krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
It was something, anyway, that three months ago some of the capsule descriptions of anime series from the upcoming season were catching my attention, something that just hadn't happened at the start of the year. That, though, just put me in another uncomfortable, familiar dilemma. Knowing I'd be leaving on a month's vacation in the middle of the season, no longer able then to circle around to streaming shows every week with the small, helpful push of routine, had me remembering similar vacations now several years past where being left with my own thoughts just had me dwelling on how far the reaction threads had soured for the series I'd taken chances on, such that I found myself rehearsing end-of-the-quarter explanations for why I'd dropped them myself until I returned with accusing blocks of time empty on my schedule and uncomfortable thoughts about yielding to peer pressure. (At certain times afterwards, I would go ahead and buy the home video releases of some of those abandoned series just because I felt "sorry" for them, but a lot of those peculiar purchases are still sitting around unopened...) I'd already spent some vacation-affected seasons since then not starting anything brand new, and with all the previously made anime I have ready at hand to watch I was just in the same position as at the start of the year, but I do still feel aware of all the possible consequences of "disconnection" from other fans, even if it's only wondering if anyone else will find something in these reaction posts.

As the quarter got started, I was working further into the second series of Lupin the Third, continuing to watch it on the weekends. The adventures and misadventures of the series' quartet of superthieves and the hapless police inspector forever chasing them already seemed a comfortable, known quantity, although I did get to some episodes the plots of which somehow felt just a little shambolic; they didn't discourage me from seeing just what would be happening next, though.

Beyond the weekends, I was ready to take the wrapping off a disc case, but knowing I only had time to get through thirteen or so episodes mixed in with a second series had me aware how many series of twenty-six or more episodes I had on disc to open and pondering for those series of the right length the constant ticklishness of striking a balance between "I don't want to watch this too soon" and "did I only think I could watch this because it would help add up to free shipping?" At last, I thought I'd found that balance with Please Teacher! A few years ago, I'd watched a streaming series called Waiting in the Summer in part because I'd noticed other people drawing connections between it and the years-earlier Please Teacher, which I had heard about when it was first released over here but not felt compelled to watch then. Hearing the older series had been "license rescued" by the production arm of the online store Right Stuf, which basks in positive opinions just perhaps because the subsidy of its online business lets it space out its releases and avoid being accused of cutting corners, was enough to make me take a chance this time around. I already more or less knew one of the big draws of the series seemed the ripe wholesomeness of its high school teacher, and by the end of the first episode there'd been a conclusive demonstration she just happened to be an undercover extraterrestrial. (There's a tossed-off comment she's actually part human, but the explanation of how her father got into space pushes the series decades into a future that looks pretty much like when it was made, complete with the characters phoning each other by going home to talk on cordless handsets...) The very first risqué misunderstanding mixed up with the teenaged male lead learning this secret, though, leads straight to his secret marriage to his teacher with the enthusiastic support of his guardians, apparently permissible because his calendar age is older than his physical or emotional one through a rare, "anime-only" condition that had him pass years in a "standstill," and all of it did get to feeling a bit too calculated for all that I could eventually acknowledge some of the emotions spun out from those calculations.

Mixed in with that, as I've mentioned, was another series watched in a different way. I can keep up with new series streaming on Crunchyroll with the "Popular" and "New" screens of their application, but when I eke my subscription along through "no new series quarters" by poking into their back catalogue I have to use the queue feature. On finishing the first Symphogear series that way, the first episode of its follow-up Symphogear G stayed displayed on the queue screen for about a year until I turned to it at last late last year. Now, having managed to hear and remember there'd soon be a fourth show in the franchise, I decided to prepare myself for a sequel for once and tidy up my queue in the process by watching Symphogear GX. Finding a new way to set up another crisis the growing force of idol singer-scientific magical girls had to battle their way through, the show barrelled along with familiar glee. It's possible, though, that I'd been slow to follow up the first series because of a casually critical comment overheard about the third, and assuming I'm remembering it right I could see a bit of its point in the franchise's cast having enlarged to where there wasn't quite the same drive to invoke "pounding your antagonist into submission's just one more way to wind up friends with her." The "heavies" of this series did seem amusingly compelling to me while they were around, though, and I could keep anticipating the series yet to come.

There have been vacations I've taken lots of anime encodings with me on portable computers but stayed so busy morning to evening as to hardly get through any of them. Hope still springs eternal, though, and I wasn't anywhere near the sort of mood that might have supposed "taking a holiday from anime" necessary in itself. Instead, I was thinking ahead, if to a somewhat daunting project. Now that the last of the old Gundam series had been released on home video over here I wanted to get around to their mecha action, but one of them had been produced early enough I could contemplate "making a big deal of it" by also watching the "Universal Century" series preceding it that had started the whole thing off. There was one compromise I could make in the face of "an awful lot of episodes," which was to begin with the Mobile Suit Gundam movies. Back when the first selection of Gundam anime works had made their official arrival on this side of the Pacific, I'd rented them from a well-stocked independent video store near my university, and since then I'd seen many other people make approving comments about them succeeding at boiling out the filler but staying connected where other "compilations" get dismissed as "glorified highlight reels." At the same time, every so often I've wondered if they do feel like "self-contained units strung together at length," and when I had the chance to watch the full original series I found it rewarding in its own way, wobblier original animation, peculiar mechanical designs, and all. This time around, though, not only did I find the time to watch through the movies (if at times as "one fair block" separated by other activities getting in the way), I did seem able to take things as they came. However, I was still aware this brought me closer to a challenge that seemed that much more daunting for sometimes feeling one pitting me against received opinion itself...

As the Gundam series began being re-released, a review in Otaku USA magazine invoked The Force Awakens in playing up Zeta Gundam as "the original heroes return years later as a new generation faces a fresh crisis." I could imagine just what positive impressions were hoped to be invoked to entice a specific group of people into "old school anime," but I was also aware all over again of specific and personal problems I have on both sides of the connection. It did remind me anyway of having wondered about Zeta Gundam having been hard-sold as "The Empire Strikes Back of Gundam," the "dark" sequel used to dismiss anything not as "dark" that followed, even if I could now wonder if I had another clue as to just why I'd found the anime series frustrating, start to finish, when I'd first watched it. So far as the new comparison goes, I can suppose the original Gundam hadn't been meant to make an ethical statement and reach a mythic resolution, and its main characters hadn't come across as having reached positions of importance and formed bonds between each other only to all of a sudden be presented as having had all that fall apart in some unexplained way because that would make things just like "the good old days" (although the antagonists quickly lose all three of their "black Gundams," resort to Mobile Suits with a distinct resemblance to the hostile mecha of the original series, and have more gold braid appear on their uniforms partway in to make "dark variants" of the original protagonist outfits look a bit more like the original antagonists as well.) However, while when chances to go back to The Force Awakens for just the second time come up I keep just sort of shrugging them off in disinterest, I'd slogged my way through the fifty episodes of Zeta Gundam a full three times years before beginning to contemplate this new project, and for what had seemed a minimal amount of improved sentiment. I even contemplated watching Zeta Gundam's compilation movies this time around instead, but beyond their having been dismissed as the more typical sort of anime compilations and their peculiar mix of original animation and stuff made two decades later, "gear-shifting" that might really set off the people who make a big deal of the new effects of the Star Wars Special Editions giving them the vapours, there's the little problem that the movies have a "retconning" resolution that seems to cut them off from the series I was hoping to get to.

I went back to the full series at last, aware of a steady disconnection, at times a curl of disapproval, in my getting through the Mobile Suit battles and the character maneuverings. There were times, all the same, when I did wonder if in a different mood I'd be "making more of things myself" as I know I can do with other stories others are quicker to dismiss, and wondering if the crucial early moments of the series are still what trips me up when reacting to all the following moments others would insist are impactful, just because it all feels sort of overdone and taking itself with utter yet unamusing seriousness (except, perhaps, when the return of the antagonist of the original series feels sort of underbaked and unengaging, even after I can contemplate others reacting with "this just shows how traumatic the original series was for him...") The end was getting nearer by the close of these three months, but I was again a bit concerned I'd still react with a "goodbye and good riddance" for the foreseeable future once more. With all of that said, while I was working my way through Zeta Gundam this time I did happen on a negative comment about the series in a reaction thread ("...a drab, passionless work filled with dark moments just for the sake of it involving a cast of mostly unlikeable characters so you don't care when bad things happen to them.") The reminder I'd seen other unimpressed sentiments before, though, could also get me thinking that it may well be "safer" to be negative towards something many people hold up than to admit positive reactions to frequently condemned series, making an uncomfortable connection to me and Gundam Seed...

Getting back from vacation, I decided to get back to my Crunchyroll queue and clear off a second sequel left on it after I'd finished the original. One of my very first reactions was that the character designs of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too had been heavily revised from the first series. They now seemed more polished than the previous, perhaps somewhat raggedy and watered-down take on the original character designer's style, even if there might have been something of a loss of character in the absence of any resemblance to the original art. I then happened to see an explanation there'd been a wholesale change in animation studios between the original series and the sequel; in the reaction thread, two people had two directly opposed opinions on which series was better following one after the other. The series kept up the original's very grounded take on high school interactions (all the more striking, perhaps, for knowing it was adapted from "light novels," which all too often I see dismissed as "every fan-bait cliché in the book"), but as it continued on I did get a sense the biggest problem the smartmouthed protagonist Hachiman Hikigaya had to resolve was his own personal problems, and the uneasy feeling that if I wanted that actual resolution I'd have to turn to the light novels themselves and hope they'd all get translated. Official translations certainly read better than some of the thoroughly stilted fan translations I've happened on without being able to get into, but they can still feel a slog to get through.

To mix another series in among that, I decided to once more step away from streaming and watch something off some of my many discs. The only problem was that with a great many days going to Zeta Gundam, "rewatching a mecha series from the twentieth century," I did want to avoid any one of those categories, which seemed to cut down my options all over again. If I'm recalling it right, though, seeing a particular title mentioned in a "hidden gems" sale reminded me I'd bought a series named Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars a fair while ago, more or less because it had been released over here by Right Stuf; I was ready to suppose there'd be a subtle appeal to it. As I opened it up, though, I was still just a little concerned about other series built around "these teenagers have fantastic adventures but never have to leave the small comforts and utter familiarity of high school." Instead of that, however, the moment after an explanation came together about the "Shingu," a gigantic entity part golem and part papercraft battling spinning top-like apparitions, the teenaged characters just focused on junior high activities of absolute mundanity as I began to wonder a bit about the old-fashioned "alternative angles" on the DVDs revealing the show's actual Japanese title wasn't changing from the similar but less grandiose "Muryou: Record of the School Wars." Some competent adults continued to be involved in the quiet management of visits by aliens in the background, but somehow something about the easy-going likability of the series began to seem downright tedious to me. Conscious this did seem to be more "my fault" than the story's, I did happen to think of Bodacious Space Pirates and its own pleasant and low-key science fiction universe I'd wished would be more "exciting." While I've told myself "don't fixate on what you thought a series would be to the point of not even considering what it now seems," that most often seems to come into play when I see other people indignant there's been no unequivocal establishment of destined romantic partners and react with "but they did work towards the goal, however non-romantic, established at the beginning; that's somehow good enough for me." In any case, though, an awareness I'd broken off watching "a series I'd paid for the DVDs for" from Right Stuf before was creeping back to mind.

I did manage to get around to several anime movies in these three months, by a variety of ways. Before leaving on vacation I managed to see your name. at the movies, and even after all the excited reports of how much money the movie was making provoked some thoughts of "expectations being raised too high" it was quite impressive. The feeling that Makoto Shinkai had refined the elements familiar from his past works until they were no longer "predilections" but part of the effect and appeal, indeed the thought the movie contained things familiar enough from "the typical sort of anime" but then dismissed as "they may keep a handful of obsessive weirdoes hooked, but any work of wide appeal needs to renounce that fan-bait," might have added an extra bit of welcome amusement to the experience. Supposing the very success of the movie would mean a long wait for it to be released on video over here (with what seemed the distinct risk of lots of complaints about our release ending up "compromised"), I was glad to have had the chance to see it larger than life at the movies. After getting back from vacation, though, I resorted to a method no less underhanded than it's ever been to see another anime feature I'd heard positive things about. The seven-volume manga series A Silent Voice, about a teenaged boy trying to make things up to the girl he helped bully in grade school over being deaf, had been adapted into a movie by the well-regarded Kyoto Animation. I had noticed questions about whether this wouldn't wind up too compressed, but to me the movie did seem able to cut out at least one subplot while still seeming to keep the core of the story; the complexities of the characters seeming to mean some moments had to be thought over to escape quick dismissals also carried over from the manga, though. I did think a bit that with the story depending on sign language, more work had to be put into the animation than might be devoted to an ordinary three-month-long anime series where the characters can just talk a great deal to each other.

The weekend after, I opened up Time of EVE. It had been directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, who had gone on to direct Patema Inverted, and a lot of other people seemed to find the earlier movie more complex. As much as I can slide into the overreaction of supposing opinions like that "holding something up by cutting something else down," I did eventually try to take a chance on the earlier movie all the same. It was set in a science fiction universe where robots have become human save for the elaborate holographic haloes they have to display in public; while there did seem to be a lot of computer animation in the movie beyond that, I could deal with it. There were plenty of ways to read deeper meaning into the story than just "meditations on artificial intelligence, constrained by Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics no less," but having heard the movie had been shaped from earlier, self-contained short videos, I could still fixate on an "episodic" feeling that didn't seem to end with much in the way of a grand conclusion. A weekend after that, I got around to one more movie, but one seemingly with much less of a good reputation than the ones I'd been watching before. At a time when I thought myself to be slogging through Zeta Gundam, growing uneasy with Shingu, and a bit ambiguous about My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU too, though, I did come to think while watching it that Strike Witches the Movie was joining Lupin the Third in standing out as particularly enjoyable right then. I could also remember a few thoughts about the franchise's spinoff Brave Witches somehow managing to tone down a few of the things particularly eyebrow-raising about the "War on Pants" (only to then be surprised by the Brave Witches themselves making a cameo appearance in a movie made before their own series had aired, if an appearance a bit less involved than by some of the other previously unseen Witches also appearing in the movie), but the absurdity was once more carrying me along. However, while I'd thought before beginning the movie that with the franchise's timeline having advanced to the summer of 1945 its skewed take on World War II would reach a conclusion there, things wound up carrying still further forward off the expected map. The next weekend, I watched The Guns of Navarone, although I didn't get around to watching Rogue One for a second time the weekend following as I'd thought a bit about beforehand.
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