krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Looking back every three months at the anime I watched in them doesn't seem to demand remembering too many opinions, and it also happens to align with the way new series show up. Introducing one of these summaries, though, always seem to suggest saying a bit more. Some of the old standards for building an introduction around, however, weren't quite as ready to come to mind this time. If we are on a fixed track towards "paying appropriate amounts for appropriate releases on disc--don't you know things are different in Japan?", it's all happening at a comfortable remove from sight right now. As for an older concern I would set up quarter after quarter only to knock down every time, at the start of the past three months I took interest in the brief preview summaries of enough new series to start watching them through official streaming so that my "once a week" slate stayed pretty full with the series continuing from the previous season, with time left to watch some shows on disc that I'd managed to miss the first time around only to notice everyone else getting interested in, and therefore not inclined to dwell on old worries about "having to accept one day I might have to find something else to occupy my time." It therefore took a little while to get the introduction just right.

To get started, I caught up with a good many other people and opened a series I'd just received in full, Attack on Titan. A sort of comedy of errors had held me back from it up to that point. Noticing a few disdainful opinions about Kodansha Comics in general right when it had begun publishing the original manga had kept me from picking up on it until, for all that it was getting popular enough to not just shrug off, there seemed just too much of it to catch up with bit by bit and there was news of an anime adaptation anyway; when the anime started, the usual disdainful opinions about Funimation's streaming kept me from watching, and when just how big the title was getting was hinted at when Crunchyroll picked it up too, I'd started hearing disdainful opinions about how the animation kept going off-model. I waited until all of it was available on disc, apparently reanimated to greater consistency from the way it looked, and even after all the waiting I was pretty much impressed by the action and world-building; it even turned out there were still some surprises left for me in its own take on "man versus giant." I went on from the anime to the manga I'd also managed to collect while waiting; the rather rough artwork in the manga, as much as I got to wondering if that might somehow make it feel a little bit different from "generic manga style" and therefore not quite as dismissible for some of its own large audience, did leave me thinking I might even be able to read past where the anime had left off and still find things of note in a follow-up anime series beyond "surprises."

As I was getting into that series, some streaming series were continuing from the previous season even as others were getting started. Argevollen had caught my attention as a mecha series just for its somehow "old-fashioned," more ostensibly "military" setting, but as it continued the "mental control" that had seemed an ostentatious extra feature of the titular mecha turned out to have some relevance to the larger story, even if that story moved away from a "straight war story" to including backroom and boardroom scheming. It stayed, all the same, something I was willing to watch it through to the end, but there perhaps I ought to be grateful most other people whose opinions I couldn't miss weren't saying anything about it any more. Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun continued for me because I'd only started watching it late in the previous season as a "replacement"; it remained a story about someone drawing shoujo manga and the skewed perspective on his own world that provided, but just perhaps in the later episodes I became conscious of a feeling that may have bothered me with other anime comedies, the feeling that the characters are "stuck feeling unhappy" for the sake of the gags continuing as they are, without things being quite outrageous enough to keep up my attention that way. I'd decided partway into Akame ga Kill! that the high-powered fantasy action of that series appealed to me just because it couldn't be taken quite seriously, even if that does shift the risk to any particular series like that trying to feel more serious. More than that, though, just a few episodes from the end people realised it wasn't going to end with a familiar sort of "thanks for watching; please continue with the manga" non-ending (something I hadn't felt too threatened by thanks to the news the manga had been licensed), but with an "original anime ending," which just seem to be that much more controversial. I suppose the sudden sense the series had shifted into the endgame established in casual fashion in its first episodes, and the feeling it might be scratching lines off a list so fast potential impact was reduced or outright missed, could be a problem. At the same time, the other thing about the series that had caught my attention, the fact it wasn't quite just a matter of waiting to see how the main characters would escape unscathed from the latest week's crisis, left some impact. I might be lucky enough to "feel sorry" for certain fictional characters without also "feeling indignant" for them. As for the series that continued without concluding, the baseball anime Ace of the Diamond, it was indeed stepping into a pitch-by-pitch pace to present one big final game over months of real time. Just from the latest opening credits I have a suspicion or two of how the game might end, but the general structure of baseball anime series might have some influence there too.

It seemed proof that Gundam Build Fighters had indeed been a successful new twist on a much-added-to franchise when a sequel to it was announced in short order. That, though, did get me remembering other direct sequels following in rapid succession to specific Gundam series, and how they can seem the more infamously unpopular instalments, either because they manage to mess up the formula just established or, in one especially unfortunate case (that so far I haven't dared to see if there might be any particle of greater compassion towards it in my own reactions), go awry in production in just such a way as to accentuate the problems loudly proclaimed for its predecessor. I told myself that Build Fighters had managed to surprise everyone in itself, though, and picked up on Gundam Build Fighters Try. The biggest change from the previous story of building model kit variants of "Mobile Suits" from previous series seemed that the more than simulated battles the kits were then risked in now had three fighters on each side. This seemed to give that much further scope for female characters to be developed too. Their fates have long seemed among the more controversial parts of the whole franchise; Build Fighters had seemed much more positive in the end than some instalments, but there was perhaps still a bit of a sense of its female characters being condescended to when it came to building models and understanding the underlying stories. Build Fighters Try seemed... that much less condescending, anyway. As it approaches the halfway point and some of the now much more grown-up characters from the previous series are beginning to show up, it does seem to me the worst criticism that might be applied is that a successful storyline hasn't been changed too much. That this might be more than enough for some people, though, has kept me away from talkback threads. It also happened that a second series that seems connected to the franchise is also airing, Reconguista in G, one that just happens to be directed by the original series director Yoshiyuki Tomino. That Tomino is subjected to the exact same well-worn criticism hurled at George Lucas, of being the "idea guy" who ought to just hand those ideas to more competent people (who don't even have to use them), ought to be a plus for me, but since I resist that complaint in the first case it might not be as significant as it could be. In any case, although Reconguista in G wasn't being officially streamed I did manage to fall back on old and less reputable resources and see the first few episodes "fansubbed." It did seem a bit eccentric, but even so that might yet hold off the feeling of it being stuck executing an old pattern, even if there are times that's done "successfully." However, it so happened the label I settled on to provide the "fansubs" had technical difficulties three episodes in, and by the time I'd supposed that wouldn't be cleared up there seemed too many more episodes to catch up with.

I'd read the manga Parasyte, about mysterious creatures that take over people's heads and turn into mutable flesh-devouring monsters and the high school student who's lucky enough to just have his right arm turned into a similar creature, at least twice already. It might even be taken to be one more data point about how manga can go places the more expensive anime productions can't, until it got its own anime adaptation at last long years later. The first episode had only just started before I reached the charitable conclusion it wasn't "toned down too much," if much at all, from the more gruesome moments in the manga, moments I did reflect a bit on how I'd be too squeamish to watch in "live action" but which seem safely distanced in animation. I also took note of how its human lead Shinichi had been redesigned from someone "thoroughly typical" to start with to now wear glasses and look a bit more "nebbishy;" that, though, might have made his later changes as the sybiosis deepened look less a mere affectation to me. Following one reaction thread, I did note the people in it seemed to be coming to the series fresh; I kept what anticipation I could remember to myself.

Just because I don't dwell the way some people seem to on most anime protagonists coming from a narrow age range doesn't mean I don't take definite notice of those series that step even a little beyond it. That, of course, doesn't mean the series that do that will be automatic standouyts in any other way, but as I took a chance on Shirobako it soon began to capture my interest. I've noticed an "older character" or two who makes a show of being a "fan," the better perhaps to ease acceptance by certain viewers, but even better perhaps to make an anime about the making of anime itself. Shirobako starts in "safe" territory with five high school students managing to make a short animated subject (there I do remember how my parents once asked me about the activities of my university's anime club and I had to explain that no, we didn't make the stuff ourselves) and going on from there to getting into the industry in different roles. I did think a bit about two OVAs about "making anime" I've seen before, Animation Runner Kuromi, but Shirobako had that much more impact. Along with the behind-the-scenes details and the generated crises, there's also plenty of emotional coming-of-age content, including moments where the two characters who've already found work at a regular studio worry that one day computer animation will put them out of business even as the young woman who went into computer animation finds she's spent months just modeling tires and wheels. Some fans over here can dwell on reports of how the salaries in the Japanese industry are so low that only the second-rate and the obsessed appear to stay in it; Shirobako touches on this very lightly, but a moment where the animator explains she's going to the supermarket after getting together with her old friends to drink because the packaged lunches will be on sale for half price did register on me.

Once I'd finished Attack on Titan, I went on to another series a lot of other people had taken an interest in but which I'd managed to miss when it was first airing, Girls und Panzer. An episode or so in, I was able to really see the entertaining absurdity of its "a sports competition with cute girls in World War II vintage armour" premise; the thought did wind up coming to me that as a "mecha anime" viewer, "tanks" often seem the realistic rebuttal, somewhere between "unexciting" and "depressingly capable for those who refrain from suspending disbelief"; this series made them seem more fun. I went on from the original episodes to the "OVAs" that were sold over here as a unit after having been attached to the original Japanese discs, lightweight stuff with a certain amount of the most classical type of "fanservice," and on from them to a longer OVA so far only "fansubbed," which fills in a battle against flamboyant gourmet schoolgirls in Italian tanks that had been sort of skipped over in the original series.

From there, I went on to yet another series I'd picked up on the interest of everyone else for in that somehow awkward time between "just catching up to the streaming" and "waiting for the discs to be released over here," Love Live! Although aware of the recent boom in "idol group" series, the only one I'd really watched before was AKB0048, which seemed in certain significant ways an outlier. Love Live was a bit more connected to the real world, starting with a girls' high school about to be shut down and a group of students taking matters into their own hands by becoming "school idols" (idol singers, that is) to boost enrolment. As much as I was sometimes conscious a sufficiently "realistic" examination of implications could push into critical or outright dark territory, the exuberance of the series more often managed to distract me from that. There was a certain appeal to hard work and the power of friendship seeming able to solve any problem (which might have increased the impact of some late developments for me), but I did manage just a bit of "safe" analysis, reflecting on how the group winding up with nine girls (the numerical significance of this is explained in the series) gives most everyone watching it the chance to pick, or even "appropriate," a favourite character (while a certain slice of the audience has plenty of combinations when "slashing" the girls with each other...) I suppose I try to steer away from either possibility, but perhaps the thought did come to me that, in a completely non-exclusive way, the girl who wound up the comedy relief of the group also wound up appealing to me a bit more than at first glance. This had less to do with her own hairstyle and costume accessories than just with the sense she had more than one "false front" set up, as compared to a few other variations on the same theme. I was aware of the criticism of others about the long shots in the elaborate dance numbers being done with computer animation (the faces never looked quite right), but the opening and end songs wound up going from "I can take it or leave it" to "stuck in my head." There's already been a follow-up series, but at the moment I'm not quite sure whether to first watch it through the streaming back catalogue or once more wait however long for the release on disc over here.

A few series I bought on DVD (some in that interim period when Blu-Rays were starting to be sold as an option but certain reports over here left me ready to shrug them off as stuck in that same awkward stage as the earliest attempts at encoding animation on DVDs in this region) I've managed to replace with the high-definition version. The first attempt to "rewatch" one of those "upgraded" series seemed to demand something of appropriate significance, though. I settled on Clannad, which is significant enough to some but does leave me aware it's "popular" to the point where others are completely free with their criticism, squeezing it between "calculated to produce emotional response" and "adapting something just too big to summarize in an animated series." I seemed able to get back into that slice of life-magical realism-comedy-tragedy-romance series, though; as it had been three years since I'd last seen it (since then managing to sell my DVDs at an anime flea market put on by my alma mater's anime club), there were some things I was surprised to experience again (although one of those things seemed significant as something the characters in the story itself kept forgetting). I do still have the follow-up series to get to in the new year, but then there's also the successful Kickstarter campaign to officially translate the "visual novel" computer game some are smug about pointing to as "the whole story with proper explanations for everything," even if I yet have to sort out how to experience it myself.

At the end of the year, I had enough time open to watch a few standalone movies. I'd been waiting to get to The Garden of Words for a little while. It's another work by Makoto Shinkai, one I realised to be a fair bit shorter than a typical movie; that left me wondering if it was somehow a "noncommercial" work. However, its running time seemed very adequate for the story it was telling, and his command of light and landscape was as impressive as ever. I did watch a summary of all his works (all of which I've seen) included on the Blu-Ray, and happened to think the character designs in his work are perhaps overshadowed by what I've already mentioned. I then watched Paterma Inverted, of which I'd perhaps heard little more than that it was available; I added it to an order at the last moment to replace a title I was removing in unfortunate circumstances. It was clear enough it was a story about "a girl who falls up," all the way out of her underground world to where she's found clinging to a chainlink fence to stop from falling into the sky; I did, though, start to get the interesting feeling it seemed just a bit more like an adaptation of a hypothetical "young adult novel" (although a standalone one rather than the first volume in a trilogy) than the more typical "well, everyone else has characters about this age" feeling I can get and then shrug off with anime. At the same time, I did have to acknowledge Patema had a bit less freedom of action than the typical young female lead of young adult novels these days, and I did wonder about some of the subtitles looking mistimed, which had me thinking of Knights of Sidonia and possible difficulties to the otherwise generally encouraging sign of new companies getting into releasing anime. There was an impressive "sense of wonder" to the movie, all the same.

April 2017

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