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Dated 8 September 2011: I am watching Shakugan no Shana II so I can watch Shakugan no Shana III

Shana is a different person when her hair is on fire.

I am on record as saying the first season of Shakugan no Shana is "great." The problem is I can't remember why. To tell you the truth, I hardly remember anything about the show at all. I know Shana I was one of the backlogged shows I marathoned based on Internet-type recommendations after an extended anime sabbatical. It was highly regarded by people whose opinions I trusted, anyway. To be honest, the only things I remember at all about Shana I anymore are my disdain for the insipid antagonist twins, my amusement that Pyoro from VanDread voiced a loudmouthed book, and something about "TADA NO FLAME HAZE." Things I don't remember include why Shana's personality is so awful when her hair is not on fire, why the voices in (on?) Carmel's head offer taciturn color commentary for everything that happens, why J.C. Staff is so god-awful when it comes to fight scenes, what the plot was, and who any of these people are.

Alastor needs more scenes.

Despite my current amnesia over nearly all aspects of the show, I trust that my own positive impressions of Shakugan no Shana were reasonable at the time, despite the series' current baggage. Shana and the abusive small Kugimiya Rie-voiced Modern Tsundere stereotype repeated ad nauseum via Louise, Taiga, Nagi, and assorted similar roles has become a bit of a joke. Moreover, nearly every opinion I've seen regarding Shakugan no Shana Second is profoundly negative. Through 16 episodes of Shana II, I can understand why. These episodes have been mostly rudderless filler with tedious exposition and, quite frankly, a bunch of lame stuff going on for characters I don't care about.

Carmel is actually a terrible maid.

Usually I try to find some positive aspects of even bad shows, or at least identify specific shortcomings in shows I don't enjoy, but the best I can muster for the second season of Shakugan no Shana so far is "it sucks." It's not unwatchably bad, or even below the Worse Than Cosprayers Line, but Lord, it's not good. It's just not very interesting, and it makes me wonder if it really is substantially different from the first season (which I'm sure I liked), or if I just gave season one a pass because I really liked the first ED—the Takahashi Yoko one. Whatever the case may be, I intend to power through the remaining Shakugan no Shana II episodes so I'll be prepared to watch Shakugan no Shana III, which hopefully will contain whatever it was that made me like the first season, and not be a hot mess that's a complete waste of time, fire hair be damned.

Dated 10 May 2010: I am watching Mayoi Neko Overrun! because it sucks

Fumino may or may not want you to have cake.

Why would I watch something that's awful? I watch Mayoi Neko Overrun! because it is bad, but inoffensively bad. Maybe "mediocre" is more apropos than "awful." Mayoi Neko Overrun! does nothing especially well, but it is so by-the-numbers there is not necessarily anything particularly odious about it either. It's an unnecessary show in the sense that its absence from the anime landscape would not be missed, but it is a colorful bit of filler that fits well during hollow moments where one might care for background amusement. Watching Mayoi Neko Overrun! is the anime equivalent of eating a stalk of celery in the afternoon because there's nothing else in the fridge and it makes a nice crunching sound.

Breaking from tradition, Female Protagonist does not have a thigh_gap.

But really, Mayoi Neko Overrun! does not have a lot going for it. I don't care about the characters. I don't care about the story or the plot, and I am not even impressed by the fan service. The only thing about Mayoi Neko Overrun! I can positively identify as being something I enjoy is the way Fumino talks. I don't mean I like the sound of her voice. I also don't mean I enjoy her seiyuu's acting ability. I mean I like the cadence of her speech.

Takumi and Fumino
At least he didn't wake her shoving his crotch in her face.

Now, I'm not counting when Fumino does her tsundere shtick (although her "harrumphes" are also nicely done). Haruka Tomatosauce did the by-the-book Kugimiya-type tsundere a lot better when she was voicing Ayame in Asu no Yoichi! It doesn't get any more precise than that. (Ayame was so textbook neo-classical tsundere in Asu no Yoichi! she was even better than Kugimiya Rie herself.) But when Fumino is talking in her normal voice saying normal-type things, there is a nice rhythm to her words, even if they're ultimately empty and meaningless and completely forgettable. Y'know, like beat poetry. It's just good enough to make Mayoi Neko Overrun! watchable when there is nothing else on, and I bet it's even better with some creamy peanut butter.

Dated 22 October 2008: In the grim future of Toradora! and Hyakko there is only war

Taiga, tsun-tsun mode.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the current autumn season, the corner of the Internet I frequent was positively abuzz in anticipation of Toradora!, mostly due to its tsundere Kugimiya Rie content. I like tsundere well enough, but I was looking forward to Hyakko quite a bit more, mostly for its slice-of-life wackiness.

Taiga, not quite dere-dere yet.

Through the first three episodes of Toradora!, I like the show well enough. I'm glad Kugimiya Rie exercises some restraint in voicing Taiga; that was one of my reservations. I'm also pleased J.C. Staff leans heavily on two of its strengths: characters and tone. The character development is far more rapid than I expected. After three episodes, the Toradora! anime has already churned through several chapters of the manga. (I haven't read any of the original light novels, so I can't comment on their pacing.) This is not to say that the Toradora! characters are particularly complex, but their development is moving along quickly—getting them to where they need to be in a short series yet without seeming rushed.

Minori, Top Fuel Genki.

The big surprise for me is Minori. Reading the Toradora! manga, I didn't think much of Minori; she was just there as Ryuuji's temporary love interest before he and Taiga inevitably get together. Anime Minori, on the other hand, is TOP FUEL GENKI. Horie Yui cranks up her trademark sweetness voicing Minori about as high as I can stand. You could bake a cake. This is a very anime-type voice, but it works here and gives Minori the kind of charisma she really needs to be a credible love interest. It's no wonder Ryuuji has a crush on her. There's even potential here for Minori to usurp Best Girl status from Female Protagonist if she continues to one-up Taiga, much as Kotori overshadowed Nemu in Da Capo.

Gotta love a girl who likes baseball enough to bat left-handed.

So how is the Hyakko and Toradora! war shaping up? Well, I've only seen two episodes of Hyakko, but I do like it better than Toradora! so far. I know a lot of people had concerns about Hirano Aya as Ayumi. As far as I'm concerned, this is Torako's show. I.e., it's all Orikasa Fumiko all the time, as Torako and her freakishly-strong sidekick steal scene after scene. (Seriously. Fumiko? She's out of control.) Neya Michiko plays a nice straight man to Orikasa's neo-Miu. I'm confident Hyakko will continue to entertain in a teenage Ichigo Mashimaro sort of way.

Iizuka also bats left, but she's a natural southpaw.

But the war is over. Both the Hyakko Army and the Toradora! Army got outflanked by Kannagi and Nodame Cantabile: Paris (which had a GREAT first episode—especially all the parts with Nodame trying to learn French—sacrebleu). More on that later.

Dated 5 September 2008: Toradora! It's okay if it's J.C. Staff

Toradora! original character designs
I like the original Toradora! character designs.

Against my better judgment, I'm looking forward to Toradora! There's a good deal of hype surrounding this show, mostly involving the tiny hyper-tsundere lead girl, Aisaka Taiga.

Toradora! anime character designs
The presumptive anime character designs, not so much.

Surprising nobody, I'm sure, Kugimiya Rie will voice Taiga. I mentioned how Noto Mamiko suffers from frequent typecasting. Well, Kugimiya Rie is so typecast as the stereotypical tsundere dervish that she banks on it.

Kugimiya Rie GPS demo. (No audio first 13 seconds.)
Don't you dare make any wrong turns.

Looking for a backseat harpy driver who sounds too young to drive? We've got just the thing.

Dated 2 May 2008: The lighter side of Mitsuishi Kotono

Kanzaki Urumi
Back away from Kanzaki Urumi.

Zyl is correct to celebrate the work of Mitsuishi Kotono. I'd like to add that she's also amazing as the Great Trouble Kanzaki in Great Teacher Onizuka.

Kanzaki Urumi
She is displeased.

I'm not a big fan of Kugimiya Rie's school of one-note, bitchy tsundere characters, but Mitsuishi Kotono's enthusiastic tsundere-before-it-was-cool Kanzaki is a joy. Mitsuishi Kotono > Kugimiya Rie. (This is the part where I figure out if I remembered to set Irssi to auto-rejoin. Kugimiya Rie fanboy channel ops are a petulant lot.)