“If your actions were to boomerang back on you instantly, would you still act the same?” –Alexandra Katehakis
When summer vacation arrives, Miyako reluctantly accompanies Hinata, Hana, Noa and her mother, Chizuru, out to the countryside for a camping trip by the lake. Despite Miyako’s objections, she eventually dons a swimsuit and enters the water to join the others. As the day draws to a close, Miyako ends up helping her mother to set up the tent and begins preparing dinner, before sitting down to make s’mores with the others. When night falls, a strange noise in the bush shocks the group: they find that it’s none other than Kōko, who was originally set to join them but got lost along the way. Kōko recalls her rather one-sided friendship with Miyako, and during Halloween, while Miyako becomes excited to see what costume Hana will wear, Kōko and Yū both appear: it turns out that Kōko’s been itching to have Miyako model her latest creation, and has even managed to convince Yū to help her in persuading Miyako to give things ago. When Hinata, Noa, Kanon and Koyori show up in costume, Miyako is thrilled with how adorable everyone looks. However, Hana is late, and she’s defined expectations by showing up in a rather grotesque costume. Miyako later recalls meeting Hinata after the latter had been born, and how quickly they bonded. With this, I’ve crossed the finish line for Wataten!‘s OVA, which was released with the BDs a few months after the series had concluded back in 2019. Although Wataten!‘s initial premise had raised more than a few eyebrows, the series would come to present an endearing story about how the right influences and experiences can push individuals out of their comfort zone and also temper some aspects of one’s personality so that they may better present themselves and their feelings towards others. In Wataten!, Miyako’s effort to pursue Hana ultimately leads her to lend her own skills and hobbies towards others beyond Hinata, whom she dotes on, and in doing so, Miyako becomes better-adjusted as a result. Wataten! originally left with Hana expressing that, while she’s still occasionally put off by Miyako’s actions, getting to know her better had shown Hana that Miyako’s intentions are genuine, and not something to trivially cast aside.
Wataten!‘s OVA is contingent on viewers having already seen the original televised run: there’s four distinct vignettes weaved together to give viewers a collection of stories that show how Miyako’s changed since Wataten!‘s beginning. It is plain that for Hinata, Miyako is willing to do most anything, and so, when Hinata expresses a desire for Miyako to get out more and experience life more fully, Miyako accompanies Hinata, only to find herself enjoying things more than she’d expected. However, there is another aspect that drives Miyako’s growth: she eventually meets Kōko properly and finds herself shocked at how Kōko views their friendship. From an external observer’s point of view, Kōko regards Miyako the same way Miyako originally sees Hana, going to great (even unhealthy) lengths to win their object of affection over. From the story’s standpoint, Kōko fulfils a very important role. By making Miyako uncomfortable, Kōko is able to show Miyako how difficult she’s making things for Hana. Realising this is what leads Miyako to dial back her emotion: although she still loves Hana very much, Miyako slowly begins to master her impulses so that she’s not frightening Hana away at every turn. Of course, what would really be valuable is if Miyako could express this towards Kōko, as well: like Miyako, Kōko is well-meaning and skillful in her own right, but common sense seems to be defeated by infatuation wherever Miyako is concerned. However, Kōko’s behaviours are not fixed in stone: Wataten! has shown how over time, characters will change for the better as a result of their shared experiences, and consequently, it is not inconceivable that even Kōko could learn to reign things back some to build a more meaningful friendship with Miyako, of the sort that she dreams of in her mind’s eye. Wataten!‘s flawed but loveable characters forms a majority of the series’ charm, making this journey of development particularly enjoyable, and because everyone is distinctly human, this corresponds to the possibility for further stories to be told. This fact is not lost on the writers: a film, Wataten!: Precious Friends will premiere in Japanese cinema later this year to advance things further.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Because there is a Wataten! movie, I determined that while I’ve got the opportunity now, I should wrap up my journey here before the film releases; I typically leave some time between finishing a series and the OVAs so I can return to them with a fresh set of eyes and determine whether or not the OVA is successful in capturing the same feeling the anime conveyed. The main drawback about my approach is that I have a tendency to procrastinate, and one risk about this is that I’d only realise I’d have an OVA to watch once the movie actually screens.
- For Wataten!, the only thing I know of the release date is that it’s somewhere in the autumn, and given how anime films release, overseas viewers usually have an eight to eleven month long wait. As such, I’ll probably get to writing about the movie next September or so. Although I initially passed over Wataten! as a result of my schedule and struggled to regain my motivation in watching this series, I ended up doing so earlier this year. For my troubles, I was met with a series that proved surprisingly heartwarming and amusing despite its initial impressions.
- Having said this, Wataten! getting a movie came as a bit of a surprise for me: the TV series had ended on an excellent note, and this OVA acts as an encore of sorts. From a thematic perspective, Wataten! had done a thorough job of portraying Miyako’s growth: she starts as someone who exudes questionable tones but, as a consequence of being open to new experiences, slowly acclimatises to interacting with others. The anime closed with Hana remarking that, while she still finds Miyako a little dubious at times, seeing her try so hard to be her best self has convinced Hana that they can be friends nonetheless.
- Although she’d not brought a swimsuit and was intending on doing some photography, Noa and Chizuru both planned ahead: it turns out that Kōko has Miyako’s measurements on hand (and now that I think about it, Kōko feels like she’s into Miyako to a much greater extent than any of the stunts Miyako herself had pulled when trying to persuade Hana to cosplay), and both Noa and Chizuru had anticipated some resistance from Miyako, so they’d bought a swimsuit for her using this knowledge and even prepared a waterproof case for her camera.
- The camping trip in the Wataten! OVA would suggest that while Miyako is more receptive towards hanging out than she had been previously, it still takes a nontrivial amount of effort to get her to do so. Hinata is particularly versed at coercing Miyako into doing things, and in retrospect, this is no similar than Miyako attempting to win Hana over with sweets. The joke here, then, is that despite being quite a ways older than Hinata and the others, Miyako is still child-like in some ways.
- Back in Wataten!‘s OVA, Miyako ends up being dragged into the water, where she finally relents and joins the others. This outcome speaks to how everything can seem more imposing than it is, but once gets over that initial hurdle, it becomes easier to continue. For Miyako, now that she’s actually in the water, she’s able to relax a little and live in the moment, joining Hinata, Hana, and Noa in enjoying the lake water. The same holds true in reality; once the inertia of starting something is overcome, one will typically find it easier to get into things, whether it’s a new project or anime.
- This particular camping site is located in a generic location: Wataten! is a series where the focus is on the characters, rather than the characters and their surroundings. In series that allow it, location hunts are an immensely enjoyable activity, allowing me to explore a setting and feel as though the events of a given work could’ve really happened. Conversely, in series that are set “somewhere in Japan”, the message I draw is that the characters are the sole stars in the show, and that the events of that story could happen anywhere and still succeed in conveying its themes.
- As a safety measure, everyone’s donned life jackets to ensure they don’t sink in the lake: unlike beaches seen in other series, there are no lifeguards around, but fortunately, Hinata, Noa and Hana are well-behaved and keep close to shore. In this way, what started out as something she was disinterested in becomes a morning of bliss for Miyako, and in the OVA, it does feel as though the effort needed to persuade Miyako to participate was much less than what it’d been when Wataten! first started.
- After enjoying their time in the lake, Hana and the others begin preparing skewers as a part of their dinner. Barbeques are seen as an essential part of summer, but for me, summers also translate to food trucks; today, Waffles n’ Chix stopped by my area, and so, for the first time since graduate school, I was able to enjoy their Fried Chicken Poutine, a hearty and mouth-watering combination of crispy Southern fried chicken and chicken gravy with squeaky cheese curds on a bed of freshly-cut fries. For old time’s sake, I added hot sauce to mine. While five years have passed since I’ve had this poutine, it remains every bit as delicious as I remember. Eating this poutine again immediately brought back memories of old; this is the poutine I think of whenever listening to Maaya Sakamoto’s Hajimari no Umi.
- I first had their poutine when I was doing my open studies term. I vividly recall watching Tamayura ~More Aggressive~’s finale during a lunch break during mid-Autumn, and in fact, The Fried Chicken Poutine is one of the simpler poutines on the list of poutines I’ve tried, but Waffles n’ Chix delivers such a good poutine that, when food trucks began regularly appearing on campus, I made it a point to have lunch there at least once a year. After entering graduate school, I remember enjoying this poutine again after a getting Unreal Engine set up for my thesis work, and again when I finished watching Gakkō Gurashi. According to the blog archives, they used to add a dash of maple syrup to their poutines, and while this practise stopped in 2015, their poutine remains top-tier, the perfect fuel for a busy, and productive day.
- Back in Wataten!‘s OVA, while Hinata, Hana and Noa get dinner set up, Miyako and Chizuru pitch the tent before joining the others for dinner. Barbeque is a popular activity in Japan during summers, although anime portray skewers and thinner cuts of meat as being popular, whereas over here in Canada, barbeque means burgers, hot dogs, wings and whole steaks. I’m moderately competent with cooking, but grilling is an area I’d love to get into: there’s something immensely satisfying about the sizzle of meat on a fire, likely a consequence of our evolutionary origins.
- It takes Chizuru a bit to light the coals, bringing to mind a similar moment from Yuru Camp△ when Rin struggled to get her binchotan fire going. While the others become worried after the third attempt, it turns out there’d been some fire starter floating around that greatly accelerates the process, and finally, the fire’s hot enough to cook on. Having watched Survivorman for as long as I have, in the absence of any additional fire-starting material like paper, my first inclination would be to gather dried leaves, punky wood, small twigs or pinecones to start the fire, and then add larger twigs or small branches to keep the fire going.
- One returning joke from Wataten! is Hana’s propensity to butcher even the most basic of meal-prep: the slice of meat she lays on the grill crumples and falls through the grating into the fire, being burnt to a crisp in the process. Worried Hana will burn up their stockpile, Noa offers to lay the meat on the grill. Being bad with food has long been employed as a comedic device, there is a biological basis behind clumsiness: opposing dominance between one’s hands and eyes create a delay in spatial-visual perception, resulting in errors in coordination that manifest as clumsiness.
- The TV series had presented Chizuru as being a little intimidating (she once tied Miyako to the ceiling for having spoiled the girls’ appetites), but as the anime continued, it becomes clear that she loves her children very much. Now that I think about it, Chizuru somewhat resembles OreGairu‘s Shizuka in appearance, and here, she introduces Hana, Hinata and Noa to the idea of toasting marshmallows over an open fire. This is a longstanding camping tradition that’s seen in virtually every portrayal of camping on television and in film; recalling this piqued my curiosity, and I found myself wondering how marshmallows came to be an indispensable part of camping.
- As it turns out, marshmallows were originally intended as a medical supplement, with sap from the Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) plant being mixed with white meringue and rose water to form a candy that could help soothe the throat and boost immune response. Because Marsh Mallow sap is difficult to gather, in the 1900s, confectioners eventually replaced the sap with corn syrup and gelatin, forming today’s marshmallows, and although the origins of marshmallow roasting is lost to time, it is thought to have coincided with when s’mores became popular. After Hana’s luck runs out when she overcooks her marshmallow on one side, causing it to fall off the stick, Chizuru gives Hana an alternative recipe that is less likely to fall.
- The addition of a roasted marshmallow to crackers produces a ‘smore, and Hana digs in. Watching Hana eat has always been adorable: I liken it to watching rabbits eat, something that I also find immensely cathartic. From what I’ve read, adorable things resemble children and activate the brain’s amygdala, triggering a release of oxytocin, which helps defeat stress. The reason why this is hardwired into people is to promote looking after offspring, and moé anime have made a science of this: such series elicit the same sense of warmth as one might experience when watching videos of small animals.
- When night falls, Chizuru falls asleep immediately, and the bushes suddenly begin rustling. Since this is Wataten! and not a horror flick, it turns out the source of this commotion is none other than Kōko, who was apparently invited along with everyone but got lost in the process. The OVA subsequently transitions to a flashback of what Kōko makes of her friendship with Miyako: even back in high school, Miyako had been introverted and stoic, but Kōko saw this as Miyako having an aloofness about her that made her particularly appealing. However, Kōko struggled to break the ice, and settled for following Miyako around.
- The transition over to Halloween is smooth: one of the things I particularly liked about the Wataten! OVA is how the transitions between the vignettes were handled. After realising it’s Kōko who’d been given them a scare, the OVA portrays Kōko’s perception of her relationship with Miyako, and this ends with a scene of Kōko walking past Miyako’s house with Yū. In the present, the story returns to Miyako, who’s positively aglow with excitement at the thought of seeing Hana in a Halloween costume.
- When the doorbell rings, however, it’s Yū and Kōko who show up. Yū was a very welcome part of Wataten! despite having made only a few appearances: she’s even younger than Hinata, Noa and Hana, and befitting of a child, brings with her an adorable aura that adds to Wataten!‘s already cuddly and warm atmosphere. It turns out Kōko’s brought Yū along as a secret weapon of sorts: there’s a cosplay she’d been wanting Miyako to model, and figured this would be the best way to convince Miyako without going to further measures.
- Kōko herself is dressed as Wendy from Where’s Waldo: created in 1986 by Martin Handford at the behest of David Bennett, Where’s Waldo features intricate drawings that require players to locate the iconic character. Earlier iterations just featured Wally (Waldo in North America), but later books would feature lookalikes and additional characters to find. Over the years, Where’s Waldo challenges have become progressively difficult, and here in Wataten!, I imagine that this would be the easiest game of Where’s Waldo anyone would have the opportunity to play.
- Thanks to Yū, Miyako reluctantly agrees to wear the costume that Kōko’s made for her. It’s a perfect fit, and also indicates to viewers that while Miyako wears a tracksuit which conceals her figure, she’s technically no slouch in appearances: it’s commented that if Miyako were to spend a little more time tending to her own appearances as she does on her cosplay and cooking, and go out more often, she’d probably turn a few heads, although her reaction suggests that she’s unlikely to be fond of this outcome.
- Miyako’s look of mortification says it all; for me, more so than Hana’s initial cold attitudes towards Miyako, it’s Kōko that evokes the strongest change in Miyako. While Kōko is very overbearing and even resembles a yandere at times (albeit without the violent tendencies), when the chips are down, she genuinely looks up to Miyako and has stepped up to help Miyako out previously. Assuming one could accept that Kōko’s tendencies are probably here to stay, Kōko is a good person to have in one’s corner. With her desire to see Miyako wearing her outfit satisfied, Kōko and Yū take off, giving Miyako time to change back into her usual outfit.
- Later, Hinata arrives along with Noa, Kanon and Koyori. In a turn of events, everyone’s dressed up precisely as Miyako had envisioned in her mind’s eye (with the key difference that Miyako had imagined Hana wearing all of the outfits). Halloween has always been a fun time to dress up and get candy: this tradition is one that I grew up with, and as a child, I went as a wizard. Once I hit secondary school, I kitted myself out in an old karate gi and went as a white belt for the in-school costume event. In university, I picked up a basic Stormtrooper costume, although I’ve never bought a blaster to go with said costume.
- Trick-or-treating used to be quite popular in my old neighbourhood, but as the demographic aged, we’d received fewer and fewer visitors, until the global health crisis hit and we sat the event out. Having now moved, I’m not too sure how trick-or-treating works now that I’m not in a detached house. However, old traditions, namely watching both It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, have endured. Regardless of whether the HOA’s rules allow for trick-or-treat or not, I do plan on picking up some KitKats (my go-to Halloween candy) and watching my favourite Halloween specials.
- The joke’s on Miyako, who’s noticed that Hana’s late: the observant viewer will have noticed that including Miyako herself, all of the costumes that she’d imagined have now been shown, so whatever Hana’s brought to the table will be something else. The humour in this scene comes from the fact that viewers will be well aware of the fact that Miyako is expecting something adorable, but Hana will almost certainly defy expectations in some way. This comes to pass as soon as Hana shows up: while Hana herself may have captured Miyako’s heart, her definition of cute stands in stark contrast with the norm.
- Viewers are thus left to take in the situation, and Wakaten!‘s OVA switches over to its final vignette, a flashback to how Miyako became close to Hinata. Even before Hinata was born, Miyako had been most excited to finally meet her younger sister: she’s holding a stuffed penguin in anticipation, and it’s clear that Miyako has probably asked Chizuru on how to properly hold a baby: the cradle hold is one of the easiest positions for infants, with one hand supporting the baby’s head and neck, and then the other hand supports the baby’s bottom to create a cradle of sorts.
- From the very moment Miyako meets Hinata, she begins to realise that she’s important to Hinata: although Hinata had suddenly begun to cry, seeing Miyako soothes her, and she suddenly begins smiling. This is a sign that the sisters are closer than Miyako realises here; in this moment, Hinata’s smile is more of a reflexive smile, a response to a comforting situation, but a baby’s smile is still precious, and Miyako is immediately filled with joy to be holding Hinata. From this moment on, the sisters are as close as can be, bringing to mind the likes of K-On!‘s Yui and Ui, and GochiUsa‘s Mocha and Cocoa.
- With this last vignette, the Wataten! OVA draws to a close, and I’m left in a position where I’m as caught up as can be for Wataten!. I don’t mind admitting that while Wataten! had been on my radar since I read the season previews back in 2019, my own doubts about the series after one episode and the fact that my schedule at the time had been quite overwhelming, so Wataten! ended up falling off my watchlist. I am glad to have picked the series up again; time and time again, I’ve found that whether they’re series on my own list, or from recommendations, I tend to enjoy most of the anime that I watch to completion.
- Of late, I’ve finally begun my journey into Konobi (Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru! or This Art Club Has A Problem!, not to be confused with the currently-airing Kenobi): I started Konobi on recommendations from one of my readers, and although I can’t quite place when I received the recommendation, at the very least, I’m watching the show now. I’ll reserve my final thoughts on Konobi once I finish, but I can say that I’m thoroughly enjoying this series and will be writing about it in full once I cross the finish line. In other news, Battlefield 2042‘s finally got an update: titled “Zero Hour”, it will see the addition of a new map that I’m excited to try out.
- Overall, I enjoyed Wataten!‘s OVA: this addition to the series doesn’t extend the thematic elements explored in the TV series, but instead, represents a chance to simply see the characters again before the film releases. Seeing how close Miyako and Hinata were ends up being a fitting way to enter the movie, and while I’ve no idea what the film will entail, experience suggests that Precious Friends will likely scale things up in Wataten! for the silver screen similarly to how Kiniro Mosaic: Thank You!! had. Time will tell where Wataten! goes with its movie, and while the release date is a ways off for us overseas viewers, I will aim to write about Precious Friends once it’s available.
While Wataten!‘s first episode may have started things on a rough footing for viewers, folks with the patience and maturity to continue the series would ultimately find it to be a heartwarming tale of how love pushes people to be their best selves. That a film is in production speaks to Wataten!‘s staying power: not every anime series will receive a theatrical adaptation, so the fact that Wataten! is getting a movie means that reception to the series in Japan has been positive. There’s hardly any controversy surrounding Wataten! in Japan, standing in sharp contrast with some reception of the series at some North American anime news outlets. Cultural differences are not responsible for this gap; Wataten! deals with how people handle and respond to falling in love, and while different cultures may approach things differently, the process is one that people can universally relate to. As such, if Wataten! had indeed been a sub-par portrayal of these topics, its reception in Japan would have been sufficiently poor so that no movie project would have been approved. The existence of a movie similarly speaks to the fact that this series was well-received in Japan, and moreover, viewers overseas have also spotted Wataten!‘s merits and joys. Because there is a movie, the conclusion is simple enough; reception to Wataten! is positive, and the initial flaws (largely a consequence of Miyako being completely unfamiliar with social convention) are swiftly overshadowed by what the series does well in its portrayal of how meeting Hana acts as a catalyst for Miyako to better herself and become more socially apt. Since Wataten! had been a story of showing how Miyako’s experiences become the agent for her growth, one wonders what would await viewers in Precious Friends. Without much more known about what the film will cover, one can reasonably surmise it’ll be a heartwarming and humourous story; I’m certainly excited to see what’s on the horizon. Given the film is estimated to hit Japanese cinema in the fall of this year, I estimate that overseas viewers, like myself, will have the chance to watch Precious Friends once the spring or summer of next year arrives.