krpalmer: (anime)
krpalmer ([personal profile] krpalmer) wrote2016-12-31 04:00 pm

2016: My Fourth Quarter in Anime

Over my last few "quarterly reviews" of anime watched I did start dwelling on how, for all that these three-month intervals correspond to the way new anime series roll out, I was playing less and less of the modern game of watching those series through online streaming. It wasn't the obvious and oft-proclaimed tragedy of "falling out" with anime itself given the slightly-older to "older" series I was watching, but the whole situation of "this first description didn't grab me the way it did others; this description did seem sort of interesting but I don't have a subscription to the service it's on; the stiff price I know this series will be ultimately be sold for if at all somehow still places a shadow over it; I took a chance on this show but it's not much fun watching it when everyone else winds up complaining a few episodes in" felt far from ideal.

If not in the very nick of time, though, the past three months were different at last, as several descriptions caught my attention. The new alliance between the online streaming service Crunchyroll and the more traditional disc-producing company Funimation could have helped put more options within my casual reach. More than that, I managed to stick with the shows I started, even if there were still problems with "the real jackpot is when your sagacity is shown by everyone else liking what you do," and added ambiguities about how slow the particular message board I've focused on for a long time has become, at least when it comes to week-by-week discussions. It is somehow different to "watch a show by myself at my own pace" (even if that pace may only be twice as fast as "once a week"), anyway.

"Spinoffs" have their own advantage in catching my attention, and the first that did this season was WWW.Wagnaria, whose title I understood indicated it adapted a "web manga" drawn before the manga that had been turned into the series I'd already watched through three seasons of. The character designs did somehow seem "simpler" than those of the other series, but I was more inclined to hope that, while I now understood from Wagnaria and Servant x Service (based on another manga by the same artist) that there'd soon be more "romantic comedy" than "workplace situation comedy," there might not be the particular issues that had kind of got to me before. Instead, there seemed to be new issues; the romance seemed a bit thin when it came to the girl of the apparent main couple making "Valentine's Day chocolate" that knocked out the not very friendly guy or a different and rich girl tormenting a impoverished guy who'd managed to bruise her feelings when they were both children. Right when "getting to the end" got to feeling rather linked to the "sunk cost fallacy," there was just enough impression of forward momentum to keep me watching, but it still wasn't especially appealing afterwards.

If it's possible to toss off comments about it being tricky to "translate" comedy, the next streaming series that caught my attention did inspire thoughts about "fantastic action" being what had made anime stand out in the first place. I soon understood Izetta: The Last Witch was set in "a World War II not World War II," where a fictional small Alpine state could have its young female ruler stand against a "not-Germany" not quite so charged with "historical shadows" only to discover a young witch soon using an anti-tank rifle as her flying broom. There was a lot of "anime" to this series to go with its action, perhaps, but it did soon seem at least some of that was grating on the rest of the audience, grand early expectations getting to them again. The slashy innuendo between the ruler and the witch might not have grated for all of them, at least, although at one point just a bit of "doomed romance" between a not-German agent and a female royal guard commander at least had me facing my perhaps too-casual excuse that "slashy innuendo" doesn't excite me the way it does others (despite being able to rush to add I have enjoyed "girls' love" manga where it's not so much deniable tease) when it seems "there because there's no possibility of anything else."

I then started watching a series managing to be both "spinoff" and "a World War II not World War II." Strike Witches seemed over two series, a movie, and an "OVA" series to have filled up the calendars of its characters to mid-1945, but there was always the option to set up other units of bizarrely indecorously clad "Witches" in other theatres of its quite safe war against alien flying fortresses. With Brave Witches, though, the obvious first objection would be that its own characters "weren't distinct" from the ones that had sold the previous series, and indeed at first glance its young "not-Japanese" lead would seem to differ from Strike Witches' just for her own short hairdo looking a little less affected and wearing a blue sailor-suit blouse instead of a white one over the traditionally fetishy "school swimsuit." However, one small thing about the series soon seemed to appeal to me if in a way I'm sure would seem odd to others: the specific fever dream of "fanservice" sometimes summed up in "the War on Pants" was diminished by all of the Brave Witches having just enough shirt-tail in their outfits to cut down on the casual crotch shots and even the general "half-dressed" impression. I'm certain that for some this would mean "missing the point," but for me I was able to find sufficient engagement and enjoyment in the aerial action (even if it did push some of the computer character animation closer to the camera, where it was more obvious that once again "the faces don't look right").

"Fanservice" managed to pull me into another new series. Keijo!!!!!!!! (the eight exclamation points were made a big deal of by some) was a "fake sports series" promising bouts where young women try to push each other off floating platforms using only their chests and rears (although there I have to face how I'll take in coarser language than I'll say or type myself). I managed to start watching the series without having got around to watching its promotional video, though, and was perhaps more surprised than I could have been by how rear-focused things were in general; this wasn't quite as compelling to me, and I soon had the uneasy feeling that at this particular moment in time this particular sort of thing had particular problems to it. I suppose that feeling hasn't gone away, and yet I did start to notice a first few other people able to form halfway thoughtful reactions; that let me stick with the series until I was enjoying the absurdity of it all, even with a certain familiar amount of "one part someone managing a flashy move, several parts everyone else standing around discussing it."

Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans had come to a "preliminary conclusion" and taken a break; as it got rolling again, however, I was more than a little aware of a certain number of similar series that had taken similar breaks and wound up condemned for not going in the direction their fans had envisioned and desired. Iron Blooded Orphans not ending on an outright cliffhanger, though, seems to have been a small advantage for a series with an ensemble cast (although that might just be a different way of saying the pilot of its most classical-looking Gundam is blandly well-adjusted to battle) that had seemed less melodramatic than other recent mecha shows. There were three small "plot arcs" in the past three months; whether this will add up towards a major conclusion is still a question.

All of those streaming shows were added to the older titles I'd already been watching; it meant stepping up my rate of viewing from months just previous, but that didn't quite seem to get in the way of other things. One of the series I was continuing was Turn A Gundam. However, the unfortunate thought that had developed that I wasn't finding the series as exciting as I'd thought I would wasn't quite going away, once more putting me in the unfortunate position of "not rejecting Gundam on general principles" yet not coming to the specific judgments that would demonstrate I share the opinions of those who declare themselves the most discerning. It's hard to say just what was my sticking point, beyond an impression the core characters seemed so reasonable (although those added to the constantly growing cast seemed to get more and more eccentric with time) that it never seemed quite established just why the low-impact war hadn't been resolved. The series perhaps avoided some of the traditional complaints about "Gundam series" without quite offering something compelling to me in its place. However, there was the bonus feature of a lengthy video interview with the famous production designer Syd Mead, who'd been hired to design the eccentric yet distinctive mecha for the series. I'd heard it promised for the release Bandai Entertainment hadn't quite got to before it had been shut down; it was nice to see it had been completed and preserved.

In between the two halves of Shirobako, I returned to Animation Runner Kuromi, two earlier OVAs about making anime I'd happened on some years before. With less time to delve into "everything," the OVAs did seem more just about "coaxing work out of eccentric key animators"; however, the second one, which I remembered not having felt quite as "novel" as the first, did get to including "a producer who's given up on everything but getting something done," which was something that had shown up as one small challenge among many in Shirobako's second half. It was another emotional experience to come to the end of Shirobako, perhaps so this time because, as at the end of the first half, I noticed the news of the fictional animation studio's next projects mentioned before the end.

Along with brand-new and revisited series, I did manage to get to some shows I hadn't seen right when they'd first attracted the attention of everyone else. One Punch Man was a superhero spoof about someone who trained so hard to achieve superpowers that he, while losing all his hair, did become able to defeat any foe with a single blow; this doesn't bring him much satisfaction. What might seem to be a one-joke series winds up much funnier and more engaging than that, if perhaps in large part through the production values of some very distinctive drawn animation; I did get to reflecting on two previous superhero anime series, Tiger and Bunny and Gatchaman Crowds, that used a lot of easily dismissible computer animation. With that series finished I moved straight on to Mob Psycho 100, based on another manga by the same author but with less polished (and apparently not redrawn) character designs. A thought or two about how "less polished character designs" just might help attract some "with less style, there must be substance" attention were kept well under control by another dose of impressive animation and a perhaps even stronger dose of dark humour in its tales of psychic battle.

Right when I had the chance to choose a new series to watch I wanted to watch something exuberant; there was an option there in my Crunchyroll queue itself. It had been a while since I'd watched the first Symphogear series; now, I was moving on to its first sequel, Symphogear G. New adversaries were set up for the battling idol singers-technological magical girls, with the possibility of battling all the way to friendship still open. I finished the series pretty much grateful for it, if aware there was one more Symphogear series still in my queue. For the next opportunity to begin another series, I started one I'd had ready for that much longer. Princess Tutu had attracted that particular kind of "talked about just enough to suggest your discernment" attention, even if I'd just missed the chance to buy up the original DVDs and had to settle for an eventual collection with a cover some loved to complain about for being "desperately misleading." Once I had that collection, though, it sat on my shelf for a long time, just perhaps stuck with the feeling that to have it to watch was somehow better than having watched it and being left only with shows not as liked in the right way to get to. On starting into the tale of a ballet-dancing magical girl (with more than one alternative identity) who seems to find some difficulty in "doing the obvious thing," though, I did soon find it compelling, even if there was a slight "they don't make them like this any more" feeling to her interacting with several male characters. (I could just sense the possibility for some to "slash" the male characters, but even that feeling might have receded a bit with time.) On getting to the halfway point, I did get to wondering if there'd been more of a "settled positively" feeling than I'd been expecting; I'm at least wondering what might happen in the second half of the series with its certain amount of "metafiction."

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