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Dated 21 December 2015: Shomin Sample needs more Hara Yumi

Aika
Aika reminds me too much of Chiwa from Oreshura.

I would not have watched Ore ga Ojou-sama Gakkou ni "Shomin Sample" Toshite Gets♥Sareta Ken (Shomin Sample: I Was Abducted by an Elite All-Girls School as a Sample Commoner) except for the fact that Hara Yumi (the voice of Takane in THE iDOLM@STER and Yuuko in Tasogare Otome x Amnesia) is in it and somebody (whose trustworthiness is now shot) insisted the manga is funny. As it turns out, Hara Yumi is barely in it at all, and the anime—regardless of how the manga or light novel might be—is not funny. At best, I can merely say that it could have been a lot worse.

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Dated 5 November 2015: I'm not sure if Saekano succeeds because of its source material or in spite of it

Megumi
Nice hat.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend) is an anime adaptation of an ongoing series of light novels about a group of high school kids developing a visual novel game for Comiket. It's a harem comedy and relies heavily on tropes and common character archetypes. Tomoya is an unapologetic otaku clad in birth-control glasses. His tsundere childhood friend is hopelessly in love with him, but naturally he's completely oblivious. Since she is in a harem comedy, Eriri has plenty of competition from more aerodynamic rivals who offer Potato-kun the green light early and often. Really, the only reason the "YES" embroidery on his bedroom pillow isn't completely worn down is due to the preservative powers of the Otaku Virtues. The damn shit's better than Woolite.

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Dated 2 December 2014: "It's not easy being a genius" and other lies told in April

Kousei and Kaori
Ah! Ghost glasses!

Despite having no sympathy for its lead, a pathetic middle school boy with deep-seated emotional problems, I find Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) exceptional thus far. It's a two-cour adaptation of an award-winning manga that's already ended, so I'm optimistic the anime will have a real conclusion after a solid run instead of meandering aimlessly before trailing off like I might expect from some crappy harem comedy. (Read: A one-cour advertisement for some sorry light novel series.) Nevertheless, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso does teeter on the brink every episode, mostly because the lead character is an incredibly vulnerable boy and practically every other character in the show (men, women, boys, and girls) is obsessed with him. It technically is a harem comedy if you think about it, so letting a schmuck (albeit a talented one) drive the story turns the entire vehicle into a train wreck waiting to happen if A-1 Pictures should falter even a little bit.

Tsubaki
Williams Rotation.

In a way, this is appropriate for a show about musical prodigies. The episodes and the characters are excellent when they are on their games, but even a single minor mistake could cascade into catastrophe. Thankfully, A-1 Pictures has been spot-on so far, serving up beautiful visuals and captivating music during the performances. The supporting characters are also charismatic, even the childhood friend who unfortunately turns into a Childhood Friend. Even the erstwhile womanizing ladies' man who has displayed no actual evidence of such proclivities and appears to be hiding a sensitive side. Hell, I'm even interested in the mopey shell-shocked lead's wheelchair-bound Tiger Mom's specter, albeit to a much lesser extent than, say, the blond dervish (who is probably secretly dying despite her vivacious, constantly churning limbs), or the stiletto in a red dress. Especially the stiletto in a red dress.

Dated 17 March 2013: Google Reader's dead? I didn't even know it was sick

Eita and Ai
That's bad luck, Eita.

Okay, Google Reader isn't quite all dead. It'll be around until July. My dismay at its loss is based on pretty much the same reasons everyone else who used it is upset to see it go. In particular, I use it to follow feeds that update irregularly and ones I don't want to miss. Attempting to extract this kind of same functionality from some sort of short-attention-span Social Media Buzzword ephemeral construct is pretty undesirable from my point of view. Unfortunately, I have to admit I'm the only person I know in real life who even knows what RSS is, let alone used Google Reader, so I'm not entirely surprised to see it go. (My own subscription list has been linked on the sidebar for years.)

Ai
I like how Ai conjures her brassard out of thin air.

According to the statistics Google Reader provides, I have a little more than a hundred subscribers, which I guess isn't very many. I don't know how many readers use different RSS clients (I'm transitioning to Akregator), but I doubt it's more than that combined. (In fact, I don't even know how much traffic this site gets anymore since I disabled my web logs several months ago.) Still, I've been providing bonus content for more than four years specifically for these subscribers. I intend to continue doing so (even though I've now officially blown the lid off this poorly kept secret), but I wonder if I'll have to identify another segment of quasi-techno-savvy curmudgeons to cater to after July?

No, this update didn't really have anything to do with Oreshura.

Dated 1 November 2011: The Usagi Drop manga is different than otaku rage would have you believe

Rin
Daikichi's first impression of Rin is a recurring image.

Usagi Drop was one of the best shows from summer 2011, losing the top spot in my rankings only because of its brief 11-episode length. However, based on the outcry the original manga created, the anime's short run was its saving grace, due to the unspeakable horror of the manga's conclusion. Or so it goes.

Rin
Daikichi sees Rin for the first time, manga version.

I've long learned of the otaku penchant for gross overreaction, so I took the time to read the entire manga myself—something I suspected many of its critics neglected to do. Based on my findings, I can understand why so many otaku reacted the way they did, but I personally had no issues with the manga's ending myself, possibly because I'm much less critical of anime and manga in general; I at least try not to group things into only two categories—AWESOME and HORRIBLE—there is a lot of stuff in that middle ground I enjoy, even if I don't necessarily enjoy all of it.

Rin
Here, the Usagi Drop anime ends.

The 11 Usagi Drop anime episodes duplicate the first 25 chapters of the 56-chapter manga almost scene for scene. The anime is very faithful to the source material. The anime also ends where it does because of the manga's timeskip. That's right, more than half of the Usagi Drop story occurs after the timeskip, so arguably the latter half is the "real" story which the first part merely sets up. At a minimum, a truculent reader should at least grudgingly acknowledge the second half is intended to be as important as the first half.

Rin
Here, the Usagi Drop manga is merely beginning.

Spoiler Warning: I won't explicitly discuss the manga events, but most readers will probably be able to easily guess the spoilers from context with little effort. When I first heard about the post-timeskip outrage, I compiled a mental list of likely spoilers based on what I knew about otaku and what I knew about Japan and what I had seen in other anime and manga. Sure enough, this list of possible rage-inducing outcomes included two of the spoilers that actually occurred in the manga, although to be fair, I was incorrect about a material detail about one of them and the one I was 100% correct on was the one I had already intuited from a scene in the anime before I had even heard about the entire controversy.

Rin
Rin shows off her missing teeth.

So why so much hostility towards the manga's ending? Frankly, I attribute it to one (or both) of two reasons. One, otaku might not be exposed to much western literature and theater if they spend most of their free time voraciously consuming manga and anime. Thus, their expectations as to what is appropriate or acceptable follow different conventions. Two, these conventions themselves are tailored in self-perpetuating otaku-friendly ways to be non-threatening. Yeah, most people angered by the Kannagi ex-boyfriend revelation were joking, but notice how none of the K-On! girls are permitted boyfriends either; even a supporting character requires plausible deniability—even in jest—when she is shown with a possible beau. This is not to say that strangers to manga and anime would not revile the Usagi Drop manga ending, but it's possible those with greater exposure to a variety of "acceptable" endings may give the title more latitude because they are more liberal with their expectations. Expectations are probably key here. For example, because its audience has different expectations, nobody bats an eye when Oedipus has sex with his mother and later puts out his eyes, and nobody cares when a Shakespeare tragedy concludes with a half-dozen dead bodies on the stage. And how many readers of the popular A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels are offended by all the rape, incest, and teenage brides?

Daikichi's phone
Tiny pictures are the way of love.

I do not claim it is improper for manga and anime fans to hold different expectations for these works, but I do feel that those embracing narrower allowances contribute to the apparently collective overreaction to the Usagi Drop ending. And I do think they overreacted, especially the ones who were offended by second- or third-hand reports about how it played out instead of investigating the matter themselves. I can understand not wanting to "stain" a cherished impression created by the first half of the story, but someone forcing himself to look away to avoid something he's predetermined to condemn as distasteful strikes me as amusingly immature.

Daikichi and Rin
I forgot to mention timeskip Rin has legs that go up to her neck.

Yes, it turns out most of Usagi Drop is a teen drama, but it's not a bad teen drama unless you claim all teen dramas are bad as a matter of general principle. Guess what? After the timeskip, Rin is a teenage girl. And, like I said, since there are more chapters with Rin as a teenager than there are of Rin as a small child, Usagi Drop arguably is a teen drama. And it's not one of those teen dramas where nothing happens. There's kissing! There's sex! There's pregnancy! But there is also devotion and unrequited love.

Rin
Rin pays her respects.

Frankly, none of this would even be possible were it not for two key elements established in the first half. First, Rin explicitly rejects Daikichi as a father when he broaches the subject. Second, six-year-old Rin is the sweetest, nicest, most well-mannered little girl in history, so Daikichi's parenting—as far as we are shown—consists almost entirely of having a job and being able to sign contracts. Instruction and discipline? Not so much.

Rin
Daikichi remembers how he met Rin.

We also don't see much parenting with regard to Kouki. We know he needed more of it, since he was apparently quite a hellion, but Usagi Drop omits a lot of details. There are at least three really big incidents that occurred between the two arcs, but aside from oblique references to them, the reader remains entirely ignorant as to, you know, what happened.

Inkwell
Rin's mother pays her respects.

I've probably said too much already, and if you can't figure out what the big deal is by now, you probably either don't know anything about Usagi Drop to begin with, or you weren't paying attention. If you have figured it out and still refuse to read the manga yourself because you're afraid of tarnishing the image formed by the anime, at least consider this: The first half of Usagi Drop is told from Daikichi's point of view. The second half is from Rin's and Kouki's points of view. This change is what makes the ending work for me.

Dated 30 July 2010: The SS in Amagami SS stands for Sexhair Supremacy

Junichi
I hope you live somewhere that only gets
four hours of sunlight in the winter.

Now that's more like it. After dragging my way through the constantly cringeworthy Haruka arc of Amagami SS, I find the beginning of the Kaoru arc much more promising. Junichi was still completely shell-shocked by his soul-crushing disappointment at being stood up on Christmas two years ago. (I bet you she's the crazy-broken girl. I just know it.) The dude waited around for her until nightfall, for crying out loud. But evidently all it took to pull him back from the brink and prevent him from constructing a hikikomori anxiety womb for himself was having the sense slapped back into him by his childhood friend with the persistently tousled hair.

Kaoru and Junichi
Swing and a miss.

There's a lesson to be learned here: Annoying, whiny, bitch-ass male anime protagonists can always be improved by having someone slap the shit out them. This was true of Renton Thurston, and it's true of Potato-kun here. The dude can't take a punch, though. Kaoru hits him like one time in the gut and puts him in the infirmary for the rest of the day. I guess he's lucky he didn't end up in a hospital—or at the vet.

Kaoru and Junichi
DOWN GOES FRAZIER!

Aside from having the best hair of the season, Kaoru also has much more charisma than Haruka, even if she is recycling some tsundere idioms. I'll give that a pass because Amagami SS is still a galge adaptation. There's not really time for actual character development in a four-episode arc, especially when part of that limited screen time is already blocked off for requisite library petting. (Not Haruka's kind of petting.)

Kaoru in a flower bed
If you can only afford either Benadryl or Trojans
at Rite Aid, go with the Benadryl, Potato-kun.

To fill that hole, Junichi has resorted to stroking his imagination in order to placate his anime-blogging detractors with some of the fan service that was curiously absent from the Haruka arc. Kaoru's hair alone is a fan service GAME-BREAKING HOME RUN, so squeezing in some purely gratuitous slices of cheesecake should put Amagami SS back into the black, even if Potato-kun's fantasies are a little ambitious. I guarantee a loser like Junichi would have debilitating allergies that prevent him from ruining Kaoru for pollination regardless of his best efforts.

Dated 4 December 2009: Admitting to an anime perversion

Su, Naru, Shinobu, Motoko, and Kitsune in the Love Hina ED
This was considered pretty good quality at the time.

All right, here goes: I never skip the opening and closing credits of any episode of anime I watch. That's right, I watch every single OP and ED of every single episode, even for episodes I've already seen before. The only time I skip an OP or ED is when the encode does not include them (as with many of these old ass Love Hina first-generation digisubs that I am sort of re-watching right now).

Shimizu dancing in the rain
I admit dancing in the rain helped Shimizu win Best Girl of the Year.

Nearly every single time I've made the admission, the response has been incredulous. Yes, I know it's a very simple matter to set up a hotkey that jumps the video ahead 90 seconds (plus, better containers and, you know, actual store-bought discs permit you to chapter skip), but I don't watch every OP and ED because I'm too lazy or ignorant to skip them. I watch them every time because I consider them part of the show.

Keiichi and Belldandy in the first ED of the Aa! Megami-sama animated series
All right, I haven't bought the Ah! My Goddess series DVDs yet, okay?
At least I've purchased The Adventures of Mini-Goddess,
the OVA, the movie, and the manga already.

And since I consider OPs and EDs part of the show, how much I like or dislike an OP or ED affects how much I like the show as a whole. Disliking the Lucky Star OP is one of the reasons I've never finished watching the series. I do find Lucky Star a little boring (and I straight-up dislike Lucky Channel), but I probably would have finished watching it by now if I really liked the OP instead. Likewise, I am grateful the Macademi Wasshoi OP is horrible, because it guaranteed I would find the series not just terrible, but completely unwatchable after the first episode.

Winry
I like First Winry better even though she doesn't
have massive hips or manhands.

However, since I consider OPs and EDs "part of the show," does this mean I consider OPs and EDs canon? Well, no, although I suspect there are times we would all like to think of scenes depicted within OPs and EDs as canonical. For example, Shimizu dancing in the rain during Major season four, or the Winry's-daily-life EDs from either of the Fullmetal Alchemist series. These sequences are reasonably plausibly canon—as much so as the Aa! Megami-sama TV "date" ED which we know from the manga is canon.

George and Miyuki in the Kaze no Yojimbo OP
A bodyguard and his poor little rich girl.

What about ones like the Kaze no Yojimbo OP? Depending on your point of view, it might be nice to think those events actually happened, and from a certain perspective I can see how it's at least plausible, but I think it's more likely the scenes are pure misdirection—perhaps to divert some attention from what the show is really about. Not that OPs and EDs can't include misdirection and still be canon. Princess Tutu, I'm looking in your direction....

Ahiru
Ahiru as a duck. Unless you're ADV,
in which case it's Duck as a duck.

So what is worse? That I never skip OPs and EDs or that I care about them? Surely it's not that strange, is it? On days like these, I'm probably lucky I leave comments disabled.

Dated 29 November 2009: Best Girl of the Year, 2009

Shimizu and Goro
Shimizu is a peach.

Are "Best of the Year" lists premature at this point considering December hasn't even started yet? Normally, I would say yes, but for 2009 Girl of the Year honors, Shimizu Kaoru from Major has boat raced them all. This is an easy win for Shimizu because I'm giving her an unfair amount of latitude in defining what "of the year" even means. Were I to strictly consider only 2009 appearances in making this judgment, it is possible—perhaps even likely—someone would surpass Shimizu for top honors. (Aoba from Cross Game, that's who.)

Shimizu
The fan service in Major gets completely out of hand.

However, followers of the five-season, one-hundred-twenty-plus episode baseball epic Major enjoy the unique privilege of seeing its characters mature from very young children to adulthood. We see Kaoru grow up just as we see Goro grow up. Shimizu is not just a "childhood friend" in the typical anime sense. Most of the time we're just told someone is a childhood friend character and we're expected to fill in the blanks with what we know of the trope from previous broadly drawn stereotypes.

Shimizu and Miho
How this got past the censors, I have no idea.

This is not the case with Shimizu. We meet Shimizu when Goro meets Shimizu, and by the time she describes herself—years later—as a childhood friend, we're almost surprised to realize Shimizu has been with Goro all this time. Part of this surprise is because she does not wake Goro up in the morning. Nor is she is a substitute for a missing parent. And she is not a devoted slave. This is not to say Shimizu is 100 percent realistic, but she's still a very sweet girl and far superior to the typical cookie-cutter osananajimi stereotypes.

Shimizu rounds third
Shimizu rounds third and digs for home.

So maybe it isn't entirely fair to weigh five seasons of character development against competitors that may have only got to play a single inning, but sometimes a single up the middle with nobody on and the outcome still in question ends up being worth just as much as the attention-getting walk-off home run. True, Shimizu still needed to take three bases back when I called the 2009 Best Girl of the Year shot in April, but I knew she'd be safe all the way.