The Infinite Zenith

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

Kumottari, Kagayaitari, Mata Itsuka Utattari (Being cloudy, shining, singing again someday): Tari Tari Special Review

“Selfish persons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable of loving themselves either.” —Erich Fromm

The Tari Tari Special is a seven-minute special is titled Kumottari, Kagayaitari, Mata Itsuka Utattari (曇ったり、輝いたりまたい、つか歌ったり; Being cloudy, shining, singing again someday) and features a new song, “Itsumademo Kagayaki wo” (Shining Forever) sung by the members of the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club (Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Wein). This special is exclusive to the complete Blu-Ray Box Set, which costs 28000 yen (295 CAD), and features a special 100-page booklet, a commentary track by the voice actors, and even the footage from the September 2012 event “Shirahamazaka Koukou Kanshasai” (Shirahamazaka High School Thanks Festival). The Tari Tari Special itself deals with Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Wein as the Christmas season approaches, as they decide how to spend the Christmas holidays. Before the holidays can start, the group decides to clean out their club room, but wonder if it’s meaningful, given that their school is shutting down to make way for a residential development project. Upon returning home, Sawa shares another conversation with her parents; although it doesn’t prove fruitful, she decides to do something nonetheless, and messages her friends, inviting them to caroling to commemorate their time as students at Shirahamazaka High School.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post was rushed out into the publishing stage, so this time around, I only have ten screenshots, and a shorter discussion. I’ll return at some point in the future to add an expanded discussion about Tari Tari Special and provide more screenshots, but for the present, this will hopefully be sufficient to illustrate what’s happening with the OVA, which, from the looks of things, have not been accessible to most English-speaking anime fans. 

  • As is befitting of the winter timeframe, sunlight takes on a whiter hue. The Tari Tari Special has not lost any of the visual fidelity that its TV incarnation did. The mood seems more melancholy than throughout the original run, though, as the club members consider that their school is closing down.

  • Sawa’s habit of squeezing Konatsu’s face whenever irritated with her makes a return, being yet another hallmark from the original TV series. Truth be told, Tari Tari deserved more than just a seven-minute short as the form of a continuation; while the series ended on a decisive, satisfying note, I would’ve liked to see a movie or longer OVA that depicted what happens after graduation.

  • I wonder who actually shelled out the 28000 yen to purchase this special edition Blu-Ray. However, a Blu-Ray for the series had already been available for sale, and for those who’ve already purchased the other volumes, buying this special edition set would be tantamount to spending roughly three hundred dollars just for the seven-minute special (as well as the other bonus features). Thus, the question becomes: is this OVA and a few other features worth the extra money?

  • This screenshot nicely captures the beauty of the landscapes and skies of Tari Tari: the deep blue in the sky and the high-altitudes cirrus clouds convey the sense that the weather is going to become cooler and moody quite soon. Returning to the question raised by the previous bullet, the practical answer is “no”: three hundred dollars can net one a Chromebook, a pair of university textbooks, five titles at launch price, or a Cantonese Banquet for six, to name a few. Of course, the prudent thing to do is to save it, and this is the course of action I’d take.

  • However, for some anime fans in Japan, the desire to have access to the OVA overrules other counterarguments. Back in the OVA, Wakana receives a message from Sawa, inviting her out for an activity. The use of lighting in this scene suggests that Wakana sees studying as something best done alone, so one can focus. Notice the use of a space-heater: contrasting my nation, where homes have centralised heating, in Asia, most homes just have air conditioning.

  • Thus, in winter, things get a bit chilly even when the thermometer reads 12°C, although with due respect, it’s not truly cold until one experiences life at -40°C: even with centralised heating, going outside becomes quite difficult, doubly so if there’s windchill. Konatsu gets a similar message from Sawa, as well. It seems that everyone’s decided to study over their break, and while this is the proper thing to do, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break with friends every now and then.

  • Wein and Taichi bring their spirits to their song: the OVA manages to find the means of bringing everyone’s unique points out in the space of seven minutes, reminding me of every character’s contributions to Tari Tari. The one logistical fault in the OVA is the fact that everyone manages to sing a new song to the level of quality that they did, despite having never practised at all.

  • By this point in time, Wakana’s fully opened herself up to the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton club, bringing sleigh bells and reindeer ears to help their song along. This song is remarkably warm, and the use of sleigh bells means that it feels like a Christmas song. We recall the release date: the Blu-Ray Special was probably intended to be ready just in time for the Winter Holidays in Japan.

  • Thus ends a shorter talk for this OVA: I’ll return to regular programming next time, with a talk on Expelled from Paradise. Aside from being a pleasant addition to the Tari Tari series, the OVA also happens to be prohibitively inaccessible at present. I hope that things become more accessible in the near future, such that Tari Tari fans have a chance to check the special out and listen to “Itsumademo Kagayaki wo” in all of its glory.

It’s been almost 30 months since Tari Tari last aired, and although the OVA is only seven minutes, it was most welcoming to see everyone sing again in the present. The song is a remarkably gentle piece that has a very warm, slow pacing that simultaneously evokes a Christmas mood and recalls memories of why I enjoyed the series to the extent that I did. The Tari Tari Special is set during the winter, somewhere between the announcement that the school is closing and before the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club puts on their swan song for the school’s last culture festival. The OVA illustrates another facet of Sawa’s character, showing her as someone who takes the initiative to bring her friends together. In doing so, Sawa helps everyone create yet another precious memory of them having spent time together singing, suggesting that she is immensely grateful to have friends who care about her, and that she’s willing to be there for them, as well. On a superficial note, this adds to the list of justifications for why Sawa is my favourite Tari Tari character, and as far as contributions to the original anime go, this reinforces Sawa as someone who has a reasonably clear understanding of what her aspirations are.

Kiniro Mosaic: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“In England, we have such good manners that if someone says something impolite, the police will get involved.” —Russell Brand

I’m now ready for Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, having officially finished the first season of Kiniro Mosaic. This anime thus joins the ranks of GochiUsa, Non Non Biyori, SoniAni, Tamayura and K-On! as Iyashike in my library, and when mentioned, I will remember this one for the unique sort of jokes that arise from Alice and Shinobu’s love for Japanese and English cultures, respectively. Alice quickly becomes accustomed to life in Japan with Shinobu, Aya and Yoko. Karen Kugo, Alice’s friend from England, also transfers to Shinobu and Alice’s school in the neighbouring class. After acclimatising to her new class and making new friends, Karen joins the others in sharing coursework and summer vacation, as well as a school culture festival and Christmas, together. As the series rolls to a end, the girls’ second year begins, and although they’re in different classes now, Shinobu reassures Alice that they’re still close togther. Kiniro Mosaic tells a story about cultural differences, the perspective that people gain when they see aspects from said cultures, and that friendship is sufficient to transcend these differences. Kiniro Mosaic specifically deals with English and Japanese culture: Alice takes a great interest to all things Japanese, while Shinobu loves every aspect of British English culture. Their mutual respect and interest in the other’s background means that the two get along swimmingly, and are closer than any of the other characters in the series. While their friendship is close, Alice and Shinobu do not steal the spotlight from the other characters; whether it be Yoko’s forward, cheerful mannerisms, Aya’s shy, tsundere-like tendencies or Karen’s boisterous presence,  the unique combinations of personality allow for everyone to share the spotlight and have a solid contribution to the atmosphere for whatever they find themselves doing. Anime of the present tend to rely on familiar character archetypes, but by mixing up the different archetypes together, Kiniro Mosaic is able to capitalise on everyone to produce an endearing comedy. Screenshots and Commentary

  • My killstreak for posts ended with the Spring 2015 anime preview: I posted on five consecutive days, but now that Reading Week’s over, it’s time to get back to work. Shortly after arriving in Japan, Alice brought along a Japanese-style doll and tried to find Shinobu by asking for a girl who looked like said doll.

  • Shinobu is wont to wear some rather unusual outfits on her outings with friends, which take the form of the Gothic Lolita style.

  • Karen is introduced in episode three and speaks in broken Japanese with a rambunctious manner reminiscent of Kantai Collection‘s Kongou (this isn’t surprising, since they share the same voice actor). If we have to nit-pick about the English in Kiniro Mosaic, I’d say that Alice and Karen are lacking the British English accents. I personally find British, Scottish and Australian English to sound infinitely better than American/Canadian English; the latter sounds a little flat.

  • The oil-paper umbrella originates from China, entering Korea and then Japan during the Asuka period. Known as wagasa, these umbrellas became popular during the Edo period, and were ornately decorated with period art. They are associated with Japanese culture, with different colours being used by different customers (e.g. Geisha, dancers and actors use purple, pink and black umbrellas, respectively).

  • Isami is Shinobu’s older sister and is a fashion model who worries about Shinobu’s careless and absent-minded tendencies. She’s particularly fond of taking photographs of Shinobu and her friends.

  • Aya and GochiUsa‘s Rize are very nearly identical in terms of appearance, and as the Kiniro Mosaic manga predates the GochiUsa manga by nine months, one might suppose that Rize’s physical appearance was inspired by Aya’s. Crossover artwork frequently depict the two together, and save their hair colour, it’s quite difficult to tell the two apart.

  • Sakura Karasuma is an English teacher with a kind personality, but is also quite absent-minded as well, and often makes vague jokes whilst moving about in the school’s hallways. She’s well liked amongst the students, and although she understands that Shinobu’s command of English is weak, nonetheless tries to encourage Shinobu to pursue her dream of being an interpreter.

  • During a summer day, the entire party goes on a day trip to the mountains. Karen’s talent for catching fish leaves Alice in the dust; the latter had intended to try and impress Shinobu, but is resigned to eating the fish that Karen has caught. I’m almost certain that the cleaning aspect was carried out, but the anime had spared us the necessity of watching the process: in Survivorman, Les Stroud skips over the portions of cleaning out whatever fish and game he catches.

  • It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen anything to do with Yuyushiki, and I was pleasantly surprised to see it again. I believe that when I watched it last, I was working on a serialised computer model that allowed two simulations running on different computers to share information, and it was also the summer of Half Life 2Metro Last Light and Garden of Words. Kiniro Mosaic is run in Manga Time Kirara Max, a subset of Manga Time Kirara, which runs Yuyushiki and K-On!, hence the permissions to grant Yuyushiki a cameo appearance here.

  • Besides Shinobu, whose got some sort of hybrid kimono that integrates traditional and Western elements, Yoko, Aya, Alice and Karen all wear traditional kimono to their local summer festival.

  • After an evening of takoyaki and other Summer Festival foods, running into Sakura and lighting sparklers, the girls close the evening and episode off with a firework. It’s the quintessential summer experience, and one that I’ve seen in too many anime to name.

  • After masquerading as a mysterious guest, Isami blows her cover during the school festival when she aims her camera at Alice. Shinobu’s class does a hybrid cafe that combines Western and Japanese elements together, and despite Aya’s protests about donning a maid’s outfit, their class does a fine job.

  • Alice’s first culture festival turns out to be a wonderful experience, and despite the minor misunderstanding that arises when Shinobu forgets that it’s the anniversary of when they’d first met, Alice manages to gift a hair ribbon to Shinobu after the culture festival draws to a close.

  • For no reason at all, and occupying a precious slot reserved for screenshots, I will show off the pièce de résistance of Aya’s cooking: king crab. Crab is a food best enjoyed by handling it directly with one’s fingers. As skilled as I am with a fork and knife, nothing beats opening the crab shell and sucking out the succulent meat within. King crab is usually something I have during the New Year’s or during the summer, and for other events of the year, Dungeness Crab (Metacarcinus magister) cooked with ginger and green onion accompanies the dinner.

  • Aya decides to invite everyone over for a sleepover when her friends learn that her parents are out. Aya is quite the opposite of Rize: while the latter is confident, disciplined and forward, Aya is quiet, although there are some situations where the former acts similarly to the latter (and vise-versa) in their respective animes.

  • I didn’t expect anime such as Kiniro Mosaic to produce much in the way of discussion, and for the most part, aside from reviews, discussion about Kiniro Mosaic tends to be short, sweet and to the point, expressing how the anime is able to leave a warm, favourable impression on its audiences. A second season was announced somewhere back during April 2014, and with the success this series has experienced, this is not surprising and much welcomed.

  • GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic take the audiences on a journey through the year, and despite being created by different authors, manage to be quite similar to one another in some regards. Quite personally, the European setting in GochiUsa, and the fact that I watched it first, makes it more memorable for me, but this is not to say that Kiniro Mosaic was unenjoyable.

  • It’s 2015, and moments such as these still melt my heart. After a New Year’s Dream, Alice speaks in nothing but English about her experiences back home in England, anxious about Shinobu losing interest in her because she was growing too accustomed to Japanese culture. Shinobu finds her own English completely outmatched, and after Alice tearfully reveals the truth, she reassures Alice that things will be fine.

  • By the start of their second year, Alice and Yoko are separated from Aya, Shinobu and Karen, leading to disappointment until Shinobu notes that their distance is trivial compared to the separation they had after Shinobu returned to Japan when her homestay period concluded. The second season will focus on how Aya and Alice grow accustomed to classes without their friends, and may even feature a group visit to Alice’s home.

  • The finale is a little unusual: the end credits roll about halfway into the episode, and the remainder of the time is spent on a dramatisation of Shinobu’s story, featuring her and Alice as princesses, Karen as a pirate, Aya as a mermaid and Yoko as a prince. It’s sufficiently moving as to garner an ovation from her classmates and even moves Aya to tears. Typically, the end of the post comes with speculation, although this time, this isn’t strictly necessary, as we know there is a second season.

While Kiniro Mosaic offers nothing new as a slice-of-life anime to quite the same extent as GochiUsa and its warm, European setting, it is able to rearrange enough of the character archetypes and premise into an anime that remains entertaining for fans of the slice-of-life moé genre. This is an anime where the artwork is relatively simple, emphasising the dynamics of yet another group of friends. The relatively minimal artwork means that the viewers are drawn towards the characters, reinforcing a common theme for slice-of-life anime: that it’s the people one spends time with, rather than where they are, that matter. I personally would’ve liked to have seen more content set during Shinobu’s homestay in England, and the segments in Japan feel like a well-worn path, frequently tread and familiar. However, with Sinobu, Alice, Yoko, Aya and Karen keeping things interesting, I’ll be following the second season as this Spring 2015’s Iyashike even though it’s almost certainly going to feature more of the same: as I’ve enunciated in many other posts about slice-of-life, the whole point of such anime is to sooth and entertain. If I want something with a solid story, I’ll re-read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

Spring 2015 Anime

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” —Albert Einstein

They say that time flies when one is having fun, and two months into the winter academic term, I’ve finally gotten into the swing of things for the term’s schedule, which features far more evenings on campus than the previous term. Now that we’re onto the last week of February, we’re alsopast the halfway point for the Winter 2015 season. With the Vernal Equinox in less than a month, it’s would seem prudent to begin looking at what Spring 2015 has to offer with respect to anime. As noted in earlier posts, I’m barely managing to keep up with the Winter 2015 season, partly owing to my schedule and partly because there are several good anime, with ShirobakoIdolM@ster: Cinderella Girls, Kantai CollectionSaekano A,and Aldnoah.Zero amongst the list of things I’m watching. With the exception of IdolM@ster, I’m reasonably on top of all the shows and anticipate being able to get the final reflections out for each before April. This will be beneficial, since a cursory glance at the chart below suggests that Spring is going to be a busy season, with several interesting shows that catch my eye. However, before we go on to talk about the Spring 2015 anime, there is one special that released during the Winter 2015 block that I’ve yet to get around to watching: the Bokura Wa Minna Kawaisou OVA is something I’ve picked up and will be watching and discussing quite soon. There’s also the second Strike Witches Operation Victory Arrow OVA: dubbed Aege Kai no Megami (Goddess in the Aegean Sea), it’s set for release on March 13, and I will, as usual, have the internet’s first, best review for it.

  • My post streak continues with the Spring 2015 anime preview. This chart is not a complete version, but it does cover most of the anime projected for the Spring 2015 season. Just click on it to bring up a full-resolution copy. As per usual, I will be picking up and dropping shows as time and interests demand, although one thing should be obvious: I’m going to watch Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu in full without fail.

Such shows include Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki), Hello! Kiniro MosaicHibike! Emporium, Urawa no Usagi-chan, Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki (Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine) and Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru Zoku (Oregairu Season 2). Right on the table, we have a show that I’ve long foreseen and have been greatly anticipating, this season’s go-to show for iyashikei, another Kyoto Animation anime that looks fun, and a science-fiction anime I watched last year. As well, anime’s Dark Knight makes a return as well, and with the second season speculated to be more romance-heavy, I’m curious to see which direction things will take. In addition, Tamayura ~Sotsugyou shashin~ will be airing as a movie on April 4. There are definitely several major titles in there, reflecting on the solid offerings of Spring 2015, and with six anime that I plan on following, one thing should be abundantly clear: given that this blog is a one-man show, attempting to blog six shows would be remarkably difficult nay impossible. Practicality dictates that I choose a handful of shows to blog. So…which anime should I talk about? I offer my assessments below: of the shows listed, these are the ones I’m presently looking to follow (and a brief justification of my choice). If there are specific shows that you, the readers, are looking for me to blog, just drop a comment below, and I will take that into consideration as to whether or not it makes the list of shows that will end up being written about here.

Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu

This is the long-awaited spin-off of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, featuring Yuki as the main heroine. The story follows Yuki and Kyon, depicting their school life, club activities, colourful schoolmates, and the gradual beginnings of the romantic times that the two share together.

Disappearance of Nagato Yuki

  • The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is something that I’ve read all the mangas to, and I’ve been waiting for quite some time to see this anime become a reality, well before any other anime fan expressed similar thoughts. According to the cast listings, the series’ original voice actors will make a return, and the studio Satelight will be animating the adaptation, rather than Kyoto Animation. This matters not: Satelight has a reasonably good record, and I’m sure the animation and artwork will be fine. I’m hoping that the soundtrack will take after the Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi in terms of quality, although given that this is probably to be a comedy, it’s likely that the music will be more conventional in terms of style. This series is sufficiently special for me to have made the decision to do episodic reviews on each episode: each talk will be in the three-paragraph, twenty-screenshot format that deal with the episode’s contribution to the story, and also point out any subtleties between the anime and manga that are noteworthy.

Hello! Kiniro Mosaic

In the first season of Kiniro Moasic, Alice Cartalet transferred into a Japanese high school to be with Shinobu Omiya after the two met during a home-stay visit. The two love everything about their friends’ respective cultures, with Shinobu being enamoured by all things English, and Alice is infatuated with the Japanese culture.

  • I’m within an episode of finishing the first season of Kiniro Mosaic, and this was a series that I greatly enjoyed. It’s quite similar to GochiUsa in terms of atmosphere, and relies more on cultural and linguistic intricacies to convey humour, as opposed to GochiUsa, which capitalised in the unique setting to present a lighthearted slice-of-life story that stood out from the others. This series will get two posts: one reflection after the three episode mark has passed, and one after the finale has aired. Both posts will be slightly larger than usual, featuring thirty images: I imagine that large anime blogs out there won’t be covering this, so I will step up to the plate, providing screenshots and interesting discussion on this anime that is exactly what readers deserve.

Hibike! Euphonium

The story follows of the Kitauji Music club, which used to always advance to national competitions. Ever since the adviser changed, though, it hasn’t advanced past the Kansai tournament. However, thanks to the newly appointed adviser’s strict instruction, the students are steadily improving. The club members’ daily lives are full of ups and downs including fights over solos and the decision resign club activities to focus on studies.

  • Kyoto Animation returns to the world of music with Hibike! Euphonium, featuring a brass band in place of a light music club. From the sounds of things, Hibike! Euphonium will be more focussed than K-On! was as far as music and directionality goes; this could wind up being a fun anime to follow, and with Kyoto Animation behind the wheel, things will look and sound nice for sure. Hibike! Euphonium will get two posts: one reflection after the three episode mark has passed, and one after the finale has aired.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata: Review and Reflection After Three

“The best way to get a project done faster is to start sooner.” —Jim Highsmith

Three episodes in (proper), Saekano is proving to be a parody of visual novels as originally predicted. It turns out that Tomoya encountered considerable difficulty in pitching his project to Eriri and Utaha, as it was based off a flimsy, incomplete bit of inspiration Tomoya had upon seeing Megumi in a sun-dress on a spring day. Despite the limited basis for his visual novel, which Tomoya aims to sculpt into a highly emotional journey, he lacks any of the specifics around how this visual novel is to be implemented. Over the course of spring break, his lack of commitment to the project further leads Eriri and Utaha to wonder whether or not this project will reach fruition, but the two appear to be interested in the project itself. Tomoya himself is, curiously enough, similar to myself in physical likeness to a limited extent, although his seemingly weak will-power and lack of direction in his pursuits, coupled with his devout interest in anime and games, means that we’re quite disparate in personality. Consequently, I have not found Tomoya a very respectable character insofar, and one of the themes in Saekano might be to illustrate that passion for something pales compared to having made (possibly successfully) an attempt to create something meaningful. Moreover, Tomoya could experience a degree of maturation in personality, being more composed in mannerisms, and perhaps even develop an appreciation for the people around him, rather than the two-dimensional art assets in his games.

Saekano offers me an opportunity to look back on the game development process, something I’ve had a bit of experience in from related course-work and the Giant Walkthrough Brain project over the summer. As we are presently at the point where Tomoya is still developing the concept for his visual novel, I will consider the sort of things that go on behind-the-scenes before any art assets, scripts and code is implemented. From experience, implementation depends upon having a solid concept to go on, and Tomoya’s inability to conceptualise the game he envisions is what troubles Utaha and Eriri. A concept does not necessarily need to be as involved as a full narrative for the game; it merely needs to outline what kind of game is being constructed, and perhaps some backstory elements to improve on the immersion. Similarly, Tomoya needs to figure out what exactly is so inspiring about Megumi’s appearance on a Spring day, and use this to drive the game’s overarching theme. Once a theme (or idea) is decided upon, the narrative can be built around this, and the game mechanics are developed to bring out this story as well as possible. On my end, Jay Ingram outlined the requirements for the Giant Walkthrough Brain. Once he had had seen what the Unity Engine was capable of after I delivered the first prototype, new features were requested rapidly; most of my previous summer had been spent implementing these features and fine-tuning the software to work seamlessly with the live performance. This development process underlines the importance of having a well-designed, solid concept to work on: once Tomoya succeeds in fleshing this out, implementation will take off, assuming he does not succumb to procrastination as we’ve been seeing insofar.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • We’re onto a talk about Saekano proper, and while I’m three episodes behind for the present, I doubt anyone’s actually keeping score. The season’s first proper episode shows a project with haphazard origins, beginning on Tomoya’s whim. Unlike Tomoya Okazaki of CLANNAD, Tomoya Aki lacks the same tenacity and kindness that led me to favour CLANNAD. A self-proclaimed otaku, Tomoya Aki’s interests are virtually identical to mine, except I also read evolutionary biology and Cold War history in my spare time.

  • I’ve already introduced the female characters in the previous post, so there’s little need to reintroduce everyone again. However, what the first episode does establish is how the game came about, and how Tomoya manages to net an artist, writer and model for this game’s heroine.

  • Contrasting Tomoya, whose lack of imagination leads his ideas to be rejected in the space of a picosecond, if I ever decide to make my own game, it’d probably be an action-adventure game, maybe a third-person shooter, set during the later stages of the Second World War, as a special forces team takes on the Kwantung army in order to open the region for liberation.

  • I’m not actually sure if there are any games set in this time period in this setting, but I imagine that, while the game could be crafted have a gripping narrative and top-of-the-line graphics, there would be some who would object to its sales owing to the historical implications. This is just something that’s sitting in the back of my mind, so for the present, we return to Saekano, where Utaha similarly rejects Tomoya’s meager project proposal.

  • By this point in time, I’ve written enough project and grant proposals to know how to present work to different audiences. Tomoya’s first shortcoming is his lack of content: while his project may be well-motivated in his eyes, he is not able to satisfactorily convey this to Eriri and Utaha. His proposal would need to provide a concept worth depicting the story of for writers such as Utaha, and provide artists like Eriri with something that motivates them to provide beautiful artwork.

  • There’s a major rift between Utaha and Eriri right from the start; Utaha seems subtly interested in Tomoya’s project, and remarks that she’s okay with going forwards if Tomoya can solidify his concepts, while Eriri seems more hesitant to proceed. Their attitudes towards Tomoya’s project may hint at how they each feel about Tomoya as a person.

  • After coming to the realisation that Megumi is the girl who invoked those emotions in him that fateful spring day, he is most surprised to learn that she’s actually in his class, and decides to pitch his project to her at a family restaurant. In the background, a frazzled-looking waitress is serving a seemingly disinterested customer, and I’ve got no idea what it’s a reference to.

  • Tomoya does tend to get a little excited whenever he gets into whatever branch of thought he’s discussing, regardless of location, causing everyone in the vicinity to stare at him. Eriri and Utaha show up later, remarking

  • It seems quite early on that Eriri expresses dissatisfaction whenever anyone appears to be getting too close to Tomoya, and of all the characters, she undergoes the most dramatic of transformations in an artistic sense whenever this happens.

  • Elsewhere on the internets, I’ve seen discussions pertaining to whether or not Megumi is suitable for Tomoya from a dating perspective. Of all the other girls, she seems to be the most tolerant nay accepting of Tomoya’s personality elements, and she does not vehemently object when he invites her over to experience visual novels.

  • No game has ever made me feel this way, but that’s probably because most of the titles I play usually feature a heroic character whose role is to pull off impossible goals against unrelenting odds. I’ve never played a dating sim before, and I won’t intend to simply because that time would be theoretically better spent doing things for real.

  • Tomoya’s room is said to be remarkably clean for that of an otaku, being as organised as my own room. His collection of manga, anime posters and figurines include characters from other works produced by A-1 Pictures, including Sword Art Online. The only merchandise I have out in the open are Gundam models and mangas: the rest of my room is a desk, and a bookshelf with a curious combination of computer programming and biology textbooks.

  • When it comes to projects, I find that once I go on a roll, I make slick progress, and thus, as Tomoya discovers here, the trick is to start. Usually, I tell myself that I’ve got a certain quota or goal I will meet before taking a break, and will put on some good music to motivate myself. Tomoya seems to lack the same diligence, and wastes several days of his break. Even Eriri and Utaha’s arrival later on do little to push him along.

  • For absolutely no reason at all, here’s yet another imagine of an anime character with the pouting face. I might just make it a point to include them in talks every so often as a sort of easter egg for readers. Apparently, Eriri is supposed to satisfy the criteria for a tsundere character.

  • Saekano seems to continue piling on the character archetypes: Utaha is a kuudere and feels a little similar to Oregairu‘s Yukino Yukinoshita in personality. This setup is probably deliberate, and Saekano may be setting up a story to illustrate that the aforementioned archetypes may limited to anime in terms of desirability.

  • My blogging backlog is nearly eliminated after nearly two months into the new year: I’ll look to roll out a talk on Kiniro Mosaic and Expelled from Paradise quite soon. March will probably be quite quiet throughout until near the end, when the finales begin coming out. In the meantime, I get to go back and play catch-up with Shirobako.

  • Megumi is criticised in-show for being too dull, flat, and lacking a presence. This is reminiscent of YuruYuri‘s Akari Akaza, whose lack of presence was a frequent running joke in the series. However, the consequence is that Megumi winds up being a realistic character who is able to hold conversation with him without anything unusual happening. One might argue that it is this flatness, that makes Megumi someone special in Saekano.

  • As the third episode draws to a conclusion, Megumi appears and knocks Tomoya’s socks off with a pre-defined performance that is supposed to evoke Tomoya’s sense of what the “ideal” visual novel heroine is like and help him along in his writing. Her dialogue, curiously enough, evokes my memories of CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa. At this point in time, I have yet to push through to the fourth episode, so I have no idea whether or not this is sufficient to motivate Tomoya.

  • It turns out that Megumi had desired to help Tomoya out to a greater extent, and asked both Utaha and Eriri for some help. With this being said, it should be clear that Tomoya manages to get something going, otherwise, the events of episode zero probably wouldn’t have transpired. On an unrelated note, mentioning Tomoya seems to have led the “Similar posts” mechanic to associate Saekano with CLANNAD, and I personally find that Megumi’s normal personality is still reminiscent of Nagisa’s.

  • I would wager a gift copy of Grand Theft Auto V on Steam that Tomoya winds up realising that 3D may not be so bad after all: in my speculation, he begins to fall for Megumi as someone who accepts him for who he is and will be there for him, without constantly messing with him to the same extent as Utaha and Eriri. However, as Saekano is based off a light novel that I haven’t read, there’s a chance that I could be wrong and therefore find myself out of 70 CAD real fast.

Admittedly, I am a little behind in Saekano so far, having just finished the third episode. However, this is a series that’s piqued my interest, and contrasting the other talks out there, which talk about the anime industry and the “pandering” that is prevalent in it (or supposedly so), I am to focus purely on the software side of things. However, this “pandering” is something worth addressing, being responsible for purportedly creating “generic” and “bland” anime, but from an economics perspective, I contend that the reason why moé is still such a force on the market is because it sells, but if it does saturate the market to the point where viewers yearn for other things, they will eventually purchase the other things, and the anime producers will aim to satisfy that market in order to drive a profit. Thusly, “pandering” is a misguided concept, since it claims that a small portion of the consumer base can strongly influence the market, while the reality is that the market is affected by large-scale factors, rendering the “pandering” argument irrelevant. Those are my views on the matter, and consequently, I don’t have much to say about “pandering” in the context of an anime (although I would like to hear other perspectives on the matter: is pandering as great of a problem for the anime industry as some make it out to be?). This motivates my choice to focus on the game development process in Saekano, and once this series ends, I’ll be likely to discuss how well Saekano captures the atmospherics associated with building an entire game.

Aldnoah.Zero: Review and reflection at the second season’s halfway point

“If I moved, he moved. If I stopped, he stopped. It was a duel.” —Jennifer Esposito

After a grand total of eighteen episodes, Aldnoah.Zero has remained a curiosity of an anime, managing to fashionably execute several elements while leaving other aspects inadequately answered. Since the second season started, we’ve seen Slaine with the most character development, and it turns out that my earlier speculation on Slaine’s actions were completely correct: viewers were griping about why Slaine would side with Count Saazbaum when the latter had made a brazen attempt on Asseylum’s life, and I had predicted that Slaine had an ulterior motive, but presently found being loyal to Saazbaum to be helpful in the short term. It turns out that after Slaine gained Saazbaum’s trust, he also inherited the title and craftily devised Saazbaum’s downfall to gain power for himself, with the intent of destroying the class hierarchy within Vers, capturing Earth and with it, Asseylum’s heart. On the Earth Federation side of things, Idaho has faced off against Slaine in combat, but aside from a few skirmishes with the Martian Knights, things have not progressed particularly far with respect to development of countermeasures to repeal the Vers invaders. The build-up is there, although even with Inaho’s activation factor, the Federation has not made extensive use of captured or reverse-engineered Aldnoah technology.

With only six episodes remaining before Aldnoah.Zero concludes, one must wonder where everything is going, as there are there are two separate storylines right now, and the only aspect that seems to link the two together is the rivalry between Inaho and Slaine. There is an additional twist to all of this: the original Asseylum has now regained conciousness, which may have implications on the wedding between Slaine and Lemrina, as well as the course of the Vers-Federation conflict. While there are only six episodes left to satisfactorily depict all of these events, I’m nonetheless hoping that details about the Aldnoah Drives themselves will be explored; one imagines that the backstory shouldn’t take more than an entire episode to explore, and doing so would add depth to the Aldnoah Drives themselves. Conversely, if Aldnoah.Zero chooses to omit this aspect, it would imply that the Aldnoah Drives were merely an enabling factor to facilitate Vers’ invasion. However, if this is the case, then one must wonder why the series is even called Aldnoah.Zero to begin with. This is the justification I offer for my frequent mention of a wish to learn more about the technology itself, given that Aldnoah must hold a significance to the anime if it is the series’ namesake.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The UFE Deucalion proves to be a critical asset for the Federation, although its role means that it’s ferried here and there for a diverse array of missions. Throughout the second season thus far, it’s participated in several orbital battles and has provided support for friendlies. Its Aldnoah drive was sourced from the Martian Kataphrakt of the same name, although its design is more traditional compared to those in something like Halo.

  • Inaho’s cybernetic eye gives him abilities similar to that of the CASIE social enhancer augmentation, an upgrade I used to great effect in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, while I used my own social cunning and the augmentation to effortlessly talk my way through some situations, Inaho’s still-inadequate social skills means all he does is manage to get Inko indignant when he comments that she’s gained weight.

  • The Tharsis feels a little like the Unicorn Gundam, with its pure-white finish and large V-fin. However, the Unicorn Gundam’s NT-D, and a Newtype’s powers would allow it to decimate the Tharsis in any confrontation. In a battle with Inaho, Slaine only manages to escape thanks to his suit’s superior technology, although it’s been shown that the Federation’s Kataphrakts actually have more than enough firepower to take down an unshielded Martian Kataphrakt.

  • The fight scenes in Aldnoah.Zero remain a thrill to watch, and one of the things the second season excels at is the depiction of scale: structures and battles feel bigger in the second season, capturing the intensity of space battles that the first season lacked.

  • As Slaine’s subordinate, Harklight looks up to Slaine as an example of someone who was able to transcend class barriers. Harklight himself was of a lower class, and with his parent’s support, did everything in his power to try and move up in a totalitarian monarchy where one can only be born into power and rank.

  • Apparently, I never even spared 140 characters to talk about Eddelrittuo in my previous Aldnoah.Zero talks, so for completeness’ sake, she’s Asseylum’s attendant and spent most of the the first season giving people the evil eye for not displaying proper etiquette in front of Asseylum. Come the second season, she’s Lemrina’s attendant, but continues to express the wish that Asseylum will recover.

  • The Stygis-class fighters feature a mass-produced Aldnoah drive for use by non-nobles and can combine to form a single unit for greater speed. They do not feature the same level of sophistication as the other Martian Kataphrakts, and can be destroyed by standard rounds.

  • Count Sauzbaam is taken out of the equation fairly quickly into the season after Slaine makes use of the Tharsis’ systems to anticipate his location and fired rounds to that position. Slaine’s actions indirectly lead to Inaho living to fight another day, and his actions finally make sense: it turns out that Slaine was indeed bidding his time until he could move in to avenge Asseylum while moving his own plan forwards.

  • Thus, despite being an improved version of its predecessor, the Dioscuria is knocked out of the picture pretty quickly. One of my friends, an expert in Gundam, expressed his thoughts that Aldnoah.Zero is quite similar to Gundam AGE in terms of premise, even if their execution are completely different. The unique story in the former made it interesting, but I never picked up Gundam AGE on account of the art style, which I felt to have detracted from the series’ intended message and tone.

  • Despite being a warrant officer, Yuki maintains an easy-going, carefree spirit, acting as a foil for Inaho’s stoic mannerisms. Presently, Aldnoah.Zero is all over the place with its story, but I’m personally banking on an optimistic ending. I personally dislike Nihilistic endings with a passion: their authors (including Gen Urobuchi) imply that humanity is doomed to failure regardless of what path it takes and therefore, shouldn’t be trying. This is a very irresponsible outlook on life, since its core tenant is that our fate is death, and as such, there’s no need to better ourselves.

  • Mazuurek is a Martian Knight who holds no contempt over the people of Earth, preferring not to fight if he can help it. His Kataphrakt, Sirenum, makes use of gravitational manipulation powers, although these powers are limited to the horizontal axis. This is exploited by Inaho and Koichirou; the former provides some orbital fire for the latter, allowing him to capture Mazuurek.

  • By the second season, Koichirou appears to be improving with respect to his post-traumatic stress disorder after the War of 1999, where he’d and witnessed first hand the power of the Aldnoah drive and one of his best friends was killed in that battle, leading to his PTSD, but after psychiatric assistance, he’s no longer turning to alcohol as an escape.

  • With the advent of the Microsoft HoloLens, what science-fiction writers are depicting as technology of the future is in fact, soon to be a reality, much like how Siri and Cortana have fulfilled the role that Bramen played in Thunderbirds. Slaine here is showing the various birds to Asseylum and Eddelrittuo.

  • Thanks to his CASIE augmentation, Inaho decides to trust Mazuurek and lets him in on the secret behind Asseylum’s fate, before assisting his escape on the condition that he determine what Slaine’s true objectives are. Inaho’s choice is motivated again by what’s practical, and this deed may eventually return in the future to reward Inaho with some help in the future when he most needs it.

  • Here’s a prediction that’s full of bollocks: out there, someone has predicted that “Slaine [has an increased likelihood of] experiencing Motive Decay. [They’re] kind of expecting Slaine to make is power grab at this point, in the name of “changing Mars”, and in the process hurting Asseylum to do so. Then as he’s crowning himself VERS ruler, Inaho shoots him. Because why not?” Slaine’s actions insofar are unlikely to hurt Asseylem because, for his determination, he’s taken care to always put Asseylum first. In fact, Slaine’s rise in rank has done little to harm Asseylum and it’s likely this will remain thus. It’s also unlikely that Inaho will be able to time things that effectively: I foresee a duel between Slaine and Inaho in their respective mobile suits, ending in a draw. Lastly, “because why not?” is a pitiful excuse of an explanation, and I do expect more from those who purport to have a Masters in Creative Writing.

  • Count Marylcian holds ill-will towards Slaine: in his eyes, Slaine is a Terran unworthy of serving as the Princess’ Royal Guard and this dislike is strong enough for him to formally challenge Slaine to a duel. I haven’t seen such a duel since Gundam 00‘s Second Season, which saw Setsuna going against Graham Aker. Despite the latter’s formidable skills as a pilot, Setsuna comes out on top.

  • While Slaine is gearing up for his duel with Marylcian, Inaho and the others engage a Martian Kataphrakt with a beam rifle that rivals Gundam 00‘s Super Substratospheric Altitude Gun, which allowed the Dynames to strike orbital targets from the ground. This battle demonstrates that Inaho is now much more willing to cooperate with others and work as a team, making use of his cybernetic eye to provide the coordinates for the Deucalion’s main guns to destroy it.

  • This almost feels like a showdown between the Sazabi and Nu Gundam, although as I’ve noted in a private conversation with my friends, it would be an insult to compare any Gundam to a Kataphrakt. With that being said, the duel was well-choreographed, and the choice of opponent for Slaine was appropriate: if Slaine can predict the near future, the Herschel’s funnels’ ability to overwhelm opponents means that Slaine can’t individually engage his weapons.

  • Slaine’s cunning soon prevails, and he lures the Herschel into a tunnel to limit the funnel’s effectiveness. After destroying them, Slaine takes the offensive and defeats Marylcian, acquiring all of his assets in the process.

  • Now this is the moment that’s torched off more speculation than every other moment in this post combined. One wonders if Lemrina was deliberately keeping Asseylum subdued for her own ends, and whether or not Asseylum will make a return is something that tomorrow’s episode could touch on. I’ve been just-in-time for most of this season’s halfway point talks (except for Saekano), and this pattern continues with Aldnoah.Zero. Coming up next will be talks on Saekano after three episode and Expelled From Paradise. This is about it for February, and March will see talks for Aldnoah.Zero and Saekano once their finales come out, as well as a pair of talks for Kantai Collection (one for the third quarter and one for the finale).

Given that Aldnoah.Zero has thrown surprise after surprise at the viewers, I’m not particularly certain with respect to what the final six episodes could entail. With that being said, one can reasonably imagine that Asseylum will take on a much larger role once she returns, and this could set in motion the events that lead the conflict to a conclusion, driving Slaine on a collision course with Inaho. Of course, her arrival will also have repercussions for Slaine and Lemrina: as a character whose depiction is that of unwavering good, she’s projected play a major part in rectifying the conflicts that plague the two. However, as Aldnoah.Zero‘s one “sure thing” is that nothing really is a sure thing, anything could happen in the final six episodes. My expectations for the remaining episodes are quite simple: the story has to reach a conclusion that could logically have occurred based upon what has already happened. In other words, the ending must make sense based on the events from the episodes audiences have already seen. Slaine randomly choosing to shoot Saazbaum and Inaho did not follow, for instance, so if Aldnoah.Zero can avoid this and deliver a reasonable ending, it will have been an anime that performed reasonably well.