The Infinite Zenith

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

Category Archives: Japanese Animation

Believe in Me: Harukana Receive Episode Two Impressions and Review

“You don’t have to believe in yourself, because I believe in you.” ―Drax to Mantis, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

In order to get Haruka comfortable with moving around in the sand, Kanata instructs her in basic moment patterns. Haruka remarks that her swimsuit is a little ill-suited for movement, and upon learning that any swimsuit can be used as a beach volleyball uniform, she asks Kanata to help her modify it. As Haruka improves, Kanata begins teaching Haruka basic receive and spike patterns, including a cut shot for surprising opponents. A week passes in no time at all, and Haruka is fired up at the prospect of a rematch. While running on the beach by morning on the day of their rematch, Haruka runs into Ayasa, who explains that Kanata was once a beach volleyball player and partners with Narumi. However, she would run away from the ball in fear. When the rematch begins, Narumi is surprised to see Kanata geared in her old beach volleyball uniform. In the ensuing match, Haruka’s efforts at a cut shot fail, but she encourages Kanata, who finds the courage to receive the ball. This unexpected turn of events is enough for Haruka to score a point, and in the aftermath, Narumi regrets her cold attitude towards Kanata. Haruka and Kanata celebrate with some ice cream, and Haruka notes that she realised Narumi’s dislike for Kanata during the match, allowing her to work out something that led them to win. Finding beach volleyball fun, Haruka resolves to play more seriously and partner with Kanata. Later, Claire and Emily Thomas come across the beach volleyball court where Haruka, Kanata, Ayasa and Narumi had their match. Harukana Receive begins picking up by its second episode, exploring Kanata’s doubts about her own ability and also giving viewers a glimpse of two new characters that will invariably play a role in the upcoming narrative.

Despite her relative lack of experience, Haruka picks up on the nuances of beach volleyball very rapidly: her prior experience with other sports and general athleticism is quite visible. Physicality is not a particular concern for Haruka, and over time, she will continue to refine her technique so that the ball goes where she means for it to go. Instead, the psychological aspects of beach volleyball look to play a much greater role in Harukana Receive; in the first episode, Narumi mentions that a good team is one where both partners trust the other and understand their respective strengths and weaknesses. Here in the second episode, Haruka realises mid-match that Narumi’s offense is directed entirely at Kanata, whose small stature limits her performance, and is able to turn the tables accordingly, guessing that Narumi and Ayasa will not see this coming. That the mental aspect of sports is significant should be no surprise to viewers: while audiences watching sports may only see the physical game, the thoughts that go through a player’s head and their confidence play as much of a role in their performance as much as their physical condition and training. This is something that Harukana Receive takes the effort to portray, and for its efforts, Harukana Receive is rapidly proving to be more than twelve consecutive weeks of watching Haruka’s perfectly formed arse while she plays beach volleyball: character dynamics are beginning to materialise, and with new characters coming in, it looks like things will become even livelier.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Seeing Haruka with the simplified eyes consistently brings back memories of Non Non Biyori Repeat, when Hotaru shows how she normally is at home. Here, she wonders why all of Kanata’s exercises involve movement in the sand, rather than the volleyball itself, and Kanata replies that mastering the basics is essential. Much like how students in karate must learn the fundamentals of breathing and movement before moving onto basic techniques, Haruka must first learn what it feels like to move on a sandy surface and become comfortable with dives and dashes. Before we delve any further, I remark that with the amount of fanservice-type screenshots in Harukana Receive, if readers are not big on the jokes that I crack surrounding this, then you should leave…right now.

  • When Haruka finds her new swimsuit to be somewhat obstructive, Kanata helps her modify it: a tighter, basic swimsuit prevents sand from entering and causing irritation, as well as minimise energy wasted. Here, Kanata looks more closely to see what modifications are required and finds herself admiring Haruka’s ass to a much greater extent than she expected. Frequent mention of Haruka’s ass is likely meant to remind audiences that Haruka is very shapely.

  • While Kanata is helping Haruka train, the scenery around the beach is shown. A cable-stayed bridge can be seen in the distance: this is the Kaichu Doro Bridge, which connects Katsuren Peninsula on Okinawa Island to the Henza, Miyagi, Hamahiga and Ikei islands. With its distinct red tower, it’s visible from Yonashiroteruma, which is immediately south of Uruma. With this, we’ve worked out that Kanata and Haruka play beach volleyball on the shores of Kinbu Bay, located along the southeastern side of Okinawa. Henza, Miyagi and Ikei can be seen on the horizon in this screenshot – if I may crack a bad joke, I’m certain that most readers are not looking at the islands on the horizon in this particular image.

  • Haruka and Kanata enjoy their lunch in between practise under the beautiful Okinawan weather. The weather back home has been every bit as pleasant as it is in Harukana Receive: we’ve had beautiful weather for the past week, and during the last Sunday, I stepped out to The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ to enjoy a complemenary pancake-and-sausage breakfast, before exploring the Stampede grounds’ midway in search of interesting carnival eats. I ended up having the equivalent of two lunches: one stall was selling what they dubbed the “Mr. Crab”, a tempura nori taco shell loaded with sushi rice, California crab meat and topped with a tempura fried soft shell crab, drizzled with a special unagi and mango sauce. This was absolutely delicious, and it was such a treat to have soft-shell crab, which retained a distinct crab flavour despite being deep-fried to perfection. The bite of the sauce complimented the rich flavours of the crab and nori shell.

  • After walking around for a bit trying to find a place that was selling a hot dog and fries wrapped in a taiyaki pastery, I found the vendor selling them, but was informed their waffle iron had malfunctioned. I thus decided to go for a Philadelphia Cheese-Steak poutine (featuring sirloin steak, melted cheese, cheese curds, sautéed onions and mushrooms), which was very rich and hearty, especially for a warm day. Back in Harukana Receive, as the week wears on, Kanata feels that Kanata’s gotten a good enough grasp of the basics and begins training her in how to receive a ball.

  • Kanata introduces Haruka to the cut shot, and while Kanata describes it as a diagonal offensive shot, some cuts can be executed so that the ball flies nearly parallel to the net. Volleyball technical terms are as numerous and detailed as the language of biological sciences, software development and engineering, so it is fantastic that Harukana Receive takes the time to explain things to viewers as they go: the choice to have Haruka as a novice means that there is justification for introducing definitions as they are needed without breaking the narrative. Yuru Camp△ had been very successful with this approach, and Harukana Receive is doing a fine job of ensuring that viewers do not get left behind.

  • On the day of their rematch, Haruka is filled with restlessness and decides to go for a morning run. The sun rises at 0550 JST in Okinawa, and this early in the morning, the beach is calm. Looking more closely at landscapes in Harukana Receive, I find them to be quite rudimentary compared to the likes of Violet EvergardenTari Tari and those of Makoto Shinkai films, but the lighting and details of Harukana Receive are very impressive. Volumetric lighting is seen when Haruka sets off on her run, for instance, and even at this hour, it already feels quite warm going from the lighting alone. To further give the feeling that Okinawa’s beaches are a tropical paradise, a hermit crab can be seen. With over eleven hundred species, identifying the one seen here is beyond me, but all hermit crabs share the property of having a curved abdomen and utilise discarded shells to protect their abdomen from other predators.

  • Ayase explains to Haruka the history between Narumi and Kanata, as well as apologising for Narumi’s blunt nature. It’s certainly true that shy folks find it more difficult to express themselves, and consequently, I hold nothing against Narumi herself. Ayasa has since become very close to Narumi as a player and worries that if Kanata were to take up beach volleyball again, she might be abandoned. She further warns Haruka about Kanata’s limitations as a volleyball player, but Haruka is undeterred, stating that she believes in Kanata.

  • While she’s gearing up, viewers see a picture of Narumi and Kanata together with medals around their necks and smiles on their faces, showing that the two were once close and excellent beach volleyball players. Here, Ayasa strikes Haruka’s ass and compliments her, noting that she must be popular with the gentlemen. The minimal wave propagation shows that Haruka’s backside has a relatively high Young’s modulus, and I’ll let someone else explain in layman’s terms what that means. Haruka understandably reacts in embarrassment, and I empathise with Haruka – being touched downstairs can be uncomfortable, even if one is in good shape.

  • So far, existing discussions have focused on characterisation, and in the knowledge that both Kanata and Narumi are introverts, quiet by nature and not quite as effective at conveying their feelings verbally, it becomes clear as to why Narumi was not able to spur Kanata along to the same extent that Haruka has. Similarly, the reason why Narumi gets along well with Ayasa is because Ayasa is her opposite in personality, being quite expressive and outgoing. Two extroverts typically have no trouble in striking conversation with one another, which is why Haruka and Ayasa interact cordially immediately after meeting.

  • By comparison, two introverts will likely have little communication unless they get to know one another well, and even then, it can be a little difficult for them to be truthful about how they feel. Right before the match starts, Haruka boldly ups the ante, saying that the vanquished will treat the victors to ice cream. Haruka is very competitive and energetic in nature, although when the moment comes down to it, she can also be very motivated and determined. These are excellent characteristics to have, and coupled with her endless sense of optimism, means that Haruka is unlikely to ever succumb to self-doubt. Instead, I imagine that her conflicts this season will result from her dynamics with Kanata.

  • While Haruka might have an innate talent in all things athletic, her inexperience means that there’s no sudden improvement in skills over a week, and there’s no awakening or miracle. Harukana Receive keeps things real, and while Haruka’s beginning to learn the basics, it’s not yet enough for them to hold out against a team who’s been training for quite some time. Having said this, Haruka never seems to be intimidated by Ayasa and Narumi’s skill; in fact, she’s impressed and gains the motivation to improve.

  • When Haruka and Kanata execute their cut shot, Narumi dives and manages to keep the ball in play. As it turns out, Narumi had been expecting the pair to try such a move; it’s a reminder that Narumi knows Kanata quite well, to the point where she is able to predict any tricks that Kanata might try to pass onto Haruka. I get that the weight of past failures can hold one back, and so, one of the things I’m curious to see is what will allow Narumi to move forwards.

  • To give the sense of speed, the volleyball is almost always depicted as being fuzzy and blurry while in motion at normal speeds, only being more clear when the passage of time is slowed for dramatic effect. Late in the game, once Haruka starts looking at Ayasa and Narumi’s play-style, and being reminded of Kanata’s words about teams traditionally targeting the weaker player to gain an edge, she realises that every shot’s been aimed at Kanata. Haruka thus asks Kanata to take a receive, and states that she has full faith in her: this is where the page quote comes from, being one of the more warming moments of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 when Drax encourages Mantis, who is trying to slow Ego with her telepathic powers.

  • Official documentation give Haruka’s height as being 172 cm (5’7½”), and Kanata is 151 cm (4’11”). Haruka is taller than average in Japan, where women are around 158 cm in height on average, but her stature is otherwise unremarkable: by comparison, Sword Art Online Alternative‘s Karen Kohiruimaki is 183 cm in height (an even 6’0″). Therefore, it is a bit surprising to hear that she sticks out in a crowd and has trouble finding clothing. For reference, I stand close to the same height as Haruka, which is the average height for people in Canada (and from the looks of it, for most of the world).

  • The unexpected turn of events allows Haruka to score a point, bringing the match to a close in a surprising manner. Haruka is voiced by Kana Yūki, who only has a minor role in GochiUsa but otherwise plays characters I’m not familiar with. Kanata is voiced by Saki Miyashita, and Narumi is voiced by Miyuri Shimabukuro; Miyashita is a newcomer, and Shimabukuro has only had roles in shows I’ve never seen before. By comparison, Kanae Itō plays Ayasa: I know her best for her roles as Hanasaku Iroha‘s Ohana Matsumae, Sanae Nagatsuki of Ika! Musume and Sword Art Online‘s Yui.

  • Haruka and Kanata are overjoyed at their victory, while Narumi runs off. It’s not so much that they lost, but rather, because Narumi feels terrible that she was never able to get through to Kanata in the same way that Haruka did and might have only led to Kanata’s unhappiness. Ayasa, showing concern for Narumi, asks that they do ice cream another day and runs off to look after Narumi.

  • The vivid contrasts in the background and foreground visually tell a story that dialogue alone cannot: there’s a great deal of emotions here. Ayasa reassures Narumi that Haruka will be looking after Kanata now, and I gather that even now, Narumi is still concerned about Kanata’s well-being, but simply has trouble expressing it. Amidst the warm, bright day, the girls’ emotions stand in stark contrast with their surroundings. While elsewhere, folks with expertise in Yuri-Vision™ are probably already going full force ahead with their discussions, I note that this particular aspect has never been something I have been strong with, and so, one will have to forgive the lack of this topic over here on this side of the internet.

  • What I can talk about are random, various things in Harukana Receive, such as the ice cream that Haruka ends up buying from the store (which also sells freshly-made cane sugar juice). Up until now, I’d never even heard of Citrus depressa, more commonly known as the Taiwanese Tangerine or Shequasar. This highly sour fruit is native to Taiwan and Okinawa, having very similar culinary uses as lemons do, and despite their name, have nothing to do with active galactic nuclei that radiate massive amounts of energy as a result of gases emitting EMR while being drawn into a supermassive black hole. In comparison to the darker colours surrounding Narumi and Ayasa, when Kanata and Haruka are sitting in the shade of an umbrella whilst enjoying their ice cream, there’s a faint purple hue to them, indicating differences in their respective moods.

  • Since Claire and Emily have made an appearance, it is expected that they will have a much more major role in the next episode. Things are ramping up now in Harukana Receive, and two episodes in, I am becoming more confident in saying that this is my go-to show of this summer season for relaxing and unwinding to, fulfilling the role that Amanchu! Advance and Yuru Camp△ played in their respective seasons. Having said this, I am a bit more cautious about watching Harukana Receive out in the open, as doubtlessly, the contents of this anime means that questions will invariably be asked. As for how I feel about writing about Harukana Receive rather than shooting people in the head in Battlefield 1, it’s a welcome change of pace, and even with the Road to Battlefield V challenge ongoing, I’ve managed to shift my schedules slightly so I can still earn my 30k points per week to unlock the weekly prizes. For readers, this means you can continue to expect same-day talks for Harukana Receive.

With Kanata and Narumi formerly being partners now out in the open, Kanata’s motivations for quitting and resuming beach volleyball are now established, along with the basis for why Narumi is particularly apathetic towards Kanata. One can imagine being a team player, only to lack the ability to help a struggling teammate along despite one’s efforts: this is why Narumi insists that beach volleyball is a team sport, and likely views Kanata’s quitting as a personal failure. With Kanata returning into the game thanks to Haruka’s energy, this will rapidly change how Kanata herself views beach volleyball, restoring the joy back into a sport that Kanata had lost interest in. There are many directions that Harukana Receive can go in, and although it is still very early in the season, it is clear that how all of the different characters will interact with one another, and the subsequent learnings through these interactions, both on and off the court, will be the centrepiece of Harukana Receive. For the present, Claire and Emily still need to be formally introduced into Harukana Receive, and once that’s done, Haruka will still need to undergo much more training to improve her technical skills and finesse as a player. Similarly, Kanata must find her own way of approaching beach volleyball to be the best player that she can be, and her time with Haruka will doubtlessly facilitate this. Watching characters improve over time has always been one of the biggest reasons as to why I watch slice-of-life series, and Harukana Receive is no different than the shows I’ve seen previously: the journey of progress is always one that I enjoy watching, whether it be the construction of Chernobyl’s New Safe Confinement project, the Space Race or a bunch of students in a fictionalised world learning about themselves in their youth.

Fibbing Camp: Yuru Camp△ OVA Review and Reflection

“Half a truth is often a great lie.” —Benjamin Franklin

When Chiaki remarks that different countries camp differently, Aoi tells Nadeshiko of a variety of bald-faced lies about how New Zealanders, Canadians and the Swiss camp. Nadeshiko buys this without a second thought, but Chiaki catches her. Later, Aoi’s younger sister, Akari, shows up and, when Nadeshiko remarks that she’s fond of Mount Fuji’s view from all directions, the sisters trick Nadeshiko into believing that she’ll be punished by being exiled to the Narusawa Ice Caves for loving the Yamanashi view as much as the Shizuoka view. Chiaki thinks that Nadeshiko should be more skeptical, but Aoi is cool with Nadeshiko being as gullible as she is. During this conversation, Akari arrives and attempts to convince Nadeshiko that Rin is leaving for Alaska – while Nadeshiko is sure that the real Rin is not so small in stature, Sakura then shows up with Rin’s hairstyle. Chiaki and Aoi also style their hair in Rin’s distinct bun, causing Nadeshiko untold confusion as she struggles with which Rin is the real deal. The second of the OVAs amounts to little more than an adorable romp through what the Outdoors Activity Club does outside of their camping activities: besides researching on camping equipment and technique, it seems that the girls also bounce off one another to create humour. In this OVA, Aoi’s enjoyment of being a prankster is presented – the TV series suggested that she’s able to tell lies without blinking, and the OVA further illustrates that she actively enjoys deceiving others.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Canadians love to canoe, for the record, Canadians also love to RV, and most of us camp normally: I immediately knew that something was off when Aoi asserted that us Canadians canoe to camping spots frequently. Because the Yuru Camp△ OVAs run for a short five minutes, my posts for them will be correspondingly shorter, as well – I have ten screenshots for this Yuru Camp△ post, as I did with the previous “Room Camp” special.

  • As it turns out, Aoi’s sister, Akari, is also a bit of a prankster, as well: Nadeshiko feels that something is off about “Aoi” when Akari tries to pass herself off as Aoi. In this image, besides obvious differences in size and eye colour, the two look nearly identical. Apparently Akari is here to rectify a bit of a ruckus that ensued ever since Aoi tried to sell the idea that her family’s noodle shop has sobaudon, implying they have udon noodles served with an exotic bird meat. This a play on soba and udon, two different kinds of Japanese noodles: shops that serve both kinds of noodles will advertise that they sell sobaudon.

  • If Akari is to be believed, Aoi’s pranks are pretty large in scale and lands her in hot water, but how much of this is true remains open for discussion. While Akari explains what’s going down, Minami is depicted as being stuck answering an overwhelming number of complaints about Aoi’s actions, which seems a bit of a stretch, considering that Yuru Camp△ depicted Aoi as a capable student who has no troubles with studying and keeping up with her coursework. It should then become clear that such an incident never happened, and that Akari is visiting for any reason besides trying to pick up the mess that Aoi’s supposedly caused.

  • Akari and Aoi’s eyes take on a creepy shape when they’re lying: Chiaki warns Nadeshiko that this is the surest way of telling when the Inuyama sisters are distorting the truth for their own amusement, but being naïve about the ways of the world, Nadeshiko is unable to discern what’s real and what isn’t, resulting in a hilarious moment filled with what have since been referred to as Crying Nadeshiko Noises™. This is the closest the infamous Aokigahara, better known as the Suicide Forest, is mentioned in Yuru Camp△: the Narusawa Ice Caves are lava tubes located in Aokigahara, and has an average internal temperature of 3ºC, hence their naming. It is highly unlikely that the girls of Yuru Camp△ will visit Aokigahara – besides the lack of designated camping areas in the forest proper, the macabre possibility of encountering corpses would certainly ruin the comfortable sense that Yuru Camp△ is known for.

  • Admittedly, it feels a little strange to talk about Yuru Camp△ and not feature any screenshots of camping. In spite of the lack of camping, some aspects of camping are still mentioned, and the OVAs allow for five minutes of humour that otherwise would not fit anywhere else in a proper story about the girls preparing for and going camping. With the manga on-going, Yuru Camp△ could see a sequel in the future, and I would definitely watch a continuation of this series.

  • Regardless of the season, Yuru Camp△ is always welcome. However, the anime’s setting in the winter, and the fact that the first season aired during the winter meant that the anime feels distinctly like something that should be watched during the coldest months of the year. The anime did end up being the perfect remedy for when the days were short, and the air frigid, so to watch Yuru Camp△ again during the warmest time of year does feel a little strange.

  • Nadeshiko’s smile is unparalleled, and it was quite welcoming to see it return again in this OVA. Here, Nadeshiko is proud of herself for having managed to see through yet another ruse when Akari shows up, trying to pass herself off as Rin and claiming that Rin’s going to Alaska to camp. However, things get a bit more complex when Sakura shows up with, leading Nadeshiko to become confused as to why Rin is apparently in different sizes.

  • Summer is in full swing by this point in time, and because of the multitude of Stampede lunches around, leftover food from barbecue events are commonplace: hot dogs, fried chicken wings, Caesar salad and cheesy hash browns made up tonight’s dinner. The temperatures today reached a balmy 29° today, and there were no clouds in the sky. Summer’s been a relaxing one so far, and I’m looking forwards to making the most of the summer weather by taking morning walks around nearby parks, drinking slushies on hot days and the like.

  • The legendary Shimarin Dango makes a return in this OVA, and Nadeshiko is genuinely unable to differentiate between everyone once Chiaki and Aoi switch over to Rin’s hairstyle. Ena orchestrated this particular stunt, and by OVA’s end, it’s nearly impossible not to feel bad for Nadeshiko. I encountered difficulty in translating the OVA’s title, ほらキャン,  to an appropriate equivalent in English. ほら typically means “hey!”, but in this context, is used as ほら話 (approximately “tall tale” in English). However, this sounds a little awkward as a title. I’ve thus decided to give the best translation as “Fibbing Camp”: fibs are inconsequential lies, befitting the casual nature of Aoi and her sister’s pranks.

  • With this OVA in the books, I’m going to return to scheduled programming: Harukana Receive‘s second episode airs tomorrow, so I will be watching and writing about it in lieu of spending the evening unwinding in Battlefield 1. Ever since the Battlefield V closed alpha, Battlefield 1‘s been feeling a little more foreign to me, and adopting the strategies of a more defensive playstyle proved to be surprisingly effectual. I’ve since unlocked the new Burton LMR, and there are some interesting stories to tell about my Road to Battlefield V experience, as well, so between the Harukana Receive posts, I’m going to try and work in a Battlefield 1 post.

The flipside of showing Aoi’s propensity to lie for her own amusement is that Nadeshiko’s trusting, naïve nature is also presented. The unique personalities among members of the Outdoors Activity Club allow for some genuinely hilarious moments in the girls’ everyday life at school outside of their time spent camping together. The relaxed environment in their club allows the girls to be themselves, and in this OVA, have a bit of good-natured fun at Nadeshiko’s expense: while it’s just Aoi and Akari making various fibs to Nadeshiko, it seems that Nadeshiko is rthe sort of person who can be pranked easily – by the OVA’s end, Sakura, Ena and Chikai are in on the jokes, as well, resulting in a hilarious, yet pitiful moment for Nadeshiko that was quite heart-meltingly adorable. It is clear that Yuru Camp△‘s characters are a dynamic bunch, although the short lengths of each OVA suggest that the bulk of the series’ magic comes from camping, as well. This second OVA is set entirely in the Industrial Hallway that acts as the Outdoors Activity Club’s clubroom, the upcoming OVA for Yuru Camp△ is set to take place in a southern part of Japan that is quite warm and will be set for release just under two weeks from now. It’ll mark a change of pace from the two OVAs thus far, although I do wonder how things will unfold if there is only five minutes of time to work with.

Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“Behind every gun sight is a human being. We are those people.” –Battlefield 1 Prologue

Teaming up with Miyu, Karen introduces her to Gun Gale Online, where she decides to roll with a pair of Milkor MGLs. They participate in the next Squad Jam tournament; shortly after the game starts, Karen and Miyu spawn in at the opposite end of the map to Pitohui and Gōshi. Karen is immobilised after falling into a trap at the start, but manages to ambush an enemy team and push their way into a dome, where they defeat pursuing enemies, and Karen relinquishes supplies from another player in exchange for a kiss. Meanwhile, several teams have formed an alliance with the goal of taking out Pitohui and her team, but are promptly slaughtered. When Karen and Miyu run into the rhythm athletics club players, they agree to properly duel another day and work together. Pushing towards Pitohui’s position, Miyu and Karen capitalise on a distraction the rhythm athletics club players provide with their anti-tank rifle. While Karen is immobilised, Miyu draws fire from Gōshi, and manages to draw out the pair. A vehicle pursuit follows, ending with a brutal final fight where Karen severs Pitohui’s carotid artery, before another team finishes them off to claim victory in the tournament. In the real world, Karen receives a birthday gift from the rhythm athletics club, and Gōshi explains his relationship with Pitohui. He takes them to visit her – it turns out that Pitohui is none other than Karen’s idol, Elsa Kanzaki. Elsa is surprised that Karen’s deduced her identity, and kisses her. Later, Karen and Elsa return to Gun Gale Online in pursuit of the rush that can only come from hunting things down and killing them. This brings Alternative to a close, and while superior to Sword Art Online‘s main incarnation in virtually all ways, Alternative nonetheless inherits some of the elements that made the Sword Art Online series more melodramatic and ill-conceived.

The weakness in Alternative lies entirely in Elsa and Gōshi’s backstory and motivations for playing Gun Gale Online: an implausible relationship borne of character flaws so severe that in real life, clinical intervention and law enforcement would have certainly intervened. It is immensely difficult to accept these as the driving factors for why Elsa and Gōshi are in Gun Gale Online and fighting with the intensity that they do, breaking the immersion and authenticity of a spin-off that is otherwise superb. Setting up contrived, unrealistic situations for some of the characters for the singular purpose of creating melodrama is ineffective in raising the audience’s interest and a practise that I find to detract from the story, and moreover, in the case of Alternative, this is a missed opportunity to have told a much more meaningful story about games and social behaviours. In particular, Elsa’s character could have suffered from gaming addiction and aggression associated with withdrawal symptoms, while Gōshi certainly did not require such an objectionable backstory and instead, could have simply played the role of a concerned manager worried about Elsa’s ability to perform on stage. In doing so, Alternative would be able to explore themes of addiction and recovery, and perhaps illustrate how moderation might be one solution to addressing addiction problems among individuals. Through meeting Karen, Elsa could have simply regained her love for performing and with everyone’s help, manage her work and gaming in a more balanced manner. All of this logically fits into the flow of events within Alternative, and in fact, save for this (albeit major) change of motivations from Elsa and Gōshi, it’s not difficult to imagine that Alternative could have progressed in a very similar manner without losing its momentum – the inclusion of more current social issues over fabricated drama would have allowed Alternative to genuinely set itself apart from other instalments with the Sword Art Online brand and impress audiences to the extent that Kirito is unlikely to achieve.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Miyu first spawns into Gun Gale Online, she is given a large amount of funds and blows it on a pair of Milkor MGLs. These 40mm six-shot grenade launchers fire a variety of low-velocity rounds out to 400 meters, and in Battlefield 4, acted as a battle pickup. Miyu’s character was optimised for support, and in her shoes, I would’ve gone with a reliable mid-range LMG such as the M240B in place of grenade launchers. However, being Sword Art Online, characters don’t always choose the best of loadouts and yet, somehow still manage to do well enough with them – this stands in contrast with Battlefield 4‘s MGL and other battle pickups, which are only useful in some situations and are otherwise outclassed by standard weapons.

  • To get Miyu accustomed with the mechanics of Gun Gale Online, Karen agrees to train with her, and here, after a near miss, Karen reprimands Miyu, who is still getting used to her MGLs. However, over time, Miyu becomes comfortable with her loadout, to the point where she gives Matimi0 a run for his money as far as effectiveness goes with her weapons. Throughout the course of her run in Squad Jam, Miyu never seems to run into the constraints that Matimi0 outlines as being the limitations of Battlefield 4‘s battle pickups, and so, one is forced to accept that, while Alternative does a great job with most of its mechanics, it’s not fully reflective of the sorts of things that folk pick up by playing shooters.

  • One feature that DICE is definitely not going to add to Battlefield V will be player hubs where one can eat virtual meals and the like: it was revealed that Battlefield V will have a battle royale mode, and while I’m not particularly big on this game mode on account of the slow gameplay, I can understand DICE wanting a piece of the battle royale market (Activision has announced its intention to add a battle royale mode to Black Ops IV). Even against the likes of Fortnite, DICE has the advantage in that the Frostbite Engine is a tried-and-true technology – it’s been handling 64 player servers with solid performance since Battlefield 3, and large maps are a staple of the Battlefield franchise. Thus, even if I don’t play battle royale, I think it’s a great move on DICE’s part to add this mode.

  • Although Miyu might be a gamer who puts me to shame with her profound knowledge of games and in terms of pure hours, her decision to eat nine cartons of ice cream prior to joining Karen in a Squad Jam is foolish to the point of hilarity: she gets the runs for her troubles and is very nearly late for their match. One of the biggest disadvantages about full-immersion VR games as seen in Sword Art Online is that there is not an option to pause out of a game. When I game, I find that the pause feature is the most critical, since I’m busy enough so need to leave games with a non-trivial frequency. For online multiplayer shooters like Battlefield, I usually camp in some remote corner or stay at the spawn screen, and hope that I’m not idle long enough for the server to kick me.

  • My last Alternative post featured my reaction to Pitohui’s situation, but since Karen and Miyu are unlikely to tell Pitohui to go fuck herself and stop the events of Alternative cold in its tracks, I’ve opted to go with a different quote for this finale post – sourced from Battlefield 1‘s opening cinematic, the juxtaposition in Alternative is an appropriate place for such a quote: in the context of Battlefield 1, the line refers to the fact that soldiers in war are people, each with their own story. However, the line is also relevant to Alternative in that Karen sees her opponents as people who are playing the game and trying to have a blast, the same as her: she makes a clear distinction between gaming and the real world, using Gun Gale Online as an escape. This stands in contrast with how Pitohui seemingly plays Gun Gale Online.

  • In the match’s opening moments, Miyu runs into explosive traps that blow her legs off, resulting in one of the most adorable apologies I’ve seen in any anime for quite some time. Unlike DOOM or Wolfenstein, Gun Gale Online does not have any blood and gore even though limbs can be severed, and bodies bisected. I imagine this design is by choice rather than hardware limitations in-universe: using digital effects would lower the game’s ESRB rating to “Teen” rather than “Mature” and allow Gun Gale Online to reach a wider market. Within ten minutes, her limbs regenerate, and the pair continue on with their goal of reaching Pitohui.

  • Karen’s avatar, LLEN, is entirely speed driven: against opponents, her advantage is surprise, but she’s also surprisingly fragile. In games where I have a choice, I usually go with slower, more heavily armoured characters because they handle most similarly with the spartans of Halo 2. If fighting LLEN, strategy would be key: Karen is what one would call a hipfire scrub, and her fighting style emphasises speed at close range, so one would reasonably counter with good mid-to-long range options. A DMR and traps would certainly do the trick, although it would also be a fun challenge to trade blows with such an avatar using whatever equivalent Gun Gale Online has as the Doom Slayer.

  • Moving through a railyard, Karen spots for Miyu, who uses her MGLs as a makeshift mortar and hammers all opposing players with ease. Battlefield 34 and 1 include mortars: when used in conjunction with good recon players and their ability to spot, mortars are powerful to the point of ludicrousness. Mortars are useful for shelling positions with a large enemy presence, but as stationary weapons, they also leave operators exposed to retaliatory fire – one of my favourite pastimes in Battlefield is humiliating mortar users by killing them with weak weapons.

  • My curiosity with the Alternative loadout led me to run a naked P90 and the MGL in Battlefield 4: coming back in from Battlefield 1, the movement feels much more limited, and hit detection is not as responsive, but the time to kill is significantly more satisfying, and with a P90 having no attachments, I nonetheless managed to do quite well in TDM on Operation Locker. Like Matimi0, however, the MGL is rather less useful, although I did end up scoring a double kill with it when I found one on Siege of Shanghai in TDM. I conclude that Karen and Miyu are probably uncommonly lucky half the time with their situations, if they are able to make their loadouts work as well as they did, and one wonders if Alternative‘s writers have some experience in Battlefield or other shooters.

  • The hipfire penalty is strong with this one: Pitohui is seen firing an AK-74M here from the hip against ambushing enemies, and while she’s touted as being highly effective, during the fight against the amassed enemy players, it seems that their inability to use cover and strategy, coupled with their tendency to charge towards Pitohui, contributed to their loss more than any exceptional skills or gear on Pitohui’s part: it’s not exactly hard to kill someone charging forwards. The best counter against Pitohui’s dug-in group, under the assumption of superior numbers, would be sustained artillery and mortar fire, before closing the distance and picking off any survivors with mid-range weapons.

  • Evidently, resupplies are not a thing in Gun Gale Online, and Karen expends more ammunition than intended. She’s able to acquire some from an unscrupulous-looking fellow in exchange for a kiss: long presented as a practical individual, Karen’s actions here are not particularly surprising, given that she knows this is a game, and that in exchange for something few will likely remember, she will be given the provisions needed to carry on with her objectives.

  • The players on Team Slayer are counted as the most fearsome of the players participating in this Squad Jam tournament. Donning armour that resembles the Praetor Suit of DOOM, this team is armed with Heckler & Koch XM-8 rifles, experimental light-weight rifles that were born of a want for versatile, durable replacements for the M4 and M16 assault rifles. A good assault rifle is all one needed in Battlefield 3 and 4, as well as most games: they strike a balance between DPS and accuracy at range, making them highly adaptable.

  • The rhythm athletics club field a WWII-era PTRD-41; alternatively known as the Degtyaryov Anti-Tank Rifle, it was a Soviet weapon that could punch through up to 40 mm of armour at 100 metres (compared to the .50 BMG’s ~22.2mm at 91 metres). After sacrificing one of their own to act as a shield, the rhythm athletics club blow away Gōshi’s shield, forcing him to retreat, and use the opportunity to press the attack, but come under sniper fire. Their actions create the distraction that Karen and Miyu need to close the distance and flank the cabin that Pitohui is recovering in, after she takes a near-lethal shot from an enemy sniper. Karen eliminates this sniper, and the remainder of her team give themselves up to defend Pitohui.

  • When Pitohui recovers enough of her health, she decides to emulate Lord Vader’s massacre at the end of Rogue One. Like Kylo Ren’s pale emulations of one of the most iconic Sith Lords of all time, Pitohui’s gleeful slaughter of an enemy force with her lightsaber, however fun it was to watch, barely holds a candle to the sheer impact of Vader’s methodical, calculated elimination of Rebel soldiers in Rogue One.

  • Because Karen seems to lose most of her motivation after watching Pitohui dominate everything that tries to stop her, Miyu decides to jump into the open and in the process, binds Karen’s shoelaces together to give her some time to regroup. Miyu references the Gordian Knot here: it refers to a tale where an oracle at Telmissus decreed that any man who could unravel an seemingly unsolvable knot would hereafter be king of Phrygians. In some versions of this story, when Alexander the Great was confronted with the knot, he simply drew his sword and slashed. Since then, the Gordian Knot refers to a problem where thinking outside of the box can offer a solution that conventional thinking might not. Miyu’s rationale is that Karen’s overthinking things, and forcing Karen to slow down might allow her to see that settling things with Pitohui is much simpler than she might otherwise think it to be.

  • From a technical perspective, Alternative does not impress in the artwork department: the world of Gun Gale Online during the Squad Jam mode is monotonous, with the golden glow of evening permeating all environments save the social hub, which is eternally locked in the night. Battlefield 1 and The Division have dynamic weather, as does The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – it stands to reason that a game as technically sophisticated as Gun Gale Online would conceivably have dynamic weather that could alter the way players approach a problem, and while one might argue that unchanging weather is more fair for battle royale modes, I counter that shifting weather patterns, especially those affecting visibility, forces players to alter their tactics. As such, those with more familiarity with the game and a higher skill level would therefore adapt more readily.

  • In the final confrontation, it ultimately boils down to a confrontation between two opponents who both are fighting for the sake of exhilaration, and because of a promise they’d made to give it their all when challenging one another. This fight would’ve stood alone just fine even without Pitohui’s threats to kill herself and Gōshi, and as argued above, the excessively dramatic setup for why Pitohui and Gōshi play Gun Gale Online comes across as being corny, implausible. This is the one strike I have against Alternative, a series that I feel could’ve done to deal with contemporary and more plausible issues, such as gaming addiction and its surrounding mental health challenges.

  • After a firefight that sees Karen’s second P90 destroyed, combat enters the realm of melee. It should not take a whole lot of effort to convince readers that had Pitohui’s situation merely be that of a gaming addict who suffers from severe withdrawal and anger issues when unable to game, and that Karen is trying to get Pitohui to come around by beating her, Alternative‘s flow would largely remain unchanged, and the progression would have continued very closely to what we ended up seeing in Alternative. Of course, I suppose it would not be Sword Art Online if at least a handful of ridiculous situations were not presented.

  • Karen’s strongest suit is her pragmatism: she goads Pitohui into attacking, and then knifes her. However, she looks to meet her end when Pitohui picks her up and prepares to execute her. A distraction, in the form of Gōshi and Miyu arriving, leads Pitohui to shoot Gōshi for setting up a situation that favoured Karen, and Miyu “frees” Karen from Pitohui’s grip, slicing off Karen’s hands in the process. This forces Karen to take out Pitoshui with the only weapon that she has remaining to her in a brutal manner, and I admit that Karen’s playstyle as LLEN is a bit of a turn-on.

  • I’ve never been a particular fan of the deranged faces in Sword Art Online when characters go in for the kill, especially those of Kirito’s, but for Karen’s execution of Pitohui, the faces seem to work fine without coming across as extraneous. Karen’s actions in Gun Gale Online are continually unexpected, even if they are consistent with her play style, and this is one of the aspects that make me particularly fond of Karen as a character in Alternative. After Karen chews through Pitohui’s internal carotid artery, she defeats her, but does not live long enough to savour the moment: Team Slayer arrives and scavenges kills off Karen.

  • I refer to TS as Team Slayer simply because their powered armour resembles the Doom Slayer’s Praetor Suit: close inspection of the armour’s design finds that it has rounded elements on the shoulder and chest piece that makes it similar to the Praetor Suit, rather than the Mjolnir armour variants seen in Halo. Had Gun Gale Online allowed players to play as the Doom Slayer, right down to having the same powerups and abilities, however, it might’ve been a little too much – DOOM encourages players to go in up close and personal for brutal glory kills, and seeing Pitohui and LLEN ripped apart the same way the Doom Slayer kills Hell’s dæmons would not be suitable for television, even if the violence in Gun Gale Online is restricted to a simplified red grid texture and particle effects denoting injury.

  • In an anti-climatic closing to the second Squad Jam competition, Karen and Pitohui die in one another’s arms, bringing things to a close. To have another team come in and win is a plausible outcome: so focused are Karen and the others on taking Pitohui out that they neglected another capable team’s presence. This is one aspect of battle royale games that is raised: it is possible to do very well by picking one’s battles and not engaging in every encounter. Some of my friends who’ve played Fortnite, for instance, have gotten very far into the game simply by avoiding active combat and only picking off survivors following firefights.

  • The rhythm athletics club gift Karen a necklace for her birthday in the aftermath of the Squad Jam. As promised, more sweets and tea are had: Karen keeps her word, and throughout Alternative, Karen’s personality and motivations are what kept me interested in watching the series. She’s the polar opposite of Kirito: I actually have no problems with Kirito’s exploits in-game any more than I do with Karen’s exploits in-game. Instead, it is the presentation his real world actions that I find bothersome; Kirito is presented as being worthy of working alongside law enforcement and government agencies despite an lack of formal training, beyond his entanglement in some situations.

  • I get that Kirito, at a certain level, is similar to Jack Ryan Senior of the Tom Clancy universe, but most of Jack Ryan’s achievements follow a somewhat logical pattern. By comparison, Kirito’s circumstances simply happen. As my grievances with this particular aspect of Sword Art Online is a lengthy one, we’ll return discussion to Alternative, where Pitohui agrees to have Karen meet with her in person as a bit of a prize for having bested her in single combat. While we’ve not seen much of Miyu in the real world, my impressions of her are that she’s a bit similar to Girls und Panzer‘s Saori Takebe and gaming club members, being both highly interested in VR games and has a bit of an eye for men.

  • Gōshi’s story behind how he met Pitohui and the formation of their relationship subsequently is pretty messed up: I’m not sure what was going through the writers’ heads when they designed things in this manner, given that it is implausible and also reflects poorly on Gōshi’s character by presenting him as weak and ineffectual, lacking any agency. By comparison, Karen and Miyu are solid characters because they have agency. I’m not sure why characters in Sword Art Online necessarily need such unrealistic backstories: Sword Art Online‘s Sinon is another example of this, and I found that her fear of firearms could have stemmed from a different story that doesn’t involve her playing the hero.

  • Up until now, I’ve referred to everyone by their real names save Pitohui, and it is here that Pitohui is shown to be the singer Elsa Kanzaki, Karen’s idol. While she’s voiced by Yōko Hikasa, her singing voice is provided by Kameda Reona. Diminutive in stature, one wonders how she manages to pound Gōshi into the ground in the anime adaptation, where in the original light novel, she capitalised on his being injured to subdue him. With Pitohui’s identity in the open now, I will refer to her as Elsa from here on out, having deliberately not done so previously to minimise on the spoilers.

  • All of the posters in Alternative give Elsa’s name as Elza, which is probably the correct spelling, but since I’m lazy, I’m not likely to go back and change all of the spellings here. While Elsa attempts to surprise Karen by having the establishment’s manager stand in for her, Karen quickly works out who Elsa really is. The fan letter that Karen’s written to her evidently got through, and Karen embraces her tearfully. Elsa’s appearance does not appear to suggest any sort of mental health issues that Gōshi’s described, although the truth is that some problems do not manifest in ways that can be easily seen. With this being said, I still find it difficult to believe that Elsa can kick Gōshi’s ass in a fight.

  • Elsa kisses a surprised Karen while Miyu looks on in shock: whether it be trolling or a genuine token of gratitude will remain unknown for the present, but the consequences are invariably hilarious, with Karen remarking that she’ll never get married now with such a stunt. This joke has long overstayed its welcome, and it’s not like guys decide whether or not they’ll marry someone based on whether or not that individual had been kissed by other girls before. However, rather than going into a tirade about this joke, I will instead liken Elsa’s actions here as making her the equivalent of Alternative‘s Brad Marchand.

  • I’m not sure how many of my readers watch ice hockey, or the NHL in particular: Brad Marchand who is a colourful player known for his goal scoring and on-ice antics. During the 2018 playoffs, Marchand licked Ryan Callahan during game four of the Tampa Bay and Boston series, and Maple Leafs players similarly complained when he did something similar during the games against them. The NHL threatened Marchand with disiplinary action, but this pales compared to when he kissed former Flames right wing Jerome Iginla during 2014. In this game, Iginla scored an overtime winner after Marchand had missed his shot on net, and a grateful Marchand is said to have kissed Iginla afterwards. Knowing this, I wager that suddenly, Elsa kissing Karen does not seem so difficult to watch now.

  • Overall, Alternative earns a B grade (7.5 of ten), the same as Comic Girls. I enjoyed the FPS and PvP aspects very strongly – I’m normally well out of my depth when it comes to Sword Art Online‘s RPG mechanics, and despite having played my share of RPGs, I personally prefer shooters. As such, knowing the mechanics of Gun Gale Online in Alternative, and seeing a story that largely remains coherent, without an excessive emphasis on unnecessary relationships and the like, was a breath of fresh air. Similarly, while Karen might be quite skillful in Gun Gale Online, she’s an ordinary university student in real life – Kirito, by comparison, stumbles into positions of responsibility and only wears the role because the plot demands it. With this post done, the last of the series from Spring 2018 that I planned to write for are now finished, and the focus for the summer season is largely going to be Harukana Receive.

While Alternative might have succumbed to the symptoms of poor exposition that plague Sword Art Online, that each episode nonetheless commanded engagement and left me excited to see what was next is a testament to the strengths in Alternative: with its well-thought out game mechanics in Gun Gale Online, strategies and tactics that I am familiar with as a long-time FPS gamer, and main characters who are very relatable and likeable, Alternative gives viewers clear incentive to cheer for Karen and later, Miyu. Watching them overcome various challenges with the aim of reaching Elsa and Gōshi to make a difference was quite touching, and although this might have been a gaming environment, Karen’s feelings and intents are very real. Seeing the story come together, and having Karen meet her idol was a satisfactory ending – overall, Alternative remains a fun watch that I would recommend to those who do not view Sword Art Online negatively: most of the issues impeding Sword Art Online have been addressed, and having relatable, well-written main characters works in Alternative‘s favour. For folks who are not big on Sword Art Online, I’m largely neutral towards recommending Alternative; on one hand, the firefights are well-animated, and build-ups are quite exhilarating, but Elsa and Gōshi’s character motivations are lacking. This wasn’t enough to detract from the solid writing in Karen’s character for me, so Alternative ended up being a fun experience overall despite its shortcomings. Gōshi might have eyes for only Elsa, but I would contend that Karen and Miyu are tied for first as my favourite characters in the whole of Sword Art Online.

We Don’t Need Aces: Harukana Receive First Episode Impressions and Review

“One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.” —Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

When her mother moves overseas for her work, Haruka Ōzora moves to Okinawa to live with her grandmother and cousin, Kanata Higa. After landing in Naha, Haruka meets with Kanata for the first time in four years, and becomes excited at the prospect of being so close to the water, where she may dive, surf and swim. While running about on the beaches, Haruka runs into a pair of beach volleyball players, Narumi Tōi and Ayasa Tachibana. Narumi grows cold when Haruka wonders about becoming an ace, and when Kanata shows up, Narumi challenges the pair to an impromptu match. Haruka’s inexperience on the court becomes apparent, and although they lose their first game, Haruka remains fired up and longs for a rematch. Narumi reluctantly agrees, provided that Haruka learns the basics and rules within the span of a week. Later that evening, Kanata reveals that they’re going up against experienced volleyball players, although this does little to deter Haruka, who settles in to life in Naha with Kanata and resolves to master the basics, now that it’s summer vacation. For me, Harukana Receive is the anime of the summer season that I was most anticipating, primarily because the warm, sunny beaches of Okinawa are precisely the image of summer that is conjured whenever the hottest season of the year is mentioned: I’ve never watched a distinctly summer anime during the summer before, and the premise of Harukana Receive was particularly conducive towards being the perfect accompaniment for the hottest and sunniest days of the year. In this aspect, Harukana Receive is very strong; the artwork is amazing, capturing the heat of summer through the deep azure skies and warm ocean waters reaching towards infinity. Shadows and light also feature prominently in Harukana Receive to create the sensation of heat: without question, the visuals in Harukana Receive‘s environments are stunning.

However, I imagine that most readers are not here about the lighting effects and details of the landscape: aside from the frequent stills of the sun, and the brilliant light that sunlight casts the land in, the warmth in Harukana Receive comes from Haruka herself. Despite being described as sensitive about her height and figure, there is little denying that Haruka’s seemingly boundless energy is one of the biggest draws in Harukana Receive. Haruka’s sunny disposition and excitement suggests that she’s always ready for adventure and experience. From stripping down on the beaches to accepting a challenge without much thought, Haruka is happy-go-lucky in manner and lives in the moment. Her positive mindset thus acts as the perfect foil for the quiet and reserved Kanata; such contrasts amongst characters are deliberately thus, intended to have different facets of one’s personality influence another individual within a friendship to depict how characters grow and learn over time. While Haruka’s enthusiasm is nothing new (she reminds me of a cross between GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto and Brave Witches‘ Takami Karuibuchi), placing such a sunny, friendly person into a landscape characterised by warmth sets the table for what’s likely to come in Harukana Receive. Haruka’s optimism will serve her well as the series progresses, especially when she begins learning about just how far she has to go in beach volleyball, and it will be particularly interesting to see just how Haruka handles adversity and learns over the course of Harukana Receive.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After four years, Kanata (left) and Haruka (right) reunite at Naha Airport. Because I’m doing episodic posts for Harukana Receive, each post will have twenty screenshots and accompanying figure captions. A long-standing trend here is that posts have been progressively becoming longer, both in terms of word count and number of screenshots, and while it’s nice to be able to really flesh out certain ideas or crack bad jokes about scenes, there is also value in being concise.

  • My praises for Harukana Receive‘s visuals are not unfounded: this view of Okinawa, with the glistening ocean and lens flare showcases the sort of visual fidelity in the anime. The subtleties in the environment indicate a commitment to detail, and this particular aspect will become important as Haruka becomes more learned in the techniques and nuances of beach volleyball. The implications of the anime’s attention to detail also suggests that the places seen in Harukana Receive are doubtlessly modelled after real-world locations.

  • If this indeed holds true, there might be an opportunity in the future to do another armchair tour of locations in Okinawa. Here, Kanata watches Haruka running joyfully onto the beach after their ride from the airport. In contrast to Haruka, who is positively glowing, Kanata is much more taciturn: their conversation back suggests that the only topic that bothers Haruka is her height, and Kanata is similarly envious of Haruka for being much taller.

  • Readers better get used to screenshots such as these over the next eleven weeks that Harukana Receive is airing; while not a series dedicated towards fanservice, the simple fact that Harukana Receive is set around beach volleyball on the warm coasts of Okinawa means that swimsuits will be a very common sight. The manga simply shows Haruka stripping down in one small panel, to Kanata’s surprise, but the anime adaptation goes the whole nine yards in closeups of Haruka’s chest and posterior. At the very least, there is no excessive oscillations, which are again, a subtle reminder that Harukana Receive is not about the fanservice.

  • Harukana Receive‘s manga is not in the four-panel format, being structured in the traditional fashion. While it looks to deal with topics surrounding teamwork and friendship in a more serious manner than something like GochiUsa, because Harukana Receive is a Manga Time Kirara publication, it stands to reason that things won’t ever get serious to the point of breaking the atmosphere. The simple white circles for eyes Kanata’s got in this moment is an indicator of shock, and funny facial expressions are the norm in Harukana Receive, reminding audiences that first and foremost, this series is about being fun.

  • The only time I’ve been somewhere with waters warm enough to wade in without requiring a wetsuit was Cancún, which was two years ago: I woke up early in the mornings and walked the beaches, where the waters were a turquoise colour and the beach sands where white. Mornings were the best time to enjoy the beaches, as the sun would be too much during noon. At this time, I attended various presentations and panels at the ALIFE conference.

  • In her haste to enjoy the beach, Haruka’s forgotten her sunscreen. An absolute essential in places like Cancún (even as early as eight in the morning) and Okinawa, sunscreen blocks UVA and UVB radiation, high intensity photons that can cause melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma (two kinds of skin cancer) by punching through the skin into cells and damaging the DNA within. I rarely go for long without sunscreen when spending more than half an hour outdoors during the summer: even at the higher latitudes, UV hazards can be quite high for many days of the year, and my city’s high altitude actually increases exposure to UV.

  • After meeting Ayasa and Narumi, Haruka strikes up a conversation with Ayase, who is approachable and friendly. By comparison, Narumi is much more distant, serious and cold. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing such characters in anime, and as such, my first inclination is to wonder what flow of events will eventually lead Narumi to warm up to Haruka and Kanata. This could be the subject of a story arc later, and typically, such events are very rewarding to see. Of course, some folks elsewhere are less interested in these aspects and find that Haruka’s posterior is rewarding to see ಠ_ಠ

  • My eyes and ears tell me that Harukana Receive is similarly being counted as a show that is appropriate for summer. However, there does seem to be an exception in that one of my bêtes noires counts this series as being outside the scope of their interests – should the show fall through for them, I suppose it will mean that I won’t be seeing efforts to psychoanalyse whatever personality flaws are holding Kanata back or questions about how differences between Okinawan and Japanese culture impact Huruka’s ability to learn beach volleyball. I admit that it was amusing to read these from Tango-Victor-Tango’s Manga Time Kirara experts, since it then gave me something additional to discuss (and then usually, invalidate these points for fun).

  • Haruka jokingly remarks that with her predisposition for atheltics, she could perform quite well in volleyball, only for Narumi to give her a verbal beatdown on how aces don’t exist in team sports – a team is only as good as its weakest link, and a fine example of where team play matters more than individual skill is in ice hockey. The Edmonton Oilers finished just below the Calgary Flames during the 2017-2018 season, despite the stellar performance of Connor McDavid – one fantastic player wasn’t enough to bring the Oilers to the playoffs. Likewise, while Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Michael Ferland’s first line have been relatively consistent to watch, but the Flames’ deficiencies in special teams have been felt: towards the end of the 2017-2018 season, the Flames dropped from the playoffs.

  • Immediately through this exchange, it’s clear that Narumi is very serious about beach volleyball, although her delivery of this message to Haruka shows that she’s not very concerned about what others think of her. Such a presentation indicates that there’s more to Narumi that audiences will likely learn more about later, and here, when Kanata rejoins Haruka, it is clear that Kanata and Narumi once knew one another. In addition, there’s also a bit of a distance between the two. Kanata’s previous experience in beach volleyball is a known, and her reasons for quitting will likely be the subject of a future episode.

  • If readers have no objections, then for the next eleven weeks, this blog will feature many more screenshots similar to this one. It’s still early in the game, but Haruka’s my favourite character in Harukana Receive for both her personality and other design attributes. Despite being a total novice at beach volleyball, she’s presented as being very active and athletic, having familiarity with a wide range of sports. As such, Haruka’s background makes her well-suited to be the central character of Harukana Receive – her fitness level and knowledge of other sports allows her to keep up, such that when she advances in skill level, it is never implausible or unrealistic.

  • After the first episode, one challenge I will immediately face is being able to capture action shots well – Harukana Receive makes extensive use of motion blur and depth of field effects to bolster its visual impact, which is great from a viewer experience perspective, but from a screenshots perspective, it means I’ll have to be a bit more mindful as to which frames I will end up using. This was especially a problem for live-action movies, which is why I don’t review them as often, but usually, is not a concern in anime.

  • Against the likes of Ayasa and Narumi, Haruka and Kanata are completely outmatched: their game here is a first-to-seven, with the handicap that Haruka and Kanata win if they can manage one point against Ayasa and Narumi. During the course of the match, Kanata explains various details to Haruka, such as how players need to compensate for wind and switch sides to even matches out in events of strong wind, adjust for the differences that sand has on footwork and how overhand techniques make it easier to foul. It’s nice to have Kanata explain things to audiences: she fulfills a similar role to Yuru Camp△‘s narrator, and as such, viewers get to ease into the meat-and-potatoes of Harukana Receive without getting lost.

  • Haruka manages to hit the ball and with Kanata’s help, attempts to score a point, only for Narumi to counterattack. With the score at 7-0, their game comes to an end, and Narumi warns Haruka that in beach volleyball, a team is only as effective as the two players. This brings to mind the sort of logic that drove the Jaeger pilots in Pacific Rim, where the Jaegers were sophisticated enough so that two pilots, with their minds bound by a neural bridge, must work together to operate the Jaeger. While beach volleyball does not involve fanciful technologies, the concept seems similar enough: the two players on a team must be able to understand their partner’s playstyle, working with them to maximise their strengths and minimise weaknesses to cohesively put the ball in a position where a point can be scored.

  • Having had her first experiences with beach volleyball, Haruka is perfectly unperturbed by their loss and promises to have another match once she improves. Her words exude a positive outlook on the world, befitting of youth. I am very much drawn in to Harukana Receive by Haruka’s enthusiasm and energy, and she’s absolutely right in that things only become more fun as one invests the time to improve. My seniors at the dōjō say the same thing: reaching shōdan only marks the beginning of a journey, and it is only into black belt that the more interesting aspects of Okinawa Gōjū-ryū are learnt. I suppose now is a good as a time to reiterate that from time to time, I will be talking about Gōjū-ryū in my Harukana Receive posts, because Gōjū-ryū karate originates from the Naha area of Okinawa.

  • As the sun sets, Haruka learns from Kanata that Ayasa and Narumi are champion players. While Kanata is worried about their prospects of winning, Haruka states that champions or not, she looks forwards to playing them. The only way to get better is to challenge what one cannot defeat (initially): while it’s not always the case, losing and failure are some of the most effective teachers out there, and those who never lose or fail are setting themselves up for more difficult losses and failures later down the line. A major part of being human is knowing how to pick oneself up and regroup after a setback, although at this point in Harukana Receive, it’s difficult to tell if Haruka’s naturally got this mindset or if she’s starry-eyed.

  • Ayasa is evidently more easygoing than Narumi – she wonders why Narumi is going full-force against someone with no experience, and feels that having Kanata train Haruka might be enough to get Kanata back into the game. The second aspect that Harukana Receive introduces in its first episode, then, is what caused Kanata to leave beach volleyball, and watching how Haruka influences her to return and make the most of things. I tend to take Ayasa’s approach while providing younger students with instruction and exercise full restraint during sparring if my opponent is learning. The way I spar is much slower, intended to instruct rather than punish.

  • As the episode winds down, Haruka and Kanata share a welcome dinner from their grandmother, which features a variety of Okinawan dishes. Unlike Japanese dishes, Okinawan cuisine tends to feature more spices and meat. Chanpurū is also commonplace: this stir-fry dish is representative of Okinawan food, the same way one might associated dim sum with Hong Kong. Being a slice-of-life anime, I imagine that Harukana Receive will also depict more about life in Okinawa: it’s commonly portrayed as a vacation destination (the upcoming Non Non Biyori Vacation movie is going to follow Renge and company’s adventures in Okinawa), but to see things on a day-to-day basis is a welcome change of pace.

  • As the evening sets in, Kanata and Haruka settle down for the evening, where Haruka meets Kanata’s pet turtle. It’s been an eventful first day, and with summer vacation on the horizon, it is plain that Haruka already has plans to fill those long, beautiful summer days to the brim with activity on her break. Depictions of summer in anime always present it as a distant season, and while this distance, this harukana, has been seen in Harukana Receive‘s first episode, I imagine that as things progress, the distance will close. If this is indeed the theme, then Harukana Receive‘s title is a very clever one. With this first post in the books, this is what readers can reasonably expect of my Harukana Receive posts: I look forwards to seeing where this series goes as I follow it on a weekly basis.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve done an episodic review for a series, but with the summer season otherwise being a slow one for me, I figured that the best way to keep my blogging game up is to occasionally work on it a little. Harukana Receive represents a new challenge for me: I am not an athlete and have no experience in volleyball whatsoever, much less beach volleyball. However, I do know a thing or two about teamwork and cooperation, as well as mutual support, sportsmanship and the like: these aspects of life extend well beyond the realm of sports, and individuals who understand teamwork and compromise tend to derive greater happiness in what they do. These lessons are what I’m looking to see in Harukana Receive, and in conjunction with the very strong, visceral showing that the first episode has presented, Harukana Receive is going to be a series that I look forwards to watching each and every week of its run, especially as more characters are introduced and Haruka comes further into her journey of learning about beach volleyball and over time, accepting that her height is what it is. I further add that the fact that Haruka can really rock a two-piece is further incentive to watch the show every week, and close this first episode talk with the remark that it is possible that anyone who states they picked up Harukana Receive, for the mechanics and rules of beach volleyball, have a non-trivial likelihood of being untruthful.

Comic Girls: Whole-series Review and Reflection

“Learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it and keep doing it until you get it right.” –Tom Clancy

At the dormitory, Kaoruko helps Ruki with her manga, spends a day with Koyume with the beach and meets resident horror manga artist Suzu Fūra. She struggles to continue with her own serialisation, discovers that her homeroom instructor, Miharu Nijino, is fond of Tsubasa’s manga and anime culture, encounters trouble when visiting Shinjuku on her own, and spends more time with Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa. Winter approaches, bringing with it exams; Kaoruko struggles to focus on her exams amidst her manga’s rejection, and Koyume becomes concerned with her weight. When the Christmas season nears, Ruki laments her lack of a love life, prompting the others to throw her a surprise birthday party, and Tsubasa deals with her family’s opposition to her intention to become a manga artist. Through the sum of her experiences, Kaoruko continues put in an honest effort, creating a slice-of-life manga that captures her experiences with friends. Mayu approves of this concept as an insert manga and requests that Kaoruko creates a second part. While she initially struggles, support from her friends and encouragement from her mother compel her to finish before the manga dormitory closes for the winter. The result is something that Mayu praises as Kaoruko’s strongest work up until now, and by spring, she reunites with her friends, resolving to continue working and spending time with Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa. With the sum of her journey culminating in an approval amidst the sea of rejections, Kaoruko’s journey in Comic Girls thus draws to a close for the present, and in spending so much time with other manga artists, each of whom have their own style and genre, Kaoruko begins to discover her own strength lie in works that are depictions of experiences within her life.

At the end of the day, Comic Girls is a story of persistence, determination and a journey taken to discover what it means to be authentic. These well-tread themes are encapsulated in an anime about an aspiring manga artist whose discoveries lead her to create a manga about her experiences. Summarily, Comic Girls is an anime about the making of the manga that became the manga which was adapted into an anime. Despite its derivative, familiar message and an end result that was long foreseen during its run, Comic Girls‘ theme of how simple experiences and journeys, seemingly mundane and trivial, can nonetheless be relatable and interesting when presented appropriately. Kaoruko is evidently unlearned in telling love, action and horror stories; although she started out as a four-panel manga artist, frequent rejections led her to experiment with a wide variety of genres. Her time spent at the Bunhousha Dormitory provides her with an eccentric, but memorable set of experiences that impact her greatly, and by transcribing this to paper, Kaoruko manages to create a relatable, engaging story. She thus returns to the genre that four-panel manga frequently depict: common, everyday aspects of life that are missed as readers surround themselves with the ceaseless activity of their lives. By applying her recollections to a genre she had been working in, Kaoruku discovers that an effective manga is created by being oneself. The twelve episode journey it took to reach this stage shows that the process is one filled with many memories, and I speak to my readers here, that Comic Girls‘ theme of being oneself is, despite being rather obvious, is one that nonetheless is worth reiterating every now and then, especially when it is applicable to the realm of anime blogging: I’ve noticed that some of my peers in anime blogging have struggled with their content of late, along with discouragement from declining traffic, likes and interactions. As with Kaoruko, rather than trying to emulate the success of other blogs and place unnecessary pressure on oneself, I would similarly suggest that my peers be themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because of her depiction, mannerisms and size, Kaoruko is perhaps more similar to Tamias minimus, better known as the Least Chipmunk. My responses to her suffering typically are a conflicting one between pity and mild irritation: Kaoruko is prone to fits of misfortune, although lacking the long-suffering nature of Anne Happy‘s Anne, Kaoruko devolves into self-pity and shame whenever things go south.

  • An e-manga artist, I found Ruki to be the most enjoyable character to watch. Some of the content she produces implies understanding of the male anatomy and its workings: in Eromanga Sensei, Sagiri was only able to produce compelling artwork because she used herself as a model, so when asked to take things to the next level, her lack of understanding of male anatomy led to some hilarious results. By comparison, Ruki’s works are more accurate, in a manner of speaking, and so, she covers Karouko’s eyes out of embarassment, preventing Kaoruko from helping out.

  • I’ve previously mentioned that Comic Girls could have become quite tricky for me to write for because of its focus on manga creation, but as it turns out, the anime’s focus on everyday life means that things are very easy to relate to and do not require an inordinate degree of manga creation knowledge to enjoy. With this being said, a bulk of the activities and events of Comic Girls are deliberately conventional; there’s a limit to what I could say in great detail about a day at the amusement park or spending a rainy afternoon playing games with a friend.

  • When one of Ruki’s manga are released, her editor asks her to do an autograph session. Frightened at the prospect of meeting her fans, encouragement from Tsubasa and Ririko give her the courage to step out into the spotlight, where Ruki learns that her fans simply love her work and onee sama-like presence. The event is a success, and Ruki is glad to have met her fans. This is the power of good writing: ideas and thoughts can reach and impact readers authors never thought possible, and my favourite stories of good writing making a positive impact on someone’s life is from MythBusters, where their colourful and approachable application of the scientific method have inspired countless into STEM careers.

  • Between her shapely figure and outgoing manner, Koyume finds it easy to draw attention in a crowd and befriend others, respectively. Fanservice in Comic Girls exists, but is not particularly overbearing. Despite being intended as cathartic series focused around the joys of everyday lives in a wide range of scenarios, Manga Time Kirara series also seem to have a bit more fanservice than would be expected of anime purely intended to help their viewers decompress – this suggests that manga of the Kirara style also have been tailored to interest audiences of a specific demographic.

  • It suddenly strikes me that a large number of Manga Time Kirara works feature a purple-haired character with a mature and serious demenour: we have Ruri Hibarigaoka of Anne Happy, Yōko Nishikawa from Sansha San’yōGochiUsa‘s Rize Tandea and Kurumi Ebisuzawa from School Live, all of whom have similar appearances and dispositions. Invariably, they all end up being my favourite characters for their respective series.

  • According to some of my readers, my inability to comprehend yuri and its significance is my downfall. This is both true and false: I don’t typically watch series where yuri is the main focus, so I don’t purport to understand it, but for the slice-of-life series that I do watch, yuri is typically an element incorporated into the narrative to drive humour or to provide a chance for characters to get to know one another better. In the case of Comic Girls, Koyume develops an interest in Tsubasa and longs to spend time with her. This opportunity finally materialises when Koyume and Tsubasa go to an amusement park together, while Ruki and Kaoruko tail them.

  • A botched kokuhaku is the hallmark of most romance-comedy, but in slice-of-life such as Comic Girls, the decision to not have Tsubasa and Koyume’s relationship advance beyond anything more than bog-standard friendship is motivated by the fact that disruption to the status quo would quickly cause the narrative diverge from Kaoruko and her journey towards publishing a manga. Thus, in Comic Girls, Koyume remains unable to summon up the courage to ask out Tsubasa, and instead, voices her concerns about being left behind as a manga artist. I realise that my take on yuri is an unfavourable one (folks at Tango Victor Tango seem particularly hostile towards what I say), but writing about and analysing what-ifs for fictional relationships has never been my strength.

  • Suzu Fūra is the resident horror manga artist, and her onryō-like presence frightens the living daylights out of Kaoruko, who is reduced to this at the thought of a ghost haunting their dormitory. However, while Kaoruko is initially scared to be around Suzu, she’s the first to befriend her, finding a kind person underneath her terrifying exterior. Over time, Kaoruko’s strengths begin manifesting, and audiences can begin seeing how she will likely mature over time, enough to learn about what works best for her as a manga artist: she’s able to find positives for those she meets, and this particular aspect about her is a useful one for writing four-panel manga, where characters typically have a specific endearing trait about them.

  • New experiences are an integral part of Kaoruko’s journey towards gaining a better understanding of ordinary life, leading one to wonder what Kaoruko’s life was like back home. I remark here that Comic Girls‘ finale came out prior to that of Amanchu! Advance‘s, but I felt that Comic Girls was something I should sleep on further. I thus took Sunday afternoon easy, went to a local bookstore and picked up Patrick Smith’s Cockpit Confidential (Second Edition), then enjoyed broasted chicken for dinner. Subsequently, I worked out what I wished to cover in this post.

  • Takami Karibuchi Miharu might be a strict disciplinarian, but she’s also a secret fan of Tsubasa’s work. When word reaches her ears that Tsuabasa is the author of the manga Miharu so enjoys, she is overwhelmed and becomes more forgiving of Tsubasa’s tendency to sleep in class. I’ve now been around the block long enough to be familiar with the instructor who’s also secretly into things like anime, cosplay and video games: this is done intentionally to help audiences connect with the world, and it is not implausible for a teacher to have such interests. One of my seniors at the dōjō is a teacher and watches anime, and my old data structures professor is a PC gamer.

  • One long-standing thought on my mind is that Kaoruko’s love for female figurines and the female form seems to be more of an attraction to the maternal characteristics of her peers, rather than the baser suppositions that others have put forth. I argue this because of Kaoruko’s child-like disposition and appearance, as well as how she’s innocent in the ways of the world and her propensity to become more relaxed in the presence of someone more mature.

  • While exploring Akihabara on her own, a police officer mistakes Kaoruko for a lost child, and Karouko runs off, hiding in a large cardboard box. When her friends find her, Kaoruko resembles a lost pet of sorts. The number of adventures and experiences Kaoruko finds herself on, both the good and the bad, are instrumental in giving her an idea of what people might do – her manga were unrelatable because she lacked exposure, and a large part of the journey in Comic Girls is really dealing with the sort of things that Kaoruko does, rather than the technical aspects behind manga creation. As a consequence, most discussions out there on Comic Girls largely takes the form of reactions to the various misadventures that Kaoruko goes on in her journey to create a manga that won’t be rejected.

  • Kaoruko feels that glasses might make her more mature and also help her with her vision: while there are some out there who find an appeal about eye glasses, I’ve long felt that they are an impediment for some physical activities, and they can be a pain when one is crying. I also recall a lecture during my time as a graduate student where one of the screws on my frame had loosened mid-class, causing the lens to pop out. I was stuck with only one eye for the remainder of that lecture and was forced to make haste for the campus optometrist to get my glasses fixed.

  • Watching Kaoruko see rejection after rejection is perhaps the most realistic aspect of Comic Girls: I mentioned in the Amanchu! Advance talk that the public is largely only familiar with Wernher von Braun’s successes with NASA and his well-publicised role in designing the massive Saturn V rockets, as well as the total success of the Titan II rockets used to carry Gemini capsules into orbit, but preparing the Redstone for the Mercury program was initially a challenging one. The Redstone rocket used in Mercury-Redstone 1 only managed to lift the capsule four inches off the ground, and von Braun insisted that all rockets must be proven safe before any manned flight could be attempted, delaying the American’s ability to conduct manned flights. However, once his rockets proved themselves, things picked up considerably.

  • If Comic Girls were to be a documentary, and we substituted out Kaoruko for von Braun, then the series would follow von Braun’s time between 1946 and 1961 as he developed the Redstone. Of course, no discussion of the Space Race would be complete without Sergei Korolev, the Soviet rocket engineer and designer. In Comic Girls, there is not such an equivalent, and while Kaoruko occasionally becomes envious of her friends’ successes, such as when Koyume becomes serialised. However, Kaoruko pushes forwards even when her own future is in doubt, and for all of her other shortcomings, some of which are merely in her eyes, Kaoruko’s persistence is her greatest strength.

  • Koyume’s weight becomes something of a concern for her: Koyume is rarely seen without something sweet in hand, and her liking for all things sugary is tied with her creative ability. Some folks assert that they must have sugar in order to operate, and there is some truth in this – the brain is the most energy-consuming organ in the body, and natural sugars are very easily broken down for cellular respiration. In moderation, these natural sugars provide a boost to neurological processes, improving memory, information retention and sharpness by providing energy needed for neurons to fire. However, high concentrations of sugar in the blood can reduce blood flow to the brain and lessen its performance. The lesson here should be a familiar one: moderation is key.

  • While perhaps exaggerated, Koyume’s sugar withdrawal and attendant poor manga work is a plausible response to her quitting cold-turkey in an attempt to lose some weight. I digress from the main topic and mention that the term “serialisation” is thrown around very frequently in manga discussion. In literary terms, serialisation refers to continuous instalments of a story published to sequential volumes of a periodical publication. A manga that is published monthly to Manga Time Kirara, every month, telling a progressing story, is serialised. This is a world apart from the serialisation that a very large part of my work involves: this is the process by which data is converted into different forms for storage, for access in memory and so it can be transmitted. A typical workflow might take the form of capturing JSON data from a REST call, parsing that JSON and turning it into objects so that my programs can operate on this data, then converting these objects back into a JSON or dictionary so I can use another REST call to store the data remotely.

  • When Tsubasa’s sketchbook, containing her manuscript, is lost, the other girls work hard to help her find it. Searching through the school, top to bottom, without any results is disheartening, and at one point, Tsubasa considers throwing the towel in, but continues with her friends’ support.

  • It turns out that Miharu was once into making yaoi manga. She visits the dormitory alongside Mayu, who learns of how determined Kaoruko is towards working on a submission that will be accepted. Audiences will immediately note that yaoi content is nonexistent on this blog, and that anything of this genre is something that I will not watch or discuss. This is strictly a matter of personal preference: there are plenty of other blogs and sites out there that deal in these matters, so it should not be the end of the world when I’m not interested in writing about something that does not work for me.

  • Ultimately, it is Suzu who finds Tsubasa’s missing manuscript. She looks a world apart from her usual, ghostly self at school, and is actually quite pleasant on the eyes without her usual tendencies towards scaring the living daylights out of everyone. Viewers were shocked to learn that this is the difference between Suzu’s appearance at the dormitory and at school.

  • When the Christmas season rolls around, Ruki becomes jealous of her own fictional characters, who are able to share intimacy while she is single. The thought is persuasive enough for her to duck under the covers, which is an absolutely adorable reaction. I understand this pain rather well, and consequently, when Comic Girls presented a solution for Ruki, I found myself impressed.

  • Seeing Ruki’s melancholy prompts Tsubasa and the others to throw her a surprise birthday party: showing that they care for her and providing much-needed company is what Ruki needs to regroup. Spending time with friends and celebrating the present is a legitimate and effective way of warding off the melancholy that can permeate one’s mind if their thoughts strayed towards the loneliness of being single. This is why friendship is such a substantial component of many series: social interaction and companionship go hand-in-hand with our evolution, so we are biologically hard-wired to want to be with others. Thus, even if one is single, having good company can still be sufficient for one to remain mentally strong.

  • Like Amanchu! AdvanceComic Girls takes viewers through the New Year, where the girls pray for success in the upcoming year. Over the course of the winter break, the other girls learn that Tsubasa hails from a wealthy family, but in spite of this, wishes to walk away from a lifestyle she considers stifling in favour of her own pursuits. This was introduced very late into the series and was a bit of a surprise.

  • When the time comes to burn old storyboards, Kaoruko is reluctant to see the others’ work be destroyed, but soon accepts this and brings out her rejected work to act as fuel for the fire: the others remark that this is a sign of Kaoruko’s persistence. The resulting fire is used to roast yams that the girls enjoy. For me, the most common way of enjoying yams are either through yam fries or my personal favourite: 番薯糖水 (jyutping faan1 syu4 tong4 seoi2). Made with yams, rock sugar and ginger, it is delicious. My favourite incarnation of sweet yam soup is made with purple yams (D. alata), which results in a sweet soup looking like grape juice. One practical joke one could employ with this is deceiving one’s friends into thinking it were grape juice.

  • As the year draws to a close, the dormitory closes, requiring that the residents leave. There’s a bit of a finality to the end of Comic Girls, with the anime giving the sense that the girls are separating for good, but this turns out not to be the case. While we are on the topic of endings, June’s blazed by unexpectedly quickly, and we’re a mere four days from the month’s end. Even though June is ending, things outside of work have managed to somehow be more busy than things at work – The Division has reopened the Outbreak global event, which sees increased headshot damage. With my Predator’s Mark gear, I’m hitting for 2.2 million points of damage with my M700 Carbon, and although the GE caches aren’t too exciting, I am trying to work towards one of the event masks. Meanwhile, the Road to Battlefield V‘s second phase has begun, with three awards being available each week for scoring 30000 points. Between all of this, the fact that I was hoping for some downtime to play Go! Go! Nippon! in full, and the fact that it’s summer, it looks like the next while will entail my trying to work out just how to manage my free time outside.

  • The page quote is a Tom Clancy one, and it’s got a familiar message that Kaoruko certainly understands. Throughout Comic Girls, she is knocked down, but with her friends’ help, she continues to get back up and keep trying. Of course, reality sometimes is a little less unkind: for example, I simply lack the physicality and hand-eye coordination to play in the NHL, but with enough practise and good documentation, I could probably spin up my own REST endpoints. However, for the most part, if one has a modicum of talent in a field, then the rest of it is persistence and dedication.

  • In the finale, Kaoruko’s mother shows up, and while she initially embarrasses Kaoruko with some photos of Kaoruko as a child, she also reminds Kaoruko of how drawing was the one thing that reliably gave her motivation. Since then, Kaoruko has come a long way, and while she’d been struggling to work on the second part of her manga since her first part was accepted, her mother’s appearance, and her friends’ encouragement gives her the motivation to create something worthwhile. The end result is a product that impresses Mayu, who counts it as Kaoruko’s best work yet.

  • I note that my reception of Comic Girls is a bit cooler than the glowing reviews others have given it: while I liked Comic Girls, the series did not particularly click with me the same way that the top-tier Manga Time Kirara works have. This series has its moments, but I did not feel a particular draw towards watching it every week – halfway into the series, it became quite clear as to where things were headed, and so, I chose not to write about Comic Girls with the same frequency that I have for Yuru Camp△ or Slow Start. Nothing about the journey kept me guessing, so it would have been difficult to consistently find something interesting to say, or speculate, about Comic Girls.

  • All told, Comic Girls scores a B grade in my books: this is equivalent to a 7.5 of ten. Middle-of-the-road in every way, Comic Girls was a relaxing watch that brings nothing particularly new to the table. It’s worth watching for anyone who is familiar with Manga Time Kirara adaptations, but beyond this, won’t astound or impress for being novel. This is perfectly fine: I don’t expect every series to blow me away, and there’s nothing wrong with another take on a familiar concept. With this, the only remaining series left to write about is Sword Art Online Alternative, and then we’re off to the summer anime season, where I will be working on episodic reviews for Harukana Receive.

Overall, Comic Girls presents a message that is relatable and relevant. While the journey it took to reach this point is nothing novel, and meanders somewhat, the characters appear to have grown very subtly since Comic Girls began. This is most visible in Kaoruko – while she remains quite prone to tears and fits of self-depreciation, she’s also learned to pick up herself and has awareness of what works for her as a manga artist. The focus of Comic Girls is largely on Kaoruko’s growth; Koyume, Ruki and Tsubasa remain as they did when introduced in Comic Girls, acting as static characters that provide a reference point. Beyond this, a large part of Comic Girls‘ progression is rooted in familiar jokes and presentation which, while smoothly presented, offers very little to make it stand out from other Manga Time Kirara series. Similarly, repetition of some things, especially Suzu’s onryō-like presence and Kaoruko’s tendency to dissolve into a blubbering mess when faced with adversity, wears thin rapidly. Overall, Comic Girls is a middle-of-the-road series: there are limitations in this series that make less memorable, but otherwise, did not diminish my enjoyment of this series outright. Comic Girls earns a weak recommendation in that it’s got its moments and remains enjoyable for those enjoy series published to Manga Time Kirara, but general viewers would do better to pass over Comic Girls. As far as a continuation goes, it’s tricky to see what new territory could be explored; the manga is still ongoing, and I could see myself watching this series if a second season explored Koyume, Ruki, Tsubasa and Suzu’s interactions in greater depth to bring out sides of their character hitherto unseen.