Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

Dated 1 January 2013: Announcing the 2012 Girl of the Year

Ami and Mami
Don't try and tell Ami and Mami there can be only one.

Choosing a 2012 Girl of the Year was more difficult than in previous years for two reasons. First, I watched fewer shows this year, so the pool of candidates is relatively small. For example, I encountered regular high praise for characters in Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, but being otherwise wholly ignorant of the show, none of them even got an initial glance. Second, there are numerous eligibility considerations that I had to reconcile.

This is not a very deep pool.

Revisiting nominations from earlier this year, I identified Yuuko from Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, Fujiko from Lupin III, Saki from Natsuiro Kiseki, and the unnamed female protagonist from Humanity Has Declined. With the benefit of having the autumn 2012 season in the bag, I am adding Cure Beauty from Smile Precure!, Medaka from Medaka Box and Medaka Box Abnormal, and the entire 765Pro roster from The iDOLM@STER TV.

It was the style at the time.

Here is one of the eligibility concerns I mentioned. Should iM@S characters qualify for the 2012 Girl of the Year contest? The television series concluded in 2011. However, the episode 26 OVA came out in 2012, and there were three additional episodes included with the Shiny Festa PSP games also released in 2012. I never explicitly disqualified OVAs and movies from consideration. (And if I did and simply forgot, I'm retconning that now.) If the Girl of the Year title can be awarded to a group, then shouldn't the BEST GIRL in that ensemble subsequently get a solo award? Not necessarily. Chihaya is the iDOLM@STER BEST GIRL, but I wouldn't call her 2012's Girl of the Year even though I am prepared to nominate Chihaya, Miki, Takane, Ritsuko, Haruka, Mami, Makoto, Iori, Hibiki, Ami, Azusa, Yayoi, Kotori, and Yukiho in a group nomination as I did in 2011.

It's not easy being dead.

Perhaps this is anti-climatic, but the 2012 winner wasn't really in doubt. Yuuko is amazing, but a lot of her appeal comes from the Tasogare Otome x Amnesia manga. She's hurt by the single-cour run of the anime and its disappointing cop-out non-ending to an otherwise good show.

Fujiko and Lupin
Better hope she doesn't punch you in the monkey.

Fujiko seemed like a shoo-in early in the year, but in retrospect I'm disappointed with the unevenness of her show itself. For Fujiko to win in 2012 I'd have to consider her (admittedly outstanding) previously established credentials. This worked for Mouri Ran, last year's winner, but 2011 Ran was exceptional while I can't claim the same of 2012 Fujiko.

Yuka, Saki, Natsumi, and Rin
Saki can't help being better.

Saki from Natsuiro Kiseki? Sigh. Tough call. She doesn't win, but definitely deserves special mention. Natsuiro Kiseki is chock full of wonderful Saki moments, probably appropriately since it really is her show despite being a putative Sphere vehicle for the quartet. We all know who's best. [Spoilers: It's Takagaki Ayahi, even though I love Haruka DeTomaso Pantera.]

Female Protagonist
Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
P.S. Fairies are assholes.

She who shall not be named in Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita? Possibly seiyuu of the year, but not Girl of the Year. She's pretty good, and a worthy nomination, but just doesn't quite have enough to get by her competitors this year. Nakahara Mai really was superb in this role, though.

Cure Beauty
Guess what happens to people who don't get
out of Cure Beauty's way. Go on. Guess.

Cure Beauty? An almost automatic nomination and the only Smile Cure worth a damn, but she kinda makes herself look good by surrounding herself with less capable people. I'm pleased Toei was consistent with her characterization throughout the course of the year-long season. If they ever adopt the Pretty Cure Team-Up idea as a way to manage the huge numbers of mahou shoujo now in play (without marginalizing the older ones as New Stage 1 did), I could easily see her busting heads side-by-side with the early-generation Cures. Cure Peace? Not so much.

Medaka, Naze, and Koga
Medaka is not subtle.

Medaka? Just good enough for a nomination, but that's all. I sure hope Neo Gainax continues churning out her anime so Anshin'in can boat race the competition next year or the year after.

Idolm@ster is so good I think I need to buy more Ace Combat planes.

So how about all the iM@S girls? I really wanted to give them the group win, but I can't quite do it for 2012. All right, so who does win? Think about it. Do you really have to ask?

P.S. Soryu is still > Shikinami.

Asuka Shikinami Langley. Wait, why? Because Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo came out in 2012, because OVAs and movies do qualify, because a previous body of work may be taken into consideration as a factor, and because this entire contest is rigged. OMEDETOU, sweetheart.

Dated 16 October 2012: Summer 2012 season summary

Asuna triple-monitor desktop
This was a proof of concept that I will never use
again (because I bought a fourth monitor).

I get the sense I wasn't exposed to a large portion of the shows that aired this season—an obvious consequence of not watching all that much compared to past seasons. Nevertheless, I'm not convinced I actually missed anything, although I do admit a curious fascination with Sword Art Online (despite the profoundly negative reactions to its cour-ending climax). I haven't yet watched a single minute of it, but I have read the first four volumes of the light novels (which I'm expecting the first two cours to cover). Learning that Kajiura Yuki is providing the music has put the show over the top, and I'll probably marathon the summer 2012 segment to catch up with the autumn 2012 episodes. Naturally, this will change my summer 2012 anime summary rankings, but it is late enough already and I can always reflect the addition with an update, so here goes:


Dated 5 July 2012: The End of Natsuiro Kiseki ~Air/My Purest Love for Sphere~

How do you know she's a witch?

Easily the biggest surprise of the season, Natsuiro Kiseki (A Summer-Colored Miracle) exceeded all my expectations by becoming my favorite show of spring 2012. From the promotional materials and early information, I assumed it would be a simple school comedy slapped together as an excuse to promote Sphere. Sphere, if you don't know, is one of those phony-baloney girl groups comprised solely of young voice actresses caramelized with syrupy J-Pop. Somewhat distressingly, Sphere is actually pretty good. And by pretty good, I mean I can't stop listening to them. Anyway, I don't actually know if Natsuiro Kiseki was designed to be a Sphere vehicle from the start, or if it was merely a coincidence the four members played the four leads, or if there was last-minute stunt casting involved, but the show wasn't something I had any interest in. I wasn't even entirely sure what it was about. Something about wishes?

Natsumi and Yuka
Are you crazy? Don't give Yuka Mountain Dew...err, Boo.

It turns out Natsuiro Kiseki is a situation comedy with a casual acceptance of magic powers. It's regularly funny and occasionally brilliant. Simple concepts executed well by charming characters—that's how Natsuiro Kiseki succeeds. I had no plans to watch it at all until I saw a blog post about the first episode featuring a screenshot of the girls flying in awkward terror. (A Splash Star airborne mahou shoujo insertion, this was not.) Even then, it was a close thing because the first episode had a disproportionate amount of bitching and not enough big-ass-rock mojo. Thankfully, episode two featured Saki and Natsumi stuck together and Rin taking one for the team. I was sold after that. Good physical comedy might not make for sophisticated viewing, but it is fun to watch.

Natsuiro Kiseki also features one-handed backhands.

All the characters in Natsuiro Kiseki work well together and there's genuine chemistry in the group, but I'm pleased Sunrise threw parity to the wind by making Saki far and away the best of the four. Look, Saki can't help being smarter, prettier, more athletic, and basically better in every way than everyone else. At least she doesn't lord it over people. I'm a fan of competent, confident characters who make everything they do look so easy, even if all she's doing is teaching a doubles partner how to keep her head in the game.

It turns out Saki was a bit of a hellion when she was younger.

Saki easily earns a Girl of the Year nomination, and while I don't know if she'll win, Saki can at least say she earned her nomination while abstaining from vigorous intercourse, coldblooded murder, and casual nudity. Wait, not that last thing. Natsuiro Kiseki has an ensemble cast, and arguably Natsumi is the main girl, but it is Saki's summer, and it's very much Saki's show. It's also Saki's ending, and thankfully Natsuiro Kiseki—unlike Tasogare Otome x Amnesia—has a real ending, and Saki's summer miracles will never get the sequels they deserve, alas.

Dated 28 April 2012: Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is better than expected

Torrid fan service!

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia made a good first impression because Yuuko, this season's resident ghost girlfriend, is remarkably charming. It also helps that the male lead is not another potato. Ironically, I can't remember my first exposure to Amnesia. At some point, maybe a year ago, I added the RSS feed for its manga releases to my aggregator and downloaded many of the early chapters. However, I read none of them and cannot remember how I came to hear about Dusk Maiden of Amnesia in the first place. After a couple amusing episodes, curiosity got the better of me and I did something I never do: I read the source material past the available anime. (The manga benefits from numerous sight gags and extras currently absent from the anime, possibly biasing my overall opinion of the show more favorably than other viewers.)

Teiichi and Yuuko
Awesome reception!

I'm caught up with the current manga releases of Tasogare Otome x Amnesia, and while its male lead does suffer later from some of the unassertive, indecisive behavior compelled by the Otaku Virtues, his relationship with his ghost girlfriend remains acceptably free from tiresome problems that plague most school comedies. I say comedy, but Amnesia is a drama as well, and arguably a drama first. The mystery surrounding Yuuko's death (and life) drives the serious portions of Amnesia while Yuuko's flirting and mischievous irreverence keep the comedic aspects engaging. Through 33 chapters, the character count for Tasogare Otome x Amnesia remains small, assuring large doses of the extremely fetching Yuuko in each installment. Is "fetching" too old fashioned to say anymore? Hopefully it's okay to use the term to describe a Girl of the Year candidate who has been dead for over half a century. (Let's be honest, though, nobody is defeating Mine Fujiko for Girl of the Year honors barring a huge upset.)