The Infinite Zenith

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Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown- Hunt For the Winged Unicorn, Reflections On The Past Ten Years, and Looking Toward The New Decade

“If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” –Steve Jobs

Shortly after Operation Magic Spear saw Strider Squadron neutralise Erusean missile silos, they are assigned to investigate the reappearance of the Alicorn, a nuclear submarine that was born from Yuktobania’s project to extend the Scinfaxi and Hrimfaxi submarines, which would combine the abilities of a submarine with that of an aircraft carrier. The hull was completed some time later, and Erusea purchased the submarine, placing Captain Matias Torres in command. However, the submarine went missing for two years, and so, when it reappeared at Artiglio Port to reinforce the Erusean military, which had already lost an Arsenal Bird, Strider Squadron was sent to investigate, with the intent of capturing the submarine for political reasons, per Howard Clemens’s orders. After arriving in the airspace over Artiglio Port, Strider Squadron engage numerous aircraft, including two unknown aircraft, and eventually, Trigger is tasked with shooting down a Rafale M carrying a nuclear-tipped cruise missile that took off from the Alicorn under Torres’ orders. The ground forces are unsuccessful in securing the Alicorn, which leaves port and sets off for Anchorhead Bay. Clemens sends Strider here to damage the fleet stationed here ahead of the Alicorn’s arrival. During the course of the fighting, Erusean naval officers are killed in the combat, and Torres begins shelling the port to test the Alicorn’s main cannon, and Trigger manages to defeat the unknown pilots from Mimic Squadron. It turns out they had been hired by Clemens to eliminate Trigger; Clemens is arrested for treason, and Trigger is deemed as being worthy of contributing to the war effort. In the chaos, the Alicorn leaves Anchorhead Bay with two nuclear shells for its main railgun – Torres reveals his plan is to strike Oured and inflict a million casualties to end the Lighthouse War, which he predicted to cost upwards of ten million lives. After locating the Alicorn in shallow ocean waters, Strider Squadron forces the submarine to surface and begin attacking it. The Alicorn counterattacks with its sophisticated arsenal, but is severely damaged. Torres feigns surrender, but uses the time to prepare the railgun. Trigger manages to strike the railgun and knocks the first projectile off course, then lines up for an attack run that destroys the weapon. The Alicorn is split in two and sinks to the seafloor, while Strider Squadron returns to rest up for their assault on Cape Rainy. It is determined that Trigger’s presence allows missions to be swiftly completed with reduced allied casualties, and he is recommended to continue flying, becoming an integral pilot in bringing an end to the Lighthouse War and providing additional missions that show how Trigger came to be so widely respected by squadron mates and the Osean military alike.

The Ace Combat 7 extra missions were released between September and November of 2019, and I had been quite mindful of what picking up the additional content to Ace Combat 7 would entail – on one hand, three new missions and three new aircraft did not exactly justify the price of the season pass, but on the flipside, Ace Combat 7 was the first title on PC to provide a true experience that had, until now, only been available on the PlayStation consoles. With the Steam Winter sale providing a modest discount, and the fact that I can use the additional missions to earn in-game currency to unlock the remainder of the aircraft and parts, the decision to pick up Ace Combat 7‘s season pass became easy enough. I immediately jumped into the first mission with the ADF-01 Falken, an experimental fighter that made its first playable appearance in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, and made my way into a set of additional missions that provided an immensely satisfying supplementary experience for Ace Combat 7. While the mission structures are similar enough to the missions of Ace Combat 7‘s main game, there are enough nuances in these extra missions to keep gameplay refreshing. The first mission, Unexpected Visitor, gives players a chance to experience the ESM, which dramatically increases one’s performance and effectiveness, as well as subjecting players to ECM and forcing them to fly more strategically. Mimic Squadron provides an additional layer of excitement to both Unexpected Visitor and Anchorhead Raid: the latter is a bog-standard annihilation mission, but once they arrive, players have a chance to dogfight two psychotic and unusal pilots whose aircraft can create fake targeting boxes that dramatically changes the way players must fight them. The final of the missions, Ten Million Relief Plan (referring to Torres’ scheme of using nuclear-tipped shells to shock the world into ending the Lighthouse War and save ten million lives) features a thrilling hunt for the Alicorn that switches over to an action-packed showdown with Torres that ultimately felt like the mission to destroy the SOLG in Ace Combat 5; both the SOLG mission and Ten Million Relief Plan involve disabling a super-weapon before it can inflict damage on Oured, Osea’s capital. In my case, I was armed with the Morgan and its Multi-Purpose Burst Missile, which allowed me to make short work of the Alicorn’s systems and railgun. This brought my journey with the additional missions to a close, and the value in picking up the season pass became clear: besides offering additional insight into Strangereal that enhances the lore of this detailed world, it also means that I was able to fly the Falken on PC for the first time, before the decade was out.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It only felt appropriate to start the party by flying a Falken armed with its signature tactical laser system into combat, and then further kick the post off with me using the Falken’s tactical laser. The first stage of Unexpected Visitor is an annihilation mission, with the object being to score a certain number of points in the time limit. Engaging a variety of air and ground targets will secure the required score, but care must be taken not to hit the Alicron, which is docked below.

  • The Falken is a shade above the F-22 and Su-57 in performance, so dog-fighting with it was not a problem. The ADF series of aircraft come with 150 missiles by default, which is plenty for most operations, and so, with this legendary plane in my arsenal, wiping floor with the squadrons positioned over Artiglio Port became a trivial exercise. The Falken also has one additional feature worthy of note: its cockpit is highly advanced and completely enclosed, and switching over to first-person mode will allow one to see the COFFIN (Connection For Flight Interface) system in a modern game engine.

  • For me, the Falken was most noteworthy as being many pilots’ aircraft of choice for squaring off against the SOLG in Ace Combat 5. Seeing footage of players piloting this aircraft through the foggy skies of Sudentor and then take off from Oured itself to confront the SOLG was something I’d always wished to do on a modern system, and with the Falken in Ace Combat 7, while it may not be possible to fly over Sudentor or November City again, it is now possible to see how an Ace Combat icon handles.

  • Mimic Squadron appears partway through the mission; they pilot the unique Su-47 Berkut, a Russian fighter with a distinct forward swept-wing design that gave it incredible mobility at the expense of stability. Mimic’s “Rage” and “Scream” have custom Su-47s equipped with a ECM system that allow them to project false HUD images and conceal missile lock-ons, making them deadly enemies. In my case, I had the presence of mind turn the Falken’s tactical laser against them as soon as they appeared, sending them packing on short order.

  • Even though the first mission is set on September 4 in-game, the vast blue skies and general atmospherics of the mission give it a New Year’s Eve feel: by winter in my area, the low winter sun creates a warm golden glow for the hours that the sun is up, and the skies become a periwinkle blue. When Ace Combat 7 was first announced, I wondered if there would be a December 31 mission: Ace Combat 5‘s final mission saw Razgriz Squadron take to the skies at dawn on the 31st to stop the SOLG, and one of my friends remarked that the choice of date was deliberate, to symbolise the ending of the old grudges of warfare in time for a new year to arrive.

  • Ace Combat 7 is at its best when players get to fly under brilliant blue skies: this is what made the Unexpected Visitor mission particularly fun, and in general, Ace Combat 7‘s missions featuring sunny weather with blue skies perfectly capture the feeling that Avril expresses as being what makes it worthwhile to be a pilot. While Ace Combat 7 lacks this ability in its free flight mode, it would be nice if future installments of Ace Combat allowed players to be able to fly in the campaign maps under different weather conditions.

  • I’ve heard that the tactical laser of Ace Combat 7 is far weaker than those seen in its predecessors because the game needed multiplayer balance: in the old games, merely grazing an enemy plane with the laser would destroy it instantly, but in Ace Combat 7, it takes at least a few seconds of sustained fire on a target to destroy it entirely. I typically equip my planes with the parts that boosts the laser’s firepower, range and effective radius to improve its performance: for my part, the tactical laser is more of a skill weapon, since it requires more precise flying to keep the beam focused on one’s target.

  • One of my favourite aspects about Long Caster’s role is how often he mentions food: on the topic of food, yesterday evening, I had the equivalent of one-and-a-half dinners. After a crab-topped salmon bake on a bed of zucchini, I stepped out into a blustery evening to meet up with a friend who was in town. We met at a local Denny’s and I decided to get their loaded nacho tots. Despite being marked as an appetizer, these tater tots are covered with a delicious combination of Cheddar, Pepper Jack queso, seasoned nacho meat, bacon, jalapeños and sour cream and thus, were quite substantial; I enjoyed them while we swapped conversation about movies and did some catching up: I think the last time my friend was in town, it was February. After sharing stories, we decided to call it an evening, as all of the Starbucks around were closed and therefore, we weren’t able to chat further over Exploding Kittens.

  • I got back home before the New Year’s Eve countdown and shared the remainder of the day with family. Then today, I spent most of the morning sleeping in and taking it easy. As noon arrived, I helped whip up homemade Swiss-mushroom burgers topped with caramerlised onions and lettuce, with a side of shoe-string fries, to welcome 2020. One of my goals this year will be to learn how to make a greater variety of vegetable dishes. Back in Ace Combat 7, from Longcaster’s in-game dialogue, he only eats finger foods while on an assignment, saving the fork-and-knife meals to after a mission ends, and appreciates Trigger’s combat efficiency precisely for letting him get to his food faster.

  • The final objective in Unexpected Visitor will be to take out a Rafale M carrying a nuclear warhead for Torres. While the game states that players have ten minutes to shoot it down, the reality is that there will be a lot less time on the clock to complete this assignment. The Rafale’s escorts will make this task more difficult, since they can take hits intended for the lead aircraft, but armed with my tactical laser, I melted through the fleeing aircraft on very short order to bring my first extra mission to a close.

  • For the Anchorhead Raid mission, I ended up going with the Su-57, a top-tier Russian fifth generation fighter that is one of the best real-world aircraft available in the game, alongside the F-22 and YF-23. What set the Su-57 apart from the F-22 is the fact that it can equip pulse lasers, which I’ve found to be the most versatile and effective special weapon in the whole of Ace Combat 7, and moreover, has a starting ammunition count of 650 shots over the F-15C’s 500 shots and the MiG-31B’s 450.

  • In practise, despite having a limited rate of fire, the pulse lasers deal solid damage, being able to shoot down enemy aircraft in as few as three shots out to a range of five kilometres. Pulse lasers are also highly effective against large ground targets like ships, so where anti-ship warfare is expected, I fall back on any plane with pulse lasers. Their only real disadvantage is that clouds will diffuse and stop the shots.

  • With the aim of the raid on Anchorhead being to destroy the Erusean naval forces stationed there, the arrival of Strider squadron strikes terror into the ground controllers – panic is clearly heard in one female ground controller’s voice when she states that the slaughter she’s witnessing is no hallucination, it’s a nightmare. The abject terror that Trigger strikes into the hearts of his enemies is nothing short of astounding, and as players go through the campaign, it becomes clear that even veteran pilots grow concerned when “Three Strikes” is their opponent.

  • While it may not be a snow-covered castle in Belka, the moody, overcast skies of Anchorhead nonetheless captures that classic Ace Combat feeling: for me, overcast winter days scream Ace Combat because of the design choices employed in earlier titles. Overcast, foggy weather was technically unimposing to implement and were a common feature in older games, and while sophisticated game engine technologies now allow for any weather and lighting condition to be captured, the old style will forever remain memorable to me.

  • During the course of the assault on Anchorhead, players will have access to three return lines. On lower difficulties, damage to the player’s aircraft will be repaired, all ammunition is resupplied, and players will also be given the option to switch out their preferred special weapon: there’s a return line by the amassed enemy fleet, so I was able to empty more stores on the ships below and then resupply.

  • The best part about the Ace Combat 7 Alicorn missions are that they each offer something unique to experience, and in conjunction with the cutscenes, a very vivid and rich picture of Strangereal is created, providing insights into the Lighthouse War and complex history surrounding all of the conflicts seen in the Ace Combat universe. Torres’ character was a particularly interesting one: with a long history of violence and aggression, director Kazutoki Kono describes him as probably one of the most vile villians to ever be featured in Ace Combat, being so deluded in his own visions of the world as to completely lack any empathy for others.

  • As players run up against the time limit, the Alicorn begins shelling Anchorhead’s airspace with shots from its primary weapon, a 600mm/128 caliber rail cannon with a maximum range of three thousand kilometers. Using guidance provided by SLUAVs, these projectiles can dynamically alter their trajectories mid-flight, and here, Torres tests their capabilities by firing on Strider Squadron. Like the airburst missiles the Arsenal Bird fires, their expected trajectory is projected onto the minimap so pilots have a fair shot at escaping their blast radius.

  • The explosions here aren’t from New Years’ Eve fireworks – when the Alicorn’s shells arrive, they create a very distinct blast pattern that inflicts massive damage to aircraft caught in the blast radius. Húxiān is hit by the first shell and forced to withdraw. Players may choose to shoot down the SLUAVs, which will cause the shells to self-destruct: it’s not possible to prevent the first shell from hitting Húxiān, and shooting the SLUAV’s don’t affect the mission, so blasting the drones out of the sky is purely optional.

  • In order to simplify the rematch with Mimic Squadron, shooting Rage down first is preferred: if Scream is destroyed first, Rage will ramp up his aggression and fire more missiles in quick succession, making the fight trickier. Conversely, shooting Rage down first makes the fight easier. Equipped with pulse lasers, I therefore focused my fire on Rage and burned him to the ground, leaving a much simpler fight with Scream.

  • Scream proved easy to eliminate: while her Su-47 is equipped with stealth gear, pulse lasers are unaffected and would make short work of her aircraft. She refuses to eject and dies in the ensuing crash. In the aftermath, with the revelation that Clemens had intended to dispose of Trigger, he is arrested and is no longer a factor for the final mission. I intend to return to Anchorhead and do a free-flight: unlike Ace Combat: Assault HorizonAce Combat 7 has a free flight mode. I would’ve loved to explore some of the locations in Assault Horizon, even if some levels were clearly not designed for aircraft. By comparison, every mission in Ace Combat 7 supports free flight, as each level was designed for aircraft, and it will be fun to explore the city below when normally, one’s attention is focused entirely on the skies and ground targets.

  • Looking back on the past decade, I’ve seen some notable triumphs and disappointments that have done much to shape me as a person. From nearly being kicked from my undergraduate program for poor academic standing, an unrequited love that sapped me of my resolve and a brutally trying project to save an iOS app with a backend team that clearly did not want to be there, to finishing grad school with a perfect 4.0, contributing to the Giant Walkthrough Brain project, travelling to various conferences and constantly pushing myself to be a better iOS developer, these past ten years have seen experiences on both ends of the spectrum, with unpleasant ones helping me to learn, and pleasant ones reaffirming that there is a payoff for effort and sincerity.

  • No one can forecast the future with unerring accuracy, but what I do know is that honesty, resilience and hard work is all one needs to get by. In the next ten years, I will continue doing what I’ve done, drawing on my experiences to be more effective and capable. Doing my part means there’s one fewer ruffian dragging society backwards, and even if this is about all I can do for the world, it counts for something.

  • Back in Ace Combat 7‘s final extra mission, I’ve equipped the ADFX-01 Morgan, the precursor to the Falken. The first part of Ten Million Relief Plan is to locate the Alicorn, and the initial search was tricky: I only managed to find the Alicorn using the MAD system with ten seconds remaining, and initially, the task is so tricky that Count wishes the Alicorn’s crew would sing, the same way that Jonsey would locate the Red October in The Hunt for Red October, when Ramius’ crew began singing the Russian national anthem.

  • For this mission, I equipped the Multi-Purpose Burst Missile (MPBM), a highly powerful missile that has a massive blast radius and deals a respectable amount of damage. Once the Alicorn surfaced, I fired my first shot, which connected and knocked out several of the CIWS guns on its deck immediately with an incredible explosion. I’ve heard that the weapon is far less effective in anti-air combat than it is against ground targets, but playing around with it against the Alicorn, I found it to be quite useful. In order to gain a better measure of the MPBM’s performance against other special weapons, I will have to try out the Morgen in the base game’s campaign missions.

  • Once players have done a number on the Alicorn’s weapons and super-structure, Torres will feign surrender to buy himself time to deploy the railgun. Firing on the Alicorn during this time will result in a mission failure, but moments later, a large number of barrier UAVs are sent into the skies, forming a protective shield around the Alicorn. Players must make haste to fire on the Alicorn: any damage will disrupt the railgun’s firing sequence and cause its first nuclear-tipped shell to miss its mark: I found that it was easier to fly around the drones and then fire on the Alicorn: these shields are capable of absorbing even the MPBM’s explosions.

  • While Ace Combat 7 may not have a SOLG mission, fighting the Alicorn actually does have the same atmosphere as the final mission of Ace Combat 5, minus Nagase shouting encouragement in the player’s ear every few moments. The 600mm/128 calibre railgun is the Alicorn’s most powerful weapon, but against players, the Alicorn has a pair of powerful 200mm electromagnetic launchers that can blast the player out of the sky. I’m actually flying in the path of one shot here, and after I unload my MPBM, my next priority is to turn around and get out of the shot’s trajectory immediately.

  • There are no revolving panels to shoot at on the Alicorn: a carefully placed shot to the railgun’s core will put it out of commission. Players are operating under a strict timeline here, and since the railgun will be fully charged within two minutes, it is imperative to aim well and hit the core, otherwise, Torres will still be able to get a shot off and cause a considerable amount of damage in Oured. On my run, a well-placed MPBM created a massive explosion here that marks the end of the mission. Once the Alicorn’s railgun is disabled, the mission draws to a close.

  • A strange light emanates from the Alicorn after its railgun is put out of action, and an insane Torres declares that Trigger is lacking in vision to have stopped his plans. The Alicorn explodes shortly after, sending Torres to the bottom of the ocean and putting an end to his machinations once and for all. With this mission done, Trigger is given some down time, before being deployed to Cape Rainy for the night raid on an Erusean base.

  • Before I wrap up this post, I remark that the page quote is one that’s well-chosen for the new year: I’ve always been about putting forth the best effort possible into what I do, and the late Steve Job’s remarks were that, if one is doing something they genuinely believe in, they will be putting forth their best every time because it’s something meaningful and important to them. Of course, this “something” has to be beneficial in some way to society; there are certain things, like social media activism and outrage culture, that don’t qualify simply because they offer the world no tangible value and require no effort. This is ultimately what drives progress: people who work hard because they want to are more motivated to hone their craft and make a difference, leaving a more tangible, positive impact on the world.

  • With Ten Million Relief Plan in the books, I’m done all of the available extra missions in Ace Combat 7. While it would be phenomenal to return to Sudentor for another tunnel flight on a cold winter’s night and then square off against the SOLG on New Year’s Eve, I also appreciate that the missions we got could be all that there is, with Bandai-Namco working towards a new Ace Combat title for the future. My first post of 2020 is now in the books, and I will be kicking off the new year’s anime post with a talk on Koisuru Asteriod, before wrapping up each of Kandagawa Jet GirlsRifle is Beautiful and as time allows, a talk on Azur Lane.

I’ve been wanting to fly the Falken for more than a decade – ever since reading about Ace Combat 5 from a strategy guide sourced from my local library, and then watching the footage of the SOLG mission during the second year of my undergraduate degree when I was supposed to be studying for data structures and organic chemistry, the Gründer line of planes and the super-weapons of Strangereal always held a charm for me. Ace Combat 7 represented a chance to experience the games that I’d only seen, and with the season pass, I can check off something I’d longed to do for some time. Of course, the past ten years has been so much more than just about doing the sorts of things I’d wanted to experience when I had been younger: it’s been a time of discovery and learning, of triumph, failure and everything in between. From earning a Master’s Degree to learning how to develop iOS apps, from attending conferences abroad to discovering hidden trails of the mountains, the past ten years have been a learning experience, as well: my best moments create cherished memories, and my worst moments become chalked up as learning experiences that help me become a better person. We have now entered the second decade of the second millennium with 2020 – this represents the start of a brand-new chapter in life, and looking ahead, I am rather excited to see where things are headed. Before looking too far into the future, however, it’s worth taking things one step at a time, and so, for 2020, my resolutions for the new year are thus: I aim to look after myself properly in both a professional and personal capacity. For my professional growth, I aim to learn JavaScript and Node.JS to further my ability as an iOS developer, so that I can keep up with back-end developers, and I also will strive to develop my leadership and management skills, on top of learning and applying more intricate aspects of the Swift programming language. From a personal standpoint, I aim to maintain a respectable level of health, fitness and wellness. I also resolve to learn to cook more efficiently: although I may be a passable cook, I’d love to learn some family recipes and wash vegetables faster. For this blog, I simply resolve to maintain and promote positivity in everything I present to, and in interactions with, readers. For having provided this much support and encouragement, providing content that is instructive, fun and positive is the least I could do for everyone – with this being said, HI look forwards to seeing what lies ahead in the next decade, working together to weather out difficult times and sharing good times with both those important people around me, as well as for everyone who’s followed this blog:

Happy New Year 2020!

  • I realise that this year, I’ve not posted a customary calendar or my usual set of resolutions in the traditional format. The reasoning behind this was we are beginning a new decade, and I wished to do something a little different. A quick glance back at least years shows that I did keep with my resolutions, and because I believe in incremental progress, I’ll kick off the new decade with a manageable set of 2020 resolutions: I’ll keep doing me, more efficiently, better and continue to learn all that is necessary to drive personal and professional growth.

Yama no Susume OVA Reflections On The Edge of a New Year: One Final Post for 2019

“This can only end with one of us dead, and I have never died!”
“That’ll be your downfall, Jaguar: not being open to new experiences.”

– Jaguar and Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Yama no Susume‘s second season actually had two OVAs that I never got around to writing about back during the summer: the first of the OVAs to the second season follows Kaede, who goes shopping for a new bra at Aoi and the others’ insistence when they learn that Kaede had a conversation with Yuuka on the former’s lack of fashion sense; up until now, Kaede’s worn nothing but sports bras for the sake of practicality and comfort. At a speciality shop, Kaede learns that she’s one size larger than she’d initially thought, and one of the staff members helps her to get properly fitted. Kaede is embarrassed, but realises that this new experience was not so different than when she began wearing mountaineering equipment for the first time. The second of the OVAs to grace season two is a best-of countdown that follow Aoi and Hinata’s recollection of the most memorable and exciting moments up until now in the format of a talk show. The only caveat here is that the countdown only vaguely recalls events of the anime: things go into the realm of the fantastical and become increasingly outlandish as Aoi and Hinata reach the top event. As it turns out, this was merely a dream that Aoi was having, and with the second of the OVAs in the books, Yama no Susume would not materialise again until two years later, when Omoide Present was released. While predominantly about mountaineering and hiking, Yama no Susume showed its versatility in covering a range of topics both within and surrounding mountain climbing: as one of my readers put it, the show covered topics relevant to young women that encouraged independence, curiosity and resilience, being both instructive and entertaining.

I realise that this is going to be my final post of the decade, and it seemed appropriate to do something on Yama no Susume, a series which has been remarkably enjoyable precisely because it is honest and sincere in its execution: instructive without being obtrusive, and fun without being frivolous, Yama no Susume struck a fine balance in its execution to create a story and messages that are relevant, relatable. In the first OVA, Encouragement of Bra, the girls’ pushing Kaede to properly get kitted up with a bra was intended to show Kaede that getting a well-fitting bra for comfort and style reasons might seem extraneous to someone who lives for the outdoors, but is nonetheless an experience that is similar to climbing mountains and thus, one worth looking at. Speaking as someone similar to Kaede, who dresses for practicality and comfort over style, I’m very similar, but the reality is that being properly put-together is important in reflecting one’s self-respect: one does not necessarily need to be wearing designer clothing or sport expensive styles to convey a sense of confidence and respect for those around them. As such, taking a little bit more time and placing more care into looking after one’s appearance can go a long way and also impact how they approach other aspects of their life (including mountain climbing). The second OVA, Best Ten!, is more of a dramatised reflection of the anime up until now: the stories told have been heavily altered to be more over-the-top, more comical, and the fun that the staff had in making this is evident, being akin to the Inter-dimensional Cable episodes of Rick and Morty, where the staff had improvised many of the lines. While driving humour above all else, the countdown also reminds viewers of just how numerous Aoi and Hinata’s experiences have been up until this point: all of the characters have grown as a result of their experiences together.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If memory serves, it was July when I finished the main body to Yama no Susume: at the time, I was pushing to keep up with numerous other series, and the two OVAs that I’d not seen fell to the back of my mind. After finishing my talk on The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, I felt that I should at least leave readers with one more post entering 2020, but I did not feel that I had enough time to start a new series; when I began wondering about what to write about as my last post of the decade, it suddenly struck me that Yama no Susume still had some unexplored turf that I could cover.

  • Thus, I sat through the OVAs, thoroughly enjoyed them, and then fortuitously, I could use this series to drive discussion for my last post of the decade; the themes and messages in Yama no Susume certainly encourage that sort of talk. Going through the first few minutes of Encouragement of Bra meant getting a crash course on mammaries and support mechanics: I’ve heard that finding properly-fitted bras is a considerable challenge, and that ill-fitting bras can result in anything from discomfort to back and shoulder problems.

  • Up until now, Kaede never really had an eye for this sort of thing, preferring sports bras for their ease of use and comfort. Yuuka hears none of it and gives her an earful: when Kaede recounts this to Aoi and the others, they unexpectedly side with Yuuka, stating that there is merit to wearing more conventional bras over sports bras. Aoi immediately phones up Kokona and arranges for a trip to Tokyo, where they can go shopping at a store with a wider selection: Kaede’s size makes it difficult for her to find something that fits.

  • Right out of the gates, Kaede gets distracted by camping gear and convinces Hinata to buy a sports bra after showing her their merits. Earlier in the episode, Aoi is shown as being flatter than Hinata, and it’s a common joke in anime for characters to become envious of another character’s bust: the difference is supposed to be more pronounced now than before, and when Aoi becomes aware of this, she tickles Hinata in frustration.

  • While Hinata does end up appreciating Kaede’s knowledge and has enough information to make a purchase, nothing dissuades her and the others from what they’d originally come for. Kaede wilts in disappointment, having secretly hoped that Hinata would’ve forgotten about their plans. While subtle, this moments shows that despite her appearances, Hinata is disciplined and focused.

  • It is not lost on me that Kaede is voiced by Yōko Hikasa, who plays K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama: in K-On!, Mio was similarly known for having the largest bust out of everyone in the cast. The page quote here comes from Rick and Morty‘s third season, and while Rick is exchanging trash talk with Jaguar during their fight in the Russian safe house, being open to new experiences is the crux of Yama no Susume – the entire story starts because Aoi took a plunge, opened herself up to new experiences, and accompanied Hinata on a climb up to Mount Tenran.

  • As a result of taking up mountain climbing, Aoi’s become more bold, forward and confident, a far cry from her shy, reserved self that we saw at the series’ very beginning – although still easily embarrassed, she has no trouble in recommending a bra for Kaede when the latter becomes indecisive.

  • When Kaede has a bit of trouble, a knowledgeable staff member helps out by showing Kaede how to wear her bra properly. It is here that Kaede learns that she’s a G, up from an F that she’d figured she was. While anime portray ladies as having a bit of trouble whenever clothing is “too tight in the chest”, I note that this issue can exist for men, as well: folks who do chest and shoulder-related exercises can find shirts to be tight in the chest.

  • While usually confident and relaxed, Kaede becomes much more bashful upon learning that her size has increased. This has Aoi curious, and she wonders if she might get a feel for Kaede’s assets. It’s a bit of a bold move for Aoi; as season two progressed, Aoi became increasingly confident after her failed attempt to climb Mount Fuji, and by the time she and Hinata set off for Mount Tanigawa, she’s become open enough to begin speaking with others on her on volition, befriending the shy Honoka as a result.

  • Aoi immediately notices the mass in Kaede’s mammaries after being given authorisation to, as they say, cop a feel: while an extra three to four kilograms out front might not prima facie appear to be much, in the long term, this can introduce problems for people. A proper bra is supposed to transfer some of this weight and distribute it more evenly to reduce the risk of overexerting the shoulder and back.

  • After the store’s staff member returns with a proper size for Kaede, Kaede is able to give things a whirl and finds things to be suitable. The lady explains that a suitable bra will also help Kaede with her posture: she’d been complaining about shoulder aches for a while. Here, Aoi, Hinata and Kokona have a chance to see how Kaede looks – the effects are immediately noticeable, and Kaede seems to stand with a more confident posture.

  • For Kaede, who is most at home on the trails and rocky mountainsides, shopping for a bra was a new experience for her, one that she likens to trying mountaineering clothing for the first time: embarrassing in a way, but also instructive and memorable. It speaks volumes to Yama no Susume‘s writing that such a story was able to be presented in an entirely natural fashion and with a very clear goal in mind; there are anime out there that would have favoured exacting a reaction from the audience over presenting a meaningful story.

  • By the time we’re through here, I would not be surprised if indexing algorithms start sending me more advertisements for women’s clothing and whatnot owing to the presence of certain terms and phrases. We are, however, reaching the end of the first OVA, and readers must now bear with me as I push on through the second of the OVAs, which released a few months later after the first.

  • Yuuka is impressed that Kaede did end up following through and notices Kaede’s new bra immediately. Satisfied that Kaede is on a good path, she pushes Kaede to begin wearing heels. Kaede immediately sees the ramifications what would happen if she were to wear heels into the mountains, and here, Kaede has a point: heels are said to be immensely uncomfortable and can be hazardous in some circumstances. They are already difficult enough to wear on flat surfaces, so they would be outright dangerous if used for rougher terrain.

  • I’m almost certain that readers did not see this post coming: the reason for the choice of topic and suddenness is two-fold. The first is that Yama no Susume‘s OVAs for the second season are related to the upcoming new year, and the second is that I began feeling it to be a bit disingenuous not to leave 2019 without one more post for readers. One of my goals in 2020 is to write about topics that involve a lot more fanservice, just to see if I can still provide interesting and amusing thoughts to readers, and so, Yama no Susume‘s Encouragement of Bra seemed to be a good starting point.

  • The second OVA for Yama no Susume‘s second season is done in the style of a top ten countdown: this particular OVA was incredibly entertaining, presenting to viewers decidedly overblown, fake moments. The improvisational tone of the OVA brings to mind the likes of Rick and Morty‘s Interdimensional Cable, and one of the things that I found particularly impressive about Yama no Susume‘s presentation of things was that it manages to convey humour without resorting to crude means. The comedy comes from viewers still bearing a strong recollection of what precisely happened.

  • The countdown starts with Kokona searching for the Petaurista petaurista (giant flying squirrel): when she runs into Hinata and Aoi, Hinata remarks that the giant flying squirrels actually aren’t found in Japan, and there are only Pteromys momonga (dwarf flying squirrel) instead. The altered memory has Kokona take on the characteristics of a wuxia heroine, being able to glide through the air in search of her mark, which is doubly hilarious considering that Kokona retains her adorable mannerisms.

  • At some point in Yama no Susume, Hinata and Aoi undergo a Kimi no na wa-like moment, where they inexplicably switch bodies after an accident of some sort. To their consternation, no one seems to notice standing in sharp contrast with Kimi no na wa, where the differences in personalities are so dramatic that it impacts those around Taki and Mitsuha. The outcomes in Yama no Susume suggest that for all of their squabbling and outward appearances, Hinata and Aoi are more alike than they’d care to admit.

  • I do remember a river excursion, but I don’t remember the appearance of a bear that causes the girls to wind up on some remote desert island in the middle of nowhere, turning Yama no Susume into Sounan Desu Ka?. The progression of events is so outlandish, I’d wager that like in Rick and Morty, the voice actresses probably did break into laughter in the middle of a take and required several shots to get things right, whereas Rick and Morty kept some of the outtakes in for increased comedic value.

  • Aoi’s failed attempt at scaling Mount Fuji with her friends was probably one of the most poignant moments in all of Yama no Susume, matched only by the growing rift between her and Hinata during the third season. While Aoi has a chance to meet Prince Shōtoku, a historical figure, her poor condition from altitude sickness means she’s in no mood to take in the moment. Aoi does end up recovering, although as of season three, she still has yet to take on Mount Fuji, and while news of a fourth season is circulating, I do expect that Yama no Susume will conclude with Aoi rising to the occasion and reaching the summit with her friends.

  • When I see shows such as these, I am reminded an obscure comedy music evening show called 香港經典電視|:金像獎歌曲頒獎典禮 1986 (jyutping hoeng1 gong2 ging1 din2 din6 si6 gam1 zoeng6 zoeng2 go1 kuk1 baan1 zoeng2 din2 lai5, literally “Hong Kong Television Classics: Oscar Awards Presentation 1986”), which featured superbly well done parodies of famous Canto-pop songs. The premise of this special is that clips of famous songs are parodied, and the best song’s music video is presented. Famous hits, such as Paula Tsui’s 順流逆流, Sam Hui’s 日本娃娃 and Roman Tam’s 幾許風雨 are featured: the songs are hilarious because they derive funny phrases from homophones, which is a common part of Cantonese humour.

  • We get a little bit of The Polar Express in the next showcase, when Honoka and Aoi go on a train ride across the galaxy, departing from their original plan of visiting Gunma. If memory serves, Aoi went to visit Honoka while Hinata and Kokona did a hike of their own; season three had a very melancholy feel towards the end, culminating in a tension-filled hike that only saw a resolution when Hinata injures her knee and learns that Aoi’s always going to be with her.

  • I think readers will handily agree that Kokona is such a joyful addition to Yama no Susume: warm and adorable, Kokona resembles an angel more than anything. Of the characters, her manner is such that she’s received the least growth of any of the characters, and instead, appears to serve more of a support role in helping the other characters develop and learn. In this manner, despite being younger than Kaede, Aoi and Hinata, Kokona is more mature.

  • In the final few days of 2019, I took the last Saturday to go for a short walk out in the mountains and enjoy one of my favourite poutines around. The morning had been a beautiful and sunny, if moderately cold one, with temperatures hovering around -12ºC, but with the wind chill, it was blisteringly frigid. Fortunately, a short way into our walk, we’d warmed up enough to enjoy the sights of this snow-covered trail on a hillside, which afforded some incredible views of the Three Sisters mountain peaks. Being in the mountains. A lot more snow had fallen in the area compared to home, and under a morning sun, the scenery looked like it’d come straight out of a Christmas card. Our timing couldn’t have been better; the presence of cirrus clouds in the sky signalled the return of overcast weather, and sure enough, the mountains was hit with more snow the day after.

  • Our original intent had been to see the hoodoos in the area, but we were on a bit of a schedule: I had purchased tickets for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker for the Saturday, and this trip was hastily thrown together. Upon reaching the end of the trail, I struggled to find the hoodoos, not knowing they were on a steep hill that was covered in snow. The decision here was to turn around and get lunch at the best poutine shop in Canmore, and while I’d already warmed up from the walk, there’s nothing that can warm one up quite like a hearty and tasty poutine topped with Montréal smoked meat, Canadian bacon, sautéed onions and mushrooms. It’s become something of a yearly tradition to go here for their poutines. This time around, I noticed that their smoked meat was more thickly-cut and flavourful than before.

  • We’ve come to it at last: the top moment in all of Yama no Susume, or at least, what is supposed to be the top moment, which turns out to be Aoi and Hinata’s fulfillment of their fateful promise to one another on the top of Mount Tanigawa. This was the apex of the second season, the big finish that Aoi and Hinata had been working towards. Both Aoi and Hinata had spent the days leading up to the hike worried about what the future would entail if they did end up fulfilling this long-standing promise, but reassurance from their friends sets them on a path towards new discoveries and excitement.

  • In Yama no Susume, Aoi and Hinata did indeed ascend Mount Tanigawa in time to see the promised sunrise, per their original intentions. In the Best Ten OVA, however, their climb was on a sound stage for a show called Yama no Musume (“Daughter of the Mountain”), and it would appear that principle photography had just wrapped up for the show. With this, my post is about to wrap up, as well, and I understand that around the world, we’re already into the new decade.

  • As I happen to be in North America, it won’t be 2020 for several more hours. I did a half-day today at the office and then returned home to unwind: besides hanging out with an old friend from my health science days later this evening and then welcoming a new decade with family, I have nothing major planned out besides taking it easy. I think that as a last post for the decade, while this one might not represent my best work, it does broadly capture the style I’ve developed and come to embrace over the years.

  • Having finished this post, for the foreseeable future, I do not believe that I’ll have anything more to add to Yama no Susume until additional installments are announced. For 2020, given all of the unexpected delays in series I had been following during this past season, I’m going to wrap up talks for Kandagawa Jet Girls and Rifle is Beautiful, as well as Azur Lane, during January. As well, I have plans to watch Koisuru Asteroid (and offer my own insight into backyard astronomy, a hobby I’ve occasionally participated in since I was a primary student), Magia Record and Yuru Camp△: Room Camp in the coming season, so those anime will likely be written about to some capacity. Finally, I have much to say about Halo: Reach and The Division 2, so I’ll need to allocate time to write about those, as well.

  • It turns out the entire series of events in Best Ten resulted from a dream that Aoi had, and she returns to sleep shortly after, looking forwards to whatever lies ahead for her, Hinata and the others. As we enter 2020 (or for folks in time zones ahead of mine, welcome 2020), there will be new sights to see, new mountains to climb and new solutions to develop. As Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes said, the new decade represents a fresh, clean start. Like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on, 2020 is going to be full of possibilities, and I definitely encourage everyone to go exploring!

No Yama no Susume experience is complete without these two OVAs: having now written about them, my discussions of the series is complete, and just in time for the conclusion of this decade, as well. It’s surprising how quickly time has passed, and it only seems like yesterday that I had just finished the first term of my undergraduate programme and was spending the winter holidays unwinding and gearing up for my second term. That winter break, I remember best for building my first-ever Gundam model (the HG 00 Raiser+GN Sword III) and for watching Red Cliff. Since then, I spent my summers on research projects that would culminate in me gaining the requisite experience for my honours thesis, sat an MCAT, enter graduate school and then take the path of an iOS developer. Along the way, I became a second degree black belt, wrote the Giant Walkthrough Brain software for Beakerhead that would come to form the starting point for my graduate thesis and travelled for reasons beyond unwinding: to learn and serve. This past decade also saw me stumble, make mistakes, fail, and each time, learn to improve. Yama no Susume similarly showcased the highs and lows that Aoi and the other experience; life is about both the successes and failures, the falls and the rises: this is why Yama no Susume stands out so strongly as a series, for being able to portray the bad alongside the good, and more importantly, how people might go about recovering during difficult times. As we roll into the New Year, and given what’s occurred in the past ten years, I believe that the two virtues to carry close in the next decade will be commitment and resilience. One must be committed to honesty and truthfulness in the face of deception, and resilient against those which would see us deviate from a proper course of action. While this seems a tall order, shows like Yama no Susume show how optimism and companionship can help one make new discoveries, broaden their perspectives and above all, regroup from setbacks. With her friends, Aoi’s become far more resilient, independent and confident than when she began her journey, being prepared to handle and enjoy the new experiences that come her way.

Jon’s Creator Showcase- A November 2019 Presentation in the Penultimate Month to a New Decade

“Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.” –Jesse Owens

Foreword

Last month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase was hosted by Ayano of Kawai Paper Pandas, featuring some twenty-three submissions that I had the pleasure to be a part of. For folks who are new to Jon’s Creator Showcase, it’s an initiative by Jon Spencer to showcase and share blog posts. This project began two years ago, and while it started out as a place for folks to swap awesome anime discussions, the programme has since expanded to encompass a wide range of topics and submissions. In this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, there were a grand total of thirty-one submissions, with two short stories, an AMV, three video submissions and a range of posts dealing with topics as diverse as competition, chronic fatigue, and Amazon’s review policies among them. Of course, being submission from October, I had a fair number of Halloween-themed posts, as well. I am grateful that there were no true horror submissions: I’m weak against that sort of thing. Before going on any further, I’d like to thank everyone for their submissions: it was an absolute joy to read through everything and identify what about each submission I found the most positivity in. It’s been a wild month, and in fact, the number of submissions was large enough that, when coinciding with DICE’s release of Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre update, meant that I slowed the output of my blog to ensure that this month’s feature was handled appropriately, and at the same time, find the time for my other activities. I believe that I’ve done a passable job of showcasing all of the entries that were submitted. Following the format I had from my previous showcase, each submission is given a brief summary, plus some extended thoughts. For the folks who followed the original post’s instructions, they also received an additional set of thoughts from me regarding what about their blogging style makes them worth following. I think this is everything, and so, I leave readers to the main event itself: submissions from the month of October.

Featured

Three Episode Rule – Rifle is Beautiful – Episode 1: What are Beam Rifles?

Jusuchin, A Journey Through Life (@RightWingOtaku)

Jusuchin opens the party with a talk on Rifle is Beautiful, a gentle and amusing anime about a group of girls who, after restarting their club, set about practising in their chosen activity. Since Jusuchin’s old high school days were marked by a surge in popularity for robotics and weight lifting, Rifle is Beautiful captured his interest, and Jusuchin finds that this anime presents rifle shooting in a highly approachable, accessible manner. However, whereas Jusuchin has had prior experience with firearms, Rifle is Beautiful makes use of the training beam rifles, which operates similarly to a light gun. Because of the different tools being used, Jusuchin’s background means that Olympic shooting becomes quite different than what he is used to: there is little room to discuss things like firearms safety and techniques, maintenance, accessories and details like ballistics. Ultimately, Jusuchin counts Rifle is Beautiful as being a series that is intended for a very narrow band of viewers, whose characters had better be working hard to capture and hold his interest as the series progresses.

Because I’m Canadian through and through, I’ve never held or fired a live firearm, and all of my knowledge comes from reading about them extensively, whether it be though introductory visual guides from Dorling Kindersley or technical manuals to ensure a good understanding of what weapons safety, performance and handling procedures are so I can write about them. Jusuchin is more versed than I am in this area, and so, upon seeing Rifle is Beautiful for myself, I am in the same boat as he is: I am in alignment with Jusuchin when I say that I find the summer Olympics to be rather dull aside from highlights and records, being much more interested in watching winter sports like ice hockey and the biathlon. The both of us thus look towards the characters in order to hold our interest in the show, and so far, the anime has managed to hold my interest for being a relaxing, laid-back series with no major suspense or conflict to keep me on the edge of my seat. However, whereas I tend to focus on the storytelling aspects of a given series, Jusuchin’s extensive knowledge of military implements and firearms means that through his thoughts on shows like Rifle is Beautiful, one can learn something that only someone with experience will know. This is one of the joys about following folks who have specialised knowledge: their posts become more engaging since one invariably will pick up something new when reading them.

Although Jusuchin’s often mentioned that his blog’s weak point is that he writes very infrequently for it, I handily counter with the remark that the quality of a blog is not judged by how frequently one writes, but rather, by the enjoyment factor readers gain from looking through one’s materials. The reason why I bring so many seemingly random topics to the plate is because I want my readers to learn something new when they read my articles; while in a given post, I may be talking about GochiUsa and various aspects of the character growth, I may also choose to share trivial tidbits like what enka is, if it is tangentially related to my talk. Jusuchin does something similar in his reviews, and through his talks, I’ve learned about things like the traditions behind salted coffee in the navy, or big names in competitive shooting sports, to name a few. Thus, because his articles are noteworthy and engaging, I’m not terribly worried about the fact that he doesn’t post often: the posts Jusuchin does publish end up being a joy to read.

Cop Craft – This Deserved Better

Jon Spencer, Jon Spencer Reviews (@JS_Reviews)

From the originator of Jon’s Creator Showcase comes a discussion on Cop Craft, which has its origins in a light novel about a portal’s appearance and the changes it wrought in the world. With this portal’s formation came the need for a special police department, and Cop Craft focuses on one Kei Matoba, who comes to learn of acceptance as he works to keep order between humans and the aliens known as Semenians. With such a strong premise, Jon expresses disappointment that despite the strong characters, the production values in Cop Craft were sub-par, and the progression was inconsistent, disjointed. However, these shortcomings do not stop Jon from finding reasons to enjoy Cop Craft, whose unique combination of a police drama with fantastical elements creates a unique experience that strikes a fine balance between an authentic grounding and being able to see things that would otherwise not occur in reality. Overall, Jon wishes that the production team behind Cop Craft would have handled the adaptation more elegantly, since the series itself is built on a solid foundation, and recommends to readers that this could be worth checking out despite some of its limitations.

Positivity and critical thinking are often perceived as being mutually exclusive: there is a misconception that one cannot be critical and positive simultaneously. However, this is something that I often strive to do, and Jon’s done an excellent job in his talk about Cop Craft, where he covers off the reasons that make the series worthwhile in spite of its flaws. Contrary to the belief that one can only like or dislike something entirely, the reality is that it is possible to enjoy a work in spite of its flaws, and that even if the flaws are numerous, some series can still be meaningful for different individuals because of their own perspective and background. Jon makes a compelling case in his submission to watch Cop Craft; despite the shakier execution, the characters and foundations are ultimately reason enough to give Cop Craft a fair chance. Jon brings in Demon Slayer as an instance of a series where the execution was solid, but the underlying narrative was weaker, citing the characters as the primary reason why. It is the case that characters can make a series even if its technical components are not as strong as one would like, and I’ve seen numerous cases where people have found ways to enjoy a series even if it had obvious faults, simply because the characters and their journeys are relatable, holding enough weight to merit that one follow the series along out of a desire to see the characters grow and mature.

As the brainchild behind Jon’s Creator Showcase, Jon’s run a tight ship at his blog for the past four years, primarily focusing on reviews. However, back in October, Jon’s also decided to take his blog in a different direction, with the goal of exploring different topics and ultimately, producing different kinds of content. Blogs shift focus and mature over time, and sometimes, their authors may decide to call it quits. It is fortunate that Jon is not leaving our number forever, and instead, is seeking to do a bit more than he’d previously done. Without his efforts, initiatives like Jon’s Creator Showcase would not exist. While he’s taking a break from blogging for the present in pursuit of his new endeavours, I still strongly encourage readers to visit his blog and check out his older reviews; one of the joys about blogging is that we tend to leave behind a considerable archive of posts that offer insight into how we’d felt about a certain work earlier, and for Jon, there’s no shortage of excellent material to read through.

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World (Discussion) – Did They Eat Kunkun?!

EcchiHunter (@EcchiHunterX)

The folks of EcchiHunter run a very distinct site that hosts discussions about series that deal in the lascivious and indecent to varying extents, with content taking an interview format between the site’s hosts, Lynn Sheridan and Yomu, and occasionally, guest speakers. The end result is a very breezy, open discussion about series that typically are either dismissed for lacking “substance” or otherwise quietly watched and garner limited conversation. In their submission, EcchiHunter and guest speaker Dewbond presents a discussion on YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World, a series with its roots as a visual novel dating back to 1996 and received an anime adaptation in 1998. A remake was announced in 2017, and YU-NO also received a full anime adaptation earlier this year, as well. In their dialogues, Lynn and Dewbond enlighten readers how YU-NO is a precursor to the visual novel and isekai trends that are currently prevalent amongst titles of their respective genres. Besides the series’ origins, Dewbond and Lynn provide an overview of the sometimes chaotic flow the modern anime adaptation had; while YU-NO started out strong, some areas began deviating from the objectives the series had set out to cover, with the end result being that the series began weakening towards the end. Like most stories adapted from visual novels, YU-NO would have benefited from an extended adaptation to truly flesh things out. Having watched the series, Lynn expresses a wish to play the visual novel, and leaves Dewbond with a thank you for having introduced him to the series.

Conversation-style posts are always a joy to read, as they have a flow and dynamic that multiple voices provide. Multiple standing points in YU-NO are comprehensively covered, and Lynn’s conclusion is that YU-NO is worthwhile in spite of its flaws. Where anime adaptations of visual novels are concerned, I personally count it as praise for the series when one of the criticisms leveled against it is that the episode count was insufficient. Lynn’s experiences in YU-NO has parallels with my own journey through CLANNAD; after a solid anime adaptation provided a good overview of the narrative and characters, curiosity prompted me to look at the visual novel. Anime adaptations, when done well, can immerse viewers in a world completely and compel them to root for the characters as they work towards their goals. However, anime adaptations also provide much of the transitions and audio aspects to a story, leaving very little to one’s imagination. By comparison, reading a visual novel has merits of its own: prompted by the text and static images, players now must draw on their imagination to fill in the rest, creating an even more enriching experience. This is where visual novels shine, and coupled with a degree of player choice, visual novels give players a greater sense of immersion and control than the animated adaptation can. This is my experience with the first few chapters of CLANNAD, and to Lynn, I do hope that he has an opportunity to try out YU-NO‘s visual novel, as well.

I don’t mind admitting that I follow the folks of Ecchi Hunter primarily because I have a (largely unknown) enjoyment for series of this kind. The T & A aspects aside, ecchi series tend to lend themselves to much comedy that arises as a result of misunderstanding and embarrassment, and so, offers a respite from the comparatively sterile nature of reality. However, I typically gravitate towards slice-of-life series and therefore would pass on most series. By consistently providing reviews of the latest and greatest ecchi series, I can then read through Ecchi Hunter’s reviews and decide for myself as to whether or not a series could be worth watching given its premise. I don’t pick up all ecchi series, and having a succinct, instructive resource allows me to find the series that I am most likely to watch for the premise, and subsequently, get a bonus kick out of the hilarity that ensues as a result of the misadventures that can only exist in ecchi series.

Fantasy and Friction

Fred Heiser, This is my Place (@AuNaturelOne)

From Au Natural’s Fred comes a submission on the OWLS post: standing for Otaku Writers for Liberty and Self Respect, this programme not too dissimilar to The Jon’s Creator Showcase in that it allows for bloggers to freely share their thoughts with the world. For his submission, Fred submits a general overview of the fantasy genre. After surprising readers with a brief history of musical fantasy, Fred submits that fantasy is a broad category describing a non-reality, a form of escape from the challenges of life that arises when various aspects of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are not satisfied, whether it be the fundamental human drive to reproduce, experience things that would otherwise place one in no small amount of harm, seeking companionship and community with others, relive an experience, being someone to save and support others, or even just entertain the idle mind. The immersion in fantasy is something that society frowns upon: fiction is supposed to be confined in the mind, but Fred counter-argues that dreams can be turned into reality with enough perseverance, and some compromise: he cites A Place Further Than The Universe as a key example of how four girls’ goals of reaching Antarctica were realised because they came together and determined a plan that would be fulfilled. While not all fantasies are pure as driven snow, they ultimately serve an important purpose for individuals: they give people freedom unparalleled, and while the mind wanders, great and terrible things may happen. It is ultimately up to the individuals to do with their thoughts as they will, and this is an encouraging thought.

Fred nails the presentation of fiction as a simultaneously means of escape and gaining perspective: rather like how sports can provide inspiration driving improvement and team spirit, the popularity of fiction endures for being able to put one in someone else’s shoes and live experiences otherwise impossible to replicate. While Fred speaks specifically of consumable media such as books, television, film and music, I also append video games to the list. Despite having a fiercely negative reaction in the public eye, the majority of video games are simply immersive experiences with the added dimensionality of interactivity: one can be a race car driver, pilot, farmer, poker player, explorer, mayor or soldier owing to the diversity of video games, and such escapes are especially welcome in life when the world becomes overwhelming. By taking a moment to focus on something else, the mind is able to operate behind-the-scenes to process new information, and this is what gaining new perspective is about. In general, this is the worth of fiction, as it is able to help individuals find a modicum of happiness and ultimately, acts as one of many tools that help one find their way and achieve whatever they set out to accomplish.

Being a more mature blogger (Fred’s profile states that he was around since the days of the Cold War), I’m always curious to read about the perspectives and thoughts of those who’ve BTDT: people with experience have, over many years, cultivated an incredible set of knowledge and skills, so when they share their thoughts, it offers considerable insights into the minds of folks who are much more learned than I am. Correspondingly, their blog posts are very enjoyable to read, and Fred’s submission for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase is an example of his writing: detailed, insightful and fun to read. I still remember initially hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase and working to pass the torch on to Fred for the month upcoming, and after things were smoothed out, it’s been a great experience; it was through Jon’s Creator Showcase that I’d found Au Natural to begin with. This is one example of how things like Jon’s Creator Showcase can bring new blogs and people into the anime blogging community.

Why We Don’t Have Enough Horror Anime

Aria, The Animanga Spellbook (@MagicConan14)

Horror is a genre that I personally do not have great interest in: thanks to a fertile imagination and a propensity for my thoughts to wander, any stimulation from horror movies reduces me into a wreck incapable of carrying out everyday activities. My experiences with horror are therefore limited primarily to the realm of Koji Suzuki’s works, classical horror like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and basic familiarity with Stephen King’s novels, as well as ghost stories. Fortunately, just in time for Hallow’s Eve, Magic Conan of Animanga Spellbook has stepped up to the plate, whose travels to Japan left her with the realisation that there wasn’t a whole lot of proper horror in Japanese literature. While Japan might be known for their frightening J-Horror scene, the inherent limitations of the genre can make some forms of horror less effectual, and MagicConan14 explores how effective horror comes with tradeoffs: jump scares are only effective in the short term, protracted build-ups leave viewers with potential boredom, and the most effective kind of horror generally lies not with shock value like gore, but a more subtle sense of dread. With these challenges, there is a comparatively smaller number of true horror anime and manga series out there, and MagicConan14 closes off with a question for the viewers – is there a deficit of horror series?

At its core, I would imagine that the relative lack of horror in Japan comes from differences in what constitutes as horror. I roll with the idea that horror is predominantly about the innate human fear of a lack of control against forces, supernatural or otherwise. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein is horrified by the fact that he’s created a monstrosity of great power and destructive potential that has a will of its own. Koji Suzuki’s Dark Water and its film adaptation has Yoshimi entangled in a difficult custody battle for her daughter, and she is powerless to better her surroundings, leaving her vulnerable to a terrifying haunting in a sparsely-populated apartment block. The Blair Witch Project sees a group of students pursued by an unknown force they cannot hope to contend with. Supernatural beings like Charlie of Firestarter, Carrie White from Carrie or It‘s Pennywise possess powers that similarly wreck destruction. Coupled with feelings of regret, hatred, fear and other negative emotions, the commonality that horror fiction share is that they are relatively short, self-contained stories. The horror accompanies brevity, and as a series wears on, creating the sense of dread and unease in the audience cannot be easy. I would therefore remark that owing to the nature of what creates fear in an audience, MagicConan14’s assessment about the challenges of creating an effective horror series makes sense and would account for why full-length anime with a similar atmosphere to something like a Stephen King novel would be rarer compared to things like The Curse, which utilise the movie format so effectively that lesser folk like myself refuse to watch it from reputation alone.

With a frequent posting schedule, MagicConan14’s blog is a lively one whose presentation stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from the style I present. I’m very envious of the folk who are able to articulate themselves in a very succinct and direct manner: MagicConan14’s posts are very easy to read and take in because of their structure, translating to readers having a much easier time walking away with full understanding of what the post was intending to convey. Having looked through more recent posts, MagicConan14 also writes about the challenges with blogging and striking a good balance between it with life. As I’ve been around the blogging scene for nearly a decade, I note that this is always a challenge, and I encourage bloggers to write simply when they feel like writing: forcing a post out for a schedule isn’t fun, and it is often the case that a brilliant idea can come out of the blue and invite a full-fledged discussion. I encourage MagicConan14 to keep on blogging; this is a superbly fun hobby, and I’ve found it remarkably cathartic, akin to keeping a diary.

Samurai School for Girls (Short Story)

Lynn Sheridan, The Otaku Author (@TheEarthLynn)

With Lynn Sheridan’s short story, I think that I’ve almost got every category for this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase: Lynn’s Samurai School for Girls was originally written as a part of a collaborative project with other bloggers (score one for collaboration!) that involves picking an older anime, drawing elements from it and then crafting an original narrative from it. Lynn opted to go with a schoolgirl story: Riko has given her best into studying for a math exam, but when their instructor is murdered in the middle of a math exam, Riko finds herself locked in a fierce duel with another student. When she lands a killing blow, it turns out their “classmates” are actually robots. However, the fight takes a turn for the unexpected when a man appears and captures Riko’s classmate, Momoko. With her friend, Murasaki, Riko catches up to the unknown man, and with their knowledge of applied mathematics, devise a strategy to beat their opponent, which similarly turns out to be a robot. Their instructor appears shortly after and congratulates Riko for having passed the exam.

It’s always fun to read short stories from fellow bloggers: Lynn’s story is a particularly colourful one that portrays each moment vividly in the mind’s eye. Because Lynn sets his story in an academy for samurai, he is able to craft a compelling fight scene that integrates smoothly with the schoolgirl environment. The lesson of this short story is that a samurai must be prepared for the unexpected, and this unexpected surprise explosively is propelled into the forefront of the story as soon as the swords come out. Short stories are, compared to their full-length counterparts, always stymied by their length, and so, must do more with less. When done well, they are very concise portrayals of a specific idea; since I did walk away from Lynn’s story with an idea of what the message was, Samurai School for Girls has succeeded as a short story. I can imagine that writing the story could not have been easy, since crafting fiction requires a different set of skills than looking at fiction and writing about it in a more technical, analytical style. Attesting to this difficulty, I have previously written a sample story portraying the pilot of Stark Jegan’s perspective from Gundam Unicorn’s first episode, and while I retain most of my love for technical details, it took a considerable amount of effort to ensure that the fight between the Stark Jegan and the Kyshatriya was adequately captured. My story is only a third of the length of Lynn’s, and even that took three hours to shape into something readable: the effort that goes into fiction is evident, and Samurai School for Girls is ultimately a fun story with a meaningful theme that I certainly had fun showcasing.

The first and foremost remark I have about Lynn’s blog is that he should get the SSL certificate issue sorted out: while I’ve vetted the site myself and done my own tests to ensure I wasn’t picking up undesirable scripts, the warning message that one’s browser displays is usually one that shouldn’t be disregarded. In this case, it’s okay to ignore security warning; The Otaku Author may have an expired SSL certificate, but the site itself is totally safe and worth reading. With a wide range of posts, from creative short stories to anime reviews, Lynn’s writing is clear, concise and effective in conveying an idea about the series he watches. Of note is how he opens each section with a header that firmly establishes what he intends to cover, which provides a visual break on the screen and also reduces fatigue from the readers. Besides reviews and short stories, Lynn is also a published author with fifteen works under his belt. With a highly approachable writing style, significant experience as a writer, Lynn runs an excellent blog that’s definitely worth following.

October Submissions

My Perspectives Of: Fanservice and Character Agency

Scott, Mechanical Anime Reviews (@MechAnimeReview)

Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews explores a particularly polarising and current topic within the anime community: the matter of fanservice and its place in anime. In this discussion, Scott establishes that he has nothing against the presence of indecent exposure or other questionable moments in anime, provided that the moment does not degrade or demean the character subject to it. There are cases where such moments can be used to establish a character’s personality or create humour. Conversely, when poorly done, fanservice is a distraction at best, shifting the camera away from the characters’ faces and their environment. At worst, it transmutes a character into a walking joke made to suffer unnecessarily. Such moments offer nothing to viewers. Scott covers examples of fanservice across the board, from Fire Force‘s poor treatment of Tamaki as an example of a series that hasn’t executed saucier moments well, to Quitterie of Astra Lost in Space as an example of when fanservice is properly wielded to enhance the character by giving her autonomy over her situation. Because the efficacy and worth of fanservice in a given anime varies based on what the anime does with such moments, Scott concludes that in and of itself, fanservice isn’t to be generalised as an evil or quintessential part of anime; instead, whether or not the fanservice is welcome is to be gauged based on what it does for the characters, and whether or not it is abused for no discernible reason. As a result, the recent perspectives about fanservice favouring censorship are not to be taken seriously.

Excellent bloggers do not shy away from topics outside their realm of familiarity, and Scott’s submission is a relevant post. Even though I tend not to participate in the social media aspects of anime blogging with the same frequency as those around me, I have nonetheless seen the insipid and boorish arguments supporting censorship in anime from individuals whose opinions are ill-defined and based on little more than an appeal to emotion. The presence of these individuals has been on the rise, and with social media platforms offering them an audience, it can certainly seem that rational thought and reason is being lost to madness. Scott’s post, a strong example of what reasonable discourse looks like, shows that there are those (myself included) who simply wish to enjoy their entertainment without some arbitrary and unqualified party imposing their unlearned world-views on others. For me, I tend to regard fanservice as an optional extra in anime: the true scope of fanservice is much broader than mammaries and posteriors, extending to clever references to earlier works and the return of iconic aspects of a series. However, specifically where anatomy is concerned, like Scott, I appreciate it if it adds to the story, are neutral towards it if it adds nothing, and will sympathise with characters who unduly suffer having their bodies paraded about. Extending on Scott’s point, I note that for the most part, opinions from vocal individuals on social media are generally not meritorious of consideration, and in general, while everyone might be entitled to a voice, not everyone is entitled to an audience, especially if they do not take the pains of explaining their perspectives clearly.

Senran Celebrations Day 7 – The Future of Senran Kagura (Discussion)

Average Joe Reviews (@joe_reviews)

Senran Kagura is the topic of Average Joe’s submission, the finale in a seven-part series celebrating the Senran Kagura franchise that deals with their future. While Senran Kagura‘s creator, Kenichiro Takaki, intends to continue working on Senran Kagura titles for platforms besides Sony, which has imposed increasingly draconian censorship policies that detract from the experience Takaki intended players to have for the games. The move to different platforms like PC and the Nintendo Switch is projected to allow Takaki the creative freedoms need to deliver the vision he has for the series, although censorship might continue to be a challenge: Sony’s policies degrade the experience that creators envision, breaking up the narrative and impact that a work might otherwise have. The end result is that customers will invariably seek their entertainment on other platforms, as Joe has done. While censorship does appear to be increasingly commonplace, Joe nonetheless expresses optimism for Takaki’s future works: Kandagawa Jet Girls is one such title that Takaki is working on, and with the Senran Kagura series still strong, Joe hopes that the future will be marked with old and new fans alike discovering the merits of Senran Kagura.

Sony’s shift towards censoring elements they deem “questionable” has been a long-standing issue, and at first glance, is a move that looks irrational from a business standpoint. As Joe describes, deliberately degrading an experience drives customers away to seek different products, which corresponds with a decrease in sales and revenue. However, companies inexplicably seem to be imposing American values on overseas entertainment in spite of this, practising political correctness and favouring a loosely defined implementation of wholesomeness over entertainment value. Companies like Sony doubtlessly will have justifications at the ready for their actions, and while I do have my own guesses as to what’s going on, the end result is that the customers end up paying for an inferior product. However, the same individuals whose work becomes censored also appears to have the creativity and flexibility to continuing crafting their work without it being diminished. This is the route that Takaki has taken, and try as Sony might to suppress his work, Takaki’s new avenues should allow him to deliver the best possible experience for his audience.

Top 5 Creepy Anime OP’s and ED’s

Karandi,100 Word Anime (@100wordanime)

In the spirit of Halloween, Karandi of 100 Word Anime presents a top five countdown of the best anime opening and ending sequences that fit the Halloween spirit of horror, unease and other suspenseful feelings. Starting off the countdown is Demon Slayer‘s ending, From The Edge, a seemingly upbeat and optimistic song whose composition conceals a darker tone. Coming up next is Ghost Hunt‘s main theme: the anime itself already screams horror for including the word “ghost”, and despite a less impressive visual aspect, Ghost Hunt’s theme definitely conveys a horror feel, using the minor key, staccatos and a tense female vocalisation to create a very gothic feeling. In the middle of the list is Still Doll, Vampire Knight‘s ending. With an ethereal, ecclesiastical composition, and whose title has an ominous ring to it (“a doll that stands still”), Still Doll is a song that gives off horror and Halloween vibes. Madoka Magica‘s ending theme, Kalafina’s Magia, follows: this song is known for its tense vocalisations and use of the minor scale to create a sense of abject terror, not just in the supernatural, but in things that are seemingly beyond comprehension, befitting of the abominations known as Witches that serve as the force behind the magical girls in Madoka Magica. Topping out the list is Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai‘s opening, Naraku no Hana. The song’s juxtaposition of the calm with sudden breaks creates an unease that mirrors the anime’s composition, that there is hidden danger lurking behind the moments of seeming normalcy and calm.

Music related posts are always fun submissions to include, and Karandi’s post is perfectly timed for Halloween. I still vividly recall primary school music lessons, where my music instructor would note that horror music would make extensive use of the minor key, and then go on to have us sing songs in the minor key surrounding Halloween-themed topics. The very same songs, when performed in the major key, lose that sense of eeriness and fear factor. Having seen this in simpler terms, it becomes evident that music is a powerful means of shaping the emotional tenour of a work; properly chosen theme songs do much in shaping how audiences view a series. Karandi’s choices showcase some of the best there is, and I only say this because the entries for first and second place happen to be songs I’m very familiar with, having enjoyed them greatly alongside the series they are featured in. While horror music generally isn’t something I actively search out for my preferred playlist, music from the genre can be very compelling and create a sense of weight, doubt and worry: good music can evoke certain moods in people, and given the impact horror music has, I’d say that Karandi’s done a fine job of showcasing some of the highlights of anime openings and endings with particularly strong pieces.

Reflections of healing

Taryn The Dragon, Dragons Codex (@arcanedrag0n)

Healing is the core of the post that arcanedrag0n submits to Jon’s Creator Showcase, dealing with a very personal topic about dealing with a loss in her family, when her mother passed away from leukemia and the process of recovery in the aftermath. arcanedrag0n recalls the period of grief following, and ultimately went into therapy, where she discovered that she was grieving for herself; having direct a monumental effort towards saving her mother, from the fundraising to secure the finances for treatment, to ensuring her mother’s assets were appropriately handled, arcanedrag0n became exhausted. The therapy process became invaluable for her, helping arcanedrag0n to understand her thoughts, render them in a tangible form and then accept them. To help with management, arcanedrag0n took up new hobbies, taking small steps like building an exercise routine and personal art projects to regain focus. With this newfound perspective, arcanedrag0n would eventually hike up a mountain near her home. Conquering the summit of a mountain allowed arcanedrag0n to rediscover her strengths and worth to the world: in life’s journeys, we are often a far worse impediment to ourselves than any external foe, but with the right support, one can turn their efforts inwards and fix issues from within, coming to find what it means to be alright after all.

Personal stories such as these are always immeasurably touching, and as much strength as it takes to conquer internal challenges, it takes strength in equal measure to share these experiences with others so candidly. The topic of cancer is an unfortunately common one, and I’ve lost family to cancer, as well. Similarly, grief is a difficult topic to share, and while everyone handles it differently, not everyone is able to find their feet at the same rate. Stories like these are therefore inspiration, showing that there remains hope. There are many people in this world, each with their own struggles and stories – seeing recollections like arcanedrag0n’s is a constant reminder of the strength of the human spirit, and our incredible resilience in the face of adversity. However, arcanedrag0n’s path to recovery is not one taken alone: support from therapy is a major contributor, showing how people can find their strength with the right tools. It’s a very visceral reminder that life is fraught with challenges, and inspiring posts like these serve to reiterate the idea that people are meant to support one another. With the world seeming as though it is on the precipice of an irreversible descent into chaos, that the human resolve endures is an encouraging thought.

The Listless List: Top 5 Anime of Summer 2019

Lethargic Ramblings, (@AlwaysLethargic)

While AlwaysLethargic would have me believing otherwise, summer is a finite period of year defined astronomically as the period from the time of maximal insolation to the autumnal equinox. The summer might be limited to a three-month window characterised by long days, beautiful weather and opportunity to explore the outdoors, but for folks in the anime community, it is also a season of summer anime. AlwaysLethargic’s submission has him detailing five of the noteworthy shows of this summer, starting the list off with Dr. Stone, a series about a student who sets out to rebuild civilisation after a phenomenon petrifies him. The anime is known for its adherence to science and the manga’s content, which makes it worth watching despite weaker animation and a smaller episode count. Fire Force occupies fourth place, featuring strong art and animation, as well as an engaging story, and while there has been much criticisms surrounding fanservice, AlwaysLethargic argues this is a non-issue, overshadowed by the enjoyment factor in the fight scenes and character dynamics. DanMachi‘s second season follows, excelling as a sequel to the first season. Taking second place is Vinland Saga, which AlwaysLethargic has long anticipated and found to be a respectful adaptation of the manga that proved quite compelling. In first place is Arifureta, which defies all expectations contrary to community reception.

My own tastes and styles are dramatically different than most of the anime community that I participate in, but the commonality that I share with those within this community is an open mind. I’ve watched none of the shows that AlwaysLethargic mentions, but a good, concise justification is sometimes all it takes to turn my head and pique my curiosity. Top five lists are a highly precise and simple way of doing this, allowing folk like myself to quickly gain a measure of what made a series work well for someone, and I also enjoy them for the reason that the top five of anything means I’m reading through reasons someone enjoyed something. For their concise nature, lists have the advantage of being easily digestible, and leaving AlwaysLethargic’s summer 2019 top five, I could be persuaded to give Arifureta and Fire Force a shot, for instance, because of straightforward and clear reasons for what I might get out of said series. By comparison, list format or more traditional essay format, negativity and criticism, calls to skip, drop or boycott a given series are nowhere near as fun to read. I can’t imagine sitting through something one would rather not sit through for the sake of telling others not to watch something, and for what it’s worth, life is finite. Those who would rather do things that make them happy have evidently figured out their place in the sun, and going by AlwaysLethargic’s example, positivity should be something that everyone be more mindful of.

Amazon Reviews: Everything You Need To Know As An Author And A Reviewer

Ray, The Ray Journey, (@TheRayJourney)

One of the joys about Jon’s Creator Showcase is where submissions come from: this time around, we have an entry from an author who’s published an e-book to Amazon, and in their post, they discuss the importance of understanding Amazon’s policy for reviews, which are the first point of contact for potential customers. In this highly detailed article, Ray covers some of the guidelines surrounding how reviews are published – to ensure quality review, Amazon only allows verified customers with no direct association with the product’s vendor. Amazon has a highly intricate setup for checking for bias, conflicts of interest and review swapping. In addition, product page optimisation also is a factor, with URL formatting to the product impacting whether reviews are retained. Accounts found in violation of Amazon’s rules can have their reviews deleted, reviewing privileges revoked or in some cases, the product is removed from sales. However, there are ways to obtain reviews that are legitimate, and for family and friends, as well as paid reviewers, there is a special utility to add editorial reviews and customer discussions. While Amazon initially started its journey as an online book retailer, Jeff Bezos has since transformed Amazon into a juggernaut, and with its impact on selling products, it is quite unsurprising to know that there is such a sophisticated review system in place to ensure that assessments of a product are genuine.

Ray’s presentation of the Amazon review policies in approachable terms means that prospective authors are much more aware of how reviews are treated on the Amazon platform. This information becomes invaluable to ensure that reviews for a book are useful and informative for those who are on the fence about whether or not an item is for them, and for an author, it also means knowing the regulations can prevent some of the more unpleasant consequences, such as seeing one’s products removed, refuse dispersal of payments, or even legal action, from occurring. With an increasing number of people looking to self-publish their books, understanding the marketplace they are selling in goes a long way towards ensuring the continued success of a product. Of particular note in Ray’s article is the final section on editorial reviews and customer discussions, which allow for certain kinds of reviews to be published without impacting other parameters affecting a product’s reviews – this feature is useful for reviewers and vendors alike, as they permit for a transparent way to let prospective customers know the angle of a perspective.

Competition Slows, Friendship Grows; The Secret to Fast Success

S.S. Blake, Earth and Water (@Earthand_Water)

With Earth and Water’s submission on competition, this Jon’s Creator Showcase enters the realm of the blogging community I admit that I do not venture frequently into: S.S. Blake’s post on competition presents an interesting perspective on the most fundamental aspect of life itself, and suggests that social progress has rendered competition less desirable compared to collaboration. Working with others can produce mutual benefits for participants, but the results are not always immediately apparent. Instead, collaboration is something that is nurtured over time, favouring a human touch over highly mechanised approaches to yield meaningful relationships and ultimately, a synergy that is far more rewarding and meaningful towards long-term, sustained growth.

We’ve now ventured into posts that are well outside of my area of expertise: Earth and Water’s post is an example of the world of blogging outside of discourse on fiction, and admittedly, I don’t read advice blogs often. These are written with a significantly different style, and the layouts are much more colourful, relaxing than the blogs I am accustomed to: going through the post itself, I am met with a very concise and focused presentation of the value of collaboration over competition. Reading these submissions really drive home the idea that blogging is an incredibly diverse and varied hobby, with each author’s blog being stylised and written to convey a specific mindset to readers. Earth and Water presents an upbeat, optimistic “you got this!” mindset, standing in stark contrast with the utilitarian, “focus on my content” feel that I run with here.

AD: Global 1st Vie Gourmet Coconut Bowls | Eco-Friendly Kitchenware For Sustainable Foodies

Hannah Read, Pages, Places, & Plates (@PagePlacePlate)

Hannah Read’s post presents Vie Gourmet by Global 1st’s Coconut Bowls, from a company dedicated to sustainability. These coconut bowls are fashioned from coconuts and are highly versatile: Hannah has used them in a variety of functions, from soups to salads and everything in between. While they’re not microwave safe, they are suitable for holding onto hotter foods thanks to the insulation the coconut material provides. Moreover, they appear rather durable, and come in a variety of sizes. Their composition makes them a sustainable alternative to conventional bowls, and Hannah recommends these as being must-haves – aside from their functionality, the coconut bowls are also photogenic and work rather well for folks who create content for social media.

Lifestyle blogs are similarly a topic that I read very little, as I have enough on my hands with keeping my own life upright. As such, there are many things that I use each and every day that I take for granted, which is ironic when I am constantly reiterating to readers through discussions on slice-of-life anime that it is worth enjoying the small, everyday aspects of life. Hannah Read’s review of Coconut Bowls from Vie Gourmet is an example of how lifestyle bloggers go about finding joy in everyday things: something as simple as a bowl for food becomes a story worth sharing, as subtle details are brought to the forefront. While I might normally skip over the details and simply see the Coconut Bowl as a bowl, Hannah insightfully details how the bowls are durable, aesthetically pleasing and practical on top of being crafted from coconuts. It means that unlike the ceramic bowls I normally use for soup, I don’t stand to burn myself, risk breaking the bowl if I am careless, and on top of that, have a sustainable product that I could be proud of.

Review: Fire Force Episode 14: Benimaru On High And Shinra Fast On His Feet

Terrance Crow, Crow’s World of Anime (@CrowsAnimeWorld)

Terrance Crow of Crow’s World of Anime presents the highlights of Fire Force‘s fourteenth episode. This series is set in a world where certain individuals are afflicted with a condition that causes them to undergo spontaneous combustion, becoming referred to as “Infernals”. Later generations of individuals develop pryokinesis and band together to form an organisation to manage the Infernals. Fire Force follows Kusakabe Shinra, who is a part of Special Fire Force Company 8. As he investigates the Infernals and helps to put out the fires they create, he discovers the origins of his power and dives towards the source of what caused his family’s death twelve years previously. By episode fourteen, Terrance features the top moments from the episode, which sees Asakusa descending into chaos as the Infernal’s activity grows. The episode sees character growth from two of the leads: Shinra affirms his duties to protect his world. The episode effectively makes use of its music to accentuate each moment, and Terrance draws parallels between the characters’ attitudes towards power and those of Gandalf from Lord of The Rings. The honourable choices that Fire Force‘s characters make enhances Terrance’s enjoyment of the series.

Because all I’ve heard of Fire Force stems primarily from social media griping about the fanservice piece, it can be a little tricky to discern the signal from the noise. Fortunately, the anime blogging community has stepped up to show that, beyond these superficial remarks, lies a series that makes use of its premise to create a much more meaningful and engaging story than watching Kotatsu provide visual comedy each episode. Character growth and development in Fire Force is clearly one of its core features, and Terrance’s comparison between iconic fictional characters like Gandalf, or historical figures like George Washington, show that there is more to Fire Force than some espouse: this does seem to be a recurring theme of late, where certain members of the community fixate on the mundane or irrelevant details of an anime without directing any thought towards the bigger picture. It is therefore fortunate that amongst the anime blogging community, there are plenty of folks with the maturity and open-mindedness to approach series with a more thematic and character-based outlook, preferring to see where the stories and characters go, as well as working out what makes an episode enjoyable in the greater context. Terrance’s episodic review format is an effective one; besides focusing on the things that make Fire Force works, pointing out highlights of each episode to underline what its contributions are also creates a very succinct post that gives readers a solid at-a-glance of what an episode accomplishes.

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World (Visual Novel): The Ayumi Route

Dewbond, Shallow Dives in Anime (@ShallowDivesAni)

Besides collaborating with Ecchi Hunter, Dewbond also presents his own submission on YU-NO, this time, focussing specifically on one of the characters and her route in the visual novel. Dewbond finds Ayumi’s story to be compelling in its visual novel form. The anime incarnation does have its own merits, by presenting a more detailed exposition for a time-travel mechanics; the visual novel simply was a game mechanic, but the anime transforms this into a tool that enhances the strength of Ayumi’s story. However, on the whole, the visual novel possesses a deeper and more meaningful as a story that creates a much stronger dynamic between Ayumi and Takuya. Even without the voice work and motion that anime adaptations possess, YU-NO‘s visual novel is able to craft a powerful story and effectively convey emotions, so when Takuya and Ayumi realise their love for one another, the emotional pay-off is immense. Both the visual novel and anime have their own strengths, and ultimately, Dewbond finds that the complete experience comes with both watching the anime and playing through the visual novel, where details complement one another.

With the number of submissions on YU-NO convincing me that the series is one that could be worth checking out, I might need to queue this one up for watching during intermediary periods where things are a bit slower for me. Dewbond has, through his submission, succinctly outlined how both YU-NO‘s anime and visual novel have their own unique standing points that make them worthwhile. While time is limited and some folks may choose to only pursue one, a more comprehensive experience is to be had by investing time into other avenues related to the work. I’ve briefly touched on this earlier in the showcase by mentioning CLANNAD, and I’ve similarly heard that CLANNAD ~After Story~‘s ending, which many count as an instance of deus ex machina, is actually well-justified and fits in with the rules and convention that CLANNAD‘s visual novel establishes. While some may choose to assess their experience from the basis of whether or not the standalone anime could deliver an effective story, folks who ended up with a positive overall experience may be inclined to give the source materials a go, and this in turn yields a much more meaningful and engaging journey far beyond experiencing any one thing. Seeing bloggers write about their visual novel experiences is a constant reminder that one of these days, I will need to make some headway into CLANNAD‘s visual novel.

Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo – O Maidens in Your Savage Season – O Maidens – AMV

Matija (@tfwanime)

Matija presents the first video submission in the form of an anime music video (AMV) from the series Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo (O Maidens in Your Savage Season), a slice-of-life manga by Mari Okada that was adapted into an anime for the summer 2019 season. Dealing with the elements of youth, Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo follows a group of students in the literature club who are unified by a desire to understand romance in its physical form, and whose time together propels them down a journey of discovery. In this music video, Matija uses the series’ opening song, Otome-domo yo, as the basis for capturing the emotional tenour that the series conveys. Using clever placement of the English translation of the lyrics, which draws the viewer’s eye to different parts of the video and therefore encouraging viewers to look at every quadrant of the video, Matija selects moments from the series that best captures the mood. The strength of HoneyWorks’s performance is brought to the foreground in Matija’s AMV: through a clear and upbeat, yet emotional delivery, HoneyWorks creates a song that captures the spectrum of emotions that youth experience as they struggle to make their way in the world and understand the storm of emotions that they must deal with as a part of learning. Choosing the perfect moment to match a segment on the opening could not have been easy, and Matija does a spectacular job of summing up their feelings for the series, highlighting Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo at its finest – for me, watching Matija’s AMV is a sign that I probably should pick this one up, having passed over it only for the singular fact that my summer was quite busy, and that I’m a bad procrastinator.

AMVs represent one form of creativity that conveys love for a series: without any words, analysis or discussion, putting an AMV together using a series’ opening song shows a great enjoyment of the anime first and foremost. As Matija writes in their video description, this song was a very enjoyable one. Coupled with going through the entire series to find moments that best fit areas of the song, timing the chosen scenes to fit and the music and presenting a translation the lyrics in a creative manner, it is clear that Matija’s AMV is a testament to Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo‘s strengths. AMVs take considerable effort to make, and are one of the strongest ways to convey love of a series. While there are some scenes that come across as a bit rougher in the AMV (I generally feel that both text and scenes should disappear or transition in a way that matches the music for videos), these are relatively minor in an AMV that is of a superb quality overall. While I’ve not made any AMVs for over a decade, memories still remain regarding the sort of commitment that goes into creating them, and Matija’s favourable impressions of Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo is evident in their AMV. Seeing this AMV has prompted me to put Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo on my watch list, and while I might not get to it for a while, I am going to start the party by listening to the series’ music – music is how I’ve found many anime I’ve come to love.

Why do I find it so hard to make friends?

My Anxious Life (@_MyAnxiousLife)

Friendship and the difficulty of finding new friends as one becomes older is the topic of MyAnxiousLife’s submission for Jon’s Creator Showcase. While MyAnxiousLife found the process more straight forwards as a child, there’s an inexplicable challenge in sharing with peers as one becomes older, and despite presenting a forward and cheerful manner, the conversations that MyAnxiousLife has with others feel exhausting. Identifying why this is the case seems a challenge, could it be from a lack of confidence and fear of rejection, or is it merely a subconscious reflex? With prospect of opening up to new people a daunting one, MyAnxiousLife suggests creating a new type of service for cultivating and nurturing friendship for more people.

As children, people tend to think in more straightforward terms and look towards commonalities like interests, appearances or background in order to connect with those around them, but as adults, a better understanding of social convention means that more seems at stake in every interaction one has. I certainly don’t have it easier making new friends, but there is one additional factor that stymies my ability to befriend new people: working means spending most of my days with my eyeballs in Swift code, and when a day ends, my only inclination is to sleep. Skills atrophy if not used, and a part of the challenge people encounter when making new friends as adults can also come from the lack of practise and opportunity to simply talk to new people the same way students might. The utility that MyAnxiousLife suggests is something I would consent to developing, potentially being a fun tool to simply reach and help others. I argue that such a platform would be best done as mobile app (and development should start out in Xcode): this could be the start of a brand-new company rooted in an app!

Jump Into Fear: 6 Common Fears & How to Overcome Them!

Cassie, Upcycled Adulting (@Upcycledadultin)

Cassie of Upcycled Adulting presents a discussion on besting fear, an emotion that brings out the best and also the worst in people. In this article, six major causes of fear are covered: fear of opinions, failure, success. rejection, the unknown and decision-making. In each category, a specific countermeasure is proposed towards handling that particular fear. Concerns about what people think of us are lessened with increased confidence in one’s own ability. Worrying about failure and success boils down to persistence and preparation. Rejection is ultimately a matter of mathematics and can be beaten with effort. The unknown only becomes problematic if one is unprepared, so informing oneself of a situation to know what factors can and cannot be controlled can help one approach it more effectively. Good decision making comes from owning a decision and making the most of it. With an encouraging tone, Cassie suggests to readers that agency to better their circumstance lies with them, empowering them to take charge of their situation – all fear ultimately stems from being powerless, and Cassie’s post reinforces that proactive attitudes are what turns fear into just another manageable, solvable problem.

Everyone has developed different mechanisms for coping with their challenges and worries, but when situations become overwhelming, we may let fear get the better of us. Cassie’s post provides a back-to-the-basics approach, reminding readers that irrespective of what they might be facing, the first step is to take control and be proactive in working out the beginnings of a solution to mitigate that fear. The smallest of actions, which we may dismiss as trivial, serve to restore this control, and also helps put perspective into a problem. Dividing and conquering is a viable tactic: seemingly insurmountable fears often become much more approachable, if not trivially easy to solve, when one returns to the basics, and armed with a post of positivity, provides a very optimistic outlook on the benefits of fear. Folks who embrace this fear and practise management tactics are able to constantly push new boundaries and find increasingly creative, effective ways of dealing with their problems. I admit that common everyday challenges like fear is a topic I don’t often share with my readers because it’s far removed from my usual topics, and I deal with my own fears with preparation and study: seeing that method being a part of what others count as effective means I’m doing something right.

What an M.E. Crash Feels Like

Sopx X, Mummying and M.E. (@mummyingandme)

Soph of Mummying and ME’s submission is on the topic of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), or Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). With a prevalence of up to three percent in the adult population, ME is characterised by fatigue, difficulty standing, headaches, sore throat and sensitivity to stimuli, amongst other symptoms. With a poorly-characterised cause and no known cure, ME is a condition that the medical community has limited agreement to regarding management and treatment mechanisms. Soph’s article discusses the onset of an ME Crash, where fatigue and other symptoms suddenly set in after exertion. The aftermath is difficult: Soph describes the world as being a blur, with every noise being overwhelming, and existence becomes painful. Soph notes that the effects are very real, and different people with ME may experience it differently, but the worst aspect is that even when being mindful of one’s lifestyle choices and working to lessen exertion, ME crashes may happen anyways. Until medical researchers begin probing ME more closely for physiological factors resulting in ME crashes, the causes remain quite unknown.

Health conditions are immensely taxing, and can often have its tolls; blogs like Soph’s Mummying and ME serve a very important purpose in that it provides a very candid, first-hand experience of conditions like ME so that for other individuals affected, they are able to see the perspective and understand that they are not alone in their experiences. The community and unity in individuals affected are strong precisely because people are able to support one another, giving one another encouragement and also share their journeys. While medical experts may not be able to identify effective treatment and management methods, through writing and sharing their experiences on a blog, people like Soph can still help other individuals with ME by telling their stories and giving them perhaps the stepping stones of forming a group that can share their own management measures while researchers and health professionals catch up.

How to Cook a Series: Violet Evergarden

Dave D’Alessio, Confessions of An Average Otaku (@dalessio_dave)

Violet Evergarden was met with universal acclaimed during and after its airing for its particularly heartfelt presentation of Violet’s journey to understand what love was through her post-war job as a ghost-writer. Dave D’Alessio of Confessions of an Overage Otaku explores what made the series work for him: the central ingredient, as it were, is Violet herself. Born of a devastating war, trained to be ruthlessly efficient in her singular duty of eliminating the enemy, Violet begins her journey as unaccustomed to civilian life, having suffered devastating losses both to her body and to her mind after losing Gilbert and her arms. Left only with Gilbert’s words, “I love you”, Violet thus sets out to understand what this means and in the process, opens herself up to other emotions that are distinctly human. Through Violet’s journey throughout Violet Evergarden, Dave feels that Violet’s own limitations serve to enhance her plausibility as a character; her solid technical skills are tempered by an initial inability to adequately convey the intent her client desires, and it really forces Violet to learn empathy to succeed in her role. In conjunction with a vividly presented world, Violet Evergarden has enough going for it to craft a very strong experience that explains its strong positive reception amongst viewers.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Violet Evergarden myself, Dave’s article touches on many of the facets that made the series one meritorious of praise. For me, it was the overall journey and what Violet became as a result of her initial drive to understand “I love you”; while she set out to find the answers, along the way, and with support from those around her, Violet ended up discovering so much more, which serves to help her begin the healing process after the war. It is always a joy to see what specifically about a series that made it work for others, and in general, one would be hard-pressed to find any negativity surrounding Violet Evergarden simply because the series does so many things correctly that flaws become inconsequential. However, I am going to have to disagree with Dave’s remarks that Violet Evergarden can be compared directly with Neon Genesis Evangelion; while sharing the commonality that both Violet and Rei Ayanami might be unexpressive, stoic, the series’ intentions, themes and aesthetics are completely different. Violet Evergarden excels in its execution for different reasons than Neon Genesis Evangelion, although from a different point of view, to see the former compared against a well-known classic might be seen as an indicator of just how powerful and well-done Violet Evergarden is.

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

K At The Movies (@K_at_the_movies)

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, or Anohana for brevity) is an 2011 anime renowned for its moving and emotional story. Even eight years later, Anohana remains a particularly noteworthy work: K of K at the Movies delves into the series and how its cast of characters give the series its strength. While K might not relate to any of the characters directly, each character is presented in such a way that it becomes possible to root for them despite their initial attitudes. Attributes of each character are explored, including their strengths, weaknesses and ultimate contributions to the story being mentioned. K then focuses on how all of the pieces come together to create a highly enjoyable and poignant series. Specific design choices in Anohana, specifically pertaining to notions of closure and melodrama are some of the leading criticisms against the story, but K finds that overall, they are present to drive a specific message. With a multitude of themes covered, K finds that Anohana‘s success comes from being able to present a genuine and heartfelt story. K’s post coincides with reaching the two hundred follower and three hundred post mark: it is things like Jon’s Creator Showcase and enthusiastic readers that inspires him to continue with his blog.

I would like to similarly thank K for his submission to this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase and hope he will continue to run his blog. The experiences along the way are inspiring and encouraging, being fulfilling and rewarding as one connects with the positive members of the community. As for Anohana itself, I watched the series back in 2013, two years after it finished airing, and out of a curiosity to see whether the praises for the series were justified or not. When I finished, I found myself unable to adequately put into words what I’d seen and experienced: it wasn’t until watching the movie a year later, which recounts the events of the TV series as the characters, having moved on with their lives, reflecting on their experiences, that I came to understand what made Anohana an immensely enjoyable experience. Seeing the series from a new perspective helped me to appreciate what each of the characters had gone through following Meiko’s death, and with the movie taking on the perspective of a retrospective, it helps audiences appreciate how each individual has begun to heal. I share K’s thoughts in that Anohana is definitely worth watching, and note that with the sheer amount of stuff out there, K will have no shortage of things to write about for his blog that readers will find value in reading.

The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms Review

Alyssa, Al’s Manga Blog (@AlyssaTwriter)

Al’s Manga Blog is a unique blog that focuses on manga reviews, and for the October submission Alyssa reviews Nagabe’s The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms, a manga about anthropomorphic animals attending an academy of magic not unlike J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The specially enchanted animals of The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms exist in harmony and do their utmost to learn their magic while struggling to deal with romances that appear. Despite a potential for the story to go in directions some may find uncomfortable, The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms is actually a pretty clever story that weaves the animals’ natural traits together with a rowdy romance that offers comedy and emotional weight in the right places. However, Alyssa feels that overall, The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms acts as more of a warm-up act: the fact there’s only one volume means that many character interactions are not fully fleshed out, and Alyssa leaves The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms feeling as though there could have been much more that could have been done with the manga to fully immerse readers more.

As a longtime fan of Harry Potter (believe it or not), my eye was caught when I saw that there was a proper manga that conveyed a similar feel: J.K. Rowling’s universe is a unique one, and most fan-fiction attempts at it fail to capture the same aesthetic and wonder present in the original, preferring to focus on romantic pairings that offer little in the way of novel stories and adventures. The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms, on the other hand, possesses its own aesthetic and style. From Alyssa’s presentation of the manga’s strengths, it becomes clear that The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms is quite distinct, counting on character interactions to drive the series’ humour. I find that manga reviews are inherently more challenging to do than anime reviews for the simple fact that I tend to count on screenshots to provide visuals for my talks; manga panels are monochrome and more text heavy, so a manga review done in my style would be quite difficult to read. Alyssa, on the other hand, uses a simpler approach, picking pages of the manga lighter in text to show the artistic choices without overwhelming the reader and keeping the review concise. Her method provides a clean means of reviewing the manga, and after reading her assessment of The Wize Wize Beasts of the Wizarding Wizdoms, I can say that this does look to be an intriguing one to check out.

Week of Reviews

Shaegeeksout (@shaegeeksout)

Shaegeeksout submits a playlist of manga reviews, one for each day of the week in October that covers a variety of titles covering different genres and styles, with varying levels of enjoyment. Shaegeeksout discusses everything from manga that failed to impress, to titles that have unique merits that make them worth reading through. The strength in her videos is authenticity and conciseness: every review is presented in a direct fashion, and Shaegeeksout wastes no time in highlighting the strengths, weaknesses and final verdict on a given title or series, giving viewers a very quick idea of whether or not something is worth their while. Going into the story, characters and artwork for each review, Shaegeeksout offers viewers with consistent assessments on each manga to help them determine if something might be worth a purchase.

From her videos, the first impression I get is that Shaegeeksout has extensive familiarity with manga, given the bookshelves behind her that are dedicated to manga and to her other interests. This aspect is something that video reviewers must be mindful of: while seemingly a trivial choice, what one picks as their background can shift the framing of a video dramatically. For a manga reviewer to set a bookshelf as their backdrop suggests to me that I am watching someone who knows their materials, having the experience to back their opinion and give viewers a fair assessment of each work. The titles that Shaegeeksout reviews are those I’m not familiar with: my own manga collection is considerably more modest, occupying about half of a shelf on my bookcase. It should come as no surprise that I’ve got the complete K-On!, and I also have the complete The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, plus Madoka Magica and a few other series that proved enjoyable to me. I’m very much an anime-first fan, and usually buy manga based on how much a series impressed me; the most recent series to have done that is Harukana Receive. It is therefore refreshing and useful to see the process behind how manga readers go about assessing manga, as Shaegeeksout has done in her mini-series.

Manga Review: The Drifting Classroom (Perfect Edition) by Kazuo Umezz

DynamicDylan (@DynamicDylan26)

DynamicDylan reviews The Drifting Classroom‘s Perfect Edition, a survival horror manga anthology dating back to 1974 about a boy by the name of Sho Takamatsu, who ends up in an alternate dimension, locked in a battle for survival against overwhelming odds. DynamicDylan enjoys the psychological aspects of The Drifting Classroom the most, contemplating what must be running through the characters’ minds as they are made to confront situations that are far beyond what one typically encounters. The journey that the characters must go through is gripping, and DynamicDylan found the series immensely captivating. Besides the story itself, the Perfect Edition of The Drifting Classroom is a strong product on the whole, featuring a very solid construction in its hardcover form. While the story is engaging, it might not be for everyone owing to the violence and gore, making it less suitable for younger readers. In spite of this, The Drifting Classroom is something that Dynamic Dylan strongly recommends to readers who are looking for something that is quite novel.

What stands out most in DynamicDylan’s review of The Drifting Classroom Perfect Edition is the physical construction of the volume itself: most official English-translated manga volumes are typically soft-cover, and while featuring a heavier-grain paper than Japanese manga, which can be bought for low prices thanks to having newspaper-like paper, nonetheless can come across as being somewhat fragile, especially when compared to hardcover books with high-quality paper. That The Drifting Classroom is presented as a hard cover is quite unique, and DynamicDylan makes a strong case for how this manga stands out, in addition to a thrilling (if disturbing) story that deals with darker aspects of human nature, such as paranoia and the unknown. Unfortunately, I fall into the category of people that DynamicDylan counts as being less suited for the manga: despite my love for shooters and acceptance of carnage in video games, gore and violence in manga and anime are things that I don’t enjoy as much. With this being said, there are folks with stronger wills than my own and, for them, The Drifting Classroom Perfect Edition could be a fine addition to their manga collections, giving owners both something that is gripping and solidly crafted.

The Dark Knight Lives (Thirteen)

Annlyel James, Annlyel Online (@annlyeljames)

Annlyel James of Annlyel Online submits a chapter of her fan-fiction, The Dark Knight Lives. Opening with Robin getting knocked out by Harley Quinn while searching for the mayor’s murderer, the story shifts over to Lynx, a leftenant in the police department. Lynx is following Robin’s signal with the aim of providing backup, and when she arrives at the bar where Robin was last seen, she finds little little help from the bar’s staff and its patrons, an unsavoury bunch. While she makes to leave, a few of the patrons follow her into the night and open fire. Lynx is hit, but speeds off into the night before any significant harm can come to her. She immediately requests support, having concluded that Robin is in a bit of a predicament.

Annlyel’s submission is the second work of fiction in this Jon’s Creator Showcase, being part of a much larger work that covers multiple chapters. The submission is a well-chosen one, dropping me off right in the middle of things and concluding with escalation. I admit that unlike the Marvel universe, I have a much more limited knowledge of the DC universe. While I am a fan of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, his emphasis on the mental and psychological aspects of being Batman means that elements of the traditional Batman universe are secondary. Annlyel’s fiction is thus a reminder that the Batman universe is rather larger than the one Nolan presented, and there are numerous aspects about it that could be explored.

Is Akane The Main Character of SSSS.Gridman? We Think So!

Galvanic Media (@GalvanicTeam)

The Galvanic Team presents a video making the case that antagonist Akane Shinjō should be counted as SSSS.Gridman‘s lead character. Because this is a bold claim, the video first defines the lead character to be the individual whose progression through a narrative allows the audience to understand the rationale for their initial actions and also provides a yard stick for the growth and development they experience as the story progresses. In SSSS.Gridman, screentime is dedicated towards Akane’s moments alone and establish that her goals stem from her background, which results in her desire to control and dominate a world where she does not suffer from the deficiencies that haunt her. Moreover, Akane herself undergoes a dramatic shift in mindset and growth compared to the other characters in SSSS.Gridman: with the other protagonists remaining relatively static by comparison, it becomes clear that SSSS.Gridman is really about how Akane changes in response to friendship over time.

I typically don’t watch anime reviews on YouTube – analysis is difficult to follow if the presenter rambles on, and I can’t readily reference earlier points. The Galvanic Team’s video, on the other hand, is simple enough to follow, stepping through the things that make Akane worthy of being considered a lead character. It helps considerably that the video itself is done with solid voice-work: I am reminded of the videos that my local anime convention puts out to advertise their events, and those are of a very high standard. The video itself accompanying the discussion is relevant, giving scenes from the anime that match what the speakers mention, and so, leaving this video, I am more convinced that Akane could be seen as SSSS.Gridman‘s lead than when I first entered. Building effective video reviews and analysis for anime is an immensely difficult task: folks like DigiBro or Mother’s Basement fail in their efforts at more serious analysis because they do not follow a logical structure in their videos, nor do they take the effort to improve the quality of their spoken piece. Finally, staring at a talking head is not something I consider engaging when the discussion is focused on anime: with manga reviews, the reviewer holds the product in their hands and it becomes an integral part of the discussion, but reviewing themes in an anime is more intangible. The Galvanic Team’s submission is the opposite of this, being clear, informative and fun to watch, as well. There are plenty of excellent video reviewers out there beyond the well-known ones; the number of subscribers one has clearly is not indicative of the quality of their work, and Jon’s Creator Showcase is a fine opportunity for lesser-known but excellent video reviewers to be featured.

From depression to anxiety: water as metaphor in anime

Elisabeth, Little Anime Blog (@littleanimeblog) 

To a scientist, the polar inorganic compound known as water is a solvent of great interest, with untold importance in biology, economics, engineering and virtually all aspects of life. Earth’s distance from the sun allows water to naturally exist in liquid form, and this in turn means that a majority of the world’s surface is covered by oceans. Being an island nation, the ocean is an ubiquitous part of life in Japan and unsurprisingly, features in many anime, acting as a metaphor of sorts. With its vastness and unexplored depths, the ocean becomes representative of depression, doubts and fear: Free!, Tsuritama and Amanchu! are series that cast water as a source of unease, visually presenting the feeling of being trapped in a vast, empty space by means of water. However, the very same oceans which possess an untold amount of mystery also acts as a source of solace and great beauty. By embracing the mystery and shifting one’s perspective to that of curiosity, people come to discover an important dichotomy: there is a joy that can be found in the ocean, and in the right company, this new perspective can turn a source of depression and doubt into a source of hope and optimism.

The impact of the ocean on Japanese culture cannot be understated, and this aspect is prominently featured in anime: from Amanchu! to Azur Lane, the enigma formed by the ocean forms the bulk of the story in their respective series, and most series deal with conquering them. Until now, I regarded the oceans in anime as being a part of the scenery, rather like how the Rocky Mountains an hour west of my city are a common part of the scenery that, while beautiful, is also quite unremarkable. Reading Elisabeth’s post on water as a metaphor for depression provided me with a newfound outlook on things – while anime might use it as a part of their story to present a certain idea, it also lends credence to the idea that the sea is very important to the Japanese. Island nations like Japan and the United Kingdom have traditionally held great respect for the ocean’s might and beauty, and many aspects of their culture involve paying deference to the oceans both for the resources that may be reaped, as well as destruction wrought by the ceaseless waves and unexplored corners of one of the least characterised realms on Earth. Strong blog posts help readers to gain new perspective on things, and Elisabeth’s submission to this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase is a strong example of what makes blogging so rewarding from the writer’s perspective – one’s own thoughts can help others approach and appreciate the world from a new light.

[OWLS October Blog Tour] Changing Seasons

Megan Peoples, Nerd Rambles (@Nerdramblesmeg)

Megan Peoples presents a talk on Dungeons and Dragons, and the importance of being able to indulge in flights of fancy and fantasy in moderation. With a group of friends, Megan is able to craft characters with detailed back-stories, and one character in particular is modelled after herself; the freedom that fantasy confers allows her to explore a variety of directions for her. This character inherits Megan’s own limitations, such as worrying about responsibilities and being able to grow into a role. However, having a character to build a journey around also helps Megan with her own confidence, and ultimately, by offering an escape, as well as a second look at things, Dungeons and Dragons contributes to Megan’s well-being. Of course, the expenditure on dice is a nontrivial one, but Megan’s post shows that the benefits of this pursuit clearly outweigh the drawbacks.

Megan’s participation in Dungeons and Dragons is the same reason I partake in a variety of video games and consume fiction: it offers a momentary escape from reality that helps me gain a new perspective on things. By sharing her story with Dungeons and Dragons, Megan provides insight into why fantasy games are so prevalent; most folks take to the golf course or local bar to unwind, but there are others who find themselves more at home in stretching their minds and enjoying a fantastical world in place of more traditional hobbies. Megan is not alone in drawing on fiction to relax: my interest and enjoyment in video games provides a similar catharsis, as well as serving as a constant reminder that persistence is key to success.

#TheAnimangaFestival: So You Wanna Play Otome Games? – Five Otome Game Recommendations for Total Newbies

BeckNaja, Blerdy Otome (@BeckNaja)

For her submission, BeckNaja of Blerdy Otome presents five otome games for first-timers. Otome (literally “Maiden”) games are a genre for female players, placing them in the shoes of a female protagonist and having them pursue romance with other characters. These can be male characters, although some games may feature female partners as candidates, as well. The list opens with Amnesia Memories, which BeckNaja counts as being accessible for beginners owing to the fact it was one of the first titles to be localised and therefore, the dialogue is translated to a high standard. With five routes and running for low prices, plus a straightforwards plot, Amnesia Memories serves as an introduction to the mechanics of an otome game. Ikémen Vampire comes next, being a mobile title and therefore, possesses the advantage of being able to be played anywhere. While Ikémen Vampire restricts players to a certain number of chapters per day, players can complete mini-games to unlock currency units to advance the story further. Hatoful Boyfriend is another recommendation that initially starts off irreverent, but quickly ups the ante as the story progresses. Hakuoki follows, being a title that has been ported to many platforms and something that BeckNaja counts as having appeal for many players. Rounding off the list is Cinderella Phenomenon, an independently published game whose strength lies in the fact that the story was written specifically for English audiences in mind. BeckNinja notes that otome games are ultimately visual novels, and the story is at the core. While each of the recommendations has something unique to offer, all of them are story-driven and will offer players something engaging.

For my part, I’ve never experienced an otome game, and my choice of visual novels tend to be more conventional, featuring a male player perspective and various heroines in its story. Of course, with my own interests, I’m more likely to be found with my nose in a first person shooter. BeckNaja’s post is therefore suited for folks like myself, with limited prior experience with such titles. Recommendation lists are a fantastic way to introduce beginners to a genre, since they serve to highlight each work’s strengths and notable features. A first-timer is then offered a highlight of what each title brings to the table and can make an informed decisions as to which recommendation is worth exploring further. Posts like BeckNaja’s are ideally suited for folks who are seeking new experiences, and in general, I’m always fond of reading top anything lists because they offer succinct explanations for why something is worth checking out. They’re rather concise and provide a quick overview of positive things in a work: the world does seem to trend towards negativity, so seeing top anything lists and their positive vibes always ends up being a fun read.

Top 5 Best Anime For Beginners You Need to Watch

YumDeku, MyAnime2Go (@YumDeku)

YumDeku’s submission was the final one I received and therefore rounds out this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, but fortunately, last is not synonymous with least: their submission is a start-pack of five recommendations for folks who are unfamiliar with anime and need a starting point. Kicking off this list is Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Shukufuku Wo! (God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!); this series is comedy driven and about fun, first and foremost. With a colourful cast of characters, its strengths lie entirely in being fun. Next up is Bokura Wa Minna Kawai-Sou, which is a romance-comedy set around the hapless, unlucky residents of the Kawai Complex as they strive to make the most of their situation. Cowboy Bebop, an old classic, follows: it’s about space bounty hunters and is renowned for its soundtrack, as well as its narrative. Sakurasou No Pet Na Kanojo is next, and this series deals with a group of misfits and their everyday lives. Like YumDeku’s submission, last place is certainly not least: Toradora! is the final recommendation. This series follows one Ryuji Takasu and his agreement to help Taiga Aisaka pursue her love interest, while at the same time, get closer with Minori Kushieda. However, despite this seemingly straightforward arrangement, the tribulations of love set the characters down a path that ends up being quite unexpected, and superbly enjoyable.

As far as starting anime go, YumDeku’s list consists of anime that possess a story and engagement factor that is quite compelling, while simultaneously lacking the tropes that make a series less suitable for general audiences: these are series that appeal to a wide range of audiences. My own story with anime starts with Ah! My Goddess The Movie, and like the entries YumDeku presents, struck that balance between comedy, drama and emotional investment with the characters that ultimately acted as my introduction into anime. There is a recurring theme here: while anime is often (and incorrectly) assumed to be something for those with a risque mind or similar, the reality is that anime is so diverse that there is invariably something for everyone. Individuals who pick up anime whose setup and themes are enjoyable, without unnecessarily shoving a bunch of unwelcome anatomy into their faces, will likely be more receptive to anime than those who end up watching series not to their liking. This is the key to introducing folks to anime: by introducing them to series where there is a substantial (but straightforward) story piece, characters whose journeys are worth following and stunning animation, it demonstrates that anime can be fun and engaging, just as other media have their own merits. Of the anime YumDeku recommends to newcomers, I’ve seen Bokura Wa Minna Kawai-Sou and Toradora!, while Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Shukufuku Wo! is on my list of series to eventually check out.

Closing Remarks

With thirty-one submissions to review, this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase breaks a new record for my blog, being the single wordiest post I’ve ever written: there’s a grand total of 15125 words. This record was previously held by my review on Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no na wa. The sheer size and scale of this showcase meant most of my free time not storming the beaches of Iwo Jima or sneaking through Pacific Storm’s jungles was dedicated to writing the post, and to put things in perspective, my Master’s Thesis was about 35982 words, and that took me a year to write. The decision to do full-length showcases for every submission stemmed from a combination of November being a slower month for anime reviews, and also because I did wish to do every submission justice – everyone who submitted something put their best efforts into their content, so for the showcase, it made sense that I at least make an effort to show what went into each and every work that I had the honour to look through. Having highlighted the incredibly vast array of submissions for October, I hope that readers walk away with new experiences and ideas. For instance, thanks my to participation in this month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, I leave now with the goal to watch SSSS.Gridman and Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo at some point in the future with the goal of enjoying these series and in the case of the former, seeing if the series lives up to the positive reception the community has given it. Anyone who’s still with me at this point should probably know that they’ve read the equivalent of two-and-a-half chapters to my Master’s Thesis – if you’ve managed to read this entire showcase in one go, I will note that is an incredible feat of endurance. I won’t protract it out any longer: the showcase for December will be hosted by Scott of Mech Anime Reviews, and I hope you, the readers, will look forwards to that. We finally enter the final month of the year, and the final month of the decade: the winter holidays are very nearly upon us, and I wish everyone the absolute best as we enter a season of togetherness before marching onwards into a new decade.

Jon’s Creator Showcase: Happy Halloween, and Entering 2019’s Penultimate Month

“Life is a bit hard sometimes, and sometimes you have to step up and fight fights that you never signed up for.” –Joel Spolsky

To my esteemed readers, Happy Halloween! After a year long wait, I go into details surrounding the latest instalment to GochiUsa, which follows Chino as she prepares for her solo performance in her school’s concert. In this post, I touch on a variety of themes and more subtle elements that contribute to the enjoyment factor. It’s a bit of a longer post, but GochiUsa has consistently impressed with being able presents so much depth, far beyond what one might expect from a show of its genre. Despite the OVA’s conventional ringtone, it ended up being a wonderful experience that brought back what has made the TV series so enjoyable, which in turn sets the tone for the upcoming season three. I’ve peered ahead into the manga to see the outcomes of the coming season and find myself immensely excited for what viewers can expect. At least, this is what one can reasonably expect from me if they choose to participate in the Jon’s Creator Showcase: I’ve (rather gratuitously) used my favourite post for October as an example of what is to happen for this blogging event. I accept the torch from Ayano of Kawaii PaperPandas, and to refresh readers briefly on Jon’s Creator Showcase, this is a programme that began with Jon Spencer Reviews nearly two years ago. The goal of this project is to allow bloggers to submit their favourite works and share them amongst the community. All submissions will be for the month of October, and I’ll be accepting submissions from folks on Twitter (please use #TheJCS or DM me), as well as through the comments section for this post. Once the month has concluded, I will return on the first of December with a full showcase of each and every submission, as well as handing the torch to the next host.

I encourage everyone to submit something: blog posts the usual format, although any submission that takes the form of a video, fan-art or software will also be accepted. That is to say, if you have an app in the App Store, that is a valid submission. While I am open to different kinds of submissions, the usual rules apply. Anything illegal, hateful or disturbing will be rejected, as will any submissions that are untruthful or harmful. With the formalities out of the way, I remark that this is the second time that I am hosting the Jon’s Creator Showcase: the original host for this month was unable to participate and as such, I opted to step in and help out where I can. Like last time, I will be looking forwards to seeing what submissions are put forth: the blogging community is one I am proud to be a part of; there is a defined sense of authenticity, sincerity and community amongst the folk that participate. I feel that the Jon’s Creator Showcase is an excellent means of showing off the very best of content people have created. While this admittedly comes quite suddenly, and amidst the release of Battlefield V‘s fifth Tides of War chapter, I’ll definitely be making an effort to give each and every submission proper attention even as I strive to balance time spent reviewing all of the excellent entries with unlocking the Tides of War content so that I can finally run a full Strike Witches loadout and see just how well the 501st’s equipment handles in the Frostbite Engine. On the flip-side, November is looking fairly quiet, since I’m only going to write about Kandagawa Jet Girls, so I should have adequate time to do more than a one-liner on what I make of submissions.

A Review and Reflection on HBO’s Chernobyl: Remarks on The Cost of Lies

“To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for truth, we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants. It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: “What is the cost of lies?'” –Valeri Legasov, Chernobyl

On the morning of April 27, 1986, reactor 4 at Chernobyl suffered a catastrophic explosion and fire. In the immediate aftermath, fire-fighter Vasily Ignatenko is sent in as part of the response unit to put the blaze out. Meanwhile, Plant Director Bryukhanov, Chief Engineer Fomin reach an agreement to downplay the disaster as a hydrogen explosion. Valery Legasov is sent to Chernobyl to provide technical expertise on managing the disaster after briefing the Soviet leadership, and scientist Ulana Khomyuk travels to Chernobyl to investigate the cause of an unusual radiation spike she recorded. Legasov confirms that the reactor core had indeed been exposed, and after suggesting the use of a sand-boron mixture to suppress the fire, learns of the risk of a steam explosion that could further spread radioactive material. Three divers are sent in to drain the flooded basement, and a group of coal miners are tasked with tunnelling under the power plant to install a heat exchanger and migitate the risk that the melt-down could seep into the ground water. Khomyuk begins investigating the plant technicians present during the night of the disaster, learning that the reactor only exploded after the emergency shutdown was initiated. Ignatenko’s wife travels to Moscow to visit him, and learns that he is dying from radiation exposure. Liquidators begin to clean up the areas affected by the disaster and stop the spread of radioactive material, while Pripyat, a town a few kilometers from Chernobyl, is evacuated as a part of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. A team of liquidators is sent to clear the power plant’s roof of the graphite, while Khomyuk implores Legasov to tell the truth about Chernobyl. At the IAEA in Vienna, Legasov goes with the official government version of what happened and Chernobyl, but during the trial for Dyatlov, Bryukhanov, and Fomin, Legasov reveals that the KGB had suppressed information about the RBMK reactor’s flaws. He is stripped of his duties for his efforts, and committed suicide two years after the disaster. HBO’s Chernobyl very quickly became an acclaimed series after its release, and despite liberties taken with the accuracy, remains a highly gripping and compelling drama portraying the Chernobyl disaster, which is the most devastating nuclear accident in history.

Chernobyl is categorised as a historical drama, and while the series does merit praise for its authenticity and ability to capture the human aspect of the Chernobyl disaster, one of the series greatest strengths is that it also exudes elements of a horror. The horror genre is characterised by the protagonist’s powerlessness to change their situation and plays on the audience’s fear of what will happen next. In order to accommodate this, homicidal maniacs, supernatural phenomenon or cryptids are present. The fear in a horror movie often lies in suspense, counting on a foe remaining unseen in order to inflict maximum terror when it does arrive. While Chernobyl may not involve murderers, ghosts or monsters, the series nonetheless features all of the elements of a horror. The full scope of the disaster is left unknown in the first episode – after the explosion occurs, parts of the plant’s interior goes dark as wiring is severed, and walls begin crumbling. Injured technicians begin vomiting and suffer from nausea, while those who can stand desperately try to save their coworkers. Firemen sent to the scene remain unaware of the disaster’s true nature and are exposed to radiation from graphite channels that housed the fuel rods. The radiation emitting from exposed reactor becomes this invisible foe haunting the Ukraine landscape, indiscriminately damaging the cells of those in the area. Through the use of darkness and chaos, the interior of the power plant is transformed into a setting of horror and suspense. In this manner, Chernobyl effectively utilises horror elements to capture the idea that mankind’s worst enemy lies not with chainsaw-swinging madmen, disaster harbingers like the Mothman or vengeful spirits, but come from our own hubris and the costs of lies. These man-made monsters can be every bit as terrifying as those that are fashioned from folklore and fiction: radiation creeps up on its victims, who are powerless to evade and overcome it. The suspense and horror are lessened as Chernobyl progresses as Legasov and Shcherbina work out a containment and cleanup plan, although the ever-present threat of radiation hangs over the heads of those who venture into the affected areas.

“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.” –Valeri Legasov, Chernobyl

While Shcherbina directs the cleanup and containment efforts, Legasov and Khomyuk’s pursuit of the cause of the disaster leads them to the understanding that the RBMK type eactor used the Chernobyl plant had several intrinsic flaws. These flaws were redacted, and in conjunction with the arrogance of deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, resulted in the willful decision to bypass normal safety procedures. The reactor core, suffering from xenon poisoning as a result of having been run at a lower power level, began stalling, and Dyatlov ordered the power raised. However, when the power suddenly spiked, technician Akimov initiated an emergency shut-down. The graphite-tipped control rods would actually increase power, overwhelming the reactor and blowing the lid off, allowing oxygen to come into contact with the super-heated fuel rods, triggering a fire and explosion. Legasov recounts these discoveries to a Soviet court with a bitter finality, remarking that the sum of the design flaws, and Dyatlov’s disregard for protocol for the sake of his personal gain resulted in the disaster. In short, lies created the RMBK reactor’s flaws, and lies resulted in the disaster. Legasov’s biting remarks about the cost of lies at Chernobyl are vividly portrayed as the aftermath of the disaster: the rupture of a reactor and release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere, contamination of thousands of square kilometres of land, and necessitated the mobilisation of a large amount of resources, both human and material, to contain it. The liquidators, miners, fire-fighters and others who worked tireless to prevent the catastrophe from expanding were only met with health issues or even death, despite their efforts. Vast tracts of land remain uninhabitable to this day. Through its imagery, Chernobyl shows the human cost of the disaster, the results that occur when individuals allow complacency and their own egos to drive their decisions. It is therefore especially poignant when one considers Legasov’s suicide at Chernobyl‘s beginning: despite all of the good he did, all of the expertise he had and the chance to work with Shcherbina, a party official who came to respect Legasov for his actions, none of it would amount to anything in the end, as society would prefer to live with its lies rather than address the truth.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Chernobyl‘s opening is as brutal as it is chilling; after Legasov records his thoughts on the situation onto cassette tapes, he hangs himself. Legasov is shown as committing suicide precisely two years after the explosion, whereas in reality, Legasov committed suicide a few days after the fact. The introduction sets the tone for the remainder of the series, a grim portrayal of the odds that Legasov, Shcherbina and Khomyuk were up against in trying to contain the disaster and prevent another occurrence.

  • Long, narrow, dimly-lit corridors are a staple of horror movies. Koji Suzuki’s Dark Water and Ju-On use dark hallways to juxtapose the idea that despite the long sight-lines, darkness obscures an unknown and unseen terror. In Chernobyl, in the minutes after the reactor explodes, it is complete chaos as technicians find themselves in a damaged facility and Dyatlov openly denying that the RBMK reactor could explode. There are no onyrō here, but the terror of radiation and a facility whose structure has been compromised by the explosion.

  • The first episode creates a sense of dread and suspense that matches any horror movie, although the enemy here is radiation and lies, so there are no jump scares. The atmosphere was so heavy that it was tangible to me when I first watched the scene: from staff trying to rescue one another, to firefighters, the sense of unease and doubt comes from the fact that no one’s really sure what just went down.

  • By morning, a radioactive plume is hanging over the power plant, a result of the fires now burning thanks to the high temperatures generated by the fuel rods. The strikingly calm morning is contrasted with the disaster, and after one episode, I found myself hooked. The series released while I was attending F8, and I ended up watching it on Saturday evenings, one episode at a time, during May and June, until I finished the series.

  • While the radioactive smoke reaches ominously towards Pripyat, the forests below begin dying off. This is a reference to the Red Forest, a ten square kilometre area of pine trees that absorbed much radiation in the aftermath of the disaster and turned a ginger colour before dying. The forest has since been bulldozed and buried, but the soil above remains one of the most contaminated areas in the exclusion zone.

  • In Minsk, Belarus, scientist Ulana Khomyuk observes an unusually high amount of radiation and initially assumes it to be a nearby leak, but upon hearing it could be Chernobyl and realising communications have been lost, she resolves to get into the field herself. Khomyuk was not a real person, but instead, represents the scientists who were involved in the investigation surrounding the disaster.

  • The scene of the medical staff dumping the irradiated clothing of firefighters and first responders to the hospital basement depicts the chaos nurses had in treating those who were affected by radiation poisoning. While the official protocol was to wash down and dress the victims in new clothing, the affected were taken into the building, and their clothing was removed, discarded into rooms in the basement where they continue to lie today. Urban explorers usually dare not venture into the basement, since the clothes are still highly radioactive.

  • One aspect of Chernobyl that I greatly enjoyed was the changing dynamic between Legasov and Shcherbina. Shcherbina, a party official. Initially, Shcherbina starts out mistrustful of Legasov and regards him as expendable, even threatening to order him shot if the pilot does not fly over the exposed reactor, but Legasov’s commitment to the truth and knowledge impresses him. Over time, Shcherbina develops a professional respect for Legasov, vouching for him and offering him advice.

  • With my assignment in Denver and Winnipeg last year, I empathise with Legasov. Being sent with a unique skillset somewhere to manage a crisis, with few friends and numerous opponents, was not an enjoyable experience. Like Legasov remarks, for all the good that was done, people will continue to only focus on the damage and forget about the unsung heroes that preventing things from becoming much worse. In my case, the app that I deployed to the App Store is still there, although it has not been updated in more than a year.

  • Legasov lodges at the Polissya Hotel: it is one of the tallest buildings in Pripyat and was built to accommodate visitors to the power plant. I know the hotel best for being featured in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s most famous missions, where Price and MacMillan sneak through the fields surrounding Pripyat to use the hotel as a vantage point for assassinating Zakhaev. These missions remain two of the most memorable for me in any first person shooter, right alongside Halo: Combat Evolved‘s “Silent Cartographer”, “We Don’t Go To Ravenholm” of Half-Life 2 and the original DOOM‘s first mission.

  • Legasov’s plan begins moving into action as helicopters begin dropping a sand-boron mixture onto the fire. This mixture is deemed a temporary solution: boron absorbs neutrons and the sand acts as a fire retardant. While there was indeed a helicopter crash at Chernobyl, it was not from radioactive fumes overwhelming the helicopter pilots. Chernobyl is authentic, but not realistic in the series: the series takes creative liberties in order to tie some events together better to fit the story and theme, and so, cannot be said to be an entirely faithful account of all events. The sand and boron, for instance, actually never made it into the reactor and therefore had a negligible impact in impeding the fire.

  • While some may hold this as a fault against Chernobyl, I personally don’t have any qualms with deviation from reality. Here, a woman looks on as bus after bus (after bus) drives by, heading towards Pripyat with the aim of evacuating its residents. Pripyat was originally a town of around fifty thousand people, built to accommodate the Chernobyl plant’s workers, technicians and engineers, as well as support staff and their families. Compared to most Soviet cities, Pripyat was well-appointed, with restaurants, culture centres, and an aquatic centre, amongst other things.

  • A day after the disaster, Pripyat was completely evacuated as a precaution. Residents were told they would be returning home soon, and as such, they left most of their belongings behind. Today, Pripyat stands empty, a ghost town that nature has begun reclaiming. The deserted town is popular amongst tourists, and while the radiation here is largely not of concern, there are pockets that could pose health risks for visitors.

  • Legasov’s strongest trait in Chernobyl is an unwavering desire to do his job well and respect the truth: while the Soviet party members and Mikhail Gorbachev himself are shown as preferring false hope to the truth, Legasov plows forwards with his assessments and proposals of containment, as well as openly pointing out the risks of inaction. He and Khomyuk report on the potential for a massive steam explosion to occur should the molten reactor come into contact with the water that has seeped into the basement.

  • Thus begins one of the most terrifying moments in Chernobyl: three men volunteer to enter the flooded, highly-radioactive basement and open the sluice gate that will let the water drain outside and be pumped away. Wading into a pitch-black, partially-flooded corridor, the men’s dosimeters begin emitting an overwhelming amount of noise, signalling to viewers just how radioactive it is down there. As the push onwards, the intense radiation causes their flashlights to fail. There are no spectres or monsters down here, but it was nonetheless a terrifying moment. In the end, however, they do manage to get the gates opened, and return to the surface alive.

  • The pressures of the containment and investigation take their tolls on both Legasov and Shcherbina: Legasov in particular is under KGB surveillance, since his role in disaster management puts him in contact with secrets surrounding the RBMK reactor. While Chernobyl is a brilliant drama, the creative liberties the series takes are not representative of a late 1980s Soviet Union – Shcherbina did not have the authority to order Legasov shot, for instance.

  • Besides Legasov, Khomyuk and Shcherbina, the story of Ignatenko’s wife is also told. After Ignatenko is exposed to a high dose of radiation, he is hospitalised and sent to a facility in Moscow for care, but soon dies. His pregnant wife comes into contact with him and loses her child shortly after: while she felt that this might have been from exposure to Ignatenko, this could not have been the cause of the child’s death, since those exposed to radiation are not necessarily radioactive.

  • The soundtrack in Chernobyl adds much to the already-exceptional atmosphere: composed by Icelandic musician Hildur Guðnadóttir, the soundtrack makes use of actual sounds from a nuclear power plant to create an incredibly unsettling tenour, giving a tangible sense of what the radiation and uncertainty feels like. Guðnadóttir’s work is genius, and for her exceptional work, she was nominated for an Emmy. She also scored the incidental music to The Joker.

  • Khomyuk’s efforts to find the truth sees her interviewing Akimov, Toptunov and Dyatlov: the former two tell a consistent story as the other engineers who were in the control room on the night of the explosion, but Dyatlov is uncooperative and belligerent. The real Dyatlov was perhaps as unpleasant as the Chernobyl portrayal, and he allegedly did threaten subordinates with dismissal if they did not carry out his orders. Dyatlov was ultimately sentenced to ten years in prison and was released after three, dying of heart failure from exposure to radiation.

  • When rovers deployed to clear the roof of its radioactive debris fail, human cleaners are forced to hit the roof and manually remove the rubble. They are afforded only 90 seconds of work time before they are swapped out, and after an ardous effort, manage to clear the rooftops. A Sarcophagus was constructed to temporarily entomb the structure and prevent wind from dispersing the contaminants, but this structure was only intended to last three decades. In 1996, it was found the Sarcophagus was beyond repair, and two years later, the New Safe Confinement project was approved. This engineering marvel was not designed to just cover the site, but also has a pair of cranes that allow for the destroyed reactor to be dismantled. Construction on the project began in 2010 and finished last year, in 2018.

  • One of the conflicts in Chernobyl is Legasov’s loyalty to his discipline pitted against his loyalty to the party. When he is sent to Vienna, he initially lies about Chernobyl and gives the impression that the other RBMK reactors remain safe to operate. However, Khomyuk, having gone to great lengths to figure out what happened at Chernobyl, implores Legasov to be truthful during the Chernobyl trial.

  • Chernobyl makes extensive use of imagery to show the scope and scale of the disaster: while the radiation is invisible, its impact can still be tangibly felt. The fields of abandoned vehicles near Pripyat are a striking example: these were vehicles that were deployed to help with containment operations, and after the disaster was deemed under control, they were left in the fields owing to their high radioactivity. The derelict vehicles remain there to this day, where more intrepid visitors have since visited. Following the release of Chernobyl, foreign interest in the area increased, and with it, tourists who desired to walk through Pripyat and see the abandoned town for themselves.

  • Chernobyl is an excellent series, but despite its grim theme and horror-like presentation, the more irreverent folks have taken to discussing the series in terms of internet memes, a reductionist approach that strips the series of its weight and meaning. Chernobyl deals with a complex topic, and isolating the mini-series into individual quotes taken out of context means that the themes of truth are lost in the process. In general, I am not fond of internet memes for this reason, since it stands contrary to my synthesis-driven, big-picture approach towards things.

  • The fifth and final episode of Chernobyl reveals that owing to power requirements in Kiev, the Chernobyl plant was run at half-capacity to provide energy while at the same time, preparing the reactor for Dyatlov’s safety test, where he would attempt to power the backup systems using the reactor’s residual energy. However, running the reactor at reduced capacity introduced an excess of xenon, which is a neutron moderator. The technicians struggled to control the power for the test, causing an impatient Dyatlov to order the others to raise the power at any cost.

  • In the end, the sum of Dyatlov’s arrogance, and the fact that the technicians were not aware of the impact of graphite-tipped control rods, would bring about disaster. The latter was the consequence of lies, of the Soviet government suppressing the flaws inherent in the original RBMK designs. The debt that Legasov refers to is that the science behind the explosion is unyielding, irrespective of the operator’s emotions and personal opinions. Thus, to ignore it is to create a situation that becomes increasingly difficult to manage, until the point where, emotions and opinions or not, the events that science states to occur will in fact happen.

  • During a break in court proceedings, Shcherbina admits to Legasov that despite his position, he is no one important and expresses open respect for Legasov, while Legasov reciprocates this respect, stating that Shcherbina’s position allowed him to act and help prevent any more loss of life. While the two may have gotten off to a rocky start, their professional relationship grows steadily stronger – the two embody the idea that politics and science can not only co-exist, but also be capable of cooperation. This was rather touching aspect about Chernobyl, and while politics and science of the contemporary period seem at odds with one another, I think that in the end, trust will always be returned to those who deal in and seek facts.

  • One of my biggest dislikes are people who would go to the length of propagating a lie in order to avoid looking like a hypocrite: there is some ingrained belief in society that hypocrisy is the worst human fault of all, and that it is a sin to merely hold seemingly contradictory thoughts. In order to retain their social stock, it must therefore be acceptable to lie with the aim of appearing consistent. However, lying has worse consequences than being a hypocrite: Chernobyl shows that by allowing untruths to seep into a system, it becomes impossible to differentiate between fact and fiction.

  • At the end of the day, hypocrisy is judged by the gap between one’s actions and words, rather than different words held by an individual (as many on the internet appear to believe), and therefore, the act of calling someone a hypocrite is a logical fallacy. I have significantly more respect for those who adhere to the truth, drawing conclusions with a combination of facts and my own judgement. I won’t think poorly of someone who holds moderate, contradictory thoughts or those who change their mind on something, but to lie and distort the truth (especially with emotions) is something that is unacceptable.

  • Legasov’s explanations of what precisely went wrong in the control room and reactor on the morning of the accident ends with the reactor exploding: the first episode only shows the explosion in implicit terms, with Ignatenko seeing the explosion from the distance in his Pripyat apartment, and the aftermath shown in the reactor room. This created an incredibly powerful sense of unease that would have not been present had the explosion been shown close-up as it was in the finale. This was a solid choice, and on the whole, Chernobyl represents what is possible in terms of cinematography with respect to how changing the ordering and perspective of an event can have a clear impact on atmospherics.

  • I realise that this post on Chernobyl is probably one of the most pessimistic talks I’ve ever written, and stands in stark contrast with what I had espoused for my eighth anniversary post, no less. However, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Chernobyl – the opposite of that is true, as I deeply enjoyed watching this series for its incredible atmospherics, solid performances and a theme that, while relevant to the disaster itself, also can be applicable to society. I strongly recommend this HBO mini-series to all of my readers: besides providing an account of the people who worked tirelessly to migitate the disaster’s effects and contain it, Chernobyl is also about as close to a horror movie as one can get without any jump scares or onryō.

Legasov’s words extend far beyond Chernobyl and speak about the bleakness of society’s current attitudes towards facts and truth. The spread of misinformation on social media means that the truth is the first casualty: from the Trump administration’s adverse reaction to facts, to the dissemination of skewed and incomplete information from the Hong Kong Anti-Extradition riots, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. Even in the workplace, lies and complacency can become a problem: I have experience with this first hand. A year ago, I was originally brought in to validate and verify the existing functionality, as well as bring a few remaining work items to completion, for a mobile application for a computational oncology company. This company had sourced its development work to a consultancy in Winnipeg, and my involvement required working with a senior application developer who was rather similar to Dyatlov in stature and style: unpleasant and arrogant, this developer would constantly inform management that the lack of progress was a problem on my end, in order to cover up his own inability to implement a functional series of endpoints for the mobile app to utilise, and justified the complex, six-step registration system as a requirement for HIPAA compliance even if it came at the expense of usability. Despite the constant delays this senior application developer created through their incompetence and blame-shifting, I managed to complete my assignment of ensuring the mobile app was functional, successfully deployed to the App Store. I went on my way, and this senior application developer was dismissed, although like Legasov’s thoughts about Dyatlov’s punishment, I feel that his penalty was far too light: said developer would later find secure employment at a large insurance firm across the way from the hotel I stayed at while working on the project. Chernobyl offers viewers a glimpse as to what lies can do, and it is terrifying to suppose that those who would spread falsehoods continue to do so for their own gain, even in the knowledge that the cost of lies renders a debt that must be paid for in blood. It is an unfortunate state of things that lies and misinformation are as rampant as they are in society, but ultimately, as Legasov states in Chernobyl‘s ending, the truth will always be around and resist all efforts to bury it. This is an encouraging thought, since it means that for all the damage lies have done, the truth will endure and have its day eventually. For my readers, then, I would therefore ask a modicum of scepticism when reading about things, as well as always exercising one’s own judgement before accepting a claim – while respect for the truth continues to erode, we nonetheless have a responsibility to observe and respect it.