The Infinite Zenith

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

Hello World: An Anime Movie Review and Reflection

“Reality is often disappointing. That is, it was. Now…reality can be whatever I want.” –Thanos, The Avengers: Infinity War

Naomi Katagaki is a high school student with a fondness for books and an indecisive disposition. While returning home from school one day, a crow snatches a book clean from his hands, and he gives chase. The crow brings him to Fushimi Inari-taisha, where he encounters a mysterious man who claims to be from the future. It turns out this man is none other than Naomi from ten years later; the Japanese government had been working on a massive archival project to preserve the past by means of drones and store them into the Alltale, a special machine with unlimited storage capacity. The older Naomi explains that his objective is to alter the recorded past and save one Ruri Ichigyō, Naomi’s classmate. As it turns out, Naomi had fallen in love with her, but before they began their relationship, she was struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. Because his current avatar has no physical presence, the older Naomi also gives his younger self a special glove with the power to alter reality and create simple materials at will, tasking Naomi with altering the course of his future. Guided by the older Naomi, Naomi sets in motion the events that lead him to fall in love with Ruri. On the night Ruri was to be hit by lightning, Naomi manages to save her, but his older self whisks Ruri away. His actions cause Alltale’s internal system to react: thousands of guards begin appearing to remove the disturbance and restore stability. Back in the real world, Naomi attempts to revive Ruri, but when the guards show up, he realises that he’s in a nested simulation. Naomi’s younger self appears and saves them; they must return Ruri to her original world. The guards begin aggregating as a massive being intent on destroying Naomi as the Alltale enters an error state, and while Ruri manages to enter a portal that sends her back, Naomi’s older self is grievously injured in the process. He reveals a desire to have seen Ruri smile one last time before dying, and the technicians operating Alltale finally manage to reboot the system. Naomi and Ruri return to a restored version of their world, and in the real world, Naomi awakens: as it turns out, his actions allowed him to save Ruri but also left him in a coma. Ruri end up using the same method to save him, and the two tearfully embrace. This is Hello World, a film with a runtime of a hundred minutes that released in September of last year.

For software developers and programmers alike, “Hello, world!” is the first program that every student writes when picking up a new language. Usage of this program as the most basic example was first recorded in a textbook on the C programming language in 1978, although some textbooks suggest that the first instance of “Hello, world!” being written in a program dates back to BCPL in 1967. The phrase, an integral part of software engineer, computer science and programming, is immediately familiar to those involved with technology, and despite its simplicity, is a gateway into worlds of infinite possibility and complexity. This is what gives Hello World its name, and it is therefore unsurprising that the film places such an emphasis on the possibility, but also limitations, of technology and software. In Hello World, the Alltale is presented as a fantastical piece of technology with an unlimited storage capacity achieved through unknown means, and given this power, the government has decided to embark on an ambitious project to archive Kyoto in its entirety, right down to the memories that people have. Such a tool would be immeasurably valuable for historians and anthropologists, but protagonist Naomi has a much more personal and sentimental use of the Alltale’s capabilities: to retrieve the data representing the memories that his love had and transfer it back into her body, intending on picking up where they’d left off. While a romantic gesture, Naomi also introduces instability into the Alltale system, rendering his mission a fool’s errand. It isn’t so simple to enter even a simulated world to alter it, and the world rejects his actions. Through his experiences, the older Naomi realises that a smile was enough, and ultimately “sacrifices” himself to ensure his younger self’s path to the future. Through Hello World, it is therefore suggested that even with technology as evolved as the Alltale, the past is indelible and immutable: some things just cannot be fixed regardless of how powerful the technology is for it. However, Hello World does not end on such a pessimistic note: in its ending, the film also seems to suggest that while advancing technologies do not offer an immediate solution at a given time, there is also merit in patience. Problems that cannot be addressed with current technology might be trivially solved as said technology evolves and improves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hello World‘s been on my list of things to watch since September last year, and if memory serves, the BDs came out back in April, when things were a little hectic for me. I’ve finally had the chance to watch it now, and right out of the gates, I was blown away by the visuals: the movie is produced by Graphinica, whom I know best for their 2014 film, Expelled from Paradise. Set in Kyoto, Hello World gives Kyoto Animation a run for their money when it comes to the quality of their artwork and their portrayal of Kyoto: stills of the city in Hello World look life-like.

  • Ever fond of books, Naomi is rarely seen without one in hand. This is a rarity, especially in 2027: Hello World suggests that seven years from now, the world is still largely as we know it, although subtle improvements in technology will have inevitably occurred. Even in the present, there are far fewer people reading books, and I especially lament the fact that my local branch library has a weak selection of books. All of the books worth getting are found at the central branch library, and it’s a bit out of the way for me.

  • The first sign that Naomi’s world is not what it seems is when red aurora appear in the skies, and a crow suddenly appears, stealing a book right out of Naomi’s hands and leading him to Fushimi Inari-taisha. The original description for Hello World was a vague “a man travels back in time to relive his time as a high school decision and rectify a past mistake”, but having now seen the whole of the movie, I feel this description to be an inaccurate description of the movie.

  • For one, Naomi is not “time travelling” in a traditional sense, but rather, he’s entered a simulated environment at a very specific time with the goal of guiding his simulated self towards a particular outcome with the intent of altering it. Here at Fushimi Inari-taisha, Naomi finally recovers his book, and comes face-to-face with a mysterious figure. Fushimi Inari-taisha is a famous shrine located in Kyoto, and while I never had the chance to visit during 2017, it is regarded as one of the most famous destinations in Japan to visit.

  • As it turns out, Naomi’s older self cannot interact with the simulated world, and so, he has the younger Naomi acting as his agent of sorts. Initially, the younger Naomi is reluctant to place trust in his older self, counting him a nuisance for interrupting his free time. At this point in Hello World, Naomi is very much an introvert who prefers books to company, and even when his classmates invite him out to an event, he declines. Naomi’s seen reading a book on how to be more decisive; by comparison, his older self is more confident and self-assured.

  • Both Naomi swing by the Kamo River’s Turtle Stepping stones, a local attraction in Kyoto that became quite famous when K-On! portrays Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi here during the first season’s opening sequence. To demonstrate that he really possesses knowledge of the future, Naomi forecasts that his younger self will be struck by a drone here, but this leads to the question of whether or not Naomi’s younger self is struck because the older Naomi brought him here. In the closed loop model of time travel, it is suggested that what happens in the present occurs because of an action in the past that resulted in the outcomes of the future.

  • In this regard, Hello World can offer the same kind of conversation about time travel that works as varied as Iroduku: The World in Colours and The Avengers: Endgame lend themselves to, although Hello World also has one other key component in its story: the older Naomi reveals that his reason for returning is to ostensibly help his younger self get a girlfriend. In exploring a more familiar topic, the movie also is able to present some humourous moments to lighten things up and also present yet another angle on what impact a first love can have.

  • Initially, Naomi finds it difficult to believe that Ruri could be his girlfriend: cold, unsociable and decisive, he feels that getting closer to Ruri could result in him getting hurt physically and believes that another classmate, Misuzu Kadenokōji, would be more along the lines of he’s interested in. Of course, relationships progress in unforeseeable ways, and one of the more enjoyable aspects of Hello World is watching how Naomi does, in time, come to appreciate Ruri.

  • The composition of this moment brings to mind the aesthetic seen in Angel Beats!, where sunsets were often used to frame more introspective or melancholy moments. Naomi’s older self explains that he’d fallen for Ruri and had intended to pursue a relationship with her, but an unfortunate incident meant that Naomi and Ruri would never get around to properly dating. When the older Naomi sees Ruri in the library for the first time, it probably marks the first time he’s seen her in any reality, and his eyes fill with tears at being able to see a sight he’d figured was otherwise not possible.

  • After the younger Naomi understands the terms of what’s being asked of him, he consents to help out: to assist him in being able to interact with the simulated reality, the older Naomi gives the younger Naomi a glove called “God’s Hand”. It manifests as a shape-shifting crow, and the older Naomi sees it as a powerful tool for manipulating the world. Owing to its functions, I prefer calling it the Infinity Gauntlet with only the Reality Stone attached to it.

  • This is what lends itself to the page quote, although unlike Thanos, who primarily uses the Reality Stone to create and dispel illusions, the God Hand can be used to alter data in the world to create new materials from nothing. However, even this has limited applicability initially: Naomi’s first step is to get closer to Ruri, and armed with the older Naomi’s knowledge of what happens with a great precision, all he needs to do is follow the instructions given out in a diary that meticulously chronicles Naomi’s experiences.

  • The diary supposes that Naomi must first drop the book he’s holding, and then retrieve it. In classic anime style, he finds his face in Ruri’s rear, causing her to slap him the moment they disembark. This occurrence is a cliché in anime and has been done to death in virtually every series: the outcomes are inevitable; in Hello World, it occurs to create the first opportunity for conversation, and after Naomi apologises more formally the day after, Ruri reciprocates, feeling her own reaction to be excessive. Thus, with the ice between Ruri and Naomi broken, things begin accelerating.

  • Hello World has a similar feeling to Makoto Shinkai’s movies in that once things pick up, a male pop band begins performing. This is handled by Official Hige Dandism, whose vocals and style bring to mind the likes of Radwimps, who did the music for both Your Name and Weathering with You. The music in Hello World is varied, featuring a range of incidental pieces that range from relaxing to mysterious, capturing emotions surrounding the more tender moments, as well as creating a sense of intrigue surrounding the Alltale system.

  • The reason why the older Naomi pushes Naomi to learn how to wield the power of the Infinity Gauntlet and its Reality Stone is so that when the moment calls for it, he can summon something that will save Ruri. Initially, Naomi is unable to conjure anything simpler than a sphere, but with practise, he is able to begin creating iron and gold. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Reality Stone could be used to create illusions on a universal scale. Malekith had intended to shroud the galaxy in darkness in Thor: Dark World, but when Thanos takes the stone, he is able to wield the stone in a way as to create illusions so realistic, people could interact with them.

  • It turns out that Ruri’s got a bit of vertigo: she feels faint after realising how high up she is while placing books back on the shelves. Naomi ends up breaking her fall, and the two become even closer in the process. Despite being a consequence of meddling from his future self, Naomi and Ruri’s relationship progresses about as naturally as can be expected, and it was interesting to see how chemistry between the two proceed – while it might be the older Naomi guiding things, the execution is up to the younger Naomi.

  • The library interior really shows the level of detail portrayed in Hello World: the shelves are filled with a variety of books, but everything is well-organised. Hello World has an incredible artwork for both interiors and exteriors, although I do not find that the style is similar to Makoto Shinkai’s – Shinkai’s interiors are filled with clutter, and in fact, clean, well-kept interiors are a style more similar with the aesthetics that P.A. Works is known for.

  • Admittedly, I’ve not been following P.A. Works’ latest projects: after Iroduku: The World in Colours, their more recent works have not had the same magic, and I’ve long felt that P.A. Works’ best series are either set in the workplace or have a coming-of-age component to them. Back in Hello World, Naomi and the library team begin preparing an exhibit for their school event. Naomi’s become more confident and decisive, contributing more actively in activities than he had previously.

  • I think Hello World is probably one of the fastest instances where I watched a movie and then proceeded to write about it: I’d finished the movie on Canada Day, a time of year that I traditionally spend out in the nearby National Parks. Last year, I was in the province over, taking a stroll along a lavender field by one of the most well-known lakes of the area. However, with the global health crisis, it felt more prudent to take the day and rest at home. I started the movie in the morning and finished after lunch (crispy noodles with seafood, yin yang fried rice, beef chow fun and Chinese-style fried chicken wings).

  • While the weather had been unexpectedly pleasant, in a move reminiscent of the Canada Day of seven years ago, I ended up spending most of the day gaming. This time around, rather than Vindictus, I began taking on The Division 2‘s Warlords of New York expansion. I will be explaining what led to my decision on that in a future post, when I go through the Episode Three content to The Division 2, and for now, I’ll return the focus to Hello World, where Ruri reveals that her family has a large collection of books.

  • Ruri’s got so many books that the pair end up using a large cart to transport them all, and along the way, they break along the riverside. Here, Ruri reveals that she’s a fan of adventure books, where people overcome seemingly-insurmountable odds to achieve their goals, and Naomi admits he’s a fan of science fiction because it gives him hope, that an everyman can achieve great things in fantastical worlds. I believe it is here where Naomi realises he’s in love with Ruri owing to the timing of the wind and use of lighting.

  • Like Naomi, I read most everything, from science fiction and high fantasy, to techno-thrillers and mysteries. I have a particular interest in techno-thrillers because of how those books utilise technology to build up a story, going into great details about how things work. In these stories, characters are portrayed as being tightly integrated with the techniques and equipment they use, and as such, are bound to whatever constraints that exist. It creates for situations where the characters must be flexible and creative to overcome their adversity, such as how in The Hunt for Red October, Petty Officer Jones devises a new way to track the Red October using software.

  • Besides techno-thrillers, I’m rather fond of science fiction novels. Science fiction is, strictly speaking, a form of speculative fiction that deals specifically with the implications of technology and science on a society and individuals. Seeing authors devise radical new technology to show its impact on people is the main appeal of science fiction, and it’s been interesting to see how science and technology of the real world parallel those of fiction. While some things have proven to be impractical or superceded, others are much more plausible. The use of ubiquitous drones to survey a landscape for preservation and archiving as seen in Hello World is within the realm of possibility, being a scaled-up version of Google Maps and its ability to show a location at different points in time.

  • Thanks to the books, Ruri and Naomi’s classmates are pleased with their day’s work, confident that their event will be a success. However, a stray banner placed too closely to the lamp catches fire and reduces the books to ashes. While no one is hurt, the unexpected turn of events jeopordises the probability of Naomi and Ruri getting closer together. Against the older Naomi’s suggestion, Naomi decides to use the power of the Infinity Gauntlet to reconstruct the books: the contained past knowledge allows him to recreate the books that were lost without having read them.

  • Owing to the powers of the Alltale system, it becomes clear that information about the state of the entire system can be retained. If I had to guess, the Alltale system might have infinite storage capacity, but to be constantly backing up the world would represent a flow of information that the Alltale cannot keep up with. As a result, my speculation would be that Alltale works similarly to version control, in which the state of an object is stored in chunks, and modifications are made to these chunks over time. Since the books existed at some point with a certain state, it then becomes possible for Naomi to reconstruct lost entities in the simulated world by bringing different revisions together. Thanos does something similar with the Mind Stone using the Time Stone in Infinity War, and I’m betting that the Infinity Stones operate on a similar basis.

  • Thanks to Naomi’s efforts, the book fair is a success, and Misuzu pulls Ruri in to help out, as well. While the older Naomi clearly states that Ruri is the love of his life, there are subtle signs that Misuzu herself had also been interested in Naomi: she’s seen spying on Naomi and Ruri in the library with a jealous look on her face at a few points. However, as Ruri and Naomi grow closer, Misuzu appears quite okay with this: she and Ruri have become friends in the time since the movie began, and the fact that Misuzu is able to convince Ruri to don a færietale-like costume speaks volumes to this.

  • Naomi had exerted himself to restore the books end ended up missing most of the day’s events. Ruri explains that the event was successful thanks to him, and under the warm light at day’s end, Naomi makes his kokohaku to Ruri. She returns his feelings and agrees to date him. It’s a touching moment, set under the pink light of an evening. While most evenings are portrayed with red, orange and gold accents, the addition of pinks and violets creates a more nostalgic, wistful sense. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan utilised similar lighting to convey a gentle environment and emphasise that Yuki’s journey to get closer to Kyon was going to be a nostalgic, peaceful experience.

  • When the date that Ruri was supposed to be struck by lightning comes, both the older and younger Naomi make the necessary preparations: originally, Naomi had invited her out to the summer festival, so the first stage is to hold off on the invitation and not give the weather a chance to do its thing. However, the mysterious looking kitsune guards begin appearing in large numbers, intent on ensuring the events of this reality proceed as written in history to ensure the Alltale’s stability.

  • As such, when Naomi intervenes, the system forcibly transports Ruri from her bedroom to the bridge where the lightning strike happens, moments before charges in the air reach a critical point. The impact of large electrical currents on the body are highly detrimental – since the body uses potential differences to control muscle contraction, large currents can cause cardiac and respiratory failure. Victims of lightning strikes also lose consciousness after a strike: this is the fate that Ruri suffered, and Naomi’s older self had sought to change this.

  • In the end, Naomi summons a black hole to absorb the lightning and kitsune guards, changing the archived data in the Alltale. It takes him great effort to do so, standing in contrast with Thanos, who created a black hole without much effort in Infinity War during a fight against Doctor Strange, who ended up dispelling the black hole with a spell and transforms it into butterflies. While the contexts are dramatically different, the stakes are similar, and it was as gripping to watch Naomi use every fibre of his concentration to save Ruri, much as it was thrilling to watch the Avengers and Guardians square off against Thanos on Titan.

  • In the aftermath, Naomi and Ruri prepare to share a kiss. Before they do, the older Naomi extracts Ruri: it turns out his objective had been to use the inference engine in the Alltale to capture Ruri’s feelings at their apex, and then use this data to restore the real Ruri’s memories. Naomi and Ruri are thus separated, and the younger Naomi is left without the Infinity Gauntlet. Because the Alltale had been forcibly altered, the system begins unravelling as instability builds up, and the internal fail-safes go into overdrive attempting to restore everything.

  • As Hello World enters its final act, the distinction between world is lost, and it’s easy to get lost. It is revealed that after losing Ruri to the storm, Naomi joined the Alltale programme as a researcher and began working his way from an undergraduate summer research student to a full member of the team. During this time, Naomi investigated all possible means of entering the Alltale system to accomplish his aims. During this time, Naomi’s experiments placed an increasingly high burden on his body: he is scarred and left with a limp as a result of attempting to link his mind to Alltale.

  • I believe first heard about Hello World late in 2018: the film had caught my eye both for its title and premise. The title is, after all, the first program any learner of a new programming language, and the premise itself had been curious. However, the film itself is quite unrelated to any programming language and the title was probably chosen because of the phrase’s relation to technology. Similarly, while the premise had supposed that Naomi would time travel to rectify a past regret, the film takes a different approach in executing this premise. This is why reading even previews of a film can yield unexpected results.

  • Despite technically not being able to leave his space on account of being a mere record, Naomi’s younger self manages to do so anyways, suggesting that the older Naomi is himself still in a simulation. This brings to mind the Rick and Morty episode M. Night Shaym-Aliens, where aliens have captured Rick and placed him in a simulated reality to learn of his formula for concentrated dark matter. Rick and Morty employed the idea of a nested simulation for comedic purposes, but in Hello World, it creates doubt in the viewer as to what’s real and what isn’t.

  • This forces the viewer to ground themselves to the one constant in Hello World: Naomi’s feelings for Ruri never waver, and this is what gives both Naomi and the viewer focus. As the system loses control, it spawns increasingly deadly mechanisms to combat Naomi: the kitsune guards representing the system eventually mutate into a massive monstrosity hellbent on destroying Ruri and Naomi. A thrilling chase results, and both Naomis realise the importance of getting Ruri back to her original world.

  • The last anime movie that left me with a handful of questions after I finished was probably 2018’s Fireworks, which similarly created ambiguity in what had occurred. Such anime films can be frustrating to watch at first glance, but they also provide enjoyment for those who prefer their films to be driven by spectacle. In the case of Hello World, once the older Naomi sacrifices himself to save the younger Naomi, the irregularity in the system is removed, and a subsequent restart of the Alltale system creates a new world, free of defects, that the simulated Naomi and Ruri can return to.

  • Naomi and Ruri’s high school incarnations are given a new chance to explore their relationship further: as a new day dawns on their world, it’s all optimism and rainbows for the two’s future. However, this is muted by the fact that viewers now know that this Naomi and Ruri are in a simulated reality, and while the younger Naomi’s definitely earned his ending, this seemingly comes at a cost to the older Naomi and Ruri in the real world, leaving audiences feeling as though something’s missing. Fortunately for viewers, the film’s not quite done yet.

  • Viewers are treated to another spectacular view of Kyoto as Hello World draws to a close. A rainbow can be seen in the distance: this hallmark of a storm reaching its end brings to mind the storm that swept through my area during the afternoon earlier today. It’s a quiet, calm evening now, and after sitting down to a dinner of herb-and-spice fried chicken, I spent the remainder of the day in World of Warcraft. Besides Warlords of New York, I’ve also picked up World of Warcraft about a week ago, playing the Starter Edition to relive some old adventures I had on a friend’s private server years back. I’ll be writing about these experiences in the future, and for now, all I’ll say is that playing through World of Warcraft‘s opening missions is surprisingly cathartic: even with the Starter Edition capping me at level 20, there’s actually quite a bit one can do with respect to exploration.

  • While the high school incarnations of Naomi and Ruri have their happy ending, Hello World concludes with Naomi waking up in “the real world” after Ruri transfers a copy of his old memories into his body successfully, to the joy of observing scientists. The Ruri of the present day sports a different hair style and glasses: compared to her high school self, she looks a lot less like Hibike! Euphonium‘s Reina, and projects a much friendlier aura. Doing from this alone, meeting Naomi probably wrought changes in her life, and her smile here is beautiful, speaking volumes about her joy and relief at having Naomi back with her.

  • It turns out that Naomi was successful in restoring Ruri’s memories, and in turn, Ruri was somehow able to bring him back from the brink: presumably, after Naomi sacrifices himself to save his simulated incarnation, he very nearly dies in the real world, but with the Alltale providing a backup of his memories and experiences, Ruri is able to utilise this to save him. The two embrace tearfully, bringing to mind Futurama‘s The Sting. I hope that with this post, I’ve offered some helpful thoughts in Hello World: discussions of the film elsewhere have been very limited; most viewers enjoyed the film but also found the ending a little confusing.

  • Overall, Hello World earns an A- (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of 10) for me: the movie had an interesting premise and relevant themes to the limitations of technology, as well as an endearing love story and some of the most eye-catching art and animation I’ve seen in a non-Makoto Shinkai work. While the explanation of the different realms and how the Alltale works is lacking in some places, and the ending can come across as being confusing for viewers, the positives outweigh the negatives in Hello World. This is a film I can recommend to most viewers, especially those with a fondness for interesting animation and art. With Hello World in the books, I will be turning my attention towards A Whisker Away as the next film I write about. As we’ve now entered July, the summer season has kicked off, as well; once more of the episodes begin airing, I’ll have a clearer picture as to what I’ll be writing about, but I can say to readers that my next post is going to be an interesting one, being a collaboration.

Admittedly, while an engaging and touching film, Hello World also can be somewhat tricky to follow at times once the idea of a nested reality is presented: resulting from the fact that the Alltale has infinite storage, this means that something like the infinite regress problem is possible, and that there would be an infinite number of Naomis and Ruris, all of whom can exist concurrently in their own respective instances of the simulation. Notions of infinity create an ontological quandary, since infinity is, by definition, undefined. The implications of the Alltale in Hello World would doubtlessly create for interesting conversations surrounding the nature and limitations of simulated environments, determinism and free will in said environments and other topics, similarly to how the Matrix drove curious discussions about the nature of existence. Like the Matrix, the complexity of topics is such that there is not just one single theme within Hello World, and consequently, I am rather surprised that discussions of the movie are not more extensive. Beyond its thematic elements, Hello World is also a technical marvel of a movie, featuring very strong artwork and animation. With incredibly detailed renderings of landscapes and interiors alike, fluid character animation and the inclusion of different art styles to hint at the nature of the different environments Naomi goes through, Hello World pushes the envelope for what can be done within an animated medium. Hello World is, in short, a thrill to watch; the film may not be as straightforward as the average anime series, but Hello World has plenty of merit that makes it a worthwhile experience.

Feedback and Reflections on Insider Flighting with The Master Chief Collection: Halo 3

“I would prefer even to fail with honour than to win by cheating.” –Sophocles

I had previously received an invitation to test Halo: Combat Evolved earlier in February, but an account issue prevented me from logging in and participating. This time around, 343 Industries has begun testing Halo 3 ahead of its release into The Master Chief Collection, releasing just over half of the single-player campaign missions and rotating multiplayer game types during its run. I was provided with an invitation to participate in the flighting programme and hastened to experience both the single-player and multiplayer aspects of the game before the test period ended. The Halo 3 flight offered five of the nine campaign missions: out of the gates, I was impressed with the visuals and handling. I will be returning once the game is finished to deal with the story and my impressions of gameplay – this time around, I will be focused more on the technical aspects of the game as a result of the flighting. Out of the gates, there are no major performance issues that are immediately apparent: the game handles smoothly, with no frame drops or any stuttering even in busier areas. The only major issue affecting the campaign is the weapon audio: the report of a weapon is barely audible over the music and ambient sounds during a firefight. However, while Halo 3 appears ready from the campaign perspective, the multiplayer component is stymied by a major problem with the mouse sensitivity to the point of being unplayable: in close quarters engagements, I favour having higher sensitivities to ensure I can continue tracking my targets, and I typically position myself in such a way so that I can favour closer-range engagements in Halo. At present, the maximum available sensitivity in Halo 3 is far too low to be effective in the multiplayer, and this is something that needs to be improved prior to the full release of Halo 3.

The reason why the sensitivity settings are too low in Halo 3 for the gameplay is related to the presence of both mouse-and-keyboard and controller players: in The Master Chief Collection, players who use a controller are given an aim assist utility that is intended to help them keep up with mouse-and-keyboard players by automatically shifting the camera to be centred on an enemy. In practise, this has allowed players using controllers to have an immense advantage over those who use mouse-and-keyboard in close quarters scenarios: since the time-to-kill in Halo is high, being effective means consistently landing shots on an enemy. Players must track their targets and time each pull of the trigger: on a mouse-and-keyboard setup, how well players can pull this off boils down to a matter of skill, and an experienced player can be quite effective with the mouse-and-keyboard in all scenarios. However, controller players have aim assist which handles this tracking; the player only needs to pull the trigger, and aim assist ensures their shots will land. This leaves mouse-and-keyboard players at a massive disadvantage in close-quarters firefights – the inevitable result is that during the Halo 3 flighting, I’ve been unable to see any sort of success in a given multiplayer match against players using controllers. Because of low sensitivities, I’ve experienced a reduced ability in being able to reliably track targets: players move faster than I can keep my crosshairs on them, and if they have a controller, they are assured that their shots will find their mark. Beyond sensitivity issues, the other gripe I have with the flight is that dual-wielding is similarly unintuitive: whereas Halo 2 was designed so that the left mouse button would fire the left-hand weapon and the right mouse button would fire the right-hand weapon, Halo 3 has this reversed, and there is no easy way to change this. Similarly, having separate reload buttons means that it is hardly practical to dual-wield, and for most of the campaign, I simply eschewed dual-wielding in favour of running the battle rifle.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My performance in Halo 3‘s flight was worse than what it was during the old days of LAN parties when my friends switched us over to Halo 3 from Halo 2: back in those days, I was lucky to get 5-10 kills a match, but most games during the flighting, I found myself unable to even hit five. Halo 3‘s gameplay is slower than that of Halo 2‘s, and almost all of the weapons are weaker than their predecessors. As a result, it was quite difficult to get used to the new way things handled.

  • Owing to the weaker weapons and the fact that I simply wasn’t able to aim and track as quickly as I’d like, triple kills did not happen during my time with the flight. I do, however, have a pile of double kill medals for my trouble, and admittedly, while the experience in the flight was decidedly negative, I did have a few moments here and there in the multiplayer. My friends have long felt that Halo 2 was the superior game when it comes to multiplayer, featuring superior weapon balance and mechanics that were more skilled based.

  • While the multiplayer portion of the flight was not quite as smooth as I would have liked, I had absolutely no trouble at all with the campaign: the Halo 3 flight made five of the nine campaign missions available, giving a good spread of what was available. Overall, I have no complaints about the campaign at all. I was originally considering splitting this post to cover both the campaign and multiplayer, but it’d be tricky to do that without the full story on the table. As such, I will be doing a full discussion of the campaign once Halo 3 is launched.

  • Heretic is Halo 3‘s remake of Midship, one of the best close quarters maps in the game for MLG slayer. I’m generally not fond of FFA-style games, since there’s too much opportunity to be vultured after a firefight, but the flipside is that a skillful player has more opportunity to chain impressive multi-kills together in FFA than they would in MLG Team BRs. In the days of old, I struggled to get kills with the battle rifle and instead, most of my kills came from melee or grenade sticks.

  • One aspect I did enjoy in Halo 3 was the addition of the gravity hammer: this Brute weapon is a weaker incarnation of the gravity hammer that Tataurus yields in Halo 2, and with a powerful shockwave projector, can flatten enemies or even deflect projectiles. Having confiscated a gravity hammer from another player on Guardian, I ended up going on a short killing spree with it and earned myself a double kill for my troubles. Guardian is the Halo 3 equivalent of Lockout in terms of design, but no Halo map is as enjoyable as Lockout: an update would later add Blackout, a map that has the same layout, to Halo 3.

  • The other fun aspect of Halo 3 is the inclusion of the Spartan Laser: while I’ve now fired one properly on PC in both the Halo: Reach and Halo 3 flight campaigns, the flight represents the first time I’ve been able to pick up the weapon in multiplayer and get kills with it. It is with the power weapons where players can witness the more sophisticated physics engine of Halo 3 at work. Explosions can result in unusual things materialising, lending itself to comedy in some moments, such as when one accidentally kills themselves with a traffic cone thrown by an explosion.

  • The larger maps in Halo 3, coupled with the fact that the battle rifle is no longer as effective as it was in Halo 2, means that firefights are protracted and drawn-out. At medium ranges, the battle rifle stops being effective. As it turns out, Halo has a mechanic called “bullet magnetism”, which refers to the tolerance a bullet can be from a target and still count as a hit. Halo indicates that a player’s shots will register when the reticule is red, bullet magnetism is in play, and one’s shots are guaranteed to curve towards an opponent.

  • Outpost is probably my favourite of the Halo 3 maps from an aesthetics perspective: the combination of bases on the edges of the map, open areas in the map centre, and massive radio dishes in the background, set under the light of a day coming to an end, creates a very unique and interesting atmosphere. It is on larger maps where the battle rifle feels inadequate in Halo 3, and firefights that would’ve been very manageable in Halo 2 turned into a situation where I would dump an entire magazine at a foe, only for them to kill me instantly.

  • The aim assist aspect of The Master Chief Collection is the subject of no small debate since the launch of Halo: Reach, with some players feeling that aim assist outright ruins the game for mouse-and-keyboard players, and others believing it to be a necessary part of the game for players who run with controllers. I lean more in favour of the former: in excess, aim assist takes the skill out of Halo, and a degraded experience for mouse-and-keyboard players is bad for a game that was ostensibly supposed to bring the Halo universe into the realm of mice and keyboards.

  • As it stands, I consider defenders of strong controller aim assist to be players who want to do well at all costs. Such players fear their advantage might be taken away by any changes to aim assist, and vehemently defend aim assist under the impression that a good enough player should be able to overcome them, irrespective of input scheme. Here on Last Resort, Halo 3‘s interpretation of Zanzibar, I managed to go on a short streak with the sniper rifle. Unlike the Halo 2 sniper rifle, which yields sniper medals for every successful kill, Halo 3‘s sniper rifle only awards medals on a headshot kill.

  • The sniper rifle is even more valuable in Halo 3 owing to the fact that it can reach targets that the battle rifle cannot touch: while my team focused on closing the distance to secure the flag, I hung back with the sniper rifle and picked off stragglers to stop them from firing on teammates. The sniper rifle remains fun to use, but the old firing sound is a little weaker compared to the Halo 2 Anniversary incarnations of the rifle. The UNSC sniper rifles of Halo fire 14.5 mm rounds, which are larger in bore than 50-cal rounds, but as the rifles fire APFSDS rounds, their recoil is far lighter than that of a rifle firing BMG rounds, allowing even the marines in Halo to fire the weapon from the shoulder.

  • Infection is one of the more unusual game modes, officially introduced into Halo 3 after the Halo 2 custom game mode became popular. The inclusion of these novel modes mixes things up a little, although having spent the better part of the past seven years in Battlefield, where games are objective-oriented and set on large maps, upon returning to Halo, I find myself gravitating back towards the smaller-scale eight player matches more frequently, since these represent drop-in, drop-out sessions that fits my schedule particularly well.

  • During one match, I saw for myself the impact of a controller: one of the players on my team, “LilMissLehCar”, began racking up kills at a rate that seemed impossible: we had ended up on a larger map, and I would guess that this player was evidently using a controller and fully enjoying the benefits of aim assist. Players who’ve used both mouse-and-keyboard and controller setups state the latter gives an unfair advantage: LilMissLehCar’s performance is a result of exploiting controller aim assist rather than legitimate skill. This is what lends itself to my page quote: I don’t have fun when I lose unfairly, but I have even less fun when my team wins through the action of players who play dishonourably.

  • Whereas gaming from an older age emphasised improving by having fun (i.e. “the more fun you have, the more you are encouraged to improve, so you can have more fun”), these days, gamers seem fixated on creating meme-worthy moments even if it comes at the expense of integrity, For these people, they believe that if they can make my meme and get upvotes for it, underhanded tactics are acceptable to use.

  • In the old days of Halo 2 Vista, I remember the thrill of improving enough in multiplayer to earn multi-kills and go on kill-streaks on virtue of skill alone: using a controller to gain an advantage over mouse-and-keyboard users, however slight the edge is, is still to be playing dishonestly, and consequently, while I do have an Xbox controller floating around, I am not going to resort to using it just to have fun in a game. As it stands, the Halo 3 flight is still quite buggy, and one of the known issues in the game was poor hit detection, which could further have exacerbated the situation.

  • 343 have acknowledged that hit detection is an issue owing how game steps on PC handles differently than on the Xbox because of to frame rate differences: in conjunction with the poor sensitivity, this is likely why my experience in the Halo 3 flight was particularly poor. The hit detection is a known issue in Halo 3‘s flight, and 343 is likely going to work on getting this one ironed out. However, the mouse sensitivity doesn’t appear to be something on their radar.

  • Another issue I’ve experienced since Halo 2 was the fact my text chat no longer seems to be working. This isn’t an issue in multiplayer, but in co-op, I use it to coordinate with friends who don’t use voice chat. I’ve had several occasions where I needed to pause and step aside for something, but because text chat wasn’t working, they proceeded ahead and entered a firefight short-handed. I’m not sure if 343 will address this issue, but in the flight for Halo 3, I tested the chat out and my messages did not seem to be getting through in the multiplayer, suggesting that it may be similarly broken if I create a lobby and co-op with friends.

  • One thing that was extremely frustrating in Halo 3 was the fact that vehicular handling is worse than it was in any Halo game I played thus far: vehicles bounce and flip on the slightest provocation, and there were a handful of matches where, had I not flipped over or slowed down as a result of the game’s implementation of vehicle physics, I might have actually ended up with a triple kill or overkill.

  • My performance in the Halo 3 flight was so poor that I wondered if I had lost my touch with FPS in general, and so, a day before the flight was set to end, I returned to Battlefield V to see if my skills had been lost. In back-to-back matches of conquest, I went 21-14 and 21-13, respectively. When I spun up a match in Halo 2, I performed as I normally would. This tells me that, rather than my skills being an issue, the poor showing I had was a result of issues in the game and a lack of familiarity with the inconsistent mechanics.

  • With a rough flighting experience, I am glad that things at least ended on a decent note: I won my last match and here, scored a kill on the enemy team’s MVP, ending a spree of theirs in the process. The flight ended two days ago, and I’ve already submitted my feedback for the team’s consideration. I hope that 343 will address the issues and make Halo 3‘s entry a success: I am fully confident that the campaign will be amazing, and I may play a match or two of the multiplayer to see if it is in a state that I am able to have fun in. With this post, we now enter July, and today is Canada Day. Traditionally, it’s a day to go out into the mountains, but owing to the global health crisis, and the fact that Canada Day is in the middle of the week, I will instead spend the day relaxing in a different way, before celebrating Canada Day properly by watching a virtual fireworks presentation.

Consequently, mouse sensitivity is the most critical fix that needs to be applied to Halo 3 at present: increasing the maximum sensitivity by around 50-80 percent will ensure that mouse-and-keyboard players have a fighting chance in close-quarters battles. If a player are given the means track their opponents at least as quickly as they move, then in a firefight, the outcome becomes dependent on skill, rather than the input method. The presence of aim assist is a contentious one in the community, and I’ve felt that a simple implementation of a much higher mouse sensitivity ceiling would level things out considerably. Overall, Halo 3‘s flight shows that once a few critical fixes are made, the game is ready to roll out into the release phase, which currently is anticipated to be mid to late July. I am particularly enthusiastic to go through the campaign: the missions were built with co-op play in mind, and with no critical performance issues whatsoever, the campaign looks like it is ready to be launched, allowing me to finish the fight and wrap up the original trilogy in Halo. Similarly, the core aspects of multiplayer are working in a satisfactory manner, and I’ve not encountered any serious issues like being disconnected from a match, or clipping through geometries in the maps at all during my run of things. If the issue of sensitivity can be adequately addressed, the multiplayer could be an engaging component of Halo 3, as well: as it was during the flight, the multiplayer was unenjoyable and frustrating to play, not for any reason beyond the fact that I’m not able to track my opponents at a speed that I am comfortable with. Beyond this, the other issues I’ve found are more of a matter of acclimatisation, and even if unaltered, I could learn to adjust to the new schemes over time.

Nekopara: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” –Tay Hohoff

Kashou Minaduki is a young man who owns and runs La Soleil, a patisserie specialising in western confectioneries. When he first opened the shop, his two Nekos, Chocola and Vanilla, accompanied him in two boxes. Since then, Kashou’s been running La Soleil with their help, along with the other family Nekos, Azuki, Maple, Cinnamon and Coconut. When Chocola finds a stray kitten one day, she decides to take her in after Kashou approves. This is about the sum of Nekopara‘s 2020 anime adaptation, which was produced by Felix Films. Lacking a unifying, cohesive storyline, the anime instead presents twelve episodes of time in fleshing out the world of Nekopara, showcasing a gentle existence in a world bereft of the challenges and conflicts of the real world. Nekopara is particularly relaxing, heart-warming and fun in its anime incarnation, as Chocola and Vanilla do their best to make the new kitten, Cacao, feel at home with everyone else. While not particularly impressive from a narrative or character growth perspective, Nekopara‘s anime series excels in world-building, showcasing how the presence of the Nekos is woven in with everyday life in a world that is otherwise similar to our own, and in particular, how Cacao slowly warms up to Chocola, Vanilla and the other Nekos in the Minaduki household. I found Nekopara to be quite enjoyable as a full-fledged series for how it was able to integrate Cacao into Chocola and Vanilla’s life, although admittedly, the lack of a cohesive story and the resultant themes means that Nekopara is a bit of an unusual anime that may not be suitable for everyone: those looking for a message about the human condition or life lessons will be disappointed.

The world-building aspect of Nekopara lies at the forefront of the series’ appeal: beyond the superficialities of the Neko themselves, Nekopara explores a world where cats with human characteristics have become so tightly integrated with society that they are treated as more than just pets, but full-fledged members of the family. Regulations are in place to keep Nekos safe and out of trouble: the Bell Licensing exams are a big deal for each Neko, allowing them to go about without a human to supervise them, and the Nekos themselves are treated as being capable enough of helping people about (for instance, Chocola and Vanilla are employees at La Soleil along with each of Azuki, Coconut, Cinnamon and Maple), while at once retaining a child-like disposition that is reminiscent of how pets can bring joys into one’s life. In this regard, Nekopara constructs a paradise of sorts for cat-lovers, providing one interpretation of what the world could be like were cats to be given a more human-like form and near-human intelligence. In particular, Nekopara gives one answer to the long-asked question of what our lives would be like if our pets could converse with us in a human language: through the Neko, it is suggested is that talking pets would yield a more troublesome, but also colourful dynamic between pets and their owners that could be quite fun in its own right.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve known of Nekopara since the original games were released to Steam during my first year of graduate school, having first came across them during the Steam Summer Sales and wondering whether or not the game would be worth my while. The visual novels are surprising sophisticated and even feature a physics engine, but ultimately, despite developing a mild curiosity, I never did end up picking the games up: at present, considering the size of my backlog, which includes Grand Theft Auto VMass Effect 2 and a host of complementary games I picked up over the years, I don’t think I’ll have a need to pick up anything else for the foreseeable future.

  • While I’ve not ever played the Nekopara visual novels, I have watched and written about both OVAs. The first OVA released in December 2017 and portrays the events of the first volume, from how Chocola and Vanilla accompanies Kashou to La Soleil as he moves. While Kashou was initially reluctant, seeing Chocola and Vanilla’s determination to be with him prompts him to change his mind. Chocola and Vanilla begin living with Kashou, earn their bells and eventually haul the remaining of the Minaduki Neko to help out at La Soleil, as well.

  • Compared to the OVAs, the Nekopara anime has a slightly cleaner animation style: the lines defining the characters are much lighter and less noticeable. In this way, the OVAs actually resemble the game’s art style more closely than the anime, although beyond differences in art aside, everyone’s traits remain the same. I believe that Nekopara‘s anime has a different set of voice actors and actresses for some of the characters.

  • The anime’s core is focused around the introduction of Cacao, a stray cat that Chocola notices early in the series and eventually convinces Kashou to allow her to look after. The other nekos name Cacao after the seeds from the tropical plant that chocolate is derived from; I’m guessing that they call Cacao thus, rather than Cocoa, simply because Cocoa would be phonetically similar to Chocola. While Cacao initially acts more cat-like than human-like, she learns quickly as Nekopara progresses.

  • While I found Nekopara to be enjoyable on its own merits, not everyone will share this particular view: that Nekopara found itself in the crosshairs of yet another Anime News Network-created controversy was surprising to learn. When Nekopara began airing, Anime News Network critics Nick Creamer, James Beckett, Theron Martin, and Rebecca Silverman each decried Nekopara as being offensive by contemporary standards.

  • Creamer claims that Nekopara presents a co-called “nightmarish reality” and its themes are supposed to be dystopian in nature, dealing with “power dynamics”, while Silverman asserts that Nekopara is meant to remove consent as a constraint and pander to the viewers’ interests. These perspectives typified Anime News Network’s ability to create controversy where there is none, using nothing more than a handful of notes sourced from introductory undergraduate courses and a thesaurus.

  • Admittedly, when word of Anime News Network’s initial impressions of Nekopara reached me, I became curious to see if the series had been as dreadful as their critics suggested. After watching the first episode for myself, it became clear that the “dystopia” Creamer had so aggressively pushed was nowhere to be found. It’s not the first time that Anime News Network has completely misrepresented a work – it is a badly-kept secret that most of their writers cherish an ambition to one day write for The New York Times or The Guardian, and attempt to emulate this style by allowing personal beliefs and politics to seep into their writing. As a result, their reviews end up being useless for anyone looking to gain a measure of a given series.

  • The practise of using pseudo-academic jargon in pushing a weak opinion is not new: Behind The Nihon Review used these tricks a decade earlier to “persuade” readers that K-On! was similarly unwatchable, and in Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin indicates to Hobbes that “writing can [become] an intimidating and impenetrable fog”, as weak arguments and poor reasoning could essentially be concealed behind a veneer of complex writing. This is not the purpose of legitimate academic writing, so I’ve come to define pseudo-academic writing as the practise of abusing junior psychology and philosophy principles to make one sound more impressive and knowledgeable than they are.

  • Having established that Anime News Network is no more sophisticated than an unskilled blogger, I’ll leave it to readers to make their own decisions about whether or not a given anime is worth their while. Back in Nekopara, when Kashou appears distracted one day, Chocola and Vanilla decide to go out and help promote La Soleil more actively. However, Cacao ends up getting lost as a result, but the easygoing nature of Nekopara means that Cacao’s small adventure results in her making a new friend in Chiyo, a young girl who looks no older than Cacao. Cacao ends up saving Chiyo from a murder of crows, and Chiyo brings Cacao back to La Soleil, where Chocola and Vanilla learn that Kashou had been stumped about his summer offerings.

  • During one particularly stormy evening, the Minaduki Nekos are home on their own while Shigure is out with some fellow Neko owners. The power unexpectedly goes out, and the Nekos resort to telling one another stories until Shigure returns home. Shigure, Kashou’s younger sister, is a fan of Nekos and typically can be seen holding a DSLR camera, attempting to photograph everything that goes on among the Nekos. Sporting a friendly and cheerful disposition, only a few things ever get her down, such as when the Nekos end up sleeping alone one night because of the heat, leaving Shigure unhappy. This is sorted out after the Nekos

  • Food is rendered surprisingly well in Nekopara, and I’m especially fond of the details paid to the fish that Vanilla and Chocola enjoy for dinner. Admittedly, the food aspects of Nekopara are something I enjoy about the series, and in general, anime food always puts a smile on my face. Being able to enjoy different foods is high on the list of things I enjoy doing: just earlier, I enjoyed a homemade burger of a familiar recipe, but this time, with a small twist taking the form of Sriracha-Mayonnaise sauce, which gave the burger a subtle kick and really brought out the flavour in the fresh lettuce and tomatoes that were in the burger.

  • Aside from Cacao’s everyday life with Chocola, Vanilla and the others, the other Minaduki Nekos also have their day in the limelight: Azuki and Coconut’s constant rivalry are addressed in an episode, as are Maple’s aspirations to become a singer. Each of the Nekos have their own distinct personality, making them quite easy to differentiate from one another, and it was fun to see how everyone bounces off one another. More so than the OVAs, the TV series allows for Azuki, Maple, Cinnamon and Coconut’s lives to be seen: the TV series shows that their constant clashes aside, Azuki and Coconuts very much care for one another, and Maple’s singing is competition worthy, although she lacks confidence and is grateful for Cinnamon’s support.

  • Some folks have counted Nekopara to be similar to GochiUsa or Blend S: this comparison is likely a consequence of the combination of slice-of-life elements with unique characters and the café environment. As a bit of a slice-of-life connoisseur myself, I feel that Nekopara does not hold a candle to the likes of Gochiusa as far as atmosphere and depth of story goes: GochiUsa is a bit of an outlier as a slice-of-life series owing to the combination of things it does exceptionally well.

  • After passing the exam to renew their bells, Shigure takes Vanilla and Chocola out to Kaminarimon and a kaiten sushi restaurant before exploring a variety of cafés in the area to gain inspiration for La Soleil. Seeing Shigure, Chocola, Vanilla and Cacao out and about in Nekopara‘s shows that in the TV series, there are more people around. This gives the world a more populated sense compared to the OVA and visual novels, which feel emptier by comparison.

  • This design choice is important in helping to create a more immersive world: whereas the OVA and visual novels seem emptier, which places emphasis on Kashou, Chocola and Vanilla, the TV series indicates that Nekos are an integral part of their world. As such, the full adaptation of Nekopara feels a lot warmer than the OVAs do. I recall one of my readers asking if I had any plans to watch Nekopara, and at the time, I’d seen one episode. I remarked that this was a series I intended to check out, but it wasn’t until recently I’d had the time to do so.

  • For me, Nekopara is a simple series that presents one view of what life might be like if cats could be given human traits and communicate with people more freely. However, this hasn’t stopped some people from delving deeply into whether or not the laws within the world of Nekopara treat cats more similarly to humans or pets, and what awaits the Neko that do not find a family. More negative minds suggest that there might be the equivalent of animal shelters or even euthanisation, but I’ll immediately shoot this idea down: Nekopara is so-named, being an portmanteau of the words Neko and paradise. This world is, in short, designed to be a paradise for Nekos, and therefore, we can suppose that Nekos are well-taken care of.

  • Towards the end of Nekopara‘s anime, Cacao has a sleepover at Chiyo’s place and sees a portrait Chiyo had made for her mother. Realising what Chocola and Vanilla mean to her, Cacao decides to do something similar, but feels that the impact needs to be more of a surprise. To this end, Cacao hides in a box while making this, and since Chocola and Vanilla have no idea what’s going on, attempt to smoke her out. Nothing is successful, worrying the two, but concern turns to relief and then joy when Cacao reads back her letter of thanks.

  • I found the artwork of Nekopara to be of a high standard: character animation is fluid, artwork is consistent, and the background art is solid. The heat of summer is similarly captured when the Minadukis and their Nekos visit the beach through a brilliantly blue sky. The original OVAs were done by Felix Film, who repraise their role as producers for the anime series. Founded in 2014, Felix Film appears to be involved in animating visual novel adaptations, having done the work for A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepherd, and they are slated to produce Otherside Picnic, as well.

  • With summer in full swing, Shigure and Kahou bring the Neko to the beach for classic summer activities, but when Cacao wanders off on her inflatable dolphin, she needs saving. A girl ends up saving Cacao, and in gratitude, the Nekos decide to swing by the shop this girl works at. They are impressed with the food, and decide to help out when they see how empty the place is, bringing a large number of customers, eventually helping them to acquire a Neko of their own to help with business.

  • Altogether, Nekopara is a B+ (3.0 of 4.0, or 7.5 of 10): it’s a fun series with engaging characters whose interactions are simultaneously heartwarming and fun, bringing joy as pets would in the real world. While doing nothing particularly revolutionary or novel in its run, the anime further brings the Nekopara world to life. While the visual novels might have more lurid content, the anime is surprisingly tame, making it a suitable gateway for folks who are interested in taking look at the Nekopara universe. With this post in the books, we’re also nearing the end of June on short order. I was able to get into the Halo 3 flighting and have some thoughts to share on that, and once July rolls around, my priority will be writing about Hello World, as well as Sketchbook and the last Year One content for The Division 2.

Being an animated adaptation of a visual novel, one inevitable question surrounding Nekopara is whether or not it is sufficient to motivate viewers who’ve not played the visual novels to pick it up. While enjoyable through and through, Nekopara‘s anime adaptation has not convinced me to give the visual novels a go: having already showcased the central interactions amongst the Neko and the Minadukis, Nekopara‘s anime instead gives viewers an alternate means of experiencing Nekopara, portraying the Neko and their daily adventures together While Nekopara will doubtlessly appeal to some viewers more than others, (e.g. folks who are looking for something with a more tangible theme may not find Nekopara worthwhile), the full-length anime represents an innocuous portrayal of life with Nekos intended to elicit a few laughs and create gentle moments amongst the Nekos. Nekopara is by no means a work of art rivalling the likes of Tolstoy or Dickens in impact, but as a relaxing bit of entertainment, Nekopara does succeed; the self-contained episodes were rather fun to watch, and I’m glad to have gone through this series with an open mind. Looking ahead into the future, I’m not sure if we’ll see a continuation of Nekopara in the form of a second season: while the series is quite popular, this is largely dependent on the sales of the home media. Having said this, I wouldn’t have any objections to giving any sort of continuation a go.

The Otafest Answer: Discovering Fun and Camaraderie in Exploration Through The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

“If there’s really that many people in the world, then there had to be someone who wasn’t ordinary. There had to be someone who was living an interesting life. There just had to be. Why wasn’t I that person?” –Haruhi Suzumiya

Upon entering high school, Kyon’s dreams of living out a normal life are dashed when he meets the eccentric and seemingly-cold Haruhi Suzumiya, a girl known for her escapades during middle school and a bold introduction on the first day of class. Against his better judgement, he speaks with Haruhi and learns that she’s intent on finding aliens, time travellers and espers to have fun with. Haruhi takes Kyon’s suggestion to start her own club seriously and ends up building the SOS Brigade, hauling in fellow students Yuki Nagato, Mikuru Asahina and Itsuki Koizumi. Haruhi turns out to be far more energetic than Kyon anticipated, and he finds himself being hauled off on various odds and ends at her whim. Each of Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki separately approach Kyon and reveal that Haruhi is of note to the factions they represent, and that it is in everyone’s interest to keep Haruhi entertained. Thus, the SOS Brigade set off in search of mystery, from investigating the disappearance of a fellow student to solving a locked room mystery on a summer island, and also making the most of their youth, whether it be playing baseball, living life to the limits during the summer or putting a home-made film together for the cultural festival. While Kyon begrudgingly accompanies Haruhi, who seems constantly gripes about his lack of spirit, the two are actually perfect complements to one another: she is brimming with energy and life, with grand visions about what she wants from the world, and he is a pragmatist, trying to do what it takes to bring peace and quiet back into his world. Together, Kyon and Haruhi come to represent how polar opposites can fit one another so well; Haruhi brings colour and adventure into Kyon’s life, and Kyon finds ways of scaling back Haruhi’s dreams such that they can be realised to capture her fancy. The interplay between Kyon and Haruhi forms the heart of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, a light novel by Nagaru Tanigawa that was adapted into an anime by Kyoto Animation in 2006 and rebroadcast in 2009 with additional episodes as a part of the second season. During its run, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya proved wildly successful, and is counted as one of the most influential anime of the 2000s.

At the series’ beginning, Kyon resembles Bilbo Baggins, an average hobbit from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, who is content to live a quiet life of routine and comfort. This world is a monochrome one, unremarkable and familiar. Haruhi changes this completely, throwing Kyon’s world into one of adventure and exploration, driven by the unstoppable, manic Haruhi. Haruhi thus acts as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s catalyst for disruption: much as how Gandalf “persuades” Bilbo to accompany Thorin and his company to reconquer the Erebor from the clutches of the fire-drake Smaug. Reluctant to play his role as a burglar, Bilbo considers adventures as being “nasty things [that]…make you late for dinner”, but nonetheless finds himself rising to the occasion. Kyon feels similarly about Haruhi, with her zany schemes and desires disrupting the peace, but in spite of this, finds himself entangled in her yearnings for excitement: as it turns out, Kyon had been the one to set Haruhi down her path, first by convincing her to become a North High student and then in the present day, inspiring her to form the SOS Brigade. In this way, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya supposes that even in the most peace-loving of folk, there lies a drive for adventure, and that the right person in the right place, at the right time, can set in motion many unforeseeable events. For his troubles, Bilbo manages to help Thorin take Erebor back, visiting places as varied as Rivendell, Laketown and the mountains before coming face-to-face with Smaug himself. Similarly, Kyon is exposed to the very entities that Haruhi had been seeking out, being very nearly knifed by a rogue Ryouko Asakura before Yuki saves him, witnessing Itsuki battle the Celestials and travelling in time with Mikuru to set in motion the very events that lead to his adventures. Through the majestic and the perilous, both Kyon and Bilbo gain a considerable amount of life experience from their adventures that helps them to both appreciate the wider world beyond themselves, and further appreciate what they have as being irreplaceable, invaluable. The positives brought on by adventure are shown as vividly in Nagaru Tanigawa’s The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as J.R.R. Tolkein had portrayed through The Hobbit, suggesting that extraordinary experiences drives people to be more open-minded and concurrently, grateful for their blessings. Among anime fans, this adventure would manifest as a desire to really share their enjoyment of their hobby with the wider world, in turn shaping anime conventions like Otafest in the years to come.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Admittedly, it feels a little strange to write about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya after finishing The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, but for completeness’ sake, I’ve decided to return and write about what was, in 2006, the biggest icon of the year. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya became a cultural phenomenon for anime fans both in and outside of Japan: the series’ success is largely owing to the fact that The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has something for everyone: my best friend likens it to a buffet at one of the local places in town, which features a wide selection of everything from prime rib and snow crab to various Chinese-style stir-fry dishes, fried meats, seafood, noodles, rice and salads: at such buffets, one could pick anything of their choice and have an excellent time.

  • With the current circumstances, going to a buffet is not the wisest idea, but with some places opened, it is possible to enjoy cuisine from the local Cantonese restaurant – this past weekend, I enjoyed sweet-and-sour pork, golden crispy salted egg-yolk prawns, Chinese broccoli with satay beef and deep fried oysters as the summer solstice brought with it brilliant blue skies and warm weather suited for 10-kilometre walks. Right out of the gates, Kyon is the architect of his own fortune: despite his grumblings, he is directly responsible for inspiring Haruhi to create the SOS Brigade (full name “Spreading Excitement All Over the World with Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade”) and bringing about the curious characters that come to his life. This becomes a recurring theme in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where Kyon sets in motion events that he appears to be dissatisfied with, but ends up going with it.

  • Haurhi’s brazen efforts to make the SOS Bridage a reality become most apparent when she extorts a new-model computer from the Computing Research Club. This particular moment was my first exposure to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: one of my friends had brought it in to the anime club and declared it to be one of the funniest moments he’d ever seen in an anime. My best friend immediately hopped on the series and found it immensely enjoyable, but I myself had been weary to watch The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, given that all I’d heard about it were the memes and comedy: at the time, I was just getting started on anime. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I’d entered university, that I decided to check the series out – I would do so shortly after wrapping up my second year and ended up finishing the series just before a vacation to the Eastern Seaboard in July.

  • Yuki is the first to reveal her station to Kyon: her explanations are prima facie far-fetched, and like Kyon, viewers cannot help but wonder if what Yuki’s saying has any merit. Yuki is voiced by Minori Chihara (Kaori Nakaseko of Hibike! Euphonium and Erica Brown from Violet Evergarden), while Tomokazu Sugita voices Kyon (Kanon‘s Yuuichi Aizawa). Stoic and reserved, Yuki fulfils the alien archetype that Haruhi seeks: she’s a member of an organisation known as Data Integration Thought Entity, who is interested in Haruhi for having created a “data explosion” that is supposed to accelerate humanity’s evolution. The precise nature of this data is never specified, although I will admit that its composition weighed on me even as I completed my courses on databases and data mining.

  • On the SOS Brigade’s first outing, Haruhi decides to draw lots to see how the groups are dispersed. On the first draw, Kyon ends up with Mikuru, a time traveller voiced by Yūko Gotō (Junko Kaname from Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Azur Lane‘s HMS Edinburgh). She explains that most of her duties are classified, and warns Kyon not to get too close to her. By the afternoon, Kyon ends up with Yuki and takes her to the local library. While Yuki only remarks she’s “moderately” into books, she practically drifts away to the nearest shelf in happiness. The library is modelled after Nishinomiya City Central Library, which, curiously enough, resembles the library in my area. I’ve not been to a library in quite some time: with the trends towards electronic media, libraries have become less well stocked, and I’ve taken to buying the books I enjoyed borrowing a decade ago.

  • At this point in time, Itsuki also joined the SOS Brigade and introduces himself as an esper. Kyon similarly has trouble believing the three, and still prefers to spend his days in peace, playing shogi and chess against Itsuki while enjoying the tea that Mikuru brews for them.  Kyon’s wish of the peaceful are satisfied by these ordinary days where nothing happens to the SOS Brigade, and while Haruhi occasionally livens things up by forcing Mikuru into various costumes, nothing out of the ordinary happens.

  • However, when classmate Asakura decides to murder Kyon to see Haruhi’s reaction, Yuki intervenes, and Kyon realises that Yuki wasn’t joking. Kyon is therefore thrust into an unbelievable situation, and is forced to accept that, given Yuki was telling the truth, Mikuru and Itsuki must also be telling the truth about their station. Kyon will go on an adventure with them that proves beyond any doubt that the aliens, time-travellers and espers Haruhi so wishes to meet, in fact, exist, and moreover, have all converged on Kyon.

  • The universal appeal of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya comes from the fact that the series presented a world where the extraordinary co-existed with the mundane. For most of its viewers, students at the time of airing, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya showed the possibility of adventure, and having a fulfilling high school experience, was a matter of perspective: Haruhi believes that if the fun things won’t come to her, then she’ll find a way to make things fun on her own. Anime fans were similarly inspired and began looking to make their world more entertaining: as Haruhi livened up Kyon’s world, Haruhi would also liven up the world of the anime’s viewers.

  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would shape the anime convention experience as Lucky☆Star did after it: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s universal appeal meant that fans of all genres were brought together by the series. Regardless of whether or not one preferred slice-of-life, science fiction, philosophy or comedy, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had something for everyone, and this was universally expressed by the Hare Hare Yukai dance. The anime would perceptibly impact anime conventions for years to come, as hosts and attendees alike began expressing their enjoyment of their series in increasingly intricate and exciting ways.

  • It turns out that Haruhi’s desire to stand out and be unique stemmed from attending a baseball game, where she was but one in a crowd of fifty thousand and saw for herself how large the world was. From there on out, Haruhi realised the mundane nature of her world and sought to make it unique: that she shared these thoughts with Kyon this early on suggests that she sees him differently than everyone else. Haruhi and Kyon never become a couple in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but even early on, it becomes apparent that the two complement the other very well.

  • Mikuru somewhat resembles CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa in appearance; coming a full year before CLANNAD, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would come to influence many of the design choices in CLANNAD, from the use of lighting and colour, to camera placement and framing to convey specific moods. Throughout the series, Kyon expresses his fondness for Mikuru, and after an incident where Haruhi obtained a pile of photographs of Mikuru, Kyon decides to quietly archive the folder instead. Mikuru notices the folder and becomes curious, but before anything else goes down, Haruhi arrives.

  • When Itsuki shows Kyon his esper powers, he remarks that his duty, along with others like him, is to contain “closed space” and “celestials”, monstrous beings that mirror Haruhi’s frustrations with the real world. It turns out that Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki had foreseen a time where Haruhi would attempt to rebuild the world: one evening, Kyon awakens to find himself with Haruhi, on the deserted school grounds in closed space. Haruhi is enthralled to see a sight so unusual, but Kyon, recalling advice from Yuki and Mikuru, decides to kiss Haruhi. The next morning, he and Haruhi both turns out to have had the same nightmare. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya excels at suggesting some of the more outrageous events in the series can be explained away, leaving it ambiguous as to whether or not something really happened.

  • For The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s fans, the Japanese festival, Tanabata, is of special significance: the real festival is a celebration of the meeting of deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, and Haruhi sees it as a time to make her wishes known to the respective corresponding stars, Vega and Altair. Despite the community’s decision to celebrate Tanabata alongside Haruhi, I’ve noticed that no one’s ever offered an explanation of why Tanabata is so important to the storyline of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: most discussions only can agree the significance of Tanabata as the time when Haruhi and Kyon meet for the first time.

  • The anime community of 2006 didn’t have me around, though: the reason why Tanigawa chose Tanabata as the time for Haruhi’s meeting with Kyon is deliberately to mirror the legend that drives Tanabata: there is a certain romance in two deities that cannot meet except under specific conditions, and the custom of wish-writing indicates that Kyon and Haruhi are meant to be parallels of Hikoboshi and Orihime. Tanigawa’s focus on Tanabata three years ago, then, is to show that, for better or worse, people can be connected by circumstances that appear beyond comprehension.

  • Because of Kyon’s frequent references to historical figures and the series’ enjoyment of technical jargon, a small subset of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s fans felt the series to be a philosophical masterpiece. Kyon only mentions these in the passing to compare his situation to an equivalent, and most of the philosophical or historical elements have no impact on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s theme, so it is not strictly necessary to have an extensive background on these disciplines to enjoy the show. The inclusion of such elements into The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and the attendant impact it had on the more academically-minded fans (or perhaps, those who want to flex their smarts) meant that these viewers were right at home with the show, alongside mystery, comedy, science-fiction and slice-of-life fans.

  • While the SOS Brigade is more often seen going on fabulous adventures rather than finding and solving mysteries, there are several cases where Haruhi is met with a mystery to solve; one Emiri Kimidori arrives one day, seeking the SOS Brigade’s help in locating her boyfriend, the Computing Research club’s president, who has been missing for a while. Emiri only makes this appearance in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but in the original novels, she is in the same faction as Yuki.

  • As it turns out, the president’s disappearance is attributed to the irregularities accumulating in the SOS Brigade’s website; Haruhi’s subconsciously imparted unusual properties on it, causing those who visit to be whisked away into a parallel dimension. After Haruhi leaves, the remainder of the SOS Brigade get to work and save the president, after which Yuki modifies Haruhi’s logo to prevent future trouble and explains that Haruhi’s abilities can create troublesome events.

  • Itsuki and his Agency view Haruhi as a god of sorts, being able to freely create and destroy the known universe at will. In order to keep Haruhi entertained during the summer, he and his colleagues prepare a special event for Haruhi, which entails travelling to a remote island and staging a murder mystery here. When The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had been airing, Itsuki’s revelation that Haruhi might’ve been a god given human form resulted in the creation of a pseudo-religion known as “Haruhiism”, of which the core tenant is to have fun and accept things as they are, since they are the “will” of Haruhi.

  • Haruhiism is not a religion that is officially recognised, to the disappointment of the series’ most ardent of fans, although that did not stop them from celebrating the series. The most prominent example of the community’s devotion lay in what would become known as “The Haruhiism Time Capsule Project”, which aimed to submit images to Yahoo’s 2006 Time Capsule Project. This was ultimately a failure, as the time capsule was never reopened per Yahoo’s original terms. While Haruhiism captured the fancy of many, Itsuki believes that this is simply the views that the Agency shares, and that others see Haruhi differently. It exemplifies The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s appeal in that it was able to accommodate so many viewpoints even in-universe, and as such, Haruhi fans were free to interpret the show however they saw fit. Because there are so many ways to enjoy the series, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s appeal would ultimately lie with the exceptional execution that Kyoto Animation had poured into bringing the series to life.

  • From my perspective, it was ultimately Kyoto Animation’s excellence that made The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya such a success: Tanigawa’s light novels remain unfinished to this day the same way Half-Life 3 is unfinished, a consequence of the fact that once Kyon and Haruhi established the thematic elements, the series only needed to continue explore the universe further; themes and character growth stagnated, which could have made it difficult to create a satisfying conclusion. Indeed, following The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, there’s been no continuation of the series in an animated format: Kyoto Animation believes the series has done its job in promoting the light novels and closing off on a satisfying note, as Kyon’s shown to have accepted a world with Haruhi in it.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’s first season was a universally-praised smash hit, the second season made decisions that saw a cooler reception. The infamous Endless Eight arc, consisting of eight episodes portraying a two-week span of summer vacation, marked the first time Kyoto Animation had ever been at the centre of a controversy; many fans of the series and studio expressed their disgust and disappointment with such a decision. More vehement fans boycotted the studio and destroyed their merchandise in protest during Endless Eight’s run; the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was further compounded by complaints that Haruhi resembled K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa, diminishing some viewers’ enjoyment of the series.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya showed how a series could bring the anime community together, Endless Eight highlighted the worst excesses of the same community. Detractors of the arc called Kyoto Animation “lazy” and “unoriginal”, amongst other things that are not quite as presentable. The reality is that Kyoto Animation has always been at the cutting edge of conveying emotions through animation, and each episode in the Endless Eight series actually features subtle differences, being animated completely from scratch. The point of pushing viewers through two months of the same story was to really drive home to viewers the sense of hopelessness that Yuki experiences in this time: the weariness she develops as a result of recalling each and every second of the two weeks through the 15532 iterations, would set in motion the events of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.

  • In the end, Kyon ends up breaking the loop by convincing Haruhi that his summer can’t finish until he’s done the homework he’s put off. This turns out to be what breaks the loop, and a similar concept would later be applied to Aobuta when Sakuta briefly dates Tomoe and she ends up falling in love with him, wishing their time together would never end. Aobuta, having a shorter runtime and lacking Kyoto Animation’s experimental mindset, would execute its loop differently to avoid the same negativity that befell Kyoto Animation. While Endless Eight remains contentious to this day, I find the reactions surrounding Kyoto Animation’s decision to be disproportionate and callow.

  • Once Endless Eight is done, the next arc deals with the SOS Brigade making an independent film for their school’s culture festival after Haruhi and Kyon’s class do a measly survey. By this point in time, the SOS Brigade’s Club Room has become populated with clutter from their various activities: various costumes Haruhi forces Mikuru to year, appliances for preparing tea, and various board games. The SOS Brigade’s film would put Kyon’s patience with Haruhi to the ultimate test.

  • The sort of energy that Haruhi projects when she’s happy brings to mind the atmosphere surrounding an anime convention like Otafest, and for most anime fans, anime conventions represent a chance to be immersed in an environment where their interests are celebrated. On a typical day, the average anime fan partakes in their hobby on their own, so events like Otafest, in bringing fans together, have a very uplifting feeling. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya reveals that Haruhi is perhaps a bit of an otaku herself, being quite versed in the moé aesthetic. To most anime fans, Haruhi’s appeal lies in the fact that she’s always on the hunt for something fun to do, bringing excitement into wherever she goes.

  • By portraying how a familiar world could nonetheless be exciting, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya would raise the bar for series set in the real world and have an impact on numerous series in years upcoming. At the time, series like Death NoteCode GeassErgo ProxyNegima! and Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple were counted as some of the most enjoyable series of the day. The anime club of my old secondary school certainly seemed to think so, as well; we used to watch these shows during lunch hour. In these early days, I was mildly interested in these series, and it was mainly my best friend’s interest in Gundam 00 that sent me down the path of being an anime fan. In subsequent years, my preferences would diverge wildly from what most of my friends enjoyed: as my second year of university ended, I became very fond of slice-of-life series for their cathartic effects.

  • Haruhi’s movie lacks a script and theme, being a mish-mash of random moments held together by Mikuru. Without any clear direction of where she’s going, Haruhi’s film offers insight into her world, where things simply happen as they happen. Kyon ends up being the “everything” for the movie, handling everything from filming to editing. Things quickly take a turn for the dangerous when Haruhi subconsciously allows for Mikuru to fire a coherent, amplified stream of photons from here contact during filming. Yuki steps in to save Kyon from being lobotomised.

  • Unaware of what’s going on, Haruhi shrugs off the improvised scenes and decides to change the combat sequences out for romance. This arc is when the nature of Haruhi’s power manifests the most strongly, and although she only makes minor changes to the world, fans have conjectured that Haruhi could square off against other beings like Devil Homura or Thanos. A great many of these “versus” battles, however, depend on what are colloquially referred to as “feats” (i.e. quantifiable displays of a character’s abilities) in order to work. Haruhi’s powers are, in this case, more similar to Gandalf’s in that most of them are abstract and not shown at their fullest.

  • I’ve found that there are a surprising number of parallels between The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings: both series deal with an every-man who is thrust into adventure and finds that they wear their duties well, powerful beings whose abilities are abstract, and a world that is familiar, yet not quite our own. This is what motivates my comparison between Kyon and Bilbo Baggins. Here, Tsuruya laughs at the thought of needing to chuck Mikuru into putrid pond water for filming.  Tsuruya is Mikuru’s best friend, and makes an appearance: energetic and easygoing, Tsuruya finds most everything funny. Her family is said to have ties with Itsuki’s agency and despite being quite air-headed, is aware of Haruhi’s nature, actively choosing not to disclose this to Kyon and the others.

  • The filming of The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina was not without its tensions, and things reach a boiling point after Haruhi spikes Mikuru’s drink and asks her to kiss Itsuki. Pushed beyond endurance, Kyon prepares to strike Haruhi, feeling that if he doesn’t discipline her now, she’ll continue to be unaware of the consequences of her actions and cause trouble for herself, as well as those around her. This moment marks a turning point in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; up until now, Kyon had always kept Haruhi in check by speaking with her. Haruhi herself is surprised by this, having believed that Kyon would always be there for her, and in the aftermath, filming for that day comes to a halt. Itsuki pulls Kyon aside and reminds him of his responsibility to Haruhi.

  • When Kyon hears Taniguchi bad-mouthing Haruhi’s independent film, he expresses annoyance. In actuality, Kyon here has heard someone voicing his own doubts, and realises just how immature the complaints sound. He comes around and feels that Haruhi should be commended for at least having taken the initiative to do something for the culture festival; just to spite the naysayers, Kyon aims to see the film through. However, since their disagreement from earlier, Kyon must first reconcile with Haruhi. It’s a tense few moments, but when Kyon does apologise and resolves to make the film a success, Haruhi’s spirits immediately are rekindled.

  • With the strange events continuing, such as cherry trees coming into full bloom during the summer, Kyon struggles to determine how to nudge Haruhi into restoring the world to normal. After a conversation with Itsuki, Kyon appears to have found the answer: he asks Haruhi to put a disclaimer at the end of the movie. Filming finishes without too much difficulty, and Kyon spends the night editing the clips together with Haruhi. Despite falling asleep during editing, Kyon wakes up to find the movie finished. It was quite rewarding to see the SOS Brigade’s project reach completion; Kyon’s role in things is a constant reminder that his sarcasm and griping manner notwithstanding, he genuinely does care about Haruhi and enjoys the adventures she brings into his life.

  • While The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya itself shows that the filming process was evidently a difficult one, especially for Mikuru and Kyon, the end result is unexpectedly good. Subtle details shown in the movie itself, which aired as a part of the first season, are present, and despite how turbulent the filming was, the resultant was of a strong quality. The movie itself shows Kyoto Animation’s excellent craft even at this point on: for me, they began to develop their current style as a result of learnings from both Kanon and The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaThrilled at how the movie turned out, Haruhi declares the project well done: while Kyon is exasperated, from a third party perspective, I consider the film to be every bit as good as Haruhi feels it to be.

  • North High’s Culture Festival finally comes to, and Kyon spends the day exploring: after visiting Mikuru and Tsuruya’s yakisoba stand, he checks out various displays, including Yuki and Itsuki, before crashing at the gym, where various bands are performing. Kyon is shocked to see Haruhi on stage performing: Aya Hirano ends up emceeing for the concert and sings “God Knows”, as well as “Lost my Music”. Of the two songs, I’m particularly fond of “Lost my Music” – its lyrics mirror Haruhi’s feelings for Kyon. The culture festival represented a chance to see a different side of Haruhi, and it is here that I found my answer for the questions I had surrounding Otafest.

  • The reason why Otafest retains its distinct atmosphere, even a decade after Michelle Ruff and Todd Haberkorn’s attendance as special guests, lies largely in the impact The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had on the anime community. In particular, Haruhi’s energy and enthusiasm has come to symbolise the very positivity that fans go towards expressing love for their hobby. Further to this, I imagine that a handful of people also fancy finding the SOS Brigade in their life amidst this positivity: whether it is something brimming with life, dependably present or adorable to a fault, this would be someone special who really brings colour to their world, complementing their existence and giving it a higher purpose.

  • When the band members come to thank Haruhi for having helped out, Haruhi is uncharacteristically quiet and greets their appreciation with a hesitant smile. Her mood, however, grows reserved, and Kyon is quick to deduce that Haruhi was so used to doing things for herself that she’d become quite unaccustomed to meeting a situation where someone was grateful for her help. In the aftermath, Haruhi explains that after hearing their story, she felt duty-bound to help out, hating the thought of seeing the band’s efforts go to waste. This growth shows another side to Haruhi and shows that during the course of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (especially following the filming of their movie), she’s also matured.

  • After Kyon finds Haruhi resting outside, she wonders what’s his deal and throws grass at him, only for the wind to carry it back into her face resulting in an adorable moment. The culture festival gives viewers a chance to see a side of Haruhi that is rarely presented; and it was here that it becomes apparent that Haruhi and Kyon could be a couple. One element in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya that I’ve not mentioned until now is the soundtrack: the incidental music to the TV series was never released as standalone albums, but instead, were packaged with special CDs. With pieces for conveying atmospheres ranging from everyday to extraordinary, from mysterious to wistful, the soundtrack to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya complements the series nicely. The music in the series is best captured in The Symphony of Haruhi Suzumiya, in whcih the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra really brings to life series’ grandeur and scale through music.

  • Towards the endgame, the SOS Brigade accept a challenge from the Computing Research club with new hardware as the bet: having been humiliated by Haruhi earlier, their president decides to take back their machine. The wager: if SOS Brigade can beat them in a game they’d created, the Computing Research Club will give them new laptops, otherwise, they will get to retrieve the machine Haruhi had relieved them of. Initially, the match goes poorly, but once Yuki discovers the Computing Research club is cheating, she injects code into the server that levels out the playing field, allowing the SOS Bridage to mount a comeback. Seeing how happy Yuki was prompts Kyon to allow Yuki to spend time with the Computing Research club. At Tango-Victor-Tango, the site’s users once asserted that Yuki is using syntactically correct C code and her incantations in the anime are complex SQL commands. Some time ago, I did a post demonstrating that the former is not entirely true, and in the anime, Yuki’s speech is not of any known language: the light novels use only primitive SQL queries (no table joining is done, for instance) rather than the complex ones as Tango-Victor-Tango asserts.

  • The final episode of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a breather episode original to the anime. It bridges the gap between the series and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and is a relaxing depiction of what the typical day in the SOS Brigade is like when there are no major adventures going on. Kyon picks up a new space heater, plays games with Itsuki and eventually falls asleep. He awakens to find a pair of cardigans draped over his shoulders: Haruhi and Yuki are implied to have left them, hinting at the feelings that both have for him. While with Haruhi, it’s evident, it would be a bit of a surprise. The developing emotions Yuki has sets in motion the events of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and also motivates the spin-off series, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. I stand amongst the minority of people who enjoyed the latter.

  • As winter begins setting in, Haruhi and Kyon share an umbrella while walking home together: Haruhi is feeling particularly playful and in good spirits. Overall, having revisited The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, it becomes clear that while the series may no longer be as well-remembered as it was a decade ago, Kyoto Animation’s superb adaptation of it has left a considerable impact on anime in general; The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s standing point was being able to appeal to all manners of audience, and even now, there are few anime that have such a broad impact on the anime community, in such a positive manner. This brings my post on The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to a close: I deliberately chose to time the post for today because it is of a special significance for one of my friends. However, today also marks the beginning of Apple’s WWDC 2020: the most exciting updates for me lie with MacOS Big Sur, which is set to feature a substantial update to the UI, as well as iOS 14, which introduces a Windows Phone-style live tiles UI to the home screen.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s success and appeal came from a unique combination of having a fantasy world accommodating exciting adventures melded with a more familiar world that allow for calmer moments of self-discovery, a cast of unique and memorable characters whose interactions with one another simultaneously brought about humour and a compelling narrative, combined with Kyoto Animation’s excellence in animation, artwork and aural elements. From life lessons to philosophical quandaries, from visually impressive sequences to catchy music, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had something for everyone in the anime community: the series was universally acclaimed, being praised on almost all fronts, and this stems from the fact that the anime hit enough of the right notes with enough of the readers, all of whom were brought together by Haruhi’s boldness, Kyon’s sardonic wit, and an equally interesting cast that served to build the universe out, drive comedic moments forward and explain just enough of what Kyon was experiencing to keep viewers guessing without frustrating them. Combined with the rather audacious claim that Haruhi was a god, and the infamous Hare Hare Yukai dance, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya immediately took off, capturing the interest of anime fans broad backgrounds and unifying them in a shared love for the series, rather similarly to how Haruhi brought together Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki along with Kyon to brighten things up considerably. This sense of commonality is nowhere more apparent than amongst the fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: shortly after the series aired, the internet became flooded with unending memes from the anime, and the Hare Hare Yukai dance became a staple at anime conventions, summarising the entire energy and atmosphere of a gathering of people united by a shared interest in a few minutes of music and choreography. Few series have done so much to bring anime fans together so effectively, and it is in the synergy between all of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s elements that created such a positive outcome for fans. Far more than the novels themselves, Kyoto Animation’s masterful execution of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya left a massive impact on the anime community and would come to play a non-trivial role in cementing Kyoto Animation’s reputation as a top-tier anime studio with a commendable dedication to quality.

Broken Blade: A Review and Reflection

“The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he comes from, and if he really was evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, or he would not rather have stayed there…in peace? War will make corpses of us all.” –Faramir, Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

In a world where humans are born with the innate ability to manipulate quartz, Rygart Arrow is an un-sorcerer incapable of this power. He works on the family farm until the threat of warfare prompts King Hodr and Sigyn to invite Rygart to Binoten, Krishna’s capital. Here, Rygart learns that the neighbouring Kingdom of Athens intends to invade Krishna for their quartz reserves and intend to execute the royal family, including Sigyn. Their former friend, Zess, is part of an advance force to scout of Binoten’s defenses. Hodr also shows Rygart a mysterious Golem from an ancient era, and when Rygart demonstrates the ability to operate it, he becomes the Golem’s acting pilot. The horrors of warfare prompt him to leave, but General Baldr convinces Rygart to take responsibility for his actions. Rygart decides to stay, and continues piloting the Delphine into combat despite his lack of experience. The Delphine’s performance prompts Athens to send General Borcuse out: Borcuse is a talented strategist known for his brutality, and despite being under house arrest, Athens believes his methods will the most suitable for swiftly ending the war. As the outlook worsens for Krishna, they assign Girge (Baldr’s son) to Rygart’s squad, and Rygart continues training to familiarise himself with the Delphine. Meanwhile, General Borcuse has reached the Krishna border and single-handedly destroys much of the Krishna forces there, including General True. Baldr manages to rally his forces, and with Rygart’s help, forces Borcuse to retreat. Rygart later returns to his village against orders and finds that General Borcuse had slaughtered the inhabitants slaughtered. He engages Borcuse and is defeated: Borcuse believes that the Delphine’s exceptional engineering is behind its combat record, and orders it taken back to Athens, but is forced to retreat again when Krishna’s forces arrive. Borcuse’s subordinates, Io and Nike decide to strike, but Girge intervenes. He manages to defeat Bike, and sacrifices himself to save Rygart. His pride wounded, Borcuse decides to press an attack on Binoten, and although his forces manage to overwhelm the capital’s defenses, Borcuse himself is killed in a final confrontation with Rygart, whose Delphine is equipped with a crude but effective weapon. In the aftermath, Athens begins to withdraw, and Rygart learns that his younger brother is alive. Originally a manga that began running in 2006, Broken Blade was adapted into a six-part film in 2010-2011: the movies are is considered to be a faithful adaptation of the manga with the exception of the finale, which was re-written in a way as to offer more closure, whereas the manga is ongoing.

Broken Blade resembles Gundam Unicorn greatly: both series feature a reluctant pilot who gradually comes to take responsibility for entering the cockpit of an uncommonly powerful mecha. In Break Blade, Rygart finds himself pushed into war when Krishna, outmatched by the Golems Athens fields, is forced to fight for its survival. With its superior engineering and unique OS, the Delphine is a piece of hardware from an earlier time that far surpasses contemporary mecha, only responding to Rygart because he is an un-sorcerer. Because of this, Rygart’s inability to manipulate quartz suddenly renders him in a position to make a meaningful contribution towards saving Krishna and Sigyn. In spite of the horrors of war, such as witnessing an enemy pilot commit suicide rather than be captured and learning that General Baldr’s own son cracked under train and killed blue forces during an exercise, Rygart’s conviction is shaken. However, seeing first-hand the lives that stand to be saved and hearing Baldr’s wisdom ultimately convinces Rygart to rise to the occasion, and while Rygart never improves substantially as a pilot, his unorthodox methods result in the death of Borcuse, a key player in Athens’ military. The anime movies show that by choosing the more difficult route, which entails personal sacrifice, witnessing atrocity and and the loss of innocence, Rygart was able to spare Krishna of a bloodier war and the death of the royal family. Broken Blade thus shows that sacrifices made in the present are not always in vain; when Rygart accepts responsibility for his role in the conflict and steps into battle, he sees first-hand the horror and desolation of war, driving him to act in a way so as to reduce future bloodshed. Further to this, Rygart lacks any real understandings surrounding the complexities of warfare; his motivations for fighting stem from simply protecting his friends from the conflict. As such, while Rygart comes across as immature and inexperienced, his insights demonstrates how a naïve mind can underline the futility and pointlessness behind why wars are fought. Gundam Unicorn‘s themes, while considerably more broad and expansive, covered similar territory: Banagher similarly chooses to act as the Unicorn’s pilot and play his part in stopping Full Frontal from potentially creating a worse status quo for the Universal Century even if it means getting blood on his hands from the conflict.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Broken Blade is also known as Break Blade, I think that going with the official title would be more appropriate. I open this post with Rygart Arrow (Sōichirō Hoshi, from Gundam SEED‘s Kira Yamato and Higurashi‘s Keiichi Maebara) getting his first look at Binoten, capital of Krishna. The composition of this moment set the precedence for the sort of aesthetics that would define Broken Blade: the arid deserts, deep blue sky and vastness of constructs all serve to indicate to viewers that Broken Blade would be going big in its artistic style. The first movie caught my attention the same way Sora no Woto did with its landscapes – the two things that both series share in common are their incredibly detailed settings.

  • Upon reuniting, Sigyn, the current queen of Krisha and wife of King Hodr, holds Rygart at gunpoint. This is, of course, just Sigyn’s way of expressing herself. Sigyn, Holdr, Rygart and Zess had once been classmates, but went their separate ways after. Sigyn had feelings for Rygart, who reciprocated but felt that he would never be able to accommodate for Sigyn’s love of mechanical engineering and books with his background. Broken Blade‘s story deals both with the Athens invasion, Rygart’s attempts to stop the war and save Zess, and also deal with his own feelings pertaining Sigyn (Chiawa Saitō, Gundam 00‘s Louise Halevy and Francesca Luccini of Strike Witches).

  • Because this post is more of a reminiscence post, as opposed to a standard discussion, I’ll be using some of the figure captions to reflect on corresponding moments from when I’d first watched Broken Blade: the anime began its life as a movie adaptation of the manga that ran from 2010 to 2011. I’m actually not too sure how I came across the series: the first installment released in May 2010, a time when I was taking theory-based lessons for my operator’s license. Having spent most of the summer on a theory-driven course and practical lessons, I ended up delaying until the next year to take the road test itself.

  • I ended up practising most of May, and then in June, I took the road test. Aside from messing up parallel parking once and making a poor judgement call at a yield sign, the exam was very smooth. Watching Rygart learn the ropes behind the Delphine’s operation brought to mind my initial days with operating a vehicle: while I became sufficiently skilled just in time for the exam, I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving until a year later, when I’d driven out to the mountains for a much-needed vacation after the MCAT ended.

  • While viewers are natually inclined to root for Rygart because the story is seen from his viewpoint, it turns out the commander of the Artemis Squadron is Zess (Hiroshi Kamiya, Gundam 00‘s Tieria Erde); Zess had been friends with Rygart since his time at the academy, meeting after driving off some bullies. A top student, Zess also became acquainted with Hodr and Sigyn. In the present, he commands the Artemis squadron and desires to bring the two countries back from the brink of war swiftly to spare his old friends from the brunt of the fighting.

  • Despite being a decade old, Broken Blade looks amazing: the artwork and animation both impress. Landscapes look photorealistic at times, and capturing the aridity of the region surrounding Krishna to really immerse viewers in this distinct fantasy universe. The Golems themselves were animated to a very high standard: from scratches and chips on armour, to cracking and shattering of quartz components, every fight is visceral and brutal.

  • One unexpected piece about Broken Blade was the inclusion of moments that accentuate just how shapely Sigyn (and later, Cleo) is. The ending of the first film indicates that neither Hodr or Sigyn are truly in love with one another, which allows the story to explore Sigyn’s relationship with Rygart more openly without introducing unnecessary conflict. Indeed, the bulk of the conflict in Broken Blade, outside of clashing national interests, lies with Rygart and his reluctance to participate in warfare.

  • Because neither Zess or Rygart desire war, Zess’ initial inclination is to try and talk it out with Rygart: neither are fully aware of the situation that politicians have created. However, when the brash General True arrives and begins firing on Zess, Zess immediately retreats, and Rygart duels with Lee instead. In the chaos, Lee’s Golem is damaged, but while Rygart attempts to talk the pilot from killing Lee outright, Lee instead kills him, Rygart disables her Golem, but she commits suicide, fearing that the Krishna will subject her to torture.

  • Rygart starts his journey as a highly unskilled pilot whose exploits are only made possible by his incredibly advanced Golem. Broken Blade‘s animation was sufficiently impressive such that one of my friends, a Gundam fan whose knowledge of the franchise is only rivaled by fans from Japan and the writers themselves, commented that Broken Blade was comparable to Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans in premise and technology, but ultimately, has better fight choreography and less teen drama.

  • For both my friend and myself, the Golem combat was probably the most enjoyable aspect of Broken Blade, since it represented such a departure from the high-speed combat of Gundam. Instead, strictly ground-based combat results in battles that, per my friend’s wording, resemble medieval sieges, with robots in place of armoured knights. My friend was particularly impressed with how detailed the Golems themselves were, and enjoyed watching the engagements, feeling the pressure guns to resemble crossbows and the way swords are mounted on each Golem.

  • Being a veteran of many wars, General Baldr imparts his wisdom upon Rygart: after witnessing the horrors of warfare for the first time, first-hand, Rygart decides to stand down, feeling it too much to handle. Earlier, Baldr warns Rygart that taking an opponent alive is far more difficult than striking them down, and here, he implores Rygart to stay and take responsibility for what he’s started. Rygart initially refuses, but upon seeing Hodr resigned to his fate and accepting Rygart’s decision anyways, Rygart decides to stick around and formally becomes the pilot of the Delphine.

  • While Rygart trains to become familiar with the Delphine’s unusual systems, I am reminded of first learning to drive. As every pilot experiences, no amount of theory and simulation can quite match the exhilaration and fear of getting behind the wheel for the first time: even at 40 kilometres per hour, the world moves by very quickly, and one feels like they aren’t always in control of their vehicle. Experience and learning the techniques will soon curb this uncertainty: for me, I drilled endlessly in an open parking lot to get the hang of a vehicle’s acceleration and braking, as well as its turn radius.

  • The trickiest thing about driving initially is being confident that the vehicle will stop and go precisely at one’s command. The general rule is to always look in the direction one intends to head towards, and in situations of doubt, cover the brake. Stopping safely is achieved by slowly and steadily applying force to the brakes. Once a good grasp of the vehicle mechanics is learnt, I would suggest learning the basics of parking: angle parking, hill parking and parallel parking all demand a strong understanding of where one’s vehicle is and its intended direction. Here, Rygart leaps into the air after disengaging the heavy armour Sigyn had equipped the Delphine with: Broken Blade is so-named after the fact that the Delphine has a single horn similar to that of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam, albeit a broken one.

  • The Delphine’s abilities allow Rygart to kill one of the Artemis-class Golems and disable Zess swiftly. However, against Cleo, whose heart is filled with determination to defeat the Delphine, Rygart is outmatched. She knocks him down and squres off against Baldr’s Golems, defeating a handful before Baldr fights Cleo to a draw, prompting her squad-mates to order her retreat. Narvi manages to snipe her mid-retreat, blowing off a leg and leading to Cleo’s capture. The page quote was sourced from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – the first three movies had a much more complex nuance about warfare, but once Borcuse is introduced, right and wrong become much more black and white in nature.

  • Necessity forces Athens to redact its charges against the brutal General Borcuse, whose war crimes in a previous war led to his arrest. With its world-building, characters and inclusion of a powerful mecha surpassing its peers, Broken Blade resembles Gundam Unicorn in many areas. At the time I watched Broken Blade, only three of the Gundam Unicorn movies had been released, whereas all of the Broken Blade films were available. If memory serves, I finished the series off in May 2011, a time when I had been starting summer research. At that point, I’d fallen out of practise with hill parking and parallel parking, so I ended up taking some supplementary lessons prior to taking the road test.

  • My first road test would have been ten years ago, and I remember being quite nervous despite having spent the morning going through the exam route. In the end, I lost points for taking an extra attempt at parallel parking and for waiting too long at a yield sign, but other than that, I ended up doing okay. I thus surrendered my old Class VII, received an interim license and was told I’d get my physical license two weeks later. Broken Blade reminds me of this experience, since Rygart’s initial ineptitude with the Delphine paralleled my own difficulty in getting a vehicle to go precisely where I wanted it to go.

  • Sigyn believes that Cleo would be more open about the Artemis’ mechanics if she were treated as a guest rather than a prisoner of war: rather than send her to the brig, Sigyn arranges for Cleo to lodge with her, but this initially turns out to be a bad decision. Cleo overpowers Sigyn and takes her sidearm, with the aim of shooting Rygart in the head and escaping, but when it turns out Sigyn, like Captain Keyes, doesn’t keep it loaded, Cleo is swiftly recaptured and returned to Sigyn’s quarters without incident.

  • The pistols in Broken Blade are scaled-down versions of the pressure guns that Golems use in combat: they use a quartz-powered mechanism to accelerate projectiles at a great velocity, and different types of pressure guns are shown to exist. Rygart’s inability to manipulate quartz means that he is unable to fire a pressure gun of any calibre, and while operating the Delphine, his primary loadout will consist of standard melee weapons, as well as heavier gear that Sigyn custom-designs for the Delphine. My friend remarks that the Delphine’s advanced technology is such that a Gundam-like beam rifle would not seem out of place, although I note that giving the Delphine something like a beam rifle would shift the balance so dramatically that Rygart could’ve engaged and defeated the entire Athens army on his own.

  • Baldr’s son, Girge is introduced as the situation in Krishna deteriorates: while a brilliant Golem pilot, Girge is considered unstable after an incident where he unexpectedly killed a friendly pilot and then proceeded to disable every Golem in the exercise without harming their pilots. Girge was subsequently incarcerated, but is brought back out to help Krishna out. His unusual personality stems from a lifetime of attempting to meet the expectations of those around him, and in practise, he’s very reserved, although he speaks poorly of those he deems weaker than himself.

  • When Borcuse’s unit is introduced, they decimate General True (who dies at Nike’s hands when she crushes his Golem, splitting it in two). Later, Baldr encounters Borcuse’s forces and approves for a strike force to engage Borcuse’s units, but when they are slaughtered, Baldr is forced to reconsider. He manages to rally his men’s spirits from fear to anger: Borcuse notes that Baldr is very by-the-book, and as a pilot, Baldr is highly skilled: despite piloting a Golem inferior in performance to anything Athens possesses, he manages to hold his own against the speedier Artemis, as seen when he engages Cleo in a one-on-one.

  • It becomes apparent that Krishna’s Fefnir-class Golem, despite being the latest model, is completely outmatched by Athens’ top Golems. Against the Artemis-class and their superior firepower, most Fefnirs can be destroyed in two shots: the Artemis lacks armour, but can move fast enough to avoid being hit. Borcuse’s elite Golem squad can similarly demolish Fefnir-class Golems trivially, although against standard Athens units, the Fefnir fares a little better. However, when operated by skilled pilots, the lumbering Fefnir are able to keep up even against superior opponents.

  • Narvi is one of the best pilots available in the Krishna forces: besides sporting a great deal of respect for General True and being a brash pilot, she’s also confident and bold on the battlefield, preferring to be in the middle of the combat as a result of her desire to prove her mettle. Marina Inoue voices Narvi: after Broken Blade, Inoue would also voice Infinite Stratos‘ Laura Bodewig and Sakura Kagamihara of Yuru Camp△.

  • Over time, Cleo begins to realise that Krishna’s people are no different than those of Athens’, and develops a friendship with Sigyn. One of the themes in Broken Blade is that warfare amongst humanity often results in combatants forgetting their opponent is human, and as a result, creates atrocities of unimaginable scale. This is a recurring element in Gundam, especially in the Universal Century and Cosmic Era: the cycle of revenge and hatred requires an extraordinary occurrence to break, and even then, lingering feelings of resentment often trigger new conflict.

  • Borcuse’s Hykelion is one of the most powerful Golems in the whole of Broken Blade: this highly customised unit’s greatest weapon are a pair of scorpion tail-like jointed weapons that can be used as arms to seize weapons or pierce an enemy’s armour. Borcuse conceals his Golem in a vast cloak luring his enemies into closing the distance before unleashing the scorpion tails to devastate them. Against Rygart, Borcuse is more curious than antagonistic, intending to test out the Delphine’s and Rygart’s capabilities.

  • Having slaughtered an entire village just to goad Rygart into attacking (and therefore showing off what the Delphine’s capabilities are), Borcuse fights Rygart under a blood-red sunset. It soon becomes clear to Borcuse that the Delphine’s performance was a result of its exceptional hardware: Rygart is still inexperienced and brash, charging towards his opponents and counting on the Delphine’s durability to carry the day. Broken Blade excels at showing that a superior machine has its limits when going up against a superior pilot; bored of Rygart’s lack of skill, Borcuse disables the Delphine and orders it returned to Athens.

  • Some four years after I received by probationary operator’s license, I would go and obtain my full operator’s license: this license is required for obtaining commercial licenses and also lifts restrictions imposed on the probationary license. Most of my friends were not particularly keen on the full license because it involved parallel parking: during the early summer, I took the vehicle out to the same open lots in a nearby industrial park to practise parallel parking, and a few weeks later, I took the exam. This time around, I was completely at ease with operating a range of vehicles and completed every section of the driving test without difficulty: the examiner remarked it was a perfect exam.

  • Before Borcuse’s men can cut the cockpit hatch away, Rygart manages to regain consciousness and escapes with cover fire from allied forces. However, Borcuse’s squad gives chase and takes them out of the fight. Girge arrives and briefly duels Rygart, but switches his attention to Borcuse’s squad: he destroys Nike’s Golem and kicks Rygart away into a canyon, saving him at the last second from the advancing Athens forces at the cost of his own life. Owing to the pacing in Broken Blade, Girge remained one of those characters who would’ve benefited greatly from additional screen time to build his background and motivation out further.

  • Surprised at having been outwitted, Borcuse ignores orders from Athens to await the remainder of the invasion force and heads straight for Binoten with the aim of capturing it single-handedly. In the aftermath of the battle, Rygart comes to terms with Girge’s death, and having seen so much death at Borcuse’s hands, the final battle becomes personal for Rygart. When he returns to Binoten, he arrives just ahead of Borcuse, whose forces begin an onslaught on the capital. Even without the main force, Borcuse begins overwhelming the city’s defenses. Sigyn and Cleo say goodbye here.

  • In their final showdown, Rygart is driven purely by hatred and anger: as the two exchange blows, Borcuse finds himself completely perplexed at Rygart’s choice of actions during the fighting and deduces that he’s one of the un-sorcerers. Having never trained for such an eventuality, Rygart’s lack of experience in conventional warfare is what allows him to surprise Borcuse and deal damage to the Hykelion where no other pilot had previously succeeded. When Sigyn arrives with a massive shuriken, Borcuse laughs it off as a barbaric weapon and manages to evade most of the attacks, but ends up sustaining a hit that disables the shuriken. Rygart ultimately kills Borcuse, and with his death, the remaining Athens forces begin to withdraw.

  • Rygart, meanwhile, reunites with his younger brother, bringing the anime movie to an end. The manga is still ongoing, and the anime needed to fudge a few things in order to wrap things up neatly. With this being said, I still find the ending quite satisfactory, and overall, Broken Blade is a series I can recommend to people, earning an A- (3.7 of 4, or 8.5 of 10) in my books. With a compelling story and animation that stands up even a decade later, plus strong world building, Broken Blade is a fun series to watch. In ten years, the series has aged very gracefully, and my praises for Broken Blade do not appear to have been impacted by nostalgia: this is a solid option for fans of mecha series looking for something a little different, and the only knock I have against the series is that it could’ve done with one more episode, the same way Gundam Unicorn did, to flesh out character development further.

While thematically similar to Gundam Unicorn, Broken Blade differentiates itself in its unique setting. The world-building in Broken Blade is excellent, from the application of quartz in everyday life to military application, and its significance as an industrial resource to the point where nations are willing to spill blood to secure it. Quartz is so integrated into life that from things as simple as a coffee machine, right up to military hardware, all utilise quartz in some way. The Golems themselves are thoughtfully presented in Broken Blade: owing to their engineering and construction, they are incapable of sustained flight, and this prompts Golem combat to play out in a completely different manner than in something like Gundam Unicorn. The quartz-based technology leads to chaotic and bloody combat sequences between Golems, where engagements are fought with pressure guns at range and melee combat at close quarters. The physical nature of each engagement sees bullets chip away armour, blades cracking from use and entire Golems crumbling into scraps when defeated. Coupled with the stand-out portrayal of the rocky, arid terrain surrounding Binoten and vivid skies, the world that Rygart lives in is a tough one, but also one where the inhabitants have found a way to survive. Broken Blade excels in presenting these smaller details along with Rygart’s journey as a pilot and his determination in saving Sigyn, Hodr and Zess from a complex war that none want to be a part of. Altogether, Despite its age, Broken Blade is something that I can recommend to viewers who are fans of mecha series with a fantasy piece to it: Broken Blade represents an engaging journey that I certainly enjoyed, being a series with engaging world-building and characters, exceptional visuals and riveting combat sequences.