In the three months that closed last year, I managed to take an immediate interest in some new anime series being shown through online streaming and watched all the way through them with enjoyment. After nine months of not quite managing that for one reason or another, the reassurance I wasn't altogether excluded from the modern game of many other fans was pleasant. However, I was a little aware "nine months" meant I'd also managed to pick back up on streaming series in the final three months of the year before last, only to wind up dropping back to "older series" of whatever vintage as the calendar changed...

As I started off this new year, though, I did manage once more to find some new series that interested me. Combined with a few shows continuing and not choked off from older titles of my own choosing, it made for a solid schedule. As I started putting these thoughts together (if aware of how vague I can be, through the half-formed conviction that since part of my experience keeps managing to be surprised I don't want to "give the surprise away" to others), I was also thinking further back to how it's been ten years since I started managing to do this every "quarter"; remembering the old world of "waiting for DVDs" crumbling a decade ago and official online streaming not much more than a promise then, I can reflect both on what's changed and that I'm still around (so to speak) to draw the contrasts.

The new year started off with reaching back half a century to watch the theatrical feature Horus, Prince of the Sun for my first time. I don't know if I had the full historical perspective to really grasp the viewpoints I'd seen argued beforehand that it was a waypoint for anime in itself, but I think I was able to find more interest in it than just as an "intriguing artifact." Not that long after watching it I was also taking in another nearly as old work, but one with a much less exalted reputation. Like a glutton for punishment, I was returning to Chargeman Ken, which I'd bought the DVD collection of just on hearing it included "liner notes." (It took loading the last disc to find those notes, but they were reasonably informative.) In any case, the short-episodes series continued to seem unwittingly funny to me, and I also amused myself by totting up just how many ineffectual alien invaders the superpowered preteen Ken gunned down every episode (there were a lot of them).

As for more recent series, I also made what seemed another appropriate mark to the new year by opening a box set I'd received not that long before through a Kickstarter pledge. The enthusiasm of other people at seeing plans to give Skip Beat! a proper video release did get my attention where I'd somehow bypassed the title before, and the person leading the effort had already started building a reputation for success at this sort of thing through releasing Time of EVE, so I went ahead and pledged. While waiting for the series, though, more or less aware the anime's story had to be continued in the original manga I managed to pile up thirty-six unread volumes (if in slightly cheaper "three-in-one" editions), so on some level I knew I was taking a chance on first reactions. Fortunately, the story seemed distinctive when I started watching. Its main character Kyoko had been sacrificing her teenage years to help out an old friend really starting to build a name as a singer; when she overheard him declaring he didn't actually love her, though, she resolved to take her revenge. I do have to admit that at the exact moment I started watching the series, "I've just been traumatized by an entitled entertainer--so I'm going into entertainment myself!" could seem especially kind of sketchy. Fortunately for Kyoko, the story permitted her slow-building success from that point. Her being driven by anger did make her a somehow distinctive protagonist, even if she soon learns she's to be tempered back into a properly rounded individual by running errands for other people in the business while wearing a hot pink jumpsuit. Along the way, she does begin acting (which at least managed to stand out among all the "singing" series I've taken in lately), turning her dark moods into some first successes with playing antagonists, but with the potential for some careful romance outside those performances. Even with all of that interest to the story, though, I did have to admit I must have not been paying quite as much attention to the preliminary announcements as I could have. The thick-lined, somehow blown-up look of the Blu-Ray picture had me thinking the series was a bit older than I'd thought it was, and I did have some uncertain thoughts about whether, for all that I like to suppose myself capable of moving between "old" and "new" series where so many others either seem to make tendentious complaints about finding faults with most things recent or just come across as altogether fixated on the new, I'm now stuck thinking there was a "bland-looking" period in the past decade. I even wondered about leaving the anime at the halfway mark and going straight to the manga. There was enough of a cliffhanger at that exact point that I decided to keep going, though, and if things did leave off with a sense of the current challenges only half-resolved I at least had all that manga, with its finer line work, to move on to.

Along with that, I was getting around to another series I'd picked up on the interest of others toward rather really noticed straight off. Made in Abyss had me thinking of "cave crawls" and "hollow Earths," but its own fantastic world wasn't quite either of those familiar concepts, with a vertical shaft of incredible depth terraced around the edges with fantastic environments descending from the middle of a crater island. (For a little while, I wondered about the story's world being "fantastic" to the extent of nothing being said or shown about what's beyond the city-filled rim of that crater, but there did turn out to be brief mentions of a wider world.) When a novice explorer named Riko finds not just a mysterious boy she names Reg with extending robotic arms and a number of further surprises but also a report from her mother far down the Abyss, she decides to begin a journey repeatedly described as one-way. (Something did seem arbitrary at first about the increasingly horrific results of making even the smallest movement back up the Abyss, but it did eventually get tied into other peculiarities of the strange realm.) The big-headed look of the character designs at first seemed odd and then had me thinking I might have seen ones like them elsewhere without being able to say quite where; others just seemed to link them to Puella Magi Madoka Magica's (although that anime's character designer had worked on the much less gruelling Hidamari Sketch) in the look both accentuating the unpleasantness ahead and keeping something of a safe distance open from it. I did think myself this series wasn't quite a matter of "innocents are being suckered into a rigged game" and more about "explorers may finally admit to compulsions"; at the same time, I did run into one very harrowing sequence right around where I'd heard rumours of it. From there, the story did sort of leave off with another "maybe there'll be more anime, but at least there's the original manga" last episode; what there had been had grown from interesting to compelling.

As I was beginning to watch those series on my own, the new streaming series were getting under way. One show started quite early in the year, and it was one that had managed to catch my attention back when I'd first heard it was in production. A Place Further Than the Universe was about four high school girls who manage to get on a Japanese Antarctic expedition; the juxtaposition between the familiar first part of that description and the more unusual yet still real-world-possible second was enough to provoke some amused "high concept" thoughts. I do have an interest in reading about the polar regions, although this might have had me thinking straight off that of course this series would be sort of fluffy and nowhere near as gruelling as all those historical tales of unsuccessful expeditions can seem. The high school girls, though, soon started showing some interesting sides to them (even if the character who'd been our lead-in to the story with her casual interest in doing something big with her high school years kept being dismissed by some as less interesting than anyone else), and there was some space for the adults leading the expedition too. I can also admit the details of a modern Antarctic expedition were always an interesting fallback in themselves to me.

Over the next week or so, I settled on several more new series to watch, not quite in the order I scheduled them in the weeks that followed. It was a surprise to hear Netflix was streaming new episodes of Violet Evergarden once a week outside the United States. That company's usual strategy of making "every episode available at once" does seem to work up a lot of anime fans used to watching episodes practically as they air over in Japan and joining in discussion of them. While I do have to admit that not having started that way myself seems to have given me a little more flexibility there, and also have to admit that being subjected to the opinions of others doesn't always seem as terrific for me as it might be for others, I did have the impression I ought to provide one tiny bit of data this different strategy can also provide "good viewing numbers." In any case, even as I was aware some people were able to follow the series week-by-week through one under-the-table way or another, I got to wondering if it was helping me to not have had much in the way of anticipations to be met or not. I knew the series was by the much-respected studio Kyoto Animation, and it certainly looked impressive, but I'd managed not to know "Violet Evergarden" was the name of the main character, a former child soldier in "a war not World War I" trying to recover from injuries physical and mental by composing letters for clients, which leads to a bit of "manual typewriter chic." The series did seem a "slow build," but the apparent resolution of Violet's recovery had some impact, if at a somehow odd point in the series, not at the end and not at the exact halfway mark I sometimes expect from series I know to have been adapted from "light novels." However, the very next standalone episode had that much more impact, which does seem to be carrying forward.

From there, I might have been taking larger risks. It's been sort of tempting for me to divide most of the "girls' love" manga I'm now reading (as if in strange compensation for how, should fictional characters not be shown with an undeniable significant other, I have little compulsion to "slash" or even "ship" them) into "charming fluff" and "exploitative," and Citrus seemed to fall into the second category. When I heard it was getting an anime adaptation, though, I suppose I was at least curious how it would turn out. A few of the first reports were just positive enough for me to take my own chance. I could remember all the complaints about the story's pseudo-incestuous air with the two main characters having just become step-sisters (apparently without quite knowing anyone on the other side of their expanded family-to-be beforehand) and most of the first heavy-breathing moments being forced on one side or another. However, I did get to thinking that where sometimes I finish an anime series seen "one episode per week" convinced it might help to watch it over again at a faster pace to put things together that much more tightly, in watching this series I'd first experienced as one volume of manga every so often I had the impression a lot of the later developments (mostly one girl or another showing up and trying to shove her way between the two main characters) had slipped my memory. In any case, the manga's story had been arranged in such a way the anime was able to reach a fair conclusion by itself (something the two much more respectable "girls' love" anime adaptations I'd watched a fair while ago now hadn't quite managed), and on a relatively positive note.

Citrus might have been a small gamble compared to the next series I'd taken previous notice of, though. There aren't a lot of mecha series nowadays, but from there the ones that do show up always seem to draw a lot of enthusiasm-sapping criticism, leading me to bounce between gloom and annoyance at the suspicion of an audience split between decades-long "mecha fans" most convinced the molds were broken back when they started and people who just reject the genre out of hand. DARLING in the FRANXX had a pedigree to start with at least, with the animation studio Trigger connected to it, but as people started getting worked up about it they would point out how Trigger was working at best alongside another studio with a worse reputation for mecha anime. Some of this criticism did seem to do with the teen mecha pilots being assigned to their machines as boy-girl pairs with a hefty dose of blatant innuendo to their pairings, something that kept seeming to bring up unfavourable comparisons to Neon Genesis Evangelion, invoked along with Trigger's line of descent from Gainax. I admit, though, that I could distract myself from those complaints by supposing the fanciful designs of the mecha had me thinking of a slightly later anime from Gainax, Gunbuster 2. At around the halfway point of the series, with the mysterious post-apocalyptic situation the protagonists are trying to defend growing more ominous, I seem to at least be keeping up my own interest in it.

Another series was linked to the past in a more pleasant way when, two decades after it first premiered, the magical girl anime Cardcaptor Sakura returned as a sequel with modern polish. I'd like to think that at least a few people somewhere would now be able to pass the show along to their own children, but for my own part I could only contemplate my own memories. I'd manaaged to see a first few episodes of the original series at my university's anime club; a few years after that, I did manage to buy all of the show's lengthy run on DVD, but had always found a trace of reluctance to accept its charm out of the funny feeling that Sakura and her friends lived responsible, grown-up, and somehow drab lives. Just a few years ago, I did make an effort to return to the series by reading omnibus reissues of the original manga and buying a pricy boxed Blu-Ray set; unfortunately, aesthetic complaints about the subtitles and packaging got to me and I left the set unopened in my basement. For some other reason, though, having the characters being established in Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card as just having entered middle school (or junior high) made their lives a bit easier to accept even as the magical cards Sakura had spent the old series capturing and transforming all turned clear and analogs of their powers began cropping up anew to be captured and employed in combination to collect still more cards. By the midpoint of the series, there was getting to be a bit more of a recurring mysterious presence to be resolved.

While watching all of those new series, I did keep watching The Ancient Magus' Bride, growing convinced as with Citrus that while I'd taken a first chance on watching an anime adaptation of a manga I'd already read it was refreshing faded memories. The series did push a bit beyond the manga I'd read in any case (even as I left a volume waiting), and appears to have made up its own reasonable conclusion in such a way others could accept it too. With the way Space Battleship Yamato 2199 had started officially streaming in the middle of the season before, I worked well into that series and enjoyed it without quite finishing it.

When I had the time to watch another theatrical feature, I turned to one of the newest movies I had. In This Corner of the World was about a young bride in Japan during World War II. She has some good luck and some very bad luck getting through the war, without ever asking too many questions about it. As she also has an artistic bent, the animation could take some interesting turns. I did sort out the movie had been adapted from a manga (there was a promotional pamphlet tucked into my Blu-Ray case), which might have accounted for an oddly "episodic" feeling to its story, somehow tempting yet hard-to-explain thoughts of "artful artlessness" to its structure by the end. I went ahead and bought a copy of the manga, but haven't quite found the time to read it yet. A while later on, I got around to watching one of the anime movies I've had waiting for a fair while, but one with less of a reputation to it. Having heard quite a while ago Gundam F91 was made from plans for a full series that never got made, I did have the impression some of the jumps in its plot felt an awful like the easily dismissed "compilation movies" made from actual series, if with much more polished animation. For all that I could think of a few similarities of design with Gundam Unicorn, made later but set decades earlier in the original timeline of the franchise (even if now-senior protagonists weren't being dragged back to rub in how they'd failed at everything), the story that we did get, involving a ragtag group of teenaged and child survivors boarding a lone ship with an improvised crew commanded by a female captain (a decade before Gundam Seed was made), did have me thinking of "the first alternative universe Gundam."

Gundam F91 would lead into one of the last old Gundam series I still have to watch. A somewhat similar motive had already led me to open the last of the Full Metal Panic series I had waiting to watch. The Second Raid seemed much more serious than the all-out high school comedy of Fumoffu, serious to the point I did miss the comedy even as I acknowledged how it had been invoked for years by those insisting Kyoto Animation ought to make something less like what it was refining and more like what they liked themselves. While its story did conclude, it set up a further antagonist in the process; now, after more than a decade, a new series is promised to adapt more of the original story. The only problem is I can only wonder about expectations having been set in that long wait to the point where they can't be met.

While I'd taken my time watching through the first DVD collection of the second series of Lupin the Third, I'd had to wait a while for the second set to be available. Things picked up in the same amiable vein they'd left off in, and again I was keeping it to the weekends. That meant I had time left in these three months to watch one more twelve-to-thirteen episode series, but as with the last time I'd tried that nothing quite jumped out among my options. I'd also supposed I'd watch the short-episode series Space Patrol Luluco again with it having unexpectedly been made available on Blu-Ray over here, and the thought of swapping discs twice every day and perhaps being stuck with unskippable previews every time could get to me. At last, though, I thought I'd made my choice, and then, starting the Netflix application to watch another one of the new episodes of Voltron Legendary Defender, I noticed a new anime series being promoted, one of the ones Netflix was making a bigger deal of having put money into. Some impulse of curiosity made me watch the trailer for A.I.C.O. Incarnation. From there, I had the impression there was something "deliberately old-fashioned" about a science fiction action series, even wondering if the character designs had some of that old appeal in a way I couldn't quantify, and all of a sudden I decided to switch between Space Patrol Luluco on Blu-Ray and this new series streaming. I should admit to a slight feeling at first of something a little "generic" about a series "like the ones that drew people into anime years ago" (myself perhaps included), which might have kept my expectations managed. When the main character Aiko and a mysterious transfer student weren't splitting time between high school and actual adventure but joining up with a small band of young mercenaries in high-tech armour to battle their way up a river valley now choked with "Malignant Matter" to try and solve that problem, though, that old-fashioned feeling got a bit stronger, and I became more and more interested in the series even as I kept supposing it would be better to keep that interest to myself and not risk the dismissals of others, aware a negative attitude to start with could turn up things to complain about. As for returning to Space Patrol Luluco, it stayed entertaining with the thought to focus on its absurdity first and let the potential of something a little more emotional sneak up on me again. One of the cameo appearances of other series by Trigger (the most controversial part of the show to some), though, just had me thinking how I'd been impressed enough by Kill la Kill to buy expensive discs of it but still hadn't got around to watching them, even after some of the unsold stock had been marked down at last for a grudging end-of-the-year sale.

I had just enough time at the end of the year to watch The Dragon Dentist, two lengthy OVAs from the studio now (still) working on the Evangelion movies. They were expanded from one of the short but eventful "Animator Expo" pieces, telling a tale about an eccentric, not quite military band of people maintaining the megalithic teeth of a vast flying dragon in the middle of "a war not World War II." While I might have had some caution to my expectations, the story was interesting (there was much more mysticism to it than regular dental hygiene) even if its scope involved a lot of computer animation.