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

Dated 12 February 2002: Hand Maid May

While I consider Chobits be a failure in the robot-girlfriend genre, Hand Maid May is surprisingly good. All 11 episodes are already available on three DVDs, and while I've only seen the old, low-res fansubs, I'm prepared to heartily recommend them.

May and Kazuya
Hand Maid May and Kazuya Saotome

Hand Maid May neatly joins two staples of anime: The robot-girlfriend and the maid-uniform genres. (See also Mahoromatic.) It's a fairly simple, silly, stereotypical anime in the giant-sweatdrops and "falling down after hearing something surprising" vein with rampant rampant fan service throughout the first episode. Somewhat ironically, because it's not at all ambitious, it succeeds brilliantly. Hand Maid May is simply a cute comedy about a clueless geek (Kazuya Saotome), his spirited sex bomb neighbor (Kasumi Tani), and a tiny devoted robot maid (Cyber Doll May), and on that level it works very well.

Okay, Kotaro Nambara (Kazuya Saotome's chief rival and antagonist) is incredibly annoying, albeit intentionally so. However, I am willing to cut him some slack because everyone else in the show is pretty charming. Besides, Nambara's voice actor is Ueda Yuuji, who also played Urashima Keitaro in Love Hina and later went on to do fairly innocuous soft core porn with Asakawa Yuu, the voice of Motoko from Love Hina and Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh. Whoop!

Dated 25 June 2006: Hand Maid May

Kasumi and Kazuya
Kasumi and Kazuya.

I have come to the conclusion that the ladder in Hand Maid May is superior to the, uh, hole in Love Hina. That is all.

Dated 13 October 2007: In praise of the Girl Next Door

Kyo and Kaminagi
Kaminagi is a Girl Next Door because her apartment
building is only an apple's throw away, okay?

Among the many moe stereotypes, you'll frequently find the Childhood Friend. She is a staple of harem comedies and pretty much anything related to dating sims or eroge. One study suggests that the Childhood Friend does quite well for herself, even if she does not necessarily have the inside track.

Nodame and Chiaki
Sometimes you're taking your chances with the Girl Next Door.

In addition to the Childhood Friend, you'll also find the Clumsy Girl, the Class Rep, the Athletic Girl, and the Shrine Maiden, among others. Curiously, you won't find the Girl Next Door quite as often.

Calling Naru a Girl Next Door might be a stretch,
but the floor/ceiling hole convinces me.

Perhaps the Girl Next Door is a convention foreign to Japan, at least compared to her stature in American culture. You'll remember that Hugh Hefner built his empire on her charms. He explicitly states that his Playboy centerfolds represent the Girl Next Door. (I would argue that the typical centerfold has looked less and less like "the girl next door" over the years, but you get the idea.)

A Childhood Friend, Winry is also a Girl Next Door,
even if her house is kinda far. They live in sugei inaka.

But where ranks the Girl Next Door among anime cliches? When she does appear, she's sometimes also the Childhood Friend or some other more common cliche. It's like she's just the Girl Next Door by happenstance.

Kasumi and Kazuya
Kasumi might be the best Girl Next Door in all anime.

So, while I can't claim the Girl Next Door is rare, she is uncommon where anime is concerned—uncommon and under-appreciated. All glory to the Girl Next Door. When you're with her, it feels like home.

Dated 29 October 2007: Lovely Complex and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR


Hey, look. It's the Girl Next Door. Oh, shit. She's fucking crazy.


Dated 27 October 2008: Toradora! interest waning

Minori and Ryuuji
Minori and Ryuuji.

After four episodes, I'm finding little reason to continue watching Toradora! besides copious amounts of Yui Horie Sweetness. It's not a bad show—just not one I find too interesting right now. Oh, I'll probably still finish out the first season, but in all likelihood I'll wait until all the episodes are out and then marathon the remaining batch.

"Half-right, face!"

Unless there are sudden advances by Ami, the recently-introduced somewhat-militant new character, I think Minori has got Best Girl status locked up. Fully expect Minori to boat race the remainder of this show. [Update: That's not Ami. It's Sumire.]

Taiga's blood sugar is probably low.

Taiga is pretty much out of contention altogether, despite enjoying Girl Next Door status. I'm glad that she's a basket case when she's anywhere near that boy she likes, but her constant need to have Ryuuji take care of her is tiresome.

Dated 7 May 2009: Hatsukoi Limited

Yuuji and Ayumi
Ayumi is the strongest.

Through five episodes, the endearing Cross Game is the best show this season, but with four episodes down, Hatsukoi Limited is an unexpected close second. I didn't expect much from this J.C. Staff light comedy, but it is funny and engaging and seems likely to ride high on J.C. Staff's strengths. It also has the best fan service this season if you care about that sort of thing. (Queen's Blade may have the most, but far from the best.) Misaki's Girl Next Door powers are fearsome.

Doba is the fastest.

Hatsukoi Limited combines intertwined stories of unrequited love. Secondary characters in one episode take the lead in the next. None of them find romance (at least not yet) as the objects of their affection inevitably have their eyes cast elsewhere. School Rumble at its best relied on stories of unrequited love in much the same way, but School Rumble also suffered from an unwillingness to resolve any of the potential romances. The surely hazardous sea of manga spoilers likely renders such speculation moot, but I hope Hatsukoi Limited will not suffer from School Rumble's cowardice by failing to let its stories advance.

Kei is the tsunderest.

It's still early yet, but there do appear opportunities for genuine romances to develop. Naturally, these potential couples manage to make things difficult for themselves thanks to their own silliness, even though the viewer knows they would be perfect for each other. In this way, with its couples who can't get together, and one-sided hopeless romantics chasing pipe dreams, Hatsukoi Limited leans on many of the staples that make Shakespeare's comedies so entertaining centuries after they were written.

Wait, did you just compare Hatsukoi Limited to Shakespeare?

Well, I wouldn't put it that way exactly, but this is the kind of light romance Hatsukoi Limited feels like. And with J.C. Staff at the helm, it stands a pretty good chance of maintaining the charm and hopeless romanticism that have elevated the first four episodes above any right they have to be. Shakespeare's romantic comedies do rely on many of the same near misses and confounding pigheadedness of potential couples, so I think the limited comparison is valid. It's not like I'm suggesting Gonzo's Kiddy Grade is actually based on Twelfth Night, you know. [Spoilers: Viola and Cesario are actually the same person.]

Kusada and Misaki
Misaki is a sex bomb.

In any case, I know I'm in good company when I say Hatsukoi Limited is excellent. Reactions I've seen thus far have consisted of universal praise. Nevertheless, I've still had very limited success convincing people to begin watching Hatsukoi Limited. I presume this is related to its rather simple synopsis and generally unremarkable description. But like Kannagi before it, Hatsukoi Limited succeeds through brilliant execution. As with Kannagi, Hatsukoi Limited is proof execution can be more important than concepts if the shows are done sufficiently well—and so far Hatsukoi Limited is done very well indeed.

Dated 19 October 2009: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood ED3 returns Winry to former glory

Winry at work.

There are a few common complaints about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Among them include changed voices and a less buxom Winry. Now, the matter about the voices is not going to go away, but, as Epi pointed out earlier, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood now sports a new ED. This second third ED powers up Winry to her previous dimensions. This is unlikely to affect Winry's in-show character design, but it seems likely the changes for the ED are intended to quiet some of the grumbling while hearkening back to the "Motherland" ED from the first anime season—the one about Winry killing time at home.

Winry playing make-believe.

Another common Fullmetal Alchemist complaint is that Winry does not really serve much of a purpose in the show. She has been called mere eye candy and a Mary Sue, for example. Both allegations have some merit, but I don't think these characteristics necessarily diminish Winry's importance in the show. Do not underestimate the Girl Next Door. She reminds Al and Ed of home.

I think we all know what this phone call is about.

Moreover, I submit that it is necessary to include aspects in a show not necessarily dedicated to advancing the primary plot. I am not advocating filler for filler's sake, but I don't think many will disagree if I claim the semi-parody Mustang-centric episode of the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime contributed in meaningful ways to the overall success of the series by expanding the role of costars in ways we might not otherwise have seen. Likewise, the old "Winry killing time at home" and now the new "Winry at work" EDs flesh out some additional details about the character—in this case, nothing we didn't already know or couldn't have assumed, but it's still nice to have it there.

Dated 16 April 2010: B Gata H Kei episode two has a Girl Next Door

Kazuki, Yamada, and Takeshita
Does this count as a spoiler?

I'm not really a fan of B Gata H Kei's Girl Next Door. It's probably because she's also a Clumsy Girl and I despise dojikkos as a whole. Besides, they don't even call her a Girl Next Door in the show; they call her a Childhood Friend. I don't understand why Japan doesn't get this.

Takeshita and Yamada
Holy crap. THIS CHAIR.

In other news, if B Gata H Kei keeps this up, Yamada is seriously going to challenge Aoba from Cross Game and Shimizu from Major season six as Girl of the Year, 2010. This is most unexpected. Takeshita is also going to place well as the clear voice of reason à la Nobu from Lovely Complex.