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Dated 28 May 2011: Part One: In re Ano Hana and Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream, two shows I've started watching (but haven't started liking)

Menma and Jinta
Menma hassles Jinta from beyond the grave.

I started watching Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai (Ano Hana or We Still Do Not Know the Name of the Flower we Saw That Day) because of all the hype, and I'm watching Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream because, well, why not? The last show I watched about figure skaters turned out to be pretty good, and I'm already watching three magikal girl shows (Suite Pretty Cure, Sailor Moon, and Cutie Honey), so what's one more? I blame Zero Episode Test.

Naruko
You have three two guesses as to why Naruko is so popular.

In contrast to popular opinion, I did not enjoy the first episode of Ano Hana. I thought the second episode was a lot better. Nevertheless, after seven episodes, I still don't really enjoy it as a whole. Claims about its purported gut-wrenching emotional content are overwrought, in my opinion, for one pretty important reason: I don't like any of the characters.

Jinta and Menma
There's probably a lot of glare on the TV anyway.

I loathed Potato-kun immediately. Basically, I was horrified that dumb kid from Rozen Maiden ended up in another show. Despite not liking any other character in the show as well, I at least would have found it more interesting with someone else in the lead. Must every anime male lead be so uninterestingly bland, and with such dubious redeeming values? I would even have preferred Anal-chan's fat mom in the lead role.

Naruko
Stupid Naruko, don't you know this train goes through a tunnel?

Speaking of "Anal," that is, "Anaru," the childhood nickname of Anjou Naruko, she has rocketed in popularity as an otaku fan favorite, thanks to her very aerodynamic figure, suppressed nerd leanings, black underwear, and the copious amount of time she seems to spend lounging in bed. Well, there was a momentary dip when the web preview for episode five suggested she might not be a "pure-pure" girl, but her popularity continued its climb after the show verified her sexual history was a non-threatening, blank slate. Despite an affinity for Haruka Tomatosauce, I don't really like Naruko either, mostly because she's obviously manufactured to be such a harmless character designed to appeal to a certain demographic of young viewers.

TO BE CONTINUED!!!

Dated 1 June 2011: Part Two: In re Ano Hana and Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream, two shows I've started watching (but haven't started liking)

Naruko, Menma, and Jinta
Either Menma is real or Naruko needed a massage.

I won't address every character in Ano Hana, but I have to mention Menma MacGuffin. Honma Meiko bugs me because she's incredibly immature and really quite dumb. At first I thought she was that way because her mental age was frozen after she died, but I've since determined Menma's just not very smart. Even her still-grieving mother admits that Menma was kinda slow. Lady, slow ain't the word. Anyway, it also bugs me that the show takes painful steps to avoid doing anything that could prove or disprove Menma's existence to the other characters as she avoids directly interacting with any of them except Potato-kun. Since Menma is a ghost that can touch things, eat, and even cook, these convenient omissions and contrivances are just annoying since it would be a cinch for them to determine whether or not Menma is all in Jinta's head.

Naruko and Jinta
That's right, Naruko, Jinta is cracking up.

Ano Hana does have good production values, and I can understand why other people enjoy it. If you care about the characters, you'll probably enjoy it as well. It's at least better than the other Haruka Tomatosauce show about a ghost girlfriend, Asura Cryin'. However, neither are as good as the AYAKO DOCTRINE show about a ghost boyfriend and figure skating, Ginban Kaleidoscope. Which brings me to Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream, another show about figure skaters. And while Pretty Rhythm might not have ghosts, crazy shit does occur in the astral plane.

Aria and Rhythm
Unlimited Pants Works.

Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream is...not good. It is incredibly low-budget, and essentially every background character is rendered merely as a pastel silhouette, even background characters with speaking roles. Basically every yen budgeted for this show appears to have either gone towards the bad CGI sequences or possibly a massive merchandising effort. There are live-action segments bookending each episode during which grammar school girls shill for the Prism Store and its wall-to-wall crap. Well, it's good for the economy. Japan could use a boost in spending right about now, so I guess it's all right, even if it does involve shamelessly whoring 11-year-old girls to sell "fashionable" junk to six-year-old girls. I've only watched one episode so far, but I have a sinking feeling Pretty Rhythm will run for at least 40. I'll give it like one more episode—two, tops.

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.