krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
As a new season's worth of anime series started up three months ago, I was conscious I didn't feel grabbed by quite as many of my initial limited understandings of the shows beginning as I'd been for several seasons before. As I still wasn't quite stuck altogether on the outside there, though, I was willing to make up whatever shortfall this might seem to be from my own collection and series presented as a block on Netflix, even thinking a bit of a change might be nice. A different change that also happened along the way, however, was going into my stacks of DVDs and Blu-Rays, at last picking out titles I thought I could "get rid of" one way or another with the thought this was one small push back against one day "finding myself buried in things." This stretched so far as to titles I'd bought years ago but never opened until such time as I could find myself wondering "was I ever that interested in seeing them?" In no real way did it seem to threaten "putting all anime behind me at last," but I did wind up a little conscious it's one thing to pile these chopping-block titles in a different place, and another to figure out just how I can sell some of them or just hand everything over to the library book sale to make them someone else's problem.

As for shows I was going back to from my collection, I turned to the "TV episodes" of Kyousougiga half-hoping they'd feel more connected and go further than the "ONA episodes" also in the collection, and they did seem to come together in the end. At the same time, I was taking in a series on Netflix "at last." Dragon Pilot (Netflix did go so far as to subtitle the series with its completely different on-screen Japanese title, "Hisone and Masotan") is about a young recruit in the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force who's told all of a sudden she has to pilot an ancient dragon the force just happens to be keeping under wraps with the aid of add-on armour that can squeeze it into the form of a F-15J. Their character designs had me thinking of the word "cartoony" and wondering if this series really looked like "few other anime I've seen," although some of the surrounding cast eventually had me thinking the series just had "appealingly simplified" designs. One other thing that happened in the series was a midway-through shift towards "a serious mission," which did also get me wondering just how much female-male relationships "thrown in only after people have supposed a series won't deal with anything so controversial" get some worked up and indignant. I might have been more willing to just try and roll with it, but I could also get to wondering whether anime series on Netflix, in not playing the current game of "showing one new episode a week," leave people annoyed enough to find ways to dismiss them when they're not just letting them sink without a trace.

On the weekends, I kept watching my way through Great Mazinger. At the end of these three months, I was was almost surprised to think the foursquare simplicity of the giant robot series simply appealing, helped along perhaps by some minor turnover in equipment and adversaries. This might have stood out all the more by thinking back to suppose that when the series had started, the main characters of Mazinger Z having cleared the stage had seemed something to have to get over. A single episode along the way had gone into the backstory of the female pilot Jun, never lacking in initial determination even if she also never seems to bring up her giant robot being underequipped to take on enemy monsters-of-the-week, and explained her eye-catching dark complexion was due to being half Japanese and half African. The only problem there, perhaps, was that in that single episode she was presented as futilely wanting to scrub that away. There was one weekend Great Mazinger wasn't the oldest bit of anime I was watching; someone who'd "fansubbed" sample episodes of other early and obscure series had translated the first two instalments of a black-and-white series from the mid-1960s, Hustle Punch. It was explained as a Japanese take on the Hanna-Barbera "funny animal" limited animation cartoons from just a few years before. Where the other two black-and-white anime from the 1960s I've seen samples of could be taken as "starting points for all that followed," Hustle Punch did seem something anime got away from. I did wonder if it might have been "localized" for North America if only it hadn't been in black and white, but there did seem a lot of shooting guns in it even for the 1960s over here.

The streaming series that had managed to catch my attention also aired on the weekend. For SSSS.GRIDMAN, though, I did start off with some uneasiness mixed into my interest. The latest series from Trigger wasn't quite "a mecha series," but after all the controversy I'd had to pick my way over to finish their previous mecha series it was all too easy to fall back to my usual thought that "mecha series these days don't get a fair shake." Its first episode involving some measure of "amnesia" also had me thinking of Planet With, which did seem to set a very high bar to meet. By the end of the second episode an antagonist beyond "monsters of the week" had been established, though (and one who sometimes seemed to be taking over the whole story, even given just how popular the designs of the female characters appeared to be making them). I started settling into a series I knew to be an animated version of the live-action "special effects" series I most associate with source material for the "Power Rangers" franchise. This did get me wondering again about "how I 'see' anime characters versus how people in Japan 'see' them" and relative amounts of animation versus live action consumed in general, but Gridman did come to seem a pretty interesting series in the end, and even one most casually expressed opinions of others that I didn't miss seemed surprisingly positive towards. The other series I had happened to hear just a bit about beforehand was more just convenient to watch when I did. Anima Yell! was about high school girls starting cheerleading, a familiar enough group of character types assembling around a core of simple enthusiasm. I didn't hear right away it was based on a "four-panel manga," although once I'd heard that it was easy enough to see another sort of familiarity in its "setup, develop, punchline, repeat" structure. However, I may not have been too steeped of late in "cute girls doing cute things" series, so it was pleasant enough and "cheerful" in various ways to keep watching even if by the time I'd got past the "simple and young-ish" character designs I was thinking the "slashy vibes" must have been laid on pretty thick for me to have noticed them even before noticing other people getting more excited than me over them.

Starting new episodes of Dragon Pilot using the Netflix application did keep me aware of other anime series showing up there, so when I finished that series (and a special episode of Violet Evergarden) my imagination wasn't ranging far into the perhaps bewildering possibilities of just what to watch next. Two new series on the service had managed to catch my eye; one seemed a bit more interesting than the other, and yet it also seemed more like the other series I'd formed plans to start watching. I compromised therefore on Last Hope, whose on-screen Japanese title I could tell was completely different but which wasn't translated. It at least didn't have a cast just made of teenagers; the main character had been an absent-minded-professor-type for several years in a post-apocalyptic world he'd been blamed for creating, only to have worked out a way to pit now fully capable mecha against monstrous, over-evolved animals threatening a redoubt city. That city, pleasant enough inside its fortifications, appeared to be in mainland China, which did raise a few thoughts about "targeting things to foreign markets" even as that reminded me that might not mean "meeting our demands." With the thought that Last Hope seemed very much the sort of anime someone not fully steeped in it or operating on old memories might call "typical," though, also came the feeling there was some missing factor to its character designs, hard to quantify or qualify. That another block of episodes would show up near the end of the year to presumably conclude things just left me wondering about how long the Netflix application would keep trying to remind me they existed.

I had in fact already been thinking ahead to the new year, and a possibly grandiose cycle of older anime to watch again in it. That might have pointed my thoughts back in general, and perhaps influenced by the announced dissolution of the partnership between Crunchyroll and Funimation I was focusing on a series I'd seen a bit of all the way back in my university's anime club. The Slayers might have just followed the era of "the series everyone watched," but the club didn't often feature those shows anyway. While the first episodes I returned to did feel familiar, I got to ones I didn't have the same impression of having seen before sooner than I'd supposed I would. The adventures of Lina Inverse, a powerful and hot-headed sorceress (most of whose spells involve blowing things up) in a generic fantasy realm were broadly comedic but entertaining enough in an undemanding way. Lina's own big-eyed, angular look did remind me of "the way things had once been" without reaching quite as far back as the stuff I've "gone back to" of late.

As I ran out of episodes of Last Hope, I found myself thinking of staying on "a path back to older anime" by programming another vintage series alongside Slayers. Now prompted by having noticed a site I follow discussing it, I turned at last to Serial Experiments Lain. I supposed I'd first seen it on DVD some time ago, although after I formed that thought I turned up an old poster from my university's anime club advertising it at the shows I'd returned to just after graduating; perhaps, as with Revolutionary Girl Utena, it was a series I counter-programmed my dinners during. When it was "license rescued," I went ahead and ordered the compact, weighty Blu-Ray box set, only to see people raising familiar complaints about "Funimation's poor visual quality" and left the set to sit. Starting into it left me hoping my standards weren't quite as demanding as some, but it did seem I could focus on the show itself. It begins with a strange, childlike teenaged girl named Lain hearing a classmate who'd committed suicide still seemed to be sending messages from "the Wired," after which she begins massively upgrading her "Navi" and things get peculiar and elliptic. Even with casual references to "Copland" and Be (and, after I'd thought maybe my memories were mistaken, a "Navi" with a resemblance to an early gumdrop iMac) it's easy enough to try and translate modern network suspicions into the show's past (and for all of the massive desktop systems, there's a bit of "mobile technology" here and there too), but the "sort it out for yourself" challenge of the show can wind up making the threatening technology feel "indistinguishable from magic." Too, I could also struggle with the feeling the character designs kept turning out with another sort of "missing factor," even if I wondered about this tying into an "unsettling and alienating" mood. I have started wondering about the final years of the previous millennium transitioning into about a decade of anime I got through at the time but which now, as much as I keep wanting to think myself fine with things at present, look kind of bland and less appealing.

Finishing Slayers and Serial Experiments Lain together left me with less time in the month than I'd need to watch through a "twelve to thirteen episode series"; however, with my thoughts already turning back in time to "older series" I realised there was just enough time to watch the seven Patlabor OVAs, which I'd had waiting on Blu-Ray for a while. These first adventures of a group of misfit cops equipped with particularly "real" yet still compellingly designed giant robots range through a lot of territory, not a lot of which includes "setting mecha to counter mecha." I did notice the typeface for the subtitles seemed unusually large, although I tried to tell myself not to be as swift to dwell on "deal-breakers" as some seem. Then, I happened to hear a new "complete Patlabor collection" appeared to actually have corrected the subtitle errors some had made a big deal of finding in the Blu-Rays, including reducing the typeface size. In wondering just when I might get around to ordering the collection, I did happen to think back to how I'd rushed to order Patlabor on DVD on hearing the company then releasing it was going out of business, then sat on those discs for years with the vague thought the franchise's reputation was high enough that "to watch the best thing you have is to risk a long slide towards unimpressiveness; at least that's what some seem to imply." At last, though, I'd got around to watching the OVAs on DVD, only to hear the series really had been "license rescued" for Blu-Ray. Now, it was unfortunately tempting to wonder about looping back to the start again.

After Christmas vacation, I had opportunity and time enough to watch a few more things. I took in a Cells at Work! special episode, now recognizing it from the manga I started buying supposing it would make up for every intention of not buying the "quasi-import" anime. Then, I kept on my path back in time by opening up a Blu-Ray of the Lupin the Third movie The Castle of Cagliostro, even if I did realise afterwards this was a few days in advance of its "fortieth year." Perhaps more familiar with Lupin now than when I first watched this adventure with stylings of chivalrous fairy tale, I thought some of the music now sounded familiar even if Hayao Miyazaki's character designs seemed to take a moment adjusting to compared to "second series" and "fifth series." I certainly couldn't fault the animation, and after the second series presenting Lupin's recurring opponent Inspector Zenigata as more or less a consistent buffoon his somewhat different presentation here was also refreshing. After that, I opened a Blu-Ray of Robot Carnival, perhaps picking up on all the traditionally animated "mechanical dissolution" as an oddly unifying element in this anthology work. As with the Cagliostro Blu-Ray, there are some new extra features worked in calling back to "earlier presentations." "How Streamline Pictures rearranged Robot Carnival's segments to economize on film reels" might be a bit less compelling to me at first glance than "subtitles made up right after Castle of Cagliostro was released, quite possibly before certain viewers paid so close an attention to them," but I do have to admit that in both cases I just wanted to familiarize myself with "the currently intended presentation," even if I could call back to how I'd tried summarizing Robot Carnival before.
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