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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.

Dated 20 February 2010: Durarara!! is pretty good despite having too much punctuation

Togusa adores Ruri
Togusa loves Ruri. And how.

I started watching Durarara!! because of the hype. I was pleased to discover it is pretty amusing and different—clever, one might say. I also like that Miyuki Sawashiro voices a mute character. But what really sold me on the show was learning the main plot to episode six involved saving a character's favorite ticket scalper—the only man who could get him front-row tickets to his favorite idol's concerts.

Miria
Miria's top hand flies off when she bats.

I also started watching Baccano! to see if it's good enough to bootstrap another show with its "by the creators of" bona fides. I was sold on Baccano! from the get-go by Miria's TOP FUEL GENKI. However, I feel compelled to point out Ty Cobb would not have approved of Miria's batting style. Hell, even I don't approve of the Charlie Lau top-hand release school. Long live the Williams Rotation.

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

Taiga
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
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
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.

Minori
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
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.