Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
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Dated 4 June 2015: Girls-with-guns trilogy re-watching project complete, or, Bee Train be the bee trainiest

Noir discs and merchandise
Noir DVDs and Blu-rays. Also pictured: Some random
swag that RightStuf was trying to unload.

I fuckin' love Noir. You'll know this if you've read some of my old ass blog posts on the series—ones I've been meaning to import into WordPress for like, years. You'll also know this if you follow me on The Twitter, as I recently completed my Bee Train girls-with-guns trilogy re-watching project. This was inspired by my acquisition of Noir Blu-rays which, conveniently, are a Hell of a bargain. I also had Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja DVDs which I had previously purchased but never got around to watching. As you can see from the picture above, I already had the Noir DVD box set (which came with a Kirika t-shirt), but the Blu-rays are still a great deal even for fans who already have the DVDs.

Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja DVDs
I probably should have used a picture of Elenore here instead.

I've already re-watched Noir at least twice in the past 12 years or so, but this was my first time re-watching Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja. Noir holds up if you're already okay with the incredible feats they pull off. For example, basically every shot Kirika ever fires results in an instant kill. She's shooting .380 ACP ball ammo for crying out loud. Of course, considering some of the feats she accomplishes during the course of the show, I'm reasonably certain Kirika could find a way to instantaneously kill a room full of Soldats flunkies using a package of Q-Tips. Neither Madlax nor El Cazador de la Bruja are quite as good as I remember though, and I didn't think they were that great to begin with. Madlax at least benefits from one of best anime maids of all time, but El Cazador is sort of dreadful to marathon.

Dated 5 January 2011: Autumn 2010 season wrapup

Ika Musume and Nagisa
Ika Musume terrorizes Nagisa.

Autumn 2010 had a number of surprises. I never would have predicted my top three shows from this season. In fact, three months ago I would have been surprised to learn I would watch two of the top three at all.

Shinryaku! Ika Musume [1-12] > Shiki (12-22) > Detective Opera Milky Holmes [1-12] > Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt [1-13] > Amagami SS [14-25] > Detective Conan (591-600) > Heartcatch Precure! (34-45) > Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai (11) > To Aru Majutsu no Index II (6-7) > Yosuga no Sora [1-12] > Psychic Detective Yakumo [1-13]

Shinryaku! Ika Musume takes the top spot by the strength of its comedy and its No Bad Episodes achievement. I didn't have much interest in the show initially based on its description, but toward the middle of the season I decided to give it a shot because of the near universal praise I encountered for it. I'm glad I did, because Ika Musume is a solid show. I only wish there were more episodes.

Megumi
Y'all know Megumi is right, right?

Shiki took me by surprise by embracing B-movie staples and running with it. I can't actually claim that Shiki is "good," but when it hits its marks it is wildly entertaining. If you like yelling at idiots for their stupidity and watching villagers storm castles with torches and pitchforks in hand, then Shiki is for you. Plus it's bloody! Even for a vampire show! I almost want to give it the top ranking for autumn 2010, but there were a few lackluster episodes in the mix holding it back. Its first OP and second ED are unquestionably this season's bests, though.

Henriette
Just so you know, this is a great disguise.

I wasn't really expecting to enjoy Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, and only started watching it so I could claim to be watching three detective shows this season. However, after an unimpressive start (everyone seems to loathe the first episode), it proved to be a fun series that continued to push the envelope; some of the things Detective Opera Milky Holmes did were really...inappropriate, but it was never dirty. An unexpectedly funny series, I've heard Milky Holmes described favorably as "the next Galaxy Angel." Now, it ain't that good, but I could definitely go for more episodes of these idiots.

Chuck, Panty, and Stocking
Panty and Stocking put Chuck to work.

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is as good as you've heard, but it never really resonated with me. There were some really amazing moments and a lot of good episodes, but I can't help but feel Gainax could have done more with the show. Even the Gainax Ending was not as outrageous as it could have been. It's no The Melody of Oblivion ending, for example. I'm probably the only person in the world who feels Panty & Stocking wasn't daring enough, though.

Ayatsuji
Don't worry, he has it coming.

I liked Amagami SS because of its gimmick, but ultimately Potato-kun just didn't have enough charisma to carry the show. It's a nice enough romantic comedy, but nobody who missed it should feel as if they've missed anything important.

Ran, Conan, and Kogoro
Ran is always so well dressed.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. Nothing important changes, and the show remains as good as ever. For that reason, I suppose curious readers may be able to rely on its position in these season summaries as a baseline or control group of sorts for pan-season comparisons.

Erika
Erika is the best girl in Heartcatch, but she ain't no Girl of the Year.

Heartcatch Precure! is all right, but I don't like it as much as its predecessors. I suppose viewed as a whole, it is better than Fresh Pretty Cure, but the best Fresh moments are a lot better than the best Heartcatch ones. I know Heartcatch Precure! is very well regarded among many anime fans who don't typically watch Pretty Cure. I wonder if they rank the show so highly because this is the only Precure they know, or if they rank it so highly because Heartcatch has certain unique elements that other Pretty Cure season do not have. If the latter, perhaps it is these differences that I don't care for—differences that cause me to view Heartcatch unfavorably in comparison to past seasons. Or maybe I'm just tired of watching weak magikal girls fight bad feelings every week.

Kirino and Ruri
Kirino hassles Ruri.

I technically did not drop any shows this season, but I only watched one episode of Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. I watched episode 11 to see what all that KUNKA KUNKA jazz was about. Man, that Kirino is a total bitch. There is no way I'd be able to watch a full season of anything with her in it. (Bear in mind that I'm an unapologetic Asuka fan, too.) I never had any interest in the show because its most fervent fans are all siscons; that's gotta mean something whether or not the show's actual content justifies that label.

Kuroko
How about you go to a hospital, Kuroko? How about that?

I only watched episodes six and seven of To Aru Majutsu no Index II because I heard they were Kuroko episodes without any Touma speeches. I'm oddly fascinated by Kuroko's old woman voice, but I still have zero interest in the show.

Akira
Turbo Genki Akira is the Best Girl in Yosuga no Sora.

I accidentally watched all of Yosuga no Sora. I watched two of the episodes towards the middle of the season because I heard a harem-anime protagonist actually managed to have sex. If you know anything about anime, you'll understand this is a shockingly rare occurrence, especially so early in a season. I was hoping the show would be another School Days, but it turned out to be an R-rated version of the Amagami SS gimmick. Once I learned that, I backtracked through the earlier episodes to find out how everything started. By then I had watched half of the show and figured I'd keep watching since Haruka was apparently going to run the table. Man, Sora was an intolerable bitch, though. She and Kirino should hang out—at like the bottom of a lake. Anyway, if you want to know what happens but don't feel like waiting for the uncensored Blu-rips, just watch one of the omake EDs; they spoil basically everything that happens in the show.

Haruka
Even Kirika didn't wear the same outfit every single episode, Haruka.

I finished Psychic Detective Yakumo on general principle, but found it pretty boring. It wasn't very Bee Trainy for a Bee Train show. I also wished Haruka had more than one outfit.

Bridgette L. Satellizer, probably
The Eva Series? It's been completed?

I have a feeling I'm not going to be watching as much anime this year, at least not as many of these 13-episode throwaway shows. That said, I do hope Freezing will have DARK MAMIKO. Speaking of Noto Mamiko, Kimi ni Todoke 2 is a lock, and everything about Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica sounds pretty good with the exception of the SHAFT X SHINBO part (which probably sounds pretty good to most people). Naturally I'll continue watching Detective Conan and Pretty Cure and anything Gainax churns out, even if it might cause me to buy and then itasha the fuck out of a Subaru.

Dated 30 October 2010: Autumn 2010 initial impressions

Dark Marine
Dark Marine > Cure Marine.

This is a relatively light season for me. I'm only following two new shows, and I may have dropped one of them already.

Stocking and Panty
Striped swords are an otaku myth.

My favorite show this season thus far is Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt which I basically only started watching because it's a Gainax production. It's crass and kinda dirty, but a pretty fun cartoon to watch. I'm rather pleased Panty is such a slut. God bless sluts.

Haibara and Conan
Any excuse for more Hayashibara Megumi is a good one.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. Starting with episode 591, this appears to be another solid season of the same sort of thing Detective Conan has been reliably churning out for years.

Cure Moonlight and Dark Moonlight
Dark Moonlight > Cure Moonlight.

Heartcatch Precure! needs to do more with it's new (old) 17-year-old Cure—the oldest Cure of the franchise if you don't count Cure Grandma (and if you accept Setsuna as a 14-year-old). Sadly, I'm disappointed with the way Hisakawa Aya (Hisakawa Aya! for crying out loud!) delivers her transformation announcement. She could take some lessons from Yukana on this one. Seriously, though. When Yukana starts going off about Pretty Cure's "beautiful souls," that is some good shit right there.

Rihoko
Wait until Rihoko finds out she's fatter than Meyrin.

As far as gimmicks go, I still prefer the one Hatsukoi Limited employed. Nevertheless, Amagami SS continues to provide mildly amusing episodes about Potato-kun's serial harem. Despite my dislike for dumb girls (Mouri Ran being a one of anime's All-Time Babes notwithstanding) and my loathing of dojikkos, the first Rihoko episode was rather endearing. She's slow and clumsy and an unwitting compulsive eater with low willpower, but somehow manages to be a sweet kid. If this keeps up, Rihoko may surpass SEX HAIR as the Best Girl of the show.

Megumi
Are genki vampires moé?

Shiki is still the anime equivalent of a B movie, but I'm pretty pleased Megumi gets around a lot for a dead girl.

Haruka
Between the Tortilla sisters and Haruka, 2010 has been
a good year for off-the-shoulder dresses and blouses.

Finally, I've probably dropped Psychic Detective Yakumo, but I may pick it up again if I get sufficiently bored with the above shows. It's not exactly bad, just sort of uninteresting. The presumptive love interest is a real dish, but I'm getting impatient waiting for her to shoot someone in the face. This is still a Bee Train show, right?

Dated 4 October 2009: I like the Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ ending

Doctor Scythe Master
"So worth it."

I know the ending to Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ really angered a lot of people, but I have zero problems with it. My reaction could be related to my growing distaste for the ever-common "I MUST PROTECT HER" theme that seems to permeate anime and manga. Zwei had a touch of this affecting him as well, but I'm really glad his efforts played out the way it did. If you're going to cast a "I MUST PROTECT HER" line, you should expect these kinds of snarls to develop.

Mio
Mio isn't exactly Detective Conan, but she doesn't have to be.

Without revealing too many spoilers, I also enjoyed how the climactic battles resulted in one Phantom dead, another Phantom pretty fucked up, and another Phantom walking away without a scratch. I guess we all know who The Strongest is now.

Ein
Evening gowns of Madlax Invulnerability only stop bullets.

Speaking of which, True Noir coming out of nowhere to Kirika the Bejeezus out of the Eva Series before they could initiate Instrumentality with Ein's corpse was awesome. I'll forgive the lack of El Cazador de la Bruja cameos during the Mexico arc for more Chloe-stabbing-people-in-the-neck-type action any day.

Dated 23 September 2009: Scythe ~Pimp Master for the Phantom~

Scythe Master and his harem
Technically, I think we're supposed to hate Scythe Master.

I initially had Ein and her amazing two-outfit wardrobe pegged as the real star of Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~, but it turns out the true star of the show is Scythe Master and his magic hands. On a serious note, the only reason Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ isn't my nomination for the best show of Summer 2009 is because Cross Game is superb.

Dated 11 August 2009: Phantom ~Requiem for the Cazador de la Bruja~

MEXICO, BABY!
MEXICO, BABY!

Not to make light of Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ which, in addition to being a serious show, is honest to God the best show airing right now, but I hope Bee Train works in an El Cazador de la Bruja reference during the upcoming Mexico arc. C'mon, you know you want to see Zwei singing the "Tacos, Tacos, Tacos" Amigos Tacos jingle.

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 5 May 2009: Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ isn't a requiem for a phantom yet

Ein
Ein shows Zwei how much he sucks.

Through five episodes, Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~, aside from having a redundant title, is legitimately good, although I can understand why potential viewers may be wary. Even I'm still slightly hesitant at this point despite the fact that I actually enjoyed the Bee Train girls-with-guns trilogy. Nevertheless, Phantom is still better than I expected.

Ein changes outfits
I don't know if Ein thinks Zwei is a potato, but I kinda do.

Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ also has surprisingly copious fan service, as Ein spends most of the time clad in a sports bra when she's not wearing that sleeveless Chinadress shirt with her bra straps showing. I hope fans won't attempt Ein cosplay if they don't have the athleticism to pull it off. Ein has muscle tone befitting someone who trains as much as she does—at least while the animators budget for it.

Ein
Suddenly, Bio Concerto is applied for no adequately explained reason.

From what I understand, Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ is based on a game that predates Noir. I guess this means considerable spoilers are just a few clicks away, but hopefully it also means the storytelling will be consistent and better paced than El Cazador de la Bruja, for example. Not that video game to anime adaptations are exactly a recipe for success, but at least by adapting an older game like Phantom we can be reasonably assured Bee Train isn't trying to cash in quickly on some current hot seller. Maybe this means they put a good amount of thought into the conversion, too.

Ein
I don't know what Ein is washing. She only has two outfits.

FUNimation is currently streaming subtitled episodes of Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ for free the same day it airs in Japan. The video quality is about equivalent to the Noir fansubs from back in the day, so it is a pretty sweet setup as far as I'm concerned. There are also many other titles from FUNimation's catalog streaming for free on their site, although as of yet a lot of them are only available dubbed.