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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 31 December 2010: 2010 Girl of the Year

Aoba
Aoba is the Best Girl of 2010 even though
Adachi Mitsuru can only draw one face.

Congratulations to Tsukishima Aoba, 2010's Best Girl. This was a pretty easy choice despite a lot of strong contenders. More about Aoba herself and the rest of this year's nominations below.

Shimizu
Shimizu sees Goro again after a long absence.

Shimizu Kaoru from the sixth season of Major got an automatic nomination by virtue of being last year's winner. Unfortunately, Shimizu did not get many scenes during this epic baseball show's final season, and had many of her presumably more important moments from the manga relegated to the montage during the last episode. I suspect Major probably has enough material for a seventh season, but I don't think we'll get any more in anime form unless there are OVAs.

Conan and Ran
This usually means somebody's about to get fucked.

I've decided to add Mouri Ran to basically every Best Girl of the Year list from here on out on general principle because Ran is one of anime's All Time Babes. Detective Conan doesn't change much and appears capable of running indefinitely, and Ran is enough of a sweetheart that she could potentially win this contest any year, so consider her a baseline metric of sorts. Certainly anyone below the Mouri Ran Line has no hope of winning.

Sasha and Katja
Katja breaks Sasha's brain.

Only people who watched Seikon no Qwaser will fully understand why Katja gets a nomination. Too many people either did not watch the show at all or gave up on it far too early to fully appreciate just how ridiculous Qwaser managed to be. Katja's contributions are too numerous to list here, but I'll point to three key moments that cemented her nomination in 2010's Best Girl competition: (1) The scene where she connects her phone to her television. (2) The railgun powered by breast milk. (3) The scene where incorruptibly loyal Hana comes flying in out of left field.

Yamada
Yamada is basically Ranpha, the early years.

Yamada from B Gata H Kei barely makes the list for being outrageous (only medium outrageous in a year containing Seikon no Qwaser) and for being an excuse for Yukarin to say amazing things.

Nagato Yuki
Be glad this isn't a Key story, Yuki.

Nagato Yuki qualifies this year because of the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie. As I've said before, this is more her movie than Haruhi's. Now, in order to answer the obvious question that people who have seen the movie must be asking without venturing into spoiler territory before those who have not seen it, let me just say this: Based on how Kyon views Nagato in the beginning of the film, the middle, and the at the end, I think the impact she has on him (and hopefully the viewer) elevates her into the upper pantheon of this year's nominees.

Ika Musume
Squids love the long ball.

A late arrival, especially because I did not start watching Shinryaku! Ika Musume until it was already half over, Ika Musume herself easily gains a nomination as one of 2010's Best Girls. A genius at everything (except invading) and filled with verve and imagination, Ika Musume should be on everyone's list of this season's Best Girls. Well, I guess there is that technicality about whether or not squids can be girls, but I consulted the judges panel and they allowed it.

Aoba
Nobody on the team trains harder than Aoba.

Finally, our victor, Tsukishima Aoba from Cross Game wins the title of Best Girl of the Year for 2010 with her solid showing throughout the yearlong baseball anime. Aoba nearly won the title last year, and was an early favorite to win even though Cross Game ended in March.

Aoba
The best coaches are in the stands.
-Charles M. Schulz

It's easy to describe Aoba as another Haruka Tomatosauce tsundere, but I believe Aoba honestly hated Kou when they were children—jealous of the attention he got from her sister. However, Aoba grudgingly comes to respect Kou's physical talents for baseball and dedicates her considerable knowledge and love for the game into transforming him into the type of pitcher who can make her sister's dream come true. My memory is very hazy on this point, so the accuracy of the following anecdote is suspect at best: I believe Don Drysdale once lamented it was a shame the Los Angeles Dodgers did not have a pitcher with Orel Hershiser's brain in Kevin Gross' body. That's basically the idea behind the Aoba + Kou combination in Cross Game. It's a pity Adachi Mitsuru could not re-write the rules of Japanese high school baseball, but Aoba's head—and her heart—were enough for her to win it all this year, even if her arm could not officially compete.

Asuka
That's still an awesome phone.

If you're wondering why Shikinami Asuka Langley didn't win by default, it's because Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 came out in 2009. Also Soryu > Shikinami.

[Update: Added Panty from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.]

Dated 28 April 2011: Spring 2011 initial impressions

Ohana and Minko
This is pretty half-assed choking, Minko.

The best show I'm watching this season is Hanasaku Iroha which basically takes Saten Ruiko from A Certain Scientific Railgun and forces her to work in an inn with some misfits. Theres the MAMIKORE gossipy Tomoe, the bitchy Minko, and the annoyingly meek Nako. There are also a number of adult characters, all with their own problems.

Ohana
Even the turbo-genki voice is normal.

One thing I've come to enjoy about Ito Kanae is she does a fairly normal voice. Not that I don't enjoy high-fructose Yukana sweetness, for example, but that is a very artificial-sounding voice. Ito Kanae, like Sawashiro Miyuki, uses a more natural voice for her characters. Hanazawa Kana used to have one too back in her Zegapain days, but now she's all about the Hanakana Distortion Field brainwashing viewers.

Ran and Kazuha
Ran really should get herself a Surefire flashlight one of these days.

Detective Conan continues this season from episode 610 with a Hattori arc. Where Hattori goes, Kazuha follows, bringing with her a Kansai-ben Miyamura Yuko (Soryu Asuka Langley) that I enjoy far too much. If you didn't know already, Rei and Asuka are both recurring characters in Detective Conan as Ai and Kazuha, respectively. Both need more screentime.

Minami and Yuki
Nice hat.

Moshidora, also known as Drucker in the Dugout or as What If a Female Student Manager of a High School Baseball Team Reads Drucker's Management? (Full title: Moshi Kōkō Yakyū no Joshi Manager ga Drakkā no "Management" o Yondara) is frankly kinda low-budget, but it's refreshing in that it obviously caters towards adults, despite the high school setting.

Minami
Minami must be reading an abridged edition. My copy is twice as thick.

As background material, I've actually started reading Peter Drucker's Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, but I'm only about halfway through the 800-page book. Because Moshidora airs daily and only has 10 episodes, I don't think I'm going to finish reading the book before I finish watching the anime. What I really want to do is read the novel that inspired the anime.

Hibiki
Hibiki works from the stretch, but I didn't see her check the runner first.

Suite Precure is in the process of bringing in more Cures, although the masked Cure Muse seems pretty obviously the sort-of-evil but out of work Siren to me. Personally, I have a feeling Cure Muse will be unmasked soon enough to henceforce be Cure Beat. Whether or not this means we'll see more of Cure Muse after that, I'm not sure, but maybe Suite Precure will handle it like Splash Star managed part-time Cures Cure Bright and Cure Windy.

Tsubasa
Suddenly, a magikal girl appears.

Seikon no Qwaser II continues to test the limits of what its viewers can expect and accept. Although off to a "slow" start, there is already a sub-plot about a previously smug bitch who has her soma extracted against her will, turning her quiet and meek while she burns with the subsequent shame and guilt she carries from enjoying the experience. Honestly, though, one thing Seikon no Qwaser has always done well is challenge expectations. There are allegories in the second season that address serious issues in irreverent ways. You don't have to care about those parts to necessarily enjoy Qwaser, but the fact that they're there is one of the reasons why Qwaser is not merely a smutty fan service show its dismissive detractors assume it is. Seikon no Qwaser does for fan service what Shin Seiki Evangelion did for giant robots, what ef ~a tale of memories~ did for moe blobs, and what Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica did for magikal girls.

Wolverine
So who remembers when Wolverine was canonically five-foot three?

I dropped X-Men after two episodes, but not because it was bad. On the contrary, it was pretty good—way better than the '90s cartoon. Aside from the questionable casting of Hisakawa Aya as Storm, I basically have no issues with the show but I think I'll like it better in its inevitable dubbed incarnation. It's pretty obvious the X-Men anime will probably air dubbed on Cartoon Network or something. Aside from setting the first arc in Japan and, y'know, all the violence, it is very much a western-friendly cartoon. In fact, it's so western that I have to wonder if they set the first arc in Japan because the producers were afraid Japanese viewers wouldn't watch a western property without something they could directly relate to, just as the western producers for the upcoming Akira movie feel compelled to cast caucasian actors in Japanese roles because they're afraid western viewers won't watch something they can't directly relate to.

Dated 28 June 2011: Early nominations for 2011's Girl of the Year

Shigeno Kaoru
Spoilers: Kaoru won't win this year.

Halfway through 2011, I propose the following tentative nominations for Girl of the Year. I'm providing this update so characters from shows that ended during 2011's first half don't get overlooked by the myopia that seems to set in each December.

Shigeno Momoko
Go on, Momoko, bitch those jackasses out.

As a former winner (2009), Shimizu Kaoru from Major would normally get an automatic nomination for returning in the OVA epilogue, but she's inelligible because it came out December 2010. Unfortunately, this means I also can't nominate Momoko from the same OVA. Momoko first appeared in Major season one as Goro's kindergarten teacher and has been a regular part of the series ever since. She definitely deserves recognition for her contribution to the best baseball anime of all time. (Neither could have won in 2010, by the way, as Aoba from Cross Game had that title locked up nearly from day one.)

Ran
This usually means someone's about to get fucked.

Mouri Ran gets a nomination because Detective Conan is as good as it ever was. As long as the series continues to air (or the franchise continues to churn out OVAs and movies), Ran will get a nomination by virtue of being a long-suffering sweet kid and one of anime's All Time Babes. Actually, I say "as good as it ever was," but this year it might be better than ever. It's still really good at least.

Minami
It helps that Minami has awesome hair.

Minami from Moshidora adds to the growing list of nominations from baseball anime. Minami's initial contribution to Moshidora is a gimmick, but it's an interesting one, and both Minami and Moshidora continue to grow over the course of the season.

Hana
Hana and Katja should get their own show when Qwaser ends.

Hana from Seikon no Qwaser II carried the show during its early uncertain episodes, and I'm not just saying that because part of it took place inside her ass. Hey, that's two characters nominated now for Hikasa Youko (best known for her role as Mio in K-On!).

Charles
Charles is from fork-lovin' France.

It's a pity Houki didn't have much to offer in IS: Infinite Stratos, otherwise Hikasa Youko might have managed a hat trick. At least Infinite Stratos doesn't walk away emptyhanded, though. Its very popular Charles easily gets a nomination even though she unconvincingly tried to disguise herself as a boy initially.

Homura
Also for being a magikal girl King of the Battle.

Homura from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica gets a nomination for her indefatigable [SPOILERS. DECLASSIFY IN 30 YEARS].

Itsuki, Erika, and Tsubomi
Erika is kinda smug sometimes though.

Erika from Heartcatch Precure! manages a nomination for 2011 despite not receiving one in 2010. Although she's the first Pretty Cure to be nominated, Erika arguably only gets the nod because of the relatively weak field so far in 2011 and for being the most generally liked character in Heartcatch Precure!

So there you have it. Note, however, these are only preliminary nominations for 2011, and the field could change dramatically depending on how the rest of the year plays out. No doubt, this field is also limited by the relatively few shows I've followed this year. But before anybody says anything, nobody from Ano Hana gets in. Not even close.

Dated 12 July 2011: Season wrapup, spring 2011

Satsuki
You're still a lousy mom, Satsuki.

The best show I watched spring 2011 was Hanasaku Iroha. Consistently engaging, with characters I cared about and the high levels of animation quality I've come to expect from P.A. Works, I always looked forward to the next episode. I'm glad it's continuing for another cour in summer 2011. However, I initially thought Ohana would take an early lead in the race for Girl of the Year, but surprisingly she is thus far not in the running. In fact, it is scene-stealing Minko who is poised to garner the year-end nomination, provided she gets past Tomoe first, the current front runner for Hanasaku Iroha's Best Girl.

Minami
Surprise! Moshidora gets better with each episode!

It almost doesn't feel as if Moshi Kōkō Yakyū no Joshi Manager ga Drakkā no “Management” o Yondara was part of spring 2011 because it ended so early. (Its 10 episodes aired during consecutive weeknights for two weeks at the start of spring 2011.) Accused early on of having low production values and an unengaging storyline, Moshidora's detractors mostly abandoned the series by the second episode. It's too bad, really, because Moshidora improved with nearly every episode, culminating in a satisfying finale that underscores the difference between anime based on juvenile or young adult "light" novels and anime based on books aimed at adults.

Minerva Glass
Minerva Glass is here to eat bangers & mash and kick ass.
And she's all out of bangers & mash.

Detective Conan is as good as it ever was. In fact, it was better than usual this season. The long London arc in particular was a nice change of scenery. Minerva Glass was also a nice addition to the cast, although I suspect she will not be a recurring character. Many of her scenes reminded me of the old David Foster Wallace article "The String Theory." Be sure to read all the footnotes.

Cure Melody and Cure Rhythm
Suite Pretty Cure is here to eat cake and kick ass.
And they're all out of...wait, there's some more cake in the house.

Suite Precure♪ suffered from weak-protagonist syndrome, but Hibiki and Kanade have mostly found their footing by now. I'm glad the show is drawing out its Cure Muse mystery, throwing out a number of red herrings regarding her identity and her role. This makes Toei only marginally better at protecting its properties from spoilers, though. Cure Beat's identity and details were widely known months in advance.

Big Mom
Big Mom is big.

The second season of Seikon no Qwaser is not as good as the first. The difficulty comes in trying to live up to the predecessor's reputation or trying to surpass the first season's achievements. Along those lines, it was really only successful with episode 10. Probably developing its characters more would have served Qwaser II better.

Tsuruko
Ahh! Ghost glasses!

I did not enjoy Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai nearly as much as most people seemed to have. Ano Hana had a huge following of emotionally invested fans. I found every character irritating, trite, juvenile, and overly melodramatic. It didn't help that Cross Game recently dealt with a similar theme in a far superior manner. (Haruka Tomatosauce, Anaru from Ano Hana, plays Aoba in Cross Game. You should give Cross Game a try if you haven't seen it already.) It also kinda bugged me how everyone's thick emo glasses developed side-view transparency so that they wouldn't obscure the characters' eyes in profile, but now I'm nitpicking.

I dropped X-Men even though I thought it was pretty good. I'm just waiting for the English dub, since the show seemed so western. I heard there's stunt casting for the English voices, though. Something about the cast of Heroes. I'm not really sure.

Miko Layer
Cosprayers Line.

I sort of wanted to watch three episodes of Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream to see what in Hell King in Prussia was talking about about, but the show is too awful. I could suffer through more if it had some redeeming qualities, but man, watching that crap is painful. Yes, Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream is worse than Cosprayers. At least there weren't any live-action segments in the second episode.

Dated 1 January 2012: 2011's Girl of the Year

Miki and Producer
Consolation prize.

Choosing the Girl of the Year for 2011 shows how views held at the mid-year mark can change months later even without much additional information. As you may recall, the initial front runner was Homura from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, with Charles and Ran looking to place and to show. However, after another six months of deliberation, I think I may need to reconsider my choices.

Cure Marine
Cure Marine is proof All Stars hazing works.

Going through my initial recommendations, Erika from Heartcatch Precure! does even better in light of how uninspiring the entire cast of Suite Precure♪ has been. Nearly all the Suite Precure♪ characters are all right. (Not Cure Muse. Cure Muse is straight-up terrible.) However, they are so underdeveloped. Even Buki and Miki from Fresh Pretty Cure have more personality than the Suite cast. And the Suite Cures all seem to make such terrible choices. Not that Erika was a sound voice of reason in Heartcatch, but Erika at least had a lot more verve than any of the current crop of Cures, so the things she did were almost always entertaining, even when they were ill conceived. Nevertheless, while Erika certainly makes the Suite cast look bad, it's not enough to win her Girl of the Year.

Minami
My copy of Management is twice as thick.

As far as I can tell, Moshidora was wildly unpopular, but I thought it was pretty good. It's rare for a show to get better with every episode. I might be looking at this through baseball goggles (they're like instrument goggles, okay), but Minami from Moshidora easily deserves a Girl of the Year nomination. She doesn't have enough to win, but you can't expect someone to go to the Koshien and win Girl of the Year in the same year, can you? Nobody is that good. Oh, wait. Aoba from Cross Game did that just last year.

Hana and Sasha
Go on, Hana, curse the bitch out.

Hana carried the second season of Seikon no Qwaser through its early lacklustre episodes. Carried it in her ass. [P.S. SPOILERS.]

Charles
Who are you going to believe, sweetheart? Me or your lyin' eyes?

Early in the year, it really seemed as if Charles from IS: Infinite Stratos had a legitimate change of winning. I suppose she did, but as I mentioned with regard to the OVA, the end of the series basically threw away everything that made Charles great. Instead, she just became another blushing simpleton in Ichika's harem. How things would have been different if she had been absent from the series' final scene! It could have played out otherwise unchanged, but for a brief cut away to Charles sitting quietly in her room, reading one of those books Ichika keeps around for show, maybe looking up curiously to ask, "What is that racket outside?" Alas, somewhere along the way the writers forgot what made her great. Charles doesn't win.

Makoto, Kotori, Chihaya, Ritsuko, Takane, Yukiho, Haruka, Producer, Hibiki, Ami, Miki, Mami, Azusa, Iori, and Yayoi
Say, do we have any cake?

Based on how much I like The Idolm@ster TV, you might expect one of the 765 girls to win this year. The truth is, I'm not even sure who to nominate. Idolm@ster relies very much on its ensemble cast, and as much as I like most of the girls individually, I like them collectively more. So, the first ever group nomination goes out to Chihaya, Miki, Takane, Ritsuko, Haruka, Mami, Makoto, Iori, Hibiki, Ami, Azusa, Yayoi, Kotori, and Yukiho. They don't win, though. I'm not ready.

Eiko
It's a good year for horn hair.

Even though I'm still not entirely sure squids are eligible to win Girl of the Year, Ika Musume managed a nomination last year for being pretty much non-stop awesome. Unfortunately, the second season of Ika Musume spent a lot of time, well, treading water for the most part. In fact, I'm inclined to think the Best Girl in Ika Musume II isn't even the title character. Eiko has been a solid straight man throughout the series, perhaps because she doesn't rely on having some broadly painted quirk to define her. Of course, now that I think about it, Eiko's role doesn't even necessarily require a female character. Eiko could have been a teenage boy, and the only real change to the show would be perhaps not having Ika Musume sleep in the same bedroom. Nobody from Shinryaku!? Ika Musume gets a nomination, by the way. Not this year.

Homura and Charlotte
Hey, there's more cake over at Suite Precure♪.

If you've been paying attention, you've already figured out the heavily armed witch killer Homura does not win this year. There were two obstacles in her way. First, Homura is handicapped by my general dislike of SHAFT and Shinbo and the sophomoric fans they attract. Second, Homura's defining characteristic—or at least the one working most in her favor—is her indefatigable dedication. It's admirable, but even Homura can learn a thing or two about tireless devotion from this year's winner: Ran.

Ran
Believe it, baby.

Long-suffering Mouri Ran is 2011's Girl of the Year. Ran has always been good enough to win every year, but a relatively weak field for 2011 coupled with an especially good year for Ran puts her over the top. Ran's peculiar similarities to Homura also helped seal the win. I say "long-suffering," but not very much actual in-show time has passed for Ran. Like Homura, Ran is essentially trapped in time, doomed to absorb hundreds of failures, surrounded by death, and never achieving the peace she seeks with the one she loves.

Ran
Lifetime Achievement Award.

For over six hundred episodes and more than a dozen movies, poor Ran hasn't been able to catch a break, but thankfully, there was some progress in 2011. This year, Detective Conan was at least kind enough to offer her the Valentine's Day arc, the White Day arc, and very compelling London arc, all of which which combine satisfyingly in ways unexpected for a show as generally static as Detective Conan. Congratulations, Ran, 2011's Girl of the Year.

Dated 17 August 2016: Masou Gakuen HxH is not the second coming of Seikon no Qwaser

Hayuru
Masou Gakuen HxH leads off the first episode with the Japanese girl in a cold open.

Although trashy fan service shows aren't exactly rare, the full-on, uncensored, blatantly gratuitous ones aren't particularly common either. In recent memory, there was Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid (which I haven't seen yet), and the ever-popular High School DxD series (which is relatively tame as far as these sorts of things go). This season, we have Masou Gakuen HxH (Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia) which is sort of like IS: Infinite Stratos except that in Masou Gakuen, Potato-kun's purpose is to recharge the girls' fighting ability through the power of arousal rather than just standing around wondering why they're all angry with him.

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