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Dated 1 January 2012: 2011's Girl of the Year

Miki and Producer
Consolation prize.

Choosing the Girl of the Year for 2011 shows how views held at the mid-year mark can change months later even without much additional information. As you may recall, the initial front runner was Homura from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, with Charles and Ran looking to place and to show. However, after another six months of deliberation, I think I may need to reconsider my choices.

Cure Marine
Cure Marine is proof All Stars hazing works.

Going through my initial recommendations, Erika from Heartcatch Precure! does even better in light of how uninspiring the entire cast of Suite Precure♪ has been. Nearly all the Suite Precure♪ characters are all right. (Not Cure Muse. Cure Muse is straight-up terrible.) However, they are so underdeveloped. Even Buki and Miki from Fresh Pretty Cure have more personality than the Suite cast. And the Suite Cures all seem to make such terrible choices. Not that Erika was a sound voice of reason in Heartcatch, but Erika at least had a lot more verve than any of the current crop of Cures, so the things she did were almost always entertaining, even when they were ill conceived. Nevertheless, while Erika certainly makes the Suite cast look bad, it's not enough to win her Girl of the Year.

Minami
My copy of Management is twice as thick.

As far as I can tell, Moshidora was wildly unpopular, but I thought it was pretty good. It's rare for a show to get better with every episode. I might be looking at this through baseball goggles (they're like instrument goggles, okay), but Minami from Moshidora easily deserves a Girl of the Year nomination. She doesn't have enough to win, but you can't expect someone to go to the Koshien and win Girl of the Year in the same year, can you? Nobody is that good. Oh, wait. Aoba from Cross Game did that just last year.

Hana and Sasha
Go on, Hana, curse the bitch out.

Hana carried the second season of Seikon no Qwaser through its early lacklustre episodes. Carried it in her ass. [P.S. SPOILERS.]

Charles
Who are you going to believe, sweetheart? Me or your lyin' eyes?

Early in the year, it really seemed as if Charles from IS: Infinite Stratos had a legitimate change of winning. I suppose she did, but as I mentioned with regard to the OVA, the end of the series basically threw away everything that made Charles great. Instead, she just became another blushing simpleton in Ichika's harem. How things would have been different if she had been absent from the series' final scene! It could have played out otherwise unchanged, but for a brief cut away to Charles sitting quietly in her room, reading one of those books Ichika keeps around for show, maybe looking up curiously to ask, "What is that racket outside?" Alas, somewhere along the way the writers forgot what made her great. Charles doesn't win.

Makoto, Kotori, Chihaya, Ritsuko, Takane, Yukiho, Haruka, Producer, Hibiki, Ami, Miki, Mami, Azusa, Iori, and Yayoi
Say, do we have any cake?

Based on how much I like The Idolm@ster TV, you might expect one of the 765 girls to win this year. The truth is, I'm not even sure who to nominate. Idolm@ster relies very much on its ensemble cast, and as much as I like most of the girls individually, I like them collectively more. So, the first ever group nomination goes out to Chihaya, Miki, Takane, Ritsuko, Haruka, Mami, Makoto, Iori, Hibiki, Ami, Azusa, Yayoi, Kotori, and Yukiho. They don't win, though. I'm not ready.

Eiko
It's a good year for horn hair.

Even though I'm still not entirely sure squids are eligible to win Girl of the Year, Ika Musume managed a nomination last year for being pretty much non-stop awesome. Unfortunately, the second season of Ika Musume spent a lot of time, well, treading water for the most part. In fact, I'm inclined to think the Best Girl in Ika Musume II isn't even the title character. Eiko has been a solid straight man throughout the series, perhaps because she doesn't rely on having some broadly painted quirk to define her. Of course, now that I think about it, Eiko's role doesn't even necessarily require a female character. Eiko could have been a teenage boy, and the only real change to the show would be perhaps not having Ika Musume sleep in the same bedroom. Nobody from Shinryaku!? Ika Musume gets a nomination, by the way. Not this year.

Homura and Charlotte
Hey, there's more cake over at Suite Precure♪.

If you've been paying attention, you've already figured out the heavily armed witch killer Homura does not win this year. There were two obstacles in her way. First, Homura is handicapped by my general dislike of SHAFT and Shinbo and the sophomoric fans they attract. Second, Homura's defining characteristic—or at least the one working most in her favor—is her indefatigable dedication. It's admirable, but even Homura can learn a thing or two about tireless devotion from this year's winner: Ran.

Ran
Believe it, baby.

Long-suffering Mouri Ran is 2011's Girl of the Year. Ran has always been good enough to win every year, but a relatively weak field for 2011 coupled with an especially good year for Ran puts her over the top. Ran's peculiar similarities to Homura also helped seal the win. I say "long-suffering," but not very much actual in-show time has passed for Ran. Like Homura, Ran is essentially trapped in time, doomed to absorb hundreds of failures, surrounded by death, and never achieving the peace she seeks with the one she loves.

Ran
Lifetime Achievement Award.

For over six hundred episodes and more than a dozen movies, poor Ran hasn't been able to catch a break, but thankfully, there was some progress in 2011. This year, Detective Conan was at least kind enough to offer her the Valentine's Day arc, the White Day arc, and very compelling London arc, all of which which combine satisfyingly in ways unexpected for a show as generally static as Detective Conan. Congratulations, Ran, 2011's Girl of the Year.

Dated 18 April 2010: The real Angel Beats! main character

Tenshi
The only Angel Beats! character I don't dislike
is the one that doesn't talk or do anything.

I'm not going to call Angel Beats! a lousy show, but it's not one that I can take seriously without feeling foolish. Nevertheless, Angel Beats! generates more discussion than any other show at a certain IRC channel where idling slowly is preferred. Granted, approximately one-hundred-point-all percent of this discussion is derisive, but everyone seems to acknowledge that it is interesting to discuss even if they don't necessarily enjoy the show. (I sort of felt the same way about Gundam SEED Destiny.)

Tenshi's dorm room
Tenshi's room is depressingly drab. I guess it's
still better than Minori's spartan bedroom.

My favorite part about episode three was discovering Tenshi apparently lives in a painfully normal and somewhat boring dorm room that she keeps immaculately clean. As far as I'm concerned, this just lends credence to my theory that Tenshi is the actual protagonist of the show, a fact that is sure to be revealed in some melodramatic twist two-thirds of the way through the series. It probably has to do with snow and piano recitals.

Dated 5 July 2009: I started watching Ga-Rei Zero because of Mio

Yomi as she appears in the show
Yomi as she appears in the show.

I'm referring to Mio from K-On!, in case you didn't know. I started Ga-Rei Zero despite knowing absolutely nothing about the series. NOTHING. Well, okay, I knew it had a hime-cut character with a sword (Yomi) that resembled the fan-favorite K-On! hime-cut character with a left-handed bass guitar (the other way around, I guess, since Ga-Rei Zero aired first—I don't know which manga came out first). And I suppose I also had a handful of people warning me not to start Ga-Rei Zero because it apparently isn't very good.

Yomi
Fan art Yomi closely resembles in-show Yomi.

Through four episodes, it's all right, and I plan to continue watching it, so it's already ahead of K-On! (which I dropped once at episode three and again at episode four). Ga-Rei Zero is definitely an uneven show, though. The first episode ended with some serious "OH, HOLY SHIT" moments, but later episodes include lots of lighthearted slice-of-life moments à la Asura Cryin' and some attempts at comedy, although not quite to the degree Fate/Stay Night attempted. Some of the moments really are funny, such as when Yomi's sword is in for maintenance and she has to fight with the leftover choices from the discard bin.

Mio fan art
Fan art Mio, not so much.

Is it possible I'm suffering from Sword Goggles as much as Mio fans suffer from Instrument Goggles? Probably, but so far it's worth it. The show hasn't shown real signs of greatness yet, and although there have been a lot of good moments, I can understand why Ga-Rei Zero's detractors complain about it. Still, it's not at all as bad as I was warned, and the first episode is worth watching on the strength of its finale alone. I guess this means I'll have to revise my Fall 2008 rankings in a short while, though.

Dated 26 April 2009: I dropped K-On! twice

Mio tries to wake her idiot friends
Southpaw Mio tries to wake her idiot friends.

Truth be told, I would probably enjoy K-On! were it the property of a different studio rather than Kyoto Animation. I can't help but suspect Kyoto Animation is affirmatively trying to corner the market on moe blobs. At the very least, it's pushing the retard moe agenda something fierce.

Ritsu and Mio
Mio is freakishly strong.

I can't stand K-On! because of its pandering. Not that I have anything against pandering necessarily, but K-On! pushes nauseous idioms. Let's be clear: Retard Moe is horrible. I despise Yui and Ritsu. K-On! should be about Mio and Tsumugi and the non-incapacitated members of ENOZ rocking the fuck out and maybe covering "God Gave Rock and Roll to You" in front of drunken fans.

Mio
Mio as she actually appears in the show.

Mio fan art
Mio as viewers see her.

Everyone loves Mio. She is the best character of the show. Nevertheless, I'm convinced her popularity is still inflated because viewers are suffering from Instrument Goggles. Ergo, they see her as she appears in fan art instead of as the timid and almost mousy girl in the actual show. Although I guess canonically she does still have the best rack.

Mio as a maid
Mio as a maid for no reason.

Oh, in case you were wondering, I dropped K-On! the first time after episode three because I couldn't stand Yui or Ritsu, but I grudgingly watched episode four because I wanted to know what in Hell the above picture was all about. I don't know. Maybe I'm suffering from instrument goggles too. [Update: Pinafore goggles.]