Monday, January 04, 2021

Anime round-up 2020 and a bit

Never got around to doing an "end of the 2010s" summary a year ago, mainly because of the new titles that quarter I only watched the Youjo Senki movie (which is just more of Tanya being her loveable self in the desert and on the Eastern front -- if you liked the series,...) and one episode of Chihayafuru 3.

And what with that, and other world events, I ended up watching very little that was new the whole of 2020, with a bunch of backlog clearing and rewatches.

I stumbled across the raw of the Lensman movie on YouTube, so out of morbid curiosity -- having heard nothing good about this take on the classic space opera -- I sat down and watched it. On the plus side, it's clearly animated on a movie budget, and generally makes good use of what was for the time high-end CGI (except in one bizarre TronxPacMan-style sequence), and generally has high production values. On the other hand, it pastes a few names from the source onto a Star Wars meets Dirty Pair sci-fi comedy thriller, with random slapstick, and even more random disco scenes. Interesting to have seen, but that's about the limit of it.

Also finished Chobits, having abandoned it years ago. This was another of these "complete" manga adaptations that finish while the manga itself is still wrapping up (see also Planetes, Bokurano, etc, ad naus), so could only approximate the canonical end, with the most obvious difference being that Chi's inconveniently located reset switch never actually factored into the anime's resolution. Because 1 cour shows weren't really a thing back around the turn of the century, it also had to spread itself out, so that, as well as overly extending the one chapter gag about Chi's pantsu to a whole episode, about a quarter of the episodes were completely anime-original SoL. In the adaptation, too, it brings home the generational change in technology in the years since, even more than the manga, which I reread a few months ago -- smartphones haven't quite become "it", but that's only for lack of the sexbot chassis.

Overall, very dated in style as well as subject, and having seen it all, I'm happy to cross that off the backlog, even if I was right in dropping it after the first disk, back in the pre-broadband days when it would not have been dated. Verdict -- of historical interest only.

Of similar historical interest was Tezuka's Firebird 2772, a very stange mix of distopia with interludes that wanted to be in Disney's Fantasia when they grew up. Rock Schlock, indeed. Plus the legendary 1985 OVA Twinkle Nora Rock Me. Yes, that one. The one where they saved money by not doing any in-betweening. Entirely harmless fluff, but Nora herself stands as an example of a character with potential wasted by the rest of the production.

I also caught up with Saint October, a series which, apart from killing off every fansub group that attempted it, started off being something very whimsical, somewhere in the vicinity of Scooby-Doo, style-wise, with cartoonish villains ranged against the magical-girl Goth Loli detectives. I'd seen about the first third before subs seemed to have completely stalled, so I was pleased to see the first cour end with what seemed to be a darker turn. It was slightly disappointing that the next episode, the only vestige of that event was in the new OP animation, but from that point the stakes did slowly build all the way to a rather well handled dénouement, which was better than the potential angst-fest that the midpoint seemed to be setting up. In all a surprisingly good series that I am glad finally got subbed, despite the rather patchy nature of those subs. Verdict -- well worth watching.

Also watched Fafner and Fafner : Heaven and Earth, both of which were OK, but nothing spectacular; in particular I didn't notice any significant difference after the writer change part-way through, which is something usually mentioned about the first series. In retrospect, having started with Exodus, and then gone back, may have been the right thing to do.

I had a bit of a Gundam kick, including F91, which was fairly weak, even allowing for it having been edited down to fit a movie, with sudden jumps after which characters had changed sides. Even the Char was a let-down. OTOH, G-Reco was not as bad as I'd been led to believe by the threads for when it aired -- it's just that everyone has factions (except the Gondwanese, who we never see, only hear of), several of the high-ranking military are clearly unfit for command on account of being sub-rational, and the ending just happens, after catching up on the Tomino kill-quota. And what was that random bit of "let's visit Japan" with a Tomino cameo after? I've not seen them in Japan in a UC Gundam before.

Also from the backlog, Fist of the Blue Sky - Regenesis, being a sequel to the autumn '06 Fist of the Blue Sky, which I never finished for lack of subs at the time. For a show about larger than life manly martial artists having two-fisted adventures, the somewhat janky CG animation is tolerable. In the end it was was a decent enough hokey martial arts fest, with new ultimate techniques being handed out almost every episode. On the down side, you do have to simply ignore the sudden retcon of the maguffin after the mid-point timeskip, not worry too much about the chronology, and sigh deeply when the scene cuts from some tense action to the comic relief villains left over from the previous series. And why is it that the mid-season change of OP/ED is always for the worse?

Samurai Flamenco was a fun love letter to toku, along the same lines as Gurrent Lagann was for super-robot, as well as being one of those rare series where the main cast are all adults well past their school days.

Picked up on a whim from having seen favourable mention years past, Blast of Tempest served the job of occupying a few dark evenings, but as a shonen series, having the two high-school leads out mind-gaming the adults was just going to be part of the territory, even if it had the grace to stay out of school. The mid series plot-twist was handled elegantly enough, though, as was the guy who by rights ought to have been the big bad. That the main girl falls for the "literally me" character was only to be expected.

In the guilty pleasures pile, I watched all three seasons of Overlord, a harmless diversion which proved to be quite amusing, with all the "Oh, shit!!" moments, just before the over-confident NPCs get kerb-stomped by our dorkish MC or his entourage.

On hold are Heroic Age, a sort-of mechs-in-space (or, rather, Attack on Titan in Space) from the Fafner crew, which had the misfortune of airing at the time as Gurren Lagann, and Bamboo Blade, also from '07. Also on hold, as only the first couple of episodes seem to have been subbed is Six Heart Princess, another rather different magical girl series, Different, as in it opens like this

with the use of ships as projectile weapons like that last seen in End of Evangelion.

Dropped after 4 episodes, Galilei Donna reminded me very much of RerideD, even though none of the lead staff on the one worked on the other, which was enough for me to declare it another Noitamina dud.

Amongst rewatches, Fafner Exodus, which I think benefited from now being able to tell more of the Hiraiface characters apart (good robot series, you should watch it); Long Riders (twice), during the winter and the early lockdown (a generally charming cute girls do outdoor activity show), Kemono Friends (tanoshii!!), GaruPan and Minami Kamakura Girls' High School Cycling Club plus OVA, for the vicarious miles on the road, mixed in with fluffy stuff like Vividred Operation, Konohana Kitan, Flying Witch and Toji no Miko. Also Rewatched YuYuYu both seasons, with the Hero Club part of S2 being much better when a) one knows that the developments being trailed in the Kusunoki Mebuki wa Yuusha de aru LN were scrapped and b) when watched with better subs than the "electronic brain pancake crystal elderly"-tier Amazon effort.

Q1 did bring the short-short Heya Camp△ which was entirely harmless; and Kirara Asteroid a "cute girls doing things" in the same sort of vein option, but that didn't impress -- the curse of 4koma source material strikes again, I guess. Somali looked pretty, but the endearing small girl antics were too much to take.

On the positive side, Railgun T was a known quantity, and there was also the rather off-beat Eizouken. Not only is this another Yuasa anime, it's an adaptation of a manga which I first became aware of due to some moaning about some of the typesetting in the scanlation --

but in the end, it did itself a disservice by not just fading to black when they put the DVD of their Comiket anime into the drive, rather than ending with what was the most underwhelming of the three pieces they animated. The best bits were the girls interacting, with Kanamori being the voice of reason amongst all the flights of fancy -- the process rather than the outcome.

Railgun T ended up spread over the first three quarters of the year due to production difficulties (Spring season in general was badly hit by Corona-chan), and was the mixture as usual, right up to the parts where you just have to say "Honestly now!" -- "Bust Upper", indeed!

In the end, Chihayafuru 3 was an interesting change of pace after the first two series -- much of the time Chihaya wasn't playing cards, being either away on a school trip, worrying about what career to follow after high-school, or in the audience watching 2nd and 3rd tier cast members playing each other in the Master and Queen tournaments. And there was even about an episode's worth of progression of the romance triangle scattered into the mix, before another cliffhanger ending.

The Toji no Miko OVA was little more than a reminder advertisement for the mobage, to showcase some of the in-game characters. Entirely harmless, but a bit of a let down compared with the series. Even the sword fights seemed mainly to be going through the motions.

And finally, this year I did finish the one Q4 show I started -- Iwa Kakeru was an adequate "cute girls do cute climbing things" offering, but no more. The quirky rivals from the other schools were mostly Chekov guns that never fired, with only Asuka Kurusu Anne being given much development, and again the curse of the 12 episode season hit -- the Nationals could have benefited from spreading over two episodes and leaving a little space to catch breath after the results were announced.

Continuing are Digimon Adventure: 2020, and rewatches of Tegami Bachi and the Koihime Musou sequels

No comments :