So... in the order I watched them more or less (though there were some overlaps):
My Little Monster
Nothing supernatural in this one. It's a study of a friendship between two high school students, each intelligent but unsocialized: she’s a swot with no time for people, he’s a disaffected dropout too quick to use his fists. It’s a short series, but I got a little bored with it by the end. It's grown on me more in retrospect than it did at the time: I suspect I just wasn't in the mood.
This was (I think) the next thing Gen Urobuchi wrote after Madoka. It’s a heavily Philip K. Dick-influenced dystopian story, in which people’s propensity to commit crime is read by scanners and (if certain thresholds are crossed) they are pre-emptively locked up, or even killed, by the police. We join a new recruit to the police (naïve but the top of her class in the academy), as she works with the force’s ‘hunting dogs’, made up of those who are considered criminal in terms of their Pass but who have been offered this work rather than prison. It’s a complex story, culminating in a showdown with a complex hero/villain, who wishes to bring the pernicious system down but is happy to murder his way to that goal. Urobuchi is very free with the literary references: Gulliver’s Travels and Heart of Darkness are all namechecked by the villain, quite apart from Dick. Our naïve heroine never quite disappears from view, but the story transforms into a Death Note style game of wits between a clever supervillain and a cop-turned-hunting-dog who becomes his nemesis, two people who are much smarter than everyone else around them. I enjoyed it in Death Note and I enjoyed it here. Shame about the heroine.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
This seems at first to be a very cutesy anime, following the adventures of a young boy who has just moved to a rural village and is getting to know the (female) children at the small village school. They goof around, play games, go exploring, and all looks fairly idyllic, until - well, let's say something happens, and the story is brought to a bloody conclusion...
... only to be rebooted, with the same characters in slightly different combinations...
... and again...
... and again.
Everything revolves a local shrine, the god of which is mysterious but evidently bloodthirsty. This series ticks a lot of my boxes, with hints of The Wicker Man and even The Owl Service in its compulsive repetitions. It lacked The Wicker Man's charm, but made up for that in brutality. Not for every taste, but I enjoyed it.
This was a very enjoyable watch while it lasted, but I remember little of it. There are ghouls in Tokyo (duh), feeding on humans and feuding with each other. Our protagonist is a kind of semi-ghoul who has to deal with his own cravings for human flesh, but there are moral quandaries aplenty for everyone involved, with a side of ribs.
This is a charming slice-of-life school comedy about a group of schoolgirls. I believe it was based on a four-panel strip cartoon, and each episode is constructed from a series of brief vignettes, with only the sketchiest connecting plot very often. And that’s fine: it’s a ‘healing’ anime, apparently, intended to coax a smile and lift one’s spirits a degree or two. For me, of course, a large part of the charm lies in the fact that two of the girls are English, and so we get not only occasional glimpses of England itself (specifically Cirencester and the Cotswolds) but stumblings in both Japanese and English by people whose first language they are not.
This was the first of two animes I watched back to back with a strong Christian element. This tells the story of a pair of brothers: one hardworking, self-controlled and dutiful, the other a delinquent. Both however are (quite literally) the spawn of Satan, and have been raised since they were small babies by a powerful exorcist priest. In the opening episode, however, said priest is sucked into a hell-mouth, and the boys go off to learn exorcism – in one case through a dutiful recognition of it as his vocation, in the other driven by a desire for vengeance for his adoptive father's death against his real father - the Devil. Thereafter it’s a magical high school drama, but with demons to battle. The head teacher is called Mephistopheles, but no one seems to think this is odd...
A Certain Magical Index
One aspect of Blue Exorcist is the implication that the Catholic Church and specifically the Pope himself are in thrall to demonic powers. Here it's the Church of England that falls under suspicion. Index is an Anglican nun, whose mind has been made the repository of much magical and arcane lore, and who is consequently being chased by magicians and similar types. Unfortunately, in order to make room for the lore it was necessary to rid her of most of her common sense, which renders her rather vulnerable. She winds up in a city devoted to science, where she is befriended by yet another delinquent, in this case a boy cursed with terrible luck but blessed with a hand that can defuse any kind of magic.
This starts off intriguingly, but soon turns into a kind of harem anime in which the initial impetus of the plot is dissipated by the hero's having to sort out the various problems of other girls who run across his path. Index herself stands on the sidelines for much of the time, which is a shame. I still await the day when someone will make Pretty Petra Pope for real.
The Irregular at Magic High School
I saw this on Nextflix, where the description had it as being about the tensions between an ace student and her inadequate elder brother when they both attend magical high school. This is in fact totally wrong, since the brother - although assigned to a lower "stream" on a technicality - is super-awesome in every respect, a brilliant engineer, peerless fighter, magic user extraordinaire, etc. And the sister is (as younger sisters so often are in anime) besotted with him.
I kept waiting for something to come up that would provide a serious challenge to her 'Onii-sama', as she always addresses and refers to him, but none ever did. There are all kinds of bad types wanting to wreak havoc in the school and beyond, but the brother is always one step ahead, and defeats them easily. In fact, the show had so little tension, and so little character development, that it ought to have been dull - but when I watched it I found the predictability of his omnicompetence rather soothing, and always looked forward to it. Whether that was the intention, I've no idea.
I watched this is dribs and drabs. It's an excellent show, though, set in some nameless Edo era time (though for some reason the main character wears an open shirt and chinos), where a mushi-shi - someone gifted with the ability to see the elemental spirits of nature, and learned in their funny ways - wanders round the countryside sorting out the mushi-related ills of the people he meets. It's beautifully drawn, rather wise, and slow of pace. I don't want to see it every day, but there are days when it's just what I need.
Last time, many people suggested I try the second and third parts of Revolutionary Girl Utena, and accordingly I've got hold of part two, and have watched a few - but I'll say more about that when I've finished my current series, which has the unwieldy title Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, and shows a number of Japanese school children and their familiars fighting for ownership of the Holy Grail and, hence, the world itself.
What's not to like?