At the start of the three months just past, I had one more dose of a very particular sort of good fortune in deciding some more new anime series sounded interesting enough to watch streaming. It's been a while since I've dwelt on the thought "if I can't find newthings interesting, one day I just might resemble those people who never seem to stop complaining about them." More than that, not all of the new series had "familiar brand names," as I had been conscious of for the series I'd watched streaming in the season previous (although a certain number of the new shows had their own links to "known quantities.") As if to demonstrate some strange "conservation of concern," though, I kept thinking back to the comment I'd been lucky enough to receive on my last "quarterly summary," and its noticing how I kept dwelling on the reactions of others as opposed to my own. The week-by-week comments here do keep slowing down, but I'm still not seeking out new sources elsewhere, as if the fear lurks somewhere I'll just sort of crumple up at the mere sight of opinions that don't align with mine. If being aware of the problem is a first step, though, I'm still not quite sure I've managed to take any more.

I was still watching some series those things just stated didn't apply to, anyway. Plugging on through V Gundam, I'd got over my first impressions of "underdone worldbuilding" to just focus on the episode-by-episode action as the ragtag protagonists fought on against heavy odds with frequent melodramatic sacrifice. The assorted atrocities committed by the antagonists could feel over the top, though, and some of the crazed female warriors committing them could be more than a little unsettling (as much as, if you didn't obsess just on them, you might contemplate they were being set up and exploited by male characters.) Beyond that, I did think that while there can seem problems to "you've got to take in all of thisstuff from past decades to understand this latest instalment," V Gundam's never quite seeming to bring up its fictional past might shape the other side of a needle to be threaded. Thoughts of how it had been immediately followed by "the alternative universe Gundams" did keep coming to mind, even if I could also amuse myself by supposing that at the specific moment it had been airing on the other side of the Pacific I'd still been pretty light on an awareness of anime yet continuing to try and shuffle old memories, now very much spinoff-influenced, of Robotech with a few things learned about Battletech if weighted by the feeling they weren't quite as appealing.

With a new quarter beginning, I opened a series just lately available over here on disc but which I'd seen talked up for a while. Hyouka was another series from Kyoto Animation, made when that animation studio seemed particularly esteemed among English-language fans but also when its series were eluding licensing. It was easy enough to drift into thoughts like "they're so successful they don't have to stoop to the messy compromises of the foreign market." What I had heard about Hyouka, though, did have me wondering as I had my legitimate chance to watch it at last if I'd have to end up admitting it had gone by well over my unable-to-handle-"subtlety" head. The story began with a gloomy, "energy-conserving" guy getting roped into joining his high school's "classic literature" club. There, he meets a curious girl (just perhaps in more way than one) and finds himself sorting out "mysteries," but at first glance of the mildest and most unthreatening kind just as I'd overheard. I did note how much work the series was putting into making four teenagers sitting around discussing things look more interesting, and was ready to suppose the series was one more adaptation from dialogue-heavy "light novels." Within just a few episodes, though, I did notice some measure of emotional impact at a cunning depth within the latest mystery, and before I'd really finished contemplating one of "KyoAni's" earlier, reputation-making series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and all those old insistences it "had" to be watched in its shuffled broadcast order because that saved the emotional climax of the first story it had been adapted from for last Hyouka had set up another complicated and yes, "subtle" puzzle to be plumbed. Something about the series really did grow to feel charming, even if it's hard to sum up in a few words (such as a "genre" identification, perhaps.) Instead, I find myself thinking of specific little things about it, such as when its female lead Chitanda played a game of karuta (recognizable, of course, from having watched Chihayafuru) or the impression it had gone from a first opening and ending sequence that didn't really appeal to me to a second opening and ending that seemed much more engaging.

One series starting up in the very first days of the season did catch my attention, and I was ready to think back and suppose other early starters have had their own advantages in grabbing my attention before my viewing schedule could lock up. That Hanebado! had got my attention at all seemed something. I haven't watched anywhere near as many "sports anime" as others have, perhaps only enough to get the full joke of "fake sports" series (and the great majority of the genuine sports series I can think of having watched are baseball anime.) I'm also aware of a certain number of muttered suspicions that some anime fans who won't watch sports series are set against "sports" in general, even if some who do watch "real sports" see and stand against the exaggerations in "fictionalized sports stories." In my own case I'm happy to read a newspaper sports section, but just about always the two or three hours a real game would seem to take to watch seems time I can think of a lot of other things to do in. After saying all of that, it was noticing the interest of others that had me take a chance on the series. I might have wondered a little that "badminton is batting a feathery thing back and forth; how serious can it be?" If I had thought that just before starting the series, though, I was just thinking back to it with a slight smile after my first sight of just how impressive the courtside animation was, fast and fluid and somehow long enough between cuts to really hold my attention. However, a story that involved a young prodigy named Hanesaki being pulled back into her sport soon turned to the traumas that had pushed her away, all the way up to her own mother walking out on her years ago to go to another country and coach another girl (after a competitor had tied her up in a storage room and coughed all over her to spread her cold and put them at the same disadvantage before a match), and as the series continued she turned into a cruel little monster. It all got to feeling a bit much, even if I never quite dropped the series, at first wondering if I could "watch it for the supporting characters" (whose stories could also be kind of frustrating, however) and then wondering if Hanesaki's current teammate yet once and future competitor Aragaki might knock some sense back into her. With an episode having to be delayed one week because of an earthquake in Japan, the appeals and frustrations of Hanebado stretched from the very first days of the season to its very last.

With all of that said, one reason why I kept watching Hanebado might have been because it was a "sports series" to set against another series I was watching for a bit more than just "sports." I have to admit I don't turn away from a thick slice of the cheesecake artwork most often slapped with that loaded term "fanservice" (even aware as I am, among other things, of the that much more terrifying term "2D complex.") Over the years, though, I have come to think anime isn't the most efficient delivery system for it. When I heard about an upcoming series about beach volleyball called Harukana Receive, though, it caught my attention pretty much because beach volleyball is played wearing swimsuits. The first episode had a tall high school girl named Haruka travelling to the south-of-Japan island Okinawa to stay with relatives; although ready to embrace a seaside lifestyle in every respect, she gets distracted from going in the water on noticing two girls her age practicing beach volleyball and then learning her short cousin Kanata used to play that sport but can be pulled back in as her partner. (The very first narration talks about beach volleyball being a two-person-per-team sport and the importance of finding a dependable partner as you become one yourself; I was at least conscious of what "slash goggles" might make of it, given the less-fair sex seems about as elusive in this show as in the Love Live franchise. Hanebado at least included a few male characters without the impression conventional "romance" was about to take over.) Even after all of that I have to admit it all worked for me, eye candy easing along the novice-to-triumph sports story; I got to thinking back to the last anime with a built-in excuse for putting its female characters in swimsuits I'd watched only to soon think something about Keijo hadn't looked quite appealing (although I'll also admit that for me the absurdity of its "fake sport" soon compensated for seeming problems with its rear end-focused "fanservice.") As the story continued, I was oddly fascinated by two American sisters who showed up only to be fully fluent in Japanese and ready to keep coaching Haruka, pondering potential "tailoring for foreign markets"; "a mild, safe bit of exoticism for the home market" just might have worked with possibly more familiar "competitors from overseas," too. (Hanebado had one of them, although she did happen to be from Denmark.) Claire and Emily Thomas were also the one team in the series that didn't include at least one flat-chested girl. It was all very easy-going, although sometimes the matches did seem to have a peculiar languidity to their at-the-net setups, the uniquely elastic nature of time in comics turning out oddly in animation, perhaps. I also noted how the series ended in a familiar way, "winding down from one match" (which did include the characters taking a dip in the ocean at last) "but looking ahead to the next fated encounter," and with all of the concern these days about anime sales numbers that might require turning to the original manga. It's just being released over here now, and I bought its first volume supposing I'd read it once the season was finished. After that purchase, though, I did see some criticisms of its artwork, at least in that first volume. That might hint that in this singular case the anime's the most effective delivery system.

Planet With had also caught my attention from its first announcements. Between then and its premiere, though, I wound up a bit fuzzy about just what role Satoshi Mizukami, creator of the manga "Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer," was playing in the production, and imagining quick putdowns of the anime along the lines of "they should have just adapted the manga." The first episodes did seem a bit much for some people, with a teenaged amnesiac protagonist rooming with someone who seemed at first glance a "somewhat fetishy anime maid," more than familiar from the decade after the millennium, and a giant cat being, along with some computer animation including what was described as "cotton wool" explosions but might have looked just as much like "grey popcorn." As I stuck with the series, though, the first formula of "one of a team of mismatched defenders" (one of the strongest reminiscences of Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, beyond the figurine the cat being would try to peek at from naughty angles) "defeats a bizarre object of the week at some small risk; the protagonist then beats up on them and confiscates their giant-armour transformation artifact" was tweaked, then all of a sudden abandoned. The continued twists and turns at rapid succession didn't distract from the series managing to juggle its characters so that they all wound up seeming at least a bit, and for some a bit more than that, interesting and complex than they'd first appeared. Impressed by its ultimately interstellar scope, I did think back to impressions Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer now seemed to ramble a bit by comparison; I did hear, though, that Satoshi Mizukami was now working on a manga called "Spirit Circle" and started buying it for when the season was finished as well.

For the fourth new series I started watching, I'd already seen the manga of Cells at Work! but not got around to buying it. "The cells of the human body are anthropomorphized into people themselves" was an amusing concept, if one that felt familiar enough in anime and manga circles. The one thing that might have weighed on me in having this second chance to start on the story was the understanding Aniplex of America had licensed the series and that to like it "too much" would mean paying a stiff premium for a possible eventual video release. I did start watching it streaming, though, and I did manage to enjoy it with the sense that along with the mayhem of bacterial invasion, food poisoning, and allergic reactions I was learning something about the circulatory and immune systems in particular (although I was always a little conscious of the modern criticisms that corner-cutting has handed translation over to underpaid translators with more enthusiasm than business sense, such that I kept wondering if every term had been accurately rendered). That the characters were "at work" was also oddly encouraging in letting me suppose they were something other than "anime teenagers" (although I was also noticing the little-kid "platelets" were immensely popular). I did start buying the manga at last, supposing this would have to substitute for a video release; in remembering what I'd heard of a spinoff manga where "cells" were suffering in the dystopian environs of a smoker's body, though, I wondered a bit about the last episodes presenting the characters I already knew being in a person who got such a case of heat stroke as to need an IV and then injured their head to the point of hemorrhagic shock.

As for the series I was continuing to watch from the season previous, I was wondering if the "blue jacket" plot arcs of the latest Lupin the Third series would have a "green jacket" story interspersed among them after already having seen callbacks to the seemingly infamous "pink jacket" series and the "red jacket" episodes I'm becoming more familiar with (having completed the second DVD set of them, which puts me about halfway through the late-1970s series.) A "green jacket" story indeed showed up, although on the "chivalrous thief" rather than "boundary-pushing" side of that varied slice of the franchise. The up-to-date adventures, in any case, did wrap up in an interesting, indeed addressing-the-moment way (even with a noticeable dusting of cameo appearances from the franchise's past, only some of which I could identify.) Along the way, I did manage to buy a collection of the early-20th-century stories of the first Lupin, translated from the French, and really did get a sense of a family resemblance.

"Space opera" was coined as a pejorative invoking "horse opera" and "soap opera," but if the risk of tarring opera itself by association can be pinned on certain looks at particular westerns and daily daytime dramas from around eight decades ago, in the years since then there do seem to have been some looks further back. All of this is meant to lead into how, as I kept watching Space Battleship Yamato 2202, I was starting to wonder if some of its broadening and bolder strokes of characterization and setting might be called "operatic." At the halfway point through its episodes, though, the streaming stopped to not get too far into the instalments still premiering over in Japan. Telling myself its immediate predecessor at least had every episode now solicited for sale over here, I moved watching Gundam Build Divers up by one day in the week. I'd counted it a simple plus the first three months of that series had finished with its characters facing a challenge more profound than "winning a battle tournament in one mighty novice-to-triumph rush" (and been amused by how that challenge had seemed to touch on the circumstances of this series's "fun with Mobile Suit models" being different than those of the Gundam Build Fighters series just previous to it), but had been left wondering if its second half would then just amount to what it had avoided before. It had turned out, though, that a second profound challenge could indeed be formed around one element of mystery in the series I'd noticed from its beginning, and I counted that much a simple plus again even if it was easy to imagine a potential sequel would have no way of escaping a simple "winning a tournament" story at last, which I do gather criticisms of the second Build Fighters series had latched on to. In any case, I was also willing to see some of the female characters as representing small steps beyond "romantic competitors for or just pals of the audience-identification guys," which had seemed to me an unfortunately more clearly articulated criticism of that second series. Perhaps, too, being able to contrast Build Divers to the heavier seriousness of V Gundam (even as I noticed a background Mobile Suit or two from that show among the endless references) helped as well.

Once I'd finished the second DVD set of episodes from the second Lupin the Third series, I filled their "weekend viewing slots" with a series just a bit older. The last episode of Mazinger Z had revealed a surviving enemy agent who'd appeared late in the series to be the harbinger of a new, still more powerful, and that much more bizarre army of giant invaders, one sufficient to bring even the original piloted giant robot to the brink of defeat. At the last moment, though, a new, larger, and more powerful Mazinger had appeared (more or less out of nowhere), whose new pilot had saved the day and set up a sequel series. After supposing we wouldn't have a chance to see it, it was a surprise for Great Mazinger to show up at last. The bizarreness of the enemy generals and their robot monsters of the week (which sometimes have me thinking of "the early 1970s" in general) aside, not too much has changed in the series even with a new pilot, new Mazinger, and new base. That familiarity does include in a bit more unfortunate way, though, a female pilot with her own giant robot, who never lacks for fighting spirit but who usually has to demonstrate how threatening the menace of the week is before being rescued.

As I finished V Gundam and Hyouka, I had to decide what to watch next, either beginning something a bit longer I'd have to "summarize midway through" here or settle on a shorter series. As it turned out, I found a few shorter things. The flashback arc in the middle of the Gundam the Origin manga has been adapted into a series of hour-long OVAs, showing how Char Aznable was formed from the son of a space colony independence advocate who died in suspicious circumstances to the outwardly charismatic if utterly ruthless Mobile Suit ace of the original anime, as the massive war invoked in its old first episode approached. They were first offered for sale as official imports, but as those sets were both fancier and more expensive than the Gundam Unicorn Blu-Rays I decided I could live without them. When the first four of a total six were bundled together for a "domestic release" at a much less extravagant price, though, I bought them. They were pretty impressive (reproducing, among other things, a good bit of the sheepish expressions many characters other than Char could keep pulling in Yoshikazu Yasuhiko's artwork), although using computer animation for the primitive and prototype Mobile Suits felt somehow ominous given all the lamentations about how the Gundam franchise is the last major holdout for drawn "mechanical animation" of mecha. Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky, anyway, did use "drawn animation." It was a self-contained "short movie" (first released, as I understand, as a number of short episodes) squeezing another set of characters and Mobile Suits into another margin of the original story. Some of the explanations of just who everyone was did seem included in the blurb on the back of the Blu-Ray case rather than actual dialogue, and I could imagine that easy criticism of "ostentatious style" given things including the pilot lucky enough to be assigned a Gundam listening to jazz in the middle of battles, but it did look impressive as well.

Along with starting into those OVAs, by counting up the days left in the month I decided I could still get through something a bit longer, and Kyousougiga came to mind among my piles of unopened discs. I might have first noticed it simply because it was a recent series licensed by Discotek, who have made their name managing to make a business of releasing older anime (such as Great Mazinger). Starting off, I was willing to understand little more about the series than that it involved peculiar characters in some fashion "a family." In not knowing much more, though, I did wonder about the menu of the first Blu-Ray, which listed "Original Net Animations" numbered zero to five and "TV episodes" numbered the same. The "ONAs" were listed first, though, so I started with them, wondering idly if the TV episodes were just those short pieces combined with new openings and closings. On finishing the ONAs and loading the second disc, though, I realised the TV episodes were the ones that continued rather than being confined to the first disc, and I didn't have the days left in the month to watch all of them at a pace I'd find comfortable. I also feared that right after plumbing the subtleties of Hyouka, putting the pieces of Kyousougiga with their frenetic, bright-coloured action and not a lot of initial explanation together seemed a bit too much for me. Thinking ahead to getting to the TV episodes, though, I did go so far as to look up an article discussing the anime.

For the last days of the month therefore, I opened something else from some Blu-Rays that had just come in. Planetarian was a short tale, divided into short episodes, of a robot girl left in a rooftop planetarium after some form of apocalypse, who gets her chance to put on her show in a world where the night sky has been blotted out by unceasing rain when a scavenger gets past less friendly robots to the abandoned department store her planetarium is on top of. A part of me did think it had been a while since I'd seen a "robot girl" or "post-apocalyptic" anime, although I had to realise that was due to my own viewing choices. Understanding the anime was an adaptation of a "visual novel" computer game from a particular developer also helped me anticipate and accept the emotion-tugging developments. However, I did also think a bit about how while visual novels are a bit easier to play on this side of the Pacific than they once were, I started playing Clannad itself (via "Wine") only to slow to a halt partway through and began Muv-Luv (on a Windows Boot Camp partition) only to slow to a halt much sooner (and forget my Windows password so as to have to wipe the partition and reinstall it), perhaps thinking there were fewer "choose your own path" branches than I'd imagined. I can suppose visual novels are cheaper to make than anime with fewer restrictions on content while still allowing for "colour," "music," (although Planetarian's anime soundtrack kept using a tune I could only think of as the old hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus") and quite possibly "voice acting," and yet conflating them with anime without perhaps really acknowledging all the differences in media makes me miss "motion" and, at least in the cases I was facing, possibly fewer "interesting visual compositions." With time for one more thing anyway, I opened a "Lupin the Third special" called Jigen's Gravestone. I've heard there are a good number of "Lupin specials," and perhaps don't want to take the time to sort through all of them. What I had heard about Jigen's Gravestone, though, was that it recaptured the specific look of the series The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. That made this special's tale of Lupin and his gunslinger partner Jigen facing a sniper adversary a bit more impactful for me, although I just happened to notice Lupin was wearing his modern blue jacket rather than the green one he'd worn in the previous series (which was supposed to lead into the very first.)