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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.

Dated 1 November 2011: The Usagi Drop manga is different than otaku rage would have you believe

Rin
Daikichi's first impression of Rin is a recurring image.

Usagi Drop was one of the best shows from summer 2011, losing the top spot in my rankings only because of its brief 11-episode length. However, based on the outcry the original manga created, the anime's short run was its saving grace, due to the unspeakable horror of the manga's conclusion. Or so it goes.

Rin
Daikichi sees Rin for the first time, manga version.

I've long learned of the otaku penchant for gross overreaction, so I took the time to read the entire manga myself—something I suspected many of its critics neglected to do. Based on my findings, I can understand why so many otaku reacted the way they did, but I personally had no issues with the manga's ending myself, possibly because I'm much less critical of anime and manga in general; I at least try not to group things into only two categories—AWESOME and HORRIBLE—there is a lot of stuff in that middle ground I enjoy, even if I don't necessarily enjoy all of it.

Rin
Here, the Usagi Drop anime ends.

The 11 Usagi Drop anime episodes duplicate the first 25 chapters of the 56-chapter manga almost scene for scene. The anime is very faithful to the source material. The anime also ends where it does because of the manga's timeskip. That's right, more than half of the Usagi Drop story occurs after the timeskip, so arguably the latter half is the "real" story which the first part merely sets up. At a minimum, a truculent reader should at least grudgingly acknowledge the second half is intended to be as important as the first half.

Rin
Here, the Usagi Drop manga is merely beginning.

Spoiler Warning: I won't explicitly discuss the manga events, but most readers will probably be able to easily guess the spoilers from context with little effort. When I first heard about the post-timeskip outrage, I compiled a mental list of likely spoilers based on what I knew about otaku and what I knew about Japan and what I had seen in other anime and manga. Sure enough, this list of possible rage-inducing outcomes included two of the spoilers that actually occurred in the manga, although to be fair, I was incorrect about a material detail about one of them and the one I was 100% correct on was the one I had already intuited from a scene in the anime before I had even heard about the entire controversy.

Rin
Rin shows off her missing teeth.

So why so much hostility towards the manga's ending? Frankly, I attribute it to one (or both) of two reasons. One, otaku might not be exposed to much western literature and theater if they spend most of their free time voraciously consuming manga and anime. Thus, their expectations as to what is appropriate or acceptable follow different conventions. Two, these conventions themselves are tailored in self-perpetuating otaku-friendly ways to be non-threatening. Yeah, most people angered by the Kannagi ex-boyfriend revelation were joking, but notice how none of the K-On! girls are permitted boyfriends either; even a supporting character requires plausible deniability—even in jest—when she is shown with a possible beau. This is not to say that strangers to manga and anime would not revile the Usagi Drop manga ending, but it's possible those with greater exposure to a variety of "acceptable" endings may give the title more latitude because they are more liberal with their expectations. Expectations are probably key here. For example, because its audience has different expectations, nobody bats an eye when Oedipus has sex with his mother and later puts out his eyes, and nobody cares when a Shakespeare tragedy concludes with a half-dozen dead bodies on the stage. And how many readers of the popular A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels are offended by all the rape, incest, and teenage brides?

Daikichi's phone
Tiny pictures are the way of love.

I do not claim it is improper for manga and anime fans to hold different expectations for these works, but I do feel that those embracing narrower allowances contribute to the apparently collective overreaction to the Usagi Drop ending. And I do think they overreacted, especially the ones who were offended by second- or third-hand reports about how it played out instead of investigating the matter themselves. I can understand not wanting to "stain" a cherished impression created by the first half of the story, but someone forcing himself to look away to avoid something he's predetermined to condemn as distasteful strikes me as amusingly immature.

Daikichi and Rin
I forgot to mention timeskip Rin has legs that go up to her neck.

Yes, it turns out most of Usagi Drop is a teen drama, but it's not a bad teen drama unless you claim all teen dramas are bad as a matter of general principle. Guess what? After the timeskip, Rin is a teenage girl. And, like I said, since there are more chapters with Rin as a teenager than there are of Rin as a small child, Usagi Drop arguably is a teen drama. And it's not one of those teen dramas where nothing happens. There's kissing! There's sex! There's pregnancy! But there is also devotion and unrequited love.

Rin
Rin pays her respects.

Frankly, none of this would even be possible were it not for two key elements established in the first half. First, Rin explicitly rejects Daikichi as a father when he broaches the subject. Second, six-year-old Rin is the sweetest, nicest, most well-mannered little girl in history, so Daikichi's parenting—as far as we are shown—consists almost entirely of having a job and being able to sign contracts. Instruction and discipline? Not so much.

Rin
Daikichi remembers how he met Rin.

We also don't see much parenting with regard to Kouki. We know he needed more of it, since he was apparently quite a hellion, but Usagi Drop omits a lot of details. There are at least three really big incidents that occurred between the two arcs, but aside from oblique references to them, the reader remains entirely ignorant as to, you know, what happened.

Inkwell
Rin's mother pays her respects.

I've probably said too much already, and if you can't figure out what the big deal is by now, you probably either don't know anything about Usagi Drop to begin with, or you weren't paying attention. If you have figured it out and still refuse to read the manga yourself because you're afraid of tarnishing the image formed by the anime, at least consider this: The first half of Usagi Drop is told from Daikichi's point of view. The second half is from Rin's and Kouki's points of view. This change is what makes the ending work for me.