krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
These regular looks back at the anime I watched in the past three months can also provoke looks forward. I don't seem to have worried for a while about "burning out" without warning to be left with shelves full of unopened regrets just as I once kept noticing other fans seeming to make a big deal of. There are certainly series due to be released I'm interested in getting, and maybe even some tentative comments from some about there being some fairly respectable series being made these days. At the same time, while there's no immediate mood of overwhelming crisis in the North American anime-releasing industry, I suppose I did get to wondering "what if there were no anime discs being released over here one day, and what if larger forces lock down the internet to the point of 'fansubs' being stamped out at last just as collateral damage, and what if I'm stuck with a pay-per-view model when it comes to online streaming short of spending large sums to import discs from Japan that only might have subtitles"... which might mean nothing more than that I can let my worries run away on me.

I mentioned three months ago that I'd started rewatching Revolutionary Girl Utena via new collections of it. As I got further into the show, continuing to tell myself I was now focusing more on the character development than on the stock-footage rituals and the rhetoric of "revolutionizing the world," the outré relationships among those characters, which I'd had the uncertain feeling the "shock value" of had blurred away over the years until same-sex attractions and sibling complexes were outright grinned at in a whole collection of series by certain fans (even as others kept getting worked up over "grotesqueness" as a selling point in anime), did wind up including something that still seemed to have transgressive qualities to finish driving the series. I also suppose I never quite shook the feeling Utena was a "puzzle box" to be cracked open by cleverer people than me, but by the time I got to the (possibly) stand-alone movie I was able to just let the spectacle wash over me. Back then, I was also well into My-HiME, but wasn't quite sure whether I wanted to set down my in-progress impressions of it, aware of a fair number of criticisms of the way it ended. I suppose that in the end, though, I had been just enough in the dark about what happened for it to be different than a "worst-case scenario" (or even a moth-eaten rabbit out of a hat), which seemed to mean I wound up all right.

So far as continuing other series, I was also still watching Aim for the Ace! via "fansubs." After the tennis tournament the main character Hiromi was thrown into to develop her latent skills or sink trying was over, she went on to try out for a national team. As the series wore towards the end of its episodes, though, I realised it was going to leave off on a "sorry, look at the original manga" ending; at least I can now say that kind of ending's been around for a while. (At the same time, I do believe there were follow-up series, but they don't seem to have been "fansubbed" yet.) In any case, the final all-or-nothing tennis match also gave me a sense "grim determination" was a genre-blurring factor in a series I'd supposed to be a "girls' show" a while ago too. It also happened that watching a collection of UPA animated shorts made me a bit more conscious and a bit more interested in the show's old-fashioned quasi-impressionistic backgrounds.

At the end of last year, I was disspirited to realise it wasn't much fun watching several new series everyone else had already soured on; three months into this year, I was annoyed that I wasn't enjoying one new series as much as everyone else said they were. In the midst of what might have been the fluffiest "plot arc" of Bodacious Space Pirates yet, though (the teenaged captain Marika needed a replacement crew for her ship; she found it in her high school's all-girl space yacht club), I began to get the feeling I had fallen into a trap I had pitied others for in other circumstances, of being so intent on a series being something it wasn't that I was missing altogether how it was managing what it was. There was reassurance to draw from that at last, but I suppose I was still finding tedious the giggly speculation of some fans how these or those two girls were "obviously" a couple. Then, after an escape that seemed not just awfully easy but also to relieve Marika's scratch crew of the responsibility of helping as they'd been asked, the previous yacht club president and the current yacht club president reunited by kissing each other, and for a brief moment I was sure I was as enthused as anyone else. I had told myself before I find mixed-sex "shipping" as tedious as same-sex "slash" for seeming to obsess over what could always still be plausibly deniable (although this might seem to matter more to me with "action-type" shows where there are other things to be interested in than subtle character interactions), but now there was something solid. I seemed to coast on that one moment for quite a while. By the end of the series, though, my resolve might have slackened somewhat to the point where I was beginning to confuse Marika being able to think her way through situations with the impression she never really seemed threatened or even challenged, and the continued giggly speculation about how these or those *other* two girls were obviously a couple might have seemed tedious again. Still, the conclusion seemed strong enough.

I wound up watching two new series through online streaming, both of which seemed to rank pretty high in fan opinion. Space Brothers stood out at first just for having a "grown-up" protagonist, although it could probably be said the just-fired automotive engineer turned astronaut candidate Mutta Namba (chasing his younger brother, already an astronaut) wasn't completely "mature." All the same, though, as the series chased old dreams I even started thinking back to the recently-completed manga Twin Spica, which achieved a fine balance of emotions but just happened to have its astronaut candidates be high schoolers. Kids on the Slope attracted attention for reuniting the director and composer from the well-remembered Cowboy Bebop. It was a bit more conventional in featuring high school-aged characters, but as with Space Brothers it looked "less exaggerated than the norm," and just happened to be set in the mid-1960s; this again wasn't as obtrusive as it might have been. I did notice comments the jazz performances in it sort of competed with more typical emotional entanglements, but wondered if the care being given to animating those performances was the reason why there weren't more of them. The series did seem to be cramming a lot of source material in by the end, and this did seem to affect it in the eyes of some, but I seemed to have stayed all right with it.

It took a while for my copy of the DVD with the third and fourth extended-length OVA episodes of Gundam Unicorn to arrive, and when it did I received it with a sort of melancholy "that's the end of Bandai Entertainment" feeling. Remembering some ambiguities of feeling about the first two episodes, I decided to watch all four episodes. As before, I couldn't fault the production values, but there was that nagging sense of the series being calculated in its own way to appeal to those inclined to lament "modern anime." As I got into the third episode, though, I happened to realize how one of the characters was connected to a previous Gundam series (if the one series I wouldn't have known about if I'd been "playing by the rules" and not watching fansubs) in an interesting way, and that somehow began to improve my feelings towards the series. (I do have to wonder, though, if that "interesting connection" had also been applied to another character but sooner, except for that I'd happened to learn about it before seeing it for myself...) In the end, I suppose I wound up willing (with the aid of the inevitable cliffhanger) to start shelling out for the rather more expensive Blu-Rays, which are still being sold.

Watching Gundam Unicorn managed to mix "rewatching something" and "seeing something new." This was a little different from watching the new release of Utena, and a little different again from getting to the DVDs of Squid Girl, which I'd seen before through online streaming. I admit I wondered a bit about returning to another show, but it seemed to have been long enough between viewings that I didn't just shrug off everything as "familiar." I suppose it's amusing for me to think of Squid Girl as similar in certain ways to a North American cartoon, with a big cast of relatively uncomplicated characters to drive the comedy in short segments, but also just happening to be set unabashedly in Japan (with a certain amount of quirks to its characters familiar enough to anime watchers). Continuing to watch new versions of series I'd seen before, I opened up the Dirty Pair OVAs. Something about the slightly redesigned look of the eponymous duo does seem to make me prefer their appearances in the previous TV series, but I do almost wonder if I'm just a bit more interested in returning to the stories of the OVAs than I was to some of the stories from TV.

I do seem to be somewhere between fearless and shameless when it comes to "blind buying," but every so often it does sneak up on me. After I'd bought three seasons' worth of Hidamari Sketch to ballast out an order to the free shipping threshold, I did wind up thinking of how I'd read the manga (published as "Sunshine Sketch") without being really compelled by it. It might even have seemed possible to wonder if I'd seen enough "four or so cute high school girls with a hobby or something to distinguish them (here, they're art students) and a childish teacher" stories. At last, though, I got around to opening the first season, and just as I'd seen the art style, as befitting a series about budding artists, got my attention, helped along perhaps by watching the UPA shorts at the same time. As with some other series, the episodes are jumbled up in chronological order, but perhaps unlike them this didn't seem to provoke suspicions that the whole point of the series was to sort out a big puzzle before really "getting" it. I wound up with more anticipation about the two series left than I had before. I also opened up Transformers Masterforce, taking slight note of some back-cover blurbage hinting at it diverging from the expected. Where the previous Japanese-only Transformers series had also diverged from the story as told over here, it had still looked like the previous made-for-America seasons. Masterforce began to look "more like anime," and also pushed the "humans combining with robots" idea further than the North American concepts had (and as the previous Japanese series had left out altogether). I suppose I might have enjoyed the thought this tweaked what it's often tempting to suspect is a disdain among the modern fandom for "human pals" of the Autobots. The show does seem unabashedly "kid's stuff" (what with the "Headmaster Juniors") and I suppose that have some tangential connection to "are you giving this points just because the dialogue is in a language you can't understand?", but something about that honesty is easy enough to accept.

Date: 2012-07-14 02:10 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
Wow, that's a lot!

I wish I had something intelligent to say in response, but I really don't. However, thanks much for posting these ruminations. It's cool to hear the unfiltered reactions of another fan whose been immersed in anime recently. ^__^

I will say, though, that I personally love the puzzlebox aspect of Utena, especially the theatrical Utena. For me, the layers of intertwined symbolism really set this franchise apart from other ostensibly similar shows.

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