These three months just past began with me thinking they’d be a bit thin in attention-catching new anime series to watch streaming, but at the time I’d seemed willing to accept that change of pace, even with my list of “old titles linked to Macross” run through at last. In the first weeks of October, though, enough “last-moment additions” found their way onto my schedule I seemed to wind up as occupied watching anime, and finding interest in it, as ever.

There’d been announcements another anime adaptation some years left alone was about to be extended to take on more of its source material that had seemed promoted enough in the past, and before that new A Certain Scientific Railgun series began I wanted to catch up to what had come before. I’d enjoyed the “psychic schoolgirl battles in a high school-heavy city riddled with scientific conspiracies” of the original series back when I’d first seen it, although I have to admit part of that could have had to do with comparing it to the talky “adapted from light novels” A Certain Magical Index, the original novels of which I am now reading in official translation but forever finding tough going. In returning to it, though, I was wondering about the back half of the spinoff anime not being adapted from the spinoff manga. Fortunately, returning to the animation made me realise those “anime original episodes” weren’t entirelyten or so half-hours of the main characters just sort of goofing around until a final, merciful burst of action. There had been a previous sequel series, A Certain Scientific Railgun S, but I’d never quite got around to watching it, aware of the complaints of others that in adapting a story told in an early volume of the light novels to provide “Railgun” Mikoto Misaka’s perspective, things had been constrained to have her battling ominous and overwhelming powers on her own until bailed out by the main character of those novels and his all-cancelling right hand. However, actually watching the second series did remind me things were a bit more complicated than that summary, and while there weren’t as many “anime original episodes” following they did happen to have Mikoto at last find the resolve to trust in her friends and enlist their help to resolve a new problem. After noticing how both series had loose ends of sorts in their “adapted” episodes provided with happy endings by their “original” episodes, I took the once-in-a-blue-moon step of again picking up manga volumes I’d already read, and there noticed the “Railgun S” chapters did once seem to acknowledge an “anime original” character. Then, towards the end of these three months, I had enough days left to open up the second Certain Magical Index anime and watch its brief adaptation of a certain novel I understood set up the injuries of Mikoto’s oft-outrageous roommate Kuroko in the chapters of the Railgun manga to be adapted next year. They, however, brought back those old impressions of the original novels packing a stiff dose of “characters standing around talking to each other” and “young women in fetishy outfits.”

I’d only just started into those “older” series of various vintages when I took my first courteous nibbles at streaming shows. One part of why I suppose myself to “not watch as many brand-new series as some” could be a certain caution towards “light novel adaptations” and “isekai stumbles into generic fantasy worlds pliant to sudden protagonist talents.” However, comments noticed from others had me thinking Ascendance of a Bookworm at least made efforts to play with well-worn formulae. The series began with a Japanese woman squashed under a sudden avalanche of her beloved books only to be reincarnated as a small, frail girl named Main (as the subtitle translations eventually settled on) in a more or less European medieval world. One of the first things she notices is the colourful “anime hair” of everyone around her; the next is that books are hand-copied on parchment and therefore rare, expensive artifacts. She starts trying to make cheaper writing material; after giving up on an over-elaborate attempt to produce something like papyrus, having her clay tablets shatter in an oven, and not telling her mother she’d intended to write on some smooth pieces of wood before they were burned for kindling, it was almost a surprise when she did remember all the details of how to make paper. Before that, some shampoo she’d made almost straight off turned out to be an unexpected but useful ticket into merchant circles, which had me thinking of an English-language fantasy novel with a first resemblance to isekai but written just before World War II, L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall. There was a simple pleasantness about the series, with Main’s family and friends, not quite in on everything but still supportive, part of the appeal. However, I am wondering about the focus of the story drifting as mild fantasy elements keep cropping up, and I suppose the animation artwork felt watered down compared to what I could remember of the light novel covers.

After dropping the Kantai Collection anime just three episodes in, I’d supposed the Arpeggio of Blue Steelmanga would have to form the naval leg of “a bizarre trilogy of cute anime girls meet World War II machinery” alongside the Strike Witches franchise and Girls und Panzer. Then, I started hearing about another “mecha musume” mobile game similar to the one Kantai Collection had begun as, one with a more international flavour than “KanColle’s” perhaps-suspect focus if one I understood to be a Chinese production using “anime-esque” art. The game even got localized into English, although I kept away from it, remembering my experiences with the Love Live mobile game. Later, though, I heard Azur Lane was getting a genuine produced-in-Japan anime series, one more hint perhaps “the overseas market” may start closer to Japan than we (North) Americans think and be less inclined to meet our own particular demands. I was at least curious whether I’d make it any further into Azur Lane than Kantai Collection, and it would amount to another thin justification to having subscribed to Funimation’s streaming service. My first surprise was that out of all the “ship girls” brandishing bits of naval hardware, the apparent audience-identification figures in the opening episodes all represented British and American vessels, and had to fight back a surprise attack from almost-Japanese and almost-German characters (although there was some backstory they’d all fought on the same side against “safe” invaders before, which made things less of a particular textbook translation than Kantai Collection.) There were some intimations a little further into the series the almost-Japanese characters were being manipulated, even as two almost-Chinese “ship girls” managed to show up. Along with that, though, it was getting harder to just sort of accept the overripe young women all but spilling out of low-cut outfits and the rather young girls in too-revealing clothes, to say nothing of all of the characters just sort of standing on water when the action slowed down. Then, the sixth episode was all “down time” with a heavily whited-out group bath scene, and just as I was seriously weighing thoughts of dropping the series there the seventh episode was delayed, at which point I wasn’t watching Azur Lane any more. I did wind up hearing the last episodes had had to be rescheduled for the end of March. However, I have to admit to still wondering a little if a non-whited-out “home video version” will become available over here.

The next series I picked up streaming was also military in flavour, but much more respectable. “A new adaptation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes” that didn’t quite finish the first novel had felt a bit insubstantial; reports it would continue as “theatrical features” just left me wondering if I’d have a chance to see that continuation. The report new episodes of Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue Thesewould be streaming did get my attention, though. Those episodes didn’t seem lacking for having been originally combined (instead, I got to wondering a little just how the “theatrical versions” would have felt), and while they only got to the end of the second of ten novels this reaches some significant developments in the story (about as much of the original as I remember seeing at my university’s anime club the first time around, anyway). I now seem a little more comfortable weighing the new version against memories of the just-out-of-legitimate-reach original anime, finding a few “new character designs” not condemned in the comparison even if others still seem to suffer from that. It’s a little easier to just sort of contemplate how the “civilian imperials” now wear outfits from around the end of our nineteenth century than its beginning, and how the also-redesigned “military imperial” uniforms might feel more of a piece with them than they did in the original anime. I’m also conscious of critical comments the original anime had more flavour and charm for adding new material, but do recall even it had been criticized for softening culpability in one “hinge of fate” moment the closer adaptation of the new version didn’t.

When it came to my final reactions to Gundam Build Divers as compared to the loudest opinions of others, I wasn’t so much “on the outside looking in” as seemingly alone inside, listening to everyone else picketing on the other side. Even so, I still wasn’t at a point to turn away from a sequel in the same “custom Mobile Suit models get scanned into an online world” setting, and started watching Gundam Build Divers Re:Rise. It started with a protagonist with what seemed rather less “simple, useful enthusiasm” than the previous lead characters in “Gundam Build” series (although his Mobile Suit was thoroughly equipped for action, hinted as connected to an apparent tragic backstory) falling in with a small group of equally misfit adventurers and stumbling into a “story mission” to defend anthropomorphic animals on a mysterious virtual world. The characters kept making comments about how this wasn’t quite the way “Gundam” usually went, and beyond that (and the unfortunate temptation to “realise something they’re too slow to”) the sense of “a closer focus on something grand forces weren’t getting involved with” did make things a bit more reasonable and interesting for me. There were revelations enough as these three months wrapped up (even if one of them wrote out the possibility of the one woman character in the party being “someone with a normal life who was just interested in the game”) to keep up my attention, even if it’s still easy to imagine this could wind up another lonely vigil.

One series began streaming several weeks into the quarter, but it did happen to be the one I and what seemed a lot of other people were the most interested in. After some years, the Chihayafuru anime was continuing. In my own case, it hadn’t been quite so long since I’d seen its second series, which helped a bit when, after a brief flashback where a young Chihaya tried to explain to an acquaintance how to play the Japanese poetry-recognizing, card-grabbing game karuta, things picked up where they’d left off with another string of compelling, character-developing competitions. That the series was making up for having started a few weeks late with “several episodes a week” to start with did make my viewing schedule that much more crowded, though.

Once I’d managed to press through the two A Certain Scientific Railgun series, my thoughts turned to a simple comparison I’d happened on a while before. Someone’s personal claim of three “less-noticed yet more unique” series had included Flip Flappers, Kyousougiga, and The Rolling Girls. Having already seen the first two and found them interesting myself turned my thoughts towards the third; I supposed I’d been minimally aware of it without seeking it out because it had been streamed by Funimation. Ready to make up in a sense for having dropped Azur Lane, I started watching the streaming episodes of The Rolling Girls, but did wonder a few episodes in if they were at a disadvantage: where I’d just taken in Flip Flappers and Kyousougiga by themselves, this third series somehow had to “live up to them.” One difference I could fix on was that where the previous two series had involved “fantastic worlds” the “real” world is fantastic enough to be linked to, The Rolling Girls briefly invoked a Japan “split up into multiple countries”; where written science fiction might move at once to “less government equals utopia” or “post-apocalyptic dystopia,” the anime just had an eclectic collection of colourful, “fan-friendly” environments the four teenaged main characters were on a picaresque odyssey through, perhaps just the catalyst for resolving “two-episode plot arcs” involving competing vigilante groups. It did wind up with a sudden plot twist similar to ones I’ve seen attract criticism in other anime. At the same time, I was contrasting “friendship” themes to “family” in Kyousougiga and “friendship, but with slashy undertones” in Flip Flappers.