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 15 September 2012: Lost Christmas is Guilty Crown, best case scenario

You can tell Scrooge is not a nice person from his hoodie.

Whether people admit it or not, there was a bit of excitement and anticipation last year for Guilty Crown. The show turned out to have huge problems, but I still managed to find stuff to like about it, although I'm convinced it would have been much better without Potato-kun Shoe Shoo Shu.

I had a Christmas joke for this caption but it was too sacrilicious.

Enter Lost Christmas. I don't know anything about the game, but I did watch the 15-minute video pack-in prequel to Guilty Crown. Surprising no one, I'm sure, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest Guilty Crown would have been a pretty good show had it been about Scrooge and Carol (ha ha, get it? ho ho ho) instead of Shu and Inori. Sure, it was only 15 minutes, but I'm pretty sure Scrooge is not a putz, and—as far as I can tell—Carol actually has a personality. I'll entertain arguments suggesting Inori has a superior battle costume, but Carol has a poofy hat. I like hats.

Dated 24 May 2012: Amending the winter 2012 season wrap-up to include Aquarion Evol

Amata, Andy, and Mikono
Just when things were finally looking up for Andy.

Now placing after Smile Precure! but ahead of Amagami SS+ is Aquarion Evol which I started watching after receiving an IRC update about the comic tragedy that befalls some of its characters during the second cour. I wasn't watching it before because I've only seen the first episode of the original series and I'm opposed to watching sequels before finishing previous works ahead of time. (I dropped the original Aquarion because I didn't find it especially interesting even though the show seemed to be entirely about people cumming in robots.)

Andy and Mix
Mix is cross.

Reassured that familiarity with the original Aquarion was not strictly necessary before watching Evol, I took a chance and crashed through the first 13 episodes of the latter. Fans of the show may be perplexed that I don't hold the series in higher regard, but quite frankly the lead girl, Mikono, annoys the bejesus out of me.

< SoSD> mikono is designed to be hated by everyone except japanese
< SoSD> hope this helps

Mikono spends at least half of the first cour telling everyone that's she's worthless while doing everything she can to ensure there is no room for doubt. For no good reason, this marshalls Must Protect Mode from Potato-kun and his rival for Mikono's affection: her brother.

Shuush and Mikono
Amata surprises Mikono with his excitement.

Thankfully, the comedy stylings of Andy Hole and his Classic Big-Bang Tsun-Tsun love interest, Mix, keep Aquarion Evol entertaining. Not that Amata constantly launching Mikono into the air with his boners can't be entertaining, but it's just not as interesting as hapless Andy's cockblocked adventures.

Dated 3 April 2012: Season Wrap-up, Winter 2012

Genjuro and Chris
When in doubt, hug Chris.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear was awesome because it was preposterous. Symphogear went above and beyond to remain entertaining. From the first BADICAL episode to its ridiculous climax, Symphogear always remained fun to watch. I can't claim with a straight face that it's actually good, but I never claimed a show had to be good to be the best show of the season. More of this sort of thing, please.

Yassan and Hidenori
It's all about the timing.

The best show of Winter 2012 if you want to use boring metrics such as "funny" or "consistent" is Daily Lives of High School Boys (Danshi Kōkōsei no Nichijō or "Nichibros" affectionately, among fans). Shockingly, this was a very amusing comedy and nothing at all like what I thought it would be about based on the title. Daily Lives of High School Boys also accomplished the rare No Bad Episodes achievement. Hell, I'd even go so far as to recommend it. That's something I can't do for Symphogear.

Black Rock Shooter needed more DARK MAMIKO.

I liked Black Rock Shooter for its almost confrontational use of allegory and metaphor to illustrate the trauma of suffering teenage feelings. I don't believe I have an especially high tolerance or patience for teen angst in general, so I consider my positive overall opinion of Black Rock Shooter to be a testament to its solid, stylish execution and depiction of envy, despair, humiliation, friendship, and courage. I can see how other viewers might wildly disagree, though.

Kazuha and Amakazu
Kazuha aikidos the shit out of some deadbeat.

Detective Conan remains as good as ever. It's somewhat amazing that after more than 650 episodes it still has compelling stories about its key characters. It's also just as satisfying as ever to watch Ran and Kazuha whip the Hell out of some goob. If you're new to these wrap-ups, Detective Conan is sort of my control group of quality since it's pretty consistent and appears ready to run as long as it has to.

Guilty Crown needed more Butt OS.

Guilty Crown was all over the place this season. It's quite a mess, but was pretty entertaining in an absurd sort of way when it was about [spoilers] and [spoilers] and [spoilers!], but then it just started getting stupid. Shu as a protagonist was its biggest flaw, and things would have been so much better if Guilty Crown had killed him unexpectedly and replaced him with Ayase. For a show that I ranked number one for a large part of the season, Guilty Crown fell a long way in its inability to pull off a satisfying conclusion. It also didn't make a damn lot of sense, but a show doesn't need to make sense to be the best of the season. (See Symphogear.)

Poor Flay is just misunderstood.

The "HD" rebroadcast of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is not much different from the original. It's mostly just cropped and upscaled. I still like it, though, even if Flay's breasts are now flying out-of-control all over the OP.

That is some pretty good ramen.

I finished Thermae Romae months ago. It's a good thing it was so short, though. I can't imagine watching a full cour of it.

Miyuki and Nao
Flag of England and lance corporal rank.

It's a bit of a relief that Smile Precure! is charming. These girls can't fight worth a damn. That's kind of the trend for Pretty Cure over the last few years, though. There's not nearly enough ass kicking. I remain hopeful that Cure March will get her act together later, even if she does end up carrying the rest of the team. Notably, Nao wears combat boots and her favorite shirt appears to have lance corporal rank insignia on its sleeve and the flag of England on the breast. SHOW ME YOUR WAR FACE, CURE MARCH!

Ai is pretty awesome even though she tastes like ramen.

Amagami SS+ was a huge letdown because it retconned nearly all of the progress Potato-kun made in the first season. It would be almost inexplicable, except that I should have predicted the craven devotion to upholding the Otaku Virtues. In nearly every respect, the second season of Amagami SS is wasted potential, and a waste of time. At least Tsukasa remains the Amagami Best Girl by showing she's smart enough not to fall for stupid tricks.

Potato-kun comes for Asia's box.

High School DxD is both a disappointment and a pleasant surprise. On the one hand, it's a lot better than a trashy show like that has any right to be. On the other hand, it didn't turn out as good as it appeared it would be from the early episodes following the cookie-cutter first episode.

The best Milky Holmes II had to offer.

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes II was not nearly as good as the first season. Then again, the first season was a lot better than anyone expected it to be, so I guess it works out. Too much lard, not enough Arsène, and the only new gag I liked was Hercule turning out to be a huge pervert in secret.

Hair down > twin-tails.

Another was another letdown for me. It started off boring, got interesting, got stupid, and ended up being completely retarded. I think it tried recapture the elements that made Shiki so good, but instead of B-movie fun Another was just poorly written dreck. So many problems. There's only so much handwaving I'm willing to accept. And another thing: [SPOILERS] If everyone forgets about the dead extra person after he's killed, how do they know it's over? Wouldn't the class continue looking for the extra person until everyone was dead? In any case, it seems a lot of people who were very critical of Guilty Crown for being puerile were much more forgiving of Another despite the two shows sharing similar flaws. I took the opposite view. I dunno, maybe I liked Butt OS and wheelchair-fu more than I thought. A classroom of students too stupid to live? Not so much.

Dere-Dere Mode, activate!

Shakugan no Shana III was a lot better than Shakugan no Shana II but was still terrible. I blame J.C. Staff's persistent problems with producing compelling fight scenes. They're bad enough at it that sequences only a few seconds long routinely come out horrid. Thus, when J.C. Staff tries to drag out fight scenes over multiple episodes, the end result is disastrous.

Whatever happened to Shinobu's helmet and goggles?

Nisemonogatari is awesome if you like that SHAFTXSHINBO jive. It'll irritate the crap out of you if you have little to no patience for it, though. And let's be clear on this: Koyomi is a harem comedy protagonist. A shitty one. Also, the obsession with little sisters has got to stop. I suppose I don't "get" Japanese fetishes, but I am really tired of the imouto thing. It's basically only okay when it's like Harima + Yakumo from School Rumble (platonic friendship with the kid sister of his unrequited love). I suspect many viewers will further disagree with me here, but as much as I like Sakamoto Maaya, I believe Hirano Aya, the original voice of Shinobu (back when she didn't talk) would have been a better match. I assume Hirano Aya was replaced for reasons related to her relatively recent personal and professional problems.

I already described my problems with Suite Precure♪. I still want to know whether or not Cure Rhythm's battle costume smells like cake, though.

I dropped Moretsu Pirates because it was boring. I heard later that the show is actually about privateering, anyway.

Dated 26 March 2012: I forgot to think of a title for this Symphogear post

The only problem with Inazuma Kick is it isn't secret.

In a winter 2012 line-up crowded with disappointments, Senki Zesshou Symphogear is easily the best show of the season. I only hope the final episode will feature a secret enka weapon.

Dated 20 March 2012: Still watching Shakugan no Shana Final

Bel Peol
It kinda freaks me out that Bel Peol only closes two of her three eyes.

All these Bel Peol shots in episode 23 make me think she's either going to die or steal Shana's boyfriend before Kazumi can do it. I suppose novel-readers would know.

Dated 18 March 2012: It turns out Daily Lives of High School Boys isn't yaoi

Bungaku Shoujo
Whatever you do, don't say, "It could be worse."

I think I confused Daily Lives of High School Boys (Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou) with Kimi to Boku. I've since been told Kimi to Boku. isn't yaoi either, but my point is I wasn't watching Daily Lives of High School Boys because I thought it was boys love instead of wacky-antics comedy. As it turns out, Daily Lives of High School Boys is pretty funny, and medium wacky.

Hidenori and Bungaku Shoujo
Hidenori is a slow runner.

My favorite characters are the literature girl and Hidenori, but only when they're together. Speaking of which, Sugita Tomokazu doesn't bother acting at all when he voices Hidenori; he just goes into funny-voice mode.

Dated 11 March 2012: Smile Precure is Pretty Cure for beginners

Cure Beauty, Cure Peace, Cure Happy, Cure Sunny, and Cure March
Choosing leaders by their affiliated colors is an insane practice.

After six episodes into Smile Precure!, the introductions and basics are mostly set and viewers can probably look forward to numerous monster-of-the-week episodes as the show spoonfeeds the viewer a variety of subplots before developing the mini-boss mid-season arc in a few months' time. On the one hand, it's good that Smile Precure! got all five Cures established in only five episodes, but there is definitely a by-the-numbers feel to the entire process thus far. It is quite obvious nothing has gone at them at full speed yet. The first three episodes in particular took things very slowly, carefully explaining each new Cure's powers and expectations during linear, lackluster fights. There was a lot of standing around as each new girl found her footing, tried a practice shot, miffed, and then took a mulligan as teammates and villains patiently waited for the rookie Cure to get her act together and try again. This is basically the opposite approach from the near-hazing trial-by-fire Cure Blossom and Cure Marine received in the second Precure All Stars DX2 movie where they were thrown completely in over their heads, floundering though one predicament after another as more experienced and capable mahou shoujo bailed them out time and again.

Miyuki loses sight of the mission.

I'm exaggerating here regarding the easy time the Smile Precure! villains are giving the new girls, but only slightly. Both Cure Happy and Cure Peace are dojikkos, and at least one is a dojikko even as a Cure. They are further hamstrung by being restricted from using their special attacks more than once per episode. They also miss a lot. It appears Smile Precure! is downplaying the franchise's focus on fighting, but that also makes the weekly fights comical affairs. I thought Wester and Souler from Fresh Pretty Cure were slackers. Man, those two would be employees of the month on the Smile staff. The Smile villains don't make any effort to defeat Pretty Cure at all.

Cure Sunny, Cure March, Cure Happy, Cure Peace, and Cure Beauty
The name of the game is "Sucker Punch."

I also believe this is the most otaku-friendly iteration of Pretty Cure so far, exceeding even Heartcatch Precure! and Fresh Pretty Cure. Possibly this is due to the blatant moéification of Cure Peace, who is basically Cure Pine except without the confidence or competence. Frankly, I hope this "cute," meek, harmlessness of hers is a short phase, because she's the next Cure Blossom and Cure Rhythm, only worse. Personally, I believe a show with children as its primary demographic—and young girls in particular—should make its potential role models confident, strong, capable, and determined.

Reika, Yayoi, Miyuki, Akane, and Nao
Well, everyone else is using this screenshot too.

Thankfully, despite the aforementioned aspects that I dislike, Smile Precure! as a whole is quite good, with ample charisma among its engaging characters (despite my personal disdain for dojikkos) and a helping of the camaraderie that made Yes! Pretty Cure 5 so much fun. Probably largely thanks to the dumbed down fights and junior varsity coaching by Candy on the sidelines, Smile Precure! gets my vote so far as the most accessible "starter" Pretty Cure series that anyone new to the franchise—regardless of age—can approach and understand and appreciate without effort. It's not good at all with regard to the Pretty Cure aspects that I care most about, but it's a good show nonetheless.