krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Three months ago, I led off my look back at the anime I'd watched in the three months previous facing the new wrinkle of the online store I'd got into the habit of ordering all my anime from having raised its free shipping threshold, and in the three months since then I may have had to face compounding consequences. It's one thing to be establishing a fresh habit of "waiting until what I want to get can meet that still higher threshold," but perhaps not pre-ordering may accentuate the deadening effect of the constant complaints on the message board I frequent about how Blu-Ray releases over here don't sound as good or look as good as releases over in Japan, or worse yet have subtitles that can't be turned off, with the blame always pinned on the companies over here for not being able to negotiate adequate terms. The line between "I'll wait," "I'll wait and see," and "I won't get it at all, then" can seem to get pretty fine. Still, I hardly lack for DVDs to open yet. There's also the small yet interesting note of this being fifty years since the first television anime series premiered in Japan, as explained through year-by-year summaries by well-known anime weblog writers (although in my case at least I've made a few discoveries).

I started off the new year opening up the original Mobile Suit Gundam, but along with that famous "beginning" I was thinking of how I'd acquired a number of sequels to series as a matter of course only for gulfs of time to wind up opening after my viewings of the originals; it seemed time to focus a little more on those follow-ups. Having heard positive comments about the animation in Jubei-chan 2 and with pleasant memories of the first "sword fighting with a 'magical girl' twist" series, I got around to the sequel. As I started into it, though, I did find myself thinking I couldn't quite remember the minor recurring characters from the original after all, and was also a little struck by how the humour seemed to get assigned to specific comedy relief characters fairly early on as the main characters got increasingly serious and even "brooding." At the same time, though, I could still agree the animation was well-done.

Perhaps still a little troubled at the thought of innocent interest in new series being streamed online running smack into swiftly souring opinions from everyone else, I started off the year thinking there were still plenty of "back-catalog" titles available on the site Crunchyroll. In the midst of contemplating series "everyone else seemed to like," though, I noticed all of the Gundam titles get pulled from it, and my attention fixed on another series that had been released over here by Bandai Entertainment, one that some people on the message board have long seemed fond of. I started off Hayate the Combat Butler, a tale of an unfortunate fellow whose bad luck turns at last when he starts working for a spoiled rich girl, with the thought of it being a "big-cast comedy," if with the more modern touch of the cast seeming to tilt very much towards cute girls (although, to my own eyes, their character designs are sort of more just adequate that way). I suppose my initial pleasant surprise was to contrast the sense the characters might have seemed a somehow familiar collection of "jerks and idiots" with the strong impression of them being quite likable. At the same time, though, I was sort of conscious the series also seemed one of those with no real end point in sight, which did leave me wondering at what point it would seem "acceptable" to get to those other series I'd also been thinking of.

There do continue to be anime titles I only begin to pay real attention to with the announcement they've been licensed over here, and with some of those titles I still can't say much more about why I'm interested in them than that other, more knowledgable people are also showing great interest. That seemed to be the case with The Garden of Sinners, which I gathered to be a series of usually short movies with a "supernatural investigation and combat" story. However, that first annoucement was in fact for a sort of more formalized importing arrangement of a limited edition Blu-Ray set at a steep price. Before I could sort through "paying so much for something I still didn't know very much about," the people who had learned things about it beforehand had bought up all the copies, and I was left to fume a bit about my separation from a hypothetical sort of "ultra-collector mentality." Eventually, though, a not quite as expensive and not quite as limited box set of DVDs was announced, and now I was ready to pay for something other people obviously valued quite a lot. From the start, I did have the distinct feeling there was something almost "old-fashioned" about the dark, brooding nature of the movies and their sullen, threatening female protagonist Shiki, something reminiscent of the OVAs and movies that were made a big deal over here once upon a time but carried off all the same with modern polish. At the same time, I was able to think back to a few other recent examples of "throwback works" and think that in this case it was nice to discover that feeling on my own instead of potentially having been hard-sold on it beforehand in a fashion putting down all recent anime. I sorted through the initially out-of-order instalments, but by the time it was all over there was a thought or two of "style over substance" in my mind; all the same, I didn't regret the experience.

For all my earlier concern, with the series I watched streaming as they aired I was perhaps getting over that troubling feeling alluded to that genres I was interested in just weren't being handled competently to begin with in the eyes of other fans. Space Brothers kept chugging along, and seems to be pushing beyond a mere "year-long" run to keep adapting the manga it's based on, although one "plot arc" involving a crisis on the moon did leave me wondering if having to invent problems in space to "keep things interesting," as some complain real world space travel isn't being sufficiently played up, can begin to stretch credulity for others. The at first cryptic extrapolations of From the New World (which made me think a bit of how a thread of "anime as foreign" has woven through the fandom over here for a long time, provoking different reactions) became a bit more familiar, and the different plot challenges came together in the end. At the same time, I did grapple a bit with how the show's female protagonist Saki seemed at times to be a "viewpoint character" to whom things were being explained for our benefit, only for some to react to this as seeing her "letting the male characters lead her around"; her not invincibly overcoming everything might in the end have made me draw back not from the show but from certain reactions to it. Perhaps, though, this might tie into a general sense of how there were no easy answers or interpretations for our benefit when it was all over, something that did add to the impact for me. As for a series I also found interesting but in a different way, hearing Vividred Operation had connections to Strike Witches got my attention, having liked that previous series more than I'd feared I'd react to it; I decided to leave Strike Witches 2 for a little later. Vividred Operation seemed at first glance to be a "magical girls" show with a distinctly science-fictional feel to the high-tech drum majorette uniforms, although the antagonist did seem more "magical" to begin with. The "fanservice," although only to be expected, didn't have quite the opaquely terrifying yet fascinating nature of Strike Witches' "War on Pants," although the characters seeming that little bit younger did provoke the feeling it was necessary to rush to the declaration of it seeming that much creepier at first, and I might have just let the "pair them off" innuendo others were fixating on wash over me. It didn't overwhelm the series in the end, though.

Managing to finish watching Mobile Suit Gundam and Jubei-chan 2 both around the same time meant I could open up two different series at once, both of them having their own peculiar reminisces of Gundam. Transformers Victory, the third of the Japanese-only Transformers series released at last over here, was promised to get back more to what people over here considered Transformers to be. However, having found the genre-blurring of Transformers Masterforce sort of interesting myself, I did find myself wondering at first if I was quite as ready to get back to robots being robots and humans tagging along more or less as mascots. As well, all of the characters (save for first one and then one four-member team of "Micromasters") were based on toys not sold over here, and that had a somehow distancing effect on me as well even if it meant there wasn't quite as much difficulty to the subtitles giving the North American names for the toys but the Japanese dialogue having different names (except for, once more, the Micromasters, who befitting their small size had "kids's voices"). Within a few episodes, though, I did seem to be getting along better with the simple attractions of the series. I've seen My Otome, along with its predecessor My-HiME, called a Gundam series in disguise being by the same animation studio and all (even if some of those who make the comparison use it as a chance to condemn the familiar targets among the larger franchise). I had wondered a bit beforehand about divergent opinions of the follow-up, and in the first episodes I could see how people could come to snap condemnations of it with its protagonist Arika (glimpsed only at the very end of the first series, I came to realise) seeming to start off with a familiar blend of simple-minded enthusiasm and ability granted by authorial fiat. My opinion did seem to keep improving, though, seeing the familiar character designs returning in a new "space fantasy" sort of setting and wondering if it could be seen as popular characters from the original getting second chances. (It also seemed encouraging I could remember so much of the original after some slight difficulties that way with Jubei-chan 2.) This time around, though, I am conscious I'm reporting on this series with some episodes left to go and an escalation from the initial easy-going terms in progress.

Crunchyroll managed to pick up one series in the midst of the past three months, a series I'd already heard about and become interested in. AKB0048 seems a member of a recent mini-genre of "idol group" series, the difference in this case being the group is set in an interstellar future and travels around giving guerrilla concerts on worlds with "entertainment bans," handling their own security by fighting off mechanized attackers in mid-song. Along with Vividred Operation, I was tempted to approve in general of absurd concepts carried off with verve, and keeping in mind that Shoji Kawamori was the series director, I saw a pleasant resemblance to Macross Frontier. As much as I approved in general terms of the series being seen through the eyes of young candidates to join the group, though, I suppose I could wonder if the whole "can I qualify, and who will I replace?" question was quite as interesting as the guerrilla concert angle. As for older series, I took special note of the first episodes of the antique "super robot" series Voltes V, and as things continued I did notice the slight increase in complexity of characterization I'd heard others mention before.

I managed to fit a few movies into my viewings. It was pleasant to be able to see the Madoka Magica movies on the big screen at a very convenient location to get to, but just perhaps I left them thinking it was also good I now didn't feel compelled to buy some hypothetical video release of movies not that different from the original series. (Of course, there's a third movie said to be arriving...) In a more conventional fashion, I watched a DVD of a movie I'd decided it was time to get around to at last after watching the original Lupin the Third series. The supplemental material for it kept mentioning The Castle of Cagliostro as the culmination of sorts of the work Hayao Miyazaki had done on Lupin; I could see that, but could also see anticipations of sorts of some of the elements of his films in the decade to follow. For all of that looking back and forward, though, the movie did stand well on its own just as had been promised, even if "standing on its own" might also describe its cheerfully chivalrous take on the master thief Lupin, one that did leave me anticipating other movies and series being released.

June 2017

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