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Dated 24 August 2014: I like Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun because Chiyo is remarkably orange

Chiyo
Tiny pictures are the way of love.

I got a late start on Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, but was convinced to give it a try after being alerted that it invoked the the Ayako Doctrine. Not that you need to be an Ayako fan in order to enjoy Nozaki-kun. The show is quite clever and funny. Really, the only reason why I wasn't already watching it was because I ran out of space in my schedule while I was following dreadful wrecks such as Rail Wars! Besides, I sort of already had a general idea of what Nozaki-kun might be like simply by the way it looks. (Hint: Chiyo's enormous polka dotted head ribbons never stop being amusing.) Specifically, I trusted that it was the show's execution more than its setup that would make or break the series for me. I was willing to wait to hear how other people responded to the initial episodes first.

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Dated 1 February 2014: It appears there are two shows about Nobunaga this season

Shio
It's a good thing this gun doesn't have any mass.

Everything I know about Japan's Sengoku era I learned from manga and anime. However, even in that respect, my knowledge of this period of history is woefully incomplete. There are a ridiculous number of Nobunaga-themed anime and manga, and I've watched or read basically none of them. In fact, most of what I do know comes from one anime, Oda Nobuna no Yabou and one (excellent) food manga, Nobunaga no Chef. Considering that at least one Nobunaga anime appears to have aired nearly every season of every single year since his death in 1582, that's a lot of Nobunaga anime I've missed.

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Dated 18 February 2013: Haruka's life continues to improve

Manabe and Haruka
Tiny pictures are the way of love.

People have mostly stopped trying to make Haruka miserable. I guess that's good, but with the show only at the halfway mark I wonder if it's on the path towards a non-ending ending, or if there will be some sort of phony melodrama that escalates out of control just out of nowhere? Seeing as how the show started out with a broken home and a dead mom, it's going to take more than a little bullying to pull off the Big Finish. Maybe Sentinels?

Dated 1 November 2011: The Usagi Drop manga is different than otaku rage would have you believe

Rin
Daikichi's first impression of Rin is a recurring image.

Usagi Drop was one of the best shows from summer 2011, losing the top spot in my rankings only because of its brief 11-episode length. However, based on the outcry the original manga created, the anime's short run was its saving grace, due to the unspeakable horror of the manga's conclusion. Or so it goes.

Rin
Daikichi sees Rin for the first time, manga version.

I've long learned of the otaku penchant for gross overreaction, so I took the time to read the entire manga myself—something I suspected many of its critics neglected to do. Based on my findings, I can understand why so many otaku reacted the way they did, but I personally had no issues with the manga's ending myself, possibly because I'm much less critical of anime and manga in general; I at least try not to group things into only two categories—AWESOME and HORRIBLE—there is a lot of stuff in that middle ground I enjoy, even if I don't necessarily enjoy all of it.

Rin
Here, the Usagi Drop anime ends.

The 11 Usagi Drop anime episodes duplicate the first 25 chapters of the 56-chapter manga almost scene for scene. The anime is very faithful to the source material. The anime also ends where it does because of the manga's timeskip. That's right, more than half of the Usagi Drop story occurs after the timeskip, so arguably the latter half is the "real" story which the first part merely sets up. At a minimum, a truculent reader should at least grudgingly acknowledge the second half is intended to be as important as the first half.

Rin
Here, the Usagi Drop manga is merely beginning.

Spoiler Warning: I won't explicitly discuss the manga events, but most readers will probably be able to easily guess the spoilers from context with little effort. When I first heard about the post-timeskip outrage, I compiled a mental list of likely spoilers based on what I knew about otaku and what I knew about Japan and what I had seen in other anime and manga. Sure enough, this list of possible rage-inducing outcomes included two of the spoilers that actually occurred in the manga, although to be fair, I was incorrect about a material detail about one of them and the one I was 100% correct on was the one I had already intuited from a scene in the anime before I had even heard about the entire controversy.

Rin
Rin shows off her missing teeth.

So why so much hostility towards the manga's ending? Frankly, I attribute it to one (or both) of two reasons. One, otaku might not be exposed to much western literature and theater if they spend most of their free time voraciously consuming manga and anime. Thus, their expectations as to what is appropriate or acceptable follow different conventions. Two, these conventions themselves are tailored in self-perpetuating otaku-friendly ways to be non-threatening. Yeah, most people angered by the Kannagi ex-boyfriend revelation were joking, but notice how none of the K-On! girls are permitted boyfriends either; even a supporting character requires plausible deniability—even in jest—when she is shown with a possible beau. This is not to say that strangers to manga and anime would not revile the Usagi Drop manga ending, but it's possible those with greater exposure to a variety of "acceptable" endings may give the title more latitude because they are more liberal with their expectations. Expectations are probably key here. For example, because its audience has different expectations, nobody bats an eye when Oedipus has sex with his mother and later puts out his eyes, and nobody cares when a Shakespeare tragedy concludes with a half-dozen dead bodies on the stage. And how many readers of the popular A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels are offended by all the rape, incest, and teenage brides?

Daikichi's phone
Tiny pictures are the way of love.

I do not claim it is improper for manga and anime fans to hold different expectations for these works, but I do feel that those embracing narrower allowances contribute to the apparently collective overreaction to the Usagi Drop ending. And I do think they overreacted, especially the ones who were offended by second- or third-hand reports about how it played out instead of investigating the matter themselves. I can understand not wanting to "stain" a cherished impression created by the first half of the story, but someone forcing himself to look away to avoid something he's predetermined to condemn as distasteful strikes me as amusingly immature.

Daikichi and Rin
I forgot to mention timeskip Rin has legs that go up to her neck.

Yes, it turns out most of Usagi Drop is a teen drama, but it's not a bad teen drama unless you claim all teen dramas are bad as a matter of general principle. Guess what? After the timeskip, Rin is a teenage girl. And, like I said, since there are more chapters with Rin as a teenager than there are of Rin as a small child, Usagi Drop arguably is a teen drama. And it's not one of those teen dramas where nothing happens. There's kissing! There's sex! There's pregnancy! But there is also devotion and unrequited love.

Rin
Rin pays her respects.

Frankly, none of this would even be possible were it not for two key elements established in the first half. First, Rin explicitly rejects Daikichi as a father when he broaches the subject. Second, six-year-old Rin is the sweetest, nicest, most well-mannered little girl in history, so Daikichi's parenting—as far as we are shown—consists almost entirely of having a job and being able to sign contracts. Instruction and discipline? Not so much.

Rin
Daikichi remembers how he met Rin.

We also don't see much parenting with regard to Kouki. We know he needed more of it, since he was apparently quite a hellion, but Usagi Drop omits a lot of details. There are at least three really big incidents that occurred between the two arcs, but aside from oblique references to them, the reader remains entirely ignorant as to, you know, what happened.

Inkwell
Rin's mother pays her respects.

I've probably said too much already, and if you can't figure out what the big deal is by now, you probably either don't know anything about Usagi Drop to begin with, or you weren't paying attention. If you have figured it out and still refuse to read the manga yourself because you're afraid of tarnishing the image formed by the anime, at least consider this: The first half of Usagi Drop is told from Daikichi's point of view. The second half is from Rin's and Kouki's points of view. This change is what makes the ending work for me.

Dated 19 April 2011: Winter 2011 season summary

Mami
The real antagonists in Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica are trolls, not witches.

Despite my disdain for SHAFTXSHINBO, Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica (at least what I've seen of it so far, as the remaining episodes were pre-empted due to the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami—they're expected to air in a few days) is really good. [Update: The final two episodes did have some surprises. The rating remains unchanged.] Whether it's good in spite of SHAFTXSHINBO because of Kajiura Yuki and Urobuchi Gen isn't so much important as the fact that they took something which I had fully expected to be unconventional, made it so, and still managed to impress. Although I did not enjoy Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica nearly as much as its true fans did, it was still easily the best show I watched from winter 2011, admittedly not a very difficult feat when the runner up probably only placed as high as it did thanks to the Hanakana Distortion Field.

Ichika and Charles
Infinite Stratos needed more Full Frontal Bageena Char.

Infinite Stratos was by no stretch of the imagination a good show, but it was fun to watch. Curiously, it's often the male protagonist that makes or breaks harem comedies, not the bevy of girls themselves. Thankfully, Infinite Stratos does well on both fronts. Potato-kun is mostly unobjectionable, with neither an overpoweringly "strong sense of justice" nor a timid adversion to girls, the two most common flaws of the typical harem comedy putz.

Charles and Ichika
There ain't no way Ichika owns that many books.

Unfortunately, not having those two flaws means Potato-kun needs some other character flaw to be the excuse why he doesn't trophy fuck love all the girls during the course of the show. In Ichika's case, he's a moron. It works out, though, because nearly every girl in his harem is also a moron. This is probably why Charles is so popular, as she's the only girl in the harem who is neither dumb nor crazy. Okay, she did pretend to be a very unconvincing boy for a while, but she gave that up after a few episodes, and the only reason other people bought that act is because the entire school is filled with complete idiots.

Ichika and Charles
What's that fishy odor?

Anyway, Infinite Stratos was an amusing, harmless diversion and was pretty fun until it decided it needed a plot towards the end. Instead of the Final Battle against MacGuffin, they should have devoted the last three episodes to a footrace or an extended game of tag.

Ume
This is the best reaction shot of the entire series. [P.S. Spoilers.]

Kimi ni Todoke really took a dive with 2nd Season in my view and dipped below the Detective Conan Line during the middle episodes because it upset the precarious balance of misunderstandings and heartfulness. Basically the entire season dragged out due to terribly painful communication problems. It made me wish the show was about Ume instead, or maybe Yano falling in love with Pin. (It's not a spoiler, okay? It's right there in the OP!) Thankfully, Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season pulled itself together during the final three episodes. Pity the entire season couldn't be that good. Had it been, then Kimi ni Todoke Second Season would have been as good as, well, Kimi ni Todoke First Season.

Ai Yori Aoshi volumes 17 and 16
Ai Yori Aoshi volumes 17 and 16.

Somewhat unexpectedly, finishing Kimi ni Todoke S2 makes me wish for a third season of Ai Yori Aoshi—one that follows the manga instead of jumping all over Creation. The final volumes of Ai Yori Aoshi really deserve a lot better than the lackluster impression the two inconsistent anime seasons left behind. They may have to animate Aoi's bra in the series climax with CGI, though. (Ha ha. "Climax.")

Enri
Take Fractale easy.

Viewers seem fairly divided on Fractale, particularly with regard to its ending. Much as I postulated when describing my early impressions of the show, the way I see it, there are two camps: Those that care about its pedigree and subsequently chose to watch Fractale critically, and those who just wanted to enjoy themselves because anime is still a hobby. That latter group likely enjoyed Nessa's turbo-genki moments quite a lot more, and even if there might be a Hanakana Distortion Field at work, they presumably enjoyed the show more as a whole.

Phryne and Nessa
How did they end up in the ending to Heartcatch Precure!?

This is not to say Fractale doesn't suffer from a host of problems. Personally, I felt all of the fighting and battle scenes were comically bad, and a lot of things (especially towards the end) didn't make any sense. I was also somewhat crestfallen to learn Phryne wasn't just acting stupid—she really was an idiot. It's because of these problems that I don't rank Fractale higher among the winter 2011 shows. Nevertheless, it was still pretty good overall, and including an audio cameo by Nausicaä herself towards the end to bookend the visual references from earlier in the season was pretty nice, even if I totally missed it.

Ran
If you advance this scene frame by frame you can catch
the exact moment Ran's heart breaks. [P.S. Spoilers.]

Detective Conan is Detective Conan. As I mentioned before, Detective Conan is basically my control group when it comes to ranking shows. Each season of Detective Conan is about the same and typically as good as any of its myriad previous seasons. This remained true during winter 2011, although I would like to point out the "Tear Drops" OP totally messes with the heads of Shinichi + Ran 'shippers.

Kumojacky and Cure Marine
IN THE FACE!

The end of Heartcatch Precure! was all right, even though Cure Blossom remained mostly useless. Probably the highlight for me was Cure Marine suckerpunching Kumojacky in the face on general principle before he could launch into an idiomatic, vaguely evil speech.

Cure Rhythm
More punching, less baking.

Suite Precure is decent, but nothing really special unless you care about voice actresses. Koshimizu Ami, Orikasa Fumiko, Toyoguchi Megumi, and Mitsuishi Kotono are all on board. In fact, I should probably check Danbooru for what I'm sure must be copious amounts of seiyuu_joke parody/crossover fan art.


I dropped Freezing not because it was exploitative, but because it was kinda retarded. I can't wait for the second season of Seikon no Qwaser, though. (No, seriously.)

I was intriqed by Ri♡ -Rainbow Gate!- because it was Highlander with card battles, but I think I lost interest after two episodes beause Rio's hair sucks.

Yumekui Merry didn't suck, but I dropped it after the first episode because I wasn't interested. I heard it gets better later, but I still suspect Merry might actually be a boy.

Sister Layer
Cosprayers Line.

I dropped Wolverine after a single episode because it was God awful. Congratulations, Wolverine, you are easily WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS. All you need to know about the show is that in the first episode, a group of people flying around with jetpacks bent on attacking Wolverine with rifles decide to all fly close enough for him to gut them with his claws. Then later on Wolverine breaks one of Sir Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion. Look, I'm okay with his indestructible skeleton and canonical ability to regenerate from a single remaining drop of blood, but c'mon.

Final tally: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica > IS: Infinite Stratos > Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season > Fractale > Detective Conan > Heartcatch Precure! > Suite Precure | Dropped: Freezing > Ri♡ -Rainbow Gate!- > Yumekui Merry | WORSE THAN COSPRAYERS: Wolverine.

Dated 25 July 2010: Pity Amagami SS isn't Roads of Destiny without the Bad Ends

Three leagues, then the road ran, and turned into a puzzle. It joined with another and a larger road at right angles.

So reads "Roads of Destiny" by William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, the American author famous for the Christmas classic, "The Gift of the Magi." In "Roads of Destiny," a wretched shepherd is vexed by fate to reach the same ultimate destination regardless of the choices he makes. Conversely, the gimmick behind Amagami SS is that it is a harem comedy with four-episode arcs and (I assume) four separate destinations—one for each girl. There are six girls in the OP, so presumably Amagami SS will run for two cours, although currently only 13 episodes are confirmed. On the one hand, this addresses one of the primary complaints about harem comedies in general—that Male Protagonist typically picks the "wrong" girl. On the other hand, the climaxes to these four-episode arcs come really fast.

Junichi and Haruka
Renting swimsuits sounds kinda gross.

If you watched the first arc, wherein Potato-kun inexplicably lands an older school idol for no clearly discernible reason (or at least not a reasonably plausible one), you may also be confounded by the bald implausibility of this most unlikely coupling, even if Junichi is the rebound guy for Haruka's dog. Well, confounded by that and the couple's complete lack of chemistry together.

Junichi and Haruka
Really, I think it's being charitable.

Then again, maybe not. Reactions to Amagami SS have been much more positive than I ever would have anticipated, especially among viewers that typically lambaste harem comedies on general principle. That mildly amusing, inoffensive fluff shows with moments of genuine charm such as Tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~ can't catch a break while the back-of-the-knee kissing scene in Amagami SS garners such praise is probably indicative of something about the nature of anime fans and their views regarding relationships, but not anything I care to contemplate. Then again, I've joked in the past about a theoretical back-of-the-knee fetish gripping the scene to succeed the already niche armpit fetish, but now I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's real. That's my best-case-scenario explanation for the popularity of Amagami SS episode three at least.

Haruka
You should see the uncensored version.

Despite personally lacking any predisposed compunctions toward viewing harem comedies negatively, I mostly disliked Amagami SS episode three in its entirety. I couldn't stand all the begging. Seriously, guy, even Urashima Keitaro wasn't so eager to sell out what dignity he had left. Then again, Urashima Keitaro didn't exactly get a lot of back-of-the-knee action either. I guess we'll never know if it's because he didn't beg enough or if it's because Narusegawa Naru wasn't the kind of girl who puts out on the first date. [Spoilers: Haruka puts out. And how.]

Junichi and Haruka
This worked a lot better than Yamada Eye.

So where are we now? From the looks of it, Potato-kun is going to take a different fork and parallel-universe his way into Sex Hair's (presumably) persistently unmade bed. Expect three more episodes of wining & dining (read: lots of begging) followed by episode-eight supining before Junichi moves on to trophy-fucklove the remaining four girls: the one with brown hair that doesn't think she's fat, the one with presumably crushingly strong swimmer thighs, the one that thinks she's fat, and the seemingly normal earnest one that's probably CRAZY-BROKEN inside. Maybe that hikikomori panic room planetarium of his is actually a portal to alternate dimensions. Potato-kun sure has his work cut out for him.

Haruka
Take a cell phone picture and set it as your wallpaper, Junichi. Do it.

So what does this have to do with "Roads of Destiny"? I predict my biggest complaint about Amagami SS, assuming I make it to the end of its 13 or 24 or whatever episodes—ahead of my complaint about Junichi being such a loser, ahead of my complaint about Junichi not having any chemistry with Haruka (and potentially none of the other girls either), and ahead of my complaint about the show's rushed four-episode pace—will be my complaint that we'll suffer through the First Girl He Sees Clause six freaking times. I appreciate that Amagami SS is a galge adaptation and thus compelled to retain the same lead male throughout—preventing any Hatsukoi Limited narrative weaving, but for crying out loud. What the show ought to do is have Junichi ultimately end up with the same girl every single time, regardless of the path he takes or who he dates on his way there. School Days aside, there must be some anime law compelling monogamy or something, even if it's The Disappearance of Nice Boat variety of monogamy.

Dated 18 June 2010: It's because Ran is one of anime's All-Time Babes

Ran
Tiny pictures are the way of love.

Shinichi loves Ran even though she has legs that go up to her neck.

Dated 9 April 2010: B Gata H Kei's episode one is the Futakoi Alternative of sex comedies

Yamada
Tiny pictures are the way of love, Yamada.

I had extremely low expectations of B Gata H Kei and only watched the first episode as a goof. Pleasantly surprised, it looks like be watching more because this first episode is brilliant. I knew the basic premise of the show's 4-koma roots: sex-crazed virgin high school girl ends up pursuing monogamous relationship with Potato Guy. It's a stupid or wonderful premise depending on your point of view, but either way it's hilarious in execution.

Kosuda and Yamada
Kosuda is lucky Yamada didn't want a bigger dictionary.

Like Divine, I had initial reservations about Tamura Yukari voicing the lead girl, but she's perfect. It turns out B Gata H Kei is basically Ranpha ~The Early Years~, so Yukarin's high-school-Ranpha voice is sex-comedy perfection here.

Takashita
I was much less surprised by Horie Yui's character than Noto Mamiko's.

In light of my low expectations for Spring 2010, discovering B Gata H Kei is hilarious is a very welcome surprise. Of course, your mileage may vary; comedy is a tricky thing. In my view, the most important factor is timing, not material. Since the comedic timing in B Gata H Kei has been spot on, the show works for me.

Kosuda, Yamada, and Erogami
Whatever they're paying Yamada's Sex God it's not enough.

More accurately, its first episode works for me. However, I've watched too much anime to judge a show's merits entirely on its first episode. That path is quite precarious. Even a good show can lose its viewers if the follow-up episodes of a series depart substantially from expectations created by a strong first episode. Consider how many people felt betrayed after the incredible first episode of Futakoi Alternative.

Rentarou and Sara
Sara finds Rentarou.

Taken in its entirety, I view Futakoi Alternative as an excellent series (even more so if you've ever watched any of the dreadful original Futakoi), and I rank its amazing first episode among the best—if not the best—first episode of anything ever, but that first episode is also incredibly misleading. Many viewers soured after the frenetic first Futakoi Alternative episode gave way to contemplative (and somewhat downer) follow-up episodes.

Yamada
That is one really firm size chart/scorecard.

B Gata H Kei has a great first episode, but I hope the rest of the B Gata Heckler & Koch anime isn't a letdown. Like I said, comedy is a tricky thing. However, as long as Yamada keeping putting out Sawako-with-a-libido vibes each episode I won't even care if she doesn't manage to make 100 friends with benefits. I heard there's no guarantee she'll go to heaven even if she does kill 108 dudes. [Spoiler.]