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Dated 24 January 2012: Initial Impressions, Winter 2012

Hibiki
Hibiki has large headphones.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear is badical. If you can't enjoy teenage girls fighting with the power of song, you can't enjoy anime. I am a little perplexed by the numerous (coincidental?) similarities with Suite Precure♪, though. Both shows are music-themed and feature superpowered teenage girls named Kanade and Hibiki who fight inhuman adversaries known as Noise by using either their magic or a science sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic. Senki Zesshou Symphogear is much better than Suite Precure♪ so far, though, even if it does have comically large swords.

Rihoko
I guess Rihoko is kinda fat for an anime character, but
not really fat enough to be the Fat Love Interest.

Amagami SS+ is a worthy sequel to Amagami SS. It follows the same format, although the girls are sequenced in a different order this time. From the looks of it, Amagami SS+ will be 12 episodes offering two-episode arcs for each of the six lead girls, continuing from where the original four-episode arcs in the first season left off, not including timeskip epilogues. Probably the only real problem with Amagami SS+ is that Potato-kun continues to be a bit of a tool with very little to offer in the way of explaining why any of these girls give him the time of day (let alone explaining why some even deigned to sleep with him). Such are harem comedies, I suppose. Even serially monogamous ones.

Athrun
Damn it, Athrun, who did you let die now?

I'm not sure if I should lump the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED "HD" rebroadcast in with the rest of the winter 2012 shows, or group it with my "Also Watching" cluster. Technically, there is new material, where Sunrise was unable able to crop the original 4:3 broadcast without terrible framing problems. Aside from the shortscreen upscale with sporadic new shots, there's not much to this rebroadcast aside from a new ED arrangement I don't like as much as the original. Still, Gundam SEED is pretty good if you aren't carrying too much U.C. baggage. Let's not confuse it with the dreadful Gundam SEED Destiny sequel, at least. In other news, re-watching SEED makes me wish Hummy would have worked in a "Cosmic Era 70" intro to at least one episode of Suite Precure♪. I like seiyuu jokes.

Ayase
Ayase decides it's time to tear shit up.

Guilty Crown is not nearly as bad as people claim—it's just juvenile. Some degree of tolerance for tropes intended to appeal to children and teenage boys is required to fully appreciate Guilty Crown. That said, there are elements of the show that don't make any damn sense. Still, I enjoy it for the nice production values and the sufficiently tolerable male lead. Nevertheless, it is a little hard to stomach a successful terrorist organization run entirely by teenagers.

Genta, Ayumi, Mitsuhiko, and Ai
The kids in Detective Conan are drawn comically short.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. This season appears poised to be as good as it ever was. Detective Conan also remains the best source for regular Hayashibara Megumi and periodic Kansai-ben Miyamura Yuko (Neon Genesis Evangelion's Rei and Osaka-type Asuka) content.

Kokoro
Kokoro's I.Q. dropped this season, but so did everyone else's.

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes II isn't quite as good as the first season yet, but it's nothing more Kokoro and Arsène couldn't fix.

Shana
Shana should leave her hair on fire at all times.

I'm not going to call the plot of Shakugan no Shana III complicated, but it seems a bit more convoluted than it needs to be. There's a lot of stuff going on at the same time now, and not all of it makes good sense. It's mostly interesting, or at least amusing, which is a huge step up from Shakugan no Shana II which I'm trying my best to forget even though it's only been a few months since I watched it.

Carmel
You know, Carmel doesn't really appear to Manipulate
Objects any more than anyone else does.

It turns out J.C. Staff is not only bad when it comes to fight scenes. It's also bad at war. At least with that arc over, Shakugan no Shana Final can finally answer the important questions: Whatever happened to horny dude after his afternoon of life-threatening copulation with horny chick? Obviously she fucked him into next year, and they were still airborne last we saw them, but what's going to happen when they hit the ground?

Rebecca
I guess Rebecca looks sober here, even with her trousers unbuttoned.

Speaking of which, if Margery is the Shakugan no Shana drunken office lady, then Rebecca is the Shana drunken sorority girl, even though I think she's been sober the whole time. The girl just don't look sober. Ever. I like Rebecca.

Marika
Piracy goes in here.

Moretsu Pirates seems fine so far, but it's kinda boring, even if it does have schoolgirls wearing skirts in zero-G. For being "bodacious space pirates," they don't seem very bodacious, spacey, or piratey.

Hitagi and Araragi
Potato-kun is a pretty half-assed vampire.

I am watching Nisemonogatari. It's pretty good if you like that sort of thing, but it's painful to watch if you have a low tolerance for SHAFTisms. Nisemonogatari is a pretty ambitious harem comedy, but I guess that's still a lot better than typical low-brow ones.

Cure Melody
Cure Melody dies.

Suite Precure♪ is a disaster at this point. Worst Pretty Cure series ever. I hope Smile Precure! is a big improvement. With a starting cast of at least five Cures, I hope Smile tries to tap the focus on interpersonal relationships that made Yes! Precure 5 so successful. I will also accept wall-to-wall mahou shoujo beatdowns a la the first generation, Futari wa Pretty Cure.

Dated 10 February 2012: Winter 2012 update

Irino and Kuroi
Incidentally, Noto Mamiko has a very pleasant adult role in Black Rock Shooter.

Expanding upon my initial post, I've started following Black Rock Shooter, High School DxD, and I finished all VI episodes of Thermae Romae. Suite Precure♪ ended, Smile Precure! started, and I dropped Moretsu Pirates.

Yomi
It's probably a magic phone, but it bugs me that the string is not taut.

There was a lot of hype for the Black Rock Shooter OVA because the original music video was popular, but I remember fan reaction to the OVA being mixed at best. Despite airing only one episode so far, responses to the Black Rock Shooter anime series appears even more negative. I'm no fan of forced lesbian love triangles, but I still thought the OVA was all right and the television series seems decent enough so far. I appreciate how it juxtaposes everyday life with its sci-fi/fantasy world. Black Rock Shooter successfully conveys how devastating minor slights can appear to young teens. Yeah, this girl was mean to that girl, but it's not as if she stabbed her in the heart. It might feel that way, though, and I think Black Rock Shooter manages to show that in a straightforward yet imaginative way.

Lucius
Lucius stultus est! (Not really.)

I found out about Thermae Romae by accident. Its absurd premise about a Roman architect adopting Japanese bathing conventions works very well in this short, simply animated series relying heavily on reaction-shot humor.

Asia
High School DxD even has a clumsy nun.

Through five episodes, High School DxD is way better than I was expecting. It's not quite as trashy as Seikon no Qwaser or even Queen's Blade, but it is sufficiently outrageous to elevate a fanservice harem comedy to entertaining levels. It helps that Potato-kun has no trouble accepting what he is. By embracing his base nature, he comes across as much more likable despite being a cretin. Now that I think about it, High School DxD is basically a shallow fanservice harem comedy crossed with a shounen fighting series. This could work as long as it keeps the shounen jive down. (That was the biggest problem with To Aru Majutsu no Index, another harem comedy crossed with shounen fighting.) The first episode of High School DxD is nothing special, by the way. If you're curious about starting the series but hesitant about whether or not it will be a complete waste of time, I suggest starting with episode two and going back after episode three if you're still on board.

Kanade, Hibiki, Ellen, and Ako
Beginner's luck.

Suite Precure♪ is the worst series of the Pretty Cure franchise. I'll go into more detail if I ever get around to finishing my massive Pretty Cure treatise, but basically there is a direct correlation between the amount of ass kicking the Cures accomplish and the quality of the show. Suite Precure♪ is rather weak in that respect and compounds the problem with serious shortcomings in character development. I also don't like it when the struggle between Pretty Cure and their opponents is all about preserving people's feelings. Alas, that has been the trend since Fresh Pretty Cure, with no indication that Smile Precure! (the fourth straight "bad feelings are bad" series) will be any different.

Miyuki
This is basically how Nagisa was chosen as well.

Although these impressions are based on only a single episode (merely 2% of the projected total), Smile Precure! looks like it will be Yes! Precure 5 for people who never saw Yes! Precure 5. (Well, probably without the inter-species dating.) I hear the character designer is the same, the color palette is very similar, and it seems some of the personalities of the characters will be similarly color-coded. Speaking of which, I have no idea why the yellow one is so popular. I've been accused of not "getting" moé or otaku leanings, and perhaps that's true. For that matter, I don't even support the argument that "the yellow one" should have certain expected traits. I can see how someone might lump Cure Peace with Cure Lemonade and Cure Pine, but to me the "yellow Cure" archetype is Cure Bright, and Cure Bright is nothing like Cure Lemonade or Cure Pine. Cure Bright bats fourth. (Incidentally, I also disagree with grouping Shiny Luminous among "the yellows." Yeah, she's blond, but her entire outfit is pink—all pink. You have to play pretty fast and loose with the definition to insist Shiny Luminous is a yellow. It's practically racist. And this coming from someone who still thinks Cure Beat shouldn't be a Cure because she used to be a cat.)

Misa
Also, this lady's bird hair always bugged me.

I dropped Moretsu Pirates because it wasn't interesting. Send me a telegram if it turns out to be good.

Dated 3 April 2012: Season Wrap-up, Winter 2012

Genjuro and Chris
When in doubt, hug Chris.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear was awesome because it was preposterous. Symphogear went above and beyond to remain entertaining. From the first BADICAL episode to its ridiculous climax, Symphogear always remained fun to watch. I can't claim with a straight face that it's actually good, but I never claimed a show had to be good to be the best show of the season. More of this sort of thing, please.

Yassan and Hidenori
It's all about the timing.

The best show of Winter 2012 if you want to use boring metrics such as "funny" or "consistent" is Daily Lives of High School Boys (Danshi Kōkōsei no Nichijō or "Nichibros" affectionately, among fans). Shockingly, this was a very amusing comedy and nothing at all like what I thought it would be about based on the title. Daily Lives of High School Boys also accomplished the rare No Bad Episodes achievement. Hell, I'd even go so far as to recommend it. That's something I can't do for Symphogear.

Saya
Black Rock Shooter needed more DARK MAMIKO.

I liked Black Rock Shooter for its almost confrontational use of allegory and metaphor to illustrate the trauma of suffering teenage feelings. I don't believe I have an especially high tolerance or patience for teen angst in general, so I consider my positive overall opinion of Black Rock Shooter to be a testament to its solid, stylish execution and depiction of envy, despair, humiliation, friendship, and courage. I can see how other viewers might wildly disagree, though.

Kazuha and Amakazu
Kazuha aikidos the shit out of some deadbeat.

Detective Conan remains as good as ever. It's somewhat amazing that after more than 650 episodes it still has compelling stories about its key characters. It's also just as satisfying as ever to watch Ran and Kazuha whip the Hell out of some goob. If you're new to these wrap-ups, Detective Conan is sort of my control group of quality since it's pretty consistent and appears ready to run as long as it has to.

Tsugumi
Guilty Crown needed more Butt OS.

Guilty Crown was all over the place this season. It's quite a mess, but was pretty entertaining in an absurd sort of way when it was about [spoilers] and [spoilers] and [spoilers!], but then it just started getting stupid. Shu as a protagonist was its biggest flaw, and things would have been so much better if Guilty Crown had killed him unexpectedly and replaced him with Ayase. For a show that I ranked number one for a large part of the season, Guilty Crown fell a long way in its inability to pull off a satisfying conclusion. It also didn't make a damn lot of sense, but a show doesn't need to make sense to be the best of the season. (See Symphogear.)

Flay
Poor Flay is just misunderstood.

The "HD" rebroadcast of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is not much different from the original. It's mostly just cropped and upscaled. I still like it, though, even if Flay's breasts are now flying out-of-control all over the OP.

Lucius
That is some pretty good ramen.

I finished Thermae Romae months ago. It's a good thing it was so short, though. I can't imagine watching a full cour of it.

Miyuki and Nao
Flag of England and lance corporal rank.

It's a bit of a relief that Smile Precure! is charming. These girls can't fight worth a damn. That's kind of the trend for Pretty Cure over the last few years, though. There's not nearly enough ass kicking. I remain hopeful that Cure March will get her act together later, even if she does end up carrying the rest of the team. Notably, Nao wears combat boots and her favorite shirt appears to have lance corporal rank insignia on its sleeve and the flag of England on the breast. SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE, CURE MARCH!

Ai
Ai is pretty awesome even though she tastes like ramen.

Amagami SS+ was a huge letdown because it retconned nearly all of the progress Potato-kun made in the first season. It would be almost inexplicable, except that I should have predicted the craven devotion to upholding the Otaku Virtues. In nearly every respect, the second season of Amagami SS is wasted potential, and a waste of time. At least Tsukasa remains the Amagami Best Girl by showing she's smart enough not to fall for stupid tricks.

Asia
Potato-kun comes for Asia's box.

High School DxD is both a disappointment and a pleasant surprise. On the one hand, it's a lot better than a trashy show like that has any right to be. On the other hand, it didn't turn out as good as it appeared it would be from the early episodes following the cookie-cutter first episode.

Arsène
The best Milky Holmes II had to offer.

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes II was not nearly as good as the first season. Then again, the first season was a lot better than anyone expected it to be, so I guess it works out. Too much lard, not enough Arsène, and the only new gag I liked was Hercule turning out to be a huge pervert in secret.

Akazawa
Hair down > twin-tails.

Another was another letdown for me. It started off boring, got interesting, got stupid, and ended up being completely retarded. I think it tried recapture the elements that made Shiki so good, but instead of B-movie fun Another was just poorly written dreck. So many problems. There's only so much handwaving I'm willing to accept. And another thing: [SPOILERS] If everyone forgets about the dead extra person after he's killed, how do they know it's over? Wouldn't the class continue looking for the extra person until everyone was dead? In any case, it seems a lot of people who were very critical of Guilty Crown for being puerile were much more forgiving of Another despite the two shows sharing similar flaws. I took the opposite view. I dunno, maybe I liked Butt OS and wheelchair-fu more than I thought. A classroom of students too stupid to live? Not so much.

Shana
Dere-Dere Mode, activate!

Shakugan no Shana III was a lot better than Shakugan no Shana II but was still terrible. I blame J.C. Staff's persistent problems with producing compelling fight scenes. They're bad enough at it that sequences only a few seconds long routinely come out horrid. Thus, when J.C. Staff tries to drag out fight scenes over multiple episodes, the end result is disastrous.

Shinobu
Whatever happened to Shinobu's helmet and goggles?

Nisemonogatari is awesome if you like that SHAFTXSHINBO jive. It'll irritate the crap out of you if you have little to no patience for it, though. And let's be clear on this: Koyomi is a harem comedy protagonist. A shitty one. Also, the obsession with little sisters has got to stop. I suppose I don't "get" Japanese fetishes, but I am really tired of the imouto thing. It's basically only okay when it's like Harima + Yakumo from School Rumble (platonic friendship with the kid sister of his unrequited love). I suspect many viewers will further disagree with me here, but as much as I like Sakamoto Maaya, I believe Hirano Aya, the original voice of Shinobu (back when she didn't talk) would have been a better match. I assume Hirano Aya was replaced for reasons related to her relatively recent personal and professional problems.

I already described my problems with Suite Precure♪. I still want to know whether or not Cure Rhythm's battle costume smells like cake, though.

I dropped Moretsu Pirates because it was boring. I heard later that the show is actually about privateering, anyway.