unable to transform into Cure Black and Cure White unless (1) they are together, and (2) they have Mepple and Mipple with them. On the other hand, girls from the Yes! crew can transform individually whenever the Hell they want. Although this liberates the Yes! girls quite a bit in terms of the restraints on their abilities, this freedom does introduce a number of hazards from which the traditional restrictions safeguard. Really, they're just asking for trouble in Nozomi's case. You know it's just a matter of time before she dozes off in class and transforms into Cure Dream in her sleep. Five will get you ten Nozomi eventually levels the entire school with a stray somnambulistic PRETTY CURE SHOOTING STAR one afternoon after eating a big lunch.

Cure Dream
Nozomi? Dojikko basket case. Cure Dream? Full-time ass kicker.

So what else does All Stars DX2 do right? Well, the Splash Star Cures once again have the best looking moves of the movie, especially the part when they simultaneously Fastball Special the Heartcatch Cures into almost doing something useful. After the first All Stars movie and 26 episodes (and counting) of the series proper, I have newfound respect for Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash Star. This is easily the most underrated and overlooked generation of all the Precure series. I'm guilty of it too, but it really was overshadowed by the first generation and overlooked by Honoka & Nagisa loyalists. They'll probably always get the short end during future Precure projects, but they certainly make the most of the little screen time they do get.

Cure Bloom, Cure Marine, and Cure Egret
Armpit service.

It's also nice how All Stars DX2 packs in essentially every single character that ever had a speaking role in any Pretty Cure series or movie. It didn't get everyone, or at least I didn't see everyone, but they damn near very well did. The entire movie is a "Where's Waldo?" exercise in identifying as many supporting Precure characters as you can. Still, I hope they don't attempt to do this much more. It really doesn't make sense to me to have supporting characters with superpowers of their own riding the pine, contributing nothing to the fight except some half-hearted Miracle Light waving. Cure Moonlight, Cure Sunshine, Cure Grandma, Wester, Souler, et al., I see you. Way to be only as useful as the six-year-old girl sitting in the eighth row of the theater. Thanks for nothing.

Crowd of supporting characters
Yeah, there are spoilers in this picture.

I do hope there are more All Stars movies, although with the ever ballooning cast of Cures crowding the 70-minute-attention-span ceiling, maybe Toei will be better off making Pretty Cure Team-Up movies, wherein the (presumably) eventually competent Heartcatch Cures show next year's newbies the ropes. Hope Tsubomi keeps Love's phone number on speed-dial.

Cure Black and Cure White
I don't know which explanation would be the
more appalling: That Cure Black and Cure White
missed, or that they fired a warning shot.

Oh, and to answer the titular question, the two hottest minutes of Pretty Cure All Stars DX2 are the combined sequences of all the times the Heartcatch Cures had their necks saved by other Cures. I knew Cure Blossom and Cure Marine were good for something.

Dated 9 October 2010: Summer 2010 season wrapup

Summer 2010 wasn't an especially good season of anime:

Major season six > Asobi ni Iku yo! > Strike Witches 2 > Detective Conan (579-590) > Seitokai Yakuin Domo > Shiki (1-11) > Amagami SS (1-13) > Heartcatch Precure! (20-33) > Shukufuku no Campanella.

Dropped: Legend of the Legendary Heroes (1) | Worse than Cosprayers: Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi (5) > Mitsudomoe (1).

Major was easily my favorite show from summer 2010, although I felt the "yips" arc went on too long.

Aoi
This was my favorite part of the OP.

Asobi ni Iku yo! was a lot better than I was expecting. It stayed fun the whole way through, but I would have liked to see more of the evil-type Momiji. And they never explained what the deal was with her older younger sister.

Minna and Mio
Not this shit again.

To some degree, I enjoyed the second Strike Witches season more than the first one. Nevertheless, it really did feel like a re-hash of the first season.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. I continue to enjoy it as I plow through the hundreds of unwatched episodes I have remaining. As you can see, I've long since realized there are no meaningful spoilers in Detective Conan, so I've started watching the currently airing episodes along with my backlog of older ones.

Aria, Tsuda, Shino, and Suzu
The rules segments with the drum and whistle were my favorite parts.

I really enjoyed Seitokai Yakuin Domo and its relentless stream of sex jokes and short jokes. It was probably funnier to native speakers, though; it's tough to adapt verbal comedy to different languages.

Shiki hit a long skid of tedious episodes, but the recent ones are quite good, especially if you enjoy hollering directions to idiot B-movie characters. E.g., "Don't go in there!"

Amagami SS is pure cheese. That said, I still look forward quite a bit to each new episode as Potato-kun attempts to trophy-love every girl in the school.

Cologne
Obi-Wan Kenobi supplants Tart as the least annoying Precure mascot.

I'm still not a huge fan of Heartcatch Precure! but it is growing on me.

Shukufuku no Campanella kinda sucked, but all the scenes with the Tortilla sisters or Agnes made it worth it. Also, "ARMAGEDDON JA YO!"

I tried watching Legend of the Legendary Heroes which I figured would be tongue-in-cheek, but it wasn't very interesting. Dropped after one episode.

Now, two shows I not only dropped but considered to be, ahem, WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS: Ookami-san to Shichinin no Nakama-tachi was inexcusably terrible. How J.C. Staff fucked this up, I have no idea. I dragged my way through five episodes. Finally, I realize I'm in the minority in not enjoying Mitsudomoe, but the only thing I saw in the one episode I managed to watch was ugly children doing horrid things.

Dated 30 October 2010: Autumn 2010 initial impressions

Dark Marine
Dark Marine > Cure Marine.

This is a relatively light season for me. I'm only following two new shows, and I may have dropped one of them already.

Stocking and Panty
Striped swords are an otaku myth.

My favorite show this season thus far is Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt which I basically only started watching because it's a Gainax production. It's crass and kinda dirty, but a pretty fun cartoon to watch. I'm rather pleased Panty is such a slut. God bless sluts.

Haibara and Conan
Any excuse for more Hayashibara Megumi is a good one.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. Starting with episode 591, this appears to be another solid season of the same sort of thing Detective Conan has been reliably churning out for years.

Cure Moonlight and Dark Moonlight
Dark Moonlight > Cure Moonlight.

Heartcatch Precure! needs to do more with it's new (old) 17-year-old Cure—the oldest Cure of the franchise if you don't count Cure Grandma (and if you accept Setsuna as a 14-year-old). Sadly, I'm disappointed with the way Hisakawa Aya (Hisakawa Aya! for crying out loud!) delivers her transformation announcement. She could take some lessons from Yukana on this one. Seriously, though. When Yukana starts going off about Pretty Cure's "beautiful souls," that is some good shit right there.

Rihoko
Wait until Rihoko finds out she's fatter than Meyrin.

As far as gimmicks go, I still prefer the one Hatsukoi Limited employed. Nevertheless, Amagami SS continues to provide mildly amusing episodes about Potato-kun's serial harem. Despite my dislike for dumb girls (Mouri Ran being a one of anime's All-Time Babes notwithstanding) and my loathing of dojikkos, the first Rihoko episode was rather endearing. She's slow and clumsy and an unwitting compulsive eater with low willpower, but somehow manages to be a sweet kid. If this keeps up, Rihoko may surpass SEX HAIR as the Best Girl of the show.

Megumi
Are genki vampires moé?

Shiki is still the anime equivalent of a B movie, but I'm pretty pleased Megumi gets around a lot for a dead girl.

Haruka
Between the Tortilla sisters and Haruka, 2010 has been
a good year for off-the-shoulder dresses and blouses.

Finally, I've probably dropped Psychic Detective Yakumo, but I may pick it up again if I get sufficiently bored with the above shows. It's not exactly bad, just sort of uninteresting. The presumptive love interest is a real dish, but I'm getting impatient waiting for her to shoot someone in the face. This is still a Bee Train show, right?

Dated 25 December 2010: Cure Grandma is actually Lena Sayers [SPOILERS]

Hanasaki Kaoruko
Hanasaki Kaoruko, Tsubomi's grandmother.

If you've been following Heartcatch Precure! you'll know "Cure Grandma," Tsubomi's old nana, was a Cure back in the day known as Cure Flower. After her final battle with Dune (not the version with Sting), she's mostly been slumming around town and taking care of plants in her greenhouse.

Cure Flower
We were totally cheated out of a transformation sequence.

Surprising no one, I'm sure, they finally found an excuse to drag Cure Flower out of retirement and she promptly goes all Miss Maria on us to whale on some deadbeats that Cure Blossom, Cure Marine, Cure Sunshine, and Cure Moonlight weren't able to handle on their own because there were only four of them. (Maybe they were suffering from too much Christmas Cake.)

Lena Sayers
Arika's mom kinda doesn't fight fair.

Cure Grandma's rheumatism prevents her from breaking out her flashiest attacks, but she does pull a page from the Book of MILF Beat Downs by copying and pasting some Lena Sayers attacks before returning to her gardening.

Flower Carnival
Zetsubou no Flower Carnival

Really, though, Cure Flower's appearance raises more questions than it answers. Does this make her a viable All Stars DX candidate? (We saw her riding the pine along with Cure Sunshine and Cure Moonlight in DX2.) What happened to her partner? (Cures don't work alone.) And why does her mascot transform into a ninja? That seems really unfair. Unfortunately, there will probably be some handwaving, and aside from a token reappearance before the end of the season, I suspect that will be the last we see of this old gunfighter.