The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Live Action Films

Yuru Camp△: Review and Reflections on the Live Action Adaptation, or, Les Stroud’s Survivorman meets Adam Richman’s Man v. Food

“各位,而家唔係唔係冇電,又唔係真人登台,係打劫。” –九叔, 半斤八兩

2018’s Yuru Camp△ proved to be a fantastic hit, following the camping adventures of the stoic Rin Shima and energetic Nadeshiko Kagamihama as their mutual love for the scenery surrounding Mount Fuji gradually leads Rin to be more open to camping with others, as well as developing Nadeshiko’s own love for camping. After a fateful meeting at Koan Campground on the shores of Lake Motosu when Nadeshiko found herelf lost, Rin helps her to call home, and earns Nadeshiko’s gratitude. Nadeshiko falls in love with camping and joins her high school’s Outdoors Activity Club, befriending Chiaki Ōgaki and Aoi “Inuko” Inuyama and accompanies them on several adventures. Even though Rin is reluctant to camp with Nadeshiko at first, she begins to accept Nadeshiko and shares in her adventures with her, as well as the Outdoors Activity Club. After inviting Nadeshiko to try out her new portable grill at Lake Shibire and receiving help from Chiaki on her latest solo excursion, Rin agrees to join Nadeshiko and the Outdoors Activity Club on a Christmas camping trip, coming to appreciate that camping with others has its own merits. Originally adapted from Afro’s manga, Yuru Camp△‘s animated adaptation became a runaway success, and besides a second season that is to air in the winter of 2021, Yuru Camp△ also received a live-action adaptation, featuring Haruka Fukuhara as Rin, Yuno Ōhara as Nadeshiko, Momoko Tanabe as Chiaki, Yumena Yanai as Aoi and Sara Shida as Ena Saitō. Announced in November 2019, this television drama aired from January to April this year, and is a largely faithful retelling of the events in Yuru Camp△. It marks the first time I’ve watched a J-drama front to back: Yuru Camp△‘s short length and premise meant I had no difficulty in following the live-action drama’s events, and before long, I’d finished all twelve episodes. The drama acts as an enjoyable bridge between Heya Camp△ and the long-awaited second season, treading upon familiar ground with a fresh new perspective and the extra dimension that live actions offer.

The question of how effectively a live-action adaptation of Yuru Camp△ can capture the atmosphere of the anime is likely the first thing on all viewers’ minds, and the answer to this might be a disappointment for some. In general, the highly exaggerated mannerisms and expressions that characters of an anime exhibit are a deliberate choice, to accentuate a certain emotion or manner effectively to the viewer. This is done because in the two-dimensional medium, nuances in communication are lost. Without things like body language and subtle facial expressions to convey how someone is feeling, anime employs highly visceral means of capturing and conveying those same emotions. For instance, someone with an open posture and focused eye contact on a speaker indicates they are paying full attention, excited about the topic at hand, but this is trickier to capture with anime, so an anime must therefore use wild gestures to capture the same. However, translating the gestures and mannerisms of anime characters into a live-action comes across as being jarring: Yuru Camp△‘s live action adaptation chooses to have Rin, Nadeshiko et al. act similarly to their anime counterparts, and the result is that the girls come across as overacting. Nadeshiko feels even more excitable than her anime counterpart, and even the stoic Rin feels highly expressive. The end result is that anime mannerisms appear strange, exaggerated in real life; because real people have more subtle cues in body language that speak to how they are feeling, porting the anime’s manner into to the live action Yuru Camp△ creates a far more rambunctious environment than was present in Yuru Camp△. The other aspect that the live action drama does not capture from the anime is the incidental music: Yuru Camp△‘s anime adaptation, with a soundtrack from Akiyuki Tateyama, features a section of pieces with a distinct Celtic influence that universally captures the grandeur and wonder of the outdoors. By comparison, the drama’s music is much more mundane and does not illustrate the joys that Rin, Nadeshiko and the others experience in their adventures to the same extent. Consequently, the drama’s soundscape feels subdued by comparison; the anime’s soundtrack created an outdoors feel with its use of the Irish instruments and whistling, which figured in scenes ranging from the panoramas of a campsite to more ordinary moments at school.  Those same moments are not as majestic within the drama.

While it appears that I’ve rattled off a large list of detractors about the live action adaptation of Yuru Camp△, the reality is that the live action has more positives than negatives, and typically, I prefer dealing with the negatives first. The live action drama, on virtue of being set in the real world, offers a new-found sense of realism that exceeds that of even the anime’s. By taking viewers to the real world locations the anime portrayed, Yuru Camp△‘s drama reinforces the feel that everything that happens in the series is something that viewers can experience and enjoy for themselves. The anime had done a spectacular job of portraying real world locations, but this portrayal is a highly idealised one: in a manner of speaking, the anime can be said to make each spot look more impressive than it appears in reality. However, the live action drama presents each location precisely as it appears in real life, and so, the true beauty and splendour of every site is captured without embellishment or modification. This serves to really bring out the sights and sounds that the girls see when visiting each location, bringing to mind the places Les Stroud visits throughout the course of Survivorman. For instance, at Lake Shibire, Yuru Camp△‘s anime presents it as an idyllic spot with autumn colours worthy of a painting, set under the blue sky of a fading autumn’s day. In the live action, however, it is a cloudy day, and the trees are more subdued in colour. However, the reflection of the surrounding forests and mountains in the lake itself is far more vivid: the beauty of Lake Shibire lies not in the autumn colours, but also the lake and its quiet surroundings, perfect for grilling meat under on a brisk day. Yuru Camp△‘s drama adheres to authenticity to an even greater extent than the anime did: whereas Nadeshiko, Chiaki and Aoi visit the fictional Caribou outdoors shop in the anime, visiting by train because that store was near Minobu’s old town, the real world equivalent, Swen, is actually located in Hamamatsu, Nadeshiko’s hometown, which is about 143 kilometres from Minobu Station. By comparison, the live action adaptation takes Chiaki, Aoi and Nadeshiko to Outings Products Elk; located in Kofu, Outings Products Elk is a more manageable 48.8 kilometres from Minobu Station. In reality, it takes around two and a half hours to arrive by train, so it was a very nice touch to have Sakura drive the girls here. Besides capturing the true aesthetics and beauty of the different locations the girls visit, Yuru Camp△‘s live action adaptation also holds one major edge over the anime in its portrayal of food. Owing to the lack of specularity in anime, the glisten of sauces and rich colours on food are not usually captured as effectively; food is a key part of Yuru Camp△, and while the anime had done a strong job with depicting food, the drama holds the clear advantage in presentation. Close-ups of the food in Yuru Camp△‘s drama show the details of every dish, and the girls, especially Rin, enjoy camping food with the same enthusiasm that Adam Richman digs into a dish in Man v. Food to capture their taste. From the spicy gyoza nabe Nadeshiko cooks for Rin at Fumotoppara, the grilled chicken skewers and jambalaya at Shibireko, to the hōtō that Chiaki cooks and the top-grade sukiyaki that Aoi prepares for everyone at the Christmas camp, seeing the girls eating in Yuru Camp△‘s live action adaptation succeeds in conveying the flavour of every dish, even more so than the anime. The live action adaptation evidently has its strengths, and showcases different aspects of Yuru Camp△ relative to the anime adaptation.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the live action Yuru Camp△ drama, Haruka Fukuhara plays Rin: an actress, Fukuhara has had roles in television shows and movies, but she also performs some voice work, playing secondary characters in After the Rain and Hello World. Yuru Camp△’s drama replicates the appearances of each character very similarly for the most part, and Fukuhara plays Rin well. I believe this post is the internet’s first and only complete English-language discussion of the drama. While there are a few YouTube videos here and there, as well as a few posts on Reddit, but these are packed with vociferous reactions and obscure memes, making them quite jarring to watch. I use science to take out the memes, leaving readers with what they come for. Before I continue, I’ll briefly explain how this post suddenly consumed the remainder of April.

  • The reason for this post requiring more time to write was two-fold. The first is that I felt it worthwhile to include an inset screenshot of the corresponding moment from Yuru Camp△‘s anime, and therefore, it took a bit of time to ensure that I got an appropriate moment to include, and then create these modified screenshots which showcase the moments side-by-side. Each screenshot thus shows the live action scene in conjunction with the equivalent moment within the anime as an inset. The job isn’t perfect, but I’ve done my best to ensure that the inset images are placed to maximise visibility: there is no pattern to their positioning whatsoever.

  • The second reason is that there’s a bit of material to cover, and I felt that sixty screenshots would be appropriate to ensure I could cover everything to a suitable extent. Even then, there are many moments that I won’t have the space to go over. Sleeping Nadeshiko by the faculties looked hilarious in the anime, and in the live action version, things look a little more ridiculous. With this in mind, it’s certainly not hygienic, and in real life, one would question seeing such a sight.

  • When Yuru Camp△ first aired, I likened the anime to Survivorman for how detailed the series was in explaining techniques for starting campfires, setting tents up and the like. The anime had Rin’s grandfather providing the narration, while in the live action drama, the cast would act out skits that portray how to do certain things. It’s certainly a novel way to keep viewers engaged, and since Rin’s grandfather only has a limited appearance in the drama, this approach also lessens the need for a narrator.

  • Upon seeing Yuru Camp△’s first episode in live action, I wondered how they would handle certain of things, like Nadeshiko tripping on the chain that cordons off the road down to the Koan Camping Grounds off Route 709. It turns out that the live action is a little more tactful, and doesn’t portray what happens next. The first episode had me impressed at just how faithful the series would be towards the original Yuru Camp△, and while there are some changes throughout, the overall thematic elements aren’t changed.

  • In reality, Motosu High School is located nine minutes from Kai-Tokiwa Station, but stands empty. Thanks to Yuru Camp△, the site has seen a surge in visits from fans of the series, and is now counted as a tourist attraction. The anime took some creative liberties with the school’s layout, but the narrow storeroom that the Outdoors Activity Club uses is indeed a part of the school. The anime had Chiaki encounter Nadeshiko looking through the clubroom, but in the live action, both Aoi and Chiaki are present.

  • After accidentally snapping one of the poles on their 900 Yen (11.72 CAD) tent, Ena appears to help the Outdoor Activities Club out, resulting in a similar moment of joy. However, in the drama, Nadeshiko does not run into the window as she did in the anime: such an action would speak poorly to her character. Instead of running into the window, Nadeshiko appears in the library moments later, surprising Rin. The drama makes minor changes to the characters’ actions, improving them in some cases.

  • Rin’s view of Mount Fuji from Fumotoppara in both the anime and drama is a million-yen one. During my trip to Japan three years earlier, I had been in the Yamanashi region, but Mount Fuji was largely obscured by cloud cover. On a clear day, the view really is spectacular, and it’s easy to see why Mount Fuji is the most iconic of all the mountains in Japan, with its distinct shape. There are no equivalents over on this side of the world, and I believe the only other mountain out there with an iconic appearance is the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.

  • In an earlier post where I compared Yuru Camp△‘s campground and locations with some of their real-world equivalents, I exclusively used Google Maps and Street View to illustrate how faithful the anime had been to the real world. The live action drama has no trouble with its locations, and promptly returns to the same spots seen in the anime: here, Rin photographs a barn at Fumotoppara while out a walk. In the anime, the barn’s door cover is closed, while in the drama, it’s been rolled back.

  • Rin begins to wish she hadn’t been quite so cold to Nadeshiko, and begins to hear Nadeshiko calling her name out. When Rin opens her eyes, she sees Nadeshiko carrying a basket of ingredients and a blanket, set to prepare a camping meal of a calibre that Rin had never made before. Previously, on her solo outings, Rin carried simpler fare like cup noodles, preferring to spend most of her time in a quiet environment. Meeting with Nadeshiko changes her view of camping, and initially, this change manifests as a desire to try more sophisticated (but still manageable) dishes.

  • The spicy gyoza nabe that Nadeshiko prepares appears absolutely delicious, and the real-world version captures the spices readily: gyoza are Japanese dumplings that are, compared to the Chinese jiaozi (餃子), smaller and made with a thinner wrapper. Nadeshiko’s recipe calls for sesame oil, miso, Chili, chicken stock, cabbage, green onions, garlic chives, White Button mushrooms and tofu, as well as some bean sprouts.

  • Nadeshiko’s love for gyoza foreshadows her origins as a resident of Hamamatsu: Shizuoka vies with Tochigi prefecture as the leading consumers of gyoza in Japan, and in these prefectures, the dish is so popular that unconventional fillings, like shrimp, can also be found. Watching Nadeshiko and Rin enjoying their dinner as the evening wears on in the live action was particularly fun, bringing to mind Adam Richman’s early Man v. Food episodes where he would visit two restaurants in a city for some authentic local eats before squaring off against that city’s challenge.

  • I’ve long felt that Man v. Food could’ve been just as fun without the eating challenges, and while shows like You Gotta Eat Here! and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives showcase excellent foods all around (including Calgary’s very own Big T’s BBQ), there’s a magic about Adam Richman and the way he expresses his enjoyment of food that other food show hosts can’t replicate. It is therefore high praise when I say that Yuru Camp△‘s drama captures the taste of food as effectively as Richman does in Man v. Food.

  • I remember Man v. Food best for accompanying me nearly eight summers ago: when I was stating down the MCAT, to cope with the stresses, I would crack frequent jokes about the challenge the MCAT presented in the context of Adam Richman’s stylised portrayal of his food challenges. While this seems a childish practise, being able to make light of a difficult situation is a vital skill in keeping morale and focus up, and this is something Les Stroud supports, as well. With frequently allusions to Man v. Food and Survivorman, the comparisons I draw between these shows and Yuru Camp△ demonstrates the extent of my enjoyment of the series.

  • Yuru Camp△‘s live action uses the library at Motosu High School, but unlike the anime, where the lights are usually switched off, the drama’s library is more brightly lit and inviting. I imagine that for the live action, the producers obtained permission to use parts of the school during their filming. Previously, the old Motosu High School stood empty as a haikyo until Yuru Camp△ brought the site back to life as a tourist attraction.

  • One aspect that I was particularly impressed with was how closely the drama’s actresses matched their anime counterparts: Yuno Ōhara does capture the energy and warmth that Nadeshiko projects, and similarly, Momoko Tanabe does an excellent job with Chiaki in both manner and facial expressions. On the other hand, Aoi is a bit of an interesting character, and while Yumena Yanai does speak with a light Kansai accent as Aoi, her drama counterpart lacks Aki Toyosaki’s soft voice and a propensity towards bad jokes.

  • While viewers have long known that Yuru Camp△ had been modelled after the real world, seeing the drama take the Outdoor Activities Club to the actual locations themselves really drives home the idea that everything seen in Yuru Camp△ could be done in reality. During my trip to Japan three years ago, my itinerary actually took me very close to the locations of Yuru Camp△, and this was a particularly enjoyable visit precisely because so much of it was spent in the countryside. While I get that Tokyo is the home of pretty much everything that’s cool in Japan, there is much character in the smaller cities, towns and inaka.

  • After spending a full day in Yamanashi, I travelled up to Nagano down the same route that Rin took, although unlike Rin, my destination was actually Shirakabako, where there are several resort hotels. I’ve opted to draw a comparison here between what is essentially the corresponding moments between the anime and drama where Rin stops behind another vehicle at an intersection. Rin rides a Yamaha Vino Classic, a moped with an 49 cc engine and impressive theoretical range of 248 kilometres. Because of its engine size, the Vino Classic is classified as a moped, and in my jurisdiction, only requires a Class VII license to operate. Motorcycles, on the other hand, require a special Class VI, while most motor vehicles require a Class V.

  • While the climb up to Fuefukigawa Fruit Park leaves Chiaki and Aoi exhausted, Nadeshiko has energy to spare, and asks the others to take a self-portrait with her before she runs around the open plaza at the park’s entrance. One small detail I noticed in the anime, is that Aoi’s eyebrows are so prominent that they show up through any headgear she’s sporting. This naturally cannot be replicated in real life, but the drama does have Aoi wearing the same hat as she did in the anime, as a nice touch.

  • Even though Rin is fond of her solo camping trips, Yuru Camp△ portrays her as being fond of keeping in touch with others on her travels: Rin may have coldly rejected Nadeshiko’s invitation earlier, but in general, she’s never bothered whenever Nadeshiko exchanges messages with her. One touch about Yuru Camp△ that was subtle, but clever, is that Rin gets to know Nadeshiko (and later, Chiaki) better through exchanging messages on their phones. Rin’s messages with Ena serve as the baseline for how Rin interacts with people she’s familiar with; while her early messages with Nadeshiko are a bit more formal, over time, the exchanges become more spirited.

  • Despite being utterly wasted from the walk up to Fuefuki Fruits Garden, Chiaki and Aoi get a second wind when they learn of the ice cream shop inside the visitor centre. The drama has the girls leaving their stuff behind to indicate how excited they are, whereas in the anime, Chiaki and Aoi have the presence of mind to take their stuff with them. Since the drama does not have the same facial expressions the anime does, it falls to other visual methods of conveying the energy that the girls have.

  • At Korobokkuru Hutte, a small restaurant with rustic outdoors decor, Rin stops for a lunch of her own: a borscht combo that warms her right up. Korobokkuru Hutte’s borscht is 羅宋湯 (jyutping lo4 sung3 tong1, literally “Russian Soup”), or Chinese borscht, which is made from tomato, cabbage, onion and beef broth. This dish is so named because of its origins in Harbin, which is located close to the Russian border. It’s an excellent soup, being flavourful and warming, but unlike true Ukrainian borscht, Chinese borscht does not have any beets in it. Hong Kong restaurants serve this as an appetiser, where the sour and spicy soup helps to kick off the meal. At Korobokkuru Hutte, their borscht set costs 1300 yen and comes with bread, as well as a drink of choice – the borscht itself includes succulent chunks of beef, making it a hearty meal perfect for the cold of Nagano.

  • The last time I wrote about the Kirigamine webcam for Yuru Camp△, Flash was on the way out, and these days, most browsers will warn visitors that their Flash plugin is blocked. Nadeshiko and the others manage to catch Rin waving to them here in the drama, just like in the anime, although I note that attempting to do this in reality would very likely need an Android phone: Steve Jobs was very adamant about Flash never coming to iOS devices, citing bloat and security concerns, and the superior HTML5 has since superseded flash in most applications. I imagine that the prefectural government will need to update their site if fans of Yuru Camp△ are to be able to view their webcam on any smartphone, just as Nadeshiko, Aoi and Chiaki do.

  • While Aoi, Chiaki and Nadeshiko enjoy the warm waters of the onsen at Hottarakashi, which is a little further up the hill, Rin struggles with the cold of Nagano’s Kirigamine Highlands. Yuru Camp△ shows Rin as being relatively new to the idea of ad hoc travel: whereas her solo camping excursions previously took her to a campsite, where she would set up and then take it easy for the remainder of a day, she begins to be more inquisitive and travel around more after securing her moped license. However, on multiple occasions, Rin fails to recall that many attractions, open during the summer, are now closed for the winter, and so, when things don’t turn out to be as expected, she lacks a backup plan of sorts. However, when Rin learns to improvise, she comes to appreciate the joys that accompany maintaining an open mind.

  • Because they plan on having a substantial cook-out later with the ingredients they’ve brought, the Outdoors Activity Club refrains from having a full lunch, but are still tempted by the onsen eggs: these are essentially fried soft-boiled eggs, but cooked within the waters of an onsen that give them a distinct, custard-like taste. They’re traditionally served with soy sauce, but Hottarakashi Onsen has a deep-fried version: fried soft-boiled eggs aren’t too tricky to make, but the unique combination of boiling them in onsen water ahead of time would impart a completely different taste.

  • Yuru Camp△ represents the sweet spot between watching Adam Richman struggle to finish some gigantic burger or burrito for a food challenge, and watching Les Stroud hunting for wild edibles while in the bush: unlike Survivorman, Rin and the others have access to delicious food for camping that is enjoyable to watch, and the show focuses on the enjoyment of just the right amount of food, unlike Man v. Food. Here, Rin enjoys a bacon-vegetable pasta with a white cream sauce: she notes its the first time she’s had something so fancy while camping, and savours every moment of it. In the anime, the narrator explains that the advantage of this recipe is that nothing goes to waste, and with a little bit of preparation ahead of time, yields a delicious pasta that leaves very little mess.

  • By comparison, the Outdoors Activity Club enjoy a full-on curry together. Even when camping, the recipes Nadeshiko uses is more sophisticated than what I typically cook: for me, a good curry involves either chicken or beef, potatoes, carrots and onions. This is the simplest curry to make: one only need to cook the meats, then separately, boil the potatoes, carrots and onions, and mix in everything with the curry. However, Nadeshiko’s recipe adds okra and eggplant as well: eggplant can work out of the box, but with okra, since it produces mucilage, has a slimy texture if not prepared properly. The trick here would be to soak it in vinegar for half an hour before cooking it, or else cook it separately at higher temperatures and then use the cooked okra in the dish of choice.

  • The point of showing a side-by-side comparison of Rin and Nadeshiko’s camping adventure was to accentuate that, despite their differences in camping preferences, the outcome is the same; both get to experience something wonderful, and for the viewer, it means that Rin eventually deciding to accept a group camping invitation isn’t too far off. It’s one of the best scenes in all of Yuru Camp△, and while the drama does a solid job of creating the scene, the superimposing of the two campers, side-by-side is not done. The impact of the scene, while still present in the drama, is not quite as profound as in the anime, though.

  • The differences between the anime and drama are noticeable, and it’s not a 1:1 adaptation, but overall, I would say that most of the gripes I have are to be knit-picking to an unfair extent. In case it was not clear, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the live-action version of Yuru Camp△ – once I got started into the series, I began looking forwards to it each week. The page quote, taken from Sam Hui’s 1976 movie, The Private Eyes, was prompted by my initial reaction to learning that there was a live action version of Yuru Camp△. In The Private Eyes, during the climactic robbery scene at the theatre, villain Uncle Nine (Shih Kien) declares that they’re stopping a movie the patrons are watching, not because there’s a power outage or because they’re switching to a live-action show, but because it’s going to be a robbery. Yuru Camp△‘s live action drama, on the other hand, can be considered to be the “真人登台” (jyutping zan1 jan4 dang1 toi4, “live acting on stage”) that Uncle Nine is referring to.

  • While denied a trip to the onsen in her way to Nagano, Rin manages to find one at a later time, and also buys a souvenir for Nadeshiko, who eats the souvenir buns with zeal once Rin gifts them to her. Here, Rin’s portable grill is visible: both Ena and Nadeshiko wonder if it’s an offertory box (colloquially, a “poor box”), which is a stab how Rin’s highly specialised gear is obscure enough so that its function is not immediately apparent to common folk. This other perspective of the library in the drama, when compared to the anime, shows the differences in lighting, and again, the library of the drama feels much more inviting than its counterpart in the anime.

  • Rin invites Nadeshiko to go camping and try out the new portable grill; this trip takes them to the shores of Lake Shibire, and it’s a bit of a distance, so Sakura will be driving the two. In using a real-world location for Rin’s house, the drama also shows that in Yuru Camp△‘s anime, the Shima residence has been fictionalised: the forest is thicker, and there are fewer other houses around. In the interest of not having droves of Yuru Camp△ fans show up at the real world location and potentially hassling the residents, I’ve elected not to disclose where Rin’s house was filmed in this discussion despite having found the location. I’ve seen discussions on Reddit where some folks from Japan have attempted to find Rin’s house and were unsuccessful in doing so: I note that location hunting is a bit of a talent, and that even residents can have trouble identifying things shot in their area. For instance, Pure Pwnage filmed the infamous FPS_Doug segment in a community in the south of my city, but because I don’t go to the south, I didn’t recognise the neighbourhood.

  • While shopping for meat to cook during their camping trip, Rin discovers that the Selva in Minobu does not have all the exotic cuts she was looking for on account of it being winter: of pork jowl, ribs, kalbi (Korean beef short-ribs), horumon (offal of pork and beef) and other specialty cuts, only the kalbi and ribs are available. In the anime, Rin breaks down, while in the drama, she retains a bit more composure but still looks on the verge of tears. Nadeshiko’s quick thinking sorts things out: the store still has chicken and pork skewers, which go great on a grill.

  • Upon arriving at Lake Shibire, the fellow managing the campsite provides instructions for reaching the actual campgrounds across the lake. Nadeshiko had picked the site out on recommendation from Chiaki, who wanted to check the site out on account of its mysteries. The anime has the narrator explaining the story of a phantom bull that sometimes appears on the lake shores, while in the drama, Rin takes the responsibility of recounting this legend.

  • After setting up camp, Nadeshiko goes exploring while Rin warms up her binchotan coals; these coals are named after Bicchuya Chozaemon, a charcoal (tan) maker who lived in Wakayama during the 1600s. Using Ubame oak in his area, which is tougher and having a smaller grain than other trees, the charcoal he produced burned much more cleanly and for longer than standard charcoal. However, it is also tougher to light because of the charcoal’s composition, and so, Rin finds herself lacking the materials to generate a heat long enough to light them. Fortunately, Nadeshiko’s just met some friendly people, and gets some help in lighting the charcoal from a fellow camper.

  • Binchotan requires at least 25 minutes to fully light, and after that, require around an hour to reach a maximum temperature of 370℃. Rin remarks that food cooked over binchotan tastes better, and there is a fact in this point: because binchotan burns with less smoke than regular charcoal, it leaves a very subtle flavour on food grilled over it that a learned palette can distinguish. This is why Rin was so excited about grilling over her new grill, and in the end, even conventional chicken and pork skewers taste amazing. She decides to share some, along with Nadeshiko’s nabe, with the campers who’d helped them, and receive jambalaya for their troubles.

  • Thus, by camping with Nadeshiko, Rin sees first-hand how rolling with the punches can result in an experience that is enjoyable. Every camping trip in Yuru Camp△ serves a purpose: Koan was where Rin and Nadeshiko first met, Fumotoppara gave Rin a chance to know the real Nadeshiko better, Fuefuki/Nagano was a chance for Rin to see how much the two had in common despite their different personalities through electronic messaging (which allows Rin a modicum of solitude while at once still discovering more about Nadeshiko), and Shibireko gives Rin a look at Nadeshiko’s “play-it-by-ear” style.

  • As evening sets in, Rin and Nadeshiko prepare to turn in. Nadeshiko is still worried about the phantom bull, but ironically, it is Rin who ends up crashing in Nadeshiko’s tent after coming face-to-face with the “bull” (actually Minami Toba, one of the campers they’d encountered earlier). I stand by my old assertion that prior to meeting Nadeshiko, Rin is very much someone who doesn’t have a mind for handling the unexpected, and when problems look like they’re outside of her scope, she tends to panic. This is something that gradually dissipates as she spends more time with Nadeshiko.

  • Yuru Camp△ had Chiaki and Aoi spend a half-episode seasoning a cast-iron skillet and removing the varnish from a wooden bowl for use with hot foods, but the drama skips over this segment entirely: Chiaki and Aoi invite Ena to camp with them for Christmas after exams, and then with Nadeshiko, head straight to Outings Products Elk to check out sleeping pads. This was one of the best changes in Yuru Camp△‘s drama: there is no outdoors product store in Minobu, and Caribou is based off Sven in Hamamatsu. However, it is named after Outings Products Elk in Kofu, and the drama takes the care of having Sakura drive them here, rather than taking the train, because of how far away it is from Minobu and Nambu.

  • When Nadeshiko learns of the price of the gas lamp, she covers her eyes in shock and remarks she’s just looking for now. In one of those rare moments, Nadeshiko’s actions in the anime translate into real life rather elegantly, and the drama’s portrayal of the scene is just as adorable as it was in the anime. If memory serves, the prices are a bit different between the anime and drama: the anime gave the Coleman gas lamp as costing 4690 Yen (61.52 CAD), but in the drama, it’s 5980 Yen (78.44 CAD). This is a ways pricier than the Coleman models available at my local outdoors shop; an equivalent propane lamp from Coleman costs around 50 CAD.

  • Rin actually had another trip planned with Nadeshiko, a sign of the closing distance between the two, but when Nadeshiko catches a cold, Rin is left to travel on her own. She shifts up her itinerary completely, and right out of the gates, runs into problems when her planned route is closed. Fortunately, even though Nadeshiko might be sick, she’s on the mend, and Chiaki decides to visit her, both keeping her company and watching Nadeshiko message Rin, which gives her a better idea of what Shimarin is like. Their guidance and support of Rin helps her to have an amazing time, as well as making it feel as though they were there with her.

  • With her pride as a Yamanashi girl at stake, Chiaki ends up making enough hōtō for the entire Kagamihama family: she had brought some over as a get-well gift for Nadeshiko, but when the entire family shows up, she realises that she can’t just do some basic recipe. One thing that I found surprising about hōtō is that one needn’t quench the noodles with cold water after boiling it: in Chinese noodle soup, I do this to to immediately halt the cooking process and cool the noodles so they don’t cook any further and become a soggy mess. As it turns out, the starch on the hōtō is there to thicken the broth. The entire family enjoy Chiaki’s recipe, much to her relief, and Sakura asks her for the recipe. It’s a fun scene that captures the Kagamihama family’s atmosphere – everyone is easygoing except for Sakura, but even then, she’s still kind-hearted.

  • While Chiaki’s whipped up delicious hōtō for Nadeshiko and her family, Rin is settling in to a soak at Hayataro Onsen overlooking the Minami Alps in Komagane. This onsen is named after an area legend and is renowned for its seamless integration with nature. With odourless water, Hayataro Onsen is popular amongst those looking to refresh their skin, and the drama portrayal makes it doubly clear that these hot springs are beautiful: the lighting in the real onsen gives the baths an even warmer and more inviting feel than that of the anime.

  • After Rin leaves the baths, Nadeshiko and Chiaki have an adorable fight about what Rin should have for lunch: both agree that she should eat something specific to the area, but there are two specialties. As it turns out, there’s a sauce katsu and udon combo that lets Rin have best of both worlds for a mere 1000 yen. After a delicious meal, Rin falls asleep in the canteen and finds herself late for the next leg of her journey. Things rapidly look to go south when the fastest route to her campsite appears blocked, and ultimately, it is Chiaki who walks Rin through what to do next.

  • By having Chiaki provide assistance to Rin during this time, it gives Chiaki a chance to interact with Rin and bring Rin closer to the Outdoor Activities Club itself; until now, Rin had largely conversed and spent time with Nadeshiko, but is otherwise unfamiliar with Chiaki and Aoi. Chiaki’s help shows Rin that Nadeshiko is in a club with friendly and warm people – despite being very boisterous and fond of posturing, Chiaki does genuinely care for those around her and will do her best to help them. Rin is ultimately very grateful for the help: she makes it to the campsite on time, checks in and prepares a simple but delicious dinner of fried pork bun with the tea she’d gotten from some hikers earlier.

  • While Rin initially declines Chikai’s invitation to camp with the Outdoors Activity Club at Christmas, she comes around after giving it some thought: being with Nadeshiko has made her more aware of being mindful of others, and recalling Chiaki’s kindness earlier, she decides that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to hang out with the others. When things get tricky, Chiaki prefers to do voice calls over messaging: hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the line was much more reassuring for Rin when she was trying to traverse the road, and similarly, a voice inviting her to camp ends up being more effective.

  • While the Outdoors Activity Club had been sharing an advisor with the more involved Hiking Club, there was a limit on how much time that instructor could spend on both clubs. With Minami Toba formally arriving as a teacher, she’s made the advisor of the Outdoors Activity Club; Minami is initially reluctant to do anything that might cut away from her free time, but upon learning that Chiaki and the others are fairly independent, she relents. Both the anime and drama present her as being a graceful-looking individual with a not-so-secret love for drinking.

  • We’ve come to it at last: Yuru Camp△‘s anime and live-action adaptation open the girls’ Christmas camp at the Asagiri YMCA Global Eco Village, with a shot of Chiaki and Aoi running up and down the open plains in sheer joy as they marvel at how much space there is. Whereas the anime has Chiaki tripping on Aoi’s foot and then rolling a ways down the hillside, the drama has Chiaki falling on her own and coming to a stop immediately, saving her some face.

  • Since Chiaki and Aoi have arrived so early, they’ve already gone ahead and checked in. Thinking she’d been the first to arrive, Rin makes to check in but aren’t able to find the others anywhere, so she begins setting up her gear. Nadeshiko arrives shortly after, and Rin decides to make some s’mores, a camping confectionery with North American origins: these treats are a simple combination of graham crackers with chocolate and marshmallow melted in between, and the earliest recipe for the “Some More” was published in 1920. They’ve become quite popular for being very tasty despite their simple preparation, and over time, “Some More” eventually became contracted as s’more.

  • Since they’d arrived so early, Chiaki and Aoi walked to the Makaino Farm Resort café, which is located a mere 641 metres from the YMCA Global Eco Village building. After linking up with Chiaki and Aoi, Rin buys firewood as a thanks to Aoi for providing the bulk of dinner, and makes to carry them back on her moped, but leaves one bundle behind because she’s hit her capacity, leaving Chiaki to carry the remaining bundle an estimated 850 metres.

  • Asagiri’s YMCA Global Eco Village was the campsite whose location was most difficult ascertain, since there’s also another YMCA Global Eco Village some ten kilometres north of the one the girls camp at. Fortunately, Ena has no trouble finding the others: her arrival is preceded by Chikuwa’s arrival. Ena’s dog, Chikuwa, is a long-haired chihuahua. In the anime, Chikuwa has brown and white fur, but for the live-action drama, she’s got white fur. Chihuahuas are small dogs that have a large presence, and they’re excellent companions, being relatively easy to train and willing to accompany their owners. There is a bit of a deviation here between the anime and drama: the former has Chiaki breaking out a Frisbee once she and Aoi arrive, while the drama has Nadeshiko encounter Rin’s grandfather.

  • However, there are more similarities than differences, and in both the drama and anime for Yuru Camp△, the girls swing by to admire Ena’s winter-capable sleeping bag before heading off to check out Rin’s gear. Being kitted out for extremely cold conditions, Ena’s sleeping bag cost 45000 Yen (588.47 CAD): while pricey, to put things in perspective the average winter sleeping bag will cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of 600 CAD.

  • The day draws to a close, and the sun begins setting over the Asagiri Plateau, blanketing Mount Fuji in a red light. This phenomenon is best seen during the autumn months, when a setting sun and cloudless sky creates the perfect conditions for scattering red light. Because of the colours in the drama, I feel that a reddish-orange filter was instead used to create the same effect, since the entire scene, and not just Mount Fuji, are cast in a reddish light.

  • The time has finally come for dinner preparations to begin, and Aoi begins to make dinner using the fancy meat she’d won from the raffle. The anime has Aoi and the others cooking after the sun has set, whereas in the drama, there is still a bit of light. Yuru Camp△‘s anime starts the dinner party a little earlier in the eleventh episode, while the drama has Aoi begin cooking in the finale. The difference is that in the anime, the girls spend a bit more time relaxing as well, whereas in the drama, they hit the hay shortly after enjoying the onsen.

  • The special that Aoi’s got in mind is a Kansai-style sukiyaki, where she adds a bit of beef fat to the pot and lightly heats the meat with soy sauce, sugar, and sake. Subsequently, shiitakeenoki, green onions, fried tofu, shiritaki noodles, and greens are thrown in. The resulting sukiyaki is then brought to a gentle boil and eaten with egg. Rin finds herself in food heaven: she describes food as well as Adam Richman does, and while she’s a lot quieter about enjoying her food, both anime and drama show that she’s greatly enjoying every bite. Nadeshiko and Chiaki, on the other hand, are as energetic as Adam Richman, but do not share is eloquence in conveying the quality of their food.

  • With the remaining meat, Aoi whips up a Western-style tomato pasta with fried onion and basil in the same pot that was used to make the sukiyaki, resulting in a flavour explosion that fuses together the richness of the sukiyaki with a kick from the tomatoes. Yuru Camp△ really emphasises that good food is a massive morale booster, bringing warmth to a cold night; the effects of food cannot be understated, and in Survivorman, Les Stroud notes that being able to eat something nice increases one’s will to survive. Of late, I’ve been watching Les Stroud do live commentary of his old episodes, and for me, the #QuarantineLife means getting to go a little fancier with home cooking, such as two recent dishes: an All-Canadian Spaghetti with bacon, white mushroom and an Alfredo sauce, and a savoury sticky rice with Chinese sausage and shiitake topped with fresh green onion.

  • The beef that Aoi brings to Christmas camping is the same sort of beef that I use with another home recipe: after frying the beef in a bit of olive oil, Korean BBQ sauce is added alongside shallots and enotake mushrooms. Back in Yuru Camp△, because it’s Christmas, everyone is decked out in Santa Claus outfits, as well, with the exception of Rin. Subsequently, everyone swings by the onsen to warm up before preparing to turn in for the night. The anime had an entertaining sequence where Nadeshiko images herself to have devised a rocket-propelled tent, but in the drama, this is noticeably absent.

  • As the night sets in and the air cools, Rin and the Outdoors Activity Club wrap themselves in blankets to keep warm. The characters of the drama are more disciplined than their anime counterparts, hitting the hay shortly after, while in the anime, Chiaki breaks out a tablet and introduces everyone to the joys of Netflix. What is consistant are the blankets and hot cocoa: Yuru Camp△ popularised Nadeshiko’s love of using blankets to keep warm whilst sitting around the fire and it’s become something that’s now synonymous with comfort.

  • As dawn breaks, Rin and Nadeshiko get up to help prepare an all-Japanese breakfast for the others to enjoy. Consisting of grilled salmon and natto on rice with a miso soup, it’s a nutritious and hearty start to the day. Of the items I’ve seen, natto remains the one food I’m reluctant to try: I’ve heard it’s a bit of an acquired taste, and while exposure to it could convince me to come around (for instance, I’ve become much more fond of oysters in recent years), for the time being, it’s the one Japanese food I’m not terribly accustomed to.

  • The Outdoors Activity Club, Rin and Ena enjoy breakfast under a swift sunrise, and then subsequently pack up their gear and head home for the remainder of their Christmas break. Yuru Camp△‘s anime had Nadeshiko meeting Rin at Lake Motosu by spring, whereas in the drama, Rin takes off for an unknown destination, and Nadeshiko is admiring her newly-bought, hard-earned camping gear, ready to make use of it on the Outdoors Activity Club’s next adventure. This is where the second season, set to begin in January 2021, will kick off, and I’m most excited to see what directions Yuru Camp△ will go in.

  • Whether it’s the drama or anime, Yuru Camp△ concludes in an immensely enjoyable and satisfying manner, definitely worth the watch. With the drama in the books, this brings one of the longest posts I’ve written in a while to its end (this post spans some eight thousand and fifty seven words). Because of the global health crisis and its impact on all aspects of everyday life, the spring anime season has essentially ground to a halt for me, so in the upcoming month, I will be focusing on the sizeable backlog of shows I’ve accumulated. Bofuri and Nekopara are two shows I plan on looking at, along with an older anime called Sketchbook. Besides catching up on older shows for the remainder of the spring season, KonoSuba‘s movie, and Hello World, are also on the horizon.

When everything is said and done, the live action adaptation of Yuru Camp△ acts as a wonderful companion to the anime and original manga. While the flow of events may differ slightly from the anime, and the characterisation is a little over-the-top, Yuru Camp△‘s drama retains all of the joys seen in the original series, bringing out a different side to the series in its portrayal of locations and the wonderful camping cuisine Nadeshiko and the others bring to the table. The drama also replicates the smaller details seen in the anime extremely well. The girls use the same camping implements that were seen in the anime, and the drama also goes through the pains of ensuring that the actresses playing Rin, Nadeshiko, Chiaki, Ena and instructor Toba resemble their anime counterparts (with the exception that Aoi’s actress only vaguely resembles her in manner and appearance). Ena does make “bear hair” out of Rin’s bun, and Sakura drives a Nissan Rasheen of the same make and colour as she did in the anime. The SMS conversations that Rin and the others exchange are faithful to the originals, as well. Altogether, while perhaps not possessing the same fluffiness as the anime, there is a magic in Yuru Camp△‘s drama that makes the series worth watching: the drama accentuates different aspects of the series and brings them to light, augmenting one’s appreciation of the work that went into making Yuru Camp△ as a whole. It’s relatively straightforward to recommend the Yuru Camp△ drama to anyone who enjoyed Yuru Camp△ and is suffering from withdrawal now that Heya Camp△ is done; until the second season airs in 2021, the Yuru Camp△ drama represents the latest addition to the franchise and provides a different, but superbly enjoyable experience for fans of the series.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Forest: Considering Insights into Life Decisions, A Movie Review and Recommendation

“Komori is a small settlement in a village somewhere in the Tohoku region. There aren’t any stores here, but if you have a little shopping to do, there’s a small farmer’s co-op supermarket and some other stores in the the village centre, where the town hall is. The way there is mostly downhill, so that takes about half an hour, but I’m not too sure how long the trip back takes.” —Ichiko

After encountering considerable difficulties with life in the city, Ichiko moves back home to Komori, a small rural village in Tōhoku. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, Ichiko farms the land and makes the most of each season, using her knowledge of the land and local ingredients create simple but tasty dishes. Ichiko recalls stories of her mother in her childhood, who had left one day. The seasons pass in Komori, and Ichiko receives a letter from her mother. Deciding that living in Komori was equivalent to running away from her problems, Ichiko moves back to the city, but later returns to Komori permanently as a farmer upon realising that she’s come to love the way of life in rural Japan. The original manga was written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi; running between 2002 and 2005, it received a two-part live-action theatrical adaptation that was released in August 2014 and February 2015. A Korean adaptation loosely follows the structure of Little Forest and screened in 2018. The Japanese film will be the focus of this post: Ichiko is played by Ai Hashimoto, who delivers a very matter-of-fact performance in Ichiko’s everyday life in the country. Facets of life, from the preparation of foodstuffs, to subtle details in each season, are outlined in a manner reminiscent to Rena Nōnen’s performance as In This Corner of The World‘s Suzu Hojo (née Urano). Little Forest presents rural life as being very idyllic, slow-paced and earnest: one of Ichiko’s friends, Yūta, remarks that he’s fond of the country life and cannot stand urbanites because they are untruthful, whereas in the countryside, people are more honest and doers rather than talkers. The film is an ode to simpler living, in a world far removed from the connectivity and pressure of a scheduled, digital world; in a manner of speaking, Little Forest is a Japanese interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire; the Hobbits of the Shire live a very simple life, treasuring good food, a warm heath and all of the comforts of home above treasures and power. However, while one cannot be blamed for wanting to return to a simpler life, Little Forest also raises the question of whether or not escaping from the more complex, ever-changing world is the right way to handle one’s problems.

During her days in the country, Ichiko demonstrates a strong knowledge of the land and resourcefulness, looking after her crops and crafting meals with whatever is available to her. Her monologues show someone who is deeply entrenched in the land, and that she is someone who is definitely at home in the countryside. From simple bread, to the preparation of fried trout, duck, onigiri and home-made jam, Ichiko uses a combination of her mother’s knowledge and own discoveries to create simple but delicious meals. The past and present come together as she cooks; the passage of time infuses new knowledge into old dishes, suggesting that change is inevitable but gradual in all things. How much of Ichiko’s mother’s stories are genuine, then, becomes largely irrelevant, as she takes what is true and then combines it with her experiences to make her dishes work. The focus of Little Forest is in the realm of cooking, how recipes might change over time and imbibe the characteristics of the individual cooking them. While family recipes are often thought of as being immutable, a taste of an older time, the reality is that every cook will apply their own styles to it and create something slightly different. In this way, a particular dish can be thought of as ever-changing, for no two individuals will prepare a dish in precisely the same way. Change is then thought of as inevitable, applying not just to food, but to one’s life, as well; no two individuals will handle their problems in the same way, and ultimately, it is up to the individual to seek out and execute solutions to the challenges that they might come across within their lives.

While Little Forest presents Ichiko’s days of cooking and tending the farm as idyllic, her monologues are interspersed with thoughts of her past. It turns out that Ichiko’s had a rough time in the city; between a failing relationship and difficulties at work, Ichiko succumbed to pressure and decided to leave, regrouping in the countryside. While life back in her old home is peaceful, there are a unique set of challenges, as well; there are bears in the area, and insects get into the crops. Furthermore, her friends in the countryside occasionally remark that she’s running away from her problems in the city, retreating to Komori when her work and relationship takes a hit. This is true, and presents the audiences with a dilemma: if Ichiko returns to the city to face her challenges, then she’s suggesting that a simpler life in the countryside might not be as idyllic as one might imagine. Conversely, staying in Komori would signal to viewers that it’s okay to escape one’s problems. Ichiko’s final decision, to return to Komori after attempting to make life in the city work once more, neatly addresses Little Forest‘s theme: Ichiko does make another (presumably honest and whole-hearted) attempt to make her situation work out, returning to face her problems, and then with the knowledge of which life she feels that she could put a more complete effort towards, makes the choice to return to Komori. In the end, the simpler life prevails, but only after Ichiko has had a proper opportunity to face her problems once more. Having said that she has honestly made an effort to see if she could have made life in the city work, Ichiko’s return to Komori is not running away, but stems from a conscious decision that this life is what she desires.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Known for its scenery and climate, the Tohoku region occupies the northeastern side of Honshu and has a comparatively lower development level compared to the rest of Japan. Little Forest was filmed in the Iwate prefecture, which has the lowest population density of anywhere in Japan save for Hokkaido. The area has a hot-summer humid continental climate, and Ichiko opens by saying that the area is very humid in the summer, with the heat sticking to one.

  • With its low population and relative seclusion relative to the remainder of Japan, Iwate is the perfect place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Lacking the same melancholy as Inao in Nagano, where Please Teacher and Ano Natsu de Matteru is set, the rural setting for Little Forest is cozy, inviting and very laid-back even during the hottest days of the summer.

  • The first dish that Ichiko creates is a stove bread: before we delve further into this discussion, I remark that my cooking skills are rudimentary at best. I have basic knowledge in food preparation and baking to the extent where I can prepare edible food that passes for a meal, but the more advanced techniques, I am less versed. The most complex dish I’ve made in recent memory was a sirloin-and-pepper stir fry with Dijon-mushroom sauce.

  • While life in the countryside, the inaka, is very slow-paced for us urban-dwellers, Little Forest shows audiences that there is a completely different set of things that folks in the rural areas do during their day. Where we commute to work and sit in an office for a day, those in agriculture tend to their crops, maintain their equipment and spend plenty of time cooking, making use of their ingredients to make hand-made meals that city folk may not have the time to make.

  • Ichiko recounts how her mother fabricated all sorts of tall tales during her youth. Her introspection of these memories suggests a bit of surprise when the truth came out, but otherwise does not convey any other emotion. The frequency that Ichiko brings up these stories suggests that despite her distance with her mother, she’s definitely appreciative of the effort her mother took in raising her, and indeed, the memories that audiences see from Ichiko’s childhood are simple, but warm.

  • Ichiko lives in her mother’s old house, a rickety wooden building that nonetheless is very inviting. Having lived here for most of her life, Ichiko is familiar with the ins and outs of the countryside: by summer, all sorts of things come to life during the night, including various insects, owls and even bears. I am spoiled by the fact that urban dwellings are relatively free of unwanted visitors, and the thought of insects marching through my room while I sleep is a bit of a scary one.

  • Besides tending to her crops, Ichiko also helps out around the village: as a part of a smaller community, everyone knows everyone, and form a close-knit group that is very friendly amongst one another. Here, Ichiko helps Yūta with moving trout around from their hatchery to a larger pond. The trout that are seen in Little Forest differ from the trout that I’ve had in the past year: during a business trip to Winnipeg, I had Steelhead Trout, which is characterised by its orange flesh and a more oily flavour: while not quite as distinct as salmon, it’s still quite salmon-like and is very tasty.

  • Roasting fish on a skewer over an open fire is something I’ve seen in many series, whether its Les Stroud’s Survivorman or other anime. After the intestines and other inedible parts of the fish are removed, they are cooked over flame before being served. Little Forest has Yūta and Ichiko discarding the heart and liver from the fish, but these are edible and provide additional nutrients; Les Stroud eats those in addition to the fish during his survival trips.

  • Yūta’s remarks about what makes people genuine struck a chord with me: he believes that people who are worth respecting are those speak from experience, who’ve done things rather than merely talk about doing them. Especially in the age of the internet, people often over-estimate the scope of their knowledge and make like they know more than they do. Fortunately, it is quite easy to spot when this is occurring: a few well-placed questions are often enough to determine if someone genuinely knows their stuff, or if they’re bluffing. For my part, I try to speak (and write) within the realm of what I know.

  • For me, food is grown in the great plains surrounding my home city or else imported, and then it’s something I pick up at the supermarket. However, this is not something to be taken for granted; much like how it takes a considerable effort to make even a simple app work, the process of growing food is a very extensive one, and those in agriculture have my utmost respect. The Chinese have a saying: 飲水思源 (jyutping jam2 seoi2 si1 jyun4, literally “when drinking water, think of its source”): I am ever mindful of what it takes to grow the food on my table and strive to make sure no food goes to waste.

  • I love tomatoes: refreshing and delicious, they are a fantastic food that are classified as a berry but utilised as a vegetable. The longstanding debate of whether or not a tomato is a fruit or vegetable is the subject of no small debate, but for me, tomatoes are a fruit hands down: science wins every time. I take tomatoes wherever I can get them; they are delicious in sandwiches, and the smaller cherry tomatoes are delicious on their own, packing a stronger flavour than standard tomatoes.

  • The passage of the seasons runs throughout Little Forest – each of summer, autumn, winter and spring brings with it a different set of ingredients that Ichiko has to work with. As the trees yellow during autumn, Ichiko prepares her harvest and also picks chestnuts from the area nearby.

  • The process of food preparation can take a good bit of time, and having tried my hand at cooking, I can honestly say that it can be a fun process during which time flies by. The night I prepared the sirloin and pepper stir-fry, it took four hours from opening the packages of meat and washing the vegetables, to enjoying said meal and then washing the dishes. Similarly, I tried my hand at making a chicken and broccoli dish that turned out to be delicious, as well.

  • One of the things I likely won’t do for the short term, regardless of how delicious the outcome is, is frying battered meat in an oil using a pan at home. This is in the interest of preserving the air quality in wherever I am: the process produces a great deal of greasy smoke that clings to the air if done improperly (e.g. if the type of oil is poorly picked), so I would sooner learn to make other things, before attempting something like this.

  • Sharing meals or snacks together with a dose of conversation may seem quaint for us city folk, but as it turns out, gathering to talk and eat is both superbly relaxing (a world apart from staring into the screen of a smartphone), and a great way to pass time. During the hot pot on Sunday leading up to the New Year’s, I spent upwards of 90 minutes with family, putting various meats and vegetables while sharing conversation, and during New Year’s Eve, conversation spanned two hours after the last of the cheesecake and flan were had.

  • At home, Ichiko’s recollections often have her telling stories of her mother’s own recipes for common condiments and spreads, like Nutella and Worcestershire sauce. Her mother’s recipes yield a product different in taste than those of the commercial ones, and Ichiko is often surprised at the fact that these recipes are not original to her mother. As a side note, the original Worcestershire sauce from Lea and Perrins is a British invention, being used to season salads, soups and is a component of the Bloody Mary cocktail. However, it also goes great with the steamed meatballs served in dim sum.

  • One part of Little Forest that really puts the perspective on fresh meat is when Ichiko is shown looking after ducklings that later mature into ducks; she states that ducks are useful around the farm, aerating the paddies and also consume any insects that may harm the rice plants. Audiences get to see the ducklings; their fluffiness and small size make them absolutely adorable, and one’s mind should be quite far removed from thoughts of eating them. However, as the ducklings mature into ducks, Ichiko takes the knife to one and carves one for dinner, roasting it over a fire.

  • Meat cooking over a fire is a very inviting image for me, and the ethics of eating meat is not something I personally partake in debating – from a biological perspective, humans evolved bigger brains precisely from our transition to a diet with meat in it. The nutrients in meat contributes to the synthesis of materials involved in the brain, and in conjunction with cooking, we could now spend less time eating. The reduction in jaw muscles changed our skull morphology and also accommodates for increased brain size. Our evolutionary origins live on in me: when at home and meat-on-the-bone is on the table, I will take the time to gnaw any meat off the bones. Just yesterday, we had roast lamb on the bone to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and later today, a dijon-honey-mustard ham is on the table.

  • Komori is a fictional town, but the locations are real, and the scenery of rural Japan is very beautiful. The open spaces between mountains are captivating, and for me, hold a certain appeal because they are a sight I do not often see. By comparison, the majesty of the Canadian Rockies are a familiar sight, and while certainly scenic, is not quite so special for me because I see them often. From the opposite viewpoint, the Japanese find their rural villages to be quite ordinary, and see our mountains as breathtaking; Japanese tourists in the Canadian Rockies are so common that our stores offer Japanese signs, books and menus for travellers to accommodate them.

  • Everything that I know about cooking, I learned from either my mom or through courses I took during school. Things picked up from home tend to endure as a family tradition, and the one thing that I learned from home that schools will never teach is the proper process of de-veining shrimp. Most procedures will say that it is sufficient to make an incision into the shrimp from its dorsal side and then use a knife to pry the intestine out, but there is a hind gut containing stuff that one would rather not eat. Extending the dorsal incision into the tail allows for this hind gut to be removed, as well.

  • One aspect of Little Forest that was particularly standout for me were the use of frames and cutouts as transitions. They give the movie a very modern, elegant feel that stands in contrast with the decidedly more rustic lifestyle being portrayed within the movie. Clever use of these allow the film to illustrate Ichiko cooking from different angles, reminding viewers that cooking and preparing ingredients is a very dynamic process.

  • The soundtrack in Little Forest is very minimalist; this is an appropriate choice given the film’s composition. The whole of Little Forest can be summed up as “a girl returns to countryside and cooks various dishes using local ingredients”, but outside of a short blurb, the movie is an excellent example of where less is more. Because Little Forest only gives a few explicit details, the remainder are implicit and so, leaves audiences to connect to the film in their own manner of choosing.

  • A few of Ichiko’s conflicts are shown, whether they be with her friends or other farmers, but for the most part, Ichiko gets along very well with those around her. Scattered throughout Little Forest, they show that Ichiko is not entirely free of her worries and troubles when living in Komori, but the fact that Ichiko can handle them (whereas she ended up leaving the city because she was overwhelmed with troubles) foreshadows that Ichiko is at home in the countryside.

  • Whether or not the foreigner that visits Ichiko and her mother was a real memory or not is ambiguous, but he is shown as having a fun character, playing with the younger Ichiko. Ichiko recalls her mother’s recipe for a Christmas cake here and notes that while they never really celebrated Christmas, the tradition of making a cake during the winter endured. In Japan, Christmas is celebrated with a different set of traditions; for one, KFC is the preferred bird of choice over turkey.

  • Ichiko inspects some dried persimmons that she’d previously prepared. These fruits have a wide range of culinary uses, and can be eaten as-is; I’ve never actually had the dried variety before, but fresh ones are quite tasty.

  • Winter in Komori is characterised with snowfall: winters in the inland portions of Iwate are very cold, and can be quite snowy, as well. When a fresh snowfall blankets Komori, the landscape is transformed into a winter wonderland resembling those seen in Canadian photobooks. Winter in Canada varies greatly owing to the sheer size of the country, and in the prairie provinces, winters are usually bitterly cold with some snowfall.

  • Besides cooking, Ichiko also covers nuances about agriculture and harvesting, mentioning the details of looking after crops. One criticism of Little Forest was that the challenging side of agriculture, from pests to undesirable weather, that impact yields, are not shown. Little Forest is not a movie about farming, it is a story of discovery, and so, I would consider this to be nit-picking, since failing crops would not contribute to the narrative in a meaningful way.

  • At this time of year, Alberta is typically quite cold and snowy, but the weather of late has been contrary to expectations, being quite warm and dry. Meteorologists are predicting that winter across the prairies will be warmer and drier than usual, but there could be some periods of extreme cold. With the winter holidays now past, the most miserable time of year is upon us as winter truly sets in, but fortunately, with no shortage of things to do, winter should pass by fairly quickly.

  • Curry is a mainstay of Japanese cuisine; introduced into the Japanese Navy by the British as a means of combating beriberi, Japanese curry is much milder than its Indian counterpart and goes great with rice. Here, Ichiko shares curry and flatbread with Kikko, her best friend. The two get along as peas in a pod, and while they occasionally have their differences, always work things out.

  • Rediscovery is also a theme explored in Little Forest, using cooking of greens as a metaphor. Ichiko initially wonders why her greens never have quite the same texture as those her mother made, being much stringy and fibrous in comparison despite being prepared with the exact same technique, using the same ingredients. She attempts a variety of cooking methods, but then figures out that removing the tougher fibres from the greens before cooking them results in a dish that tastes identical to those her mother made.

  • Little Forest is made up of two separate films, each of which have two acts: there are a total of four acts, one for each season, and at the conclusion of each, FLOWER FLOWER performs an ending song. Of the ending songs, I’m most fond of Natsu: it’s a very happy, bouncy song whose personality reminds me of a friend of old. Each ending is accompanied with scenery in and around Komori.

  • Tempura made from greens and vegetables is very delicious: last year, I had vegetable tempura made from things as diverse as broccoli, onions, yams and even pumpkin. During my visit to Japan, I was able to try both bakke and Fiddlehead tempura at an onsen buffet. I typically eat my vegetables steamed or stir-fried, since that’s the quickest way of preparing them, and so, whenever vegetable tempura is available, I savour it.

  • A fresh snowfall is a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, there is no denying the beauty of a landscape blanketed in snow, silencing everything, but on the other hand, snow corresponds with traffic delays and either frustration in negotiating with poor road conditions or waiting long periods in the frigid weather for a bus to show up. Having said this, I accept that snowfall means soil moisture come spring, and so, I begrudgingly accept the inconveniences of winter for the most part.

  • For the most part, the vegetables one can buy from the store are quite clean and free of bugs, so rinsing them in cold, fresh water to remove any chemical residues is often sufficient. Spinach and watercress can be a bit messier; a trick for cleaning watercress (which we use in a pork bone soup) is to soak it in salt water for a bit, and then rinsing the salt water off. The salt in water causes water to leach from the bugs, dehydrating and killing them.

  • Noodles are a fantastic standby, being relatively simple to make and is very much delicious when one has extra ingredients. After our hot pot on New Year’s Eve, we ended up making yi mein ramen with shrimp and fish-balls, with a generous helping of hot sauce. As spring rolls in, Ichiko and Kikko sort out various greens, and make spaghetti with the extras. Grilling sea trout and mixing it in, Ichiko cooks a simple but tasty trout spaghetti for the two to enjoy. After watching Little Forest, I took a look at the original manga, and remark that the films are quite faithful to the source. Little Forest could have easily been adapted into an anime and still have carried its impact, but the choice to adapt it as a live-action film worked very well, especially with all of the closeups of the food that Ichiko cooks.

  • The question of why I chose Little Forest for a New Year’s Day post was primarily because the movie does deal with new beginnings and choices. I originally watched the first part back in October during the Thanksgiving long weekend, and then finished the second part after my trip to Salmon Arm a province over. This was the low point in my year, when I was working on a project that was seemingly going nowhere. The combination of a weekend off and watching Little Forest made me realise that I would need to actively shape my future to pull myself out of this nose-dive.

  • Two months of time spent reviewing data structures, design patterns and more details about the Swift language, resume updates and the sending out of cover letters later, a new opportunity had arisen right here in my home town, and I seized it. Like Ichiko, who struggles between leaving Komori to pursue her career and staying behind, I’ve become quite attached to Heart of the New West and was conflicted in moving elsewhere for work versus staying where I am. For now, this decisions been made, and I intend to put in my fullest and best efforts for my work.

  • Where Ichiko’s mother went remains a bit of a mystery, and in Little Forest, Ichiko does not make a greater effort to visit, suggesting that a distance does exist between the two. The letter appears to be her reason for going back to the city and giving things one final shot, but Ichiko winds up moving back to Komori permanently. Little Forest has Ichiko return to the city to show that now that she knows both perspectives, and has put in the effort to make life in the city work, she can return back home having said that this was a measured decision, rather than because she was running away.

  • With my first proper post of the new year nearly in the books, I look into the near future and consider what I will be writing; while a new job and the attendant new schedule means considerably less time (and resolve) to blog, this blog isn’t quite dead yet (sorry to those who were hoping otherwise!). I intend to wrap up my thoughts on Anima Yell! and also take a look at Battlefield V‘s Tides of War after a full month of experiences in it. Finally, January means that I will be returning to CLANNAD ~After Story~ and continue with my revisitation.

  • It is not my modus operandi to grade live-action films the same way I do for anime, but I can and will recommend this movie to anyone looking for something that is highly relaxing, part cooking show and part life lesson. I would also like to thank The Moyatorium for recommending Little Forest to me. She was watching this film on a flight and recounted her experiences of the film to me, piquing my interest. As it turns out, Little Forest was exactly what I needed to gain some perspective and regroup during a tougher spot this year.

Little Forest seems a well-picked movie to watch for motivating a start to the New Year; the movie was particularly enjoyable for me because at the time of watching, I was going through a rough spot. As tempting as it is to retreat to the countryside and live there, this is not feasible for me: agriculture is a dedicated profession with its own skill set and challenges. As such, my only option would have been to face my challenge head on and make the most of things. This effort to handle the problem was met with an opportunity, and so, I am glad to have taken this approach. Aside from themes surrounding life, of dealing with problems and making life decisions in a measured manner, Little Forest excels with its general presentation of cooking and food: the movie is simple to the point of excellence, succeeding in captivating viewers despite being little more than a cooking show with elements from everyday life interspersed throughout the film. It is definitely worth a watch, and for folks who may have been going through a rougher patch, this film is something to consider, providing a perspective on what it means to regroup, recover and get back up to face a challenge. It helps that Little Forest embodies catharsis: watching Ichiko cook is superbly relaxing, and the film does offer interesting insight into Japanese cooking well beyond things like sushiomurice and other foods more commonly presented in fiction.

Captain America: Civil War, On Striking A Balance Between Focus and Comedy, and Parallels In Harukana Receive

“If we sign these, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go, and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”
“If we don’t do this now, it’s gonna be done to us later. That’s a fact. That won’t be pretty.”

–Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, Captain America: Civil War

2016’s Captain America: Civil War (Civil War for brevity) is the thirteenth movie and the first part of phase three, dealing with Steve Rogers and Tony Stark as they become divided after the Avenger’s actions at Sokovia and the events of Age of Ultron. Collateral destruction prompts the United Nations to pass the Sokovia Accords, which places the Avengers under UN management. After seeing the destruction that he feels responsible for, Stark agrees to the Accords, feeling that it would be useful to have government oversight, while Steve Rogers believes in his own judgement, having grown disillusioned with authority after his experiences with SHIELD and a mission that sees Natasha Romanov sneak off to accomplish a secondary mission. Prior to the conference to ratify the Accords, Helmut Zemo activates Bucky Barnes, who appears and bombs the conference, killing T’Challa’s father, the King of Wakanda. Barnes is brought in, along with Rogers, T’Challa and Sam Wilson, but Barnes manages to escape. They prepare to apprehend Zemo, but are declared Rogue; Stark assembles a team to take Rogers in, although Rogers manages to escape with Barnes. Arriving at a remote Hydra facility in Siberia, Barnes and Rogers learns that Stark followed them, seeking a truce, but when he learns that Barnes had killed his parents and Rogers withheld this from him, he engages them in combat. T’Challa also appears, confronting Zemo, who lost his family in Sokovia and sought revenge against the Avengers: stopping Zemo from committing suicide, T’Challa captures him. Civil War was one of the biggest movies of 2016, and in keeping with films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is a highly engaging film that packages thrilling combat sequences, top-notch humour and a meaningful theme into one experience. Marvel Cinematic Universe films typically manage to strike a balance between the serious and humourous: there are plenty of moments worth reflecting on, but frequent jokes remind audiences that the films are intended to be fun, first and foremost.

The balance is something that Manga Time Kirara anime similarly capture to showcase that life is a very dynamic, varied experience: the latest manga to be adapted into an anime is Harukana Receive, and similar to its ilk, Harukana Receive has strong messages of sportsmanship, friendship and personal growth. Comedy is present to create a light-hearted, easygoing atmosphere, reminding viewers that the anime is not meant to be taken entirely seriously. Similar to Civil War, jokes are placed in Harukana Receive to break up serious moments – besides creating breaks in emotionally tense moments, humour also humanises all of the characters, making them more relatable. In Civil War, the crux of the conflict is a simple but effective one, presenting a juxtaposition between regulation and doing what one feels to be right. Both Stark and Rogers’ perspective have their merits, and which perspective is more appropriate will largely depend on one’s experiences and beliefs: some people gravitate towards having other bodies creating rules one can be held accountable to, while others will put faith in their own judgement. Neither extreme is viable, and this is the point that Civil War aims to make. However, in spite of these serious matters, however, Civil War also has its share of comedy, and nowhere is this more apparent than the airport scene – beside’s Scott Lang’s hilarious transformation and Peter Parker’s quips during battle, various moments break the emotional intensity of this battle and turns it into a competitive bout between teammates. However, just because Civil War has humour does not mean it cannot be serious: the final battle between Stark, Rogers and Barnes is an emotionally charged one, with Stark trying to avenge his parents while Rogers strives to defend his best friend. All parties have their reasons for fighting, and it’s a suspenseful fight, far removed from the hilarious and competition-like airport fight. In being able to balance both the serious moments, Civil War demonstrates that films can succeed in saying something interesting even if comedy is visibly present, and need not be all-serious in order to entertain viewers.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before readers tear me a new one, I note that this post was really born of a positive response from my Twitter readers to see if I could take two prima facie completely unrelated matters and see if I can say something about how they might relate. In other words, this exercise is to see how well I can bullshit, and whether or not I’ve succeeded, I leave it to the reader to decide. It’s been a while since I’ve done a talk with screenshots from a live-action movie, and immediately, I recall why this is the case: motion blur makes it tricky to capture the best moments in stills, unlike anime, which are easier to write for. I’ve been itching to do a talk on Civil War for quite some time, having first heard that it was a fun film. This talk, however, is not a review for Civil War: I deal primarily with how humour in Civil War increases the strength of the narrative, rather than detracts from it.

  • The same holds true for Harukana Receive: I’ve long felt that people are taking the show far too seriously. Yes, there is a major character growth component, but when people, ostensibly adults with a nontrivial amount of life experience, being talking down on fictional characters, I invariably wonder what about shows like Harukana Receive (or most anything to do with Manga Time Kirara) merit rigourous analysis. I am open to hearing reasons advocating this position in the comments below.

  • My first experience with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was in 2012, with The Avengers. My first impressions were that it was a fun film, although at the time, having not seen Thor, I felt Loki’s motivations to be a little lacking. I’ve since gone back and watched all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and my appreciation for The Avengers has increased, now that I understand both Loki’s reasons for leading the Chitarui to Earth and how this sets in motion the events leading up to Infinity War.

  • 2012 also saw The Dark Knight Rises screened in theatres: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is far removed from the comedic, colourful nature of the MCU, being much more grounded, focused on psychology and fundamental conflicts of the mind. Themes of recovery are central in the film, and while having the most outlandish narrative of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises still remains faithful to the atmosphere and setting of Nolan’s earlier Batman films.

  • After watching the Dark Knight trilogy and The Avengers, I decided to give Iron Man 3 a whirl and was immediately disappointed: the villians were weakly motivated, and the extremis seemed quite unrealistic. However, on my run through the MCU, which I started after watching Infinity War, my second impressions of Iron Man 3 were much more positive.

  • One recurring element I’ve come to love about the MCU is its colourful cast of superheroes: the number of films shows that the MCU is serious about giving their heroes proper exposure, and so, while the films might be enjoyable on their own, watching all of them and seeing where the different pieces come together is where the real joys are. Here, T’Challa fights Barnes on the rooftops following a pursuit: T’Challa holds Barnes responsible for his father’s death, but since the events of The Winter Soldier, Barnes has been struggling to get past his programming.

  • Because every character in the MCU has a detailed background, watching some of the films out of order mean that references to earlier films might be missed. However, one strength about the MCU is that even standalone, the films are quite enjoyable in their own right; right up until Infinity War, I had watched only a handful of the MCU films. The question of whether or not I review the others will strictly be a matter of reader choice: I’ve heard that folks prefer my anime discussions over every other kind of talk I have.

  • If this were to be a conventional review of Civil War, I would have taken additional time to explore all of the different scenes, and perhaps make a few witty quips about them in my usual manner. I would further go on to give the film a strong recommendation, because the film deals with interesting topics, has many entertaining moments that vary from keeping one on the edge of their seat, to those that are downright hilarious.

  • For the record, the only thing that was CGI in this scene was the background. The rest of it is all real, including Chris Evan’s arms. I imagine that, for some of my readers, who have grown weary of me posting various screenshots of Haruka and Kanata doing various things, from a variety of angles, on a beach volleyball court, this moment comes as a bit of a respite. Those who watched this film could not stop marveling at this moment, which has become quite iconic in its own right, to an even greater extent than what Harukana Receive has.

  • I’ve heard that Natasha Romanoff will be getting a movie of her own in 2020: this is going to be a welcome one to see, and I’m betting it will occur prior to the events of Infinity War. In The Avengers, it was stated that she was an assassin prior to working under SHIELD, and made her share of mistakes. With an interesting background and Scarlett Johansson’s excellent portrayal of Romanoff , I am excited to see where this one goes.

  • Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker in Civil War‘s presentation is the best I’ve seen; this incarnation of Parker is an energetic, excitable and naïve one, whose lack of experienced is offset by his enthusiasm and propensity to make random various jokes even mid-battle. He is so wordy that Sam Wilson asks if Peter’s ever been in a real fight before, and at the airport, manages to fight both Barnes and Wilson to a standstill.

  • So, here we are at last, the infamous airport scene, featuring #TeamCap. Shortly after Girls und Panzer Der Film came out, I supposed that it must’ve been similar to Civil War for being a bombastic summer film that was big on scale and effects even if the plot was a little lighter. At the time, I’d not seen Civil War yet, and in retrospect, Civil War offers its characters a much more substantial reason for fighting compared to Girls und Panzer Der Film: highly enjoyable the film was, repeating the notion of Ooarai closing a second time was quite jejune.

  • In the other corner is #TeamIronMan. It’s quite impressive as to how much detailed is paid to the progression of the Iron Man suits throughout the MCU: slow to don and somewhat clumsy early on, each iteration has improved to the point that by Infinity War, Stark’s suit uses nanotechnology to pull off some extraordinary feats. One of the things I’ve come to coherently spell out, through watching MCU films, is that not everything has to be entirely logical or through-provoking to be good.

  • The airport fights has some of the best humour in the MCU outside of Thor Ragnarok and the Guardians of the Galaxy films: while fighting one another, Romanoff asks Barton if they’ll still be friends after all this, to which he responds that it depends on how hard she hits him. The dynamic between Romanoff and Barton has always been a good one to watch: while lacking the superhuman abilities of their peers, both are highly trained combatants whose fights with one another are as intense as their friendship is deep.

  • The point of this post, was really to spell out that just because a show has prominent comedic elements and then switches over to a serious mood, does not mean that the comedic parts were in any way unnecessary or pointless. I’ve never really understood why darker or serious is better, especially in the context of shows like Harukana Receive: the whole point of the lighthearted moments in anime are largely to show audiences that the everyday moments are as important to personal growth as the moments doing more focused things.

  • So, by drawing the comparison between Civil War and Harukana Receive, I aim to show how despite the vast differences in themes, narrative, setting and conflicts, that both works uses humour to remind audiences that their characters are human, not wholly focused on their objectives and goals at the expense of others. Because the work itself makes this clear, then I find that it is unwise to adopt an all-serious stance as far as discussing the work goes. This is why I’ve found discussion on Kanata’s use of pokies, or whether or not high-fives occur in beach volleyball after every point, to be an utter waste of time.

  • When Lang uses the Antman suit to grow to gargantuan proportions, an irate Stark asks if anyone on his side has any abilities they’d like to make use of now. Even during such moments, the MCU reminds viewers to just accept things as they happen: Stark’s first reaction when seeing the Chitauri army in The Avengers was “seeing, still working on believing”. The whole point of fiction is to create a compelling story, and I am more than willing to accept liberties taken provided that they advance the story. With this being said, everyone may approach fiction differently.

  • When I was watching the airport fight in Civil War, I was all smiles; more than a deadly-serious battle, the mood was that of a competition of sorts. The characters constantly make use of disabling, non-lethal moves during the fight, as their goal is to impede rather than harm: the whole airport fight occurs because Stark is trying to stop Rogers from taking off and pursuing a mission of his own.

  • During the course of the battle, it is mentioned that in order to win this fight, some will have to lose. Those on Rogers’ side are buying enough time for Rogers and Barnes to fly out, choosing to stay behind. The stakes are never far from the forefront of discussion even during the airport fight, but in spite of the comedy, or perhaps because of it, the scene has quickly become my favourite: in particular, Parker’s quips during battle, ranging from his conversation with Rogers, to suggesting using a move from The Empire Strikes Back to disable Lang, served to lighten the mood considerably.

  • Anime often faithfully replicate real-world locations, and impressed viewers travel to these locations to walk the same paths as seen in their shows. The airport fight of Civil War was filmed at Germany’s Leipzig/Halle Airport, which is Germany’s thirteenth largest and handled 2.3 million passengers in 2017. Filming at the airport was a challenge; crews described going through security, getting a small section of tarmac to work with and was permitted to shut down one terminal during filming. In conjunction with solid directing and high-tech camera set ups, plus plenty of effort from actors and crews, there is no denying the results were worth it.

  • The airport fight is fun and games until Rhodes takes a hit and injures his legs in a fall, rendering him a paraplegic. The mood in Civil War shifts here to a darker one, rather similar to how Harukana Receive‘s mood becomes much more intense once Harukana face Éclair. It is actually a little surprising to be drawing parallels between Civil War and Harukana Receive, but given expectations that Harukana Receive faithfully depict beach volleyball, I feel it necessary to bring in one of the MCU’s strongest instalments as an example of why Harukana Receive should not be treated as requiring strict adherence to beach volleyball rules and mechanics of the real world.

  • Civil War was described by critics as being best suited for MCU fans, and the film’s success comes from not trying to be something it is not. This is an appropriate assessment: the motivations that drive the film might permit for interesting conversation, but at the end of the day, the film is intended to entertain, rather than instruct. This is also why Girls und Panzer Der Film ended up being so enjoyable: both Girls und Panzer Der Film and Civil War use a weak rationale to drive the conflict seen in the film, and the conflict itself ends up being captivating to watch.

  • This entire post has consisted of me saying one controversial thing after another, so I’ll add oil to the fire with the following remark: since my experiences with anime viewers who demand for intellectually stimulating series during the days of the K-On! Movie, I’ve felt that those who hold such expectations are likely those who feel a need to justify their interests to others.

  • The climatic battle of Civil War is a no-nonsense fight to the death after Stark learns of how his parents died. Furious that Rogers withheld this from him, he engages the two in a battle and abjectly refuses to stand down. Driven by pure emotion, he brawls on with the aim of avenging his parents. Against Rogers, however, he utilises a variety of non-lethal means to keep him out of the fight.

  • While somewhat disjointed if taken as a standalone film, Civil War‘s contributions in the MCU are much more substantial when considered in conjunction with the other films. By this point in time, Rogers has become much more disillusioned with regulatory systems and organisations, having seen the truth that SHIELD was really another iteration of HYDRA. No longer trusting organisations, he prefers to count on his own judgement. By comparison, Stark’s arrogant and independent mannerisms gradually give way to understanding that he is responsible for his actions and that the universe is much bigger than himself. His fear of the unknown led him to create Ultron, but when this backfired, Stark realises that it would be useful to have someone oversee them to prevent disaster.

  • Changing character traits over time is the great strength about the MCU, and over time, some of the antagonists fighting the protagonists turn around and join the Avengers. Character development is one of the main reasons why I partake in fiction: watching people learn and grow over time, and seeing the applicability towards reality is something I’ve long enjoyed.

  • Ever since The Avengers, folks have wondered what it would be like if Captain America went up against Iron Man following a buildup of tensions on board SHIELD’s heli-carrier. Civil War is the logical culmination of the conflict between the two: anger and his suits’ technological capabilities allow Stark to dictate the pace of the battle early on, but Rogers’ determination to save his friend proves stronger. As the battle wears on, Rogers gains the upper hand over Stark.

  • Helmut Zemo is the real antagonist of Civil War, seeking revenge against the Avengers for allowing his family to die during the Sokovia incident. With the Avengers in disarray, he prepares to commit suicide, but T’Challa stops him. Zemo’s motivations are quite weak and drive the events of Civil War about as well as Ooarai closing a second time, but the events of both Civil War and Girls und Panzer Der Film are well-executed and engaging. Looking back, I find that this comparison, between Civil War and Girls und Panzer, also holds true.

  • Robert Downey Jr. perfectly captures the fear going through Stark as Rogers pummels him; Rogers does not kill Stark, and Stark is fully aware of this, as well as what he’d come close to doing. With his arc reactor disabled, the fight comes to an end. Rogers and Barnes prepares to leave. The events of Civil War separate the Avengers, and by the time of Infinity War, Stark and Rogers have yet to reconcile in person, although Stark does understand the importance of Rogers and asks Bruce Banner to contact him, before going after one of Thanos’ Q-ships.

  • Barnes is later seen at a Wakandan facility undergoing de-programming. In Infinity War, he is firmly in the good guys’ camp again. Here, I apologise to readers looking for a full review of Civil War: this post cannot be considered to be a review of the movie, but rather, an exploratory piece on how the things that made Civil War enjoyable can also be applied to something like Harukana Receive. The timing of this post is deliberate, coming out ahead of the finale: there is a reason to why I’ve not expected, and will not be expecting, a more serious focus on beach volleyball and psychology from Harukana Receive.

In Harukana Receive, the stakes and environment are radically different than those of Civil War, but the presence of humour serves a similar purpose: breaking up the serious moments to humanise the characters. Harukana Receive may have beach volleyball in the foreground, but its goal is to portray matters of friendship, sportsmanship and self-discovery rather than specifics behind psychology and beach volleyball. Light-hearted moments are present in Harukana Receive because the series is about people, rather than sport, the same way that Civil War is about a disparate group of people and their conviction in opposite systems, rather than being a thriller akin to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. Dark Knight is a fine example of a film that is very serious and humanises Bruce Wayne by forcing him to struggle with difficult decisions in his pursuit of the Joker, and while Civil War takes a very different approach towards presenting conflict, it remains successful. Similarly, Harukana Receive can tell a strong story without a focus on drama and technical detail: the more ordinary experiences that slowly help the characters mature, and the current match between Éclaire and Harukana is meant to be viewed as less of a beach volleyball match, and more of a contest of the wills, one that would hold the same emotional weight if the mode of competition were to be different. Consequently, it is quite disappointing that there is an insistence that Harukana Receive must be treated as a sports series, and subsequent discussion focuses entirely on the plausibility, mechanics and adherence to rules behind what is seen in Harukana receive. Approaching Harukana Receive as a sports series is akin to entering Civil War with the expectation that it covers themes the same way Dark Knight did will invariably leads to disappointment: at its heart, Harukana Receive is ultimately about people, rather than the sport, and the presence of comedy serves to reinforce this notion strongly, akin to how light-hearted moments humanise the characters in Civil War and strengthens the weight of their conflict to enhance the film’s impact on audiences without strictly following the all-serious approach seen in the equally thought-provoking and thrilling Dark Knight.

The Hunt For Red October: Review and Reflection

“Once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of chess against our old adversary — the American Navy. For forty years, your fathers before you, and your older brothers played this game, and played it well. But today the game is different; we have the advantage.” —Captain Marko Ramius

Dubbed by Ronald Reagan as the “perfect yarn”, Tom Clancy’s The Hunt For Red October (1984) began his career as a techno-thriller novelist and was adapted into a movie starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin in 1990. While some minor differences arise between the film and novel, the general plot in the film is consistent with its novel counterpart. Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius (Connery) plots a defection from the Soviet Union while commanding the Red October, a Typhoon-class equipped with a revolutionary magnetohydrodynamic drive that renders it nearly silent to sonar. CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin) successfully deduces Ramius’ intentions and struggles to convince his superiors that Ramius is planning to defect before the American and Soviet forces engage one another in combat. The Hunt For Red October was a superb novel, characterised by its matter-of-fact writing style and incredibly detailed explanations of some of the technologies utilised on board submarines. The film, although different from the novel in some places, manages to capture the atmosphere and technical details of the novel: despite the plot’s slower progression compared to contemporary movies, all of the moments are integrated well with one another to create an ever-present sense of suspense that would doubtlessly permeate submarine operations.

Tom Clancy’s The Hunt For Red October marks the beginning of the Jack Ryan universe, and my first Tom Clancy novel was Threat Vector: by this time, Jack Ryan Sr. is the President of the United States, having defeated Ed Keatly in elections. However, in The Hunt For Red October, Ryan is a CIA analyst working in London. While Ryan has training as a marine, he is not a sailor and therefore finds himself uncomfortable at sea once he is tasked to prove that his theory holds true. Throughout The Hunt For Red October, Ryan is presented as a dedicated academic in search of the truth with the aim of halting a war. By comparison, the government and military officers are more set in their ways, and find themselves bemused by Ryan’s tenacity. However, even then, there are exceptions: sonar technician Petty Officer Jones of the USS Dallas is a bright mind, devising a clever means of tracking the Red October: his actions are instrumental in helping Ryan locate the Red October and convince his superiors that Ramius is indeed planning to defect. Through Ryan and Jones, Clancy suggests that the military’s capabilities are closely tied to the quality of the intelligence that they receive. While Ryan encounters some resistance to his theory from senior US officials, Commander Mancuso of the USS Dallas is willing to take a chance on Jones’ ideas. It is therefore unsurprising that the USS Dallas does manage to find the Red October, while Ryan is given limited help to demonstrate that Ramius is defecting until he boards the Dallas. This contrast suggests that unorthodox conclusions can still have some relevance, and that solid intelligence is necessary for a plan to execute well: in general, Tom Clancy held the view that the worth of good intelligence acquisition and analysis should never be underestimated, and this theme returns in his novels quite frequently.

A superb movie on all counts, The Hunt For Red October is also said to have inspired for some of the events seen in Hai-Furi. This led some viewers to develop unrealistic expectations for Hai-Furi, and some individuals spent the anime’s entire run complaining about every conceivable element when their expectations were not fulfilled. According to the staff, Reiko Yoshida drew elements from The Hunt For Red October to guide some of the narrative elements seen in Hai-Furi. While long-held to be significant amongst those who watched Hai-Furi, it should be abundantly clear that The Hunt For Red October and Hai-Furi share only similarity in the fact that it is set on the high seas: there are no strong indicators that specifics from the former’s narrative entered the latter. The Hunt For Red October is firmly guided by the narrative, whereas the flow of events is much looser in Hai-Furi. While The Hunt For Red October deals with Jack Ryan’s adventures to prove that Ramius is defecting, Hai-Furi is about the growth the the Harekaze’s crew as they encounter one misadventure after another. The former places a great deal of emphasis on technical accuracy and even allows the military hardware to shine ahead of the cast on some occasions, whereas Hai-Furi was first and foremost about Akeno and her crew. Similarly, there is a very real suspense and sense of urgency in The Hunt For Red October: had Ryan and the USS Dallas failed, hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union may have resulted in a shooting war. In Hai-Furi, limited world-building prevents the implications of the Totalitarian Virus from being a true threat; this was acceptable in Hai-Furi for the reason that the anime never was intended about a larger perspective about the dynamics between two superpowers. Taken together, while Yoshida and the remainder of Hai-Furi‘s staff may have watched The Hunt For Red October as a reference for Hai-Furi, the similarities between these two disparate works remains superficial at best, and consequently, I hold that it is unreasonable to approach Hai-Furi with the same mindset and expect that the anime satisfy the requirements that made The Hunt For Red October such an enjoyable film.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Sean Connery is Marko Ramius, a Lithuanian submarine commander whose father was a high ranking Soviet officer. A highly competent strategist, Ramius is highly adaptive to situations and is counted as one of the USSR’s best minds on submarine warfare, having written the Soviet doctrine on it in-universe. I remark that the screenshots in this post are of an unusual aspect ratio owing to the original: my image capture software crops out letterboxes automatically, resulting in narrower images.

  • In The Hunt For Red October, Jack Ryan is portrayed by Alec Baldwin: this role goes to Harrison Ford in The Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and while Ford does an excellent job in conveying Jack Ryan as a highly earnest, devoted analyst, one downside is that Ford’s dialogue can sometimes be difficult to hear. Baldwin, on the other hand, presents Ryan as a wide-eyed but competent analyst who’s just starting out on his journey.

  • The interior of the three submarines in The Hunt For Red October are coloured differently to ensure that they are easy to differentiate from one another: much of the film is set within submarine interiors, and according to production notes, actual filming inside a submarine would have been remarkably difficult, so in the film, large sound stages were created instead with special apparatus to simulate the motions of a submarine.

  • After Ryan obtains some photographs of the Red October in dry dock, he notices the presence of unusual doors on its superstructure. The images are sent to submarine expert Skip Taylor, who suggests that the Red October is equipped with a magnetohydrodynamic drive. Such a propulsion system would make use of magnets to draw in water and expel it to create thrust, but such technologies remain experimental for the present.

  • Ramius takes full control of the Red October after disposing of political officer Putin. He announces that their mission will be to conduct missile drills off the US Coast, and then sail to Cuba for recuperation once their assignment is complete. Carefully planning each move, Ramius betrays nothing to the other crew: impressed with the mission orders, the bridge crew begin singing the Soviet national anthem.

  • The sonar operator on board the USS Dallas, Jones is presented as being highly attuned to his equipment; he is able to differentiate between submarine signatures and the movement of whales in the ocean. In the novel, he states that he was a Caltech student with aspirations to complete his Master’s and Doctorate dissertation, but created an accident that led to his dismissal. In the meantime, he’s joined the navy, and his expertise with electronics play a vital role in helping the Dallas track the Red October.

  • Ryan is asked to present his findings to US government officials after he discusses the theory behind Ramius’ defection to Vice Admiral Greer. Played by James Earl Jones (who had supplied Darth Vader’s voice in the original Star Wars trilogy), Greer is shown to be open to whatever ideas Ryan has, and furthermore, is also quite fond of coffee. The Red October is described as being an immense threat to US security: being able to move undetected would have allowed it to position itself anywhere along the US coast for a nuclear strike.

  • Ryan describes the Soviet fleet’s movements as an indicator that Ramius had intended to defect, reasoning that as a high-ranking officier, Ramius would be able to hand-pick his staff, making it easier to defect. Coupled with the fleet’s deployment is in response to Soviet fears that the Red October will indeed defect based on a letter, and orders the Soviet fleet has received, this leads Ryan to his conclusion. The officials fear a full-on war in light of the risk that the Red October may be “in the hands of a madman”, but nonetheless ask him to investigate such that a war might be avoided.

  • The novel, more so than the film, gives ample exposition for all of the characters that play a significant role; Tom Clancy is meticulous in detailing even some of the secondary characters’ backgrounds in order to illustrate that they are highly competent for their occupations. This style carries over to his final novels, Threat Vector and Command Authority, and serves a powerful function in ensuring that there is no doubt that the characters’ actions are motivated by their experience and expertise in their given field. This stands in stark contrast with Hai-Furi (or even Girls und Panzer), which leads some viewers to challenge the appropriateness of the characters’ actions in their respective universes.

  • Adding to the realism factor in The Hunt For Red October is the fact that shots are not fired for the sake of action. As a thriller that strives to maintain some factual realism, there is a very rigid structure that ensures shots are not fired out of anger. Much of the fun aspects in the movie come from suspense resulting from close encounters, and watching the different characters draw upon their expertise in response to difficult situations.

  • One of the things about The Hunt For Red October that I initially found a little surprising was that the Russian characters started out speaking Russian, and halfway into a conversation between Ramius and Putin, the language switches out to English. This was done to aid the audiences in viewing and reduce the need for subtitles; when the Russian sailors and Americans are in the same scene, the Russians speak Russian again. In Hai-Furi, there are no Russian characters; Wilhelmina is German, but like Ramius, she is bilingual, being able to communicate with Akeno and the others in fluent Japanese.

  • The Red October’s situation is obfuscated by the Russian ambassador, who claims to know little beyond what Moscow has told him and later settles on the Soviet fleet’s activity as being part of a major rescue operation.

  • The Red October’s voyage is not smooth: a ways into their trek across the Atlantic, their magnetohydrodynamic drive, known more simply as a caterpillar, develops a malfunction arising from sabotage. The identity of the saboteur is not known until later in the film, but Ryan’s remarks earlier, that the senior officials on board the Red October must have been handpicked, would suggest that one of the lower-ranking crew must be responsible for things.

  • Moody grey skies and rough surface conditions define the Atlantic ocean. Ryan is not particularly fond of flying: he states that he’s never slept soundly on a commercial flight before, but the rough ride over the Atlantic makes any discomforts of a commercial flight trivial by comparison. Ryan is sent to make contact with the USS Dallas. Running low on fuel, the helicopter makes to return to the carrier after failing to insert Ryan into the Dallas, but driven by determination to see his task through, Ryan cuts himself loose, falling into the frigid Atlantic.

  • Once Ryan is on board the Dallas, he exchanges messages with Ramius and confirms that the latter is indeed intending to defect. With this knowledge in mind, Ryan boards a rescue submarine (explicitly given as an Avalon-class in the novel) and meets with Ramius for the first time. The comparisons between Hai-Furi and The Hunt For Red October first appeared on April 21, two days before the third episode aired and brought to attention of the anime community courtesy of one Myssa Rei. Discussions at Tango-Victor-Tango proved nonexistent, and it’s more than likely that none of their members have watched The Hunt For Red October in full.

  • Returning to The Hunt For Red October, after establishing contact with the Americans, Ramius is surprised that they have guessed what he was seeking. I find that Ramius resembles Chino’s grandfather of GochiUsa. If folks are tossing around wild theories about how Hai-Furi and The Hunt For Red October are related, then I get to throw an inane theory of my own into the mix. I posit that after landing in America, Ramius takes on a new name and lives in the US for several years before moving to Colmar, France, where he starts his own coffee shop, calling it Rabbit House.

  • The US Navy drops a torpedo in the water, but it is self-destructed by Vice Admiral Greer. In order to quickly evacuate the other crew, Ramius stages an emergency with the Red October’s nuclear reactor, and once the surface, Ramius will remain with the other officers to scuttle the ship. Shortly after this news became known, some folks later would claim the staff drew from The Hunt For Red October, models for the characters’ roles.

  • Continuing on from the above bullet, the only character who could have been inspired by The Hunt For Red October‘s characters is Akeno, and even this is a weak claim, as the only commonality the two share is an uncommonly good eye for overcoming adversity. Beyond this, the two characters are as different as night and day. Further to this, sonar does not play as substantial a role in Hai-Furi compared to The Hunt For Red October, and complex political elements are absent in the former. Back in The Hunt For Red October, once Ryan is on board the Dallas, he exchanges messages with Ramius and confirms that the latter is indeed intending to defect. With this knowledge in mind, Ryan boards a rescue submarine (explicitly given as an Avalon-class in the novel) and meets with Ramius for the first time.

  • The action-heavy sequences begin in the movie’s final act: besides Ryan, Mancuso and Jones also boards. Ramius speaks with Ryan about asylum in the United States and also asks about Ryan’s role. Ryan is asked to help with operating the Red October, and Ramius remarks that he’s doing a fine job for someone who’s operating a submarine for the first time. Ryan surprises the others when he reveals that he’s a CIA analyst.

  • It turns out that Ramius’ motivations for defecting arise from a combination of factors: his dissatisfaction with the Soviet Union stem partly from the death of his wife at the hands of an incompetent doctor. Because the aforementioned doctor was related to high-ranking party officials, he was allowed to continue operating without any consequences. Furthermore, upon being assigned the Red October, Ramius realised that such a weapon was built purely for a first strike mission, growing disillusioned with serving the USSR.

  • We’re now approaching the autumn season, and this year’s September has been something of a different one compared to previous years. However, while I no longer return to classes, the ceaseless flow of the season continues along: trees are beginning to turn a deep golden colour, standing out against azure skies. In another week, it will be perfect to go for a stroll in the aspen groves nearby: the temperatures now are ideal for an afternoon stroll.

  • It’s a little bewildering as to how quickly time’s flown by; this is likely a consequence of work, although this also means that I now look forwards to weekends with double the appreciation as I did during my time as a student. Yesterday, I had a chance to attend the Illuminasia festival at the zoo: under a cool and clear evening skies, I was able to watch several Chinese performances and see the meticulously-constructed paper lanterns around the zoo. A piping-hot cup of hot cocoa rounded off the evening, and today, I spent most of it going through DOOM.

  • Back in The Hunt For Red October, the sabateur, revealed to be Loginov, a cook, opens fire and wounds Borodin before fleeing into the missile bay with the intent of launching a missile and sinking the Red October in the process. During a tense standoff in the labyrinthine quarters, Ramius is wounded, but Ryan manages to kill Loginov before the latter could destroy the missiles.

  • I have no doubt in my mind that, had the submarine crews of The Hunt For Red October been assigned to immobilise the Musashi of Hai-Furi, they would have succeeded within a much shorter period than the Harekaze and its allies during the final battle. The logistics of how exactly the Blue Mermaids work in Hai-Furi notwithstanding, I found that the relative lack of world-building meant that numerous elements were poorly-expressed: I recall a particularly awful set of Tweets where someone claiming to be staff attempted to explain away modern aerodynamics and heavier-than-air flight.

  • The Red October faces one final threat: the Konovalov and its captain, Tupolev. One of Ramius’ former students, Tupolev both admires and despises Ramius, making it a point to personally sink the Red October to demonstrate the might of the Soviet system. By capitalising on the arming distance for the Soviet torpedoes, however, the Red October escapes destruction from a direct hit.

  • A second torpedo fired from the Konovalov is set with no arming distance in order to avoid a repeat of the first torpedo, but skilful maneuvering from the Red October results in the second torpedo impacting the Konovalov, sinking it. In the novel, Red October rams the Konovalov broadside, suffering damage to its hull but otherwise sinking it all the same. Either way, the final threat is ended, and thus, the stories enter their denouement.

  • Back on the surface, the rescued Soviet sailors watch as an explosion breaks the surface, leading them to believe that the Red October has been destroyed. The Red October’s fate is not mentioned in the movie or in the novel, but Tom Clancy makes an aside in The Cardinal of the Kremlin, where it’s revealed that the Red October was analysed extensively. Its technology was reverse-engineered, and the vessel was then sunk in a remote ocean basin to minimise the odds of its wreck being discovered.

  • Like my Pure Pwnage: Teh Movie review, one of the greatest challenges faced during the acquisition of photographs for this post was to find those that were not blurred. Live action photographs can be quite difficult to capture when movement is involved, in comparison to anime screenshots, and I needed to go through some sections, frame by frame, to pick those with the least amount of blurring.

  • Despite the vast disparities in terms of emotional tenour and technical detail between Hai-Furi and The Hunt For Red October, I nonetheless enjoyed the former for the elements that it was able to execute well. Even at present, I’m not sure why some individuals are so vociferous about an anime when such a wide selection of more technical, fully fleshed out stories are available for enjoyment.

  • When Ramius cites Christopher Columbus, Ryan responds with a cordial “Welcome to the New World, sir”.This brings the movie, and this post, to a close: intended to partially be a discussion of the movie and, partially be a rebuttal to dispel any remaining notions that it is reasonable to expect Hai-Furi to match the same standards as The Hunt For Red October, it marks the second time I’ve done a review for a live-action film. Upcoming posts will include my impressions of DOOM after the halfway point, and later this month, a talk on New Game! once its finale is out. As well, I’m planning on reviewing Rick and Morty‘s first season at some point in the very near future, now that I’m only one episode from finishing (consider that I started watching during May 2014).

Hai-Furi will likely be consigned to oblivion within a year’s time, but The Hunt For Red October remains immediately recognisable and has been counted as a timeless film: its narrative and capacity to keep audiences guessing is masterfully executed even some twenty six years after its release. Coupled with a fantastic soundtrack from Basil Poledouris (whose Prokofiev-esque “Hymn to Red October” summarises the entire tenour in The Hunt For Red October completely), The Hunt For Red October was an absolute joy to watch. With its wonderfully detailed presentation of the hardware and depiction of competent naval staff for both sides, The Hunt For Red October is able to connect the significance of every character’s actions with respect to the bigger picture. These aspects result in a film that remains quite memorable and definitely worth watching, and on a similar note, Tom Clancy’s novel is likewise a solid read. With both the novel and film finished on my end, I’ve set my sights on reading Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising, which is set outside of the Jack Ryan universe and deals with a third World War fought entirely with conventional weapons. I’ve heard that there is a fantastic section dealing with armoured warfare and that the novel satisfactorily captures old Soviet military doctrine such that Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy was motivated by Tom Clancy’s works to some extent.