The Infinite Zenith

Victory costs. Every time, you pay a little more.

Winter 2015 Anime

The fall season is just a few weeks from closing off, and this is probably the closest I’ve cut things as far as doing season previews are concerned. Thanks in no small part to a busy schedule and the influx of anime to watch and discuss, I’ve put off doing a preview for quite some time now, but today, I’m mostly done everything for this term, so there’s been a little bit of time to step back and see what’s happening in the Winter 2015 anime season. Owing to a shift in my logistics for this year’s winter holidays, I’ll be doing final talks for Sora no MethodSword Art Online II and Amagi Brilliant Park after the new year kicks off. Similar to last winter, there are a handful of shows I’ll be following, and below is a mostly-complete listing of the Winter 2015 offerings.

  • Even with a retina display, reading the text from this level is going to be a pipe dream. Fortunately, I’ve the presence of mind to link to the original resolution chart, which is some seven megabytes in size and optimised for 1080p displays. As per usual, my watching habits could change without notice, and I may wind up picking up extra/dropping shows before the three-episode mark has passed. With that being said, let’s do this!

A cursory glance at the chart shows that Kantai CollectionSaenai Heroine no Sodatekata, Absolute Duo, and Aldnoah.Zero‘s second season have my eye. I’ve been hearing about Kantai Collection since last September, and have been looking forwards to a naval version of Strike Witches and Girls und Panzer. The game itself is wildly popular, but I’ve never really understood the appeal beyond “anthropomorphic battleships of the Imperial Japanese Navy” (I’m a fan of the US Navy). The anime, on the other hand, looks to be something that’s meant to be enjoyed, and while discussions elsewhere turn to the technical, I’ll try to focus on enjoying the show for its character dynamics and combat choreography. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (How to Train the Ordinary Girl to be a Heroine) looks to be an anime about building a visual novel, and Absolute Duo is supposed to be a comedic harem type anime. I understand that Aldnoah.Zero‘s first season ended on a disappointing note, but out of my own curiosity to finish it, I’ll take this one up as the Winter season’s “serious anime”. Because the premise is already known, there’s no real need to give it its own section, and I’m personally hoping that how they reintroduce things will at least make some sense without depending on something outrageous. Beyond the shows, there’s also the Bokura Wa Minna Kawaisou and Tari Tari OVAs; the former will release later this month and be reviewed somewhere in the new year (hopefully, before mid-January has passed), latter should have released yesterday, and I’m hoping that the BD will feature a HD version of it, because Tari Tari is something that was meant to be watched in 1080p, rather than 480p.

Kantai Collection

The story is set in a world where humanity has lost control of the seas to the threat known only as the “deep sea fleet”. The only ones who can counter the “deep sea fleet” are the Kan-musume (warship girls), who possess the spirit of naval vessels harking back to an older era. Stationed at the naval base Chinjufu, many various Kan-musume have gathered to live together, working hard everyday in training and improving other aspects of their daily life. One day, a Kan-musume arrives at Chinjufu. Named Fubuki, she is a special class of destroyer, and her arrival sets in motion the story that will be told in Kantai Collection.

  • As previously noted, I am not a fan of Kantai Collection the game because of the exceptionally steep learning curve, and the fact that it takes the sort of effort that would earn people the Nobel Prize to master. Games shouldn’t require its players to have a notebook and calculator out to enjoy properly, nor should they require players spend a good 25 hours a day (that’s not a typo: from what I’ve heard, playing the game properly requires a heck of a lot of grinding and planning). On the other hand, the anime’s not going to require too much effort to watch, and from the premise, looks to be similar to Strike Witches minus the pantsu and with ships taking the place of aircraft. My über-micro also tells me that Kaga will be my favourite character. for bearing a great deal of similarity to Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

Tomoya Aki is an otaku who works part-time to earn money to buy anime. One day during spring vacation, he meets a beautiful girl, and not more than a month later, he finds out that the girl is his classmate, Megumi. Tomoya is told that she is hardly noticed by the other classmates. Tomoya, who also has no special skills or abilities, decides to write a visual novel. Enlisting Eriri Spencer Sawamura, a well-known member of the Art Club to provide the art for the game and Utaha Kasumigoaka to write the game scenario, Tomoya kicks off Blessing Software, whose goal is to sell their game at the next Comiket.

  • Shirobako‘s still going to be rolling come the new year, but here’s an anime about making games. This concept was explored in brief back during OreImo, but it’s going to be fun to see some quasi-game development, and before I get lampooned for using the quantifier “quasi”, I feel that visual novels are more story-driven, depending mostly on good writing above graphics and performance to be successful. As such, I consider them to be interactive books rather than full-on games. With that said, I nonetheless look forwards to seeing how it goes for them: from the premise, their goal of publishing software is not dissimilar to the experience I had over the summer. I look most forwards to seeing what software they use for their project.

Absolute Duo

The story begins with Blaze — a weapon that is the manifestation of a human’s soul. Tōru Kokonoe happens to be qualified for this, but for some reason his Blaze is not a weapon, but a shield. Moreover, he enrolled in a school that teaches combat skills, and thanks to the school’s Duo partner system, he ends up living with a beautiful silver-haired girl.

  • Absolute Duo looks like it’s set in a European setting, and after GochiUsa, I’ve taken a liking to this particular setting. The premise seems to be setting up for a comedy of sorts, as well as fanservice elements, and lastly, has magic involved. While these elements are all familiar, I’m curious to see how all of these fit together, so I’ll be checking it out. Something tells me that I may pick up additional shows that aren’t being covered by other blogs, but only time will tell. For the present, though, the three new shows, plus the massive backlog I’ve got (including Psycho-Pass and Nagi no Asukara) ought to keep me busy until the Spring 2015 season arrives, and though I’ll say it again later, the Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is something I’ve looked forwards to for a very, very long time. This might be the one anime I do weekly reflections on during the course of its run.

St. Trond’s Thunder: Strike Witches- Operation Victory Arrow Episode One (Screenshots, Reflection and Commentary)

“I realize that humor isn’t for everyone. It’s only for people who want to have fun, enjoy life, and feel alive.” — Anne Wilson Schaef

It’s been a while since I’ve done a talk on Strike Witches, but allow me to reopen the topic with the first installment of Operation Victory Arrow, which follows Gertrude, Erica and Minna’s adventures in Germany between the second season and the movie. After a training exercise, Erica’s sister, Ursula, arrives for a visit, and comes bearing gifts of new hardware, including the Me 262 etherjet Striker, Bordkanone 5 auto-cannon and Germanic-style clothes. Despite Erica’s objections, Gertrude gives it a test flight and is satisfied, but Erica’s mood soon deteriorates. However, a massive Neuroi attacks; both Gertrude and Minna are overwhelmed, but find themselves saved by Erica and Ursula. Back in Fuso, Yoshika and Michiko read a letter from Minna et al., detailing their adventures in Karlsland. The first episode of Operation Victory Arrow, dealing with the Germanic characters, proved to be a remarkably entertaining episode that was well worth the wait: originally aired in Japanese cinema back in September, the home release was on December 12.

Aside from the fanservice aspects, St. Trond’s Thunder is about Erica’s mistrust with new technologies, leading to dissatisfaction with her sister’s works. There is no real prior animosity between Erica and Ursula: the former warmly welcomes the latter upon arrival, and the atmospherics only shift after Ursula reveals that she’s brought an improved, safer jet striker. Despite these improvements, Erica immediately takes a disliking to the unit as a consequence of what had happened during the second season. Her concerns fall upon deaf ears after Minna decides to go ahead with the test. Things further sour when an experimental two-witch striker unit fails when Erica pushes the unit beyond specifications, forcing Erica to save Ursula. From there on out, Erica takes on a moody, sullen demeanor, feeling that the new technology is unfeasible and dangerous. However, faced with certain calamity, Erica overcomes this mistrust, allowing her to resolve things with Ursula and save Gertrude and Minna from an unnaturally powerful Neuroi that arrives. Although Erica might be seen as selfish, her reaction to new technology is quite natural, as cutting-edge technology possesses a set of unknowns that could very well prove to be hazardous. However, this is not to say that one should reject advances in technology, and as Erica discovers, sometimes, one must take a chance on new concepts in order to protect the things that matter to them. As the technology in our society continues to advance, we must learn to understand its advantages as well as its risks, and more importantly, figure out how to best use a technology for its intended purpose.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This discussion will feature thirty screenshots: unlike Infinite Stratos²: World Purge-hen, I have a little more to say about St. Trond’s Thunder. Thus, we begin with a screenshot of Erica engaged in a mock battle with Gertrude. Mock battles are characterised by the use of weapons coloured in orange to differentiate them from live weapons, and this scene brings to mind Erica’s antics during the second season, where an originally-team effort turned into Hanna mimicking shooting Erica down, and Erica’s reaction winds up being quite similar here.

  • In the short space of twelve seconds, Erica manages to strip and enjoys the coolness of a mountain spring, much to Gertrude’s irritation. While Strike Witches is better known for liberal doses of fanservice that toe the line for the number of röntgens that one can be safely exposed to (things like Yosuga no Sora and Kiss x Sis surpasses this!), the landscape artwork for the series have always been quite pleasant: in Operation Victory Arrow, things seem to have improved slightly, since the Strike Witches Movie made extensive use of CG trees for some of the forest scenes.

  • I imagine that most are already familiar with the 501st, so there’s no real need to reintroduce all of the characters. Like Erica and Gertrude, Minna prefers the MG42, an LMG the Wehrmacht made extensive use of during the Second World War. With excellent durability, reliability and a high rate of fire, the MG42 was chambered for the 7.92 x 57 mm Mauser round and was a recoil-operated weapon that would inspire the MG-3, which is characterised by its high rate of fire and low damage. I personally prefer the MG-36 in Bad Company 2, which comes with an integral red-dot sight.

  • Heidemarie W. Schnaufer was introduced in the movie, and makes another appearance here: 15 years old, her character was inspired by Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer and with her night vision powers, she specialises in reconnaissance missions under the cover of darkness. Heidemarie appears in The Sky That Connects Us, being mistaken as a ghost by the others.

  • The St. Trond Base is inspired by Sint-Truiden, located in Belgium. Captured by the Third Reich during the Second World War, it was home to the NJG1 Luftwaffe Night Fighter squadron; Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer was a pilot for this squadron and was credited with 121 kills. British bomber referred to him as “The spook of St. Trond” , and this directly inspires Heidemarie’s nickname.

  • Gertrude gazes with apprehension at the Dirndl dress Ursula gives her: the Dirndl is a traditional dress worn in Germany (especially Bavaria) and originated from designs common with Alpine peasants. They are typically worn during events such as Oktoberfest or by female tourism employees, and some older women may were this in their everyday attire.

  • Erica’s expressions and reactions to Usrula’s new gear is priceless, simultaneously being dumbfounded at at the bewildering array of prototypes and unimpressed with their function. This scene stands in stark contrast with the sort of exchanges that go on when Q explains new gadgetry to 007, or when Lucius Fox is showing prototypes to Bruce Wayne, who is interested in becoming a member of the billionaire, spelunking, BASE-jumping crowd.

  • I’m typically very excited and interested in what the latest and greatest technology has to offer: I’m now done my first semester of graduate studies (save a term paper I am in the midst of polishing for final submission), and I did it without a laptop of my own. For the moment, I’ve been loaning a laptop from the lab because my supervisor’s recommendation was to wait for the new Broadwell-powered MacBook Pros to be released.

  • Of course, my soon-to-be-über-epic laptop will be rendered obsolete by the Skylake processors, but Macs do tend to last a while, so I’m going with one for my graduate work; the one I’m borrowing from the lab is a model from early 2009 and it still performs quite well, so I’m quite willing to trust a Mac with my work. Here, Erica protests Gertude’s decision to act as the new jet striker’s pilot, despite reassurances that the new model is totally safe, and I find myself quite impressed with the period-style schematics Ursula is presenting to the two.

  • Despite being one of the top aces of the Luftwaffe, Erica is disorganised and maintains a very laid-back approach to life. However, she is a highly capable pilot as the situation demands, and also throws several hilarious tantrums during the series, although her reservations in Operation Victory Arrow are more related to the plot compared to her previous antics. Tea cups and tea is present in many of the scenes, and at present, I am a novice tea drinker who is still discovering preferences for tea.

  • Like Gertrude, I share in the thrill of being able to test-drive cutting-edge stuff, and typically will install the newest software or experiment with the latest hardware after making sure it’s not likely to break whatever I’m working on. For this reason, I’m cautious about installing Mac OS X Yosemite on my main workstation, since I’m not certain if the new Objective C frameworks will break my mobile build of a physiology application (which was optimised for iOS 7). Quite similarly, my iPad 2 died after I installed iOS 8 on it, and only quick action reverted it back to an operational state, leaving me more careful about software updates.

  • The zwei-link (two-link) striker unit is based on twin-fuselage aircraft, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109Z twin Bf 109 prototype, which was destroyed in an attack by the British in 1943 before it was completed, and the project subsequently abandoned. The Americans’ F-82 Twin Mustang was one twin-fuselage aircraft that entered production too late for the war and was later deployed during the Korean War.

  • I’m particularly fond of these kind of scenes in anime; in the foreground, a plate of scrambled eggs, sausage and kippers can be seen. This breakfast is worthy of the ones described in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and although I am a major fan of the English Breakfast, I’ve never actually had kipper (a whole herring) before. Here, the vase’s clever placement lends itself to a bit of humour in the following segments.

  • Gertrude asks Erica for her opinion of the Dirndl dress, but this subsequently backfires when Erica (rudely) remarks that it is weird. From the looks of things, fans have been itching to see Gertrude wearing a Dirndl and flying a striker unit for quite some time, and this episode delivers that in spades. The reason why Gertrude takes to the skies still dressed like this might’ve been a mystery from the trailers alone, but the OVA clarifies how things got to be.

  • Embarrassment in anime is always both adorable and hilarious at the same time: sensing that Gertrude’s not taking well to Erica’s comment, Minna tries to convince her that the dress looks good on Gertrude, but before anything else happens, the air-raid siren goes off, indicating that Neuroi have been detected in their AO. While I have no screenshots here, the St. Trond airbase is reminiscent of the Flak Towers built in Germany and Austria after 1940 to dissuade Allied bombers from directly attacking German cities.

  • Boasting reinforced concrete walls up to 3.5 metres in thickness, the Flak towers were nigh-indestructible and were generally avoided by Allied forces. When the Soviets entered Berlin in 1945, they found the towers to withstand even their 203 mm howitzers, acting as anti-raid shelters for citizens during the Fall of Berlin. The prohibitive cost of demolition meant that most of the Flak towers still survive at present. Here, while the others have sortied to intercept the Neuroi, Erica goes fishing for freshwater lobsters using a similar tactic that Les Stroud used to catch them in Australia.

  • The new Neuroi conceal themselves within a mushroom-shaped cloud, and this one turns out to be a swarm with tougher armour that render the 7.92 x 57 mm rounds useless, forcing Minna and Gertrude to retrieve the 50 mm cannon. However, beyond the small fighter-types, larger Neuroi appear and begin to give both a hard time.

  • While I could feature an inordinate number of posterior shots for posterity’s sake, the sheer number of them that appear would mean that I’ll hit the image quota quite quickly, and as entertaining as it is to have such screenshots, I don’t have anything particularly productive to say about pantsu. In practise, they actually happen quite quickly, and it takes quick reflexes to capture those moments.

  • This image captures the sense of scale that characterises the fight scenes in Strike Witches. These fights are high-paced and do not let up for breaks at any point: because the Neuroi are incapable of vocal communication, all dialogue during fight scenes just involve the witches’ communications, and a scream from Minna is what it takes to convince Erica to join the battle.

  • Erica makes use of the 50 mm cannon to decimate the smaller fighter-types maligning the others. I’m a fan of slower-firing, high damage weapons for their precision and destructive potential: my favourite experiences with these types of weapons include the 40 mm HEAT cannon in Titanfall, and the 20 mm machine gun found in Crysis Warhead: I made extensive use of the latter in Crysis Warhead to decimate vehicles and even Ceph scouts: each round deals explosive damage, allowing it to wreck all light vehicles and infantry.

  • Of the characters in Strike Witches, Gertrude, Lynette and Yoshika are my favourites for their personalities. Gertrude’s strict, disciplined mannerisms and penchant for cute things are mirrored by GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza.

  • If someone were to make an Ace Combat-style Strike Witches game and put that on Steam, I’d consider purchasing it: on one hand, I love Ace Combat games, but on the other, considering how the cameras work, and how human anatomy works, the tough part about playing the game would be explaining to observers what exactly is happening.

  • With a new-found vigour from Erica’s appearance, Gertude begins taking on the Neuroi in earnest. Moments such as these were prominently featured in the preview videos, but for one reason or another, I never caught wind of them and only found them quite recently. Generally speaking, trailers do sometimes give sufficient information to the viewer such that they can deduce what happens in an anime, and in particular, Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer was particularly bad, as the trailers focused mostly on the final battle.

  • Erica’s mistrust of the jet striker aren’t misguided: despite taking a chance with it, she soon finds that there are some mechanical defects with the jets, leader her to lose airspeed and altitude. Ursula steps in here to save Erica, after using a Fliegerhammer prototype to blow away Neuroi about to fire on her.

  • Distant, less “in-your-face” pantsu shots are the upper bound for what I’ll settle for showing; it’s the perfect compromise, allowing some fanservice to be highlighted without going overboard and illustrating it in every conceivable image.

  • Before Minna is roasted to well-done by Neuroi laser fire, Erica and Ursula open fire with the 50 mm cannon to eliminate the threat. Having read The Sky That Connects Us, it appears that Operation Victory Arrow might very well be quite similar to the manga in depicting a segment of what all of the witches are doing while they’re not flying together as the 501st Joint Fighter Wing.

  • Together, Ursula and Erica destroy the Neuroi, with the former providing the flight capabilities and the latter providing the firepower. After this, Ursula and Erica return to sharing good terms with one another, acting as a satisfying closing to the first episode in Operation Victory Arrow.

  • Back at St. Trond, the Karlsland witches take some down time, having successfully fended off the Neuroi. Heidemarie also dons a Dirndl dress and is mildly embarrassed at having to wear it, but thanks Ursula nonetheless. Thanks to some introductory familiarity with Photoshop, I can now pull off some rudimentary image stitches. Therefore, in addition to the stitched image of Erica enjoying the mountain waters earlier, I also present to readers a glorious full-length image of Heidemarie wearing a Dirndl dress. This won’t be something I pull off frequently, as making them requires a fair bit of time.

  • I’ve also begun learning Autodesk Maya now, and have gotten familiar with creating basic meshes, materials, textures and extrusions. That is to say, my project is progressing at a fair pace. Returning to the OVA discussion, it just wouldn’t be Strike Witches without at least one moment with Yoshika, who’s reading a letter that details what the Karlsland witches have experienced. In the aftermath of the second season, Yoshika loses all of her magic and takes up a career as a conventional medical doctor. She seems to be at peace with the loss of her magic, contrasting Mio, who took it hard.

  • That’s pretty much it for this post: remember to like this post, comment on the post and subscribe to the blog if you’d like to see posts similar to this one. We’ve reached the end of yet another OVA post, which means all that’s left is the talk for the seven-minute Tari Tari OVA. Contrasting all expectation, I was able to find time to get the figure captions for this post out: this was mainly because I made more progress than expected in building the cell in Maya yesterday, and my term paper for another course is complete (it just requires editing now). The next priority will be on Tari Tari, and then a short preview of the Winter 2015 season. There will be a few special posts here and there, but I’m going to take a break for the present to enjoy the winter holidays. Final impressions posts for Sword Art Online II, Amagi Brilliant Park and Sora no Method will be drafted during the new year.

It may come as surprising to some that the themes of new technology can be explored even in something as facetious as Strike Witches, but as a universe where supernatural magic interface with fantastical technology, the topic does lead to the question of how technology is perceived in the Strike Witches universe. St. Trond’s Thunder starts off Operation Victory Arrow with Erica’s gradual acceptance for newer equipment. Aside from this aspect, I thoroughly enjoyed Operation Victory Arrow, as I am a fan of the unique world that Strike Witches is set in (to the extent where I can say that I would have enjoyed this series to the same level even in the total absence of the pantsu that this anime is infamous for). Throughout this first instalment, the artwork, animation and sound retains the quality and stylistic elements seen in both the second season and the movie. The battle sequences (both the mock training and the fight against the Neuroi) are thrilling to watch, being choreographed with the same intensity as viewers have become accustomed to. However, as a member of the Strike Witches series, this is something that is designed for fans to enjoy, and individuals whose interests lie outside of Strike Witches probably will see this as 30 minutes poorly spent. With the first of the episodes now complete, attention turns towards Goddess of the Aegan Sea, the second Operation Victory Arrow episode that will premier in Japanese theatres on January 10, 2015. Assuming another three-month wait, the home release for the second episode will probably be in March 2015. The final episode is set for premier in Japanese theatres on May 2, 2015, so a conservative estimate for the home release in somewhere in August 2015, and readers can bet their bottom dollar I’ll be doing talks for the other two episodes, as well.

Infinite Stratos² OVA: World Purge-Hen (Screenshots, Reflection and Commentary)

“You can’t fool the ever-vigilant eye of Pronin. I saw right through that ruse.” —Cr1t1kal in Captain Pronin The Talented

Here it is, the (mostly) long-awaited OVA to Infinite Stratos²; the original TV series finished airing a year ago, and when it concluded, the second season left a weaker impression than its predecessor, advancing neither the character-driven aspects (i.e. Ichika’s lack of awareness that there’s a veritable army of girls after his heart) or the world-building behind the IS platforms themselves, as well as what Phantom Task’s affiliation and objectives were. While these caveats broke the series for some viewers, I still found it to be passable, and upon hearing that there was another OVA for the second season, decided to check that out. The premise was seemingly simple: the OVA would be about a “program called “World Purge” [that] sends illusions to all the girls about their ideal fantasies”. While this sounds like an excuse to maximise exposure (pun deliberate) to each of the girls, it turns out that there is something else driving everything: a hacking attempt from Tabane and a simultaneous intrusion from an unidentified American unit prompts Chifuyu and Maya to stop the hostiles, while ordering the girls into their school’s network via a virtual reality uplink to restore the school’s processes. Of course, this is easier said than done, and through Chloe Chronicle’s interference, the girls’ fantasies turn into nightmares.

This seemingly-frivolous OVA was full of surprises, and while it was advertised for its supposedly-frequent depiction of anime-style human anatomy in HD glory, the actual OVA itself manages to be a fine balance between showcasing the extent of Tatenashi’s and Chifuyu’s combat capabilities and making use of the virtual reality system to depict how Rin, Cecilia, Charlotte, Laura and Houki view Ichika. In particular, even though the dialogue is minimal during each of the simulated moments, the use of environments and visuals conveys how each girl views Ichika. Because Rin’s VR shows her and Ichika as middle school students, Rin seems to be longing to have spent more time with Ichika prior to enrolling at the IS academy. In Cecilia’s fantasy, Ichika is someone working under her, suggesting that despite being very much in love with Ichika, she seems to subconsciously view him as being of a lower social status. Conversely, Charlotte sees Ichika as a guardian of sorts and as such, is his maid in her virtual reality. Laura’s fantasy shows her being happily married to Ichika; of all the girls, she jumps straight to the conclusion that marriage follows after falling in love, and this fantasy reflects on her naïveté with regards to Japanese culture. The fact that each of their simulated realities succumbs to external influence from Chloe suggests that they desire to be close to him for less nobel reasons compared to Houki: in Houki’s case, her ideal fantasy is to find an equal sparring partner who shares her love of Kendo and will marry into her family through a traditional Japanese wedding. Contrasting the other girls, Houki’s ideal is one of proper love and happiness, and as such, does not succumb to the woes that everyone else experiences. The OVA seems to reinforce that of everyone, Houki’s love for Ichika seems to be the strongest, beyond the comparatively superficial reasons the other girls seem to convey.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This puny collection of screenshots only numbers twenty-five. and while it’s not really enough to really convey the sort of stuff that happens in the OVA, there were two facts influencing the number of screenshots. First, some moments in this OVA are, unsurprisingly, not suitable for all audiences. The second is that I don’t think I can come up with enough figure captions for thirty images, and twenty isn’t enough to fully capture the OVA’s spirit, so I settled for a nice compromise. The page quote comes from Cr1t1kal’s Captain Pronin The Talented, and was inspired by the OVA’s unexpected, but welcomed, performance.

  • Despite being presented as an energetic, cheerful individual, Tabane is directly responsible for almost everything that’s happened in Infinite Stratos. The OVA’s introduction sees her provide one Chloe Chronicle with instructions on a package delivery. I believe last time, I mentioned that Tabane’s aura had a Chobits-like feel to it, and then noted that I’d never actually watched Chobits before. At this point in time, I’ve finished, and found it to be surprisingly good.

  • Charlotte and Rin relax during their downtime, with Rin’s obvious longing for Ichika noticed by the former. However, this peace is broken when an unknown faction compromises the systems at the Infinite Stratos academy and forces each of the girls to enter the network in an attempt to fix it. This makes absolutely no sense from a technical perspective: if the tactical network went down, it would require the attention of IT specialists rather than the special forces to fix.

  • Hikaruno Kagaribi is introduced as the director of the Kuromochi Research Center; her role is the repair and analysis of IS frames, and here, she expresses an unwholesome keenness in doing things to Ichika, which is unsuitable for further discussion here. The World Purge-hen is supposed to be a condensation of the entire eighth volume of the light novel into forty-five minutes: there are nine volumes, and with writing suspended, a third season is probably not going to be a reality any time soon. I might just check out the light novels, but that remains something to be decided in the future.

  • The IS themselves bear a strong resemblance to Gundams, and I find that the Byakushiki greatly resembles the 00 Raiser. I started noticing an increase in the search terms “Infinite Stratos” somewhere back in 2009, and initially though that people were looking up “Lockon Stratos” and “Infinite Zenith”. It may be arrogant of me to presume thus, but I’m quite tempted to believe that, because the light novels were written in 2009, Izuru Yumizuru somehow came across the Infinite Zenith and created Infinite Stratos from a portmanteau of the two terms.

  • It seems that virtual realities are all the range in anime at present: in a afternoon break a few days ago, I was discussing this with several members of the lab, and it’s not improbable that the science-fiction novel series by Tad Williams, Otherland, likely inspired many of the things that we see today in anime, including a world where the technology remains largely familiar save the presence of highly-evolved virtual reality systems.

  • World Purge-hen itself is on-par with Upotte! and the first Infinite Stratos OVA as far as questionable contents go (only being out-done by Yosuga no Sora), and I’ve exercised due caution here to ensure that I am not including fanservice-type images that are downright unacceptable.

  • Subtle use of angling in the simulated Ichika’s eyes suggests that things are slightly off. While the OVA’s premise was “fantasies”, the promotions was actually a clever disguise that betrayed none of the other things that were going to occur within World Purge-hen. As noted in the discussions above, each “fantasy” world is built upon how each girl views Ichika. I’ll just note that after the simulated Ichikas begin going Turbo and the girls find themselves saved by the original Ichika, the network problems just magically go away.

  • Now that I’m actually here writing about things, it’s actually quite tough to come up with witticisms for the different virtual reality scenes, save for the fact that I watched the OVA with my back to a wall to prevent any misunderstandings from happening.

  • While the girls are trying to restore their computer grid (and failing), Chifuyu and Tatenashi intercept the intruders; specified as Americans, the OVA leaves ambiguous their exact intents and objectives, along with their relationship with Tabane’s attack on the school’s network. The novel will be required here to clarify things. Despite finding herself up against a full IS, Chifuyu manages to fight it to a standstill in the school’s service tunnels.

  • Back in the Matrix, Charlotte’s vision has Ichika propose to her. There’ve been claims that the simulated segments feel like something that came out of a particularly ill-conceived fanfiction, and for the most part, this is not an inaccurate assessment: the imagery and choices of fantasy for each girl appear to be deliberately crafted to maximise the number of superficial moments so that the so-called ‘shippers’ can be satisfied. Take note, this is not how to build things in general.

  • While the VR segments might be a little hard on the eyes and mind, the combat sequences retain all of their glory from the original TV anime, and while the incursions appear as an excuse to give the girls a reason to enter the virtual reality environment, they are nonetheless quite well done. In particular, it was entertaining to see Chifuyu hold off against an IS with nothing more than a quartet of swords.

  • Laura’s simulated world seems the most normal, and although things begin well enough, her ideal Ichika soon deteriorates into perversion, as well. Disappointed viewers have noticed that Houki seems to have a reduced presence in World Purge-hen, but that’s probably because they’d forgotten about the first OVA, which gave her a fair bit of alone time with Ichika at the episode’s end.

  • How Ichika manages to sense that the others were in trouble is never explained: Ichika, though voiced by Kōki Uchiyama (who is better known for his role as Gundam Unicorn‘s Banagher Links), does not have any Newtype powers to speak of, so it comes across as being a little crazy that this moment could be worked in. I’m sure the light novels worked something out, but if we suspend this, we are treated to the real Ichika dispensing the hurt on the simulated variants, returning everyone back to reality.

  • For the present, one must assume that the network probably did internal diagnostics and fixed itself after Ichika defeated all of the Doppelgängers of himself are wiped out. Alternatively, once the source of the intrusion was removed, Kanzashi and the others would have worked towards repairing things. Either way, the “World purge” aspect ends here, and while there are a couple of questionable moments in the simulations, things remain quite restrained in their reality.

  • Cecelia and Rin react moderately well after Ichika recovers them from the simulated worlds, but Charlotte gives Icika the old-fashioned eye poke. Despite being a virtual world, there must be plugins or components for pain simulation, although one would wonder what would happen if anyone had actually died inside the simulated environment. In The Matrix, death is final.

  • According to the novel, the American forces were operating independently of Tabane and Chloe; their intentions were to recapture hidden IS cores that were present at the academy. After using an IS with a quad Gatling-style gun, Maya and Chifuyu decide to let the American forces go, but not before the IS pilot and Chifuyu exchange contact information.

  • The reason Houki’s simulated realities didn’t have anything unusual happening is probably a direct consequence of how she sees Ichika: whereas the other girls have more risqué interpretations, Houki’s ideal is one of purity: of all the girls, she sees Ichika as an equal, someone who is suited to accompany her through life and time. The other girls have a much more superficial interest in Ichika, accounting for why Houki alone experiences a simulation that is more normal.

  • I’m going to light fuse, run away, when I say that World Purge-hen implies that Houki is the best match for Ichika: this point was a part of the previous OVA, and I say it is thus only because as far as personalities go, Ichika seems to be the yang for Houki’s yin. I’m rocking a solid explanation for why I feel this to be the case…I am quite curious to hear the rationale from those who support other pairings.

  • As with my Utopia post from back in September, I can say with total conviction that this is the only World Purge-hen talk out there on the internet. From a semantics perspective, this hold true because this post is reasonably detailed concerning the OVA. From a technical perspective, there is another site (with an orange triangle for its logo) that got a talk out ahead of me, but because their entire discussion was only fifty-three words in length (and because the site’s authors are uncultured, incompetent writers), it doesn’t count as a post on World Purge-hen, let alone one that’s worth reading.

  • Goaded past endurance, Rin lines up a kick against Kanzashi, but instead, bounces off Chifuyu harmlessly after she appears. The first episode to Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow was released today, and as per usual, the folks at the orange triangle have a photo-post out ahead of everyone else. I will try to have a proper discussion drafted out before Christmas Eve by the latest, and failing that, the framework for the post (that is, the discussion paragraphs and the screenshots).

  • I’m actually quite surprised that a prima facie fanservice-laden OVA could have actually lent itself to the discussion that it did, and that the OVA turned out to be a remarkably focused, self-contained story that was executed with more finesse than the second season. After everyone is pulled from the school’s network, the remainder of the OVA takes on a more light-hearted tone, with one minor exception at the end that leads to the question of whether or not a continuation will be made.

  • Tatenashi, despite not given any screentime in the virtual reality environment, manages to create a few interesting moments of her own. Compared to the others (except maybe Laura), Tatenashi is very forwards to Ichika and often messes with him for the sake of messing with him. She reveals her real name to Ichika, and although this is significant (especially given the cultural context of given names in Japan), the implications of this won’t be explored in the foreseeable future.

  • With the OVA now over, and the post reaching its terminus, I’ll do my usual “what’s next” spiel. Readers may have noticed that posting frequency has gone up, but this is temporary: with lectures and tutorials over, I have a little bit of extra time I can direct towards blogging, and for one reason or another, there’s been a lot of OVAs and bonus materials released over the past while. The next two posts I do will be the first  Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow episode and Tari Tari‘s 7-minute short. Circumstances may force me to do partial posts for them, but should that happen, I will return before the end of mid-January to finish the commentary that accompanies the screenshots.

  • The ending of World Purge-hen has Chifuyu display a fearsome level of combat prowess, even managing to intimidate Chloe into withdrawing her efforts to take down the former. Chloe Chronicle’s identity and relationship with Tabane is unexplored, and in an OVA that does a fine job with the established characters, the addition of elements that demand future exploration is a move of questionable value: on one hand, it could elevate anticipation, but we also know that the anime has caught up to the Infinite Stratos light novels, which are on hiatus. The significance of the new characters, and Tabane’s intentions are going to be something for the future, although this is probably something that viewers may have to buckle down and wait for.

In conjunction with the fight scenes, and the implication that Tabane is playing the world for fools, the World Purge-hen OVA proved to be quite enjoyable that managed to fit all of the different pieces together neatly. There are limitations, such as the dramatic transitions between the serious and the comedic, and some characters (who’ve I’ve only seen for the first time) will necessitate additional exploration. Moreover, the justification for having a virtual reality environment may be dubious. However, the effects ties in well with the cause (Tabane’s actions and the coincidental arrival of an unknown infiltrator), and the end result is an OVA that manages to tell a concise story for the World Purge-hen volume in the light novels. and surprisingly, was remarkably restrained with respect to fanservice. Granted, there are a few scenes that would immediate make the OVA R-rated, but these are only short moments and do not appear with the same forwardness as moments in something like Yosuga no Sora. As such, rather than being 45 minutes of watching anatomy getting shoved in one’s face, World Purge-hen succeeds in telling a self-contained story that bears the style unique to Infinite Stratos. Of course, the presence of new plot points (specifically, dealing with Tabane and Chloe) now leads to the question of whether or not there will be a future continuation, and provided that the light novel has run into considerable difficulty, the only possible conclusion is that the anime will reach a stop for the present.

Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? Original Soundtrack set for release on December 25, 2014

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

The last time I did a soundtrack-related post, it was a year-and-a-half ago, and I had just finished Yuyushiki. The soundtrack had been set to come out in the midst of summer, although there was very little fanfare about it. A year later, the slice-of-life anime, Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka?, ended. A calming, relaxing show that fulfilled a similar role as SoniAniNon Non Biyori and TamayuraGochuumon wa usagi desu ka? made use of music to accentuate the mood and feel of the different moments in the anime, and since July, I’ve been wondering whether or not Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? would ever get a soundtrack. By October, I learnt that the soundtrack would have a release on Christmas Day. It will be a two-disc collection that retails for 3024 JPY (29.44 CAD, thanks to the exchange rates) and is composed by Ruka Kawada, Kaoru Okubo and Yuki Kimura. The music in Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? is sweet, light-hearted and cheerful, hence my disposition towards it; while some self-proclaimed experts may claim that such pieces take away from a soundtrack, the fact is that the gentle background pieces can do a fantastic job of conveying the characteristics of someone’s everyday life on their own, even without imagery.

Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka OST

  • This is the cover art for the Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? soundtrack. There’s been no discussions or excitement from anime blogs and forums sites about the soundtrack thus far, reinforcing the seeming general lack of interest in the series (and by extension, its music).

Beyond knowing when the soundtrack will release, I’ve also taken a look at all forty-eight tracks and, as I’ve done with Tari Tari some two years ago, I have translated the titles that I could for easier reading (some songs weren’t translated owing to limitations in my skill). With this much music, I imagine that the tracks will probably be quite short on average, clocking under two-and-a-half minutes per song.

Disc 1

  1. 君のスカート丈に首ったけ (There’s something about your skirt’s length)
  2. Un café, s’il vous plaît (A coffee, please)
  3. 普通の女の子 (Ordinary Girl)
  4. しかたないなぁ〜 (It can’t be helped~)
  5. 私にまかせて! (Leave it to me!)
  6. おいらはペレペレ中毒
  7. やってみよう (Let’s do it)
  8. ハイテンション! (High tension!)
  9. そんな日もあるよね (I’m also thinking there’re such days)
  10. ぽかぽかうさぎ日和 (Warm rabbit weather)
  11. 安らかな風に乗る緑の茶葉 〜甘兎へようこそ☆〜 (Welcome to the green tea leaves – sweet rabbit riding a restful wind ☆ ~)
  12. Rabbit’s Polka
  13. おねえちゃん? (Onee-chan?)
  14. ずっと一緒に (Together forever)
  15. Daydream café 〜solo piano ver.〜
  16. おはなしをしよう (Telling a story)
  17. 眩しい季節に (In a dazzling season)
  18. パンのいい香り (The nice smell of bread)
  19. キリマンジャロだね (That’s Kilimanjaro)
  20. ときめくような一杯を (A fluttering cup)
  21. マスターの思い出 (Memories of Master)
  22. 風の香る街角 (Wind’s scent at the street corner)
  23. 夕日の丘 (Sunset Hill)
  24. 小さな手のひら (Small palms)

Disc 2

  1. Eyecatch 〜jump!〜
  2. 青山さんのじじょう (Aoyama’s circumstances)
  3. 対決!! (Showdown!!)
  4. 一目惚れ〜!! (Love at first sight~!!)
  5. お嬢様のたしなみ (The princess’ habits)
  6. イエッサー!
  7. 緊迫!! (Tension)
  8. 誰かいる!? (Somebody?!)
  9. Eyecatch 〜sweet〜
  10. 実はね… (Actually…)
  11. しょぼーん (Shobon)
  12. もぉ〜〜〜 (Geez~~~)
  13. 一途な愛 (Steady Love)
  14. 疲れちゃった (Tired)
  15. ぽっぴんジャンプ♪ 〜solo piano ver.〜 (Poppin’ jump)
  16. おじ様は脚が長い
  17. もふもふ天国
  18. さみしさひとかけら (Ounce of loneliness)
  19. ティーカップの甘い夢 (Tea cup of sweet dreams)
  20. はりきっていくよ! (Fired up!)
  21. クリスマスの夜に (On Christmas Night)
  22. 大切な宝物 (Precious treasure)
  23. Everlasting Memory 〜悠久の記憶〜
  24. Au revoir!

Somewhere in this listing of music is that gentle, fluffy flute piece that I’m particularly fond of, as well as the more majestic songs that play when scenes in and around the city are shown.There is one question that rests in my mind, and that’s why there was such a time-delay between Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka?‘s end and the soundtrack’s release. During the past few months, I was checking occasionally to see if any news about the soundtrack existed, and even in September, there was nothing. However, the wait seems to have been worthwhile, and now, it’s only a 15-day wait to the soundtrack’s release.

  • Funnily enough, I found out about the soundtrack by means of Twitter, and while I’m not proficient with Japanese, my background means the Kanji are easier to read.

Shows like Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? and Girls und Panzer have inspired me to try Blue Mountain and Kilimanjaro coffee, as well as Darjeeling and Orange Pekoe teas. I typically do not drink coffee, although at some family gatherings, I will take a cup of Blue Mountain coffee, which has a light, nutty flavour. The teas, I drink while attending Tuesday afternoon tea with the graduate students and faculties, offering a chance to relax in the same manner as do Houkago Tea Time. Over the last term, I tended to drop by briefly, get some tea, listen to (or partake in) the discussions, then leave to either get work done or prepare for tutorials.

A preview of Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? season 2 through the manga

“Is your heart ready to hop? Even if I pretend to be lost in thought, come a little closer! I won’t let you know too easily; it’s a secret that I like you this much!” —Daydream Cafe, Petit Rabbits

Early in Novemnber, rumours that there would be a second season of Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? began circulating on Twitter, complete with images and what appeared to be official media supporting this claim. At present, nothing official has been announced yet, and as such, whether or not there will be another installation of Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? will remain as something for the future. This anime originally aired during Spring 2014, and was centered around Cocoa Hoto’s transfer into a classical town resembling modern-day Colmar, France. As is common to the moé subgenre, Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? is characterised by a lack of story, and an emphasis on how there can be joy in even the most mundane aspects of everyday life, whether it be baking bread, making coffee cream art, a day at the pool, helping a writer out of a slump or Christmas shopping.  This trend was perpetuated back when K-On! was released, and while the more vehement viewers cite moé as the single detrimental aspect of the industry, the fact remains that such anime continue to be released season after season because they represent a break of sorts from the more focused anime a season may offer, helping people relax after a long day’s work. Whether or not there will be a second is still ambiguous, although judging from the volume of activity on the official Twitter account, a second season could very well be a reality. So…what will a second season entail?

  • Contrasting the previous preview for Non Non Biyori, this one only has ten images because of the slightly more limited discussion I have to offer. To reiterate, the presence of a second season is only speculated at this point (i.e. not confirmed). This post is merely considering what could happen in a second season.

  • The unique architecture in Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? was one of the show’s main selling points, and it’s good to have an anime with a unique setting without the associated philosophical or societal aspects that often accompany what critics consider to be “intellectually stimulating” anime. I deal with “intellectually stimulating” constantly and would prefer anime that are about relaxing.

  • As with the previous ‘second season preview’, the actual speculations based on the manga’s contents are buffered by the ten images. Credit-free opening sequences allow one to fully enjoy the kind of animation quality within: perhaps I’ve got a bit of a bias, but I find that the opening songs and sequences to most Western animation are often underwhelming, contrasting the sheer diversity and detail in anime opening segments.

  • Curiously enough, at the last anime convention I attended, there was a screening of several episodes from Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka?. The room hosting this screening was empty save for two other people, while the other rooms were packed. There were no cosplayers attending as anyone from this anime, either. It is clear that interest in this anime is quite limited in my AO.

  • Consequently, it is not too much of a stretch that I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? and other moé anime in my AO, as I’ve watched a sufficiently large number of them to be able to satisfactorily account for why they are appealing. Of course, the critics can say all they want, but at the end of the day, it’s what the individual likes, rather than what they say, that makes the difference.

  • The opening song, “Daydream Cafe”, is actually one of my favourite anime opening songs of all time for its upbeat mood. Quite similarly, Poppin’ Jump is an excellent song (and I especially love the Chino version of it): I frequently drive to campus with this playing on the radio.

  • This does lead to the question of the extent of my anime-related hobbies, and admittedly, while I do blog about it and have a non-trivial collection of anime merchandise, I nonetheless consider myself to be a moderate anime fan, having heard horror stories of some anime fans who’ve taken things too far and wound up isolating themselves from their friends. While these stories should be regarded with a grain of salt, they are not implausible.

  • In my experiences, the most extreme of anime fans are the individuals who somehow manage to keep up with more than ten shows every season (such as some folks from the anime forums at good ol’ tango victor tango). Quite personally, I’m not sure how this really works, especially since I end up falling behind every season.  I joke frequently to my friends that even if I’m behind on anime by an average of eight weeks, I am immensely thankful I am not eight weeks behind on the things that matter.

  • While these preview posts are fun to write and think about, they aren’t really meant to be taken seriously as guideposts for what any continuations will bring. With all of the false-positives springing up on social media, I find it’s easiest to not worry too much about what’s being said on social media, and instead, simply watch shows as they occur. The biggest anime I am looking forwards to in the future are The Disappearance of Nagatp Yuki-chan and the Girls und Panzer movie: with limited information, speculation is not a particularly useful exercise.

  • I’ve made some minor modifications to the release schedule: Infinite Stratos²: World Purge Hen is still upcoming, but the next post will deal with the Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka? soundtrack. We’ve got some concrete information on it, and I do look forwards to hearing the music that adds so much to the atmosphere in Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka?.

The manga is presently up to volume four, and it appears that Gochuumon wa usagi desu ka?‘s first season spans the first three volumes. These are estimates, but given that the events in the fourth volume and later do not appear in the TV series, it is quite reasonable to speculate that any sort of second season will begin here. Events will include Cocoa and Chino visiting Rize after the latter sprains her ankle. In visiting Rize’s home, the girls roleplay as maids and manage to have a good old time. Aoyama later encounters troubles with her writing, and attempts to write a story with Cocoa and her friends as protagonists. While everyone competes to be the main lead, their activities eventually inspire Aoyama to begin writing. Depending on pacing, there’s enough material her for around one to two episodes. Cocoa’s sister (a hitherto unintroduced character) also is set to make an appearance, prompting Cocoa to take on a more serious demeanor to show her sister that she’s matured. While waiting for Cocoa’s sister to show up, an unexpected  After some mishaps and more comedy, it turns out this unexpected guest is Cocoa’s sister, who had disguised herself to make a more dramatic appearance and decides to stay for a few days. Because this spans a few volumes, this arc could cover anywhere from three to four episodes, and should it ever take an animated form, I would probably melt from the volume of adorable moments that is condensed into this space. The last chapter in volume four deals with back-to-school stuff, with Chiya feeling disappointed that Cocoa won’t be lonely even if they were in different classes, and after Rize, Chino and Sharyo go shopping for pencils, they run into Chiya, who recieved an ominous text from Cocoa. However, when Cocoa arrives, she makes up with Chiya on the spot, and everyone resumes their school year (this is at most one more episode). With the volume exhausted, the speculation ends here, and these predictions amount to around seven episodes at most. From a personal perspective, a second season will probably become a reality once the manga progresses forward a little more, but for the present, it’s still fun to guess at what future installments could hold: just from reading the manga, I would be quite happy to see an animated adaptation of these adventures.