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Dated 10 February 2011: Suite Precure is pretty (go on, say it)

Cure Melody and Cure Rhythm
This is not a Cure Melody and Cure Rhythm bust comparison chart.

So how 'bout that Suite Precure? Well, there was a lot more setup in the first episode than I was expecting. This is not a bad thing, since we still got dual Pretty Cure transformations at the end of the episode (as expected), but I hope all that jazz (don't worry, I'll stop) about the notes doesn't get much more complex too fast. Not that I'm concerned I might not be able to adequately follow a Pretty Cure plot, but more that I'm worried additional complexity might require a lot of action-halting talking scenes.

Kanade and Hibiki
Man, those uniforms must demand a lot of starch.

Still, with a voice cast this rich, it wouldn't be a complete tragedy. I'm pleased to get Koshimizu Ami in the lead role, and pulling Orikasa Fumiko from the grasp of the voracious Bleach-episode singularity is a huge relief. I'm also happy to get Toyoguchi Megumi as, well, anything, really, and casting ol' Ebichu as Hamii was a great idea. (It's actually Hummy, right? There has to be a music pun involved here somewhere.)

Ellen
The first time we see Ellen Siren, the point of view pans up her stocking-clad legs.

After only one episode, there isn't enough information to really learn too much about the characters, although the villains and their flunkies don't appear too ambitious so far. There are Fresh Pretty Cure similarities here as well, and while Ellen Siren is not as...aerodynamic as good ol' Easy, she's probably going to be a bit more sinister—at least until she switches sides. (C'mon, who doesn't see that coming?)

Cure Melody
The CGI ED doesn't hammer its 3D aspects as much.

The ending credits sequence is another dance-o-matic CGI ED which was fine, but not especially memorable or endearing thus far. "Ganbalance de Dance," this is not.

Cure Melody and Cure Rhythm
That seems like more hair than usual, even for Pretty Cure.

Suite Precure sort of looks and feels like Splash Star set in the Yes! Precure 5 universe. Most of the Suite elements should feel pretty familiar to long-time Pretty Cure viewers. Cure Melody's hair has that same needs-more-conditioner look Saki's has. Additionally, Cure Melody wears—as tradition demands—a battle costume with a Barbara Eden bare midriff. She also enjoys sports, so hopefully the days of dojikko Cures are behind us. All in all, the first episode was not a bad introduction to the series, but episode two had better be filled with wall-to-wall beatdowns.

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 23 March 2011: Holy crap, there is baseball in Pretty Cure All Stars DX3

Cure Rouge
Maybe Cure Rouge will stop yammering about purity all the time if she rounds third.

Well, it's probably not baseball in Pretty Cure All Stars DX3. They're wearing shorts, so in all likelihood it's softball they're playing. I'm not sure why I don't see Saki on that lineup. Maybe she's on the other team. (Hint: If that's the case, bet on the other team. Cure Bloom bats fourth.)

Shiny Luminous, Cure Pine, Cure Lemonade, Milky Rose, and Cure Sunshine
Cheerleading doesn't actually have any place in baseball. Sorry.

Rally caps, girls. Rally caps.

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 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 10 May 2011: Do well in the Pretty Cure minor leagues and maybe you'll make it to The Show

Erika and Tsubomi
Erika and Tsubomi spray on some clothes.

I figured out why I have low opinions of Cure Blossom and Cure Rhythm: No game faces. When a Cure goes through her transformation sequence, she gets a battle costume upgrade and some fancy charm points. But in most cases, the transformation doesn't just change a Cure's appearance; it also changes her personality, or at least her demeanor. This didn't happen with Cure Blossom in Heartcatch Precure! and it doesn't really happen with Cure Rhythm in Suite Pretty Cure now.

Cure Black and Cure White
"Go ahead, make our day."

Contrast this with, for example, Cure Black and Cure White who announce with authority their readiness to whoop some ass, both during their transformations and while powering up their finishing attacks. Yukana going off about Pretty Cure's "beautiful souls" is basically the best smack talk in all of anime.

Cure White
Cure White gets pissed.

Honoka is a sweet kid, but Cure White will boot you upside the head if you annoy her. Cure Rouge from the Yes! Precure 5 crew yammers on about her purity a little too much, which admittedly is not an especially effective threat, but her soliloquy does signal some serious beat downs on the way that would be out of character for Rin.

Cure Black, Cure Dream, and Cure Bloom
These are some pretty smug-looking veteran Cures.

Even a complete ditz like Nozomi knows the score. When she's transformed into Cure Dream, it's Game On. Hell, Cure Dream doesn't just have a game face, she has a freakin' War Face.

Cure Dream
I recommend backing the Hell away from Cure Dream. She's psycho.

When Cure Dream announces a finishing move, you know someone is about to get fucked hard core:

[Puts her hands in front.]
"PRETTY CURE"
[Dramatic pause.]
"SHOOTING STAR!"
[Unleashes searing energy beam.]

Cure Dream doesn't play.

Cure Sunshine
Cure Sunshine
"I get to transform into a GIRL!" [Turns hair blond.]

This kind of thing didn't happen so much in Heartcatch Precure! and doesn't occur often in Suite Precure either. I can't take Cure Sunshine as seriously because she is all smiles during her transformation sequence. I'd have my doubts about the whole crew were it not for Erika's willingness to sucker-punch people in the face while she's transformed as Cure Marine.

Kanade
Kanade falls on her cake. Did I say cake? I meant ass.

However, Cure Rhythm is basically just Kanade in a white dress instead of an apron. Hell, I bet her battle costume even smells like cake.

Cure Black, Cure Bright, Shiny Luminous, Cure Windy, and Cure White
Cure fire team in wedge formation.

Even Shiny Luminous has a game face. Shiny Freaking Luminous! Shiny Freaking-Thirteen-Year-Old-Girl-with-Zero-Offensive-Abilities-Not-Really-a-Cure Luminous. Good bluffer, though.

Cure Muse and Cure Rhythm
"Cure Muse, Cure Muse, how do I work this thing?" [Points berthier belltier at own face.]

13 episodes down and none of the singsong goons take the local Pretty Cure team seriously. Given that Cure Rhythm and Cure Melody keep getting bailed out by a free agent Cure, it's no wonder even the scrub bad guys feel confident screwing with these rookie Cures. Yeah, go ahead and try that weak shit on Cure Egret, Bassdrum. She'll jack you up.

Cure Pine
Even Cure Pine had a game face. CURE PINE.

Maybe I'm just being impatient. It took Buki a while to get going too. But feel free to tear that apron off anytime, Kanade.

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.