krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Heading off on vacation in the past three months did give me a chance to take a break not just from work but from the pastime of watching anime DVDs. I had gone to some small lengths to not leave any series half-finished over the break where I could, but I suppose that did combine with the habitual feeling "so what is it going to be like this time?" as I start into something new to leave me with uncertainties about having "broken habits." That uncertainty might have lasted for an episode or two, though, so just perhaps the anxieties I do seem to shake off (or make a show of shaking off) every time I start another one of these looks back weren't so bad this time around.

Thoughts of the break approaching did drive me to concentrate a bit more on finishing Transformers Masterforce than I might have in other circumstances. Compared to the previous Japanese-language series Shout! Factory released, it seemed to "feel more like anime" to me, but just perhaps that concommitant sense of it as an outlier in the commercial pantheon of the Transformers began to affect me a bit more than it did three months ago. Still, just as with Headmasters, I did have the feeling it worked as a "program-length commercial"; I kept daydreaming about how great it would have been to have had all the toys back then (for all that I did have a few of them, and know they were sturdy but not quite as dynamic as the animation...)

Even as I concentrated on that series, though, I did manage to watch something much more modern with the Blu-Rays of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which I'd waited until I had all of before I began opening them. This was one case where I did have to meditate on "seeing something for the first time" with the added bonus of enthusiastic fans following along week by week versus just returning to something I now know the surprises of, but my interest did seem to be keeping up. (In any case, that interest certainly did help me buy the most expensive domestic release...)

With that series done, I turned to a few of the stand-alone features I'd been waiting to open (if only, in the cases I wound up with, to rewatch) for a while. Project A-ko is either a parody of the "science fiction invasion" genre of the 1980s or a straightforward invasion mixed up with some bizarre characters already wrapped up in their own inexplicable conflict. The two Rebuild of Evangelion movies now out, as much as they leave me wondering about "does taking a series declared to demand attention and 'amping it up' to 'blockbuster level' automatically diminish that new work?", do sort of remind me I've been uncertain about that original series in the first place. Having finished the Dirty Pair OVAs just a while before, I went on to the three extended-length adventures in the same series, but with some uncertainty. "Project EDEN" and "Affair of Nolandia" were the first Dirty Pair animation I saw, and they both continued to convince me the amused comments of previous fans that a fundamental part of the missions of the interstellar troubleshooters was them accomplishing the letter of their assignment but everyone around them being killed through some last-second catastrophe "never their fault"; the only problem was this somehow managed not to amuse me. Watching the TV series itself had been something of a relief at things being not so extreme in most cases. At last, I decided to take in a distinguishing point of the new release of the features and try their old "Streamline dubs." I had gathered by old hearsay that the post-Robotech releases of Carl Macek had once been roundly condemned for tinkered-with dialogue (and, seeming that much more reprehensible, not also releasing subtitled videotapes as well), but as soon as his Streamline Pictures was out of business people seemed to think more fondly of his work, to the point of complaining when his former releases were redubbed. Some of the voices of the dubs were familiar enough to induce a pleasant sense of "Robotech nostalgia"; the occasional bits of dialogue too salty for broadcast television were somehow sort of odd to hear, though.

With a new quarter beginning, new series started airing in Japan, and I started watching just a few of them to follow along with everybody else. The only problem with this, of course, is when everyone else starts to sour on those series. The complicated and perhaps just a little absurd title Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse was, so I heard, a reflection of how it was based on some "visual novel" computer games, which seem to demand either strong computing savvy or fluency in Japanese to follow along with. Knowing it would feature mecha and female pilots in tight pilot outfits seemed enough to get my attention, though. In the space of its first two episodes, it went from setting up a desperate battle against swarming space aliens to demonstrating a willingness to kill off vast numbers of characters. From there, though, it turned out those episodes were just setting up the backstory of one of the characters, and a new cast of military test pilots was introduced. However, the new pilots being a collection of attitude problems and the ominous threat moving to the background seemed to get a lot of people annoyed, and as soon as I was off on vacation sort of clever phrases to explain just why I was dropping this particular series snuck up on me. A "I'll finish evaluating this series by myself" turns a little too easily into "never." With Rinne no Lagrange, things might have been that much more tragic. The series picked up from hiatus fast enough, but as I wasn't able to watch the official streams of it where I lived I cold-bloodedly turned to one of the underground groups that turn out downloadable versions of streaming shows. It seems that everybody wants to tweak the official subtitles their own way, though, and it becomes easy to get attached to one particular group... but on returning from vacation, it seemed the group I had been following had in fact been just one person now burned out on the labour. It was all too easy then to wonder about the relative lack of a cliffhanger in the last episode I had watched before leaving, and to wonder if the series would wind up in another sort of "just hanging around" situation that had annoyed at least some people in its first part. Even so, having dropped four series involving mecha partway through in the past twelve months does get sort of disspiriting. Space Brothers, though, was still being enjoyed by everyone else, and I managed to catch up as the series took its own leisurely yet interesting path through astronaut evaluation. I suppose having viewing space open did let me start watching an official stream of Bakemonogatari, which was one of those "I know it's very popular but not much beyond that" series. The show, in its first few episodes, seemed to be a tale of slightly peculiar people with slightly supernatural problems, presented with a lot of snappy bantering dialogue (although, just perhaps, this doesn't affect me quite as much when it's subtitled) and some striking visual style. The streams are meant to promote a pricy premium Blu-Ray set, though, and I'm still waiting to feel the compulsion to purchase it with another just as pricy premium set (of a different "I know it's very popular but not much beyond that" property) being released the same day.

Picking an older series out of all the "fansubs" I have saved up is just about as intimidating as picking a series out of the unopened DVDs I have sitting around. When I had the chance to do that, though, my thoughts began drifting towards a series I had learned out by complete accident when a casual search for video clips turned up its opening sequence. The fact I hadn't heard anything about Giniro no Olynssis when it was airing a few years ago was one thing; the fact it hadn't been licensed and seemed to have fallen completely out of recollection was another. Even so, the odd thought of watching something I had every impression was "mediocre" at the very best, yet being free of specific complaints from others and able to extract whatever worth I could scrape out of it, grew strangely compelling. Perhaps, too, the character designs being done by the same person who had designed Gundam Seed's characters and wound up pilloried in fan opinions for having his characters look too much the same might have added to my strange motivation. As for the series itself, it did make me think of the old shows from the 1980s where small groups of high-tech adventurers would roam a barren future, except that it looked to be from just a few years back and had some more "modern" character types (as much as certain people complain about them...) At the same time, I did have the impression it didn't *look* all that impressive, especially in its giant robot designs. Still, as hard as it might be to think of it as "really impressive," there didn't seem anything "really wrong" to it either. I moved on from it to something a bit better known, the Kimagure Orange Road OVAs. They didn't look much slicker than the TV series I had watched a while ago; their "original video" status seemed more indicated by being a bit more "sexed up" (if not stepping beyond the carefully inconclusive nature of most of the series). Still, I did have that familiar sense of "pseudo-nostalgia" for the comfortable and prosperous Japan of the 1980s sort of implied in the story.

As I'd said, once I got back from vacation it was possible to decide on new shows to open up. I turned to the miniature monolith boxes of my releases from NIS America, which I've been piling up for a while without managing to open, and decided it was about time to watch Wagnaria! (The original title of the anime was "Working!", but that seemed to interfere with copyrights over here; fans were relieved to see the video itself hadn't been modified, but a part of me didn't feel compelled to cling as tightly to "the original essence" as some make a show of and was willing to hold the package title in my mind as well.) I started off a show about some people with jobs at a family restaurant called Wagnaria with an almost pleased sort of "ah, a situation comedy--it just feels sort of different than a lot of anime comedies." I also took some slight note of it having a mixed-gender cast without being an overt romance or an "action" show, but I do have to admit that one introduction at the end of the first episode, a teenaged girl so phobic around men she would punch the male protagonist in his face on sight, left me troubled for no more complicated reason than that I was remembering a particularly unpleasant "I hate all recent anime" individual who would hang around random corners of message boards foaming (among other things) about girls hitting guys as a joke; it bothered me to seem to have something in common with him after all. As the show progressed, though, the situation seemed to become something more to try and resolve than just one more random problem heaped on the protagonist, and I wound up able to enjoy the show (even as it began to take on some aspects of "romance"...)

I also opened up Strawberry Panic, which I knew to be a "girl's love" show. Although I have muttered a bit of late about finding the constant speculation about "slashing" female characters tedious, I do seem to be just fine with it when it's undeniable. At the same time, I'd long had the impression that compared to the sublimated (or just about) feelings of Maria Watches Over Us, Strawberry Panic was at best "trashy good fun"... but I also have the suspicion that series that can have that label applied to them may not even come through on either half of it in the end. However, not that long ago I did see a positive opinion of the series, and that might have helped me think it was about time to watch it. Things did seem more "charged" than with Maria Watches Over Us (for all that Strawberry Panic could obviously be seen to be playing with the setting of the previous show), but after a while things did seem "subtler" than I'd expected. After that, though, things started getting a bit more extreme, and that did maintain my interest even though I'm still watching it. I am aware of the "love triangles" in the series, though, and of how those can just as easily as not leave people complaining the right two people didn't get paired off in the end...

To wrap things up before these three months came to an end, I started opening up the Blu-Rays of Gundam Unicorn, which I bit the bullet and shelled out for after it seemed the episodes wouldn't be released (however later) on less expensive DVDs any more. This was the third time I'd seen the first two episodes, but I'm still keeping up interest in the very slick animation. I'm also still convinced, though, of how often the mecha battles seem to amount to "the more important character's elite mecha demolishes everything in its path..."

Date: 2012-10-05 04:25 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] thrush
I'll be very interested to hear your take on Strawberry Panic. It seems most people weren't too impressed with it, and I can understand the criticisms, but for me the things it did right outweighed the things it did wrong.

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