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20 March 2009: Shikabane Hime is Awesome

Makina is far and away the Best Girl in Shikabane Hime.

Barring sudden reversals in the last few episodes, Shikabane Hime: Kuro is going to be my pick for the best show of this season. I'm as surprised as you. I only started watching Shikabane Hime in the first place because I will try anything by Gainax—and because of its superlovely character design, but let us set that aside for now.

Saki and Rika
Saki and Rika are both token characters, but good ones nevertheless.

I almost rejected Shikabane Hime: Aka in its infancy because it wasn't Gainax enough. From the looks of the early episodes, it was just your standard Monster of the Week action series with some silly, over-the-top fighting and a putz for a male protagonist.

I admit it's hard to take Saki seriously sometimes, though.

But I stayed with it, because there wasn't frankly much else to watch, and it thankfully did not have a whole lot of talking for a shounen show. Or at least the characters kept on fighting while they were talking and left the standing around doing nothing parts to a minimum.

Makina is serious, though. Dead serious.

Plus, Makina's voice sounds more "real" and less "anime." I fully expected her to have a much higher-pitched voice from the character design, but Makina actually sounds like her voice actress might smoke. I really like the qualities of Makina's voice, although sometimes I wish Akiyama Nana and Chiba Saeko had switched roles. The acting is not good enough in some of the early episodes to carry a lead role, although this is not a problem limited to Makina's VA. It turns out much of the voice cast consists of models and idols instead of experienced seiyuu; however, I am pleased to report the acting improves throughout the series.

Shikabane Hime also has a lot of fancy Gainax kicks.

But back to Makina. She was the real reason I kept on watching Shikabane Hime: Aka, and I'm glad I did. Once the Monster of the Week episodes in Aka end, each episode is legitimately interesting. Towards the end of the first season, Shikabane Hime wove enough mystery and suspense to ensure I would stick around for the second part: Shikabane Hime: Kuro. In fact, the end to Aka is FULLY AWESOME. Okay, technically the end to Aka is a clip show/epilogue, but getting to that point is FULLY AWESOME.

Itsuki realizes the magnitude of her mistake.

Shikabane Hime: Kuro has the difficult task of asking me to take Ouri seriously, but I am tolerant so far. It is Makina's ties to Keisei that really carry the show for me, to tell you the truth. Despite this uphill battle, Kuro has been solid. It has earned this season's number one ranking, and I expect it to remain that way if reports of Toradora! declining into overblown melodrama are accurate. I had already moved Shikabane Hime: Kuro ahead of Toradora! after the latter's episode 22, but early reports about episode 24 likely seal the deal.

Itsuki and Takamasa
Any show with gag EDs is probably willing to take risks.

With regard to endings, it is important to remember Shikabane Hime remains a Gainax show, even if only in part. Ergo, a Gainax ending is a real possibility. Quite frankly, I'm hoping for one. Shikabane Hime strikes me as the type of show that could pull it off. There are numerous little gags interspersed throughout the series to suggest it does not take itself too seriously: such as Saki's constant snacking, or the fact that every contractor priest appears to be a cretinous otaku at heart, or how none of the shikabane hime seem particularly concerned about making their 108-kill quota to go to heaven. Shikabane Hime should be able to pull off a Gainax ending at least as well as The Melody of Oblivion did. I certainly hope so. It'll be EPIC.

Don't make me get Makina to punch you in the face.
She'll do it, too, and she's damn good at it.

Oh, and if this post has convinced you to start watching Shikabane Hime, don't be an idiot and start with Kuro just because it's newer. What in Hell is wrong with people like that? Start with Aka. Shikabane Hime is one show. Splitting it up into Aka and Kuro was symbolic at best. It would be like starting VanDread with season two instead of at the beginning. In related news, if you're one of those people who watched Diebuster without seeing Gunbuster first just because Diebuster was new and shiny, choke yourself. And when you wake up, watch Gunbuster. Scheiße.

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