“I once stood in your place, and I, too, was disrespectful. So, might I offer you some advice? Forget everything you think you know.” –Baron Mordo, Doctor Strange
Hitomi Tsukishiro is a high school girl who comes from a family of magicians. Suffering from achromatopsia as people important to her departed, Hitomi lost much of her enjoyment of the world around her and is perpetually alone. On the night of the summer fireworks, Kohaku, her grandmother, decides to send Hitomi back sixty years into the past so Hitomi can meet her younger self and learn about the colourful nature of youth. When Hitomi arrives in the world sixty years previously, she finds herself in Yuito Aoi’s house, and causes a minor ruckus when attempting to escape. She meets with Kohaku’s grandmother and mother, who runs a magic shop, and transfers into the same high school as Kohaku. While Kohaku is abroad, she meets Asagi Kazeno, Kurumi Kawai, Shō Yamabuki and Chigusa Fukasawa, members of the high school’s photography club. She also comes across Yuito for the first time while locating her jewel, she discovers that his artwork is vividly colourful and grows intrigued with him. While Hitomi attempts to hide her magic at school, her newfound friends express a willingness to accept her and manage to recruit her into the photography club. Meanwhile, Hitomi aims to improve her magic and show Yuito again. A journey of acceptance and self-discovery, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (From the Colour-Changing World’s Tomorrow, or The World in Colours for brevity) is the latest of P.A. Works’ projects. Featuring thirteen episodes, The World in Colours is off to a solid start in creating a sense of intrigue with its premise. As the lead, Hitomi struggles to connect with those around her, bringing to mind Wakana Sakai of Tari Tari, who was similarly distant until she met Konatsu and Sawa. Over time, Wakana became more expressive and warm, helping her friends around her while rediscovering her own love for music and overcoming her regrets in not giving her mother a proper farewell. While Hitomi’s story remains open for exploration in The World in Colours, her initial personality, and the small spark of friendship’s potential for development after three episode means that this anime is one that commands intrigue.
The last time P.A. Works dealt with a narrative set in a real world with magical elements was 2014’s Glasslip, which ended up being counted as a disaster for being unclear, incoherent and vague with its themes. At its core, Glasslip was intended to showcase the uncertainty of youthful love by suggesting that even with supernatural intervention, love is too complex to predict and will run its course naturally. However, ill execution caused the series to lose most of its viewers, and of those who insisted otherwise, numerous falsehoods were construed and propagated like wildfire. By comparison, The World in Colours is very clear from the onset as to what it intends to accomplish; by putting the reserved and stoic Hitomi with the boisterous and forward Kohaku, and with a supportive group of friends who genuinely care, The World in Colours demonstrates that about people first and foremost. Magic, only subtly present through the glass beads and “fragments of the future” in Glasslip, is very visible in The World in Colours – this deliberate choice is to make it clear that while some things can only begin with supernatural intervention, it is ultimately the people around her, and Hitomi’s own decisions, that will have a tangible outcome on her life and world-views. While still early in the season, there are signs that The World in Colours has definitely taken lessons learned from the debacle that was Glasslip and applied them here. Magic is much more prominent, and the characters’ way forward is much more visible. The expected outcome of this is a series whose message and corresponding enjoyment factor will be quite enjoyable: should the writing remain solid and consistent as The World in Colours continues running, I anticipate that viewers will find this series much more palatable than the likes of Glasslip.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Set in Nagasaki, Kyushu, The World in Colour presents the Nagasaki of 2078 as a vibrant, Hong Kong-like city. Indeed, anyone in Tsim Sha Tsui during either the New Year’s or National Day would be treated to a spectacular sight of fireworks over Hong Kong Harbour and Central. Hitomi, however, sees none of the hues that we do: she’s afflicted with achromatopsia, more commonly known as total colour blindness, and she describes it as something that occurred over time. While this is attributable to damage in the thalamus resulting from tumours, The World in Colour presents this as being a psychological response to stress.
- Magic, however, is an integral part of The World in Colour, so we may suspend our disbelief and accept that, for all intents and purposes, Hitomi is an ordinary girl with some magical abilities and a lack of colour vision. Even within the anime’s first five minutes, the atmosphere is established with a variety of shots, from wide scenes of the summer festival, to close-ups of the glass planet ornaments a vendor is selling. While some feel that P.A. Works’ close-ups are intended to have symbolic meaning, it is more likely that these are used as establishing shots to convince audiences that there is depth in the world being presented.
- Kohaku is Hitomi’s grandmother and a skilled
Master of the Mystic Arts magician. Concerned for her granddaughter’s well-being, Kohaku meets up with a solitary Hitomi on a hill overlooking Nagasaki, where the fireworks is most visible. While Hitomi’s monologues has her frequently reassuring herself that she’s alright when alone, the reality is that no person is an island, and so, audiences are given that Hitomi is longing for company, but lacks the motivation to pursue it.
- At the age of 77, Kohaku is an impressive magician comparable to the likes of Dr. Strange, if she is able to construct something that is quite similar to the Time Stone: time travel appears to strictly be a plot device in The World in Colour, and using powerful time spells seem to have no effect on causality as of yet. While fans of the specifics usually enjoy pouring over the implications of time travel on things like causality, works of fiction may alternatively use it simply to drive the narrative.
- In the case of The World in Colour, Hitomi’s growth is more critical than the specifics of time travel, and as such, the anime has elected to abstract out the precise mechanisms. For the most part, the remainder of discussions currently on The World in Colour have not strayed into the realm of details: it is a good sign that the anime has made this clear to audiences. By comparison, Glasslip left in its wake numerous discussions where there was no clear consensus on that the series had been about.
- After arriving in Nagasaki sixty years early, Hitomi finds herself trapped in Yuito’s room and hides to escape detection, before escaping through the window. Yuito’s peers notice this and immediately jump to the conclusion that she’s a hidden lover of sorts. Once she enters the open, she gazes upon the world sixty years previously and finds Nagasaki to be a quieter town where the scenery has remained largely the same as she knew it.
- To put things in perspective, sixty years ago, the University of Calgary (back then, known as the University of Alberta, Calgary Campus, or UAC) was just undergoing construction, and there was around 200000 residents in Calgary. In Hong Kong, the population surged to two million as instability in China led people to immigrate, and after the Shek Kip Mei fire, the government mandated that residents be accommodated in high rise buildings. We are overlooking Nagasaki Bay here, and as P.A. Works is wont to do, this spot is based off a real location.
- Hitomi is described as being dazzling to behold, and she stands out from other characters in The World in Colour, having violet-grey hair and eyes of gold. This is likely by design, to make her stand out in an environment that audiences are accustomed to, and while the world largely remains the same in customs, minor differences in technology result in Hitomi struggling to work locks, paper-based documents and cameras.
- It is not surprising that the first group of people who run into and speak with Hitomi will come to play a much larger role in the series: running into members of the Photography and Art Club (the combined club brings back memories of Tari Tari‘s Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club), Hitomi learns that high school students of this age have different uniforms. While Kurumi comes across as a bit too enthusiastic for Hitomi, Asagi is much more considerate and notices that Hitomi’s scraped her knees.
- I’ve noticed that out there, reception to The World in Colour is quite mixed, with some folks immediately dismissing the series for its inclusion of magic and for generally not writing the show to their manner of liking; at least one individual claims that the first episode should have entirely been in monochrome to help audiences relate to Hitomi and that Kurumi and the others were introduced too early. I counter that introducing characters on early creates an expectation that they will be more relevant later on, and if one were so desperate as to watch an anime in monochrome, I suggest running After Effects or an equivalent tool on this anime before watching it.
- Others hold it to be intriguing and meritorious of continued watching: P.A. Works has traditionally packed a great deal into their best works, tying all of the different aspects together under a single unifying theme. Angel Beats! was about acceptance of life, but also dealt with guilt, expectations, and a determination to move forwards, while Sakura Quest explored social issues facing small towns in Japan, but also followed Yoshino’s discoveries over the course of a year as she comes to embrace her role as Manoyama’s “Queen”. Tari Tari followed a group of disparate high school students who come together to make a big finish prior to graduation, but was also about how friendship played a role in helping Wakana come to terms with her past.
- The interior of the magic shop is absolutely stunning, and I love the colours in the jars of magical powder on the back shelf. In The World in Colour, magic can be distilled into sand and then spread for a variety of effects, or else concentrated into an artifact.
Masters of the Mystic Arts Magicians are able to channel their innate abilities and create these effects, or else capture them into sand. So far, with magic clearly being a part of The World in Colour and given adequate explanation, there is no question that it will be an integral part of the story, standing in contrast with Glasslip, where the “fragments of the future” were never sufficiently explored or utilised to drive things forward.
- Existing “explanations” of Glasslip are woefully inadequate in providing a satisfactory account of why the story progressed in the manner that it did: there are two perspectives out there that claim to be this magic bullet. One argues that the show is about a longing for finding a home and that the chickens were critical, while another attempts to claim that wabi sabi is important in describing the transience of various feelings. Both are wrong, because the presence of the “fragments of the future” demands inclusion, and both perspectives choose to discard them. Glasslip was really about the uncertainty of love, characterised by visual distortion when viewing the future through glass beads, and meant to say that nothing ever is certain.
- For Hitomi, the turning point that leads her to develop an interest in the world sixty years previously is when she speaks with Yuito for the first time while in search of her brooch, which contains a magical crystal and also acts as a Jarvis of sorts. When she glances at Yuito’s tablet, she is able to see colour again for the first time. The sight captivates her, and she longs to look upon it forever. That Hitomi can see the colours here suggests that her achromatopsia does not have a physiological basis, again reiterating that magic is very much at play in a world that is very similar and very different to our own.
- After the visual spectacle of the first episode, The World in Colour returns to a more ordinary depiction of things, although even here, the artwork is certainly of a good quality. There is a distance between Yuito and Hitomi: the visuals in The World in Colour use both light and objects in the environment to clarify this, and this sets the expectation that as things progress, Hitomi will become closer to those in the Photography and Art Club. For now, she resembles Wakana: taciturn and struggling with her internal conflicts, appearing aloof to her peers.
- As we hurtle through October, the days are beginning to shorten, although after the miserable weather throughout September that persisted into early October, we’ve had some pleasant weather now, and things have slowed down for the weekend, enough for me to sit down after a warm dinner of fried chicken and write my thousand-and-first post out during the calm of an Saturday evening. Here, Hitomi speaks with Kohaku’s family, who agree to look after her.
- I would not mind if The World in Colour really is about taking the lessons of Glasslip to create a superior series. Back in The World in Colour, when word spreads that Hitomi is also a magician, her classmates are eager to see what she can do. Kohaku, a skilled magician, is infamous around campus for causing destruction with her magic, likely a sign of her outgoing personality, and so, her classmates come to be intimidated by her. On the other hand, the hesitant and reluctant Hitomi can only summon stars with her magic, disappointing her classmates.
- P.A. Works draws upon very similar thematic elements in many of their anime, and some wonder how The World in Colour will differentiate itself from its predecessors, especially Glasslip, which was similarly set in the real world and incorporates supernatural aspects to a degree. Elements from Tari Tari are also quite visible, and it is not implausible to suppose that The World in Colour will likely follow the path Tari Tari used. If this is the case, then The World in Colour might be seen as a second shot at making an anime that Glasslip should have been, incorporating magic and everyday life into a story to suggest that magic or not, it is ultimately people that make the difference.
- Out of the gates, I find that the Photography and Art Club’s photographers to be amicable, likable folk: Kurumi, Asagi and Chigusa are approachable and inviting, doing their best to convince Hitomi to join their club. While motivated by funds and a need for new members, their intrigue in Hitomi also translates to a concern for her, feeling that she might need a friend in her circumstances.
- Yuito is rather unsociable and prefers drawing to hanging out with others. In a manner of speaking, he resembles the aloof and difficult-to-read Kakeru of Glasslip. P.A. Works occasionally reuses old characters’ appearances and personalities as the basis for some of their new characters: Tōko Fukami and Manaka Mukaido share commonalities, as do Yoshino Koharu and Aoi Miyamori, for instance. The end result of this decision, deliberate or not, is to create a character that viewers are familiar with, and for the most part, P.A. Works’ series have noteworthy, interesting characters, too.
- When Yuito consents to allow Hitomi one more glimpse of his artwork, Hitomi takes it in and gazes on the colours with profound appreciation. All of this is set under a swift sunset, and the moment is free of visual clutter to indicate the liberating feeling she experiences when viewing colour. The friendship between Hitomi and Yuito will be an interesting one as it develops, although at this point in The World in Colour, where things go remain quite open.
- While I am looking forwards to seeing where The World in Colour is going, I am not expecting a top-tier anime rivaling the likes of Angel Beats!, Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari, Shirobako or Sakura Quest in levels of impact. Of the lot, Angel Beats! stood out for creating complex characters whose circumstances and motivations were deeply moving, while Sakura Quest and Tari Tari both excel at covering a variety of thematic elements without ever diminishing their respective series’ main message. Wherever magic is involved, P.A. Works has fared a little less gracefully in the past, so for The World in Colour, I am going to have to see how the series unfolds before making any sort of judgement on it.
- The main draw to The World in Colour right now is the prospect of watching Hitomi mature as she spends more time with the Photography and Art club, as well as the sort of (mis)adventures that will unfurl once Kohaku joins the party in full. Coupled with beautiful artwork, this is sufficient for me to stick around for the duration of the season.
- Hitomi is introduced to the sort of photography the club does, and also does a painting while Yuito watches. Here, Yuito deduces that Hitomi has achromatopsia, seeing the bold and unusual colour choices she makes while painting. One of the items that is mentioned briefly is that the photographers in the club also do monochromatic photographs. While it’s only one remark, I imagine that once the others learn of Hitomi’s condition, they will begin doing more monochromatic photography to understand the world as Hitomi sees it.
- In three episodes, the Photography and Art Club’s members are given some exposition. Kurumi is outgoing and practical-minded, Chigusa seems to be friendly but prone to being swept along by the club’s schemes, and Asagi is kind-hearted. The club’s leader, Shō, is confident and easy-going. Interacting amongst themselves, they can be a rowdy bunch, generating a great deal of positive energy already and slowly spur Hitomi to be more open. Because Kohaku’s unseen antics suggest she is even more boisterous than they are, I think that the Photography Club will end up being the midpoint between Hitomi and Kohaku, dialing back the latter’s wildness while driving Hitomi forwards.
- For a photography demonstration, Kurumi has Hitomi walk across the pool as observers try to photograph her. While Hitomi uses the wrong vial of magical sand, her innate magical talents manifest and she is able to walk across the water surface. However, she is distracted and plunges into the pool. Yuito apologises on behalf of the group, but Hitomi is more worried about having troubled the others for not speaking up earlier.
- Hitomi is given lodgings where Kohaku is staying and is afforded with a beautiful view of the night sky here. The Nagasaki of 2018 evidently has reduced light pollution compared to that of 2078, although this isn’t saying much: light pollution maps show the Nagasaki area as being very bright, and even accounting for localised variation, it is probably difficult to see many stars easily.
- The next day, Hitomi appears to be avoiding the others, but is actually worried about meeting up with them for having caused them some trouble earlier. She finds them at the pool, where the Photography and Art Club are cleaning as a punishment for entering the water without authorisation. Hitomi decides to join them, feeling responsible for having set these events in motion, and when monochromatic photography is brought up, her interest is piqued. Coupled with a desire to learn more about Yuito’s drawings, she agrees to join the club.
- When Hitomi joins the Photography and Art Club, an overjoyed Kurumi hugs her, eliciting the first real smile we’d seen out of Hitomi all season. The third episode is titled “No Rain, No rainbow”, which foreshadows that without challenge, there is no reward, either. Elsewhere, discussions have largely focused on aspects that The World in Colour will not cover, including the precise mechanic of how magic works, the hereditary traits of magic and whether or not causality will become a problem the same way Fry became his own grandfather in Futurama.
- I am concerned with none of these things for the present: P.A. Works has traditionally introduced mechanics later in a series if they are relevant to the narrative, and discussions can be more complete if those items do end up being important. What is relevant, is that Kohaku is now returning from her travels abroad. Her stance suggests a very powerful character, someone who is bold and accustomed to doing her own thing without concern for others’ judgement. I am curious to see how she mixes things up once she meets Hitomi here; after three episodes, The World in Colour is shaping up to be an interesting series, so far showing much more promise than Glasslip did. This motivates the page quote, which is sourced from 2016’s Doctor Strange: while Glasslip comparisons are only natural, I would suggest not focusing too much on attempting to port the analysis from Glasslip over into The World in Colour and simply watch the series with a fresh outlook.
With its beautiful artwork, a captivating premise and the promise of a journey that will be quite unique in its own right, The World in Colours has definitely held my attention. P.A. Works has consistently produced series with exceptional artwork, rivalling the likes of Kyoto Animation in quality. At their best, P.A. Works creates masterpieces that use strong artwork and animation to bring fictional worlds to life: Angel Beats!, Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari and Sakura Quest stand P.A. Works’ strongest titles to date, telling compelling stories through their authenticity and emotional impact. The World in Colours is dealing with a range of elements, from magic to everyday life at school – life is rarely so straightforwards, and going ahead, the anime does have quite a bit to deal with. All of these elements, if balanced well with Hitomi’s growth, will contribute to creating a rich, detailed world for her to rediscover magic and its positives. I am looking forwards to what lies ahead for The World in Colours, and because there is be quite a bit to cover in conjunction with a general lack of interest (understandable, considering the mess Glasslip left in its wake), I am inclined to write about this one every three episodes to consider some of the more interesting points The World in Colours looks to bring out.