krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Every time I start one of these quarterly looks back at the anime I've watched in the past three months, I seem to wind up dwelling on some fear of being cut off from it in the future, if only to make a show of geting over that concern. As soon as I wasn't worrying quite so much about losing interest in anime the way so many other fans on certain message boards made a great deal of, I replaced that worry with the uncertain future of all the companies that translate it for consumption over here. I may not be dwelling quite so much on that right now, but after thinking about that for so long something I hadn't quite been expecting (but perhaps should have) did happen. I had got into the habit a while ago now of ordering from one particular online store, in large part because everyone else on a notable message board talked about it. To save a bit of money with free shipping across the border (which at least compensated for never quite facing up to what the exchange rates and cash-on-delivery fees added up to), I had to make what seemed very considerable orders, and while I wouldn't say certain titles in my "backlog" wound up there just to get free shipping, my interest in getting to them might have been somewhat less strong than other series. At last, though, faced with rising shipping costs, the store had to raise its free shipping threshold still further. After toying with the idea of ordering "just what I really want to see" and dealing with the shipping fees as they come, the thought of waiting for the end-of-year sales also happened to me, and I made some still larger orders at the end of this year with the thought that they, and of course my "backlog," would have to serve me for quite a while to come.

There was one interesting new thing I managed to do in the past three months, though. Happening to learn the anime club at my university was holding a special twentieth-anniversary showing, that there would be a "flea market" to sell DVDs and other merchandise at, and that alumni were welcome, I decided to make the journey back with a fair load of old DVDs, most of them series I had since bought newer releases said to be at least somewhat upgraded in video, but a few (alas) ones I was reasonably sure about being not that interested in going back to. While I spent most of my time at the showing behind a sales table, there was indeed something interesting about being among "fellow fans," seeing those in costume and talking a bit to some of them. I wound up selling quite a bit of what I'd brought, and despite some uneasy feeling at first about standing out as an alumni, I did notice some people who'd been in the fandom for a while, and talked with them a bit about how the club had changed over the years. (Things definitely seem more social now than they once were in the days when it wasn't so easy to come by anime...)

I started off the three months intent on getting back to a tradition of watching something over again. With the particular show I had in mind, there would in fact be things I hadn't seen before folded in with the familiar, but even so there was still an uncertain thought of somehow "getting an 'obligation' out of the way..." I'd watched the first series of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya twice before, each time carefully following the "original broadcast order," but hadn't quite seemed to have experienced the same thing the enthusiastic fans of that original broadcast talked about. When further episodes adapting more of the "light novels" and short stories surprised the world, I managed again to miss out on them, only to wonder if I'd somehow escaped them after what seemed a ferocious negative reaction to eight of those fourteen precious new episodes being "the same thing over and over again." I ordered the eventual release of them over here anyway, but had to wait out the scandal of this order having monophonic sound and the exchange program, and by the time I had the replacement discs I wasn't in any hurry to watch them. In the meantime, though (even as the hard-core believers imported a Blu-Ray set from Japan that did happen to have English subtitles), I'd started reading the novels in translation, and maybe that played its own small role in my deciding at last to watch the whole thing. One thing about the new episodes, meant to be interpolated into the existing "chronological order," was that they seemed to diminish the insistence by many the show "had" to be watched in the order it was first broadcast, and even if this meant some swapping back and forth between the old and the new discs I was ready to try it. Not that long before, I'd noticed someone beginning with the first novel and finding the part of the story when it was uncertain if anyone was actually telling the truth about themselves interesting; I remembered an impression that the jumbled order of the original broadcast, even if it held back an ultimate resolution till the very end, did give a sense there was indeed more to the characters before that was actually established. With the "chronological order," though, I suppose it wasn't that long before what the characters were sayng about themselves was backed up by evidence. Still, I did seem to be adapting to things as well as I'd suspected even as I reached the new animation and the infamous "Endless Eight." Where before, though, I had thought the dialogue was exactly the same each time with the characters stuck in a time loop (even with different outfits and camera angles,) there was in fact enough variance to keep up some interest. I suppose, too, my knowing beforehand how much longer it would be helped in a way denied to those on the long ride the first time around. I did also know the remaining new episodes were a little problematic in adapting a novel with Haruhi Suzumiya at her most self-centred and inconsiderate, but once I was through them I was left most of all with the sense I'd grown used to the slightly different character designs of the new animation. After finishing off the television animation with an episode once dismissed as an "original story" that was sort of bland and unexciting, I was able to go to the theatrical movie The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and just as everyone said it had some subtle but interesting animation over its considerable running length carefully adapting the novel it was made from and its significant events in the story. I wound up deciding I'd enjoyed the whole thing quite a bit more than I'd expected to.

While I was getting started on that, I was also finishing off Strawberry Panic. As the "girls' love" story got a bit more overt my interest in it might have picked up, but noticing a "love triangle" tossed into its mix of relationships gave me the sense I could see why there had been plenty of people ready to criticise its conclusion in non-specific terms (or, at least, terms I couldn't remember any more). While I wasn't quite sure I could say one particular way of winding it would be "better" than the other, I did have a sense of what was going to happen and was ready to think of it as "sad but plausible"; then, though, the very last episode wrought a sudden reversal, and I could see that irking people while still being able to accept it. Perhaps, though, all of the melodrama might have created a detaching sense, a safely detaching sense perhaps but a distancing one all the same, that the characters "weren't real people." From the anime, I went on to the manga to discover that the characters were the same but almost all the plot was different; that made me wonder a bit about the translated novel which I'd also got a while ago, but I haven't quite managed to find the time to read it yet.

I was continuing to watch some shows through online streaming, but had to face a growing suspicion of not having much luck when it comes to finding series other fans stay enthused about throughout; the problem may become a bit worse when I'm most interested in science fiction-action kinds of programs but other people seem to enjoy romance-relationship-comedy shows the most. Perhaps the feeling wouldn't be so bad if, like certain other people, I concentrated on streaming shows and made watching DVDs an afterthought (which would, I admit, make importing untranslated Blu-Rays seem a bit less problematic), but as it stood it seemed From the New World would have to bear a heavy weight. Set a thousand years from now in one of those "ambiguously old-fashioned futures," it involves a whole society of psychokinetic power users but soon establishes there are ominous consequences to go with those powers. I was willing, perhaps, to think that with a "foreign" society, things wouldn't be easy to grasp at once, but could understand how others might not be so ready to see things that way. Still, the series seems to have survived an acid test in that I'm still interested in seeing how things continue after this break from it. With Bakemonogatari, which I was just a few episodes into the last time I touched on it, I already knew lots of people liked it, but as it wore on I had the uneasy feeling I could see what they liked about it but couldn't feel quite the same way. What to others was snappy dialogue seemed to me talky and smart-alecky, what to others was some impressive visual style to me seemed to be tying into an impression of tedious build-up. The official online stream left off before the last few episodes, but somehow I didn't feel the compulsion to get the premium box set to see them. Space Brothers, anyway, was still as pleasant as ever. The younger of the two brothers, already an astronaut, made it to the Moon (if with the now-discontinued Constellation architecture) and the older reached the denouement of becoming an astronaut; there should still be a bit more of the series to go, and I'm interested in how much further it gets.

Some series I get have to take their chances for when I get to them, but there are some I do think I'll open up "as soon as I can." Lupin the Third was one of them. I'd known about this long-running "master thief" franchise for quite a while, but had never quite felt compelled to start into it until I heard its "first series" was going to be released on DVD. It happens to be the oldest anime series I've watched to date, but the DVDs looked very nice once I was inside their somewhat undistinguished packaging. The very first episodes had me thinking a bit of a late entry in the "James Bond chic" tradition, but as the ample on-disc "liner notes" explained this was just a bit too much in animated format for even Japanese television at the beginning of the 1970s; the creative crew was forcibly changed soon on. With one of the people brought in being Hayao Miyazaki, though, it doesn't seem to me the later episodes can just be dismissed; tracing the development of the female thief Fujiko Mine from "conventionally sexy" to "dressed surprisingly sensibly for capers, but still attractive" to "now oddly wholesome" was at least sort of intriguing, though. I wound up ready to start dipping into at least some of the other Lupin series and movies; when I'll have a chance of getting to them is a question, though.

During my visit to my old anime club's special meeting, some casual discussion with some other fans did get me thinking of a few series I'd had sitting around for a while. When I bought Strike Witches, it was with the deliberate thought that this was somehow a poke in the eye of those who took anime "too seriously" and made terms like "fanservice" ugly ones; even so, the series wound up on my shelf and stayed there for quite a while. I knew it was a story where World War II was averted by the appearance of mysterious alien planes, battled by a multinational group of magic-users with plane-like boot-"brooms"; I also knew about the jocular phrase used to promote it over here, the "War on Pants," with the Strike Witches dressed normally above the waist and wearing the absolute minimum below it. No explanation is given nor even a comment made in the series, but the camera sure takes notice of it; when I worked up the resolve to open it at last, the thought of there being something in between an enthusiastic embrace of utter absurdity and recoiling in righteous horror, namely lamenting that a "good concept" was lost somewhere behind the exploitation, did come to me. However, it did seem the terror faded; I even began thinking of an old idea I'd had that "trashy good fun" is hard to come by and thinking that in this case it really did exist. I suppose there may yet have been the distancing thought that the Strike Witches were "cartoon characters" and not "real people," and I did think it was for the best I'd watched it on my own; I could imagine the reactions of others dwelling on the pairing-off innuendo and finding that tedious...

I opened up another series that had been sitting around for a while with a somewhat different motivation. Back when I'd bought Angel Beats!, I didn't have a Blu-Ray player or the high-definition television that would seem to make the player worthwhile, but I'd upgraded since then and the set of DVDs was still sitting around. Noticing the Blu-Ray set for sale at the end of the year got my attention, but I did know I had to see if I actually liked the series enough to want to see it more than once. Things started off with the afterlife amounting to a Japanese high school and some of the high schoolers there intent on not being abstracted from it; their carrying firearms against the lone representative of something beyond what they knew (a figure I'd thought on looking at the cover art was just a "peculiar mascot character") and running distractions with an all-girl rock band perhaps added up to a feeling that I was enjoying the series because I could see its absurd side. Whether "not taking things seriously" keeps from getting annoyed at something at the cost of not quite being sure how to take turns towards seriousness did come to mind in the following episodes, though, as I got past the amusing overheard resemblance between Yuri, the leader of the renegade students, and Haruhi Suzumiya herself, and even started thinking a bit of Haibane Renmei itself, a very high standard for a series to have to face up to. Thoughts of new developments and changes being introduced every episode just to keept things moving may have been a little troubling, too, but in the end things seemed to work out well enough for me to decide to order the Blu-Ray set.

With Martian Successor Nadesico, I knew what I was getting when I opened up the new release of a series I'd first seen back at the anime club and bought over again on the promise of a more definitive edition. With a bit more experience of the "giant robot" anime of the 1970s, I thought myself better ready to see the total pattern of a mecha anime where the characters were themselves fans of a "show within a show." The frenetic romantic misunderstandings of the first episode left me with the somehow comforting sense things hadn't been that different back then after all; after that, I wound up thinking there was an essential easy-going amiability to Nadesico's interplanetary war, but that this did perhaps diminish the drive of the story in its latter half, leading to a famously not-quite-complete (if not absolutely open-ended) final episode. Still, in this case the characters were, as I knew, pretty much worth the journey.

As the year wore to a close, I started picking out shorter things to finish, starting with a movie I'd just received. "The next Hayao Miyazaki" gets tossed around every so often, and sometimes it's attached to Makoto Shinkai, who first attracted attention with a short piece he'd animated virtually by himself, and went on from there to more and more elaborate features. With Children Who Chase Lost Voices, it was very tempting to say it was an obvious attempt to grasp the phrase applied to him; the movie looks on casual inspection very much like a Ghibli film, and getting into it there are obvious resemblances between its plot and those of the more "adventurous" Ghibli films. I tried to focus on seeing that Shinkai's long-established lighting effects were still there, but as I got further into the movie it did begin to seem to me that where the Ghibli fims I was comparing it to seemed as much about "the fate of the world" as anything, this movie was more about the fate of its main characters. Reassured by that, I also began getting a sense of a lot of things packed into its running time, but a richness of visuals helping to develop all of it. With it done, I opened up an OVA I'd had for a while. I knew Alien Nine was a deceptively disturbing series in which sixth-graders have to hunt down the aliens invading their school with the ambiguous help of just as alien creatures worn on their heads, but it was in watching the OVA that I moved from just thinking of it as a late example of "several slickly animated episodes promote the manga as opposed to thirteen television episodes or so" and began remembering the "monster catching" series made around its time. Things did seem to leave behind the chance of "for the unfortunate kids, it just is what it is" to begin alluding to conspiracies of adults, but for that I suppose there were the manga volumes I got at the same time as the OVA to wait for just as long.

September 2017

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