The Infinite Zenith

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

Gundam SEED: Review and Reflection At The Halfway Point

“What the can you hope to protect when your feelings are the only weapons you’ve got?” –Kira Yamato

The creation of genetically enhanced humans, Coordinators, results in a rift that eventually erupts into open hostilities, prompting the Coordinators to settle in space in colonies called PLANTS. When an attack on the PLANT, Junius-7, is destroyed by nuclear weapons, the Earth Alliance and PLANTs go to war. With their superior technology, the PLANTS develop mobile suits, weapons that give them a massive advantage. To counteract this, the Earth Alliance strike an agreement with the neutral Orb Union to develop G-weapons at Heliopolis – when ZAFT catches wind of this programme, they mount an operation to steal these new mobile suits. Coordinator Kira Yamato ends up piloting the remaining G-weapon, the GAT-X105 Strike to fend off the mobile suits, and with his friends, boards the new model carrier, the Archangel, for a trip to the Earth Alliance’ base in Alaska. However, this journey is fraught with challenges – ZAFT’s Commander Rau Le Creuset is intent on destroying the Archangel, and Kira Yamato’s longtime friend, Athrun Zala, has become a ZAFT pilot. The Archangel manages to elude Creuset’s team on several occasions, and after an ill-fated stop at the Artemis station, stops to retrieve frozen water from the remains of Janius-7. Here, the Archangel captures Lacus Clyne, daughter of PLANT chairman Siegel Clyne. Resupplied, the Archangel manages to reach Earth’s defensive fleet. During the battle, Flay Allster’s father is killed by enemy fire, and Lacus manages to encourage him. In turn Kira chooses to return her to the ZAFT forces against orders. Kira’s friends end up enlisting to protect those around them, but after approaching Earth, Athrun and his team manage to destroy the entire fleet that had shown up. Kira and the Strike manage to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere with the Archangel, landing in Northern Africa. They meet a resistance force after fending off Earth-based ZAFT forces and their commander, Andrew Waltfeld. Kira also encounters Cagalli, who is with the resistance. Both are captured by Waltfeld, but Waltfeld chooses to spare them. Later, when members of the Creuset team join them, Waltfeld launches an attack on the Archangel, but is seemingly killed after Kira defeats his custom mobile armour. The Archangel subsequently heads for Orb Union, but in an engagement, Cagalli is shot down and encounters Athrun for the first time, but is later rescued. Upon arriving in Orb Union, Kira is asked to share his expertise on mobile suit operating systems to aid in their own programmes. With the Archangel’s arrival in Orb Union, I’ve reached the halfway point of Gundam SEED, a Gundam series dating back to 2002. With an intimidating fifty episodes, Gundam SEED had been a series I had difficulty approaching, but with encouragement from my friends, I’ve now opened my journey into one of the most recognisable and iconic Gundam series of the 2000s.

Out of the gates, Gundam SEED wastes no time in establishing its themes: with Kira and Athrun on opposite sides of the war, their simultaneous reluctance to fight one another and desire to do right by those around them creates an internal conflict that must be reconciled. For Kira, he fights to keep his friends safe, and constantly wonders what the point of war is. At the same time, as Kira becomes accustomed to the Strike’s capabilities, he also reluctantly accepts that there are things that only he can do, although in doing so, Kira also feels an increasing disconnect from his parents. At the opposite end is Athrun, a ZAFT pilot who seeks to end the war between the Coordinators and Naturals through force: after losing his mother in the Janius-7 incident, he resolves to beat down the Earth Alliance and help to bring about peace. Gundam SEED goes to great lengths to show the human side of warfare in its first half: behind every gun sight is a human being, and one’s enemies on the battlefield might get along fine as friends outside of war. Nowhere is this more apparent than Andrew Waltfeld, a devoted soldier but honourable man: while he and Kira might be on opposite sides of the conflict, Waltfeld is genuinely interested in Kira’s potential and greatly respects him. Similarly, having now spoken with Waltfeld, Kira hesitates to strike a killing blow in combat. As it stands, Gundam SEED suggests that in a given war, politicians and calculating officiers are the true enemy, seeking conflict as a means of achieving their own ends. Both the PLANT’s councillors and Earth Force brass seem quite unconcerned with the cost of war, and similarly, the calm, calculating but unstable Rau Le Creuset suggest that beyond Kira and Athrun’s genuine desire to protect those around them and end the war, more sinister forces are at work for both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance. These forces account for why the Orb Union has been developing their own mobile suits, as a means of defense against an increasingly unstable world.

No discussion about Gundam SEED would be complete without mention of the G-weapons, and in particular, the GAT-X015 Strike. Despite being a powerful prototype mobile suit equipped with a sophisticated OS and Phase Shift armour, which negates all physical attacks, the Strike (and its brethren, the Aegis, Duel, Blitz and Buster) is limited by its use of a battery. Owing to the constraints that Neutron Jammers introduce (it’s suggested they block neutron movement, suppressing fission reactions), mobile suits are forced to rely on batteries as their power supply, and as a result, despite offering firepower equivalent to that of a battle ship, mobile suits remain constrained by their operational time. This forces pilots to act in an efficient manner to achieve their goals, and initially, Kira pushes the Strike to its limits during combat, to the point where the Phase Shift armour powers down as a result. Limitations in the Strike’s capabilities forces Kira to grow as a pilot: from not being baited by enemy forces to placing his shots more carefully, Kira improves with each operation, assisted by his innate abilities as a Coordinator. While Kira’s prowess as a pilot has been the subject of no small discussion for the past two decades, Gundam SEED demonstrates that even Kira Yamato began as a novice, and it is over time that he ends up becoming the pilot that he is. Gundam SEED thus opens in a very strong manner, and being a re-telling of the Universal Century’s story, ends up with many parallels. In fact, having now seen Gundam Unicorn, it is fair to say that Gundam SEED‘s first half inspired Unicorn‘s progression: both Banagher and Kira are reluctant pilots who only get into the cockpit to protect those important to them, suffer a catastrophic loss while fighting an enemy combatant during re-entry, land in the desert and rediscover their will to fight in the process. However, unlike Gundam Unicorn, Gundam SEED takes its time in presenting its story, and in this area, Gundam SEED fully utilises its run time to flesh things out; in conjunction with a phenomenal soundtrack, Gundam SEED excels in conveying the emotions each of the characters feel as they navigate the horrors and desolation of warfare.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While character dynamics are just as integral to Gundam, the mobile suits are the centrepiece of any given Gundam series, so I’ll open the post with Kira destroying a GINN using the Strike’s anti-ship sword. Gundam SEED is no different: the first three episodes deal with ZAFT’s operation at Heliopolis and Kira boarding the Strike. I believe this marks the first time I’ve ever written about a 50-episode anime, which means that there’s enough going on such that I won’t be able to cover every conceivable detail, and even the collection of screenshots I’ve amassed only cover a very small faction of the series.

  • The Strike was very much an interesting lead machine for me: until now, every Gundam I’ve seen features a lead machine that was nigh-unstoppable, without limitations. The Exia had no equal in melee combat in Gundam 00, and its successors improved on the basic concepts further. while the Unicorn was leagues above its predecessors in performance. Amuro Ray’s RX-93 was similarly a highly powerful machine utilising unexplored technology. While these machines have their drawbacks, their base operations are solid compared to other mobile suits. Conversely, while the Strike is powerful, it is primarily limited by its battery’s operational time, forcing Kira and the Archangel to fight strategically with it.

  • Gundam SEED‘s Sai, Tolle, Miriallia and Flay are ordinary youth at the series’ beginning, thrust into extraordinary circumstances as a result of warfare. For a novice like myself, they’re equivalent to Gundam Unicorn‘s Micott and Takuya, Banagher’s friends from Industrial Seven who are brought on board the Nahel Argama. Unlike Sai, Tolle and Miraiallia, who become bridge crew, Takuya and Micott end up helping the engineers instead, and it is said that Takuya’s mechanical skill led to the conception of the Full Armour Unicorn. Similarly, Sai, Tolle and Miriallia end up contributing to the Archangel’s combat operations.

  • At the opposite end of the conflict are Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty pilots, Dearka, Yzak and Nicol fight alongside Athrun and the enigmatic Rau Le Creuset. Their operations at Heliopolis begins this conflict, and while Yzak is utterly devoted to ZAFT, the other pilots in Athrun’s group are more sympathetic individuals. In particular, I’m rather fond of Nicol: his moderate characterisation and preference for music over warfare serves to remind viewers that while Athrun and Kira might be on opposite sides, both Athrun and Kira have things they want to protect.

  • In the Universal Century, I have an inclination to side with the EFSF, and in Anno Domini, the Earth Federation and their A-LAWS made them the antagonists. The Cosmic Era suggests that things are more complicated: the higher ups in ZAFT are split between annihilating the Naturals and stopping their war, and similarly, while the Earth Alliance clearly despise Coordinators, there are some among them with a more moderate and tolerant outlook. Upon arrival at the Artemis space station, the Earth Alliance’ treatment of the Archangel’s crew gave the impression that the Earth Alliance military are conceited, more interested in themselves than the bigger picture.

  • Yzak’s Duel is a general purpose mobile suit for a variety of combat situations, while the Dearka’s Buster is an artillery-oriented suit intended for bombardment. Nicol pilots the Blitz, which uses the Mirage Colloid active camouflage system for stealth operations. Meanwhile, Athrun’s Aegis is the most advanced of the group, being capable of transforming into a mobile armour during combat. The stolen mobile suits offer the ZAFT forces an overwhelming advantage in combat, and it is only owing to Kira’s growing skill with the Strike, as well as the sophistication of the Archangel, that allows Kira and the others to escape the Le Creuset team’s clutches.

  • Gundam SEED‘s politics are on par with the Universal Century and Anno Domini’s in terms of sophistication, but as with the other universes, Gundam SEED also takes the time to properly flesh things out and make it clear on where each character and faction stands. This becomes important: my introduction to the Cosmic Era had actually been through Gundam SEED Destiny, whose execution left me confused for the episodes that I did end up watching. Gundam SEED Destiny became a lesson in why one should always start at the beginning, and while I had some apprehension entering Gundam SEED, it turns out that Gundam SEED is very focused and clear, making it very easy to keep up with.

  • Lacus Clyne is a Gundam icon: she’s voiced by the legendary Rie Tanaka, a voice actress of great talent and fame (her roles include Azumanga Daioh‘s Koyomi Miuhara, Chobits‘ Chii, Minna Dietlinde-Wilcke from Strike Witches and Girls und Panzer‘s Maho Nishizumi). Initially, Lacus is Athrun’s fiancé, and is presented as being a very happy-go-lucky, air-headed princess with an unparalleled talent for singing. While on a memorial visit, she happens upon the Archangel and is brought on board. The idea of a lead ship capturing a princess is similarly a Gundam staple: Minerva Lao Zabi similarly boarded the Nahel Argama and was used as a bargaining chip by the Federation Forces.

  • One aspect of Gundam SEED that was noticeably strong was the soundtrack: Sahashi Toshihiko’s music for the series is excellent, both for combat sequences and for melancholy surrounding warfare. Because Gundam SEED proceeds more slowly than Gundam 00, the selection of incidental music is much wider, and the series also has a chance to really allow the characters time in between combat to reflect on what’s happening. The longer runtime of Gundam SEED speaks to a time when anime series had the timeframes and budget for longer stories, really allowing things to be fleshed out.

  • After leaving Heliopolis, Marrue Ramius, Mu La Flaga and Natarle Badgiruel are the highest-ranking officers on board the Archangel, and in each battle, do their best to ensure everyone’s survival. Marrue was the one responsible for pressing Kira and the others into service, and decides to look after everyone until they can reach Earth Alliance authorities in order to determine how to best handle everything. Having now seen Gundam SEED up to the halfway point, the similarities between Sumeragi and Marrue are apparent, as they are between Natarle and Kati Mannequin. Here, the Archangel’s highest ranked officers speak with Lacus about her origins and objectives, determining her to be of potential strategic value similarly to how the ECOAS team attempted to use Mineva as a bargaining chip against Full Frontal in Gundam Unicorn.

  • The topic of racism is implicitly covered with the gap between Coordinators and Naturals: the former look down on the latter for their lesser abilities, while the former resent the latter for possessing what they do not. In particular, Flay’s dislike of the Coordinators is apparent, and while Kira is the exception, she displays open hostility towards Lacus when they first meet. Flay’s friends wonders if she is sympathetic to the Blue Cosmos, an extremist group that is politically involved with the Earth Alliance. The Blue Cosmos do not figure heavily in Gundam SEED‘s first half, but I imagine they’ll have a much larger role to play at some point, if they’re being mentioned now.

  • Having Kira’s friends around as assistant staff on board the Archangel really helped to create the sense that Kira was never really alone in his struggles. Gundam pilots have always been conflicted about doing what they feel is right, and initially, Kira is forced to accept that it might be necessary to take lives in order to defend those around him. However, even if Sai, Tolle and Miriallia don’t fully understand Kira’s situation, their presence helps him to regroup.

  • While appearing to be purely for show, the different beam colours in Gundam SEED were chosen to make it easier to identify what was being fired: standard particle beams are green, while physical projectiles are orange. Rail gun rounds have a yellow discharge, and plasma rounds leave a distinct blue-red trail. The plasma rounds are unsurprisingly the most powerful, and weapons that fire them have the highest energy consumption. The differences bring to mind the Universal Century, where mega-beam launchers are used in a similar capacity.

  • After the first half of Gundam SEED, Rau Le Creuset remains an enigmatic individual: possessing Char Aznable’s penchent for wearing a mask at all times, an air of confidence and calm assuredness, Rau is also seen to be consuming pills and appears to be in great pain at times when off duty. This does lead to questions of what Rau Le Creuset is about, but owing to the pacing in Gundam SEED, it does mean that viewers will have to be patient. With this in mind, Gundam SEED never once gives the impression that things are dragging on.

  • Kira finds himself face-to-face with the Le Creuset team on several occasions, and while he initially only just escapes thanks to the Strike’s capabilities, with time, Kira’s improvement as a pilot allows him to fight on even footing with Yzak and the others. This eventually culminates in Athrun and Kira resolving to take the other down if necessary, a sign of their resolve. Here, Kira’s equipped the Strike’s Aile equipment, which enhances the Strike’s mobility. During combat, Kira’s latent potential awakens: dubbed SEED (Superior Evolutionary Element Destined-factor), it greatly enhances a Coordinator’s focus and reflexes, giving them superior control and awareness in combat.

  • SEED mode is what gives Gundam SEED its name, and upon entering it for the first time, Kira disables Yzak’s Duel. SEED mode is something that, in-universe, is not fully understood, but what is known is that particularly advanced Coordinators can enter it at will. Initially, however, SEED mode can only be entered when one develops a resolve to fulfill their objectives during a situation of high stress. There is an analogue in reality: flow, the state of being so immersed in something that one’s perceptions are altered. Like SEED mode, circumstances can push people into a state of flow, but especially disciplined people can enter this state at will. For me, it always takes me a bit of warm-up to get into this state, but I can consistently do so.

  • This is why when it comes to different tasks, I always start out weaker and only hit my stride after warming up. For instance, whenever I play online multiplayer, I fare poorly for the first five minutes or so, but subsequently, I perform significantly better. Despite a rocky start, Marrue comes to respect Kira for both his skill, commitment to his duties and his drive to do what’s right; she acts as a big sister figure for Kira, looking out for him and offers him advice where needed.

  • While rendezvousing with Earth Alliance forces, Flay’s father accompanies the escort team, but they’re shot down. In the aftermath, Flay falls into a depression and becomes consumed with thoughts of revenge. However, lacking the technical skills of the others, and the ability to pilot a mobile suit on her own, Flay can only push Kira to fight and leave none standing, counting on Kira’s own emotional weakness and sense of loneliness to further her own aims.

  • Voiced by Sōichirō Hoshi (Higurashi‘s very own Keiichi Maebara), Kira Yamato is intended to represent a Japanese perspective of warfare. Because Kira is peaceful and frequently doubts the use of force, director Mitsuo Fukuda suggests that conflict is something that finds resolution when people reluctantly take up a weapon to defend what’s around them, but never otherwise participate in warfare for the sake of aggression. Time and time again, Kira steps up to protect his friends, and comes to see the bigger picture around him, much as how Amuro Ray had done in Gundam, and how Banagher Links would in Gundam Unicorn.

  • Realising that Kira’s power is key to getting revenge against the other Coordinators, Flay begins a relationship with Kira and encourages him to fight with greater aggression. Flay is probably one of the most reviled characters in the whole of Gundam, although with the benefit of hindsight, I can clarify that anime fans of the early 00s were likely lacking in the big picture: Flay enters Gundam SEED as the daughter of an Earth Alliance politician who is accustomed to being the centre of attention, but was otherwise unfamiliar with warfare.

  • As such, I count the hate against Flay the consequence of incomplete knowledge: while what she does with Kira is morally dubious, her actions were the result of her coping with what was happening given her background. Fellow blogger and peer Dewbond has written extensively on the subject, and I imagine there will come a point in the near future where we will be doing a collaborative series on Gundam SEED. Dewbond’s insights into the characters stands in stark contrast with that of my best friend’s intrigue in the hardware and politics: when I speak with my best friend, our conversations are largely on how the machines and leadership (or lack thereof) impact the way wars are fought in Gundam.

  • By comparison, Dewbond’s focus on the characters and their response to extraordinary circumstances serve to paint a more compelling picture of why characters act the way they do. As such, I foresee that when it comes to discussion, my goal will be to reconcile the hardware with the characters, and individual motivations with the conflict at scale. Gundam has always excelled at covering things at both ends of the spectrum, and Gundam SEED is no exception, so a collaboration would offer a chance to see how all of the elements come together to create a Gundam series that’s definitely deserves the acclaim it has received over the years.

  • This single scene probably created more controversy for Gundam SEED than any other: the implications were that Flay slept with Kira, and the idea of underage activity can be a bit of a minefield to write about. In Japan, viewers wrote to television studios to complain, noting that Gundam SEED had been broadcast at a time when youth would be watching. For me, the viewers’ concerns were legitimate, but I also imagine that this was originally written to show how warfare impacts people’s judgments, especially when all norms are thrown out the window, and also serves to illustrate the lengths Flay would go to have her revenge on the Coordinators.

  • While Gundam SEED is technically lighter on fanservice than Gundam 00, the latter of which took the pains of showing how hot Sumeragi was on several occasions during the first season, Marrue oscillates more than strictly necessary whenever the Archangel takes any impact from enemy fire. Gundam 00, on the other hand, only had one such moment during the second season, when the Ptolemiaos II is impacted by torpedoes. I’ve typically never found such moments to add any notable value to Gundam, but they are infrequent enough as to not be distracting from what I showed up for.

  • After Kira fails to protect a shuttle carrying civilians during re-entry, he becomes despondent, and Flay further saw this as a chance to fuel his desire for striking down his enemies. Gundam Unicorn would later present a similar scene, where during re-entry, the protagonists bear witness to horrors unmatched as they are captured by the Earth’s gravity well. Re-entry is considered one of the trickiest parts of space travel, and its presentation in Gundam is to suggest a sense of helplessness. Much as how Banagher accidentally kills Gilboa with a shot meant for Full Frontal, Kira is powerless to stop Yzak from destroying a shuttle carrying civilians.

  • Upon landing on Earth, the Archangel finds themselves in the Sahara desert, far removed from their original landing point. Amidst the desert sands, the Archangel crew learn that the resistance group, Desert Dawn, are fighting a war against ZAFT’s Andrew Waltfeld with the goal of trying to take back their homeland. Kira also runs into Cagalli, who is a member of the resistance. While the Archangel’s crew find the Desert Dawn’s aims to feel somewhat futile, seeing the extent the desert’s inhabitants are willing to go to defend their home leads Marrue to help out.

  • On Earth, ZAFT’s mainstay mobile suits are the TMF/A-802 BuCUEs. These panther-like quadrupedal mobile suits are designed for ground combat: their lower centre of gravity makes them more stable and capable of navigating rough terrain. For armaments, BuCUEs come with a pair of rail guns and missile pods. Against the Desert Dawn, who are only armed with RPGs, the BuCUE is a formidable machine.

  • When Kira fights BuCUEs for the first time, he quickly finds that the Strike’s inertial compensators have not been set to deal with the soft desert sands. After readjusting the configurations, Kira fares much better and decimates the BuCUEs attacking the Archangel. Gundam SEED‘s dialogue and materials indicate that Kira is actively re-writing the Strike’s OS to accommodate to different situations, and being a developer, I appreciate that writing an OS is probably the single most challenging and tedious task available. Without any core libraries or SDKs, one must build their own kernel, and write two programs: a loader, written in assembly, and then the OS itself. The way Gundam SEED presents things, there are two alternatives: either Coordinators are so far above ordinary humans that modifying OSes on the fly is trivial for them, or the writers mixed up their terminology, and Kira is simply writing subroutines and configurations to make piloting the Strike easier.

  • I personally am inclined to think it’s the latter, given that once the operating system is defined, it’s the routines and software above that communicate with the hardware. As such, it is not inconceivable that Earth Alliance developers have already defined a decent set of services for allowing software to interact with the mobile suit itself, but the intermediate software (such as balance algorithms, routines for movement, etc.) simply aren’t of the same standard. Thus, when Kira’s typing away, he’s working on improving functions and reorganising the high-level software that maps controller inputs to movement. Back in Gundam SEED, the Archangel’s crew finds that their provisions are running out, and must secure some from local inhabitants, who are all too happy to inflate their costs. However, without any options, the higher costs must be paid out.

  • While visiting the town market with Cagalli, Kira meets Andrew Waltfeld for the first time. Despite being a dedicated and serious soldier, Waltfeld has a likeable personality and outside of combat, enjoys a good cup of coffee. He argues with Cagalli about whether donair kebab goes better with hot sauce or yogurt. A scuffle breaks out, and in the aftermath, Kira finds the combination to be delicious. This isn’t terribly surprising, since the heat is diminished by the yogurt, which adds a creamy taste that also lets the hot sauce’s flavours be felt. Midway through their meal, Blue Cosmos extremists appear, and Kira manages to fend them off, saving Waltfeld’s life in the process.

  • Waltfeld is not ungrateful about this turn of events, deciding to bring Kira and Cagalli back to speak with them. Had they met under any other circumstance, Waltfeld would’ve probably let them off the hook, but because it’s warfare, Waltfelt notes that he’s within his bounds to kill enemy combatants – the moment a soldier sees his opponents as human and hesitates is the moment they could themselves be killed, and this is one of the grim aspects of war that Gundam SEED aims to convey to viewers. In spite of this, Waltfeld’s friendly and amicable personality, coupled with a sense of honour that Rau Le Creuset lacks, gives him a different vibe than other ZAFT commanders and suggests to the viewer that irrespective of sides in a war, there are fair and foul folks alike.

  • An entire episode is devoted to Athrun and ZAFT – as the ZAFT higher-ups discuss the execution of Operation Spitbreak, Athrun and Nicol are given shore leave. Nicol returns home to visit his parents, while Athrun catches up with Lacus and discuss Kira. It’s a change in pace that gives viewers a chance to watch the characters regroup; ever since the Archangel landed on Earth, it’s been nonstop pursuit and combat as the Archangel attempts to aid the Desert Dawn in resisting Waltfeld’s forces.

  • Indeed, true to his word, Waltfeld and his co-pilot, Aisha, take to the battlefield in a custom BuCue known as the LaGOWE, an upgraded mobile suit equipped with beam cannons and a double-bladed beam sabre that was derived from the G-project’s data. Although Waltfeld puts up an impressive fight, in desperation, Kira impales the LaGOWE with his daggers, defeating Waltfeld and Aisha. True to Waltfeld’s words, humanising an opponent made it much difficult to fight them, and I am reminded of a similar scene in Gundam Unicorn when Marida berates Banagher for thinking of her as a fellow human being when she’s fighting the Unicorn.

  • Amphibious mobile suits figure more prominently in the Cosmic Era and Universal Century than they did in Anno Domini. Gundam 00 only had a handful of mobile armours, like the Trilobyte, for underwater combat, although the Gundams themselves could operate underwater without trouble. Here, Kira fights a UMF-4A GOOhN, which looks like it was modelled after the Universal Century’s MSM-07 Z’Gok. Despite fighting a foe optimised for underwater combat during their flight over the Red Sea, Kira does manage to defeat a number of ZAFT mobile suits, attesting to his increased combat performance.

  • When a support mission goes awry, Cagalli and Athrun encounter one another on a desert island. Cagalli attempts to fight Athrun and is bested, but the two do share a conversation about their thoughts on war. While Cagalli had seen conflict as a matter of sides, her conversation with Athrun, a ZAFT soldier, does open her eyes to the idea that the enemy might not be wholly evil, and that warfare isn’t as simple as a matter of black and white. The two subsequently are rescued and returned to their respective allies, although given the episode title, this meeting should be is a fateful one that affects both Cagalli and Athrun greatly.

  • Having seen the Strike in combat now, it’s become a mobile suit that I greatly respect, balancing new technologies and combat advantages with operational limits to create a platform that is powerful, but not overpowered. If and when I’m asked, the Master Grade Aile Strike Ver. RM would be something I would’ve considered buying at the height of Gundam SEED‘s run: the Gundam itself looks powerful and has design elements resembling the classic RX-78 II. Of course, the Perfect Strike would allow me to run with any Strike setup, but as a P-Bandai exclusive, it’s not available in my area.

  • Upon approaching the Orb Nation’s territorial waters, the ZAFT forces are forced to retreat. Cagalli reveals that she’s the daughter of Orb’s leader, and Colonel Ledonir Kisaka vouches for her identity. The Orb fleet consent to not shoot them down on the spot and take them in. Although Orb is a neutral nation, their technological sophistication is impressive: the use of geothermal energy and a lack of discrimination against Coordinators has allowed Orb to develop weapons that gives their small military comparable power to a larger force, and it appears that Orb was founded by Japanese immigrants.

  • With their quarry lost, Athrun supposes that an infiltration mission might be needed to ascertain as to whether or not the Archangel are still present at Orb. As the first half draws to a close, Athrun’s team can be seen inserting into Orb’s islands and pick up phony identifications intended to get them past some security checkpoints. I had been curious to see what kind of operation this entails

  • Once the situation is cleared up, Orb Union’s command decide that they’ll repair and resupply the Archangel, as well as the Strike, on the condition that Kira assists their engineers with configuring their mobile suits. Cagalli is shocked to learn that Orb is developing mobile suits of their own, the MBF-M1 M1 Astray, a mass production model intended for use in defending Orb from foreign powers. However, while impressive from a hardware standpoint, their configurations are incomplete, and the Astrays can barely move.

  • The Astray series would end up getting their own spin-offs in Gundam SEED Astray, which follows the development of these mobile suits. With this halfway point post now finished, I’ll be pushing onwards with Gundam SEED, and given the average pacing, I’d estimate that it’ll be August by the time I wrap this series up. I am excited to keep going: with the characters, factions and objectives established, it’s clear that things will continue to intensify as the Archangel continues with its original mission. I will do my best to make this objective: at the time of writing, I’m actively following Yakunara Mug Cup MoSuper Cub, 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. The first two, I intend to write about periodically, and the latter two is a bit of a wait-and-see type deal. Since I only need to catch up with Kamisama ni natta hi, I imagine that keeping up with Gundam SEED shouldn’t be too challenging.

Indeed, the long runtime of Gundam SEED was the main reason why I’d not gotten into the series until now. Having begun my journey, however, it turns out that Gundam SEED‘s pacing works to its ability: while perhaps slow by contemporary standards, Gundam SEED is able to fully portray emotions Kira and the others experience because of the extended time frame. From the transformation of doubt to conviction through Kira’s friends, or Flay Allster’s manipulative behaviours towards Kira, Gundam SEED is able to really show how different people are impacted by warfare. Some folks rise to the occasion to defend what matters to them, while for others, warfare exposes the worst traits in an individual. Here at Gundam SEED‘s halfway point, I am thoroughly impressed: the animation might not stand up to what was seen in Gundam 00 or later, but a captivating narrative, compelling cast of characters and solid music all come together to tell a strong story thus far. Moreover, Gundam SEED never overwhelms viewers: one long-standing concern I had with the Cosmic Era had been the idea that there were too many mobile suits and factions to keep track of, but because Gundam SEED is the Cosmic Era’s beginning, viewers are introduced to things at a proper pace. Kira only fights GINNs (ZAFT’s mainstay mobile suit, Cosmic Era’s equivalent of the Zaku II) in the beginning, and encounters BuCUEs in the desert. With its pacing, Gundam SEED never feels rushed, introducing new things to viewers at the appropriate time and allowing them to piece together what’s happening in a detailed world where resentment and past grievances between Coordinators and Naturals are every bit as strong as they are between the EFSF and Zeon. I’m definitely excited to continue on in my Gundam SEED journey, and given that I started watching back in January, I imagine that it’ll be closer to August by the time I wrap this one up. This suits me just fine: the slower pacing in Gundam SEED works to my advantage, and I look forwards to seeing what awaits Kira and the Archangel next.

Yuru Camp△ 2 Original Soundtrack Tracklist, Post-Release Review and Reflection

“In a cool solitude of trees, where leaves and birds a music spin, mind that was weary is at ease, new rhythms in the soul begin.” –William Kean Seymour

Typically, the tracklists for soundtracks come out a ways before the soundtrack itself is released, but with Yuru Camp△ 2‘s original soundtrack, things turned out quite differently: this is why I was not able to do my customary translation of the soundtrack’s tracklist back in March. On the flipside, having the soundtrack in hand means being able to actually speak about the music in Yuru Camp△ 2 with a hiterto unmatched level of clarity and explore what the music does so well. Before I delve into things, there are some housekeeping details to go over: the soundtrack is composed by Akiyuki Tateyama, consists of fifty-six tracks spanning two disks and retails for 3520 Yen (40.41 CAD at the time of writing). This time around, the publisher is MAGES. Inc. While Yuru Camp△ 2‘s soundtrack made extensive use of the Celtic instruments, Yuru Camp△ 2 features a significant South American complement, including the Quena (Andes flute), Zampoña (Andes panpipe), and Charango (Bolivian lute). These instruments create a wild sound that speaks more to the beauty of nature itself, evoking images of soaring mountains and wide open plains, whereas the warm, cheerful demeanour of Celtic instruments convey a blending of man and nature, of enjoying the great outdoors. The different instruments chosen for Yuru Camp△ 2 is a deliberate choice meant to accentuate the idea that the second season explores new themes and directions compared to those of its predecessor, and the end result is not too surprising: Yuru Camp△ 2 completely succeeds in conveying a different atmosphere and aesthetic through both its soundtrack and its choice of locations.

  • Contrasting the first season’s soundtrack cover, which had Rin and Nadeshiko looking onwards to signify the pair’s interest in exploring the future, Yuru Camp△ 2‘s cover art has Rin and Nadeshiko looking at one another: this is hardly surprising, since the second season is all about gratitude and saying “thank you”. This cover art is, incidentally, a walking spoiler, portraying the pair’s conversations together at the series’ end: Nadeshiko had grown worried about Rin not replying to her and asked Sakura to drive her out. It’s a very touching moment, and shows beyond any question that Rin and Nadeshiko, seemingly polar opposites at Yuru Camp△‘s beginning, have fully warmed up to one another now.

For the most part, translation of Yuru Camp△ 2‘s tracklist was a straightforward task. However, no tracklist translation post would be complete without at least a few songs that proved a little difficult to properly convey in English. This time around, two gave me a but more challenge than usual to properly translate. [1] Track eight on disk two, なでしこは電波通じないだけ, translates literally to “Nadeshiko just isn’t communicating via radio signal”, a consequence of 電波 (Hepburn denpa, “radio waves”) being used to indicate cell signal. This sounds awkward in English, so I’ve converted the meaning to “Nadeshiko has no cell signal”, which is what the phrase is intended to convey. [2] The other song is disk two’s sixteenth track: I’ve elected to translate 大ハシャギ ROUTE 136 as Joyful Route 136. ハシャギ is 燥ぎ (Hepburn hagashi) rendered as Katakana, and it’s a verb meaning to make merriment or be in high spirits. Because this song conveys the thrill of adventure and of getting there, I feel that “joyful” is probably how I’d characterise it. Finally, I’m purely going off inference here: ずいずいずいずいずい is rendered as Zui zui zui zui zui in Hepburn, which isn’t something I can easily look up. However, the use of instrumentation and the song’s context in Yuru Camp△ 2 suggests that it’s the motif for the Izu Peninsula, and since Rin repeats “Izu” in anticipation of her trip here, “Izu Izu Izu Izu” seems to make the most sense. Honourable mentions for tracks that gave me trouble include track nine on disk two, しょーもないおしゃべり, which I’ve decided to translate as “Silly Talk” (しょーもない, Hepburn shōmonai, is used to indicate something that’s a non-sequitur, nonsensical), and おしゃべり (Hepburn oshaberi) means “chatter”. The song’s whimsical presentation justifies my choice of words in translation.

Tracklist

Disk One

  1. ゆるキャン△ SEASON2のテーマ (Yuru Kyan△ Shīzun 2 no Tēma, Yuru Camp△ SEASON 2 Theme)
  2. オリジナルドラマ その1 (Orijinaru dorama sono 1, Original Drama Part 1)
  3. Seize The Day (TV SIZE)
  4. オリジナルドラマ その2 (Orijinaru dorama sono 2, Original Drama Part 2)
  5. 初めての本栖湖~はじまりはここから~ (Hajimete no motosuko ~Hajimari wa koko kara~, First time at Lake Motosu ~The Beginning Starts Here~)
  6. 初めての本栖湖~出来たかな?キャンプ飯~ (Hajimete no motosuko ~Dekita ka na? Kyanpu meshi~, First time at Lake Motosu ~Is it done? Camping rice~)
  7. 初めての本栖湖~夕暮れの富士山~ (Hajimete no motosuko ~Yūgure no Fujisan~, First time at Lake Motosu ~Mount Fuji by Twilight~)
  8. 次のキャンプはどうしよっか? (Tsugi no kyanpu wa dō shi yokka?, What about our next camping trip?)
  9. ソロキャンの嗜み (Sorokyan no tashinami, A Taste of Solo Camping)
  10. オリジナルドラマ その3 (Orijinaru dorama sono 3, Original Drama Part 3)
  11. それぞれの大晦日 (Sorezore no ōmisoka, Everyone’s New Year’s Eve)
  12. キャンプ講座の時間です (Kyanpu kōza no jikandesu, It’s time for a camping course)
  13. 浜名湖のテーマ~ゆりかもめに囲まれて~ (Hamanako no tēma ~Yuri kamome ni kakoma rete~, Lake Hamana Theme ~Surrounded by Pewter~)
  14. 浜名湖のテーマ~特上ウナギは誘惑する~ (Hamanako no tēma ~Tokujō unagi wa yūwaku suru~, Lake Hamana Theme ~Allure of top-grade eel~)
  15. 浜名湖のテーマ~古びた展望台~ (Hamanako no tēma ~Furubita tenbō-dai~, Lake Hamana Theme ~Ancient Observation Deck~)
  16. 浜名湖のテーマ~さみしいもたのしい~ (Hamanako no tēma ~Samishī mo tanoshī~, Lake Hamana Theme ~Lonely but fun~)
  17. なでしこ (Nadeshiko)
  18. お姉ちゃんいつもありがとう (Onēchan itsumo arigatō, Thank you for all that you do, big sister)
  19. のんびりキャンプ (Nonbirikyanpu, Relaxing Camp)
  20. オリジナルドラマ その4 (Orijinaru dorama sono 4, Original Drama Part 4)
  21. 山中湖のテーマ~バス旅も良いもんだろ?~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~Basu tabi mo yoi mondaro?~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~A journey by bus is also good?~)
  22. 山中湖のテーマ~到着、クジラの湖~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~Tōchaku, kujira no mizūmi~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~We’ve arrived at the whale-shaped lake~)
  23. 山中湖のテーマ~-2℃、ヤバいかも~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~-2℃, Yabaikamo~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~-2℃ could be dangerous~)
  24. 山中湖のテーマ~薪ストーブを囲んで~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~Maki sutōbu o kakonde~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~Sitting around the wood stove~)
  25. 山中湖のテーマ~湖畔の朝焼け~ (Yamanakako no tēma ~Kohan no asayake~, Lake Yamanaka Theme ~Lakeside Sunrise~)
  26. なでしこの思い (Nadeshiko no omoi, Nadeshiko’s thoughts)
  27. U・SO・YA・DE (It’s・A・Lie)
  28. 次回予告 (Jikai yokoku, Preview for next episode)

Disk Two

  1. この場所で。(Kono basho de., At This Place.)
  2. オリジナルドラマ その5 (Orijinaru dorama sono 5, Original Drama Part 5)
  3. やっぱグループキャンプ! (Yappa gurūpukyanpu!, It’s group camping after all!)
  4. 野田山公園のテーマ~初めてのソロキャン~ (Nodayama kōen no tēma ~Hajimete no sorokyan~, Nodayama Park Theme ~First time solo camping~)
  5. 野田山公園のテーマ~キャンプ料理は楽し~ (Nodayama kōen no tēma ~Kyanpu ryōri wa tanoshi~, Nodayama Park Theme ~Camping cooking is fun~)
  6. 野田山公園のテーマ~夜景に馳せた思い~ (Nodayama kōen no tēma ~Yakei ni haseta omoi~, Nodayama Park Theme ~Thoughts on the night scenery~)
  7. ふしぎの湖 (Fushigi no Mizūmi, Mysterious Lake)
  8. なでしこは電波通じないだけ (Nadeshiko wa denpa tsūjinai dake, Nadeshiko has no cell signal) [1]
  9. しょーもないおしゃべり (Shōmonai oshaberi, Silly Talk)
  10. オリジナルドラマ その6 (Orijinaru dorama sono 6, Original Drama Part 6)
  11. おじいちゃんはバイク乗り (Ojīchan wa baiku-nori, Grandpa rides a motorcycle)
  12. おじいちゃんとの団欒 (Ojīchan to no danran, Together with Grandpa)
  13. おじいちゃん、また走ろうね (Ojīchan, mata hashirou ne, Let’s ride together again, Grandpa)
  14. オリジナルドラマ その7 (Orijinaru dorama sono 7, Original Drama Part 7)
  15. ようこそジオパークへ (Yōkoso jiopāku e, Welcome to Geopark)
  16. 大ハシャギ ROUTE 136 (Dai hashagi ROUTE 136, Joyful Route 136) [2]
  17. 歴史ある半島 (Rekishi aru hantō, Historical Peninsula)
  18. 海! 山! 岬! 洞窟! (Umi! Yama! Misaki! Dōkutsu!, Sea! Mountain! Cape! Cave!)
  19. 半島の風に吹かれて (Hantō no kazenifukarete, Blown away by the peninsula’s wind gusts)
  20. 魅惑のペニンシュラ (Miwaku no peninshura, Enchanted Peninsula)
  21. 火山の作りし大地 (Kazan no tsukurishi daichi, Land created by the volcano)
  22. 温泉天国ジオパーク (Onsen tengoku jiopāku, Hot spring heaven Geopark)
  23. ずいずいずいずいずい (Izu Izu Izu Izu)
  24. 星空のチャランゴ (Hoshizora no charango, Starry Sky Charango)
  25. オリジナルドラマ その8 (Orijinaru dorama sono 8, Original Drama Part 8)
  26. また行こう、キャンプ! (Mata ikou, kyanpu!, Let’s go camping again!)
  27. はるのとなり (TV SIZE) (Haru no tonari, Next to Spring)
  28. しまリンだんごアイス (Shima rinda n go aisu, Shimarin Dango Ice Cream)

  • When I first did my soundtrack post for Yuru Camp△‘s soundtrack, it was just a shade over three years and a month ago. I like to think that since then, a combination of increasing familiarity and better tools means that translating soundtrack names has become easier than before. I’ve further noticed that the folks at Video Game Music Database (VGMdb) have used my translations for their Yuru Camp△ soundtrack entry: I know this because there are nuances and choices that I made for my translation that were taken verbatim from mine, and here, I note that I am completely okay with this. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if they were to use my translations for the second season’s soundtrack, as well: I don’t mind whether or not they cite me, but it is nice to know that my work helped to make someone’s day a little easier.

Altogether, the Yuru Camp△ 2 is a marvel of musical composition and sound engineering: on a soundtrack packed with amazing pieces of incidental music, a few particularly stand out. 初めての本栖湖~夕暮れの富士山~ captures the magic moment that captivates Rin to solo camp: as she gazes upon Mount Fuji by evening for the first time that night, a familiar motif swells into the song to remind viewers that this is where everything began for Rin. Rin and Nadeshiko’s journey to Lake Hanama is accompanied by 浜名湖のテ一マ~ゆりかもめに囲まれて~, an adventurous piece signifying a new direction. ソ口キャンの嗜み brings a smile to my face every time when I hear it: its use of the lute parallels the solo camping style Rin is so fond of. The lute dominates the song, but the instrumental accompaniment shows that solo or not, Rin is never really alone in her travels. With a combination of accelerando and rallentando to respectively speed up and slow down the motifs, this one song also shows the different paces in solo camping, living up to its name and together with a gentle bit of jazz, adds a very relaxing backdrop to a song that acting as an aural representation of all sides of Rin’s solo experiences. The songs that are played at the Izu Peninsula, are the second disk’s highlights. 歴史ある半島 creates a very languid and gentle tone for the slowest and most laid-back of the experiences, while 大ハシャギROUTE136, 海!山!岬!洞窟!, 半島の風に吹かれて make full use of the Southern American instruments to capture the spirit and energy of the great outdoors. I believe that the choice to use instruments from the Andes was done to deliberately remind viewers that the aesthetics of Izu Peninsula differ dramatically from those of Yamanashi and Nagano. The song I lost composure and cried to during the eighth episode was the second half of 野田山公園のテ一マ~夜景に馳せた思い~, which plays when Sakura shares Nadeshiko’s latest message with Rin. Finally, the inset song that plays midway through the seventh episode is Eri Sasaki’s この場所で。: this song is included as the first track on disk two. It goes without saying that I enjoyed the Yuru Camp△ 2 soundtrack immensely: Akiyuki Tateyama has exceeded all expectations with this soundtrack, and I am now excited to hear what sort of instruments and styles that Yuru Camp△: The Movie will use for its soundtrack.

World of Warcraft: A Blood Elf Warlock’s Journey of Silvermoon Forest and The Ghostlands

“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.” –Arthur M. Schlesinger

In retrospect, I should’ve applied for a position at the Chapters Indigo branch downtown that summer. Instead, I ended up spending my summer vacation of secondary school in World of Warcraft and biking around the quadrant of my city. I feel that the extra work experience could’ve done me some good, but what’s done is done. What ended up happening was that one of my friends, who’d rolled a Night Elf rogue, decided to roll an Undead character, and was looking to party up to explore Horde areas in World of Warcraft. Since my days were quite idle, I decided to take up this suggestion, rolling a Blood Elf warlock as a result. The warlock class is a caster focuses purely on dealing damage: lore paints warlocks as using dark magic to inflict destruction and control dæmons for their own ends, contrasting mages, who use magic in a wide range of support roles alongside damage. In practise, this means that warlocks are a specialised caster that focuses purely on damage and survivability, whereas mages provide more support for their party, and having played only a mage up until that point, I was curious to see how a pure damage class would handle. As it turns out, the warlock is great for solo experiences, having a range of effective spells to blast enemies, and at the same time, also allow the player to heal back up after fights (whereas with the mage, one is more dependent on potions or food if playing solo). The warlock class also provide a free mount, taking the form of the Felsteed and Dreadsteed, allowing one to travel around areas much more quickly than a mage could at lower levels. As I soon discovered, the warlock levelling experience proved rather more enjoyable than it had been for mages: this was in part owing to the spells and abilities available to warlocks, as well as the unique appearance of the Blood Elves’ starting areas, the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands.

While period reviews felt the new starting areas were more isolated than other starting areas, they also found that the areas were better designed, allowing players to progress much more smoothly: the need to travel extensively was reduced, and each of the quests offer a much deeper insight into each species’ lore and background compared to the original World of Warcraft‘s. The end result was a more polished experience that encouraged players to still explore, but made it possible to level up more efficiently and push players on the path towards the endgame. As a Gnome mage, I found that levelling was quite tedious on account of the travelling I needed to do, and the vast expanse of the territory that Elwynn Forest, Westfall, Red Ridge Mountains and Duskwood covered meant that there was a lot of running around between areas. By comparison, Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands are much more focused. There’s a smaller emphasis on travel, but the areas are still well-designed, allowing players to really focus on getting up to speed with their new character and lore while enjoying what the new areas have to offer. Eversong Woods’ distinct Blood Elf architecture and vegetation create a sense of melancholy, of a once-great civilisation now on the brink, and similarly, the Ghostlands accentuate how much damage the Blood Elves’ home had sustained after the Scourge’s attempts to conquer their capital, Silvermoon City. The entire land is awash in an eerie blue light even during midday, but frequent Blood Elf outposts and settlements show that this land has not been lost. The unique combination of aesthetic and map design made it especially enjoyable to level up here, and as the summer drew to a close, I had a Blood Elf warlock that was ready to explore Azeroth with my friend.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I begin my warlock journey fully powered up: the intent of this revisit isn’t to re-live the old levelling experience as I’d known it all those summers ago, but rather, to re-tread old places. As such, I’ve wielded my GM powers to whip up a warlock that, while not optimised for end-game PvE or PvP content, allows me to explore these starting areas without worrying about anything.

  • Here, I travel along the Dead Scar, a track of charred, dead land bisecting both the Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands. In this scorched land, undead and spirits roam free, and early on, players will need to take on these monsters for various quests. The Scourge’s march here eons ago corrupted the soil such that nothing could grow, and for beginning players, crossing the Dead Scar can be a challenge, as there are enough undead to pose a challenge. There are a few paths one can use to make this crossing, making things easier.

  • The Eversong Woods stood out to me for its eternal twilight colours and peaceful scenery, golden-orange foliage and the area’s distinct ambient music, which makes use of choir, harp, piano and cello to capture the Blood Elves’ mystical background. Until Pandaria was introduced, Eversong Woods was my absolute favourite of the starting areas, although owing to its remoteness, it doesn’t have anywhere near the foot traffic of Elwynn Forest in the retail game.

  • The Tranquil Shore lives up to its name: located further west than the West Sanctum, this beach is home to the Murlocs, an amphibious species that prefer to swarm their enemies with overwhelming numbers. Murlocs can be found almost everywhere in Azeroth, and I do remember incurring their wrath as a lower-level adventurer back in the day. Of course, when one steers clear of Murloc settlements, which I count an eyesore, the coastal areas of Azeroth are quite beautiful, and here, I stop to admire a sunset.

  • I’m actually not too sure how my friend altered the realm time such that it differs from the server time via the configurations: one of the things I’ve longed to do since getting my own server up was to explore Azeroth at different times of day. However, owing to my schedule, on weeknights, I’m typically available between 1900 and 2030 local time, during which sunset and twilight occurs on Azeroth. The end result is that most of my screenshots happen closer to evening. While some areas look their best during this time (such as Westfall), I would be curious to see what Azeroth looks like during mid-day or night.

  • I think that the only solution I have for the present will be to change my system clock before starting the server, which should do the trick: if this is the way to do it, I could see myself returning in the future with a set of night screenshots. For now, I am content to explore Azeroth by evening hours: the Eversong Woods look consistent during the different times of day, so this never really impacted my ability to take solid-looking screenshots.

  • After I created my warlock, my first goal was to get a hundred percent quest completion in the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands. Strictly speaking, it’s not necessary to complete all quests in an area to level up. While finishing all quests is a fantastic way to explore the lore, completing major quest lines will provide one with the experience needed to level up. I’ve found that it’s easiest to have as many quests active at once as possible, since this makes every encounter more likely to yield something relevant to that quest.

  • Since my goal wasn’t to get to the mid-game, this time around, I was able to explore the northeastern edges of Eversong Woods, home to the Duskwither Spire. This floating spire can only be reached by means of teleportation, and one of the quest lines here was to deactivate magic crystals here after experiments ran amok, leading to calamity. A recurring theme is that with their addiction to magic, after the destruction of the Sunwell, the Blood Elves sought an alternate power source with often devastating results.

  • Warlocks have access to three talent trees: destruction is about dealing direct damage, affliction is for dealing damage over time, and dæmonolgy enables warlocks to summon dæmons to fight on their behalf and provide assistance or support in combat. As a warlock, my favourite spells are all destruction-oriented: destruction warlocks handle most similarly to mages, and as a solo player on a private server, my goal was simply to deal the most amount of damage in the least amount of time. Of the spells available to me, I use Incinerate and Searing Pain the most as my primary direct damage sources.

  • Because my warlock is unoptimised, using Shadow Bolt, the mainstay direct damage spell for affliction and dæmonolgy warlocks consumes a large amount of mana. With the right equipment and skills, however, mana regeneration was enough so that this stopped being an impediment. For one reason or another, I never learned the Incinerate technique and instead, stuck with Shadow Bolt. Immolate became my primary fire spell at the time. However, after playing World of Warcraft‘s retail version, I found that Wrath of the Lich King did indeed have Incinerate, providing me with another good damage dealing spell.

  • For my journey, I ran with the Staff of Endless Winter, a rather powerful-looking staff that confers an intelligence, stamina and spirit boost. Normally, it is acquired by defeating Hodir in Northerend’s Ulduar instance; a special cache will drop if Hodir is beaten in under three minutes, containing this staff. For my part, having a private server and the corresponding lack of players to party with means that raids are out of my reach. Later World of Warcraft expansions make it such that as players levelled up to 120, they became powerful enough to trivially solo the original game’s raids without difficulty.

  • As I am only twenty levels higher right now, while I am able to blast my way through level sixty dungeons without any difficulty, my damage is nowhere near enough for me to take on raids on my own. I’m not sure if I’ll change up my server and client for a more recent version for the time being; as tempting as it is to get a newer server and client, my original goal had simply been to explore the World of Warcraft I knew as a student, and after Cataclysm, Azeroth is completely different, being sundered by Deathwing, whose arrival destroys a dimensional barrier that adversely changes the face of Azeroth.

  • This is probably one of my favourite places in the whole of the Eversong Woods, where a river flows over a waterfall, surrounded by trees of crimson and gold. After the events of Cataclysm, familiar areas of Azeroth are completely altered. Having said this, newer World of Warcraft expansions offer more options and places to explore, so it could be worth exploring the setup of a newer server in the future. For now, I am content to stick with my current server, as there still remains quite a bit of turf in the pre-Cataclysm Azeroth that I’ve not yet explored.

  • After finishing the massive list of quests I had from Eversong Woods, and exploring all of the corners of this starting area, I next turned my attention to the Ghostlands. This was where levelling my warlock had really become fun, as the game began introducing new challenges to me. Back then, I didn’t have a mount, so getting around between the different quest areas always took an inordinate amount of time; if memory serves, I spent about two-fifths of my time travelling between quest-givers and the areas where the quest-related objectives were.

  • By comparison, I spent almost three-fifths of my time travelling when I was levelling my mage in the Elwynn Forest and area. The difference meant that I was able to level up faster and hit 20 in a much shorter time, but even this had taken me much of the summer. This is one of the reasons why I never got into World of Warcraft for real: the time commitment was something that I simply didn’t have. For my revisit, I was able to have a much easier time of things: unlocking a Dreadsteed and increasing my land movement speed made it much easier to get around.

  • In order to have the most complete Ghostlands experience, I thus decided to take on every quest possible. While I had a Dreadsteed and fully-levelled spells, the key aspect that made questing efficient this time around was the fact that I’d accepted everything, and so, I could travel to quest-relevant areas, complete the assigned task, move onto the next, and repeat until all of my quests were completed. Turning them in all at once made for much less travelling, and would also allows me to pick up the next set of quests.

  • Knucklerot and Luzran are two elite abominations wandering the Ghostlands. They represent some of the toughest enemies players can fight early in the game, and their massive, grotesque profile makes them quite memorable, but players with familiarity with their classes and the right setup can still fight them. For me, when I encountered them for a quest, I ended up using my Voidwalker to tank the damage and aggro while I watched from afar. It was a bit of a lengthy process, but I was able to solo them. I imagine on a live server, other players may occasionally step in.

  • As a destruction warlock, my favourite spell is Rain of Fire, which calls down a hail of hellfire that burns all enemies in an area. Area of Effect (AoE) spells are effective for knocking down groups of enemies, and the Rain of Fire, like Blizzard, can be used to target specific areas. Hellfire is another AoE spell I have, being a channeled spell that deals fire damage to all enemies within 10 yards of the player, but at the same time, also damages the player. Most effective in a party, where one has a priest on hand for healing, I’ve not found this spell to be too effective while soloing.

  • On the western edge of the Ghostlands is the Windrunner Village and Wind Runner Spire, a haunted area not unlike the graveyards and farms of Duskwood. I passed through the Windrunner Village en route to the Plagued Coast, where unsurprisingly, the quest had been to retrieve spines from Morlocs. Quests done in the Ghostlands give considerable reputation towards Tranquillien, the only village and hub in the area,

  • For my warlock, I ended up going with herbalism and alchemy, gathering herbs to create potions, elixirs and other reagents that bolster performance: the choice was motivated by a wish to see what the other professions entailed, since as a mage, I went with tailoring and enchanting. As an alchemist, I admit that being able to craft mana potions and keep topped off during my travels was a major part of my interest to check things out. At some point, I am also curious to roll a hunter with mining and engineering.

  • Because I am fully levelled, one thing I do enjoy doing is the practise of pulling large groups of enemies around me before slaying them all with a single spell. This practise is definitely not advisable at lower levels, where large groups of level-appropriate enemies will promptly wipe the players out if they are playing solo. While fighting Morlocs, my thoughts strayed to a conversation I had with a classmate years earlier, to a time before I started playing World of Warcraft: said classmate had been trying to get me into World of Warcraft and warned that Morlocs were the one foe I’d come to malign at lower levels.

  • When I began my own journey on my friend’s private server, the classmate’s warnings turned out to be true. This classmate had been a big-time gamer back then, and it was through him a bunch of us were introduced to Half-Life 2. However, this classmate didn’t really appear to have a plan for the future, and while we’d hung out during my first year of university, he eventually started chilling with a bunch of students in the computer labs who were always there irrespective of the time of day or week, gaming away on their laptops or watching anime.

  • I never did get these particular students: regardless of whether it was early morning, after I handed in an assignment before heading off to the health science campus, or late afternoon, prior to my organic chemistry labs, the same people would always be there, playing World of WarcraftLeague of Legends or Planetside 2. Because my classmate spent more time here with these students, we eventually drifted apart. At present, I have no idea how he’s doing. In general, how such students operate is beyond me: we go to university to learn and pick up the skills that act as a stepping stone for what lies ahead, and it is very wasteful to throw that time away on things like games.

  • With this being said, I always set aside Friday evenings for games, but otherwise, I did my utmost to keep up with my coursework. In retrospect, I do not regret my decisions: for eight months of the year, I studied hard to ensure I could maintain satisfactory standing during my undergrad, and by graduate school, I had enough time to maintain my GPA, advance my thesis project and squeeze in gaming. In the years subsequent, I noticed that the part of the computer science lab the gamers frequented were replaced by new students, who were using the space legitimately (whether it was working on assignments or studying), and so, I cannot help but wonder how those gamers are faring today.

  • In my haste to reach Tranquillen, I ended up skipping over a fair number of early quests along the Dead Scar, but would go back to complete them. Here, I return to the Plagued Coast early in the evening, a few hours before sunset. The colours in this still neatly summarise why the Ghostlands were one of my favourite areas in World of Warcraft: there’s a hauntingly beautiful character about the deep blue colours of the Ghostlands sky.

  • Just south of Lake Elrendar is the Farstrider Enclave, host to a Blood Elf group that watch over the Ghostlands’ eastern territories. It is comparatively remote and takes a ways to reach, so when I did my quests here, I simply accepted them all at once, finished them in accordance with whatever I encountered first, and then this way, I only needed to make a single trip back to the Farstrider Enclave. As it turns out, this time around, there were a bunch of quests I never completed, including one that involved defeating spirits that inhabit the lake itself.

  • The Shadowpine Trolls inhabit the eastern edge of the Ghostlands, and players are sent here to slay a certain number, as well as collect their weapons. Lore states that the forest trolls and elves have been longtime enemies, and while the elves traditionally had the advantage, the destruction of the Sunwell had allowed the trolls to seize the initiative. The players are thus called upon to help hold the fort against this enemy, and here, I use Rain of Fire to destroy a group of unaware trolls.

  • Over the course of three hours or so, I ended up finishing all of the different quests in the Ghostlands, and at last, was finally ready to take on The Traitor’s Destruction. At level twenty, this quest recommends a party of five: Dar’Khan Drathir is covered by several minons, and as he has access to Fear, he can cause enemies to run away for four seconds. Players who’ve done this suggest taking a party and silencing him, and on my original run, I ended up using my ability to silence while a friend then helped me to clear the other minions away, turning a tricky fight into a simpler one.

  • Located at the southern end of the Ghostlands, Deatholme is a fortress belonging the the Scourge. I ended up saving all of the quests for Deatholme, deciding to do them all in one stroke. Thus, I ended up clearing away Dar’Kan’s undead lieutenants, freed the captive Blood Elves and squared off against Dar’Kan himself in the same run. Armed with a maxed out character, I ended up beating Dar’Kan and his minions with a single AoE spell, speaking to how dramatic the power differences are between level appropriate characters and characters at the level cap.

  • Finishing all the quests in the Ghostlands meant that I became exhalted with Tranquillen, and I set off for Silvermoon City, ready to continue on with my journey. It turns out that I’d also completed a hundred quests. With this, my latest World of Warcraft post comes to an end: as of now, I’ve finished revisiting all of the areas I’d travelled through years earlier, and the next time I return to write about World of Warcraft will be when I set foot on Northerend, which will mark the first time I’d ever done so. While my friend had a Wrath of the Lich King server back in the day, we shut down before I had a chance to visit.

By the time I had hit level twenty, my friend decided to help me finish off the last of the quests in the Ghostlands: this marked the first time I needed a group to help me out, and for good reason. The quest, The Traitor’s Destruction, requires that players neutralise Dar’Khan Drathir, a former Blood Elf magister who joined forces with Arthas. After fighting our way through Deathome, we finally reached his lair. While the game recommends a minimum level of 15, at level 20, the two of us were enough to beat the quest, and for my troubles, I unlocked the Staff of the Sun, a rare staff that conferred some nifty bonuses for level 20 players. By this point, term started, and my other friend, who had been running the server, decided to level everyone to the cap so we could do a dungeon together. I never did explore more of the Horde regions. More recently, I was able to return to the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands on my private server. In my adventures, I ended up clearing all of the quests in the area over the course of a few hours, and returning brought back memories of that summer years earlier. This time around, owing to the fact it’s my server, I was able to finish everything off on short order, making use of a fully-levelled character to explore with impunity. It was a journey down memory lane to a much simpler time; this time around, I had a bit more time to check out areas that I’d originally missed. I found myself surprised that despite it being a ways over a decade since I last tread the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands, the locations of everything still came quite naturally to me. In no time at all, I’d wrapped up all of the quests in the Ghostlands and became exalted with Tranquillien. Having now revisited another one of my old World of Warcraft experiences, I set my sights on hitherto unexplored territory next: Northerend. My friend’s private server was updated to include the Wrath of the Lich King expansion back in the day, and it remained live for a few months before finally shutting down. I had been busy exploring the remainder of Azeroth at the time and never got around to visiting Northerend at the time, but with my own private server now, I think the time has come to rectify this.

World Witches: Take Off!- Whole Series Review and Reflection

“We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to need them more than usual before long.” –Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Hikari reluctantly agrees to ice swimming with Nikka and the others, but subsequently develops a cold from the temperature extremities, becoming bed-ridden while she recovers. Hikari later accompanies Edytha on a trip to pick up supplies, but the group get arrested for attempted to purchase alcohol as minors, and Gundula’s efforts to get them out of trouble fail. Meanwhile, Gertrude’s efforts in filming appear to show some results: after Charlotte and Francesca tag along, the group also manages to convince Sanya to appear in the movie – they suggest that Sanya might be able to find her parents more readily if she appears in a film and spreads the word. Charlotte and Francesca’s antics do create a compelling movie, although Eila begins falling ill in Sanya’s absence. Eila arrives in St. Trond just as Minna manages to convince the higher-ups to re-establish the 501st. They celebrate their reunion with a party – fearing Minna’s deadly cooking, Charlotte, Erica and Francesca whip up a wonderful range of party foods for everyone. However, a Neuroi arrives, forcing the girls to drop everything and sortie. Back in St. Petersburg, the 502nd prepare for Takami’s arrival: after Yoshika gives her a clean bill of health, she flies back out, eager to reunite with Hikari. Naoe is unable to hide her excitement and embarasses herself in front of the other Witches. Hikari is overjoyed to see Takami again, and the two promise to take to the skies and defend what’s dear to them. This is World Witches: Take Off!, a continuation to 2019’s 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! series. Continuing on in its predecessor’s footsteps, World Witches: Take Off! retains a joyful spirit and provides plenty of laughs. However, unlike 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, World Witches: Take Off! is split down the middle and follows two separate, overarching stories – one of the 501st putting a movie together in a bid to reunite and reactivate their group, and the other of the 502nd’s time spent getting Hikari up to speed on everything. World Witches: Take Off! thus ends up being quite serviceable in terms of its story, standing in sharp contrast with 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, which had no story, and where episodes consisted of standalone gags. Despite having two separate stories running concurrently, however, World Witches: Take Off! nonetheless manages to retain its predecessor’s humour.

On paper, World Witches: Take Off! is a straight upgrade to the style seen in 501st Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, but in practise, the series is stymied by the fact that despite being about the World Witches, there is no actual encounter between the 501st and 502nd. The disappointment here stems from the fact that the opening sequence shows all of the Witches together, and it does not take much imagination to suppose what would happen had both the 501st and 502nd met one another. Such a large group of varied Witches would create opportunity for new jokes and new experiences that have hitherto been unseen in the Strike Witches universe as the different characters bounce off one another: Charlotte could fall victim to Waltrude, while both Gertrude and Naoe might go after Erica for her sloppiness. Hikari and Yoshika would get along very well with one another, while Eila would continue to be troubled by Nikka. The skies here are the limit for what is possible, and Strike Witches had always shown the importance of the moments the Witches spend together off the battlefield, so it was certainly conceivable that World Witches: Take Off! could’ve dared to go big and show something that had never been seen before. This was the impression that World Witches: Take Off! seemed to give off with its opening sequence, so I had been anticipating a meet-up between the 501st and 502nd. This was never realised – the closest it gets is when Yoshika clears Takami to return to Europe. Otherwise, it’s two separate stories in which the characters never do meet one another, and this was a shame, because it would’ve marked the first time the Witches have a chance to meet. I appreciate that the writers might’ve deliberately avoided this route because to do so would also be to introduce chaos into the Strike Witches universe of a sort that we’ve not seen before, and moreover, the series proper seems to keep the different groups apart, so this decision might also be to respect the writers’ choices.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If memory serves, Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! aired during the spring 2019 season, and similarly to World Witches: Take Off!, was a series of 13-minute long episodes. Those episodes were quite unrelated, and it was very easy to watch an episode, have a few laughs and then continue. World Witches: Take Off!, however, does have an overarching story: the 501st are putting a movie together, while the 502nd do their best to welcome Hikari amidst the chaos of Takami’s actions. While alternating between the two groups made it a little tricky to follow what was happening at times, I remained happy with how both stories retain their humour.

  • Being able to see the 502nd again reminds me of how much fun I had watching Brave Witches – it is a little bewildering to note that Brave Witches aired four years ago. The Strike Witches works have spanned quite a long time: Strike Witches‘ first season aired in 2008, and after 2010’s Strike Witches 2, it was a relatively short two year wait to Strike Witches: The Movie in 2012. Subsequently, 2015 had Operation Victory Arrow, and Brave Witches aired a year later. It would then be a longer four year wait to Road to Berlin. The fact that the Strike Witches franchise has been going strong since 2008 speaks to its quality.

  • I found the characters and their experiences within a well-developed world to be the main appeal of Strike Witches as a whole, and it would’ve been about ten years ago that I first heard of Strike Witches. I can’t quite pin down how I came to learn about this series, except that it was through Tango-Victor-Tango. My classmates in data structures at the time, also anime fans, suggested that I skip over this series because it offered nothing substantial, but I ended up going against their recommendation and picked the series up. Since then, I’ve been a fan of the military moé genre: Strike Witches was the surest indicator to what can happen when one keeps an open mind, and indeed, I found the series to be much more than its premise initially suggested.

  • Winter swimming is indeed a thing in northern countries, and as its name describes, is the practise of swimming in water that is just above freezing (typically 5ºC) during the winter months. Nikka is fond of the practise and suggests doing this as a means of keeping warm during the coldest months in St. Petersburg. Nikka is from Suomous (Finland), and her approaches therefore are in keeping with Finnish traditions – she suggests that dipping in ice-cold water and then hopping into a sauna immediately after has health benefits.

  • The practise of dipping in cold water is said to have health benefits, helping to reduce stress and fatigue, as well as improving resilience against infectious diseases. This is something that Naoe and Hikari initially have a great deal of trouble believing: standing in the cold air, both are surprised that Nikka has no trouble with things. One particularly funny detail is the fact that Hikari’s ahoge changes shape to reflect her mood in World Witches: Take Off!, whereas in Brave Witches, it always retains a consistent shape. Further to this, on the matter of Hikari, I always thought that Hikari was a little less well-endowed: unless I’m mistaken, World Witches: Take Off! portrays her as being less flat than in Brave Witches.

  • As it turns out, the actual danger from dipping in cold water is not from hypothermia itself: it is estimated that the average person can survive in these water temperatures for around half an hour before the core temperature begins to lower. However, the danger lies from cold shock, which causes the individual to hyperventilate and potentially inhale water. Moreover, the cold will cause uncontrolled muscle contractions and eventually result in cardiac arrest. While individuals with heart conditions or respiratory problems shouldn’t participate in cold water swimming, the practise should be okay for healthy individuals. Waltrud demonstrates this, and spurred on, Naoe and HIkari join her shortly after.

  • The practise that Nikka suggests, dipping in cold water and hitting a sauna after, brings to mind the Nordic Cycle (which unsurprisingly, originates from Finland) that Ena suggested to Rin in Heya Camp△. Hikari is surprised that things no longer hurt quite as bad despite her initial expectations, and the Witches thus prepare to head into the sauna for the next step of their winter experience. The Nordic Cycle has numerous health benefits, although it goes without saying that proper safety measures should be used, and caution be observed if one has any underlying conditions.

  • Back with the 501st, the Witches have convinced Sanya to join them: the idea is that since Sanya’s still looking for her parents, perhaps appearing in a movie and speaking about her aspirations will get her message out to more viewers. Seeing the merits of this approach, Sanya agrees and flies out to St. Trond base, where Charlotte and Francesca are. World Witches: Take Off! found a clever way to bring back Charlotte and Francesca into the fold; during the events of Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off!, Charlotte and Erica were single-handedly responsible for more than half of the trouble that had happened, and consequently, most of the series’ humour came from them.

  • The old “ketchup as blood” routine definitely seems to be a recurring joke in World Witches: Take Off!, and here, Francesca uses it to create a scene where viewers are supposedly more likely to be moved by Sanya’s plight. The non sequitur train of thought in World Witches: Take Off! kept each episode unpredictable and hilarious in its own way, as the Witches seek to accomplish their aims through increasingly dubious means. After Francesca douses Sanya in ketchup, a Neuroi appears, and Sanya shoots it down.

  • While effective for the scene director Charlotte has envisioned, it also creates a misunderstanding amongst Gertrude and Yoshika, who feel that Sanya’s injured for real. Since we viewers know what’s happening, this creates the dramatic irony that makes the scene so hilarious; when comprehension dawns on Yoshika and Gertrude, they are mortified and immediately set about punishing Charlotte and Francesca for their stunt.

  • However, it turns out Sanya had actually agreed to the arrangements for the movie’s sake, so there was no harm done. Misunderstandings and their resulting chaos are a central part of World Witches: Take Off!, and while such things do happen in Strike Witches proper, the Take Off! series strips away the Neuroi threat so that episodes can focus entirely on the characters. It suddenly hits me that, as each Take Off! episode is half the length of a standard episode, one could say with conviction that in a standard Strike Witches episode, half the time is spent on slice-of-life elements around being a Witch, and the other is on proper combat, world-building and the like.

  • With Sanya’s inclusion in the movie, it would appear that there’s enough footage to work with, and the Witches subsequently wrap up the principle photography, moving onwards to editing and finalising the movie. Gertude consents to give Sanya a small tap on the head as a reprimand for having scared them, and both embrace Sanya, immensely happy that things are fine and that their movie’s on track to being finished.

  • Because Eila’s crush on Sanya is so pronounced, when her intuition tells her Sanya’s being taken from her, Eila immediately falls ill, prompting Mio to call Minna and explain what’s going on. While Eila’s feelings for Sanya are out in the open irrespective of whether it’s a TV anime or manga, spin-off works crank things up a further for the sake of comedy, with the inevitably result that I’ve begun feeling sorry for Eila whenever such things happen to her. Here, I note that ketchup works great in World Witches: Take Off! because without things like viscosity and transparency, it is very difficult to tell the two apart.

  • In Brave Witches proper, Edytha often punished Witches who broke the rules by having them wear a sign of shame. After Edytha accidentally reveals to Waltrud and Nikka that Hikari’s got a cold, Naoe makes her wear the sign and figures that they should check up on Hikari: now that they’re down a Witch, Gundulla and Alexsandra worries that headquarters will cut their funding on account of their reduced operational capacity.

  • It turns out that after the cold swim, Hikari fell ill, but things look relatively minor, and Hikari’s in good hands as Georgette is looking after her. Much as how the 501st side of the story focuses on Charlotte, Francesca, Gertrude, Erica, Sanya and Eila because their presence is rather more noticeable, the 502nd’s story has Naoe, Nikka, Waltrud and Edytha at the forefront of things: Sadako and Georgette don’t really have much shine time in World Witches: Take Off! because comparatively, they’re less rambuncious than the others.

  • Edytha’s decision to keep quiet about Hikari’s cold stems from her worry that Nikka’s accident-prone nature, and the potential of Waltrud taking advantage of Hikari’s state, could make Hikari’s recovery a lengthy one. While nothing of the sort happens, Nikka and Waltrud do get into an accident after deciding to mix up a little something to help Hikari recover, but Nikka accidentally spills boiling water on herself and Waltrud in the process. Only the Witches’ accelerated healing factor allows such an incident to be funny: when scalded with boiling water, the usual response is to apply cool runner water to the afflicted areas for at least twenty minutes (but not nice or cold water)

  • Later, the 502nd learn that provisions are low, and while Alexsandra attempts to lighten the mood up with a joke about how they at least have unlimited supplies for making snow cones, the Witches soon fall into self-pity since the front lines are so quiet. It typifies World Witches: Take Off!‘s ability to turn even the most mundane of tasks into something enjoyable to watch. After Georgette actually begins eating the snow in desperation, it is decided that Hikari, Sadako, Edytha and Georgette will go on a shopping trip into town.

  • Picking up the common supplies proves easy enough, but when Edytha attempts to pick up some alcohol, the clerk ends up calling the authorities, causing the Witches to be detained. Using Japanese law, Edytha, being 19, is an adult, but the legal drinking age in Japan is 20, so technically, Edytha isn’t able to purchase alcohol anyways. Gundula soon receives a call from the local station asking for the girls’ parents to retrieve them, but at the same time, also gets a call from Takami. The ensuing chaos is a riot, and its resolution is never presented.

  • The last bit of the 501st’s story has everyone gathering for a party: with the film now complete, everyone’s invited to swing by St. Trond base.  Even now, Minna hadn’t been successful in convincing the brass to reform the 501st. When Yoshika decides to thank the other Witch squadrons for having caused them trouble, and reveals that she has a very specific list of people to thank based on certain attributes, Erica seizes the photos and decides that Yoshika should be able to express her gratitude via letters, prompting Yoshika to beg Erica for the letters back. Mio arrives shortly after: Minna’s somehow managed to get her back, too.

  • However, worried about what could happen if Minna were allowed to cook, Charlotte, Francesca and Erica had decided to take on the task themselves while Yoshika and Sanya head off to spread the word. Charlotte, Erica and Francesca’s plan to cook ahead of time proves vital, saving everyone from certain death. While the movie’s now done, there remains the matter of editing: Mio notes that Fuso has a branch in the military to handle this, causing the girls to go ballistic; they were hoping to have a more final say in what the film actually entails.

  • While the 501st is still not formally reactivated, the girls decide to party anyways, but as things get under way, the Neuroi suddenly appear. Charlotte and Francesca had joked that having the Neuroi show up would be the fastest way to convince the brass to reassemble the 501st for combat operations, but it seems the Neuroi had been waiting for the worst moment to make a return. This prompts Minna to order everyone to sortie for combat.

  • In this post, only a third of the screenshots are of the 501st: I deliberately skewed the screenshots to favour the 502nd because it’s their first time appearing in the parody format. At the end of their story, it turns out Takami had shown up herself to make sure Hikari was doing okay. It turns out that after arriving home, Takami became guilt-ridden about what happened and, side-tracked by seeing merchandise of herself, wants to make some of Hikari, too. The chibi forms of the characters are adorable, and one of the interesting things about the Take Off! series was the shifts in art styles.

  • Whether or not Yoshika is actually qualified to examine Takami is questionable: she expresses an interest in giving Takami her physical with indecent enthusiasm, and Takami misinterprets this as Yoshika being a noble physician. Unfortunately for Yoshika (and fortunately for Takami), the latter receives a phone call from St. Petersburg and learns Hikari’s in trouble. She thus sets off immediately, and Yoshika reluctantly stands down, salty that she’s not able to grope Takami.

  • It’s a tearful reunion in St. Petersberg, but as Gundula and Alexsandra can attest, since we viewers know precisely what led up to this point, this moment is less heartwarming than it is funny. The flow of events in World Witches: Take Off! loosely parallels those of Brave Witches, similarly to how Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! The Movie had been a re-telling of Strike Witches: The Movie‘s events in a parody format, and now, I’m interested to re-watch Brave Witches again. Having watched the televised run during the fall of 2016, I ended up with the broadcast version’s defects, which the home release subsequently rectified.

  • While Hikari anticipates fighting alongside Takami, and her ahoge takes on a heart-shape in response, it turns out that to facilitate this detour, Takami owes the military. Hikari decides to accompany her, just happy to be with her sister again, although the other Witches are inevitably disappointed. In particular, Nikka had become fond of Hikari, while Alexsandra laments the loss of their supplementary funding should the two actually leave. Upon further consideration, Hikari decides to stay, and Gundula manages to convince the brass to at least let Takami stay over the winter.

  • As far as I can tell, no one else is writing about World Witches: Take Off!, and it’s really hard to fault folks for not writing about this series of shorts. World Witches: Take Off! offers nothing substantial to talk about in the way of character growth or world building, instead, being just a hilarious collection of tales about the mishaps that accompany the Witches in a world where the most notable aspects of their personalities are allowed to clash. Of course, the humour might be a little off-putting for some folks: this isn’t to be too surprising, since World Witches: Take Off! isn’t exactly a conventional anime.

  • With this in mind, I’ve still managed to find things to talk about in this unconventional series, even where the series doesn’t offer much to work with. There’s a reason why my Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! reviews dominate search engines: I aim to share my experiences in a fair and comprehensive manner. Admittedly, shorts like these can be tricky to write for, and while I did have fun watching the Take Off! series, I’m not going to say that World Witches: Take Off! or Joint Fighter Wing: Take Off! are masterpieces that change the anime landscape, but the series represent light-hearted fun that gives viewers something to check out while waiting for more Strike Witches.

  • Upon catching wind that Hikari and Takami are leaving, Naoe ties Alexsandra up with the aim of forcing a straight answer out of her as to what’s happening, only to learn that she’d been acting on outdated information. Alexsandra had never actually withheld any information from Naoe, and so, when the others find out about it, it’s the surprise of the century: Naoe acts and talks tough, but behind this façade is someone who genuinely cares about those around her.

  • In embarrassment, Naoe first tries to commit suicide, and then tries to kill Nikka (which fails because Nikka’s self-healing outpaces whatever damage Naoe can do). Before things go out of hand, Neuroi appear, and Hikari is excited to finally be able to fly alongside Takami. This brings World Witches: Take Off! to a close; the ending comes abruptly, and we never do see the 501st and 502nd meet, but altogether, World Witches: Take Off! remains an enjoyable romp for those looking to scratch the Strike Witches itch that Road to Berlin left behind.

  • With my talk on World Witches: Take Off! done, I’ve now wrapped up all of the anime I had been actively watching for the winter season. The spring season is upon us now: Yakunara Mug Cup MoSuper Cub, and Yūki Yūna is a Hero Churutto! have my attention. I am likely to write about these series in a regular fashion. In addition, I plan to give 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Hige wo Soru. Soshite Joshikousei wo Hirou. and Koi to Yobu ni wa Kimochi Warui a go for the new season. Finally, I’m going to resume my Kamisama ni Hatta hi and Gundam SEED adventures on short order here, having put the brakes on so I could tend to everything else that’s been going on.

Altogether, World Witches: Take Off! is a fun series – while it does not bring anything particularly new to the table, nor does it help build the Strike Witches world further, World Witches: Take Off! continues on as its predecessor did, introducing a considerable amount of humour into the Strike Witches universe and acting as a parody of what’s happened. With this in mind, I’ve recently heard folks complain that “fun” is not a valid metric for assessing one’s enjoyment of entertainment on the basis that it’s too subjective a measure. I find this a narrow-minded way of thinking: World Witches: Take Off!, for instance, creates humour in its story that accentuates the worst traits in each character, and in the knowledge of the contrast the Take Off! series’ characters have with their usual counterparts, the dichotomy creates irony that is hard to reconcile, and hence, funny. This is where the enjoyment comes from, and for the lack of a better word, World Witches: Take Off! is a fun series, even if it doesn’t do anything world-changing or novel. The format continues to work for this series of shorts, acting as a pleasant intermediary series between now and when Luminous Witches is set to air. Ever since it was known that Strike Witches would be returning after VividRed Operation, the series has indeed returned in a big way. This is not unwelcome, since I’ve come to greatly love the Strike Witches universe and its characters: the greatest joys have always been seeing what sorts of scenarios unfold with the characters, and Luminous Witches intends to take viewers to a different side of this world. I’m rather excited to see what’s coming, and while series like World Witches: Take Off! might not necessarily advance Strike Witches as a whole, the fact we’re getting anything at all is a great sign that there’s more to come.

The Real Life Road Home From Izu Peninsula: An Oculus-Powered Armchair Journey of Yuru Camp△ 2, Part IV

“I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!” –Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

It’s been week after Yuru Camp△ 2‘s finale aired, and already, I’m suffering from Yuru Camp△ withdrawal. This was only to be expected, as Yuru Camp△ 2 represented an immensely cathartic experience, and so, without weekly episodes to look forwards to, things have become somewhat emptier. However, this does not mean that I’m out of Yuru Camp△ 2-related materials to talk about: somewhere before the series had ended, I did promise to return and do a short post on the remaining locations in Yuru Camp△ 2. This time around, I follow Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club’s way home. In the aftermath of a memorable and fulfilling journey to the Izu Peninsula, Yuru Camp△ 2 slowly winds down as the girls finish their itinerary and make their way back to Yamanashi under a setting sun that illuminates the land in a warm, gentle glow. Along the way, there are several noteworthy destinations to stop along at, allowing Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club to keep all of the promises they’d made at the onset of this journey. Thanks to Yuru Camp△ 2 being very open about its locations, this final set of locations prove straightforward to find. During the course of each of the four parts to my Yuru Camp△ 2 location hunt, I had a considerable amount of fun in finding everything: armed with my prior Oculus Quest experience, using landmarks and full immersion meant that none of the locations posed any challenge to find this time around. Thus, in this post, I take readers through the last of the Izu destinations, and return to Yamanashi, where Rin’s journey with camping first began.

  • The last leg of this journey begins at Hiroi Liquor Store, which is located at the heart of Itō in Izu’s eastern edge. Open from 0900 to 1800 JST on most days, Hiroi’s owners are every bit as friendly as the Iidas, and their sake is said to be excellent, being made from local rice. While I’m not big on alcohol, Hiroi also has an interesting selection of imported foods and drinks, making it a worthwhile place to check out even if one does not partake in drinking.

  • Mount Omuro is located 2.9 kilometres north north west of Hiroi Liquor as the mole digs, but by road distance, it’s a 4.6 kilometre drive. This dormant pyroclastic cone has not erupted for four millennia and is home to the Yamayake Festival, an annual event during which vegetation is burnt away. At the foot of the mountain, there’s a Visitor’s Centre and cable car that takes visitors to the summit of Mount Omuro. During early March, they’re open from 0900 to 1645 JST. An individual ticket for a round trip is 700 Yen (8.05 CAD), and the walk around Mount Omuro’s crater rim takes anywhere from twenty minutes to half an hour.

  • Across the street from the Mount Omuro’s Visitor Centre is the road access to Izu Shaboten Zoo, home of the capybaras that Akari is so excited to see. At the fork in the road, there’s a distinct cactus statue belonging to Izu Cactus Village Glamping, a resort offering fancy-pants camping. Glamping (Glamorous Camping) has been around for centuries as a concept, but it was only in 2016 where it entered the English lexicon. As one might expect of fancy-pants camping, Izu Cactus Village offers a do-it-yourself barbeque and beautiful geodesic dome tents that provide all the comforts of home. It’s, as folks are wont to say, a different form of camping that is a different kind of luxurious compared to the more traditional camping that Rin and the others do.

  • Glamping would defeat the purpose of Yuru Camp△, and their destination lies a ways ahead at Izu Shaboten Zoo, which is open between 0900 and 1700 JST from March to October. Visiting here is pricey compared to the Outdoor Activities Club’s usual events; individual tickets cost 2400 Yen (27.59 CAD), while for Akari, the price of admissions is 1200 Yen (13.80 CAD). For comparison, adult tickets to my local zoo is 24.95 CAD per adult, while children’s tickets are 14.95 CAD. However, what makes Izu Shaboten Zoo special is that, besides the famed onsen-enjoying capybaras, most of their animals are free-roaming and friendly towards humans. One can even purchase animal food and feed the animals here, and for visitors looking for a change of scenery, Izu Shaboten Zoo also has a pleasant botanical garden.

  • It’s a 32.6 kilometre drive from Izu Shoboten Zoo back to Darumayama Kogen Rest House, the same roadside stop with the observation deck and gorgeous view of Mount Fuji that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club had visited in episode eleven. Rin had parked her moped here for the day and accepted a ride from Minami, and now that the time has come to head home, the group returns here to retrieve Rin’s bike before preparing for the hundred-kilometre drive back to Yamanashi. I imagine that Rin and the others also grab a light lunch here before heading back: there’s a snack bar that serves everything from ice cream and pancakes to noodles and curry rice.

  • The way back home to Yamanashi is presented as a very gentle and peaceful drive: here, a frame portrays Sirkanogawao Bridge on the Izu-Jūkan Expressway (E70) just outside of Ōhito, a small town north of Izu. E70 has a short tolled section and runs for 57.3 kilometres: it opened in 1992, but sections of it are still incomplete. With speed limits of 100 km/h depending on road conditions, expressways generally are only open to motor vehicles that can maintain 50 km/h or greater: mopeds like Rin’s are generally not permitted.

  • As such, Rin takes a slightly different way home on her moped: this intersection is where Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club part ways. Minami will head east down this road back to Prefectural Route 18 and make for the intersection linking them to E70, while Rin heads north for Prefectural Route 129. Because Rin’s journey is much slower, she has a few moments to herself, while the other girls (save Nadeshiko) fall asleep and find themselves back home in Yamanashi before they know it. The slope up this road looks much steeper in Yuru Camp△ 2 than it does in real life.

  • Yuru Camp△ 2 portrays a sign on the grassy slop adjacent to the road indicating the direction of Shuzenji Hot Spring, and sure enough, the signs can be seen in the real-world spot on the right hand side of the image. In this post, I’ve chosen not to go hunting for all of the various spots that Rin and the Outdoor Activities Club separately pass through: at the journey’s end, there isn’t much that can be said about freeway overpasses and coastal roads that is useful for readers. Visitors will only likely pass along these spots if they’re in Japan, and I don’t feel a particular need to compare stretches of road Yuru Camp△ 2 with real life, not when other comparisons do a compelling job of conveying how faithful the anime is to real life.

  • Back in Yamanashi, Rin runs into Nadeshiko, who’d gone out with Sakura to see if she’d been alright. Yuru Camp△ 2 ends with a conversation between the two, and here, Rin shares her first-ever camping trip with Nadeshiko. The series elegantly wraps things up towards its ending, and so, for this post, I’ve decided to go looking for the road Rin takes to get back home during her first year of middle school, where her love for camping began. Here, she walks along a road lining the Hanki River, just off Route 400. I’d long known that Rin lived somewhere near the Tokiwa River, so finding this spot was a matter of looking for bridges near the Tokiwa River along Route 300. Inspection of the Google Street View image and location from Yuru Camp△ 2 finds that I’ve got a match, right down to the red utility box and T-intersection road sign.

  • Much as how I ended the first Yuru Camp△ 2 location hunt post with a screenshot of an instance where the real-world location has a vacant lot, here, I’ve found the spot where Takeda Bookstore is located. The presence of a distinct-looking garage besides a house indicates that, as with Nadeshiko’s grandmother’s house, C-Station remains true to real life even if certain locations were created to accommodate the story, and as before, while visiting a vacant lot isn’t likely too troublesome, folks should still take care not to disturb residents if they are visiting for real. With this in mind, folks using virtual means of exploration can check things out to their heart’s content. I believe with this, I’ve covered off most of the relevant locations of Yuru Camp△ 2 and therefore, can conclude this post now.

I imagine that this will be the second last Yuru Camp△ 2 and location hunt post I write about in the foreseeable future, as I’ve covered almost all of the locations and content to the best of my ability. As per usual, having the Oculus Quest has made the location hunt process much more engaging and immersive, and in no time at all, I’d found everything of note. While this means that until Yuru Camp△: The Movie is released, I won’t be doing too many location hunts with the Oculus Quest. However, having said this, I have caught wind of an experimental VR app called Laid-Back Camp Virtual, which allows players to step into the world of Yuru Camp△. Insofar, I’ve been using Wander for Oculus Quest to visit the real-world locations of Yuru Camp△, but the developers at Gemdrops have successfully brought the world of Yuru Camp△ to life, complete with the talking pine cones. At the time of writing, only the Lake Motosu version is out, but there are plans for a Fumoto version as well. Individually, each cost 24.99 CAD for the Oculus Quest, and appear to be a guided tour of the experience that Rin and Nadeshiko have in their earliest experiences together, allowing players to really become a part of Yuru Camp△. While the experiences are quite short, totalling only forty minutes each, this could be a fun demo that adds another dimensionality to having an Oculus Quest: it’s been two years since the Oculus Quest released, and save for SUPERHOT VR and Wander, I’ve not really found other apps to be worth the price of admissions. Having a few additional titles in my library would really allow me to get the most out of the Oculus Quest; while I’ve greatly enjoyed its usability with only two titles so far, it would be nice to experience other games and see what’s possible in VR.