Monday, December 31, 2012

Anime — 2012 in review

A fairly weak year in all, with pretty much no series that grabbed, as can be seen from the gradual slowdown of reviews over the year.

Carrying over from last year, I watched Chihayafuru, and the third season of Natsume Yuujinchou; and on DVD, I started to watch Puella Magi Madoka Magica and House of Five Leaves, but haven't finished either of those yet.

Winter season

New Prince of Tennis I watched as a filler, back when we had enough series on the go to watch a couple of episodes a couple of evenings a week, and was mostly harmless.

I'm also still in the middle of the 4th season of Natsume Yuujinchou, which has lost a measure of the charm that it opened with, but will cover that separately when I'm done.

Last, and the best looking of the season's choices, Moretsu Pirates, which started out in surprisingly good form, with our heroine rising to the challenge of an unwanted inheritance, and showing some decent can-do, by teaching Kzinti Lesson 101 to a mysterious ship that had been dogging the school yacht club cruise exercise. But that potential plot line just got dropped, and as we moved onto the actual space pirates, arc after arc followed where any tension or challenge was undercut into anti-climax, as everything had to end up happy-happy and safe. And so a two cour series dragged out until late November.

Spring season

Ozma, I reviewed at the time.

Saki: Achiga-hen was a spin-off from the earlier school-girl mahjong series, focusing on a different school team battling their way into the national championship, but with only 12 episodes to date (more to air in the new year) covering from years before the events of the first series into the tournament stage beyond where it had reached, it's way more compressed. Three episodes pass before any games are played, and it's even then most of them are done in fast-forward (so no real display of their magical-girl style abilities), until the final match, where the first game is then spread over the last three episodes.

Everything else is unfinished, may not finish.

In arbitrary order -- Space Brothers had an interesting premise, but a mix of slow, slow pacing and Japanese humour ground me to a halt about ten episodes in. One episode of Kuroko no Basuke was enough so soon after New Prince of Tennis (only so many magical boy anime I can take at a run); Folktales of Japan turned into too much of a good (the same) thing, with two tales out of three seeming to involve a bumpkin stumbling onto some magical fortune, and ne'er-do-well neighbours trying and failing to duplicate the trick; Kids on the Slope was a josei series about jazz and school life in the 1960s, but when it got to be an "A likes B likes C likes D likes..." chain, I stopped caring; and while the art style is interesting, Tsuritama's characters failed to engage me.

Summer season

So, I'm in the middle of, and will probably finish Uta Koi, a collection of loosely inspired stories about the Hundred Poems.

Apart from that, I tried an episode of Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, which was amusing for starting with the MC saying the terrifying words "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."; but it laid the satire on without subtlety, and what I saw from threads on /a/, that continued, even beyond the bounds of reason for the apparent setting. So not picked up.

Autumn season

Unfortunately, Crunchyroll didn't pick up JoJo's Bizarre Adventures, which was the only title of the season that would have been a "must watch". I did try the first episode of Shin Sekai Yori, but it also failed to excite; and subsequent reactions didn't help, as it became clear that the adaptation was being done on a shoestring budget and was suffering from having pare down the original material hard to fit into the two cour format ("If you'd read the novel, you'd know that..."), so not picked up either.

Blast from the past — Neon Genesis Evangelion

So I actually rewatched the series that has been eating up a lot of my fanac time for the last nine years, the original DVDs with the as-aired series and none of the later retcons in the so-called Director's Cut revisions, as I did first time around. The main difference was that I watched with Japanese language and subbed all the way, rather than switching from the Texan dub part-way through, which had the effect, inter alia, of making Asuka less annoying in the episodes before she gets clobbered by the plot.

This is a series where you can't really step into the same river twice even if there are always going to be details that elude recollection. The first watching, unspoiled save knowing that if you were going to watch a giant robot anime, NGE should be it, but that the last two episodes were controversial, meant that everything came as a shock. After years of taking it apart almost frame by frame, with reference to the script in the main, less so.

It still falls into the stages of being Shinji, plus some Rei; then a long arc in the middle where it's really Asuka's story so far as I'm concerned, and only at the end, when nobody else is left standing, does it become Shinji's again. But then as is plain to see, it was Asuka whose plight struck me deeply first time around, and still remains the character that I wished the best for.

And, even knowing the orthodox interpretations, typically based on the DC material, there was nothing that on review shook any of the surprisingly heterodox conclusions I came to, from Asuka's lack of any serious interest in Shini through to the completely democratic nature of the upload-style "Gendo wins" Instrumentality at the end.

"Rebuild of Evangelion"

Yeah, the third of the remake movies came out about six weeks ago in Japan. After having been somewhat jaundiced by the first apart from the updated eye-candy, I still haven't watched the second yet. Where I said back then that it looked to be heading into bad fanfic territory based on the "Next Episode Preview", things panned out much that way in the end by all accounts, with all the characters reworked, in the new episode of the Shinji Ikari Show.

So, yeah.

Meanwhile the latest episode, Evangelion:Q seems to have discarded everything from its preceding "Next Episode Preview", and would be a whole new super-robot franchise, were it not that it's actually yet another Shinji movie, and one driven by an idiot plot to boot.

I wouldn't say that I liked the original despite Shinji, but back then he was just a harmless nebbish most of the time, despite his own self-denigration. The revised version from EoE was one who lived down to that evaluation, and this third version seems worse, if anything.

So, unless the concluding episode, Evangelion:||, pulls off something remarkable to redeem the preceding films, I doubt I shall be bothering with those, either.

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