The Infinite Zenith

Victory costs. Every time, you pay a little more.

Arnhem Bridge: Strike Witches- Operation Victory Arrow Episode Three (Screenshots, Reflection and Commentary)

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don’t trust enough.” —Frank Crane

The final installment to Operation Victory Arrow is out at last now; this closing act to the series follows events surrounding Lynette and Perrine as they work towards rebuilding Gallia following the events of the second season. Another Gallian Witch, Amelie Planchard, is also present to assist Lynette and Perrine. They encounter a young boy named Julius, who is getting treatment for his little sister Rose. After hearing of their circumstances, arrangements are made for the children to remain at Perrine’s residence while Rose recovers. However, Julius proves difficult for Perrine to handle, and also expresses a hatred towards witches for not coming to his father’s aid when he went to battle at Arnhem Bridge four years previously. After learning that Perrine and the others are witches, Julius stows away on a truck bound for Arnhem Bridge to retrieve some personal effects, but finds himself face-to-face with a Neuroi. He is saved by Perrine; despite her Striker unit undergoing repairs, she manages to fend off the Neuroi long enough for Lynette to provide covering fire. During the course of the battle, Perrine injures her leg, but Julius steps in to recover her weapon, and with Lynette in the air, they successfully destroy the Neuroi. Afterwards, Perrine takes in both Julius and Rose to give them an education while Lynette receives a letter from Yoshika.

In keeping with trends in Strike Witches, Arnhem Bridge possesses a well-defined theme, albeit a simpler one: one’s prejudices towards a concept, group or individual can be very quickly changed in the face of extraordinary conditions that allow them to understand the shortcomings of their beliefs. In this case, Julius’ perspective of the Witches immediately hints at a mistrust for them: he refers to them as liars, and this is motivated by a traumatic event in his past. However, when he himself comes under attack, Perrine’s timely intervention and unwavering determination to save him, even in spite of the misdeeds he’s committed against her, lead him to finally realise that Perrine, and Witches in general, are benevolent and kind individuals who strive to serve the people to the best of their ability, ending his animosity towards them. This message is astute and moving, quite befitting of the Gallian Witches and Lynette. However, it is also a familiar one, evoking memories of Sora no Woto’s Seiya, whose mistrust of the military likewise comes from a similar event in his past, and his interactions with Kanata eventually lead him to become less hostile towards soldiers. As such, the OVA’s plot was rather more foreseeable compared to the previous OVAs, but nonetheless, Arnhem Bridge is an excellent addition to Operation Victory Arrow.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As with every Operation Victory Arrow volume that preceded this one, I’ve got thirty screenshots of the OVA. Owing to time zone differences, my copy arrived a little earlier than anticipated, and as such, I shelved the evening’s plans in favour of watching the OVA. While there’s been disappointment that the final Operation Victory Arrow volume was not about the Sumous Witches, I personally prefer things this way: Lynette’s one of my favourite characters in Strike Witches, and this OVA demonstrates the reason why.

  • The level of damage sustained by the Clostermann residence hints at the intensity and scope of the war between humanity and the Neuroi. Though nowhere near as extreme as the Forerunner-Flood War, there is no denying that the Neuroi have had a significant impact on the planet. Their lack of background probably serves to abstract out the conflict into a black-and-white context (i.e. there is a clearly defined aggressor whose lack of moral character permits them to be used as an enemy without limitations).

  • The choice of images for this post means that there are measurably fewer images depicting the blue sky in Strike Witches: even compared to other anime, the skies simply look phenomenal. I seem to recall my promise that I’d be the first to provide a full talk and screenshots for this OVA, and I’ve delivered.

  • On a routine cargo delivery, Lynette runs into Julius, who is escaping from a clerk with medicine for his sister in hand. Once the situation is ascertained, Lynette decides to bring Julius and his sister to the Clostermann residence. Such actions exemplify Lynette’s character: as the middle of eight siblings, she’s highly skilled with household tasks and was also quite shy until Yoshika befriended her.

  • Perrine quickly regrets inviting Julius for some tea after a single head louse leaves his hair and lands on her. Infestations are impacted by socioeconomic factors, and treatments for head lice are varied, ranging from blow-driers to pediculicides. While no method can eliminate all the lice and their eggs immediately, combinations of methods and adherence to the treatments will generally be effective at containing and stopping infestations.

  • Filth brings out Perrine’s maniacal side, opening hostilities between herself and Julius and setting the stage for their interactions throughout most of the episode. After a brief (but hilarious) tussle, Perrine corners Julius with what appears to be a powdered cleaning agent ill-suited for human use, and since the lice aren’t mentioned again later, it’s not unreasonable to suppose that the chemicals have eliminated Julius’ lice.

  • While Perrine’s methods are over the top and lend themselves to much humour, Lynette’s response is to help bathe Julius in a more conventional manner.

  • Despite being rough around the edges, Julius is a responsible, caring older sibling who’s willing to do what it takes to ensure that Rose is happy.

  • Perinne and the others bring in a physician to have Rose checked out; she’s cleared and allowed to rest, with Lynette and Amelie dropping by to help her out during meals and to keep her company.

  • Julius’ background means that he is not particularly familiar with dining etiquette. Curiously enough, there are actually two ways of using forks: American-style usage is for situations where a knife is not strictly necessary (for things like Shepard’s Pie or mashed potatoes), and Continental-style seems more appropriate when a knife is necessary.

  • The first third of the OVA is given to Perrine and Julius’ war on one another, with Perrine frequently winding up on the losing side. While initially a source of great humour, it also sets the stage for the final third of the OVA, when Julius encounters a Neuroi group: Perrine’s actions reinforce the notion that, though she might be very strict about hygiene and etiquette, she places her duty to people first.

  • The fanservice aspect in Arnhem Bridge, like the preceding OVAs, has been very disciplined. While it was very much a part of the first and second season, by the time of the movie and Operation Victory Arrow, gratuitous pantsu shots have largely disappeared. Instead, the later installments opt to use that time to build additional moments between the characters, thus illustrating that it is possible for Strike Witches to do world-building and present a more substantial story than critics initially assumed to be possible.

  • Perrine reacts to some vandalism Julius leaves on the property’s walls, and The French (merde lunettes”) directly translates to “glasses shit”, and the Japanese subtitles give it as “クソメガネ” (“kuso megane”, or fucking glasses as the closest English approximation). It’s quite a shock for Perrine, outlining the extent of Julius’ animosity towards her: he only refers to her as “glasses” for much of the episode, which makes the impact of subsequent scenes all the more noticeable.

  • Lynette and Amelie spend a moment in the gardens surrounding the Clostermann residence under skies of deep blue. I note that under ordinary circumstances, I do not use expletives in my own writing and only include them if it’s necessary from a quote or translation. The English language has numerous ways of expressing something, and I find that there are more cultured ways of doing so under most circumstances.

  • It turns out that Julius’ dislike of Witches originates from an incident in the past where Witches failed to save his father from a Neuroi attack. Subtle signs of this are noted when Julius reacts to a Witch squadron flying over the Clostermann residence, and immediately, Arnhem Bridge‘s plot immediately became clear. From this moment out, storytelling elements dictate that Julius will experience something that causes him to change his mind about Witches, which means that a Neuroi attack (and his subsequent being saved by Perrine) is certainly going to occur.

  • Despite Perrine’s initial lack of worry about Julius’ disappearance, she eventually turns around and agrees to help look for him. The presence of sausage and potatoes leads me to recall yesterday evening, where I shared an evening with friends at the pub. Wings were the daily special, and I also paired my wings with Irish Potato Nachos. Given that it’s something I eat rarely enough, Irish Nachos never seem to grow old, and their potato-ey goodness complements the wings rather nicely.

  • Über-micro is less of a factor than a modest degree of familiarity with narrative techniques: as was predicted, while trying to recover some personal effects from his old home in Arnhem, Julius encounters a Neuroi. Troubled by his disappearance, Lynette and Perrine set out to look for him.

  • Admitedly, Perrine was my least favourite character when I first began watching Strike Witches: initially hostile to Yoshika’s mannerisms and perceived closeness to Mio, numerous developments throughout Strike Witches confer in Perrine a degree of maturation, to the point where she is able to share a cordial relationship with Yoshika. Additional developments paint her as being very concerned for her homeland; she donates her income towards her nation’s reconstruction.

  • One of the more interesting aspects in Strike Witches is the fact that the Witches have access to a limitless supply of ammunition during combat; they’re never seen reloading (and if they have, I certainly missed it). The Bren LMG that Perrine wields is equipped with a twenty-round L1A1 SLR magazine, and with a firing rate of 500-520 RMP, holding down the trigger for around three seconds will empty the magazine out. During her fight with the Neuroi, what causes her to dispense with it is the barrel overheating, rather than a depletion of ammunition.

  • The showdown against an uncommonly strong Neuroi brings out Perrine’s true nature: she is able to demonstrate to Julius that the Witches are committed to people’s safety, and in spite of her own dislike for his mannerisms, is nonetheless willing to do her best in order to get him to safety.

  • Arnhem Bridge was based off the Battle of Arnhem in 1944, with British forces attempting to push into the Netherlands. The battle resulted in a defeat for the British Army, as the Wehrmacht was able to retain control of the bridge itself, but this loss was somewhat tempered by Allied successes elsewhere. Injury to Perrine’s left leg can be seen here: for those wondering how Perrine had sustained injury in one of the posters, the answer can be found during this battle.

  • It wouldn’t be a Strike Witches post without at least (and at most) one overt pantsu screenshot, even if said screenshot does not contribute substantially to the discussion. This time, the moment is provided by Lynette: I do not feel that Perrine is the appropriate character for this sort of thing. While I highly praise Operation Victory Arrow for its overall restraint on blatant fanservice, such moments involving Lynette, Charlotte and Gertrude are most certainly welcome in my books.

  • After Lynette arrives to provide fire support, the Neuroi climbs into a tower for cover and immediately begins mounting a counterattack. Perrine’s injury prevents her from retrieving a shoulder-fired grenade launcher, but inspired by Perrine’s determination, Julius helps her recover the weapon. With his help, Perrine is able to blow open a water main in the tower in a moment reminiscent of the Javelin scene from War of the Worlds and uses her Tonnerre ability to crack the Neuroi’s hull open.

  • Lynette then supplies the final shot that destroys its core, ending the battle. The last time a battle culminated with a rainbow was Gundam 00‘s second season, during the mission to liberate Allelujah Haptism from a Federation facility. I remarked that the rainbow was a bit over-the-top after the Gundams escaped, although here in Strike Witches, the effect is rather more subtle.

  • Perrine’s hesitancy to use Tonnerre stems from the fact that the resulting discharge messes up her hair. While a visually amusing effect, it’s not an entirely accurate phenomenon: exposure to static electricity causes hair to stand on its end because of the accumulation of charge causes the hair to try and maximise the distances between the charges, which is accomplished when the hair stands on its end. The use of an electricity-based attack should therefore neutralise charge in one’s body: charge separation is how the attack commences, and after a discharge (i.e. the movement of electrons from negative to positive), the charges should be even. As such, Perrine’s hair should not be standing on its end after an attack.

  • I’ll end the battle with another screenshot of Lynette, who’d fired the killing shot. She intrinsically uses magic to guide her shots, but simultaneously flying proved too much for her. Yoshika’s encouragement helps her become a better marksman, and by the events of Operation Victory Arrow, Lynette proves to be a valuable asset against the Neuroi.

  • Julius and Rose no longer look scruffy: two weeks after the events at Arnhem Bridge, Perrine’s taken both of them in and helps them gain a rudimentary education. She’s been helping educate displaced children since the events of The Sky that Connects Us, and taken together, Operation Victory Arrow has done a fantastic job of showing the Witches in their element outside of the 501st.

  • While I resolved to conclude all of the Operation Victory Arrow posts with a picture of Yoshika reading a letter detailing the respective volume’s events, Arnhem Bridge ends things differently. While it was already clear in the TV series and movie, Yoshika and Lynette grow to become best friends, and as such, it’s probably not too surprising that Lynette is constantly on Yoshika’s mind.

  • I’m actually quite curious to know why viewers are so keen on the dynamics between Elia and Sanya. Some noticed that their names were present in the credits for the third OVA, feeling it conflicted with the promotional material and previews stating that Perrine and Lynette would be the third volume’s stars. This answers their query: Elia and Sanya make a very brief appearance post-credits, and while disappointing it may be to said viewers, who’d been hoping for a full-on OVA for them, at least they do make an appearance.

  • Mio also makes an appearance: with her magic reserves depleted, she no longer wears an eyepatch and is conversing with Minna, wondering about how Yoshika’s doing. With this final figure caption, I can finally close the books on Operation Victory Arrow. It’s been a thrilling ride, and each episode was worth the wait. The next Strike Witches is said to deal with the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing, and while I’ll be happy to write about it, first, we’d actually need something a little more tangible on its existence. In the meantime, there’s going to be a Blue Moon tomorrow evening, and regular programming resumes once August begins.

While rumours endure that there is to be a fourth volume of Operation Victory Arrow, the third volume’s ending suggests that this mini-series has indeed come to a close: to keep the viewers from open revolt, a glimpse of the Suomus witches and Sanya is present, but beyond a short conversation about Eila’s divination concerning Perrine’s activities, they do not play a more substantial role in the latest volume. Of course, some may view this as hinting at a fourth volume, although the near-total absence of news, and lack of a preview for future volumes is a sure sign that this is indeed the end. Overall, Operation Victory Arrow was a fantastic addition to the Strike Witches franchise: each volume is able to tell a self-contained, meaningful story about the Witches that were depicted, and while not everyone had a chance to shine, the emphasis on character growth and world-building means that Strike Witches is indeed capable of standing on its own merits even in the near-absence of pantsu. This is something I can easily recommend to Strike Witches fans, and even those new to the series may find the OVAs to be worth watching. It’s a promising sign for Strike Witches as a whole, and if there is indeed to be a third season, rumoured to be focused on the 502st Joint Fighter Wing, then there is definitely an opportunity for Strike Witches to prove itself as more than just a flimsy justification for showing off their well-drawn characters’ assets, being a living, breathing world in its own right.

A Certain Girl’s Day Off: Sora no Method OVA Review and Reflection

“It is the dim haze of mystery that adds enchantment to pursuit.” —Antoine Rivarol

Sora no Method originally aired during the Fall 2014 season, imparting the familiar (but not unwelcome) message of the significance of friendship. Though it was impacted by more tearful moments than might be necessary and some inconsistencies here and there, Sora no Method was not a poor anime by any means, and concluded on a high note. Thus, it was quite surprising to learn that there had been a short OVA bundled with the final Blu-Ray volume; the OVA follows Yuzuki’s quest to learn more about Shione’s activities after learning that the latter is frequently loaning out a monster movie. They discover that Shione had just been going to feed some ducks, and it turns out that Nonoka had a copy the entire time. While watching the film, Yuzuki learns that Shione played a role within said film.

While Sora no Method had constantly conveyed an air of melancholy and wistfulness, the OVA has chosen to depict less emotional moments, and the end result is a simple, self-contained story that follows Yuzuki’s antics. Dragging Koharu, Nonoka and Noel into her schemes, the humour stems from the resultant situational irony once Yuzuki learns that there is really nothing extraordinary about Shione’s day, and again when Shione turns out to have played a role within the movie. Besides the humourous elements, the Sora no Method OVA also depicts the sort of curiosity and vivid imaginations that youth may possess: Yuzuki manages to project her speculations into Koharu, Nonoka and Noel to drive the adventure forwards, and as they learn, sometimes, seemingly extra-ordinary observations can in fact be accounted for by simple explanations.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The Sora no Method OVA is quite recent, only having come out two days ago. It was so low-key that I did not even realise that there was going to be an OVA, but I welcome it. This post is going to be of a standard length (twenty images), even despite the OVA’s shorter run-time.

  • Yuzuki’s desire to figure out what Shione is up to stems from a frustration of always being beaten out towards loaning out the monster movie at what appears to be her local library.

  • Donning Sherlock Holmes-style garb, the girls tail Shione as the latter goes about town on ordinary activities. Contrasting Jack Ryan, Dominic Caruso and John Clark, Nonoka, Yuzuki, Koharu and Noel’s fieldcraft is quite shoddy. Amusingly enough, Shione is rather absorbed in her own itinerary and does not notice that she’s being tailed.

  • This post was quite unexpectedly timed: I had been out for most of yesterday with family (involving another excellent dinner with mayonnaise shrimp, wonton soup and yi mein, amongst other things), and today, was expecting to take the afternoon off to back up my files in preparation for Windows 10. Despite the suddenness of the OVA’s release, the backup is mostly done now, and I’ve had a chance to watch said OVA.

  • Using the Monster billboard as cover, Yuzuki and the others follow Shione closely around town, jotting down observations and conversing amongst themselves as to what Shione is really up to. It would’ve been a fun exercise for viewers to play “Find the Monster” in a similar manner as the Where’s Waldo? game had Yuzuki and the others hidden more effectively, but throughout the OVA, their tail on Shione leaves them out in the open.

  • Shione greatly resembles Hibike! Euphonium‘s Reina Kousaka in mannerisms and appearances; in both cases, Shione and Reina open up to the protagonist as time progresses, and largely in part from the protagonist’s initiative (Nonoka and Kumiko, respectively). While one might dismiss this as a coincidence or claim it to be lazy writing, I see it as an opportunity to explore different directions as to how characters develop in different environments.

  • While my screenshot collection does not have any instances of the saucer that formed much of the conflict during Sora no Method, the saucer does indeed make an appearance within the OVA, acting as a subject for Shione to photograph. It appears that there are numerous abstract sculptures in the Lake Kiriya, which is inspired by Usuzanfunka Memorial Park on the southwest banks of Lake Touya in Hokkaido. I will return in the future to do a locations post on Toyako if time permits.

  • Noel’s naïveté means that she readily believes the extraordinary, and follows Yuzuki’s beliefs that Shione is about to summon the monster. Consequently, she’s disappointed when no monster shows up, and this is readily visualised through her eyebrows; one of the things about anime I’m particularly fond of is how the eyebrow’s visibility allow for emotions to be conveyed effectively without losing its subtleness.

  • While largely passed over during discussions, the scenery in Sora no Method contributes substantially towards the atmospherics in the anime; anime set in Hokkaido tend to project a sense of longing and nostalgia. Some readers have informed me that Kanon was also set in Hokkaido on account of the snow, and given the similarities that Sora no Method shares with Kanon, it’s not difficult to surmise that Kanon must also be set in Hokkaido.

  • As the episode progresses, Koharu and Yuzuki continue to busy themselves with observing Shione, while Nonoka only half-heartedly follows. Although fieldcraft in the real world is nowhere near as glamorous as depicted within fiction (and certainly not as fun as seen in Sora no Method, where ), reading spy-fiction and immersing oneself in the world of political espionage and military events is incredibly entertaining.

  • I’ve been a fan of Ian Flemming’s James Bond ever since I was in primary school, and as my undergraduate degree drew to an end, I entered Tom Clancy’s universe through Threat Vector, a political thriller about cyberwarfare. I’ve since read all of the Jack Ryan Jr. series up to and including Command Authority. Ever since Tom Clancy’s passing, Mark Greaney has taken over the authorship for the Jack Ryan Jr. series, and I look greatly forward to reading Full Force and Effect.

  • The choice to don such outfits is actually reminiscent of a similar moment in Hello! Kiniro Mosaic, where Karen and Alice decide to find out more about her new homeroom instructor by following her around and collecting notes. To complete the effect, scene transitions take on a mystery-type theme.

  • This here island is located on the western edge of Usuzanfunka Memorial Park in Toyako. It shares similarities with Spirit Island on Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park in that it’s a tied island, but their differences end here: Spirit Island is 14 kilometers up-lake and completely lacks road or trail access, so the only way to reach it is by boat.

  • It’s actually quite surprising to note that over three-quarters of the summer has very nearly elapsed. Soon, it’ll be August, and the days’ shortening will become more apparent. Two years previously, I felt that the summer had ended rather abruptly, as well, and in the blink of an eye, Autumn was quickly upon us.

  • Lacking the courage to face Shione head-on, Yuzuki sends Noel forward to get a closer look while the others remain behind. It appears that this time, I’m actually ahead of the curve with respect to this post’s timing: I actually finished before anyone at tango-victor-tango even had a chance to post their episodic notes!

  • While the precise point of the OVA relative to the timeline in Sora no Method is not known, given that Shione does express concern for Noel as the latter tumbles towards the water but otherwise treats the others coldly. Moreover, the monster billboard is still untarnished and whole. As such, it is not unreasonable to surmise that the OVA is set between episodes six and seven, after Shione and Noel share time together at a hot springs, and before the monster billboard is damaged.

  • Shione’s expression conveys utmost embarrassment and frustration as Yuzuki mocks the former’s love for all things sweet, reminiscent of countless strict-looking characters in other anime who secretly have a vulnerabilities to all things adorable. There is no shame, though, given that sweet things are quite good in moderation (I usually take a candy or chocolate once or twice a day to bolster my spirits whilst working, and do enjoy things like cheesecake).

  • It turns out that the entire day’s adventure might have been adverted if Yuzuki had simply asked Nonoka as to whether or not she might’ve had a copy of the monster film or not. Oftentimes, to drive stories forward, plotlines are done in such a manner such that solutions usually considered to be “common sense” are eschewed. While forgoing this factor would yield a more realistic story, it would preclude the adventure and exploration that accompanies the choice to do things in a roundabout fashion.

  • It turns out that Yuzuki and the others, though off the mark about Shione’s actual plans for the day, quite accurately guess at what her role in the film is. Shione has a role in said film and appears to greatly enjoy watching herself, summoning the monster in a scene.

  • That’s pretty much it for this post, and regular programming will resume shortly. Up next on the blogging list are the Strike Witches and Shirobako‘s OVAs, which release in the final week of July. I actually have yet to watch the first Shirobako OVA, so the Shirobako  posts will probably come out mid-August, but the Strike Witches talk will be written as soon as possible.

Now that the OVA’s out, it’s doubtful that there is likely to be a continuation to Sora no Method: the original TV series had already made it clear that Noel’s return is a sufficient conclusion to the anime. While opinions about the anime were mixed, it is widely accepted that the ending is one that Nonoka and company ultimately deserves. There aren’t any loose ends remaining after Nonoka, Shione, Yuzuki and Koharu reunite with Noel, and consequently, discussions on Sora no Method have also ceased to be. Thus, the OVA represents an encore of sorts for Sora no Method, providing one final opportunity to illustrate all of the characters together; it is quite successful in doing this, acting as a relaxing close to Sora no Method.

Non Non Biyori Repeat: Review and Reflection After Three

“I like to be lazy. I do like to be busy and really active, but when that’s done, you can be sure I will be a lazy boy. I like to take time and relax and enjoy life.” —Olivier Theyskens

It would appear that my predictions are completely off the mark about what the second season would entail: thus far, it would appear that Non Non Biyori Repeat is set in the gaps between episodes of the first season. Shortly after Hotaru moves in, the girls and Suguru play a tabletop game with their rulers. Hotaru then gets lost while walking her dog, and shares a moment with Komari as the two go stargazing. Exam season shows up soon after, and Natsumi performs poorly in her usual manner. Renge then invites everyone over to study, but finds herself trying to motivate Kazuho to be a more focused, effective instructor. I’m immensely grateful that no one is keeping score: it would appear that the entirety of my speculation was incorrect, and true to its name, Non Non Biyori Repeat will indeed just fill the gaps between episodes of the first season.

Non Non Biyori Repeat has successfully addressed is how it would go about depicting the aforementioned gaps without yielding a show that was too repetitive: the episodes simultaneously convey to new viewers the mood and pacing of the series, but offer enough new content to entertain Non Non Biyori veterans. One example of an anime that had successfully used this approach towards its storytelling was the K-On! Movie, which likewise was able to expertly integrate characterisation into the narrative without detracting from its progression. The K-On! Movie is widely considered to be a success, and in utilising similar techniques as did the K-On! Movie, Non Non Biyori Repeat could very well draw in interested viewers and retain their interests as the season progresses.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Non Non Biyori exemplifies the capacity to portray the ordinary as extraordinary. Aspects of daily life are given a refreshing new take, reminding viewers that there are numerous subtle things in their lives that make things worthwhile. Despite this slower corresponding pacing, this post will have twenty images’ worth of content.

  • While the notion of learning to appreciate the smaller things doubtlessly apply to almost anyone, Non Non Biyori is intended for Japanese audiences. With 93.5 percent of their population in urban areas (GeoHive, as of 2015), life in Japan is said to be remarkably hectic and crowded: anime such as Non Non Biyori act as a form of entertainment that slows things down and allows the viewer to unwind a little in ways that even beer fail to achieve.

  • As such, in Non Non Biyori Repeat, something as simple as a game with rulers is turned into something engrossing, illustrating how people can nonetheless have fun with a powerful imagination and everyday items. There’s no need for apps on a smartphone to while away the time, and the advantage about such activities is that they are not dependent on a battery that only lasts for ten hours.

  • Compared to any large urban area in Japan, my home city is relatively small (with a population just a ways over one million). A city of this size is just large enough to have enough infrastructure so life’s not too dull without having too many people, and my favourite pastime when bored out of my wits (sufficiently bored such that blowing things away in Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 doesn’t cut it) is to go for a talk in one of the continent’s largest municipal parks.

  • The protensity to explain any move in a tabletop game or similar is an element that has origins in older anime involving tabletop elements: this is done to keep the viewers informed of what’s going on, but in-universe, simultaneously builds anticipation as the characters explore in-depth how they’ll counter one move with another. The back-and-forth dialogue is reminiscent of some of the games in Calvin and Hobbes, where both Calvin and Hobbes attempt to one-up the other as they make the rules up for a game.

  • Discussions about the rulers game is still going strong even as Renge and the others head home after their day’s done. Later, when walking the area for the first time with her dog, Hotaru gets lost, but manages to find her way back when her dog picks out Suguru’s scent from the main road.

  • The group agrees to go stargazing by nightfall, but when the time to do so comes, Renge and Natsumi are fast asleep, leaving just Hotaru and Renge. The dynamics between their friendship slowly begin to take shape here, and one must applaud how this is depicted, with traces of Komari’s desire to have Hotaru see her as reliable, and Hotaru’s growing crush on Komari, being shown in their early stages.

  • The reason why some insects exhibit positive phototaxis is not fully understood, but it’s hypothesised that insects may lack effective night vision and therefore instinctively navigate to sources of light to avoid predation. Regardless of what the cause is, the presence of numerous insects at the local vending machine strike fear into both Komari and Hotaru’s hearts, although in the spirit of maintaining her image as the senior, Komari fights her fears to buy a drink.

  • Because I live in an urban area, the faintest stars that can be seen with the naked eye is magnitude 2.5. To put that in perspective, Polaris (the North Star) has a magnitude of 2.0: I typically use binoculars for stargazing to see anything fainter. Curiously enough, rural Japan actually has darker skies than most areas in my province; because Komari and Hotaru reside in the countryside, it’s not inconceivable that their entire sky is filled with stars.

  • In a scene that winds up being as hilarious as when Hotaru and Renge get locked in the rabbit pen of season one, Komari’s flashlight powers down, leaving the two in near-total darkness. Fighting her own fears, Komari takes the initiative to help Hotaru find their way back, and a bottle cap that the former inadvertently dropped earlier proves instrumental in helping them find their way back. I made a Guile’s Theme Goes With Anything video of this moment a year ago, and I wager that a similar moment could be quite funny.

  • Komari collapses out of relief after they two make it out of the woods, and Hotaru decides to carry her back. Last week, I took an afternoon to drive to the mountains: there’s a small restaurant there of sorts that serves Montreal cuisine, and I’ve been longing for a good Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich ever since I began watching Pure Pwnage. It turns out that the sandwich is as delicious as it looks: compared to corned beef, it’s less salty and has a more savoury flavour to it. In the words of Jeremy, that was a pro meal (in conjunction with an epic poutine).

  • I’m sure to make a return visit at some point in the future to try out their other poutines. After lunch, I hiked the nearby trails before a thunderstorm rolled in. Returning back to Non Non Biyori Repeat, this here review/discussion/reflection focuses predominantly on the characters, rather than the scenery, because as gorgeous as the landscapes are in Non Non Biyori, there isn’t much to really discuss beyond praising the vivid colours and composition that serve to really bring out the tranquility in Asahigaoka.

  • Viewers are treated to the origins of the Komari plushies: they appear to have been conceptualised shortly after Komari and Hotaru go stargazing, so if this is anything to go by, their adventure together marks the first instance where the two have spent time together alone, leading to Hotaru’s gradual development of a crush of sorts on Komari.

  • Renge whistles to call forth her “pet” raccoon. For first time viewers, this is adorable, and for returning viewers, it’s a clever callback to the first season. By this point in the summer, I’ve finished building the latest features, a mitochondrion environment and protofilament assembly, for my thesis project. Although the latter just works, it’s sufficient to illustrate self-assembly, and with the content I’ve got, I can finally turn my attention towards preparing my project for a virtual reality environment. If I’m fortunate, I’ll also be able to start the thesis paper itself by mid-August.

  • Kazuho’s laziness at breakfast preparation leads her to combine fresh spring vegetables, salad oil, salt and pepper to form a meal. I generally put in a little more effort in meal preparation, although there are times when I do wish to eat special offers: today, I took a day off from my research to mow the front and back yards, then walked down to a nearby Subway restaurant for their seasonal lobster sandwich. The lobster in the sandwich was quite nice, with the lobster’s texture and sweetness quite discernible.

  • While trying to get an answer from Renge regarding a practise problem, Renge reacts with a nonsensical answer. Natsumi’s poor performance in her coursework formed the basis for numerous jokes during the previous season, and for the first time, viewers really get to see how Natsumi handles exams.

  • I still fondly recall my days as a secondary student, during which I floor with my coursework and nonetheless found plenty of time for extra-curricular activities, plus Ragnarok Online on top of that.

  • Natsumi’s terrible exam performance leads Kazuho to assign everyone additional homework during the course of a break, and Renge decides to invite everyone over to study with the hopes that having company would make studying more bearable than studying alone for Natsumi. Back during high school, for my high school diploma exams, I studied alone: armed with my notes, textbooks and study materials, I would put on some music and completed practise problems until I exhausted them. However, what works for me might not work for everyone, and as I found out in during my undergraduate program, there are merits to studying in a group, provided that everyone remains on-mission.

  • While Non Non Biyori Repeat is not the sort of anime that intrinsically has numerous spoilers, there are moments that are endearing to watch and cannot adequately be captured in words. Watching Renge offer suggestions to Kazuho on being a more effective teacher and her reaction to Kazuho’s mention of cake (and subsequent lack thereof) was easily the best part of the episode, and is best enjoyed by watching said episode.

  • That’s pretty much it for this review: don’t forget to like the review, comment on the review and subscribe to this blog if you want to see comment similar to this review. I’ll be returning after the six and nine episodes have aired to further discuss Non Non Biyori, but until then, I’ll be swinging in and out to write about various things, starting with the Strike Witches OVA.

The passage of the seasons was a major theme in Non Non Biyori‘s first season, and Non Non Biyori Repeat has already hinted, through its opening sequence, that the seasons will play a substantial role in the upcoming episodes: each of spring, summer, autumn and winter all have their unique charms and atmospheres. Thus, there is no doubt that the remaining three-quarters of Non Non Biyori Repeat will depict the different seasons set between Non Non Biyori‘s episodes. Quite personally, I would be most grateful for more episodes set in the winter; Asahigaoka is a beautiful place under a blanket of snow, and winter conditions would lend themselves to additional adventures for Renge and her friends.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” —George Sand

The grand finale to The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan concludes in a low-key fashion, with Kyon and Yuki partaking in a variety of activities during their summer break with Ryouko, Haruhi, Mikuru, Tsuruya and Itsuki. Indeed, this final episode is a callback to Endless Eight, even featuring a summer festival and Kyon’s forgetting to complete his summer homework. However, rather than acting as the basis for an infinite loop, this finale is about Kyon coming to terms with how he feels about Yuki, and under the festival’s fireworks show, he summons the courage to let Yuki knows of his true feelings. However, his timing it with the fireworks show means that said confession is drowned out (in a manner reminiscent of Houki’s fate in Infinite Stratos), and as The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan draws to a close, it would appear that Yuki and Kyon’s relationship is more amicable, slightly closer than it had been during the season’s start.

The single most important aspect to consider in the anime adaptation of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is whether or not it is able to capitalise on its medium to present the story in a manner that would not have been possible within the manga. As noted in an earlier discussion about The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, I noted that anime intrinsically have access to audio-visual cues and therefore, should theoretically be able to convey the atmosphere of a particular moment more effectively than a manga by making use of lighting, camera angles and sound to mirror how the characters are feeling. It becomes clear that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s anime adaption succeeds making use of all of these elements to achieve this, despite not being helmed by Kyoto Animation. Lighting is used to give a sense of nostalgia through the pink glow of evening light and melancholy through greys of a rainy season. Moments high in anticipation or tension are fleshed out with camera focus on the characters’ features or their surroundings to really bring to life Yuki’s shyness or hesitation, as well as Haruhi’s energy and Ryouko’s motherly presence. These elements complement the sound: while all of the characters retain their original voice actor, Minori Chihara does a phenomenal job conveying the differences between the Yuki of the Melancholy-era, and this new Yuki. Finally, the soundtrack has fulfilled expectations, bringing out the sense of longing and tenderness during the moments that Yuki and Kyon share together. The fact that there are not-so-subtle motifs from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is a bonus. Each of these elements together succeed in bringing The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan to life: for this anime, there is no higher praise.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • We’ve come to the finale at last, and after sixteen episodes, I can confidently say that Satelight’s anime adaptation of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is indeed able to capture the manga’s spirit in full. As with the first episode talk, this talk comes with a full twenty images.

  • The anime remains faithful to the manga for a vast majority of the season, and typically, deviations usually arose when the adaption capitalises on slower moments to include subtle callbacks to The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. Besides succeeding in recalling elements from the original series, Satelight manages to incorporate them without interrupting the narrative’s flow.

  • Such scenes in the finale include a scene in the rain, where Yuki stands with her palms facing upwards; she does this in The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s opening song, as well as in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi.

  • Various summer activities, such as Kyon and company bowling and playing baseball, were not featured in the manga, but included, the group’s various summer activities seem to be a direct callback to the Endless Eight story arc.

  • The summer festival also figured predominantly in Endless Eight; minor details were changed in each iteration such that viewers would have some details to seek. After sixteen episodes, Satelight’s artistic design of the locales and environments in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan have improved as the series progressed. Landscapes become more detailed, lighting has improved greatly, and the characters’ physical appearances, though different than Kyoto Animation’s interpretation, have grown on me.

  • Having their original voice actors play each respective characters’ roles really helped the audience (or at the very least, myself) to immediately recognise each characters’ distinctions and personalities. Despite their different appearances, each of Kyon, Yuki, Ryouko, Haruhi, Mikuru, Tsuruya and Itsuki feel familiar.

  • The manga made extensive use of deformed/simplified artwork to represent a character during moments of comedy, and the anime adaptation carries this over. However, in keeping with the manga’s spirit, the characters never appear in this manner during the more serious moments.

  • My posting schedule’s been all over the place over the past few weeks: it’s all I can do to get posts out on time. This summer’s now around five-eighths finished, and over the past week, I attended a raclette party with some of my friends from high school. It’s been quite some time since we last conversed, had cheese fondue and grilled meat over a table top raclette; after we’d eaten as much as was physically possible and cleared the dishes, we played split-screen Halo 2 on an Xbox 360.

  • The last time I played a Halo game on console was back during  August 2011: we’d went to the same friend’s place for a BBQ and spent the evening playing Halo: Reach. There had been a major thunderstorm that evening. My friends were waiting out the storm, and as I had arrived early, I watched The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi on my iPad while waiting for them. Playing split-screen Halo brings back fond memories of an older time.

  • The fireworks show begins in earnest, and while the other Yuki longed to see it ever since Kyon suggested they go, she returned to oblivion. However, Kyon’s kept his promise, and with everyone, Yuki is able to enjoy the show as the summer draws to a close.

  • Kyon’s confession to Yuki acts as The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan‘s climax: seeing Yuki (albeit, the other Yuki) confess her feelings to him had led to a degree of awkwardness, but thankfully, Kyon’s quickly come to terms with how he feels about Yuki and decides to confess to her. Compared to other male protagonists in anime of such a setup, Kyon is rather more decisive, and the other characters also appear to realise that Kyon’s heart lies with Yuki.

  • While Kyon does get this off his chest, the fireworks drown out his confession, so it might’ve not been as effective as one might imagine. Had he succeeded in doing so here, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan could end because the major conflict is resolved. Instead, the decision to present this love confession in such a manner leaves The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan open to a continuation.

  • In the end, my claims that ” those unfamiliar with the manga have little need to worry that the “fluffiness and self-referential humour” are all that is going to comprise The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan” proved completely correct. I never doubted for a second that this spin-off’s entire purpose was to act as fanservice to The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, and indeed, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is able to stand of its own merits, cleverly making use of tidbits from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi to enhance its own story.

  • While I praise the anime adaptation, I am praising how well it manages to bring The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan to life. From a technical perspective, the manga’s story started out quite slowly and presented unremarkable comings-and-goings between Kyon and Yuki, before upping the ante during the fourth volume. This is completely mirrored in the anime adaptation, whose plot progression and character growth are directly tied with the manga.

  • Consequently, when I review the anime, I am considering how effectively Satelight is able to make use of colour, light, sound and intonations in the dialogue to really flesh out the emotional tenor of a moment. Because Satelight has been able to do this, they’ve satisfied my expectations for what an animated version of the manga would be like.

  • There’s been no word of when the anime soundtrack is going to come out, to the best of my knowledge (perhaps one of the readers could help me out here!). The background music complemented this series nicely, and making use of similar instrumental choices as did The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, really brought out how Yuki was feeling following the near-accident, conveying a sense of melancholy and longing.

  • Besides playing Halo 2 for old times’ sake, this past week also saw me hit the theatres to watch Pixar’s Inside Out with several friends before having dinner at a kaiten sushi restaurant (naturally, I ordered tempura to go with my sushi and savoured every moment of that). I found this film to be worthy of the praise it has earned for its spirited and imaginative depictions of human emotions. It joins the ranks of Five Centimeters per SecondCLANNAD and Angel Beats! as something whose execution was able to get me to cry (which is no small feat).

  • The status quo is largely retained after the events of the summer festival, meaning that there’s still quite a ways to go before Kyon and Yuki go further in their relationship, which is perfectly fine. Now, I’ve seen the scene for myself several times during Endless Eight, but I still do not understand the significance of キョンくん、電話 (“Kyon-kun, denwa“) or why it was elevated to meme status. Foxtrot uniform charlie kilo memes.

  • In yet another callback to Endless Eight, the episode ends with Kyon realising he hasn’t touched his summer assignments yet. When I wrote the post on how I summoned my uncommon über-micro towards finishing the arc without chucking my computer out the window, I was setting out on my final year of my undergraduate studies, and I’d remarked that the Endless Eight arc might’ve been a commentary on the importance of going one’s assignments on time. Three years hence, my approach has not changed, and it’s still serving me reasonably well.

  • With the end of this post, I believe I’ve said all that can be reasonably said about The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. While nothing appears to have changed in Yuki and Kyon’s relationship, the ending shows a group of people who’ve become friends, suggesting that regardless of what universe they’re in, they’re destined to be friends (or something). There’s no cliffhanger, and as such, things close off without leaving audiences hanging. An OVA is set for release on October 26, which means one can reasonably expect a review to come out shortly after.

Given that the anime has remained faithful to the manga with respect to its story, any remarks directed at the anime are mirrored in the manga (and vise-versa). My thoughts on the manga, that it is “a simple love story that is unfettered by aliens, time travellers and espers…[allowing] for the story to focus solely on the character’s interactions, making them far more alive than they were in the original TV series”, apply fully to the anime adaptation of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is not a perfect manga (and by extension, not a perfect anime) owing to minor inconsistencies here and there in the story, but it remained an entertaining read because it is able to build anticipation for each volume. With this season now over, we’ve covered around 4.814 volumes: there’s definitely material for a continuation, and while the anime smartly decides to end on a humourous note, the manga’s fifth volume closes off with the introduction of Sasaki, Kyon’s childhood friend. It is likely that we could see a continuation of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan at some point in the future, so the question for the present is not “if”, but “when”. My final word on The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is that, while perhaps a little slow and generic for first-time viewers, there are enough elements to allow this anime to stand on its own merits as the season progresses. Consequently, patience allows individuals to find this anime worthwhile. Those who’ve read the manga and/or are existing fans of Suzumiya Haruhi will find this to be an entertaining watch.

Why anime film reviews cannot be “spoiler-free”: A case study through the K-On! Movie

“It’s about communication. It’s about honesty. It’s about treating people in the organisation as deserving to know the facts. You don’t try to give them half the story. You don’t try to hide the story. You treat them as true equals, and you communicate and you communicate and communicate.” —Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.

  • The short version of this post is, if you see a post on a blog about an anime movie you’ve been interested in watching, the movie’s BD/DVDs aren’t out yet, and the post says its spoiler free, don’t click on it if you’re looking to avoid spoilers. Granted, the blogger gets less traffic, but your movie-going experience is rather more important. Bloggers looking to write a review on an anime movie before the BD/DVD release should clearly state that their post will have spoilers and not attempt to misrepresent it.

A glance at the calendar shows that there are numerous anime movies releasing within the next half-year, most notably, the Girls und Panzer movie. These anime films are going to be highly anticipated, but it’s not difficult to spot that discussions on anime movies represent a different sort of challenge for both viewers and reviewers alike. Rather than releasing within a week of the original air date, anime movies only become accessible to overseas audiences via home releases. Barring an opportunity to time a visit to Japan with the release of a movie, viewers typically must wait for the movie’s home release in order to view said movie. As such, English-language discussions for an anime movie are virtually non-existent until the home releases come out.

Consequently, individuals looking to maximise their enjoyment of these movies typically avoid any websites and/or blogs discussing these anime movies. However, in passing years, there have cases where some reviewers purport that it is possible to provide a meaningful discussion without introducing spoilers into their review. These spoilers, defined here to be any piece of information from a part of the media that detracts from the experience, especially with regards to details entailing a narrative’s plot. However, a review aims to evaluate its medium based on how effectively it satisfies what the audience was anticipating, whether it be how well a story is told, how effectively characters contribute to plot progression, whether or not suspense elements are effective, and so on. These discussions are only effective if the reviewer is able to draw upon specific details within a medium to support their evaluations, and more often than not, said details overlap with information that would constitute a spoiler. As such, an effective, useful review that is simultaneously spoiler-free is a contradiction and cannot exist.

A review is intrinsically spoiler-laden by definition and as such, when a review about an anime movie claiming to be “spoiler-free” is written, it would doubtlessly turn heads. Such a review was written at Yaranakya concerning the K-On! Movie, posted nearly a month after it had premièred in Japan. In this review, Cytrus (the author) opens with a disclaimer, stating that it would not “important plot points or describe scenes in detail”, restricting its contents only to “themes and contents in broad terms”. Unfortunately, this review is unsuccessful from the start: Cytrus suggests that the movie faced unknowns during production, as this marked the first time the K-On! franchise was stepping onto the silver screen and is forced to reveal that the whole point of the K-On! Movie was not about London itself, but rather, to present the story behind how Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! came about. Tenshi ni Fureta Yo! acts as the cornerstone for the entire film, and London itself is a secondary aspect that provides a backdrop for Houkago Teatime as they aspired to write a song that captured how they felt about Azusa. In doing so, the film aims to illustrate that “everything is special if the group of individuals one is with is special, regardless of what one is doing”.

The reason for each of the artistic decisions within the film is motivated by this objective, and any review must adequately address this if it is to assess whether or not the K-On! Movie is worth watching. The “spoiler-free” review in question ultimately cannot maintain its no-spoiler policy: in order to analyse the overarching themes within the film, critical plot elements must be mentioned. The end result is a review that does a disservice to the readers. The title misrepresents the review by suggests that its readers will be able to peruse its contents without gaining information on the film that would subsequently diminish the film’s impact. Instead, Cytrus clearly states in its body that Tenshi ni Fureta Yo!, and not London, is the keystone to the K-On! Movie‘s plot.

While K-On! is considered to be an anime where there is intrinsically limited opportunity for spoilers, it nonetheless represents an interesting case study illustrating that even in something as simple as K-On!, it is nigh-impossible to completely eschew spoiler elements. As such, while the review in this discussion reaches a reasonable verdict on the movie, it winds up making use of spoilers and ultimately violates its own no-spoiler policy. Consequently, any readers who were looking for a true “spoiler-free” review will not find one at Yaranakya. Cytrus demonstrates that even the best efforts to avoid spoilers are unsuccessful, because a meaningful review must directly address plot points. Inconsequential this might be for a franchise such as K-On!, there are implications for anime films that are story-driven: conceivably, readers may encounter blogs that might profess to have a “spoiler-free” discussion and wind up learning something that diminishes their own enjoyment of the film later on.

This ties in with the upcoming Girls und Panzer movie; the franchise’s popularity doubtlessly mean that a greater number of people might consider visiting Japan in November 2015 for the film’s premier. This would statistically mean that there could be a greater volume of discussions concerning the movie, with writers publishing talks on their experiences with the film. However, given that spoilers are inevitable in any good discussion, individuals looking to maximise their own enjoyment of the Girls und Panzer movie (and other upcoming anime films in general) should minimise contact with said discussions, whether or not they are marked as spoiler-free or not: discussions tend to be more meaningful when individuals learn of critical plot elements and piece them together for themselves.

  • While it’s unlikely to be the case, there could be a number of casual bloggers out there are willing to sink in a few thousand dollars to fly over to Japan and watch the Girls und Panzer Movie after it airs. After the film’s home release comes out, I will strive to get a review of the film out, and I’ll do two things that a review written after the theatrical première cannot do: I’ll have plenty of screenshots, and a masterful discussion that ties everything together without the need to worry about spoilers.