The Infinite Zenith

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

Category Archives: Japanese Animation

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Your Lie in April, A Journey in Vanquishing Past Dæmons and Discovering the Colour of Love

“Maybe there’s only a dark road ahead. But you still have to believe and keep going. Believe that the stars will light your path, even a little bit. Come on, let’s go on a journey!” –Kaori Miyazono

After his mother died, child pianist Kōsei Arima withdrew from competition and consigned himself to an ordinary life with his best friends, Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryōta Watari. However, when he encounters Kaori Miyazono and her wild, free-spirited violin performance, his world is flipped outside down: despite claiming to have developed a crush on Ryōta, Kaori hauls Kōsei to be her accompanist. Kōsei’s skill at the piano had decayed, and he suffers from an inability to hear his playing, causing his performance to suffer, but the won’t-take-no Kaori continues to push and encourage him, even forcibly signing Kōsei up for a competition. Spurred by her boundless energy, Kōsei gradually realises that irrespective of what had happened in the past with his mother, her spirit endures within him, and that for all of the bad moments, there were an equivalent number of treasured moments, as well. Kōsei’s return to piano also inspires Takeshi Aiza and Emi Igawa to step their game up: after seeing Kōsei’s phenomenal performances years previously, both sought to surpass him and reach the standard that they believed Kōsei had set. While Kōsei continues to suffer, constant support from Kaori and Hiroko Seto (a renowned pianist and friend of Kōsei’s mother) allows Kōsei to rediscover his style and express his gratitude through his music. While he does not progress in the competition, Takeshi and Emi realise the extent that he’s matured. Kōsei later agrees to be Kaori’s accompanist again, but she falls ill, leaving Kōsei to perform on his own. Through an emotional performance, Kōsei comes to terms with his mother’s decisions and is able to cast off the spectre haunting him. However, Kaori’s illness begins taking its toll on her, and Kōsei struggles with his growing feelings for Kaori and fear for her well-being, while at once agreeing to mentor Takeshi’s younger sister in piano. Meanwhile, Tsubaki is forced to deal with her own feelings for Kōsei: she dates a senior to take her mind off things, but her mind never strays far from Kōsei. An ailing Kaori decides to accept a highly experimental surgical procedure, gambling her life with the hope of playing alongside Kōsei one last time, but the operation is unsuccessful. She dies on the same day that Kōsei is set to compete, and midway through the competition, Kaori’s spirit provides Kōsei with encouragement. He puts his fullest effort and feeling into this song as a farewell of sorts for Kaori, and in the aftermath, Kaori’s parents leave Kōsei with a letter that reflected on her heartfelt enjoyment of their time together, as well as how she had been in love after all this time. Tsubaki catches up to Kōsei and reminds him that he’s not alone, promising to be with him from here on out. This is Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, or Kimiuso for brevity), which was adapted from Naoshi Arakawa’s manga as an anime that ran from October 2014 to March 2015, and over the course of its twenty-two episode run, viewers found a series that was profoundly moving and meaningful.

Using music and Kōsei’s initial inability to perform with a piano, Your Lie in April integrates multiple themes into its story. There are two central elements that stand out: Your Lie in April‘s first half deals with the idea that the dæmons one faces are largely self-created. Moreover, these spectres can only be solved by oneself, but encouragement and support from others is absolutely critical in starting this particular journey. Time and time again, Your Lie in April presents Saki, Kōsei’s mother, as a cold and unforgiving parent determined to craft Kōsei into a flawless pianist in her own image, fulfilling her own wish of becoming a pianist where she suffered illness and being so focused on this objective that she is willing to physically punish Kōsei for any mistake. Kōsei subsequently grew to resent this and wished Saki to die; when Saki’s illness finally overtook her, Kōsei was devastated and held himself accountable, feeling that his ill-will ultimately cost Saki her life. The resulting trauma manifests as Kōsei’s inability to hear himself play. When Kaori appears and begins forcing Kōsei out of his comfort zone, Kōsei is made to confront his past dæmons. Your Lie in April portrays this as a gradual journey, one that is filled with pain: Kōsei initially succumbs to his guilt when playing the piano and loses his composure, but undeterred, Kaori pushes him forwards anyways. As he begins to appreciate Kaori’s actions and willingness to stay with him, Kōsei begins to play the piano with more conviction and resolve, putting his feelings for her into each keystroke. By taking up piano once more and rediscovering what music meant to him, Kōsei also comes to see his mother from a different perspective. It turns out that Saki was not as cold and unfeeling as viewers are originally led to believe: between learning more about “Love’s Sorrow” and speaking with Hiroko, Kōsei discovers that Saki had always intended for him to grow into being a pianist, demanding the best from him so his fundamentals were strong enough for him to develop his own style. Kōsei recalls that there were cherished memories, as well, and ultimately, is able to come to terms with both the good and bad. With his past no longer haunting him as a result of Kaori’s inspiration and his own decision to do something for her sake, Kōsei is able to overcome his dæmons and return as a pianist.

Entering Your Lie in April‘s second half, the leading theme switches over to how contrasting personalities play an integral role in changing one’s world views, to the extent that one cannot help but fall in love with the agent that catalyses this change. When Kōsei starts his journey to rediscover piano, his world is devoid of colour and joy. Kōsei is content to live life out without taking charge, but a fateful meeting with Kaori throws his world into disarray. The juxtapositions between Kōsei and Kaori’s manner are apparent: whereas he is quiet and low key, Kaori is brash and expressive. The fantastic energy that Kaori brings to the table, manifesting from her desire to live life as fully as possible, is infectious, and a reluctant Kōsei slowly comes to enjoy the joy she brings into his life, even when Kaori will happily thrash Kōsei for any slights, imagined or otherwise. Not a day goes by without some sort of excitement, and Kōsei begins realising that there are things in the world to live for and work towards. His improvement is mirrored in his ability as a pianist: the more time he spends with Kaori, the more he experiences happiness, which translates to playing the piano with more emotion and intensity. The right individual and the right level of persistence ultimately is what breaks Kōsei out of his rut, and ultimately causes Kōsei to fall in love with her. While most stories are content to end here, with the idea that opposites in personality are able to offer one with a different perspective and help them grow, Your Lie in April cruelly cuts things short with Kaori’s illness. This additional factor suggests that nothing is to be taken for granted: the time Kōsei spent with Kaori is priceless beyond measure. Despite being so fleeting, its impacts were very tangible and genuine, showing that true love can exist in all forms and durations. During the short time they spend together, Kaori is glad to have had met Kōsei, who similarly is grateful that someone with such wild abandon could remain in his company and help him into the next, more colourful chapter of his life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Your Lie in April was airing, I was busy with graduate studies and therefore did not have time to watch the series. While I’d heard nothing but praise for the series, a full schedule precluded any chance to watch it while it was airing. However, after I finished watching Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka??‘s second season, I noticed that many familiar names (Risa Taneda, Ayane Sakura, Inori Minase, Saori Hayami and Ai Kayano) were present in the cast. Between the positive reception and half of GochiUsa‘s cast, I entered Your Lie in April intending to enjoy seeing the characters in a different role than the happy-go-lucky world that is GochiUsa.

  • What happened next should not come as a surprise: I went through Your Lie in April, enjoyed it thoroughly and found that Kōsei’s experiences were superbly written, challenging my views on love and pushing me towards introspection. Your Lie in April is as much of a journey of self-discovery as it is about falling in love, and openly gives the impression that both events are interconnected, dependent on the other. In other words, Kōsei falls in love with Kaori because she helps him accept his past, and his return to piano leads him to fall in love with Kaori.

  • Kaori is voiced by Risa Taneda (Rize Tedeza of GochiUsa and Aya Komichi of Kiniro Mosaic, to name a few). Here, Taneda presents Kaori as being superbly energetic, bold and rowdy, contrasting the shy, reserved manner of Rize and Aya. Kōsei is voiced by Natsuki Hanae, whom I know best for his roles in Nagi no Asukara as Hikari Sakishima and Aldnoah.Zero‘s very own Inaho Kaizuka. An all-star voice cast convinced me to check out Your Lie in April, but even just a few episodes in, it became apparent that Your Lie in April‘s cast was but one of its many strengths.

  • While I’ve opted to focus on Kōsei and Kaori for my own reflections, the supporting characters play a much greater role in giving weight to Kōsei and Kaori’s stories, far more than I’ve gone into detail in this post. Even early in the game, Kaori’s insistence on hanging with Kōsei suggests that she’s been longing to spend time with him, and while they get off to a rough start (with Kaori making her best effort to paste him into the ground with naught more than a recorder), Kaori’s positive energy means that Kōsei has little choice but to go along with her.

  • The artwork of Your Lie in April is of an exceptional quality: the anime was done by A-1 Pictures, who are known for their incredible series. Colours in Your Lie in April are especially vivid and like series before it, they often serve to tell the true story of how the characters are feeling in a given moment even when their dialogue is unclear or in contradiction with their feelings. Having been in the anime game for a shade over a decade now, I’ve come to count on visual metaphors in helping me read a moment – colour and lighting usually speaks volumes about things, being a typically reliable way of ascertaining how everyone is feeling in a given scene.

  • Particular detail is paid to concerts, with every key and cable of the piano animated as Kōsei performs on stage. His early performances are marred by a sense that he’s drowning in an ocean, and occasionally, the spectre of Saki appears to haunt him. Saki comes to represent Kōsei’s own guilt and regret: while Your Lie in April is no horror series, these manifestations are nonetheless terrifying in their own right and convey to viewers the horror and desolation that Kōsei experiences.

  • Kaori’s diving off a bridge into the river below is perhaps the most vivid demonstration of her free-spirited manner. I was originally intending to write about Your Lie in April during April, but a busy schedule precluded that. I’ve encountered considerable difficulty in putting a proper discussion of Your Lie in April together because this series had a very strong emotional impact and it was challenging to coherently explain what appeals make Your Lie in April a masterpiece.

  • While Kaori is ostensibly in love with Ryōta, Kōsei ends up spending a great deal of time with her as the two gear up for concerts and competitions. Kaori’s approach borders on the insane, and one of her most outrageous acts was to scatter sheet music in impossible quantities throughout locations that Kōsei frequents. However, in spite of all the fighting the two engage in, they also share quieter moments together, such as when they return to the school by night.

  • I’ve not featured too many moments in this reflection, but one of the aspects in Your Lie in April that stood out was the over-the-top degradation of facial features and animation at certain moments. These are deliberately utilised to convey a particular emotion, whether it be shock, frustration or even joy in a comedic context: of note is whenever Kaori believes Kōsei to be acting inappropriately, as seen in their first meeting. Like CLANNAD, the juxtaposition between comedy and tragedy is used to great effect in Your Lie in April, bringing the characters to life.

  • Takeshi and Emi are two accomplished pianists whose remarkable skill and devotion to piano can be traced back to being inspired by Kōsei’s playing. Both view Kōsei as a role model, and are also absolutely determined to best him, having failed time and time again previously, but when they encounter him and learn that he’s in no shape to compete, find themselves disappointed. As Your Lie in April progresses, their view of Kōsei shifts: he goes from being an unbeatable competitor to a fellow human being.

  • At his best, Kōsei is a masterful pianist known for his precision. Despite still being plagued by an inability to play all the way through, Kōsei’s recovery is marked by his resolve to continue performing, even if it means starting again from the beginning of a piece. I am no pianist, and my musical ability is nonexistent despite my having played the trumpet and clarinet back in middle school. As a result, I’ve opted not to discuss any of the technical elements behind the music in Your Lie in April: besides the area being outside the realm of my knowledge, the main messages in Your Lie in April are thankfully not dependent on musical theory.

  • The changes in Kōsei, and the resulting shift in the interactions he has with Takeshi and Emi are one of my favourite secondary stories in Your Lie in April, as they reinforce sense that Kōsei is maturing because of his time spent with Kaori. I recently watched the live-action adaptation of Your Lie in April and found it an equally enjoyable experience. With only the core narrative present, the live-action film is much more focused and concise, succeeding in delivering its emotional impact. I count the film to be a conference publication: short and succinct, while the anime is a thesis paper, with the time and space to explore more.

  • Where I live, there are no fireflies, but their symbolism is evident enough, representing illumination and gentle support in most cultures. In Japan, fireflies also signify love. After a competition, while Kōsei did not make the cut for stopping play, he spends time with Kaori and remarks that she was why he was able to regroup and continue in spite of himself. It’s a tender moment that indicates Kōsei’s feelings for Kaori.

  • Love’s Sorrow (Liebesleid) is the second part of Alt Wiener Tanzweisen, a series of three pieces written by Fritz Kreisler for violin and piano. While the exact date that Kreisler wrote them is not known, they were published in 1905. Saki enjoys Love’s Sorrow most of the three parts because of its transition from the minor to major key: I previously noted that I am no expert in music theory, but I do know enough to say that songs written in the minor key sound sad, while passages in the major key are happier. Thus, Love’s Sorrow can be seen as sorrow giving way to happiness.

  • Shown as an eyeless spectre up until now, it turns out that Saki had wanted the best for Kōsei and her resorting to physical punishment whenever Kōsei failed to play flawlessly stemmed from a desperation to see him realise the dreams that she could not. As time goes on, Saki’s illness worsens, and with it, comes the desire to see Kōsei play piano where she was unable to. However, when she was well, Saki genuinely loved Kōsei and the two have as many happy moments together as they did the more painful memories that Kōsei vividly recalls.

  • Understanding that he is drawn to Kaori, Kōsei agrees to be her accompanist for a performance. Even when Kaori falls ill, Kōsei takes to the stage and plays with his heart, delivering a moving performance that shows his acceptance of his past. His playing is sufficiently moving that he is asked to perform an encore despite the performance being centred around violins. With his past no longer an issue, the second half of Your Lie in April moves towards Kōsei and his growing feelings for Kaori, which are tempered by his fear of getting closer to her.

  • This fear comes from the fact that Kaori suffers from a terminal illness of unknown nature: she was unable to make the performance earlier because she’d collapsed, and the illness is likely fatal. Hence, Kōsei worries that if he allows himself to fall in love with her, the inevitability of Kaori’s death would leave him hurt. Kōsei thus occasionally fails to visit Kaori unless otherwise hauled in, drowning himself in piano once more.

  • Tsubaki is a central character in Your Lie in April, and while I’ve not mentioned her much, she is Kōsei’s neighbour and has known him since their childhood. Tsubaki is constantly feeling conflicted: Kōsei rediscovering his love for piano also means his falling in love with Kaori. While Tsubaki wants Kōsei to be happy, she’s been in love with him for a long time, and fears that he may forget about her in the process. Ayane Sakura voices Tsubaki, with the inevitable result that Tsubaki sounds identical to GochiUsa‘s Cocoa and VividRed Operation‘s Akane.

  • Nagi, Takeshi’s younger sister, also comes into focus during Your Lie in April‘s second half: after a chance encounter with Kōsei, she reveals some skill with the piano and attempts to get Hiroko to become her instructor so that she might keep an eye on Kōsei. Hiroko instead assigns Kōsei to instruct Nagi, wherein he begins picking apart her playing, and while Nagi is initially resentful towards Kōsei, she comes to see him as a proper mentor and develops a crush on him in time, as well.

  • Your Lie in April‘s use of colour is exceptional, but nowhere is the choice of palette more apparent than with Kaori’s hair – ever since her hospitalisation, her normally golden hair takes on a faded shade of yellow, indicating that she’s unwell. It’s a very visceral reminder that Kaori’s time is limited, but in spite of this, her spirits remain: she surprises him with a visit to their school. While Kōsei seems to be headed down the route of the oblivious protagonist, the carefully-tuned writing in Your Lie in April makes it clear that Kōsei’s heart lies only with Kaori, and ultimately, budding feelings elsewhere never take away from the central story in the series.

  • As it turns out, Nagi picked up the piano to impress Takeshi, and it is here that Kōsei openly admits that he is in love with Kaori. The progression of love in Your Lie in April is rather different than that seen in CLANNADAngel Beats! and Tora Dora!, series that I’ve found myself thoroughly impressed with for their genuine portrayal of how people come to fall in love. They’re a rather different beast than romantic comedies, which chronicle the mishaps and chaos that surround falling in love. Of course, I am open to both approaches, but the more natural-feeling love stories invariably have a much greater emotional payoff when I watch them.

  • The realisation that Kōsei is actually quite similar to her leads Nagi to develop nascent feelings for him, as well. This particular aspect was absent from the film, and I imagine that it’s meant to show audiences that Kōsei has a great deal of impact on those around him. Truthfully, Your Lie in April has enough moving parts so that writing about this series in an episodic manner would be warranted, as there’s a great deal going on; because of the complexity in Your Lie in April, this post has not covered every noteworthy matter that is relevant to the anime. Similarly, forty screenshots is actually an inadequate amount of space to cover every scene or moment that holds a high emotional impact.

  • While Kōsei is instructing Nagi and asks to perform with her in a school festival, Tsubaki struggles with her feelings for Kōsei. Having done her utmost to stem them, these feelings have only strengthened. The fellow she was dating notices this and decides to break up, feeling it unfair to himself, Tsubaki and Kōsei to continue what was essentially a sham. Tsubaki’s best friend, Nao, has been looking after her during this time and offers advice. While seemingly knowledgeable in the realm of relationships, like myself, Nao’s understanding of relationships is entirely theoretical.

  • The song that Nagi and Kōsei perform is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s piano arrange of the Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, a four-handed piece that requires two players simultaneously. During their performance, Nagi senses the emotional intensity of Kōsei’s playing and attempts to match his performance, resulting in a thoroughly impressed audience. Takeshi is moved, as well, and demands to face off against him one day in competition.

  • Towards the end of Your Lie in April, the buildup that resulted from the earlier arcs and episodes create a sense of connection between viewers and the characters: having taken the time to develop everyone’s stories gives every individual a raison d’être that gives audience members reason to root for and care about them. The moments of comedy and friendship come together to create individuals that are lifelike. Thus, entering Your Lie in April‘s endgame means that viewers must now confront the harsh reality that Kaori is not going to recover.

  • In spite of this, Kaori is in sufficient condition to compliment Kōsei’s playing and remarks that his actions have inspired her to take up music again. She reveals that she’s agreed to a highly experimental operation that may extend her life expectancy long enough for her to play alongside Kōsei once more. The framing provides a subtle hint as to how things will turn out: Kōsei and Kaori are in the distance, foreshadowing the reduced probability of a successful operation. The odds notwithstanding, Kaori feels that a chance of hope is better than no hope, and she elects to go forward with it.

  • It is not difficult to imagine that under different circumstances, Kōsei could have ended up friends with Emi and Takeshi much earlier: as he plays piano increasingly for those around him rather than purely for the sake of playing, his heart opens up, and both Emi and Takeshi would’ve seen a human being behind the stoic and seemingly-distant pianist. While late in the making, the three get along as friendly rivals and fellow pianists would late in Your Lie in April.

  • Throughout Your Lie in April, Hiroko’s child, Koharu, can be seen accompanying her. Voiced by Inori Minase (GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu), Koharu deeply enjoys Kōsei’s piano performances and is often seen clinging to Hiroko, being quite bewildered and amused by the events around her. Small children are rendered in a very distinct manner in Your Lie in April, and as CLANNAD had done so vividly with Ushio, Your Lie in April similarly captures the innocence and wonder that children have of the world. Minase does a spectacular job of playing Koharu, adding to her impressive repertoire as a voice actress.

  • Kaori is such a memorable and distinct character that when I saw the initial trailers for Violet Evergarden, I identified Violet as Kaori to one of my friends by mistake. Because Your Lie in April carries the distinction of creating such noteworthy characters and giving viewers reason to root for them, as well as for covering themes of love, recovery and discovery with a masterful balance of breadth and depth. Because of this, the series was able to appeal to a very wide range of audiences, and the only real criticism I have to level at Your Lie in April is that the first half proceeds a bit more slowly, before things accelerate wildly towards the end. This is a very minor complaint, as it does not diminish the impact that the series ultimately has.

  • As the day of the competition nears, Kōsei fears that with Kaori’s imminent operation, playing the piano will be bound to the loss of two people he greatly cared for and loses the will to play. Kaori insists that he proceed, and when Kōsei is set to compete, he wonders if he can continue. Hearing Tsubaki sneeze in the crowd, Kōsei is reminded that for his losses, there will always be people in his corner, and regrouping, Kōsei begins to perform. His world fades away, and he becomes enveloped in his music, deciding to give this performance everything he’s got for the girl who’d given him so much.

  • At the same time as Kaori’s performance, Kaori’s operation is unsuccessful, and she dies. However, her spirit endures for a few moments: she plays alongside Kōsei and is able to appreciate his music one last time. The visual impact of the final performance is beyond words, creating a feeling of longing, hope and finality that brings Kōsei’s music to life, as well as making tangible his feelings for Kaori that would otherwise have been remarkably difficult to put into words.

  • As a series that utilises music to drive its characters forward, the soundtrack in Your Lie in April is unsurprisingly of a solid quality. From highly emotional vocal inset songs, to a varied collection of incidental pieces that capture the light-hearted and emotional moments in the series, each song in Your Lie in April serves a purpose. Of note are are the main themes and original songs that project a melancholy sense of longing.

  • Besides the soundtrack and vocal pieces, Your Lie in April also makes extensive use of classical pieces. From Beethoven, to Chopin, Kreisler and Tchaikovsky, classical piano music is also provided in a dedicated album. Folks with a background in classical music and musical theory will doubtlessly be able to tie the meaning of each song and draw on symbolism inherent in the music itself to appreciate what Kōsei is experiencing at a given time. For me, while I appreciate classical music, my background is not extensive, and therefore, I’m not able to make these connections quite so readily.

  • After Kaori dies, her parents give Kōsei the letter Kaori’s written for him. Even at its dénouement, Your Lie in April manages to hit viewers with another poignant moment. Viewers are already aware that Kaori had been in love with Kōsei, but hearing the contents of the letter was particularly rending. While mere words on paper, each character carries a weight to it that really emphasises the extent that Kaori had reciprocated Kōsei’s feelings. I was forcibly reminded of the letters I’ve received over the years and recall with a striking clarity forgotten promises of old. This is why it was so tricky for me to write for Your Lie in April: I did not wish to impose upon readers irrelevant recollections as I explored what made Your Lie in April work.

  • I’m not sure if this post can be considered to be hopelessly sentimental to the point of foolishness, but I do hope that I’ve been able to capture what made Your Lie in April so enjoyable for me, and also what aspects led it to change my world views on love, namely, that falling in love can compel individuals to rise above their problems in a spectacular fashion. It was through Your Lie in April that I appreciated why falling in love was akin to jumping into a colourful world from one that was previously monochrome, and also reminded me that for everything else I’ve done so far, my world is still very much monochrome.

  • As a child, Kaori had been so moved by Kōsei’s performance that she immediately wanted to drop piano and take up violin with the sole objective of being able to play alongside him. This scene was adorable, and A-1 Pictures flawlessly captures the excitement of a small child whose world was unequivocally moved. For all of the sorrow in Your Lie in April, there is also great joy, and it makes it very plain that Kōsei has done many things for those around him, even if he does not know it.

  • Kaori was thus overjoyed when she learnt that she was going to the same middle school as Kōsei, but wondered how to best approach him. She decided to re-imagine herself and then make a single lie with the goal of getting closer to Kōsei. I Want To Eat Your Pancreas is often compared to Your Lie in April, with the former being a streamlined version that does away with music in favour of purely focusing on the relationship between the two central characters. This is true to an extent, as the series even share a central theme, but Your Lie in April is much more comprehensive and utilises its secondary characters in a much greater capacity, as well as music itself to tell its story. At the end of the day, both series are enjoyable, and my verdict is that if an individual finds one enjoyable, the other will also be worthwhile.

  • The image of Kaori walking into the distance is a striking one: her remarks on life being a journey and that one should trust to hope is an uplifting way to approach the world. The gentle optimism of her words remind me of CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa, and while Kaori is rather more animated than Nagisa, the two ultimately share a great deal of similarities in being able to motivate a brooding male lead and help them come to terms with who they are, as well as embrace their respective futures.

  • It may seem cruel to say so, but Tsubaki’s unwavering feelings for Kōsei also indicate that, while there is indeed loss in life, there will always be people willing to provide support. Tsubaki had been present throughout Your Lie in April to support Kōsei in her own way, even when it meant risking losing him to Kaori. As it turns out, Tsubaki does make another attempt to make her feelings known to Kōsei, and his original desire to learn the piano was actually to cheer up Tsubaki when her grandmother died. It can therefore be reasoned that Kōsei and Tsubaki could find happiness together.

  • The photograph here shows that Tsubaki and Kaori had known one another for a long time, and Kōsei’s decision to frame this picture shows that he is able appreciate everything Kaori and Tsubaki have done for him. This brings my talk on Your Lie in April to a close, and I hope that this talk was of a satisfactory standard. This Your Lie in April is now in the books, marking the first time I’ve written with a dual-monitor setup. With a pair of monitors, I’ve cut the time it takes to make a post down by a third, and with this, I am shifting my attention next to Metro Exodus and HBO’s Chernobyl. It is not often I write about live actions, but the themes and subjects explored in Chernobyl hit very close to home and merit consideration.

Your Lie in April has many moving parts beyond Kōsei and Kaori; his exceptional skills as a pianist means that Kōsei’s acted as inspiration for Takeshi, Emi and Nagi. His gentle nature and longtime friendship with Tsubaki means that she also loves him dearly. The complexities of each character in Your Lie in April shows that for what Kōsei sees his world as, he ultimately is in a place where there are many people who care for and respect him. Being able to accept Kaori’s friendship means Kōsei is able to mature and open his eyes to the world that he previously ignored, allowing him to rediscover joy anew. These elements together transform Your Lie in April into a masterpiece that touches viewers. Giving Your Lie in April this particular honour was a relatively easy call, but what was not easy was summoning up the resolve to write this post: I finished Your Lie in April three years earlier, but the series touched upon matters of the heart, and long have I lacked the maturity and strength to write about this series without my thoughts straying back to my own inexperience. I admit that even now, writing this post was a challenge, but for thoroughly exploring the role that each of the secondary characters play without compromising the focus on Kōsei and Kaori, breathing life into their world through stunning visual metaphors (such as Kōsei’s feeling of drowning in an ocean of silence when he attempts to play the piano earlier on), the exceptional audio engineering that went into the series, heartfelt voice performances from the cast and a top-tier, emotional soundtrack, Your Lie in April represents a milestone series that illustrates how love can manifest and what miracles might occur as a result, a series that is definitely worth sharing. Watching Your Lie in April was a very emotionally-charged experience, and with the series covering such a wide range of ideas, well beyond what’s been discussed here, it is evident that there is something in this series for everyone, whether it be love, persistence, perspectives or even just the complexity of animation that went into the performances. With this in mind, I can confidently recommend Your Lie in April for all viewers irrespective of their backgrounds.

Ano Natsu de Matteru: Reflections on the Infinite Skies and Wistfulness of a Past Summer Day

“Summer break was about to start, one we’d never be able to forget. I’m sure everyone felt the same way. Happiness and sadness, even pain, all of it put together in one package. There’ll never be another one like it.”

Kaito Kirishima is a high school student who enjoys recording with an old 8mm video camera belonging to his late grandfather. While out filming one evening, he encounters a extraterrestrial craft that crash lands nearby. The next day, Ichika Takatsuki transfers into their school. Drawn in by her beauty, Kaito invites Ichika to join him and his friends, Tetsuro Ishigaki, Kanna Tanigawa and Mio Kitahara in a summer project. Ichika’s classmate, Remon Yamano also joins in. Under the long summer days, the group work on their film, which Remon claims will have the same quality as a Hollywood production with her helming the script, and also struggle to come to terms with their feelings: Kaiton begins falling in love with Ichika, and Kanna feels increasingly left behind. Meanwhile, Tetsuro also deals with his unreciprocated feelings for Kanna, while Mio longs to make her feelings for Tetsuro known. As the summer progresses, Ichika’s background as an extraterrestrial is revealed. Kaito and his friends have no issue with this, but Ichika protests that her people’s government have begun searching for her, and explains that she arrived on Earth to find an important location. With her time on Earth limited, Kaito and his friends, with help from Remon and her connections to government assets, aid Ichika in finding this location. She ultimately is retrieved by her people, leaving the others with an incomplete film. Some years later during graduation, Kaito, Tetsuro, Kanna and Mio reminisce about the past and watch the now-completed film, suggesting that Ichika had returned at some point to complete it. Airing during the January of 2012, Ano Natsu de Matteru (Waiting in the Summer) is counted as the spiritual successor to Please Teacher!, which was also written by Yōsuke Kuroda: it is therefore unsurprising that both works feature similar elements and themes surrounding adolescent relationships and how these impact a group of closely-knit friends both by bringing people closer together and further apart simultaneously, as well as making the most of a moment because of how transient and fleeting experiences can be.

While Ichika, Kaito, Tetsuro, Kanna and Mio’s dealing with their feelings forms the core of Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s conflict, and the sci-fi aspects add an additional dimension of intrigue to the dynamics between Ichika and the others, there is an oft-overlooked component in Ano Natsu de Matteru: similar to its predecessor, Please Teacher!, the anime is set in Nagano, a prefecture known for its mountains and beautiful landscapes. The vast verdant fields, distant mountains, towering clouds and endless blue skies capture the feeling of summer, of openness and opportunity of a long day, but also creates a sense of melancholy. Without the hustle and bustle of a city, or the excitement of a coastal town, the landscape of Nagano paints a simultaneous picture of possibility and of wistfulness. This unending desire, this longing to be with someone. These are unsurprisingly the very same feelings that are experienced during the nascent stage of a relationship, and the choice of a landscape allows Ano Natsu de Matteru to visually represent how each of the characters are feeling. Indeed, the beautiful weather offered by the summertime creates a natural inclination to explore and capitalise on what a long, warm day has to offer. Longing and wistfulness permeate the whole of Ano Natsu de Matteru, and when coupled with the impermanence of certain moments, really adds to the sense that falling in love is a matter of great happiness, as well as of sadness. The use of a landscape to augment the thematic elements is nothing new: Please Teacher! and Yosuga no Sora have both made deliberate use of their respective settings to create another avenue to explore what falling in love feels like. However, in taking after its predecessor, Please Teacher!, Ano Natsu de Matteru uses a rural setting to present longing, rather than loneliness and isolation as Yosuga no Sora had done. Whereas Yosuga no Sora‘s setting allowed the series to convey how lonely the couples were outside of one another, Ano Natsu de Matteru and Please Teacher! both use the long days of summer and a remote setting to present a more positive, if still somewhat melancholy outlook on falling in love.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This first screenshot sets the precedence for what the remainder of the screenshots of this summer-themed post will look like: I’ve chosen to only showcase moments with the endless blue skies of Nagano, and here are the principal characters: from left to right, we have Tetsuro, Kaito, Mio and Kanna. Their entry into the summer season is marked by a sense of longing and of new experiences, especially for Kaito, who encounters Ichika one evening while filming near a pond.

  • Ichika is Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s Mizuho Kazami: this time around, their age gap is much smaller, the concept of “Standstills” is absent, and the difficulties of concealing a marriage is replaced by a much more gentle awkwardness between Kaito and Ichika. Without distinct aspects in Ano Natsu de Matteru, the whole of the story is focused towards those feelings that arise in the summer as a result of long days spent together – compared to Please Teacher!Ano Natsu de Matteru is less comedic and more natural.

  • Four summers ago, I wrote about Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s OVA, which I found to be superbly enjoyable and also a trip down memory lane: this time around, we return to the original run of Ano Natsu de Matteru, which aired during the winter of 2012. During this time, I was in the throes of biochemistry, bioinformatics and cell and molecular biology: while I’d been watching Rinne no Lagrange, and held an interest in Ano Natsu de Matteru, my goal at the time was surviving all of my courses and ensuring I did not drop below satisfactory standing in any of them.

  • Thus, watching Ano Natsu de Matteru was something that ended up being deferred into the late spring and early summer, when I had finished the physics course I had taken to replace the course I’d withdrawn from earlier, and had also made substantial headway into studying for the MCAT. Looking back, it turns out there was a lot more than just CLANNADK-On! The Movie and various Discovery Channel programmes that kept me motivated: watching a host of anime and shows helped me to relax and regroup.

  • There is a beauty about the Japanese inaka (countryside) that is found nowhere else in the world, creating a sense of melancholy and yearning. This is captured especially well in Ano Natsu de Matteru, where the framing creates a sense of distance – the rest of the world seems far away, seemingly a part of the sky itself. This gives the impression of isolation as the characters work out their own feelings: everyone has their own experience with relationships, and the imagery suggests that in the end, it is up to the individuals to determine a solution.

  • While both Ichika and Kaito reciprocate the other’s feelings, an awkwardness surrounds the two that make it difficult for both to be honest and forward with their feelings. To compound things, Kanna also has feelings for Kaito, and Mio has feelings for Tetsuro. Remon, on the other hand, acts as the amused observer, pushing the characters ahead with wisdom that is clearly beyond her apparent age. Remon is the counterpart to Ichigo, who was similarly mature for her physical age as a result of her “Standstill”. Remon lacks any of these problems and ends up playing the role of facilitator, catalysing many of the events that bring Ichika and Kaito closer together.

  • Ever since I received my complimentary Oculus Quest, I’ve only made use of it to play Superhot VR and use Wander, the VR version of Google Street View. The latter has actually been remarkably fun to use, allowing me to truly immerse myself in another location in the comfort of my armchair: I am now able to visit locations such as the fields and valleys of Nagano simply by putting on a headset, forgoing the need to drop a considerable amount of coin and time for flights and accommodations. While VR has advanced in a big way, however, there is no substitute for the real experience, and Wander will not allow me to experience the wistfulness and melancholy of summer love.

  • Kaito ultimately decides to film a movie, which puts his videography skills to use while simultaneously bringing everyone together in such a way so that they spend more time around one another. Remon claims that she’s done work for George Lucas previously and therefore has the qualifications to write a script, which is surprisingly accurate with respect to Ichika’s status as an extraterrestrial. Her easygoing manner implies that she knows a lot more than she appears to, and she maintains a very calm, mischievous demeanour.

  • Kaito’s use of an 8mm video camera to film scenes for the movie creates a sense of nostalgia and timelessness in Ano Natsu de Matteru, rather similar to how Please Teacher! has a very timeless feel to it. A full seven-and-a-half years after its initial airing, Ano Natsu de Matteru still feels current. The absence of contemporary instruments like smartphones has no impact on the story, leaving viewers to focus purely on the relationship challenges and filming process.

  • Mizuho brought the biological terminal, Marie, with her in Please Teacher, and Ichika is similarly accompanied by Rinon, who serves a very similar purpose. Besides managing Ichika’s vessel, Rinon also can teleport Ichika to specific spots and remotely manage Ichika’s gear. While Kei worked hard to conceal Mizuho’s extraterrestrial origins, Kaito’s friends take Ichika’s background in stride once they learn about it, and do not appear too surprised at Rinon’s appearance.

  • While the plains and valleys of Nagano already project a summer atmosphere, the beach and ocean are noticeably absent: the nearest coast is around a hundred kilometres away as the mole digs. By a turn of fate, Tetsuro’s older sister acquires some tickets for a trip to Okinawa and suggests that he use them. Thus, Kaito and the others find themselves on the shores of a beach in Okinawa, enjoying the beautiful weather and beaches in a summer fashion.

  • While Kaito and the others are filming, they run into Kaori Kinoshita and Chiharu Arisawa: Kaori’s known Kaito since childhood, and is overjoyed to encounter him again after all this time. It turns out that she’d come on a trip to Okinawa to escape feeling of despair after she was rejected, seeking a change of scenery to help her forget. There’s definitely a sense of loneliness in Kaori’s story, and because she was not initially forwards with what happened, both Kanna and Ichika get the wrong impression.

  • Despite her own feelings, Kaori agrees to help Kaito and the others out with their movie, showing that at the end of the day, she’s still a kind person at heart. On the other hand, Chiharu is much more aggressive and immediately takes a liking to Tetsuro, who is put off by how forward she is. When he steps away to retrieve something from the cabin, Chiharu immediately confronts him and overpowers him. Intervention from Mio prevents anything from getting out of hand, but also reveals that she’s a nudist.

  • The misconceptions that everyone brings with them to Okinawa are washed away on the shores of the island’s warm, inviting beaches – Kaori and Ichika come into the open about how they feel, Ichika and Kaito sort out some doubts between them, and the conflict between Mio, Tetsuro and Chiharu are rectified after Tetsuro rejects Chiharu’s advances before reassuring Mio that there’s nothing wrong with her nudism. For Kaori, she remarks that while she went to Okinawa to escape from her troubles, it turns out that Chiharu’s heart was broken in the process, showing the tumultuous nature of romantic love.

  • As a result of what’s happened in Okinawa, it becomes clear that the distance between Kaito and Kanna widens, and Mio becomes more confident – having spent most of their time in a jacket, she boldly decides to discard her jacket on their last day on the beaches. One of the points about Ano Natsu de Matteru that I enjoyed thoroughly was that all of the characters proved to be relatable in their own way, showing just how complex and messy love can be.

  • After returning home from Okinawa, Ichika and Kaito draw closer. Remon’s been manipulating things behind the scenes and suggests that everyone visit a local summer festival together, where she’s got a “Test of Courage” planned out. These are common in anime, playing on the individuals’ fear of the dark to get closer to one another. While there is nothing to be feared from the darkness itself, there are dangers associated with running around the forests at night with naught more than a flashlight. It is here that Kanna realises the depth of Kaito’s feelings for Ichika, and where Ichika’s extraterrestrial origins are revealed to everyone.

  • This time of year is marked by the Heritage Day long weekend, and is one of the reasons why I’ve been able to get two posts out on the same day in previous years. This year, I spent the whole of the long weekend constructing new furniture, which includes a new wall unit for hanging onto clothes and a corner desk, which allow me to run a dual-monitor setup. A two-screen setup would have been superbly useful for my university and today, two screens simply increases my efficiency when it comes to blogging. I presently feel that dual monitors might be cool, but otherwise wouldn’t confer much of an advantage in my other tasks. I also spent most of today building a wardrobe closet to replace an ancient one that was falling apart.

  • With Ichika’s revelation, and the fact that the rescue probe was destroyed, Ichika worries that her time on earth will be cut short – her original goal was to find a special spot in her memories, and so, with the clock ticking, the pacing in Ano Natsu de Matteru amps up as the entire group strives to help Ichika complete her goal, while simultaneously finishing their movie before the inevitable moment where Ichika must leave the others.

  • As the drive to finish the movie and find the place in Ichika’s memories increases, so does the emotional intensity surrounding the relationships amongst everyone in the group. Kanna makes her feelings known to Kaito, who gently rejects her, and she in turn rejects Tetsuro. Both Tetsuro and Kanna demonstrate exemplary courage for being open and truthful about their feelings, believing it is better to at least have made an effort than to never attempted at all. Mio is devastated to know of Tetsuro’s feelings, but after his failed kokuhaku with Kanna, she consoles him in her own manner.

  • In relationships, hurt feelings and pain are often inevitable if multiple individuals are involved. Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s outcome is such that Kanna ends up with the short end of the stick: Mio and Tetsuro end up deciding to enter a relationship to see if things could work out, while Katio retains his feeling for Ichika, who reciprocates his feelings. One review I recall reading for Ano Natsu de Matteru, which was written shortly after the series’ finale, making the heartwarming wish that their readers will eventually find their own happiness, as well.

  • Because today is special, I have an inclination to also impart some wisdom that can only accompany the inevitable process of growing older. I feel that this happiness can extend to beyond just relationships, encompassing fulfilment with one’s station in life regarding career and health. A rejection, or several, is not the end of the world, and as much as I say this to my readers, I also say this for myself: there will always be another way. Happiness comes in many forms, and ultimately, a life spent making others happy, no matter what approach one takes, is a life well-spent.

  • After the distress signal is sent, Ichika’s older sister arrives on Earth and immediately sets about trying to bring Ichika back. As it turns out, Ichika’s people are highly evolved and regard humanity as being at a level of technology sufficiently low as to not warrant intervention. Given their ability for FTL and teleportation, it stands to reason that Ichika’s people are at least as advanced as Halo‘s Forerunners.

  • While content to simply manipulate things from behind the scenes, Remon comes out to help Ichika and the others once the extraterrestrials show up. As it turns out, she’s a member of the Men In Black (whose membership also include Will Smith, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson), an organisation that specialises in dealing with extraterrestrials. They possess a range of high-tech equipment that seem moderately effective against the droids that Ichika’s people send to retrieve her.

  • With the feelings between Ichika and Kaito apparent, and remaining conflict between Kanna and Ichika resolved, the final segments of Ano Natsu de Matteru deal with the rush to locate the spot Ichika was originally looking for. The science fiction elements come to play here: having been subtly present throughout the series, space aliens and technology exceeding that of human comprehension are openly employed here to create a memorable climax.

  • For folks wondering, I have indeed finished Please Teacher! by now: having been intrigued by Ano Natsu de Matteru, I decided to check it out. The similarities are very visible, although the latter is much gentler in mood and features more humour than the former, which is more serious by comparison. Despite their similarities, the thematic aspects of Please Teacher! differ from those of Ano Natsu de Matteru, showing the importance of constantly moving forwards and making the most of the hand one is dealt, as well as how there are limits to persistence.

  • My original interest in Please Teacher! actually stemmed from the fact that Mizuho is voiced by Kikuko Inoue, who provided the voice to Ah! My Goddess‘ Belldandy. At the time, I was still relatively new to anime and was curious to know what other series Inoue appeared in. However, a combination of a busy schedule resulting from making the transition from high school to university meant that Please Teacher! fell to the back of my mind, and it was only with Ano Natsu de Matteru in conjunction with time that I managed to finish the series some seven years after I started.

  • Ultimately, Ichika and Kaito are able to reach the coordinates that the former had been searching for: it’s a tree by a nondescript pond bearing an ai ai kasa carved onto a tree. It turns out that the extraterrestrials had been to Earth previously and presumably found the spot worth remembering. In the present day, the extraterrestrials receive memories of this location, as well, and with this, Ichika is retrieved, parting ways with Kaito.

  • With Ichika gone, Remon transfers back to the Men In Black. She leaves Kaito, Tetsuro, Kanna and Mio with the incomplete film, but some time later, the group of friends decide to show the now-completed film at a school festival shortly before their graduation. The memories of a long-distant summer remain as vivid as though they’d happened yesterday, but the film’s completion indicates that Ichika was able to return again.

  • While I’ve been reiterating that wistfulness and yearning permeate Ano Natsu de Matteru, folks with more familiarity than myself have also described this series as nostalgic. They refer to the exploration of Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s thematic elements, which, while nothing innovative or novel, nonetheless comes across as being authentic, genuine and sincere. However, the timeless setting of Ano Natsu de Matteru also brings about a wish to revisit the older days, when things were simpler. In this sense, nostalgia is very much a part of Ano Natsu de Matteru.

I’d actually been meaning to write about Ano Natsu de Matteru for quite some time: a few summers ago, I wrote about the OVA, which was an epilogue of sorts for the series. When I picked Ano Natsu de Matteru up, it was the summer of 2012, a time when I was preoccupied with studying for the MCAT, and upon finishing the series, I found it an enjoyable coming-of-age story that showed how awkward love matures into something more full-fledged and meaningful through persistence. Ano Natsu de Matteru‘s setting contributed greatly towards accentuating the different emotions that each of Ichika, Kaito, Tetsuro, Kanna and Mio felt and correspondingly, the enjoyment factor. However, in addition to the setting, Ano Natsu de Matteru also possesses a cast of relatable characters whose actions and emotions are plausible, the appropriate dose of science fiction, a balance between the dramatic and comedic, and finally, excellent opening and ending songs that fully convey the different emotions that Ichika and the others experience throughout the series. Ray’s Sign captures a very Kotoko-like tenour akin to that seen in Please Teacher’s opening, which had a very upbeat but distant feel, while Mami Kawada’s In The Forest of The Sky and Yanagi Nagi’s Bedoro Moyo share a slower, more melancholy pacing. The similarities between Ano Natsu de Matteru and Please Teacher! resulted in my eventually checking out the latter, and I found a very similar series with its own unique merits when I finished: Ano Natsu de Matteru is much lighter in tone and can be seen as being more approachable. Overall, I credit Ano Natsu de Matteru with establishing my association of the summertime with the juxtaposition between exploration and longing: for the longest time, I struggled to put these thoughts into words, accounting for why I’ve not fully reviewed Ano Natsu de Matteru. With this in mind, I have no trouble recommending this series for viewers seeking a romance-comedy with a science fiction flair and hope that anyone who’s seen this, or are planning on seeing it, find (or found) it as enjoyable as I did.

Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? Review and Reflection After Three

“Wow. This is a real wake-up call for me. Okay, I’m gonna get a Bowflex. I’m gonna commit. I’m gonna get some dumbbells.”
“You know you can’t eat dumbbells, right?”

–Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon, The Avengers: Infinity War

When Hibiki Sakura’s best friend, Ayaka Uehara, comments on how she’s gained weight, Hibiki resolves to hit the gym, commit and lose some weight. She runs into classmate Akemi Soryuin, the beautiful and well-respected student council president at the gym. Despite Hibiki’s initial struggle to find the motivation to start, Akemi introduces her to Naruzo Machio, a coach at the gym who is exceptionally knowledgable about health and fitness. Drawn in by his charming personality, Hibiki consents to stick around and learns how to bench press and squat. Hibiki notices that her weight remains unchanged since joining a gym, but Naruzo assures her that working out increases muscle mass, which has a greater density than fat. As she’s sore from her workouts, Akemi takes Hibiki to the pool, where they do dynamic stretches together. Later, Hibiki and Ayaka share an afternoon of watching movies at Ayaka’s place, learning that Ayaka works at her family’s boxing studio. When the girls’ teacher, Satomi Tachibana, laments her weight gain, she signs up for a free trial at the very same gym that Hibiki and Akemi lift at. Naruzo introduces the girls to dumbell curls, and panics when Hibiki wonders about an unusual tan on Satomi. It turns out that she’s a well-known cosplayer but fears being found out from her students. This is where Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? (How Many Kilograms are the Dumbells you lift?, or, as I know it, “Do You Even Lift? The Anime”) is after three episodes, another hilarious addition to the summer lineup that deals with fitness in the form of weight lifting. As I’ve been casually lifting weights for almost a decade, the particulars that Hibiki experiences are fresh in my mind, and I definitely relate to the process she goes through in starting out.

Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? has insofar demonstrated a handful of techniques at the gym, and the series strength comes from a combination of being able to explain the function of each technique, what proper form looks like and presenting them in a hilarious context to engage the viewer. In spite of appearances, there is something to be learned from Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? by watching Naruzo demonstrate the techniques and their applicability. Nuances in lifting weights, such like engaging the core when doing a plank, ensuring one’s elbows are still when curling dumbbells and keeping one’s back tight when doing squats are all mentioned: besides ensuring one performs proper technique to maximise gains, form also is critical in avoiding injury. I’ve dealt with weight-lifting injuries before to my wrist from bad form, and the consequences are very noticeable, hence the utmost importance of form and why it is preferred that one lifts lighter weights to improve their technique. While not shying away from the details, Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? is ultimately a comedy: in this department, the anime also shines. Anyone who is familiar with fitness and weight lifting will find Hibiki’s journey relatable and amusing, feeling compelled to stick around and see how Hibiki comes to appreciate fitness as she becomes better trained and increasingly fit with her friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before we delve any further into Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru?, I note that if you have aversions to me talking about lifting weights in any capacity, now is an excellent time to stop reading: I’ve had a former reader outright block me on social media for talking excessively about weight lifting, and note that it was a very immature action. With that in mind, if talk surrounding fitness is not offensive, then we may begin exploring what Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? has accomplished after three episodes.

  • Akemi is enamoured with the prospect of lifting weights. She resembles Love Lab‘s Maki in appearance and manner, and initially is the one to ensnare a reluctant Hibiki into lifting weights; Hibiki only decides to hit the gym when her best friend, Ayaka, comments on her physique. Despite her seemingly depraved thoughts towards fitness and muscle mass, as indicated in this moment here, Akemi is a well-rounded individual with a genuine interest in hitting the gym.

  • Both Akemi and Hibiki develop crushes on trainer Naruzo on first sight. While one criticism of folk who go to the gym is that they’re merely there to check out members of the opposite sex, the reality is that when most people lift, they tend to focus on their own technique and then look at others to either gain a better idea of what good form looks like, or occasionally, gawk at how poor someone’s form is.

  • Naruzo starts Hibiki off on the bench press, an exercise designed to increase upper body strength by engaging everything from the shoulders and triceps, to forearms, pecs, and lats. Most people do start off with just the bar so they can get a feel for good form, and then advance on to a working weight they’re comfortable with. While the form in Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? is mostly correct, I take exception to Naruzo not getting a full range of motion from Hibiki: the bar is supposed to touch one’s lower pec lightly and come back up, and her elbows are flaring. Moreover, her feet don’t look engaged.

  • While Hibiki struggles with the bar, Akemi completes three sets of five with 25 pounds per side, for a total of 90 pounds. For someone of her weight class, this is equivalent to that of an intermediate lifter, which is nothing to sneeze at: I’m considered an intermediate lifter, as well, and I’m aim to step up my bench press. With this being said, I won’t disclose what my stats are: I will only note that I’m similar in height to Akemi and let the reader’s imagination do the rest.

  • I still remember the day after my first session at the gym: every square inch of my upper body was sore and immovable. These days, I recover quickly enough so that I can work out on two consecutive days without feeling too much pain from the previous day. One aspect of Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? that I’m fond of is how the caloric content of everything that Hibiki eats is displayed. She’s shown to have a voracious appetite and is constantly eating the equivalent of the food from the Stampede Midway.

  • By comparison, I eat like a ninja: I typically have a light continental breakfast and a glass of milk in the mornings, a sandwich and a banana in the afternoon, and then rice, vegetables and protein with water by evening. These are my usual eating habits, in conjunction with north of eight glasses of water per day. I loosen up on weekends, my so-called cheat days, but otherwise, maintain a fairly structured diet.

  • Thus, when things like the Calgary Stampede are in town, I can be a little more wild with my eating. Hibiki’s initial problem is that her goal was to lose weight by means of dieting, but I argue that losing weight actually isn’t an effective fitness plan, since the body tends to have a weight it’s comfortable at being around. By comparison, routine exercise with the goal of maintaining fitness is helpful: while one’s weight might not change, increasing muscle mass and respiratory efficiency will make one feel better.

  • Half-squats are the next item shown in Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru?, with Akemi demonstrating the correct form. There’s an ongoing debate about half-squats and full-squats as to which one is more effective: I do full squats, bringing my glutes low to the ground. With this in mind, the half-squat is good for folks who are starting out and aiming to get a feel for the technique; full squats can be more dangerous because they put more pressure on the knees.

  • The lateral pulldown engages the trapezius and biceps, as well as the infraspinatus muscles. It’s a good exercise for the shoulders and back, which is important for folks like myself, who spend insane amounts of time at a desk. I also do the dumbbell chest fly to exercise my deltoids for similar reasons: my shoulder invariably hunch forwards while at a desk, even though I aim to maintain good posture and stand up every hour, so to keep things from affecting my posture, these exercises can help.

  • Hibiki is meant to represent those of us who are starting out on the journey of fitness, and rather than laughing at her, I completely relate to how she felt when starting out. With this being said, some sites, such as Anime News Network, have immediately decried Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? for being a “body shaming” series. Such outlandish claims can only come through those who feel threatened by the notion of fitness, or the fact that fitness is a process that requires effort, being motivated by likely the same reasons that led one of my former readers and peer bloggers to block me.

  • While Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? is, like Sounan Desu Ka?, rife with opportunities to showcase some T & A, readers will have noticed that I’ve actually got very little of those moments here. I’ve also opted to skip the rather exaggerated portrayals of incredibly buff men, including Naruzo, primarily because a mere screenshot is not suited for the hilarity such scenes create: rather than present them here, I’ll leave it to readers to find out for themselves how incredibly amusing it is whenever Naruzo flexes.

  • It turns out that Ayaka is an instructor for her family’s boxing studio, and despite her disliking every second of boxing, she’s highly proficient at it. She introduces Hibiki to a few exercises that can be done without any special equipment, such as the dragon flag and planks. Even without access to a gym or specialised gear, it is possible to exercise the body in effective ways. One of the most treacherous exercises I know is called the Superman Flexion, where one lies on their abs with their arms outstretched, and then, keeping their arms straight, moves them back in a until they are touching one’s back. This is typically done holding weights, and after ten reps, I’m worn out.

  • Hibiki might appear unfit, but training has helped her out: she shows a hitherto unknown skill in delivering punching power comparable to that of Captain America’s as seen in The Avengers. While it would be fun to see more unexpected feats of strength from Hibiki, the punching bag seems to be the only one insofar.

  • Whereas Akemi and Hibiki run into their homeroom instructor at the gym, I’ve never run into any of my instructor at my university’s gym before. After a colleague remarks on her physique, she decides to hit the gym and use a free trial to lose some weight. Gym memberships are typically pricey, which was why I made full use of the university’s gym during my time as a student there. These days, I capitalise on the facilities available to me, and while perhaps not as extensive as the university’s gym, still provide more than enough equipment for me to utilise.

  • Like Hibiki and Akemi, instructor Satomi is drawn in by Naruzo’s charm. During their exercises, Naruzo instructs everyone on how to perform dumbbell curls, correctly noting that the elbows should not be moving when attempting the exercise and that heavier weights at the expense of form is not meaningful. Besides the standard curl, there’s also a diabolical rotating curl that places additional pressure on the biceps to develop them. Even with lighter weights, the move is a challenge.

  • It turns out that Satomi is a cosplayer in her spare time and worries about her figure for the reason that she longs to cosplay her favourite characters as faithfully as possible. My personal take on cosplay is that irrespective of one’s appearance, it’s the effort that goes into the costume that really counts. With this in mind, a lack of experience and willingness to commit the effort towards making a cool costume is why I’ve not gotten into cosplay to any extent: I would either cosplay as Street Fighter‘s Ryu or an SHD Agent from The Division if able.

  • The page quote is sourced from Avengers: Infinity War from a scene early in the film, after the Guardians of the Galaxy pick up Thor from the wreckage of the ship that carried the Asgardians away from Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok. When Gamora and Drax begin complimenting on Thor’s muscular arms, Peter Quill remarks he’s in good shape, only for the others to retort that he’s actually out of shape. Rocket’s remark that dumbbells can’t be eaten sounds like something that Ayaka might say to Hibiki, who is always seems to be one sandwich away from fat, but ever since she started working out, her fitness has definitely improved.

  • One aspect of Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? that I’ve not commented on is the artwork and style: while of a serviceable quality for the most part and featuring strong landscapes and interiors, Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? actually excels with its exaggerated funny faces. Like Naruzo’s impossible physique, such moments are best seen in person to have maximum effect. As such, I will continue to use screenshots of more ordinary moments in Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? once I return for the whole-series reflection.

  • Hibiki and Akemi remain quite unaware of Satomi’s hobby, instead being drawn by Naruzo’s bombastic and faithful representation of an anime character in-universe. With this post on Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? in the books, this brings my anime blogging for July to an end. I will be returning in September to write about both Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? and Sounan Desu Ka? after their respective finales air, and in the meantime, the only post left for this month is a special topics post. I might also pick up Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Nikai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki Desu Ka (“Do you Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?”, Okaa-san Online for brevity) to see what kind of depravity is presented and do a halfway-point talk for it in August.

Maintaining fitness in some way is something of utmost importance, giving rise to increased energy and resilience against injury and illness. However, the main reason why I began lifting weights when I began university was primarily because the facilities were there, and access was covered by my student fees. One of my friends was kind enough to introduce me to the basics, and over the years, I came to see weight lifting as a mode of stress relief. The physical and mental gains made the journey worth it – I’ve not particularly suited for being an athlete, but working out at the gym, running and doing martial arts means that even though I’m unlikely to have the physique of an athlete, I can still maintain decent enough fitness. As such, Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? ends up being very entertaining for me, and against criticisms that the series is meant to shame those without the same inclination towards fitness, I posit that Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? is first and foremost, a comedy about fitness and in particular, the exaggerations surrounding those who do weight training. I appreciate that fitness can be a sensitive topic for some, but the anime, if anything, should provide at least some inspiration for one to improve their fitness even if they do not wish to purchase a gym membership. Being instructive and refreshingly comical about the stereotypes and jokes surrounding weight training, Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? is certainly not offensive.

Sounan Desu ka? Review and Reflection After Three

“You sweat, you die” –Les Stroud

After a plane crash leaves high school students Homare Onishima, Asuka Suzumori, Mutsu Amatani and Shion Kujō stranded on a tropical island, the girls must survive while awaiting rescue. Fortunately, Homare has an extensive background in survival training: shortly after the crash, she uses a cell phone battery to distract a shark and gives the others a chance to escape to the island. The girls then figure out what to do for shelter, water and food with Homare’s skill set, coming to learn how to eat a cicada and forage for other foods, obtain water, determine what foods are edible and even create a shower to maintain a sense of normalcy while awaiting rescue. This is Sounan Desu ka? (Are We Stranded?, and a rather clever play on the phrase “Is this the case?”), a series that can truly lay claim to the title of Survivorman The Anime in that unlike Yuru Camp△, the main cast are fighting for their lives against the elements, making use of Homare’s uncommon knowledge of the land to survive while awaiting a rescue of some sort. The setup of Sounan Desu Ka? is an amalgamation of Survivorman‘s Plane crash (Temagami), South Pacific (Cook Islands) and Costa Rica (Osa Peninsula) episodes, where survival expert Les Stroud contends with a variety of difficult conditions and must make use of unique resources available in each location to survive: in Sounan Desu Ka?, the choice of a tropical island presents each of Homare, Asuka, Mutsu and Shion with unique challenges. Despite the warm weather and sunshine, tropical islands have their own challenges that make survival difficult, with the series utilising Homare’s experience to both keep everyone in reasonable condition and offer audiences insight on what one might do for survival.

Three episodes in, the focus of Sounan Desu Ka? have been on the bare essentials of shelter, water and food. Homare explains the importance of prioritising one’s actions based on their environment, suggesting that a shelter to keep one away from the elements is the first item on the list. In tropical environments, warm weather similarly means that Stroud often chooses to immediately construct a lean-to using whatever materials are available to him with the aim of keeping away from the hot tropical sun. Stroud typically does this on the second day, having spent the first day properly assessing his situation. Stroud emphasises having a methodical plan of action, since this both reduces panic and also gives the mind focus. While Sounan Desu Ka? does not have Homare explaining these aspects to viewers, her stoic personality is meant to indicate the sort of calm, mediated approaches one needs for survival. In most Survivorman episodes, Stroud is alone, but he notes that having people around offers additional benefits of support and task division, as well as additional challenges. Sounan Desu Ka? gives Homare three other high school students to look after: that she has kept everyone, even Asuka, in decent condition and decent spirits is a sign of her skill – moving forwards into Sounan Desu Ka?, one can reasonably assume that Asuka, Mutsu and Shion are in good hands as they learn more about survival as they await rescue.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When Sounan Desu Ka? opened in this fashion, I wondered whether or not the series would be one worth watching, but fortunately, these thoughts were short-lived. The premise means that there will be partial anatomy lessons here and there, and ultimately, I didn’t pick up Sounan Desu Ka? for the excitement factor. I’m a major Survivorman fan, and any anime that does anything with kawaii onanoko with survival will pique my interest.

  • Technically, the series opens with the girls introducing themselves to one another. From left to right, we have basketball star Asuka, survival expert Homare, the scholarly Mutsu and the wealthy Shion. These classmates are the only survivors of an air crash that leaves everyone stranded on the open ocean. Of everyone, I’m familiar with Homare’s voice actress, M.A.O., who played Yukina Shirakane of Kuromukuro, Hinako Note‘s Hinako Sakuragi and Kyō Goshōin from And you thought there is never a girl online?), and Mutsu’s voice actress, Kiyono Yasuno (Botan Kumegawa from Anne Happy and Megumi Kato of SaeKano).

  • Homare demonstrates one way to get water on the open ocean: by capturing fish, it’s possible to drink their fluids. This particular action is more akin to something that Bear Grylls might suggest, and truth be told, I’ve never been too fond of Man vs. Wild because its emphasis of style is unfeasible for most: Grylls himself is a former SAS Operator and athlete of above-average fitness. Conversely, Les Stroud’s style in Survivorman is always to play it safe, and even then, Stroud acknowledges that there are always risks in survival.

  • Overall, I prefer Survivorman because it offers the viewer with functional knowledge of how to survive, whether it be making use of common objects to rig a shelter or start a fire, whereas Man vs. Wild would not be particularly useful for situations like escaping an active volcano or eating random things raw. Back in Sounan Desu Ka?, Shion’s gratuitous pantsu shot may have discouraged me from continuing, but her adorable doggy-paddle brought me back into the realm of giving the series another shot.

  • The first time Les Stroud did an episode in the tropics was Costa Rica, where he starts out on a remote beach before making into his way into the jungle for extraction. Stroud commonly notes that despite the idyllic tropical conditions giving a sense of confidence, high temperatures can elevate the risk of dehydration, and weather in the tropics is variable, with sudden rainstorms being common. Finally, rats may exist on larger islands, bringing with them the ever-present threat of disease.

  • While folks may enjoy speculating on all matters yuri, I tend not to deal in these topics. Thus, instead of meandering on about subtext and what not, I’ll remark that there is no environment on Earth that is inherently “easy” to survive in. How “easy” survival is can sometimes boil down to luck, and indeed, the only reason why our ancestors could survive at all was because extended periods of time allowed them to work out patterns in the environment that tipped survival in their favour.

  • Because Mutsu is suffering from dehydration, Asuka and Homare have headed deeper into the island to search for a water source. Homare is correct in that larger islands might have a source of fresh water, and heads inland to find the source. Back on the beach, Shion finds a large coconut and assumes it to be filled with coconut milk, which could help Mutsu with her dehydration. However, the coconut turns out to be unusable, having decayed inside. Coconuts are edible throughout their lifecycle, with the greener, younger coconuts containing milk. Older coconuts have more flesh and meat to them, making them excellent sources of nutrients.

  • Asuka is prone to throwing tantrums at the challenges of survival, and it is only Homare’s cool head that allows everyone to live. Les Stroud commonly notes the importance of maintaining a cool head, and one can quickly imagine someone like Asuka as being a liability even where someone as Homare or Stroud is present. Homare is unable to find surface water but deduces that water may be available by digging into the soil, which is a trick that Stroud used in one of his episodes.

  • Back on the beach, the unexpected tropical rainfall I mentioned kicks in, providing Mutsu and Shion with some much needed water. Save for ground water and surface flows, rain is one of the best ways of getting fresh water, and typically, rainfalls are heavy enough so that one can get a substantial amount of water from each rainfall. While Homare has explored the option and chooses not to do so, desalinisation is also an option. Using a fire, plus a barrel with a well-sealed opening and a pipe, one can remove the salt from seawater and produce pure, warm water. This was seen in Stroud’s survival on Tiburón Island.

  • While the girls’ situation is dire, the bright lighting and frequent antics of Sounan Desu Ka? take away from the gravity of their situation. When Homare finds various items on the beach that might be edible, the others quickly take towards rock-paper-scissors to decide who eats what, even where Homare suggests that they simply divided everything amongst everyone. Having more characters inexperienced in survival would actually decrease Homare’s odds, but because this is an anime, the presence of others increases the comedic aspects of Sounan Desu Ka?.

  • Seaweed is quite edible when raw: Mutsu likens it to nori, and the reality is that seaweed is packed with nutrients and minerals. With a high fibre density, zinc and iron, seaweed is an incredibly healthy food, and Les Stroud makes extensive use of it during a survival series in Alaska. It’s the food that the girls are most familiar with, and Mutsu has no trouble downing it. Asuka curses her misfortune here.

  • Mutsu ends up with a sea urchin: despite their spiny exterior and inedible appearance, their ‘nads are actually edible raw and considered a delicacy in Japan, being served as uni. I have a fondness for seafood, and would not be adverse to trying sea urchin out: while I was not particularly fond of oysters a ways back, there’s actually a Cantonese variant of the dish that is very delicious, and I’ve since come around.

  • Sounan Desu Ka? evidently does spend the time in ensuring that Homare’s survival tricks are at least plausible, and in the case of eating cicidas, it turns out that they do in fact, taste like shrimp. With a high protein density, cicidas are supposed to be highly nutritious, as well: insects contain more protein per unit mass than cattle, chicken and pork, and when prepared properly, I don’t think I’d have any aversions to appearances so as long as it tasted good. Of course, unlike Homare, I’d rather cook things first, since this would reduce the odds of contracting any pathogens.

  • While Homare may not be filming herself and carrying around sixty pounds of camera gear every which way, looking after three novices is a difficult task in its own right. As evening sets in, Homare is visibly tired after a long day’s work, and of everyone, having the most experience, is able to fall asleep almost immediately and weather difficult times without complaint. As the stand-in for Les Stroud, Homare’s knowledge of survival is suggested to be sufficiently extensive so that had the girls been stranded in the Arctic Tundra, the Kalahari Desert, coastal Alaska, or the fjords of Norway, she’d be able to have everyone survive,

  • While hunting down wild edibles, Homare demonstrates to Asuka how to test if something is poisonous or not. The contact test is indeed a way to determine if something is a candidate for consumption, since any toxins will irritate the skin. When Asuka finds an Alocasia odora, she mistakes it for an edible tuber and is promptly proven wrong when the calcium oxalates immediately react with her skin in a hilarious manner.

  • Homare’s decision to build a shelter affords the girls with protection from the elements, and here, they take it easy: on his survival expeditions, Les Stroud typically occupies his time with crafting items to help better his chances of survival, but also will take breaks where appropriate, or if the weather proves to be too unfriendly for activity. One of the most important parts of survival is preserving energy where possible, since unnecessary expenditure can quickly deplete one’s energy reserves.

  • While we might laugh, Shion desire for a shower is actually a well-founded one: Stroud notes that anything that gives a sense of normalcy will improve one’s survival by bolstering morale, and so, when Shion longs for a shower, Homare builds her a makeshift one. I’ve never actually seen Stroud do anything of the sort before (I’m only caught up to season four), but he has taken baths in the ocean previously to clean up.

  • Coasts are teeming with wild edibles, and to help the girls find food, Homare decides to go looking around shallower waters for shellfish. Accompanying her is Mutsu, who’s been worried about not being helpful and decides to shed her skirt, wandering into the water to help Homare out. Fanservice is present in Sounan Desu Ka?, and I imagine that the choice for a warmer climate was deliberately so: had the girls been stranded in Norway, Alaska or Baffin Island, I’m certain that while the series could remain equally instructive and entertaining, there’d be no chance to show off some T n’ A.

  • Homare and Mutsu manage to find a large number of whelks and hermit crabs, deciding to bring them back for the others. While they seem a little blasé about choosing only the biggest shellfish to bring back (to ensure that an area isn’t picked dry and allowing populations to replenish) and don’t bother to see if a particular shellfish is safe for eating (by checking the water that comes out of them), Sounan Desu Ka? does come across as striking a balance between survival and comedy.

  • I’ll wrap this post up with a decidedly safe-for-work image of the girls enjoying shellfish around the fire. Homare uses a simple trick to light the fire, bringing to mind all of the times Les Stroud lights fires using various objects. One aspect of Sounan Desu Ka? that is noticeably absent is Stroud’s “Oohh yeah!” whenever he finds food, water or succeeds in lighting a fire, as well as his signature harmonica. In its place are the antics of high school girls. After three episodes, Sounan Desu Ka? is probably the closest we will get to Survivorman The Anime, and I look forwards to seeing what misadventures await everyone.

I’ve always had a fondness for Survivorman, as it showed a very pragmatic, practically-minded approach to survival. Rather than the exuberant and often-dangerous approaches that Bear Grylls takes in Man v. Wild, Les Stroud’s survival strategy is always about a combination of planning, knowledge and luck. He emphasises this point time and time again, stating that being able to make use of whatever is available on hand to make a bad situation better, or being in the right place at the right time, can improve one’s survival odds. Sounan Desu Ka?, despite its initial appearances, is channelling these aspects of Survivorman quite well: author Kentarō Okamoto evidently is an expert in survival, similar to Les Stroud, and presents his knowledge in a highly unique manner that makes survival more approachable, making use of the anime medium to emphasise certain things over others. For example, Stroud cites morale as being critical in survival, and while Homare never mentions this directly to viewers, the misadventures the girls go on give Sounan Desu Ka? a comedic feel, subtly implying that during survival situations, morale does need to be present to give people the will to live and be rescued. I look forwards to seeing what Sounan Desu Ka? has to present next to viewers; with at least nine more episodes left, more subtle elements of island survival could be explored, and each of Mutsu, Shion and Asuka will invariable come out of their experiences more appreciative of modern society, while Homare will doubtlessly leave the series with a deeper understanding of what friendship is.

Yama no Susume Season 3: Whole-series Review and a Full Recommendation

“Mountains are only a problem when they are bigger than you. You should develop yourself so much that you become bigger than the mountains you face.” ―Idowu Koyenikan

Hinata visits Ikebukuro on her own when Aoi is busy with work, finding herself lonely without Aoi’s presence. Meanwhile, Aoi manages to put her knowledge of cakes to practise and recommends a cake to Kokona’s mother, who is looking to buy something for Kokona. Later, because of communications challenges, Aoi ends up planning a trip to Gunma with Honoka, while Hinata plans a visit to Mount Akagi on the same day. While Hinata climbs up the steep trails of Mount Akagi with Kokona, Aoi and Honoka explore the shrines of Gunma before stopping by a hot springs. Hinata becomes increasingly jealous of Aoi when further miscommunications lead Aoi to spend time with Mio, Kasumi and Yuri in Ikebukuro, feeling Aoi is becoming more distant. Kasumi also comments on the changes in Aoi’s personality since she’d taken up mountain climbing and hopes that the confident Aoi will be able to spend more time with those around her. Kaede decides to invite everyone out to camp on a multi-day hike to Mount Mizugaki and Mount Kinpu after Yūka, but when Aoi and Kokona are nearly late, having spent the previous evening cooking for everyone, Hinata snaps and lectures Aoi for being late. She becomes distant from the others and while climbing ahead, injures her knee. On the second day, en route to Mount Kinpu, Hinata’s injury worsens, forcing her to abandon her climb. Aoi volunteers to stay behind and escort Hinata back to camp, while encouraging Kokona and Kaede to finish the ascent. Aoi reassures Hinata that she’ll always be best friends with her, and the two reconcile. Autumn begins giving way to winter, and Hinata’s birthday approaches. Aoi struggles to come up with a good gift for her, and accidentally reveals plans for Hinata’s surprise birthday party. When Aoi expresses worry that she doesn’t know Hinata all that well, Hinata reassures her that this is what being friends and spending time together is about. The two exchange secrets, and Aoi gifts Hinata a handbag for her birthday. This brings Yama no Susume 3 to a close, and with it, my journey reaches an end for the present. Like its predecessors, Yama no Susume 3 excels in covering different aspects of friendship, and with it, comes a very clear theme on both the good and bad that can come with change.

With its focus on a broad spectrum of events that can occur in friendship, as well as mountain climbing, Yama no Susume 3 seamlessly weaves together interpersonal discoveries with the joys and challenges of climbing a mountain. While the first half to the third season progressed at a breakneck speed, the second half puts the brakes on after Hinata’s worries and doubts begin manifesting. Aoi has slowly become more confident and outgoing over the course of Yama no Susume: from making herself heard to taking the initiative and realising her goals through a combination of persistence and determination, Aoi begins to feel more at ease in her surroundings, whether it be in a classroom with peers, or on a tricky mountain trail. She thus opens up and begins to take charge of a situation, making things happen, rather than passively allowing others to drive things. This new Aoi is a mark of her growth, and while positive, also leads Hinata to feel left behind. When Yama no Susume started, Hinata was evidently more outgoing and strong-armed Aoi into hiking with her, but with Aoi finding her own wings, Hinata fears that Aoi may leave her. This is a very natural worry, since Hinata has come to greatly treasure her friendship with Aoi since the two reunited. Worries manifests as hostility, and Hinata uncharacteristically snaps at Aoi, finding it difficult to express herself in an honest manner. However, on the slopes of Mount Kinpu, the combination of injury and Aoi’s understanding of things allows Hinata to reconcile. While this might be considered a magic of the slopes, the process comes as a consequence of Aoi’s growth: she’s now able to take stock of a situation, understand it and then honestly express how she feels about things. Being able to put things in the open help both Aoi and Hinata move ahead, strengthening their friendship further.

While life lessons come at the forefront of Yama no Susume 3, they are presented on the slopes of Akagi, Mizugaki and Kinpu: true to its core, Yama no Susume 3 includes some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the whole of Yama no Susume. From the stunning night view at the top of Tsukuba to the autumn foliage at Kinpu, Yama no Susume spared no expense in crafting a highly vivid, detailed presentation of the Japanese mountains. This is unsurprising, given that Yama no Susume has consistently presented mountain climbing and hiking with realism, and in a bit of a coincidence, I decided to take a hike yesterday to Chester Lake in Kananaskis Country, located a short ways from Calgary. The Chester Lake hike is characterised by a steep start that gives way to more level terrain that also yields a stunning view of Mount Chester, and is rated as a moderate hike that takes some four hours to complete, spanning a distance of 9.1 kilometres. After the ascent up the first third, the going became easier to the point where I managed to reach the lake within an hour and a half. We’d heard that there had been an adolescent grizzly bear on the north side of the trail near the lake, and many hikers had decided to give this bear his space. Sure enough, when we reached the top of the trail, there was indeed a bear here, minding his own business. We stopped briefly at lake, which had become rather quiet, and to a rocky area known as the Elephant Rock. After a brief lunch and climbing further, we reached the end of the trail at a remote pond and sat down for some granola bars before turning back for the trail head. Armed with plenty of water, the knowledge of pacing ourselves and good hiking shoes, this hike proved to be remarkably enjoyable, and as Aoi discovered during Yama no Susume 2, the descent back down the trail can be quite tiring. I’ve been a casual hiker for two years now, and are somewhat familiar with the ins and outs of hiking. To see Yama no Susume so faithfully represent these aspects is a very rewarding, indicating the series’ commitment to excellence and conveying its message effectively; by reproducing technical details around mountain climbing accurately, Yama no Susume convinces audiences that its portrayal of the events that Aoi and the others experience are very much real, augmenting the weight of each learning and discovery that Aoi and her friends encounter.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Aoi’s classmates notice her improved confidence when they visit the bakery that she works at, and during the course of her day, Aoi helps a little girl out when she buys a small slice of cake to gift to her mother to celebrate a new baby sister: the manager waives the taxes, remarking that the little girl’s spirit is most honourable and that a part of the joys of working is helping others to realise their wishes.

  • With the day drawing to an end, the bakery prepares to close, but a lady shows up, and the manager allows her in. Despite the lady’s selection being limited, Aoi works out something and helps her to pick out a cake for her daughter. It turns out that this lady is Kokona’s mother, and Kokona is thrilled to have a mountain-themed cake. Like the finale post for Yama no Susume 2, there’s a bit of ground to cover, and so, this talk on Yama no Susume 3 will be a ways longer than a standard post.

  • While Aoi is gaining confidence and spreading her wings, Hinata begins feeling a bit left behind when her efforts to invite Aoi and the others out fails. Despite having come so far, both Aoi and Hinata still feel doubtful in their friendship, expecting the other to try and engage the other. However, because both lack the initiative, their misunderstanding builds, and it takes a few episodes to sort this out – contrary to their (rather immature) perceptions of one another, both Aoi and Hinata are actually more independent than they otherwise let on. The gap between Aoi and Hinata here visually represents the distance that is developing between the two.

  • Aoi had previously spent time with Kokona when they two had hiked up the Hanno Alps together after running into one another on the trials, but Mount Akagi marks the first time that Hinata and Kokona have spent time together without Aoi or Kaede around. The mark of a solid slice-of-life series is having different subsets of the characters interacting with one another in a more personal setting, which allows for new dynamics to be shown. GochiUsa was an excellent example of how novel moments could be created by simply putting different characters together as pairs.

  • Aoi finally has a chance to visit Gunma, Honoka’s home. There’s a 110 kilometre distance separating Gunma and Hanno, but thanks to how the trains work, most rides take around three and a half hours. The visit is therefore a momentous moment, and while Honoka would’ve liked to show Hinata around, as well, only Aoi was available to make it. Despite this, Aoi enjoys exploring Gunma with Honoka, who shows her the various shrines of the area. After climbing a set of 365 steps, one for each day of the year, the two reach the gates of the Ikaho hot springs.

  • The hike up Mount Akagi is tougher than expected: both Kokona and Hinata struggle to make it to the top. However, amidst the overcast skies and colourful autumn foliage, the two make it, finding a spot to set down and take a breather before continuing to the summit. My typical strategy is to ease into a hike first, and then depending on the difficulty of the path, space out water breaks. Hiking is ultimately no different than lifting weights, and taking breaks at measured intervals is key to preventing fatigue.

  • While I’m generally fond of clear days and express my displeasure at overcast days, I find that during a hike, overcast weather is actually a blessing – exertion during a hike has very pronounced effects, and it can become somewhat uncomfortable on a hot day when the sun is baking down. However, the cooler weather and lack of direct sun on overcast days actually makes hikes more enjoyable, allowing one to stay slightly cooler.

  • Aoi displays a more adventurous side to her when she picks up a metal cup and samples some of the Ikaho Onsen‘s spring water. The water is rich in dissolved iron and therefore has a very distinct taste: the official site advises drinking this water after dinner, and avoiding tea and coffee because polyphenols, such as tannin, found in these beverages can inhibit iron uptake (iron is essential for blood production).

  • Aoi remains quite embarrassed to go into the onsen, and Honoka reveals that all of the constraints Aoi’s mentioned are not an issue at all. With little choice other than to go in, Aoi eventually relents and joins Honoka, finding an immensely relaxing experience. By being nudged out of her comfort zone, Aoi continues to grow as she explores new horizons and becomes acclimatised to things that once made her uncomfortable.

  • It suddenly strikes me that Aoi resembles GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto in appearances. Here, Honoka passes her a Gunma-chan towel: Gunma-chan is the prefecture’s mascot. Taking the form of a horse, Gunma-chan has been utilised by the prefecture government to promote the area. The prefecture’s name itself, 群馬 (jyutping kwan4 maa5) literally translates to “group of horses” and refers to the fact that the prefecture was an ancient place for horse breeding shortly after people arrived from the mainland.

  • While Kokona and Hinata might not have a relaxing soak in the onsen, they instead get to glory in a successful ascent to Mount Akagi. With a height of 1828 metres, the average hike up this mountain takes three hours, which is considered to be a dormant volcano. Akagi gave its name to the IJN Akagi, one of Japan’s aircraft carriers involved in the attack on Pearl Harbour and which was later sunk during the Battle of Midway.

  • At Mount Akagi’s summit, Kokona reveals that she’d prepared some cookies, scones and tea for their excursion. Hinata is genuinely impressed, and praises Kokona, who remarks that this is the joy of the effort. Bringing tea to the summit of Mount Akagi means that Kokona’s brought elements from K-On! into Yama no Susume, and here, a portable burner can be seen. Both Yama no Susume and Yuru Camp△ both showcase more elaborate setups for food options while hiking and camping: while most portable burners are used for heating up simple meals, I’ve also read about how a cast-iron pan and griddles can be used for some creative recipes while one is camping, as well. Midway through their tea, the sun breaks through the clouds and yields Crepuscular rays, creating a magical moment.

  • After the onsen, Honoka and Aoi head towards the Haruna Shrine, which is indeed a spirtual “power spot” that is said to have at least 1400 years of history. Its gods look after blessings and health, and it is located some 3.1 kilometres away from the Ikaho hot springs. While this ordinarily requires a 40 minute walk, Honoka’s older brother is on station to provide a ride: Honoka’s annoyance is quite visible, and it is perhaps a blessing that this car ride lasts only seven minutes. Once Aoi arrives, she makes a wish to successfully complete the Mount Fuji ascent.

  • Kokona and Hinata end up buying good luck charms for success on their future adventures. As their day comes to a close, they run into a film crew who is shooting a commercial spot with Gunma-chan. Kokona’s great love for all things Gunma-chan takes over, and she runs off to embrace Gunma-chan. The precise results are unclear, but one can reasonably work out that the film crew would have no trouble with someone like Kokona showing up unexpectedly.

  • While Hinata’s fear of being left behind have begun manifesting in subtle ways since Yama no Susume 3‘s second half, it becomes quite apparent on the train ride back home, when Aoi begins sharing photos with Kokona and seemingly leaves Hinata out of the conversation. This is unintentional on Aoi’s part – her budding confidence gives her more drive in being able to share her experiences with others, and upon hearing about how Aoi’s been doing fine with Honoka, wonders if she’s been replaced.

  • Later, after yet another miscommunication where Hinata had assumed she was going to the theatres with her family on Saturday rather than Sunday, she suddenly has a free day while Aoi hangs out with the same classmates from karaoke. They end up following a very similar itinerary as Hinata did, visiting the planetarium and sharing a long wait in line for crêpes. While Aoi’s come far in managing her acrophobia since Yama no Susume 2, she’s not completely past her fear of heights and also missed out on a few things.

  • One empathises with Hinata’s situation: when her scheduling falls through, she suddenly has no plans for the day and wanders the streets of Hanno, eventually running into Kaede and Yuuka. With Yuuka furiously pushing Kaede to study for her exams ahead of post-secondary admissions, Kaede’s presence throughout Yama no Susume 3 has been reduced. Here, Hinata wonders how Kaede and Yuuka get along so well; that their personalities clash and complement the other’s is what forms the strength of their friendship.

  • As Aoi’s day draws to a close, Kasumi reveals that she and the others had been in her class since middle school, but because Aoi had been so withdrawn, she never paid attention to those around her. After seeing the new Aoi, Kasumi yearns to strike up a proper friendship with Aoi and requests that Aoi should not forget anyone this time around. Realising this, Aoi accepts and promises to keep everyone in her mind.

  • Colouring is utilised in Yama no Susume to create atmosphere – subtle hints in the colour can speak volumes about how characters are feeling, and here, the washed out, desaturated hues suggest a sense of unease. Looking at anime from a more human perspective offers the most value, and while slice-of-life shows are often dismissed as being little more than “cute girls doing cute things”, a properly-structured slice-of-life show offers a suitable medium for showing a journey of how life lessons are discovered and learnt. This is why I personally approach such shows with the mindset of seeing how meaningful this journey is, and count elements like comedy as being secondary to one’s enjoyment.

  • Yuuka believes Kaede has made satisfactory progress with her studies and allows her a weekend to regroup, reasoning that letting Kaede rest will be beneficial. Kaede relishes the moment, and in a flourish, declares the liberty and limitless potential of not having to have her face in a book. Yama no Susume 3 is certainly not a comedy, and the joy in watching the series instead stems from watching the presentation of how one gets from point A to point B. With her (temporary) new-found freedom, Kaede suggests that everyone go on an overnight trip to Mount Mizugaki and Mount Kinpu.

  • The night before the group’s outing, Kokona and Aoi stay up preparing the ingredients for their evening meal. However, Aoi very nearly oversleeps, and when the alarm goes off, a desperate Kokona shoves Aoi out of bed to wake her. It’s a welcome surprise to Kokona’s character that was hitherto unexpected – despite her gentle disposition, Kokona is willing to do what is necessary to ensure that things work out.

  • On board the train, Hinata lambastes Aoi for being late. While the Hinata of old would have likely shrugged it off, her recent feelings of resentment and loneliness rushes out here. In spite of these feelings, Hinata does stay within the realm of the issue at hand, restricting her lecture to Aoi on punctuality before Kaede intervenes and says that Hinata’s point is clear. While Hinata’s actions are in keeping with how not to escalate a disagreement, not being able to get to the root of her troubles means that Hinata starts the adventure with a sullen heart.

  • Thus, while the scenery of Mount Mizugaki is beautiful, subtle use of camera angles show that even as Aoi, Kaede and Kokona enjoy their adventure, Hinata remains unhappy and is shown with her back towards the camera. As the girls ascend along the trails, these feelings mingle with the sense of majesty and wonder associated with mountain climbing.  Here, the distinct outcrops of Mount Mizugaki are visible: with a maximum elevation of 2230 metres, the hike along Mount Mizugaki takes roughly three hours and is said to be quite easy.

  • When the girls arrive at the top of Mount Mizugaki, the view is stunning. I’ve found that timing estimates for how long trails take to complete are typically on the more conservative side: during my hike out to Chester Lake, the estimated time to complete the entire in-and-out hike was five hours, indicating a two-hour hike to Chester Lake itself. However, we managed to reach the lake in the space of 90 minutes, and that was with periodic breaks along the trail. While there is joy in reaching the end of a trail, I find that a large part of the fun also comes from seeing things on the way up to the destination. In the end, we trekked a total of 13.5 kilometers with an elevation gain of around 400 metres.

  • In my case, it’s usually things like crystal-clear streams flowing down the side of the mountain and stunning views of unspoiled nature: for the most part, visitors to natural areas are very good about leaving naught more than footprints and taking naught more than photographs, so on the various hikes I’ve done, the most I’ve noticed about a human presence (beyond running into happy hikers on the trails) are the occasional footprint. Here, the girls stop at the summit of Mount Mizugaki to enjoy a tea. Again, everyone is in fine spirits save for Hinata, who’s now sustained a minor knee injury on the trails and is doing her best to conceal it for fear of ruining everyone else’s experience.

  • As evening sets in, Aoi, Kokona and Kaede admire the star-filled sky. This was the moment that Yama no Susume 3 opened with, and while Hinata’s absence is noticeable, viewers won’t think too much of it. However, with more context now, Hinata’s decision to not check out the stars is felt more significantly. I’ve noted previously that some anime under-represent light pollution, indicating that it is possible to see a night sky filled with stars and even the Milky Way itself. However, Yama no Susume 3 nails this detail correctly: at Mount Mizugaki and Mount Kinpu, the skies have a darkness of 21.67 mag./arc sec².  This corresponds with a Bortle scale 3, where magnitude 6.5 stars being visible and where the complex structures of the Milky Way can be seen.

  • The girls prepare to retire for the evening, and Aoi shares a tent with Kaede. The next morning, Aoi is paid back in full for being late when Kaede, who moves in her sleep, punches Aoi out. After breakfast, Kaede suggests that Hinata lead the group today, but Hinata’s injury soon becomes apparent as they ascend Mount Kinpu. The music takes on a more ominous tone akin to what is seen in Les Stroud’s Survivorman when Stroud describes a tricky situation. Stroud notes that being injured in the backcountry makes survival all the more difficult, and that out in the bush, one’s priority should always be to minimise exacerbating an injury further.

  • The beautiful scenery of the path leading up to Mount Kinpu does nothing to diminish the fact that she’s injured, and ultimately, Aoi volunteers to look after Hinata and walk her back down the trail to base camp while Kokona and Kaede push forwards. This singular action shows how Aoi’s matured now: taking a leaf from Kaede’s playbook, Aoi sets about ensuring the safety of her best friend and assures both Kaede and Kokona that things will be fine.

  • On the way back down the mountain, Aoi carries Hinata’s gear as well as her own. Watching Aoi take these measures to ensure Hinata’s injury does not worsen is the surest sign of her friendship with Hinata, indicating to audiences just how far Aoi’s come mentally and physically since Hinata invited her to scale Mount Tenran back during Yama no Susume. It is on the descent that Hinata finally is truthful to Aoi, explaining that she’d felt jealous and left behind ever since Aoi was not able to visit Mount Akagi with her.

  • While Hinata and Aoi may not be at the summit of Mount Kinpu, the cliff they choose to rest at still offers an incredible of the world below. Aoi reminds Hinata that no matter the circumstance, she’ll always regard Hinata as her dearest friend, reaffirming their friendship. Having reconciled with Aoi, Hinata’s spirits are restored, and even her knee injury seems to lessen as the two continue back down the mountain together. The mountains bring out the best in everyone, and one of Yama no Susume‘s long-standing themes across each of its seasons was how being made to square off against nature is an exercise that improves one’s character.

  • The strength of the themes in Yama no Susume are encouraging, inspiring, and for having compelled me to consider climbing Ha Ling Peak at some point in the future, Yama no Susume as a whole is counted as a masterpiece (A+, 4.0 of 4.0). Overall, Yama no Susume 3 similarly earns a perfect score for using mountain climbing as a highly visual, immersive metaphor for self-discovery. Like any journey in life, not every step of the way is easy, and there are some downright challenging moments that test Aoi and Hinata’s resolves. Like mountain climbing, there are peaks and valleys, ups and downs: what matters is being able to see the next peak, setting one’s sights on a goal, and knowing how to pick oneself up during times of difficulty.

  • At the time of writing, Ha Ling Peak is closed while crews maintain the trail, so when I’ll actually get around to doing so is unknown. The best I can manage for now will be to promise to climb it before Yama no Susume 4 is announced. Back in Yama no Susume 3, Aoi and Hinata welcome Kokona and Kaede back; the latter is utterly spent and totally content with having conquered yet another mountain: the rush of being tired post-hike is always a rewarding feeling to experience, and after completing Chester Lake, I note that while my legs and glutes are fine, my shoulders are feeling a little sore, indicating that when I train, I should definitely work on my shoulders more.

  • Yama no Susume 3 features no new incidental pieces: the soundtrack across all three seasons was released in July 2018, covering all of the instrumental music used throughout the series, including Omoide Present. Having had a chance to listen to the music more closely, my favourite track is 駆け出す思い (kakedasu omoi, or “feelings that rush out”), which is played at pivotal moments whenever Aoi makes a new discovery.

  • After packing up, Kaede, Kokona, Hinata and Aoi bid the mountain farewell. Like Yama no Susume 2, this is where my post would end, were it not for the fact that following the climactic climb, there is always a falling action episode that has very little to do with mountain climbing. It acts as a quiet, peaceful denouement to Yama no Susume and neatly wraps the series up. Overall, I found the presentation of Yama no Susume 3 to be appropriate: while some folks felt the rift between Aoi and Hinata to be unnecessary, the reality is that such moments are inevitable.

  • The inclusion of the feelings that Hinata experienced therefore makes Yama no Susume 3 more, not less, realistic. Saying that such problems have no place in Yama no Susume 3 is like saying Aoi should’ve made it up Mount Fuji in one go: to do so would completely eliminate the learnings that are gained through adversity, and diminish the strength of the themes. By the events of the final episode, everything’s been resolved, and things go back to Aoi being on the rocks as she struggles to determine what the best birthday gift for Hinata could be.

  • Hinata has known Aoi long enough to know when something’s off, so when Aoi seems unlike herself, Hinata manages to learn that Aoi’s been troubled by being unable to find what to give Hinata for her birthday. After sharing a laugh, Hinata explains that friendships are built over time, so it’s okay not to know everything about one’s friends, and that sharing time together to make these discoveries is what makes it worthwhile. This Hinata seems quite far removed from the surly, jealous Hinata seen in the past few episodes, and indicates that adolescents can demonstrate both great maturity and childishness as they skirt the gap between youth and adulthood.

  • In order to help Aoi along, Hinata suggests sharing secrets with one another that leave the other surprised. With Hinata’s revelation, Aoi finally decides on what to get Hinata for her birthday. This brings Yama no Susume 3 to an end, and during the credits, Hinata’s birthday party is shown, with Honoka doing a video call in owing to her distance. After enjoying the cake that Aoi’s bought and cooking from Hinata’s father, Hinata unboxes her gifts: a handbag from Aoi and makeup from her parents.

  • With this post, a journey that began in April comes to an end for the present: when I first began watching Yama no Susume, I remarked that this would be an excellent way to occupy the time while waiting for Yuru Camp△‘s second season to air. Three months later, it appears as though I’ll now be making use of Yuru Camp△‘s second season to wait for Yama no Susume‘s fourth season, which has no known release date. The only reason why I can be confident about a fourth season is because there remains Aoi’s promise to complete her conquest of Mount Fuji before high school ends.

  • This confidence is justified by the end card to Yama no Susume 3, whose text indicates an intent to eventually return. The use of footprints as exclamation marks is a particularly clever touch, and with all seasons of Yama no Susume in the books, it is a little saddening to learn that my journey comes to an end for the present. We are also nearly halfway through July now, and this July is a noteworthy one, being the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, as well as the fifth anniversary of the Giant Walkthrough Brain. While I have plans to write about Sounan Desu Ka? and Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru?, these special topics posts will take priority.

Yama no Susume 3‘s finale is similar to its predecessor, being set away from the slopes of a mountain. This time, the conflict stems from Aoi’s inability to pick a suitable gift for Hinata’s birthday. While Aoi may have grown from her experiences, she’s not infallible, and likewise, while Hinata’s insecurity can come across as being somewhat immature, Hinata also possesses a reasonable degree of maturity and insight. The dynamic between the two friends, where Aoi and Hinata both complement one another, allows both to be strong for one another. While the process of mountain climbing doubtlessly helps Aoi, that Aoi and Hinata both share their experiences together allow the two to grow and improve as people. Yama no Susume be about mountain climbing, and the requirements involved to appreciate the hobby, but its greatest strength is that it masterfully utilises mountain climbing as a metaphor for personal growth and moreover, presents this journey in a highly visceral, visual manner. The mountains become a secondary (but nonetheless majestic) backdrop for a trek that at its heart, is about how one’s experiences strengthen one’s resolve and broadens their horizons. Together with solid aural and visual elements, I deeply enjoyed Yama no Susume, and Yama no Susume 3 is a much-welcomed addition into the series. This is a series I can readily recommend to all viewers for its gentle but moving presentation of life lessons, with the mountains acting as a spectacular setting in which said life lessons are presented. With all three seasons in the books, I’ve now reached the end of the path, and thoughts invariably stray towards whether or not there will be a continuation. While a stage play was announced back in December 2018, news of a fourth season have not yet materialised. With this being said, Yama no Susume‘s manga is still ongoing, and moreover, with Hinata and Aoi’s friendship having come out of the third season all the stronger, the stage is set for Aoi to conquer Mount Fuji in a titanic act that represents both the distance she’s come, as well as the closeness between Aoi, Hinata, Kaede and Kokona. Once more volumes are produced, it is inevitable that a fourth season will be announced.