krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
With the year almost over, one part of taking a look back at all of it is thinking back over just the past three months and the anime I watched in that period. I seem to have adapted my viewing habits back to working a regular schedule, and one other thing that happened was that I bought an HDTV and a Blu-Ray player at last. It may well be that my anime-heavy viewing habits made me add that "at last," though; from the particular message boards I read, I might have formed a casual (and perhaps even now unfair) opinion of North American Blu-Ray releases of anime having intrinsic, inevitable flaws and disappointments, just as I had wondered a bit over a decade ago whether it seemed possible to make an acceptable DVD at all given the complaints of some people. Of course, the people who complain seem swift to hold up Japanese Blu-Ray discs; the problem for me there is that "official" subtitles with Japanese releases seem occasional occurrences for pricy box sets. As much as I drifted into preferring anime over domestic animation or live action TV series, it just doesn't seem to connect to the conviction it's "worth" rather a lot more (as much as the old "supply and demand" comments might be brought up), and while there does of course seem (unfortunate) proof to me that with the right equipment, software, and expertise it's possible to import a Blu-Ray from Japan and crack the subtitles out of a "fansub" to sync up with it, it still seems a complicated and expensive way to achieve moral superiority. Still, a few of the releases I've already bought have been dual-format, so there's at least a possibility already there.

I started off the past three months opening up Sound of the Sky, which I liked enough to motivate myself to make a specific post about it. I was also finishing off my return to the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime. Once upon a time, having perhaps flown off the handle over a few panels in the manga being drawn over and refusing to buy any more of the North American releases of it, I had attempted to convince myself I would just have to be content with the conclusion made up for the original anime. A later anime series somewhat relieved me of that possible burden, but I suppose I was in a contemplative and pondering mood about potential comparisons as one conclusion approached, even as I took some small amusement in things developed to great length in the manga and second anime series at least being mentioned in the final episodes of the original anime.

When the chance to dig at least a little into my "backlog" came up, I took it and opened up Spice and Wolf, a series about a travelling high-medieval merchant named Lawrence who finds an unusual travelling partner in a wolf goddess named Holo. It felt a bit different from the casual comments about "the expected," with an emphasis on complicated business deals and schemes and both Lawrence and Holo being able to draw on experience. At the same time, I suppose the fine details in the subtitles could be tricky for me to keep track of, and I remembered the novels the anime had been based on which had been translated over here and I'd bought to sit around for just as long as the anime. Another series I'd been waiting a while to open was Clannad. I knew a lot of people had been surprised and pleased to see it licensed, and I knew it was another refinement in series adapted from "dating games" I had decided to pass on earlier; however, when those previous two series Air and Kanon were re-released in super-budget versions, I wound up taking a chance on them, and getting through them delayed me getting to Clannad. Even so, though, just as I seemed to enjoy Kanon more seeing the differences between it and Air, there did indeed seem further refinements in Clannad's story structure. As much as they might seem small things keying into a sense it's hard to describe the exact plot and charm of, where Kanon had seemed an amiable fantasy of one guy getting to hang around with lots of cute girls Clannad seemed to achieve a sense of a "mixed population," getting into its obvious story sooner and avoiding any sense of one candidate after another being evaluated and then replaced while still having an overarching theme of "family." At the same time, I know the praise for Clannad ties into praise of its own followup series, but I decided to not be partway into it when writing this. Instead, I opened up the next Aria series, Aria the Natural. It started off with every sense of a reunion with good friends, and kept up its "the world is a great place" feeling, appealing and different even as I wonder if I could ever give the precise reason why there either.

Along with these cheerful and (pretty much) nonviolent series, I was also watching another "backlogged" series that brought me back to the days of my university's anime club. There, I had seen a few episodes of a series named Gasaraki, and hadn't been quite taken with it; I can remember reacting with more comfort to jaundiced reviews of the series's subsequent DVD release than to approving ones. Years later, though, I bought a boxed set of it for what I believe (or would like to believe) must have been a closeout discount more or less just to fill out an order to the free shipping threshold. On hearing the series had been "license rescued" for an impending release, though, I decided at last to give it a full chance and avoid the potential risk of buying it again unseen just because the picture would be a bit better or have a bit more Japanese text subtitled on screen. As I'd known, the series falls into the "post-Evangelion mecha" subgenre, but in this case the mysterious and ultimately threatening machines aren't enormous but instead are almost "disguised" as compact, bland-looking military machines, and the extra spice of strangeness is provided by Noh dancing. I was somewhat surprised not as much time was spent in the somewhat prescient Central Asian setting I'd kept hearing about, but the series did get to the heavily reconfigured later episodes I could also remember from the anime club sooner than I'd expected. That, though, leaves open the question of just what if anything is going to happen as the series comes to a close. I suppose I'm not quite certain yet whether I'm going to buy the new release or not.

Three-month periods have a rough correspondence to thirteen-episode series premiering over in Japan, and in the past three months I managed some sort of personal record in following four new series week by week, the majority of which through official streaming channels. However, I seemed to bump up against a particular difficulty with that. It seems to me that the real draw of watching series (almost) "as they air" is to join in a shared experience with other fans, but when the fan consensus turns negative the fun seems to vanish pretty fast. The latest Gundam series Gundam Age attracted my attention for promising a "generational saga"; as someone who got caught up at an early age in a certain show where the sweep of the generational links were worked out on this side of the Pacific (and later dismissed by some as mere impositions), it sounded sort of interesting. However, as much as that old experience gave me some "it's good to get them young" willingness to accept reports that this Gundam series was being targeted at a pre-teen audience, complaints on viewing that it was just too simplistic in tone seemed to sap my interest short of even the first generational handover. Guilty Crown looks and sounds good on the surface; the problem seems to be the characters and indeed the plot, with the young lead saddled with the ability to draw strange and unique weapons out of others dismissed as too wimpy and the female lead criticised for seeming too submissive. I seem better able to deal with that first criticism, at least, than some, but wondering if the series was at last falling into getting over its complications too well might have tripped me up there. Last Exile ~Fam the Silver Wing~, as the title suggests, is a sequel to a series some years old a lot of people seem to have high opinions of, one perhaps even "steampunk"-like if that term means anything any more. However, in the face of that original series the characters of the new one seem underdeveloped and underwhelming to many; I was able for a while to draw on how my own reactions to the original hadn't seemed quite as enthralled as some, but in the end it may not have been enough. Still, the second Squid Girl series seemed to remain acceptable to all. I have the odd feeling it's reminisceent of an animated series or perhaps even a sitcom from over here, with uncomplicated humour springing from more or less consistent characters, but it's also unmistakably set in Japan. There might have been some doses of sentimentality at points, but the series always seemed to bounce back.

As the Christmas vacation approached and thoughts of just "dropping" those ongoing series became something other than to be recoiled from, I was pushing to get through the old series Kimagure Orange Road. In its case, though, I had run across a little note in an old catalog that almost seemed to imply the draw of its "romantic triangle" was more a matter of its first half. I did find myself thinking the "romantic comedy" was becoming more just a "comedy," keeping up its amiable balance among the characters (although a balance that made me think that over here fans will go for the "more cool and mature" choice every time but it's not so simple in Japan) if making a somewhat bigger deal of the psychic powers the main character and his relatives just happen to have. I tried to draw on things I've told myself before about not confusing what you think is in a story, or what you think should be, versus what it is. Old feelings seemed to return in fits and starts towards the final episodes, though, and the conclusion was a lot more definitive than I'd been expecting given I knew there some OVAs and follow-up movies. I had also been waiting for one particular "fansub" of the second Macross Frontier movie. The first I had enjoyed, but in such a way that I had a sense it was somehow addressing what I'd sensed as common criticisms settling over the previous television series in the course of its run. That left open the thought the follow-up movie might once again dodge the relationship-resolving conclusion everyone seemed to want and leave people with that same sense of dissatisfaction all over again. After everything had settled, though, I thought that maybe we had that conclusion at last. I suppose that for my own case, I hadn't been quite as interested in one side of the triangle being picked out; I just hadn't liked the thought that the point left out would be shown as "losing." In any event, that didn't seem to have happened either. I can also admit I had the occasional feeling "this is kind of crazy" at the movie, but it was always followed up with "but it's a good kind of crazy." In the end, I was left with positive feelings, although I also wondered just what it would be like to watch the series for "proper introductions" and then the movies for a "reconfiguration."

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