So far as watching anime went, the last three months of this year rolled along much as the months before them had, so much so that I did have a bit of trouble thinking of something distinctive to say getting this introduction started. While I had wondered about not many “third quarter” titles sounding interesting enough as they were streaming to get around to watching with all of their episodes safely “in the can,” that’s not the first time that’s happened. I filled up my viewing time with shows a few years or a few decades old (along with the “Star Wars anime shorts” and a movie animated in France but adapting a manga).

Taking the deliberate step of leaving Combattler V half-finished, I pushed on to the next 1970s “super robot” anime made by the same people, Voltes V. (The super robot’s name is spoken “Voltes Five” as opposed to “Combattler Vee,” but some “Vees” remain in the later series even so.) I did remember the impact its own “one of the authority figures who get the super robot pilots started goes out in a blaze of glory almost at once” moment had had on me back when I’d first seen it “fansubbed.” As soon as I was past that episode in a legitimate “standard definition on Blu-Ray” release, however, I was stuck thinking Voltes V’s designs in general didn’t look quite as appealing to me as Combattler V’s, and wondering again about leaving the earlier series just because of a few half-remembered negative comments from other people. Just as these thoughts might have been reaching a crisis point, though, some new complexity started getting folded into how the enemy commander on Earth (who now has a sort of medieval-European look rather than the Greco-Roman style of Combattler V’s villains) got along or didn’t with his distant superiors, and things picked up bit by bit in varied ways from there. I even started to warm up to the design of Voltes V itself, acknowledging how from a distance and in poor lighting it might be confused with Dairugger XV (the “other Voltron”). There aren’t many opportunities for anime fans to rap Discotek on the knuckles the way just about all of the other American anime-releasing companies have been over the years, but one chance for that had been grabbed when the art on the inside of their Voltes V case just happened to be of Dairugger XV.

Aware I’d be away from my Blu-Ray player for a while partway through October, I figured out that if I worked at it I could finish Dear Brother before then. The melodramatic complications surrounding its high school sorority wrapped up sooner than I’d supposed. Right after that, though, sudden tragedy struck as if to eliminate the strongest possibilities of “girls’ love,” just the way I’d heard grim rumours of that once overweighing the genre. Further tragedies impended and it all got to feeling too much, but the series did manage to close with a bit of happiness. I wouldn’t quite write it off as “the praise of others got my attention, but it just didn’t work for me.”

While I’ve already mentioned the lack of series streaming in the third quarter that had really got my attention, that might have helped me get around at last to one that had aired an additional three months before. Enough series had appealed to me back then that it might have been squeezed out at the time, but I also have to admit my perpetual petty resentment at everything under the control of Aniplex of America had kept me from starting to watch Vivy - Fluorite Eye’s Song - even after it had received a certain amount of positive comments. In any case, I got started with the “punctuation stickler” in me questioning just how the series involved a single eye’s song. It featured an artificial intelligence singer named Diva and nicknamed Vivy, housed in one of her story’s first humanoid robot bodies. She’s contacted in her little corner of a theme park one day by a somewhat obnoxious artificial intelligence at first inhabiting a robot teddy bear. He tells her he’s been transmitted back in time a hundred years from when AIs have begun to run amok and slaughter humanity, and she’s going to work with him to change history. There’s a certain familiarity to all of this for me that perhaps left things not quite as profound as they might have been intended to be, but I will admit Vivy’s world, at least for that first hundred years or so, looked pleasant and advanced enough to appeal to me in a way that keeps mattering. The bursts of action (Vivy keeps having to switch on a “combat program,” and her robot body is built well enough to handle it even with bursts of blue “blood” much in evidence sometimes) were also impressive, and the human and AI characters introduced in a string of brief vignettes made things more interesting.

The single series that had started streaming three months ago I felt confident enough to watch was another instalment in the Love Live franchise. Love Live Superstar has only shown up in the mobile game I keep playing as a few special songs, so I was interested in getting acquainted with its characters. In this case, the franchise was tweaked through the bold step of cutting down from the regular nine “school idols” to just five (although I have started to wonder if I’ve been able to become and stay interested in it because the Transformers in my youth were a first “big cast of simply drawn characters.”) Paring down the cast that way took out those characters distinguished by being “older” (and alternately “more grown up,” “just plain riper,” or “comedically immature”) or “younger” (which may make them “cuter,” “more appealingly vulnerable,” or “surprisingly capable”). “Lovable goofs” stayed much in evidence, as did a girl with some foreign ancestry (mainland Chinese now) and an authority figure who starts off hostile but comes around in the end (prefigured in any case by the first art). After all of that analysis, though, the series did wind up with a good bit of character development, plenty of comedy (and, I suppose, a new sort of nudge towards encouraging slashy fever deams), and a decent use of hard work and the power of friendship. As ever, becoming a “school idol” is picked up from noticing previously established high school singers; the series did just happen to push the tradition even further into the past.

I’d been impressed by the “just about mecha” action of 86, but the very last instalments of its first block of episodes seeded an uncertainty I had to acknowledge I was already familiar with from some previous, more conventional mecha series. In having taken a chance on piling up translated volumes of its original “light novels” I’d glanced at their covers enough to wind up supposing the anime’s downtrodden squadron commander Shin would eventually do better for himself. However, the block’s last episodes had stuck him and his last handful of surviving pilots with smirking orders to march off over the horizon and into enemy robot territory, and the cliffhanger ending to that had left me wondering “did the story really just write them out of it?” Beyond that apparent contradiction, I did run into thoughts of series that had hit “reset buttons,” discarded consequences of their own cliffhangers coming back from breaks, and wound up not quite as interesting as before. My first recollections were of Aldnoah Zero, in the end an unfortunate yet peculiar reassurance I’m not stuck “feeling sorry” for every recent mecha series (even if I might be at the risk of “can’t you just get over it?” comments.) Then, I did happen to think of the second halves of Gundam 00 and Code Geass, which I might be more inclined to just sort of shrug about. In having waited three months to see the first block of 86, though, the possibility did stand open of moving straight on to its second block. Anime production in Japan didn’t seem to be dominated by news of interruption and collapse; I went ahead and gambled on watching the new episodes.

Things started off with the rear-echelon director Lena still carrying on in her own way, harder and more determined than before. Then, there was the revelation the story’s world remained larger than the first episodes had set it up as. It struck me as one of the best continuations from a cliffhanger I’d run into, and I was quite pleased by the way Shin and his fellow last survivors managed to move on to something less overwhelming (if perhaps more “familiar”) than the elaborate rigged game they’d been stuck in before. One possible signal of this was them winding up with more formidable developments of their quadraped mecha (and snappier uniforms than they’d been saddled with.) That new equipment and setting might have helped a little against the thought things had moved past “anyone can die at any moment, so don’t get attached to them” for the sake of letting a series continue without bolting on pure “plot armour.” Lena’s disconnected scenes became much more occasional, however, even if the possibility did arise of a significant change to her own situation. Then, though, the flow of new episodes was interrupted by a “special commentary,” by an out-and-out clip show, and then just by an empty week and announcements the very last episodes would have to wait three months. With the story’s habit of metering out action (and sometimes just catching up to the tragic wreckage after it’s happened), this did deflate things a bit. All of a sudden, I was noticing complaints the anime series still hobbled by interruptions if not out-and-out collapse all had Aniplex involved somewhere in their production. The last episode of 86 aired this year did have a fair bit of action and some amount of resolution to it even so, but it did still just happen to end on another cliffhanger. I was left wondering again whether it was time at last to start taking a different chance on Yen Press’s translation of the light novels.

Uncertainty whether watching Tropical Rouge Pretty Cure was “the single best use of the time I spent watching it” faded back just before a convenient cutoff point when I noticed one bit of art from a bit later in the series. I pushed on, and soon enough the distance between “the magical girls” and “their magical recruiter and assistant,” reduced at the start of this show from what I might have expected given other magical girl series, evaporated altogether. The show is still relaxed and easygoing, but for the moment I’m willing to keep seeing how its adventures continue.

As I kept watching my way through Urusei Yatsura I reached the episodes that had been airing right around when the second movie of the franchise had opened, and took the time to watch Beautiful Dreamer. I’d long seen that film held up as the moment where Mamoru Oshii began establishing himself as a significant anime director, and there was some interest in the high schoolers of the series trying to prepare for a school festival, starting to wonder out loud how long they’ve been staying overnight at the school for that, and having things get stranger from there. After running into two clip shows in a row in the series itself and wondering if things were getting just a little more languid in general, though, I did contemplate the series diverging from the original manga (which I’m only reading volumes from every once in a while) and considering how I’m at least past the halfway point of the anime.

Once I’d got back to my Blu-Ray player, I opened some discs received not that long ago for a show I’d been waiting to see. The first announcement there would be an anime adaptation of Makoto Yukimura’s Viking action manga Vinland Saga had got my attention, but the series had been streamed on a service I don’t have a subscription to, supposing I can just buy the discs later on from Sentai. General reactions had seemed positive, which might have only whetted my anticipation. At last, though, the Blu-Rays arrived. I was a bit conscious starting off of how the detail in the art of manga has to be smoothed out for animation, and had a thought or two as well that there’d been a live-action Viking television series not that long ago. The action in animation, though, did wind up with a sort of impressive exaggeration that might play to a strength of drawings. The story worked its way through a first dark plot arc of betrayal and attempts at revenge, the young Viking Thorfinn winding up overshadowed by older characters. I did take some note of a lot of the story being set in England; with my mother having emigrated from Scotland, her family brought just enough “schoolboy British history” with them that I have a certain sense of “the Danes” being villains. Turning to a more recent history book even as I kept working through the series, I was a bit surprised to find the name of one of the secondary mighty warriors in the story, who by the end of the anime has had bits of two fingers lopped off and an eye gouged out without this affecting in the slightest his zest for battle. For all of the story’s grit and thunder I was impressed by the adaptation, reflecting on how I’d summarized the year it had aired in with a nagging sense of having to stretch for “standout anime.” (The big question there, however, is whether Vinland Saga now altogether displaces the first block of The Promised Neverland, writing off that other series as “it got me reading the manga.” I’ve also got around to three movies I’d been hoping to see and another series I hadn’t quite expected to watch from that year, but without quite managing the certainty they can reach the same heights of appeal to return to.) Vinland Saga’s anime concluded with some anticipation of its continued story in manga; I do happen to have a good bit of that continuation already, with a new double-length volume just arrived.

Another Blu-Ray set I opened continued an older series. I’d managed to enjoy the simple charms of City Hunter; unlike the continuation of Cat’s Eye, this anime adaptation of a manga by Tsukasa Hojo hadn’t changed enough to wind up souring my interest. With a handful of recurring guest characters now developed alongside the troubleshooter Ryo Saeba and his assistant Kaori (although she does seem to be wielding giant cartoon mallets against Ryo’s overenthusiastic interest in the female sex that much more often now), things have stayed entertaining enough. Occasional thoughts that in a different medium (or even the sort of manga that doesn’t get long-running anime adaptations) a troubleshooter for attractive women would have a different sort of luck with them didn’t bother me in the slightest.

One rather small series I happened on mere YouTube streams of was called Gundam Breaker Battlogue, set in yet another variant on “simulated battles with Gundam mecha models.” In this case, though, the series appears to be the spinoff of a video game where other “Battlogues” had followed up on anime series, and I did wind up with a sense I didn’t completely understand where the characters had come from. They were just a bit older (or had designs that looked that way) than in the “Build” subfranchises, and included two reasonably competent young women, but that fundamental distance did wind up a bit of a problem for me. In any case, though, I had watched it where I fear I’ll just edge around a now-surprising number of mecha series series that have just streamed in the face of what seems now-habitual disdain and dismissal from most other fans, even if one or two titles didn’t manage to get licensed such that I’ve still got “fansub” daydreams to cling to.