The Infinite Zenith

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

Maidens in a Pinch!- High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) Episode Four Impressions and Review

“Visionaries…psychiatric wards are full of them.” — James Bond, Spectre

With basic provisions nearing depletion, Akeno decides to stop in a nearby shopping area to resupply, while back on the Harekaze, one Shima Tateishi opens fire on vessels that have surrounded them while under the influence of an unknown element. Wilhelmina manages to stop Shima’s rampage and it turns out the vessels belong to the Safety Oversight Office. By this point in time, the mystery only deepens as more is revealed; Principal Munetani reveals that the brass are also quite uncertain as to what’s happening, and Shima’s actions coincide with the appearance of an unusual rodent that was picked up while some of the Harekaze’s crew are scavenging supplies floating on the ocean surface. The precise mechanism of what causes crews to behave strangely, then, can now be attributed to the presence of these rodents, handily discarding the Call of Duty: Black Ops theory I posited previously. In time, I might grow to accept that this mechanism might be more similar to the Flood of Halo, and the unusual box that this rodent was retrieved from is labelled Abyss, which is only a short Hamming Distance from Kantai Collection‘s Abyssals. Of course, common discussion now deals predominantly with these developments, and Hai-Furi continues to keep its audiences guessing: in this fourth episode, Akeno is seemingly apprehended, only for it to turn out that she met with allied forces. Similarly, Shima’s condition after coming into contact with the rodent yields some new insight into what might be behind all of the unusual incidents.

For the fourth episode, there are no naval engagements rivaling the scope of those seen in earlier episodes, and instead, the episode’s surprise comes in the form of Shima’s unexpected actions and feats. An unusually high aggression, disregard for personal safety and acquisition of supernatural strength might be indicative of a neurological transformation: Shima’s conditions dismiss the earlier speculation about the undead, and when exposed to salt water, the effects wear off. This is about the extent of what is known, and it is relatively easy to correlate that to the appearance of the rodent on the Harekaze. Given its effects, and the luminescence that the affected individual’s eyes take while under the influence, it might be the case that this rodent is a synthetic life-form that triggers aggression in exposed individuals. The implications are that these individuals might engage one another in combat and eliminate one another, in turn allowing a hitherto unidentified faction (presumably, those who created these life forms) to capitalise on the chaos for their own ends and possibly supplant the Blue Mermaids. However, given that Hai-Furi has been quite careful to only reveal what’s necessary, my thoughts remain merely as speculation, and so, Hai-Furi takes on a new dimension, as it encourages individuals to consider how closely their predictions align with what ends up occurring.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hai-Furi is beginning to play out similar to Matt Groening’s The Simpsons and Futurama in that the episode’s starting moments act as a suitable catalyst for what occurs within the episode itself. Both Futurama and The Simpsons feature well-written episodes that can be amusing or moving depending on its story, and to say that Hai-Furi reminds me of the narrative devices that Matt Groening has employed to great effect is to say that Hai-Furi has been worthwhile so far.

  • As Wilhelmina grows increasingly frustrated after the others tease her, I’ll remark that the page quote comes from Spectre and is related to the borderline all-consuming discussions occurring elsewhere about Hai-Furi. Granted, this anime does have Suzuki Takaaki and Yoshida Reiko on board, leading fans to hold (perhaps unrealistically) high expectations, but to pick apart every detail and bemoan inaccuracy in a work of fiction is excessive.

  • Back in Hai-Furi, Akeno decides to visit the nearest store and resupply with the limited funds they do have. Continuing from the earlier point, a series of tweets from (someone who appears to be) Takaaki reinforces the notion that Hai-Furi need not be regarded with the same severity as any of Tom Clancy’s novels. In the first of the tweets, he claims that in Hai-Furi, heavier-than-air vehicles were never developed and so, there was no further incentive to investigate them. The question has been asked about what would have happened had the Wright brothers not succeeded at Kitty Hawk in 1903, and the broad consensus is that someone else would have figured out heavier-than-air-flight.

  • The ocean-borne structure appears to have been engineered for oceanic conditions, and here, Akeno and the others finally approach the shopping facility. The second tweet corroborates that methane hydrate mining succeeded much earlier and allowed Japan to sit WWII out, but also claims that the lack of aircraft resulted in a lack of anti-air weapons. However, dedicated anti-air weapons have been employed during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, where Gustav Krupp equipped a carriage with a modified 37 mm gun to shoot down French communications balloons.

  • Mashiro tries on Akeno’s hat here and smiles warmly before Kuro spots her, remarking that the former would’ve made a fine captain. The two overhear the engineering crew discuss Mashiro’s background as a member of the Munetani family and wonder why she was not assigned to the Musashi, leading Mashiro to feel disheartened. Continuing on my crusade about those tweets, I’ll skip the third (which talks reasonably about the modernised electronics suites on WWII-era training ships) and deal with the fourth, which claims that the lack of air travel left much of the world unexplored. This is false: much of the world’s explorers discovered new lands via ocean-faring vessels, and similarly, imperial powers during New Imperialism reached their colonies via ships. While inland travel would not be as efficient without aircraft, its absence certainly would not make it so difficult as to render a great deal of the world unexplored.

  • After catching the engineers and some of the other crew members on break, Wilhelmina steps in and orders everyone back to work, causing them to scatter. Mashiro’s story was that she somehow missed a question on the multiple-choice entrance exam and offset all of her answers by one, resulting in a poor grade. Her bad luck is supposed to be legendary, but how this will impact the future episodes (such as whether or not she’ll begin resenting Akeno’s captaincy) is something that will only be told with time.

  • The Flood of Halo were discovered in a similarly innocuous manner, although in Hai-Furi, the box is labelled “Abyss”: while it’s said to be a container for moving magazines around in, anyone who’s seen Kantai Collection would doubtlessly grow suspicious of the box’s contents. In Futurama, Leela finds a box of boots while fishing with the Planet Express crew, although their adventure is wackier and more focused on humour.

  • Akeno’s luck has been shown to be exceptionally good, as she wins a year’s supply of toilet paper here, more than enough to resupply the Harekaze. My prediction is that Akeno and Mashiro were assigned the positions that they were to help one another mature: Akeno would learn to be a more responsible captain under Mashiro’s influence, while Mashiro would learn that luck has less of a bearing than she presently believes. So, I hope that a rift between Akeno and Mashiro will not become a reality.

  • While carrying their supplies back, Blue Mermaids’ safety division capture Akeno. The dialogue gives the impression that she’s been arrested for her earlier actions, and the atmosphere certainly conveys such a feeling, but on closer inspection, the Blue Mermaid’s lack of weapons suggest that their actions are not what they appear to be.

  • Back on board the Harekaze, Isoroku exhibits a strong sense of protest when Shima picks it up: I previously remarked that the girls themselves have no relation to cats whatsoever, but Isoroku’s presence on board the Harekaze would be a blessing: cats naturally have an inclination to hunt and are highly effective for taking out rodents. As such, they have historically been welcomed on board ships for such a purpose, further acting as a companion for the sailors and even helping estimate weather conditions.

  • Shima picks the exhausted, unusual rodent while the Isoroku vehemently protests. I mentioned this earlier in the She and Her Cat: Everything Flows post, remarking that cats offer captured animals to people as a gesture of friendship; this suggests that Isoroku is particularly fond of Mashiro and is wanting to feel welcomed around her. Thus, when Shima takes the rodent, Isoroku’s reaction is equivalent to saying “that ain’t yours, pal”.

  • Lacking any other information, it would appear that coming into contact with the rodent is the direct cause of Shima’s unusual behaviours. After learning that they are surrounded by unknowns, she physically blows several of the crew away, she escapes the bridge and locates a deck gun, firing wildly until its ammunition is depleted. Wilhelmina bodily throws her overboard, and while in the water, Shima suddenly comes to, before an unidentified force propels her back on board the Harekaze.

  • What happened defies all conventional understanding, but nonetheless, Wilhemina expresses relief that Shima is safe. At this time, Akeno and the others are back, escorted by members of the Blue Mermaid’s safety office. The Harekaze’s crew is informed that they will be resupplied, and a glance at the vessel’s International maritime signal (IMS) flags probably is intended to indicate thus. I cannot readily identify the first flag, but the second flag, x-ray, denotes “stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals”, and the third flag, india, denotes “I am altering my course to port”.

  • Akeno introduces Hiraga to the others, and Mashiro learns that her sister had given the orders for them to make contact with the Harekaze, having learned of their situation. From their resulting discussions, it seems that command is divided on the Harekaze’s situation, but for the time being, it is reassuring to learn that there are folks in Akeno’s corner.

  • This post comes out significantly later than it normally did, because today was no ordinary Saturday: my university has passed its fifty-year anniversary, massive celebrations were held yesterday and today. The lab I work in was invited to give exhibitions and presentations on our projects as part of showcasing how far the university’s come in the past half-century. Presentations yesterday evening were a bit more muted, and I found the time to enjoy a potato martini in between the small groups who took interest in our research.

  • Conversely, today was busy: although we only had a two hour time slot for presenting our work, the session was packed with excited visitors looking to see the Giant Walkthrough Brain in action, as well as the research that our lab is generally involved in. The demographics ranged from alumni to children, and everyone was blown away by seeing the Giant Walkthrough Brain in a VR environment. Some alumni said that it was amazing that things have come so far in fifty years, and I replied that things will continue to get even better by the time I attend the university’s 100th anniversary.

  • It seems that cats grace the other ships, and Mashiro recoils in horror, running off with a pair of cats chasing her. This fear is presently utilised for comedic purposes, but it would be quite cool if Mashiro’s fear of cats has some sort of significance to the story overall.

  • Back in the infirmary, the rodent is being scrutinised after placed back into its enclosure. Elsewhere, discussions have flared: like Girls und Panzer, discussions have become quite heated regarding various elements in Hai-Furi, ranging from whether or not Moeka has created an emotional connection to the audience (in my opinion, limited, since we’ve not seen her full situation since episode two), how viable rocket technology is in their universe (it should be functional, but nowhere near as sophisticated as Cold War-era missiles, given that the Chinese have been using rockets, albeit of low reliability, since the 13th century) or whether or not it was fair to paint Hai-Furi as a slice of life in pre-season advertisements to conceal its true nature (unexpected, welcomed, but better damn well deliver).

  • My stances are simple, direct and concise simply because I don’t hold my entertainment to the same standard as I do my work and research. It is of my opinion that people should treat entertainment with much less rigour, given that the intent of most entertainment is in fact to help people relax. Getting one’s blood pressure up because others disagree with a position over an anime (and an anime about military-moé, at that) does not seem to be a good pastime, although that is merely my opinion (if people enjoy doing that, then I’ve no right to stop them).

  • In the absence of additional intel, Hai-Furi continues to hint that something is amiss with the Musashi and Moeka. With the fourth episode at a close, very brief hints are given towards the overall situation the Harekaze and Blue Mermaids find themselves in; it’s been a thrilling episode even without any naval combat. At the time of writing, I’m now one mission from finishing off Sniper Elite V2, so one of the upcoming posts this week will that. Further to this, I will be writing about Flying Witch after three episodes; it’s proven to be a cleverly crafted slice-of-life anime with subtle supernatural elements and a calming atmosphere not unlike that of Non Non Biyori.

I’ve heard unverified claims that episode five will be delayed owing to Golden Week, while other sources claim that Hai-Furi has run into production problems similar to Girls und Panzer. While that will make the wait a considerable one (the fourth episode concludes with grim imagery of the Musashi sailing through heavy fog), the respite will also be quite welcomed should this turn out to be true. Hai-Furi has proven to successfully keep its viewers on edge with each passing episode, and the fourth episode shows that the writers have largely accounted for how they will keep the narrative flowing without forcing each episode into a predictable pattern. This fourth episode of Hai-Furi manages to surprise in different ways that could not have been readily predicted, and ultimately, because of how stochastic Hai-Furi has been with its developments, each episode manages to continue holding the viewer’s attention so far. This is an anime that has presented itself to be far removed from the conventional moé genre, and stepping out from the framework of Girls und Panzer: unlike the former, stakes are a real factor in Hai-Furi, and because it will be interesting to simply see where all of this goes, I have reached my conclusion: Hai-Furi is meritorious of the episodic review pattern. If it turns out to be true that the fifth episode will be delayed, I will be quite grateful; there is a TEDx talk that I will be taking part in next week, and consequently, will be losing most of my Saturday as a result. Should the episode release as per its stipulated schedule, I will write the review on Sunday.

Star Rain, Travelling and the Laval Virtual Conference: A Personal Reflection

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” —Danny Kaye

It’s been about a month since I came back from the conference in France, and this month has been remarkably chaotic. In fact, earlier this week, I was helping give a virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) demonstration to medical school students during a discussion of whether or not VR and AR could be helpful for simulating medical procedures and techniques, as well as providing a new means of visualising concepts relevant to human medicine. The response was quite positive, and the discussions suggest that such technologies would be welcomed in what is a very conservative field. VR and AR forms a small section of my research, and last month, this was what the conference’s primary topic was. It was my first time attending and presenting at an academic conference, and it was my first time in Europe, so this trip was quite thrilling in that sense.

I left on March 21 and arrived in Amsterdam moments after the unfortunate event in Brussels, where terror groups bombed the Brussels airport and train station. While this did not impact my schedule (my flight to Paris was delayed because of a technical problem with the aircraft), it was quite frightening to know that such horrific things had happened nearby. I was travelling with a colleague, and the delay led us to miss our flight to Rennes. The original plan was to take the train in Rennes to Laval, where the conference was held, but as the next flight took off at nine in the evening, this no longer felt viable. It was here I learned one of the joys of Europe: things are relatively close to one another, and so, it was a matter of taking the train from Paris. After a lengthy shuttle bus ride through the streets of Paris, we arrived at Paris Saint Lazare station and, after purchasing tickets, made it onto the train with minutes to spare. We thus sped off towards Laval and arrived late in the evening. The conference began the next day, but since my colleague and I arrived early at the venue, we had a bit of time to wander around Laval’s old town. On the first day, I sat through numerous, exciting presentations about the applications of VR and AR. On the second day, the morning was devoted to presentations (this was my first-ever presentations overseas), and the remainder of the day was devoted to workshops on the future of VR and AR technologies. On the final day, my colleague and I perused the numerous exhibitions being held in an adjacent building. Here, I had the chance to play with the HTC Vive and speak with the developers of a powerful cross-platform VR tool we’ve been using to power our CAVE. Although I fell ill on the final night in Laval, the flight back home was largely uneventful, and I returned a little more enlightened about perspectives on VR and AR. As well, I now have some stories of my own to tell.

  • A large number of the photographs in this post were taken on the morning of the first day in Laval before the conference’s opening ceremony was slated to start. It was a morning of brilliant blue skies, and we arrived an hour and a half too early, having taken a bus to get from our hotel to the conference venue, located near Laval’s old town. Walking between the hotel and the conference venue would have taken around 50 minutes.

  • So, my colleague and I climbed the hill and found ourselves at a platform overlooking Laval. The weather on the first day was exceptionally nice, and I captured this cityscape overlooking the Mayenne River. The conference itself consisted largely of keynote speakers and presentations throughout the day. Among the speakers were one of the CAVE’s co-developers, a researcher who is applying VR towards helping patient rehabilitation, and the front-runners of the light field technology.

  • Thus begins my desecration of some of the photographs I took: a handful of the images are embellished with GochiUsa vectors because of some of the timber-framed buildings present in Laval’s old town: the city was founded in the 11th century and developed a significant textiles industry. So, while it lacks the same tenor as Colmar, which forms the inspiration for GochiUsa‘s town, I was reminded of GochiUsa whenever I passed through this area.

  • The conference’s second day was dedicated towards workshop sections: my presentation generated a fair bit of interest, and some of the audience wondered whether or not I was a biologist. My answer is that I am a computer scientist with a solid background in health and biology, which accounts for why I can read both computer science and biology/medicine papers without missing a beat. Once the presentations ended, the remainder of the day was devoted towards workshops where we speculated on the future of VR and AR. The second night ended with the Laval Virtual awards.

  • One of the most interesting experiences I had while travelling around France, outside of the conference, was speaking with the locals. I was immersed in a country where I had no experience with the language beyond the basics. This was a humbling experience: previous to this, my travels remained either in North America or China (so there was not a language barrier), and communications always just worked, serving as a reminder just how diverse language and cultures are. It was quite rewarding when basics, coupled with hand gestures eventually allowed us to understand one another.

  • On the last day of the conference, after the morning presentations, my colleague and I visited the exhibitions hall and played around with some of the latest VR stuff, before meeting up with some folks we met at the conference. We stopped at the Chez Martine bar in old town Laval for a drink (I’m a teetotaler, so I just ordered an orange juice) and the conversation was about all topics, eventually reaching Sword Art Online even. The afternoon soon turned into evening, and so, we prepared to make our way back to our hotel.

  • The walk along the Mayenne river was remarkably pleasant, and there was sunshine on the first day. The second day was cold and rainy, and while the sun returned on day three, it became miserable again during our final day, when we traveled to Rennes and spent the night. At this point, I was quite weak, so rather than explore Rennes, I rested through most of the day. We woke up at around four in the morning and made our way to the Saint Jacques airport.

  • Laval’s castle can be seen in the background of this here image; the keep walls here were constructed in the 13th century and was much larger than its present structure: several expansions were made during its history, and today, it’s a museum. I can’t believe how quickly a month has elapsed since the conference. During this past month, I was involved in numerous presentations, where we showcased our research to a very diverse audience, well beyond the usual University staff and students. The most important of these presentations happened early in April, and I was most thankful that I’d recovered by then.

  • That’s pretty much it for this post, and April’s rapidly drawing to a close. Besides this week’s episode of Hai-Furi, I will be dropping by to write about Sniper Elite V2, and also, another reflection on Valkyria Chronicles at some point in the near future. Today, I also picked up Alien Isolation on a Steam Sale that saw the game going for 75% off, and I’ll begin playing through that once I beat Sniper Elite V2.

Overall, Laval Virtual was a fantastic experience primarily because it was my first-ever conference and first time in Europe: the conference itself was quite good, and offered a chance to converse about VR and AR in the absence of things like Sword Art Online. Jokes aside, it was also inspiring to see the applications of such technologies. Besides having an opportunity to present some of my research and learn about what developments there are in VR and AR, this trip also reminded me of an item on my so-called bucket list that I had intended scratch off. On a cold February morning two years ago, I watched the seventh episode of SoniAni in the hour before a physics lab and realised that during my undergraduate degree, I never really had the chance to travel on my own. I thus resolved to travel a little more, even simply to locations in my city. Two years after that article was written, it seems that I’ve completed that goal and then some. It’s quite understandable that people consider travel a liberating experience, even when in my case, I was in Laval for a purpose beyond sightseeing. With this experience under my belt, I set my sights on the Yucatán Peninsula, where my next conference will be in a few months: the second of my conference papers was accepted, and the white sand beaches will offer yet another exciting locale to visit. With that being said, I look equally forwards to the shorter excursions to the mountains closer to home, and various food spots around the city, as well. Things have become quite different since that cold February morning, and as things continue to move forwards, I’ll be ever-mindful of the importance of maintaining a good work-life balance.

In a Pinch In Pyjamas!- High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) Impressions and Review After Three

“This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.” —Admiral Josh Painter, The Hunt for Red October

Back at headquarters, Principal Munetani decides to recall all vessels back to their school and determines what’s behind the rash of unusual incidences. Back out at seas, Akeno learns that that the Musashi has also been implicated in an alleged mutiny and worries about Moeka. Shortly after turning in, she finds the Harekaze under torpedo attack from an I-201 submarine. Now awakened, the German girl they’d rescued earlier assists Akeno in fending off the I-201, and introduces herself as Wilhelmina Braunschweig Ingelner Friedeburg. Principal Munetani relays her orders for each vessel to return to their school, and Wilhelmina becomes roommates with Mashiro, much to the latter’s mortification. Much of the episode is dedicated towards depicting the exchange between the unidentified I-201 and the Harekaze, although limited world building is present to establish that males are submariners in this world. After three episodes, Hai-Furi has fallen into a familiar pattern where Akeno and the Harekaze engage an unknown enemy en route to a destination, and despite the vessel’s limited resources, nonetheless manage to escape narrowly. Harrowing and entertaining this is, one can imagine that Hai-Furi will likely lose its audience if this pattern persists. At present, there are no previews, so what the following episode entails will remain to be seen. However, given that this episode does not end on a cliffhanger, it’s reasonable to suppose that the Harekaze and possibly Musahi will safely return to their school, where more about their situation will be presented.

While this third episode skates over Moeka and the Musashi’s status, the dialogues between Principal Munetani and other officers aid in clearing up some of the situation: there is not a large-scale conspiracy against Harekaze specifically. Similarly, Wilhelmina shares with Akeno the fact that the electronics suite on the Admiral Graf Spee malfunctioned in conjunction with the others refusing orders. These two elements suggest that a hitherto unknown faction has placed a large number of sleeper agents on board the different ships to sabotage the Blue Mermaids programme. Sleeper agents, or deep cover agents, are individuals who have successfully infiltrated and integrated with their target and do not communicate with their handlers. However, fiction is fond of depicting sleeper agents as being individuals who’ve been programmed to carry out reconnaissance or sabotage on behalf of another actor and moreover, are “activated” by stimuli such as a specific image or number string. The usage in Hai-Furi would probably imply the latter, since Wilhelmina says that something altered the crew. Wilhelmina herself remains unaffected, and given the close-quarters on a ship, it should be apparent that whatever this something was, it most certainly was not biological in nature (otherwise, she would have been affected, as well). Brainwashing or mental programming, similar to what is seen in Call of Duty: Black Ops, appears to be a more realistic option; it is possible that numerous individuals have infiltrated the different student and instructor vessels, then were activated by a radio transmission or a numbers station. Given the number of fictional works I’ve seen using this mechanism, it’s likely that an organisation is intending to destroy the Blue Mermaids training program, and while their motivations are not known yet, I imagine that what has been seen so far is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Another week means another discussion with twenty images and the works. Opening with Principal Munetani speaking to other officers, this short meeting clarifies that not everyone is against the Harekaze, in turn implying that there’s probably another faction behind-the-scenes. On the massive display behind her, the vessels in green appear to be in communications range, while the red ones are out of range. Because identifying each ship adds nothing to the discussion whatsoever, I’ll skip that.

  • The confrontation with the Admiral Graf Spee led to damage throughout the ship, and some of the crew have begun to repair one of the main guns on the Harekaze, pausing to enjoy a short dinner under sunset. Akeno resolves to return to the nearest port as quickly as possible to figure out how to extricate themselves from their current situation. I’m noticing that discussions elsewhere have been very lively, with some individuals even forgoing sleep to add their two cents into things; this shows that Hai-Furi provides plenty of material to talk about, but it could also suggest that some individuals have a markedly different set of priorities if they’re willing to be up at 3 AM for an anime😛

  • Back on the bridge, Kouko reports that besides their guns, one of the engines requires repairs. Until then, the Harekaze can only travel at cruising speed. The previous episode portrayed the engine room crew as being quite unfriendly towards Akeno, but this largely stems from the fact that Akeno’s been pushing the Harekaze’s engines to their limits and risking damage to them (in turn, resulting in more work for the engine room crew).

  • As night falls, the bridge crew read an update that throws their original plans out the window: ports are now closed to any student vessels, and further to this, vessels are to be sunk if they display any sort of resistance. This whole situation reminds me of Tom Clancy’s Locked On, where John Clark goes on the run after the Keatly administration mark him as a wanted man to damage Jack Ryan Senior’s chances in the presidential election. Ryan eventually wins the election and orders the manhunt to be called off, but not before Clark has his right hand shattered by a rogue SVR element.

  • If something similar happened in Hai-Furi, it would not be difficult to imagine the community going up in arms over the unexpected twist. Some have expressed a belief that casualties and even death could result in Hai-Furi, and while the third episode suggests that for all of the perils the Harekaze’s crew finds themselves in, any serious injuries or death could be unlikely. However, such a mindset could double the surprise factor should something really happen, so rather than speculate further, I’ll simply watch the episodes and take events in stride as they occur.

  • Mashiro’s Shizuka Hattori tendencies come out full force — she reprimands Akeno for not sleeping and sends her off to rest. Still quite worried about Moeka, Akeno finds it difficult to sleep and eventually nods off, only to be awakened by a warning that a submarine has been detected in their vicinity. Apparently, male students are submarine crews, and one of the girls remark that the cramped spaces of a submarine are uncomfortable.

  • Awakened by the news, Mashiro climbs to the deck with one of her stuffed animals in hand (IKEA’s BLÅHAJ, for anyone interested, which retails for 20 CAD), before coming to the realisation that she had done so and growing quite embarrassed in the process. Mashiro’s characterisation as a stern figure with a penchant for cute things is not a novel one: Azumanga Daioh‘s Sakaki is one of the most notable examples where, despite her cold appearance, her actual interests are in all things cute.

  • After three episodes, I’m still struggling to remember all of the characters’ names. Here, Mei demonstrates an uncommon enthusiasm for opening fire first and asking questions later, but strictly speaking, this would be a violation of the Rules of Engagement (ROE). Some nations have their own ROE, but NATO nations follow the NATO ROE Manual MC 362-1, and during operations, ROE cards are issued to all operatives. A sample ROE gives the following, that “…forces will protect themselves from threats of death or serious bodily harm. Deadly force may be used to defend your life, the life of another US soldier, or the life of persons in areas under US control. You are authorized to use deadly force in self-defense when…you are fired upon.” (ROE for Operation Restore Hope, Section 2.1.1). Under their circumstances, the Harekaze cannot fire first.

  • With incoming torpedoes from the I-201, Akeno orders the Harekaze to take evasive maneuvers to avoid the torpedoes. With a maximum underwater speed of 19 knots (35 km/h, and not the 20 knots stated in Hai-Furi) when submerged, the I-201 class were one of the fastest WWII-era submarines. Armed with ten Type 95 torpedoes, the I-201 would have been quite formidable, but the situation in WWII for Japan meant that only three submarines were completed, and none of these saw actual combat operations.

  • Wilhelmina’s reaction to the near-misses from enemy torpedo fire is quite different than that of Bender’s “Hey! Keep it down, you kids! I’m trying to take a nap!” from Futurama: she promptly gives instructions to the bridge crew and then states her specialisation in anti-submarine warfare, but also is befuddled at the lack of common sense from the Harekaze, who’s been running under normal lighting conditions the entire time.

  • With the basics rectified, Wilhelmina orders the crew to mount a counterattack, but is frustrated to tears upon learning that the Harekaze is depleted on anti-submarine weapons. Akeno decides to use the paravane: these devices were originally designed to destroy mines, but later, were fitted with explosives for anti-submarine combat. The one on the Harekaze is inert, but manages to tangle up the I-201.

  • Akeno gives the order to fire as more torpedoes close in, and although the frame isn’t exactly clear, it appears that this broadside succeeds in stopping the torpedoes in their tracks. Lacking anti-torpedo measures (such as the torpedo belt, which is intended to absorb the explosive energy and lessen damage), the Harekaze is forced to get creative in evading torpedoes. Modern-era vessels have a variety of guidance-jamming measures to interfere with torpedo electronics, and the US Navy has experimented with anti-torpedo torpedoes as defensive mechanisms.

  • The biggest point of contention for the third episode is whether or not a depth charge exploding that close to the submarine would be sufficient to sink it. Because the kill radius of an average depth charge is roughly three to four meters, and a bit of computation using this image found the detonation was roughly 9.81 meters away from the submarine (well within range of disabling it and forcing it to surface), it’s easy to conclude that nothing unreasonable has occurred here. With this problem solved, one might then wonder how Akeno was able to time the detonation that precisely to prevent any fatalities on board the submarine, and this can be chalked up to luck for the present.

  • Having forced the submarine to surface, Mashiro orders the Harekaze to leave the combat zone. After three episodes, it should be quite clear that anything resembling a love story or cats simply won’t come to fruition in Hai-Furi. This is an anime that has defied expectations and convention, so even those armed with an extensive knowledge of Japanese literature and language will probably not be able to effectively predict how the characters’ names will drive the narrative.

  • Back in the communications room, a member of the radio team picks up transmissions that a ship has been dispatched to recover the I-201. The page quote is taken from The Hunt for Red October, and mirrors my predictions on where Hai-Furi will go next. I’ve caught wind that Hai-Furi was inspired somewhat by the film, which was critically acclaimed.

  • Throughout the night combat sequences, the surface of the ocean is aglow. This is not an error in animation, as the lights are caused by the bioluminescent phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates: these organisms produce light becuase they have special protein channels in their membranes that only allow for protons to move across; movement in the surrounding water sends electrical impulses that open the voltage-sensitive channels, allows for chemical reactions to occur that activate the protein luciferase, producing light.

  • Apparently, salted cocoa is a Blue Mermaid specialty, and Akeno reacts to the unusual combination after Minami Kaburagi, the ship’s medical officer, offers her a mug. Directly salting a drink in this manner is more than unusual-tasting; drinking extensive amounts of salty beverages would cause the renal system to try and remove the excess salt via urination, resulting in dehydration. I therefore imagine that the salted cocoa is either only drunk on some occasions, or else, Minami is merely teasing Akeno.

  • Akeno’s conversation with Wilhelmina offers a bit more insight into what’s been going on in Hai-Furi, and together with Principal Munetani’s words, suggests that a very well-organised effort is probably present to sabotage the girls’ schooling. If this holds true, it beats undead activity any day of the week. Wilhelmina is a deputy captain, and was instructed to care for the Admiral Graf Spee’s captain’s hat. Akeno resolves to help her out to the best of her ability, and this could form the basis for one of the sub-plots. Conversely, if it were a core component, it would presumably feel like Half Life 2 Episode Two‘s “Little Rocketman” challenge and add a bit of complexity to things.

  • It’s not often that Mashiro smiles, but here, she does just (the frame resembles one of Chino smiling in GochiUsa) that after learning that their orders are now to return to their school so things can be sorted out. Quite honestly, I’m hoping this will be a smooth voyage, since the Harekaze is dangerously low on munitions. Because the episode does not end on a cliffhanger, I’m hoping it is here that Hai-Furi will break out of its pattern so far and advance the narrative further.

  • Mashiro is utterly embarrassed that everyone now knows about her vast stuffed animal collection, but Wilhelmina does not seem to mind, and the episode closes off here. Having passed the three-episode mark, Hai-Furi survives the three-episode test: the sum of its parts is an anime that stands head-and-shoulders above Kantai Collection, and I imagine that if there was a naval anime to get people fired up about World of Warships, this would be it. So, I definitely will continue watching this one.

The possibility of a moé anime with a Tom Clancy-style narrative is admittedly an exciting one, but might also be a double-edged sword. The advantages of taking Hai-Furi to this level is that it provides a unique combination of rigour and relaxation — between the battles that draw inspiration from real-world strategy and depictions of everyday life on board a destroyer for high school girls, Hai-Furi adds the moé charm to naval warfare that would be absent were the work to be penned by a North American author. Anime has always excelled at incorporating moé with decidedly more serious constructs, and is perhaps one of the few medium where such a combination could be viable. However, one would then wonder whether or not it’s the moé or the military aspects that is carrying Hai-Furi. Similarly, if this anime were not moé and featured characters resembling those of the Universal Century, would it still capture people’s interests? From a personal perspective, Hai-Furi caught my eye for the moé but continues to hold my interest for the execution, so it’s quite possible that without moé, while Hai-Furi could stand on its own merits, it might have not pulled in and surprised the audience as effectively as it did. So, after three episodes, it would appear that there remains much to explore and discuss about Hai-Furi, and so far, with things looking quite interesting, I am inclined to continue with the episodic posting pattern, since it’s likely that each episode could bring something new to the table for consideration. I’ll make the final decision as to whether or not I’ll move forward with an episodic review pattern next week.

That Warm Goodbye: Aria the Avvenire OVA Episode Two Review and Reflection

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” —Albert Einstein

After Ai recounts a story to Akari, where she had experienced a miracle of sorts while practising her craft as an undine: she catches a glimpse of the elusive Cait Sith, Aqua’s spiritual guardian who takes the form of a large cat. While trying to follow Cait Sith, she runs into Azusa B. McLaren and Anya Dostoyevskaya, two Single undine working for Himeya company and Orange Planet, respectively. These turns of events bring everyone together, and although they are unsuccessful in finding Cait Sith, they do become friends with one another. This reminds Akari of her own story, where she’d become disheartened to learn that after reaching a certain age, she’d no longer be able to see Cait Sith. While walking with Aika S. Granzchesta and Alice Carroll, they’d come across the Unfortunate Stone. Not convinced about its implications, Akari steps on it and is propelled into the skies above Neo-Venezia, where she shares a conversation with Cait Sith and learns that even if she never sees him, he’ll endure in her heart. Aria The Avvenire thus continues in the pattern of its predecessor, presenting a very straightforward but moving story about life in Neo-Venezia and bringing to bear the notion that miracles can take both small and large forms, whether its as familiar as making new friends or exciting as meeting Neo-Venezia’s guardian spirit one final time.

Consequently, it would appear that the general theme surrounding Aria the Avvenire is that miracles are not always exceptional events that follow the power law; instead, miracles are a matter of perspective and appreciation. This is seen in Ai’s story: pursuit of a mysterious shadow she believed to be the Cait Sith led her to make new friends and contributes to her development as an undine. Aria the Avvenire had previously brought Akira, Alicia and Athena together because Akari had decided to give Akria a ride around the canals, and this episode continues conveying that message, showing that some things can only be attributable to fate itself, happening for a reason. These events are meant to show that Aqua is a marvellous and mysterious place, and that the laid-back atmosphere in and around Neo-Venezia offer individuals a respite to appreciate the things in life that are often overlooked. Conversely, the episode’s second half, is not subtle about the notion of miracles: while contemplating their continued advancement as undines, Akari, Akia and Alice realise that they’ll have to become adults, which entails losing their children’s innocence (and correspondingly, their ability to see the Cait Sith). However, Akari’s not quite ready to move on yet, and later, while stepping on the Unfortunate Stone, through something that truly can be considered a miracle, her wish is granted. She’s left with a momento: a glittering necklace that Akari believes is a tangible representation of miracles: they’re fleeting, beautiful but also common if one takes the time to appreciate them.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been a little more than a month and a half since I last did an Aria post, and last time, I noted that I would make an effort to try and actually get started, but shortly after I wrote that post, I switched gears and began working on my term project, an agent-based model of filament dynamics in the cell. This project is intended to require at least two months, but because the end of March would see me attend a conference, I resolved to finish everything I had outlined in my proposal before leaving.

  • So, all of my anime-watching went out the door, and when I got back, it was the cusp of the spring season; several shows have caught my interest, and on top of that, I’ve gotten requests to watch Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, as well. Between this and the third conference paper (which was submitted a few days ago), plus participation in multiple presentations of our lab’s research to important people, it’s actually a small miracle that I watched anime at all. Back in Aria, Ai rushes to tell Akari about a miracle she’d experienced earlier that day.

  • While practising her technique on the Neo-Venezian canals, Ai encounters other townsmen and bids them good morning. Here, the water effects can be discerned and as with the first OVA, are of a high quality: there’s world reflections and surface reflections. However, what’s more impressive is that these effects are present (albeit at a lower setting) in the older episodes: while it’s the difference between medium and ultra, that the older episodes show an effort to bring Neo-Venezia to life is a solid indicator that Aria was carefully made.

  • After noticing a shadow in an alley, Ai goes off-mission to chase it, acting as a segue into the opening song. Seamlessly weaved into the narrative, I immediately look a liking to the opening song, and curiously enough, because the ending song, “Piacere”, was performed by Shiena Nishizawa, it was bundled in with the Gakusen Toshi Asterisk opening song album. I’ve not seen any other intel on the other pieces of music in the OVA.

  • Ai’s pursuit leads her into the quieter corners of Neo-Venezia: as of late, I’ve been watching my way through Sora no Woto again, and this courtyard reminds me of the general atmosphere around Seize outside of the water-splashing festival. I watched Sora no Woto during the summer of 2011, and in the five years that have passed, have watched numerous anime. That Sora no Woto still stands out attests to the strength of its world-building.

  • Eventually, Ai reaches a small garden of sorts, where she encounters Azusa (red hair) and Anya (white hair); the pair are looking for a cat to make president of their company, and when Ai remarks that she’s searching for Cait Sith here, the two decide to join her. Azusa’s quite enthusiastic and remarks that they had previously checked out Ai’s background; Anya decides that if Ai is unusual, she should be exiled to Siberia. Armed with my incredibly vast knowledge of the Soviet Union, the gulag in the Kolyma and Magadan region come to mind, an environment that is the polar opposite of that seen in Aria.

  • Thus begins the girls’ search for Cait Sith here, allowing for some of the beautiful cityscapes around Neo-Venezia to be showcased in all of their glory. Neo-Venezia is said to be a complete transplant, brick-by-brick, of Italy’s Venice. According to NASA, it costs an average of 25000 USD to move one kilogram of stuff into Geostationary Transfer Orbit, and pushing anything into Geostationary Orbit is roughly double that. Numbers aren’t my strong suit, but using a Fermi approximation, it should become clear that at present, transporting that much stuff to Mars would be prohibitively expensive given contemporary technologies.

  • However, Aria is fiction; since they’ve already succeeded in terraforming Mars and maintaining a stable biosphere, it’s easy to say that engineering and technology has progressed to accommodate economic space travel. After an exhaustive search, Ai, Azusa and Anya find themselves spent, wondering what their next move will be.

  • A break is on order, and the girls sip drinks in St. Mark’s square near St. Mark’s Campanile, a 98.6-meter (323 feet) tall bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica: the original tower was built in the twelfth century  but suffered several lightning strikes and fires between the 1300s and 1600s. The tower presently seen was fully restored in 1912, nearly a millennium after the original foundations were laid.

  • My oral exam yesterday marks the end of all my exams: because of the number of students in my class, exams were made to be twenty minutes long, and I was tested on cellular automata, Wolfram’s rules for CA, evolutionary strategies (such as the difference between (μ + λ)-ES and (μ, λ)-ES) and particle swarm optimisations. I had been so focused on my conference publication that studying became somewhat deprioritised, forgetting during the exam about how the rule numbers are derived off the sum of final states in a 1D Ca (and so, can be used to predict how a system might behave) and that a PSO would also use the position of the current global optima (i.e. the particle with the best fitness at the current time step) in computing the velocity vectors for other particles.

  • Fortunately, the other concepts were still fresh in my mind and so, I was able to adequately discuss them: the exam ended much more quickly than I thought. Today, I was in a meeting dealing with future directions and, after adding documentation for my term project, spent most of the day trying to figure out why my simulation won’t package into a standalone executable. It turns out some dependencies are missing, but upgrading all of my work from Unreal 4.8 to 4.11 should do the trick, as the latest versions of the dependencies have been improved. The food trucks were also on campus today, and so, I had the opportunity to get Wilk’s Booth’s pulled-pork poutine for lunch.

  • With no Makerspace supervision, I was able to enjoy this poutine at a much slower pace than I had when I watched YuruYuri Nachuyachumi! last term: the flavours are quite distinct, whether it’s the smokiness in the large chunks of pulled pork or the rich flavours imparted by the cheese curds and gravy, and it was a thrill to eat my way through a poutine that has quality and quantity. In fact, this poutine was large enough so that I had not finished more than a third of said poutine by the episode’s halfway mark, where Akari recalls her memories of Cat Sith during a particularly quiet afternoon. The episode’s second half deals with miracles of a much greater scale than the first half.

  • With Aika (left) and Alice (center), Akari decide to hunt for the Cait Sith themselves after learning that Akari wishes to see the spirit once more before she is unable to do so. They come across the Unfortunate Stone, an unusually large stone making up the sidewalk and observe a couple walking around it: when Aika mentions that it was real, I decided to look around, and her story checks out; on the street leading from Campo San Canzian to Campo Santa Maria Nova in Venice, there is indeed a stone inconspicuously blending in with the others. Venetians tend to walk around it, as well, although I haven’t dug deeply enough to learn what the origins of this superstition are.

  • Alice jumps onto the stone to show that nothing bad will happen, and I’m left to wonder what the remaining six wonders of Neo-Venezia are. I’ve never really been of the superstitious sort, since its basis for causality cannot be easily shown as having a positive correlation (i.e. for probabilities A and B, where 0 ≤ A ≤1 and 0 ≤ B ≤ 1, if B is positively correlated to A, then as A increases, so will B, and this is symmetric, so if B increases, so will A), or any sort of correlation to speak of, for that matter.

  • I’ll take a moment to include a cityscape shot of Neo-Venezia in absentia of people, showcasing the architecture near the city’s center. A lighter-than-air vessel is also seen: because Mars has a gravity 38 percent that of Earth’s, it would be much more economical to use lighter-than-air travel, as opposed to creating all of the infrastructure needed to accommodate heavier-than-air flight. Back in Hai-Furi, it’s explicitly mentioned that heavier-than-air travel doesn’t exist, which completely blows away their need for aircraft carriers.

  • I’ll talk about Hai-Furi next when the third episode comes out and return my attention to Aria, where Akari decides to step on the unfortunate stone for herself just to see what would happen. Shortly after stepping on it, the stone is activated and appears to be a portal through space and time itself: it sends her several klicks into the air, where she meets Cait Sith.

  • The Cait Sith (Cat Sith in Scottish Gaelic, translating to “Cat spirit”) is a faerie from Celic mythology, as large as a dog and characterised by a jet of white fur on its chest. While mythology paints it as a malevolent spirit who would steal the souls of deceased individuals, but in Aria, the Cait Sith is a well-dressed, friendly being who acts as a benevolent guardian of Neo-Venezia. In Scottish Gaelic, sith is a spirit or faerie, but thanks to Star Wars, most people are quicker to recognise “Sith” as a practitioner of the Dark Side of the Force.

  • As they fall through the skies, the Cait Sith reassures Akari that, while it’s inevitable that she’ll likely not see him again, what matters most is that he’ll continue to exist in her heart, and that’s what really counts. He gives her a physical token, a necklace with a dazzling blue stone, to remind her that he exists.  All of this is done without any dialogue from Cait Sith, showing how some symbols and ideas transcend spoken language.

  • Back in the present, Akari and Ai share a sunset together. With this episode over, there’s only one more OVA, and it’s set for release somewhere in June, so the next OVA I turn my eye to will be on the last of the Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashi~ OVAs: it’s been out since April 2, and I’ll probably get around to watching that once I finish helping grade iOS assignments.

  • While things have been incredibly busy for the past while, semester’s finally winding down. A majority of May will be focused on working on my thesis paper, and for this blog, it means that I should be able to occasionally drop by: up next will be posts on Hai-Furi and Flying Witch after three episodes. Both anime have excelled at capturing my attention in their own way, and it seems that I’m in agreement with a large number of viewers in finding enjoyment in these shows.

Having taken a look at the release schedules, it appears that Aria the Avvenire OVAs are being released with the Blu-Ray releases of Aria that commemorate the anime’s ten year anniversary. This means that there is an opportunity to go through one of the most widely acclaimed slice-of-life anime in high resolution and fully enjoy the atmosphere that Aria is meant to convey. With that being said, my situation has somewhat shifted since I posted the review to the first OVA, and I do not imagine it will be feasible for me to finish all of the Aria episodes before June. With that being said, I will nonetheless complete Aria; I’ve seen a great many slice-of-life anime, and in general, this is a genre that I’ve got no problems with. Slice-of-life anime with relaxing or comedic elements help me unwind, offsetting my usually busy days. This is why every season, I’ve always got at least one slice-of-life anime in my line-up. As far as Aria the Avvenire goes, I definitely enjoyed this episode, and will swing by to write about the third and final OVA once the opportunity presents itself.

Rainbow Six Siege: Reflections on Steam’s Free Weekend

“What’s the plan if the opposition just starts shooting out of hand?”
“Tell Louis, two flashbangs at the front door, four more inside, and we blow in like a tornado.”
—Eddie and Ding, Rainbow Six

I had originally planned to spend most of the weekend working on various things, among them reviewing for an imminent exam and conference paper deadline, but as it would happen, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege was placed on Steam’s Free Weekend programme, which allows anyone with a Steam account to try the game out between the stipulated hours. Having seen some of my favourite YouTubers play Rainbow Six Siege, I’ve always been interested to see what the game was about; Tom Clancy’s novels are known for detailing the minute details of the more interesting gear that characters use, and during firefights, his characters move tactically and cohesively. However, I also enter knowing that, because I lacked a microphone and any familiarity, I would spend my time in Rainbow Six Siege taking on the situations (single player tutorial-like missions) and lone wolf mode on Terrorist Hunt. These rounds proved to be quite entertaining in their own right, and I accumulated enough renown to unlock three attacking and three defending operators, reaching level six after some six hours of gameplay. The most enjoyable aspect adding to Rainbow Six Siege‘s atmosphere outside of the shooting mechanics (which allow players to shoot through walls and kill anyone with a single headshot) was the set design for the levels. Each map is quite detailed and feels like a genuine location for special operations, especially Presidential Plane and Kafe Dostoyevsky. These feel like settings straight out of a Tom Clancy novel and add an extra bit of charm to Rainbow Six Siege.

Rainbow Six Siege is designed as a cooperative game and intended to be played with others: while the situations were manageable and quite fun for introducing new players to the capabilities of different classes, lone wolf terrorist hunts were brutal and unforgiving. I never did manage to beat any of the terrorist hunt games I played: over half my deaths were due to the bombers, enemies who will suicide once they close in on players. Barring a steady aim and cool head, these enemies take a ridiculous amount of damage if hit in the chest and can one-shot players: they quickly became the bane of most of my matches. Despite using my drones to check where the enemies were, after clearing a room or hallway, I would peek a corner and then explode for seemingly no reason. The bomber’s unpredictability added quite the challenge to Rainbow Six Siege, and while this aspect of the game garners mixed reactions, it’s a realistic addition to the game in reminding players that as careful as they are, all it takes is one failed check or slip of the moment to lose the objective. This aspect predominantly applies to lone wolf style games, as teams can coordinate fire and keep track of hostiles more easily. However, the game mechanics are solid: even in single player, it’s immensely satisfying to land headshots or kill an enemy through the walls, and the numerous gadgets, in conjunction with map design and destruction, encourages players to play each operator to the fullest of their capacities to help their team secure victories.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Rainbow Six Siege is perhaps yet another indicator that my hardware is aging: because of limited video memory, I was only able to run the game on medium settings (with a few tweaks here and there), but the frame rates I get are quite high. This has been the case for recent games, and from the looks of it, my machine, nearing its three-year mark, won’t even be able to run DOOM on minimum settings.

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  • According to Ubisoft, the situations were designed for first-time players to become familiarised with the mechanics of Rainbow Six Siege in an environment where they could experiment with different setups and operators without worrying about being a hindrance to their teams. I’ve heard that Rainbow Six Siege players are generally friendlier than those in other communities.

  • The situations have additional objectives (such as using an operator-specific gadget a specified number of times, staying above 50 health and so on) that yield renown points when completed. Playing through just the situations, I gained enough renown to unlock several operators and weapon customisations. Here, I defend a defuser from terrorist attack in a bomb defusal situation: whereas the insertion into the building was completely tactical, after the defuser is set, waves upon waves of enemies appear.

  • The Presidential Plane is one of my favourite maps: despite the narrow, crowded spaces inside the plane, the map consists of three levels. Because Rainbow Six Siege lacks a minimap to denote where enemies are (either motion sensors as in Halo or spotting of Battlefield), players must instead rely on a combination of drones (or cameras for defenders) and communications amongst teammates to locate enemies.

  • Like Star Wars Battlefront or The Division, Rainbow Six Siege looks quite nice even on “just” medium settings. There might be nine terrorists left on the map, but here, I take a moment to look at sunbeams streaming through the aircraft windows. Besides its design, the Presidential Plane appeals to me because it reminds me of the Gulfstream G550, the Campus’ choice of aircraft for moving quickly around the world.

  • Unlike ordinary commercial aircraft, which maintain a cabin pressure of 2400 meters, the G550 maintains a cabin pressure of 1800 meters; this increases comfort and reduces jet lag. While I’m okay with long distance flights, the lower pressures do make them somewhat uncomfortable on my GI. During this situation, my G36C was equipped with the Trijicon reflex sight; I’m not a fan of the triangular dot, since it obscures the target more than any of the other optics.

  • The hostage extraction situations are somewhat tricky: while getting to the hostage usually isn’t a problem (here, I’m playing as Glaz, the resident sniper in Rainbow Six Siege), it’s the exfiltration that is difficult. Keeping one hand on the hostage means players will only have access to their sidearms, which makes getting to the extraction site challenging when there are terrorists with automatics.

  • The defense-type situations can be quite fun, requiring the player protect an asset from terrorists. While the usual reinforcement of doors with standard and steel barricades will slow down the terrorists, they’ll deploy explosives to get in. My preferred style for both defense situations was to use traps and barricades to fortify the room housing the asset, then proactively hunt down any attackers.

  • This situation was a particularly fun one: playing as IQ, I’m armed with the AUG A2 and an ACOG sight here. The ACOG is most useful for situations where players hang a ways back from the combat and can slowly pick off targets, and this map was filled with nitro cells, small explosives that are highly lethal to players. They’re most lethal when placed around corners; I died much more frequently to hidden cells, as the ones in plain sight can be destroyed harmlessly with a single shot from a primary or secondary weapon.

  • One of the things that generated quite a bit of discussion was the amount and colour of blood in Rainbow Six Siege, so I figured that no review could be complete without at least one screenshot of the ridiculous amount of blood that can result from the simple act of shooting an enemy. Besides the blood, and the hit-markers indicating a kill, the shooting in Rainbow Six Siege is highly tactile, and kills feel very rewarding.

  • Located near the banks of the Moskva River, with the Kremlin nearby, Kafe Dostoyevsky is a Russian map set during Christmas. There’s something enchanting about winter in Russia, and this map is able to capture that sense extremely well.

  • My favourite operator is probably Thermite: he’s got an armour and speed rating of two, making him very well-balanced for a wide range of missions. While Thermite comes equipped with the M1014 shotgun by default, I prefer the 556xi because of its general all-around versatility. The interior of Kafe Dostoyevsky is beautifully rendered, and definitely feels like a place where a SVR rezident could conduct espionage over ox cheek with watercress, bone marrow, and salsa as per Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector.

  • A true laser would be invisible under normal conditions, but this oversight is forgiven since this room is presumably quite dusty and because I’m running the game on medium settings, which means that any dust effects would probably not be rendered. Kapkan’s trip mines are improvised and can be easily destroyed or disabled, but are quite effective when used near an unbarricaded  entrance.

  • The 9x19SVN is a Russian submachine gun that fulfils a similar role to the MP5, dealing lower damage compared to rifles but compensating with a high mobility and rate of file. I’ve heard that the laser sight is one of the worst attachments to have in Rainbow Six Siege because it cannot be turned off, thereby giving away a player’s location in a game where stealth is paramount to victory.

  • The interior of the Chalet is ornate and would ordinarily be a fantastic winter vacation retreat after a day’s skiing. It’s set in the Courchevel ski resort in the French alps, and this last situation was quite tricky. On this mission, players take on the role of Thatcher and have access to an AR33, but the close-quarters engagements means that a holographic or red dot sight would’ve been more suitable, as opposed to the ACOG sight.

  • One of the coolest features in Rainbow Six Siege is the ability to penetrate walls and soft cover will bullets: a few rounds will punch through the wall and damage any one on the other side, and here, I nail two lucky headshot with the AR33. In online matches, players will often melee the wall to see if there’s anyone in an adjacent room, or else simply shoot through it if they know someone’s on the other side.

  • Thatcher’s EMP grenades prove to be an asset in this mission, allowing him to quickly disable nitro cells. This mission was quite tricky and it took me numerous attempts to beat it; on my first few attempts, after securing the hostage, I backtracked and walked into an endless number of terrorists.

  • The different maps in Rainbow Six Siege appear to have day and night variants, meaning that different approaches can be taken towards a match depending on whether it will be day or night. Today was the submission deadline for the latest of my conference papers, and against all odds, it seems that I managed to just make the midnight deadline. I’m quite surprised because I spent a fair portion of the weekend playing Rainbow Six Siege instead of editing the paper for errors.

  • However, the paper’s now done and sent off, and this week happens to be Poutine Week where I am, so I decided to step off campus for lunch today. This initiative is arranged as follows: participating restaurants will donate one free meal to someone in need for each poutine they sell during Poutine Week. I vaguely recall saying in an earlier post that I would visit the Vendome Café for their breakfast poutine, and that’s exactly what I did today: not only did I get a fantastic poutine out of it, but it’s also for a good cause.

  • The Vendome Café’s poutine was quite unlike any I’ve had before. In place of fries, there were breakfast hash browns topped with smoked ham, cheese, hollandaise, peppers and onions. The flavours were fantastic and very rich: I now understand why Rize and Chino starting crying  upon taking their first bite of Mocha’s bread. My eyes teared up slightly because of how good the poutine tasted, and the different elements worked well together to create a fantastic, if unconventional poutine. Back in Rainbow Six Siege, I finally beat the final situation after figuring out an alternative route that allowed me to bypass most of the terrorists appearing after securing the hostage.

  • After beating all of the situations, save the university map (which requires a team), I decided to mess around in the terrorist hunt as a lone wolf player. Of all the games I played, I failed utterly: over half my deaths were at the hands of the bombers.

  • What would happen was that I would send a drone into the building to figure out where the enemies or objectives were, then move in. However, the bombers would usually move off, and detonate their payloads right as I rounded a corner, instantly kicking my character’s ass. However, even these failed operations yield some renown, and so, I was able to unlock Fuze and Ash. Here, I’m rocking the 6P41 (i.e. the PKP Pecheneg), one of my favourite LMGs from Battlefield. While with a large ammo capacity, reload times are quite long, limiting its usefulness.

  • Thermite is an good all-around character to use for lone-wolf situations: I decided to outfit his 556xi with the holographic sight and a compensator: however, it seems that my six hours in Rainbow Six Siege was not enough to allow me to become fully familiar with the mechanics and beat a terrorist hunt match on my own.

  • Fuze also has access to the AK12, a modernised AK-47 that I’ve equipped with the Russian equivalent of the red dot sight. With a minimal housing and a clear reticule, this setup allowed me to be quite successful so as long as I did not run into any well-placed nitro cells or sneaky bombers.

  • I unlocked a handful of defenders, including Mute and Pulse, but terrorist hunt had other things in mind for me, so I never had the chance to try out Pulse’s MP7. Here, I’m running mute with the default MP5 on a defend-the-asset match and lasted for all of 30 seconds after a wall exploded beside me during the following wave.

  • The exterior of Kafe Dostoyevsky during a Russian winter’s night is a sight to behold, and here, I rappel onto the roof during an elimination mission armed with Thermite’s 556xi. I took a few moments to look around the Moscow cityscape before entering the building by means of a grapple.

  • The rappel mechanic is surprisingly fun to use, and it’s always a thrill to breach a second-floor window or get kills from above on unsuspecting enemies. The option for changing stance allows one to move differently, and the fast descent is useful for quickly dropping back to the ground from the rappel line.

  • The bank map looks similar to one of the maps from Battlefield Hardline with its cityscape: at present, while I’ve beaten the campaign to Hardline, I’ve yet to touch the multiplayer component, which I hear has a very limited number of available games (but it’s quite tempting, since the K10 Vector makes an appearance in Hardline).

  • One of the most amusing moments I’ve experienced in Rainbow Six Siege was during a bomb match, where I threw a fragmentation grenade into the room after learning from the drone that there were a handful of bad guys in there. That one grenade landed me two kills, so for me, that was my Greatest Grenade™ in Rainbow Six Siege.

  • As the hours to the free weekend wound down, I decided to take another shot at the bomb mission with Fuze and his AK-12. I managed to defuse one bomb and got 29 kills, but an untimely nitro cell killed me, ending that mission and with it, my Rainbow Six Siege experience. I subsequently returned to editing the conference paper and worked on my portfolio: that’s done, so all that’s really left this week is Wednesday’s oral exam. After that, I will look to export my simulations as a standalone project (to see if that works), finally begin working on my thesis paper again and put out the review for Aria The Avvenire.

Rainbow Six Siege‘s free weekend allowed me an opportunity to try the game out. I definitely had fun, using the drones to find objectives, then carefully entering a building to take out terrorists in very tense moments and using the operators’ different gadgets to gain the upper hand. Finishing the situations with all objectives complete was very satisfying, and similarly, as challenging as the terrorist hunt game mode was, it was similarly entertaining to make use of an operator’s loadout to see what advantages I had in a particular map. However, I’m unlikely to buy Rainbow Six Siege simply because I’m more of a solo player (more similar to TheRadBrad than LevelCap or Matimi0): I enjoy exploring game worlds and working on my own to complete objectives. I’m well aware that teamwork and cooperation is critical, but during my downtime, much as how I prefer my entertainment to not engage my thinking centres as extensively as my work would, I prefer exploring and figuring things out on my own in game worlds, given that it’s a change of pace from the real world.

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