The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

Terrible Anime Challenge: Turning Chaos into Compassion in Seishun Buta Yarō

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge” –Daniel J. Boorstin

When Sakuta Azusagawa meets actress Mai Sakurajima, who is clad in naught but a bunny girl outfit, he is simultaneously drawn to her and begins to wonder about the mysterious phenomenon that afflicts youth. He eventually learns that no one can see Mai, and that this is related to how people remember her. Sakuta eventually confesses his love for her in front of the entire school, burning her existence into everyone’s memories, and sets about helping those around him with their own challenges in adolescence. Sakuta helps Tomoe Koga overcome her anxiety about being accepted and pretends to date her, forcing her to come to terms with her feelings for him. He next aids Rio Futaba, the sole member of the school’s science club who believes Sakuta’s experiences have scientific backgrounds until she manifests two bodies as a result of lacking confidence in herself. Sakuta manages to rectify this, and later, helps Nodoka Toyohama, Mai’s younger half-sister who felt as though she was living under Mai’s shadows, after Nodoka switches bodies with Mai. Sakuta’s younger sister, spurred on by Sakuta, decides to set goals for herself: she suffered from memory loss as a result of the trama from being bullied and reverted to a more infantile personality. After Sakuta’s efforts to help her reach her goals, Kaede reverts to her old personality, and a distraught Sakuta regrets not being able to do more for her until a mysterious visit from Shōko helps him recover from his melancholy so that he can fully support Kaede, who feels ready to pick up her life from where they’d left off. This is Seishun Buta Yarō (literally “Young Asshole”, but officially translated as “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai”, an obvious reference to Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner and Aobuta for brevity), an adaptation of a 2014 light novel about the challenges and turbulence that youth face as they struggle to learn of their place in the world. At its core, Sakuta is portrayed as a unique protagonist, being strictly mundane in manner and appearance. Unlike other light novel protagonists, Sakuta is not uncommonly intelligent or lucky; instead, he is exceedingly kind, has a particular way with words and is exceptionally faithful. The sum of these elements creates a highly focused story where audiences are confident that Sakuta will work out a solution without creating situations that typical light novels push towards, and his genuine concern for those around him results in a protagonist who is exceedingly likeable, giving viewers incentive to follow his story and root him on as he strives to help each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede move beyond their situations.

For its exceptional presentation of what the struggles of youth may manifest as in a visceral manner, it is unsurprising that Aobuta immediately became a favourite among viewers when it aired. Aobuta has heart, capturing the problems that adolescents see in their lives and giving them memorable metaphors that really describe what being young is like; as an adult, we tend to see problems as having a rational, logical answer, but as youth, what is obvious to us may not be so apparent, creating this chaos and conflict. However, as Sakuta demonstrates, the solution lies not in a reasoned process, but through compassion: for each of Mai, Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede, he works to understand their situation and then determines how to help the individual in question overcome their insecurities and doubts. Aobuta shows that Hajime Kamoshida evidently has a strong grasp on how to visualise youth and their struggles in a compelling manner, and this is ultimately Aobuta‘s main draw. However, while it is sufficient to focus on the human aspects of Aobuta, Kamoshida’s inclusion of quantum theory into his work as the metaphor has given the impression that a functional knowledge of matters as varied as wave function collapse, or free will versus determinism. However, these references weaken with time within the anime, and this suggests a deliberate choice on Kamoshida’s part. Taken at face value, these are ultimately are ill representations of the phenomenon that Sakuta and the others experience and end up being a minor distraction. While poorly-applied references to quantum mechanics may have had the potential to decimate the emotional impact and strength of Aobuta‘s narrative, it speaks to Kamoshida’s understanding of the human aspects that allows Aobuta to remain immensely engaging and enjoyable. Simply, knowledge of existential philosophy and quantum theory are completely unnecessary towards finding the strengths in Aobuta, a series whose emotional and interpersonal pieces far exceeded my expectations coming in.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this is a Terrible Anime Challenge, I won’t be discussing Aobuta in my typical manner. I open by remarking that Terrible Anime Challenge shows fall into three categories (“was as good as expected”, “did not meet expectations” or “as poor as described”): Aobuta falls squarely into the “was as good as expected” group, impressing me with its likable characters. Both Mai and Sakuta bounce off one another in reasonable and entertaining ways. Asami Setō performs Mai’s voice: I know her best from Tari Tari‘s Konatsu Miyamoto and Kinuyo Nishi of Girls und Panzer.

  • For the remainder of this post, I will be dealing with misconceptions surrounding quantum mechanics, either within Aobuta itself or from the community at large. The first deals with Schrödinger’s cat, which is a description of quantum superposition where an object may simultaneously exist in two states, and which state cannot be determined until it is observed: this is only vaguely related to Mai’s situation, which is strictly a matter of how Mai sees herself. It has nothing to do with probability, but rather, stems from Mai’s doubts about herself. she therefore feels that she has become invisible to the world, and the story then goes about presenting this in a literal fashion.

  • While I enjoy considering the applicability of real-world phenomenon in fiction, ultimately, fiction exists to tell a particular story, and so, I am not particularly fond of treating intrapersonal problems as a matter analogous with science. One particularly poorly-written case argues that Mai exists in a single reality, but with multiple states as described by Schrödinger’s cat, which is supposedly rectified by pushing her towards the probability of existing or the observer. However, this explanation, besides being a pointless exercise in verbosity, does not account for why Sakuta is able to interact with Mai normally. Before I continue, here’s a lighter moment in Aobuta where Tomoe gives Sakuta a free kick after a misunderstanding occurs while he’s en route to a date with Mai; Tomoe’s perfectly-formed arse is the butt of many of Sakuta’s jokes.

  • Schrödinger’s cat is about how something cannot be known until it is observed – it has nothing to do with probabilities, and therefore, is a completely inadequate representation of Mai’s situation. This is the limitation of attempting to analyse series early into its run: without more information, it is very easy to commit fallacies because the bigger picture is not known. Early discussions suggest that Aobuta‘s theme is that “perception defines reality…and existence, as well”, which is false in light of the events that Sakuta experiences.

  • Rio Futaba is presented as being well-read, but her metaphors are lukewarm at best and outright incorrect at worse. This is by design: being quite shy around others, it is not surprising that she’s not exactly versed with social convention, and as such, analogies she raises do not match. She dispenses with them as Aobuta progresses, which is a powerful indicator that viewers were never meant to take the quantum mechanics comparisons seriously to begin with, and therefore, there is no meaningful discussion to be had by bringing such matters to the table. By comparison, Sakuta manages to distill out enough to determine what needs to be done to help the individual in question and invariably solves the problem by compassion, rather than logic.

  • Tomoe’s situation is similarly mentioned to involve a “Laplace’s Dæmon”: after Sakuta experiences a time loop akin to that of Endless Eight, Rio suggests this as the cause. This concept supposes that the outcome of any situation is known given a sufficiently large amount of information. The original concept assumed this to mean “the position of the atoms”, but this concept has been dismissed for its inability to conform with the Laws of Thermodynamics, namely, that some processes are irreversible, so no Laplace’s Dæmon could exist to reconstruct a state at time t-1 given a set of parameters at time t.

  • Determinism is most certainly not the theme of Tomoe’s arc; this is a principle that supposes that all events exist independently of human consciousness (i.e. free will). The matter of whether or not free will exists is a topic I will not cover for the present, and in the context of Aobuta, determinism has no place in discussion because the time loop’s cause is ultimately Tomoe’s inability to let go of a certain outcome and desires to keep rolling the dice until a desirable result arises. Rather than philosophy, understanding of human nature here explains why a time loop was chosen to represent feelings of longing and regret.

  • Because humans are involved, human solutions end up being what breaks the time loop. Sakuta manages to get the truth out of Tomoe: she’s fallen in love with him and cannot bear to let go. After a heart-to-heart talk, Sakuta manages to help her accept that they can still remain friends, allowing her to remain connected with her other friends without alienating them. The same folks who asserted Schrödinger’s cat needed analysis for Mai’s arc to be understood subsequently had trouble with figuring out where the Laplace’s Dæmon could hold for Tomoe’s arc. Tomoe is voiced by Nao Tōyama (Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo and Kantai Collection‘s Kongo).

  • When Rio’s arc arrives, and it turns out that two simultaneous versions of Rio exist, the individuals above assert that the two incarnations of Rio represent id and ego, principles from Sigmund Freud. I was wondering when Freud would appear in discussions. In this Freudian model of the psyche, id is supposed to represent the baser aspects of human nature, and then ego is a more rational element that maximises some goal function for the future and for satisfying the id. I’m not sure why anime fans generally hold Freudian concepts as being valid – some of his theories have proven to be cripplingly incomplete and catastrophically wrong, failing to account for why people act the way they do. In particular, id and ego are not credible concepts in any way given the complete lack of evidence to suggest that they hold true.

  • Instead, Rio splitting into two manifestations is much simpler explained as a character versus self conflict, made visceral by having her develop two physical selves. There is a side of Rio who wants to use her physical attributes to increase the attention people are paying to her, especially Yūma Kunimi, Sakuta’s best friend, who is dating Saki Kamisato, and another side who is content with the status quo but longs for more. Reconciling this internal struggle involves a human solution: Sakuta engineers a chance for Rio to come to terms with her feelings and has both Rios invite one another to the summer festival, merging the two personas back into one.

  • Throughout Aobuta, I’ve noticed a recurring trend in that as the series progresses, the focus on the philosophical and scientific aspects in discussions elsewhere diminishes in lockstep with the decreasing emphasis within Aobuta itself, and curiously, as these elements dissipate, so did some individual’s enjoyment. I’m not sure why some people demand convoluted narratives with quasi-academic elements in them to motivate their discussion, especially when it’s clear that such topics are not their area of expertise. While there is nothing wrong in learning about other disciplines, it is problematic if individuals asset to be authorities where they are not. This is what motivates the page quote: I’ve long felt that folks who act as though they are experts in a matter are more harmful to a discussion than those who are unfamiliar with the topic, and this is why I’m always mindful to not overstep what I know.

  • By the time Nodoka’s arc appears, even the most ardent efforts to force a scientific explanation on things prove ineffectual: in Aobuta itself, Rio speculates the body switching is some form of quantum teleportation and leaves Sakuta to work out a solution, indicating that science and philosophy are irrelevant. Nodoka’s problem manifests as body switching: resentful of Mai’s successes, Nodoka longs for her mother’s approval. She’s voiced by Maaya Uchida (GochiUsa‘s Sharo Kirima, Rui Tachibana of Domestic na Kanojo and Rei from VividRed Operation). The body switching exposes to Nodoka how difficult Mai’s job is, further increasing her dislike of Mai, whom she feels is flawless and a natural at whatever she does.

  • Nodoka is pushed over the edge after a concert Mai performs in, but when Mai reveals that she kept Nodoka’s letters to motivate herself, Nodoka comes to terms with who she is. Conscious transfer is a topic strictly consigned to the realm of science fiction: because the machinations of the mind remain poorly characterised, there is no satisfactory hypothesis for how a conscious manifests itself.

  • I join the ranks of many others before me in saying that the interactions between Mai and Sakuta are remarkably refreshing and genuine. While Sakuta has a predisposition for the lewd, at heart, he is trying to inject humour into what would otherwise be a fairly serious situation. As a protagonist, Sakuta is very likeable: unlike Oregairu‘s Hachiman, who comes across as being a smartass with no understanding of social structure, Sakuta does his best to relate those who are around him. Aobuta does outwardly resemble Oregairu, in terms of art style and its focus on youth, but Aobuta is ultimately more optimistic and better written, since Sakuta has clear motivations to help those around him.

  • This motivation stems from Sakuta’s fear of being unable to help his sister, and as it turns out, having been unable to prevent Kaede from suffering amnesia was what led to the scars on his chest. After Sakuta explains Kaede’s situation to Mai and Nodoka, Kaede decides to set goals for herself with the eventual aim of going back to school. In her state throughout Aobuta, Kaede is cheerful, somewhat dimwitted and fearful of strangers. However, the original Kaede was more reserved and taciturn: when Kaede recovers her memories, the time she’d spent with Sakuta and the others vanish from her memories.

  • While coming out from the shadows of something like OregairuAobuta stands out because it ultimately has a more optimistic tone, and Sakuta’s actions have a clear benefit for him, as well as those around him. By comparison, Oregairu‘s portrayal of Hachiman leaves him feeling like an apathetic misanthrope whose story ends up carrying no weight regardless of who his actions benefit: I am not particularly fond of Hachiman, and Oregairu‘s enjoyment factor came from his interactions with Yui and Yukino.

  • Mention of a scientific or philosophical concept does not mean a work of fiction intends to use it to advance the narrative further; in stories where the focus is purely on the human element, the gains to viewers are what characters learn from their experiences. Aobuta‘s phenomenon could be justified by constructs like the Infinity Stones, and the anime would still hold all of its weight. I would prefer that discussion focus on what the characters are doing and shown to be doing, rather than seeing people regard quantum tunneling and wave collapse as being literal representations of the emotional turbulence that youth experience.

  • One may wonder why I am so vehemently opposed to things that, for the want of a better phrase, “sound smart”. The answer to this is simple: one of the biggest aversions I have is ultracrepidarianism, referring to people who act like they know more than they do. An irritant at best, people who believe themselves to be more qualified than they are have the potential of causing real damage in society; an example is Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, who asserted a (nonexistent) link between vaccinations and autism, resulting in an increasing instance of people who hold his findings as true and refuse to vaccinate their children. Ultracrepidarians are one of the few things I do not tolerate, and while they are unlikely to have the same impact in the realm of discussion on fiction, such individuals can still be disruptive to what constitutes as good discussion.

  • In shows such as Aobuta, authentic discussion entails drawing from one’s own experiences, well-established social norms and anecdotal evidence as rationale in justifying (or renouncing) the actions that characters take. Attempting to play philosopher or psychiatrist on the characters is not beneficial, since the individual doing so does not have the same background or assumptions as the author would: I’ve mentioned before that Death of the Author is a very presumptuous way to approach media. The author’s intent matters because it allows audiences to understand a specific perspective on a work, which relates back to the society and its attendant conditions that led to the author expressing their thoughts into a narrative. Excluding this is to dispose of that context, ultimately resulting in a loss of information.

  • My final verdict on Aobuta is that it has definitely earned its praises: this is a solid A grade (9 of 10) for being able to vividly portray the human stories to each arc that Sakuta encounters. Aobuta is greatly helped by the fact that Sakuta is more optimistic and friendly, as well as acting as an amusing foil for Mai, with whom his interactions become entertaining to watch. Characters and their experiences drive the thematic elements, and while the series may incorporate elements of quantum theory into its run, Aobuta makes it clear that these elements were feebly presented precisely because the experiences of youth cannot be so readily compared to even more abstract concepts. In short, one does not need to know anything about the particle-wave duality, determinism or quantum tunneling to get the most out of Aobuta.

The inclusion of such abstract concepts in Aobuta as a deliberate choice allows Kamoshida to deal elegantly with one long-standing complaint I have about light novels: their propensity to force pedantic characters into the role of the protagonist. Aobuta has Rio embody this role as a secondary character, and when I began watching the series, I was unimpressed with her role in acting as a resource for seemingly explaining away the phenomenon that Sakuta encounters. However, progressing into Aobuta meant seeing the characters’ true personalities and nature be explored. After Rio herself experiences a manifestation of this phenomenon, her inclination to rationalise it is diminished: Kamoshida appears to suggest, through Rio’s increasingly half-hearted efforts to present Adolescent syndrome as having a scientific basis, that there simply is no effective way to compare something as nuanced and complex as human emotions during youth with thought experiments meant to deal with science. The pseudo-science is thus displaced by genuine, heartfelt moments as Sakuta helps Tomoe, Rio, Nodoka and Kaede in overcoming their internal struggles. Consequently, this means that viewers have no need to consider the withertos and whyfors behind why things happen: the who and the what are much more valuable. As Aobuta progresses, Rio becomes less of an encyclopaedia and into a fully-fleshed out character. The lessons of Aobuta are that a story’s enjoyability and ability to capture an audience’s interests lies strictly and entirely within its characters, as well as their dynamics. In the complete and total absence of philosophy and science, series that deal with youth can therefore remain incredibly compelling because at its core, they are about the people and how they overcome their challenges, rather than real-world principles that demand dedicated study. Beyond its execution, Aobuta featured solid technical aspects that come together to create an anime that merits praise. Having now seen it for myself, I understand why people consider this to be a strong series, and so, I can readily recommend Aobuta, albeit with one caveat: prospective viewers should not go into Aobuta thinking quantum mechanics and philosophy are requirements, as the series has numerous merits that make it exceptionally engaging and compelling.

Tenki no Ko: Remarks on the new Makoto Shinkai Film announced for July 2019

“This is a story about a secret world only she and I know. That day, we changed the shape of the world forever.” –Movie Tagline

Amidst the runaway success of Kimi no Na Wa, Makoto Shinkai found himself staring at a towering white cumulonimbus, standing out against the vivid blue of a summer’s sky on a hot August day. The massive thunderhead’s flattened top resembled an island, and Shinkai thought, what if this was a world of its own? This is how Tenki no Ko (天気の子, Weathering With You in English, literally “Children of the Weather”) came into being: Makoto Shinkai’s latest film, Tenki no Ko follows Hodaka Morishima, a high school student who moves to Tokyo and finds that his finances are quickly consumed. He eventually takes up a position as a writer for an obscure and objectionable occult magazine. However, shortly after accepting this job, the weather in Tokyo becomes monotonously rainy. Amidst the endless activity in Tokyo, Hodaka encounters Hina Amano, an optimistic and dependable girl who lives with her brother. Beyond her cheerful manner lies her ability to clear the skies. At least, this is what the synopsis for Tenki no Ko is, and recently, a trailer was released, detailing the animation and artwork viewers can expect from Tenki no Ko. Standing in contrast with Shinkai’s previous works, which have colourful, vividly detailed and cheerful backgrounds, Tenki no Ko features much drearier, dilapidated settings in its trailer that resemble Hong Kong’s former Kowloon Walled City. Greys dominate the setting, which is covered with haphazard wiring, overgrowth and crumbling structures. Compared to the cleaner, cared-for settings of Kotonoha no Niwa and Kimi no Na Wa, Tenki no Ko conveys a more desolate setting, communicating ruin forgotten amongst a city’s endless drive for progress. However, shaft of golden light, breaking through gaps in the cloud, suggest an oasis of happiness surrounded by a sea of monotony, and so, in this trailer, Tenki no Ko hints that it is much more than being a mere film about youthful romance and fateful meetings.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote a preview for a Makoto Shinkai movie, it was three years ago, and I was entering the final term of my graduate studies. Kimi no Na Wa came out eight months later, and subsequently, it was an eleven month journey to the other side where I could finally watch and write about it. By comparison, Tenki no Ko‘s first trailer released precisely 100 days before its première date. It opens with closeups of details such as rain falling onto an umbrella, immediately setting the stage for what is to follow.

  • The choice of lighting, with greys, browns and tans dominating the Tokyo landscape, which is focused on older parts of the megalopolis, suggests that Tenki no Ko might be going in a slightly different direction. Each of Makoto Shinkai’s films stand out from one another despite being characterised by themes of distance, fateful encounters and the like; one possibility from the trailer is that themes of urban decay, abandonment and finding joy even among desolation come into play in Tenki no Ko. However, this scene also features a single shaft of light from the sun breaking through the clouds, suggesting that optimism and hope, also exist.

  • Hina maintains a small shrine on the roof of her building, which is evidently aging and overgrown with weeds. The scene feels more like something out of Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a book that longtime readers of this blog will have doubtlessly heard me reference multiple times. I am admittedly curious to see where the film will go with its direction, and the trailer does seem to set the tone for what kind of settings the movie will cover. However, I imagine that as we press further into the movie, more majestic and beautiful locations will also be seen.

  • The chaotic mass of pipes and wiring here remind me greatly of the Kowloon Walled City that existed in Hong Kong: after World War Two, there was a parcel of land in Hong Kong that officially belonged to China, but seeing as how the British and China would not accept administrative responsibility of the area, what was once a walled city and yamen turned into a site for the destitute. Since neither British nor Chinese law applied here, people escaped to the Walled City and constructed their own apartments and utilities. By 1990, the site was the most densely populated site in the world, with some 1.2 million inhabitants per square kilometre, and despite its fearsome reputation as a hotbed of crime, most of the residents lived their lives peacefully.

  • The short synopsis presently provides next to nothing in the way of what’s going to happen in Tenki no Ko, rather like how the body switching of Kimi no Na Wa was only a primer for the movie’s main story – this leaves the film quite free to explore most anything, and for this, I am very excited to see where Tenki no Ko will head. Here, we have a closer look at Hina; she bears little resemblance to Shinkai’s earlier characters, and is voiced by Nana Mori. One of the chief drawbacks about Shinkai’s older works were that his female leads seemed to be ethereal, angelic beings of perfection; by the events of Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, his female characters become more nuanced and human, giving viewers more incentive to root for them.

  • Vegetable animals are a part of the Obon Festival: they usually take the form of a a horse made from cucumber and an ox made out of eggplant. These animals symbolise transport for ancestral spirits that return them to the realm of spirits, and traditionally, were put outside one’s door on the first day of Obon with incense. The last time I saw Obon vegetable animals was in Sora no Woto‘s seventh episode, where Kanata explains customs from her area. Emphasis on this suggests that life and death might also be a component of Tenki no Ko.

  • I’ve long expressed my displeasure that there are some out there who view Makoto Shinkai’s films as a justification for pressing the idea that extensive knowledge of the Man’yōshū and other aspects of Classical Japanese literature and folklore is required to fully appreciate his films. During Kimi no Na Wa‘s run, one unscrupulous fellow continued to peddle this idea, all the while putting down others for not “getting” the film to the same level as they did. While it is true that Shinkai incorporates classical elements into his works, these merely serve as analogies and allegories that enhance the story if noticed; the story is in no way diminished if one chooses not to account for these elements.

  • Tenki no Ko remains early in its reveal, and I’ve not seen discussions go in this direction as of yet: personally, I am confident that this film will be quite enjoyable, irrespective of one’s prior knowledge in Classical Japanese literature and folklore. It suddenly strikes me that the trailer’s release is much closer to the film’s actual release than was Kimi no Na Wa‘s, and a part of me wishes that Tenki no Ko will be similarly structured and released as Kotonoha no Niwa: with a shorter runtime of 45 minutes, Kotonoha no Niwa released in May 31, 2013 and became available for home release on June 21, 2013. This made the film exceptionally accessible.

  • The trailer depicts Hina flying through the skies, far above the tops of the thunderheads, which are tinged with green to evoke imagery of islands in the skies: the scenery here is used in the promotional artwork for Tenki no Ko and, while not as iconic as Comet Tiamat’s trail in Kimi no Na Wa, remains quite distinct and grand in scale. The film’s soundtrack will be performed by RADWIMPS, who make a triumphant return after composing and performing the excellent soundtrack for Kimi no Na Wa: the theme song for Tenki no Ko is Ai ni Dekiru koto wa Mada Arukai (“Is there still anything that love can do?”).

  • I am certain I will enjoy this movie, and hope that it’ll see a shorter delay in the gap between the theatrical première. I realise that I’ve been writing considerably less as of late, as well: real life obligations has meant that I’ve less time to write in general these days. Having said this, I am definitely going to be offering my thoughts on Tenki no Ko once it is available, and in the near future, I am also doing a talk on I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, a solid film whose home release became available earlier this month.

Entering Tenki no Ko, expectations are high for a visually stunning film – the trailer and Shinkai’s past works set the precedence for what audiences can expect. From the glint of light on raindrops to flaking paint, dense, unkempt vegetation on a building’s rooftop and the enigmatic world above the clouds, Tenki no Ko will undoubtedly impress with Shinkai’s signature artwork and animation. The story remains unknown right now, and here, I will enter with an open mind – I recall that with Kimi no Na Wa, I expressed a want to see reduced romance in favour of exploring growth. The film delivered this, in a manner of speaking, but with the benefit of hindsight, I ended up eating my words. Tenki no Ko represents a familiar setup for Shinkai, but with a different premise, I look forwards to seeing what new directions the film can explore, especially with rain and its associated themes making a return in conjunction with a bit of magic that manifests in Hina’s ability to stop the rain. While perhaps nowhere nearly as potent as the Infinity Gauntlet, I look forwards to seeing how this ability will impact her and Hodaka’s growth. Aside from a more open mind, I also enter the long wait for Tenki no Ko with the understanding that this film could take a similarly long time to become available for English-speakers: with a release date of July 19, Tenki no Ko will likely see a home release in June 2020, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, if it sees a strong box office performance. This wait is going to be a tricky one, although now that I am entering with the preparedness to endure a long wait, I can pursue other things while spoilers for Tenki no Ko become more commonplace – the Halo: Master Chief Collection looks to be more than acceptable a means of enjoying myself while we wait for the film to become available, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be vociferously griping about my inability to watch this film while I melt through the Covenant, Flood and Forerunner Prometheans alike.

Endro! Review and Reflections After Three

“Well, I don’t imagine anyone west of Bree would have much interest in adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner!” —Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Yūsha is a hero who resides on the island of Naral: she is the latest in a generation of Heroes, whose duty is to defeat the ancient evil known as the Dæmon Lord, whenever one appears. When she and her friends, Seira, Fai and Mei use a spell to seal away the Dæmon Lord, an accident occurs that sends the Dæmon Lord backwards in time. Manifesting as a small girl, the Dæmon Lord Mao decides to work as a teacher at the Adventurer’s School with the aim of preventing Yūsha from reaching her potential as a hero in the future. Her first attempt as a teacher is to rig a simple assignment and send them down the wrong path with the goal of forcing their expulsion, but Yūsha and her company return with the Hero’s Sword. Later, Mao learns of the girls’ unique talents (Seira is well-read, Fai is a capable fighter, Mei excels with Cartado and Yūsha’s luck is unmatched), and decides to throw the group into chaos by asking them to elect a leader. The girls struggle to decide who should lead their party, and after failed attempts to find one leader, decide that they can lead one another as the situation calls for it. Mao realises that history may repeat, and consigns herself to living a normal life. When the girls begin their practical for finishing assignments, they are somehow assigned to locating cats. They later receive a quest for retrieval, but end up detouring to help a little girl find a lost cat, defeating a stronger arachnid to do so. In their excitement, they forget to pick up the herb they were originally set to retrieve. This is Endro! (End Roll!) after three episodes, a fantasy anime drawing elements from slice-of-life series that has proven to be surprisingly enjoyable for the various misadventures Yūsha and wind up becoming entangled in as they explore their world.

By this point in time, the notion of “alternate worlds” (isekai) anime are one that has been the subject of no small discussion among the community; isekai stories are characterised by a high fantasy, RPG-like setting where a protagonist may have recollections of a past life; the typical isekai series has a protagonist whose capabilities in their original world were limited or otherwise unappreciated, and in this new world, their profound knowledge of things one might consider to be trivial (e.g. RPG mechanics, high fantasy tropes, etc.) allow them to find success. It’s a genre whose popularity is such that there are presently no shortage of such series (mirroring the fad in battle royale games), and so, the surge of isekai series means that commonalities between different series are manifesting now to render different series unremarkable. Endro!, on the other hand, might be set in a fantasy setting where RPG mechanics are present, but the series has not displayed any traits found in other isekai series (for one, wish fulfillment in the form of an uncommonly powerful protagonist with recollections of life in another world). Instead, Endro! focuses on Yūsha and her friends’ blissful everyday lives as they train for the eventual challenge of defeating the Dæmon Lord. Things more common to slice-of-life come into play, with the end result being a fluffy and humourous series that, despite drawing so many elements from well-established genres, manages to come across as being quite original and exciting to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Endro! is not a Manga Time Kirara series (the manga was serialised to Comic Fire), but it does appear to be one prima facie: Yūsha resembles Yuru Camp△‘s Nadeshiko and is voiced by Hikaru Akao (Comic Girls‘ very own Kaoruko), and Seira looks somewhat like Aoba from New Game. Mei is voiced by Inori Minase, who delivers her lines a great deal like GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, while Fai looks like Koyume from Comic Girls.

  • While one might imagine that following the outcome of Yūsha’s triumph over Mao, she’s enjoying a well-deserved sleep, it turns out that we’re now back in a period before Yūsha had even become a hero. Mao is transformed into a small girl and decides to stop Yūsha from defeating her by expeling her from the Adventurer’s School. The notion of endless, looped time was previously explored in The World in Colours, and the simplistic usage left some disappointed. In Endro!, it’s a bit early to tell what impact Yūsha’s failed forbidden technique has on causality.

  • While a monsterous being modelled after classic anime villians before, Mao becomes a small girl with dæmon horns after being sent back in time. As the teacher for Yūsha’s class, she proves to be knowledgeable on the world, but secretly schemes to prevent Yūsha from ever reach the point where she could challenge her. This suggests that Mao’s capacity for evil is likely matched by her ability to know what goes down in Naral.

  • Seeing Aoba, Nadeshiko, Koyume and Chino in a fantasy world was sufficient to convince me to give Endro! a go for blog posts: as the winter 2019 season started, I was intending to wait and see to pick any anime to write about, since changes in my schedule mean I can no longer write with the same frequency as I used to. As such, I would prefer to only write about series where I might be able to say something useful, amusing or both.

  • Mao’s insidious plan involves doing whatever it takes to expel Yūsha using her position as a teacher; she is able to control the nature of the assignments and exams, but also manipulate some aspects of reality to send the girls astray. However, Yūsha’s luck as a hero and her indefatigable spirit means that she somehow manages to find a way through. Besides their outward resemblance to other Manga Time Kirara characters, each of the girls have a unique trait: Seira has a fixation on horned gorillas, Fai’s mind never strays far from food, and Mei lives for Cartado. Whenever topics allow the girls to express their interests, they tend to delve into a long-winded talk that leaves the others flummoxed.

  • RPG elements in Endro! are present in all but name; everything seen in RPG games are available, including notions of levelling, looting and questing. However, Endro! gives no signs of being an RPG: the characters seem to be a natural part of their world rather than experiencing it with an external perspective. As such, viewers are free to focus on the humour and character dynamics, rather than attempt to work out game-like mechanics or rules.

  • When the girls get caught in a dungeon with seemingly no chance of escape, Seira throws an adorable fit. I haven’t seen very many series where the “arms and legs become reduced to simple geometric shapes”, so it is always quite entertaining to see this go down in what Cantonese people call 扭計 (jyutping nau2 gai3, literally “to kick up a fuss”). When Endro! was close to airing, I heard speculation that the series could go grimdark very quickly, given that Studio Gokumi’s last work with heroes had the heroes languish in despair as they discovered the truth about the world. After one episode, it is clear that there will be none of this, and this works to Endo!‘s favour.

  • Yūsha manages to somehow free the girls, finds the Sword of the Hero (two-handed, binds on pick up, confers +150 strength and +150 stamina, and on attack, has a chance to deal massive damage against all opponents, ignoring resistances, etc), picks it up against Seira’s suggestion and promptly uses it to defeat a golem guarding the sword. However, unaccustomed to its power, Yūsha inadvertently destroys the dungeon they were originally supposed to be in.

  • Besides being party members, Yūsha, Seira, Fai and Mei are friends, as well. During their down time after hours, they spend many evenings having various conversations, with the effect that Yūsha sometimes falls short on sleep and dozes off during class, to Mao’s simultaneous displeasure and pleasure (for disrupting class, and for increasing her odds of being tossed from the Adventurer’s School). Despite their eccentricities, each of the girls in Yūsha’s group have their own unique talents, and Mao is quick to recognise this.

  • While it sounds juvenile for me to say so, this was the magic moment for me in Endro!: while trying to work out who should be leader, the girls decide to test each individual, and here, Seira is embarrassed to admit that she’s not much in the way of “leading by example”. Fai, Yūsha and Mei’s eyes here are a riot, bringing to mind the cut‘s eyes from Girls’ Last Tour. So out of place and distinct the Eyes of Disdain are, I hesitate not in saying if the whole of Endro! was to be rendered this way, I would still watch it. From here on out, Endro! has established beyond any doubt that it is a fun series to watch.

  • Yūsha fails as a leader for being too bold and for charging into a situation without assessing her surroundings, while Fai lacks the will to lead a team owing to her preoccupation with food. Chino Mei ends up pushing the team to camp out overnight to be first in line for a new card. The girls eventually take a third option, opting to simultaneously lead one another, showing their resourcefulness and ability to employ the sort of creative thinking needed to best a Dæmon Lord.

  • Mao concludes that if she were to allow Yūsha and the others to mount an assault on her as they are now, their incomplete mastery of the time magic would result in her suffering the same fate as Dormammu: the heroes and Mao would be trapped in this moment, endlessly. Realising that this would essentially make her Yūsha’s prisoner, she decides to simply live in the moment. There’s a Doctor Strange reference here for the readers who are MCU fans, and I should note that it should be no surprise I am hyped about both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame.

  • After rolling a second consecutive quest where their goal is to find a cat, the girls become determined to get a proper retrieval assignment after recalling the brutally difficult effort it took to find a cat. Ho exceedingly efficient in their task. Yūsha has an unusual talent for rolling stacks, and they get five more cat retrieval assignment, becoming exceedingly efficient in the process. Thus, they cannot believe that they’ve gotten a real assignment on their third day, and set about finding some herb. When a little girl approaches them and asks about her cat, Yūsha and the others decide to take up the search as a side-quest of sorts.

  • The girls follow a trail of tips from townsfolk into the woods, defeat an arachnid-type monster and secure the herb per their assignment. As darkness falls, they decide to set up camp, and Seira realises she’s forgotten to bring food. An irate and semi-delirious Fai begins munching on Seira’s ears, her go-to reaction when food is unavailable, forcing Yūsha to return to town for provisions. The next morning, Seira’s ears are noticeably worse for wear, and she resolves to never forget the food again on pain of having her ears worn down by a ravenous Fai.

  • A year ago, we would have been three episodes into Yuru Camp△, and was quickly proving to be one of the most enjoyable anime of the season. While there’s a bit of camping in Endro!, it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as what’s see in Yuru Camp△. As such, I will not be doing any comparisons between Survivorman and Endro! today. The page quote today comes from The Unexpected Journey, when Bilbo is declining Gandalf’s invitation to help him with an adventure. Hobbits are known for their love of food and a simple life: I’m certain that Seira is feeling this way now: while Yūsha and the others are no stranger to adventure, missing dinner is something that Fai simply won’t tolerate, and Seira’s ears pay the price for her oversight. A little-known fact about me is that I will become as unreasonable as Fai if I miss a meal.

  • We’re approaching the Chinese New Year now, and that means family dinners to welcome the Year of the Boar. Earlier today, we had the first of our dinners at one of the best Chinese restaurants this side of time. Among the things on the menu were fried cod, fried shrimps, birds’ nest sirloin, pork collar and snow pea shoots (in addition to fried tofu, yi mein, fried rice and crispy chicken): Cantonese cuisine may not look it, but it certainly can leave one feeling quite warm on a chilly winter night. I’d woken up to thunder, of all things, this morning, and the entire day was a blustery one.

  • The next morning, Yūsha and the others arrive at a tower, whose attendant states that yes, a cat matching their description is to be found inside. Upon entering, the girls find plenty of traps and monsters awaiting them. Rather than fighting their way to the top, Yūsha somehow manages to find shortcut that leads them to the top. Here, they square off against an elite arachnid, and Mei notes the difficulty of the battle, correlating the colour of a monster to its difficulty. I am reminded of The Division, where different health bar colours on enemies indicate their difficulty. Red health bars are normal, purple enemies are tougher, elites have a mustard-yellow bar, and then named elites have bright yellow bars. When I started out, anyone tougher than a purple would take me a while to beat, and groups of elites would overwhelm me.

  • Having sunk nearly two hundred hours into The Division, and acquired a full six-piece Classified Striker Set, plus every exotic in the game and excellent weapons, even named elites fall before me, and it is only in legendary missions where my character becomes inadequate when solo. Back in Endro!, after the girls beat the arachnid, they find the cat stuck on the roof. It turns out that Seira is indeed a good archer, but dislikes wearing glasses for fear of being counted as a bookworm.

  • With another assignment completed successfully, Yūsha and company return the girl’s cat. However, they end up forgetting their original assignment and immediately depart to retrieve the heart-shaped herb they were supposed to be securing. Endro! surprisingly exceeds expectations, and after three episodes, I see an anime I could relax to every Saturday for the next season, which is a busy one. I purchased Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown yesterday and have every intention of experiencing Ace Combat on the PC. In conjunction with this, Battlefield V‘s Tides of War assignments are keeping me busy, and The Division 2‘s open beta is set to open on the seventh of February.

  • Owing to the number of things to do, I likely will be writing about one more anime this season, and The Magnificent Kotobuki is probably the one other show to be accorded this. For both Endro! and The Magnificent Kotobuki, I will return to do whole-season reviews after the three-episode post, and in the interim, I will be writing a great deal more about games. For those who are here for my anime discussions, fear not: I also intend to look at Mirai no Mirai and Non Non Biyori Vacation in the upcoming months!

Endro! is so-called because of its premise: the series’ outcome is preordained and already known to viewers within the first five minutes. After Yūsha and her friends destroy Dæmon Lord, the end credits roll. However, while audiences know what the end results of Endro! are, there remains the question of how Yūsha and the others get to this point. This is a very clever way to remind viewers that the journey is more relevant than the destination, and so, when audiences see Endro!, they know that every choice and experience Yūsha and her friends make and have will contribute to the ending in some fashion. This particular approach is what makes films like First Man and Apollo 13 so enjoyable: audiences enter knowing that Neil Armstrong successfully lands on the moon and will become the first human to walk on the surface of another world, and similarly, that Jim Lovell and his crew would successfully return to the earth after an explosion in the Apollo space craft forced them to abort their landing on the moon. In both cases, the journey, seeing how the outcome was reached, matters more than the outcome, and Endro! is using the very same approach to set the precedence for viewers as to what happens; viewers come in with the knowledge that this series in a fantasy realm is going to be comedic, easy-going and light-hearted, which is a welcome departure from the darker and more serious atmosphere that some isekai anime convey.

Anima Yell!- Review and Impressions After Three

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” ―Babe Ruth

Kohane Hatoya becomes enamoured with cheer-leading after seeing a riverside performance and decides to take it up when she becomes a high school student. On her first day of high school, after learning that her school has no cheer-leading club, she decides to start her own and decides to recruit experienced cheerleader Hizume Arima. While her initial efforts are unsuccessful, her persistence moves Hizume, who relents and agrees to join. They begin training, although Kohane’s wavering motivation appears to be an impediment. With Uki Sawatari’s assistance, Hizume is able to convince Kohane to keep moving forwards. Kohane longs for Uki to join the cheer-leading club, as well – she sees Hizume’s performance and consents to participate. However, exam season is upon the girls, forcing them to put their club activities on hold while they study. Later, the girls’ cheer-leading club becomes approved as an association, and turn their efforts towards helping fellow classmate Kon Akitsune convey her feelings to her private tutor. This is where we are three episodes in to Anima Yell!, this season’s Manga Time Kirara series that follows Kohane’s journey to become a cheerleader.

Like beach volleyball in Harukana Receive, my knowledge of cheer-leading is very limited, although insofar, this does not appear to be an impediment. Anima Yell! is immediately familiar to folks who’ve seen Manga Time Kirara series previously, and here, the notion of putting a club together is a very well-worn one. Having seen clubs all manners, from light music, to yosakoi, resurrecting a club and embarking on a journey with friends, old and new alike, is a staple in Manga Time Kirara. Messages of discovery, camaraderie and overcoming challenges are universal, and as such, series such as Anima Yell! have well-known outcomes before even the first episode has aired. In Anima Yell!, cheer-leading is the topic of focus; protagonist Kohane has no trouble fitting the role of a cheerleader, possessing all of the energy and very little in the way of physical capabilities. By comparison, her friends are rather more disciplined and physically capable of the role – as their journey progresses, Kohane will learn more about herself and her friends as they build up a small cheer-leading unit. What will be motivation to watch Anima Yell!, then will be the nature of the journey that occurs.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Kohane is Anima Yell!‘s protagonist, and the story proceeds primarily around her journey to focus on something of her own choosing after her longtime friend, Uki, urges her on. Kohane’s tendency to help and support those around her, even at a cost to herself, is her defining characteristic, and she also resembles Angel Beats!‘ Yui with her energy and enthusiasm. By comparison, Uki is more similar to Yuyushiki‘s Yui, who was serious and reserved.

  • Hizume is an experienced cheerleader, and whose performance is what led Kohane to seriously consider cheer-leading. Disappointed that their new high school has no cheer-leading club, Kohane decides to start her own, but invariably, without any talent or expertise, intially finds it difficult. When she encounters Hizume, Kohane goes on a mission of unbridled focus, determined to convince Hizume to join.

  • As it turns out, Hizume was ejected from her old cheer-leading group for excelling; others felt her to stand above them. It’s a situation one might compare to Hinata’s experiences in A Place Further Than The Universe, where Hinata’s performance in track and field spawned jealousy amongst her teammates. A part of Hinata’s struggle was coming to terms with things and making the most of her travels to Antarctica: seemingly an escape, she comes to learn what friendship is anew with Komari, Yuzuki and Shirase.

  • By comparison, Hizume’s experiences created a situation where she became quite worried about losing those near her. After rebuking Kohane’s efforts to recruit her, Hizume realises that she’s, in effect, driven Kohane off, and finds it awkward to speak with her the next day. However, par the course for a Manga Time Kirara series, protagonists rarely hold grudges, and the next day, Kohane continues her pursuit.

  • While enjoyable, and lacking the elements that make it a guilty pleasure, I find that Anima Yell! treads on extremely well-worn territory. As such, there is very little to discuss in the way of thematic elements and big-picture topics this early in the game, in turn corresponding to my difficulties in writing about series such as these consistently. However, simply because I find it difficult to write about a series does not mean the series was lacking, and there are many shows that I’ve enjoyed, that I don’t bother writing about.

  • Anima Yell! has average artwork: settings are very simplistic and flat. This design choice results in many open spaces; it presently results in expanses that the eye lingers upon, creating a sense of emptiness, but there is a reason why landscapes and interiors are simple. As Kohane and her friends get further into cheer-leading, their movement will fill that space, acting as a visual metaphor for how cheer-leading and its associated energy can bring a tangible change to the feel of an environment.

  • Kohane has acrophobia, and is usually unwilling to go anywhere elevated. While acrophobia is no laughing matter, Anima Yell! chooses to represent it as an obstacle that Kohane must overcome en route to becoming a cheerleader, showing her dedication to things. Her initial understanding of cheer-leading is likely equivalent to the average gamer’s understanding of the military, and as such, she makes many mistakes that Hizume is quick to point out.

  • Realising that Kohane is likely to stick it out and be with her, Hizume reluctantly accepts Kohane’s invitation to join the cheer-leading club, and promptly goes about setting up training for Kohane. Today was a bit of a quieter day, and I capitalised on slower things to enjoy a burger and fries from a nearby A&W: of the fast food chains that delivers reasonably good burgers and my favourite fries. I suppose that slice-of-life anime can be considered the fast food of shows: if made to a reasonable standard, they can be good in moderation.

  • A portion of the comedy in Anima Yell! comes from Kohane’s naïveté: she orders cheerleaders’ outfits, not knowing the implications of the source she orders from. The more rational Uki immediately declines to wear them. While she might be afraid of heights, Kohane strives to overcome this fear, and is also shown to be okay as long as she does not have a direct sight of how high up she is relative to the ground.

  • I empathise completely with Kohane’s situation in being inflexible: flexibility is an aspect of fitness that I am guilty of neglecting (I lift for strength and run for endurance), and a well-written article out there states that having the strength to lift things and the endurance to last long doesn’t mean much if one isn’t flexible enough to move their muscles. I stretch before lifting, and warming up before a run or bike ride has helped me to kick higher, but compared to most people, I’m still well-below the norm. It is not a mark of pride that I am more flexible than Kohane.

  • An aspect of Uki’s character that I’m particularly fond of is that, as level-headed as she is, she’s also got a bit of a mischievous side to her personality. Unexpected parts of a character enhance an anime by making the character more multi-dimensional.

  • The pom poms of cheer-leading are completely unrelated to the QF 1-pounder 37 mm autocannon seen in Battlefield 1: here, Hizume provides instruction to Uki and Kohane on making them, after learning that endlessly drilling Kohane with exercises might dissuade her from sticking to cheer-leading. In a way, Uki’s friendship with Kohane, and Hizume’s desire to never be alone results in a bit of an equilibrium that also will lead the two to become friends.

  • The sum of the forces keeping Kohane, Hizume and Uki together result in a dynamic that I don’t think I’ve seen in other slice-of-life series, making it a novel one. Once their friendship is established, Anima Yell! will invariable introduce new characters to disrupt the status quo and keep things fresh. However, before this can happen, Uki must become a part of the cheer-leading club, as well.

  • Old habits die hard, and while Hizume might not want to be a cheerleader any further, the combination of wanting to keep Kohane around and her training means that she has no trouble putting on a show for Uki’s benefit. The girl with long, dark hair is a staple in Manga Time Kirara series – from the protagonist to being support characters, such individuals are serious, proper but also have an unexpected vulnerability. I think Yuyushiki is one of the few exceptions in recent memory; my familiarity with Manga Time Kirara does not go that far back.

  • Uki is moved by the performance, feeling it to be simultaneously cute and cool, and at last, consents to join the cheer-leading club. Uki occasionally runs with her imagination and sees herself or those around her in somewhat embarrassing outfits, lending itself to the series’ comedy.

  • On what Anima Yell! actually means, the title’s representation in Katakana implies a word of foreign origin, and from there, Google-fu finds that anima is Latin for “animating principle”, itself a translation of the Greek term for “soul” or “spirit”. Then, Anima Yell! becomes “Soul Yell”, which is appropriate considering that cheer-leading is really about a sort of coordinated cheer for the soul to drive up motivation. Anima Yell! also lives up to its title in that there is indeed a great deal of yelling and high spirits.

  • When faced with exams, Kohane finds it difficult to study until Uki and Hizume motivate her; with the threat of being unable to pursue club activities, Kohane gives it her all, until Hizume fears that Kohane will drop the cheer-leading in favour of her studies and then asks Kohane to reign it back. The end result is that Kohane gets trampled by the exam and is made to take remedial exams. However, she manages a pass here.

  • Instructor Inukai (given name unknown at the present) is one of Kohane’s instructors, and while appearing strict at times, she eventually lets the cheer-leading club know that they’ve now got enough members to form an association. At least, this is what the translations give: Yuru Camp△‘s translations have been quite variable because of the Outdoors Activity Club’s informal status, and some have yielded “circle”. For me, as long as I can understand that there is a difference (e.g. when a group is operating with a different level of freedom and resources), then the precise translation is not so important.

  • When Kon Akitsune comes to the cheer-leading club with the aim of getting some support for a kokuhaku, the girls immediately set about helping her out, and are successful. Discussions on Anima Yell! are limited right now, although I think that this scene would be a topic of interest, for a remarkable moment where characters are very forward and direct with how they feel.

  • With the cheer-leading club having its core members now, I imagine that upcoming episodes will follow a conventional approach, adding more characters and sending them on familiar adventures, leading up to the big finish when the sum of everyone’s efforts is shown in a titanic final performance. Predictable that Anima Yell! might be, and likely being ill-suited for long discussions, it will still represent twenty minutes every week of light-hearted fun, and for me, this is what counts.

In a manner of speaking, Anima Yell! is initially similar to Yuyushiki in its initial setup, with three central characters whose personalities that share some overlaps. Yuyushiki‘s draw was its unstructured premise, with each of Yui, Yukari and Yuzuki bouncing off one another as they explore random topics and experience high school. The setup in Yuyushiki allowed for very unusual humour to be presented, and aside from its character design, Anima Yell!‘s premise is rather different – there is a focus on cheer-leading, which means that the anime will remain in the realm of the experiences that Kohane and her friends encounter as they build their club out and perform at sports events. Anima Yell! looks to offer a familiar experience on first glance, sticking with the tried-and-true rather than anything novel, although the character setup and cheer-leading elements could also create unique moments, as well. I am not expecting anything too fancy in Anima Yell!; this is a series to share a few laughs about, but beyond this, I imagine that writing about this one could prove quite challenging.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Human Lessons and Dragons in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

“Thor Odinson, you have betrayed the express command of your king. Through your arrogance and stupidity, you have opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war! You are unworthy of these realms! Unworthy of your title! You’re unworthy!…of the loved ones you have betrayed. I now take from you your power! In the name of my father and his father before, I, Odin Allfather, cast you out!” –Odin, Thor

Kobayashi is a software developer who encounters a dragon in the mountains one night after becoming intoxicated, and when she removes a sword from the dragon, she earns the dragon’s gratitude. Introducing herself as Tohru, the dragon decides to become Kobayashi’s maid. While Tohru has the power of the dragons backing her, and she becomes highly efficient with housework, she struggles to understand human customs and values. Over time, other dragons Kanna, Quetzalcoatl, Fafnir and Elma show up: Kobayashi takes things in stride, doing her best to look after Kanna and Tohru while introducing them to human society and keep up with the dragons’ wild antics. Kobayashi moves to a new apartment to accommodate her new roommates, Tohru becomes familiar with the shopping district’s merchants, and Kanna goes to elementary school, befriending classmate Riko. The unlikely roommates celebrate human customs, and as they spend more time together, come to regard one another as a family. Tohru regards Kobayashi as a lover and clashes with her father, the Emperor of Demise; the devotion that Tohru shows Kobayashi also inspires Kobayashi to revisit her own family, after she accepts that she’s become quite distant from them. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Kobayashi-san Chi no Meidoragon) ran during the winter 2017 season for thirteen episodes – with Kyoto Animation helming the series, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was counted as a superb anime for its unique characters and their colourful interactions, striking a balance between the comedic and the introspective.

As it turns out, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid delivers more than superb character growth and interactions: during the course of its thirteen episode (and one OVA) run, the anime covers a wide range of themes. Seemingly unrelated moments in Kobayashi’s life and various experiences come together to create a powerful payout for viewers – as Koabayashi spends time with Tohru, she learns to look back on her own life and appreciate her blessings, while Kanna’s presence also brings out a more motherly side to her personality. The changes in Kobayashi’s life lead somewhere tangible and meaningful: slice-of-life comedies often present light-hearted misadventures with limited purpose, and while they can be quite successful, that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid goes a step further to show that these adventures can lead to a profound change in one’s life for the better. Kobayashi had settled into a status quo in not spending time with her family, focusing on her career, but the introduction of disruption gradually nudges her to think otherwise. Meanwhile, the destructively-inclined Tohru slowly comes to understand humanity to a much greater extent than she had previously, showing that immersion and exposure provides a perspective on things that cannot be acquired in any other way. Each of Kanna, Quetzalcoatl, Fafnir and Elma similarly find a part of human society worth appreciating, and the magic in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is thus – covering enough topics with the depth that it warrants, while at once dealing with a wide breadth of themes that viewers can relate to. The show is a mile wide and a mile deep, featuring something for everyone, and therefore, it is quite unsurprising that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was so well received amongst viewers.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tohru is presented as having romantic feelings for Kobayashi even early in the anime, as seen with her soppy expression here while handling one of Kobayashi’s shirts. While Kobayashi seems blissfully unaware of this, her treatment of Tohru goes from being that of someone to look after to an equal and a peer was one of the best transformations through Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Character development and growth is the central strength of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid – things proceed at just the right pacing, with characters having a chance to bounce off one another and also take in quieter moments.

  • The title for this post is actually a bit of a misnomer: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is certainly not a terrible anime by any stretch, and under normal circumstances, would’ve earned a strong recommendation from me. The reason why it was made into a Terrible Anime Challenge post was because I accidentally watched the episodes in the wrong order and found myself buried. I decided to wait until the series ended before continuing, and my usual habits of procrastination kicked in. A year-and-a-half later, I realised I’d still not watched this yet, and so, decided to start from the beginning. With the series in the books, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is something that easily falls into the category of “it’s as every bit as good as the reception out there describes”.

  • Kobayashi has no given name, and I imagine that she is intended to represent the everyman. Described as lacking womanly features, Kobayashi is probably designed in this manner to represent an ordinary individual who finds herself with two cohabiting dragons taking human form. Her down-to-earth and hard working personality is offset by a few quirks, such as a love for maids – many viewers will relate to different aspects of Kobayashi’s character and find her a suitable perspective to observe Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid from.

  • Early on, Kobayashi is exasperated by Tohru and Kanna’s idiosyncrasies and lack of knowledge about the human world. However, she nonetheless does her best to look after them; after moving into a larger apartment, teaches Tohru the basics of human interactions to the point where she can go shopping without causing destruction, and enrols Kanna in a local elementary school to give her a chance to spend time and learn with children. As time goes on, things settle into a routine, and Kobayashi comes to regard both Kanna and Tohru as family.

  • Once Kobayashi begins acclimatising to her life with two dragons, a new status quo is reached, and to keep things dynamic, new dragons are introduced. Quetzalcoatl (Lucoa) is another dragon who was banished and friends with Tohru. She’s frequently presented as a bit of a tease and enjoys flaunting what she has, to the general embarrassment fo those around her – fanservice in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is noticeable, but for the most part, is not a serious distraction from the more interesting points of discussion.

  • Because of her origins, Kanna is exceptionally skilled with academics and athletics, earning the admiration of her peers. She initially antagonises classmate Riko Saikawa, but innocence leads her to view Riko’s hostility as a sign of friendship. After counting Riko a friend, Kanna spends a considerable amount of time with her and eventually, Riko comes to develop a crush on Kanna, becoming weak in the knees whenever Kanna touches her.

  • While Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is set in a seemingly-ordinary world, Shouta’s “summoning” Quetzalcoatl and his father’s mention of magic suggest that there’s a bit more to this universe than meets the eye. For the most part, however, the anime constrains this to the dragon’s abilities, and beyond this, their world is otherwise quite ordinary; things are focused on the daily comings and goings among the characters.

  • Yūki Kuwahara provides Tohru’s voice, and attesting to my narrow band of interests in anime, I’ve not heard of Kuwahara in her other performances besides Hai-Furi‘s Sumire Kishima. With this in mind, Kuwahara captures every aspect of Tohru nicely, from those moments where she entertains wiping the world out for fun, to doting on Kobayashi and attempting to sneak chunks of her tail into cooking by ways of expressing affection.

  • Depending on the world, dragon meat is either regarded as a delicacy or poisonous, and because Kobayashi expresses surprise at the things that Tohru might find edible, the nature of dragon meat in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid will remain a mystery. Tohru is a lovable character whose taste for wanton destruction is tempered by her devotion towards Kobayashi; that Kobayashi can talk her out of rampages is a sign of the two’s closeness.

  • Later down the line, Elma appears on earth and becomes stranded. In order to support herself, she takes up a job with the same company that Kobayashi works with. Ordinarily quite dedicated to her duties and standing directly against Tohru, she’s hampered by a fondness for sweets and often has trouble exercising restraint where they are involved. Elma is voiced by Yūki Takada, who had previously played as New Game!‘s Aoba Suzukaze.

  • Kanna comes to regard Kobayashi as a mother of sorts over time: having looked after Kanna, providing her with handmade lunches for school and taking her shopping, Kobayashi also occasionally teaches Kanna about the human world and encourages her. The joy of this interaction is that despite having had no experience previously, circumstance naturally brings out this side of Kobayashi. Nothing in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid ever comes across as being forced, and this further augments the experience the anime provides.

  • Maria Naganawa’s performance as Kanna is one that she’s become well-known for: Naganawa was cast as Slow Start‘s Kamuri later on, a petite, soft-spoken girl who greatly resembles Kanna in mannerism and appearance and later plays the platelets of Cells at Work. In general, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is more of a heart-warming experience, but Kanna also adds a degree of adorableness to things.

  • While Kobayashi originally had not planned on attending Kanna’s sports festival, she later changes her mind and makes an appearance. Kobayashi is said to have little interest in visiting her family, presumably owing to some difficulties, but as the events of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid progress, she begins to regard Tohru and Kanna as family. This gradually begins reshaping her own perspectives on what family is.

  • How Kobayashi met Tohru is told in flashback: after removing a sword from Tohru, Kobayashi spends a drunken evening with Tohru and piques Tohru’s curiosity about humanity.

  • The last anime to reference The Little Match Girl was GochiUsa, when Sharo imagined herself as the little girl of the story, who was made to sell matches and succumbed to the cold. However, in death, she is relieved of her suffering. Curiously enough, it was through anime that I heard about The Little Match Girl: this story was something I’d never heard of during my days as a primary and secondary student, and from the looks of it, the story has been referenced in anime. Shirobako and Yuru Yuri both have callbacks to this story.

  • While Riko was initially quite hostile towards Kanna, the transformation is nothing short of hilarious once the two become friends – Riko’s reaction to physical contact with Kanna is a recurring joke that is always entertaining to watch. One aspect about the dragons is that for their incredible power and distain for humanity, they can dial it back and doing meaningful things for people. During Christmas, the dragons put on an entertaining play for the shopping district; despite being fraught with tension, the play itself is successful and well-received.

  • Mochi is eaten during the Japanese New Year for luck, and in Japanese folklore, rabbits live on the moon, eternally pounding mochi. This is derived from Chinese folklore, where the Jade Rabbit aids the goddess Chang’e in pounding ingridients for the elixir of life. It so happens that today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, and while a combination of a busy schedule and inclement weather precluded enjoying moon cakes under a full moon, I nonetheless celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival with roast chicken and char siu. It was a relaxing evening, which was much welcomed.

  • Admittedly, it is refreshing to write a shorter post not for Harukana Receive – time makes fools of everyone, and with the summer season drawing to a close, I look into the autumn anime season now to see what shows I am watching. The two shows that catch my eye are P.A. Works’ Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara, and Anima Yell!, which I’ve tentatively decided to do talks for after three episodes and overall reviews for. Beyond this, there’s Sword Art Online: Alicization (pronounced “Ali-sa-zation”, rather than “ali-kai-tion” as I originally figured it would be) – this is a big anime, spanning four cours, and I’ll be watching this, but not reviewing it with regular frequency.

  • Tohru’s father is the Emperor of Demise and strictly believes that dragons should not interfere on Earth. In some ways, he is similar to Odin Allfather: he has little desire for dragons to ravage Earth with their war and cares for Tohru’s well-being. Seeing Tohru living on Earth with Kobayashi would be to him what Thor’s actions on Jotunheim resumed a war between Asgard and the Frost Giants, lending itself to the page quote. When a one-on-one confrontation between Tohru and her father breaks out, Kobayashi intervenes, managing to convince the Emperor of Demise to relent and allow Tohru to stay. Both Thor and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid similarly involve a higher being become changed by their experiences on and becoming close to someone on Earth, as well; coming out of their time on Earth a stronger individual for it.

  • After Kobayashi stands up to Tohru’s father and succeeds in persuading him to trust Tohru, she comes to the realisation that families of all sorts will have their differences and must work out these differences. This leads Kobayashi to finally visit her parents and, showing the impact that Tohru’s had in her life, Kobayashi invites Tohru along. This brings my Terrible Anime Challenge post to an end: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is certainly not terrible, earning an A grade (4 points on the 4-point scale and a nine of ten): it’s an anime that has deservedly earned its praise, and is also a reminder to me that my usual tendencies of procrastination means that I often put off watching excellent shows for far too long. There isn’t anything I can do about this per se, but the fact is that there are many good shows out there worth watching; Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is one of them.

Consequently, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is an anime that I can easily relate to and recommend to viewers: simultaneously hilarious and introspective, making use of both the extraordinary and the mundane, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid shows that the boundary between the normal and incredible is blurred from a certain perspective because the ordinary can be just as important, not to be taken for granted. The culmination of these messages, with the smooth and consistently high-quality animations that Kyoto Animation is known for, strong voice acting and a generally engaging story, means that Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is well-deserving of the praises the anime have earned. With the manga still ongoing, this is a series I would have no trouble in following should a continuation be made, and it is only now that I will remark that the reason I had not watched Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid sooner was because I began watching the series out of order, fell behind in watching the series and then decided to shelve the series until it finished. However, I am glad that the series did not fall to the back of my mind; sufficient excitement in the community led me to pick Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid back up, to see if the series was indeed worthy of the acclaim it has garnered, and now that I’ve finished, I think that the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”.