krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
The thought does come to me every now and then that although I've watched anime for a good long while by many standards, I don't quite seem to have followed a path others seem to have and gone "beyond" it to a full connection to the "non-drawn" Japan. I do think I've picked up on and understand the everyday details casually referred to in those drawings, and yet I can wonder if, in moving beyond the idea that once seemed to pervade anime fandom over here that Japan was an utopia of interest in "drawn" stuff to an awareness that anime in particular is something of a "niche" product there too, I still haven't come to really consider that real people are involved in it over there... and I might also wonder if staying the way I am ties in some way into the comments cropping up every so often that it's an unpleasant sign of smug ignorance to say "but they don't look Japanese." In recent days, though, coverage of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis at the one plant in the area whose standby generators were swamped by the water may have rubbed my nose in the fact that the stuff I watch is a domestic product in another country. Through it, though, I suppose I have kept watching.

I started off the new year watching "fansubs" of a rather old anime series, Rose of Versailles. Based on an even more famous manga (but one that hasn't been even fully "fan-translated" yet), it's set in the leadup to the French Revolution. One of the things about this series most mentioned over the years is one of its lead characters, Oscar Francoise de Jarjayes, born a girl but raised a man by her disgruntled father and ultimately a royal guard commander. That did leave me with the strong impression the series should not be taken as an accurate portrayal of pre-Revolutionary France, but I do have to admit the casually accepted gender-bending (it occurred to me partway through the series the "conventional" way of doing things would be for Oscar to be passing herself off as a man and in constant danger of discovery; realising how the thought had taken a while to form sort of made me appreciate the casual acceptance on display), the elaborate uniforms, the sword fights, the French language, and the roses would all have been seen as influences on Revolutionary Girl Utena (or, as the "eyecatches" have it, "la filette revolutionaire Utena") by those who first saw that anime. Beyond Oscar, though (and she might even have been underplayed early on), I was sort of interested in how another main character, Marie Antoinette herself, as presented in this series struck me as "an anime character" pure and simple. While I consider myself able to move from "old" anime series to "new" ones without dismissing either, there was something a little unusual in how I reacted to the look of Rose of Versailles; I might even have thought "it looks good for its age."

After watching the first Macross Frontier movie near the end of last year, I was also able to lead off the new year by watching the movie of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, which seemed to tell a good job of retelling the story in a briefer compass but might have had the exact same "it takes a while to get to the good part of the story" feeling as everyone says the original TV series had. Later on, I was able to see Evangelion 2.0 in a movie theatre itself, but perhaps seeing three movies based in slightly varying ways on television series made me that much more eager to watch the original film Summer Wars. It might be described in part as "one more" "danger in a virtual online world" story, but I'm tempted to say it's distinguished from those other implied stories by the other part of its description, that the crisis is met by an extended family (seen at first through the eyes of someone invited to the summer get-together, although I suppose the film ends up with an "ensemble protagonist" in the form of the family) in the "real world." The movie's director Mamoru Hosoda is starting to make a name for himself; he also made "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" before, which I also found interesting but was sort of left with the awareness it seemed to be following up on a previous story. With Summer Wars, the "obscure but vital" element, a particular card game, was somehow a bit easier to just accept as a "strange family tradition." With that taken care of, though, I suppose it was back to "movies based on television series" with the Zeta Gundam movies. I'd seen them before, but the "fansubs" happened to leave one particular and rude second-person pronoun untranslated to educational yet bizarre effect. (The image should be all right but the site it's on is "Not Safe For Work.") In the end, though, I'm still not as fond of Zeta Gundam as everyone else seems to be; the movies may have compressed down a sense of events being presented as of great significance yet winding up not seeming to affect what follows and antagonists who either irk me or seem locked in doomed spirals, but also have an odd sort of "filling things in" sense to their dialogue. The movies also happen to have new animation mixed in with mid-1980s vintage footage; that new animation is very nice, but also very different in appearance from the old stuff. I suppose I can think, though, that it's at least amusing to contemplate how those who go into fainting fits over how they can't take the computer-generated effects of the Star Wars Special Editions would react to this contrast.

In a sort of indulgence, I opened up Here is Greenwood and rewatched Gunsmith Cats to commemorate their being mixed together in a memorable msting. With that taken care of, I was able to finish watching the DVDs of the second series of Gundam 00, but might have wondered a little if, where I'd been slow to warm to that series the first time around but wound up caught up in it, this time I was more impressed by the first episodes but was more just casually accepting by the end with everything known. That may be an ambiguity around "fansubs" coming to roost for me.

I can suppose that last year, though, I hadn't been keeping up with "fansubs" or even "official online streaming" to even the limited extent I'd been before, much less the way everyone else seems to. The problem always seems to be that I don't hear enough about new shows starting up to become intent on seeing them, and when there's a monster breakout in fan consciousness it seems too late to catch up, much less choose from one translation among swarms when it comes to "fansubs." This year, though, I was able to "get in on the ground floor" on not just one, nor two, but three series, hoping to follow along with the discussions of others. Fractale gave me an impression it was trying to be "respectable," to give an old-fashioned sense of not playing to the elements lots of people love to accuse as "fan pandering" even as it was set in a future where "real" and "virtual" seem to have intermingled. Its official stream also got cut off for a brief and uncertain period, in what was described as a squabble over "unauthorised translations" also continuing to exist, before managing to start up again. The only problem seems that "there's no heavier burden than a great potential"; to some the series didn't live up to some early charm in some unspecified way, and while there didn't seem anything really wrong with it for me there might not have been anything that grabbed me either. As for other new series, right at the start I might not have been expecting anything more from Infinite Stratos than "trashy good fun" given a premise that one male teenager is able to use the abbreviated "mecha musume" suits a whole school's worth of teenaged girls are training in. However, I'm not quite certain either side of the equation was quite there. Still, when it got licensed for official streaming just after starting, I kept watching, but after a while I pretty much stopped reading what other people were saying about it altogether as I tried to find what good I could in what I saw. The third new series, though, was different again, and not just because I was watching solely through "fansubs." I'd heard there was a distinguished creative crew working on Puella Magi Madoka Magica (to use the "romanised" name in the official title, although there are those who just "romanise" "Mahou Shoujo" from the Japanese itself), although I sort of had to take people's words on that. As a "magical girl" anime (if perhaps with the same potential "but it's not for the right audience!" complaint Nanoha keeps being slapped with), though, it looked interesting and distinctive from the start; the only problem in being enthusiastic about it as it developed seems to be "giving things away." Still, as talk of "subversion" and even "deconstruction" built up along with all the other commentary, I was following along with great interest... the only problem being that the broadcast broke off with the earthquake and hasn't been rescheduled yet. Suspicions seem to have shifted from "well, it wouldn't be appropriate to follow things to their conclusion now" to "they must be trying to catch up on production" (and then to a sharper suspicion about that, once more seeming to tie into things I hadn't quite followed before); exactly how things will feel once the conclusion does reach the world I don't know. Still, it was interesting enough to follow along. I suppose I did see another, rather different "magical girl" anime in Wish Upon the Pleiades, a brief online production by the animation studio Gainax funded by the auto maker Subaru, but it was such a nice-looking trifle in the end I can't say too much about it.

After much anxious waiting, I was at last able to see the third and concluding part of Dairugger XV. I had seen the episodes leading up the conclusion of "the other Voltron" long years before, but not that end itself. Beyond "nostalgia at last," though, I suppose that one particular feeling I'd had about Voltron back in the day, that it was somehow "cheating" for the fifteen planes, cars, and unidentifiable flying bricks to be broken into three teams that would always combine into three intermediate flying blocks right after launching, did get amplified into a feeling that, just as other people said, a bunch of characters kept getting shortchanged. In the end, my impression that for me what turned Dairugger into Voltron, the "it's just 'robots' getting blown up" declarations and beyond, is somehow more "objectionable" than what turned Macross into Robotech remains; the only problem might be that I do understand how that second "objection" could be stronger to others (Macross was just more "notable" than Dairugger and Golion put together; Carl Macek was a continued lightning rod for discontent the way the more anonymous people who worked on Voltron weren't; there's the impression Robotech makes it more difficult and expensive to provide conscience-encouraging recompense to the creators of Macross in Japan). I was also able to at last begin watching, if just through "fansubs," a different antique series with its own particular connection to "giant robots" on this side of the Pacific, Dougram. The reason I learned about it was that its mechanical designs were combined with those from Macross (if in a somewhat uneasy contrasting blend to me) to provide the first "BattleMechs" of Battletech. (A decade after that inception, though, there was so far as I understand a complicated scuffle over just how the rights to those designs had been acquired and they vanished from following Battletech products, leaving homebrewed works often rather less impressive to my perhaps biased eyes; now, however, the rights to Dougram's designs at least seem to have been reacquired.) I do have to admit that where Macross stands on its own for me in clean separation from Battletech's sprawling yet long-battered future (helped along, perhaps, by Robotech having been there before I started noticing the Battletech packages in hobby shops), I do keep contrasting Dougram to what was made of its designs. (However, Dougram did get tied in with "Robotech" too, back when that was just a brand name put on the boxes of model kits; its designs happened to be used in the first attempt to attach a story to that name, if one brief and obscure for what just might be good reasons.) Dougram involves just one "colony world" fighting for independence from Earth, with a handful of freedom fighters in what I first saw as "technobarbarian chic" (although everyone else is dressed more "conventionally") using a lone heroic mecha (that became just one model among the ranks in Battletech) against all the other "strangely familiar" designs. I also have to admit the show looks "rougher" to me than even others from its time, but the "grittiness" of the struggle does appeal to me where, just perhaps, the more heavily promoted (and at times outright exalted at the expense of newer anime) "grittiness" of Zeta Gundam and Armoured Trooper VOTOMS provoked irritated fault-finding. Dougram is a series of considerable length, and I perhaps do wonder how I'll continue to react to it, but for now it's interesting. I also watched the second half of Dirty Pair, although perhaps I'm now comfortable and familiar with it enough that I can't say too much more than that the experience is varied and enjoyable.

I opened up another series I had come late to, and that perhaps because of how others talked about it, in Kanon. I have the impression I've heard the phrase "sad girls in snow" provided to describe it. (It being winter might have been the particular reason I opened it when I did, but I did sort of wind up thinking it presents a very idealised form of the season, with nobody complaining about cold, dry-skinned hands or slush tracked in.) However, I've also heard it dismissed as a type example of a "moe show," and didn't take a chance on buying it until I learned it was being re-released again in a super-economy collection. After buying it, though, its direct predecessor Air was also re-released for cheap, and having heard it was better to watch Air first and then Kanon I took a while getting around to it (and then there's a show described by those open to it as even more impressive than both its predecessors that I bought first of all...) I suppose that Air did colour my first impressions of Kanon. Where Air had started folding in "magical realism" elements right from the start, Kanon, a longer series, seemed to take longer to be more than just the protagonist (if a somehow self-confident, casual, and appealing one to me) starting to hang out with a collection of teenaged girls, some of who made odd noises when flustered. Then, the encouragement of "nurturing and protective parental feelings" I had earlier concluded was the real meaning of "moe" mixed with a bit of more "romantic" overtones in a way I'd also earlier concluded would get creepy, but that wasn't a consistent theme and its one outcropping did seem to work out a bit better by the end. While Air's tragic conclusion had been at once inevitable and unexpected yet just a little obscure, Kanon's seemed more "conventional" yet satisfying. All in all, I think I could continue to handle shows like it. As for other, newer stuff, my complicated project started last year of picking "one episode from one series from each year" made me aware I hadn't started into any series released starting in 2010, and just to make everything even I took a chance on the "underwater being-out-of-water" comedy Squid Girl to find it funny, lively, and entertaining, and kept watching. Taking a different chance on an almost as recent "divine girlfriend" comedy, Kannagi, I warmed up to it even as I concluded it was a "character over plot" sort of show, and just perhaps a bit more "conventional"; as far as older comedies go I also opened up the second season of Ranma 1/2 and found it fit in well with everything else.

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