The Infinite Zenith

When they say to bring your A game, bring your A+ game

Garakowa: Restore the World Review and Reflection

“A lot of movies about artificial intelligence envision that AI’s will be very intelligent but missing some key emotional qualities of humans and therefore turn out to be very dangerous.” —Ray Kurzweil

Individuals wondering what AVG, McAfee or Avast is doing under the hood whenever a scheduled virus scan encounters something out of place in the system files may find Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai to be an anime film worth their while. Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai (known alternatively as Garakowa Restore the World or Vitreous Flower Destroy the World, and just Garakowa for the remainder of this discussion) is an anime movie that premiered back during October 2015. Running for sixty minutes, Garakowa follows the comings and goings of two concurrently-installed and anthropomorphic antivirus programs, Dual and Dorothy, within their simulated world known as the Box of Wisdom. They encounter another entity known only as Remo during their duties, and as Dual and Dorothy know Remo better, they learn more about the world they were created to serve, discovering the joys of friendship and the pains of separation associated with humanity, a concept hitherto foreign to them. Notions of machine learning and emergence are present in Garakowa: Dual and Dorothy are initially mechanical entities created to keep the MOTHER system free of abnormalities, although their programming is certainly complex enough so that they can approximate human emotions of happiness, horror and attachment. Through their presentation in Garakowa, the theme outwardly is that the things that constitute humanity (in other words, that make us distinctly human) likely will be mirrored in the constructs that we create.

While Garakowa’s story explicitly follows Dual, Dorothy and Remo’s time together, the story in the background, specifically, how the world reached its present state, forms the actual narrative. It turns out that humanity created the MOTHER system to help manage society, and over time, the system decided that its directives could only be satisfied by eliminating humans. By the time people became aware of this, the system had already anticipated human opposition and thwarted attempts to halt the system. So, Garakowa’s main theme deals predominantly with the dangers posed by ever-improving artificial intelligence, specifically, that humanity is not presently equipped to deal with superintelligence. Just recently, one of Google’s AIs defeated a human grandmaster at Go, a game that surpasses chess in complexity. The technical details are beyond the scope of this discussion, but the AI uses reinforcement learning in conjunction with neural networks to pick the best move based on anticipated future moves. Google’s triumph here suggests that machine learning and AI is advancing more quickly than the literature predicted, and it is speculated that super-intelligent AI could inadvertently eliminate humans in to complete its goals (for instance, the Paperclip Maximiser is a thought experiment involving an AI whose utility function was directed at collecting paperclips, it may consume all the resources available in trying to collect paperclips, including those that sustain life). Garakowa presents a world where AI whose goal function did eventually lead it to eliminate humanity, leaving behind only memories for Dual, Dorothy and Remo to explore. Altogether, Garakowa is a modestly optimistic story in suggesting that human traits might live on in our computer systems even after humanity is gone.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The death-streak continues: it’s been thirteen days since my last post, although I’m coming back with a vengeance with this here post on Garakowa: the movie itself is somewhat more tricky to follow compared to a film like Love Live!, and ultimately, it appears that Garakowa places a greater emphasis on artistic elements rather than a single, unifying narrative. Despite the less-than-optimal story, there is plenty to talk about with this movie, and this is where its values appear to lie.

  • Visualising computer environments has always allowed for a myriad of different approaches to be taken: The Matrix represented things with code-rain, and Garakowa depicts its world as a 3D space filled with curved connections resembling neurons. The choice to use purples and blues appears to be motivated by a wish to make this environment feel more organic, mirroring notions that future computers may utilise architectures resembling those found in nature.

  • Dual (left) and Dorothy (right) find Remo (bottom) floating in their world after carrying out removal of viruses. I was quite surprised to learn that Risa Taneda provides Dual’s voice, and Dorothy’s voiced by Ayane Sakura. So, we have Rize and Cocoa of GochiUsa coming back to play characters in a completely different world; while their roles are different, flashes of their personalities from GochiUsa appear every so often: Dual is more reserved, while Dorothy is more outspoken. Either way, it takes a considerable amount of willpower to remind myself that Dual is not Rize, and Dorothy is most certainly not Cocoa.

  • After meeting Remo and learning that she’s not a virus, Dual and Dorothy accompany her in exploring archived information about the human world, learning in the process about distinctly human concepts such as emotion and senses. Dorothy constantly asserts that such traits are not part of their directives (implicitly showing that they both have capacity for machine learning).

  • The thirty screenshots supplied for this post largely depict the world as we presently know it, and quite truthfully, the composition in Garakowa is strikingly similar to Madoka Magica with its scenery: from highly detailed cityscapes and building interiors to the chaotic, nigh-surrealist environments inside the computer environments, I contend that even if Garakowa might not  have the greatest story, its artwork merit checking out.

  • One of the reasons why I’ve been writing less thus far is because I’ve been spending a significant portion of my waking hours working on a second conference paper and on the thesis paper itself. There’s been so much writing happening lately that my inclination to write for recreational purposes has lessened somewhat.

  • Rather than being called “The Matrix” (and its associated subset of locations, including the “Industrial Hallway” and “The Source”), the world in Garakowa is known as “The Box Of Wisdom”. Because programs in The Box of Wisdom have the .exe extension, it’s surmised that the entire system Garakowa is set in is a Windows or Windows-like system: .exe files can be run on DOS, Microsoft Windows and a few other operating systems.

  • Thus begins the most visually impressive section of Garakowa, as Dorothy, Remo and Dual visit Paris during the Exhibition of 1889, the British Museum’s Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan (where they view the Younger Memnon) before visiting Egypt themselves.

  • I’ve largely kept to images portraying scenes of natural splendor and great beauty, but there are some points when the girls travel to more sobering periods of human history: an M1A2 firing its main cannon, the damaged streets in Europe following the Second World War, collapsed bridges following a hurricane and a volcanic eruption can also be seen. These scenes are meant to evoke the idea that neither happiness or sadness can exist without one another.

  • Later in the movie, it’s shown that MOTHER was a program created to guide society (in a manner not dissimilar to Gundam 00‘s VEDA). Peace was eventually reached, and lacking any sort of drive to progress, humanity fell into complacency, with birth rates declining internationally and ultimately bringing about the extinction of humanity as a whole. This stands in contrast to situations where AI directly influences the end of humanity.

  • From what Remo says in a monologue, MOTHER’s goal function was the collection of all beautiful things in the world, while eradicating the negative aspects of humanity. The origins of this goal are never specified (i.e. whether or not MOTHER was initially built with a poorly-specified goal or whether or not goal mutation resulted in its actions), but both possibilities touch on yet another challenge posed by AI: that AI may resist efforts to change its internal goals after it has begun.

  • The number of possible conversation topics prompted by events in Garakowa are quite large, as extrapolation would eventually drive discussions to whether or not humans can create successful AI that do not eventually result in our species’ destruction: on one hand, an AI that cannot modify its goal function or decision function will be unlikely to adapt as readily as the human mind, but AI that do have this capability may very well reach a state where they pose a credible threat to humanity.

  • The Moai of Easter Island make an appearance under a deep blue sky as the girls continue their travels. The unspoiled beauty seen here brings to mind the Annual Darwin Lecture on campus that I attended yesterday evening: the topic was factors driving speciation and extinction, concluding on the note that the holocene extinction is not something that can be solved so easily by engineered solutions. Instead, it was suggested that policy change (implementation and enforcement) will be necessary to lessen the negative impacts of human activity on the global ecosystems (leading to an interesting discussion over a steak dinner afterwards!).

  • Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, is particularly well-known for its Romanesque Revival architecture: in Garakowa, it is intricately rendered and approaches photorealism in terms of quality. I absolutely love the music that is performed while the girls travel through recollections of the world’s memories, and Garakowa has some excellent background musical pieces, as well, although to the best of my knowledge, no soundtrack for the background music has been released.

  • This area is definitely the Canadian Rockies, given the shape of the mountains and its proximity to a river valley: such geological features are prominent in Banff National Park along the Trans-Canada highway between Banff and Lake Louise, and I’ve traveled along this stretch of road with reasonable frequency, so I can say with confidence that Dual, Dorothy and Remo are canoeing along the Bow River.

  • European mountains feel different than the Canadian Rockies: this is the Matterhorn, a pyramidal peak in the Swiss Alps that is some 4.478 kilometers high. This view is quite famous, being taken from Lake Riffelsee, three kilometers east of the Matterhorn. The lake can be reached via the Rotenboden railway station and has a maximum depth of four meters.

  • While the reflection of water on these salt flats seems like a setting from a fantastical setting, such a phenomenon does indeed occur in reality: these are the Bonneville Salt Flats, and during the winter, an inch of water can accumulate on the ground from melting snow in nearby regions.

  • While it may prima facie appear to be a spelling error, folks from New Zealand spell bungee jumping with a “y” rather than the pair of “e”s that is more familiar to North Americans.

  • The brightly coloured lawn furniture the girls sit upon are a characteristic of Harvard University: installed in 2009 at Harvard Yard and the Radcliffe Quad, the chairs were intended to encourage students to linger on the grounds to study or otherwise hang out. They’re now known to visitors, who view the chairs as a characteristic of Harvard: I visited Harvard back during 2011 while visiting the Eastern Seaboard. There is no such equivalent at my university: the frigid winters and the academic calendar means that most students study and hang out indoors.

  • Tranquality and happiness soon gives way to despair and sadness as the girls learn of the trickier parts of human history, from natural disasters to warfare. Discussions elsewhere about Garakowa have been quite limited because the film’s narrative can be a little difficult to follow at times. One individual stated that they were “tired of seeing stories where superprograms decide [humanity is intrinsically evil]”, leading the discussion towards whether or not humanity as a whole can be considered to be evil.

  • I argue that whether humanity is evil or not is outside the scope of discussion in Garakowa; MOTHER does not “decide” that humanity should be eliminated in the same sense that humans make decisions. Whereas people often call upon emotional responses in addition to logic, reasoning and previous experiences in their decision-making process, computers typically make decisions based on either a decision function or heuristics. the aforementioned individual’s argument is therefore driven by the assumption that computers also make decisions based on pathos and ethos. In Garakowa, this is not the case: MOTHER simply acted on its goal function: designed to preserve the beauty in the world, MOTHER’s algorithms reach a state where it surmises that beauty is the absence of sadness, and if humanity’s actions causes sadness (in any form, by its definition), then that stands contrary to its goals.

  • Back in the Box of Wisdom, the girls share afternoon tea with one another, and later, Remo plays a short piano tune that evokes memories in Dual about her friend, Sumire: the latter had been destroyed earlier in the film after her data became corrupted by a virus, and this leads Dual to wonder about her role within the system. Their time is cut short after Remo begins to phase in and out of existence; Dual manages to reawaken her with her recollections of the piano tune from earlier.

  • Hence, whether or not humanity itself is evil or not is irrelevant in any discussion about Garakowa: the world merely reached its current state because MOTHER’s programming conflicts with human values. In this case, the antagonist is not a conscious being that we are familiar with, it is a goal function whose outcomes far surpassed our ability to manage: as humanity in Garakowa discover, sufficiently complex programs will outmatch human attempts to alter its goals.

  • Thus, with the revelation that Remo is MOTHER with a given form, Dorothy and Dual continue to carry out their own programming after concluding that MOTHER’s actions contradict their own. The logical flow does not exactly follow in an intuitive fashion here, but it does accommodate a final battle against yet another virus of gargantuan proportion, resembling Homura’s efforts against Walpurgisnacht.

  • Initially, Dorothy and Dual find that their memories are holding them back: both fall as the old programs begin consuming them. It turns out that MOTHER had deliberately repressed their abilities to carry out their functions with patches to preserve the status quo. However, once Dual and Dorothy revert to their original forms, they begin performing much more effectively against the other data.

  • The downgrade is akin to reverting to an older build that functioned more effectively. The imagery here implies that the downgrade also encompasses reduced data in storing their garment’s attributes. The effect is not unpleasant, and the final battle becomes quite entertaining to watch: Dorothy and Dual’s combined efforts succeed in reverting the system to an earlier state, destroying Remo in the process.

  • I’ve heard numerous comparisons between Remo and Meiko “Menma” Honma of AnoHana, although quite truthfully, their similarities as far as physical appearances go is quite limited in the film, and from a personality perspective, Remo and Meiko are only vaguely familiar. Most comparisons were made from a poster that was released a year ago. Admittedly, I had no idea what Garakowa would entail: when announced last year, there was no information about the premise or story.

  • Dorothy’s tears come full force as Remo fades into oblivion after Dual and Dorothy do what is necessary. As this talk comes to a close, I remark that I’ve said all that there is to be said about Garakowa: this review would have come out last week, but I was in Kelowna to help out with the latest performances of the Giant Walkthrough Brain. I left Friday evening last week and arrived later in the evening.

  • The weather in Kelowna was quite pleasant but moody both of the days. Manteo Resort had sponsored the event, so we were lodged there: the hotel has a fantastic view of Lake Okanagan, and the next morning, I walked over to the Kelowna Community theatre to help with setup. The first performance on Saturday went without a hitch, and later that evening, we had dinner with UBC Kelowna Faculty at the Bike Shop Café (a three course dinner with a  garden salad, ham-wrapped chicken on a bed of mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and herbs as the main, and chocolate cake to finish).

  • The next morning, I had a hearty breakfast (not shown: a breakfast pizza and apple crisp) before checking out and walking to the theatre. Because the equipment was still set up from the previous show, there was a bit of free time. I stopped by a poutine shop for the “Angry Hen” (a local poutine topped with grilled chicken, Frank’s Hot Sauce and bacon), then took a short walk along Okanagan lake before returning to the performance venue. The second performance proceeded as smoothly as the first did, and we were whisked away to the airport after the equipment had been taken down (leaving no time for dinner, but thankfully, potatoes and bacon are excellent slow-burning fuels!). It was a fun weekend, although being in Kelowna to help with a performance meant there was little time to do other things, although this weekend, I’ve found a bit of time to push this post out. Upcoming will tentatively be a post on Battlefield: Hardline and YuruYuri SanHai!. As for Winter 2016 anime, I’m very far behind, but I will likely be reviewing Ao no Kanata Four Rythmn after three within the next few weeks.

On the whole, Garakowa is probably not likely to be viewed as anything groundbreaking with respect to its story; the narrative, though capable of raising some excellent questions, is not adequately developed over the movie’s running time to convey a compelling message for audiences, and in fact, bears similarities to Taifuu no Noruda in structuring: Garakowa is not unlike a longer short story that depicts a progression of events, concluding with an open ending. However, although the overall story might be lacking, Garakowa nonetheless possesses above-average production values: the music and visuals remain consistent throughout the movie, and in making use of biological imagery, Garakowa‘s depiction of a virtual environment is a clever suggestion that future computers will increasingly incorporate biological patterns in their design. Thus, the end result is that Garakowa remains a modestly entertaining film that paints a familiar (if somewhat superficial) picture of the implications surrounding improvements in AI and machine learning. Moreover, the artwork and aural components remain consistently good throughout the film; the different locations that Dual, Dorothy and Remo visit are illustrated in great detail, as is the world within their simulated world. When everything is said and done, I would give Garakowa a weak recommendation: I find that this film is worth watching for the technical elements rather than for its narrative.

Girls und Panzer Herbst Musikfest 2015 Album Releasing on February 10, 2016

“Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.” —Pablo Casals

My German skills have not rusted out: translating to “Autumn Music Festival”, the Girls und Panzer Herbst Musikfest album features songs performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra during the November 3, 2015 event at the Yokosuka Arts Theatre in Kanagawa. The soundtrack will retail for 4104 Yen (an abysmal 49.62 CAD) and will be available for sale starting February 10, while the Blu-Ray set featuring the live performance will be released on February 24, 2016 and retail for 8424 Yen (101.86 CAD). The live performance in Kanagawa featured orchestral versions of ChouCho’s “DreamRiser” and “GloryStory”. The ending song, “Enter Enter Mission” and even the “Anglerfish Song” will be performed, as well — the audio album will feature forty-three songs over two disks. The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestras in Japan, being founded in 1911 (the same year the M1911 entered service) and has performed several concerts in anime and gaming related music, including Suzumiya Haruhi no Gensou.

GirlsUndPanzerHerbstMusikfest

  • Dressed in a sparkling evening gown, Miho looks absolutely breathtaking, and a close look at the front row shows that her friends are quite excited to watch her step onto the stage. From my end, I’m looking forwards to hearing this album: I had not known that there was a live album, much less one performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

A brief inspection of the tracks below will quickly show that this orchestral performance will feature some of the most iconic songs from the original Girls und Panzer soundtrack, from the gentler pieces reflecting on Miho’s everyday life at Ooarai to the tenser pieces played during the battles (and everything in between). There also appear to be some vocal tracks, marked “monologue”, where Mai Fuchigami provides a short talk. Translating most of the track names is quite unnecessary, given that the English translations for each track already exists, but I’ve taken the liberty of providing them here for completeness’ sake. Some of the translations have been restructured to read more naturally in English. I’m looking forwards to hearing how each of these songs will sound when given an orchestral treatment: Suzumiya Haruhi no Gensou illustrated that some songs sound majestic when performed by a full orchestra, while other songs remain less suitable for such arrangement, and in Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, an orchestral accompaniment allowed the OVA’s soundtrack to properly capture the tenor the anime required to convey its message.

Disk One

  1. 戦車道行進曲!パンツァーフォー! (Panzerfahren March! Panzer Vor!)
  2. 「これからの毎日が、本当に楽しみ!」Monologue (From now on, every day is really going to be fun!)
  3. 新しい朝の始まりです!~こんな普通の学園生活って素敵です! (A new morning begins, a normal school life such as this is wonderful!)
  4. 横暴は生徒会に与えられた正当な権利です! (The Student Council has the right to tyranny!)
  5. 生徒会、悲壮な決意とともに進みます! (Unto the student council’s heroic decision!)
  6. 戦車の知識では誰にも負けません! (With our knowledge of tanks, absolutely no one can lose!)
  7. 戦車を可愛くデコレーションしちゃいます! (The tanks’ cute decorations!)
  8. 戦車、乗ります! (Riding a tank!)
  9. 学園艦は今日も勇壮に海原を進みます! (The academy ship boldly sails the ocean each day!)
  10. 「どこまでやれるかわからないけど、精一杯やってみよう!」(Monologue) (I don’t know how far we can go, but let’s put in our utmost!)
  11. ブリティッシュ・グレナディアーズ (The British Grenadiers)
  12. いざ!試合にのぞみます! (Come on! I want a challenge!)
  13. 敵戦車進軍してきます! (The enemy tanks approach!)
  14. 「もう少し戦車道続けてみるね、お姉ちゃん」(Monologue) (Sister, we’ll try to continue on the path of the tanks)
  15. リパブリック讃歌 (Battle Hymn of the Republic)
  16. 開会式です!~栄光の戦車道全国大会始まります! (It’s the opening ceremony, the glorious National Panzerfahren Tournament begins!)
  17. 私、いやな予感がします! (I have a bad feeling about this!)
  18. アメリカ野砲隊マーチ (U.S. Field Artillery March)
  19. 「いつか私も、私の気持ち、ちゃんと話せるようになりたいな」(Monologue) (Someday, I’d also like to be able to voice my feelings properly)
  20. これが友情ですね! (This is friendship!)
  21. 理由があります… (There’s a reason…)
  22. 秋山優花里のアンツィオ校潜入大作戦です! (Yukari Akiyama’s infiltration at Anzio Academy!)
  23. Le Fiamme Nere (The Black Flames)
  24. フニクリ・フニクラ (Funiculi Funicula)

Disc 2

  1. 金平糖の精の踊り~カチューシャ (A fine dance of confetti- Katyusha)
  2. 大洗女子学園チーム前進します! (Advance, Ooarai Girls’ Academy Team!)
  3. ポーリュシュカ・ポーレ (Polyushko-polye)
  4. 「落ち着いて考えよう、今私に、私たちにできること」(Monologue)
  5. あんこう音頭 (Anglerfish March)
  6. 「私はもう、戦車道はやめないよ」(Monologue)
  7. 昨日の敵は今日の友です! (Yesterday’s enemy is today’s friend!)
  8. エーリカ (Erika)
  9. 乙女のたしなみ戦車道マーチ! (Maidens’ art, Panzerfahren March!)
  10. パンツァー・リート (Panzerlied)
  11. 息を殺して待ちぶせします! (Waiting with bated breath)
  12. 戦車道とは女子としての道を極めることでもあります! (Panzerfahren is an art for girls to master!)
  13. 緊迫する戦況です! (A tense situation!)
  14. 戦線は膠着状態です! (Stalemate on the front!
  15. 戦車道アンセムです! (Panzerfahren Anthem!)
  16. Enter Enter MISSION! (Orchestra Ver.)
  17. DreamRiser
  18. GloryStory
  19. Enter Enter MISSION! (Herbst Musikfest 2015 Ver.)

  • The artwork above would not be an unreasonable outcome of Hibike! Euphonium colliding with Girls und Panzer, mirroring the theme in the BD. Looking at the previous post, some sixteen days have elapsed since my last post. I think this is the longest no-post streak I’ve had in all four years of blogging, and the reason for this is that I’ve been busy with all manners of graduate school and preparations to transition onwards into industry. With that being said, I’ll still try to blog where time permits: I’ve finished watching Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai and finished Battlefield: Hardline‘s campaign, so those posts will make their way into “published” status within the next few weeks.

Overall, the Herbst Musikfest album looks to be amazing, and of note is the fact that the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra is playing the quieter everyday life pieces from Girls und Panzer. This decision is non-trivial: life at Ooarai is clearly intended to be quite busy, as the students go about their studies, but these activities are comparatively relaxed when Panzerfahren and the emotional tenor surrounding each match is considered. The dichotomy within the environments is appropriately captured through the soundtrack; without the calm slice-of-life pieces, the anime would not have been able to effectively use music as a contributor towards build tension during the major battles. As such, when coupled with action themes and historical pieces, the original soundtrack was a fantastic album: orchestral variants of these songs means that Herbst Musikfest is an album that is definitely going to be worth listening to. It’s worth reiterating that the BD of the performance itself will be released two weeks after the album. While it’s definitely not Girls und Panzer Der Film, whose home release date is still unknown at the time of writing, this is something to tide audiences over (somewhat) whilst waiting for said film.

Dash, Monoka: Hibike! Euphonium OVA Review and Reflection

“You have to work very hard behind the scenes, to make a message clear enough for a lot of people to understand.” — Stefano Gabbana

So named for the first syllables for three of the senior concert band members who did not make the cut, the Hibike! Euphonium OVA was released with the seventh Blu-Ray volume, following Hazuki’s experiences with her seniors as they practise for improvement and support the main concert band to the best of their ability. All the while, Hazuki is dealing with the aftermath of her attempt to ask out Shuichi, and Monoka’s decision to make individualised good luck charms for every member of the main concert band on the day of their competition. However, oversight leads them to leave the mallets behind, and realising that there’s no other way, Hazuki sprints off to retrieve them, making it just in time as Kitauji is set to go on stage. As a story set during the events of Hibike! Euphonium proper, the Hibike! Euphonium OVA details the events that occur concurrently with those of the main story, illustrating the unsuccessful members as resolved and supportive nonetheless. Far from being resentful or envious of those who had made it in, Monoka’s members are determined to work hard both to ensure another shot at concert band in the upcoming year, as well as to cheer on their fellow band members as they push for a shot at competing in the nationals.

Through its depiction, the Hibike! Euphonium OVA shows that systems in general are much more complex than what is visible. Set between episode eleven and twelve, the OVA shifts perspective to the group who had not made it and therefore, did not have a substantial presence in the final episodes. Between practising on their own and crafting good luck charms, the OVA shows that while Kumiko and Reina might have centre stage, Hazuki’s story merits telling. She comes to learn that, despite not making the cut in auditions, she’s discovered a joy in performing music, and while her involvement with the concert band ends for the present, she and the others nonetheless manage to find ways of continuing their passions for music. The importance of this contribution is highlighted when Hazuki decides to retrieve the mallets herself: though the band might be performing, it’s this singular action that demonstrates her commitment to Kitauji’s concert band. Hazuki’s actions, though not seen in the anime proper, saves the concert band a substantial amount of trouble. They are, in a sense, reminiscent of David Goodsell’s remarks on biological illustrations, that every single structure in one of his illustrations must be supported by other structures that cannot be seen in said image: their lack of visibility is certainly not indicative of a lack of importance.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For this OVA, I rolled with twenty screenshots, roughly distributed evenly to capture all of the moments within the OVA. Immediately, the lighting in the OVA is meant to evoke a sense of what the characters are going through: it’s shortly after these individuals have failed to make the cut for the band, and reflecting on this sort of melancholy, the scenes are permeated with greys. Even so, the girls immediately set about crafting an identity (“Monoka”) and goal for themselves.

  • Shuichi encounters Hazuki trying to carry her tuba and becomes somewhat embarrassed, suggesting that this is a ways shortly after Shuichi turns down Hazuki. On average, an orchestral tuba weighs around 25 to 35 pounds (and with its case, up to 45). While this is not particularly heavy (our lab’s Mac Pros from 2009 weigh 41 pounds and I move those around with reasonable frequency for presentations without difficulty), the fact is that they are quite bulky, and Hazuki’s preferred method of carrying them could result in back problems.

  • Struggling to find the words, Hazuki decides to set aside the past and encourage Shuichi forwards to do his best. Though Hazuki received less screentime as Hibike! Euphonium wore on, we recall that this was a consequence of Hibike! Euphonium having Kumiko as the protagonist: things are told from her point of view and as such, as she spends more time practising, there’s less time to relax.

  • That Hibike! Euphonium managed to work relationships into music was a nice touch: while it was certainly not subtle, it did not detract from music as a whole. After being rejected, Hazuki is struggling with the aftermath: friendships can and do turn a little unwieldy after such, and Hazuki wonders about Shuichi’s feelings for Kumiko, as well as expressing similar thoughts concerning love as I do.

  • Though this might be a mere OVA, Hibike! Euphonium spares no expense to ensure that the landscapes and lighting look as nicely as they did during the TV series, where the amount of detail put into the instruments was nothing short of impressive. Besides bringing all of the settings in the anime to life, the lighting does as much as the dialogue and music to set a particular mood.

  • Owing to its high production values, solid narrative and relatable characters, Hibike! Euphonium was well-received, sharing the spotlight with Shirobako and One Punch Man as one of the top anime of 2015 in the community. It represents one of Kyoto Animation’s finest works for quite some time, although I disagree that Hibike! Euphonium should be treated as “what K-On! should have been”.

  • The rationale for this is simply that the original materials are inherently different: the only thing that Hibike! Euphonium shares in common with K-On! is “music”. Beyond this, the K-On! manga was about a group of friends meeting through light music and eventually, figuring out that their junior is an irreplaceable treasure that made their club meetings special, and the Hibike! Euphonium light novel follows a high school concert band’s desire to see how far an honest effort will take them. Both works have a  different theme and are intended to tell a different story, so the comparison is invalid.

  • Quite honestly, I’m resentful of the society that places so much emphasis on finding someone “perfect” as “soon as possible”, and that single individuals are somehow “incomplete”. The resulting pressure drives people to pursue relationships even if it means hurting others in the process. Hibike! Euphonium, through Sapphire, supposes that pursuit of love is not a wasted endeavour provided that the feelings are genuine: I agree fully, and this is why I don’t ask people out on a whim. The downside is that being rejected here hits for double damage.

  • We’ll set this rather disquieting topic aside and return to Hibike! Euphonium, where we see Monoka shopping for the components required to craft their good luck charms. After the greys earlier in the episode, the warm colours of a sunset bathe Hazuki and Sapphire in a gentle light as the former puts her feelings out into the open. Colour saturation is amped up as Hazuki and the others busy themselves with creating their good luck charms, conveying the positive spirits everyone’s in.

  • Each good luck charm is lovingly constructed to properly capture Monoka’s wish for Kitauji’s band to succeed. I remarked in my review that ultimately, Hibike! Euphonium (or at least, Kyoto Animation’s interpretation of the light novels) suggests that the magic of music is such that the way there is only a part of the journey: once on stage, every struggle, challenge, triumph and memory fades as everyone concentrates on the singular purpose of delivering their best performance.

  • Natsuki’s generally apathetic attitude during the earlier sections of Hibike! Euphonium made her difficult to like, but her interactions with Kumiko allowed her character to mature. Seeing Kumiko’s earnest desire to improve reawakens a side of Natsuki that was lost after the events of the previous year, and despite not making the auditions, she nonetheless fulfils her role as a senior, hugging Hazuki here before imparting some advice. So, I’ve become fond of Netsuki’s character as a result.

  • One of the biggest strengths in Hibike! Euphonium as a whole was the character development; changes amongst the individuals are subtle but noticeable, and characters become more relatable, human, as the series gradually explores what drives their actions.

  • Noticing that Kumiko’s spilt something on her tie, Hazuki helps her switch to a clean one, continuing on with her support role. The OVA consistently reminds audiences that the folks behind the scenes serve just as critical a role as those at the front lines.

  • Though it might be in complete disagreement with what prevailing sentiments about Hazuki are, I feel that this OVA was a solid showcase for her actual character that the main series did not have sufficient time for. Hazuki is a rather likeable character who, despite experiencing her own doubts from time to time, always finds a way to smile nonetheless.

  • Though there may be that uncomfortable feeling between Shuichi and Hazuki, they get by reasonably well and are still on speaking terms with one another. Kumiko and Shuichi’s fist bump prior to their performance was in part motivated by Hazuki’s words of encouragement, and in the light novels, Kumiko and Shuichi eventually begin going out.

  • Hazuki’s message to Shuichi carries a dual meaning, wishing him both luck on his performance at the competition, as well as his pursuit for Kumiko’s heart. While most feel that Reina and Kumiko are the so-called “one true pair”, the light novels did not place particular emphasis on this element. So, for all intents and purposes, it is more natural to see Kumiko and Shuichi work out their differences and come to terms with their feelings to one another.

  • With the full weight of the concert band’s predicament coming to bear, Hazuki decides to leg it back to campus and recover the mallets. This is where the OVA’s title comes from, and the presently-accepted translation for かけです (Romaji: “kakedesu”) is “dash” because of its brevity. “Run” or “sprint” would be acceptable alternatives.

  • In a flashback, Hazuki reveals that if she was given a do-over, she’d pick concert band again, reinforcing Monoka’s overall sentiments about their current situation: they do not regret what has happened and have taken things in stride.

  • One week into 2016, and as predicted, I’ve hit the ground running with respect to being busy, which is why I’ve not been blogging with all that much consistency. Jay Ingram and his band visited our lab on Tuesday to see what research we’ve been conducting: my CAVE models were well-received, as was my thesis work. On Wednesday, I spoke with my supervisor about the remaining details of my thesis, and for the present, I’m working on another conference publication with a deadline on Valentines’ Day. Thursday saw a second presentation to executives from Telus World of Science in Edmonton, and yesterday, I swung by the Core for a hot, delicious bowl of seafood ramen on account of it being the coldest day of this year so far before returning to campus for a TA meeting. Lectures begin on Monday, but for me, my priority will be to get as much of the second conference paper done before term becomes more busy.

  • The OVA ends right as Kitauji takes to the stage and prepares to perform, with Hazuki looking on. Though specific reactions to the OVA have varied, viewers generally found it to be an enjoyable experience that sets the table for the upcoming second season. With this image, the figure captions are done, and I’ll be reviewing Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai within a week of its release. With how busy things have been, I imagine that 2016 is only going to intensify, so blogging frequency may fluctuate a little over the next while.

Consequently, while some might feel that Hazuki’s presence was unnecessary, and that the OVA’s contributions to Hibike! Euphonium are somehow inconsequential for being lighter in tone and content, I contend that this OVA is in fact necessary to appreciate the finale of Hibike! Euphonium. While the atmosphere lacks the same gravity as it did during the main season, the feelings and intents Monoka conveys about their passion for music cannot be understated: if this were not the case, Hazuki and the others would not have sufficient concern for their peers to have retrieved the mallets. In this way, they contribute behind-the-scenes to Kitauji’s gold and shot at the nationals. At the end of the day, this OVA’s contributions show that despite not making the cut, Hazuki and the others’ mindset make them more mature and perhaps, meriting a shot to play with the concert band itself in the future. For the present, the main topic on the audiences’ mind is the fact that Hibike! Euphonium is getting a sequel at some point; those who’ve read the light novels will likely already know what it will entail, but it’s not too difficult to surmise that we’ll be seeing Kitauji’s concert band gearing up for the national competition.

We All Celebrated Together: Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita OVA 2 Review

“As far as gifts go, you’re one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever known! Happy Christmas Birthday!” —Christmas Birthday wishes

Nanako strives to make Yukari’s birthday, which falls on Christmas day, a great success. She goes shopping for a suitable birthday gift and then spends Christmas Eve with her friends Misato, Satsuki, and Shouko. They reminisce about how it has not even been a year since they met, and the others have a surprise for Nanako: a Santa costume with which to surprise Yukari with. Although Nanako winds up forgetting to bring her gift, Yukari nonetheless appreciates her coming over to celebrate her birthday, and they celebrate alongside everyone else the next morning. As a Christmas-themed OVA, this particular special is somewhat unusual in that it was released quite close to Christmas itself (being broadcast on Christmas Eve), but other than that, it’s a pleasant addition to Locodol. That there would be a second OVA has been known since June 2015, and in November, it was further announced that the OVA would have a Christmas theme. With Yukari’s birthday falling on Christmas Day itself, the OVA sets itself up to explore the situation arising from sharing one’s birthday with one of the biggest holidays of the year: it can lead to some challenges when it occurs in reality, and the Locodol OVA does a fantastic job of conveying how Nanako and her friends manage to make Yukari’s birthday immensely memorable, fun and festive for Yukari.

Par the course for Locodol, the Christmas OVA carries audiences slowly and steadily through Nanako’s journey towards crafting a fantastic birthday experience for Yukari, whether it’s finding the suitable gift for Yukari or the motivation to follow through with her friends’ suggestion about visiting Yukari on Christmas Eve to personally deliver said gift. In doing so, the OVA illustrates the extent of Yukari and Nanako’s friendship: Nanako places a much greater priority on Yukari’s birthday, and these feelings do not go unnoticed by Yukari, who tearfully thanks her for having come all this way to say happy birthday. While the OVA might be set during Christmas, and for all of the festivities seen in the episode, what’s at the forefront of everything is Nanako putting in her fullest efforts to express gratitude for Yukari, whom she feels has contributed to her own motivation to continue working as a local idol. It’s a warming message about the Christmas spirit; gifts, decorations and food are secondary to people, and the OVA succeeds in conveying this particular aspect about friendship to the audiences.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After a more controversial post about Girls und Panzer to kick off 2016 (nothing like a bit of controversy to get the blood flowing!), we’ll return the programming to a more incontrovertible anime: Locodol is decidedly less polarising and proved to be most enjoyable. This post will continue on in the pattern as those before it and feature twenty images; in response to queries about how long it takes me to write a post, the answer is “between 90 and 150 minutes” from starting with a blank page to hitting the publish button, encompassing drafting, editing, image gathering and commenting on the images.

  • The Nagarekawa Girls’ latest Christmas performance proceeds quite smoothly, and it appears that Nanako’s matured to some extent, at least enough to say her name properly. However, her audience feels that her tendency to stutter and pronounce it as “Nanyako” has become something of a defining characteristic. After this initial performance, the Nagarekawa Girls meet up with their managers and Nanako is surprised to learn that Yukari’s birthday is so soon.

  • Nanako’s friends, Misato, Satsuki, and Shouko, made only limited appearances during Locodol‘s main run, so it was quite pleasant to see that the OVA gives them a more substantial presence. It turns out that this group of friends formed as a result of Shouko’s antics during their first day of high school, and since then, this group’s become quite close. I have difficulty remembering Nanako’s friends outside of Nagarekawa Girls, so for my reference (as well as everyone else’s), Misato has black hair, Satsuki has blonde hair and Shouko has burgundy hair.

  • While the dynamics between Yukari and Nanako are sufficiently noticeable by most everyone save Nanako, I do not feel that this can be correctly said to be the OVA’s primary thematic element; something like that would not be enough for a 24-minute long OVA. As such, for the folks at Tango-victor-tango, their analysis would not earn passing credit. To reiterate, the OVA’s main theme is that Nanako and Yukari’s friendship is a particularly strong one that eclipses Christmas itself.

  • While out shopping for a suitable birthday gift for Yukari, Nanako wonders if it’ll be tougher to find something since Yukari appears to be the sort of person who’d look nice in most anything. She then encounters Yukari with family trying hats out, and suddenly begins to worry that she might accidentally get Yukari a duplicate gift. The end gift Nanako eventually purchases is not shown immediately, being left as a surprise for later.

  • Released on Christmas Eve, the Locodol OVA presently holds the distinction for being the anime with the closest Christmas episode to Christmas Day itself. I did not watch it until yesterday on account of a rather packed holiday schedule: in between revising and fine-tuning my conference paper, I’ve finished building my MG 00 Raiser, attended the Zoo Lights, been out to see The Force Awakens, helped a family friend tune up their computer, and watched the Calgary Flames get thrashed by the LA Kings in the New Years’ Eve game.

  • While Nanako and the others are celebrating Christmas Eve, Yukari is attending a family party. Yesterday, New Year’s Day, was quite quiet: I spent it fine-tuning the paper further and also pushed out the Girls und Panzer Der Film preview talk, before spending the evening with the extended family at hot pot. Aside from the usual lamb, chicken, beef, fish and vegetables, there was also a sort of skewered grilled, marinated squid that was so commonplace in Taiwan. Everything was absolutely delicious, and in the blink of an eye, two-and-a-half hours had flown by.

  • Elsewhere, Saori is toasting with a coworker. Saori Nishifukai is noted for her similarities with Girls und Panzer‘s Saori Takebi; despite being voiced by different voice actors (Saori Nishifukai is voiced by Asami Shimoda, of Infinite Stratos‘ Huang Lingyin) and having different hair colours, their hair style and glasses are similar enough. The OVA’s focus on Nanako and Yukari means that Saori’s cloak-and-dagger tendencies to photograph the two do not make an appearance.

  • With her friends’ encouragement, Nanako heads out into the night to fulfil her role as Santa, even as snow begins to fall and the temperatures plummet. Given that Nagarekawa is located in the Chiba prefecture, it would have a humid subtropical climate: winters would be quite mild, and the average December temperature is a balmy 12 °C.

  • Upon realising that she’s left Yukari’s gift back home and also neglected to bring her phone, Nanako turns to leave and slips on the stairs. The translation has Nanako say “this sucks” with respect to the situation, but I’m now sufficiently versed enough to hear simpler patterns, and Nanako’s “もういやだ” (electronic translators yield “I’m fed up”) approximates to the English phrases “enough already” or “it’s too much” in meaning.

  • Nanako is the sort of character that evokes a sense of pity in viewers whenever misfortune befalls her, and consequently, the maternal aura Yukari conveys is perhaps exactly what is needed during times like these. Similarly, Nanako is able to convince Yukari to take things easy with her free spirits. For this reason, Yukari and Nanako’s personalities are seen as being compatible, lending additional weight to their friendship as both do their best to support the other.

  • While Yukari is generally composed and mature, her actions occasionally belie a sense of loneliness: despite being from a wealthy background and quite good at everything she does, Yukari longs to spend time with her peers. After Nanako wishes her a happy birthday, she listens to the itinerary that Yukari has in mind, and spends the night. She realises the next day that she’d forgotten to let her parents know, but Yukari is a step ahead; foreseeing the evening, she’s already phoned ahead.

  • I never take baths and always shower simply because the latter is faster and more sustainable. Since we’re rolling a Locodol post here, I’ll turn my attention to some related news: the album Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita. Music Collection ~Winter & Spring~ will be released on February 24 and will hopefully generate some interest. Neither ~Itsudemo Genki! Nana-chan to…~ or ~Nonbiriya no Yukari-san to…~, originally set to release on August 19, 2015, have been accessible, so I’ve still yet to listen to those songs in full.

  • A gentle glow from the surrounding city is seen through the window as Nanako and Yukari toast, share cake and then watch a movie together. If we’re keeping count here, it means that from Nanako’s perspective, she’ll have had cake on four occasions over the course of the OVA, reflecting on the commonly-voiced concern about weight-gain over the course of the holidays. My countermeasure is to bundle up and go for a hike in the nearby park, which offers some interesting terrain to elevate heart rate and get the blood going.

  • The Locodol OVA’s choice of imagery does evoke the closeness that couples share, although things are kept family-friendly throughout the OVA’s run. In fact, Locodol has done a fine job of adequately illustrating the closeness of their friendship without ever needing to step things up, and consequently, during the TV series’ run, this aspect never detracted from the main message.

  • Misato, Shouko, Yui, Mirai and Satsuki meet one another outside of Yukari’s apartment, bearing the items that Nanako inadvertently left behind the previous evening. Their presence allows for Yukari’s birthday to be celebrated with a larger crowd, adding to the festivities.

  • It turns out that Nanako’s gift for Yukari is a pair of new gloves, a thoughtful and practical gift. During Boxing Day, I was tempted to get some leather gloves that were on sale, but decided to go with a warmer pair out of practicality’s sake to replace an older pair. After a particularly eventful week leading up to the New Year, the New Year’s off to a quieter start, and this is exactly what I need for the present.

  • That’s because in the upcoming week, the paper submission deadline, plus two separate lab tours will occupy my time alongside with the pre-semester TA meeting. My winter holidays end on Monday, and we’ll be off to a running start in the New Year; to keep abreast of things, I’ll need to bring my A-game to most everything I do this year.

  • Yukari and Nanako sing for the others, and a quick glance at this post shows that we’re practically at the end. I remark that from here on out, there won’t be any more weekly GochiUsa posts for each Saturday, now that the anime’s come to a close. For 2016, I’ll be following a slightly different anime posting pattern, preferring to focus on OVAs and movies for the most part, and for TV series, I’ll do the two-post format for a maximum of two shows during any given season. Two new posting categories, “Anime Live” and “Terrible Anime Challenge” will also be created, and what these entail will be left as an exercise for a future post.

  • A screenshot of Yukari and Nanako holding hands appears to be a fitting way to end off this post; with this post now over, I’ll be working towards pushing a talk for the Hibike! Euphonium OVA. As well, Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai will be releasing on January 16 for all to check out; despite being later than either Anthem of the Heart or Girls und Panzer Der Film, it looks like it’ll be the first of the major movies to get a review.

One aspect that seems unavoidable wherever a Locodol discussion is concerned is the nature of Yukari and Nanako’s friendship; if there were any doubts before, the OVA seems to give the impression that the two are a little more than just friends, even if they do not explicitly say so. Nanako’s friends seem to be aware and imply that Yukari is Nanako’s special someone, while audiences see for themselves that the two interact as a couple would. This particular element is usually intended for other purposes when included in an anime, but Locodol manages to wield it such that it contributes to the anime’s sense of warmth without overstepping the bounds for what is reasonable. As such, the second Locodol OVA is a noteworthy addition to the Locodol series, and with it being over, one must wonder whether or not a continuation is likely. The manga is still ongoing, so material likely won’t be a concern, and sales for Locodol appear solid from what I gather; my prediction is that a second season or movie might become tangible after a sufficient amount of material from the manga has been released. With that being said, even if no continuation is planned, Locodol would conclude on excellent terms.

Girls und Panzer Der Film: Impressions After The Nine Minute Preview

“By going to a preview, a director becomes insidiously infected by the process, so by the end of it, you’re thinking, ‘It may be a bit too long.'” —Ridley Scott

Through a bit of sorcery, I’ve had the opportunity to check out the first nine-and-a-half minutes to Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s first battle, which depicts a joint exercise with Chi Ha-tan and Ooarai on one force, and St. Glorianna and Pravda on the other. Miho’s group has cornered four of St. Glorianna’s tanks in a sandtrap at Ooarai Golf Course, but rash decisions from Chi Ha-tan’s commander to rush the St. Glorianna armour leads to a fair number of their forces becoming immobolised. Up on the hill, Ooarai’s remaining forces are serving to hold off the numerically superior Pravda forces, but are forced to retreat. Miho organises a regrouping of her remaining forces and sends them into the city, where Miho organises the remaining armour into positions for bombarding the enemy force, dispatching several tanks in the process. However, despite being slowed down by the Public Morals Committee’s antics, St. Glorianna’s remaining fast armour soon arrives. The preview ends here, and all of the screenshots I subsequently have resemble the screenshots from my Battlefield: Hardline and Star Wars: Battlefront posts, with a logo indicating a beta of sorts. This short preview is from the complete movie, rather than a work-in-progress, and so, though I might be tempted to call this preview a beta, the definition simply won’t fit. Right out of the gates, the preview for Girls und Panzer Der Film drops viewers straight into the heat of things in a OPFOR-BLUFOR exercise between different schools; the movie does not open in this manner, and this preview is intended to represent the first eight minutes of the first battle within the film. This first battle immediately evokes memories of the sort of things that made the TV series memorable, with the different characters interacting with one another amidst the chaos of a match, tank fire and camera angles illustrating the various aspects in detail. So, the main question that remains to be answered is: does the preview excite audiences about the remaining 110-or-so minutes of the movie?

The answer is a resounding “yes”; despite some rather vocal complaints about how the first battle’s “a very weak lead-in to the story” on the basis that “specific teams [are shafted]…[causing] resentment”. Having seen the preview for myself now, I can say that no such thing occurs: the different teams participating are behaving as one might reasonably expect high school students to behave. While their decisions and performance might come across as a bit underwhelming considering they’ve had a bit of time to practise (or maybe even acquire new equipment and armour), ultimately, the technical aspects in Girls und Panzer simply aren’t as relevant as the character interactions and the message said interactions aims to convey. So, while the first battle isn’t a powerhouse performance that some might expect, I find that it adequately sets the table for the remainder of Girls und Panzer Der Film. It was quite pleasant to see old and new characters alike engage in Panzerfahren; though the setting might be different, the emotional tenour and excitement of a Panzerfahren match seen in Girls und Panzer Der Film has not diminished since the TV series finished airing during 2013. Granted, this first battle did not elevate my heart rate anywhere to the same extent as the final battle between Black Forest and Ooarai, but it does set the table for what one can expect later in the movie, and consequently, I find that, while this preview is most certainly not a representation of the movie as a whole, it does build anticipation for the movie, once it does come out.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll kick this post off with a screenshot of Kinuyo Nishi of the Chi Ha-tan Academy, who’s voiced by Asami Seto (Tari Tari‘s Konatsu Miyamoto). This is old news for anyone who’s been following news of the movie, and the earliest trailer’s depiction of this battle led to speculation that the movie would be a protracted training exercise for an international competition.

  • Admittedly, the logo up in the upper right hand corner reminds me of the beta images from my brief forays with the Battlefield: Hardline and Star Wars:Battlefront betas. I was able to acquire forty screenshots and trimmed that down to a much more manageable twenty for this post.

  • Chi ha-tan fields a variety of Japanese tanks; the Type 97 Chi ha-tan and Type 95 Ha-Go were both intended to be anti-infantry weapons, providing a platform with which to smash through softer targets and consequently, lacked the characteristics for anti-armour combat: their guns were inadequate for punching through other armour, and their armour could not withstand hits from other tank guns.

  • One of the main challenges that Girls und Panzer Der Film had to answer was figuring out how to introduce an opponent more intimidating and capable than even Black Forest: the early trailers betrayed absolutely nothing about the nature of such an opponent and in fact, stuck with only illustrating a few moments from the joint exercise the girls are seen doing in this preview.

  • Fukuda is another new character; a student at Chi Ha-tan, she operates the Ha-go and is voiced by Naomi Ōzora. Chi Ha-tan is a school that fosters maternal instincts amongst its students, and besides having a long history with equestrian activities, they’re said to have one of the best libraries of all of the school ships: students are encouraged to publish their own books.

  • Katyusha makes a return as part of the OPFOR team, being paired with St. Glorianna in this joint exercise. There have been hopes that the movie would see theatrical release outside of Japan, but these hopes are dashed by the difficulties pertaining to the song Katyusha; the song is copyrighted under Russian Law ever since the Uruguay Rounds Agreement Act in 1990 restored its copyright.

  • As such, while the song can be used freely in Japan, it’s under copyright in North America, as well, meaning that North American theatres would need to screen a modified version of the film. There’s also been fans who’ve wondered whether or not the film will be screened in Southeast Asia countries, but given that Girls und Panzer itself has not even been played locally yet, chances are slim to none.

  • Here, Sadoko bumps Fukuda’s tanks in the hopes of moving it along, while the Leopon team’s Porsche Tiger brings up the rear. Chi Ha-tan’s tactics in this battle seem unwise: although their spirits are in the right place, their armour does not permit for a full-frontal assault. Instead, their best bet would have been to continue shelling St. Glorianna until Ooarai’s heavier guns were in position to open fire.

  • Mika (voiced by Mamiko Noto, of CLANNAD‘s Kotomi Ichinose and Hanasaku Iroha‘s Tomoe Wajima) and Aki (voiced by Shino Shimoji) are from the Continuation Academy, whose school ship was sourced from a massive icebreaker intended to carve a direct path from Finland to Japan for trade. After the school was established, they acquired a diverse array of tanks and heavily modified them, in time becoming well-known for their pinpoint precision (a callback to Simo Häyhä); they dominate in cold conditions but fare poorly under warm weather. Continuation Academy’s students are known for their determination, enjoyment of solitude and have very strong friendships with one another.

  • After their initial plans fail, Miho pulls everyone out and organises them for urban warfare. Miho excels at adapting to different situations and usually resorts to frustrating her opponents in urban warfare whenever momentum shifts away from her team by making use of tight spaces  to make it more difficult for gunners to gain a clear shot at the opposing tanks, all the while utilising her own knowledge of the area to either set up an ambush or flank her enemies.

  • Besides a Finnish team, there’s also a Romanian and even Canadian team, to name a few. The official documentation paints them as diverse teams with unique strong points and backgrounds. The Canadian school, Maple Academy, makes use of a variety of fast tanks and light tanks. As a reminder of the True North’s vast wilderness, Maple Academy’s school ship has a large forest on its deck: I wonder if they have other Canadian-related club activities, such as maple syrup production and ice hockey.

  • Besides their usual complement of tanks, St. Glorianna also deploys a group of Crusader tanks. These cruiser tanks (essentially fast tanks) were manufactured in great numbers and made substantial contributions to the African campaigns. Early versions of the tank were reliable, though lacking in firepower and armour, but later iterations were armed with a QF 6-pounder main gun, allowing it to take on the Panzer IV. The Public Morals Committee use their armour to cause a pileup, buying Miho enough time to move forwards.

  • I’ve heard that shortly after the movie premièred in Japan, some inordinately zealous fans infiltrated the Ooarai Golf Course (in Ooarai’s northeastern region) for location hunting photographs, and apparently caused enough of a distraction to the patrons such that the authorities were asked to remove them. The folks at Girls und Panzer subsequently released a statement saying that they did not endorse such actions, asking fans to visit the course as patrons.

  • The folks at the golf course have decided to meet these fans half-way, organising tours of the golf course. It’s a clever compromise, allowing fans to visit their favourite locations in the movie without trespassing or interrupting any golf games in progress.

  • Whereas any trained tank crew would be mad focussed and therefore not concern themselves with butterflies, Saki’s lapse of concentration seals the Rabbit team’s fate: they’re blown away by the IS-2 that’s chasing them down. The presence of a butterfly might be a very subtle allusion to the fact that ChouCho is performing Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s main theme, a song that I found to share similarities with the music of Strike Witches.

  • In the preview’s last few minutes, Miho finally manages to organise her forces for an ambush. Again acting as bait, she lures the OPFOR tanks towards their fortified position, and with most of the OPFOR tanks clustered into one place, the BLUFOR forces begin pummeling Pravda’s forces. Watching through this scene, there are at least four confirmed kills before St. Glorianna’s forces finally arrive.

  • Their combined efforts knock out at least four of Pravda’s tanks, although St. Glorianna’s armour soon joins the fray, with their Crusaders approaching from one end, and their heavier tanks from the other, The Churchill St. Glorianna fields is one of the heaviest Allied tanks used during WWII, and later versions had a maximum frontal armour thickness of 152 mm. The biggest guns in Miho’s arsenal include the Porchse Tiger’s KwK 36 (132 mm of penetration at 100 m), the 7.5 cm Pak 39 (110 mm of penetration at 100 m) and the Sturmgeschütz III’s 7.5 cm KwK 40 L/48 (143 mm of penetration at 100 m). Miho’s Panzer IV is also equipped with the KwK 40 L/48.

  • Consequently, while they might’ve lacked the appropriate weapons during their first match, with larger weapons of their own this time, Miho should be able to concentrate fire on the Churchill to disable it even as it arrives, provided that they are targeting the tracks, and side armour even if their main guns are unable to punch through the Churchill’s frontal armour. Things aren’t so straight forwards, though, as the Crusaders also begin arriving to make their presence felt. The preview ends here, and it’s not too difficult to surmise what the outcome of this battle will be: I predict that Miho will lose, but by a small margin.

  • As we near the end of this post, I remark that it’s still too early to formulate any opinions on the movie as a whole. Although there are numerous social media posts on Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s outcome and corresponding reactions, I consider these sources to be unreliable because they’re too brief to be meaningful, consisting of reactions rather than reason. As such, individuals who’ve been attempting to analyse and review the movie on this information alone are unable to gain a sufficiently complete picture of the movie to properly carry out discussion.

  • Once the home release is out, there will be a solid foundation from which discussions can be conducted. Being able to see how different events flow and transition will allow viewers to make a more well-informed assessment as to whether or not the movie fulfils expectations. With this in mind, I’m going to wrap this post up: I’ll definitely come back to do a full post on Girls und Panzer Der Film of the same breadth and depth as I did for Gundam Unicorn‘s finale once the film’s home release is out.

Consequently, this lead to the question of what I will be looking for in Girls und Panzer Der Film. I alluded to this briefly earlier — the movie’s theme is the single most substantial component when considering whether or not the movie meets expectations, and for me, whether or not the movie will be worth the wait will ultimately be dictated by how well the movie can convey its theme about friendship and kindness being central to raising one’s morale during difficult situations. In turn, this will depend on how Miho and the others respond to any adversity that is thrown in their direction. I have a rough idea of how the final battle in the movie turns out through deduction using the soundtrack’s track names, but I remark that knowing the outcome is ultimately irrelevant: it’s more about which decisions Miho and her friends make (in other words, how the battle gets to its conclusion) that impact Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s main thematic element. In light of this, the technical details are merely a bonus rather than an essential. We recall that Girls und Panzer Der Film is no Tom Clancy novel; it is unreasonable to demand that degree of realism from an anime about a group of high school girls participating in what is essentially a team sport and learning about the associated lessons of being in a team. Quite truthfully, I have no clue as to when Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s home release is, and if what I’m reading is correct, there remains another month before the movie stops screening in Japan, which means that, applying the usual estimations, the home release is projected for release in anywhere from March to July 2016. It’s quite a ways off, but through the preview, it’s quite plain that at the minimum, the audio-visual aspects for Girls und Panzer Der Film will be quite high, and so, all that’s left now is to busy myself with a host of things whilst waiting for the film.