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Dated 12 February 2002: Hand Maid May

While I consider Chobits be a failure in the robot-girlfriend genre, Hand Maid May is surprisingly good. All 11 episodes are already available on three DVDs, and while I've only seen the old, low-res fansubs, I'm prepared to heartily recommend them.

May and Kazuya
Hand Maid May and Kazuya Saotome

Hand Maid May neatly joins two staples of anime: The robot-girlfriend and the maid-uniform genres. (See also Mahoromatic.) It's a fairly simple, silly, stereotypical anime in the giant-sweatdrops and "falling down after hearing something surprising" vein with rampant rampant fan service throughout the first episode. Somewhat ironically, because it's not at all ambitious, it succeeds brilliantly. Hand Maid May is simply a cute comedy about a clueless geek (Kazuya Saotome), his spirited sex bomb neighbor (Kasumi Tani), and a tiny devoted robot maid (Cyber Doll May), and on that level it works very well.

Okay, Kotaro Nambara (Kazuya Saotome's chief rival and antagonist) is incredibly annoying, albeit intentionally so. However, I am willing to cut him some slack because everyone else in the show is pretty charming. Besides, Nambara's voice actor is Ueda Yuuji, who also played Urashima Keitaro in Love Hina and later went on to do fairly innocuous soft core porn with Asakawa Yuu, the voice of Motoko from Love Hina and Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh. Whoop!

Dated 19 March 2006: Ginban Kaleidoscope

Sakurano Kazusa
Sakurano Kazusa

After seeing it mentioned in the Animeslice blog, I grew curious about Ginban Kaleidoscope. This show is the very model of the AYAKO DOCTRINE at work. Mamiko Noto, Chiwa Saito, and the voice of Hibiki from VanDread also contribute to Ginban Kaleidoscope, if you need additional reasons to watch it.

The show seems to be a shoujo sports anime, but is heavy on neither shoujo nor sports anime idioms or cliches. Kawasumi Ayako plays the lead character, Sakurano Kazusa, an aspiring figure skater trying to make the Winter Olympics. She becomes possessed by the ghost of Pete Pumps, a Canadian stunt pilot who died in a plane crash.

Pete and Kazusa
Pete and Kazusa

I'm no fan of figure skating, even though I thought the Tanya Harding v. Nancy Kerrigan drama of yore was great entertainment of the highest order. Despite my ambivalence to figure skating, I found Ginban Kaleidoscope pretty interesting, if more for the verbal gymnastics than anything else. Hearing Ayako's English outburst in the first episode sold me on the show, and her brief conversation with Mamiko Noto in English was icing on the cake. I should note that Mamiko speaks in Russian in Ginban Kaleidoscope, although she doesn't have nearly enough lines.

Thanks to the ever-welcome Ayako Kawasumi, I didn't miss Mamiko's presence much. Ginban Kaleidoscope is a surprisingly dialogue-heavy show, featuring lots of banter between Kazusa and Pete. I can't exactly claim this is Ayako's best work, but it is a good part in that it affords her the opportunity to do quite a bit of ranting, which I can't get enough of. Ayako Doctrine adherents can't afford to overlook Ginban Kaleidoscope. Seriously, it has Ayako bitching people out in English, Mamiko speaking Russian, and peculiar mix of background characters regularly speaking thickly-accented semi-Engrish and fluent English. What's not to love?

Sakurano Kazusa
Sakurano Kazusa

Ginban Kaleidoscope is a short 12-episode series with a heartful, realistic ending. Well, as realistic as you could hope for a show about an Olympic-level Japanese figure skater possessed by the ghost of a Canadian pilot. I didn't have any objections to the ending (significant in that the majority of anime series seem to falter with regard to their endings), and I found the series to be an enjoyable and engaging diversion from more heavy-handed, serious fare. For example, the "waitress" episode was cute (although I would have liked a "maid" episode as well as a nod to Ayako Kawasumi's automatic maiden sweetness in Mahoromatic), and seeing Kazusa grow to accept Pete's presence over the course of 12 episodes was satisfying. Perhaps as one final compliment—I would have liked more episodes; Ginban Kaleidoscope left me wanting more.

Dated 23 September 2006: Yui Horie

Yui Horie
Yui Horie

Yui Horie apparently turned 30 a few days ago.

In other news, if there's more to gosurori than tiny hats, black dresses, and zettai ryouiki, damned if I know about it.

Dated 2 November 2006: Seiyuu Blogs

So while trying to figure out why Planet was giving me so many errors every once in a while for no apparent reason, I ended up bifurcating the aggregator into the regular section, and one just for seiyuu blogs. For what it's worth, the errors seemed to have gone away for the time being.

Saeko Chiba
This is a picture of Saeko Chiba for no reason.

Speaking of seiyuu blogs, it wasn't that long ago when Tanaka Rie was pretty much the only voice actress with an online diary. (It was notable for having tiny thumbnails that linked to grainy, marginally larger, cameraphone pictures, leading many readers to lament that she needed both a better camera and a better webmaster.)

Now, seiyuu blogs are almost commonplace. Mai Kadowaki was one of the first with an RSS feed, but even syndication is becoming more prevalent. Well, more prevalent, but still not common. Yui Horie's blog recently gained an Atom feed, but we're still waiting for Chiba Saeko to add syndication to her pleasant corner of the Internet.

In related news, Aya Hirano's blog has an RSS feed, and she likes to update that sucker like four times a day, mostly with distorted wide-angle closeups of her mugging shamelessly.

Dated 6 November 2006: Soukou no Strain



Soukou no Strain came at me entirely under the radar. I had never even heard of it, but after discovering two episodes on the loose and finding that the series boasted an Ayako Kawasumi-voiced mecha pilot as its lead character, I was sold.

Young Sara
Young Sara.

Soukou no Strain opens with some backstory on its lead, Sara, and a little information about the persistent war at the heart of the series. From there it leaps forward and races relentlessly. The first episode is pitched with battle and action, and does not dwell long on the character elements. This pace works well and keeps the story engaging coming out of the gate, saving the character-driven moments for the second episode. (Also, damn, those bitches better back the Hell off of Sara.)

A Strain.

Some have favorably compared the C.G. mecha battles to VanDread. I think this is fairly accurate. The style of fighting is very reminiscent of VanDread, indeed, with quick, darting attacks and lunges.

The fan service is nowhere near as high as in VanDread, though. However, we do discover that Sara's snug flight suit lacks sufficient space to permit a brassiere. (Well, there's also some creepy nudity in the OP.)

Older Sara
Not-quite-so-young Sara.

I don't care for the mecha cockpits. These entirely encase the pilots up to their necks, Captain Christoper Pike-style. This reduces most of the in-cockpit battle cuts to stills of motionless heads screaming senselessly. I must conclude that this is grossly inferior to the favored practice of allowing full freedom of movement so that a mecha pilot can shove a lever forward at full force while bellowing the colorful name of the intended attack.

Sara in the heat of battle.
Sara in the heat of battle.

In addition to doing a fair amount of hollering and screaming in Soukou no Strain, Ayako Kawasumi also does the next-episode previews and the sponsor messages. Oh, and Tanaka Rie and Yukana are both also in Soukou no Strain if you care about that sort of thing.

Allegedly, Soukou no Strain is loosely based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Wait, what?

Dated 19 December 2006: Seiyuu Blogs

Santa Rie
There are no corpulent Santas in Japan.

In other news, I have come to the conclusion that Banana Mizuki and Tanaka Rie cheat on their seiyuu blogs in that they have other people photographing them. Either that, or they use tripods and self-timers extensively (which seems unlikely). This is not to say that other voice actresses don't do this on their blogs, but these two are prolific updaters. Hirano Aya also updates frequently, but she seems to manage her self-portraits by holding a camera phone at arm's length.

Dated 30 December 2006: Wakusei Updated

I've added a couple more seiyuu blogs to Wakusei. The wacky adventures of Kana Ueda (the voice of Yumi from Marimite) and Yuuka Nanri (Nao from My-HiME and Mai-Otome) are on the march.

Still waiting for Saeko Chiba and Tanaka Rie to add RSS or Atom feeds to their blogs....

Dated 26 January 2007: Finicky RSS Aggregators

Planet doesn't seem to play nice all the time. Wakusei was down for a while due to an irregularity in one of the feeds. Deleting the cache fixed the problem, but I'd prefer this thing not require so much hand-holding.

I also re-added the blog of Chihara Minori (Nagato Yuki's voice actress) since her RSS 1.0 feed doesn't seem to have the same issue that her Atom 0.3 feed did. (Every single post kept reappeararing as new every day.)

In other news, it appears Hirano Aya is back to posting a lot. A lot a lot.