Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

Dated 27 June 2010: Try a little tenderness, Goro (but not on the mound)

Shimizu Kaoru
Baseball is a cruel sport, Shimizu.

Shimizu Kaoru easily won Best Girl of the Year rights in 2009. Despite her lack of screen time, it appears she is making a solid run at repeating for the title in 2010. Unfortunately, it's difficult to mesh Shimizu's daily life into the current main plot of the sixth season of Major. Thus, I was very glad to see the recent episode focusing exclusively on her. Hopefully her role will expand again as the season progresses. She still has a lot of catching up to do before she passes Aoba from Cross Game. However, lucky for her, Shimizu is up last.

Just ask yourself what Ryoko would do, Goro.
[Hint: Ryoko is a beast.]

With regard to the main story, Major takes the narrow path between embracing serious baseball drama and remaining accessible to casual fans of the sport. For example, Goro's recent moral dilemma about payback—contrasting the view of Murdoch (the belligerent new troublemaker on the team) versus Goro's position on the matter—does occur on the field occasionally, but rarely as overtly as depicted in episode 12 of Major season six (episode 141 overall). Ultimately, the qualified instructions Keene relays probably prove the most appropriate, but I personally think Murdoch was right this time.

Dated 24 April 2010: Major season six off to a good start

Keene and Goro
Even this is a spoiler.

It's difficult to talk about the sixth season of Major without revealing numerous spoilers for the early part of the series. Major is epic, with long story arcs and characters that first appeared as small children now returning as young adults. In fact, if I remember right, Kaoru's little brother Taiga is the only character still in high school.

Wow, an anime high school kid who isn't late for school.

To tell you the truth, it's a little difficult sometimes keeping all the names and faces straight. There's a running gag where Goro occasionally has to get old acquaintances and teammates to reintroduce themselves because they've been out of the show so long.

Shimizu Kaoru
I'm calling my shot. Shimizu is going to be Goro's Girl in White
during Major season six à la Glenn Close in The Natural.

Speaking of long-time characters, I wonder how they are going to keep Shimizu Kaoru in the story for season six. I certainly hope 2009's Girl of the Year stays in the game. I feel a little bad for her, since she's too good.

Shimizu Kaoru
Try a little tenderness, Honda.

It's hard to even discuss the OP with much detail since Japan loves to put spoilers in its OPs, EDs, and episode previews. I'm told Legend of Galactic Heroes is notorious for having massive spoilers in its next-episode previews, for example. I also remember one episode of Monster with a helpful warning from Soldats to avoid the next-episode preview due to spoilers. Them is some solid fansubbing ethics right there.

Honda father and son baseball jerseys
Honda father and son jerseys.

But I digress. I'm pleased Major season six begins with a new arrangement of its very first OP. I still prefer the original arrangement more, but this new version appropriately sounds more mature and I enjoy the numerous parallels found in their respective sequences. I don't know if this will be the final season of Major, but wrapping things up by coming full circle wouldn't be a bad way to go.

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.)

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.

Dated 21 April 2009: End of season review, Winter 2009

Gainax Kick detected.

The biggest surprise of the Winter 2009 season was the rise of Shikabane Hime: Kuro and the fall of Toradora! in the final rankings during the last weeks of the season. As expected, it was a rather weak season overall, but it had its moments.

Makina has a bad day.

I had fully expected to drop Shikabane Hime after four episodes during the Autumn 2008 season, but I was hooked by the characters (except for Ouri) and the mystery. It helped I was spared the loathsome shounen jive conventions I despise so much.

Goro and Kaoru
I hereby nominate Shimizu for Best Girl of the Year.

The second-best series from Winter 2009 was the first half of the fifth season of Major. Besides being a solid sports anime, it's also starting to delve into relationship drama, although with its own flair, and thankfully without the typical animeisms that plague relationship stories. Maybe it's because the characters in question are no longer in high school, so they aren't expected to act like twits. Whatever the reason, it's refreshing.

Nobue calls these days "weekdays."

Taking the third spot is the first Ichigo Mashimaro Encore OVA. I should probably not include OVAs in these rankings for numerous reasons, but I'm making these rules up as I go along. As for the first Ichigo Mashimaro Encore OVA itself, it was another solid block of entertainment and charm that make the series so enjoyable. Pity the title unfairly carries with it all that baggage it can't seem to escape. You know what I'm talking about.

Suguru and Sachiko
This is the weirdest bathroom. Is it at the end of a hallway?

In fourth is the latest offering of Maria-sama ga Miteru. I didn't care for these episodes as much as the previous seasons, but that's probably because of their Touko-centric nature. On the other hand, these episodes also elevated Touko three positions in the Marimite rankings. Congratulations, Touko. I no longer like you least.

Ami and Minori
Ami is stunned to discover she's the Toradora! Best Girl after all.
And how odd. Minori is usually much more genki.

Everyone else's favorite, Toradora!, only managed to take the fifth spot, despite leading most of the season. As astute readers surely realize, this sudden drop is largely due to the dramatic turn towards the end of the season. Most people who really like Toradora! seem to really like the relationship drama aspects of the final episodes, but I felt they were ham-handed at best. Maybe it's because these are high school relationships in question, but I couldn't help thinking the principals were utter twits. As others have pointed out, this isn't really drama; it's melodrama. And it tastes like high school.

How odd. Shion is usually much more genki.

I'm not a huge fan of Tetsuwan Birdy Decode, but it is pretty good at what it does. Were these rankings based solely on my interest, it would probably place lower in the standings, although at no fault of its own. Then again, if these rankings were driven by my appreciation of Chiba Saeko, it would place higher. So let's just call it a wash, eh.

How odd. Kotori is usually much more genki.

Da Capo If is another OVA ranked entirely on the strength of a single episode. Like with the Ichigo Mashimaro OVA, that's probably not fair, and I should probably exclude it entirely, but I waited a long time for a Kotori route, so I'm going to include it, God damn it. Also, Da Capo If reminds us Horie Yui can really act when she wants to.

Kyon, you know this can't possibly end well.

The Melancholy of Haruhi-chan shorts are genuinely amusing. They pulled away from their Nyoron Churuya-san counterparts with that episode where Asahina Mikuru just starts crying from confusion and never looked back.

Torigaya? and Washizu
Washizu Vision?

Oh God. Asu no Yoichi!. Hey, some of the middle-laterish episodes are all right, and that running gag with Washizu's crony had a great payoff that came completely out of left field. The best part is everyone else dropped this show after episode two, so they have no idea what I'm talking about.

Love is all right for a rookie Cure
How odd. Love is usually much more genki.

Fresh Pretty Cure is fresh. Love is love. Tart is the least annoying Precure mascot thus far. Kaoru-chan probably wants to get into the girls' pants. Easy is the best Precure villain except for that that one movie where Cure White is tempted by the dark side and beats Hell out of Cure Black. Aside from Buki being a sort of useless religious fanatic, this show is all right.

Quit while you're ahead, Tsuruya.

Nyoron Churuya-san needs more variety in its jokes, nyoron.

I've decided Marisa is my favorite Touhou character. Entirely arbitrarily.

Rounding out the final spot among shows I watched during the Winter 2009 season is the unofficial Touhou doujin anime. Despite all the hype, it was merely adequate, which I guess is pretty good all things considered. I wanted to like it more, but I can't claim it's even as good as the classic Yakumo/Chen bit with the KCY and all.

How odd. Hokuto is usually much more...wait, no she's not.

I also dropped a bunch of shows, but there aren't any additions or changes from the earlier list