Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.
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Dated 10 August 2020: Here we go again (Umimi 2020)

Umi
Philips 1180X
Close enough, eh.

Dated 10 August 2019: Here we go again (Umimi 2019)

Umimi
Well, it's been another year.

Dated 10 August 2018: Here we go again (Umimi 2018)

Umi
Okay, this is getting out of hand.

Dated 10 August 2017: Umi 2017

Umi
What, another year already?

Dated 10 August 2016: Umimi and me

Normal Umi
So far so good.

A while back, it was about a year ago, I think it was, I decided to check out more of THE iDOLM@STER's action, right, figure out what Million Live! had going on that I didn't have going. Although I was a (secondary) fan of the "real" iDOM@STER and knew of Cinderella Girls from its anime adaptation, Million Live! I only knew from the various cards people would upload to the Danbooru.

High Rare Umi
I'm guessing Umi smokes this girl.

Well, it turned out there were quite a few Million Live! characters (and a shit ton of Cinderella Girls). At a whim, I decided to start burning through all the bios to see if perhaps there was one I'd be likely to favor best. I even started a a spreadsheet compiling the official data. (This spreadsheet has since grown out of control.) It sort of felt like shopping for a mail-order waifu from a catalog since I was at least semi-consciously intent on determining which Million Live! was best Million Live!.

Super Rare Umi
I don't actually know anything about this event.

Coincidentally, this was also about the time I lost my previous disinterest in anime figures. I reasoned that as my anime-type hobby didn't seem to be going away, it probably wasn't just a phase, and perhaps that made it all right to spend some money on anime tchotchkes. And maybe a display box of some sort. But not a display case, that's going too far. After all, I would only be getting one. (Heard this one before, have you?) I just had to figure out which one. Preferably not one which would cost me like two hundred damn dollars only to melt during a relentless Southern California summer.

Super Rare Umi
I can't tell if this is an exhibition or a competition.

Also coincidentally, this was about the time I learned of the Rookie Seiyuu Awards. Ueda Reina won that year for Hanayamata, so I watched that (it turns out it's really good) and a bunch of other shows with Ueda Reina roles, even token ones. (It turns out Ueda Reina is really good too.) Anyway, those of you who happen to be Ueda Reina fans probably already know where I'm going with this, as will anyone who is an actual fan of THE iDOLMASTER: Million Live! itself rather than just a fan of the idea of THE iDOLM@STER: Million Live! like me.

Manami, Minami, Reina, Kaya, and Yuka
Ueda Reina, center, with some of her fellow Hanayamata seiyuu.

It turns out Kousaka Umi is the not-quite-anime-character perfect storm. Some of you already know that—in the absence of any other key indicators—I start my character ranking determinations based on the various candidates' hair. Kousaka Umi's extraneous twin braids immediately put her in towards the top of the list, because I love me some twin braids. The top of the list, incidentally, included such company as Kitazawa Shiho whom I liked from the iDOLM@STER movie because she was such a bitch to everyone for no reason, and Nanao Yuriko (whom I also liked for her hair, even though she wasn't a bitch to anyone in the iDOM@STER movie). I'm also partial to enthusiastic Top Fuel Genki characters in general. Add in some real-deal athleticism, and I'm basically sold. Wait, there are also random ballet-themed references and non sequiturs? Someone's been reading my old journals. I'm totally in favor of a ballet-trained idol even if it means she is probably really bendy.

Rare Umi
Actually, she is really bendy.

At this point, I was tracking Kousaka Umi as the likely best Million Live! idol, but she didn't have any anime presence to speak of. Was she in anything else besides the game? Thanks to my aforementioned serendipitous curiosity about anime figures, I decided to see if possibly a Kousaka Umi figure existed. And yes, it turned out one did. This was somewhat perplexing, as she was also the only Million Live character who had an anime figure of any sort at the time. It's still not clear to me why; if there was only going to be one, I would have expected one of the characters from the movie. Anyway, finding out a Kousaka Umi figure did exist and that it did not cost two hundred damn dollars worked out pretty well. Especially since this way I could claim my lone anime figurine was somewhat esoteric despite being part of a well-known franchise.

Umi figure
This Kousaka Umi anime figure came with an extra face.

You know what's next, right? As I understand it, most (or at least many) Cinderella Girls characters are not yet voiced, but every Million Live! character is voiced. Kousaka Umi, you've surely already guessed, is voiced by Ueda Reina.

THE IDOLM@STER LIVE THE@TER PERFORMANCE 10
"ココロ☆エクササイズ" is quite catchy.

Well, shit. Umimi not only cruises through all the checkpoints (at least on paper), she has an anime figure which was apparently under-appreciated even when it was the only game in town as far as Million Live! figures went, AND she's voiced by my favorite newbie voice actress. So there you have it. This was a no-brainer. Also, if you're reading this on August 10th, then it means I managed to get this written in time for her designated birthday. Happy 16th birthday again, Umimi. You're my THE iDOLM@STER: Million Live! Best Girl.

Dated 7 January 2014: 2013 Girl of the Year

Hajime
As always, no wagering.

I started these Girl of the Year awards in 2009 mostly as a goof. Then I kept doing doing it every year and now I can't stop. Can I still pass judgment in a fair and balanced manner even though I watched relatively few shows in 2013? What if I refuse to accept nominations for girls from shows I haven't seen? Not to worry. This contest has always been rigged. Actually, it's not so much a competition as it is an exhibition.

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Dated 22 July 2013: Gin no Saji (Silver Spoon) and Gatchaman Crowds lead the summer 2013 anime season

Aki
I wonder if the First Girl He Sees Clause is in effect?

I started watching too many shows this season to prepare a single comprehensive summary of how they're all shaking out so far; it would take hours. So I'll just divvy out these introductions individually or in chunks. The best show thus far is Gin no Saji, also known as Silver Spoon. It's a comedy about a boy who enters an agricultural high school and discovers farm life is more difficult than he anticipated. It's based on a manga by the author of Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa Hiromu, who grew up on a farm herself. The consensus regarding Gin no Saji appears to be generally positive, but it seems you have to think farms are funny to enjoy it as much as I do.

Tamako and Shinchirou
I predict Tamako will be the BEST GIRL in Silver Spoon.

Notably, Gin no Saji lacks any of the high school bullshit (at least through the first two episodes) that plagues other anime set in high school. Because of the hands-on nature of the instruction, it seems more like a trade school and quite alien compared to they typical seat-by-the-window, beautiful-mysterious-transfer-student, oops-I-fell-on-your-boobs, let's-prepare-for-the-culture-festival drudgery that you see in every other school comedy. The anime is already past the few chapters of the manga that I read, so perhaps Silver Spoon will, in fact, get a mysterious transfer student who sits by the window and helps out during the culture festival after a normal boy falls on her boobs, but I'm at least reasonably confident that the execution will be creative and different if that actually happens.

Paiman
LARGE BEER.

Gatchaman Crowds is ostensibly based on the Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) anime from the '70s, but thus far bears little resemblance to what I know of the original (which admittedly only comes from its two English adaptations, Battle of the Planets and G-Force: Guardians of Space). The biggest difference is the apparent focus on Hajime. I.e., a female lead instead of the familiar male-dominated team of five members: The leader guy, the angry guy, the fat guy, the token kid, and the aerodynamic girl.

Sugane and Hajime
A man's romance.

Hajime, I should point out, is making a solid run for the 2013's Girl of the Year crown with her unrelenting TOP FUEL GENKI attitude. Maybe it will be revealed in a shocking twist later that Hajime is actually broken inside, but for now her ebullience appears ready to overcome all challenges, even the bane of social media. Also in her favor is her bizarre love of notebooks and planners, an obsession I sheepishly admit to sharing (although, unlike Hajime, I don't fornicate with my notebooks and planners).

Yugo
I'm so glad nobody broadcasts in Smell-O-Vision.

For now, Gin no Saji and Gatchaman Crowds are the top two shows of the season, at least according to my tongue-in-cheek ranking system. Whether a comedy about farms and a superhero show arguably about Facebook games can survive the onslaught of a moon-destroying mahou shoujo opera and the return of a college circle of degenerate perverts remains yet to be seen.

Dated 24 September 2011: Darker than Black would make one Hell of a detective show

Kiko
Shouldn't you be eating at Pizza Hut, Kiko?

Although many people seem to despise Kiko for her TOP FUEL GENKI ways (which admittedly don't fit in too well with the more somber elements in Darker than Black), I couldn't get enough of her and Gai. I never did quite figure out what Kiko's deal was, though. I get that she's a rabid anime fan, but what's with her outfit? Is she cosplaying as a character from another show? It looks vaguely Galaxy Angel-ish, and I feel as if I should recognize it, but I can't quite place it.

Kiko and Gai
Just so you know, that is one awesome phone.

Unfortunately, neither she nor Gai seem especially adept at solving their cases. Well, they don't have the benefit of Kudo Shinichi or Hattori Heiji doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes, even if they are probably well funded by dirty Pizza Hut money. I can't tell if they're more or less successful than the Futaba detective agency, though.