After opening three "quarterly reviews" of anime watched by dwelling on how little luck I was having joining in the game everyone else seems to play these days by watching lots of series on official streaming services, things changed at last three months ago without much fuss when some upcoming shows did get my attention and I had every opportunity to watch them. I still wasn't quite joining in the game in full, as I wasn't watching so many new series I couldn't keep watching shows from seasons or years before on my own. Still, as I can enjoy that as well, I was more than happy with how things were coming together for myself.

Even as I started off the quarter by finishing off Chargeman Ken (and going so far as to order a DVD copy of the "so bad it's good" series), I did have the chance to get to one not quite as old series at last. It was Chihayafuru, in large part a "sports show" where the sport just happens to be a traditional Japanese game played with cards.

Two of the series I watched streaming were in their own ways known quantities to start with. The second series of Love Live Sunshine had me thinking a bit of the second series of the original and supposing that with the group of "school idol" singers assembled there'd be the space for some light character-based comedy, which just happened to include one unexpected odd-couple interaction doubtless letting some imaginations run "couple" into slashy territory. I was a bit conscious, though, that this was the first of four Love Live series I was watching soon enough to have to view just one episode a week, and wondering a bit if that could make specific episodes feel a bit lightweight. However, the series did manage to surprise me when a problem, familiar from the original Love Live but set up in the first Sunshine series just when I hadn't expected it to appear, wound up something that couldn't be triumphed over in the next run-around but had to be accepted and made the best of, as much as I did keep wondering (and will have to keep wondering at least a little, having heard there's going to be a Love Live Sunshine movie) about surprise happy endings that would leave others registering their indignation.

I admit that with many anime series made from manga, if I happen to have read the manga first I won't often take on the apparent risks of an adaptation afterwards. With The Ancient Magus' Bride, though, I was willing to take a chance, perhaps having been encouraged by an original-story OVA having been produced before the adaptation. The tale of a morose Japanese girl with unwanted powers formally purchased by a bizarre, animal skull-headed British mage only to find her life turn around at last did retain the sense of wonders at once both ominous and inspiring that had first drawn my attention to the manga.

That sense of known quantities, though, did have me wondering about taking bigger chances as well, and I saw just enough enthusiasm in some first-episode reactions to look into two more series. I've heard about plenty of anime series "set in multi-player online games"; that I don't play those games myself does seem one reason why I haven't watched many of them beyond some of the old .hack//SIGN, and that because it had got on TV back when there was a dubbed anime block on a cable channel up here. It's at least tempting to wonder if the setting amounts to an excuse to say "the generic fantasy setting is somebody else's idea." Hearing Recovery of an MMO Junkie had a main character out of high school did get my attention, though; that can draw me into a series all by itself (although I have to admit to occasions where in the end that didn't seem enough). This series had a protagonist who had dropped out of the work force as her story began and was able to live unemployed, passing the time with an online game where it was casually established she was playing a male character; it then so happened that one of the female characters she met in the course of the game had her own secrets... The gradual drift of the series towards real-world romance worked well for me, although in the end it was somewhat easy to keep wondering about "chaste, awkward romances" being somehow reassuring for target audiences.

Anime-Gataris seemed that much lighter at first glance. It was a series about a high school girl who joins an anime club to try and sort out some old memories. The first veiled references of her new acquaintances to nearly current series did have me thinking that despite my having watched anime-known-to-be-anime for longer than current high school students have been alive, I could see some encouraging resemblances to her; however, as the references pushed back into the past, I had to admit to seeing resemblances to most of the other characters, save perhaps for the outgoing "cosplayer." It was easy enough to take note of the light encouragements including things like a friendly Chinese exchange student fully fluent in Japanese and talking about new series being streamed (somehow reminiscent of all the comments these days about Hollywood movies being tailored to big foreign markets). After a while, though, I did start thinking a bit about "anime characters reflecting on anime series" only for the distinction to blur much further in a strange yet entertaining way, even if this did make the series something other than what it had seemed to begin as, which I'm sure was too much for some.

I had enough time left in the year to continue one franchise I'd only started earlier this year. I had heard encouraging things about Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, which focused entirely on the mismatched-protagonist comedy mixed in with more conventional action in the first series, and it was entertaining even if I'm not quite sure I could call it a standout among standouts myself. That it happened to be an early work credited to Kyoto Animation may also add to its stature. I do know I've got one more Full Metal Panic series, which I understand to be more along the lines of the original, to get to before the unexpected arrival of another instalment after more than a decade.

Right around the time I was starting that series, one more streaming series turned up to definitely catch my attention. At first, my interest in the announcement that Funimation was streaming an apparently faithful dub of the only a few years back Space Battleship Yamato 2199 was a bit mild as I wondered if the partnership that company apparently still has with Crunchyroll would go so far as to allow the series to be streamed subtitled on a service I do have a subscription to. (After all, Star Blazers had been released on DVD over here, but the original Space Battleship Yamato had been left to fansubs.) Then, it turned out my speculations had indeed been prescient. I settled in to watch the series with enjoyment, although I could wonder a bit why it seems to work better for me than a lot of other "it seems safer to depend on an established name than come up with something new" franchises; it could have something to do with the old-fashioned simplicity of the original or my sense this new series doesn't feel to be trying "too hard" to make up for that original mood. In any case, I'm even wondering a bit now if there'll even be a home video release including the new dub over here; I had resolved to make up for not importing the subtitled Blu-Rays from Japan only for "Star Blazers 2199" to just leave off two-thirds of the way through, something I'm afraid played its own role in my losing interest in expensive "quasi-imports."