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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.

Medaka
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.

Chihaya
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.

Yuuko
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.

765Pro
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?

Asuka
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 29 June 2012: The End of Tasogare Otome x Amnesia ~Air/My Purest Love for Hime Cuts~

Yuuko
An unoccupied classroom, eh?

I can't think of a way to address the end of Tasogare Otome x Amnesia without revealing fairly important spoilers, but I'll try to minimize the damage. Anyone paying attention likely already knows the ending suffers from a serious flaw, though.

Light Yuuko, Yuuko, and Dark Yuuko
I sure hope you figured this part out by yourself.

As you might expect, the anime's ending stumbled because the original manga is still ongoing. This gave the Tasogare Otome x Amnesia anime basically three choices: (1) A non-ending ending, which seems to be the most common cop-out, (2) an original ending after diverging from the manga (Full Moon wo Sagashite did this with amazing success), or (3) a real ending that the original (but still ongoing) manga later attempts to follow or improve upon, as in the case of the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga.

Yuuko and Teiichi
Yuuko is not subtle.

Well, the Tasogare Otome x Amnesia anime took the first choice...sort of, but did it in a way that is both better and worse than the typical non-ending ending: It has an original, option-two-type ending which is actually pretty good, but then at the last minute it turns into a non-ending ending, betraying any emotional investment or payoff it might have achieved had it just wrapped things up there. I'm not sure if Silver Link simply chickened out, or if they have hopes for a second season.

Yuuko
Yuuko is not subtle.

I just said the almost ending is "actually pretty good," but it has a few problems too. Yuuko and Teiichi obviously won't get a happy ending together; Yuuko is dead, after all. But no matter how successful Tasogare Otome x Amnesia may have portrayed the romance, it's still difficult to forget that Teiichi is only a first-year middle school kid. He's just not old enough to be making such bold pronouncements about love and still be taken seriously. This is one place where a timeskip would have been appropriate before the bittersweet ending it tried to achieve. Either way, the anime should have left it alone instead of forcing an opening for a possible sequel. It's a stunning lack of commitment to a conclusion that invoked commitment as a major theme.

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

Yuuko
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.)

Dated 19 April 2012: Initial impressions of the spring 2012 anime season

Fujiko
Fujiko is one of anime's All-Time Babes.

Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to lu Onna is good—refreshingly so. The first two episodes have been solid, and it's such a relief to watch something that's not in the modern moé style. As much as I love Sawashiro Miyuki, I'm still not sure how I feel about her taking over the role of Fujiko. It seems as if Masuyama Eiko still had the role not that long ago, but I see now that the Detective Conan v. Lupin III movie was in 2009. I guess she couldn't do the voice forever. And as much as I love Horie Yui, Sawashiro Miyuki is definitely doing a better job as Fujiko than HOCCHAN did as Honey.

Niiya and Yuuko
Ghost hime-cut.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is a pleasant surprise. The RSS feed for the scanlated releases of the manga has actually been in my aggregator for ages, although I couldn't remember why I added it. (I've never read a single chapter.) I've seen a lot of comments about how SHAFT-like the show is, but I didn't get that sense at all. That SHAFT jive usually annoys the Bejeezus out of me, but I didn't notice any pretentious, intrusive direction in the first two episodes. So far Tasogare Otome x Amnesia has been entertaining and funny, and this season's resident ghost girlfriend is quite charming.

Rea
Not a zombie hime-cut.

Some people dismissed Sankarea because it's a Studio DEEN production. I'm not nearly as critical of Studio DEEN as contempory anime fans seem to be. Studio DEEN is responsible for the best show of all time, after all. Not that Sankarea is at all in the same league, but it does seem interesting and well done. I'm not sure how I feel about zombie girlfriends, but definitely less favorably than ghost girlfriends, that's for sure.

Medaka
Rally 'round the flag, boys.

Medaka Box is this season's most underrated show. It's underrated because so many viewers are incredibly critical of it, dismissing it as an unworthy product of a post-exodus Gainax. It's possible I am more lenient because of the Gainax badge, but I don't think Medaka Box is bad at all. On the contrary, the show is amusing with a thankfully all right male lead. Medaka herself is very likable, although possibly I'm mesmerized by that crazy shit she does with her eyes. Also, Medaka reminds me of Haruhi, only benevolent.

Moji
KAMINA LIVES!

I haven't started this season's Detective Conan yet, but if it's as good as it always is, you can expect it to place about here in the early season rankings. [Edit: Followed by the continuing episodes of the Gundam SEED "HD" re-watching project.]

Kaoru and Sentaro
Love at first sight.

Sakamichi no Apollon is one of those "objectively good" shows. I think it's pretty well done, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'll like it. It's pretty obvious the new wimpy kid and the big tough kid are in love with each other, but I have a feeling the show will pretend to be about jazz and Miss Third Wheel instead all season long.

Yuki
Social Anxiety Poster Boy.

Tsuritama is also "objectively good," but I can't tell if I'll still be interested in the show after a few more episodes of this stuff. I've got books on Byzantine history I've been meaning to read.

Saber
Your sword is showing, lady.

Fate/zero from episode 14+ is about as good as where it left off two seasons ago. I expect it to get even better now that it's free to kill off basically everyone. Anyone familiar with Fate/stay night knows how this will end, but I'm curious how ufotable plans to get us there.

Cure March
I like Cure March, but that hair is tragic.

I think I was biased to dislike Smile Precure! on general principle, but it's turning out to be pretty good. It could use more brawling, though. Smile Precure! is basically Fresh Yes! Precure 5 except with less ass kicking and less illicit romance.

Nyarlathotep
Nyarlathotep is Top Fuel Asumin.

Haiyore! Nyarlko is good because it is such high-energy, but I'm not optimistic enough to believe it can sustain these levels successfully over the course of the season. If I had to guess, I'd suspect fickle anime fans will start to disavow the show by next season.

Natsumi and Saki
Needs more pratfalls and less bitching at each other.

Natsuiro Kiseki episode two was a lot better than episode one. It helps that I kinda like Sphere. Nevertheless, I'm not especially enamored with the drama elements. The physical comedy is pretty good, though, as is the characters' almost casual acceptance of magic.

Fourteen
I wonder how M14 feels about M1A?

Upotte!! is pretty bad, but totally watchable. Hey, sometimes I enjoy following a show just because it's anime. And Upotte!! is very anime.

Kuroyukihime and Haru
Hey, they found a way to make Potato-kun worse than usual.

Accel World plummeted in my opinion once I saw episode two and realized the entire show was going to be shounen jive and practically doomed to be wall-to-wall exposition and unnecessarily long, tedious fight scenes.

Elina
I wasn't expecting continuity.

Queen's Blade: Rebellion manages to be an abomination in comparison with its first two seasons. I don't like the cast as much, and the entire thing just reeks of terrible. It's a pity, because the plot sounded kinda interesting on paper. However, if the rest of the series isn't much better than the first episode, Queen's Blade: Rebellion will be WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS.

Dated 28 January 2011: Cardcaptor Sakura characters I totally forgot about

Nakuru
Nakuru in a rare non-glomping moment.

Somehow I totally forgot about the Top Fuel Genki exchange student who appears in the show's second half.

Rika
Rika is still no Miu, though.

In other news, despite Nakuru's deadly hime cut + braid combination, Rika still has the best hair in Cardcaptor Sakura.

Dated 5 January 2011: Autumn 2010 season wrapup

Ika Musume and Nagisa
Ika Musume terrorizes Nagisa.

Autumn 2010 had a number of surprises. I never would have predicted my top three shows from this season. In fact, three months ago I would have been surprised to learn I would watch two of the top three at all.

Shinryaku! Ika Musume [1-12] > Shiki (12-22) > Detective Opera Milky Holmes [1-12] > Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt [1-13] > Amagami SS [14-25] > Detective Conan (591-600) > Heartcatch Precure! (34-45) > Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai (11) > To Aru Majutsu no Index II (6-7) > Yosuga no Sora [1-12] > Psychic Detective Yakumo [1-13]

Shinryaku! Ika Musume takes the top spot by the strength of its comedy and its No Bad Episodes achievement. I didn't have much interest in the show initially based on its description, but toward the middle of the season I decided to give it a shot because of the near universal praise I encountered for it. I'm glad I did, because Ika Musume is a solid show. I only wish there were more episodes.

Megumi
Y'all know Megumi is right, right?

Shiki took me by surprise by embracing B-movie staples and running with it. I can't actually claim that Shiki is "good," but when it hits its marks it is wildly entertaining. If you like yelling at idiots for their stupidity and watching villagers storm castles with torches and pitchforks in hand, then Shiki is for you. Plus it's bloody! Even for a vampire show! I almost want to give it the top ranking for autumn 2010, but there were a few lackluster episodes in the mix holding it back. Its first OP and second ED are unquestionably this season's bests, though.

Henriette
Just so you know, this is a great disguise.

I wasn't really expecting to enjoy Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, and only started watching it so I could claim to be watching three detective shows this season. However, after an unimpressive start (everyone seems to loathe the first episode), it proved to be a fun series that continued to push the envelope; some of the things Detective Opera Milky Holmes did were really...inappropriate, but it was never dirty. An unexpectedly funny series, I've heard Milky Holmes described favorably as "the next Galaxy Angel." Now, it ain't that good, but I could definitely go for more episodes of these idiots.

Chuck, Panty, and Stocking
Panty and Stocking put Chuck to work.

Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is as good as you've heard, but it never really resonated with me. There were some really amazing moments and a lot of good episodes, but I can't help but feel Gainax could have done more with the show. Even the Gainax Ending was not as outrageous as it could have been. It's no The Melody of Oblivion ending, for example. I'm probably the only person in the world who feels Panty & Stocking wasn't daring enough, though.

Ayatsuji
Don't worry, he has it coming.

I liked Amagami SS because of its gimmick, but ultimately Potato-kun just didn't have enough charisma to carry the show. It's a nice enough romantic comedy, but nobody who missed it should feel as if they've missed anything important.

Ran, Conan, and Kogoro
Ran is always so well dressed.

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. Nothing important changes, and the show remains as good as ever. For that reason, I suppose curious readers may be able to rely on its position in these season summaries as a baseline or control group of sorts for pan-season comparisons.

Erika
Erika is the best girl in Heartcatch, but she ain't no Girl of the Year.

Heartcatch Precure! is all right, but I don't like it as much as its predecessors. I suppose viewed as a whole, it is better than Fresh Pretty Cure, but the best Fresh moments are a lot better than the best Heartcatch ones. I know Heartcatch Precure! is very well regarded among many anime fans who don't typically watch Pretty Cure. I wonder if they rank the show so highly because this is the only Precure they know, or if they rank it so highly because Heartcatch has certain unique elements that other Pretty Cure season do not have. If the latter, perhaps it is these differences that I don't care for—differences that cause me to view Heartcatch unfavorably in comparison to past seasons. Or maybe I'm just tired of watching weak magikal girls fight bad feelings every week.

Kirino and Ruri
Kirino hassles Ruri.

I technically did not drop any shows this season, but I only watched one episode of Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. I watched episode 11 to see what all that KUNKA KUNKA jazz was about. Man, that Kirino is a total bitch. There is no way I'd be able to watch a full season of anything with her in it. (Bear in mind that I'm an unapologetic Asuka fan, too.) I never had any interest in the show because its most fervent fans are all siscons; that's gotta mean something whether or not the show's actual content justifies that label.

Kuroko
How about you go to a hospital, Kuroko? How about that?

I only watched episodes six and seven of To Aru Majutsu no Index II because I heard they were Kuroko episodes without any Touma speeches. I'm oddly fascinated by Kuroko's old woman voice, but I still have zero interest in the show.

Akira
Turbo Genki Akira is the Best Girl in Yosuga no Sora.

I accidentally watched all of Yosuga no Sora. I watched two of the episodes towards the middle of the season because I heard a harem-anime protagonist actually managed to have sex. If you know anything about anime, you'll understand this is a shockingly rare occurrence, especially so early in a season. I was hoping the show would be another School Days, but it turned out to be an R-rated version of the Amagami SS gimmick. Once I learned that, I backtracked through the earlier episodes to find out how everything started. By then I had watched half of the show and figured I'd keep watching since Haruka was apparently going to run the table. Man, Sora was an intolerable bitch, though. She and Kirino should hang out—at like the bottom of a lake. Anyway, if you want to know what happens but don't feel like waiting for the uncensored Blu-rips, just watch one of the omake EDs; they spoil basically everything that happens in the show.

Haruka
Even Kirika didn't wear the same outfit every single episode, Haruka.

I finished Psychic Detective Yakumo on general principle, but found it pretty boring. It wasn't very Bee Trainy for a Bee Train show. I also wished Haruka had more than one outfit.

Bridgette L. Satellizer, probably
The Eva Series? It's been completed?

I have a feeling I'm not going to be watching as much anime this year, at least not as many of these 13-episode throwaway shows. That said, I do hope Freezing will have DARK MAMIKO. Speaking of Noto Mamiko, Kimi ni Todoke 2 is a lock, and everything about Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica sounds pretty good with the exception of the SHAFT X SHINBO part (which probably sounds pretty good to most people). Naturally I'll continue watching Detective Conan and Pretty Cure and anything Gainax churns out, even if it might cause me to buy and then itasha the fuck out of a Subaru.

Dated 22 September 2010: This Mid-Autumn Festival Asobi ni Iku yo! entry is not about Manami's mooncakes

Aoi and Manami
These are the worst disguises, ladies.

Remember that part in the movie Beautiful Girls where they talk about tits and asses? Not the scene with the preternaturally precocious Natalie Portman, but the one with Rosie O'Donnell arguing about how God is fair.

Momiji
Evil is such a strong word.

Yeah, apparently Futaba Aoi never got that memo. Either that or I've discovered where that suit hides its power source.

In other news, I don't understand why Aoi doesn't use that teleportation power of hers to snatch weapons and bomb triggers away from her opponents.

Dated 6 August 2010: Asobi ni Iku yo! is awesome

Chiba, Kin, and Aoi
And I'm not talking about Aoi's birth-control glasses.

I was initially confused because at first I thought Chiba was the one that won. In other news, I love Aoi's appearance here. Look at the way she's dressed, for crying out loud.