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Dated 21 February 2009: Girls Playing Baseball is the new Girls Piloting Mecha

Koharu is a witch.

Actually, that's not true. Girls Playing Baseball isn't really the new Girls Piloting Mecha because girls playing baseball isn't really a new thing at all. At a minimum, there's Princess Nine. Maybe I should have titled this post, "Princess Nine Xenoglossia."

Ryoko is a beast.

Really, this is just an excuse to talk about Not Idolm@ster Baseball (real name, Taisho Yakyuu Musume), which, quite frankly, can't get here fast enough.

Shimizu is a peach.

Realistically, this will probably be the Sky Girls of 1920s Japanese girls baseball, being a J.C. Staff production and all—meaning that it will probably be about interpersonal relationships instead of actual baseball service-service, but that's okay too.

Taisho Yakyuu Musume
Taisho Yakyuu Musume is Not Idolm@ster Baseball.

I'm calling my shot: The Best Girl in Taisho Yakyuu Musume is going to be the one in the front, swinging the bat. I can tell because she looks the most serious.

Narue saves Kazu
Narue is a Mamiko Noto tea kettle.

One thing that troubles me about Taisho Yakyuu Musume is the apparent lack of wooden bats. In fact, that seems to be the prevailing deficiency in anime baseball. Even Narue uses an aluminum bat during Narue no Sekai despite carrying a wooden one in the ED. Kasumi from Hand Maid May alone uses a wooden bat among anime girls playing ball that I know of, although the sound effect used in the show is wildly incorrect, alas.

If only those kids knew how easy Coach Tani was going on them.

Metal bats are quite an anachronism for 1920s baseball, although I doubt Not Idolm@ster Baseball will make any attempt at depicting realistic baseball of that era—or any era, for that matter. Not that I expect this to impair my enjoyment of this upcoming series. Surely it will be more important to keep a relationship chart than a scorecard for this show.

Dated 24 February 2009: Im@s Nine ~Xenoglossia~

Speaking of Not Idolm@ster Baseball, I would totally watch and/or play actual Idolm@ster Baseball. There are certainly enough girls to field a team. Here's my lineup:

  1. Batting lead-off, playing left field: Iori. She's got a small strike zone and hopefully some speed.
  2. Batting second, playing third base: Chihaya. She seems disciplined enough to be patient at the plate and hit behind the runner. I'm hoping she has a good enough arm for third. I'm not expecting her to be Brooks Robinson or anything, but I'd hope the Best Girl could handle the hot corner.
  3. Makoto bats third and plays center field. As the most masculine of the girls, I'm hoping she's the most athletic.
  4. Azusa bats cleanup and plays first base. There aren't a lot of big Idolmaster girls, so she'll have to do.
  5. Ritsuko bats fifth, catches. You need someone smart behind the plate to call the game, especially if your starting pitcher is a crybaby.
  6. Yayoi bats sixth, plays right field. I'd rather have someone with a stronger arm in right, but I don't even know if any of these girls can throw. Criminy, I've got a 13-year-old girl playing right field. That's no good.
  7. Ami bats seventh, plays second. As one of the weenie kids, I can't see her being much use outside the middle infield.
  8. Mami bats eights, plays shortstop. She and Ami are twins, so I'm trusting them to be on the same mental wavelength and hopefully be a good double-play combo.
  9. Yukiho is my starting pitcher, bats last. As a narcoleptic, I'm counting on her to be well rested.

Idolm@ster Baseball, Azusa edition
If Azusa's grip is normally this bad, maybe
I don't want her batting fourth after all.

So who do I have left? Haruka rides the pine. As the clumsy girl, I need to leave her as a pinch hitter because she'd be a defensive liability. Miki is a mid-season addition who starts out as a relief pitcher and perhaps moves into the regular rotation. Well, I say "rotation," but the 765 Idols only have one pitcher so far. Naturally, Producer is the manager, and a dead ringer for Earl Weaver besides.

Idolm@ster Baseball
There has to be an Idolm@ster version of
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Has to be.

Of course, this lineup is going to require some adjustments once I determine which players are left-handed or, say, incapable of hitting a curve ball. However, I think this team stands a chance against the Taisho Yakyuu Musume bunch. I'm afraid the Idols would probably get crushed by Hatsune Miku's baseball team, though. The damn Vocaloids have Kaito "The Hammer" in their lineup.

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, 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.

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 26 June 2009: Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! has problems. Too many exclamation points is but one of them

Seriously, though. How do you jack up a show this simple?

So, initial reports detail four separate instances where one or more characters in the new fan service-heavy romp Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! piss themselves. Yeah, that's a deal breaker, so I won't even be starting this series unless it turns out Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!! episode one is like episode one of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. You know, the Adventures of Asahina Mikuru one. That's probably pretty unlikely.

Just doing my part to hype Canaan for no real good reason.

I've joked a few times that this summer I'll just re-watch Gainax shows instead of following anything new. However, now that I think about it, that's a legitimate possibility. (Probably Mahoromatic, for one.) If a low-brow fan service show can't even manage to properly hit its marks, it's not a good sign. And even I have to admit the chances of Not Idolm@ster Baseball Taisho Yakyuu Musume being good is yet uncertain. C'mon, Canaan.

Dated 15 July 2009: The Hime Cut Chronicles, Part One

Mio stretches her 15 minutes out with an encore.

Mio from K-On! was far from the first popular character with a hime cut, but she did re-vitalize some interest in the hairstyle.

Yomi adds a ponytail to her hime cut.

Notably, Yomi from the underrated Ga-Rei Zero sported a hime cut two seasons before K-On! began airing.

Detective Yoshino from the novels > anime Yoshino.

This has led to some controversy as to whether a hime cut is still a hime cut if it is modified in some way, such as worn in a ponytail (as Yomi frequently sports). Most proponents permit the variation, but are less accepting of the twin-braid version preferred by Yoshino from Maria-sama ga Miteru.

Aoba's hair improved Jinki:Extend immeasurably.

Although not as standard as the hairstyle worn by Aoba from Jinki:Extend, I believe merely tying it back or adding braids does not fundamentally change a hime cut, so these variants should be allowed.

I hope Yuki writes "Red Raccoon Dog"
on her hair band before games.

Likewise the additional of a hair band as with Yuki from Taisho Yakyuu Musume should be okay as well. What are you going to do, tell a MAMIKORE character to her face that she's disqualified? Get out of here.

Given all the crap Hitagi carries with her,
she probably lacks a comb deliberately.

After all, once the hair tie or braids are removed, the hair will again have the three standard hime cut components, although some combing may be necessary to straighten all the locks. Even still, some degree of unkeptness should be permitted, as I believe few would disqualify Hitagi from Bakemonogatari, for example. In any case, I recommend giving her quite a bit of latitude in this regard, as it appears unwise to cross her in general, even over a matter of principle.

Dated 5 August 2009: Summer 2009 impressions

Hitagi doesn't believe in towels. Well, she believes they exist.

I am only following four new shows this summer: Bakemonogatari, Canaan, Taisho Yakyuu Musume, and Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. The rest of the shows I'm watching are all continuations of series that began previously (I'm including the second season of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu in this group). I'm told there are a number of other shows airing this season that are also worth watching, but I've got enough on my plate for now.

It's still a hime cut. Okay?

Among these shows, Bakemonogatari, Canaan, and Taisho Yakyuu Musume are closely ranked and trade positions episode to episode as far as my favorite new show of the season goes. Each has managed to surprise me in some way—enough to boost them beyond my expectations.

Hitagi can eat whatever she wants and never gain a pound. [Spoilers.]

Regarding Bakemonogatari, I'm glad to see such overt fan service presented proudly and unapologetically. I mean, Queen's Blade has overt fan service also, but you can tell the animators knew they weren't making anything that was ever going to be held up in a serious light and admired by port-drinking ass clowns knowingly rubbing their chins. Bakemonogatari, on the other hand, at least tries to present itself as something better than what we groundlings deserve.

Araragi and Hitagi
I'm going to pretend Araragi ran in terror and refused to look
directly at Hitagi because he has vampire eyes. [Spoiler.]
Either that or he's an anime male protagonist.

Bakemonogatari has also been described as insufferably smug and self-important; this is true, but it's okay. As much as I often lament that radio dramas almost never get translated, even I grew a little tired of the extended telephone conversation segment—and this from a guy who really likes the infamous elevator ride in Neon Genesis Evangelion. But the show wins me over with with the little gimmicks and twists that I won't spoil here. Bakemonogatari is flawed, but it has enough good points to still make it worth your while.

You can't fault Yun-Yun's work ethic. Or her taste in clothes.

Canaan is a much more conventional show, but keeps my interest because of its high production values and (so far) somewhat opaque story. Others have complained they don't feel particularly invested in the characters because they don't know too much about them and aren't entirely sure what's going on, but I am certainly not going to fault a series for not being predictable with cookie-cutter characters. It might turn out that Canaan isn't so special after all, and the lack of information is a fault of clear storytelling and not a sign of something grander below the (very pretty) surface, but I'll give it a chance. Also Yun-Yun is a fun character. At a minimum, I'll keep watching just to see where her story goes.

There should be a musical number with different characters every episode.

Taisho Yakyuu Musume is about what I expected from a J.C. Staff production about girls playing baseball in 1925. Not a model of historical accuracy by any stretch of the imagination, but charming and entertaining nonetheless. I hope to see more rickshaw training and musical numbers, to tell you the truth. Of course, I've been waiting for an all-singing, all-dancing Love Hina OVA ever since I heard "Mirai e no Okurimono." I guess that's never going to happen, so I wouldn't hold your breath when it comes to getting more musical numbers in Taisho Yakyuu Musume.

Kitsu Chiri
It's asymmetrical without someone on the other side of your umbrella, Chiri.

Sadly, I'm not as taken with Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. It's possible that I've just grown tired of its gimmicks, but each succeeding season of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei has seemed less interesting to me than the one before. I really enjoyed the first season, but now I think I would enjoy Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei more if the episodes were half-length to fill 15-minute blocks instead of a full half-hour ones. It's probably also because the characters, by design, are heavy stereotypes. This is probably why I like Nami (the Normal one) more and more as time goes by. I'm not quite willing to move shovel-wielding Kitsu Chiri from the Best Girl top spot, though.

Where we're going, we don't need dere-dere.

Notably, I haven't dropped any shows this season and I don't expect to drop any of the above four—at least barring some catastrophically poor shifts in quality, which generally doesn't happen this late in the game. I've already seen four or five episodes of each of these shows, so they're probably in the clear. The only one really at risk is Bakemonogatari, and that's just because I'm not a fan of SHAFT X SHINBO. I'll remain appeased as long as Hitagi remains kinda mean, though.

Dated 30 August 2009: The fundamentals in Taisho Yakyuu Musume are surprisingly good

Akiko's pitching needs a lot of work.

When I started Taisho Yakyuu Musume, I expected charismatic characters and engaging subplots about friendships and schoolgirl life in the '20s buffered by light comedy and occasional drama. However, I wasn't expecting accurate baseball in any case—nothing better than Princess Nine, at least. But to tell you the truth, the baseball elements in Taisho Yakyuu Musume ring truer than those in Cross Game.

Maybe Tomoe will invent night games.

This is not to say that there aren't a lot of anachronisms in Taisho Yakyuu Musume. That's sort of a given. For one thing, I suspect Japanese high school baseball (if it even existed at the time) would still be in the dead ball era in 1925. After all, the dead ball era had only ended in American's major leagues around 1919.

Kochou legs one out.

Aside from that, the actual games and practices depicted in Taisho Yakyuu Musume are fairly realistic. For one thing, a junk ball rookie pitcher who can barely lob strikes over the plate can certainly expect to get positively hammered during her first outing. Furthermore, the importance of cooperation and trust within a battery is also accurately described, perhaps even more so here than in Major. It's also nice to see outfielders using two hands when shagging routine fly balls. Likewise, I'm glad to see the speedy leadoff batter learning how to hit left-handed in order to get a step or two closer to first base. (If these are true 90-foot base paths, though, she's already fast as fuck.)

Akiko and Koume
This actually had fewer homosexual overtones than the
corresponding segment between Goro and Toshi in Major.

Additionally, the charismatic characters and engaging subplots about friendships and schoolgirl life in the '20s buffered by light comedy and occasional drama are also there and up to the standards I expect from J.C. Staff. Combine all that with nicely executed baseball elements and it's no wonder Taisho Yakyuu Musume is the best new show airing during the Summer 2009 season.