The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tawawa on Monday 2: An Anime Short Review and Reflection

“So, your body’s changing. Believe me, I know how that feels.” –Steve Rogers, Spider-Man: Homecoming

Maegami manages to convince the teacher to take her to the beach, and the salaryman receives an invitation to visit a local farm that weekend, although he confesses that his neighbours’ love-making has been keeping him from sleeping well. Later, the junior and senior office workers spot the teacher buying an engagement ring, and the junior wistfully remarks she could get married. Maegami and the teacher soon move to a different apartment after the teacher proposes to her. Maegami later introduces herself to her new neighbours, Ai and her family. When the topic of relationships come up, Ai and her sister daydream about their ideal relationships. On lunch break, the junior and senior office workers watch a programme featuring cheerleaders. It turns out the lead cheerleader is also quite popular with her classmates, but is fond of teasing her childhood friend. On a company vacation, the junior office worker soundly defeats her senior in ping pong and share a conversation whilst in the baths. She wishes to go on another trip with the senior worker, causing their coworkers to wonder if the pair are seeing one another. While the cheerleader shows off her new swimsuit to her childhood friend, Ai’s friend accidentally wrecks Ai’s bra after attempting to lift Ai so she can clear the blackboard, and the two subsequently go shopping for a new bra. Finally, the day of Maegami’s wedding to the teacher arrives, and after the ceremony, Ai manages to catch the bouquet that Maegami tosses; Maegami wishes Ai the best in capturing the salaryman’s heart. The senior and junior office workers pass by, and the junior wishes she could get married. Later, Ai and the salaryman meet on the train en route to school and work, respectively, and both vow to do their best this week, too. Thus, Tawawa on Monday 2 draws to a close, bringing with it a series of endearing moments arising from what can be described as fateful encounters adapted from Kiseki Himura’s Twitter comic.

Whereas Tawawa on Monday’s first season focused on Ai, and occasionally presented other characters, Tawawa on Monday 2 has a narrative that weaves all of the different stories together. All told, Tawawa on Monday 2 suggests that the world is a smaller place than one might expect; the comings and goings in the lives of others may also impact one’s own life in unforeseeable ways. In Tawawa on Monday 2, Ai and the salaryman know of Maegami and the teacher. Similarly, the junior and senior office workers have also seen Maegami, even if they’ve not formally met, and the pair have also watched the cheerleader on television. These stories all appear disconnected at first glance: all of the relationships are in different stages. Ai and the salaryman are friends, although their thoughts wander towards romance. The junior is quite unaware that she’s making the senior uncomfortable with her suggestions about wanting a relationship, while the teacher and Maegami have accepted their feelings for one another and get married at the end of Tawawa on Monday 2. Despite these disparities, there is warmth and friendship in each dynamic: Tawawa on Monday 2 indicates that whether it be something as intimate as kiss before heading to work, or simply being able to run into one another on a busy Monday morning train, there are constants in life worth looking forward to. Moreover, one needn’t be in a relationship to find meaningful human contact, either; although it is clear that the childhood friend, senior office worker and salaryman do yearn for a proper relationship with their love interests, even just being able to spend time with those around them is enough of a reason to get out of bed, head out the door and take on a new week with one’s best.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Originally, I had planned to write about Tawawa on Monday 2 all at once, but an uptick of interest in my old Tawawa on Monday posts piqued my curiosity. To my surprise, it turned out that Tawawa on Monday had a second season, which explained the influx of readers looking for Tawawa on Monday related posts. While I can’t say with confidence that these are my best posts in terms of offering readers with something unique, I can say that, like the drawings they originate from, Tawawa on Monday 2 is entertaining despite its short run.

  • Irrespective of what anime I’m watching, whether it’s a slice-of-life, adventure or something with more symbolism and imagery in it, I tend to consider what the work is trying to tell viewers through its themes. This is something that drives my enjoyment of a work, since seeing the themes is equivalent to walking a few kilometres in the creator’s shoes. Through Tawawa on Monday 2, I get the impression that Himura suggests that it’s small moments that make things worthwhile, and while he may have chosen a very specific kind of moment for Tawawa on Monday, one could easily generalise this to simpler things in general, whether it be a bit of courtesy from someone, or being able to watch a particularly striking sunrise while going to work.

  • Of course, anime dealing with those sorts of things would unlikely be to garner as much attention. Once Maegami and the teacher end up together, their lovemaking becomes sufficiently energetic so that the salaryman can overhear almost everything through the thin apartment walls, keeping him from sleeping. The salaryman briefly wishes he were doing that with Ai, only to stop and chastise himself for going thinking such thoughts. The desire for closeness does have a negative impact on the salaryman, leaving him a little dejected, and so, when Ai messages him to ask if he’s available to hang out over the weekend, he immediately accepts.

  • Tawawa on Monday is the originator of the so-called “Tawawa Challenge”, which became a bit of a fad amongst Japanese and Korean online communities. Because of their sheer size, Japanese and Korean fads can completely dominate all social media for a time once they gain enough momentum. In general, I greatly dislike internet memes because they depend entirely on repetition to be effective; in a discussion with a friend of mine, we concluded that proper humour comes from context, expectations, and timing. Making something comedic, then, is to set a context, and then subvert expectations at the opportune moment.

  • This is why Michael Hui, Sam Hui and Steven Chow’s movies are hilarious, as well as why jokes within the Marvel Cinematic Universe are funny when we are first exposed to them – they are unexpected. Similarly, in ecchi anime, the bulk of the humour comes from timing a moment to maximise embarrassment amongst the characters. Tawawa on Monday actually does not have many of these jokes, instead, relying on gentler moments to put a smile on viewers’ faces. Generally speaking, misunderstandings tend to happen with the other characters, and wherever Ai is concerned, things are family-friendly.

  • By all standards, Tawawa on Monday is tame, and the most risqué it ever gets here is when the characters show off a swimsuit, move around a great deal, or when tease one another. Tawawa on Monday 2 pushes things slightly when Ai remarks that the salaryman seems uncommonly apt at milking cows, and it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see where something like this could go, especially in a series that is as up front about mammaries as Tawawa on Monday 2.

  • While Ai and the salaryman enjoy their weekend outing to the farm, I’ll note that I’ve not been to a farm since I was in preschool; back then, they were fond of taking us to a petting farm on the northwestern edge of town. In those days, this petting farm would’ve been located quite a ways away from the edge of town, but owing to the fact that the subdivisions have grown uncontrollably over the past few decades, the petting farm is now only half a kilometre from the edge of town. When I was younger, I wondered how long my commute to work would be, since newer communities were always built further away, and a look at things suggests that, were I to buy a place in the newest community, my drive to work would jump from being a manageable 30 minutes, to 45 minutes.

  • To wrap things up, Ai and the salaryman enjoy a soft-serve ice cream made with fresh dairy before heading back into town. On their outing, the salaryman finds that everyone he encounters on this day has a similar figure to Ai; some of the staff at the farm were pretty stacked, and the salaryman gets distracted when the car wash attendant begins wiping down his vehicle. Fortunately, Ai doesn’t notice: she’s more curious to know how the salaryman would react were she to ask about swinging by his place after. Tawawa on Monday isn’t Higehiro, so this is one of those questions that will wisely remain unanswered.

  • Quite separately, the junior and senior office workers speak with one another over a few beers when the former swings by the latter’s place. After the junior has a few too many, she falls asleep, leaving the senior to wonder what on earth to do about her. Here, I will note that while it works for Himura, having unnamed characters makes it a bit tricky to refer to everyone in a discussion. I am reminded of Steven Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, where a majority of the characters have no names, and while Chow might be able to direct a film where no one refers to anyone else by name, this does make it difficult to know who one is referring to when talking about the story or characters.

  • Writing about Tawawa on Monday 2 brought back memories of why the original series had been tricky to capture good screenshots for – the camera has to pan frequently to show full-body shots, and landscape images aren’t always the best for these moments. Some writers get around the formatting limitation using animated GIFs, but I don’t use them simply because even in an age of multi-core processors, the act of rendering and decoding an animated GIF is expensive compared to video playback, where encoding algorithms have become so efficient that one could have multiple videos on a web page and suffer next to no performance lost. For me, moving images can be a little distracting, so I eschew them altogether and simply strive to find the best frame for a given moment.

  • When their mother finds a racy-looking bra, Ai and her sister are asked if it belongs to either of them. This ends up setting the stage for revelation that Maegami has moved to their apartment building; Ai and her sister meeting Maegami becomes a bit of a turning point in Tawawa on Monday in that until now, the different vignettes were relatively isolated. In the first season, Ai and the salaryman only ever meet on the train, and the junior and senior office workers similarly had their own little world. There’d been a few unrelated segments involving a personal trainer and a convenience store clerk, as well, but they never were a part of the main story as Tawawa on Monday 2 has done.

  • Connecting the characters’ story together makes the world of Tawawa on Monday more plausible and believable, as well as provides more opportunity to really flesh out a world that was originally about disparate, disconnected individuals. Looking around, because Tawawa on Monday 2 is a series of shorts, discussion for it has been limited. From what I’ve been able to see, people have similarly enjoyed the fact that the different segments are connected. Folks also indicate that giving the male characters voices whilst refraining from rendering their eyes creates a sort of discrepancy.

  • I do get where these individuals are coming from – voicing the characters means that, even though they’re supposed to be stand-ins for the viewer, hints of the voice actor’s own personalities show. This sort of effect is precisely why first person shooters of old had silent protagonists: developers argue that this would allow players to play their character in their own way and become the character. In later games, trends shifted away from this, and these days, characters from HaloDOOM and Wolfenstein are voiced, giving them a unique personality. There are merits and drawbacks to both approaches, although I do feel that if the males of Tawawa on Monday 2 are to be voiced, it would be nice to properly render them, too.

  • During the discussions I’ve seen, people are able to keep it mature and focused; in fact, the only exception comes from a single individual who argued that Maegami’s choices were immoral owing to the fact that student-teacher relationships represent a violation of trust by authority figures, and that nothing changes even after Maegami has graduated. This individual is grasping at straws here, since the teacher only chose to express his feelings once the pair were no longer student and teacher. The same individual had also popped in on a discussion about The Aquatope on White Sand and argued the anime was skating over the horrors that occurred in Okinawa and therefore, was being insensitive about history.

  • I’d contend that it was this individual who is being insensitive by foisting ignorant political opinions unto others – the choice to mention the mass suicides during the Battle of Okinawa and then contrast it with the tropical beauty on this island in The Aquatope on White Sand is meant to show how peacetime replaces horrors with normalcy, and that this is something people should be mindful of. Moreover, this individual incorrectly asserts that The Aquatope on White Sand is being “corrupt” and “dishonest” in its aesthetic. I counter that this is not the case; fiction oftentimes will abstract out other moving parts in life so that a particular learning can be presented. If works were to be wholly realistic, there’d be enough factors playing off one another so that a story cannot be reasonably resolved in a fixed timeframe.

  • This is why there are narrative devices fiction will employ to ensure that a story can conclude on a meaningful note if it is appropriate for said story. I’ve always found that individuals like these are putting in a little too much effort into trying to be the smartest person in the room – rather than making an effort to understand the story and objectives, they take it upon themselves to pass judgement on every moment an author has made a “mistake”. I’ve never figured out why people feel compelled to do this, especially in series where there is no significant philosophical, sociological, psychological or political content.

  • For Tawawa on Monday 2, talking about the cheerleader and her childhood friend proved to be the most tricky simply because I have no easy way of referring to them. Some folks call the childhood friend “baldy”, but this doesn’t fly with me, since “baldy” is a nickname that is used in both Sam Hui and Michael Hui’s films. I would therefore end up calling the childhood friend 光頭老鼠 (jyutping gwong1 tau4 lou5 syu2), but this name would only have meaning for me. To keep things consistent, I’ll refer to the childhood friend as such, and comment on the fact that every time he’s around, he’s clearly conflicted.

  • On one hand, he’s clearly attracted to the cheerleader, but is also embarrassed by her antics. The cheerleader herself is very fond of teasing him, and decides to strip down in  a bid to “persuade” him to let her copy his assignments, after her modelling work cuts into her time to study. Back in high school and middle school, it never took such persuasion for me to help fellow classmates with their work: while I never gave out answers for free, I would take the time to explain how to reach an answer and walk people through until an almost-answer, after which it’d click for them. The persuasion was unnecessary simply because the process also helped me to understand something a little better. Again, were Tawawa on Monday 2 to work like reality, I can imagine that the show would have far fewer viewers.

  • One can imagine the sort of trouble that could accompany someone around if their childhood friend was this open: in flashbacks, the cheerleader has no qualms with asking her childhood friend to check out her assets, even though he has no inclination to do so. Things are exacerbated by the fact that she tends to mention him a great deal, even giving him all of the credit when she manages to throw a strike at a local baseball game and is subsequently interviewed about it. It is clear that the cheerleader is very comfortable with who she is, but at the same time, she also knows how her childhood friend feels about things.

  • In reality, people are rarely so straightforward and upfront with their emotions, so this is the one area where I will count Tawawa on Monday 2 and its predecessor as being “unrealistic”. A recurring theme in many works of fiction is that, were people to be more honest about themselves and how they feel, many conflicts could be avoided. Of course, this is the sort of thing where hindsight is twenty-twenty, and it is only in the aftermath of something where a better course of action can be spotted more readily.

  • Of the stories seen in Tawawa on Monday 2, the cheerleader and her childhood friend most closely resembles those seen in the original Tawawa on Monday, being a relatively self-contained series of events. In Tawawa on Monday, I found that a lot of the events that occurred were left ambiguous, creating a sense of yearning amongst the characters; this is probably Himura’s way of saying that the people we develop crushes on may also reciprocate, but for our own reasons, people choose not to act on these feelings more often than not. There was one story in Tawawa on Monday‘s first season that stood out to me; a new salaryman runs into a lady who’d been a fellow classmate, and although she loved him, he never returned her feelings.

  • I suddenly feel that, were something like that to cross my path in reality now, I would absolutely take that chance and at least get to know that individual better over a coffee or similar. These stories were always my favourite, both in Tawawa on Monday and in other contexts: there’s something immeasurably romantic about having lost an opportunity long ago, only for the heavens to present one with another shot. Over the years, one would gain a better measure of themselves and what they’re seeking, so if the heart is still saying “yes” after all that time, then one’s way forward would be clear.

  • It is not lost on me that Ai and the salaryman actually make only a limited appearance in Tawawa on Monday 2: the series is predominantly focused on Maegami and the teacher. While I adore that story greatly, Tawawa on Monday‘s short format means that any time spent with Maegami and the teacher is time not spent on anyone else. Here, Ai gives her friend a death glare after the latter’s antics causes her bra strap to snap during class.

  • As recompense, Ai forces her friend to accompany her to pick out a replacement, although in the end, Ai herself must foot the bill. This topic had been covered in a very tasteful and mature manner back in Yama no Susume, and I had a reader remark on how when properly done, anime can cover all sorts of topics without ever overstepping into the realm of the inappropriate. With this being said, Tawawa on Monday isn’t exactly Yama no Susume, and the only thing sharing these two series share in common is their extremely short runtime.

  • At the store, Ai and her friend run into Maegami, who remarks that this is the curse of being well-endowed. Curiosity led me to take a look at some supplementary materials, and it is stated that Maegami ended up using a variety of techniques to boost her own bust in an attempt to win the teacher over. A quick glance around finds that all of the techniques are ineffectual at best. I imagine that anime parody these techniques precisely because which appear to be little more than an old wives’ tale; size is a consequence of genetics, body composition, age and a host of factors.

  • The page quote was chosen because for posts like these, I’ve usually got nothing too meaningful to quite from; for such scenarios, there’s a host of humourous and comical quotes I can draw from. There are some jokes that are stymied by a cultural barrier; for instance, if I were to remark that Maegami and the teacher were “playing mahjong”, only folks who’ve seen Michael Hui’s The Private Eyes would understand what I’m saying. As such, I will aim to bring something to the table that folks can appreciate. So, I’ll stick to Captain America’s remarks in a detention video sourced from Spiderman: Homecoming – it certainly does seem to fit with the recurring trend in Tawawa on Monday of Ai growing past her namesake.

  • After coming home, Ai is surprised to see her mother and sister throwing her a 100 centimetre club party, leading to this reaction of resignation/exasperation. With this particular milestone, it would appear that Ai’s beaten out every other person in Tawawa on Monday, although it’s not one she’s terribly proud of.

  • The finale has Maegami realising her dream of marrying the teacher. Ai, her sister and mother both attend the ceremony, while the junior and senior office workers pass by, leading the junior to openly wish she could get married some day, causing the senior no small amount of embarrassment. I would imagine that both do have feelings for one another to an extent, although both are too bashful to admit it, creating a sort of status quo that leads to the junior being very friendly towards the senior in ways that could be misinterpreted.

  • After Ai catches the bridal bouquet, Maegami approaches her and wishes her the best in capturing the heart whoever catches her fancy. The bouquet toss is said to be an ancient tradition, and whoever catches the bouquet is next in line to get married. That Ai’s mind goes straight to the salaryman makes it evident that she’s come to like him greatly, although where things end up is something that remains to be seen – a part of the charm of Tawawa on Monday is the fact that the dynamic between the salaryman and Ai is a not-quite relationship. In my time, I’ve had far too many of these to count, and while this can seem depressing, being able to have someone to talk to proved cathartic and calming. If and when I’m asked now, the responsibility for not kicking things up a notch falls entirely on me: I’m the sort of person who doesn’t fall in love until much later, when I get to know someone better, but I’m a bit slower here, so by then, that individual’s gone.

  • Tawawa on Monday 2 ends with Ai and the salaryman promising to do their best this week, too. The twelfth episode is the finale for the series proper, but there is an OVA that I am planning on watching and writing about. Having said this, I do find the task of writing about Tawawa on Monday 2‘s OVA a little daunting; writing for Tawawa on Monday 2 proved quite tricky, since it deals with a topic I’ve not any practical experience in. I hope that my posts on Tawawa on Monday 2 are at least readable and somewhat entertaining for readers, and I’ll wrap up by saying the next post I write about, for The Aquatope on White Sand, will be something I am more learned in.

With Tawawa on Monday 2 in the books, it is clear that the first and second seasons are as different as night and day. The first season had been a ways more disconnected, resembling its origins more closely in that there wasn’t a cohesive storyline to follow. By comparison, Tawawa on Monday 2 still showcases glimpses into the characters’ lives, but everything is linked together by the fact that Maegami is getting married to her love; her experiences positively impact Ai and her sister, as well as give the junior office worker a bit of a push. The senior office worker has similarly spotted the teacher picking out an engagement ring, and finds himself wondering if he should ask out his junior. Ai also knows of the cheerleader, who in turn has been seen on a television program the office workers were watching. These connections mean that, compared to its predecessor, Tawawa on Monday 2 is a shade warmer; rather than a sense of empty longing, Tawawa on Monday 2 feels cozier by comparison. I imagine this is a consequence of the fact that the first season had simply been a set of original net animations meant to bring the original sketches to life, whereas by Tawawa on Monday 2, the series has been better established and therefore, able to really bring out the original feeling that Himura had been attempting to convey: not only does conversation bring a bit of joy into one’s lives, but they can also be a driving force behind bringing people together. Altogether, this isn’t a bad outcome for a series that is better known for teasing viewers with a world where bust size clearly does not adhere to the normal distribution: it is no joke when I say that, were Tawawa on Monday to have less-endowed characters, the series would still be effective in its conveying its messages. However, the curvaceous characters form much of the series’ appeal, and I imagine that, were Ai and the others a little less stacked, viewership for Tawawa on Monday would likely be lessened.

Battlefield 2042: Twelve Hours of Solo All-Out Warfare and First Impressions

“All great beginnings start in the dark, when the moon greets you to a new day at midnight.” –Shannon L. Alder

Buckshot sails past my teammate and into my skull, sending me back to the deployment screen. In past Battlefield games, I’d be shown the foe who killed me, and I would wonder if that player had been lucky, skilled, or if their level was low, using cheats. However, there’s no time for such thoughts here in Battlefield 2042; I decide to spawn into the M1A5, and moments later, I’m back in the heat of combat. This time, I’m protected by composite armour in all directions. I proceed to single-handedly slaughter an entire capture point on my own and buy my team some breathing room, but in that time, the enemy team has managed to begin capturing another point on the map. I immediately race over, leaving a trail of dust and destruction in my wake. Battlefield 2042 represents a dramatic departure from the class-based multiplayer shooter that DICE had perfected over the years. For one, it is now possible to play solo on a private instance, and this alone has made Battlefield 2042 a relaxing experience. This year, the mantra “at my own pace” has dominated my discussions. I am happiest when taking in entertainment in the manner of my choosing, and Battlefield 2042‘s solo modes have provided exactly this. The AI bots I join in a given match play as humans would. They capture objectives, fire on me when I draw near and duck for cover when I return fire. While their performance can vary, they can be challenging and unpredictable like human players, but unlike human players, possess no ill-will towards me. No AI bot has yet killed me from across the map with a shotgun, camped in a single spot all match to spawn frag teammates, or singled me out in text chat for a fight. For this reason, Battlefield 2042 is fun; spared the trouble of having to deal with an excessively zealous enemy team and teammates who can’t perform, players who believe camping is a legitimate strategy and folks who count on cheats to gain the upper hand, I am able to properly play Battlefield 2042 at my own pace. The pressures associated with multiplayer evaporate as I am able to focus purely on a goal for that match. If I’m intending to give a newly-unlocked weapon a go, I can equip the base weapon and not worry about being destroyed by players using the optimal loadouts. If I wish to rank up my tanks, I can park on a capture point and hammer away at foes towards the unlock thresholds without try-hards from the other team destroying my tank with air-to-ground missiles. In fact, the absence of highly proficient pilots means for the first time in a Battlefield game, I’ve been able to learn how to fly, as well. Previously, I’d be shot down by enemy pilots who’ve unlocked everything for their air vehicles of choice within seconds of spawning in to an aircraft, but the AI bots in Battlefield 2042 lack the same level of aggression, giving me a chance to learn how to fly in a live match.

The solo experience is a complete breath of fresh air from previous titles, where I’d necessarily need to play against overly-determined foes who care only about their stats, and Battlefield 2042 has met expectations in this area. Similarly, thanks to two post-launch patches from DICE, gunplay has become sufficiently smooth so that assault rifles can perform at medium ranges. Performance is, for the most part, satisfactory – my aging hardware still runs Battlefield 2042 on medium settings. In this way, I’ve spent twelve hours playing against AI bots in the solo All-Out Warfare mode, and I’ve reached level 18. Over these twelve hours, I’ve played enough to determine that Battlefield 2042 is sufficiently satisfying so that I will be continuing with the game as it continues to mature and grow. Battlefield 2042‘s launch has been rough, and I’ve heard that since launch, player count has decreased by upwards of seventy percent. The game is one of the most negatively reviewed games on Steam, and day after day, endless Reddit threads are created, instructing others not to buy the game. While most of it is irrelevant or overblown, some of these feedbacks have merit: Battlefield 2042‘s problems lie predominantly in performance issues, lack of essential quality-of-life features like a server browser and scoreboard, and the fact that solo modes offer drastically reduced experience points compared to multiplayer proper. These are the sorts of things that should be slotted under DICE’s “high severity, high priority” fixes. The other point that I’m in agreement with are the map designs the new All-Out Warfare maps. While the maps themselves are visually stunning, there is far too much empty space between congregation points. This means that for most players, the average match will consist of sprinting to a capture point, perhaps scoring a few kills and then dying instantly to a sniper, or sprinting to a capture point and being killed by an enemy helicopter along the way. There’s no buildings or vegetation to provide cover for moving infantry, and there’s not enough vehicles, like quad bikes, to allow squads an accessible means of swiftly moving between capture points. I also find myself unable to join a squad of AI players, resulting in long walks should I ever die. The recurring joke, that Battlefield 2042 is a virtual track-and-field simulator, holds true in solo All-Out Warfare; in the absence of a vehicle, I tend to stay at one capture point because of how long it would take to hoof it over to the nearby control points, even on the smaller maps solo players are provided with. A bit of extrapolation would find that larger maps would be very difficult to traverse. It would be phenomenal for DICE to address these issues in their maps: Battlefield V initially had similar problems, and without dramatically changing up maps, DICE had fixed these issues by providing a handful of respawning motorcycles at capture points and adding fences, foliage and trenches to make it easier for infantry to move around in. The community appears to believe otherwise for the present, but DICE’s track record speaks for itself: Battlefield games typically start out roughly, and then improve over time. As such, it is likely the case that over time, Battlefield 2042 will improve – maps will be updated to handle better, basic UI elements will return, and, if my luck holds, optimisations will be introduced so even older rigs like mine can run the game with reasonable frame rates.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because I spent a total of six hours on the Orbital map during Battlefield 2042‘s open beta, I’ve elected to play on different maps. Playing multiplayer proper means utilising Battlefield 2042‘s matchmaking system, and from what I’ve heard, this approach makes it really tricky to play on one’s preferred maps. Unfortunate player can get stuck on the same map two or three times in a row; as such, having a proper server browser would be mandatory. In my case, since I’m playing solo, I have the choice of picking which map I play on every time.

  • Here, I play on Hourglass, a sand-swept portrayal of Qatar’s Doha. Massive skyscrapers can be seen in the distance, and although the illuminated city is gorgeous, there is a lot of open space on the map, making a  vehicle mandatory. In earlier Battlefield games, I’ve commented that one thing I enjoy most about a well-designed map is that there is enough variety to accommodate all combat options without favouring any one weapon type or play-style. The larger maps of Battlefield 2042 openly favour vehicles, and early in my experience, I found that I could single-handedly control the tide of battle if I were to spawn into a tank: here, I destroy an enemy vehicle and earn myself a killtacular in the process.

  • The experience gain in solo mode might be stymied, but the flip-side is that unlocks for weapons and vehicles progress normally. This makes solo a great place to become familiar with weapons and vehicles; when something is initially unlocked, there are no additional options available for it, and its handling might require some time to get used to. Previously, trying newly-unlocked weapons out on human servers would be painful, since I’d be destroyed in the blink of eye by folks playing better weapons. Conversely, here in solo All-Out Warfare, I am afforded the chance to get used to a base weapon. Here, I shoot a helicopter out of the sky with the M1A5, the American MBT, in a manner reminiscent of my Battlefield 3 days.

  • Kaleidoscope is set in Songdo, South Korea, and it is another map where there is a large central business district surrounding the actual map itself, a large open park with little cover. The park area offers next to no cover, and one can be attacked from all angles even if they are cautious; people report that nothing is more frustrating than surviving a harrowing firefight at close quarters with another squad, only to be picked off by distant snipers. These events have led some to express a wish for DICE to modify the maps. While the maps themselves cannot be easily changed in terms of layout, simple changes like adding trenches, fences and foliage as cover would make a massive difference.

  • These small changes would allow for more close-quarters environments and also break up the line of sight for snipers, forcing snipers to play more strategically. DICE has previously done something similar in Battlefield V: the Panzerstorm map was notorious for favouring vehicles, and anyone who spawned into a tank could decimate infantry unchallenged. The map was later altered so trenches and fences broke up open fields, giving infantry flanking routes and allowing them to sneak up to vehicles in order to counterattack.

  • I can now say that the AI bots in Battlefield 2042 are definitively a cut above the bots in other games I’ve played: Battlefield 2042 bots can traverse the maps well enough to capture objectives and force players to respond, will reprioritise their focus if I fire on them, and utilise their equipment when appropriate. I have died on several occasions to bots that would astutely swap over to their M5 Recoilless Rifles and hammer my tank with rockets, and similarly, enemy tankers immediately stop firing on infantry with their coaxial MG and change over to their MPAT rounds to take me out when I arrive.

  • This isn’t to say that AI bots can replace human players: there are some moments where the bots can become pretty bone-headed as a result of limitations in their decision algorithms: towards the end of a given Breakthrough match, AI bots will always just congregate on the capture point in the aim of keeping players from capturing it. Allied bots similarly seem to have a problem rushing in to take the points, and as such, the end of a match on some maps becomes impossible to win on my own. However, other maps give me a chance to drive a vehicle onto the capture point and finish the match off quickly.

  • Having now had the chance to try the PBX-45, I’ve found it a superbly reliable and enjoyable weapon to use. The base weapon has low recoil is low, high firing rate and good hip fire accuracy. When aiming down sights, tap-firing the PBX-45 allows it to reach out further than one would imagine. The PBX-45 is inspired by the LWRC SMG-45, a next-generation submachine gun firing the .45 ACP rounds and entered production in 2019. Battlefield 2042‘s weapons are all inspired by existing weapons, but rather than going with venerable classics such as the HK416 or AK12, DICE has opted to go with cutting-edge weapons.

  • Here, I drive a tank on another match of Breakthrough on Breakaway, which is set in Antarctica’s Queen Maud Land region. As it turns out, Shōwa Station (as seen in A Place Further Than The Universe) is also located in Queen Maud Land. Battlefield 2042 supposes that by 2042, illegal drilling operations will have occurred here. For me, Breakaway is probably my favourite of the Battlefield 2042‘s maps; besides sporting excellent scenery, there’s actually a bit of cover to utilise in between the different capture points. Despite being a snowy, icy map, Breakaway is broken up with rocky regions and a massive drilling platform, adding variety to the map.

  • It turns out that the bolt action rifles do have penetration; I found this out when I landed a double kill with a single shot while pushing towards the final set of capture points. While solo All-Out Warfare is fine for levelling up even with the constraints in mind, the fact that everything is so far apart means that firefights are less frequent. I would like to see DICE implement deathmatch options for both multiplayer and solo/co-op in All-Out Warfare, as it would offer players a means of focusing purely on unlocking attachments for their new weapons.

  • For me, the biggest problems in Battlefield 2042 at this moment are performance issues and the fact that progression in Battlefield Portal is restricted. Things like aesthetics can be improved over time, and DICE historically has a good track record when it comes to fixing bugs surrounding ballistic properties and UX. I bought Battlefield 2042 for the fact that one can play against AI bots, and in this area, the game does handle in a satisfactory, if less-than-ideal, manner. However, being restricted in experience gain is a bizarre decision, and the outcome is that a vast majority of players, like myself, are punished by the actions of a few number of players.

  • The solution for experience farming is, theoretically, a simple enough concept: if a server alters AI behaviour and attributes like health to beyond a certain threshold (e.g. setting AI to stand still or having less than half of normal health), then XP is automatically disabled for that server. Otherwise, progression equivalent to that of solo All-Out Warfare would be permitted. This approach would allow solo players to be rewarded for spending time in the game, while only punishing those who abuse Battlefield Portal‘s capabilities. This would be the optimal solution, but in the absence of such an implementation, I still see myself playing Battlefield Portal on its own: everything in this mode is fully unlocked from the start and ready to go for players.

  • For the sake of exploring every map, I ended up swinging by Discarded, which is set in Alang, India. This map features the rusting husks of derelict cargo ships that are being decommissioned and scrapped for parts. The ships themselves are massive, and their labyrinthine interiors are perfect for close quarters combat, whereas outside, wide open spaces on the muddy coasts facilitate sniping and vehicular combat. The extremities in the maps justifies the presence of a + system, which is the colloquial name for the menu that allows for weapon attachments to be swapped on the fly, just like in Crysis. While the system was initially questioned, I’ve actually found it to be quite powerful.

  • Even though I’m presently only able to switch between a handful of sight, barrel and under-barrel types, being able to switch out a holographic sight for long range optics and exchange a suppressor for a heavy barrel has meant I could change my optimal combat range when going from the interiors of a ship, to the wide open plains surrounding each vessel. The + system actually does add a bit of nuance to things, and picking attachments to best suit one’s play style at certain ranges enhances Battlefield‘s weapon customisation system. As players unlock more options for their weapons, it is possible to have an assault rifle handle more like a submachine gun for unexpected close quarter situations with a change to the equipped ammunition and barrel attachment, for instance.

  • During one match of Conquest on Discarded, I ended up boarding an attack helicopter and scored my first-ever kill with a helicopter in any Battlefield game. Until now, the presence of other players meant I never had the chance to learn the controls. While the AI bots are smart enough to train their anti-air guns and missiles towards the sky when I fly, they are nowhere nearly as persistent as human opponents. In this way, I learned how to move the helicopters and get it to go exactly where I wanted it to go, and I also got a better measure for the weapons available from the pilot’s seat.

  • Back on the ground, I will remark that Angel is the best specialist, bar none, for solo All-Out Warfare; his passive ability is to revive downed allies faster and bring them up with their armour topped off, while his equipment allows him to call in a loadout crate. This ability is the most mundane of the specialists, but in practise, it is also the most useful of the abilities. I am now able to switch weapons and gadgets outright if a situation changes: if I am pinned down in an area, I can call in a crate and switch over to the medic loadout, then as soon as I extricate myself, I can return to an anti-armour role. Similarly, if opponents begin engaging me from ranges beyond what I’ve configured my assault rifle to do, I can pop over to a DMR or bolt action rifle.

  • The initial smart rockets attack helicopters have access to are underwhelming and require a few hits in order to kill, but I ended up getting the hang of them. My goal now is to unlock the 70 mm anti-personnel rockets for both factions, which lack anti-armour properties but would be particularly lethal against infantry. Generally speaking, an attack helicopter is at its best when there’s another player occupying the gunner’s seat: they can focus on an anti-infantry role while I deal with vehicles. In the absence of a gunner, and in the knowledge that the AI aren’t overly aggressive about anti-air combat, I have also found success by raising the helicopter’s altitude, switch to the gunner’s seat to clean up infantry on the ground, and then return to the pilot’s seat so I can steer the helicopter back into the air for another attack run.

  • It feels a little unusual to run a predominantly support player without LMGs, and Battlefield 2042 has a rather disappointing two LMGs available for players to unlock at this point in time. The LMG that I do have access to right now, the LCMG, is a decent option to run, and I’ve found it to be quite useful for clearing areas out; on Kaleidoscope on Breakthrough, the last capture point is located on the roof of a skyscraper, and this creates an unusual situation where the defenders are guaranteed to win because the allied AI have no chance of breaking through in a concerted fashion. However, the placement of enemy AI also means that one could capitalise on their behaviour to score kills and work towards their weapon progression.

  • A week ago, it was Black Friday, and I ended up going shopping for new bed frames and mattresses, where I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I saved a hundred dollars on my bed frame. This weekend, the day was spent finishing off the Christmas shopping – I finished most of mine back in the first week of November, having anticipated that supply chain problems could make Christmas shopping considerably more difficult. At present, there are only a few odds and ends to look after, and gifts for the folks most important to me are already secured, leaving me to leisurely browse the local mall. Winter has also begun arriving in my region: the past week had been snowy, and today saw -6ºC temperatures with gentle flurries.

  • A Cantonese-style dinner wrapped up what was a relaxing and somewhat brisk day –  sweet and sour pork with mayonnaise and apricots, beef brisket and daikon, seafood Chinese broccoli and 小炒皇 (jyutping siu2 caau2 wong4, a stir-fry with fish, shrimps, chicken and deep-fried tofu) ended up being the perfect way to take the edge from a cooler night. This weekend is a bit of a breather from the recent flurry of activity, and in the weeks upcoming, the goal will be to finalise the furniture for our new place. The beds, wall units,  couches, coffee table, desks and shelves are good to go, so all that’s left are night tables, shelves for the bedrooms and dining table. Once those are bought, I can capitalise on that vacation time to begin building the furniture, and then begin moving some personal effects over.

  • Sniping in the open beta was a little inconsistent, but with the fixes that have occurred since Battlefield 2042‘s launch, sniping has become a superbly enjoyable activity. I miss the days when the game would give players bonuses for landing headshots from extreme ranges: besides rewarding sharpshooting and skill, it was also an elegant way of telling players their headshot distance. Here, I nail a shot on an AI bot from about 200 metres away; bullet drop in Battlefield 2042 is less pronounced than it was in Battlefield 3 or 4, although this is purely something I’m saying based on observation, and I feel that I’ll still find it useful to spend more time with bolt action rifles.

  • Because I’m certainly not a skilled pilot by any stretch, being able to hop into a match of solo Breakthrough or Conquest and practise flying in the context of a live match has been remarkably helpful. In previous Battlefield games, this simply wouldn’t be possible, and while tutorials are offered, I’ve found that like real life, I tend to learn best when given a chance to apply the basics towards a tangible objective. This is how I picked up C# and Unity for the Giant Walkthrough Brain and how I became a self-taught iOS Developer.

  • The sandbox environment in Battlefield similarly is conducive for self-driven learning, and looking back, this is something I’ve come to enjoy from all of the Battlefield games I’ve picked up. According to the blog’s archives, I wrote about my first impressions of Battlefield V about three years ago. Back then, I found the most frustrating aspect of the game was player visibility. Beyond this, I was hopeful that DICE would continue introducing new content to the game, and while Battlefield V ended support a year-and-a-half into its life, the game did end in a decent state. While visibility was never adequately addressed, DICE did fix a host of issues with Battlefield V, leaving it in a playable state after support for the game was dropped. Unfortunately, the game succumbed to cheaters, and after that final match on Al Marj Encampment in mid-June last year, I’ve never returned. Had Battlefield V offered a solo mode with AI bots, the story would be very different.

  • At around this time three years earlier, I had just accepted a new job offer and had a few weeks to myself. Besides sleeping in and perhaps spending a little more time playing Battlefield V than I would have otherwise, I also decided to take the bus downtown to get a feel for the route one morning. That day, I also ended up enjoying a delicious Lobster and Scrambled Eggs poutine from a local breakfast institution, as well as explore the then newly-opened central library, where I spent the entire morning reading Reader’s Digest’s Treasures of China, a beautiful coffee table book that showcases the beautiful landscapes and dazzling cultural artefacts of China. I’d given up hope of reading that book again, but thanks to a bit of holiday magic in the present, that book will be joining my private library this Christmas along with Smithsonian’s Space, another book I’d been longing to buy.

  • Like Battlefield 2042Battlefield V‘s launch was a bit rough, and players back then similarly decried the lack of content and numerous bugs. However, since DICE did add extensively to Battlefield V‘s content and patched out the more critical bugs, the game became much more immersive: the Pacific Update stands as one of my favourite expansions to any Battlefield game ever. Owing to this history, I hold similar expectations for Battlefield 2042 and will anticipate that with time, more primary weapons, sidearms and maps will be added to the game. For now, though, I am content to work through the unlocks that are available, and here, I manage to score a killtacular on enemies chilling in a vehicle using the M5 Recoilless Rifle. AI bots are fond of gathering in vehicles, making multi-kills quite common.

  • The SVK is modelled after the SVCh (Snaiperskaya Vintovka Chukavin), a Russian designated marksman rifle manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern. The real world equivalent is designed to supplant the SVD marksman rifle and unlike its predecessor, is a modular weapon that can accommodate different calibres and possesses a Picatinny rail, allowing it to mount different attachments. From what I’ve seen of the SVK so far, it hits harder than the DM7, but has a reduced magazine capacity. The default optic is also a little tricky to use.

  • Conversely, the AK24 is an excellent assault rifle: par the course for the Kalashnikov derivatives, the AK24 has a slower firing rate and more recoil than the M5A3, but in exchange, hits harder per round and is more reliable at range. In the beginning, I only had the iron sights for it, but as I’d mentioned in the open beta post, iron sights no longer bother me quite as much as they did during my Battlefield 3 days: being forced to use iron sights in Battlefield 1 and V has seen to it that I’ve adjusted, and in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, not having a sight also meant being able to equip an alternate attachment instead.

  • While I’ve yet to unlock the attachments that bring out the best in the AK24, even having a few attachments to bolster the weapon’s performance slightly is welcome. Shortly after unlocking the AK24, I returned to Revival to see how the weapon handled, and that particular match was exhilarating: my team had fallen behind early on, but thanks to my captures, we held the lead until late game, when the opposing team managed to sweep victory from under us by the margin of five tickets. The outcome was as lifelike as any match against human opponents.

  • As such, while Battlefield 2042 still needs a bit of work before I’m ready to step into the realm of multiplayer, the solo mode has proven to be satisfactory, offering me a modernised sandbox environment to play in without worrying about rampant cheaters and juvenile players plastering memes into text chat. As such, I see no merit in paying too much heed to the non-stop vitriol that is being generated on social media; at the end of the day, I’m having fun, and that’s all that matters. I have seen that Battlefield is most enjoyable with some mates, but since most of my friends don’t have an interest in this series, I’ve spent the whole of Battlefield 341 and V on my own. This has never diminished my experience in any way, and admittedly, it is fun to see how far I can get on my own.

  • Having now gained a rough idea of how Battlefield 2042‘s solo modes handle, I do see myself returning, at my leisure, to unlock things and have a good time in my private sandboxes, away from a community that has only become more negative and unbearable since I last wrote about Battlefield. I don’t play Battlefield for a living, and I don’t tie my self-worth to my performance in a video game, so I see little reason to participate in that particular side of the community; so long as the game provides me the large-scale sandbox experience I’ve come to love, I will continue to enjoy it. Finally, DICE has announced that a new map will be joining Battlefield 2042 – this map is called “Exposure”, and I am rather looking forwards to checking it out. This time around, thanks to the presence of a solo mode, I am similarly confident that I’ll be able to easily explore the map once it becomes available.

My impressions after spending twelve hours in Battlefield 2042 have been largely positive, thanks in no small part to the fact that it is now possible to get a private All-Out Warfare session going. Here, the limitations that affect the larger multiplayer mode are not as apparent. Map sizes are slightly smaller, and vehicles are always available, making travel a little easier. I’m squaring off on a server of 63 AI, rather than 128 human players, so performance is similarly less of an issue. For this reason, I do see myself staying in the solo All-Out Warfare experience for the foreseeable future. While being killed by cheaters and having to contend with youth whose vocabulary seems limited to memes is annoying, the main reason why the AI bots remain appealing is simply from the fact that my machine is aging and therefore, unlikely to be able to keep up on a server of 128 human players. While perhaps speaking poorly of Battlefield 2042‘s multiplayer component, these observations also serve to show how powerful AI bots have become. We are now at a point where I am able to play a convincing match against AI bots without ever encountering human players, and although the AI bots are still limited (allies and foes alike do not adapt to situations as quickly as humans would), I’ve nonetheless had a solid time so far. The biggest impediment right now is the fact that experience and unlocks are constrained right now thanks to the actions of a few impertinent players creating “1 HP EASY XP FARM” modes and flooding Battlefield Portal with these servers during the game’s early access period. The problem was exacerbated by unethical gaming journalists promoting these modes as a means of quickly levelling up during this timeframe, harming the experience for the remainder of the players. The reduced XP has made it far slower to unlock new weapons and gear, as well as outright preventing attachments from being unlocked in custom TDM experiences. So far, this has not been an impediment, but as I continue to level up, and the experience required for each successive level increases, I imagine that I will be feeling the effects of this more severely, the further I level up: DICE and EA did assure players that they would have full access to progression regardless of which modes they play, so it is imperative that progression be returned to Battlefield Portal such that it is at least similar to what it is in solo All-Out Warfare. DICE has had a history of sorting out issues to create increasingly stable and consistently enjoyable games, so I am hoping that Battlefield Portal and solo All-Out Warfare will receive their own fixes in the near future. In the meantime, I will continue advancing through Battlefield 2042 at my own pace – Battlefield 2042‘s latest patch was a major one and addresses a large number of in-game issues that improved gameplay in a tangible way, and most excitingly, added vehicular combat TDM to Battlefield Portal. This particular mode has been of great interest to me – it will now be possible to properly set up a server where I can simulate the outcome of pitting myself against AnimeSuki’s conceited Mädchen und Panzer World of Tanks clan to settle a decade-old argument, and I have a special discussion in mind on this matter once I get that game mode set up.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: K-On! The Movie (Eiga Keion!), A Review, Recommendation and Remarks On Serendipity At The Film’s Ten Year Anniversary

We’re buddies from here on out!
Pictures of us together,
Our matching keychains
Will shine on forever
And always, we thank you for your smile

—Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!

With its theatrical première ten years previously to this day, K-On! The Movie has aged very gracefully from both a thematic and technical standpoint. The film follows Houkago Tea Time shortly following their acceptance to university. With their time in high school drawing to a close, the girls attempt to come up with a suitable farewell gift for Azusa, who had been a vital member of their light music club. Feeling it best to be a surprise, they try to keep this from Azusa. When word nearly gets out, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi wind up fabricating that their “secret” is a graduation trip. The girls decide on London; after arranging for their flight and accommodations, the girls arrive in London and sightsee, before performing at a Japanese pop culture fair. Upon their return home, the girls perform for their classmates and finalise their song for Asuza. Simple, sincere and honest, K-On! The Movie represented a swan song for the K-On! franchise’s animated adaptation, making the extent of Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi’s gratitude towards Azusa tangible: K-On! The Movie is a journey to say “Thank You”, and as Yui and the others discover, while their moments spent together might be finite, the treasured memories resulting from these everyday moments are infinitely valuable. Ultimately, representing the sum of these feelings is done by means of a song; music is universally regarded as being able to convey emotions, thoughts and ideas across linguistic and cultural barriers, and so, it is only appropriate that the girls decide to make a song for Azusa. However, Yui and the others initially struggle to find the right words for their song. It is serendipitous that a fib, done to keep Azusa from knowing about her graduation gift, sends the girls to London. During this trip, Azusa undertakes the role of a planner. She handles the logistics to ensure that everyone can visit their destinations of choice and on top of this, fit their travels so that they can honour a commitment to perform at a festival. At the top of her game in both keeping things organised, and looking out for Yui, Azusa is exhausted at the end of their travels. Once they agree to writing a song, Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi set about composing the lyrics for it. When they begin to draft the lyrics, they come to realise how integral Azusa has been to Houkago Tea Time, a veritable angel for the club. This is the birth of Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! (Touched by an Angel), an earnest song whose direct lyrics convey how everyone feels about Azusa. Because everyone’s spent so much time together, Azusa’s presence in Houkago Tea Time is very nearly taken for granted. It takes a trip to London for Yui and the others to discover anew what Azusa has done for everyone: from planning out the trip and fitting their itinerary to everyone’s satisfaction, to keeping an eye on the scatter-minded Yui, Azusa’s actions during the London trip act as the catalyst that reminds everyone of how her presence in the Light Music Club has helped everyone grow.

Azusa is also evidently selfless, worrying about others ahead of herself: when the others notice her slowing down in the Underground, Azusa mentions that her new shoes are somewhat uncomfortable. She insists it’s fine, but Yui figures they can buy new shoes for her. Because of Houkago Tea Time’s easygoing approach to things, this detour into an adventure of sorts at Camden. However, K-On! The Movie is not an anime about travel; sightseeing is condensed into a montage, and greater emphasis is placed on the girls’ everyday moments together. Subtle, seemingly trivial moments are given more screen time than visiting the London Eye, or David Bowie’s House, reminding viewers that Houkago Tea Time is about its members, not where they go. While it is likely that any destination would have accomplished the same, visiting London, the birthplace of many famous musicians whose style have influenced the Light Music Club’s music, proved to be an appropriate choice that also sets the stage for the girls to compose their song for Azusa, showing that London had a role in inspiring Yui and the others. With crisp animation, attention paid to details, a solid aural component and a gentle soundtrack, K-On! The Movie is executed masterfully to bring this story of gratitude to life for viewers. Its staying power and timeless quality comes from a story that is immediately relatable: many viewers have doubtlessly wondered how to best express thanks for those who have helped them through so much, and more often than not, found that simple gestures of appreciation can often be the most meaningful. Naoko Yamada mentioned in an interview that one of the challenges about K-On! The Movie was trying to scale it up to fit the silver screen. This challenge is mirrored in the film, where Yui wonders how to create a gift of appropriate scale to show everyone’s appreciation for Azusa; in the end, just as how the girls decide on a gift that is appropriately scaled, Yamada’s film ends up covering a very focused portrayal of Houkago Tea Time that works well with the silver screen: less is more, and by focusing on a single thing, the movie ends up being very clear and concise in conveying its theme. A major part of K-On!‘s original strength was instilling a sense of appreciation for the everyday, mundane things in life; the film’s success in scaling things up is from its ability to take something as simple as finding a gift to express thanks and then meticulously detailing how this gift matured over time into the final product viewers know as Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!. However, while director Naoko Yamada fills K-On! The Movie with the series’ previous sense of joy and energy, the overall aesthetic of K-On! The Movie is unlike that of its predecessors. For the past ten years, I’ve wondered why the film felt different – the film is still K-On! at heart, but there was a feeling of melancholy and sadness about the film that was absent in the TV series. For the past decade, I’ve lacked the words to express this, but here at K-On! The Movie‘s ten year anniversary, it is worthwhile to look at why the film continues to endure – since the film became available, I’ve watched K-On! The Movie once a year, every year.

While K-On! The Movie opens with Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi playing one of Death Devil’s songs to see what things would be like if their band had a different aesthetic, and then segues to the cheerful, Christmas-like Ichiban Ippai!, Yui and the others head off to discard some rubbish from the club room. As they walk through a sun-filled corridor leading into the courtyard, a contemplative piano begins playing in the background. Yui gazes out into the courtyard. The entire scene is faded out, featuring very little colour compared to when they’d been in the clubroom, and Yui opens by saying that she’s feeling that they should do something befitting of a senior. The moment’s composition was quite unlike anything else seen in K-On!; even though colour and joy do return to K-On! The Movie moments later, one cannot help but feel a lingering sense of sadness in knowing that, this is the end for K-On!. Much as how Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi know their time with Azusa is drawing to a close, viewers know that for every smile and laugh the girls share throughout this film, there is a point where things will inevitably come to an end. Moments like these return after the girls come back home from London. Whereas their travels had been filled with colour, upon returning home, the world becomes faded out and desaturated again. The music becomes slower, gentler and carry with it a sort of finality. Those feelings had been set aside among the excitement in London, but back in Japan, they return in full force. This melancholy, however, is not overwhelming at all. Instead, it adds to K-On! The Movie, emphasising the beauty of the girls’ previous experiences together, and that despite its impermanence, the friendship between Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa is very real. While they might part ways for the present, that it existed at all counts for something. This respect for that which is transient and fleeting creates a very unusual feeling which the Japanese describe as Mono no Aware (物の哀れ, “the pathos of things”): something is beautiful because it isn’t going to last forever. This juxtaposition and seemingly contradictory set of feelings results in a bittersweetness surrounding a given moment, and much as how viewers are aware that after the movie, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi will part ways with Azusa, the fact is that they will hold onto and cherish the countless memories they have of one another, too. It is because of these memories that everyone is able to accept that they are moving onwards into the future. Yamada’s masterful inclusion of gently wistful musical pieces and choice of colour in K-On! The Movie speak to notions of Mono no Aware, and in this way, weaves a central piece of Japanese aesthetic into the film: nothing, not even friendships, last, but this is just a part of life. Seeing K-On! The Movie capture Mono no Aware speaks to the depth of in this film, and while K-On! might ostensibly be about a group of girls who would rather enjoy sweets and tea over practising, the series also indicates that like all things, friendships do not last forever. In spite of this, and perhaps because of this, such bonds are all the more meaningful.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post came about because I did wish to share something at the film’s ten year anniversary, and the observant reader will note that this year is the tenth anniversary to many things, coinciding with when I started this blog and really began writing in earnest. The film opens with Yui and the others acting like Death Devil for kicks (at least, Yui, Ritsu and Tsumugi are in on it, while Mio’s just playing as herself). Once the ruse is up, the opening song, Ichiban Ippai (“Full of Number Ones”), begins playing. This song has a very Christmas-like feel to it, appropriate for the season.

  • Because this revisitation similarly comes a full ten years after K-On! The Movie first premièred, now that ten years’ worth of accumulated experience is in the books, I was hoping to share a renewed set of thoughts about this movie. I’ve previously written about K-On! The Movie on several occasions and explored some of the aspects that made it worthwhile to watch, but reading through these older posts, it feels like back then, I’d only really scratched the surface for what I wished to discuss.

  • When Yui and the others leave the club room, the lighting is diffuse, and colours are faded. In conjunction with the music, this scene spoke volumes to me about what K-On! The Movie had been attempting to accomplish. Whereas Hajime Hyakkoku, the composer for the series’ background music, had previously written joyful, bubbly pieces, the second track on the soundtrack has a more contemplative, thoughtful tone to it as Yui considers doing something worthy of being a senior.

  • It was here that I began to realise that throughout the entirety of K-On! The Movie, a feeling of gentle sadness permeated everything that is shown, even when the characters are caught up in their own antics and creating adorable moments for viewers to laugh at. While Mono no Aware is a part of K-On! The Movie, however, it never overshadows the general aesthetic and mood; there are still plenty of jokes throughout the film, such as when Yui attempts to make a break for it after cheating in the lottery to determine where their graduation trip should end up.

  • On writing about K-On! The Movie in full for the first time in a few years, I’ve come to pick up a few things that I missed earlier, and in conjunction with a keener eye for subtleties, this post is the result; my conclusion about the film’s central theme is a little more specific now, with a focus on Yui and the others crafting a memorable farewell gift for Azusa in gratitude for her participation in Houkago Tea Time. My earlier reviews focused on friendship at a much higher level, and looking back, I think that this review captures the reason for why I enjoyed the movie a shade more effectively than the earlier reviews.

  • Gratitude is the first and foremost theme in K-On! The Movie, with everything else being an ancillary aspect that augments the film’s strengths. The movie, then, succeeds in conveying the sort of scale that Naoko Yamada desired for viewers, showing the extent of everyone’s appreciation towards Azusa. This underlines Azusa’s impact on Houkago Tea Time, and so, when one returns to the televised series, all of those subtle moments suddenly become more meaningful, and more valuable.

  • Mio gives in to her happiness and makes no attempt to hide it when it turns out London is their chosen destination. The movie’s original première on December 3, 2011 is now a distant memory. I vaguely recall concluding my introductory Japanese class and finalising my term paper on the role of a protein in iron transport for bacteria. At the time, I was focused on simply surviving that semester and save my GPA, which had taken a dive after my second year, and for most of the winter term, I was similarly focused on maintaining passable grades in biochemistry and and cell and molecular biology. I exited that term on a stronger note, and with my final exams in the books, I learned that the movie would release on July 18.

  • I still remember when this film became available to watch: it had been a gorgeous July day, and the high reached 26°C. At this point in my summer, I’d spent almost two and a half months studying for the MCAT. The course was under my belt, and I’d been going through practise exam after practise exam. When I did my first exam, I scored a 22 (equivalent to today’s 496). However, a summer of giving up research and hanging out had an appreciable impact on my performance, and by the time K-On! The Movie came out, I was consistently scoring 30s (510 in today’s scoring system).

  • For reference, a good MCAT score is 508 (29 in 2012). I had been worried if watching and reviewing K-On! The Movie would’ve had an impact on my MCAT scores, but in the end, the movie presented no trouble in that area, and I ended up watching the film after a day spent going through a practise exam. Back then, this blog was still relatively new, and I never wrote extensive articles here. Instead, I published my first review to my old Webs.com site: over the course of two days, I wrote out a review that was comparable to the average post here. This never did interfere with the MCAT, and indeed, having the chance to watch K-On! The Movie contributed to helping me relax.

  • I had decided to take the MCAT earlier that year, and this represented a major commitment from my part. From the film’s home release announcement to the day of release, time passed in the blink of an eye. The movie’s first forty minutes are still in Japan, and it provided plenty of time to establish the witherto’s and whyfor’s of how Houkago Tea Time end up travelling to London; here, Ui helps Yui to pack, and their mother can be seen in the background. Until now, Mister and Missus Hirasawa have never been shown on screen in the animated adaptation.

  • The manga would end up doing so in its fourth volume, but since K-On!! had no such equivalent (the events of the anime diverge somewhat from the events in the manga towards the end), Yamada decided to slot Yui and Ui’s parents in as Yui heads off to the airport. The manga suggests that the Hirawasas are a happy family, although the parents are very fond of travelling, accounting for why they were never seen in the TV series.

  • With its slow pacing, K-On! The Movie is very relaxing: as it turns out, Houkago Tea Time ends up overhearing classmates discuss a graduation trip and then, while focused on their own goal of gifting something special for Azusa, hide their plans by saying they’re also doing a graduation trip. This turn of events is precisely the way things Houkago Tea Time rolls, although it is notable that even while planning for the trip takes precedence, Yui’s mind never strays far from their original goal of figuring out how they can give Azusa a memorable gift.

  • In an interview with Yamada, she explains that the biggest challenge the movie format posed by K-On! The Movie was how to scale the series up to fit the silver screen. This challenge ended up being mentioned in film itself, when Yui wonders how they’d make a suitable gift for Azusa that captures all of their gratitude. In the end, much as how Yamada succeeds with K-On! The Movie by being true to the original series’ style, Yui and the others found that a gift for Azusa would mean the most so long as it had heart. The journey to London thus becomes a bit of a sideshow, demonstrating how regardless of where in the world Houkago Tea Time go, they’re still themselves.

  • K-On! The Movie is at its most energetic while the girls are on their travels. The London segment of K-On! The Movie only occupies a third of the movie, but it is here that some of the franchise’s most unique moments are shown. It is the first time anyone is seen heading to the airport and travelling on an aircraft –until now, K-On! had been set entirely in Japan, so having Houkago Tea Time set foot on a plane and becoming, as Yui puts it, a part of the international community, was a monumental occasion for K-On! in showing that the series had taken one giant leap forwards.

  • For the most part, K-On! The Movie was very well-received, with praises being given towards the direction, sincerity and ability of the film to remain true to the atmosphere in the TV series, while at the same time, capitalising on the movie format to do something that could not have been done in a TV series. Criticisms of the film are very rare – I can count the number of the film’s detractors on one hand, and most of the gripes centred on the film’s relatively limited focus on travel, portrayal of London citizens and gripes that the film was protracted in presenting its story. It is with satisfaction that I note the most vocal of these critics, Reckoner and Sorrow-kun of the elitist Nihon Review and Behind The Nihon Review blogs, are no longer around because both blogs’ domains have expired. Reckoner had been a particularly fierce critic of K-On!, but his assertions were unfounded and poorly argued, while Sorrow-kun had written numerous articles claiming K-On! was “objectively” a poor series.

  • As of now, both Nihon Review and Behind The Nihon Review have gone offline: after their owner finally stopped paying the hosting fees, their hosts suspended both sites, resulting in all of Sorrow-kun’s posts becoming removed. In particular, Sorrow-kun had believed Behind The Nihon Review’s goals were to “enlighten” fans on why anime was only worthwhile if it contained philosophical or academic merit, so seeing some of the internet’s most invalid opinions of K-On! become lost forever is something worth smiling about. The comparatively short amount of time spent in London is not a detriment to the film – K-On! The Movie is not a travel show, and London was only an aside, a consequence of a fib to keep Azusa’s gift hidden. With this in mind, it wasn’t particularly surprising that London would be secondary to figuring out what kind of song they should write for Azusa. Throughout the film, Yui’s determination to figure out something and efforts to maintain secrecy lead Azusa to wonder if something is amiss. If she did suspect something, things are quickly shunted aside when the girls’ plan to visit London become realised.

  • Upon arriving in London, the girls enjoy the sights over Hounslow, a district in West London immediately east of Heathrow Airport. It’s been a while since I’ve boarded a plane: the last time I flew was back in 2019, when I attended F8 2019. The last time I was on a plane for leisure would’ve been back in 2017 on a particularly memorable trip to Japan. No matter where I go in the world, there is always a joy about flying over a city and wondering to myself, what are the folks down below doing in their day-to-day lives? Of course, when I’m on the ground and looking up at an aircraft, I find myself thinking of where people might be headed.

  • The flight leaves Yui excited to finally become part of the international community, and she begins bouncing while riding the moving walkway. In this frame, the girls’ hands look quite small; in a cast interview, Yamada mentioned that she wanted K-On! The Movie to appeal to as many people as possible, and to this end, modified the characters’ appearances slightly from the style seen in K-On!!. The end result leaves the characters more expressive than they’d been in K-On! and K-On!! – simple things like facial expressions are able to speak volumes here in the film, whereas in the TV series, such nuances were not conveyed through such a subtle manner. After exiting the plane and entering the terminal, Azusa remarks that they’re going to have to clear customs.

  • Yui and the others are able to get through without any issue, although Yui’s weaker English leads her to mispronounce “sight-seeing” as “side business”, leading to some confusion from the customs official: I’m not sure what the laws in the United Kingdom are, but here in Canada, doing something business-related requires a visa. Fortunately, this mispronunciation doesn’t result in any complications, and all five clear customs without any trouble. The joys and drawbacks of travelling are presented in K-On! The Movie to the girls: while K-On! has long favoured gentle escapism, the movie adds an additional dimension of realism to its story through linguistic differences and challenges associated with travelling, such as the girls trying to figure out which Hotel Ibis their booking was for, or when Mio’s luggage is seemingly misplaced.

  • In the end, Mio’s luggage was placed off to the side, and she tearfully reunites with it, while developing a mistrust for revolving things in the process. Once outside in the brisk London air, the girls set off to find a taxi that will take them to their accommodations. Excitement sets in, and Mio begins taking photographs of everything Yui points at, including this Airline lounge sign for Air Canada patrons. I am Canadian, so seeing mention of Canada in the film put a smile on my face: Air Canada is the largest airline company in Canada and runs numerous flights to London. Even from my home town, there are five direct flight to Londons every week, and the average duration is around nine hours.

  • I am interested in checking out London for myself at some point in the future – aside from minor linguistic differences between Canadian and British English, I could readily do a free-for-all visit without a tour group and navigate on my own well enough. Aside from iconic spots like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, I would like to walk the River Thames and visit the same spots in Earl’s Court as the girls of K-On! do. Such a vacation could be done for within four thousand dollars, and in the past, I have considered the logistics of such a trip.

  • After spotting a taxi, the girls board with enthusiasm – the driver asks if they’re going to London City, to which Ritsu answers with a yes. While Azusa has done her reading to ensure the trip was a success, not everything can be planned for ahead of time, and for the girls, the fact that London is broken up into smaller districts is not something that crosses their mind. This bit of miscommunication leads to the girls ending up at the wrong Hotel Ibis, and here, even Tsumugi is unable to keep up with the English.

  • For the most part, my travels have never put me at a linguistic disadvantage because I can get by well enough with English, Cantonese and Mandarin in the places I visit. When I visited Laval in France for the first time for a conference, I had trouble getting around because I could not speak a word of French. Seeing Mugi and Azusa struggle with English might’ve been amusing when I first watched this, but after the humbling experience in France, I took on a newfound appreciation for all of the languages around the world. When the girls reach London City’s Hotel Ibis, it is thanks to Mio who is able to interpret things and set the girls on track for their hotel in Earls Court.

  • Skyfall was screened in November 2012, a few months after K-On! The Movie’s home release and nearly a year after its original screening in Japan. The only commonalities the two films share are that they have scenes set in London, including the Underground. While Yui and the others use the Underground to reach Earls Court, Skyfall saw James Bond pursue Raoul Silva through the Underground after he escapes MI6 custody.

  • On their first day in London, Yui and the others have a busy one as they try to make their way to their hotel. It’s misadventure after misadventure, but in spite of these inconveniences, everyone takes things in stride, going to Camden to buy Azusa new shoes, casually enjoying the Underground and, when trying to grab dinner, end up playing an impromptu performance on account of being mistaken for a band.

  • In spite of their surprise at being asked to perform, Houkago Tea Time’s showing is impressive. While it seems a little strange the girls travel with their instruments, the last several times I boarded a plane, it was with a laptop or iPad in tow, as I was either set to give a conference presentation or be involved in work. Carrying additional gear while travelling is a pain when one is alone, but with others, it’s much easier – one can simply ask their companions to look after their belongings.

  • K-On! The Movie has several moments where Kyoto Animation was able to showcase their craft at the movie level, and clever use of camera angles really brought the performances to life. Aside from the opening, inset and ending songs, there are no new Houkago Tea Time songs in the film: all of the performances in the movie are done with existing songs, and at the sushi restaurant, the girls perform Curry Nochi Rice after Yui spots an East Indian man in the crowd. Back in 2011, I wasn’t too big of a fan of raw fish, but I imagine that my openness to try it began after watching Survivorman‘s Arctic Tundra episode. A few weeks ago, when my office did a sushi lunch, I decided to participate and greatly enjoyed the nigiri: there’s a special flavour about raw fish that makes it delicious, and it goes especially well with a dash of soy sauce.

  • Movies typically are scaled-up TV episodes, with superior visuals and music accompanying it; K-On! The Movie is no different, feeling distinctly like an extended episode. I particularly loved the soundtrack, which features both the motifs of the TV series and new incidental pieces that gave a bit of atmosphere to where Houkago Tea Time was while at the same time, reminding viewers that it’s still K-On!. Here, Ritsu runs into Love Crisis, another Japanese band that was supposed to be performing at the sushi restaurant.

  • K-On! The Movie depicts London with incredible faithfulness, and perusing the official movie artbook, the precise locations of where the girls visit are given. Abbey Crossing, David Bowie’s House, West Brompton, and many other areas are on the list of places that Yui and the others visit. Their travels are set to the upbeat, energetic Unmei wa Endless! (Fate is Endless!) in a montage that highlights the girls enjoying themselves in London in their own unique manner. Throughout the trip, Azusa takes on the role of a tour guide, planning and coordinating itineraries for the others, who end up having a wonderful time.

  • The montage in K-On! The Movie is ideal for showing that while in London, Yui and the others have an amazing time sightseeing: the tempo would suggest that the girls’ experience is very dream like, hectic and dynamic, reminder viewers that when they are having fun, time flies. Vacations often seem to go by in a blur, and so, a montage is a very visceral way to capture this feeling. In condensing out the travel and sightseeing, the montage creates the impression that K-On! The Movie is not about London, but at the same time, it also allows the focus to remain on the girls’ aim of working out their gift for Azusa.

  • London, Japan and Hong Kong share the commonality in that they have left-hand traffic, an artefact dating back to the Roman Empire; right-hand traffic is the result of French standardisation, while Americans used right-hand traffic out of convenience for wagon operators. For Yui and the others, traffic in London would be identical to that of Japan’s, but when they encounter a “Look Right” labels on the road, they conform. These labels are also found in Hong Kong, as well: for folks like myself, they are very useful, since I instinctively look left before crossing most streets.

  • I’ve long held that the best way to truly experience a culture is to experience their food, and so, when I was in Japan, having the chance to enjoy snow crab, Kobe beef, okonomiyakiomurice and ramen was high on the highlights of my trip. In K-On! The Movie, the girls end up stopping at The Troubadour on 263–267 Old Brompton Road in Earls Court. Opened in 1954, The Troubador was a coffeehouse that has since become a café, bar and restaurant. Catching Yui’s eye early in their tour of London, the girls have breakfast here. Their Eggs Benedict is shown: it costs £9.95 (roughly 16.88 CAD with exchange rates).

  • Earlier this year, I did a special tour of London using the Oculus Quest to show how faithful the film had been to details; the real-world locations are portrayed faithfully in K-On! The Movie, although here, I will remark again that London’s skyline has changed quite a bit in the past decade. K-On! The Movie shows The Shard as being under construction, and it was opened in 2013. Some of the areas still remain as they once were. Earl’s Court, for instance, still looks much as it did in 2011, while downtown London is quite different; folks looking to visit K-On! locations in central London now will be hard-pressed to find some locations since they’ve changed so much – the Harper’s Coffee has since been replaced by a Costa Coffee, for instance.

  • After Yui gets her hand stuck in a receptacle for dog waste, the girls set off to find a bathroom and wind up at the British Museum. Here, they take the London Underground’s Central line from the Kensington Gardens: during the day, the Underground is nowhere near as busy as it was when Yui and the others first arrived, and certainly not as crowded as it had been in Skyfall, when 007 pursued Silva through the London Underground after the latter managed to escape MI6 custody.

  • While they’d intended to only stop by for a quick bathroom break, Mio, Tsumugi, Yui, Ritsu and Azusa end up checking out the British Museum’s exhibits, including the original Rosetta Stone. The girls recognise this as the replacement tombstone they’d borrowed from the Occult Club back during the events of K-On!!, when they found Juliet’s headstone was misplaced. The Rosetta Stone replica ended up being a suitable replacement, and the class play of Romeo and Juliet went off without a hitch. To see the Rosetta Stone again shows the kind of care that Yamada put into the film, giving Yui and the others a chance to see the world beyond Japan.

  • Here, Ritsu, Mio, Yui, Tsumugi and Azusa run down the stairs on the Westminster Bridge’s south banks: the location was not hard to find, since the girls end up at the London Eye moments later. There’s a doorway underneath the South Bank Lion sculpture on the left of this image, and this was used as a secret entrance to MI6’s new digs in Skyfall after Silva bombed the SIS Building. One of the joys about K-On! The Movie was that so many locations seen in this movie were also featured in Skyfall, and I myself wondered if the SIS Building would make an appearance. While this never occurred, it was a contrast to see Yui and the others have fun in the same places where Bond was on duty.

  • Mio’s fear of rotating things kicks in when the others suggest boarding the London Eye to gain a better vantage point over central London; she decides to stay on the ground and let the others have a good time. To this, Yui and Ritsu decide to haul Mio off anyways. A longstanding joke in K-On! stems from Mio’s various phobias, although it is typically the case that once Mio is pushed out of her comfort zone, she is able to live in the moment with the others.

  • As such, despite her initial reservations about all things with angular velocity, Mio is convinced to go on the London Eye. With a height of 135 metres, it is more than double the size of Hong Kong’s Observation Wheel and during K-On! The Movie, was the highest public viewing point in London. Since the movie’s release in 2011 (and the home release in 2012), The Shard opened and now offers London’s highest observation deck.

  • The girls rest here near The Royal Menagerie on the west end of the Tower of London, a major landmark that has variously been used as a mint, armoury and presently, the home of the Crown Jewels. Adjacent to the Tower of London is a modern office block and fish and chips shops. While it would be a tight schedule, the girls’ tour is possible to carry out within the course of a day. To really take in the sights and sounds, however, I would allocate at least seven days for the entire trip London, which leaves five full days to explore.

  • One aspect in K-On! The Movie that I enjoyed was that smaller details about travel were presented; most travel shows only highlight attractions and the best eats of a given trip. Conversely, K-On! The Movie portrays the smaller, more awkward moments that result when people are far from home. After their day’s worth of adventure, the group return to Ibis Earl’s Court, and almost immediately, Yui and Azusa end up missing one another often enough to the point where they wonder where the other’s gone. Yui’s just scatter-brained, but Azusa is genuinely tired from having spent the day putting an itinerary together that allows everyone to see as much as they could.

  • In the end, the pair end up running into one another in Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi’s room. Such moments typify the sort of humour present in K-On! as a whole; it’s not over-the-top, and instead, acts to create gentler moments that elicit a smile. Some folks consider K-On! to be a comedy, but this is, strictly speaking, incorrect: K-On! might’ve had origins as a 4-koma manga driven by punchlines, but Yamada’s interpretation of the series allows for more meaningful learnings to be presented; themes like appreciation and mindfulness are more important in K-On! than making viewers laugh.

  • With this being said, comedy does crop up from time to time as a result of everyday occurrences; here, Yui slips after rushing to meet Azusa after wandering off to the Brompton Cemetery whilst considering what the song for Azusa should entail. One small visual aspect in K-On! The Movie that did stand out was the fact that all of the folks in London are uncommonly tall relative to Azusa and the others. While Azusa is stated as being only 4’11”, a quick glance at this image finds that the average Londoner would be around eight feet in height. I imagine this was a deliberate choice to show how small everyone is compared to the world.

  • After Ritsu and the others run into Love Crisis following their performance at the sushi restaurant, they are invited to perform at a Japanese Culture Fair. The girls agree to the performance even though the timing will be a bit tight, and when Azusa hesitates, the others reassure her that it’ll be fine. Because they are to be performing in front of an English audience, Yui and the others feel it might be useful to translate some of their songs to English. Strictly speaking, preserving the meaning is of a lesser challenge than finding the words with the correct syllables to match the melody.

  • The Ibis at Earl’s Court, while being a bit more dated, has attentive staff and is situated in a good location, being close to public transit. By comparison, the Ibis London City is located a stone’s throw to the London city centre and the Tower of London. The choice to have the girls book lodgings at Earl’s Court, in a comparatively quieter part of London, allows the film to also show Yui and the others spending downtime together while not sightseeing. Here, they begin working on translating their songs for their performance at the Japanese culture fair.

  • The performance itself is set at the Jubilee Gardens adjacent to the River Thames and London Eye. The introduction into the culture festival features a sweeping panorama over the area, taking viewers through the spokes on the London Eye. It’s one of the more impressive visuals in K-On! The Movie and really shows that this is no mere extended episode: I’m particularly fond of movies because they provide the opportunity to use visuals not seen in TV series. Here, the girls react in surprise that Sawako has shown up.

  • During their performance, Yui is spurred on by a baby in the crowd and plays with more energy as the concert progresses, even improvising lyrics into Gohan wa Okazu. Whether or not Houkago Teatime plays for the people they know or not, this has very little bearing on the enthusiasm and energy the girls put into their song. Personal or not, each performance is spirited conveys that Houkago Tea Time’s music is universally moving, whether they are playing for a crowd of folks in London, or for Azusa as a thank you gift.

  • It turns out that as a place to have a graduation trip, there is no better option than London, England: Houkago Tea Time’s style draws inspiration from British artists, and the songs produced for K-On! have a mass appeal for their simplicity, earnest and charm found from the saccharine nature of the lyrics. Even now, whenever I see images and footage of London, K-On! The Movie is the first thing that comes to mind; the film had done a phenomenal job of bringing the city to life, and while melancholy gently permeates the whole of the film, the thirty minutes spent in London are K-On! The Movie‘s most cheerful, energetic moments.

  • After the concert draws to a close, the girls depart for Japan; owing to their timing, things are really close by the time Yui and the others have to return to the airport and board their flight back home. In general, it is recommended that one arrives at least three hours before their scheduled departure when flying internationally. This is so one can make it through customs and security checks, which can take a while, and because some airlines require one to check in an hour before their flight. Accepting a concert on the same day they were heading back would be cutting it close, especially in a city as large as London.

  • Fortunately, some elements can be abstracted away, and the girls’ ride over to Heathrow is uneventful, with Azusa falling asleep immediately from exhaustion. A snowfall begins in London, bringing the girls’ trip to a peaceful close, and here, the soundtrack takes on a much slower, gentler tenour. The track that accompanies this scene has a very wistful, reflective mood about it and is appropriately titled “Winter night in a warm room”.

  • Back in Japan, Ritsu and the others attempt to convince Sawako to give them permission to host a farewell concert for their classmates. To her colleagues and other students, Sawako presents herself as professional and caring, attempting to distance herself from her Death Devil days, but in front of Houkago Tea Time, she’s less motivated and occasionally partakes in actions that are of dubious legality. At the end of the day, however, Sawako does care deeply for her students, and so, decides to allow the concert.

  • One of the other teachers is opposed to the idea of a concert and on the morning things kick off, Sawako does her utmost to keep him from finding out. While unsuccessful, this instructor does not seem to mind Houkago Tea Time quite as much, suggesting that Sawako’s Death Devil band were rowdier back in the day to the point of being a nuisance. During this in-school concert, the song Sumidare Love is performed: the song had been on the vocal collections, but until now, had not been played in the series proper.

  • Compared to the more colourful segments in K-On! The Movie, the final segments depicting the girls drafting out their song for Azusa are much more faded, almost melancholy, in nature, hinting that all things must come to an end. Kyoto Animation has long utilised colour to make the emotional tenour of a scene clear in their drama series; from CLANNAD to Violet Evergarden, time of day, saturation and the choice of palette are all used to great effect. Traditionally, comedies have seen a lesser dependence on colour and lighting, so for these effects to appear in K-On! show that the series has matured.

  • Despite having drawn blanks while in London, Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi manage to begin their song once they’re back home; it was Azusa’s actions throughout the trip that really led everyone to see anew how much they’d come to rely on their junior. While this should be a joyous moment, K-On! The Movie reminds viewers that this moment is also steeped in a sort of finality: once they finish their song and deliver it, they will have to part ways with Azusa.

  • The K-On! The Movie‘s home release was only twenty four days from the day of my MCAT, and one of the dangers about this was that reviewing the movie so close to the MCAT might’ve taken my focus from the exam. In the end, watching the movie and writing about it was very cathartic, and I found myself lost in each moment: seeing Mio and the others sprint across the school rooftop with a carefree spirit was a light moment that really captured what K-On! was about. The movie helped me relax, and in conjunction with support from friends, some time management skills and the usual efforts of studying, I ended up finishing the exam strong.

  • Audiences thus come to learn how Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! came about: K-On! had preferred to focus on the girls’ experience together, and things like songwriting were often set aside in favour of having everyone enjoy tea together. This did lead to the impression that Houkago Tea Time were unqualified. However, K-On! did show that Mio spent some of her free time writing lyrics to songs, and to reinforce the idea that Houkago Tea Time’s success is well-deserved, K-On! The Movie opts to show the song-writing process behind Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!.

  • This song had appeared to come out of the blue in K-On!!, but the film shows the process behind how the song the lyrics and heart that went into the song came from seeing how much of an impact Azusa had on the light music club. However, Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! was not written overnight, and because of the timeframes, I would estimate that the film is set over the course of three weeks – the first third of the movie would’ve taken place over the course of a few days as the girls figure out they’d like to do a song for Azusa, and then book a last-minute trip over to London as a graduation trip. The London trip itself is explicitly mentioned as taking five days, and then after returning, some time would’ve been needed to put the song together.

  • While this seems excessive, we recall that in K-On!!, there had been quite a gap between exams and graduation – when Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Tsumugi head off to write their entrance exams for the women’s college, it would’ve been shortly after Valentines’ day, and graduation itself was in March. This in-between period was never covered in K-On!!, and Yamada expertly used this time as when Yui and the othes came to write out Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! ahead of graduation for Azusa. Through K-On! The Movie, it is shown that the in-betweens in an anime can also have a story to tell. Non Non Biyori Repeat adapted this concept for the entire second season, showing that anime only shows the best moments that impact the narrative.

  • Consequently, while Yui and the others might appear to be pulling songs out of nowhere, and performing like experts without much apparent practise, the reality is that the anime and manga tend to show us viewers moments when Houkago Tea Time are slacking off, but once the chips are down, and the girls get their motivation, they’re quite determined and capable. As such, this is the one criticism of K-On! I can dismiss immediately – folks who hold this against the series have fundamentally misunderstood that anime only show milestone moments, and more mundane details are deliberately omitted for a reason.

  • Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! is the song that got me into K-On!, and after I became curious to know how the series reached its culmination, I stepped back and watched everything from episode one.  With this modernised talk on K-On! The Movie very nearly finished, I note that it was very enjoyable to go back and re-watch this film under different circumstances, then write about it with a new perspective and style. Even a full decade later, the song remains every bit as enjoyable as it had been when I first went through K-On!.

  • Like a good wine, K-On! The Movie improved with age. My original score for the movie was a nine of ten, an A grade. However, revisiting the movie and seeing all of the subtleties in the film, coupled with recalling watching the film to unwind from studying for the MCAT, led me to realise that this film had a very tangible positive impact on me. Consequently, I am going to return now and give the film a perfect ten of ten, a masterpiece: for a story of pure joy that was successful in helping me regroup, and for being every bit as enjoyable as it was ten years ago, K-On! The Movie had a tangible, positive impact on me.

K-On! The Movie remains as relevant today as it did when it first premièred a decade earlier; even for those who have never seen K-On!‘s televised series, the movie is self-contained and the themes stand independently of a priori knowledge. After all this time, I have no difficulty in recommending K-On! The Movie to interested viewers; the film is every bit as enjoyable and meaningful as it was ten years previously. Because of how Yamada conveys Mono no Aware, as it relates to friendship, it becomes clear that K-On! The Movie was intended to be the final act for Kyoto Animation’s adaptation – author Kakifly had written two sequels, K-On! College and K-On! High School, which respectively cover Yui’s life at university and Azusa’s efforts to keep the light music club going. K-On! College was published in September 2012, and a month later, K-On! High School became available. Precedence would have suggested that adapting both of these volumes into an anime could’ve produced a two-cour season with twenty-four full episodes, but this would stand contrary to the aesthetic in K-On! The Movie. At the time, K-On!‘s anime adaptation had exceeded expectations in promoting the manga – the anime had been intended to promote the manga, and in this role, it has certainly succeeded. The manga itself concludes in a fashion that is consistent with the Mono no Aware aesthetic. K-On! College has Yui settling in to life at university and even makes rivals out of Akira, a serious musician whose skill is enough to get her noticed by professional producers, while K-On! High School has Azusa wondering what fun things the future will bring. However, this diverges from the feeling that K-On! The Movie originally concluded with; to bring K-On! back in the present would undermine what the film had accomplished ten years earlier. Six years earlier, I did walk through whether or not a continuation was possible, and back then, I had concluded that such a project would have been welcomed. After all, there had been enough materials to do so, and K-On! would’ve still been relatively fresh in the viewers’ minds. This answer has changed since then – a full decade later, it is safe to say that it is unlikely that Yui, Ritsu, Mio, Tsumugi and Azusa’s stories will be expanded upon. While Kakifly’s spin-off series, K-On! Shuffle, is set in the same universe and built around a similar premise (protagonist Yukari Sakuma is inspired to take up drumming after watching Ritsu perform), K-On!‘s success had largely come from the fact that it had been so groundbreaking at the time. The concept is no longer novel, and as such, adapting K-On! Shuffle is similarly unlikely in the foreseeable future. With this in mind, I imagine that this is the last time I will be writing about K-On! The Movie – as enjoyable as the series is, I do feel that I’ve said everything that needs to be said for a film that has aged very gracefully and certainly stands of its own merits, during the past decade that I’ve been active as an anime blogger.

The Aquatope on White Sand: Review and Impressions After Twenty-One

“When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” –C.S. Lewis

Fūka is surprised to learn that Ruka and members of a film crew will be shooting footage at Tingaara for a nature programme. While Fūka is initially reluctant to be shonw on TV, after overhearing that Ruka is having a bit of trouble with her career, as well as learning that Ruka is facing harassment from her fans, she decides to help out with the filming. Although things go smoothly, the crew are hoping to capture the moment on film, when the juvenile penguin takes to the water for the first time. When Ruka butchers a take, Fūka decides to take Ruka aside for a quick break, where she gives Ruka her old high heels. It turns out that Fūka had wanted to wear them on stage for a performance, but never had the chance to. Rather than discard them, Fūka hopes that Ruka will take them as a keepsake to encourage her onwards. Returning to the penguin enclosure, Fūka gently nudges the penguin forward, and Ruka is impressed with how far Fūka has come as a person. Meanwhile, Kukuru struggles with the work Tetsuji has assigned her. When she learns about a dolphin that has taken up residence in a nearby bay, she hastens to take a look, and encounters her grandfather here. Kukuru learns that Gama Gama is scheduled for demolitions as well. While Kukuru attempts to put together a proposal to a prospective client, a wedding planner, the proposal ends up failing as a result of her lack of preparation. Tetsuji indicates that this is a valuable learning experience, but after Kukuru learns she’d missed the attendant’s dive to check up on the dolphin, as well as Airi’s visit of Tingaara, she begins to wonder what her efforts were for. She decides to visit Gama Gama and is visibly saddened to see that crews have already begun tearing the old aquarium down. The next day, Kukuru fails to show up for work, worrying Fūka and Karin. It turns out Kukuru had wanted a break, and took an unsanctioned break: Karin and Fūka attempt to smooth things over, while Kukuru runs into Misaki, Umi-yan’s wife. The two help clear the beach of garbage ahead of the sea turtles’ hatching. Back at Tingaara, Fūka deals with the aftermath of a penguin fight, and becomes thoroughly irritated after trying to speak to Tetsuji about Kukuru. Having had some time to regroup, Kukuru decides to visit the Kamehausu, a local aquarium whose manager also trained under her grandfather. When the sea turtles begin hatching later, Kukuru attends alongside Kamehausu’s manager and Misaki. She’s surprised to find Fūka here, as well. At this point in time, we are now three episodes out from wrapping up The Aquatope on White Sand: of late, the story has shifted away from the supernatural to focus entirely on the workplace.

While The Aquatope on White Sand indicates that Fūka has settled into her role, Kukuru continues to struggle to find her place in the sun, and while she’s had several wins so far, she’d pulled through on raw determination and spirit alone. This approach has its limits, and the timing of Gama Gama’s demolition, the arrival of a dolphin in a nearby bay, and the fact that Kukuru has missed Airi’s visit at Tingaara, because she’d had a scheduling conflict with her botched proposal to a wedding planning agency, leads her to wonder if she’s giving too much for a job that she’s still wondering about. The sum of these events creates what is known as burnout; Kukuru has been putting her best forward as often as she can manage, but inadequate management, unclear expectations and poor workplace dynamics lead Kukuru’s work-life balance to be thrown out the window. She’d gotten by through her own passion previously, but several coincident events ended up conspiring to completely deplete Kukuru’s motivation. Burnout is a very real problem in the workplace, and although workplace guides suggest that things like practising mindfulness, sleeping and exercising well is a potential means of mitigating it, this doesn’t actually address the root of the issue. In order to develop a viable, long-term solution, Kukuru would need to speak with Tingaara’s director and provide honest feedback so the director is able to work with Kukuru on reaching a compromise of sorts, as well as capitalising on the fact that her coworkers in marketting, especially Akari and Karin, do care for her and would be willing to support her if she’d requested it. Instead, Kukuru’s in-the-moment decision, to go absent without leave, is something that would lead to a reprimand (or even immediate dismissal) in reality. However, there is merit to taking a step back to regroup, as well. By taking time away from her projects, which seem far removed from the aquatic life she loves so dearly, Kukuru is able to gain some perspective and regroup. In Kukuru’s place, I would have pursued a request to take some personal time first, and then schedule a meeting with my supervisor to discuss things. However, we recall that I am a full decade older than Kukuru and have had time to develop professionally. A core part of The Aquatope on White Sand is the fact that Kukuru, despite her intrinsic talents and interests, is still a novice in the workplace. Circumstances lead to her mistakes, but these mistakes provide an invaluable learning experience that will leave her better prepared to handle situations as they come up in the future.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Ruka, Fūka’s old colleague from their idol group, appears in Okinawa to do a shoot on Tingaara, the team members are excited to appear on camera alongside an idol. However, Fūka ends up overhearing Ruka and her manager sharing a difficult conversation; it turns out that the idol industry is giving Ruka a hard time, as well, and the Tingaara project had been an assignment to bolster her popularity, which has been in decline. Conversely, while the other members of the production team are keen on having Fūka figure more prominently, Fūka is reluctant to take centre stage.

  • For Ruka, her spirits are poor because she’s feeling that even though she’s enjoying the work, things are still uncertain in her career, and that the pressure is endless. When asked, Fūka explains that being an aquarium attendant allows her to focus on the animals and encourage them, giving her joy in ways that being an idol couldn’t. While Fūka doubtlessly found happiness in bringing smiles to her former fans’ faces, being an idol has its dark side, as well; Ruka’s fans are giving her trouble online, and Umi-yan rightly notes that people only see results, not the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

  • As a software developer, for instance, I tend to be a lot more forgiving about bugs in production software that isn’t my own: I understand that no matter how tight a process is, some bugs will inevitably get out. For me, what’s more important is the willingness to fix them; while the customers won’t ever know how much effort went into this, for me, what I care about is delivering the product they came for. While Ruka laments that she hasn’t “made it” in her career yet, I remark that in a given career, I don’t believe that anyone really “makes it” until they’ve got experience backing their decisions and choices, and the confidence to carry things out without second-guessing oneself: only Ruka can answer what this means to her, and for me, “making it” as a software developer means being part of a good team who cares about developing maintainable software that satisfies the customer’s needs.

  • Here, filming is well under way, and a microphone boom arm can be seen in the frame as Fūka and Ruka showcase Tingaara’s café after sharing information about Tingaara’s main tank. I’ve always enjoy watching people trying (or making) delicious foods on TV, to the point where seeing commercials for Food Network programmes is now sufficient to pique my interest in the show. One short segment has a lady become excited about trying some freshly-made cupcakes, and I find myself filled with a urge to watch that show in full so I could see what went into making the cupcakes, alongside the resulting reaction from tasting the love and effort in said cupcakes.

  • The night before, Fūka had come across her old high heels, which she’d bought with the aim of wearing them one day when performing, but that chance never came. Fūka had since kept them to remind herself of what’s possible, and so, when Ruka butchers one of the takes, the pair go off to regroup. Fūka gifts these heels to Ruka in the hopes that she’ll be similarly encouraged. Fūka had mentioned that she’s come to enjoy being able to gently nudge animals forward, but taking a step back, we’ve seen that in The Aquatope on White Sand, Fūka’s got a talent for encouraging others. She’d done the same for Kukuru, and now that Ruka’s here, Fūka is doing her best for Ruka’s sake, too.

  • The main highlight in this episode, then, is seeing how far Fūka has come; while she’d been lost before, helping Kukuru out led her to find her own path, and in an environment that isn’t quite the pressure cooker that is being an idol, Fūka’s really come to mature. Watching Fūka support those around her suggests to me that of everyone, she’s managed to find her own path in life and is in a spot now where she’s able to raise those around her up, as well. This is a sign that Fūka is at peace with who she is, and what she’s accomplished.

  • To drive home this point further, Fūka is shown as having no trouble handling the Cape Penguins at Tingaara now: whereas she got a beak to the ass the first time she’d dealt with penguins at Gama Gama, she’s become an expert now and smoothly runs things, being able to guide the penguins out of the way and even pick them up without eliciting any panic. For the filming crew, they’d been really hoping to capture footage of the juvenile Cape Penguin take to the pool and swim for the first time. Throughout the episode, this particular penguin has shown some reluctance in hopping into Tingaara’s pool and joining its compatriots in the water.

  • Besides providing exciting footage for the show Ruka’s been a part of, the little Cape Penguin also acts as a metaphor for transitions in life itself, and I found that the moments ended up reminding me of myself; I’ve always been a bit of a slow-starter, myself. I didn’t take the driver’s exams until I was sure I’d pass in one go, I spent almost six months preparing for the MCAT, and I didn’t even look at owning a home until I had enough in the tank to make a down payment. I’d be the penguin who looks at the water and think, “give me another day, I’d rather come back when I’m over-levelled”.

  • Like the little Cape Penguin that Fūka gently nudges into the water, I’ve always found that, once the moment had come for action, my fears would evaporate, and I simply did what was needed. When the little Cape Penguin hits the water, he finds that it’s actually quite smooth, and glides about in joy, bringing a smile to the film crew and audience’s faces. With this, it becomes abundantly clear that viewers needn’t worry about Fūka: the reason why she’s not had quite as much time as Kukuru is because she was able to find her place in the world anew.

  • Conversely, Kukuru is struggling, and despite her efforts to find enjoyment in her work, overworking slowly seeps in and threatens to sap Kukuru of her spirits; beyond overseeing plans to open a new wing at Tingaara, the new area that Tetsuji was speaking of, Kukuru has fallen behind on her usual assignments. She despairs to Karin and wonders why they didn’t assign some of the work items to her, since Karin would be more experienced and therefore, capable of getting things done faster. However because the full scope of Kukuru’s workload isn’t shown (we viewers only see glimpses of things, and aren’t there for the full length of Kukuru’s hours), I continue to maintain that, in the absence of substantial evidence, saying Kukuru is being treated unfairly is to make a massive subjective leap in judgement.

  • When Kukuru catches wind of a young Bottlenose dolphin stranded in a local inlet after being separated from its mother, she hastens to see it. Kukuru’s grandfather and Umi-yan agree to keep an eye on it, and Umi-yan decides to request that Tingaara’s staff show up to help out. It is here that Kukuru learns from her grandfather that Gama Gama is scheduled for demolitions; from this point onwards in the episode, Kukuru’s work begins suffering: the last connection she had to her parents is being swept away, and this weighs heavily on Kukuru’s mind.

  • This revelation is precisely why Kukuru’s spirits take a hit: it isn’t the nature of her work, the expectations Tetsuji has for her, or the fact that Kukuru still wishes to be an attendant one day, but rather, the fact that what was essentially a second home for her, a reminder of the times she spent with her parents, will no longer exist. Kukuru had embraced the aquarium because it represented a tangible connection to her parents. Kukuru had been unable to save Gama Gama, but with the building set to be torn down, it really drives home the idea that Kukuru’s memories could become lost to time.

  • The next morning, Kukuru takes Fūka to see the Bottlenose dolphin; it turns out the dolphin’s doing fine despite being separated from its mother. Fūka and Kukuru are treated to some jumps, and Kukuru later returns to this spot to find some children here, who promise Kukuru that they won’t be too noisy. In an episode characterised by an overwhelming sense of dreariness, having the dolphin to look forwards to brightens her day up somewhat. However, this does cause Kukuru to lose track of time on several occasions.

  • Whereas Kukuru clashes with Tetsuji fairly often, after learning of Gama Gama’s demolition, the fight is sucked right out of Kukuru. She ends up taking on a project to design a proposal that will impress a wedding planning company, who’s looking to host events in Tingaara’s new wing, which is set to open at Tingaara’s one year anniversary. However, Kukuru’s heart isn’t really in the right place now because she’s so preoccupied, and The Aquatope on White Sand takes the pain of showing this to viewers: the scenes are faded, and Kukuru’s seen speaking with other staff without her usual vigour. It’s clear that Kukuru is only going through the motions and not putting her best foot forward, and this couldn’t come at a worse time – while Tetsuji holds Kukuru in poor regard, he’d assigned her the wedding proposal because he’s seen Kukuru at her best and wishes to spur her forward in his own way.

  • When one’s heart isn’t in the fight, no amount of time will yield a good result. As it stands, the wedding proposal plan was sunk from the beginning; The Aquatope on White Sand is not trying to show what overwork looks like, as some have asserted, but rather, the consequences that arise when working while preoccupied. I don’t mind admitting that I have days like these, too: everyone will inevitably have off days, but on the flipside, someone with experience will be able compartmentalise their troubles and focus on their task at hand. Kukuru is still young and has the time to learn this particular skill, so I’m not going to hold this against her.

  • Even though Kukuru’s grandfather is retired, he’s still involved with marine life: here, he speaks with the director, who thanks him for the advice and remarks the dolphin’s doing fine. Further to this, the director is impressed with the effort that Kukuru has been putting in to her assignments, too. Kukuru’s grandfather implies here that he nudged the director to put Kukuru in a marketting role to broaden her horizons, and this remark has generated a nontrivial amount of discussion on how he’s wrong and should’ve allowed Kukuru to become an attendant in the first place. These individuals are the ones in the wrong: I’m an iOS developer by trade, but since taking up my current position, I’ve also been asked to look at Java, ExtJS and SQL as well. I accepted this position knowing that while I’d be out of my element, it’d represent a fantastic learning opportunity.

  • Had Kukuru been made an attendant, yes, she’d be happier in the short term, but this would give her no chance to advance her skills. The proposal assignment is one such instance where Kukuru is pushed out of her comfort zone, and having done inadequate planning, Kukuru is unable to convince the wedding planner that their venue is suited for hosting weddings, as well as forgetting that the point of a wedding is for the human clients, rather than the animals. As it stands, aquariums do make for excellent wedding venues, and while it is true that flash photography can be harmful to aquatic life, choosing the right species can reduce this risk.

  • While the proposal ended up being a failure, Tetsuji remarks to Kukuru are that this also was a valuable experience, since it gave them insight into what the wedding planner needs. This, in turn, provides them the information they need to put something more suitable together; rather than lay the blame on Kukuru, Tetsuji simply asks her to look at things anew with this additional information. While Tetsuji has been widely reviled, I am getting the feeling that while he’s uncompromising, he’s also genuinely invested in his work (at least, taking it more seriously than Bondo Garandō, the breeding manager who’s got a very laid-back character: a conversation between Bondo and Tetsuji suggest the two have been at odds with one another for quite some time.

  • When Kukuru returns to the office, she attempts to take another crack at things, but finds her thoughts wandering back to Gama Gama. Things hit a tipping point after she learns that she’s missed Airi’s visit, as well. Leaving her work behind, Kukuru rides out over to the site where Gama Gama once stood, only to find a pair of bulldozers and a pile of rubble in its place. It is important to note that while Kukuru has been pushing herself, it was because she genuinely enjoyed the work she’d been doing, and the cosplay event speaks to what Kukuru is capable of achieving when her mind is in the right place. The Kukuru seen in the twentieth episode is a Kukuru whose mind is preoccupied by the very thing she’s now witnessing with her own eyes.

  • Back during the summer, I returned to the site of my first workplace and to my surprise, found it in the middle of being torn down, as well; the site is undergoing some major changes, and the building my startup was in had been around since 1917. Amongst the rubble, I recognised the old fireplace I sat at while waiting for the team to gather for a comedy club event one night. With the building gone, nothing remains of my old start-up, save the old Xcode projects; looking back, things had been very rough back then, especially with respect to finances, but I don’t regret joining because it gave me a chance to develop my iOS skillset to the point where I could work on every step of the process with confidence.

  • Kukuru’s response to adversity is to withdraw and leave her post, something that both parallels Fūka’s decisions when The Aquatope on White Sand first began, would create not shortage of trouble in reality. At the very least, one should go through the proper channels first and inform their supervisors before setting aside some personal time. Looking back, I count myself remarkably lucky in that I am in a field where I love what I do; over the past five years, I’ve only ever taken two weeks of vacation time so I could go to Japan, but beyond this, I’ve not had any other personal time. This was primarily a consequence of how start-ups are, and presently, I have three weeks of paid time off every year. Early this month, my supervisor asked me to use as much of that time as I could, since I can only carry over a maximum of five days into the new year, and since beginning this year, I ended up only using a half day for a home inspection appointment.

  • As a result, I ended up requesting the last two weeks of December off, as well as two more Fridays off. This leaves me with four extra days I’ll bring into 2022, which will be useful on days where I’ll be moving, and with the time off, I plan on shopping for remaining furniture, building the MG Kyrios, going through movies and kick off Halo Infinite‘s campaign. Back in The Aquatope on White Sand, being able to speak with Misaki helps Kukuru to regroup; Misaki is a marine biologist who specialises in Chelonioidea (i.e. sea turtles), and after running into Kukuru, Misaki hears her out, suggesting that her actions will have consequences, but for the time being, what’s done is done, and she should at least take the time to relax. I can vouch for the idea that walking away from a problem to regroup: there have been many a case where a bug or feature was defying my ability to solve, so I ended up talking a walk to clear my head and see if I could approach it from another angle.

  • The Aquatope on White Sand has always had gorgeous weather, but the twenty-first episode’s skies are particularly standout; they’re a deep shade of blue that brings to mind the colour of the skies twenty kilometres up, as seen in Mythbusters when Adam flew up to the edge of the atmosphere in a U2 for a special. Weather generally is used to accentuate a given aesthetic or emotion in anime, so to see the skies take on such a hue is meant to remind viewers that while Kukuru is feeling down, there is still beauty all around her worth appreciating, and Misaki is helping Kukuru to gain this perspective.

  • Back at Tingaara, after Fūka runs into Tetsuji and tries to explain Kukuru’s situation to him, Tetsuji remarks that it’s none of Fūka’s concern, and that his team will deal with things. The way Tetsuji phrases things is intrinsically irritating to her, enough to rile Fūka up send her into a Kukuru-like frenzy, in which she nearly punches Kai’s lights out. This moment did remove any doubt in me that, while Tetsuji might excel at his work, his interpersonal skills are lacking. Given that Tetsuji doesn’t get along with a fair number of Tingaara’s staff from what we’ve seen, I am curious to see how The Aquatope on White Sand resolves this, especially considering that even Chiyo and Kukuru end up reconciling to an extent where they’re able to get along from a professional standpoint.

  • By the time Kukuru wakes up, Misaki’s already gone off to oversee research she and her graduate students are conducting. This leaves Kukuru to enjoy breakfast: a pork-and-tamago onigiri. At it’s simplest, these sandwiches consist of an onigiri wrapped around a large slice of spam and egg, but like burgers and poutine, Okinawans have found ways of sprucing things up. The dish is said to remind Okinawans of home, and while Kukuru is surprised that this is breakfast, the moment she sinks her teeth into one, her spirits are immediately lifted. While I’ve never had a pork-and-tamago onigiri before, the Chinese bakery nearby makes a bread version of this, featuring the spam and egg inside a sweet bun, and I’ve always found these quite delicious, a great way to start the day.

  • After breakfast, Kukuru decides to take a walk nearby and check out the nearby aquarium. This excursion takes her through a vast, verdant field under skies of Egyptian Blue, she takes in the quiet world, one that is far removed from her usual worries and activity. This field greatly resembles the field seen in the elderly man’s vision when he’d visited Gama Gama, hoping to see his brother again. That Kukuru is here for herself now holds symbolic value; open plains signify being able to see clearly for miles around, and in a world that seems quite far removed from her own, Kukuru can nonetheless find what she’s looking for.

  • Kukuru arrives at Kamehausu (literally “Turtle House”), the aquarium she’d been seeking out. It turns out Kamehausu is even smaller than Gama Gama, and lacks even the tanks that housed Gama Gama’s marine life. In spite of this, Kamehouse feels very much loved by its visitors: after dropping off the admission fee, Kukuru spots three young boys rush in, finish the day’s challenge and rush off to redeem their free ice cream from the manager. The smaller aquariums in The Aquatope on White Sand are not purely businesses, but they’re also local hangout spots.

  • In this way, Kamehausu feels more like Gama Gama, compared to the commercial, institutionalised vibe that Tingaara gives off. This feeling is accentuated by the fact that the manager quotes Kukuru’s grandfather. At this point, it is worth mentioning that there isn’t a right or wrong approach to running an aquarium, or business in general: smaller businesses can give personalised service, while large companies are more versatile and resilient, but also more bureaucratised. Given what The Aquatope on White Sand is going for, I would hazard a guess that towards the end, the director will push Kukuru to introduce a more cozy, home-like feel to Tingaara in conjunction with Tetsuji, and there is a possibility that Kukuru may take her own experiences and successfully run her own small aquarium, too.

  • After one penguin trespasses on another’s turf and gets beaten up in a fight, Fūka, Marina and Chiyu tend to its wounds before calling in Takeshita to take a look. Fūka’s come to care greatly for her charges and can’t bear the thought of anything happening to the wildlife. Fūka learns that Kukuru is with Misaki and becomes interested in seeing the sea turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean. On a night with the full moon, the turtles hatch, and while Kukuru is concerned after the moon gets covered by some clouds, once the moonlight returns, droves of young sea turtles come out of the sand and make their way to the ocean. Kukuru is surprised, but pleased that Fūka is here with her.

  • While the sea turtles hatch and make their way across the beach into the ocean, Yoshiaki Dewa’s incidental music swells to a crescendo, filling the scene with emotion. Dewa’s composition for The Aquatope on White Sand is very similar to that of The World in Colour, featuring a mix of upbeat songs for everyday life, contemplative and melancholy pieces for more emotional moments, and use of shamisen to evoke an Okinawan feel to things. The soundtrack itself is set to release on January 26, 2022, and at the time of writing, there’s no tracklist, but it is known that the soundtrack will retail for 3850 Yen (43.44 CAD) and come with two disks. This brings my current round of discussions to an end, and I will note that The Aquatope on White Sand has continued to keep me guessing on its run. I’m not too sure where this one will land, but as I’ve previously noted, I similarly continue to look forwards to seeing what this series has in store for viewers.

Besides giving Kukuru some breathing room, her excursion also allows The Aquatope on White Sand to really show off what P.A. Works is capable of. Her time with Misaki and the sea turtles shows just how evolved P.A. Works’ craft is: the turtles and penguins are expertly animated and move as their real-world counterparts do. The colours and lighting breathe new life into Okinawa, an already-beautiful locale. The sheer majesty of nature proves to be the tonic that lifts Kukuru’s spirits, and through this trip, Kukuru cannot help but feel amazed at what’s out there. That Fūka joins her for the sea turtles’ hatching further shows that, no matter how their paths deviate, Kukuru will always have someone in her corner. In this area, The Aquatope on White Sand continues to excel. However, with only three episodes remaining, there remains turf that this anime has yet to cover. The visions seen at Gama Gama have not been given any exploration, and similarly, the kijimuna that periodically appeared in The Aquatope on White Sand‘s first half is nowhere to be seen. These developments must now be fitted into the remaining time, which likely will deal with the elephant in the room: Tetsuji and Kukuru will need to reconcile, even partially, if The Aquatope on White Sand is to be consistent in its themes. If the supernatural elements are to be relegated to the background, it will be disappointing, since The Aquatope on White Sand would imply that Corinthians 13:11 is correct. I’ve never believed in the claims that when “one becomes a man, [they necessarily] set aside childish things”. In other words, omitting the magic would suppose the world of adults to be a very dull and monotonous one, devoid of curiosity and exploration. Instead, I’ve found that the gap between an adult and a child is that a child receives magic, and an adult gives it. C.S. Lewis rightly states that Corinthians 13:11 is in fact childish: the desire to appear grown up by setting aside what is “childish” is in and of itself childish. An adult is someone who accepts themselves for who they are, as well as accepting others for who they are. With this in mind, because the magic has faded from prominence in The Aquatope on White Sand in favour for a tale of interpersonal development and professional growth, at the very least, the remainder of the series must sort out the conflicts between Tetsuji and Kukuru. Such messages would naturally be strengthened by the inclusion and return of both the visions at Gama Gama, as well as the kijimuna, and at this point in time, it’s anyone’s guess as to how The Aquatope on White Sand will wrap things up.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below: A Review and Full Recommendation on Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 Film At the Ten Year Anniversary

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” –Haruki Murakami

Ever since her father passed away, Asuna Watase spends her free time looking after the house while her mother works, and listening to music emanating from a mysterious radio that once belonged to her father with her cat, Mimi. One day, she encounters a boy named Shun after running into a Quetzalcoatl, a beast from the ancient world. After tending to Shun’s wounds, Asuna befriends him, but he falls to his death from the cliff ledge. The next day, Asuna is surprised that their new substitute instructor, Ryūji Morisaki, gives a lesson on the legend of Agartha, a world inhabited by the dead, and ends up speaking to him to learn more. Upon returning to her secret spot, Asuna is surprised to find another boy, Shin, there. It turns out he’s here to recover the Clavis fragment Shun had dropped, but the pair are cornered by Archangel, a paramilitary group searching for Agartha. Shin and Asuna manage to escape underground, with Archangel in pursuit. It turns out that Ryūji is leading the operation, and after a confrontation, Ryūji secures Asuna’s Clavis, giving him access to Agartha: Ryūji had been longing to resurrect his deceased wife. Upon arriving in Agartha, Ryūji and Asuna set off for the Gate of Life and Death, while Shin returns to the village and learns that his assignment had been unsuccessful, since Asuna possessed a Clavis fragment of her own. When Asuna is captured by the Izoku, monsters that fear the light, she encounters a little girl named Manna. Shin rescues them, but after Ryūji locates the two, Asuna persuades Ryūji to allow Shin to accompany them. In the village, the elder reluctantly allows Asuna and Ryūji to stay the night as repayment for having saved Manna, but warns that outsiders have always been an ill-omen in Agartha. The next morning, Asuna and Ryūji continue with their journey, while Mimi stays behind and passes away peacefully. After Manna offers Mimi’s corpse to a Quetzalcoatl, Shin notices the village’s soldiers riding out to intercept Asuna and Ryūji. He sets off after them with the aim of saving Asuna, but is promptly defeated in combat. The commander notes he’s betrayed Agartha and leave him to die, while Asuna and Ryūji arrive at the Gate of Life and Death. Unable to carry on, Asuna sets off and makes her way back to the surface, leaving Ryūji to climb to the bottom of the pit alone. As night falls, Asuna is tailed by a horde of Izoku, and laments having accepted this journey because she’d been feeling abandoned. Before the Izoku can kill her, Shin arrives and save her. They grieve Shun’s loss together and return to the Gate of Life at Death. Here, they encounter the Quetzalcoatl who’d accepted Mimi’s corpse, and learn it too is dying. Before it dies, it sings a song and offers to carry the pair down to the Gate of Life and Death. Upon crossing the barrier, they find Ryūji preparing to make his wish of bringing his wife back. However, the cost of resurrecting those from the dead is immense, and Ryūji loses his right eye, while Asuna is sacrificed to act as a vessel for his wife’s soul. Shin manages to destroy the Clavis and stop the process, saving Asuna but leaving Ryūji inconsolable. However, Shin notes that all living things come to an end and implores Ryūji to continue living for his wife’s sake. The pair accompany Asuna back to the portal leading to the surface and bid her farewell: Ryūji’s decided to remain behind in Agartha. Later, Asuna glances at the cliff where she first met Shin and Shun, before heading off to school with a smile on her face. This is Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below (Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo, literally “Children Who Chase Stars”, and from here on out, Children Who Chase Lost Voices for brevity), Makoto Shinkai’s 2011 film that remains his longest work and treads on territory that is is explored nowhere else amongst his repertoire.

At its core, Children Who Chase Lost Voices represents a bold new direction for Makoto Shinkai: although distance and separation still figures in the film’s central themes, as it had in his previous works, Children Who Chase Lost Voices deals predominantly in death and moving on. The film opens with Asuna, whose days are peaceful but lonely. When she encounters Shun one day, only for their time together to be cut short after Shun dies, she finds herself longing for a world where she could be together with those important to her again. That Ryūji appears as a substitute instructor shortly after is no coincidence, and more so than Asuna, Ryūji is seeking out what appears to be impossible, in locating a way to Agartha, the underworld, and its supposed means of bringing the dead back to life. This meeting sends Asuna on a journey into the fantastical realm that had hitherto been the stuff of legends, and through this adventure, Asuna comes to terms with her own desires. Meeting Shun had temporarily stemmed her feelings of loneliness, a consequence of living lengthy days without her father, who passed away when she’d been younger, and her mother, who works long days at a local clinic as a nurse, so it was natural that Asuna had desired more concrete relationships with people. Travelling through Agartha, and speaking to the underworld’s inhabitants, helps Asuna to accept that death and departure is a natural part of life, not to be lamented or feared, but accepted. Indeed, when Asuna leaves Mimi behind, she shows that she is able to let go of attachments in life. Conversely, Ryūji is unable to achieve the same, and his single-minded determination to reach Agartha and resurrect his deceased wife is a tale of tragedy. While he is knowledgeable and measured, he is also obsessed, and this obsession binds him to what should be obvious: that wishes contradicting the natural order will exact a heavy toll. He alone is able to reach the Gate of Life and Death to issue his wish, but the process leaves him disfigured and very nearly costs Asuna her life. Because Asuna is able to do what Ryūji could not, Children Who Chase Lost Voices indicates that our impressions of life and death are shaped early on, and while children may not be fully aware of the ramifications surrounding things like loss, they are also more open-minded and are more perceptive than adults believe. As such, when children ask about things like death, it is important to answer difficult questions truthfully and to the best of one’s knowledge, while at the same time, allowing children to also draw their own conclusions.

Beyond exploring a new theme in a novel setting, Children Who Chase Lost Voices also acted as a trailblazer for Shinkai; in his older works, The Place Promised in Our Early Days and Five Centimetres Per Second, the female leads were ethereal and delicate. Sayuri and Akari wound up being abstractions rather than full-fledged characters in order to facilitate Hiroki and Takaki’s growth. Conversely, Asuna has a much larger role in Children Who Chase Lost Voices compared to her predecessors; although she’s accompanying Ryūji, Asuna is shown as being very energetic and cheerful, even taking the initiative to do what she feels is right in a given moment. When they first arrive, Asuna heads off and finds sweet potatoes for herself and Ryūji. Later, she tries to rescue Manna when the Izoku begin appearing, and she is the first to accept that saying “goodbye” is a part of life, when she parts ways with Mimi. This is significant, marking a return to female characters with strength and agency. Asuna isn’t swept away by her circumstances, but instead, takes charge in making her own decisions, and for this reason, is able to find the answers she’d sought by visiting Agartha. This is in complete contrast with Sayuri, who falls into a coma and serves as Hiroki’s reason to fly up to the tower, or Akari, whose feelings for Takaki remain unanswered when she and her parents end up moving. Giving Asuna agency changes how Children Who Chase Lost Voices feels compared to its predecessors, and indeed, Shinkai would apply these lessons into the future: The Garden of Words‘ Yukari, Your Name‘s Mitsuha and Weathering With You‘s Hina each demonstrate the same autonomy and seize on a chance to change their situation, and even though circumstance steers them towards trouble, everyone winds up finding their own path anew. This creates more variety in Shinkai’s films, and indeed, having a female lead capable of making her own decisions and judgement would leave Shinkai’s works stronger than before. They’re no longer about separation and distance, but instead, depict the incredible lengths people go to make the most of things. While Children Who Chase Lost Voices might be among Shinkai’s lesser known works, especially when it stands in the shadows of The Garden of Words, Your Name and Weathering With You, this film remains highly significant and opened Shinkai up for more uplifting, optimistic stories about how people can take charge even when a situation appears to prohibit any sort of agency.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Today marks the ten year anniversary to when Children Who Chase Lost Voices released to BD: back then, I was an undergraduate student, and I remember that term particularly well. After a brutal semester the year before, I came into the new year filled with resolve. Children Who Chase Lost Voices would’ve come late in the semester, just a few weeks before exams were set to begin, and I still remember writing about it at my old site, as well as sharing a handful of screenshots showcasing the incredible landscapes in what was then Makoto Shinkai’s latest movie.

  • Whereas most of Shinkai’s works are set in an urban area, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is completely rural; the movie opens with a day in Asuna Watase’s life, and although her days are quite lonely, she definitely has her game together, looking after the housework while her mother is at work. Par the course for a Shinkai movie, the visuals in this film are stunning, and ten years later, the artwork hasn’t aged a day. There’s a sense of coziness in the Watase residence as Asuna collects the laundry by evening; I’ve always had a fondness for this aesthetic, and there’s a certain romance about sleeping with an open window.

  • My area only allows for this about three months of the year, although when it does get that nice, it is downright pleasant. It’s now been ten days since I took possession of my new home, and during the past weekend, I spent both afternoons cleaning out every square inch of the place. It’ll be a while yet before we can move in, since there’s the matter of buying the furniture; it’s been remarkably fun to browse through catalogues and see what’s available. After the move, one thing I am looking forwards to will be spending more time honing my craft in cooking: I can cook well enough to get by, but it will be exciting to try out recipes I see in anime and films (the pan-fried fish and Japanese rolled omelettes Asuna is enjoying here look quite good, for instance).

  • Having tried out some outrageous recipes on occasion (my favourite being a double burger topped with caramelised onions, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg), I am getting old enough to feel that an afternoon doing housework or spent making something tasty is much more relaxing than trying to unlock weapons and attachments in hacker-filled multiplayer servers. A decade earlier, I had the reflexes to keep up with gamers, but nowadays, single player games are the only games I’ll seriously consider; they allow me to play at my own pace, and I can put the brakes on at any time to go anything else, whether it’s housework or go get some exercise.

  • Asuna’s days of solitude come to a quick end when she encounters a beast on the bridge leading to her hideout. Fortunately, a young man, Shun, shows up and saves her. Although Shun has no intention of harming this beast, it turns out that said beast is in pain, so Shun shifts gears and decides to put it out of its misery. In the aftermath, Shun and Asuna become fast friends, with Shun being especially interested in the radio that Asuna is rocking. It turns out that, since Asuna’s radio uses a special crystal, it picks up broadcasts from another world, one that Shun is familiar with.

  • Being able to appreciate the music means that a connection forms between Asuna and Shun. The events of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, in a bit of irony, mirror that year: I met the person I’d come to fall in love with in Japanese class, and things began in a similarly unexpected manner, when I showed up in Japanese class wearing a full suit after giving a presentation at the university’s undergraduate symposium. We subsequently paired up on a project, and while rehearsing for the presentation, some of my classmates from health science wondered if I’d met someone special because they’d spotted us on break, and watching this movie together on my iPad.

  • At the time, I replied ‘no’ to my health science classmates; we’d been a great team and did well enough on the project, but we were merely classmates in Japanese at the time. Thus, we parted ways after term ended. However, as fate would have it, after the year ended, and I began studying for the MCAT, that this individual came back to my life – she’d started several summer courses, and I was wrapped up in studying for an exam far tougher than any I’d previously faced, so we supported one another through those busy times, getting to know one another better in the process. In Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Asuna’s time with Shun ends up being even shorter; he came up to the surface to seek out something, but falls off the cliff edge and dies in the process.

  • The encounter with Shun might’ve been short, but the ‘blessing’ he provides for Asuna causes her heart to flutter. Timing is irrelevant in a romance, and people can indeed fall in love very quickly. At the opposite end of the spectrum, falling in love can sometimes occur only after a lengthy period of rediscovery and patience. Naturally, there’s no right or wrong approach; here, Asuna’s mother has returned home from her shift and is curious to know why Asuna appears to be preparing two servings of lunch. Asuna’s conversation with her mother suggests that despite spending little time together, the two remain quite close.

  • Because she’s unaware of Shun’s death, Asuna ends up waiting for him, to no avail. Mirroring Asuna’s uncertainty, it is raining quite hard; from The Place Promised In Our Early Days onwards, Shinkai begins making extensive use of lighting and weather to convey a certain atmosphere and aesthetic. This is most apparent in Five Centimetres per Second, where snowfall comes to denote longing and separation. By The Garden of Words, however, Shinkai suggests that there is a romance surrounding light rain; it is only on rainy days where Takao meets Yukari at Shunjuku Koen. Being set before The Garden of Words, the rainfall in Children Who Chase Lost Voices is used in a more conventional manner.

  • I remember seeing this scene in an early trailer for the film in late 2010, and altogether, the trailer had been remarkably captivating. Back then, Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer had just become available, and I was still a complete novice to anime movies. Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer had actually been the exception to the rule in that, while the anime movie had premièred in Japan in September, the home release became available just three months later, in December. Children Who Chase Lost Voices followed a much more conventional pattern: the film was premièred in May 2011 and hit the shelves a mere six months later.

  • The length between a theatrical première and home release has steadily increased over the past decade, going from an average of six months to eight months. More popular movies, such as Shinkai’s more recent movies, Violet Evergarden, Girls und Panzer: Das FinaleHai-Furi and SaeKano: Fine, had waits exceeding eleven months. Beyond being a bit of an annoyance, and something I’m fond of vociferously griping about, the gap actually has no bearing on my excitement about a given film; I’ve found that being able to watch a film at my own pace is really all that matters.

  • As it turns out, Asuna’s father had died when she’d been young. Back then, she hadn’t quite been able to grasp the enormity of such an event, beyond the fact that her father wasn’t going to return. Shinkai chooses to set things during the winter, both to provide a vivid contrast to the warm weather of the present, as well as to show the extent of despair and sorrow in the moment. When Asuna’s mother explains that Shun had died, denial immediately sets in; Asuna’s certain that Shun is fine even though there’d been reports of a corpse found earlier.

  • With Asuna’s original instructor preparing to head off on maternity leave, her class receives a substitute teacher in the form of Ryūji Morisaki, who provides a lesson about the world of the dead in Japanese folklore. Folklore and literature becomes an integral part of each of Shinkai’s subsequent works: after Children Who Chase Lost VoicesThe Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You each incorporate elements of classical Japanese mythology into details of his own creation. This creates a much more intricate, immersive world, and suggests that for Shinkai, his belief is that while things are always advancing, there are some traditions and values that shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

  • The topic of an underworld from which the dead can be revived intrigues Asuna, who begins to believe there might be a way to see Shun again. She heads over to the library in pursuit of more knowledge, and although today, the consensus is that the planet’s interior is solid, composed of a rocky mantle and metallic core rather than being hollow, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a story; fiction represents a space to explore what could happen if our wishes were realised, and more often than not, it turns out that having the power to do things like returning the dead to the world of the living often exacts a terrible cost.

  • After classes end, Ryūji speaks with Asuna’s instructor and learns that Asuna is a focused, well-behaved student. Meanwhile, Asuna’s classmate suggests that Ryūji’s wife had died long ago when Asuna remarks that she has a few questions for Ryūji surrounding the day’s lessons. Although the conversation is incomplete to viewers, it solidifies the idea that Asuna’s life is a lonely one; Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an excellent example of a film where things are slowly laid out for viewers to follow, providing enough depth to be compelling, but at the same time, does not demand that the viewer have a solid background in Japanese folklore and beliefs.

  • The precedence that Children Who Chase Lost Voices set carry forwards into Shinkai’s later works – Ryūji has been chasing the myth of Agartha since his wife had died. Delving through countless scrolls, tomes and commonplace books, he learnt that there were patterns throughout history to suggest Agartha was indeed real – originally, ancient beings known as Quetzalcoatl guided humanity, but humanity eventually reached a point where it could fend for itself, so the remaining Quetzalcoatl retreated underground and a few humans accompanied them.

  • Ryūji deduces that Asuna had been the one who encountered Shun, and believes that Asuna’s interest in Agartha similarly stems from a desire to bring someone back from the dead. The visual clutter in Ryūji’s apartment shows the extent of his interest in the underworld; the interior is filled with books, maps and charts. Of note is a confidential report whose contents are rendered entirely in English. After his radio lights up, Ryūji sends Asuna home and asks her to not take any detours, but on her way back, Mimi appears, and Asuna heads off in pursuit. She spots a glint from her hideout and rushes up here, where she encounters a young man no older than herself.

  • As it turns out, this is Shin, Shun’s younger brother. Their encounter is interrupted when an AH-1 Cobra shows up. The extent of Ryūji’s obsession with Agartha is such that he leads a paramilitary outfit known as Archangel to search for its entrance, and the fact that they possess a Cobra speaks to the extent of their resources – one could suppose that Archangel has investors who are curious about the wealth that Agartha possesses. When I first watched Children Who Chase Lost Voices, I initially thought that this was an AH-64 Apache, but the Cobra lacks the Apache’s distinct T700 turboshaft engines and single-barrel M230 30mm chain gun. Instead, one can spot the AH-1’s chin-mounted M197 20mm electric cannon.

  • Members of Archangel corner Asuna and Shin at the cliff’s edge: two soldiers accompanying Ryūji are armed with the Uzi. Even now, I can’t readily identify the sidearm that Ryūji himself is carrying, but I remain impressed with the acrobatics Shin is capable of: surprising the soldiers, he carries Asuna and leaps down into the forests below in an attempt to shake Archangel and return to Agartha’s entrance. However, his actions also lead Archangel straight to said entrance: the AH-1 Cobra follows in pursuit and quickly determines where the pair ended up.

  • The Clavis allows Agartha’s residents to carry out feats of superhuman strength and agility; with its magical properties, Shin moves a massive boulder to block off the entrance, before squaring off against a Quetzalcoatl he refers to as the Gatekeeper. This Quetzalcoatl was originally a guardian meant to keep outsiders from entering Agartha, but the Gatekeeper’s age means its senses are no longer as acute as they once were – it attacks Shin, forcing Shin to defend himself. However, using the Cobra’s 20 mm rounds, Archangel destroys the boulder with ease and enter the cave. Ryūji’s two soldiers then execute the Gatekeeper, and Ryūji identifies himself for Shin and Asuna’s benefit.

  • While Shin had been intending to fight Ryūji and his soldiers, once Ryūji explains that he’s here to seek out the Gate of Life and Death to resurrect his wife, Shin relents and lets Ryūji and Asuna be – outsiders had previously came to Agartha to plunder its treasures, but Ryūji’s wish is something for Agartha’s gods to pass judgement on. Moreover, Shin’s original assignment had simply been to retrieve Shun’s Clavis fragment. After Shin leaves, Ryūji gives Asuna the choice to turn back or accompany him. Having come this far, Asuna makes the choice to follow Ryūji, yearning to bring Shun back to life and see what lies beyond.

  • Ryūji leads Asuna onwards into the barrier separating the surface from Agartha: the Interstitial Sea. According to the legends, Agartha lies beneath this sea, which is composed of a fluid called aquavita, which is curious because aquavitae is the name for distilled spirits in reality. In Children Who Chase Lost Voices, this fluid possesses properties that allow for liquid breathing, and once Asuna adjusts to the unusual sensation, she and Ryūji follow a path that leads deep into the planet. The sheer scale of the constructs underground far surpass anything that modern humans have the capacity to construct, suggesting that ancient humans and the Quetzalcoatl would’ve worked together to make their underground realm.

  • Asuna reawakens and is surprised that Mimi had accompanied them through the Interstitial Sea to Agartha. They find a Quetzalcoatl guarding the front entrance into Agartha, and Ryūji prepares to shoot it, but Mimi manages to convince the Quetzalcoatl that they’re visitors. As Ryūji and Asuna gaze upon Agartha’s landscape, the music crescendos majestically. The incidental music in Children Who Chase Lost Voices is composed by Atsushi Shirakawa (better known as Tenmon), who had previously worked with Shinkai on all of his films. Children Who Chase Lost Voices marks the last time Tenmon scores the music to Shinkai’s films, and to match the scope and scale of this film, the music has a much richer sound.

  • Although Agartha is doubtlessly wonderous, the choice to have the entrance set in the open plains also serves to emphasise how vast and empty the underworld is. This disconnect creates a sense of melancholy: while Asuna and Ryūji might’ve arrived in Agartha, this land might not hold the answers to the questions they possess. In the skies above, the Shakuna Vimana passes by. These vessels originate from Hindu texts, and as Ryūji notes, they’re the chariot of the Gods. The fact that Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below draws from so much mythology would suggest that the world’s myths, at least in this universe, have a common origin in Agartha.

  • While Shinkai’s previous films had been gorgeously animated, and his latest films surpass all expectations when it comes to visual detail, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is unique because it marks the first film set in a completely different world. This allows Shinkai and his animators to really explore landscapes and scenery from a fantastical world. In this regard, I do wish that Shinkai and his team would take a chance on settings beyond Tokyo: The Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You feature Tokyo as its main setting, and as intricate as Tokyo appears, it would be interesting to see how Shinkai and his team’s advancing craft might portray other parts of the world, or other worlds.

  • After reaching some stone ruins, Ryūji sets down and consults his notes to determine their next destination, while Asuna ends up going exploring and finds Agarthan potatoes that end up being surprisingly tasty; it turns out that Asuna was able to find some salt in the stone ruins. Surprised with Asuna’s high spirits, Ryūji asks about how she’s feeling, and she replies that she’d been feeling amped since their arrival because there’s something she’s seeking out. Viewers can conclude that a part of Asuna still yearns to reunite with Shun, and the excitement she’s feeling comes from this possibility.

  • Back in a temple, Shin is debriefed by the elders; his original assignment had been to retrieve the Clavis that Shun had brought to the surface with him, and although he’d been successful here, the fact that is that Asuna and Ryūji have entered their world with another Clavis fragment in hand is worrying, suggesting that outsiders may yet interfere with things in Agartha and bring more troubles with them. To this end, the elders set Shin with recovering the Clavis fragment that Ryūji and Asuna possess. It turns out that Shun always been the preferred sibling for his powers, but possessed a desire to see the surface, which is what led him to Asuna. While Shin lacks the same power, he attempts to carry out his duties as best as he can.

  • While Shin had been set the goal of recovering the Clavis in Ryūji and Asuna’s possession by any means necessary, and remarks to another girl in the village, Seri, that if required, he’d consider lethal force, the reality is that Shin is torn between doing his duties, and doing what’s right. Their conversation supposes that exposure to the surface accelerates any illnesses one may have, and that both Shun and Shin are orphans who were raised by the village. His loyalty to them is a result of wishing to pay back the village’s kindness, although these loyalties do begin shifting.

  • Meanwhile, Ryūji and Asuna have taken refuge underneath a boulder to escape a rainfall. When Asuna makes an offhand comment about how Ryūji has come to be a father figure, Ryūji later dreams about the events that led them to Agartha. It turns out that his wife had died before he returned from his tour of duty during a war, and despite his efforts otherwise, Ryūji never moved on from his loss. The exact war is not known: while it would appear that Ryūji is fighting in the European Theatre during World War Two, he’s armed with an M4 Carbine with a Close Quarter Barrel Receiver. The M4 entered service in 1994, which complicates identifying which war Ryūji would’ve fought in, although since this is a dream, the smaller details would be secondary to the idea that Ryūji greatly misses his late wife.

  • When Asuna falls asleep, she ends up being taken by the Izoku, enigmatic monsters who can only travel through solid surfaces in the shadows while there is light (but when it is dark, they can roam freely). These beings are a part of the natural order in Agartha, although for the purposes of Children Who Chase Lost Voices, they exist to act as a reminder that life in Agartha has its own challenges. When Asuna comes to in the stone ruins, she finds another girl, Manna, here. The pair attempt to escape, but to no avail; the area is sealed off, and the nearest exit is too high to reach.

  • Fortunately, Shin arrives at the last possible second to save both Asuna and Manna. They manage to escape the ruins, but with the Izoku closing rapidly, Shin orders Asuna to jump into the river below; the Izoku have an aversion to water and will not traverse where water flows. The determined and plucky traits seen in Asuna bring to mind the likes of female leads from Studio Ghibli’s movies, marking a welcome new direction for Shinkai’s movies. Until now, I’d found that in his earlier films, the female leads were more passive, and lacked agency.

  • Conversely, in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Asuna is driven and takes the initiative to make her own decisions. These traits carry over to The Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You; a part of why these films are so successful is because female leads are impacting the story to a greater extent. Here, Asuna attempts to prevent Shin from being swept away in the river’s fierce currents, but Shin ends up taking an Izoku’s claw to the back and is swept off. Asuna leaps off after them in an attempt to rescue the pair, but the currents end up overcoming her, too.

  • The currents end up washing everyone downstream, where Ryūji finds them. Ryūji is relieved that Asuna is okay, but when Shin comes to and confronts Ryūji for the Clavis, he gets pistol-whipped. Disappointed with how Ryūji treats Shin, Asuna declares that they’ll bring Shin with them. Ryūji does not object, and upon arrival, their presence is almost immediately noted. The presence of outsiders prompt the local armed forces to appear; Agartha’s residents are deeply mistrustful of people from the surface, and here, a little more information is also provided regarding Manna: she’s mute as a result of having witnessed her mother’s death.

  • The commanding soldier initially turns Ryūji and Asuna back; the outsiders are treated as an ill omen in Agartha, and despite Asuna’s requests to get Shin looked at, the soldiers stand firm. Ryūji has no quarrel with the people of Agartha and makes to comply, but the village’s master, who also happens to be Manna’s grandfather, requests that the group be allowed to rest for one evening as recompense for having saved his granddaughter. The soldiers leave, and the elderly man bring them back to his home, where Shin is looked over and allowed to rest. As it turns out, Manna’s mother was from Agartha, and her father was from the surface; this is why the soldiers refer to Manna as “defiled”.

  • Speaking with the village’s master provides vital exposition that fills in remaining gaps about Agartha, and he explains that the antipathy for outsiders stems from a history where outsiders had arrived in Agartha to pillage and burn. Amongst historical figures who have done this include Julius Caeser, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin; it is implied that it was through the wealth of treasure and knowledge from Agartha that they were able to amass the resources to rule the world, but their expeditions also caused a great deal of harm and suffering to Agartha’s people. To prevent outsiders from returning, Agartha’s remaining residents sealed the gates that were once opened.

  • The fact that people from the surface brought death and destruction with them, enough to annihilate Agartha’s once-great civilisation, explains why there is so much hostility towards outsiders, and why ruins litter Agartha. With their birthrate declining, Agartha’s once-mighty people are now scattered in a vast, empty land. The village Master is surprised that Mimi (technically a Yadoriko rather than a cat), is so friendly with Asuna. These beings are said to accompany humans while they live, and then return to the Quetzalcoatl in death. This revelation does seem to reinforce the idea that Asuna’s father had a connection with Agartha. Here, Asuna is surprised to be offered a bath, and the sharp-eyed viewer will have noted that Asuna’s not really had the comforts of home since arriving in Agartha.

  • Being able to immerse herself in warm water and rest would seem like an unbelievable luxury after the trek she’d been on. Floral baths aren’t unique to Agartha, nor are the flowers present just for show. It turns out that taking a floral bath has some health benefits, and depending on the flowers used, different effects can be enjoyed, from improving circulation and skin hydration. Such a setup does look remarkably comfortable, although I’ve always been more of a shower person owing to the fact that a quick shower conserves water. After finishing up, Asuna gets dressed in an Agarthan-style outfit, and runs into Ryūji, who says the clothes don’t suit her, causing Asuna to pout.

  • Agartha’s cuisine appears to have an East Asian influence: Asuna had been seen peeling a daikon earlier, and they use chopsticks. Dinner proves delicious, and Asuna spends it savouring every bite. Over their meal, Ryūji asks the Master about his desire to resurrect the dead; he reasons that while this act is verboten in Agartha, that it is prohibited must imply there is a way to do so. The Master’s attempts to turn Ryūji from his desires to no avail, and is unable to convince Ryūji that life and death are a part of the natural world. I imagine that Ryūji does end up getting some answers, but this is not shown: the Master asks Asuna to look after Shin, who’s awake now and becomes worked up after Asuna mentions Shun.

  • The Master rightly notes that people who come to Agartha do so because of a great loss, and that a great many misunderstandings could have been avoided if said people had someone to talk to. This is true of Ryūji, and certainly true of Asuna. Through Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai aims to show how “adventure” is really just another way to say that after sustaining a loss, people wander. Without guidance and support, people can become lost in their own thoughts and venture down a path they might come to regret. As such, it becomes important to be compassionate and empathetic towards those who do suffer loss in their lives, while at the same time, giving them the space they need to recover.

  • The next morning, Ryūji and Asuna prepare to head off by boat, but to Asuna’s surprise, Mimi stays behind. This is shocking because Mimi had remained faithfully by Asuna’s side all this time, and as such, the unexpected change in behaviour is a result of Mimi preparing for death. For Asuna, being able to say goodbye to Mimi and part ways is a turning point in her character; she’s able to make peace with the fact that she won’t be with Mimi forever, and this sets the precedence for letting go of Shun, as well. Ryūji and Asuna travel under a gorgeous sunrise, and this moment captures the peaceful atmosphere within Agartha, as well as the fact that it is a world in decline: a massive ruin can be seen in this distance.

  • Mimi passes away, and after the Master reassures Manna it’ll be okay, the Master takes Manna out to a vast field, where Mimi’s remains are offered to a Quetzalcoatl. The one that arrives is an ancient one; one of its arms are blown off, although it accepts the offering and consumes Mimi. The Master notes that this is how Mimi returns to the world, and given the way things work in Agartha, one can suppose that here, the secret to immortality is simple enough: life is still finite, but what lingers after death, is what confers immortality.

  • The vastness of the field where Manna returns Mimi to the world is a visual metaphor for life and death itself; Shinkai indicates that the openness of such a space allows one to see great distances, and in this way, being out here corresponds to one accepting that what lies beyond life is not something to be feared. While Manna cries for the loss of Mimi’s life, Shin speaks with the Master and wonders if Asuna is able to accept life and death as two halves of a whole. The idea that death is not something to be tampered with is a theme that has long permeated fiction, and authors generally agree that those who attempt to raise new life from the dead or cheat death itself will face inevitable punishment.

  • The stakes increase when the village soldiers set off at full tilt for the same destination that Ryūji and Asuna are headed towards. The Master feels that their intention is to stop Ryūji and Asuna from reaching the Gate of Life and Death at all costs, even if it means killing them: Shin has spotted that the soldiers are carrying firearms, a sign that they mean business. When Ryūji spots them, he opens fire with his Uzi, but Shin uses his own dagger to knock the submachine gun from Ryūji’s hands before he can land any shots.

  • Noting that he’s acting to save Ryūji and Asuna, freeing himself from the debt he’d owed them, Shun now faces off against the soldiers in combat. Going from the single-shot weapons the soldiers are carrying, they would be easily bested by anyone carrying repeating firearms; repeaters first appeared in 1630 with the development of the Kalthoff repeater, and by the 1800s, revolvers and lever-action rifles had become commonplace. Since reloading presumably takes a while, the soldiers switch over to their swords and duel Shin one-to-one. Shin’s prowess impresses the commander, but he is ultimately beaten back.

  • The opening Shin creates allows Ryūji and Asuna to reach Finis Terra, a massive pit housing the Gate of Life and Death at its bottom. When Asuna glances over the ledge, the pit’s depth is such that the bottom cannot even be seen. This location likely was what inspired Your Name‘s scenery, when Taki and Mitsuha were finally able to meet one another during evening. However, Finis Terra (literally “end of the land”) possesses none of the warmth: it is raining here, and the skies are rapidly darkening as the sun sets. Tenmon uses an unearthly choir to convey the otherworldly feeling at this spot, which is easily the most unsettling place in the whole of Agartha.

  • As Asuna attempts to climb down what is a vertical cliff shear, a current rushes upwards and threatens to dislodge her; the effort proves too much, and Asuna decides to turn around and return to the village at Ryūji’s suggestion. The moment had been quite unnerving, and viewers get the sense that whatever lies at the bottom of the cliff does not want any surface-dwellers present. Even ten years later, this part of Children Who Chase Lost Voices remains quite tense, speaking to the incredible effort that went into the aesthetics for this film. While many things in my world have changed in the past decade, that anime films can still elicit the same response speaks to their staying power.

  • The extent of the changes to my world became clear earlier today, when I participated in a virtual panel to discuss career paths for alumni of my major. Joining me were my old program head, programme coordinator and two other panelists. While answering questions the students posed, I was sent down memory lane, recalling iconic health science moments, such as joining the lab that ended up being the basis for my graduate work, the various research symposiums I attended (and their free pizza), and the exams I studied for with my classmates. I was surprised to learn that there had been a question directed at me specifically, inquiring how I ended up as a mobile developer despite having started in health science.

  • The answer I gave was simple enough: while health sciences is about medical science and health policy, the inquiry and analytical skills students cultivate are versatile enough to be utilised in other disciplines, and health science has always encouraged the multidisciplinary approach towards problem solving. Coupled with the fact that I already had basic understanding of programming and software development, the transition wasn’t as abrupt as one might imagine. It did come as a bit of a surprise to me that the other panelists had a similar career progression, but as the department head stated, it’s okay not to know of one’s destination early in the game.

  • For Asuna, she set out for Agartha with a similar lack of destination in mind, and only vaguely knew that she wanted to speak with Shun once more. However, when the final leg of her journey becomes too much, she isn’t able to continue and turns back around. While this decision nearly costs Asuna her life, it also shows that Asuna is able to spot when things aren’t working. This is something that, during the panel, I mentioned as being an important thing to know – forcing ahead with something, as Ryūji does, can prove to be detrimental. However, Asuna’s journey is not meaningless, and her time in Agartha does prove instrumental in shaping her thoughts on life and death. Similarly, it is the case that one’s experiences, both good and bad, shape one’s current self, so if and when I’m asked, I do not regret taking a more crooked, uncertain path to the present, either.

  • Unfortunately for Asuna, the creek she’s traversing runs dry, and this allows the Izoku to finally capture her. In desperation, Asuna trains the sidearm Ryūji had given her, but unaccustomed to its recoil, she misses her shot. The aurora borealis here are especially visible: the night skies in Agartha are aglow with the ghostly dance of the northern lights. In reality, aurora result from the interaction of solar wind with oxygen and nitrogen atoms (which cause electrons to jump orbitals and release photons when they return to their ground state). Under ground, one would suppose that, since the skies of Agartha are blocked off by Earth’s crust, solar wind would never interact with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms down here. However, since the sun is visible down here, one must suppose that there are other forces at work, too.

  • I’m not here to break down the series for its faithfulness to reality because it is a meaningless exercise: just when Asuna is about to succumb to the Izoku’s grip, Shin shows up and kills the Izoku attacking her. The sun rises shortly after, forcing the remaining Izoku to retreat. With the morning here, both Shin and Asuna do feel as though there is new hope, now that the sun has risen. While the Izoku are a terrifying foe, Shin is able to kill one with a knife, leaving me to wonder if firearms would’ve been useful against them. The Izuko only show up in certain areas after night has fallen, and since the villages are safe, one must imagine that Agartha’s inhabitants have simply adjusted to their presence and placed their settlements away from the Izoku’s turf, rather than wage a campaign of extermination as contemporary humans are wont to doing.

  • After Shin and Asuna share their memories of Shun, they allow one another the time to cry themselves out. Asuna had been holding back her feelings, but here, she finally lets her emotions out. While society has reservations about tears, crying is an effective means of flushing out sorrow and grief: the process releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, which are hormones that create a feeling of calm. In the aftermath, both Shin and Asuna determine that they need to get Ryūji back – while he’s kept calm by his single-minded focus, this stubbornness has left him blind to the costs of resurrecting the dead.

  • After finally reaching the bottom of Finis Terra, Ryūji locates the Gate of Life and Death and ventures inside. The Shakuna Vimana feels the presence of a Clavis crystal and makes its way over to hear whatever wish Ryūji has in mind. Thanks to numerous warnings, both from the village Master, and common knowledge about the costs of raising the dead back into the world of the living, viewers will immediately gain a sense of unease at what Ryūji is trying to accomplish. What follows is then simple enough; Shin and Asuna must get back down and reach the Gate of Life and Death to stop Ryūji.

  • The same Quetzalcoatl that had accepted Mimi’s corpse has come here to Finis Terra to pass on, as well. Spotting Asuna and Shin, it offers them a ride down to the bottom, allowing the pair to bypass the treacherous descent that Ryūji would’ve had to had made. Coupled with Shin’s Clavis, the pair float down safely after the Quetzalcoatl vanishes from this world. I would imagine that the gap between Ryūji’s enormously difficult descent and the comparatively straightforward one Asuna takes is meant to be a metaphor for how sometimes, the things that are meant to be present much less resistance compared to the things we were not meant to have.

  • Once inside the portal, Shin and Asuna spot a faint glow coming from Ryūji: he’s managed to contact the gods’ vessel, which transforms into a monstrous, multi-eyed being. After regarding Ryūji, it prepares to grant his wish. However, recalling someone from death is not an easy feat, and the gods must first use a vessel in order to carry out the process. Asuna is immediately seized, and she slowly begins taking on the appearance of Ryūji’s late wife. Even Asuna’s sacrifice isn’t enough: the energy involved draws out Ryūji’s life force, and he becomes scarred in the process.

  • It is here that Shin chooses to act; to Ryūji, Asuna was expendable, and to grant Ryūji’s wish, Asuna would have to give up her life in order to allow Ryūji’s wife to come back. The question of sacrificing the young for the old is a very difficult topic, one that I’m certainly not qualified to discuss, but in Children Who Chase Lost Voices, Shinkai suggests that this isn’t up for debate: the outcomes of this film indicates that Shinkai hedges his bets on youth and giving them a shot at the future. To this end, Shin attempts to shatter the Clavis and stop the process, but Ryūji overpowers him, allowing the process to reach completion.

  • Ryūji thus reunites with Lisa, and Asuna’s spirit is sent onwards, although Lisa appears to retain Asuna’s memories: she feels Shin to be familiar. Asuna’s spirit ends up meeting both Mimi and Shun; having found the strength to do so, Asuna manages to properly bid Shun farewell, and in this moment, Shin also shatters the Clavis. In her remaining moments, Lisa apologises for having lacked the strength to protect Ryūji and prepares to depart once more, leaving Ryūji to suffer the loss of death anew. By toying with forces beyond human comprehension, Ryūji ends up losing Lisa twice – this time would’ve hit even harder because Ryūji had, until now, been working towards this one moment, so to see everything taken away again would’ve been particularly devastating.

  • Although Ryūji desires death to escape the pain of loss and asks Shin to kill him here nad now, Shin implores Ryūji to live on instead. Asuna soon comes to, and unlike Ryūji, who’d come to Agartha with a very clear goal in mind and was unwilling to listen to those who tried to turn him away from his path, Asuna’s lack of preconceptions and singular objective in Agartha means that she was able to venture into this realm and gain something invaluable: knowledge and wisdom. Having now had the chance to properly say goodbye to Shun and Mimi, Asuna is finally ready to take a step forward and leave the deceased to rest.

  • The three prepare to make their way back to Agartha’s gateway: Ryūji elects to stay behind and learn from the Agarthans in order to find peace and come to terms with his wife’s death. Here, they make use of a ramp that leads back to Agartha’s surface – it is not lost on me that, had Ryūji been more patient and bothered to research this detail, his descent would’ve been less difficult, but then again, had Ryūji appreciated something like this, he might have never made the journey to Agartha at all. As Children Who Chase Lost Voices draws to a close, Anri Kumaki’s Hello, Goodbye and Hello begins to play. This song brought a solitary tear to my eye when I first watched this movie, being both upbeat and melancholy at the same time.

  • Some time later, Asuna returns to her old life on the surface, and having fully accepted that death is a natural part of life, is able to move on – she smiles before heading out the door for school, bringing the film to a close. While the themes in Children Who Chase Lost Voices are easily discerned, the me of ten years ago struggled to write about this film. I still had considerable difficulty with this post a decade later, but looking back, I would contend that, having ten more years of life experience and knowledge of Shinkai’s latest works together, is what allowed me to better convey how I feel about what is one of Makoto Shinkai’s lesser-known films. Children Who Chase Lost Voices is completely overshadowed by Garden of WordsYour Name and Weathering With You, but relative to its successors, is no less enjoyable and compelling, being an indispensable Makoto Shinkai experience. With this ten-year anniversary post in the books, I’ll return to wrap the month up with a talk on The Aquatope on White Sand after twenty-one, and remark that the MG Kyrios I ordered arrived today. I am looking forwards to building it once I confirm the status of the vacation time I’d requested a few weeks earlier.

Altogether, Children Who Chase Lost Voices represents Makoto Shinkai’s boldest, most daring film to date. New themes and new character traits come together in a fantastical story portraying a setting none of his works have ever portrayed. Whereas Shinkai focuses on Tokyo in his films, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is set in rural Japan and the legendary world of Agartha, a place of rolling hills, ancient ruins, endless plains and a treacherous crater housing the Gate of Life and Death. Each setting is rendered in stunning detail, whether it be the interior of Asuna’s house and classroom, to the village and landscapes of Agartha. The end result of this level of detail is that Agartha is brought to life, becoming as convincing as any real-world location Shinkai traditionally sets his stories in. Bringing out the best in Agartha makes it clear to viewers that this world is as real as the one we’re familiar with, and consequently, the learnings that Asuna picks up here are certainly applicable in the real world, as well. In an interview, Shinkai states that he wanted to create a more optimistic messages about parting ways, and Children Who Chase Lost Voices is a film that completely succeeds in this regard. It is unsurprising that after its release, the film was universally acclaimed; in fact, some people even began comparing Shinkai to the works of Hayato Miyazaki (although Shinkai himself dislikes this comparison, feeling it to be an overestimation of his own abilities). While Children Who Chase Lost Voices is overshadowed by its successors’ success, as well as the fact that in 2019, Sentai Filmworks lost the license to the film, the film remains a worthwhile watch owing to its trailblazing elements that would become commonplace in his newer films, as well as for its wonderful depiction of Agartha and a moving story that shows how, distance or not, people can persevere, overcome and learn. This film might no longer be as accessible as it was a few years earlier, but its contributions are nontrivial, and as such, fans of Makoto Shinkai’s works will greatly enjoy this journey to Agartha, one journey that should not be forgotten.