Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
karmaburn.com karmaburn.com
  • HOME

Dated 17 June 2009: Fresh Pretty Cure for the casual fan

Setsuna and Love
The animation quality in Fresh Precure is so inconsistent.
Sometimes it looks like this...

Aside from the potential stigma from watching Pretty Cure, Fresh really is a pretty good show. Oh, it still is what it is, and I don't think potential viewers who are merely curious need watch every single episode. If precedent is any indicator, Fresh Precure should run at least 48 episodes, and possibly 96. That's a lot of fresh and a lot of cure for the average viewer. To that end, I've prepared a simple guide for the curious who don't want to commit to the full-length series.

Easy gets loose with her new power
...and sometimes it looks like this.

Through the first 20 episodes, I suggest watching episodes 01, 07, 10, 14, 15, 17, 19, and 20. Also watch episodes two and three if you care about how Miki and Buki end up as Cures, add episode six if you care about Love and her mother, but you can skip 10, 14, and 17 if you only care about the PEACH-HAN Love and Easy Setsuna friendship. 10 is good because it's funny and it resolves Buki's ferret phobia bit. 14 is good because it finally includes hand-to-hand combat between the Labyrinth goons and the Cures. And 17 is good because it's about teen pregnancy. (No, really.) And it has Wester sleeping in the park on the grass in the middle of the day like a bum. The bad guys this season are such slackers.

Dated 21 June 2009: Fresh Pretty Cure Spoilers ~or~ The Fresh Is About to Hit the Fan, Cures

So apparently the matters I speculated about last month were already widely known among the die hard Pretty Cure fan base. After catching up with what they know, it seems to me there shouldn't be any real surprises in the coming episodes to anyone already watching Fresh Pretty Cure raws. The English subtitles are still far back enough that a casual viewer might be caught off guard, so if you don't know what I'm talking about and you care about Fresh Pretty Cure spoilers, avert your eyes...now.

Miyuki
Miyuki becoming a Cure is a red herring.

The identity of Cure Passion was officially revealed in the end-of-show eyecatch to episode 19. Unofficially, that information had been available through other channels—namely merchandising ones—possibly for months already. I still don't know the exact details of the transformation, but I know who it is, and I can guess how it transpires. What I don't know is how this is going to change the shape of the Fresh Pretty Cure season. There's a good chance this change could elevate it from "unexpectedly good" to AWESOME.

Cure Passion
Episode 19 gave us the profile, 20 the full frontal Cure.

So, that pretty much ends any debate as to who the legendary Fourth Cure will be. Like I said, this is pretty obvious if you've been following the raws and watching Setsuna's and Love's friendship develop. One thing I find perplexing, however, is that Buki mentions Setsuna is about the same age as the other Cures (i.e., 14) which I guess I can accept, as Setsuna does look younger than Easy. But there's no way "Eas" is 14. Assuming the Labyrinth version is her true form, does this mean Easy is going to get stuck between the Setsuna and Cure Passion guises? Or will she be able to return to her normal "bad girl" form? I say normal, because that's what she uses when she's just bumming around the house after work.

Easy
Easy chills out after a hard day of goofing off with Love.

If Easy becomes a Cure, that creates a vacancy among Moebius' squad of deadbeat henchmen. Moreover, there's still no sign of the "north" goon. If Easy is east, Wester is west, and Souler is south, then who is north? And what are these losers going to do when they're outnumbered two-to-one by Cures who beat their asses on a daily basis already? One piece of speculation out there involves Miyuki going bad after being spurned by Aka Linkrun in favor of Setsuna.

Dark Miyuki
I fully support the idea of Dark Miyuki.

To be honest, Fresh Pretty Cure needs more villains more than it does more Cures. The reason the original series worked so well for me was because there were only two Cures. They didn't start out as friends, and they didn't really like either other at first. Nevertheless, they had to depend on each other to get anything done. Neither could even transform without the other. With Fresh Precure getting a fourth Cure, the show is approaching Yes! Precure 5 levels. That is, more of a sentai show than "Ikaruga with magikal girls."

Easy
You have to drop at least two cup sizes to
become a Cure, Easy. There's a rule.

If the Cure team completely overpowers the already strapped bad guys, how does that change the dynamic of the show? Actually, I suppose that could work within Fresh Pretty Cure's slacker framework. Labyrinth already isn't exactly comprised of the most motivated crew of mahou shoujo villains I've seen. That's going to change if workaholic Miyuki becomes Dark Miyuki and starts smoking the shit out of Souler and Wester. They're going to hate life. And how.

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 24 July 2009: Things you'll find during the hottest two minutes of the Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie

Cure Peach
Love gets excited when she talks, okay.

Between minutes 58 to 60 in the Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie, you'll find wall-to-wall mahou shoujo beatdowns. It also starts off with Love doing that thing she does where the longer she talks, the faster and louder she gets.

Cure White, Cure Peach, and Milky Rose
Nice of you to join the fight, Peach-han.

Cure Peach also does a rather simian run for no reason, but it looks cool. Actually, it's probably to keep her enormous hair from dominating the screen entirely.

Cure Black, Shiny Luminous, and Cure White
Max Heart is here to eat takoyaki and kick ass.
And they're all out of takoyaki.

The Max Heart crew doesn't save anyone's ass during these two minutes. They already bailed out all the rest of the Cures earlier in the movie. Well, not the Fresh Cures; they were too busy being incapacitated to need saving.

Cure Rouge, Cure Aqua, Shiny Luminous, and Cure Mint.
Cure Rouge, Cure Aqua, and Cure Mint need to learn to spread out more.

I lied. Shiny Luminous totally bails out Cure Rouge, Cure Aqua, and Cure Mint from the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go! team.

Cure Black and Cure White
A signature move of the original Cures.

You'll also find that signature wall-stick move of the original Cures with all the flips. I'm still pissed they eliminated and then retconned out Cure Black's superfluous flip after she sticks, just so you know.

Cure Aqua
Cure Aqua gets to attack without reciting extended incantations.

You'll also find a lot of beam spamming by the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go! team. At least they get to whip that shit out in real time during the movie.

Cure Pine, Cure Peach, and Cure Berry
Your flying attacks are unsynchronized, rookies. UNSAT. Try it again.

The Fresh Cures also finally get into the act after spending most of the movie imprisoned in the La Brea Tar Pits.

Cure Black and Cure White
Never mind. Cure Black and Cure White have got this.

The Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie didn't do too much with the experienced Cures overshadowing the newer Cures, but it's there. There is one extended sequence when the Fresh Cures see all the other Cures in battle costumes for the first time. Appropriately, the rookie Cures are completely awestruck.

Cure Egret and Cure Bloom
Airborne Cure, Airborne Cure, where have you been?

Taking me completely by surprise, the two most telegenic of all Cure attacks in the movie belong to my least favorite Cures. Easily taking the top spot is the high altitude synchronized drop the much maligned Splash Star Cures execute just to show off. I might have to reconsider the possibility that what I originally assumed to be blatant ripoffs of the original duo are, in fact, actually re-imagined imitators in the flattery-type vein. Too soon to be an homage, but perhaps embodying the same spirit. I might have to watch Splash Star after all.

Cure Lemonade
That's not lemonade.

Probably the second-best looking attack is the one where Cure Lemonade Spider-Mans the dog shit out of the Big Bad. I didn't know she had it in her. And there you go. Two solid minutes of hard core wall-to-wall ass kickings in a 70-minute movie that's 90 percent ass kickings anyway.

Milky Rose
Milky Rose is a one-shot wonder.

Oh, I forgot to add that Milky Rose's big contribution to this fight is also really showy. I'm not entirely sure what to make of Milky Rose. She's actually one of the annoying mascots just transformed into a human dekochin ojousama form. My initial impression is she must think she's better than the other familiars. Why wasn't she at that meeting with the rest of the mascots? Even Coco and Nuts were there. Too good for staff huddles, eh?

All the mascots except Milk and that mailbox thing I guess.
If you all know each other, why didn't your Cures ever team up before?

To be fair, being at that staff meeting would drive me insane too. ALL the Pretty Cure mascots in one place at one time yammering back and forth at each other? Uh, no thanks. I will take your free rainbow flashlight, though.

Cure Rouge
Cure Rouge gets loose.

So what about the other 68 minutes of the Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie? Not bad, but pity it couldn't have been longer. I guess you can't really have a kids movie run too long, but were little girls even the movie's real target audience? I'm thinking that's the demographic that went to the theaters, but most of the movie is heavy on the fight scenes, even for Precure.

Milky Rose, Cure Mint, and Cure Aqua
The sky is falling, Cures. And, uh, you too.

I noticed similarities in the Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie to the climatic battles in My-Otome to tell you the truth, but All Stars DX outperforms My-Otome in mahou shoujo beat downs by a mile. These girls make the welkin ring.

Cure Black and Cure White
Does this count as fan service? I know there's an armpit
fetish. How about the back of the knee?

Overall, Pretty Cure All Stars DX is Pretty Satisfying. It hits about all the notes you might reasonably expect, including making the Max Heart and Splash Star Cures more capable than the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 Go Go! sentai team and the almost ineffectual rookie Fresh trio. All Stars DX obviously takes place early in the Fresh timeline—before they could dance, even. If there's another All Stars movie (and I'm betting there will be, as long as Precure remains a cash cow), I wonder how the inclusion of Cure Passion will change up this dynamic?

Dated 15 August 2009: Max Heart is better than I remember

Cure Black, Passion, Cure White, and Seekun
For better or for worse, the characters go off-model
sometimes in Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart.

The first time I watched Futari wa Precure I watched it raw, since nobody was subbing it. I finished the first season (49 episodes) but only made it part of the way through the second season, Max Heart. I don't remember why I quit, but I remember I found Porun SUPER ANNOYING. I've recently started re-watching Pretty Cure and have now made it into Max Heart territory. Surprisingly, Max Heart is a lot better than I remember. Porun isn't as annoying as he was towards the end of the first season of Futari wa Precure since he lives with Hikari and thus doesn't have nearly as much screen time anymore. Also, the rest of those deadbeats crashing in Nagisa's room have been offloaded onto Honoka's gigantic estate, so they're out of the picture, too. That leaves Mepple yammering with Nagisa every once in a while and Seekun ending every sentence with desu as far as mascot antics go. Compared to the way it was at first, this is far better. I might even go as far as to say Max Heart is better than the first season. Apart from the Cure Passion arc, it's even better than Fresh Pretty Cure.

Dated 13 December 2009: Slowly watching Futari wa Precure Splash Star

Cure Bloom and Cure Egret
Cure Bloom and Cure Egret discover new powers.

Futari wa Precure Slash Star is the redheaded stepchild of the Pretty Cure franchise. It "only" ran for one 49-episode season whereas the original and the Precure 5 series each had about 100 episodes. (It looks like Fresh Pretty Cure will join Splash Star after its current run; it is already due for replacement by Heartcatch Precure.) Because of its close similarities to the original series, Splash Star is often regarded as a ripoff.

Mai and Saki
Mai and Saki get along better than Honoka and Nagisa did at first.

However, after giving Splash Star a chance, I am prepared to suggest its similarities to the original series are more evolutionary than derivative. Obviously Toei realized it was giving Splash Star very similar elements to the original Futari wa Pretty Cure. While these parallels were likely motivated by conservative financial considerations, they aren't direct copies. For example, the Splash Star fighting styles are noticeably softer, with many more circular sweeps and flourishes than straight linear strikes. As a result, Splash Star might have some of the prettiest fights in the Pretty Cure franchise.

Mai and Flappy
Mai has an observatory dome and telescope on her house.
I hope that doesn't violate local zoning codes.

Each season of Pretty Cure seems to have more beam spamming than the one before it. Yes! Precure 5 GoGo! is famous for it. But back when it was still okay for musclebound goons to punch 14-year-old girls in the face, Cure Black and Cure White in Futari wa Pretty Cure, the first and most openly violent series of the franchise, spent quite a lot of time trading blows with humanoid opponents. This is a far cry from the current series, Fresh Pretty Cure, which has foregone hand-to-hand combat almost entirely; the Labyrinth goons are almost always content to monsterize some random nearby object to do all their fighting for them.

Cure Egret
Beam spamming is for losers, Kira.

Because of this progression, Splash Star occupies a nexus of sorts between the two styles, combining the two forms to mix flowers and sparkles with kicks in the gut and energy beams blasting down from the sky. It's a good combination, and had I watched Splash Star before, I would not have been surprised Cure Bloom and Cure Egret had the most telegenic attack of the first Pretty Cure All Stars DX movie.

Cure Egret and Cure Bloom
I can see my house from here.

Admittedly, I've not seen enough Splash Star to conclusively determine whether or not the criticisms levied against the show are wholly unjustified or not. However, from my initial impressions, it seems very likely a lot of potential viewers simply dismissed the show out of hand (as I originally did) without giving it a chance. So far, these aren't ripoffs—they're the sincerest form of flattery, and they don't prevent me from declaring Futari wa Precure Splash Star the most underrated title in the Pretty Cure franchise.

Dated 16 December 2009: Heartcatch Precure clarification

Heartcatch Pretty Cure
Cure White could choke both of these chicks out, easy.

Richard V. writes:

Just a bit of info about Heartcatch. It seems that it is actually going to be the second season of Fresh! Pretty Cure rather than a replacement. Info found at chartfag.wordpress.com.

I believe that chart contains incorrect information. My understanding is Heartcatch Precure will be a new series with new characters as depicted above.

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.

Yano
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.

Aoba
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.

Rin
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.

Nakameguro
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
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.

Tomoe
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.

Yuuto
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.