Kanade has prepared a special hakama for the Eastern Meijin Qualifier.

Maybe humans aren’t supposed to be perfect, but Chihayafuru clearly is. This series will go down in my book as the most solid series that I have ever seen. I have a tendency to love anime that show brilliance, even if they can be a bit uneven. I’m willing to overlook some flaws, because I tend to think of that as a sign of Art pushed to its limit. And yet here is Chihayafuru, a series that delivers a compelling viewing experience episode after episode. To me the pace has never once dragged. I have been sucked in to this show from the beginning of episode 1, and each week something remarkable is delivered. My only concern is that this wonderful experience will end.

Now, I’m not saying that Chihayafuru is the most mind-blowing show I have ever seen. I still have a soft spot for shows like Mawaru PenguinDrum and Tatami Galaxy that delight with crazy ideas, even if there are times when they go a bit off the rails. Instead Chihayafuru is consistent — the amazing part is that it is so consistently GOOD.

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Kanade struggles to keep Chihaya focussed on something other than Karuta.

Another episode that demonstrates why Chihayafuru is the best show of 2012 so far. It made great use of the various characters it had already introduced. It showed a different side to characters we already know and love. It showed growth in certain characters, and contrasted that with the deep-set character patterns of others. It frustrated expectations, pulled the rug out from under characters, but also showed them triumphing in unexpected ways. And of course there is the ever ambiguous love triangle.

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Cross-view of the bridge of the space pirate ship, Bentenmaru.

Episode 7 of Mouretsu Pirates (AKA Ferocious Pirates, AKA Bodacious Space Pirates, AKA …) has two main threads, in one Captain Marika Katou’s struggle to be good at a bit too much is explored, in the second a routine pirate job ends up with unexpected consequences. Since this is only the second episode in which we have seen the Bentenmaru in action, I’ll also have something to say about ship duties.

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Futball, Soccer, you've got the idea.

Knight in the Area (Area no Kishi) has developed pretty much as I predicted in my taste test post; the original author, Tadashi Agi is far more interested in plot (event) than he is in characters or interpersonal dynamics. As a result this series can be quite exciting. For those who get most of their enjoyment from getting to know the characters in a show, this probably isn’t for you, because the characters are really character concepts that we never will dig into. However this show always manages to pull some crazy twist (event) out of nowhere, and so I find it a fun show to watch. I’ll explain what I mean about this being an event-focussed show after the jump.

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Ririchiyo Shirakiin (me of the title) and Soushi Miketsukami (the dog).

This article is a three episode taste test of Inu X Boku (The Dog and Me), a Winter 2012 anime series. I had been interested in this series since Sapphire Pyro wrote about the manga series. On the other hand I was a little unsure because a series about a tiny tsundere who treats the main male character as a dog just doesn’t seem as fresh as it once did. I am happy to say that, based upon the first three episodes, This series has a couple of very positive things going for it. First, Ririchiyo, the main character, isn’t “just” a tsundere. She is quite compelling and believable as a human being. Second, it is the kind of love story that has gravitas. I’ll describe the show in more detail, including both of these points, in the article below the jump.

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Formal wear for pirates in mourning.

Bodacious Space Pirates (Mouretsu Pirates) was the series I was most looking forward to of the new shows to air in Winter 2012. I am very pleased to see that it has met my expectations. This show has done several things right so far. First, the setting is very interesting; it has the feel of being an advanced space-faring society without being unintelligible, full of magical pseudo-science, or cold. Second, the story, so far, has been far from predictable. And finally, though the cast does feature a lot of female characters, and thus some portions of the show could be categorized as moe, this is not a fan-service show. I’ll discuss these topics more below the jump.

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Aizawa brothers Suguru and Kakeru. Both are on the Soccer team, but in different ways.

This article gives my first impression of Knight in the Area (Area no Kishi) based on episodes 1 through 3. The story is about a boy who is overshadowed by his brother, the Soccer team’s ace. Due to circumstances he is forced to step up and become a great player. Now some people dislike sports shows in general; this show is about Soccer (aka Football), so I don’t expect it to appeal to everybody. I also have one major concern about the source material.

To get to the point, this show hasn’t proven itself yet, although I think it is possible that it will turn out to be a decent watch for some viewers. Despite it’s flaws, Knight in the Area is an interesting show, and I am interested in seeing what Tadashi Agi has in store for us. I’m not a huge sports fan, but I’m not a huge war fan either, and I’ll watch shows about soldiers. The big question is, will this show have a compelling story to tell?

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The glory of ancient Rome is only part of the story.

Thermae Romae is already half over. This review is based on viewing the first three episodes. Behold the story of Lucius, a Roman architect, who finds inspiration in the most unusual of ways: via a hot tub time machine. This short series is entertaining in a low-key way. For the most part the humor is found in looking at ordinary Japanese customs from the perspective of a stranger.

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Though simple, the artwork in this series is surprisingly good.

With a new season started, I have been trying out the first episodes of various shows. For the most part I haven’t seen anything worth keeping, with one possible exception. I’ve watched the New Prince of Tennis, Recorder to Randsell, Kill Me Baby, High School DxD, and Senki Zesshou Symphogear, and IMO none of them is worth even a taste test review. Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki (Poyopoyo Observation Diary), however, surprised me. Poyo (Fluffy) is the name of an “totally round” cat, and the show is really just a short (3 minutes) series of gags about Poyo and the Sato family that took him in. While the humor was amusing, it was the artwork that impressed me the most.

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Marika Kato of Mouretsu Space Pirates.

In all honesty, the up-coming Winter 2012 season hasn’t grabbed my attention. Typically by now I would be looking forward to some show, and this post would be about those few shows that really caught my eye. I usually link to other bloggers who do a fine job of providing the comprehensive picture. You can check out the following guides that will provide synopses and possibly trailers for just about every new show of the season:

  • Hanners provides his usual round-up with succinct comments on each new series.
  • Psgels organizes the shows by his own subjective “potential” rating, and points out the positives and the negatives.
  • Sapphire Pyro has a less comprehensive view, but she reads a lot of manga, so her opinions on a show’s potential are quite useful.
  • Caraniel takes the comprehensive route, but doesn’t mince words when sharing her point of view.

There are probably a lot of other worthy season previews that have already come out, or will shortly. Sadly, regardless of which one I read, I can’t shake the feeling that this season doesn’t have an awesome show that I am ready to commit to on the spot. Nevertheless I present three shows after the jump that just might be worth watching.

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