The Infinite Zenith

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

The Kandagawa is Calling: Kandagawa Jet Girls First Episode Impressions

“To achieve anything in this game, you must be prepare to dabble in the boundary of disaster.” –Stirling Moss

Rin Namiki decides to move from the countryside to Asakusa Tokyo to pursue her dreams, transferring to Asakusa Girls’ High. Shortly after her arrival in Tokyo, she is taken aback at the crowds and very nearly forgets about registering at the dormitory that she will stay at during her time in Tokyo. When a thief makes off with her bag, Rin chases after him, running into Misa Aoi, who stops the thief cold in his tracks. When Rin finally makes it to the dormitory, she is surprised to learn that Misa is there, and moreover, that she will be roommates with Misa. The next day, Rin does her best to befriend Misa, who coldly rebuffs her. When one of Rin’s classmates asks her about jet skis, Rin reveals that she’s fond of riding jet skis. Later, Rin finds Misa fishing by a pier, and when students of Musashino Girls High School appear, claiming the pier and river to be their turf, Rin boldly accepts a challenge from Kaguya Shinjūin and Kuromaru Manpuku, two of the school’s racers. Misa later reveals that she has a jet ski dubbed the Orcano. On the day of the race, Rin and Misa take an early lead, but Kaguya and Kuromaru even things up when one of the latter’s shots blows off Misa’s skirt during the race. This is Kandagawa Jet Girls after one, an anime that was launched to promote a PlayStation 4 title of the same name. Produced with Senran Kagura‘s very own Kenichirō Takaki, this series has already begun showing elements that are common to Senran Kagura, featuring gratuitous closeups of the characters’ bodies and might be seen as using jet ski racing as a thinly-veiled attempt to wrap a story around what is ultimately an exercise in anatomy lessons. However, looking past these aspects, some familiar elements of sportsmanship and competition are also present: Kandagawa Jet Girls, being more or less a slice-of-life anime with sports components, could also deliver thematic elements common to such series, dealing with topics such as rivalry and personal improvement as Harukana Receive and Girls und Panzer did.

Kandagawa Jet Girls drops viewers straight into how Rin comes to take up jet ski racing, the sport that her mother once participated in as a professional competitor. The entire premise is built around jet ski racing, a sport that has become very widespread in Kandagawa Jet Girls. In order for viewers to follow along, the mechanics and rules of jet ski racing would need to be explained. So far, the particulars of jet ski racing have not yet been established to any major level of detail – while audiences know that racing involves a driver and gunner, victory conditions, penalties and other specifics have not been defined. This makes Rin and Misa’s race with Kaguya and Kuromaru rather more harrowing: besides not knowing the outcome of this race with any certainty, viewers also will not know what Rin and Misa must do during their race. While seemingly illogical, the choice to not outline how jet ski racing works has the effect of forcing the story to focus on the dynamic that builds up between the cheerful, impulsive Rin and stoic, reserved Misa. It is shown that Rin already has some experience with operating a jet ski and comes from a family background familiar with jet ski racing. Misa, on the other hand, is implied to have been a competitor in jet ski racing but dropped out for reasons unknown. As such, the characters’ meeting and Rin’s immediate choice to accept a challenge is meant to suggest that the characters, rather than the sport, form the core of Kandagawa Jet Girls; jet ski racing itself is merely a means to an end, and consequently, I expect that Kandagawa Jet Girls will deal with how Rin and Misa will develop as a team through training and competition, with a healthy dose of papilla mammaria and crotch close-ups to be the norm, if the first episode was anything to go by.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Rin and Misa are briefly shown as a full-fledged team at Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ beginning, which means that the series will be about the journey rather than the destination. Out of the gates, the series feels like an amalgamation of Senran Kagura‘s ecchi elements with Harukana Receive‘s partner setup, the high tech of Rinne no Lagrange and Sora no Woto‘s characters. That such a comparison is being made gives a hint as to how long around I’ve been in the anime blogging game for.

  • When Rin arrives in Tokyo, she’s immediately overwhelmed by the sights and sounds, promptly getting distracted from her goal of locating the dormitory that she will reside at while in high school and running into a variety of colourful characters, including other jet ski racers. She soon finds herself robbed by an unknown thief, and is remarkably slow on the uptake, reflecting on her rural background. However, despite a delayed reaction, Rin nonetheless manages to keep up with the thief, who is bewildered at her stamina.

  • Things turn around when Misa trips the thief, and subsequently proceeds to give him a death glare worthy of Mordor since her shins still smart from kicking her VR simulator earlier. It turns out that Rin’s bag is carrying a large stuffed dolphin that she’s is fond of, and she notes that she can’t sleep without it. I surmise that this particular stuffed dolphin is special to Rin because it’s a momento of her mother; the same dolphin is seen in Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ beginning scenes.

  • Rin is blown away by Misa’s appearance – the camera takes special care to highlight Misa’s features. She has characteristics of a bishōjo, standing in stark contrast with the decidedly more plain-looking Rin. Their introductions are cut short when Rin is distracted by a pair of jet ski racers practising in the river canal below. The combination of Misa’s dissatisfaction with the racing simulator and her cold reception to the racers suggests that she is not fond of the sport.

  • While Rin is fawning over the racers, Misa leaves. They encounter one another again later at the dormitory, and when Rin warmly greets Misa, the other residents squeal in excitement. As it turns out, Misa’s the only one at the dormitory who doesn’t have a roommate, and so, Rin is assigned to share a room with her, much to Misa’s displeasure.

  • The presence of T ‘n A in anime is something of a point of contention in the anime community. In general, I am not bothered by it when it does not interfere with the flow of the story. Rin and her short shorts here is one such example: while her pantsu might be visible, it’s not slowing down Kandagawa Jet Girls in any way. Conversely, if an anime takes the time to create scenarios that are low probability (such as face planting into someone’s chest from a collision), then that does detract from the flow somewhat.

  • The next day, Rin bothers Misa to no end, even following her to the bathroom on one occasion. Rin is presented as being more of a country bumpkin, unaccustomed to the high-tech and fast-paced world that is Tokyo. She also has a pronounced accent: official translations give her rendering of “cute” as “adorbs”, which viewers have taken kindly to. Rin’s voice is provided by Yū Sasahara, a relatively new voice actress whose first role as a lead character was Akari Amano of Tonari no Kyūketsuki-san.

  • With her open and cheerful personality, Rin quickly becomes closer to her classmates, one of whom feel that Rin’s bothered by something. While Rin generally puts on a smile for those around her, it seems that Misa’s cold reception has weighed on her mind. She reveals to her classmate that she used to use a jet ski to get between school and home, greatly enjoying the experience. Misa overhears the conversation and heads off.

  • Rin later finds Misa fishing at a dock and messes with her. While trying to strike a conversation with Misa about fishing, students from the Musashino Academy appear and ask the two to vacate the area. These students are possibly from the area of the same name, which is around twenty one kilometres away from Asakusa and the Sumida River. Misa promptly peaces out, clearly not wishing for a confrontation.

  • However, Rin, not familiar with anyone, confronts Kaguya and accepts her challenge to a jet ski race despite having no experience in a formal race. This is akin to Haruka challenging Ayasa and Narumi in Harukana Receive, not knowing that the pair were Japan’s top-ranked volleyball pair. In Kandagawa Jet Girls, Kaguya and Kuromaru’s stats as jet ski racers are not known, but give their smug attitudes, one must surmise they are of a reasonable calibre.

  • After accepting the challenge, Misa and Rin change into the attire required for racing in a small shack on the river that also housed Misa’s simulation rig. The separation seems to indicate that Misa dislikes the sport because of her performance in it. I believe this is the second time that I’ve featured papilla mammaria openly here: depth of field and blur meant that I decided to only feature one of Misa. When Rin is changing, it’s a little too blurry for a sharp screenshot, and I will have to rectify this later.

  • The suits for jet ski racing seem rather sophisticated, being capable of adjusting itself to the wearer’s morphology and zipping themselves automatically. Given what Kandagawa Jet Girls presents, I imagine the suits to be at least a little more advanced than Tony Stark’s earlier suits, which required stationary machinery in order to fit the suit: Stark’s later Iron Man suits are capable of assembling themselves dynamically, and the versions seen in Infinity War and later use nanomachines.

  • When Rin’s suit has trouble fitting itself to her chest, an irate Misa manually overrides it. Misa’s envy is not well-justified, since the character sheets give Rin’s specs as 89-56-80 to Misa’s 84-58-87. Conversely, the two racers from Musashino are clearly bigger than Rin: Kaguya is 96-59-89, and Kuromaru given as 111-70-97, making them the most full-figured of anyone in Kandagawa Jet Girls.

  • When the race starts, Misa responds to the trash talk from Kuromaru with the remark that they might be disappointed with the outcome of their race. Given Kuromaru and Kaguya’s determination to face off against Misa, one can surmise that Misa was once a great jet ski gunner who bested them at every turn, rather similar to Kanata Hiiga of Harukana Receive. Like Kanata, Misa ended up quitting her sport of choice from unknown reasons, and it is only with the introduction of an optimistic, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer character like Haruka and Rin to get them back into the game.

  • A bit of digging into supplementary materials finds that Kaguya and Kuromaru form Team Dress, with Kaguya being the driver and Kuromaru being the gunner. Said resources mention Kaguya as being from a wealthy background, while Kuromaru appears to have a bodyguard position and is trained in ninpō. The latter carries a long-range rifle for marksman shooting.

  • When the race begins, Rin appears quite unconcerned with winning, marvelling at the Orcano’s acceleration and handling. She and Misa take an early lead as Rin figures out the mechanics behind operating this jet ski, which is probably much higher performing than the smaller jet ski she’d previously used to get to school. The setup brings to mind both Gundam Unicorn, where Banagher is able to operate the Unicorn Gundam within minutes of getting into the cockpit, as well as A New Hope, where Luke finds the X-Wing’s flight controls to be similar to the T-16 Skyhopper and immediately acclimatises to the starfighter’s properties.

  • With Rin at the wheel, Misa is the gunner. Unlike Kuromaru, Misa uses a submachine gun style weapon modelled after the Heckler and Koch MP5-A3. Submachine guns and PDWs are smaller calibre weapons that form the gap between intermediate cartridge firing weapons and pistols: being more compact in nature, such weapons are lightweight, have controllable recoil and are relatively straightforwards to use. Misa thus appears to prefer close quarters engagements, and could hold the advantage over Kuromaru if the two teams are to remain in close range.

  • So far, I admit that I am enjoying Kandagawa Jet Girls, although a cursory search on Google finds that more biased sites have already gotten their perspectives onto the first page. In these reviews, it is claimed that the fanservice piece is “exhausting”. I wonder why folks would deliberately watch anime clearly outside of their interests with the goal of telling people not to watch it, as well as attempting to inject identity politics into things as justification why one should listen to such balderdash.

  • I’ll never tell readers what to think, and note that if Kandagawa Jet Girls is not up your alley, that is totally fine: there are plenty of other series out there that suit different tastes, after all. Back in Kandagawa Jet Girls, as Rin pulls ahead, Kuromaru aims for Misa’s backside, and after two shots, blows her shorts off. Again, why this is a mechanic has not yet been explored yet, and I am hoping that jet ski racing will be explained so viewers can follow along come later episodes.

  • After one episode, Kandagawa Jet Girls has me curious to see more about the jet ski racing, and while the animation is inconsistent in places, the world overall is rendered in a colourful manner. While I originally intended to write about Rifle is Beautiful, after watching the first episode, which aired yesterday, I conclude that at present, there isn’t enough material to do a first episode impressions on. The anime itself is still quite enjoyable, and I’m sure I’ll have thoughts on it after three episodes have passed.

As Kandagawa Jet Girls progresses, I imagine that more mechanics behind jet ski racing will be presented, making it easier to follow along in the races and root for Rin and Misa. The two lead characters, and their meeting, feel distinctly similar to how 2010’s Sora no Woto opened, with a cheerful and somewhat scatter-brained protagonist becoming enamoured in the sights and sounds of a new locale before coming across someone serious who knows the area and winds up making their acquaintance. Sora no Woto had Kanata become delayed by the Water Festival and encountering Rio, who turned out to be her superior officer with an initially cold personality. In Kandagawa Jet Girls, Rin takes on Kanata’s role: both sport an optimistic personality and possess an open mind, becoming easily distracted by things in their world. Arriving in Tokyo, she wastes no time in getting lost amongst the crowds and even loses her bag in the process, before running into Misa, who gets her out of a bind. Kanata had similarly been bailed out when Rio finds her drenched in the dyed water during the Water Festival, and pulled her aside for a bath and reprimand. In terms of appearances, Rin is a shapelier version of Kanata, and Misa shares Rio’s long, dark hair and severe expressions. The parallels between Kandagawa Jet Girls and Sora no Woto are, in short, quite striking – while the premise of jet ski racing might be new, seeing familiar characters means that I had no difficulty in feeling at home in Kandagawa Jet Girls. I am curious to see Rin and Misa develop and grow as Kandagawa Jet Girls continues: the anatomy lessons notwithstanding, Kandagawa Jet Girls is something that could end up being surprisingly enjoyable because of the combination of character growth, in conjunction with a vibrant and vividly depicted world. Of course, this is all speculation – for the time being, the outcome of Rin and Misa’s race with Kaguya and Kuromaru remains anyone’s guess and will continue come the second episode.

Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Sing For You~ OVA: A Review and Full Recommendation, Plus a Preview of Season Three

“Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it.” –Stevie Wonder

Cocoa and Rize’s quiet day at Rabbit House is interrupted when Maya and Megu carry a catatonic Chino in. As it turns out, Chino had been selected to perform the solo for her school’s choral concert. While Rize and Cocoa worry, Chino decides to go ahead with the performance and asks Rize to help her prepare for the part. Rize thus has Chino run through various exercises to boost her stamina, before giving her drills on voice training. It turns out that Chino’s inclination to perform the solo, despite her weakness in public speaking, was partly motivated by a desire to help Rabbit House become more popular. Later, Chiya hosts a karaoke night at Ama Usa An, and when Chino blanks out from nerves, Cocoa decides to encourage Sharo to perform. Under the influence of caffeine, Sharo delivers a spirited and energetic performance befitting of an idol. Chiya, on the other hand, performs an enka. The girls get fired up and sing for most of the evening, before having a short-lived fight as to which group Chino should sing for. Back at Rabbit House, Takahiro encourages Chino to simply perform her best and sing for those important to her. Chino looks at old photographs of her mother, who was once a Jazz singer in the same band that Takahiro and Rize’s father were in. Cocoa later sneaks off to prepare cheer implements for Chino with Chiya and Sharo. On the morning of the performance, Megu and Maya do their best to encourage a nervous Chino, whose spirits lift when she spots Cocoa and the others in the audience. She proceeds to deliver a performance that brings tears to Cocoa, Rize, Chiya and Sharo’s eyes. After the concert, she rushes off to Rabbit House to meet the others, only to find that the decorations Cocoa and the others had put up to root for her have only become gaudier and more outrageous. Later, Chino shares a moment with Tippy and expresses her happiness that things are so lively now, saying she enjoyed the concert. Announced a year ago, Sing For You is the second of the GochiUsa OVAs that saw a home release in late September and faithfully adapts the chapter eight of the fifth volume, bringing to life an arc that show’s Chino’s progression throughout GochiUsa. Sing For You runs for the length of a standard episode, but nonetheless has heart, successfully bringing the arc to life.

Character growth is the central strength in GochiUsa – the series made an impact with its unique setting, but over time, the characters became the centrepiece of the series. As Chino spends more time with Cocoa and her friends, she finds herself wishing she could one day smile and get along with others as well as Cocoa does. Gradually, Chino does become more outgoing, and while she may still find herself reluctant to partake in anything approaching that of a leading role in the performing arts, another part of her wants to take on the challenge and face them with a smile, the same way that Cocoa might. Sing For You thus comes to illustrate the extent of her growth: Chino takes the initiative to prepare for her solo in the concert, asking for Rize’s help and then coming to see that performing isn’t as difficult as she imagined. Further motivated by Takahiro’s words and her friends’ energy, Chino ultimately gives a highly moving song. Public performances and speaking is a skill that must be cultivated; only a quarter of people are naturally comfortable with public speaking, and Chino, who has been presented as taciturn and shy, does seem ill-prepared for the part. It is with stamina training, practising in a more familiar environment and encouragement from family and friends that allows her to overcome her initial fears – the sum of Chino’s training and support from those around her pay off in a big way in the end. Chino’s fears in Sing For You might be exaggerated for the sake of comedy, but her concerns are very much real, as are the methods that she uses to address her worries. For instance, I count myself as a weaker orator, which forms a part of the reason why I have remained in the realm of blogging as to reviewing anime in video format. However, while I may prefer writing to speaking, as a speaker, I have some experience, having given talks at conferences and defended a pair of thesis oral exams. My typical approach is unorthodox: my slideshows actually have no bullet-point text for me to read, and I write a script beforehand that I loosely follow when it comes time to give the presentation itself. The end result is that my presentations end up being more like improv conversations, and I am able to give a more fluid talk. This is helped by confidence in knowing my material, which allows me to recall both the contents of my talk and have faith in addressing any queries that follow. Like Chino discovers, there’s a method towards overcoming fear of public performance, and the results of taking this plunge can be quite rewarding.

When news of a GochiUsa OVA was announced, speculation suggested that music would be very much a major part of things. However, Dear My Sister did not have a substantial musical component, instead focusing on how Chino managed to summon the courage to invite everyone out to a summer festival and Cocoa’s return home for a visit with Mocha and her mother. Conversely, music is very prominent in Sing For You; despite its runtime being only a third of that of Dear My Sister, Sing For You features no fewer than five inset songs. Besides the choral piece Chino performs with her classmates, Sharo, Chiya, Cocoa and Rize sing a variety of songs in a karaoke party intended to help Chino practise, and the songs that Chino’s mother, Saki, performs, are also featured. From the elegant Jazz that Saki performs and Sharo’s delivery of an idol song, to Chiya’s enka, and even Cocoa’s nonsensical song about the joys of Rabbit House, music appears in many forms during the course of Sing For You, culminating in a gentle choral piece that showcases the cast’s versatility and talents for musical performance. Sing For You exemplifies the additional dimensionality that an animated adaptation can bring to a manga: whereas a manga leaves readers to imagine the songs being performed, anime can really bring different moments to life with movement and sound. The songs of GochiUsa are always lively, conveying a sense of joy and happiness that static images alone cannot convey. The end result is a large number of vocal pieces packed into a relatively short duration; while Sing For You might not have had the same opportunity for presenting visually impressive moments to viewers the same way Dear My Sister did with Cocoa’s hometown and the wood-framed town during a summer festival, it utilises aural elements in an incredibly effective manner that results in Sing For You being every bit as enjoyable as Dear My Sister. Coupled with the solid presentation of a relevant life lesson, Sing For You represents a triumphant inclusion in GochiUsa that I have no trouble recommending for anyone who enjoyed the first two seasons and the Dear My Sister OVA.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s a peaceful day at Rabbit House for Rize and Cocoa, who are sufficiently bored so that they are swaying their heads in unison to ward off the dullness. One of the more subtle themes of GochiUsa is that while tranquility is good, liveliness is better. However, if things remained this peaceful for the duration of Sing For You, then there wouldn’t be much for me to write about. This is definitely not the case, and with the events resulting, I have forty screenshots in this post, which remains the first and only proper English-language talk on Sing For You out on the internet. The lack of discussion on Sing For You is surprising considering the warm reception GochiUsa was met with, although I imagine it’s only a matter of time before more people check out this OVA.

  • When Maya and Megu carry Chino into Rabbit House, Rize immediately supposes things resulted from enemy action, while Cocoa immediately fetches some coffee to revive Chino. Sing For You actually opens with a flashback to Chino’s childhood, when her mother, Saki, was still around: the manga drops readers straight to Rabbit House, while the OVA takes advantage of its run-time to create a more fleshed out and emotionally-powerful story.

  • As it turns out, Chino was merely shocked from having earned the part of soloist in her school’s choral performance, and accepted the role.  While she and the others consider turning it down, Chino decides to go through with it. Chino has long been presented as being uncomfortable with crowds and speaks in a gentle, quiet voice, so her decision to take on the solo role shows that a part of her does want to grow. It’s a subtle development that long-time viewers of GochiUsa will enjoy.

  • In order to prepare for the performance, Chino asks Rize to help train her. I’m not a voice actor or singer by trade, but I am roughly aware that being able to project one’s voice does take training well beyond vocal practise and breathing. Rize’s exercises, while seemingly extraneous, are intended to develop stamina and endurance. The bunny-hopping that she has Chino do, for instance, is actually an exercise my dōjō uses to train lower body strength, and while it wipes out the younger students, I’ve been doing them long enough to make them look easy for the white and green belts.

  • Whereas the manga only shows Chino as going through a few exercises, the OVA has Rize put Chino through exercises that would defeat almost the entire population save for professional athletes or individuals with extensive strength training. It is therefore unsurprising that Chino can’t actually complete the exercises, although I imagine that Rize is employing these means to push Chino further. The exaggerations also create a bit of visual humour.

  • Those favoured with a keen memory will recall that the riverside park where Rize drills Chino is where the girls had gone to practise for various sports competitions and the like previously. In anime set in the high school setting, sports and culture festivals are often featured, but aside from brief mentions, GochiUsa has not done any sports festivals the same way Azumanga Daioh and K-On! have as of yet. Looking ahead, it looks like that both a sports event and culture festival will be shown: I forecast that the culture festival will make into season three.

  • Rize compliments Chino on having a marked improvement in projecting her voice. This is a combination of the exercises that Chino’s done, and also from her overall improvement from the time that she’d first met Rize. In Dear My Sister, a flashback shows that Rize had previously worked with Chino to improve her voice using the same caffè latte caffè mocha cappuccino routine, and Dear My Sister transformed this into a spell when Cocoa dreamt about meeting Mahou Shoujo Chino. The shift in lighting here shows that Chino’s been training all day, attesting to both her determination and Rize’s grueling routines.

  • This year, we’re set to have Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday: besides a turkey with stuffing as the centrepiece, ham with a dijon-mayonase sauce, grilled shrimps and roast cauliflower will be on the menu. The Thanksgiving long weekend has quickly grown to become a favourite of mine, being a time of rest, good food and family. The extra day off also affords me with additional time to sleep in and relax in general, although with the advance polling stations open for the Federal Election, I will have to exercise my responsibility as a citizen and go in to vote.

  • After a day’s training, Chino and Rize return to Rabbit House, only to find a sign up front with a hand-drawn Chino that advertises her role in the upcoming choral performance. Chino immediately concludes that this was Cocoa’s doing, and upon entering Rabbit House itself, she finds the interior of Rabbit House decked out in decorations to celebrate Chino’s solo role. It turns out that even Takahiro is in on things, having given Cocoa and the others permission to spruce things up a little.

  • This screenshot really shows the scope of the decorations, a consequence of Chino leaving Cocoa in charge wiht help from Megu and Maya. An exasperated Chino breaks out shouting, surprising everyone with the amplitude of her voice. Even when irate, Inori Minase’s delivery of Chino’s voice comes across as being incredibly adorable, and there have been multiple roles now where I hear Minase play a character and are immediately reminded of Chino.

  • Rize’s training improves Chino’s form, but her nerves remain weak, as she is easily embarrassed. Feeling that Chino’s technique is solid, Rize suggests singing in front of others. At Ama Usa An, Chiya hosts a kareoke party, and everyone’s invited. Chino is initially asked to take the stage, but even in front of her friends, she’s unable to summon up the courage to put an introduction together. While this is doubtlessly adorable, stage fright is a very real phenomenon. K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama is similarly affected, overcoming it over the course of the series with support from her friends.

  • While Ritsu suggested to Mio that she should imagine the audience as potatoes or similar, Cocoa suggests that Chino imagine her audience as bunnies to take her mind off things, but Chino feels this to be even more distracting. Aoyama inexplicably shows up, as well, although her editor, Rin, is noticeably absent from the proceedings. I’ve long felt that the characters of GochiUsa resemble rabbits in nature and mannerisms – this is a sentiment that others of the community also appear to share, and I think that with this in mind, it could be quite entertaining to write a mini-guide on rabbit temperaments as GochiUsa‘s third season draws nearer.

  • Because Chino is unable to perform, Cocoa decides to take her off the stage and provide an example of how one might perform. She gives Sharo a coffee and then sends her to the front lines, where Sharo takes on the demeanour and energy of an idol. Sharo’s been said to be affected differently depending on the blend of coffee that she drinks, with some blends making her as carefree as Cocoa, while other blends bring her to tears. Insofar, no correlation has been provided as to what coffees have what effect on Sharo.

  • For her song, Sharo performs Hi Hi High☆, a lively and upbeat song: Sing For You lives up to its name in that there is plenty of singing, and this is probably why the decision was made to adapt it as an OVA rather than a part of season three. GochiUsa typically has one inset song during its regular season, and while plenty of supplementary albums have been released over the past few years, dedicated songs for the anime is not something we’ve seen. The increased production time afforded by the OVA format means that more effort was directed towards the music, and the quality of the end product is quite apparent.

  • After Sharo’s performance ends, Chiya takes centre stage and performs an enka. Being a Japanese ballad, enka is the fusion of traditional Japanese music with modern elements, and while their popularity declined in the early nineties as J-pop began gaining traction, the style continues to endure. Musical styles tend to cycle in popularity, although I note that contemporary pop music is pedestrian, unoriginal and jejune to the point of being unlistenable – all modern pop artists sound the same and favour repetitive elements to maximise catchiness at the expense of telling a good story or creating a particular atmosphere.

  • The sort of music that I listen to is varied in nature, from the fluffy and adorable songs of GochiUsa and K-On! to DragonForce and Lord of the Rings soundtracks. All of them share the commonality of telling a story or evoking in my mind’s eye specific imagery. As such, I have no problem with the music that Petit Rabbits’ performs: it far outstrips the indie pop that is so widespread here, sounding a lot more genuine and having a great deal more heart than the manufactured drivel that dominates the music scene.

  • Rize, Sharo, Cocoa and Chiya end up stealing the show when their enthusiasm for singing takes over, and the girls end up fighting over which group Chino should sing for.  The original objective of helping Chino overcome her stage fright is quickly forgotten, showing just how quickly things can shift in GochiUsa. The changes never come across as being unexpected, but rather, happen quite naturally as a result of the girls’ propensity to live in the moment.

  • Takahiro imparts some wisdom to Chino: her mother was once also nervous prior to any performance, but Saki would always remind herself that her singing would bring joy to those who were in the audience. Sometimes, it is these moments from family, even more so than friends, that can profoundly shift one’s perspective. With the promise of performing for him, Chino resolves to simply go into the performance and give it her best.

  • Chino recalls memories of her mother when going through a photo album with her mother, who was a jazz performer with Takahiro and Rize’s father. GochiUsa presents the Kafuus and Tedezas as being quite close to one another: in the second season, a conversation between Takahiro and Rize’s father imply that they’d also been brothers-in-arms. This background has resulted in all sorts of fanciful speculation on the nature of GochiUsa‘s world, but upon scrutiny, these speculations only remain thus.

  • Chino remarks that Saki was actually a lot more flamboyant in mannerism, being rather similar to Cocoa at times. Cocoa also reveals to Cocoa that she had wanted to turn down the part, but hearing Takahiro’s words and remembering her mother’s singing inspires her to at least give it a whirl to make him happy. From a technical perspective, Inori Minase is an excellent singer, being able to bring a variety of songs to life, but GochiUsa‘s setup means that she and the other voice actresses only really get to show off their singing in the opening and ending sequences, as well as supplementary albums.

  • Cocoa can be heard singing a song of her own composition while she cleans, and later sings the song for Chino while they bathe, leading Chino to comment on the song’s odd lyrics. This song is titled “ラビットハウスへ行こうよ♪” のうた (The “Let’s Go To Rabbit House♪” Song) and is delivered with Ayane Sakura’s typical bubbly and joyful manner. While Chino may not particularly like it, Takahiro certainly does, singing it to his father’s annoyance.

  • Once Chino falls asleep to rest up for the big performance, Cocoa sneaks off into the night and heads for Sharo’s place. The backyard behind Rabbit House is rarely shown, being last shown in the second season’s seventh episode, where the girls manually wash the sheets and laundry after Rabbit House’s washing machine malfunctions. One of the biggest joys about GochiUsa is simply seeing the different locations in the series brought to life, and while much of the wood-framed town is based off Colmar, France, the anime also makes use of other locations in Europe (the pool, for instance, was based off the Széchenyi thermal bath in Hungary), as well as seamlessly weaving in original locations where needed.

  • An old aspect of GochiUsa returns as the girls prepare props to help cheer Chino on. Sharo fears that they won’t be able to finish everything in time for the morning, and finds herself exasperated when Cocoa and Chiya begin deviating from their tasks and consider increasingly irrelevant things that they could make for Chino. Around Cocoa and Chiya, Sharo shows more of her true personality, being very goal-oriented and proper, always looking to do things correctly and efficiently.

  • Thanksgiving long weekend last year saw me travel out to Salmon Arm to see the salmon run. This two-day trip gave me a much-needed respite: after reaching the Adams River and watching salmon swimming about in droves, we arrived in Vernon. The second day was a journey back home, and we stopped at D. Dutchman Dairy just outside of Sicamous for ice cream. The ice cream was good enough for us to return just this summer, and overall, this was a much-needed break from the chaos of work, which was so hectic that I was contacted while in Vernon with the expectation that I resolve a newly posted work item immediately.

  • It turns out the “bug” in question stemmed from the testers being on an outdated version of the project, and the latest version, a release candidate, had satisfactorily solved the issue. On the project in question, I wrapped up my tasks and did a submission to the App Store a week later. We’re actually nearing the one-year mark of that upload, and I am planning on writing about HBO’s Chernobyl, whose unnerving atmosphere, and themes about the cost of lies and complacency made the series a highly riveting one. Chernobyl seems far removed from the gentle atmosphere of GochiUsa, so for the present, I won’t go too much further into the details of this upcoming Chernobyl post.

  • The schools in GochiUsa have ornate European architectural designs and look like private academies. This is the middle school that Chino, Megu and Maya attend: while the location’s been visited on a handful of occasions, starting with the day that Cocoa and Chiya met, there’s been precious few opportunities to actually check out the interior. Like Dear My SisterSing For You is produced by Production doA; they’ve done a phenomenal job with the artwork and animation, to the point where the two OVAs since the second season actually look and feel far better than the TV series.

  • This has me excited to see what the third season will look like: at present, the only thing that is known of the third season is that it will come out somewhere in 2020. Back in Sing For You, I’ve opted to feature additional screenshots showcasing Chino’s school. It would appear that the performance is being held at a concert hall adjacent to the main campus: the students’ parents have already begun gathering.

  • The performance venue itself is a surprisingly impressive one, resembling a professional concert hall. My old elementary, middle and high schools certainly never had a stage as ornate and elegant as the one found at Chino’s school – it was only the facilities at the university that approached this in scale and grandeur. I’ve attended a handful of performances and events at the Faculty of Art’s halls.

  • While Chino’s quite nervous on the day of the event, Maya and Megu feel more relaxed and do their best to encourage Chino. They decide to hug Chino and imbibe her nerves before reassuring her that things will be fine, cracking a lighthearted joke in the process. Some of the girls’ classmates can be seen in the background: compared to Megu, Maya and Chino, they look rather more ordinary in design, giving the sense that Chino, Maya and Megu were intended to stand out from other students.

  • Upon seeing the crowd, Chino begins to freeze, but in the corner of her eye, she spots Cocoa, Rize, Chiya and Sharo, decked out in rather flashy garb. Seeing their ludicrous appearance but equally ardent desire to support her, Chino realises that delivering her best now would make them happy. In effect, Chino now sees the performance as a chance to do her best for Cocoa and Takahiro. The latter is also in the audience with Rize’s father, but despite wearing the same jackets as Cocoa and the others, they are a lot more subtle in appearance and don’t stand out as much.

  • Ultimately, Chino puts on a strong performance, singing with sincerity and joy. The song they perform is called 木もれび青春譜 (Hepburn kimore bi seishun fu, “Sun-dappled Youth”), a calming and poetic song about youth using nature as the metaphor. It’s quite unlike any of the spirited, upbeat songs that Petit Rabbit’s and Chimame-Tai sing. Sing For You definitely lives up to its title, which is well-chosen, being about Chino singing for those important to her. Dear My Sister was similarly named, referring to the letter that Mocha wrote to Cocoa.  GochiUsa cycles between its different characters to liven the series up, which contributes to the series incredible success.

  • Sing For You (and GochiUsa as a whole) is meant to be a gentle slice-of-life whose core message is showing how people gradually mature and develop from their time spent together through Cocoa, Chino, Chiya, Rize and Sharo. There is a misconception that shows like GochiUsa have a single lead character: some folks have erroneously assumed that Chino is GochiUsa‘s main protagonist whom people gravitate around, but the reality is that none of the characters can exist in a vacuum. Slice-of-life series depend on the sum of character interactions to make their message clear. Back in Sing For You, Chino’s singing is so moving that Tippy dissolves in tears.

  • Being set entirely in the wood-framed town, Sing For You might not have the same sweeping panoramas and Southern France architecture of Cocoa’s hometown, but it does take the time to showcase the town in great detail, indicating that irrespective of the location, DoA is committed to maintaining a very high visual quality. This is especially encouraging, considering that there is going to be a third season: Chino and the others’ adventures will continue to be rendered in a consistently beautiful world.

  • With the concert over, Chino rushes on home for Rabbit House, wondering what the others thought of her singing. The high saturation and depth of field’s focus on Chino is meant to show the elation of having finished something difficult, as well as finding enjoyment in the moment.  Chino now understands why Saki was so immersed in singing, realising that it’s the ability to deliver emotions with the power of voices; music is one of those things that transcends linguistic barriers, and for my part, even though my Japanese is rudimentary, the emotions and feelings that Japanese songs convey are as clear to me as any Cantonese or English song, even if I do not understand the lyrics.

  • In the aftermath of the performance, Chino is surprised that everyone’s gone ahead and begun planning on making Chino a star of sorts, having recorded her performance for posterity’s sake. Even Sharo gets into things, and seeing this drives Chino to yet another outburst, her third of the episode. This recurring joke shows viewers that despite her usual quiet nature, Chino can be quite noisy when provoked, which is another reminder that the characters of GochiUsa are much more than their base archetypes suggest.

  • While Chino and the others are sharing a noisy, rambunctious moment together, Takahiro relaxes in the quiet of his quarters, listening to a record of Saki’s singing. The jazzy, bossa-nova music that she performs is very similar to the coffeehouse music that I listen to whenever I work. Saki’s voice is provided by Nana Mizuki, a veteran voice actress with roles in a vast range of anime, films and games.

  • Saki’s ultimate fate in GochiUsa has not yet been explored within the anime: while her absence is especially noticeable now that we’ve seen the anime bring her to life, one must also commend Takahiro’s efforts in raising Chino despite the emotional challenges he faced. With Cocoa and the others present now, Takahiro must also be relieved that Chino’s found friends to share her youth with.

  • On a sunny day some time after the concert, Chino speaks with her grandfather, reflecting on how her friends and father helped her to really seize the role. Chino’s grandfather remarks that he rather enjoys things this way, and asks Chino to pass this along to Cocoa and the others. The ending of Sing For You has Chino be the happiest I’ve seen her in the whole of GochiUsa, and she’s in a blue dress and sitting near some yellow flowers similar to the one seen in the OVA’s opening.

  • Chino does look somewhat similar to CLANNAD‘s Kotomi Ichinose here, and she tells her mother that she’s got some wonderful friends before a gust of wind brings the OVA to a gentle close. This is Sing For You, which earns an A+ (9.5 of 10, or 4.0): like Dear My SisterSing For You is remarkably enjoyable and a welcome addition to GochiUsa. Besides a fun story about Chino overcoming her fear of performing in front of the crowd, Sing For You also bridges the gap between Dear My Sister and season three, giving fans something to watch and lessening the wait.

With Sing For You now in the books, I turn my attention towards the third season, which is scheduled for airing somewhere in 2020. The second season ended with volume four, and Dear My Sister covered the fifth volume’s second to fifth chapters. Recalling that Sing For You adapts the fifth volume’s seventh chapter, a third season will likely begin with the summer arc in volume five, which deals with the girls looking for ways to deal with the summer heat that ends in a test of courage, and everyone’s interest in Lapin, a popular character from a children’s show, after Sharo plays the character at Fleur de Lupin. The fifth volume also sees Chiya train with Rize so she can keep up for track and field day. After Chino’s concert, the girls visit a flea market in town and pick up magic tricks. Megu and Maya do orientations of the two high schools in town, with Maya struggling to decide where to go, and when Cocoa’s high school hosts their culture festival, Chiya is made the class president. Despite her worries, she successfully hosts a beer hall. Previously, one season encompassed two volumes of material, so season three will also adapt volume six’s materials. After Cocoa learns to play the accordion, Rize announces her intention to become an elementary school teacher, being inspired by Maya and Megu. The girls later must chase Aoyama through town as she attempts to elude her editor, Rin, and a deadline, before celebrating Halloween. As the colder weather sets in, the girls help Maya and Megu study, while Cocoa and Chiya deal with their roles with the student council. Volume six ends with the end of another year. Season three is therefore looking particularly lively, and while it is a bit early to be making a decision, I am considering doing an episodic discussion of the third season. While GochiUsa may prima facie appear to be an ordinary slice-of-life series, the unique combination of its setting and visceral animated adaptation means that the series has definitely provided plenty of topics worth considering and writing about. With this in mind, I am greatly looking forwards to season three and the chance to delve deeper into a world that has accompanied me for the past five years, providing consistently good laughs and a cathartic atmosphere that proved an effective tonic against the stresses of life.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection on the Campaign

“We’ve been fighting for our whole lives. It’s taken us too long to realise that we were fighting for the wrong side. This war is far from over. We would like to help you, if you’ll let us.” –Iden Versio

After she allows herself to be captured by the Rebel Alliance, Iden Versio escapes from captivity and erases a coded transmission the Rebels had acquired concerning the Emperor’s plan for Endor. While on an assignment to neutralise the Rebel forces that landed at Endor, the second Death Star is destroyed. Iden and Inferno Squad (Del and Gideon) comply with orders to retreat and secures TIE fighters, rejoining the Imperial Forces and meets with her father, Admiral Versio. With the Emperor’s death confirmed, the Empire begins to enact Operation Cinder, a contingency plan that would have seen the destruction of Imperial worlds. After Del encounters Luke Skywalker on Pillio during a mission to destroy the Emperor’s storehouse, Meeko and Iden are sent to Vardos to extract Protectorate Gleb. Witnessing the Empire’s disregard for its own people, Meeko and Iden defect to the Rebel Alliance. They meet Lando Calrissian, who gives Iden and Del a chance to prove themselves as being trustworthy by having them participate in the liberation of Naboo alongside Princess Leia. Iden and Del are then sent to Takodana to find Han Solo, who was locating an Imperial defector holding the key to freeing Kashyyyk. Iden learns that Gideon is on Bespin and commences an operation to capture him alongside Admiral Versio, but the two manage to escape. Lando, meanwhile, heads to Sullust to secure an Imperial weapons cache, but ends up destroying the munitions factory there. The Empire is pushed into a corner, and the Rebel Alliance launches one final attack on the weakened Imperial fleet at Jakku. Iden boards Admiral Versio’s Star Destroyer and attempts to rescue him, but he resolves to die with the Empire, asking Iden to live a full life. In the aftermath of the Battle of Jakku, Iden and Del share a kiss. Decades later, Del is captured and interrogated by Kylo Ren, who is searching for a map that will lead to Luke Skywalker. Kylo Ren turns Del over to Gideon, who executes him after expressing his disgust at the choices Del had made. This is Star Wars Battlefront II‘s campaign, a short but vivid experience that marks the first time I’ve played a Star Wars campaign since the days of Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.

Battlefront II‘s campaign ultimately acts as a highly cinematic tutorial for players looking to get into the multiplayer, providing nonstop fanservice in allowing players to experience the story from the perspective of heroes like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. Iden’s own story is a compelling, if generic one, exploring how the Empire’s atrocities and determination to hold onto power in accordance to Palpatine’s wishes was something that even some of the Imperials did not agree with. The campaign thus shows that Palpatine’s preferred approach in ruling by fear meant that in his absence, the Empire was only loosely held together and disintegrated within a year of his death, which stands in contrast with the extended universe, which saw the Empire continuing to wage war against the New Republic. The divergence of the story between what is official and what is now part of the legends means that some of the latter’s greatest stories will never be brought to life, and while the story of Battlefront II might have been familiar in its presentation and themes (compared to the more complex themes the extended universe deals with), DICE’s implementation of the campaign means that in addition to being a good entry point into Battlefront II, it also provides an authentic and rather enjoyable Star Wars experience: famous planets and weapons are reproduced faithfully, as are the characters and starfighters. Overall, while perhaps nothing remarkable from a thematic or narrative perspective, the technical excellence of Battlefront II‘s campaign, in the visuals and sound engineering, shows that the technology and resources definitely exist to make a Star Wars game of the same enjoyment as something like 2001’s Rogue Leader.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Battlefront II starts with Iden on board a Rebel Mon Calamari cruiser. After she uses her droid to hack her way out, Iden retrieves the intel surrounding Palpatine’s plans at Endor and then escapes. The last time I played Battlefront II was two years ago during the open beta, and the game today is said to be nearly unrecognisable from its state back then, showing what can happen when market forces compel developers and publishers to re-evaluate core mechanics to a game’s progression system.

  • Because Battlefront II now features a conventional progression system rather than the luck-based micro-transactions systems the title first launched with, I will periodically be playing the multiplayer aspects. My primary interest in Battlefront II actually lay in the campaign, arcade and instant action modes, which allow me to experience blowing stuff up Star Wars-style and relive combat within the universe. With this being said, I would very much like to give Galactic Conquest a go, since these would allow me to fight in iconic locations throughout the Star Wars universe.

  • As Iden, a member of the Empire’s elite Inferno Squad, players will initially fight for the Empire. Seeing the second Death Star destroyed from another perspective was a sobering experience that also served to show that at Endor, there were winners and losers. The films and stories predominantly tell of the Rebel Alliances success here, although some also have depicted the chaos and confusion on the Imperial side after the Death Star was destroyed. On Endor, this does not stop Iden and Inferno Squad, who fight their way through the victorious Rebel soldiers and secure TIE fighters.

  • The Empire’s TIE fighters have long been described as being inexpensive, expendable fighters that possessed superior speed and manoeuvrability because of their light weight. Lacking any sort of life support system, shielding and hyper-drive, the TIE fighters were essentially engines bolted onto a cockpit and a pair of fast-firing laser cannons. However, for gameplay reasons, Battlefront II‘s TIE fighters are more durable and act as a good all-around vehicle for space combat.

  • The flight controls in Battlefront II are actually somewhat cumbersome and cannot be fully customised, forcing players to acclimatise to the strange combination of mouse and keyboarding flying. When I reached the first space mission, I actually stopped playing and spent several rounds in the arcade mode to get a better feel for the controls. Once I got used to them, I was able to keep up in at least the single-player mission and accomplish my tasks with efficiency. Muscle memory led me to try and fly like I did in Ace Combat 7, with disastrous (and hilarious) results.

  • Iden is next sent to secure an Imperial dockyard from Rebel forces so that delivery of a secret weapon system can be completed. However, when ion cannons from a Mon Calamari cruiser threaten the operation, Iden is sent to board the cruiser and disable the guns. Battlefront II does not have its 2005 incarnation’s seamless transition between flight and infantry combat, instead relying on transitions in the campaign to achieve the same thing, but its implementation is likely in part owing to the increased complexity of the assets.

  • The first hero players will control is Luke Skywalker, who’s visiting Pillio in search of Jedi artefacts. As Luke, players have access to a Force push, heavy attack and sabre rush that lets Luke close the distance with enemies very quickly. Heroes in Battlefront II seem more vulnerable than their Battlefront counterparts: against the Stormtroopers on Pillio, I had to be cautious and engage them smartly, since Luke’s health can be quickly decimated by enemy fire.

  • After Luke meets Del, he helps Del fend off attack from the native wildlife. Heroes in Battlefront II have stamina for their attacks, and this is drained on a lightsaber strike, or when a block is used. Thus, one cannot swing wildly for risk of running out of stamina mid-battle, which renders Force-users less effective. Once the onslaught ends and Del unlocks the door to the storehouse, he and Luke part ways after Luke finds something noteworthy in the chamber, with Luke hoping to meet again under different circumstances.

  • Iden’s abilities vary and depend on the mission. For the most part, I utilise them to give myself a boost in a given situation, and here, I fight through Vardos after Iden and Del decide to defect from the Empire. Most people considered this to be a highly predictable, sanctimonious turn of events that reinforces the idea that the Empire is irredeemably evil, rather than the multi-faceted enemy that the extended universe (especially Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy) explored, and ever since Disney took the rights to Star Wars, I admit that the storytelling has been less nuanced than it was previously.

  • From a gameplay perspective, Iden’s defection means that one now has the chance to fight Imperial Stormtroopers and implements of the Imperial forces again: I ended up destroying an AT-ST walker en route to my objective using nothing more than a blaster during this mission. While enemy vehicles are powerful forces to contend with in the campaign, even the absence of dedicated anti-armour doesn’t really mean much, since one could stay out of its attack range and chip away at its health.

  • Of course, having anti-armour weapons like a grenade launcher or rocket launcher will help expedite things considerably. The mission on Vardos also gives players a chance to take the gunner’s seat in an AT-AT and use the famous walker’s arsenal to destroy everything standing between Iden and the Corvus. Despite its power, the AT-AT actually feels a little weak, taking at least two hits to down infantry with its main weapon. This was probably done to balance the reinforcement’s power.

  • After escaping Vardos and surrendering to the Rebel Alliance, Iden and Del decide to help them when Lando presents them with a choice. Flying an X-Wing for the first time, Iden thus disables the Cinder satellites before helping the Rebels take down a Star Destroyer in a mission that would not seem out of place in Rogue Leader. The X-Wing is the Rebel Alliance’s trademark fighter, being a powerful and versatile starfighter that balances manoeuvrability with durability. The interceptors are lighter weight, faster and more manoeuvrable in exchange for reduced durability and firepower, while bombers possess more firepower at the expense of mobility.

  • Once Iden clears the Operation Cinder satellites, gameplay switches over to Leia on the ground. She’s armed with a blaster pistol, can summon a defensive shield, use a flash grenade to disorient enemies and can pull out a confiscated Imperial blaster rifle for increased firepower. It felt great to return to Naboo two years after my first visit in Battlefront II during the open beta.

  • Playing as Leia meant switching out my usual E-11 blaster, the Imperial standard-issue rifle that is versatile and reliable, for a Defender Sporting rifle. I believe Leia used such a weapon at the very beginning of A New Hope, and this weapon is capable of downing a Stormtrooper in one shot during the campaign. It also has the unique ability to be charged for a more powerful shot, making it effective over longer ranges.

  • Leia’s mission is to provide covering fire for Del and Rebel soldiers looking to reactivate an ion pulse to disable all Imperial weapons. The mission takes players through the same parts of Theed that the open beta’s mission covered, right up to the palace doors. From here, the pulse is activated and that’s it for the mission: it looks like to explore the hangar where Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon squared off against Darth Maul, plus the interior of the palace, I’ll need to get into a multiplayer match.

  • The campaign takes players to Takodana (not to be mistaken with SSSS.Gridman‘s Rikka Takorada), a planet seen in The Force Awakens. Players assume the role of Han Solo, who’s there speaking to an Imperial informant who intends to provide intel on the Wookies and Kashyyyk. As Han, players have access to his legendary DL-44 heavy blaster pistol, a highly reliable weapon that can one-shot Stormtroopers.

  • Beyond a reliable blaster, Han also has access to a remote-detonated grenade similar to the sticky grenades of The Division and can charge into a crowd of enemies to knock the first enemy over. On top of this, the DL-44 can have its rate of fire increased. All around, he’s a fun character to play, and there was immense satisfaction in using the DL-44 to blow Stormtroopers away: in most games, pistols are considered to be secondary weapons to be counted in during a pinch, but the blaster pistols of Star Wars are equally as effective at range, handling similarly to the M6C Magnum of Halo.

  • After digging through crates the Imperial informant points out to find the intel, Han fights his way through squads of Stormtroopers to reach Chewbacca. Fighting what felt like an entire legion of Stormtroopers here proved tricky, and while the DL-44 is great for dealing with smaller groups, it’s decided less suited for situations where enemies are coming from all sides. It took use of each of Han’s abilities to get through this stage.

  • Once Chewbacca finishes repairing the Millennium Falcon, it’s time to take to the skies and drive off the Imperial forces that appear. Being a Hero ship, the Millennium Falcon’s large size belies its solid performance. Armed with an afterburner, concussion missiles and an automatic quad turret, the Millennium Falcon is considered to be the best Hero ship in Battlefront II, with Boba Fett’s Slave I being the best vessel for the Villains. Maz will berate Han for bringing the Imperial forces in, but with the Millennium Falcon, they are easily dealt with.

  • Iden and Del find themselves on Bespin once they learn that Admiral Versio and Gideon are here. They disguise themselves as Stormtroopers and infiltrate the Imperial facility, but fail to find either Admiral Versio or Gideon. The flight into the facility has players passing by Beldon, voluminous creatures that produced Tibanna gas (utilised as a hyperdrive coolant and for bolstering turbolaser firepower) as a part of their metabolic processes.

  • After the mission goes awry, Iden and Del just barely get away. The amount of firepower brought to bear on the two is incredible, and I ended up fighting an AT-ST walker as well as legions of Stormtroopers. A mounted turret made it much easier to deal with enemies: while stationary weapons generally turn a player into an easy target for snipers in multiplayer settings, in campaigns, most of the AI aren’t capable of sharpshooting and therefore, with their unlimited ammunition and ability to lay down sustained fire, stationary turrets are excellent.

  • Unlike Rogue Leader, which had players participate in a raid on Bespin to secure Cloud City and the Tibanna gas facilities, Battlefront II has Iden and Del turn their attention towards destroying the docking station for three Imperial Star Destroyers. Iden takes control of a Cloud Car, which were originally intended as private transports but, with the inclusion of blasters, becomes a makeshift light fighter. They are not powerful or durable, but their blasters are sufficient in igniting the Tibanna gas platforms the Star Destroyers are docked to.

  • Iden’s raid on Bespin turns out to be much shorter than the one seen in Rogue Leader: once she’s done destroying the platforms, they will explode and destroy the remaining Star Destroyers. Seeing the different visuals and settings in Battlefront II makes me long for a full remake of Rouge Squardon III: Rebel Strike, which was a sequel to Rogue Leader that added on-foot missions. With the assets of Battlefront II already in place, a remake of Rebel Strike with flight missions from Rogue Leader would truly bring iconic missions to life in the latest and greatest game engine.

  • Such a campaign-based Star Wars game would be very unlikely: the games of old were developed and published back in a time when games had a larger single-player focus, when micro-transactions and DLC were not part of a publisher’s business model and when one would get their full money’s worth for a title. These days, games have a larger multiplayer piece, so it is already something that Battlefront II has a campaign.

  • While I entered Lando’s mission to Sullest with some apprehension, it turned out that Lando’s abilities to deploy smoke, track enemies and automatically lock onto enemies with his blaster were superbly useful: Lando was most fun to play, enhanced by his banter with Shriv. Towards the end of the mission, players get to take control of an AT-ST and use its loadout to melt the Imperial soldiers below. While Lando winds up destroying the facility, to Iden’s disappointment that the Rebels won’t get any additional weapons, the strike at Sullest also sets in motion the final mission of Battlefront II.

  • Players actually have a chance to see the Battle of Jakku now: this is Rey’s homeworld, and by the events of The Force Awakens, the desert planet is best known for the wreckage of old Imperial Star Destroyers embedded in the sand dunes. Being able to participate in the mop-up operation that sees the end of Palpatine’s Empire was a thrilling experience, and it was fun to fly in what is the largest battle in Battlefront II‘s campaign.

  • That the Battle of Jakku is set during a sunset is meant to be symbolic: sunsets mark the end of something, and contrary to the officers’ belief otherwise, the Imperials are fighting a losing battle here. After clearing the skies somewhat, Iden descends to a fallen Star Destroyer and plants explosive devices on TIE bombers to take them out of the equation. She then flies towards the battlefront where the Empire has deployed AT-ATs that have begun firing on a Rebel position.

  • While the AT-AT walkers were originally portrayed as terrifying enemies in The Empire Strikes Back, decades of watching the rebels use Attack Pattern Delta on them, followed by the fact that they actually numerous weaknesses, meant that by the time Iden is asked to tag the AT-ATs for bombardment, I thought nothing of them. I long have wondered why X-Wings were never brought to bear against AT-ATs at Hoth, and the answer for this is simple enough. Except for Luke’s X-Wing, all available X-Wings were scrambled to escort the transport craft, and the second is that while an X-Wing could trivially destroy AT-ATs with strafing runs. This would, however, lessen their impact on the Hoth evacuation.

  • The penultimate segment to the Battle of Jakku sees Iden engage Gideon in single combat in an intense dogfight. While a tough opponent, Gideon is no Mihaly A. Shilage, and I ended up defeating him. With Gideon gone for the present, Iden then lands on the Star Destroyer that Admiral Versio is commanding, clears off the deck of opponents and heads off to rescue her father. He declines to go with her, but admits that the Empire was flawed. Wishing her to make the most of her life, he dies as his Star Destroyer crashes onto Jakku’s surface. Iden escapes and passionately kisses Del in the aftermath, bringing the main campaign to an end.

  • There’s actually an epilogue where players get to step into the shoes of Kylo Ren as he is interrogating an older Del for information on Luke Skywalker, as well. With this post finished, I have one more coming out for today, where I write about GochiUsa: ~Sing For You~. Like that Saturday when GochiUsa‘s second season aired four years ago, it’s a beautiful, sunny morning, and I’ll be sitting down to write about this long-awaited addition to GochiUsa later in the day.

With the first campaign now in the books, I still have yet to go through Battlefront II‘s Resurrection campaign, which is set between the events of the first campaign and The Force Awakens. There is a surprising amount of depth to Battlefront II, and having given the multiplayer a short test drive, I am genuinely impressed with how far the game has come since its initial launch in 2017, where its microtransaction and progression system create a controversy so large, it impacted policy change surrounding how microtransactions could be implemented in a game. Since then, DICE tirelessly worked to improve Battlefront II, and players going into the game today will not see any of the elements that caused said controversy two years previously. Progression is simply accomplished by using a class, reinforcement or hero. Battlefront II has seen three seasons’ worth of updates that added new maps, game modes and heroes free of charge: the game now has Clone Wars content and more options for solo play. Seeing all of the development effort and care that went into Battlefront II is, in conjunction with a well-timed sale, why I picked the game up: good Star War games are rare these days simply because there aren’t very many of them, and Battlefront II comes the closest to being a modern incarnation of Rogue Leader, which remains my favourite classic Star Wars game of all time for giving players a chance to re-enact classic Star Wars experiences. Battlefront II may not allow players to fly down the trench of the first Death Star or fight the Battle of Endor the same way that Rogue Leader did, but by expanding on the universe and placing players at key moments after the second Death Star was destroyed, the game does succeed in bringing back the mechanics and atmosphere that makes Star Wars so enjoyable.

Azur Lane: The Girls of the Sea and First Episode Impressions

“I have never advocated war except as means of peace, so seek peace, but prepare for war, because war never changes. War is like winter and winter is coming.” –Ulysses S. Grant

When the mysterious Siren overwhelmed humanity and conquered the oceans, the world’s major navies, the Eagle Union, Royal Navy, Sakura Empire and Iron Blood, formed an alliance and developed the Ship Girls to combat them. The Siren were driven back, and ultimately defeated, but a schism formed between the former allies. In the present, Cleveland and Prince of Wales meet with Illustrious and Unicorn in a base near the Sakura Empire, but the facility is infiltrated. Unicorn, Javelin and Laffey befriend Ayanami while searching for Unicorn’s familiar. However, the peace is shattered when Kaga and Akagi arrive, launching a surprise attack. Cleveland enters the fray with the remaining allied ships to drive off the attackers, but find themselves slowly overwhelmed until Enterprise arrives. Severely damaging Kaga, Enterprise forces the Sakura Empire forces to withdraw, but not before Akagi remarks that their intial objective has been accomplished. This is the opening to Azur Lane, the Chinese counterpart to Kantai Collection, which has its origins in a side-scrolling shooter that was originally released for mobile and gained massive popularity in China. Azur Lane is built around a similar premise of female moe anthropomorphic warships from the World War Two era duking it out with an unknown force, but differs chiefly in its gameplay mechanics and platform. Similarly, the anime adaptations of Kantai Collection and Azur Lane differ in their presentation as well, despite similarities in many of their elements.

In contrast with Kantai Collection, whose Abyssal simply present foes for the protagonists to square off against, and whose focus was surrounding the unremarkable Fubuki, Azur Lane opens with a war amongst the Ship Girls, who disagree on what means must be employed against the Sirens. This creates the conflict that Azur Lane opens to, and out of the gates, creates a more tangible reason for Azur Lane‘s ships to be fighting, whereas in Kantai Collection, the reason for fighting was not presented until the movie itself, which revealed that the spirit of a Kan-musume and Abyssal cycle between two phases, and that the war was to save the Kan-musume forms of the different spirits. This came across as being far more abstract than the concrete reason for fighting in Azur Lane, which insofar, could bring about a more interesting discussion of whether or not the use of alien technology justified in a war, when said technology’s capabilities and effects are unknown. The division between the old alliances into a fictional equivalent of the Allied and Axis powers, with England and United States on one side, and Imperial Japan and The Third Reich on the other, also marks the first time that an anime has presented Imperial Japan as the antagonists: Kaga lacks the same composure of her Kantai Collection counterpart, and is rather more bloodthirsty in nature. The prospective possibilities in Azur Lane are intriguing, and could bring about a more engaging story overall, but after one episode, audiences are also indunated with a large number of Ship Girls. Kantai Collection kept the story to Fubuki’s perspective, and while counted as being an unremarkable character, the advantage of this approach give the story grounding, so viewers were not overwhelmed. By comparison, Azur Lane drops viewers into the midst of things, and after one episode, no clear protagonist has yet been identified, with the lead contender being Enterprise.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My current plans for Azur Lane are to write about it again after three episodes have passed, and then decide from there as to which series this season will be getting quarterly posts. The other two candidates for this season are Rifle is Beautiful and Kandagawa Jet Girls, both of which look fairly exciting in their own right. I will likely be doing something similar where I look at the first episodes, determining which series will be given additional discussions once I have a stronger idea of what the series is about.

  • Cleveland and Prince of Wales exhibit the same tendencies as Girls und Panzer‘s Kay and Darjeeling, respectively: Cleveland is easygoing and boisterious, while Prince of Wales possess the regal manner and stiff upper-lip that is associated with the British. They encounter a cloaked Ship Girl that turns out to be Ayanami while walking on the island. The large number of characters out of the gates made it tricky to tell which characters Azur Lane would be centred around.

  • The Cleveland of Azur Lane is the 1942 light cruiser CL-55, which saw combat in North Africa before sailing to the Pacific, where she participated in the invasion of the Palau Islands and Okinawa. The Prince of Wales is the HMS Prince of Wales (53), a King George-class which fought the Bismark and was destroyed by the Japanese aircraft in 1941. Cleveland and Prince of Wales meets with Illustrious and Unicorn here; both are aircraft carriers belonging to the British Navy.

  • The main facilities in Azur Lane are stunningly rendered: the cherry blossoms and the metal anchor installation stand in contrast with the vividly blue sky that is evocative of a summer’s day. The weather today was actually reminiscent of the weather from a year ago, when I went on a short trip to the province over to check out the salmon run. Like last year, the mild weather created an incredibly comfortable setting to be out and about, and I’m hoping things will hold steady as we enter the Thanksgiving Long Weekend.

  • After a September whose weather proved rather more hospitable than the weather of last year, October is off to a solid start as well: aside from colder mornings, the weather’s been most pleasant. Entering this weekend, we had a mostly sunny day that was prefect for visiting the local zoo. Two panda cubs born here are set to go to Chengdu in China now that they’ve reached gestation age, and I spent the early afternoon watching the younger pandas eat and fight over the best sleeping spot in their space, as well as an older panda who chilled on a log.

  • It’s been many years since I visited the zoo proper: in the past several years, I attended the Illuminasia Festival and saw lanterns of the animals, but these events were set during the night, so the rest of the zoo was closed. Today, however, I visited by day and therefore was able to see the animals, from giraffes and Bactrian camels to musk ox and Chilean flamingos. The weather remained quite pleasant, and we left closer to the end of the day, which ended off with a family dinner whose centrepiece was a crab fried rice (蟹飯, jyutping haai5 faan6).

  • Folk who’ve played Azur Lane to a greater extent than I did will have to explain what the Unicorn familiar is about. It appears that some of the Ship Girls of Azur Lane exhibit animal-like traits, similar to the Witches of Strike Witches. Here, Unicorn, Javelin and Laffey share a conversation with Ayanami: they are unaware of her affiliation and immediately take to her, but Ayanami suddenly vanishes having been whisked away by aircraft to a secure location. Here, she apologises for what is to come next and signals that the time has come to begin combat operations.

  • Whereas Kantai Collection presented Kaga and Akagi as refined, calm carriers, their Azur Lane counterparts are more villainous in nature, relishing the idea of combat and dealing damage to their opponents. At this point in time, I much prefer the Kantai Collection incarnations of Kaga and Akagi. Azur Lane‘s versions both sport fox tails here and share an unusually close bond with one another.

  • When enemy aircraft resembling the YF-23 appear in the skies, Cleveland suits up and begins to return fire. The equipment configurations and setup are nearly identical to those seen in Kantai Collection, although the transformation process is distinct in that the girls transmute the material properties of their respective ships into infantry-sized gear pieces that they wear into combat. The precise mechanics of both Kantai Collection and Azur Lane don’t make much sense when scrutinised, so I’ve resolved to simply enjoy them as they are.

  • My perspective on Azur Lane is that of a beginner: I have no intrinsic familiarity with the game beyond the quarter-hour I spent playing it on my iPhone. With this being said, I would count myself as being sufficiently well-read as to understand why the analogues of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are the antagonists in Azur Lane. Contrary to the supposition that the show was written with political implications in mind, I counter-argue that the choice to have the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood oppose the Eagle Union and Royal Navy is simply intended to both provide a setup where Ship Girls fight one another purely for fanservice’s sake.

  • From a story perspective, having other Ship Girls as enemies simply allows Azur Lane to explore whether or not the risks of forbidden knowledge (the Siren technology) is an acceptable tradeoff for a more powerful and effective weapon against an enemy whose intentions and full capabilities remain unknown. Sino-Japanese relationships did not figure in the design of Azur Lane, and I’d wish that folks lacking the requisite background in this area would cease their emotionally-driven prating on how the contrary is true. Such discussions are wearisome and inane, accomplishing little except showing just how uninformed the participants are.

  • Similarly, the absence of ordinary civilians and an equivalent of Kantai Collection‘s admiral are not relevant to the discussion. This becomes apparent when Unicorn summons a familiar that allows her to soar through the battlefield – Azur Lane dispenses realism and waltzes into the realm of magic with its use of familiars, so it is reasonable to suppose that this series is supposed to be about visually exciting things happening in battle over everything else. Watching with the intent of having fun is how I’m going to roll, and I’m going to be dismissive of any “serious” discussions, since the original goal of Azur Lane‘s mobile game is fun, first and foremost.

  • If I do decide to push forwards with Azur Lane in the quarterly review format, I will be making a more conscious effort to include more pantsu purely for the sake of my own amusement as well as the reader’s. I typically focus on scenery screenshots, since I have little to offer in the way of discussion when the frame is focused on someone’s pantsu at close range, but I think that it wouldn’t be such a mad idea to mix things up every so often. I invite the reader to provide feedback here as to whether or not this is something you might tolerate from this blog.

  • The first battle the Eagle Union and Royal Navy fight against the Sakura Empire’s Kaga and Akagi implies that a Ship Girls’ combat performance is impacted by game mechanics like level and specialisations. While Cleveland is able to intercept the fighters sent against them, she and the other Ship Girls are slowly overwhelmed once Kaga gets serious and summons a wolf familiar similar to Fenris from Thor Ragnarok.

  • The combat sequences of Azur Lane seem to be flashier and more dynamic than those of Kantai Collection, featuring a much greater range of motion from the Ship Girls themselves. Javelin reluctantly engages Ayanami in combat, forcing the former to do a flip into the air that, in Kantai Collection, would be counted as impossible. While Azur Lane is off to a good start, I admit one of the things I will need to master is my own constant inclination to spell Azur as “azure”. With this in mind, there are plenty of azure skies in Azur Lane.

  • Enterprise is a higher-tier Ship Girl modelled after the USS Enterprise (CV-6): a Yorktown-class, the CV-6 Enterprise was commissioned in 1937 and was absent from Pearl Harbour in 1941. The ship would participate at the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, becoming the most decorated ship in the navy at the time. In Azur Lane, Enterprise is a highly skilled and powerful aircraft carrier, capable of fighting Kaga to a standstill without any apparent effort.

  • Because it’s so early in the game, the full scope of the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood Ship Girls remains unseen and therefore, something the series could potentially explore as time wears on. For now, the first episode has suggested to me that use of Siren technology allows the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood ships to possess more brute strength than their Eagle Union and Royal Navy equivalents, but in exchange, the veteran ships on the Allied side will likely possess better combat experience and/or tactics, playing on the Axis ships’ arrogance and faith in Siren technology.

  • This is, of course, speculation, since I am not at all familiar with Azur Lane. Here, Enterprise launches a point-blank shot at Kaga after closing the distance, surprising Kaga. The results of a close-range shot damages Kaga, and she reluctantly complies with Akagi’s request to retreat. I remark here that the phrase “point-blank” is often abused: it means “the range where the trajectory of a projectile is sufficiently flat so it experiences no drop, so that aiming directly at a target without adjusting for gravity will allow one to hit the target”. For instance, some rifles have a point blank range that extends out to 300 metres. The media and film take the phrase to mean “at close ranges, often just short of being a contact shot” – while technically correct, since there is no bullet drop at this range, it’s also a bit of a misnomer, since it excludes the idea that a pistol shot that hits its mark at 15 metres is also in point-blank range.

  • Ayanami retreats from the battle, wondering what will happen next. I’m certainly intrigued by the series’ setup, although Azur Lane will have to work hard in the episodes upcoming to newcomers such as myself on the characters and their objectives. For folks who’ve felt I’ve not adequately discussed the series, I present fellow blogger Jusuchin’s reflections of Azur Lane‘s first episode. Despite his modesty about such matters, Jusuchin is markedly more knowledgeable than myself on all things military and also has extensive background in things like Kantai Collection, so those looking for more information will find his perspectives to be valuable.

  • With Azur Lane‘s first episode in the books, I am going to experiment with a slightly different approach this season and write about the first episodes to the series I will be writing about in some capacity, and then pick one series to follow in greater length. Kandagawa Jet Girls and Rifle is Beautiful vie with Azure Lane for more writing time. In the meantime, my focus turns to writing about Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Sing For You~ and Star Wars Battlefront II‘s campaign. The latter, I beat last month, and the former, I’ve been waiting to write about since last September. I expect that, for Sing For You, I remain on target to have the internet’s first and most useful review of.

Overall, with its uncommonly sharp visuals and animation, Azur Lane is off to a solid start, presenting a far livelier world than the one that was presented in Kantai Collection‘s anime. The character count and lack of a central perspective so far has been the main shortcomings of the first episode, but with a strong premise and engaging battles, Azur Lane could prove to be a reasonably enjoyable series as time wears on. One additional aspect that makes Azur Lane worthwhile are its incidental pieces; like Kantai Collection, orchestral pieces are employed, and in the case of Kantai Collection, the music was masterfully performed to really convey the might of the navy, the gentle and frivolous days the Kan-musume spend together, and the enmity of the Abyssals. From the soundtrack that’s been heard in Azur Lane so far, it appears this series will be following suit in its use of music to create a very specific atmosphere. Taken together, I am curious to see how Azur Lane plays out: I had downloaded the game for iOS and gave it a whirl prior to the anime starting, and while it is unsophisticated compared to the titles I am accustomed to, Azur Lane‘s increased accessibility and substantial gameplay component means that between it and Kantai Collection, I would prefer to play Azur Lane over Kantai Collection‘s luck-based approach. With this being said, for the time being, I am much more familiar with and prefer the style of Kantai Collection‘s characters, so Azur Lane‘s anime adaptation is going to need to put in some effort in order to sell me its story and encourage me to follow the Ship Girls’ adventures and experiences.

Okaa-san Online: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” –Cardinal Meymillod

Masato Ōsuki is a high school student who is not particularly receptive towards Mamako, his mother, and her doting ways. When he is assigned to beta test a new full-immersion game, he grows keen on testing it until learning that not only was Mamako also invited, but starts her journey with stats that render him quite unnecessary in most of the fantasy-themed combat. After recruiting the reliable Porta to manage the party’s inventory and crafting, Mamako and Masato also reluctantly take the sage Wise into their group before being tasked with neutralising Wise’s mother, who decided to use her powers to manifest as a minor god and live in the way she could not in reality. When Masato’s group confronts her, Mamako manages to make her stand down, and helps Wise reconcile with her mother somewhat. Later, Masato, Wise and Porta decide to enroll in a school to earn skill points and a chance at better equipment. They encounter the combat priest Medhi and her overbearing mother – Medhi reveals her dissatisfaction at being made to do everything her mother asks of her: it turns out that Medhi’s mother simply wanted Medhi to be happy and was negatively influenced by one of the in-game items. The two depart on good terms when Medhi’s mother allows her to stay with Masato and the others. The group turns their attention towards dealing with Amante, an abberation in the game whose origins are unknown, but whose intents are to eliminate mothers from the game world. After helping a group of players and their mothers out, Masato and Mamako square off against Amante with Wise, Medhi and Porta, coming on top when Masato reaches the top of the tower that Amante had sought to finish and beat her to making a wish, bringing the threat that Amante posed to an end. This is Okaa-san Online (more formally known as Tsūjou Kōgeki ga Zentai Kōgeki de ni Kai Kōgeki no Okā-san wa Suki Desuka?, or Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?, both of which are titles too long to type), a curiosity of a series whose initial gimmick turned out to hold a much more meaningful and interesting story about the dynamics between children and their mothers.

Okaa-san Online‘s central theme is a very straightforwards – while Masato might be embarrassed to the point of frustration by Mamako’s actions, his experiences in seeing Wise and Medhi’s mothers and their corresponding action also forces him to realise that things could also be a lot worse. Over time, he comes to help mediate these differences, which leads Wise and Medhi to accept their mothers to a greater extent than they had previously, and also helps Masato resist Amante’s intents to wipe his party and bring ruin into their world. For Masato, his journey is accepting what Mamako does for him, and sharing his experiences to help others reach this point. The interactions between children and parents is a topic not often directly covered in anime, usually being a more subtle, secondary aspect. However, Okaa-san Online takes a more open approach to this: by deliberately making Mamako overpowered, Okaa-san Online suggests that parents can trivially solve problems that children struggle to address and show, in particular, that a mother’s skillset is incredibly diverse and varied. Over time, Masato does appreciate Mamako looking after him and his newfound friends, even if he is still dissatisfied with her ability to effortlessly remove all enemies in the game. The parallels to real life can be found quite easily; for instance, I’m not quite so adept at cooking and occasionally butcher something simple like curry by not adding enough water, but my mom’s able to salvage even this without giving it much thought. Of course, experience and persistence allow children to learn, and in time, we become consciously aware of what good parents can do, similarly to what Mamako does for Masato.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My initial inclination to watch Okaa-san Online was motivated primarily by the fact that Ai Kayano was playing Mamako: I know her best as GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto, Girls und Panzer‘s Saori Takebe and Nagi no Asukara‘s Chisaki Hiradaira. In mannerisms, Mamako is most similar to Mocha and Ah! My Goddess‘ Belldandy: kind, attentive and skillful with a wide range of tasks, her only fault is that she still comes across as being air-headed and unaware of the situation Masato finds himself in.

  • The game that Masato and Mamako wind up in is a beta test of a MMORPG designed to help parents and children get closer to one another. The story skates over the technical aspects of how this game works – Masato is simply sucked into his computer at the story’s onset and is quite aware that he is in a game world. I imagine that, were such a game to exist in reality, much market research would need to be done to ensure role balance.

  • For the duration of Okaa-san Online, Masato’s combat is only particularly effective against airborne opponents, while Mamako’s combat prowess have been enhanced to the point where she can do what seems impossible in-game. Her ability to use area-of-effect attacks that instantly eliminate enemy monsters is what lends itself to the series’ title: in Japanese, the series’ full name (通常攻撃が全体攻撃で二回攻撃のお母さんは好きですか?) is twenty-six characters long. The romanised version of this is seventy-three characters in length using Hepburn romanisation and seventy-eight characters if the long vowel sounds are spelt out rather than using macrons. In English, Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks? has fifty-nine characters including the question mark.

  • Such a lengthy title would be a nightmare to type out and spell, so for convenience’s sake, I’ve opted to refer to the series by its short name, Okaa-san Online. Once Masato is consigned to his fate as being underpowered compared to Mamako, they begin finding a party. Porta is the first to join: a petite, pink-haired girl with a knack for inventory management and crafting, Mamako immediately takes a liking to her. The team then looks at Wise’s profile. While competent, Wise’s temper leads Masato to turn down her application. It turns out Wise had transformed herself into the application, and proceeds to lay down a physical beating on Masato.

  • Okaa-san Online was initially marked as a promising series after it started, but the second episode had more than one viewer wondering if the series would go down a more degenerate path. It is the case that Masato and Mamako get into some strange situations: they encounter one monster whose attack is a slime that destroys armour, and after a chaotic few moments, Mamako manages to eliminate it. While drawing some ire from viewers, I’ve felt that Masato’s reactions make it very clear that Okaa-san Online will not go in those directions.

  • Masato finds himself embarrassed beyond words when Mamako experiments with different loadouts, including one gear-set that leaves very little to the imagination. I never did get how games justify giving such sets the same defensive properties as full plate armour: in the titles I play, armour looks identical for male and female characters. On the matter of games, this weekend, I took the Ghost Recon: Breakpoint open beta for a whirl after learning about it, but found myself unimpressed overall: there will be no dedicated talk for Breakpoint. A snowfall had also slammed into the area, dropping upwards of 15 cm of snow over the past two days, and while this weekend’s been relaxing (I warmed up with fried chicken yesterday evening and spent much of the day taking it easy), one hopes that there will still be a milder autumn for October.

  • The first major challenge Masato’s party deals with is Wise’s mother, who went rogue after learning of her superior specs in the game world. Masami Shirase, one of the staff members who frequently appears to provide information and support, informs them that Wise’s mother is beginning to disrupt the beta testing itself, and so, the team sets out to stop her. Mamako manages to very nearly single-handedly rectify the situation, creating an opening that Masato uses to finish things off. In the aftermath, Masato and Mamako share a moment of joy at having helped Wise to reconcile somewhat.

  • Medhi’s arc is introduced next: after Masato, Wise and Porta decide to enroll at an academy to gain skill points, they encounter the combat healer Medhi, who is soft-spoken, friendly and also excels at most everything that she does. With a warm smile and shapely figure, Masato develops a minor crush on her and wonders if she’s the heroine of his story, although he quickly realises that Medhi’s got her own set of problems to deal with.

  • Both Medhi’s mother and Mamako mess with their respective offspring’s school life in strange ways: Medhi’s mother stacks the deck so Medhi can demonstrate her superior understanding of the game world to further her power, while Mamako is happy to don the outfits that students wear and blend in with them, to Masato’s embarrassment. Things reach a breaking point during the simulated culture festival: when Masato and the others try to befriend Medhi and encourage her to take her own path, her mother intervenes, leading Medhi to manifest as a dragon rivalling Smaug in destructive capabilities.

  • Mamako and Masato wind up resolving things, and it turns out that the equipment Medhi’s mother was given slowly corrupted her personality, amplifying that which was. Once this staff is destroyed, Medhi’s mother realises that her Tiger Parent approach was ineffectual and decides to immediately deactivate her blog on parenting. While she’d only wanted the best for Medhi, it came at the expense of her well-being. This approach of parenting is supposed to be common in Asian families, known as Kyōiku mama in Japan, and while a high pressure approach increases technical success in life, this has a mental toll on children.

  • Being Asian myself, I consider myself most lucky in that my parents took a more effective approach: they expected me to approach everything I did with a genuine effort, and then the results would be secondary to the effort taken. The end result was that I would find success in most places where I did my best, and where I was met with failure, I would learn to find another way. I therefore argue that the Tiger Parent approach is ineffectual, since it creates the illusion that failure is something that cannot be recovered from. Back in Okaa-san Online, the end result of Masato, Wise and Porta’s time in school is that Porta gets what she came for, while Wise and Masato get screwed by the RNG gods.

  • When it comes to luck in finding cool stuff for games, mine is strictly average, but application of effort, I’ve managed to turn things around in my favour on some occasions to reasonable success. In The Division, for instance, I did manage to acquire a complete Classified Striker’s Battlegear along with The House and Bullfrog thanks to a combination of spending time in the legendary missions and Dark Zone, plus luck with the RNG gods.

  • When informed that there’s a strange situation afoot, Mamako decides to form a guild after learning of what it would take to take a tower and reach the top, where a prize awaits successful players. They learn of one Amante’s plans to eliminate mothers from their world, a rather brazen desire that seems only one step removed from Thanos’ plan to wipe out half the life in the universe. Their initial efforts are met with resistance, as players have allied with Amante. Mamako’s approach towards defusing and understanding the situation results in a group of players who no longer wish to serve Amante.

  • Despite being a formidable villain in terms of raw power, Amante is very quickly reduced to a puddle of tears whenever Medhi comments on how her clumsiness will leave lasting damage on her figure. There is some truth in this: idiosyncrasies in Amante’s character leave her vulnerable to her own shortcomings despite her power, and because of this, audiences are never too sure as to how seriously they should take her.

  • Having helped the male players break free of Amante’s influence, their mothers decide to show up as well to help out. Because their approach is rather unique, the end up casually moving through the dungeons and even stop for a casual lunch break that throws off Amante’s game. The fun and games continue when Amante decides to compete, one-to-one with Mamako, in a range of household tasks like dishwashing and laundry. Mamako handily wipes floor with Amante’s ass owing to her superior experience with common tasks.

  • When a series of traps deprives the characters of their armour and forces them to fight in naught but their undergarmets, only Amante reacts with any degree of embarrassment. Medhi and Wise have both become accustomed to Masato seeing them sans clothes thanks to Mamako’s preference for discussing things in the onsen, and so, exhibit no reaction. Thanks to Masami’s intervention, the others are spared of this fate: ever fond of finessing shirase (知らせる, literally “to inform”) into her sentences as a bad pun on her surname, Masami appears at various points in Okaa-san Online to provide updates. She’s a rather amusing character for this reason, and I’ve become rather fond of how she speaks.

  • If I had to guess, Amante is probably an aberrant boss whose parameters were not finely tuned, allowing her to run wild and create chaos in the game world. Incomplete programming would then account for her contradictory personalities and clumsy nature. Stopping her thus becomes motivated by the need to prevent her from disconnecting or disabling the accounts that the mothers have, which would in turn defeat the purpose of the beta test’s goal of collecting data.

  • When Masato and company reach the top of the tower, they find that Amante’s already neutralised the boss monster here. They begin to engage Amante in combat but find her power overwhelming. In the end, it takes not force of arms, Masato’s recollections to distract Amante, and Mamako’s use of one of her own abilities to fry Amante. Deciding it is pointless to fight on, she runs off to the final section of the tower, where the special wish-granting podium is held. In order to beat Amante to the punch, Masato wishes for fresh eggs, recalling a prediction of Wise’s that ultimately turns it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • I found that all of Okaa-san Online‘s characters were quite likable, and while the stakes were never too high, watching everyone learn and grow with one another made this series fun to watch. Between Wise’s tsundere personality, the adorable air that Porta has and the curious combination that is Medhi, it was entertaining to see how the characters bounce off one another. Okaa-san Online seems to escape the harem genre, as Masato’s mind is only ever really on not being embarrassed, and while he did join the game world with the aim of meeting someone, these thoughts are shelved once he begins learning more about the game.

  • Okaa-san Online was a very pleasant surprise, and earns a B+ grade (8.0 of 10, or 3.0 of 4). Despite being rough or protracted in some areas, as well as having modest visuals, the series does a remarkable job of bringing the characters and their adventures to life. With Okaa-san Online in the books, we now enter October and the fall season. I intend to watch Azure LaneRifle is Beautiful and Kandagawa Jet Girls, as well as write about them in some capacity. As well, I do have plans on watching and writing about Hensuki at some point in the future, and finally, I will be looking to wrap up Blend S soon for the next Terrible Anime Challenge.

Ultimately, despite Okaa-san Online‘s premise being ripe for presenting a certain brand of visual humour (and the first few episodes do in fact do this), Okaa-san Online turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable for its presentation of family dynamics using the isekai setup, a genre which has stagnated somewhat thanks to increasingly derivative stories being told and for a refreshing, honest perspective on parenthood’s challenges. While Okaa-san online may not go into the same level of detail as a parenthood guide or deal with every aspect of parenthood that parents go through, it manages to cover a few details, from parental irresponsibility to the Tiger Parent mindset and present plausible solutions towards these issues. The thematic elements in Okaa-san Online are respectable and solid overall, with the more dramatic moments being well-balanced with the comedy and situational irony. Even though the anime itself is not particularly noteworthy with its animation or art, the story and voice acting does give incentive for one to pick up the series. I would recommend this series to fans of the isekai genre, as well as those who are looking for something unexpected. Finally, while Okaa-san Online‘s anime adaptation may have ended for the present, the source light novel is still ongoing, and the possibility of a continuation will likely be contingent on how well the anime does with respect to sales. This is a fun series to watch, and I could see myself picking up a second season if one were to be made.