krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
Three months ago, even as I made up my second "quarterly summary" of anime watched in what's for me a multifold "anniversary year," I did dwell a bit more on one continuing development. While I'd pretty much liked the shifting mix of older and recent shows I'd just seen, I'd also sat out altogether the modern game of watching that season's new series week-by-week streaming. A complex mix of feelings had gone into that, and while they might all have been plain irrational, I suppose I could wonder where straight lines might point.

Straight lines can also bend, though, and just like in last year's summer I did manage to pick back up on streaming. While I wound up seeing a few people complaining the season felt thin for them, starting from zero makes anything more a plus. I suppose it helped that some sequels to series I'd seen were showing up: that's good for avoiding "not getting grabbed by the initial summaries" and at least did a bit to hold down the fear of "starting to watch something the discussion of turns to condemnation." I even managed to avoid being completely discouraged from beginning some series at all by thoughts that, despite even sounding sort of interesting, they'd only be available for later purchase as take-it-or-leave-it "quasi-imports" twice the price or more of any seemingly comparable amount of video sold on this side of the Pacific. With all of that, though, I was still watching plenty of "older and recent" series, taking them at my own pace and perhaps freer to let my reactions be my own with the majority opinions already set and not discouraging, at least in some cases.

When I started watching Gundam Seed again as one of the series from decades past that would "mark the anniversary," it was invigorating to find myself interested once more in its first episodes, a decade's worth of contemptuous dismissal from self-proclaimed "Gundam fans" pushed back with the simple conviction my own impressions remained different. Thinking ahead from there, though, I was aware that where some just seemed to find fault with everything about the series, which might be paradoxically easy to shrug off, others reserved particular contempt for certain later developments. More than that, I could contemplate memories of my own old reactions. After watching the first half of the series "fansubbed," I'd played the game the way it seemed you were supposed to back then and waited for the licensed series to be released over here. Despite that wait, I'd finished the DVDs with a feeling of thorough satisfaction, but in all the time since then I suppose I did come to wonder if that had somehow been set up by context, and this time I'd get caught. I do remember an impression that as I was finishing Gundam Seed I was watching "too many series at once," at times starting episodes with the irrational yet nagging feeling I'd somehow "skipped something" and couldn't tie things together. (I tried to concentrate a bit more on watching just "two series or so at a time" afterwards, although I do seem better able to watch scheduled streaming episodes in turn now.) The complaints of others that Gundam Seed was too free with pre-credit recaps of previous episodes and repeated flashbacks to past moments of apparent significance might have left me wondering if it was suited for "rough circumstances" like the one I'd got into but would be "shown up" in any other case.

However, as I got further into Gundam Seed again, I did seem able to just accept the recaps and flashbacks. The particular contempt of others for one of the series's protagonists Kira "levelling up" to the point where he was only disabling opponent "Mobile Suits" without killing the pilots inside those mecha didn't seem to grate on me the way it did for them either: there might have been a certain blandness to him by that point, but he wasn't lecturing or hectoring anyone about his choice. I might indeed have been most interested in contemplating what did seem a genuine difference between Gundam Seed and the very first Mobile Suit Gundam series it's sometimes accused of being "too obviously based on" when it's not just being criticised for "being more synthetic" than the original. Where the significant interactions between characters in the original might perhaps end with a great deal of "tragedy of the week," some of the significant interactions in Gundam Seed do seem a bit more long-lasting. There might still be a lot of angst, melodrama, and soap opera to it, but I do seem able to take that sort of thing in too. More than that, the connections do seem to build into something with a sort of optimism that can leave me thinking a bit of Macross, a formative series in my own makeup. At the end, I didn't regret the fresh experience. There might have been more calm nuance to my final impressions than my old impressions had it, though. Being at least conscious of all the objections of others might have something to do with that, but so perhaps might not having the same feeling of suspense. I suppose, though, that I do have to keep facing how I'm at a simultaneous advantage and disadvantage: in waiting for Gundam Seed to be officially released over here, I sat out the "fansubs" of its immediate sequel only to be warned away in near-apocalyptic terms from Gundam Seed Destiny (which, to top things, off, seemed to "start more strongly" than some of the very first dismissals of Gundam Seed had it before going to pieces by degrees). That might make it easier to view the series as "complete in itself" with a "they lived happily ever after" ending, but it might also keep me from having just condemned the whole thing and at least joined the majority.

When I made the sudden decision to start watching High School DxD instead of the final episodes of a series I'd wound up with an unfortunate feeling of fatigue towards, I made a shift of equal suddenness from seeming to "concentrate on old stuff" to "watching all new stuff." I was at least a little aware, though, that no matter how outrageously entertaining it had managed to be it wasn't the series I'd already planned to round out my "anniversary viewing." Psycho-Pass had a much more elevated reputation, and I got around to it in turn. As a science fiction police procedural where the future cops wield guns that judge their targets, there did seem a distinct "darkness" to it right from the start. That potential sense that some might think of this as just "back to the good old days" might have got a boost from a few of the character designs bringing Cowboy Bebop to mind, still the enduring standard for those who want that sort of thing. I do remember hearing how the dread word "moe" had been forbidden in production, although I also have the impression of hearing certain comments about how the show's heroine Akane, despite her unflattering haircut and drab, sensible outfit, started out with a good amount of the vulnerability that evokes the sympathy that just might fit in with a more positive definition of "moe." Despite other impressions of pointed references to works of literary merit and odd impression it was awfully easy right from the start to commit horrific crimes in the series despite the previous impression it was supposed to be about the loaded idea of "pre-emptive enforcement," there were some solid ideas and surprising developments all the same. However, I also already knew Psycho-Pass just happened to be another one of the series I don't get around to until its unfortunate sequel is being condemned by everyone else. In any case, with it done I am still working through the very first of my anniversary series, continuing to watch episodes of Mazinger Z only on the weekends out of the initial impression the formula of the very first "piloted giant robot" anime would get numbing at any greater rate. Things don't seem to have got that bad, anyway, and there's been a bit of change by simple accretion, although I was struck by a few historically significant examples of the "doomed romances" that have been a certain part of certain other mecha anime since.

To get started getting back into streaming, I began watching a rather more recent mecha anime. Netflix picked up the second series of the computer-animated Knights of Sidonia like it had the first, although it once more held the episodes back until they could be released all at once to be "binge-watched" with the option of an English dub. (I must admit to watching one episode a week with the Japanese dialogue it defaulted to; this time around, the dialogue subtitles didn't drop out every time a bit of text on screen was being translated.) It continues to have the advantage of being adapted from an existing science fiction manga; I suppose I was more willing than some commentators seemed to accept how midway through the lead character Nagate was basically hanging around with several female characters just like in many other anime series set closer to here and now, even if one of them started in an in-between gender and another one of them was an enormous, monstrous alien-human hybrid who "hangs around" by snaking a somewhat disturbing tentacle through the Sidonia's ductwork. There was even a bit more action in those midway-through episodes than I'd mentally braced myself for. The conclusion of the series did have something of a feeling of trying to provide a feeling of resolution while admitting the story continues in another media; with the manga wrapping up over in Japan, I am wondering if there'll be any more of it computer-animated.

I was interested to hear about another sequel, Gatchaman Crowds Insight; I'd wound up impressed by Gatchaman Crowds looking at some significant contemporary questions through its "superhero lens" (and not that concerned about whether it was "just piggybacking on the original Gatchaman name"). The sequel soon seemed to be questioning the cyber-utopianism of its predecessor, and then expanded well beyond even that. I suppose it's just possible that stories that "ask really big questions" are then questioned in turn by those who feel it's easier to ask those questions than answer them, but the series remained lively, distinctive-looking, and full of peculiar characters.

I might not have been quite as eager to start the third Wagnaria series; by the time I'd finished the second, I'd been growing uneasy at the thought its "situation comedy" relied on the consistent joke its characters were incapable of taking the seemingly simple steps that would make them happy. There was also the expectation any future video release would be more expensive and less impressive than the sets I already had; I managed to get over that too, though, and began watching. It didn't take long, however, before the series really was delivering resolutions to its previous dilemmas large and small, and staying funny in the process. At the very end, though, things left off with the promise of a special final conclusion; it's supposed to be on television in Japan, but whether it'll also be streamed could be another question.

The one "non-sequel" series I watched streaming was one I picked up at the last second. Classroom Crisis is about as generic a title as you can get, and I suppose I missed the point of its first capsule descriptions altogether; it took a bit of praise from someone else for the first episode to get me to look at a preview I might have steered away from otherwise, but there I saw a picture that convinced me the series was at least part "in space." It turned out the "classroom" was set in the future and building rocket racers (although "sublight space opera" models that basically fly like planes), and the "crisis" had to do with corporate wheelings intending to shut them down. From there, things did shift in elaborate, complicated ways that at least leave me wondering about watching it again without enforced week-long breaks between the episodes, but the character development did stay pretty interesting.

I also got around to several series that had been waiting to be opened. Princess Jellyfish had sounded "respectable" in however strange a way, and I did know those "respectable" series always seem to want for purchasing commitment. However, I also had the impression it amounted to the "loss-leader" promotion for a manga series unlicensed over here, so once I had it it just sort of "slipped into the pile." On hearing the manga had been licensed at last (if just for online reading on Crunchyroll's manga service at first), I decided to dig out the anime before getting to the manga. Its tale of several indifferent-to-externals young women with obsessive interests a bit more obscure than just the viewer-gratifying "manga fan" or "anime fan" and the varied, theoretically more respectable people they become involved with, did seem a bit beyond "the usual sort of anime," and it was funny and even sort of romantic. As I'd been expecting, though, things left off not completely up in the air for the leads but with the secondary characters sort of still "in progress." I started reading the manga afterwards just like I'd intended to, but haven't quite got beyond what was adapted in the anime yet. The manga does manage to include translation notes explaining the quick and obscure references, though.

Once I'd finished that series, I got started on another one I'd actually been thinking about beginning right before the announcement of the Princess Jellyfish manga being licensed. Having at last started rewatching series I'd bought even after having seen them streaming, I was interested in getting back to Genshiken Second Generation. I was conscious it was also a series about "fans," if more conventional "anime and manga fans," but as was the case all throughout its predecessor manga and anime series the characters are more complex than that simple label. It also happens to be an anime series I read the manga it was adapted from first, but as with the first time I watched it, I kept up the personal impression that each succeeding adaptation (there's a brief in-joke in one of the next-episode previous about the subtitle being "Second Generation" but it actually being the third season-length anime) has become defter and more entertaining. There's a brisk "two manga chapters adapted per episode" feel to the series, and also an "original resolution" that did have me thinking how the manga was working much more slowly and deeply into the character issues, although what's been released over here is only just getting really past that point.

From there, I opened up a series I hadn't seen before being sold on it by a few positive comments, one I might not have been thinking too much as placing the third point on a certain line until I started it. Outbreak Company perhaps demonstrates a second "line of development," too. It's easy enough to think various series have managed to define a "generic anime fantasy world"; a certain number of those series have had "protagonists from Japan" stumble into their worlds to go exploring; after a good bit of that, the general (post)modern "awareness" of fiction turned some protagonists into pre-existing "fans" of what they've lucked into. Outbreak Company managed to take things a step further yet, with a fan recruited to sell manga, anime, and video games to a fantasy world. Somehow, there seemed no "smirk" to it, which helped a good bit, but I was pretty quickly convinced that with its elf-girl maids, teenage empress, busty JSDF soldier who turns out just as fannishly aware as the protagonist but with her own "slashy" perspective, and other assorted characters, it all had to be taken as "thoroughly lightweight" to enjoy it; I thought back to the first positive comments and did reflect a bit on the particular viewpoints of those who'd made them. Right around the end, though, the series did bring up certain new perspectives I'd thought of before only to suppose wouldn't fit the cheerful, fan-comforting tone; they didn't derail things anyway.

I also managed to fit in a few "one-shot experiences" here and there. After contributing to a Kickstarter to extend it, I was able to see the first online release of the Little Witch Academia sequel The Enchanted Parade, which went into a bit more "world-building" and also had a big, almost chaotic conclusion. I happened to see fansubbed the second "sample episode" of the "shows within the show" for Shirobako, Third Aerial Girls Squad: like its predecessor Exodus, it managed to be a bit of an in-joke "typical anime" while still leaving me thinking it would make an interesting series by itself. A while later, a movie from the formative years of anime fandom over here, Robot Carnival, emerged from a long twilight of "you'd sure like it the way I do if only it was still available" with a new DVD release. The movie's an anthology of short pieces, some tony, some raucous, some a bit like music videos, some inescapably imprinted with a "late-1980s" feeling and some a bit more timeless, but adding up it is interesting. I also happened to see something older yet when someone happened to fansub the first two episodes of Mighty Atom, the series that became Astro Boy and the traditional starting point for "anime on television" (even if there's a history before it as well). The black-and-white animation was quite limited (and had me trying to remember just what the Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons of comparable vintage were like), but there did seem a spark of inception to it, a feeling of "a good beginning."

As these three months came to an end, I did manage to squeeze one more series in. Symphogear had first been streamed by Funimation; since the (once?) frequently displayed disdain of a lot of other people towards their streaming site keeps me from watching anything they stream (I just wait and hope other people wind up sounding interested enough towards their series for me to buy them, as I did with High School DxD, Psycho-Pass, and Princess Jellyfish), I seemed to have missed the series altogether to begin with. When Crunchyroll began streaming its latest sequel, though, just enough fresh interest seemed to build that when they added the original as a back-catalogue title I started watching. What I'd heard pretty much had me hoping it would be another one of "those series" where I sort of grin at the straight-faced absurdity and enjoy it. "Fighting idol singers" with "scientific magical-girl transformations" who sing in battle pretty much met those hopes. That mood might also have been added to by a dose of "girls' love" innuendo with such things as the central character and her roommate both sleeping in the top bunk for most of the series, but there I just sort of accepted it and my imagination didn't bother to go any further. In any case, I wound up quite willing to contemplate its two sequel series still to watch.

October 2017

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