krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I've spent slices of this year just sort of reflecting on having watched anime for quite a while, and made a proper anniversary of it by watching several series from "decades past." Looking the other way, though, could trouble me a little. I kept having trouble finding new series streaming online (on the limited number of streaming services I do subscribe to) that sounded interesting to me; for some reason, I'm not as eager as some to play the modern game of just starting to watch everything available and pruning my viewing list mere weeks later with a shrug. With all the series I've bought over the years (and sometimes for slim enough reasons) I never lacked for things to watch anyway, but I can think that at some point the series I'm not watching now will be what's for sale.

One thing I did manage to do was get around to a few series in the streaming back catalogues that had sounded interesting but which I'd been reluctant to see straight off just because I knew they'd be sold as expensive "quasi-import" "neo-singles." Something streaming doesn't have to be bought, but I am a bit conscious by now of watching expensive series not to extract a maximum amount of enjoyment but to identify something "less than perfect," the better to suppose that for me they aren't worth "that much money" to own permanently. Your Lie in April started off with high production values for its tale of a young yet struggling pianist who meets a much freer spirit and starts trying to overcome his melodramatic past. (The free-spirited girl quotes several times from Peanuts, which does get my attention, but the quotes in the subtitles did leave me wondering about translating into a second language and then back to the original.) Getting back to playing music also meant getting into official competitions again, and there I did reflect on resemblances to "sports anime" (helped along there by the protagonists's start-of-the-series friends being on school teams). In the second half of the series impending tragedy closed in, though, and that new dose of melodrama might have got to be the necessary "bit too much" for me. I'm buying the manga the anime was based on anyway, although in not having started reading it yet I'm wondering just how the musical performances will work there.

I spent another part of October watching the horror series Another, and went to the lengths of setting down my thoughts on it right after I'd finished. I was also still watching Mazinger Z, keeping up the steady pace that finished it at last. It did build towards a climax removing a few characters on each side towards the end, but I was somewhat struck by how the last episode in the set could have been the first episode of a sequel series, with the surviving villain introducing a new and more powerful foe that requires a new and more powerful giant robot with a new pilot and new scientific genius. I don't know whether this sequel series will also become available over here, but after taking so long getting through the original piloted giant robot anime I'd be fine either way.

Along with it, I happened to take in bits of more recent anime series (and quite a few things are "more recent" than Mazinger Z, of course) by re-watching Macross Plus, the title that made joining my university's anime club a lock two decades ago, and even a selection of Robotech, the series memories and adaptations of which formed a link over the decade before I got to university. A last-second recommendation did get me watching Comet Lucifer, a giant robot anime from the current streaming season, but after two episodes that had me thinking a bit of the decade-old series Eureka Seven the third sort of grated and I dropped it then and there, which didn't help with feelings of being too picky, or tentative, for my own good at least so far as playing the modern game goes. I did at least pick up from there by watching the computer-animated, "anime-esque" RWBY's third series. By setting up a "tournament arc" it might be supposed to to set up a succession of its notable action sequences without requiring much in the way of "serious development" on either side of the action, but starting off it does seem to be agreeing with me better than its second series wound up doing. I also happened to hear its Japanese-dubbed version sold a quite reasonable number of copies compared to anything else going on sale there that week. In any case, I'd already begun watching the one series streaming that had managed to catch my attention in advance, even if it could have been more of a risk than some. The "serious" Gundam series have wound up lightning rods for fan contempt for years (even if there's at least some disagreement about just where that starts), but I might have been willing to approach Iron Blooded Orphans with a dose of "hope springs eternal." It was being written by a notable anime screenwriter, if one who seems to attract attention and criticism in equal doses, but starting off it seemed to have some definite strengths. It manages to begin on a smaller stage than some "fate of the known system" series, with the teenaged and child soldiers of a private security firm throwing out the adults who'd been planning to sacrifice them to keep escorting a young political activist from Mars to Earth. The lone Gundam of the series, distinctive in design, is impressive in action (which isn't shoehorned in every week) without being overwhelming, and the development of allies and adversaries has become pretty interesting. While I'm watching it a week behind a particular streaming service's premieres, the generally positive comments on the message board I read aren't overwhelming to catch up to for not being that many of them any more.

As I began finishing the series I was watching at the start of these three months, I moved on to new ones. After enjoying three series of Hidamari Sketch, I was ready enough to see the fourth that I bought the "DVD-only" release of Hidamari Sketch Honeycomb others were complaining about; it was at least how I'd seen the first three series before deciding to re-buy their Blu-Ray versions, unopened to this current date. Arranged in chronological order as the series just previous had been, it led up to the graduation of Sae and Hiro, the two oldest girls in the little apartment block just across from the high school for artists, and also the ones the "there's something between them" innuendo is laid on the thickest for, to the point of Sae being "the dad" of the group and Hiro being "the mom." In any case, it did get me looking ahead to the latest volume of the "Sunshine Sketch" four-panel manga, which manages to move past the major event of the graduation.

One of the lighter (quasi-)put-downs of Gundam Build Fighters was that it was "just like Angelic Layer," which reminded me I'd bought a collection of that earlier series quite a while before, long enough enough it happened to be in a visible spot on my shelves instead of tucked away in a stack of storage boxes. When the series got re-released to provoke some positive comments from people, that kept me thinking about it, and I got around to opening my earlier copy at last. I could identify it straight off as a "proxy fighting series," the proxies being elaborate mind-controlled dolls; I soon started thinking about how almost of the characters in the staged competition (the battles being enormously popular just because, of course) were female. It took a little while longer to remember there were other "fighting anime" heavy on female characters; it was just those series tended to seem pretty exploitative. Angelic Layer had a lot more "practicality" to its costumes, even some "wholesomeness" from a certain perspective. However, even as I thought of that I was also constantly confronted with the feeling the series was now just old enough to "look rather less impressive than series do now" instead of "appealingly historical"; I did wonder every so often if this feeling would have hit me had I re-watched the original animation of Gundam Seed this year. I knew Angelic Layer was based on a manga by the artistic group CLAMP (and had even seen comments the anime improved on the manga's plot a bit), but the character designs seemed "very watered down" to me; it wasn't until close to the end of the series that I did start happening to think there might be compensation in the battle animation being very fluid. In any case, there were some interesting storytelling compensations as well.

I managed to watch a good part of the short works in the "Japan Animator Expo" online series, some of which may seem slighter or even more "conventional" than others but which all seemed to fit a somehow surprising amount of content into their brief running times. On more ordinary lines, I watched another back-catalogue streaming title, Yuki Yuna is a Hero. I understood it to be a series inspired by the "dark magical girl" phenomenon Puella Magi Madoka Magica, just as there had been a certain number of mecha anime series from around the turn of the millennium inspired by Neon Genesis Evangelion; however, it happened that Yuki Yuna was just about as expensive to buy as Madoka Magica. It didn't take too long to decide the later series didn't have quite the same drive to its plot, variety in its visuals (although what there was did look impressive in its own way), or even a real antagonist character for the main characters to face at any point (and for all that they started as the members of a "Hero Club" devoted to helping others, with the limited presence anyone else had they seemed at times to live in a void almost as distant from other people as their colourful "battlespace"; it takes a bit of effort to try and connect this to "themes"). I was charitable enough, though, to suppose these "magical girls who find things are more troublingly complicated than they first thought" did stay friends through thick and thin, an amiable difference from something Madoka Magica might have worked at subverting before it subverted its own subversions. Yuki Yuna's conclusion did seem a bit more a matter of "doing what had been done before with that much more determination," and as one thing that had been done before was punching enemies really hard...

Without quite having planned it at first, if with a bit of a push once I'd realised I could do it, I did manage to wrap up the later series I'd been watching. That gave me time to watch some one-off works towards the very end of the year. While I might have had only the briefest success at appreciating Bodacious Space Pirates as what it was rather than what it had first seemed to be, I did take a chance on its follow-up movie when it was "fansubbed." While The Abyss of Hyperspace did seem as if it made next to no concessions to being a "standalone starting point" (save perhaps in the manga version that just happened to have been licensed over here and which I bought where I hadn't bought the original anime series itself), I was better able to think of it as set in a science fiction universe where some civility backgrounded the theatricality and brainpower might be more useful than broadsides. I also happened to watch the Wagnaria special promised at the end of the latest series, which seemed to manage to settle the very last issues being worked at when things left off.

March 2017

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