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Dated 22 October 2011: Early impressions of autumn 2011

Kotori, Ritsuko, Miki, Ami, Yukiho, Mami, and Azusa
Kotori, Ritsuko, Miki, Ami, Yukiho, Mami, and Azusa on top.

So far, The IDOLM@STER TV has been the best show I'm following during autumn 2011. I'm pleased to see the 765 Pro girls' careers advance and I look forward to the inevitable scandal that threatens to destroy them when the evil rival talent agency blows the lid on Miki and her HONEY shacking up. You know it's coming.

Saber
Saber sure dresses sharper in Fate/zero than she does in Fate/stay night

Fate/zero is kinda stupid so far, but I can't resist. You could attribute it to the Ayako Doctrine, since I'm pretty stoked about having three (technically four) shows this season featuring her work. Truth be told, as much as I enjoy Kawasumi Ayako's "tough girl" voice, her "comic tough girl" voice is even better. I refer you to the Carnival Phantasm OVAs and Magical Witch Punie-chan.

Ika Musume
I hope you weren't expecting a squid-pun caption.

Shinryaku!? Ika Musume is a worthy sequel to the first season, although thus far it seems to be playing it safe. It needs another moment like the umbrella episode to really return it to its former glory.

Inori and Shu
It turns out Guilty Crown and Dantalian no Shoka are the same show.

Guilty Crown is way better than people give it credit for even if it isn't necessarily good. It's got good stuff in it, okay? That's good enough for me. And I'm not just saying that because that one girl's zero-gravity breasts are obviously some artist's labor of love.

Cure Muse
Cure Muse kinda sucks, to tell you the truth.

Suite Precure♪ really benefits from having Koshimizu Ami, Orikasa Fumiko, and Toyoguchi Megumi on the cast, much more than Heartcatch Precure! ever did from having Banana Mizuki or Hisakawa Aya on its cast. All five are very talented voice actresses, but Mizuki Nana was completely wasted as Tsubomi and Hisakawa Aya never impressed me as Cure Moonlight (nor as Sailor Mercury neither, through the first 46 episodes at least). If you listen to their stock footage transformation catchphrases, for example, Koshimizu Ami adds a lot of verve to her role, and Toyoguchi Megumi announces herself with real authority. I totally buy that she's about to beat some ass. Fumiko Orikasa...man, I'm just glad she's working again outside of that Bleach black hole.

Sen
Sen's understanding of "half off" differ's from Inori's.

Ben-to probably would have made a good two-episode OVA. I can't see watching more of this, even if Panty is in it eventually.

Ran
Needs more Ran service.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. I expect it will continue to be as good as it always is, discounting the anomalous previous cour.

Sena
That's funny, the damage doesn't look as bad from out here.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai is about as good as the manga, I suppose, but I'm not a big fan of that either. I've met my goal of watching enough to see the eroge episode, so I think I'm done—both with the anime and the manga. It's just not especially interesting, and the character designs aren't appealing.

Shana
This is basically all Shana needs to succeed: fire and grimacing.

Shakugan no Shana Final is kinda poor, but making Yuji a villian is a good move. Oops, spoilers. I was half-wrong when I claimed there was no need to watch Shana II before watching Shana III. You won't know what the Hell is going on if you skip from Shana I to Shana Final, but then again there's a 50/50 chance you'll still be horribly confused by the start of Shana III even if you do watch the second season. Anyway, Shana III is pretty lousy, but sweet Haruhi, it's not nearly as bad as the second season was. Plus more Ayako!

Dated 29 November 2011: The best product placement in Ben-to does not feature food

Sega Saturn
Waiting for the start of the era of hot-blooded Dreamcast nostalgia.

Truth be told, I almost dropped Ben-to after episode two, but soldiered on to figure out why Panty was in this show. It's stayed amusing longer than I thought it would, but possibly I'm biased because I'm a loyal Sega fan, and the Sega product placement has been relentless. Does is still count as product placement if nothing featured is current?

Dated 6 January 2012: Season Summary, Autumn 2011

Haruka and Chihaya
Haruka visits Chihaya's spartan apartment in episode 11.

Leading the way by a large margin in autumn 2011 is The IDOLM@STER TV. I am solidly in the camp that believes Idolmaster exceeded all expectations. It doesn't quite win the coveted No Bad Episodes award (thanks for dragging down the curve, Hibiki), and some of the early summer 2011 episodes stumbled in parts, but taken as a whole Idolm@ster performed very well. As much as I enjoyed Hanasaku Iroha in the spring and summer, iM@S is easily my choice for show of the year. Some may argue Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica deserves Show of the Year, but I believe its baggage will prevent it from being as fondly remembered in the long run.

Chihaya
Chihaya alone in her apartment, episode 20.

I am both disappointed and relieved Idolm@ster did not use a Miki + Producer scandal as its final plot arc—disappointed because I have a perverse interest in drama and trauma in my -rama, but relieved because the actual final arc was a great way to end the season that fit very well with the tone and progression of the show over its 25 episodes. Thankfully, it also leaves the door ajar for another 25 episodes.

Chihaya's apartment
Chihaya's apartment, episode 25.

I'm conflicted as to whether Idolm@ster is a harem comedy or not. I have to conclude that it is, but it's a harem comedy the way the original To Heart anime is a harem comedy, and not in the way the insipid ToHeart2 is a harem comedy. Notably, despite more than a dozen nubile girls commanding his attention, Producer is a serious love interest to none of them. Miki might disagree with me here, and although she gives Producer the green light early and often, there is no real romantic or sexual tension between them. All the girls all fond of Producer, but in wholly appropriate ways. The girls want to be good idols for him, but they also want to succeed for their own sakes. Likewise, the girls of To Heart are fond of Hiroyuki as he serially befriends the Hell out of them, but they have their own goals and aspirations independent of him, unlike standard brainwashed harem comedy heroines inexplicably devoted to Potato-kun. Making Producer a part of his idols' lives, but not the center of their attention prevents Idolm@ster from going down a very bad road.

Inori
Inori tries to save Guilty Crown.

It's a long drop from the top spot to the second-best show I watched in autumn 2011: Guilty Crown. No matter how many unique things Guilty Crown may try and no matter what nuances it gives its characters, the package as a whole is wrapped in some of the most juvenile, cliché, and outright ridiculous developments. Still, none of these faults necessarily prevent Guilty Crown from being entertaining. If you have no stomach for a show quite obviously intended for male viewers in their early teens, then you will probably not wish to suffer through another cour of Guilty Crown. I, on the other hand, am quite looking forward to the second half of the show in winter 2012. Hell yeah.

Shaga
You wouldn't hit a girl with glasses, would you?

I almost dropped Ben-to after episode two because I assumed a show based on a fairly thin gimmick would wear out its welcome very quickly. Nevertheless, I kept watching because I was determined to at least learn what Panty was doing in this show. Surprisingly, the characters remained likeable and the premise remained entertaining. The unapologetic Sega pimping helped, too. It was also good to have Horie Yui and Tamura Yukari playing off each other. They make a good duo, and the dynamic is even better in Ben-to than it was in B Gata H Kei.

Ika Musume
They'll all be dead in a couple days anyway, de geso.

Shinryaku!? Ika Musume is not as good as the first season, mostly because it felt like it was playing off the same jokes over and over. The first season benefited from numerous examples of one-upmanship as Ika Musume learned or did something more improbable than the last. There were a few such moments this season, but Shinryaku!? Ika Musume paled in comparison to its brilliant first season.

Conan and Ran
I wonder what Conan saw in the mirror, Ran?

This was a good year for Detective Conan, particularly with regard to the summer's London arc, but the autumn portion was mostly about par for the course. It was also a good year for Ran, the 2011 Girl of the Year. The many Detective Conan OPs and EDs are notoriously cruel to Ran + Shinichi 'shippers, but the ED closing out the autumn 2011 season offers hints as to the shows eventual conclusion. (Detective Conan can't really run forever, right? Right?) Avert your eyes if you fear my psychic powers lend credence to what is admittedly merely a wild guess on my part: Shinichi will not return to his normal age. Ran will suffer the same fate as Shinichi and Haibara and become a small child again herself. Ran will finally learn Conan's secret and the series will end. I'm counting on anime's penchant for packing OPs and EDs with spoilers to ultimately prove me right. Besides, there's a legitimate way out: The numerous Kaito Kid specials this year have been good enough that I think an outright spinoff is a solid possibility. I sure hope Sawashiro Miyuki is prepared to play a scandalously clad high school ojou-sama witch for the next 10 years.

Saber and Irisviel
Saber and Irisviel both need hats.

Fate/zero is beautifully animated and basically better in every way possible than its horribly flawed predecessor Fate/stay night (except for lacking a Tohsaka Rin old enough to properly boast her trademark sweater + zettai ryouiki flawless combination). Even Saber manages to seem, well, not smart, but at least cool. And I like Irisviel far more than I expected, probably boosted by her fine taste in vintage automobiles. Still, the Fate/zero dialog dumps are so sonorous, and there's so much of it. I'm sure its second half will do better during winter spring 2012 when everyone starts killing each other.

Cure Beat, Cure Melody, Cure Rhythm, and Cure Muse
Probably shouldn't have stood around being useless
while Cure Melody was getting her ass kicked, eh.

Suite Precure♪ surpassed Fresh Pretty Cure somewhere around the Cure Muse arc as the most underachieving iteration of the Pretty Cure franchise, and since then it has done nothing but continue to fall in my estimation. Suite is not quite in freefall, but Lord, it ain't falling up. For over a thousand generations the Pretty Cure were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before they started letting cats and small children into their order. Also, I really hope impressionable young Suite Precure♪ viewers do not grow up thinking Cure Melody's solution is in any way an appropriate solution to resolving a hostage situation. I hope Smile Precure! does better, but its large starting cast and rumors of additional non-human Cures fill me with dread. (Yeah, I guess I'm racist. Speciesist?) At some point, Kaoru and Michiru have got to get tired of getting snubbed by their inexplicable exclusion from the Sacred Order of the Pretty Cure and crash the show to trash the joint and bust some heads the old fashioned way. Got to.

Shana
Go on, Shana. Curse the bitch out.

Shakugan no Shana Final is not that bad. Honest! It's way better than the second season of Shakugan no Shana, okay? Then again, I still rate it below Suite Precure♪, which ought to tell you something. On the plus side, this whole season has been about war, albeit not a very competently executed war. It also doesn't help that J.C. Staff still has trouble with fight scenes. In other news, two of the main characters engaged in sexual intercourse so vigorously one of them required magical augmentation beforehand to prevent permanent injury or possible death from the encounter. True story. [P.S. Spoilers.]

Sena
UNIVERSE!

I dropped Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai after three episodes, but I accidentally acquired a copy of episode nine in a game of chance, so I watched that too. The show is all right—bettter than Shana III at least, but I don't have any interest in it. This is unsurprising because I have no interest in the manga either, having dropped it at least three times since it first came on the scene. I also don't like the anime character designs at all.