The Infinite Zenith

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

Hibike! Euphonium: Liz and the Blue Bird (Liz to Aoi Tori) Movie Review and Reflection

We’ve such a golden dream
Such a golden dream can never last
My burden lifted
I am free

–Cage, Aimer

After an encounter in middle school led to friendship developing between Nozomi Kasaki and Mizore Yoroizuka, the two joined Kitauji High School’s Concert Band. Energetic and outgoing, Nozomi plays the flute while the reserved, taciturn Mizore plays the oboe. When the concert band picks Liz and the Blue Bird as a piece, Mizore and Nozomi are selected to perform the suite’s solo. At the same time, Nozomi and Mizore are forced to consider their futures; Mizore is recommended a music school, and Nozomi decides to follow her, but realises that her skill with the flute is not comparable to Mizore’s oboe. Meanwhile, Mizore envies Nozomi for being able to connect with others so easily, and at the same time, longs to be closer to Nozomi. After a conversation with Reina, Mizore performs the solo with her fullest effort, bringing some of the concert band’s members to tears. The two share a heartfelt conversation after, promising to remain friends even if their paths diverge in the future. Liz and the Blue Bird premièred in April 2018, focusing on secondary characters; the choice to tell a deeper story about the friendship between Nozomi and Mizore is motivated by the impact they had on Kitauji’s concert band in the events prior to the start of Hibike! Euphonium; the driven and determined Nozomi spearheaded an exodus after realising that Kitauji’s band was a raggedy-ass group disinterested in competing seriously. Mizore ended up staying behind, and Nozomi’s return during the events of Hibike! Euphonium 2 formed the basis for the conflict during its first half. The depth behind each of the characters in Hibike! Euphonium meant that a myriad of stories about concert band’s members could be told, and on first glance, the story between Nozomi and Mizore is one of interest, dealing with two polar opposite personality types, their friendship and how the two each deal with thoughts of parting ways in the future.

Liz and the Blue Bird‘s primary themes is a familiar one – deliberately chosen for the characters’ involvement in Kitauji’s incident, it shows the extent of Nozomi and Mizore’s friendship. Having long admired Mizore’s skill with the oboe, Nozomi’s charisma and fiery personality has a major impact on the band, but it now appears that she went to these lengths to give Mizore a chance to shine. Liz and the Blue Bird thus explores the difficulty both encounter as their time in high school comes to an end. The film is so named after the færie tale that frames the narrative: a girl named Liz finds a bluebird who transforms into a girl. As they get to know one another, Liz comes to enjoy her time with the bluebird. However, when Liz finds that the bluebird periodically sneaks out to fly at night, she realises that she cannot keep the bluebird forever and lets her go to rejoin her winged companions. It is a tale of parting, with both Mizore and Nozomi realising that they’re struggling to part with one another. In the end, though, it is precisely by letting go that allows the blue bird to reach her full potential; Nozomi must learn to let go of Mizore so she can pursue her career in music, and Mizore must let go of Nozomi so she can continue to direct her unparalleled passion and energy towards leading others. Liz and the Blue Bird proceeds as one would expect: by the film’s end, Nozomi and Mizore find their solutions, accepting that they will one day part ways, but this does not preclude their continued friendship.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Liz and the Blue Bird‘s segments with Liz feel distinctly like a watercolour brought to life, attesting to the sophistication of animation. By bringing sound and motion to such scenes, it is possible to really capture a particular aesthetic. The story of Liz and the Blue Bird is a fictional one, being written specifically for Liz and the Blue Bird; I could not find any reference to the story outside of the context of Hibike! Euphonium, even when doing a search for its German name (Liz und ein Blauer Vogel).

  • Unlike Hibike! Euphonium, which is vivid, rich in colours and bursting with life, Liz and the Blue Bird is much more subdued and gentle with its hues. Differences in the animation style are apparent; Liz and the Blue Bird tends to focus on subtle, seemingly trivial details, whether it be the bounce in Nozomi’s ponytail, the girls shifting their chairs together or assembling their instruments. Small moments are lovingly rendered, and while not of thematic significance, shows that Hibike! Euphonium is intended to convey a very human story in that no journey or experience is too trivial for consideration.

  • Old characters make a return in Liz and the Blue Bird; Kumiko, Reina, Midori, Hazuki, Natsuki and Yūko appear as secondary characters. The flatter art style means that everyone looks different from their usual selves, and this reduction in detail has the very deliberate and calculated effect of forcing the viewer to focus on what’s happening to the characters. While the characters do not stick out unreasonably from their environments, their motions and voices immediately draw the viewer’s attention to them.

  • I would imagine there is another reason to utilise a more subdued palette: because Liz’s story is rendered with watercolours, an inherently soft and gentle medium, had Liz and the Blue Bird stuck with the style seen in the series proper, the contrast would’ve been too jarring. Hibike! Euphonium is vivid to convey that music is immensely colourful, and Kumiko’s performances have always been very spirited as Kitauji strove to further their performances.

  • The short of the færie tale is that a young woman encounters a girl with blue hair following a strong storm and takes her in. Over time, the two become close as friends and live their days together happily. However, the blue bird’s nature means that she occasionally sneaks out at night to stretch her wings. Liz notices this and begins to realise that the blue bird longs to fly again. In this context, the bird is taken to represent freedom, and in particular, blue birds have traditionally been regarded as harbingers of happiness and joy.

  • The blue bird in Liz and the Blue Bird, then, suggests to viewers that happiness is found in freedom, and applying this to Nozomi and Mizore, the girls cannot be said to reach or discover their full potential unless they have the freedom to do so. Nozomi and Mizore both see themselves in the story; while Mizore actively wishes her eventual parting with Nozomi will never come, Nozomi puts on a brave front and expresses a desire to perform the piece, hiding her own doubts behind a veneer of confidence.

  • I’m sure that numerous of my readers will have their own memories of picture books from their childhood that stand out. When I was a primary student, I predominantly read science books, and at the age of six, I knew about all of the planets and their compositions. I have a particular fondness for non-fiction and so, did not read very many picture books. However, I do recall greatly enjoying The Berenstain Bears, as well as David Bouchard’s If You’re Not From The Prairie, a beautiful book about things only those living in the grasslands of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba might appreciate.

  • The sharp contrasts between Nozomi and Mizore are immediately apparent; people flock to Nozomi and her energy, and here, she befriends fellow fluatists, connecting with them and becoming a part of their energy. I’ve always found the pronunciation to be a little strange (“flaut-ist”, IPA: flaǔtist), having heard about it while listening to a radio programme about flutes following a concert band practise during my time as a middle school student. It may surprise readers to know that once upon a time, I was a clarinet player and also performed for my school’s jazz band.

  • As a part of the old concert band at my middle school, we went on to perform well in several competitions around the city. The jazz band was strictly an in-school activity, and I learned trumpet on my own to give that a go. After entering high school, I stopped with music, but I have no regrets about both performing in a band, and then choosing to explore other avenues. Here, on the left-hand side, we have Ririka Kenzaki, a new addition to Hibike! Euphonium. She’s a first year oboist who is voiced by Shiori Sugiura and does her best to befriend Mizore, stating that it’d be good for section cohesion if everyone got to know one another a little better.

  • Every event in Liz and the Blue Bird parallels the events Mizore and Nozomi have experienced: the time Liz and Blue Bird spend together are moments of bliss during which both Liz and Blue Bird are living in the moment. However, all things eventually come to an end, with the færie tale foreshadowing Blue Bird’s longing to soar in the skies again, and how this mirrors Nozomi and Mizore’s situations.

  • Mizore’s shyness is her weak point; at several points in Liz and the Blue Bird, Mizore expresses a desire to be physically closer to Nozomi. For much of the movie, circumstance prevents anything from happening. I’ve received numerous complaints about my lack of focus on yuri in my discussions. In general, my counter-arguments are that making the distinction between close friendship and yuri does not alter the conclusion that I reach: in the case of Liz and the Blue Bird, whether or not I chose to count Nozomi and Mizore’s as yuri, the theme invariably is that separation is a real concern for the two, but that they manage to move past it.

  • With almost three quarters of a year having elapsed since Liz and the Blue Bird premièred in theatres, it is unsurprising that discussion about the movie has been very limited of late. As is the case for every anime movie, folks with the time, resources and commitment would’ve watched this movie as it screened in Japan. In a rare turn of events, I agree with most early reviews of the film; these reviews citing the film’s imagery and message as its strengths, and its pacing and outcomes as being weaker.

  • However, an old nemesis appeared amidst the discussions: Verso Sciolto, who’d previously plagued the Your Name discussions, arrived and claimed that folklore and fairytale references were essential to appreciating both Liz and the Blue Bird as well as Hibike! Euphonium, believing that symbolism in the film will “inspire people to re-watch and re-examine the two seasons of the TV series as well”. The correct answer is that if people choose to revisit Hibike! Euphonium, it will be to see the character dynamics, rather than any non-existent literary symbols Verso Sciolto has fabricated.

  • Verso Sciolto goes on to claim that “Ishihara embellishes whereas Yamada distills” in comparing Hibike! Euphonium‘s TV series with Liz and the Blue Bird, and that the latter is an example of minimalism. Both are wrong: Hibike! Euphonium is richer in detail because the details and colours serve to reinforce the idea that music is more than the sum of its parts. It is unfair to grossly reduce a director’s style into one word. I noted earlier that Liz and the Blue Bird deliberately takes its style so it can more seamlessly transition between Nozomi and Mizore’s stories and that of Liz and the Blue Bird.

  • It is of some comfort, then, that this Verso Sciolto has been banned from a variety of avenues for discussion for forcibly injecting psuedointellectual remarks, pointed questions and a know-it-all attitude into discussions wherever they went. While having some influence on discussions, especially surrounding Your Name, their absence will be welcomed, especially now that Makoto Shinkai has announced that his next work, Tenki no Ko (Weathering with You), will hit theatres in Japan on July 19 this year.

  • Over the course of Liz and the Blue Bird, Ririka’s persistent but gentle efforts to befriend Mizore yields results when Mizore consents to help her prepare reeds. Ririka’s personality blends a kind and gentle nature with innocence, and it was rewarding to see the beginnings of a friendship form as she spearheads the effort to create more cohesion among the double-reed instruments.

  • Back in Liz and the Blue Bird, tensions begin growing between Mizore and Nozomi when Mizore mentions that she plans to go to music school. Lacking any idea of what to do with her future, Niiyama sensei suggests that Mizore apply for music school owing to her skill with the oboe.  Mizore is the sort of individual who seems uncertain of her future, but when she applies herself towards making her dreams a reality, she does so with her full efforts. After joining concert band in middle school on Nozomi’s suggestion, Mizore put her all into playing the oboe to keep from being separated from Nozomi.

  • After Reina arrives and bluntly remarks that Mizore seems to be holding back, Yūko, Natsuki and Nozomi see Reina and Kumiko performing the solo with their respective instruments. Noting the emotional intensity but also the balance between the two, Nozomi realises the strength of Kumiko and Reina’s friendship as well as their musical prowess. The precise relationship between Reina and Kumiko was the subject of no small debate when Hibike! Euphonium aired: this particular aspect of Hibike! Euphonium seems to overshadow everything else, even though the point of the anime was to see a raggedy-ass group come together and realise a shared dream.

  • While my school days are long behind me, I still vividly recall all of the instructors who helped inspire and encourage me: at each level, there are a handful of mentors and instructors who stood apart from the rest, and it is thanks to them that I ended up making the most of each choice that I took. Whether it be offering new ways to think about problems, or providing words of encouragement, their contributions helped make me who I am, and to this day, I am still in contact with some of my old mentors.

  • Nothing is truly infinite; in Liz and the Blue Bird, separation soon comes up, as well. When the time comes for Blue Bird to leave Liz, it is a difficult moment. A quote whose source has been difficult to pin down states that one must let go of something if they love it; its return heralds that things were meant to be. It seems counterintuitive, but in Cantonese, there’s a concept called 緣份 (jyutping jyun4 fan6, “fate”), that supposes that if something was meant to be, then it will show up in one way or another.

  • I disagree that Liz and the Blue Bird is a minimalist film from a visual and thematic perspective; numerous closeup of everyday objects are presented to show that despite the simpler artwork, elements are nonetheless present in the environment. They form a bit of a visual break, causing the eye to pause for a moment while one continues listening to the dialogue. Liz and the Blue Bird is simple, but not minimalist: simplicity is something easy to understand and natural, while minimalism is a deliberate design choice that aims to do more with less. Simplicity is not equivalent to minimalism, and in Liz and the Blue Bird, the anime is not doing more with less, but rather, being very precise about what its intents are.

  • While Mizore speaks to instructor Niiyama, Nozomi speaks with Yūko and Natsuki: both come to the realisation that they must learn to let the other go in this dialogue, for holding into the other is to deny them of exploring the future. This is the turning point in the film where the tension rises: for Mizore, she decides to be truthful with her feelings, while Nozomi is a bit more stubborn. I admit that Nozomi is my favourite character of Hibike! Euphonium – for her fiery spirit and figure.

  • In the færie tale, Liz eventually ends up allowing Blue Bird to take flight and join her fellow birds in the sky. Cages form a part of the symbolism in Liz and the Blue Bird: representing security in the present and also constraining the future, Mizore expresses a wish that she’d never learned to open the cage. This imagery is mirrored in Aimer’s “Cage”, a beautiful song that was used during the unveiling of the life-sized Unicorn Gundam at Diver City in Odaiba.

  • We’re now a ways into 2019, and the year’s already been quite busy as I acclimatised to a new workplace. I wake up much earlier than I did before to make the bus ride downtown, and while I greatly enjoy what I do, I admit that weekends have become even more valuable as time to sleep in a little (I get to wake up at 0720 rather than my usual 0600, or 0530 on days where I lift). This past weekend, after karate, I enjoyed the first dim sum of the year: their special included two different kinds of noodles as well as a flavourful salt-and-pepper fried squid.

  • While Liz and the Blue Bird might deal predominantly with Nozomi and Mizore’s friendship, music is still very much a part of the narrative. During one practise, the band reaches the solo, and Mizore begins playing her part with such sincerity and emotion that it brings several of the band members to tears, including Nozomi. It is in this moment that Nozomi realises that she needs to allow Mizore to go free and pursue her future.

  • In a manner of speaking, Mizore and Nozomi are simultaneously Liz and Blue Bird: both long to prolong a friendship with someone special, but both also need to let the other go for the future’s sake. Mizore’s performance shows that she is committed to her decision in enrolling in a music school, and understanding their gap, Nozomi ultimately decides to pursue studies at another institution. She is shown studying diligently for her entrance exams later on.

  • While Hibike! Euphonium is ultimately simple in its themes and all the stronger for it, discussions surrounding this series is much more complex and involved than strictly necessary. Taking a step back and enjoying Hibike! Euphonium in a vacuum, I find a genuine series whose enjoyment comes from being able to empathise with the characters over time and gradually coming to root for them.

  • The film’s climax occurs in the science room by the day’s last light; Mizore and Nozomi open up to one another about their feelings and intentions for the future. Much as how Nozomi envies Mizore’s skill with an oboe and how her musical talents will allow her to accomplish great things, Mizore is jealous of Nozomi’s ability to take charge, influence and get along with numerous people. They voice their dislikes about the other, and with their feelings out in the open, tearfully embrace.

  • The sum of their understanding is mirrored in the environment, which takes on a warm glow as red and pink hues seep in, displacing the cooler and more distant yellows. Kyoto Animation excels at use of light and colour to convey emotions: they are particularly strong in using subtle details to complement the dialogue, and I find that understanding the choice of colours in a given scene contributes more substantially to one’s enjoyment of their works, rather than focusing on objects that end up being red herrings.

  • I’ve lasted thirty screenshots without mentioning thus: the necks of Liz and the Blue Bird were never a visual distraction that some felt it to be. With this post, I’ve finally caught up with Hibike! Euphonium, and the next major instalment will be another film releasing in April 2019. Titled Oath’s Finale, it will deal with the national competition and return things to Kumiko’s perspective. Given release patterns for Hibike! Euphonium and my own habits, I anticipate that I’ll be able watch and write about Oath’s End somewhere this time next year – anyone who’s still around by then is clearly a champion.

Standing in sharp contrast with Hibike! Euphonium‘s televised run, Liz and the Blue Bird has a much simpler, flatter art style. Although environments are still gorgeously animated, the characters’ own conflicts take the forefront: the deliberate choice to create more subdued backgrounds is to place focus on the characters and their challenges, reducing emphasis on the world around them. The story of Liz and the Blue Bird itself is also distinctly animated: Kyoto Animation succeeds in bringing a water colour to life and creates a very compelling style that, while distinct from the events of Liz and the Blue Bird, also integrate elegantly into the story. The choice to use a different visual style than Hibike! Euphonium‘s exceptionally rich colours and details is not a strike against Liz and the Blue Bird; although they might look different, the characters retain their personalities in full. The end result is a very concise, slow-paced story of parting and its difficulties; music still has its focus, and perhaps because of this art style, the music of Liz and the Blue Bird‘s concert band movements also has a much more singular attention on the flute and oboe solos, in a parallel of how the film is about Mizore and Nozomi. Altogether, Liz and the Blue Bird is an enjoyable addition to Hibike! Euphonium; helmed by Naoko Yamada (who’d previously directed K-On! The Movie and Koe no Katachi), Liz and the Blue Bird shifts away from the politics of high school clubs as seen in Hibike! Euphonium and employs Yamada’s preference of returning things to the basics, crafting a story about the intricacies of interactions between individuals. Admittedly, I prefer this approach, as it is much more sincere and meaningful in exploring people; Yamada has succeeded in Liz and the Blue Bird with giving Mizore and Nozomi’s friendship a more tangible sense, making the film a different but welcome addition to Hibike! Euphonium.

A Reader’s Guide to Anime Analysis: Comparing Traits of Effectual and Ineffectual Analysis, and A Case Study in Glasslip

“You know me?”
“I do. You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.”
“My only curse is you.”

―Tony Stark and Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War

As of late, it would appear that controversies surrounding anime analysis have become commonplace, with leading criticisms suggesting that far too many have bought into these analysis and acting as proponents for them when there is little evidence to suggest that the analysis are in fact, meritorious of consideration. The end result is a large number of people supporting positions without being fully aware of what they support is in fact, incomplete, ill-argued and unprofessional. The realm of analysis is and should not be an enigmatic one conducted by a selected few. Literary analysis is a familiar and integral aspect of literature class – the aim is to understand the elements in a work and how they fit together to create a certain effect or impact. To this end, literary devices and symbols are studied to determine what the author’s intent was: for some well-known works, understanding a work and why the author has opted to use the elements in their text can offer insight into their society. For instance, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was a commentary on the excesses of the Roaring Twenties and that the American Dream had costs attached to it through displays of wealth and Gatsby’s pursuit of the impossible. Similarly, the dangers of recklessly pursing scientific progress are outlined in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was composed on an outing with her and fellow authors. Discussions varied from the Enlightenment to reanimation, and Shelley, who believed that scientific progress could be beneficial, also felt that rampant progress could undo society. Themes of forbidden knowledge thus enter Frankenstein, and the dread of what unbridled technological advancement is explored in H.G. Wells’ War of The Worlds, whose martian invaders possess technology far exceeding our own was a warning that society’s faith in our technology was folly. Each of these works are some examples of literature that provide instruction on society at a given point in time, although it is certainly the case that modern literature and fiction can also provide equal insights on things that are otherwise taken for granted. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion deal with issues relevant to contemporary society (e.g. racism, discrimination, environmental destruction) and speak of challenges facing our society. Analysing a work, then, can determine the messages an author has about humanity, and this is where the value of fiction comes from. By escaping into another world, readers can gain a new perspective, from that of an observer, and might be able to see problems they themselves face in a new manner.

The relevance of literary analysis within the realm of anime is a contentious one: broadly speaking, anime is less of a genre and more of a medium, and so, it is more appropriate to say that anime encompasses a range of genres, some of which are more conducive towards literary analysis than others. For example, the slice-of-life series that I am so fond of usually end up presenting different variations on a theme, indicating that there are many ways to live life, find happiness and fulfilment. More serious series speak of the dangers of power, social problems and the like. The diversity of genres in anime, coupled with the ability to freely express oneself in electronic media such as blogs and forums, results in individuals being able to convey how they interpret a series to others with unprecedented ease. That some series have more to analyse and discuss have not dissuaded viewers from finding noteworthy points to discuss in series with fewer symbols or complexity, and consequently, the internet has a near-limitless number of analyses on most anything. The challenge for a reader then becomes a matter of which analyses are useful, and which ones accomplish little. Choice of language and length are often-times misleading indicators of quality and value, and so, the aim of this discussion is to look through what makes an anime analysis one that holds its weight for me. To spare readers the tedium of going through the remainder of the post should time be something in short supply, there are three elements that determine whether or not an anime analysis posted somewhere, whether it be a forum, personal blog, YouTube channel or anime news website: clarity, completeness and execution. To explore each of these items, I will be doing a compare and contrast on two different analyses that were written for the infamous Glasslip. These reviews were deliberately chosen to provide juxtaposition: IBlessAll of Mage in a Barrel provides an insightful, precise and focused talk on transience through the different imagery, while Soulelle of My Anime List supplies a lacking review that struggles to suggest that the sum of the events of Glasslip boil down to a fear of loneliness. IBlessAll and Soulelle reach dramatically different conclusions about Glasslip, but of the two perspectives, Soulelle’s is not meritorious of either praise or serious consideration, whereas IBlessAll’s analysis succeeds in conveying a specific idea to the reader.

Clarity

Clarity refers to the focus of an analysis: what was the author trying to say within their passage? How well can they stick with that idea and relate all of the evidence brought up in their discussion to this idea? A clear analysis makes a very clear statement or claim, and then deals with the “so what” openly. In this case, the “so what” pertains to what a particular observation or claim does for a given work, whether it be to enhance the strength of its message or offer insight into nuances that further one’s enjoyment. This message persists through the analysis, tying everything together. A good analysis can wander, but there is a single message, and more importantly, the conclusion follows from the choice of evidence that the author chooses to use: everything seen in the anime is carefully selected so that it is relevant to the final message the writer intends to convey.

I say Glasslip is about impermanence and transience, not change, and I say so deliberately. Glasslip is far less about the changes that occur in the lives of it cast and far more about the fundamental condition that lies beneath them. Life passes us by—is always passing us by—and yet we are so often unaware of its slow and constant ebb. Even those of us who have apprehended its motions are rarely always conscious of this reality.

For Glasslip, the answer lies in trusting in the significance of the moments that come our way, while striving to never tie ourselves to them completely. Although our moments always replaced by the forward momentum of the next realization, the next change, the next step forward, or the next moment, they are not insignificant. They mean something. They represent the pivots on which our worlds and our experiences of them turn. Kakeru departs at the end of Glasslip, but his doing so does not negate the fact that he was there, nor does it erase the impact his presence—however brief—made.

IBlessAll’s entire analysis, though never mentioned by its name, is centred around the distinct notion of wabi-sabi, a Japanese concept that characterises beauty as something transient, flawed; specifically, that beauty is to embrace imperfection as a part of what gives something value. Nothing lasts forever, wabi-sabi posits, and that the fact that something is so fleeting is what gives it value. By IBlessAll’s account, the temporal nature of young love and snapshots in one’s life each have worth. This argument forms the remainder of the discussion, with IBlessAll drawing on the various events of Glasslip in order to demonstrate that transience is a major part of the show. While IBlessAll lapses into sentimentality over Tōko and Kakeru’s short time together, and favours a verbose, logorrheic style over brevity, everything presented is clearly tied to transience and the associated beauty. In this analysis, each short moment in Glasslip that others might have found inconsequential act to show the worth of the different, subtle stages in life. In the end, readers coming out of this review have no doubts as to what IBlessAll intended to say; the evidence IBlessAll logically motivates the conclusion, and readers gain the sense that Glasslip‘s portrayal of fleetingness could have been a deliberate choice. Life is chaotic, after all, and hardly as structured as we would like.

Because of their love, because of their fears, and because of their sensitive nature, Touko and Kakeru experience and share their emotions through imagination, otherwise known as “fragments of the future”. It has nothing to do with alternate worlds, fates, other dimensiona [sic], timelines, or other bullshit – it’s just their vivid imagination. They learn about each other and about each other’s feelings and emotions this way.

Soulelle’s discussion occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, being incoherent and unfocused. Opening with the supposition that the chickens in Glasslip are of utmost importance, the review leads readers to anticipate that the conclusion will be related to the chickens. Soulelle suggests that Kakeru’s desire is to put down roots somewhere, envious that even the chickens have a fixed home. Then, Tōko’s fear of being separated from her close friends leads her to fear that like a chicken, Kakeru will eventually leave her behind, too. That chickens are meant to be a metaphor for freedom is a tepid one at best: most chickens cannot fly to the same extent as other birds do owing to their physiology, but even allowing for this to be overlooked, the distinct concerns that Tōko and Kakeru each have do not overlap, and as such, do not give them any common ground. It is therefore illogical to reach the conclusion that the sum of the events in Glasslip were a consequence of a shared sense of imagination, when very little has been established to illustrate the similarities between the two in Soulelle’s claims. Moreover, the chickens have now vanished from the discussion. They end up being a red herring, misleading readers who are then left to wonder how Kakeru’s desire for routine and his decision to be with Tōko allows him to vividly see the same thing that Tōko sees, when her worries centre around losing those dear to her, and her doubts about whether or not Kakeru intends to stick around for the long term. Unlike IBlessAll, Soulelle’s conclusion cannot be rationally reached from the premises established, and so, it becomes very difficult to see the merit in the idea that loneliness is the driver for Glasslip‘s events.

  • Four and a half years have passed since Glasslip, but the anime remains etched in my mind as an example of what happens when a story meanders. If Glasslip intended to be successful, it would’ve needed to focus on how the glass beads and “fragments of the future” are related, rather than driving rifts amongst the characters. Had this been done, and Kakeru was in less of a mysterious and vague role, Glasslip could have been considerably more enjoyable.

  • Despite my praises for IBlessAll’s discussion, it may come as a surprise to readers that I personally do not agree with IBlessAll’s final conclusion about transience being the central theme of Glasslip. My rationale is that Glasslip had enough glass imagery to suggest that there were other themes at play, and while the fleetingness of a moment is a part of Glasslip, it is by no means the entire story.

  • I further add that wabi-sabi is a decidedly Japanese mindset – if viewers from Japan were not able to immediately spot this, it is clear that Glasslip did not do a satisfactory job of conveying transience to the viewers. In spite of the many shortcomings in Glasslip, the anime is not a washout. Aside from beautiful visuals, the lessons from Glasslip would go on to build a superior anime in The World in Colours, which was successful in integrating magic with a meaningful and engaging story of self-discovery.

  • If I were to grade IBlessAll’s analysis as I once did assignments during my time as a graduate student, I would score the resulting passage an A-. The basis for this score is that, while focusing purely on transience and not accounting for the imagery of glass, Glasslip is an inherently tricky anime to write for since the writers were not coherent. As such, for the results that were reached and how they were reached, I saw a thoughtful and logical flow to things. Even if I don’t agree with the result, I did think that this is how more analysis should be done; writers should always take the pain to explain themselves clearly and focus purely on their intended thesis statement.

  • In the end, it feels like Glasslip was an attempt to take on the elements that made Nagi no Asukara successful, create a more minimalist story and then add a supernatural factor with the aim of conveying how tricky love and the future is. The inclusion of supernatural elements in a love story usually acts as a metaphor for how some things are difficult enough so that even with assistance, in the form of magic, things can still be tricky.

Completeness

Completeness is another aspect important in an analysis – this refers to how much of a work the writer references in their discussion. An effective analysis draws upon examples and expand on their relevance in the context of the entire work. In order for a conclusion to be meaningful, events and evidence from the exposition to the conclusion should be considered, and then the most relevant of these are chosen to motivate an argument. In contrast, an ineffective analysis cherry-picks examples, using them to explain an argument without considering the examples’ place in a larger context. In the absence of a big-picture context, some examples might even end up contradicting the author’s conclusion. As such, one cannot ignore elements to suit their analysis, and this is why in general, analysis on anime is most useful for a reader when the author has seen a work in full: messages are still being developed, and ideas explored when a series is underway. Trying to analyse a series for its meaning when not all outcomes are known results in an incomplete picture that diminishes a conclusion. However, when a writer choose to deliberately omit details to fit a conclusion despite the full story being available, they commit what is formally known as a fallacy of incomplete evidence.

Nearly every episode of Glasslip returns to the image of a train on the tracks, coming and going…Yukinari Imi and Yanagi Takayama. From the very start of the show, Yana (the member of the initial group most inclined towards motion through her desire to become a model) has been riding the train daily to her various lessons—it is her river of time.

The town itself—seen frequently from an aeriel [sic] view at different times of day—is associated with the sickly Sachi Nagamiya and the boy who loves her, Hiro Shriosaki. Together, these two embody the spirit of the town: far less dynamic and drastic in its slow march through time, but no less incessant. It fits these two perfectly. While Sachi is too physically weak to ever effect momentous change (even her attempt to upset the love affair of her best friend fails due to her condition), Hiro is correspondingly glacial in his movements due to his insecurity. And yet, both of them inch forward. “For tomorrow” becomes the shared catchphrase of their eventual mutual affection, a emblem of their slow-moving, but never still relationship. There are no bursts of motion, there is only steady, constant change—like the gradual turning of the day.

Time flows, but its motion is not the same for all.

While Glasslip may have predominantly dealt with Tōko and Kakeru, it also introduced Sachi Nagamiya, Hiro Shirosaki, Yanagi Takayama and Yukinari Imi. Friends of Tōko’s, their worlds are rocked when Tōko dissolved the no-relationship clause, setting in motion the chain of events that impacted their friendship. Feelings come out and are hurt, new, more intimate friendships are born, and in it all, IBlessAll finds its relevance to transience and time. Visual elements act as metaphors for the passage of time, whether it be the discernible movement of trains standing in for the motion that Yanagi and Yukinari find themselves in, or the gradual but consistent pacing in the developing relationship between Sachi and Hiro. Although they might be vastly different, everything is related by time. IBlessAll discusses how transience impacts not just Tōko and Kakeru, but also extends it to her friends. The idea that time creates fleeting moments applies to everyone, and so, each character serves to portray a particular aspect of this fleetingness. By considering everything, IBlessAll’s analysis avoids the fallacy of incomplete evidence, and succinctly defines that time is an overarching theme within Glasslip.

And THIS is what this show is about. Everything that happens around them is just a romantic slice of life setting that drives this dramatic world. People meet, fall in love, some have their feelings unrequited, some have to fight for and win their love, etc. The actual drama is however between the two main characters – will they stay together or not, will Kakeru find his home with Touko or will he leave till [sic] better times, will Touko find the way to see the fireworks all together or not? These are the questions raised by the anime.

On the other hand, Soulelle discards Yukinari, Yanagi, Sachi and Hiro entirely, focusing solely on Tōko and Kakeru. There is a reason for their presence in the show, otherwise, Glasslip would have only Tōko and Kakeru present if their story was indeed the only contributor to the narrative. To callously discard their contributions in Glasslip means that Soulelle’s discussion is incomplete, and one suspects that this was also deliberate. Yukinari and Yanagi do not experience the same conflicts as Tōko and Kakeru, nor do Sachi and Hiro; Yukinari and Yanagi both deal with unrequited love, while Sachi and Hiro cautiously and gently begin exploring the extent of their feelings for one another. Neither are directly relevant to notions of home, departure or loneliness that Soulelle posits as being Glasslip‘s main theme; were Yukinari, Yanagi, Sachi and Hiro mentioned in Soulelle’s passage, the inadequacies would immediately be apparent: even if we accepted that loneliness creates a vivid sense of imagination in Tōko and Kakeru, it is not possible to apply this for everyone else. Soulelle’s argument and conclusion fails on the virtue of selective attention, and therefore, cannot be said to say anything meaningful for a reader.

  • By comparison, Soulelle’s analysis would be an D – utterly failing in making a point and defending it, it also insults the reader and is only saved by suggesting that Kakeru’s refusal to live outside of a tent hints at his fear of settling down and losing people again. It came as quite a surprise to me that Soulelle’s analysis can be considered as “inspired” or deserving of a +109 score on Reddit. As it turns out, Soulelle had one important advantage over other interpretations: this analysis was the first detailed one written, and readers flocked to it on the virtue that no one else had yet provided their thoughts on what Glasslip was about. Presently, I have not seen Soulelle attempt to analyse The World in Colours the same way as Glasslip, suggesting to me that The World in Colours is much more straightforwards to understand (and therefore, below Soulell’s level).

  • I have heard that Soulelle has not returned to defend or rationalise the analysis that was provided: this post-and-fade behaviour is reminiscent of one Dani Cavallaro, who is known for publishing volume after volume of dense, unoriginal and oftentimes, error-filled analyses on anime, but otherwise refuses to be contacted or communicated with. I’ve previously written two rebuttals to Soulelle’s arguments myself, but received no response, either.

  • I personally would find it quite interesting if I did hear from Soulelle; gaining some insight into the reasons behind the rudeness would help me understand how some folks reach their conclusions and why they structure things the way that they do even when their chosen method does not conform with best practises. With the amount of time that has elapsed, however, I’d say this is going to be quite unlikely: Soulelle’s modus operandi seems to be dropping patronising analyses and never sticking around to explain them further.

  • Being first past the post has a huge potential to shape prevailing opinions for better or worse: even in academia, the first research group or author to publish a result will get the credit for a discovery, and the first cohort to make an innovation will be consigned to history as the discoverers of something new, even if other similar research and developments were occurring concurrently. In retrospect, because Soulelle had the only effort on explaining Glasslip, the community immediately would have been impressed by this review despite its numerous and severe flaws.

  • IBlessAll’s analysis did not come out until a year later, and while counted as a solid talk, never did quite have the same impact on providing folks with an alternative perspective on Glasslip as did Soulelle’s talk. The consequences of being first manifest here, and this is something that plagues those who write about anime time and time again: it is frustrating to see well-rationalised arguments from lesser-known individuals be discarded in favour of illegible babble from “authorities” simply because the latter was able to push their opinions out first.

Execution

A technically excellent analysis with solid arguments, a logical conclusion that takes into account the big picture can still be unconvincing to readers if it is syntactically poor, filled with spelling mistakes, or presupposes the reader’s disposition. Analyses with spelling or grammatical errors show that the author does not have the care to polish their work and therefore, lacks conviction in their own conclusions. However, these are not as severe as making assumptions about the reader – if one supposes that the reader can follow their thought process, then gaps are left behind in their analysis, and it may not be clear as to how a conclusion might follow from a series of arguments. Worse yet, if one openly states that the reader is lacking something fundamental, and that the conclusion of their analysis should be obvious, they have essentially insulted their readers. A good analysis assumes nothing, explains everything in full detail, walking people through every step of the thought process, and never criticises the readers for supposedly missing something “obvious”.

My goodness, people, I don’t understand what is so complicated about this show that everyone has troubles [sic] comprehending. Everything’s very, VERY simple.

IBlessAll’s analysis is professional and thorough: it is detailed and takes the effort to explain everything in sufficient depth so that readers are always able to follow where the argument is headed next. There are few spelling mistakes, and the post is well-formatted. Evidently, IBlessAll has put in an effort, telling readers that they have conviction in their arguments, and that things are worth considering. However, Soulelle comes across as rude to readers: opening the analysis with the claim that everything is simple and implying that everyone is missing something basic, readers are greeted with hostility. Soulelle immediate sets the tone that their position is not up for discussion, that readers must listen to them, and those who disagree with what follows are not lacing in some way. This approach is not only immature, but also conveys that the author has no faith in the strength of their arguments. Rather than counting on a logical, well-justified series of arguments leading to a conclusion and that which invite discussion, Soulelle conveys exasperation, asking if people understand why things are the way they are. The passage places the burden of proof onto the reader by asking them to do their own research, dismisses other perspectives with a casual “believe it or not [my perspective is the right one]” and reduces Glasslip‘s meaning to a question the readers must answer for themselves because the answer is “obvious”. By mocking readers and their abilities, implying that other perspectives are wrong and generally coming across as confrontational, weaknesses in Soulelle’s analysis are immediately apparent.

  • Of late, controversies at Anime News Network have arisen because their authors have published perspectives on shows such as The Rising of the Shield Hero that are quite politically-charged, intended to evoke outrage, and moreover, have taken to labelling anyone who opposed their perspectives. These early posts have the potential to influence opinions on an anime and even dissuade viewers from continuing on with a series. The impact of being first is not to be understated, and Anime News Network’s writers appear to understand this; readers may view them as an authority on anime and therefore hold that their opinions have more weight than is warranted, which in turn means that Anime News Network could use their influence to discourage people from watching otherwise excellent series or films.

  • Anime films are particularly vulnerable to this: one of their writers states that “this is the reason why there’s no issue with me reviewing films” – because of the long delay in when a movie is screened in Japan and when its home release comes out, Anime News Network’s writers can monopolise a perspective on movies. The end result is that any movie not consistent with their tastes will be given a negative review, and then readers will enter the film with these preconceptions, diminishing their experience and creating a positive feedback loop where the film will be less enjoyable.

  • This phenomenon has already occurred with Gundam: Narrative and Non Non Biyori Vacation; until these movies come out on BD, I will not be able to refute claims made in their reviews, and by then, my discussions are likely to be ignored because the community already has established their opinions based entirely on earlier perspectives. This is an occupational hazard of being a casual blogger, but for me, I write for reasons beyond trying to enforce an opinion on entertainment: this blog exists for me to simply record my thoughts and share them with interested individuals.

  • As such, while I get that it is infuriating to be ignored or to have the impression that one’s thoughts are being ignored, the true joy of writing is to write for oneself and for those readers who have come to enjoy the blogger’s contents. This post is predominantly for the reader looking to see if a writer is worth listening to, and from a writer’s perspective, one should always strive to be honest, genuine and polite in their writings, doing everything possible to help a reader find reason to enjoy one’s works.

  • I expect my readers to be constantly exercising their own judgement when reading my posts; everything I’ve said here also applies to my writing, as well. If I am making assumptions about the reader, failing to be complete or have not said anything meaningful in a post, then that was not a good post, and the reader should not take it to have weight. Similarly, readers who find a post clear, comprehensive and fun to read are free to draw more from it.

Altogether, the two different analyses that I’ve used as examples here illustrate the vast disparity between what makes an effective analysis, as well as what relegates an analysis to being unfit for consideration. A good analysis is clear, focused, covers all relevant points and thoroughly explains things for readers while maintaining a professional tone. Simply, any analysis (or presentation of an opinion in general) that does not do an adequate job with these elements usually is lacking; whether it be an incoherent argument or lack of evidence, weak analyses will instead aim to obfuscate, obscure and insult in an attempt to cover up its short-comings. This is how I determine whether or not a position merits consideration. While I’ve picked two older analyses as motivating examples, the same rubric can be applied to determine if reviews and analysis, even those from Anime News Network, deserve to be counted as being useful. Similarly, some of the more well-known YouTube channels (especially those claiming to have “analysis”) are not exempt from this criteria: if a YouTube persona cannot say anything useful as to enhance the viewer’s experience, or be civil with their viewers, then their thoughts have no weight. Having a clear set of criteria for whether or not something holds weight translates to deciding whether or not a controversy really is thus, or if it is merely being blown out of proportions. The reality is that there are numerous pieces out there worth reading or watching, but there are an equal number of pieces where the author might not have the conviction to stand by their perspectives. This shows in their writing, and regardless of whatever their reasons for putting out such a talk might be, I appreciate that the readers’ time is valuable; knowing when to dismiss an opinion (and its proponents) is often preferable to confronting those who aren’t looking for anything logical. Such individuals cannot be reasoned or negotiated with, and truthfully, life’s too short to be spent dealing with these folks: I would rather my readers pursue the things that bring them happiness and positivity with the time that they do have, and leaving this post, I hope that my readers find this useful as one of many different means of assessing whether or not something holds value, to the extent where one should spend their time giving it consideration.

Battlefield V: Tides of War Overture, Panzerstorm, Killtrocity and a Headshot Record

“I guess the operation can be, let’s see, Operation Sneaky Sneaks, because I want to sneakily see what the enemy is up to, then sneakily attack them.” —Miho “Miporin” Nishizumi, Girls und panzer

Overture was the first instalment to Battlefield V‘s Tides of War programme, and introduced a new map, Panzerstorm. During the past month, DICE also experienced the impact of a particularly controversial decision to increased the TTK, reasoning that new players were being discouraged by frequent quick deaths and not returning to the game. With the community feedback overwhelmingly requesting that TTK be restored, DICE graciously complied: the issue in Battlefield V lay not in the TTK, but TTD (the perceived time it takes to die). Faulty netcode gives the impression that players are dying in fewer frames than is actually the case, and at the time of writing, remains an issue; when TTK was increased, the game became disjointed. It was taking more time to take out an enemy player, further compounding the sense that an enemy should not have been able to down one so quickly. When DICE reverted this, Battlefield V immediately became considerably more fun. However, Tides of War, the continuous service programme, has also exposed limitations in Battlefield V; the assignments were not functioning and so, players could not unlock the new weapons on numerous occasions. I played through upwards of six hours of Grand Operations to get the first step of the final week in Overture to work, and others have reported being unable to unlock the new weapons, which are limited-time. The prizes for finishing each interval adds aesthetically unique, but otherwise unremarkable weapons to the game, as well as leave the medics yearning for more weapons. Between this, and bugs in the sound system allowing players to sneak around, Battlefield V looks off to a rough start; DICE does appear to have forgotten about their past successes and what made previous Battlefield titles fun. However, looking beyond Battlefield V‘s frustrations also finds a plethora of things to enjoy. Things work more often than they do not, and when one lines up a finely-aimed headshot or pulls off a successful flank, there is a sense of reward quite unlike that of any earlier Battlefield titles: Battlefield V is much harder than its predecessors.

After making my way through Overture, and steadily becoming more familiar with Battlefield V, the quality of my experience has improved since starting out. Knowing where player paths are means I can anticipate how others move around the map, and correspondingly adjust my path to surprise them, or else flush out campers from spots that are popular among those who would otherwise sit still and rack up kills without contributing to their team. Increased vehicle play has allowed me to fully upgrade my Panzer IV and Tiger I, and the return of the Ribeyrolles 1918 has provided the Assault Class with an unparalleled automatic rifle that is lethal at medium ranges, but can hold its own in closer quarters even despite its lower rate of fire. While I’ve not agreed with all of the Tides of War assignments (least of all those that forced me to play Grand Operations), the assignments that were the most enjoyable were those that encouraged team play. Reviving, healing, resupplying and repairing friendly players and assets lead to a much more cohesive experience, and it is great to be revived by players standing beside me. The vehicle assignments were also enjoyable: while vehicles remain death traps owing to how potent the Panzerfaust is, having incentive to use the vehicles and rank them up meant that my German tanks are now specialised. The promise of cosmetics and assignments provide plenty of reason to play; assignments tend to put my focus on doing something specific, and this has enticed me to return to Battlefield V in spite of all of its frustrations and bugs. It is clear that DICE hasn’t struck out on Battlefield V — weekly and daily assignments made Battlefield 1 significantly more fun, and seeing these carry over to Battlefield V show that lessons from Battlefield 1 stuck. The journey to unlocking everything and reaching level 20 in Tides of War was generally a fun one, and now that I’ve spent more time in Battlefield V, it becomes apparent that Battlefield V is much more of a skill game than Battlefield 1 was.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My initial goal was to get the Panzer IV upgraded as far as I could: in its default Ausf. D configuration, the tank is largely suited for anti-infantry engagements, as well as taking out soft targets like transports. However, the Ausf. D configuration is quite vulnerable to Panzerfausts, and is ill-suited for taking on other tanks, so my main use for it was to provide fire support onto capture points.

  • The Sturmtiger is a unique reinforcement vehicle that is intended for hammering enemy positions, and here, I use it to get a double kill in an attempt to single-handedly clear out a position on my own. Panzerstorm is an interesting map, featuring plenty of open fields that is evidently suited for vehicle warfare, so infantry players won’t have such a good time on this map. While it was advertised as being for large scale armoured combat, Panzerstorm did not deliver: each team has upwards of seven tanks, leaving 25 players to go on foot. In order to create proper armoured warfare, I feel that doubling the tank count per team would make things a lot more exciting.

  • The ultimate reinforcement remains the missile strikes: here, I scored my first-ever Killfrenzy (a multi-kill of six) on Arras using the JB-2 rocket. This match, I was doing particularly poorly on, but as time wore on, both the team and I managed to mount a comeback. While focusing on capturing points, I got lucky with kills made while defending points and eventually managed to earn enough points for the rocket strike. Seeing a number of enemies amassed at the town centre, I called in the JB-2 and the rest is history: I went KD positive, and the team won.

  • Bombers are nowhere nearly as overpowered as the Ilya Muromets now, but a skilled player can still do serious damage with one. Perhaps a carry-over from my Battlefield 1 days, the bombers are my favourite planes to fly in Battlefield V: I have no trouble getting them to go where I wish them to go, and hitting targets on the ground is straightforwards with bombs. Bombs deal massive damage to whatever they hit, enough to annihilate vehicles, but are more precise than the cluster shells, so the days of being able to empty out entire capture points with one bombing run are thankfully over.

  • We’re very nearly a week into 2019 now: the year opened with a ham dinner with mayonnaise à la Futurama‘s Judge Whitey. We used a special Dijon-honey-mayonnaise sauce that was heaven on earth, and then earlier this weekend, I made a homemade dip for yam fries that was very tasty despite lacking Chipotle that gives the dip a distinctly smokey flavour. The festivities of Christmas are past, and we enter the long dark of winter now.

  • In a particularly memorable match on Rotterdam, I went on a kill-streak with the Valentine MK VIII medium tank. After being blown apart by Panzerfausts, I spawned back in as a sniper, single-handedly defended the train station point until my squad arrived, and then sent off a JB-2 Rocket that scored a Killfrenzy. Battlefield games where things go well usually have things go really well, and thanks to the revised Conquest system, comebacks are now possible. I’ve won some games where I was certain we would lose.

  • Ever since I unlocked the MP-40 for the medic, I’ve found a versatile weapon that handles well enough for the ranges that I play at. This submachine gun is especially useful on Devastation: having spent more time here, I’ve found that my performance has seen an improvement now that I know where all of the routes are, and the close-quarters makes the medics much more useful. The capture point in the cathedral is the most hotly contested spot on the map, so a combination of smoke grenades and revivals allow one to very quickly bring their teammates back to life.

  • While advertised as a major piece of Battlefield V, I’ve actually yet to see more players tow stationary weapons to new positions to defend capture points. Here, I use the Pak 40 to hammer distant foes. When the assignment to destroy a tank came up, I considered using this as a means of scoring kills against tanks, since for my part, I use tanks in an anti-infantry role, but stationary weapons leave players very exposed to sniper fire. One of the assignments involved using stationary guns to score two kills, and I found that this was best done on Narvik, where one can build Vickers guns flanked by sandbags.

  • Specialising the Panzer IV with additional armour and the Kwk 40 turns it into the Ausf. H version that Miho commands in Girls und Panzer. Despite the upgrades in firepower and defense, I still would not use the Panzer IV in a direct contest against other tanks, instead, using the Panzer IV’s superior mobility to flank around and hit enemy armour from the sides or rear, as well as to suppress and control infantry.

  • The Lewis Gun saw a major upgrade in Battlefield V: it is now remarkably effective as a run-and-gun weapon, but also has enough firepower to be moderately useful as a defensive weapon. When properly specialised, its recoil is reduced greatly, extending its range, and with a higher rate of fire, the gun is very competitive. I never did get into using the Lewis Gun of Battlefield 1, as its low rate of fire greatly restricted its use.

  • After upgrading the Panzer IV fully, I turned my attention to the Tiger I. This tank is Maho’s choice from Girls und Panzer, and is the choicest tank for anti-armour combat. Inherently more durable and capable than the Panzer IV, the Tiger I is much slower to operate, making it ill-suited for anti-infantry combat at closer ranges. Fully specialised, the Tiger I becomes even more effective in an anti-vehicle role at long ranges: Battlefield V is more punishing than World of Tanks, and anyone who attempts to pull the Nishizumi-ryu here by blindly charging onto a capture point will have their faces melted by Panzerfausts before one could say panzer vor.

  • One significant downgrade from earlier Battlefield titles is that custom emblems have not been implemented as of yet, and so, I cannot authentically run with Girls und Panzer themed emblems on my tanks. I’m not sure what the rationale for cutting them from Battlefield V is: granted, I’ve seen some questionable emblems before, but for the most part, people run with harmless emblems, so it makes no sense to restrict people from using them.

  • I got another Killtrocity on Arras using the V-1 rocket during the week where squad assignments were active. This proved to be sufficient for both unlocking the “called in a reinforcement” and “as a squad, kill 2 enemies with rocket strikes” assignments. I’ve heard of people who were unlucky in that they called in the rocket and hit one person with it, but did not get credit for it; whether it was a stroke of luck or from the Killtrocity, I ended up clearing the assignment. This allowed me to unlock an epic mask, although I prefer running stock soldiers and weapons with standard skins. For my part, I’m saving all of my company coin for specialising weapons and vehicles.

  • The Gewehr M95/30 is the next bolt-action rifle for the scout class. With a smaller capacity and more damage than the Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk I, it is the hardest hitting of the bolt-action rifles. However, to balance it out, it lacks the straight-pull bolt of its Battlefield 1 incarnation. Sniping in Battlefield V has been much more challenging (and rewarding for it) than Battlefield 1, but curiously enough, my scout class is the same rank as my medic class at the time of writing.

  • Here, I run the Churchill Mk VII, a British heavy tank that Darjeeling fields. Compared to the Tiger I, it is slower and hits harder, but has lower muzzle velocity. I’ve had some successes with the Churchill Mk VII and the Valentine Mk VIII, but found the Churchill Gun Carrier to be completely ineffectual: without a turret, the tank is easily flanked by infantry. So far, Battlefield V has been very limited with its selection of vehicles, and I’m hoping that Tides of War will rectify this: there’s so much stuff in World War Two that could be introduced into the game.

  • The Turner SMLE is conversion of the SMLE Mk. III that I was so fond of from Battlefield 1 that gives it semi-automatic fire. Not quite as hard-hitting as the Gewehr 43, the Turner SMLE fires slightly faster and therefore, is more useful at closer ranges. Having spent many frustrating matches on Panzerstorm, and then several okay matches, and some good ones, I can say that the map does require more vehicles to allow for players to really make use of its size. From an aesthetic perspective, Panzerstorm looks amazing and brings to mind the landscapes of Interior BC.

  • The StG 44 has been degraded from its beta and alpha performance: lacking the stability for long distance shooting compared to the Turner SMLE and M1A1 Carbine, but also sporting a lower full-automatic fire rate that result in its being outclassed by the Gewehr 1-5 and M1907, the StG 44 occupies an unusual middle ground where it excels at neither. The key to using this gun well is at those short-to-medium ranges and tap-fire the weapon, aiming for the head where possible, but on the whole, the StG 44 is simply eclipsed by other weapons.

  • By comparison, the Ribeyrolles is now the ultimate assault weapon bar none: its low rate of fire and high accuracy allows it to fulfil the role between that of the assault rifles and semi-automatic rifles. Being able to put more damage downrange than the semi-automatic rifles, while having a longer reach than the assault rifles, the Ribeyrolles is reliable, versatile and leaves me confident knowing that I am equipped to deal with enemies at most ranges the assault class is designed for.

  • The return of skill-based sniping in Battlefield V means that long-range headshots are much harder to score than in Battlefield 1; with the Gewehr 98 in Battlefield 1 and its high muzzle velocity, I scored a 383 metre headshot on Sinai desert towards the end of my time in the game. In Battlefield V, muzzle velocities are closer to their Battlefield 4 values, and so, bullet drop is more pronounced than before. Coupled with reduced cenre mass damage, all of the scratches and smudging on the long-range optics, and harder to see enemies, sniping is a challenge, so landing those shots becomes even more rewarding. Here, I scored a headshot of 257 meters on Hamada – it’s my personal best in Battlefield V so far.

  • The Ribeyrolles is so accurate that if two opponents are lined up, one can get consecutive headshots, back-to-back. Battlefield V‘s incarnations of weapons seen in Battlefield 1 have been varied: of the ones I’ve unlocked, the Lewis gun, M1907 and Ribeyrolles absolutely outclass their Battlefield 1 iterations, while the shotguns have felt more ineffective in general.

  • I had all but given up on trying to destroy a tank, but during a match of conquest on Twisted Steel, I hopped into a Tiger I with the intent of ranking it up, and managed to blast an enemy Churchill to finish the Mechanised Brawl assignment done. Because of their vulnerability, tanks of Battlefield V take an additional level of skill and patience to use: one cannot simply brawl with the Tiger I, as the tank is best suited for ranged engagements against enemy vehicles. I have reached rank for with the tank now, and intend to spec it out fully for anti-tank engagements.

  • The Selbstlader 1906 was a weapon I never touched in Battlefield 1 – as a medic self-loading rifle with only five rounds available, the weapon was very difficult to use and was quite unsuited for closer ranges that medics played at. By comparison, Battlefield V places it with the scout class, and while unremarkable from a statistics perspective, its performance in practise is reasonable.

  • The M30 Drilling is a double-barrelled shotgun, similar to the Model 1900 of Battlefield 1 (which I loved), but has one additional twist: there’s a third barrel that fires a rifle cartridge, allowing the weapon to be used in situations where buckshot is insufficient to deal with. This rifle round allows the M30 to handle like the Martini-Henry, and because it only has one shot, it is the ultimate skill weapon. I’ve used the cartridge to surprise enemies, and the buckshot is remarkably effective in the ruins of Devastation as well.

  • My experience with the Tides of War was smooth for the most part – leaving a server and then finding a new one was often enough to force an assignment to track. The exception was the Grand Operations assignments, which refused to track regardless of how many times I restarted Battlefield V. After three days, it finally began tracking, and it was a short journey towards finishing enough of the branches to unlock the prize; the A/g m42 is a semi-automatic rifle for the assault class that handles most similarly to the M1A1 Carbine, albeit with slightly more damage but a limited magazine.

  • Here, I score a triple kill while flying over the village of Arras: having spent a nontrivial amount of time in Battlefield V and having reached rank 40, I’m burning through the progression system, and it feels that Battlefield V was deliberate in having a shorter progression system, allowing players to unlock everything quickly so that they could focus on Tides of War activities once those became available. While I feel that Battlefield V‘s progression system is shorter, it is still more advanced than that of Battlefield 1‘s, and  looks extensible enough so that adding more levels and rewards should be a straightforward endeavour.

  • Cheating in Battlefield has always been a point of contention: contrary to perjurers who would have players believe cheaters are non-existent, the reality is that they exist, and in a game like Battlefield V, where there is reduced spotting and game mechanics control scoring, it becomes very apparent to spot cheaters. Here, I blasted a fellow by the name of “ironmaiden0911”, who was topping the scoreboard with over 100 kills and 2 deaths within the first three minutes of Airborne. Frustration was very much a reality: at the time, I was trying to finish a grand operation and could not simply leave. In the end, my team lost, but I did managed to kill them at least once. A glance at their stats show they’ve been banned now, having not opened the game since I played them last.

  • At the opposite end of the spectrum are the simply spectacular, emergent moments that arise in Battlefield: here on a match of Grand Operations, another bomber got into my tail and began damaging me, but I somehow managed to bank, flew over them, and in a moment of inspiration, I unloaded my bombs on them. They connected and destroyed his vehicle; I thus bombed a bomber.

  • Besides more vehicles and content, one thing I would love to see in Battlefield V would be swappable reinforcements that one could pick and choose from. At different levels, reinforcements become unlocked, and then one could choose which ones to equip. For instance, I never call in the supply drop or vehicle-killers, so having different reinforcements would be amazing. While Call of Duty: WW2 is inferior to Battlefield V in just about every department, the number of options for killstreaks was well done. Battlefield V could take things one step further, doing things that can’t be done in Call of Duty  by adding new reinforcements that one could pick from. Some of my ideas include picking up a proper flamethrower, calling in an aircraft that spots all enemies in an area for 10 seconds, artillery strikes on two locations of one’s choosing (weaker than the rocket attacks, but allows one to hit one more location), and a player-controlled strategic bomber like the B-17 or B-29 that acts as an aerial equivalent of the Sturmtiger or Churchill Crocodile.

  • Another thing I would like to see is more class archetypes: the default ones are satisfactory and render the unlockable ones quite unnecessary, but I would like to see archetypes for increased movement speed, more stealth, ability to carry more ammo or more efficient spotting. Again, there’s so much that can be done that I would not be surprised if Tides of War added new archetypes later. Here, I get a double kill with the MG 34; the bug with bipod deployment aside, the medium machine guns are actually fun to use. In particular, when one is using the MG 34 with the bipod, it becomes a death machine that performs exceedingly well in a defensive role. I’ve come to enjoy the MG 34, and have specialised it to have increased accuracy and firing rate, as well as the double-drum magazine, which also allows for a faster reload. When the situation demands a run-and-gun style, I will return to the KE-7 and Lewis gun.

  • The next Tides of War chapter opens in a few days, being pushed back: I hope that this means DICE is pushing out patches to address issues previously encountered. Beyond this, I am looking forwards to seeing what is available in the next Tides of War, and ideally, we’d also gain an idea as to whether or not iconic content is being added in the future. Battlefield V remains shaped by what it could potentially become, and if the base game is mechanically solid, then the sky is the limit as to what DICE could potentially do with Battlefield V; I would be okay with DICE deciding to support Battlefield V for an extended period beyond two years, improving the game and building a long-term community to make a smooth, polished and content-rich game akin to how Rainbow Six Siege and Counter Strike: Global Offensive have done things.

While Battlefield V still has its share of bugs, being much more rocky and unpredictable than Battlefield 1, there are new patches coming out this month that will hopefully address some of the frustrations players have seen. Developers have been working on a fix for vaulting and bipod deployment, for instance, and I’m hoping that TTD is addressed so that I am sustaining damage at the same rate that I can deal damage. If anything, the TTK experiment showed that simply changing weapon damage won’t be a solution; the short TTK increases the value of tactical, smart play, and improving TTD would similarly allow players to anticipate how much time they have to get out of a bad situation. Beyond this, I’ve become somewhat acclimatised to the minimal spotting system, and while I still prefer the approaches Battlefield 3 and 4 took, I feel that should DICE properly address the sound of gunfire and footsteps, Battlefield V could keep its current spotting system and remain enjoyable. I admit that it took a bit of time to actually complete the Overture chapter of Tides of War, but the journey was a largely entertaining one. Battlefield V has shown plenty of promise, and given DICE’s track record, I am optimistic that the game will become more polished and correspondingly, more fun to play as time wears on. As far as content goes, the game is still very much missing American and Russian soldiers, maps and weapons; the iconic M4 Sherman and M1 Garand, or the Russian PPSh-41 and T-34 tanks, absolutely must be rendered in the Frostbite Engine, along with Stalingrad and Normandy. Contrary to any perception that these are stale, I would very much like to see World War Two’s most iconic battles in what is one of the most sophisticated game engines available. I think that the next chapter in Tides of War take us to the coasts of Greece, but if we are to get monthly content, I would hope that the more recognisable aspects of World War Two are added to Battlefield V: from a technical perspective, Battlefield V far outclasses Call of Duty: WWII, and I would love to see the DICE take on things that Call of Duty: WWII did not adequately capture.

Anima Yell!- Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Let’s go, Kaminoki! Go for win!” —Kaminoki High Cheer

The Cheer Association begins gaining momentum, as Kohane and the others farmiliarise themselves with basics. They are asked to cheer in a variety of venues for their classmates, including at several basketball games, an opening ceremony for a festival and for Uki’s younger brother’s soccer match. After wondering why Uki would join the Cheer Association, Kana joins the Cheer Association after standing in for Uki during a routine, who’d become injured. With the required five members, the Cheer Association becomes a full-fledged club. The girls recruit Ms. Inukai as their advisor and make Kohane the president, partake in a training camp on the beach and use their new funds to purchase upgraded uniforms. Kohane and the others sign up for a cheer-leading tournament, as well. Here, Hizume learns that her old teammates are glad to find her and wish that she were still with them; they nonetheless wish her the best, and in their performance, everyone comes together to keep Kohane going after she became worried about Hizume. Despite not qualifying in the preliminaries, the girls have a wonderful time and resolve to continue practising for their upcoming events, as well as for another tournament in the future. Anima Yell! was the fall season’s Manga Time Kirara series, and for better or worse, these invariably end up on my watchlist. After three episodes, Anima Yell! gave the distinct impression of simply being Yuyushiki with cheer-leading, but as the series progressed, there was considerably more enjoyment as the Cheer Association began picking up their activity and explored aspects of cheer-leading that made it worthwhile for each of Kohane, Uki, Hizume, Kotetsu and Hanawa.

Anima Yell! ends up being a fun romp through the world of cheer-leading and high school life, as is the case for almost all adaptations of manga published to Manga Time Kirara. However, there was a bit of a surprise for me; I was not anticipating that the series would have something discernible in the way of a theme: Anima Yell! has Kohane and her boundless energy at the forefront. With her cheer and desire to help those around her, Kohane’s presence is strong enough to overshadow the other characters, even the highly experienced Hizume. Anima Yell! is, upon first glance, about Kohane channelling her energy towards helping others through cheer-leading and over time, realising that she’s got support from her friends, is willing to put an effort towards overcoming her acrophobia. However, each of Hizume, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa have their own challenges that cheer-leading helps them tackle. In particular, Hizume learns to appreciate cheer-leading from a smaller group, really allowing her to know everyone better. Initially dismissed from her old cheer-leading team for being a non-team player, Hizume comes to realise that she was more focused on the technical details of her performance, than paying mind to those around her, and so, while excelling as a cheerleader, failed as a team member. Working in a smaller team forces Hizume to train Kohane and Kotetsu, as well as organise things with Uki and Hanawa. In doing so, Hizume opens up naturally to her new-found friends and overcomes her own doubts about being alone. Through Anima Yell!, it is shown that the small-team dynamic provides an opportunity to really get to learn about one’s teammates better, and the ensuing friendship can have a profound positive impact on an individual.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Anima Yell! will receive a shorter post, featuring only twenty screenshots taken from various points in the show. In the beginning, a lack of funds means that Kohane and the others need to get creative – their uniforms are hand-made, as are their pom-poms. Their status as an association ends up being a boon for the club, resulting in actions that indicate ingenuity and a chance to take the characters in directions otherwise unexplored were they permitted club status.

  • Kohane’s first objective is to get Kotetsu to join the club, and after much manoeuvring, succeeds in convincing her; their performance in cheering the basketball team sees each of Uki, Kohane and Hizume deliver enough energy to allow the team to win, and inspired, Kotetsu agrees to join.

  • It turns out that Kohane’s acrophobia stems from an incident in her childhood, where she’d fallen out of a tree while attempting to help someone. While the physical pain did not deter her, the fear of worrying those around her had a long lasting impact, and since then, Kohane’s concern about troubling those around her means that she cannot be in high places. With time and effort from the club, Kohane gradually begins to overcome these fears, and she’s able to act as the top of some rudimentary formations.

  • Hanawa is Anima Yell!‘s Sharo Kirima rolled in with Love Lab!‘s Yuiko Enomoto; fiercely protective of Hizume, Hanawa becomes greatly flustered in her presence and reveres her. She is initially disapproving of the Cheer Association, wondering why Hizume went from being a top-tier cheerleader to participating in a club where it is nowhere near as serious as the sort of organisation Hizume might’ve been in before.

  • Uki explains the situation to Hanawa on the school rooftop, but sprains her ankle when she catches a falling Hanawa. Feeling responsible for the situation, Hanawa decides to act as the substitute for Uki when the basketball team requests the Cheer Association perform for their match. During the course of their presentation, Hanawa witnesses firsthand Hizume’s enjoyment, and also rediscovers her own love for cheer-leading. She reluctantly decides to join the Cheer Association, bringing its membership to five and officially giving the group club status.

  • Inukai sensei is the stereotypical instructor, being quite lazy and unmotivated. She refuses the post of advising for the Cheer Club, but the girls manage to persuade her. Like every advisor for clubs that come before her, Inukai sensei is not usually willing to expend energy to help the club out, but when the moment calls for it, she will pull through. In addition, she also supports the girls’ aspirations from the sidelines, revealing that for her laziness, she genuinely does care for the club’s members.

  • Uki suffers from a conundrum when it turns out the Cheer Club is set to perform at her younger brother’s soccer game. Uki’s younger brother, Akane, is not particularly appreciative of cheerleaders, saying they are quite distracting and contribute little to the game, but also remarks that he’s cool with Uki. Struggling to reveal she’s a member of the Cheer Club and will be making an appearance, Uki finally snaps when Akane mentions his dislike stems from cheerleaders flashing their pantsu during some stunts, and reprimands him, saying that cheerleading is far removed from exhibitionism.

  • On the day of the match, Akane finds himself unexpectedly impressed with Uki and the Cheer Club’s energy and stamina; they spur him on, and the coach takes notice, putting him in the starting line for the game’s second half. As the girls continue their cheer, Akane’s resolve strengthens and he scores the game-winning goal. He thanks the Cheer Club and begrudgingly admits that cheerleaders are not so bad after all.

  • Hanawa switches from loud and obnoxious to Kohane, to submissive and flustered when Hizume appears. Having seen so many anime with such a character, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Uki and the others managed to turn things around and help Hanawa overcome her own doubts. As such, where I may have felt an annoyance previously, I now wait for the character to grow and mature. Watching Hanawa become increasingly close with the Cheer Club was rewarding, and in the end, she is Anima Yell!‘s Sharo Kirima, whom I’ve come to appreciate for her role in GochiUsa.

  • While we’re into winter now, Anima Yell! takes things into summer when the Cheer Club goes on a training camp. Although Hizume insists that their objective is practise, and the girls do get a respectable amount of practise in, there is a focus on what everyone does on the beaches under beautiful summer skies. For me, deep azure skies is a hallmark of the summer season in anime, conveying a sense of warmth that the longest days of the year bring.

  • During the training camp, Hizume notices that Hanawa seems to have trouble interacting with her, and is quite unaware that Hanawa’s got a crush the size of a planet on her. Being the most reasoned of everyone, Uki offers Hizume advice, to take things one step at a time, helping the two close their distance. The training camp of Anima Yell! is not particularly fanservice-oriented, and has the characters coming out both on better terms with one another, as well as better equipped to face their challenges.

  • Times change, and most of the folks who’ve previously analysed shows like Anima Yell! in forums have ceased. It’s been a year since we’ve been treated to seminar-style discussions of minutiae in Manga Time Kirara series, such as how economics work in Urara Meirocho, the exam procedures of Hanayamata or whether or not older PCs can run drawing software in Stella no Mahou. I cannot say that I miss these these divergences – they contributed nothing to discussions about the show, but now that they’re gone, it also means I have no need to shoot them down and explain why these individuals misunderstood or misinterpreted something. In each and every case, the answer to their questions was simple and could be explained in two or fewer sentences.

  • Of course, at least one individual has been left with analysing the kanji in everyone’s names and concluded that everyone’s names has roots in an animal name, but watching through the whole of Anima Yell! finds that this has no impact on the story whatsoever. I’ve long found that analysing names has not done me any favours in understanding a show: names like Jack Ryan or Samwise Gamgee do little for helping me gain a deeper understanding of a story. Back in Anima Yell!, the girls’ training camp draws to a close with another successful and fun performance.

  • Having club funds means being able to afford new uniforms, and after spending an entire day at the cheerleading speciality shop, the girls finally agree on a uniform that works for everyone. They encounter twin sisters who were formerly Hizume’s teammates, whose personalities are reminiscent of cats. Their cordial conversation with Hizume foreshadows what her former teammates think of her.

  • On the day of the Cheer Tournament, the whole club has gathered and exhibits nerves to some level. Kohane varies between pure excitement and total fright – between her concern for Hizume’s well-being and her own ability to perform, fear slowly creeps into her day. She ruins a few group photos, and despite her insistence that everything is fine, audiences are keenly aware that Kohane’s not her usual self.

  • As it turns out, Hizume’s old teammates found themselves in disarray after she left and wanted her back, but slowly pulled together and then found their way. Admitting that she’s happy to have seen this change as a result of Hizume’s departure, they also understood just how important Hizume was to them and are happy to see that she’s found her own way again. For Hizume, working with a smaller team has really forced her to be mindful of her teammates, and she apologises to her old team for not being more aware of them. They part on friendly terms and wish one another luck in the tournament.

  • When their performance starts, Kohane immediately falls. Their performance in jeopardy, Hizume, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa step in to support Kohane, who realises that her friends will catch her. Her cheering spirit restored, Kohane comes back to help her teammates put on a performance that, despite not having the technical depth of finesse of a more experienced team, one that captures the amount of fun everyone is having in the moment.

  • In the end, the enjoyment that each of Hizume, Kohane, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa experiences is very visible, and watching the Cheer Club advance was one of the biggest draws in Anima Yell!: my enthusiasm for the show was waning at the halfway point, as the mid-sections of this series was unremarkable and even dull in a few places, but once Hanawa joins, Anima Yell!‘s spirit is rekindled, prompting me to push through to the end. I’m glad that I did.

  • If and when I am asked, Uki is my favourite character of Anima Yell! – she’s well-rounded, being skilful enough to keep up with Hizume and Hanawa, but is also able to reign in Kohane and Kotetsu. As seen from her reaction to failing to qualify, Uki is also very serious and committed to what she does. Despite this, the girls remark that yes, things were very memorable. Having seen where cheerleading could take them, they resolve to work hard and see just how far into the next tournament they can progress.

  • When everything is said and done, Anima Yell! would earn a B, a 7.5 on the 10 point scale (3.0 of 4) – despite being strictly average, Anima Yell! has plenty of heart, and for me, this counts for something. With this post in the books, I’m officially done with writing about the anime I watched for last year: there are many titles I’ve invariably passed on, and I could return to them at some point in the future (I still need to see if Aobuta lives up to its praises, for example), but for now, with the winter season upon us, a few shows have caught my eye. At this point in time, I express an interest in writing for Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai – only one show is on the plate for the present, as my free time has lessened and I’d like to allocate what’s available to blasting bad guys in things like Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash and Battlefield V in addition to writing.

Audiences familiar with the Manga Time Kirara world would seen this countless times in other series; while Anima Yell! may not be particularly novel or exceptional, it is honest, and the end result is a fun story that picks up considerably once the series is under way. The energy and spirits that each of Kohane, Uki, Hizume, Kotetsu and Hanawa bring to the table livens up Anima Yell!; the girls’ cheer-leading performances are surprisingly polished in spite of Kohane and Kotetsu’s inexperience, and while the girls never get to doing the more sophisticated stunts, watching Hizume return to the basics and help bring everyone up proved to be a warming experience that is always a joy to watch for the journey everyone takes to reach the endgame. As such, in spite of Anima Yell!‘s average visuals and aural aspects, the story itself keeps things compelling enough for this one to be watched to completion. Anima Yell! is the sort of anime for Manga Time Kirara fans looking for something relaxing and comforting; beyond this, the nature of Anima Yell! means that it is unlikely to appeal to audiences with a different set of preferences. Finally, I imagine that Anima Yell! will not be seeing a continuation; while the manga is ongoing, I’ve not heard anything that suggests that Anima Yell! is as well-received as something like Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? or Kiniro Mosaic — this series is not particularly stand-out with its execution or premise, but what Anima Yell! does have is a fun story about growth and being appreciative of those around oneself.

 

Little Forest: Considering Insights into Life Decisions, A Movie Review and Recommendation

“Komori is a small settlement in a village somewhere in the Tohoku region. There aren’t any stores here, but if you have a little shopping to do, there’s a small farmer’s co-op supermarket and some other stores in the the village centre, where the town hall is. The way there is mostly downhill, so that takes about half an hour, but I’m not too sure how long the trip back takes.” —Ichiko

After encountering considerable difficulties with life in the city, Ichiko moves back home to Komori, a small rural village in Tōhoku. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, Ichiko farms the land and makes the most of each season, using her knowledge of the land and local ingredients create simple but tasty dishes. Ichiko recalls stories of her mother in her childhood, who had left one day. The seasons pass in Komori, and Ichiko receives a letter from her mother. Deciding that living in Komori was equivalent to running away from her problems, Ichiko moves back to the city, but later returns to Komori permanently as a farmer upon realising that she’s come to love the way of life in rural Japan. The original manga was written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi; running between 2002 and 2005, it received a two-part live-action theatrical adaptation that was released in August 2014 and February 2015. A Korean adaptation loosely follows the structure of Little Forest and screened in 2018. The Japanese film will be the focus of this post: Ichiko is played by Ai Hashimoto, who delivers a very matter-of-fact performance in Ichiko’s everyday life in the country. Facets of life, from the preparation of foodstuffs, to subtle details in each season, are outlined in a manner reminiscent to Rena Nōnen’s performance as In This Corner of The World‘s Suzu Hojo (née Urano). Little Forest presents rural life as being very idyllic, slow-paced and earnest: one of Ichiko’s friends, Yūta, remarks that he’s fond of the country life and cannot stand urbanites because they are untruthful, whereas in the countryside, people are more honest and doers rather than talkers. The film is an ode to simpler living, in a world far removed from the connectivity and pressure of a scheduled, digital world; in a manner of speaking, Little Forest is a Japanese interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire; the Hobbits of the Shire live a very simple life, treasuring good food, a warm heath and all of the comforts of home above treasures and power. However, while one cannot be blamed for wanting to return to a simpler life, Little Forest also raises the question of whether or not escaping from the more complex, ever-changing world is the right way to handle one’s problems.

During her days in the country, Ichiko demonstrates a strong knowledge of the land and resourcefulness, looking after her crops and crafting meals with whatever is available to her. Her monologues show someone who is deeply entrenched in the land, and that she is someone who is definitely at home in the countryside. From simple bread, to the preparation of fried trout, duck, onigiri and home-made jam, Ichiko uses a combination of her mother’s knowledge and own discoveries to create simple but delicious meals. The past and present come together as she cooks; the passage of time infuses new knowledge into old dishes, suggesting that change is inevitable but gradual in all things. How much of Ichiko’s mother’s stories are genuine, then, becomes largely irrelevant, as she takes what is true and then combines it with her experiences to make her dishes work. The focus of Little Forest is in the realm of cooking, how recipes might change over time and imbibe the characteristics of the individual cooking them. While family recipes are often thought of as being immutable, a taste of an older time, the reality is that every cook will apply their own styles to it and create something slightly different. In this way, a particular dish can be thought of as ever-changing, for no two individuals will prepare a dish in precisely the same way. Change is then thought of as inevitable, applying not just to food, but to one’s life, as well; no two individuals will handle their problems in the same way, and ultimately, it is up to the individual to seek out and execute solutions to the challenges that they might come across within their lives.

While Little Forest presents Ichiko’s days of cooking and tending the farm as idyllic, her monologues are interspersed with thoughts of her past. It turns out that Ichiko’s had a rough time in the city; between a failing relationship and difficulties at work, Ichiko succumbed to pressure and decided to leave, regrouping in the countryside. While life back in her old home is peaceful, there are a unique set of challenges, as well; there are bears in the area, and insects get into the crops. Furthermore, her friends in the countryside occasionally remark that she’s running away from her problems in the city, retreating to Komori when her work and relationship takes a hit. This is true, and presents the audiences with a dilemma: if Ichiko returns to the city to face her challenges, then she’s suggesting that a simpler life in the countryside might not be as idyllic as one might imagine. Conversely, staying in Komori would signal to viewers that it’s okay to escape one’s problems. Ichiko’s final decision, to return to Komori after attempting to make life in the city work once more, neatly addresses Little Forest‘s theme: Ichiko does make another (presumably honest and whole-hearted) attempt to make her situation work out, returning to face her problems, and then with the knowledge of which life she feels that she could put a more complete effort towards, makes the choice to return to Komori. In the end, the simpler life prevails, but only after Ichiko has had a proper opportunity to face her problems once more. Having said that she has honestly made an effort to see if she could have made life in the city work, Ichiko’s return to Komori is not running away, but stems from a conscious decision that this life is what she desires.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Known for its scenery and climate, the Tohoku region occupies the northeastern side of Honshu and has a comparatively lower development level compared to the rest of Japan. Little Forest was filmed in the Iwate prefecture, which has the lowest population density of anywhere in Japan save for Hokkaido. The area has a hot-summer humid continental climate, and Ichiko opens by saying that the area is very humid in the summer, with the heat sticking to one.

  • With its low population and relative seclusion relative to the remainder of Japan, Iwate is the perfect place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Lacking the same melancholy as Inao in Nagano, where Please Teacher and Ano Natsu de Matteru is set, the rural setting for Little Forest is cozy, inviting and very laid-back even during the hottest days of the summer.

  • The first dish that Ichiko creates is a stove bread: before we delve further into this discussion, I remark that my cooking skills are rudimentary at best. I have basic knowledge in food preparation and baking to the extent where I can prepare edible food that passes for a meal, but the more advanced techniques, I am less versed. The most complex dish I’ve made in recent memory was a sirloin-and-pepper stir fry with Dijon-mushroom sauce.

  • While life in the countryside, the inaka, is very slow-paced for us urban-dwellers, Little Forest shows audiences that there is a completely different set of things that folks in the rural areas do during their day. Where we commute to work and sit in an office for a day, those in agriculture tend to their crops, maintain their equipment and spend plenty of time cooking, making use of their ingredients to make hand-made meals that city folk may not have the time to make.

  • Ichiko recounts how her mother fabricated all sorts of tall tales during her youth. Her introspection of these memories suggests a bit of surprise when the truth came out, but otherwise does not convey any other emotion. The frequency that Ichiko brings up these stories suggests that despite her distance with her mother, she’s definitely appreciative of the effort her mother took in raising her, and indeed, the memories that audiences see from Ichiko’s childhood are simple, but warm.

  • Ichiko lives in her mother’s old house, a rickety wooden building that nonetheless is very inviting. Having lived here for most of her life, Ichiko is familiar with the ins and outs of the countryside: by summer, all sorts of things come to life during the night, including various insects, owls and even bears. I am spoiled by the fact that urban dwellings are relatively free of unwanted visitors, and the thought of insects marching through my room while I sleep is a bit of a scary one.

  • Besides tending to her crops, Ichiko also helps out around the village: as a part of a smaller community, everyone knows everyone, and form a close-knit group that is very friendly amongst one another. Here, Ichiko helps Yūta with moving trout around from their hatchery to a larger pond. The trout that are seen in Little Forest differ from the trout that I’ve had in the past year: during a business trip to Winnipeg, I had Steelhead Trout, which is characterised by its orange flesh and a more oily flavour: while not quite as distinct as salmon, it’s still quite salmon-like and is very tasty.

  • Roasting fish on a skewer over an open fire is something I’ve seen in many series, whether its Les Stroud’s Survivorman or other anime. After the intestines and other inedible parts of the fish are removed, they are cooked over flame before being served. Little Forest has Yūta and Ichiko discarding the heart and liver from the fish, but these are edible and provide additional nutrients; Les Stroud eats those in addition to the fish during his survival trips.

  • Yūta’s remarks about what makes people genuine struck a chord with me: he believes that people who are worth respecting are those speak from experience, who’ve done things rather than merely talk about doing them. Especially in the age of the internet, people often over-estimate the scope of their knowledge and make like they know more than they do. Fortunately, it is quite easy to spot when this is occurring: a few well-placed questions are often enough to determine if someone genuinely knows their stuff, or if they’re bluffing. For my part, I try to speak (and write) within the realm of what I know.

  • For me, food is grown in the great plains surrounding my home city or else imported, and then it’s something I pick up at the supermarket. However, this is not something to be taken for granted; much like how it takes a considerable effort to make even a simple app work, the process of growing food is a very extensive one, and those in agriculture have my utmost respect. The Chinese have a saying: 飲水思源 (jyutping jam2 seoi2 si1 jyun4, literally “when drinking water, think of its source”): I am ever mindful of what it takes to grow the food on my table and strive to make sure no food goes to waste.

  • I love tomatoes: refreshing and delicious, they are a fantastic food that are classified as a berry but utilised as a vegetable. The longstanding debate of whether or not a tomato is a fruit or vegetable is the subject of no small debate, but for me, tomatoes are a fruit hands down: science wins every time. I take tomatoes wherever I can get them; they are delicious in sandwiches, and the smaller cherry tomatoes are delicious on their own, packing a stronger flavour than standard tomatoes.

  • The passage of the seasons runs throughout Little Forest – each of summer, autumn, winter and spring brings with it a different set of ingredients that Ichiko has to work with. As the trees yellow during autumn, Ichiko prepares her harvest and also picks chestnuts from the area nearby.

  • The process of food preparation can take a good bit of time, and having tried my hand at cooking, I can honestly say that it can be a fun process during which time flies by. The night I prepared the sirloin and pepper stir-fry, it took four hours from opening the packages of meat and washing the vegetables, to enjoying said meal and then washing the dishes. Similarly, I tried my hand at making a chicken and broccoli dish that turned out to be delicious, as well.

  • One of the things I likely won’t do for the short term, regardless of how delicious the outcome is, is frying battered meat in an oil using a pan at home. This is in the interest of preserving the air quality in wherever I am: the process produces a great deal of greasy smoke that clings to the air if done improperly (e.g. if the type of oil is poorly picked), so I would sooner learn to make other things, before attempting something like this.

  • Sharing meals or snacks together with a dose of conversation may seem quaint for us city folk, but as it turns out, gathering to talk and eat is both superbly relaxing (a world apart from staring into the screen of a smartphone), and a great way to pass time. During the hot pot on Sunday leading up to the New Year’s, I spent upwards of 90 minutes with family, putting various meats and vegetables while sharing conversation, and during New Year’s Eve, conversation spanned two hours after the last of the cheesecake and flan were had.

  • At home, Ichiko’s recollections often have her telling stories of her mother’s own recipes for common condiments and spreads, like Nutella and Worcestershire sauce. Her mother’s recipes yield a product different in taste than those of the commercial ones, and Ichiko is often surprised at the fact that these recipes are not original to her mother. As a side note, the original Worcestershire sauce from Lea and Perrins is a British invention, being used to season salads, soups and is a component of the Bloody Mary cocktail. However, it also goes great with the steamed meatballs served in dim sum.

  • One part of Little Forest that really puts the perspective on fresh meat is when Ichiko is shown looking after ducklings that later mature into ducks; she states that ducks are useful around the farm, aerating the paddies and also consume any insects that may harm the rice plants. Audiences get to see the ducklings; their fluffiness and small size make them absolutely adorable, and one’s mind should be quite far removed from thoughts of eating them. However, as the ducklings mature into ducks, Ichiko takes the knife to one and carves one for dinner, roasting it over a fire.

  • Meat cooking over a fire is a very inviting image for me, and the ethics of eating meat is not something I personally partake in debating – from a biological perspective, humans evolved bigger brains precisely from our transition to a diet with meat in it. The nutrients in meat contributes to the synthesis of materials involved in the brain, and in conjunction with cooking, we could now spend less time eating. The reduction in jaw muscles changed our skull morphology and also accommodates for increased brain size. Our evolutionary origins live on in me: when at home and meat-on-the-bone is on the table, I will take the time to gnaw any meat off the bones. Just yesterday, we had roast lamb on the bone to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and later today, a dijon-honey-mustard ham is on the table.

  • Komori is a fictional town, but the locations are real, and the scenery of rural Japan is very beautiful. The open spaces between mountains are captivating, and for me, hold a certain appeal because they are a sight I do not often see. By comparison, the majesty of the Canadian Rockies are a familiar sight, and while certainly scenic, is not quite so special for me because I see them often. From the opposite viewpoint, the Japanese find their rural villages to be quite ordinary, and see our mountains as breathtaking; Japanese tourists in the Canadian Rockies are so common that our stores offer Japanese signs, books and menus for travellers to accommodate them.

  • Everything that I know about cooking, I learned from either my mom or through courses I took during school. Things picked up from home tend to endure as a family tradition, and the one thing that I learned from home that schools will never teach is the proper process of de-veining shrimp. Most procedures will say that it is sufficient to make an incision into the shrimp from its dorsal side and then use a knife to pry the intestine out, but there is a hind gut containing stuff that one would rather not eat. Extending the dorsal incision into the tail allows for this hind gut to be removed, as well.

  • One aspect of Little Forest that was particularly standout for me were the use of frames and cutouts as transitions. They give the movie a very modern, elegant feel that stands in contrast with the decidedly more rustic lifestyle being portrayed within the movie. Clever use of these allow the film to illustrate Ichiko cooking from different angles, reminding viewers that cooking and preparing ingredients is a very dynamic process.

  • The soundtrack in Little Forest is very minimalist; this is an appropriate choice given the film’s composition. The whole of Little Forest can be summed up as “a girl returns to countryside and cooks various dishes using local ingredients”, but outside of a short blurb, the movie is an excellent example of where less is more. Because Little Forest only gives a few explicit details, the remainder are implicit and so, leaves audiences to connect to the film in their own manner of choosing.

  • A few of Ichiko’s conflicts are shown, whether they be with her friends or other farmers, but for the most part, Ichiko gets along very well with those around her. Scattered throughout Little Forest, they show that Ichiko is not entirely free of her worries and troubles when living in Komori, but the fact that Ichiko can handle them (whereas she ended up leaving the city because she was overwhelmed with troubles) foreshadows that Ichiko is at home in the countryside.

  • Whether or not the foreigner that visits Ichiko and her mother was a real memory or not is ambiguous, but he is shown as having a fun character, playing with the younger Ichiko. Ichiko recalls her mother’s recipe for a Christmas cake here and notes that while they never really celebrated Christmas, the tradition of making a cake during the winter endured. In Japan, Christmas is celebrated with a different set of traditions; for one, KFC is the preferred bird of choice over turkey.

  • Ichiko inspects some dried persimmons that she’d previously prepared. These fruits have a wide range of culinary uses, and can be eaten as-is; I’ve never actually had the dried variety before, but fresh ones are quite tasty.

  • Winter in Komori is characterised with snowfall: winters in the inland portions of Iwate are very cold, and can be quite snowy, as well. When a fresh snowfall blankets Komori, the landscape is transformed into a winter wonderland resembling those seen in Canadian photobooks. Winter in Canada varies greatly owing to the sheer size of the country, and in the prairie provinces, winters are usually bitterly cold with some snowfall.

  • Besides cooking, Ichiko also covers nuances about agriculture and harvesting, mentioning the details of looking after crops. One criticism of Little Forest was that the challenging side of agriculture, from pests to undesirable weather, that impact yields, are not shown. Little Forest is not a movie about farming, it is a story of discovery, and so, I would consider this to be nit-picking, since failing crops would not contribute to the narrative in a meaningful way.

  • At this time of year, Alberta is typically quite cold and snowy, but the weather of late has been contrary to expectations, being quite warm and dry. Meteorologists are predicting that winter across the prairies will be warmer and drier than usual, but there could be some periods of extreme cold. With the winter holidays now past, the most miserable time of year is upon us as winter truly sets in, but fortunately, with no shortage of things to do, winter should pass by fairly quickly.

  • Curry is a mainstay of Japanese cuisine; introduced into the Japanese Navy by the British as a means of combating beriberi, Japanese curry is much milder than its Indian counterpart and goes great with rice. Here, Ichiko shares curry and flatbread with Kikko, her best friend. The two get along as peas in a pod, and while they occasionally have their differences, always work things out.

  • Rediscovery is also a theme explored in Little Forest, using cooking of greens as a metaphor. Ichiko initially wonders why her greens never have quite the same texture as those her mother made, being much stringy and fibrous in comparison despite being prepared with the exact same technique, using the same ingredients. She attempts a variety of cooking methods, but then figures out that removing the tougher fibres from the greens before cooking them results in a dish that tastes identical to those her mother made.

  • Little Forest is made up of two separate films, each of which have two acts: there are a total of four acts, one for each season, and at the conclusion of each, FLOWER FLOWER performs an ending song. Of the ending songs, I’m most fond of Natsu: it’s a very happy, bouncy song whose personality reminds me of a friend of old. Each ending is accompanied with scenery in and around Komori.

  • Tempura made from greens and vegetables is very delicious: last year, I had vegetable tempura made from things as diverse as broccoli, onions, yams and even pumpkin. During my visit to Japan, I was able to try both bakke and Fiddlehead tempura at an onsen buffet. I typically eat my vegetables steamed or stir-fried, since that’s the quickest way of preparing them, and so, whenever vegetable tempura is available, I savour it.

  • A fresh snowfall is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, there is no denying the beauty of a landscape blanketed in snow, silencing everything, but on the other hand, snow corresponds with traffic delays and either frustration in negotiating with poor road conditions or waiting long periods in the frigid weather for a bus to show up. Having said this, I accept that snowfall means soil moisture come spring, and so, I begrudgingly accept the inconveniences of winter for the most part.

  • For the most part, the vegetables one can buy from the store are quite clean and free of bugs, so rinsing them in cold, fresh water to remove any chemical residues is often sufficient. Spinach and watercress can be a bit messier; a trick for cleaning watercress (which we use in a pork bone soup) is to soak it in salt water for a bit, and then rinsing the salt water off. The salt in water causes water to leach from the bugs, dehydrating and killing them.

  • Noodles are a fantastic standby, being relatively simple to make and is very much delicious when one has extra ingredients. After our hot pot on New Year’s Eve, we ended up making yi mein ramen with shrimp and fish-balls, with a generous helping of hot sauce. As spring rolls in, Ichiko and Kikko sort out various greens, and make spaghetti with the extras. Grilling sea trout and mixing it in, Ichiko cooks a simple but tasty trout spaghetti for the two to enjoy. After watching Little Forest, I took a look at the original manga, and remark that the films are quite faithful to the source. Little Forest could have easily been adapted into an anime and still have carried its impact, but the choice to adapt it as a live-action film worked very well, especially with all of the closeups of the food that Ichiko cooks.

  • The question of why I chose Little Forest for a New Year’s Day post was primarily because the movie does deal with new beginnings and choices. I originally watched the first part back in October during the Thanksgiving long weekend, and then finished the second part after my trip to Salmon Arm a province over. This was the low point in my year, when I was working on a project that was seemingly going nowhere. The combination of a weekend off and watching Little Forest made me realise that I would need to actively shape my future to pull myself out of this nose-dive.

  • Two months of time spent reviewing data structures, design patterns and more details about the Swift language, resume updates and the sending out of cover letters later, a new opportunity had arisen right here in my home town, and I seized it. Like Ichiko, who struggles between leaving Komori to pursue her career and staying behind, I’ve become quite attached to Heart of the New West and was conflicted in moving elsewhere for work versus staying where I am. For now, this decisions been made, and I intend to put in my fullest and best efforts for my work.

  • Where Ichiko’s mother went remains a bit of a mystery, and in Little Forest, Ichiko does not make a greater effort to visit, suggesting that a distance does exist between the two. The letter appears to be her reason for going back to the city and giving things one final shot, but Ichiko winds up moving back to Komori permanently. Little Forest has Ichiko return to the city to show that now that she knows both perspectives, and has put in the effort to make life in the city work, she can return back home having said that this was a measured decision, rather than because she was running away.

  • With my first proper post of the new year nearly in the books, I look into the near future and consider what I will be writing; while a new job and the attendant new schedule means considerably less time (and resolve) to blog, this blog isn’t quite dead yet (sorry to those who were hoping otherwise!). I intend to wrap up my thoughts on Anima Yell! and also take a look at Battlefield V‘s Tides of War after a full month of experiences in it. Finally, January means that I will be returning to CLANNAD ~After Story~ and continue with my revisitation.

  • It is not my modus operandi to grade live-action films the same way I do for anime, but I can and will recommend this movie to anyone looking for something that is highly relaxing, part cooking show and part life lesson. I would also like to thank The Moyatorium for recommending Little Forest to me. She was watching this film on a flight and recounted her experiences of the film to me, piquing my interest. As it turns out, Little Forest was exactly what I needed to gain some perspective and regroup during a tougher spot this year.

Little Forest seems a well-picked movie to watch for motivating a start to the New Year; the movie was particularly enjoyable for me because at the time of watching, I was going through a rough spot. As tempting as it is to retreat to the countryside and live there, this is not feasible for me: agriculture is a dedicated profession with its own skill set and challenges. As such, my only option would have been to face my challenge head on and make the most of things. This effort to handle the problem was met with an opportunity, and so, I am glad to have taken this approach. Aside from themes surrounding life, of dealing with problems and making life decisions in a measured manner, Little Forest excels with its general presentation of cooking and food: the movie is simple to the point of excellence, succeeding in captivating viewers despite being little more than a cooking show with elements from everyday life interspersed throughout the film. It is definitely worth a watch, and for folks who may have been going through a rougher patch, this film is something to consider, providing a perspective on what it means to regroup, recover and get back up to face a challenge. It helps that Little Forest embodies catharsis: watching Ichiko cook is superbly relaxing, and the film does offer interesting insight into Japanese cooking well beyond things like sushiomurice and other foods more commonly presented in fiction.