As the three months just past were getting under way, my big "looking back" project for this year was looking ahead to more decades-old anime series I could draw some form or another of links to Macross for. That was one thing that kept me from being bothered about not having noticed too many brand-new series being talked up to watch via official streaming, even if I'd just retired my budget Chromecast at last on buying a refurbished and slightly discounted late-model Apple TV set-top box. (Controlling streaming services with a touchpad remote and "read across the room" graphics might have felt a bit more cumbersome to start with than using an iPod Touch, but it is quicker to pause videos with the remote than to unlock the iPod and command the Chromecast.) I'd also contemplated getting to a series or two from past seasons I'd noticed the interest of others in seemingly just a little too late to fit them into my schedules then. However, a few shows did manage to catch my eye just as they were starting up, and since watching "a few" new series is plenty for me when combined with "shows seen by myself," things weren't too atypical for me going ahead even if I kept missing out on those almost-new shows. In any case, my schedule wasn't occupied to the point where I couldn't take a Saturday and go to the big area anime convention at last.

I started off with the last of the mecha series combined with Macross to make the domestic Saturday-morning cartoon I'd watched in all innocence every chance I'd had in the middle of the 1980s, and wound up interested enough in to cling to memories and imperfectly visual spinoffs until realising (much slower than some) Robotech hadn't been a once-only storytelling standout from a time itself vanished. Since then, though, I'd bumped up against plenty of people ready to dismiss Southern Cross either in combination or by itself. By this point, however, I seem to be getting to the point where I can keep my own opinions braced up. A fairly recent specific condemnation I've seen more than once of Southern Cross's main character seems to me more a matter of overreacting to an early gag, so there might be a bit of personal reassurance there. However, it just might be too I can keep looking at Southern Cross with the distraction of saying "well, this moment makes more sense to me here than the way Robotech (or its novelizations, making their own desperate efforts to explain things away) had it..."

As I wasn't "scheduling Southern Cross against anything else that had aired the same time in Japan," I had the time now to watch something else too. My thoughts were directed, though, by one more case where I'd managed to get an anime series ready to watch but had also piled up the manga it had been based on. I had noticed what seemed some small amount of positive attention paid by others to a show called Scum's Wish, and understood it to be about a seemingly golden high-school couple who were in fact only together for raw physical contact because they couldn't be with the people they were actually in love with. I perhaps hadn't realised the people they were actually in love with were high school teachers (and apparently an incipient couple themselves); potential reactions like "get over yourself; 'crushes on teachers' are a dime a dozen" stayed amused side notes in my mind because there was some effort made to establish the hopeless attractions had developed before everyone had wound up at the same school. Another thing I hadn't known was that other young people had almost as hopeless attractions to the main characters themselves; this, though, led to a bit of what, in the "trashy soap opera" air of the series (with a real surprise or two there), it was awfully tempting to call by that crass old name "girl on girl action." I suppose I couldn't escape a thought or two about target audiences who'll take fevered interest in that but recoil from male bisexual experimentation even as I had to face my own hangups. The series was very careful about what it did show, although there were some interesting touches to the direction (with "manga panel-like closeups" appearing in the familiar widescreen frame). When things had wrapped up with a conclusion steering an interesting path past "familiar happy resolutions" without being out-and-out depressing or dismissible I did get to the manga, but wasn't quite inclined to think its artwork "better" than the anime's even as it showed no more than its adaptation had.

From the start of these three months to the end of them, I was still working my way through the third DVD collection of the second Lupin the Third series, getting past its hundredth episode. The super-thief action of the series might seem to be quite familiar by now, but there were some interesting moments. Aware of just when it was made, I noticed two episodes invoking Superman: The Movie; afterwards, there was a guest appearance of Oscar from Rose of Versailles (according to the on-disc notes, not that long before the anime adaptation of the manga premiered) and a new opening sequence with one particular moment that managed to have me thinking of "The Muppet Show" and its worldwide popularity. When I do have the third collection finished there should be just one more to be released (including the glimmering promise of two late episodes directed by Hayao Miyazaki); however, it hasn't been announced yet.

My thoughts had turned towards buying an Apple TV with some help from supposing that with the old partnership between Crunchyroll and Funimation now all but dissolved, it might be about time to shrug off the casual contempt of what can seem numerous other fans for the second of those streaming services and subscribe to it myself. (I couldn't help but notice a few indications afterwards that Funimation offers Chromecast support by now, though.) However, the one upcoming series I'd really taken some interest in beforehand, and which I'd imagined Funimation going to some effort to license, ended up on Crunchyroll. I was willing to accept that anyway and started watching the new Fruits Basket, if thinking back to the first anime to begin adapting that manga. That had been back when I'd thought myself not quite ready to afford "buying anime faster than I can watch it," instead supposing manga "poor man's anime." However, the artwork in the Fruits Basket manga might have seemed a bit simplistic to me, such that I'd only bought the first three volumes of the old Tokyopop release before getting to the point where the volumes just following weren't ready to hand in bookstores while trying to order them online didn't quite compel me either. I did eventually manage to buy the original anime anyway, but there might have faced the thought that while I'd seen the story first promoted as "with a resemblance to Ranma 1/2, but pitched to a different target demographic," the tale of a poor but pure-hearted girl who falls in with a varied bunch of members from a large and dysfunctional family clan who transform into the animals of the Chinese zodiac when someone of the opposite sex hugs them might not have had as much "comedic scuffles and transformation hijinx" as the comparison had got me thinking. The anime had been pleasant enough, but had ended in a "the story will continue" way (and without introducing the entire baker's dozen of cursed characters). Then, years later, Yen Press had "license rescued" the manga and re-released it in deluxe editions, and I had got to the point of buying all of it if to plug through it with a final impression mostly of "talkiness." With all of that remembered I suppose watching the new Fruits Basket might have had overtones of "doing something everyone else is just on the possibility of following discussions," and yet the emotional content of the series (including the early establishment of its main character Tohru perhaps being less "selfless" than "lacking self-esteem") did seem to have more effect on me than I'd first imagined, such that I found myself watching with a reasonable bit of interest even if I'm still wondering if my thoughts might change "later."

If I wasn't using my new Funimation subscription to watch Fruits Basket, so I told myself, I could at least watch Mix on the service, and then that baseball anime also appeared on Crunchyroll, the companies apparently not altogether severed even with their new corporate superiors in place. I've watched a certain number of baseball anime over the years, if not every series I've had potential access to. (This season Ace of the Diamond did pick up again, but I'd already left off from that series a while ago now, perhaps having found it "too much a bunch of high school guys focused on sport.") That could have something to do with the Toronto Blue Jays having first started qualifying for the postseason right when I'd been at an impressionable age (checking old newspaper microfilm for TV guide records of just when Robotech had gone on the air in my market, I'd scrolled past reports of the team's first successful end-of-season push), or just because of baseball's importance in Peanuts. It might also have something to do with the impression baseball's sometimes-scoffed at, sometimes-celebrated peculiarities of action could work better in limited animation than a sport with two teams of people running all the time, although I am aware of basketball and soccer anime I haven't watched. Mix, anyway, seemed more than "one more baseball anime" in being based on a manga by Mitsuru Adachi. It just happened to be set at "Meisei High School," the school in his decades-earlier work Touch, the lengthy anime adaptation of which was one of the first baseball anime I watched (if via the always somewhat ambiguous method of "fansubs.") After a few episodes, though, I felt just about certain Mix's teenaged characters weren't "the children of Touch's characters" (although Noriko Hidaka, the voice actress of Touch's female lead Minami, provided Mix's narration); the early comments about a pitcher-catcher "battery" of brothers, Touma and Souichirou, from the same family not being related by blood wound up more like "The Brady Bunch" than the adoption of a tragically orphaned yet coyly lacking in backstory prodigy. However, Touma and the daughter of the family Otomi also not being related by blood had me uncertain about a few odd early moments and "whether the story really was going to go there," to something that shows up in anime series with much less wholesome reputations even if in this particular case it would be "more biologically permissable, yet somehow just kind of lazy." There was a "girl arriving in the neighbourhood" named Haruka (involved in rhythmic gymnastics, the other big sport in Touch), but my first thought was "she's obviously Souichirou's potential girlfriend." For a few episodes midway through this season, I did consider "dropping" Mix after three months for the sake of not winding up in a "these characters have to wind up paired off" mood only somewhat different from the usual run of it in "fandom." Then, though, as the series kept placing pieces on the board in a leisurely way, I got to wondering about Touma and Haruka actually interacting and an intimation they'd managed to meet before his and Otomi's widowed parents had, even if more interactions between Haruka and Souichirou kept me uncertain. (Sometimes all of this just has me thinking back to the other Mitsuru Adachi series I've seen, Cross Game, and how it seemed to show up at a very good time to reassure me anime in fact hadn't "abandoned any thought of appealing to a wide audience" the way some had been dwelling on; anyway, these days I more or less don't worry about that.)

One more baseball anime was airing this season, and it had a twist that very much caught my attention through that jocular old comment "anime can add cute girls to anything, and anything goes better with cute anime girls." Somehow, though, I couldn't escape some concern right away that Cinderella Nine, "based on a mobile game," might get squeezed on all sides not just by Mix and Ace of the Diamond this season but also by memories of two older "girls can play baseball, too" series, Princess Nine and Taisho Baseball Girls. Where both of those older series had stuck their girls playing against boys' teams, though (Princess Nine through the sheer fantasy of its pitcher lead character developing through painful exertion a nigh-magical "Lightning Ball" pitch, Taisho Baseball Girls by buckling down and playing smarter), Cinderella Nine had girls' baseball teams set up at different schools. (Cross Game had begun to brush against this, although it wound up a few episodes' distraction before its female lead Aoba focused on the good of the group and kept supporting the boys' team.) The story of one girls' team assembling did wind up seeming pleasant enough to me and brisk-moving compared to Mix, even if I also wound up not looking for other opinions on it. I could ponder how a few of its characters had some previous baseball experience on co-ed little league teams, including its lead character Tsubasa (who, breaking the pattern of all the other baseball anime I've seen, is the shortstop rather than the pitcher or even a catcher in a "battery" just perhaps baiting slashy interpretations for those with the appropriate "goggles" in place). Along with contrasting against other characters with played-up vulnerabilities and others more purely comedic, Tsubasa's background perhaps helped me brush off a thought or two that there was a character design resemblance between her and the lead character of the original Love Live Honoka, who seems to get by mostly on raw enthusiasm. However, just past the first episode things started looking badly off-model. Having thought at several times that I got past grand claims about "anime as better than anything else" through supposing its character designs have a simple appeal to me, perhaps I'm sensitive to that; I did have glum thoughts of those recurring horror stories of hard-pressed series that strip their gears production-wise almost at once and limp on ever after. Eventually, the series missed two weeks altogether on the perhaps-slim excuse of "preempted by broadcasts of the French Open"; however, it did look a bit better when it came back at last.

Even after Fruits Basket wasn't streaming on Funimation's service and Mix wasn't a Funimation exclusive after all, I could keep telling myself the subscription I'd paid for there could be put to use for RobiHachi. That title alone had caught my eye in a "season preview"; hearing it was a science fiction comedy kept up my attention. The story of a mismatched duo of guys named Robby and Hatchi setting off on a picaresque interstellar journey (with an awkward, old-fashioned combining-and-transforming giant robot tucked away in their spaceship) had me thinking of Futurama (which I'll admit I might not have been thinking too much about lately, beyond recent comments getting my attention about a "localized 1980s anime parody" in the still-later revival episodes I hadn't bothered to watch at the time), although midway through the series I realised it wasn't a "comedic future" but an "alternative present," perhaps a bit less engaging to contemplate. There also seemed some homoerotic undertones (despite Robby's eye for space ladies), but with some people jumping on "girls' love" intimations in a certain number of the other anime series I watch these days that could make for a change.

I did notice a few "short episode" series as well. For Joshi Kausei, I'd seen its original manga through Crunchyroll's "manga-streaming" service; a "manga without speech" perhaps caught my attention at a specific moment I'd been making some very tentative essays at watching silent movies. The first episode of its anime adaptation, though, picked a slightly "fanservicy" instalment and didn't make it look very impressive; there was an unfortunate temptation to suppose numerous other people dropping away from the series at once. I pushed on with a sort of "surely all the episodes can't be like that" feeling, and most of the following instalments were more toned down; still, the constant "wordless sounds of excitement, pleasure, surprise, and dismay" were more "pantomime" than "silent animation." Another series starting weeks later was that much more "fanservicy," but along with a positive first reaction or two noticed, a comment about Miru Tights being "the first anime of the Reiwa era" did amuse me enough to take a look. I was conscious, seeing how much effort was going into animating the sheen of stockings on the legs of female high school students (and their teacher), of how in other series "tights" being just "flat black all the way up" hadn't get my attention the way "thighhighs" (with the connected Japanese term zettai ryouiki) had; at the same time, though, every episode managing to have shots of toes inside stockings pushed me towards uneasy thoughts of "fetishes on display." One other series of slightly longer episodes was safely and pleasantly unobjectionable, though, even if it was distinct from anything else I was watching. Rilakkuma and Kaoru was on Netflix, and was made with stop-motion animation. The tale of a young working woman who's starting to sense old friends pulling ahead of and away from her in life even as she lives with a giant walking teddy bear, a mid-sized walking teddy bear, and a sort of bird was interesting to watch, although the first comments that had attracted my attention to it had also criticised its subtitles such that I took a chance on the English dub. Perhaps with little standard of comparison, it sounded acceptable enough to me even if that might have increased the sense of difference.

Finishing Southern Cross got me through all of the animation that had got on TV as Robotech, but I was still looking ahead to plenty of other old works I could think of odder and more personal links to it. I moved on to the movie Macross: Do You Remember Love?, long celebrated by Macross fans to the point of importing untranslated DVDs and Blu-Rays from Japan. For me, though, I have to admit the almost complete redesigning of mechanical and uniform designs to go with its very impressive animation just don't seem to appeal to me as much as the original Macross's do (at least when they're well-animated, anyway). I'd even started off this year not quite interested in seeing the movie, until I happened to think its title song and Minmay's "battle costume" went a long way towards balancing all the other new designs I'm not that warm towards (although I know I'm a bit better off than one fan I interacted with about a decade ago now, who'd taken in a late rebroadcast of Robotech on a lark but wound up interested solely in the giant, yet capable of reconciliation, antagonists the Zentraedi, who were also redesigned for the movie to look rather more "monstrous.") From there, I watched the first two parts of the OVA Megazone 23, the first of which had become the oft-notorious "Robotech: The Movie." The second part offered its own necessary conclusion to the first part's "however great the 1980s were in Japan, here they hide a dark secret" story (a story that perhaps doesn't endure a lot of "just how does that work?" thought, though). It did have completely different character designs too, including some outright grotesque ones to my eyes.

While I was watching that movie and OVAs on the weekends, I'd turned to a rather newer series. While I'd known Sound! Euphonium had a sequel, I'd formed impressions its continuing high school concert band story hadn't been as well-received by other fans through not committing in the end to the nigh-constant slashy tease between its female leads. Now, though, not only had there been a follow-up movie made but that movie hadn't wound up a pricy "quasi-import" the way the TV series had; buying something else from the franchise comparable in price to more mundane works of entertainment here to follow its original translated novel (which doubtless offered no recompense to all the people at Kyoto Animation who'd done so much to make the story's mundane settings and situations look gorgeous) did get my attention. As for the second series, I did wonder a bit about the characters and the band having developed to the point where further improvement wasn't easily described to a layman like me beyond "practice, practice, and put more of yourself in"; too, the main character Kumiko remained something of an onlooker as other characters worked through their own old issues (if with some slashy overtones of their own; later on, anyway, I noticed a comment that Kumiko playing a euphonium, resembling a tuba but smaller, makes her a "base" for everyone else). The series did continue to look great, anyway. As for the spinoff sequel movie, Liz and the Blue Bird focused on two of the characters set up in the second series; when Kumiko did make a brief appearance among her closer friends I did notice her distinctive wavy hairstyle had been redesigned. In any case, the oboe and flute players Mizore and Nozomi had to work further through their old issues to play important roles in an upcoming performance, its adapted story-told-through-music presented in distinctive glimpses with a familiar "this has some resonance to the story it's inside" feeling to it.

Once I was through all of that (save for Liz and the Blue Bird, which I watched a little later), I turned to an older series I hadn't seen before, but which I hoped from hearsay would have its own small link to Robotech. Zillion was a relatively simple tale of enigmatic yet bad-tempered alien invaders assaulting an Earth colony world, the most effective defence against which is three teenagers who just happened to be assigned powerful zap guns of alien origin. (This group is called the "White Nuts"; I did have to remind myself that if I had to come up with a "Japanese name" it might sound just as odd to someone with native fluency in the language.) That the "Zillion" zap guns start off looking like the light guns of the Sega Master System was brought up several times with amusement when the series was licensed and released over here at last; I was more interested in old comments that Zillion, animated by Tatsunoko, had drawn on designs developed for the infamously unfinished cross-Pacific coproduction "Robotech II: The Sentinels." Once I'd looked hard enough I could see resemblances to some of those designs not just in a wheeled vehicle of the White Nuts but in the enemy mecha; at the same time, though, they hadn't been carried over completely unchanged. Beyond that I could suppose Zillion looked pretty well-animated for a television production of the late 1980s, even if the character designs had an odd, fleshy look to their chins. At the same time, though, first thoughts that if I pushed I'd have the series finished by now faded into the suspicion that, unlike Macross or even Southern Cross, it might not bear "pushing" for me.

It was right about then that some unexpected options for "watching in between" surprised me when Crunchyroll started offering the two recent FLCL sequels. Straight off when they'd been announced, reactions had pointed out that the people who'd actually made that six-episode OVA so memorable (and popular on American cable to the point of driving these sequels at last) had gone on to different and original projects, and yet perhaps that sense of quick dismissal, as much as a vague impression the sequels hadn't been long condemned when they'd got on TV, might have had me thinking I could take my own chance on them. The biggest question seemed whether they were "supposed" to be watched in a particular order, and whether just adding them to my "Crunchyroll queue" meant I'd be presented them in that order or in some other way I wasn't "supposed" to see them. Then, I managed to shrug that off and start watching FLCL Progressive. It had a distinct sense of familiarity to the original series without really explaining connections, but things did feel somehow drabber and less impressive; that the only recurring character was the enigmatic and maddening Haruko did escape "bringing your nostalgic favourites back only to have them regress," though. Later on, anyway, I did manage to find an article in a back issue of "Otaku USA" offering a more thoughtful and engaging perspective; by then I'd also finished FLCL Alternative, thinking its own set of new characters (like its immediate predecessor it now had a female lead) a bit more engaging and interesting (and now the new lead character had some girl friends as well).

I also moved on to another late-1980s anime I'd had waiting to watch for a long time, motivated at last by another overheard resemblance to a part of Robotech. Gall Force had been designed by the studio Artmic, who had worked on Mospeada before, and I'd heard there was a resemblance between its antagonist mecha and the adversary mecha of the earlier series. There did indeed seem a resemblance to me (if one that had me thinking that where some new designs for Sentinels later played on in Zillion had been supposed to connect to "Robotech: The New Generation," that resemblance might have been imperfect after all), although perhaps Gall Force had so many mechanical designs in it that I wound up wondering if any of them stuck in my mind. Somewhere within all the late-1980s production particularities was a space opera story of an "all-cute girls species" called the Solnoids (with Kenichi Sonoda character designs, a further and distinctive link to its time) battling monstrous and apparently male aliens called the Paranoids. The ending of the OVA was in some ways conclusive, but a way to expand on the story that didn't seem too contrived was found for another one; a third OVA then brought that continuation to a close if in a rather talky way. I suppose I could acknowledge personal impressions and later comments noticed that Gall Force wound up a second-string title among 1980s; for one thing, I didn't remember it having been dragged into an infamous fanfiction cycle that had powered-up avatars of its authors rescuing 1980s anime characters from unfortunate fates if only to make them girlfriends... Still, I do have more Gall Force titles to watch and some curiosity as to where they'll go.