The Infinite Zenith

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

Category Archives: General Discussion

Reflections on the 2017 Summer Solstice

“I am a summer person.” —Elin Hilderbrand

The longest day of the year visits the world today: it’s the first day of summer, and while the light is welcomed, today is forecast to be a little cooler, with a projected high of 18°C. We thus enter the most favourable time of year, when the skies are pleasant and the air comfortable, conducive for hiking along the river in the mountains or unwinding with a novel and cold beverage in hand. A year ago today, I was gearing up for my graduate thesis defense, and while I was feeling quite confident that things would go well, there was also a healthy bit of nervousness. When the defense ended, I was most relieved, having passed, and with that, a new chapter on life began for me. I was set to begin work, but before that, I attended the ALIFE XV Conference in Cancún. Since then, I’ve been working: time has passed in the blink of an eye, and we’re stepping into another summer. While the days of summer research have long passed, and I’m busy all weekdays, this has done little to diminish my plans for the summer. I’ve yet to capitalise on the complementary parks pass that I received as a part of the celebrations for Canada’s 150th Anniversary; on my list of places in the nearby National Parks to explore include Takakkaw Falls and Peyto Lake of the Canadian Rockies. Closer to home, walking around parks in the neighbourhood and ending with shaved ice is also a simple but pleasant way to enjoy the summer. Finally, the long days of summer also afford me time to return to my old hobbies of sketching and reading. It’s a far cry from last year, when I spent all of my walking moments preparing for the thesis: without this occupying my every thought, free time is finally, for the lack of a better word, free. Of course, today is a Wednesday, so I will be heading off for work once this post is done: the weather may be warm, but iOS apps won’t implement or test themselves.

  • The vast blue skies and long, warm days of summer are a blessing, a far fry from winter days where it is forty below. It is a time of adventure, both large and small, and for appreciating the small things. While it’s my favourite time of year, summer melancholy is very much a real thing — it is caused by a longing for something (or someone) and a regret that opportunity gives way to routine. It’s an unpleasant experience, but one that can be surmounted by a willingness to appreciate the small things, whether it be a particularly beautiful sunset or a chance to enjoy a cold drink under sunny skies following a walk. Of course, there’s also the Steam Summer Sale to look forwards to: I’m eyeing Ori and the Blind Forest, Poker Night at the Inventory 2 and the legendary Stay! Stay! Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

  • Because I travelled in May, a time where temperatures remain comfortable in both Japan and Hong Kong, I have the whole summer free to enjoy the pleasant air in and around my city, as opposed to burning alive in the heat of a Tokyo or Hong Kong summer. I used to wonder what it would be like to live in the inaka, but ever since my travels, I’ve realised that the quiet suburban parks of Canada are about as peaceful as the rural parts of Japan. A day well spent is one that need not necessarily involve my overly-large Steam library — one spent out in the sunshine of a nearby park is surprisingly similar to walking in the inaka and is remarkably cathartic.

In my summer solstice post for last year, I mentioned that Your Name was something on my radar. Originally, I had been anticipating a release pattern similar to that of The Garden of Words, but this was plainly not the case. As such, my review and discussion for it will come out in late July. With Your Name in mind, the future of this blog finally enters the discussion: because this blog has proved surprisingly resilient against matters of scheduling, the only thing I can say with any confidence is that blog posts will be written as I find the time to do so. Sometimes, there will be more time, and other times, there will not be any time. However, I am not packing it in any time soon: besides Your Name, Koe no Katachi, Kono Sekai no Ktasumi ni, Kantai Collection: The Movie, Gundam Origin and Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter remain on my stack of anime to write about. In addition, Battlefield 1 has proven to be one incredible adventure, and I will be looking to continue telling my stories as walk the path to rank 110 (hitting the level cap has been something I’d never done before), and finally, with several new games on the horizon, there will be material to write about, as well. This blog’s continued existence is also largely thanks to you, the readers: knowing that folks are enjoying the discussion and content here is more than sufficient a motivation to write. Having said this, two more posts will be coming out later today: I will be looking at Metro: Exodus and revisit The Garden of Words with a renewed perspective.

Reflections on visiting the Land of the Rising Sun and Pearl of the Orient

“All right, okay, now we’re in the quiet safe room where none of the stuff that I bought from various shops can be lost in transit. Now, let’s look at all the stuff we got. We got a Kimi no na wa Official Visual Guide, that’s sixteen hundred yen. We got a Mount Fuji fridge magnet, that’s four hundred and eighty yen. We got, uh, a…some bells from the Hong Kong airport. Seventy Hong Kong dollars.” —Stealy, Rick and Morty

I’m back from my travels across the ocean to Japan and Hong Kong after two weeks; having returned for a week now, the effects of jet lag and a persistent cough picked up on the flight back are no longer felt, and the time is appropriate to do a short reflection at my travels through a section of Japan, which encompassed a journey from Tokyo to Osaka over a four-day period. It’s the first trip I’ve done in some time that did not involve my graduate work, and during the course of my travels, I noticed that time moved at a much more relaxing, casual pace than it does when I’m at work. After brief stay in Tokyo and an overnight at the Hotel Heritage Resort (where I had a fantastic evening dinner and soaked in the onsen) on the first day, we travelled to Mount Fuji and toured Oshino village nearby before ascending to the Fifth Station located on the side of the mountain for a closer look at Japan’s most famous mountain for day two. The day ended at the Ikenotaira Resort, located in the Kirigamine Highland. On the third day, after enjoying some fresh strawberries at the Enakyo Observatory overlooking the Kiso River, we strolled down the walk at Magome Village and sat down to a Japanese-style lunch before visiting Nagoya’s ​Atsuta Shrine. On the final day, Kyoto’s legendary Kinkakuji was first on the list of things to take in, followed by Nara’s ​Tōdai temple in the afternoon. The day concluded in Osaka, bringing the lightning tour of Japan to a close. Subsequently, I flew to Hong Kong and spent a week there with family, doing a self-guided tour by day and sitting down to dinner with relatives and family friends by night. It’s been a most pleasant experience, and by the end of things, I was quite ready to return to the True North Strong and begin working again.

The experience in Japan was a wondrous one, an opportunity to visit the Land of the Rising Sun for myself: it’s definitely a fine destination for visiting, striking a fine balance between modernity and history. Most of my travels saw me visit more traditional locations, such as Tokyo’s Meiji Jinju Shrine and Imperial Palace, but a glimpse of the Tokyo Skytree and drive through Tokyo’s metro area also showcased Japan’s urban aspects. Most of the trip was actually spent exploring historical and rural attractions: Magome and Oshino Village were located a ways from urban centers, offering a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the city that is a far cry from images of a busy, never-sleeping nation. I greatly enjoyed these places, where the pacing was calm and easygoing; it is one thing to see these things from behind a screen or written on a page, so to have experienced a diverse array of places and foods in Japan personally was most illuminating and enjoyable: besides Japanese snow crab, Kobe beef was also to be savoured. As with France last year, the Japan component of my vacation was also a humbling one: compared to Hong Kong, where I can get by moderately well on account of fluency in spoken Cantonese, my command of the Japanese language is not particularly good, so even though I can wield enough of the basics to order food and ask for directions, travelling in a foreign country serves as a constant reminder that the world is vast, and complex societies that have developed reflect on the sheer diversity on our planet. Overall, this vacation to Japan was superb in all ways, and while only scratching the surface of things, afforded me a chance to explore and experience a plethora of elements in Japan.

Image Gallery

  • Last I did a post featuring photographs with anime vectors superimposed was back for the Cancún ALIFE XV Conference last July, and this post will feature thirty images on top of the standard issue discussion. The vectors are deliberately placed, to liven up the images, although some images lack these vectors, since placing them would seem illogical. The photographs begin on the full first day in Tokyo: we had arrived in the early evening on the previous day and stayed close to the hotel, being exhausted from the flight and dissuaded from exploring the nearby plains on account of a shower. This image was taken from the open area besides the Imperial Palace in Tokyo’s Chiyoda district.

  • Driving into Tokyo from Narita, then visiting the Meiji Jinju Shrine and Imperial Palace took up most of the morning of the first day. We stopped by a nabe place that featured a hot pot already set up with cabbage, shiitake mushrooms and bean sprouts, with an egg, fried chicken and thinly-sliced beef strips and udon noodles. It was quite fun to cook the meats for myself, and lunch was a highly delicious affair. Following lunch, we spent some time in the Ginza district, browsing around the shops in the area.

  • The Wako building in the Ginza district is visible in this image, being dwarfed by the other developments along the road. The building was constructed in 1932, and I know it best from the film King Kong vs. Godzilla. It houses the Wako department store, selling fancier items like jewellery and designer clothing. I suddenly recall that I’ve yet to actually beat Go! Go! Nippon! – having visited Japan in person before finishing a simulated visit is perhaps one of the strongest reminders of just how big of a procrastinator I am when it comes to entertainment.

  • Owing to time constraints, we did not actually go inside the Tokyo Skytree, and instead, stopped on a promenade along the Sumida River about a klick and some away from the Skytree. The heavy cloud cover would have made it difficult to get a good view of Tokyo that day. With a height of 634 meters, it is the second tallest structure in the world, bested only by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. While a broadcasting and communications tower for several Japanese television stations, there are also two observation decks, a larger capacity one at 350 meters and a smaller one at 450 meters. By comparison, Taipei 101’s observation deck is 391.8 meters above the surface, and the International Commerce Center in Hong Kong’s observation decks is 387.8 meters above the surface.

  • The Koganji temple is located around seven klicks ways from the Skytree as the mole digs in a shopping district. It is a popular destination, as the temple is a place where people can purify and heal minor ailments. On the fourth, fourteenth and twenty-fourth day of each month, a small festival is also held here. This image was captured facing south from the temple grounds.

  • On the second day, we headed for Mount Fuji, visiting three different locations that each offered a unique view of Japan’s most famous mountain. We began at the Fuji Bhuddist Temple in Gotemba: Mount Fuji is just across the way, and while that morning was beautiful, the mountain itself was enveloped in cloud, almost as though it was still preparing itself to be seen. Here, the views of the mountain would have been spectacular, although despite not being able to see the mountain itself, I nonetheless enjoyed the cool, fresh air here.

  • The main reason for why I’ve been able to document my travels over the past two years is because of my iPhone: the combination of a powerful camera and a good set of offline maps allowed me to chronicle every destination visited. I note that Google Maps does not provide offline areas in Japan owing to laws and regulations, so I went with Maps.me. Having good maps is essential to travel and takes away a bit of the guesswork in estimating where I am in relation to a destination, and in the aftermath of a vacation, also has the benefit of providing exceptionally precise recollections of where I went.

  • We made our way to Yamanakako shortly after, where we stopped at a yakiniku restaurant besides Lake Yamanaka for lunch. Plates of beef, chicken and pork awaited us, and I drank miso soup while waiting for my lunch to cook. There was a shared grill that we used to bring the meat to perfection, and I chose to grill the pork and chicken first, leaving the beef for last. I do love a good grill, and this lunch was as fun to eat as it was to cook.

  • Yamanakako is situated right beside Lake Yamanaka, and our stopping point was on the lake’s western shore, so I was not able to get any photographs of Mount Fuji and the lake. Largest of the Fuji lakes in surface area, it is also the shallowest and is a popular spot for water sports. In the moments after lunch, there was sufficient time to purchase some souvenirs, so I picked up a fridge magnet and was on my way.

  • Next on our destination was the village of Oshino, where we visited Shibokusa. The quiet and tranquil of the village gave way to a bit of a crowd as we neared the Nigoriike pool and sourvenir shop. I ordered an ice cream: the weather that day had remained quite pleasant and warm, hence my wish for something cool. In a bit of carelessness, I had forgotten my hat back home, but a good supply of sunscreen and mercifully cooler weather on the trip meant that this mistake was not too much of an issue.

  • While I was walking the streets of Shibokusa and marvelling at a water wheel driving a traditional mill, some folks in my social media feed were deep into the Kantai Collection Spring Event, fighting the impossible Random Number Generator in the hopes of besting the Abyssals and unlocking ships. From their remarks and those of other Kantai Collection players, the game seems to be more trouble than it’s worth (the setup alone requires a doctorate in computer science, from what I hear), so between Shimushu, get! or eating an ice cream in a peaceful village thirteen klicks from Mount Fuji, Mount Fuji would win every time.

  • Although the season for hanami has passed, some trees were still in blossom at Shibokusa. As this image attests, the area is quite popular amongst tourists, being a ways livelier than the quieter reaches of the village. One of the locals handed out some peanuts to us while we were walking en route to Shibokusa, and I immediately wondered that, had I chosen to eat the peanuts, where would the shells go? One of the challenges about Japan is the relative lack of trash cans: the broken window theory is offered as the reason why, suggesting that forcing people to hold onto their trash means a decreased inclination to throw refuse out at random.

  • The clouds around Mount Fuji had lifted somewhat by afternoon, and here, I caught a glimpse of the mountain before it was engulfed by clouds again. We had reached the end of the shops on the street and found ourselves looking into someone’s backyard at this point, hence the decision to turn back, revealing the mountain. Another aspect of Japan that I was unaccustomed to were the presence of toilet seats that seem more advanced than the seat of a fighter aircraft even in public facilities. Found at our hotels, I admit that heated toilet seats were quite nice, but I never bothered using their additional functions, which seem quite intimidating. By comparison, the toilets in Hong Kong were rather more familiar and straightforwards to use. One of the things I noticed while in Japan was the lack of soap dispensers in public restrooms: carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer rectifies this.

  • The final destination for the second day was the Fifth Station, located 2400 meters above sea level. Being the highest point that climbers can begin making their ascent from, the site is home to some shops and restaurants, and the mountain itself is vividly visible. Up here, the conditions are rather different than the warm temperatures of the surrounding regions: there is a distinct chill in the air, and having a nice jacket makes it more comfortable to wander about here.

  • By the time we finished the descent Mount Fuji and travelled out to Ikenotaira Hotel, on the shores of Shirakaba Lake. While utterly exhausted, I was reawakened by the buffet dinner at the hotel. I enjoyed their tempura and snow crab to a great extent and did not partake in the onsen, preferring to hit the hay almost straightway. The next morning was the third day: I woke up early and walked out to the lake’s edge to capture this image, before exploring the resort connected to our hotel. It’s an older facility that bring to mind some of the haikyo I’ve seen, but is still well-maintained and comfortable.

  • There’s no anime character vector here because I took this photograph with my phone over the railing of the Enakyo Lookout point over the Kiso River, and it simply won’t make sense to obscure the image 😉 It was shaping up to be a warm day, and we puchased some strawberries from a vendor on the roadside, savouring their sweetness before moving on. There’s an amusement park, Enakyo Wonderland, adjacent to the observation point, and unlike the legendary Nara Dreamland, this one is still active: open most days from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, admissions start at 1100 yen.

  • This house carries with it a very Takehara-like feel to it, overlooking Magome-juku. Forty-third of the Nakasendõ‘s sixty-nine stations that were located along the ancient road between Kyoto and Tokyo, Magome-juku’s old town is well preserved, featuring buildings from the eighteenth century. It was a thrill to walk down the town’s main road and take in all of the buildings, among them a water mill.

  • Mount Ena is just visible on the left-hand side of the image here, being partially covered by some trees. The walk through Magome-juku brought to mind Taiwan’s Jiufen Old Street, which I had visited back during 2014. Not quite as busy or crowded, but exuding an equal amount of atmosphere, it was a pleasant experience to be treading the a path that’s existing since the Edo period, and here, I reach a point in the street where Mount Ena is visible.

  • Upon reaching the bottom of the hill and the end of the walk, lunch was served in a bento form: picked daikon, vegetables, fish, fried chicken, Japanese omelettes and large, sweet red beans. We also had a bowl of freshly-prepared noodle soup accompanying lunch, and a recurring theme is that while portion sizes appear smaller in Japan, that’s an illusion. Finishing everything provides plenty of food energy and of course, is an adventure in and of itself.

  • By the time lunch ended, the skies had turned overcast, and I took a short walk around the area. During the course of this trip, I’ve spent more time in the inaka than I did in urban areas, and this was a wonderful surprise; the Japanese countryside has always held a certain draw for me, as I’ve taken a keen interest in the languid, slower-paced feeling from the rural areas conveyed by anime such as Please Teacher!Ano Natsu De MatteruNon Non BiyoriFlying Witch and Sakura Quest. Not quite as remote or empty as the Canadian Prairies, the inaka offer a sense of quiet while at the same time, give a warm, inviting sense that is absent when I drive through the parts of my provinces outside of any towns or hamlets.

  • Leaving Magome-juku, our next destination was Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya. A location steeped in history and interesting architecture, I have no photographs here to show because most of them were quite dark as a result of the large cypress trees in the park. There is a museum here housing upwards of four thousand Japanese artifacts, among them a dagger that is one of Japan’s National Treasures. With this location checked off, it was off to Gifu, where our hotel was. After checking in, I had ramen at a nearby shop: although the owners did not speak English, I spoke enough to place my order, a savoury, piping hot pork ramen. The restaurant shortly filled with Chinese tourists, and for a brief moment, it felt like I was in a Hong Kong noodle shop.

  • On our final full day in Japan, the first destination was the Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, the building we see today is a reconstruction: after a monk torched the original in 1950, it was rebuilt in 1955 and given an extensive gold-leaf exterior that confers the temple’s distinct colour. Yui and her classmates visit the Kinkaku-ji in K-On!‘s second season, stopping to take photographs in the exact same spot that we visited, and whereas I bought a matcha ice cream to enjoy, K-On! has Yui and the others order a more traditional matcha desert and tea.

  • After lunch in a park whose location and name I can’t quite remember (that lunch was notable for being a nabe with tempura on the side, in addition to being the only place where we had to kneel rather than sit), we made our way to Nara Park and ended the day in Osaka. Spent from the travelling, we had omurice for dinner (I ordered the curry katsu omurice, which was delicious) and I browsed around at Tsutaya, a Japanese bookstore, coming upon a volume of Your Name. Our journey in Japan concluded here, and we left Osaka for Hong Kong at the Kansai International Airport, where I bought the Your Name Official Guidebook for a mere 1600 yen.

  • On the flight to Hong Kong from Osaka, our Cathay Pacific flight featured Your Name, so I watched that before dozing off on the flight. It was midnight when we arrived in Hong Kong, and on day one, we visited the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen museum in Central Hong Kong, before stopping by the Western market to window shop and have lunch. There’s a delightful bistro on the first floor that I ordered a prawn spaghetti from, and the day closed with a family dinner. The next day, Repulse Bay and Aberdeen were on the list of places to visit. Despite having went to Hong Kong previously, we’d only gone to Stanley, so this time, I figured it was time to try something different. Repulse Bay is rather quieter than Stanley, and has a beautiful beach that was featured in the first moments of Roman Tam’s “幾許風雨” music video.

  • While my trip in Hong Kong was largely oriented around spending time with family over there, we had plenty of time to go sightseeing because this time around, we were visiting during the regular season, during which everyone is working. I myself took two weeks off work for this vacation, and previously, one of my coworkers noted that leaving for any period of time meant coming back to what felt like a completely different company. While on vacation, I did keep an eye on things occasionally, so I was roughly in the loop for comings and goings, so I can’t say that coming back felt like too much of a shock. Here is a photograph of Hong Kong’s central district, where I rode the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and got a nice discount on admissions on account of it being the twentieth anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.

  • While we did not ride any junks across Hong Kong Harbour, we did ride the Star Ferry over to Kowloon to walk the streets, and I spent an afternoon at the Tsim Sha Tsui Clocktower, the Avenue of Stars and iSquare adjacent to the infamous Chung King mansions. While there are three cross-harbour tunnels and the MTR linking Victoria Island to Kowloon, taking the Star Ferry from Central (or any ferry from North Point) has more character. Ferries are also a pleasant way of visiting Discovery Bay, a quiet resort town with a nice beach and mall. I’m a little envious of the quality of sandwiches that Hong Kong fast food joints make — their burgers are about as nice as the burgers I can get at pubs back home for a fraction of the price.

  • This is the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha Tin, a city just north of Kowloon. There’s an indoor wet market at the far side of Sha Tin in Sunshine City Plaza; it’s one of the cleanest wet markets I’ve ever seen and has a very solid ambiance, bringing to mind locales from Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: it’s filled with people browsing the stalls selling fresh cuts of fish, shellfish and squid, as well as siu laap and baozi. There’s a profound beauty in the cacophony, as folks order fish to take home and slurp noodles in streetside stalls.

  • Eating in Hong Kong represented a world of difference from Japan: whereas Japan was all about trying Japanese cuisine, Hong Kong wasn’t too different from home, although definitely delicious, to be sure. I went out for dim sum on two occasions, and had dinner at 嘉豪酒家 in Shau Kei Wan with family during some of the evenings. Cantonese food in Hong Kong is about the same as it is in Canada, so I’m familiar with what restaurants serve. There were some nights where we ate elsewhere: here, I’ve got a close-up of an Italian style seafood rice (scallops, mussels, calamari rings and a large prawn) at the Itamomo in Shau Kei Wan, and on another evening, I had a chicken-and-beef steak sizzling hot plate at Taikoo Shing Mall. During another evening, we had dinner at the Harbour Plaza Hotel, whose seafood buffet was simply fabulous. While being advertised as a seafood buffet, they had pork ribs, prime rib, rack of lamb, siu mei, chicken and veal in addition to whole fried crab, crayfish, large prawns, scallops and sushi. With family, we stayed from opening until closing, partaking in both the buffet and conversation as the skies grew dark.

  • The biological sciences building of Hong Kong University is visible here. This vacation was, for the lack of a better adjective, incredible, and looking back, I can understand why folks undergo a bit of a change after visiting Japan. While going to Japan did broaden my perspectives, fear not, I’m not going anywhere: it’s not sufficient to lead me to drop my career and attempt to move there. By comparison, Hong Kong feels like home, minus the exceptional humidity and crowds. With this last image, my reflections come to an end, and this means that it’s back to business as usual both in reality and at this blog: the upcoming Call of Duty posts won’t write themselves, and I’ve got an eye on Koe no Katachi, which I may write about later in June as time permits.

In Hong Kong, on the other hand, my wonder and amazement gave way to a sense of familiarity and belonging, being a world of difference from Japan. Although I am naturally most at home in Canada, my background means that if there were a place in the world that feels to me like a second home, Hong Kong would be it. Making my way around Hong Kong is remarkably straightforwards: the MTR allows one to reach almost anywhere in Hong Kong quickly, and on Victoria Island, a tram links the island’s eastern and western reaches together. Finding directions and ordering food is as straightforward as it is back home. The incredible contrast between Japan and Hong Kong was thus another aspect of this vacation I enjoyed greatly. Aside from visiting attractions in Hong Kong, such as the Observation Wheel in Central and the Antique Street in the mid-levels, I spent a considerable amount of time with family there, as well as browsing through their shopping centres. Dim Sum was invariably to be had when visiting family and friends, as were large evening meals, although there were some evenings where we dined out at smaller establishments, too. With this vacation now over, I leave feeling refreshed, a bit more learned, and will definitely anticipate a return trip at some point in the future. For the present, as a part of returning to my typical routine outside of writing Swift 3.1 code and architecting apps, I will be easing back into the swing of things for blogging, as well as reading through the various Your Name books I picked up, playing Battlefield 1 and generally making the most of what is shaping up to be a fabulous entry into yet another beautiful summer.

Nyanko Days: The Pinnacle of Human Achievement

“Sometimes science is a lot more art, than science. A lot of people don’t get that.” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Anatomically modern humans have been around for around two hundred thousand years, and human civilisation itself extensively making use of agriculture and other implements only dates back around twelve thousand years. In a comparatively short period, the advancement of technology in our civilisation has progressed at a dazzling speed: throughout our history, there have been several inventions of particular note: the compass, printing press, wheel, incandescent lamps, the telephone, internal combustion engine, powered flight and penicillin stand in history as several of the most influential, far-reaching inventions. Coupled with the scientific process and notions of a production line, substantial advances in the past century has allowed humanity to split the atom and land on the moon. We’ve managed to construct a means of nearly-instantaneously communicating with one another in the internet, and with the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices now, wearable technology and augmented reality stand poised to shape the way we interact with one another and the world as we move into the twenty-first century. However, there is a magnum opus that stands to eclipse all of humanity’s achievements: known as Nyanko Days, this anime depicts the combination of the human genome with that of the Felis catus. Every discovery, advancement and discovery has lead to this single moment, demonstrating our species’ mastery of fiction and the nature of our progress as a form of intelligent life.

Nyanko Days depicts the life of one Yūko Konagai with her “Nyanko”, the fusion of H. sapiens and F. catus genes, results in a novel organism that shares traits both their original species. The anime goes into exceptional detail surrounding the science behind Nyanko, being more similar to a biology textbook than a work of fiction. Anatomically, Nyanko resemble miniature humans, with the distinct addition of F. catus-like ears and a tail; similar to those of F. catus, Nyanko can subtly convey their emotions through the position of their tails. In addition, they are proficient with bipedal locomotion, although as the need arises, they can also move about as quadrupeds. Their dietary requirements are more consistent with those of F. catus than H. sapiens, preferring items high in protein and may find H. sapiens sustenance unpalatable. Most notable is their exceptional intelligence and ability to interact with humans: besides being able to understand human emotions in laughing and crying, Nyanko can also speak Japanese with a very high fluency, and even interact with human implements, such as television remotes, although for some tools, such as a mechanical pencil, their understanding remains rudimentary. The conceptualisation of a novel species with intellect, memory and reasoning capacities similar to that of a human is perhaps a testament to how advanced our society has become in the past hundred years alone: although we have yet to find a clean energy source, resolve the NP-Complete problem or develop faster-than-light travel, our superior understanding of biology and fiction has allowed us to speculate about intelligence and sentience in species beyond ourselves. This is truly a momentous accomplishment for our species, setting the stage for grander, more influential discoveries – for this reason, Nyanko Days is a series that will forever act as a record of this world-changing innovation, a true masterpiece that reflects on the growth and progress of humanity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The shy protagonist of Nyanko Days, Yuko Konagai is a high school girl who’s got a particular fondness for cats. She resembles Kantai Collection‘s Fubuki and Locodol‘s Nanako Usami in physical appearance, and while quiet at school, she takes on a much lighter demeanour when in the company of her three cats.

  • From left to right, z-ordering independent, we have Shii, Rō and Maa. Shii is modelled after a Singapura cat with a relaxed personality, while Rō is the most serious, being a Russian Blue. Maa is a Munchkin and is fond of messing around. Their days consist of hanging around while Yūko is at school, while Yūko yearns to be with her cats more often.

  • While playing a game on her phone, Yūko finds herself losing when Maa shows up and starts nibbling on her fingers. Pets who’ve bonded with their owners are very affectionate and will enjoy being petted, although as Yūko finds out, Maa can often show up at inopportune moments. In spite of this, she’s very understanding of her cats’ behaviours.

  • Small animals in bowls have always been appealing for folks viewing them, and here, Maa enters a bowl, rocking around for the heck of it. Of the cats, she’s the most child-like, finding joy in most everything and acting with little thought for the consequences later. Maa is voiced by Ibuki Kido; she plays minor characters in OreGairu and OreImo, but otherwise, I’m quite unfamiliar with her voice roles.

  • After Maa creates a mess, Rō steps in to clean up; she’s voiced by Mikako Komatsu, whom I know best for her roles as Sora no Method‘s Shione Togawa and Amifumi Inko of Aldnoah.Zero. Mikako will also be voicing Sanae Kouzuki in the upcoming Sakura Days, a P.A. Works anime I’m interested in following for its Shirobako-like premise. To round things out, Shii is voiced by Erii Yamazaki: like Ibuki, I’ve not seen any of the works she plays a role in.

  • Despite only lasting two minutes in length each, the artwork in Nyanko Days is of a high standard: here, Yūko takes a walk with her cats around town and reach a scenic viewpoint that shows the cityscape below. The atmosphere around a pleasant summer day is captured in this moment: it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to go on afternoon walks owing to my work schedule, where things have begun picking up as of late.

  • A chance meeting with Azumi Shiratori and the subsequent discovery that she’s also a cat person allows a friendship to develop between the two. A girl with a wealthy family, Azumi is admired by many at her school; after meeting Yūko, she spends more time with her as the two get to know one another and share their thoughts on raising cats.

  • At an upscale café that her family owns, Azumi and Yūko share a conversation over some rather expensive pancakes. Naomi Ōzora provides Azumi’s voice: the other of her roles that I know of is as Gabriel Dropout‘s Satanachia McDowell Kurumizawa, a rather amusing character whose precise place in the sun is quite worthy of a separate discussion.

  • Elsa is Azumi’s Turkish Angora: proud, haughty but also yearning for friendship, she wonders what Yuūko is like. Elsa spends her days alone at Azumi’s residence while the latter is at school. Initially, I mistook Elsa’s breed for the same breed as Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s cat, which is a Persian Cat: the breed is not of note, since the scriptwriters merely needed a white cat to match Ian Fleming’s novelisations, standing out to provide visual focus for a character who was initially without a known face.

  • On a quiet day, Shii, Maa and Rō try to amuse themselves, first by trying their hand at drawing, then subsequently decide to read books. Rō is quite into reading and has remarked on several occasions that she wouldn’t mind going to school and learning: the cats’ intellect are on par with those of a human in Nyanko Days, although their dexterity is not quite as well-developed, as seen in their attempts to draw.

  • Things quickly devolve when boredom hits a new high: Rō and Maa have different interests as far as television programming goes. While the latter prefers shows tailored for cats, Rō is looking to watch the news. A fight breaks out: rather than hard to watch, it actually ends up adorable – compare and contrast Jerome Iginla’s fight with Deryk Engelland’s during a showdown between the Calgary Flames and L.A. Kings just a few days ago. Fired up by the fight, Iginla would go on to get a Gordie Howe hat trick against the Flames, depriving them of a shot at clinching a playoff spot. That game was amusing but had too many fights for my liking: yesterday’s game against the San José Sharks was rather more appropriate, and with a 5-2 win, we’ve clinched a place in the playoffs.

  • Back in Nyanko Days, when Yūko arrives home, a tearful Shii describes the events that had unfolded earlier, and her lack of success in getting them to reconcile. However, Yūko has other means of rectifying the situation, in the form of a new toy, that let the two make up quickly.

  • One of the things that don’t seem to make sense from a biological perspective about how cats are depicted in Nyanko Days are the thin necks relative to head size. This is something in chibi-type artwork that, while conferring a degree of cuteness, also is strictly unfavourable: our necks are designed to withstand the motions of our head, and there is no way to fit a cervical vertebrae, esophagus and trachea in a neck of a small diameter. Hence, the cats in Nyanko Days must be engineered using means that exceeds all previous technology, as well as possibly, some future technologies.

  • Arashi Iketani is another one of Yūko’s classmates, who constantly competes with Azumi in all areas but finds herself outclassed. During a marathon for physical education, she initially takes the lead but is stopped cold in her tracks when she comes across a cat. She reminds me a bit of Sharo Kirima from GochiUsa in appearance.

  • The biology of the cats in Nyanko Days notwithstanding, I do have a legitimate criticism of the anime – it is remarkably short, and the entire season’s runtime is close to twenty-four minutes. While I am aware that there is only so much one could do with this premise, and that there are only two volumes of the manga out at present, Nyanko Days could be used to present an interesting story akin to that seen in GochiUsa: in fact, one thing that I would like to see is a version of GochiUsa where all of the characters are rendered as anthropomorphic rabbits.

  • In fact, the blissful world of GochiUsa leads to the question: could all of the anime’s events be the result of rabbits imagining themselves to be humans? With this being said, if such an incarnation of GochiUsa were ever to be made, it must never see the light of day: even with our level of sophistication, humanity as a whole is not quite ready for something like that yet. We thus return to Nyanko Days, where Yūko brings her cats to a summer festival, where she will meet up with Azumi.

  • Maa is excited when she sees goldfish in the legendary goldfish-scooping challenge, but the others let her know that the goldfish are not for eating. Fired up, Maa decides to compete with Elsa to see who can catch the most, but before they know it, Yūko, Azumi and the others have left, leaving them alone.

  • I’ve explored the evolutionary origins of our reaction to things we consider cute, whether it be babies or small animals in earlier posts and remarked that a general aversion to cuteness would be detrimental to evolutionary fitness. With that being said, different people find different things adorable, and for some, Nyanko Days probably won’t do anything. This is perfectly alright, but for the folks who did enjoy Nyanko Days, I have a challenge: how long can you stare at this image of Elsa crying before your heart melts away entirely, leaving you with nothing but feelings of bliss?

  • Despite their predicament, Maa manages to find a solution: they are united Yūko and the others on a short order. In the aftermath of their misadventures, Maa and Elsa become friends, with Elsa off-handedly remarking that she’s okay with hanging out. This brings Nyanko Days to an end.

  • With this post finished, I resume my usual programming soon: there’s a handful of things on the horizon that will be written about, but for the present, I am trying to push further into Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remaster. This is an endeavour compounded by the fact that Battlefield 1 is hosting the DICE 25ᵗʰ Anniversary Battlefest event, with its double XP event that will help me push my scout class closer to level ten, when I can unlock the Kolibri and mess with people.

Owing to its exceptional content, and the implications that the creation of Nyanko entail, I would give Nyanko Days a strong recommendation for all scientists as inspiration for their research. With its detailed depiction of Nyanko, above-par artwork, average soundtrack and unremarkable human characters… so the jig is up; I can’t lie well enough to continue. For those who have not noticed, today is April Fool’s Day, and in the spirit of good fun, I decided to create a post that would be in the spirit of April Fool’s Day. I offer my apologies if I misled or confused anyone with this post’s contents. With this being said, most of the contents in the figure captions are true: I haven’t made up anything about the voice actors, or the events in the anime. Similarly, the Flames did indeed clinch a playoff spot yesterday. Overall, Nyanko Days‘ concept of anthropomorphising cats and their adventures with Yūko form the bulk of the anime, with episodes running for around two minutes each. It’s a fun short series, but its length also runs against things: episodes are hilarious while they run, but they end too suddenly, leaving little time to develop the characters further. With this being said, Nyanko Days stands as one of the most adorable things I’ve seen in a while. It’s probably not enough to warrant a strong recommendation, but I personally enjoyed this anime, for providing two minutes of heart-melting Nyanko antics in most of its episodes every week. Hopefully, the unusual content of this post should have alerted you to the possibility that this was not a serious review; if you’re interested in checking out something light-hearted and frivilous, Nyanko Days will deliver, otherwise, you won’t stand to lose too much if you choose not to watch this anime. Regular programming resumes with this post’s conclusion, so have a good one!

Reflections on the Ah! My Goddess: The Movie- An introspection into my ten years of anime at the 800th post milestone

“Even if the whole universe comes between us, even if you lost every single memory, I’ll still find you and we’ll start again and again.” -Keiichi Morisato

With this special feature on Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, this blog passes the eight hundred post milestone. It’s a nontrivial marker, coming as a consequence of nearly five-and-a-half years of writing about anime, games and other things. That I’m still here after all this time is a consequence of having a fantastic group of readers who’ve been kind enough to provide discussions and feedback, motivating me to continue writing despite the other things that occur in the real world. After looking through the post count and the timing, I decided that reviewing Ah! My Goddess: The Movie would be appropriate for this eight hundredth post, given that it’s been ten years since I developed an interest in anime, and that Ah! My Goddess: The Movie was the work that precipitated this interest. The story, recounted in brief elsewhere on this blog and only in a fragmented manner, is as follows: some of my friends during my secondary school days decided that I should join them for lunch hours at the school’s anime club. After managing to evade and decline for several weeks, I finally caved and attended a meeting. They were screening Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and while I was disinterested initially, by the time the movie finished, I was moved. That evening, I began hunting for the movie’s soundtrack, found the soundtracks for Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 anime, and decided to give that a whirl. While I never did finish, the episodes I did watch of Ah! My Goddess were modestly enjoyable, so when another friend wished for me to watch Gundam 00, I yielded and began watching the anime. In Gundam 00, I found something to look forwards to weekly, and while my interest in anime waned briefly during my first year of university, it returned in full force after I picked up Five Centimeters per Second. This brought my interests in anime back to life, leading me to watch Sora no Woto, and from there, my interests in anime are rather easier to follow, having been thoroughly chronicled here at this blog. Thus, for the remainder of this post, I turn my eyes towards looking at the movie that started it all.

Three years after her arrival on Earth, Belldandy and Keiichi Morisato begin their new term; recruiting for the different clubs is well under way, and the Motor Club, hopeful of gaining new members, showcase their vehicles. However, Toraichi Tamiya and Otaki Aoyama’s actions frighten off most prospective members, including the stern-looking Morgan. Later that evening, amidst the Motor Club’s celebrations, Belldandy encounters her old mentor, Celestin. Unbeknownst to her, Celestin had broken out of the lunar prison, and seeks to meet her. She collapses after Celestin kisses her, reawakening the next morning with no recollection of Keiichi. Meanwhile, Heaven’s supercomputer, Yggdrasil, has been compromised by a powerful virus: Peorth and her assistants are working around the clock to contain it, but in the meantime, much of their infrastructure is crippled. Skuld’s efforts to restore her memories are unsuccessful, and Keiichi agrees to make the most of things. He breaks news of her situation to the Motor Club; the members are disheartened, as there is an upcoming race. Morgan arrives and agrees – the trial’s results are solid, and watching the pair race leads Belldandy to recall some of her past memories with Keiichi. The next day, Belldandy comes across some old photographs of her and Keiichi: she decides to participate in the race in spite of her amnesia. Later, Belldandy overhears a conversation between Urd and Keiichi, revealing that Celestin was responsible. It turns out that he had rebelled against the Gods, destroyed the Gate of Judgement, and intends to continue his machinations to destroy the current world and create a new one, free of all suffering. Feeling she’s brought only suffering to Keiichi, Belldandy accepts a dangerous procedure that will eliminate the virus but also clear her memories. In order to deliver this program, Heaven directly links with Belldandy, allowing the virus to override Yggdrasil’s core functions, exposing the tree itself and a leviathan that attacks the trunks. Out of options, Peorth authorises a direct strike using Gungnir; refusing to allow Keiichi to die in the strike, Keiichi and Belldandy move to block the attack after they convince Celestin to assist. Transported to the Gate of Judgement in the aftermath, Belldandy and Keiichi pass Heaven’s test. Belldandy returns to Earth, and with both Urd and Skuld’s help, they restore Yggdrasil with their song and eliminate the virus. With the damage to Heaven records, Belldandy offers Keiichi a new wish, and Keiichi uses it to reignite their love for one another.

An off-shoot of the Ah! My Goddess series, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie adapts none of the elements from its source manga, and instead, focuses on the nature of love. This particular theme has been explored extensively in the 2005 TV series, whereas the prior OVAs’ short runtimes meant that the comedic situations and situations that Keiichi and Belldandy find themselves in dominated any sort of overarching theme. With this in mind, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie presents a much more tangible idea, in that the time Keiichi and Belldandy have spent together is precious, creating feelings that can survive even the most ardent tests that fate and the heavens have set against them. Despite losing her memories and subsequently made to stand before the Gate of Judgement, it turns out that (unsurprisingly) the love Keiichi and Belldandy have is genuine. While Morgan has seen loss before the Gate of Judgement and consequently despises the heavens for marking clearly what constitutes a relationship of value, she later learns that there can be love in the world, making it worth protecting. That love is very much a reality thus forms the main message for Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and the movie’s climax, featuring Belldandy, Urd and Skuld wielding their feelings to run a system restore on Yggdrasil, serves to emphasise this point further. Although this theme is an immensely familiar one by this point in time, it was my first exposure to such a portrayal (and anime in general), and in the movie, I found an exceptionally moving story.

Screenshot and Commentary

  • Being a combination movie discussion and serving as a bit of a milestone for this blog, I’m classifying this post both as a general discussion post (for the milestone) and as an anime reflections post (for the fact I’ll be running through Ah! My Goddess: The Movie). The occasion also means that I will be running with forty screenshots in this Ah! My Goddess: The Movie post. The movie was released in 2000 and runs for 100 minutes, making it perfect to be watched over the course of several lunch breaks, each lasting some forty minutes.

  • One of the initial limitations about the movie is that it is not particularly friendly for first-timers, who won’t know how Keiichi and Belldandy first met. Prior to 2000, it would have been necessary to either have some background with the manga or the OVAs, which show Keiichi making a phone call, only to connect to Belldandy, who arrives to grant any one wish of his. Certain it’s deception from his seniors, he decides to test things and asks her to stay with him. Here, it’s spring, a new semester, and the Motor Club is recruiting new members; Keiichi initially joined owing to his interests in mechanical engineering. He himself is capable as a mechanic and highly skilled as a racer, demonstrating a new vehicle here in the film’s opening.

  • The unusual dynamics between Belldandy and Keiichi drive the romance-comedy aspect of Ah! My Goddess, but these elements tend to be present in the manga and TV series – overall, the movie comes across as being more of a romance-drama, having a much greater focus on what love means to both Belldandy and Keiichi. The two share a moment under the cherry blossoms here, after a misunderstanding causes Belldandy to take off.

  • Celestin is Belldandy’s former mentor, and after a short introduction, incapacitates Belldandy. Bearing the appearance of ancient deities from Chinese folklore, his actions come from well-intentions, but his “means justify the end” outlook paints him as the films main antagonist. Only seen in the movie, Celestin does not return in the 2005 series, which is a re-telling of the entire story and places a much greater emphasis on comedy than drama.

  • When they return home that evening, mysterious crystals have formed on Holy Bell, Belldandy’s resident angel. The dynamic between Heaven and Earth is portrayed as one powerful computer system that manages reality; the system would suggest that all of existence is a simulation (akin to but rather more being than the one seen in The Matrix), and Heaven’s entities are caretakers to the system. With this in mind, I arrived on Ah! My Goddess much too late (2007-2008) to see much discussion on it, and so, any speculation on how their world actually works is likely to be lost to time.

  • When Celestin kissed Belldandy, he copies a virus into her that impacts her memories, completely eliminating her memories of Keiichi. The anomolies are noticed in heaven, where Yggdrasil’s technicians notice a virus moving through their systems. Fictional computer viruses are always portrayed as something that can be traced, moving through a system and methodically targeting systems, leaving a clear signature behind. Real-world viruses are rather more dull, with most writing themselves onto regions of a hard drive and duplicate themselves before executing their functions: doubtlessly, this is very difficult to visualise, hence the stylistic choices movies take.

  • Peorth stands before the highest members of Heaven’s leadership to report on the situation. The Peorth seen in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is serious, dedicated and focused on her duties, standing in stark contrast with her depiction in the other works – she is rather more flirtatious (thank goodness for spell-checking, I believe this is only the second time I’ve had to use this term) and does her utmost to win Keiichi over from Belldandy initially as revenge, only to do so for real when she realises that she harbours feelings for Keiichi, as well.

  • In the morning, Skuld exhausts her memory-enhancing devices that were intended to help her remember Keiichi; the most effective device only allows her to recall that she’d forgotten to give Keiichi her business cards (remark: that Goddesses have business cards is an interesting one). In the face of adversity, Keiichi and Urd settle on that it is probably best to try and live as normally as possible, a method that is often suggested by experts in order to survive challenging times.

  • A færie of sorts, Morgan was the one who had freed Celestin from his imprisonment on the lunar surface at the movie’s beginning with the goal of assisting him. With her hime-cut and narrow eyes, she possesses the characteristics of the stern ojou-sama archetype while in human form, and is seen communicating with Celestin while he is in a more mobile form.

  • The Motor Club grows disheartened to learn that Belldandy has become amnesiac, made especially difficult by the fact that they have an upcoming race. When I first watched the movie, I wondered if the race itself would be seen in-movie, but this turned out not to be the case, being a secondary element to the machinations that Celestin is planning. Morgan steps up and offers to race in Belldandy’s place.

  • The two seem to perform quite well, triggering some memories for Belldandy. This moment suggests that, however sophisticated the algorithm that Celestin used, some of her memories endure. This moment also begins to showcase the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra’s exceptional performance with the film’s soundtrack: the song playing as Keiichi and Morgan fly across the track is titled “Kizuna Motomete” (“Searching for a connection”) is a majestic piece with horns, strings and woodwinds that captures the rush of speed on a racetrack in a highly elegant manner. The entire soundtrack is an amazing listen that really brings out the emotional tenour of each moment in the film.

  • The different tracks convey different feelings, ranging from longing and hopefulness, to doubt and confusion in the film’s darker moments, masterfully using specific instruments to create a very unique sound that evokes a very particular feeling in every scene of the movie. It is the first anime soundtrack I’ve listened to, and stands even against the likes of Howard Shore or Hans Zimmer with respect to quality.

  • Despite lacking her memories of Keiichi, Belldandy nonetheless strives to fulfill her directive in the knowledge that her original goal was to help Keiichi find happiness, and here, prepares a fantastic evening meal for him. Back in high school, for my art class, one of the works I made for an art class was a playing card, the Queen of Spades, featuring Belldandy. It was here that I realised that Kōsuke Fujishima renders ears in a very distinct manner, with concentric rings visible in place of the structures of the Auricle.

  • Later, she finds a photo album detailing the time they’ve spent together. Realising the depth of their relationship, Belldandy resolves to restart anew and learn more about Keiichi. While Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is an older film, the artwork remains of a superb quality and can stand against modern titles with respect to detail and smoothness. However, the character designs in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie clearly are from an older age: the 2005 incarnation of Ah! My Goddess features a Belldandy and Keiichi with larger eyes.

  • My last lecture was eleven months ago, but I still recall the days when I attended classes in large lecture halls. While some of the newer lecture halls have spacious desks, other, older facilities were remarkably cramped: I did not field a laptop at all throughout my undergraduate, and even though I had access to MacBook Pro laptops during graduate school, I continued to take notes by hand, since material proved easier to recall if I had handwritten it. Keiichi is shown to study German, and here, is hauled out of lecture by Morgan. Ah! My Goddess is one of the anime I’m familiar with to feature university-level characters, compared to almost everything else I’ve got, which is set during the high school range.

  • Despite having no memories of Keiichi, Belldandy recovers more of her memories when she agrees to a challenge that Morgan presents: in a mock race, Keiichi and Belldandy handily best Morgan and her partner, Megumi (Keiichi’s younger sister). Unlike the song played during Keiichi and Morgan’s first run, the competition has a much more urgent sense to it. While most of the songs in the soundtrack are orchestral, there are a few songs that make use of electronic and synthesiser elements, giving them an other-worldly vibe.

  • Bothered by her memories, and the realisation that Celestin was responsible for her memory loss, Belldandy is drawn by a moving light crystal and follows it to a coastal installation, where Celestin reveals himself and tells her the story of why he’s returned. Unwilling to accept Heaven’s mandate, he sought to destroy the Gate of Judgement (showing Morgan and her lover crossing it, only to be separated forever). His actions also led to the destruction of other entities, causing Heaven to issue an arrest warrant for him.

  • When Heaven sends out beings to arrest Celestin, Belldandy slaughters them. She is taken in, and in the aftermath of the incident, is deemed too valuable an asset to lose. Hence, Heaven suppresses her memories of the incident and allows her to continue as a Goddess, while Celestin is tried and imprisoned on the lunar surface for all time. Had SATO explored the moon, however, they would be unlikely to locate Celestin’s prison: the film’s opening shows Morgan as passing through a portal to reach him.

  • One of the best-known anime review sites out there notes that there’s a “scene in which Urd kisses Belldandy might startle Westerners…unaccustomed to that”, but she’s actually transferring a special potion to Belldandy via mouth-to-mouth. Upon seeing that for the first time, I assumed that Urd was taking the potion for herself, so trying was their situation, but it seems to make little sense on closer inspection, hence the newer conclusion. The same site gives this movie a perfect rating, counting it as a masterpiece

  • Urd and Skuld arrive on station, but Belldandy, still under Celestin’s influence, begins to engage Urd in a direct confrontation. Urd is plainly holding back, aware that Belldandy is not fully in control of her powers. In the aftermath, Skuld lashes out at Celestin, releasing a large amount of water. Keiichi manages to protect Belldandy from this torrent but is knocked unconscious, later reawakening back home.

  • Back in high school, this scene did not particularly make much sense, but it appears to be a visual representation of the present Belldandy accepting the past Belldandy’s mistakes, reassuring her past-self that things are going to be alright. The rationale for “past and present self” is based on visual elements within this moment that should become apparent merely by staring at this screenshot. This scene is accompanied by a synthesiser-like instrument that brings to mind the instrumentals from Miyazaki’s Totoro, giving it a very surreal, yet comforting feeling, and coming to an acceptance about herself, Belldandy manages to prevent her powers from running amok.

  • While Belldandy’s character remains largely unchanged in Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 incarnation, Urd, Skuld and Peorth are markedly different with respect to their personalities. One of the biggest strengths in the movie that is lacking in the TV series are the implications of higher-order beings interacting within a world of mortals: comedy reigns supreme in the 2005 television series, with the antagonists motivated by weaker elements than Celestin, who shows that there can be dissent amongst the Gods with respect to how Heaven runs. Consequently, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie ends up having a very well-defined narrative compared to the looser feel that Ah! My Goddess‘ 2005 series (and its second season) conveys

  • Belldandy’s jealousy is an aspect of her character that has been exploited on numerous occasions in the TV series, and is never too far from the forefront of discussion in the movie – subtly hinted at when she inadvertently causes glass bottles to shatter during the Motor Club’s party earlier in the movie as a result of seeing Sora and Megumi clinging to Keiichi. Celestin exploits this, and here, Morgan forces a kiss unto Keiichi that Belldandy witnesses. She takes off, her feelings tumultuous as she struggles to comprehend what she saw.

  • Keiichi and Belldandy share a moment together after Belldandy decides to accept a dangerous procedure that might wipe her memories entirely. Keiichi resolves that, whether or not Belldandy’s memories are restored, they can start again as many times as they need. This lends itself to the page quote, a rarity in that it was taken directly from the movie rather than being a generic quote or a mutated one. Throughout these moments, the song “Hoping For Happiness” can be heard playing in the background. A truly wistful song, the single element that stands out is a flute that materialises when Belldandy walks into the temple hall; the short motif captures Belldandy’s gentle yet determined spirits.

  • I listened to the whole of Ah! My Goddess: The Movie‘s soundtrack during the summer of 2007, having only previously heard individual songs. I subsequently loaded up the tunes onto my iPod and took the album, amongst others, with me during my vacation in Yellowstone National Park. The hills in the backdrop here bring to mind the hills of Yellowstone’s western end, which has gentler slopes than the eastern end. At this point in the film, it’s the deep breath before the plunge. Progressing at a steady rate up until now, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie‘s pacing quickens as the movie enters its final stage.

  • The delivery of a “Vaccine”, really the execution of an anti-virus program, serves to only exacerbate the situation further by offering a direct connection between Belldandy and Yggdrasil’s mainframe systems. As it turns out, anti-virus programs are becoming increasingly ineffective in the face of new techniques of introducing viruses and malware into a system: while the programs themselves can remain effective, it is social engineering employed by criminals that allow these programs to enter and compromise a system. Like how Belldandy’s memories of Celestin allow him to damage Yggdrasil, most viruses out there arise as a consequence of inadequate caution.

  • Belldandy comes to recall Celestin more fully in a flashback; he resurrects a dead bird and takes her under his wing, eventually raising a capable goddess who graduates with top honours but is also a little naïve about the nature of reality. This moment here brings to mind the dynamics between children and adults: the problems that children face, from their perspective, are world-breakers, but having been around for a considerably longer time, adults can quickly locate solutions. It’s similar to how children would approach me with broken crafts during my time as a TA for children, and I would fix said craft, restoring their cheerfulness in the process.

  • Celestin presumably has root access into Yggdrasil (technical jargon referring to the ability to completely modify and access all parts of an operating system, including critical system files), allowing him to summon a physical manifestation of the World Tree, along with a vast being that begins hacking at the tree (likely deleting data that runs the universe and allowing Celestin to rewrite the world in his image). Belldandy’s initial efforts to stop them are futile: Morgan uses Force lightning to slow her down before taking off.

  • Transforming into their combat attire, Skuld and Urd attempt to stop the being from dealing any more damage to the system. Despite summoning an exceptionally powerful blast of lightning, the being is protected by an energy shield that repels all attack. Morgan subsequently engages in battle with Urd to buy Celestin more time to complete is machinations.

  • Possessing Keiichi’s body, Celestin explains to Belldandy the rationale for his plans. I’ve typically found that misguided idealists often make the most intriguing villians, since their cause and initial reasoning for executing a particular plan is prompted by a desire to do what they feel is correct. However, their methods wind up being inappropriate, either causing unnecessary death or destruction. Such villains are not above seeing the error of their ways, either accepting the protagonists’ perspectives or else gracefully yielding when bested (Gundam Unicorn‘s Full Frontal and Raʾs al-Ġūl of Batman Begins come to mind).

  • Belldandy’s facial design in the movie allows her to properly be depicted with a serious expression as she counters Celestin, explaining that happiness and sorrow can only exist in the other’s presence. She arms herself and prepares to stop Celestin, donning a combat suit of her own. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen Ah! My Goddess, and I think that last I checked, there were some OVAs bundled with home releases back in 2011.

  • Higher up in the branches, Skuld drops a pair of explosives resembling the Model 24 Stielhandgranate. Essentially a cluster of grenades taped together to yield a larger explosion, they could deal damage to armour of the WWI era and are equipped by Battlefield 1‘s assault class for anti-armour combat. However effective they might have been historically against armour, the modernised versions Skuld uses deals no damage against the leviathan hacking away at Yggdrasil.

  • It stands to reason that this behemoth of an entity is a program tailored by Celestin to destroy Yggdrasil. Since I no real remarks about this entity, except maybe to re-dub it “Walrus Face”, I will take a look at the inconsistencies between Ah! My Goddess and Oh! My Goddess. In Japanese, ああっ女神さまっ is romanised as “Aa! Megami-sama“, so phonetically, “Ah!” makes sense, but the authors meant for it to convey a similar meaning as “Oh my God”, hence, Oh! My Goddess is technically correct. However, I’ve typed it out as Ah! My Goddess for the past ten years, and all sources seem to give the title as “Ah!”, as well, so this is what I will stick with.

  • In response to their desperate situation, Heaven authorises the use of Gungnir, which manifests in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie as an energy sphere whose effects on organics are unknown as Belldandy moves to stop the sphere from impacting Celestin. Realising her devotion to Keiichi, Celestin concedes and helps her stop the weapon. Like almost everything else in Ah! My Goddess, Gungnir is inspired by Odin’s spear of Norse mythology, being so well-crafted that it could strike any target with perfect accuracy.

  • There should be no doubt as to Keiichi and Belldandy make it through the Gate of Judgement. The song that plays, “Testimony Between Us”, when they pass through together, is a triumphant song brimming with optimism and faith.

  • Their faith stands against the Gods’ exams – Belldandy and Keiichi find themselves staring at a verdant alpine forest that would not look too out of place in either the Canadian Rockies or parts of Yellowstone National Park. Realising that the system is not rigged to pull people apart, Morgan resolves to stay behind and pass on the two’s story. Their love for one another reaffirmed, Belldandy finds a renewed spirit in her to set things right: she and Keiichi return back to Earth.

  • While the damage done is immense, Belldandy is confident that by putting their true feelings into song, they can yet save Yggdrasil. Together with Urd and Skuld, Belldandy reverts her gear back into her default Goddess state, and they begin singing Coro Di Dea, a song written in Latin that, despite its sort length, brought a single tear to my eye, followed by several more individual tears. It’s the first time I cried when watching an anime, so moving was the song – this is the magic moment, that turning point that triggered my interest in anime.

  • Coro Di Dea is probably the equivalent of a combination of a powerful virus quarentine and Windows’ System Restore tool; the latter allows users to restore their operating system back to a functional state without altering the file, but is ill-advised for removing viruses, which can hide themselves in temporary files. The Goddess’ song prompts Peorth and the others to begin singing, as well, rapidly repairing Yggdrasil. With the crisis over, some of the other Goddesses remark that they’d love to take a break, but Peorth orders them back to work to ensure the system is stable.

  • Dawn settles over the world; with the restore and all that has happened to Yggdrasil over the past several days, Belldandy notes that all records have been removed of past wishes, leaving Keiichi free to make his wish to be with Belldandy forever once more. Skuld and Urd share a humorous exchange in the film’s final moments. The question then becomes: what is my verdict for this movie? With its standalone and cohesive narrative, fantastic artwork and top-tier soundtrack, it’s easy to give this movie a strong recommendation to existing anime fans. New viewers might not find this an appropriate gateway into anime, but will nonetheless enjoy the film.

  • Quantitatively, Ah! My Goddess: The Movie earns an A+, a 10 of 10 – clear and precise in its message, and delivering a song that can make someone as stoic as myself to shed several tears, this here’s a fantastic film that left a very profound impact on me. So ends Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, and with it, my first-ever proper Ah! My Goddess discussion here, along with the 800th post. Regular discussion resumes with the upcoming posts, where I will be taking a look at Gabriel Dropout and Titanfall 2, alongside my thoughts of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare at the halfway point.

Because Ah! My Goddess: The Movie was my first-ever anime, there existed almost no baselines for which to compare it against at the time. However, the artwork, narrative, character dynamics and world-building that I did see in the movie came together to create a standalone story that was well-worth watching. I thoroughly enjoyed Ah! My Goddess: The Movie following watching it ten years ago, and even now, the movie remains reasonably enjoyable on its merits. This movie set in motion my interests in anime, and by the time Gundam 00 had begun airing, anime-watching became one of my hobbies. While seemingly a frivolous one, watching anime and discussing it with friends motivated me to start a website to write about my thoughts. The practise of writing bolstered my writing skills: prior to anime, my written English was of a low standard, leading one of my high school instructors to wonder if English was a second language for me (for the record, it is: Cantonese Chinese is my first language). By the time I was through Gundam 00, writing to clearly express an idea became second nature for me, and in my final year of high school, the same English instructor had wondered what precipitated such a profound change in my writing. My enjoyment of anime and the attendant enjoyment of writing would carry over to university; I was more fond of writing papers than my peers. Maintaining my website and writing in university created a sort of positive feedback loop, and eventually resulted in the creation of this blog, as well as affording me the practise to write a graduate thesis paper. It’s surprising as to how much of an impact a single anime movie had, and ultimately, the learnings from having watched (and reflected upon) Ah! My Goddess: The Movie is that an open mind can create paths that are unexpected, but also highly fulfilling. This is certainly not a bad legacy for a movie that’s now seventeen years old, to say the least.

A Date With Nagisa Furukawa of CLANNAD as a Thought Experiment

“According to the Myers Briggs test apparently only 4% of the population got my result. Making it harder to find people I can “let inside” or truly feel connected with. It’s just a test but it often feels that way…” —Ab imo pectore

Having taken a look at the distributions, my personality type stands as one of the most common, with an estimated thirteen percent of all folks having it. The story behind my Meyers-Briggs test is simple enough: I was asked to do it as a part of a team-building exercise for work, and unsurprisingly, ended up with ISTJ. Known as the “Guardian”, individuals of this personality type are fiercely adherent to facts and rules, working hard to complete tasks delegated to them. Honest, direct and dutiful, ISTJs also tend to have a talent stack, excelling at nothing in particular, but possess reasonable competence in a range of different areas. They also can be unyielding and blunt, as well as less willing to deal with spontaneity than people with a different personality type. That captures my essence very succinctly, and it also leads me to wonder how I am projected to get along with different personality types, especially considering that in practise, I generally get along with most people in a professional sense. Describing my professional interactions would be too dull to warrant a post, but what if we added some flair to things? For this discussion, then, I will take a look at aspects of my own personality and use those facets to determine just how well I would get along with someone like Nagisa Furukawa, whose personality is considered either ISFJ or INFP.

  • While I cannot truthfully say that Valentine’s Day is my favourite holiday of the year (that belongs to Thanksgiving and Christmas), I remain largely neutral about the event. Consider this: it is a bit disheartening to have no one special to celebrate it with (-1), but on the other hand, it means I can save a small amount of money and direct it to either my savings or spend it on something for myself (+1). With that being said, for those of my readers who are in a relationship, I wish for you a Happy Valentines’ Day, and for the readers like myself, I offer a Happy Singles Awareness Day!

The “Defender”, ISFJs are supportive, reliable and loyal (incidentally, the same things I would look for in a relationship), but can also be rather shy, find it tricky to express how they feel and can overburden themselves with challenges as they try to help those around them. These attributes describe Nagisa well, but she also has some elements of the INFP personality type: she’s driven by her sense of optimism, making the most of every situation, values harmony and holds a strong sense of creativity that allows her to resurrect the drama club and bring her dreams to life with a performance of Girl in the Illusionary World. Similarly, she does take some things personally, blaming herself for causing her parents to give up their dreams of being in theatre. For this discussion, we assume that Nagisa is an INFP: her creativeness in expressing herself in the play she likes and the Great Dango Family, coupled with her general desire to wish for everyone’s happiness and her response to learning about her parents’ past means that she can fit into this category. In general, an ISTJ and INFP relationship could function with effort and some compromise, although some folks say that such a relationship would be remarkably difficult, so this post aims to put that to the test, using the personalities as a starting point, and then determining whether or not someone with traits similar Nagisa’s is someone that I can appreciate as time passes, and we know one another better.

We suppose that Nagisa is an INFP, a personality type with a four percent frequency: the ISFJ personality, while one I am fond of, would not offer much in the way of interesting discussion. My ISTJ and Nagisa’s INFP means only one of our traits overlap: we’re both introverted — we would understand and appreciate the value of quiet time and share moments with a small group of close friends. I can hold interesting conversations about different topics, so if the right topics are available, fun conversations can be had. However, there’s always the possibility that there isn’t enough communications between the two. I’m not very good with subtle hints (scuttlebutt has it that I accidentally rejected some people without saying a word because I missed their messages) and typically, need to be hit over the head, as it were, to know how someone is feeling. My sensing component will find newfound perspective from Nagisa’s imaginative thinking, and at the same time, my practicality balances her tendency to go off into her own world. While projected to offer some challenges in conversation, I am a touch more imaginative than the average ISTJ, so I could follow her flights of fancy in a conversation.

Next up is my thinking to her feeling: warm and compassionate, one of the things that stand out about Nagisa was this side of her personality. She genuinely cares about those around her and supports them as best as she can, standing against my usual no-nonsense “let’s get it done” approach. These two opposite traits complement one another nicely, allowing for decisions to be made with a balance between compassion and reason. However, my way of speaking is very blunt: I call things as I see them, and could inadvertently hurt Nagisa, while she’s unlikely to speak her mind. I’m not good with subtleties, so miscommunications could arise. To make things work, I’ll need to be more sensitive, be more attuned to things and pick things up on my own, while Nagisa would find it useful to be a little more direct. The most interesting set of attributes to consider will be judging-perceiving: I’m very fond of schedules and well-designed plans, allowing for freedom and the unexpected only if some semblance of a plan exists. Spontaneity does not typically fly with me: I’ll turn down hanging out with friends if informed about it less than a day in advance, for instance, since that time was blocked off for something else. Similarly, my penchant to be organised can come across as overbearing for INFPs. Fortunately, while coming across as rigid, I am more adaptive than the typical ISTJ; I appreciate spontaneity if it falls within a plan. With an open mind, judges and perceivers can get along — the perceivers can bring a breath of fresh air into the judge’s life, while the judge can help a perceiver become more organised. On the whole, while the personality differences between a ISTJ and INFP would initially cause some conflicts, over time, I imagine that they could reach a compromise and find themselves in a happy relationship, truly connecting with one another.

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  • I have a special announcement to make with this post: CLANNAD is nearing its ten-year anniversary, and so, I will be doing posts on CLANNAD once the ten-year mark passes. Because there are a large number of episodes in CLANNAD, doing episodic reviews will be impractical. Instead, I will drop by on the date where an arc ends to take a look at the events and contributions of that particular arc in the context of the whole story.

So, supposing that both partners open-minded enough to make things work, the final realm that this discussion will explore what kind of first date might be suitable for an ISTJ-INFP couple: without it, this post simply wouldn’t live up to its title. Before we begin, I profess that I am not nearly familiar enough with Japan to properly consider organising anything resembling a date there, so we will suppose that I’m running home field advantage. Further, we suppose that language barriers are not a concern. Looking off the idea that Nagisa and I are both introverts, I think that Calgary’s Shakespeare in the Park at Prince’s Island park would be a good first date considering her interest in drama. A twenty hectare park on an island, it is located right at the heart of the city and offers an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the core, featuring flower gardens and paths set right underneath the cityscape of Calgary’s central financial district. The choice of something like Shakespeare in the Park is motivated by Nagisa’s love for the stage and drama. To be able to visit a performance of an old classic under the summer sun would provide a calm setting for enjoying a Shakespearean play and consider different perspectives on what things like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet entail. Such a conversation might be shared following the play’s conclusion at the nearby Café Blanca over a cup of coffee (or tea, since I don’t do well with coffee). This is, of course, just one possibility; ideas for good dates are limitless. I would certainly enjoy an experience like this, but there is a reason why this post is dubbed a thought experiment — it is not actually possible to perform this particular experiment in reality.