As the new year got under way I turned back to an older anime series, and had a good time watching Super Dimension Fortress Macross once again. Beyond it, I?d wound up thinking of one title after another I could link to Macross through production in Japan, localization in America, or my personal whim; all of it didn?t quite block off the thought of getting to series newer and unrelated, though.

For the first week of the year, while there weren?t any new series airing thinking ahead to them streaming had me wondering ?how to keep a full schedule just until then.? However, a single positive comment noticed turned my eyes towards Netflix, and a series some had already managed to see (some, perhaps, without even needing the crutch of ?fansubs?) that was now available there to be ?binged? or not. Watching one episode of Macross a day, I figured I could also watch one episode of Hi Score Girl a day to start with. My first impressions included that its character designs looked unusual but interesting for that; then, all of a sudden I realised the show used computer animation. I?m perhaps not as edgy as some seem about mistrusting every ?computer-animated anime series? as marking one nudge further towards the extinction of ?hand-drawn character animation,? but I suppose I have to keep in mind ?the impermanence of all things.? In any case, by the second episode I?d sorted out the series wasn?t about grade-school students who just happened to play ?old video games,? but a period piece set when those ?fighting games? were new, involving a ?typically? game-obsessed boy and a very quiet (but not ?timid? by any means) rich girl who just happened to demonstrate serious arcade skills when she could. Although I would have been only some years older than the characters at the time, I?ll admit to not owning a video game console then or ever (at first, I wondered if Nintendo held its intellectual property above use in anything so raffish, an absence then turned to the advantage of the boy seeming a particular kind of snob; it did seem a few glimpses of Nintendo machines and titles managed to sneak in later in the series, though). Even so, the unlikely rivalries (eventually including a second girl who did talk, and grew to develop her own gaming skills) carrying forward to high school were entertaining enough to keep my attention, even if things ended on a cliffhanger at the end of twelve episodes. I did manage to see comments three more episodes were being produced as ?home video bonuses?; more than that, though, Netflix managed to stream them at the very end of these three months. They might only have ended on a bit less of a cliffhanger, though.

Before I?d got to the cliffhanger, anyway, I?d slowed down my viewing rate for that series (but not Macross) to begin some of the shows now streaming once a week. Mob Psycho 100 continuing very much got my attention. Its first new episodes might have felt a little low-key compared to my memories (I?d bought a Blu-Ray of the first series, but hadn?t managed to watch it), but they did have some emotional weight too as the young and seemingly well-adjusted psychic Mob and his comedically charlatanic mentor Reigen work through some things, and the animation kept hitting some impressive heights on its way to introducing the ominous characters in the opening credits.

To watch just one series streaming, though, and a series that already had a familiar brand name at that, felt just a little like the long dry spells still not that far back where I couldn?t seem to join in the now-familiar modern game. My perhaps unrefined tastes, though, seemed to turn my eyes towards ?action? series even as I remembered how often run-of-the-mill series like them seem to get dismissed by other fans. I suppose I?d heard just a little about Girly Air Force before, enough to notice the indignation of others when it turned out ?cute teenaged girls who just happen to be the artificial control modules of glitzy jet fighters? would be interacting with ?an audience-identification teenaged guy.? I suppose a part of me was willing to see the ?glowing,? glitzed-up fighters as a less overwhelmingly complicated echo of the Arpeggio of Blue Steel manga, but the enemy being anonymous ?alien aircraft? was a less engaging simplification. While I did notice how the lead guy?s ?merely human girlfriend candidate? (the series might have seemed less obsessed than some at presenting every female character as outright competing for his perhaps-oblivious favours) seemed to be from the Chinese mainland (now under enemy control), noticing little things like that sometimes amounts to ?taking what little I can where I can get it.? More than that, the presumably ?original series? didn?t really bother to wrap up in a way that would point forward, an apparent bet on a sequel it was easy to imagine wouldn?t amount to anything.

I?ve been aware of ?dark magical girl? manga for a while now, and some of them do get adapted into anime series, but by and large a distinct sense of ?gratuitous unpleasantness for effect to twist something towards a new demographic? makes me steer away from them. Still hunting for other series to watch, though, I took a chance on Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka. It was set a few years after an international team of magical girls had defeated a fantastic yet monstrous threat to the world (but not long enough after to have to face the possibility of ?once-teenaged characters are now creaking twenty-somethings?), and the survivors of that struggle are now getting caught up in ?magical international terrorism? and dealing with massive amounts of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That the magical girls are apparently well past ?initial disillusionment? and aren?t suffering in isolation but are connected to their national militaries did seem to counter some thoughts of familiarity. However, there was still plenty of nastiness on display, including the ostensible heroes getting to torture captured enemies, something no less unsettling for having been around in American live-action series for years. As well, there was a sort of ?are they ever on model?? feeling to the artwork, something that might have helped me to order some of the original manga well before the anime left off at most pointing to its continuation in other media, but with me now wondering if the manga would wind up feeling any more pleasant.

The fourth new series I picked up streaming I have to admit I approached with an initial reluctance disconnected from its content. Instead of coming to tell myself and others ?sure, you pay more than for today?s threadbare ?domestic releases,? but these have top-notch audiovisual quality,? my interest in the ?quasi-imports? of Aniplex of America has leaked away; whether it is possible to put together the numbers to support the claim it really does cost a bundle to encode the flat colours and gradients of animation so that they satisfy the discerning eyes of the apparently inexpandable handful of videophiles who?d bother to buy it anyway, I don?t know. It?s grown too easy, too, for me to resort to sour-grapes views of the actual stories of a good many of the series they get first and only claim on, dismissing them as empty-calories power fantasy or more or less greasily pandering; two series I did watch that might have seemed a cut above wound up feeling let down by the later volumes of their source material. Still, the enthusiasm others showed for The Promised Neverland did have me glance its way at last. It?s a story about an isolated orphanage where two of the oldest children happen to discover just what happens when someone leaves; for all the shock value of its first episode, though, the children are very bright (although the series, which does a good job of logically establishing its twisty-turny developments, sets up a gruesome in-story justification for that) and, instead of just suffering in the gears of a rigged system (until a possible last-minute escape clause), resolve to organize a breakout. I admit I adopted the nigh-inexhaustible optimism of one of the kids named Emma, intent on seeing things as ?a grade school Great Escape where things willwork out? even as a few late plot twists got kind of heavy. In the end, things opened up even as the stakes stayed high in a more satisfying ?to be continued? ending than many, and I suppose the series did get me interested in buying its original manga (which some of the people watching the anime kept speaking highly of even as they tried to avoid giving things away) even if I?m still supposing I won?t buy the anime.

When I did get to the cliffhanger in Hi Score Girl, in contemplating where I?d got to in Macross and what I intended to go on to afterwards I supposed I could watch something short. This time, my thoughts were directed by a manga series I had stacked up and waiting to read. When I?d watched the ?girls? love? anime series Sweet Blue Flowers on DVD some years ago, when things had left off with a breakup complete but the two main high school girls not where the innuendo in the opening credits implied I?d supposed the story would continue in Takako Shimura?s original manga. It had only been available translated through ?scanlations? then, though, which had made the official licensing announcement more or less an order to buy. Along the way of buying it, though, came another announcement that the anime was being re-released in Blu-Ray, and I indulged myself to the point of buying it again even if this seemed to imply ?better to read the manga after seeing its adaptation.? Anyway, even at a decade old the series hadn?t fallen into that ambiguous and just perhaps ever-moving space of ?looking dated,? and for all that I was pondering again how I?ll accept what?s offered relationship-wise but don?t seem to ?need? more than what?s shown I went on to the manga, if to at first be struck by a thought that while it did seem to use the same background reference material as the anime the panels were often light on detail. The story didn?t quite seem to expand without bounds the way another manga from Takako Shimura, Wandering Son, might have before its plush release over here came to a sudden halt, and it moved towards the promise of the opening credits while offering lots of delicate complications on the way.

Finishing Macross itself, I moved straight on to the first related series in my mental list, the show that had inherited its time slot in Japan in 1983 and by title opened up a far-ranging franchise. I?d seen Super Dimension Century Orguss once before, but a bit longer ago than the last time I?d watched through Macross itself, and via a somewhat experimental release on legitimately made recordable DVDs. Not that many years ago, though, the series was ?license rescued? by Discotek and released on regular DVDs, and I bought that set as well to have something more permanent. The series began with a future Earth warring over an orbital elevator and a plan to set off a ?super dimension oscillation bomb? near that useful piece of science fictional technology; when the plan is called off before the bomb can be properly calibrated for use, though, Kei Katsuragi, the pilot of a simply transforming ?jet fighter with legs,? resolves to set off the bomb himself. This particular take on ?science run amok? flings him into a composite Earth made up of pieces of several parallel worlds cooking under a nigh-impenetrable low-level barrier; falling in a roving band of traders from a near-human species called the Emaan who?ve soon rebuilt his fighter into a full-fledged transforming robot named Orguss (that name coming from the war god of a much stranger-looking being also fallen in with the group), Kei sorts out he?s of great importance in ?restoring the world? (and being hunted by a much more militaristic power, the Chiram).

Moving straight on from Macross to Orguss, I did have the feeling the mechanical designs (by the designer who had drawn up everything in the first series but the showpiece ?Valkyrie?) weren?t quite as interesting to begin with, and this had me thinking in an amused sort of way of that bubbling undercurrent of indignation in the ?Robotech fandom? over the years about ?the trauma of having to go from The Macross Saga to Masters? (although I was always a little pleased to happen on a dissenting opinion there). A few episodes later, though, I was becoming more troubled about that thought as the series set up ?a love triangle with two guys and one girl where the viewpoint character is one of the guys,? facing uneasy reactions to what seemed ?pushiness? and ?the designated loser being pulled down,? although there also seemed the pernicious danger of ?I?m nice enough; I deserve a girlfriend!? When that had been shoved off the table in a final way, I was stuck thinking the mecha battles somehow weren?t that exciting, whether because the machines always seemed to move a little slow or because cuts of animation from them appearing once in an episode would be sure to reappear once again not that later. While I did remember in a general way most of the later plot twists, there was also a concluding impression of arbitrary ?anything can happen? complications, many of which of little lasting significance, to drag things out. A few episodes did feel more appealing than the run of them, and Haruhiko Mikimoto?s character designs never looked as off-model as they could get in Macross and sometimes looked better yet, and yet the series didn?t reach the highs of Macross either. I had started looking back towards Macross aware of the uneasy possibility ?but what if my reactions do change after so many years??; while I suppose Orguss didn?t root itself quite as deep in my mind through one previous viewing, the reminder ?1980s anime isn?t automatically more appealing than anything more recent? was a little ambiguous to face.

About a third of the way into Orguss, though, I did begin watching another anime series of its vintage that had premiered one season later in 1983, one that might be brushed off as ?just following Macross?s trend? but, by having the production company involved that had managed to get the international rights to that first anime, wound up being called the third part of Robotech. Genesis Climber Mospeada, before it had to be part of a bigger story, had begun with enigmatic aliens invading Earth in the middle of the twenty-first century, with some humans fleeing to Mars but beginning to launch liberation efforts three decades later. (This does remind me of all the unfortunate arguments over just how Robotech might be interpreted to reconcile its scattered timeline references once its barely-begun sequel effort had seemed to contradict some of them. I was ready to accept the arguments for an expanded timeline, but I didn?t have the same attachments to the spinoffs those fighting back had; I suppose these days I can wonder if the new theories were sold just a little disingenuously as ?the real original intent.?) Mospeada?s picaresque-odyssey journey of an eccentric band of survivors across a post-apocalyptic Earth may not be too complicated in the end, but it is appealing with some pretty solid mechanical designs. While I did contemplate again ?Yoshitaka Amano?s character designs are obviously different than Haruhiko Mikimoto?s even with yet another series stuck in between them,? the thought did hit me the off-model episodes of Macross aren?t quite the same as the well-animated ones, either.

I did make it all the way through the decade-earlier giant robot action of Great Mazinger; the Mazinger Z characters who had stepped off-stage at the end of their own series to introduce new pilots did return for the final battles, but in such a way as to have me thinking the new characters had come into their own for me over the length of their series. This one, at least, didn?t end with an obvious opening for another sequel. I also got around to watching a one-shot episode I?d pledged some money on Kickstarter towards, thinking Mecha Ude did look better and had made fewer grand claims to start with than a previous project even if it was ?a pilot episode?; these days, though, I may be intent on limiting ?Kickstarter pledges for anime? to the re-release projects of Nozomi Entertainment, who have a track record already. With Great Mazinger finished, I was soon able to start into the back half of the second Lupin the Third series, still very much an uncomplicated and appealing known quantity for me.