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Dated 29 October 2008: Kannagi is this season's pleasant surprise

Nagi and Jin
Jin's artist's eye differs somewhat from Hagu's.

As Toradora! fades, Kannagi continues to impress. This is a pretty big accomplishment for a harem comedy even I had written off during the season previews. Kannagi is surprisingly funny, charming, and even finds time to be interesting.

Jin and Nagi
Jin and Nagi at a familiar-looking locale.

It is a harem comedy in the sense that Fate/Stay Night is a harem catastrophe. That is, there is one male protagonist and increasingly more potential love interests that continue to surround him. Thankfully only one girl seems to have any romantic interest in Male Protagonist.

Jin, Nagi, and Tsugumi
Tsugumi is appalled by Jin and Nagi's Misato-esque diet.

Better still, Jin is not a worthless ass clown. He's not as standup as Kazuya from Hand Maid May, but he's a far cry from the Shuffle! and Da Capo douche bags.

Jin and Nagi
Nagi invites Jin's attention.

Nagi is high-test genki, although still an order of magnitude below that of Toradora!'s Minori. Nagi also tones it down quite a bit with each succeeding episode, at least through the first four.

Nagi invites everybody's attention.

Underscoring the legacy and influence of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, the Kannagi all-singing, all-dancing OP is even more idolriffic than the Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu ED. It is a good OP, to be sure—possibly the best one of this season. Really, it's a good enough reason to give Kannagi a chance, even if you're not yet persuaded by accounts of a simple show playing way over its head (truly).

Dated 20 November 2008: Kannagi episode seven is brilliant

Zange, Jin, and Tsugumi
Zange puts the moves on Jin, to Tsugumi's dismay.

Tsugumi may have the Kannagi Best Girl title locked up already. She is pure gold in episode seven. In fact, her only real contender is Akiba.

Dated 2 December 2008: Another solid episode of Kannagi

Jin beats a hasty retreat
Jin makes a run for it.

I'm glad to see Kannagi address the following two issues: First, harem comedy male protagonists really need better excuses for not trophy fucking every girl in reach. The most obvious reason for their inexplicable celibacy is likely homosexuality. And if Male Protagonist is not gay, everyone else should probably think he is. I'm glad Kannagi realizes this.

Tsugumi consults Zange
Zange's rates are low, but she'll probably laugh at you before you're done.

Second, Kannagi addresses what it means to be The Childhood Friend. You can't throw a stick in Animestan without hitting a Childhood Friend. Kannagi takes the time to explain just exactly what that means. [Spoilers: It means she knows where all the bodies are buried.] Really, I'd rather see more Girls Next Door and fewer Childhood Friends, but Japan seems to follow different conventions.

Dated 5 January 2009: Kannagi holds off late-season Nodame surge

Nagi takes a seat on the roof of the school.

By now surely everyone has heard about the sudden dip into Serious Territory during the final three episodes of Kannagi. Responses are generally negative, and perhaps only a little bit unfairly so. The shift in tone is jarring, considering Kannagi spent the first 10 episodes almost purely on comedy. I was okay with the change, but then again I also enjoy episodes 25 and 26 of Neon Genesis Evangelion. (In other news, I should totally start using footnotes again.) I want to say Kannagi tried to do for harem comedies what ef ~a tale of memories~ did for moe blobs and what Eva did for giant robots, but unfortunately Kannagi is not nearly as successful.

It's official: Tsugumi is the Best Girl in Kannagi
Fat lot of good it does ya, sweetheart.

This failure is due to the fact Kannagi's great strength is comedy. Usually if I like a series it's because I like the characters, but that's not the case with Kannagi. This is not to say I dislike its characters, because Tsugumi is a real peach and the rest of the cast is engaging enough, but they're not the reason I placed (and still place) Kannagi as the top show from Autumn 2008. Kannagi surpassed all expectations and conventions because of its comedic aspects. When you take that away—for any reason—you eliminate the best it has to offer. What's left is all right, but wouldn't have been enough to hold off Nodame Cantabile: Pari-Hen or Hyakko for example.

Dated 7 January 2009: End of season review, Autumn 2008

Nodame is more than a little imperfect, but
she makes up for it by being a sweetheart

Autumn 2008 did not produce any stellar shows1, meaning there wasn't a Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, Honey & Clover, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, or the like. There wasn't even a Lovely Complex. However, it did have some very solid titles and a few shows that demonstrated mid-series potential as they resume during the Winter 2009 season.

Not fully pictured: Saki's ridiculously enormous hammer.

Final rankings for shows I watched this season follow:

Kannagi > Nodame Cantabile: Paris Chapter > Hyakko > Toradora! > Shikabane Hime: Aka > Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight OVA > One Outs | Dropped: Kemeko DX (4) > Kurozuka (4) > Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka (?) > Casshern Sins (1) > Mouryou no Hako (1) > Toaru Majutsu no Index (4) > Michiko to Hatchin (1) | Worse Than Cosprayers: Kiss x Sis (1) > Macademi Wasshoi (1).

Amagasa and Torako
Torako is more than a little imperfect, but
she makes up for it by tormenting people.

Two big surprises this season. First, I had dismissed Kannagi based on its pre-season description, but it proved to be the cream of the crop. Second, I wasn't expecting to still be watching Shikabane Hime at this stage. Thankfully, it has kept shounen jive (e.g., too much standing around talking about powers instead of fighting) to a minimum. By the way, I totally called that Yui Horie twist even before I finished watching episode one, just so you know.

I went 10 episodes before noticing Makina's bare ass in the OP.
Now I can't not see it. It's Shikabane Hime's FEDEX arrow.

To give you an understanding as to how much I loathe shounen jive, bear in mind I dropped To Aru Majutsu no Index after episode four despite fully supporting the Shizuka Itou character's decision to wear half a pair of jeans with her kid sister's t-shirt. I just couldn't take any more speeches about Not Thinking About Other People's Feelings or any more boasting about fine nuances of Special Techniques and Powers. Criminy.

I think I've actually seen people in L.A. dressed like this.

Many of the shows I dropped early on (for example, Casshern Sins) might actually be very good, but just didn't capture my interest. This is the same reason why I dropped Kaiba a couple seasons ago after watching no more than two episodes despite almost universal acclaim, for example.

Note 01: I'm not counting any of the Kara no Kyoukai movies as belonging to the Autumn 2008 season. Any of the films in this series would certainly qualify as stellar.

Dated 10 July 2009: Spring 2009 wrap-up

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 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, 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

Needs more Tamaki.

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

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).

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 24 November 2010: Shinryaku! Ika Musume (squid girl) is the new Kannagi (wood girl)

Ika Musume
When they point the finger it means you're a rival.

Shinryaku! Ika Musume is surprisingly funny and charming. It's sort of this season's Kannagi in the sense that both shows are simple silly concepts playing way over their heads. I might even give Ika Musume the edge over Kannagi. The two shows don't really have that much in common, but I feel they strike some of the same chords. Perhaps Shinryaku! Ika Musume is a little simpler and maybe more pure with its comedy.

Ika Musume
I think the umbrella segment was my favorite so far.

I love how squid girl herself is a complete idiot when it comes to certain things, but a freakin' genius in unexpected spots, with hardly any middle ground between these two extremes. Through eight episodes, this is easily the best show of the season, even ahead of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. On the other hand, I'm a little dismayed Kawasumi Ayako's character basically doesn't talk.