After three months of backing my anime viewing down to “sometimes just one episode a day,” (which could still be a lot depending on who’s looking at it), I was looking forward to picking up my pace again. Series other people had watched streaming during those months had managed to get their episodes more or less together and I was still interested in seeing them myself. So far as looking beyond the nearly-new went I had a number of other titles lined up, including an elaborate trip through samples of animation from Japan spanning a century of time, ranging from short silent works to some significant movies (not all of which I’ve seen before).

Demon Slayer had been one more series under the control of Aniplex of America I’d been doing my best not to care about. It’s unfortunate and petty of me that my reaction to the company’s reaction to the crumpling up of the North American anime DVD market over a decade ago became “if they want me to keep shelling out for those take-it-or-leave-it premium editions, they have to do a better job explaining why those prices are what they are instead of leaving it to fans making claims about audiovisual quality and the impossibility of now growing the buyers’ base.” Every so often I’d still begrudge myself to the point of watching the widely available streams that build a large “watch it and that’s it” audience a far smaller group of “hardcore collectors” develops from, but I suppose Demon Slayer had seemed too much mere “shonen action” and followed too soon after I’d worked myself up to watching the first series of Cells at Work! and The Promised Neverland. Before it could fade into the grey limbo I can keep something like Sword Art Online in, though, Aniplex’s premium edition was followed after not that many months by a cheaper, all but frill-free release from Funimation. Despite the two companies developing very different disc-selling strategies, they have wound up both subsidiaries of Sony, and I’d seen a bit of hopeful speculation something like this might happen, if also a comment or two it’s a long way up the corporate ladder before finding someone giving orders that would reach both of them. Still, despite both that previous trying not to care and thoughts this new strategy might be reserved for the rarest, most widely and wildly popular titles or just a one-off experiment facing heavy odds of satisfying whoever had agreed to it, I did think that to not add my small contribution towards proving there remains some residue of people who’ll “buy something to have it more permanently, but not at any price” would make me bear some small measure of blame for no other comparable releases ever materializing. I went ahead and bought the Funimation discs.

I had picked up a certain awareness of what was in Demon Slayer even though all those months of trying not to care. Set in the Taisho era (“Japan’s Roaring Twenties” seems just close enough to the truth to be a useful misleading simplification, although in the series this most seems a matter of the elaborate costume designs mixing traditional Japanese and Western clothing), it begins with a country lad named Tanjiro discovering a man-eating demon has slaughtered his entire family save for one sister, and Nezuko is turning into a demon herself. Somehow, though, she can hold herself back from devouring humans, although she winds up with a slightly fetishy chunk of bamboo strapped into her fanged mouth and devoid of speech anyway where other demons can talk at length. Tanjiro manages to join a shadowy force of sword-wielding demon slayers (aided by his preternatural sense of smell) and builds up technique and allies alike, with Nezuko often shrunk down into a wooden crate her brother carries as a backpack. (I have recollections of seeing a piece of fanart that swapped their roles with Nezuko the swordwoman and Tanjiro her gagged demon sidekick, although I didn’t save a copy then as part of trying to not to care. Rather later I went searching through a big image board and managed to find two role-swapped pictures, then wondered if either of them quite gave me an impression of having seen them before.) Comments remembered that the series was a familiar enough tale elevated by the production values of its animation could come to mind, although the escalating battles were tense and exciting. It also just so happened I was able to move straight on from the series’ conclusion to a legitimate stream of the movie that had continued its story and set box office records in Japan last year when it was safe enough to risk going to theatres but new Hollywood features were scarce. In continuing to adapt the original manga the movie’s story wound up with some weight of consequences while not seeming utterly “episodic” for me and the production values might have been even more impressive, although knowing what was going on depended on having seen the series before.

There have been a lot of manga spinoffs of the theoretically educational anthropomorphized-cells series Cells at Work, but I’ve only read the most talked-about of them, Cells at Work! Code Black. It then just so happened that spinoff wound up getting its own anime adaptation that aired alongside a continuation of the original anime. On seeing some complaints about the continuation (including a “and such small portions” criticism for not running for a full three months), I decided to just watch Code Black, still having waited for all its episodes to become available. The educational content this time around sprang from the (redesigned and sometimes gender-swapped) cells inhabiting a body/city/building/world in far worse health than that of the original series, often saved by mysterious mechanical beings showing up out of nowhere (as the narrator explains what this latest kind of drug does) but never quite getting better until the very end of the series and a narrow escape from cardiac arrest (and after the last end credits, some of the blood cells got sucked up by a mysterious needle, then transfused to a body in even worse shape). The adaptation from manga worked out pretty well in my eyes, not toning down the most mature moments to illegibility.

Despite slogging through the translation of some “light novels,” I’ve gone so far as to read a few of them without the nudge of “seeing where their story went after their anime adaptation gave out.” That doesn’t mean, though, that those novels won’t get adaptations in turn. I had bought the first ebook volume of a series called Otherside Picnic on seeing a resemblance to a notable work of science fiction (translated from Soviet-era Russian), Roadside Picnic (although I made sure to buy and read an ebook version of the older novel first). On hearing it would get an adaptation, I stopped reading the light novel halfway through. The anime didn’t get a lot of positive comments starting off or throughout, though, even if one person I follow kept making muttering comments. Even so, in the end a halfway positive look back or two made me take a chance. The series started with Sorawo, a rather plain university student, about to expire in the drab-looking yet dangerous alternative reality she’d explored her way into, only to be saved by a more stylish young woman about her age named Toriko. The long shots being very long but that not hiding their computer animation did give a first sense of diffident effort. I suppose I did, though, keep contrasting the “Otherside” to the dangerous, alien-affected zones of Roadside Picnic, noting how Sorawo and Toriko have one different part of their bodies each strangely altered (if in concealable ways) soon off, where in the original novel the explorers and treasure hunters just endure the much more scientifically plausible fate of their children being strangely mutated. There did seem something creepy before too long about the Otherside’s urban legends come to life, even if one apparent draw of the series, the invitation to slash Sorawo and Toriko, went by a bit over me as it often does. I did in the end finish the series, and went back to my ebook to note it seemed a little more obvious there Sorawo kept having odd reactions to Toriko blithely invading her personal space. “Creepy descriptions” might be a little less ominous when they have to be set down in prose, although the explanation of the “urban legends” being more a matter of something thoroughly alien intersecting in odd, sketchy ways with human minds was a bit more clear too.

The Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki light novels have managed to appeal to me about as much as translated light novels ever have, so when I saw the first reports of an anime adaptation I was interested. The first reactions to the anime weren’t that enthusiastic, though, even if some of the people who kept watching seemed more positive by the end. When I started the series myself, I did notice that one of the early moments in the novel that intrigued me, when the enigmatically all-round successful (and video game player) Aoi Hinami shows what a difference outfit, makeup, posture, and expression can make for her, was brushed by in a moment without any attempt at a “misleading temporary character model.” From then on, though, things did seem to pick up as the story became more nuanced than “your one skill at being good at video games will get an attractive young woman to tutor you to greater social acceptability”; I suppose the character designs had a “good enough” look to them, and the series got to the point in the novels that made for a decent temporary stop.

Wonder Egg Priority was an original series and one of some apparent weight, with a challengingly diverse quartet of teenaged girls battling their way through monster-infested dreamscapes to save other girls cracked out of peculiar eggs who’d committed suicide in their own real worlds. Part of the draw of the series seemed its animation, although the production went awry to the point of a “recap episode” (that did manage to make it clear to me the girls all had battle catchphrases) and then paused for three months before a concluding episode. The day I thought I’d watch that episode, though, I looked in the wrong place too soon and ran into a bunch of negative reactions, at which point I just sort of stepped away. There had been a lot of odd concepts and “things are still more ominous than they seemed” developments being tossed into late episodes, which might have been detaching me from the series.

Three months ago, I didn’t say an awful lot about my midway-through impressions of Healin’ Good Pretty Cure. That might not have been the only reason I pushed a bit to finish the magical girl series in these three months, however. There did get to be a bit of “healing individuals” among the “healing the Earth” environmental messages that seemed more fundamental to me, and the familiar magical upgrades didn’t render the older finishing moves altogether obsolete. As from the very beginning, the uncomplicated, positive heroism of the series appealed in itself. I did notice that at the very end a character from the next series in the Pretty Cure franchise showed up; that next series also happens to now be officially streaming.

Along with all of that anime, I took in one more unconventional show. Pui Pui Molcar was made with stop-motion animation of fuzzy “guinea pig cars,” managing to tell pleasant stories in a few wordless minutes. (Netflix putting three of those mini-episodes together into blocks might have made me strain its algorithms pausing for a week in between the original instalments.) I also noticed the occasional glimpses of people inside the “Molcars” used photographs of Japanese people; with my long grappled-with uncertainty over how I react to anime character designs, the additional perspective might have been useful.