Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
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Dated 10 August 2018: Here we go again (Umimi 2018)

Umi
Okay, this is getting out of hand.

Dated 6 August 2018: This is Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight

Hikari
This was a blatant effort to encourage anime tourism.

I starting watching Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight thinking it was going to be an idol anime that would contrast nicely when watched back-to-back with Ongaku Shoujo. Yeah, that turned out to be wrong. It's not an "idol anime" at all, or at least it's less so an idol anime than it is a "wack ass giraffe fight club" anime, as I've seen it characterized on the IRC. To tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure what to call it.

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Dated 14 February 2018: iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA is a classic story about a teenage girl and her giant robot finding true love together

Haruka and Imber
Shameless flirting.

I was a stranger to the iDOLM@STER franchise the first time I watched iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. I mentioned this before, but perhaps I should have noted I was also mystified by the amount of hostility displayed by some fans of the original games (arcade and Japanese Xbox 360 exclusive) toward Xenoglossia when the anime came out in 2007. Although I understood in principle the objections fans would have concerning the different character designs and replaced voices, I was not personally invested in any of the characters, so some of the more venomous attacks seemed excessive. Moreover, the character designs looked fine to me, at least relative to other anime of the period and Sunrise shows in particular. I finally watched my DVDs over the past few months, and actually enjoyed Xenoglossia a lot more on re-watch than I did during its initial broadcast, despite having a better understanding now of THE iDOLM@STER as a whole. Or maybe I like Xenoglossia more because I've watched several cours of bona fide iDOLM@STER anime now, not "despite" watching them.

Iori
Yukarin Iori with purple hair is good too.

Still, I'm not quite sure how I would characterize iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. It's not really much of a giant robot show for a show about giant robots, and it's not an idol anime despite having (regular-type) idols and iDOLs in it. It's not a "cute girls doing cute things" show, nor is it an early example of the more recent phenomenon where anime girls band together to be really excited about some typically male-dominated activity, like Bakuon!! or Two Car or GIRLS und PANZER. Honestly, it really is a love story about a teenage girl and her much older robot boyfriend. Notably, the affection Haruka develops for Imber is not at all unusual, as all of the other pilots also develop complex feelings toward their robots as well. In fact, jealousy plays a huge role in the plot, as do the inevitable love triangles.

Azusa
Also, Xenoglossia Azusa > regular Azusa.

IDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA does not take itself too seriously, but does not devolve into camp either. I buy into the HARUKA X IMBER pairing enough to believe there should be real questions raised about the ED once its setting becomes clear. I also enjoy the romance enough that I think I like the Xenoglossia Haruka more than I like the regular Haruka. Not that there's anything wrong with the regular Haruka necessarily, but I like the Xenoglossia Haruka's attitude better. Perhaps it's because she comes across as more of a main character in her own show, while the "real" Haruka necessarily seems more like a token default protagonist in a franchise with an ensemble cast, must the way I regard Miyafuji in Strike Witches or ol' Bucky in the Kantai Collection anime. I don't know if true fans of THE iDOLM@STER will ever regard Xenoglossia as positively as I do—the different voices must be especially jarring for them—but perhaps they'll come to appreciate the series if they think of it as one of those in-universe television programs the iM@S characters themselves occasionally feature in as actresses.

Dated 4 December 2017: Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shō remembers that Shimada Mayu is first among equals

Shiho and Mayu
In unrelated news, I'm pretty stoked Shiho is in this too.

I can't remember where I first heard Wake Up, Girls! characterized as "failure moé," but the term has stuck with me as a fairly apt way of describing the franchise, notably for its upward swings from being the underdog as the only idol show without a Sunrise affiliation, to achieving solid triumphant moments, including what was reportedly a stunning performance at Anime Expo 2017 in Los Angeles (which I missed). Unfortunately, the current season of the anime, Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter, has fared woefully from an animation standpoint, giving the impression that the WUGs have taken a couple steps backwards. The Yamakan-helmed first season had its own problems at times, but nothing anywhere near this dire. Through seven episodes, extensive use of stills and slow pans turn much of the show into a radio drama, and it's obvious quite a bit of daylight separates reality and desire when it comes to production efforts. Problems plague even the official subtitles, which continue to display an incorrect name for one of the main characters in the opening credits even now.

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Dated 27 November 2017: Love Live! Sunshine!! is better than First Love Live

Riko and Yohane
There aren't enough scenes of Yoshiko without her clip-on hair ball.

I'm not a huge fan of the Love Live franchise, but I like it all right. Despite dropping the original series after five episodes in 2013, I gave it another try a few months ago, and decided it's okay. The rookie season of Love Live! Sunshine!! capitalized on the first generation's momentum, and Sunshine's second season appears to be even more adept at this whole School Idol business. It's gotten very good at meeting the expectations of its audience while working within the same group's constraints to ensure the right flavor of success. It knows how to goose its fans with moments designed to boost the characters' charisma precisely in the eyes of their followers. For potential viewers less inclined to venture into the School Idol universe, it likely all looks like pandering and otaku tropes, so I don't expect the series to offer much crossover appeal.

Ruby and Leah
Go on, Ruby, curse the bitch out.

If you're into it, though, Love Live! Sunshine!! second season hits all its marks and doesn't go too far with its fan-tailored moments. For example, there are regular gags about Yohane's chuuni bullshit, but never too much of it, not even in the Yoshiko episode about the robot dog. Sunshine succeeds in drawing upon its characters' strengths, especially now that the second season doesn't have to slog through bits about Dia being an ol' sourpuss like the first season did. Sunshine S2 has even managed to raise my opinion of Ruby (one of my least-favorite characters of the entire franchise) by positioning her opposite Dark Ruby from Saint Snow in episode eight. I still only regard the series as "mostly okay," and it currently scores 0.2/5 below the Detective Conan line and 1.5/5 over the Cosprayers line, but you'll probably enjoy it even more if you're mostly predisposed to like this sort of thing already.

Dated 2 October 2017: Symphogear? Still stupendous

Granny and Maria
Something something Maria, something something huge tomatoes.

I don't write about Symphogear as much as I ought to, consider that it's FUCKIN' GREAT. It's basically a miracle that we've gotten four seasons already with a fifth season supposedly on the way. This season, Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ ended up my second-favorite show, after Re:CREATORS but ahead of Princess Principal (which is itself way better than I expected). Still, I don't have much to say about Symphogear except that it's Symphogear. You either understand the appeal or you don't. It's definitely not something I expect to have any success in describing though text. Not in any way that does it justice, at least.

Shirabe and Prelati
Something something the appeal of a girl made of saws.

No doubt, there are still dubious readers on the fence about the whole thing. To be honest, the famous Symphogear meme chart pretty accurately describes the typical first-time viewing experience, aside from some outliers (like me) who were totally on board ever since Zwei Wing hit the stage in episode one of the first season. As to what you might expect in Symphogear AXZ? More singing while fighting (fighting while singing?), and more solving problems by punching them. The Hell else do you need?

Dated 25 September 2017: Love Live! Sunshine!! was better the second time around

Yohane
Yohane's hairball is fuckin' fake.

I watched Love Live! Sunshine!! without watching (all of) First Love Live and thought it was all right, but not great. Having watching all of Love Live! School Idol Project now, I re-watched Sunshine to see if being able to contextualize the show would make me like it better. Well, I do like it more, but it's still mostly just all right, and still not great. To be honest, I can't tell if I like it more thanks to knowing more about the franchise as a whole, or if it's because of the solid barrage of You cheesecake pictures on the Twitter over the past year. Incidentally, Maki > Nico > Yohane > Hanamaru > Kotori > Kanan > You > Umi > Hanayo > Riko > Chika > Yoshiko > Eli > Honoka > Mari > Dia > Nozomi > Rin.

Leah, Yoshiko, Hanamaru, and Ruby
Airborne idol, airborne idol, where have you been?

Naturally, as with A-RISE before them, I absolutely favor Saint Snow over Aqours as far as their idol-type credibility goes. Saint Snow only has one song, but two different arrangements appear in the show, and it is an actual duet with two people singing simultaneously (as opposed to sequentially, which seems to be the more common practice in these idol-type tunes). Really, though, my main reasons for liking Saint Snow are because everyone says their name with such overly dramatic awe (SAAAINT SNOOOWW!) and because half of Saint Snow ninja flipped over Aquors for no goddamn reason when they first met other than to show them that she could. What's not to love?

Dated 28 August 2017: The top 10 best Love Live! School Idol Project girls, part two

Maki and Nico
It's not easy being the Best Girls.

If you caught the last installment, then you know I finished the first season of Love Live! School Idol Project with the characters ranked in the following order:

Preliminary Ruling: Maki > Nico > Umi > Kotori > [GOOD/BAD LINE] > Hanayo > Eli > Honoka > Nozomi > Rin.

Notably, last-place Rin had no redeeming qualities. Well, all of that was based entirely on the first season of the anime. Now that I've watched the OVA, the second cours, and the movie, I hereby present the final standings:

Maki > Nico > Kotori > Umi > Hanayo > [GOOD/BAD LINE] > Eli > Honoka > Nozomi > Rin.

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