Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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 12 November 2012: Re-watching Humanity Has Declined in chronological order

It's also kinda hard to tell her age in these scenes.

I'm not sure how long I will continue this experiment, but I've started watching Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita chronologically to see if there are new insights to be gained. From a narrative standpoint, the show probably wouldn't work as well for a first-time viewer who decided to watch the anime beginning with the school-days flashbacks. Our sweet female protagonist is also less likeable in these episodes, with her stubborn hostility towards a younger girl she erroneously accuses of petty malevolence.

Sweets and Y
Y does seem more interesting in chronological order.

I'm not sure if the viewer's reaction to the fairies is any different when watching the show in chronological order instead of broadcast order. I suppose in chronological order, their capricious influence on humans and their environment are more clear. They're still assholes either way.

Dated 23 October 2012: The swords in Sword Art Online are neither artistic nor online, discuss

Kirito and Asuna
I couldn't think of a caption that involved sex, DEBAN, or Mount Doom.
I think those buckles are just for show, though.

It turns out it didn't take me long at all to catch up with Sword Art Online. Perhaps it's because I already read through the corresponding portions of the light novel, but I found the show much less objectionable on a whole than most of its critics. The biggest complaints I see tend to fall into two categories. First, Kirito is accused of being a "Mary Sue," and second, Asuna is characterized as too compliant or unassertive or lacking independence. I agree there is merit to these complaints in that the factors exist, but I'm not convinced they qualify as reasonable concerns to care about.

At least Kirito is better than Tsukasa.

With regard to Kirito's "Mary Sue" qualities, it's true he has the abnormally good fortune of being better at basically everything than anyone else he encounters in the game, but that doesn't especially bother me. I guess anime has bombarded me with so many incompetent, weak-ass milquetoasts that even a potato with good stats is preferable to average spuds. So I don't care if Kirito's battles are tensionless because I know no real harm will to come to him. Other lead characters in various television shows and movies have plot armor too; he's no different.

Now you're gonna get fish juices in your hair and sweater, sweetie.

So what about Asuna? I guess as Primary Love Interest she doesn't get much opportunity to do much except carve up chumps and soy sauce the shit out of some fish, but nobody else does much when Kirito is around either. So to me, the criticism about Asuna's contributions aren't so much directed at Asuna, but more towards that first issue regarding Kirito again. At least Asuna doesn't spend all her time being wined, dined, and supined, despite being Primary Love Interest—a genuine concern given that Kirito not only has the mysterious pull of a harem comedy protagonist, but also the willingness to pick a Best Girl and go with her. Given my track record for lamenting about the notoriously asexual proclivities of ostensibly male anime protagonists as a whole, I'm all right with giving a pass to one of their main squeezes even if she's best remembered for shacking up with one of them. It can't be helped.

Dated 16 October 2012: Summer 2012 season summary

Asuna triple-monitor desktop
This was a proof of concept that I will never use
again (because I bought a fourth monitor).

I get the sense I wasn't exposed to a large portion of the shows that aired this season—an obvious consequence of not watching all that much compared to past seasons. Nevertheless, I'm not convinced I actually missed anything, although I do admit a curious fascination with Sword Art Online (despite the profoundly negative reactions to its cour-ending climax). I haven't yet watched a single minute of it, but I have read the first four volumes of the light novels (which I'm expecting the first two cours to cover). Learning that Kajiura Yuki is providing the music has put the show over the top, and I'll probably marathon the summer 2012 segment to catch up with the autumn 2012 episodes. Naturally, this will change my summer 2012 anime summary rankings, but it is late enough already and I can always reflect the addition with an update, so here goes:


Dated 27 August 2012: The mysterious appeal of Hyouka

I guess this shot is okay considering that David Letterman
used to film part of his show from a monkey-cam.

Hyouka is quite popular even though its mysteries are not profound. However, the mysteries are interesting enough to at least amuse those looking for a hook, although I suspect the show's appeal is mostly due to its characters, not the mysteries themselves. Anyone who claims to like Hyouka strictly for its detective stories is likely new to mysteries in general. So besides the characters, what else is good if the mysteries themselves are mundane? Well, the animation is impeccable from a technical perspective, but even then the direction at times is straight-up terrible the way SHAFT X SHINBO stunt animation is terrible. It sometimes indulges in "creative" framing and different angles that are suppose to be interesting and unconventional. They are, in fact, unconventional in that they break old guidelines of cinematography that I suppose only purists care about these days. Hyouka features wildly framed shots for no purpose other than to be different, and angles that could not belong to any character's point of view are used frequently. (Ironically, Hyouka's own characters attack this very practice during the movie arc.)

Scene from The Godfather
Francis Ford Coppola shot this scene from The Godfather over
his cinematographer's objections. (Get it? Get it? Never mind.)

So despite these flaws, is Hyouka good, as in Good with a capital G? Yes, it is. But is it interesting? Well, not always. Most complaints about Hyouka lament that it is boring or claim that nothing happens; the wacky camera angles that annoy me seem to bother those people a lot less. Maybe that's why Hyouka uses wacky camera angles at times: It expects viewers to find some of its content tedious, and feels a need to goose short attention spans with distractions. But if a long conversation in a cafe needs gimmicks to keep viewers engaged, them perhaps it simply runs too long.

A wall with Houtarou's head in front of it.

Although I can easily see how others might think so, I don't personally find Hyouka dull. After all, I was able to marathon its earlier episodes quickly enough to catch up with the current broadcast without difficulty. So where would I retroactively rank Hyouka now among the spring 2012 shows? Pretty low, actually. I'd say after Lupin III but above Sakamichi no Apollon if I only consider the first 11 episodes of Hyouka. (I'm using the eleventh episode as the cutoff somewhat arbitrarily because the ED changes for the twelfth episode, and because 11 is around half of the show's projected 24 21-ish-episode length.) Admittedly, this low position is mostly because the show uses these early episodes mostly for development and comes across much stronger in its second cour once the character development culminates in a better understanding of the motivations and reservations driving the cast's actions. Perhaps I've been conditioned by the single-cour trend to be less patient with character development.

There's more to Satoshi than genki and purses. There's also envy.

This is not to say that allegations Hyouka develops its characters too slowly are not justified. Yes, we discover Houtarou overlooked a serious flaw in his reasoning because his results-oriented personality prevented him from using a people-oriented approach to solving their problems, but should it take so many episodes to learn this? Maybe it's premature and improper to judge Hyouka at this point, since it seems to be building towards a final payoff, but due to the anime's reliance on external source material, there's a chance no conclusion will be rewarding enough to viewers not already enamored with the show thus far.

Dated 17 August 2012: The Ambition of Nobuna Oda is not a Chu-Bra!! sequel

[Spoilers: Nobuna only has one bra.]

I started watching Oda Nobuna no Yabou due to the promise of Samurai Saten. Well, that's not exactly right, but it works better as a hook than saying Nobuna is a loose retelling of Japan's warring states period except with young girls replacing their historical namesakes. I don't actually know crap about Japanese history, but thankfully Nobuna provides a time-traveling high school kid as a guide. Admittedly, everything he knows about the warring states period comes from video games, but it seems to work out well enough for him, which means it works out well enough for me. It helps that he is not another anime potato. Despite being surrounded by unusually violent and capable girls, he is not a craven weaking. Even more surprisingly, he is also not an unrepentent pervert, even though Nobuna herself spends basically the entire series with one breast hanging out, as—so I want to believe—was the style at the time.

At least "Monkey" won't have to spend four seasons in a chav suit.

Through six episodes, Oda Nobuna no Yabou is better than it has any right to be. While I can't exactly call it a great show, it is entertaining enough, and I can only reluctantly complain that it may "contain too much plot," a criticism that in of itself is so uncommonly encountered with regard to anime that it is arguably more perverse than spending an entire series with one boob hangin' out. (I don't actually want to know whether or not this was the style at the time.)

Dated 5 August 2012: Added Tari Tari to summer 2012 watchlist

Those are some headphones.

The Ayako Doctrine strikes again. Pre-season information about Tari Tari suggested it was inoffensive light fare that sounded all right, but didn't interest me especially. But due to the relatively low number of shows I was following this season, I started looking for other shows that received positive first impressions from other viewers. I'm not entirely sure it qualifies as a positive impression, but apparently a lot of people were taken by Wakana's "I DON'T MONEY" Engrish in an early episode. Further investigation inspired by that discovery led to learning Kawasumi Ayako is in the cast. Well, consider the Ayako Doctrine fully invoked. (Discovering Noto Mamiko on the cast was a pleasant surprise as well.)

As far as I know, Sawa is not a zombie.

Through five episodes, Tari Tari is whimsical when it needs to be, serious at appropriate times, and charming with its medley of characters. Taken as a whole, I'm not sure I can call Tari Tari a legitimately good show, although it has passed Humanity Has Declined as my current favorite show. I'm not entire sure why that is, but there are a lot of individual parts of Tari Tari that I enjoy quite a good deal, and together they create the impression that the show is good, even if the jury is still out on that verdict.

Those are some glasses.

That is, if I like enough different parts of a show, does that mean I like the show itself? I like that Sawa seems to be better than everyone else at everything she sets her mind to. I like that Wakana still struggles with the regrets she carries about her mother's death, but makes real efforts at moving on. I like that Wakana's ridiculous flibbertigibbet mom died early in Wakana's life instead of turning into another one of those "cool" but hopeless, worthless mothers who force their anime children to become precociously dependable and mature. (Mamiko-type "cool" mom gets a pass because her extracurricular activities do not appear to interfere with her traditional gender-typed role and responsibilities as a mother.) I like that Wien is an expatriate who has become a stranger in his native land forced to rely on his Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook, and I like that Daichi is an almost pathologically driven athlete dedicated to a sport nobody else at his school cares about. And I like that Konatsu choked so hard she became a Nico Video celebrity. And I like that the choir director is a real cunt. I'm still waiting for Wakana to break out her secret Sphere powers, though.

Dated 19 July 2012: Iriya's Sky, Summer of Re-Runs

Ryosuke and Risara
This blog post is presented in Feel-A-Round.

Summer 2012 is shaping up to be a quiet season of anime for me. Aside from shows continuing from spring 2012, not much from the current season interests me. This might be the quarter where I catch up on my re-watching backlog and finish reading those books on Byzantine history I've been meaning to complete. At the moment, I'm only watching Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, Smile Precure!, Binbogami ga!, AKB0048, and Dakara Boku wa, H ga Dekinai.