The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime Collaborations

The Human and Material Costs of Ambition, Dispelling Controversy in a Collaborative Discussion with Dewbond on Mobile Suit Gundam SEED

“If you don’t do something because you think you can’t do it, you’ll never be able to do anything in the future.” –Kira Yamato

Gundam SEED first crossed my path when I was a student. Back then, the local television station ran English-dubbed episodes on Friday evenings, and I caught a glimpse of the series late in the game. One of my best friends had taken an immense liking to the series and picked up all four volumes of the soundtrack some time later, sharing two iconic songs, Strike Shutsugeki and Seigi to Jiyuu, with me over MSN messenger. I subsequently longed to hear more of the soundtrack, and stumbled across Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water. With her singing voice, I was captivated. However, back then, it would’ve been very tricky to get ahold of Gundam SEED, and for the next sixteen years, what sort of series Gundam SEED was would remained unanswered. Recently, at my best friend, and Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime‘s recommendation, I would finally begin Gundam SEED. What followed was a fantastic journey; going in, the only knowledge I had was that internet opinions of the show were not entirely trustworthy, and so, I entered with an open mind. The road from the first episode to finish took ten months altogether; I actually started back in September of last year, but only really accelerated my experience in the past six months. With the whole of Gundam SEED now in the books, I am finally in a position to say I’m ready for a collaborative talk about Gundam SEED. I welcome back Dewbond for this discussion; with my best friend, Gundam discussions never stray far from mobile suit mechanics, their analogues in real life and video games, and how politics in Gundam always seem to predict or speak to current events with a chilling accuracy. Such topics form the bulk of discussions I am most familiar with, but this approach comes at the expense of things like characterisation and other topics. Gundam is, after all, a franchise whose largest successes come from a balance of character growth and development, exploration of a plethora of themes as varied as current events to bioethics, and thrilling, well-animated combat sequences. Having Dewbond for this collaboration thus represents a fantastic opportunity to talk about the sorts of things that I might otherwise miss while conversing with more familiar faces, and this in turn will confer, as my best friend puts it, a “most” experience.

  • The HD remaster brought new life into a series, bringing the visuals upwards to improve the experience. It’s not a complete overhaul, but having seen the side-by-side comparisons, the changes are noticeable: to put things in perspective, it’s the difference between 2007’s Halo 3 and Halo 3 from The Master Chief Collection. I’ve heard that subtle changes were also made to the order of events compared to the original, but I’ve not seen the original, and Dewbond similarly enters with the HD remaster, so for our conversation, we’ll be sticking with the HD remaster.


Firstly, Dewbond, I’d like to welcome you back to our latest collaborative project. Before we delve further into the heart and soul of things, I will note that I enjoyed every step of this journey. I’ve always been intimidated by long-running anime; at first, the prospect of watching all of Gundam SEED‘s episodes seemed daunting, and watching the series in a Netflix-style marathon was off the table. However, as I delved into the series, I did find myself watching episodes in twos and wishing I had the time to polish off one more before lunch break ended, or before I turned in for the night. The experience ended up reminding me of YU-NO, which similarly led me to watch multiple episodes in one sitting the further I got, speaking volumes to how much fun I had with Gundam SEED. In fact, I’m now wishing I bought an MG Aile Strike back in the day; that’s how enjoyable Gundam SEED is. However, that’s enough from me: Dewbond, I’d like to hear a little more from you and how you came upon Gundam SEED!


I actually have MGs of each of the Gundams in SEED, at least the first few!

Gundam SEED is a show that I watched in the tail end of the 4kids/Toonami Era, and the start of the Fansub Era. It was a show on late nights on Friday, and having been one of the people who watched Gundam Wing, I was for sure going to watch anything else with Gundam on it. To that end, SEED has been a show that’s been with me for a long time, and a personal favorite of mine. As I’ve gotten older and other Gundam series have come and gone, I’ve always retained the belief that SEED isn’t just good Gundam, it’s good anime period. Which is a surprisingly contrary opinion as most fans look down heavily on the series.

But for me, I love the characters, the story, the mechs, the themes, the music and the ease of which it brings new viewers into a classic Gundam story. Not a perfect show by any means, just look at the animation recycling, but something that I think is unfairly judged, and helped in no small part by the it’s own sequel.


That is something I didn’t know, and it’s great to meet a fellow Gunpla builder! We should swap photos and stories some time. Unfortunately for me, SEED always aired a little too late for me, so I always ended up seeing the first five minutes of episodes before turning in; my first Gundam was Gundam 00, which I’ve heard is similar to Gundam Wing in some ways. Having now seen SEED, I am aligned with the idea that it’s a fantastic series for beginners. The protagonists’ goals are clearly defined, and the scope of the ZAFT-Earth Alliance conflict is slowly expanded upon as not to overwhelm viewers, the mobile suits are similarly smaller in number early on so viewers can get accustomed to what the G-project’s implications are before more variety is introduced, and Kira himself represents a viewer who is similarly thrown into the story.

In many ways, Gundam SEED succeeds in bringing the best aspects of the Universal Century into a fresh environment – it would’ve been a bold new project during its time, and I can’t help but feel that perhaps the animation shortcuts were a result of having spent more time writing out the story; if this is the case, then the story in Gundam SEED more than offsets the fact that the Freedom’s full burst mode is identical in no fewer than six scenes. In the heat of the moment, these can be hard to notice, so in that department, I’ll also give it a pass. Finally, I’ve not seen Gundam SEED Destiny in full (save a few iconic scenes like the Strike Freedom’s launch, which is awesome no matter how the rest of Destiny is perceived), so I entered Gundam SEED with more or less a blank canvas, and will reserve all judgement for Destiny once I’ve gone through it. Further to this, I have heard the unjust hate Kira Yamato himself gets, and SEED demonstrates that almost none of these assertions hold true.


Gundam SEED was the first time a Gundam series was done on the computer instead of traditional hand-drawn animation. I’ve also heard that most of the budget went towards booking top-tier voice actors and music, though I can’t confirm that. What I can say is that the animation recycling is very noticeable, especially after a re-watch. It gets only worse in Destiny, but again we are keeping things to SEED here.

Now on to the series proper. I’ve said before in my own posts that I have little love for the UC timeline of Gundam. I’ve watched quite a bit, enjoyed some parts, but it has never pulled me in as much as the Alternate Universes have. Simply put, the UC’s vaguely defined space politics (and also telepathy) never gripped me as much as say SEED‘s story of science, or Wing‘s “philosophical” nature, or 00‘s peace through violence. I think it is important, for me at least, to point out that SEED has at least two central themes running through it. One for the overall Coordinator-Natural conflict, and one for the characters themselves. Both of these intertwine throughout the show, but I do think they are quite separate.

For the characters and most notably the lead, Kira Yamato, his story is about stepping up to the plate. By using your gifts and powers to do something, and not just run away. This is very present in the first half of the series where Kira, like Amuro Ray before him, struggles with becoming involved in a war he has no interest in. He is a kind and gentle soul who doesn’t want to kill, which is made even worse when his friend Athrun is on the other side. But things are out of his control and to protect his friends and later, the world, Kira comes to terms with realizing what he can do and what he should do.

And this theme is present in all of the characters. From Mu and Murrue on the Archangel, to Miriallia, Tolle, Sai and Kuzzy, to Cagalli and Lacus, and even to Flay. Everyone in the cast has to reckon with whether they will try to do something, or let the world go the way it is suppose to. But I’m getting ahead of myself, Zen, let’s talk about the central two characters of the story, Kira and Athrun, what do you make of them?


A long-standing question that people are asked about anime is, if the visuals weren’t exceptional but the story was, would said anime still be okay? I’ve never given my thoughts on that until now, but Gundam SEED is the perfect example of a series whose visuals might not swing with say, the likes of Gundam 00 (the mobile suit fights and combat scenes have aged very gracefully and look amazing to this day), but as far as story, emotional investment, character growth and world-building, Gundam SEED is remarkably well done: Gundam 00 was my first Gundam, and looking back, if I’d seen Gundam SEED first, I probably would’ve found it to be every bit as enjoyable then as I do now (although the “me” of a decade earlier is unlikely to have articulated his thoughts quite as coherently!).

Once we step away from the internet memes and forum discussions surrounding Kira Yamato, I found a very relatable individual who rises up to the challenge. While his Coordinator abilities certainly would’ve been an asset, it is his heart that makes all the difference. He simultaneously detests war and wishes that other options were available to sort out disagreements, but at the same time, knows that since he’s the only one capable of stepping into the cockpit and defend those around him, he does so whenever needed (however reluctantly). His first few battles open his eyes to the reality of warfare – sometimes, there really is no other way, and hesitating to pull the trigger means watching one’s friends or allies die. Indeed, the worst of it is when he is made to confront Athrun, his best friend.

Athrun might be on the other side of the war, but his convictions and beliefs are equally as strong as Kira’s. Whereas most Gundam series delineate things very clearly, having one’s best friend on the other side immediately changes things by humanising one’s opponents. It was easy to vilify Zeon, but seeing Athrun with ZAFT meant understanding him and his team, too. They’re soldiers, whose sense of duty is no less than Kira’s, and who genuinely believes that swiftly beating his foe is a route to peace. Athrun is not one of the bad guys, and in fact, one sympathises with him for the fact that he is conflicted between his duty and what and what he feels is right. Amidst the horrors and losses accrued in war, Gundam SEED brings these two to the brink, and Athrun’s fight with Kira was a milestone in the series, representing how war and its brutality strips us of what makes us human. It is a tragedy in the making, but fortunately, we have Lacus and Cagalli speak with Kira and Athrun, respectively helping them to mentally recover. By the time the two meet again, they are able to reconcile, and this moment put a particular smile on my face.

Once Kira and Athrun understand one another, as well as what they desire, Gundam SEED symbolically grants them superior mobile suits, armed with a nuclear reactor and possessing the power to finally affect positive change on the world. Had the two been given the Freedom and Justice early on, their brash impulses would’ve taken over and inevitably result in tragedy. This was a brilliant move on Gundam SEED‘s part, in using the mobile suits themselves to visually denote the characters’ state of being. The early Gundams are limited by their batteries, and constrain the pilots, who must be mindful of how they fight. The natural progression of the technology and pilot skill is synchronous with character growth – seeing Kira and Athrun improve and overcome their trials was a rewarding part of Gundam SEED. However, the two do not do this alone. Kira has the crew of the Archangel and his friends to support him early on, and eventually meets Lacus, who changes his life. Similarly, a chance encounter with Cagalli also pushes Athrun in a direction that forces him to choose what matters more to him, and her presence eventually pushes him to follow his heart. Lacus and Cagalli are similarly integral players in Gundam SEED – while they are formidable and capable individuals in their own right, their power lies in being able to inspire and support those around them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Cagalli and Lacus!


I like your view that when Kira and Athrun are given the Freedom and Justice, they are in a sense given power on par with their new resolve. I never really thought of it that way, though in hindsight, Lacus kinda does spell it out.

Kira and Athrun’s relationship is of course, the backbone of the series and it is interesting in how similar and different they are. There are both gentle souls and would avoid killing if they have too, yet while Kira fights for his friends, Athrun fights, at least the start, for a sense of duty. He feels like he has too, that it is expected of him, and that because he lost his mother in the Bloody Valentine, he should be a solider who seeks vengeance. But he isn’t really that kind of person. Even after Nicol’s death (which is changed in the HD version to make it more of a mistake, then intentional by Kira), Athrun’s rage against his friend is only for a few fleeting, but crucial days.

When he learns Kira is alive, he isn’t bent on furthering his revenge, or killing his friend. Through Lacus, he realizes he needs to figure out what he is fighting for. As she puts it to him. “Is it the medal you received, or your father’s orders?” This conversation I think helps pull Athrun out of a rage-filled revenge fest that might have driven him otherwise (as it does Yzak), and allows him and Kira to sit down and talk it out. That is a great conversation and they both reach a sense of peace that is rare both in Gundam and Anime in general.

As for Lacus and Cagalli, they are both interesting characters, and I want to talk about them both. I’ll put Cagalli aside for the moment and focus instead on Lacus. I’ll admit, that when it comes to Lacus Clyne, this is where the anime comes up short in terms of character work. There is too much “tell” and not enough “show” for Lacus, and there feels like we are just supposed to accept parts of her character with it really being shown the A to B road.

Zen, what did you think of the Pink Pop Princess?


It is probably no joke when I say that Lacus Clyne fuelled much of my interest in the series prior to my knowledge of what Gundam even was. I’d been long itching to see what role such a character would play in a series where warfare was a core concept, and where space battles were the norm. One evening, when I’d just started high school, while trying to find more music from Gundam SEED, I inadvertently downloaded Rie Tanaka’s Token of Water. At that point, I wasn’t a fan of any sort of vocal music newer than the 80s, let alone contemporary J-Pop, and Rie Tanaka’s stunning performance in that song blew me away. This one song, with Tanaka’s clear singing voice and emotional delivery, single-handedly changed my mind about songs with vocals. I would similarly fall in love with Tanaka’s other songs as Lacus Clyne (Quiet Night, and Fields of Hope come to mind), and that led me to watch Chobits. But, that’s going off topic: on Lacus herself, I entered Gundam SEED knowing she was an excellent singer and an idol of sorts with a profound dedication to peace as a result of having listened to her songs so extensively.

Gundam SEED‘s portrayal of Lacus is indeed limited – upon meeting her, viewers get the sense that her ditzy, easygoing manner is a veneer, and underneath, she has a strong sense of justice and stands strongly behind her ideals. Beyond speeches and the Clyne name, Lacus doesn’t have quite as direct a role as her popularity amongst viewers suggest. However, I believe that this element is deliberate – despite not stepping into the cockpit herself, Lacus does venture onto the battlefield and rally those around her to see what’s going on around her. Moreover, she’s the one who convinces Kira to forgive himself for what’s happened, and upon seeing Kira’s devotion to what he believes in, boldly steals the Freedom from ZAFT for him. Lacus’ actions in Gundam SEED are indirect, but they nonetheless have a large impact on how the war turns out. Princess-like figures in Gundam hold an unusual power in the series, driving pilots to do things they otherwise won’t do without a bit of encouragement, and in the most recent instalment, Hathaway’s Flash, Federation Commander Kenneth Sleg, remarks that the right women in the right place can tame even the fiercest man’s heart, suggesting that for all of their weapons and power, at the end of the day, those feelings within the heart remain more powerful still.

In Gundam SEED, Lacus is able to impact both Kira and Athrun in this way, though hearts and minds, by gently guiding them along rather than more openly propelling the to open their eyes. This is where Lacus can seem a little less prominent, especially where compared to her counterpart, Cagalli Athha, who is very much a woman of action. Where Lacus is composed and graceful, Cagalli is direct and action-oriented. She speaks her mind and is an untamed spirit, preferring to meet injustice with force compared to Lacus, who would rather sit the sides down and have them talk out their problems. With the rambunctious and daring Cagalli, whose devotion to Orb compels her to even pilot the Strike Rogue, Lacus does seem to have a lesser presence. However, I feel that Lacus is no less important, affecting the story in her own way, and before we delve deeper into Lacus’ counterpart, I would also be curious to hear more about how Lacus would’ve been able to play a larger role in SEED (and be credited accordingly).


As always Zen, you are more abstract, while I look at things like they are on the page, but it is a good counterbalance when we have conversations like this.

Like I said before, Lacus in my view, is the weakest of the four main characters, and the least developed. While Kira and Athrun both go on journeys to find their place in the war and Cagalli learns that you can’t shoot your way through everything, Lacus really doesn’t have any kind of journey. The switch from idol pop princess to the philosophical and measured leader of the Clyne Faction feels very much out of left field. There is just no connective tissue that links the two together. Was Lacus a follower of her father? We know that a little, but did she make her own speeches, did she study the issues? What is her stake in all of this? Hell the only time we see Lacus show a sliver of actual human emotion is when she runs to Kira after her father’s dead. It’s a good moment, and shows you there is a human underneath, but to be honest, we never got to see the ‘icon’ side of her that much either.

It’s not that it isn’t believable, Lacus’s role in the story is to be the guiding force for the other characters. She is in a sense, the figurehead to counter balance Rau Le Crueset and Patrick Zala. There is just no legwork done to try and connect what feels like two different version of the character. Maybe that was due to scripting reasons, critics of the series have said that the show’s tone takes a marked shift after the Kira and Athrun fight, but I can’t say for sure.

What do you think Zen, did you see any of this?


Now that you mention it, following the Kira and Athrun fight, Gundam SEED sets aside the idea of being forced to do extraordinary and difficult things (like shooting to kill even though it’s one’s best friend on the receiving end) in warfare, to the greater conflict between the Coordinators and Naturals. In retrospect, this does come across as a bit jarring, coinciding with the arrival of Muruta Azrael and the Biological CPUs. Gundam SEED suddenly feels bigger – the smaller scale and focused battles suddenly give way to a much larger war, with the racism and hatred between the Coordinators and Naturals really coming to bear. Before, we’d seen it briefly with how Naturals regard coordinators, such as through Flay and her initial treatment of Kira, but Muruta really came to embody the worst excesses of the Earth Alliance.

I would say that the shift is noticeable: even though the arrival at JOSH-A and the beginning of Operation Spit Break showed that the Earth Alliance and ZAFT both sought escalation, the series’ main conflict only comes to the table after Kira and Athrun have sorted out their own differences. The timing is quite convenient, and it does feel like ZAFT and the Earth Alliance were politely waiting for the two to reconcile before unveiling their own hostilities. If memory serves, Gundam SEED did have some directorial challenges (not as severe as Destiny’s, however!), so the tonal change might also be related to why Lacus received less development than she could’ve otherwise.

With this in mind, Gundam SEED still manages to apply the lessons learnt from earlier conflicts to guide Kira and Athrun along, so that when the world descends to extremism and madness, the pair remain resolute in their convictions. This gives a constant beacon for the two that allow them to convey Gundam SEED‘s themes. While SEED might be rough about transitioning from its character-vs-character and character-vs-self conflicts to a character-vs-society conflict in its final third, SEED continues to intrigue because of its messages. As you’ve mentioned earlier, the larger conflict in Gundam SEED deals in the ramifications of genetic engineering and pushing science faster than ethics can keep up. This has always been a fascinating topic for me (and I’m not just saying this because a part of my undergraduate education dealt with research ethics); science fiction is fond of demonstrating the risks of uncontrolled progress (“just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”), and I’d love to hear your thoughts on where Gundam SEED excels in its portrayal of dangerous knowledge.


Gundam SEED, and its outer theme (the inner theme being the characters stepping up to heroism and the right thing), has been to me, after so many re-watches: the good and bad of human ambition, which is represented in many ways by both Kira Yamato and Rau Le Creuset

For Kira, the ultimate coordinator. He represents the strive for humanity to do better. To reach for the stars, to, as Rau says “to be the strongest, to go the farthest, to climb the highest.” Man always tries to go above and beyond their limits, to break them and do them again. It’s for the greater good of humanity. Coordinators were created for that purpose, to help guide humanity into the stars and help create a more perfect earth. Kira’s abilities are the best they possibly can be, but it is only through other people, coordinators and naturals, that he is able to fully become who he is. Kira ends the story as a mature and understanding young man, aware of the evil of humanity, but always willing to see the goodness that is there.

The problem is that while humans are capable of great compassion, they are also capable of great cruelty. And that’s Rau Le Crueset.

If Kira represents the goodness of science, the Rau is the bad. He is a product of greed, ego, ruthless ambition and doing whatever it takes to get ahead. Instead of accepting your limits, that you only have one life. we see Mu La Flaga’s father try to cheat death with his money, to create a clone to replace his ‘inferior son.” Rau only sees the worst in humanity, a greedy war obsessed people who will destroy the planet as long as they can remain on top. And unlike Kira, who has friends and loved ones to guide him, Rau only has himself and he only sees what created him and the misguided hatred of the Patrick Zala and the rest of the hardliners in the PLANTs.

It is a great contrast to me brings the ‘outer theme’ of the series into focus, especially during the Mendel episodes, which remain my favorite part of the series.


This is definitely where Gundam SEED particularly excels: in order to address the larger challenge of forbidden technology, Kira must first understand what he himself is fighting for before gaining the conviction to deal with the embodiment of evil that is Rau le Creuset. Gundam villains have greatly varied, from Char Aznable himself, who initially fought for revenge against the system that wronged his family, to Ribbons Almarc, who was created to guide humanity but deviated from his aims and Full Frontal, who believed that there was a more elegant way to force human migration into space. Rau le Creuset is unique in that Gundam SEED starts him as a masked character who appears immensely devoted to ZAFT and the PLANTs. However, at Mendel, when the cards are finally laid on the table, Rau le Creuset takes on a new menace to Kira and the protagonists. The beauty in Gundam SEED comes from Kira now having the maturity to remain true to his convictions despite hearing everything Rau le Creuset had thrown at him and Mu.

The timing of this confrontation was appropriate: having now come to terms with the idea that he should do what he feels is right, Kira is able to focus even though his world has been rocked with Rau le Creuset’s revelation (and in fact, during their final fight, Kira demonstrates that Rau had been unsuccessful in changing his mind). SEED’s portrayal of how humanity deals with possibility is an optimistic one, and at the same time, suggests that, armed with the sort of compassion and empathy Kira possesses, even the fouler consequences of progress can be overcome. We see this time and time again in Gundam, where protagonists and antagonists, when possessing or given equal power, choose to wield that power differently. When that decision is to wield it selfishly, the very power they sought to control ends up consuming them. Rau le Creuset’s existence was ultimately self-destructive, and no matter how strong his desire to annihilate humanity was, his hubris would be his undoing: he is so focused on the idea that he is unequivocally right that he cannot comprehend that there could be others with a will exceeding his, to protect and defend. While Rau le Creuset might’ve had a smaller role during Gundam SEED‘s first half, his prominent role in the second makes him the perfect foil for Kira.

With this in mind, wars are fought not as single combat between titans, but a result of politicians and people in power giving orders to their subordinates as though they were pushing pawns on a chessboard. On one end of the extreme, we have Patrick Zala and his utter hatred of Naturals, believing their inferior abilities as the singular cause of his wife’s death. In the other corner is Muruta Azrael of the Blue Cosmos, who believes that the Coordinator’s enviable abilities are unfair and personally have wronged him. Where leaders convince their followers that there is an inhuman foe to be exterminated, tragedy can only result: both Patrick Zala and Muruta Azrael are completely consumed with hate, so when someone like Rau le Creuset guides them down a path of destruction, the pair are so blinded by their ideology that they would choose to fight without question. In this sense, I also see Rau le Creuset as a natural force that merely is: immensely powerful to be sure, but one that is only as potent as people allow. Dewbond, where do you stand on the PLANTs’ Patrick Zala and Earth Alliance’s Muruta Azrael?


I’ll be honest, I found both of them to be rather one-note characters to the story. Not bad, but just doing what was advertised on the box. They serve a purpose showing the two sides of the coordinator vs natural debate. Azrael representing the fear, resentment and jealously of the naturals and Zala the arrogance and superiority of the Coordinators. They more plot devices than characters, and I honestly really didn’t think much about them. Though I will say Azrael getting his comeuppance by Natarle’s sacrifice is one of the series best moments.

One of the most interesting things in the story however, is that despite the hatred shared between the naturals and coordinators. Had they let things take their course, the Naturals would have ended up winning. The show makes references to the fact that Coordinator’s are becoming increasingly sterile, and that they actually need naturals to make more of their children coordinators to help stablize the population.

I was always surprised this plot point never really got fully addressed in the story. It gives the entire world of the PLANTs a ticking clock, that despite their supposed superiority, they are a doomed race regardless. It’s almost as if they want to be ‘king of the ashes’ as Game of Thrones put it. Did you pick up any that?


There is no question about that particular moment, although Muruta’s death comes at a cost to Natarle. It’s true that Patrick Zala and Muruta Azrael were the products of decades of resentment and mistrust, which in turn speaks to the writing in Gundam SEED; enough world-building was done to create a compelling and plausible backdrop for the events which lead up to the Alliance-PLANT conflict.

Regarding the reproductive challenges Coordinators face, this is another detail that I enjoyed. Had the Coordinators been created as flawless, the Naturals would have no edge to speak of. Instead, this seemingly small flaw in their genetics ends up being how the Gordian Knot could’ve been cut were it not for resentment and contempt. It’s a very clever way of showing how the simplest solutions (here, the idea of cooperating to better the world, per George Glenn’s original ideals) are often forgotten. Further to this, the genetic limitations in Coordinators also suggest that extremism and patience don’t usually go hand-in-hand. The Earth Alliance very nearly pay the price for this at Jachin Due: had GENESIS fired a third time at Earth, it would’ve probably eliminated the whole of humanity.

These small details really speak to what makes the Cosmic Era so enjoyable: we have the central theme that guides the story’s events, but then the tangents can each lead to a rabbit hole in their own right, giving viewers something further to think about. It is therefore unsurprising that even now, nineteen years after Gundam SEED aired, there can still be meaningful and engaged discussion about the series’ messages, and what it had contributed to the Gundam franchise. (If we go down the characters route:) Of course, no theme can exist in a vacuum, and Gundam SEED‘s characters are very much at the heart of what happens. One of the advantages about Gundam SEED was that with its runtime, it was able to satisfactorily explore a lot of character dynamics. Where do we begin?


I think Gundam SEED has a good run-time. There is enough time to tell the story and I honestly don’t feel that anything was left out. Everything felt wrapped up and explored to an adequate level.

I mean, we could Monday morning quarterback the series to death. There would be somethings I would do differently, I would try to tie the second half closer to the first, I would make the sterilization of the coordinators a bigger issue. I would absolutely give Lacus more backstory and quite frankly, I’d add more boobage. But what we have ranges from good to really great.

Most Gundam Series often fall apart in the back half, as they run into ‘third disc syndrome’ where they need to tie their ending up with some philosophy, but SEED, with it’s coordinator vs natural fight, gets most of it done without it feeling shoved in.


It’s a shame more anime don’t go the 4-cour approach nowadays, when everything is based off BD sales rather than telling a well-explored story, and Gundam SEED‘s first half was solid for this reason. Now that you mention it, the dwindling Coordinator question would’ve been perfect materials in a continuation: it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Naturals to exploit this and use this to start a new war. Of course, this never materialised, which is a shame, because Gundam SEED laid down the groundwork for what could’ve been exciting directions. I don’t believe Gundam SEED Destiny can be said to achieve this, but that’s going off-mission: I mention Gundam SEED Destiny only because, having only seen glimpses of Gundam SEED Destiny on TV back when children’s channels actually aired anime, I’d always gotten the sense that the Cosmic Era had a lot of moving parts.

Gundam SEED‘s first half shows that my misconceptions were untrue; the Cosmic Era is very accessible to newcomers, which is great. Beyond Kira, we have Sai, Flay, Tolle and Miriallia, whose friendship with Kira provides him with his initial desire to fight and protect the Archangel. They’re not soldiers, but ordinary people propelled into extraordinary circumstances. Sai, Tolle and Miriallia each rise to the occasion several times over, as do Marrue, Natarle and the Archangel’s crew. Their initial mission of reaching JOSH-A at Alaska was a very self-contained adventure, giving the characters plenty of time to grow, and despite the tragedies they suffer, continue to fight for the hope of a better world and for survival.

Of the initial group that Marrue encounters at Heliopolis, I am probably not mistaken in saying that Flay is probably the most nuanced, but also the most controversial. Whereas her friends willingly volunteer to keep one another safe and out of harm’s way, Flay herself is reluctant to fight and demonstrates a degree of prejudice towards Coordinators. However, if memory serves, Dewbond, you’ve previously noted that Flay’s portrayal often is not given proper credit: after all, Flay represents the average individual unaccustomed to war and its demands. Beyond the controversies and angry internet discussions, Flay is an integral part of Gundam SEED in many ways. I’d like to hear a little more on her and how her actions are central towards Gundam SEED‘s progression!


Ah yes Flay. If people have followed my look at the series from earlier this year, or my character dive on her. They’ll know that I came out of the series with a newfound appreciation for the character. Where once I sort of dismissed Flay as a ‘nothing character’, someone who was there to cause drama, going back to the series I found that Flay is both a damn compelling character, and a key aspect of the plot.

I won’t re-hash what I said in my blog post (pluggity, plug), but I will say that Flay Allster serves as a mirror to most of the character themes of the story. While Gundam SEED is about the crew of the Archangel, especially Kira and his friends, stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing, Flay is the opposite. She is weak, cowardly, and has absolutely no place in the situation she is. She is shunted from one ship to another, never having stability or purpose. She seeks comfort in Kira’s arms, but then runs right back to Sai when he vanishes. While Miriallia, in a moment of weakness, attempts to kill Dearka, she pulls back, while Flay goes for the gun. She is weak willed, cowardly and often bitterly racist person. Yet it all works in the series.

Because the truth is, not everyone is able to step up to the plate. Not everyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get it together. Just as their are strong people, there are weak people. Flay is one of those weak people. A woman in a situation she should never be in, and who doesn’t have the personality or mental fortitude to adjust. It is what makes her death at the end so tragic, because she is never able to find a true level of peace. And in a series where nukes end up flying, and a giant space laser is wiping out fleets. That one death seems to be the most tragic of them all.


In the end, all of the death and wanton destruction seen in Gundam SEED is a tragedy, a cost of politicians treating soldiers as little more than pawns on a chessboard. I’d heard of the controversy surrounding Flay, and the combination of your thoughts and being able to see everything for myself puts things in perspective. I could never hate her after all she’s gone through, and especially towards the end, being forced to accompany Rau le Creuset and hear his visions for the world might’ve changed her. Lives are cut short all the time by laser fire, both intended and unintended, in Gundam SEED; this is a series that handles death in a very mature, plausible manner.

Even among the soldiers, death isn’t something to take lightly; Gundam SEED took the time to develop characters on all sides of the conflict. In doing so, viewers come to care for Athrun and his team, as well. By giving the characters down time after their initial operations of the war, we’re reminded that each of Athrun, Dearka, Nicol and even Yzak are humans first, and soldiers second. Consequently, when Nicol dies in the fight with Kira, it mattered little that he was ZAFT and part of the team tasked with destroying the Archangel: we’d come to hope that he might get out of this war alive and survive to play the piano for those around him again. Even with the biological CPUs, once it became clear they were modified into weapons and made to suffer for some fanatical cause, it felt like for Shani, Orga and Clotho, death was a release from their suffering. This aspect was a masterful way to help remind viewers of the idea that behind every gunsight is a human being, and having explored it with you further, this part of Gundam SEED now stands out as being particularly noteworthy.


I have to agree, and while I don’t think SEED goes too deep into the ‘war is hell’ vibe that other shows, including Gundam series have done. It does a fine job when it wants to.

Before we wrap up, I do want speak about Cagalli, and I also think it would be remiss to not talk about the mobile suits of the series, as well as the music. Where do you want to start first Zen?


It makes the most sense to begin with Cagalli! She’s the second of the Gundam SEED princesses, and unlike the refined, elegant and philosophical Lacus, Cagalli is brash, impulsive and driven by a desire to do good on the front lines. She’s a fighter, and very much an interesting foil to Lacus for this reason. However, while her heart is always in the right place, her hot head often threatens what she stands for, too. Her first real meeting with Kira in the African desert sets her on a path of growth – Cagalli begins to realise that it is not prudent to rush in to everything with fists raised and guns blazing.

Things only continue to get more interesting from here after Cagalli meets Athrun after they shoot one another down, and as their paths become increasingly entwined, Cagalli, Athrun and Kira continue to have a considerable impact on one another. Having said all of this, I’d like to hear your impressions of Cagalli, as well, Dewbond!


Cagalli was the character I hated the most in SEED for a long time. For me, she was the worst example of the ‘rebel girl’ trope. The woman who has to be 110% more committed to the cause to make up for the perceived deficit of being a woman. She’s never been a character who stuck well with me, being abrasive, angry, confrontational and trying to prove something. Gundam has no shortage of these bratty characters, and Cagalli fit into that mold well.

However, with this re-watch, I paid a bit more attention to Cagalli this time, and I found that, while she’s my least favorite of the four leads, she isn’t as bad as I thought. Seeing the story with new eyes, I found Cagalli to be all those things, but also someone who has a drive and zeal that helps fill in the gaps of the other character. She may be blunt, but there is a layer of kindness and compassion that can only come from someone who wears their heart on their sleeve. Her relationship with Kira, her twin brother is a good back and forth. While Kira hesitates, Cagalli is a woman of action. Both of them have moments when they are right, and both when they are wrong.

Where Kira struggles to find his place in the war, Cagalli throws herself into it, often to the detriment of the bigger picture and her own safety. She has an emotional side to her that clashes with Athrun’s failed attempt to ‘go cold’ against Kira. It is only during the last half, after her father gave her a talking to, that Cagalli realizes that blindly throwing yourself into the fight doesn’t help anyone and that she’s only doing it for her own self-satisfaction.

So I think I liked Cagalli a bit more this time around. What did you think of her Zen?


Personally, I rather liked Cagalli precisely because she was so blunt and short-sighted early on – perhaps your dislike of her speaks to the fact that Gundam SEED did a solid job of presenting just how immature she’d been at the series’ beginning. In a way, her idealism and belief that being actively involved was the only way to change the world, was something that was exaggerated so we viewers could see how events later on, from meeting Kira and watching him fight, to that fateful encounter with Athrun, culminate in her finally realising that fighting without understanding and unnecessarily putting oneself in danger isn’t the way to go.

This character growth is what makes Cagalli an interesting character; like Kira and Athrun, being involved with the conflict itself teaches them the significance of patience and thinking things through before acting, in turn giving them the conviction needed to stand against large-scale horrors, extremism and foes wielding an inhumane amount of power. I’m always fond of watching characters grow, especially if unlikeable characters become at least those we can sympathise with later on, and signifying this, Cagalli ends up piloting the Strike Rogue, a Gundam – she’s become mature enough to handle the responsibility of operating the sort of power Kira and Athrun wielded when Gundam SEED first began.

This is a fantastic segue into the mobile suits of Gundam SEED. To be honest, this aspect could be an entire thesis on its own, because Gundam SEED‘s mobile suits are awesome, so Dewbond, I’ll make a sincere effort to not to overdo things when it comes to discussing the mobile suits and eponymous Gundams!


I’ve always been a fan of the ‘less is more’ type of design when it comes to Gundam, and SEED mostly does that. The Strike is probably one of my most favorite suits, because even with it’s striker packs it wasn’t overdone. That suit is just damn fucking cool. A great example of re-imagining the iconic RX-78 Gundam, but taking it in a new direction.

The Freedom and Justice I was also a big fan of. Again, the Freedom is a great example of a suit having a bunch of cool weapons, but not overwhelming in terms of design. It’s not dressed to the nines like the Unicorn ends up becoming, or with its weapons stuck on the shoulder like the 00 Quan-T or Nu-Gundam. It’s a damn good design, and the same can be said for the Justice. I love the backpack, and I wish they’d have shown more scene of Athrun riding it.

 


For me, the Strike acts as the perfect first Gundam for Kira – he begins Gundam SEED a civilian, and mirroring his inexperience and naïveté, the Strike by design holds him back and forces him to think tactically. The Strike’s battery is reduced wherever the Phase Shift armour sustains a blow, and similarly, every shot Kira fires consumes limited battery power. In order to protect his allies, Kira must learn to make the most of his mobile suit. The fact that the Strike can switch so readily between different configurations also shows that Gundams can be built for a range of roles.

Indeed, when one looks at the Strike, its design philosophy goes into how the Earth Alliance and ZAFT subsequently design their mass production and special purpose mobile suits. Prior to acquiring the Duel, Buster, Blitz and Aegis, ZAFT’s GINN mobile suits were inspired by the Zaku line, being basic but reliable units that was far more powerful than the Möbius fighter craft. Subsequently, the data the Earth Alliance acquires allows them to build the Strike Dagger, a cut-down Strike that mirrors real-world design philosophies that take place whenever a given product is marked for mass production. Seeing the natural progression of mobile suits among both ZAFT and the Earth Alliance in the aftermath of the information returned from the G-Weapon project was a superb detail that again, accentuates the attention to detail in the series.

By the time Freedom and Justice arrive, mobile suit design has really accelerated, and ZAFT again takes the lead in technology when they successfully incorporate the N-Jammer Cancellers into these machines. From a design perspective, both Freedom and Justice look amazing. The Freedom’s biggest strength is that it works out of the box, and in a word, is the complete package, capable of single-handedly turning the tide of a battle without being overpowered, unlike the 00 Gundam, which spent half the season hampered by the fact that it couldn’t operate at full power. While there is considerable talk of how the Freedom is plot armour, when one considers that the Freedom’s Full Burst mode only allows for Kira to hit five independent targets at a time, the Freedom is actually well-balanced and an extension of Kira’s preference to disarm rather than kill. Compared to the likes of the 00 Qan[T] or RX-0 line, the Freedom is a thoughtful machine (the 00 Qan[T] is capable of teleporting at will, and the psycho-frame on the RX-0 series allows these mobile suits to turn back time or accelerate faster than the speed of light, which is ludicrous).

The Justice itself has a little less notoriety compared to the Freedom, and its design is strikingly similar to the Aegis. In Gundam SEED, I was initially a little less awed by its performance in battle – while similarly has unlimited operational time like the Freedom, it appears the Justice’s greatest strength is its mobility, and its loadout is correspondingly smaller. However, in retrospect, this makes sense: the reduced firepower and Fatum-00 backpack means Athrun is well-suited to assist his allies. He’d been trained as combat pilot and follows orders even if it meant casualties against his liking, so giving Athrun a high-speed mobile suit meant to support those around him allows him to follow his heart and still make meaningful contributions without causing casualties. Indeed, the Justice’s final act in destroying GENESIS was an artfully-done decision.

Freedom and Justice, the two most iconic Gundams in Gundam SEED‘s second half, also form the name for one of my all-time favourite songs on the soundtrack. It’s a tense, urgent sounding piece of incidental music that transitions into a haunting choral performance and speaks to feelings of resolute determination to do what’s right. When my best friend introduced me to that song sixteen years earlier, he mentioned it was for times when I needed to stay focused and not allow setbacks to keep me from doing my best. At the time, I’d been vying for spot of best student in my middle school (I was a bit of a trophy hunter when I was a student, and liked doing well in classes to collect shiny awards for the purpose of having shiny stuff). Said best friend also sent me Strike Shutsugeki, a heroic sounding track that plays whenever a Gundam takes off, ready for battle – this song, I was told, was something I should save for my moment of triumph. The soundtrack in Gundam SEED is, bluntly, amazing, and Toshihiko Sahashi did an incredible job of capturing everything from combat scores, to more melancholy and reflective pieces that speak to the sorrows of warfare. What do you think of the soundtracks in Gundam SEED, Dewbond?


I always love how you go way too deep into the weeds with things like this, while my response is always “yeah, they look pretty cool, I like the one who shoots the lasers from its wings”

Anyway, I do really like how SEED was able to look at what was done before and adapt it for this new re-telling. Like you said the GINN and such are similar, but not a copy/paste job of the ZAKU (that’s for the sequel). It shows a respect for the series that came before, but enough creatively to take things in a new direction. I forgot to mention that I was a big fan of the Buster and Duel as well, as they continued that ‘less is more’ design. The Blitz and Aegis meanwhile never sat well with me. Too busy, too much shit going on, like they were trying to hard. The same for the EA Gundams, which the exception of the Calamity. That was a cool suit.

Going to your point about the music. The tunes of Gundam SEED is where even the most vocal hater of the series has to give it points. This is a top shelf soundtrack, and absolutely where the most money was put into. Each of the opening themes was solid, with great visuals (and boobs). ‘Moment’ remains a great duet that I have yet to see repeated in anime, Believe is a great action packed song, and Invoke by TM Revolution can sit beside Gundam greats like ‘Beyond the Time’ ‘Daybreak’s Bell’ and ‘Just Communication’. The OST was great as well, especially during the final fight between Kira and Rau, or when Cagalli escapes to space.

Lacus’s singing was great as well, and I know that production community worked hard to secure a top-tier singing voice for those moments. Lacus has a beautiful voice, and I like how they were able to incorporate it into the series when they could. I have no doubt that with the movie finally coming, we’ll be able to see more of that.


Gundam SEED (and just about any series with a large mechanical piece) causes me to go a little crazy! I’ll dial it back some, but that there’s so much to go for in Gundam SEED really speaks to my enjoyment of all the different parts. The opening and ending songs were fun, TM Revolution’s Meteor is an iconic piece, and Rie Tanaka’s performance of Lacus’ songs were sublime (Token of Water was the one song that got me into appreciating vocal music and J-Pop!). I think Gundam SEED did a nice balance with Lacus: while she’s a singer, her role doesn’t overshadow the pilots and soldiers. The two songs we do get to hear (Quiet Night and Token of Water) present a very wistful and contemplative mood amidst all of the fighting and chaos, a beacon of light in the darkness, as it were. It is fair to say that my original interest in Gundam SEED came from its soundtrack, from the incidental pieces and openings, to the insets and endings!

Similarly to you, Dewbond, I’m quite excited to see what the Gundam SEED Movie entails. If I’m not mistaken, fans have been waiting for fifteen years for this announcement. That’s quite a bit of anticipation, so I hope that what results from this production, fans will be given a phenomenal experience. I personally have no idea of what to expect, but I suppose that’s also a large part of the fun.


The Gundam SEED movie is going to be very interesting to see, part that it has been so long since it was first revealed, and also because the series is well into its second decade. I hope it is good, but I mean, we can only go up after SEED Destiny.

With that, I think we’ve covered the gambit when it comes to this series. This has been a very interesting conversation Zen, and probably the first where you and I both come to with vastly different ideas. We both looked at this series very differently, but those different views make for good conversation!

Overall though, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED is a great mecha show and a great Gundam series. Full stop. I’ve always loved it each time I’ve watched it, and despite some fobiles, it remains a very well done and easy understand Gundam show that newbies can get into. Great characters, fantastic music and solid designs. Like Sword Art Online, it is an anime that people love to hate, but I think those haters have it wrong, and they are missing out on what is a damn fine show.


  • Gundam SEED is indeed a damn fine show, and while Dewbond and I found different facets of Gundam SEED to be particularly noteworthy, the outcome is obvious: the reputation that the Cosmic Era has picked up is not at all deserved, contrary to what the most vocal internet discussions (circa 2003-2004) have said, Gundam SEED is well worth one’s while, and especially with the upcoming film, it could be a good idea to re-watch the series and recall where the Cosmic Era had started. In the meantime, this wraps up the latest collaboration between Dewbond and myself. Two thoughts remain from me: first, I wonder what series might make its way to our table next. Dewbond has suggested that Fate/ZERO (or perhaps Sword Art Online‘s Færie Dance arc) could be a possibility, so time will tell where we head next. The second is that folks interested in doing a collaboration can always get in touch; it’s always nice to get a different set of eyes on things, after all!

Gundam SEED has proven that internet reputation is by no means an accurate or fair assessment of a given anime: looking past the stock footage and whatever other criticisms this amassed back in the day, it becomes clear that Gundam SEED is indeed a fine addition to the franchise, well-suited for folks getting into things for the first time. With due respect, the inter-fandom rivalry has never particularly made much sense: each universe has its own strong points and charms, and speaking as someone who entered Gundam through the Anno Domini universe, I see the Universal Century and Cosmic Era as each possessing something that make them distinct and meaningful. With this in mind, there are precious few people around in the present day to talk about Gundam SEED, owing to the fact that Gundam SEED did begin airing back in 2002. Consequently, where an opportunity to speak with fellow Gundam SEED fans like Dewbond presents itelf, I am inclined to seize such a chance, and our conversation finds that despite its age and the fact it was likely discussed to death back in 2003, there are always new surprises around the corner. Gundam SEED received a remaster nine years after its original airing, dramatically improving the visual quality, and ten years after the HD remaster, it turns out there is going to be more to the Cosmic Era in the form a new model kit, manga and film. I am, of course, a little behind on the times, and while Gundam SEED is under my belt, I’ve yet to see Gundam SEED Destiny in full. I am aware that the controversy surrounding Gundam SEED is legendary, and even the Gundam fans around me indicate that Gundam SEED Destiny is a bit of a special case. However, it does feel appropriate to continue on with things, in the event that the film does reference events from Gundam SEED Destiny. My decision means I’ve got another fifty episodes ahead of me, but with the timelines anime films follow, I suppose that even if I do take another six to eight months to roll through Gundam SEED Destiny, I’ll finish it with time to spare. In the meantime, both Dewbond and myself have previously written about Gundam SEED, and folks looking for my mecha-and-politics focused threads or Dewbond’s big picture theme and character analysis will find them here for perusing.

Dewbond’s Gundam SEED Posts

Infinite Zenith’s Gundam SEED Posts

Higurashi: When They Cry, Collaborating with Dewbond, and Solving The Enigma of Agent H173 Nano Desu

“Hōjō brainwashed you, but Takano had plans of her own. He was never in Hinamizawa. The real defector with the H-173 dossier died during the attack on U-731. He was never at the Cotton-drifting Festival. He was never at Irie Clinic. Satoshi Hōjō’s been dead for five years. He died at Harbin during the escape! All the years you thought he was with you, that was just in your mind!” –Jason Hudson

As Higurashi revealed that the Curse of Oyashiro-sama was the consequence of a pathogen that resulted in what was known as Hinamizawa Syndrome, the series transitioned away from a supernatural horror mystery into a science-fiction thriller. In Higurashi‘s final moments, Rena discovers that Curse of Oyashiro-sama had a scientific origin, and moreover, Miyo Takano had been researching the phenomenon extensively. In the process, Rena becomes a person of interest and develops increasing paranoia, eventually holding her school hostage. Rika, unfortunately does not bear witness to what happens after Keiichi manages to save Rena: she dies yet again. Higurashi: Kai continued on with the story and really began delving into Hinamizawa Syndrome and Tokyo, a shadowy organisation, coveting it as a biological weapon. From here on out, Higurashi ventures into the realm of military conspiracies and a race against time to overcome fate itself. Having set the table with the previous season, and illustrating the consequences of acting upon incomplete information, Higurashi: Kai has its characters acting with some knowledge of what might happen should they make unwise decisions, choosing the things that favour their friendship and ultimately, with the aim of preventing Tokyo from achieving their ends and destroying Hinamizawa in the process. It is no surprise that Kai is very much up my wheelhouse, and I could write a small book on how well Kai was executed with regard to compelling viewers through the thriller aspects. However, characters remain the heart of Higurashi, and so, I welcome Dewbond back to continue on with our coverage of the characters, traits and significance to the unfolding events.

  • There’s nothing like a little healthy discussion to really gain a solid appreciation of a series and its aims: Higurashi was one of those works that I’d greatly enjoyed, but never really found the right words to describe and discuss. I believe that this is the sixth collaborative post I’ve done with Dewbond, which cover contents from four different series. However, with Higurashi, it marks the first time where I’ve hosted anything related to this series: collaborations are a wonderful way of pushing the envelope and stepping outside my comfort zone, so for me, they’re always a joy to work on.

In our previous part, Dewbond, we covered Rena, Mion, Shion and Satoko’s stories, as well as their significance in creating the iconic atmosphere that cemented Higurashi as a mystery-horror. We had chosen to save Rika and Miyo’s roles in Higurashi because it is in Kai that they become truly significant. Rika’s deaths in various timelines, and Miyo’s involvement in some of her deaths have ramifications on the choices Rika makes, as well as the fate of the entire village. Should Miyo kill Rika, it’s game over for Hinamizawa: a disaster befalls the village, and the government typically covers it up with reports of a hydrogen sulfide release from the nearby Onigafuchi Swamp as the cause of total casualties in the town. Coverups and conspiracies notwithstanding, let’s get started with the characters most critical to Kai, the season that acts as the answer arc to the first season’s question arc!


Before we start that, I want to comment on the shifting narratives for Higurashi.

Changing the nature of a story, or anime is a difficult thing to do. Often times it doesn’t work, and can feel out of place, or even worse, damage the series. We saw this with Darling in the Franxx where the last minute addition of aliens ruined what had been, at that point, a very interesting story. Babylon completely shit the bed by trying to switch up its story and go too big. Even Re:Zero was able to shift it’s paradigms in the first season to a story about redemption and admitting your flaws, and while the shift back has been good, there has been some bumps in the road.

Higurashi in my view, doesn’t have this problem. While I did greatly enjoy the ‘horror of the week’ aspect of its first season, I was floored by just how effective and deep the second season changes things. Everything we suspect about what is happening turns on its head. From Rika ending up being the heroine, stuck in a constant time-loop, fated to die. To Miyo’s backstory and the revelations that everything we’ve seen is the result of a virus run amok, and and a military and governmental conspiracy that stretches out decades. All at once we see that Keiichi and the rest of the gang are just pawns in a much larger world, bystanders caught up in things they shouldn’t have.

And what is the most terrifying in this terror-filled anime is that Higurashi makes it work. It all just falls into place so damn well. Everything makes sense, everything checks out, and when you see everything that has happened and why it did, you find yourself going “Holy shit.”

It is a very rare thing, to have a show completely change direction and still maintain viewer interest. Yes, the second season is lighter on the blood and gore, but the story, especially Miyo and Rika’s pulls you in all the same. What did you think of the shifting paradigms Zen? Did Higurashi need to do this? Could it have all fallen apart?


I’m getting ahead of myself here. The transition in Higurashi from a frightening look at human nature’s dark side to a Clancy-esque thriller was so fluid that I never found it to be jarring or unexpected – the writers had been setting us viewers up for this, and the first season saw Rena beginning to discover hints of the truth. Thus, by the events of Kai, with the big reveal, things fall into place in an elegant fashion. I’m no stranger to dramatic changes in where a story is going – Half-Life initially began its story as a story about a scientist trying to contain a disaster at a research facility, only to be whisked away to an alien dimension with the task of defeating an alien overlord. Halo felt like a classic space marine story, and the Master Chief’s initial goal was helping to support allied forces after they crash land on a ring world and resist the alien Covenant forces. However, when the Covenant release the ancient horror known as the Flood, it becomes a rush to destroy Halo before the Flood can escape the ring world and spread.

In both Half-Life and Halo, the unexpected twist caught me by surprise on first glance, but upon closer inspection, it speaks to the strength of the writing. YU-NO surprises players in a manner reminiscent to that of Half-Life, and I find that Higurashi joins the ranks of these giants in being a work to successfully turn things around and run with it. I imagine that in each case, the story and gameplay was written in advance, so the element of surprise lay in timing. From the sounds of it, Darling in the Franxx and Babylon may have had a new idea come up after the initial story was written, and revisions were made to accommodate these new ideas.

While it is conceivable to have Higurashi succumb to failure, this seems unlikely. For me, I feel that there are hints that Higurashi had always been intended to be a thriller rather than a horror: historically, the supernatural had always been used to explain phenomenon that we humans did not fully understand. In the context of Hinamizawa Syndrome, a mysterious disease in a world where pathology was not well-characterised would seem like a curse. I would hazard a guess that the thriller was written as the underlying cause, and then around this central piece, horror could be introduced in a measured manner. To Keiichi, Rena, the Sonozakis and others, Hinamizawa Syndrome’s mechanisms and the mysteries surrounding the village do seem as mysterious as a supernatural curse. With this in mind, by deliberately withholding the explanation, Higurashi could successfully use this unknown to terrify viewers. In this, the series is completely successful.


That is a pretty in depth way to view it, but you always like to dive into the real meat of an issue. Stories are always evolving, and some of the best often either keep in their lane, or change to take on bigger and better ideas. Higurashi is the latter for sure, and we see that with the revelation that Rika is in fact the main character, a girl caught in a time-loop, force to relive the same two weeks over and over again. We saw hints of this in the first season, but now it has come into full force.

Before I give my take, what are your thoughts on Rika?


Rika was a bit of a surprise, to be sure: the first season did not really give us much in the way of story, save the fact that Rika would see a gruesome end at the hands of Hinamizawa Syndrome induced madness. However, over time, as it became clear Rika was trapped in an unending cycle, desperate for a way to break her fate and live life on her own terms, her mannerisms and traits became clear. Rika represents optimism and determination, in that no matter how many times she’s forced to die or watch her friends fall, she continues to return, making use of her previous knowledge to sway events away from a course leading to calamity. While she would fail, the accumulated knowledge leaves Rika incrementally more prepared to handle her new timeline, even if the exhaustion from reliving a timeline over and over again begins to weigh heavily on Rika.

I found that this was probably one of the most well-designed, clever narrative approaches I’d seen in a given work of fiction – Rika’s experiences are immensely encouraging from a thematic perspective, but from a gameplay perspective, do a vivid job of standing in for us viewers: by going through the different arcs, we are, in effect, experiencing things as Rika does. Initially, it’s a mystery as to what’s happening, but as we read more perspectives and beginning drawing our own conclusions, more of the story becomes clear. The mysteries of Hinamizawa become apparent, and much as how we would develop a desire to see the characters find happiness, Rika herself begins visibly demonstrating her yearning for the same.

Of course, no discussion of Rika would be complete without her signature phrases, mii (みぃ〜) and nipah (にぱ〜), which are an iconic part of her character. Her incredible wisdom, a consequence of her knowledge and experiences, leads her to act in ways to be consistent with that of someone who’s eleven, and in this way, she’s a reassuring character to have around – while knowing the story behind Hinamizawa Syndrome and determined to defeat her own curse, Rika gets along with the characters and adds joy to a story that has otherwise seen so much suffering. These are, however, merely my thoughts: Dewbond, if you wouldn’t mind sharing your thoughts on Rika?


Rika is judged on her NPE or “Nipah‘s per Episode”

But in all seriousness, the switch of Rika to the main character, or rather having been the main heroine all the time is a terrific change. We had moments where our blue haired lady seemed to know more about what was going on, but now we see it come into full force. And when you look back, you see the hints being dropped left and right. She was always an enigma among the cast, asking more questions than giving answers, and always seeming to get killed. You don’t really think much about her until the final few episodes, especially the knife scene with Shion. Rika is as you said, stuck in a time loop, and it begins to weigh heavily on her. Forced to relive the same days over and over, constantly stuck in a nowhere village with friends who might go insane at a moments notice, it’s not hard to see how much she starts to hate it. Hanyū, doesn’t do much to help either, offering empty encouragement and not much else. Rika is a character of incredible strength, and despite being put through horror after horror, still attempts to break her curse.

I was particularly struck by how well Rika’s seiyuu was able to switch from little kid, to deep adult voice as well. It’s always a terrific thing to see, and it shows both how long, and how tired she is. It’s a great performance, one of the best in what is overall a solid cast. Though that final scene of the series with Miyo always confuses me. Can she jump dimensions? Time travel? Why is she older? Did everything just get negated. It’s weird man…


The dramatic contrast between Yukari Tamura’s portrayal of the easygoing and happy Rika, and the jaded, mature Rika is pronounced. This speaks to Tamura’s skill as a voice actress, and over the course of Higurashi, it becomes impossible not to root for Rika, even as she attempts to understand her nemesis, Miyo. I believe that Rika’s final confrontation with Miyo here was meant to be symbolic – Miyo’s insecurities from her childhood form the bulk of her drive as an adult, and by the events of Higurashi, Miyo is so convinced of her own righteousness, that it would be nigh-impossible to talk her down from executing Manual 34’s contents. I would believe that one of two things is happening; either Rika uses her connection with Hanyū to return to Miyo’s childhood and reassure the young Miyo, preventing her from going down a destructive path, or otherwise, is appealing to the part of Miyo that is clinging to the past. The latter is a device that other anime have used to show what characters are behind their façades, often to great effect.

This does mean, then, that it’s time to take on the elephant in the room that is Miyo Takano. When we first meet her, she seems an air-headed character accompanying Tomitake Jirō, although even early in, Miyo exudes an aura of mystery to her. Even though she appears to possess some knowledge and exhibits a clear interest in Hinamizawa and its ancient customs in the original Higurashi, her status as the villain never becomes openly so until Kai, which proved to be a game-changer. Giving an antagonist human form in stories always diminishes the mystery, and all too often, it becomes a matter of having the individual defeated to give the protagonist their happy ending. This is the part where Higurashi truly excels: it is not often that I empathise with an antagonist, but in Miyo and the desire to prove herself in the face of adversity is a feeling I relate to. In short, I feel bad for her, and I understand that she had hoped to accomplish in Hinamizawa.

Having said this, I appreciate that this comes at odds with Rika, Keiichi and the remainder of their friends: this conflict that Higurashi creates thus serves as a very interesting representation of things in real life: the world is grey, and not so readily divided into the good guys and bad guys. Of course, these are merely my thoughts on Miyo, and Dewbond, I’d like to hear what you made of Miyo.


Miyo is a character that you forget about in the first half of the series. She isn’t really there, and when she is, it’s mostly comedic or mentioning that she was apparently killed. It is only when the second half comes that we get to realize who she is and what she represents for the story. And like you said, it’s damn effective.

Miyo’s story is tragic, marked with moments of horror and joy. She goes from being abused in an orphanage, to being welcomed into a loving family with her grandfather, only then to watch as the scientific community destroys everything her grandfather had worked for. It is there where she decides to claim vengeance, and it sets her on a path that will end up turning Hinamizawa into her own little ant farm. She cares little for the life in the city, and in the moments where we see that she actually succeeds, it only after gassing and killing the entire population.

Yet despite those actions, I can’t help but feel sympathetic to her. Miyo had a hard a life, and all she wanted was to show the world that her grandfather was right, and he was. The syndrome was a real thing and much of the first half of showing just what insane things it can end up doing. So in many ways, I don’t blame Miyo for her actions, even though they are wrong.

You are right Zen, that creating a villain you can understand and feel that sympathy for can make a story great, and it absolutely does so for Miyo. Even the story thinks that, as the final moments show Rika, or Bernkastel going back in time to prevent Miyo from losing her parents.


This human aspect of Higurashi really hits the viewers hard, and despite the horror of the first season, humanising everyone in Kai really helped to remind viewers that, yes, we as people are capable of committing acts of unspeakable depravity, but when we take a step back to understand our foe, more often than not, we see ourselves in our enemies: they’re people too, with their own beliefs, intents and desires. Yes, it is conceivably possible to send a black ops team over to Hinamizawa and sort out Miyo and the Yamainu by force (which, incidentally, is the summary of every Western first-person shooter ever), but the opportunity to understand a different perspective and history thus becomes lost. This is where I find that Japanese games excel in particular. Whereas the stories I’m accustomed to favour use of overwhelming force to dominate an enemy (I’ve never been given an option to take in someone quietly in my games), there is rarely the sort of understanding and compassion that Higurashi conveys to its viewers.

Consequently, even though Miyo is supposed to be the villain, we come to worry about her instead of hating her: it might even be appropriate to say that Higurashi‘s true antagonist isn’t necessarily a person or a disease, but rather, the darkness that lies within each and every one of us. Alone, isolated and desperate, people lash out at the world from a fear of the unknown. United and finding strength in one another, people begin finding sustainable, long-term solutions for their problems. It is with support that Rika is able to weather the storm and leads to the final push in Kai‘s story, which I found to be absolutely uplifting and encouraging. Before we get there, however, there’s still the small matter of Hanyū, a deity whose desire to save Rika is what created the time loops, and whose presence answers the mysterious phenomenon that people often hear. When introduced in Kai, I felt that her presence to be a soothing one that gave the Rika and the others strength. Of course, this is scratching the surface, Dewbond: how does Hanyū fit into the larger story within Higurashi?


Hanyū is in my mind, the weak link of the Higurashi. After watching the whole thing, I honestly don’t feel she added much to the overall plot. She’s pretty much Rika’s version of Navi, offering helpful words of encouragement that long ago lost their value. She seems to be a spirit who hates that she can’t really do anything to help Rika. Yet even when she does decide to take action, jumping into the final timeline with her, there is little that she seems to do.

I don’t know, maybe I missed something, but I can’t really remember Hanyū doing anything that really stood out to me. It may have been better if Higurashi had dropped more hints about her throughout the series, like if Rika was muttering to herself more, but that’s just me trying to Monday-morning quarterback the series. What did you think of her Zen?


For me, Hanyū’s arrival in Kai was, more than anything, a bit of moral support that hinted at where things were eventually headed – Rika’s situation had gotten to the cusp of breaking free of her curse, and while yes, Hanyū can’t really impact the physical world or its outcomes, she does act as another resource to Rika, whose resolve to overcome her fate strengthened with every passing moment as Kai continued. I believe that the visual novel has a deeper explanation of her precise relation to Rika, but as it was in the anime, I took Hanyū’s presence as a sign that things were changing for Rika.

It really is in the final chapter of Kai where everything comes together for us viewers – the mysterious Tokyo is interested in Hinamizawa Syndrome and intends to weaponise it as a WMD, and even Miyo becomes little more than a pawn in the grand scheme of things. All the while, Kai has Rika guiding her friends down different paths. Here, the two concurrent stories were sufficiently detailed such that, despite knowing the series is ultimately about Rika freeing herself from a curse, the machinations that Tokyo have planned out, as well as all of the inter-factional infighting, I found myself wishing to see a side story surrounding the political techno-thriller pieces to Higurashi.

The implications of Tokyo are that, at the end of the day, while Rika, Keiichi and the others have their own battles to fight, they are merely parts of a much larger and more sinister evil. This creates a sense of intrigue: while yes, Rika’s consciousness is able to save even Miyo from a terrible fate, and Keiichi and the others find happiness in Hinamizawa after prevailing, it remains the case that there is a shadowy organisation with nearly unlimited resources, able to bring trouble back to Hinamizawa whenever they choose. This is not to downplay Rika and the others’ victory over the Yamainu at the end of Kai, but it always felt like, in a given timeline, the continued existence of Tokyo means that Keiichi and his friends, the residents of Hinamizawa and even the people of the world, live under the threat of an organisation possessing a powerful biological weapon that could be turned towards extortion, political manipulation and other nefarious schemes. I could probably go on about this all day, but Dewbond, it’s time that I turn the floor over to you on the not-so-small matter of Tokyo!


This is going to be the part Zen where we differ, and our views of the show and how we watch it separate. I know you love to dig into the little things, while I prefer more broad strokes and character actions, how they feel and how they act. It’s for that reason that I honestly didn’t care much for the Tokyo stuff at all. It was good, and it is credit to Higurashi and it’s ability to paradigm shift so well, but I just didn’t really get pulled in by it.

It felt like fluff, good fluff that expanded the world, but at this point I was so invested in Miyo and Rika as characters that I didn’t really care for the shadowy cabal. It makes sense when the syndrome is expanded upon, and adds to the world, but it wasn’t keeping me at the edge of my seat like it did for you.


World building is always something that fascinates me, especially where it is done to create a compelling world for the characters’ experiences. I’ve long been a fan of the Cold War’s secrets, and truth be told, Hinamizawa Syndrome and Tokyo would not be out of place in a hidden conspiracy of sorts. Having said this, we would be going off-mission to delve too deeply there; I’ll save this for another time! We thus return back to the matter at hand, the central themes of Higurashi.

In the first season, the themes were not always clear, especially when every arc concluded in a bloody manner. However, as Higurashi entered the last moments of its first season, we viewers began to get an inkling of where things were going. By the time Kai fully introduced Rika and Miyo’s stories, the themes were all but out in the open – Rika’s monologues about overcoming fate, Miyo’s desire to clear her adopted grandfather’s name, and Keiichi and his friends’ determination to do right made it clear that Higurashi is about compassion: understanding a situation before acting, making choices while being mindful of those around oneself, and acting on empathy. The sum of these things is what is needed to break a curse resulting from impulsiveness and incomplete information.

For me, I got the impression that Higurashi intentionally paints the picture that having Miyo eat a bullet is one possible solution to Rika’s problems, but it is meeting violence with violence, a quick and dirty solution that does nothing to answer the underlying reason behind why Miyo had been so intent on enacting Article 34. Instead, it is allowing the authorities to sort things out, while keeping her friends alive, that gives Rika the outcome she desires in Kai. If there was one takeaway from Higurashi, it would be that taking shortcuts only begets more suffering in the long term. The first season had given viewers a taste of despair and hopelessness, but Kai comes around, suggesting that through the proper channels and means, people can find their happy endings no matter the odds. I believe that this is what made Higurashi as a whole so strong: it pulls no punches in depicting the worst of humanity, but then goes on to show what is possible when we put our best selves forwards, as well. What about you, Dewbond? The themes of Higurashi are varied, and many, so I’d love to hear what you make of the themes spanning both seasons.


I think when it comes to themes, I think Higurashi, both of its seasons is about violence, and how kneejerk reactions don’t solve anything. While they are influenced by the syndrome, Keiichi and everyone else in the village often act without thinking, jumping to conclusion and taking things to the next level without really thinking things through. We see this when Keiichi murders Sakoto’s uncle, or when Shion goes on her rampage, or when Rena believes that aliens have invaded the village. People don’t think, they just feel, they just act. And that often leads to violence.

That violence is central to what I think Higurashi is about. Even with the cutesy anime designs, we see that all of these characters, many of them young children are capable of extreme hatred and bloodshed. We see it time and again in the first season, and Miyo, despite being rescued from violence, views it as the only way to get her goals accomplished.

The answer is a, what Rika does. You have to keep trying, you have to work together, and no matter the odds, keep persevering. It may be slow, it may be grueling and frustrating, but you can in the end, change fate. Pressure and protest and real dedication can move the needle, and learning from your mistakes is key to that.


The consequences resulting from this lack of patience and perseverance can be dramatic; in Higurashi, Keiichi, Rena and Shion pay dearly for rushing into things in search of an easy answer, and each arc where this occurs, the bad ends, viewers are left with a sense of revulsion and shock. What happens next is never shown, adding to the horror of their situation as our minds go into overdrive. The strength of the writing in Higurashi is such that it fully captures actions and their consequences in a very convincing manner: tangible, positive change has, historically, always been effected by a determined and resolute group of people playing the long game, working within the rules of a system to build a new system. As you’ve said, Dewbond, rather than subverting a system, it is important to understand the existing system and then determine where to go about laying down the groundwork for a better future.

Higurashi Kai ended up on a very strong note because of its themes, and when I finished the series, I left it immensely satisfied. Horror and violence to pull viewers in, a mystery that kept us guessing, and a way forward that gave us every reason to root for Rika, Keiichi and their friends all came together for a titanic finish. Higurashi Kai could not have ended any other way, and upon finishing, it was a conclusive ending that seemingly left no stone unturned. Hence, imagine my surprise at Higurashi Gou‘s announcement! This series initially left as many mysteries as Higurashi‘s first season did, and with it airing now, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what Gou‘s directions are insofar, Dewbond.


Higurashi Gou has had a strange start, mostly because the author was frustratingly numb and deceiving on what the show was. A sequel? A remake, a mid-quel? A series of stories that happened when Rika was jumping timelines? At the start it seemed to have elements of it all, but there was also a noticable lack of the horror that Higurashi was known for, and moments where the series seemed to be spinning its wheels. It was rather strange to see the series not have a strong heading, especially when the first outing was so good at weaving it’s world, even when things felt episodic. In the initial run, I kept watching because the show was so fresh with me, and I wanted to see what it would do, but it was only when we reached the second half that it, very much like before, the real truths were revealed.

Before I talk about that, I should make sure that you are ok with discussing the series at that part. Are you current with what has been happening as of the latest episode?


I’m at the part where Satoko spends a nostalgic day with the old crew before being ported into middle of nowhere; I believe that’s the latest episode.


It is! And man, now that Higurashi has seemed to have revealed it’s hand, what an absolute genius way to take the series. I’ll be honest, very, very few anime sequels have ever worked, and Higurashi seemed like it was going to go down the same path. Instead we get a really cool direction that actually moves the characters forward instead of nostalgia minded coddling.

Gou, at least at this point, and we should mention that this story is not over yet, is about one thing: a fear of change. We see it with Sakoto, who now seems to have made a deal with a new devil (who I believe is a character from another one of the author’s visual novels) it return herself back to when she was a child. The reasons? Because people grow and move on, and Rika, after all she has suffered wants to move on in her life. She wants out of the hick village and into a world of prim and proper ladyship. And while Sakoto goes with her, not everyone can fit into that world, and her struggles to keep up, along with the changes that come from growing up and growing apart seems to have set her on a dangerous path.

I’ve absolutely loved this new direction Gou has taken, it feels authentic to the characters, especially Sakoto. We have to remember that she really has no one else but Rika, her brother is still in a coma, and the other members of the gang have grown up as well. To have Rika move on with her life and (deservedly in my view) seize a world that she clearly wants, is Sakoto’s worst fear, because it may very well be a world she can’t fit into anymore.

Again, we don’t know how it is going to end, but what do you think of things so far Zen?


The first bit of Gou was maddeningly inconsistent with its direction; old mistakes were both repeated and done better, and it felt like a condensed retelling of the originals. Beyond this, I had no idea what Gou had intended to do. I don’t mind admitting that I continued watching because Higurashi had a previous track record of surprising viewers. Surprising us, it did: when Rika began lamenting her cursed fate, and when Hanyū leaves Rika, things suddenly became more captivating. It reaches one of the most disturbing episodes, where a good half of the runtime was watching Satoko disembowel Rika while remarking that Rika’s sin was yearning for a life outside of Hinamizawa. I’d never once recalled Rika stating this in the originals, but as the episodes passed by, it began to make sense. Trapped in a loop for upwards of a century, it made sense that Rika wanted to grow up, see the world and realise her potential.

With the most recent episodes and Satoko’s struggles, the fact that she’s unable to keep up academically and fit in with the upper echelons of society despite her efforts, gave me an incredible sense of unease. Given her previous love of traps and tricks, it felt a matter of time before Satoko became overwhelmed, and recalling what Hinamizawa Syndrome does to people, there was always the old possibility of Satoko going on a rampage, too. Once Gou began depicting what a post-1983 world was like, the series’ themes suddenly come out into the open. Change is indeed terrifying to think about, and even for people who thrive on change, constantly readjusting to new environments, meeting new people and facing new challenges represents a considerable burden.

I think that the fear of change also can bring about a secondary theme: what it takes to choose one’s own path in life. Rika has chosen her path, and St. Lucia represents a decision of her own volition. Conversely, Satoko’s unhappiness comes from this being Rika’s path; as she so viscerally states, Satoko had given up everything to be with Rika, and because of the conflicts this creates, Satoko finds herself increasingly isolated. We have seen the consequences of isolation in Higurashi, so Gou‘s setting us up for something big, and I am quite glad to have stuck it out. In retrospect, the weaker beginning might’ve been deliberately chosen to welcome viewers back to the format and style that is Higurashi.


I won’t make any final conclusions on the theme just yet, the show could very well go in a whole new direction, as is the case for Higurashi, but so far, I like that we are in agreement. A weak first half, that only gets better when the real story kicks into gear.

As of right now, I think Gou will do fine, but it won’t touch the original in terms of legacy, quality and sheer enjoyment. Higurashi: When they Cry is the rare show that earns all the accolades and adoration people have heaped on it for years. Brutal, violent, and horrific, it doesn’t forget to have a good cast of characters, and makes you care the villain once the story gets fully revealed. It could have easily been just a simple horror of the week set-up, but the author clearly had the ambition, and more importantly, the skill to go further. There is a mystery in every corner, one fully explained, with clues and hints expertly dropped even in the most minor of moments. If anything I credit Higurashi for having, and landing one of the best paradigm shifts ever done in anime, completely transforming itself and still making you come back for more. I thought YU-NO did it great, but Higurashi absolutely did it best.

As we put a pin on this discussion for now. Zen, what are your final thoughts on the series?


For Higurashi‘s original two seasons, it was a veritable masterpiece of an ending that closed off everything neatly, providing viewers with full closure and a sense of satisfaction that Rika found the means of escaping her fate through persistence, faith and trust in her friends. As you’ve said, Dewbond, it is the perfect blend of horror, supernatural mystery and even political thriller, wrapped up into a vivid tale of friendship and resilience. I left Higurashi with a smile on my face, knowing that no matter the odds, the human spirit can prevail.

As for Higurashi Gou, we’re still a ways from the finish line. Like you, I’ll reserve my judgment for when the entire series concludes and we can see what its contributions are to Higurashi. There is one thing that I will touch briefly on that we’ve not discussed: Kenji Kawaii (Gundam 00, Ip Man) does a phenomenal job with the music. He’s had an excellent track record with scoring horror movies, writing the incidental music to things like Dark Water and The Ring. The heavy instrumentation he uses creates a sense of suffocation, and light piano notes play on tensions in a moment. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Kawaii also composes the most easygoing and laid-back slice-of-life songs in the soundtrack, too. The dramatic contrasts in the music add greatly to the atmosphere in Higurashi, and with Kawaii’s music in Gou, I am glad they’ve opted to bring him back, as I’ve found the music to be an integral part of Higurashi.

  • With this post in the books, it should be clear that I am watching Gou on a weekly basis, and while the series initially was a tricky one to write about, recent developments have made Gou a lot more compelling. My schedule is absolutely insane at the present, so I will remark that it is a minor miracle that this collaboration was as on time as it was, and similarly, the fact that #TheJCS is in a minimally presentable state is also something of a miracle considering what’s been happening these past few weeks. I’ll explain what’s been going on this month that’s made it so tricky in due course, but for now, readers are assured that I am still (mostly) on target for everything I need to deliver, both for real life and for the esteemed community.

Dewbond and I have now covered the whole of Higurashi‘s original run, and even ventured into the realm of Gou to see how this story has been doing so far. Higurashi is a vividly rich and detailed story, capable of surprising and intimidating at every turn. Having said this, the scale and scope of the story in Higurashi has been a bit tricky for me to work with, and with this here collaboration between Dewbond and myself coming to a close, this is only my second proper post on Higurashi (with the first being our earlier collaboration). I do briefly mention Higurashi in my post about Call of Duty: Black Ops; the story in Higurashi would not feel out of place in a shooter about deadly biological weapons, government conspiracies and shadowy political dealings. At least for the time being, I don’t have any more Higurashi posts (I may return to write about Gou depending on how my schedule plays out), and for folks looking to read insightful discussions of Higurashi, Dewbond has thankfully risen to the occasion and then some!

More of Dewbond’s Higurashi Posts

Higurashi: When They Cry, Collaborating with Dewbond to Probe the Secrets of Hinamizawa

“Do not fuck with me, Maebara: I know when you’re lying!” –Jason Hudson

As the sun began setting on a quiet June evening in 2014, the land was cast in a warm golden light, and shadows began lengthening in my neighbourhood. I had been home, recovering from a minor operation to my jaw, and had remained home to recuperate. At the time, the Giant Walkthrough Brain project was well under way, and I’d planned my summer accordingly to ensure that this day wouldn’t impact the progress. During my time off, I decided to check out Higurashi: When They Cry at the behest of a friend. Intrigue seized me within an episode, and I managed to go through the entire first arc in an afternoon. The mysteries that Hinamizawa held were compelling, and far more than the horrific scenes of death, murder and torture, Higurashi: When They Cry‘s intrigue lay in the precise nature behind what is colloquially known as Oyashiro-sama’s Curse. As timelines reset, and I learnt more about this remote, sleepy village in deep in Gifu’s forest valleys, the enigma only deepened. After twenty-six episodes, what was known is that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse was an area myth designed to conceal something much more sinister: an unusual virus of unknown origin, and closes with a confrontation at the school. A striking horror-mystery, Higurashi: When They Cry caused quite a bit of a stir when it aired owing to its graphic portrayal of violence and immersive story. The questions posed in Higurashi: When They Cry would later be addressed in Higurashi: When They Cry Kai, and the end result was an exceptional journey of comprehension, friendship and overcoming fate itself. Of course, before reaching such a conclusion, it makes sense to revisit Higurashi: When They Cry‘s beginnings, and this time, I welcome Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime to look over things in details that are relevant to the story.

  • Until today, I’ve only ever mentioned Higurashi in the passing, usually for my Call of Duty: Black Ops related talks. I’m not sure if my perspective is widely shared, but I found that as disparate as Higurashi and Black Ops are, notions of madness, loyalty, doing what’s right and sinister hidden agendas are themes both series touch on during their run. Discussing series outside of my comfort zone with other bloggers is always an exciting thing, and before we delve into the main body of this post, I would like to note that the door is always open for collaborations: they’re a fantastic way for me to explore series in ways I’d not thought about.


It’s been a while since our last collaboration, and an even longer time since I watched Higurashi: When They Cry in full; I finished both seasons while working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain, and had absolutely found myself hooked by this series for its combination of horror and thriller elements. On one hand, there’s a mystery to figure out, but on the other, as I became familiar with Higurashi: When They Cry, it was apparent that every step forward would only result in suffering and death. However, the accumulated details all contribute in a meaningful way to unraveling Hinamizawa’s secrets, and while I may have forgotten the specifics, it is most fortuitous that Dewbond is here to offer his insight and thoughts into a series that has become very well-known. Higurashi: When They Cry is a massive series, and the sheer scope of its writing can initially appear overwhelming. Dewbond: you’ve come from a relatively recent journey through Higurashi: When They Cry (Higurashi from here on out for brevity’s sake); where would be a good place to start this party?


Thanks for having me back here Zen. As you say, I’ve only recently watched Higurashi, having jumped into it in the tail end of 2020. That was because, what we thought of the time, it was going to be remade, and I wanted to see what everyone was saying about the series. Having grown up in the fan-sub era, Higurashi was a series that was on everyone’s lips. A must see classic that was to many, their first steps into the horror genre. I think they couldn’t have picked anything better. Having watched both seasons, I can say that Higurashi earns those accolades and more.

As Higurashi is a series broken up into question and answer arcs, I think it would be best to discuss the first season as a whole, instead of going through piece by piece. I found that after I finish the first half, and without the knowledge of what was to come that the series did a wonderful job at being an episodic splatterfest, and that the constant shifting of characters and roles kept things fresh.

Who was the hero, the villain, the by-standers, the victims, it all kept constantly changing throughout the first half, and it made the show feel like, as Forrest Gump says, a box of chocolates. You never knew what you were going to get. Did you have that same feeling Zen?


The big-picture approach makes sense, and works because, since it has been six years since I binged this series, I’ve forgotten the smaller details! First, there was getting past the initial hurdle that was the violence! It was never the blood, guts and gore that bothered me, but rather, the psychological aspects behind it. The healthy human mind doesn’t have an inclination to take another human being apart, piece-by-piece, or desecrate a corpse, after all. The brutal contrast between Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko’s happy, everyday life and the horrific acts they inflict upon one another while under the effects of Oyashiro-sama’s curse immediately made it clear that the story in Higurashi was going to be anything but conventional.

Higurashi‘s first season was indeed an unpredictable box of active grenades: as insanity claims a perpetrator and victim alike in each of the arcs, Higurashi constantly kept us viewers guessing what would happen next. There was no precedence, no prior series that did anything quite like it; if Higurashi intended to grip viewers with a story that kept us viewers guessing, it certainly succeeded. After each of the question arcs, I felt like I was no closer to understanding what Oyashiro-sama’s curse was. However, seeing Keiichi and the others, time and time again, enjoying life in Hinamizawa, made one thing abundantly clear: no matter what atrocities were committed, I never once faulted them, counting the extraordinary circumstances in Hinamizawa as being the cause of their suffering, and so, over time, the shock of the violence became replaced by a sense of pity, as well as intrigue. Having Keiichi and his friends thus became a grounding rod of sorts for me: there was reason to follow the developments and see what awaited the characters.


They are very much a sort of grounding rod like you said, and the first half round of the series lives and dies on those characters. Despite the blood and gore, and the constant shifting if who is good or bad, the central cast is incredibly important.

What really stands out, is that despite being friends, and that friend being what carries the day in the final timeline, they are also people who aren’t ‘that’ close to each other. The paranoia, the fear, and most all the dark secrets. Despite the humor and good nature, all of them have a dark side, and when that is brought out by the Syndrome, we can see how quickly that friendship can fall apart.

That was always something that really pulled me in, something that a few animes do. When the ‘animeness’ of the characters is stripped away, when the illusion drops and instead they closely resemble real humans, with anger, rage, and violence. The best example in the first half is seeing Rena in the first question arc. The cutesy-kawaii girl, so common in that era, lose her absolute fucking mind is still really damn unsettling.

Rena herself is probably the mascot character of the show, and while the crown of most fucked up goes to Shion/Mion, she’s a close runner up. What do you think of our knife-wielding girl who just wants to take things home?


It suddenly strikes me that Higurashi represents, from a pessimist’s perspective, a very visceral representation of humanity as a whole – we’re only as nice as the system allows us to be, and in this case Oyashiro-sama’s curse feels like a simple catalyst that brings out the madness and irrationality amongst Rena, Keiichi and the others. In this case, the horror really lies in what acts ordinary people are perhaps capable of perpetrating when pushed over the edge. It’s a darkness that lies in all of us, and admittedly, I fear that quite a bit. It’s a thought that I have to willfully push out of my mind. Higurashi seems to be reminding viewers that madness is like gravity, requiring only a little push. Thus, when it comes to Rena, the contrast between her usual self and her paranoid, violent self is dramatic. Under ordinary conditions, Rena is the sort of person who brings the heart and warmth to a group – she’s a lot like CLANNAD’s Nagisa Furukawa in this way, gently reassuring the others and of course, possesses her infamous kawaii~ mode.

Especially through Rena, I think that the difference here is really to emphasise what fear, isolation and being left alone with one’s thoughts can do to people. Of course, even without the influence of Oyashiro-sama’s curse, Rena can be an intimidating individual, and for the viewer, this means that we’re never too certain what her next move will be. This uncertainty creates that suspense that makes Higurashi continually unexpected, and it does lead to the ever-present feeling that in Hinamizawa, Keiichi does not have anyone to reliably count on. Of course, despite her negative traits, when Rena is sane and rational, I always found her reactions to kyute things hilarious: she might be a brutal murderer when pressed, but where circumstances allow it, Rena is friendly, soft-spoken and kind. This puts her in sharp contrast with Mion Sonozaki, who is boisterous and always keeping an eye out for those around her. While Rena might be the scariest character for her unrestrained moments of insanity, however, I personally count Mion and Shion to be terrifying in their own right when pushed. Dewbond, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the heir of the Sonozaki family.


You are right to say that Rena is soft spoken and kind, but there is also a brutal edge to her, and put aside the insanity of the syndrome, there is, like I said, a deep dark side to her. The ability to commit murder, to turn from kawaii cute, to deeply unsettling is not something you just get from a sickness, it’s always there. That to me was one of the great thing that Higurashi did, and why I think it has become so beloved among the fan-sub generation. It pulls off the mask of cute anime girls and reveals that they are just as capable of doing things that can turn your stomach.

That is no better seen with the story of Shion and Mion. To compare to a western show. If Rena is the ending of Game of Thrones season 1, then Shion and Mion’s question and answer arc is the Red Wedding. Everyone who watches this show, or grew up in that era knows the moments, the gifs, the maddening laughter of the Sonozaki runner-up. Shion, being the most distant of the gang doesn’t seem to do much at the start, but when you get to her answer arc, you see that the author of Higurashi is a master at mystery and the revelations are some of anime’s best.

What really floored me, even months later, was the sheer cruelty of it all. While Rena’s madness can be tossed up to classic horror tropes, Shion’s is intense hatred, black as coal, and made only worse by the syndrome and the seemingly cold reaction from her sister. I’ll always find Mion’s ability to switch from happy-go-lucky group leader, to serious and no-nonsense family head to be damn effective. Not even her beloved sister is spared, even if there is great regret for it later.

As for Shion? Her one-sided love for Satoshi, who may not even had noticed her feelings drives her to do more and more irrational things, culminating in the brutal murder of Satoko who is, as we should remember, an ten or eleven year old girl. Having just come off Redo of Healer, not even that show can hold a candle to some of the moments Shion dishes out.

I want to know your thoughts on the sisters too Zen, but were you aware that Shion and Mion are not actually who they say they are, that they are actually their opposites? Shion was born Mion and Mion was born Shion? A single day where they switched identities for fun led them to be branded for life. I don’t think it was ever covered in the anime.


I am indeed aware of the switch. I think late in the first season (or somewhere in the second?), it was mentioned that the real Mion is Shion, and vice versa. That revelation had my head spinning, and it took me a little while to really get in my mind what happened. The switch, of course, makes Shion’s madness all the more apparent. Even under normal circumstances, Shion is manipulative and calculating; although her manner (especially towards Keiichi) might seem flirtatious and innocent, her choice of words and body language is indicative of someone who knows they’re in control. I do wonder if this is a consequence of the switch she and Mion had made years previously: since she and Mion constantly switch places, it is possible that Shion suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. If this were to be the case, in conjunction with her own insecurities, jealousy of Mion and inclination towards violence, Shion has the makings of a ticking time bomb. I think that her tortue of Satoko was probably one of the most brutal scenes in Higurashi, a shining example of where the series took things.

On Mion’s end, I’ve always been a bit more fond of her, even with the fact that she is the Sonozaki heir: unlike Shion, who conceals her cruelty and hate behind a friendly façade, Mion puts on a brave front, acting as the responsible leader amongst her group of friends, and her actual personality is someone who is shy and hesitant. Similarly, Mion’s serious manner when carrying out her duties as the Sonozaki heir suggests that she’s someone who never does anything halfway. Even after she orders Shion to tear out her own fingernails towards one of the end of an arc, I always got the impression that Mion is simply someone who would go to any lengths to defend what is dear to her, and as she never succumbs quite like the other characters do, it creates the sense that Mion is a reliable constant for keeping everyone else in check, too.


Mion is absolutely a leader, and we see it throughout each different arc. She’s a natural at it, often bringing the townspeople together and keeping her friends on the right path, but yes, she does that have that super serious mode like when she confronts her sister. However, it also comes with empathy, and we see that Mion tears out her own fingernails in order to try and share some of the suffering. She didn’t do what she did because she thought her sister was wrong, only because it was her responsbility as a clan head.

I always found that Mion herself was a character underused by the story, because most of what we see of her in the Sonozaki focused arcs is indeed Shion. I do agree that Shion herself is a character who seems to suffer from an identity crisis, and how fast she clings to Satoshi says to me that she seeks a place to belong, or someone who will love her unconditionally, or at least gives her security. We see how, when influneced by the syndrome, how little she thinks of Keiichi. To Shion, he is an imposter, taking over the role that Satoshi was suppose to have, and she can’t stand it.

One thing I want to note before we discuss Satoko, is that the Syndrome, despite being the cause, may only be a trigger for deeper, repressed memories and actions. While it does drive them all mad, I do think it also provides Rena, Keiichi and Shion an outlet for their madness. Taking the ‘safety off’ in some regards. They would always end up like this if they were pushed far enough. What do you think Zen?


Hinamizawa Syndrome, informally known as Oyashiro-sama’s Curse, is probably my single favourite aspect of Higurashi. Until it was revealed that the frightening events awaiting Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko had a scientific basis, the series remained a supernatural horror. The murders and disappearances that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse seems outside the characters’ control, and viewers were gripped in a state of constant uncertainty. It shows us how easily people can lose their shit, and the unspeakable acts of evil they can commit when no longer bound by reason. The true terror, of course, is the suggestion that anyone could be a monster. Admittedly, this is a thought I am, again, uneasy with: in Eli Wiesel’s Night, Wiesel relates his shock that civilised beings were reduced to grovelling on all fours like a beast during times of difficulty. The characters’ powerlessness had done an excellent job of conveying the horror aspects of Higurashi, but seeing each of Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko suffer was heart-wrenching.

However, with knowledge that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse was an unknown agent that inflicted mental breakdown in its victims, a topic of research, suddenly turned things around for the characters. Initially, this seems counterintuitive: I personally would have guessed that Hinamizawa Syndrome is caused by an unknown neurotopic, thermodependent, barodependent pathogen. Viruses are intimidating entities in their own right, insidiously hitching their way into a cell and hijacking its processes to ensure its own survival, often without concern for the host’s well-being. A virus that affects the nervous system would be especially frightening, and while I would love to say that Hinamizawa Syndrome is fictional, its effects on the victim are not dissimilar to the rabies virus, which attacks nerve cells and makes its way into the central nervous system. The symtoms manifest as aggression, mania and even paralysis. Similarly, there are viruses that are most active under a certain temperature range, and other viruses only become active under certain atmospheric pressures. Suddenly, the pathogen causing Hinamizawa Syndrome doesn’t seem so far-fetched: paranoia and formication do seem within the realm of what an entity can cause.

While viruses are not exactly a topic to be taken lightly, especially in light of recent events, the revelation that Hinamizawa Syndrome might have a viral origin, one that has been researched for a long time, also has an unusual, but effective impact on Higurashi: it gives viewers hope that the characters can overcome their inner darkness, however slim the odds are. Much as how placing faith in a rapidly-developed, novel vaccine in the face of a devastating virus is a gamble, the knowledge that Hinamizawa Syndrome has a biological origin initially seems of little comfort. However, seeing things from a scientific perspective means appreciating that a solution might just exist, no matter how small the probability is. For the first time, viewers get the sense that there is hope for Rika and the others. The fact that Hinamizawa Syndrome has a biological component affects each of the characters differently, but this would’ve been especially hard on Satoko, whose older brother, Satoshi, contracted Hinamizawa Syndrome and was taken away for study. This was devastating for her, and taken together with her family life, cannot have been easy for her.


Satoko was the character I wanted to talk about last, because she has the moment that is frankly the most disturbing, not only in the series, but also among anime in general. Anime characters going crazy is no real surprise, and even the insanity of Higurashi ends up becoming a bit blunted (but never not effective) by the end. What doesn’t though, is Satoko’s panic attack at the school. The terror, the vomiting, the constant apologizing, the denials of her trauma. All of it is deeply disturbing because it is real. Such things have no doubt happen to real people, and seeing such a proud and haughty young girl be so effected by her abusive uncle is very unsettling. It’s the one moment where Higurashi ‘gets real’ and in many ways it is the series most horrific moment.

I discussed this before when I gave my thoughts on Emergence, one of the most infamous hentai manga. The horror and shock value doesn’t come from the sex, or in this case the gore. Yes that works in the short term, but it is not what I remember Higurashi for (ok, well I’ll probably never forget many scenes, but run with me here).

I remember those brief moments where the line between fiction and reality are blurred, and an anime is able to almost perfectly capture a moment like it was real life. Sakoto’s abuse and the reaction she has is one of the moments and it hits hard. It’s made even worse by the constant stonewalling of Child Protection, and the truth that Satoko ‘cried wolf’ once before. Zen, did you feel the same way?


As you state, Dewbond, the horror in Satoko’s story does indeed come from the abuse she suffers at the hands of her uncle, and the fact that despite Keiichi et al.’s efforts to help her, they are initially unsuccessful. Moreover, viewers are forced into the others’ perspective – since we have no idea what precisely is happening to Satoko, our minds empathise with Keiichi. Higurashi succeeds here in making the viewers feel as helpless as Keiichi does; in reality, child abuse is an appalling act of depravity, and Satoko’s previous actions only further obfuscate things. Yes, Satoko is an integral part of the cast, and a valuable friend in difficult times, but given her usual antics, it is difficult to ascertain what’s going on with any confidence. Satoko further mentions that toughing it out seems to be the only way of bringing Satoshi back, and for me, this was probably the worst of it: a promise that was unlikely to ever be fulfilled. Her suffering is a recurring point throughout Higurashi, and from a narrative perspective, acts as a vital juncture for determining what fates await everyone.

In the first season of Higurashi, an impulse and brash Keiichi is only able to see what’s in front of him and ultimately kills Teppei, before suffering the consequences for his action. This was to demonstrate what awaits those who act rashly – yes, Teppei’s treatment of Satoko is reprehensible, but by taking the law into his own hands and taking a life, he sets himself down a path of no return. The second season has Keiichi stopping to consider what possible alternatives there might be to save Sakoto; by calling on help and pushing the Sonozakis to step in, Keiichi and the others save Satoko, allowing the authorities to do their job. If the first season had been about the cost of acting out of incomplete information, then the second season suggests the power of cooperation and putting faith in others.

I think that beyond being a visceral portrayal of child abuse, Satoko’s story is perhaps the best indicator of what Higurashi is about: alone, Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko are powerless against forces like Hinamizawa Syndrome, Tokyo and fate itself. Blood is spilt, characters descend to madness and suffering results. However, in being open and honest, both with one another, and those around them, they can find allies in the most unexpected of places and build the future that they seek. The question arcs isolate the characters and demonstrate their outcomes if they attempt to solo their challenge, and the answer arcs show an outcome where the characters, aware of what pitfalls lie ahead if they act rashly, make choices that are more sustainable for the long term. In doing so, this creates a superbly powerful story around Higurashi‘s original two seasons, and it is reasonable to say that this is where Higurashi truly excels: while the series might be a horror, it also suggests that the darkness within us, while ever present, is quelled and displaced by light when there are people in our corner.


I think you say it, as always, better than I could. There is a great degree of loneliness among the characters of Higurashi, and that syndrome high focuses on the bad and negative aspects of those feelings.

As we wrap up our look at the first season, I will that on its own, the first half of Higurashi is a masterwork in classic horror. The episodic nature, the way that questions are asked and answered, and how the mystery becomes bigger and bigger is still, even over a decade later, the default example in my mind, of how it do it. I like what you say about how Keiichi first tries to take matters into his own hands, and then realizing that he has to work within the system and use pressure, not a baseball bat. It’s a heartwarming end to the first half, but of course as with everything Higurashi, there is darkness in every corner.

What is even better though, is how Higurashi is able to do what so few series are capable up. Have a perfect paradigm shift in genre and tone. But we’ll talk about that, and the true hero, and villain of the series, next time.


Unsettling and gripping, Higurashi‘s first season is the shining example of what horror is – exiting this first season, it feels like the deck is completely stacked against our protagonists. I’ve always held horror to be a genre defined by the protagonists’ inability to respond to a threat. While broadly referring to a genre designed to evoke thoughts of fear or revulsion in viewers, an effective horror makes known to viewers just how powerless a given group of characters are against their foe. Seeing arc upon arc conclude in a bloody fashion, Higurashi has driven this point home and then some.

However, as you’ve stated, Dewbond, we undergo a change in Higurashi by the second season: having established what is, and how incomplete information results in grisly ends for Keiichi and the others, Higurashi Kai turns things around in a manner that, until then, was something I’d certainly never seen before.

  • For folks wondering, I am indeed watching Higurashi: Gou this season. I was initially curious to see what the project would be about, and insofar, it’s been a curious journey so far. It goes without saying that Gou requries Higurashi to fully appreciate, since there are references back to the original. I’ll probably do a talk on the entire Higurashi series, from the original season back in 2006 all the way to the events of Gou in the future, but for now, there’s the second half of this collaboration with Dewbond, and the remainder of Gou, to go through.

What awaits us in this collaboration’s second half is nothing short of exciting. Higurashi Kai had been an exceptionally fun ride, and while it’s been some six-and-a-half years since I watched it in full, I still recall the series’ details in great detail. Observant readers will have noticed that in this first half, we’ve left out a few central players. This is deliberate: Higurashi is a vast series, and to do it justice, our collaboration has been spit into two halves. In the second part, we will return to looks over the answer arcs. As the mystery begins giving way to facts, the horror in Higurashi slowly gives way to a world that I am familiar with, and especially fond of discussing. As such, Dewbond and I will both take a short breather here, gather our thoughts and then proceed to the second half – stay tuned! In the meantime, for folks who are interested, Dewbond also has a separate, and insight, set of thoughts on Higurashi‘s first season. I’ve never actually written about Higurashi until now: this is a series with both depth and breadth, and I never did feel I could adequately distill out its core messages in a single post, or set of posts, since there’s a very intricate, well-written story at Higurashi‘s core. Every detail needs to be considered in order to draw a satisfactory conclusion from things for a series like Higurashi, and, as collaborations demonstrate, having an extra set of eyes on things has been superbly helpful towards unraveling the enigmas behind what is one of the most well-done horror-mysteries around.

In Which We Enter Dela Grante in YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World, Part II – A Collaborative Discussion with Dewbond

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” –Marcus Garvey

When we left off last, Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime and I had concluded YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World‘s first half. Kanna’s arc closed up with Takuya securing all of the stones required to complete the Reflector Device, and in this moment, Takuya sets off in search of Mount Sankaku’s secrets. Upon activating the Reflector Device in a special chamber within Mount Sankaku, Takuya awakens in an alien world. Without any clue of what to do next, Takuya decides to channel his inner Les Stroud and attempts survival. He has the right idea: there’s fish to catch and enough wood to get a fire going. However, what happens next is out of this world: Takuya encounters a monster that looks like it came straight from an RPG, and with it, a mute blonde girl. After driving this monster off, Takuya spends a better part of the day trying to learn her name: Sayless. From here on out, YU-NO takes its viewers and players alike in a completely different direction; just a few posts ago, we’d been looking at the mysteries surrounding GeoTech, Mio’s dogged pursuit of the history behind Mount Sankaku and Takuya’s everyday life at school. Now, we’re dropped into what appears to be the forerunner of today’s isekai, a genre that has gained nearly runaway popularity in the past few years. Admittedly, when I reached this point in YU-NO, I was blown away at how sudden the changes were, but as Takuya begins to spend more time with Sayless and Illia, viewers are eased into what was a sudden transition. This time around, however, I enter the discussion with one significant advantage: Dewbond. In the second half of YU-NO, and our collaboration, we will be exploring Dela Grante and the adventures Takuya finds himself in.


Anime is no stranger to plot twists, or big “wtf” moments. Elfen Lied, Berserk, Code Geass, Higurashi, The End of Evangelion. There are plenty of shows that like to throw a curveball at their viewers and see where the pieces land. YU-NO however doesn’t just throw a curveball, it breaks the glass window into a million different pieces. I am not lying when I say that YU-NO‘s second half is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest paradigm shift in anime or visual novel history. It completely upends the story, changing everything, and forever altering how we Takuya and company now, and before.

What is shocking though, even more so than what happens, is just how well it works. Takuya and his adventures in Dela Grante should not work, it should have completely fallen apart, yet in the Visual Novel, everything just clicks so well. We spend a good 20 hours in this last part of the story, and the time spent is well told. It isn’t some insane hail mary, it’s a well crafted change, and when you look back at the previous 5 arcs. Man do they fucking drop hints left and right.

Now that all being said, this is also the part in the story that, makes the most changes, and the anime’s adaptational choices run the gambit in terms of quality. I’ll bring up the two biggest, one good, and one bad, as we get to them, but Zen, what was your gut reaction to Takuya’s new story?


For me, the initial shock wore off shortly after Takuya meets Sayless and sat her down in an effort to learn her name. Here he was, in an alien world and nary a hint of his old world, and Takuya’s old traits shine through. He’s still kind to those around him, and remains quick to strike up conversation with a beautiful lady. Once this was established, it became clear that even a paradigm shift won’t alter how Takuya acts, and this creates a reassuring sense; Takuya may be in an alien world, but he retains his calm, methodical disposition. This is something I particularly liked about the first half: it firmly establishes that Takuya is well-suited for handling the unexpected, and so, while the second half can come across as jarring, as the first episode drew to a close, the surprise very quickly gave way to curiosity.

The lead up to Dela Grante was simultaneously expected and unexpected in the anime – YU-NO had made it clear that Takuya did not live in an ordinary world, and as such, notions of different timelines, parallel universes and the presence of a mysterious stone, coupled with an unusual artifact hidden under Mount Sankaku, and even Kōzō’s ability to hypnotise people, all serve to foreshadow that Takuya’s world is far deeper than the first five arcs suggest. However, to so suddenly discard the more traditional set of routes for a more linear story set in a new space was surprising, and as YU-NO continued, it became apparent that during the Dela Grante arc, there could have been many places where the plot could have become incoherent or disorganised, and yet, the YU-NO successfully (and elegantly keeps things together). This is, of course, an anime-only perspective, so I think it is worth delving into the visual novel side of things.


You can approach Dela Grante from any route, as the ways are all open for you. There is a bit of explanation when you read Kodai’s journal, but there is little in actual preparation.

The main change comes in Takuya’s reaction. There isn’t much lip-service in the anime towards Takuya realizing he’s probably never going back. In the Visual Novel, after Illia dies, (and the visual novel really drives home how her dying really robs him of his only source of information) Takuya has moments of frustration, anger and rage, and he lashes out at Sayless, the only person who can talk to, but who can’t respond back, because of it. I really dug this, because it makes Takuya just a little bit more human. I love that he is always calm and collected, but the weight of what happens should have affected him.

His relationship with Sayless though, takes up much of the first ‘half’ of this final route. She is one of the three heroines of this part of the story, and, like all three, holds a massive bunch of significance. What are your thoughts on Sayless?


I rather liked Sayless: pretty like a postcard and wearing a warm smile when Takuya meets here, there is a certain charm about her character in that, despite being unable to speak, her intentions and feelings are conveyed all the same. Considering how important our voices are in communication, this was no mean feat. At least in the anime, however, I get the sense that meeting the knight Illia helped Takuya considerably. Had Takuya met Sayless on her own, things might have ended up very differently: while Sayless cannot speak, Illia can, and I imagine that in the off-screen moments, Takuya learnt more about Dela Grante from her. Everything changes with Illia’s death: in the anime, Takuya decides to push forwards and reach the Imperial Capital, but is forced to turn back upon realising just how vast the desert is. He finds Sayless has followed him, and now, with a source of support gone, it was hardly surprising that Takuya and Sayless turn to one another for support and comfort after Takuya ascertains that crossing the desert is a Herculean task.

The anime may have very well skipped over Takuya struggling to accept his new world, and its portrayal struck me as showing Takuya and Sayless turning to one another as he adjusts to life here, and her finding new strength after Illia’s death. I would have like to see Takuya’s more difficult moments in the anime, since being pushed into a new world would be taxing for anyone. However, in their best moments, Sayless and Takuya do have an interesting chemistry; this blossoms into love and the birth of Yu-no, which shows Takuya at his best. However, Sayless’ story is one that ends in tragedy, and I was surprised that she ended up committing suicide rather than return to the Imperial City. In retrospect, this felt unnecessary, and I’m sure that Takuya would’ve felt the guilt and melancholy from this.


And here we get to one of the biggest changes, and frankly the only universal thing I think the anime did better: Sayless’s death. In the anime it is shown as this tragic and heartbreaking thing, when Sayless takes a knife and kills her self. In the visual novel, when she’s just pinned down by the guards, she just bites her tongue off and instantly dies.

It is just so anti-climatic and strange, and it was the only time in my experience with the visual novel that I felt the anime did it better. I blame coming from the anime in some regards, as I expected there to be close to a 1 to 1 adaptation, but this is one of the biggest, and frankly better changes that are made.

Sayless herself, in my views, feel like the most ‘plot device’ of the series heroines. She’s nice, and gentle, and her eventual winning over of Takuya is sweet, but it is clear that she’s just here to be Yu-no’s baby mama. In fact, and we’ll discuss this later, If I could Monday-morning quarterback the series (but I never would) I would probably just merge Sayless and Yu-no together. But we’ll get to that point later.

As for Yu-no itself, let’s talk a bit about her before the trek into the desert. What do you think of the titular girl so far Zen?


You’re absolutely right about Yu-no being a splitting image of Sayless, Dewbond: after she begins learning to speak and walk, it became very clear that Yu-no is Sayless in miniature, bearing the same warmth and kindness that Sayless had. I believe that with Yu-no, Takuya has a chance to really appreciate what it means to be a father, and be there for Yu-no where Kodai couldn’t be there for him. Whenever Yu-no asks him if he loves her, the answer never changes, and during the time they spend together, it genuinely does feel like that Takuya’s found peace, raising a family and sharing idyllic days together in solitude, away from the troubles of the world. This makes Sayless’ death all the more tragic, and I was holding my breath, waiting to see how Yu-no would handle things.

After Yu-no says that Sayless’ spirit lives on in her, I breathed a little easier: symbolically, I took that to mean that memories of Sayless would never be lost, but the visuals also suggest that Sayless’ soul may have remained with Yu-no, as well. Because of this, Sayless is never forgotten, and I believe that for Takuya, doubtlessly grieving after Sayless’ death, is also able to find the strength to continue his quest to reach the Imperial Capital: he has Yu-no with him, and Yu-no is worth fighting to save. The journey to reach the Imperial Capital with Yu-no gives the anime a chance to further flesh out the father-daughter dynamics between the two. The anime’s short length generally means that moments the visual novel can explore in greater detail are truncated, but it is through things like Takuya and Yu-no’s journey across the desert that indicate that, despite the shorter length, the anime could still do a satisfactory job of things. That inevitably leads to the question, Dewbond: are the anime-only folks missing anything during the desert voyage Takuya and Yu-no undertake?


They miss a chance for Takuya to get down and dirty with Sala! The girl from the oasis has a bit of extended role in the anime when you see her later, but in the visual novel, the scene at the oasis and Yu-no’s subsequent kidnapping is all you get. I mean the anime does give you plenty of shots at her frankly fantastic ass, so there is that.

In regards to Sala though, she remains the one character, in both iterations who is the most out of place. YU-NO is a erotic visual novel, so Takuya is plowing fields left and right, but meeting Sala and then bedding her feels extremely out of left field, and honestly, like it was shoved in there cause there hadn’t been a sex scene in hours. Is it bad? No, but when everything else in the story is very tightly told, Sala feels like a outlier. Like an “oh shit, we haven’t seen any boning in a while, get someone in there!”

As for Yu-no herself. I agree that she is very much a mini version of Sayless, and her relationship and bond with her father is a great part of the story. Takuya fits right into to being a father, and accepts his place in the world, a quiet one with Sayless and Yu-no quite well. It is a good place to send his character, seeing that beneath the confidence, swagger and horny nature, Takuya is a good man who values his family and those he cares about. The trek through the desert is just as grueling as you would expect, and the still images make it feel like they are going no where. Just enough time is spent on it, before we get to then next big part of the story, which brings us my favorite character, and the biggest changes from the visual novel to the anime.

Let’s talk about Amanda, and the prison.


Since Takuya is incarcerated before Amanda, I’ll take advantage of the time to go through his initial experiences. It was a little shocking to see him adapt so quickly (as he deals with the prison bully, Joe), and even more surprising to see that even on Dela Grante, the counterparts to Masakatsu Yūki and Toyotomi were present in Kurtz and Deo! I can’t help but feel that the presence of seemingly familiar faces, in conjunction with the Psychite mine here, may have helped Takuya to regroup, take stock and figure out his next move.Similarly, the fact that the lightning towers here at the prison are identical to the one he found at Mount Sankaku. While life at the prison is difficult, no different than that of a work camp, even in spite of Bask’s enjoyment of torturing the inmates for fun, I never was under the impression that Takuya was under any imminent danger here. As long as he did his assignment and kept a low profile, it would buy him the time he needed to work out an escape plan. Moreover, with familiar implements all around, I was convinced that Takuya had a chance to escape, and he just needed an opportunity to do so. I was, admittedly, curious to know what the Psychite was being used for, and found myself a little confused about its properties when it became clear this particular mine was to obtain and refine the mineral for a coffin of sorts for the Dela Grante priest.

The opportunity to mount an escape materialises when Amanda is brought in; her conversations with Takuya helps to build trust, and with Amanda, we have someone who both knows the world, and whose objectives are aligned with Takuya’s. As the resistance’s leader, Amanda is well-placed to act as a partner for Takuya when it comes to escaping the prison. With her presence and leadership, Amanda reveals that she has a few contacts inside the prison, including Deo and Kurtz. All of this comes together to create a thrilling escape, setting Takuya one step closer to his objective at the Imperial Capital. The anime had Kun-kun, a Nogard that Yu-no had rescued and cared for earlier, show up out of the blue to rescue Takuya and Amanda from certain death during the escape, and for me, this indicates that Takuya, initially reluctant to raise a Nogard, comes to appreciate the sort of person Yu-no grew up to be. Through the anime, Amanda comes across as being immensely resilient, even losing an eye to Bask as a result of her refusing to talk. She definitely feels like a leader: composed and filled with conviction in her objectives. As memory serves, Amanda is much more uncertain in the visual novel, and this alters how we view her as the resistance’s leader. Would you mind elaborating, Dewbond?


Well, the first thing is that all those extra rebels you see in Prison? The lookalikes and greater resistance. None of that exists in the visual. It’s Amanda and only Amanda.

That is the second, and biggest change in from the visual novel and frankly one I’m not fond of. I’ve spoke about in a post about Amanda and Takuya’s relationship last year, and I still believe it. Amanda is tough as nails, no question, but the visual novel also portrays her as someone completely out of her depth. The last fighter in a war that ended long ago. There is literally no chance for Amanda to win until Takuya comes along, and even that, he’s more focused on saving Yu-no.

I love Amanda, I love her character and I love her relationship to Takuya. Their romantic moment, instead of happening later in the city, actually happens right after they escape and have to eat Kun-Kun, (yes they FUCKING EAT Kun-kun). The news that Illia, her sister is dead is the last wall on her defenses breaking, and Amanda just falls apart. Takuya is there, and comforts her as best he can. After that, Amanda just becomes all about Takuya and wishes, after the ‘war’ to have a life with him.

Now that might come off as tacky to some, I get that, but I really liked it. Again, Amanda is a woman fighting a war that is pretty much over, and being the only one does wonders to sell the desperation and hopelessness of the situation. She clings to Takuya as the one piece of love she has left, and despite that she is still able to be her own person. When they are stuck in the desert and have to resort to eating Kun-kun (yes that ACTUALLY FUCKING HAPPENS), it is Amanda who has to get Takuya on board, giving him some hard lessons on both their world and their culture.

I’ll talk a bit more about her later, but what did you think of this part of the story Zen? We can see that the prison uses the same electric towers that was hidden in Mount Sankaku, which just raises more questions.


It sounds like Amanda’s visual novel incarnation was truly isolated until Takuya shows up, and this diverges from the themes that resulted in the anime conveys. Similarly, I do feel bad for Kun-kun, as well: the fact that the fauna in Dela Grante have sentience is a bit of foreshadowing, but to take a leaf out of Les Stroud’s playbook, in a survival situation, all creatures are fair game. Finally, on the topic of the electric weapons that both the prison and Mount Sankaku possess, it was here where the pieces began falling into place. Whoever had left the towers on Earth, very likely would’ve been the same beings who built the towers at the prison. The vast disconnect between the technological sophistication seen in Dela Grante’s people, and what appears to be possible, hinted a situation seen in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, where the Eloi have, in their centuries of decadence, lost all ability to understand and maintain the machinery that sustain their lifestyles.

Notions of a civilisation forgetting how to use the technology is a familiar theme in science fiction: the Ratakans had originally constructed Force-powered super-weapons that could devastate entire worlds, but after their defeat, lost knowledge of their once-great works. The science fiction side of YU-NO is a fascinating one, and Dela Grante is a world that allows the imagination to really wander. In the anime, the focus is on Takuya exploiting his knowledge of the lightning tower to facilitate an escape, but I imagine that in the visual novel, as one is wont to do so while reading a book, the mind’s eye can paint a vivid world that beckons to speculation. It sounds like both the anime and visual novel lay down the groundwork for the biggest surprise in YU-NO, as well: once Amanda and Takuya arrive in the Imperial Capital, they set about their task of destroying the Divine Emperor, and I found that this was perhaps the most impressive revelation in any work I’ve seen in a while.


The reveal of the Divine Emperor actually being Ayumi, the original Ayumi that as at Mount Sankaku in the very first episode was a great reveal. The Emperor herself is not even touched upon in the visual novel, there are no scenes with her, so she’s just mentioned. At this point in the story you’ve probably forgotten completely about that Ayumi, and so when she comes back, it brings everything full circle.

Of course, before that, we meet up with Eriko once more, and also see Yu-no herself, now fully grown and under the control of the Emperor. Eriko though, takes sometime to sit down and explain the entire history of Dela Granto, where in the anime it is explained to Amanda and her cohorts.

Now the story of Dela Granto is actually quite compelling, an advanced civilization on Earth that escape a great calamity, but thanks to that technology, they always find themselves drifting closer and closer to the Earth. That is why they need the ‘priestess’ not for some holy ritual, but to sync with the computer mainframe and re-adjust the course of the floating continent. All of this information though has been lost to time, and instead the world has fallen backwards, and people view Grantia, the scientist who developed this technology, as some sort of god.

It’s a lot of shit thrown at you, but god damn, does YU-NO make it work. It shows again, just how well the story was at switching girls from this elusive mystery, to this high concept science fiction romp. It honestly shouldn’t work, it should be feel stilted and forced in, but when you watch it, or read it in the visual novel, everything clicks into place.

Zen, what did you think of the revelations of Ayumi and the history of Dela Grante, along with Yu-no’s fate to become the next priestess?


Seeing Ayumi as the Divine Emperor immediately put my heart at ease. Takuya and Amanda were deep behind enemy lines, on an incredibly difficult mission, and suddenly, all of the tension drains away, replaced by a sense of catharsis. By taking viewers on a bit of exposition that brings all of the pieces in YU-NO together, Ayumi and the AI help to answer all of the questions that viewers (and Takuya) likely had lingering. With this, every mystery in YU-NO comes together to a common, logical origin: the lightning towers and semi-sentient fauna in Dela Grante were originally human creations, as was the refining of Psychite to power their technology. The supernatural gives way to science: justifying the existence of priestesses and the ceremony every four centuries as a consequence of a society that lost its own technological might was not only plausible, but it makes sense.

On first glance, YU-NO‘s setup is so wild that nothing looks like it would synergise, but looking back, I feel that the core story elements were written well ahead of time, and then bits and pieces were given to players of the visual novel to drive the mystery. This is a common enough way of writing out fiction so that the overarching story can come together at some point, while leaving readers with tantalising clues as to what’s upcoming. The Harry Potter series is a solid example of this, and from what we’ve seen in YU-NO, it is fair to say that the writers similarly did an excellent job. I absolutely enjoyed Ayumi sitting Takuya down and explaining everything, and the AI enlightening Amanda’s resistance fighters to the same. Besides leaving us with a complete picture, it also gave the anime a chance to put Ayumi back in the spotlight.

The idea of an advanced precursor civilisation was a similarly interesting one, bringing to mind the Silurian hypothesis, which supposes that it is conceivable for an industrial civilisation to have existed on Earth before our time; owing to geological time-scales, plate tectonics and ice ages would effectively bury all traces, and so, even a space-faring civilisation would eventually be undetectable. The concept is intriguing, and I similarly think of the Halo: Cryptum series, which suggests that modern humanity were the successors of a much more advanced, space-faring civilisation. YU-NO opens up the potential to discuss the possibility of civilisations on Earth pre-dating humanity, and these final episodes were definitely as thought-provoking as they were enjoyable.

Once all of this comes out into the open, Takuya whole-heartedly supports Ayumi and agrees to allow the ceremony to proceed. In the anime, we saw Eriko show up to fight off whatever Kōzō Ryuzōji’s become in a bid to save both worlds. Dewbond, how did things differ from the events within the visual novel here?


Well the climax of the visual novel actually takes place in the basement with the machine, not with a crowd full of people. Those souls aren’t present, and there is no real battle. Amanda still gets thrown into the past, Ayumi still dies, and Eriko is still able to defeat Ryuzoji. However, Eriko’s big struggle, and the apparition of her dead lover doesn’t exist. She just shows up to save the day and wastes Ryuzoji and then tells Takuya that he has to let Yu-no do what she has to do.

It is a good climax overall, and the anime follows the main points, but I do admit liking the secluded nature of the visual novel more. It gives things a more epic feeling, and doesn’t feel as out of place like the anime does. Why would they just do this really important event in the middle of the public?

However Zen, before we talk about the series final moments. There is something we need to talk about. We’ve skated around the issue since we started, and while it isn’t as implied in the anime, it nothing but implied and done in the visual novel. Let’s talk about the incest. Specifically, the fact that Kanna, who is a beddable and romanceable heroine is Takuya and Amanda’s daughter.

And the fact that in the visual novel, Takuya and Yu-no have sex. You remember that tender scene right before the ritual, when they are in Yu-no’s room? Well they go straight down to bone town.


Because of how blasé, but indirect, YU-NO has been regarding sex, I think that the visual novel would’ve been able to really capture the emotional piece behind whenever Takuya takes the heroines and beds them – rather than the act itself, it is the intimacy, the desire to be closer to someone in a world that has been very aggressive at driving people apart, that motivates what Takuya does. Unlike, say, School Days’ Makoto Itō, who lived in an ordinary world with ordinary folks, Takuya lives in an extraordinary world where loss and grief seem to be the norm rather than an uncommon occurrence. He is dealing with heroines who suffer from melancholy, longing, loneliness, and in doing his best to help them out, it so happens that getting physical with them is one of the later parts of him trying to create a genuine emotional connection that the female characters lack.

Curiously enough, Yosuga no Sora also explored this idea behind incest: to be sure, I’m not endorsing it, but I am going to say that both Yosuga no Sora and YU-NO suggest that individuals who have lost a great deal in their lives, who are desperately missing human connections with others, will turn to uncommon means of finding this connection. In the realm of fiction, then, I see incest as the most powerful way of showing just how melancholy the characters are: it’s a very powerful metaphor that absolutely succeeds in telling us viewers the true extent of what the characters are feeling, and I do wish that more folks would stop to consider this before dismissing a work as disgusting. As it is in YU-NO, especially in the case of Kanna and Yu-no herself, that Takuya has the option of making love to both suggests to me that both Kanna and Yu-no were exceptionally lonely, to the point where I could physically feel it in my own heart when I think about it. That’s impressive, and this is probably where the anime is weaker: to the best of my knowledge, the anime did not cover this quite to the same extent, and one could go through the entire adaptation thinking that Takuya only ever makes love to Mitsuki, Sayless and Amanda.


I don’t know if YU-NO is the same as Yosuga no Sora in terms of loss. YU-NO always came off to me, both as the anime and visual novel, as a story built around sex. It was one of the first VNs, back when eroges were expected from the medium. However YU-NO has the benefit of actually telling a really really damn good story, and making sex work.

In terms of the incest, look, I’ve been around the anime block for two decades now. I’ve seen a lot of stuff, hell we talked about Yosuga no Sora, one of the most infamous incest series in the entire art form. I wouldn’t toss a series out the door because of it, as long as the story they are telling is interesting and compelling. Sora was that, and YU-NO is that as well. The sex works almost all the time in this series, and while it can get a bit icky at times, it is part of what this story is. Having watched both, I do believe that the visual novel is the better work BECAUSE they put in the sex scenes, and even they were pulled back for the re-make. You gotta go to the OG version to see the real goods.

Anyway, the revelation that Kanna and Takuya are even father and daughter is confirmed in everything but words, and Yu-no’s own sex scene, after she is literally begging her father to do it, was the only one that felt kind of ‘ehhhh’ in my eyes. But again, the series does take the time to explain that this is a different civilization, with different rules, and people who grow up at a much faster rate. At this point, I was so bloody invested in the story and characters, along with years of desensitized to anime in general, that I was like “that checks out.”

That just leaves us the final conclusion. Zen, what do you think of how this story ends?


The finale was certainly fun, with Takuya and the Resistance fighting off the dimensional monsters Kōzō Ryuzōji had spawned. From what you’ve said, I got the sense that whereas the visual novel really aimed to focus on Takuya, the anime chose to present things as being larger in scale. In the latter, it certainly worked well enough for the story, and the final fight saw Eriko complete her assignment of stopping Kōzō, giving her story closure. However, the delays caused mean that Yu-no is not able to right Dela Grante’s course, and the world collides with Earth in a titanic impact event. Insofar, I’ve been rather open-minded about YU-NO‘s portrayal of science, but on the topic of impact events, I am a bit more familiar. I will nitpick here and comment that an object of that size would likely have peeled back the Earth’s crust and rendered the entire surface uninhabitable for millions of years; even though the impact was supposed to have happened eight thousand years earlier, at that magnitude, it is unlikely the world could’ve recovered that quickly. This, however, can be forgiven: as it turns out, the impact event is how Dela Grante’s constructs ended up on Earth, and why Psychite is found close to Mount Sankaku.

Overall, I found the ending to be satisfactory for the anime, and overall, a suitable close to what was an incredible ride: Takuya is able to save Kanna, and then departs into an entirely new plane of existence with Yu-no. Admittedly, this piece was a little confusing, and the question of Kodai’s ultimate fate remains unknown from an anime-only perspective, but these were the two lingering questions I had exiting YU-NO. I did feel that Takuya and Yu-no’s entry into the unknown was a proper way to send the characters off; after such experiences, it does feel anticlimactic to have Takuya return to his old life. Becuase you’ve got both visual novel and anime under your belt, Dewbond, I’d like you to compare and contrast the endings: what are the anime-only folks missing, and what did we get with the anime was a pleasant surprise?


The ending is more or less the same, though the scene where Kanna is cured is lifted and changed a bit from her own route in the visual novel. In terms of the anime, I did like that, as it confirms that Amanda got out ok, and it sort of wraps up the first half of the story. I also really liked all the small scenes with each of the other heroines, whether it is Ayumi looking fondly at Kodai’s work, Mio deciding to leave town, Mitsuki moving out of the house, or Kaori on the news. It was a cute way to bring all those stories to a close.

Now I would be remiss to not meniton the ‘true’ endings for the Ayumi, Kanna and Mio routes, all of which are unlockable once you finish the VN. They are short scenes, but they show you what happens if Takuya hadn’t be thrown back in time. He gets together with each of the girls, and they start a new life together. Whether it is being Mio’s assistant as she goes through Uni. Living in Kanna in her apartment, or studying to be a researcher while building a new life with Ayumi. Each of them are sweet, and sexy as Takuya seems to be angling for sex in each of them. Of course Ayumi is my favorite, but I am glad the three ‘main’ girls of the first half get happy endings.

In terms of the actual ending. I thought it was rather fitting. It ends where it begins, with Takuya finding a naked woman on the ground. This time however, we know who Yu-no is, and Takuya decides to follow her wherever she goes, which back to the very moment of creation, a single tree. Together they’ll traverse the bounds of the world together, which yes, is a little high concept, but as the credits rolled and the final shot of the two by the great tree. I couldn’t help but feel emotionally touched and satisfied.

We are almost at the end here Zen, but I think we can’t wrap things up without talking about the music, in both versions. What did you think of the opening themes, and if you have had the chance, the VN’s OST?


It took me a little while to listen to the visual novel’s soundtracks, and thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I was able to take a gander at both the original 1996 version, as well as the music from the 2017 remake. The original soundtrack has a very heavy synthesiser component to it, giving it a very electronic feel that brings to mind the music of games from an older era. It has a very retro aesthetic, reminding me a little of the Pokemon GameBoy and Sim City 2000 soundtracks. Conversely, the 2017 remake brings to mind the sort of background music I’ve heard in things like Kanon and CLANNAD’s visual novels – given that YU-NO inspired numerous visual novels later on, the style in the original 1996 soundtrack likely inspired Jun Maeda, and by the time of the remake, the soundtrack was done in such a way to pay homage to this. The remake modernises the sound, while simultaneously retaining the electronic synthesisers that characterised the originals, which was a pleasant touch.

For the anime’s soundtrack and music, I found the vocal pieces to be strictly middle-of-the-road. It was the incidental music that truly stood out for me – jointly composed by Ryū Kawamura and Evan Call, it is a striking balance between Kawamura’s scoring of everyday moments in Takuya’s life, and Call’s orchestral pieces that really sell the scale and scope of the mystery surrounding Mount Sankaku, the Psychite and Dela Grante. In particular, I was very fond of Call’s compositions and would even argue that of all the different pieces of music throughout YU-NO, his music stands as some of the best. With a careful balance of string and vocals, Call’s compositions tease at the enigma behind the other dimensions that Takuya initially experiences, as well as the vastness of Dela Grante. Songs like Pulse of Fate, The Correction of Chaos, Every 400 Years and The Fated Stones stand as examples of where Call’s genius comes to play – in YU-NO‘s first half, they hint at what’s to come, and in the second half, they add an additional dimension to what viewers see on screen. The interplay between music and visuals in the anime adaptation was solid, and as consequently, of all the soundtracks, I enjoyed the anime adaptation’s the most.


I absolutely adore the VN soundtrack to YU-NO, and it is something I listen too on a regular basis. Tracks like ‘Memories’, ‘Sword Cape’, ‘Other World 2’ and others are just fantastic. The soundtrack is frankly stellar in my mind, giving weight to the scenes, having a great retro feel to it, and also giving off an air of mystery and dread in certain scenes.

I can’t speak much to the anime’s soundtrack, but I really enjoyed the opening themes. The second opening ‘Mother’ is a killer theme, and the first ‘Kono Yo no Hate de Koi o Utau Shoujo’ really pulls you into the world as things get started. The ending themes I didn’t really care for, and honestly I can’t remember them, but that is often the case for anime music.

Then there is ‘recalling’ which serves as the Visual Novel’s opening theme, which probably one of the best pieces of music I’ve heard in a long while. Haunting, exciting, it does everything you need to welcome you to a story that will take you on a wild and unforgettable ride. Did you manage watch to it Zen?


Indeed I did! Eri Sasaki’s ‘Recalling’ is actually a very strong song that has a beautiful composition, and it does convey the enigma and adventure in YU-NO. I think at this point, we’ve delved quite deeply into YU-NO‘s second half and covered quite a bit of ground. Readers know where we stand regarding the anime and visual novel, as well as the merits of each. Dewbond, are there any other aspects of the work, either in the anime adaptation or visual novel, that you’d like to leave with our readers?


I think we’ve covered just about everything, but I do want to leave with some final thoughts.

YU-NO: A Girl who Chants Love at the Bound of this World is, in my eyes, a masterpiece. One of the definitive visual novels, and a story that pulled me in like few do. There are only three anime that have ever done that, and YU-NO has joined that. Just sitting here and talking to you makes me want to dig into the story again, to go back down that rabbit hole. I don’t say that about many shows, but I will for this, because there is just something exceptionally special about this work. I do hope that you end up reading the Visual Novel, because you are missing out on a complete experience that has laid a foundation for so much.

It may not be Fate/Stay Night, or Steins;Gate, or CLANNAD or Higurashi. But all of those wouldn’t be here today, if YU-NO hadn’t come first. I’ve gushed about this thing for ages now, and I probably always will. But I’ll just end with this.

Your love awaits, at the bound of this world.


Indeed, there is much to be discovered at the bound of this world, and over the course of our conversation, our verdict here seems simple enough: for folks who’ve seen the anime adaptation, it would be necessary to delve into the visual novel itself and read through all of the different routes to gain a complete experience of YU-NO. This particular task is made easier by the fact that YU-NO‘s 2017 remake is available on Steam for a cool 56 CAD, and as a visual novel, the hardware requirements aren’t particularly steep. Both the visual novel and anime together explore YU-NO in different ways, bringing different elements to the forefront and allowing different parts of the story to shine in the manner best suited for them. This brings the conversation between Dewbond and myself to a close, and having done several collaborations now (I believe this is our third), I think now is a good of a time as any to indicate that, anyone who is interested in doing a collaborative discussion on any topic is always free to do so! There are a few channels of communication that are available for folks who are interested, and I’m always game to share in a discussion with folks with unique, and noteworthy thoughts on the things they experience. Before I wrap things up and resume regular programming, I would like to make a note of the other YU-NO related discussions that Dewbond has written – the visual novel can be a tad pricy, and reading through Dewbond’s thoughts will help one to ascertain whether this is a journey they’d like to embark on!

More of Dewbond’s YU-NO Posts

Missed the first collaboration between Dewbond and myself?

In Which The Merits of YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World’s Visual Novel Are Introduced- Part I of A Collaborative Discussion with Dewbond

“History is a set of lies agreed upon.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

It’s actually quite surprising that I finished YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World‘s anime adaptation only a few weeks ago – owing to how chaotic things have been, it’s felt like a year instead. Curiously enough, YU-NO‘s anime adaptation did, in fact, wrap up a year earlier: I’d been alerted to the series’ presence thanks to the tightly-knit community that I’m a part of, and had been curious to pick YU-NO up. With a bit of encouragement after my last collaborative post with Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime, I pushed my way into the series and came out the other side wondering, why on earth had I not watched this last year? YU-NO is, after all, an elegantly designed amalgamation of science-fiction, mystery and fantasy. The series delves into science, history and romance and has something for everyone. YU-NO was so influential that it’s easy to see its impact on visual novels that came after it, and even now, the sheer boldness of the work is impressive. However, my month-long journey to reach the ending turns out to be only the beginning: the anime, after all, is condensing out about fifty hours’ worth of narrative into ten hours. Inevitably, that means some elements in the story are lost should one take the all-anime route. Fortunately, Dewbond is on station to lend an extra set of eyes: we link up for our latest collaboration that will see what precisely happens in the visual novel, how those events differ or augment the anime adaptation, and in the end, what folks stand to gain by stepping into the visual novel, which received a shiny new remaster in 2017 the same way 2004’s Halo 2 received a beautiful remaster in the form of Halo 2 Anniversary in 2014, bringing new visuals to the table while retaining gameplay and mechanics that have stood well against the test of time.


The first order of business is to welcome Dewbond back for this collaboration, which I believe is our third of the year! Before continuing, it’s time for a bit of a shameless plug; I’ve decided to spin up a new category in the sidebar so these are easier to find, and I will remark to readers that I am open for collaborative projects of this nature. They’re immensely fun and informative, as well as allow folks to see new perspectives that have certainly helped me to appreciate anime in new and different ways. YU-NO is a particularly vast series, and while I got my feet wet with the anime adaptation, the visual novel itself is said to be, like CLANNAD, where the real party lies. I’ve heard it’s a deep and detailed experience, so with Dewbond here, we can explore the most noteworthy facets of the visual novel to our heart’s content this time around!


Thanks for having me back here again Zen. If readers have visited my blog, they’ll know that I’ve carried a torch for YU-NO for a long time. I believe it to be a masterpiece, a part of Visual Novel history that has touched ever subsequent work ever since. We don’t have Steins;Gate, Higurashi, or even Fate/Stay Night if YU-NO didn’t set the stage first. The visual novel pioneered many of the things we take for granted now, such as multiple endings and different routes.

The anime adaptation, which came out last year, is on reflection, a good adaptation, but upon reading the VN, which I did almost the moment the anime was done, I found that some things were done better, and some things were done worse. I am sure we will discuss these things as we go through the entire story, and there is plenty to get through. Where shall we start?


It makes sense to start at the beginning: I’m positive that there’s a story behind how you came to know of YU-NO. To start things off, I’d actually been interested in checking the series out since a fellow member of our community posted more ecchi-driven aspects of YU-NO when the anime was airing last year, and I subsequently wanted to see the context behind those moments. However, my tendency to procrastinate meant that I didn’t get around to it until you encouraged me to pick it up. Your enthusiasm was a major motivator, and I’m now superbly glad to have finished the adaptation. It’s clear that YU-NO is a game-changer of sorts for the visual novel medium, but before we continue, I’m curious to know of how you came across YU-NO; how did you get your foot in the door for this work?


It’s not really that interesting. I was looking at the anime for that season and for some reason that poster pulled me in. It was honestly just a random chance, but I’ll tell you, I am so glad it happened. Once I started that show, it never let me go, and honestly it still hasn’t. I devoured the VN over a couple weeks, and made the anime something I watched moment it came out.

You often don’t get an anime series that pulls you in as much as that, but YU-NO was one of them, and it happened totally by chance.


Chance is how we often find some of our favourite series: we go in without any knowledge ahead of time, and then are pleasantly surprised at how things progress. YU-NO is, quite bluntly, full of surprises, and coming in, aside from Kodai’s foreword on what constitues time and history, I had little idea of what was going to unfold in the series. Every revelation, every discovery became a surprise, and this continued building up as the series went on. With this being said, YU-NO does start out a bit more slowly, and I found that for someone new to the work, this is to YU-NO‘s advantage. Things open out with Ayumi’s arc, and you’ve previously remarked that Ayumi was your favourite of the stories: I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


Ayumi’s arc is absolutely my favorite. When I was watching the anime, the moment the series hooked me in for real, was the revelation of her suicide. It just completely threw me back in my chair and made me go “Oh I am IN!” Further still, when I read it in the VN, I was hopelessly pulled into her story and the relationship with Takuya.

Ayumi is of course, the step-mom, and we should preface this by saying that YU-NO doesn’t shy away from sexy, taboo, or sexy taboo stories. Takuya Arima, our nominal lead comes from an era where Visual Novels were mostly seen as eroge, and despite the great science fiction story, YU-NO is also an eroge. That means where is sex and plenty of it.

Ayumi’s story is frankly, the strongest front to back of all the routes. The sexual tension between the two leads, the clear attraction Takuya has to Ayumi, and vice versa is clear from all the quiet moments they share. Ayumi herself comes off as a young woman who was suddenly and cruelly robbed of her future, of the intimacy and marital bliss she clearly craved. Coupled with being made out to be the scapegoat for the public’s disapproval with GeoTechnics, it pushes her to the edges of despair. Which only makes it easy for Totoyomi, the sleezeball that he is, to make his move.

A move again, I found extremely effective in the anime, which shows far more than the VN actually does. There is a clear indication that the two had sex, where it is just implied in the VN. That is one of the few things I will say the anime did better. On the other hand though, Ayumi and Takuya surrendering to their passions is actually shown in the VN, and intimacy displayed between them is damn effective, even when they fade to black.

I could gush about this forever, but what did you think Zen?


It sounds like I missed out on the raw emotional piece between Takuya and Ayumi, then: YU-NO‘s visual novel goes in a direction that likely would’ve shown how Takuya is able to sense what’s going on around him and act in the best manner to help someone out. It just so happens that bedding someone is the solution that works here, and there is a level of trust that the act implies. Since the anime only shows Takuya and Ayumi talking out their problems, a part of the original YU-NO story becomes lost in the process; showing that Takuya and Ayumi do go physical means showing a central piece of his character earlier on, easing the visual novel’s players into how he does things.

The anime absolutely held my attention by the time the stresses from Ayumi’s work began taking its toll on her: it really emphasised what she and Takuya were up against when it came to Mount Sankaku and the GeoTech project surrounding the Psychite. However, even before Ayumi’s first shown committing suicide, I was intrigued with Takuya’s use of the Reflector Device to save Ayumi from the shady men accosting her in the warehouse. While Takuya is physically outmatched by the two hooligans, he begins exploring the Reflector Device’s powers here to try and affect a different outcome. This segues nicely into his use of the device in his efforts to save Ayumi – seeing the different ways she commits suicide ended up being simultaneously heart-breaking, but Takuya’s attendant efforts in trying to save her were also encouraging. It feels like the latter is the anime’s way of expressing the extent to which Takuya cares about Ayumi, and in the absence of getting it on, I found that it looks to have succeeded in this regard.

The other aspect about Ayumi’s arc I enjoyed was the initial grounding of Mount Sankaku and its mysteries in a more corporate, scientific basis. The unusual rock formations and a corporation’s interest in it really sets up the feeling that Mount Sankaku is more than it appears, and to have Ayumi so closely related to the project means that Takuya’s entanglement becomes far more plausible than if he were only tangentially connected. On its own, Ayumi’s arc serves as a solid opener, setting the stage for the series. However, in YU-NO‘s anime, time constraints meant that Kaori was present to a much larger extent during Ayumi’s arc. I found her to be a bit mysterious, but once her working relationship with Toyotomi was revealed, I rather enjoyed how Takuya was able to turn the tables and use that knowledge to save Ayumi. The visual novel has its own arc for Kaori: where does it diverge from the anime, and what are folks missing from the visual novel here?


I’ll note that Takuya’s repeated attempts to save Ayumi, ending with a different way of death each time is anime only, but it is also really effective. The scene of her with the bag on her head, her nails broken was fucking unsettling. The anime I think did better in delivering the raw shock value of Ayumi’s bad ending, but really missed out by removing much of the underlying sexual tension.

The anime version of the Kaori arc and the VN arc are different. Mostly in the sense that Kaori’s arc is stapled onto Ayumi’s in an attempt (that it didn’t need) to give the arc more weight. In the visual novel, it is wholly its own story, and more linked to Kanna’s overall plot than Ayumi’s. I’ll get into that later. You would be remiss to even see Kaori as a character if you didn’t read the VN.

In terms of the Visual Novel though, Kaori’s arc, while the weakest in my opinion (thought not my least favorite), is still compelling. Even among the series many mysterious women, Kaori is the most mysterious of them all. Is she a newscaster? A corporate spy? A two-timing bitch? Or a girl with a heart of gold? Even after all I’ve read and watched, I can’t really nail down who exactly Kaori is, and that makes her so intriguing. Her role in Ayumi’s good ending removes much of her sinister ways, and a lot of what you see in the anime is actually the ending of her own route.


So the visual novel has a more Yosuga no Sora quality to it! That alone is a compelling justification to look into things, although I fully appreciate that the visual novel’s main draw is that it has so much more space to flesh things out. Kaori looks like one of those examples where the constraints in the anime might’ve been a disadvantage. In the anime, I found Kaori to be a secondary character: the adaptation presented her as someone secondary to things, and nowhere was this more apparent than when Takuya dismisses her advances in the hotel room; his mind was clearly on the intel that she had, which was key to saving Ayumi.

I appreciate that YU-NO‘s anime adaptation was trying to condense everything down so it’d fit neatly into twenty-six episodes – the story did flow reasonably well from what I recall, although Kaori definitely did come across as a rogue element. On some occasions, she was an ally, knocking Toyotomi out as he tried to escape, while in others, she was an unknown actor conspiring with Toyotomi to sell out GeoTech’s (and Ayumi’s) secrets. I think that as far as a supporting character goes within the context of the anime, Kaori was someone who could be said to represent the stochastic nature of the different timelines; depending on which universe Takuya is in, the same people can be friends or enemies, which forces Takuya to be careful about how he goes about his next move. Beyond this, it looks like a journey into the visual novel would definitely be a necessity to flesh out her role in YU-NO. I am guessing, however, that in the visual novel, Takuya also has a chance to get physical with Kaori.


They do get physical in the VN, twice I believe. One in Ayumi’s bad ending (he seeks her comfort after Ayumi rejects him) and once in her own route. She is absolutely one of the lesser characters in terms of importance, but her role is enjoyable, and like I said, she is a woman of mystery in a series full of them.

It is what I like about the multiple story routes of YU-NO, each of them are connected, but they are all also wholly unique, and deal with different ideas, feelings and struggles. Ayumi’s is different from Kaori’s, who is different from Kanna’s, who is different from Mio and Mitsuki. But before we talk about any else, I think it is important we take a minute to discuss our lead of the series. Takuya. What is your take on him Zen, especially in this first half?


Takuya’s biggest strength in the first half of YU-NO is his tenacity, which firmly establishes his character as someone who very much knows what his goals are. Takuya’s use of the Reflector Device speaks volumes to the lengths to which he will go to set things right, and how strong his conviction once he sets his mind to something. For newcomers who are uncertain of what will unfold in YU-NO, then, this serves to create confidence in Takuya – while he might be experimenting and trying to work out some sort of global optima in some timelines, the knowledge gained, even in failure, leaves him better prepared to handle what’s coming. It’s reassuring to have a character take charge of things and do what they can, even when the nature of his situation is unknown; the Reflector Device is a literal game-changer for Takuya and his characterisation. In any other series, I would count him as impulsive, but being assured a safety net of sorts allows Takuya to explore more freely.

The other facet of Takuya’s character I particularly enjoyed is how lecherous he is: throughout the anime, he makes no effort to conceal his interest in women, especially the thought of pursuing a physical relationship with them. Given what you’ve said about the visual novel, Dewbond, I believe that Takuya’s animated incarnation acts this way for two reasons; firstly, it is to remind viewers of the fact that Takuya does in fact bed many of the female characters, and second, to create light-hearted humour in a series brimming with mystery. While Takuya begins pursing the truth behind Mount Senkaku, this world begins unravelling around him as conspiracies make themselves known to the viewers. Having humour punctuate these otherwise serious moments really helped me to take a step back and re-examine recent events. However, this is for the anime: how does Takuya differ in the visual novels?


Takuya’s perverted nature is played on more in the anime than the visual novel. I think this is because since the anime pulled out all of the sex scenes, they had to compensate some way. They are still present, but the fact that Takuya does end up sleeping with almost every girl helps balances it out.

And that I think is something very important to his character. In both the VN and the Anime, it is clear that Takuya is not a virgin, and that does wonders to ground his character. Instead of a teenager desperate to stick it in something, Takuya is calm, mature, and playful. He doesn’t have anything to prove (in that regard), and is able let the plot carry him where it needs to go. Watching both versions, I saw Takuya as a man who felt at peace with himself, even when he is thrown through the grinder of the parallel worlds. I always thought he was in control of his emotions, as much as he could be, and his quippy nature and laid back attitude really help set him apart from other harem leads.

That said though, this is a VN from the early 90s. Takuya isn’t going to win any awards for most in depth character. But YU-NO is able to make him extremely compelling and likeable when the risk of turning into a sleazebag was very possible. Again I credit the story for having him have had sex before everything started. Which I think is a good segue into our next route, and another of my favorites. Zen, what do you think of the Mitsuki/Eriko route?


I enjoyed the Mitsuki and Eriko routes immensely, because they really established what Takuya was squaring off against. For starters, since Mitsuki and Takuya had already slept together, it indicates that the two have a strong bond and trust one another; to see Mitsuki unexpectedly participate in actions that work against Takuya indicated that something was off. It was here that it became apparent: Takuya is entangled in something of an unimaginable scale, facing off against a foe of immense power. Early on, I dismissed Kōzō Ryūzoji’s actions: he did draw a pistol on Takuya, but I reasoned that it must’ve been one of many timelines, so whether or not that was indeed what the “real” Kōzō would do could still be explored. By the time Kōzō puts Mitsuki under hypnosis and has her attempt to relieve Takuya of the Reflector Device, YU-NO indicated to viewers that there are far greater forces at work in the world.

This is where Eriko’s story comes in: once her backstory is revealed, and her position as an inter-dimensional law enforcement officer is shown, the pieces begin falling into place. Kōzō was actually an immortal, inter-dimensional being of sorts, and after causing the death of Eriko’s lover, she’d vowed to bring this being to justice, whatever it took. Looks are definitely deceiving, and Takuya’s seemingly eccentric teacher suddenly becomes a key player in the situation that Takuya is now involved with. The gap between Eriko forcing herself into a small locker and exciting Takuya while trying to remain hidden from Mitsuki, and Eriko explaining her story is immense – I was surprised at first, but given the unusual research GeoTech had been doing, and the powers conferred by the Reflector Device, in retrospect, it was not unreasonable for YU-NO to step in this direction. The anime arcs definitely succeed in raising the stakes: Dewbond, I’m going to turn things over to you for the parallels and differences between the anime, and the visual novel.


The Mitsuki route is probably my second favorite of the VN routes. Unlike Ayumi’s personal struggles, or Kaori’s mysteriousness nature, Mitsuki’s is more about the greater plot itself. We learn a little bit about Ryuzoji, and realize that he isn’t of this world, or this reality, and we see that Mitsuki is a woman doomed to her fate. No matter what happens, no matter what Takuya does, the woman is fated to die. The VN makes this a bit more powerful, mostly because since the Anime moves at such a faster pace, it can make Mitsuki look like a loony tunes villain sometimes. In the VN, after you spend at least 6-8 hours per route, you almost forget that Mitsuki is doomed to her fate.

I’d also say that Mitsuki’s relationship with Takuya is one of the series best, and the fact that they were lovers before, like I said previously, really helps ground Takuya. Mitsuki clearly is trying to put on a brave front, but deep down she’s torn apart that she’s lost Takuya, and clearly deeply in love with him. The VN has them making love in the forest, and the tender moment afterwards shows that there is still a high degree of affection between them. This only makes Mitsuki’s fall into insanity even more tragic, something we see further in Mio’s route.

As for Eriko, she remains the one girl, both in the VN and Anime who actually doesn’t sleep with Takuya, though the VN does expand on their locker room moment with more than a little petting. Eriko herself really takes the role of mentor to Takuya, shepherding him along, and trying to keep him on the right path. One of the biggest changes from the VN is that her history with her lover is vastly expanded. None of that stuff about the future is shown at all, just implied heavily. I thought it was an ok addition, and it did help me understand Eriko as I moved into the VN, but honestly the story doesn’t really need it.

Still, Eriko is one of the series better characters. Tough and resourceful, but also playful and just a little bit adorkable. She and Takuya have a good master/mentor relationship, and she is probably one of the only girls who can go toe to toe with Takuya’s quips and perverted nature. Sexy as all hell too, and the VN lets her strut herself, with plenty of panty shots, every chance it gets. I just wish she didn’t have to share a route with Mitsuki.


With your remarks on Eriko, I’m beginning to be swayed to check out the visual novel myself! I agree that the extended length seen in the visual novel works in Mitsuki’s favour: giving her a bit more exposition would’ve augmented the emotional impact of her ultimate fate, especially with the knowledge of having seen just how close she and Takuya were. On the topic of Mio, I’ve alluded to seeing fanservice screenshots of her as being one of the main reasons why I started YU-NO to begin with. Her arc, I found, was a bit of a precursor to Mitsuki’s in the anime, introducing the tapestry that illustrate Mount Sankaku as housing an ancient weapon of sorts, hinting at Kōzō’s mysterious background with his ability to hypnotise others, and also showing what sort of relationship Takuya had with Mitsuki, given the latter’s strong reaction to Takuya growing closer to Mio. However, I recall that you found Mio’s relationship with Takuya to be weaker, and would be curious to learn more about this.


Mio is my least favorite of the heroines for sure. While she has some of the best chemistry with Takuya in terms of friendly banter and quips, it is only really that: friendship. While Mio has a clear interest in Takuya, him not being the virgin sort of changes their relationship. Takuya really doesn’t pine after her, and instead seems almost completely at peace with just being friends. Sure, the VN doesn’t go that way, but I always felt that Takuya decides to bed Mio almost out of pity, as if giving her what SHE wants, instead of what he wants.

Takuya just comes off as a guy with nothing to really prove anymore, and because he’s had sex, he doesn’t view Mio as the object of affection he does with the other characters, even when he isn’t a virgin. It makes Mio come off as immature and like a kid. You can see that contrasted with how Yuki behaves, ratting out Mio and getting all clingy to her. That would have been Takuya had he not gotten laid.

I have a bit more to say on Mio herself, but I want your take on her relationship to Takuya. What did you think?


As far as characterisation goes within the anime, Mio fills the role of the classic tsundere, which creates the most familiar back-and-forth between herself and Takuya. It’s clear that beneath her constant chastising him for his slights, Mio does care about him, but is too proud (or perhaps embarrassed) to admit it. In this way, Mio’s relationship with Takuya is the closes to the classic “high school students trying to work out their feelings” approach numerous anime take, although as you’ve mentioned, YU-NO has Takuya coming in with experience and therefore, unruffled by the comings and goings of a relationship.

From a story perspective, then, this means that her pursuit of Takuya feels the most clumsy and forced: Mio’s evidently trying a little too hard, and YU-NO does a fine job of expressing this to the viewers. With this being said, this is quite understandable, and outside of her feelings for Takuya, Mio otherwise comes across as a rather interesting character, whose love for history and family background both serve to drive the story forwards. Mio’s devotion to learning the truth shows viewers how she is when she has a goal in mind; I think that her pursuit of Mount Sankaku and its secrets was probably the better side of her character.


Yes, when it comes to Mio’s other half, her love of history and wanting to uncover the mystery of Mount Sankaku, that is where her character really stands out. Mio is absolutely the most driven of the original 5 heroines. and is the one who has the most independence and life outside of Takuya’s world. She has dreams and aspirations, so much so that in the anime, she decides to leave and go seek them out, with or without Takuya.

That is really what makes Mio stand out, but I do think her arc is the weakest of the five, at least in terms of character. Her teenage love works, but feels out of place when Takuya has nothing to prove. That being said though, I would not want to change it, because I think it’s addition really helps Takuya stand out from other visual novel leads, and Mio just looks cute as a button.

The mystery itself is probably the biggest hint of the twists yet to come, and the reveal of the lightning tower, the girl at the lake, and the hints of something bigger is what makes YU-NO be more than just a usual eroge Visual novel. Knowing the entire story, it is actually really cool to see how each of the five routes deals with a different aspect of it. They all aren’t chasing the same normal thread. Mio deals with the tower, Ayumi and Kaori with the stone, Mitsuki and Erikio with Ryuzoji, and then Kanna with the people. When looking back, it make the massive paradigm shift a bit more easier to see, as the series is slowly building up to it.

We have one more route in the first half though Zen, and I think we saved the most interesting one for last. What did you think about Kanna?


Kanna always came across as an enigma wrapped inside a mystery, so I was immensely glad to reach her arc. Until now, all we knew of Kanna was that she had knowledge of Mount Sankaku, that she opposed GeoTech and she suffered from an illness of a mysterious nature. This acted as a bit of a hook, and I knew I had to be patient to finish everything else first. Once we do reach Kanna, Takuya’s kindness takes over, and sensing that she’s lonely, he does his best to befriend her. In this way, Kanna slowly begins to open up somewhat, and this is most evident when she agrees to go on a beach outing with Takuya, Mio and Masakatsu. That single episode is perhaps the most mundane of any, but it shows one more bit of normalcy in a world that had been anything but normal.

While Takuya attempts to make Kanna feel more welcome, he begins unearthing the final elements to the enigmas surrounding Mount Sankaku. Kanna’s arc thus sets the table for what’s to come, and the intrigues from learning of her story really compelled me to watch. It was in Kanna’s arc where I became so enthralled by YU-NO that I began watching the episodes in pairs: Kanna’s mysterious lack of aging, the unscrupulous fellow following Kanna around and her dealings with Kodai before he died, all contributed to this great desire to press on forwards and see what was going on. The anime did a fantastic job here of setting the stage for what’s to come, as it became increasingly apparent that between the Psychite, Reflector Device and Kanna’s unusual longevity, coupled with Takuya’s remarks that Kanna felt like family, all hinted that something massive was going to happen. The anime held me spellbound here; so Dewbond, I’d like to hear what you felt about how the visual novel handled things.


Well the episode with the beach and much of Kanna’s backstory with Kodai is again, anime only and expanding on things that are just touched about in the novel. Frankly I found the beach episode to be quite boring and detracted away from the mysterious nature of Kanna’s story.

I mean, when Kanna first goes into that man’s room, and you realize that she’s basically a teenage prostitute, it threw me back in my chair. I just had to know more, I had to know where it went. What we see is a story about a girl who is desperate, DESPERATE for a connection and uses her body to fulfill that need. The VN really goes into this, and shows that Kanna is at heart, a woman who needs the physical intimacy that a lover can bring, but also someone who understands her. Takuya very much does that, and putting aside the connection they do have (which we will get into later I’m sure) it is clear in the VN that they are kindred spirits in a way.

Going on what you said about setting the stage for the later half. Again, the entire quest of Takuya getting the new Pyschite stone is anime only. In the VN he actually takes the stone from Kaori’s route and uses it for Kanna, culminating in their love scene and Kanna tells him about the clock in Kodai’s room. The destination is the same, but the push to get Takuya there is quite different. I mean, in terms of the anime it does wrap everything together in a nice little bow, but the way it does it in the VN really helps lay out how the multiple routes work.

Either way, Kanna’s story is again, something that pushes buttons and takes some chances. What did you think about her behavior regarding sex and the idea that she was whoring herself out?


My initial impressions of the mysterious man was of revulsion, and even in the anime adaptation, it was straightforward to put two and two together. Given what I saw, I thought Kanna was doing what it took to survive – here was someone who had been seeking a purpose in the world after her mother had died, but was trapped in a difficult spot. That Kanna resorts to prostitution to support herself, given her situation, paints her as a character we could be sympathetic to. Behind her cautionary words from the earlier arcs, then, lies someone who knows more of the truth, and shares a very unique connection to YU-NO‘s second half.

The main qualm I had with Kanna’s arc in the anime was the relationship she had with Kodai and Keiko. We only ever got to see them briefly, and the most I understood was that Kodai was supporting Kanna financially. Beyond this, not much is explored, so I am left a little in the dark here. What the anime did show does not impede the viewer as we enter YU-NO‘s second half, but it did feel a little incomplete to me, especially as Takuya finally collects all six of the gems needed to kick off the second half. Before we get there, I would very much like to know how the visual novel differs from the anime here – specifically, whether or not players are treated to a more satisfactory bit of exploration behind Kanna’s relationship with Kodai and Keiko.


Much of it is actually left vague, we get the idea that Kodai is supporting Kanna financially, but that’s about it. All the scenes with a young Takuya and Keiko are anime only, and from what I remember are only really hinted at. Much of the Visual novel focus on Kanna herself, and the effects the Pyschite has on her, and showing that Takuya is a man of honor, despite the clear attraction the two have to each other. I personally liked that, because the anime at that point felt it was dragging things out a bit near the end of this first half. In the VN, Kaori and Kanna’s routes are the same for about 45% until they spilt off into two separate stories. Perhaps that was because they ran out of time, but it works well here.

With that, we have reached the end of the first half of YU-NO. Now before we even touch the second half, which changes everything, what is your overall thoughts on these 5 stories? How would you rank them, and who is your best girl?


Dewbond, allow me to express how glad I am you’ve given me the option to choose the best story separately from the best girl. As far as the best story for me, I’m going with Mio’s: this was the point where it really became apparent that the mysteries contained within Mount Sankaku were of an unimaginable scale, and where Takuya really began to appreciate that what Kodai had found in his studies. At the same time, the mysterious constructs within Mount Sankaku and Mitsuki’s drive to seize the Reflector Device start to be explored. Altogether, the sense of intrigue set in motion by the story beginning to kick into high gear, acted as the magic moment for me. I’m always fond of the point where a story gains enough momentum to really capture my interest, and it was in Mio’s arc (within the anime) that I found this magic moment. As for favourite girl, that one is a bit trickier. When it comes down to it, Mitsuki comes across as being my favourite of the girls, because she’s very honest about how she feels about Takuya, and even after the two are no longer together, the two are still on amicable terms. This is something I respect greatly. Before we can wrap this up, Dewbond, you should also share your favourite of the arcs, as well as who your favourite girl is!


My favorite girl and arc are the same: Ayumi. For a story, it is remarkable solid, with great characters and a tender story of two people seeking comfort after a great loss. In terms of characters, Ayumi has a lot going for her, she is a woman out of her depths, robbed away of a life she was promised and maybe even dreamed of. When she and Takuya finally give into the feelings it is a feeling of catharsis not only for them, but for the reader as well. It’s just a damn good arc and character through and through.

If I had to pick someone else though. It would be Kanna for best arc, and probably Mitsuki for best girl, for all the reasons you said.


I think that YU-NO‘s first half has been off to a very solid start: part science fiction thriller, part philosophical mystery, it’s been a captivating ride thus far. We’ve now presented perspectives from two dramatically different backgrounds and entries into YU-NO, and I imagine that with our combined thoughts, Dewbond and I have covered quite a bit of turf, setting the stage for YU-NO‘s second half. The anime and visual novel both have a surprise for the viewer, and it is a dramatic one. Given the size of this talk, one could only imagine how massive our post would be had we chosen to go for broke and do one massive talk. Instead, we’ve opted to break it down into two parts to make sure it’s more manageable for you, the reader. I love massively long posts as much as the next reader, but it makes sense to take a brief break. We’ll take a short intermission here while I catch my breath. I will be continuing with my regular programming, as Strike Witches: Road to Berlin airs tomorrow, and once that settles, we’ll gear up to continue onto YU-NO‘s second half. Until then, folks can check out the other YU-NO posts between the two of us; Dewbond has a very impressive collection of thoughts and perspectives exceeding what we’ve got here, and all of them are worth reading. I’ve elected to share only the posts leading up to the end of the first half of YU-NO, and then I’ll share the remainder once we’ve finished covering off the whole of YU-NO!

Dewbond’s YU-NO Posts

Infinite Zenith’s YU-NO Post