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Dated 2 May 2009: Cross Game is a baseball anime that's not really about baseball

Aoba and Ko
Aoba disavows any affection for Ko.

I was hesitant about starting another baseball anime when I've already got the second half of the fifth season of Major leading my Spring 2009 rankings, but Cross Game is quite good in its own right. It's not quite as cruel as Major, but it does pitch inside, if you understand what I mean. Through four episodes, there's not a whole lot of baseball yet, but what play is shown is realistic, and Aoba's instincts for the game are very natural. The second episode also features a runner almost getting thrown out at first for Cadillacing. In my view, it's these little details executed naturally that give the baseball sequences credibility.

Ko, the cat, and the Tsukima sisters
Ko, Nomo (the cat), and the Tsukishima sisters issue TV caveats.

But Cross Game isn't really about baseball—at least not yet. So far it's about relationships. There have been two baseball games so far, and each has lasted less than a third of an episode. In contrast, every baseball game in Major takes about three episodes apiece. As far as the relationship aspects go, I think everyone in the show is a little too hung up on Wakaba, when the real star is the sort of homely but very athletic middle sister, Aoba.

Aoba changes her shirt.

Aoba is tsun-tsun, if you must break it down this way, and will be predictably dere-dere at the end of the season, I'm sure. But the tsun aspects are delivered well in that Aoba and Ko are still childhood friends who are evidently comfortable around each other despite Aoba's open hostility. For example, despite professing to despise Ko, Aoba doesn't make him leave the room when she changes her shirt in the second episode; neither of them think anything of it. (He turns his back.)

Senda and Aoba
Don't eat at Clover when Aoba cooks.

Actually, to tell you the truth, the real real star of Cross Game is the Clover batting center/diner. Were there such an establishment near me, I would blow so much money there. I want one of those sideways-heart/cloverleaf t-shirts, too, but I'll settle for some home run socks. HOME RUN SOCKS! I'm so there.

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 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 29 November 2009: Best Girl of the Year, 2009

Shimizu and Goro
Shimizu is a peach.

Are "Best of the Year" lists premature at this point considering December hasn't even started yet? Normally, I would say yes, but for 2009 Girl of the Year honors, Shimizu Kaoru from Major has boat raced them all. This is an easy win for Shimizu because I'm giving her an unfair amount of latitude in defining what "of the year" even means. Were I to strictly consider only 2009 appearances in making this judgment, it is possible—perhaps even likely—someone would surpass Shimizu for top honors. (Aoba from Cross Game, that's who.)

The fan service in Major gets completely out of hand.

However, followers of the five-season, one-hundred-twenty-plus episode baseball epic Major enjoy the unique privilege of seeing its characters mature from very young children to adulthood. We see Kaoru grow up just as we see Goro grow up. Shimizu is not just a "childhood friend" in the typical anime sense. Most of the time we're just told someone is a childhood friend character and we're expected to fill in the blanks with what we know of the trope from previous broadly drawn stereotypes.

Shimizu and Miho
How this got past the censors, I have no idea.

This is not the case with Shimizu. We meet Shimizu when Goro meets Shimizu, and by the time she describes herself—years later—as a childhood friend, we're almost surprised to realize Shimizu has been with Goro all this time. Part of this surprise is because she does not wake Goro up in the morning. Nor is she is a substitute for a missing parent. And she is not a devoted slave. This is not to say Shimizu is 100 percent realistic, but she's still a very sweet girl and far superior to the typical cookie-cutter osananajimi stereotypes.

Shimizu rounds third
Shimizu rounds third and digs for home.

So maybe it isn't entirely fair to weigh five seasons of character development against competitors that may have only got to play a single inning, but sometimes a single up the middle with nobody on and the outcome still in question ends up being worth just as much as the attention-getting walk-off home run. True, Shimizu still needed to take three bases back when I called the 2009 Best Girl of the Year shot in April, but I knew she'd be safe all the way.

Dated 3 January 2010: Autumn 2009 season wrapup

Ascoeur and Q-Feuille
I dropped Kiddy Girl-and at episode nine for trying to add a plot.

By convention, anime bloggers seem obligated to offer end-of-season summaries breaking down the finer points of the shows they watched and presumably covered (hah!) over each three-month block (or cour). So be it.

The short version is as follows: Kimi ni Todoke (12) > Cross Game (38) > Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (38) > Miracle Train [13] > Seitokai no Ichizon [12] > The Book of Bantorra (14) > Queen's Blade II [12] > Sunred II (37) > Fresh Pretty Cure (45), where the number in parentheses represents the last episode watched, and numbers in brackets indicate completion of a series and its total number of episodes. No OVAs or movies are included in these rankings.

I'm calling it: Yano is pure evil.

Kimi ni Todoke veers into melodramatic territory frequently and its reception has grown increasingly polarized. Depending on your stomach for such shows, it's either excellent or unwatchable—at least that's the way it seems when comparing various reactions to the series. I find it excellent. Also, those of you who know Mamiko Noto from interviews, behind-the-scenes specials, and commentary tracks will reasonably conclude both her Shimako-variety and DARK MAMIKO personas (more on that later) are purely products of acting. Evil Miyuki Sawashiro, on the other hand, I'm convinced is the real deal. I'll never look at Puchiko the same way again. Anyway, I'm glad Kimi ni Todoke is getting another cour. It has sympathetic leads and villains I don't hate.

This is as close as you'll get to seeing Aoba tearing her clothes off.

Cross Game and its Mitsuru Adachi storytelling remains as compelling as ever, although it's probably a comment on the state of today's anime trends that I find a simple heterosexual romance to be a refreshing departure from the usual feuds among turbo lesbians and loathsome harem comedy leads. However, if you're familiar with Adachi's staples, you may find Cross Game a little too familiar. E.g., there will be no great happiness for the characters (and Aoba and Ko aren't going to start tearing each other's clothes off anytime soon), but at least one moment of tragedy or despair is assured (as is appropriate for baseball). Despite the sports theme, Cross Game is best as a relationship drama and light comedy, and succeeds because it plays to these strengths.

Al and Ed
"Whoa, look at the size of that cat!"

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is good shounen/mainstream fare without the odious shounen jive conventions one typically finds attached to shows aimed at such audiences. This anime variant, more faithful to the original manga than the first Fullmetal Alchemist, retains the interesting characters and periodic plot twists that made the first series so popular. Really, at this point, Brotherhood is at least as good as the first anime—if not better—and deserves more attention from the crowd that dismissed it early on as a simple rehash of something they had already seen.

There is no escape from the Miracle Train, sweetie.

Miracle Train turned out to be a lot less gay than I was expecting. In fact, homosexual overtones were almost entirely absent, despite the show's outward appearance. Instead, what Miracle Train really seems like is some manner of train gang rape porn. Basically every episode some girl gets on a train and is immediately surrounded by men who won't let her off until they've "solved her problems." Usually the girl offers token resistance, but eventually relents and actually enjoys "having her problems solved" in the end. It's a ridiculous concept, punctuated by copious amounts of train and train station trivia, a token loli, and a talking dog that sounds suspiciously like Athrun Zala wondering what in Hell he's supposed to do this time about the man in the mask. Still, I'm glad I watched the entire series, and the later episodes contained the right mix of seriousness and sentimentalism.

This is really a girl, isn't it? He has a ribbon.

Seitokai no Ichizon was all right even if it relied too much on reference humor. It had good comic timing, amusing characters, and never aspired to be much more than what it was.

Noloty confronts Zatoh
"I want you to hit me as hard as you can."

The Book of Bantorra is worth watching just because it's different. I liked the way the first arc played out, although Ayako Kawasumi's departure from the show is sorely missed. Well, they did bring her back to narrate the clip show in episode 14. Besides that, Noloty deserves to be on the short list of dark-skinned anime characters, Mirepoc has ridiculous-yet-awesome hair, and the strongest character on the show is the woman who is really good at hucking rocks. How can you not like that shit?

Kayoko fan art is goggled.

Sunred II is basically just more of the same. I like parody, but the jokes are becoming a little one-note. At this point I'd rather they just make the entire thing a bachelor-chow cooking show with Kayoko and Vamp punctuated by occasional household tips.

The horns mean Tomoe is serious. Dead serious.

I realize this is fairly qualified praise, but Queen's Blade II is far and away superior to the first season. For one thing, there's a lot less peeing. But the real gem is discovering why Mamiko Noto has been playing Tomoe so seriously all this time. The return of DARK MAMIKO is a welcome surprise albeit one only familiar to those who realized it was her in Dai Mahou Touge and perhaps those who enjoyed the final scenes of her character in the Kara no Kyoukai movies. (Note: DARK MAMIKO is not to be confused with her Ana Coppola Black Custom variant.) But really, Queen's Blade II develops a plot AND character development which is enough to elevate this ridiculous show to at least non-ironic watchable levels, even if the vast majority of its cast—unusually professional Mamiko Noto aside—completely phoned in their roles. Tanaka Rie, for example, was terrible.

Cure Berry, Cure Passion, Tart, Chiffon, Cure Peach, and Cure Pine
Lay off the meth, girls.

Fresh Pretty Cure is treading water and has been mostly lackluster since the end of the Cure Passion arc. Retconning Setsuna into a 14-year-old girl was not unexpected, but still inexcusable from a storytelling viewpoint. The addition of a fourth Cure diminished the importance of Cure Pine and Cure Berry and Cure Redundant. Wait, I mentioned her already. I maintain that Precure as a franchise works best with two Cures—no more, no less.

What about Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza?
Dropped at episode eight for being piss awful.

Was Autumn 2009 weaker than most seasons? I'd have to say so. Granted, I didn't watch Darker Than Black II or Railgun, both very highly regarded shows (although I suspect Railgun will be another ephemeral flash in the pan everyone disregards when the next shiny thing comes along), but aside from the refreshing Kimi ni Todoke and the briefly euphoric return of DARK MAMIKO in Queen's Blade II, I can't claim there will be much unique to Autumn 2009 alone that I will remember or recommend without reservation, alas.

Dated 22 March 2010: Some misgivings about the upcoming Spring 2010 season

I'll watch B Gata H Kei if Yamada actually screws 100 guys.
Queen's BladeSeikon no QwaserB Gata H&K
[Spoilers: Never going to happen.]

After looking over this list, I'm afraid there aren't very many shows that interest me except for the sixth season Major. (Season six! Fucking awesome.) Of course, this probably means Shimizu Kaoru is going to win Girl of the Year two years running. And here I had thought Aoba from Cross Game had the title all but locked up.

Fine, fine, I'll also watch D.C. ~Da Capo~ Ext if the franchise returns to its Sakura-killing-deadbeats roots. But if there are no Sakura murders, no deal.

Dated 13 April 2010: Winter 2010 season wrapup

I liked the manga version of this scene better, though.

Cross Game and Kimi ni Todoke went down to the wire as to which show would claim the top spot, but Cross Game pulled ahead for the win at the very last episode because it had a great ending and Kimi ni Todoke didn't have an ending at all.

Ume > Sawako.

To be fair, the Kimi ni Todoke manga is still running, so there wasn't much else the anime could do without making Kazehaya a vengeful bounty hunter years in the future after a sudden timeskip. On the other hand, Cross Game took a good manga ending and adapted it so well it's better than its source.

Chiaki and Nodame
Damn, Chiaki, give the kid a break.

I already said why I like Nodame Cantabile: Finale so much.

Here is a screenshot of Ed instead of Winry
again since it is technically his show.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood remains as solid as or better than the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime. I'm still perplexed why so many viewers who were excited by the first anime are apparently completely uninterested in the current show. I guess maybe they outgrew it. Brotherhood continues during the Spring 2010 season.

The Book of Bantorra needed more Noloty.

I liked The Book of Bantorra mostly because it was so different. Imaginative and perplexing at nearly every turn, The Book of Bantorra kept me interested because I never knew what to expect from any episode. That, and I liked how the most powerful and dangerous librarian's primary weapon consisted of hucking very small rocks. I was also amused she spent a good portion of her spare time embroidering little bunny rabbits. Hamyuts was pretty well-rounded for a sadist.

I promise not to make any head jokes.

Durarara!! is a good show that I would enjoy more if I cared about any of the characters. They aren't badly written characters by any means; I just don't find them interesting for some reason. I don't even care about Celty—probably because she gets flustered so easily. It's like finding out your hot date is infected with moe. Yeah, you can get a shot to clear it right up, but sometimes the burning sensation just isn't worth it. I guess I kinda like the girl who smiles in every single one of her scenes and the perpetually angry dude who throws vending machines at people. DRRR!! also continues Spring 2010.

Cure Berry
Cure Berry needed more funnels.

Fresh Pretty Cure really took a dive after the Cure Passion arc. The ending was completely lackluster. When you compare it to the ending of the original Futari wa Pretty Cure series or the ending of its Max Heart sequel, it's blatantly obvious the Precure franchise is playing it safe and taking no chances anymore. The ending of the original Futari wa Pretty Cure was a complete downer that probably didn't traumatize many children but doubtlessly left many of them sad. Too bad, kids; life is real. The ending of Max Heart was a multi-episode fist fight between Zakenna dudes that didn't fight fair and the outnumbered Cure Black and Cure White. (Shiny Luminous was on the bench with too many fouls at this point.) Then they basically had to fight Lilith from The End of Evangelion. It was awesome. The Fresh Pretty Cure finale, on the other hand, faced off four Cures against a bad guy Kirk and Spock would have outwitted without leaving the bridge. And they received battle costume upgrades in the form of angel wings for some reason. Except for Cure Gundam Berry. Just had to be different, didn't you, Miki?

Okay, there was some misinformation in Chu-Bra! as well.

I didn't expect much from Chu-Bra!! at all. This was my PSP experiment show. Results from the experiment were inconclusive in this case, but I believe it would have made a difference with a show where the video and audio mattered more regarding one's enjoyment of the series. Instead of the fan service bonanza and a lot of pandering, Chu-Bra!! instead turned out to be the low-brow anime equivalent of a +5 Informative Slashdot post. It wasn't especially ambitious, but Chu-Bra!! surprised me by not being crass. Honest. Many of the underwear scenes were drawn extremely simplistically to presumably minimize the amount of fan service in the show. In fact, I think there were fewer gratuitious T&A scenes than there were underwear lessons in the style of the Gunbuster science lessons. I kid you not.

Kate and Hana
Hirano Aya is perfect as Katja.

Seikon no Qwaser is basically porn that's not intended to titillate. It's anime one-upmanship. Episode one: Junior high kid sucks high school tits to boost his shounen fighting powers. By episode 11 the show moves on to twincest lesbian S&M rapists. I'm dead serious. And it's planned for 24 episodes. I, for one, am looking forward to another cour with a great Hirano Aya character and the only Kawasumi Ayako game in town.

I guess Hinagiku was all right since she had a yakuza posse.

Hanamaru Kindergarten was the least Gainaxy Gainax show I've ever seen. I would have liked it better if it had Gainax kicks, or if the lead characters weren't so despicable. I swear, Tsuchida could have learned a lot about ambition and guts from Love Hina's Urashima Keitaro. Yamamoto was supposed to be a Belldandy-type perfect woman, but she's dumb as all Hell.

Vamp and Kayoko should get married.

Astro Fighter Sunred is about as good as it ever was, I suppose, but 40+ episodes of essentially the same jokes over and over gets a little tedious. I'll keep watching it if ANBU keeps subbing it, but Sunred really should have been a 13-episode series. I'd still rather watch a Kayoko + Vamp cooking show about bachelor chow.

Dark Precure
Cure Kero-chan.

Heartcatch Precure appears to be the most popular Pretty Cure series thus far, at least as far as mainstream acceptance goes. I'm really unimpressed by it, however, probably because Cure Blossom is a dojikko and her worst-Cure-ever shtick is not endearing at all. Needs more Dark Precure and Cure I-Know-It's-You-Hisakawa-Aya Moonlight. A mid-season replacement for Fresh Pretty Cure, look for Heartcatch to run at least another 40 episodes.

Dark Precure
I bet Dark Precure's original designation was Cure Sunshine.
[Update: Oops, there's already a character called Cure Sunshine.]

Final Tally: Cross Game > Kimi ni Todoke > Nodame Cantabile: Finale > Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (50) > The Book of Bantorra > Durarara!! (12) > Fresh Pretty Cure > Chu-Bra!! [PSP] > Seikon no Qwaser (11) > Hanamaru Kindergarten > Sunred II (40) > Heartcatch Precure (8). Dropped Winter 2010: None.

Dated 31 December 2010: 2010 Girl of the Year

Aoba is the Best Girl of 2010 even though
Adachi Mitsuru can only draw one face.

Congratulations to Tsukishima Aoba, 2010's Best Girl. This was a pretty easy choice despite a lot of strong contenders. More about Aoba herself and the rest of this year's nominations below.

Shimizu sees Goro again after a long absence.

Shimizu Kaoru from the sixth season of Major got an automatic nomination by virtue of being last year's winner. Unfortunately, Shimizu did not get many scenes during this epic baseball show's final season, and had many of her presumably more important moments from the manga relegated to the montage during the last episode. I suspect Major probably has enough material for a seventh season, but I don't think we'll get any more in anime form unless there are OVAs.

Conan and Ran
This usually means somebody's about to get fucked.

I've decided to add Mouri Ran to basically every Best Girl of the Year list from here on out on general principle because Ran is one of anime's All Time Babes. Detective Conan doesn't change much and appears capable of running indefinitely, and Ran is enough of a sweetheart that she could potentially win this contest any year, so consider her a baseline metric of sorts. Certainly anyone below the Mouri Ran Line has no hope of winning.

Sasha and Katja
Katja breaks Sasha's brain.

Only people who watched Seikon no Qwaser will fully understand why Katja gets a nomination. Too many people either did not watch the show at all or gave up on it far too early to fully appreciate just how ridiculous Qwaser managed to be. Katja's contributions are too numerous to list here, but I'll point to three key moments that cemented her nomination in 2010's Best Girl competition: (1) The scene where she connects her phone to her television. (2) The railgun powered by breast milk. (3) The scene where incorruptibly loyal Hana comes flying in out of left field.

Yamada is basically Ranpha, the early years.

Yamada from B Gata H Kei barely makes the list for being outrageous (only medium outrageous in a year containing Seikon no Qwaser) and for being an excuse for Yukarin to say amazing things.

Nagato Yuki
Be glad this isn't a Key story, Yuki.

Nagato Yuki qualifies this year because of the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie. As I've said before, this is more her movie than Haruhi's. Now, in order to answer the obvious question that people who have seen the movie must be asking without venturing into spoiler territory before those who have not seen it, let me just say this: Based on how Kyon views Nagato in the beginning of the film, the middle, and the at the end, I think the impact she has on him (and hopefully the viewer) elevates her into the upper pantheon of this year's nominees.

Ika Musume
Squids love the long ball.

A late arrival, especially because I did not start watching Shinryaku! Ika Musume until it was already half over, Ika Musume herself easily gains a nomination as one of 2010's Best Girls. A genius at everything (except invading) and filled with verve and imagination, Ika Musume should be on everyone's list of this season's Best Girls. Well, I guess there is that technicality about whether or not squids can be girls, but I consulted the judges panel and they allowed it.

Nobody on the team trains harder than Aoba.

Finally, our victor, Tsukishima Aoba from Cross Game wins the title of Best Girl of the Year for 2010 with her solid showing throughout the yearlong baseball anime. Aoba nearly won the title last year, and was an early favorite to win even though Cross Game ended in March.

The best coaches are in the stands.
-Charles M. Schulz

It's easy to describe Aoba as another Haruka Tomatosauce tsundere, but I believe Aoba honestly hated Kou when they were children—jealous of the attention he got from her sister. However, Aoba grudgingly comes to respect Kou's physical talents for baseball and dedicates her considerable knowledge and love for the game into transforming him into the type of pitcher who can make her sister's dream come true. My memory is very hazy on this point, so the accuracy of the following anecdote is suspect at best: I believe Don Drysdale once lamented it was a shame the Los Angeles Dodgers did not have a pitcher with Orel Hershiser's brain in Kevin Gross' body. That's basically the idea behind the Aoba + Kou combination in Cross Game. It's a pity Adachi Mitsuru could not re-write the rules of Japanese high school baseball, but Aoba's head—and her heart—were enough for her to win it all this year, even if her arm could not officially compete.

That's still an awesome phone.

If you're wondering why Shikinami Asuka Langley didn't win by default, it's because Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 came out in 2009. Also Soryu > Shikinami.

[Update: Added Panty from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.]