Spring/Summer 2011 Wrap-Up

Out with the old, in with the new. This weekend RABUJOI said goodbye to the last of the Summer series and Spring carryovers, with one exception, Mawaru Penguindrum, which will continue into the Fall. In all, it was a decent season, with lots of variety. We love the sense of completeness that comes with wrapping up a season – two in this case. Here’s a list of who won what:

• Best Overall Anime: Mawaru Penguindrum. Every episode has been excellent, in our humble opinion.

• Most Gore-tastic Series: Blood-C…the censors were awfully busy.

• Best Series Dealing With Sudden Parenthood: Usagi Drop. Really down-to-earth, heartwarming stuff.

• Best NEET Detective Series: Kami-sama no Memo-cho.

• Best Life-At-An-Inn Series: Hanasaku Iroha, which finished very strong.

• Best Telepathically-Controlled Mecha Action: Kamisama Dolls.

• Best Period Mystery/Action Series: Dantalian no Shoka.

• Best Goofy Superhero Series: Tiger & Bunny.

• Best Series Set in Paris at the Turn of the Century: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée.

• Best High School Club Series: Sket Dance.

• Best Post-Apocalyptic Series with a Number for a Name: No. 6.

• Best Shounen Series Where the Characters Were More Fun to Watch Than the Action: Ao no Exorcist.

• Best Score: (tie) Kamisama Dolls and Mawaru Penguindrum.

• Best Female Seiyu, Spring 2011: Chiaki Omigawa as Minko Tsurugi/Minchi (Hanasaku Iroha)

• Best Male Seiyu, Spring 2011: Hiroaki Hirata as Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Wild Tiger (Tiger & Bunny)

• Best Female Seiyu, Summer 2011: Marie Miyake as Ringo Oginome (Mawaru Penguindrum)

• Best Male Seiyu, Summer 2011: Hiroshi Tsuchida as Daikichi Kawachi (Usagi Drop)

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5 down, 7 to go: Current Anime Rankings as of Today

With four series completed (Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, No. 6, Tiger & Bunny, and Usagi Drop) and one dropped (Morita-san wa Mukuchi), we felt like now was a good time to put up part of the new RABUJOI Big Board and see where things stand with seven series left to wrap up for Spring/Summer 2011:

Summer 2011

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

Mawaru Penguindrum 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4.000
Kamisama Dolls 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 3 3.636
Usagi Drop 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3.636
Blood-C 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.600
Kami-sama no Memo-cho 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 3.591
Dantalian no Shoka 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 4 3.5 3.500
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.292
No. 6 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 2.5 2.5 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3.136
Morita-san wa Mukuchi 2.5 2 2 2 2.5 2 2 2 2.125

Weekly Average 3.6 3.4 3.4 3.3 3.4 3.3 3.3 3.2 3.6 3.6 3.2 3.5 0.0 3.391

Spring 2011 Carryovers

Episode # : 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 AVG

Hanasaku Iroha (second half) 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 3.583
Tiger & Bunny (second half) 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.375
Ao no Exorcist (second half) 3 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 3 3 3 3 2.5 3.200
Sket Dance (second half) 3 3 3.5 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3 3 3.5 3.182

Weekly Average 3.3 3.4 3.6 3.6 3.4 3 3.5 3.3 3.3 3.2 4.0 0.0 0.0 3.335

Stray Observations (many with baseball references)

• Cliff Lee is a good pitcher. Mawaru Penguindrum is a good anime. These are facts. Depending on how the first half ends, we may be compelled elevate it to Favorites.

• Currently tied with the completed Usagi Drop, Kamisama Dolls will need to rally in the twelfth inning to order to claim second place.

• With some new twists that open the series wide open, Blood-C also has a chance to take second, but it will have to score 4s in its final two innings; not an easy feat.

• Memo-cho and Dantalian no Shoka are following similar paths: excellent starts, consistent standout-ness from weeks 3-7/8, and lost a little command towards the end.

• Ikoku Meiro no Croisee was a pleasant enough series, but never moving enough to score a 4. Lack of hussle?

• No. 6 suffered the same fate as Fractale, only worse: it looked good on paper: a big world, big ideas, great concepts; but not nearly enough time to realize any of it to our satisfaction. Should have been at least a 26-episode season.

• Thanks to the brief firtation with the mediocrity of the three-minute Morita-san, we have our most colorful scoreboard yet! If we remove it from the Summer watchlist, the overall season rating jumps from 3.391 to 3.549 –  a 15% rise. FYI, our average of all anime since we started rating them hovers around 3.5, ’cause if it ain’t standout, we usually won’t watch it.

• Just like its first half began, Hanasaku Iroha looks to finish strong. Just gotta wrap up the Ohana+Ko arc and a few other things.

• Ao no Exorcist…doesn’t. Apparently the anime story deviates greatly from the source manga. We don’t read source manga, so we didn’t notice, but if the manga story was better, it might have been better if they’d used that. As it is, Ao is whiffing at the off-speed stuff and late with the heat.

• We’ve stuck with Sket Dance for 26 games, but we don’t know if we’ll stay with it for all 39. Fall 2011 is a big season coming up, there may not be time. And one can’t rush a gentleman’s game. Unless you limit the amount of time a pitcher takes to come to the plate.

Usagi Drop 11 (Fin)

Daikichi and Rin deliver food to Hitani as she recovers from a bug. While wrestling with her first loose teeth, Rin and the three other kids work on their jump rope, while Daikichi mingles with Hitani and the dads. After about a year with Rin, he’s watched her grow and they’ve shared countless experiences, a lot of them cause him stress and nervousness, but he seems to be learning that comes with the job.

Daikichi’s little sister Kazumi is getting married, but isn’t so hot about having a kid soon. She likes going out and drinking and having time for herself. Daikichi used to own all of his time, too, and while it’s obvious he’s lost something in his change of lifestyle for young Rin’s sake, he’s gained a lot more. This person loves him unconditionally, and he her. He may not be a real dad, and it may have just been a year, but he’s definitely become quite good at taking care of RIn.

What has more or less been a slice-of-life series has a reserved send-off, which looks back on the development of Daikichi and Rin, and looks toward the future as she grows bigger, stronger, and brighter. Rin has definitely been one of my favorite characters this season, and one of the better-acted kids I’ve seen in anime. There’s nothing earth-shattering about this story, but that’s not the point: it’s done a good job portraying the everyday and mundane, with all the little childhood firsts sprinkled in. And certainly the only anime I can think of where a guy’s aunt is so much younger than him, he could easily be her father.


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 10

The days get chillier, and Rin gets sick with fever for the first time under Daikichi’s care, catching a stomach virus that kicks her ass. The ordeal scares the crap out of him, but Hitani is there to help him keep his cool and nurse Rin back to health. With so much proximity, the two parent-and-child pairs are starting to rely on each other more and more, making the group even more closely resemble a family.

When I was a kid, getting sick just plain sucked; enough that you can bet I didn’t care how my parents felt. In fact, I remember them staying calm most of the time, and I can recall several occasions when I thought I was getting sick but they assured me I either wasn’t or it wasn’t that bad. Of course, when I was Rin’s age, I’ll bet they were just as doting (and the same nervous wrecks) Daikichi and Hitani are here.

He knows she’ll get better; that these things happen, but there are often moments when he seems to despair. Hitani is right there to advise him though, having dealt with this kind of thing with Kouki. She proves to be an incredibly caring woman here, and it speaks volumes about how close she and Daikichi are that she knows she can show up without warning and help out. These events only reinforce my prediction that they’ll grow closer still.


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 9

Rin and Kouki’s first week of first grade is heralded by a typhoon. Daikichi confers with other married dads at work. It sounds more complicated – and it is – but it looks like the benefits outweigh the costs. When Hitani and Kouki stay for dinner, we get a ‘what if they were one big family’ scenario. The kids get along so well, as do the parents. Things seem so much easier than two people raising their kids alone…

Usagi Drops another lovely, truly heartwarming episode on us. I have to say, Daikichi should thank his lucky stars he has Rin and not Kouki as a kid. Rin is well-behaved and wise beyond her years, but Kouki is…just a typical bratty kid. He’s always loud and dirty, has to be the center of attention, and doesn’t take direction well. But Rin’s effect on (power over?) him astounds not only his teachers, but his mom too.

This episode does a good job balancing the experiences and points-of-view of the kids and the parents, and all of their interactions together were positive. Daikichi starts to get the feeling that yeah, asking Hitani out could work. All that’s really in the way is their inability to actually test that theory, which is obviously a step requiring great courage. I almost thought he was going to ask Kouki “How would you feel if Hitani and I…” but his actual question was far vaguer. Ganbatte, Daikichi!


Rating: 4

Usagi Drop 8

It’s mostly back to just Daikichi and Rin this week, as the ep opens with a typical late summer morning. Rin has started summer vacation and her birthday is imminent. O-bon is also near, so Daikichi decides they’ll take the day to visit the grave of Souichi, his grandfather; her father (and yes, she’s starting to figure out that she’s his aunt).

Meanwhile, we see a lot more Masako, who looks like she hasn’t slept in a long time. When her not-quite boyfriend tries to comfort her, calling her a girl, she spazes out; when one is a mangaka, one cannot be anything else and expect to succeed, in her mind. That includes being a girl, or a girlfriend, or a mother. It probably applies to being a daughter or sister, but the series doesn’t show her family. In any case, she’s fun to watch, as she averts her gaze and fidgets.

However, she still visits Souichi’s grave on the same day, and Daikichi eventually makes his presence known, after some rather bizarre hiding behind lampposts. He’s a little perturbed by her (at least appearing to have) a boyfriend, but still tells her Rin is with him, and welcomes her to watch from afar. Also, Daikichi, I don’t care how bright and sharp Rin is, hold the girl’s hand when you’re walking by the road!


Rating: 3.5

2011 So Far – in chart form

We like charts here on RABUJOI. This one plots the ratings of all the anime series we’ve reviewed so far in 2011. We’ve included Summer 2011 series, even though we’ve got 5-6 more weeks of episodes in those seasons. When the Summer season does conclude, we’ll update this chart.

So what do we see? Well, while we deem a 2.5 rating to be “Average”, our actual average is closer to 3.5, which we deem “Standout”. This is because there’s a lot of anime out there, but we try to only watch the best. There are exceptions, of course: the main outlier here is Morita-san wa Mukuchi, which rates just above 2 or “Mediocre” (UPDATE: As of episode 7, we’ve dropped Morita-san :P). There are a lot more series out there we’d probably rank this low or lower, but we don’t have the time or the stomachs to sit through them.

So why do we watch Morita-san wa Mukuchi? Well, it’s only three minutes long; hardly a major investment. So it isn’t that we rate high. We just watch series that regularly deserve above-average ratings. Thus when a truly brillant series comes around – like AnoHana or Mawaru Penguindrum, you’ll see a lot of 4s. At the end of the day, it’s all subjective. We also just like charts. Did we say that already?

Usagi Drop 7

The calm, placid little world of Daikichi and Rin is suddenly interrupted this week by Dai’s cousin Haruka and her loud daughter Reina. Haruka has left home, leaving her husband and his parents behind. She needs a break. She’s considering divorce. Can she and Reina stay at Dai-chan’s for a spell, onegaishimasu?

Daikichi is suitibly hospitable, and Rin and Reina continue to hit it off. Add Kouki into the mix and you’ve got quite a collection of rugrats. I love how Dai’s daily life changes when there’s suddenly two more women in the house, for a total of three. I especially like how he sheepishly explains to Yukari that Haruka “isn’t what it looks like.” He continues to tread very carefully regarding courting Yukari. Of course Haruka was the focus here, and we get a little insight into her not-so-happy marriage.

Like Dai and Rin, she’s perfectly content with just her and Reina; she sees the rest of the people in her home enemies. But after a couple days to cool down and reflect, Haruka goes back home. It’s what’s best for Reina, and even if it’s tough for her, it’s tougher still being a single parent. Dai admires the strength he sees in Haruka that he didn’t when she was a kid. Great characterization all around this week, and a bunch of funny little lines from the kids are thrown in for good measure.


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 6

Humans love mirrors, even abstract ones. Which is why Daikichi feels it isn’t quite right for Rin to plant a commemorative tree for her first day of grade school. She should have a life tree, a tree planted when she was born, so it’s the same age and grows with her. I’m not sure if this is a Japanese thing or just a family thing, but I have to say I like it. Life trees are like reverse tombstones.

Fortunately, Daikichi’s grandfather made sure one was planted, and Misaka even remembers where in the yard it’s planted. Drawing a little map like the lil’ mangaka she is was a very cute touch. Maaya Sakamoto’s warm, mellow voice is a perfect match for the character. Daikichi transplants it at his house, and all’s well with the world.

Well, except Kouki’s acting like such a boy. He almost leaves poor Rin lost in the lurch on the way to school. I do not want an episode where Rin is lost. But Daikichi’s fear of just that is constantly there, and palpable. It just means he’s becoming more and more of a real dad. Why is it watching Rin mull over the market’s choice of cereals (something she’s never tried before this week) is more interesting to me than anything happening over at No. 6?


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 5

“Am I raising Rin or is she raising me?” So asks Daikichi, in the midst of Rin, who seems wise beyond her years. The answer of course, is both. This week he decides to adopt her, which would give Rin his surname, avoiding teasing at school. But Rin declines. She doesn’t want a new name or a new father, she wants “Daikichi.”

It was her mother Misaka’s idea. Daikichi finally meets up with her in a restaurant – in a scene where cell phone lag echo is used for a little extra suspense. She is indeed quite young; her early twenties tops. She’s beautiful like Rin, but a little spacy, but logical, and fiddles with her hair constantly as she talks. She’s also ultimately selfish; having given up Rin so she could further a manga-drawing career. Unlike Daikichi, who put the welfare of his six-year-old aunt’s above that of his career.

She also went out late at night when Rin was a baby. Daikichi believes this is the cause of Rin’s nightmares and bed-wetting. Learning this upsets Misaka, and rightly so. But even if she no longer considers herself a mother, Rin will have a family, and will be loved, no matter what her name is. That’s all that matters. Really heartwarming episode.


Rating: 4

Usagi Drop 4

Daikichi is feeling more confident by the day about taking care of Rin, and not only finds his grandfather’s will, but also the phone number of Rin’s mother, Masako, gramps’ maid. We only hear two words from her at the very end, but she certainly sounds quite young. Watching what a bright and beautiful girl Rin is and how brightly she could shine in the future, Daikichi can’t help but be angry with Misako. Why did she bail? Was she not ready? Too embarassed?

There are still questions that need answering, but we do get some answers this week. Gramps obviously loved Rin, and didn’t want Misako to be ostracized either for conceiving Rin or for running away. He just wanted to make sure somebody who loved Rin would take care of her. And that’s surely the case. Daikichi may not be a parenting expert, but his heart’s in the right place and he’s committed to doing everything the right way. He isn’t going to let Rin want for anything…within reason. No lipstick yet!

Beyond the maternal drama, there’s great slice-of-life this week, as Daikichi learns the benefits of having a kid – you tend to meet other parents, some of whom may also be single, and attractive, in the case of Rin’s friend Kouki’s mother. And everything about scene when he finally goes out drinking – with Rin in tow – to a party for work. Gotou is adorable here, and the scene where she and Daikichi greet each other – both with shy children hiding between their legs – was also pretty great.


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 3

Daikichi’s name means “excellent luck”, but there are some in his life who’d consider him unlucky, suddenly having a six-year old aunt dumped in his lap to take care of. He simply can’t keep working overtime while sending Rin to the temporary nursery school; he’ll eventually burn out. So after consulting with another co-worker who is a parent, he decides to make a professional sacrifice for Rin’s sake.

This certainly means demotion, and the disappointment of his peers, but to my mind, there’s no question whether he made the right choice. By having a set time to go home, he can pick Rin up earlier and spend more time with her. She is a very good little kid, but she is having wetting problems stemming from grief over her father’s death, worry about Daikichi dying, and of course, fearing her own death. This fear trifecta is a lot for an adult, let alone a six-year-old.

I’m also glad Daikichi’s family more or less took the sticks out from up their asses and warmed up to Rin. The way they acted at her father’s funeral was inexcusable (when adults are in a bad mood, the kids feel they’re to blame), and after they spend more time with her they realize she’s not a bad kid after all. Of course, the fact remains, her mom (her father’s maid whom she hates and thus “forgot about”) is out there somewhere. But Daikichi’s actions suggest regardless of whether he finds her, he’s in for the long haul.


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 2

Oh, it’s a great show, this. Rin may be a little quiet and reflective, but she’s no problem child. Even so, a single salaryman like Daikichi finds his first days of guardianship bordering on the toughest of his life. Not bad, mind you, just tough. He has to think of everything, remember everything. He still has to go to work. And lil’ Rin has to go to school.

The closest emergency temporary nursery school he can find is not close at all. His commuting time is doubled, and since he has no car, he has to make every train and run on foot just to make it barely in time. And since he isn’t done work until after dark, Rin is the last one at her school when he picks her up. I remember waiting when I was a kid…it wasn’t fun.

Still, both members of this new family do what they have to do. Rin puts on a brave face, and Daikichi gives up drinking with friends, smoking, and just about all of his non-asleep free time. But despite the hardships, the two seem happy. Rin is enriching him by the day, and he’s giving her something no one else would: a home and love. Rating: 4