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Dated 17 August 2016: Masou Gakuen HxH is not the second coming of Seikon no Qwaser

Hayuru
Masou Gakuen HxH leads off the first episode with the Japanese girl in a cold open.

Although trashy fan service shows aren't exactly rare, the full-on, uncensored, blatantly gratuitous ones aren't particularly common either. In recent memory, there was Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid (which I haven't seen yet), and the ever-popular High School DxD series (which is relatively tame as far as these sorts of things go). This season, we have Masou Gakuen HxH (Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia) which is sort of like IS: Infinite Stratos except that in Masou Gakuen, Potato-kun's purpose is to recharge the girls' fighting ability through the power of arousal rather than just standing around wondering why they're all angry with him.

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Dated 8 October 2015: The low-hanging fruit of autumn 2015 anime blog posts

Julis
On the plus side, Kakuma Ai sounds pretty good as Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt.

Conveniently, there are two shows this season with similar premises and comparable first episodes. Both feature high school boys who meet half-naked tsundere pink-haired girls and duel them for unnecessary reasons putatively related to their magic school's magic business. The first of these, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk (The Asterisk War: The Academy City on the Water) aired first to, well, not acclaim, but at least without outrage. It looks suitably pretty with shiny cityscapes and bright colors sort of similar to the Toaru Majutsu no Index and Toaru Kagaku no Railgun bullshit academy cities. The second show, for reasons I'm too weary to pursue, has a number of different titles. It's sometimes known as Rakudai Kishi no Eiyuutan, Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, Chivalry of a Failed Knight, or alternatively A Tale of Worst One. Yeah, I'm just gonna use Asterisk and Cavalry respectively.

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Dated 22 July 2013: Gin no Saji (Silver Spoon) and Gatchaman Crowds lead the summer 2013 anime season

Aki
I wonder if the First Girl He Sees Clause is in effect?

I started watching too many shows this season to prepare a single comprehensive summary of how they're all shaking out so far; it would take hours. So I'll just divvy out these introductions individually or in chunks. The best show thus far is Gin no Saji, also known as Silver Spoon. It's a comedy about a boy who enters an agricultural high school and discovers farm life is more difficult than he anticipated. It's based on a manga by the author of Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa Hiromu, who grew up on a farm herself. The consensus regarding Gin no Saji appears to be generally positive, but it seems you have to think farms are funny to enjoy it as much as I do.

Tamako and Shinchirou
I predict Tamako will be the BEST GIRL in Silver Spoon.

Notably, Gin no Saji lacks any of the high school bullshit (at least through the first two episodes) that plagues other anime set in high school. Because of the hands-on nature of the instruction, it seems more like a trade school and quite alien compared to they typical seat-by-the-window, beautiful-mysterious-transfer-student, oops-I-fell-on-your-boobs, let's-prepare-for-the-culture-festival drudgery that you see in every other school comedy. The anime is already past the few chapters of the manga that I read, so perhaps Silver Spoon will, in fact, get a mysterious transfer student who sits by the window and helps out during the culture festival after a normal boy falls on her boobs, but I'm at least reasonably confident that the execution will be creative and different if that actually happens.

Paiman
LARGE BEER.

Gatchaman Crowds is ostensibly based on the Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) anime from the '70s, but thus far bears little resemblance to what I know of the original (which admittedly only comes from its two English adaptations, Battle of the Planets and G-Force: Guardians of Space). The biggest difference is the apparent focus on Hajime. I.e., a female lead instead of the familiar male-dominated team of five members: The leader guy, the angry guy, the fat guy, the token kid, and the aerodynamic girl.

Sugane and Hajime
A man's romance.

Hajime, I should point out, is making a solid run for the 2013's Girl of the Year crown with her unrelenting TOP FUEL GENKI attitude. Maybe it will be revealed in a shocking twist later that Hajime is actually broken inside, but for now her ebullience appears ready to overcome all challenges, even the bane of social media. Also in her favor is her bizarre love of notebooks and planners, an obsession I sheepishly admit to sharing (although, unlike Hajime, I don't fornicate with my notebooks and planners).

Yugo
I'm so glad nobody broadcasts in Smell-O-Vision.

For now, Gin no Saji and Gatchaman Crowds are the top two shows of the season, at least according to my tongue-in-cheek ranking system. Whether a comedy about farms and a superhero show arguably about Facebook games can survive the onslaught of a moon-destroying mahou shoujo opera and the return of a college circle of degenerate perverts remains yet to be seen.

Dated 21 January 2013: Oreshura has almost nothing to do with jirgas

Masuzu
For one thing, only one person's opinion matters.

Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga shuraba Sugiru (My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend Fight Too Much) seems to be doing all right so far in a fairly tough category: The Harem Comedy. I find most fans' tolerance for harem comedies declines with each one they watch. Assuming they ever enjoyed them, enthusiasm quickly transforms into hostility after one too many comely girls inexplicably throws herself at a bewildered, unremarkable boy. The male love interest is nearly always to blame. Despite his harem's collective questionable taste, ol' Potato-kun's lack of assertiveness or any other redeeming characteristic is the reason why viewers find harem comedies increasingly frustrating. In this regard, Eita from Oreshura is at least is off to a semi-decent start.

Eita
Eita's future is so bright.

First of all, he's not "normal" unmotivated slug. He's at the top of his class and aspires to become a doctor. Prior to Masuzu's shenanigans, he studied constantly. Secondly (and technically these constitute spoilers from the light novels and the manga), he's not terrified of girls. Sadly, harem comedy leads literally frightened of girls seem to be the contemporary norm. Why? Is there no other way to drag out a dozen episodes besides ensuring Male Protagonist and First Girl He Sees cannot canoodle early and often? Or is it so a stereotyped target demographic can identify with him? Are Japanese otaku really as "herbivorous" as certain tabloids accuse? It's not even harem comedy leads who act this way; ol' Hero from Maoyuu Maou Yuusha is a potato, and humans in his world didn't even have potatoes until Demon King planted some.

Masuzu and Eita
Confederates in "I Can't Believe That Shit Worked."

So Eita is not afraid of girls. This is good news, right? Well, you'd think so. It means he doesn't have any reason not to romance his childhood friend except, well, he just doesn't see her that way. Chiwa sympathizers will likely find Oreshura extremely frustrating in this regard, because he friendzones the Bejesus out of her. Sucks to be Chiwa. Personally, I'm pleased with the show so far because it hasn't been about a bunch of airheads vying for his attention. This does mean Eita ends up being the anime-dense one instead, though. And he is pretty dense. I can only assume towards the end of the show (if it doesn't punt with a non-ending ending), there will be some cathartic moment where he realizes he doesn't only love Chiwa as a friend, but also wants to rail her until she can't walk straight. The end.

Chiwa
If you advance this scene frame by frame you can
catch the exact moment Chiwa's heart breaks.

Sadly, this conventional formulaic ending is probably the best we can hope for. Personally, I'm expecting a non-ending ending (because the anime will run out of episodes before the light novels conclude), but I believe all these early examples of Chiwa's suffering are intended to promote her placement as the principal love interest. Yeah, Masuzu might be better in every way, even though she doesn't wear any underwear, but Chiwa is a sweet kid and her life kinda sucks, so it's better if she wins. That's good, right? I'm not buying it. Fuck Chiwa. And if she wants people to stop calling her "chihuahua," she should stop wearing a dog collar around her neck.

Dated 25 July 2010: Pity Amagami SS isn't Roads of Destiny without the Bad Ends

Three leagues, then the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. It joined with another and a larger road at right angles.

So reads "Roads of Destiny" by William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, the American author famous for the Christmas classic, "The Gift of the Magi." In "Roads of Destiny," a wretched shepherd is vexed by fate to reach the same ultimate destination regardless of the choices he makes. Conversely, the gimmick behind Amagami SS is that it is a harem comedy with four-episode arcs and (I assume) four separate destinations—one for each girl. There are six girls in the OP, so presumably Amagami SS will run for two cours, although currently only 13 episodes are confirmed. On the one hand, this addresses one of the primary complaints about harem comedies in general—that Male Protagonist typically picks the "wrong" girl. On the other hand, the climaxes to these four-episode arcs come really fast.

Junichi and Haruka
Renting swimsuits sounds kinda gross.

If you watched the first arc, wherein Potato-kun inexplicably lands an older school idol for no clearly discernible reason (or at least not a reasonably plausible one), you may also be confounded by the bald implausibility of this most unlikely coupling, even if Junichi is the rebound guy for Haruka's dog. Well, confounded by that and the couple's complete lack of chemistry together.

Junichi and Haruka
Really, I think it's being charitable.

Then again, maybe not. Reactions to Amagami SS have been much more positive than I ever would have anticipated, especially among viewers that typically lambaste harem comedies on general principle. That mildly amusing, inoffensive fluff shows with moments of genuine charm such as Tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~ can't catch a break while the back-of-the-knee kissing scene in Amagami SS garners such praise is probably indicative of something about the nature of anime fans and their views regarding relationships, but not anything I care to contemplate. Then again, I've joked in the past about a theoretical back-of-the-knee fetish gripping the scene to succeed the already niche armpit fetish, but now I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's real. That's my best-case-scenario explanation for the popularity of Amagami SS episode three at least.

Haruka
You should see the uncensored version.

Despite personally lacking any predisposed compunctions toward viewing harem comedies negatively, I mostly disliked Amagami SS episode three in its entirety. I couldn't stand all the begging. Seriously, guy, even Urashima Keitaro wasn't so eager to sell out what dignity he had left. Then again, Urashima Keitaro didn't exactly get a lot of back-of-the-knee action either. I guess we'll never know if it's because he didn't beg enough or if it's because Narusegawa Naru wasn't the kind of girl who puts out on the first date. [Spoilers: Haruka puts out. And how.]

Junichi and Haruka
This worked a lot better than Yamada Eye.

So where are we now? From the looks of it, Potato-kun is going to take a different fork and parallel-universe his way into Sex Hair's (presumably) persistently unmade bed. Expect three more episodes of wining & dining (read: lots of begging) followed by episode-eight supining before Junichi moves on to trophy-fucklove the remaining four girls: the one with brown hair that doesn't think she's fat, the one with presumably crushingly strong swimmer thighs, the one that thinks she's fat, and the seemingly normal earnest one that's probably CRAZY-BROKEN inside. Maybe that hikikomori panic room planetarium of his is actually a portal to alternate dimensions. Potato-kun sure has his work cut out for him.

Haruka
Take a cell phone picture and set it as your wallpaper, Junichi. Do it.

So what does this have to do with "Roads of Destiny"? I predict my biggest complaint about Amagami SS, assuming I make it to the end of its 13 or 24 or whatever episodes—ahead of my complaint about Junichi being such a loser, ahead of my complaint about Junichi not having any chemistry with Haruka (and potentially none of the other girls either), and ahead of my complaint about the show's rushed four-episode pace—will be my complaint that we'll suffer through the First Girl He Sees Clause six freaking times. I appreciate that Amagami SS is a galge adaptation and thus compelled to retain the same lead male throughout—preventing any Hatsukoi Limited narrative weaving, but for crying out loud. What the show ought to do is have Junichi ultimately end up with the same girl every single time, regardless of the path he takes or who he dates on his way there. School Days aside, there must be some anime law compelling monogamy or something, even if it's The Disappearance of Nice Boat variety of monogamy.

Dated 26 March 2009: I am watching Asu no Yoichi! because it is terrible

Yoichi and Ayame
Sees, gropes, whatever.

Really, I'm just watching to see if the First Girl He Sees Clause will hold true when the girl in question is clearly intended to only be a secondary love interest. This isn't to say that a harem comedy protagonist has never chose someone other than the obviously intended match, but it is rare.

Ibuki
Ibuki is tsundere, but her tsun side is driven by misunderstandings.

Ayame is great because she is a formulaic tsundere with essentially no other redeeming qualities. She's so textbook it's startling.

Ayame and Yoichi
Ayame, on the other hand, is Pure Tsundere. PURE.

Silly misunderstandings are lousy for the most part, but they are mildly amusing when the misunderstandings themselves are animated from the mistaken party's point of view. They make for nice diversions sort of as the Sayuri Legends segments in Tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~ did.

Dated 23 March 2009: What is Marimite? No, really

Yumi and Sachiko
Yumi and Sachiko.

Maria-sama ga Miteru is the story about Yumi, a freshman at an all-girl Catholic school who stands a little in awe of her upperclassmen. Through the course of the first season, seeds of self confidence are planted, although they don't germinate for some time.

Yumi and Sei
Yumi and Sei.

Leading her to adulthood is Sei, a charismatic, ebullient senior who takes young Yumi under her wing—somewhat forcefully, I might add. One of the big constants during Marimite year one is Sei fucking with Yumi.

Yumi and Sei
Yumi and Sei.

As a goof, during my most recent re-watching of the first season, I decided to screencap every instance of Sei fucking with Yumi. I think I've got hundreds now. Sei fucks with Yumi a lot.

Sei
Sei.

Most Marimite introductions probably focus on Yumi's relationship with Sachiko, the other putative main character, but the first season really belongs to Sei. In fact, the first season is more Sei's show than even Yumi's. Maria-sama ga Miteru is told from Yumi's point of view—she outright narrates part of every episode—but Sei is really the star of the first season, and the real reason to watch it. There will be more on this later.


< Evirus> Is there anyone more tsundere than Ayame from Asu no Yoichi?
< Evirus> Textbook Tsundere.
< c0rtana> she's more than textbook
< Evirus> Doctrinal Tsundere.
< rabidkimba> ur-tsundere

Dated 28 February 2009: Toradora! is good, but it's still no Honey and Clover

Taiga
I really wasn't expecting an Ayu cameo.

I had moderate praise for the first half of Toradora! However, I also implied it wasn't as good as Honey and Clover. Others disagreed, again invoking Honey and Clover. After 21 episodes, I still believe Toradora! is the best series of the current season, but I maintain that it is still not nearly as good as Honey and Clover.

Minori
Minori is still the Best Girl, but I might just be saying that because
of Yui Horie. And because she throws right, bats left.

This is not meant as a slight against Toradora!, as it is still quite enjoyable. It rises above the conventions of its idiom and exceeds the assumptions and expectations I had for the series. I thought I knew what Toradora! was going to be about, and I thought I knew how the plot was going to play out, but thankfully J.C. Staff still has a few tricks up its sleeve, and keeps Toradora! from languishing in the morass of high school love comedies that plague anime. Nevertheless, although Toradora! is much better than I expected, it still suffers from a number of potentially damning flaws.

Ami
It's hard to deny Ami, though. Ami is awesome.

[Warning: Minor spoilers hereinafter for episode 21. Nothing you wouldn't have easily guessed by now, though.]

Ami
Back away from Ami.

First—and let's be honest here—Toradora! is still a harem comedy. It's not your typical harem comedy because Ryuuji isn't a spineless tool, but although decent male protagonists are rare, they are not unknown among harem comedy males. Kazuya from Hand Maid May comes to mind, and if you're willing to characterize School Rumble and Nadesico as harem comedies (look, not exclusively, but they still are), then Harima and Akito qualify as well. But the problem with harem comedies is that most of the romantic tension is defused. The question isn't if Male Protagonist will get together with someone, but when. Usually, with whom isn't even an issue, as the First Girl He Sees Clause proves quite reliable in this respect. At this point in Toradora!, Ryuuji has three viable love interests. The remaining drama in the show boils down to which girl he will pick, and what is to happen to the rejected. That the answer is not entirely obvious at this point (although smart money should heavily favor the worst girl) lends credit to Toradora!

Yamada
Even Ami can't compare with Yamada, though. Poor girl.

Compare this with Honey and Clover. The earlier J.C. Staff production offers multiple story lines regarding unrequited love. In each case, there is no assurance the characters in question will find love and happiness. Quite the contrary, for the most part, their romances seem more doomed with each passing episode. It is this balance of hope and despair that drives Hachimitsu to Clover.

Taiga
Taiga? She's a frickin' slob.

Technically, all harem comedies include tales of unrequited love as well, at least regarding the girls not chosen. But harem comedies lack the aforementioned despair component, as Male Protagonist could surely offer each of the girls his love were it not for Simple Contrivances and General Spinelessness. Perhaps more importantly, harem comedies also focus on the object of everyone's affection (i.e., the male lead), which changes the dynamic entirely unless the show also includes a primary love interest within the harem for Male Protagonist to actively and indefatigably pursue with incorruptible loyalty despite no assurance of potential dere-dere B.S. reciprocation.

Ryuuji
Ryuuji isn't an ass clown, but he's still kind of a putz.

Make no mistake. Toradora! is told from Ryuuji's point of view. Because of this, Toradora! is ascendant during episodes and moments when he is obsessed with Minori. Likewise, the unrequited love stories of the other characters elevate the show as well. But after episode 21, I am hard pressed to imagine the series avoiding a sharp dive in quality unless it takes the courageous route by taking the story in unexpected directions. I'm hoping for this (presumably crueler) ending to Toradora! It is not a happy way to wrap up the series, but it is the respectable way to go, and it is a damn sight better than the ending episode 21 is apparently establishing. Quite frankly, though, I fear J.C. Staff does not have the sand for it. To do so, it will have to make a lot of "shippers" unhappy and disappoint a lot a viewers. It will make for a better show—too late to catch Honey and Clover, but perhaps sufficient to avoid stumbling before Shikabane Hime should Kuro finish unexpectedly strong. (It's Gainax. You can't count that possibility out. Maybe it'll end like Mahoromatic, but perhaps it will end like Top wo Nerae.)