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[personal profile] krpalmer
As the new year started, I had a new plan for how to keep chipping away at the heap of anime DVDs and Blu-Rays I've managed to pile up. Where I'd spent most of last year picking out "sequels" and "spinoffs," now I was beginning to think of how I'd bought some series on disc and then, before getting to them, also begun picking up their manga versions with the thought they'd continue the story beyond what had been animated. However, also thinking manga might look "better drawn" or be "less toned down" than the anime does keep me from reading it until I've put in the more considerable investment of time necessary to watch the anime, and as volumes piled up I did get to feeling the stakes of finding out I didn't quite care for a story in the first place were rising. I therefore decided that this year I'd start off concentrating on the series I had both anime and manga for. Then, though, the conviction also hit me I can't let all the things still to be opened quite defeat me when it comes to going back to things every once in a while.

Happening to remember that this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Voltron, I recalled how the two "super robot" anime series turned into it had been released over here a few years ago, and formed the idea of watching them again without having to pause between each third this time. Managing to shrug off the last thought that Voltron hadn't premiered right at the start of 1984 (and also supposing this had set me on a path to watch Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada once more next year), I started watching Golion at a steady episode-a-day-pace. At first, I sort of missed the "Voltron fanfare" all over again; later on, I got used to Golion's own music. The bursts of gruesomeness mixed in with the "space fantasy" of princesses and castles and good guys battling "monsters of the week" still made for an odd blend, and I did keep wondering about my old impression Voltron's dialogue would insist any moment of violence not plain cut out was against a "robot," without ever wanting to seek out the English-language show. In any case, I was remembering all the time that even if Golion became the Voltron everyone else remembers the most, some past accident of scheduling left me just as, and perhaps even a little more, interested in getting to the anime series that became the other Voltron.

The opening bursts of gruesomeness did, though, made for less of a clashing shift between Golion and the first anime series I watched to bring reading its manga a bit closer. I haven't paid too close attention to the current boom of "zombie apocalypse" tales, being first of all squeamish enough to not take in much horror in general and also perhaps aware how the stories encode fears of worrying catastrophes other than the dead consuming the living. Highschool of the Dead did seem to attract attention when it came out, though, and the cover art alone made it pretty clear the series adds a massive dose of "fanservice" to the horror (save, perhaps, for those who find "fanservice" itself horrifying). Still sometimes in the mood to hunt for that rare achievement of "trashy good fun," however, I bought the series, but long enough ago now that I was still thinking just in terms of buying DVDs rather than Blu-Ray releases. Since then, I'd also bought two big omnibus volumes of the manga, so it seemed about time to get to the anime. At first, the creepiness seemed effective; I even thought the animation art seemed a little more appealing than the cover art (to put it briefly, when the word "cylindro-conical" threatens to apply to the female character designs, they're too endowed for my tastes) and stopped dwelling on how other people seem to dwell on how often anime protagonists are found in a specific age range. As the characters stopped having to depend on improvised weapons, though, I began finding myself thinking most of all how convenient zombies are as threatening targets to be battered down without a qualm; by the time the anime left off rather than concluded I had the feeling things would get worse just for the sake of nudging the action along. That did leave me wondering just when I would actually get to the manga; I did, though, happen to start reading a different zombie apocalypse manga on Crunchyroll's new online manga service.

Before getting too far into the year, I had the chance to see some anime at the movies. I'd been wondering just what might happen in the third Rebuild of Evangelion movie since the closing moments of the second, which had ended at what seems the precise moment in the original series where the fanfiction I used to read MSTings of really started going in strange directions to try and deny the hard facts their authors had been confronted with (while also seeming to miss out on the more unusual allusions that made Evangelion something other than "just another mecha anime"). The first, non-specific reports of the third movie seemed sort of worked up from what little I couldn't avoid of them. That, though, might have made me think a bit more about a comment overheard from someone whose opinions on subjects only including anime I'd come to respect, that he wanted to wait to see the movie in a theatre instead of the more private and dodgy act of just getting one of the first "fansubs" to come along. Where the first movie had been shown at my local theatre "dubbed" and the second had surprised everyone by being subtitled, the third was dubbed again; the rest of the audience stayed very quiet throughout, anyway. I did find myself at first uncertain, but then intrigued, perhaps in part because of that uncertainty. The movie did seem to be stepping away from what had been described but also at times attacked as the "crowd-pleasing action" of the first two, back to a somehow familiar mood of isolation, confusion, and last chances grabbed at for the central character Shinji himself, but in thinking that it did seem a bit less like it was just abandoning big parts of the story just to seem distinctive. There's still supposed to be one more movie, and once again it seems as if it could go anywhere.

I managed to get to something different by opening up Sweet Blue Flowers. I'd understood it to be a "girls' love" series, something more clearly stated and therefore more satisfying to me than what seems a usual sort of "wink-wink, nudge-nudge, notice no boys in sight, huh?" subtext other people seem to start dwelling on with series that just happen to have more conventional "action" (or even "slice of life") plots I still seem content focusing on. The opening credits seemed pretty suggestive about pairing off the two high schoolers on the cover art, Akira and Fumi; in the series itself, though, it's Fumi who finds a partner in the heartthrob Yasuko Sugimoto (who plays Heathcliff in a high school production of Wuthering Heights) and Akira who's there to listen and support after the breakup. That, too, appealed to me; it seemed quite pleasant, after a certain number of series I'd seemed to especially like just for having elements of "absurdity somehow acknowledged and carried off with verve," to enjoy something low-key and "realistic." What might happen after the low-key end of the anime in the manga it was based on is another question, of course, even if it might be answered without having to resort to "scanlations" with the very recent news of a "licensed digital" translation.

For the next series I opened so as to be able to also open its manga I was starting to pile up, I was a bit more uncertain about what I was getting into. I wouldn't have bought its in the first place without at least something in its description interesting me, but as with another series I'd bought some time before it, the thought that buying it was somehow "voting" for a particular new release format had played a role too. With Aquarion, "three months' worth weekly episodes sold at once" had seemed an experiment worth trying, by the time The Sacred Blacksmith came around I'd grown convinced releases over here could stand to start getting just a little fancier. The anime itself, though, was a "generic medieval fantasy," and I'd overheard that not only did it leave off with a "you might as well see what happens next in the original source material" last episode, its female knight Cecily Campbell was constantly winding up in over her head to be bailed out by the blacksmith himself, Luke Ainsworth. As I got started at last, however, Luke did seem a bit pricklier than the self-satisfied do-gooder I might have imagined (in some part from reading old MSTings), and as things progressed Cecily's uncomplicated strategy getting back up for more did begin to seem a bit more effective with aid of a magical sword that just happens to turn into a comely and scantily clad maiden. The conclusion, too, had just enough solidity even with villains escaping to scheme again to be more satisfying than I'd been anticipating. It might have been a simple matter of "starting with expectations so low they can't help but be satisfied," but I did like the series and did wind up looking forward to the manga (although I'm not quite sure if what I have gets past where the anime left off yet...)

A Certain Magical Index was one more of those anime series I first seemed to pick up after their first airing just by noticing the interest of everyone else in it, and without its particulars being quite clear. Even the long wait for the rights to be worked out and the series to be available for sale over here might have kept me thinking about it. When it was only available on DVD, though, everyone seemed offended by that, and other criticisms of it started popping up, one of them being that its protagonist Toma is overpowered to the point of settling every problem thrown his way with a swing of his right fist, which can cancel out all other magical and scientific phenomena around him. I did find myself wondering, though, if that was more just a matter of my regular message board's community always calling a first strike or two against male protagonists on general principle for getting in the way of fantasizing about slashing the female characters with each other, and bought the series anyway. It still took a while to get around to watching it, though, and once I'd started, aware that like some other anime series it had been adapted from "light novels," I started wondering if like some of them (even some quite popular) it seemed to me to amount to a great deal of talking to set up comparatively brief bursts of action at the close of each small "plot arc," and that its "anything can happen when magic and science collide" might at last seem a bit too wide open to seem more than generic. Again, though, the smug inserted protagonists of MSTings past might have made Toma seem perfectly acceptable to me, and in the last little bit of the series things did seem to pick up a bit. I did, anyway, at least think its spinoff A Certain Scientific Railgun might be more interesting as everyone else seemed to think, and I didn't worry quite as much about having bought some of its manga already. The "Railgun" Mikoto herself, introduced in passing in the first episode of the original series, might have a schoolmate with a meant-to-be-funny same-sex fixation on her, but her "mere" school uniform costume, even with shorts emphasised under the short skirt, seemed less "fetishy" than most of the other female costumes in the series (including that of the certain magical Index herself, which might have made it a little harder to keep up thoughts I had an impression of having overheard before of the series being "like superheroes, but without the costumes"), and therefore might have given her a bit more scope to seem like an actual character.

In the first week or two of the new year I wound up in the same somewhat uncomfortable position I've found myself in before, watching no "brand-new" series through official online streaming. A few titles did catch my attention, but once again I couldn't quite shake the fear something about them would have everyone else turn on them partway through, or they were on Funimation's streaming service, disdained by everyone else around me so that I seem reluctant to poke too much into it, or both. I was at least continuing several series from last year, though. When the opening theme for Golden Time changed, I had the odd impression it had become a lot more "ominous." That, though, just tied into how one thing I'd proclaimed the series seemed to have been getting over at the end of last year (dwelling on the male lead Banri having lost his memories) just got more and more emphasised. The "romantic comedy" seemed to lose most of its comedy in the process, and by the time everything came to a halt the thought "they deserve to be together" might have been just a little too barbed to be pleasant.

As for a series I knew from familiarity to stay more consistent, Space Brothers reached the inevitable point I'd sort of wondered about last year and came to the sort of "the story will continue" end you can get when the manga an anime is being adapted from is running short. The manga being available on Crunchyroll's online service makes that a bit less of a bitter blow, though. In any case, an anime series running for two years seems to amount to a different sort of thing than a regular live-action series from over here only getting two seasons. For the one anime series I'm watching I know will continue for at least a while longer, Ace of the Diamond did seem to become more of an "ensemble show" with its high school baseball team advancing into the playoffs. The team being large enough to have an actual pitching rotation may increase that feeling, even if I know pitchers in Japanese baseball throw a lot more balls per game than American pitchers do these days.

I'd found myself able to enjoy Gundam Build Fighters, and then to enjoy it a lot. Already convinced that if there isn't some exuberance somewhere near the bedrock of the "mecha genre" it becomes too easy to just be "realistic" and look down on the whole thing, the show's managing in my opinion to play around a little at last with a "subgenre" prone to criticism as unappealing first for being "the same thing all the time" and then for "mangling what it did before" made it something that made getting back to Mondays a little more pleasant each week. At the end of last year, though, I did wonder a bit about the lurking possibility of the show "getting too serious." Even as some of the competition between what were at once both small plastic models and massive "Mobile Suits" got a bit odder than just having them "battle" each other, I could suppose the byplay between the characters themselves was holding up its own end. When the knockout stage began, though, I could sense the show was setting up one of the semifinals to include a particular kind of clash familiar from Gundam series before but often ending in the exact kind of tragedy some are more inclined to complain about. The show found a positive resolution, though, and in seeing that my feelings improved that much more to carry me through the final episodes. For all my enjoyment, however, I was always aware of how I still wasn't risking taking in the opinions of anyone else, even with what bits I ran across unexpected seeming to have at least some positivity to them.

For the other personal standout show continuing, I wasn't quite so worried about crashing into the wrecks of other peoples' reactions, even though I did know certain people kept proclaiming themselves unimpressed with Kill la Kill. People on my regular message board were keeping up their enthusiasm, though, as the show kept up its drive with new alliances forming (which seemed to make some parts of the second opening credits sequence "obsolete" almost as soon as they'd appeared). Being made by "the people who made Gurren Lagann" had seemed from the start to set an impossible standard of escalation to live up to, but things eventually overpowered past the easy temptation of shrugging something off saying "anime's always stuck in high school." As from the start, I kept thinking I'd just have to ready myself to pay a premium for the discs when they come out over here.

It did turn out that a "back catalog" title went up on Crunchyroll that caught my attention, one of the Kyoto Animation series that had sounded interesting but which I'd concluded I'd just wait until its discs were for sale over here. The title Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions is at least partly translated; the leftover Japanese term expands to "Middle Two Syndrome," or grandiose posturing said to be happening in junior high. The assorted delusions, and the reactions of those who'd thought they'd got over it themselves, made for lots of energy that did have me thinking a bit of "Calvin and Hobbes" and the cute girls (although a lot older than Calvin was supposed to be) added eye candy. Around the midpoint of the series, however, actual explanations began to emerge for why the lead girl Rikka (distinguished up till that point by the white eyepatch bandage she wore, something I've noticed tossed in for fetishistic impact in more than one anime's character designs before) was the way she was, and the series tilted towards the serious. That familiar tilt seemed quite well done in this case, though, and it didn't take long until I could see the girls as characters rather than eye candy. The conclusion, though, did leave me wondering about the sequel series streaming when the original was made available and whether it might just seem "backsliding," or indeed to cast a cold light on the conclusion itself.

As these latest three months came to a close, I'd managed to not have any series just opened, and even got around to watching a few movies. The K-ON! movie was an "untold tale" of the occasional rock band of high school girls flying to London (by themselves) for a pre-graduation trip; it did manage to get to what seems to me the secondary part of the central joke of the whole franchise, that despite how the band has considerable trouble getting around to practicing, they play pretty well when they have an audience. (That did leave me thinking they also kept their cool, or at least stayed their unconquerable selves, in some situations that would have me in a panic on a trip of my own.) With the trip leading into a new take on the conclusion of the series, I found myself thinking I was doing a bit better at cutting through the familiar askance glances (finding a somewhat exasperated but also kind of thoughtful commentary around the same time) and letting what the title was appeal to me; I also inclined to think the movie had made for a better "final first experience" than the follow-up manga. I then got to Wolf Children, another movie by the notable director Mamoru Hosoda. I'd understood before it was about a woman who meets and marries a man not a conventional "werewolf" and is then left by tragedy to raise two small children also able to change between human and wolf. There were many things about the movie fitting together into something a little hard to summarize; I did find myself interested in its portrayal of country homesteading and the joys of nature, and also wound up thinking its ultimate development was more varied than I'd thought it might have been. When I saw a thick hardcover edition of the manga version, I bought it too, in this case at least after I'd seen the anime.

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