Three months ago, as one more "quarterly review" of anime viewed meant working out one more explanation why I'd more or less missed out on what seems the modern game of watching new series on a weekly schedule through official streaming, I was at least thinking things might be different in the summer. In those three months I wasn't away on a long vacation, and yet in just their first week or two I realised I'd once more sit out the game.

Part of this did have to do with what's become over just the past few seasons a familiar complaint from other fans, that amazon.com's streaming service is snatching up all the really interesting titles, a demonstation there really is money in anime some would be just fine living without. I know I could afford another subscription, and yet in my half-articulated feelings there does seem a slight reminder of my somewhat older thought "I know if anyone can afford pricy 'quasi-imports' I can, but I just can't convince myself all those claims of 'Japanese audiovisual encoding quality' cost thatmuch to produce." In this case, it's a matter of not having thought I needed to pay for Prime shipping to start with sliding into a half-articulated conviction I'd rather buy my books from the area bookstore (even if it's just one outpost of the national chain), and the additional snag that amazon.com doesn't seem to want to make its streaming service available through budget Chromecasts like the one I've had connected to my TV for a while now (even if that can grind against a half-articulated ambiguity about making too much use of Google services...)

As for what did show up on Crunchyroll, I was once more just plain stuck looking at initial descriptions without any of them grabbing me. That just seemed to point out how I had anticipated one series and made deliberate preparations for in the months just before, but the latest instalment of Symphogear had fallen through whatever cracks do exist nowadays and hadn't been licensed by anyone. At last, somewhat oppressed by the thought "I have to use my subscription for something,"I contemplated an adaptation of a "girls' love" manga I was already reading. The manga itself, though, had already been decried as the most exploitative of those titles in the genre being released over here right now, and the adaptation was being further criticised for more than that, including some "and such small portions!" indignation for its episodes being much shorter than usual. Even with all of that, I did call up Crunchyroll's new episodes list in a reluctant, uneasy mood, only to be surprised at something different. There'd been promises the Japanese dub of RWBY, further evidence perhaps that some gatekeepers over here just might be more rigid than some Japanese fans, would be made available for streaming, and now they'd come true. I started watching with interest, a few thoughts of certain characters feeling a bit different with their new voices soon fading, although I did run into complaints that presenting the first three "web series" as thirteen twenty-five minute episodes (still with their English theme songs, similar to my understanding that most English-language dubs retain Japanese theme songs) meant taking out a lot of the early development. I was able to get through the episodes anyway, contemplating those old encomiums of Japanese voice acting that might in the end have kept me from having much to compare RWBY's original English dialogue to beyond thoughts of it adding to the "lo-fi charm."

With all of that said, though, I was hardly otherwise left miserable and worried in between explanations; I just kept up the better side of my own private game. What with discs I've already bought and recent back-catalogue streaming additions, I could stay on the full schedule that can leave me thinking "I could watch things other than anime..." It might not have had the elation of seeing other fans add their own positive reactions and interesting theories episode by episode to certain series or even the engagement of following message board and weblog updates, but it also avoided the uncomfortable weight of seeing some people sour bit by bit on quite a few other shows. In some ways, of course, I'm not escaping the opinions of others, and perhaps I've merely returned to the distant days of a decade past when I'd notice general judgments from those much more connected and motivated, then take my chances based in some part on them. Even so, it can be something to wind up thinking "my reactions are my own."

To start off these three months, I did get to see something "at last" I'd waited half a year sort of hoping for. Netflix picking up anime series as exclusives provides another suggestion there's money in it, but that can seem just about as controversial among anime fans as amazon.com's Anime Strike for its own reasons, namely that it doesn't play by the insisted-on rule of making weekly episodes of new series available just as fast as they can be subtitled. After seeing the now-familiar indignation at the announcement it had acquired a much-anticipated upcoming series, I'd noticed some other people go ahead with week-by-week reaction posts anyway, just possibly resorting to old-fashioned translated-from-scratch "fansubs" rather than getting to demonstrate fluency in Japanese and some hypothetical ability to acquire "raws." I suppose I could have followed that first path (if only that first path) myself, but with the way my viewing schedule shaped itself in the first weeks of the series airing I wound up just waiting for Little Witch Academia to be available "above-ground" over here. Some time ago I'd been caught up by the original work of that title, a well-animated OVA about a student of magic named Akko with what seemed much more enthusiasm than talent, and pledged money to a Kickstarter to extend a second OVA. Hearing there'd be a full television series added to the franchise did get my attention, but I was a little conscious it had taken a second viewing of the follow-up OVA to really shake some ambiguous feelings about "hard acts to follow." As I got started, though, I was willing to accept the series seemed to begin in a way that separated it from the original OVA, then to get used to an episodic structure. There might not have been a lot of "worldbuilding" explaining just what the student witches would do away from their magical academy, but that didn't seem the main thing to focus on in the series. Rather, the familiar characters seemed the draw. By spacing out the first block of episodes made available, I didn't have long to wait between finishing them and the second half of the series getting added. At that point, though, I realised a plot arc was setting in, one that did touch on points established earlier and which in the end went all the way back to theories I'd first noticed others bring up about the original OVA, such that the series wound up feeling quite satisfying.

Leaving Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars half-watched, whatever regrets I felt about it not having worked out for me fading fast, I settled on another long-waiting series to open from the sometimes narrow space in among "saved for some nebulous 'later' because of positive impressions," "ambiguous reminders of the vague whims that helped make orders big enough for free shipping," and "a bit too much like what I'm already watching right now." I was even willing to open one of the large yet affordable boxes NIS America started getting away from before getting away from licensing anime at all, and got around to a series whose lengthy Japanese title, translated as "The Flower We Saw That Day," is also abbreviated as Ano Hana. Although this was years after others had talked about it to get my attention, I was still a bit vague on just what it was about, and I'm conscious that "not wanting to give away my own surprise" can just seem "vague." I think I can say, though, that it's about a scattered group of teenagers once childhood friends, and the sudden reappearance of someone only half-changed. The repeated themes of time passed and regrets did make the series feel a bit different somehow from the most quickly dismissed anime series of recent days, but there were some elements to it that did seem a bit more familiar that way. Perhaps, though, I was aware I'd bought the series from NIS America sight unseen but since then Aniplex of America had reclaimed its license with plans of selling a perhaps less formidable package for a steeper price, and of how, if I do watch series they've licensed these days, it's with one eye for identifying things not "worth any price." I suppose Ano Hana did seem less intent on dwelling on impending tragedy than Your Lie in April, which was something if still not enough to make it "better than anything else" for me.

As I was starting those new series, I was still slogging once more through the concluding episodes of Zeta Gundam. My attempt at being generous enough to ask if I'd just got off on the wrong foot with this much-acclaimed mecha series to the point of not giving it the chances I'll give less highly praised works was fading back to the thought that perhaps, with the series held up as worthy for discerning tastes but in just such a way as to seem to feel like putting other mecha anime, or just lots of other anime, down in passing, I was put in a mood to think of what seemed to me to be sudden melodramatic turns and an elusive lack of lasting consequences to them as not living up to grandiose claims. As I finished the series at last, though, I could get around to its recently officially released direct sequel, the reason why I'd been working my way through the formative Gundam series and yet seemingly another and altogether different challenge.

The first grand praise of Zeta Gundam I saw, back around when the franchise was just starting to be released on VHS at last, had a dark side to it. Its direct, next-season sequel, Gundam Double Zeta, seemed to have made a wild gear shift and slid from what I'd seen held up as tense action and subtle machinations to mere child-friendly farce. (This was around where smug invocations of George Lucas, as if we'd all instantly condemn Gundam's original director Yoshiyuki Tomino by mere association, started grating on me.) A fair while after that, but just over a decade ago now, after getting through Zeta Gundam for the third time with little increase in personal positivity I turned to "fansubs" of Gundam Double Zeta, the only way to see that show translated at the time. With my impressions of Zeta Gundam already divergent from what so many others presented as correct, I did wind up thinking Double Zeta's later episodes had turned more serious and did even appeal to me. However, to get to that part of the series I'd had to struggle through what had wound up as impressions of "monstrous dumbness." Those old memories didn't offer a lot of encouragement as I opened the official sets now available at last. Braced as I was in an ambiguous way for the first episodes, though, all of a sudden I was thinking they didn't seem so bad after all, in fact even sort of funny.

It could be just a matter of being different from what had kept seeming to me the ever so serious pretensions of Zeta Gundam. More than that, though, I found myself thinking of how in the decade after my first viewing of the show I did seem to find anime series with a healthy dose of "absurd action" among my favourites, developing perhaps from how I'd wound up choosing to view Mystery Science Theater 3000 itself as "helping point out unintentional humour already there" rather than "cudgels and scalpels applied to an unworthy mass." There, however, I could start remembering how during my first time around, not as far from my days of reading new "anime MSTings" as I am now, I'd thought there was a distinct flavour of "male Mary Sue" to Double Zeta's new protagonist Judau Ashta, who'd seemed to have invited himself into an existing story to break all the rules and be the centre of all attention for that. This time around, that feeling seemed almost non-existent, and I was better able to see Judau as bumbling his way through his first battles (if against antagonists comedically incompetent in their own ways), even if the action somehow seemed more plain exciting than Zeta Gundam's. Anyway, after not having managed any grand accession of positivity towards Zeta Gundam and before that having developed an uneasy reaction to Turn A Gundam now seeming "uncompelling and underexplained," it was very pleasant to hit on improved opinions at last.

Not that long after finishing Gundam Double Zeta (and seeming to get past how that sudden appreciation of the early farce now threatened to make the later seriousness just feel contrived), I watched the original movie that had long been said to conclude the "core story" of Gundam, Char's Counterattack. Char Aznable himself, the scheming yet compelling antagonist of the original series who had then felt somehow domesticated in Zeta Gundam and been missing altogether in Double Zeta, was now out to put Earth in an asteroid-impact deep freeze to end the extended conflict between it and the space colonies that way. Some other characters did comment on that seeming a rather large change. There was a sense of the action having been developed to a new scale, but I could see the point of familiar complaints about the latest small group of "new generation" characters not coming across well at all. The lightning rod for that, Quess Paraya, seems to combine the random mood swings of Zeta Gundam's characters with the childishness of one Double Zeta character (who's younger than her, too) as she fixates first on protagonist Amuro Ray and then on Char, only to fly into petty rages on discovering they have more mature significant others and maybe even sex lives. Finishing the movie did raise a question of where to go next, but that can wait for a bit later.

I got to the end of the first DVD collection of the second series of Lupin the Third, willing enough to move on from its episodes but still waiting for the next collection to be solicited. In that wait, I happened to hear of another anime series from the 1970s, but one with a much dodgier reputation. Some people explained how Chargeman Ken had been rediscovered in Japan as "so bad it's good," with an official description mentioning "nonsensical plots, absurdly incompetent animation, misaligned animation cels, repetitive music, a near total lack of sound effects, and a brutal 10-year-old hero." That did get my attention, and I took in the first episodes, now available streaming. Some of the other people trying the series proclaimed one episode had been more than enough for them to get whatever joke there was to it. I kept watching. At first, there might have been the thought this was proof of a sort against regular accusations anime can only be worse than ever, but perhaps the episodes only containing five minutes of footage in between opening and end credits (with Ken's transformation sequence always taking up twenty seconds of them) went from a rebuttal to complaints about "short episode series" being a recent and frequent letdown to just plain something that could be tossed into any day without overstaying its welcome, even as that short length added a bit more absurdity to Ken's swift ray-gun slaughter of the latest band of scheming aliens.

There was also the chance to see a newer and hopefully more reputable series streaming "at last." Where now complaints about amazon.com's Anime Strike add something to a casual detachment on my part from trying to watch the series on it, once complaints about Funimation's in-house streaming service helped hold me back from signing up from it. Usually, I could tell myself that a title that company licensed did manage to catch my attention, I could wait for the home video release. It did seem a problem, though, when they announced they'd stream Love Live Sunshine, proof of how NIS America was getting out of licensing anime after having released the previousparts of the franchise. At the time, I might have found a strange motivation to keep from signing up for Funimation's streaming service at last through quite possibly superstitious leeriness that since Sunrise, the animation studio turning out Gundam series, had hit another jackpot with the original Love Live, Love Live Sunshine involving a new group of "school idols" would somehow leave it as decried as an "alternative universe Gundam."

That didn't seem to happen, and I did get to know the new group of school idols Aqours through the Love Live mobile game, which I'd started playing after finishing the original series and kept upfrom there, the idol singer songs I have to try and keep the rhythm of not wearing out for me. (I haven't paid any money yet for more chances at collecting the card-based images of the characters at the core of the game, but I do have to admit to putting time every day into it.) I have found myself thinking that the distinctive character voices of the original group of school idols ?'s could sound better speaking than singing, especially given a lot of their songs seem to involve one character singing at a time and then sounding oddly generic when they do harmonize together. Somehow, Aqours's songs sounded more appealingly consistent. With all of that, though, I did still wonder if their full introduction in animated form would seem a mere rehash of the original series right up to the announcement that, as many other series first licensed by Funimation have already done, the new series would be streamed on Crunchyroll.

That there were nine girls in Aqours, divided year-by-year by high school grade, just happened to be identical to ?'s. That the new group started coming together through discovery of the now-mythic previous story, though, somehow turned back a bit of potential feelings of over-familiarity just by acknowledging them; too, perhaps, the group functioning properly for a while with six members instead of building straight to full strength seemed a bit different too. I suppose I was still conscious of a private impression that somebody in-story might well be making money off the amateur groups the characters themselves wouldn't see, and so far as the considerable lack of males to be seen might encourage slashing the girls (although always having to imagine at least one m?nage a trois or just leaving one odd person out), there was one moment I could suppose would set off fireworks that way if it wasn't just dismissed as "too official to be appealing"; I suppose I can't quite tell myself. In the end, after thinking the humour and the drama felt that much better weighed out now, I was struck by how the series didn't have quite the same resolved-for-now last episode as the very first; that I'd had to wait for so long, though, now meant its own follow-up would be arriving soon.

I'd had the chance to see a few short streaming episodes set in the eclectic subfranchise of Gundam Build Fighters, but after watching Char's Counterattack more than one path was open to me. Going on in "production order" would mean watching several "side story" OVAs, some more appealing to me than others but a further demand on time. Instead, I started once more into the much more recent Gundam Unicorn OVAs, set not that long after the movie if sometimes not feeling like a very direct sequel. My early impressions that the action was thoroughly slick but seemed to hinge on who'd lucked into the most overwhelmingly powerful Mobile Suit to start with hadn't changed much from my previous viewings, but I suppose that with all those previous series (all acknowledged in a bonus feature on the last Blu-Ray that in fact didn't include excerpts from the side stories) fresh in my memory I did start thinking there was something about Gundam Unicorn that to me felt as I suppose Zeta Gundam feels to others, a genuine yet appealing seriousness not that distant from "domestic live-action science fiction." I'm aware the conclusion of the OVAs offers enough internal claims that "a fuss will be raised but nothing will really change" to allow for supposing the earlier-made works set in the next century of the story (which I can now get around to, but won't right away) haven't been "retconned" into an alternative reality, and there is the thought "it's a recent work; of course there are detailed nostalgic complaints out there," but for me there did seem satisfaction in saying I'd reached an end.