The Infinite Zenith

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

The Squad’s Day: Rio Runs- Sora no Woto Third Episode Review and Reflection

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” —James Cash Penney

While practising the fundamentals of music under Rio’s instruction, Kanata falls ill with Roseola. Rio seeks the assistance of local priestess, Yumina, who is able treat Kanata. Later, when she reawakens, Kanata laments being of limited use to the 1121st and creating trouble for everyone, but Rio remarks that an effective military unit is thus as a result of the contributions of each of its members, drawing parallels with music, where the sound of numerous instruments in different roles contributes to a much more complete final product. Taking Kanata into the Takemikazuchi, an armoured vehicle from the civilisation predating theirs, Rio shares with Kanata the song Amazing Grace. Through the third episode, additional insights into Sora no Woto‘s characters are provided in conjunction with allowing Kanata and Rio to interact with one another. Despite her strict mannerisms, Rio is shown to care greatly for those under her command, and her remarks to Kanata illustrate that she sees everyone as being present for a reason, each with a purpose to carry out.

Written by John Newton in 1779, Amazing Grace is a hymn about redemption, written from Newton’s own experiences: after a storm sent his ship off course, he prayed to God and later converted to Christianity. Modern interpretations of the song suggest the worth of overcoming external obstacles, rather than distance from God, and consequently, Amazing Grace presently refers to the seeking of fulfilment (grace). In some cases, Amazing Grace might even refer to self-discovery leading to transformation. Notions of fulfilment, purpose and self-discovery run strong in Sora no Woto; Rio’s reminder to Kanata that the latter has a purpose is the first instance of this theme manifesting in Sora no Woto, and while the forgiveness aspect becomes quite substantial later on in the series, themes of seeking a meaningful purpose in life remain a core element in Sora no Woto. By drawing upon the thematic elements implied by the song Amazing Grace, Sora no Woto‘s third episode begins suggesting to audiences that, well beyond being merely a military-moé anime, additional elements are at play in its narrative.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The morning light sets the land aglow, and glints off Kanata’s bugle. Audiences are set for a hitherto unexpected performance, but Kanata’s performance is remarkably poor, even though her heart is certainly in the right place. Her squadmates largely sleep through the morning call, Rio smiles in understanding that she has much to instruct Kanata on, and the townspeople find themselves in disbelief, with one elderly woman even remarking that the sound is horrendous enough to awaken the dead.

  • On this particular morning, Kanata is responsible for breakfast duty, and she creates a Japanese-style breakfast, complete with steamed rice, miso soup, grilled fish and a green salad. Japanese-style breakfasts are rather more intricate than what I’m used to, and despite having all of the components of a dinner, portion sizes are scaled back to be appropriate for breakfast. I’ve remarked in my earlier Tawawa on Monday post that I end to optimise my morning routines so I can sleep a bit more and still get out early. Breakfast for me consists of baked items, such as muffins, cakes, breads or pastries, and a large glass of milk.

  • It’s shaping up to be a pleasant day in Seize, and here, Kanata waters the corn in the garden. Despite being a military installation, the activities that the 1121st participate do not encompass the training that a tank crew require: aside from being able to operate the necessary equipment (whether it be an armoured vehicle’s weapons, communications equipment or the vehicle itself), the 1121st are never shown going through basic training (including maintenance and operation of their service rifles). This lack of training gives Sora no Woto a very laid-back, casual sense.

  • This is only shown once, but it would appear that Kanata is a capable cook, similar to Yoshika of Strike Witches, who greatly enjoys cooking; in the Strike Witches Movie, she is shown to actively be helping out in an aircraft carrier’s galley with meals until Shizuka reprimands her, saying that officiers do not cook, and later, contributes to dinner at the Clostermann residence while visiting Lynette and Perrine.

  • Refusing a biscuit from Filicia, who notes they are from the local church, Rio expresses a distrust of the organisation, claiming that they resort to calling upon superstitions to extol money from the residents. Most churches collect donations solely to keep the church running, although Rio is quick to assume that the local church in Seize calls upon religion to frighten citizens to line their own pockets.

  • Kureha, Noël and Filicia prepare for a trip to town so that she may replenish the Clocktower Fortress’ provisions. In this time, Rio intends to give Kanata additional exercises on the bugle. The use of colour in Sora no Woto continued to pull me in: it is under a calm afternoon sky that the other set out, and the combination of hues in the landscapes paint a picture of a land that is very peaceful.

  • Early in May 2011, a new outlet had opened at the university’s food court, and I recall ordering a grilled beef and chicken lunch with a side of Korean-style sweet potatoes for the first time while watching Sora no Woto during noon a few weeks into my research. Coming out of the worst semester I had (the courses were difficult enough such that I had to withdraw from one), I resolved shortly after exam season ended, that I would make use of the summer to properly unwind and, having received the OCSS studentship, I planned to spend the summer building an agent-based nephron flow model.

  • If asked, my favourite summer of my undergraduate degree would definitely be 2011: aside from being immensely relaxing, that summer also set in motion the beginning of my undergraduate thesis project. Back in Sora no Woto, Kanata suddenly collapses in the heat, to Rio’s concern. All other goals cast aside, Rio immediately moves Kanata indoors and finds that Kanata’s developed a fever.

  • Being sick is highly unpleasant, as one’s energy reserves are directly wholly towards warding off whatever pathogens have entered the body. Fevers result from the body invoking muscle contractions, elevating its core temperature in an attempt to kill off some of the pathogens. As one of the body’s first line of defense against invaders, fevers are a common symptom, although medical professionals and parents may view it as a serious threat and try various means of treating it.

  • In general, a fever will dissipate on its own over time with adequate rest and so, does not require special effort, but in more serious cases, proper cooling and ensured rehydration is essential for the patient. With Kanata’s condition appearing to worsen, Rio goes on the hunt for medicine but realises their stores are depleted (which is why Filicia and the others set off to town to begin with) — frustrated,  smashes one of the empty bottles.

  • Out of options, Rio sets off full tilt towards town, seeking Sister Yumina’s help. The local priestess, Yumina looks after orphans and is very friendly. Yumina is voiced by Misato Fukuen, whom I best know for her role as Strike Witches‘ Yoshika Miyafuji. I elicit a great deal of hate when I say that I’m rather fond of Yoshika, and to that, I remark, your hate has made you powerful. Besides Yoshika, Girls und Panzer‘s Anzu Kadotani, Rika Shiguma of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Non Non Biyori‘s, Hikage Miyauchi and Keiko Furukawa of Shinryaku!! Ika Musume are other roles I’m familiar with.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I’ve been around the block (with respect to anime) for nearly a decade now, having firmly established my own preferences and thoughts on the shows that I enjoy. Everything traces back to Ah! My Goddess The Movie, and I will be doing a special talk about the movie come March, when ten years have elapsed in full since I first watched it. Back in Sora no Woto, Rio sets aside her mistrust of the church and asks Yumina for help. Bearing no quarrel against the 1121st, Yumina agrees.

  • Yumina suggests that Kanata’s afflicted with Roseola (commonly known as the three-day fever). Caused by the viruses human herpesvirus 6 and human herpesvirus 7, I imagine that Kanata was infected with HHV-6b (my rationale for that will become apparent as the season progresses), symptoms include fever and the development of a rash. While there are no treatments, the disease is usually not serious and subsides after three days, hence its name. While most cases involve infants under the age of two, it can affect individuals as old as eighteen years of age. Sora no Woto evidently ensured its background was plausible, and my inner health scientist is quite pleased that realism is maintained.

  • It is therefore likely that, ever since joining the 1121st, Kanata’s been acclimatising to life at the Clocktower Fortress and trying her best to improve as a bugler, while at the same time, being introduced to some pathogens in the area. As the evening sets in, Kanata’s condition appears to have stablised, and Rio walks out to the bridge to see Yumina off. Yumina provides medicinal herbs to Rio to help Kanata out; they are presumably to help with her symptoms.

  • With this gesture of kindness, Rio’s mistrust of the church begins fading as she realises that they really are around to help out around the town. Consequently, later episodes feature Yumina and the orphans in her care more frequently as the 1121st come across them, and Yumina gradually comes to play a greater role in Sora no Woto. While Rio’s warming up to Yumina and the church was an integral part of the episode, my focus lies largely with Kanata’s perspectives when I derive themes and episode messages in Sora no Woto.

  • The reason for this is because Kanata is the central character; logically, the events of Sora no Woto are meant to be viewed from her perspective, and so, even though the other characters can learn critical lessons through the anime’s run, ultimately, it is what Kanata experiences that drive the lessons that Sora no Woto aim to present. I am an opponent of “Death of the Author” concept, because it is a highly egocentric world-view: in a work, I am interested in viewing the author’s perspective to understand what circumstances lead them to create a work in the manner that they do.

  • I will explain in a later discussion why I am not supportive of a completely post-modernist approach towards interpreting fictional works. Returning to Sora no Woto, with her disease on the mend, Kanata dreams about the mysterious trumpeter she’d seen as a child and subsequently wakes up to Rio cutting up apples. That Rio is presented shortly after this dream hints at her own roles within Sora no Woto, but as we are only three episodes in, the exact role is not presented.

  • Until I personally stepped in to remove it, some folks from Tango-Victor-Tango asserted that the use of the Takemikazuchi as a mere MP3 player was disappointing. The whole point of this scene, that said folks completely misunderstood, was that Rio had gained something from interacting with Yumina. Thus, when Kanata feels a burden to the 1121st, Rio notes that everyone is here to play a role of importance. She relates this to music and gives Kanata a demonstration: the combination of instruments in Amazing Grace is what gives the song its impact, and so, she urges Kanata to work hard, too.

  • Rio finally shows a more compassionate side to her personality, asking Kanata to let her know of any problems she encounters, such that she may help her grow. Fully motivated, Kanata promises to do her best in giving Rio plenty of grief. These dynamics, although seemingly trivial in any ordinary setting, become a shining beacon of optimism in a world such as that of Sora no Woto.

  • Even as early as the third episode, it becomes clear that Kanata is slowly starting to make her presence felt amongst the 1121st despite any noticeable contributions to the squad’s activities: her spirit leads Rio to listen to Amazing Grace once again, coming to slowly reconsider her past. In retrospect, this was only easier to pick out because I’m watching Sora no Woto a third time, and there are always details one can discern on multiple run-throughs of a work.

The third episode predominantly focuses on the mentor-student (or more informally, the senpaikouhai) dynamics between Rio and Kanata. As the mentor, Rio is able to reassure Kanata that the latter is not merely a burden or holding the squad back in any way. In spite of her serious demeanour, Rio is well-suited for taking the innocent Kanata as a student. Similarly, although Kanata might have been depicted as a happy-go-lucky, ever-cheerful girl, her conversation with Rio shows that she does have doubts about her decision to join the armed forces as a bugler. However, thanks to the grace of her meeting with Rio, she gradually discovers her purpose, and over time, through acting as a mentor for Kanata, Rio will come to define a clear dream for herself, as well. Consequently, by the third episode, it should become quite apparent that comparisons between K-On! and Sora no Woto are superficial at best (and in actuality, would be considered invalid)— the incredible attention to world-building and development of the 1121st platoon’s characters stand in stark contrast with the lighter atmosphere in K-On!, and in time, Sora no Woto will decisively show that it is completely unlike K-On!.

The Careless but Loveable and Cute Junior, Ai and Private Film: Tawawa on Monday OVA Review and Reflection

“Feelings aroused by the touch of someone’s hand, the sound of music, the smell of a flower, a beautiful sunset, a work of art, love, laughter, hope and faith — all work on both the unconscious and the conscious aspects of the self, and they have physiological consequences as well.” —Bernie Siegel

I’ve gotten many enquiries about whether or not I’ve seen the two OVA episodes for Tawawa on Monday, which were bundled with the home release editions. While not mentioned in the original post, the answer to that is I found out about them moments after publishing, and had originally decided to give the OVAs a separate post. In response to the level of interest, I’ve moved up the posting schedule: this Tawawa on Monday OVA review thus comes out ahead of a talk about the behemoths in Battlefield 1. In the thirteenth episode, kouhai-chan is getting ready for work but forgets to zip her skirt completely, eliciting much glances from those around her en route to work. After arriving, her senior mentions this to her embarrassment, and feeling that she’s now spoiled for marriage, has her senior accept responsibility should this happen. The fourteenth episode deals with Ai-chan cleaning up the salaryman’s apartment while visiting, only to discover a Blu-Ray disk depicting a well-endowed woman with a uniform identical to Ai-chan’s. Flustered, she accidentally shatters one of the salaryman’s disks and later, tries to make amends by wearing her uniform for him, only to become annoyed when he suggests they watch Tawawa on Monday together after some disks arrive for him late into the evening.

While the two OVAs initially seem quite disconnected, separate from one another, they surprisingly have a common theme. In the first of the OVAs, the first thing that comes to mind is the stock phrase “[I] can’t get married [anymore]”: it’s been thrown around in a non-trivial number of anime that I’ve watched in response to entering some sort of compromising situation, and a bit of inquiry will find the joke is very dated. Apparently, it’s a relic of arranged marriages in Japan, where people often joked about how strict the criteria for finding a suitable partner, individuals who were “defiled” would not fit the requirements and become “damaged goods” in a sense, hence the phrase. However, since the 1950s, arranged marriages have dwindled in Japan, and the phrase no longer holds much meaning. In Tawawa on Monday, however, given that kouhai-chan seems to be interested in her senior, this might be seen as her way of implying that she wishes to be with him. Similarly, in the second of the OVAs, Ai-chan is shown to be uncomfortable with the salaryman looking at anyone else after discovering his stash, and her means of apology is to sate his biological curiosity; as Ai-chan seems to want salaryman to only have eyes for her, it stands to reason that she’s interested in him, as well. With this being said, I am basing this conclusion on reasoning that might involve several massive subjective leaps — interpreting and predicting romantic interest is not something I’m particularly good at, although I also remark that it’s quite overt in Tawawa on Monday, so that even I can pick up the signals.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If there was any doubt as to whether or not I’ve watched the OVAs for Tawawa on Monday, this post should answer that question quite decisively. In keeping with how things work around these parts, I’ve done a full-scale post with twenty screenshots, and open with the remark that I have different sets of pyjamas for use depending on the seasons. In winter, I wear the traditional jacket and long pants type, since it goes get quite cold where I am. Conversely, in summer, a shirt and shorts are sufficient to maximise comfort even on nights where the temperatures remain above 20°C.

  • Tawawa on Monday might be about mammaries, but the OVAs also permit audiences a glimpse at kouhai-chan’s posterior: she makes an interesting choice here, considering that she’s set to meet up with her senior later in the day. Since readers have been wondering, “is this scrub even current in their anime knowledge?”, I figured I would make a concerted effort to keep the post interesting through the screenshots. This leads to the question: of the readers who follow this blog, which proportion come only for the screenshots, and which subset of this group stays for the discussions?

  • Getting ready in the morning can take quite some time, and it is for this reason that I’d much rather shower at night: asides from going to bed devoid of any detritus accumulated over the course of the day, it means I only need brush my teeth and wash my face before downing some breakfast and head off to work. By doing everything (including packing lunch and any papers/electronics) ahead of time, it means I can sleep a little more in the mornings before waking up — not being rushed in the mornings contributes to my being a morning person.

  • As a general rule, one should not wear dark undergarments if they are wearing light-coloured clothes on the surface. I’m looking around the post and suddenly realise that I’m doing a cursory talk on clothing, which is a topic I rarely cover. I dress rather simply unless an event requires more formal wear, and I place a greater emphasis on comfort and practicality over style under normal circumstances.

  • I remember from my primary school days that one of the more gentle ways of letting someone know they’d failed to zip their pants properly was with the expression “your zipper must be afraid of heights”. It’s rather more subtle than the commonly-used “your fly is open”, but the senior office worker decides to remark that “black is a nice colour”. Kouhai-chan takes a few seconds to catch on, and during her commute, seems completely oblivious to the trail of embarrassed males she leaves in her wake.

  • Access to my old office on campus was controlled by proximity card readers: strictly speaking, it’s not necessary to push a card directly against a proximity reader. Security cards have a magnetic stripe on them, with the particles polarised as either north or south. This arrangement equates to binary information, which readers can detect — a proximity reader will listen for small fluctuations in a card’s magnetic field to allow or denote entry, and readers with a more powerful solenoid can allow the card to be read without touching the reader surface, hence my assertion. Of course, this would deprive viewers the chance to watch kouhai-chan push hers into something.

  • Kouhai-chan’s expression is priceless after she realises what’s happened, and remarks that she’s spoiled for marriage. While some chalk this up as lazy writing, I have a feeling that it’s probably done as an in-joke for script writers, rather similar to how cartoonists will white out a panel and claim it’s a polar bear in a snowstorm, or else, some character testing out their new super-flashlight. Most comic strips do not deal with such humour, and it was only through Bill Amend’s Foxtrot that I became aware of a cartoonist’s take on making comics. Prior to that, in Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson spoke frequently about the sizing of panels and using space to properly depict Calvin’s adventures with Hobbes.

  • Completely focused on the day’s work, the senior office worker is unaware of kouhai-chan’s remarks about having him take responsibility of the damaged goods: she’s really implying that she’s interested in him. For all of my remarks about matters of the heart, I’m green in this field in spite of all that theoretical background, and I’ve got the feeling that being out of tune with signals people send may mean I might not be able to lay claim to the achievement of breaking exactly zero hearts throughout the campaign called life.

  • After seeing the senior worker’s reactions, kouhai-chan smiles mischievously, bringing the first OVA to an end. Unless my intel is completely off base, there are only two OVAs at present, although personally, it’d be nice to see more of Tokumori-san and the trainer, as well.

  • Ai-chan’s look of horror when she discovers the salaryman’s stash is priceless, and her cheeks flush in shock at the contents revealed. It brings to mind a scene in Tomorrow Never Dies, where Bond is looking through Henry Gupta’s safe to locate the GPS encoder and finds it under a pile of adult magazines. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond merely grabs the encoder and prepares to leave, while George Lazenby’s Bond outright takes a centerfold from the safe of a German lawyer suspected to be in contact with Ernst Stavro Blofeld in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

  • While there are some commonly-used, modestly effective techniques out there for hiding directories containing these materials from people (one of the most hilarious suggests I’ve seen is renaming the directory to “System.dll”), if one has a partner who happens to be savvy in computers, one should really just bite the bullet and wipe out those contents. Something as simple as doing a virus scan or disk cleaning and discovering a 50 GB folder is enough to give it away. A good file shredder is useful here: they work by writing over the sectors containing the data in multiple passes, scrambling the binary values there randomly with the goal of making sure the data cannot be pieced back together.

  • While lecturing the salaryman on his viewing habits, Ai-chan accidentally steps on and breaks another one of his DVDs. The aftermath is not shown, but Ai-chan does feel quite guilty afterwards. Here’s a bit of trivia I neglected to mention in the previous Tawawa on Monday post: the salaryman is voiced by Junji Majima, who provided the voice to Tamayura‘s Kazutarō Dōgō and Hanasaku Iroha‘s Tōru Miyagishi, Tora Dora!‘s Ryūji Takasu (I’ve finished that one for around a year now and loved it) and Rei Hizuki of Sky Girls.

  • When he returns home from work, the salaryman finds a sullen-looking Ai-chan camped out at his front door, evidently guilty of breaking one of his possessions and waiting for him to return such that she may apologise in full.

  • Her “apology” takes a very unusual form: she makes it clear that she’s uncomfortable with the idea of the salaryman looking at other women, and in order to exhaust his desire to continue doing so, had arrived dressed in her work uniform. She is prepared to give the salaryman a good look at her even though she finds it mortifying to do so, and when the salaryman expresses shock rather than acceptance, Ai-chan is prepared to take things to the next level.

  • Throughout the second OVA, Ai-chan’s actions got me curious about the origins of modesty in humans: humans are the only species on Earth to wear a substantial amount of clothing and cover their genitals. To see what I could learn, I found a paper by William Thomas, published in 1889, that suggests that modesty is a behavioural trait that evolved from our social structures, to avoid unnecessarily exhibiting messages of courtship. If this is true, it would have likely evolved in conjunction with the development of clothing in early human populations.

  • While the other Tawawa on Monday episodes ran only for around four minutes in total, including the ending song, the last of the OVAs runs for a full minute longer. After Ai-chan wonders if the salaryman is expecting to see more, the lights turn out, and the observer’s mind will begin wandering. However, before anything crazy can happen, a deliveryman shows up with a package for the salaryman. While this may seem unusual, I have had someone appear at seven in the evening to deliver a package; I remember vividly, since the package contained my MCAT study package.

  • After seeing that the package consists of anime disks, the salaryman asks if Ai-chan would like to watch Tawawa on Monday with him, and she becomes indignant that the salaryman is into that sort of thing. This is particularly amusing, considering that they are in Tawawa on Monday, about to watch Tawawa on Monday. Presumably leading to an existential crisis of sorts, or in internet-speak, causing a divide-by-zero cataclysm (even though mathematics certainly does not work that way), the episode chooses to have Ai-chan delay any watching to spare the writers of having to work out what would happen if they watched Tawawa on Monday.

  • While the existence of a soundtrack for Tawawa on Monday is not outside the realm of the expected, I was quite surprised to learn that the release price will be 7020 Yen (80.38 CAD at the time of writing), especially considering that there are only sixteen tracks for a total runtime of twenty-two minutes. The music in Tawawa on Monday is nothing noteworthy, but well-composed to add a genteel sense to the events of the anime. For those who are interested, the soundtrack is set for release on January 16.

  • As her rant progresses, Ai-chan becomes more animated and invariably pops yet another button. Outside of Tawawa on Monday, there’s only one other anime I’ve seen where someone’s assets have caused buttons to pop off a shirt, and surprisingly, it comes from Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? — during the second season, Sharo gives Chiya her uniform to try out, but their different figures results in a button popping off with enough force to deflect off Sharo and still travel a few meters in the opposite direction vector, resulting in much indignation from Sharo (and humour for the viewers).

  • Tawawa on Monday thus ends with Ai-chan covering herself up after her buttons fail, and the aftermath remains as an exercise for viewers. The OVAs definitely were fun to watch, and like the anime proper, is not something that can be easily explained to observers. I recommend watching this somewhere secure, preferably with a wall to one’s back and a roof overhead. In the meantime, I’m signing off for the evening: the Flames and Oilers are deadlocked at 1-1 after three periods of play and are set to go into overtime.

I believe that, with these two OVA episodes under my belt, I am truly done Tawawa on Monday. My opinions of this anime short have not changed since I last wrote about it: it fulfils the role of what is known as a “guilty pleasure” in my mind, and these OVAs certainly continue on with the tone that the regular episodes had before them. However, there is a more subtle element that is presented in both OVAs concerning how Ai-chan and kouhai-chan think of the men they spend time with. While seemingly minor, it does drive Tawawa on Monday towards a different direction than merely being an amusing form of #MondayMotivation: at present, I’m not certain if there will be a continuation of Tawawa on Monday in an animated form. Kiseki Himura is continuing to publish art to his Twitter at a regular rate, and although I’ve read from unverified sources that Ai-chan enters some sort of relationship with the salaryman, I’ve not actually seen anything for myself to suggest this is the case. Continuing Tawawa on Monday with a more full-fledged story could prove to be challenging, and with the entire series now in the books, I imagine it to be unlikely that Tawawa on Monday will continue to be adapted in the near future.

Ōarai, Ibaraki: Home of Girls und Panzer

“There is never just one thing that leads to success for anyone. I feel it always a combination of passion, dedication, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time.” —Lauren Conrad

The last major anime locations post I did was published more than a year ago, for Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, which was set in Colmar, France. In this post, we return to the Eastern coast of Japan just north of Tokyo in the Kantō region — it is no secret that the prefecture of Ibaraki is home to Ōarai-machi (大洗町), the setting for the series Girls und Panzer. In no small part thanks to Girls und Panzer, tourism in the town of Ōarai (which I’ve romanised everywhere else on this blog as Ooarai for convenience’s sake) has been bolstered by fans of the series, who’ve come to visit locations that feature predominantly in the anime. While Ōarai in Girls und Panzer plays host to several Panzerfahren matches, the economy of Ōarai in reality is powered by agriculture and fishing: rice and sweet potatoes, along with flounder, sardines, clams and whitebait are major products from the region (as Anzu’s penchent for dried sweet potatoes can attest). In addition, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency also operates a research center in Ōarai. The town of Ōarai was created from the merger between two villages in the Higashiibaraki district, Ōnuki and Isohama, on November 3, 1954: previously the two villages were established on April 1, 1889. Less than a year later, on July 23, 1955, Natsumi (a village in the Kashima district) was annexed by Ōarai and incorporated into the town.

  • It seems appropriate to kick this post off with an image of Ōarai station. Opened in 1985, the station serves an average of around 2690 passengers daily and is situation 11.6 kilometers from the terminal in Mito. This is one of the larger location posts I’ve made, featuring thirty images of the real world location and their corresponding depictions within Girls und Panzer for a total of sixty images. In keeping with the formatting of the other location posts, each real world image is followed by a figure caption, and the anime equivalent is posted below.

  • The building seen here during the finale, when Miho and the others ride through Ōarai following their victory at the championships. A cursory glance shows just how faithfully details are reproduced, with colours and even text closely matching the real-world equivalent. A Kumon tutoring branch can be seen here: I see branches in my country, and a looking further, the company’s origins date to 1958, when Toru Kumon’s son fared poorly in mathematics. Drafting hand-written notes, his son gradually became more adept in mathematics, and caught the neighbours’ attention. Today, the tutoring company is headquartered in Osaka and has locations in forty-nine countries.

  • In an earlier post, I remarked that I would not be keen on sifting through Google Maps to locate every spot in Ōarai, but I will occasionally do so here. This particular intersection is located at 大洗駅前通り and 県道106号線: the elevated rail carrying the Kashima Rinkai Railway Ōarai Kashima Line can be seen in the background here; the differences in lighting suggest that Miho and the others return to Ōarai by morning.

  • A very large majority of the scenes from Girls und Panzer set in Ōarai can be found in the third, fourth, seventh and final episodes: most of the events of Girls und Panzer are set aboard a vast carrier known as school ships in-universe. These gargantuan sea-faring vessels are self-contained towns helmed by students with the aim of preparing them for the duties of adulthood, and one of the OVAs, “School ship war”, deals with life aboard such ships in a manner reminiscent of Discovery Channel’s Mighty Ships.

  • The narrow streets of Ōarai provide a very claustrophobic environment for armoured combat: modern doctrine does not encourage the use of main battle tanks in armoured settings, since the buildings offer opponents places of cover, and also make it much easier to conceal anti-armour weapons, whether they be RPGs or IEDs. Instead, for an urban setting, IFVs and assault guns would be better suited for engaging infantry. Miho’s preferred tactic is to lure her opponents into urban settings with plenty of cover, knowing it will throw them off.

  • During Ōarai’s first match against St. Glorianna, a majority of Ōarai is cordoned off in order to provide the tanks with an urban environment, and below, a peace officier sets up a sign in front of several shops: the one with the colourful storefront appears to be a grocery shop, and again, a comparison between the two images illustrates the level of detail that went into replicating the scenery in Ōarai for Girls und Panzer.

  • The road to the brick structure visible here, for instance, is actually adjacent to the Brian Ōarai Store and a bakery of sorts. The building’s shutters here are closed, suggesting that much of the area has been cleared to facilitate the match, although the relative lack of shadows in the anime incarnation of the location shows that even in something like Girls und Panzer, not all locations can be rendered with the same graphical fidelity as something like Your Name.

  • This is another angle of the same location where Miho manages to make use of the close quarters to quickly dispatch a handful of the Matilda II tanks. At this point in their career, Ōarai Girls’ tankers are quite inexperienced and lose handily to St. Glorianna, even with Miho’s formidable skills in their corner providing a number of their kills. A part of the joy in watching Girls und Panzer was watching Miho’s leadership helping the different teams grow and unify under her direction, while at the same time, seeing Miho re-discover her love for Panzerfahren thanks to the environment her teammates cultivate.

  • The actual street is more densely built than the anime portrayal; the latter gives a much greater sense of space compared to the real world, but these locations do indeed match up: as the real-world image illustrates, it’s directly behind the brick building, and the house behind have very similar designs. The major difference, besides density, is the fact that the grassy field is not fenced off in Girls und Panzer. Placements of shadows suggest that it is late morning or early in the afternoon.

  • The final stages of the exhibition match are settled at this intersection, and while Miho risks a maneouver to reach the Churchill’s rear, her main gun does not pack enough punch to score a mission-killing hit on Darjeeling’s Churchill. Miho later uses the same technique against Black Forest to defeat Maho’s Tiger I, and again in the movie to overcome Alice’s Centurion. The realism of the armoured combat in Girls und Panzer is the subject of no small debate, but I’ve generally chosen to remain a spectator, preferring to focus on the anime’s overarching themes.

  • In the seventh episode, Miho and her friends return to Ōarai’s ferry terminal after visiting Mako’s grandmother. They travel through the streets of Ōarai by evening, and in the distance, the Ōarai Marine Tower is visible. Even with the low lighting, the details in the anime replication of the actual town is apparent, whether it be the small symbols on the house in the foreground,  or the placement of fliers on the telephone poles and vegetation growing out of the sidewalks.

  • A vacant lot adjacent to a Panasonic store serves as the site for some vendors to set up their stands on the day of the exhibition match. Careful inspection of the sign above the storefront shows that in Girls und Panzer, the brand “Panasonic” has been swapped out for “Nanasonic”: shows usually make use of this technique if they wish to present a product similar to that of a real-world brand without going through the procedure in order to acquire the permissions to use the brand, although there are some cases where shows may use brand name products with the company’s endorsement.

  • The sign welcoming visitors to Ōarai is visible from near the town’s post office, leading to the ferry terminal. I live somewhere landlocked, so there are no ferries: the nearest substantial body of water is the Pacific Ocean, and there are ferries that move between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. I’ve not visited Vancouver Island and Victoria for quite some time, but the island does seem quite picturesque for driving around on. At some point, I should rent a vehicle and drive the island.

  • The complex visible in this image is the Resort Outlet Ōarai, a shopping center near the Ōarai Marine Tower. Miho and her friends visit this facility to purchase swimsuits during the “Water War” OVA, as well as to relax in the aftermath of their match against St. Gloriana. The location also serves as the main event centre during this match, where Ōarai’s citizens congregate to watch the first match hosted locally in quite some time. Inspection of this image shows again that details are faithfully reproduced, whether it be the placement of rooftop chimneys or the number of arches in the buildings.

  • Sixty meters in height, the Ōarai Marine Tower is one of the tallest structures in the area. It provides a beautiful panorama of the area surrounding the town, and also serves excellent ice cream. With an admissions cost of less than 10 CAD, it’s a ways more inexpensive than the 18 CAD for ascending the Calgary Tower. While eclipsed by several buildings downtown, the Calgary Tower continues to offer an impressive view of the Calgary skyline: visiting the Calgary Tower is less costly than the 168 HKD (roughly 28 CAD) for an adult ticket to visit Hong Kong’s Sky 100 Observation Deck.

  • While the Resort Outlet Ōarai is perhaps a quieter mall, its staff are very friendly, and the mall’s proximity to the ocean, coupled with a playground, makes it a suitable point for families to visit. Since Girls und Panzer aired, there’s a small diorama in the mall depicting events from the anime. For folks interested to check this out, the mall is a mere fifteen minutes’ walk from Ōarai Station, although it will take around an hour and forty minutes to reach Ōarai Station from Tokyo Station.

  • Given the vast differences in population, I imagine that for a Tokyoite would regard the Resort Outlet Ōarai the same way I see the smaller shops in places like Cochrane or Bragg Creek in comparison with the largest shopping malls in the city. I’ve got a fondness for small shops, as they exude a much warmer atmosphere and oftentimes, have unique items available for sale that might otherwise be unavailable from larger shops.

  • The Ōarai Marine Tower is visible from the original image, but is noticeably absent in the anime incarnation: a bit of reasoning will find that the overhead image of the entire Resort Outlet Ōarai buildings was taken from the southwestern corner of the tower. The distance separating the two locations is only a hundred meters.

  • This is the interior of the Aqua World Ōarai, the regional aquarium. This large hallway serves as the site of a flower arrangement exhibition that Hana takes part in, and her display, a bold and expressive statement about her love for Panzerfahren, is visible in this frame. It is here that she reconciles with her mother, who feels that Hana’s involvement in Panzerfahren has allowed her to develop a more individualistic approach for arranging flowers.

  • Covering 19,800 m² and featuring an animal population of 68000, Aqua World opened in 2002 and receives around 1.1 million visitors annually. The aquarium is open from nine to five most days, and adults are charged 1850 Yen for admissions (around 21 CAD), making it slightly more expensive than admissions for the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller (18 CAD) or Calgary’s Glenbow Museum (16 CAD). The former, I visited during the Labour Day long weekend of 2016, while in 2013, Heritage Day in Alberta meant that the Glenbow Museum was free of charge; my last visit there prior to 2013 was back when I was still a primary school student.

  • A small side road here that Miho takes to enter Ōarai from a rugged countryside actually leads to the Ōarai Isosaki Shrine, which was established in 856, destroyed in a conflict between 1558-1570 and rebuilt in 1690. Designated a site of cultural significance by the Ibaraki Prefecture, the sea is visible from the site. Folks looking to visit will note that the Shrine is open from six in the morning to five in the afternoon, and there is no cost for admissions.

  • In Girls und Panzer Der Film, Miho and Chi-han Tan’s forces evade the combined forces of St. Gloriana and Pravda during an exercise near this location, and in the original anime, Miho directs her group into the town along this road. This particular spot is only some 120 meters from where the previous screenshot was taken: a hotel occupies the left of this image, while the warehouse to the right is a seafood processing factory.

  • The facilities that Miho and the Panzerfahren club are sent to are modelled after the old Kamioka Elementary School (旧上岡小学校) in Daigo, some seventy kilometers northwest of Ōarai. The wooden school was built in 1879, during the Meiji Restoration period and has closed as an elementary school. Its construction and historical value meant the site has been preserved, with television dramas and movies being filmed on the school grounds.

  • The official site encourages visitors to check out the old Kamioka school: there is no admissions cost, and the grounds are open from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon. Its location is admittedly reminiscent of the Atlas Coal Mine in Drumheller, although in the case of the latter, there is a ten dollar charge to walk the area: I was intrigued by the old tipple and coal mining facilities, and next time I visit, I will be purchasing the “Ghost Tour” package. The site is said to be haunted, and I am rather curious to tour the tipple’s interior, as well as some of the subterranean coal shafts.

  • By April 2016, Girls und Panzer fans had visited the site in such numbers that they were interfering with operations at the facilities, and were otherwise causing disturbances in general. The site’s caretakers have since banned cosplayers from the site, although standard visitors remain free to walk around and photograph the grounds. I’ve heard that some anime fans can be generally unpleasant; while I’ve encountered a few fans from the military-moé genre with whom I’d rather not think about, in general, anime fans are ordinary folks that I have no trouble getting along with. As such, it’s quite logical to suppose that in this case, it is the actions of the few that ruin things for the majority.

  • The interior of the Principal’s office is shown in the pair of images here. Details in the interior, from the wooden panelling of the room and placement of furniture, to framed documents on the walls, are highly conserved between the real-world setting and anime depiction. The only major difference is the Championship flag hanging on the left wall.

  • While I’ve tried my best to avoid duplicate photos in this locations post, the images illustrating the broadcast room have been recycled: no other anime image quite captures the real-world version quite as effectively, with its cramped setting and clutter. Compared to the TV series, Girls und Panzer Der Film seems to have improved on the artwork in different scenes, featuring much more detailed environs than its predecessor.

  • When the engines of Saunders Academy’s C-5M Super Galaxy are heard, the girls run out into the hallways, eager to receive the tanks they’ve come to regard as dearly as family. In these frames, note the posters on the walls, which are highly accurate renditions of those found in the actual school: on the right wall, the distant image is of the water cycle, while the image closer to the camera depicts a volcano’s magma chamber and movement of magma through the Earth’s crust.

  • I’m actually one flight of steps too early in the real-world image relative to the position that the anime equivalent was taken from. The multitude of moments from Girls und Panzer Der Film evokes memories of when I wrote the review for the movie some seven months ago. It was an endeavour taking me twelve hours to complete, but looking back, I’m no longer surprised that reviewing the film on such short order after its home release had no impact on my graduate thesis. I had largely finished the thesis paper by then and was in reasonably good shape to take on the defense, so I was able to take the day off to write the review.

  • Kamoika Elementary’s exterior is visible from this shot. For the curiously-minded, this is where the school is located: compared to previous location posts, I’ve included occasional links to Google Maps so that readers may use them as starting points to explore around. I remark to the fellow who spent a fair bit of time tracking down the locations from the “Anglerfish War” OVA, that tracking down the linked locations took a total of less than ten minutes, because I’m One With the Force and the Force is with me. I realise that Ōarai location posts are probably abundant in number, but nonetheless, when I received the request to write this one, I accepted, knowing that I could consolidate a side-by-side comparison of Girls und Panzer locations under one roof — my roof, to make them more accessible. Besides Girls und Panzer, I also have a request to do Flying Witch.

Even before the rise of Girls und Panzer, Ōarai drew upwards of three million visitors per year — its beaches and golf courses aside, the area also boasts an aquarium known as Aqua World, a marina, as well as several museums. In addition to the plethora of outdoor activities, Ōarai is well-known for its monkfish. Belonging to the Lophius genus, monkfish has a moderately firm texture and is somewhat chewy, with a mild, sweet flavour reminiscent of lobster. Monkfish can be prepared in a number of ways (common means include baking, broiling, frying, grilling, steaming or poaching), and in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector, John Clark enjoys a finely prepared dinner of monkfish while on an assignment to assassinate a known terrorist while in Libya. With a population of 16823 as of September 2015, the town of Ōarai is a fine destination for visitors looking to partake in marine sports or try out the monkfish. The city can be reached by the Number 51 highway or through the Kashima Rinkai Railway Ōarai Kashima Line, for which there is a stop in Ōarai. With the town covering only 23.74 km², the area is quite small — dedicated fans will have next to no problem identifying all of the locations in Ōarai that featured in Girls und Panzer.

First Battle: The Story of a Chair- Sora no Woto Second Episode Review and Reflection

“It would be difficult to write a convincing ghost story set on a sunny day in a big city.” —Susan Hill

After introductions to the remainder of the 1121st Platoon, Kanata is asked to explore their facilities with Kureha Suminoya. Despite Kureha expressing despondence that the 1121st is under-equipped and oft-ignored, Kanata manages to find joy in the facilities, known as the Clocktower Fortress. Later during the evening, Noël Kannagi, another member of the 1121st, claims that she’s spotted a ghost; to test their fortitude as soldiers, Rio tasks Kanata and Kureha to hunt down the source of the commotion. They reach the derelict ends of the fortress and realise it was once a school. Although they do not find any traces of spectral activity, they encounter the same owl that had taken off with Rio’s bell. After capturing said owl, they keep him as the team mascot and christen him Shuko. Much as how the first episode focused on portraying the locales in and around Seize, the second episode deals primarily in Kanata familiarising herself with the Clocktower Fortress’ layout and facilities. Aspects of the world in Sora no Woto are further shown via maps found in the Clocktower fortress, with a vast no-man’s land separating habitable regions. All of these elements, seemingly minor and easy-to-miss, serve as foreshadowing for events to occur in later episodes. With that in mind, the first episode is set predominantly on the dynamics between Kanata and Kureha.

Ever-optimistic and cheerful, Kanata’s personality is presented as the polar opposite to that of Kureha, who attempts to convey a sense of seriousness and devotion to her task even in light of the knowledge that other sections of their military do not supply the Clocktower Fortress’ soldiers with adequate provisions or instructions. Whereas Kureha sees a deficiency that exists to be rectified, Kanata sees value in most everything she encounters, making the most of the moment and whatever is available at hand. These disparate personalities mean allow Kanata and Kureha to bounce off one another as they carry out their initial assignment of tracking down a ghost, and although it will take the Kureha additional episodes to warm up to Kanata, it becomes clear that the contrasts in their characterisations allow both to mature as the series progresses. This dynamic is surprisingly similar to the one seen between K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa and Azusa Nanako, although in a different setting, the impact that both individuals have on one another serve to fulfill a different purpose.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • A glance at my site’s metrics shows that this is my 777th post, meaning that since my 666th post back in March, I’ve made 111 posts since then. Kureha derides Kanata’s poor form with the bugle as the morning sun rises, filling the Clocktower Fortress’ courtyard with a chilly-looking light. The Clocktower Fortress is inspired by the Parador de Cuenca, a four-star hotel in the city converted from a convent, although there are some differences in its layout and the terrain it is set on: the hotel is accessible by road, but it looks like the Clocktower Fortress is only connected to Seize by a foot bridge.

  • The 1121st prepare for a Western-style breakfast of salad, fried egg, sausage, ham and biscuit, bringing to mind the breakfasts that I usually have while abroad. Normally, I don’t have much time in the morning for heartier meals; a continental breakfast of some sort with a glass of milk is how I roll, and dinner is typically the largest meal of the day, but when I travel, I usually tuck in to a larger breakfast unless it’s the morning of a flight.

  • After Kanata catches a gander of Rio’s assets, she resolves to eat better and digs in, enjoying the morning meal. Kureha grows displeased with how quickly Kanata is settling in to life at the Clocktower Fortress and is quick to remind the latter that she technically outranks her despite being younger. Rio assigns her to give Kanata a tour of the facilities as a part of her orientation.

  • This screenshot captures the sense of scale of the locales in Sora no Woto, and the location corresponds with a plaza that also doubles as a parking lot for the Parador de Cuenca. Located on the southern edge of the hotel, it provides a fantastic view of the river gorge: while Seize’s river cuts through the area and appears quite impassible, the route CUV-9144 runs along the valley in Cuenca and becomes the Paseo del Huécar as it enters town.

  • It’s a moody, overcast day, and the lighting surrounding the Clocktower Fortress is dark in equal measure to reflect on the weather. Weather and lighting tend to play a much greater role in setting the tones for shows focused on drama: whereas anime like Kiniro Mosaic or Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? tend to have consistent lighting in reflecting that places more emphasis on interpersonal interactions, while shows like Hibike! Euphonium or Tari Tari make use of lighting to a much greater extent with the aim of portraying the weather vis-à-vis the characters’ moods and feelings.

  • A map of the area surrounding Seize can be seen here as Kureha explains to Kanata the importance of their telephone: their only communication channels outside of the fortress, it’s a direct line to the capital and is said only to ring for the most critical of situations. Closer inspection of the map finds other cities named as French numbers, and Seize itself is “City Sixteen”, suggesting there are at least fifteen other cities in the area.

  • While touring the remainder of the base, Kureha enters the baths to find Filicia cleaning them. I’ve just finished Aria: The Origination a few days ago. On closer inspection, I find Filicia to be very similar to Alicia in appearance and manner: while she’s the oldest and most senior of the 1121st, she plays an active role in maintaining the Clocktower Fortress, showing that here, the 1121st’ members tend to have a flatter hierarchy compared to most branches of the military.

  • While sleepily wandering around base, Noël’s eyes widen in fear as she spots something unnatural in one of the windows. This “something” is a ghost, the spirit of a deceased woman trapped at the installation. Decidedly benign, the ghost makes a few appearances, and was something I mentioned in a standalone post published some four years ago. Rio later helps the spirit finalise its ghostly business, and it leaves, content to find peace; this information comes out of the drama CDs and clearly shows that the anime alone cannot explore all of the interesting aspects within Sora no Woto.

  • The 1121st’s main battle tank is known as the “Takemikazuchi”, the Japanese deity known as the Thunder God, who duels with a gargantuan catfish and pins it to the rocks of the shore, being responsible for the earthquakes that Japan experiences. Known more formally as the Vector-Type Zero Autonomous Tank Walker, this spider-like vehicle dates back to a previous age, and is highly sophisticated, but is still being re-assembled here. Kureha seems quite sensitive to the fact that the 1121st are not particularly well supplied, or even in the loop for communications from the Helvetian forces.

  • As the evening sets in and rain begins to fall, Filicia and Rio share a conversation about Kanata’s assignment to the 1121st, and that Kureha’s reaction to Kanata’s arrival was probably in response to something she picked up. While the characters do not outright make it apparent, a recruit for assisting in the operation of the Takemikazuchi was originally supposed to be sent rather than Kanata, but Filicia simply remarks that they will have to make do with who they’ve got. Although this is not immediately noticeable, Kanata’s arrival in the 1121st will have far-reaching consequences that impact the others to a much greater extent than was initially apparent.

  • Frightened by the sighting, Noël reports her ghosting sighting to Filcia and Rio. The contrast in the warm lighting of the room where Rio and Filicia are conversing and Noël’s partially-shadowed countenance conveys a sense of unease and doubt amongst the audience: for the briefest of moments, Noël herself looks like a ghost, building suspense as Filicia and Rio contemplate how they will best address Noël’s concerns.

  • Kureha and Kanata have completed their tour of the facilities and are recalled to be briefed on their latest assignment: hunt down the cause of the commotion even as a thunderstorm rages on outside. While it may seem a little strange for a location with a seemingly arid climate, Cuenca actually has a continental Mediterranean climate and receives on average, more precipitation than does my home city.

  • I’ve alluded to this previously, and while it may come across as a bit unusual for someone who holds science in a much higher regard than the paranormal, ghost stories are something I enjoy reading about. This probably a consequence of reading Barbara Smith’s Ghost Stories of Alberta (published in 1993) back when I was in primary school, and since then, I’ve become quite interested in ghost stories surrounding Canada and the Rocky Mountains, even if they do not make much sense (such as how one couple managed to enjoy a perfectly delicious steak-and-eggs at a phantom restaurant in Spokane).

  • The endurance of ghost stories even in a time where society marches on its bandwidth could be a sign that reality as we know it is a simulation: paranormal activity can then be chalked up to bugs and glitches in whatever engine is running real life. Kureha’s insistence that ghosts cannot exist, paired with her bravado, culminates in her being assigned to check the ghost out with Kanata.

  • Equipped with the Karabiner 98k bolt action rifle, Kanata and Kureha move into the deep corners of the base. The presence of desks and chairs, coupled with a blackboard with the remnants of a “日直” still visible, suggests that the old Clocktower Fortress is a school. Inspection of the large hanger housing the Takemikazuchi shows that it is in fact a gymnasium: a basketball net is visible, and there is a stage in the background. For the briefest of moments, Kanata wonders what things might be like had there been no war: she, Noël and Kureha would be underclassmen in the music club, while Filicia and Rio would be senior students.

  • Flashes of lightning reveal the ghost’s presence, but as I’ve already done a post on that long ago, we will leave that for the present. Towards the end of their excursion, Kureha and Kanata unearth a large den of rats, and are subsequently attacked by the same owl who’d taken Rio’s bell in the previous episode. Chalking the ghostly activity as a consequence of the owl, Kureha manages to capture it.

  • Frustrated at the owl’s sense of flippancy, Rio angrily declares that she’ll eat him, but Filicia decides that the owl should be kept as a pet, naming him Shuko in the process. A Ptilopsis leucotis (common name “Northern White Faced Owl”), members of Shuko’s species have a unique defensive strategy, being able to respond to threats by both puffing itself out to appear larger, or else flattening itself to become more inconspicuous.

  • As some folks discovered, the distribution of P. leucotis is not particularly helpful towards determining where precisely Sora no Woto takes place: this owl is found in Africa between the Sahara Desert and the equator. As Shuko is found well outside of his geographical range, it stands to reason that he’s been around the base for quite some time, perhaps even with the previous occupants of the Clocktower Fortress: while the life expectancy of wild P. leucotis has not been studied, they have been recorded as living for thirty years in captivity.

  • A further indicator that Shuko has lived around the Clocktower Fortress for quite some time is the fact that the 1121st’s mascot is an owl. A part of the joy in re-watching Sora no Woto stems from the fact that there are so many subtle clues and hints scattered throughout the anime that, when assembled together, shows that the writers had clearly thought things through in creating Sora no Woto. This is one of the reasons why J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter resonates amongst its readers, in being able to bring everything together, leaving very few stones unturned.

  • The next morning, the skies have cleared out, and a gentle blue hue is present in the lighting to mirror this. At breakfast, Kanata receives a new chair that Kureha picked out. Matching the other chairs in the room, it signifies that after their adventure, Kureha is a bit more accepting of Kanata (along with the others), although Kureha is still reluctant to openly state that this is happening. This lends itself to the episode’s title and ultimately, with the chair being only a minor part of the story, Sora no Woto alludes to the idea that the journey itself is of greater substance than the destination.

The single most dramatic element in the second episode is the presence of a ghost: while the absence of additional information could easily allow one to dismiss the ghost as a defect in animation or a simple Easter Egg, supplementary materials clarify that the ghost was the residual spirit of a girl who died before the war that devastated the world. Trapped on Earth, it is ultimately Rio who helps this spirit move on, and she is not seen again at the Clocktower Fortress. It typifies Sora no Woto‘s expert capacity to utilise their characters in a seemingly mundane task to further outline both their interactions and details pertaining to the world that Sora no Woto is set in: even something as simple as the 1121st’s base of operations is an intriguing location with a past so rich in detail. The use of weather further serves to accentuate the atmosphere; weather patterns and the associated lighting are used to great effect in Sora no Woto to drive specific messages across in future episodes.

Battlefield 1: Giant’s Shadow Reflections

“World War I broke out largely because of an arms race, and World War II because of the lack of an arms race.” —Herman Kahn

Released free to all Battlefield 1 players on December 20 along with a new patch, the Giant’s Shadow update also brought into Battlefield 1 a new gadget for the support class, alongside a host of updates to the core game mechanics that were intended to balance the different weapons and vehicles out. The center-piece of this update was the map Giant’s Shadow, which is inspired by one of the levels from the campaign: it’s a large, open map with fields, river banks and a train depot of the Le Cateau-Wassigny Railway set underneath the early morning skies. Set during the Battle of the Selle in October 1918 as part of the Allies’ Hundred Days Offensive, the map features a crashed Zeppelin at its heart, offering the only substantial cover on the map outside of the farmhouses and buildings of surrounding settlements. For the first few days after the map was released, I was unable to find any matches, but over time, I managed to play several rounds of conquest on the map, whose open terrain makes it suitable for scouts and medics equipped with weapons for long-range combat. Since I unlocked the Selbstlader M1916 Marksman, I’ve been well-prepared for longer range engagements, and the map is also quite fun to play for the support class: I tend to stick close to the objectives and keep my teammates stocked on ammunition as a support class, so the lack of an appropriate long range LMG with optics and bipod has not been a concern. While perhaps not particularly innovative as a map, the overall design brings to mind the sort of architectural features seen in Strike Witches‘ Gallia; for me, Battlefield 1 is essentially Strike Witches in the Frostbite Engine, and watching DICE bring these environments to life is very enjoyable.

Aside from the new map, the update brings to the table a major patch. I’ve never been around for any major Battlefield patches until now, having purchased the games well after their release, and so, I can see how patches can be a substantial turning point in the Battlefield games. Of the updates that I’ve noticed, I’m finding most of them to improve my enjoyment of the game. The patch accompanying Giant’s Shadow balances out the shotguns so the Model 10-A is no longer the powerhouse it once was, which prompts me to try the other shotguns out. The light machine guns also gain an increase in performance; although their damage has not been increased as I was originally hoping, but their first-shot accuracy has been improved, and the damage falloff is now increased. The sum of these changes are noticeable, and these weapons are now viable: I’ve even gone on a five-kill streak with the MG15 Storm while hip-firing the weapon in close quarters against assault players wielding SMGs and shotguns. The medic’s syringe has also been given a slight decrease in capabilities: there is now a cooldown in its usage to prevent “revive chains” unless the medic is in the proximity of an ammunition box. This balances out the medic class, stopping them from single-handedly reviving an entire squad at once, while simultaneously encouraging team play in the form of support players being able to improve the medics’ performance. Finally, the last and best change I’ve noticed is the improvement to the Mark V Landship, which now allows players to spawn directly into a landship. I’ve made use of this in several matches, and it is an unbelievable capability that allows me to be more useful as a secondary gunner. Overall, the patch brings some welcome updates to the game, and on top of fixing several bugs, making the game feel much more polished and increasingly fun to play.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The faded colours of the sky and the presence of a mist on the ground suggests that Giant’s Shadow happens in the early morning. These cues, I picked up from reading The Sky Longing For Memories, and the different lighting elements of each map make them each unique. By this point in Battlefield 1, my most-used weapon is the Model 10-A factory, with the MP 18 being close in second place. However, all of my coolest, cleanest kills come from the Selbstlader M1916 Marksman.

  • There is a very large thread on Reddit where one Zer0Cod3x claims that the Selbstlader M1916 is the weapon choice for a mediocre medic who is unable to decide for themselves what their playstyle as a medic is, arguing that its performance as an excellent all-around weapon with a large magazine, short reload time and manageable recoil shows that a player using it is unwilling to improve their aiming. However, YouTubers with rather more credibility, such as Matimi0, find the weapon to be an excellent general-purpose medic weapon that is forgiving to use and effective.

  • At the end of the day, I’m playing Battlefield 1 because it’s fun, not because I intend to become a world-class medic for competitions. I have the most fun when I’m helping my team out, and the Selbstlader M1916 Marksman variant allows me to do exactly thus. I consistently score in the ten thousands or close to in a match that I play through from start to finish when using this weapon, and truthfully, it is petty to be dismissing different play-styles from players who are actively helping their teammates. Conversely, it is perfectly okay to disparage those who only care about their KD ratios and will avoid front-line combat, sitting in the distance and spamming artillery truck fire. Hence, while Zer0Cod3x has done his due diligence in backing his claims up, I personally would disregard his claims that players using the Selbstlader are “mediocre” and suggest people play the way they are most comfortable with in helping their teams out.

  • I’ve actually not purchased any pistols for any of my classes yet, preferring to run with my stock M1911 pistol; I only use sidearms to finish off an opponent or if I find myself in a pinch, where I have no ammunition (or time to reload) left for my primary weapon and there are opposing players hanging around. Having looked at all the pistols available, there is quite a bit of variety and I will probably do a bit more digging before I spend warbonds on them, to ensure I pick the one best suited for my style of play.

  • It is not uncommon for me to score an excess of a thousand points simply by taking out a few people on the capture point that has been marked by an attack order, and then proceed to capture it. Playing the objective, coupled with supporting teammates, is my preferred style, even if it does result in an inordinate number of deaths; there have been a few games where I’ve turned around the outcome of a match simply by constantly reviving and healing allies, giving them a chance to continue fighting when they might otherwise head back to the spawn screen for a lengthy trek back to the objectives.

  • I scored one of the most glorious triple kills in Battlefield 1 on New Year’s Eve: I spawned into a landship as one of the gunners and my driver had parked us onto a contested capture point. A bomber was approaching, and I opened fire with the 6 pounder 57mm gun’s HE rounds. The first shot sailed clear of the bomber, and I realised that the bomber was probably coming in on an attack run. I readjusted my aim and fired a second time. Moments later, a hit marker appeared, and the bomber was ripped apart, killing all three occupants instantly. It was one of the biggest “wow” moments I’ve had in Battlefield 1 and brings to mind a similar kill I made in Battlefield 3, where I shot down a scout helicopter with the M1A2’s main cannon.

  • In my first Battlefield 1 post for the multiplayer, I only had a handful of screenshots for the St. Quentin Scar map. With its village in the centre surrounded by countryside, half of which is burnt out and covered in trenches, it is probably the most authentic of the maps in the game in capturing the World War I feel; its design makes it my favourite and here, I run through muddy trenches en route to a capture point.

  • While the Model 10-A has been adjusted to deal less damage at range, it nonetheless remains highly lethal at close quarters even though it fires one less pellet than it did previously. The M97 Trench Gun has been upgraded to fire one more pellet than the other shotguns — in conjunction with its higher rate of fire, it’s now a viable alternative to the Model 10-A, and as I’ve had my face melted by the M97 on more than one occasion, I’m curious to give it a whirl now.

  • In Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, it was quite rare that I would get any kills in the gunner’s seat of a transport, since the pilots’ manoeuvres made it exceedingly difficult to train my mini-gun on any ground targets. However, in Battlefield 1, I’ve made some nice air-to-ground kills as a gunner in an aircraft, and here, I manage to shoot out a ground target on one of the capture points.

  • Having reached rank one for the support class, I immediately unlocked the Madsen MG Storm variant and modified it to feature the anti-air sights. The Storm versions of the MGs tend to be the best all-around performers, and I’ve managed some pretty cool kills with the Madsen MG; because the weapon is quite similar to the Bren Gun in that both weapons have a top-mounted magazine, I’m tempted to run with it and do a standalone post for the Perrine H. Clostermann loadout, although the support class is unable to equip the sabre (which stands in for Perrine’s rapier).

  • I imagine that, being unable to fully replicate Perrine’s loadout, I’ll have to settle for a few screenshots, and in the time I’ve used it, the Madsen MG has quickly become my favourite LMG so far, handling similarly to an assault rifle from older Battlefield games. I’m quite interested to try the Browning Automatic Rifle Storm soon: I’m 32 percent of the way to reaching rank three for the support class, and at present, I’ve hit rank three for the medic, which remains my favourite class in the game despite remarks that it’s ineffective compared to its Battlefield 4 incarnation.

  • In one of my conquest matches on St. Quentin Scar, my team had fallen behind, and a behemoth was slated to be deployed. I died shortly after, and waited to spawn into the L30 Zeppelin. When I entered, I spawned into the gunner seat, but I decided to let a more capable teammate helm the behemoth, switching out into a gunner seat carrying the Becker Type M2 automatic cannon, which fires explosive rounds. I’ve grown to like this weapon by using it in the bombers, and managed to get several kills before the Zeppelin fell to enemy fire. Here, I managed to kill a tank hunter elite class who was on the ground. Shortly after, a fog rolled in and, being unable to see threats on the ground, the Zeppelin was destroyed.

  • One particularly chaotic game on Monte Grappa that I joined on a quiet afternoon following New Year’s Day also turned out to be one of the most epic I’ve had. I had a day off and had spent the morning doing some work from home. After sitting down to a lunch of noodles and shrimp-filled fish balls, the early afternoon’s itinerary included playing Sim City 4, shovelling the walk and going for a walk. Having watched the earth’s shadow slowly creep across the land, I returned home and decided to play some Battlefield 1.

  • The game began ordinarily enough; I had spawned into a tank to help capture point Charlie, then sprinted up to Butter to help with its capture. With the point secured, I immediately ducked underneath into the bunker and neutralised a player who had been using the fortress gun. I subsequently took control of the gun, and found a bomber entering my sights. In a moment of déjà vu, I adjusted my aim and opened fire. A hit marker appeared, the bomber exploded, and I yelled in jubilation at having managed another bomber kill using slow-firing heavy weaponry: the Fortress guns are essentially stationary battleship guns that can deal massive damage but are limited by their coverage and firing rate, as well as leaving operators vulnerable to attack (as the fellow operating the weapon found out seconds before I seized it).

  • When I noticed that I was only a few points from reaching rank two for the assault class, I switched over, spawned into a heavy tank and managed to get those points by capturing point Charlie. Reaching rank two gives me access to a range of new melee weapons, plus the M97 Trench Gun Sweeper and 12G Automatic Backbored. The factory versions recover quickly from recoil, while backbored guns have less recoil at the cost of a reduced range. Sweeper guns have a wider spread, making them suited for extreme close quarters, and the hunter variants have a tighter spread. It will be interesting to utilise shotguns in different roles based on their pattern, and I’ll probably end up picking out an M97 variant once I figure out which one works best for me.

  • This screenshot enters the collection for this post because of some insane ragdoll physics: I threw a grenade here that took out an enemy and sent his ragdoll spinning about, but even this is minor compared to what has been presented in some of Matimi0 and JackFrags’ videos, where explosions cause enemies to be tossed high into the sky, or perform acrobatics while flying through the air. I’ve gotten more than my share of “random” grenade kills, where I throw a grenade at random into a spot where I think there will be an enemy presence. After turning away and focussing my attention on something else, I get an unexpected, but highly satisfying hitmarker and kill notification.

  • A large group of enemies climbed over the ridge to recapture point Butter, and while I had been trying to shoot down aircraft and a behemoth attacking allied positions, I trained the weapon towards the ridge, opening fire and getting hit marker after hit marker. I managed to get a kill and noticed the behemoth was directly overhead.

  • While I had begun by shooting at the turrets to disable them, I soon recalled that disabling the zeppelin’s cockpit would immobilise it momentarily. So, I turned all of my fire towards the pilot’s gondola, and sustained fire from the anti-air gun was enough to kill the operator (his ragdoll can be seen falling from the exploding cockpit here), as well as exploding the driver’s seat. The remaining gunners caught on and focused their fire on my position; while I managed to escape, the anti-air gun was destroyed, and other players on my team would bring the behemoth down. We would go on to win the match.

  • It won’t be a complete talk about Giant’s Shadow unless I got at least one kill with the crossbow launcher: a new gadget for the support class, it fires grenades silently, and the fragmentation variant, intended for anti-personnel use, is the most effective (I’ve heard the anti-vehicular one does only eight damage to armour). It’s useful for lobbing grenades into hard-to-reach areas, but here, I use it in a direct-fire situation to take out a guy who surprised me when I’d entered a room. I typically run the crossbow when I’m engaging infantry in tight maps: otherwise, it’s the repair tool if I’m playing conquest or the airburst mortar on maps with more hilly terrain.

Some preliminary calculations show that I’ve now around sixteen hours of time in the Battlefield 1 multiplayer, and from a strict performance standpoint, I’m slowly acclimatising to the game’s mechanics from the differences in Battlefield 4. While my KD ratios probably won’t reflect that, I’m consistently scoring well in conquest: it’s become my most played game mode now for bringing together everything that makes Battlefield fun, with its combination of large scale maps, chaotic infantry combat and vehicles. Coupled with the fact that matches consistently last around half an hour, I know I can join a game and end up with thirty minutes of enjoyment; even in games where I’m experimenting with new loadouts, I somehow manage to do reasonably well from a scoring perspective despite ending up slightly negative in the KD ratio. This stands in contrast with the large discrepancies in Battlefield 4‘s conquest matches, which could last for an hour or more in some cases. As I am enjoying Battlefield 1 quite a bit by this point in time, I’m going to do as I did for Battlefield 3: if I manage to reach rank ten for at least two classes by November, and the DLC adds maps and weapons that prove to be amazing, I will upgrade and purchase a Premium Pass on the next Origin Black Friday sale.