krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
A year ago, back when I was just daydreaming about posting to this journal, one thought I toyed with was making use of my being an anime fan by writing about everything of that sort I had watched in 2005. Now that I want to keep up the habit of posting, I've devoted some thought to all the anime I've seen in 2006... but, at first, with an ambiguous awareness of the opportunity missed before. 2005 marked ten years since I went off to university, learned it had an anime club, and signed up at its first showing to see what I'd come to realise existed. I could have reflected on club days (not that near-stereotype of a handful of obsessed fans sitting around the clubhouse muttering, but a mass of people filling one of the largest lecture halls on campus once a month to watch in darkness), anime then and now, and the somehow surprising awareness that I'm not yet a burnt-out curmudgeon like some of the message board denizens whose ground-down opinions I perhaps shouldn't worry about as much as I do. (I can think of some reasons why my interest has endured. A certain willingness to be selective and not obsessively watch everything available balances against my generally forgiving disposition, and my interest in animation itself is pretty deep-rooted but may include interest in it as a storytelling tool. I also just may have made a significant move on from not just the old grandiose declarations of how special and different anime is from Saturday morning cartoons but also from an awareness of how it does have its own limitations. Too, a lot of the anime I watch gratifies a general interest in the fantastic that I'm not quite interested in chasing with a more conventional live-action-only diet. Beyond all of that I've wondered if part of this longevity is due to only having been able to start watching at university. It may have been just a little less "something to be outgrown"; I know I'm not as interested in some things as I was in high school...)

Then, it hit me that 2006 did mark five years since I bought a DVD player (which were transitioning at the time from something offered to videophiles to something sold for ridiculously cheap at the hardware store), started collecting discs, and transitioned into a new stage of fandom. For a simple example, a twenty-six episode series, whether sold in eight regular DVD cases or packed together into six slimline cases for a budget release, takes up much less space than the thirteen VHS tapes it might have been offered on once. The multiple language tracks of DVD also freed fans from the fear that, because dubbed anime sold for less than subtitled anime, it might one day push Japanese-language releases back out of the North American market they had taken a little time to work their way into... to let them obsess over subtler flaws in the presentation and raise a new subgroup who made a big deal of being able to import region 2 discs from Japan and watch them on modified players. As for myself, I never actually bought any new anime on VHS. That made the club showings a monthly treat even before they added Saturday screenings to Friday evenings and squeezed a fourth show into each term, but did produce kind of a "feast-or-famine" situation, one I went to slight lengths to stretch out for a while after graduation by driving back to the university and staying with friends during the shows. I can now, so I tell myself, watch what I want to, when I want to... but for all that the size of the club kept me from getting to know people at its showings, there's always something to watching something in the companionship of others. That, alas, is something I can miss nowadays.

As for 2006 by itself, I can think of some general themes. To begin with, it could be called an "old-school" year. I haven't always chased the latest thing in anime, often preordering collected sets after taking in the slow percolation of message board traffic, and a good number of my purchases have in fact been, and even continue to be, series that I saw (or only started to see) back at university. (In 2006, I watched "Revolutionary Girl Utena," a show I had skipped at the anime club showings for no better reason than to eat dinner, and found it rich with ritualistic yet somehow compelling oddity, and the "Crest of the Stars" series and sequels, which I'd seen the mere beginning of at one showing, but wound up a little ambiguous as to whether it addressed all the possibilities I saw in that beginning as I watched it anew.) All of a sudden, though, I realised that a lot of the lengthy series I was watching in 2006 dated from the 1980s or even the 1970s. ("Armored Trooper VOTOMS" dates from the early 1980s. I thought it a pretty impressive take on the "mecha" genre, but on occasion did wonder if its mecha had been scaled down to the point where they felt no different from foot soldiers, but with roller skates that cut down on animation costs. "Gatchaman," from the early 1970s, was entertaining on its own merits, although long enough that its episodes did blur together a little towards the end of the year.) What was more, the bulk of the "fansubs" (fan-made translations at the best of times very much in the shadows of ethicality) I had managed to track down and decided to keep up on during the year were from back then, too: I heard buzz about recent series of interest, but just didn't have the time to track them down. (I've been following the lengthy space opera "Legend of the Galactic Heroes" from the late 1980s, with its just as lengthy but interesting political arcs, for a while already, and started watching the second "Space Battleship Yamato" series from the late 1970s, which was as interesting in its straightforward way as the first series.) Conscious of that, I also remembered how certain fans make a big deal of having been spoiled by gritty cel animation and the storylines of a vanished time to the point where they sneer at just about every anime series produced after 1989 or earlier. (And for what it's worth, a lot of what's left from what I watched in 2006 dates from the 1990s.) That leaves me ambiguous: not only would I prefer to appreciate something for its own merits instead of how pathetic it makes something else look, I've never really thought the best way to make people expand their tastes is by insulting their current tastes. It may be, too, that when I'm promised "old-school" perfection, I come that much closer to the horrific sin of letting imagination run away to where something is condemned just for not matching airy anticipations. (There may have been just a breath of that with "VOTOMS," a touch more with "Crest of the Stars," and perhaps a significant amount with my protracted rewatching of "Zeta Gundam," which I've already muttered about at length: I had thought its story would be of a struggle more unbalanced and desperate than what I got.) Then, when faced with "old-school"-induced contempt, I can just end up with the amiable thought, "It wasn't that bad..." (Properly rewatching "Gundam Wing," made a decade after "Zeta Gundam" and set in a completely different world, I was ready to appreciate it on nothing more than a ridiculous "camp" level... and it was ridiculous at many points, but the endless convolutions of its plot were kind of fun.) Here I was, though, steeping myself in what might have led those fans to their current state... so I felt some slight relief whenever I did manage to sample some recent anime and decided I did enjoy it. (The crucial experiment may have been sampling two episodes of "Gundam Seed" once again in an odd comparison with "Robotech," a series cobbled together from some now-old anime I started appreciating well before anyone else could tell me to. Then, it hit me that not only was I watching "Fullmetal Alchemist" on TV, I was enjoying it, and as the anime block it was part of was revamped I warmed up to "Eureka 7" and got interested in "Bleach.")

Beyond what I was watching, though, there was also what I wasn't watching, and in some ways 2006 became a "year of the backlog." In years gone by, I had noticed people on some message boards talking in a half-embarrassed, half-fascinated way about just how many unopened DVDs they had piled up to watch, and felt just a little glad that I didn't buy anywhere near as many discs myself... and then, if through nothing more than a silent bargain with myself to not crunch the numbers to a conclusion that could tilt one way or another, I accepted that I had to pay customs duties on orders from a certain online store that offered big discounts on catalog stock in its sales, and started picking up some titles that I had heard about but hadn't quite got around to preordering. All of a sudden, I had often newer series waiting for after the conclusions of the long, often antique series I was working my way through. It seemed dangerous. When an episode becomes something other than its own entity, namely one more check mark on the calendar towards a conclusion that offers nothing more than the chance to tear the shrink wrap off the next box set of something I've already seen a lot of too, then "burn-out" seems to lurk... but, right at the end of the year, I managed to close off four of the long series that seemed to dominate much of my viewing during it. It may be that in 2006, I didn't quite hit the satisfied highs or the vague concluding lows that marked some of my viewing in 2005, but that doesn't seem bad in itself. As for 2007, the thought of continuing on to what's packed away is enticing; I'm far from stuck for anime that sounds interesting enough to watch in the new year yet.

April 2019

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