The Infinite Zenith

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

Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative: Remarks On the Outcome of Possibility, A Review and Reflection

It has been found again.
What? – Eternity.
It is the sea fled away
With the sun.

–Eternity, Arthur Rimbaud

Jona Basta, Michele and Rita Bernal were friends who foresaw the devastating outcome of Operation British and became dubbed the “Miracle Children” for their part in helping reduce casualties with their prediction. They were subsequently sent to a Newtype research facility, where it became clear that Jona and Michele did not exhibit the traits of a true Newtype. Rita was ultimately sent off for further study, while Michele returned to Luio & Co, and Jona ended up joining the EFSF navy as a pilot. Some seventeen years later, in UC 0097, the enigmatic Phenex Gundam, brother unit to the Unicorn and Banshee, makes a return. A year earlier, the Laplace Conflict revealed that the original UN Charter had encompassed the existence and rights for Newtypes, but the world’s policy remained unchanged. The tremendous power that the Unicorn and Banshee demonstrated was seen as a threat, and the two Gundams were dismantled. However, the reappearance of the Phenex prompts the Federation’s Intelligence Bureau to capture it, secretly collaborating with the Sleeves remnants to capture the Phenex. two years previously, the Phenex was lost during a test when its psychoframe resonated and it destroyed the Shallot, an Irish-class battleship supervising the test. Because the Unicorn and Banshee were purportedly dismantled, the Phenex remains the only Gundam with a functional psychoframe that could be studied. Jona is sent to participate in the operation Phoenix Hunt with the Narrative Gundam, but lets the Phenex escape. Later, when following the Phenex’s psycommu signal into the Metis Colony, Jona encounters Zoltan Akkanen, a Sleeves remnants clone who, like Full Frontal, was created from Char’s memory. Zoltan’s instability leads him to engage Jona, and the Phenex intervenes. The Narrative begins resonating and makes to engage the Phenex, taking control of the II Neo Zeong Zoltan had called in, but the process is stopped when Rita’s spirit helps Jona come to his senses. Back on board the Damascus, Captain Averaev forces Michele explain the details of Operation Phoenix to the crew. It turns out that her interest in Newtypes stemmed from the promise of eternal life that it could bring. In order to draw the Phenex out, Michele provided the Sleeves remnants with the II Neo Zeong and hoped that the Narrative would resonate with it. However, the failure to recapture the Phenex casts doubt in the Phoenix Hunt programme, and the superiors order the operation stopped. Zoltan, learning that his usefulness has ended, seizes the II Neo Zeong and intends to destroy the colonies, feeling that people are incapable of change and will only cause further harm by exploiting Newtypes as a military asset. Jona sorties in the Narrative to engage Zoltan, but the II Neo Zeong overwhelms him. Michele, realising that she’d been indebted to Rita for giving her a chance to live, decides to sacrifice herself to save Jona, who escapes the destruction of the Narrative Gundam. Boarding the Phenex, he destroys the II Neo Zeong and stops Zoltan’s spirit from triggering a runaway fusion reaction in the Helium-3 storage facility. In the aftermath of the battle, Banagher Links appears to rescue him, and the two watch as the Phenex departs.

In its hundred-minute run, Gundam Narrative deals with the aftermath of the Laplace Conflict, which shows that humanity ultimately did not develop or progress considerably in the year since Laplace’s Box was opened. Instead, fear of the possibility that the Unicorn and Banshee represented led authorities to suspend all research into the psychoframe technology, which has come to represent forbidden knowledge in the Universal Century. The ability to cheat death and achieve eternal life, physically manipulate the world on a hitherto unprecedented scale and even turn back time itself is seen as transgressions that violate the very laws of nature. In the pursuit of knowledge, and by pushing technology and science further than it had ever been pushed, the unknowable can occur. Historically, humanity has always struggled with the duality of science and technology – improved knowledge has led to advances in quality of life and standards of living, but has also introduced new dæmons on the world. When fission was discovered, humanity could grasp a cleaner power source that produced negligible emissions, but the same technology has also birthed atomic weapons capable of horrifying destruction. Similarly, fears that highly sophisticated AI may destroy humanity exist and temper excitement in the great benefits their applications bring. This is a theme that Mary Shelley similarly covered in Frankenstein, whose titular character created a monster that haunts him, representing his guilt and horror at having succeeded. In Gundam Narrative, psychoframe technology is forbidden knowledge: while offering limitless possibility, the potential for destruction and chaos is equally great, and while characters can see the good that is possible with the technology, fears of it being applied for harm are equally present. This endless conflict is ultimately why despite the potential and possibility for change exists, there is always going to be concern for what might arise if knowledge is abused – this is why the world has not changed too dramatically since the Laplace Conflict in the Universal Century, and Gundam Narrative closes without a clear idea of which perspective it champions, leaving audiences to draw their own conclusions about the implications of ceaselessly advancing knowledge on human civilisation.

Besides dealing with one view on forbidden knowledge, Gundam Narrative also extends on the concept of a Newtype with the aim of speaking to human nature in a more visceral way – Zeon Deikun postulated that human evolution would accelerate to adapt to the voids of space. The Universal Century portrays Newtypes as having precognition skills and the ability to communicate telepathically with other Newtypes, making them exceptional pilots. With the introduction of psycommu technology, Newtypes could manipulate physical objects, as well. The introduction of this abstract series of capabilities into Gundam creates invariable comparisons between a Newtype and Force-users from Star Wars. While the capabilities of Force is similarly discussed, ultimately, the Force and being a Newtype are means to an end: Gundam Narrative builds upon but also deliberately leaves details vague. From a storytelling perspective, Newtypes and the Force are meant to be tangible representations of human intent. In particular, it’s what one chooses to do that ultimately matters. The Jedi use the Force for compassion, understanding and mediation, the Sith use it to increase their own power and control through fear. In Gundam Narrative, the power conferred by a psychoframe can be used to shorten a conflict and empathetically connect with others, or it can be used to inflict harm upon others by performing feats that are otherwise impossible. Gundam Narrative reminds viewers that one’s choices, rather than whatever power they may possess, is what is most relevant: in light of this, Gundam Narrative hints at the idea that forbidden knowledge, in the hands of those who would intend to do good and have selfless aspirations, can greatly advance humanity, and at the end of the day, the hope for a better world will always be something meaningful.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Gundam Narrative was announced back in April 2018, and released in theatres during November 2018. Ahead of the screenings, a 24-minute preview was uploaded to YouTube to drive excitement: the film opens with a flashback to the moments leading up to the colony drop event at the end of Operation British. For six months, this was the most of Gundam Narrative that I saw, and as a successor to Gundam Unicorn, my curiosity was piqued. While screenings were held in Singapore and Malaysia earlier this year, I’m actually surprised as to how limited the discussion to Gundam Narrative is, and even though it’s been three weeks since Gundam Narrative‘s home release, I am surprised that this post is probably the only proper full-length talk on the movie around with a respectable collection of screenshots.

  • In the present day, Michele Luio is a special advisor to Luio & Co., a large manufacturing company with its headquarters in Hong Kong. Luio & Co. were mentioned in Gundam Unicorn, providing fortune-telling services to politicians as a part of her roles in keeping the EFSF close at hand. The Hong Kong seen in Gundam Narrative is a far cry from the one seen in Char’s Counterattack, whereas the latter appeared run-down and destitute, New Hong Kong in Gundam Narrative is modern and clean. Despite lacking any of the landmarks of Hong Kong, such as the IFC and the Hong Kong Bank of China, the streets are shown to resemble those of Wan Chai.

  • Michele is presented as being driven by a near obsession with the power that the psychoframe possesses: her descriptions suggest that the psychowave the Unicorn emitted during the final moments of the Laplace Conflict are said to have dismantled the generator cores to the Federation mobile suits sent to disable Magallanica, rather than disabled them. The psychowaves appear to give the Unicorn series the ability to manipulate time itself, and this is why Michele desires to take possession of the Phenex.

  • As Operation Phoenix gears up, Jona is deployed as a part of the task force to intercept a convoy carrying Martha Vist Carbine, who was previously involved with the Laplace Conflict and still being held in EFSF custody. He operates a MSK-008 Dijeh for this assignment, a mobile suit designed for ground operations that was based off the Rick Dias, and possesses features that are common in Zeon mobile suits because Zeon engineers contributed to its design. Michele intends to capture Martha for the wealth of knowledge she still has on the Phenex: one can surmise that Martha answered Michele’s questions in a satisfactory manner.

  • A few weeks later, Federation forces are out pursuing the elusive Phenex. The Phenex was the third of the Unicorn-type Gundams, possessing the same technical specifications and combat performance. However, it is equipped with a pair of Armed Armour DE shields, and these offer the Phenex superior acceleration and mobility even compared to the Unicorn and Banshee: the Shezarr squadron are completely ineffective in hitting the Phenex, whose manoeuvrability is such that it moves like a dancer more than a mobile suit.

  • The Shezarr squadron is made up of six pilots, commanded by Iago Haakana, who leads his squadron into combat despite his own unease about Operation Phoenix. While they manage to corner the Phenex and deploy a net to ensnare it, the Phenex escapes, promoting the squadron to wonder how any pilot could survive those movements. During the course of Gundam Narrative, numerous characters are introduced, but the film’s run-time of f minutes means that beyond Jona, Michele, Rita and Zoltan, it’s difficult to recall the names of the other characters, even if their roles are non-trivial.

  • In Gundam Unicorn, the Jesta was a limited mass production suit with higher performance than a Jegan. Intended to be used as a support suit for the Unicorn, three Jestas were operated by the Londo Bell Tri-Star team. A year later, Jestas have become more common: the Shezarr pilots each operate Jestas of their own. These modified Jestas sport an upgraded backpack unit that resembles the Stark Jegan’s, and possesses additional hard points to mount booster packs.

  • Even with only the twenty-four minute preview, it became clear that the Phenex is a ghost machine, having no human pilot. The unnaturally long operational time of the Phenex and flashbacks foreshadow that the Phenex actually has no pilot, and the fact that it’s been loose for two years means that it ran out of fuel long ago. Close-ups show the psychoframe of the Phenex glowing even though the NT-D is disabled, giving credence to the idea that the Phenex is willing itself to move through the void of space.

  • At the age of twenty-five, Jona is now an ensign with the EFSF navy. He is given a special normal-suit embedded with psychoframe material to enhance his connection to the Narrative Gundam, and his appearance is a surprise to the Federation forces, who were unaware that they’d be getting a Gundam to help with their operation. The Narrative Gundam is one of the more unusually-named Gundams I can recall, and the name “narrative” is used to describe the Gundam’s role in a story about possibility, having nothing to do with its colloquial usage in social media or news.

  • When it first appears, the Narrative Gundam is in its A-packs configuration; besides boosters, the A-packs setup allows the Narrative to carry a variety of equipment parts to restrain and capture the Phenix. The RC-9 Narrative Gundam itself was originally designed and built by Anaheim Electronics, intended to be a testbed for the RX-93 ν Gundam, and as such, did not require the same external armour pieces of a standard Gundam. Throughout Gundam Narrative, Luio & Co. provide the Narrative with interchangeable parts.

  • The tails on the Armed Armour DE shields resemble General Borcuse’s Hykelion from Break Blade, which similarly had a secret weapon dubbed the “scorpion tail” concealed under the Hykelion’s cloak: these were used to stab through enemy golem units. Break Blade was made into a six-instalment OVA between 2010 and 2011: I picked up the anime during the summer of 2011, and felt that the format was somewhat similar to Gundam Unicorn. Like the Hykelion, the Phenex’s tails can be used as piercing weapons in addition to acting as stablisers.

  • Special equipment known as the psycho-capture system allows the Narrative to temporarily disable the Phenex, using technology similar to the jammers found on Angelo Sauper’s Rozen Zulu. However, when Jona hesitates, the Phenex escapes capture, disappearing into the depths of space and leaving Michele furious at having come so close to achieving their goal. The music of Gundam Narrative is composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, who provided the awe-inspiring incidental pieces for Gundam Unicorn, as well. Overall, I found Narrative‘s soundtrack to be a little weaker, recycling motifs from Unicorn and favouring an electronic element over orchestral ones.

  • Mineva Zabi makes a return in Gundam Narrative, retaining her regal composure and calmly speaks with a Zeon politician. It is not lost on me that five years have passed since Gundam Unicorn‘s finale aired, which means that five years have also passed since I worked on the Giant Walkthrough Brain. This is probably a mere coincidence, but I find it intriguing that five years since the Giant Walkthrough Brain, there have been a fair number of parallels between this year and the summer of five years previously.

  • Captain Averaev commands the Damascus, a Clop-class cruiser. His appearance suggests that he is an older officer who’d seen combat previously, and the Clop-class is an older design: these are essentially stripped-down versions of the Ra Cailum that Bright Noa commands, and in Gundam Unicorn, Full Frontal is mentioned to have single-handedly defeated two of these on his own, suggesting that the Clop-class have some degree of resilience in combat despite their limitations.

  • On board the Damascus, Michele chastises Jona for having let the Phenex get away. During the combat, Jona had heard Rita’s voice as clear as day and hesitated to engage, feeling that shooting to kill would’ve defeated the purpose of their mission. Throughout Gundam Narrative, Rita’s remarks on whether or not the soul could exist haunts Jona, who greatly regrets not being able to save her from being taken away years previously.

  • The depth of my knowledge in Gundam is nowhere near as sophisticated as those of dedicated fans, and admittedly, after watching Gundam Narrative, I did have a few lingering questions. I ended up speaking with a friend whose encyclopaedic knowledge of Gundam is unparalleled in order to clarify certain details for this post. Besides being able to identify almost every mobile suit and its variants, plus combat characteristics, said friend has an appreciation for the thematic aspects of Gundam that extend well beyond politics: he argues that meaning in a fictional work is better defined by the morals characters learn, rather than any allegories and analogues of real-world political systems.

  • Erika Yugo briefs Sleeves remnants soldiers on the Phenex, which disappeared and then resurfaced shortly after Mineva made the Laplace declaration. Feeling it’s impossible for the Phenex to be operating independently, she gives no indicator that Luio & Co. have been driving things from behind the scenes. However, believing that they have an edge with the psycho-monitor, a technology Full Frontal employed to track down the Unicorn previously, Zoltan is prepared to deal with a confrontation with the Federation, since it’s likely they’ll be fighting special units rather than the regular forces.

  • At the same time that Erika is briefing the Sleeves remnants, Michele explains to Captain Averaev their use of a psycho-monitor, before thanking him for the EFSF’s assistance. Both Narrative and Unicorn present civilian interference in military affairs as having detrimental consequences, speaking to the negative effects of the military-industrial complex. Both Luio & Co. and Anaheim Electronics have enough influence to impact policy, which creates the instability that civilians and soldiers alike must deal with.

  • During a training exercise, Jona tests the Narrative Gundam’s B-packs configuration, which replaces the bulky support unit for pair of wire-guided assault units. Jona’s experience as a pilot appears lacking: the Shezarr pilots quickly paint him in an exercise, and remark that his skills aren’t up to scratch for someone who is supposed to be enhanced. After leaving the Newtype research facility, Jona enlisted with the Federation forces and has a very unremarkable career, although he was chosen to specifically work with Luio & Co. on the Phoenix Hunt assignment. While Jona remains distant with Michele for having abandoned her, Michele still remembers and so, requested that he operate the Narrative.

  • The psycho-monitor soon detects a signal emanating from Metis Colony, a facility dedicated towards higher education. While Averaev protests that he does not have permission to deploy a mobile suit squadron into the colony’s interior, Michele pulls a few strings and grants them permission. Quite separately, the Sleeves forces have also deployed and entered the colony, which is comparatively quiet at present because term has ended and most of the students have gone on break.

  • Zoltan pilots the Sinanju Stein, a prototype mobile suit designed to test the psychoframe. Originally, this was the original form of the Sinanju before the Sleeves stole the unit and used it to create Full Frontal’s Sinanju, but Gundam Narrative revises this – there were actually two units, and the second unit was acquired by the Sleeves remnants. Compared to the Sinanju, which was modified for Full Frontal’s style of combat, the Sinanju Stein lacks the Sinanju’s high-performance thrusters and uses a bulkier rifle. While inside the colony, Zoltan decides to engage the Narrative against orders: this is a live colony and there are inhabitants still inside it, hence the restrictions weapon usage.

  • After a hole is punched in the colony thanks to Zoltan calling in the II Neo Zeong, the Phenex appears. The page quote is from Arthur Rimbaud’s “Eternity”, which speaks of the impermanence of life in an existence that is endless. This poem is referenced in the light novel, being a recurring theme about how human existence is finite and ultimately, inconsequential. While this sounds pessimistic, from another point of view, the finite nature of human existence is a blessing, as suffering is also finite. Further, this also gives weight to moments that we do experience: we treasure them precisely because they are ephemeral.

  • Rita’s question about whether or not heaven and the soul exists is echoed several times in Gundam Narrative. She decides that heaven might not be real, but is certain that the soul beyond the bioelectrical impulses in the brain must exist. The question, seemingly an open one, suggests that Rita had always been an inquisitive and carefree individual: this is reinforced by the fact that if given the choice, she would wish to be a bird, signifying her desire to be free.

  • While Rita longs to be free, Jona is tormented by the fact that Michele had lied to him and in the process, cost Rita her life. The researchers, unable to tell who the real Newtype was, decided to play a sort of Prisoner’s Dilemma game with Jona, Michele and Rita: they falsely claim that the real Newtype will be spared, while the other two will be executed. Michele ultimately was discharged, while Rita was hauled off to be dismantled.

  • Whether or not the soul exists is something that is the subject of no small debate amongst theologians and philosophers. Modern science describes our consciousness as the sum of billions of neurons interacting together to create a system of immeasurable complexity, but the notion that memories and the essence of a being can endure in the absence of an energy supply (cellular respiration producing the energy needed to drive neurological processes) is not supported by contemporary models. Having said this, there are some phenomenon that simply cannot be described by any craft that we possess, and while some postulate that quantum mechanics might be involved, research in this area is so limited that it’s difficult to say for sure what’s happening.

  • Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Narrative extend on the idea that the psychoframe; made up of billions of nano-scale processors that can capture human intent and translate that into movement, the pyschoframe’s architecture mirrors the brain and therefore, it is able to replicate the complexities of the human mind. Over time, psychoframe can even “store” the consciousness of its operators. The emergent properties from transplanting the human consciousnesses into a machine are completely unforeseen, and in Char’s Counterattack, this manifested in the form of a warm green light that emanated from the ν Gundam that projected enough force to push Axis back into space. Banagher uses the Unicorn’s power to absorb a colony laser in Gundam Unicorn.

  • Michele had always longed to come back for Jona and Rita, but circumstance drove them apart. Jona eventually joined the Federation forces, while Rita was made into an experimental subject and tested the experimental Phenex. The psychoframe resonance between the Phenex and Narrative brings back the pain of these memories in Jona and amplifies them: he takes control of the II Neo Zeong, whose systems begin to run wild and threaten to destroy the colony.

  • At the last moment, the Phenex approaches Jona and calms him. The friend whom I spoke with about Gundam Narrative speculates that the Neo Zeong’s systems were built in particular to amplify negative emotions, and while I initially thought that the psychoframe amplified what already was (per Marida Cruz’s assertions in Gundam Unicorn‘s finale), the fact is that the psychoframe from the II Neo Zeong emits a red hue, far removed from the green that is emitted whenever a positive phenomenon occurs. This dichotomy between understanding and hatred is apparent in the choice of colours, and brings to mind the colours of lightsabres in Star Wars. Originally, lightsaber colours were simply a consequence of the crystals used to focus the blade, and that the blood-red blades Sith Lords used simply came from them picking synthetic crystals because natural crystals were not available to them.

  • The new canon foists upon us the idea that the red blades of the Sith come from the tainting of crystals through their corrupt use of the Force, and that lightsabers were specifically powered by Kyber Crystals. I cannot say that I am fond of the new writing, but to delve further into this is to deviate from Gundam Narrative. Back on board the Damascus, Michele sheds tears at having lost the Phenex yet again, and Captain Averaev requests that Michele fully disclose what her intentions are, as well as what the Phoenix Hunt was really about.

  • Michele reveals that Luio & Co. had deliberately provided the Sleeves remnants with the II Neo Zeong, which had been confiscated, to draw the Phenex out for her own ends, but this ended up backfiring, since the Neo Zeong had been built with knowledge that seemed beyond what exists in the world. Michele had been motivated by a desire to cheat death and achieve immortality because she had been tired of living in a world where people had to hurt one another to survive, but seeing the cost her dreams have accrued leads her to change her mind. This conversation here drives Michele and Jona’s growth: Michele comes to accept that the ends do not justify the means, and Jona realises that Michele had never given up on her promise.

  • With the secrecy of the operation of utmost importance, Luio & Co. close off the Phoenix Hunt and strikes a deal with the Republic of Zeon’s Monaghan Bakharov, a politician who intends to restore the Republic of Zeon’s glory. In exchange for keeping Zeon out of the operation, the Federation will be allowed to kill anyone attached to the project. Monaghan indicates that Erika is to be spared, but Zoltan overhears Erika’s conversation, summarily killing her and decides to take matters into his own hands. I initially felt that Zoltan’s role was ill-developed, but said friend suggested a different perspective: rather than treating Zoltan as presenting a character-versus-character conflict, regarding his contributions as being more of a character-versus-nature conflict was appropriate.

  • Finally taking control of the II Neo Zeong, Zoltan begins engaging the EFSF forces that have deployed from the Dogosse Giar-class General Revil to carry out the mop-up operation. He orders the Sleeves ship to hide behind the Helium-3 tanks, reasoning the Federation will not risk damage to their resources, before making to engage the Jegans that begin firing him. Using the II Neo Zeong’s wired funnel bits to effortlessly eliminate the Jegans, Zoltan’s combat approach is more brutal than Full Frontal’s – the differences between Full Frontal’s combat approach in Gundam Unicorn and Zoltan’s in Gundam Narrative bring to mind the differences between Thanos in Infinity War and Endgame.

  • Whereas Infinity War‘s Thanos is calm and introspective, only using as much force as necessary to subdue opponents because he genuinely wanted the snap to randomly decide who got willed away from existence, Endgame‘s Thanos lacks the Infinity Stones and resorts to a more combative approach to seize the Stones. As as result, Thanos in Endgame is shown as fighting with a much greater ferocity, fighting toe-to-toe with a Stormbreaker-equipped Thor, Iron Man’s Mark 85 suit and even overcoming Captain America, who is wielding Mjolnir. In particular, watching Thanos crack and destroy Captain ‘s shield with his sword was terrifying. The fight in Endgame was a sight to see, allowing audiences to truly appreciate just how dangerous of an opponent the Mad Titan was even without the Infinity Stones.

  • Zoltan is similar to Endgame‘s Thanos in this regard: unrestrained and lacking the same contemplative manner that made Full Frontal fight with efficiency, Zoltan runs wild on the battlefield, making full use of the II Neo Zeong’s weapons more liberally than Frontal ever did. The end result for viewers is a better idea of what the Neo Zeong was capable of – the scale of the destruction it can cause is immense, and Gundam Narrative shows that Full Frontal never really made full use of the Neo Zeong’s weapons against a fleet in his fight against the Banshee and Unicorn.

  • When the General Revil’s commander orders the vessel to target the Helium-3 tanks, the resulting explosion from the tanks destroys the Sleeves’ ship, killing those on board. Zoltan retaliates, using the II Neo Zeong’s psychoframe to accelerate and compress a single Helium-3 tank to the point where enough pressure allows the Helium-3 to spontaneously undergo a fusion reaction. The intensity of the reaction vapourises the General Revil instantly along witha large portion of the task force sent to destroy the Sleeves forces.

  • The friend who lent time towards helping realise this post remarked that the reason why people are so reluctant to cover the human aspects of Gundam and fixate on the politics or technologies themselves is because they fear looking into the mirror and relating how the lessons of Gundam apply to their own lives. In the end, politics and the mobile suits themselves are the catalysts that shape the world and its conditions to make the story worthwhile, rather than being the focal points, and so, I’ve found it rather more fruitful to focus on the aspects that Yoshiyuki Tomino aimed to portray with the Gundam series.

  • The fusion reaction that Zoltan triggers is nowhere near as impressive as Naga Sadow’s use of Sith techniques to tear the core out of a star and trigger a supernova to destroy the Galactic Republic’s fleet. Although Naga Sadow’s feat was augmented by Force crystals, its scale vastly exceeds what Zoltan can pull off. However, the threat posed by Zoltan is nontrivial. Forcing all of the stored Helium-3 to undergo fusion would create an explosion powerful enough to torch an entire Side and create a debris field that would make a colony drop look like picnic – in response to this, the Phenex reappears to engage Zoltan, who has seized a number of Jegans and are remotely controlling them in the same manner that Full Frontal had.

  • While the scale of Gundam Narrative (both the battles and the storyline itself) is much smaller than that of Gundam Unicorn, the combat sequences remain impressive. Here, the II Neo Zeong has engaged its psycho-shard system to fully allow Zoltan to manipulate his surroundings with his will alone. While I supposed that the psycho-shard system was designed to destroy enemy weapons in Gundam Unicorn, it turns out that the utility of this function is to greatly enhance an individual’s physical control over their surroundings. Full Frontal had merely used it to disable Banagher and Riddhe’s weapons systems during their final showdown.

  • While the Narrative Gundam had been packed away for transport, Michele convinces Jona to sortie to engage the II Neo Zeong. Here, the Narrative is equipped with its C-packs, which loads psychoframe directly onto the unit. Despite being an outdated suit, the Narrative remains effective because of the additional gear that Luio & Co. provide for it. Thus, despite lacking the same dedicated weapons as the Unicorn, the Narrative is able to hold out against the II Neo Zeong’s overwhelming firepower for a period and even does some damage of its own.

  • A review that was published to Anime News Network in December, shortly after the film’s release in November 2018, stated that Gundam Narrative attempted to do too much with its shorter runtime, and the dependency on prior knowledge from Gundam Unicorn would diminish the experience for those unfamiliar with the Laplace Conflict. These remarks are, incidentally, the same thoughts that I have about Infinity War and Endgame: these two movies are technically excellent movies that masterfully incorporate elements from previous films to drive its plot forwards, but for first-time viewers without an idea of the context regarding the Infinity Stones and Thanos, the films do come across as overwhelming.

  • Ultimately, the reviewer at Anime News Network finds that while Gundam Narrative might be a bit difficult to follow for those who did not watch Gundam Unicorn, they do recommend the film for folks who have seen Gundam Unicorn. This is a fair assessment of Gundam Narrative and is ultimately how many would likely feel after watching Gundam Narrative. Coming in with my background (and assistance from a friend), I’ve come to enjoy the contributions that Gundam Narrative adds to the discussion surrounding Newtypes and psychoframe technology, even if some of the aspects were unclear.

  • The reason why I’ve mentioned the Marvel Cinematic Universe in this talk in Gundam Narrative is because of the similarity the two radically different universes share – both had predecessors that began in a more realistic manner and shifted towards the fantastical at the end. Iron Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier both remained quite grounded and were presented as events that could plausibly happen. Similarly, Gundam Unicorn‘s first few episodes featured more realistic mobile suit combat and placed a focus on the military details. However, introduction of the Infinity Stones had the same effect as the psychoframe did, and by their series’ respective ends, the feats and events that occur resemble magic rather than science. This does not diminish my experience of either Gundam or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, although it is to my understanding that what is tantamount to magic did lessen the experience for some viewers.

  • Captain Suberoa Zinnerman makes an appearance in Gundam Narrative, operating another freighter and working with Banagher, who has remained with the Mineva faction, which exists in secret to act as a sort of check-and-balance against the more nationalistic Zeon proponents like Monaghan Bakharov. Zimmerman no longer bears the same grudge against the Federation that he once did, and works with Mineva to ensure that the old conflicts do not flare up again. Sensing that something is wrong after one of the Helium-3 tanks undergoes fusion, Banagher takes off to engage the threat.

  • Jona is pushed to his limits after Zoltan uses the remote bits to take control of the Federation Suits. Despite putting his own life in danger, Jona refuses to return fire even as the hijacked Jegans open fire on him. Discussions on Gundam can become as heated as the mobile suit battles themselves, and the last time I wrote about the events of Laplace’s Box five years previously, some folks sparked off a flame war when they shared my talk on Gundam Unicorn to Tango-Victor-Tango. I learned of this through my site metrics and followed the link that led to a vociferous discussion where during the course of this debate, one of the forum-goers began attacking this blog rather than the argument at hand.

  • Ultimately, Michele sacrifices her life for Jona, realising that what she had longed for all this time was to give something back to Rita after Rita had sacrificed herself. She pilots the transport directly between a beam meant for Jona. Her assistant, Brick, had revealed earlier that Michele had something she wanted to prove to Jona, as well: that if the psycho-frame and Newtype phenomenon had worked the way she postulated, then death would not be the end. She would therefore kill two birds with one stone, allowing Jona to live and continue fighting to end what the living had created, as well as reunite with Rita.

  • Devastated with Michele’s death, Jona loses the will to continue fighting, wondering what the point of anything is if suffering is what lies ahead, but Michele’s spirit spurs him on. The most vocal detractor purported that I believe that “‘effort’ (which seems to mean ‘word count of the post’) makes an argument more valid” and then went on to compare my style as being equivalent to “[spending] twelve pages explaining why 1 + 1 actually = 3, [I’m] still wrong even though [I] put more ‘effort’ into it” before immediately contradicting themselves by saying “this sort of criticism [isn’t] objective”, but nonetheless needing it to prove that my methods were invalid. I note that my posts are lengthy not because of this reason (which is, incidentally, a disingenuous claim), but because I find it enjoyable to cover a range of topics in movies.

  • Rather than looking at my content and then figuring out counterexamples to illustrate that I was off or that there’s more to consider, by adopting a pseudo-academic stance and using such a poor analogy, the individual in question implies that my opinions are objectively wrong because they did not align with theirs. Naturally, I could say the same, but this isn’t too productive, since all opinions are subjective. Instead, I would suggest that the individual first begin by figuring out what I was saying: “the lies and cover-ups that brought about Laplace’s Box created a problem that became increasingly difficult to address as time wore on, and Gundam Unicorn uses supernatural phenomenon, in the shape of the psychofield, in order to get over this particular barrier to show what lay ahead”.

  • Knowing what I intended with the post, it then becomes a simple matter of finding another solution to show how and why the Newtype phenomenon was not necessary in conveying the themes of Gundam Unicorn – this is what proper discussion looks like, and there’s certainly no need to regress to petty arguments, which to me, shows that the detractors of my article actually had nothing meaningful to say. Back in Gundam Narrative, the Narrative Gundam is destroyed, and Jona makes use of a core fighter to reach the Phenex. When he enters the cockpit, he finds it empty, confirming suspicions that Rita had long been deceased and has become a spirit with the power to control the Phenex. His combined acting as a conduit for the Phenex’s NT-D and Rita’s presence allows the Phenex to activate its Destroy Mode for the first time since the incident two years previously.

  • With the NT-D active, the II Neo Zeong proves to be no match for the Phenex, which subsequently destroys the II Neo Zeong’s psycho-shard system and disables its remaining weaponry. The speed of these actions were great enough so that I wasn’t able to acquire screenshots with good composition, and this is something curious parties will simply have to watch. The final fight between the Phenex and the II Neo Zeong is rather one-sided: while capable of great destruction, the II Neo Zeong is unlikely to be able to track the movements of the Phenex, which can allegedly accelerate to speeds approaching that of light despite the clear impossibility of such a feat.

  • Jona’s emotional baggage and the Narrative’s configuration are closely related: as Gundam Narrative progresses, the transition from the A-packs to B-packs and then C-packs shows a decrease in hardware. The A-packs is essentially a mobile armour, while the C-packs simply has additional psychoframe. Over the course of Gundam Narrative, as Jona comes to terms with Michele’s actions and his own past, his internal burdens lighten, as well. Jona also sheds the heavy psychosuit before entering the Phenex’s cockpit, leaving the last vestiges of his doubts and concerns behind. The Narrative is ultimately destroyed, marking one of the few cases where a lead Gundam was defeated totally, and Jona escapes in a core fighter. Zoltan makes to destroy the core fighter, but a familiar weapon makes a return: Banagher manages to destroy the wire bit with a well-placed shot, giving Jona time to board the Phenex.

  • While the II Neo Zeong was destroyed, Zoltan is not finished yet, and makes to engage the Phenex with beam axes. The performance gap between the Sinanju Stein and Phenex are obvious: there is no fight as the Phenex impales and destroys Zoltan outright: Jona is assisted by the spirits of Michele and Rita, who briefly appear. After his death, Zoltan’s spirit performs one final act of defiance, insistent that people cannot change and cannot accept possibility: he triggers fusion of the remaining Helium-3 tanks. However, before the reaction can go critical, the Phenex engages its own psychofield and calms the reactions, suppressing them and preventing catastrophe.

  • Ultimately, this act would be counted as deus ex machina in any other realm, and the only reason why it would even be passable is precisely because Gundam Unicorn had already previously established the mysteries of Newtypes and the psychofield’s unknown properties. Viewers are made to accept that Newtypes are similar to Force users, and in conjunction with a technology that is essentially the equivalent of the Infinity Stones, Newtypes are capable of feats otherwise known to be impossible. The psychoframe does have parallels with the Infinity Stones: besides similarly being referred to as singularities, their feats are similar, affording Gundams the ability to turn will into physical energy (Power stone), traverse incredible distances quickly (Space stone) and even store the consciousness and will of beings (Mind and Soul stones). The more outrageous feats the psychoframe have been seen to pull off include creating compelling illusions (Reality stone) and even undo events locally (Time stone).

  • I admit that for this month, my posting frequency has been very limited, and preparing this post was one of the reasons why: it took a bit of effort to get the party started, but once I developed momentum in writing about Gundam Narrative, the writing process became much easier. Between this lengthy post and taking the time to review this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase submissions, plus keeping up with Battlefield V‘s Tides of War, time for writing about other things has been reduced. This has been exacerbated by the fact that I’ve been having a little too much fun with the complementary Oculus Quest I received from attending F8.

  • In particular, SUPERHOT VR has been a blast, and the wireless experience that the Quest confers takes this game to a whole new level, offering a truly immersive experience that is unparalleled. While I’m having a ball of a time with SUPERHOT VR, I’ve also finished Valkyria Chronicles 4 and can finally begin making my way into Metro: Exodus. It has not escaped me that today also happens to mark the première of both Girls und Panzer: Das Finale‘s second instalment, as well as the Aobuta movie, Seishun Buta Yarou wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai (Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl). My grievances with anime movies and their release patterns are well-known at this point: the reality is that, as I am unwilling to drop several thousand dollars to fly over to Japan for the sake of two movies, I won’t be writing about these for quite some time.

  • Thus, for the time being, I will enjoy Metro: Exodus and the Oculus Quest: I will discuss the films once they available and focus my attention on things available in the present, since there’s naught I can do about the films and their availability. Back in Gundam Narrative, the ending to the film greatly resembles Gundam Unicorn with the emphasis on psychofields and the positive energy they can confer. I’ve become rather fond of Michele’s character for her progression: she begins the film as being thoroughly unlikable, but dealing with the psychoframe and being forced to confront her past changes her outlook on things. In death, she finds peace and is reunited with Rita.

  • Tielle’s “Cage” begins playing as the Phenex stills the Helium-3 reaction. Cage is a brilliant song that was originally written as the theme song for the life-sized RX-0 Unicorn Gundam model in Japan, and its composition has made it one of my most favourite songs of late, speaking of whether or not the world is worth saving from itself. Callbacks to Gundam Unicorn are frequent in Gundam Narrative: once the Phenex has halted the criticality event, Banagher retrieves Jona. In the psychofield, the original RX-0 Unicorn can be seen, as well.

  • Ever since the Unicorn was decommissioned, Banagher has since been piloting the ARX-014S Silver Bullet Suppressor, a variation of the Silver Bullet: this series of mobile suits were intended to test quasi-psycommu systems and have solid performance. However, because Banagher continues to use the Unicorn’s beam magnum, the Silver Bullet Suppressor has been outfitted with a unique rack that allows the mobile suit to rapidly change out the unit’s arms, which become damaged from the beam magnum’s sheer recoil. While questions have been cast about the Silver Bullet Suppressor’s design, the beam magnum remains a choice weapon for Banagher, allowing him to target distant objects with precision and firepower: despite their power, even beam mega-launchers lack the range to hit distant targets with any reliability, and the beam magnum happened to be the weapon that suited Banagher’s objectives.

  • Looking at the Phenex in Destroy Mode here, I’m reminded of an alternate ending to Gundam Unicorn that I’ve only heard about, where Banagher sortied in the Full Armour Unicorn Plan B, where the Unicorn was equipped with parts from the Banshee and Phenex and engaged in a different fight with Full Frontal’s Neo Zeong. This post has been a ways in the coming: I’ve been chipping at it since early June, and tonight, after picking up a new Magic Trackpad at a store near the edge of town (to replace a Magic Mouse that unexpectedly stopped working), I spent time with the family at a Chinese restaurant where the evening’s centerpiece was a seafood yi mein that had fish, calamari and shrimp.

  • Jona and Banagher watches as the Phenex soars off into the cosmos: Banagher remarks that it’s impossible to catch up with it now, and this marks the ending of Gundam Narrative, with the Phenex’s ultimate fate left ambiguous. Having Banagher make a return was a very nice touch – it turns out that following the events of Unicorn, Banagher did end up returning to the world of the living, giving some closure to his fate. However, his role in events after UC 0097 are less clear, and Gundam Narrative can only offer some insight as to what his fates are after UC 0100. Hathaway’s Flash appears to be the next Gundam series on the horizon, and there are unconfirmed statements saying that Unicorn itself might be getting a continuation in an unknown form.

  • With this, I’m very nearly done writing about Gundam Narrative, although unlike Gundam Unicorn five years previously, I am a little more reluctant to give this one a recommendation: on one hand, it is a fun watch that anyone who appreciated Gundam Unicorn will enjoy, but at the same time, the narrative is a bit more confusing. With this being said, I enjoyed it, and found that it was worth the wait – after seeing the preview in November, I’d longed to see the story in full. Overall, it appears that impressions of Gundam Narrative elsewhere are fairly consistent with my thoughts on it, and with the general absence of discussions out there, I’m guessing that Gundam Narrative has not generated the same level of engagement as Gundam Unicorn. With this one in the books, upcoming posts, besides this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, will be talks on K-On! and Yama no Susume: Omoide no Present.

Gundam Narrative is very much dependent on a familiarity with Gundam Unicorn for its themes to be clear: while both Jona and Michele mature over the course of Gundam Narrative (Jona accepts that Michele had cared about him after all this time, and Michele comes to understand that Rita’s sacrifice gave her a chance to live life in place of being dismantled in the name of science), numerous other characters’ backgrounds are minimal, whereas Gundam Unicorn takes the time to better explore secondary characters like Marida Cruz and Suberoa Zinnerman. Zoltan was not explored to the same extent as Full Frontal did, and unless one accepts him as more of an abstract representation of hatred and resentment (rather like a force of nature), his place in Gundam Narrative can seem unnecessary. Despite lacking the time to create the same compelling characters as Gundam Unicorn did, Gundam Narrative ended up validating the themes initially presented in Gundam Unicorn, that possibility will always exist alongside the capacity for great good. The messages remain cautiously optimistic, dealing more with human nature than with politics through the Newtype phenomenon: weaker characters do not result in diminished thematic elements. Likewise, while Gundam Narrative does not have the same fluidity and detail in the animation as did Gundam Unicorn, the overall quality of the artwork and animation, especially during combat sequences, remains of a high standard – Gundam Narrative was a visual treat to watch. Despite its limitations in characters and dependence on Gundam Unicorn to provide context, Gundam Narrative is a welcome addition to the Universal Century for covering themes of forbidden knowledge and presenting a plausible portrayal of the world after Laplace’s Box was opened.

Valkyria Chronicles 4: An unexpected meeting and destroying a Valkyrur at the ¾ mark

“Claude. I am prepared to do whatever it takes.” —Minerva Victor

Squad E and the Centurion’s crew wonder what to do about their stowaway, who only recalls that her name is Angie. Despite lacking any recollections of where she’s from, she busies herself with helping Squad E and the Centurion’s crew in their comings-and-goings, quickly earning everyone’s affection. While Angie’s presence brightens everyone’s day considerably, the Centurion also faces the sobering fac that its provisions are dwindling. Claude plans an offensive to storm an Imperial warehouse, smashing a coastal fortress to ensure the Centurion does not come under fire. During the operation to recover supplies with help from resistance forces, Angie sneaks on shore and meets Crymaria. Meanwhile, Claude is shocked to learn that the original Kai is now Forseti, having defected to the Empire and having coerced Leena into relaying the Centurion’s position to him. Leena renounces Forseti and rejoins the others to help save a resistance member, before turning their attention towards rescuing another ship that has come under fire. While Squad E repels the Imperial forces, the Federation vessel prepares to self destruct. Angie re-enters the Centurion’s reactor core in order to give the ship enough power to evacuate the blast radius, tearfully bidding everyone farewell. Claude is assigned to command the operation, reluctantly agreeing to lead the operation to annihilate the Imperial capital, Schwartzgrad, with the Centurion’s core. While Walz and Crymaria confront him, Squad E bests them, leaving the two to be open with how they feel about one another: Walz and Crymaria leave the battlefield and promise to find happiness together. The three-quarters mark of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is now in the books, and with it, Squad E is a stone’s throw away from turning Schwartzgrad into a pile of glowing rubble. While it is easy to desire this outcome, considering how the Imperial forces treat one another and civilians, this prospect is tempered by the fact that Angie will need to be sacrificed to end the war.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 introduced an unexpectedly emotional element in its game through Angie: her optimism and innocence stands in stark contrast with the atrocities committed during the course of the Second Europa war, and also acts as a foil for Crymaria. While both are Valkyrurs, Crymaria lashes out because this is the only treatment she knows. Similarly, having been treated with kindness and knowing family, Angie is gentle and kind, being willing to give up her happiness for her family’s sake. While I’d been pushing through Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s campaign at breakneck speed with the intent of making it to Schwartzgrad, suddenly seeing that the special weapon the Federation plans to detonate there involves Angie making the ultimate sacrifice makes this prospect a lot more difficult to accept; the sense of conflict in players grips Squad E, as well: they begin wondering what the war’s cost will be even if they do win. Valkyria Chronicles 4 thus comes to find its own way to engage players with Claude and his squad the same way Valkyria Chronicles had done so with Welkin and Squad 7. While both stories take their own approaches towards humanising the characters to the extent that players care for them, the end result is an immensely captivating story. One of the lingering doubts I had going into Valkyria Chronicles 4 was whether or not it could tell a story as engaging as Valkyria Chronicles: Welkin, Alicia, Isara and the others had been exceptionally well-written, after all. However, Valkyria Chronicles 4 would find its own approach, creating bonds between Claude, Riley, Raz and Kai. In particular, the declaration of love from Raz to Kai was particularly moving, as he reassures her that Forsetti or not, nothing will change the fact that they’re family now, and that he’s in love with her. With Squad E feeling every bit as fleshed out as Squad 7, I now enter the final quarter of Valkyria Chronicles 4.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As Valkyria Chronicles 4 continues, environment hazards continue to impact gameplay as much as enemies. During the mission to destroy a coastal fortress’ batteries, a heavy fog covers the fortress’ lower sections. Players start on the western battery, which can be destroyed in a single turn. The trick in this mission is moving along the lower walkways to reach the second battery. It ended up taking me three turns to destroy all of the artillery.

  • While I’d come this far without touching the direct commands, they turn out to be immensely valuable for bringing assets along and putting them into position. For weaker armoured enemies, lancers are the most effective choice: they can destroy the batteries in two shots. While shock troopers can neutralise almost any armour in one go, deploying demolitions boost on them means an expenditure of three command points, whereas using a lancer allows players to do the same in two command points.

  • Once the batteries are destroyed, Claude must escape and reach the extraction zone. I decided to bring Raz along with him, since that would make it possible to easily eliminate any enemies along the way without forcing Claude to expend his grenades. Like Valkyria Chronicles, the shock troopers have access to an under-barrel flamethrower that can neutralise enemies behind cover in a single shot. Because this flamethrower has unlimited ammunition, a single shock trooper could clear out an entire base on their own.

  • With demolitions boost, shock troopers turn into tank killers, similarly to how the scouts of Valkyria Chronicles could single-handedly run across the entire map. In conjunction with defense boost and awaken potential, a single scout was able to finish entire missions in a handful of turns. By Valkyria Chronicles 4, this is no longer possible, since missions have more varied objectives. However, this is not to say that Valkyria Chronicles 4 is harder than a predecessor: those with a keen eye for novel solutions means that players should have no trouble making use of their other classes to complete objectives.

  • While I’ve opted to only show screenshots of gameplay, the story aspect of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is also compelling enough. When Angie is introduced, her origins are unknown, and like the crew, players are immediately drawn to her innocence and friendly desire to help out everyone. In particular, Riley becomes particularly close to Angie, and when the crew steal Angie away for extensive periods, Riley even throws a minor tantrum. At this point in time, it is clear that Riley is Valkyria Chronicles 4‘s Alicia, even saying “あたしの出番ね!” (atashi no deban ne!, literally “My turn now!”) the same way Alicia does when she’s placed on the map.

  • However, unlike Alicia, Riley’s utility in the actual gameplay is much more limited: I typically equip her as an anti-armour unit, justifying this because equipping her for anti-personnel seems a waste of ammunition. As a result, I typically deploy Riley at the player’s main base for the extra command point, and then leave her there to hold the base with Kai while the other characters do much of the heavy lifting.

  • The twelfth chapter involves landing at the Imperial facility to appropriate the necessary supplies to keep the Centurion going: with the main reactor knocked out, the ship has switched over to a secondary engine that uses Ragnite as a fuel source. Besides a lack of fuel, dwindling provisions is also causing morale on board to plummet. While such an operation would typically not be considered, the stakes to the Centurion are very real, and they count on an Imperial resistance member to help them pull the operation off.

  • The precise location of the warehouse holding the supplies may make this mission tricky: it’s located on the eastern side of the map, and is heavily defended. Running defense boost and making use of the direct command will allow players to move their scouts to the warehouse on short order, but caution should be observed, as enemy mortars will rain down on the player from afar. Mortar fire from grenadiers is actually quite an irritant in Valkyria Chronicles 4; they randomly push the player back several steps, wasting action points, and may also slow them down.

  • The next morning, Squad E returns to help rescue a resistance member in the besieged town. While the game suggests taking the Hafen down the main avenue, there’s actually a much easier way to quickly finish this mission: I placed Minerva and Raz in the Cactus, drove them to the first base on the west side of the map, disgorged Minerva and then had her run to the enemy base on the next turn. There’s a massive tank here, but a conveniently placed explosive Ragnite barrel allows her to effortlessly toast the tank.

  • Once the lone scout is dealt with, Minerva claims the base and it’s another effortless victory. I’ve heard complaints that once the game introduces elites, interception fire becomes much more lethal to the point where Valkyria Chronicles 4 becomes unplayable, but I never found this to be the case. Some gaming journalists have griped at the difficulty, citing some missions as taking up to an hour to complete. Valkyria Chronicles was my first time at the rodeo and therefore was more challenging, so coming back, I had no trouble at all with any of the missions, all of which could be finished in under half an hour.

  • After clearing the town out and saving the officier, the next mission involves Squad E fighting their way to another ship of the Centurion class to save its crew. Set among derelict ruins of some sort, the object of this mission is to capture all enemy camps. I divided my forces into two and conquered the camps quite easily. Once the camps are captured, X-0 appears. This marks the first time that Crymaria appears as a mobile enemy; she previously sat behind the frontlines and provided supporting fire, but she can and will eliminate all carelessly positioned allied units.

  • Once X-0 show up to the party, the mission objective becomes taking out Walz and his Vulcan. On some occasions, engaging him was optional, and I would choose to leave the Vulcan alone in favour of completing the mission, but since besting the Vulcan is mandatory, I called in several lancers. Using the direct commands, I positioned them in the elevated ruins, activated demolitions boost for all of my soldiers and proceeded to pound the Vulcan into oblivion.

  • To make this process simpler, having an engineer constantly resupplying the lancers allowed me to continue hammering the Vulcan; its unique radiator has an unusual hitbox, and hitting just behind it will cause critical damage. It is preferred that one focus on finishing this mission quickly, since Crymaria will annihilate most anything and is immune to all forms of conventional attack.

  • Once the Vulcan is destroyed, the mission comes to an end. While Valkyria Chronicles 4 has superior mechanics overall, I found that Valkyria Chronicles‘ boss units were much more terrifying to fight – the Batomys was so challenging that I took a year-long hiatus in Valkyria Chronicles, whereas in Valkyria Chronicles 4, even if I got wiped during a mission, I simply re-evaluated my strategy and reattempted a mission.

  • During the fifteenth chapter, the object is to engage two boss characters, one after another. First up is Walz and his Vulcan Procus, an upgraded Vulcan that can utilise Valkyrur power to eliminate almost anything that moves in one go. However, Walz only has access to this on his second turn, and requires an order to make this happen, so the name of the game here is really to destroy the Vulcan Procus as quickly as possible before that can happen.

  • The key here is to use the Cactus to move a host of grenadiers and engineers to a camp on the southern edge of the map, along with an additional lancer to deal with any enemy armour that may destroy the Cactus prematurely. In the event that the Cactus is destroyed, Dan will retreat, along with anyone who was on board, and while one loses no members of their roster, it does leave one under-manned as a game progresses. Spending points on improving the Cactus’ durability and carrying capacity is the most effective way to capitalise on its usage.

  • Once the camp is captured, it’s a matter of using the grenadiers and all units demolish to hammer the Vulcan Procus until it is destroyed. I ended up switching between Riley and Aoife on my second turn, alternating between the two to deal damage to the Vulcan. With demolitions boost enabled, and the Elias series of mortars, I whittled down the Procus’ health without too much difficulty: on my play-through, Aoife was perfectly positioned so that her shots dealt critical damage.

  • In the end, it was Riley who got the kill on the Procus, bringing an end to the first half of chapter fifteen. I admit that I’ve been running Valkyria Chronicles 4 with the aim of finishing the game, rather than for a completionist run, and so, have not given too much effort towards hunting down the enemy aces, which drop special gear when defeated. For the most part, Imperial equipment sacrifices accuracy for damage – the end result is that Imperial gear is more unreliable, but when it connects, it can bring down enemies more readily.

  • Crymaria subsequently goes berserk, and her powers begin running out of control when she realises that Walz might be dead. The second half of chapter fifteen is more challenging in this regard: the blood-red blizzard Crymaria conjures will slowly whittle away at players’ health if they are in the radius, and Crymaria herself has access to incredibly powerful attacks that will destroy anyone in one shot. The key here is to use the LF-ASR series of rifles to disable Crymaria’s staff and the take advantage of this time to push a shock trooper closer to her.

  • With attack boost enabled, Raz can effortlessly do the rest of the work, bringing this mission to a close. I certainly did not run into any issues as some games journalists did: their response to the “difficulty spike” was to write politically-charged articles about Kai rather than rethink their strategy in finishing this mission. Once Crymaria is downed, Squad E retreats and Walz climbs out of the Vulcan’s ruins, promising to be by her side forever. It’s a rather unlikely romance, but Walz always did come across as being more friendly and reasonable among the Imperial forces.

With three quarters of Valkyria Chronicles 4 under my belt, I’ve maintained a perfect streak of A ranks, effortlessly destroying Walz’s ultimate Vulcan Procus and even Crymaria herself. This means being able to unlock the various mission bonus rewards and earning sufficient experience points to always keep my classes up to date, and my equipment at the best conditions possible. However, the approach I’ve taken has also been quite unlike anything I had access to in the original Valkyria Chronicles: thanks to the direct commands, I’ve been able to bring other classes with me into areas far exceeding their maximum movement distance. This mechanic becomes an essential feature in helping maintain that perfect A streak, and clever use of direct orders have been instrumental in moving critical assets into the right spot. With this being said, I’ve not once made use of the ship orders, which are similarly powerful if used in the correct conditions. While these new mechanics do help players, old tricks remain as effectual as they did in Valkyria Chronicles; defense boost in conjunction with attack boost and demolitions boost has allowed soldiers to shrug off interception fire and wreck havoc with enemy assets, both armour and infantry alike. One touch I’ve found to be enjoyable in Valkyria Chronicles 4 are how character potentials can change in response to story events; aside from adding to the sense that they’re growing as characters, changing potentials also alters their worth during a mission. Given that Valkyria Chronicles 4 does not appear to have the equivalent of Valkyria Chronicles‘ Barious Desert mission, I enter the last quarter of the game with the (not unfounded) expectation that I will be wrapping things up very soon.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Turning Chaos into Compassion in Seishun Buta Yarō

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge” –Daniel J. Boorstin

When Sakuta Azusagawa meets actress Mai Sakurajima, who is clad in naught but a bunny girl outfit, he is simultaneously drawn to her and begins to wonder about the mysterious phenomenon that afflicts youth. He eventually learns that no one can see Mai, and that this is related to how people remember her. Sakuta eventually confesses his love for her in front of the entire school, burning her existence into everyone’s memories, and sets about helping those around him with their own challenges in adolescence. Sakuta helps Tomoe Koga overcome her anxiety about being accepted and pretends to date her, forcing her to come to terms with her feelings for him. He next aids Rio Futaba, the sole member of the school’s science club who believes Sakuta’s experiences have scientific backgrounds until she manifests two bodies as a result of lacking confidence in herself. Sakuta manages to rectify this, and later, helps Nodoka Toyohama, Mai’s younger half-sister who felt as though she was living under Mai’s shadows, after Nodoka switches bodies with Mai. Sakuta’s younger sister, spurred on by Sakuta, decides to set goals for herself: she suffered from memory loss as a result of the trama from being bullied and reverted to a more infantile personality. After Sakuta’s efforts to help her reach her goals, Kaede reverts to her old personality, and a distraught Sakuta regrets not being able to do more for her until a mysterious visit from Shōko helps him recover from his melancholy so that he can fully support Kaede, who feels ready to pick up her life from where they’d left off. This is Seishun Buta Yarō (literally “Young Asshole”, but officially translated as “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai”, an obvious reference to Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner and Aobuta for brevity), an adaptation of a 2014 light novel about the challenges and turbulence that youth face as they struggle to learn of their place in the world. At its core, Sakuta is portrayed as a unique protagonist, being strictly mundane in manner and appearance. Unlike other light novel protagonists, Sakuta is not uncommonly intelligent or lucky; instead, he is exceedingly kind, has a particular way with words and is exceptionally faithful. The sum of these elements creates a highly focused story where audiences are confident that Sakuta will work out a solution without creating situations that typical light novels push towards, and his genuine concern for those around him results in a protagonist who is exceedingly likeable, giving viewers incentive to follow his story and root him on as he strives to help each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede move beyond their situations.

For its exceptional presentation of what the struggles of youth may manifest as in a visceral manner, it is unsurprising that Aobuta immediately became a favourite among viewers when it aired. Aobuta has heart, capturing the problems that adolescents see in their lives and giving them memorable metaphors that really describe what being young is like; as an adult, we tend to see problems as having a rational, logical answer, but as youth, what is obvious to us may not be so apparent, creating this chaos and conflict. However, as Sakuta demonstrates, the solution lies not in a reasoned process, but through compassion: for each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede, he works to understand their situation and then determines how to help the individual in question overcome their insecurities and doubts. Aobuta shows that Hajime Kamoshida evidently has a strong grasp on how to visualise youth and their struggles in a compelling manner, and this is ultimately Aobuta‘s main draw. However, while it is sufficient to focus on the human aspects of Aobuta, Kamoshida’s inclusion of quantum theory into his work as the metaphor has given the impression that a functional knowledge of matters as varied as wave function collapse, or free will versus determinism. However, these references weaken with time within the anime, and this suggests a deliberate choice on Kamoshida’s part. Taken at face value, these are ultimately are ill representations of the phenomenon that Sakuta and the others experience and end up being a minor distraction. While poorly-applied references to quantum mechanics may have had the potential to decimate the emotional impact and strength of Aobuta‘s narrative, it speaks to Kamoshida’s understanding of the human aspects that allows Aobuta to remain immensely engaging and enjoyable. Simply, knowledge of existential philosophy and quantum theory are completely unnecessary towards finding the strengths in Aobuta, a series whose emotional and interpersonal pieces far exceeded my expectations coming in.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this is a Terrible Anime Challenge, I won’t be discussing Aobuta in my typical manner. I open by remarking that Terrible Anime Challenge shows fall into three categories (“was as good as expected”, “did not meet expectations” or “as poor as described”): Aobuta falls squarely into the “was as good as expected” group, impressing me with its likable characters. Both Mai and Sakuta bounce off one another in reasonable and entertaining ways. Asami Setō performs Mai’s voice: I know her best from Tari Tari‘s Konatsu Miyamoto and Kinuyo Nishi of Girls und Panzer.

  • For the remainder of this post, I will be dealing with misconceptions surrounding quantum mechanics, either within Aobuta itself or from the community at large. The first deals with Schrödinger’s cat, which is a description of quantum superposition where an object may simultaneously exist in two states, and which state cannot be determined until it is observed: this is only vaguely related to Mai’s situation, which is strictly a matter of how Mai sees herself. It has nothing to do with probability, but rather, stems from Mai’s doubts about herself. she therefore feels that she has become invisible to the world, and the story then goes about presenting this in a literal fashion.

  • While I enjoy considering the applicability of real-world phenomenon in fiction, ultimately, fiction exists to tell a particular story, and so, I am not particularly fond of treating intrapersonal problems as a matter analogous with science. One particularly poorly-written case argues that Mai exists in a single reality, but with multiple states as described by Schrödinger’s cat, which is supposedly rectified by pushing her towards the probability of existing or the observer. However, this explanation, besides being a pointless exercise in verbosity, does not account for why Sakuta is able to interact with Mai normally. Before I continue, here’s a lighter moment in Aobuta where Tomoe gives Sakuta a free kick after a misunderstanding occurs while he’s en route to a date with Mai; Tomoe’s perfectly-formed arse is the butt of many of Sakuta’s jokes.

  • Schrödinger’s cat is about how something cannot be known until it is observed – it has nothing to do with probabilities, and therefore, is a completely inadequate representation of Mai’s situation. This is the limitation of attempting to analyse series early into its run: without more information, it is very easy to commit fallacies because the bigger picture is not known. Early discussions suggest that Aobuta‘s theme is that “perception defines reality…and existence, as well”, which is false in light of the events that Sakuta experiences.

  • Rio Futaba is presented as being well-read, but her metaphors are lukewarm at best and outright incorrect at worse. This is by design: being quite shy around others, it is not surprising that she’s not exactly versed with social convention, and as such, analogies she raises do not match. She dispenses with them as Aobuta progresses, which is a powerful indicator that viewers were never meant to take the quantum mechanics comparisons seriously to begin with, and therefore, there is no meaningful discussion to be had by bringing such matters to the table. By comparison, Sakuta manages to distill out enough to determine what needs to be done to help the individual in question and invariably solves the problem by compassion, rather than logic.

  • Tomoe’s situation is similarly mentioned to involve a “Laplace’s Dæmon”: after Sakuta experiences a time loop akin to that of Endless Eight, Rio suggests this as the cause. This concept supposes that the outcome of any situation is known given a sufficiently large amount of information. The original concept assumed this to mean “the position of the atoms”, but this concept has been dismissed for its inability to conform with the Laws of Thermodynamics, namely, that some processes are irreversible, so no Laplace’s Dæmon could exist to reconstruct a state at time t-1 given a set of parameters at time t.

  • Determinism is most certainly not the theme of Tomoe’s arc; this is a principle that supposes that all events exist independently of human consciousness (i.e. free will). The matter of whether or not free will exists is a topic I will not cover for the present, and in the context of Aobuta, determinism has no place in discussion because the time loop’s cause is ultimately Tomoe’s inability to let go of a certain outcome and desires to keep rolling the dice until a desirable result arises. Rather than philosophy, understanding of human nature here explains why a time loop was chosen to represent feelings of longing and regret.

  • Because humans are involved, human solutions end up being what breaks the time loop. Sakuta manages to get the truth out of Tomoe: she’s fallen in love with him and cannot bear to let go. After a heart-to-heart talk, Sakuta manages to help her accept that they can still remain friends, allowing her to remain connected with her other friends without alienating them. The same folks who asserted Schrödinger’s cat needed analysis for Mai’s arc to be understood subsequently had trouble with figuring out where the Laplace’s Dæmon could hold for Tomoe’s arc. Tomoe is voiced by Nao Tōyama (Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo and Kantai Collection‘s Kongo).

  • When Rio’s arc arrives, and it turns out that two simultaneous versions of Rio exist, the individuals above assert that the two incarnations of Rio represent id and ego, principles from Sigmund Freud. I was wondering when Freud would appear in discussions. In this Freudian model of the psyche, id is supposed to represent the baser aspects of human nature, and then ego is a more rational element that maximises some goal function for the future and for satisfying the id. I’m not sure why anime fans generally hold Freudian concepts as being valid – some of his theories have proven to be cripplingly incomplete and catastrophically wrong, failing to account for why people act the way they do. In particular, id and ego are not credible concepts in any way given the complete lack of evidence to suggest that they hold true.

  • Instead, Rio splitting into two manifestations is much simpler explained as a character versus self conflict, made visceral by having her develop two physical selves. There is a side of Rio who wants to use her physical attributes to increase the attention people are paying to her, especially Yūma Kunimi, Sakuta’s best friend, who is dating Saki Kamisato, and another side who is content with the status quo but longs for more. Reconciling this internal struggle involves a human solution: Sakuta engineers a chance for Rio to come to terms with her feelings and has both Rios invite one another to the summer festival, merging the two personas back into one.

  • Throughout Aobuta, I’ve noticed a recurring trend in that as the series progresses, the focus on the philosophical and scientific aspects in discussions elsewhere diminishes in lockstep with the decreasing emphasis within Aobuta itself, and curiously, as these elements dissipate, so did some individual’s enjoyment. I’m not sure why some people demand convoluted narratives with quasi-academic elements in them to motivate their discussion, especially when it’s clear that such topics are not their area of expertise. While there is nothing wrong in learning about other disciplines, it is problematic if individuals asset to be authorities where they are not. This is what motivates the page quote: I’ve long felt that folks who act as though they are experts in a matter are more harmful to a discussion than those who are unfamiliar with the topic, and this is why I’m always mindful to not overstep what I know.

  • By the time Nodoka’s arc appears, even the most ardent efforts to force a scientific explanation on things prove ineffectual: in Aobuta itself, Rio speculates the body switching is some form of quantum teleportation and leaves Sakuta to work out a solution, indicating that science and philosophy are irrelevant. Nodoka’s problem manifests as body switching: resentful of Mai’s successes, Nodoka longs for her mother’s approval. She’s voiced by Maaya Uchida (GochiUsa‘s Sharo Kirima, Rui Tachibana of Domestic na Kanojo and Rei from VividRed Operation). The body switching exposes to Nodoka how difficult Mai’s job is, further increasing her dislike of Mai, whom she feels is flawless and a natural at whatever she does.

  • Nodoka is pushed over the edge after a concert Mai performs in, but when Mai reveals that she kept Nodoka’s letters to motivate herself, Nodoka comes to terms with who she is. Conscious transfer is a topic strictly consigned to the realm of science fiction: because the machinations of the mind remain poorly characterised, there is no satisfactory hypothesis for how a conscious manifests itself.

  • I join the ranks of many others before me in saying that the interactions between Mai and Sakuta are remarkably refreshing and genuine. While Sakuta has a predisposition for the lewd, at heart, he is trying to inject humour into what would otherwise be a fairly serious situation. As a protagonist, Sakuta is very likeable: unlike Oregairu‘s Hachiman, who comes across as being a smartass with no understanding of social structure, Sakuta does his best to relate those who are around him. Aobuta does outwardly resemble Oregairu, in terms of art style and its focus on youth, but Aobuta is ultimately more optimistic and better written, since Sakuta has clear motivations to help those around him.

  • This motivation stems from Sakuta’s fear of being unable to help his sister, and as it turns out, having been unable to prevent Kaede from suffering amnesia was what led to the scars on his chest. After Sakuta explains Kaede’s situation to Mai and Nodoka, Kaede decides to set goals for herself with the eventual aim of going back to school. In her state throughout Aobuta, Kaede is cheerful, somewhat dimwitted and fearful of strangers. However, the original Kaede was more reserved and taciturn: when Kaede recovers her memories, the time she’d spent with Sakuta and the others vanish from her memories.

  • While coming out from the shadows of something like OregairuAobuta stands out because it ultimately has a more optimistic tone, and Sakuta’s actions have a clear benefit for him, as well as those around him. By comparison, Oregairu‘s portrayal of Hachiman leaves him feeling like an apathetic misanthrope whose story ends up carrying no weight regardless of who his actions benefit: I am not particularly fond of Hachiman, and Oregairu‘s enjoyment factor came from his interactions with Yui and Yukino.

  • Mention of a scientific or philosophical concept does not mean a work of fiction intends to use it to advance the narrative further; in stories where the focus is purely on the human element, the gains to viewers are what characters learn from their experiences. Aobuta‘s phenomenon could be justified by constructs like the Infinity Stones, and the anime would still hold all of its weight. I would prefer that discussion focus on what the characters are doing and shown to be doing, rather than seeing people regard quantum tunneling and wave collapse as being literal representations of the emotional turbulence that youth experience.

  • One may wonder why I am so vehemently opposed to things that, for the want of a better phrase, “sound smart”. The answer to this is simple: one of the biggest aversions I have is ultracrepidarianism, referring to people who act like they know more than they do. An irritant at best, people who believe themselves to be more qualified than they are have the potential of causing real damage in society; an example is Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, who asserted a (nonexistent) link between vaccinations and autism, resulting in an increasing instance of people who hold his findings as true and refuse to vaccinate their children. Ultracrepidarians are one of the few things I do not tolerate, and while they are unlikely to have the same impact in the realm of discussion on fiction, such individuals can still be disruptive to what constitutes as good discussion.

  • In shows such as Aobuta, authentic discussion entails drawing from one’s own experiences, well-established social norms and anecdotal evidence as rationale in justifying (or renouncing) the actions that characters take. Attempting to play philosopher or psychiatrist on the characters is not beneficial, since the individual doing so does not have the same background or assumptions as the author would: I’ve mentioned before that Death of the Author is a very presumptuous way to approach media. The author’s intent matters because it allows audiences to understand a specific perspective on a work, which relates back to the society and its attendant conditions that led to the author expressing their thoughts into a narrative. Excluding this is to dispose of that context, ultimately resulting in a loss of information.

  • My final verdict on Aobuta is that it has definitely earned its praises: this is a solid A grade (9 of 10) for being able to vividly portray the human stories to each arc that Sakuta encounters. Aobuta is greatly helped by the fact that Sakuta is more optimistic and friendly, as well as acting as an amusing foil for Mai, with whom his interactions become entertaining to watch. Characters and their experiences drive the thematic elements, and while the series may incorporate elements of quantum theory into its run, Aobuta makes it clear that these elements were feebly presented precisely because the experiences of youth cannot be so readily compared to even more abstract concepts. In short, one does not need to know anything about the particle-wave duality, determinism or quantum tunneling to get the most out of Aobuta.

The inclusion of such abstract concepts in Aobuta as a deliberate choice allows Kamoshida to deal elegantly with one long-standing complaint I have about light novels: their propensity to force pedantic characters into the role of the protagonist. Aobuta has Rio embody this role as a secondary character, and when I began watching the series, I was unimpressed with her role in acting as a resource for seemingly explaining away the phenomenon that Sakuta encounters. However, progressing into Aobuta meant seeing the characters’ true personalities and nature be explored. After Rio herself experiences a manifestation of this phenomenon, her inclination to rationalise it is diminished: Kamoshida appears to suggest, through Rio’s increasingly half-hearted efforts to present Adolescent syndrome as having a scientific basis, that there simply is no effective way to compare something as nuanced and complex as human emotions during youth with thought experiments meant to deal with science. The pseudo-science is thus displaced by genuine, heartfelt moments as Sakuta helps Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede in overcoming their internal struggles. Consequently, this means that viewers have no need to consider the withertos and whyfors behind why things happen: the who and the what are much more valuable. As Aobuta progresses, Rio becomes less of an encyclopaedia and into a fully-fleshed out character. The lessons of Aobuta are that a story’s enjoyability and ability to capture an audience’s interests lies strictly and entirely within its characters, as well as their dynamics. In the complete and total absence of philosophy and science, series that deal with youth can therefore remain incredibly compelling because at its core, they are about the people and how they overcome their challenges, rather than real-world principles that demand dedicated study. Beyond its execution, Aobuta featured solid technical aspects that come together to create an anime that merits praise. Having now seen it for myself, I understand why people consider this to be a strong series, and so, I can readily recommend Aobuta, albeit with one caveat: prospective viewers should not go into Aobuta thinking quantum mechanics and philosophy are requirements, as the series has numerous merits that make it exceptionally engaging and compelling.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: A Welcome to the June 2019 Iteration

“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.” –Erma Bombeck

Today is the first day of June, and with June’s arrival comes an opportunity for me to host Jon’s Creator Showcase, an initiative intended to allow a variety of bloggers of all skill level and all topics to share their content with other bloggers. The idea began in December 2017 at Jon Spencer Reviews and aimed to have bloggers promote content they were particularly proud of. last month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase was hosted by Mechanical Anime ReviewsScott. In the process, seeing what other bloggers were doing proved inspiring to bloggers, creating a powerful sense of community. This project is now a year and a half old, and through it, I’ve been able to see how other bloggers structure their blogs, as well as how they walk through presenting their thoughts on things they enjoy (and enjoy less): it is an eye-opening experience to see, and besides giving people a stronger sense of community, the programme also drives more exposure and engagement amongst bloggers. In short, there’s no part of this that I don’t like, and especially in a world where discord and enmity is prevalent, it is fantastic to see a community show a stronger bond built on friendship and trust. With the formalities done, Jon’s Creator Showcase has a few details that participants should be mindful of. Submissions are traditionally handled via Twitter: all one needs is an account, and then 1) respond to the thread the host has going in Twitter for the active month, 2) tag the host with a link to their post or 3) link a post with the hashtag #TheJCS. I will be relaxing the standards and also accept submissions through Twitter’s Direct Messages, or even here in the comments. Participants are encouraged to submit one post from the previous month: for this month’s iteration, please submit your favourite post from May 2019. The post needn’t be about anime and gaming, which are the topics of my blog: they simply need to be something that you particularly enjoyed writing for. Subsequently, I will read through your subscription and showcase it towards the beginning of July.

  • I’m greatly looking forwards to seeing what submissions will be made. For each submission, I will be summarising it into a few sentences, explore what stood out about the article for me, and then go through what I got out of reading it. Folks familiar with my blogging style will probably be aware that I can talk about almost anything in some capacity, so I’m very welcome to featuring posts that are not about anime or games.

There are a handful of guidelines to be mindful of for Jon’s Creator Showcase: while the choice of topics is very diverse and ultimately up to you, I remark that submissions cannot contain hate speech, harassment, violence or illegal activities. That means if you’re trying to show people how to build a do-it-yourself backyard fission reactor, I’m not hosting that. I also will not be hosting content that is unintelligible, links to malware and other unpleasant things or that which only exists to sell a product. Beyond this, the floor is open to whatever topic of your choosing. This month, I am accepting all posts that were written in May 2019. Once your submissions have been made, I will be returning in July to go over every submission that I receive in detail and will be creating a special post to highlight the submissions that are received in all of their glory. The previous Jon’s Creator Showcase hosts have all done a spectacular job of presenting their content, so I anticipate that expectations will be high as we inch towards my turn to present the June edition of Jon’s Creator Showcase. I am excited to see what everyone enjoys in their writing, and what things are most moving or important to them. A blog is intended as a place to share one’s thoughts and acts as a bit of a public-access diary, so seeing just how diverse and varied the community is is always an encouraging thing for me. I encourage everyone to participate, and above all else, to have fun with this initiative: it is no joke when I say that many of the bloggers I follow out there write with conviction and clarity, presenting content that consistently matches, and even exceeding those of professional writers. Hence, I’d love to see this continue.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Nagi no Asukara, The Merits of Co-Existence, Tolerance and Adaptability Towards Change

“Having feelings for someone just brings sorrow to someone else. Someone always gets sacrificed and suffers. If this is what it means to fall in love, then falling in love is terrible.” –Hikari Sakishima

After their middle school from Shioshishio, a town under the seas, closes from a low student population, middle school friends Hikari Sakishima, Manaka Mukaido, Chisaki Hiradaira and Kaname Isaki are sent to a school on the surface. Despite friction with residents of the surface, the four begin adjusting to their lives and befriend Tsumugu Kihara. As the group learn more about their respective worlds, as well as seeing his sister’s life, Hikari come to care about the fates of those on the surface – with the gods’ powers waning, the world is cooling off, and that the only means of staving off global catastrophe is to perform the Ofunehiki, a rite that pays respects to the ocean gods. While Shioshishio’s residents have the capacity to hibernate and wait out the long winter, temperatures on the surface will result in a death toll, including Hikari’s sister. Preparations for the Ofunehiki take off in earnest from Shioshishio’s inhabitants, with the surface residents helping out. In the process, the mistrust between the two peoples begins fading away, but on the day of the ritual, calamity strikes when Manaka is knocked into the water, presumed lost. Five years later, Hikari, Manaka and Kaname reawaken amidst the frigid world, struggling to deal with the changes that have occurred in their absence. Miuna Shiodome and Sayu Hisanuma, who had initially attempted to sabotage Hikari and the others’ efforts in preparing for the Ofunehiki, have also matured. Miuna has developed feelings for Hikari, who remains in love with Manaka. Chisaki doubts her feelings towards Hikari, and Tsumugu develops feelings for Chisaki. Kaname remains fixated on Chisaki and is unaware of Sayu’s feelings for him. As they strive to resolve their conflicts and bring back Manaka’s ability to love, Tsumugu and Miuna realise they have ena, a substance that allows humans to freely breathe underwater. This had long been a source of tension between Shioshishio’s residents and people from the surface. Refusing to allow Manaka’s feelings to be sealed away, and with the fact that the winter is intensifying, prompts another attempt with the Ofunehiki in an effort to appeal to the sea god. During the ritual, he is knocked into the ocean and decides to sacrifice himself for Manaka, but at the last moment, a miracle occurs. The residents of Shioshishio awaken, and the cooling of the world is halted. With life returning to normal, Manaka and Hikari reaffirm their feelings for one another. This is Nagi no Asukara (Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea, literally “From The Calm Tomorrow” and sometimes misspelled as Nagi no Asu Kara), an anime from P.A. Works that ran from October 2013 to April 2014. In its twenty-six episode run, Nagi no Asukara covers a wide range of topics and proved an enjoyable anime for many for creating an immensely vivid world whose characters were plausible, and whose struggles were relatable. Together with a moving soundtrack and exceptional artwork that brought this world to life, Nagi no Asukara‘s status as being one of P.A. Works’ strongest series is a well-deserved one.

Nagi no Asukara is sharply divided into two very distinct acts. In its first acts, the focus is largely on notions of tolerance and co-existence: Hikari, being the son of a priest, is very much prejudiced against people from the surface. However, when his older sister finds love on the surface, Hikari begrudgingly begins to learn more about how aside from their ena and customs, the surface people are not particularly different than Shioshishio’s people. Despite being a coming-of-age story, Nagi no Asukara‘s portrayal of prejudice and bias between peoples of two disparate societies does much to emphasise the depth of the world that Hikari lives in. Both societies’ perspectives are shown; this allows audiences to quickly empathise with both groups and understand where their beliefs originate from, and as such, when Nagi no Asukara pushes forwards with the impending freezing of the world, watching Shioshishio’s residents and the people from the surface collaborate becomes all the more rewarding to watch. Brought together by the shared desire to stave off calamity, the two separate groups discover, as Hikari does, that their mistrust for one another has been misplaced, and that the commonalities that both societies share outweigh their differences. Co-existence is a major part of Nagi no Asukara‘s first half, and while the anime might be six years old now, its theme has never been more relevant in an age where division and bipartisan beliefs have become prevalent. Fear, intolerance and hatred are an unfortunately accepted way of thinking, driving people to conduct heinous acts. However, all hatred stems from fear, and fear is countermanded with knowledge. Nagi no Asukara shows that the first step towards dispelling fear is to become acquainted with different people, and understand that aside from minor differences, people are ultimately more similar than they’d initially thought. This is admittedly an optimistic approach: Hikari learns to tolerate, and then accept surface residents through watching his sister’s interactions with people on the surface, but Nagi no Asukara does show that all progress must start from somewhere, no matter how trivial.

By its second act, Nagi no Asukara transitions into a more personal narrative, dealing with the group dynamics and their shifts after a five year time-gap. While the passage of time and its attendant changes are inevitable, the characters struggle to deal with these changes. In particular, Chisaki is hit particularly hard; because she avoided hibernating, she’s now five years older than her friends. Missing the time she’d spent with them and feeling guilty at having moved ahead of them, and is unable to accept that her feelings for Hikari have wavered and clings onto them, viewing them as a way to bring back this lost time. The age disparities among the group create new conflicts: Tsumugu had matured alongside Chisaki and fell in love with her, while Kaname has not moved on from his old feelings. Miuna has now fallen in love with Hikari, who’s still in love with Manaka, and Sayu’s feelings for Kaname have only strengthened over time. While this love tesseract could have been immensely complex, Nagi no Asukara masterfully weaves everyone’s stories together, striking a balance between drama and character growth to create a more credible tale of how everyone eventually comes to find a solution for their situation. Relationships are immensely complex, and like reality, Nagi no Asukara shows that not everyone ends up with their first choice. In spite of this, second choices always exist: being able to recognise this and then possessing an open mind, to adapt and change, allows one to seize these opportunities to make the most of a new future. Chisaki manages to let go of her past and come to terms with her feelings for Tsumugu, while Kaname’s eyes are opened when Sayu gives him what I found to be one of the most genuine declarations of love that I’ve seen in fiction. Especially for Kaname, being made to see that there is someone who’s been chasing after him all this time forces him to stop and reconsider his own goals, and brings about a closure for him: he accepts Sayu’s feelings and with it, begins to finally move on with his life, as well. Romance and love are among the most poorly-characterised but also most engaging components of humanity. If love had been understood with the same precision and rigour as something like Newtonian mechanics, then love songs, romance fiction and endless self-help articles dealing with love would not exist, and the process would be reduced to a series of unexciting steps. Nagi no Asukara is a visceral reminder of both sides of love, and having spent its first act establishing the world for its story, allows the characters to explore new directions in a world whose unique points are now familiar sights.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Nagi no Asukara was one of the toughest anime for me to write for because of how numerous its strengths are, and for the longest time, I had no idea where to begin. It’s time to take a crack at things: while Nagi no Asukara certainly did not initially strike me as a masterpiece, after watching it a second time in full, I realised that the sincerity and honesty in its delivery made it a series worth remembering. The series has two distinct acts, each with its own distinct theme, and originally, I considered doing two separate posts for Nagi no Asukara.

  • While that could’ve been a good endeavour, my time simply does not accommodate for that anymore, so a single post will have to suffice for now. Right from the onset, Nagi no Asukara introduces viewers to a highly unique and nuanced world. Folks living under the sea have a special biological agent known as ena that protects them from oceanic pressure and allows them to breathe under water. While they can survive on the surface, they must consistently find a water source to soak in, otherwise the ena dries up and fails to function.

  • Chisaki, Manaka, Kaname and Hikari are the protagonists: this close group of friends are initially shocked about their school’s closure and of everyone, Hikari is the most resentful of the surface-dwellers. This change over time is noticeable in his character, and while he remains a hothead throughout Nagi no Asukara, he does exhibit concern for those around him in his own way. Manaka is an energetic and easygoing girl who is rather indecisive: she is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Shirase Kobuchizawa in A Place Further than the Universe, Yukari Yukino of The Garden of Words and Your Name), while Chisaki is voiced by Ai Kayano (Saori Takebe of Girls und Panzer and Mocha Hoto from Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?).

  • Because I only have a space of forty images to really discuss Nagi no Asukara, I won’t be able to cover every detail in the anime completely, and will massive leaps in the timeframe throughout the course of my discussion. Hikari’s initial goal was to bring Akari home after hearing that she was married to a surface-dweller, but after spending time with this new family and seeing his sister happy, he comes to understand the people on the surface might not be so bad after all. Hence, when it is revealed the world is freezing, he spearheads the effort in hosting the Ofunehiki festival, coming to learn how to work with his classmates and other people on the surface, as well.

  • The unique setting of sea and coast allows Nagi no Asukara to showcase highly unique and imaginative settings. P.A. Works pulled all the stops to create a visually compelling and detailed world, making use of light effects, colour and sound to immerse viewers into the coastal town and ocean that is Hikari’s world. While P.A. Works have always had consistently solid artwork and animation, most of their works are set in more ordinary locales: extensive use of water separates Nagi no Asukara‘s world from P.A. Works’ previous titles, and the quality has remained comparable even with more recent titles.

  • Like Angel Beats!Nagi no Asukara makes extensive use of comedic and everyday moments to familiarise viewers with the protagonists. Purely comedic or dramatic series tend to craft situations that characters must react with, and while these moments allow characters to show their best and worst, it does little to show how they are as individuals outside of more noteworthy moments. By comparison, giving a baseline of how a character is allows audiences to see how they normally act, in addition to seeing their best and worst sides; knowing someone better is how we come to empathise with people, and it is this reason that Key works like CLANNAD and Angel Beats! are so effective at moving their audience.

  • Strictly speaking, Glasslip‘s Tōko Fukami is a carbon copy of Manaka, featuring similar personalities and appearances. Similarly, Tsumugu and Kakeru Okikura resemble one another in appearances, as well as manner. The key differences are that Manaka and Tsumugu have more time during which their traits can be developed, and Glasslip feels as though it sought to reuse familiar characters while experimenting with a highly unstructured, atypical narrative.

  • While Hikari is initially quick to assume his classmates were responsible for vandalising the Ofunehiki doll they’d been working on, it turns out that the damages were caused by Akari’s daughter, Miuna, and her best friend, Sayu. Once the misunderstanding is cleared up, Miuna and Sayu are no longer nuisances and become an integral part of helping the others prepare for the festival. While Sayu can be seen as ill-mannered, her spirits quickly grew on me.

  • Chisaki and Manaka watch the tomoebi, a phenomenon similar to parhelion that is, incidentally, created by very similar conditions: whereas our sun dogs come from the refraction of light rays through suspended ice crystals in the air, tomoebi results from moonlight refracting off the sea salt-based snow crystals, which is subsequently refracted through cold water to create a false moon. While the friends had originally planned to watch this event together, but separate in the process.

  • Unified by the shared goal of the Ofunehiki, Hikari and his classmates now get along very nicely. While they remain committed to their heritage by wearing their school’s preferred uniforms, everyone is on cordial terms with one another. Working together for a common objective brings people together, and in the aftermath of Otafest, I attended a feedback session where one of the points I made was that it would be nice to get to know the other volunteers better, beyond the time spent working with them: knowing the team would reinforce the sense of community even further.

  • Admittedly, this stemmed from I’d experienced something I’d not expected during my volunteering for Otafest: during one of my shifts, a young lady, another one of the volunteers in my section who was helping looking after the panels, would look in my direction, and then break into a dazzling smile once my gaze returned from whatever I was doing previously. It seems that I could probably fall in love with a warm smile, and so, post-Otafest, I am left with mixed feelings despite the event’s overwhelming success and satisfaction from volunteering.

  • Watching the people of the sea and surface come together was immensely rewarding: there is a massive payoff in what Hikari and his friends have led, and while I might not remember every detail of Nagi no Asukara, the higher-level events stuck with me. One element in the setting that remains a bit of a mystery even now are the reinforced concrete pillars that dominate the landscape. While some have speculated they’re for supporting a sea-to-sky style freeway, or otherwise were meant to have symbolic value, they are never mentioned by the characters, nor do they seem to affect the narrative in any substantial manner, leading me to conclude they’re probably just a part of the scenery.

  • Sayu and Miuna head the support efforts: the entire community’s women have come forward to provide food. While perhaps not as intense as the scene in Avengers: Endgame where every female hero shows up to help deliver the Iron Gauntlet and its Infinity Stones to the time machine in Scott Lang’s van, it is a reminder that in any given project, effort or endeavour, things work at their very best when everyone is working together, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or beliefs. I greatly enjoyed seeing all of them women of the MCU come together in a titanic moment to help defeat Thanos, and Nagi no Asukara, pre-dating Avengers: Endgame by some five years, does a fine job of showing what cooperation looks like.

  • If memory serves, I believe this is the moment when Miuna falls in love with Hikari, seeing the sheer determination in his eyes as he hoists a flag in preparation for the Ofunehiki. Despite his brisque and rough mannerisms, Hikari is a respectable character who ultimately acts with the interests of those around him in mind. Watching him grow throughout Nagi no Asukara was one of the biggest draws about the series, and one of the things that I look forwards to most in a given anime is seeing how initially-unlikable characters mature into honourable people.

  • While the Ofunehiki is happening, Akari’s wedding to Itaru is also on the horizon. Seeing the union of two people prompts Hikari to attempt and confess his feelings to Manaka, who is unsure of how to react and seemingly rejects him. Meanwhile, Chisaki decides to do a kokuhaku to Hikari after Kaname did the same for her: I’ve heard that weddings can really drive up people’s desires to be together, and in the moment, the emotional tenour pushes everyone onward, although adolescence and the naïveté of youth means that misunderstandings occur.

  • The Ofunehiki itself is a glorious spectacle even though the outcome is suboptimal: the wrath of the seas kicks in midway through the ceremony, bringing things to a halt. Manaka, Hikari and Kaname fall into the ocean, while Chisaki manages to rescue Tsumugu. The freezing of the world sets in soon after, with Chisaki being left behind on the surface while the others enter hibernation. A five-year time skip occurs, and with this, we’ve reached the halfway point of Nagi no Asukara.

  • A time skip of five years happens to be exactly the same time skip that was in Avengers: Endgame, and I must say that Nagi no Asukara actually holds its own. In five years, Chisaki’s matured into a young woman whose style is noteworthy, while Akari has become accustomed to life on the surface and has raised a rambunctious son, Akira. Tsumugu’s become a university student pursuing a marine biology degree, and Miuna is now in middle school.

  • As middle school students, both Sayu and Miuna have become sufficiently mature as to be considered peers with Hikari, Manaka and Kaname. Now is a good as a time as any to note that Sayu is voiced by Kaori Ishihara (The World in Colour‘s very own Hitomi Tsukishiro), and Mikako Komatsu (Sanae Kōzuki of Sakura Quest) provides Miuna’s voice. Seeing these two grow from being impediments to integral parts of the cast was rewarding, and a part of the dynamics possible, because of the unique world building, is watching these two deal with Kaname and Hikari as fellow classmates.

  • Of everyone, Chisaki is the only individual to have avoided the hibernation and therefore, ages alongside Tsumugu on the surface. When she meets with her friends, who are now biologically five years her junior, she struggles to come to terms with the differences and desperately tells herself that nothing has changed, despite having spent five years of time with Tsumugu and his family. Here, she waits for a bus on the surface, and subtleties in the environment, such as the shape of the bus stop signs and bus designs, show a world that is meant to be simultaneously similar to and different than our own.

  • After the time skip, Hikari grows more distant from Tsumugu, feeling him a rival for Manaka’s feelings and that it is unfair for him to not return her feelings. The two clash on several occasions, until Tsumugu reveals that he is in love with Chisaki. The flow of relationships in Nagi no Asukara is very natural: a sort of closeness develops in the group as a result of time spent together. Because Tsumugu has spent so much time with Chisaki, the two know one another as well as themselves: Chisaki may believe that she’s still in love with Hikari, but these feelings manifest as a result of her wanting to hold onto the past.

  • While time stood still for Hikari during hibernation, once he returns to classes, he holds a degree of maturity and seniority over his classmates despite being biologically the same age. A testament to his learnings during Nagi no Asukara‘s first half, Hikari gets along with most everyone in his classmates. Much of the conflict in Nagi no Asukara‘s second act comes from everyone trying to sort out their relationships, although now, Miuna and Saya take center stage, as they are the same age as Hikari and Kaname. Meanwhile, Chisaki and Tsumugu are removed from this equation, being five years older than the others.

  • With Miuna now a middle school student, she enters the same world of relationship challenges that Hikari had been dealing with. When Sayu learns that one of Miuna’s classmates intends to confess his feelings for Miuna, she becomes jealous. It turns out that, now that she’s the same age as Hikari, Miuna feels that she has a fighting chance to win Hikari’s heart even in the knowledge that Hikari loves Manaka. Hikari’s concern for her only serves to amplify her feelings for him.

  • Sayu subsequently attempts to distance herself from her feelings for Kaname: distraction from romance is one of the most frequently recommended suggestions for dealing with a broken heart. I can vouch for this: The Giant Walkthrough Brain from five years ago ended up being my distraction that saw me create something constructive. As I pushed into learning the Unity Engine and build what would become the starting points for my graduate thesis, I found myself feeling a great deal more whole than I had following heartbreak. While there would be days where I felt miserable, I continue to remind myself that there is more to life than romantic relationships.

  • Kaname does eventually return to the cast, joining Hikari and the others. Of everyone, he feels the most left behind, having seen first-hand how close Chisaki and Tsumugu have become. At the age of nineteen, Tsumugu has enrolled at a local university and studies Nagi no Asukara‘s equivalent of marine biology, participating in research. While still young, Tsumugu’s involvement with a research lab is not implausible by any stretch: undergraduate students interested in research are encouraged to find a supervisor and lab to work in during summer. My faculty was particularly forward with this, and after learning of a biological visualisation lab on campus, I decided to spend my summer working with them. This is how I met my supervisor, who would go on to oversea and provide guidance on my undergraduate thesis, the Giant Walkthrough Brain and ultimately, my graduate thesis.

  • The tensions between Sayu and Miuna reach an all-time high after Sayu runs into Kaname, who fails to recognise her. Feeling that her emotions have given her naught but trouble, she renounces them, only for Miuna to declare that being truthful to how they feel is more important. Both Kaname and Sayu experience the misfortune of having the person they’re interested in seem unaware of or are otherwise unable to return their feelings: I’ve been down this road before, and this is why for me, Kaname and Sayu’s stories in Nagi no Asukara hit me the hardest: I know what unrequited love feels like, to feel so desperately sure that things could work out, and fail nonetheless.

  • Of course, it’s a disappointing thought, but it happens all the same. While Miuna may cling onto her feelings for Hikari, she’s also able remain mindful of her surroundings. When it turns out that Miuna has inherited ena, and with it, the ability to freely move about underwater, she is ecstatic and becomes a new contributor to the research Tsumugu is working on. By using acoustics, Tsumugu’s supervisor is able to work out where to best enter Shioshishio: since the events five years previously, intense currents have surrounded the town, making the area inaccessible. However, given a chance to visit, Kaname, Hikari and Miuna decide to undertake this assignment.

  • For the first time, Miuna visits the middle school that Hikari and the others would have attended. The location feels like a haikyo, and here, Miuna plays with an xylophone. Reflections from the windows and the bright lights coming from outside create a very melancholy impression: while Shioshishio is a very lively town, having all of the inhabitants in hibernation creates an eerily still locale, a far cry from the Shioshishio that we’d seen during Nagi no Asukara‘s first act.

  • Aural anomolies were the reason that Hikari and the others descend to Shioshishio. When they trace them to its source, they find a graveyard of old Ofunehiki effigies, and Manaka frozen at the center. The mystery of where Manaka went is solved, and Hikari decides to bring her back. This action results in a disturbance, and Manaka’s memories are seemingly lost when she is returned to the surface.

  • For Miuna, Manaka’s return is a mixed bag. On one hand, a friend has returned now, someone who she can talk to and support as thanks for having done so much for her previously. However, Manaka is also a rival for Hikari’s feelings; her return means that Miuna’s feelings for Hikari may never be realised if Manaka’s memories return. In the end, Miuna picks a selfless route, deciding that bringing Manaka back for Hikari’s sake is much more important than whatever her own wishes are. This is the truest sign of love, being able to let go and hope for another individual’s happiness even at one’s own expense.

  • One evening, Chisaki decides to try her old middle school uniform out again for kicks. It is impressive that after all this time, her uniform still fits to a reasonable extent: besides being tighter in the chest and hips, she’s still able to wear it. In what is Nagi no Asukara‘s only cliché moment, Tsumugu walks in, coming face-to-face with an embarassed Chisaki who proceeds to throw things at him until he beats a hasty exit.

  • While Manaka is still unconcious, Miuna seeks out Lord Uroko, a minor sea god born from a scale of the original sea god. He acts as a messenger to the gods, and despite his appearances, holds a great deal of knowledge about the lore of the ocean. While typically flippant and unsympathetic, he appears to help if the situation demands it. Lord Uroko explains that Manaka’s sacrifice was to appease the sea god, and taking her back means taking something in return: when she reawakens, Manaka appears to be as happy-go-lucky as she had been during the first act once she wakes up, but lost her ena and recollections of Hikari.

  • Nagi no Asukara builds its lore in an incremental manner, showing only as much as is needed to drive the narrative forwards, and integrates this seamlessly into the story. Audiences never feel left out when details surrounding their world are presented, and each bit of knowledge helps viewers understand what must be undertaken for Hikari and the others to help bring Manaka’s love back. It is therefore unsurprising that Nagi no Asukara features many tearful moments such as these – where the most fundamental of human emotions are involved, people can become overwhelmed.

  • As Nagi no Asukara reaches its final episodes, everyone’s emotions come to the forefront. Hikari learns that Tsumugu had never had his eyes on Manaka and loves Chisaki, while Chisaki did return his feelings, fearing only that if she accepted them, it would mean discarding old friendships. Chisaki overhears his kokuhaku and dives into the sea; when Tsumugu goes after her, he discovers that he possesses the ena, as well. Lord Uroko later agrees to help out, since everyone has worked out a possible solution for the situation at hand: having taken back Manaka, the sea god demands another sacrifice. Manaka’s pendant, a special stone that seemingly holds everyone’s feelings, is suggested as the substitute.

  • As preparations for another Ofunehiki begin, the only person who feels left behind is Kaname – everyone is busy working towards setting things right, and having heard that Tsumugu and Chisaki accept one another’s feelings for himself, Kaname becomes dejected, even wondering if he had done the right thing in saving Tsumugu years previously. Despite being level-headed and wise for his age, Kaname’s unrequited feelings for Chisaki leave him feeling left out; of the characters, I relate to him the most strongly.

  • It takes a tearful confession from Sayu to force Kaname to accept that things are what they are now – she implores him to see her as a girl rather than a child and that she’d only had eyes for him for the past five years. Realising that there had been someone in his corner all this time, Kaname is shocked and decides to start over with her. While such outcomes seem relegated to the realm of fiction, reality can work in strange ways; Kaname accepting this turn of events show that he is not so stubborn as to see alternative paths, and this open-mindedness is what sends him down another means towards finding what he sought.

  • Nagi no Asukara‘s soundtrack, hitherto unmentioned, was composed by Yoshiaki Dewa and Masayuki Watanabe. They make extensive use of Spanish guitar in more relaxed moments, and piano when emotion kicks in to create incidental music that adds another level of depth to the anime: the soundtrack has two volumes, released two months apart. Together, there is a total of sixty tracks, and these well-composed pieces do much to convey the atmospherics within Nagi no Asukara.

  • With all of the secondary characters’ stories largely resolved, preparations for the Ofunehiki wrap up, and the ceremony commences. This time, it is with Lord Uroko’s consent, and as they had done five years previously, prepare a sacrifice with the aim of appeasing the sea god. This second attempt similarly disrupts the sea, and Manaka falls overboard. Miuna rescues her, and Manaka’s memories return, but Miuna is drawn into the depths, standing in as the new sacrifice.

  • Realising that Miuna was lost because of her intense feelings for him, Hikari implores the sea god to take him instead. The seas react to this: it turns out that the original sea god was unable to let go of Ojoshi, his original lover, who had turned her back on the sea for a life on the surface with a mortal. Devastated, the sea god froze the world, but realised that Ojoshi’s original feelings for him and the sea never wavered. He consents to allow the world to return to its normal state, and the oceans begin flowing again. Shioshishio’s inhabitants begin awakening from their hibernation, as well, signifying that the world’s climate is returning to its normal state. Hikari’s father greets him and notes that he accepts Akari’s marriage, expressing that he looks forwards to meeting his grandson.

  • The finale to Nagi no Asukara is optimistic; with the natural order back in the balance, lives begin returning to normal. I also expect that at this point, readers who have stuck out would have a nontrivial inclination to never read this blog again: I’ve made no fewer than thirty mentions of the word “feelings” in this post alone. In the epilogue, Hikari, Manaka and Kaname don surface middle school uniforms before heading off to classes, signifying that they accept in full the people on the surface.

  • An exceptional anime in all regards, Nagi no Asukara represents one of P.A. Works’ very best work since Angel Beats, covering an exceptional amount of material during its twenty-six episode run. With life-like characters and a vivid world rich in lore, Nagi no Asukara tells a coming of age story that fully utilised every aspect of its environment to convey a moving story. Masterpiece Anime Showcase will return next time with K-On!‘s first season – this series is celebrating its tenth anniversary and is counted as a masterpiece in my books for a very special reason. Other series that will be covered include Kanon and Your Lie in April: I know that some readers have expressed an interest in hearing my thoughts on these, and I look forwards to seeing if I can meet those expectations.

Because of its raw and emotional portrayal of what coming-of-age means for a group of friends, in conjunction with the fact that I still have nothing by the way of experience in this particular discipline, writing for Nagi no Asukara proved much trickier than I originally anticipated. As such, I did not write about this series despite making numerous references to it in other talks. However, after taking a look back through the series, I figured that even if I cannot readily speak from experience, the fact that Nagi no Asukara was so moving for me meant that there was much more at play that I could properly write for. Looking through the anime a second time, I saw a series whose enjoyment factor increased with time: watching it again meant being able to appreciate the subtle details that present themselves on a second visitation. Between giving the characters a unique world to grow in, the time to develop and the opportunity to watch them overcome their challenges, Nagi no Asukara gives audiences reason appreciate the characters and their struggles. In conjunction with some of P.A. Works’ finest animation and artwork, Nagi no Asukara represents a maturation of the learnings from Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari, inheriting highly relatable characters and exceptional visuals with a bold new direction in a fantastical setting. The incidental music further accentuates the atmospherics Nagi no Asukara intends to convey. All of these elements come together to create an anime that is timeless, recognisable and moving; Nagi no Asukara is something that I can readily recommend to all audiences because of its fantastic world-building, universally-relatable themes and strong execution. There are a lot of moving parts in Nagi no Asukara: its appeal stems from being able to cover such a diverse range of topics and explore them in satisfying depth; in conjunction with a world whose every facet is vividly-rendered, Nagi no Asukara stands out as one of P.A. Works’ more memorable titles that is well worth watching.