The Infinite Zenith

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

Spirit- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part Two Review and Reflection

“And then, there’s the last ten minutes of the movie. A display so powerful it merits the price of admission, and all future admission prices.” —Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One

Taking a leaf from the Auralnauts’ “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”, first off, obviously, this discussion will contain spoilers. If you do not already know that Gin dies in the end, then you should leave right now. Following another training session, Sumi, Sonoko and Gin are presented with unexpected news – they assigned some vacation time, during which they spend a day together at the pool and prepare an orientation for first-year elementary students. Although going overboard with their daily calisthenics routine and landing themselves in hot water, the girls have fun with their presentation, coming to deeply treasure their time spent together. Sumi and Sonoko also meet Gin’s parents for the first time during their break. When term resumes, the girls share a productive day at their school’s training camp, promising that there will be many more treasured memories in the days coming. When the camp concludes, a pair of Vertices appear. In the fierce fighting, Sumi and Sonoko are knocked out of combat. Gin promises to deal with the Vertices on her own, and, spurred on by her own determination to share a future with her friends, manages to defeat both. However, in the process, she sustains grievous wounds and succumbs to her injuries. Grief-stricken at their friend’s sudden departure, Sonoko and Sumi dissolve into tears. This is the short of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, the turning point where Gin’s friendship with Sonoko and Sumi is cut short; to see the dramatic contrast in the second act’s first and second halves was quite jarring even though it was quite apparent as to what would be happening when the Vertex did finally appear.

The idea of presenting an episode of contrasts is not a novel one – in portraying the characters’ ordinary lives and everyday activities, audiences have a chance to see what extraordinary individuals might do outside of their duties. To see them in normalcy, going about their business and sharing precious memories together reinforces the notion that everyone is human, each with their own experiences that give them drive. Consequently, when audiences have seen for themselves how far each of Sumi, Sonoko and Gin come to know one another, as well as the strength of their friendship, the death of a character is intended to evoke some level of response in viewers: empathy, the ability to understand another being’s emotions, is a cognitive function that evolved in social animals. Writers utilise it to convey a particular mood strongly, and in the case of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, to develop a friendship in such detail (Washio Sumi Chapter’s second acts open up in a light-hearted, even irreverent, tone), only for Gin to be killed during combat, is intended to convey to audiences the extent of the loss that Sonoko and Sumi feel. Friendship, something that takes a considerable amount of effort and time to cultivate, can be destroyed in an instant by external forces. Effective in emphasising this point as its main message, Act Two of Washio Sumi Chapter has raised the stakes for its final part; to be a hero previously meant accepting the risk of personal injury in the line of defending their world. In death, Gin shows the hazards of this duty, and if the documentation holds true, her death serves as the catalyst for changes the Taisha make to their Hero system. The final act of Washio Sumi Chapter will presumably deal with this, along with how Sumi and Sonoko take the loss of a dear friend.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post on Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part will have thirty screenshots such that there is sufficient room to properly discuss things. Irreverent, whimsical and quite unlike anything Yūki Yūna is a Hero veterans expect, the first part of this movie was immensely cheerful, almost to a fault. When their instructors announce the girls are to have some downtime in preparation for their future operations, Sonoko comes to pick up Sumi, where they subsequently listen to music together, and even the normally collected Sumi begins singing along to the music in her own manner.

  • The sheer number of facets to Sumi’s personality drives the comedy in the movie’s first half: after donning some of the dresses in the style that Sumi is fond of, Gin finds herself being photographed mercilessly, leading her to pout. Sumi’s nose explodes with a shower of blood; this was a rather unexpected reaction. Apparently, the nosebleed is an indicator that the character suffering from one is visually stimulated in some manner. While our blood pressure does elevate in the presence of something that excites us, there is no scientific basis for such a reaction happening.

  • Conversely, Sumi becomes quite bashful when asked to wear a Western-style dress. The tables have turned, and Gin photographs herself with Sumi. The scene cuts away to Sumi purifying herself at home later in the evening, who remarks that she’s failed as a Yamato Nadeshiko; this phrase refers to an abstraction of what is considered to be the proper Japanese lady, both dignified, graceful and beautiful, but also resolved and responsible in disposition. The second chapter of Washio Sumi Chapter presents Sumi as a personification of almost all things Japanese.

  • It turns out that Sonoko is an author who spends her spare time working on novels, and longs to write one about her friends. Sonoko’s existing works are well-received, and when Sumi, motivated, tries to write her own history texts, finds herself assailed by online critics. Here, the girls share a moment after drawing on the whiteboard: Sumi’s rendition of the Zuikaku is visible on the blackboard in the background. Like the Nagato, the Zuikaku survived most of the Second World War and was only sunk at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1945.

  • When Sonoko receives a love letter, Gin and Sumi’s reactions simply must be watched to be believed. Fearing curses, Sumi procures a large number of shide (paper streamers) to purify and bless Sonoko, but as it turns out, the letter is actually from a female admirer. Sumi herself later receives a letter, asking her to “bring it down”. Angered by the letter, Sumi promptly burns it while chanting ominously.

  • While Sumi’s warm-up exercises may seem excessive to Gin and Sonoko, there is a good reason for stretching before swimming: the motions of swimming cause the muscles to contract in ways the body may not be accustomed to. Cramps result when the body attempts to rectify this, resulting in pain. Warming up increases circulation that allow the muscles to prepare for the motions ahead, and in other anime, such as Girls und Panzer during one of the OVAs, cramps do indeed occur when the first years hop into the water, forcing the student council to save them.

  • As a worthy precursor to Yūna’s Hero Club, Gin here puts on a show for the entering first year primary students in order to welcome them to their school. Anime have always skewed ages, and while only eleven, Gin, Sonoko and Sumi feel much older than their ages would otherwise suggest. As a part of their performance, the play gives way to a scripted event that Sonoko and Sumi present for the students. A highly patriotic song that screams nationalism, a part of me feels as though there is a bit of propaganda here, although chances are that it’s done primarily for comedic purposes.

  • While I have a moderate understanding of Japanese history, I am not intrinsically familiar with this particular dress style, which brings to mind the likes of Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi. If and when I’m asked about my own sense of national pride, I am Canadian, and the things that I like most about the True North is our multiculturalism, politeness, majestic wilderness, hockey and maple syrup. With that being said, I also greatly respect my heritage: of Cantonese descent, I carry with me a hybrid of Western and traditional values. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the performance that Sumi and Sonoko perform land them in hot water.

  • Scattered intermittently through Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part’s first act are Sonoko’s dreams, which are surreal and somewhat uncanny to behold. Here, Sonoko comes to after dreaming that she’s now banned from eating Udon as punishment for having overdone their orientation presentation. Upon waking up, her friends reassure her, and audiences are left to wonder if they were really disciplined for their performance.

  • On a pleasant day, the girls get together to hang out: it is here that Sumi and Sonoko meet with Gin’s parents and family formally (the events in the previous movie do not count, as Sumi and Sonoko had followed Gin without permission). Gin has remarked that one of her own personal goals is to become a good bride, owing to her love of looking after others and ensuring their happiness. When she jokingly remarks that Sumi could be a bit of a difficult girl for whomever chooses to marry her, she also says that perhaps it would take someone like her to look after Sumi.

  • Having spent all night writing and binding their class activity guides, Sumi presents them to Sonoko and Gin, noting that she’s also given them an electronic version. The size of the volumes are unrealistic: the printing company at campus has a hard limit on the number of pages they bind into a volume, and something with this many pages (I estimate around 600 to 700 assuming the same thickness of paper as used in my thesis). With that being said, I’ve got no idea what the rock-like object Sumi holding is.

  • Events of the training camp proceed nominally as the girls complete their exercises. Gin and Sumi complete theirs with flair, and it is Sonoko who grows pensive. However, with some encouragement, she manages to finish the course and is petted by Gin. Feeling left out, Sumi endearingly forces her way between the two and is petted in return. I certainly was not expecting this from Sumi, but it demonstrates her desire to be a part of the friendship that all three of them share.

  • On a high from the day’s activities, Gin falls from a climbing apparatus when her grip falters. The events’ possible inclusion as a bit of foreshadowing notwithstanding, Gin promises to take it down a peg when Sonoko and Sumi express concern, but when the girls begin cooking lunch for the others, she quickly returns to her usual cheerful self. Grilling meats and vegetables on skewers is a longtime staple featured in anime, associated with summer: the searing of meat always seems to produce a distinct flavour that is remarkable. This flavour comes from concurrent Milliard reactions, which create aromatic rings in the constituent molecules that make up the meat.

  • Sumi and Sonoko take on simplified eyes when the former notices an Allomyrina dichotoma (common name Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle) on her shoulder. Distributed in Japan, Taiwan and Eastern China, these beetles are popular in Japan as pets. Sonoko seems unbothered, whereas Sumi is not particularly fond of insects, and sees Sonoko as being covered with the beetles. Pleasant is the weather in Washio Sumi Chapter a far cry from the skies around my city, where it seems spring has not fully ignited yet – trees are only beginning to bud, and a cold overcast sky dominates the area. While I lament the poor weather ahead in the forecast, the skies today became sunny and pleasant just in time for me to partake in this year’s Poutine Week challenge. A charity programme in which a participating restaurant will donate a meal to someone in need for every poutine sold, Poutine Week happens every April.

  • The girls’ instructor here struggles to eat a green pepper. I’m not a picky eater by any definition and love trying new dishes out. High on the list of things I like are exotic poutines: for Poutine Week this year, I visited the Midtown Café to enjoy the Philadelphia Cheese Steak poutine – a classy poutine decked out in roasted cuts of beef, beef demi-glace, sautéed onions and marinated chilies drizzled in a horseradish aioli, garnished with mustard microgreens, this is perhaps one of the most fancy poutines I’ve ever had. The heavier flavours of the demi-glace, fries, cheese kurds and beef were offset by the bite the chilies provided, and there was a bit of a kick coming from the aioli that gave the poutine a very complex flavour.

  • After lunch, we went back to the office space to host a small 007 GoldenEye Source LAN party. This was immensely entertaining, and after warming up with some TDM hosted locally, we hopped onto a public server whose main game mode was gun master. Aside from some colourful language from other players, we had a fantastic time. The clouds returned in force by the time I returned home, and the rain began falling as the evening set in. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the girls take a break atop the bell tower, having completed their assignment for the training camp. Up until this point, there are no Vertex, and Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act presents the precious moments that Sumi, Sonoko and Gin spend together.

  • When the Vertex do arrive, however, this instalment of Washio Sumi Chapter takes on a much grimmer tone. There is actually quite a bit to consider during the combat, which makes up the last ten minutes of the instalment and led indirectly to the page quote sourced from the Auralnauts video “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”. As will become apparent, the final ten minutes of this episode of Washio Sumi Chapter is a moving display. Viewers are treated once more to the full transformation sequence. While Sumi’s segment is most pleasing to the eye, Gin’s is pleasing to the ear: perhaps I might be one of the only viewers out there who enjoyed listening to Gin’s small grunts as she swings her blades around in preparation for combat.

  • As the fighting begins, the girls learn that they are taking on a pair of Vertices, but the situation worsens when a third appears. Taking their learnings, Sumi stays back to provide covering fire while Gin and Sonoko engage each Vertex at close quarters. Sumi’s aim is true; both Gin and Sonoko land hits against the Vertex, but they soon unleash a powerful counterattack. Sumi and Gin take cover under Sonoko’s umbrella to weather out the storm of missiles the Vertex launch, but are swatted by a scorpion-like tail.

  • The impact is so ferocious that Sonoko and Sumi suffer internal injuries, taking them out of the fight. The girls had previously left combat with minor scratches and bruises, and earlier in this act, Sumi experiences a furious nosebleed when seeing Gin in a dress, but the comedy and slapstick vanishes: the injuries and damage here are very real. A closer inspection of this post will find that almost half of the screenshots deal with their fight against the Vertex; the proportion of combat time to time spent depicting the girls’ everyday lives is a deliberate choice, setting the stage for the message that this second episode aims to convey, and goes to show that friendships, constructed lovingly over a period of time, can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

  • With the destruction of the Shinju an unacceptable alternative, Gin is forced to engage the Vertex on her own when she sees the state that Sonoko and Sumi are in. The Vertex seen in Washio Sumi Chapter do not appear to have a core as did the ones seen in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and fall after sustaining enough damage. Given this change, it stands to reason that the Vertex appear to be constructs that arise from aberrations in their world, which, in conjunction with how the second act’s opening is presented, gives credence to the notion that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is set in a simulated reality.

  • Promising to fight in their steed and return to them, Gin sets off against overwhelming odds. It’s the last time audiences see Gin smile, and from here on out, it’s all business. Earlier, Gin had promised her brother that she would return to give him a souvenir from her trip, and this is the bit of foreshadowing that hints at her eventual fate. Still in reasonable shape, and with her blades doubling as shields, she takes off with the intent of taking out both Vertices and fulfilling her promise.

  • The differences in scale here simultaneously serve to suggest the odds that Gin is going up against, as well as her own persistence. Abstract entities that are dubbed “Ugly”, “Admiral Aimbot” and “Walrus Face”, the Vertex are described in the opening narration as being the “Pinnacles” of something, a rather ironic description considering the dangers they pose to the Shinju. A point worth bringing up here, is that Vertices in plural will invariably be brought up as Yūki Yūna is a Hero progresses: while Vertex in plural can be spelt as “vertexes”, “vertices” is the much more widely-used variation, hence my choosing to spell it in this manner. Having said this, “vertexes” might be more appropriate in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, considering their unusual nature.

  • Despite having closed the distance between herself and the Vertex in order to enter melee range, Gin is punctured by the energy-like projectiles that leave large holes in her body. The damage she sustains does little to stop her: she manages to shear off the tail from one of the Vertices and slashes a hole in another with her blades. However, the onslaught is simply too much for one individual to negotiate: projectiles punch through her foot and other parts of her body, knocking her down.

  • Absolutely refusing to give up, Gin feels that her spirit, love for her family and friends, and a determination to fulfil her promises to each, makes her stronger than her opponents. This is the basis for the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s name. However, unlike typical stories where willpower and love for those important to one triumph totally, Gin’s efforts end with her death, whose sacrifice is total as she fights to fulfil her duty to the Shunju and people in her life.

  • Gin’s defeat and passing is a plausible outcome for her situation, or, as some might say, “realistic”, similar to how it was implausible for the Calgary Flames to defeat the Anaheim Ducks during the playoffs. While I am a fan of plausible outcomes and to a lesser extent, realism, I feel that these elements should not impede the presentation of a narrative’s thematic elements. There are cases where realism is favoured over consistency, leading a work of fiction to feel jarring on the virtue that the events of a finale are not in keeping with the message the work aimed to make clear. In the case of Washio Sumi Chapter, Gin’s death is necessary to advance things, rather than being included for drama’s sake.

  • Here, Gin pushes one final charge that will deal a killing blow to the Vertex, at the expense of her own life. I contend that dark themes and events are similarly related to realism, that realism is not positively correlated with darkness, and it is folly to think that a darker story is automatically more thought provoking. The best stories accomplish several things: they lead us to challenge our own views of the world, vividly experience things that would otherwise be quite unlikely or dangerous, and/or inspire us in some way. Fiction need not be nihilistic and dark to accomplish this, and in the excess, can cause a work to come across as being quite superficial in quality. Madoka Magica and Yūki Yūna is a Hero feature such elements to varying extents, but their success in moving an audience comes because viewers care for the characters rather than because the characters are made to suffer for the sake of drama.

  • This is the sight that Sonoko and Sumi are presented with when they come to and reach Gin. Her weapons lying on the battlefield, and standing totally still, the two are initially relieved that Gin is still apparently in one piece. It was mentioned earlier that the girls’ hero outfits provide some degree of protection against the Vertex’s assault, and this does seem to hold true: no one’s had their internal organs blown out or their entire body bifrucated as in Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan as of yet despite the terrifying power the Vertex can wield.

  • In the eerie still, Sumi and Sonoko soon realise that Gin’s right arm is missing. Unlike Imran Zakhaev, who survived the loss of his arm despite the blood loss and resulting shock, the damage done to Gin is beyond survival. It is here that Sumi and Sonoko’s fears come to pass. The injuries shown openly on screen might be too much to show on television; if the televised broadcast of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is going to censor the blood and carnage, however, it might also lessen the impact of this moment.

  • Sonoko and Sumi let out wrenching sobs in light of the loss of their best friend that match the impact imparted by Hikari back during the days of Brave Witches and then some. The film draws to a close here, leaving audiences with a preview of what the final act of Washio Sumi Chapter entails. Moving into the finale, I am hoping for further details on the Vertex: it is difficult to consider Yūku Yūna is a Hero without them, and knowing about their beliefs, desires and intentions will add weight to the Heroes’ fight against the Vertex.

  • Before I wrap things up, for those wondering, I’ve been around the block long enough to be blunted towards tears: although quite moving, I did not shed any tears, much less several individual tears, at the episode’s conclusion. Thus ends another post on Washio Sumi Chapter. I will be returning to write about the final act in July, and for the present, note that discussion on the Washio Sumi Chapter has been surprisingly minimal. This will likely change in the near future once Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season is aired, but for now, the quiet isn’t such a bad thing.

In spite of the opening narration redacting some elements about the Vertex and Taisha, the information that is provided seems to align with the idea that this Yūki Yūna is a Hero occurs within a simulated reality: the Vertex are suggested to be anomalies within the system, and the Heroes would therefore serve as a sort of anti-virus or anti-malware platform for defending the Shinju, the operating system, from threats arising within the programming. The spontaneous creation of Vertex as an antagonist hints at instability in the system, and there is a limit to what speculation can accomplish: there’s still quite a bit of background about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that audiences are not privy to. While not presenting the complete picture, having these dialogues and fragments of information is infinitely preferable to the absence of exposition. Until more documentation becomes available to support or refute my guesses, I will continue to go with the idea that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is the mahou shoujo take on The Matrix. With the second act of Washio Sumi Chapter in the books, the stage is now set for the final movie, which is set for release on July 8. I am very curious to see the intermediate story between Sumi’s transition to Mimori, as well as the difficult path that Sonoko chooses to defend her world. Yūki Yūna is a Hero might have been met with a lukewarm reception at best for dropping viewers into the middle of things, but the Washio Sumi Chapter films have been a modest attempt at addressing the background behind this world so far. If the third movie can explain more about the Taisha and Vertices’ respective natures, and the Hero Chapter of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season can explore how Yūna’s team handles their knowledge following the events of the first season, the world presented in Yūki Yūna is a Hero will feel more complete, and the girls’ actions, more consistent.

Sakura Quest: Review and Impressions After Three

“I felt the need to be more open and expressive of my feelings, not just about the hills and the countryside, but about the daily life.” –Donald Hall

Faced with the challenges of finding full-time employment as her graduation draws near, Yoshino Koharu finds herself offered with an unusual position: to become the Queen of Manoyama, a small town in rural Japan far removed from Tokyo, to promote tourism to the area. While this offer turns out to have been made on the basis of mistaken identity, Yoshino learns that Manoyama was the town where one of her fondest memories of being crowned were made: she nonetheless is displeased with prospects of staying for a year, attempting the impossible task of selling a thousand boxes of manjū on the condition that she be released from her contract on success. Despite failing, she draws upon her resources and know-how to try and bolster sales with the friendly Shiori Shinomiya, Ririko Oribe (Shiori’s friend with a profund knowledge of the occult), ammeter actor Maki Midorikawa and the web developer Sanae Kōzuki, becoming closer to them in the process. Later, during a televised competition to promote Manoyama, Yoshino realises that, following her attempts to learn more about the town and its residents, she genuinely wants to make a difference, and to Ushimatsu Kadota, head of Manoyama’s Tourism Board, she agrees to stay the year and help out on the condition of being able to work with Shiori, Sanae, Maki and Ririko. I am all smiles when watching Sakura Quest, and there is little doubt in my mind that this is going to be one of the strongest anime on my table for this season: wielding both sincerity and comedy, Sakura Quest is a reminder that P.A. Works is at their finest when they work with original anime set in the real world to showcase the trials and tribulations of people. Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari and Shirobako were each excellent works, firmly about challenges and adversity in life, as well as making the most of what one is dealt to ultimately craft a highly compelling story whose characters audiences can empathise with.

Hanasaku Iroha dealt with Ohana learning about the worth of hard work and dealing with her feelings for her friend, Kō, Tari Tari follows a group of friends seeking to create an opus magnum before their halcyon days in high school draw to a close, and Shirobako sees Aoi Miyamori settle into her job as a production assistant at an anime studio, being later promoted to production manager as she discovers her own talents in the position. Each of these anime were highly engaging, and in Sakura Quest, P.A. Works’ talent for depicting real-world stories continues. Yoshino’s predicament in trying to help Ushimatsu drive tourism to Manoyama parallels the struggles that towns in Japan’s inaka, or rural Japan, face: their populations aging, and with youth like Yoshino being drawn to the city for its greater opportunity, populations in the inaka are declining along with economic prospects. However, in some places, settlements and towns in the inaka are making a resurgence, brought on by the people’s desires to escape the manic pace of the city or as a result of increased promotional efforts. This social issue is captured in Sakura Quest, and despite a healthy dose of comedy present, Sakura Quest is very open about the challenges that inaka communities, such as the fictional Manoyama, face in their futures. Consequently, Sakura Quest‘s upcoming depiction of Yoshino’s journeys with her newfound friends in Manoyama will certainly be one that is as much about her own personal discovery as it is about how a group of friends can indeed make a difference in a a part of Japan that seems stubbornly set in its ways even in the face of decline.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I will mention this again later: Sakura Quest has twenty five episodes in the works, meaning that I will be returning at some intervals to discuss how the anime is progressing. I also open with the remark that I’m up to speed with Sakura Quest, and that of the numerous discussions I’ve seen so far, none have delved into the societal elements of Japan that drive the narrative of Sakura Quest. Population aging and decline is a very real issue facing the countryside, and programs incentivising citizens to move to or stay in the countryside definitely exist.

  • Yoshino Koharu is Sakura Quest‘s Aoi Miyamori, the reluctant hero who finds herself thrown into situations she’s initially uncomfortable with handling. Yoshino is voiced by Ayaka Nanase, a relatively new voice actor for whom this is her first leading role. After arriving in Manoyama, Yoshino is greeted by the tourism board, who immediately note that she’s not the person they’re expecting. In a bit of dark irony, the individual they were expecting had died some years back, and consequently, they’re ready to see if Yoshino might be a fit.

  • The interior of the Manoyama Tourism Board’s office will undoubtly be a location that audiences can expect to see more of in the upcoming episodes, being their base of operations. Its depiction in high detail here complete with one of the employees playing Go on their laptop, is a reminder of the level of quality that P.A. Works places into its anime. In general, their anime strike a balance between highly intricate and organisation in its environments that create a detailed, yet clean setting.

  • Shiori is a Manoyama native roughly around Yoshino’s age. Being friendly and kind, she’s a member of the tourism board with a genuine interest in bolstering tourism around the Manoyama area and is extremely knowledgeable about the region. Shiori is voiced by Reina Ueda, whom I’ve seen previously as Kuromukuro‘s Sophie Noelle and Shizune Takatsuki of Infinite Stratos². I finished Kuromukuro in December, some three months after it finished airing, and the reason why I never did write a review for it was because I had mixed feelings about it after the conclusion.

  • After Yoshino accepts her position, she has dinner with some of the more senior members of the Tourism Board. While food and drink is partaken, I take advantage of the moment to steal a cursory glance at my archive for this month: I’ve got a fair number of gaming posts out as a result of having pushed through Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered. I’ve still yet to actually write about Titanfall 2: the past while’s been busy in real life, and yesterday, I returned to the CYSF as a judge. After a light pastry and apple juice, I stepped out into the fair to begin my adjudication of the student’s projects.

  • The last science fair I participated in was eleven years ago; it was a rainy day, and I’d struggled to get my trifold to the exhibition venue. My project, outlining the implications of genetics research, went reasonably well, earning me a bronze medal and a small cash prize: looking back, it was a fun experience. Presently, it was an equally fun and meaningful experience to approach the science fair from the judge’s perspective, encouraging young minds to explore science. Back in Sakura Quest, Yoshino meets Maki for the first time, who irritates her to no end with her abuse of the word “normal” (普通, futsū).

  • If time permits, I may go back and continue to judge science fairs as a volunteer. For the present, I return my attention to Sakura Quest and share with the reader a cruel laugh at Yoshino’s expense: she learns that her contract is to be a year rather than a day, choosing to flee for her life rather than honour it. However, Manoyama’s remoteness makes escape next to impossible – the train station is closed. It brings to mind the gulag of the Kolyma region; these were sufficiently isolated and located in frigid lands such that escaping was pointless, as escapees would simply freeze to death.

  • P.A. Works might be known for a variety of things, but for me, I know them best for their exceptional “funny faces”: Shirobako featured Aoi wearing a variety of hilarious expressions, and one of my goals this season for Sakura Quest will be to capture as many funny faces as I can in the reviews that I do for this series. So far, it’s been pretty disciplined, but I’m hoping that we see Yoshino with some Aoi Miyamori-level facial expressions soon. Here, Yoshino flees after a “Chupacabra” appears. Refusing to use a special sword to dramatically take it out, Yoshino winds up injuring Ushimatsu instead.

  • A thousand boxes of manjū are delivered in error, and Ushimatsu decides that Yoshino is free to go if she can sell of all thousand boxes within a week before their “best before” date. This is a Sisyphean task: Manoyama’s entire population is around fifty thousand, and Ushimatsu pegs it a test of Yoshino’s resolve. Her initial efforts are unsuccessful, and she decides to figure out a means of marketing their presence to the locals, recruiting the local web developer and blogger Sanae to help.

  • Demonstrating her knack for creative solutions, Yoshino suggests that they try to capitalise on the chupacabra sightings in the area to create a sense of intrigue around the manjū; they speak with Ririko here to learn more. Sakura Quest spells the chapacabra as “chupakaura”, the katakana form for the cryptid. Life in the inaka is said to be remarkably quiet, and outside of work, there is not too much to do. Surprisingly, life in suburban Canada without a vehicle is rather similar – folks suggest picking up a good hobby, and armed with a powerful internet connection and a sense of adventure, I would imagine that, besides a significantly longer commute, my life in the inaka would probably not be too different than it is now: I would spend weekends exploring the countryside via hikes on days with pleasant weather and game or write if the conditions is unfavourable.

  • Yoshino’s resourcefulness drew me into Sakura Quest, and it is quite clear that despite her numerous rejection from jobs in Tokyo, she has a unique skillset as a result of her studies in Tokyo. Simply because companies might not count her as being a qualified candidate does not mean that Yoshino lacks skills, and it is reasonable to imagine that her experiences in Manoyama change her in appreciable ways, either setting her up to stay in the countryside or equipping her with marketable skills in order to gain an offer.

  • With sales of the manjū doing quite poorly even after a few days, Yoshino further resolves to create a short movie to capture the novelty around them, hoping to motivate sales. Even this proves unsuccessful, but the exercise accomplishes several important functions, such as bringing Yoshino, Ririko, Sanae and Maki closer to one another. It is often through failure that critical learnings are attained, and the value of these learnings can become much more valuable than the success itself. It is around the events of the second episode where Sakura Quest truly begins shining, providing viewers with an iron-clad incentive to continue enjoying this anime.

  • Although dejected, Yoshino tries a manjū, learns that it is exceptionally good, and suddenly realises that her time with the others has been an enjoyable one. They decide to stick together long enough for Yoshino to check out the sakura blossoms in the area one week from this point: fate itself continues to draw Yoshino back to Manoyama, and despite her reluctance, Yoshino slowly will come to appreciate the different features and pacing of the inaka. While I speak as though there is source material, Sakura Quest is an original anime; my speculations (and confident delivery of such) is motivated by my familiarity with outcomes in such narratives. Knowing what happens, however, is not where the fun lies – the real enjoyment comes from watching how a narrative’s events progress.

  • It typically takes me some time to become acclimitised to all of the characters and their names, but in the case of Sakura Quest, I’ve become familiarised with all of the major characters at the third episode mark; there’s no need for me to look at an external reference in order to determine how to spell their names or identify who they are. This is a solid start to Sakura Quest in the exposition component, introducing enough characters to get things started without overwhleming the viewers.

  • Shiori and Yoshino meet Maki’s brother, who is trying to convince her to return home. On top of being easy to remember, the characters of Sakura Quest are (perhaps with the exception of the cold townspeople) immediately likeable – this presentation seems to suggest that the anime will be about the tourism board trying to rally the town behind them to Make Manoyama Great Again℠. While long associated with the presidential campaign of 2016, the phrase “Make America Great Again℠” originates with Ronald Regan’s campaign in 1980.

  • Despite being the Queen of Manoyama, Yoshino realises that she has very limited background on Manoyama and its people. Here, she’s preparing for a televised interview about Manoyama, and promptly botches it despite support from Shiori. Ever-supportive and cheerful, Shiori and Yoshino get along remarkably well: Shiori is the first to begin supporting and encouraging, Yoshino, who finds her own feet with the conclusion of the third episode’s events.

  • While idealists have grand visions in their minds about bringing about change, the largest impediment to change is the fact that for the most part, people are unaccustomed to change and prefer the status quo. This is why disruptive forces, such as new technologies, often do not take off until on particular approach to the technology catches on for its convenience and ease of use. The smartphone is a fantastic example of this: the IBM Simon Personal Communicator was the first-ever smartphone, being able to make calls and receive emails. Introduced in 1992 and retailing for 1099 USD, the device had a touch screen. However, these devices remained uncommon and largely used by businesses until 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone. The concept of a device that could do mobile computing in conjunction with acting as a phone was nothing new by that point, but Apple succeeded in creating a smooth, enjoyable user experience that subsequently changed the face of electronic communications forever.

  • It would be quite unrealistic (and unfair) to expect Yoshino to streamline a concept or process in order to revitalise Manoyama’s economy, but to see what she makes of her situation is what will make Sakura Quest fun to watch. When a costume mishap leads to #TeamManoyama nearly missing their allocated time slot in a competition, Yoshino steps in and orders for them to combine the two costumes, then proceeds to deliver a heartfelt speech that, while not scoring any points with the judges, conveys her own conviction in helping Make Manoyama Great Again℠.

  • While on hanami with the others, Yoshino comes to realise that she’s found four fantastic friends in Manoyama. She comes to a conclusion, making a request to Ushimatsu to work with them, and her decision thus sparks the remainder of the story that will be presented in the upcoming weeks. I’ve always been fond of origin stories, and seeing how things begin – Sakura Quest is no exception, and I look forwards to seeing how things proceed in this twenty-five episode anime. The opening and ending songs, Morning Glory and Freesia, respectively, are set to release in May 17. Overall, the visuals and direction in Sakura Quest have been solid, but the soundtrack’s been a bit lower-key so far.

  • After lifting weights, I spent most of the day playing through Battlefield 1 and went for a walk to acquire the Earth Day challenge on Apple Activities. It was an overcast evening that I stepped out to for dinner; besides a special fried rice with garlic shrimps, we also had Thailand-style chicken, sweet and sour pork, a stir fry and fried fish balls. With the “after three” post for Sakura Quest in the books, I will be looking at Saekano♭ after three episodes in the near future. In addition, with Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act available now, another post for that will be rolling off the runway in the very near future. This is about it for the anime I’ve got lined up to write about in the foreseeable future – Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1 Premium are the other two posts that are on the list of things I aim to finish before April is out.

Immensely relatable right out of the gates, Sakura Quest seems an anime that audiences in my age bracket will relate with quickly: the uncertainties associated with making that transition between school and work is a frightening one, and sometimes, opportunities can arise from the most unlikely of circumstances. This is precisely what happens to Yoshino, whose career in the tourism industry begins with a mistake arising from illegible handwriting. This opening reflects on how reality itself can play out in the most unusual of ways, and for those persistent enough to stick things out, the journey can prove to be a rewarding one. With this remark, I have an inkling that I may have with reasonable accuracy, described Sakura Quest‘s main thematic element already, but like all of its predecessors, it is this journey whose worth makes the anime worth following. Sakura Quest is slated to run for twenty five episodes – such a number corresponds with an adequate time frame to really capture Yoshino’s experiences, and consequently, it would not be mistaken to surmise that Sakura Quest could be as captivating and entertaining to watch as its predecessors set in the real world.

Friends- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part One Review and Reflection

“Make ten men feel like a hundred.” —Cassian Andor, Rogue One

Before she met Yūna Yūki, Mimori Tōgō was known as Sumi Washio. She is assigned, with her classmates Sonoko Nogi and Gin Minowa, as heroes to defend the Shinju from the Vertex. Despite still lacking the requisite training to be effective in combat, they are pressed into an engagement with a Vertex that presents them with a considerable challenge. In the end, it is the combination of brute force and a team effort that allow them to claim their first kill. Following this battle, their instructor assigns Sonoko to be the team leader, while Sumi struggles to summon the courage to become friends with Sonoko and Gin, all the while lamenting how the other two do not seem very serious or dedicated about their roles. Successful, the group of friends take on their second vertex and only manage a narrow victory over it; their instructor decides to give the girls a training camp, where they hone their ability to coordinate as a team. While improving as heroes, Sumi notices that Gin is consistently late for school, and one day, after tailing her with Sonoko and learning that Gin seems to be drawn into helping others, the third vertex appears. Faltering when Sonoko and Gin engage it, it is with their encouragement that Sumi opens fire on the Vertex, creating an opening that allows Gin to neutralise it. Sumi realises that despite her own determination, she is likely to be holding the team back and dissolves in tears, resolving to strengthen herself. So ends the first part of the Washio Sumi Chapter, the prequel to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, which sets the stage for exploring Mimori’s background as a hero. Veterans have noted that Yūki Yūna is a Hero lacks a formal exposition, dropping viewers directly into the universe without much in the way of explanation. While Yūki Yūna is a Hero managed to present a coherent, well-defined theme, the anime’s original run in 2014 also left audiences with questions: unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which thoroughly explained their universe’s mechanics, very little about the Taisha and Shinju are known even after twelve episodes.

In Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part, the focus is on Sumi’s growth as a character, learning that beliefs and attitudes are only half the battle: when the time comes, action becomes just as important, and discipline during peace time may not necessarily correspond to acting appropriately during an operation. Although Sumi tries to remind herself time and time again that her own self-reliance will mean that she’s looking after Sonoko and Gin, when taking on the Vertex in combat, Sumi freezes up and stops thinking when her mode of attack, taking the form of a magical bow, proves ineffectual. Her ranged weapons have a low travel speed and are easily disrupted by turbulence the Vertex can conjure; these limitations in combat compared to the seemingly more effectual weapons that Sonoko and Gin wield appear to weigh on her mind. Instead of seeing herself as being useful in providing long-range support for her close quarters oriented teammates, Sumi concludes that she must improve to support her friends in new ways, rather than making the most of the loadout she’s got to assist Sonoko and Gin. These elements sum up to present Sumi as being a very consistent but rigid-minded individual, constrained by her own analysis and understanding of a situation; ever interested in studying history and its lessons, Sumi’s love of knowledge is her greatest asset, but both in Washio Sumi Chapter and the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, it also becomes an impediment. Thus, right from the beginning, in establishing Mimori’s personality, audiences gain a better sense of what drives Mimori throughout much of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to the strength of Sumi’s belief in her own self-reliance, it is reasonable to suppose that the remaining parts of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s contents will deal with her gradually opening up, only to be sent back to square one as events unfold.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been around eight and a half months since I last wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and the anime itself aired between October and December in 2014. As memory serves, I was starting out on my journey as a graduate student back then; Sword Art OnlineSora no Method and Amagi Brilliant Park were the two anime I watched that season. In this post, I include thirty images of the Washio Sumi Chapter and open with the remark that Sumi Washio will be referred to as Sumi throughout this post even though she is re-christened Mimori Tōgō later on.

  • From left to right, Gin Minowa, Sumi Washio and Sonoko Nogi prepare for battle against their first Vertex. Mysterious beings whose origins are never explained and whose goals seem restricted to “destroy the Shinju”, they act as the antagonists that drive the protagonists together. One of the things that proved quite entertaining about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was that Hero duty is facilitated for by a suite of apps on the girls’ smartphones. Even in the short span since I watched Yūki Yūna is a Hero, smart phone technology has already increased in complexity: the new iPhone 7s do not have a physical home screen button and rely on Force Touch for interactions, and the iPhone 8 is expected to be even more sophisticated, leaving the iPhone 6 that I (and Taki of Your Name) wield in the dust.

  • As per tradition of any mahou shoujo anime, the girls undergo a lengthy transformation sequence when it is shown for the first time. Sumi’s sequence remains unchanged from its successor in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although when one factors into consideration that she’s only eleven here, the question of whether or not there’s any point at all in focussing the camera on her chest and posterior comes to mind. This might cross the line for some, and I’m not ready to consider the ramifications of Sumi’s transformation. However, I am quite ready to discuss her initial loadout as a hero: a magical bow that fires arrows dealing damage to the Vertex but is constrained by low projectile speed and as a result, suffers from serious projectile drop.

  • Gin is equipped with a pair of stylised blades with a rocket engine of sorts to boost her power. Confident, cheerful and easygoing, Gin prefers charging into combat with little semblence of a plan and is voiced by Yumiri Hanamori: a relative newcoming as a voice actor, I’m not familair with her other roles beyond those of Anne Hanakoizumi in Anne Happy, which I’ve yet to watch, and Remo of Garakowa: Restore the World.

  • Gentlest of the heroes but also a natural leader, Sonoko wields a trident that can transform into an umbrella-like shield during combat to cover her teammates. She is one of the longest serving heroes and loses much of her body in the fight against the Vertex as a result of activating her NT-D mankai in excess of twenty instances, later informing Yūki of the fate that awaits heroes. Sonoko is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, a veteran voice actor who’s also played Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and Your Name.

  • Lacking any sort of combat experience, the girls improvise a plan but find themselves overwhelmed by the Vertex’s water-element attacks. The homing water bubbles overwhelm Gin, who demonstrates resourcefulness by drinking down the entire thing and remarking that while it tasted quite poor, it was a necessary move. Gin’s description suggests that the Vertex is using pure, distilled water free of any minerals: our taste receptors can pick up ions in water, giving water a minor taste, and distilled water will be unusually flat. While some folks consider distilled water the best to drink for its lack of contaminants, the lack of minerals can be detrimental to the body.

  • Ultimately, Sumi is able to shoot off one of the Vertex’s weapons, and Gin capitalises on this opening to slice-and-dice the Vertex, causing it to disintegrate and creating a phenomenon that is visualised as a shower of flowers. Gin and Sonoko celebrate their first victory together, and the world is restored. The soundtrack in Washio Sumi Chapter seems unchanged since its presentation in Yūki Yūna is a Hero: composed by Keiichi Okabe (of Nier Automata and Wake Up, Girls!), there is an ethereal quality to his performances that rival those of Yuki Kajiura, who wrote the music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

  • The architecture in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is less visually distinct than those seen in Madoka Magica, speaking very little about the characters’ internal feelings. Structures featuring more conventional designs, and there are no major cities with skyscrapers, although some large structures, such as the suspension bridge, have unique features that make them unlike those of the real world: here, a large ring can be seen on one of the suspension bridge towers, and a close-up of the bridge reveals small charms attached to the bridge’s cables.

  • I’m gearing up to help judge at the Calgary Youth Science Fair this Friday, and will be in attendance of an orientation tomorrow evening. Despite being done school, things have remained quite busy, engaging. My reason for helping out with the science fairs is that I’m actually quite curious to see what young minds out there are doing these days. I still recall my participation in the science fair during my second and third year of middle school: on both occasions, I did a research project and won bronze in my category. Looking back, it definitely was a fun experience, and it will be quite exciting to see things from the other side of the fence.

  • Sumi turns luminescent when Sonoko asks her to share her gelato here, after they visit a local place to celebrate their first victory and also commemorate their friendship. It’s not quite as intense as Kon of Urara Meirocho, whose entire body turns pink out of embarrassment. I’ve noted before that Kon and Mimori/Sumi strongly resemble one another, similar to how Itsuki and Nono share some similarities in appearance and manner.

  • The second vertex Sumi and the others face project a powerful windstorm that makes movement nearly impossible. The abstract designs of the spaces the Vertex and Shinju occupy in Yūki Yūna is a Hero lack the same imagery of those seen in Madoka Magica, lacking distinct features of the Witches’ labyrinths. This is because the Witches’ labyrinths are spaces the Witches create to hide in and can provide an approximation of the Witches’ former character (for Oktavia von Seckendorff, her labyrinth is characterised by a fixation on Sayaka’s crush, Kyōsuke, and his musical talents), whereas in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the heroes fight in an alternate space to minimise damage to the real world.

  • While doubtlessly not short with respect to the cool factor, arrows are a very limited weapon against the Vertex, who can deflect them without much effort. Sumi’s weapons are further constrained by the need of a charge time to be effective: they appear to deal their maximum damage only after all of the pedals in the holographic flower are lit. Charged weapons are a feature of some first person shooters (Team Fortress 2‘s snipers, the Gauss rifle’s siege mode in DOOM and the plasma railgun in Titanfall come to mind): a charge mechanic allows support players to deal massive damage in the support role, requiring patience. A good sniper hangs out in the back and targets their opponents from a distance, and it appears that Sumi does not fully understand her role on the hero team.

  • Gin’s melee weapons are oriented entirely for offense, while Sonoko’s trident suggest an intermediary role, allowing her to provide offense and defense as required. While the girls have the basic ranges and roles covered, a part of their limitation owing to their limited experience means that no one really capitalises fully on their abilities even in their second battle: as their instructor remarks, Gin’s final destruction of the second Vertex is more brute force than finesse. A team in touch with one another would see Sumi sit back from direct combat and use her ranged capabilities to provide covering fire. Sonoko would get herself and Gin close to the vertex and engage with their respective offensive weapons.

  • Following their second battle, their instructor decides that Sonoko should be the team leader; Sumi is presented as being arrogant to an extent, supposing that Sonoko was selected on virtue of background rather than skill, but nonetheless resolves to work hard and support the team as best as she can. Like Gin, I’ve never been particularly good with leadership roles and prefer to be in the passenger seat, helping a driver make decisions and provide support, although as the need arises, I can and will lead a team. This trait carries over to Battlefield and other games, where I prefer being a gunner rather than a driver.

  • Transforming her trident into a beach umbrella as a shield, their instructor’s exercise is to storm a beach, working as a team to reach a capture point without getting hit. In the beginning, the exercise is unsuccessful as each of Sonoko, Gin and Sumi act independently. However, when they work as a team as stipulated earlier, with Sumi providing covering fire from the rear and Sonoko shielding Gin long enough for her to close the distance and enter melee range, they complete their task splendidly. Besides practical training, the girls also hone their minds, busying themselves with study and even meditating, although Gin cramps up and falls over during meditation. I’m stupidly inflexible, and it takes all of my willpower to prevent my leg from cramping while I meditate.

  • After Gin tries to mess with Sumi’s assets, their instructor comes in to bring an end to things and restore the peace, promptly blowing Sumi and Gin away when she proves to be bigger…for them, resulting in the reaction here. Although Yūki Yūna is a Hero does have its serious moments, it is not devoid of comedy. Exaggerated facial expressions and reactions are present in the anime, and while there are themes of betrayal, trust and doubt as a part of the story, the overall tone is rather more optimistic than those of Madoka Magica.

  • The events of Madoka Magica were unexpected, coming out of left field and blew away audiences. If word is to be believed, it was the very learnings from Sora no Woto of the Anime no Chikara Project that were utilised in Madoka Magica to create a work that was both entertaining and surprising. The Anime no Chikara project is erroneously assumed to have been discarded after failure, and I myself assumed this to be the case until my recent Sora no Woto posts: looking into things, I learned that the program was intended to only run for a year.

  • Generally reserved, Sumi becomes rather more animated whenever history is mentioned: she wastes no time in conveying her enthusiasm for Japanese history and mentions the battleship Nagato. Constructed in 1910, modernised during the mid-1930s and serving as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s flagship for a period, the Nagato survived WWII, having seen very little in the way of direct combat and survived several attacks compared to other vessels. However, despite their intimidating looks, I myself are a much bigger fan of aircraft carriers over battleships.

  • I’m what is considered a wet blanket, since when I’m out, I tend to try and maintain a sleep pattern as close to that of home as possible so I have enough energy to get through the day’s main events, rather than staying up into the late hours of the evening. I’ve never been a night person, and typically, I get most of my work done between nine and three: in the afternoon, I grow tired, and productivity declines. This stands in stark comparison with some of my friends and coworkers, who work their best as the evening turns to night, at the expense of not being morning people.

  • After returning from their training camp, Sumi grows frustrated that Gin is late yet again, and decides to get to the bottom of things. She uses a periscope here to peer over some cover, with Sonoko in tow, learning that Gin’s propensity to help others seems to be something that can’t be helped. Very much a Japanese concept, Shikata ga nai (仕方が無い) is supposed to be the Japanese spirit of endurance, maintaining face in light of challenges; this stands in contrast with views in the West, where prevailing thought is to figure out a solution to that problem sooner rather than later (“don’t get mad, get even”).

  • Gin quickly becomes my favourite character of the Washio Sumi Chapter: ever ready to help those around her and carrying an inextinguishable spirit as a result of having to look after her siblings, she tends to help everyone along her way to school, explaining why she’s always late for school. Like Madoka Magica‘s original TV run and home release, the backgrounds of  Yūki Yūna is a Hero are quite simple and clean, compared to the more intricate backgrounds of the Madoka Magica movies.

  • The unusual setup of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero leads me to wonder if their world is not unlike of that of The Matrix, being a highly sophisticated simulated reality. In such a world, whoever is running this simulation would have their own reasons for keeping the characters occupied (perhaps similar to how Rick has an entire world inside his battery in the Rick and Morty episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”), and also would account for how things freeze as the girls take the Vertex on in combat. Of course, the presence of a microverse in something like Yūki Yūna is a Hero would be one of the biggest plot twists of the century.

  • Audiences should be safe, however: for the time being, there are few indicators beyond my own enjoyment of Rick and Morty that would lead to the potential conclusion that the Yūki Yūna is a Hero universe is set inside someone’s battery. Of course, that would also open up the possibility for someone to develop a miniverse and teenyverse battery, ad infinitum. For now, we return to Washio Sumi Chapter, where the third of the Vertexes appear.

  • In spite of Sumi’s belief in her own abilities, during the third engagement, she locks up after seeing the Vertex taking flight to evade her arrows and fears for Gin. Despite facing an adversary they seemingly cannot beat, Sonoko takes charge and creates a stairwell for Sumi; the elevation allows her projectile to hit, dealing some damage. Meanwhile, Sonoko draws its attention off Gin and is blown away.

  • With its attention divided, the stage is set for Gin to exit her defensive stance and go on the offense. With her rocket-propelled blades, she annihilates the Vertex. It’s a gruelling battle, and the girls sustain a nontrivial number of scratches during the course of this engagement. In keeping with mahou shoujo tradition, the transformation sequence for this battle is much shorter than the initial one: the thrill of the first launch or transformation is always at its maximum, and subsequently, they become a bit of a drag to sit through. In Gundam, for instance, launches shorten as the series progresses, but may become lengthier if the protagonists are about to set out on a pivotal battle, either for better or worse.

  • Rather than reacting to any dangers her team was in, Sumi here laments her combat inefficiency and that she was dependent on a teammate to help her out, rather than the other way around. The whole point of teamwork is that no single person carries an unreasonable burden, and it is with teamwork that great achievements are made. This forms the basis for my page quote: inspired by Rogue One, where the Rebels rally around Cassian’s clear instructions. The end result of a good team, with a good leader, has a synergy in which the team is able to achieve more than the sum of the outputs of the individuals together.

  • With the Vertex neutralised for the present, the girls find themselves back in their ordinary world. The large suspension bridge in the background, when viewed from a particular angle, also appears to have a cable-swayed component to it that brings to mind the Tsing ma-Ting Kau bridge in Hong Kong: their combined span is around 1.4 kilometers in length. At present, Tsing Ma bridge is the world’s eleventh longest single-span suspension bridge. It was finished in 1998 and connects Hong Kong International Airport to the Hong Kong.

  • The contrast of blues and greens in Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part offset the mood after Gin and Sonoko notice Sumi weeping. The colours suggest the late summer period, a time of calm and where things are unhurried. A glance at the calendar shows that it is now exam season: I’ve been out of school for around eight months now, having formally finished at the end of August last year. It still feels a little unusual to know that it is the midst of exam season, and yet, I’ve got no exams on my plate. On some occasions, I still dream about “forgetting” to do assignments or being late for class; there is no single interpretation of what this actually means, but I do know that I do not have any assignments left for the present.

  • On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy as always, writing and testing iOS apps in Swift 3. Outside of work, I’ve been gaming and generally taking it easy: I’ve suddenly realised that my last four posts have been about games, so it’s high time I broke that streak and posted something about anime. This is how the Washio Sumi Chapter post came to be, as I was planning on writing about it later, but since there’s an opening now, I’d figure I’d take it.

  • These are the faces of two excellent teammates, and straight away, I feel as though Sonoko and Gin are as valuable as Fū, Itsuki, Karin and Mimori were to Yūna despite their having known Sumi for a shorter period of time. The second part of the Washio Sumi Chapter was released just last weekend, on April 15, and I’ll be getting around to watching that quite soon. Before that, however, I will be looking at Sakura Quest after three episodes, as well as wrapping up my journey through Titanfall 2. In the meantime, it’s time for me to kick back and see if the Flames can stave off total defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. If we’re to lose, I hope that we at least put up a good showing and go out in style.

There are three parts to Washio Sumi Chapter, and the upcoming second season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is broken up into two parts; the first part will be a televised broadcast of the Washio Sumi Chapter, which is presently covered as theatrical releases. The second half, titled Hero Chapter, will be a proper continuation of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to this unconventional setup, it means that when the fall 2017 anime season rolls around, I will likely drop by and discuss Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter quite separately. For the time being, the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter released mid-April, and I’ve set my sights on watching this one. So far, Washio Sumi Chapter isturning out to be solid addition to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although one of the things high on my wishlist in the second season’s Hero Chapter is a bit more explanation into what the Taisha are and how the Shinju came into being, as well as what the origins of the Vertex are. Unlike Brave Witches, whose complex world-building and Witches are quite separate from the Neuroi, meaning the precise nature of their origins become a lesser concern, the Vertex and Taisha are the reason why there are heroes to begin with in Yūki Yūna is a Hero; to have the characters go through their experiences without properly equipping them with a reason to fight is to limit the series. In the meantime, I will look forwards to seeing what the remaining parts of the Washio Sumi Chapter have in store for audiences.

Titanfall 2: Transmitting the news and arrival of the cavalry at the campaign’s ¾ mark

“Trust me.” –BT-7274

It does come across as a pleasant surprise to have played through Titanfall 2‘s sixth mission and coming out as though I just played through the Titanfall equivalent of the Battle of Scarif: BT and Cooper meet up with remaining Militia forces who are pinned down near an IMC Communications Array, and after defeating them, Cooper makes his way across the chasms to obtain a new communications component, making use of an arc tool to activate elements in the environment to make transit of this facility possible. With the new communications part retrieved, Cooper defeats the Apex Predator Richter in a Titan battle, and the Militia forces send a transmission to their main force, which soon arrives on Typhon in order to stop the Ark from being transported to the Fold Weapon. They launch a heavy ground assault to reach the IMC Draconis, which is carrying the Ark, but despite their efforts, the Draconis takes off for the Fold Weapon. Undeterred, Militia forces seize control of IMC vessels in pursuit with the intent of stopping the IMC and saving their world, Harmony, which will be the IMC’s first target should they succeed in reaching the Fold Weapon.

Having made my way through three quarters of Titanfall 2‘s campaign, the game has continued to impress with unique, memorable game mechanics even at this point in its story. Although the time shifting gadget was damaged, Cooper has access to the arc tool, which proves integral in allowing him to traverse the communications facility in order to retrieve a part. The very nature of this facility requires clever use of the arc tool and various cranes to create a suitable path that Cooper can utilise, and it is immensely satisfying to manoeuvre a crane into place to create walls to run along, then hop off and immediately activate a doorway using the arc tool without missing a beat. Like the time shifting device, the arc tool only is presented for one mission. Insofar, every single mission of Titanfall 2‘s campaign has been a thrill, featuring one unique aspect that makes it stand out and remain distinct. As a consequence, the game never feels repetitive, continuously offering something new to mix up the gameplay and advance the narrative further. Once Richter is neutralised, and the transmission is sent, the seventh mission is an all-out Titan assault that never lets up, offering Titan battles on a scale surpassing what was seen in earlier missions, and by this point, Cooper (and by extension, players) have become sufficiently familiar with the different Titan loadouts and abilities to effectively fight their way through an onslaught of IMC forces to reach the Draconis in time.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The distant geological formations bring to mind the Karst landscapes of China, such as those of the Stone Forest and Zhangjiajie National Park. Under a beautiful blue sky and the morning mists, it feels quite peaceful here, but all gaming veterans will remark that the peace won’t last. Visible in the image are also sakura-like blossoms, adding a touch of pink to the landscape. Typhon is definitely a very temperate planet, and while Titanfall 2‘s developers and art team probably won’t mention thus, I imagine that Chinese and Taiwanese geography inspire the geography of Typhon.

  • Nearing the transmission facility, Cooper and BT find it nearly overrun with IMC forces. The Ronin loadout can be found right before BT steps into the noxious fog to engage the IMC. Featuring a shotgun and sword, the Ronin is intended to be a high-speed Titan in the multiplayer, making use of the arc wave to impede enemies and closing the distance to deal damage with both the shotgun and sword. In the campaign, it’s one of the less effectual loadouts, since the Vanguard chassis is a good all-rounder that, while capable of absorbing more damage than the lighter frames, lacks their mobility to make use of these weapons.

  • Once inside the facility, Militia forces lament the lack of an arc tool, essentially a portable power supply that is useful in activating and deactivating constructs. Delving deep into the IMC facility, Cooper eventually manages to find one, and liberates it from one of the robots working with it.

  • The robot becomes saddened that their tool has been commandeered, but won’t otherwise do anything about it. Although essential to the gameplay, one cannot help but feel a little bad for the robot: close inspection of the image shows its emotional state, and its body language, a slouched pose, speaks volumes about how its feeling. Inspection of other robots merrily working on their assignments will find that they wear a smile on their chest-mounted displays.

  • The arc tool has a self-recharging power supply, allowing it to be used indefinitely after a cool-down, stuns robots and can kill organics with prolonged exposure on top of its role in activating power supplies. The tool’s design brings to mind the weapons I’ve seen in Borderlands 2, and according to my Steam library, the last time I played was a shade less than a year ago. I’ve been a bit of a slacker when it comes to finishing games with longer campaigns, and from the sounds of it, I’ve still a ways to go yet with Borderlands 2 before I finish the game.

  • Stunning IMC spectres allow them to be hacked, turning them into allies fighting alongside Cooper. Activating racks of Spectres will likewise provide allies that can help take fire off Cooper. A Reaper appears, but Cooper will find an LG-97 Thunderbolt, an anti-Titan weapon that is functionally identical to that of an unguided rocket launcher in spite of its unusual projectile: the weapon fires a sphere of electrical energy that deals considerable damage to whatever it impacts and can even arc to nearby targets. Once the Reaper is dealt with, the other enemies can be mopped up.

  • One of the more interesting weapon optics in Titanfall 2 is the IR sight that highlights enemies in red. The wide open spaces of this mission initially might suggest a good long range weapon, but as most confrontations occur in close quarters, having a good automatic weapon becomes more practical than a longer range weapon.

  • The open holographic sights affixed to my rifle here brings to mind the sights in Halo 5‘s Battle Rifle. Back in 2014 when the feature was first revealed, aiming down sights was met with resistance from the community, who had felt that one of the defining features of Halo was that there were no emphasis on aiming down sights: save a few weapons that had zoom-in capabilities, Halo‘s arsenal is fired from the hip. These reactions have not been seen since, and players have since acclimatised to the presence of holographic sights in Halo.

  • I personally would love to see Halo 3 and 4 come to PC: years ago, rumours abounded about a possible port, but Microsoft clarifies that Halo would not be ported to PC, citing architectural differences between the Xbox and the PC as reasons why at the time, there were no plans to make the port. This was almost three years ago, and a few days ago, an AMD marketting campaign hinted that Halo 3 might be coming to PC after all. There’s not too much information on whether or not this is authentic, but if it is, I’ll likely give things a spin. After making use of a pair of cranes to move a pair of platforms to form walls to run along, I smile and recall the days of Half Life 2, where environment puzzles were similarly utilised to encourage lateral thinking.

  • By this point in Titanfall 2, parkouring to the transmission dish to retrieve a working component is straightforwards, and it was a simple matter of obtaining the component after moving the dish into the appropriate position. While there are many fetch quests in Titanfall 2, they are done remarkably well and never feel monotonous. Further to this, another design choice that makes the missions fun is the fact that I do not have to backtrack in order to return to where I started.

  • Instead, there’s a series of panels that one must activate in order to get back across by means of wall-running. There are a few platforms in between to give players a short chance to catch their breath, but with three-quarters of Titanfall 2 done, players should for the most part, be comfortable with timing the arc tool and their jumps to return to BT very quickly. Upon arrival, Cooper finds BT fending off a large group of enemies, and embarks BT to disable them.

  • Against the large number of smaller enemies, including Reapers, I switched to the Ion loadout, thinking the splitter rifle’s rounds would be effective against robotic enemies. It’s actually one of the weaker weapons available to a Titan, and has an alternate fire mode that allows it to behave like a shotgun. Once all of the enemies are dealt with, mercenary Richter arrives with his Tone-class Titan.

  • Guides out there suggest the Ronin loadout for defeating Richter: since the Tone is a long range setup, it is unsuited for dealing with the Ronin’s exceptional short range capabilities, and coupled with the Vanguard-class’ increased health, closing the distance isn’t too difficult. Of course, I always tend to wing it when it comes to shooters now, and I ended up using the Ion loadout, dooming Richter’s Titan with the laser core before finishing him off with an execution.

  • At the beginning of the seventh mission, an all-Titan combat mission, I switch back to the Tone loadout and hammer the numerous Titans separating the Militia task force and the Ark. It is pure chaos in this mission, and there are supposed to be three pilot helmets scattered throughout this mission. I did not bother collecting them, but they appear to be located in the calmer areas. The seventh mission marks the first mission that I spent exclusively in a Titan, and it was incredibly fun to decimate enemy Titans and infantry alike.

  • Today is Easter Sunday, and it’s back to work tomorrow. I spent most of the Easter Long Weekend relaxing: on Good Friday, I purchased Battlefield 1: Premium and won my first match on Rupture, a beautiful map overgrown with poppies, and went for a walk nearby. Yesterday, after heading out to lift weights in the morning, I spent most of the afternoon in Battlefield 1, and by the time we sat down to Easter dinner (turkey, stuffing, ham, pineapple and a simple vegetable medley), it was snowing outside. In the aftermath of the Flames’ second loss to the Anaheim Ducks, today was a bit of a quieter day: the sun was shining when I woke up, and I’ve finally submitted my taxes for the year.

  • After a homemade fish-and-chips lunch, I stepped out to do some shopping in preparation for events of the very near future, and returned home to play more Battlefield 1. In one match today, I managed to go 17 and 15 on Fort de Vaux, a close-quarters map that lends itself to the sort of frenzy seen in Battlefield 3 and 4‘s Operation Metro map, as well as Operation Locker of Battlefield 4. I’m working on the assignment to unlock the Ribeyrolles 1918 and have all of the required kills with the Automatico M1918 Factory. The next part, to get twenty headshots with the MP18 Optical, will be substantially trickier. After the events of today, I’m very nearly at rank nine for the assault class, and are a few thousand points from rank seven on the scout class.

  • I’ll be returning in the near future to do a proper talk on Battlefield 1: Premium now that I’ve joined the premium club, but for now, it’s back to Titanfall 2, where I’ve found the Northstar loadout. Equipped with a plasma rail gun that does obscene damage against other Titans, the Northstar is best suited for long range engagements and can quickly destroy Titans from afar. In exchange, it is very unsuited for close quarters engagements, and in the multiplayer, will be ripped apart if one is attempting to engage other Titans at close ranges.

  • The Flight Core boosts the Northstar into the air and allows for a barrage of rockets to be fired at opponents below. While in the air, the rockets fired can deal a total damage exceeding even that of the Tone’s Salvo core, although these rockets are unguided. The different Titan loadouts can be switched out on the fly, making it possible to immediately adapt oneself to any situation. The campaign-only Expedition loadout is the best for anti-personnel combat, while the Tone loadout is generally best against other Titans.

  • Against the Reapers, I decided to try the Scorch loadout: its primary armament is the T-203 Thermite Launcher, which acts as a single-shot grenade launcher effective for area denial. Its projectiles arc substantially in flight, and aiming down sights will provide a small indicator for where the shot will end up. All of its abilities are based around thermite and fire: its defense measures melt incoming ordinance, and its core generates walls of flame. I’ve not made too much use of this in the campaign owing to the fact that this setup is not well-suited for direct attack against other Titans.

  • Commander Sarah Briggs accompanies Cooper on this mission, providing support and is more than capable of dealing with threats. She warns Cooper that the Draconis is about to take off and stresses the importance of reaching it, but regardless of how efficient Cooper is, the Draconis will always take off with the Ark, setting in motion the events of the next mission. I finished Titanfall 2‘s campaign this weekend, and will be aiming to get out a talk on the final missions on short order. With the campaign done, I might give the multiplayer a spin: I will need to learn the ins and outs in order to survive matches against other human players and unlock items, but there is a private mode that allows me to play against AI if I so choose.

The diverse gameplay and missions contributes to why Titanfall 2‘s campaign was considered to be one of the best in 2016, a year already with a number of contenders, including DOOM. Not knowing what each mission entails and walking through each level was a constant thrill, but this sense of unknown was offset by BT: maintaining communications with Cooper and providing the occasional bit of wit, it made the desolate reaches of the missions more manageable. However, by the seventh mission, with the Militia present, it feels fantastic to have numerous allies in my corner to provide covering fire and support as the Militia push towards stopping the IMC. Titanfall 2 continues to be full of surprises well into its campaign; while games can feel as though they are drawn thin if they count on too many mechanics, but this is not the case in Titanfall 2. Seamlessly woven into the narrative, each mechanic serves to keep the game fresh, being dispensed with in order to keep players from growing complacent with any one method. Ultimately, it comes down to Cooper making use of the most in his environment, and perhaps through its campaign, Titanfall 2 is suggesting that to perform in the multi-player, individuals should keep their eyes open for opportunity and advantages in their environments.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered- Act III Review and Reflection

“At least the world didn’t end. Hit it.” –Staff Sergeant Griggs

In the aftermath of his son’s death, Imran Zakhaev seizes control of a nuclear launch installation and launches nuclear-tipped ICBMs at the Eastern Seaboard. Unless these missiles are stopped, upwards of 41 million casualties may result. A joint SAS and Force Recon operation is conducted, opening with a HALO jump that sees the combined forces reach the facility, take control of the command room and safely destroy the missiles over the Atlantic Ocean. Escaping the facility with Zakhaev’s forces in pursuit, the joint forces are stopped when a Mi-24 Hind destroys a bridge. Despite their efforts to hold out, they sustain numerous casualties – Zakhaev himself arrives and begins executing the wounded, but a Loyalist Mi-28 Havoc takes out the Hind, creating a distraction that allows Captain Price to give Soap his M1911. Soap kills Zakhaev and his escorts, and Loyalist forces move in to secure the area and tend to the wounded. The incident is covered up: the media presents the missiles as a Russian weapons test, and the ultranationalist involvement in the Middle East is swept under the rug. This brings Modern Warfare to an end, and at the time of writing, this marks the third time I’ve gone through the campaign in full. A thoroughly enjoyable campaign by all accounts, my initial impressions when I played through this five years ago was that the atmospherics were superb, capturing fully the sense of a squad working together to prevent the instigation of a nuclear war by rogue forces. Up until then, I was most familiar with James Bond and Halo as my shooters: I pressed through missions alone, counting on my own wits and equipment to advance. Thus, when I played Modern Warfare, it was a breath of fresh air to be working with other soldiers: I was quite unaccustomed to notions of breaching and dependency on squadmates to open doors for me, and therefore did not find them to be a distraction. Upon finishing, I was impressed with the campaign’s immersive nature, and presently, Modern Warfare Remastered has done much to recapture these old feelings and add on top of it solid new visuals that brings a classic to life using current generation rendering and graphics techniques.

When I completed Modern Warfare for the first time back in June 2012, I was just beginning to watch CLANNAD and was more than halfway through my introductory physics course. At this point in the term, the second midterm had just concluded the day before, and unlike the first midterm, I had performed quite a bit better than the first. The day after the second midterm, I only had a lab (lectures ran four of the five weekdays) – finishing this, I was free to head home, and took things easy by finishing Modern Warfare. I vividly recall the point where I reached the transmission tower and was asked to destroy it with C4, subsequently wrapping up the game that same evening. At this point in June, the final exam was still three weeks away, and at this point in the summer, the physics class meant that I could not study fully for the MCAT. What happened subsequently is largely a blur now, but I do remember beating Portal 2 in the days following; the day before the final exam, it was raining, and I had studied as best as I could. I spent the remainder of that afternoon playing Half-Life 2. Ultimately, I would end up with an A- in the physics course: I was fully ready to throw in the towel, but seeing the resolve in Modern Warfare (and events of CLANNAD) provided some of my motivation to keep trying until all opportunities were spent. With the physics final done, I would spend the remainder of July preparing for the MCAT. This physics course ended up being the only spring course I would ever take during my undergraduate program, and was a gruelling one owing to how condensed the materials were: I was most grateful to have also had the chance to play through a fantastic game to kick back and regroup.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post is going to be one long trip down memory lane: I will recall moments from the summer of 2012 as I push through the thirty images and intersperse them with some of the experiences I’ve had while making my way through what remains one of the most memorable FPS campaigns I’ve experienced. We begin here, landing in a foggy valley shortly after touching down. The HALO jump has gone pear-shaped, and the first goal is to locate Griggs after he’s separated from the others. His signal takes Soap and the others to a small village.

  • After clearing the village out, Soap locates Griggs, and the mission proceeds. Like almost all missions preceding it, “Ultimatum” starts Soap out with the M4A1 SOPMOD. This form of the weapon is one of the most versatile, akin to the XM-8 rifle seen in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. In general, assault rifles in video games are exceptional in that they can be adapted for use in most situations. A secondary weapon is usually then geared towards a specific task (close-quarters stopping power, longer-range accuracy or anti-vehicular readiness).

  • Even now, I still remember the physics labs that were a part of the physics course. I was never too fond of these, as they merely offered practical experience in the theoretical concepts being taught in class. Time consuming and tedious, I nonetheless strove to perform here in the event that my exam marks were unsatisfactory: I completed the seventh of the nine labs when I walked out into this field where the transmission pylon was for the first time. It was an evening, and having completed the second midterm, there was no material to review: I typically spent around two hours after each lecture reviewing materials and doing practise problems in the textbook.

  • After destroying the transmission tower, Soap and the others make their way into a labyrinth of derelict buildings. These sites apparently dot the far reaches of Russia, relics of the days of the Soviet Union, and unlike their real-world counterparts, which are largely peaceable, fierce hostilities await the joint SAS-Force Recon groups. The close quarters of the buildings notwithstanding, it’s still a wiser idea to carry a longer-range weapon, like the SVD-63, as a secondary weapon (as opposed to a PDW or LMG). It was here that I managed to shoot down a helicopter with an RPG, unlocking one of the achievements for Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • I did a second physics course in following years; with the focus being on electricity and magnetism, I rather enjoyed this one more than the first physics course. Even back during high school, I preferred electricity and magnetism over Newtonian kinematics and dynamics: one of the more interesting things to note is that some two years had elapsed between the two physics courses, and so, I entered the course with a textbook that was an edition behind. It suddenly strikes me that I am unlikely to use that textbook again, although I suppose that it could still be useful as a reference should the need ever arise.

  • Of course, I’m now at a stage where GPA and grades are of limited relevance, being pure numbers that are strictly for bragging rights. With this in mind, I will finally make known my old MCAT scores at a later date, since the five-year period where my MCAT scores are considered valid by the AAMC draws to a close. If I were to desire a career in medicine and admissions to medical school after this point, I would need to do another MCAT; since 2015, a new MCAT was introduced. Compared to the one I took back in 2012, which was a five-and-a-half hour long exam, the new MCAT spans seven hours and thirty minutes (including the half-hour break). The exam is truly a battle of attrition, and I sometimes feel that my thesis defense exams are, in a way, much easier than the MCAT.

  • With this in mind, MCAT stories will be explored in full as a topic for another day: this post is, after all, titled “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered” rather than “MCAT recollections remastered”. Back in Modern Warfare, I’ve finished shooting my way through the abandoned factory complexes: moving through carefully and methodically shooting all ultranationalist resistance is the way to clear this part: while Call of Duty‘s multiplayer is often considered to be very much a run-and-gun shooter compared to more tactical games out there, ironically, running and gunning in the campaign is not an effective strategy.

  • “Ultimatum” draws to a close with a pair of nuclear missiles launching. A mere two days before I was slated to write the MCAT, a friend asked me about citations in a paper. They were working on a talk about WMD and Iran, remarking to me that talk of weapons and destruction was a depressing topic. We met in an introductory Japanese class, and although infinite distance now separates our hearts, some of the memories from that summer of us sharing conversation and supporting one another remain some of the fondest I’ve got. Of course, time and space makes fools of us, and these days, we’re out of touch largely because staying out of touch is recommended as a means of letting the pain heal.

  • Back in Modern Warfare, the SAS link up with a US Sniper Team as “All In” begins. They push through into the launch facility. In my earlier discussions of Modern Warfare, I largely omitted screenshots of these sections of the game, as they were overshadowed by “All Ghillied Up” and “One Shot, One Kill”. Further, the low polygon counts of Modern Warfare‘s original incarnation become increasingly obvious by this point of the game, which felt distinctly like the “Surface”, “Bunker” and “Silo” missions of GoldenEye 64. By comparison, the remastered graphics look astounding.

  • The final stages of Modern Warfare are very high intensity, occurring within the span of a few hours. The last act in the game feels very quick, and each time I’ve gone through Modern Warfare, I’ve played the third act almost all at once owing to the pacing. There is a specific path that Soap has to follow here, and straying from it will invariably mean dealing with infinitely-respawning enemies. It took me several tries to get the path right despite having played through this two times previously.

  • Access into the facility is complicated by the presence of BMP-2 IFVs. While Soap is instructed to use C4 in conjunction with smoke rounds (which I comply to here and utilised back in my earlier play-throughs), RPG-7 rockets are an equally viable option that will make quick work of these vehicles, allowing players to pick them off at a distance at the expense of sacrificing their secondary weapon. With the versatility of the M4A1 SOPMOD in mind, however, this is the easier way of doing things, although RPG rounds are in short supply. For the first BMP-2, C4 and smoke is the better option, as the BMP is nearby and therefore, easier to reach using smoke grenades.

  • Price will shout for Soap and the others to head right owing to the extreme resistance faced, and for the sake of completing this mission, it would be wise to take this route. The other route is heavily defended and will leave players exposed to counterattack, but those tenacious enough to pick their way through will find an FGM-148 Javelin, which makes eliminating the remaining two BMP-2s a much easier task.

  • I managed to capture a screenshot of a bullet missing Soap in this image here, bringing to mind the blaster fire effects of Star Wars. According to Mythbusters, blaster bolts travel an average of 208 to 216 km/h (converted to units for a physics context, 57.78 to 60 m/s). The Mythbusters values do not account for variations between different blaster makes and builds in-universe. By comparison, bullets average 3841.2 and 5486.4 km/h (1067 and1524 m/s, respectively). However, official documentation suggests that the blaster bolts are themselves invisible, travelling at or close to light speed, and the glow resulting is from the energy emitted by the bolt in transit.

  • Star Wars, being soft science fiction, provides only a minimal explanation for most of their technologies, but in spite of this, it is always a thrill to watch Star Wars for the special effects alone. Rogue One was a fantastic movie, and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is set for release somewhere in December 2017. At the same time, Star Wars Battlefront II is also set to release, and the game is to contain a single-player campaign. As I’ve done for most titles where I’m interested in the campaign more than the multiplayer, I will likely wait until this one goes on sale before picking it up.

  • After the tarmac to the missile facility is cleared, it’s time to enter the bowels of the facility, Throughout the mission, Soap’s squadmates can be seen carrying power saws: it is here that they are put to use, cutting through the steel grating to the ventilation shafts leading into the launch facility below.

  • The last major game I played involving infiltration of a missile silo (discounting the original incarnation of Modern Warfare) was GoldenEye 64. This was the game that got me into shooters, and it was playing at my cousin’s place during Christmas that introduced me to the joys of shooters. While the technologies driving FPS have advanced significantly since the days of GoldenEye 64, the thrills of a shooter have largely remain unchanged for the past two decades.

  • An interesting bit of trivia is that this missile facility is set in the Altai Mountains, located in the central-eastern reaches of Russia, but the pre-mission tracker shows the mission as taking place in the Caucasus Mountains. With the revelation that Modern Warfare‘s third act is in the Altai mountains, this marks yet another location I’ve been interested in as being visited in Modern Warfare: extremely remote, the Altai Mountains have remain untouched since the last Ice Age and is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. The area is dotted with lakes and vast mountain ranges, and in Chinese, the Altai Mountains are known as “Gold Mountain”.

  • The interior of the missile facility in the original incarnation of Modern Warfare felt distinctly dated: low-resolution polygons and basic lighting means that the interior is much brighter than its remastered form. Moreover, the increased lighting throws into sharp relief the interiors’ limited details. Although the mission remains very entertaining in its original incarnation, it offered few locations where I felt inclined to take a screenshot.

  • The close quarters confines of the missile facility means that a shotgun becomes a viable tool here owing to its stopping power, so I swapped out my empty RPG for the M1014. A large Soviet Union emblem can be seen on the wall adjacent: this was a simple metal structure mounted onto the wall in the original, but in the remastered, the new emblem has been given new colour and life. The stairwell in the remastered version is much darker than it was in the original to better capture the moody, dank interiors of the missile facility

  • This mission’s name, “No Fighting In the War Room”, is titled after Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a satirical comedy film about the dangers of nuclear weapons. The original line promoting this mission’s name is  “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”, one of the most famous lines in the entire movie. Here, I push through corridors containing the missiles themselves. Unlike the large multi-story silos of GoldenEye 64, these ones are much smaller, but the missiles they contain are no less deadly, carrying MIRV payloads. The facility appears to be built with the dense pack methodology in mind, where missiles were packed closely together to increase the chance at least several could survive a first strike and be utilised for retaliation.

  • A heavy blast door opens slowly once activated, being one of the slowest doors I’ve ever seen in a game and while Price is impatient, Gaz only makes the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of pushing the doors. Incredibly heavy, these doors would have offered the control room protection from external forces, and without dedicated equipment and a lot of time, getting through is nigh impossible. In their present circumstances, they can only wait as the doors open completely before pushing through to the control room.

  • The fears and uncertainty surrounding a nuclear exchange between the United States and Soviet Union was very much a real threat from the 1950s into the late 1980s: my generation, the millennials, are completely unfamiliar with the ever-present threat of a nuclear war and grew up listening to news reports of terrorism instead. However, with the recent deployment of a carrier task group into the Korean Peninsula and the increasing belligerence of North Korea, I am growing a little concerned that things could go hot. As Robert McNamara put it, nuclear weapons in human hands are a recipe for disaster; unless cooler heads prevail, the world is hurtling to the brink of devastation not felt since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

  • When the mission starts, the controllers coordinating this mission still had not acquired the codes yet to abort the missiles. In the eleven minutes I was given to reach the control room, the abort codes have been acquired. Soap enters them into a console, and command confirms that the missiles have been successfully destroyed in mid-flight. The world may have not ended, but there’s still a ways to go: Soap and the others must now evacuate the facility and reach an extraction point.

  • The keyboard console to enter the abort codes is seen in the left-hand side of the screen, and when the codes are successfully entered, there are no indicators at the mission control centre to suggest the nuclear weapons have indeed been neutralised. These are tense moments, and while awaiting the confirmation, I wander about, locating the intel on the room’s far left. I’ve opted to leave all the intel in place for now and as noted previously, will be returning quite separately in order to locate all of the intel at a later date. Previous efforts to do so never materialised, but I will try to make a more honest effort for Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • The last mission of Modern Warfare is appropriately titled “Game Over”, and of all of the missions in the game, is the most hectic and wild as Soap and the others must make their way to the extraction site. If Modern Warfare‘s previous missions was the process of studying for the MCAT and all of the build-up leading to test day, then “Game Over” is the MCAT itself: like Soap, who must now fire his M4A1 to hold off ultranationalist forces while in a moving vehicle, the MCAT is an exam for which there can be no true preparation for.

  • For a moment, Modern Warfare turns into Need for Speed: shooting out the gunners in the pursuing trucks is all Soap can do to keep alive. Like the MCAT, it’s not really about what one knows at this point, but rather, how one applies their knowledge and soft skills to survive. On my test day, knowing how to take on the exam and answer questions using logic and reasoning proved to be a far greater asset than the facts themselves. From start to finish, the exam was a blur, and I only vaguely remember sitting in front of the computer, filling out questions by reasoning through them as much as calling upon all of the knowledge I’d picked up in a classroom under the morning light during the MCAT preparation course.

  • Back in Modern Warfare Remastered, I take aim at yet another truck-full of ultranationalist soldiers. I’m not sure if it is possible to shoot through the windshield and kill the driver (this would make it considerably easier), but firing short, controlled bursts while aiming down sights is the best way to go about surviving the car chase. It is non-stop action, and the worst part is running out of ammunition and being forced to reload, which feels like an eternity. Consequently, picking one’s shots calmly even during such chaos goes a long ways towards ensuring survival.

  • An Mi-24 Hind appears and begins opening fire on Soap and the convoy with rockets and gunfire. Picking up an RPG, Soap’s efforts cause the Hind to leave for a few moments. Despite being on a moving vehicle, there are a few moments where players can line up a perfect shot on the Hind. However, the Hind lacks any hit boxes: as it is a scripted entity, it cannot be destroyed. In the original Modern Warfare, there are no water reflections in the lake – the scenery has been duplicated and inverted along the y-axis. However, Modern Warfare Remastered rectifies this: a proper water surface is presented to give a much more realistic-looking body of water. Players are not likely to notice this owing to the destruction the Hind is causing.

  • The vehicle chase comes to an abrupt halt when the Hind destroys the bridge. Players must hold out for a few moments, and I pick up an M60E4, pummelling ultranationalist forces before a second explosion knocks down the entire team. The music here, also titled “Game Over”, is one of the most solid pieces of the game’s soundtrack: it becomes darker and brooding as the squad faces certain doom, for Zakhaev begins executing them. Hopeful motifs begin playing when Price slides Soap his M1911 after a Loyalist Mi-28 destroys the ultranationalist Hind.

  • Picking the weapon up, I take aim and shoot Zakhaev in the head, along with his cronies. Here, heroic elements seep into the song, swelling into a crescendo when Loyalist forces tend to the surviving SAS men. This song captures everything about how an MCAT feels in its run, and the ending elements reflect on the sense of relief to know the world has not ended. When my MCAT ended, this song filled my mind, and I walked out into the evening sun, feeling a great weight lifted off my shoulders. I set off for dinner, and arriving home, I came home to a notification on my iPad, inquiring about the exam, to which I responded: “I’m quite glad it to be over now; hopefully, it’ll’ve been alright”.

The dialogues and music from Modern Warfare would also carry me through the summer; I listened to the melancholic, yet heroic pieces while studying for my MCAT, and joked frequently with friends using lines from the game to illustrate how I felt about the exam. It’s been five years since then, and although Modern Warfare Remastered might have been improved, the game itself still evokes strong memories of a long-distant summer. These memories account for why my final verdict for Modern Warfare Remastered (a strong recommendation) is also not one to be taken at face value owing to my own biases. The question thus remains: is Modern Warfare Remastered worth buying? After all, the game is essentially a ten-year-old title given new graphics – its mechanics still handle as they did a decade ago. The answer to that is simple: the game is not worth the purchase at full price, and folks looking to experience Modern Warfare Remastered as a standalone without Infinite Warfare might be wiser to wait. With this being said, folks who’ve never played the original Modern Warfare may find the Legacy Edition worth buying if it is on sale: one is getting two games for the price of one (or better) under these circumstances. I purchased the Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition mainly because of the fact that it was on sale and because it’s nearing the five-year anniversary of one of my MCAT, I am feeling a bit nostalgic about the events of five years earlier. With Modern Warfare Remastered in the books, I can easily say that the remastered version brings new life to a decade-old classic, and for the present, it’s time to wrap up Titanfall 2, before taking on the Battlefield 1 Premium experience. I will be returning in May and June to finish Infinite Warfare.