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Dated 13 October 2007: In praise of the Girl Next Door

Kyo and Kaminagi
Kaminagi is a Girl Next Door because her apartment
building is only an apple's throw away, okay?

Among the many moe stereotypes, you'll frequently find the Childhood Friend. She is a staple of harem comedies and pretty much anything related to dating sims or eroge. One study suggests that the Childhood Friend does quite well for herself, even if she does not necessarily have the inside track.

Nodame and Chiaki
Sometimes you're taking your chances with the Girl Next Door.

In addition to the Childhood Friend, you'll also find the Clumsy Girl, the Class Rep, the Athletic Girl, and the Shrine Maiden, among others. Curiously, you won't find the Girl Next Door quite as often.

Naru
Calling Naru a Girl Next Door might be a stretch,
but the floor/ceiling hole convinces me.

Perhaps the Girl Next Door is a convention foreign to Japan, at least compared to her stature in American culture. You'll remember that Hugh Hefner built his empire on her charms. He explicitly states that his Playboy centerfolds represent the Girl Next Door. (I would argue that the typical centerfold has looked less and less like "the girl next door" over the years, but you get the idea.)

Winry
A Childhood Friend, Winry is also a Girl Next Door,
even if her house is kinda far. They live in sugei inaka.

But where ranks the Girl Next Door among anime cliches? When she does appear, she's sometimes also the Childhood Friend or some other more common cliche. It's like she's just the Girl Next Door by happenstance.

Kasumi and Kazuya
Kasumi might be the best Girl Next Door in all anime.

So, while I can't claim the Girl Next Door is rare, she is uncommon where anime is concerned—uncommon and under-appreciated. All glory to the Girl Next Door. When you're with her, it feels like home.

Dated 29 October 2007: Lovely Complex and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

Mimi
Mimi.

Hey, look. It's the Girl Next Door. Oh, shit. She's fucking crazy.

AWESOME.

Dated 27 October 2008: Toradora! interest waning

Minori and Ryuuji
Minori and Ryuuji.

After four episodes, I'm finding little reason to continue watching Toradora! besides copious amounts of Yui Horie Sweetness. It's not a bad show—just not one I find too interesting right now. Oh, I'll probably still finish out the first season, but in all likelihood I'll wait until all the episodes are out and then marathon the remaining batch.

Ami
"Half-right, face!"

Unless there are sudden advances by Ami, the recently-introduced somewhat-militant new character, I think Minori has got Best Girl status locked up. Fully expect Minori to boat race the remainder of this show. [Update: That's not Ami. It's Sumire.]

Taiga
Taiga's blood sugar is probably low.

Taiga is pretty much out of contention altogether, despite enjoying Girl Next Door status. I'm glad that she's a basket case when she's anywhere near that boy she likes, but her constant need to have Ryuuji take care of her is tiresome.

Dated 7 May 2009: Hatsukoi Limited

Yuuji and Ayumi
Ayumi is the strongest.

Through five episodes, the endearing Cross Game is the best show this season, but with four episodes down, Hatsukoi Limited is an unexpected close second. I didn't expect much from this J.C. Staff light comedy, but it is funny and engaging and seems likely to ride high on J.C. Staff's strengths. It also has the best fan service this season if you care about that sort of thing. (Queen's Blade may have the most, but far from the best.) Misaki's Girl Next Door powers are fearsome.

Doba
Doba is the fastest.

Hatsukoi Limited combines intertwined stories of unrequited love. Secondary characters in one episode take the lead in the next. None of them find romance (at least not yet) as the objects of their affection inevitably have their eyes cast elsewhere. School Rumble at its best relied on stories of unrequited love in much the same way, but School Rumble also suffered from an unwillingness to resolve any of the potential romances. The surely hazardous sea of manga spoilers likely renders such speculation moot, but I hope Hatsukoi Limited will not suffer from School Rumble's cowardice by failing to let its stories advance.

Kei
Kei is the tsunderest.

It's still early yet, but there do appear opportunities for genuine romances to develop. Naturally, these potential couples manage to make things difficult for themselves thanks to their own silliness, even though the viewer knows they would be perfect for each other. In this way, with its couples who can't get together, and one-sided hopeless romantics chasing pipe dreams, Hatsukoi Limited leans on many of the staples that make Shakespeare's comedies so entertaining centuries after they were written.

Wait, did you just compare Hatsukoi Limited to Shakespeare?

Well, I wouldn't put it that way exactly, but this is the kind of light romance Hatsukoi Limited feels like. And with J.C. Staff at the helm, it stands a pretty good chance of maintaining the charm and hopeless romanticism that have elevated the first four episodes above any right they have to be. Shakespeare's romantic comedies do rely on many of the same near misses and confounding pigheadedness of potential couples, so I think the limited comparison is valid. It's not like I'm suggesting Gonzo's Kiddy Grade is actually based on Twelfth Night, you know. [Spoilers: Viola and Cesario are actually the same person.]

Kusada and Misaki
Misaki is a sex bomb.

In any case, I know I'm in good company when I say Hatsukoi Limited is excellent. Reactions I've seen thus far have consisted of universal praise. Nevertheless, I've still had very limited success convincing people to begin watching Hatsukoi Limited. I presume this is related to its rather simple synopsis and generally unremarkable description. But like Kannagi before it, Hatsukoi Limited succeeds through brilliant execution. As with Kannagi, Hatsukoi Limited is proof execution can be more important than concepts if the shows are done sufficiently well—and so far Hatsukoi Limited is done very well indeed.

Dated 19 October 2009: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood ED3 returns Winry to former glory

Winry
Winry at work.

There are a few common complaints about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Among them include changed voices and a less buxom Winry. Now, the matter about the voices is not going to go away, but, as Epi pointed out earlier, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood now sports a new ED. This second third ED powers up Winry to her previous dimensions. This is unlikely to affect Winry's in-show character design, but it seems likely the changes for the ED are intended to quiet some of the grumbling while hearkening back to the "Motherland" ED from the first anime season—the one about Winry killing time at home.

Winry
Winry playing make-believe.

Another common Fullmetal Alchemist complaint is that Winry does not really serve much of a purpose in the show. She has been called mere eye candy and a Mary Sue, for example. Both allegations have some merit, but I don't think these characteristics necessarily diminish Winry's importance in the show. Do not underestimate the Girl Next Door. She reminds Al and Ed of home.

Winry
I think we all know what this phone call is about.

Moreover, I submit that it is necessary to include aspects in a show not necessarily dedicated to advancing the primary plot. I am not advocating filler for filler's sake, but I don't think many will disagree if I claim the semi-parody Mustang-centric episode of the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime contributed in meaningful ways to the overall success of the series by expanding the role of costars in ways we might not otherwise have seen. Likewise, the old "Winry killing time at home" and now the new "Winry at work" EDs flesh out some additional details about the character—in this case, nothing we didn't already know or couldn't have assumed, but it's still nice to have it there.

Dated 16 April 2010: B Gata H Kei episode two has a Girl Next Door

Kazuki, Yamada, and Takeshita
Does this count as a spoiler?

I'm not really a fan of B Gata H Kei's Girl Next Door. It's probably because she's also a Clumsy Girl and I despise dojikkos as a whole. Besides, they don't even call her a Girl Next Door in the show; they call her a Childhood Friend. I don't understand why Japan doesn't get this.

Takeshita and Yamada
Holy crap. THIS CHAIR.

In other news, if B Gata H Kei keeps this up, Yamada is seriously going to challenge Aoba from Cross Game and Shimizu from Major season six as Girl of the Year, 2010. This is most unexpected. Takeshita is also going to place well as the clear voice of reason à la Nobu from Lovely Complex.

Dated 29 October 2015: It turns out Inou-Battle is a pretty successful harem comedy

Tomoyo and Jurai
15-love.

I put Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de (When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace) on hold halfway through the autumn 2014 season to watch different shows, but I came back to it and finished it off a year later. There wasn't anything particularly bad about the series when I put it on the shelf last year, except I felt it was a rather unremarkable effort by Studio Trigger, a company better known for KILL la KILL and the Little Witch Academia movies. But now that I've finished Inou-Battle, I believe it is a excellent show—not relative to anime in general, mind you—relative to other harem comedies. You see, harem comedies tend to be mediocre at best and typically cursed with one or both of the following typical flaws: (1) Uninteresting harem candidates, or (2) an unlikable male lead.

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