The Infinite Zenith

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

Amanchu! Advance: Review and Reflection After Three

“When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened. To be in the moment is the miracle.” —Osho

Hikari encounters a boy by the name of Kokoro while helping out at Amanchu, and follows him into the ocean, where she finds him admiring a mother octopus protecting her eggs. When she returns the surface, she calls Futaba about an upcoming fireworks show; Futaba is visiting family, but returns on the same day that the fireworks show is scheduled for. On the evening of the fireworks Futaba, Hikari, Ai, Makoto and Mato head to the beach for the fireworks show, and while the area is crowded, filled with other viewers, Hikari reveals that as a result of being one of the volunteers for the event, she’s got a special spot for everyone. The fireworks show leaves the others in awe: Mato recalls a time when she was younger and was given a piggy-back ride so she could see the fireworks better. The next day, Hikari finds Kokoro by the seaside. He missed the fireworks while trying to search for the mother octopus, worried that the eel had killed it, but when Hikari dives down with Kokoro, they find a swarm of paralarva swimming about. During the summer camp, Futaba learns the basics of using a compass to navigate in low light conditions, and manages to apply Hikari’s teachings to return to the others during an exercise. Later, when Ai, Makoto and Mato go diving by night, leaving Hikari and Futaba behind, Futaba becomes worried that she’s holding Hikari back. She speaks with Mato the next morning, who tells Futaba that all of her achievements are real, and later, Futaba announces to Hikari that she’s going to work towards an advanced diving license. Slow, relaxing and beautifully-rendered, Amanchu! Advance continues in the same vein as its predecessors, continuing to entertain viewers three episodes in.

Now that Amanchu! Advance is a third of the way into its run, its differences from the first season become more visible. New characters are introduced, and conflicts (in this case, character-vs-self) begin arising. The approach that Amanchu! Advance has taken is consistent with the continuations of every slice-of-life series I’ve seen previously; I’ve long noted that first seasons tend to establish initial friendships first, to create a status quo that can subsequently see disruption during a continuation. The end result of this is the creation of very life-like, dynamic characters. In Amanchu!, audiences are now introduced to Kokoro, a boy of eleven who counts himself a man of the sea. A chance encounter with him allows Hikari to make a new memory that she was not expecting. It is shown that there are unexpected moments that can surprise even someone as open-minded and alert for adventure as Hikari, and another instance where Hikari can be very mature and capable, where the situation calls for it, is presented. Amanchu! Advance is showing different aspect of the character with the aim of illustrating their complexity. Similarly, in spite of all of the growth Futaba has seen since the beginning of Amanchu!, she occasionally still harbours doubt about herself: all of the memories she’s made since arriving were made with Hikari, and Futaba wonders if the magical moments the two have spent together is a dream. Mato’s words of wisdom eventually motivate Futaba to do something of her own accord, and so, Amanchu! Advance‘s narrative is headed in a direction where Futaba will strive to take the initiative and make her own path, all the while continuing to treasure the time that she spends with Hikari. In slice-of-life anime, character growth occurs at a very slow, natural pace to drive the thematic elements, and it is typically during a second season where the more unexpected and interesting interactions between characters can occur.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before we dive further into this Amanchu! Advance discussion, I remark that I’ve recently crossed the finish line for Violet Evergarden and so, will be dropping by to do a talk on that before the month is out. There was a surprisingly solid story, and I’m immensely glad to have watched the series. For now, we’ll return the party to Amanchu! Advance, where I’ll open up with Hikari putting up a poster for the local fireworks show.

  • While serving some customers, Hikari notices someone sitting on the rocks nearby, and intrigued, makes off to check them out. Located on the Izu Peninsula near the town of Itō, the events of Amanchu! have capitalised on the beautiful weather and quiet scenery in the region to create a highly laid-back atmosphere. While anime like AIR or Ano Natsu De Matteru often convey long summer days and the vastness of the skies as melancholy in nature, series whose focus is not drive by romance tend to give summers as a time of adventure.

  • Hikari’s decision to follow Kokoro down is met with the discovery of an octopus protecting her eggs in an enclosed space underneath some rocks. Time and time again, Amanchu! reiterates to viewers that wonderous things can be found anywhere if one knows where to look, and I find that there is value in solitude; being alone means being completely aware of and open to one’s surroundings. While with others, I tend to focus my attention on them: I recall a walk that I took yesterday. Because I walked it alone today, I noticed things that I normally miss when I’m walking there with a group.

  • Kokoro is initially reluctant to give up his name, and from what I’ve been hearing, was mistaken for a girl until recently. His bold spirits and declaration that he’s a “Man of the Sea” subtly hint that he is in fact a guy, and while we’ve only seen him appear on a few occasions thus far, series do not introduce characters without reason: viewers will be seeing Kokoro, and his sister, Kotori, with a greater frequency in the near future.

  • Futaba was once distrustful of secrets, but in the time that she’s known Hikari, she’s become more open-minded and eagerly awaits returning to town so she may see what surprise that Hikari has for her. The changes that Futaba see in her worldview form the core of Amanchu! Advance, and one of the things I’d like to see more of is how Futaba’s had an impact on Hikari. While this has been mentioned in conversation previously, it would be fantastic to see things from Hikari’s perspective, as well.

  • While diving down to check on the octopus, Hikari and Kokoro witness an attacking eel. Despite seemingly losing the skirmish, the octopus manages to seize the eel and propels it far from her eggs. There are many marvels (and some terrors) in the depths of the ocean, many of which remain poorly-characterised; the comparison of the ocean to another world in fiction is a reminder that the vast, unexplored places of our world hold many mysteries, giving its exploration a sense of romance.

  • Last Friday marked the start of Poutine Week in my city. I’ve been participating since 2016, and the premise is simple: every year, restaurants participate in Poutine week by making unique poutines. People then go to these restaurants to eat said poutine, and proceeds from poutines purchased go to MealShare, a charity that helps youth in need by providing meals. This year, I opened up Poutine Week with Brasserie Kensington’s All-American Breakfast poutine, which is made with cold-press canola oil fries, white sausage gravy and Alberta cheese curds, plus a fried egg, breaded veal cutlet and sausage that was a rich, smokey and garlicky flavour. This is one of the fanciest poutines I’ve enjoyed: I don’t think I’ve had veal before, much less in a poutine. The veal was tender, and the sausage was seasoned well, resulting in a very flavourful poutine. I subsequently took a walk along the river and enjoyed the first rainfall of the year.

  • I say “enjoy” because, even though it was quite chilly, being there to see the first rain of the year meant a true return of warmer weather that my area’s been lacking so far. When Mato shows up at the Amanchu Beach House, Hikari invites her to accompany them to the fireworks event. Mato notices that Hikari is chipper, even more than usual, and Hikari responds that she’s been chilling with Kokoro. At this point, Hikari is under the impression that Kokoro is a girl, and viewers continue to be under the impression that this is the case until later in the anime: the manga similarly introduces Kokoro in a manner that readers would think of him as a girl, only for the truth to come out later.

  • Once Futaba is back in town, she and Hikari meet up, with Hikari gushing over Futaba’s yukata. Hikari herself is wearing sunflowers, a mirror of her bright and cheerful presence. The moment was bloody hilarious, and I note that people with a yuri perspective are quite excited about what’s happening in Amanchu!. I hate to burst that bubble, but there’s actually not too much to discuss in this area, since friendships amongst females are rather more open and more expressive. Guys tend to be more boisterous with the jokes, but the dynamics are quite different, which is one reason why there might be occasions where some mistake ordinary friendship for romantic friendship.

  • With this being said, Hikari’s mention of dates and the like does seem to come across as being more romantic in nature, and when Futaba finds out, she cannot help but feel a little jealous that Hikari is able to befriend people so quickly. These feelings quickly dissipate as Futaba begins feeling that Hikari’s bright personality is her strongest suit, and so, she sets off with the others to find a suitable spot for viewing the fireworks. The venue is absolutely packed, and Mato and the others wonder if they’ll manage to find spaces before the show begins.

  • However, it turns out that Hikari’s got an ace in the hole: as a volunteer, she was given access to special seating that puts them directly underneath the fireworks, and when the show starts, Futaba, Hikari, Ai, Makoto and Mato are treated to a spectacular fireworks display. I’m particularly fond of fireworks, and every summer, there are a handful of shows around town. The most famous is Global Fest, where dedicated performances are held at Elliston Park every August. Other shows include the nightly performances for the Calgary Stampede and Canada Day fireworks: the best shows are always on Saturdays, I find, since it means that I get to sleep in the next day.

  • Of course, as it’s still a ways off until the summer, I will happily accept anime fireworks as the next best option to watching real fireworks. A testament to the solid animation in Amanchu! Advance, the fireworks show was stunning: the animation in Amanchu! is handled by JC Staff, who’ve previously worked on Flying WitchUrara MeirochoTora Dora! and Azumanga Daioh. A sign of a good anime is that it immerses viewers in the universe being depicted, and for Amanchu!, the adaptation has done a spectacular job of creating this immersion, if I am remarking that the fireworks are an acceptable substitution when no real fireworks are available.

  • Spoiler alert: because fireworks are essentially explosions, they distribute their metallic fuels in a near spherical pattern, so independently of where one views a fireworks display, one will always see the disk facing them. I have plans to write about the upcoming film Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?: unlike some folks, whose home countries screened the film, I live in a dead zone where only the biggest anime films are screened, and as such, will need to wait for a bit longer in order to check this film out for myself.

  • The next day, Hikari finds Kokoro trying to make his way back to the spot where the mother octopus was and tries to dissuade him, telling him that death is a natural part of life. Dealing with death is a very tricky topic, especially when communicating it to children, and a part of properly addressing things is to be honest. This was dealt with in Non Non Biyori Repeat, surprising some viewers; a good slice-of-life series explores the everyday, and while it’s a topic some might be uncomfortable with contemplating, death is very much a part of our reality.

  • While having missed the fireworks of the previous evening, Kokoro bears witness to a swarm of paralarva glistening in the ocean waters with Hikari: it’s a miraculous sight that indicates the mother octopus had ultimately fulfilled its duty and ensured the survival of her offspring. These paralarva will consume other small copepods, zooplankton and larvae as they mature into adult octopi. Octopi tend to have shorter life spans, with some living for only a half year, while longer-lived species can push five years.

  • Hikari’s constant encounters with the extraordinary are very much presented as a strength in Amanchu! – she’s seemingly always in the right place at the right time to enjoy the present. Kozue Amane’s work illustrates that she’s someone who believes that miracles can be found in both the small of moments and most momentous of events. I’ve previously stated that this is the reason why I am particularly fond of iyashikei anime: people who are very task-oriented and goal-driven often forget to stop and smell the roses, and anime such as these remind me of the merits of doing so.

  • A qualified pilot must be able fly a plane with only the instruments and no visual cues of what’s outside, and similarly, divers must train to ensure they are able to navigate in low-light conditions. Futaba is practising how to navigate using a compass and manages to succeed in her simulated run on dry land, perfectly moving in the direction she intends to. After passing her trial run, she moves into the water to put her learnings to the test.

  • Unsurprisingly, the techniques outlined in Amanchu! Advanced are correct: compasses designed for scuba diving have a lubber line (pair of red lines) clearly marked, and this is first set to be oriented with the target. The bezel is then adjusted so that 0º is oriented to the north. Once underwater, turning in a direction so that the compass’ north marking lines up with 0º indicates that one is facing their intended direction, and revolving the bezel 180º will allow one to travel back the way they came from.

  • There’s always a degree of challenge when doing something in the actual environment, as opposed to in a training environment, and when Futaba sets out to put her navigation learnings to use, she becomes unsure as to whether or not she’s done things correctly and considers throwing the towel in when she loses sight of Hikari. However, while alone in the ocean, several thoughts return to Futaba, and spurred on, she makes her way back to the others with the techniques that she’s picked up.

  • When she’s doubtful of whether or not she set her compass up correctly, Futaba recalls bits of advice from Hikari, from various landmarks and species of fish she’s seen, to the orientation of ripples in the sand as a result of waves propagating through the water. This scene was intended to illustrate that, even if Futaba and Hikari are separated, their presence will endure in one another’s hearts, and moreover, it appears to be a powerful enough motivator as to bring them back together, if Futaba’s exercise was meant to be a metaphor of thus.

  • Futaba thus completes her test successfully, and Hikari is thrilled to see Futaba returns on her own without any assistance. To illustrate the lightening mood, the ocean water become much brighter, with lighter shades of blue returning into frames that were previously dominated by black. I’ve noticed that elsewhere, discussions on Amanchu! Advance have been rather minimal despite the near-universal positive reception to the sequel. This phenomenon is primarily a consequence of the slow pacing of Amanchu!, which is even more languid than the likes of K-On! or Yuru Camp△.

  • As a result, some bloggers have found it challenging to write about this series, much less on an episodic basis. It would be quite vapid to simply react to things as they occur in the anime, and Amanchu! isn’t the sort of thing where “deconstruction” can be performed, considering how open and clear the themes are: the messages that Amanchu! strives to convey are the sum of the events in the series, with individual episodes being snapshots and an example of how events drive the theme.

  • In the aftermath of Futaba’s exercise, they freshen up and relax under beautiful summer skies. The question that remains is, if writing for something like Amanchu! Advance presents unique challenges, then will I be continuing with posts after six and nine episodes as planned? The answer to this is that I will continue: my big picture discussions allow me to take a look at how the progression of an anime align with the overarching themes (or more appropriately, what I’ve interpreted to be a suitable theme), while the “screenshots and commentary” give me some space to simply react to moments and have fun with my writing.

  • Returning the focus back to Amanchu! Advance, here, Ai manages to elicit a squeal out of Futaba that sounds strikingly similar to Finn’s screams from Adventure Time. Having completed the navigation tutorials, Futaba feels she’s one step further along in acquiring the skills that divers require, even if there is quite a bit for her to learn, and is feeling particularly happy about things.

  • Ai notes that things only really get exciting once one has an increased skillset: I am brought back to my experience in martial arts. I teach occasionally, and there are some students who occasionally wonder what the point of doing all of the basics are. The basics (e.g. stances, techniques, discipline) are essential before one can properly learn kata, and as such, we place a great deal of emphasis on ensuring that our basics are satisfactory. Even though I am a ni-dan now, I feel that my basics could definitely use improvement still, but I know enough so that I’m able to do the more advanced things, which, as Ai says, is where the fun begins.

  • Ai and Makoto highlight some of their new gear, including a high-intensity flashlight and glowsticks, that allow them to safely descend and view the ocean by nightfall. Back on the surface, Hikari mentions to Futaba that night diving has its own charms: the use of white light allows for wildlife and structures underwater to be viewed with a more natural colour, and Hikari expresses a want to eventually try this out.

  • Futaba feels that she’s holding Hikari back in some cases, and that her achievements feel a little unreal at times. Futaba ends up waking up early and gazing at the ocean; after Mato joins her, Futaba decides to share with Mato the doubts that she has. While Mato has been shown to be energetic and similar to her students at times, even participating in a game of red light, green light, back during the first season, she is also reliable, mature and helpful towards her students.

  • One minor detail in Amanchu! Advance is the presence of Aria and Ohime’s antics, which subtly occur in the background while the characters converse. These dynamics add life to a scene, and while Aria was noticeably absent in Amanchu!‘s first season, it’s quite pleasant to see Aria getting along with Ohime now. Their interactions bring to mind Maa and Aria’s interactions from ARIA: Maa is quite fond of Aria and expresses her affection for him in a manner that is quite painful. Here in Amanchu!, Ohime often is seen kicking Aria around even though she’s much smaller than he is.

  • Mato reminds Futaba that all of her memories and accomplishments are very much real: while Futaba’s more mature and open now than she was at the very beginning of Amanchu!, personal growth is a life-long journey, and she still occasionally stumbles. Fortunately, it is with her friends that she’s able to slowly, and surely, develop a stronger sense of confidence. While Futaba provides this monologue, she is shown diving with Hikari, and in this sequence, animation of the world underwater is superb. Details in the anemone and clownfish are remarkable, illustrating to viewers what Futaba and Hikari see.

  • Futaba declares that she will be going for her advanced diving certification, which gives Amanchu! Advance a clear focus as we continue into the season. As mentioned earlier, it would also be nice for Amanchu! Advance to focus on how Hikari has seen personal growth since meeting Futaba. This brings my Amanchu! Advance post to a conclusion, and looking ahead into the future, I’m surprised that April’s almost over. I will be working on a Violet Evergarden post, since the anime seems to be the hot topic, and on top of that, with the upcoming Fireworks movie, I also will see if I can write about that in a timely fashion. Battlefield 1 and The Division also have exciting things in store: the latter is getting new weapons and content, while the latter is running a Global Event starting tomorrow. With all of this stuff on the table, and having gotten some feedback surrounding my prospective Your Lie in April talks, I’ve decided not to write about Your Lie in April until I know I can do the series justice.

With its cathartic pacing and focus on the minor details, Amanchu! Advance has hit its stride, acting as this season’s go-to anime for relaxing after the work week. Continuing to remind audiences that there is great value in taking things slowly and making the most of every moment, Amanchu! is also considered to be a series that can be difficult to write for owing to the rate of progression: a few activities that Futaba, Hikari and the others partake in are rendered in great detail, with Futaba and Hikari’s monologues informing audiences precisely how they are feeling about things. Amanchu! is very direct as to what audiences should take away from the anime, and consequently, some have expressed that episodic reviews of Amanchu! Advance could be quite tricky. With this in mind, my approach, to return every few episodes to offer some thoughts as to where things are going, is quite suitable for series like Amanchu! — dropping in to see where the story and characters are headed while considering the messages from a big picture perspective offers just enough to write about without things becoming repetitive, and as a second season, Amanchu! Advance will certainly offer something distinct from its predecessor precisely because the series is now open to introducing new characters and exploring hitherto unexplored interactions between different subsets of characters. These have always added a new dimensionality to the characters and augment the enjoyability of a show, so I am greatly looking forwards to seeing how Amanchu! Advance‘s journey will unfold.

Comic Girls: Review and Reflection After Three

“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” —Bill Watterson

Kaoruko Moeta is a four-panel manga artist whose work is met with a cold reception. Her producer suggests that she lodges at Bunhousha Women’s Dormitory to hone her craft. When she arrives, she meets the shōjo artist Koyume Koizuka, who is her roommate, as well as Ruki Irokawa (an ecchi manga artist) and Tsubasa Katsuki (a shōnen manga artist). Settling into life at Bunhousha Women’s Dormitory, Kaoruko learns that Ruki was once an aspiring artist for children’s work, and later that evening, with a deadline looming for Tsubasa, Koyume and Kaoruko decide to help her out. Although Kaoruko begins caving under pressure, she’s inspired by Tsubasa’s kindness and determination, helping the others kick out the pages that Tsubasa needs to meet her deadline. Later, Kaoruko goes shopping for supplies with the others and learn of their passion for their work, before attending school for the first time, and although Kaoruko is nervous, she ends up in the same class as Tsubasa and Ruki. Later, Kaoruko learns that her general inexperience in life and weak drawing are what leads her manga to be counted as implausible and difficult to connect with. Her friends suggest a drawing contest, and when Kaoruko over-exerts herself and fails to eat, Ririka Hanazono, the dormitory’s manager, gets in touch with Kaoruko’s parents to learn of her preferences to make Kaoruko feel more at home. In spite of her best efforts, however, Kaoruko’s editor rejects her latest submission. This is where we stand three episodes into Comic Girls, this season’s Manga Time Kirara adaptation.

Feeling distinctly like a cross between New Game! and Slow Start, the similarity that Comic Girls shares with some of its predecessors are quite apparent. This is the consequence of my having seen so many similar anime previously, rather than any direct shortcomings on Comic Girls‘ part – beyond the superficial similarities, Comic Girls‘ utilises a different backdrop to motivate its characters and as such, is able to create unique interactions despite the characters’ familiar personalities and mannerisms. Comic Girls‘ focus is a group of manga artists and their struggles with content creation, deadlines and the like. From choosing art supplies to working out how to become inspired for manga, Comic Girls presents a world that I am completely unfamiliar with. However, while manga creation in reality has its subtleties, Comic Girls strikes a balance between technical details and depicting common, everyday occurrences that Karuko experiences. The emphasis on gentle humour means that even for folks lacking any formal experience in authoring manga, Comic Girls remains very approachable, providing viewers with consistent scenes of heart-melting humour. The tradeoff of this approach is that Comic Girls fulfills a very similar role to last season’s Slow Start. However, whereas I related to Slow Start because I did a gap year following the completion of my Bachelor’s degree, in between my decision to go for a Master’s programme, the intricacies of drawing comics and manga are lost on me. The most knowledge I have of the process comes from Bill Watterson, and even then, this is only general knowledge. Consequently, because Comic Girls inherits many of the same narrative elements as seen in other anime of its genre, this isn’t really a series I can confidently write about consistently.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Right out of the gates, Kaoruko brings to mind the likes of Slow Start‘s Hana Ichinose: one cannot help but pity the unfair, ironic situations she’s in. Comic Girls opens with her being shredded by critical reviews of her work. I’ve remarked elsewhere that derivative protagonists are often intentional: viewers are familiar with their traits out of the gates and so, have a grounded perspective on the unique worlds that they interact with. I note immediately that Comic Girls proved to be a bit more difficult to write for, and while there are certainly many adorable moments, there are fewer random remarks I could make, so this post will have twenty screenshots.

  • After arriving at Bunhousha Women’s Dormitory, Kaoruko meets fellow tenants Koyume, Tsubasa and Ruki. The manga presented the dormitory as having more residents and being of a slighty more modern design than what is seen in the anime, where the dormitory is of a rustic design. Moreover, it would appear that besides Koyume, Tsubasa and Ruki, there are no other residents in the anime incarnation.

  • Once Kaoruko and Koyume settle into life at Bunhousha (I wager that this is a deliberate choice, as “Bunhousha” is an anagram of “Houbunsha”, the publishing company that deals with the Manga Time Kirara line of magazines), things immediately take a turn for the wild side once Ruki’s role as an e-manga author is made known. She subsequently feels up Ruki and learns that Ruki isn’t as stacked as initially thought.

  • Later during the evening, while helping Tsubasa meet her deadline, Kaoruko makes a few mistakes, being unaccustomed to ink-and-paper. Understanding that Kaoruku is a novice with the medium, Tsubasa and Ruki reassure her, help her correct her mistakes and encourages her to push forwards. The first episode establishes that the characters are quite easily distinguished from one another, and while everyone has counterparts in other series (for instance, Ruki is a true level version of GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza), their manga genre specialisations keep them easy to tell apart from one another.

  • I’m no expert on the Japanese language, but I’ve been around the block long enough to pick out the patterns. Each of the girls’ family names carry a substring pertinent to their chosen genre. Kaoruko’s surname is Moeta, where moé (萌え) is referring to a sense of affection towards things that are adorable. Similarly, she enjoys doing four-panel manga depicting high school girls not unlike those that are serialised in Manga Time Kirara. Koyume’s surname is Koizuka. Koi (恋) is love in Japanese, mirroring the sort of love stories found in shoujo manga. Ruki’s family name is Irokawa, of which the substring “iro” is phonetically similar to ero, Japanese shorthand for erotic and which is also Ruki’s specialisation. Tsubasa’s family name is Katsuki: katsu (勝つ) is to win, and victory is very much a central topic of the shonen manga that Tsubasa writes.

  • Minute details such as these often make the anime a bit more fun to watch, similar to how a part of the joy of Yuru Camp△ was in hunting down Rin’s camping gear set and locating some of the spots that the girls camp in. Here, after a perilous train ride where Kaoruko nearly gets separated from the others, the girls stop to enjoy some crêpes, a commonly-depicted confectionery in anime that originates from France and is quite popular in Japan. Kaoruko is eating one for the first time and feels it’s too beautiful to eat.

  • After finishing their crêpes, Koyume, Ruki, Tsubasa and Kaoruko visit an art supplies shop to restock on provisions for manga. Koyume’s run short on funds after buying some of Tsubasa’s manga, and Tsubasa steps in to help pay for things. I couldn’t tell you the difference between all of the different brushes, inks, stencils and other tools required and what the significance of the differences are in manga: like every discipline, being a manga artists has its subtleties, and requires a considerable degree of skill to become proficient in.

  • Miharu Nijino is Kaoruko’s homeroom instuctor. Voiced by Ayaka Nanase (Sakura Quest‘s very own Yoshino Koharu), Miharu resembles Brave Witches‘ Takami Karibuchi but is otherwise very strict. Kaoruko’s defining characteristic is her shyness and quickness to tears when met with challenges. At school, she finds herself quickly overwhelmed by the number of students at school, when the begin asking her questions about her background. Being in the same class as Ruki and Tsubasa has its advantages, and they pull her from the situation, sharing a conversation with her on the school rooftops.

  • While I watch anime of Comic Girls‘ class with a nontrivial frequency, one topic that often depicted, and one that I never cover, is yuri – I count it as a topic that I cannot adequately discuss. A glance at the history suggests that use of the term to refer to romantic interactions amongst females stems from a magazine in the late seventies, although these female romances have been present in literature as early as the turn of the twentieth century, involving a shy individual developing interest in an older, more mature character. These elements are the forerunners of modern yuri works, and even in anime where they are not core to the narrative, can be quite visible.

  • While early yuri manga have academic value for drawing influence from earlier literature and influencing modern shows, yuri elements are now prevalent enough so that they become unremarkable. These dynamics do not seem to have much of an impact on the narrative overall in general: Slow Start is a fine example of where the yuri elements had minimal bearing on where Hana’s directions ended up going, and so, while perhaps amusing, I don’t really have much more to offer on yuri in my posts. Back in Comic Girls, like Ren of Anne Happy and to a lesser extent, Hinako from Hinako Note, Kaoruko has the power to draw small animals to her. She encounters a small kitten after class who is as shy as she is and struggles to pet it.

  • Like Eiko in Slow Start did for Hana and Hiroe, Koyume decides to help Kaoruko improve her style when discussion leads to a point where Kaoruko’s manga might be uninspired because of her fashion style, specifically, her lack thereof. It turns out that Kaoruko’s choice is motivated by personal reasons: she sticks with homemade clothing and has long hair to remind her that she’s grown. It’s rather touching, but comes at a cost, so Kaoruko’s friends decide to help her out and by means of a makeover, see how she looks in different hairstyles and outfits.

  • Kaoruko’s mannerisms are considered to be a bit unusual, even against the standards of the people within Comic Girls. It certainly sets her apart from even Anne and Hinako, and while some viewers count Kaoruko as a bit irritating, I don’t for the fact that her archetype and all of its variations are simply fictional portrayals of people. I’ve never encountered anyone like the characters seen in four panel manga in reality, and I would hope that this trend continues. In fact, I liken four-panel manga characters to watching small pets playing around.

  • Apparently, present discussion has developed a fixation on Kaoruko’s interest in collecting female figurines, and some have asserted that “[Kaoruko is] interested in girls. The thing is, we can’t refute either theory, and they can overlap”. There’s nothing quite like a bit of pseudo-intellectualism to get the neurons firing, and I immediately present the counterargument to refute this individual’s load of bollocks. Simply, there are many males who collect NHL or superhero figurines of Captain America, Batman, etc. If we accepted this individual’s logic, that one has attraction towards the sex of their figures, to be true, then the implications on the population as a whole would be quite interesting. This is naturally not the case – even if Kaoruko has yuri tendencies, her interest in kawaii figurines certainly is not an indicator of thus. The end result: “theory” busted, there are no purported overlaps, and that this conversation is over.

  • On a grey, rainy day reminiscent of the weather I encountered in Narita a little less than a year ago and the weather seen in Adventure Time‘s “The Hard Easy”, Kaoruko comes across Koyume and Ruki seemingly doing something quite intimate. Her subsequent embarrassment is strong enough for her to emit photons, giving her face a glow visible on this rainy day. However, as it turns out, Ruki is simply trying to get inspiration for her artwork; using a real-world figure makes it easier for her to conceptualise poses that are possible within the constraints of how humans can move.

  • When she tries to get Kaoruko to help out, Ruki finds that Kaoruko is quite unsuited for things. It is quite clear that Comic Girls will have the occasional moment for mammaries and pantsu, which adds to the humour somewhat. Koyume’s physique is described as being billowy – she is rather more defined than the others in some places, and while Ruki is envious, Koyume would rather have a more petite figure similar to Ruki’s. The consequence is a minor fight that Kaoruko is content to watch.

  • While Koyume has no problem interacting with Kaoruko or Ruki, the thought of Tsubasa seeing her in this state embarrasses her, and Ruki takes the moment to capture Koyume’s expression. It would seem that Tsubasa’s resemblance to a guy causes this embarrassment, which further complicates the way things roll in Comic Girls. While I could spend sleepless nights wringing my hands about how things work in a fictional world, this isn’t the best use of my time.

  • In the laundry room, Koyume, Kaoruko and Ruki run into Tsubasa, who is changing. They feel that her figure strikes the ideal balance between Koyume and Ruki’s, but Tsubasa hilariously desires a shredded physique. One element I’ve not mentioned about Comic Girls so far is that the anime cleverly makes use of manga panel elements to transition between scenes, really giving the sense that the anime adaptation has brought the manga to life with moving visuals and sound.

  • Kaoruko pushes forwards with her project to the point of exhaustion, spurred on by a desire to produce something worth reading. Ever since meeting Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa, Kaoruko’s definitely seen more, enough to motivate her to continue working on a manga that readers enjoy – this forms the basis for the page quote, from legendary comic artist Bill Watterson. The line is sourced from Calvin and Hobbes, and it certainly holds true in Comic Girls. Now that Kaoruko is interacting with peers, she expands her experiences, which will help her create more enjoyable works.

  • Kaoruko is not fond of vegetables and natto, struggling to eat. It is when her parents call Miharu and give her insight into what Kaoruko is fond of that she begins eating better. I understand her aversion to natto – it kicked my ass when I tried it in Japan last year, and I’m otherwise pretty open-minded about new experiences. Kaoruko’s dislike for tomatoes and broccoli, on the other hand, requires a bit of genetics to explain. The hTAS2R38 gene plays a role in governing how bitter we perceive foods to be, and folks with two copies of this allele will taste bitter agents more strongly, hence their dislike for vegetables, and interestingly enough, will also have an increased consumption of sweet foods.

  • If Kaoruko could produce a decent manga after three episodes, then Comic Girls would end right here, right now, and I would go on my merry way, watching other shows and returning to Battlefield 1. Of course, this isn’t the case, and her editor rejects Kaoruko’s latest work, showing that three episodes in, Kaoruko still has a ways to go yet. I won’t be writing about Comic Girls with the same frequency that I did for Slow Start – even with a mere twenty screenshots, I struggled to write for Comic Girls. I will, however, be returning at the end of the season to do a full-season reflection and see whether or not the anime succeeded in telling an engaging story. In the meantime, Shock Operations (single-map operations) and new weapons, including the Thompson Annihilator, will be introduced in June for Battlefield 1. May might see the inclusion of new weapon variants, including a suppressed Enfield rifle. On top of this, The Division‘s next global event, “Blackout”, begins on Monday, and this one looks fun – I might even complete my exotic weapons collection with the Urban MDR if luck is favourable.

Overall, I will continue to keep watching Comic Girls; after three episodes, the anime has proven to be quite enjoyable, especially for the situations that Kaoruko finds herself in. Like Hana from Slow Start, one cannot help but feel a degree of warmth whenever misfortune falls upon her. Similarly, it is quite entertaining to watch her newfound friends do their best to support her. This is likely what Comic Girls will deal with: Kaoruko does not get what high school girls might be like despite being one herself, so it is logical to imagine that Comic Girls will place her in a variety of ordinary situations and experiences that Japanese high school girls go through, and as she becomes closer to each of Ruki, Tsubasa and Koyume, create precious memories that will help her understand high school life to an extent that she can adequately create fiction about it. A skilful writer can write about most anything even without having experienced it personally, but sometimes, it is useful to draw from one’s experiences in order to write. This is one of the reasons why I was able to write my thesis and conference papers so quickly, and why gaming posts take me no effort to write (in turn, being the reason why there are gaming posts on this blog at all), and knowing how to approach writing, using familiar topics, in turn allow one to develop a process. For my blog, these are the anime posts, and for Kaoruko, as she learns to write her experiences more effectively, it is not inconceivable to see her begin exploring other genres and topics as she improves to produce more engaging, compelling manga as a result of her experiences.

An Introspection At A Million Views: Reaching A New Milestone

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” –Brian Clark

The Infinite Mirai is roughly six-and-a-half years old now, and it is at this point where I’ve crossed the million-view threshold. Seeing this number on the all-time views metric leads me to reflect on what this means: a million of anything can be either a lot or a little depending on one’s perspective. A million milliliters of water would weigh a million grams (a thousand kilograms). A computer display with the resolution 1280 by 800 would have 1024000 pixels, and a million one-dollar USD bills would weigh a thousand kilograms (USD bills weigh one gram). It would take 11.57 days to count to a million if one incremented once every second. This is where the Infinite Mirai currently stands, and this milestone is the culmination of the readers’ continued interest – it is no exaggeration to say that readers are the singular reason why the Infinite Mirai has a million views, and consequently, it makes sense to give my thanks to all of you for having helped this blog reach such a milestone. Taking a leaf from TheRadBrad’s page, you’re the best readers ever, so thank you – I know you’ll probably get sick of me saying it, but thank you for giving me the inspiration to watch and write about things for you guys. It means a great deal to me, and without you, this blog would probably not be what it is now. There’s quite a bit of road that was covered to reaching a million views, and this post represents a break in tradition from what I usually do.

  • Every time I did a milestone post, I said that I might quit. Six-and-a-half years in, I think that it’s safe to say that this blog is likely to stick around in its current incarnation, using the methods that I’ve found that work well enough for me. Over the past year, I find that I’ve been a lot closer to parts of the WordPress anime blogging community, and it’s been a fun experience to interact with other WordPress bloggers, all of whom have their own strong points, struggles and experiences with both life and anime.

Up until now, I have not particularly been keen on sharing my site metrics, nor have I given any suggestions and learnings I’ve accumulated to other bloggers. The reason for the former is simply because my traffic does not and should not impact what I do: while professionals bloggers need to be mindful of their visitor count for good reason, I blog as a hobby, and as such, it matters little if my posts reach ten people or ten thousand people. As for advice, I’ve long felt that in the population of casual bloggers, the number of ways to run an operation equals the number of members in that population. In other words, speak to ten bloggers and you’ll likely get eleven different approaches, all of which are functional. However, with this million views milestone, I’m breaking the tradition: first, all readers now know that a million pages have been viewed in some capacity, and basic arithmetic means that I get around 416 visitors a day. There are a total of 943 posts excluding this one, so each post averages 1060 views. Of course, these numbers are quite skewed – my earliest posts are not visible on search engines, and since I started my blog in October 2011, the years 2011 and 2012 are characterised by a very low visitor count, corresponding to my not using this blog to its full capacity until 2013. Looking through the archives will show just how different my style is now, compared to what it was when I first started. As an aside, I was secretly hoping that I would reach the thousand-post milestone close to when I reached a million page views, but as I’m still some sixty six posts out, that certainly won’t happen now. Having now dealt with the hard numbers about the Infinite Mirai, I move to the next topic which has hitherto not been covered here: any learnings that I’ve accrued over the past six-and-a-half years.

  • This is what things look like from my dashboard. Rudimentary statistics from my site are shown here, and I share a few interesting points: compared with the remainder of the community, my site has a much smaller number of followers, fewer comments and fewer likes. While I cannot say anything definitive about traffic for other blogs that I enjoy reading, the Infinite Mirai enjoys relatively consistent viewership coming from social media, Reddit and other platforms, as well as a high search engine visibility (try doing a search on Google for “Kantai Collection” and “Frostbite Engine”).

The list of things I’ve seen both professional bloggers and fellow anime bloggers present is a large one: suggestions have included tips for extending one’s presence and promotion, how to maintain consistency in one’s content, what sorts of topics to cover in anime reviews, and even how to pick a suitable layout for one’s blog. I’m going to say this openly: none of this matters unless one is writing for a professional blog, where search engine optimisation and inbound traffic corresponds with advertisement revenue, which keeps the lights on. For non-professional blogs, I have a very simple credos: be yourself. Traffic is not the end-all for us, and the joys of blogging are community building; it is a joy to be able to talk with other individuals sharing similar interests, and the close-knit nature of anime blogging in this age means that differing perspectives are eye-openers, instructive, rather than fuel for flame wars. With this in mind, one might then ask, if I’ve not followed any particular approach that both professional and casual bloggers advocate, then why is the Infinite Mirai as visible as it is? After all, searches for certain keywords will find the Infinite Mirai at or near the top of Google searches. Some folks have even remarked that my blog appears almost everywhere in searches related to slice-of-life and military-moé. The answer to this is that I’ve been unknowingly doing a form of search engine optimisation: I take a very unusual approach to my anime and gaming discussions, comparing things that seemingly cannot (or should not) be compared (e.g. comparing Les Stroud’s survival tips with what is seen in Yuru Camp△). I also dabble in conversion of Japanese information into English articles, write about games and reference various shows that I watch, and in general, approach things differently enough so that search engines can find the content, and that people end up finding what they sought when encountering my content. This is how I roll, but it wasn’t how I always rolled: it takes time for bloggers to find their structure and workflow, so when I say “be yourself”, I refer to finding a workflow that one should enjoy using, and then applying their own take on things. This is what keeps blogging enjoyable for me, and the reason why I’ve stuck around for a non-trivial period of time.

  • So, on a quiet April evening, where the winter weather has finally given way to the warmth of spring, I pass a milestone that, like my all-exotic loadout from The Division, I never really expected to reach. From what I’ve heard, this blog’s contents have been somewhat useful and mostly enjoyable for readers, so I’m very happy to have been able to positively impact a number of individuals out there. It is my belief that positivity is a choice, and in a world where negativity can be overwhelming, I aim to bring a piece of happiness into whatever it is that I do. Blogging is no different, and as such, I find that the best way to enjoy entertainment is to be open-minded; while some folks prefer the challenge of assessing what they don’t like, for me, life is too short to be doing this unless one is doing so in a professional capacity, so I stick with reflecting on what I like. Having said this, what would you, the readers, like to see from me in the future?

The lingering question for readers then becomes what will the future have in store for the Infinite Mirai. I’m not sure whether or not the Infinite Mirai will be around long enough to hit the two or ten million view mark, and on that note, I’m similarly uncertain as to whether or not I will reach the two or five thousand post mark. With that being said, there are some things that are a bit more certain. This blog has proven to be unexpectedly resilient, and I’ve said this previously – I will keep the party going here until there’s a suitable endpoint for this blog. In the meantime, readers can expect more of the same from me: unusual, unorthodox and unconventional approaches to talking about anime. I will continue approaching shows from a high level and exploring who a given show is for, as well as what aspects about people the show is trying to present. I will continue referencing the obscure or unusual, and I will continue to have a good ol’e time with those who participate in discussions. As for fellow bloggers who have begun their journey, I will note that the million views milestone is merely a part of the journey, and would encourage them to stick around; by the time one’s blog reaches a million views, they will have encountered a host of interesting individuals and ideas, and have created content that’s likely helped someone, somewhere with their own endeavours. In the meantime, I would like to thank all of the visitors and fellow bloggers alike for having done so much to inspire and motivate me to continue writing, to the point where a milestone I once thought unreachable is now something that is very much a reality. ありがとう!

Valkyria Chronicles: Exploring the Enter the Edy Detachment and Behind Her Blue Flame Campaigns

“Hear me, loyal son of The Empire! Shore up your defenses and ready for their attack!” –Selvaria Bles

In Enter the Edy Detachment, Edy Nelson and her squad are separated from Welkin’s group. While moving their way back, they come across a village held by Imperial force. Lacking armour and more firepower, Edy decides to have her group hold the Imperials off long enough for the villagers to evacuate, and after learning that Rosie needs assistance, Edy moves towards helping her out. Edy’s mission is short, simple and provides a bit of fun for players. Selvaria’s Behind Her Blue Flame campaign, on the other hand, follows her operations with Imperial engineer Johann Oswald Eisen, a timid soldier whose experiences lead him to become more capable. Here, Imperial forces make to capture the Ghirlandaio Citadel from Gallia. Because Selvaria is adverse to Ragnite weapons, Johann works with her to advance, allowing them to take Ghirlandaio. General Damon is shocked and orders the use of chemical weapons, which disable Selvaria. Johann comes to her aid, and fully recovered, Selvaria again lends her considerable skills in combat towards an Imperial victory, driving off the Gallian forces and General Damon to secure Ghirlandaio Citadel. In the aftermath, Selvaria shares a meal with Johann as thanks, and Johann decides to become a scout, inspired by his time fighting under Selvaria’s command. The full-fledged campaign in Behind Her Blue Flame will award players with the Ruhm, Selvaria’s personal weapon, and the tenacious can also unlock an additional level, in which they can play as the Imperial Alliance’s most lethal soldier with her Valkyrur powers unlocked.

Enter the Edy Detachment offers very little by way of story, save a bit of humour, but Behind Her Blue Flame is quite the opposite, providing players with a profound experience from the Imperial Alliance’s perspective. Having long played for Gallia, it was very refreshing to play Valkyria Chronicles as the Imperials. The nameless soldiers that Squad Seven had slaughtered wholesale during Valkyria Chronicles‘ campaign are given human attributes and backgrounds – they are no longer nameless and inhumane. Valkyria Chronicles presented Maximillian as a despot bent on conquering Europa without a concern for his subordinates, but Behind Her Blue Flame illustrates that Selvaria, despite her Valkyrur origins and utmost devotion to Maximillian, is as human as anyone else, caring about those under her command and constantly striving to accomplish whatever goals are assigned to her. In her downtime, she cooks and maintains her appearance, and is not immune to moments of embarrassment, either. Similarly, while players have long seen Gallian forces as the protagonist, watching General Damon’s incompetence and reliance on WMD show that Gallia’s military also has immoral elements. Consequently, it was superbly entertaining to destroy his tank and watch as he loses composure while Selvaria and Johann best him. The Behind Her Blue Flame missions excel at presenting Imperial soldiers as people and that wars are ultimately fought by human beings: in providing players a chance to see things from the antagonist’s perspective, things in Valkyria Chronicles no longer seem so black and white.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There’s a fun aspect about Edy’s character, and I personally found her to resemble Kantai Collection‘s Zuikaku in appearance and manner; both share the tsundere personality. Edy’s mission is a simple one: hold off Imperial Forces and then reach the marked point before one exceeds a certain number of turns. This mission, however, proved much more difficult than the campaign missions in that orders are not available.

  • Before we continue further, I remark that I played through the Edy Detachment campaign back during January of 2017 – I am very bad when it comes to recreation, so it takes me forever to finish something. With this being said, once I start something, I will finish quite quickly. The Edy campaign (not to be confused with her challenge missions) is a short one that offers no unlocks, but offers players a chance to see how the show is run when Welkin and Alicia are not around.

  • I ended up beating this mission with a B rank: not particularly impressive, but I note that at that time, I had not played Valkyria Chronicles for upwards of six months. The reason why I did not have a separate post for Edy’s mission was because it was comparatively short, and so, there was not enough content for me to do a separate talk on things. As such, I decided to merge the post together with Selvaria’s missions.

  • Selvaria’s missions, unlike Edy’s, features exceptionally strong writing and solid character development despite its short runtime. Players will have access to Selvaria, a veritable one-woman army, and several Imperial units to command. The gameplay is identical, although as one of my readers mentioned in a comment I can’t quite find, the Imperial soldiers are not particularly durable and should be used with caution. By comparison, Selvaria is a beast: Ruhm is Valkyria Chronicles‘ equivalent to Halo‘s pistol, a weapon so infamous that it has been more or less immortalised in gaming history as one of the greatest overpowered weapons of all time.

  • I loved Johann’s story – a timid soldier, his time with Selvaria transforms him into a determined soldier devoted to his duty, and he also changes roles from the support-oriented engineer to a scout. Most of my strategy in Selvaria’s missions were to move Selvaria forward, and then move Johann up to provide support for her. I was therefore able to finish the first mission on short order, and decided to not go for Damon’s tank on the far corner of the map.

  • Even without demolitions boost, the Ruhm is powerful enough to ruin the Gallian tanks in one action. Gallian light armour is actually quite powerful against the light tank players are given, being able to take out most of my health in one shot, and as a result, I’ve had a few attempts that saw me lose my tank. Selvaria might not have demolitions boost, but her orders to increase defense are immensely powerful and allow the otherwise fragile Imperials to survive interception fire more easily.

  • Besides providing a solid bit of background for Selvaria, the fact that she’s not fond of Ragnite-based weapons means that she’s also unable to wield grenades and break down the barricades blocking her path. This forces players to use Johann to support her: as an engineer, he has access to three grenades per turn, which are utilised to clear barriers. The result is a very unique dynamic between Selvaria and Johann: as powerful as Selvaria is, she simply can’t clear the barriers on her own and is entirely dependent on Johann to help her. Other soldiers, though capable of carrying grenades, do not carry nearly as many.

  • The DLC missions show that the Gallian army is not above using WMDs to accomplish their aim: while Valkyria Chronicles presents the Imperials as soulless invaders, the DLC illustrate that the host of soldiers Squad Seven wade through are also people, with families and dreams of their own. It was therefore a bit unexpected to see Damon deploy Ragnite Gas, a nerve agent, against Imperial Forces. This leaves Selvaria immobilised, and so, on the second mission, the goal is to get Johann to her: he’s carrying an antivenin to Ragnite gas.

  • Because I did not destroy Damon’s tank on my first run, I ended up with “Rout of the Gallian Forces”, where the central gate is closed. The left flank on the map is weakly defended, and after I captured one of the bases to prevent Gallian forces from storming in, I managed to reach Selvaria in two turns. Fortunately, by eliminating nearby hostiles, Gallian forces were not able to capture her, and once I had Selvaria back in commission, it was a simple matter of boosting her defense with an order and sprinting to the end of the map to capture the base.

  • While the other Imperial units besides Selvaria are very weak defensively, their offense is acceptable, and they should not be ignored: they can be used to capture bases, eliminate hostiles and provide additional command points to make the missions easier. Beating any two of Selvaria’s missions will unlock the Ruhm for use in the full game, and this weapon, like the Federov Avtomat, is a game-changer, turning any shocktrooper into an assault rifle-wielding beast. Specialising in close quarters engagements, shocktroopers usually wield submachine guns, fast-firing automatic weapons that fire 9 mm pistol cartridges. Because the Ruhm is chambered for the 7.62 mm round and is characterised as a versatile, infantry-portable weapon, it handles more similarly to an assault rifle.

  • Against all but the most distant of foes, and foes behind cover, the Ruhm is able to dispose of enemies with ease. After completing Behind Her Blue Flame once with any score, on either of the two possible second missions, will unlock the Ruhm for use in the campaign, but there’s a reason why I went through things again. On my first run, I was not particularly focused on destroying Damon’s tank, since I simply needed to get the second mission done.

  • While guides maintain it’s a bit tricky to get Damon’s tank in three turns, Selvaria and Johann can be moved quite far. The trick to eliminating Damon’s tank is to know where it is located, and once found, it’s a matter of clearing all Gallian forces out and pulling one’s lancers back to keep them alive for the next turn, redeploying them at a capture point closer to Damon’s tank. Eliminating Gallian units also reduces their number of command points, so once their turn ends, and the player’s lancers spawn in, it’s a simple matter of running around the corner and smashing Damon’s tank with a single shot to the thermal exhaust port radiator.

  • Once Damon’s tank is destroyed, he will pull back, and it’s a quick finish as Selvaria and Johann push forwards to capture the required objective. Taking out Damon’s tank causes him to retreat and order a strike on Ghirlandaio: this has a tangible effect on how the second mission turns out, and in my opinion, this actually results in an easier second mission: the main gate is opened, and while Damon will use artillery to try set off ammunition stored at the facility, this won’t occur early on in the mission.

  • The first action is to move the Imperial tank up, and subsequently eliminate the Gatling guns. Keeping the tank up here at close range also allows for Musaad the Mole to be eliminated by Gallian interception fire alone. I’m not sure if this is a bug or feature, but it does allow players to take out a Gallian elite unit without much difficulty. Some patience will be required, since the interception fire won’t deal a high amount of damage, but it’s worth the wait.

  • Pushing through the remainder of the mission is very straightforwards once the tank is moved ahead: after Johann reaches Selvaria, it’s game over for the Gallian forces. As such, I will now go on a tangent and consider Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match, which prima facie has a very similar set of mechanics to Valkyria Chronicles. Unfortunately, despite having a full English version, it’s only for the Playstation 4, and as such, is something that I won’t be able to experience unless I drop some coin for a console.

  • This is a bloody shame, and as far as I’m concerned, a terrible business decision: locking out a PC version isn’t going to convince PC gamers to cough up for a Playstation 4 and reduces sales overall. I have long been waiting for a chance to apply my own brand of strats to schooling the Nishizumi Style, and to be denied this is somewhat disappointing. Of course, if a PC version ever does become available (likely, after Half-Life 3 is released), I would not hesitate to buy Dream Tank Match at full price, if only so I could take proponents of the Nishizumi Style to school.

  • There are other games to be enjoyed in the meantime, so I won’t worry too much about the fact that I probably will not be playing Dream Tank Match without a Playstation 4 for the present, and return to Valkyria Chronicles, where I’ve been given access to Selvaria’s Valkyrur powers, having beaten all of the other missions with A-ranks. As a Valkyrur, Selvaria has access to the incredible powers afforded by a Valkyrur lance. In addition to a Gatling beam mode, which she made use of during the Barious mission, Selvaria’s lance also has a single-shot beam that can eliminate anything.

  • The beam weapon is capable of of melting multiple tanks in a single shot, putting it on par with Halo 3‘s Spartan Laser: with this much firepower, and the object of the final mission being simply to eliminate all Gallian forces, Selvaria’s final mission is remarkably straightforwards and perhaps the very best definition of what proper fanservice is, being something that appeals to the viewer in some way. While Selvaria’s assets might just be why she’s so favourably viewed, I personally enjoyed her story and in-game performance to a much greater extent. I’m glad that Selvaria was not implemented with deformable object physics. Beyond being a visual distraction, ill-implemented approaches can also be resource intensive.

  • It’s been a shade less than three years since I write about Valkyria Chronicles for the first time : back then, I had just finished setting up an upgraded computer ahead of my work with the Unreal Engine and spent the afternoon eating a fried chicken poutine while talking about a seminar I’d attended with my supervisor. Presently, I’ve enjoying a quiet evening following a dinner with an extra-crispy, spicy fried chicken, and it’s the middle of tax season. Some things have changed in the three years that’ve passed, such as my volunteering as a judge for a local city-wide science fair, and others have remained the same.

  • So, about a year and a third after I began the DLC, I’ve finished the campaign segments of Valkyria Chronicles, and I might return to the main game to beat it a second time as time allows. Of course, seasoned readers will know by now that whether or not this will happen is entirely up in the air, to be determined as time allows. With this being said, however, there are some things that are not so uncertain; I will be writing about Comic Girls and Amanchu! Advance after their respective third episodes have aired, and I have tenative plans to review Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? (Uchiage Hanabi, Shita Kara Miru ka? Yoko Kara Miru ka?) once its home release is available.

Having completed the campaign-driven DLC missions of Valkyria Chronicles and unlocked the Ruhm, I’m now back into Valkyria Chronicles‘ new game mode, which allows me to replay old missions and make use of all of my unlocks. It’s been nearly a decade since Valkyria Chronicles first released in Japan for the Playstation 3, and despite its age, Valkyria Chronicles has aged very gracefully. The pencil sketch-like visuals, made possible by the CANVAS Engine, gives the game a timeless feel, as does the setting, and as such, even against modern giants like Battlefield 1 and Far Cry 5, Valkyria Chronicles continues to look and feel amazing. While the gameplay has become a bit dated (movement and aiming is a little unwieldy), the mechanics largely feel smooth and responsive. My story with Valkyria Chronicles began with watching the anime some years ago: after Girls und Panzer ended, I was looking for an anime that provided similar armoured combat, and Valkyria Chronicles was one series that seemed to fit the bill. I left the anime largely impressed and picked the game up for PC once it became available, and since then, Valkyria Chronicles has become one of my favourite games of all time for its superb narrative, world-building and gameplay, representing the a game that has found the perfect balance between Only In Battlefield™ moments and story. The DLCs further bolster the game’s enjoyment factor, breathing additional life into a well-written world, and my procrastination abilities notwithstanding, I’m glad to have taken the time to take a look at Valkyria Chronicles‘ campaign DLC missions.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Eromanga Sensei and A Simplified Journey of Discovering Happiness Anew

“Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been.” —Alan Alda

Written by Tsukasa Fushimi of OreImo notoriety, Eromanga Sensei has nothing to do with the Eromanga Basin or Eromanga in Queensland, Australia. Rather than referring to a windy plain, Eromanga Sensei follows high school student Masamune Izumi, a light novel writer whose publications are illustrated by one Eromanga Sensei. When Masamune discovers that his younger sister, Sagiri, is Eromanga Sensei, he attempts to get her to open up to the world after she became a recluse. In the process, he meets fellow light novel authors Emily Granger (better known as Elf Yamada) and Hana Umezono (referred to by her pen name, Muramasa Senju), both of which are highly successful authors who also develop feelings for Masamune. Because of its origins, Eromanga Sensei is prima facie a front for the sort of relationship story that characterised OreImo; during the course of its run, it retains a tried-and-true approach in its narrative, but as the series progressed, watching the dynamics between all of the characters made it clear that Eromanga Sensei is rather lower-key, more restrained than OreImo. Masamune himself proved to be more likeable than his counterparts in OreImo and SaeKano, primarily because his motivations for writing, however tacky they might be, touches on a rather more interesting topic that is worth discussion. Had Eromanga Sensei done away with Fushimi’s signature approach, this particular theme would’ve resulted in a story that is far more moving and meaningful than Eromanga Sensei provides – this is not to say that Eromanga Sensei was completely unenjoyable, but I would have liked to see this particular topic explored in greater detail, since Eromanga Sensei does end up being a story of recovery and rediscovery at its core.

After his mother’s death, Masamune fell into a depression. When he picked up writing, he found himself finding happiness in being able to craft worlds for others. The joy associated with making other readers smile formed a powerful motivation for him to continue, inspiring Sagiri to become more proficient in her drawing. With a nontrivial prevalence in the world, depression is a major mental health issue – an estimated 350 million people have depression, and contemporary awareness programs have aimed to push non-clinical approaches as means of helping people recover. Social support and rediscovery are amongst two of the solutions recommended; Eromanga Sensei presents a success story in Masamune’s case. Inspired by Sagiri’s enjoyment of his work, Masamune writes to continue making his readers happy, and in doing so, he was able to accept his mother’s passing. After Sagiri joins the Izumi family, her mother dies of an unknown cause, sending her into a depression that sees her withdrawing from the world. When Masamune realises Sagiri finds happiness in drawing, his own experiences lead him to try and help Sagiri recover and open up. This takes the form of a light novel project that ends up being quite successful, and by Eromanga Sensei‘s end, Sagiri begins to show signs of improvement. Eromanga Sensei thus illustrates that social support and the rediscovery of doing something that one loves can have a positive impact on those suffering from depression – this is naturally more complex in reality, and Eromanga Sensei is only a superficial abstraction of what recovery could look like.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Why I watched OreImo some years ago eludes me, and if I had to hazard a guess, I would suppose that I was curious to see what all of the commotion about the series was. I provided no definitive verdict on whether I would recommend the series. If I go off of my recollections alone, I would count it as a neutral series, just like Eromanga Sensei, in that it is entertaining enough, but offers no satisfactory outcome for viewers. In Eromanga Sensei, my favourite characters are, curiously enough, none of the leads: Tomoe Takasago is one of them.

  • At the start of Eromanga Sensei, Sagiri is withdrawn, shy and unable to hold a conversation face-to-face, resorting to alternate means of communication in order to speak with Masamune. It is when Masamune notices how joyful Sagiri is while drawing that he makes a serious effort to try and get her to open up to those around her, and slowly but surely, a change is observed as Eromanga Sensei progresses.

  • Without its other characters, Eromanga Sensei would not have enough content for twelve episodes, and so, the likes of Emily “Elf Yamada” Granger grace the show. The classical ojou-sama, Emily is a fellow light novel writer and is quite well-known. She clashes frequently with Masamune, but as they spend more time working on novels, Emily begins to develop feelings for Masamune.

  • One of Sagiri’s classmates, Megumi Jinno, brings her entire class out to the Izumi residence with the aim of bringing Sagiri back to school, but Masamune drives them off. A former model, Megumi’s a bit mischievous and enjoys messing with Masamune; it turns out that she’s big on being with others and creating a joyous atmosphere, and so, while she feigns interest in Masamune, her main goal is to bring Sagiri back to school.

  • Quiet, bashful and somewhat resembling GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu in nature, save a perverse interest in drawing cartoonised female anatomy and a tendency to beat Masamune with very specific objects, Sagiri is much more likeable as a character against the likes of Kirino Kousaka. To Sagiri, Masamune is the reliable older sibling who tirelessly looks after her, over time, longing to help her face the world once again. His determination to help her is what drives his motivation to write light novels, and while he expresses a romantic interest in Sagiri, he constantly strives to be a supportive older sibling first and foremost.

  • In order to help her know Sagiri better, Masamune suggests to Megumi that she read some light novels and better understand the sort of world that Sagiri illustrates. When arriving at the bookstore that Tomoe works at, Megumi inadverdently offends Tomoe, calling them “creepy otaku novels” and seeks revenge by giving her recommendations for series that are still in progress. By my admission, I am not big on light novels – their English counterparts, even when given professional translations, sometimes lose something in the process, and as a result, I feel as though I’m missing something.

  • While Megumi is not one of the female leads, I rather liked her inclusion in Eromanga Sensei. She’s present to support Sagiri, and also has a few interesting moments in the anime. Her reasons for wanting to befriend Sagiri are not shown in the anime, but one assumes that she’s going for a perfect run – having befriended everyone she’s run into, it seems that Megumi considers it a personal challenge to try and become familiar with everyone in her year. As such, she views Sagiri as a particularly worthwhile bit of conquest, hence her trying to understand Sagiri’s worldview better. The end result is that Tomoe gets her revenge: after finishing the novels, Megumi is left wanting more.

  • Sagiri agrees to meet with Megumi to use her as a model, in exchange for lending her some light novels, and in the events following, Sagiri pulls down Megumi’s pantsu. To show the moment would likely cause my blog to be de-indexed, so I’m not going to do that. Readers then pose the question: if I do not like light novels, then what do I read? I am big on J.R.R. Tolkein and Tom Clancy for fiction, and have since continued reading Mark Greany’s continuation of the Jack Ryan Jr. universe. Outside of fiction, I read books that deal with evolution, cosmology and the like – while I’m not a technical expert on those things, I do like exploring topics that are outside of my speciality.

  • Masamune runs into difficulty securing a publisher for his project with Sagiri, despite having worked tirelessly to complete the manuscript. Emily decides to help him out, and goes on a “date” with him that frustrates Sagiri. From an external perspective, Emily seems to be the best match for Masamune to a much greater extent than Sagiri.

  • Masamune learns that there will be a competition held, in which the winning entry will be published. This addresses the challenge that Masamune is facing, but when it turns out that his competition is none other than one Hana Umezono, a veritable juggernaut whose got more sales than Emily and Masamune combined. She vows to crush him in competition, but later loses on the basis that she was over the word count. Writing concisely was somewhat of a challenge for me during my time as a student, and I still recall struggling to get an eight page paper down to four pages for my first-ever conference publication.

  • As it turns out, Hana became a light novel writer, emulating Masamune’s style because she was greatly moved by one of his works and became disappointed that his genres changed. She thus hoped to destroy him in competition so that he might give up his own path and help her write novels she enjoyed, citing the rush of inspiring readers as the reason why she took to writing. However, Masamune is resolute on bringing happiness into Sagiri’s life and so, remains steadfast in his own goals.

  • I’ve chosen to refer to everyone by their real names rather than pen names for two reasons: the first is that this is simply how I do things, and second, “Masamune” and “Muramasa” are very similar that it took me a few episodes to get used to things.

  • In the aftermath of the competition, the authors celebrate together before setting out to watch the fireworks, leaving Masamune to watch the fireworks with Sagiri. The conflict in Eromanga Sensei is rudimentary at best and lacks the same divisiveness that OreImo brought to the table, and as a result, reception to Eromanga Sensei around the English-speaking community is mixed. More favourable reviews found the series a modestly engaging one, although not without its flaws, while folks who did not enjoy the series cite it as being predictable and a rehash of OreImo. In a rare case, I agree with both camps.

  • On the whole, I did not find watching Eromanga Sensei to be a complete waste of time, partially because we get to see moments such as an embarrassed Hana in a swimsuit ill-suited for swimming and primarily because of the fact that Eromanga Sensei could’ve explored a completely new direction beyond the tired imouto setup. I did not watch this anime when it aired owing to a lack of interest, and it was a Battlefield 1 emblem that led me to wonder what this anime was like.

  • Emily’s confession to Masamune was an enjoyable one to watch: it speaks volumes to what she thinks of him when she brings him to the same spot where her father proposed to her mother. One of Fushimi’s most prominent approaches within his narratives is to drive things in such a way so that all of the central female leads develop feelings for the male lead, but the male lead only has eyes for the imouto archetype. This approach means that folks who would see Masamune ending up with anyone else will be disappointed. I’ve heard that some folks from Japan were sufficiently dissatisfied about OreImo‘s outcomes that they issued threats to Fushimi subsequently paid a high price for their overreaction.

  • If I did not enjoy Eromanga Sensei to the same extent as I did for shows I do enjoy, one wonders, what kept me continuing even when my ordinary modus operandi is to not write about shows I don’t like? The answer lies in the thematic elements that I managed to distill from my watch of the show, which is the point of the Terrible Anime Challenges – if I can find even a semblance of a coherent theme in a show that prima facie has little purpose, then I will write about it. Anne Happy was something that tried to tell a story and only succeeded partially, while Sansha San’yō ended up being quite enjoyable. Terrible Anime Challenge posts thus can end with one of three conclusions:
    1. The show exceeded my expectations and had a theme worth telling, or
    2. The show failed to distinguish itself and be worthwhile, but also had a theme that was at least serviceable, or
    3. The show was not enjoyable and did not attempt to have a coherent message

  • Eromanga Sensei joins the likes of Anne Happy in being in the second group. For my next Terrible Anime Challenge, I’ve got Bakuon!! lined up. As well, I will also go through Hanayamata and Stella no Mahou: all of these are shows that I watched one episode of, lost interest and did not continue watching with their respective series’ progression. The Terrible Anime Challenge series has given me incentive to go back and revisit these anime, and one of the more fun aspects about Terrible Anime Challenge is that I can take a look at other opinions out there for a given show, see how closely they align with mine and then, if they do not, I may proceed to shred them purely for entertainment value.

  • OreImo‘s Kyousuke, Kirino, Ruri and Saori make an appearance towards the end of Eromanga Sensei after Masamune’s novel comes out. This was a particularly fun moment, to watch the OreImo crew return to this blog after nearly five years – my old OreImo posts are somewhat maligned by folks who felt my stance on the conclusion was unwarranted. I was enjoying things throughout OreImo‘s first season and second season until the true end aired, after which things became a little difficult to accept. A few readers thought this was an “immature” response and proceeded to spam my comments section with long-winded arguments about my various and numerous shortcomings as a person, et cetera.

  • For its shortcomings, Eromanga Sensei is technically passable with respect to animation and sound quality. There’s a context behind this screenshot that will take a bit of explanation to reach, so I’ll leave readers to enjoy another moment of Hana in an interesting situation while I recount what happened to those errant commenters. I ended up wiping their comments, since they were contributing little to the discussion. I usually leave comments up regardless of whether or not they disagree with me, and there’ve only been one other instance where I deleted a comment for ad hominem attacks.

  • The final episode involves Sagiri’s attempts to draw real Eromanga (sorry, folks of Eromanga, Queensland!), and ends up with Sagiri totally botching male anatomy, leading her and Emily to try and use Masamune as a model to learn what a gizmo looks like in reality. This brings my third Terrible Anime Challenge post to a close, and regular programming resumes soon: I will be looking at both Amanchu! Advance and Comic Girls after three episodes have passed. As well, for readers who’ve played Valkyria Chronicies, I’ve also got a talk on my experiences with the campaign-driven DLCs, now that I’ve gotten off my rear and finally went through them.

Overall, because Eromanga Sensei attempted to take a different approach than did OreImo while retaining some familiar elements, opportunity to explore its themes of recovery further is eschewed in favour of more conventional jokes, self-referential humour pertaining to the light novel industry and free anatomy lessons. These elements are to be expected: from the glass-half-full perspective, we can say that Eromanga Sensei provides a story that is a bit more meaningful than that of OreImo‘s – there’s a reason that Masamune enjoys writing and why he directs considerable effort towards helping Sagiri open up once more. Beyond this, I am largely neutral about Eromanga Sensei – folks who are looking for something more meaningful in their anime beyond what Eromanga Sensei intrinsically offers would do better to look elsewhere, and those who are looking for something similar to OreImo might find Eromanga Sensei worthwhile. In fact, I might go so far as to consider Eromanga Sensei and OreImo to be the difference between Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in that both are separated only by minute differences, with one having a slightly stronger theme than the other. While it does step in a different direction and features a protagonist whose existence does not irritate audiences, Eromanga Sensei continues to inherit the same traits as its predecessors. Beyond this, Eromanga Sensei offers little that make it particularly standout. Having said this, one thing is certain, though: folks who enjoyed the show will have enjoyed for their own reasons, and this is perfectly okay.