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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 13 January 2011: In re Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica reader reaction

IKnight writes:

Puella Magi Madoka Magica has me stumped too (and magica seems redundant in both versions of the title). It does look like either a joke or a mistake, or it really is meant to read 'Magician's Magical Girl Madoka', which might perhaps make sense if Madoka has some kind of male magician-patron, or something.

At this point I'm just going to assume it's the Latin equivalent of Engrish.

Dated 3 March 2011: Magikal girls have magical metabolisms, at least in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica and Suite Precure

Kyoko and Homura
Maybe Kyoko just burns it all off playing DDR.

I was tempted to compare and contrast Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica with Suite Precure since these two magikal girl shows are conveniently running concurrently. You know, something along the lines of how one is dark and unconventional while the other is fun and formulaic. Something like that.

Kanade
I guess Kanade just makes the cakes and doesn't eat them.

Turns out I'd rather write about how both shows have characters that eat constantly yet manage to maintain their trim figures. Kyoko dares to wear short shorts despite cramming food into her face every moment when she's not fighting (and sometimes even then), but I guess apples and Pocky probably aren't very fattening and she does have a fairly active lifestyle.

Kyoko
I have it on good authority these are delicious in church—sacrilicious, even.

Kanade, now that I think about it, might make cakes all day long, but it seems Hibiki is actually the one that eats them. We do know Hibiki is very active and athletic, but her pushups and situps need work. Who does situps on a bed?

Dated 26 March 2011: This season is about magikal girls carrying people (not quite comparing and contrasting Suite Precure with Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica again)

Cure Melody, Hummy, Cure Rhythm, and Souta
Cure Melody, sometimes a magical rod is just a magical rod.

Look, it's Cure Rhythm carrying her crybaby kid brother. Dude, don't let anyone princess-carry you. I don't care if you're still in grammar school. That's just embarrassing.

Souta
Crying in a rainbow until a girl princess-carries
you to safety? Emasculating ain't the word.

I'm going to digress for a minute to point out there was more crying in Suite Precure episode six than I remember in the approximately 300 previous episodes of Pretty Cure that I've watched so far. I haven't seen this much crying since I quit watching Ookiku Furikabutte (A.K.A. Big Windup). We're talking like Stellvia-level crying. Okay, not really like Stellvia crying. That's not even possible.

Cure Melody
Cure Melody solos a Monster of the Week.

Look, it's Cure Melody totally carrying Cure Rhythm. Seriously, Kanade, you've got to step up. I understand Hibiki is the lead character and all, and she's showing off her brand new attack here, but you had better go aggro next episode if you don't want to be known as Cure Apron, Queen of Cakes. Feel free to punch someone in the face once in a while.

Kyoko and Sayaka
This is really only a spoiler if I tell you it's a spoiler. [P.S. Spoilers]

Look, it's mahou shoujo Kyoko carrying Sayaka.

Oh.

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.

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 9 July 2011: 2011 Girl of the Year update

Regarding my mid-year nominations for 2011's Girl of the Year, sneezl adds:

It's probably way too early to decide it yet, but I don't see anyone passing Homura for this year's GOTY. I think it ends up as clear-cut as Aoba's win....[A]ny manly tears I shed during PMMM were for Homura.

However, if Homura does end up GOTY, you might not even be able to discuss WHY she won due to TOP SECRET SPOILERS. That would be interesting.

At this time, I have to admit Homura may be my front runner, but with six months to go, anything can happen.

Dated 26 December 2011: This is a Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica gimmick post (but not about "Puella Maji" doubleplus ungood Latin subtitle)

Soul Gem
Should I be looking around for a mahou shoujo?

I randomly found this thing one day. It seems oddly familiar. Wait a minute....

Sayaka's soul gem
Possibly a dead one?

This can't be good.