krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
This year will mark thirty years since I first happened on Robotech on TV and became so interested in one story (even if certain people might put quotation marks around "one") told through animation that I eventually (if not nearly as fast as some) pieced together it hadn't been just a singular achievement from a vanished time and indistinct place; it'll also be twenty years since I went off to university and started going to the anime club showings there, primed by that old interest (even if I hadn't had the cash or the courage to seek out and watch more animation from Japan in my last years at high school) and ten years since the tempo of my purchasing anime DVDs picked up to where I wasn't taking breaks in between watching series. I know there are anime fans older than I am, and certainly fans who know much more than I do, but I do still feel like there's a certain patina of experience on me by now. That longevity still surprises me at times, though, and all I can say is that I got over realising how the "limited animation" gets parcelled out among "standing around and talking," "stock sequences," and "things that do look pretty good," and then got over what a lot of other people seemed to wind up fixating on as "fixed settings" and "fixed characters," to contemplate the possibility that after everything the character styles appeal to me and that's a good part of that. I've also wondered if coasting on memories of Robotech until I got to university might have helped in its own way, too: I might have avoided the feeling that something picked up in the teenaged years would be left behind with them.

In any case, just as how five years ago I made a big project out of picking and watching "one sample episode a year" from the then not quite five-decade long history of anime on television, I had the feeling I ought to try something appropriate again. Last year I devoted a fair bit of time to watching the two series put together (if more loosely than Robotech did manage) as Voltron, but the thought of doing that with the three component series of Robotech somehow didn't grab me; it may even be I've seen Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada enough to feel familiar with them. However, knowing I had a lengthy series from the early 1970s waiting to be viewed for the first time, I wound up deciding I could watch it. From there, I began thinking of series from subsequent decades to watch as well, but I got started (after managing the brief indulgence of watching the two different English dubs of the first episode of "Macross as sold with its own name in the main title") with Mazinger Z, the original "piloted giant robot" series. After hearing about it for years, wondering just what it was actually like, and finding the first few episodes "fansubbed" only to not quite get around to them as the thought "I'll wait for just a few more" shaded into the thought "it doesn't look like whoever was translating will manage any more," Discotek/Eastern Star was keeping up its habit of releasing really notable older series. Things started off with a mad scientist (we see him in a flashback that seems to suggest that with his name and his looks, he really has no option but to become one) unleashing non-piloted giant robots (built using the lost technology of the ancient Mycenaeans, no less) against the world (with a particular emphasis on one science lab in the rural outskirts near Mount Fuji); fortunately, Doctor Kabuto has already built the giant robot Mazinger Z (I was personally pleased to hear the letter pronounced "Zed") and his grandson Koji just happens to be recruited to pilot it. That much seems familiar to this date, but I was sort of interested to see that the main female character Sayaka isn't just there to be decorative; she has her own giant robot. However, Aphrodite A wasn't built for combat, and even after the "breast missiles" get installed she still seems to fill the role of demonstrating just how dangerous the enemy robot of the week is. Even with that, though, there's an odd, refreshing quality to how Mazinger Z has to walk to get where it's going (these days mecha anime, even when they use computer animation, seem more than ready to invent ways for the mecha not to have to be animated walking), and by pacing the show out to a "weekend diversion" I'm managing to keep up my interest in it.

I kept up a much brisker pace with the other, more recent series I started watching with the beginning of the new year. Having opened up my Blu-Ray set of Clannad just before the end of the old year, I was now intent on moving on to its sequel series Clannad After Story, remembering this was where the story pushed into places beyond "high school romance" that caught up some people but left others continuing to make dark comments about "emotional manipulation" or perhaps just "vital information got left out of the adaptation." I didn't let that bother me, however, and was quite ready to interpret the show's conclusion as established beforehand, and perhaps even "not unearned"; on the way I'd had the feeling the series had kept up a brisk pace, moving on past each new thing in turn whether I might have wanted to spend a bit more time with them or not. In any case, I was also thinking ahead to when the Kickstarter-funded effort to release an official translated version of the original "visual novel" computer game would be complete, even if I'm still not quite sure just how I'll manage to play it.

With those two series under way if at different speeds, I headed on to the next "series from a decade" with Cat's Eye. I had watched this series about three sisters who make up a team of art thieves before, but it had been an almost experimental release on "officially made recordable DVDs." When the experiment didn't move on and the series was licensed again years later for release on regular DVDs, I decided I'd buy it again. It then just happened that I couldn't remember much in the way of specifics from the episodes that had followed the opening beyond that, by bringing in a collection of less honourable thieves for Cat's Eye to steal art from (by reassembling their father's collection, they'll somehow track him down), I'd been reassured the series wouldn't be just a matter of the thieves outwitting the hapless police every episode until thoughts of the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote started coming to mind; it also happened that as that part of the plot faded back, the middle sister Hitomi being the girlfriend of the young police detective always a step behind Cat's Eye had some genuine romantic content. The designs could provoke a pleasant "they sure don't make them like this any more" feeling, but it never got as overbearing for me as it seems for some, if only because the detective Toshi had a distinct "incapable of advancing the relationship the way he wants to" feeling. This time around, the second Cat's Eye series has been licensed and released, but I'm still a few episodes away from it.

It felt a bit more awkward to hit on Sailor Moon as the "series from a decade" after that. I had intended to make up for having seen it through "fansubs" by buying the official release, but the frenzy of condemnation over poor video quality in it made me cancel the sets from my order and go straight back to the fansubs I still had saved. In any case, having read the manga and only got four episodes into the new anime series much more closely adapting it, I was struck by just how much had been added to the anime, but also by how much more engaging things seemed with plenty of time to get to know what the characters seemed like. I do seem to be getting more comfortable with a series "not in my demographic," anyway.

As I was getting started with that, I was also continuing on through the series I'd been watching through official streaming at the end of last year. The push through the high school baseball playoffs in Ace of the Diamond ended in the way I'd been sort of suspecting both from who had been showing up in the opening credits and just the way high school baseball anime seem to be structured; now, the team had to start putting itself back together with the third-year students graduating (although they did get a better sendoff at the end of these three months). I had been beginning to wonder just how much further the anime could go and whether it would leave off pointing to its unlicensed-over-here manga, but it does seem it'll be moving to a different time slot and continuing.

Even though I hadn't quite dared to look at reactions to the first series until after the fact and I wasn't really bothering to try it this time around either, I did begin to get the uneasy feeling people weren't quite as enthralled with Gundam Build Fighters Try as at least some had become with its immediate predecessor. It might be for no better reason than the usual "this is a sequel and therefore we're fatigued" feeling, but I suppose I did end up contemplating how there were no "grand hidden secrets" or "characters in potential peril" this time around as the teams of three battled their way towards the championship; at times I did want to think it was refreshing complications weren't being laden on, but at other times I did wonder if the tight-knit teams of three diminished the feeling from the original of friendships being built through the mutual destruction of plastic model robots. It might begin to hint at a summation that while both series had a "final episode after the championship bout," in the original there was a sudden struggle against a threatening secret revealed that ended with at least some loss, and in the followup there was just a big fun general melee.

I also had the feeling a number of "anime weblogs" were getting jaded and disenchanted with Parasyte: The Maxim. For my own part I continued to think the manga was being adapted as well as it ever had (and even inclined to think "this isn't as good as the original" is familiar enough to be a somehow convenient condemnation), but this might open up potential criticism of late twists in the manga's tale of shapeshifting monsters taking over human heads in turn. I was at least lucky enough that one message board thread didn't seem as hostile towards the anime.

It had surprised me a bit at the end of last year that in Shirobako the animated animation studio had managed to finish the "show within a show" they'd been working on. While they had another project lined up, I did find myself wondering if it would feel like "more of the same" and "sequel fatigue" would hit within a series itself; I tried to console myself with the thought the midway point would make a good, satisfying place to stop if it had to. By starting at the beginning of production rather than just with the premiere of a first episode, though, there was plenty of new things to see; as the new "show within a show" was an adaptation of a fictional manga this time, there were further new developments and complications. More than that, though, the main characters had continued to advance until now they were in positions of some responsibility, helping out new hires as they'd been helped before. That seemed to make things much more satisfying, and there was a rare mood of almost consistent positivity towards the series in the reactions I was noticing. Whether the series was enough of a success that it'll get a sequel and have to start the high-wire act all over again is a question, but right now it amounted to a standout for me as well.

Even after my first interest had somewhat cooled and a three-month wait had ensued after that, I was at least sort of curious about how Aldnoah Zero would pick up again. As it turned out, though, its bland and thoroughly competent protagonist Inaho had survived being shot in the head and bounced back with a bionic eye, more unchallenged than ever by Martian invaders or the other ragtag Earth soldiers who now seemed just there to tell him what a swell guy he was. As much as accusations of a series "descending into self-parody" can feel overdone to me, they seemed to swim in my mind now; I wanted to watch a "palate cleanser" after that first new episode, and I thought I had it with Kantai Collection, or "KanColle" as the amusing abbreviation has it. I knew it was based on a computer game that presented a somewhat different take on "mecha musume," attractive girls with mechanical components hung off their figures; the girls in the series were supposed to represent in some fashion the ships of the Japanese navy in World War II, and sally out to sea on some sort of magical waterskis with their backpack funnels and add-on gun turrets. I was hoping it would be an "absurd situations presented with a straight face" shows. As there were a lot of ships in that navy, though, there were a lot of ship-girls, most of who seemed distinguished by some exaggerated quirk I understood from forum comments to be based on the actual ships. There was also a certain amount of "remember Pearl Harbor!" rhetoric on realising the rather more monstrous girls and other beasts they were battling at sea seemed to represent the American navy, though, and I guess that started to prey on me. It caught my attention at the end of the third episode that things wouldn't be just a consequence-free romp, but on seeing the reaction of some other people amount to disdain at the thought of that just making for an indigestible mixture with what had come before I guess I lost my nerve and stopped watching the sole new series I'd started watching streaming.

While I did dwell a bit on that, I also went straight on to opening the Blu-Ray set of Strike Witches I'd bought a while ago to go along with the Blu-Ray set of its second series I hadn't quite got around to even after enjoying the outrageous "fanservice" and other amusements of the first instalment on DVD. The Strike Witches were at least international and their own mysterious, still less personalized adversaries were located over occupied Europe (although some Germans-by-another-name were in the Witches); more than that, I hadn't become freshly offended by the "War on Pants" in the time since I'd last seen it. I did, though, find myself wondering if the fanservice wasn't that exciting in its most primal form now (even finding myself trying hard to visualise what a character or two would look like with a skirt added to her costume), remembering an impression or two that the series had at least presented some "world-building" at a time when that had seemed lacking among its contemporaneous series in the vocal opinions of certain other people; things seem to be bouncing back from whatever things were accused of being like back then. The plot that did go with everything else still kept up my interest, though, and I was at least able to start thinking ahead to its fabled follow-up again, even if I've seen diametrically opposed opinions as to how it compares to the original.

As I was working my way through all of that, though, I hadn't quite abandoned Aldnoah Zero the way some other people had. A character who'd been stuck on the side of the Martians all through its first three months, Slaine Troyard, had all of a sudden become something more than a sad sack abused, tortured, and failing at every turn until at last he'd shot Inaho to set up the cliffhanger. Now, he was launching his own schemes, and they were interesting enough that I had something to watch the series for even as Inaho started occasionally needing a little help in battle from his friends. At the close of everything, though, the final confrontation between protagonist and antagonist seemed a bit more "happening because it's supposed to happen in these things" than anything else, even if Inaho hadn't been solely or even mostly responsible for defeating all the Martians in the last battle; I'd already long since decided I wasn't going to pay the premium I was expecting to be charged to buy the series on disc, anyway.

When I finished Clannad After Story, I opened up another anime series based on a "visual novel," but with a rather different story. I knew Steins;Gate involved time travel and seemed pretty well-regarded, even if I'd taken my time getting around to opening my copy. There was enough of a foreboding feeling to the slow build of the first episodes to keep my attention, but I did find myself looking askance at some of the characters as fitting into well-worn categories such as "childish teenaged girl," "guy who looks like a girl," "unthreatening overweight sidekick," and even "prickly girl with a soft side underneath"; I found myself thinking back to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and perhaps even Bakemonogatari and impressions that a series that presents such familiar types with an air of being smart enough to "know just what it's showing" is somehow a bit more tiresome to me than a show that presents them just because that's what everything else is doing. At a certain point, though (a point I was ready to state before realising that might load too many expectations onto someone who's managed to be that much slower than me in getting around to this series), the plot and the alterations to history kicked up to another level, and I kept watching the time loops tangle and untangle with much more interest as the characters got enough development to to begin to transcend their types. With that out of the way, I had just enough time left to watch something much lighter yet still quite pleasant, a two-episode Hidamari Sketch special. I did, though, notice that just as the last full series of that title I'd seen had ended with several "getting together for a big meal" stories, this special included another example of that.

Date: 2015-04-05 02:46 am (UTC)
lovelyangel: (Konata ThumbsUp)
From: [personal profile] lovelyangel
As far as a broad sampling of anime goes, your list seems like a good variety, and most of the shows had at least some merit if not a lot. I like Shirobako and Clannad the best… with maybe Cat’s Eye coming up third. I’ve been wary about acquiring Cat’s Eye, though, as I’ve not seen the majority of episodes, and I’m worried about the Suck Fairy. However, I’ve long been of fan of Tsukasa Hojo – I have all 18 tankōbon (in Japanese) for Cat’s Eye – and a dozen tankōbon from City Hunter – not to mention a Tsukasa Hojo illustrations book.

I’ve actually not watched many of the shows on your list, although I heard that Ace of the Diamond and Parasyte: The Maxim are good. (I dropped Parasyte, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good anime – just that it wasn’t a good fit for me.) I’ve heard mixed things about Strike Witches. Gundam is Gundam, and I watch very little of that. I thought that Aldnoah.Zero and Steins;Gate were good up to a point – but they both let me down at the end.

Anyway, I think it’s cool the path you take through anime series is so independent and eclectic. As long as you have fun – that’s the most important thing.

Date: 2015-04-05 07:49 pm (UTC)
lovelyangel: (Noriko Determined)
From: [personal profile] lovelyangel
In my early days of anime back in the 1980s, there were a lot of series I loved. I liked the Cat’s Eye anime but it wasn’t a series that I had to have in my library. And although it’s a series whose ending I know about, I don’t know enough to know if it would hold my interest over 73 episodes. I guess my worry about the Suck Fairy is that I really did love Kimagure Orange Road. I have all 18 tankōbon and the full series on laserdisc and DVD. I have a framed print of Madoka by character designer Akemi Takada – not to mention a beautiful Madoka cel from the series. Yet, I found it really difficult to rewatch the first four episodes from the series – and I had to stop my planned rewatch of the entire series. Maybe there are series where you can’t go back in time. (Gunbuster, though, I can rewatch forever. Likewise, Dirty Pair.)

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