krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
I've led off my last few "quarterly reviews" of anime watched by dwelling on how few brand new series of late I've managed to even start viewing, much less stuck with, but in the three months just past I suppose I hit rock bottom, not watching any brand new series at all. One weak defence I could offer was that I knew I'd be going on a vacation in the middle of those three months; to be oppressed by memories of other vacations that had meant not just enforced breaks from watching weekly series but dwelling on how negative the opinions of everyone else on them had become until I'd convinced myself to abandon them seems to have its own small problems, though.

Being oppressed by that did at least point out how I wasn't quite facing "no capsule descriptions even appealed to me," however. It was a bit of a surprise to see the anime adaptation of a manga called "orange" had begun, but it just so happened I had started buying the manga itself without thinking about the upcoming anime, and hadn't quite finished it yet. "Starting with the manga" does seem to get in the way of "getting to the anime" for me these days; I at least wound up hearing the adaptation had hit some pretty rough patches along the way, and the "a future tries to help the present" manga had wound up more appealing to me than, say, Erased's "the present tries to change the past." It was that much more of a surprise to hear Funimation had licensed the new Love Live spinoff. That might have overcome the general uneasiness already mentioned and provided the push for me to sign up for their own streaming service at last, except for one more bit of casual contempt from someone else towards that service run into at the exact wrong moment adding to the nagging, half-irrational fear that since the animation studio Sunrise produced both Love Live and Gundam, the mere fact of Love Live Sunshine being a "spinoff" meant it would end up under the precise cloud of opprobrium most of the Gundam "alternative universes" seem weighed down by. A few months after that, though, the sudden announcement that Funimation and the streaming service Crunchyroll would start cooperating was a somewhat more pleasant surprise, if one I had scarcely even conceived of before with the impression Crunchyroll was where "everyone else" promoted their content. Whether this will mean in turn "everyone else" will start striking exclusive deals with still other services I don't have subscriptions for either is another question, however, and I suppose I don't even know if Love Live Sunshine (which seemed to be received with at least some positive reactions) will wind up part of the shared content before it's available for sale on discs over here anyway.

In any case, even with all of that said I hardly lacked for anime ready at hand to watch. Three months ago I was working my way further into Turn A Gundam; watching just an episode or two a week, I was still proceeding through it by the end of those three months. In that time, though, I had to face the more troubling side of something I'd said the last time, that "the amiable, rambling tone of much of the series can seem a strength and a weakness at once"; it seemed the amiability of the Moon's "mecha-nized" invasion of an old-fashioned future Earth had defused tensions to the point where Turn A turned into something of a slog. I should be honest enough to say that in the very last few episodes I've just seen, as the characters set out for space, my interest in the series ticked up a bit again, but I am wondering about what the little detail of the "whatever-punk" details of the Earth setting fading away might mean. There were times I told myself that if the stakes were more overblown the series could have wound up more like Aldnoah Zero, which wasn't that encouraging to me for all that a few half-serious parallels had been drawn between that newer series and Turn A Gundam. I had also gone so far, though, as to contemplate how Gundam Seed had been the first Gundam series to follow Turn A Gundam, and remember my personal reactions at least to that more "conventional Gundam"; however, the sudden thought that might somehow draw parallels between Gundam Seed and The Force Awakens was unsettling to me, for all that I could imagine those parallels unsettling your bog-standard self-proclaimed "geek" in exactly the opposite way. In a certain way, the smug invocations of George Lucas when talking about Yoshiyuki Tomino to condemn by implication the director of the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Turn A Gundam ought to provoke me to greater sympathy towards Tomino, but then I have had something of a chance to form an opinion or two uninfluenced in any direction.

I was also continuing as these three months started a that much older "giant robot" series, Giant Gorg. Right about when its established plot line of a small group of protagonists and the eponymous giant robot evading a corporate military to cross a mysterious island perhaps couldn't go much further, there was a new development that altered the story while fitting with what had gone before. There also happened to be one bit of rough stuff just a few episodes short of the finale that unsettled me, though; it at least seemed followed up by suggestions the character who'd done it was now compromised, and I still wound up thinking I'd liked the series a good bit more than one or two other heavily plugged anime of comparable genre also from the 1980s.

A while ago, I had worked my way through a fair number of anime series I happened to have had the manga versions of piled up unread as well. Remembering I hadn't quite finished with that, I opened up the second High School DxD series. The first series about a coven of young devils, most of them oversexed, in a world of somewhat dodgy theology had impressed me in its own certain way, at last seeming to fulfil the mere promise of a few other "fanservice"-heavy series I've watched in search of "trashy good fun" that didn't quite seem to deliver the first part so that the second part definitely seemed missing. It had surprised me, though, to find the manga a bit more toned down, although to be fair we did manage to get the "uncensored home video release" of the anime over here. Even so, it did take me a while to get around to High School DxD New. I did get to wondering a bit about how both of the second series' plot arcs seemed resolved by "diaboli ex machina" endings, but the "fanservice" was more than lively enough getting there, and when I got to the manga in turn it did seem to be pushing its own envelope a little further now. I know there's a third anime series, but I have the uneasy impression it wasn't as popular, and the vaguer impression that had something to do with it not adapting the original light novels, which usually leads to accusations of "filler"; at the same time, I've already mentioned those impressions about the "plot," for all that it did seem rather better than some excuses for "fanservice," not being the main draw.

There was one other series I'd begun buying the manga of that got me thinking about its anime adaptation, although this pushed me into ambiguous and unapproved territory. In the earlier days of online streaming, I'd picked up on a good deal of positive attention towards the Kyoto Animation series Nichijou (which has been translated as "My Ordinary Life"). The announcement Bandai Entertainment would release it on DVD might have provided my own path to eventually getting around to it; unfortunately, the company was shut down before managing to fulfil their last announcements. With that, I never quite got around to making the time to watch the show from the streaming back catalogue until that license expired and it vanished amid lamentations that this was why "physical releases" were still important. A while after that, though, Vertical began publishing the original manga (I've gathered Bandai Entertainment had also planned to publish it, and it had taken a while for the exclusivity arrangements of even an unfulfilled contract to run out). I started buying the manga, but had to face how I'd already got my hands on "fansubs" (which these days could very well just be official streaming translations brushed up to suit the whims of those casting forth downloadable videos without all those little complications of legality) of the anime. At last, I started watching them. Knowing Nichijou was a comedy, as I watched the early episodes I pondered a little bit about "comedy" being something that can vanish in translation; very soon, though, the solid dose of absurdity in the "ordinary" lives of its characters (who include a teenage girl robot with a big windup key sticking out of her back built by a little-girl professor) was winning me over. The care "KyoAni" had put into the animation was also a nice counterpoint to the "cartoony" character designs, which had me thinking a bit of their earlier series Lucky Star but also convinced Nichijou seemed much more entertaining for avoiding the heavy doses of "anime reference injokes" I'd slogged through before. I suppose I did become conscious, though, of a few other series I'd found myself particularly liking, but only because I'd seen them through means far less upright than becoming fluent in Japanese and importing pricy discs from overseas. (There's also the small additional ambiguity that sometimes the unthinkable has happened and series have been licensed from the cracks they've fallen into, only for some of my "second times around" to somehow be more a matter of just getting through the discs than managing to find new insights and enjoyment...)

For all that I wasn't watching any brand new series streaming, I did at least contemplate how I still had my Crunchyroll subscription and I could watch something from their back catalogue that had already been vetted, so to speak, by people who'd watched all the way through it. I couldn't seem to make the extra time alongside the shows on disc I was already viewing to watch anything but some series of "short episodes," though. The first one I remembered a positive comment or two towards was She and Her Cat. Back when Makoto Shinkai's Voices of a Distant Star was being promoted more or less as "he did it practically all on his own," the DVD had included a short animation (more the length perhaps expected for a "solo work") by that title; this newer piece was a bit of an expansion on it (still just four short episodes altogether), telling a bit more of a story about a young working woman and her aging cat (who did seem well-animated, as I'd heard). I then paged through an article in "Otaku USA" magazine about short-episode series and remembered the one reference to a previous work by Trigger in Space Patrol Luluco I hadn't already seen, and started watching Inferno Cop. The absurdly limited animation seemed the principal joke of the series about a cop with a flaming skull head, but combined with a storyline making ridiculous escalations until it seemed to top out halfway through to ramble afterwards, and perhaps even the roughness of the subtitles themselves, it didn't seem "a joke on me."

I did have the time in between series to watch some (more or less) self-contained works, starting with a "fansub" of the recent Girls und Panzer movie. It focused on the absurd yet entertaining tank battles of the series as the main characters discover all their hard work before hadn't quite settled what it had been meant to settle; it did strike my attention in an odd way that they learned this unpleasant news from male characters with actual speaking parts before things got back to the action, bringing back all the notable adversaries-turned-friends of the series. As entertaining as all of it was, I did also get to wondering about an impression of there being plenty of abandoned facilities around to hold the battles in. It then so happened the "Under the Dog" project I had contributed some money to the Kickstarter of had finally managed to release some animation. Since their notable achievement of being funded, I'd heard dark reports of replacements in the creative team, and somehow it was all too easy to suppose the general reaction was disappointment even before I'd started watching. The character designs did somehow provoke a slight impression of "understated," but the brutal action in a future not quite as far away as I'd first supposed did play by rules not quite spelled out beforehand, provoking at least some varied thoughts of "the way anime once seemed." If imagined dismissals of "they laboured on a mountain and brought forth a molehill" are all that come to pass, though, that would only seem to increase the darkness of what we did get. From there, I decided to watch the feature film Patema Inverted again. The first time around it had been a little too easy to imagine disparaging comments about its female title character "not getting to do enough," but this time I suppose I was readier to take note of what she did manage to do along with all the other characters. A while after that, I had the chance to see a special new standalone episode of Gundam Build Fighters Try. I'd been conscious as that series had wrapped up of "sequel fatigue" criticisms, but where the special had led off with the female characters again seemingly motivated not so much by building and battling with model Mobile Suits as all squabbling over one guy too oblivious to really get their interest in him, it finished off by invoking not just the crisis that might have made the first series a bit more compelling to me but a significant loose end from it as well. I did manage to see one more self-contained work when an OVA for the manga series The Ancient Magus' Bride was officially streamed, something I hadn't quite expected. The manga about a Japanese girl somewhere between adopted by and betrothed to a strange yet not absolutely ominous magician living in a darkly magical England has got my attention; the OVA, instead of just being a straight "adaptation," began telling a story about the troubled early days of the now-teenaged girl, something I'm hoping to see continued.

Always having plenty of anime to watch isn't, I'm afraid, the same as always knowing just what to watch next from among all those possibilities. As space opened up in my viewing schedule once again, it took me just a little while to remember I'd been thinking ahead to one particular series for a certain while now. Back in university, in an era where the anime club could get through an OVA series in a term's worth of once-a-month evening shows, I'd seen a series called Iria. Eventually, I got around to buying it on DVD, if not quite as fast as some of the other things I'd seen then. I can't quite remember if I did this before or after happening on a comparison of particular personal interest including it, but I do know that before I could get around to opening the DVD I noticed an announcement Discotek had "license rescued" it and would be releasing better-looking video than on the now-criticized disc I had. I settled down to wait again, and then at last everything lined up.

It is true that through all of that, I'd remembered that when my university's anime club had included an article on Iria in their once-a-term "zine," somebody had added a dissenting opinion insisting it was "high-octane action, and little else." I suppose the story wasn't that complicated, beginning as "bounty hunters versus an alien predator." That everyone in the series seemed to somehow know something about the threatening being reminded me of how Iria's subtitle was "Zeiram the Animation," but in looking just a little further I was surprised to hear the animation was supposed to "precede" some live-action movies. However, the elaborate setting offered interest enough for me. At first, I wasn't quite sure it matched the comparison, although in looking back at it I realised I might have misremembered it a little. I went from just wondering where the background for the setting had come from to supposing other people would be quicker to know something about that to supposing I could see East Asian influences in it, and then I'd pretty much got through the OVAs, and even found some interest anew in the struggles and story of its title character.

There was one other series that came to mind as one to watch over again, and a more recent one than either Iria or Turn A Gundam. I was interested in returning to the anime series about making an anime series Shirobako, although I suppose I was a little conscious it seems popular enough for some to feel free to criticize it. As I got back into it I found myself quite ready to keep liking its gentle optimism, though. I was a little conscious of old convictions that even had it been released as a take-it-or-leave-it expensive "quasi-import" I would have bought it as a "rare purchase," but then that's easy enough to just think when what was actually available over here was cheaper and less impressive. I managed to leave off at the end of these three months at the exact halfway point, with the first of the "shows within the show" complete, remembering some old convictions I could have "cut my losses" there had the second half seemed "more of the same," but more conscious now of how the story in the leadup to that had been more "a group effort," leaving the further coming-of-age development of the main characters for later.

September 2017

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