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Dated 2 September 2007: What we need now is more Azumanga Daioh

Sakaki, Kagura, Osaka, and Tomo
This is not a Danbooru breast-comparison chart.

I'm re-watching Azumanga Daioh again. This time I'm leaving my ADV DVDs on the shelf, and just watching the Triad fansubs—partially because of ADV's "MISS SAKAKI" faggotry, but also because I find it entirely too inconvenient at the moment to swap DVDs and cycle through pointless menus, etc.

Tomo, Yomi, and Chiyo
Tomo, Yomi, and Chiyo.

E/N Warning: I originally watched Azumanga Daioh during an especially demanding time. I didn't really have time for, well, anything...but I sacrificed sleep to watch episodes of Azumanga Daioh because the show always made me laugh my ass off.

Sayaka
Sayaka from Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo.

As an aside, those of you who really enjoy the music in Azumanga Daioh are encouraged to give another J.C. Staff series a try: Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo. It's a vastly underrated series, which suffers because it didn't capture the attention of a better-known fansubbing group, and because its initial episodes are a little overt with the fan service levels. Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo is no Azumanga Daioh to be sure, but it is amusing enough, and the background music is very similar.

Osaka, Chiyo, and Sakaki
Osaka, Chiyo, and Sakaki.

Actually, I ended up marathoning Azumanga Daioh before I finished writing this entry. My original review still stands. I don't think I even have much to add, except perhaps this:

In light of this year's fervor over Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, it is important to remember the tremendous fanbase devoted to Azumanga Daioh during its prime. That Bandai enjoyed great success with its The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya launch compared to ADV's Azumanga Daioh failure is at least partially attributable to the degree to which ADV fucked it up.

Haruhi
Haruhi.

Certainly the timing of the sales and the expansion in the market itself over the years contributed to the differences in the two North American releases, but it should be obvious to fans of both shows that ADV's stumbles marketing Azumanga Daioh coupled with the MISS SAKAKI-type curiosities seriously cost ADV a tremendous opportunity. I'm not going to break down the differences point by point, but a large one to consider is Bandai's (at least tacit) willingness to embrace (and market directly to) fans of the show who had already seen it via downloading fansubs or streaming YouTube—a sharp contrast to ADV's doctrines.

Yukari and Nyamo
Yukari and Nyamo.

Think of it as the triumph of Web 2.0 mumbo jumbo versus the old and busted obstinate way of doing things. ADV, like everyone else, knows fansub-watchers buy DVDs. Think of it this way: Every series offered with a "collector's box" edition of the set's first DVD is obviously geared towards people who have already watched and enjoyed the show. Who else would buy the collector's box edition of a show they had never seen? Wouldn't it make more sense to offer the collector's box with the last DVD? And yet, although ADV will grudgingly acknowledge the inspired-by-fansubs market exists, it won't (or at least didn't) embrace it.

Tsuruya
Tsuruya.

Osaka
Osaka is actually a genius. I swear.

For neophyte anime fans who are only still reading this because I mentioned The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, you should also watch Azumanga Daioh because Tsuruya's seiyuu, the megas-talented Matsuoka Yuki, also voiced (the vastly different) Osaka.

Dated 21 April 2009: End of season review, Winter 2009

Makina
Gainax Kick detected.

The biggest surprise of the Winter 2009 season was the rise of Shikabane Hime: Kuro and the fall of Toradora! in the final rankings during the last weeks of the season. As expected, it was a rather weak season overall, but it had its moments.

Makina
Makina has a bad day.

I had fully expected to drop Shikabane Hime after four episodes during the Autumn 2008 season, but I was hooked by the characters (except for Ouri) and the mystery. It helped I was spared the loathsome shounen jive conventions I despise so much.

Goro and Kaoru
I hereby nominate Shimizu for Best Girl of the Year.

The second-best series from Winter 2009 was the first half of the fifth season of Major. Besides being a solid sports anime, it's also starting to delve into relationship drama, although with its own flair, and thankfully without the typical animeisms that plague relationship stories. Maybe it's because the characters in question are no longer in high school, so they aren't expected to act like twits. Whatever the reason, it's refreshing.

Nobue
Nobue calls these days "weekdays."

Taking the third spot is the first Ichigo Mashimaro Encore OVA. I should probably not include OVAs in these rankings for numerous reasons, but I'm making these rules up as I go along. As for the first Ichigo Mashimaro Encore OVA itself, it was another solid block of entertainment and charm that make the series so enjoyable. Pity the title unfairly carries with it all that baggage it can't seem to escape. You know what I'm talking about.

Suguru and Sachiko
This is the weirdest bathroom. Is it at the end of a hallway?

In fourth is the latest offering of Maria-sama ga Miteru. I didn't care for these episodes as much as the previous seasons, but that's probably because of their Touko-centric nature. On the other hand, these episodes also elevated Touko three positions in the Marimite rankings. Congratulations, Touko. I no longer like you least.

Ami and Minori
Ami is stunned to discover she's the Toradora! Best Girl after all.
And how odd. Minori is usually much more genki.

Everyone else's favorite, Toradora!, only managed to take the fifth spot, despite leading most of the season. As astute readers surely realize, this sudden drop is largely due to the dramatic turn towards the end of the season. Most people who really like Toradora! seem to really like the relationship drama aspects of the final episodes, but I felt they were ham-handed at best. Maybe it's because these are high school relationships in question, but I couldn't help thinking the principals were utter twits. As others have pointed out, this isn't really drama; it's melodrama. And it tastes like high school.

Shion
How odd. Shion is usually much more genki.

I'm not a huge fan of Tetsuwan Birdy Decode, but it is pretty good at what it does. Were these rankings based solely on my interest, it would probably place lower in the standings, although at no fault of its own. Then again, if these rankings were driven by my appreciation of Chiba Saeko, it would place higher. So let's just call it a wash, eh.

Kotori
How odd. Kotori is usually much more genki.

Da Capo If is another OVA ranked entirely on the strength of a single episode. Like with the Ichigo Mashimaro OVA, that's probably not fair, and I should probably exclude it entirely, but I waited a long time for a Kotori route, so I'm going to include it, God damn it. Also, Da Capo If reminds us Horie Yui can really act when she wants to.

Kyon
Kyon, you know this can't possibly end well.

The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan shorts are genuinely amusing. They pulled away from their Nyoron Churuya-san counterparts with that episode where Asahina Mikuru just starts crying from confusion and never looked back.

Torigaya? and Washizu
Washizu Vision?

Oh God. Asu no Yoichi!. Hey, some of the middle-laterish episodes are all right, and that running gag with Washizu's crony had a great payoff that came completely out of left field. The best part is everyone else dropped this show after episode two, so they have no idea what I'm talking about.

Love is all right for a rookie Cure
How odd. Love is usually much more genki.

Fresh Pretty Cure is fresh. Love is love. Tart is the least annoying Precure mascot thus far. Kaoru-chan probably wants to get into the girls' pants. Easy is the best Precure villain except for that that one movie where Cure White is tempted by the dark side and beats Hell out of Cure Black. Aside from Buki being a sort of useless religious fanatic, this show is all right.

Churuya
Quit while you're ahead, Tsuruya.

Nyoron Churuya-san needs more variety in its jokes, nyoron.

Marisa
I've decided Marisa is my favorite Touhou character. Entirely arbitrarily.

Rounding out the final spot among shows I watched during the Winter 2009 season is the unofficial Touhou doujin anime. Despite all the hype, it was merely adequate, which I guess is pretty good all things considered. I wanted to like it more, but I can't claim it's even as good as the classic Yakumo/Chen bit with the KCY and all.

Hokuto
How odd. Hokuto is usually much more...wait, no she's not.

I also dropped a bunch of shows, but there aren't any additions or changes from the earlier list

Dated 14 June 2009: Summer 2009 preview

Goro, Shimizu, and Miho
Suddenly, a Mamiko appears!

Chances are I'm going to be watching nothing but baseball anime this summer. For starters, I need to finish the fifth season of Major. Presumably, Cross Game will continue airing, seeing as how the manga isn't finished yet either, and neither Touch nor H2 were short series. And now Not Idolm@ster Baseball is here! Err, I mean Taisho Yakyuu Musume.

Akaishi
Akaishi, like everyone else, is way too hung up on Wakaba.

This is not to say there aren't any other interesting shows airing this summer, but I admit the lineup doesn't seem as compelling as summer schedules tend to be. I'm generally disdainful when people complain an upcoming season doesn't look very interesting, because people say that every single season, but maybe it's my turn this time.


I know nothing about Canaan or 428, but it
looks like TYPE-MOON except with funk.

Aside from Taisho Yakyuu Musume, I'll watch Canaan out of general principle because of its TYPE-MOON influences. I'll watch Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! because it looks terrible. I'll watch the Nodame Cantabile and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei sequels based on the strength of the originals. I'll give Aoi Hana a try because of J.C. Staff, but abandon it if it turns out to be yet another lesbian otaku fantasy. I think there's supposed to be more Kara no Kyoukai and the final episode of Shikabane Hime is due out in August.

Plug
Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! is my low-brow show of the summer.

Chances are there will a show or two that defies all expectations and plays way out of its league. For example, nobody expected much from Kannagi initially. Moreover, nobody hyped Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu during its pre-season, and the latter turned out to be the 800-pound gorilla whose second season doesn't even require mentioning. (Yeah, I'm guaranteed to be watching that this summer, too.) Naturally, I didn't break down even half of the Summer 2009 season; there are other1 resources2 I recommend if you haven't found them already.

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 19 July 2009: Haruhi II is all about endless "Endless Eight" blog posts

Haruhi
It's probably because we've wondered since "Endless Eight" 01
why she would have it on in a pool in the first place.

Just adding to the fray and pointing out the best episode of "Endless Eight" in the second season of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu is the episode where Haruhi doesn't wear her hair band in the pool.

Dated 4 September 2009: The Disappointment in Haruhi Suzumiya

Haruhi
Actually the real reason I don't like Haruhi 2009 as
much is because of the revolting K-On! character
designs with the knobby faces.

Somehow, the second season of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu has gotten kinda boring after "Endless Eight" ended. That's right: after. See, I actually liked "Endless Eight." I've watched each installment at least twice. Now, I'm not one of the Haruhi Kool-Aid drinkers; I acknowledge as valid the typical criticisms levied against the show's 2009 renewal, although I still list the original series in my Top Five anime series of all time and enjoyed the (chronological) re-broadcast of what episodes they managed before veering off into not-quite-season-two land.

Haruhi
You might think I'm kidding, but it's at least half the reason.

The problem, however, is that these new episodes after "Endless Eight" are kinda boring. I'm not exactly sure what the problem is, but there is not quite the verve or the humor that made the first series so engaging. The comedic timing is also lacking, making the whole affair kind of listless at times. And while Haruhi has always been exceptionally bossy, this time around She seems a lot less fun and a lot more authoritarian.

Dated 12 October 2009: The End of Haruhi

Haruhi
Haruhi is probably okay to be around when she's not a hellion.

I am disappointed nobody bothered to re-sub (re-mux, really) the remaining episodes of the Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu rebroadcast. It's not that crazy; groups re-subbed the initial episodes of the rebroadcast leading up to "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody" and "Endless Eight." I guess the tedious filmmaking episodes drained their collective will.

In other news, I am also disappointed we did not get any Haruhi Cantabile episodes from the random cut of Haruhi being uncharacteristically serene in front of a piano as depicted in the OP.

Dated 15 October 2009: Haruhi ain't over 'till it's over

Haruhi and Mai
Haruhi and Mai are pleasantly surprised.

I guess I spoke too soon; there is still someone subbing the Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu rebroadcast. Although from the looks of it, they might not even be using television raws. And I don't see a new sub for episode 25, Haruhi's independent film.

The festival gets rained out
What makes the green grass grow?

I suppose it is as good a time as any to revisit some "Live Alive" points that I skipped the first time around. Although I alluded to them, I did not explicitly raise these matters because I quite frankly expected a whole slew of bloggers to cover the same ground. Three years later, I still haven't seen anyone directly address the following points—or if they did, they escaped my notice:

The crowd takes shelter indoors
A crowd conveniently takes shelter from the rain.

First, the rain. This is a spoiler of sorts, but a minor one unless you still don't know the basic crux of the Haruhi plot. Haruhi made it rain. Why? Obviously to drive people indoors to a place where a large crowd could gather and take shelter from the inclement weather together—someplace like the concert venue. No sense in a tree falling in the forest if nobody is around to hear it, right?

Mai
It is a travesty ENOZ never got a character album; everyone else got one.

Second, Haruhi does not introduce herself to the audience. After "God Knows," Haruhi introduces the non-incapacitated members of ENOZ. Then she introduces fellow stand-in member Yuki, but she never introduces herself by name. Now, perhaps Haruhi is so well known (or so infamous, more likely) that introductions are unnecessary in her case, but I like to think the omission is a deliberate effort on Haruhi's part towards developing modesty.

Haruhi introduces Yuki
Haruhi introduces Yuki.

Bear in mind that "Live Alive" chronologically follows a solid bank of episodes showcasing Haruhi at her most conceited and self-centered, including one in which her cruelty nearly drove Kyon to violence. That Haruhi, the self-proclaimed greatest and most important when it comes to everything, would pass up a chance to spread her name around is significant enough to bear mention.

Haruhi turns stage right
Haruhi glances stage right...

Third, Haruhi looks for Kyon after the first song. At least, that's the way I read the quick scene when Haruhi joyfully scans the crowd and her fellow performers on stage before setting her glace stage right, in Yuki's direction, but focusing past her.

Yuki
...and looks right past Yuki.

The first time I saw it, I immediately felt that the framing of this shot—taken from Haruhi's point of view—was intended to draw attention to the wings, where Haruhi evidently hoped someone would be: Kyon, by my reckoning.

Yuki and Haruhi rock the fuck out
Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

That's it for previously omitted points, but I would like to touch upon a fourth, more commonly expressed viewpoint, that has fallen out of fashion lately: "Live Alive" is an excellent episode. This is the episode that turned Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu fans into fanatics. This is the episode that inspires much of the loyalty that causes Haruhi detractors to characterize many current fans as blind apologists. This isn't the only episode, naturally, but it's likely the one that put most fans over the top. And why not? "Live Alive" highlights Suzumiya Haruhi—and Hirano Aya—at their best. Suzumiya Haruhi for the above three reasons, and Hirano Aya for the joy and energy she delivered in what is one of the most memorable and best-regarded performances in recent memory.