Midway through this year, my grand-to-grandiose project of returning to the original Macross and then taking in a string of other series had got through everything connected by time slot and official localization; I still had a number of shows left linked up by whims sparked by once-noticed comments and standard brand names, though. I also had no intention of this getting in the way of another careful selection of up-to-the-minute or nearly so anime, but as these three months wore on I did find my thoughts turning still further back. It did add up to another busy viewing schedule.

Making up these quarterly summaries sometimes gets me pushing a bit to finish series in time to make “final statements,” but I’d left Zillion “to be continued” three months ago after deciding its perhaps uncomplicated mid-future science fiction action might grow wearying at the episode-a-day pace I’d managed with Macross and Southern Cross (although realising, half-remembered comments aside, its lead studio Tatsunoko hadn’t just recycled designs for the infamously incomplete trans-Pacific collaboration to continue Robotech but had reworked them into a larger whole might have made things feel a bit more conventional). At the same time, I did keep thinking the animation had stayed very good-looking for a TV anime from the late 1980s, and around when I finished it (with a slightly peculiar “alternative universe OVA” making some odd twists on the trio of teenaged heroes and their handful of supporters, and more so on the recurring villains who’d emerged from among the disposable enemy soldiers late in the series) I did see and contemplate a comment the starting-out Kyoto Animation, a good ways past painting cels but still a decade and a half from putting their name front and centre on their own productions, had been a major subcontractor I hadn’t recognized in the untranslated credits. Seeing this comment only in the context of the fatal fire at the animation studio was of course unfortunate; I am conscious that where others were making a point of returning to “KyoAni” series in commemoration Zillion was the best I’d managed there.

On finishing a first trilogy of Gall Force OVAs (linked up to my project by its designing studio Artmic’s previous work on Mospeada), there’d still been one DVD left in the simple box set I’d had waiting to open for years. The first OVA had ended with a feel-good coda suggesting its entire cute-girl cast would be reincarnated in 1980s Japan; Rhea Gall Force had another set of reincarnations (although some of them were harder to identify at first glance) battling robots in a postapocalyptic future, with just enough of a link offered to the previous space opera and its own apocalyptic conclusion. While I did wonder what someone who’d only bought the box set would have made of being left hanging, I was able to move straight on to the direct sequel Gall Force Earth Chapter, and closed a circle left open for more than two decades. My university’s anime club had shown the first part of that multi-part OVA at a show, then not bothered with its continuing chapters. With Rhea Gall Force’s setup, things now made a lot more sense to me even if I could keep remembering impressions of how second-string many considered and consider the franchise to be. After finishing Earth Chapter (which seemed a bit more satisfying than the first trilogy’s talky cautionary-tale conclusion) I still had one DVD left. I’d soon sorted out Gall Force New Era introduced yet another set of reincarnations (easier to connect back to the originals), living in a rebuilt and futuristic city. The blurb on the DVD case promising “man vs. machine... the final battle!” had me wondering for a few moments if this OVA would have a flavour of “cyberpunk”; later on I did wonder if, given the connection that had me watching the franchise in the first place, my thoughts had somehow been influenced by the Robotech novel that had, however infamously, wrapped up the loose end left by the TV show if in part by “retconning” the conclusion of, and just perhaps the entire overarching plot imposed on, the earlier novels adapting that show. The novel had also made an effort to get away from “mecha” and towards something more respectable for written science fiction at the end of the 1980s, if also invoking Japan. As for the OVA itself, though, it wasn’t long until it had turned apocalyptic, then gone somewhat off-model in its second instalment. A last remnant did escape the catastrophe (in a way that might involve as much “good machine versus bad machine” as anything else), but left me wondering just how they’d continue the species, unless we’re perhaps meant to imagine the exact situation of the first OVA being set up in a “cyclic history,” just the sort of thing that at other times can have me seeking to escape “futile loops” by writing off later stories altogether.

I’ve grown a bit reluctant over the years to watch “anime made from manga” if I’ve already read that manga, but two announcements of that sort of adaptation came close enough together to catch my eye and make me say a bit about them, including the bare possibility of trying to overcome my reluctance. (I might even have watched two more adaptations this season, but both of those shows were streaming on services I don’t have subscriptions to.) To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts had me contemplating straight off how it was beginning with the backstory that had only emerged over several volumes of manga, as soldiers on one side of “a civil war safely not the American Civil War,” transmuted into monstrous living weapons, lose hold of their humanity until their leader Hank has to hunt them down after the war. I suppose this was a bit more honest about who the story’s main character might be than the manga’s beginning with Schaal, the demure, rifle-toting teenaged daughter of a hunted-down soldier, trying to take revenge for that only to wind up Hank’s sidekick. However, in addition to a sense of the anime’s artwork somehow lacking some vital spark, I grew uneasy about it amounting to “eradicating irredeemable monsters of the week.” Comments over the years from other people “making three-episode trials” swam in my mind until I bit a bullet myself and “dropped” the anime; that part of this was trying to protect my reading the manga might be hinted at by continuing to buy those volumes, if more conscious now this could have something to do just with its original art looking distinctive enough to catch my attention.

Astra Lost in Space did seem to turn out better, and amounted to justifying having subscribed to Funimation’s streaming service for this season. Its story of a small crew of high schoolers making a field trip to another planet only to be caught in a strange phenomena and hurled into space above a distant frozen world, if then to find a usable starship abandoned there, might be simple enough as science fiction (with strange new worlds being visited in large part to gather food from with the aid of handy edibility testers) but did seem pleasant just for being a recent entry in that genre with a positive (if not “utopian”), interstellar setting. That it was adapted from a complete manga meant it got a proper conclusion (with some increasingly grandiose revelations en route), along the way seeming to make good use of the colour and music animation can add to comics, and it didn’t tone down too much one moment I’d wondered about in advance.

As for a new series that wasn’t based on manga, Granbelm got my attention for promising “magical girls piloting mecha.” The second part of that, though, raised my apprehensions as well; for years now I’ve started watching new mecha series only to wind up with a kind of “they just can’t get a break these days” depression seeing in passing casual putdowns if not bristling indignation from others. Still, when I began Granbelm it got my attention the mecha were in motion using “drawn animation,” which has become rare these days (although their “super-deformed” look might have made them easier to animate that way than something more hard-edged); even the sound effects could be a bit original and intriguing. The escalation of and revelations about a hidden conflict for ultimate magical power in fanciful arena dimensions under enormous full moons one teenaged girl stumbled into in the first episode might have been a bit slow-building to start, but the characters did become more interesting with time until there’d been a sort of shift in just who the main one was, which did increase thoughts of Puella Magi Madoka Magica but also managed to ring a compelling twist on the familiar concept of “the accidental addition to the conflict turns out more powerful than anyone else.” I even started noticing a few other people being positive about the series and trying to talk it up. The conclusion did have that much more “mecha series battle” to it, perhaps (and specifically brought to mind the sprawling Gundam franchise itself with swarms of remote-controlled weapons and philosophical discussions shouted back and forth), but it wound up much more challenging too, with a lot of “choose your own ending” ambiguity as to whether a higher yet cost had been paid than the episodes before had been implying (although this had more impact for me than “the single designated sacrificial lamb accepts her destiny” would have, though), the system had just been gamed (which would have felt familiar enough spelled out from the start), or some third option had just happened to happen.

The fourth new series I settled on watching had the boost of a franchise behind it. After having to view the previous instalment of Symphogear “fansubbed,” it was a pleasant surprise for Symphogear XV to be officially streamed. This fifth instalment charged along with familiar style-is-its-substance force, managing to put on some very impressive scientific magical girl-idol singer battles and seeming to move its focus back towards those main characters even with some pretty memorable antagonists. Where I had started off thinking the franchise would keep going beyond these latest adventures, though, I did notice a comment or two what we were watching now was supposed to be the final series right around the surprise reappearance of some apparently quite popular characters from a previous outing. Things did wrap up in grandiose fashion, but I had taken note of an announcement Discotek is going to release the first series over here on Blu-Ray at last (even if a brief flashback moment partway through this latest outing reminded me the character designs have been greatly polished from the beginning, in the watching of which I can recall a few idle thoughts the show looked “a few years older than it actually was.”)

As for the series I’d continued from the previous season, Fruits Basket remained pleasant. While I’m conscious I just don’t seem to have quite the same warmth for the franchise others do, the episodes that told the backstory of the two offbeat friends from the start of the main character Tohru might have had more impact, if in part because I hadn’t quite remembered they’d show up when they did. The conclusion-for-now promised more episodes after a break, leaving off with not quite the same events as the original adaptation had got to; I suppose there’ll be debates from now on as to what effort was more appealing to different people. The baseball action of Mix picked up as the high school team pushed into the regional qualifiers, and with that as a distraction I didn’t spend quite as much time obsessing over just what would happen with the off-field character development even if I could never rule out a surprise “they aren’t siblings by blood” justification. Familiar with how “sports manga” plays out (to say nothing of familiarity with Mitsuru Adachi’s stories being a bit more self-aware than manga and anime usually seems), I didn’t expect total victory in the first year of high school for the main characters. However, the series itself seemed to end at that moment, with some “read the manga to see how this happened later” glimpses in the end credits; the only problem there is the Mix manga hasn’t been officially licensed over here.

After abandoning To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts myself, I knew my viewing schedule had stayed open enough to give me time to catch up on something new. There’d been some initial enthusiasm for a series called Fire Force; unfortunately, the fatal fire at Kyoto Animation made it seem a lot less appealing. (In any case, by the end of these three months that initial enthusiasm seemed much faded.) Instead, I managed at last to start watching a series I’d picked up on the enthusiasm of others for a bit too late to start viewing it alongside them, then had trouble making the space to see with lots of other things always there to be watched. Zombie Land Saga began with a seemingly typical high school girl running out her front door only to be hit by a truck; instead of being transported to “an alternative world” (Granbelm had managed its own quick poke at that massive recent trend in its first episode), she’s revived a decade later as a zombie and told this is to become an idol singer to help revive Saga Prefecture. Where I’d backed away from the nasty implications of “zombie apocalypses” some years ago (although the overripe treatment of the living in Highschool of the Dead could very much have had something to do with my disillusionment too), this series avoided “monstrous others” through its very mixed bag of zombie idol singers regaining their minds early on (save for one who’s treated as comedy relief). Heavily made up, they can pass for the living (although this is as much “palette swapping” as anything else); after a while, they don’t seem to worry any more about that makeup wearing off. I suppose I did wonder whether the computer animation used for the group dance sequences could be called “meant to look unnatural,” and just perhaps being late to the party left me not quite as caught up by it than others, but it did get my attention that there was an announcement of an upcoming further instalment in the franchise while I was watching its first.

I got through the third DVD collection of the second Lupin the Third series at last, finishing its episodes that had aired in the 1970s; a fourth and concluding collection is promised but not scheduled yet. For the weekend slot I’d been viewing episodes from it in, I moved just a little further ahead in history. The notable comedy manga from Rumiko Takahashi Urusei Yatsura is being published again, but my familiar “watch the anime adapted from manga before reading the original” compulsion kicked in as well with access to the anime. It involves an ever-expanding collection of “obnoxious (space) aliens,” just about all of who can be seen as playing off Japanese folklore and legends, pestering the good people of Earth but most of all the not-so-good lecherous teenager Ataru Moroboshi, most regularly afflicted by his self-proclaimed teenaged wife in a tiger-striped bikini and go-go boots, Lum. Along with the general intimations of early “harem comedy” more enjoyable than most successors for its characters being more, as I once saw described, “laughed at, not with,” I suppose this is an earlier series with a slightly exotic and dangerous young woman with small horns who calls her long-suffering intended “Darling,” but which isn’t endlessly criticized and dismissed in passing. The early episodes are divided into two short stories, which makes things a bit brisker, almost like “one-reel cartoons” of the first golden age of animation over here. I can recall seeing just one episode of Urusei Yatsura before, when someone at my university’s residence screened a tape; the series is longer than Lupin the Third, though, which does leave me wondering if I’ll happen on it before other series or simple exhaustion intervenes. As well, there’s still the little question of whether I can “risk” reading the manga before having watched every episode, movie, and OVA of the anime; I have a vague impression from a comment or two seen the first episodes aren’t a chapter-by-chapter adaptation of the manga.

With Zillion and Gall Force both finished for the first time (even if I’d had a thought or two along the way that “watching 1980s anime not seen before” could amount to “depleting a non-renewable resource”), I got back to “watching things again.” That next OVA selected was linked into my project not so much by Haruhiko Mikimoto having designed its characters as by it once having been turned into a “parody fandub” sequel to Robotech. As much as the mere thought of that has amused me over the years, it’s also easy enough to talk in a knowing way about Gunbuster being “awesome,” even at the risk of “smugly unexplained claims.” There are high emotions and grand moments to it even so (along with a good many references to animation and live action science fiction older than Macross, and a hefty dose of “fanservice” too), and I did enjoy getting back to it even if my long-envisioned project had scheduled it after the arbitrary moment of its thirtieth anniversary.

After Gunbuster, I stepped out of the 1980s at last, even if just by a few years, to Orguss 02, which I’d also seen back in my university’s anime club (and years before getting to watch the original Orguss). While revisiting its original series this year had hit me with the unexpected and uneasy impression of starting off on the wrong foot and never quite getting on the right one, I didn’t have too many qualms about the sequel OVA, even if that had something to do with remembering not that much of a connection between the two parts of the property. With that thought in mind, though, I was just a little struck by the OVA beginning with dredging up an “Orguss” mecha (which was being mass-produced by the end of the series), if into a sort of “post-steampunk” world with no apparent knowledge of just what had happened before. Remembering criticism it’s all too easy to recognize the inaccuracy of the subtitles on the DVD for anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Japanese, I started with the English dub. With my carefully limited exposure to them (always out of the old concern that to take in too many dubs might somehowleave me with the clear dislike of them endemic in the circles I’d been aware of when I joined the anime club), returning to it didn’t seem all that bad. A casual spot-check, though, had me thinking the dub’s music sounded different, more synthesized and therefore unfortunately cheaper, than the original Japanese soundtrack, and I switched languages, somehow managing not to be too offended by the subtitles either. (Later on, I tracked down the piece I’d seen the criticism in, only to see it also declare the dub track had just rearranged its music to sound better...) The OVA’s action (which manages to ring some changes on that familiar staple of mecha anime where someone inexperienced stumbles into piloting in the first episode), melodrama, and palace intrigue, taken as something self-contained, stayed interesting, and there was a connection eventually offered to the original series for all that I amused myself wondering how small the changes to make things really self-contained might have to be. I am a little conscious of the indignation some show at “Orguss getting this follow-up,” but along with my unfortunate disconnection from the original I can think its “shuffled-together world” unshuffled in a way that might be interpreted as producing many conclusions and continuations.

With the sequel to Orguss taken care of, I stepped over a big calendrical marker to Gunbuster 2, even if that might have been a later addition to my project. I can still recall seeing the first OVA of this project “fansubbed” and running into the indignation of others, this time about its “twenty-first century style” (with a “clumsy maid waitress” getting caught up in frenetic, cartoony action) not fitting the proper tone of the venerated original even with obvious musical quotes from it. However, in the time since then we no longer have to wait for further episodes to be produced, and the “tone” of the follow-up does shift over them until, to me and even some others, it’s not that distant from the grandiose scale the original reached while providing a clear link between stories too. Sometimes I do wonder if Gunbuster’s nods to the past weren’t quite familiar to its English-speaking audience to begin with, adding to just perhaps over-exalted impressions of it. Then, on a lighter note, I might remind myself the sequel’s title in Japanese isn’t quite what it’s being sold in English as.

Late in these three months, Netflix did make available a first block of episodes from a series that had been airing in Japan and attracting some attention from those defying modern conventions to make a big deal of seeking out “fansubs.” Carole & Tuesday was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame, which has seemed a very hard act to follow for decades, even if I have to admit I haven’t made the effort to seek out some of his later series. There did seem something interesting about Carole & Tuesday, though. It’s the story of two somewhat mismatched young women who run into each other on a thoroughly terraformed Mars (as with Astra Lost in Space, the mere thought of “an optimistic future” goes a long way for me), then start writing and performing their own songs. When I started the series I switched to the Japanese track almost automatically, only to discover the songs themselves are in English; they do add to the animation to give an impression of a good bit of effort going into the show, though. The schemes in the first episodes to get a little attention had a pleasant comedic flavour to them; the ones that followed grew more serious bit by bit even if they also revealed a certain reason for the show’s surprisingly mature rating. Still, I found the series entertaining enough I went from “supposing I’d watch a bit of it before preparing this summary” to “pushing to watch every episode available”; I’ll just have to see when the next block shows up and what it’ll be like.

Days short of a full nine months into it, my “Macross and afterwards” project came to a close with the two Macross Frontier movies, an alternative version of a TV series I thought would finally be too extravagant time-wise after so much else seen. I returned to the Blu-Ray boxed set I’d imported from Japan on hearing it included English subtitles, still the furthest I’ve gone down that path of conspicuous consumption at least a few make a big deal of following. It did turn out that while I may have grown more plain accepting of their more extravagant and flamboyant moments since my first viewings, the movies weren’t altogether engraved in my memory, and they stayed pretty entertaining even if I could sense their character designs are passing over that ever-moving line that separates “old anime” from “new” (although I’m sure it moves differently for different people), only possibly to become “classic” later. Perhaps Macross Frontier has even risen a bit in the estimation of fans over the years, although in remembering comments the series is “just the original with a shiny coat of paint” I did get to thinking the movie’s secondary “transhuman” characters off in its shadows did give me a sense it really was “the future” of the original Macross.