The Infinite Zenith

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

Magia Record: Review and Reflections After Three

“Kamihama…you fear to go into those streets. The Magical Girls delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Satomi…shadow and flame.”

In a dream, Iroha learns that Ui might be in Kamihama City’s Satomi Medical Centre and sets off to investigate, against Nanami’s warning. She finds herself amidst a Witch’s labyrinth; the Witch itself is locked in combat with a team of magical girls. These girls are successful in destroying the Witch, but Iroha is knocked out. When she comes to, she finds herself in a sanctuary for magical girls: this team introduces themselves to her as Momoko Togame, Kaede Akino and Rena Minami. It turns out they’re searching for the elusive “Chain Witch”, but in spite of their objectives, agree to help Iroha look for Ui (although Rena is reluctant). Iroha enters the Satomi Medical Centre and learns that there was never a patient by Ui’s name in the records, and after the girls go out to discuss options, a verbal argument breaks out, culminating in Rena leaving. Kaede attempts to reconcile with Rena, but is captured by the Chain Witch. Iroha meets Yakumo Mitama, a Coordinator who operates the sanctuary, and learns that Yachiyo is also a member of their group. They agree to an operation to lure out the Chain Witch; it turns out that feigning a fight won’t draw the Witch out, but Rena’s feelings get the better of her. The Chain Witch materialises, and Kaede turns out to be okay. The girls subsequently engage and destroy the Chain Witch, aided by the smaller Kyubey, who points out a weak spot. When the battle ends, the lack of a Grief Seed leads Yachiyo to conclude the Chain Witch is not a conventional Witch. Rena later learns that the two other girls beside Ui in Iroha’s dream, Toka and Nemu, were indeed patients at Satomi, and elsewhere, Kyubey reveals that he’s unable to enter Kamihama: he sends one Mami Tomoe to investigate. With the third episode and the appearance of Mami, it is established the series’ events are being set prior to the events in Madoka Magica. The third episode of Madoka Magica became infamous for its brutal killing of Mami, who was consumed by a Witch during combat, and the marked contrast between Magia Record‘s third episode indicates that the themes here are unlikely to be as grave and sobering as those of Madoka Magica.

Indeed, Magia Record‘s premise of having Iroha investigate a mystery surrounding someone dear to her is already dramatically different than Madoka Magica: whereas the former was really about the toll that wishes extract, Magia Record‘s themes and goals seem much more consistent with that of a game, favouring exploration and discovery. The episodes to Magia Record have insofar focused on presenting how limited and inconsistent Iroha’s recollections are, which compels one to follow the story with the goal of watching this mystery unravel. Along the way, Iroha meets a group of Magical Girls who will, in time, act as resources and allies to fall back on in her adventures, and Iroha learns that Soul Gems can be boosted to increase the Magical Girls’ power and ability in battle. Drawing elements from a game, Magia Record‘s progression feels more purposeful, leaving no doubt that Iroha will be finding something during and towards the end of her journey. However, Magia Record also lacks the same grim and uncertain atmosphere of its predecessor: with no major deaths early on, Magia Record feels much more laid-back and conventional. As such, Magia Record must strike a balance between creating novel new events to keep viewers engaged, while at the same time, avoid venturing into the melodramatic territory that Madoka Magica ended up in. It goes without saying that Magia Record has some large shoes to fill, and in the shadows its predecessor left behind, Magia Record is seen as being something that faithfully captures the atmosphere and feel of Madoka Magica while simultaneously exploring new directions that add to the franchise. Fortunately, three episodes into Magia Record, the anime has proven engaging and enjoyable in its own right.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Inconsistencies in Iroha’s memories and the memories of those around her will immediately lead viewers to wonder whose version of reality is the right one. Until more is explored, viewers will be kept guessing, which is the main draw of Magia Record. Conversely, Madoka Magica kicked off the party in a much more unassuming manner and surprised them with Mami’s sudden death, only to have the series spiral out of control after it was revealed that Magical Girls became Witches.

  • Witches and Labyrinths were a central feature in Madoka Magica, and viewers spent countless hours studying every detail in a Labyrinth to guess at what that particular Witch’s origins were: the revelation that Witches were born of Magical Girls and Sayaka’s transformation into Oktavia von Seckendorff marked the first time that the connection could be drawn between a Magical Girl’s past and current form as a Witch: Oktavia von Seckendorff’s Labyrinth was a demented concert hall and perilous train wheels, mirroring Sayaka’s connection to music. From this, attributes in other Labyrinths were thought to offer some insight into the Witches’ pasts.

  • When Iroha enters a Labyrinth, she finds herself in a vast field under a starry sky. She quickly finds herself in the middle of a fierce battle: Kaede, Rena and Momoko exchange blows with the Witch. Kamihama’s Witches are said to be stronger than standard Witches, and even with more powerful Magical Girls on station, it still takes a team of them to consistently overcome Witches. Right out of the gates, however, the team that Iroha encounters is only barely holding together.

  • It ultimately takes a combined attack from Rena and Momoko to wrap up the combat: Momoko and Rena use this attack on the core of the Witch to take it out. In Madoka Magica, viewers had few moments to watch Magical Girls fighting together during the TV series proper, but in Rebellion, it was fun to see each of Madoka, Homura, Mami, Sayaka and Kyouko taking on a Nightmare using the combined scope of their abilities as a team, and with teams being a larger part in Magia Record, seeing groups of Magical Girls engaging a Witch together will likely yield more exciting combat sequences.

  • While the Magical Girls and their Coordinator headquarters are no Sanctum Sanctorum, Momoko notes that it does act as a place for Magical Girls to regroup and recover from their duties. This place is the one portrayed on promotional materials for the series; the use of blue lighting and geometric shapes gives a the headquarters a classical, holy feeling, but despite the cold, impersonal feeling such a space emanates, having good people present changes things dramatically.

  • In the space of about thirty seconds, Momoko has quickly become my favourite character in Magia Record: with the air of a responsible older sibling, Momoko takes on the role of supporting the younger Magical Girls. She’s said to be the middle sibling, which gives her both the perspective of a younger sibling and that of and older sibling. To this end, Momoko is easy-going and always has her eyes on her younger team members.

  • Right out of the gates, viewers get the sense that Momoko and Kaede are friendly, willing to help, whereas Rena is more hostile and distant: it is here that the “Chain Witch”, an unknown entity that’s said to whisk away the careless. Momoko and the others have been attempting to hunt it down for some time, with limited success, and so, when Iroha arrives, she and Kaede see an opportunity to help out.

  • Upon arriving at the Satomi Medical Centre and making inquiries, Iroha is shocked to learn that there’d never been a patient by the name of Ui Tamaki at their facility. The disconnect between Iroha’s memories and what’s being told to her builds up the suspense in Magia Record in a much more traditional sense than how Madoka Magica handled the progression: here, things seem much more gradual, while in Madoka Magica, once the defecation hit the oscillation, the story accelerated wildly and gripped its viewers.

  • Iroha (and the viewer) initially gains the impression that a pretty serious disagreement between Kaede and Rena has broken out, this time, over Rena’s casual use of her illusion magic to take on Momoka’s appearance. Behind Rena’s tough exterior lies someone who lacks confidence and is insecure; her original wish was to be anyone besides herself, having come from a family who moved a lot owing to her father’s job. Despite her difficult personality, she would open up to Momoko over time, although she still finds it difficult to accept Kaede.

  • The fast food restaurant the girls stop at after their unsuccessful attempt to learn of Ui’s whereabouts possesses an ultra-modern design and features a sophisticated set of windows that display various imagery. I’m certain that these are purely ornamental, although they do add an interesting visual break in things. After Kaede storms off, Momoko teasingly warns Rena that such actions may cause the Chain Witch to appear, and Rena runs off, feeling the joke to be in poor taste.

  • While Momoka might be the ‘big sister’ archetype, she readily admits that she’s got her faults, and apologises to Iroha, having felt that this time, things might truly be the end for Kaede and Rena. It is here that she explains to Iroha the story about the Chain Witch and its association with a staircase that’s said to end friendships. As the story goes, the two individuals interested in ending their friendship write their names on certain steps, and then from there, the first individual to want to reconcile with the other and apologise will be taken by the Chain Witch.

  • Owing to the way this story is framed in Magia record, there is no clear indicator as to whether or not the story coincided with the appearance of the Chain Witch in Kamihama, or if it has its origins in area folklore and urban legends even before the actual Chain Witch itself made an appearance. Madoka Magica made extensive use of large-scale to convey the notion that the girls were in situations far larger than themselves, and this created a sense of isolation. While Magia Record uses similar imagery, at least for the present, Iroha does not feel quite as alone on the virtue that she’s with Momoka, Kaede and Rena.

  • This is the stairwell mentioned in the rumour: by a curious turn of events, there is a very similar stairwell at the University of Calgary’s Social Sciences building: this narrow, winding set of stairs leads from the main floor to the roof, fourteen floors up, and I’ve made use of it in my time. The Social Sciences stairwell is very similar to the one in Magia Record in that there is also a legend surrounding it, but unlike Magia Record, our stairs have a different legend: the story Leon the Frog was written on the steps in 1974, and became somewhat of an institution around campus. A year after my graduation, restoration efforts led to the removal of this work, although students have since restored it.

  • My favourite part of the story can be found on the eighth floor, and since the entire poem is a lengthy one, I’ll leave a link to it here. The architecture and locations around the University of Calgary does bring to mind some locations in Madoka Magica, and in particular, the rooftop of Mitakihara Middle School reminds me very much of the Arts Parkade rooftop. This formed the basis for a special topics post I wrote some years ago about the choice of architecture in Madoka Magica. Back in Magia Record, after their fight, Kaede and Rena become more distant than before, and despite Kaede’s efforts at reconciliation, nothing seems to work.

  • The negative feelings amassing in Rena and Kaede manifest in a physical form, and as chains begin slithering across the screen, it becomes clear that this is the Chain Witch that has been the subject of much discussion amongst the Magical Girls. These spectral beings engulf Kaede, who subsequently goes missing. Rumours persist that those taken by the Chain Witch are lost forever, but this presumably only applies to civilians.

  • Besides the interior of the Magical Girls’ sanctum, the other location in Magia Record that stands out is Iroha’s room. While unremarkable in most cases, its main distinguishing feature is that precisely half of the room is empty. Since Thanos never affected the Madoka Magica universe, it’s another (not-so-subtle) sign that something is off: Iroha’s side has a very lived-in, welcoming feel, and the empty side is deliberately sterile to visually represent the extent of Ui’s absence.

  • When Iroha arrives at the sanctum next, she meets Yakumo Mitama. Unlike the other Magical Girls, Yakumo is not actively involved in combat: the game has her serve as a shop-keeper of sorts, and so, while she is capable in her own right, her primary role is support. Yakumo is seen making adjustment to another Magical Girl’s Soul Gem, which is simply stated to improve the Magical Girl’s overall performance in some way. Because of her unique role, Yakumo is well-respected by other Magical Girls and provides her services in exchange for Grief Seeds.

  • If I were to take up Magia Record, having a knowledge of the anime means that I would find myself more familiar with the mechanics of the game. This is unlikely to occur for the present: mobile games have never really been my forte, and for my part, I’ve always preferred titles that involve a combination of über-micro and reflexes. This is why my entire library is composed of shooters, with a few simulators here and there. It is not lost on me that most of the community is much more familiar with visual novels, JRPGs and the like, but for me, those move a little too slowly.

  • While Iroha and Rena might be ill-equipped to deal with an unknown such as the Chain Witch on their own, they do have Momoko and Yachiyo in their corner. The plan is set: Yachiyo and Momoko will feign a disagreement to draw out the Chain Witch, and then engage the Witch in combat to retrieve Kaede. The plan is simple enough, and all that’s left is the execution itself. Having taken a look around at things, Magia Record discussions have been quite disciplined so far, focused primarily on the progression of the story, differences between it and its predecessors, and how game elements are subtly present.

  • Up until now, we’ve not yet seen any of the Magical Girls of Magia Record do a full transformation; Yachiyo is the first to kick things off, and her transformation sequence is filled with water-related motifs. Wielding water magic means that Yachiyo’s personality is calm and fluid, adaptive and patient: her weapons bring to mind those of the Greek God, Poseidon, who was the patron deity of seas and storms. Poseidon wielded a trident, and Yachiyo’s spear is a three-bladed weapon that mirrors her affinity with water.

  • Momoko’s transformation is a very fiery one, and her primary weapon is a sword-sized machete. With her wish being to gain the courage to go through with a kokuhaku, her magic lies in the ability to support and encourage those around her. This is befitting of Momoko, who has similar confidence to Mami Tomoe. Her transformation sequence admittedly brings to mind Gin Minowa’s, which was also quite spirited.

  • Rena’s original wish gave her control over illusionary magic, and this is mirrored by the presence of mirrors during her sequence. Similar to Yachiyo, Rena has a water motif, and fights with a trident. Traditionally, transformation sequences have been counted an integral part of Magical Girl series: while fun to watch, they can become repetitive and dull with prolonged exposure, so many series choose to show these sequences early on, and then have the characters transform much more quickly as the series continues. Mecha series take a similar approach: both the Unicorn and 00 Raiser saw lengthy, detailed

  • Iroha has a very unique transformation of her own: she runs off the edge of a building and gradually picks up her signature cloak and crossbow as she descends, giving off the vibes of an angel in the process. Because her wish is rooted in health, Iroha has a considerable healing factor, similar to Sayaka Miki. Her offensive abilities are much weaker: she’s only armed with an automatic crossbow that, while possessing a high rate of fire, does not deal very much in the way of direct damage. In spite of this.

  • Momoko and Yachiyo are initially unsuccessful in bringing out the Chain Witch with their feigned fight. However, while up on the school rooftop, Rena begins to get lost in her thoughts. As feelings of resentment and regret come out, these negative emotions draw the Chain Witch out. With Yachiyo, Momoko and Iroha present, the Chain Witch feels like less of a threat: as Rena and the others begin probing its defenses and fighting it, they come across Kaede, who’s okay.

  • Kaede’s outfit and primary weapon resembles those of a mage, or perhaps one of the Istari: she carries a staff into battle, and with her original wish being to halt a construction project that threatened her family garden, Kaede is able to shift objects out of phase temporarily, reflecting on her wish’s nature. When the others find Kaede, she appears to be in fine spirits, and is immediately ready to join her friends in squaring off against the Chain Witch.

  • Being the weaker of the Magical Girls, Kaede and Rena provide support while Yachiyo and Momoko deal the real damage: they begin targetting a large bell-like object in the Labyrinth while hiraganakanji endless stairs and chains dominate the scenery: if and when I’m asked, the sum of these visual elements are intended to show how the fracturing of friendships begins with words, which bind two parties to a destiny, and where recovery is equivalent to climbing an unending flight of steps.

  • Even with the latter’s power, however, it isn’t until Iroha learns of the Chain Witch’s weak point from the small Kyubey and passes it along, that the girls are able to vanquish the Chain Witch. The Chain Witch, however, does not drop a Grief Seed. These constructs could either be willed into existence by the familiars (essentially, lesser Witches), and they would give birth to a full-fledged Witch over time, or else come from a Soul Gem that had given in to despair. While some have wondered how Grief Seeds can be used to purify Soul Gems when they themselves exude negative energy, as opposed to the Soul Gem’s positive energy, we would suppose that negative emotions work similarly to the phenomenon of coalescence: bringing a Soul Gem with some negative energy into proximity of a Grief Seed would cause the Grief Seed to absorb said negative energy.

  • With the Chain Witch neutralised, Kaede and Rena reconcile properly. It is here I note that the soundtrack for Magia Record is excellent: even just three episodes in, the combination of classic pieces of incidental music from Madoka Magica (like Sis Puella Magia) and new songs gives Magia Record a nostalgic feeling while simultaneously driving new motifs forward. The soundtrack is expected to release in parts, and the first will accompany the first BD volume.

  • Once Rena and Kaede’s relationship is mended, Iroha is able to turn her attention back to her search for Ui, and she grows excited when she learns that there were two other patients with her, per her dream. We’re now nearing the end of this post, and I note now that the bitter cold in the area has now passed. For the past week, temperatures have been exceedingly mild for this time of year. A few nights ago, I had the chance to use an air fryer to make home-made sweet and sour pork: unlike restaurants, the home-made incarnation was far meatier and had much less fat, yielding a lean and delicious result. This is particularly exciting, as it implies I have a shot at making home-made tempura, as well.

  • Whereas Mami lost her head in Madoka Magica‘s third episode, Magia Record‘s third episode has Mami making an appearance, promising to investigate an unusual phenomenon in Kamihama. I am rather curious now to see if Mami and Momoko ever meet up, and moreover, to see if Sayaka and the others might make cameo appearances in Magia Record. I’ve speculated that Mami’s appearance puts Magia Record as occurring before Madoka Magica, but there is a chance that this could be wrong, and I’m looking forwards to seeing what unfolds. With this post in the books, the last post I have planned for January will be for Halo Reach: after watching Room Camp, I’ve concluded that the three-minute episodes don’t offer me with enough to write about, and I’m going to do a single post for Room Camp once the shorts have concluded, similarly to how I wrote about Yama no Susume.

More so than any other element, the characters in Magia Record (and their interactions) have been the show’s strongest aspect: all of the characters, even Rena, are likeable in their own regard. Iroha represents the newcomer with limited experience and skill, but a strong motivation and open-mind that allows her to open up to others very quickly. Kaede is a girl with a gentle disposition who is willing to hear out Iroha, and Rena, despite her blunt words, is revealed to genuinely care for those around her. Momoko is similarly a captivating character, combining the maturity and confidence that Mami had, with the leadership traits from Yūki Yūna is a Hero’s Fū Inubouzaki. Friendly and composed, Momoko is also shown as being flippant and laid-back almost to a fault: when her friends fight, she makes off-hand remarks that worsens the situation. All of the characters have their strong points and flaws that make them relatable, giving viewers incentive to root for them as they work together to solve Kamihama’s mysteries, some of which could be as terrifying as Durin’s Bane. Of course, because Madoka Magica set the precedence for unexpected (and often unpleasant) surprises, it would not be unexpected for any one of Iroha’s new-found friends to suffer an untimely exit from Magia Record. With all of these items on the table, Magia Record is looking to put on a fantastic showing this season, and I look forwards to seeing what Iroha and the others find as a result of their quest for answers, as well as what these Magical Girls learn during the course of their time together. I will be returning once the series has concluded to write more comprehensively about Magia Record, and until then, I leave readers with a brief explanation of the page quote: we still don’t have a clear picture of what exactly is in Kamihama, but whatever it is, it’s going to be something at least as troubling as a Balrog of Morgoth.

Rifle is Beautiful, or The Chidori RSC: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“A sniper is like a genius – it’s not enough to be one, you have to be one at something.” –Steve Aylett

After training with Asaka High’s rifle shooting team, Hikari and the others seek out a club advisor; it turns out that the Rifle Shooting Club won’t be able to participate in any sort of competitions without a dedicated advisor, but manage to convince instructor Yūko Tsurumaki to advise for the club despite her lack of knowledge in competitive rifle shooting. The Chidori Rifle Shooting Club manage to make their way through the preliminary competitions and place for nationals, but before they can compete, Hikari and Yukio must pass their make-up exams. The club becomes excited to know that they will compete in Tsutsuga in Hiroshima, and while the team is nervous, they perform well during the group shooting match, placing second overall thanks to a strong performance from YuYūko kio and Hikari. Hikari, however, fails to perform during the individual competition and comes away disappointed, but recalls that her journey’s been filled with fun experiences and meetings with interesting, friendly folk. She resolves to continue training so she can shoot alongside the best in the future. This is Rifle is Beautiful: despite its title, the anime’s main premise proved to be unexpectedly muted in dealing with the sport of rifle shooting, and therefore, never garnered much discussions during its airing. Rifle is Beautiful was further hampered by an unexpected challenge during production. Besides an extra recap episode that pushed the series back a week, the finale aired a full three weeks after its originally-designated time. Thus, when Rifle is Beautiful was supposed to finish back during the final Sunday of 2019, the series ended up wrapping three weeks into 2020. However, with the finale in the books, Rifle is Beautiful certainly is beautiful in its own right, taking a rather unique spin on a sport that is, with due respect, quite dull to watch in reality and making it into something far more engaging.

The aspect that allows Rifle is Beautiful to keep viewers engaged during the decidedly unexciting sport of rifle shooting is the combined use of Hikari’s narration and the focus on a variety of perspectives during a match, in addition to the shooters themselves. By cycling through the thoughts and perspectives of active competitors, spectators and tying all of it together with Hikari’s thoughts, viewers are able to gain a modicum of insight into what everyone is competing for and what brought them into the sport, while simultaneously watching the competitors react to their performance during a match. Since rifle shooting is at the core of Rifle is Beautiful, this clever framing allows the viewer to appreciate that there is more to the sport than good stance, technique and preparation: a plethora of thoughts flit through the minds of shooters and audience members alike, all of which contribute to both their performance and attitudes towards shooting. In this manner, the competitors from other schools are humanised and become properly-developed individuals who have their own reasons for competing. This gives additional weight and urgency to Chidori’s performance: they are going up against other people, rather than faceless masses that represent a hurdle for Chidori to overcome, and as such, when the national competition comes to a close, despite having lost in the individual competition and coming in second, the learnings and discoveries that each of Hikari, Izumi, Yukio and Erika have are equally as important, giving them a proper experience of competition as a team and helping them to improve. The intrinsically slow pacing of Rifle is Beautiful means that the themes can quickly fall to the back of one’s mind had the anime focused purely on rifle shooting, but by capitalising on competition time to also explore the motivations and beliefs other competitors hold, Rifle is Beautiful manages to make the most of its core element to tell an engaging, if tried-and-true, story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Yūko’s addition to Rifle is Beautiful is a welcome one: she’s presented as a relatively new instructor whose inexperience is offset by her kindness, and finds herself roped into being the advisor for the Rifle Shooting Club. Despite not knowing anything about rifle shooting, the girls persuade her to learn the basics and soon after, Yūko is able to keep up with the others. This comes just in time for the prefecture qualifying rounds.

  • I’ve mentioned this previously in the talk on Koisuru Asteroid: high school instructors in anime are typically younger in age and single. This choice is deliberate to accommodate the idea that an instructor could readily accompany the students on their adventures, and while some anime will emphaise the fact that they’re single (and unhappy for it), other series create the impression that the instructors are still relatively new to their roles and in a manner of speaking, learn alongside the main cast. The latter holds true for Rifle is Beautiful, and while Yūko’s still green, she does her best to be there for her students.

  • Hikari is shown as the sort of person who performs her best when the moment calls for it, but otherwise does not otherwise do all that well in practise. This trait is the source of much consternation from her teammates, who can never be sure whether or not Hikari will choke during a competition. Throughout Rifle is Beautiful, however, Hikari’s appearances belie a strong sense of determination, and she wins where it counts.

  • Like Locodol‘s Saori, Yūko is rather fond of her students, and has a camera on hand to photograph the Rifle Shooting Club’s members. Of course, the ISSF 10 meter air rifle competition is not particularly conducive towards exciting photographs, and even when writing about Rifle is Beautiful, there was only so much I could do with the moments spent during competitions.

  • Rifle is Beautiful is up front about the nature of shooting competitions: matches consist of 24 warm-up shots that allow participants to calibrate their sights and get a feel for things, followed with 60 live shots that count towards their scores. The athletes have 50 minutes to place their shots, which equates to around 1.2 shots per second; there is no inherent advantage to being a quick shot, but taking too long either will be detrimental.

  • Rifle is Beautiful uses the same rule set as the Olympics, and so, the maximum score count the shooters can achieve in a given match is 654 (with 10.9 being a perfect shot). While shooters are only 10 metres away from their target, the target itself is 45.5 mm in diameter, and the ring for scoring a 10 is 0.5 mm across. In general, any individual shot scoring above a 10.5 is considered solid, and excellent shooters have a shot grouping of no more than 4.5 mm.

  • Chidori High does well during their preliminary rounds and secures a spot to the national competition. Looking back, the preliminary rounds also acted as a bit of a warmup for Rifle is Beautiful, allowing the series to show how it would go about keeping the competition portions engaging when the competitors themselves were shooting. Even at the preliminaries, the outgoing and friendly Hikari befriend students from competing schools without difficulty.

  • In the aftermath of the preliminaries, the girls have precious little time to celebrate, but their success has drawn the admiration of their classmates. Early on, Rifle is Beautiful predominantly focuses on Hikari, Izumi, Erika and Yukio as they get to know one another better, and so, the story does feel a little quieter in the absence of other characters. This changes as the series shifts gears towards the nationals, where more characters are introduced.

  • However, before Chidori can visit Hiroshima, Erika and Izumi must first deal with their wayward friends, whose academic standings are jeopardised when they fail their exams. While Hikari seems the sort of person who may occasionally fail from carelessness or a lack of inclination to study, Yukio failing was a bit of a surprise. With this being said, appearances can be deceiving, and a part of the comedy in anime comes from unexpected moments such as these.

  • It is not lost on me that I’ve now thrown around the phrase “make up exam” in the past several of my anime discussions. Rin from Kandagawa Jet Girls, and both Mira and Ao of Koisuru Asteroid ended up failing exams, as well. Back in Rifle is Beautiful, Yukio’s response to Erika for having gotten a pitiful five percent on her exam is priceless. Back when I was in high school, I was a rather competitive and serious student who scored consistently in the mid-90s. My primarily inclination was that I enjoyed the materials, wanted to see where effort led and also had a penchant for collecting souvenirs of this effort.

  • Of course, this led me to be a rather arrogant and narrow-minded individual, and by the time university came around, a sound beating during my second year, followed by my decision to attempt the MCAT, led me to view things from a different perspective – learning for the sake of improvement is alone a worthwhile and meaningful motivation, and grades alone do not always represent how much one has learnt. While Erika beats down Yukio during their study session, Izumi takes on a much friendlier approach in tutoring Hikari.

  • With Hikari and Yukio passing their make up exams, Rifle is Beautiful returns its focus to rifle shooting and the nationals. At this point in time, I’ve found all of Chidori’s characters to be endearing and likeable in their own right; Hikari takes the archetypes of the ditz who manages to be skilful where needed, Izumi is the reliable and dependable one, Erika is a tsundere, and Yukio is more or less a carbon copy of Yuki Nagato, albeit with a more developed sense of humour. All of the characters bear familiar archetypes, but it’s ultimately their interactions together, rather than their individual traits, that make Rifle is Beautiful fun.

  • Hikari prepares to head off for the national competition and waves her parents off. Overall, the technical components (animation, artwork and sound) in Rifle is Beautiful were of a good quality, and in particular, one aspect of Rifle is Beautiful that I enjoyed was the soundtrack: the incidental music in slice-of-life series are often overlooked as little more than a background element, but listening to the music on its own really gives a sense of how the composers have written the music to fit with different moods and settings within the series. Rifle is Beautiful has a combination of both optimistic pieces, uplifting tracks and even feel military march-like pieces.

  • From here on out, it’s the nationals, and familiar faces make a return as Hikari meets up with the other qualifying teams from their prefecture. Rifle is Beautiful did the characters from the other schools justice to the best capacity the series allowed, and the closeness to each school that viewers end up getting corresponds with their distance to Chidori. Hikari and the others are the characters viewers immediately feel at home with, while Asaka’s students and those who were at the preliminary rounds are familiar faces. Come the nationals, new characters are introduced, as well.

  • When I look back at my time as a student, I travelled the most extensively in middle school; I had been a part of a concert band and, besides going around town to compete, I also went to band camp. My final year of middle school was marked by a trip to the British Columbia coast as a part of a character-building programme. The criteria for admission into this journey was strict: only students with high grades and good character could go, but the benefits of going were numerous. I learnt team work skills while spending time on a converted mine sweeper and made memories that have endured to this day.

  • In high school, I stopped going on outings: my extracurricular activities became working on the yearbook and other activities that remained largely on school grounds while I geared up for admissions into, and during my undergraduate degree, it was taking all I had to stay in satisfactory standing. On the other hand, I travelled in graduate school and then on a few occasions for work. I definitely appreciate being able to go places, but like Chidori, my travels haven’t purely to satisfy wunderlust, and while there’s a sense of yearning on such trips, I feel that the sense of purpose I get in travelling, to do something for someone, is admittedly a good one.

  • While Yukio is often thought of as being very poetic despite her stoic mannerisms, the reality is that she’s just not good with words, and the impression of a mind suited for eloquence is ill-placed: Yukio’s Mind is actually like Freeman’s Mind in that she thinks about completely irrelevant or irreverent stuff during the moment. During her awe-inspiring run in nationals, her competitors wonder what could go on in the mind of this machine-like shooter, and as it turns out, Yukio’s thinking about how she’s loving every moment of how hot the room is, how while her name is wintery in nature, she prefers the summer.

  • When Hikari’s eye is drawn by a special under-jacket, all of Izumi’s strength is insufficient to get Hikari to move on, and even a coin toss to help Hikari whether or not to buy the jacket ends up inconclusive. A coin landing on its edge looks to be an incredibly uncommon event, but a short study by Daniel Murray and Scott Teare published to Physical Review E in 1993 found that the probability of the American nickle landing on an edge is roughly 1:6000 (i.e. one in six thousand tosses). While a 0.01677 percent probability is very small, it is by no means impossible, and the occurrence is purely meant as a visual metaphor that shows how undecided the two are.

  • Erika is Chidori’s next shooter, and while she paints herself as being highly focused, disciplined and not given to flights of fancy like Hikari might be, even she is not immune to the pressures of competition. Of Chidori’s Rifle Shooting Club, Erika most resembles Haruhi in mannerisms, being dishonest about her feelings, hot-tempered, competitive and quick to point out flaws in others. Beyond this tough exterior is someone who seeks to be a part of something and has a tender aspect to her personality, as well. She and Yukio are an interesting combination because of the vast differences in their personality.

  • In the end, Erika becomes the weakest link and scores poorly, causing Chidori to drop out of the race for the coveted first place. Unable to hold back her emotions, Erika cries at the outcome, but fortunately, Chidori still has one shooter in reserve. It’s all eyes on Hikari, whose performance will determine Chidori’s fate. The competition is fierce, and there are plenty of incredibly skilled and experienced shooters in the competition. During matches, the perspective switches several times to focus on different characters and explore their motives for doing well. While I continue to cheer for Chidori, it was nice to see what the other shooters were thinking, too.

  • In the end, Hikari puts on her best performance yet, scoring so well she draws the attention of several of the competition’s most experienced shooters. This final push, however, falls slightly short, and Chidori ends up finishing second in the competition. While Hikari and the others are disappointed, a freshly-minted team of first years that was relatively unknown getting this far is no trivial feat.

  • The outcome of the team competition is actually is desirable from a narrative standpoint: staunch proponents of realism in slice-of-life anime will accept that a new team won’t be able to rise to the top that easily, and finishing second gives Rifle is Beautiful direction in the future should there be a continuation, as Chidori strives to improve and win the national competition. The page quote for this Rifle is Beautiful talk is speaks to the spirit of marksmanship but also applies to life in general: it isn’t sufficient to know something, but it’s also about being able to put one’s skills to use. This is something that the best shooters appreciate, and as Hikari and the others continue practising, this will become more apparent.

  • After their team competition, Chidori decide to hit the onsen and unwind after a tense day of shooting. Being in an onsen means Rifle is Beautiful has a chance to bring out a joke not seen since the earlier episodes: the size of Hikari’s bust is something that surprises and impresses all those who learn of the truth, and for my amusement, I’ve included one screenshot here. Hikari’s outward appearance is that of someone diminutive, so I’m guessing that this design choice was probably deliberate to introduce some cheap laughs.

  • While the girls might be disappointed in not winning, a part of life is also being able to take defeat, learn from them and come back stronger than before. This is one of Hikari’s best traits, and while she may feel downed by a setback, she’s quick to recover and make the most of things. After competition for teams draws to a close, she spends the evening with Asaka’s students enjoying fireworks.

  • While awaiting their turn in the individual shooting competition, Hikari and Yukio stop by a food truck for some lunch. It turns out that Yukio’s not good with spicy food and ends up ordering the mild curry, to Hikari’s surprise: Hikari believes that authentic curry must be enjoyed in the spiciest form possible. Japanese Curry is, incidentally, my favourite form of curry: in its base form, I enjoy it either chicken or beef, plus potatoes, carrots and onions on rice. I have cooked the dish before, and the key is to cook it for longer at a lower temperature to really allow the potatoes to soften.

  • Another trait in Hikari that is presented as a strength is her ability to seemingly dispel her nerves by being friendly and open to those around her, regardless of whether or not she knows them well. When another competitor is struggling to decide whether to pick up a souvenir, Hikari shows up, and her positivity prompts the other student to buy said souvenir.

  • However, mirroring the ups and downs of real life, Hikari performs poorly during the individual competition and is extremely disappointed, to the point of feeling as though she’d been dusted by Thanos’ Snap: this actually happens to her when Izumi finds her. I’m actually not sure if this is a callback to The Avengers: Infinity War, which saw characters literally become dust after Thanos acquired the Mind Stone and used the Infinity Gauntlet to harness their powers into realising his vision for the universe. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo decided on the effect because it was a plausible portrayal of accelerated decomposition and breakdown.

  • Had Hikari actually been dusted by Thanos, the anime community (or at least, the small subset of it actually watching Rifle is Beautiful) would’ve put a team together and done their utmost to bring Hikari back. Fortunately, this isn’t the case, and it’s simply the case that Hikari’s just suffered a setback: she begins to wonder if everything she’d accomplished up until now were chalked up to blind luck. After crying into Izumi’s arms, Hikari feels better and returns into the competition hall, wishing she’d stayed to watch and enjoy the performance of giants.

  • With the competition now over, Yūko rallies her students and tells them that summer break is upon them. This doesn’t help the other schools’ students’ image of her, but for me, it shows that Yūko does care for her students in her own way. I’m very nearly done a post that should’ve been written a few weeks back, and before I wrap up, I note that January’s been uncommonly active for posts because I’ve been playing catch-up with last season’s shows. I will need to come back and do a talk on Azur Lane at some point in the future: the final two episodes will roll in March, so I’ll likely take this one on in February. In the meantime, the only posts I have left for this month will be for Magia Record and Room Camp, as well as a lengthier talk on Halo: Reach now that I’ve finished the campaign.

  • Overall, Rifle is Beautiful earns a B grade (7.5 of 10, or 3.0 on a 4-point scale): I was impressed with how the anime was able to take something like rifle shooting and weave character growth into the sport to make an unexpectedly engaging series that has left me with a little more knowledge on how the ISSF 10 Metre Air Rifle sport works. With likeable characters and solid technical aspects (both audio and visual), I had fun watching this series. In the end, this is what matters, and since Rifle is Beautiful succeeds here, I count it as a series I enjoyed.

Admittedly, the pacing of Rifle is Beautiful is ultimately something that viewers will have to decide for themselves as to whether or not the anime is worth picking up and continuing with; while successful in conveying the atmospherics, technical aspects and tenor of rifle shooting, Rifle is Beautiful is a very slow anime, even more so than other slice-of-life series that I’ve gone through. In particular, the matches span multiple episodes, and it can be easy to forget who’s who. However, the slow, and often meandering flow in Rifle is Beautiful is very naturally presented, serving to remind viewers that Hikari’s opponents are not faceless machines, but ordinary people like herself, with intents and desires. Punctuating the more introspective moments with comedy help me to enjoy the presence of the other school’s characters. Seeing the human side of the competitors helps to also remind viewers that this story isn’t just about Hikari. As such, while I was rooting for Chidori, having Chidori perform admirably in the group competition and watching Hikari fail the individual matches was also a reminder that happy endings can come in different forms: the real win Hikari has in Rifle is Beautiful comes from being able to compete properly with a team and meet so many unique people. The slower pace thus serves to direct focus on these moments, and so, while Rifle is Beautiful may not be a rivetting anime about rifles, it certainly does have a charm of its own. With Rifle is Beautiful in the books, I do not imagine that a continuation is likely in the foreseeable future: the original manga’s been running since 2015, and there are a total of four volumes so far, the last of which releasing in October 2018. Sales figures and source material notwithstanding, Rifle is Beautiful‘s current animated adaptation has ended on a respectable and fairly conclusive note, so I wouldn’t be too disappointed if this is where Rifle is Beautiful‘s anime incarnation closed things off.

Terrible Anime Challenge: On Poor Decisions and Pushing the Limits of Viewer Endurance in School Days

有敬酒唔飲飲罰酒 –Cantonese Idiom

Makoto Ito grows enamoured with Kotonoha Katsura after running into her every morning on the train, and shares with Sekai Saionji, a spirited classmate who agrees to help him get closer to Kotonoha. However, as Sekai provides tips and creates situations that push Makoto and Kotonoha (who returns Makoto’s feelings) together, Sekai begins to develop feelings for Makoto. After a few dates where his advances are deemed hasty, Sekai offers to provide “lessons” to Makoto. After a group outing to the local water park, Makoto begins to grow listless and begins pursing a relationship with Sekai. The two manage to keep this secret until Kotonoha overhears Sekai declaring her love to Makoto. She refuses to believe it, even in spite of having caught the two kissing earlier. However, with Sekai spending more time with Makoto, Setsuna, Sekai’s best friend, begins to believe that Makoto is dating Sekai. She wants Kotonoha out of the picture, but Makoto, feeling remorse at having left Kotonoha alone, promises to dance with her at the school’s culture festival. When the culture festival comes, Makoto learns that Setsuna never really forgot about how’d they met, and after a day’s work, Setsuna kisses an exhausted Makoto while Kotonoha sees this go down. On the second day of the culture festival, Otome, a classmate of Makoto who’d known him since middle school, takes him to a special “break room” where she forks Makoto’s branch. As the culture festival, Makoto regenes on his promise to Kotonoha and dances with Sekai instead. However, Setsuna is not convinced that Makoto is separated from Kotonoha and aggressively kisses him in front of her. When Sekai sees the secretly-captured footage, she demands to see Makoto, but runs into a depressed Kotonoha. Sinking into a depression herself, Sekai begins skipping school, while Makoto boffs Hikari. Soon after, Otome’s friends begin taking Makoto on a twelve-city all-percussion concert. When Sekai develops nausea and vomits, she assumes she’s pregnant with Makoto’s child and announces it to the class. Makoto’s so-called friends-with-benefits distance themselves from him, and while out looking for someone to shag, runs into Kotonoha. Realising the hurt he’s caused her, he apologises and tearfully embraces her. Kotonoha and Makoto go out for dinner, and upon returning to his apartment, he encounters Sekai. They fight, and Kotonoha forcefully kisses Makoto, prompting Sekai to leave. Pressured by Kotonoha and Makoto to abort the unborn foetus, Sekai seeks to talk with Makoto, but recalling the pain he’s caused, she stabs him to death instead. When Kotonoha arrives, she’s driven over the edge by Makoto’s corpse. Kotonoha calls Sekai out to the school rooftop, where she executes Sekai and disembowels her, learning Sekai had lied about being pregnant. Taking Makoto’s remains with her, Kotonoha rides into the sunrise on a sailboat and proclaims she can spend eternity with Makoto. This is School Days, an anime whose reputation preceded it, and a series I had adamantly refused to watch until the Twitter anime community compelled me to do so. For my troubles, I was rewarded with a series whose thematic elements is about as subtle as a brick through a window.

“All hail the conquering hero. Let us remember him as our protector and not the one who gave us…this. As our saviour, and not our betrayer! Let us see him forever as you, and not as you. All hail the conquering hero, the one who was supposed to save us all! But now, I must save us…from you.” -Kotonoha Katsura, #TeamKotonoha

“This…is this what you wanted? Is this what you were looking for? Was everything you’ve compromised, everything you’ve done, worth it? Was it? Your relationship is over, Makoto. Mine is just beginning.” –Sekai Saionji, #TeamSekai

Despite its rather nasty and brutish reputation owing to its ending, through its rather vivid and overt imagery, School Days‘ core theme ultimately speaks to the price of indecision, infidelity and a lack of faith. Makoto begins his journey as being infatuated with Kotonoha, but Sekai’s interference causes his heart to waver, and throughout School Days, he devolves from a caring and kind individual into someone who cares little for those around him beyond the pleasures of the flesh. In its original form as a visual novel, School Days allowed players to take Makoto on a moving story where he chooses someone and cultivates a meaningful and honest relationship, or make enough mistakes that would cost him everything. However, mirroring the knife’s edge that life sometimes is, mistakes hit and hit hard: the anime adaptation of School Days shows just how perilous of a dance relationships are: the possibility for error lies around every corner, and when one ill turn deserves another, Makoto ends up paying the ultimate price for building multiple, simultaneous relationships around lust and lies. The visceral conclusion of School Days therefore acts as a grim warning to those who lack the commitment and ability to take responsibility for their actions. Throughout School Days, Makoto is shown as making the decisions that consistently worsen his situation, and while his actions might be seen as being so poorly placed that one might have to consciously be aware of them to make them willingly, this aspect of School Days is one that is forgiven on the virtue that Makoto, Kotonoha and Sekai, whose age means that their frontal lobes have not yet been fully developed, are being driven by their hormones and irrational desire rather than a mediated course of action rooted in reason. As such, School Days covers off this particular aspect that may come across as jarring; younger characters with a propensity towards decisions that adults will find irrational means that there is little benefit to attempt an analysis on why Makoto chooses to act in the way that he does. The answer to this lies with the narrative: in order to convey the costs of unfaithfulness and lies, Makoto necessarily must act in a way that allows the story to both highlight the consequences, as well as showcase what kind of outcomes can exist in the visual novel. At the expense of portraying Makoto as a degenerate piece of scum, School Days succeeds in its original function.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • What starts out as a basic romance-drama very quickly devolves into a tragedy brought on by hubris and a complete disregard of the consequences: one episode into School Days, the viewer with no familiarity would not be aware that the anime would venture into territory that would evoke a strong sense of revulsion in viewers. At the story’s beginning, Makoto is spurred on by Sekai to pursue a relationship with Kotonoha, and things start out with a sort of innocence and excitement that brings to mind the atmosphere seen something like Da Capo.

  • As a Terrible Anime Challenge, School Days falls into the camp of “it lived up to existing expectations set by the community”: the anime is infamous, and this reputation is well-earned. However, having now seen the entire series, the outcome where Makoto pays the ultimate price for his lack of commitment does not seem so outrageous, and in fact, the challenge I faced in watching this series ended up coming from how Kotonoha was treated, and the generally flippant attitude Makoto was portrayed as having as the series wore on. Encouragement from the Twitter community was ultimately what led me to keep going.

  • I never would have watched School Days of my own volition, but a challenge from the anime Twitter community led me to join a group of anime bloggers in watching this series. Over the course of the discussion, I’ve seen attempts to rationalise Makoto’s behaviour, but I never really found them satisfactory, since Makoto’s actions seem to be guided by baser instinct rather than anything resembling logic. Freud is similarly irrelevant here since, even if we take his theories to hold true, there is no conflict between the id, ego and super-ego as Freud would have envisioned – Makoto is all about plowing as many people as he can get his grubby mitts on, even in the knowledge he is going to hurt Kotonoha in the process.

  • The page quote I’ve chosen for this talk, comes from a Cantonese idiom “有敬酒唔飲飲罰酒” (jyutping jau5 ging3 zau2 m4 jam2 jam2 fat6 zau2, literally “refusing to drink wine offered to you, and drinking the cursed wine instead”) that roughly approximates to “refusing a favourable offer only to take punishment”. In Mandarin Chinese, the phrase is rendered as “敬酒不吃吃罚酒” (pinyin jìng jiǔ bù chī chī fá jiǔ, where one “eats” the wine rather than drinks it): I’ve using colloquial Cantonese in mine simply because it’s more amusing that way.

  • How does the page quote fit in with the themes of School Days, one asks? The answer is simple enough: Makoto is given a perfectly good setup and the path forwards seems clear, but he ends up picking the set of decisions that end up being the worst for him. Hence, instead of taking something favourable, he takes the cursed route instead. With that cleared up, I offer a screenshot in lieu of a lengthier explanation as to why I’m on #TeamKotonoha, in the knowledge that this is probably not an adequate reason. From this moment alone, I knew that I was watching the uncensored version of School Days and would be getting the full experience later down the line.

  • While Freud is useless throughout School Days, Makoto’s actions are probably best described as a very visual and tangible description of the shortcomings of greedy algorithms. These algorithms work by trying to do what’s best at the current step with the aim of finding some global optima. Further to this, greedy algorithms are designed make whatever choice seems best in the moment, and then solve any problems that arise later. However, in practise, greedy algorithms typically fail to find the global optima, usually get stuck on some local optimum instead, and may even find what’s known as a “unique worst possible solution”, which is the worst possible outcome (e.g. in a travelling salesman problem, the longest path that can be taken to hit all of the vertices in a graph).

  • Makoto’s behaviour mirrors that of a greedy algorithm in that at some point in School Days, he acts in a way that satisfies his biological urges in that instant, which is a local optima. Whenever the situation changes, Makoto acts in such a way as to ensure that he can continue sating his desires in the moment, without considering the consequences of his actions. This is evident in how Makoto jumps between Sekai and Kotonoha early in the series, falling on Sekai to fix any problems that arise with Kotonoha, and then eventually growing “bored” of Kotonoha enough to openly mess around with Sekai.

  • In practise, greedy algorithms are usually frowned upon because they don’t provide a global optima as a result of not knowing all of the data available. However, there are some scenarios where they are utilised. In particular, networking solutions often have made use of greedy algorithms to reasonable success, and greedy algorithms are generally faster from a time complexity perspective, making them acceptable for approximating solutions. I’ve now given readers the elevator pitch equivalent to greedy algorithms: School Days captures what the risks of using greedy algorithms are in an anime format spaced out over twelve episodes, and while one might not recall all of the terms, this is how I’d describe a greedy algorithms to folks who don’t have a computer science background.

  • Of course, for folks looking to learn more, there’s plenty of materials out there, and I won’t bore readers any further with what belongs in a university, rather than an anime blog. Makoto’s infidelity initially has limited fallout: he’s struggling to choose between Kotonoha and Sekai. The problem is compounded by the fact that Sekai’s friends, Setsuna and Hikari among them, seem to think that Makoto is dating Sekai. Sekai’s initial desire to help Makoto does not have any altruistic motives: she hopes that over time, Makoto will break up with Kotonoha and then be with her.

  • The topic of altruism is a challenging one, and this was one of the papers that I wrote for my second university course on research methods and the fundamentals of logic in persuasive writing. One of the biggest strikes against evolutionary altruism was the idea that altruistic acts, seemingly selfless, actually help the individual committing it to begin with, and the individuals knows this, hence their decision to do something that may lower their fitness in the short term. This may take the form of reciprocal altruism (i.e. “if I help you, you’ll help me”). From Sekai’s perspective, School Days supposes that true altruism does not exist, and she’s clearly expecting some form of payoff in the long term.

  • After the culture festival, School Days takes a nose dive and sends Makoto on what would be known as a “non-recoverable” path: once Setsuna kisses him and reveals her desire to have him be with Sekai, as well as recalling that she did have feelings for him to some extent, Makoto’s moral compass takes a total leave of absence, and Makoto’s decisions become increasingly poor, making it impossible to sympathise with him: while he’d been agonising over whether Sekai or Kotonoha was a better partner and was subject to difficult choices early in School Days, after this point, any sympathy a viewer may have had for him disappears entirely.

  • The other two quotes on this page are from Halo 5‘s #HuntTheTruth marketing campaign. Both quotes are chosen to mirror the different factions’ thoughts on Makoto: Sekai seems less literate and would talk in blunt terms, while Kotonoha is well-read and would therefore be more poetic. There are some who believe Sekai is the better choice for Makoto, and others (like myself) who hold that Kotonoha is the winner. The latter would vote #TeamKotonoha, and the former would back #TeamSekai. My reasons for being on #TeamKotonoha are simple enough: Kotonoha’s loyalty and unwavering feelings mean that she embodies commitment, a trait I admire and respect in people. In the end, Sekai comes across as being an interfering busybody who created her own demise.

  • As School Days wears on, Kotonoha begins to be neglected and mistreated, both by those around her and the circumstance that Makoto’s put her in. Feeling bad for Kotonoha becomes an inevitability, doubly so owing to the fact that viewers have seen Kotonoha’s younger sister, Kokoro, and the joy that she expresses at the thought of Makoto becoming Kotonoha’s partner. Thus, even without actively knowing, Makoto will end up hurting Kokoro, as well, with his decisions. Having not played School Days myself, I cannot say for sure whether or not it’s possible to save Makoto with good decisions if we’ve already gone down this path: perhaps one would need to mod the Infinity Stones into School Days in order to save Makoto from himself.

  • Of course, if we consider things from a more rooted perspective, Makoto is quite beyond salvation. Seeing Kotonoha in this state was particularly difficult, and it was ultimately this piece, coupled with Makoto’s blinding arrogance and stupidity that made School Days a difficult series to watch: School Days never got to a point where I felt an inclination to stop watching, but I’ve never done well with seeing good people made to experience terrible things. Kotonoha’s suffering only really began after she met Makoto, and when Otome learns of this, she does everything in her power to make life difficult for Kotonoha, as well.

  • Towards the end of School Days, Makoto begins getting it on with everyone within arms’ reach: during the culture festival, he and Otome end up screwing one another in the secret “relaxation lounge”, which was subsequently filmed and broadcast for the whole world to check out. It’s a crippling blow to Sekai, and coupled with Setsuna’s sudden departure for France, proves too much to handle: she begins skipping school wholesale after.

  • Before we enter the final stages of this School Days discussion, I’ll provide a brief overview of the community initiative that sent me down this path: it’s called AniTwitWatches, and involves watching older anime in real time to discuss them. The criteria for inclusion is that the anime must be available by legal means, and each Monday, participants will offer snippets of their thoughts on that week’s episode. The programme is a relatively new one, having started in July 2019, and I joined the School Days party later on the game, motivated by a friendly group of participants and a desire to see what would happen if I pushed myself through a show I had adamantly refused to watch.

  • The outcome of this was a host of bad jokes and wisecracks that I’m sure alienated the community. In spite of this, I am still invited to participate on the next one, so I’ll have to reassure the others that I’ll play a little nicer. Girls’ Last Tour appears to be the anime of choice, which is an excellent one. This series, I remember best for its surprisingly deep and meaningful messages despite a seemingly simple setup. I will have much more to share with AniTwitWatches on this one than just bad jokes.

  • Once Kotonoha is spurned, her eyes take on a dull character that became iconic of all yanderes in later works; she spends several episodes in a right state, exhibiting signs of delusion as she acts as though she’s still with Makoto. When Makoto realises the extent of the damage his actions have caused, he takes her back. Life returns to Kotonoha’s eyes. Entering the final episode, whose outcome is so infamous that it is no longer counts as a spoiler, I admit that I was glad to watch this one reach its conclusion.

  • While I’ve no qualms showing blood, guts and gore on this blog (see my DOOM and Wolfenstein posts), intuition tells me that, were I to show Sekai killing Makoto and leaving him to bleed out, or Kotonoha disemboweling Sekai, the search engines would not take to that too kindly. I’ve stated this before, but I’ve never had any trouble with over-the-top violence in video games, whereas in anime, gore nauseates me. I’m not sure why this is the case, but primarily for my own sanity (and a lack of desire to see this blog scrubbed from search engines), I’ve therefore left the most explicit moment of School Days out and leave the curious reader to check the series out for themselves.

  • Par the course for a Terrible Anime Challenge post, I’ll need to provide a scoring summary of School Days. I think it would be fair to assess this series a B- (7 of 10, or 2.7 on a 4-point scale): having a very clear story and message works in School Days‘ favour, and Kotonoha is hawt. However, between all of the characters who come across as little more than assholes, I saw no incentive to follow anyone to see them improve over time: I believe School Days marks the first series I’ve seen where characters regress as time passes. There’s no reason to root for anyone save Kotonoha, and viewers feel a perverse sense of satisfaction when the characters suffer (again, save Kotonoha). I’m not about this life, and I’m much happier seeing people make discoveries that make them better for their troubles.

Prior to the Twitter community’s decision to watch School Days, this anime had admittedly been on my list of shows to never watch during my lifetime by reputation alone. Besides the ending that became infamous owing to the finale’s coincidental timing with a murder in Japan, and a protagonist that was impossible to get behind, School Days‘ theme and goals are the polar opposite to those of the shows that I do choose to watch. With School Days in the books now, my opinion of the show remains quite unchanged: it excels at its intended objective, but remains quite difficult to watch. In particular, the anime’s treatment of Kotonoha is disturbing. Despite being a sweet and kind girl who’s into books and exhibits loyalty to a fault, she’s cheated on by Makoto, bullied by Otome and her circle of friends and betrayed by Sekai. Suffering misfortune after misfortune following her decision to date Makoto, her reactions to the events of School Days were an inevitability with a terrifying implication, that in people, there is a potential for great evil if one is pushed far enough. Supposing this to be the case, School Days has one more additional message for viewers: that there is nothing to be gained through acts of bullying. Despite having now sat through an anime that remains quite notorious even a full thirteen years after its airing, I find that School Days and other similar series remain quite outside the realm of shows I would willingly watch. Makoto’s stupidity and the suffering that Kotonoha endured, coupled with Sekai’s interference, means that going through the episodes proved to be even more of a test of patience than Glasslip, which is saying something. While I was able to discern School Days‘ theme and objectives, this series nonetheless remains one that is remarkably difficult to stomach, and in the end, I only endured thanks to a combination of the support of a friendly segment of the anime Twitter community and a limitless pool of bad jokes.

Koisuru Asteroid: Review and Reflections After Three

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” –Isaac Asimov

Instructor Yuki’s plans to have a riverside outing are realised, and after spending the afternoon and early evening enjoying both barbeque and bread from the Suzuya Bakery, Mikage introduces Mira to the joys of rock collecting, only to be brought back to reality when the interesting rocks she’s gathered are too heavy to carry. When darkness sets in, the girls set up a refractor telescope and get acquainted with the night skies: Mari demonstrates how to properly configure the telescope, and then the girls get their first glimpse at Jupiter and four of its largest moons. When Mikage looks through the telescope, the skies have shifted from Earth’s rotation, so the telescope must be re-positioned to be pointing at Jupiter. The girls are just in time for a meteor shower, but after spotting a fireball, call it a night. Back at school, Mira struggles to come up with a suitable style for her newsletter publication, but after Ao asks her to provide illustrations for her, Mira realises that she can do a comic for her topic. The girls later unwind at a hot springs and learn that different types of hot springs have different properties. Later, Mira and Ao are revealed to have failed their exams (with Ao failing out of pure carelessness) and attempt to study for their make-up exams. Moe arrives and meets Misa, Mira’s older sister and the student council president. Mira and Ao pass their exams on their second run, and after finding themselves short of funds, decide to work at the Suzuya Bakery. On a quiet day, Mira and Ao run into Mai, who’s hanging out with Moe. After briefly tailing them and getting burned in the process, Mira and Ao learn that Mai’s into geolocation and cartography. She creates a small geocaching assignment for them, leading Mira, Ao and Moe to learn that Mai’s greatest treasure are her friends. Meanwhile, instructor Yuki speaks with Mari about plans for a summer outing. This is where Koisuru Asteroid stands after three episodes, striking a fine balance between the ordinary moments of everyday life and having Mira and Ao delve deeper into a club whose topic is broad and awaiting numerous adventures.

After three episodes, Koisuru Asteroid has fully established where it intends to go – the second and third episodes have shown that Earth Sciences is a topic that provides plenty of direction for the anime to explore, from rock hunting to stargazing, and so, the journey to Ao and Mira’s eventual dream of discovering their own asteroid means to be one filled with smaller milestones and treasured memories. This early in the game, Ao and Mira have looked through a telescope, but have yet to become familiar with observation techniques, equipment and subtleties. Instead, common everyday events are shown to indicate that while the technical aspects of Mira and Ao’s dream matter, so do the mundane things of everyday life. Koisuru Asteroid therefore does live up to its title, being part about a love of the extraordinary in the ordinary, and part about the technical skill necessary to realise a dream built on a promise. The first three episodes set the precedence for the remainder of the series, and from here on out, it is reasonable to expect that Ao and Mira will make strides in their journey towards their promise, while at the same time, really take the time to enjoy moments spent with Mari, Mikage, Mai and Moe. I therefore look forwards to seeing the series advance on both fronts: while the friendship elements are on a well-worn path and will conclude in a manner that is expected, the astronomy and geology piece that Koisuru Asteroid will take remains a bit of an intrigue. Seeing what tools and techniques Mira and Ao learn along the way will be equally as enjoyable to watch, and I am certain that viewers will come out of Koisuru Asteroid with a greater appreciation for the joys of the night sky, as well as the world around us.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The third episode introspective of Koisuru Asteroid comes precisely a week ahead of Chinese New Year, and so, we’re into the celebrations now. This year is going to be the Year of The Mouse, and preparations begin tomorrow as we make lo bak go, a delicious dish that is, at least in my family, a Chinese New Year’s tradition. Tonight, I had a rather extravagant seafood dinner with family: the menu included dishes like lobster with a rich cream, deep-fried stuffed crab claw, abalone and fish maw on snow-pea leaves, shark fin soup, fresh fish, white-cut chicken and sticky rice, closed off with sweet yam Tong sui. Such a dinner was perfect for a cold evening such as this.

  • The weather right now couldn’t be further from the beautiful conditions of Koisuru Asteroid: this past week, the thermometer never once rose above -25ºC, and evenings where the external temperature dropped below -40ºC were not uncommon. Starting a car was a challenge, and the mere act of walking in the wind was painful. I’m admittedly used to this: an extra sweater, a heavier coat, a scarf, bomber hat and heavy gloves means that I can go about my business as usual, and when the temperatures do warm back up, something like -15ºC becomes something I count as comfortable.

  • With three episodes in the books, it suddenly strikes me that Mira resembles a combination of GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto and Slow Start‘s Hana Ichinose, while Ao is Rize Tedeza, Kinro Mosaic‘s Aya Komichi and a few other familiar characters. Mira is voiced by Tomoyo Takayanagi, whose roles I’m not familiar with, and Ao is voiced by Megumi Yamaguchi (New Game!‘s Hifumi Takimoto). Here, Mira expresses disappointment that she’ll have to put some of her rocks back, but elects to keep a banded stone.

  • Of course, the real star of the show comes once darkness falls, and Mari sets up a refractor telescope. Of all the telescopes available for amateur astronomers, the achromatic refractor telescope is probably the most ubiquitous choice as an entry level scope. A good scope retails for about 300 to 400 dollars; these telescopes offer a good aperture size, stable tripods and good lenses. Anything below this usually is not worth the money, as the lenses may introduce unacceptable chromatic aberration, or the tripods are too unstable to yield a good image, and one with a smaller budget will do well with binoculars, which are surprisingly versatile and effective in backyard astronomy.

  • Koisuru Asteroid correctly details the steps taken to find an object of interest. At this point, we assume that Mari has already pointed the polar axis on the equatorial mount at the celestial pole, and then used the azimuth and altitude adjustments to precisely tune the telescope. From here, it’s a matter of finding an object using the finder scope: the girls start their journey by looking at Jupiter through the telescope: most novices begin their journey by looking for the planets and the moon, before learning techniques like star-hopping to locate more difficult-to-find entities.

  • When it’s Mikage’s turn to look through the telescope, she finds nothing through the main eyepiece. Mira displays an unexpectedly mischievous side to her when she remarks that maybe Mikage’s geology background has caused the telescope to scorn her (leaving Mikage to wonder if Mira is picking a fight), but this phenomenon arises as a result of the Earth’s rotation. Telescopes amplify the movement of the east-to-west motion of the sky, and so, at lower magnifications, object can drift from the centre of the view to the edge in as little as two minutes. Higher-magnification optics accentuate this, with objects drifting off centre in as little as 20 seconds. The girls wonder what solutions there are beyond realigning the telescope, and Mari mentions that a motor drive would be needed to automatically keep a telescope pointed at objects of interest. These motor drives run for north of 70 dollars.

  • The Earth Sciences club are shown to be using a Vixen-branded telescope: from the tube assembly, they’re using the A80Mf model, which runs for about 420 USD. With an 80mm aperture, 910 mm focal length and a focal ratio of f/11.4, the telescope also comes with a 6×30 finder scope with a 7º FOV. The telescope weighs 5.5 pounds and comes with essentially accessories like a dew shield (essential for keeping moisture off the main aperture, which in turn reduces image degradation). In practise, the A80Af easily fits Terence Dickinson’s description of a good beginner telescope. Vixen telescopes are manufactured in Japan, and in North America, Tele Vue markets them: Dickinson remarks that the Vixen brand is known for offering consistently good value.

  • It turns out that, unable to bear the cold, instructor Yuki had retreated to her car to keep warm, and in the process, missed the lone fireball that the girls spot. Mari mentions that this is the Lyrid Meteor shower, which peaks in April with a maximum of five to twenty-five meteors per hour. Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a trail of comet debris, which can persist for thousands of years after a comet has passed through the Earth’s orbit.

  • While Mira has much to say about her chosen topic for the Earth Science Club’s newsletter, she encounters considerable difficulty in putting these ideas onto paper, doubly so after Misa, her older sister, provides the feedback that her article on asteroids is very dense. When Ao asks Mira to provide her with an illustration for her article, Mira has a stroke of inspiration and decides to do a comic instead on the zodiac constellations.

  • The Earth Science club’s first publication is a resounding success, organically drawing the student body’s interest and attention after it is readied. This is the first of the achievements for the fledgling club, and while it might appear to be a small milestone, it marks the first time that the girls have come together and taken those first steps in making their activities more widely known. Scientific communication is an entire discipline on its own, and one challenge scientists face in their work is conveying the implications to a lay population. Being able to convey complex idea in simple, approachable terms is a skill, and this is something I always strive towards.

  • Misa is Mira’s older sister and is the student council president. Confident and reliable, Misa is voiced by Mai Fuchigami, whom I know best as Girls und Panzer‘s Miporin Nishizumi: Fuchigami portrays Misa with none of Miho’s traits, and in fact, Misa is perhaps more similar to Maho in terms of style. Both are a bit more reserved, but greatly support their younger siblings in their own way: some comics have shown Maho doting on Miho a little too much, and this is something I’d actually like to see presented in the Girls und Panzer series proper, since it is an incredibly heartwarming manner to behold.

  • It was a bit of a surprise that Koisuru Asteroid would feature an onsen this early in the game. This still of the onsen‘s front exemplifies the sort of art style used in Koisuru Asteroid: while nowhere near as intricate or detailed as something from Kyoto Animation or Makoto Shinkai, the colours are well-chosen to create a sense of invitation and warmth. Many series have been successful in doing more with less, and in series like Koisuru Asteroid, striking a balance with the environment details means that the world the characters live in is sufficiently detailed to be convincing, without taking the viewers’ attention away from their interactions.

  • Traditionally, onsen scenes are used as a means of fanservice, but in Koisuru Asteroid, the girls’ conversation turns towards the different kinds of mineral waters hot springs can have. A hot springs is defined as any natural source of water with temperatures exceeding 25ºC, and depending on the mineral content, the waters can have different properties. The sulfur springs of the Rocky Mountains can help improve skin hydration, and in British Columbia, there are also radium springs; bathing in their waters is said to help with digestion.

  • Hot springs are a geological feature associated with tectonic activity, where in ground water is heated by geothermal sources and retains its heat when pushed to the surface (as is the case in Japan), although natural heat from radioactive decay can also heat water. The temperature of the hot springs vary depending on how much heat the water picks up (or subsequently loses), and in my experience, having relaxed in the Heritage Resort’s onsen, where the temperatures appeared to be around 35ºC, this sets the threshold for the temperatures that I prefer.

  • After learning that instructor Yuki is a very dedicated instructor who’s still single, Mira gifts her a souvenir from their visit to her favourite onsen. The trope of a relatively youthful instructor with no partner is a commonplace one in slice-of-life series, and this is usually intentionally done so the instructor can spend more time with their students in their experiences. An married instructor, or someone who’s in a serious relationship wouldn’t be able to drive their students around or spend time with them on weekends quite to the same extent, so having a young, single instructor provides the maximum amount of flexibility for them within the story.

  • It turns out that Ao’s mother is a scientific illustrator, and produces drawings that Mira are very fond of. Here, the two are supposed to be studying for a make-up exam after failing: Mira must redo her physics and English exam, while Ao is retaking her math exam. Mira does not seem the studious type and so, this outcome is not terribly unexpected, but Ao failing an exam seemed unlikely, until at least Ao reveals to the viewer (and quite privately) that she failed her exam on the basis that she put down the wrong name after being distracted by stargazing the previous evening.

  • This brings to mind Brad Marchand’s latest shootout attempt: on January 13, after an overtime still saw the Boston Bruins deadlocked with the Philadelphia Flyers, on the fifth round, Marchand was brought out to shoot. He ended up overskating the puck, instantly forfeiting his shot and giving the Flyers a victory. Basically, carelessness can affect anyone at any level, and so, Ao’s mistake doesn’t seem all that implausible. I recall a similar story where during a social studies (the Canadian equivalent of history) exam, I had been going through my exam and accidentally missed one question, so all of my subsequent answers were one off. Because I did this towards the end of the exam, my overall grade was still passable, but it did come as a bit of a shock to me.

  • At this point in Mira’s high school career, she’s studying Newtonian one-dimensional kinematics and is having trouble recalling the equations. Moe suggests singing the equations out to remember them, and while it is true that a melody or mnemonic can be a good tool for remembering, there is no substitute for learning and remembering something quite like frequent exposure to the material. For me, doing more problems was how I learnt something, and I never relied on memory tricks. The equations that are brought up are for expressing the relationship between acceleration, time and distance: they’re relatively straightforwards and, I’ve used these expressions to characterise the flight path of the .50 calibre bullet in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s “One Shot, One Kill” mission to satisfy myself that the numbers did indeed add up.

  • After Moe helps Mira to remember basic kinematics equations with a song, she also reveals that she knows Mira’s dirtiest secret. It turns out that Mira’s composed a girls’ romance manga with herself and Ao as the lead characters, and as Mira mentions, it’s something unfit for human eyes. Thus, while we viewers are left to share a laugh at Mira’s expense, the implications are that Mira’s mind is actually quite fertile when it comes to what she thinks of Ao.

  • Ao and Mira’s study session turns into a relaxed one when Moe arrives with cream puffs, and Misa follows. Moe seems to be enamoured with Misa’s composure and grace, but becomes jealous when Misa inspects Ao in greater detail. Later, Mira gives Misa the banded rock that she’d found during the barbeque, and Misa enshrines it, counting it a good-luck charm for her entrance exams. In the end, both Ao and Misa pass their makeup exams.

  • In order to help secure funds for club activities, Ao and Mira work at the Suzuya Bakery, in a moment that brings to mind Cocoa’s return to help her family bakery in Dear My Sister. Insofar, Koisuru Asteroid has provided no shortage of interesting topics in amateur astronomy and geology to cover, but the series has also created numerous setups to show Mira and Ao’s experiences outside of club activities. Discussions with folks who have some background in either have proven to be worthwhile, as I’m able to learn about different techniques and aspects of the hobby that make them enjoyable for different people.

  • While I’ve brought in a great deal of technical material into my talks on Koisuru Asteroid because the premise allows it, I note that I am doing my best to maintain intellectual humility, and so, I’ll note when I’m venturing into an area that may be outside of my knowledge. Knowing when to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” is a sign of competence and skill, since it allows others to understand the extent of one’s knowledge and moreover, that they’re secure and open-minded enough to admit that they are willing to learn more. Not everyone thinks this way, though: for instance, Sam Curt, an old nemesis, has elected to focus on trivial minutiae in Koisuru Asteroid because they lack the background to lecture others on astronomy and geology. For Koisuru Asteroid, Sam Curt asserts that linguistic boundaries means that English-speakers will find the inclusion of astronomy in an Earth Sciences club would be counted as a “head-scratcher”, and that only those with a profound knowledge of Japanese high school curricula would understand why this is the case.

  • This is false: no viewer has had any problems with the semantics surrounding the two clubs’ merger. While it is true that astronomy is typically considered to be a subset of physics (astronomy is grouped with the physics department at my University, for instance), the field of astronomy can be divided into two broad categories: observational astronomy and astrophysics. The latter is about quantifying the behaviours and properties of celestial objects and phenomena, while the former is observing the physical and chemical properties of objects outside of the atmosphere. Because Earth Sciences is a broad discipline that focuses on Earth’s characteristics, observational astronomy can be considered a superset of Earth Sciences (or if that’s a stretch, at least tangentially related). It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see the observing of celestial bodies and their properties as applying Earth Sciences to celestial bodies, so viewers can accept that the merger is one that makes sense from a matter of semantics without trouble.

  • Sam Curt’s approach in slice-of-life anime is not unique: even larger anime resources like Anime News Network have used this method when dealing with anime that have a technical component outside the realm of their knowledge. Not knowing the physical characteristics of the tanks or the fundamentals of ballistics have lead ANN’s writers to draft imaginary slights about Girls und Panzer Der Film in some of their talks, and with Hai-Furi The Movie hitting Japanese cinemas today, I am certain that ANN will almost certainly be writing about the film’s shortcomings and criticising the military-moé genre without an appreciation of the naval vessels and how their properties impact the plot, which would result in a review that was not written with the full picture. In other words, I am suggesting to readers that they take the ANN review of Hai-Furi The Movie with a grain of salt until the BDs come out, after which one has the chance to make their own judgement on the film. Naturally, I will be taking whoever writes their Hai-Furi The Movie review to school once I’ve got the opportunity to.

  • The page quote I’ve got, then, is both for folks like Sam Curt and ANN’s writers. Back in Koisuru Asteroid, on a quiet day, Ao and Mira meet up with the intention of visiting bookstores and stationary shops. However, both have their curiosities piqued when they run into an unlikely pairing: Moe and Mai are hanging out together, and Ao and Mira immediately become interested to know what’s going on. Their efforts to tail Mai and Moe fail: since Mira is actively communicating her actions, she’s leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that lead her to get busted in minutes. In anime, lack of OPSEC is always utilised for laughs, and I’ve no problems whenever this happens.

  • As it turns out, Mai is a big fan of cartography and geocaching-like activities, having fallen in love with the area when one of her friends created a map for her to find treasures with. Cartography and geolocation are tangentially related to geology and the Earth Sciences, so it is not terribly surprising that Mai joined up with the club: she states it was only recently that she really began to appreciate the nuances surrounding rocks. I’ve always been fond of maps: as a child, I would spend hours looking at the roadmaps my parents had, and wondered what it would be like to explore the paths marked out on said maps.

  • In my youth, I was interested in everything under the realm of the natural sciences, and while my career choices mean that my focus is now largely on software development and technology, I still retain an interest in the natural sciences and will read about them in my spare time. As such, shows like Koisuru Asteroid are immediately compelling for me precisely because it’s a bit of a reminder of my childhood, and the fact that I used to spend hours with my nose in a natural sciences book.

  • After Mira expresses an interest in going on a Ciste Hunt, Mai creates a map just for Ao, Mira and Moe. She initially finds it difficult to decide what treasure should be the prize at the end of the hunt, but with some reassurance from Mikage, figures it out. When classes end, Ao, Mira and Moe go on a short adventure through their school, finding the treasure on the back of the map that compelled Moe to join the geology club. The treasure turns out to be the photograph of Mai together with Moe, Mira and Ao. Moe immediately reacts warmly to the moment, and in general, her desire to take and preserve photographs of the others brings to mind the tendencies of numerous characters before her, whose traits were similarly comedic in nature.

  • Doing the ciste hunt with Mai’s maps brings each of Ao, Mira and Moe closer with Mai, who reminds me somewhat of Yama no Susume‘s Kokona in mannerisms. This means that it is not outside of the realm of possibility for Mikage and Mari to have their own experiences with Ao, Mira and Moe. I also feel that as Koisuru Asteroid wears on, Moe’s joining the Earth Sciences club could be a very real possibility, as well.

  • I’ve opted to bring the “after three” talk on Koisuru Asteroid to a close with this screenshot of a vivid spring day: the vast expanse of sky and focus on what’s above indicates that Koisuru Asteroid is only just getting started. I am admittedly disappointed on the general lack of discussion out there on Koisuru Asteroid: most viewers likely entered when yuri components appeared to be central, but since that’s been slower insofar, interest in the series has waned. For folks who are watching Koisuru Asteroid for more than just yuri, I will be writing about this series with increased frequency this season, and so, there will be at least one blog out there that will be covering this show to some capacity.

Manga Time Kirara adaptations are typically very familiar, even derivative, and so, while the characters and their dynamics are nothing I’ve not seen before, the choice of topic in astronomy and geology makes Koisuru Asteroid a curious series to follow. The series will provide plenty of small tidbits of information about both disciplines that add to the series’ enjoyment and also gently guide viewers along to ensure they are up to speed with what Ao and Mira do en route to discovery of an asteroid. With the combination of reacquainting myself with the Earth Sciences and a familiar set of interactions amongst the characters, Koisuru Asteroid offers a very comforting and relaxed series to take up each and every week. The reason I am so fond of these series, even where they do not (or cannot) innovate on the genre, is because they show how every discipline out there has its own intricacies. While such series may not always be entirely faithful or fully representative of its real-world counterpart, exploring the techniques and tools of the trade is a reminder that every discipline has its own challenges, reward and merit. Being able to see different disciplines means appreciating the effort and work people apply towards their own occupations and professions, and while slice-of-life anime may prima facie be a thinly-veiled excuse to see cute girls doing cute things, the reality is that they also provide an accessible portrayal of disciplines that one might otherwise pass over while in pursuit of their own objectives. Having this wider perspective leads to increased respect for folks in different fields, and may even offer one novel insights into their own areas of expertise.

One More Wish: Sora no Method OVA Review and Reflections

“The Force is with me, And I am one with the Force; And I fear nothing, Because all is as the Force wills it.” –Chirrut Îmwe, Star Wars: Rogue One

A mysterious girl named Carol arrives in Lake Kiriya City and begins tailing Noel, who’s settled in to life with Nonoka and her friends. She now works at the Nozomi with Yuzuki: Nonoka pays them a visit and shares lunch with Noel. Koharu arrives and is the first to notice Carol, wondering if she’s lost, but Carol dismisses her. Nonoka and the others share a conversation about their friends: Sōta’s gone abroad to study and has left to prepare, and Shione is also away. Shione’s birthday is coming soon, and the girls decide to get her some sweets. Noel begins to wonder what a birthday is, and when Nonoka explains her the details, she realises that she doesn’t have one. Later that evening, Nonoka looks through old family photos and recalls the day her friends made the wish to bring the saucer into town. She realises that this is when things started for Noel, so this could be her birthday. Meanwhile, Carol confronts Noel, stating that Noel’s original directives were to grant wishes and implores Noel to accompany her back. Noel declines, and the next day, Carol attempts to make a wish of her own, to bring Noel back with her. She’s unsuccessful, and decides to petition for the removal of Noel’s saucer from the area. After running into Nonoka and the others, who are returning from school, Carol becomes frustrated and runs off, only to crash into the monster billboard in front of Koharu’s shop. Saddened at the billboard’s destruction, Carol bursts into tears, but the girls work together to fix the billboard. Later, Noel takes Carol on a trip around town, and they spend their time together before Noel invites Carol to her birthday party. On the day of the party, Sōta arrives in town, Carol runs into Shione, who’s returned for the party and suggests that Carol be up front with her feelings, as she was needed to be in front of Nonoka. Carol returns to the observatory and encounters Noel here: at this moment, her powers are restored, and her original wish was realised. Noel is pulled into the skies per Carol’s original wish, seemingly disappearing. However, by a miracle, Noel and Carol are reunited and show up fashionably late at their birthday party: the others decide that since Carol’s arrival was on the same date as that of Noel’s, they also share the same birthday.

The core theme of Sora no Method was ultimately about the return of friendship to a group of once-close friends who drifted apart when Nonoka moved away, and how Noel’s innocent, naive manner was instrumental in bringing everyone back together. However, when the series’ original run ended, a considerable number of viewers found themselves quite dissatisfied with the series outcome; Sora no Method has therefore become a bit of an under-rated series and was forgotten. For me, this was a quaint series with its own merits, and I enjoyed Sora no Method greatly during its run. With nearly five years having elapsed since I wrote my final impressions post, returning to the world of Sora no Method through a new OVA, One More Wish (Mou Hitosu no Negai), was therefore an especially pleasant and warming experience. Within the OVA, Carol’s arrival and her desire to have Noel come back with her helped me to see a new theme in Sora no Woto; Carol’s arrival and goals parallel those of Yuzuki’s and Shione’s early on, but as she gets to understand Noel better, she appreciates why Noel desired to stay with Nonoka and the others. Sora no Method‘s theme is therefore elegantly and succinctly contained within this new OVA: even among individuals with conflicting goals, there are more commonalities than most would care to admit, and it is through realising that the sum of what people share more in common is greater than their differences, that allow people to reconcile their differences and overcome distance separating them. This was something that Nonoka and Shione had to resolve after the former’s unexpected departure, and similarly, Nonoka had to work hard to convince the others that Noel’s presence was meant to bring them back together after their sudden separation. The outcome of this from the original series is evident within the OVA: each of Nonoka, Shione, Yuzuki, Koharu and Sōta are on much better terms with one another, and Shione’s become more open and kind, sharing advice with Carol. Shione’s words are ultimately what prompts Carol to realise her feelings about Noel, reflecting on her own learnings from the original series and reminding audiences of how much Noel’s presence ended up helping Nonoka and her friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Sora no Method, it was for the OVA where Nonoka, Koharu and Yuzuki tail Shione to figure out why she was continuously renting out a certain monster film. That post was published during the summer of 2015. During this point in time, my graduate thesis was in full swing, and I had been about three months into doing a full conversion of my biological visualisation software from Unity into Unreal. It suddenly strikes me that I had much more time as a graduate student than I do now, but this comes with the territory.

  • Carol is the latest addition to Sora no Method; at the episode’s beginning, she’s tailing Noel, and her origins are shown to be similar to Noel: a small saucer follows her around, and she’s prone to accidents whenever this saucer hits something. While she’s been tailing Noel and Nonoka with the subtly of a thrown brick, she’s not yet burned – Koharu wonders if she’s lost and becomes the first person to speak directly with Carol, who’s voiced by Marika Kōno (Yua Nakajima from Hinako Note, and Slow Start‘s Sachi Tsubakimori).

  • While Noel is a staff member at the restaurant that Yuzuki and Sōta’s family runs, she’s occasionally prone to wanting to join the customers. With a lull in things, Nonoka invites Noel to help her enjoy the omelette rice together with her, and Yuzuki joins in shortly. The weather in my area stands in stark contrast with the rainy and mild weather of Sora no Method: the cold weather’s finally arrived, and the average temperature during the past weekend was -25ºC. However, a 打邊爐 (jyutping daa2 bin1 lou4, or hot pot) yesterday was the perfect way to warm up: with prawns, oyster, beef, lamb, pork shoulder, fish balls, cabbage, lettuce and yi mein on our menu, I spent the better part of an evening warming up with good food, good conversation and a generous helping of the house special chili sauce from the best Chinese restaurant in town.

  • Like Noel, Carol uses large leaves as an umbrella whenever the rain appears, and while I had trouble identifying them in my last round of talks for Sora no Method, I would now hazard a guess that these are the leaves of the Alocasia macrorrhizos, or Giant Taro, a plant who is thought to have originated from Taiwan and then domesticated in the Philippines. With heart-shaped leaves reaching up to 90 centimetres in length, A. macrorrhizos‘ leaves are indeed used by tropical islanders as makeshift umbrellas. This would explain why while in Taiwan, my thoughts strayed to Noel.

  • Sōta’s been busy preparing to study abroad, and Shione is similarly doing well. Since reconciling with Nonoka, she smiles much more frequently now, and gets along well with everyone.  Seeing this Shione is a far cry from how the series started, and I still remember finishing off the series only after I returned from my travels to Taiwan the year that Sora no Woto was airing. It marked the first time I’d travelled during the winter holidays, and so, did not watch the finale until after I’d returned a ways into the new year.

  • My favourite memories of the Taiwan trip was probably visiting the Monster Village, going to the observation deck of Taipei 101, walking amongst Kaohsuing’s night market and the trip up Taiwan’s eastern coast. After the Taiwan leg of the trip concluded, we went to Hong Kong and spent a week with family before heading back to the bitter cold of the Canadian winter. I wrapped up Sora no Method and put out my finale post shortly after, before turning my attention towards Kantai Collection and the last graduate course I would take for my Master’s degree: Multi-Agent Systems and their properties. I took this course to gain a more formal understanding of agent-based modelling approaches, a core component of my old research.

  • Noel is voiced by Inori Minase, a highly talented and renowned voice actress known as GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, Hestia from DanMachi, Mari Tamaki of A Place Further Than The Universe and numerous other roles. As Noel, Minase does not sound like Chino quite to the extent as she did in Girls’ Last Tour as Chito, or Endro‘s Mei. Nonoka notices that something is bothering Noel, and learns that Noel was hoping to experience the joys of birthdays.

  • In the years following my trip to Taiwan, I’ve often found myself considering what might be on my itinerary should I make more concrete plans to return. The Eastern Rift Valley and its hot springs are high on my list of places to visit: it’s beautiful here, and there are a host of Bed and Breakfast style lodges that look like they’d offer comfortable, homely accommodations. As well, I’d also like to properly experience the night markets and try their grilled squid out – in 2014, I got a little overexcited upon arrival and ate too much on the first night, giving me stomach troubles that encouraged me to eat more conservatively for the remainder of my travels: I elected not to take any chances for the remainder of my time in Taiwan.

  • Upon hearing Noel voice a desire to have a birthday party, Nonoka decides to look back through her old albums and see if she can find any inspiration. Nonoka comes across a bunch of old family photos she can’t ever recall experiencing, and while this might be seen as a sign that Nonoka’s selective amnesia might still be at play here, I note that this is unlikely to be the case – people aren’t typically able to perfectly remember all of their previous experiences, and the mind also has a way of distorting some memories where they appear as the truth to us. We can chalk this up to a scientifically-motivated explanation, and return to the importance of this scene: Nonoka is able to figure out a way to celebrate Noel’s birthday, marking the day her friends made the wish as the day they’d met Noel properly.

  • Carol finally has a chance to speak with Noel: it turns out that she and Noel are part of an organisation that works to grant wishes, travelling about to strong-willed individuals to realise their desires. While she has trouble expressing so, it’s clear that Carol misses Noel and wants the latter to return to her duties, rather than spending time with Nonoka and the others, so that they might be together again.

  • Like Noel, Carol is adorable in her own right, and does things that bring to mind the sort of things that Noel would do on her own while Nonoka and the others were in classes. Here, she’s trying to use her own saucer’s powers to fulfil her wish of bringing Noel back with her – besides bouncing the pocket-sized saucer on a A. macrorrhizos leaf and trying to do a bit of a summoning ceremony with it, nothing appears effectual.

  • Shione’s birthday arrives, and the gift that Nonoka and her friends send her ends up being a year’s supply of sweet buns. Shione smiles warmly and notes that she’ll go through the buns in a heartbeat, indicating that Nonoka and the others were right on the money about Shione’s love for sweets. Her portrayal in the original series saw her return to a friendly personality as Nonoka and Noel did their best to get through to her. In the first OVA, released during the summer of 2015, Shione was shown to be quite cold and distant: this was set during the middle of the series, although even here, it shows that Shione did have a delicate side to her, as well.

  • Sora no Method is set in a small town modelled after Tōya: the series takes place around the hot springs district located on the shores of Lake Tōya, and Mount Usu Eruption Memorial Park, with its distinct sculptures, are featured frequently in the anime. Here, Nonoka and the others cross Tōya Bridge. On the left of the image is the Tōyako Onsen Bus Terminal: like most other anime, Sora no Method did a phenomenal job with reproducing the locations of its setting, giving it a life-like feeling.

  • When the girls see Carol out protesting the saucer’s existence, Yuzuki is reminded of back in the day when she had done the same thing herself, and immediately approaches Carol with the aim of coaching her to be more effectual. This backfires, however, and Carol is scared off. She runs off and collides with the monster billboard – Noel had previously destroyed this one in Sora no Method‘s original run, and her desire to help the others repair it helped her to bond with the others.

  • The very same thing happens in the OVA: after colliding with and shredding the billboard, Carol dissolves into the most adorable (and pitiful) tears I’ve seen in an anime in quite some time. I’m not sure why it is the case, but the crying of small children melts my heart, and I am overcome with the want to offer comfort, to say that things will be alright. Noel takes this on and reassures Carol: the girls set about rebuilding the monster billboard anew.

  • After spending a better half of the day, the girls’ efforts are met with a restored monster billboard. Carol shares manjū and tea with Koharu and Noel: she’s thrilled that the sweetness of the buns and the bitterness of the tea balance out so well in spite of herself. Carol can be seen as a combination of Noel’s naïveté and Shione’s perceived coldness at being unable to express how she genuinely feels about herself. The next day, she decides to follow Noel around, and Noel figures that here is an opportunity to really help Carol to have fun.

  • In spite of herself, Carol does end up having fun with Noel; the two take a pedal-boat ride over Lake Kiriya, manage to land some tickets to an onsen after running into Yuzuki, who’d won the tickets from a prize draw. This Sora no Method OVA, technically an ONA (as it was uploaded to YouTube), has a rather curious designation: it is labelled as the seventeenth episode, and the explanation is that in production, the “fourteenth” and “fifteenth” episodes were the opening and ending sequences, respectively. The first OVA was then marked as the sixteenth episode in production, and so, this OVA winds up being tagged as episode seventeen.

  • While Noel is quick to enjoy the onsen, Carol is a little more reserved about swimming about, but later related and actually out-swims Noel. This OVA was released on October 11, 2019, and admittedly, was not something I was aware of. It was serendipitous that I was able to find it at all, and with a lull in my posting (Rifle is Beautiful‘s finale won’t be airing for another week), I decided to take a look through a series that I rather enjoyed upon finishing it. While reception to the series was mixed, and Sora no Method was eventually forgotten, I still remember the series.

  • As such, it was not a particularly large surprise that there are no full discussions of the OVA out there on the internet: having looked around, I can say with confidence that this is probably the only talk on the second Sora no Method OVA out there with screenshots. Besides hanging out at an onsen, Noel takes Carol to visit Nonoka’s school for a culture festival, where they enjoy the food and also have a chance to check out the planetarium exhibit that was showcased in Sora no Method‘s original run: the planetarium was something Nonoka had built for their culture festival, a time when Shione and Nonoka were on rocky terms.

  • Noel invites Carol to her birthday party, but Carol declines, feeling left out after seeing just how close Noel is to the others. The page quote is sourced from Rogue One, being Chirrut Îmwe’s most well-known line from the film, referring to his faith in the Force throughout the film. Sora no Method‘s theme initially seemed incoherent, but as I progressed further into the anime, it struck me that the outcomes were always going to be a positive one, and with this in mind, I placed my faith into the writing and therefore was able to enjoy the journey it took to reach the end.

  • On the day of the party, Sōta arrives in town ahead of the party but hesitates to join the others until Koharu notices his presence and hauls him inside. Having long held feelings for Koharu, Sōta remained quite disinterested in the events surrounding Noel and Nonoka in Sora no Method but appeared owing to his interests towards Koharu. Koharu does not appear to be aware of these feelings as far as I can tell, but by the time of the second OVA, she’s become rather more playful and “encourages” him to come on in and join the others, who are amidst preparing for the party.

  • En route to the party, Shione runs into Carol, who is at a bit of a crossroads about what to do. Shione shares some wisdom with Carol, suggesting that she simply be forward and open about her feelings rather than trying to suppress them. As it turns out, this had been precisely what Shione had done during Sora no Method‘s original run. After she’d been hurt by Nonoka’s sudden departure, she rejected Nonoka’s return and refused to speak with her out of fear that should the two become friends again, she may experience the same hurt again. This barrier was resolved, and having seen it for herself, Shione now knows when something is happening to someone else.

  • Shione’s smile is really a pleasant one, and while Sora no Method may have had those in short supply, the second OVA more than offsets that. The biggest joy about the second OVA is that all of the characters are likeable: one of the leading gripes about the original run was that most of the characters had not been easy to sympathise with owing to their decisions and actions. In retrospect, this was because each of Nonoka, Shione, Yuzuki and Sōta had to make certain discoveries in order to begin reconciliation with one another; as their journey continues, it became easier to empathise with everyone, and the path towards resolution of everyone’s conflicts was a rewarding one.

  • Noel reappears to Carol, and the latter admits that she’s only wanted to be together with her. The strength of her emotions, and truthfulness in her statement activates her saucer, which promptly takes its original form and begins fulfilling Carol’s wish of bringing Noel back to her old assignments. However, Carol realises now how much Noel means to Nonoka and the others, and begins to second guess her wish.

  • One thing about Sora no Method that I didn’t mention in much detail during my original discussion of the series was the soundtrack. The incidental music in the series is by Tatsuya Kato and Kazuya Takase, featuring a variety of pieces that capture the emotional tenour of every moment, all of the highs and all of the lows from humourous moments and reunions, doubt and even resentment, within Sora no Method. I greatly enjoyed the music, and to hear familiar pieces make a return was most reassuring and welcoming. My favourite song on the soundtrack is はっぱの傘、溢れる笑顔 (Hepburn happa no kasa, Afureru Egao, or “Leaf Umbrella, Overflowing Smile”), a joyful and happy piece that reminds me of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”.

  • Having Carol’s wish granted, despite her protests that her desires have changed, creates quite a poignant scene that mirrors Noel’s departure once her original purpose was fulfilled. However, Sora no Method is rather known for driving things towards a happy ending, and so, I was never under impressions other than the fact that despite Carol’s wish, Noel would return. The OVA draws many elements from the original TV run, and in many ways, I see the OVA as simultaneously clarifying a few things that were unanswered from the TV series, as well as condensing the TV series’ core messages into a twenty-eight minute long run.

  • Thus, when Noel and Carol appear in time for their birthday party as the first snowfall of the year kicks in, I saw such an outcome to be inevitable rather than surprising. The rules of Sora no Method favour happy endings, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way things turned out. Here, since Carol’s evidently learned why Noel is so insistent on staying with Nonoka and the others, she’s earned her happy ending with them. My yardstick for whether or not a happy ending is deserved is a relatively simple and fair one: if the characters have gained something meaningful from their journey that betters them, or expands their perspective, then a happy ending is justified.

  • If I had to guess, I’d say that the restaurant that the Mizusakas work at is the Boyotei: this restaurant is known for its quaint atmosphere, attentive staff and solid food that combines Western with Japanese elements. Their beer and omelette rice are supposed to be excellent, although some feel that the restaurant’s prices are a bit expensive. Working out the location from looking through satellite data wasn’t tricky: knowing that the girls were close to the bus terminal earlier meant it was relatively simple to swing by the area and look at areas within walking distance. In a few short moments, I found the distinct ceremony arch at the restaurant’s front, and the rest is history.

  • The atmosphere inside the restaurant is pure joy as everyone celebrates Noel and Carol’s birthday: since Carol arrived on the anniversary as Noel, they also share the same birthday, and the others have gone ahead and prepared the cake with this in mind. It is a satisfying conclusion to the OVA, and also wraps things up in a definitive manner. The folks who did end up enjoying Sora no Method wondered if a second season could ever be a possibility, although given both the finality of the OVA and the fact that it’s been five years since any sort of Sora no Method project was announced, it’s safe to say that this series is probably in the books.

  • When everything is said and done, the second of the Sora no Method OVAs is well worth watching, being a valuable addition to the series that answers some lingering questions and acts as a satisfying epilogue. I admit that writing about Sora no Method‘s OVA was not something I expected to have on my schedule, but I am returning to the scheduled post for Rifle is Beautiful, and as time allows, a short talk on Azur Lane. In addition, Koisuru Asteroid and Magia Record are fast approaching their third episodes, so I’m looking to get talks for those done at the appropriate time. Finally, I have a surprise post in the works: folks following my Twitter will have a good idea of what this is, but my remaining readers will get to find out once the post is out!

The last time I wrote about Sora no Method, I was still in graduate school; time’s definitely flown by, and so, I was quite surprised to learn that there was another instalment in Sora no Method five years after the series’ original run. Despite the gap separating Sora no Method‘s original run from the latest OVA, it is clear that the series has not lost any of its magic, and the OVA ultimately ended up being a very succinct and enjoyable retreading of themes from the TV series, using Carol’s development as the basis to reiterate what Sora no Woto had originally been about. At the same time, the OVA also shows how far Nonoka and the others have come since Noel was able to grant their wishes: the rifts amongst this group of friends have healed, and Noel’s become a welcome part of this group. In addition, the OVA also reminds viewers as to what the significance of the saucer was. Viewers have criticised the series for using the saucer as a MacGauffin originally, missing the idea that the saucer was meant to represent the group of friend’s wishes. Hanging over the city like the weight of an unfulfilled promise, its arrival in Lake Kiriya was meant to show what Nonoka had left in the wake of her unexpected departure, and that in this world of miracles, the saucers are meant to help people grant wishes that mean something dear to them. The OVA thus provides a new perspective on the saucers and also summarises the original series’ messages neatly, making it a valuable addition to the Sora no Method series that can be helpful in wrapping up loose ends. With the freshly-gained insights from the second of the Sora no Method OVAs, it might even be worthwhile to go back and give Sora no Method a re-watch: the anime may have been somewhat of a challenge to follow, but Sora no Method portrays a very moving and heartfelt journey at its core.