Saiunkoku Monogatari: The moment this show began I had to pause it, and find out who that reliable, resonant, deep and powerful voice was. It turns out to be Shuuichi Ikeda, the same voice actor who played the reliable, powerful, almost untouchable god-class characters of Shanks in One Piece, Kite in Hunter x Hunter, and Seijuro Hiko in Rurouni Kenshin. What a lovely voice, and they cast him so perfectly in his 'mentor' roles when he does appear. He appears this time as Shouka Kou, our heroine's father. I immediately added him to the best anime voices list. In addition, the rest of the cast is brimming over with stellar male voice actors. Hikaru Midorikawa plays Seiran Shi, our heroine's vassal. Noboyuki Hiyama plays Kouyu Li, a staffer at the palace. Tomokazu Seki plays Ryuuki Shi, our heroine's husband the Emperor. Noriaki Sugiyama plays Shourin, who apparently hasn't been introduced yet. With this much talent gathered in one place, it's no wonder the show is marvelous.
The art is brilliant, and the Chinese historical fantasy setting is absorbing. The dress style, the tea cups, the architecture, everything looks so good because of its strong, detailed premise the artist can draw from. Everything looks and sounds so good, the plot is almost irrelevant. However, as it so happens, the plot is good too. A poor but noble girl is hired as a concubine to the Emperor. The good news is he's a nice, good looking guy. The bad news is, up until now, he's never slept with a woman and is rumored to prefer boys. Not only that, but he prefers to while his time away at play and never bothers to actually govern the realm. With the fear of his evil brother using this complacency as an opportunity to usurp the throne, his advisers have hired this concubine to stir him into action again and provide an heir to the throne other than said evil brother. It sounds so historically accurate, and has such interesting characters, that I just can't wait to see what happens next. More than an anime, it almost feels like a historical drama right out of Chinese television. I can easily see this series entering my rankings in time, it's just that solid a beginning. Pass.
Mamotte! Lollipop: A shojo story where a naughty and a nice pair of male sorcerers fall from the sky into a girl's lap and immediately pledge their fealty to her, because she possesses the crystal pearl. She then hastens to beat them up, yell at them, call them liars, and otherwise act like a complete bitch. This is supposed to be a romantic comedy, but there's nothing romantic or funny about it. Every second is just tortuously bad. I hate this kind of wish fulfillment story where a girl of no worth magically gets as many great guys as she likes because of some outside trait -- like Twilight and the girl having especially scrumptious blood suddenly getting all vampires and werewolves to be her love slaves. Ugh. Romances should be based on mutual appeal for each other's unique characteristics. This kind of uneven nonsense isn't romantic at all. Fail.
Shining Tears X Wind: Another solid game series turned into a solid anime. Shiawase no Pan is also part of the shining series, but this one's quite different. Instead of a bakery at the end of the ocean, we have modern Japanese high schoolers with exceptional combat abilities teleported to a fantasy world in order to be its saviors or something. These people really had no choice in the matter, but were swept along by the machinations of various angels and demons. However, they cared very deeply about each other, and thus hit the ground running with the intention of living and returning to their homeworld. It's amazing how much better a story becomes whenever someone loves someone else. Like, it just instantly makes the series better. This is why Strike Witches is so good, all those interpersonal connections are like gold. The same is true here, as we watch Souma fight to protect his lady love, who even though she doesn't return his feelings, still thinks well of him as a friend and tries her best to assist him too. So touching! I wish all girls were that respectful towards the boys who have crushes on them. Anyway, this is a strong start to a series I had full faith in even before I began watching due to its RPG pedigree. It can join Star Ocean Ex, Tales of Eternia, and all the other anime shows about RPG's as fun adventures that guide us through memory lane for anyone who has played the game franchises before. Pass.
Sky Girls: This show is remarkably similar to Strike Witches. It just made a series of editorial choices that apparently left it the less popular show. Strike Witches simply doesn't have boys in it, whereas Sky Girls has a few here and there. Strike Witches has a lot of ecchi, whereas Sky Girls only shows a girl in her bra. Strike Witches has cooler fighting uniforms, whereas Sky Girls went with the bulkier Infinite Stratos types. Strike Witches had characters who knew each other from the beginning, whereas the Sky Girls all have to meet as strangers before their journey begins. It's a series of small distinctions but they all pile up into Strike Witches being perfect and Sky Girls being the also-ran. I have no complaints though. If this show is even half as good as Strike Witches it's a complete success. I like the art, the characters, and the plot, what we know of it so far at least. The music was also better than average. I hope to see more pretty girls and more dogfights in the sky in the future, which the title of the series promises quite openly. Pass.
Hit o Nerae!: A story about a television producer who wants to produce a detective story, but is at the bottom of the company totem pole so has to settle for a female power rangers type story instead. Honestly, I think the plot is just an excuse for a lot of ecchi scenes. But if so this was miscalculated -- the ecchi isn't that enticing or interesting, whereas the plot is actually quite good. After all I said about work being boring, I should add in an exception, work is never boring if it's about art. This is why Bakuman is so good. Art is such a wonderful world, that anyone related to it, anyone producing it, anyone singing or acting or whatever, is automatically a great subject and can be talked about indefinitely. I have full respect for artists, and therefore, anime about art can never be boring. Wondering how she'll change the script to more suit her tastes is leaving me salivating for more -- the panty shots and shower scenes I could do without. Pass.
Sola: This story looks like a visual novel, so I looked up where it came from. I was dead on, in one sense. It's by the writer of Kanon and the character designer of Da Capo, two of the finest visual novels of all time. However, they worked together to make an anime original story, which is the Sola we see before us. Their pedigree didn't let me down. The world as a whole, and especially the girls, are beautiful. In particular, the featured heroine, Matsuri Shihou, may be the best anime character design I've ever seen. The black choker, the red french beret, the small ribbon ties here and there, the long black hair, the purple eyes, the long black stockings, the small red vest over her white shirt which accentuates her waist by ending just before it, and then 'picking up' again as a red skirt on the other side. . .if you could have asked for the ideal girl, some sort of Michelangelo's chiseled form of the perfect girl, it would be her. I won't call her the most attractive girl ever, because so far her voice actress hasn't impressed me much, and her personality is still a complete unknown from just watching this first episode, so she's no match for Lafiel who has the looks, voice actress, and personality to match. But she's still a rare jewel. For her alone, just the privilege of looking at her, this series is worth watching. As for the rest, who knows. It's apparently a story about homeless girls and the photographer who meets them on the streets. Or something. I wouldn't worry too much, the plot will come to fruition eventually, clearly some time much later than episode 1. Just look at Matsuri. Pass.
Strawberry Panic: This is apparently an all-out yuri-fest with no aspirations towards anything more. Again set at an all-girls Catholic school, except this one has the innovation of being a sort of Hogwarts with three separate branches -- Griffindor, Ravenclaw and Slytherin -- I mean Le Rima, Spica, and, umm, some other name. This way the girls are all trying to one-up each other in a nationalistic combat over which school is the best, and it also means we can have three separate school uniforms, all quite pretty, flashing across the screen at all times. If you don't like yuri romance stories, or just romance stories that seem too abrupt and unearned, steer clear. But I don't mind the genre at all, I already endorsed that priestess series earlier, and Maria Holic, and Maria-sama ga Miteru, so adding a third St. Mary's Academy yuri love story on top of all the others won't make any difference. Mary Banzai. Yuri banzai. Strawberry banzai! Pass.
Tales of Eternia: 'Tales of x' is the best video game franchise of all time. As such, Tales of Eternia, the anime based on this game of the franchise, would obviously also be very good. Like Shining Wind and Star Ocean EX, you pretty much can't go wrong with a series like this. But more than the fun characters, fitting music and good action scenes, this time the voice acting really shone through. The moment this show started, I was amazed at how good all the voice actors were. Reid, Farah and Meredy were all really ear-catching from the moment they started talking. I had to pause the show and investigate just who these voice actors were, and why I hadn't noticed them before. The answer was they were a basket full of awesome. Reid Hershel is played by Akira Ishida, who also plays Athrun Zala from Gundam and Gaara from Naruto, Meredy is played by Omi Minami, who also plays Ruri Hoshino from Martian Successor Nadesico and Euphemia li Britannia from Code Geass, and Farah Oersted is played by Yuko Minaguchi, who also plays as Pan and Videl from Dragon Ball. Combining how great they were playing their roles in this show, as well as all their famous and plentiful performances in other roles, I had to upgrade all three of them to my best anime voices list immediately. Even that isn't all, because the first episode also featured Yui Horie as Corina Solgente, a beautiful bard girl they meet on their adventure. In terms of fantasy adventure, and in terms of great heretofore unknown great voice acting, the experience reminds me a lot of Prism Ark. This journey through the past is paying off in terms of voice acting scouting more than anywhere else. Getting to hear this diversity of new great talent I'd never really noticed before is so rewarding, I must have doubled the number of voice actors I admire since before I began. With yet another good Tales anime worth watching, perhaps it's time to upgrade this series onto my rankings list as well. Pass.
Tokyo Underground: Tomokazu Seki plays the male lead of this show, Rumina Asagi, both acting and looking a lot like Kenichi from Mightiest Disciple. He's always a pleasure to have around, and this time he's also got an enemy in Showtaro Morikubo, who plays as Lord Kashin. A showdown of the male voice talents it seems. This looks like another happy go lucky shonen action series, where a boy's goal in life is to protect a girl. Reminds me a bit of Flame of Recca as well as Kenichi. In any case, it seems funny and action packed, so it can't go too far wrong. If I could watch Rave for 40 episodes, this is no problem at all. Pass.
Tona-Gura!: This show isn't horrible. I kept wanting to like it. The story of childhood friends who finally reunite again after ten years, only to find out that they aren't in the same relationship as they used to be, is well done. But nothing can overcome the negatives in this show. The 'comedic' violence of the girl on the boy is bad enough, but the even worse 'comedic' sexual assault of the boy on the girl, continuously, all episode long, no matter how many times she says no and violently resists him, is just beyond the pale. I don't know why they didn't just call the cops and throw him in jail for the rest of his life for this episode. He's scum. Scum like that shouldn't be allowed to live, much less feature as a main character in a romantic comedy. The girl kept trying to forgive him for his previous sexual assaults if he would just stop already, but he wouldn't stop. He would take her forgiveness and then immediately betray her trust again, assaulting her just like previously. What a scumbag! Unforgivable. Utterly unforgivable. A girl who loved him so much, and he treats her like that. If he had just followed proper channels and confessed to her first, she wouldn't have minded any of it, but nope, he's too irresponsible to care about anything but lust, and love is the furthest thing from his mind. Scum. Scum. Scum! Fail.