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Dated 17 February 2014: Belated season introduction to winter 2014 shows

Mazinger
Pilder fucking on!

I should probably put together a season introduction for Winter 2014, considering that half of it has already passed. At this time, I'm still following 14 15 of the shows currently airing this cour (Jesus Christ, fourteen FIFTEEN?), and may add Gundam Build Fighters if I ever get around to starting it. I present the following shows in order of their precedence on the chart at the time I started writing this sucker, but you shouldn't put too much weight on their positions or particular ratings because this ain't anime titration, you know.

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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:

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Dated 24 May 2011: Getting to second base with Minami in Moshidora

Yuki and Minami
At least Yuki gets to wear pajamas instead of an open-backed hospital gown.

Moshidora received a lot of attention prior to the start of the spring 2011 anime season, probably because it is an anime adaptation of a popular book based on an unusual premise. So just exactly what would happen if a female manager of a high school baseball team read Peter Drucker's Management? Well, apparently she would be better at recruiting members for the team, innovating new tactics, and figuring out what to do with the weenie kid who's a complete liability under pressure because he's a choker.

Minami
Minami gets to wear pajamas too, even in her hallucination about Innovation.

There are other aspects as well where Minami draws upon Management with almost religious fervor and applies them to her efforts at improving the team on Yuki's behalf—Yuki being Minami's friend and the real manager of the high school baseball team that she is too sickly to manage. (It's never explicitly stated what Yuki's illness actually is, but seeing as how there's no indication she was ever exposed to snow, she's probably not suffering from Key AIDS or Jun Maeda Malaria. My guess is she has leukemia or cancer, although she does maintain her radiant anime-heroine disposition and complexion, so whatever she has doesn't appear too outwardly taxing on her constitution. Also, the weenie kid on the team does not masturbate over her comatose body.

Minami
People complained about the animation, but Moshidora does have nice eyes.

After Moshidora aired (it ran 10 weekdays in a row, thus finishing well in advance of other spring 2011 shows), reactions were decidedly mixed. It seems basically anyone who did not have a genuine interest in baseball or business management abandoned Moshidora early. I'm curious what they were expecting, since most of these erstwhile enthusiasts never had any interest in baseball-themed anime in the past. What did they think would be different?

Hana and Minami
Relax, kid, we do this every day.

Let the record show that Moshidora is a good baseball anime, and a lot more realistic than something like Princess Nine which is good, but not at all authentic. I call Moshidora "realistic" despite the heavy emphasis on an "innovative" tactic the team adopts in response to a Peter Drucker-inspired lesson. The team's [SPOILERS] so-called No Bunt, No Ball strategy, while ridiculous on its face, is grounded in sound baseball principles.

Hoshide
Now batting, number five, Ika Musume Jun Hoshide.

The "no bunt" half of the strategy dictates the team will not sacrifice bunt—ever. This is not necessarily an abandonment of "small ball" entirely, but is a departure from standard Japanese baseball doctrine (at least as depicted in anime): If you have a runner on first with less than two outs, sacrifice him over to second base so he'll be in scoring position for a base hit. Minami's team rejects this strategy entirely, but she may be in good company. Those of you who have read Moneyball or otherwise have a general understanding of sabermetrics will remember Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane despises sacrifice bunts and would never trade an out for a base.

Yunosuke
"Letting everyone else do all the work" is dangerous
with a defensive liability in the middle infield.

The "no ball" half of the strategy dictates the team's pitchers will only throw pitches in the strike zone. This part of the strategy is pretty dogmatic, and I have my doubts whether it could realistically be pulled off successfully. However, even this is grounded in sound baseball fundamentals—in this case, a very old fundamental that nobody seems to appreciate anymore: Work fast, throw strikes, and make everybody else do all the work. Those who believe a pitcher should rely on his fastball 75 percent of the time are likely more accepting of the "no ball" strategy, providing Minami's pitchers are able to change speeds, have enough movement on their fastballs, and have enough control to precisely place their pitches' locations, as opposed to basically heaving balls right over the plate (which is what Ryo from Princess Nine essentially does). Valuing control and location is something Big Windup got right, by the way, but I found that show unwatchable because of the ridiculous, relentless crying.

Yuki
Don't you know it's summer, Yuki? Anime characters
are only allowed to be sick in the winter!

Speaking of which, is there crying in Moshidora? Well, yes, but nearly all of it takes place off the field. You may recall Tom Hanks' insistence in A League of Their Own, "There's no crying in baseball!" This is true, but I can let it go if it occurs outside the lines. In fact, crying is nearly inescapable in a good baseball anime, because—as I've come to realize recently—there is one consistent factor that is present in nearly all good baseball anime and manga. You'll find it in Cross Game, in Touch, in H2 (in basically anything Adachi Mitsuru writes, really), you'll find it A LOT in Major (basically the best baseball anime there is), and you'll even find it in Princess Nine:

Bad things happen to good people.

Baseball is a cruel sport. Despite one's best efforts, defeat and despair often seem unavoidable, and I'm not just talking about Cubs fans. There's a certain sense among players and die-hard fans that the game is rough—that life is unfair—and that stoical dedication to the game through its harshest moments somehow better prepares the baseball enthusiast for the rigors of a demanding world. Perhaps this is why Moshidora could not be an escapist moé blob sanctuary. Certainly it could not have dabbled in that type of otaku-pleasing pandering in its early episodes—even to "grab" casual viewers—and still have had the integrity to execute its final episodes as well as it did. It wouldn't have been proper in a short 10-episode series.

Dated 28 April 2011: Spring 2011 initial impressions

Ohana and Minko
This is pretty half-assed choking, Minko.

The best show I'm watching this season is Hanasaku Iroha which basically takes Saten Ruiko from A Certain Scientific Railgun and forces her to work in an inn with some misfits. Theres the MAMIKORE gossipy Tomoe, the bitchy Minko, and the annoyingly meek Nako. There are also a number of adult characters, all with their own problems.

Ohana
Even the turbo-genki voice is normal.

One thing I've come to enjoy about Ito Kanae is she does a fairly normal voice. Not that I don't enjoy high-fructose Yukana sweetness, for example, but that is a very artificial-sounding voice. Ito Kanae, like Sawashiro Miyuki, uses a more natural voice for her characters. Hanazawa Kana used to have one too back in her Zegapain days, but now she's all about the Hanakana Distortion Field brainwashing viewers.

Ran and Kazuha
Ran really should get herself a Surefire flashlight one of these days.

Detective Conan continues this season from episode 610 with a Hattori arc. Where Hattori goes, Kazuha follows, bringing with her a Kansai-ben Miyamura Yuko (Soryu Asuka Langley) that I enjoy far too much. If you didn't know already, Rei and Asuka are both recurring characters in Detective Conan as Ai and Kazuha, respectively. Both need more screentime.

Minami and Yuki
Nice hat.

Moshidora, also known as Drucker in the Dugout or as What If a Female Student Manager of a High School Baseball Team Reads Drucker's Management? (Full title: Moshi Kōkō Yakyū no Joshi Manager ga Drakkā no "Management" o Yondara) is frankly kinda low-budget, but it's refreshing in that it obviously caters towards adults, despite the high school setting.

Minami
Minami must be reading an abridged edition. My copy is twice as thick.

As background material, I've actually started reading Peter Drucker's Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, but I'm only about halfway through the 800-page book. Because Moshidora airs daily and only has 10 episodes, I don't think I'm going to finish reading the book before I finish watching the anime. What I really want to do is read the novel that inspired the anime.

Hibiki
Hibiki works from the stretch, but I didn't see her check the runner first.

Suite Precure is in the process of bringing in more Cures, although the masked Cure Muse seems pretty obviously the sort-of-evil but out of work Siren to me. Personally, I have a feeling Cure Muse will be unmasked soon enough to henceforce be Cure Beat. Whether or not this means we'll see more of Cure Muse after that, I'm not sure, but maybe Suite Precure will handle it like Splash Star managed part-time Cures Cure Bright and Cure Windy.

Tsubasa
Suddenly, a magikal girl appears.

Seikon no Qwaser II continues to test the limits of what its viewers can expect and accept. Although off to a "slow" start, there is already a sub-plot about a previously smug bitch who has her soma extracted against her will, turning her quiet and meek while she burns with the subsequent shame and guilt she carries from enjoying the experience. Honestly, though, one thing Seikon no Qwaser has always done well is challenge expectations. There are allegories in the second season that address serious issues in irreverent ways. You don't have to care about those parts to necessarily enjoy Qwaser, but the fact that they're there is one of the reasons why Qwaser is not merely a smutty fan service show its dismissive detractors assume it is. Seikon no Qwaser does for fan service what Shin Seiki Evangelion did for giant robots, what ef ~a tale of memories~ did for moe blobs, and what Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica did for magikal girls.

Wolverine
So who remembers when Wolverine was canonically five-foot three?

I dropped X-Men after two episodes, but not because it was bad. On the contrary, it was pretty good—way better than the '90s cartoon. Aside from the questionable casting of Hisakawa Aya as Storm, I basically have no issues with the show but I think I'll like it better in its inevitable dubbed incarnation. It's pretty obvious the X-Men anime will probably air dubbed on Cartoon Network or something. Aside from setting the first arc in Japan and, y'know, all the violence, it is very much a western-friendly cartoon. In fact, it's so western that I have to wonder if they set the first arc in Japan because the producers were afraid Japanese viewers wouldn't watch a western property without something they could directly relate to, just as the western producers for the upcoming Akira movie feel compelled to cast caucasian actors in Japanese roles because they're afraid western viewers won't watch something they can't directly relate to.

Dated 19 April 2011: Winter 2011 season summary

Mami
The real antagonists in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica are trolls, not witches.

Despite my disdain for SHAFTXSHINBO, Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica (at least what I've seen of it so far, as the remaining episodes were pre-empted due to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami—they're expected to air in a few days) is really good. [Update: The final two episodes did have some surprises. The rating remains unchanged.] Whether it's good in spite of SHAFTXSHINBO because of Kajiura Yuki and Urobuchi Gen isn't so much important as the fact that they took something which I had fully expected to be unconventional, made it so, and still managed to impress. Although I did not enjoy Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica nearly as much as its true fans did, it was still easily the best show I watched from winter 2011, admittedly not a very difficult feat when the runner up probably only placed as high as it did thanks to the Hanakana Distortion Field.

Ichika and Charles
Infinite Stratos needed more Full Frontal Bageena Char.

Infinite Stratos was by no stretch of the imagination a good show, but it was fun to watch. Curiously, it's often the male protagonist that makes or breaks harem comedies, not the bevy of girls themselves. Thankfully, Infinite Stratos does well on both fronts. Potato-kun is mostly unobjectionable, with neither an overpoweringly "strong sense of justice" nor a timid adversion to girls, the two most common flaws of the typical harem comedy putz.

Charles and Ichika
There ain't no way Ichika owns that many books.

Unfortunately, not having those two flaws means Potato-kun needs some other character flaw to be the excuse why he doesn't trophy fuck love all the girls during the course of the show. In Ichika's case, he's a moron. It works out, though, because nearly every girl in his harem is also a moron. This is probably why Charles is so popular, as she's the only girl in the harem who is neither dumb nor crazy. Okay, she did pretend to be a very unconvincing boy for a while, but she gave that up after a few episodes, and the only reason other people bought that act is because the entire school is filled with complete idiots.

Ichika and Charles
What's that fishy odor?

Anyway, Infinite Stratos was an amusing, harmless diversion and was pretty fun until it decided it needed a plot towards the end. Instead of the Final Battle against MacGuffin, they should have devoted the last three episodes to a footrace or an extended game of tag.

Ume
This is the best reaction shot of the entire series. [P.S. Spoilers.]

Kimi ni Todoke really took a dive with 2nd Season in my view and dipped below the Detective Conan Line during the middle episodes because it upset the precarious balance of misunderstandings and heartfulness. Basically the entire season dragged out due to terribly painful communication problems. It made me wish the show was about Ume instead, or maybe Yano falling in love with Pin. (It's not a spoiler, okay? It's right there in the OP!) Thankfully, Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season pulled itself together during the final three episodes. Pity the entire season couldn't be that good. Had it been, then Kimi ni Todoke Second Season would have been as good as, well, Kimi ni Todoke First Season.

Ai Yori Aoshi volumes 17 and 16
Ai Yori Aoshi volumes 17 and 16.

Somewhat unexpectedly, finishing Kimi ni Todoke S2 makes me wish for a third season of Ai Yori Aoshi—one that follows the manga instead of jumping all over Creation. The final volumes of Ai Yori Aoshi really deserve a lot better than the lackluster impression the two inconsistent anime seasons left behind. They may have to animate Aoi's bra in the series climax with CGI, though. (Ha ha. "Climax.")

Enri
Take Fractale easy.

Viewers seem fairly divided on Fractale, particularly with regard to its ending. Much as I postulated when describing my early impressions of the show, the way I see it, there are two camps: Those that care about its pedigree and subsequently chose to watch Fractale critically, and those who just wanted to enjoy themselves because anime is still a hobby. That latter group likely enjoyed Nessa's turbo-genki moments quite a lot more, and even if there might be a Hanakana Distortion Field at work, they presumably enjoyed the show more as a whole.

Phryne and Nessa
How did they end up in the ending to Heartcatch Precure!?

This is not to say Fractale doesn't suffer from a host of problems. Personally, I felt all of the fighting and battle scenes were comically bad, and a lot of things (especially towards the end) didn't make any sense. I was also somewhat crestfallen to learn Phryne wasn't just acting stupid—she really was an idiot. It's because of these problems that I don't rank Fractale higher among the winter 2011 shows. Nevertheless, it was still pretty good overall, and including an audio cameo by Nausicaä herself towards the end to bookend the visual references from earlier in the season was pretty nice, even if I totally missed it.

Ran
If you advance this scene frame by frame you can catch
the exact moment Ran's heart breaks. [P.S. Spoilers.]

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. As I mentioned before, Detective Conan is basically my control group when it comes to ranking shows. Each season of Detective Conan is about the same and typically as good as any of its myriad previous seasons. This remained true during winter 2011, although I would like to point out the "Tear Drops" OP totally messes with the heads of Shinichi + Ran 'shippers.

Kumojacky and Cure Marine
IN THE FACE!

The end of Heartcatch Precure! was all right, even though Cure Blossom remained mostly useless. Probably the highlight for me was Cure Marine suckerpunching Kumojacky in the face on general principle before he could launch into an idiomatic, vaguely evil speech.

Cure Rhythm
More punching, less baking.

Suite Precure is decent, but nothing really special unless you care about voice actresses. Koshimizu Ami, Orikasa Fumiko, Toyoguchi Megumi, and Mitsuishi Kotono are all on board. In fact, I should probably check Danbooru for what I'm sure must be copious amounts of seiyuu_joke parody/crossover fan art.


I dropped Freezing not because it was exploitative, but because it was kinda retarded. I can't wait for the second season of Seikon no Qwaser, though. (No, seriously.)

I was intriqed by Ri♡ -Rainbow Gate!- because it was Highlander with card battles, but I think I lost interest after two episodes beause Rio's hair sucks.

Yumekui Merry didn't suck, but I dropped it after the first episode because I wasn't interested. I heard it gets better later, but I still suspect Merry might actually be a boy.

Sister Layer
Cosprayers Line.

I dropped Wolverine after a single episode because it was God awful. Congratulations, Wolverine, you are easily WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS. All you need to know about the show is that in the first episode, a group of people flying around with jetpacks bent on attacking Wolverine with rifles decide to all fly close enough for him to gut them with his claws. Then later on Wolverine breaks one of Sir Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion. Look, I'm okay with his indestructible skeleton and canonical ability to regenerate from a single remaining drop of blood, but c'mon.

Final tally: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica > IS: Infinite Stratos > Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season > Fractale > Detective Conan > Heartcatch Precure! > Suite Precure | Dropped: Freezing > Ri♡ -Rainbow Gate!- > Yumekui Merry | WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS: Wolverine.

Dated 10 April 2007: Zegapain

Kyo and Kaminagi
Kyo and Kaminagi.

Joining my list of characters in need of better shows is Kaminagi from Zegapain. This is not to say that Zegapain was a bad show, but Kaminagi was far and away the best part about it, and it's a shame that the rest of the series couldn't measure up to her awesomeness. (For those of you keeping track, some other characters in need of better shows have included Kotori from the Da Capo series and Aoba from Jinki:Extend.)