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Dated 14 February 2009: In re Girls With Bats

Shimizu Kaoru
Kaoru is the Best Girl in Major. Ryoko has more game, but Kaoru is a peach.

Kasumi from Hand Maid May is one of anime's All Time Babes,
and only partly because she's a natural right-hander
who takes baseball seriously enough to bat left.

Minori also deserves special mention for batting left and throwing right...

...and for being kinda broken inside.

Chidori Kaname
Chidori vents some aggression.

It's Narue's World. We're just living in it.

Mamini is this post's Mendoza Line.

Sakaki is pretty athletic, but I'm scoring that at bat E-9.

Iizuka also bats left, but she's a natural southpaw.
I doubt she can hit, but her on-base percentage is pretty good.

Momo and Daniel
I guess Daniel isn't technically a bat, but it's kinda academic, since
you can't really let Momo from Shinigami no Ballad play ball.
People would die.

Dated 28 February 2009: Toradora! is good, but it's still no Honey and Clover

I really wasn't expecting an Ayu cameo.

I had moderate praise for the first half of Toradora! However, I also implied it wasn't as good as Honey and Clover. Others disagreed, again invoking Honey and Clover. After 21 episodes, I still believe Toradora! is the best series of the current season, but I maintain that it is still not nearly as good as Honey and Clover.

Minori is still the Best Girl, but I might just be saying that because
of Yui Horie. And because she throws right, bats left.

This is not meant as a slight against Toradora!, as it is still quite enjoyable. It rises above the conventions of its idiom and exceeds the assumptions and expectations I had for the series. I thought I knew what Toradora! was going to be about, and I thought I knew how the plot was going to play out, but thankfully J.C. Staff still has a few tricks up its sleeve, and keeps Toradora! from languishing in the morass of high school love comedies that plague anime. Nevertheless, although Toradora! is much better than I expected, it still suffers from a number of potentially damning flaws.

It's hard to deny Ami, though. Ami is awesome.

[Warning: Minor spoilers hereinafter for episode 21. Nothing you wouldn't have easily guessed by now, though.]

Back away from Ami.

First—and let's be honest here—Toradora! is still a harem comedy. It's not your typical harem comedy because Ryuuji isn't a spineless tool, but although decent male protagonists are rare, they are not unknown among harem comedy males. Kazuya from Hand Maid May comes to mind, and if you're willing to characterize School Rumble and Nadesico as harem comedies (look, not exclusively, but they still are), then Harima and Akito qualify as well. But the problem with harem comedies is that most of the romantic tension is defused. The question isn't if Male Protagonist will get together with someone, but when. Usually, with whom isn't even an issue, as the First Girl He Sees Clause proves quite reliable in this respect. At this point in Toradora!, Ryuuji has three viable love interests. The remaining drama in the show boils down to which girl he will pick, and what is to happen to the rejected. That the answer is not entirely obvious at this point (although smart money should heavily favor the worst girl) lends credit to Toradora!

Even Ami can't compare with Yamada, though. Poor girl.

Compare this with Honey and Clover. The earlier J.C. Staff production offers multiple story lines regarding unrequited love. In each case, there is no assurance the characters in question will find love and happiness. Quite the contrary, for the most part, their romances seem more doomed with each passing episode. It is this balance of hope and despair that drives Hachimitsu to Clover.

Taiga? She's a frickin' slob.

Technically, all harem comedies include tales of unrequited love as well, at least regarding the girls not chosen. But harem comedies lack the aforementioned despair component, as Male Protagonist could surely offer each of the girls his love were it not for Simple Contrivances and General Spinelessness. Perhaps more importantly, harem comedies also focus on the object of everyone's affection (i.e., the male lead), which changes the dynamic entirely unless the show also includes a primary love interest within the harem for Male Protagonist to actively and indefatigably pursue with incorruptible loyalty despite no assurance of potential dere-dere B.S. reciprocation.

Ryuuji isn't an ass clown, but he's still kind of a putz.

Make no mistake. Toradora! is told from Ryuuji's point of view. Because of this, Toradora! is ascendant during episodes and moments when he is obsessed with Minori. Likewise, the unrequited love stories of the other characters elevate the show as well. But after episode 21, I am hard pressed to imagine the series avoiding a sharp dive in quality unless it takes the courageous route by taking the story in unexpected directions. I'm hoping for this (presumably crueler) ending to Toradora! It is not a happy way to wrap up the series, but it is the respectable way to go, and it is a damn sight better than the ending episode 21 is apparently establishing. Quite frankly, though, I fear J.C. Staff does not have the sand for it. To do so, it will have to make a lot of "shippers" unhappy and disappoint a lot a viewers. It will make for a better show—too late to catch Honey and Clover, but perhaps sufficient to avoid stumbling before Shikabane Hime should Kuro finish unexpectedly strong. (It's Gainax. You can't count that possibility out. Maybe it'll end like Mahoromatic, but perhaps it will end like Top wo Nerae.)

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

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 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 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.

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.

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, 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.

Quit while you're ahead, Tsuruya.

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

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.

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 1 January 2011: Needs more running while crying (we would also have accepted "while dying in snow")

It's a real pity SHAFT wasn't able to animate running for the second ef - a tale of memories ED as well as J.C. Staff was able to do it for the "Silky Heart" Toradora! ED. Or Hell, as well as Kyoto Animation for their Kanon ED, for that matter.

Second ef ~a tale of memories~ ED

< Link`> you're aware OP/ED sequences are sometimes done by other animators that work very little or not at all on the rest of the show, right?
< Link`> that has little bearing on the studio involved with the show

Fine, then whatever sub-contractors won the respective ED bids.

Dated 10 October 2012: Horie Yui makes me want to re-watch Toradora!

Minori tearing through the school with real conviction.

Basically every time I listen to Honey Jet!!, when I get to "Silky Heart," I recall Minori ripping through the school with real verve. Those few seconds in the second OP provide convincing credibility affirming Minori's reputation for athleticism. That is some good anime-type running right there. Kind of a rare thing, now that I think about it.