The recent airing of the second series of Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls poses the question of why the stylish but lacklustre first season was deemed worthy of a sequel, but also conjures up the spirit of genre stalwarts such as the long running Sekirei and Ikkitousen franchises - each series with a more ridiculous alliterative subtitle than the last - as well as one-offs such as Tenjho Tenge. The specific taxonomy of these series is usually spread between "fantasy", "martial arts" and the all-encompassing "fan service" categories, but works equally well as just "fighting fanservice" (FF).
smutty, double-X chromosome fighting still sells
With a few exceptions, the entire point of these series is to group voluptuous girls together so they can beat seven shades of tar out of one another, usually with disastrous consequences for their clothing and decency. Twice tickling the lizard brain for those who are titillated by such things then: violence and sex. Tweak the variables from breasts to blood though and you have horror (see Blood-C, Elfen Lied, Ga-Rei Zero etc.). Catering to base desires though doesn't leave a lot of room for story or character development with many of the plot lines and episodic stories simplistic even if they were in a children's Saturday morning cartoon and utterly worthless for anything other than hurtling the cast from one arena to the next.
I'm on a quest to understand exactly why I like the anime that I do. It's relatively easy to enumerate which ones I like more than others, MyAnimeList exists more-or-less exactly for this purpose, but that doesn't really explore what makes a show excellent beyond an attempt to pattern-match (studio, release year etc.) or to compare with others to find compatibility and recommendations.
...finding interest in the mundane or levity in the absurd.
Teasing an answer more meaningful than "I just do" means examining constituents, and for varying reasons - my continual battle to write creative fiction one - characters, specifically protagonists, stand more prominently than others. To enumerate all the different archetypes would be folly and missing the point: great protagonists - great characters - transcend the clichés imposed upon them by genre or circumstance. All too often though anime lets the archetypes rule - why else would there be the existence of shortcut words like "tsundere"?
A lot of anime deal with identity, but in different ways: whether it is the all-encompassing, driving force behind the movie and series extravaganzas that are Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion or as an undercurrent to more prevalent themes like with Guts in Berserk or Faye in Cowboy Bebop, it is fair to say that many different anime use identity as at least part of their narrative thrust. Even looking at disparate, popular shows like Bleach and Naruto reveals a simplistic version of the theme with the push to become strong and protect - a topic that is an essay in itself. It's only when investigating beyond the obvious that it becomes apparent identity is prevalent in so many different genres of anime that it begins to reflect how they were conceived and upon the creators themselves.
how flippantly cyborgs view gender when the possibility of reproduction is removed
Identity is a wide and multitudinous topic that has been researched by psychologists and philosophers alike for centuries so it's no surprise it is present in a culturally reflective medium as anime. Perhaps the most subversive and comedic is gender identity and the question of what defines gender. The earliest anime I can recall that toyed with this is Ranma ½ which had the titular protagonist switch from one gender to the other with the application of cold and hot water - it is played for laughs more than as a thoughtful treatment on the subject but the enforced gender switching is in so many other series from Kashimashi to Kämpfer that it can hardly be ignored. This is without mentioning the less extreme sex swapping with cross-dressing which has of course birthed one of the most cherished anime cultural staples: the trap.
Unimaginative. Tired. Bland. Tedious. Insipid. The list of derogatory descriptions for Kämpfer is lengthy but suffice to say the utter lack of inspiration the series demonstrates is quite staggering. Cherry picking the most aggravating elements from other shows and combining them into a thoroughly banal presentation of gender swapping and fighting females which, on the face of it, is a combination ripe for exuberance.
the proclivities of the entire school population wielding an XX chromosome seem ridiculously tame
The opening scene is enough cause for one to turn off and continue no further: a luminous red-head shooting at a fluorescent blue-haired buxom female running and darting about conspicuous trees while her clothes are seductively shredded. Were it not for the next scene, a comparative master class in introductions, the series would be starting off at the very bottom of the entertainment hill. The inaugural episodes oscillate from apathetic combat to surprisingly gratifying school humour and only seems to hit its stride in the third which introduces a plethora of débutantes eager to ravish the goofy protagonist who woke up one morning a different sex than that which he went to bed.