The Infinite Zenith

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Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita: Final Reflection

“If you’re going to do something, strive to do it better than anyone else. Do it all the way. If you’re going to half-ass it, why bother?” ― Ashly Lorenzana

It’s been three months since my last talk on Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita (abbreviated Locodol for brevity), which turned out to be one of this season’s most pleasant series. Nanako, Yukari and Yui journeys through their local promotion program, bringing them onto national television, onto a contest for their city mascots, and even gains an additional member, Mirai, to help them out. Their road leads to the Locodol Festival, prompting the Nagarekawa Girls to write their own song, and despite not coming out first at the festival, the Nagarekawa Girls become closer to one another, helping one another appreciate all of their hometown’s specialities. One will invariably wonder how Locodol compares to something like Wake Up, Girls!, and truth be told, the two anime, besides sharing idols as a common theme, are quite distinct from one another: the former involves much less drama and the pressures associated with being an idol, and moreover, the means through which Yukari and Nanako enter the industry is also a lot more personal. Locodol is a gentle show that allows viewers to ease into the idea of idols; if other anime about idols seem unsuitable for viewers, Locodol is the perfect place to start.

  • Here is Saori Nishifukai, Nagarekawa Girls’ manager. Despite harbouring a secret obsession for the Nagerekawa Girls, to the point of maintaining her own fansite, she’s reliable and has the girls’ best interests at heart, offering advice and assistance to them whenever the going gets tough.

  • The art style in Lodocol is nothing special, being quite minimalistic and bears the subtle hint of a cross-cross etching in the landscapes. Though simple, the scenery in and around Nagarekawa is quite friendly, and here, Yukari and Nakako participate in a promotion for the region’s natural resources.

  • Yukari introduces Yui and Nanako to the world’s smallest shrine in order to pray for good luck during their national appearance. It’s not miniature shrine that’s visible to the left, but rather, the small statue of the person with an orange beside it.

  • Nanako’s tendency to stutter leads her to pronounce her name as “Nanyako” on several occasions, and although she is embarrassed by it, her audiences go with it, finding that it adds a certain charm to her character. Despite her shyness, Nanako can become quite involved in her role and deliver solid performances.

  • There are numerous moments in Locodol that evoke laughter from the viewers, such as when Nanako is under the misunderstanding that Yui plans to leave the Nagarekawa Girls for other pursuits. Such moments add a sense of lightheartedness to Locodol, which is significantly more easy-going compared to something like Wake Up, Girls!.

  • Mirai Nazukari is a first year who was drafted to act as Yui’s backup, and despite being worried about underperforming, she is quite competent as a performer. After she joins the Nagarekawa Girls, Nanako tries to bond with her, and the two eventually become friends, leading Mirai to feel more at home with the others.

  • I’m not quite sure what’s happening here (I think it’s the water messing with Uogokoro-kun’s electronic voice modulator), but I found the effect to be quite amusing. The background music in Locodol, like the music in GochiUsa, is gentle, relaxing and quite suited for the atmosphere. It’s been three months since GochiUsa ended, and no soundtrack with the background pieces has ever been released. I’m hoping the same isn’t the case with Locodol, and that the GochiUsa OST is released in due course. Though unremarkable, the music is well-suited for promoting a calmingatmosphere.

  • One of the more subtle things that makes Yui endearing is her speech, in which she adds す to the end of her words. If memory serves, there was a character in Saki with similar tendencies. I’m not capable of ascertaining the differences in Japanese dialects, so I am quite curious to know if this is an actual dialect, or just idiosyncrasy on the character’s part.

  • After overexerting herself, Yukari becomes sick with a fever. Nanako tends to her, and during the process, Yukari recalls that Nanako’s selflessness was what led her to become a Locodol, after encountering the latter when trying to help a lost girl find her mother. Despite losing her position for her actions, Yukari was moved by Nanako and thus, was pleasantly surprised to learn that Nanako had also become a Locodol.

  • No anime about an idol group is complete without the group receiving a new song to perform. In Locodol, Nanako is assigned to write the lyrics while Yukari handles the melody, and Yui manages the choreography. After the song is finalised, Nanako decides that the song should debut at the next local event, rather than reserve it for the Locodol Festival.

At its core, Locodol is about the discovery of local treasures and gathering the courage to share these treasures with other places. When the anime debuted back in July, Nagarekawa was painted as a city with very little unique points going for it. However, after the Nagarekawa Girls is formed, viewers (both in-universe and the show’s audience) get to know Nagarekawa better. As Nanako and Yukari explore various specalities in their town, they discover that everyday, seemingly mundane things are in fact, special in their own right and carry a unique charm to them that they had previously passed over. Similarly, Nanako, Yukari, Yui and Mirai all attend the same school, but until the Locodol project formed the Nagarekawa Girls, they didn’t know each other. This project brought everyone together, leading to a new friendship blossoming. Mirroring the girls’ discovery of local specialities, being members of the Nagarekawa Girls lead everyone to discover friendship in places they would have otherwise overlooked.

  • While Nagarekawa’s citizens are treated to the song, viewers won’t actually get to hear the song until the finale in episode twelve. The Nagarekawa Girls song (hitherto without another name) may feel like a typical J-pop number, but its lyrics capture everyone’s spirits, reflecting on the experiences each of Nanako, Yukari, Yui and Mirai had as Locodols. Earnest and filled with their honesty, the song conveys everyone’s love for Nagarekawa and for one another.

  • As is typical of many of my posts, the images are quite skewed towards the final episodes. I wound up with some eighty-eight images and had to pick twenty for the review (recall that even the Gundam Unicorn: Over The Rainbow talk only had seventy-five images), otherwise, I would be here for quite some time trying to think of figure captions for everything.

  • Watching Yukari and Nanako’s spiel on the croquettes and soda reminds me of the excursion I took today, which marks a week since the Giant Walkthrough Brain presentation. Although there is an assignment, plus research, lesson planning for my tutorial section and a project proposal (that I haven’t even started yet), I took some time during the afternoon to visit Gaucho, a Brazilian BBQ restaurant, with the research lab. The lunch menu included Brazilian-style Garlic Top Sirloin, Rump Steak, Pork Loin, Sausage, Chicken Wings, and Parmesan Beef served from churrasco-style skewer, which was able to I try all of.

  • The Locodol’s purpose is to promote their town and its specialties, so in this sense, the Nagarekawa Girls do a much better job than do the Awa Awa girls, who manage to move all of their merchandise but are unable to promote their own city’s specialities.

  • Everyone celebrates a success after their merchandise sells out by evening. It turns out that the Nagarekawa Girls had a scheduling conflict, with Nagarekawa’s Summer Festival occurring concurrently with the Locodol Festival, throwing a bit of tension into the story. However, Locodol‘s casual atmosphere prevails: Yukari and Nanako resolve to continue on with their performance at the Locodol Festival, and back in Nagarekawa, Nanako’s uncle pulls a few strings to keep the festival going long enough for them to return.

  • Nanako enjoys sweets in a restaurant in between performances with everyone, with a look of pure bliss on her face that evokes memories of Sora no Woto‘s Kanata, who enjoys a toffee with similar results while en route to the Clocktower Fortress. I admit that, yes, sweets are nice (cheesecake and chocolate cake come to mind), but I’m more of a meat-and-potatoes person. On an unrelated note, readers may have realised that this post has no fanservice images of any sort. This is because once Locodol moves further onwards, focus is less about the fanservice and more about growing friendships and responsibilities.

  • After two episodes, the audience finally gets to see Yukari and Nanako perform their new song, which sounds absolutely amazing. While some might consider it implausible for Yukari and Nanako to have performed as well as they did, given that they had only around three months worth of experience, well, first of all, this is an anime, so some disbelief can be suspended, and second, I was able to learn enough Unity3D over three months to put together the software for the Giant Walkthrough Brain in time for the performances.

  • While the Awa Awa Girls win for the second consecutive year, they encourage Nanako and the others to return to Nagarekawa to perform for their own citizens. Over the span of three months, Nanako, Yukari, Yui and Mirai have come quite a long way, winding up on the Locodol Festival stage. Perhaps more so than any other offering this season, Locodol seems to parallel my own summer as far as the Giant Walkthrough Brain goes, so there shouldn’t be any surprises that this anime holds a special place in my library.

  • After their performance, everyone is wasted. I realised that I hadn’t bothered learning Nanako’s friends’ names. To compensate for that, I’ll identify everyone here. Shouko Noda has short burgundy-colored hair and two braids, Satsuki Kashiwaba has blonde hair, Misato Mizumoto has a pony tail and Sumire Mihara is Nanako’s cousin.

  • The Nagarekawa Girls are welcomed warmly upon their return and sing the Nagarekawa song for everyone to wrap up Locodol. All in all, I found the anime to be enjoyable, acting as this season’s easygoing slice-of-life anime. Although unremarkable and thus, passed over by most, Locodol and anime of its genre appear in many seasons for their serenity. Not all anime need to have complex, involved plots or characters to be enjoyable, and after a long day’s work, such anime is precisely what the doctor ordered.

Ultimately, Locodol leads the Nagarekawa Girls to a major competition. While they do not win, they are able to leave an impression on the festival’s attendees. In the pre-show, Nagarekawa manages to sell all of its local specialities, illustrating how far they’ve come in understanding their town’s offerings and present it to the world. Compare and contrast this with the Awa-Awa Girls, who only sell their merchandise but fail to move their own city’s merchandise. As a whole, the Nagarekawa Girls are able to convey their love for Nagarekawa and showcase the best of their town. Through Locodol, I am reminded of my own city’s attractions; Nagarekawa might have the Nagarekawa Girls, but my city has Beakerhead. As Nanako and Yukari prepared for the Locodol Competition, I was fine tuning the software that was powering the Giant Walkthrough Brain. The opening night was last Friday, and a week ago, I decided to take the Saturday off and took an afternoon stroll at the city centre under sunny skies, before making my way to the La Dolce Vita Ristorante, where I shared a Crazy Calabrese and San Francesco with my supervisor and the Free Radical’s lead vocalist before we made our way to the Telus Spark Science Centre. Our performance turned out remarkably well, and this week, when I watched Nanako and Yukari perform, I was quite impressed to see just how far they’d come since Locodol began. There’s an OVA airing next week that will formally mark the close of Locodol, and depending on whether or not my graduate studies workload overwhelms me, I’ll try to have a talk out for it by next Saturday.

A Tari Tari Review: Reflections and a Full Recommendation

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” —Paulo Coelho

Despite being two years since its release in 2012, Tari Tari remains one of my favourite slice-of-life anime in my library. Its basic premise was quite simple: in their final year as high school students, five unique individuals, each seeking a new meaning for themselves, are brought together by music and, in the process, come to know one another better. With the thematic elements focused on creating an opus magnum before graduation, Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro (better known as “Wien”) participate in a variety of events on the route to putting on one final musical performance as the “Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton” club before their school is closed down to make way for a development project. The anime captivated me when I first watched it, and since then, very few slice-of-life anime have had quite the same impact. There are several reasons Tari Tari stands out from other anime in this category, starting with its characters. Focus is predominantly on the female characters; Konatsu, Sawa and Wakana each have a few episodes where their individual problems are brought into the spotlight, and regardless of whether it is Sawa’s aspirations to become a jockey, Wakana’s struggle to come to terms with her mother’s passing or Konatsu’s desire to do something grand with music before leaving high school, each story emphasises that support from friends is precisely what allows everyone to overcome a problem they would not likely have rectified on their own. Even though Taichi and Wien have proportionally less time, their own struggles are presented adequately. Taichi aims to become a professional badminton player, while Wien finds himself out of place in Japan, having lived in Austria previously and wishes to fit in more with the others. Similar to the girls, Taichi and Wien learn to find themselves with everyone’s support. Ultimately, the journey everyone takes together leads them to become closer friends with one another, and their determination to end high school on a positive note results in an uplifting performance that brings the the entire school together.

  • The last post was just about the architecture and refuting other talks on the architecture in Tari Tari because they had the unfortunate combination of inaccuracies and lots of views, which means a greater number of people are likely to walk away with incorrect information. The architecture passage I provided was intended to fix that, although it’s not likely to pick up steam because Tari Tari is an older anime, and because some of my posts aren’t particularly visible on search engines. Still, it was quite fun to write, and I learned a little about architecture. Returning to the present, I picked the post’s first image for its sky of most vivid azure, something that I fondly remember Tari Tari. Many anime have skies that are of an incredibly deep colour that emphasises an eternal sense of longing that is often attributed to the summertime.

  • Memories from summer 2012 are still very much fresh in my mind: that summer was characterised by some of the most intense studying I’d ever done during the warmest months of the year, in preparation for the MCAT. By the time Tari Tari started in July 2012, I had already completed most of the courses, and was gearing up to do practise full-length exams.

  • Readers who’ve taken the time to look over Utopia might have noted that this is the same location as that shown in the crossover short, except in the crossover,  the Condor Queens occupy the seats om the brach front, rather than Hansaku Iroha‘s Minko and Ohana. It seems that the colours in Tari Tari are also more vivid than they were in Utopia.

  • As Taichi, Sawa, Konatsu and Wien gear up for their first performances dying the summer, I was gearing up for the practise exams. By late July, when these episodes were airing, my MCAT course had concluded, and I spent most of my time doing individual exam sections, as well as full length exams. At the time, my newly minted broadband internet connection was ailing owing to a faulty connection, though, and as such, finishing practise full-length exams at home was a nightmare.

  • I eventually did my remaining practise exams on campus at the lab, where I would be assured of a stable connection. My last practise full-length was written on a Saturday before a dinner with the extended family; it was early evening when I finished, and I walked out into the sunset with a 33.

  • After some basic exposition in the first three episodes, Tari Tari directs itself towards providing some background for each character. Wakana’s story is the first to be told: she regrets having quarrelled with her mother before the latter’s passing and distances herself from music to forget. However, with support from Konatsu, Wakana rediscovers her love for music and eventually comes to terms with what happened.

  • Sawa’s story is next, depicting a determined girl whose aspirations to become a jockey lead her to extreme means to fulfil requirements for a jockey institute. As with Wakana, encouragement from her friends brings her back on her feet: she turns a few heads after finding the strength to return to school and help her friends. I understand that, like most of my posts, images experience some clustering, come more from some episodes than others.

  • Sawa’s absence from a rehearsal threatens the Choir-and-sometimes-badminton club’s existence, but Wakana’s skullduggery buys Sawa enough time to arrive and perform. This seems uncharacteristic of Wakana, who is a serious and kind individual who is unlikely to pull such stunts, but the fact that her friends need the extra effort suggests the length she is willing to go to help them. While such actions might be seen as whimsical, it does act to enhance the story and provides a visual approximation of what things might be like if wishes were horses.

  • I’ve deliberately chosen not to discuss Wien and the Super Sentai here, since that was already covered in my discussion at the old website, where I remarked that Tari Tari, in keeping with its theme of being about “this and that”, presented its characters as participating in a variety of events, ranging from choral performances in a more formal setting, to a more casual beach-side performance, and even performing as Super Sentai for the local market.

  • After Wakana, Sawa, Taichi and Wien’s individual issues (each of varying severity and scope) are solved, the characters begin to prepare for their school’s cultural festival in earnest. In the background, a contracting company has set its sights on the school grounds and are adamant about closing off the school to expedite construction, even going so far as to suggest that students on school grounds should be threatened with suspension. The construction company here seems to represent the rigid, unyielding nature of the workforce, one that only focuses on objectives without regard for others.

  • Wien demonstrates an exceptional ability in creating crafts for the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton club’s performance. Through some accident, the props are discarded in the landfill; everyone sets out to recover them, denoting their commitment to both one another and their aims of performing one final time before graduation.

  • I originally stated that Sawa was my favourite character, I never really explained why that was. I think I’ve got a firmer grasp on why that is now, though: Sawa is a determined character who doesn’t compromise or back down from her goals. Moreover, she’s got a pleasant singing voice and is also presented as competent as an equestrian and archer.

  • One might say that there is no single central protagonist in Tari Tari: instead, all of the characters play a pivotal role in the plot. Admittedly, the male characters seem to have roles of lesser significance, but do have a noticeable presence compared to other anime, where practically all of the characters are female. Compare and contrast this trend with most Western media, where male protagonists outnumber the female protagonists.

  • Wakana’s smile is radiant: after she opens her heart to everyone, she stops being a cold, distant character and contributes the musical score to the club’s performance. Titled “Radiant Melody”, the song is inspired by her mother’s original song, and has refreshed lyrics for their club, reflecting on how Wakana has not only accepted what has happened, but has also forgiven herself and fulfilled her promise to her mother to write a song together.

  • Those smiles are quite dazzling, contrasting Taichi’s serious expression. For the remainder of the post, images will predominantly from the final two episodes, simply because most of my remaining thoughts congregate around what happens as Tari Tari draws to a close.

Despite the name Tari Tari translating roughly to “This and That” in English, and episodes being about a variety of topics, there are two central themes in Tari Tari. The first theme is the notion that high school students desire to leave their secondary education with a more solid sense of self; understanding that being an adult means to take up more responsibility for themselves, students may view high school as a period of freedom to explore and have fun. Thus, when graduation from high school approaches, individuals would like to both have an idea of what their futures entail. Tari Tari explores this element in great detail, taking the care to illustrate how each character has their own difficulties, and how friendship is ultimately the key to helping everyone find their paths again. For instance, Wakana is very aloof and does not open up to Sawa, Konatsu and the others until nearly half the season has passed. Through some prodding from Konatsu, Wakana becomes more open about how she feels, and learns to both accept her mother’s passing, rediscovering her passion for music in the process. Similarly, Sawa’s dreams of becoming a jockey are persistent, and despite discouragement from her parents, her determination leads her to put her own body at risk (as a result of dieting without professional guidance, she faints while on horseback during training). The lengths Sawa is willing to go to for the sake of her dreams finally reach her parents and her friends, who decide to give her their full support. However, in Tari Tari, there are five disparate characters, with five different goals. These individuals would not likely have met were it not for music, which forms the second theme. Through drawing characters together, music is presented as a unifying force, being a non-verbal form of communication that transcends linguistic and cultural barriers. Konatsu loves the Condor Queens, the band who piqued her interests in music; their music is in Spanish, but she nonetheless loves their music’s composition and energy. Similarly, despite feeling out of place with Wien’s strong interest in Super Sentais, everyone fits into their roles just fine, singing to promote the community market. Music is something that conveys emotions and tenor far more effectively than words alone, and ultimately, Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Wien rally the entire school to help perform a finale, a swan song, just before their school closes. The term “swan song” is especially fitting for Tari Tari: originating from an ancient belief that swans give their best performance just before passing on (in life, they are typically quiet). Although the zoological aspects of this belief have no firm grounding, in Tari Tari, despite having never performed in such manner previously, efforts from Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Wien ultimately rallies the entire school together and perform a concert for the community before their school is closed, conveying their hope for the future. The lyrics in the song, “Radiant Melody”, promises that difficulties now will clear up for a better tomorrow, and when Tari Tari ends, a bright new future is exactly what every character is stepping into, having spent the anime working their hardest to earn such an opportunity

  • Sawa captures Taichi’s heart while dancing in the music room; one of Taichi’s classmates later requests that he obtains a photo of Sawa in exchange for helping with the art set, and while Taichi is able to get a rather nice image, he later snaps a more conventional one. While it’s clear that Taichi holds feelings for Sawa, subtle signs indicate that Sawa may also reciprocate his feelings. This direction is never explored in the anime, although the absence of a love story means Tari Tari is able to focus fully on the characters’ ambitions and struggles without introducing another layer of complexity.

  • Konatsu sits in on a student council meeting and strives to convince them to resume the culture festival even in light of the construction company’s stipulation that the festival be cancelled. Despite her best efforts, Konatsu’s requests are declined.

  • Compared to Wakana’s mother, Mahiru, Naoko was more serious about music and treats Konatsu coldly because she sees traces of Mahiru’s spirit. Having found it difficult to accept Mahiru’s passing, Naoko opens up to Wakana and consents to help the latter’s pursuits in music. While Naoko might’ve been seen as an antagonist, opposing the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton club’s activities, she also has a story of her own, making it much easier to empathise with her situation once this story is covered.

  • Even after the student council states that the culture festival will not proceed, the Choir-and-sometimes-Badmonton club resume their practises for opening day. Compared to Hanasaku IrohaTari Tari appears to exhibit sightly improved graphics in the form of reflections in the environment and more vivid lighting; Hanasaku Iroha did not disappoint, and the impressive level of detail seen in the environment was partially what contributed to the anime being excellent.

  • One of the things that stood out about Tari Tari, however subtle it was, was the fact that much attention was paid to the lighting effects whenever it rained. Reflections of objects can be seen on the ground, and surfaces are darkened in some places to give the impression of wetness. While the details are nowhere near the level of those of a Makoto Shinkai animated feature, P.A. Works nonetheless is able to strike a fine balance between detail and simplicity to give each scene a realistic feeling.

  • Against the contracting firm’s wishes, the principle allows the students to return into the school to host their final performance, even if it means costing him a portion of his retirement funding. After the efforts that went into their preparations, the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton are adamant about making things count and through the sheer determination and will, things manage to work out.

  • By the time Tari Tari‘s finale aired, the MCAT had long ended, and my results had come back. I was three weeks into my final undergraduate year and had begun my honours thesis project. After installing the in-house simulation software, I began my literature search for the renal system and also began drafting my research proposal. The project aimed to build a 3D, visual model of the renal system that was robust enough to have biological relevance, while simultaneously maintain a high degree of user-friendliness. The end product yielded a system that could carry out rudimentary renal behaviours and moreover, was modular enough to be expanded and improved upon.

  • Konatsu and Wakana playfully give Sawa a slap to the lower backside to motivate her in the same vein as Sawa’s mother, Shiho, is fond of doing. This post was predominantly about the youth, so I do not have any screenshots of many adults here. I also find it interesting that Sawa’s mother is named Shiho. The name itself means to preserve an intent or ideal, and is quite befitting of Sawa’s mother, who enjoys surfing and is quite easy-going. Shiho, of course, fits even better with Shiho Nishizumi, the current head of the Nishizumi School.

  • Naoko and Wakana reminisce about Mahiru; Wakana decides to continue her musical studies and asks Naoko if she would be interested in providing her with advice in the future. This interaction was particularly heartwarming to see, given that both characters had a cold, distant air to them. One of the things I enjoy most about hearing a character’s background allows one to empathise with them to a much greater extent, even if one cannot agree on their actions later. In Tari Tari, what the characters do as a result of their experiences is reasonable, but in Madoka Magica, Homura’s actions remain open to interpretation (and I personally find that her actions transcends all reason).

  • Rather like real life, things do not conclude as they would with a play after the performance is over. A large portion of this post does deal with the epilogue, which I did not discuss in too great of detail when I drafted the old Tari Tari post back in September 2012. However, with a larger number of images allocated to this post (and time, before this graduate program beats me senseless), I’ll go into the epilogue and discuss a few things.

  • Because Sawa had completed all of her program requirements, she is allowed to graduate even though she is absent, having gone overseas to study at an equestrian school. In her stead, her stuffed horse sits in for her. It’s been a year since I graduated from my undergraduate program, and even though I’m on a more steady track now, having decided to study computer science (specifically, the implementation of biological software and usability in large displays) over going to medical school, the road ahead will be challenging. Then again, things are worth doing precisely because it is challenging.

  • If things go as scheduled, I anticipate graduating in 2016. After that comes doing software development work for an engineering firm, or a software company (I’ll apply to everything and see what sticks), and after a few years of having some industry experience, I’ll go back and get a certificate in project management. This stuff is for the distant future; in the near future, I aim to finish the literature review for my current project, survive all my classes and stay on top of the game as a TA. Memories of when I was an undergraduate are still fresh in my mind, and I think that in a TA, I valued punctuality, honesty and the ability to give assignments back on time.

  • Whereas others consider the visuals in Tari Tari to be average, I find that the aesthetic brought about by a good balance of detail and colour is very eye-pleasing. I might just begin comparing Tari Tari to Glasslip the same way one might compare Battlefield 3 to Battlefield 4; in both cases, the successor has better graphics, especially regarding lighting effects, but the predecessor was superior for having more polish and finesse.

  • After watching Tari Tari a second time, Wakana also grows on me. Contrary to my initial impressions of her, she’s nothing like Hanasaku Iroha‘s Minko, and is kind to everyone, but is also capable of pulling off some tricks of her own (such as calling Naoko to buy the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton club enough time to perform or giving her father a package of unprepared bread for breakfast at one point).

  • Thus ends a second reflection of Tari Tari, which I vaguely recall saying in an earlier post I would get around to doing. While my schedule is only going to get busier from here on out between my coursework, research and TA’ing another course, I’ll make an effort to blog every so often. In the near future, I have a talk on Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Sayaka Miki. Upcoming posts for the future include final reflections for GlasslipFutsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol YattemitaRail Wars! and Sabagebu! once their respective series draw to a close. Those should be ready to roll by the Thanksgiving Long Weekend.

Tari Tari, ultimately titled for being about everything and nothing, presents to viewers a story that will evoke memories of their high school days. From a technical perspective, Tari Tari had superb animation and artwork, with details paid to every scene to ensure it fit with the moods. The background music does a likewise job of evoking a specific emotion for a scene. Between a solid execution from this end, Tari Tari‘s composition allows it to proceed at a purposeful pace, with every character gaining exposition to give their role additional relevance to the viewer. After seeing everyone’s individual story, every character feels alive, consistent with what one might expect a high school student to be like. Viewers will find themselves relating to the characters, recalling their own experiences in high school. For me, in my final year of high school, I was just admitted to the university’s Bachelor of Health Sciences honour program, and my swan songs included preparing a slideshow for the graduation party, as well as the yearbook. It’s been many years since then, but the concepts of friendship and doing grand things have remained with me: these are the sort of life lessons that endure regardless of where one is in life, and Tari Tari is able to capture all of these genuine, heartfelt emotions about life as a student, showcasing the desire to do something spectacular, and how powerful music can be. These messages are timeless, and although Tari Tari might be two years old now, it remains one of P.A. Works’ more solid slice-of-life anime. Now, my original talk at the old website discussed themes of friendship in a similar vein, but I never did get around to speculating about the future, as I am wont to do now. Given that two years have passed, and P.A. Works have not made a single announcement about Tari Tari beyond a seven-minute short, I imagine that a continuation, either in the form of a second season or movie, probably will not be a reality. While I would have liked to see the characters get back together a year after their graduation during the summer to explore more about themselves and their friendship (especially the growing romance between Sawa and Taichi), Tari Tari ended on a superb note, and a continuation might not be viable or necessary.

Revisiting Tari Tari: The architecture that talks back

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” —Winston Churchill

Aside from being one of the premier anime of the Summer 2012 block for its touching story of a group of high school students who sought to make the most of their lives before graduation, Tari Tari also stood out for its visual aesthetics; beyond the absolutely stunning quality of the landscapes, P.A. Works also invested a substantial amount of effort into its architecture. Architecture often goes unnoticed in an anime such as Tari Tari, where the character dynamics are more noticed and discussed compared to the setting design. Upon re-watching Tari Tari, perhaps more so in other anime, the architecture does seem to make a rather subtle statement about the major themes in Tari Tari. As an anime that strives to breathe insight into the character’s lives, buildings are constructed with large glass façades, allowing light to stream into the building’s interiors and providing its occupants with much natural light. Much as how Shirahamazaka High School’s gymnasium, canteen and classrooms have a significant glass component in its design, the glass doubles to reflect on the duality in each character’s interactions: glass is transparent, allowing observers to peer into a building to some extent. Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Wien experience problems from within, but learn the value of being transparent about their feelings to one another, in effect, allowing the others to peer into their mind. Similarly, by allowing their friends to aid them, each character is able to experience the benefits of having this support, much like how buildings gain a sense of warmth when allowing sunlight their interiors. More so than Hanasaku Iroha, the architecture subtly reflected on the character’s predispositions: just as buildings become more energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing with the appropriate application of glass elements, individuals find that their inner lives can be enriched when they allow others to help them.

  • I’ll open with a screenshot of the school gymnasium, a large structure with a glass façade and buttresses to the side. The gynamsum appears to exhibit characteristics from the structuralism architectural style, with regular repeating patterns in its design. Moreover, use of glass allows for the juxtaposition of the interior and exterior. The skating rink on campus, designed for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, also is also an example of structuralist architecture.

  • The school canteen makes liberal use of hardwood and glass in its interiors to elevate the sense of invitation. This design subtly encourages students to enjoy their time at the canteen (cafeteria), providing them with plenty of natural light while the hardwood evokes feelings of home.

  • Shirahamazaka High School is a very unique school, even by anime standards. The school consists of two main buildings; one houses the faculty of general studies, while the other houses the faculty of music. The two buildings are connected by a pair of sky bridges for ease-of-access. I would hazard a guess that this school is probably inspired by the internationalism movement.

  • However, since I’m no architect (and do not have any formal experience in architecture), I cannot say with any certainty or authority that Shirahamazaka High School is indeed an instance of internationalism. However, it should be clear that the architecture in Tari Tari does not have a Zen aesthetic: that would be the show’s art style, which is completely different compared to the anime’s architecture.

  • While anime like Tari Tari features excellent artwork, the clean, polished environments give the impression that Shirahamazaka High School is newly built. However, the prevalent use of hardwood, plus the fact that the school’s interior resembles K-On!‘s Sakura High, indicates that the school is much older than it looks. Mahiru, Wakana’s mother, was an alumni, as is Naoko, suggesting the school has had at least twenty to thirty years of history. While others may find this to be “disconnect[ing]“, I find that said individuals may have also failed to take into account the building might have been renovated before and is generally well-maintained, hence its sharp appearance.

There is another passage about Tari Tari‘s architecture out there that motivated this post and whose origins escape my memory. This passage is stymied by a lack of discussion on how Tari Tari‘s architecture seems to fit with the anime’s message, and possesses several inaccuracies that merit correction. The main inaccuracy is the passage’s implication that Shirahamazaka High School is classified as having a minimalist, modernist design. In the original passage, the author argues that the use of glass, coupled with the use of gentle curvatures in the buildings, embody a Zen aesthetic common to minimalist architectural style. By definition, minimalist buildings make use of rectangular designs, horizontal and vertical lines, large spaces that are sparsely furnished and a reduction in elements not essential in the building’s structural components. From the exterior images, Shirahamazaka High School does not follow this pattern. The school is composed of two main buildings, each having a brick exterior and large glass windows on each floor, as opposed to the straight lines and the monochromatic colouring that defines minimalism. Moreover, the interiors, such as the canteen, make extensive use of hardwood and have a very warm, inviting feeling, compared to the colder feeling imparted by the minimalist design. The school’s design is characterised by the predominant usage of straight lines in its form, glass surfaces with minimal ornamentation and open interior spaces, characteristics of the International style (although the lack of cantilever construction and presence of a curvature in some parts of the main structure makes it more difficult to readily classify the school as such). While Shirahamazaka High School may be of another architectural style, it should be clear that minimalist, Shirahamazaka High School is not. Rather than emphasising the Zen aspects inherent in Japanese culture, Shirahamazaka High School incorporates more Western designs through its use of furnishings and interior design choices, which are more ornate relative to the Japanese interior aesthetics. The end result is a building that combines a liberal use of glass façades to encourage the permanence of natural light and interior concepts that serve to give the building a more inviting feel to it. Even if the building’s style cannot be readily discerned by those outside the architecture discipline, at the minimum, the building cannot be considered as minimalist, as it lacks the simple and well-defined contours characteristic to this particular style.

  • Here is an overhead view of the school: such a building does not exist in Kamakura, illustrating how anime sometimes necessarily needs to create fictional settings in order to fit with the story. In this case, Shirahamazaka High School bears no resemblance in design to a standard Japanese high school, which usually consist of one main building. The fact that there are separate buildings for the music and general studies departments reflects on the notion that music and everything else seems to lack overlap, but can nonetheless be linked together.

  • I particularly like this moment, as it captures the feel of a rainy day very nicely. Compared to many anime, P.A. Works takes the effort to really give the impression of rainfall through its use of lighting and reflections on the ground, as well as colour patterns to mimic wetness.

  • The local bus station features straight lines and makes use of glass to expose the building’s internal structure. I note that the real-world architecture in Tari Tari, though remarkably well-done, does not impact the anime’s central message to the same extent as the school’s design.

  • After the principle’s accident, he’s admitted to the hospital where Tomoko Takahashi (Wakana et al.’s homeroom instructor) is. Despite being on maternity leave, Tomoko provides advice to Konatsu and the others regarding music.

  • Wakana rides her bike under gloomy skies from Kamakura back to Enoshima Island. Tari Tari may make use of architecture to subtly push the story along, but this depends on the architecture being of the right type.

Settings have a substantial impact on the story, and if Tari Tari were to indeed adopt a minimalist, modern architectural style, the anime’s central themes would not have been succinctly portrayed. Such a setting would not be able to accurately convey Tari Tari‘s warm, inviting feeling. In such a simple setting, the anime would show that the characters and their problems were detached from their world; this is not the case, given that Tari Tari is about how trusting one’s friends is a step towards addressing and solving personal problems. From the perspective of any one character, one’s friends can be said to be part of the environment, and that the environment, through its architecture, could reflect on the dispositions of those occupying the environment. A cold, simple environment gives the aura that its occupants are of a likewise manner, focused only on what is necessary; were Tari Tari to make use of such a form of architecture, it would give the sense that Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Wien would have been alone in their problems. This sense of distance is used in Puella Magi Madoka Magica to great effect: Mitakihara is portrayed as a vast city with clean, modern skyscrapers and vast industrial complexes. At the series’ inception, Madoka’s house is shown, alongside the promenade on the way to school. These places are inviting, being vividly coloured and giving viewers the sense that these are places Madoka is intimately familiar with. Similarly, the mall that Madoka and Sayaka visit has the hustle and glitz of a well-tread shopping centre. However, after Kyubey appears and begins explaining the terms of the magical girl contract, Mitakihara suddenly feels more distant, and as the series’ mood darkens, industrial complexes dominate the scenery. Madoka, a kind-hearted girl, seems exceptionally out of place in an artificial, hard environment, illustrating how detached she becomes from her world as she learns more about the secret behind magical girls. Minimalism, though appropriate (and well-executed) for an anime such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, is not conducive to the themes and story in Tari Tari and accordingly, is not an architectural style that is prevalent throughout the series.

  • Besides presenting gorgeous depiction of modern buildings inspired by Western styles, more traditional, Japanese buildings are also showcased. Wakana’s house is modelled after Aburaya shoten in real life, located on the southwest end of Enoshima island.

  • Sawa’s home, on the other hand, has Shinto elements; this should not be a surprise, considering that her father is a priest. Shinto architecture is incredibly diverse and varied.

  • This is a station located on the Shōnan-Enoshima monorail line, the first of its kind in Japan when it opened in the 1970s. The station itself has what is considered to be hi-tech architecture, placing the building’s structural and functional elements in the open for everyone to check out.

  • Tonight is the opening of the Giant Walkthrough Brain show at Beakerhead: I spent most of yesterday at the Telus Spark Science Centre’s dome theatre setting up the software component of the show. We arrived at around three in the afternoon and after setup, stopped by a restaurant in the neighbourhood for dinner (chicken pizza from a wood-fired oven) before returning to see how the updated software worked with the live-performance.

  • This is an exterior shot of the café that Sawa and Konatsu are fond of visiting, illustrating the photorealistic quality of the artwork in Tari Tari. The performance will be opening in a few hours, so I’ll wrap this post up real quick, and then subsequently finish the talk on the whole anime. After that comes getting a bit of food energy into my systems before making my way to Telus Spark and attending opening night.

Shirahamazaka High School is, at the end of the day, a fictional building that was designed specifically for Tari Tari. Its importance to Tari Tari cannot be understated. However, outside of the high school, Tari Tari was inspired by the real-world buildings in Enoshima and the surrounding area, once again illustrating how meticulous P.A. Works was in their efforts to give the anime as much of a life-like feeling as possible. The use of real-world location gives the story a sense that it could happen to real people, as well, adding weight to their story. Some buildings from reality are showcased, including a transit station; these structures are modern, reflecting on the Japanese willingness to adapt international concepts and apply their own twist to things. Through some of these scenery stills in Tari Tari, more traditional structures, such as the Sakai and Okita residences, are depicted alongside stunning visuals of the entire region. This unique combination of real and fictional settings allows Tari Tari to portray a convincing, relatable story to its viewers, providing a setting that the characters fit well into, in turn amplifying the sense of realism within the story, although the impact factor in Tari Tari is ultimately a consequence of making use of a dedicated, fictional setting to amplify the characters’ situations in conjunction with a real world setting.

Utopia: A reflection on the Tari Tari x True Tears x Hanasaku Iroha crossover

“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” —Amy Poehler

This post is not a joke, and its contents are genuine: Utopia is a song that was featured in a short specially created for the True Tears x Hanasaku Iroha x Tari Tari Joint Festival Live Blu-ray, a recording of the musical performance featuring the voice actors from the three series. To celebrate this festival, P.A. Works produced a video that sets this song to scenes with the main characters from each anime, having a good old time. The video is only a minute and forty seconds in length, and was released on February 26, 2014. Back on April 13, 2013, eufonius, nano.RIPE, Sphere, AiRI and a few other artists participated in a joint concert at Maihama Amphitheater; tickets to the event cost 8000 Yen (roughly 83.20 CAD, or roughly 3.17 times the cost of a ticket to the Beakerhead performance of the Giant Walkthrough Brain). If memory serves, April 13 was the Saturday after I had finished my honours thesis defense; the post-defense euphoria meant I forgot there was such an event, and even after a year had passed, my thought strayed far from the joint festival concert, but recently, I learned that a special album was compiled, featuring choral and string versions of their respective series’ music, and with it, the minute-and-forty second long crossover video.

  • Hanasaku Iroha takes place in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, and the short opens at a train station here. Like my previous post on short films, there are a disproportionate number of screenshots relative to the feature’s length, but that is because there is a lot of fantastic artwork that went into making it; each moment is different and worth sharing. Here, fifteen images provide a good idea of what the short is like.

  • As far as I’m aware (and I did a thorough search before making this claim), I have what appears to be the internet’s largest collection of screenshots from Utopia. For the most part, the short is reasonably straightforwards to access, although on YouTube, only the short trailers exist. The song in this short, Nano.RIPE’s “Utopia”, is the final song in their “Namida no Ochiru Sokudo” album, which was released in January 2014, and is a love song of sorts, about the uncertainty of the future.

  • Aiko Andou serves Imagawayaki at her family’s shop, a pastry that is filled with red bean paste, to Noe, Sawa and Nako while Hiromi and Minko help out. For the duration of this post, I’ve decided to feature images that show everyone together, although owing to constraints, I haven’t bothered stitching any images together with photoshop, and as such, some of the moments will not depict everyone.

  • While Ohana and Nako look on, Noe, Konatsu, Sawa and Aiko have a pillow fight; Yuina, Hiromi and Wakana are content to enjoy a drink by the balcony. The short, despite its length, manages to capture everyone’s spirits as they appeared in their respective anime, and it was a thrill to see everyone again.

  • Minko samples one of the dishes she’s made, much to Noe, Konatsu and Yuina’s disappointment; for the viewer, this moment winds up being simultaneously adorable and amusing. While such short scenes do not really permit for much discussion, beyond how watching this short made me recall the immensely enjoyable journey I experienced while watching each of True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari.

  • At Hanasaki Iroha‘s end, the Kissuiso was set to be closed after Sui decides that doing so would allow everyone to pursue their own dreams. This announcement motivated much of the conflict as the anime drew to a close, but ultimately, its staff consented to the decision. Hanasaku Iroha‘s main strength lay in making full use of its twenty-six episodes to flesh out all of the characters before introducing the main conflict in the series. With plenty of time to work with, the anime developed a solid story.

  • While Nako teaches Noe and Minko some swimming techniques, Aiko and Konatsu explore the beach, and in the foreground, readers may enjoy the view behind Hiromi as she plays beach volleyball with Ohana(not visible) Sawa, Yuina and Wakana. I timed this moment such that it was just before Wakana serves the ball to Hiromi. Back during my time on the yearbook committee, one of the tips I was provided was to capture images of dynamic moments; this is one such instance.

  • Remember how Taichi and Wien waved around badminton racquets during their final performance in Tari Tari? Careful inspection of this image finds them making another appearance, doing the very same move in the background. This crossover did not feature any of the male characters from True Tears or Hanasaku Iroha show up in Utopia, but Taichi and Wien’s presence, however minimal, is quite welcomed in a short dominated by their respective series’ female leads.

  • Here is a shot of the three characters who are quite similar, and yet, very different. Each made their respective series significantly more enjoyable to watch. There are two other shorts that I’ve discussed in the past, both of which are from Makoto Shinkai: Someone’s Gaze and Cross Road. With a running time of six minutes and two minutes, respectively, the posts had twenty and ten images. Someone’s Gaze would thus average around one screenshot every eighteen seconds, while Cross Road averages one image every twelve seconds. With fifteen screenshots over a hundred seconds, I’m averaging around a screenshot per 6.67 seconds, making Utopia one of the films I took the most screenshots of relative to its running time.

  • Each character from the featured anime seem to find themselves getting along remarkably well during their time on Enoshima’s beaches. While subtle, Utopia shows the girls with similar personalities getting along with one another and hanging out more together. I would love to see a full-length feature with everyone, although that probably won’t be a reality for the foreseeable future.

  • I don’t reserve enough memory to recall last names, but because of the sort of impact that each of True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari had, I can recall all of the characters by name now. Starting from Wakana (at twelve o’clock position), and moving clockwise, we have Hiromi, Nako, Aiko, Yuina, Noe, Sawa, Ohana, Konatsu and Minko. I vaguely recall saying that learning anime names takes me forever because I’m intrinsically bad with names, so the fact that I can remember everyone here is an achievement in and of itself.

  • I imagine that fans of P.A. Works will greatly enjoy seeing Nako, Wakana, Sawa and Ohana in kimono during the same winter festival depicted in True Tears. An anime strictly about the complexity pertaining to that most complex of all human emotions, love, True Tears demonstrates that as far as relationships go, sometimes, it takes dating someone else other than one’s “person just for them” for them to realise where their true feelings lie.

  • Hanasaku Iroha‘s Bonbori festival also makes a welcome return. Today was the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival, although given that forecasts (correctly) predicted snowfall, we celebrated during the weekend: there was moon cake and Blue Mountain coffee on Saturday while the skies were still clear, and yesterday, dinner included roast pigeon and lobster. Owing to the clouds’ thickness, the moon was not visible tonight, and I am glad to have seen the mid-autumn moon before the weather went south.

  • The Joint Festival album, released a few months ago, is a two-disk album that features choral and string arrangements of the major theme songs in each of True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari. It’s quite an enjoyable listen, and I especially enjoyed the choral version of “Reflectia”, as well as the string version of “Melody of the Heart”.

  • As is convention, I’ll conclude the post by noting that today was the first day of my graduate studies, and I spent most of it doing literature review; there was only one class I had to attend, and owing to some unusual cold front action, some five centimeters of snow was dumped on the city. Tomorrow, I will attend a TA meeting to become familiarised with the grade entry software. Seeing all of the P.A. Works characters together revived a memory about why I enjoyed Tari Tari to the extent that I did, and appropriately, my next two posts will be about Tari Tari.

Discussion on Utopia is limited, as are the screenshots. This is the part where I step up to the plate, and although there’s only a hundred seconds of footage (rather than the ninety people are claiming), there is nonetheless something to talk about. The first thing about Utopia that comes to mind is just how well the characters seem to fit together: scenes of everyone enjoying imagawayaki at Aiko’s shop, staying at the Kissuiso Inn or hanging out on Enoshima’s beaches illustrate a group of high school girls unfettered by their doubts and worries from their respective anime series, each of which had a unique story and characters that made them remarkable. Despite its short length, Utopia captures the sense of fun everyone is having, and regardless of the locale, everyone appears to be getting along quite nicely. The fact that the character designs are similar over each of the series probably helped facilitate such a crossover, and this short’s only shortcoming is its short length. While it’s unlikely, I would definitely enjoy a crossover that featured everyone from True Tears, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari. With this in mind, there does seem to be an extension to Tari Tari that will be included with the Blu-Ray Disk box when it releases on December 17. This seven-minute feature will feature a new song from the Shirahamazaka High School Choir Club, and the entire box set is projected to cost 28000 yen (290 CAD).

Titanfall- A First Look

“Standby for Titanfall” —Titanfall tagline

It was one of the most anticipated games of 2014, and when Titanfall was released in March this year, people jumped into the game. TheRadBrad began playing it on release date for the Xbox One, but by the time he had reached the third mission in the campaign, there were already people who were level thirty five. This was on March 11, the day Titanfall released, which really showcases how much effort some individuals put into games. While I certainly don’t have that sort of tenacity for games, over my very own experince with Titanfall for PC, afforded once again by Origin’s Game Time program, I was able to reach level twenty five after seven hours of gameplay over two days. After hearing that Titanfall would be available on Game Time, I jumped to download all 48 GB of the game. I heard that much of this extra space is because the PC has uncompressed audio files so the game can direct more CPU power towards running the game itself, rather than decoding audio files to produce a smoother experience on lower-end PCs. However, armed with a 2 TB hard disk (plus a separate SSD for my OS and another external 1 TB HDD), as well as a blazing fast internet connection, 48 GB isn’t really that big of a deal, and after downloading Titanfall, I began playing on a moody, grey Thursday morning off work. By the time the afternoon got around, a thunderstorm had rolled in, and I prepared myself a bowl of ramen before heading off to the lab for a summer’s end meeting. After I got home, I played a few more matches, and spent the entire Friday, a day off, playing Titanfall, accumulating some seven hours during my 48 hour-long trial period. Over this time-frame, I became familiarised with the controls and mechanics, learning how to wall-jump, make the best use of the pilot and Titan’s different abilities to survive and ultimately, figure out how to start contributing to my team’s efforts towards victory.

  • It should be appropriate that the first screenshot I take is of me summoning my first-ever Titan onto the battlefield. I don’t think I’ve ever fit in seven hours of gaming into a forty-eight hour period in living memory, but over the course of these seven hours, I had a great deal of fun and accumulated some 157 seven images; I’ve picked out thirty of them for this post (which was no easy task).

  • The R-101C Carbine is Titanfall‘s equivalent of an assault rifle, being a versatile weapon well-suited for combat at medium range, but, in the right hands, can also perform reasonably well at shorter and longer ranges. The weapon starts out with a HCOG sight by default, and has a 24-round magazine. Its rate of fire means that the magazine empties quickly, forcing players to reload frequently. The guy I just pwned here has a name that somehow reminds me of OreGairu‘s Hikigaya Hachiman.

  • My first Titan kill comes from the Atlas type armed with the XOTBR-16 20mm chaingun, a weapon with a high rate of fire and excellent accuracy. Despite its lower damage against other Titans, it is quite effective for shooting down pilots. I typically reserve the Titan’s ordnance for while I’m either reloading my primary weapon, or if I need increased firepower against another Titan. Each salvo consists of twelve rockets, and are more effective against armour than soft targets.

  • Anti-Titan weapons ensure that players on foot stand a good chance against enemy Titans. With support fire from allied Titans, I’ve doomed several Titans using man-portable weapons; in the chaos of battle, pilots often focus on engaging Titans and forget that pilots can do some serious damage to their Titan. Here, I’m using the Archer Heavy Rocket, which does a substantial amount of damage and can doom a Titan in four shots, but also warns enemy pilots they are being painted. The other anti-Titan weapons I have are the Sidewinder, which fires micro-missiles rapidly to damage a Titan’s weak spots, and the mag-launcher, which fires magnetic grenades that latch onto an enemy Titan.

  • While the campaign is quite superficial, it adds a small degree of immersion to the online matches, adding a bit of story to each match’s objectives. Titanfall does not have a campaign proper; the campaign mode overlays some cinematic elements prior to and following each multiplayer match. The dialogue and story are quite generic, but the cinematics are spectacular and does provide some explanation as to why each match is being fought.

  • Burn cards are an addition to Titanfall that confers advantages, such as reduced Titan build times, boosted weapon performance and other forms of bonuses. Wiping a pilot who had an active burn card confers a bonus, and as this moment demonstrates, it is possible to step on pilots. This occured to be quite a bit in the beginning when I was learning how to rodeo (ride on top of and damage enemy Titans), but in the end, I got the hang of things and doomed a few Titans using my carbine and shotgun.

  • The EVA-8 shotgun excels at CQC and, like almost all shotguns in every FPS in existence, is useless at a range beyond 20 meters. Equipping a shotgun is to adopt a play-style suited for hardpoint capture and defenses. Sometimes, unsuspecting pilots will enter a building to capture a hardpoint and can be downed quickly, although smarter players may toss in a grenade to flush out any defenders. Because of its limited usability at longer ranges, on most attrition games, I stick with the R-101C Carbine.

  • The Ogre-class Titan is a more heavily armoured, slower Titan compared to the Atlas and wields the 40mm HEAT cannon by default. It’s slow firing rate is offset by the fact that every round has a long range and does significant damage, being able to doom an enemy Titan with as few as 12 shots. In one of the more chaotic matches, I terminated an enemy Titan pilot: this is a special type of melee finishing attack done on a doomed Titan from a certain angle, and the Ogre’s animation is to shred the other Titan.

  • The splash damage from each 40 mm shell makes the cannon excellent against groups of enemies and can take out pilots in one direct hit. Despite having a smaller ammunition capacity, it reloads more quickly than the chaingun (3.0 seconds to reload from empty, compared to the chaingun’s 4.6 second reload time from empty).

  • The Stryder-class Titan is the fastest of the Titans, featuring greater mobility at the expense of armour. By default, it comes with a quad-rocket launcher, which fires four rockets per shot and can devastate enemy Titans at close range. Despite being mounted on the Styder-class, the quad rocket’s effectiveness at close quarters means it is better suited for the Ogre-class Titan. Its special ability is the dash core, which allows for unlimited dashes, allowing the Titan to evade enemy fire or else flank enemies. There’s a similar power-up in 007: Agent Under Fire, called the Q-Jet, which allows for one short boost and can be used to either escape enemy fire, or reach otherwise unreachable locations. I call the Q-Jet the dash core primarily because of Titanfall, and the name has stuck ever since.

  • The Stryder-class Titan has what I consider to be one of the most brutal termination animations; instead of tossing an enemy pilot away after punching through their cockpit and pulling them out, the Stryder crushes the pilot, who then explodes in a shower of blood. This finishing animation is so extreme, I feel bad for the pilot at the receiving end, and to the best of my recollection, I’ve only ever been terminated by enemy Atlas-class Titans.

  • The Longbow DMR is quite the opposite of the EVA-8 shotgun, excelling at long range combat but being woefully inadequate for shorter range engagements. The default Longbow comes with a 6x scope and can down enemy pilots in two body shots (or one headshot). This weapon is intended for a support role from long distance, although the high pacing in a match means that players will typically get a few kills from one location, then quickly move on to another location to avoid being detected.

  • Like Battlefield, it’s faster to switch to a sidearm than to wait for one’s primary weapon to reload. I typically pick a sidearm to complement my primary weapon; the slow rate of fire from the Longbow means I would prefer a sidearm that can fire more rounds at close quarters to suppress and down nearby enemies: in Titanfall, this role is fulfilled by the RE-45 autopistol, which makes up for its low damage output with a high rate of fire.

  • For some reason, victories are quite rare for me in Titanfall, and I usually wind up on the losing team. However, I’ve won some matches; after a victory, the objective is to locate the extraction point and destroy the enemy dropship before it evacuates. In games where I do lose, it does not feel like a total loss, since Titanfall offers the losing team the opportunity to reach a dropship for evac and fight another day. Successful evacuations deny the enemy team the satisfaction of killing me.

  • The fact that the Longbow is semi-automatic makes it effective at making follow-up shots. The Titanfall E3 Trailer was unveiled more than a year ago, and when I first saw it, I was very excited to see which direction the game would take. However, I never did imagine that I would have a chance to try the game out for myself; while Titanfall is a little limited in regards to maps and game types, its new spin on player movement makes the game incredibly highly-paced and remarkably entertaining, adding a new twist to what would otherwise be a traditional shooter with mecha.

Titanfall may initially seem like yet another modern military shooter with giant mechs, featuring familiar weapons, game-types and even dialogue that gives a “serious military” feel. However, the way pilots move around, and how fluidly navigation around a map is, are two things that really set Titanfall apart from most shooters. I can jump onto walls and parkour between walls in a narrow alley-way to get the jump on an unsuspecting pilot, or double jump over wide spaces to quickly close the distance between myself and a foe, or else escape heavy fire. This mobility makes it easy to get right into the thick of things or beat a hasty retreat to recharge one’s health. The weapons, though immediately recognisable as slightly more futuristic variants of weapons found in Battlefield or Call of Duty (as opposed to the Spinfusors from Tribes: Ascend or the Covenant weapons from Halo), were immensely satsifying to fire, especially so when they down enemy pilots; Titanfall matches are set on maps with both computer-controlled grunts and human players. By adopting a high-mobility or stealth-driven playstyle, players can make enough kills or hardpoint captures to shorten their Titan’s deployment time. Summoning and boarding a Titan is a remarkably novel mechanic that never fails to impress. After boarding a Titan, the battlefield suddenly becomes about tactics rather than speed. The Titans are lumbering, powerful machines that can devastate the enemy, but possess a unique set of vulnerabilities: this is where Titanfall truly shines, and regardless of whether one is on foot or in a Titan, they are both combat-ready and vulnerable at the same time. On foot, it’s possible to down a Titan by capitalising on the pilot’s anti-Titan weapon and the advantages associated with being on foot. Though they’re small, fast-moving and hard to hit, a few good shots from a Titan weapon will annihilate any pilot on the ground. Titans and pilots alike also have unique abilities to counteract one another. At no point in Titanfall does being a foot mobile or piloting a Titan confer any overwhelming advantage, giving Titanfall good balance that ensures the game remains fun whether I’m on foot or whether I’m behind the wheel of an awesome war mecha. Over the course of my Game Time trial, I had a thirty percent win rate, but even though I was losing more games than I cared to count, the inclusion of an evacuation feature to leave the combat area and fight another day meant that losing a particular battle wasn’t really the end. For those few times I was on the winning team, it brought back memories of wiping floor with the losing team after winning in Team Fortress 2. Even though one doesn’t get crit-boosted weapons, the winning team gets to mop up any enemy remnants, giving each battle an additional sense of depth that many shooters seem to forgo.

  • Unlocked at level 12, the plasma railgun is a weapon that fires a charged plasma rounds at high speeds. Of all the weapons, it does the most damage per individual shot and is immensely effective against Titans, but stymied by an extremely low firing rate. Unlike the other energy weapons, the plasma railgun can be charged indefinitely.  As cool as this weapon is, it takes a fair degree of skill to make effective use of it, so I did not wield it for my Titans too often.

  • There is something immensely satisfying about the Titan’s primary weapon, whether it be how cool it looks, or how every shot fired feels powerful. During the chaos in battle, Titans can wreck unsuspecting pilots. Here, I’ve got a cool double kill after stepping on one pilot and blowing another pilot away with the chaingun, in the process, finishing a challenge for the chaingun. Challenges are like Battlefield‘s assignments and are completed once a certain number of kills, games played or other milestones are accomplished. Instead of unlocking new weapons, finishing challenges provides experience points and sometimes, burn cards.

  • While Titans can be summoned after they are built, it is also possible to spawn and drop into the battlefield  in a Titan. This factor is particularly cool, and as with TheRadBrad, I found myself saving my Titan so that I could spawn in it. I think that after an hour and a half of gameplay, like TheRadBrad, I was also at level nine, although I think that my performance is just slightly more solid than his =^.^= Of course, I love TheRadBrad’s video commentaries, and although he may not be the best player out there, he has a talent for making dull games look fun, and fun games even more alluring.

  • I wonder if TheRadBrad could make something like Kantai Collection seem fun and worth playing, although given the amount of setup, I’m fairly certain it won’t be worth it. The areas around hardpoints are usually packed with pilots trying to capture them, and in hardpoints with more spaces, even Titans can join the fray. Having a Titan capturing hardpoints is quite nice, offering some extra armour to preserve my lifespan, although for the most part, I will disembark my Titan, set it to automatic mode and then enter a building to capture the hardpoint.

  • The holographic sight is the next sight unlocked for the R-101C Carbine, featuring closed 2.1x sights that act as a fine balance between the default HCOG sights and AOG sight. With a high enough magnification to allow for engagements at range, but also permitting for a greater spatial awareness, the holographic sights were my choice of sight for the carbine. I think I have the extended mags unlocked, too, and having a 30-round magazine makes the R-101C the ideal all-purpose weapon.

  • The AOG sight provides 2.4 x magnification and allows for longer range engagements, giving the R-101C more usability at longer ranges while obscuring most of the screen and reducing effectiveness at close ranges. Unlike the ACOG sight from Battlefield, the AOG provides a simple red dot at the center, making this sight far easier to use.

  • The Atlas-class Titan tends to be my favourite Titan because of its balance, being more mobile than the Ogre-class and more resilient than the Stryder-class. It features a damage core that improves its damage output, and with no special edge or disadvantage, it’s most useful in attrition matches. I prefer weapons and tools that are versatile because, while they may not excel at any one role, they can perform admirably across a variety of roles.

  • Around six hours into Titanfall, I reached level 21 and unlocked the Arc Cannon as a primary weapon for the Titan. The Arc Cannon is the Titan’s equivalent of being able to summon Sith lightning to damage opponents. A directed-energy weapon that arcs over and can strike multiple opponents, its a powerful weapon that is only limited by its extremely short range of 48 meters.

  • Owing to the way the campaign works, I played on a few maps. Of these maps, I enjoyed Angel City quite a bit: it’s an urban environment with alleyways, tight spaces inside the buildings and plenty of space on the rooftops, making it quite suited for sniping. Besides Angel City, I really liked Demeter, as well: the oranges from the sunset and the combination of open and closed spaces made this map a thrill to play. In general, all of the maps have a very stylised design befitting of a science-fiction story set in the future, which adds to the sense of immersion in Titanfall.

  • If memory serves, I’ve lost every single game I played on Airbase and Outpost 207, two maps set during the darker hours. Despite these losses, the maps themselves are artistically designed: on Outpost 207, a rail gun fires upon an enemy ship when the match opens. The arc cannon continues to be useful here, and I get another cool double kill thanks to the projectile’s capacity to damage multiple opponents at once. After Halo 2, multi-kills and kill streaks have been more difficult to come by, since many shooters out there feature slower health regeneration to encourage more strategic thinking.

  • As a result, though I usually end up doing quite well (top five if I’m playing a match from the beginning, and usually top ten if I’m joining a match in progress), my KD ratio tends to float about 1.0 for most matches. In Battlefield 3, my KD ratio is comparatively poorer because I started out as an atrocious player and kept dying. In Titanfall, my KD ratio against pilots is roughly similar to that of my Battlefield 3 performance; in the beginning few hours, I had trouble figuring out which entities were pilots and which ones were grunts: for reference, pilots can cloak and have significantly higher mobility.

  • Unlocked at level six, the R-97 Compact Submachine Gun is a short-range weapon with a low damage output, larger magazine size and high rate of fire, making it suited for engagements at close quarters. It’s best used for hardpoint games with many indoor hardpoints, since grunts and other players tend to congregate at hardpoints. However, I ran with this weapon in an Attrition match just to see what would happen, and its low recoil means I can continue to keep the gun on a target even while its moving.

  • Unlocked at level 18, the G2A4 rifle is a battle rifle that fulfils a role between that of the Longbow DMR and the R-101C Carbine, featuring a higher rate of fire and magazine size than the former, and a greater range and damage output compared to the latter. It’s effective against pilots at even closer ranges, although ammunition can be expended quite quickly when going up against minons. During the course of this match, I turned the G2A4 towards terrorising enemy pilots inside the hardpoint capture point and in the process, wiped out the match’s MVP.

  • Owing to my preferences for the chaingun and 40 mm cannon, I have the extended magazines for both. Because the Titans draw from a vast ammunition reservoir, they appear to have infinite ammunition, and so, having extended magazines greatly extends one’s suvivability in combat when reloading means giving an enemy Titan or pilot breathing space and a chance to counterattack.

  • In the final moments before my trial ended, I experienced my first ever “first strike” bonus during a hard point match. I noticed that another pilot was capturing the point, so I tossed in a grenade that pwned him. Even though I ended up losing the match, I was able to make it to the evacuation point and was pulled out to fight another day, marking the end to my Titanfall experience. It’s now been a week since my Titanfall Game Time ended, and I spent today out on a few errands, stopping by TD Square to enjoy tempura before term starts. When I think about it, I had fried squid at TD Square just as the summer was beginning, so my summer began and ended on a similar note.

I know that Titanfall has won some sixty awards upon being previewed at E3 2013, and that reception to the game is largely positive, but there are a few downsides to the game I can think of. The first of these would probably be the campaign, which seemed to lack impact because of how limited the story was: all I picked up was that there’s a conflict between the IMC and Militia, and that there was a betrayal of some kind, but that’s about it. With how Titanfall was set up, there is a vast potential for telling a story about the IMC-Militia conflict, but this world-building is almost non-existent. Playing the campaign itself was difficult: contrasting some of the videos I had seen for the console, there was no way to pick and choose specific levels, meaning that during my trial, I only finished the IMC campaign, and a poor map rotation meant I would never finish the Militia campaign, instead, playing many of the levels I had already finished. The setup for custom loadouts is also a little clumsy, and I found some of my loadouts being overwritten if I were modifying them in between matches. Lastly, the HUD can be very busy at times. This about sums up some of the weaker aspects in what is otherwise a solid game: in particular, playing the campaign still yields plenty of experience while shining (a very small amount of) light on the Titanfall universe. I may have only put in around seven hours, but as time wore on, I became more efficient from a combat perspective, even ending up MVP a few times and earning a reasonable pilot KD ratio (I only died to a grunt once because a Titan had seriously weakened me). Despite having limited diversity in game-type and maps in its basic edition, Titanfall is a surprisingly fun game that allows players to explore new ways to move around on the battlefield. I admit that I’ll miss being able to run on walls and double jump now that my trial has ended, I am left with seven hours of a decidedly positive experience, and I might consider purchasing the game if I can find the time to play it in the future.