krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Since the last time I looked back at the anime I've watched in a three-month span of time, I managed to transfer off rotating twelve-hour shifts at work and back on to days. When I was sent on to shift, I did wonder (among other things) how this would affect my viewing habits, but I did find ways to cope (even if I find myself a little cautious about describing them). Now, things have changed again, but I do seem to be keeping up my interest in anime.

At the start of the latest three months, I was starting into two series I just might have picked out from my "backlog" because I thought they were "necessary precursors" to other series I wanted to watch. However, they both proved interesting. Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl started off as the simple tale of a boy, a girl, another girl, and the gigantic interstellar spaceship that crashes into the boy and has to reconstitute him as a girl. However, as that character Hazumu wasn't exactly the most manly of young adults to begin with, she has no problems adapting. I suppose I can admit that at the very beginning of the series, I was most amused by the throwaway science fiction detail of "first contact" being a quite public event, but before long I was interested in the "girls' love" story promised in the subtitle, as much as I wondered if the setup was forgotten after a while, meant just to lend a distracting air of "pleasant fantasy" to the series; in fact, I had the sense Hazumu wasn't quite the character driving the love triangle. As the conclusion approached, I found myself thinking I could see the triangle resolve itself either way, even if that did make me wonder that was just a pleasant way of saying I wasn't "engaged" enough. Things seemed to wrap up, and I told myself I was fine with it... and then I realised there was still one episode to go. Supposing it amounted to a special "video-only" release, I wondered what could happen after everything was over... and then it managed to wrap things up another way, and again I told myself I was fine with that. The other series I was watching then was Strain, which I knew before opening as a "mecha" series with its most basic plot idea and character names (and, it seems, some of the very broadest outlines of their personalities and character inter-relations) taken from the sentimental English novels of Frances Hodgson Burnett. Along with that, though, references to "time dilation" and some "space academy" details early on had me thinking of the well-known and respected anime series Gunbuster, with the impression that Gunbuster somehow had an advantage not just through having been first but also an air of "self-awareness" and "not taking itself seriously." Then, I managed to shake that thought off with the feeling it was somehow "suspicious," and began to think Strain just might amount to a "pleasant surprise"; there was something about a recent series with interstellar scope that reminded me of science fiction and mecha series from decades ago. At the same time, I did have to admit that some things about Strain seemed those "recent" touches that drive the vocal subset of anime fans attached to older series to distraction; I was able to shrug those "hypothetical objections" off, but still wondered if that would be a good thing in the eyes of some.

I have been managing to keep up with "currently airing" series, very often through official online streaming, much better than I was last year (when I wasn't watching any of them at all); I suppose it's just a matter of managing to become interested in brief preview descriptions instead of hearing rumblings about a growing phenomenon but then thinking it's just too late to get started. Hearing about a series that had a Japanese girl travelling to Paris in the late 19th century was enough to get me started watching Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, and when it was licensed for official streaming that just encouraged me to keep up with it. The series did seem to keep up something of a "sure, France looks good, but Japan is a pretty good country too" theme. However, I was never quite sure I was seeing the same appealing and less appealing points to the series as other online commentators, which might be the disadvantage of keeping up with something "fresh." I also kept watching Tiger & Bunny, which pushed on to a finale but, apparently quite successful, left room for more of its own take on superheroes.

I decided it was about time to get back to rewatching series every so often, and started into the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, if only somewhat in advance of the final collection of the new anime being released. I had found the original series interesting, even if I'd heard how it managed to create its own conclusion in advance of the manga; however, dropping the manga in a fit of pique over a few panels being drawn over in the North American release left me trying to convince myself I would just have to stick with the anime. Now, I suppose, the full length of the manga has been adapted in anime form, but it still seems worth going back to the first series; both of them have their own areas of interest, as tempting as it might seem to set up a "competition" between the two over it. At the same time, I opened up a newer anime I had heard was a growing phenomenon back in the days it was being "fansubbed," only to convince myself it would be too much hassle to pick the most "correct" translation and least overdone presentation. I started into K-ON! through its "four-panel manga," but there did seem something missing from it. While the joke of the series seemed to amount to that its rock band of high school girls hardly ever got around to actually playing music, I still wanted to hear the performances I did know were here and there. There might have been another motivation for me, though, and that had to do with the indignation of certain groups of online fandom at the show. It no longer seems sufficient condemnation to mention "moe" as something bad; now, the K-ON! girls get called "moeblobs." With a sort of "I'll decide for myself, thank you very much" feeling, I started watching, but with a series where it seems you either get it or you don't, I was only able to think I was getting it. Still, it seemed pleasant and perhaps less "undemanding" than certain other recent lightning-rod series.

There was one unusual digression of sorts along the way. Hearing that a Transformers series from the 1980s shown only in Japan (even if still looked like the previous series) would be available on official DVDs over here at last, I daydreamed about being able to just walk into a store and buy a release that could be called "anime" by just about any definition; when I did see Headmasters in a store, I bought it, and when I started watching it I wound up slotting it into my anime watching habits instead of trying without much to luck to find an additional half hour here or there as with Batman: The Animated Series. That, though, left me thinking at times that I was "distracting" myself from watching "worthier" series. I had bought the first season collection of the Transformers cartoon hearing that Shout! Factory had taken out the problematic animation Rhino had managed to put into its previous release (and had to send away for a replacement disc after the last few problems were pointed out), but wound up sort of convinced the plotting wasn't very advanced; things seemed to happen just to happen. That meant I had skipped the second and third season collections, and it was easy enough at first to think "just because the dialogue is in Japanese, it's not any more 'advanced' than something scripted over here"... but somehow, the series did begin to make me daydream about how great it would have been to have got all the "Headmasters" toys back then. One thing that caught my attention was how, where the North American comics had this opening salvo of the "gimmicks" added to the later years of the toy line amount to humans (if from a different planet) cybernetically modified so their knees could bend backwards and they could transform into the heads of Transformers, perhaps the closest that franchise ever came to "piloted giant robots," in Japan the "heads" were still just small robots attaching themselves to larger bodies. (Of course, "North America has robots with on-board artificial intelligence and Japan has mecha with people inside" is something of an oversimplification.) The series did wind up with a "plot arc," although that wasn't the only thing that interested me about it.

So far as newer releases go, I did manage to watch the DVD version of the first two extended-length episodes of Gundam Unicorn, an OVA previously released on Blu-Ray. Watching them, I understood how they appeal to people with strong "nostalgia complexes" when it comes to anime, but at times I did wonder a little if, in capturing the particulars of previous Gundam series, they began to seem a little "familiar." So far as other longer works of anime go, I also took advantage of a sudden "consistency" in what evenings were open and opened my box set of the Space Battleship Yamato movies. I might have got the set in part because it felt like "making up" for having watched "fansubs" of the original television series, which are only available over here as their English dub "Star Blazers," but once I was through the first movie, put together from bits of the first series, and the second movie, which could be seen to bring an end to the story but was then "superseded" by the second series, things started getting more original. Although the space battleship Yamato invariably seems to wind up Earth's last hope, even the voyages of one spaceship do have an "epic" quality to them.

Another reason for opening the box set was finally managing to watch Thunder Sub, which often has its connections to Space Battleship Yamato pointed out in an unflattering light but which I do seem connected to through simple nostalgia. So far as other older anime series go, I was watching Aura Battler Dunbine in the past three months. It's a series by the notable Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, a "high fantasy"-flavoured mecha series with particularly "insectile" mecha designs, which might well have been the dubious reason I haven't seen the series until now. While I've heard the series mentioned in connection with the later Vision of Escaflowne so far as "high fantasy" goes, the two didn't seem that similar. In fact, at times I did amuse myself a little bit by contemplating how what seemed a relatively small number of changes might turn Dunbine into a "mere" "space opera"; the characters may carry swords, after all, but they also use handguns. At one point, an emphasis on antagonists doomed through stubbornness and children raging against their parents left me reminded of Zeta Gundam, a series I'm afraid I don't like as much as a lot of other people, but that feeling faded with time; however, a running theme of a damsel trying again and again to escape her oppressive parents but getting recaptured every time could get sort of depressing. Still, the series did seem to build to an impressive scale; I grew aware a while ago of how it's cheaper for animated series to focus on relatively small groups of characters, but Dunbine seemed to expand on that. I wound up pushing to finish the series before the end of the quarter, and didn't regret it that much. Along with it, I was also starting Kimagure Orange Road, a "love triangle" series I've heard many good things about over the years. It looks an indisputable product of the 1980s with, among other things, the voluminous hairdos of its characters, and starting into it I can see how people would lament the passing of its era... although the thought has come to me that the traits of its characters, amplified through reuse, could wind up very much like what gets complained about nowadays. There's also the odd touch that the protagonist and his family all have psychic powers; they get put to use in the story more or less every episode it seems, but I still get an odd sense of them being intended by someone or other to "distinguish" the series.

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