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Dated 26 April 2009: I dropped K-On! twice

Mio tries to wake her idiot friends
Southpaw Mio tries to wake her idiot friends.

Truth be told, I would probably enjoy K-On! were it the property of a different studio rather than Kyoto Animation. I can't help but suspect Kyoto Animation is affirmatively trying to corner the market on moe blobs. At the very least, it's pushing the retard moe agenda something fierce.

Ritsu and Mio
Mio is freakishly strong.

I can't stand K-On! because of its pandering. Not that I have anything against pandering necessarily, but K-On! pushes nauseous idioms. Let's be clear: Retard Moe is horrible. I despise Yui and Ritsu. K-On! should be about Mio and Tsumugi and the non-incapacitated members of ENOZ rocking the fuck out and maybe covering "God Gave Rock and Roll to You" in front of drunken fans.

Mio
Mio as she actually appears in the show.

Mio fan art
Mio as viewers see her.

Everyone loves Mio. She is the best character of the show. Nevertheless, I'm convinced her popularity is still inflated because viewers are suffering from Instrument Goggles. Ergo, they see her as she appears in fan art instead of as the timid and almost mousy girl in the actual show. Although I guess canonically she does still have the best rack.

Mio as a maid
Mio as a maid for no reason.

Oh, in case you were wondering, I dropped K-On! the first time after episode three because I couldn't stand Yui or Ritsu, but I grudgingly watched episode four because I wanted to know what in Hell the above picture was all about. I don't know. Maybe I'm suffering from instrument goggles too. [Update: Pinafore goggles.]

Dated 11 May 2009: Mid-Season Rejects, Spring 2009

Kouji
Kouji instinctively goes for the ROCKET PUNCH.

I dropped Shin Mazinger Z after three episodes. I want to watch this out of general principle, and it seems pretty good based on what I saw, but I guess I just don't get super robot shows.

Saki
Saki plays mahjong like nobody's business.

I dropped Saki after two episodes because I don't know crap about mahjong so it confused the Bejeesus out of me. Also, too much pandering to fans of lesbianism. I'm okay with pandering under proper circumstances (see Hatsukoi Limited, for example), but I'm really tired of lesbians. I never did figure out what the deal was with the skirts, either.

Alicia meets Isara
Alicia meets Isara the hard way.

I dropped Valkyria Chronicles after three episodes because every aspect of warfare, strategy, and tactics depicted is completely laughable. Seriously, it's horrible. It doesn't help that I don't like any of the characters except Isara. Someone commented this show was designed to get you to root for the Nazis, but they're idiots too. It's a pity they can't both lose this war.

Alicia "helps" Isara
Isara is easily worth a hundred Alicias.

I'll keep reading the Sea Slug Team's summaries, though, if Kabitzin doesn't drop it.

So far Isara is my favorite character because she can melee, aimbot, and drive a tank. I don’t know what Alicia is going to do if it turns out Isara is an awesome baker as well...

That is some good smack.

The Edelweiss
Apparently the Edelweiss has phase shift armor.

In a way, Valkyria Chronicles is almost worth watching just because it's so absurd. Think of Gundam set in 1939 with the Edelweiss standing in for the hero suit. Pity it's not enough.

Mio and Ritsu
Hime Cut v. Headband, FIGHT.

I already explained why I can't stand K-On! and its saccharine moe blob filling. Understandably, it seems to be a polarizing show. I gave up after four episodes.

Kuniko
To tell you the truth, even the boomerang fights weren't that good.

Shangri-La is offensively terrible. I dropped it after one episode and only finished that one out of general principle. The only things I like about it are the boomerangs. Seriously, you'd be hard pressed to make a show this bad on purpose. It falls below the Cosprayers Line. Really, it's only offensive because it attempts to push a socio-political agenda in such a juvenile manner. Maybe it's meant to be satirical, but I'm not sticking around to find out.

Dated 5 July 2009: I started watching Ga-Rei Zero because of Mio

Yomi as she appears in the show
Yomi as she appears in the show.

I'm referring to Mio from K-On!, in case you didn't know. I started Ga-Rei Zero despite knowing absolutely nothing about the series. NOTHING. Well, okay, I knew it had a hime-cut character with a sword (Yomi) that resembled the fan-favorite K-On! hime-cut character with a left-handed bass guitar (the other way around, I guess, since Ga-Rei Zero aired first—I don't know which manga came out first). And I suppose I also had a handful of people warning me not to start Ga-Rei Zero because it apparently isn't very good.

Yomi
Fan art Yomi closely resembles in-show Yomi.

Through four episodes, it's all right, and I plan to continue watching it, so it's already ahead of K-On! (which I dropped once at episode three and again at episode four). Ga-Rei Zero is definitely an uneven show, though. The first episode ended with some serious "OH, HOLY SHIT" moments, but later episodes include lots of lighthearted slice-of-life moments à la Asura Cryin' and some attempts at comedy, although not quite to the degree Fate/Stay Night attempted. Some of the moments really are funny, such as when Yomi's sword is in for maintenance and she has to fight with the leftover choices from the discard bin.

Mio fan art
Fan art Mio, not so much.

Is it possible I'm suffering from Sword Goggles as much as Mio fans suffer from Instrument Goggles? Probably, but so far it's worth it. The show hasn't shown real signs of greatness yet, and although there have been a lot of good moments, I can understand why Ga-Rei Zero's detractors complain about it. Still, it's not at all as bad as I was warned, and the first episode is worth watching on the strength of its finale alone. I guess this means I'll have to revise my Fall 2008 rankings in a short while, though.

Dated 10 July 2009: Spring 2009 wrap-up

Kusada
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
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
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.

Goro
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
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.

Alice
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
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.

Mikuru
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.

Tomoe
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 .

Shuri
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.

Chi
"Chi's!"

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.

Tamaki
Needs more Tamaki.

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

Mio
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).

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

Mio
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
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.

Yoshino
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
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.

Yuki
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.

Hitagi
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 10 August 2012: It doesn't take Meitantei Conan to figure out who killed Yui's Gitah

Mio, Mugi, Azusa, Ritsu, and Yui
Not depicted: Bewildered patrons wondering why
people keep taking pictures of these tables.

What is Anime Tourism? Is it when anime fans make pilgrimages to real-life locales depicted in anime (see, for example, the Lucky Star Hajj), or is it when anime characters venture beyond their usual stomping grounds as tourists themselves? Maybe it's both. This installment features London, England, as depicted in the K-On! movie and in a series of Detective Conan episodes from 2011.

The River Thames
The River Thames
Welcome to London. It may appear slightly different than it does in anime.

Both K-On! and Detective Conan appear to be beneficiaries of an impressive amount of meticulous research. They accurately depict their locales while making only minor changes to avoid impeding their viewers' ability to identify certain settings. Some locations are simple yet still iconic and thus were shown virtually unchanged, such as this shot of the K-On! girls in the London Underground:

Azusa, Yui, Ritsu, Mugi, and Mio
Aldgate East
Upper: Azusa, Yui, Ritsu, Mugi, and Mio at the Aldgate East station.
Lower: Actual photo from the London Underground.

Of course, simple locations are not going to impress most viewers, nor encourage much anime tourism. Contrast this with the brief shot of the Tea Time band entering The Troubadour. A few seconds of film inspired enough visitors that the management now displays a K-On! poster in the window with a Japanese-language menu alongside its awards and positive reviews.

Mio, Azusa, Mugi, Ritsu, and Yui
The Troubadour
Upper: Mio, Azusa, Mugi, Ritsu, and Yui in front of The Troubadour.
Lower: Photo of the actual coffee house on Old Brompton Road.

As you can see, inconvenient trees and light poles occasionally get removed, and the scale sometimes gets changed to better fit a scene. For example, the rooms at 221B Baker Street are much more cramped than they appear in Detective Conan.

Sherlock Holmes museum
Sherlock Holmes museum
The interior of the Sherlock Holmes museum on 221B Baker Street.

Curiously, the K-On! girls also visit 221B Baker Street and pose for a picture, but appear to blow straight through the famous Abbey Road crossing without noticing. Had it been summertime, perhaps they would have been alerted by the crowds of tourists endangering their lives and making a general nuisance of themselves by playing in traffic.

Ritsu, Mugi, Yui, Mio, and Azusa
Abbey Road
Ritsu, Mugi, Yui, Mio, and Azusa cross Abbey Road on a quiet day.

I suppose the absence of crowds is a reasonable liberty in an anime movie. Anime "filming on location" generally seems to assume a best case scenario. Although blue skies are at least plausible in Ran's case since she visited London in July, the K-On! movie's depiction of the weather over Westminster Bridge during the colder months is somewhat optimistic.

Ran
Detective Conan episode 617.
Westminster Bridge
K-On! movie.
Westminster Bridge
There aren't crowds in Ran's shot because it's 9PM.

So how is the K-On! movie itself? I don't actually like K-On!, having dropped the series early in its run, but K-On! is a juggernaut almost inescapable for anime fans. So despite only watching four of its 40 episodes, I still know quite a bit about the show and the characters (although my Twitter joke pretending to mistake Ui for Yui's mother flopped), making the movie quite accessible. I have to admit it's a good movie, and the K-On! characters are more agreeable now that they're better established. In many respects, the K-On! movie is a journey. The characters travel from Japan to London and then proceed to explore the city, but it's also a journey in the sense that the movie is very much about the graduating members of the light music club searching for the appropriate way to hand it over to Azusa. Neither are journeys the way Monster is a journey, but they effectively take advantage of the opportunities a feature-length project has to offer. There is a palpable sense of bewilderment and wonder as Mio, Mugi, Ritsu, Yui, and Azusa wander around London, and the movie presents numerous opportunities for the viewer to see and experience it from their points of view.

Jubilee Gardens
Yui
Jubilee Gardens glows with the benefit of Yui-vision.

The unusually long London arc of Detective Conan episodes in 2011 is also a journey in both these literal and metaphorical senses. With regard to the metaphorical portion, the London arc advanced a fairly significant step in the relationship between Ran and Shinichi. From the literal perspective, Conan, Kogoro, Ran, and Professor Agasa race around the city collecting clues in order to stop a mad bomber, although the transitions are not as finely executed in these moments as they are in the K-On! movie. In the Detective Conan episodes, the characters seemingly pop up at various spots the story deems appropriate. Many of these cuts lack any real consideration as to how the characters got there, and some scenes ignore minor concerns that don't actually affect the plot. For example, Ran's fortuitous encounter with Minerva Glass at the base of the Sherlock Holmes statue outside the Baker Street Underground station (around the corner and a short distance away from the entrance to the Sherlock Holmes museum) advances the story, but doesn't necessarily comport with the traveling she does that day. The K-On! movie is much better at depicting travel around the city, and ensuring the corresponding scenes are generally geographically consistent; fans could potentially recreate much of the movie by tracing Hokago Tea Time's steps.

Ritsu, Mio, Yui, Mugi, and Azusa
Steps at the end of Westminster Bridge
This scene needed more pickpockets.

So am I actively advocating Anime Tourism? You mean like going to various locations around the world such as Italy or France or, well, countless places in Japan strictly for the purpose of seeing the 3D versions of 2D sites? Well, no, but if you're going to be in the area anyway, load up some screenshots on a portable device for comparison's sake. It's an interesting exercise in augmented unreality.