The Infinite Zenith

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

Category Archives: General Discussion

The Giant Walkthrough Brain: Revisiting a Presentation with Jay Ingram at the Five Year Anniversary

“Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages. Please take your seats, and welcome to The Giant Walkthrough Brain. Introducing your tour guide…Jay Ingram!”

Three years after Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon, neurophysiologist Joseph E. Bogen, MD, published A Modest Proposal, or The Planning, construction and use of a giant brain for the edification and entertainment of us all to the Bulletin of the Los Angeles Neurological Society. This “giant walk-through brain” was intended to be a museum of gargantuan proportion, standing some 150 metres in height. Bogen’s proposal was never taken seriously, and his vision faded into obscurity. Fortunately, in 2014, science communicator and host of Daily Planet, Jay Ingram, adopted Bogen’s concept of a brain museum and approached the LINDSAY Virtual Human lab at the University of Calgary with a proposal of his own: to construct and implement a giant walk-through brain show that would truly bring Bogen’s vision to life. Part musical performance and part science communication, The Giant Walkthrough Brain covers the essentials of brain function, from major structures to the electrochemical reactions that allow neural impulses to travel through the brain, and explores major figures in the history of neurophysiology. Whether it be Phineas Gage, who survived impalement from a tamping rod during an accident and his pronounced personality change, to how Alois Alzheimer came to diagnose Auguste Deter with what is known as Alzheimer’s disease, the whole of Ingram and The Free Radical’s presentation in The Giant Walkthrough Brain created an incredibly accessible, and successful performance that provides the public with a memorable and catchy introduction to the complexities of the human mind. Ingram and the Free Radical’s performance was accompanied by a virtual Giant Brain, implemented by the LINDSAY Virtual Human lab, which provided a highly viseral and immersive visual experience that brought Ingram’s performance to life. After opening to a sold-out crowd at the Banff Arts Centre during its début opening, The Giant Walkthrough Brain would go on to give critically-acclaimed performances at the Telus SPARK Science Centre in Calgary during Beakerhead 2014, two sold-out showings at the Timms Centre Edmonton during April 2015 and finally, two more sold-out performances at the Kelowna Community Theatre in January 2016.

Spanning an hour, The Giant Walkthrough Brain took audiences on a vivid journey through the brain’s major regions and presented pivotal figures in brain research. However, unlike a traditional lecture with its slideshows and dry presentation of the material, Jay Ingram and the Free Radicals bring each aspect of the brain to life by making use of the Unity project’s visuals in conjunction with a highly accessible, humourous and instructive talk. Each segment is broken up with a creative and clever song: from upbeat pieces that discuss dopamine and free will, to more sombre songs that explore Alzheimer’s Disease and Henry Gustav Molaison’s memory disorder. The wide spectrum of information gave audiences a glimpse of how complex the brain truly is. When it functions well, it functions exceptionally well and is counted as one of the most sophisticated constructs known to humanity. When any part of the brain malfunctions, the results are devastating and tragic. While neuroscience is something that is not always at the forefront of everyday thought, it is important to be aware of the highly complex machine that exists in all of us. In between the exceptional feats and sobering fragility of the brain, Ingram also discusses trivia about the brain, from how we perceive optical illusions to concepts of free will. A great deal of material is covered in an hour, bringing neurological research much closer to audiences in an accessible, informative and fun manner. This speaks to Ingram’s talents as a speaker, and also the creativity of those involved in the project’s development: while I am an alumni of the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme and have a some background in biology and medicine, The Giant Walkthrough Brain presented aspects of the brain in a different, novel perspective that led me to make new discoveries about the organ that makes us distinctly human. I learnt more about the brain by participating in the project than I did during the whole of my undergraduate degree. My involvement with the project also marked the first time that Jay Ingram and the Free Radicals had utilised a 3D, interactive visualisation in their performances before: a smooth implementation here contributed to the show’s successes.

While concepts surrounding a virtual brain museum predate my involvement with the project, The Giant Walkthrough Brain as I knew it began in the April of 2014. The LINDSAY Virtual Human lab was looking for an environment that was capable of supporting a virtual brain museum, and the in-house game engine, despite its extensibility, did not have the performance needed to render a model of the brain with satisfactory visual fidelity. In a curious turn of fate, the Unity game engine had been made free just a month earlier: having been employed in games such as Kerbal Space Program and Wolfire’s Receiver, the engine was a contender capable of handling the visual requirements The Giant Walkthrough Brain would need. The question remained: was Unity suited for creating an on-rails, scripted experience that could be timed with Ingram’s presentation and the Free Radical’s musical performance while at once providing traditional mechanisms for an image and video slideshow? The extent of Unity’s capabilities had not been tested at the time, and after successfully putting a similar brain model onto an iPad for coursework, I was tasked with determining whether or not Unity would fit the bill. After the first week of May had passed, I had ascertained that the component-based structure of a Unity project was flexible enough for the requirements outlined by The Giant Walkthrough Brain, and moreover, the use of C# scripting would allow for reuse and easy configuration of components that would allow any on-rails presentation to be easily reconfigured to synchronise with the performance. After my report to the team, The Giant Walkthrough Brain began development at full speed: I was made the lead developer in the project, becoming involved with implementation of the entire pathing and movement system, coordinated transitions between the brain museum, neurons and synaptic gap scenes, built the slide-show viewer that would allow images and videos to be displayed on the screen, and completed the minimap solution that translated the user’s location in world space to a 2D map on screen space to provide real-time feedback for viewers as to where in the brain the show was at any given time. Two full months of development later, and after rigorous testing of the Giant Walkthrough Brain Unity project itself, the software and the show were ready at last for a public performance at the Banff Centre.

Commentary and Personal Reflection

  • I only wish that my readers would have had the chance to view The Giant Walkthrough Brain for themselves: part science lecture and part musical performance, with a vivid and detailed visual component, the performance is a fantastic overview of different areas and functions of the brain, explaining each aspect in a highly engaging manner. As a reminiscence about the project, this post can also be seen as a “behind-the-scenes” of sorts, providing a bit more of a visual account as to what the The Giant Walkthrough Brain I’ve previously mentioned really is.

  • Jay Ingram treats the The Giant Walkthrough Brain as a tour on a bus, except instead of visiting the mountains or coasts in a motor coach, one is travelling through a vast virtual brain museum. The model itself is around 230 MB in size, and when I started the Unity project to test the engine’s viability, my first exercise was to determine what sort of frame rates could be achieved on a lower-end MacBook Pro.

  • I ended up averaging around 30 FPS on a 2012 MacBook Pro, which demonstrated that despite the model’s size, the game engine was suited for the task. One of the main challenges I faced throughout the project was that the brain model itself was constantly evolving: the platforms, walkways and exhibits inside are all custom made, and importing a new version of the model always took anywhere from a half-hour to an hour.

  • The component-based architecture in Unity was very similar to the architecture I used in our in-house game engine for my undergraduate thesis, and after I worked out how to set up the interactive pieces of The Giant Walkthrough Brain‘s Unity project, I began to experiment with a splines as the means of pre-defining paths for the guided brain tour. Placing the knots (points that govern where the spline must pass through) was the trickiest part, but within a week, I had a rudimentary walkthrough of the brain based on Ingram’s script, and after showing this to the team, they were convinced that we had our toolset, methods and developers to really bring the project to life.

  • The presentation opens with a talk on the frontal lobe, an area of the brain that controls for cognitive functions such as problem solving, reason and emotion. I’ve never been too fond of mid-twentieth century approaches towards neuroscience, where it was found that lobotomies could be used to impact one’s temperament. The process is fairly macabre, involving sticking an ice-pick like implement into one’s nose and then swirling the instrument around to dislodge brain tissue.

  • Phineas Gage is a well-known figure in neuroscience: a railway worker who was caught in an accident and ended up with a rebar through his brain, he survived the accident and was noted to be no longer his old self. Prior to the accident, Gage was friendly, professional and punctual. After the accident, he was less approachable, swearing more frequently. Textbooks often cite Gage as an example of what the frontal lobe’s function is, but neglect to mention that he eventually accepted a job as a stagecoach driver in Chile, where it is hypothesised that the rigid schedule and mental demands of negotiating mountain roads allowed some of his neurons to re-develop.

  • The “Retina Ride” was one of the trickiest parts of the spline to insert: I had to precisely place the path between two knots so that they entered a small passage in the eye and then navigate the optic nerve into the occipital lobe. There’s a small crimp in the path owing to how the splines were calculated in the first iteration that I subsequently fixed, and my challenge was controlling the journey so that the thirty seconds it took was not wildly out of control. One emergent property that resulted was that the camera would slow down at tight turns before speeding up on straighter trajectories.

  • In most images of the brain visualisation, a pair of orthogonal brain projections are visible. These mini-maps were for the viewers’ benefit, indicating where in the brain model the show was. I was initially worried that the minimap should be in 3D, which would have required that I take a smaller projection of the full model, scale it down and give it a transparent mesh, and then use a smart camera to track the user’s active location, but the requirements were fortunately more simple: with two projections, I ended up obtaining the camera’s (x, y, z) coordinates in world space and then computed the equivalents on screen space.

  • Even from this distance, the size differences from the Ebbinghaus illusion can be plainly seen. This is the slideshow system I worked on: capable of supporting both video and images, the implementation of this feature allowed Ingram to discuss certain aspects in more detail using traditional media. I was able to put this viewer together quite easily, but at the time, Unity’s free version did not support video, so my supervisor promptly picked up the Pro license, allowing me to finish building the slideshow viewer. The original version used assets hard-coded into the compiled project, while later, I wrote a more dynamic system that allowed users to drag and drop .jpg, .png, .mov and .mp4 files into a directory, and the program them picked these files up and displayed them in order of file name.

  • One cool feature afforded by Unity Pro was that I had access to emissive materials that could be used to create a glowing effect on the corpus callosum, a band of nerve that divides the left and right brain in two. I experimented with a wide range of lighting effects and textures: while one configuration had a diffuse light around the corpus callosum, it also negatively affected lighting elsewhere in the model. The simpler, LED-like approach proved acceptable, and I ended up keeping things this way for all subsequent builds.

  • My participating in The Giant Walkthrough Brain made me feel as though I were a part of a Discovery Channel special. During my third year’s second, three days of the week saw my classes ending at eleven, so I always ended up heading home for lunch. While waiting for my food to cook, I would often flip the television on and watch Discovery programmes, then eat my lunch and proceed towards reviewing whatever I had covered in lecture that day.

  • Later that year, I squared off against the MCAT, and turned to Discovery Channel’s programmes to relax during lunch, in between breaks from MCAT review and my physics class. While I’ve not mentioned it, watching shows like MythBusters Survivorman and Mighty Ships helped me relax to the same extent as K-On! The Movie. Discovery Channel ended up being an incredible inspiration. By the time of The Giant Walkthrough Brain, I had watched all of the Survivorman episodes.

  • The Giant Walkthrough Brain‘s world space consisted of three main levels: I handled the implementation of features at the brain museum level, and also coordinated with the other developers on the lower levels to ensure that their work functioned as expected. Here, we are looking at a network of neurons placed within the scene. The original plan was to fly through this space, but this introduced new complexities to the presentation, so in the end, I ended up placing a stationary camera here that allowed one to look around the space and watch the impulses travel. Each neuron was painstakingly placed by hand, since the algorithmic approach to generate them had not been implemented yet.

  • Delving in even closer to the molecular level, this was The Giant Walkthrough Brain‘s depiction of a synapse, where electrical impulses through the neuron created an action potential that released neurotransmitters (the glowing yellow and green spheres). When an artificial compound is introduced (the pink spheres), a neuron will keep firing. While the show only spent a total of five minutes in the neurons and synaptic cleft, it took upwards of two months to set these views up properly. One of the biggest challenges was importing these scenes: until I had designed the procedure, importing from the other developers’ projects into mine always caused objects to be misplaced. This problem persisted for a month until I worked out how to properly export supporting projects and then import them into the main application.

  • The mouse inside the green sphere represents the pleasure centre of the brain. This particular segment of The Giant Walkthrough Brain stands as one of my favourites: Ingram discusses an experiment involving mice hooked up to electrodes that would stimulate their pleasure centres when a switch was hit. These mice ended up forgoing food, sleep and even copulation to hit the switch, simulating a drug addiction, and while we may laugh at the mice for their simplicity, the reality is that addiction is a non-trivial problem.

  • The chemical at the core discussion surrounding the reward system is dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in directing a behaviour towards pleasurable experiences and away from undesirable experiences. Recent studies have suggested that rather than directly triggering pleasure, it is more of a salient motivational agent in medical terms – while medical definitions are a bit more stringent, for everyday purposes, dopamine can be thought of as one of the central agents in pleasure.

  • Discussion of the pleasure centre of the brain segues into my most favourite song in The Giant Walkthrough Brain: “Press The Lever”. This highly upbeat song speaks of the pleasure centre and its function, as well as how addiction is purely a consequence of brain chemistry, and brings to life the experiments that were conducted in 1954 by Olds and Milner. More recent studies have reproduced the results of the old experiments.

  • The animation in the background is actually sourced from a predecessor to The Giant Walkthrough Brain, which was a pure scientific communications lecture with a traditional slideshow and no musical accompaniment or 3D brain walkthrough. The latter was made possible by advances to game engine technology, and in particular, Unity’s well-timed decision to make the engine freely-usable. While a 3D visualisation would have been possible with the LINDSAY Lab’s in-house engine, the resulting show would have had a lower frame rate and lacked features such as the minimap and built-in slideshow display.

  • Because of the unique setup of The Giant Walkthough Brain and its ability to engage the audience, the project saw tremendous success wherever it was presented. Each and every showing was to a sold out audience, and in Kelowna, interest was so great that Jay Ingram and the Free Radicals were asked to put on a second, encore presentation. Even two years after its debut in Banff, the 3D brain visualisation was still-considered cutting-edge, attesting to the sophistication and elegance of the design that went into the original application: for 2016, I made minor adjustments to the Unity project for Kelowna to improve its flexibility, but the codebase and Unity build had remained untouched since the summer of 2014.

  • If memory serves, this is The Giant Walkthrough Brain‘s hippocampus, a structure responsible for short and long term, as well as spatial memory. Defects in the hippocampus impair memory, and one of history’s most well-known figures was only known as “HM” until his death. Because HM suffered from seizures, period science suggested brain surgery. During the operation, a piece of his hippocampus was removed to control the seizures. While the operation was successful, HM developed anterograde amnesia: he could not create new memories and was unable to recall something like what he had for breakfast, even though his older memories appeared to remain intact.

  • HM’s name was posthumously revealed as Henry Molaison, and his brain was taken to California to be sliced for analysis and imaging. After imaging, the full set of images was made available in 2014. Alzheimer’s disease was also covered: the accompanying song and talk was sobering, subdued in mood. As one of the more prevalent neuro-degenerative diseases, its causes and mechanisms are still not well understood, and there are no treatments for it.

  • Discussions turned towards free will in The Giant Walkthrough Brain, and the Free Will song is another one of my favourites. While determinism and free will have been the topic of philosophical discussion, a study done by Benjamen Libet in the 1980s asked participants to decide when they would stop a clock. During the process, their brain activity would be measured, and it was found that brain activity began even before the individual consciously knew they were about to stop the clock.

  • The Libet experiment remains controversial in its validity, and the matter of free will is still unclear from a scientific perspective. One curious outcome of free will is that individuals who are more likely to be unfaithful if they did not believe in free will. The gap between determinism and free will from a philosophical perspective is not in the scope of this reflection, so I won’t pursue the topic further or delve into which side I personally believe in.

  • In this post, I’ve only shown a few areas of the virtual brain model: its cavernous interior was modified to feel more like a museum, featuring walkways, benches and exhibits. The finished virtual brain that I worked on actually has numerous features and functions that were present but never used in The Giant Walkthrough Brain itself. The most prominent one was that the skybox could be changed, so that when the show started, it would be daytime, and at the show’s end, the sun would set. This was intended to give a sense of the passage of time but ultimately was deemed unnecessary to the show, so it was never used.

  • I’ve alluded to this previously, but during the Banff Centre performance, a lighting storm had actually knocked out power to the area. All of the audio-visual equipment powered equipment was knocked out, and Ingram began improvising. The transition was so smooth I did not notice the power was out until a technician had stepped onto the stage and informed him the power was lost. It was restored, and as the 3D virtual brain was run on a laptop with its own internal power supply, once the power returned, it was a matter of continuing the show.

  • The Giant Walkthrough Brain notes that most of our knowledge of the brain comes from situations where the brain is not operating normally, and towards the end, mentions that after Albert Einstein’s death, his brain was studied. While some researchers claimed that certain attributes of Einstein’s brain made him uniquely capable of developing the Theory of Relativity and other contributions, it turns out that his brain was actually quite unremarkable from a structural perspective.

  • As the performance ended, Jay Ingram concluded with a series of myths about the brain, including how the notion that “ten percent of the brain is actively used at a given time” is totally and utterly false; no other organ in the body has a high oxygen and energy requirement as the brain, and it stands to reason that our brains are always operating at full capacity. This brings The Giant Walkthrough Brain to a conclusion, and at the end of the show, all of the contributors, myself included, walked onto the stage. I’ve chosen not to include that moment in this discussion.

  • With the first successful performance in the books, The Giant Walkthrough Brain officially opened at Beakerhead 2014 at the Telus SPARK Centre. On the evening of the first presentation, I was invited out to dinner with the entire team and we ended up going for pizza in a community near the performance venue. In a curious turn of fate five years later, I returned to the same community to celebrate a successful Otafest with some of the volunteers. The weather was beautiful and allowed for activities long associated with summer, such as grilling hamburgers and hot-dogs, playing with a Frisbee and going on a scavenger hunt (that I lost interest in).

  • I spent the past weekend watching Spiderman: Far From Home and with a delicious crab-topped salmon bake in the books, we’re now passing through the halfway point of the summer months: in a few days, we roll into August, my favourite month of the year. The summer this year’s been quite enjoyable: while a ways cooler and rainier, we have had some nice days and with them, the attendant opportunity to enjoy the sunshine. For August, I have a few posts lined up, including a special talk for Your Lie in April and Ano Natsu de Matteru. This summer season’s also been reasonably solid for anime, and a preview of the upcoming season shows a handful shows that look interesting, as well.

  • The first run of The Giant Walkthrough Brain ended with an electric violin performance from Jay Ingram and a promise to do the “Giant Walkthrough Gut”. While this project became a bit of a running joke in each performance, the giant walkthrough gut materialised in my time. In the years following, Jay Ingram published several new books, including The Science of Why (and three sequels) and The End of Memory. A sequel is very unlikely, although with the sophistication of game engine tools and the groundwork laid down, I can see future students taking these older projects and building on them to create more complex, powerful and exciting projects.

July 30, 2014 was opening night. I had sat through no fewer than three dress rehearsals, and had spent the day working from an iMac from the LINDSAY lab to make continuous adjustments to the Unity project’s configurations. I was admittedly nervous: even though the project had been tested extensively to ensure it was functional, Murphy’s Law states that anything unexpected could happen. After sharing dinner with the LINDSAY team, my supervisor and Jay Ingram’s team, we headed over to the performance venue as the skies began darkening. The show began smoothly enough, but when we reached the part on dopamine, the power suddenly went out: a thunderstorm had hit the area. Within ten minutes, the power was restored, and I breathed easier. The remainder of the performance continued smoothly, wrapping up with an electric violin performance from Ingram himself. No matter how many times I had seen the performance in rehearsals, Ingram and the Free Radicals were refreshing, engaging and immersive each and every time. Ingram’s masterful storytelling captured the audiences’ attention fully, being simultaneously entertaining, amusing and instructing. In the background, the Unity virtual brain ran seamlessly. After walking across the stage as a part of the development team, we left Banff and returned to Calgary under darkened skies. I spent the next day off, sleeping in, and after a debriefing with the team, it was decided that the remainder of August was to be spent tuning up the Unity project: because the initial build had been assembled in two months to meet the July 30 deadline, some best practises had not been observed, and it was important to refactor the project. A week ahead of the Beakerhead performance, the work was done. The Giant Walkthrough Brain Unity project had become extensible, easy to configure and sleeker than ever, just in time to be put on the planetarium screens at Telus SPARK. While there have been no more presentations of The Giant Walkthrough Brain since Kelowna, the project left a large legacy in its wake: for one of my colleagues, The Giant Walkthrough Brain would become the centrepiece in their Master’s Thesis, and the discoveries I had accrued as a result of the project led me to decide on the topic of my own Master’s Thesis. While The Giant Walkthrough Brain is no Apollo 11, and comes a mere five years later where the Apollo 11 moon landings have reached fifty, the project for me remains highly significant for having helped me come to terms with who I am, rediscover what it means to have a goal to reach towards and ultimately, for reminding me that even if unrequited love happens, I can still find my own happiness in lending my skills and knowledge towards the happiness of others. While not reaching anywhere near the same number of people or involving the same level of resources it took to bring Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon, The Giant Walkthrough Brain ultimately came to represent what the journey towards self-discovery look like – for me, this was one small step for me, and one giant leap for the future.

Apollo 11 Mission, 50th Anniversary: A Reflection on the 1969 Moon Landing

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” –Neil A. Armstrong, July 20, 1969

Fifty years ago, on July 21 at 02:56:15 UTC (July 20, 20:56:15 MDT), Neil Armstrong climbed down the ladder of the lunar module Eagle and, after describing the powdery grains of the moon surface, stepped off the landing pad of the Eagle to become the first human ever to set foot on the moon. The Apollo 11 spaceflight marked the first time humanity had ever successfully set foot on another world, marking the fulfilment of President John F. Kennedy’s declaration that America would put a man on the moon eight years earlier. The Space Race had been in full swing when President Kennedy made his speech: the Soviet Union had beaten the United States to virtually every first, from launching Sputnik I on October 4, 1957, and then followed up with Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight on April 12, 1961 to become the first man in space. The perceived gap in technology between the USA and USSR prompted the Americans to divert an incredible amount of resources, both financial and human capital, into space exploration research. Drawing on scientist Wernher von Braun’s expertise, the Americans transformed their initial rockets, intended to carry a nuclear payload into space-faring vehicles. Thus, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded to develop peaceful exploration of space. While the Americans had seen success with the Mercury-Redstone 3 rockets, which led Alan Shepard to become the first American in space, a goal with the sheer scale and scope of anything approaching a moon landing demanded dedicated rockets, mastery of docking two vessels in space and extra-vehicular activity (EVA). NASA The Gemini program was borne as a result of this; running from 1961 to 1966, NASA thus devised the necessary techniques to ensure the success of the Apollo programme. With the techniques better characterised, NASA would turn its attention to development of better rockets. von Braun would become deeply involved with the Saturn project, and after several iterations, resulted in the Saturn V, which remains to this day, the single most powerful rocket to have ever been developed. Unmanned flights with different iterations saw issues ironed out, and on January 27, 1967, Apollo 1 was marked as as the first manned test of the spacecraft. Tragically, a fire broke out and killed Virgil I. Grissom, Ed White, and Roger B. Chaffee. The entire program was thrown into jeopardy, forcing the redesign of the Apollo command module and implementation of new safety features. After rigorous testing, and with several more unmanned flights, coupled with success from the Apollo 8 and 10 missions, NASA believed that they were ready to attempt a manned lunar landing.

After Armstrong had touched down on the lunar surface, Buzz Aldrin followed suit nineteen minutes later. Armstrong and Aldrin erected the American flag on the lunar surface, conversed with President Richard Nixon and then set up a range of experiments on the lunar surface. They also managed to collect six kilograms of lunar material for transport back to Earth. Twenty-one-and-a-half hours later, they boarded the lunar module and rejoined Michael Collins in orbit, before performing a burn to carry out trans-Earth injection that would send them back home. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins returned to Earth on July 24 at 16:50:35 UTC (09:50:35 MDT), splashing down in the South Pacific. They were picked up by the USS Hornet, and by the end of their eight-day mission, had their accomplishments watched by over a fifth of the world’s population. Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11’s historic achievement highlighted the strength of not just the American engineers, scientists and astronauts, but also reflected on the human spirit as a whole: when President Kennedy had announced the American intent to land on the moon in 1962, the technology did not exist. The fledgling American space program had been bested by the Soviets at each turn, and had been hampered by a lack of public interest, as well as limited funding. However, with his speech, President Kennedy emphasised that the lunar program was to be done to signify the freedom Americans had over their destiny and romanticised space. Despite initial opposition, interest in conquering space had been piqued, and the United States would ultimately direct 25 billion dollars (153 billion dollars, adjusted for inflation) towards the Apollo programme. At its height, Apollo employed 400000 people and had support from over 20000 academic institutions and industrial firms. The sheer scale and scope of the project propelled not just American, but the whole of humanity forwards: the technologies needed to put man on the moon resulted in creativity, ingenuity and innovation of the likes that our species had not seen before. To ensure the safety of the astronauts, radical developments were made to ensure the reliability of every nut and bolt that went into the program. The technology and science that resulted in Armstrong and Aldrin’s historic achievement have far flung effects even today: the very computers and smart-phones that have become so ubiquitous now owe their existence to advances in integrated circuitry from the Apollo programme.

The success of the Apollo programme is ultimately attributed to the gargantuan team effort and collaboration between each of the 400000 employees at NASA and countless others from the institutes and organisations that contributed. For the most part, humanity’s most recognisable inventions were prototyped, developed and tested by scientists of renown. Powered flight comes from the Wright Brothers, and Thomas Edison came about his inventions through perseverance, dedication and inspiration. However, during the Second World War, a desperation to keep atomic technology out of Nazi hands saw the formation of the Manhattan Project, which employed 130000 employees at a cost of 2 billion dollars (13 billion dollars, adjusted for inflation). As humanity moved forwards, innovation became the result of a coordinated team effort rather than through individual genius. Both the Manhattan Project and Apollo Programme are a constant reminder that exceptional achievement comes through people working together, lending their individual talents and skills towards a common goal: while von Braun was doubtlessly a remarkable rocket engineer, his contributions to the Saturn V and its unparalleled engines were only a part of the programme. Numerous engineers and scientists worked on everything from the computer guidance programs in the command module, to designing the shape of the lunar module, from calculating the optimal course for trans-lunar injection, to designing the space suits themselves and devising ways of keeping sufficient consumables onboard the flight. Apollo 11 thus acts as one of the most profound and unequivocal examples of what is possible when people are unified, working together in spite of their differences towards a shared goal. Great science is invariably the result of teamwork and collaboration, and so, fifty years after the first successful moon landing, Apollo is the reminder of why it is important to look past our differences and celebrate our commonalities as human beings.

Commentary and Personal Reflection

  • While the Apollo programme is considered an overwhelming success today, the programme did see its share of troubles: by 1963, opponents wondered if the program was a wise expenditure, and even NASA’s engineers felt President Kennedy’s expectations were unrealistic. The Apollo 1 fire further cast doubt on the safety on the program. However, progress in the programme continued, and on the morning of the launch, on June 16, Apollo 11 stood ready at the launch pad. The images in this post were sourced from the 2019 documentary Apollo 11, which featured original 70mm footage, as well as 60 and 35mm footage from period recordings.

  • The Saturn V is the most powerful rocket ever used, capable of lifting 140000 kilograms to low earth orbit. The first stage, S-IC, could produce 7891000 lbf (pounds-force) and had a burn time of 168 seconds. After the first stage was expended and discarded, the second stage (S-II) kicked in and accelerated the craft to orbital velocity. Finally, the third stage (S-IVB) ignited and burned for six minutes to push the craft to escape velocity, preparing it for trans-lunar injection. The command module and lunar module docked after the third stage was separated, forty minutes into trans-lunar injection.

  • Images captured from Apollo show how small and fragile the Earth looks from the void of space. A comparatively thin layer of atmosphere and our magnetic field protects us from the hazards of the cosmos, and acts as a constant reminder of how frail life on earth is. The Apollo 11 program as a whole was very humbling to learn about, and since I first read about it as a primary school student, the outstanding achievements of the astronauts, engineers and technicians inspired me. While I subsequently discovered that my ability for mathematics was inadequate for me to become an engineer, the tough and competent mindset NASA held to their staff stuck with me.

  • “Tough and competent” is a phrase coined by aerospace engineer Gene Kranz, who oversaw numerous operations and directed the Apollo 11 landings. In response to Apollo 1, Kranz’s doctrine was simple: tough meant that one must be accountable for what they do, or fail to do. One should not compromise their responsibilities in any way. Competent meant that one will not take anything for granted and always have the right knowledge and skill set to see something through. Kranz intended this to constantly remind his staff of the price of failure, although his principles are correct and apply to most anything. This forms the basis for how I conduct myself, and how I expect those around me to conduct themselves: because it’s an integral part of me, I’ve decided to change the blog’s banner to reflect on my credos.

  • After a smooth trans-lunar injection, Apollo 11 fired its main engines to enter lunar orbit. Armstrong and Aldrin entered the lunar module, while Collins remained behind to control the command module. During their descent, the guidance computer returned alarm codes 1201 and 1202, indicating that it had overflowed and would delay other tasks while more urgent computations were carried out. Fuel was running out, and passing over a boulder-strewn field with rocks that Aldrin noted “were as big as cars”, Armstrong focused on landing. He touched down with around 50 seconds of burn time remaining, and informed mission control that they were on the ground.

  • As the first humans to gaze upon the moon with their own eyes, Armstrong and Aldrin would have seen a sight quite unlike any other: the Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility, a flatter region of the moon composed of basaltic plains. The rest of the moon is dotted with craters, and thanks to the lack of an atmosphere, craters have remained relatively untouched since their original impacts. The Sea of Tranquility faces the Earth – thanks to tidal locking, the far side of the moon is not visible from the surface.

  • Three-and-a-half-hours after landing, both Aldrin and Armstrong had suited up and depressurised the lunar module. After struggling to get out of the lunar module, Armstrong began making his way down the ladder. The image quality of photos from the lunar surface are of a high quality, but video footage was shot with slow-scan cameras that produced a signal incompatible with television signals. The resulting broadcast was captured by recording it on a standard camera and played back on TV, producing a lower quality image.

  • Here is the moment that defined the 1960s – Neil Armstrong’s timeless first step and transmission from the surface has been immortalised. While Armstrong intended to say “…first step for a man”, static in the transmission resulted in the resulting quote being misrepresented as “first step for man”. Some of original tapes from Apollo 11 were lost, and existing footage was retouched instead: with current technologies, documentaries like Apollo 11 feature HD footage of content from the 1960s.

  • Armstrong reported no trouble moving about on the lunar surface, where the gravity is a sixth of that on Earth’s. Despite concerns about the backpack creating balance problems, movement was not a problem for Armstrong and Aldrin. With both men on the surface, the next task was to plant the American flag on the surface. This was the part that Aldrin was particularly worried about: millions were watching, and the soil properties made it difficult to plant the flag.

  • With some effort, the flag was planted, and here, Aldrin stands beside the flag. Many of the photographs from the lunar surface depict Aldrin – Armstrong had been operating the camera and therefore did not appear in many of them. While Armstrong may have been selected to be the first man on the moon based on the belief that Armstrong was better suited for this historic decision for his personality (Christopher Kraft and other members made the adjustment to the flight plan so the commander would leave the space craft first), Aldrin’s appearance in almost all of the photos means that he shared in the glory of this accomplishment in an equally timeless and memorable fashion.

  • President Richard Nixon phoned the astronauts to personally congratulate them, and while he originally planned a longer speech, he was convinced to keep it short. Here is one of the footprints on the surface: with no erosion, the footprint likely is still preserved exactly as it appeared fifty years previously unless an impact event erased it. On the other hand, the nylon flags planted on the moon were not designed to resist the conditions of space and will have degraded after five decades of exposure to space.

  • With the formalities done, Armstrong and Aldrin set about preparing the lunar experiments, including a laser reflector and seismic experiments. While limited in their time on the surface, and only wandering 60 meters from the lunar module at most, subsequent Apollo missions greatly extended the astronaut’s stay on the surface in duration and provided a lunar roving vehicle that allowed later astronauts to travel 35 kilometres.

  • My interest in the Apollo 11 mission and space travel as a whole began when I was a primary student. I had received Barbara Hehner’s First on The Moon. Featuring narration told from Jan Aldrin, Buzz Aldrin’s daughter, the book recounts her experiences and more details about the three astronaut’s flight to the moon, their experiments on the surface and their return home. The book was published in 1999 and combined technical details with a highly accessible tone, making it easy to read for young readers. Excitement about the moon turned to excitement about prior and later developments: in going to the library, I ended up learning a great deal about Sputnik to the beginnings of the International Space Station.

  • Curiosity about what led to the Space Race and my happenstance finding of Steven Rys’s US Military Power (published in 1983) is the origin of my interests in the Cold War, and the Second World War. Here, Buzz Aldrin sets about preparing the lunar experiments. These are critical aspects of the moon landing to provide the first set of instruments on the moon that were placed there by human hands: previously, lunar probes were landed successfully. Apollo 11 details these moments in much greater detail than First Man, which, while not exactly the most accurate portrayal of Neil Armstrong or some of his experiences, was a solid movie all around.

  • This is the laser reflector that was a part of the lunar laser ranging experiment, where an Earth-based laser is directed at the moon. Signal from the laser reflecting back is then recorded, and despite the laser beam being some six and a half kilometers wide, hitting the reflector is still incredibly difficult, and getting a photon back is a similar challenge. However, the time difference resulting provides an exceptionally precise measurement of how far away the moon is.

  • When I first watched First Man back in January, aside from the disappointment that Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Neil Armstrong was not entirely accurate, I was utterly blown away by the film’s cinematography, composition, camera angles and soundtrack. The film was exceptionally enjoyable despite the minor hiccoughs in accuracy, and overall, I was thoroughly impressed to the point where it actually became a little difficult to resume watching anime again.

  • After their mission, Aldrin and Armstrong entered the lunar module and prepared to launch back into lunar orbit. They would dock with the command module, where Collins was waiting, and after discarding the lunar module, fired the command module’s main engine for a trans-Earth injection. This phase of the mission was much more relaxed, although one final challenge remained with re-entry. This was no problem in the end, and the command module’s cone splashed down in the south Pacific. The crew was picked up by helicopters from the USS Hornet.

  • The United States would go on to launch five more successful missions: Apollo 13 suffered an oxygen tank explosion that crippled the command module, and forced the astronauts to utilise the lunar module as a lifeboat. Beyond this, later Apollo missions spent several days on the lunar surface and even bought a lunar roving vehicle to extend the astronaut’s reach. Overall, the Apollo programme returned 382 kilograms of lunar material and paved the way for lunar research of an unprecedented scope. In addition, the Saturn rockets were also used to launch Skylab, America’s first space station. The Soviets had turned their attention towards space stations after losing the race to the moon, and in 1975, as a sign of détente, conducted a joint mission that would be known as the Apollo-Soyuz mission that marked the end of the Space Race.

  • Since then, the United States ran the Space Shuttle programme between 1981 and 2011, and today, space exploration has slowed in pacing, although privately-funded initiatives have rekindled interest. Although projects like SpaceX has a ways to go in matching the sheer amount of human and financial capital of NASA during the Apollo era, the freedoms that private firms have may allow for quicker progress once the technology becomes developed. While man has not reached the moon since 1972, the world has advanced quite a ways since then, especially in the realm of telecommunications, microprocessors, information technology, health and medicine.

  • Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins spent 21 days in quarantine to ensure that they did not bring back any pathogens from the moon, even though this was remote. In August, the astronauts participated in a massive ticker-tape parade, and the first successful mission set precedence for the next six missions, five of which succeeded. With this special post now in the books, I will be briefly returning to write about Sounan Desu Ka? and Dumbbell wa nan kilo moteru? on short order, before closing off the month with a special topics post on The Giant Walkthrough Brain, a project that is an excellent example of what modern computing is capable of and why during this age, effective science communication becomes ever more important.

It is therefore no exaggeration when I consider the Apollo 11 to be the most outstanding representation of humanity at its absolute best. When the brightest minds came together to collaborate on a leviathan task, the results spoke for themselves, speaking to how humanity can, with the right effort and determination, the right toughness and competence, can accomplish incredible feats of ingenuity that really exemplify what it means to be human. Even though I come much later and never witnessed the Apollo 11 launch and landings for myself, the sheer scale of the Apollo program and its impact on the world are something that I appreciate each and every day. As an iOS developer, I owe my entire discipline to the developments that came out of research for reliable, powerful integrated circuits to ensure the safety and success of Apollo. These integrated circuits developed into microprocessors, which have advanced at a bewildering rate. As I develop software to better connect the world through our mobile devices, it is humbling to know that my aging iPhone 6 could have, with its 1.6 billion transistors and capability to carry out 3.36 billion instructions per second, is around 32600 times faster than the computers that carried out the Apollo missions. This roughly corresponds with a 120 million times increase in performance, with the implication that my iPhone 6 could simultaneously manage 120 million Apollo spacecraft to the moon. Fifty years represents a considerable amount of time, and I recall that when I was granted my Master’s of Science in Computer Science, alumni of the university from a half-century ago commented on the sophistication of my graduate thesis project, which was unimaginable at their time. Apollo had set the precedence for technology, and as we move ahead into the future, I expect that five decades from now, the kind of technology that will be available will far surpass what we can presently imagine. The legacy of the Apollo 11 programme is one that is to endure: besides the accomplishments from Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, we also must thank the hundreds of thousands of engineers, scientists and support staff who contributed to what remains humanity’s greatest achievement as a species.

Jon’s Creator Showcase, June Edition: A Halfway Point in 2019 and the Arrival of Summer

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” –Bilbo Baggins, Lord of The Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring

Scott and Crimson613 both set their bar quite high for Jon’s Creator Showcase, having hosted them previously, and I figured, I had a month to sleep on and work out my decision to host it. However, a month flies in the blink of an eye, especially when June is one of those months with a meagre thirty days, rather than thirty one days, but this short timeframe has not stopped the month’s Jon’s Creator Showcase from receiving a modest collection of submissions from bloggers within the community, and correspondingly, I’ve had to rise to the occasion as well. Having deliberately chosen June because it marks the halfway point of the year, I am pleased to present a host of posts that were submitted for the June Jon’s Creator Showcase. As a bit of a background, Jon’s Creator Showcase began in December 2017 at Jon Spencer Reviews and was intended to highlight interesting and exciting content within the blogging community. While most of the participants run anime blogs, Jon’s Creator Showcase is open to submissions of all sorts, and as result, I’ve had the pleasure to look through and present posts about a plethora of topics – we’ve even received a video that merits checking out. I would like to thank all of the participants who submitted something: it was a fantastic experience to go through each of the posts and explore what makes each a fun, meaningful read. While I can’t speak to whether or not the turnout was impressive or not, simply because I don’t know what a good sample size is, what I do know is that each of the posts that were submitted are of a superb quality. Since Jon has given me a bit of creative options for formatting this post, each submission is separated by an image that is somewhat related to summer, best season of the year, to improve on clarity. The images themselves are not related to the post in question, they merely act to create a visual break. In the interest of not delaying the moment any further, here are the submissions!

Fruits Basket Episode 7 Review: Broken Glass and Hearts

Animated Andy (@Animated_Andy)

Animated Andy explores the seventh episode of Fruits Basket, which deals with high schools student Tohru Honda, who ends up moving in with the Soma family, whose members suffer from a curse. Tohru’s time with the Soma family invariably changes their lives forever, and Fruits Basket, whose manga ran from 1998 to 2006, received a new adaptation that ran this year. In the post, Andy discusses how the new anime capitalises on visual and aural elements to viscerally portray a relationship between two characters. Animated Andy finds that the anime adaptation of Fruits Basket has much potential to capture the emotional tenour of each moment even more vividly than the manga, capitalising on sound, movement and colour to tell a story in way that dialogue and still images cannot.

While an expressive medium, manga is unable to convey certain emotions that only voice and movement can: Animated Andy shows that animated adaptations can contribute a great deal of emotional weight to a scene from a manga, creating newfound appreciation for what an author had intended to convey. This is one of the main reasons I’m so fond of anime adaptations, and this season’s Fruits Basket, being a retelling of the manga, is a very ambitious project that is said to span some sixty-three episodes. If Animated Andy ends up reviewing all sixty-three episodes, I would have nothing but respect; episodic reviews are very demanding from an effort perspective, requiring a blogger to draw something meaningful from each and every episode that they watch to write about each week. Already a difficult endeavour for a one-cour series, things only become more challenging for two-cour series – to do weekly episodic reviews for something running for a full year and then some is a strong commitment, and I look forwards to seeing what direction Animated Andy will take in the future with Fruits Basket.

A Silent Voice: When Past Mistakes Come To Haunt You!

Scott, Mechanical Anime Reviews (@MechAnimeReview)

After watching Kyoto Animation’s A Silent Voice, Scott takes readers through the strengths of this movie and how it presents mental health, concluding that the film is authentic in capturing the difficulties that individuals experiencing mental health troubles have in managing their situation and recovering. The movie stands out with its colour palette, which features much less saturation than Kyoto Animation’s typical works, and a focus on darkness: the choice of lighting and colour immediately gives the sense that A Silent Voice has a more serious tone than other works. Watching the characters in A Silent Voice come to terms with their actions and begin a journey to recovery struck a resonant chord with Scott, who recounts his own experiences; this piece gives his reflections on A Silent Voice a very personal and meaningful weight. Having walked the walk that Shōko and Shōya have gone through, the film was something Scott connected with – he cites the film’s greatest strengths as being able to capture mental health challenges in a genuine, emotional fashion that outweighs how it feels choppy and inconsistent in some places, recommending this film in his post.

Fiction is such a powerful form of expression because it captures in words, sight and sound the intangibles of emotion and experience; series that remind us of our own experiences are particularly moving. Scott’s review of A Silent Voice takes readers on a personal journey that really shows the complexity of mental health. Incidents that shape who we are can also harm us, and that the recovery is an uncertain process: everyone deals with adversity differently, and Scott’s recounting of his own experiences reinforces the notion that in A Silent Voice, particular care was given towards portraying the journey that Shōya ultimately must take to overcome his past. Mental health is a major area of interest, and while there is no silver bullet solution for things like anxiety, depression and other conditions can be managed with a strong support network. Scott reminds his readers that he is there for them should they need it – this is something that I feel to be especially important with the anime blogging community; as we are ultimately united by our shared love for media, we can act as a support network for one another in our own manner.

Run With The Wind Series Review

Karandi, 100 Word Anime (@100wordanime)

Aural elements play a major part in Run With The Wind, a 2006 anime who follows Kakeru Kurahara, a first year university student at Kansei University who joins the Chikuseisou dormitory after a chance meeting with Haiji Kiyose, who aspires to run the Hakone Ekiden relay marathon. Karandi describes the series’ enjoyment as coming from the extensive character growth that was afforded by the fact that Run With The Wind had twenty-three episodes of runtime, giving plenty of opportunity for viewers to learn about, connect with and ultimately, watch everyone mature over time. While feeling it to be nothing revolutionary, Run With The Wind features solid execution on all fronts, from its sound to visuals, and notably, Karandi also discusses gradually warming up to Haiji. Despite disliking Haiji’s character initially, Karandi warms up to him after his motives and goals are defined, giving a clear reason to begin rooting for him. The background characters are likewise given a similar treatment, making them multi-faceted individuals viewers come to care for. While slower to start, once Run With The Wind hits its stride, Karandi recommends this title for viewers.

One of my favourite experiences when watching anime is to enter a series and then have an experience that stands contrary to my initial expectations. Characters form a big part of this – to come into a series and develop an early dislike for a character, only for impressions of this character to improve over time as Karandi finds for Run With The Wind‘s Haiji, is an indicator that the series is pushing its characters to mature and develop over time. Individuals are not static, and watching growth is one of the most rewarding payoffs one can have in following a series. While I’m not familiar with Run With The Wind, Karandi’s thoughts on Haiji’s development mirrors my own with Nagi no Asukara’s Sayu Hisanuma – I felt Sayu to be little more than an irritable brat following the revelation that she was responsible for the vandalism to the Ofunehiki doll, but over time, her motives are made known, misunderstandings are cleared up, and she develops into a very determined individual who comes to terms with her own feelings. I see traces of myself in her, and for this reason, following Nagi no Asukara through to the end yielded this payoff. This is why I generally try to stick to a series, watching characters change over time (for the better) is an optimistic attitude that gives me the same hope that I can push towards making things better, as well.

The Makinohara Shouko Question

Yomu, Umai Yomu Anime Blog (@UmaiYomu)

In Aobuta, Shōko Makinohara’s presence is presented as a mystery: she appears to Sakuta thrice, once after his initial troubles following Kaede’s dissociative amnesia, once as a younger self, and then again when Sakuta experiences a crisis following Kaede regaining her old memories. The narrative in Aobuta follows Sakuta, a high school student who encounters actress Mai Sakujima and subsequently becomes entangled in unusual phenomenon that are resolved when he expends compassion and empathy in helping those around him out. Yomu summarises the different struggles that each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede faced, extrapolating to suggest that Shōko’s existence is a consequence of some conflict or challenge in her own life. The nature of this challenge is not known, but the fact that Shōko appears both as a middle school student and a high school student to Sakuta implies different timelines are at play. Yomu concludes that Sakuta and Shōko, by providing assistance to one another during critical junctures, creates a situation where there is a circular dependency, and speculates the upcoming film will have Sakuta, armed with a deeper sense of empathy and compassion, assist Shōko with whatever challenge that she faces in her own life. These speculations leave Yomu excited to watch the upcoming Aobuta movie.

Until we have a chance to watch Seishun Buta Yarou wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai, which released mid-June, whether or not Yomu’s speculation holds true will remain something that we will have to be patient about. With this being said, Yomu’s coverage on the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of Aobuta amongst each of the characters is an impressive one, going into thorough details about what each character contributes to the audience’s understanding of Sakuta. One of the longstanding grievances I had with Aobuta, prior to watching it for myself, was how some folks tended to treat Rio’s explanations of the Adolescence Syndrome as a factual, objective assessment on the phenomenon: this resulted in discussions that completely failed to address what each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede’s issues were meant to represent. While Yomu has had a strong understanding of the characters already explored in Aobuta, the mystery that Shōko presents leaves much more open to discussion; the movie’s focus on Shōko means that Yomu and most anyone who’s enjoyed Aobuta will (hopefully) find resolution in what has been hitherto an enigmatic character whose story could prove to be very interesting and enjoyable to watch.

The Importance of Goals – Shirobako Review

tfwanime (@tfwanime)

The process behind creating and producing anime is a gruelling one – the 2015 anime highlights the deadlines, pressures and stresses of what goes into making the anime that viewers enjoy season after season. In tfwanime’s discussion on what makes Shirobako such a moving anime, the series’ strengths lie in how relatable each of the characters are, specifically with respect to their goals and how they go about in pursuing them. Aoi Miyamori pushing through near-impossible deadlines because of her own passion for bringing stories to life, Ema Yasuhara’s unwavering determination to improve as an artist, Misa Toudou’s decision to forego job security for a position she’s more passionate about, Midori Imai’s drive to learn as much as she can to create compelling stories and Shizuka Sakaki determinedly clings to her desire to become a voice actress, seizing each opportunity to learn and realise her dreams. Each character struggles, and at some points, wonder where their efforts lead, but ultimately, come to appreciate their sacrifices and devotion. tfwanime presents the idea that in conjunction with an internal drive to succeed, having support from one’s peers is also critical. Much as how this group had once produced their own anime as high school students, their passion towards their career and care for one another allow them to each begin understanding what it will take to realise their dreams – tfwanime expresses gratitude towards shows like Shirobako, whose human aspects make the series immensely relatable and compelling, and in the process, also makes the film something to greatly look forwards to.

Watching the characters of Shirobako work their magic, and the community’s subsequent rallying around Shirobako as an inspiring anime was a magic moment that showcases what anime can be for viewers when it captures something special. By putting it into words, tfwanime reminded me of what made Shirobako such a compelling series to watch, showing how different aspects of an anime connect with different individuals. In my case, I saw a moving story about perseverance: the goals each of Aoi, Ema, Misa, Midori and Shizuka had motivate them to strive for excellence in the face of adversity. With goals as a starting point, Shirobako‘s greatest strength was showing the journey one might encounter in pursuit of their dreams. By showing the characters struggle, get knocked down and picking themselves back up, audiences really come to empathise with the characters. By placing the characters in a setting that audiences can become excited about, Shirobako creates a sense of immersion that few anime can match. Viewers ultimately derive a considerable payoff from watching characters grow and relating this back to their own experiences.

A Western Inspiration

Mel in Animeland (@MelinAnimeland)

Mel in Animeland showcases how Western works have played a role in inspiring Japanese works; while the incredible creativity and diversity of Japanese works is staggering, Japanese works have also drawn from western sources, applying their own interpretations to create something engaging. Mel highlights six works that were particularly inspired, from Detective Conan and Moriarty the Patriot using aspects from Sherlock Holmes, to how Are You Alice? puts a twist on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While it is often the case that viewers may take a work at face value, stopping to smell the roses and consider what went into work also allows one a stronger sense of appreciation and enjoyment.

Japan known for strange and wonderful examples of creativity – there are things that distinctly have a Japanese touch, and so, when I read about how Western works have influence in Japanese media, it is always interesting to see how aspects of cultures I am more familiar are interpreted within Japanese works. Usually, elements from Western cultures are used as the basis for a novel idea, and the result is invariably unique, presenting a fresh take on things that we might be familiar with.

Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon (Season One)

Lynn Sheridan (@TheEarthLynn)

Lynn Sheridan presents the highlights of Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon (DanMachi for brevity) in his submission, breaking it down into readable sections that details aspects of the anime. This series follows an adventurer named Bell whose main aim is to impress a female adventurer, but when he begins, he is uncommonly weak and finds it difficult to advance in his journey. Besides what makes Bell a compelling protagonist, to the payoff viewers gain from watching Bell improve as an adventurer from his humble beginnings, Lynn also covers some of the aspects of the series that were a little less enjoyable, and ultimately, expresses a desire to see the series continue because of its engaging premise and cast of (mostly) likeable characters.

I remember picking up DanMachi purely because Inori Minase was playing a role in it: I know Minase best as GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and so, it was quite a bit of a surprise to see her as the goddess Hestia, whose traits are vastly different than those of Chino’s. Beyond this, Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon ended up being a fun watch: much of the series is driven by Bell’s selfless nature and focus, and although his intentions are shallow in nature, the adventures Bell goes upon, and his learnings, are anything but. Although I never ended up writing about this one, I’ve heard that there’s a second season whose first episode will be airing in a few days, and I could see myself continuing on with DanMachi; it eludes me as to how long ago that I watched DanMachi, but I definitely remember having a good time watching it.

The Plant – My Kinetic-Novel Release

Jon Spencer Reviews aka Host of Jon’s Creative Showcase! (@JS_Reviews)

Jon’s Creative Showcase is the creation of Jon Spencer, and besides running a blog, Jon has also released his own game, titled The Plant. This kinetic novel represents the culmination of many hours of effort, and Jon stresses that he is not a software developer by trade, which accentuates the impressive nature of this accomplishment. From UI and UX to figuring out the artwork, sound and story, Jon highlights the processes it took to get the game off the ground. In order to ensure the release was of a high quality, Jon worked with both editors and quality assurance staff. The game ultimately released on May 8, 2019, and represents an exciting milestone, making all of the effort worth it. The development process was a journey: Jon learnt Python and the Ren’py engine, deeply enjoying the marketting and presentation aspects of the project, but also discovering challenges in time management and quality control. All of these efforts paid off, and folks curious to give this kinetic novel a go for themselves can find it here.

I am an iOS developer by trade, and a part of my responsibilities is to explain what I do in terms that are accessible to folks who are not developers. The world of software development is filled with arcane terminology, subtle nuances that can be frustrating to pick up, and demands great patience to learn; when Jon recounts his journey in learning Python to build The Plant, I was very impressed. It takes persistence and an open mind to pick up a programming language, and even though Python is billed as an accessible language, even it has elements that require subtlety to pick up. I vividly recall not understanding integer division and array indices when I first began programming in my undergraduate, only picking up these elements when studying Java and later, Objective-C for my summer research. As a result, watching Jon’s story in building The Plant was inspiring, and Jon shows that programming can be done by most anyone with the mindset to learn. The end result is a solid kinetic novel that saw a relatively smooth release, and my question now is whether or not Jon intends to build any other games: if so, I would be quite happy to lend some time to address questions he may have about programming.

Video Games and Mental Health

Megan, Nerd Rambles (@Nerdramblesmeg)

When Megan approached the June Jon’s Creator Showcase, she had two excellent posts to submit. The first dealt with how to begin as a blogger, and the second addresses mental health and video games. The topic of video games and mental health was a very engaging read – Megan explores how video games help her manage difficult situations in real life and act as a source of stress relief. In providing escapism, games offer a respite from the real world, allows the mind to focus on whatever objective the game tasks the player with completing, and ultimately lets the mind regroup. Megan notes that while her thoughts come from her personal experience, there are other resources available that provide mental health related support for folks who enjoy video games.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, video games can also worsen mental health problems: when I play the multiplayer of Battlefield, I become tense, jumpy and unpleasant. However, on the whole, video games are an excellent way of reducing stress, especially games that are cooperation or story-driven. By immersing users into another world, one’s mind is allowed to rest from whatever task is at hand. This is no different than taking a walk to clear one’s head during a difficult task: by stepping back, this allows the mind to process information taken in during a task, building the neural connections that allow for long-term memory to retain information or work through a process. This is why gaming in moderation can be seen as a viable mental health break, and also accounts for why I enjoy single-player games to the extent that I do.

Finding Inspiration in Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer)

Rose, Wretched And Divine

When Tanjirou Kamado’s family is massacred by demons, leaving him and his sister the sole survivors, Tanjirou resolves to become a demon slayer to save his sister, who became a demon. Demon Slayer has seen positive reception since its animated adaptation began airing, and in her post, Rose succintly explains how the story holds inspiration through the sheer effort that Tanjirou has directed towards becoming a full-fledged demon slayer. Impressed with his effort, Rose compares Tanjirou’s journey to similar journeys in live, whether it be going through school and doing one’s best to succeed on exams, becoming versed enough to operate a motor vehicle safely or even keeping a blog going long enough to connect with the community. The messages sent through Demon Slayer are sufficiently strong as to inspire, and watching anime like these can give one the drive to excel in their own aspirations, as well – this is the power of fiction, and Rose reminds readers that the lessons of fiction should not be so hastily dismissed simply because of the medium.

I’ve been hearing many positive things about Demon Slayer from various sources, although I’ve currently got no plans to check this series out. Fortunately, Rose has succinctly described her own enjoyment of Demon Slayer, relating it to her experiences. Typically, the result of effort is all the world sees, but this does not in any way diminishes the meaning of that effort. For instance, when I say I have my operator’s license, people immediately think that I can go wherever I please, but won’t think of the countless summer days I spent behind the wheel of a training vehicle or in the basement of a community association studying the rules of the road). Rose is absolutely correct in that the messages of a given work of fiction are relevant regardless of its medium, and in a way, tacitly suggests that I could be watching Demon Slayer, as well.

What I Mean When I Say Sarazanmai is Basically a Magical Boy Show (But Also Has Hints of Kiznaiver)

The Animanga Spellbook, MagicConan14 (@MagicConan14)

MagicConan14 explores Sarazanmai, a series following three middle school students who are transformed into kappa following an accident, and how it bears the halmarks of a magical girl series, but with the twist that young men are involved in place of young women. Each of the boys have a distinct colour motif reflecting on their personalities and respective place in their group, and their names are chosen with a specific meaning in mind. Magical series may portray the protagonists as being uncommonly close to one another, and Sarazanmai possesses these elements as well, with two of the leads dealing with themes of homosexual relationships. The sum of these features give the series credence that it is magical girl series: MagicConan14 describes it as a magical boy series, given that its lead characters are boys, after all.

I’m familiar with recent presentations of magical girls genre, having seen and enjoyed both Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Puella Magi Madoka Magica – more traditional series have not been something I particularly got into, simply because notions of a weekly antagonist to defeat was something that ended up being a touch too repetitive for me. The counterpart to magical girls is magical boys, which are usually intended as parodies of the genre by forcing a male lead into a traditionally female role, but Sarazanmai does not feel as a parody, being a serious portrayal of what magical boys could be: author Kunihiko Ikuhara wanted to create a more adult-oriented series about yōkai (Japanese monsters) that was male-oriented, and while I’ve not seen Sarazanmai, the cursory background I have on it suggests that Ikuhara was able to craft such a story: from MagicConan14’s conclusion, one should reasonably find that Sarazanmai feel like a magical boys series despite its premise.

Self-Care Sunday #17: Coping with Blogging Slumps Pt. 1 – Stress & Burnouts

BiblioNyan (@Yon_Nyaan)

BiblioNyan’s submission for this month’s showcase is a detailed insight into blogging slumps and how aspects of stress can impact one’s blogging output. While some stress can be a positive motivator, an excess of stress can seep into one’s life and become an all-consuming source of trouble, impacting one’s ability to think and be creative. Stress may even give the impression that one’s ability to blog has diminished, leading one to consider calling it quits. After all, blogging is a very effort-intensive endeavour: one must consistently draft out what they’d like to convey in a post, cohesively form this into an article and then ensure that the resulting post is clean and readable. Along the way, other perspectives might also be included, or additional reading might need to be conducted to ensure the content is correct. The sum of these requirements can make blogging a time-consuming and even emotionally-draining process: BiblioNyan recounts burning out after running a series of well-received and engaging posts, losing the inclination to write. However, burnout was not the end, and along the way, BiblioNyan came to rekindle a love for blogging to continue. In this post, BiblioNyan discusses several avenues to manage stress and reduce the risk of burning out, recommending scheduling posts and breaks to strike a good balance, as well as dealing with problems in real-life as they occur to ensure they don’t become serious issues. While BiblioNyan notes that the suggestions offered may not be for everyone, taking a break and regrouping can nonetheless be a great help for all bloggers.

I’ve been running this blog for upwards of seven-and-a-half years now, and like BiblioNyan, I’ve found myself running into the question of whether or not it was feasible to continue. Between difficulties in getting a post started, finding new content to talk about and declining traffic, my own motivation to blog has greatly varied – after all, if I cannot write about what I enjoy and reach the people I’d like to hear from, is there a point in keeping this party going? As BiblioNyan describes, one moment, one could feel inspired to write brilliant content, and the next, this energy wears off, leaving dejection and exhaustion. The proposed countermeasure for this burnout is brilliantly simple, and a variation on the approach that I employ: I plan some posts out weeks, and even months in advance, thinking about what I would cover in my mind before drafting it out in point form. Once I am satisfied a post an have sufficient content, I put the paragraphs together, and then improv the figure captions I have underneath each screenshot. The result of budgeting time out allows me to know when I can spend time to blog, and when I can do other things. For me, burn out no longer is problem, because there’s a strategy that I spent a long time developing: I wish that I had access to resources like BiblioNyan’s post when I started out, and I encourage new bloggers to read through this post in its full glory, as it addresses these issues in a much deeper and more meaningful manner than what I’ve presented here.

The Watcher

MibIH (@MibIH)

MibIH submits a video that conveys the horror of the mundane: what is an ordinary and unremarkable scene conveys terror when a filmy, shadowy figure appears. Made for Orpington Video & Film Makers, an amateur filmmaking club, the video shows that things in the world are a matter of perspective – the mysterious figure is eternally watching the viewers, who believe they are watching the video, and this creates a sense of unease.

While videos are uncommon submissions, Jon Spencer encourages participants in Jon’s Creator Showcase to submit whatever content they are proud of, and videos are a part of this. I will happily look through videos as I do posts, and while it seems that MibIH’s got the only submission for video content this time around, I do hope that future submissions for other hosts will see more videos. I’ve never really been much of a patron of the fine arts to appreciate film and initially worried that I would miss the critical elements in MibIH’s submission, but ended up getting something out of watching The Watcher – terror of the unknown and suspense. The Watcher reminds me of the Slenderman mythos, which gained notoriety some years ago and was built on fear of the unknown.

Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 15

The Moyatorium, Moyatori (@The_Moyatorium)

In this collaboration with another blogger, Primes, Moyatori discusses the fifteenth episode of Toradora! in a podcast-style post. Dealing with the problems that each of Ami, Minori and Taiga deal with as their personal beliefs and approaches come to light, the discussion argues that the challenges youth face are as complex as those adults face. While perhaps lacking the same experience and maturity adults have in making sense of, and expressing their troubles, this does not diminish the validity of their feelings in any way. Toradora! is a series well known for its raw and genuine portrayal of the dynamics of relationships amongst high school students; Ryuji initially wants to date Minori, while Taiga has only eyes for Yusaku, and the two outcasts decide to help one another pursue their respective crushes once it turns out that they live next to each other. Moyatori and Prime reach the conclusion that the topics brought up in Toradora!‘s fifteenth episode are introspective, and that while the author may be attempting to present a very specific view of certain topics through Toradora!‘s characters, the end result is still very authentic and serviceable.

If memory serves, I watched Toradora! three years previously and greatly enjoyed the anime for its authentic characters and a very natural progression of love. The complex interactions between the characters and their resultant actions were very believable and show that, when done properly, drama series can capture the emotional tenour of youth very strongly, evoking memories of adolescence for older viewers and perhaps creating moments youth can relate to. I’ve never done any podcast-style collaborations with other bloggers before, but the conversation between Moyatori and Primes was entertaining to read, piquing my interests in the format. Creating a more conversational format gives the sense that blogs are about community, and looking at my own blog, I understand that my posts read more like essays submitted to a junior literature class rather than a genuine conversation, so it is refreshing to see the back-and-forth between Primes and Moyatori. Given the time that has elapsed since I watched Toradora!, I (shamefully) don’t remember much detail, except that Ryuji and Taiga end up falling in love with one another because of how close they became while helping one another out; for the strength of the story, I might need to go back and rewatch the entire series to fully appreciate it.

OWLS Blog Tour: Cosplay

Matt Doyle (@mattdoylemedia)

Matt introduces readers to cosplay, a portmanteau of costume and play: at its finest, cosplay is a highly elaborate and intricate hobby that demands ingenuity and creativity from cosplayers. The reward for the effort taken towards building a costume comes both from enjoying the process, as well as seeing the finished product. Beyond the satisfaction of having constructed something wonderful, Matt also explores how cosplay, as a form of self-expression, is immensely beneficial in helping people be themselves where they might otherwise be uncomfortable, and ultimately, be happy with immersing themselves into a project that constantly reminds them of the best parts of their hobby.

While I’ve never cosplayed before, primarily as a result of a lack of time and patience, I appreciate that this is an integral aspect towards the anime community, allowing individuals to connect with one another and their favourite series at a deeper level. This is what makes attending anime conventions fun for me: I am able to see the positivity of individuals who genuinely love their hobbies enough to invest time and resources into expressing this love. Both at anime conventions like Otafest and through social media, I’ve seen some highly impressive cosplays, as well: some costumes look as though they were made by designers who had worked in a series, and even simpler cosplays are worth praise, showing an individual’s dedication to a series they connect with. Matt is absolutely right in that cosplaying a character from a series one enjoys will improve the experience, and on this note, while I do not see myself doing anything with this level of commitment, it would be nice to pick up or build an ISAC terminal and then fashion myself into a SHD Agent from The Division: I actually have everything else needed to look the part as a result of the climate in where I live and the activities that I normally partake in.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health: My Path of Recovery with Kristina

Kristina (@DoxieLover_27)

Kristina covers her journey with mental health and recovery. When she found herself feeling unlike herself, she feared that there was something wrong, but also refused treatment out of the worry that professional help was for those with clinical conditions. However, after deciding to accept professional help, Kristina was able to find a suitable treatment programme with both medication and therapy. While the initial steps were challenging, Kristina began recovering, and five years since, she feels much better for it, having found a new rhythm in her life. Mental health is a remarkably difficult topic to speak about owing to misconception that individuals with anxiety, depression or other conditions are somehow lacking, and it has only been in the last few years where advances have allowed for new perspectives to be taken on mental health. Hearing stories about recovery from mental health conditions is particularly encouraging, since it acts as a reminder of what is possible once those critical first steps are taken.

In Kristina’s case, support from family and trust in the clinician were these first steps. There is a commonality in addressing mental health issues; regardless of whose story is being told, every journey invariably involves a support system, whether it be family, friends or professionals. Mental health, thusly, is not an individual problem, but everyone’s problem: by dealing with it together, people overcome their problems together, as well. I am glad to hear that Kristina’s found her road to recovery, and am also immensely grateful for the people in my corner, as well, for having helped me through challenges that I’ve previously faced. Six years ago, I fell into a depression of sorts, and support from family, as well as friends, ending up making all of the difference. Kristina is absolutely right that no one is ever truly alone in this fight, and I hope that she’s doing well.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health: It’s Alright to Take Breaks

Crimson613 (@readatnight00)

Crimson613 shares her experience with mental health and the importance of being able to take breaks: during her post secondary, she took on a wide range of courses and commitments, but began feeling anxiety over reception to her work, even losing sight of what motivated her. Things continued to go downhill from there, as she began failing out of her courses and considered dropping out. However, taking up one particular job, working at the theatre, allowed Crimson613 to begin taking things in from a new perspective. Over time, she became more comfortable with working at the theatre and took initiative to speak with others, developing the leadership skills to both train new staff and become promoted. The returning confidence saw Crimson613 return to classes with a refreshed determination to do well, and Crimson613’s is just one instalment in a series of posts that deal with mental health. The pressures of keeping up and doing well are no stranger: I definitely relate to Crimson613’s story, having been there myself during my time as an undergraduate student. To constantly be striving for excellence even when one is overwhelmed on many fronts is an incredible challenge, and the feelings of doubt and anxiety from the effort needed to maintain this is a very real factor.

In my case, the second year of my undergraduate studies was similar to Crimson613’s. I had stupidly decided that I would attempt to push through Organic Chemistry II and Data Structures II, where my peers had decided to step it back one and take other courses, nearly cost me my degree: my GPA had dropped below the threshold needed to remain in the health science honours programme, and this culminated in me getting involved with an incident where I had been accused of academic misconduct. In the end, what ended up happening was that my friends in health science organised a study party so we could pass organic chemistry together, and I suggested something similar with my data structures class. With help from the TAs and my peers, we ended up passing, and my GPA lived to fight another day. My home faculty also dismissed the allegations after I presented my case, and likewise, I lived to fight another day. Through it all, support from my friends, and my watching K-On! ultimately grounded my thoughts, helped me to come back. The stress and pressure management skills resulting meant that when I went to take my MCAT a year later, I was much better prepared for it mentally. I’m happy to hear that Crimson613’s story has a happy ending: sometimes, inspiration and encouragement can come from the most unexpected of places; with the right support and encouragement, one can turn a minus into a plus and come out all the stronger for it.

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch Carole & Tuesday

Kurumi Shim (@KurumiShim)

Carole & Tuesday is an anime about two disparate individuals who encounter one another, and despite their differences, their love for music leads the two to become a band. In her post, Kurumi Shim steps through five noteworthy aspects of the series that made it worth watching for her, and details how each element plays a major role in making Carole & Tuesday a rewarding anime to follow. These five elements are an inspiring story, top-tier animation, exceptional musical performances, a unique world and genuine characters. Right from the get-go, Kurumi Shim has defined the strengths of Carole & Tuesday. Audiences would be immediately drawn in by a relatable and motivating journey that shows how passion can push people through difficult times, offering a substantial pay-off for those who watch Carole & Tuesday all the way through. In addition, things are set in a world that is simultaneously different and the same as our own; while being a futuristic setting, there are enough familiar elements that make the setting plausible while at once, being distinct. Being an addition to the Spring 2019 lineup, Carole & Tuesday has more than meets the eye, far more than the solid musical piece. With this sort of presentation, Kurumi Shim has convinced me that my decision to sit out most of the Spring 2019 season might not have been the wisest one in the world.

Looking more closely at the specifics, the components that work so well for Carole & Tuesday are essential pieces of virtually everything I watch, and in fact, also can form the basis for what I watch. I value a series most for convincing characters whose stories I can become invested in: watching everyone learn, grow and succeed is an immensely rewarding and cathartic experience. Because learning is such an integral part of life, one of the things I always seek from a given series is to understand what lessons are presented, and how characters change as a result of their experiences. Life lessons in fiction are typically drawn from real-world experiences, and seeing this process allows one to begin taking their own problems into perspective. Besides character growth and the story, Kurumi Shim’s love for the animation and setting in Carole & Tuesday is something I similarly look for in a series. While not every setting needs to be as exotic as Nagi no Asukara or the worlds of Miyazaki, convincing world building and animation creates a much more compelling experience, bringing to life the worlds that the characters inhabit and giving their experiences credibility by showing that the characters do not exist in a vacuum. Overall, I would be inclined to check out Carole & Tuesday thanks to Kurumi Shim’s post, and while I’m unlikely to do so, I’ve also seen yet another example of how effective concise and focused posts can be.

Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Episodes 19 to 22

Jusuchin, A Journey Through Life (@RightWingOtaku)

I’ve long heard about Space Battleship Yamato, even if I’ve not seen it for myself; the gist of what I understand is that the IJN Yamato, mightiest battleship to grace this world and which was sunk in 1945, was raised from the depths of the ocean and upgraded to take on space-faring capabilities. Armed with a wave-motion cannon that can trade punches with one of the Death Star’s tributary lasers, the Yamato and its crew set out to fight extraterrestrial invaders who’ve decimated the Earth’s surface. Fortunately, even if I have limited familiarity with the likes of Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Jusuchin has stepped in to provide a summary of the latest series of episodes, before delving into his thoughts on what happened in the episode, dealing with themes of humanity and how it forms the rallying point behind the human characters. From the abandoning of humanity to improve combat performance, to carrying faith in one’s heart, the crew of different ships show what everyone fights for. The Yamato itself is the centerpiece of the series, and ultimately, despite carrying a powerful set of weapons that level the playing field somewhat, its ultimate weapon is the conviction each of the crew has. These sorts of stories cover human nature at a larger scale than things like Carole & Tuesday, which are deal with interpersonal elements in a more intimate fashion. At the granularity in Space Battleship Yamato 2202, themes of what defines humanity come to the forefront to remind audiences of what makes our societies and civilisations worth fighting for.

Jusuchin admits to me that his submission was rushed out to production, and I will remark that minus his saying this to me, I would never have guessed. With his approach towards blogging, Jusuchin covers elements that I may miss or skate over: when we concurrently did episodic posts for Hai-Furi, or wrote out our reflections for Girls und Panzer, I always found myself impressed with how Jusuchin could point at specific details in an episode or movie, and indicate whether or not it contributed to, or detracted from a moment’s authenticity. This is one of the joys about reading other blogs: besides picking up new work (or at least, gaining exposure to a range of different works), one can also gain insights into more technical or subtle details in a work, especially where the author has a strong interest in a particular field and is able to bring this knowledge to the table when discussing a series. As for Space Battleship Yamato 2202 itself, I would likely need to find a good starting point should I ever find the time to begin this series; I am fully aware that Space Battleship Yamato as a whole is quite iconic and renowned, but one of my biggest shortcomings as a blogger and anime fan is finding the time to keep up with everything.

March Comes in Like a Lion

Fred of aunatural (@AuNaturelOne)

From Fred of aunatural, host of the upcoming July 2019 showcase, comes a post on March Comes in Like a Lion, which is about a shōgi prodigy, Rei Kiriyama, who lost his family in a motor accident. The series thus follows his growth and recovery as he learns more about shōgi under a family friend, rediscovering what it means to have a meaningful connection with others. However, this journey is not an easy one: along the way, Rei is bullied, ostracised and finds himself in difficult situations. Fred notes that with so many moving parts, he initially did not continue past the fifth episode, as the series seemed to be exceptionally melancholy. However, on a second attempt to watch the series, Fred comes to find value in the series, as it tells a story about someone who copes, matures and strengthens as a result of his experiences. While March Comes in Like a Lion is prima facie about shōgi (Japanese chess), the series’ actual focus is on Rei, whose perseverance and refusal to let his circumstances get the better of him eventually allow him to pick himself back up. An inspiring journey, Fred wishes that this series would gain a continuation in some form, because it would be worth seeing closure for Rei and his newfound future. Having heard nothing but good things about March Comes in Like a Lion, it may therefore come as a surprise that I’ve actually not seen this series yet.

Walking into an anime with an accepting mind invariably yields an outcome one might be pleasantly surprised by: in Fred’s case, returning to March Comes in Like a Lion a second time allowed a newfound appreciation for the series that transformed into a greater understanding of what March Comes in Like a Lion‘s themes were about. Rather than seeing Rei suffer endlessly, there was a point to his tribulations. This is a superb reminder that open-mindedness can confer an experience that transforms an unremarkable work into a highly moving, impactful one. I typically do not deal with negative reviews for this reason, since an initial impression might not necessarily reflect how I properly feel about a series – the joys of discovering the merits of a given anime is actually what led to my own Terrible Anime Challenge programme, where I go through a series where I had a priori expectations or impressions of it, then discard these and watch the anime anew to see if my thoughts change any. For the most part, I come out with a positive impression. Overall, given Fred’s assessment of March Comes in Like a Lion, I am inclined to check it out now, although folks should note that I am terrible at watching shows. It’s a miracle this blog exists at all, given how severe my procrastination tendencies are. On the flipside, because I am convinced to at least give March Comes in Like a Lion and other series encountered during this Jon’s Creator Showcase a chance, it indicates that every submission has been successful in presenting me with the merits of a series, speaking to the strength of each author’s content.

Closing Remarks

With the June edition of Jon’s Creator Showcase over, I can say that am happy to have decided to participate in Jon’s Creator Showcase; I admit that I know of half the blogs that I read half as well as I’d like, and I like half the blogs I read half as well as you deserve. Hence, such an initiative was a fun opportunity to get to know other bloggers better. However, all things come to an end, and so, with the end of June, the torch is passed to Fred of Au Natural, who will be hosting the July edition of Jon’s Creator Showcase. Admittedly, I was getting a little nervous when I got in touch with Jon to inquire about who was hosting for July, but after that was cleared out, it means that Jon’s Creator Showcase will see a smooth transition. I look forwards to seeing how Fred presents the July edition and also, what submissions will be made. Since I’m not hosting this time, it means that I’ll be allowed to submit something again, and while my blogging output has declined as of late, I figure that I’ll submit either a talk on Gundam Narrative or K-On!. We’re now into the summer, my favourite time of the year, and with long, warm days comes the opportunity to hike the mountains, take walks in the hills nearby and then enjoy a cold ice cream after, or wander the midway of the Calgary Stampede and see what exotic foods they might have, amongst other things. In short, I intend to make the most of every free moment I have this summer, but fear not, for there’s also some content planned out for this blog during the best season – this year happens to be both the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and the five year anniversary to the Giant Walkthrough Brain. As well, the summer season for anime features a few series that I’m interested in checking out, so a few of these may also receive posts. Finally, with this post at its end, I’d be happy to hear thoughts from you, readers and bloggers alike, on whether or not I’ve done a reasonable job of representing your content, whether or not my efforts at hosting a Jon’s Creator Showcase were satisfactory, and also just general feedback on how things are run around here in general.

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

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

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

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

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

A Valentine’s Day with Miho Nishizumi: A Brief Introspection

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz

What would Valentine’s Day with Girls und Panzer‘s Miho “Miporin” Nishizumi look like? A first date would likely entail an afternoon spent at a Teddy Bear Museum, followed by a visit to a patisserie selling macarons and tea. A later date could encompass a quiet meal for two cooked together, followed by an evening watching a movie. Quiet, cheerful and shy, but utterly devoted to her friends, Miho falls into the category of an ISFJ, the defender archetype. Supportive, reliable and imaginative, Miho’s strengths are being able to rally her friends from difficult situations and devising creative solutions to challenges that she faces. She is, however, very reserved and quite unwilling to discuss her problems with others until she opens up, and she can be very stubborn despite her adaptability in Panzerfahren, being uncompromising about her friends’ well-being. Throughout Girls und Panzer, Miho is presented as being fiercely loyal and determined, even when it comes at the expense of her own well-being, and this is a personality flaw that makes Miho a believable character – putting others ahead of herself, Miho often forgets about her own happiness and takes on more responsibilities than she might otherwise be able to handle. Fortunately, in the company of friends like Saori, Hana, Yukari and Mako, Miho begins striking a finer balance and matures as an individual, coming to rediscover her love for a sport and a new reason to love it. Far from perfect, and far from invincible, Miho is a solid lead for Girls und Panzer whose capacity as a commander on the field is balanced by a very human, plausible personality off the field.

  • Miho is strikingly similar to CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa in many ways; since I earlier wrote about the INFP-ISTJ dynamic, I figured to mix things up, I’d suppose that Miho is an ISFJ. The ISFJ-ISTJ relationship is a little more compatible than the INFP-ITSJ one, and so, this post is a little shorter: for my part, I am open-minded, can be more outgoing than my introverted preferences suggest if the situation demands it, and despite my preference for logic, I have found myself slowly becoming more attuned to my sensing side, as well. Perhaps for the future, I’ll take a look at a personality type that’s my opposite, such as Harukana Receive‘s Haruka Oozora, and see what the consequences of such a pairing are, to mix things up and produce more interesting discussion for readers.

In a relationship with ISFJ personalities such as Miho, folk like myself (ISTJ) would immediately respect one another’s desire for quiet time and also be able to share interesting conversations with one another. I’d find Miho’s compassion and warmth a major strength, while Miho would benefit from my ability to approach situations from a logical, structured manner. We’d make decisions based on a range of factors to reach a conclusion that’s best for everyone. From our personalities’ sums, our household would be organised, and there’d be a healthy respect for planning and schedules. However, there are drawbacks in the ISFJ-ISTJ pairing, as well: our mutual introversion means that we might not communicate enough. We also tend to overthink situations and jump to the worst-case conclusions during times of difficulty. My bluntness may also hurt Miho, whereas Miho’s aversion to conflict may make it difficult for her to be honest about how she feels about some things. However, difficulties notwithstanding, sustainable, healthy and rewarding relationships can definitely result from a ISFJ-ISTJ pairing. Good communication and a respect for one another is key here, and as partners get to know one another, they definitely could understand and support one another. Of course, these are just hypotheticals; while fun to write for, I’m sure that whatever happens in reality, a healthy dose of open-mindedness, a willingness to listen and communicate will mean that as far as romance and relationships go, any personality type will be compatible as long as the love is present. Finally, for having made it this far in the post, I would also like to wish my readers a Happy Valentine’s Day!