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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 17 May 2011: Hanasaku Iroha episode seven was MAMIKORE

Tomoe
CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!

I knew Tomoe was the best character in Hanasaku Iroha. I'm glad she got a spotlight episode, but I hope it's not the last one she gets for the series.

Tomoe
She may be weary...

Another member of the Christmas Cake Club, Tomoe shows why all these shows starring teenagers need older characters around—preferably ones who have their acts together enough to take care of themselves and are resolute enough to make life decisions before the end credits roll.

Nako and Ohana
You were too young to see this, girls.

As for the show itself, Hanasaku Iroha is easily the best show I'm watching this season. Most people seem to prefer the other hana show, Ano Hana which is short for Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai, which translates to "we still do not know the name of the flower we saw that day." What is it with long-ass titles this season? I'm not saying Ano Hana isn't good, but I definitely enjoy it less; every single character on that show annoys me to some level. In the competition between leading shows with hana in the title from spring 2011, it's Hanasaku Iroha in a walk, even if Ohana isn't really dead.

Ohana and Potato-kun
Must be St. Patrick's Day.

In other news, all y'all who criticize the Hanasaku Iroha OP are nuts. It's ridiculously pretty. Oh, right, the voice. Yeah, I guess I can see that.

Dated 15 June 2011: Ohana has a drinking problem in Hanasaku Iroha

Ohana
It's five o'clock somewhere, Ohana.

Out of scientific curiosity, I gave Ohana's Coke & tea combination a try. (I used orange pekoe.) It was not at all as bad as I was expecting, but it was by no means the anime equivalent of O. Henry's "The Lost Blend." Maybe I'll give it a few more tries at different temperatures and with different blends.

Satsuki
Satsuki probably drinks coke and snorts tea.

In other news, Ohana's mom isn't half the man Hiroko is.

Dated 21 June 2011: Today's Viewer Mail excerpt

Minko
Minko's date is off to a good start.

Ron writes:

I've been a fan of your blog since June 2003....I especially enjoy jumping in the way-back machine for stuff like Nuku Nuku and SDF Macross. Lots of fond memories of those particular anime.

Minko
How do you feel about bulimia, Minchi?

Man, I've been doing this a long time. If you include the non-anime Geocities years, it's been almost 12 years. 12 years! I can't even remember what I posted about before this turned into an anime blog. I think there was one month dedicated to supermodels wearing stockings.

Minko
Wait, what do these pictures have to do with anything?

P.S. I also like how comments have never been enabled.

Well, I did add that Twitter button jobbie. Confidentially, comments are disabled so I can milk new entries out of reader responses instead of writing updates like, "Hanasaku Iroha was really good this week," and posting four pictures of Minko suffering through what was almost a date.

Minko
Oh.

P.S. Hanasaku Iroha episode 12 was really good—probably the best episode of the series so far. I don't despise Ohana's mother anymore. Tomoe > Minko > Ohana > Yuina > Ohana's grandmother > Namiko (Koichi's co-worker) > Ohana's mom > Nako (what is with all the KO names?) > Yuina's grandmother > annoying consultant lady.

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 5 August 2011: Summer 2011 initial impressions

Rin
I won't buy you lipstick because you don't have any lips.

Usagi Drop surprised me by being much better than I expected. After five solid episodes to open the series, it has climbed to the top of the list. However, it is a good thing Rin is such a nice, well-mannered, and thoughtful kid. Were it Daikichi's sister's cousin's devil child twisting in the wind in episode one, I wager that brat would be on her own and the show would have to be about her bouncing from home to home in foster care or something. I heard there's a timeskip in the manga, but I also heard the anime might not make it that far. I've not read any of the manga nor learned any spoilers aside from knowing the timeskip exists, but I wonder if it has to do with how Daikichi's concern for Rin is very paternal yet Rin explicitly rejects him as a father?

Yuina and Minko
Daikon goes in here.

Hanasaku Iroha remains one of my favorite shows this season, although it really needs more Minko and Tomoe episodes. It also needs less of Ohana's spineless uncle and that wretched consultant lady he dragged to the inn—a lot less. Hopefully now that the movie fiasco is over we can move on to more Minko episodes about her unrequited love for daikon and Tohru, preferably without overdoing Tohru's guilty boners for Ohana.

Cure Beat
Cure Beat's guitar is full of mercy.

The Cure Beat arc of Suite Precure exceeds expectations, probably because it puts the Cure Muse mystery arc on hold for now. Cure Beat needs to reverse her windmill move, though, and do it Pete Townshend style. I, for one, am pretty glad Suite Precure is turning into FLCL instead of K-On! I'm also impressed by the new transformation sequences and the quality of some of the recent fight scenes.

Miike
THE ENFORCER. Well, the parking enforcer anyway.

Wait, did Tanaka Rie just join Detective Conan's menagerie of regular characters? I swear that was her.

I should probably say more about Detective Conan because Something Important happened last season. However...spoilers.

Chihaya
Chihaya appears to use Sony MDR-V6 headphones.

Sony MDR-V6 headphones
We're headphone buddies!

Idolm@ster needs more song and dance numbers. I presume the absence of music from the first episode was a stylistic choice designed to fit the documentary framework. The show is all right so far, but because there are purportedly many former current Gainax staff members behind the show, I'm hoping for a Gainax ending—possibly with more Bio Concerto. In related news, Chihaya by a mile. Chihaya > Miki > Ritsuko > Azusa > Makoto > Takane > Kotori > Hibiki > Yayoi > Iori > Mami > Ami > Haruka > Yukiho.

Huey's Imco lighter
The real star of Dantalian no Shoka is Huey's Imco lighter.

Imco lighter
You may recognize it from Haibane Renmei
as the lighter Reki uses.

I'm mostly watching Dantalian no Shoka out of general principle because of Gainax. Huey seems all right. I was impressed during the first episode when he revealed he wasn't another damn Potato-kun. However, I am getting pretty tired of Dalian's tsundere bitchiness. Her lack of charisma is going to wear on me, even if she does say "YES" all the time. (Bad gourds don't say "no.")

Masa
Masa stole Aoi's haircut.

Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love 1000% was less gay than I expected, but I can't find a reason to keep watching it. This is not Miracle Train. Miracle Train was actually pretty good. Prince-sama just has Wakamoto Norio playing Wakamoto-Norio-playing-a-character as its main draw. I haven't officially dropped it yet, but I'm also in no hurry to watch the second episode.

Aoi and Haruka
Twin Angel needs more Galaxy Angel.

I only watched Kaito Tenshi Twin Angel - Kyun Kyun☆Tokimeki Paradise!! because of Asakawa Yuu. I'm sorry to say the first episode was horrible. Consider it dropped. I'm hoping it turns out to be a lot better later on. I'll start watching again it if I see a lot of people sucking up to @julia320 on Twitter praising the show. This has not happened yet.

Dated 2 September 2011: Why Hanasaku Iroha is better than Usagi Drop

Yuina and Ohana
Scowling won't help you.

I'm really glad Hanasaku Iroha is a two-cour series instead of another dinky 12-episode flash in the pan. The strength of the show lies with its characters, not in their wacky adventures, so it helps to have enough time to get to know them. The strength of Usagi Drop also lies with its characters, which is why its brief 11-episode run is terribly short. I suppose there's a "just read the manga" solution to this problem, but I'd really like to see a much longer Usagi Drop anime, and I don't mean a bunch of 11-episode seasons sporadically introduced over a stretch of four or five years.

Daikichi with Kouki's mom
After nine episodes I still don't know Kouki's mom's name.

It seems most shows these days are single-cour, presumably because the current competition for consumers' shifting attention spans make two short series a safer investment than a single 26-episode one that might bomb. This is why I was pleasantly surprised to discover Hanasaku Iroha, The IDOLM@STER TV, and [a bunch of shows I'm not watching] are all normal length. With its massive cast, I can't imagine any IM@S series being very satisfying without a decent episode count. Really, it could probably use a 48-episode Precure-sized run.

Minko and Tohru
Try a little tenderness, Tohru.

With regard to Hanasaku Iroha, the Minko & Tohru arc works much better after following them half a year. Both characters make pretty silly decisions and Minko is a very flawed individual. I'm not about to give Minko a pass for some of her more egregious actions, but I am more accepting of them because they're in line with her behavior established from the beginning of the series. She'll probably end up the Hanasaku Iroha Best Girl barring a late resurgence by Tomoe, but I haven't figured out if Minko will win it despite being a real bitch or because of it.

Kouki
This tree is a goner for sure.

Usagi Drop has been very solid through nine episodes, but knowing it ends after two more takes the wind out of the show's sails. It guarantees there will be no real development or change to the (admittedly pleasant) status quo. This really is a "read the manga" show. It's not really a big deal, since I was going to do that anyway, to at least figure out what in blazes the troubling development past the time-skip has everyone so worked up about actually is. I hope it's not something lame like Kouki flattening Rin's tree after his ninja training goes bad. (That's totally going to happen, by the way. Calling it now.)

Dated 9 October 2011: Summer 2011 season wrapup

Tomoe
Hanasaku Iroha could have used more Tomoe.

Despite the melodramatic Ohana + Kou angle, Hanasaku Iroha narrowly eeks out Usagi Drop as the best Summer 2011 show by turning the inn into a character. Love Hina did the same thing, although I didn't notice it until the Hinatasou reappeared in Earth Defender Mao-chan; I realized I missed the inn itself. As for Hanasaku Iroha, it is disappointing that the tensionless romance between Ohana and Kou was so uninteresting, but every other aspect of an otherwise engaging show earns it the top spot.

Kouki's mom, Kouki, and Rin
Go cry about the Usagi Drop ending somewhere else.

Usagi Drop likely would have fared much better were it longer than its mere 11 episodes. Every episode was good, earning it the No Bad Episodes award, but there simply needs to be more to the show to make it a solid series. With only 11 episodes, it's practically in OVA territory. Then again, perhaps it would not be better served with additional episodes. I know there are controversial events following a timeskip resulting in a widely disliked ending. Although I have a general understanding of these spoilers, I have not read the manga itself so I cannot speak for their execution. If the events are done well, perhaps more Usagi Drop episodes would make the show even better. If all they're going to do is antagonize most viewers, then maybe it's best that Usagi Drop ended when it did.

Chihaya
LISTEN TO MY SONG!

The IDOLM@STER succeeds by taking simple things and doing them very well. It also help that it has a deep cast of charismatic characters, allowing the viewer to latch onto his favorites. Ahem. Chihaya > Miki > Takane > Makoto > Ritsuko > Mami > Hibiki > Ami > Iori > Azusa > Kotori > Haruka > Yayoi > Yukiho. I am a little troubled by the slightly knobby faces, but they never cross into K-On! territory, so I'm satisfied.

Kaito
Nice hat, Kaito.

I'm treating the Magic Kaito / Kid the Phantom Thief episodes of Detective Conan separately. Not quite a spinoff, and not quite OVAs, they aired in the regular Detective Conan timeslot to focus on the titular long-time Detective Conan side character before crossing over with the Detective Conan series proper. These episodes were very good, although I'm not sure how they fit into the canon. I'm a little confused as to the timelines and the ages of the characters involved, but this might be because there are large gaps in my list of watched Detective Conan episodes. Fujimura Ayumi does a really good cranky voice as Aoko, too.

Waon, Kanade, Ellen, Hibiki
It turns out Waon is kinda awesome.

Suite Precure♪ has been mostly good, benefiting from a well-done Cure Beat arc. Although I'm opposed on principle against [spoilers] making non-human characters bona fide Cures, I guess I'm okay with it since Ellen is stuck in human form and hasn't been able to transform back into a cat (or anything else). I'm hoping the Cure Muse episodes are as good, because right now I find Cure Muse hopelessly uninteresting. Worst Cure ever.

Flam
Dantalian no Shoka needed more Flamberge.

Dantalian no Shoka should have been better, but could have been worse. It's not much of a series, ending abruptly at 12 episodes, but it had enough good moments interspersed throughout to make it the anime equivalent of a collection of short stories. I did want more episodes with the fireman and Flamberge, though. Koshimizu Ami played Flam exactly the way I picture Marisa from Touhou. (I don't actually know jack shit about Touhou). I still don't know why Flam wears a straitjacket dress, though.

Sonoko and Ran
Sonoko gossips with Ran.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan, but if you leave out the Kaito episodes mentioned above, this was actually a relatively weak cour of episodes—enough to knock it down a bit, whereas the average Detective Conan cour would typically be above Suite Precure♪ and Dantalian no Shoka.


Dropped shows: I dropped Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love 1000% after one episode because it didn't interest me. I considered watching a second episode for a long time, though. Likewise I dropped Nekogami Yaoyorozu after one episode semi-reluctantly. After all, it did star HOCCHAN and Haruka Tomatosauce, but I couldn't bring myself to watch more of it.

Hoshino
Cosprayers Line.

Kaito Tenshi Twin Angel - Kyun Kyun☆Tokimeki Paradise!!, at least the one episode I watched, was WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS. I only watched the first episode at all thanks to Asakawa Yuu's constant pimping of her new show on Twitter, but it just wasn't very good. Very likely it had a good episode or two somewhere down the line, but I wasn't sticking around to find out. If someone watched it all and can identify any must-watch episodes of Kaito Tenshi Twin Angel - Kyun Kyun☆Tokimeki Paradise!!, send me a telegram.