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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.

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 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 20 September 2009: Reading the Ga-Rei manga

Kagura crashes into Ken
Way to watch the road, Kagura.

I watched Ga-Rei Zero despite numerous warnings from various people not to. They alleged the show is terrible, but I was willing to hazard that to find out what the deal is with Yomi. I won't tell you much about Yomi, but I will tell you people were wrong about the anime being terrible. I can understand why some people don't like it, though. First, Ga-Rei Zero pulls the rug out from under the viewer numerous times. [Spoiler: The lesbianism is a lie.] Moreover, the show does not take itself too seriously, and borders on self-parody on a few occasions. I can understand that some may also dislike the shifts in tone, but I rather enjoyed them. Finally, some complain the anime isn't true to the manga. Those complaints I don't really understand.

Ga-Rei volume three cover
I like the art in the manga more than the covers.

I've started reading the Ga-Rei manga. (The Ga-Rei Zero anime is a prequel taking place two years prior to the opening chapter of the Ga-Rei manga.) I've completed the first 25 chapters, and I have to say the anime does not stray far from the spirit of the manga. Yes, there are notable differences, particularly in that the manga is told from the perspective of a male lead. I almost dropped the manga early on because I thought he was another shounen jive male protagonist, to tell you the truth. But while there is a lot of "I'm just a normal guy...except I can see ghosts" and a little too much "I MUST PROTECT HER!" there isn't much Bleach or Index-type exposition. Mercifully, the manga also does not take itself too seriously, and there are a lot of tongue-in-cheek jabs (including a ridiculous first kiss). There are even some tanuki jokes I know at least one person will appreciate. There's also some well-drawn fan service to go along with the admittedly shounen jive overall plot. My only real complaint with the manga is that the comic timing seems a little off. I can see the framework for the jokes, but the effect loses a little something in the translation. I suspect Ga-Rei likely reads a bit funnier in the original Japanese, but that's just speculation on my part. Oh, it also needs more Yomi, alas.

Dated 7 May 2010: Chihara Minori owned Animelo 2009

Chihara Minori
Chihara Minori sure knows how to make an entrance.

I've finally gotten around to checking out these Animelo concert videos I've heard so much about. Most of it is about what I expected, including performances by a number of singers I suspect were lip syncing. However, I also discovered Chihara Minori; I previously only knew her from Yuki Nagato fame and that one water bottle incident.

Ali Project
Ali Project is so weird.

Chihara Minori followed Ali Project on the first day of Animelo 2009. Ali Project was vintage Ali Project. I.e. SO WEIRD. I've heard Ali Project's music described as atonal warbling. I guess that's accurate. I, for one, enjoy songs by Ali Project, but they're so strange. I can see how many people might only tolerate Ali Project. The Animelo 2009 audience was interested, but I can't say they were enthusiastic.

Chihara Minori
Chihara Minori at full boost.

But then Chihara Minori strutted out in her space disco outfit with titanium fuck-me boots channeling the ghost of Olivia Newton-John (don't ask) and positively blew the roof off the dump. THIS is Yuki Nagato? You've got to be kidding me! Chihara Minori was awesome at Animelo 2009, electrifying the crowd out of its lull. I think she was even better than Banana Mizuki who was awesome herself. Chihara Minori's contrast with her Yuki persona could not have been greater. I also didn't know she sang the Ga-Rei Zero OP. "Paradise Lost" rules.