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Dated 27 August 2018: This Hand Maid May blog entry is not about May or maids

May and Kazuya
At least the apartment she's cleaning is also small.

I think it's been more than 10 years since I last re-watched Hand Maid May. I probably have a disproportionately positive perspective on what is ultimately a 20th century fan-service-laden harem comedy. I can't guarantee I would still hold it in high regard if I were to watch it for the first time now, but I do still remember it fondly. (The impetus for bringing Hand Maid May up again comes from the latest episode of Hataraku Saibou.)

Kazuya and Kasumi
That ladder bridge looks less and less safe as the years go by.

If anything, re-watching Hand Maid May now might help me clarify one aspect that I've always been sort of uncertain about. Namely, how old is Kasumi? Her current English Wikipedia entry describes her as an 18-year-old college student (with no citation), and the current Japanese Wikipedia entry claims she is a student at Kazuya's university (also with no citation). I don't remember this ever being established within the anime itself.

Kasumi and Kazuya
Further proof that Kasumi is right-handed..

It is pretty likely that she is at least out of high school, because there is a flashback in episode eight to Kasumi's graduation, and we never see her in a school uniform outside of those flashbacks. But since (as I understand it), compulsory education in Japan ends with middle school (after completing 9th grade, by U.S. reckoning), it's not impossible (albeit unlikely) that she dropped out to run the apartment complex, coach baseball, and flirt with Kazuya full-time.

Dated 10 July 2012: Spring 2012 season wrapup

Rin, Yuka, Saki, and Natsumi
Rin, Saki, and Natsumi realize by now that Yuka
with an idea can be a dangerous thing.

I've already explained why Natsuiro Kiseki is my favorite show from spring 2012. However, I didn't mention how shabby the animation looks at times. I'm really surprised to see such lapses from Sunrise, but the show is otherwise so good I'm willing to ignore those faults.

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Dated 19 April 2012: Initial impressions of the spring 2012 anime season

Fujiko
Fujiko is one of anime's All-Time Babes.

Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to lu Onna is good—refreshingly so. The first two episodes have been solid, and it's such a relief to watch something that's not in the modern moé style. As much as I love Sawashiro Miyuki, I'm still not sure how I feel about her taking over the role of Fujiko. It seems as if Masuyama Eiko still had the role not that long ago, but I see now that the Detective Conan v. Lupin III movie was in 2009. I guess she couldn't do the voice forever. And as much as I love Horie Yui, Sawashiro Miyuki is definitely doing a better job as Fujiko than HOCCHAN did as Honey.

Niiya and Yuuko
Ghost hime-cut.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is a pleasant surprise. The RSS feed for the scanlated releases of the manga has actually been in my aggregator for ages, although I couldn't remember why I added it. (I've never read a single chapter.) I've seen a lot of comments about how SHAFT-like the show is, but I didn't get that sense at all. That SHAFT jive usually annoys the Bejeezus out of me, but I didn't notice any pretentious, intrusive direction in the first two episodes. So far Tasogare Otome x Amnesia has been entertaining and funny, and this season's resident ghost girlfriend is quite charming.

Rea
Not a zombie hime-cut.

Some people dismissed Sankarea because it's a Studio DEEN production. I'm not nearly as critical of Studio DEEN as contempory anime fans seem to be. Studio DEEN is responsible for the best show of all time, after all. Not that Sankarea is at all in the same league, but it does seem interesting and well done. I'm not sure how I feel about zombie girlfriends, but definitely less favorably than ghost girlfriends, that's for sure.

Medaka
Rally 'round the flag, boys.

Medaka Box is this season's most underrated show. It's underrated because so many viewers are incredibly critical of it, dismissing it as an unworthy product of a post-exodus Gainax. It's possible I am more lenient because of the Gainax badge, but I don't think Medaka Box is bad at all. On the contrary, the show is amusing with a thankfully all right male lead. Medaka herself is very likable, although possibly I'm mesmerized by that crazy shit she does with her eyes. Also, Medaka reminds me of Haruhi, only benevolent.

Moji
KAMINA LIVES!

I haven't started this season's Detective Conan yet, but if it's as good as it always is, you can expect it to place about here in the early season rankings. [Edit: Followed by the continuing episodes of the Gundam SEED "HD" re-watching project.]

Kaoru and Sentaro
Love at first sight.

Sakamichi no Apollon is one of those "objectively good" shows. I think it's pretty well done, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'll like it. It's pretty obvious the new wimpy kid and the big tough kid are in love with each other, but I have a feeling the show will pretend to be about jazz and Miss Third Wheel instead all season long.

Yuki
Social Anxiety Poster Boy.

Tsuritama is also "objectively good," but I can't tell if I'll still be interested in the show after a few more episodes of this stuff. I've got books on Byzantine history I've been meaning to read.

Saber
Your sword is showing, lady.

Fate/zero from episode 14+ is about as good as where it left off two seasons ago. I expect it to get even better now that it's free to kill off basically everyone. Anyone familiar with Fate/stay night knows how this will end, but I'm curious how ufotable plans to get us there.

Cure March
I like Cure March, but that hair is tragic.

I think I was biased to dislike Smile Precure! on general principle, but it's turning out to be pretty good. It could use more brawling, though. Smile Precure! is basically Fresh Yes! Precure 5 except with less ass kicking and less illicit romance.

Nyarlathotep
Nyarlathotep is Top Fuel Asumin.

Haiyore! Nyarlko is good because it is such high-energy, but I'm not optimistic enough to believe it can sustain these levels successfully over the course of the season. If I had to guess, I'd suspect fickle anime fans will start to disavow the show by next season.

Natsumi and Saki
Needs more pratfalls and less bitching at each other.

Natsuiro Kiseki episode two was a lot better than episode one. It helps that I kinda like Sphere. Nevertheless, I'm not especially enamored with the drama elements. The physical comedy is pretty good, though, as is the characters' almost casual acceptance of magic.

Fourteen
I wonder how M14 feels about M1A?

Upotte!! is pretty bad, but totally watchable. Hey, sometimes I enjoy following a show just because it's anime. And Upotte!! is very anime.

Kuroyukihime and Haru
Hey, they found a way to make Potato-kun worse than usual.

Accel World plummeted in my opinion once I saw episode two and realized the entire show was going to be shounen jive and practically doomed to be wall-to-wall exposition and unnecessarily long, tedious fight scenes.

Elina
I wasn't expecting continuity.

Queen's Blade: Rebellion manages to be an abomination in comparison with its first two seasons. I don't like the cast as much, and the entire thing just reeks of terrible. It's a pity, because the plot sounded kinda interesting on paper. However, if the rest of the series isn't much better than the first episode, Queen's Blade: Rebellion will be WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS.

Dated 31 January 2012: I built a kotatsu

Kotatsu
Behold, the bespoke kotatsu, in all its glory.

Okay, I didn't really build a kotatsu. I bolted an electric wall-mountable low-wattage ceramic heater to the underside of a cheap square coffee table.

My first encounter with a kotatsu was almost 10 years ago, while watching Love Hina. There's an early scene during which Keitaro is forced to hide underneath one for some contrived reason. At the time, I couldn't understand why he was complaining about the heat. Reading the manga (incidentally, offered online for free by its author, Ken Akamatsu) clarified things a bit. 14 volumes of Love Hina gave me a better understanding as to the functions and features of this weirdo heated table thing. Still, I couldn't understand why Keitaro wasn't bending Naru over the kotatsu at every opportunity, but that question is not germane at this time.

Love Hina
Naru's kotatsu is big enough for two. Three, if you're perverts.

There are probably a few changes I would incorporate were I to construct Ghetto Kotatsu 2.0, pending further testing. It doesn't help at all that the temperature in Southern California was regularly in the 80s this January (think high 20s, if you use Celcius).

Dated 1 January 2012: 2011's Girl of the Year

Miki and Producer
Consolation prize.

Choosing the Girl of the Year for 2011 shows how views held at the mid-year mark can change months later even without much additional information. As you may recall, the initial front runner was Homura from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, with Charles and Ran looking to place and to show. However, after another six months of deliberation, I think I may need to reconsider my choices.

Cure Marine
Cure Marine is proof All Stars hazing works.

Going through my initial recommendations, Erika from Heartcatch Precure! does even better in light of how uninspiring the entire cast of Suite Precure♪ has been. Nearly all the Suite Precure♪ characters are all right. (Not Cure Muse. Cure Muse is straight-up terrible.) However, they are so underdeveloped. Even Buki and Miki from Fresh Pretty Cure have more personality than the Suite cast. And the Suite Cures all seem to make such terrible choices. Not that Erika was a sound voice of reason in Heartcatch, but Erika at least had a lot more verve than any of the current crop of Cures, so the things she did were almost always entertaining, even when they were ill conceived. Nevertheless, while Erika certainly makes the Suite cast look bad, it's not enough to win her Girl of the Year.

Minami
My copy of Management is twice as thick.

As far as I can tell, Moshidora was wildly unpopular, but I thought it was pretty good. It's rare for a show to get better with every episode. I might be looking at this through baseball goggles (they're like instrument goggles, okay), but Minami from Moshidora easily deserves a Girl of the Year nomination. She doesn't have enough to win, but you can't expect someone to go to the Koshien and win Girl of the Year in the same year, can you? Nobody is that good. Oh, wait. Aoba from Cross Game did that just last year.

Hana and Sasha
Go on, Hana, curse the bitch out.

Hana carried the second season of Seikon no Qwaser through its early lacklustre episodes. Carried it in her ass. [P.S. SPOILERS.]

Charles
Who are you going to believe, sweetheart? Me or your lyin' eyes?

Early in the year, it really seemed as if Charles from IS: Infinite Stratos had a legitimate change of winning. I suppose she did, but as I mentioned with regard to the OVA, the end of the series basically threw away everything that made Charles great. Instead, she just became another blushing simpleton in Ichika's harem. How things would have been different if she had been absent from the series' final scene! It could have played out otherwise unchanged, but for a brief cut away to Charles sitting quietly in her room, reading one of those books Ichika keeps around for show, maybe looking up curiously to ask, "What is that racket outside?" Alas, somewhere along the way the writers forgot what made her great. Charles doesn't win.

Makoto, Kotori, Chihaya, Ritsuko, Takane, Yukiho, Haruka, Producer, Hibiki, Ami, Miki, Mami, Azusa, Iori, and Yayoi
Say, do we have any cake?

Based on how much I like The Idolm@ster TV, you might expect one of the 765 girls to win this year. The truth is, I'm not even sure who to nominate. Idolm@ster relies very much on its ensemble cast, and as much as I like most of the girls individually, I like them collectively more. So, the first ever group nomination goes out to Chihaya, Miki, Takane, Ritsuko, Haruka, Mami, Makoto, Iori, Hibiki, Ami, Azusa, Yayoi, Kotori, and Yukiho. They don't win, though. I'm not ready.

Eiko
It's a good year for horn hair.

Even though I'm still not entirely sure squids are eligible to win Girl of the Year, Ika Musume managed a nomination last year for being pretty much non-stop awesome. Unfortunately, the second season of Ika Musume spent a lot of time, well, treading water for the most part. In fact, I'm inclined to think the Best Girl in Ika Musume II isn't even the title character. Eiko has been a solid straight man throughout the series, perhaps because she doesn't rely on having some broadly painted quirk to define her. Of course, now that I think about it, Eiko's role doesn't even necessarily require a female character. Eiko could have been a teenage boy, and the only real change to the show would be perhaps not having Ika Musume sleep in the same bedroom. Nobody from Shinryaku!? Ika Musume gets a nomination, by the way. Not this year.

Homura and Charlotte
Hey, there's more cake over at Suite Precure♪.

If you've been paying attention, you've already figured out the heavily armed witch killer Homura does not win this year. There were two obstacles in her way. First, Homura is handicapped by my general dislike of SHAFT and Shinbo and the sophomoric fans they attract. Second, Homura's defining characteristic—or at least the one working most in her favor—is her indefatigable dedication. It's admirable, but even Homura can learn a thing or two about tireless devotion from this year's winner: Ran.

Ran
Believe it, baby.

Long-suffering Mouri Ran is 2011's Girl of the Year. Ran has always been good enough to win every year, but a relatively weak field for 2011 coupled with an especially good year for Ran puts her over the top. Ran's peculiar similarities to Homura also helped seal the win. I say "long-suffering," but not very much actual in-show time has passed for Ran. Like Homura, Ran is essentially trapped in time, doomed to absorb hundreds of failures, surrounded by death, and never achieving the peace she seeks with the one she loves.

Ran
Lifetime Achievement Award.

For over six hundred episodes and more than a dozen movies, poor Ran hasn't been able to catch a break, but thankfully, there was some progress in 2011. This year, Detective Conan was at least kind enough to offer her the Valentine's Day arc, the White Day arc, and very compelling London arc, all of which which combine satisfyingly in ways unexpected for a show as generally static as Detective Conan. Congratulations, Ran, 2011's Girl of the Year.

Dated 24 August 2011: Finally watched my Maria-sama ga Miteru season two DVDs

Eriko
Most of the time you can't even tell Eriko is insane.

The second season of Maria-sama ga Miteru feels like two separate seasons. Just as most of the first season of Marimite is dedicated to Sei—by far the Best Girl of the entire franchise—so too is the first half of the second season. Well, except for that one episode where you find out Eriko is actually AWESOME. And also CRAZY. And definitely not a LESBIAN.

Sei
Sei reflects on her time in high school.

Sei is especially important to Marimite because she plays the senpai role to Yumi's kouhai so well. Maria-sama ga Miteru is very much about the Lillian Academy's grande sœur and petite sœur system, but it is actually Yumi and Sei's kouhai/senpai relationship through the first two seasons that establishes the show and permits it to grow during seasons three and four, not the imouto/onee-sama relationship Yumi shares with Sachiko.

Sei and Yumi
Yumi finds out Sei fucked with her again.

Anyway, the first half of season two is dedicated to Sei, but the second half (the start of Yumi's middle year in high school) is dedicated to Yumi and Sachiko. Oh, and that witch Touko. Nevertheless, Sei plays a critical role towards the end of the season when she does something for Yumi that nobody else could—something Sei can do only because she spent one-and-a-half seasons fucking with Yumi. It is, perhaps, the high point of Marimite—the zenith where its real stories about love, trust, and dedication combine to culminate in the series' finest moment. Sei earns her -sama.

Dated 28 June 2011: Early nominations for 2011's Girl of the Year

Shigeno Kaoru
Spoilers: Kaoru won't win this year.

Halfway through 2011, I propose the following tentative nominations for Girl of the Year. I'm providing this update so characters from shows that ended during 2011's first half don't get overlooked by the myopia that seems to set in each December.

Shigeno Momoko
Go on, Momoko, bitch those jackasses out.

As a former winner (2009), Shimizu Kaoru from Major would normally get an automatic nomination for returning in the OVA epilogue, but she's inelligible because it came out December 2010. Unfortunately, this means I also can't nominate Momoko from the same OVA. Momoko first appeared in Major season one as Goro's kindergarten teacher and has been a regular part of the series ever since. She definitely deserves recognition for her contribution to the best baseball anime of all time. (Neither could have won in 2010, by the way, as Aoba from Cross Game had that title locked up nearly from day one.)

Ran
This usually means someone's about to get fucked.

Mouri Ran gets a nomination because Detective Conan is as good as it ever was. As long as the series continues to air (or the franchise continues to churn out OVAs and movies), Ran will get a nomination by virtue of being a long-suffering sweet kid and one of anime's All Time Babes. Actually, I say "as good as it ever was," but this year it might be better than ever. It's still really good at least.

Minami
It helps that Minami has awesome hair.

Minami from Moshidora adds to the growing list of nominations from baseball anime. Minami's initial contribution to Moshidora is a gimmick, but it's an interesting one, and both Minami and Moshidora continue to grow over the course of the season.

Hana
Hana and Katja should get their own show when Qwaser ends.

Hana from Seikon no Qwaser II carried the show during its early uncertain episodes, and I'm not just saying that because part of it took place inside her ass. Hey, that's two characters nominated now for Hikasa Youko (best known for her role as Mio in K-On!).

Charles
Charles is from fork-lovin' France.

It's a pity Houki didn't have much to offer in IS: Infinite Stratos, otherwise Hikasa Youko might have managed a hat trick. At least Infinite Stratos doesn't walk away emptyhanded, though. Its very popular Charles easily gets a nomination even though she unconvincingly tried to disguise herself as a boy initially.

Homura
Also for being a magikal girl King of the Battle.

Homura from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica gets a nomination for her indefatigable [SPOILERS. DECLASSIFY IN 30 YEARS].

Itsuki, Erika, and Tsubomi
Erika is kinda smug sometimes though.

Erika from Heartcatch Precure! manages a nomination for 2011 despite not receiving one in 2010. Although she's the first Pretty Cure to be nominated, Erika arguably only gets the nod because of the relatively weak field so far in 2011 and for being the most generally liked character in Heartcatch Precure!

So there you have it. Note, however, these are only preliminary nominations for 2011, and the field could change dramatically depending on how the rest of the year plays out. No doubt, this field is also limited by the relatively few shows I've followed this year. But before anybody says anything, nobody from Ano Hana gets in. Not even close.

Dated 31 December 2010: 2010 Girl of the Year

Aoba
Aoba is the Best Girl of 2010 even though
Adachi Mitsuru can only draw one face.

Congratulations to Tsukishima Aoba, 2010's Best Girl. This was a pretty easy choice despite a lot of strong contenders. More about Aoba herself and the rest of this year's nominations below.

Shimizu
Shimizu sees Goro again after a long absence.

Shimizu Kaoru from the sixth season of Major got an automatic nomination by virtue of being last year's winner. Unfortunately, Shimizu did not get many scenes during this epic baseball show's final season, and had many of her presumably more important moments from the manga relegated to the montage during the last episode. I suspect Major probably has enough material for a seventh season, but I don't think we'll get any more in anime form unless there are OVAs.

Conan and Ran
This usually means somebody's about to get fucked.

I've decided to add Mouri Ran to basically every Best Girl of the Year list from here on out on general principle because Ran is one of anime's All Time Babes. Detective Conan doesn't change much and appears capable of running indefinitely, and Ran is enough of a sweetheart that she could potentially win this contest any year, so consider her a baseline metric of sorts. Certainly anyone below the Mouri Ran Line has no hope of winning.

Sasha and Katja
Katja breaks Sasha's brain.

Only people who watched Seikon no Qwaser will fully understand why Katja gets a nomination. Too many people either did not watch the show at all or gave up on it far too early to fully appreciate just how ridiculous Qwaser managed to be. Katja's contributions are too numerous to list here, but I'll point to three key moments that cemented her nomination in 2010's Best Girl competition: (1) The scene where she connects her phone to her television. (2) The railgun powered by breast milk. (3) The scene where incorruptibly loyal Hana comes flying in out of left field.

Yamada
Yamada is basically Ranpha, the early years.

Yamada from B Gata H Kei barely makes the list for being outrageous (only medium outrageous in a year containing Seikon no Qwaser) and for being an excuse for Yukarin to say amazing things.

Nagato Yuki
Be glad this isn't a Key story, Yuki.

Nagato Yuki qualifies this year because of the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie. As I've said before, this is more her movie than Haruhi's. Now, in order to answer the obvious question that people who have seen the movie must be asking without venturing into spoiler territory before those who have not seen it, let me just say this: Based on how Kyon views Nagato in the beginning of the film, the middle, and the at the end, I think the impact she has on him (and hopefully the viewer) elevates her into the upper pantheon of this year's nominees.

Ika Musume
Squids love the long ball.

A late arrival, especially because I did not start watching Shinryaku! Ika Musume until it was already half over, Ika Musume herself easily gains a nomination as one of 2010's Best Girls. A genius at everything (except invading) and filled with verve and imagination, Ika Musume should be on everyone's list of this season's Best Girls. Well, I guess there is that technicality about whether or not squids can be girls, but I consulted the judges panel and they allowed it.

Aoba
Nobody on the team trains harder than Aoba.

Finally, our victor, Tsukishima Aoba from Cross Game wins the title of Best Girl of the Year for 2010 with her solid showing throughout the yearlong baseball anime. Aoba nearly won the title last year, and was an early favorite to win even though Cross Game ended in March.

Aoba
The best coaches are in the stands.
-Charles M. Schulz

It's easy to describe Aoba as another Haruka Tomatosauce tsundere, but I believe Aoba honestly hated Kou when they were children—jealous of the attention he got from her sister. However, Aoba grudgingly comes to respect Kou's physical talents for baseball and dedicates her considerable knowledge and love for the game into transforming him into the type of pitcher who can make her sister's dream come true. My memory is very hazy on this point, so the accuracy of the following anecdote is suspect at best: I believe Don Drysdale once lamented it was a shame the Los Angeles Dodgers did not have a pitcher with Orel Hershiser's brain in Kevin Gross' body. That's basically the idea behind the Aoba + Kou combination in Cross Game. It's a pity Adachi Mitsuru could not re-write the rules of Japanese high school baseball, but Aoba's head—and her heart—were enough for her to win it all this year, even if her arm could not officially compete.

Asuka
That's still an awesome phone.

If you're wondering why Shikinami Asuka Langley didn't win by default, it's because Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0 came out in 2009. Also Soryu > Shikinami.

[Update: Added Panty from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt.]