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Dated 5 January 2011: Autumn 2010 season wrapup

Ika Musume and Nagisa
Ika Musume terrorizes Nagisa.

Autumn 2010 had a number of surprises. I never would have predicted my top three shows from this season. In fact, three months ago I would have been surprised to learn I would watch two of the top three at all.

Shinryaku! Ika Musume [1-12] > Shiki (12-22) > Detective Opera Milky Holmes [1-12] > Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt [1-13] > Amagami SS [14-25] > Detective Conan (591-600) > Heartcatch Precure! (34-45) > Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai (11) > To Aru Majutsu no Index II (6-7) > Yosuga no Sora [1-12] > Psychic Detective Yakumo [1-13]

Shinryaku! Ika Musume takes the top spot by the strength of its comedy and its No Bad Episodes achievement. I didn't have much interest in the show initially based on its description, but toward the middle of the season I decided to give it a shot because of the near universal praise I encountered for it. I'm glad I did, because Ika Musume is a solid show. I only wish there were more episodes.

Megumi
Y'all know Megumi is right, right?

Shiki took me by surprise by embracing B-movie staples and running with it. I can't actually claim that Shiki is "good," but when it hits its marks it is wildly entertaining. If you like yelling at idiots for their stupidity and watching villagers storm castles with torches and pitchforks in hand, then Shiki is for you. Plus it's bloody! Even for a vampire show! I almost want to give it the top ranking for autumn 2010, but there were a few lackluster episodes in the mix holding it back. Its first OP and second ED are unquestionably this season's bests, though.

Henriette
Just so you know, this is a great disguise.

I wasn't really expecting to enjoy Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, and only started watching it so I could claim to be watching three detective shows this season. However, after an unimpressive start (everyone seems to loathe the first episode), it proved to be a fun series that continued to push the envelope; some of the things Detective Opera Milky Holmes did were really...inappropriate, but it was never dirty. An unexpectedly funny series, I've heard Milky Holmes described favorably as "the next Galaxy Angel." Now, it ain't that good, but I could definitely go for more episodes of these idiots.

Chuck, Panty, and Stocking
Panty and Stocking put Chuck to work.

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is as good as you've heard, but it never really resonated with me. There were some really amazing moments and a lot of good episodes, but I can't help but feel Gainax could have done more with the show. Even the Gainax Ending was not as outrageous as it could have been. It's no The Melody of Oblivion ending, for example. I'm probably the only person in the world who feels Panty & Stocking wasn't daring enough, though.

Ayatsuji
Don't worry, he has it coming.

I liked Amagami SS because of its gimmick, but ultimately Potato-kun just didn't have enough charisma to carry the show. It's a nice enough romantic comedy, but nobody who missed it should feel as if they've missed anything important.

Ran, Conan, and Kogoro
Ran is always so well dressed.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. Nothing important changes, and the show remains as good as ever. For that reason, I suppose curious readers may be able to rely on its position in these season summaries as a baseline or control group of sorts for pan-season comparisons.

Erika
Erika is the best girl in Heartcatch, but she ain't no Girl of the Year.

Heartcatch Precure! is all right, but I don't like it as much as its predecessors. I suppose viewed as a whole, it is better than Fresh Pretty Cure, but the best Fresh moments are a lot better than the best Heartcatch ones. I know Heartcatch Precure! is very well regarded among many anime fans who don't typically watch Pretty Cure. I wonder if they rank the show so highly because this is the only Precure they know, or if they rank it so highly because Heartcatch has certain unique elements that other Pretty Cure season do not have. If the latter, perhaps it is these differences that I don't care for—differences that cause me to view Heartcatch unfavorably in comparison to past seasons. Or maybe I'm just tired of watching weak magikal girls fight bad feelings every week.

Kirino and Ruri
Kirino hassles Ruri.

I technically did not drop any shows this season, but I only watched one episode of Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. I watched episode 11 to see what all that KUNKA KUNKA jazz was about. Man, that Kirino is a total bitch. There is no way I'd be able to watch a full season of anything with her in it. (Bear in mind that I'm an unapologetic Asuka fan, too.) I never had any interest in the show because its most fervent fans are all siscons; that's gotta mean something whether or not the show's actual content justifies that label.

Kuroko
How about you go to a hospital, Kuroko? How about that?

I only watched episodes six and seven of To Aru Majutsu no Index II because I heard they were Kuroko episodes without any Touma speeches. I'm oddly fascinated by Kuroko's old woman voice, but I still have zero interest in the show.

Akira
Turbo Genki Akira is the Best Girl in Yosuga no Sora.

I accidentally watched all of Yosuga no Sora. I watched two of the episodes towards the middle of the season because I heard a harem-anime protagonist actually managed to have sex. If you know anything about anime, you'll understand this is a shockingly rare occurrence, especially so early in a season. I was hoping the show would be another School Days, but it turned out to be an R-rated version of the Amagami SS gimmick. Once I learned that, I backtracked through the earlier episodes to find out how everything started. By then I had watched half of the show and figured I'd keep watching since Haruka was apparently going to run the table. Man, Sora was an intolerable bitch, though. She and Kirino should hang out—at like the bottom of a lake. Anyway, if you want to know what happens but don't feel like waiting for the uncensored Blu-rips, just watch one of the omake EDs; they spoil basically everything that happens in the show.

Haruka
Even Kirika didn't wear the same outfit every single episode, Haruka.

I finished Psychic Detective Yakumo on general principle, but found it pretty boring. It wasn't very Bee Trainy for a Bee Train show. I also wished Haruka had more than one outfit.

Bridgette L. Satellizer, probably
The Eva Series? It's been completed?

I have a feeling I'm not going to be watching as much anime this year, at least not as many of these 13-episode throwaway shows. That said, I do hope Freezing will have DARK MAMIKO. Speaking of Noto Mamiko, Kimi ni Todoke 2 is a lock, and everything about Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica sounds pretty good with the exception of the SHAFT X SHINBO part (which probably sounds pretty good to most people). Naturally I'll continue watching Detective Conan and Pretty Cure and anything Gainax churns out, even if it might cause me to buy and then itasha the fuck out of a Subaru.

Dated 9 January 2011: Winter 2011 initial impressions for Rio -Rainbow Gate!-, IS Infinite Stratos, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Freezing, and that one show with the cats (Yumekui Merry)

Ichika
I see many bentos in your future, Potato-kun.

Bottom line up front? The only shows worth following right now are Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season, introduced earlier and hopefully as good as the first season, and Infinite Stratos if you like that sort of thing. With regard to every other show, you're better off burning through the backlog of good shows you've been meaning to watch—or at least I am.

Rio
I think this has something to do with how Rio cheats at cards.

Rio -Rainbow Gate!- did not suck as bad as I was expecting, not that I had high hopes for an anime based on a pachinko machine's motif or whatever the Hell it's supposed to be. Based on episode one, I predict the rest of the season will be filled with a lot of boobs (no nudity), lots of really shiny skin, and several different outfits every episode. What I didn't expect were the CARD BATTLES which I suppose were okay because they weren't obvious efforts to market merchandise for some game aimed at grammar school students. I guess Rio -Rainbow Gate!- counts as a gambling anime the way Battle Spirits Brave does. I'll give it at least one more episode.

Cecilia
Yukana is pretty awesome in this, to tell you the truth.

Infinite Stratos has a Negima-sized harem around a non-worthless male protagonist, air battles stolen from Soukou no Strain (and a few Touhou games), and mecha from Sky Girls. The first episode was about what I expected and didn't have anything offensive or lousy to really complain about if you were already inclined to watch it in the first place.

Madoka
The widefaces are medium-wide.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica had a lot of SHAFT X SHINBO being SHAFT X SHINBO. If you think Shinbo is a genius and SHAFT an amazingly creative studio, then you'll love this regardless of how you feel about magikal girls. This isn't really mahou shoujo anyway, just as Bakemonogatari was not a high school love comedy. The Kajiura Yuki music isn't quite as good as her recent work on Pandora Hearts just yet, but it's only been one episode. I did not include Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica in my two-deep "okay to watch now" list above because SHAFT being SHAFT, there will probably be extensive revisions and updates in the Blu-rays fixing stuff they didn't finish on time before the broadcasts. You might as well wait for those unless you are sure you'll watch it multiple times anyway need to watch it before buying the retail release.

Akemi
Madoka:Caterpillar::Akemi:Butterfly.

One thing that bugs me about the Puella Magi Madoka Magica alternate title to Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, though: Is that supposed to be Latin? If so, isn't the gender wrong? Is that supposed to be masculine nominative plural? Genitive singular? Is this SHAFT's idea of a "ROMANES EUNT DOMUS" joke? Anyway, send me a telegram if your Latin is better than mine or if you otherwise know what the Hell that's supposed to be.

Bridgette
[SPOILERS] Satellizer gets motorboated
so hard she CGIs all over the place.

Freezing feels like Queen's Blade only bloody, grim, and dark instead of stupid and funny. Bridgette L. Satellizer Poemer has not whipped out the DARK MAMIKO quite yet, but I have high hopes this 36-22-33 hamburger-loving 17-year-old (it's canon, okay) will break it out soon enough. Unfortunately, I've only seen it thus far in a steam-censored 4:3 version, so again you're probably better off waiting unless you're sure you'll want to be frozen twice.

Merry
At least Merry isn't making that stupid :3 mouth.

There wasn't anything wrong with Yumekui Merry. The premise is fine. The animation is fine. The characters and character designs are fine. It has all the markings of another J.C. Staff layup. I just didn't have any interest in the show at all. It had cats, but they talked too much and didn't do a lot of cute cat things. "John Doo" isn't especially threatening, and Merry kinda looks like a girl who is supposed to look like a boy that looks like a girl. In any case, dropped.

Ume
Ume seems like such a sweet girl, too.

So there you go. Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season if you enjoyed the first season (definitely do not watch the second season if you have not already seen the first season! What is wrong with you people?), Infinite Stratos unless you like to pretend you are too good to watch anime that looks like anime, and Madoka Magica if you already knew you'd like it on general principle regardless of what I said about it. Me, I'll be finishing up Heartcatch Precure!, churning through several hundred remaining Detective Conan episodes, and maybe watching more Bagpuss. It's on Youtube.

Dated 19 April 2011: Winter 2011 season summary

Mami
The real antagonists in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica are trolls, not witches.

Despite my disdain for SHAFTXSHINBO, Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica (at least what I've seen of it so far, as the remaining episodes were pre-empted due to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami—they're expected to air in a few days) is really good. [Update: The final two episodes did have some surprises. The rating remains unchanged.] Whether it's good in spite of SHAFTXSHINBO because of Kajiura Yuki and Urobuchi Gen isn't so much important as the fact that they took something which I had fully expected to be unconventional, made it so, and still managed to impress. Although I did not enjoy Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica nearly as much as its true fans did, it was still easily the best show I watched from winter 2011, admittedly not a very difficult feat when the runner up probably only placed as high as it did thanks to the Hanakana Distortion Field.

Ichika and Charles
Infinite Stratos needed more Full Frontal Bageena Char.

Infinite Stratos was by no stretch of the imagination a good show, but it was fun to watch. Curiously, it's often the male protagonist that makes or breaks harem comedies, not the bevy of girls themselves. Thankfully, Infinite Stratos does well on both fronts. Potato-kun is mostly unobjectionable, with neither an overpoweringly "strong sense of justice" nor a timid adversion to girls, the two most common flaws of the typical harem comedy putz.

Charles and Ichika
There ain't no way Ichika owns that many books.

Unfortunately, not having those two flaws means Potato-kun needs some other character flaw to be the excuse why he doesn't trophy fuck love all the girls during the course of the show. In Ichika's case, he's a moron. It works out, though, because nearly every girl in his harem is also a moron. This is probably why Charles is so popular, as she's the only girl in the harem who is neither dumb nor crazy. Okay, she did pretend to be a very unconvincing boy for a while, but she gave that up after a few episodes, and the only reason other people bought that act is because the entire school is filled with complete idiots.

Ichika and Charles
What's that fishy odor?

Anyway, Infinite Stratos was an amusing, harmless diversion and was pretty fun until it decided it needed a plot towards the end. Instead of the Final Battle against MacGuffin, they should have devoted the last three episodes to a footrace or an extended game of tag.

Ume
This is the best reaction shot of the entire series. [P.S. Spoilers.]

Kimi ni Todoke really took a dive with 2nd Season in my view and dipped below the Detective Conan Line during the middle episodes because it upset the precarious balance of misunderstandings and heartfulness. Basically the entire season dragged out due to terribly painful communication problems. It made me wish the show was about Ume instead, or maybe Yano falling in love with Pin. (It's not a spoiler, okay? It's right there in the OP!) Thankfully, Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season pulled itself together during the final three episodes. Pity the entire season couldn't be that good. Had it been, then Kimi ni Todoke Second Season would have been as good as, well, Kimi ni Todoke First Season.

Ai Yori Aoshi volumes 17 and 16
Ai Yori Aoshi volumes 17 and 16.

Somewhat unexpectedly, finishing Kimi ni Todoke S2 makes me wish for a third season of Ai Yori Aoshi—one that follows the manga instead of jumping all over Creation. The final volumes of Ai Yori Aoshi really deserve a lot better than the lackluster impression the two inconsistent anime seasons left behind. They may have to animate Aoi's bra in the series climax with CGI, though. (Ha ha. "Climax.")

Enri
Take Fractale easy.

Viewers seem fairly divided on Fractale, particularly with regard to its ending. Much as I postulated when describing my early impressions of the show, the way I see it, there are two camps: Those that care about its pedigree and subsequently chose to watch Fractale critically, and those who just wanted to enjoy themselves because anime is still a hobby. That latter group likely enjoyed Nessa's turbo-genki moments quite a lot more, and even if there might be a Hanakana Distortion Field at work, they presumably enjoyed the show more as a whole.

Phryne and Nessa
How did they end up in the ending to Heartcatch Precure!?

This is not to say Fractale doesn't suffer from a host of problems. Personally, I felt all of the fighting and battle scenes were comically bad, and a lot of things (especially towards the end) didn't make any sense. I was also somewhat crestfallen to learn Phryne wasn't just acting stupid—she really was an idiot. It's because of these problems that I don't rank Fractale higher among the winter 2011 shows. Nevertheless, it was still pretty good overall, and including an audio cameo by Nausicaä herself towards the end to bookend the visual references from earlier in the season was pretty nice, even if I totally missed it.

Ran
If you advance this scene frame by frame you can catch
the exact moment Ran's heart breaks. [P.S. Spoilers.]

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. As I mentioned before, Detective Conan is basically my control group when it comes to ranking shows. Each season of Detective Conan is about the same and typically as good as any of its myriad previous seasons. This remained true during winter 2011, although I would like to point out the "Tear Drops" OP totally messes with the heads of Shinichi + Ran 'shippers.

Kumojacky and Cure Marine
IN THE FACE!

The end of Heartcatch Precure! was all right, even though Cure Blossom remained mostly useless. Probably the highlight for me was Cure Marine suckerpunching Kumojacky in the face on general principle before he could launch into an idiomatic, vaguely evil speech.

Cure Rhythm
More punching, less baking.

Suite Precure is decent, but nothing really special unless you care about voice actresses. Koshimizu Ami, Orikasa Fumiko, Toyoguchi Megumi, and Mitsuishi Kotono are all on board. In fact, I should probably check Danbooru for what I'm sure must be copious amounts of seiyuu_joke parody/crossover fan art.


I dropped Freezing not because it was exploitative, but because it was kinda retarded. I can't wait for the second season of Seikon no Qwaser, though. (No, seriously.)

I was intriqed by Ri♡ -Rainbow Gate!- because it was Highlander with card battles, but I think I lost interest after two episodes beause Rio's hair sucks.

Yumekui Merry didn't suck, but I dropped it after the first episode because I wasn't interested. I heard it gets better later, but I still suspect Merry might actually be a boy.

Sister Layer
Cosprayers Line.

I dropped Wolverine after a single episode because it was God awful. Congratulations, Wolverine, you are easily WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS. All you need to know about the show is that in the first episode, a group of people flying around with jetpacks bent on attacking Wolverine with rifles decide to all fly close enough for him to gut them with his claws. Then later on Wolverine breaks one of Sir Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion. Look, I'm okay with his indestructible skeleton and canonical ability to regenerate from a single remaining drop of blood, but c'mon.

Final tally: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica > IS: Infinite Stratos > Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season > Fractale > Detective Conan > Heartcatch Precure! > Suite Precure | Dropped: Freezing > Ri♡ -Rainbow Gate!- > Yumekui Merry | WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS: Wolverine.