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Dated 17 July 2010: Spring 2010 summary

Hawkeye and Mustang
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was the best show of Spring 2010.

I can't understand why Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood wasn't more popular. Many fans of the first anime refused to watch it at all, citing unconvincing reasons not to give it a chance. Personally, I suspect one reason they refused to watch it was because at least subconsciously they believed they had "outgrew" it and didn't want to sour nostalgic memories of the enthusiasm they had for Fullmetal Alchemist in their youth.

Misato attacks Keiichi as Aoi looks on
Misato standing in for the homunculus Lust. Misato is dirty.

True, the first 12 episodes did cover a lot of the same territory as the first anime, so it felt like a clip show to those who had watched the previous version, but starting from the episode where they freaking crucify Greed and sink him screaming and hollering into a pool of lava (oops, spoilers), everything is new. You'd think people would be willing to at least give it a chance. There's an entire year's worth of new material, for crying out loud.

Panthers Stadium
How odd. Panthers Stadium looks so much like Dodger Stadium.

Taking second place is the first half of the sixth and final season of Major. I started watching this baseball epic on a goof because I was so dissatisfied with One Outs and how it depicted actual gameplay in the show. I figured I'd try something aimed more toward actual baseball fans. I'm glad I did, because Major has been consistently good and offers the viewer a rare opportunity to follow characters from childhood to adulthood throughout a single mostly unbroken arc. I don't expect non-baseball fans to be as enamored with Major, though.

Kosuda and Yamada
What is it with anime girls and libraries?

B Gata H Kei would have scored a lot higher had it not squandered precious middle episodes fumbling clumsily with Yamada's rival. It's the anime equivalent of not being able to work a bra clasp. However, when all cylinders were firing, B Gata H Kei actually got things moving. It's really refreshing to see anime acknowledging again that sex exists. Compared to his typical Male Protagonist peers, Kosuda is a stud comparable to the likes of James Bond, Sam Malone, and dare I say it...The Fonz, even if he does suffer—as Eddie Murphy put it in Delirious—from occasional difficulties at "finding the pussy."

Kanae
I wasn't expecting to find Minori from Toradora!
in Mayoi Neko Overrun!, to tell you the truth.

Mayoi Neko Overrun! was not a good show, but it had good moments. I also liked its gimmick of changing directors every episode. Thanks to the best tsundere love confession I've ever seen (no, really) in episode three, two solidly brilliant episodes (four and seven), and consistently amusing portions sprinkled throughout (such as bits of the Jenga battle and basically everything Nozomi did as the sole rep for the "bloots" faction of the bloomers v. spandex shorts war), I'm willing to rank Mayoi Neko Overun! fourth—way higher than I expected when I first started watching it. I would definitely watch more if it got a second season.

Katja
Just so you know, it takes a lot to surprise Katja.

I've only seen 22 episodes of Seikon no Qwaser, so its position in the ranking could change once the remaining uncensored episodes are subbed. [Update: Watched all 24 episodes. No change in the rankings. Looking forward to season two.] Remember how Queen's Blade was so bad it was good? Seikon no Qwaser is so bad that it's AWESOME. This show is amazing. It's unpredictable and consistently manages to impossibly one-up itself as its viewers gape slack-jawed in disbelief. Fullmetal Alchemist could take some lessons from Seikon no Qwaser regarding how to astound viewers with sudden plot twists and intriguing developments. As a bonus, Katja is also one of Hirano Aya's best roles ever.

TK
Angel Beats! never explained why TK was
trapped in Japanese high school purgatory.

Angel Beats! Now there's a show that's so bad that it's good. I'm sorry, I could not take a moment of this crap seriously. Nevertheless, it was consistently entertaining and it always inspired—by far—the most discussion of any show airing spring 2010, at least in the cynical IRC enclave I know best. Angel Beats! definitely proved a show does not have to be good to be fun. Unfortunately, I suspect I've now offended many of its fans who disagree with my view of the show. Presumably they have a higher tolerance for Jun Maeda traumadrama than I do.

Cure Blossom
Cure Blossom, the worst Cure ever.

Heartcatch Precure is my least favorite Pretty Cure series thus far. I have two principal complaints about the show: First, Cure Blossom and Cure Marine are the weakest Cures of all time. I understand that's actually supposed to be a plot point, but it doesn't make them any more endearing. What it has done, on the other hand, is make me appreciate Cure Dream from Yes! Pretty Cure 5 a lot more. In her Nozomi guise, Cure Dream is a complete doofus and about as sorry as Tsubomi and Erika when it comes to day-to-day affairs. However, as a Cure, she's pretty solid, even if she does play for the Pretty Cure equivalent of a corporate softball team. Cure Blossom and Cure Marine, on the other hand, shouldn't even be playing in this league. Go back to the minors, losers. My second complaint about Heartcatch Precure is that the monster of the week is always bad feelings. Bad feelings? Really? Heartcatch Precure needs more Dark Precure—a lot more. I bet she doesn't have to take a God damn bus to go fight Pretty Cure when they're out of town.

Erika, Togusa, and Walker
Erika without her hat might as well be naked.

I wanted to like Durarara!! but I couldn't stand Masaomi, Anri, or Mikado. This show would have been a lot more interesting had it been about the crazy stalker girl, the motorcycle cop, and hatless Erika. It's no Baccano!, that's for sure.

Popura and Inami
Squirrel-girls? They all suck too.

I dropped WORKING!! after the first episode because I didn't like any of the characters. Well, the only ones I actively disliked were the "minicon" dude and Popura, mostly because I'm tired of anime's obsession with small girls. I heard the show gets good later on, but I've got more Detective Conan to watch. Speaking of which, I didn't include Detective Conan in this lineup because I'm still hundred of episodes behind, but there's a chance you might see it in the summer 2010 wrap up in a few months.

Dated 27 June 2010: Try a little tenderness, Goro (but not on the mound)

Shimizu Kaoru
Baseball is a cruel sport, Shimizu.

Shimizu Kaoru easily won Best Girl of the Year rights in 2009. Despite her lack of screen time, it appears she is making a solid run at repeating for the title in 2010. Unfortunately, it's difficult to mesh Shimizu's daily life into the current main plot of the sixth season of Major. Thus, I was very glad to see the recent episode focusing exclusively on her. Hopefully her role will expand again as the season progresses. She still has a lot of catching up to do before she passes Aoba from Cross Game. However, lucky for her, Shimizu is up last.

Goro
Just ask yourself what Ryoko would do, Goro.
[Hint: Ryoko is a beast.]

With regard to the main story, Major takes the narrow path between embracing serious baseball drama and remaining accessible to casual fans of the sport. For example, Goro's recent moral dilemma about payback—contrasting the view of Murdoch (the belligerent new troublemaker on the team) versus Goro's position on the matter—does occur on the field occasionally, but rarely as overtly as depicted in episode 12 of Major season six (episode 141 overall). Ultimately, the qualified instructions Keene relays probably prove the most appropriate, but I personally think Murdoch was right this time.

Dated 5 June 2010: 'Tis a good season for love confessions

Fumino
Fumino loses her composure.

Love confessions aren't exactly rare in anime. Indeed, you can't hardly throw a stick in Animeland without hitting a love confession. However, three love confessions this season deserve special mention. First, there is the very nicely delivered love confession in Mayoi Neko Overrun! For one thing, it occurs in episode three—shockingly early for anime. For another, it is basically the best neo-tsundere love confession I've seen.

Yamada and Kosuda
Kosuda professes his love for Yamada.

Second, there is the love confession in B Gata H Kei which is significant because Potato-kun actually nutted it up and said what anime male protagonists as a rule struggle hopelessly with forever. If only Harima had this kind of courage (then Tenma could have rejected him, leaving him re-bound material for the vastly superior Eri). Not only that, he professed his love in front of other people and repeated it more than once to ensure there was no misunderstanding. It's almost heroic.

Yui
Angel Beats! turned into a baseball anime
so gradually hardly anyone noticed.

Third, there is the love confession in the most recent episode of Angel Beats! I think most people probably expected this for a while, but its execution was a bit better than I was expecting. I still can't claim to care about any of the Angel Beats! characters, but I do appreciate some good melodrama once in a while, even if it isn't snowing.

Dated 16 May 2010: B Gata H Kei needs to stick to its sex comedy roots

Yamada
The best part of B Gata H Kei episode five is the harmonica BGM.

B Gata H Kei has faltered a bit by departing from the dirty jokes and physical comedy that powered its early episodes. The recent introduction of Yamada's ojousama rival is an unwelcome development. I have to assume Kanejou is a staple of the original 4koma, but this is one example of where an anime should should not follow the source material too closely. This is not to say her appearance drags the show down per se, but there is just not a compelling reason to introduce a second rival in such a short series. (Although technically the B Gata H Kei anime already does not follow the original comic too explicitly. For example, there is is a lot less masturbation in the anime.)

Kanejou
Suddenly shoujo. And how.

I say "second rival" because Mayu already exists as the common-type rival. Or more accurately, from a traditional perspective, Yamada exists as Mayu's rival. A lot of B Gata H Kei's charm comes from it's twofold reversal of roles. First, the story is told from the female love interest's point of view instead of that of the presumptive harem comedy protagonist. Second, the sex bomb Yamada is the primary love interest rather than the good-natured, painfully earnest childhood friend moe blob.

Kosuda and Mayu
There's probably something symbolic about this
picture, but damned if I know what it is.

Telling the story from Yamada's perspective would be an interesting change of pace even if she wasn't a sex-crazed ditz. I've seen this story from Male Protagonist's side far too many times. Reversing the point of view is refreshing enough on its own, but making Kosuda a decent guy completely sells it. Just by virtue of his not being a cretin like Junichi from Da Capo or a twit like the cookie cutter male leads in most harem comedies, Kosuda joins the ranks of Hand Maid May's Kazuya, the original To Heart anime's Hiroyuki (both stand-up decent fellows), and VanDread's Hibiki (a smart-ass punk) as a non-odious harem comedy male protagonist. I guess he kind of has to be if we are to appreciate Yamada's viewpoint in the slightest.

Kosuda
I'm actually quite impressed Kosuda uses the viewfinder
of his digital camera instead of its LCD screen.

I describe Mayu as Yamada's traditional rival because Mayu fills the Akari role of the childhood friend with the inside track. Expanding on what others have noted, I see Yamada filling a stereotypical role as the sex bomb that is too intimidating for the meek male protagonist to handle, driving him deeper into the too-perfect safe girl's comforting embrace.

Yamada
Yamada deres Kosuda to his knees.

That Yamada and Kosuda stand a genuine chance of eating from the tree of knowledge (based on what I infer from the comic's more aggressive nature) fills me with amazement such a thing can still exist in this genre. As B Gata H Kei does for sex what Hatsukoi Limited does for romance, it's no wonder this is nearly my favorite show this season, outpaced only by an increasingly strong Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as it nears its epic conclusion. Now if only B Gata H Kei would only just get on with it. You've got a guy in scoring position, Yamada. Don't try to draw a walk.

Dated 13 May 2010: Ookiku Furikabutte has more crying than Uchuu no Stellvia

Mihashi
Are you crying? There's no crying in baseball!

I tried to marathon the first Ookiku Furikabutte (A.K.A. Big Windup!) so I could start following the currently airing second season, but this show is unwatchable. This is not to say that Ookiku Furikabutte is a bad show, it's just annoying as all Hell. I can see how a lot of people might really enjoy Big Windup! and recommend it enthusiastically, but these are people with much higher tolerances for crying in their anime than me.

Abe and Mihashi
I call Mihashi "Chicken Face" because I can never remember his name.
Also he won't stop making this stupid beak-mouth expression.

I managed to finish the first nine episodes, and I think on average there must be four or five unrelated crying scenes in each episode. These boys cry over everything. Usually it's Chicken Face...err, Mihashi, that cries, because he cries all the time. Presumably it's to show character development and maybe by the end of the season he (hopefully) develops a spine and some sand, but I'll be Haruhi damned if you think I'm going to stick around to find out. Sack up, guys.

Abe and Mihashi
If catchers had aprons this pitcher would be clinging to one.

I'm okay with the latent homosexual content. (There is A LOT of latent homosexual content. [SPOILERS] This is basically Boys Love without the bishies.) I did watch Miracle Train, after all, and the husband/wife relationship between the pitcher and the catcher is played up quite often during baseball-themed shows (including Major and Taisho Yakyuu Musume, among others). That is to be expected. However, I am not okay with Chicken Face's paralyzing anxieties and complete lack of self-confidence. (By the way, it turns out Miracle Train isn't really gay at all.)

Abe
For a guy in the process of learning his new boyfriend is
a timid little girl, Abe is taking this rather well.

Ookiku Furikabutte is not all bad, though. For example, all the parts with Abe calling a smart game accurately reflect the thought processes that separate pitching from throwing. Thankfully, unlike One Outs, Big Windup! accomplishes this without pretending commonplace baseball strategies and tricks are shocking and amazing, even though they might seem so to neophyte spectators. If Ookiku Furikabutte cut the lousy drama queens or at least traded them for some "players to be named later," it could field a pretty decent baseball anime with the rest of the team, alas.

Dated 12 May 2010: Even mediocre shows have good moments, like Mayoi Neko Overrun! episode four

Nozomi and Fumino
That's not Coke.

The ping pong battle in episode four of Mayoi Neko Overrun! brought a tear to my eye. So beautiful. There were other parts of the episode that were actually good, but I can't tell you about them here. You'll start to think I actually like the show.

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

Fumino
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.

Fumino
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 4 May 2010: I bought Baccano! because of Durarara!! (exclamation point)

Miria and Isaac
Even the genki fall into despair sometimes.

Baccano! ran for an unconventional 16 episodes. Through the equivalent number of Durarara!! episodes, I give Baccano! the clear edge with the deciding factor being its superior characters. (As both shows have large ensemble casts, I'll address relatively few of them herein.)

Firo and Ennis
Besides, Baccano! has much snappier dressers than Durarara!!

This is not to say the characters in Durarara!! are lousy, just that I don't care about any of them. I do enjoy the crazy antics of stalker girl extraordinaire Mika (seriously, she's Cocoa Puffs), but that's about it. I thought I'd like Celty more, but as I mentioned earlier, I don't like how she's so easily flustered. She's also not very smart, but I guess that's not a nice thing to say about a girl who does not have any brains.

Takashi and Anri
Takashi tries to sweet talk Anri.

Okay, I do actively dislike Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri. Even Mikado's big moment suffered from two huge Angel Beats!-level flaws that pretty much sapped any coolness out of the triumph. He's lucky it worked out, I guess. Actually, Anri is a special case. Through 15 episodes, Anri's biggest problem was a complete lack of charisma (unless you measure charisma in cup sizes). I was left hoping she'd give in to her predatory teacher's obvious efforts at grooming her for sex. Really, what did she have to lose? But after episode 16 you have to be curious what else she has hidden under her clothes. Anri's school must get its uniforms from the same company as Iriya's. [P.S. Spoilers.]

Claire and Chane
These two have the dirtiest pillow talk.

Baccano! is superior to Durarara!! because it has Isaac and TOP FUEL GENKI Miria. [Yes, more spoilers, I know.] Despite Miria's horrifying voice, every scene those two are in is pure gold. Baccano! also has Chane doing wonders as a girl who doesn't talk. Durarara!! also has a girl who doesn't talk, but it's just not the same. Chane far surpasses Celty even if Chane probably spends most of her free time honing her knife fighting abilities instead of chatting idling on a computer. If she's going to spend so much time screwing off on her computer, Celty should at least check eBay once in a while for her head. Make a token effort, sweetie.