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Dated 3 April 2007: To Heart and Full Moon wo Sagashite DVDs

To Heart and FMoS DVDs
To Heart and Full Moon wo Sagashite DVDs.

Welcome to the End Times. I hold in my hands Full Moon wo Sagashite and To Heart DVDs. There was a time when I was certain these two shows would never be licensed and released in the United States. Now I don't know what to think.

I have to conclude that any show is now fair game. Who knows? I believe even Kokoro Toshokan, Pitari Tenshi, and Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou may be licensed one day soon. Hope springs eternal.

Look, there's even a Region One Di Gi Charat DVD. The ORIGINAL Di Gi Charat with the fucked up licensing issues!

And To Heart had terribly degraded masters. Right Stuf faithfully restored what they could get. (Also, M-LOCK DVD case!) It's a lot of work for a show with no plot where essentially nothing happens. (But damn if it ain't good.)

I'm serious. Don't be at all surprised to see R1 Maria-sama ga Miteru DVDs one day. I should take a preemptive screen shot of Yumi making one of her surprised faces in anticipation of such an announcement, to tell you the truth.

Oh, and for any potential readers with enough swing to convince Bandai, Geneon, or FUNimation to pick up new properties, add Futakoi Alternative and the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha series in the queue, please.

Dated 10 July 2009: Spring 2009 wrap-up

Kusada
Kusada finally breaks. Better hang on, kid.

With a few exceptions, most of the shows I watched last season bear one thing in common: very few anime fans from my corner of the Internet (the best and worst of whom can be found at #raspberryheaven) would give them a chance. Even Hatsukoi Limited, which I previously mentioned is the best show from the spring 2009 season, attracted relatively few followers. (Most were too busy watching K-On! and searching for Mio fan art.) Those that actually watched Hatsukoi Limited instead of merely asking, "What's so great about another school romance show?" found a combination of light comedy and whimsical tales of first love so deftly executed I have no reservations naming it the top show of the season ahead of the initial (and already controversial) episodes of the second season of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu.

Yuki
Yuki looks bored, even for Yuki.

Haruhi II still secures second, and will presumably do well during the summer 2009 season, even if (or in my view, especially if) there really are eight episodes of "Endless Eight." That would be awesome, particularly if it drives conventional-thinking fans into sending Kyoto Animation furious letters with death threats which they can include in a The End of Haruhi movie that makes little sense but includes a bitchin' fight scene. (I secretly hope there are 15,514 episodes of "Endless Eight," and that the entire ordeal is somehow Yuki's fault and not Haruhi's at all.) I bet all the people who can't stand "Endless Eight" are the same people who skip OPs and EDs.

Cal and Zwei
Natalie Portman from Leon joins the Phantom cast.

Nobody ever believes me, but Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom is actually really good—good enough to finish third for spring 2009 (and currently lead summer 2009). Bee Train influences are obvious, but this is not El Cazador de la Bruja or Madlax. For one thing, there's a male lead. Moreover, none of the female leads have displayed any signs of lesbianism. In fact, Ein apparently really likes getting oil massages from creepy old guys. Bio Concerto is worth its weight in gold, people. I'm telling you.

Aoba
Aoba, you're not even trying.

A lot of people won't watch sports anime in general or baseball anime in particular. Cross Game is at its best when it's not about baseball, to tell you the truth. I enjoy it a great deal more than Touch and what I've read of H2, but the actual baseball games in Cross Game are not as compelling as the slice-of-life stories about Kou and Aoba.

Goro
You're not exactly facing the Taisho Yakyuu Musume team now, Goro.

Major season five takes the fifth spot. I'm still watching it as there are still unsubbed episodes, but I won't be including it with the summer 2009 lineup. [Update: Advanced to fifth place after episode 120.] Assuming the fifth season is the final season of Major, I have to say this was an excellent series and I really appreciate the epic nature of the show, following Goro from childhood to adulthood. Were I to include all five seasons of Major as one work, it would easily take the top spot. Incidentally, Shimizu Kaoru still leads in the Girl of the Year rankings for 2009. This one is going to be a boat race.

Takako
Takako contemplates the future of Kannagi.

The Kannagi episode 14 OVA is every bit as good as the series. That it only places sixth should tell you just how good the competition is this time around. I hope Kannagi gets a second season.

Cure Peach
There's a storm brewing, Peach-han.

Fresh Pretty Cure ranks seventh, but has moved up quite a bit in the summer 2009 rankings due to the fully awesome Cure Passion arc, currently underway. This is another show nobody but Precure fans seem willing to watch, but the Setsuna/Love friendship really is compelling. Every episode recently has had the kind of OH SHIT moments typically attributed to shounen jive or cheesy Gundam switcheroos. Speaking of shounen jive, Fresh Pretty Cure is very light on the "standing around talking instead of fighting" bits, and when Love cuts loose, she starts out in a normal voice but gets exponentially louder and faster (it's awesome, trust me) until you think she's about to ace someone square in the face. There is too much beam spamming, though, but episode 23 is expected to include brutal fisticuffs, so we're back to the basics. Kickass.

Ana Coppola, Black Custom
Needs more Ana Coppola, Black Custom.

Eighth goes to the second OVA episode of Ichigo Mashimaro Encore. This series also really could use another season. It remains entertaining and funny, and definitely does not deserve the extra baggage that keeps many people from watching it.

Alice
If Alice isn't happy, no one's happy.

Pandora Hearts is good, but weird, so anyone that might watch it probably is watching it already, and no amount of cajoling will convince anyone else to give it a try, alas. I can understand why it doesn't have broader appeal.

Ed
Ed doesn't seem to obsess about his height as much this time.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood would have fared better if it hadn't felt like watching a really long clip show. It should also do better in the rankings this summer as it diverges more from the first anime. Curiously, I'll watch countless episodes of "Endless Eight" but the deja vu sensation of the early Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood episodes really turned me off. Or maybe it's because Brotherhood halved Winry's cup size. Could be.

Mikuru
Asahina's daily life.

The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan got a lot better as the season went on, but it's still not as good as Petit Eva or the various Marimite specials, for example.

Junichi and Kotori
No! Keep your damn dirty hands off Kotori's hat!

The second episode of Da Capo: If came out during spring 2009. Pity it wasn't as good as the first installment. Then again, no Kotori arc is ever going to seem satisfying as long as Junichi remains such a putz.

Tomoe
I'm still amazed Mamiko Noto voiced Tomoe as a straight-up serious character.

Queen's Blade is what it is. I think it would have been infinitely better if Tomoe (the miko character) had—for no discernible reason—gone the entire series without getting naked .

Shuri
Say "cheese."

Asura Cryin' faded a bit, or at least my interest did. I like all the colors, though. [Update: The end of Asura Cryin' got really shounen and kinda stopped being fun at all. Why can't it just be about humping your ghost girlfriend and every once in a while robot fights? I guess I won't be watching the second season, alas.]

Ryoko and Churuya
Say "cheese."

Nyoron Churuya-san started out funny, but got a little tiresome towards the end, whereas its Haruhi-chan counterpart managed to improve and keep me looking forward to Haruhi II.

Chi
"Chi's!"

Good Lord, there were a lot of shows spring season. And I'm not just saying that because I watched a hundred-some episodes of Chi's Sweet Home so I could start Chi's New Address. Even with three-minute episodes, that is a lot of Chi. I could be burned out on all the kittenness, but Chi's New Address doesn't seem as good as Chi's Sweet Home. Needs more bear cat, for one thing. I also keep waiting for Chi to finally age, but for the time being she remains Yotsuba in kitten form.

Tamaki
Needs more Tamaki.

The first episode of To Heart 2 ad plus wasn't very good. It's pretty forgettable, alas.

Mio
I would have kept watching K-On! had it replaced Mio with Yomi.

I didn't drop any shows aside from the following series I previously mentioned: Eden of the East (8) > Shin Mazinger Z (3) > Saki (2) > Valkyria Chronicles (3) > K-On! (4) > Higepiyo (3) > Shangri-La (1).

Yoichi
Needs more Perrine-H. Clostermann.

I should probably exclude OVAs from future such lists. I already leave off movies. Besides, it's not possible to "drop" a movie or a one-episode OVA. Well, I guess unless one abandons it midway. I probably should have done that with The Sky Crawlers. That movie should have had a Strike Witches crossover wherein the 501st Joint Fighter Wing wipes them all out in five minutes and the movie ends. Sheesh. The damn thing felt like it was 15,513 fortnights long. (Yes, I know. Yes, I know that too.)

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.