Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
karmaburn.com karmaburn.com

Dated 5 August 2011: Summer 2011 initial impressions

Rin
I won't buy you lipstick because you don't have any lips.

Usagi Drop surprised me by being much better than I expected. After five solid episodes to open the series, it has climbed to the top of the list. However, it is a good thing Rin is such a nice, well-mannered, and thoughtful kid. Were it Daikichi's sister's cousin's devil child twisting in the wind in episode one, I wager that brat would be on her own and the show would have to be about her bouncing from home to home in foster care or something. I heard there's a timeskip in the manga, but I also heard the anime might not make it that far. I've not read any of the manga nor learned any spoilers aside from knowing the timeskip exists, but I wonder if it has to do with how Daikichi's concern for Rin is very paternal yet Rin explicitly rejects him as a father?

Yuina and Minko
Daikon goes in here.

Hanasaku Iroha remains one of my favorite shows this season, although it really needs more Minko and Tomoe episodes. It also needs less of Ohana's spineless uncle and that wretched consultant lady he dragged to the inn—a lot less. Hopefully now that the movie fiasco is over we can move on to more Minko episodes about her unrequited love for daikon and Tohru, preferably without overdoing Tohru's guilty boners for Ohana.

Cure Beat
Cure Beat's guitar is full of mercy.

The Cure Beat arc of Suite Precure exceeds expectations, probably because it puts the Cure Muse mystery arc on hold for now. Cure Beat needs to reverse her windmill move, though, and do it Pete Townshend style. I, for one, am pretty glad Suite Precure is turning into FLCL instead of K-On! I'm also impressed by the new transformation sequences and the quality of some of the recent fight scenes.

Miike
THE ENFORCER. Well, the parking enforcer anyway.

Wait, did Tanaka Rie just join Detective Conan's menagerie of regular characters? I swear that was her.

I should probably say more about Detective Conan because Something Important happened last season. However...spoilers.

Chihaya
Chihaya appears to use Sony MDR-V6 headphones.

Sony MDR-V6 headphones
We're headphone buddies!

Idolm@ster needs more song and dance numbers. I presume the absence of music from the first episode was a stylistic choice designed to fit the documentary framework. The show is all right so far, but because there are purportedly many former current Gainax staff members behind the show, I'm hoping for a Gainax ending—possibly with more Bio Concerto. In related news, Chihaya by a mile. Chihaya > Miki > Ritsuko > Azusa > Makoto > Takane > Kotori > Hibiki > Yayoi > Iori > Mami > Ami > Haruka > Yukiho.

Huey's Imco lighter
The real star of Dantalian no Shoka is Huey's Imco lighter.

Imco lighter
You may recognize it from Haibane Renmei
as the lighter Reki uses.

I'm mostly watching Dantalian no Shoka out of general principle because of Gainax. Huey seems all right. I was impressed during the first episode when he revealed he wasn't another damn Potato-kun. However, I am getting pretty tired of Dalian's tsundere bitchiness. Her lack of charisma is going to wear on me, even if she does say "YES" all the time. (Bad gourds don't say "no.")

Masa
Masa stole Aoi's haircut.

Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love 1000% was less gay than I expected, but I can't find a reason to keep watching it. This is not Miracle Train. Miracle Train was actually pretty good. Prince-sama just has Wakamoto Norio playing Wakamoto-Norio-playing-a-character as its main draw. I haven't officially dropped it yet, but I'm also in no hurry to watch the second episode.

Aoi and Haruka
Twin Angel needs more Galaxy Angel.

I only watched Kaito Tenshi Twin Angel - Kyun Kyun☆Tokimeki Paradise!! because of Asakawa Yuu. I'm sorry to say the first episode was horrible. Consider it dropped. I'm hoping it turns out to be a lot better later on. I'll start watching again it if I see a lot of people sucking up to @julia320 on Twitter praising the show. This has not happened yet.

Dated 3 January 2010: Autumn 2009 season wrapup

Ascoeur and Q-Feuille
I dropped Kiddy Girl-and at episode nine for trying to add a plot.

By convention, anime bloggers seem obligated to offer end-of-season summaries breaking down the finer points of the shows they watched and presumably covered (hah!) over each three-month block (or cour). So be it.

The short version is as follows: Kimi ni Todoke (12) > Cross Game (38) > Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (38) > Miracle Train [13] > Seitokai no Ichizon [12] > The Book of Bantorra (14) > Queen's Blade II [12] > Sunred II (37) > Fresh Pretty Cure (45), where the number in parentheses represents the last episode watched, and numbers in brackets indicate completion of a series and its total number of episodes. No OVAs or movies are included in these rankings.

Yano
I'm calling it: Yano is pure evil.

Kimi ni Todoke veers into melodramatic territory frequently and its reception has grown increasingly polarized. Depending on your stomach for such shows, it's either excellent or unwatchable—at least that's the way it seems when comparing various reactions to the series. I find it excellent. Also, those of you who know Mamiko Noto from interviews, behind-the-scenes specials, and commentary tracks will reasonably conclude both her Shimako-variety and DARK MAMIKO personas (more on that later) are purely products of acting. Evil Miyuki Sawashiro, on the other hand, I'm convinced is the real deal. I'll never look at Puchiko the same way again. Anyway, I'm glad Kimi ni Todoke is getting another cour. It has sympathetic leads and villains I don't hate.

Aoba
This is as close as you'll get to seeing Aoba tearing her clothes off.

Cross Game and its Mitsuru Adachi storytelling remains as compelling as ever, although it's probably a comment on the state of today's anime trends that I find a simple heterosexual romance to be a refreshing departure from the usual feuds among turbo lesbians and loathsome harem comedy leads. However, if you're familiar with Adachi's staples, you may find Cross Game a little too familiar. E.g., there will be no great happiness for the characters (and Aoba and Ko aren't going to start tearing each other's clothes off anytime soon), but at least one moment of tragedy or despair is assured (as is appropriate for baseball). Despite the sports theme, Cross Game is best as a relationship drama and light comedy, and succeeds because it plays to these strengths.

Al and Ed
"Whoa, look at the size of that cat!"

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is good shounen/mainstream fare without the odious shounen jive conventions one typically finds attached to shows aimed at such audiences. This anime variant, more faithful to the original manga than the first Fullmetal Alchemist, retains the interesting characters and periodic plot twists that made the first series so popular. Really, at this point, Brotherhood is at least as good as the first anime—if not better—and deserves more attention from the crowd that dismissed it early on as a simple rehash of something they had already seen.

Rin
There is no escape from the Miracle Train, sweetie.

Miracle Train turned out to be a lot less gay than I was expecting. In fact, homosexual overtones were almost entirely absent, despite the show's outward appearance. Instead, what Miracle Train really seems like is some manner of train gang rape porn. Basically every episode some girl gets on a train and is immediately surrounded by men who won't let her off until they've "solved her problems." Usually the girl offers token resistance, but eventually relents and actually enjoys "having her problems solved" in the end. It's a ridiculous concept, punctuated by copious amounts of train and train station trivia, a token loli, and a talking dog that sounds suspiciously like Athrun Zala wondering what in Hell he's supposed to do this time about the man in the mask. Still, I'm glad I watched the entire series, and the later episodes contained the right mix of seriousness and sentimentalism.

Nakameguro
This is really a girl, isn't it? He has a ribbon.

Seitokai no Ichizon was all right even if it relied too much on reference humor. It had good comic timing, amusing characters, and never aspired to be much more than what it was.

Noloty confronts Zatoh
"I want you to hit me as hard as you can."

The Book of Bantorra is worth watching just because it's different. I liked the way the first arc played out, although Ayako Kawasumi's departure from the show is sorely missed. Well, they did bring her back to narrate the clip show in episode 14. Besides that, Noloty deserves to be on the short list of dark-skinned anime characters, Mirepoc has ridiculous-yet-awesome hair, and the strongest character on the show is the woman who is really good at hucking rocks. How can you not like that shit?

Kayoko
Kayoko fan art is goggled.

Sunred II is basically just more of the same. I like parody, but the jokes are becoming a little one-note. At this point I'd rather they just make the entire thing a bachelor-chow cooking show with Kayoko and Vamp punctuated by occasional household tips.

Tomoe
The horns mean Tomoe is serious. Dead serious.

I realize this is fairly qualified praise, but Queen's Blade II is far and away superior to the first season. For one thing, there's a lot less peeing. But the real gem is discovering why Mamiko Noto has been playing Tomoe so seriously all this time. The return of DARK MAMIKO is a welcome surprise albeit one only familiar to those who realized it was her in Dai Mahou Touge and perhaps those who enjoyed the final scenes of her character in the Kara no Kyoukai movies. (Note: DARK MAMIKO is not to be confused with her Ana Coppola Black Custom variant.) But really, Queen's Blade II develops a plot AND character development which is enough to elevate this ridiculous show to at least non-ironic watchable levels, even if the vast majority of its cast—unusually professional Mamiko Noto aside—completely phoned in their roles. Tanaka Rie, for example, was terrible.

Cure Berry, Cure Passion, Tart, Chiffon, Cure Peach, and Cure Pine
Lay off the meth, girls.

Fresh Pretty Cure is treading water and has been mostly lackluster since the end of the Cure Passion arc. Retconning Setsuna into a 14-year-old girl was not unexpected, but still inexcusable from a storytelling viewpoint. The addition of a fourth Cure diminished the importance of Cure Pine and Cure Berry and Cure Redundant. Wait, I mentioned her already. I maintain that Precure as a franchise works best with two Cures—no more, no less.

Yuuto
What about Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza?
Dropped at episode eight for being piss awful.

Was Autumn 2009 weaker than most seasons? I'd have to say so. Granted, I didn't watch Darker Than Black II or Railgun, both very highly regarded shows (although I suspect Railgun will be another ephemeral flash in the pan everyone disregards when the next shiny thing comes along), but aside from the refreshing Kimi ni Todoke and the briefly euphoric return of DARK MAMIKO in Queen's Blade II, I can't claim there will be much unique to Autumn 2009 alone that I will remember or recommend without reservation, alas.

Dated 2 October 2009: Bakemonogatari turns Panavision into shortscreen

Hitagi
Open wide.

Sometimes I think SHAFT/Shinbo is trying to be the next Gainax/Anno. Other times I think SHAFT/Shinbo is just trolling viewers. Some argue unfavorable opinions about SHAFT's avant-garde Bakemonogatari represent intellectual deficiencies or unbreachable cultural divides hamstringing impaired viewers.

< wildarmsheero> the people who dont like things like bakemonogatari or zetsubou sensei
< wildarmsheero> are just dumb americans who dont get japanese culture
<&Nakar> I may not know a japanese ghost from a hole in the ground - and I know from holes in the ground - but I know smug self-congratulatory dialogue when it hits itself on the back.
< wildarmsheero> i think youre jsut mad at the show
< wildarmsheero> because you dont get it
< Asuka`s_Hair_Clips> I totally agree with Nakar, but I also think Bakemonogatari is a brilliant slide show presentation.
< Asuka`s_Hair_Clips> It just wasn't any fun to watch.

Araragi
As a harem-anime protagonist, Araragi is as much
a loser as Urashima Keitaro. Maybe more so.

The things I don't like about SHAFT and Shinbo in general and Bakemonogatari specifically have nothing to do with Japanese culture, though. (But I guess it is possible I might still be too dumb to "get" the show.) Mostly I'm irked that they attempt to be different merely for the sake of being different while giving their fanatics a smug sense of self-importance that seems to arise out of the very act of being SHAFT, Shinbo, and Bakemonogatari fans.

Hitagi's and Araragi's hands
(1) Best use of the wider-widescreen aspect ratio all episode.
(2) God damn, Araragi has little girl hands.

For example, the 12th episode of Bakemonogatari was presented in widescreen—not its regular 16:9 widescreen—but wider widescreen. But the actual content of the episode did not benefit in any way from the aspect ratio. Is it really widescreen if there are no gains side-to-side? If it's just a regular episode with the tops and bottoms cropped off, isn't that technically shortscreen? Is that still good? Or is it just dumb? Granted, Bakemonogatari was not the first show to attempt this trick.

Raven, Break, Alice, and Oz
Pandora Hearts uses the entire screen.

The final episode of Gunbuster by the aforementioned Gainax is in black and white and widescreen. (The previous episodes of Top wo Nerae had a 4:3 aspect ratio.) Turns out Gunbuster episode six was also originally 4:3 and was matted to give a widescreen appearance as well. Without delving into a comparison to determine if Gainax made good use of the wider aspect ratio during the final episode of Top wo Nerae, or was also guilty of shortscreen shenanigans, I can at least claim Bakemonogatari was neither unique in employing this technique nor successful at its execution.