krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
The year started off with troubling portents for anime fans (at least however many of them still cling to the middle ground of buying "domestic releases" in between streaming on one side and spending grand sums to import from Japan on the other, with the less reputable ways of watching anime lurking out there too) when Bandai Entertainment was shut down, Media Blasters laid off a good number of people, and Funimation sued Sentai Filmworks in connection to the "somebody ripped off somebody" tangle of the end of ADV Films. That treated me to a demonstration of how Sentai, assumed to be the innocent and put-upon party, is better-loved among anime fandom at the moment than Funimation, condemned as the greedy agressor taking on a company that doesn't take the Japanese text out of the opening and closing credits. With time, though, the worry seemed to fade somewhat. Interesting titles do continue to be licensed, and I kept watching.

I decided to start the year off by picking up an old habit of returning to a series I'd already seen and concentrating on it to the extent of watching an episode of it every day. The series my thoughts settled on was GaoGaiGar, an often-praised "giant robot" show that was the last in a series selling robot toys with a sort of "evolutionary" and "corporate" connection to Transformers. When I'd seen it before, I'd started by watching the first half of the series in single-DVD chunks, then had to wait as release plans regrouped to selling the second half in a subtitled-only box set. This time around, I was able to carry straight through with no loss of momentum, perhaps picking up on a few small things I didn't have foreknowledge of before or lost track of in the hiatus. As before, I was quite aware of how much of the action seemed to consist of stock launch sequences, stock transformation sequences, stock combination sequences, and stock attack sequences... and yet, I continued to think they were all very well-done stock sequences. With the series complete, this time I went on to its followup OVAs, GaoGaiGar Final, if through the stickier temptation of "fansubs" due to those before-mentioned sales problems. The OVAs were very slickly done, but I suppose I was conscious of comments overheard how the original series had shifted over its length from trying to sell robot toys to kids to being pitched at the older fans who were responding to it better. Where I'd first seen the earliest episodes of the series, which sometimes don't seem as popular in fan opinion, with a sort of "simulated nostalgia" able to imagine a part of myself returned to childhood and watching the best episode of Transformers ever, by the end of GaoGaiGar Final I was toying with more ambiguous thoughts about accusations of "excess" in terms of bloody, posturing violence and tight, revealing costumes for the female characters levelled at modern superhero comics...

At the start of the year, I was also continuing on through two series. Gasaraki had a sudden plot twist that seemed to hinge on climate-related crop failures. It didn't seem to have any connection to the military mecha with dark secrets under their bland exteriors, but I suppose I worry about things like that enough that all of a sudden I was caught up in imagining things like "a chilling vision of things that just might come" and "how should a person act as the world begins to end?" Then, all of a sudden, the crisis between Japan and the United States was wrapping up, and my thoughts changed to "isn't Japanese entertainment just so precious when it tries to insist its country still has unique geopolitical significance?" After that, the conspiracies and expected "mind trip" showed up again for the very last episode. I suppose I didn't rush to order the new and slightly improved re-release that had prompted me opening up my older collection, but I can still at least imagine using it to pad out an order to the free shipping threshold. Aria the Natural stayed more consistent, though. It continued to build and resolve situations around what might seem very minor things, but also managed to reach a simultaneous sense of comforting consistency and the elegaic reality of change. Perhaps as a result of that, I wasn't in a rush to get around to my final box set in the Aria series.

I admitted at the end of last year on coming smack into the dark side of following new shows weekly (almost) as they're aired when the collective message-board opinions on three of the four shows I was watching turned negative. A brave attempt to think "I'm not dropping the shows, I'm just dropping everyone else's steady complaints" lasted just until I was writing up my thoughts in the final days of the year and happened to think "maybe I will drop them anyway." That left me in a (hopefully uncharacteristic) sour mood, stuck with not just an open slate but also an unappealing, hypercritical "I'm not going to be the last to turn on these new series this time" feeling. In the end, though, that might have been a real problem with just one of the three new series I did pick up on. Bodacious Space Pirates sounded fun, and did seem smarter than first imagined, but as its young protagonist moved in a casual sort of way via a school training cruise towards inheriting the privateer (not just "pirate," the show is careful to point out) starship of her father I had the nagging sense it was taking its own deliberate time to go anywhere. She finally donned the theatrical pirate costume of the opening credits, and all of a sudden "theatre" was the point as the "space pirates" stormed luxury space liners for the amusement of the insured passengers. A bigger mission cropped up towards the midpoint of the series, but there too the cliffhangers always seemed to deflate on me. The opinions of others still seem pretty positive, but for some reason I just can't get as much into the show. As for the other two shows, though, Waiting in the Summer was promoted with creative-staff connections to shows I'd seen (Toradora!) and ones I'd only heard of some years before (Please Teacher and Please Twins, which people kept trying to find direct in-story connections to if to no apparent luck by the end). It was pleasant enough, with a group of friends setting out to make a summer movie with an old Super-8 camera and the new girl being much more than she first seemed by the end of the first episode. Rinne no Lagrange caught my attention just by being a mecha series. It had an engaging loads-of-spunk heroine (the third named Madoka I'd seen in the past year, even if one of those characters was from a series decades old) and some "interstellar" appeal for me to its science fiction elements (although what I'd thought I had to "suspend my disbelief" turned out to be something else partway through), and even as things slowed down to what some were describing as an odd "mecha meets slice of life" mood I kept enjoying it, willing to stay interested in things as simple as the show's colour scheme. I knew it was going to take a break for several months and then return; it left off with more resolution and less of a cliffhanger than I had been imagining. However, in being more open there I suppose it runs the risk of not going anywhere much further in its second half.

Watching Clannad last year, I was pleased to seem to agree with the positive comments about it I'd encountered, but there seemed higher stakes ahead in its sequel Clannad After Story. The thought that I ought not to "leave it in the middle" over Christmas holidays and the challenge of setting down thoughts made me decide to wait until the new year. When I did get around to the sequel, I had certain impressions of how it would begin, but was surprised when it picked up closer in story terms to the conclusion of the previous series than I'd imagined. Fortunately, the first episode was engaging and funny enough for me to get caught up again, and my interest kept up as it took the apparent secondary characters of the previous series and gave them the same sort of development the main characters had got before. Then, at last and in its own time, the high-school sweethearts graduated, got into the workforce, got married, and started a family. I was thoroughly into the story by this point, thinking pleasant thoughts like "I could hardly have imagined myself watching something like this when I started watching anime--but this is something you wouldn't find 'over here!'" (I suppose I did try and think of counter-examples to that, though.) At the same time, though, I suppose I could imagine claims of "emotional manipulation" being levelled at some of the show, even as I asked myself to consider if action series and the like "manipulate" their own sets of emotions. In the end, I was moved and impressed. One ambiguous note that faced me from an unexpected direction, though, was how, as in a few other cases, the other series I was watching at the same time fell in the shadows of opinion through no real fault of its own. The second Spice and Wolf series was very much the same as the first, with the bantering partnership between the merchant Lawrence and the wolf goddess Holo the appeal but the complicated money-making schemes and the attempts to recover from when they went wrong leaving me wondering about reading the translated novels the series had been made from.

I had the chance to start into "fansubs" of an antique but much-mentioned series, Aim for the Ace! After all the baseball anime I've seen, tennis is at least a change, but I suppose (in between noticing the shortcuts in the animation in keeping with a certain feeling of "old-fashioned simplicity") I had some ambiguous feelings about the heroine Hiromi being dragged into the spotlight by a coach who could see potential in her and was willing to develop it regardless of what it put her through. (I was able, though, to recall that by the mid-1980s the baseball anime Touch was perhaps starting to play with the "the harshness is just because he cares so much!" theme.) As I got further into the series, that first feeling did fade, and I think I was able to see the show as itself and not just as a "formative artifact."

Watching Aim for the Ace!, though, did at last let me see the exact series Gunbuster (the Japanese text in its title is "Aim for the Top!") was parodying in its first episodes as high school girls get coached to pilot mecha. That might have led me to get around to a Blu-Ray of the "movie compilation" I'd managed to get at a discount from an official streaming site. (There's just been a Blu-Ray box set of the full OVA series released in Japan, but thoughts of "if it includes English subtitles, I'll seriously toy with taking the plunge at last and shelling out to import it" sort of came to an end when I heard English subtitles weren't included.) As with the "movie compilation" of the later OVA series Diebuster I bought at the same time, I took note of how the first episodes were being pared down to make room for most of the final episodes with their grandiose scale. With those viewed as my beginning for "anime in (officially sold) high definition," I moved on to the Blu-ray of a more recent, standalone movie, Redline. There had been a lot of enthusiastic praise of this "ultimate futuristic racing" movie, but enough, perhaps, that I found myself annoyed by sensing a hard sell that to watch Redline was somehow to strike a blow against "modern anime." It was perhaps almost a relief to have the feeling that there was something indefinably "international" about the way the movie felt and to just take in the excessive spectacle. On moving on to a mere DVD of another recent movie, Mardock Scramble: The First Compression, though, I might have been less weighed down by the over-enthusiastic promotion of others and as a result able to just be surprised and impressed by the science fiction action. By the end of the short movie, I was at least able to remember the old days of my university's anime club and all those antique comments of imported animation being "mind-blowing"... and then the movie got to the cliff-hanger. I was left wondering whether to bear the wait for the next instalments or to turn to the manga adaptation and the original translated novel I already had.

As the first three months of the year came to a close, I started into the recent box-set re-releases of Revolutionary Girl Utena. I suppose one of my first reactions was to take note of the rhetoric about "revolutionising the world" and to wonder if it was just now that I was able to see the series as being more about setting up the relationship problems of its characters, and I think I've come to see "the exploration of character" as valid in its own way even compared to "the fate of the world." (Whether this happened before or after the first time I watched Utena I don't know, but it happened at some point.) In thinking that, though, I did have the feeling the once-outré arrangements are sort of very familiar these days. I also suppose that as I worked through the first part of the series, the suspicion of Utena being a puzzle smarter people than me can see and understand did sort of come back.

April 2019

  123 456
78 910 111213
1415 1617181920

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Apr. 18th, 2019 06:53 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios