The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Japanese Animation

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Kan: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Keep learning; don’t be arrogant by assuming that you know it all, that you have a monopoly on the truth; always assume that you can learn something from someone else.” –Jack Welch

While reception to the prom is positive, Yukino’s mother and older sister object, saying such an event may speak poorly to their reputation as members of the PTO. Hachiman responds by creating a false event to divert attention from the prom in a bet with Yukino, since Yukino is determined to handle things on her own without Hachiman’s help. Preparations begin proceeding in earnest, and Yukino realises that Hachiman’s plan had worked, although he concedes, promising to fulfil one of her wishes, which includes helping Yui to realise her wishes. Yui comes to terms with her feelings for Hachiman and expresses a desire for the status quo to last a bit longer, and later, Hachiman speaks with Shizuka, who helps him to understand his own conflicted feelings about the Service Club: while it’s clear that he’s fallen in love with Yukino, he hesitates to act on his feelings, knowing that he’ll inevitably hurt Yui in the process. Shizuka encourages him to be more forwards, and entering the graduation prom, Hachiman does his best to help out. In the process, he shares a dance with Yui, and ultimately, the event is a success. However, lingering feelings of hollowness remain, and both Yukino and Hachiman find themselves unable to properly express themselves. Hachiman ends up organising a second event that Yukino’s mother and sister openly oppose. In spite of this, Hachiman presses forwards, and the event is successful, acting as a final part of sorts for Shizuka before she transfers to a different school. After the party draws to a close, Yukino confesses her feelings for Hachiman, and Yui comes to the service club with a request for them. This brings Oregairu‘s third season (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Kan, or Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru Climax) to a close, yielding the answers to a question that has remained in the viewers’ mind for five years. In its ending, Oregairu pushes Hachiman and Yukino into a future together, one where they will continue to support one another in their pursuit of happiness and fulfilment.

The outcome of Oregairu is par the course for what was expected of this series, which, true to its title, ended up being a romantic comedy of sorts – despite lacking the features of a conventional romance comedy, Oregairu‘s humour stems from the social ineptitude that Hachiman and Yukino demonstrate towards common, everyday situations. The roundabout solutions the pair take towards dealing with their tasks is ludicrous, unorthodox, and so, when it came time to turn inwards, there is a certain ridiculousness towards how they handle their feelings: the social awkwardness that each of Hachiman and Yukino create results in uncommonly complex situations that viewers cannot help but find amusing, bringing a certain life to their dynamic, and consequently, this is what drove Oregairu down a path of romance. By forcing the unlikely pair to work together, Shizuka helps Hachiman and Yukino to realise that they’re more alike than they’d imagined, complementing one another to solve the various problems their classmates face. In this way, cooperation fosters familiarity, and familiarity blossoms into romance. Across its three seasons, Oregairu suggests that it is the most primordial of emotions, that brings about change in people. For Hachiman, he comes to view youth in a different manner and sees the worth of socialising with others to make the most of his halcyon days – when Shizuka brings up his old essay following the last prom, Hachiman responds with embarrassment, saying he’s moved past that mode of thinking. Similarly, Yukino no longer holds herself above others, and spurred on by Hachiman (however indirectly), she strives to better herself and readily interacts with the people she once thought herself superior to. These changes organically occur over the course of three seasons, and culminate in one of the most long-awaited kokuhaku in a romance series: watching Yukino openly express her feelings for Hachiman represents the sum of the pair’s experiences together, being a rewarding and decisive conclusion to a relationship that was hinted at seven years earlier.

Hachiman and Yukino receive their happy ending, but this outcome also leaves Yui with the short end of the stick. Oregairu‘s third season forces Yui to come to terms with this: having spent the past two seasons taking her days at the Service Club for granted, Yui struggled to accept the possibility that Hachiman does not return her feelings. This was the final challenge that Oregairu had to deal with – Hachiman had become aware of this love triangle that had formed, and out of a desire to not hurt anyone’s feelings, deliberately chose to feign ignorance of Yukino and Yui’s feelings. By the third season, Yukino’s wish is for Hachiman to help ease Yui out of this pain, and although this does help Yui, she finds herself continually wishing the old status quo would keep going. In the end, once it becomes clear that Yukino would claim Hachiman, Yui decides to work hard in her own way and see what comes out of it. This is about as much closure for her story as one could hope for; dealing with unrequited feelings is an immeasurably difficult task, and writing for Yui would not have been an easy task. Having her accept what is, and doing her best to turn the tides while maintaining her friendship is to give Yui an optimistic ending, to make the most of what she has. The old Yui may have simply consigned herself to defeat, but the Service Club has also changed her to be more forward. The interactions between the Service Club’s members and their classmates, are written with the narrative in mind – the outcome of the story was intended to convey a particular message, and as such, anticipating how Oregairu would progress was always driven by what would help it to achieve a clear theme. However, because Oregairu brought concepts from sociology and pædatric psychology to the table, some individuals believed that real-world models would apply to Oregairu and attempted to discuss the perspective from a clinical or academic perspective. Consequently, discussions surrounding Oregairu can venture into the realm of the arcane. Unsurprisingly, these speculations proved incorrect, because rationale from these conversations failed to account for the fact that Oregairu is a work of fiction. Characters will act in a way that suits the story, rather than according to any outcomes described by psychological and social models. This is another reminder that while real-world disciplines might have some relevance in fiction, it is not always productive to set too much store in them, since stories unfold based on what the author’s intentions are, even if they contradict research findings.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last I wrote about Oregairu would’ve been precisely two months ago: as it turns out, my speculations turned out to be fairly close to the actual outcome. As Oregairu continued to push into the romance segment of its story, it was interesting to see how things would unfold – I’ve never been a wielder of the “predictable” criticism, since the outcomes in fiction are usually such that they facilitate the message a work intends to convey, and for Oregairu, it became evident that Yui was going to lose out to Yukino. In spite of this, what made the series worth watching was how things would proceed as a consequence of this destination.

  • When Yukino’s mother and Haruno appear to express their concerns about the prom, Hachiman seemingly finds himself out-manoeuvred. I’ve long found that while Hachiman seemingly has a grasp of what other people are thinking and can act accordingly, his methods fail when his opponent anticipates his next move; Hachiman’s limited understanding of social convention means that he has no suitable counter for when his bluff is called. To deal with the likes of Haruno and their mother, one would need to take a leaf from Lucius Fox’s playbook: the key to being a good negotiator is to listen, since talking reveals all of one’s cards to their opponent. During The Dark Knight, Reese approaches Fox with the goal of extorting him to keep Bruce Wayne’s identity secret, and while he had a solid negotiation strategy, he also framed his demands as a threat. Since Fox chose to listen to Reese, the ball was in Fox’s court, allowing him to propose a counteroffer that shuts down Reese.

  • The hardest part to watch in Oregairu is seeing the pain Yui experiences as she resigns herself to the inevitable: knowing something is coming does not diminish the sincerity or force of these emotions, and it becomes clear that as Oregairu wore on, Yui was forcing a smile for her friends’ sake. I personally felt that Yui was more suited for Hachiman given that her outgoing personality could complement Hachiman’s more introverted traits, but a handful of armchair psychologists have turned this into a rabbit hole of sorts, arguing that because it is not known whether or not Yui’s personality is genuine, the show may not present Yui as she actually is – in this case, it is unknowable as to whether or not such an outcome would work. However, because Oregairu is a fiction with an intended goal, attempting to fit a real world model here is folly, and I’ve largely avoided discussions about this series because they are cyclic, unproductive arguments about semantics.

  • Instead of opening with his demands, Reese would have found more success had he allowed silence to fill some of the gaps, and then follow that up with a solution in place of his demand. Advanced negotiation techniques are not in Hachiman’s playbook; Hachiman clearly is actively trying to adapt as he takes in information, rather than listening to the end before making a solution, and so, he resorts to his usual approach in order to sort out the prom: he suggests to Yukino that he will create a separate event in parallel to spur her on, all the while constructing an event of unrealistic parameters that will push the PTO to accept Yukino’s event on the basis that it is more reasonable by comparison.

  • To this end, Hachiman recruits some old faces: Yoshiteru Zaimokuza, Saika Totsuka and Saki Kawasaki. It’s been a while since I last saw them, and Hachiman had been involved in helping them out earlier. Divergent schedules mean that Saika and Saki decline Hachiman’s request, but Yoshiteru accepts, bringing a few of his friends to assist. Yoshiteru, while possessing traits that would be off-putting in reality, is a kind person at heart and respects Hachiman. For viewers, his bombastic personality means that he is seen as more of an amusing character, someone who brings a different vibe to Oregairu and lighten things up, as well as being a dependable source of help for Hachiman.

  • While the community will likely disagree, I find that Yui’s commitment and determination to help Hachiman see things through, as well as her general understanding of him, shows that her feelings and intents are as genuine as Yukino’s. It suddenly strikes me that Oregairu‘s lead characters are voiced by familiar names. Saori Hayami plays Yukino, and I know Hayami as Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain, Sawa Okita from Tari Tari and Yuzuki Shiraishi from A Place Further Than The Universe. Similarly, Nao Tōyama is Yui, and I know her best as Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō, as well as Yuru Camp△‘s very own Shimarin. Finally, Ayane Sakura voices Iroha: I’d recognise Cocoa’s voice from anywhere in the world. I’ve never noticed this before, but with this revelation, Oregairu suddenly feels like a fun all-star cast as Shimarin, Cocoa and Blue Mountain chill in a completely different setting, a world apart from the fluffy slice-of-life series I’m partial to.

  • In a hilarious turn of events, Hachiman is voiced by Takuya Eguchi, who plays YU-NO‘s Hideo Toyotomi. Back in Oregairu, despite being a sham event, Hachiman has his crew brainstorm ideas for a prom that could seem real enough to work, while simultaneously being outlandish enough as to be rejected. This is indeed a roundabout way of doing things, requiring additional effort to be expended. In a real-world setting, Hachiman’s method would be counterproductive, consuming time and manpower to implement. This is why conflict management and resolution exists; to deal with the disapproval that Yukino’s mother and Haruno express, meeting with the PTO and hearing them out would allow for the source of the issue to be addressed, and listening to said concerns would then allow one to negotiate to reach a compromise. It would require fewer resources and be faster to execute, but if Hachiman thought in these terms, we likely would have no show.

  • With the clock counting down before the prom, Hachiman decides to ask for help from Kaori Orimoto, with the intent of attaining mock support from another high school to give his plan credence; in the last season, he had helped their high school to some capacity, although their meetings were filled with corporate jargon. Here in the third season, Hachiman’s request turns into a freestyle showdown between himself and Tamanawa: I’ve not seen something this amusing since the days of the Auralnauts’ “Freestyle Bane”. While Hachiman holds his own, Tamanawa turns down the request. He ends up choosing another approach to help present the idea that his event could become a reality, by hosting a small photo shoot at the proposed venue.

  • One aspect that appears to have been lost amongst viewers is how Hachiman is able to recruit even Yumiko: in the earlier seasons, she regards Hachiman as little more than an inconsequential character who lives in a world far removed from her own. However, Hachiman’s actions with the Service Club has far reaching impacts on his classmates, and even Yumiko reluctantly acknowledges Hachiman: by the third season, she is seen lending a hand with the photoshoot. Subtle details like these speak volumes to the growth Hachiman has accrued over the past seasons, and even though it’s been a few years since I last watched this series, memories of what had happened earlier remain quite vivid.

  • Despite having limited resources, things begin progressing for Hachiman after Yoshiteru’s friends deploy a phoney prom website. This is the turning point for Hachiman – his gambit pays off, and the right people take notice, deciding that the original event would have been reasonable and feasible. At this point in time, I remark that in order to recall what had happened in earlier seasons, I resorted to use of Wikipedia and its episode summaries. However, each of the entries for the first and second season are potholed with links to sociology articles that are irrelevant or only tangentially related to the episode. It is apparent that the editors there have an inadequate knowledge of interpersonal relationships and social theory – Oregairu only uses these principals sparingly to set up the scenario for Hachiman to deal with, and knowing a few definitions won’t enhance one’s enjoyment of Oregairu in any way. Consequently,  I am tempted to register an account and remove all of those links myself, as well as simplifying all of the summaries so they do not reference things like “transparent persona” or “social judgement theory”.

  • While the interactions between Yukino, Hachiman and Yui are solid, I particularly dislike Haruno because she seems to bring that sort of mentality (i.e. that a substantial background in social theory and psychology is vital to the anime) with her. She posits that Yui, Hachiman and Yukino have formed a codependent relationship with one another. To avoid fancy undergraduate jargon, codependency is a relationship where one individual enables negative behaviours in another, causing the latter to become dependent on the former. It should become clear that the Service Club does not exhibit these traits, and I find that Haruno represents a part of the community I do not see eye-to-eye with: she’s someone who’s certain of herself, but despite her talents, she is woefully lacking in other areas.

  • For folks looking to see what a codependent relationship looks like, I recommend checking out Rick and Morty: Beth and Jerry are mentioned as having such a relationship by characters rather more reliable than Haruno, and this is the last I will say of the matter. When word of Hachiman’s plot gets out, Yukino’s mother appears and learns that Hachiman had been the one who had been injured in a collision with their vehicle some time earlier. Seeing his determination and spirits, she decides that the PTO might need some persuasion and consents to the prom that Yukino had been working towards. This is the outcome that Hachiman had sought, and with the prom no longer threatened, he hastens to tell Yukino.

  • In the end, both Yukino and Hachiman simultaneously concede: Yukino feels Hachiman has won because his plan allowed her work to continue, and the prom will proceed as planned, while Hachiman feels that Yukino’s original plans for the prom were well-done enough to shake off his plans for a separate event. The two eventually settle on a resolution: Hachiman is to fulfil Yukino’s wish of looking after Yui. This wish is quite selfless and also serves to indicate that Yukino is aware of the fact that Yui also has feelings for Hachiman. The use of lighting in this scene creates a sense of melancholy and wistfulness.

  • Yui’s wishes end up being all related to being able to spend time with Hachiman, a reflection of her own desire to keep the status quo: it is understandable that she wouldn’t want things to change, given her own feelings for Hachiman. However, because Yui is also considerate of those around her, these wishes can also be seen as Yui steeling herself for the inevitable and making a few more memories before Hachiman is whisked away. Among my favourite activity Yui asks Hachiman to help her with is the baking of fruit tarts to celebrate Komachi’s successful admission to their high school.

  • On the day of the prom, events go without a hitch thanks to Yukino’s meticulous organisation. Hachiman handles the audio and lighting elements. There was never any doubt that the main event would be successful, since I had supposed that in order for Yukino to grow, she would need to see things through to the end. Oregairu might’ve been full of surprises earlier, but by the second season, the series is very clear about where it intends to head.

  • Yui and Hachiman share a dance during a break from the latter’s duties. Whether or not there was ever a love triangle in Oregairu was the subject of no small discussion in the episodes leading up to the finale. However, because the discussion involved the individual’s own expectations that social models could be applied to Oregairu, at the expense of the author’s intentions, said discussion ended up missing the point. This is one of the problems with the phenomenon known as fan guessing: if the creator’s goals are ignored (i.e. “death of the author”), speculated outcomes become wildly inaccurate.

  • In the end, Yukino’s mother expresses that she is impressed with how things progress and departs, while Haruno continues to be a wet blanket, stating that a successful event doesn’t mean anything for Yukino, and that she, Hachiman and Yui are still codependent. I believe that Haruno’s character was deliberately written to be aggravating because she is the force that pushes Yukino and Hachiman to mature: her intentions are never truly known, and she doesn’t appear to act in accordance with what the models of reciprocity describe (i.e. messing with people in her surroundings does not offer a social or financial payoff of appreciable or apparent value to her).

  • In the aftermath of the prom, Hachiman speaks to Yui: having long been aware about how she feels about him, Hachiman clarifies that he’s fallen in love with Yukino (albeit indirectly). At this point in time, Hachiman still doesn’t put things directly, but it’s clear enough that Yui will have to be rejected in order for Hachiman to pursue a future with Yukino. While doubtlessly a painful moment, this was a necessary step, and it was good to see Hachiman be forwards about things, even if his wording isn’t direct. It speaks volumes to how well Yui knows Hachiman, that she’s able to pick this up underneath his roundabout way of saying things.

  • Away from Hachiman, Yui no longer needs to put on a brave face and can allow herself to cry things out in her mother’s arms. For me, it was important that this scene was presented; it shows that in spite of the great hurt Yui experienced, she’s still got support, and someone is still there for her to walk her through this difficult time. Consequently, for Yui, being rejected by Hachiman as he pursues Yukino won’t be the worst thing that she experiences, and viewers are assured that she will pick herself up again in the future.

  • The penultimate episode has both Hachiman and Yukino attempt to express their feelings for one another, but completely failing to do so out of awkwardness and embarrassment. It’s clear that their feelings are reciprocated, even if the pair cannot properly just come out and say 好き, so a part of the humour in this scene comes from the two beating around the bush. This one conversation succinctly describes the whole of Oregairu: behind all of the seemingly complex social commentary is a simple, but focused story about a student who comes to appreciate youth more as he is made to participate, and moreover, the social theory used in the series really just a red herring, appearing important when it is not.

  • Hachiman had actually planned another event as a follow up to the prom: his “dissatisfaction” had stemmed from Haruno’s remarks, and in order to show up Haruno, he’s gone to the lengths of setting up another event. The final episode to Oregairu has been about five years in the waiting: it is here that lingering questions from the second season are answered, and as it turns out, the wait was one that was worthwhile. I had entered the third season skeptical that I would be moved. Since a half-decade had elapsed, I’d forgotten most of what had happened during the earlier seasons.

  • While Oregairu‘s third season started off slowly, it also was able to reestablish what had been at stake. Thus, the prom arc ended up being a chance for the series to remind viewers of what had previously occurred; in between preparations, in which Hachiman had applied his own dogged style of problem-solving, he also needed to deal with the impending challenge of choosing between Yui or Yukino. Spacing things out over the season ended up allowing me to follow things quite well even though I cannot vividly recall minutae of the second season, so I don’t see the prom arc as being unnecessarily protracted.

  • In the end, to make his event a reality, Hachiman scouts out a location with Yukino as a date in all but name, and with the location set, the pair are able to rally classmates to help out. For better or worse, Hachiman has come to be an integral part of his classmates’ lives, as well; he’s come a very long way from being an outcast, and if memory serves, he had only become this way because of a rejection from Kaori back in middle school. Much as how a failed romance sent him on a path of loneliness, rekindled feelings as a result of being with Yukino returns him down a path where he accepts social convention, even if he does find some facets of it troublesome.

  • I will concede that the finale did feel a little rushed, and the leadup to the second event may have done better to occupy at least an extra half episode.: the second event proceeds without any sort of trouble, and I can only assume that it is because Yukino and Hachiman are finally in sync with one another, working together as a proper team to yield results. As we near the end of this post, I’ll briefly consider the soundtrack, which was never too noticeable: my favourite tracks throughout the course of Oregairu is from the second season: 3人でいる時間 (Hepburn Sannin de Iru Jikan, “Time among three people”), 結衣の決意 (Hepburn Yui no Ketsui, “Yui’s determination”) and 不合理な感情 (Hepburn Fugouri na Kanjou, “Unreasonable emotions”). These three tracks convey an incredible sadness about them that really bring the feelings of insecurity, doubt and longing that Yukino and Yui experience, and by comparison, nothiing during Oregairu‘s third season particularly stands out.

  • It does feel a little strange to see Komachi in the same uniform as Yui and Iroha. Caring deeply about Hachiman, Komachi had often played matchmaker, trying to get Yui or Yukino closer to Hachiman. With the writing on the wall, and having formed a friendship with Yui, Komachi gives advice to Yui on how to handle things from here. In a hilarious turn of events, Komachi and Iroha seem to get off on the wrong foot and verbally spar with one another; Komachi’s deduced that Iroha probably also has feelings for Hachiman, as well.

  • The second event is also a success: as it winds down, Hachiman shares one final dance with Shizuka, thanking her for all she’d done for him. The dynamic between Shizuka and Hachiman had always been an amusing one to watch, and I imagine that the reason why Shizuka is so fond of Hachiman is because she sees her own youth in him. Consequently, insistent that Hachiman not waste his potential, she strove to bring out his best by putting him in situations that would lead him to socialise more with others, and Oregairu shows that her efforts were successful.

  • I’ve been waiting for this moment since Oregairu‘s second season ended: Yukino’s kokuhaku brings to an end a five-year-long wait, and it was immensely cathartic to see this moment. In four words, Yukino demonstrates beyond any doubt that her time with Hachiman has led her to mature and improve: from being able to empathise with others and viewing her peers as equals, to being more open about her desires and feelings, Hachiman and their shared experiences in the Service Club leaves a tangible positive impact on Yukino. Her declaration of love is the culimation of their journey, showing that after everything that has happened, she’s come to not only respect, but also love Hachiman.

  • This is what matters for me, and Oregairu absolutely succeeds in capturing the summary of learnings throughout the series in this one scene. Opinions of Oregairu‘s ending are mixed, and I’ve found that those expecting an outcome consistent with what social theory predicts were the most disappointed, when their speculations did not come to pass. Oregairu had never been a series that demanded a scholarly background from viewers, and this is what motivates the page quote: instead of assuming that one knows better than the author, keeping an open mind would yield a more complete experience when it comes to series like Oregairu.

  • As a new school year arrives, Hachiman and Yukino find that the Service Club has been commandeered: Komachi has every intent of continuing their activities, alongside Iroha. Their first client is Yui, who has come with a request to handle a rather rowdy situation where she’s fallen in love with someone who loves someone else. Oregairu‘s finale brings a seven year journey to a close, and overall, I find the anime series to have earned a B+ grade (3.3 of 4.0, or 8 of 10): Oregairu excelled in creating tension and anticipation surrounding events that people don’t ordinarily think too much of. With (generally) likeable characters to rally around, Oregairu is compelling and fun in its own right, although there are also numerous moments that can be frustrating: Hachiman typically prefers unorthodox methods to shooting straight, and while this drives the series, it creates instances that can come across as superfluous.

  • I appreciate that these superfluous moments are for the sake of the story, and ultimately, Oregairu does work things out in a satisfactory, decisive manner. With this, my Oregairu post comes to a close: I expect that this is the last time I’ll write about Oregairu for the foreseeable future. It’s been a fun few years, and it was nice to see the series pique my curiosity for a group of characters I’d not considered for quite some time; with the outcomes in Oregairu, I rescind my last about how I preferred Aobuta over Oregairu. Instead, I leave Oregairu with the position that both series have their own merits and strong points, and further to this, both Oregairu and Aobuta are worthwhile.

With the whole of Oregairu now in the books, a nine year journey comes to an end. I’d originally picked up Oregairu out of a vain curiosity to see what all of the commotion surrounding the series, and its portrayal of social dynamics in youth, was about. The first season left me impressed, and left me with the distinct impression that I would not need to draw too much upon my coursework to appreciate: the DSM-5-TR is thankfully, not required reading to properly enjoy Oregairu. Progressing through the series, my main praise is that it slowly shifts from Hachiman employing unusual means of achieving the Service Club’s objectives with a large number of people, towards helping himself. Seeing what happens amongst other people helped Hachiman to understand his own challenges, and by the end of Oregairu, Hachiman is aware of his weaknesses in being unable to express himself directly. Being made aware of one’s limitations is the first step in correcting them, and in the end, Shizuka’s decision to forcibly recruit Hachiman turned out to have unexpected, but important consequences for him. As a whole, Oregairu may similarly make detours and turns, but its final message is a rewarding one to see: the second and third seasons respectively establish Hachiman’s being made aware of his flaws and attempting to correct them. For his troubles, his youth, while not exactly a rose-coloured time, is a period where he nonetheless matures as an individual. By understanding his flaws, he is left in a position where he is able to begin correcting them, and this is ultimately the happy ending of Oregairu: Hachiman is better prepared to pursue his future. It is straightforward to see how Oregairu became acclaimed, and the anime adaptation has done a satisfactory job of conveying its themes to viewers. Having said this, Occam’s Razor is certainly at play here – the best way to enjoy Oregairu is to leave one’s sociology 201 notes at the door and enjoy the series for what it is: a youth romance comedy that doesn’t go quite as one would expect.

Worst Anime Challenge? The Themes of Glasslip Explained (Yet Again), and Revisiting P.A. Works’ Parvulum Opus

“By some need to appear intellectual, non-thinkers will instantly, and without question, subscribe to the opinions of those they feel other people think are educated.” –Criss Jami

In their final summer break as high school students, high school girl Tōko Fukami suggests to her group of friends, Hiro Shirosaki, Kakeru Okikura, Sachi Nagamiya, Yanagi Takayama, and Yukinari Imi, that the no-relationship agreement be lifted after she runs into the enigmatic Kakeru Okikura following the local summer festival. The aftermath has Yukinari attempt a kokuhaku with Tōko, only to be shot down, while Yanagi herself struggles with her unrequited feelings for Yukinari. Meanwhile, Sachi and Hiro begin a slow, awkward and measured relationship, exploring things one step at a time. All the while, Tōko struggles to understand her unusual feelings surrounding Kakeru, who claims to be in love with her and shares her ability to glimpse briefly into the future. As the friends explore new territory, their old friendships begin drifting apart. Glasslip is ostensibly a love story, one that deals with how relationships can unequivocally and irrevocably alter the dynamic amongst a group of once-close friends. Further to this, Glasslip sought to demonstrate that relationships and romance are a fickle dance and can progress in any way, from a gentle pacing seen in Sachi and Hiro, to the challenge that Yanagi faces. In particular, Tōko and Kakeru’s ability to perceive the future, idiosyncratically referred to as “fragments of the future”, would suggest that even with a bit of foresight, relationships are so dynamic that knowing what’s about to happen isn’t necessarily of any benefit – the so-called “fragments of the future” serve to help Tōko and Kakeru very little, leaving them in the same spot as Hiro, Sachi, Yanagi and Yukinari. This is what Glasslip is about, given what the anime had presented during its thirteen episode run. However, Glasslip never quite connected with the viewers, who felt shafted by the anime’s poor execution and unsatisfying conclusion – to this day, Glasslip is widely regarded as P.A. Works’ worst, (parvulum opus can be thought of as a “deficient work”), leaving viewers with more questions than answers.

The main reason why Glasslip‘s reception was so frigid lies primarily in poor lead characters, and the subsequent lack of impact the so-called “fragments of the future” had on the storyline. Tōko is indecisive, uncertain and meanders in her feelings, desiring to keep her old friendships while pursuing a relationship with Kakeru. Meanwhile, Kakeru acts as though he has a grasp on the phenomenon, talks down to the other characters and acts (perhaps willfully) oblivious to the turmoil he causes amongst the small group of friends. It becomes difficult to empathise with Kakeru and his pursuit of Tōko. Similarly, Glasslip had intended to suggest how foresight may not be of much benefit in something as tumultuous as romance; the viewers’ expectations going in would be that an increasing awareness of this phenomenon would allow Kakeru and Tōko to be more truthful with one another. Instead, the two continue to pursue the “fragments fo the future” seriously, which lead the pair to continue stumbling. Rather than coming to terms with how they feel, both try to rationalise their experiences as a consequence of the magic, whose limitations and extents are never satisfactorily defined. The end result of this is that for their troubles, Tōko and Kakeru do not learn anything of note from their experiences. They leave their final summer of high school with a fractured group of friends in their wake: Yukinari, Yanagi, Sachi and Hiro’s futures are just as uncertain, filled with doubt. Glasslip has its characters experience heartbreak and romance, but there is no helpful lesson the characters walk away with, and no payoff for the viewers that makes this journey worthwhile. Because viewers cannot connect with and support the characters, Glasslip‘s themes become lost amidst a tangle of irrelevant, ill-conceived symbolism that ultimately contributes little to the anime, acting as detours and red herrings rather than legitimate metaphors for describing the characters’ experiences.

“An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – becoming a better person.” –Leo Tolstoy

The consequence of Glasslip‘s execution results in an unsatisfying experience – after thirteen weeks, no adequate resolution is reached, and the mechanics in Glasslip ultimately impede, rather than assist, the story in conveying its theme. This is what creates the frustration amongst viewers: Japanese and English-speaking viewers alike did not find Glasslip to be satisfying or rewarding to watch, not for any deficiencies on their part, but because the anime had failed to convey what precisely its aims were. For an anime of such deplorable showing, one must wonder if there was any way for P.A. Works to have salvaged Glasslip. As it turns out, the root of Glasslip‘s problems lie entirely with how Kakeru is characterised. Stoic, aloof and arrogant, Kakeru is ill-suited as the male lead of Glasslip – despite appearing to possess deeper understanding of the so-called “fragments of the future”, Kakeru does not give up their mysteries so easily, even to Tōko (and by extension, the viewer). While this is a deliberate choice to depict his fear of attachment, it also impedes with the larger narrative. By acting as though he is superior to the others because of his limited precognition, Kakeru quickly alienates Tōko’s friends, and makes it difficult to close the distance between the two. This is easily remedied by having Kakeru be more open about his power, as well as treating Tōko’s friends more cordially. A Kakeru more willing to speculate on and talk through the “fragments of the future” with others would be able to give viewers a better understanding of why precognition is relevant to the story. This would certainly help Tōko understand where his feelings are coming from and make their relationship more plausible. Further to this, were Kakeru more aware of social convention, Tōko’s friends would be more willing to accept his inclusion in their tightly-knit group. Together, this would allow Kakeru to act as a relatable character who can guide Glasslip‘s progression, and help keep Tōko’s group of friends together even as they explore new directions. Ultimately, this one simple change would have completely altered the course of Glasslip, enough to render it a satisfactory experience; this demonstrates the importance of having well-written characters that viewers can get behind.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In a vacuum, Glasslip is an anime that would earn a 4 of 10 points on the ten-point scale: the solid music and opening sequence merit two points, the superb artwork adds another, and finally, since I am able to discern what Glasslip was trying to go for, we add another point for that. Previous reviews had me assign Glasslip a paltry 3 of 10. However, even with an additional point, this still corresponds to an F grade (0 points on the 4-point scale): the conclusions reached in Glasslip do not correspond with the path it took to get there, and while there’s nothing particularly deep or complex about the series, it does take some effort to determine what the series intended to leave its viewers with.

  • The reason why I say “in a vacuum” is because one’s Glasslip experience degrades significantly should they read analysis or interpretations from the community: a lot of the analysis out there contains reference to obscure symbolism and metaphors that only obfuscate the anime’s meaning, making it even trickier to get a bead on what the anime is about. Consequently, in conjunction with the detailed and “matter-of-fact” tone these analyses have, reading too extensively into what others are saying can give one the impression that they were missing something obvious even though they are not. Conversely, my answer to “what is Glasslip about?” is straightforward – it’s a story of how relationships inevitably create rifts in friendship, and how even with magic, there are some things about romance that cannot be so readily addressed.

  • I further remark that viewers who struggled to get a handle on what Glasslip was saying, are not lacking in any way or missing anything “simple”: the unusual usage of imagery (especially the stills and glass beads), plus Kakeru’s metaphors and enigmas, would mean that it was Glasslip that struggled to convey its messages effectively to viewers. Again, reading analysis out there too seriously would severely diminish one’s experience for Glasslip further; if I were to watch Glasslip on the basis that it is in intellectual’s work that acts as an analogy to The Myth of Sisyphus or deals exclusively with wabi sabiGlasslip would score an F- (which corresponds to a negative score), because I would be immediately branded a knuckle-dragger for not having immediately understood what was supposed to be “self-evident”.

  • I’ve found that all of the analysis out there reached conclusions based on incomplete evidence: many of those partaking in the analysis ignored aspects of Glasslip, namely, the so-called “fragments of the future”, because these were inconvenient towards their conclusion. As such, while they might say something interesting about what Glasslip was attempting to convey, there remains the fact that the so-called “fragments of the future” are never accounted for. If Glasslip had purely been about wabi sabi, the anime could have conveyed the same theme without the “fragments of the future”: the stills that dominate the anime, seemingly of pivotal (but ultimately trivial) moments, was a rather visceral way of forcing the viewer’s attention towards a moment. Similarly, Kakeru’s arrival and the consequences it has on Tōko’s group of friends would have worked without the “fragments of the future”.

  • However, since the “fragments of the future” are such an integral part of Glasslip, any discussion of the anime must account for them. After revisiting Tari Tari earlier this month, my thoughts lingered towards Glasslip, and I wondered if I had been too harsh on this series. Doing a revisit of Glasslip ultimately allowed me to better describe what I think the series to be about, and I reached a new conclusion as to why I found the series to be so disagreeable. With this being said, I still find myself wishing Glasslip had been about a girl who wanted to pursue a career in glass-blowing and ends up making glass beads for someone she likes instead.

  • As it turns out, it boils down to characterisation, specifically how Kakeru’s character was presented and utilised. The mystery of the “fragments of the future” in Glasslip needed to be explained in order for viewers to connect it to the story, and Kakeru was supposed to be the agent for this. However, Kakeru’s personality and single-minded pursuit of Tōko meant that the supernatural piece of Glasslip was never adequately explained, or even speculated upon, leaving both Tōko and the viewers in the dark. This simple change would’ve made all the difference, and so, I am left wondering why the decision was made to portray Kakeru as an aloof know-it-all. In fact, I’ve noticed that a lot of the people behind the more widely-circulated analysis out there bear a resemblance to Kakeru’s negative tendencies.

  • This could be why so many disagreeable people painted Glasslip as a work of art that required a certain intellectual threshold to appreciate, but I digress. In retrospect, each of Tōko, Yanagi, Hiro, Sachi and Yukinari were reasonably well-written characters with their own challenges and aspirations. Hiro and Sachi represent the couple who progresses through things slowly, while Tōko, Yanagi and Yukinari are in the midst of a love triangle with no easy resolution. Even without Kakeru and the “fragments of the future”, Glasslip would’ve told a compelling coming of age story surrounding a group of friends whose foray into relationship leaves a nontrivial impact on their friendship.

  • In many ways, Glasslip is to P.A. Works what Battlefield V was to DICE: both had an infinitely better-received predecessor that served as inspiration (Nagi no Asukara and Battlefield 1, respectively), and both did enough well as to leave people wondering what on earth had happened. Battlefield V had the best weapon mechanics and traits of any game in the franchise, as the weapons were entirely skill-based. The gunplay in Battlefield V was therefore immensely satisfying. However, from a faulty marketing campaign, to a poorly-executed plan for post-launch support that resulted in a lack of content, and bizarre periodic changes to core mechanics meant the game suffered continuously throughout its lifetime.

  • Glasslip is similar in many regards: it had some of the best music and visuals of anything P.A. Works had done up to that point, and conceptually, a story about romance during the final summer vacation of high school could have very much captured on feelings of yearning and melancholy to create a moving tale. Instead, a few bad design choices (namely Kakeru) caused Glasslip to vastly under-deliver. Overall, I still found Battlefield V enjoyable despite its flaws: while many practises were poor, the gunplay alone encouraged me to return. Glasslip similarly convinced me to stick around each week: while Kakeru was as unlikeable as can be, Tōko, Yanagi, Hiro, Sachi and Yukinari kept the anime going where Kakeru did not, and I was interested to see how things would unfold among this group of friends as their summer wore on.

  • If Glasslip was indeed so poorly done, one would wonder if there is any audience I could recommend this anime to. Surprisingly enough, there remains a group of people who would enjoy Glasslip: folks who enjoy watching anime for exceptional visuals would not be disappointed, provided that they not think too deeply about the story. Like Battlefield VGlasslip took visuals to a new level, and the visual effects are stunning. By comparison, the real world version of Fukui, where Glasslip is set, looks absolutely drab by comparison. Even today, very few anime have had quite the same eye-popping aesthetics as Glasslip did. Similarly, the music in Glasslip was of a superb quality – besides the inclusion of classical pieces and string to create a feeling of chaos amidst the romance, Glasslip also features a song titled “Sudden, expected loneliness” that summarises everything that Kakeru and Tōko experienced throughout the anime. The song itself is excellent in all regards, and during its nine minute runtime, puts into music what Glasslip was intended to be about. The remainder of the incidental pieces on the soundtrack are varied, capturing melancholy, whimsy and everything in between.

  • It is almost impossible to have a discussion about Glasslip without mention of Helene “Soulelle” Kolpakova, whose Glasslip “analysis” became widely accepted as the single most definitive and authoritative interpretation of the anime, despite being incorrect and incomplete (Kolpakova had written her opinions a few days before the finale aired to MyAnimeList’s forums). My attempts to understand Kolpakova’s perspectives since have been completely unsuccessful, since she’s clearly not interested in having a conversation about Glasslip. This particular “analysis” is detrimental to one’s ability to understand and enjoy Glasslip to the maximum extent possible, so I am considering a course of action that will, at the very least, help those who are looking for Glasslip interpretations. I understand that my course of action will not likely persuade those who’ve already agreed with Kolpakova’s “analysis” to change their minds, but at the very least, this will hopefully reduce the visibility of her “analysis”, leaving people free to pursue other interpretations that are less patronising, and better written.

  • Kakeru’s preference for sleeping in a tent is intended to mirror his unwillingness to call any one place home, a consequence of having moved around all his life and the corresponding fear of forming attachments because of their potential to be lost. However, this isn’t the central theme of Glasslip – instead, Kakeru’s eccentricities were likely intended to illustrate just how important Tōko is to him, given that he’s willing to pursue a relationship (i.e. attachment) with her despite his initial desire to stay as detached from places and people as possible. The visual metaphors of Glasslip were never complex or difficult to understand, and a common misconception is that “unlearned” people dislike the anime because the symbols and metaphors were in over their heads, that those unsatisfied with Glasslip were “used to stories being spoon-fed to them”.

  • I would therefore contend that the hostility towards Glasslip stems from a combination of the anime failing to deliver a satisfying, emotionally meaningful story and the pseudo-intellectual attitudes some have taken towards approaching the anime. One individual wrongly argued that the “fragments of the future” were actually insights into Tōko’s own mind, that she neglects her friends and do not see them as people, hence her fear of losing them. This is untrue, since the phenomenon would not be named “fragments of the future” if they dealt with the present: Glasslip utilised this phenomenon to show Tōko the consequences of pursing a relationship and the rifts it would cause. This separation is supposedly what leads Tōko to value her friends more than before. However, this is not what Glasslip is about: the time spent on Yanagi, Yukinari, Sachi and Hiro shows otherwise (if the anime had been about Tōko, it is completely unnecessary to build out the other relationships).

  • One subplot in Glasslip I found meaningful was the newfound friendship between Yanagi and Tōko’s sister, Hina: after she’s indirectly rejected by Yukinari, she begins to take up running to take her mind off things. Yanagi’s route takes her by the pool that Hina and her friends swim at, and with her model-like appearance, Yanagi soon draws the swimming team’s interest. Hina, in particular, becomes friends with Yanagi, showing how the unexpected can occur from detrimental events: had Yanagi not been rejected, she would’ve not become closer to Hina, who sees her as an older-sister like figure with a distinct air of coolness.

  • The sheer number of different interpreting of what Glasslip was about, is an indicator that Glasslip had failed as a story. A good story is able to transcend linguistic and cultural barriers to convey a consistent theme that viewers can walk away with. For instance, in The Rolling Girls, despite being very busy, leaves viewers with a message about how ordinary people can make a difference. In the Twitter anime community I am a part of, viewers of different backgrounds and styles each came to this conclusion independently. With Glasslip, however, the central themes have been concluded to be wabi sabi, a desire for a home and attachment to a place, transitions in life, and valuing what’s around oneself, but each of these conclusions result from massive subjective leaps during analysis that conveniently skip over things in Glasslip.

  • While good art is indeed open to multiple interpretations, such interpretations necessarily consider all aspects of a work, and not just the parts that allow one to draw the conclusion of their liking. Those who say Glasslip is about home (through the presence of Kakeru’s tent and chickens) ignore the relationship dynamics between Sachi, Hiro, Yukinari and Yanagi. The idea that Glasslip is about wabi sabi through stills fails to account for the “fragments of the future”. A story purely about friendship would similarly not have had such an emphasis on romance. This is why a lot of the analysis on Reddit and MyAnimeList are outright incorrect and not worth consideration: good analysis must involve all parts of a work, not just the aspects that conveniently line up with one’s conclusions.

  • When all of Glasslip‘s elements are properly considered, the anime ultimately ends up being a show of how relationships can be disruptive to friendships, and that they are unfixed, ever-mutating. It is not the case that Glasslip was intrinsically difficult to understand that resulted in the dislike against the series, but rather, an unlikeable character whose actions are unlikeable and motivations are never properly shown, in conjunction with the fact that the anime left many questions unanswered. Real life is never as neatly packaged as a story, but it is expected that a successful story leaves viewers with some sort of pay-off (e.g. Tōko pursues a relationship with Kakeru and accepts that her old friendships are permanently changed as everyone matures).

  • What I hope readers take away from this post, is that one should always exercise their own judgement and never just blindly accept someone else’s interpretation of any work of fiction as fact. To do so would be to do oneself a serious disservice: instead of exercising one’s own judgement, one would be showing deference to someone who may only outwardly appears to understand something and possessing an above-average ability to express it. The willingness to follow, rather than lead, is responsible for some of the worst excesses in human history, and more often than not, asking the right questions and following one’s own judgement is the best way to go – had a few more people stood up to history’s despots and liars, atrocities and calamities might have been lessened or mitigated.

  • It is uncharacteristic for me to do so, as I never presume to tell people what to think or do, but Glasslip is one of those rare exceptions where I will caution readers against placing faith in the various analyses and interpretations out there on Reddit and MyAnimeList. I do not, and will not, hold it against people who enjoyed Glasslip for the things that this series did do well, but people should not force themselves to say they enjoyed Glasslip because of a fallacious analysis. Similarly, those who disliked Glasslip should not feel any obligation to alter their stance simply because someone out there had put together an undergraduate term paper explaining why those who did not get the series were missing something “simple”.

  • I’ve deliberately timed this post to coincide with the sixth anniversary of Glasslip‘s finale. It is actually curious that two of my least favourite anime are from P.A. Works, a studio that has also produced my most favourite works. Having dubbed Glasslip as a contender in my “Worst Anime” category, my next move will be to rewatch RDG: Red Data Girl to determine whether this, or Glasslip, holds the title of being the worst anime I’ve ever seen. With this post done, that’s enough negativity out of me: I’ll be returning on short order to write for Oregairu‘s third season, after it ended yesterday, as well as SaeKano: Fine, which recently became available.

While Glasslip is ultimately a failure that offers nothing substantial to its viewers, the series also acts as a resounding lesson that P.A. Works would take to heart. Glasslip had been intended as a condensed romance that drew elements from its infinitely more enjoyable (and successful) predecessor, Nagi no Asukara, the same way Tari Tari had drawn from Hanasaku Iroha to create a more concise experience. However, by failing to write Kakeru as a character viewers could be sympathetic to, Glasslip alienated its characters and viewers alike. P.A. Works would later revisit the concept of using magic to help an individual come to terms with their past and move forwards into the future in The World in Colours. In this anime, Hitomi is sent back sixty years to spend time with Kohaku, her grandmother, as a youth. In the process, Hitomi becomes more confident, as well as accepting of her magic, which had caused her mother to abandon her. While possessing competence with magic, similarly to how Kakeru had some existing knowledge of the “fragments of the future”, Kohaku is the opposite of Kakeru. She is outgoing, cheerful and does her best to look after those around her. However, she is also aware of her own limitations and actively studies to improve herself. Kohaku’s positive influence on Hitomi means that audiences are assured that Hitomi will gain something from her experiences, which results in a much more engaging story. It is evident that writers would not fall to the same mistakes that afflicted Glasslip in The World in Colours; having an approachable mentor figure with an amicable personality made all the difference, resulting in a very touching story of discovery and acceptance. In retrospect, it is quite conceivable that Glasslip may have ended up a more compelling story; although Glasslip remains unenjoyable on its own merits, it nonetheless did pave the way for 2018’s The World in Colours, demonstrating that in the event that P.A. Works ends up producing a terrible anime, they are also able to apply these learnings to regroup and create superior works in the future.

Houkago Teibou Nisshi: Finale Review and Whole-Series Recommendation

“Fresh cooked Arctic Char: mmm! Wow…that’s unbelievable. Right now, my editor is watching this and thinking, ‘Man, I wish I were there. Catching them Char, and eating them too’. Right Barry? Oh, that’s so good!” –Les Stroud, Survivorman

With summer in full swing, Yūki feels disinclined to go fishing on account of the warm weather, but Hina feels that since they’d come to the clubhouse, it’d be worthwhile to do something. Yūki decides that to keep it simple – they’ll go for the Horse Mackerel fry, and this time around, they’ll use fishing rods without reels. The experience is supposed to be quite different, and these low-cost rods have their own advantages, as well. Hina has fun, although things slow down towards the evening. However, Yūki convinces the girls to stick around for a bit longer, since the evening is when fish begin coming in to feed. Hina ends up catching an adult Horse Mackerel, and it turns out that this is what Yūki had been setting the club up for. The girls end up with a sizeable catch and go about preparing the fish for consumption, but Hina struggles to properly filet the larger Horse Mackerel. The next day, the girls set up a grill and sit down to enjoy their fish with Sayaka, who’d invited herself to the party. While fishing one day, Hina catches a spiney fish. Natsumi suggests she carefully returns it, since they are highly poisonous, but with Makoto’s instruction (at Yūki’s behest), Natsumi and Hina come around. After Hina has Whiting tempura for dinner one evening, she asks if the Breakwater Club can go fishing for Whiting next, but learns that they’ll need live bait to do so. Frightened at the prospect of using worms, Hina picks up artificial bait at the local shop instead, but spends the outing unable to catch anything. Yūki suggests to the dejected Hina that she look up the technique required when using artificial bait, since the others had taught her the way to use a rod when using live bait. As it turns out, Whiting are attracted by motion, and so, Hina’s been itching to try things out. While her first attempts are promising, a lack of fish prompts Hina to move to different spots to see what happens. While taking a break, Hina realises that the online guides she’s been following were for larger Whiting – lengthier bait corresponds to the smaller Whiting not being able to reach the hooks. After shortening the bait, Hina successfully catches her first Whiting. With their fish, the Breakwater Club prepare freshly-caught Whiting tempura. Yūki remarks that fishing is really about figuring things out for oneself, and a successful catch this is the reward of the activity. On the hottest day of summer, Hina and Natsumi decide to make a large stock of barley tea after the clubhouse runs out. Makoto notices that Hina and Natsumi have matching plushies. As it turns out, after their midterms ended, Natsumi visited Hina’s place so they could make plushies. When Makoto expresses an interest, Hina decides to show her how, and when Natsumi asks Hina about her interests in handicrafts, Hina replies that the time she’s spent with the Breakwater Club is fun precisely because of the people she gets to be with. All twelve episodes for Houkago Teibou Nisshi are now in the books, and despite an intermission brought about by the global health crisis, the anime remains immensely enjoyable and well-crafted.

Par the course for a slice-of-life series with an educational component, Houkago Teibou Nisshi introduces viewers to the nuances of fishing in detail: it is much more than the act of obtaining a fishing license, sticking bait on a hook and then whiling away an afternoon on a boat, as Westernised portrayals are wont to present the activity as. Through Hina’s inexperience and reluctance to come into contact with any insects, Houkago Teibou Nisshi showcases the varieties of fishing one can partake in using different techniques and equipment, illustrating just how varied fishing is even when one is unable to (or unwilling to) catch larger fish or use live bait. It becomes evident that fishing is very involved, but also very rewarding those who participate – in this manner, Houkago Teibou Nisshi speaks to the idea that activities in general are very accommodating, allowing individuals of all skill levels to have a good time, and also for beginners to pick things up at their own pace based on their comfort level. Despite her great fear of creepy-crawlies, Hina has come quite a ways since she met Yūki, developing an interest in fishing and even taking the initiative to go on her own trips to try out the things she’d learned from the others, as well as making suggestions for what to try and fish for next. While there are moments and days where Hina comes out disappointed, the Breakwater Club also help Hina learn the value of perseverance. Much as how Hina’s perseverance had allowed her to become proficient with handicrafts, taking the initiative to seek out new knowledge also helps Hina to improve her fishing. This is reiterated towards the series’ end, where Yūki encourages Hina to learn about how to make use of artificial bait works following a day of disappointment, and Hina at last finds success with her new-found knowledge. In conjunction with the fact that the Breakwater Club allow Hina to gradually step out of her comfort zone by selecting modes of fishing that do not frighten the daylights out of her, Hina comes to develop a great love for an activity that she never imagined she would participate in, and in doing so, Hina comes to cherish her foods to a much greater extent than before, appreciating the effort it takes to capture and prepare what ends up on her plate. She also realises that the Breakwater Club is fun precisely because she’s been able to hang out with people, whereas with Handicrafts, she’s always able to pursue it at her leisure, making fishing a superbly enjoyable and rewarding activity for her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi is a very summer-like anime, and so, it is appropriate that its finale comes on the autumnal equinox; today marks the first day of autumn, and it’s a surprise to see summer pass by so quickly. This year’s been a bit of an unusual one, and present circumstances precluded any opportunity to travel into the mountains. However, there are more important things than travel, and I’ve been enjoying the beautiful summer weather of our area in alternative ways to do my part: this past week has been quite smokey on account of fires in the province over, but Sunday saw the skies clear up, making it perfect to take a walk under.

  • Pole fishing is the practise of using no-reel fishing rods to catch fish. Both Japan and the West have their own no-reel techniques: in the West, the extremely long poles allow fishermen to reach distant or difficult-to-reach spots with great precision. The Japanese counterpart, tenkara fishing, was developed independently. The idea is that simple equipment would allow fishermen to catch fish without worrying about their gear, and tenkara fishing became popular, since these simple poles were far less costly than conventional rods with reels. In Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Hina quickly adjusts to pole fishing and finds it enjoyable, being a different way of catching the Horse Mackerel Fry.

  • While pole fishing, the girls come across a variety of fish, including blackfish, red seabream and even a fine-patterned puffer (Takifugu poecilonotu). Hina finds herself enraptured by its small, rotund appearance. However, pufferfish are highly poisonous and difficult to prepare: the fine-patterned puffer contains the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, which blocks sodium channels. Further to this, Natsumi explains that these fish will take bait from rods, snap hooks and cut lines. To prevent trouble from befalling her, Hina returns it back into the ocean.

  • As evening sets in, the Breakwater Club finds that they’d had a slower day. Natsumi had gotten bored and switched over to a more active form of fishing, but for Hina, the slower pacing of pole fishing suits her just fine. This attests to how different styles of fishing may appeal to different people. With nothing of note biting, the girls enjoy a peaceful sunset before preparing to head off. However, Yūki has another idea in mind: by evening, fish return into the tidal areas to feed, and so, it is during the evening that larger fish are the most active.

  • When Hina gets a bite on her line, she’s shocked at how ferocious the fish is. She extricates an adult Horse Mackerel from the waters, which comes across as a complete surprise to her. Encouraged by Hina’s success, Natsumi and the others follow suit and drop their lines in the water. The Horse Mackerel in Houkago Teibou Nisshi are specifically, the Japanese variety (Trachurus japonicus). These fish can reach lengths of half a metre, and the average size is roughly a foot. After Hina catches her first, she stops to admire it, showing how she’s come to find beauty in the ocean’s life.

  • After Hina makes the kill on the Horse Mackerel she’d caught, she loses focus of her surroundings upon seeing blood pour out of the fish. Natsumi remarks that since Hina’s not fainting anymore, she’s slowly getting used to things, although there are still moments that shock her. During this time, the others successfully catch Horse Mackerel of their own, and very soon, they have enough fish to prepare a meal with. Makoto subsequently walks Hina through the process of filleting a Horse Mackerel: after descaling the fish, one makes cuts underneath the pectoral fins on both sides to remove the head. Then, one makes cuts lengthwise along the top and bottom down to the tail, before making a cut along the ribs. In this way, three filets result, although Hina isn’t quite as deft as Makoto: her filets end up misshapen (but otherwise, still edible).

  • Makoto also introduces viewers to an alternate method, where after the head is removed, a lengthwise cut is made along the spine. Once the cuts are removed, the fish is ready to be soaked in a 1.71 ᴍ solution of salt water for half an hour, and finally, the fish is ready to be refrigerated overnight. Learning traditional methods for preserving fish can prevent a lot of food from going to waste, and Houkago Teibou Nisshi goes the extra mile in presenting this sort of thing: every step, from fishing to preparation, is shown, so viewers understand the processes and their context. While the girls look forwards to enjoying their Horse Mackerel on white rice the next day, they worry that Sayaka might show up and rain on their parade. In a cruel turn of events, Sayaka happens to be nearby and immediately discovers the girls making preparations for tomorrow.

  • Yūki’s rather displeased that their originally-peaceful lunch will be crashed, and instructs the others to get started as soon as possible so they can spend less time in the presence of a drunken Sayaka. However, Sayaka does appear to be mindful of the girls’ wishes, and refrains from getting hammered right off the start. While Makoto grills the fish, Sayaka reveals that she’s brought her smoker: in her spare time, Sayaka also appears to hunt, making use of snares and the like to catch game as large as boar and deer. She promises to treat the girls to some deer and boar at some point in the future.

  • It suddenly strikes me that a hunting anime, making use of basic implements like deadfalls and snares, to compound bows, crossbows and even firearms, would be worth watching were it to be done in the same style as Houkago Teibou Nisshi. Such a series would need to feature post-secondary aged students, since the minimum age to hunt in Japan is eighteen. However, some have suggested that this will never fly, simply because having university students would defeat the purpose of the high school girl genre. However, series that feature older characters have worked reasonably well before (e.g. New Game!, Sakura Quest and Shirobako). Back in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Yūki’s fears do not come to pass, as Sayaka and the Breakwater Club sit down together for a peaceful lunch, bringing the tenth episode to a close.

  • While fishing, Hina and Natsumi come across a White-spotted Spinefoot (Siganus canaliculatus), a species of rabbitfish: Natsumi is swift to note that these fish have venomous spines and suggests that Hina (carefully) return it. Having eaten rabbitfish before, Natsumi finds the flavour to be overpowering: but Yūki is insistent that they keep it. Rabbitfish are indeed commercially farmed and used as food. Although consuming improperly prepared rabbitfish can result in hallucinations, they are widely-cultivated and have a more moderate flavour. Natsumi is unconvinced, and so, Yūki decides to send in the big guns after Hina releases it.

  • Les Stroud notes that there are three basic criteria as to judging whether or not something is safe for general consumption: whether something has bright colours, moves slowly and smells bad. It is sufficient to make the decision not to eat something if one of those traits are seen, and Natsumi remarks that the White-spotted Spinefoot Hina’d caught smells bad. However, Makoto is versed in preparing rabbitfish, and at Yūki’s request, steps in to show the pair how to properly prepare one when Hina catches a second White-spotted Spinefoot. It turns out that, after the spines are removed, the fish should be swiftly gutted so the organs’ chemicals do not leech into the flesh. Hina and Natsumi are surprised at how good the resulting sashimi tastes.

  • After enjoying whiting tempura for dinner, Hina becomes interested in catching whiting for herself and makes the suggestion at the Breakwater Club the next day. The Japanese Whiting (Sillago japonica) is locally known as kisu. A commercially-fished species in Japan, the Japanese Whiting is very popular in Japan, enjoyed as sushi or tempura, with its flaky texture and a subtle sweetness. If memory serves, Rin enjoys Whiting tempura as a part of her lunch during her solo outing in the Heya Camp△ OVA at a local restaurant en route to her campsite, attesting to the fish’s popularity in Japan. However, catching Japanese Whiting presents a different kind of challenge for Hina: although they’re not terribly large (reaching a maximum length of thirty centimetres), catching them is preferably done with live bait, such as ragworms.

  • Upon seeing these creepy-crawlies, Hina’s enthusiasm to go fishing for Whiting evaporates. Her scream is loud enough to bring the shopkeeper back inside to see what’s going on, and once he gets a measure of what’s going on, he recommends artificial bait to Hina. More durable than live bait, and reusable, artificial bait is also cleaner and easier to store. Their advantages are immediately apparent for Hina, who wishes she’d known about artificial bait sooner. When asked, Yūki remarks that she’s come to grow fond of watching Hina’s reactions, which are admittedly adorable. However, artificial bait also has a set of drawbacks, with the main one being that artificial lures require a bit more skill to use: fish aren’t as readily attracted to these compared to live bait.

  • Hina’s exchange with the shop keeper shows that she’s learning, becoming more familiar with the different sizes of hooks and other details required for a successful day. With their equipment and provisions ready, the Breakwater Club prepare to head out for a day of Whiting fishing. The club thus begins to head on over to Tsurugahama Beach, the same spot where they’d gone fishing for Flatheads back in the third episode. The observant reader will notice that Hina and the others are equipped with their automatic floatation belts. Since the events from the ninth episode, the girls wear these as a safety measure in the event they fall into the ocean.

  • In any other anime, the combination of a beautiful beach and summer weather would mean that swimsuits and a laid-back sort of day would be inevitable. However, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is in a different category, and beaches are simply another place to fish at. However, it does seem a waste to not frolic at least a little in the white sands and warm waters at Tsurugahama Beach before setting about their day’s feature activity. Looking back at this past summer, the weather most resembled what was seen in Houkago Teibou Nisshi during August: every weekend saw flawless skies, and I capitalised on this by exploring the area, visiting places that I’d never visited previously. Since September, the weather’s been passable, although the combination of shortening days and more overcast weather means that opportunity to enjoy pleasant weather will be on the decline.

  • Yūki provides Hina with a primer on how to draw in the Whiting using her rod, and having prepared her line, Hina is excited to begin catching Whiting. To catch Whiting, the line needs to be prepared so that the hooks don’t catch on the bottom. Armed with their live bait, Yūki, Makoto and Natsumi begin reeling in Whiting on short order. Encouraged, Hina sets about trying to catch Whiting of her own. Uncha However, after a full afternoon, Hina has nothing to show for her efforts. Makoto and Natsumi are itching to give Hina advice, but Yūki stands them down, explaining that this should serve as a learning experience for Hina: fishing doesn’t always end in success, and one of the luxaries of fishing for the Breakwater Club is that there is room to fail and learn.

  • In a survival situation, being shafted can be a huge demoraliser: on multiple occasions, Les Stroud had attempted to catch fish without proper gear for Survivorman and typically comes up short. For Hina, catching nothing on an outing is, fortunately, not a matter of life or death, but she remains too dejected to consider potential improvements as the day comes to an end. Yūki reluctantly steps in and gives Hina a hint, that she’d only shown her how to catch Whiting using live bait. Artificial bait has different properties than live bait, and therefore, it stands to reason that a different technique would be involved.

  • With this clue to go on, Hina spends the evening looking up how to properly use artificial bait for catching Whiting: lures often require a correct combination of line lengths, hook sizes, weights and colours, in conjunction with movement to convince the fish that the lure is real. Armed with this newfound knowledge, and seeing folks successfully catch fish with artificial bait online, Hina’s spirits are restored, and she’s ready to hit the beach again to catch the elusive Whiting. Here, I remark that the internet is an immensely powerful pool of knowledge available at one’s fingertips, but nothing is a match for field experience. The finale has Hina putting the suggestions online together with her own experiences; since the information people share online can also be dependent on their circumstances, preferences and equipment, I’ve always found that online resources act more as a hint, rather than a step-by-step solutions manual for problems.

  • A common enough case-in-point is when I search for information surrounding specific errors I encounter during iOS development. People online often report the same error, but under completely different circumstances, and the solutions they take towards solving the problem is probably for their specific use case. As such, after reading their solution, I assess what aspects of their solution are relevant to me, and then I decide whether or not I can attempt their solution as it is, or hand-pick parts of it to synthesise my own answers. In this way, I find that I solve a problem in a way that is much more appropriate for the problem I faced, rather than jury-rigging a solution that was meant for a different context.

  • This is something that Hina comes to realise during her second attempt. After spending the day psyched up to go fishing again, she notices that moving the rod in a convincing manner allows her to get nibbles, but something still isn’t quite right. When Hina decides to try a different spot, Natsumi spots a difference in how Hina is fishing. Hina’s come a long way from the first episodes, and she’s actively engaged in the process now, taking the initiative to learn more on her own. I imagine that Hina’s desire to pursue excellence, evident in how she approaches fishing, is also likely how she became so proficient with handicrafts.

  • After a lack of success, Natsumi decides to sit Hina down for a break, and during their conversation, Natsumi inquires as to how large the Whiting were that the various videos were using: she knows that small differences in circumstances means that what may work in a video may not work in reality, and soon, Hina has her answer: the bait she is using is attractive to the Whiting, but they’re also a little too large; Natsumi and the others had been catching smaller fish the day before. She decides to shorten the lures and gives things another go.

  • Hina manages to catch her first Whiting, having found the proper technique for enticing them to take the artificial bait and setting the length up such that the Whiting can actually get hooked. This is Hina’s largest triumph in Houkago Teibou Nisshi: up until now, Hina had been following the techniques that Yūki and the others have taught her, but with the Whiting, Hina needed to figure things out for herself (Yūki notes that the packaging already explains how to use them, and Hina could’ve saved herself the trouble by reading the attached instructions). Independent learning is very much a part of the world I am accustomed to: in software development, unique use cases mean that oftentimes, solutions and algorithms need to be adapted for whatever I am doing. However, resources remain immensely useful because they can set one down the right path, providing an idea of how one can start working something out. Hina warmly thanks Natsumi for having helped her, surprising the latter.

  • One of my favourite examples of this is the time where I was implementing a table view in Swift that needed to accommodate both a string search and section index scrolling simultaneously, but no tutorials existed for how to handle this particular function. I ended up using an algorithm to sort the items into a dictionary, and then applied the indexing on this to support the scroll. I then filtered the values of the dictionary for searching, but since the number of elements was constant and a smaller number, this was an acceptable solution. Today, I would probably create an array of objects instead and apply the filter on the array: while a dictionary offers O(1) search if the key is known, in that particular situation, the keys are not used in the search, so iterating over the values of the dictionary would yield a O(n) complexity, same as the array. In that case, the array of objects would be more readable and extensible. Back in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the girls enjoy Whiting tempura of their own as the sun sets, and for Hina, this tempura is sure to be doubly delicious, since she’d caught most of it.

  • The final half of the finale is a bit of a breather: on a hot day, after Hina braves the sweltering club room to open the windows and air it out, the girls learn that their supply of barley tea is depleted. Japanese barley tea, mugicha (麦茶), is a staple in Japan during the summer, served cold to refresh drinkers. As Hina and Natsumi make enough to keep the clubhouse well-stocked, Makoto swings by and notices matching bag charms on Natsumi and Hina’s school bags.

  • A flashback follows, giving viewers a chance to see Hina showing Natsumi how to make plushies, as they’d promised to do so during the seventh episode. These plushies are of the Horse Mackerel, the first fish Hina catches, and to ensure Natsumi can keep up, they go with simpler plushies that don’t come apart. It’s a touching moment, and while Natsumi’s plushie doesn’t come out perfectly, it’s still serviceable, rather similar to how Hina’s preparation skills are a little rough: the gentle atmosphere suggests that with time, much as how Natsumi could improve at handicrafts, Hina can improve her fishing.

  • The Houkago Teibou Nisshi soundtrack also released today alongside the finale: it consists of forty-two tracks, thirty-eight of which are instrumental cues, and then four of the remaining songs are image songs, sung by each of Hina, Yūki, Makoto and Natsumi’s respective voice actresses. There is a great variety of moods conveyed by the incidental music, and to no one’s surprises, my favourite tracks are the songs that convey a hot summer’s day: 放課後ていぼう日誌-メインテ一マ- (Houkago Teibou Nisshi -Main Theme-), 釣りって、楽しい! (Fishing is Fun!) and 今日はなにを釣るんですか (What are we catching today?). The use of wind instruments and percussion in Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s soundtrack gives it a warm, inviting sense reminiscent of both Yuyushiki and Non Non Biyori‘s incidental music.

  • While Yūki has no particular interest in making plushies, she immediately realises the depth of Hina’s skill and considers opening a stall at the local flea market. Given the quality of Hina’s handicrafts, Yūki believes they could command a good price. Hina sees through this plot immediately, and later, after seeing Hina’s handiwork, Natsumi wonders why Hina didn’t leave the Breakwater Club to do activities with the Handicrafts Club. The reason is two-fold: Hina’s come to love fishing with Natsumi, Yūki and Matoko, feeling handicrafts is something she can do whenever she’s got time.

  • The second reason is a bit more amusing; the handicrafts club is inexplicably all-male, and Hina had been dissuaded from joining as a result. I remark that in this final post for Houkago Teibou Nisshi, I’ve not done any location-hunting. This is because the last three episodes all happen in familiar turf, in and around Sashiki. While this means I don’t get to break out the Oculus Quest, drop myself off in Sashiki and look around for locations, it also reduces the amount of effort taken to write this post: one of the great joys about series like Houkago Teibou Nisshi is that I am looking up the real-world equivalents to what Hina and the others are doing, but this also takes a bit of time, as I strive to ensure that what I’ve got here is accurate for the readers.

  • When everything is said and done, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is a solid A+ (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.5 of 10): immensely enjoyable, informative and adorable, Houkago Teibou Nisshi certainly piqued my interest in fishing. Despite my having no prior experience in fishing, Houkago Teibou Nisshi properly walks viewers through the details. Houkago Teibou Nisshi stands out for utilising all its characters to provide a perspective of different skill levels. Hina doubtlessly stands in for folks like myself, who have not fished before. Natsumi and Yūki act as entry-level instructors who present the basics such that Hina knows what to do (and also to allow beginners to follow along), while Makoto acts as a guide for the experienced. Altogether, each of Hina, Natsumi, Yūki and Makoto represent a different level of skill, allowing all viewers to enjoy Houkago Teibou Nisshi.

  • It is a little sad to see Houkago Teibou Nisshi draw to a close with its final haikyu: “always look after the ocean”. Having a good slice-of-life series in a given season always brings a smile to my face, and I am rather fond of anime of this style. The next season where an anime of this calibre will grace viewers is in January 2021, when Yuru Camp△ returns with its second season. However, in the upcoming season, GochiUsa: BLOOM will be airing, filling the void that Houkago Teibou Nisshi leaves behind. The fall anime season looks to be extremely busy, and I have plans to do episodic reviews for GochiUsa: BLOOM, as well as Strike Witches: Road To Berlin. In addition, Kamisama ni Natta hi, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Iwa Kakeru! Sport Climbing Girls also have my interest. It’s going to be interesting to see just how the next three months pan out, and in the meantime, I have both Halo 3: ODST and The Division 2‘s third manhunt season to unwind to during the brief intermission between the two seasons.

Acting as a balancing act between entertainment and informing viewers of the subtleties of fishing, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is an excellent series that is to fishing what Yama no Susume is to hiking, and what Yuru Camp△ is to camping. Simultaneously instructive and adorable, Houkago Teibou Nisshi shows how with the right instruction and encouragement, individuals of all backgrounds and experience levels can get into a new activity. Hina’s entry into fishing is gentle, and with ample instruction from each of Yūki, Makoto and Natsumi, viewers feel as though they’re right there with Hina as she learns the basics surrounding fishing, from picking the right rod and hook size, to preparing the bait needed and making the correct motions to draw in the fish of choice. It is clear that a great deal of attention was paid towards these minor details to create a compelling and accurate depiction of fishing; together with solid artwork and animation, as well as a warm, inviting soundtrack and a cast of lovable characters, Houkago Teibou Nisshi stands alongside the giants of its genre, being informative, cathartic and a fun series to watch. Such a series is one that could easily gain a continuation, but owing to flooding in the Kyushu region, where author Yasuyuki Kosaka resides, the Houkago Teibou Nisshi manga has gone on indefinite hiatus. Until Kosaka’s situation improves, it stands to reason that for the present, Houkago Teibou Nisshi will see another intermission. With this being said, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is an excellent series, and I am confident that once things look better for Kosaka, Houkago Teibou Nisshi will resume in all of its glory, with a second season becoming reality once there is enough material to adapt. When that occurs, I will certainly be returning to watch and write about this excellent series.

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World- Whole-series Review and Reflection

“If I tell you what happens, it won’t happen.” – Doctor Strange, The Avengers: Endgame

Takuya Arima is a student living in the town of Sakamichi, home of the unnatural rock formation known locally as Mount Sankaku. When his father, the historian Kodai Arima, passes away, Takuya receives his late father’s research materials and the otherworldly Reflector Device, which allows him to travel across different dimensions. The principal of Takua’s high school, Kōzō Ryūzōji, seeks to relieve Takuya of the Reflector Device, but Takuya manages to escape. Armed with the Reflector Device, Takuya deals with the scandal surrounding GeoTech, a company that his step-mother, Ayumi, is working at, explores the bowels of Mount Sankaku with Mio Shimazu and after conversing with his former lover, Mitsuki Ichijō, Takuya deduces that the original Kōzō had actually been killed, with an imposter taking his place. This imposter is an immortal being bent on wrecking destruction for its own benefit. His instructor, Eriko Takeda, is actually a member of the interdimensional law enforcement, intent on bringing Kōzō to justice. As Takuya pieces things together, he is sent back to his original timeline, and eventually befriends Kanna Hatano, an enigmatic girl whose with an unknown past, and whose health is dependent on the mysterious Psychite, a stone with strange properties. Takuya’s actions over the different timelines allow him to retrieve Psychite crystals, and he enters a portal for Dela Grante, where he meets a mute girl named Sayless, as well as the knight Illia. Unable to cross a vast desert, Takuya instead falls in love with Sayless and fathers their child, Yu-no. However, when knights from the Imperial Capital appear, Sayless commits suicide and Yu-no is captured. Takuya is imprisoned, where he learns that he is to mine for Psychite in a ritual of sorts. When Takuya meets resistance leader Amanda, the two work with several other resistance prisoners to escape. Takuya and Amanda reach the Imperial Capital and link up with the resistance, preparing to mount an assault on the castle. During the assault, Takuya encounters the Devine Emperor face-to-face and learns that it’s Ayumi: she’d been transported here along with Kōzō and had been attempting to save the world from annihilation. As it turns out, every four centuries, Dela Grante’s orbit crosses that of Earth’s, and the world’s computer AI requires a physical body to avert catastrophe: Yu-no must be sacrificed to this end. However, even with the resistance’s help, Kōzō appears and disrupts the proceedings. While Eriko is able to kill Kōzō, the process fails, and Dela Grante collides with an Earth eight thousand years earlier. Takuya returns to his time and saves Kanna, before reuniting with Yu-no. The two then depart together into non-being.

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World (Kono Yo no Hate de Koi o Utau Shōjo YU-NO, YU-NO for brevity) is the 2019 adaptation of the 1996 visual novel of the same name, and during its twenty-six episode run, covers a great deal of territory. The original visual novel had been a big-budget production with the aim of crafting an adventure unlike anything seen before: it was a collaboration between writer Hiroyuki Kanno and musician Ryu Umemoto. The resulting story was written to incorporate mechanics available given the hardware at the time, with the Reflector Device coming to make use of save-states and branching that allows Takuya to revisit a time and collect the necessary gems needed to drive the Dela Grante arc. Usage of save states and parallel worlds, in conjunction with Takuya’s experiences, indicate that YU-NO is a story about causality, specifically, the balance that exists between free will and determinism. Whether or not reality is governed by one or the other had been the subject of no small discussion – YU-NO suggests that the universe is likely somewhere in the middle (limited free will), which is a bold way of thinking. Through the use of the Reflector Device, Takuya is able to influence an event differently and check the outcomes. However, doing so does appear to create instability, causing him to be sent back to an initial state, and similarly, there are some events that seem fixed: for instance, Mitsuki ends up dying in every possible alternative irrespective of Takuya’s efforts to save her. For Takuya, free will exists to some capacity, but other events are deterministic, consigned to occur. As such, YU-NO indicates to its viewers that, while some outcomes are fixed, one can nonetheless influence events using their free will to create a more positive outcome than if they had not acted at all: in this model of limited free will, an outcome might be preordained, but individuals still have the power to impact the extent or severity of a given outcome if they have the will to do what is necessary (as an example, the Calgary Flames might be fated to lose to the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but how badly they lose is up to them, and there might exist a timeline where the Flames lost in seven games, rather than five).

Owing to the incorporation of quantum mechanics, free will versus determinism, the definition of history, and society’s interaction with science and technology, in conjunction with the multiple, layered dynamics that Takuya has with each of Ayumi, Kaori, Mitsuki, Mio, Kanna, Sayless, Amanda and Yu-no, YU-NO ends up being an immensely busy work: in its anime form, things can quickly become overwhelming as the viewer must keep up with the overarching narrative, character dynamics and world-building. The visual novel addressed this particular challenge by starting the players off with Ayumi’s arc, which establishes Takuya’s world and character. The anime adaptation does the same – this establishment is critical, as it defines the sort of person Takuya is. By showing that Takuya is kindhearted, determined and honest, as well as lecherous (for good humour), viewers are assured that Takuya will always attempt to do what is right. Further to this, given that Takuya is no greenhorn when it comes to relationships, unnecessary drama is averted, allowing YU-NO to purely focus on the plot: Takuya is clear about how he feels and never dawdles, eliminating the need to create drama for drama’s sake. This allows the series to focus on world-building and foreshadowing. As such, even amidst the scandals surrounding GeoTech and Ayumi, the Shimazu municipal government and Mio, Mitsuki’s mysterious relationship with Kōzō and rumours surrounding Kanna, Takuya’s actions are always measured (assisted by the Reflector Device, which gives him an advantage in decision-making). Consequently, no matter what YU-NO throws at viewers, nothing comes as a total surprise. This sets the stage for Takuya’s journey to Dela Grante – while such a pivot late in the game would devolve most stories into chaos, YU-NO‘s world-building and character development is such that viewers are not thrown off by the turn of events. The end result is an immensely enjoyable journey that takes YU-NO‘s viewers through a host of genres and settings, demonstrating the importance writing solid characters. By keeping Takuya’s character limited to what he needs to do, YU-NO is able to spend time on its world building, and by the time Takuya hits terra firma on Dela Grante, viewers are not completely blind-sided by what’s happening. The surprises and twists of YU-NO are unexpectedly pleasant, plausible within the realm of what the series has established to be possible.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • YU-NO is one of those series that would require an episodic discussion in order to fully cover all of its aspects, and one would likely have no shortage of content if they were to open a dedicated blog about the visual novel. However, such a project represents something that far exceeds my ability to handle, and so, for YU-NO, I’ve opted to kick things off with a standard-sized post about the anime. YU-NO opens with Takuya dealing with the aftermath of his father’s passing, and out of the gates, Takuya seems unaffected by things. He notes that he and Kodai never shared a particularly close relationship: Kodai had once been a cosmological astronomer of sorts, but the discovery of Mount Sankaku and its mysterious properties led him to pursue history, instead.

  • Ayumi’s story provides viewers with a strong exposition to what YU-NO‘s universe is about: in the town of Sakamichi on the coast of Japan, there’s a mysterious geological formation that is quite unlike anything else in the area, and a company called Geotech is continuing research into the area and the Pyschite mineral, to the residents’ opposition. Ayumi is thus under a great deal of pressure to keep the project going, while at the same time, assuage the residents’ concerns. In several timelines, the stress causes her to commit suicide: Takuya comes to make use of the Reflector Device Kodai had given him to set things right, culminating in a clever plot to turn the tables on Kaori and Hideo.

  • Kōzō is the principal of Takuya’s school. He’d been associates with Kodai and had known him for some time, but encountered an interdimensional being that would kill him and take his identity. The imposter Kōzō retains the original’s memories, and attempts to seize the Reflector Device from Takuya. However, as Kōzō, the being also is able to play a more social game, acting as the original Kōzō would. This creates a sense of unease around his character, as viewers are never too sure what his true intentions are early on, and further complicating things, Kōzō possesses a form of hypnosis that has a similar impact to the Imperius Curse.

  • The artwork and animation of YU-NO‘s 2019 adaptation, while simple compared to some other works out there, are nonetheless of a solid quality. Details like the bulky base phones and CRT screens reinforce the idea that YU-NO is set in the 90s, a time before ubiquitous smart phones. In this slower time, conversations are more personal and heartfelt, and YU-NO conveys this in a highly convincing manner. Production was handled by Feel, a studio with an illustrious portfolio: Yosuga no Sora, Locodol, and Oregairu Kan are among some of their works that I’ve seen.

  • While it might be disappointing to some, my earliest exposure to YU-NO actually comes from seeing this moment Mio on social media during its airing. In Mio’s arc, Takuya helps Mio deal with a scandal surrounding her father, the mayor of Sakamichi. Mio is set to transfer out of their high school and study abroad, but before then, she decides to explore the interior of Mount Sankaku. Her disappearance prompts Takuya and his best friend, Masakatsu Yuki, to look for her. In the tunnels of Mount Sankaku, Masakatsu dies, and Takuya resets, deciding to take Mitsuki with him instead. Under the influence of Kōzō, Mitsuki holds him hostage, but Takuya escapes and locates Mio, promising they’ll escape together.

  • The Imperius Curse hypnosis magic that Kōzō wields makes him a formidable foe, and while both Takuya and the viewers might initially believe that alternate timelines simply meant that he’s more unhinged and unreasonable in one, commonalities that all of the timelines share hint that regardless of which space Takuya is in, some things are held constant. Takuya is not aware of this in Mio’s arc, and after saving Mio, he resolves to save Mitsuki, as well. Mio had long been jealous of Mitsuki for having a physical relationship with Takuya, driving one of the conflicts of her arc.

  • Whenever Takuya completes one timeline and sets it on a stable course, he is sent back to moments before he succumbs to a powerful headache besides Mount Sankaku. Notions of infinite universes bring to mind the likes of Rick and Morty, where the concept is utilised to create a unique sense of humour. However, its surrealist humour and zany adventures have been overshadowed by a small subset of its viewers, who view Rick’s attitudes on the universe as appropriate. In Rick and Morty, Rick’s intellect and experience instills in him a sense of nihilism, cynicism, and narcissism as a means of coping with what he’s seen, but some viewers take Rick’s design as vindicating their own poor character.

  • YU-NO, on the other hand, casts Takuya as a caring and kind individual, whose experiences simply make him more resolved to do right by those around him. He may be lecherous, but this is all done to lighten a moment up. The end result is a different kind of humour, and a different perspective of how parallel universes and time travel may impact an individual. By this point in time, Takuya is not surprised that Eriko is not who she seems: she’s been in pursuit of Kōzō for quite some time and explains his background to Takuya after Mitsuki, under Kōzō’s influence, relieves Takuya of his Reflector Device.

  • In every timeline, Mitsuki ends up dying, but not before expressing her love for Takuya. The visual novel environment is a suitable place for exploring themes of causality, which deals in how cause and effect drives observable events in the world. This ends up being the main theme I got from YU-NO: that a balance exists between fate and free will, and specifically, that some things are preordained, but how severe an outcome is, as well as what it costs to reach it, can be influenced. The best analogy I can think of is a chemical reaction: the precise motions molecules take to interact with one another are stochastic and there can be an infinite number of paths they take, but the end result (the production of a product) will always be the same provided that the concentrations and conditions are held constant.

  • Kanna’s arc follows, and for me, this was an enjoyable story, finally bringing all of the characters together. Knowing that Kanna is of importance now, Takuya attempts to befriend her, and learns that her stoic façade aside, she’s actually been longing for friendship. She opens up to Takuya, Mio, and Masakatsu, spending more time with their club activities. In the quieter moments, YU-NO presents a lighter atmosphere that offset the lingering questions viewers have while watching: a part of YU-NO‘s appeal is that the series keeps viewers guessing, but the cast of characters are also compelling because of their everyday interactions.

  • Even in a science fiction mystery thriller, YU-NO makes room for the classic beach episode, which consists of an ordinary day far from the remainder of YU-NO, showing Kanna what an ordinary life as a high school student and friendship would be like. It strikes me that I’ve not looked at the cast for YU-NO yet. There are some familiar names: Kanna is voiced by Maaya Uchida (GochiUsa’s Sharo Kirima, Domestic na Kanojo‘s Rui Tachibana and Hiroe Hannen from Slow Start), Rie Kugimiya plays Mio (Toradora!’s Taiga Aisaka and Nena Trinity of Gundam 00).

  • In Kanna’s storyline, she’s tailed by a mysterious man and ends up revealing that owing to her unusual physiology, she’s actually fifty and has been working as a fille de joie to make ends meet. Until she reunites with Takuya, she had nowhere to go: Kodai and Takuya’s biological mother had taken her in for a while, and she’d been alone ever since. The unknown man eventually spreads rumours about her, forcing Kanna to transfer, and when Eriko notices an unusual pattern in Kanna’s transfers, Takuya sets off to investigate.

  • In a bit of foreshadowing, Takuya remarks that Kanna feels familiar, like family. Her arc culminates in a confrontation with the man following her, and after Takuya defeats him, Eriko appears to deal with Kōzō, who had been controlling the man. However, during the fight, the necklace Kanna has is damaged, and her life force begins draining from her. It turns out that Kanna’s physical health is tied to Psychite, and having created a save point after the necklace was damaged, Takuya has no other option but to retrieve more Pyschite.

  • Takuya’s promise to Kanna sets in motion the events to the remainder of YU-NO: having now acquired all of the gems to the Reflector Device, Takuya has now the means of transporting himself to the mysterious land known as Dela Grante: reading Kodai’s texts and exploring Mount Sankaku with Mio helps Takuya to learn of its lore. The presence of another world leaves Takuya confident that Kodai is still alive in some way, and so, when the worst comes to pass, Takuya instinctively knows that this alternate world is probably his best bet for saving Kanna. He rushes off and asks Kanna to wait for him while he retrieves crystallised Psychite to save her.

  • When Takuya materialises on Dela Grante, he encounters a beautiful mute girl named Sayless. It takes him the better part of a day to learn her name, and when Sayless brings him over to her place to rest, Takuya also meets the knight Illia. Takuya intends to cross the desert a short ways from the wooded area he’d landed at, but soon realises that the desert is so vast, crossing it does not seem like a possibility.

  • Instead, Takuya spends most of his days training, learning swordsmanship from Illia and getting closer with Sayless. YU-NO taking Takuya to Dela Grante was a complete surprise and in fact, acts as the inspiration for the isekai anime that are so common in contemporary stories. However, while an unexpected twist, YU-NO‘s direction is neither unwelcome nor jarring: the series has long established that parallel timelines and worlds are possible, and Takuya’s biological mother may have have origins in such a world. Unlike contemporary isekai, many of which give only a limited idea of what an individual was like prior to their entry to another world, YU-NO establishes Takuya’s personality in the real world.

  • As such, Takuya’s personality remains a constant, and Dela Grante never feels like an alien world as a consequence. Many contemporary isekai choose to slowly establish the characters’ old lives in a more incremental manner, creating suspense and anticipation in a different manner. In YU-NO, after Illia dies following a battle, Takuya and Sayless turn to one another for company, and thus, Yu-no is born. In the days following, life seems idyllic for Takuya; despite his surprise at how quickly Yu-no is growing, he cherishes the time he spends with both Yu-no and Sayless.

  • YU-NO has its own ~After Story~ piece that similarly portrays a tragedy, that the protagonist must rise above. From what I’ve read, the segments of the story set on Dela Grante is supposed to be an epilogue of sorts, portraying the experience that Takuya has in retrieving the Psychite for Kanna. However, an epilogue is used to act as a comment following the denouement of a story, and from a narrative perspective, since we’ve not hit YU-NO‘s climax, it is inappropriate to count the Dela Grante sections as an epilogue.

  • After Imperial Knights arrive at the cottage and attempt to take custody of Sayless, she commits suicide. Sayless’ spirit endures in Yu-no, and the two decide to travel across the desert subsequently in search of the Imperial Capital. The blistering sun is very nearly too much to bear, but right as Takuya and Yu-no are on the cusp of dehydration, they find an oasis in the vast desert. Deserts figure greatly in works of science fiction: their vast, unending expanse creates a mystique and desolation that acts as a visual metaphor surrounding the characters’ states. While effective in this function, I personally hate desert environments because of their monotony, and in games, desert maps are my least favourite settings to explore.

  • YU-NO‘s 2019 adaptation features music from Ryu Kawamura, Keishi Yonao and Evan Call: the soundtrack features a wide range of music, from standard daily life pieces to tracks with a video game-like sound. However, the best incidental pieces in YU-NO are from Call, who had previously worked on Violet Evergarden‘s soundtrack. These pieces make use of string and choral elements to create a sound conveying scale and grandeur; Call’s compositions attest to the sense of mystery in YU-NO surrounding Dela Grante. Early in YU-NO, these tracks foreshadow something much bigger is in the works, and it is with Takuya’s arrival in Dela Grante that the scope of the myths and legends really becomes apparent. In this way, the soundtrack itself greatly augments the anime adaptation’s ability to create anticipation amidst the viewers.

  • For the crime of “defiling the priestess”, Takuya is sent to a work camp where he is made to mine Psychite. In the process, he runs into two fellow prisoners, Kurtz and Deo, who resemble Masakatsu and Hideo respectively. While mining, Takuya begins exploring a means of escape and learns that the area is guarded by an electrical tower of the same sort underneath Mount Sankaku. When a red-haired women is brought to the camp, Takuya learns of a resistance group who intend to overthrow the Devine Emperor, which Kurtz and Deo are a part of. A plan is devised, and Takuya manages to retrieve a sword from Bazuku, the labour camp’s warden.

  • In a thrilling escape plan, Kurtz and Deo incite the prisoners to riot, creating space to destroy one of the lightning towers, while Amanda and Takuya destroy the other after a confrontation with Bazuku. They are ultimately rescued by Kun-Kun, a humanoid lizard that Yu-no had insisted Takuya take in some time earlier. Amanda and Takuya reach the Imperial City and link up with the resistance, where they begin planning an assault on the Devine Emperor. Amanda’s conviction is strong, but through it all, she’s also incredibly lonely. Takuya’s presence and words helps her to lift her spirits, and the two share an intimate night together on the eve of the operation. Amanda greatly resembles Kanna’s mother, and it suddenly hits me that if this were the case, then Takuya would be Kanna’s father, which would explain why Kanna felt like family to Takuya.

  • In the tunnels underneath the castle, Takuya encounters Yu-no and duels her, barely escaping. He makes his way into the castle interior and encounters Kōzō, but inadvertently frees him from captivity. Eriko appears to handle things, leaving Takuya to continue on. Inside the castle, Takuya runs into Yu-no again: after Yu-no plunges her sword into the Psychite-lined casket, her memories of Takuya return, and the two share a tearful reunion. At this point in the anime, each episode was so compelling that it was tricky to watch them one at a time, and I found myself watching them in pairs.

  • Even in a series where surprises are expected, nothing prepared me for the revelation that Ayumi was the Devine Emperor. She reveals to him everything that’s happened: at some point, both she and Kōzō had arrived in Dela Grante from Phsychite creating a portal, and learns that Dela Grante had been constructed by prehistoric humanity in a bid to save themselves from a catastrophic impact event. However, Dela Grante’s orbit meant that every four centuries, it would be on a collision course with Earth. The Ritual, then, is to give the controlling computer, housing Grantia’s consciousness, a physical body that could operate Dela Grante’s navigation system.

  • As time wore on, Dela Grante’s inhabitants fell into decline and forgot how to operate their own technology. Ayumi’s explanation and the Resistance’s simultaneous discovery of the truth would’ve been a shocking one. However, once the initial surprise wears off, everything in YU-NO falls into place. Takuya’s mother was from Dela Grante, and Kodai had been studying this civilisation extensively. These dialogues, at least for me, answer all of the questions I had about Dela Grante: altogether, YU-NO‘s storyline can be said to share similarities with FuturamaRick and MortyHalo and Portal. The scale of YU-NO‘s story is such that in the aftermath of its release, demand for character and lore-rich visual novels would inspire future creators, including Jun Maeda, who created KanonAirCLANNAD and Angel Beats.

  • Ayumi stops Amanda and the others from being executed: now the truth is in the open, Amanda realises they’d actually been fighting for a lie. To contemporary folks, the sunk cost fallacy and social media means that many would rather die fighting for a false cause than admit they were wrong, but in YU-NO, more sensible minds prevail. Amanda stands down from her original goal of destroying the Devine Emperor and instead, focuses her energies on helping the Devine Emperor to save Dela Grante and Earth. This smaller theme in YU-NO was touching, showing how with the right information, people can be persuaded to change their stances, and YU-NO also means to suggest that some systems exist for the betterment of the group, even if it is not immediately apparent.

  • Such lessons do seem like they are forgotten (or rejected) in the present, based on current events and reactions to them on social media: were Amanda and the resistance to adopt the same blind devotion to their case as extremists do in reality, Dela Grante would be destroyed outright, and YU-NO would fail in its endeavour to tell a compelling story. This is fortunately not the case, and the former Resistance members actively help out on the day of the event. The transfer is a lengthy one, requiring half an hour to complete, and during this time, Kōzō reappears, wrecking havoc. In the fighting, Amanda is pulled into a dimensional portal and disappears.

  • While the Resistance continues fighting the specters that Kōzō has brought in, Eriko appears, and aided by Abel’s spirit, manages to kill Kōzō once and for all. Abel had once been Eriko’s lover and fellow researcher who died after encountering Kōzō during his exploration of the multi-verse, and since then, Eriko joined an interdimensional task force with the aim of bringing Kōzō to justice. With her job done, Eriko departs, but owing to the interference Kōzō had caused, Dela Grante is on an inevitable collision course with Earth. Yu-no ultimately propels Del Grante back eight thousand years, and the impact event results in the floating continent’s destruction.

  • In the present, Takuya returns and true to his word, delivers a Psychite jewel to Kanna, which will allow her to keep living. The events of the finale show that Kanna is indeed Takuya’s daughter, and his promised fulfilled, Takuya prepares to be sent back to Mount Sankaku a few days earlier. This time, armed with the full knowledge of what’s happened, he meets Yu-no again and resolves to remain with her unto eternity, bringing YU-NO to an end and in the process, also sets a new record for the shortest time it’d taken me to finish a twenty-six episode series: under a month.

  • I am well aware that, despite the size of this post, I’ve only really just scratched the surface for YU-NO. Overall, as an anime series, YU-NO earns an A grade (4.0 of 4.0, or 9.0 of 10): while starting slowly, YU-NO is very engaging and successful in bringing together elements from a wide ranges of genres together, as well as condensing out the visual novel’s storyline out into a format that newcomers (like myself) can follow. With this post in the books, I will be returning in the future to host a collaborative talk with Dewbond, whose knowledge and enthusiasm of YU-NO is, together with Ecchi Hunter’s constant Mio screenshots, what got me into this party to begin with. Entering the final third of September, I will be looking to wrap up the shows I’d followed for the summer, and once I get a handle of how two simultaneous episodic reviews will work, I will start said collaborative project, which will aim to cover some things that I did not get to in this post.

I believe that YU-NO is the first full-cour anime I’ve watched since 2018’s Sakura Quest (I’m still procrastinating on Sword Art Online: Alicization at the time of writing); I went through the anime on behest of Shallow Dives in Anime’s Dewbond, who had been curious to learn of my thoughts on YU-NO. Having gone in without any prior knowledge beyond Ecchi Hunter’s posts about Mio, I had no idea of what to expect. On the other side of YU-NO, I see a series whose story would’ve been revolutionary for its time, boldly combining elements from multiple genres and successfully keeping things engaging without overwhelming the viewer. In its anime form, the intricacies of YU-NO are conveyed – it was a fantastic journey from start to finish, paced well to hold the viewer’s attention. In retrospect, I am glad to have gone through it after the whole adaptation had aired: towards the end, it become tricky to watch episodes individually, since I would become antsy with each cliff-hanger that I encountered. YU-NO is probably the fastest I’ve ever finished a twenty-six episode series, and in general, the faster I go through an anime, the more likely it is that I enjoyed it. However, this is not the end: Dewbond indicates that YU-NO invites further exploration, and the visual novel, which received a modern remaster with updated visuals in 2017, is supposed to touch on some of the elements that the anime adaptation did not. This is quite understandable – the anime was already brimming with activity, and consequently, some storylines were merged, modified or shortened for the sake of keeping the adaptation to a manageable length. There are some lingering elements that YU-NO‘s anime adaptation do not cover, so it is the case that the visual novel will be the authoritative means of gaining further insights into the remainder of Takuya’s world. For the time being, with the YU-NO anime in the books, I can say I thoroughly had fun with this series. Further to this, I find the 2019 anime adaptation to be a fantastic starting point for anyone who wishes to learn more about YU-NO before deciding whether or not the visual novel is for them.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Tari Tari, The Sound of Compassion, Supporting Aspirations Through Music and A Graduate’s Swan Song

“But for me, just having fun wasn’t enough. The support of my friends was equally important; they encouraged me through my struggles. They’re all so different from me, but they’re honest and determined. We fought, but we also worked together. I know you had a friend like that, too. Someone to have fun with, someone to share her worries. Mom, I have finished the song we promised to write. Sorry it took so long. I’m glad I could create this song with you and my friends. I’ll treasure it always for bringing us together.” –Wakana Sakai

Wakana Sakai once aspired to be a musician, as her mother Mahiru, once was, but after Mahiru died, Wakana began distancing herself from music to dull the pain of her loss. Konatsu Miyamoto is an optimistic and cheerful girl with a great love for music, and seeks to redeem herself after an incident in her previous year that led to her being removed from the lineup of active singers. Sawa Okita holds aspirations to become a jockey in the future, despite her father’s wishes. Taichi Tanaka strives to be a professional badminton player, and Atsuhiro Maeda is a transfer student with a love of the sentai genre. Five disparate students, each with their own goals and troubles, are united when Konatsu seeks to form her own choral club, with the aim of being able to sing again and do something big before graduation. Brought together by music to form the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club, these individuals come to learn about one another, their strengths and weaknesses, and come to support one another on their goals while working hard to put on a performance ahead of their school’s closure. This is Tari Tari, an anime from P.A. Works dating back to 2012 that portrays the life of five high school students who are on the edge of one milestone as they prepare to finish their final year of high school. Through its thirteen episode run, Tari Tari demonstrates the power of music to bring people together, to motivate and encourage one another; each of Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro each have their own aspirations, but unified by music, realise an opportunity to contribute back to their school and put on a performance that allows them to properly express thanks to those around them. When it is revealed their school is to close, Konatsu’s initial determination to sing again transforms into a performance that represent a swansong of gratitude and appreciation for the teachers and students, as well. The road to this performance also helps each of the club’s members in a tangible way: Wakana opens up to the others and comes to peace with her mother’s passing, Sawa places more trust in her friends and allow them to support her ambition to become a jockey, Taichi continues pushing forwards on his dream of playing badminton professionally, and Atsuhiro does his best to help everyone. With Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro’s support, as well as Wakana’s experience, the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club are able to send their graduating year off in style, creating a cherished memory that marks the end of one journey and the beginning of the next.

With its focus on music, Tari Tari‘s central theme speaks to the power of music, and how it is able to motivate, inspire and encourage people from different backgrounds, experiences and creed, bringing them together for a common purpose. At scale, Tari Tari‘s theme is a positive one: that music transcends cultural, linguistic and ethnographic boundaries, being able to convey emotions that are universally understood. Through music, a diverse group of individuals gather together, and working towards a shared goal of doing one final swan song before graduation, also come to find camaraderie and support in one another. Sawa comes to voice her worries about the road to being a jockey instead of keeping it to herself, and the girls encourage Taichi to do his best in badminton. Konatsu comes to understand why Wakana approaches music with a serious mindset, but Wakana herself opens up to the others, realising that her mother’s vision of music was something to be shared. Tari Tari‘s single greatest strength therefore lies in its ability to bring in people from different walks of life, set them with a common objective that unifies them, and create something compelling: the series could’ve easily been about any one of Wakana, Sawa, Konatsu, Taichi or Atsuhiro and comfortably occupied a full thirteen episodes for each arc had everyone faced down their problems independently, but together, with support from one another, solutions are reached more swiftly. Tari Tari excels at tying together so many different elements because it is able to show how music impacts everyone, and ultimately, how music is something that sets in motion the events that bring people together and set them on a trajectory towards their futures. The use of a simple, yet powerful theme allows Tari Tari to cover everyone’s stories in a compelling and satisfactory manner, resulting in an anime that is earnest and sincere in its messages.

Taken together with P.A. Works’ visually impressive presentation, a phenomenal soundtrack and strong voice acting, Tari Tari quickly became a favourite of mine: the sum of its meaningful themes and a technically excellent audio and visual component made it an anime I looked forwards to every week. Tari Tari seamlessly transitions between each of Konatsu, Wakana, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro’s stories, weaving them together in a concise and focused manner. While this could’ve ended up meandering, unfocused, Tari Tari ended up captivating me. During its run, I became invested in the characters and rooted for their success. Every episode left me in anticipation of what would happen next, and this ultimately ended up being an asset of immeasurable value: that summer, I had been studying for the MCAT, and it was an immensely stressful experience. By July, I had concluded CLANNAD and ~After Story~, and Tari Tari ended up being the show that filled in the void. By giving me something to look forwards to each week, Tari Tari helped me relax: the series had had just reached the halfway point, when Wakana becomes consumed with remorse at having okayed her father to dispose of their piano, which meant discarding the one remaining link she had with her mother. However, Wakana’s father explains that her mother had decided to keep quiet about her illness so their final memory of songwriting together would be a happy one. He reveals that he still has her old music, and never threw the piano away. Wakana realises an opportunity to finish something she had started with her mother, and her love of music is rekindled. She agrees to help Konatsu and the others, marking a turning point in Tari Tari when it is shown that support can come from anywhere. This was an encouraging course of events: I thus resolved to survive the MCAT so that I could see Wakana’s journey continue. When the MCAT concluded, Tari Tari delved into Sawa’s story, and by this point in my summer, I had the remainder of the month to myself. Watching Sawa overcome her problems, and Atsuhiro taking the lead in a local performance for the shopping district motivated me to pick up the journal publication that my lab had shelved amidst the academic term. I dusted the project off and coordinated with a few of my colleagues into helping us finish. My supervisor was pleasantly surprised the paper was revived, and agreed to proof-read it. By the end of the summer, we had a submission-ready publication, and the journal accepted it, leading this to be my first-ever journal article. For having helped give me the resolve and strength to stare down the MCAT in the days leading up to the exam and ultimately leading me to see a journal publication through to the end, Tari Tari had a nontrivial impact on me, that, in conjunction with everything that the series excels at doing, results in my counting Tari Tari to be a masterpiece.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tari Tari began airing early in July 2012, a time when I had just wrapped up my summer course on physics and could afford to focus my entire effort into reviewing for the MCAT. I had been curious to check out Tari Tari after watching one of the trailers, which played an instrumental version of Melody of the Heart, the series’ main theme. The song had a warm, inviting sound, and my curiosity was piqued. At the time, no one knew what Tari Tari would be about: the preamble only indicated that it would be about a group of students looking to do something big for their final year of high school.

  • After the first episode aired, I was thoroughly impressed: out of the gates, Tari Tari introduced all of its main characters and gave viewers a solid idea of their personalities entering the series. Because Tari Tari deals with transitions from one part of life into the next, viewers are dropped into a bit of a chaotic time in the story: Konatsu and Sawa’s homeroom instructor, Tomoko Takahashi, is set to go on maternity leave, and everyone is wishing her the best.

  • However, this also happens to be the day that Atsuhiro transfers into their class. Tomoko tasks Taichi to look after him and give him a tour of campus. Tari Tari covers a lot of ground during a very short time, and the first episode also establishes that Konatsu is intent on having a singing role in the choral club after an accident the previous year causes her to be removed from singing. For Konatsu, singing is a form of expression and represents liberty: her love of singing comes from a childhood admiration of the Condor Queens, a band known for their Spanish performances, and when her appeal to music instructor Naoko Takakura fails, she resolves to start her own club.

  • Wakana starts out her journey cold and detached, removed from the others. Serious and dedicated, she sports a no-nonsense personality; when Konatsu approaches her to start a new choral club, Wakana rebukes her, remarking that music isn’t a game. However, Konatsu’s opinion of music, that it’s more than just an art form to perfect, does cause Wakana to pause for a moment – Mahiru had a similarly optimistic and cheerful outlook on music, seeing it as something that could bring people together and otherwise convey intangible concepts.

  • Tari Tari is full of nuance: the first few episodes have both Wakana and Naoko as being unsympathetic to Konatsu’s desire to perform. While it is not immediately apparent, Wakana and Naoko have their own reasons for having such a rigid mindset on music: subtle details such as these really give life to the characters of Tari Tari, and as more about everyone is shown, viewers come to empathise with what they’re going through. When Wakana reluctantly agree to be the pianist for Sawa and Konatsu during their first concert, a hint of her true personality is shown – underneath her stoic personality is someone with the same warmth and kindness as Mahiru.

  • P.A. Works’ series are not known for their fanservice components, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Taichi’s older sister chilling in his room when Atsuhiro arrives at his place. My history with Tari Tari is a bit of an interesting one: I followed it weekly when it was airing, and then wrote a brief piece about it at my old website. Two years later, I returned to write about it again as I transitioned away from my old site to the current blog. Reading through my old review led me to rewatch Tari Tari, and on this third revisit, I found that Tari Tari, besides being excellent from a story and technical point of view, also did two important things: it contributed to me getting through a trickier time and also influenced some of P.A. Works’ later works to a nontrivial extent.

  • Tari Tari‘s soundtrack is composed by Shirō Hamaguchi, who had previously worked on the music to Ah! My GoddessGirls und PanzerHanasaku IrohaHaruchika and The Magnificent Kotobuki. Of these, Ah! My Goddess stands out: while the 2004 TV series had more ordinary music, his work on the 2000 film resulted in a soundtrack of sublime quality, and in Girls und Panzer, the superb range of music, from militaristic combat themes to the everyday slice of life pieces and marching songs, really highlights how versatile Hamaguchi is. It is therefore unsurprising that the music of Tari Tari is of such a high standard.

  • Tari Tari marks the first time I’d seen a series breaking so many established conventions: in most anime, a club on the brink of dissolution would receive its members in the first few episodes, and then spend the remainder of the series exploring their chosen specialisation. In Tari Tari, Konatsu managed to assemble an entire choir and performs, but loses these members almost immediately, forcing her to seek creative means of keeping her club together. She eventually builds the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club in the aftermath, unfairly defeating Taichi and Atsuhiro in a three-on-two badminton match that certainly wouldn’t be regulation. Tari Tari also pioneered the idea of a club being able to have more than one focus to keep enough members to stay afloat, something that would be revisited in Iroduku and Koisuru Asteroid.

  • With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see why Naoko is so adamant that Konatsu not form the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club; after Konatsu finds Mahiru’s old song, Melody of the Heart, Naoko acts out of respect for Mahiru’s memory, feeling Konatsu to be desecrating things. However, as Wakana begins to open up, Naoko realises that Wakana desires to carry on in her mother’s footsteps. The principal is able to spot this earlier on, and when Konatsu appeals to him directly, he allows their club to carry on, knowing what it means to Wakana, as well.

  • A secondary theme in Tari Tari is that small groups of devoted, dedicated people are capable of achieving great things together. Despite having lost all of their previous members who had musical background, the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club’s remaining members are committed despite not possessing the same level of training and skill. That Sawa and Konatsu were able to perform earlier on hinted at this, and so, it is with five members that the club moves ahead with its activities, although at this point, Wakana is still only a member in name, being occupied with her own challenges.

  • Konatsu decides to sign the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club up for a local music festival, but when the Condor Queens show up, she begins wavering. This causes a rift between Sawa and Konatsu, but the two reconcile after Wakana helps the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club to secure a stage. In the end, despite performing only for three children and their parents, the club still manages to put on a decent showing that impresses their audience. It is from humble beginnings that the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club start from, but their tenacity and determination to be more is what drives Tari Tari. Along this journey, past hurts are healed and dreams are realised.

  • Tari Tari is one of those anime that I could have written about in an episodic fashion, since each and every episode has so much worth talking about, and I actually had considered revisiting the anime episode by episode, pointing out all of the bits of foreshadowing and each episode’s contributions to the series. In Tari Tari, each and every detail is relevant to the big picture. However, it became clear that, while Tari Tari deserved an episodic review, my schedule wouldn’t allow for it, so I’ve chosen to instead talk about it at a much higher level.

  • At the local badminton tournament, Taichi is unable to advance, but despite his disappointment, he vows to work harder. It is here that Taichi begins developing a crush on Sawa; she starts the party by trying to connect with him and shares more about her interest in being a jockey, which in turn drives Taichi’s desire to know more about her. A ways back, I wrote a post on why the feelings were mutual: besides the body language in the scene, it is Sawa, and not Konatsu, who decides to go back and see how Taichi is doing after his loss. Sawa’s also got a bit more of a playful side to her, buying Konatsu a hot drink on a hot day.

  • Wakana’s relationship with her mother had not been the best in recent years, and her biggest regret is not being more understanding prior to Mahiru’s death. Seeing the old piano brings back memories of this pain and guilt, which is why she initially wanted to get rid of it. The episode is characterised by an incoming typhoon, which casts the whole of Enoshima in a moody, grim light, mirroring Wakana’s feelings. However, the next morning, the storm has gone, and Wakana’s developed cold. Seeing a despondent Wakana leads Konatsu to believe the worst, and she falls into a tide pool when attempting to “save” Wakana.

  • For Wakana, talking it out is how she comes to terms with what had happened: hearing the impact Mahiru had on those around her, whether it be Shiho (Sawa’s mother) or the Condor Queens helps Wakana to appreciate the carefree and spirited attitude. Being able to listen to Shiho and the Condor Queens share their stories really makes Mahiru’s contributions tangible, far more than listening to old recordings and reading letters alone could accomplish. The sum of these memories, in conjunction with a conversation with her father, finally allows Wakana to accept what happened, and also turn over a new leaf, to fulfil her promise to Mahiru and write a song together.

  • In a few weeks, the leaves will start turning yellow as summer fully gives way to autumn. Throughout Tari Tari, Mahiru is presented as being warm, spirited and understanding. She touched countless people with her carefree and accepting beliefs on music, believing the first and foremost aspect was to have fun. This belied an incredible talent and skill in composition, and Wakana initially did not understand this about Mahiru. The flashbacks in Tari Tari, in conjunction with frequent mention of Mahiru’s impact, shows that she’s left a lasting legacy, and even though she might be gone, Wakana will always have the happy memories to guide and inspire her.

  • With the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club’s activities in full-swing now that Wakana is on board, Konatsu sets about trying to determine what their presentation for the culture festival will be. However, the other choral club members doubt Konatsu, and moreover, Naoko will need to okay any use of the main stage. In spite of this, Wakana decides to press forward, studying composition to see how to best finish her mother’s song, which she plans on using for the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club’s performance. Here, the reflection of the room’s windows can be seen on the whiteboard: Tari Tari makes extensive use of reflective surfaces to create a well-lit feeling in its environments.

  • Once Wakana’s story is concluded, Tari Tari switches over to Sawa: Konatsu and Taichi’s stories were a bit shorter, but Sawa’s story is a bit more fully-fleshed. It turns out that her aspiration to become a jockey is met with opposition: her father disapproves, and moreover, Sawa’s physique does not appear to be suited for the occupation. She begins an aggressive diet in a bid to lose weight and make the requirements, but this results in fatigue and lethargy. After falling off her horse during archery practise from fatigue and lack of food energy, Sawa is taken to the local hospital to be examined for any injuries, and her father implores her to stand down.

  • Like Wakana, Sawa feels that her problems are hers alone to bear, that no one else would understand what she’s going through, and for this, her mannerisms take a noticeable shift: Tari Tari had presented Sawa as outgoing and playful, so to see a dramatic change was to show how heavily the future weighs on her mind. Sawa and Wakana’s stories are the top of Tari Tari, and the fact that they were so clearly presented indicates that even with a time constraint, shorter anime can still succeed in telling a compelling, full-fledged story that viewers can connect with.

  • While practising at Atsuhiro’s place, Sawa finally comes forwards with her troubles to the others. However, when Wakana suggests taking a step back to regroup, Sawa goes ballistic. She lashes out, suggesting that Wakana’s already got a background in music and that for her, it’s different. Indeed, Wakana’s love for music and Sawa’s determination to become a jockey are rooted by different motivations, but it does bring about one important point: the future is always uncertain, and the things people end up falling in love with doing might not always be what they’s sought out. When I revisited Tari Tari two years after the MCAT, my desire to go into medicine had been displaced by a newfound love for software development, for instance.

  • It’s easy to get caught up in the gravity of the moment, but Wakana’s suggestion was never to give up being a jockey, and instead, look at the problem from a different perspective. Sawa subsequently spends the remainder of the episode in poor spirits and takes a sick day, even as the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club sets off to prove their worth to Naoko, who reluctantly allows them to perform if they can make the audition. In order for the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club to stand a chance, they need Sawa, and ultimately, it is Wakana who takes the initiative to call her. Realising that she’s still needed, Sawa understands what Wakana and the others are doing for her, and immediately sets off for school on her horse, barely making it ahead of their slot.

  • In the aftermath, Sawa’s father sees the scope of her determination, and while still reluctant to allow her to pursue a career, realises that her daughter is hardworking and determined. He is later seen yelling at the admissions staff, saying he’ll personally curse them if they don’t relax the admission’s requirements for physique. It’s a rather touching moment that shows how, despite his outward appearance, Sawa’s father does care greatly for her. With Sawa’s story in the books, and the audition securing them a spot, Konatsu decides to go big on their performance for the culture festival, adding a play on top of their singing.

  • When the local shōtengai reports a decline in revenue from the previous year, Shiho suggests a radical new event: a live-action performance featuring sentai, the equivalent of Marvel or DC’s superheroes. This interpretation of superheroes has become iconic in Japan, and the Power Ranges are a particularly famous series. While outwardly different from something like the MCU sentai heroes fight in teams and strive to uphold justice the same way the Avengers do. Atsuhiro is very keen about this genre, seeing it as representative of the idea that good can prevail over evil, and the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club take on the job to help raise money for their performance.

  • Despite her experience with music, Wakana struggles with the composition of the song that Mahiru had left her. Shiho ends up pointing her in the right direction: Naoko had once studied music as well, being Mahiru’s classmate, and as such, should have some suggestions up her sleeve. Like Wakana, she is very unsympathetic to Konatsu’s attempts to run her own choral club because Mahiru’s death hit her hard. While viewers may find it difficult to accept Naoko’s character, Tari Tari does an excellent job of giving credence to why individuals act the way they do.

  • In Atsuhiro’s arc, he becomes distracted upon learning that all of the letters he’d written to Jan, a friend back home in Austria, were never delivered because he’d changed addresses. When the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club discover this, Atsuhiro comes into the open and, having now voiced his concerns, remarks that he’s confident Jan is going to be fine, and that he can also focus on his goals. Like Sawa, Wakana and Taichi, expressing his worries helps him to see an out. Owing to his love for sentai, Atsuhiro is the most enthusiastic and coaches the others in their roles.

  • The end result is an impressive performance, and when Atsuhiro stops a would-be thief with Taichi, Sawa, Wakana and Konatsu despite being physically outmatched, it really demonstrates the strength of his character. This was a fun arc in Tari Tari that gives viewers a better measure of Atsihiro’s character, and I remark here that while Konatsu and the others affectionately refer to Atsuhiro as “Wein” (after Austria’s capital, Vienna), I prefer calling Atsuhiro by his given name because this is the way to properly address the characters and furthermore, avoids confusion.

  • Once the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club secure the funds for their costumes and props, it’s full steam ahead as they prepare for the culture festival. Tari Tari has one final curveball to throw at them: it turns out their school is closing down because the area has been zoned for new development. The timing is such that it would cause the cancellation of the cultural festival, but Wakana ends up finishing her song, and she pushes to have their own festival anyways, since this song represents not just her, but the sum of the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club’s efforts, a product of self-discovery that each of Konatsu, Taichi, Sawa and Atsuhiro have experienced since they met.

  • During the preparations, Taichi and Sawa spend more time together, and Taichi eventually develops a crush on Sawa. This shouldn’t be terribly surprising, since Tari Tari had foreshadowed this early on: the two have been through quite a bit together as members of the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club, and when he’d failed to make the competition, Sawa had been the first to check up on him to make sure he was alright. Indeed, Taichi does attempt a kokuhaku at the series’ end, but the outcome of this is left ambiguous, and for fans of Tari Tari, this has been a bit of a sore spot, since viewers believed that Taichi and Sawa deserved a happy ending of sorts.

  • Despite being unsuccessful in convincing the student council to permit the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club to press on, Konatsu’s efforts are admirable, and she manages to convince the choral club to help her. Owing to an accident, the props that Atsuhiro had worked on are discarded. The club manages to recover them at the local landfill, and with Taichi’s help, the props and costumes inch their way to completion better than before. Meanwhile, Sawa heads off to try and enlist the shōtengai association’s help in gathering an audience.

  • While visiting Mahiru’s grave, Wakana runs into Naoko. It is here that the extent of Naoko’s friendship with Mahiru becomes apparent, and seeing Wakana finish Mahiru’s final composition convinces Naoko that Wakana is a worthy musician, someone who has the skill to continue bringing joy into the world through music. This was incredibly touching, and with her effort, Wakana demonstrates that the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club is worthy of her respect. On the day of the festival, Naoko fetches the wind instrument club and choral club to help with the performance.

  • While the principal has always been somewhat of a pushover when it came to the school’s future, he ultimately decides that sending the students off in style and leaving a positive memory matters more than a comfortable retirement bonus. He discards the developer’s proposal and allows the festival to be held. There is no time to lose as the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club press forwards with the preparations for their performance. The rainy weather gives way to sunshine, and ultimately, the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club’s performance is an unqualified success, capturing everyone’s feelings and thoughts regarding their journey and time together.

  • After lectures ended, I had spent most of the afternoon of the day before at the Telus SPARK Science Centre helping to get things set up, and the Friday night of six years ago was the opening night. Looking back, The Giant Walkthrough Brain would have been my Radiant Melody: after being tasked with testing the viability of the Unity Game Engine to provide a virtual visualisation of Jay Ingram’s show in May, I ended up taking the lead on the development of the software side of things, and over four months, I implemented, tested and improved the Giant Walkthrough Brain. Following a successful showing at the Banff Centre, the true test would come as the Giant Walkthrough Brain was presented for Beakerhead, a local science programme: I worried that at Telus SPARK, I would need to implement a different type of projection to create a 3D view for the geodesic dome.

  • Fortunately, we only needed standard projection, and having built the Unity project in a way to be extensible, I had no trouble with configuring it for the Beakerhead presentation requirements. The two performances for the Beakerhead Giant Walkthrough Brain were to sold-out crowds on both evenings and was a complete a success by all definitions. Watching the Beakerhead performance was every bit as rewarding and thrilling as seeing the culmination of Wakana, Konatsu, Sawa, Taichi and Atsuhiro’s final performance, a superb musical that combines drama with singing that acts as a swan song for both Tari Tari and the high school’s final graduating class. The weather transitions from a moody and rainy day shortly before the performance: the sunny breaks acts as a visual metaphor for the beginning of a new era, a well-lit one characterised by hope.

  • The Giant Walkthrough Brain came to represent what was possible with computer science, and set me down the path towards my graduate thesis project. Like the Choir-and-sometimes-Badminton Club’s successful magnum opus, I count the Giant Walkthrough Brain to be one of the things I’m most proud of having done in my youth, and for my contributions, The Giant Walkthrough Brain project would earn me an city-wide award for “exceptional extra-curricular contribution of computer science skills to the community”. These are the sorts of contributions I hope that all youth have a chance to make: using their skills to tangibly and positively impact their community: there is a skill component (it takes a bit of patience to learn a system like Unity), but it should be clear that the results are well worth it.

  • Tari Tari‘s use of light is meant to evoke the idea that as light reaches even the darkest, out of the way spots, it casts these places in warmth and gives them hope. Wide windows allow light to permeate the buildings, and similarly an honest, open dynamic amongst the characters allow them to support one another and find hope where it appears all is lost. It is therefore appropriate that Wakana and Naoko share their thoughts with one another beside a window as sunlight streams into the room: while the empty classroom creates a sense of melancholy, the warmth in the scene comes from Wakana and Naoko coming to terms with Mahiru’s death together: both Naoko and Wakana can depend on one another to cherish their memories of Mahiru and continue advancing music in her memory, as well as for their own futures.

  • In the end, everyone reaches their graduation and prepares to step into their own futures. Sawa’s already taken off to attend an equestrian school overseas, having been accepted into their program, but is granted a diploma anyways for having completed all of the requirements. As Tari Tari drew to a close, I entered my honours thesis year: seeing the sort of determination spurred my intentions to complete a journal publication during the summer, after the project had fallen by the wayside during term. For our troubles, we were accepted into the publication, and this accomplishment also helped one of my colleagues make the honours thesis programme. Their GPA had just missed the minimum requirements by a small faction, but having a publication proved to the department they were qualified for the work. With this and my supervisor vouching for them, they were reinstated.

  • This final year stands as my favourite undergraduate year, as we each worked on our own projects, supported one another and ultimately, defended our work the following April. I don’t think anyone in our year failed our thesis projects. For me, Tari Tari has many moments that are memorable, being attached to pivotal moments during my time as a student; this contributes to a bit of my bias as to why I found the anime so moving and enjoyable. Viewers have longed for a continuation, and while no sequel anime ever materialised, a special OVA set during the winter was released with a commemorative BD collection, and in 2018, a novel, Tari Tari ~Mebaitari Terashitari Yappari Tokidoki Utattari~ (Tari Tari ~Budding, Shining, and Sometimes Singing~) was announced.

  • This novel is set ten years after the anime’s events, and sees the characters reunite to help Yukine, a high school student who is still searching for her way. Unfortunately, I’ve not heard much at all about this project: the first chapter was originally published on August 1, 2018, and new chapters were supposed to be published bimonthly, but I’ve found nothing of the project as of yet. However, while we may not have the full story from the sequel, Tari Tari portrays Wakana walking along the same path she normally walks, sporting a longer hairstyle similar to Mahiru’s. She smiles warmly, bringing Tari Tari to a close and assuring viewers that, with everything she’s experienced, she’s in a much better place now and ready to seize the future.

Tari Tari is often overlooked where discussions of P.A. Works’ anime are concerned: this is, after all, the studio that has brought viewers the likes of Angel Beats!, Hanasaku Iroha, Nagi no Asukara and Shirobako, each of which are veritable masterpieces in their own right for excellence in capturing the viewer’s interest with their characters, setting and premise. However, Tari Tari‘s contributions to P.A. Works’ repertoire of productions cannot be understated. As the production following Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari inherits many elements from its predecessor, especially a cast of characters of different backgrounds that each share a common goal. However, whereas Hanasaku Iroha required a full twenty-six episodes to tell its story, Tari Tari managed to condense that experience down into half the runtime. The success in Tari Tari, then, was demonstrating that even with a reduced episode count, it was still possible to draw upon the elements that made Hanasaku Iroha so successful, and moreover, P.A. Works now had two series that were successful following a busier, more multi-faceted set of characters in a coming-of-age setting. Tari Tari‘s legacy is therefore understated; in addition to being an exceptional anime, Tari Tari confirmed that P.A. Works had a winning combination that could fit into a thirteen or twenty six episode format. confident that series with a large number of characters each working towards the same objective can captivate audiences, P.A. Works would go on to create outstanding experiences through Shirobako, Sakura Quest and Irodoku. Each of these series have proven to be immensely enjoyable in their own right, taking the concepts from Tari Tari and successfully applying them to different settings, from the anime production workplace, to a remote town and even a world with magic to create captivating series well worth one’s while.