The Infinite Zenith

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

Manning the Telephone: I Declare an Emergency- Sora no Woto Eighth Episode Review and Reflection

“Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.” — King George V

When headquarters sends a request stating that they will be doing a test of the phone lines, requiring at least one person to be available to pick up the phone when the call is made, Kanata decides to volunteer, as the others have errands to run. Prior to leaving, Rio gives Kanata a book on trumpet practise that was once owned by Iliya Arkadia. While it seems a quiet afternoon, Mishio, Seiya and the local priest arrive, but pandemonium ensues when Mishio spooks the owl. Yumina shows up shortly after, reprimands the others for having created such a mess and offers Kanata a change of clothing. While continuing her wait, Kanata finds herself in need of a visit to the bathroom; she is relieved when Rio returns, and Rio responds to the phone call to learn that an unwelcome figure is in need of her assistance. In a return to the atmosphere characterising earlier Sora no Woto episodes, the eighth episode is decidedly more relaxed and easy-going in nature for its duration. However, the phone call that Rio picks up is the surest sign that, in light of the previous episode, the situation in Sora no Woto is shifting as battle lines begin to form, and Rio’s asked with carrying out a favour she seems opposed to.

The more serious elements in the episode’s closing aside, Sora no Woto‘s eighth episode places Kanata in a rather uncomfortable position, when she’s asked to keep an eye on the phone and answer it. While I’m not sure how things work out in Japan, Kanata’s situation is reminiscent of what is experienced when one asks a worker to come over to their home for work or inspection. As they tend to give a very wide range of hours (e.g. “please be available between nine and one”), it forces one to book a half-day off to wait for said worker. However, the worker may not show up if their schedules are busy, and they might reschedule, resulting in another half-day of lost time. While Kanata is able to spend that time practising trumpet and having an amusing, if unusual time with the priest and children early on, her conundrum is a rather clever parallel to the state that one might encounter should their appointment be given a wide range of hours. Comedy of this variety is admittedly rare in anime, but to see such a scenario in Sora no Woto was most welcome.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the eighth episode marks a return to the more mundane everyday elements surrounding the 1121st, it would be quite difficult to write another post that spans thirty images. As such, I’ve returned to the usual twenty images that have accompanied earlier posts, and I note that it’s been surprisingly quiet on my previous discussion. Armed with access to my site metrics, it seems that search engines have not managed to index the page.

  • The entire episode is set at the Clocktower fortress, starting in the morning, where Kanata is assigned to keep an eye on the telephone at breakfast. Here, she practises answering the phone for the moment the call comes through, and while seemingly a trivial episode, one of the main joys is seeing the different progression of lighting through the fortress as the day progresses.

  • Later in the morning, Filicia shows up and messes with Kanata, who continues to patiently wait for the phone call, before noting that she and Kureha are taking off to deliver mission critical files back to their commanding unit. The most prominent anime reviewers of the day (primarily specialising in summarisation rather than discussion) noted that the episode itself was disappointing, while more vehement complaints saying that Sora no Woto has in effect thrown away an entire episode’s worth of time.

  • Rio drops by to check in on how Kanata is doing here. While period opinion seems to suggest that I’m with the majority who felt that a calm, more relaxing eighth episode after the heavier seventh was a welcome break, some individuals contend that the episode was shallow and pandering, bland in nature. These are the classic arguments that opponents of the moé genre often field in their discussion, and as a consequence of their short-sightedness, have missed details in this seemingly unextraordinary episode.

  • One such detail is how Kanata seems to be in the loop for the Clocktower Fortress’ Calvados operation now, much to Rio and Naomi’s surprise. How this happened would have been a mystery at the time of the episode’s airing, although some folks who were aware of the presence of a pair of bonus episodes to be included with the (then) future releases of the Blu-Rays quickly put two and two together, suggesting that the episode set between this episode and the previous one may explore that in greater detail.

  • This prediction turned out to be true, and as it turns out, the misadventures surrounding how Kanata comes to learn the secret is a hilarious one. When I embarked on this revisitation of Sora no Woto, I realised that I already had OVA posts completed many years back; these date back to 2012, which would have been only a few months after I had finished watching Sora no Woto back in summer 2011. My old website hosted my Sora no Woto whole-series review, and I figured I would capitalise on my then-unused blog to further explore the OVAs. A quick inspection of these older posts find that they are still of a reasonably high standard, so I’m not going to revisit the OVAs again. Here, Kanata, Rio and Naomi share a lunch here of sandwiches and the Calvados, and Rio gives Kanata a trumpet practise guide that Iliya herself once owned.

  • This landscape still was included purely because one of the few moments in the episode where scenery outside of the Clocktower fortress is depicted. The morning had seen clear skies, and as afternoon sets in, clouds begin appearing over the town of Seize. By afternoon, Kanata begins practising fingering techniques for the trumpet while drinking a copious amount of fluid. Late in the afternoon, the clouds roll over Seize and drop a downpour on the area.

  • This forces Kanata to retrieve the laundry, but as she manages to set it down, the priest and some of the children from Yumina’s convent arrive. It turns out that the priest is set to visit Treize (City Thirteen) for an undisclosed reason, and so, while the episode may prima facie seem inconsequential, minor comings-and-goings show that outside of Seize, things are not so rosy as peace begins seeing disruptions.

  • As the telephone still remains silent, Kanata helps the children in creating some tin can phones for fun. What is initially a fun activity to pass the time soon turns to pandemonium when Shuko is frightened and takes off, causing the others to panic. In the meyhem, Calvados is spilled, and things get knocked over. Kanata takes the brunt of the damage in trying to protect the telephone.

  • All of this comes as Yumina arrives on station: when she beholds the destruction, she immediately sets about lecturing the priest and children for not observing etiquette while visiting. Meanwhile, Kanata is outfitted in a rather colourful dress that Yumina happened to have with her at the time.

  • From a personal perspective, this episode was an appropriate breather from the events that have previously happened. Most of the folks who’ve found the episode to single-handedly render the whole of Sora no Woto unwatchable have since vanished, so I’ve not to contend with them when I note that such individuals probably do not understand how reality works: there are days where things are busy or difficult, and other days where things are rather more straightforward. To expect a high-octane story the entire way is to misunderstand what makes good fiction: without moments of quiet, one has no baseline to determine when disruption has occurred.

  • If such individuals were to come out of the woodwork now and challenge me in discussion, I’d welcome it: things’ve gotten too quiet around these parts. Kanata’s dress seems to cause Seiya to see her in a new light, and he blushes mildly when asked about his opinion of Kanata’s new dress. This point is a minor one, but presumably, it is Seiya who later writes that he wishes to marry Kanata on his wooden plaque during the next Festival.

  • As a sign that I’m beginning to run low on remarks about the eighth episode, despite enjoying it, I deviate from the topic and note that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is entering the open beta stage tomorrow: preloading began yesterday, and the open beta runs from tomorrow to the 27th. I’m set to go on a poker and pizza night with my coworkers on Friday and will lose Friday evening, while on Saturday, I’ve got some financial matters to arrange. I don’t think I’ll be able to play through the game quite to the same extent that I did last year for Tom Clancy’s The Division.

  • With this in mind, I am going to see if I can manage at least five hours so I can experience the beta sufficiently to both write about it and decide whether or not the game will be worth purchasing. If it turns out I can play the game exclusively in single-player mode, and there’s a good mix of urban and rural settings to explore in the full game, I will likely buy it. The Division, while still intriguing, is not single player-friendly beyond level thirty; I’ve had mixed feelings about buying it, and if Wildlands turns out to be more supportive of folks who wish to go solo, I’ll consider picking it up.

  • The urgency of her task means that Kanata has not left her post all day, and here, she’s feeling the effects of having consumed all that fluid from earlier: she’s in desperate need of a trip to the facilities, and Rio arrives just in time to keep an eye on the telephone. In general, one can last roughly nine to ten hours without using the bathroom assuming normal hydration levels, and while the parasympathetic nervous system will signal a need to hit the bathroom, these feelings can be suppressed, even if it is inadvisable: it is quite uncomfortable and can lead to renal problems if frequently done.

  • Quite personally, I am not a fan of phones. I will attempt to avoid using them where possible, on the sole virtue that voice communications over a device I am holding close to my ear is an exercise in patience, taking my hands from other tasks. If the option is available, I will route the call over to my computer so I have my hands free while simultaneously talking with the recipient. With this in mind, I’m not a great multi-tasker: unlike computers, which excel at asynchronous processes, I prefer working in a synchronous manner, finishing one task before moving onto the next.

  • At the end of a long day, Rio is the one to pick up the phone, only to learn that it’s her father calling. Overriding the protocol, he calls to ask a favour of Rio, telling her that she is to be involved in saving Helvetia. It is mentioned earlier that peace talks have been unfruitful, leaving Helvetia on the brink of another war with the Roman Empire. Recalling that it is likely the Roman Empire that Filicia’s old tank crew was fighting, the implications are clear: either Rio can shirk her responsibility for her pride’s sake at the cost of thousands of lives, or else face her destiny to stave off an impending war.

  • Rio’s phone conversation with her father may leave something to remind viewers that behind all of the fun and games at the Clocktower Fortress, the 1121st are nonetheless a part of the world, but for the moment, Kanata’s attempts to find a bathroom are unsuccessful when Noël reveals that sleeping in the bathroom is one of her pastimes. This brings Kanata to the brink of involuntary enuresis.

  • It’s nightfall by the time Filicia and Kureha return from their journey to headquarters. Seeing Kanata on the floor seemingly unable to pick herself up, and quite unaware of the situation she’s in, Filicia decides it’s time to “help” Kanata and extract her from the floor. These final moments bring the eighth episode of Sora no Woto to an end, and it strikes me that we’re very nearly a sixth of the way into 2017 now.

  • The end result of the episode winds up being hilarious even in spite of myself, and presumably, Filicia and the others are left with a bit of a mess on their hands in the episode’s aftermath. This episode, though enjoyable from my point-of-view, left some viewers wondering if Sora no Woto would “devolve” into moé trash. I argue that moé is irrelevant in the context of Sora no Woto, and that it is more of the world it is set in, coupled with Kanata’s outlook, that drive the theme in Sora no Woto. I hold this position primarily because I am armed with a perspective that most contemporary viewers lack and as such, with the eighth episode being the exception rather than the rule, I was not bothered by how it ended: I merely selected the next episode and continued with this series.

While this episode of Sora no Woto felt a little unusual in the wake of the more serious tone set by the previous episode (in fact, some viewers claimed it was “filler” or a “step backwards”), it nonetheless shows that life itself is not always meant to be high octane and somber in nature; I imagine that the choice to craft a more comical narrative into the eighth episode was likely to balance out the moody atmosphere the previous episode left behind. With this in mind, the overall tone in Sora no Woto has taken a shift, and it becomes clear that for better or worse, circumstances are shifting with the phone call that Rio receives: there is no going back now, hence the choice to give Sora no Woto one final episode where humour and relaxation is dominant. From here on out, Sora no Woto takes a markedly different direction, as questions about Rio’s background and her relationship with Princess Iliya is discussed in greater detail.

Battlefield 1: Winter Revision, Ribbons and The First Behemoth Kill

“I think there’s a part in each one of us that wants the impossible to happen, and that’s what surprises are.” —Gina Carano

The latest Battlefield 1 revision brings several new things to the game, including the much-welcomed return of ribbons for achieving different goals during the course of a match, weapon mastery codecs that also offer a twenty five thousand experience bonus for reaching five hundred kills with a certain weapon, and increasing the class rank cap from ten to fifty. Under-the-hood adjustments have also been made, altering the way the different weapons handle. The submachine guns and light machine guns now have increased horizontal recoil, while the medic’s self-loading rifles have increased reload delay and slightly reduced recoil to improve their accuracy. Aside from these modifications, multiple bug fixes have also been implemented to improve the game’s stability and performance. In addition, gas grenades have also been downgraded, giving them a reduced time of efficacy. Overall, the most noticeable change is the addition of ribbons, which brings back a portion of Battlefield I was very fond of. The news that ribbons are the first stage in the progression system is most welcome; Battlefield 1 has had a dramatically simplified progression system compared to its predecessors, and as one of the most entertaining aspects was having the things to unlock, so I’m hoping that this will mark the return of different weapon accessories and attachments for obtaining a certain number of kills with a weapon. The modifications to the weapons are minor: post-patch, I’ve been having more trouble with the LMGs, but beyond this, the guns remain very usable. The lessened duration that gas persists after being deployed is also a welcome change: I’m not fond of the extent that gas is used, as it cripples the medic class at close quarters.

One feature that would be a powerful addition in conjunction with the return of weapon accessories would be to modify how spotting presently works in Battlefield 1. While each of the weapons in Battlefield 1 presently come with a set of options that allow for some customisation, it would be nice to be able to unlock barrel modifications and under barrel grips to modify the weapon’s stats in a very minor manner to allow one the choice of fine-tuning their weapon further. The return of different barrel types, suppressors and foregrips would be fantastic; while perhaps unrealistic, it would definitely bring back the level of customisation available in earlier Battlefield titles. In particular, barrel modifications (suppressors, extended barrels, compensators) would allow for the spotting system to be altered. At present, spotting can only be done via hitting the spot button or else using spotting flares; in Battlefield 3 and 4, firing a weapon would put one on the mini-map. Because players are now able to stay hidden for longer, this encourages camping, allowing them to merely wait at a spot and blow away unsuspecting targets. The proposed change would allow players within 10-20 meters of someone who’d fire to hear them, placing them on the minimap for several seconds. This forces players to fire their weapons more tactically, and apply different weapon modifications to accommodate their play styles (e.g. folks who enjoy camping could equip a suppressor that keeps them off the mini-map at the expense of bullet damage and travel speed). For now, however, Battlefield 1 remains remarkably fun, and in this post, I recount some of the misadventures I had following the application of the Winter revision, which, among other things, saw me land the finishing blow to a behemoth for the first time.

Screenshots and Commentary

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  • Today, we’re not here to poke fun at the RNG mechanics of Kantai Collection that cause players to go ARGH: this post is purely about Battlefield 1 and the whacky adventures that I’ve been on since my last post. All of these screenshots were taken over this past weekend, so the moments of me trying out the Gewehr M.95 and the M1097 SL Sweeper have not been included. Here, I’ve returned to my medic tryhard weapon, the Selbstlader M1916 Marksman variant. The map Ballroom Blitz has a great deal of open areas in Conquest, making weapons with a suitable mid-to-long range optic an essential.

  • The ribbons caught me by surprise; when I was playing through this match of conquest, I managed to get ten kills, leading my first-ever ribbon to appear. They’re well-designed and reward consistent play-styles, offering 300 XP when acquired. This means that I’ve now reached rank five for my assault class, and rank four for the medic class. In most conquest matches, I’ll switch frequently between the assault and medic classes; depending on what my team needs, I’ll usually choose a role to revive them or else take out the vehicles impeding our progress.

  • After a traditionally weak start in Battlefield 1, my KD ratio’s leveled out and is holding steady: for the past few weeks, my performance has been sub-par as I focus on playing objectives, but having acclimatised back to the different weapon updates, I’ve stayed positive for most of the rounds. Some of my better matches, I’m finally managing to hold a ratio of two or greater, and when that happens, the text chat usually has players remarking how easily our team is holding against the other team.

  • While only yielding forty-five-point-seven percent of the points I scored last time I shot down a plane with the Mark V Landship’s main cannon, this particular shot remains an impressive one because I manage to shoot down a much more nimble fighter. Intended for anti-air dogfights, fighters are quite weak and compensate with their superior maneuverability. Thus, using the slow-firing 57mm cannon to shoot down a plane counts as a wow moment: I thought it was an attack plane about to strafe capture point alpha and fired, watching the shell arc and graze the plane. A hit marker appeared, and seconds later, the plane exploded.

  • Here, I make use of the anti-tank grenades in their intended role of damaging vehicles and successfully destroyed my first-ever behemoth. Only a small bit of health remained, and the train had stopped. I tossed the granade towards the final seat, thinking to contribute to the armoured train’s destruction, but instead, the train exploded completely, netting me a cool thousand points for my troubles, a new codex entry for my troubles and some remarks in the text chat from teammates thanking everyone for working together to take the behemoth out. I’ve come close previously, using the fortress gun against the Zeppelin on Monte Grappa, but was killed before I could do too much damage.

  • Shotguns have seen a bit of modification throughout Battlefield 1‘s lifespan so far; the game launched with the Model 10-A dominating all of the other shotguns, and the subsequent autumn update gave the M97 Trench Gun and 12G Automatic minor improvements so they would be more competitive, while at once reducing the upper range the Model 10-A could one-shot someone. In this patch, the 12G Automatic has been further upgraded so it has a slightly longer damage drop-off.

  • I’ve gone back to try the Model 10-A Hunter now that I’ve unlocked it, and while perhaps not quite as powerful as it was prior to the patch, the weapon line still stands among one of the most frequently used shotguns in Battlefield 1, with the M97 Trench Gun used with a slightly reduced frequency. Here, I focus on helping my team defend and recapture points to preserve our lead and make certain that my successful behemoth kill was not wasted.

  • Suez, despite the several changes made to the map earlier, still remains horrendously unbalanced in that once the Ottoman team takes a lead, they will likely retain that lead. Here, however, I play on a short TDM round and while my team is devastated, I manage to get a few interesting moments with the Sentry kit and with the Automatico M1918: I’ve not seen a squad saviour ribbon since Battlefield 4.

  • I now run with the AT Rocket Gun primarily as my long range weapon, since most of my weapons as the assault class are not particularly useful at medium to long ranges. Aside from the cool kill I get here on a sniper, I also stop to admire the clouds in the sky: they look photorealistic, far better than the clouds in any Battlefield  game I’ve seen previously, and are dynamic elements, moving through the sky and affecting lighting.

  • In a match of conquest on Giant’s Shadow, I noticed capture point foxtrot was still occupied, but with no one outside and teammates dying, it was probable that the enemy team was camped out in one of the buildings. I tossed an anti-tank grenade into the building, which took out the guy inside. Another fellow running outside to escape the grenade was met with fire from my MP-18 and by this point, I’m finding the MP-18 to be a reasonably effective SMG.

  • On a foggy conquest map at St. Quentin Scar, I drive a light tank over two players taking shots at me, splattering them. I’ve actually spent very little time in vehicles since purchasing Battlefield 1, preferring to act as a gunner for a vehicle already in operation or else going on foot. Incidentally, this morning started out quite foggy, but by the time I arrived with the family for Dim Sum (it’s the Family Day holiday today in my province), the skies had cleared up. It’s been a while since I’ve had Dim Sum, probably in excess of a year: 炸蝦角 (fried shrimp dumplings) were the first to arrive, followed by the customary 蝦餃 (shrimp dumplings) and 燒賣(pork-and-mushroom dumpling). The fare at the restaurant is as good as I remember.

  • With clearer skies, I took a stroll around the core, through Prince’s Island Park (incidentally, the place where I did the simulated date with Nagisa Furukawa) before heading home. Returning to Battlefield 1, here, I destroy an artillery truck that’s been maligning my team with the AT rocket gun. The artillery truck is capable of laying down incredible firepower and is more than capable of defending itself against infantry, being counted as an underappreciated vehicle in the game. With this in mind, I am not fond of players who spawn in an artillery truck and spend entire matches camping out on some far corner of the map going 50 and 1, so it is incredibly satisfying to destroy an artillery truck and deny them of this play-style.

  • I’ve heard that the bayonet charge challenge ends today, and I’ve only gotten two of the six bayonet charge kills required for the dog tag, so I’ll have to wait for another encore event if I’d like another stab at the dog tag. Bayonet charges are a fun element of Battlefield 1, allowing players to charge into any infantry and take them down in one shot, although the use of this feature is balanced out with a cool-down time. The screams and battle cries associated with the bayonet charge is hilarious.

  • This domination match was one of the best games of Battlefield 1 I’ve played since buying the game: the match was up to 150 points rather than the usual 100, and I maintained a 2.1 KD ratio, scoring 7502 points during the match’s run. In conjunction with the bonus, this netted me a total of 12678 points, pushing my assault class closer to unlocking the Hellriegel, and here, I get another shotgun kill to earn a shotgun ribbon.

  • All of the shotguns are equally viable to use now, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. While the M97 Trench Gun seems to have the slight edge in general, I return to the Model 10-A Hunter to tear apart the enemy team. It’s been quite some time since I’ve really had this kind of performance in Battlefield, but now that I’ve become a bit more familiar with the map layout and mechanics in Battlefield 1, I’m slowly beginning to perform more consistently.

  • It is fantastic to see Battlefield 1 reward players for helping their teammates, and here, I get a kill assist ribbon when I fire on a distant opponent, dealing a bit of damage to the target who is subsequently finished off by a teammate. “Assist counts as kill” is also a fantastic and fair way of rewarding players for having done much of the work in shooting at an opponent who is finished off by a teammate.

  • While our team was steam-rolling the other team, near the end of the match, they began playing in a much more coordinated fashion and began mounting a comeback. However, it was too little too late, and we managed to hold onto our lead. At one point, I found myself critically low on health and crawled underneath a train to await regeneration. I saw a sniper peering down at me from the other end, switched out to the AT rocket gun and fired, taking him out, then continued crawling over and killed two more people with the shotgun.

  • After a fantastic match of domination with the shotguns, I swapped over to the Automatico M1918 Trench for a round of TDM, and despite the slow start, I managed to even out my KD ratio and obtained the submachine gun ribbon. The Automatico M1918 is the king of close quarters DPS, balanced out with a small magazine size, and under the foggy cover of St. Quentin Scar, I flanked my opponents and unloaded magazine upon magazine into unaware players.

  • This was actually quite a close game: we only won by a point, and the lead continued shifting throughout the match. I ended up with a KD ratio of 1.81 and 6078 points in a victory. While Battlefield 1 has done a better job of balancing out the classes than Battlefield 1, by now, I’m finding myself gravitating towards the assault class more frequently owing to how this class seems to have the best time-to-kill out of any of the other classes.

  • With the fog lifted, I enter the streets of St. Quentin Scar and find myself impressed yet again at just how strongly it reminds me of Strike WitchesBattlefield 1 is the closest we have to Strike Witches in the Frostbite Engine, and will continue to hold this position until DICE announces their next major project. A full-fledged World War Two shooter will allow me to replicate the Witches’ loadouts more faithfully, but for the time being, one setup that I will be trying soon is the Charlotte Yeager loadout — BAR Storm, M1911, repair tool (she loves tinkering with her Striker Unit to boost its speed) and limpet charges to stand in for the 500 pound bomb she used in the Operation Victory Arrow OVA.

The increased level cap and presence of weapon masteries now means that there’s plenty of things to do in Battlefield 1 in order to unlock everything conceivable, and with the DLC “They Shall Not Pass” coming out in March, I’m curious to see what the new maps, weapons and vehicles are like. If this DLC, and the upcoming Russian one offer exciting new maps, I will likely pick up the Battlefield 1 Premium upgrade: it’s rather pricey now owing to the fact that Battlefield 1 is a relatively new game, but if the new maps are well-built and offer atmospherics unparalleled (in other words, maps that remind me of the Strike Witches and/or Brave Witches), then I will pick up the Premium upgrade during a sale either during the Easter holiday or Black Friday. Despite all of the complaints levelled at Battlefield 1 and remarks that the decreasing player-base is a sign that the game is “dying”, I’ve continued to have fun in an environment quite different than that offered by Battlefield 4, and for the present, there’s still my journey to the Hellriegel, which I’m halfway towards unlocking, and the Kolibri, which I need to put a greater amount of effort towards so that I may replicate Hikari’s kill on the Neuroi hive in Brave Witches’ finale.

Wake Up, Girls!: Beyond The Bottom Movie Review and Reflection

“This is just the beginning!” —Darth Tyranus to Yoda, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Released in December 2015, Beyond the Bottom is the second half of the two Wake Up, Girls! movies. After returning to Sendai, WUG begins regrouping and preparing for their next major challenge at the Tokyo Idol Festival. However, armed with Tasuku’s composition, the girls are excited to participate, even though they will require one other song in order to consider participating. In order to elevate their publicity, the girls take a trip around Japan, garnering the attention of folks around the nation, who begin to take notice and cheer them on. Meanwhile, Junko gets in touch with an old friend who, after watching WUG perform, is moved and decides to write a song for them. When returning from their trip, Nanami’s father picks her up and questions her desire to become a Hikarizuka performer. Left with lingering doubts, the tenants of WUG lead her to follow her original plan to be a Hikarizuka performer, but realising the connection she has with Mayu and the others, she decides to perform with WUG, having felt the most at home with this group. The I-1 club also undergoes a disruption when Shiho is ejected for having failed to exceed Megumi in sales numbers, and sent to a small-time idol unit. Understanding how Mayu felt when she had bested her earlier, Shiho resolves to put her current unit on the map. When the Idol Festival arrives, WUG meets with the other idols, and it is remarked that this meeting feels like a class reunion. WUG reforms their practise to account for Nanami’s arrival, and when the time comes for them to perform, the girls put their heart and souls into singing and dancing. Seeing the solid performances from the different teams leads I-1 Club’s manager, Tōru Shiraki, to smile and acknowledge Tasuku’s speculation that creating distinct idol groups was a part of his plan to further the popularity of idols in Japan. In the post-credits scene, WUG stands triumphant, having taken first place at the competition.

The second Wake Up, Girls! movie, Beyond the Bottom continues with following WUG’s journey as an idol unit. Having demonstrated their resolve to make an impact even in a world fraught with challenge and resistance, their determination has earned the respect of those around them to give them a chance, and even though the different members each face their own challenges, as a whole, the group’s overall cohesion and team spirit prevail. Beyond the Bottom also carries over its predecessor’s tendency to deal with multiple sub-narratives — while coming across as a little busy, these plot lines come together in a satisfying manner in time for the conclusion. Nanami’s conflict between her idol work and dreams to perform in Hikarizuka theatre underlines how individuals’ goals can shift over time, and how a group of closely-knit individuals sharing a common goal can be instrumental in helping one come to understand what they seek. For Nanami, her realisation comes when she’s alone at the station awaiting her Hikarizuka exam: the empty concourse halls are in contrast to the high spirits WUG are in prior to their travels to Tokyo for the Idol Festival, and it is this unity that leads her to settle on a decision. The other sub-narrative follows Shiho in the aftermath of falling behind on her sales target. Now experiencing the same as Mayu years before, she immediately picks herself up and resolves to pound I-1 for having discarded her as a center. While seemingly a demotion, Shiho is given a chance at a new start and understands this, motivated to demonstrate her own skill as an idol in leading a smaller unit. Curses and setbacks can be a blessing in disguise, and sometimes, a new perspective is what one needs to realise this. By the time of the Idol Festival, Shiho is ready to deliver a heartfelt performance worthy of the stage. These elements both add a bit of urgency to the Idol Festival, showing that each group has their own reasons in striving for the top spot, but ultimately, with WUG’s overall victory, it would suggest that there is a magic amongst WUG that allow them to perform exceptionally and stand out even in a market place saturated with talent.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Like the previous Wake Up, Girls! movie review, this post will have thirty screenshots such that more elements can be explored. My extensive command of Google-fu has yielded a conclusion — with this post, I lay claim to the internet’s only discussion with an extensive collection of Beyond the Bottom screenshots. Here, Kouhei announces WUG’s latest assignment back at their headquarters on a hot summer’s day, and Minami is seen talking into a fan with amusing results.

  • I’ve long abbreviated the group “Wake Up, Girls!” as WUG (not the Steyr AUG bullpup rifle) and refer to them collectively as such because it is both consistent with how they are known in-universe, as well as for the fact that it saves me a few seconds in typing out the name, and also has the further advantage of minimising confusion as to whether or not I am referring to the show or the idol unit. The girls are also assigned to sell merchanise to promote their presence here, exhibiting a degree of excitement in doing so.

  • In their first performance of the movie’s second half, WUG realises that they’ve come full circle and are now performing at the same venue where they first started their journey on a cold December’s evening. This time, rather than the occasional passerby as their audience, they’ve accumulated a small but dedicated following who genuinely enjoy their perfomances.

  • While on break at another performance, WUG encounter the group of lead performers who remain in character as Japanese Samurai; they are impressed with the resolve that each of the members exhibits, and the leader advises the girls in trusting their own decisions in order to move forward, which foreshadows later events.

  • I’ve made mention of Shiho Iwasaki in earlier posts, but have not gone into much details or even presented her visage. To rectify that, here she is: I-1’s former centre, she was dismissed after her sales were eclipsed by another rival’s. It is in Beyond the Bottom that she experiences what Mayu went through, but whereas Mayu was dismissed entirely, Shiho is reassigned to a smaller idol group, dubbed “Next Storm”. To demonstrate that she has what it takes, Shiho resolves to compete in the Idol Festival and take her team to the top spot.

  • Here, Junko meets with an old friend who performed alongside her when they themselves were part of an idol unit, Saint 40, many years back. Her friend is presently an office worker of sorts but still sings at a local club; Junko remarks she’s lost none of her singing talents in the times that have passed, and for everything that’s occurred between them, they remain close friends.

  • Kouhei and Junko plan a trip around Japan to bolster WUG’s presence that takes up much of August. According to my site’s archive, during this time, I was involved in bringing my Unity cell model into the CAVE and Oculus Rift as part of my graduate research. The summer students were wrapping up their own projects, and a major forest fire burning over in British Columbia blanketed the area in a heavy smoke. Exiting my last full summer as a university student, I entered my final year of graduate school refreshed and ready to roll.

  • Upon learning that their ride around Japan is a dirty-looking van, the girls take to cleaning it, and by the time they finish, though they cannot alter the van’s performance attributes or design, the van looks revitalised. This action is a subtle hint at WUG’s modus operandi: they are able to find the positives and make the most out of whatever situation is presented to them. This attribute becomes invaluable for the team moving forwards.

  • While travelling around Japan, message boards begin lighting up as locals begin watching their performances and interactions with people. The messages transform from pleasant surprise to genuine well-wishes as the girls move the audiences’ hearts and minds, and here, after Kouhei manages to stop the van for an elderly lady who’d dropped her apples, the girls step out to help her. By giving those around them a personal touch, WUG projects an image that they are a more personal, more relatable group than the manufactured, machine-like nature of much larger idol units.

  • A part of being a small idol unit means the willingness to participate in a variety of jobs; one of the reasons that I tend to view Wake Up, Girls! favourably is because its depiction of WUG’s formation and growth is surprisingly similar to that of a start-up company, where the small team size means that staff are required to perform a variety of tasks in order to keep the company operational. In my experience, this is one of the main joys about a start-up: there is the opportunity to do new things each and every day, keeping things fresh.

  • While in Hakata, Mayu decides to pay Shiho a visit. Located in the Fukuoka Prefecture on Kyūshū island, the city has a population of 216728 as of 2012 and is a marked difference from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. It turns out that while Shiho is not here by choice, she nonetheless embraces the idea of a challenge in bringing a small-time idol group against the giant that is I-1. This stands in stark contrast with Mayu, whose life fell apart when she was dismissed as I-1’s centre. However, thanks to WUG, Mayu’s rediscovered her passion, and the two’s interactions are cordial.

  • The numerous performances take their toll on Yoshino, even as WUG continues to leave a profound impact with their concerts and manage to place first in a regional competition. Mayu notes that songs that they’ve sung have had an impact: I particularly enjoyed First Rate Smile, which sounds best in its WUG incarnation, and Yoshino adds that being able to participate in so much has allowed them to begin discovering their own identity, even if their identity has not been fully defined as of yet.

  • When Nanami is challenged about her future, she begins doubting her time with WUG. Although considered to be an “illogical” addition to Beyond the Bottom, I counter that things can come out of left field at any given time in reality — life is not as straightforwards as the structured proceedings of a fictional work, and the difficult questions can arise at the most unexpected of times. As someone who has held interests in health and computer sciences, I struggled to decide which field was more befitting of me, coincidentally during Wake Up, Girls!‘ original run.

  • Ultimately, with graduate school admission and scholarship offers appearing much earlier than the results from my medical school applications, I felt that it was perhaps a higher power suggesting to me that software development and application design would be the career I would be most at home in. I accepted my graduate school offer and set out on a journey to further my experiences in writing programs. While I’m now a little more certain as to what I need to do to improve as a developer, Nanami has a bit more trouble determining her own fate.

  • My personal comings-and-goings in conjunction with the events of Wake Up, Girls! is the reason why I view the series favourably, even against lukewarm reception that pointedly outline the different flaws in the anime, ranging from its inferior animation quality to characters that were not memorable. I appreciate effort: while Wake Up, Girls! may not be as fluid as a Kyoto Animation show or have the same emotional impact as something like ARIA or Tamayura, it makes an honest effort to follow a small-time’s group journey into the big leagues, and this sincerity shows in the anime.

  • Junko’s long-time friend agrees to write a song for WUG after visiting: when she watches them rehearse, she is reminded of her own time as a performer. This is indicative of the fact that she sees a bit of herself in the new idols, and thus, feels that her feelings can be properly conveyed by WUG. These elements together lay down the framework for a fantastic song that allow WUG to define their own identity.

  • These folks are the Idol Otaku who support WUG’s every step, running the hidden cyber-operations that garner online support in message boards and forums, fighting to direct the discourse away from negativity and provide a non-trivial degree of contributions to WUG’s success. While seemingly trivial, the prevalence of the internet means that electronic communications have equal relevance with the actions executed in meat-space: as per Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector, armies now march on their bandwidth, as opposed to on their stomachs as they did back in Napoleon’s day.

  • Armed with the new song from Junko’s friend, WUG become excited to begin practising for the Idol Festival — the girls get the sense that this song manages to capture everything about them, which arises as a consequence of Junko’s friend’s experience. Junko has one more surprise for everyone: new uniforms. However, Nanami is a little more apprehensive about her situation, being caught between a rock and a hard place concerning her need to reach a decision soon.

  • While I’ve always regarded the animation and artwork in Wake Up, Girls! to be of an acceptable standard, improving in the movies over its predecessors, one of the things that continue to bother me slightly even in Wake Up, Girls!‘ latest incarnation is how the characters smiles are rendered. Appearing forced, or even a little strained at times, they impart a sense that the characters are not fully happen even when their words, actions and thoughts suggest that they are happy. I’ve learned to compensate for this discrepancy by making use of the dialogue and vocal tones, although in this particular scene, while Miyu is pumped, the others are a bit more concerned.

  • After lifting weights this morning, I spent most of the afternoon playing Battlefield 1: the Winter Patch has arrived, and I’ve got a bit to talk about on that, but it’s a long weekend in my province, the first of the year. The skies turned grey as the day wore on, snow began falling and it’s quite foggy right now. However, the bit of time afforded by a long weekend means that I was able to get this talk out, coming right after a fantastic dinner with the family: besides lobster and white sauce on a bed of crispy noodles as the pièce de résistance, we had a whole steamed fish, chicken, shrimps and mixed vegetables, fried rice, pea shoots, sweat and sour pork and shark fin soup. With the snow beginning to increase in intensity as we settled down for dinner, it proved to be just the thing for keeping spirits high even as winter makes a comeback after a week of warm weather.

  • Nanami speaks with Airi about her predicament: it is her dream to perform at a Hikarizuka theatre, but she also feels a commitment to WUG. Despite being the most unremarkable of the WUG members, Airi also is the most committed, valuing the group’s tenants and understanding them deeply. She suggests being forward and honest about her situation to the others so they’re aware of what’s going on.

  • Thus, Nanami explains her situation to the others and receives support for her decisions. Of the blood, sweat and tears (an expression originating from the Bible and popularised by Sir Winston Churchill) that the WUG put into their work, sweat is in the greatest quantity, followed by tears. There is quite a bit of weeping in Wake Up, Girls!, and while facial expressions can become hilarious on subsequent inspection, whenever I behold the characters crying for the first time, it is quite moving, enough to get dust in my eyes.

  • To emphasise that Nanami has grown close with her peers and friends in WUG, her departure towards the examination location for a Hikarizuka institute is a lonely one. Nanami is depicted as the only passenger at this terminal, and there is not another soul in sight. As her thoughts turn to the memories she has with WUG, the tears begin flowing freely. Nanami’s decision about her future is set at this pivotal moment.

  • While setting off on the first leg of the journey towards their competition venue, WUG encounter Nanami, who reaffirms that WUG is the place she wants to be. With the entire team back together, they rehearse again with Nanami in order to ensure that their performance is a solid one. Time and time again, Nanami finds herself drawn back to WUG, rather similar to how the computer science side of my BHSc eventually became the dominant aspect of my career choice: this suggests that even against the challenges Nanami faces, her dreams have become more concrete with her time amongst this tightly-knit group.

  • Prior to the competition, Mayu and Shiho meet up once again. Despite it being a fight for the top, in their own words, I sense no hostility in this scene. It’s a professional rivalry now, to do one’s best and strive for the top position, but there is also a great deal of respect for one’s competitors. This sets the tone for the remainder of the movie, allowing it to conclude on a high note.

  • With Nanami here and ready to do her utmost, the others wonder if Nanami will have a costume available. Some forward thinking from Kouhei and Junko tend to that, and with this small matter resolved, the girls get set to rehearse. They do so in the same location as they had for the previous year’s competition, and have vivid recollections of their last practise here under the evening skies, during which Yoshino suffered an injury. A great deal has happened since then, and WUG gears up for their performance.

  • Attired in light colours, the latest WUG uniform brings to mind the Peplos dress of the Ancient Greeks, although it appears much simpler in design and is modified with a large golden belt at the waist. The ornaments in the girls’ hair accentuate the Greek inspired designs, and the song they perform here is “Beyond the Bottom”; it has some very unusual acoustic properties that give it a much more ethereal nature compared to the purely upbeat songs they’ve performed previously.

  • Their dancing and singing are very nearly in perfect synchronisation, WUG’s performance is captured in high detail. Back in one of the stands, Tasuku and Tōru share a conversation where the former speculates that Tōru’s methods in dismissing his top idols through competition are motivated by a desire to seed talent and spread the popularity of idols in distant corners of Japan, which in turn would bring further revenue to his company while realising his dream of making idols into a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry.

  • Beholding the whole of the audience waving white glowsticks around in unison while cheering WUG on is an awesome spectacle; between the crowd chanting WUG’s name, the girls moving onto the runway as their performance ends and Junko’s friend agreeing to join Green Leaves Entertainment, the closing of the movie is a crescendo of activity that ends with a still showing the girls with a trophy, having placed first at the competition.

  • The page quote comes from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, where towards the film’s end, Count Dooku retorts to Yoda that their showdown hasn’t ended yet before leaving, after being outmatched by Yoda in a lightsabre duel. A continuation set to come out somewhere this year, I’ll likely be following that in some capacity, and this knowledge means that Beyond the Bottom is not yet the conclusion, motivating the page quote. For the time being, however, the latest of my Wake Up, Girls! posts comes to an end. Upcoming posts will include a talk on my initial impressions of the winter patch for Battlefield 1 and Sora no Woto‘s eighth episode. If time permits, I will also aim to write a brief reflection on Croisée in a Foreign Labyrith before the month is over.

The end result of Beyond the Bottom is a rewarding one for WUG; well-earned, befitting of the movie’s title — with their performance at the Idol Festival, WUG has moved beyond the bottom of the barrel and have made enough waves to become recognised as the small idol unit that could. However, in keeping with the themes of Wake Up, Girls!, their success is not the end-all. Their journey is ongoing, and in December 2016, at the Wake Up, Girls! Festival 2016 Super Live event, it was announced that there will be a continuation to Wake Up, Girls!, dubbed Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shō (New Chapter). The new anime is set to air somewhere in 2017, and features new character designs that give each individual a more distinct appearance. While reception to Wake Up, Girls! generally remains lukewarm at best amongst English-speakers, with some folks regarding the series as “lacklustre” or “illogical and emotionally weak”, I disagree on the virtue that life itself can proceed in unusual ways. The harsh experiences and sudden reversals of fortune can indeed happen, and this series resonated with me in presenting a story where a group slowly makes their presence felt through a combination of teamwork, determination and resilience. Overall, I would give Beyond the Bottom a recommendation for all fans of Wake Up, Girls!, although this film is not for individuals unfamiliar with or else disinterested in Wake Up, Girls!. With the knowledge there is a continuation in the works, set for release later this year, I am quite interested to see what lies in store for the raggedy-ass band of idols known as Wake Up, Girls! in the upcoming anime.

Showering Sound of Cicadas: Spirits Down the River- Sora no Woto Seventh Episode Review and Reflection, Addressing Misconceptions about Existentialism in Sora no Woto

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” —Joel A. Barker

On the day of Fiesta des Lumiéres, the 1121st begin preparations to honour the spirits of those who’ve passed on. However, Felicia begins recalling her old platoon, who were killed in battle. While wandering the battlefield, she fell into a derelict subway tunnel and encountered a dead soldier. As fatigue and exhaustion sets in, Felicia hallucinates a conversation with the soldier, who expresses regret that they were unable to prevent the conflict from devastating the world. She very nearly succumbs to despair, but is rescued by none other than Princess Iliya herself. Back in the present, while watching Kanata and the others set paper lanterns on the river, Felicia and Rio share a conversation about the purpose of their existence; in such a world, where all meaning and value had been stripped from their lives, Rio had long wondered if there’s anything worth fighting for. However, seeing Kanata, Kureha and Nöel leads Felicia to draw a new conclusion — a world intrinsically devoid of meaning is akin to a blank piece of paper, leaving everyone free to find their own paths. Existentialist elements are briefly presented here, and notions that “life is what one makes of it” thus begin taking shape. These themes together form the core of Sora no Woto‘s message as the series progresses, and by setting a precedence for it early on, Sora no Woto establishes itself as having a clearly-defined objective for the audiences.

The seventh episode deals primarily with Felicia’s experiences in an earlier conflict, which yields some insight into the world prior to its devastation. The artifacts and relics left behind are modern constructs, and while the enemy that decimated humanity is never explicitly shown on-screen, it is seemingly equipped with directed-energy weapons. That Felicia is fighting even after this conflict shows that humanity did not learn lessons from the greater war, and while the combat she experiences is in much smaller scale, it nonetheless leaves a substantial impact on her once she loses her comrades, leading her to despair and the edge of death. Her being saved by Princess Iliya is probably intended to show that sometimes, it takes a presence beyond oneself in order to find salvation. Iliya has thus left a significant impression on both Kanata and Felicia, giving the sense that it is fate that Kanata should find herself posted to the Clocktower Fortress; this is intentionally similar to the sort of the sort of coincidence that brought the different events of the previous episode together, reinforcing the ideas of chance meetings and coincidences that took shape earlier in Sora no Woto. From a narrative perspective, the seventh episode also allows Sora no Woto to reiterate the impacts of warfare on the human psyche: earlier episodes depicted the indirect effects of warfare in tearing families apart and devastating the world, but here, the anime exemplifies the direct consequences of warfare. Physical and mental damage invariably result, and to have a core member of the 1121st be effected is to reiterate that the horrors of war can affect anyone indiscriminately.

While existentialism is brought into the picture through Filicia’s remarks towards the episode’s end, it is a comparatively minor aspect of the series. Standing underneath a starry sky, and with a river filled with lanterns in the background, Filicia wonders why she alone survived of her old tank crew. She deduces that her survival was probably a stroke of luck with no inherent meaning, taking joy in the fact that this allows her to project her own meaning into life. This is a core tenant of existentialism, which places a great deal of emphasis on the agent’s choices in governing what is moral or meaningful. Although relevant to Sora no Woto, the prevailing thought is that existentialism is the central theme to the anime. This conclusion is untrue, a misconception reached as a consequence of an incomplete understanding of the world at large. Existentialism here is simply the belief that life has meaning because we choose to give it thus, but it holds a dangerous implication for Sora no Woto‘s thematic element. If we suppose that Sora no Woto was about existentialism, then the anime would suggest that it is sufficient to merely find one’s own meaning in order to have accomplished something meaningful with one’s life. However, existentialism does not exist in a vacuum; values and beliefs only have meaning if they have a tangible impact on a society or those around them. In Sora no Woto, the characters do not merely hold a belief, but they also have a strong enough conviction to act and do what they feel is right. In doing so, they impart that impact to realise their ideas in a tangible fashion: it is necessary to draw meaning from a world inherently lacking so, but alone, it is not sufficient to merely hold ideas if one wishes to impart positive change upon a world. That Kanata is Sora no Woto‘s central protagonist serves to reinforce this point, as she is the one who seems to leave change in her wake through her actions, and so, it should be clear that, while existentialism is very much a part of Sora no Woto, it is by no means the central theme within the anime.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The main aim of this extended post is to properly explain what the seventh episode’s aim was; easily the best episode in Sora no Woto, the episode left in its wake a flurry of discussion about what Sora no Woto is meant to be about. Besides the additional paragraph explaining why existentialism alone is not Sora no Woto‘s theme, I’ve also included ten additional screenshots so that I may flesh out my own remarks further. In a sense, this post will be intended to act as a MythBusters-style discussion as to whether or not existing ideas about Sora no Woto are correct, as well as dispel any misconceptions so that viewers are not predisposed to accepting one particular viewpoint on the virtue that it was first to be presented.

  • With this in mind, I understand that my rebuttals and counterarguments come seven years too late. My disagreements with the notion that Sora no Woto is wholly about existentialism actually dates back several years, when one persistent fellow by the name of sluagh insistently maintained that every action in the anime is existentialist in nature. I firmly digress and remark that it is a common disease of the mind at Tango-Victor-Tango, that ideas have value without action. It’s a testament to the sort of laziness that plagues that crowd, and so, when they see something in an anime that resembles their world view, they chisel that view into something that supports their own belief system without considering other elements in said anime.

  • In a fierce battle between two nations, presumably Rome and Helvetia, Filicia’s tank advances and fires for effect at the Battle of Vingt. However, they manage to hit one of the tanks, causing it to explode. As one of Filicia’s comrades-in-arms steps out to signal a successful shot, a hidden tank takes fire before her crewmates can react. The round mission kills her tank and decimates her crew. The seventh episode opens by establishing the earlier Clocktower Maidens that Filicia alluded to during the fifth episode.

  • In the aftermath, the bugler is blown apart by the round: her arm is the largest bit remaining that’s still intact, bringing to mind the sort of carnage that the 2014 film, Fury, is known for. A fantastic film about a M4 Sherman crew in the Second World War’s final days, it is remarkably visceral about its combat sequences. A German soldier explodes into chunky pink mist when a tank runs him over, and an 88mm round from a Tiger I tears a man’s body open during an armoured engagement.

  • In the heat of summer, Filicia encounters a shadowy, filmy figure standing in the plaza just outside of the Clocktower Fortress. Continuing on from the earlier point, I encountered resistance when I suggested that there’s more to Sora no Woto than just existentialism; the mere suggestion that one must also work hard to achieve their goals is apparently an offensive one. With this in mind, I was originally wondering if the folks who asserted that Sora no Woto‘s theme is entirely driven by existentialism had not seen the series in whole yet. I was hoping this to be the case, as it is an honest mistake, but such beliefs propagated after the last of the OVAs aired, suggesting an unwillingness to commit any effort towards something of value.

  • Kanata constructs animals using eggplants and tomatos in preparation for the Fiesta des Lumiéres; approximating to “Festival of the Lights”, Kanata knows it best as the Obon Festival — lanterns are used to guide the spirits back after their visitation. The Obon festival a Buddhist custom honouring spirits of ancestors, although in Sora no Woto, this festival appears to have been extended to include the spirits of the dead in general, similar to the Día de Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) celebrated in Mexico, as seen in the opening of Spectre. While Kanata holds a sense of wonder towards the Obon, Kureha is concerned about the onryou spirits.

  • Before their conflicting beliefs cause them to clash, Rio and Filicia return to base with supplies for making paper lanterns, as well as a pair of watermelons. While carving the wooden sticks into the slats acting as the lantern’s frame, Filicia accidentally cuts herself. The sight of blood triggers a memory from her past: her old friends were lost in the battle, and as the sole survivor, Filicia is afflicted with a milder form post traumatic stress disorder, occasionally recalling with great clarity what had happened in the aftermath of that incident.

  • A mental illness with a prevalence of around 3.5% in a population, PTSD is poorly detected owing to numerous factors affecting diagnosis. As interpersonal factors are more likely to trigger PTSD than natural causes, it is likely that Filicia’s affliction stems from watching her friends die before her eyes. It speaks volumes about the complexity of the mind when under even these conditions, the mind continues to stress self-preservation. Filicia leaves the site and wanders the battlefield before falling into a subterranean room.

  • The complexity of the biochemical processes within the brain and their effects on an individual are such that even experts have difficulty agreeing on what the mechanisms behind PTSD are: a well-cited article suggests that PTSD results because a traumatic event induces hormonal changes that elevate adrenaline levels and suppress hypothalamus activity (the hypothalamus is an area of the brain central in memory-related functions). Further to this, decreased cortisol levels can result in a longer homeostatic recovery time, lengthening the time to restore brain function, causing a trauma to become more vivid.

  • There are a handful of prominent editorials on Sora no Woto out there dealing with existentialism and memories, but their rambling, imprecise nature suggest that the authors do not fully understand either the implications of their over-generalisations or the science behind why certain things occur. Although I am definitely late to the party, it is not too late to set things right: Sora no Woto is a fantastic anime for dealing with the more challenging topics and depicting them in a plausible manner, but it takes a better mind to work out that these ideas do not make Sora no Woto. Rather, they augment the central themes by crafting characters with depth. Back in the present, Filicia’s patched up and good to go, but the subdued atmosphere, in conjunction with the faded lighting, illustrates that while some physical injuries can heal, mental ones are more difficult to recover from.

  • The warm light of a hot summer’s day streaming through a hole in the gymnasium’s ceiling and the resulting Crepuscular rays evokes memories of the deep summer. It was around June in 2011 when I reached this point in Sora no Woto, and it was a weekend when I watched the episode shortly after finishing the construction of the HGUC Unicorn Gundam (Destory Mode). This episode impacted me in a way unlike any of the others, acting as the magic moment where Sora no Woto suddenly became more than just another anime I was watching. I subsequenrly watched Sora no Woto at a much higher pace, finishing this series before leaving for a trip to the Eastern Seaboard in early July.

  • The dark lighting of the space where the Takemikazuchi stands in comparison to the beautiful weather to create a sense that the burden that Filicia carries is a difficult one, overwhelming the warmth of summer with an internal sort of cold that results in her feeling much different than her usual self. Nöel shows sign of having her own troubles: having established in the fourth episode that Nöel is mistrustful of others, her own responses to the upcoming festival is yet another indicator that she has a checkered past.

  • While the Karabiner 98k is the successor to the Gewehr 98, the weapon has a turned-down bolt handle that makes the bolt far quicker to operate. The weapon features a tangent leaf sight, making it easier to aim compared to the Gewehr 98, and here, Filicia recalls her early days with the old squad, where she is training to fire her service rifle.

  • These memories give a powerful insight into why Filicia runs the 1121st the way she does: far from being the subordinate/commander dynamics seen in the military, Filicia’s old squad also seem to share the flat hierarchy that Filicia herself uses in operating the 1121st. Besides being comrades-in-arms, they are plainly friends, sharing both joyful moments and duties together.

  • Filicia’s CO, Captain Yukiko Miyaoka(name sourced from supplementary materials) notes the possible extinction humanity faces in a dying world. It is revealed here the extent of the damage done to the world is beyond comprehension: whatever conflict humanity fought with their unknown opponents, it was severe enough to destroy the oceanic biosphere. The only comparable events in history is the Permian–Triassic extinction event, where upwards of 96 percent of all marine species became extinct. Geological records show that recovery from this cataclysm took upwards of ten million years.

  • It turns out that Filicia had fallen into a derelict subway tunnel. Underground, Filicia is isolated and very nearly becomes consumed by her guilt at survival where her friends had perished. It is likely that humanity survived total extinction only by fleeing into the tunnels and awaiting the day when the surface became safe to inhabit once more. Although the air down here must be dank and musty, it has enough oxygen to permit Filicia a small fire to light her surroundings.

  • After chancing upon the corpse of a soldier and finding Hiragana scratched into the walls, Filicia desires to read it: translated, the solider who inscribed it into the walls is expressing regret at not being able to protect his family. In the blackest depths of despair, she hallucinates a conversation with a long dead soldier wielding an assault rifle similar to the Howa Type 98. In this conversation, the soldier apologises for having lost their war against an unknown enemy.

  • A large number of Vector-Type Zero Autonomous Tank Walkers (tanks of Takemikazuchi’s family) are seen opening fire with their main guns against an unseen enemy. The electrostatic discharge suggest that their rounds are electromagnetically accelerated, imparting a far larger amount of kinetic energy than achieved with conventional chemical means used in modern armour. Despite the improved firepower, their enemy returns fire with a laser that destroys the entire area. While the presence of a large, raptor-like organism suggests that their enemies are organic in nature and seemingly corroborates with the fossil seen in the first episode, the largest counterargument against this is that the world in Sora no Woto is not currently under any threat from raptors. If the raptors had truly been the aggressors, they would have distributed themselves over the planet following their victory and eliminated the remainder of our species well before the anime would have started. More than likely, this war was the consequence of human actions (perhaps, if Axis had successfully dropped in Char’s Counterattack).

  • The soldier’s words speak of Filicia’s own desolation, suggesting that she’s losing the will to live where everything else has been lost. While this conversation is depicted, it is likely that she’s considering suicide, having wondered what point there is in living when all that she holds dear is no more. However, upon hearing a trumpet on the surface, Filicia shouts out, hoping to catch their attention.

  • Moments later, a rope is thrown down, and Filicia finds herself face-to-face with Princess Iliya, who is sincerely sorry about failing to arrive earlier to prevent the massacre of allied forces. While subtle (and likely to be missed), it’s another indicator of the coincidences that Sora no Woto is increasingly working into its theme: had Iliya arrived on time with her armoured group, it is unlikely that Filicia would have suffered, leaving her with a decidedly different world-view than the one she’s depicted with in Sora no Woto.

  • Princess Iliya is depicted as being very nearly a messianic being, whose belief in good is imperturbable, and whose actions are largely responsible for shaping the Clocktower Fortress’ inhabitants very fates, binding them together. This adds to her mystique and gives the impression that she is otherworldly, an entity representing purity and hope. Only a handful of fictional works I’ve gone through have such characters, with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lady Galadriel being one such being.

  • While Kanata and the others play with fireworks in the background to signify the innocence of youth, Rio and Filicia share a more serious conversation. Rio’s relationship with Iliya is an interesting one: she looks up to Iliya as as role model of sorts and yearns to defend the people in their place. Feeling as though she’s fallen short of expectations, she declined participation in the previous year’s Fiesta des Lumiéres. She nonetheless expresses concern about Filicia, who outright lies that her troubles arise from gaining a few extra pounds in the wrong places. Her concern for those around her is admirable, and also brings to mind Tom Hanks’ Captain Miller from Saving Private Ryan:

“I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you.”

  • When the last of the fireworks are extinguished, Kanata notices that the lanterns are lit in the river below as crowds gather for the Fiesta des Lumiéres. The strong emotions of Sora no Woto‘s seventh episode are sufficient such that even I feel something, leaving a powerful impact on all viewers; even those critical of Sora no Woto found themselves pleasantly surprised, that the anime was willing to break barriers and do something completely different.

  • While everyone else is holding onto a lantern, Nöel is noticeably empty-handed, with her eyes not visible. Each lantern is meant to represent a guiding torch for the spirits of those whom one wishes to send off, and in Nöel’s case, coupled with her remarks in the fourth episode, further suggests that there are spectres in her past. While I’m technically not supposed to reveal things from future episodes, I do remark that Nöel has chosen not to go with a lantern because a single lantern would not be enough for her to properly participate in Fiesta des Lumiéres.

  • It is in the episode’s final moments where existentialism comes into play, from Filicia’s dialogue. Her remarks mirror the definition of existentialism nearly word-per-word, and it is from this one moment that folks, including vucub_caquix, draw their conclusions. While existentialism is mentioned in Sora no Woto, it is not the singular thematic element within the anime. There is no credit awarded for partial answers, and while I do not dispute that existentialism is a part of Sora no Woto, one particular claim stood out as being problemmatic:

“It’s the difference between us thinking we are paper-knives, made with a predetermined purpose, as opposed to us actually being bits of flint on the beach which can be MADE into something useful and purposeful in reality.”

  • I take exception to this statement because it implies people are free to be shaped by an external force, rather than guiding their own decisions internally. By suggestion that people can be likened to apparatus, this removes responsibility from the individual to act and find their own course. This is untrue, and people must find their own will and motivation to act in order to become useful or purposeful. What vucub_caquix ultimately misses from Sora no Woto is that it is insufficient to merely find one’s meaning in life: it is necessary to have the will to act that makes the difference, and this is where Sora no Woto shines.

  • Filicia is ultimately able to honour her fallen comrades without being consumed with remorse because their existence has given her something to work towards. Thus, when Kanata tearfully asks Filicia to be more open, that the 1121st will be there for her, Filicia warmly accepts the gesture. Each of the characters find the will to act in subsequent episodes, and it is this that ultimately allows Sora no Woto to bring something new to the table relative to other entries in the moé genre.

  • Filicia and Rio watch as the lanterns float on the river below. Her dialogue demonstrates that she’s come to terms with what’s happened, and with this, her story comes to a close. I’m curious as to how much flak I’ll be drawing for pointing out that existing assertions on existentialism in Sora no Woto are incomplete — I was originally intending to do a separate post to discuss what place existentialism has in Sora no Woto with the final OVA, but decided that here would be a better place to do so because there is so much to talk about within the episode.

  • Near the riverbank, Nöel, Kureha and Kanata share a warm moment with the children under Yumina’s care. Earlier, the children were working on lanterns for the festival; this is a meaningful activity for them, as they are orphans and affected by warfare to a great extent. To see them here in conjunction with Filicia’s optimistic outlook is a central aspect to the episode, that there are things to hope for and look forwards to.

  • With the longest of my Sora no Woto posts coming to a close, I’ll be returning to the smaller posting format for the remainder of the episodes save the finale.

Easily the darkest episode of Sora no Woto insofar (and in the entire series), the seventh episode completely surprised its viewers at the time of its broadcast. Those who were dismissive of the series for its moé were not expecting the series to suddenly bring philosophical elements into the open, and those who figured that military elements would take a backseat to music suddenly gained insight into the wars that were fought before Kanata joined the Clocktower Fortress. It is at this point where Sora no Woto makes it clear that it is a full-fledged anime with its own directions and objectives, and here where I truly took an interest in the world where it is set: while elements of modern humanity have largely been eliminated save for a few traces here and there, the values that motivate and drive a large number of individuals in society appear to have remained intact. The human spirit thus endures, and moving into later episodes, it was pleasant to see how these ideas continue to drive characters and their actions to make a positive difference given their situation.

A Date With Nagisa Furukawa of CLANNAD as a Thought Experiment

“According to the Myers Briggs test apparently only 4% of the population got my result. Making it harder to find people I can “let inside” or truly feel connected with. It’s just a test but it often feels that way…” —Ab imo pectore

Having taken a look at the distributions, my personality type stands as one of the most common, with an estimated thirteen percent of all folks having it. The story behind my Meyers-Briggs test is simple enough: I was asked to do it as a part of a team-building exercise for work, and unsurprisingly, ended up with ISTJ. Known as the “Guardian”, individuals of this personality type are fiercely adherent to facts and rules, working hard to complete tasks delegated to them. Honest, direct and dutiful, ISTJs also tend to have a talent stack, excelling at nothing in particular, but possess reasonable competence in a range of different areas. They also can be unyielding and blunt, as well as less willing to deal with spontaneity than people with a different personality type. That captures my essence very succinctly, and it also leads me to wonder how I am projected to get along with different personality types, especially considering that in practise, I generally get along with most people in a professional sense. Describing my professional interactions would be too dull to warrant a post, but what if we added some flair to things? For this discussion, then, I will take a look at aspects of my own personality and use those facets to determine just how well I would get along with someone like Nagisa Furukawa, whose personality is considered either ISFJ or INFP.

  • While I cannot truthfully say that Valentine’s Day is my favourite holiday of the year (that belongs to Thanksgiving and Christmas), I remain largely neutral about the event. Consider this: it is a bit disheartening to have no one special to celebrate it with (-1), but on the other hand, it means I can save a small amount of money and direct it to either my savings or spend it on something for myself (+1). With that being said, for those of my readers who are in a relationship, I wish for you a Happy Valentines’ Day, and for the readers like myself, I offer a Happy Singles Awareness Day!

The “Defender”, ISFJs are supportive, reliable and loyal (incidentally, the same things I would look for in a relationship), but can also be rather shy, find it tricky to express how they feel and can overburden themselves with challenges as they try to help those around them. These attributes describe Nagisa well, but she also has some elements of the INFP personality type: she’s driven by her sense of optimism, making the most of every situation, values harmony and holds a strong sense of creativity that allows her to resurrect the drama club and bring her dreams to life with a performance of Girl in the Illusionary World. Similarly, she does take some things personally, blaming herself for causing her parents to give up their dreams of being in theatre. For this discussion, we assume that Nagisa is an INFP: her creativeness in expressing herself in the play she likes and the Great Dango Family, coupled with her general desire to wish for everyone’s happiness and her response to learning about her parents’ past means that she can fit into this category. In general, an ISTJ and INFP relationship could function with effort and some compromise, although some folks say that such a relationship would be remarkably difficult, so this post aims to put that to the test, using the personalities as a starting point, and then determining whether or not someone with traits similar Nagisa’s is someone that I can appreciate as time passes, and we know one another better.

We suppose that Nagisa is an INFP, a personality type with a four percent frequency: the ISFJ personality, while one I am fond of, would not offer much in the way of interesting discussion. My ISTJ and Nagisa’s INFP means only one of our traits overlap: we’re both introverted — we would understand and appreciate the value of quiet time and share moments with a small group of close friends. I can hold interesting conversations about different topics, so if the right topics are available, fun conversations can be had. However, there’s always the possibility that there isn’t enough communications between the two. I’m not very good with subtle hints (scuttlebutt has it that I accidentally rejected some people without saying a word because I missed their messages) and typically, need to be hit over the head, as it were, to know how someone is feeling. My sensing component will find newfound perspective from Nagisa’s imaginative thinking, and at the same time, my practicality balances her tendency to go off into her own world. While projected to offer some challenges in conversation, I am a touch more imaginative than the average ISTJ, so I could follow her flights of fancy in a conversation.

Next up is my thinking to her feeling: warm and compassionate, one of the things that stand out about Nagisa was this side of her personality. She genuinely cares about those around her and supports them as best as she can, standing against my usual no-nonsense “let’s get it done” approach. These two opposite traits complement one another nicely, allowing for decisions to be made with a balance between compassion and reason. However, my way of speaking is very blunt: I call things as I see them, and could inadvertently hurt Nagisa, while she’s unlikely to speak her mind. I’m not good with subtleties, so miscommunications could arise. To make things work, I’ll need to be more sensitive, be more attuned to things and pick things up on my own, while Nagisa would find it useful to be a little more direct. The most interesting set of attributes to consider will be judging-perceiving: I’m very fond of schedules and well-designed plans, allowing for freedom and the unexpected only if some semblance of a plan exists. Spontaneity does not typically fly with me: I’ll turn down hanging out with friends if informed about it less than a day in advance, for instance, since that time was blocked off for something else. Similarly, my penchant to be organised can come across as overbearing for INFPs. Fortunately, while coming across as rigid, I am more adaptive than the typical ISTJ; I appreciate spontaneity if it falls within a plan. With an open mind, judges and perceivers can get along — the perceivers can bring a breath of fresh air into the judge’s life, while the judge can help a perceiver become more organised. On the whole, while the personality differences between a ISTJ and INFP would initially cause some conflicts, over time, I imagine that they could reach a compromise and find themselves in a happy relationship, truly connecting with one another.

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  • I have a special announcement to make with this post: CLANNAD is nearing its ten-year anniversary, and so, I will be doing posts on CLANNAD once the ten-year mark passes. Because there are a large number of episodes in CLANNAD, doing episodic reviews will be impractical. Instead, I will drop by on the date where an arc ends to take a look at the events and contributions of that particular arc in the context of the whole story.

So, supposing that both partners open-minded enough to make things work, the final realm that this discussion will explore what kind of first date might be suitable for an ISTJ-INFP couple: without it, this post simply wouldn’t live up to its title. Before we begin, I profess that I am not nearly familiar enough with Japan to properly consider organising anything resembling a date there, so we will suppose that I’m running home field advantage. Further, we suppose that language barriers are not a concern. Looking off the idea that Nagisa and I are both introverts, I think that Calgary’s Shakespeare in the Park at Prince’s Island park would be a good first date considering her interest in drama. A twenty hectare park on an island, it is located right at the heart of the city and offers an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the core, featuring flower gardens and paths set right underneath the cityscape of Calgary’s central financial district. The choice of something like Shakespeare in the Park is motivated by Nagisa’s love for the stage and drama. To be able to visit a performance of an old classic under the summer sun would provide a calm setting for enjoying a Shakespearean play and consider different perspectives on what things like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet entail. Such a conversation might be shared following the play’s conclusion at the nearby Café Blanca over a cup of coffee (or tea, since I don’t do well with coffee). This is, of course, just one possibility; ideas for good dates are limitless. I would certainly enjoy an experience like this, but there is a reason why this post is dubbed a thought experiment — it is not actually possible to perform this particular experiment in reality.