The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

The Kandagawa is Calling: Kandagawa Jet Girls First Episode Impressions

“To achieve anything in this game, you must be prepare to dabble in the boundary of disaster.” –Stirling Moss

Rin Namiki decides to move from the countryside to Asakusa Tokyo to pursue her dreams, transferring to Asakusa Girls’ High. Shortly after her arrival in Tokyo, she is taken aback at the crowds and very nearly forgets about registering at the dormitory that she will stay at during her time in Tokyo. When a thief makes off with her bag, Rin chases after him, running into Misa Aoi, who stops the thief cold in his tracks. When Rin finally makes it to the dormitory, she is surprised to learn that Misa is there, and moreover, that she will be roommates with Misa. The next day, Rin does her best to befriend Misa, who coldly rebuffs her. When one of Rin’s classmates asks her about jet skis, Rin reveals that she’s fond of riding jet skis. Later, Rin finds Misa fishing by a pier, and when students of Musashino Girls High School appear, claiming the pier and river to be their turf, Rin boldly accepts a challenge from Kaguya Shinjūin and Kuromaru Manpuku, two of the school’s racers. Misa later reveals that she has a jet ski dubbed the Orcano. On the day of the race, Rin and Misa take an early lead, but Kaguya and Kuromaru even things up when one of the latter’s shots blows off Misa’s skirt during the race. This is Kandagawa Jet Girls after one, an anime that was launched to promote a PlayStation 4 title of the same name. Produced with Senran Kagura‘s very own Kenichirō Takaki, this series has already begun showing elements that are common to Senran Kagura, featuring gratuitous closeups of the characters’ bodies and might be seen as using jet ski racing as a thinly-veiled attempt to wrap a story around what is ultimately an exercise in anatomy lessons. However, looking past these aspects, some familiar elements of sportsmanship and competition are also present: Kandagawa Jet Girls, being more or less a slice-of-life anime with sports components, could also deliver thematic elements common to such series, dealing with topics such as rivalry and personal improvement as Harukana Receive and Girls und Panzer did.

Kandagawa Jet Girls drops viewers straight into how Rin comes to take up jet ski racing, the sport that her mother once participated in as a professional competitor. The entire premise is built around jet ski racing, a sport that has become very widespread in Kandagawa Jet Girls. In order for viewers to follow along, the mechanics and rules of jet ski racing would need to be explained. So far, the particulars of jet ski racing have not yet been established to any major level of detail – while audiences know that racing involves a driver and gunner, victory conditions, penalties and other specifics have not been defined. This makes Rin and Misa’s race with Kaguya and Kuromaru rather more harrowing: besides not knowing the outcome of this race with any certainty, viewers also will not know what Rin and Misa must do during their race. While seemingly illogical, the choice to not outline how jet ski racing works has the effect of forcing the story to focus on the dynamic that builds up between the cheerful, impulsive Rin and stoic, reserved Misa. It is shown that Rin already has some experience with operating a jet ski and comes from a family background familiar with jet ski racing. Misa, on the other hand, is implied to have been a competitor in jet ski racing but dropped out for reasons unknown. As such, the characters’ meeting and Rin’s immediate choice to accept a challenge is meant to suggest that the characters, rather than the sport, form the core of Kandagawa Jet Girls; jet ski racing itself is merely a means to an end, and consequently, I expect that Kandagawa Jet Girls will deal with how Rin and Misa will develop as a team through training and competition, with a healthy dose of papilla mammaria and crotch close-ups to be the norm, if the first episode was anything to go by.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Rin and Misa are briefly shown as a full-fledged team at Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ beginning, which means that the series will be about the journey rather than the destination. Out of the gates, the series feels like an amalgamation of Senran Kagura‘s ecchi elements with Harukana Receive‘s partner setup, the high tech of Rinne no Lagrange and Sora no Woto‘s characters. That such a comparison is being made gives a hint as to how long around I’ve been in the anime blogging game for.

  • When Rin arrives in Tokyo, she’s immediately overwhelmed by the sights and sounds, promptly getting distracted from her goal of locating the dormitory that she will reside at while in high school and running into a variety of colourful characters, including other jet ski racers. She soon finds herself robbed by an unknown thief, and is remarkably slow on the uptake, reflecting on her rural background. However, despite a delayed reaction, Rin nonetheless manages to keep up with the thief, who is bewildered at her stamina.

  • Things turn around when Misa trips the thief, and subsequently proceeds to give him a death glare worthy of Mordor since her shins still smart from kicking her VR simulator earlier. It turns out that Rin’s bag is carrying a large stuffed dolphin that she’s is fond of, and she notes that she can’t sleep without it. I surmise that this particular stuffed dolphin is special to Rin because it’s a momento of her mother; the same dolphin is seen in Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ beginning scenes.

  • Rin is blown away by Misa’s appearance – the camera takes special care to highlight Misa’s features. She has characteristics of a bishōjo, standing in stark contrast with the decidedly more plain-looking Rin. Their introductions are cut short when Rin is distracted by a pair of jet ski racers practising in the river canal below. The combination of Misa’s dissatisfaction with the racing simulator and her cold reception to the racers suggests that she is not fond of the sport.

  • While Rin is fawning over the racers, Misa leaves. They encounter one another again later at the dormitory, and when Rin warmly greets Misa, the other residents squeal in excitement. As it turns out, Misa’s the only one at the dormitory who doesn’t have a roommate, and so, Rin is assigned to share a room with her, much to Misa’s displeasure.

  • The presence of T ‘n A in anime is something of a point of contention in the anime community. In general, I am not bothered by it when it does not interfere with the flow of the story. Rin and her short shorts here is one such example: while her pantsu might be visible, it’s not slowing down Kandagawa Jet Girls in any way. Conversely, if an anime takes the time to create scenarios that are low probability (such as face planting into someone’s chest from a collision), then that does detract from the flow somewhat.

  • The next day, Rin bothers Misa to no end, even following her to the bathroom on one occasion. Rin is presented as being more of a country bumpkin, unaccustomed to the high-tech and fast-paced world that is Tokyo. She also has a pronounced accent: official translations give her rendering of “cute” as “adorbs”, which viewers have taken kindly to. Rin’s voice is provided by Yū Sasahara, a relatively new voice actress whose first role as a lead character was Akari Amano of Tonari no Kyūketsuki-san.

  • With her open and cheerful personality, Rin quickly becomes closer to her classmates, one of whom feel that Rin’s bothered by something. While Rin generally puts on a smile for those around her, it seems that Misa’s cold reception has weighed on her mind. She reveals to her classmate that she used to use a jet ski to get between school and home, greatly enjoying the experience. Misa overhears the conversation and heads off.

  • Rin later finds Misa fishing at a dock and messes with her. While trying to strike a conversation with Misa about fishing, students from the Musashino Academy appear and ask the two to vacate the area. These students are possibly from the area of the same name, which is around twenty one kilometres away from Asakusa and the Sumida River. Misa promptly peaces out, clearly not wishing for a confrontation.

  • However, Rin, not familiar with anyone, confronts Kaguya and accepts her challenge to a jet ski race despite having no experience in a formal race. This is akin to Haruka challenging Ayasa and Narumi in Harukana Receive, not knowing that the pair were Japan’s top-ranked volleyball pair. In Kandagawa Jet Girls, Kaguya and Kuromaru’s stats as jet ski racers are not known, but give their smug attitudes, one must surmise they are of a reasonable calibre.

  • After accepting the challenge, Misa and Rin change into the attire required for racing in a small shack on the river that also housed Misa’s simulation rig. The separation seems to indicate that Misa dislikes the sport because of her performance in it. I believe this is the second time that I’ve featured papilla mammaria openly here: depth of field and blur meant that I decided to only feature one of Misa. When Rin is changing, it’s a little too blurry for a sharp screenshot, and I will have to rectify this later.

  • The suits for jet ski racing seem rather sophisticated, being capable of adjusting itself to the wearer’s morphology and zipping themselves automatically. Given what Kandagawa Jet Girls presents, I imagine the suits to be at least a little more advanced than Tony Stark’s earlier suits, which required stationary machinery in order to fit the suit: Stark’s later Iron Man suits are capable of assembling themselves dynamically, and the versions seen in Infinity War and later use nanomachines.

  • When Rin’s suit has trouble fitting itself to her chest, an irate Misa manually overrides it. Misa’s envy is not well-justified, since the character sheets give Rin’s specs as 89-56-80 to Misa’s 84-58-87. Conversely, the two racers from Musashino are clearly bigger than Rin: Kaguya is 96-59-89, and Kuromaru given as 111-70-97, making them the most full-figured of anyone in Kandagawa Jet Girls.

  • When the race starts, Misa responds to the trash talk from Kuromaru with the remark that they might be disappointed with the outcome of their race. Given Kuromaru and Kaguya’s determination to face off against Misa, one can surmise that Misa was once a great jet ski gunner who bested them at every turn, rather similar to Kanata Hiiga of Harukana Receive. Like Kanata, Misa ended up quitting her sport of choice from unknown reasons, and it is only with the introduction of an optimistic, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer character like Haruka and Rin to get them back into the game.

  • A bit of digging into supplementary materials finds that Kaguya and Kuromaru form Team Dress, with Kaguya being the driver and Kuromaru being the gunner. Said resources mention Kaguya as being from a wealthy background, while Kuromaru appears to have a bodyguard position and is trained in ninpō. The latter carries a long-range rifle for marksman shooting.

  • When the race begins, Rin appears quite unconcerned with winning, marvelling at the Orcano’s acceleration and handling. She and Misa take an early lead as Rin figures out the mechanics behind operating this jet ski, which is probably much higher performing than the smaller jet ski she’d previously used to get to school. The setup brings to mind both Gundam Unicorn, where Banagher is able to operate the Unicorn Gundam within minutes of getting into the cockpit, as well as A New Hope, where Luke finds the X-Wing’s flight controls to be similar to the T-16 Skyhopper and immediately acclimatises to the starfighter’s properties.

  • With Rin at the wheel, Misa is the gunner. Unlike Kuromaru, Misa uses a submachine gun style weapon modelled after the Heckler and Koch MP5-A3. Submachine guns and PDWs are smaller calibre weapons that form the gap between intermediate cartridge firing weapons and pistols: being more compact in nature, such weapons are lightweight, have controllable recoil and are relatively straightforwards to use. Misa thus appears to prefer close quarters engagements, and could hold the advantage over Kuromaru if the two teams are to remain in close range.

  • So far, I admit that I am enjoying Kandagawa Jet Girls, although a cursory search on Google finds that more biased sites have already gotten their perspectives onto the first page. In these reviews, it is claimed that the fanservice piece is “exhausting”. I wonder why folks would deliberately watch anime clearly outside of their interests with the goal of telling people not to watch it, as well as attempting to inject identity politics into things as justification why one should listen to such balderdash.

  • I’ll never tell readers what to think, and note that if Kandagawa Jet Girls is not up your alley, that is totally fine: there are plenty of other series out there that suit different tastes, after all. Back in Kandagawa Jet Girls, as Rin pulls ahead, Kuromaru aims for Misa’s backside, and after two shots, blows her shorts off. Again, why this is a mechanic has not yet been explored yet, and I am hoping that jet ski racing will be explained so viewers can follow along come later episodes.

  • After one episode, Kandagawa Jet Girls has me curious to see more about the jet ski racing, and while the animation is inconsistent in places, the world overall is rendered in a colourful manner. While I originally intended to write about Rifle is Beautiful, after watching the first episode, which aired yesterday, I conclude that at present, there isn’t enough material to do a first episode impressions on. The anime itself is still quite enjoyable, and I’m sure I’ll have thoughts on it after three episodes have passed.

As Kandagawa Jet Girls progresses, I imagine that more mechanics behind jet ski racing will be presented, making it easier to follow along in the races and root for Rin and Misa. The two lead characters, and their meeting, feel distinctly similar to how 2010’s Sora no Woto opened, with a cheerful and somewhat scatter-brained protagonist becoming enamoured in the sights and sounds of a new locale before coming across someone serious who knows the area and winds up making their acquaintance. Sora no Woto had Kanata become delayed by the Water Festival and encountering Rio, who turned out to be her superior officer with an initially cold personality. In Kandagawa Jet Girls, Rin takes on Kanata’s role: both sport an optimistic personality and possess an open mind, becoming easily distracted by things in their world. Arriving in Tokyo, she wastes no time in getting lost amongst the crowds and even loses her bag in the process, before running into Misa, who gets her out of a bind. Kanata had similarly been bailed out when Rio finds her drenched in the dyed water during the Water Festival, and pulled her aside for a bath and reprimand. In terms of appearances, Rin is a shapelier version of Kanata, and Misa shares Rio’s long, dark hair and severe expressions. The parallels between Kandagawa Jet Girls and Sora no Woto are, in short, quite striking – while the premise of jet ski racing might be new, seeing familiar characters means that I had no difficulty in feeling at home in Kandagawa Jet Girls. I am curious to see Rin and Misa develop and grow as Kandagawa Jet Girls continues: the anatomy lessons notwithstanding, Kandagawa Jet Girls is something that could end up being surprisingly enjoyable because of the combination of character growth, in conjunction with a vibrant and vividly depicted world. Of course, this is all speculation – for the time being, the outcome of Rin and Misa’s race with Kaguya and Kuromaru remains anyone’s guess and will continue come the second episode.

Azur Lane: The Girls of the Sea and First Episode Impressions

“I have never advocated war except as means of peace, so seek peace, but prepare for war, because war never changes. War is like winter and winter is coming.” –Ulysses S. Grant

When the mysterious Siren overwhelmed humanity and conquered the oceans, the world’s major navies, the Eagle Union, Royal Navy, Sakura Empire and Iron Blood, formed an alliance and developed the Ship Girls to combat them. The Siren were driven back, and ultimately defeated, but a schism formed between the former allies. In the present, Cleveland and Prince of Wales meet with Illustrious and Unicorn in a base near the Sakura Empire, but the facility is infiltrated. Unicorn, Javelin and Laffey befriend Ayanami while searching for Unicorn’s familiar. However, the peace is shattered when Kaga and Akagi arrive, launching a surprise attack. Cleveland enters the fray with the remaining allied ships to drive off the attackers, but find themselves slowly overwhelmed until Enterprise arrives. Severely damaging Kaga, Enterprise forces the Sakura Empire forces to withdraw, but not before Akagi remarks that their intial objective has been accomplished. This is the opening to Azur Lane, the Chinese counterpart to Kantai Collection, which has its origins in a side-scrolling shooter that was originally released for mobile and gained massive popularity in China. Azur Lane is built around a similar premise of female moe anthropomorphic warships from the World War Two era duking it out with an unknown force, but differs chiefly in its gameplay mechanics and platform. Similarly, the anime adaptations of Kantai Collection and Azur Lane differ in their presentation as well, despite similarities in many of their elements.

In contrast with Kantai Collection, whose Abyssal simply present foes for the protagonists to square off against, and whose focus was surrounding the unremarkable Fubuki, Azur Lane opens with a war amongst the Ship Girls, who disagree on what means must be employed against the Sirens. This creates the conflict that Azur Lane opens to, and out of the gates, creates a more tangible reason for Azur Lane‘s ships to be fighting, whereas in Kantai Collection, the reason for fighting was not presented until the movie itself, which revealed that the spirit of a Kan-musume and Abyssal cycle between two phases, and that the war was to save the Kan-musume forms of the different spirits. This came across as being far more abstract than the concrete reason for fighting in Azur Lane, which insofar, could bring about a more interesting discussion of whether or not the use of alien technology justified in a war, when said technology’s capabilities and effects are unknown. The division between the old alliances into a fictional equivalent of the Allied and Axis powers, with England and United States on one side, and Imperial Japan and The Third Reich on the other, also marks the first time that an anime has presented Imperial Japan as the antagonists: Kaga lacks the same composure of her Kantai Collection counterpart, and is rather more bloodthirsty in nature. The prospective possibilities in Azur Lane are intriguing, and could bring about a more engaging story overall, but after one episode, audiences are also indunated with a large number of Ship Girls. Kantai Collection kept the story to Fubuki’s perspective, and while counted as being an unremarkable character, the advantage of this approach give the story grounding, so viewers were not overwhelmed. By comparison, Azur Lane drops viewers into the midst of things, and after one episode, no clear protagonist has yet been identified, with the lead contender being Enterprise.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My current plans for Azur Lane are to write about it again after three episodes have passed, and then decide from there as to which series this season will be getting quarterly posts. The other two candidates for this season are Rifle is Beautiful and Kandagawa Jet Girls, both of which look fairly exciting in their own right. I will likely be doing something similar where I look at the first episodes, determining which series will be given additional discussions once I have a stronger idea of what the series is about.

  • Cleveland and Prince of Wales exhibit the same tendencies as Girls und Panzer‘s Kay and Darjeeling, respectively: Cleveland is easygoing and boisterious, while Prince of Wales possess the regal manner and stiff upper-lip that is associated with the British. They encounter a cloaked Ship Girl that turns out to be Ayanami while walking on the island. The large number of characters out of the gates made it tricky to tell which characters Azur Lane would be centred around.

  • The Cleveland of Azur Lane is the 1942 light cruiser CL-55, which saw combat in North Africa before sailing to the Pacific, where she participated in the invasion of the Palau Islands and Okinawa. The Prince of Wales is the HMS Prince of Wales (53), a King George-class which fought the Bismark and was destroyed by the Japanese aircraft in 1941. Cleveland and Prince of Wales meets with Illustrious and Unicorn here; both are aircraft carriers belonging to the British Navy.

  • The main facilities in Azur Lane are stunningly rendered: the cherry blossoms and the metal anchor installation stand in contrast with the vividly blue sky that is evocative of a summer’s day. The weather today was actually reminiscent of the weather from a year ago, when I went on a short trip to the province over to check out the salmon run. Like last year, the mild weather created an incredibly comfortable setting to be out and about, and I’m hoping things will hold steady as we enter the Thanksgiving Long Weekend.

  • After a September whose weather proved rather more hospitable than the weather of last year, October is off to a solid start as well: aside from colder mornings, the weather’s been most pleasant. Entering this weekend, we had a mostly sunny day that was prefect for visiting the local zoo. Two panda cubs born here are set to go to Chengdu in China now that they’ve reached gestation age, and I spent the early afternoon watching the younger pandas eat and fight over the best sleeping spot in their space, as well as an older panda who chilled on a log.

  • It’s been many years since I visited the zoo proper: in the past several years, I attended the Illuminasia Festival and saw lanterns of the animals, but these events were set during the night, so the rest of the zoo was closed. Today, however, I visited by day and therefore was able to see the animals, from giraffes and Bactrian camels to musk ox and Chilean flamingos. The weather remained quite pleasant, and we left closer to the end of the day, which ended off with a family dinner whose centrepiece was a crab fried rice (蟹飯, jyutping haai5 faan6).

  • Folk who’ve played Azur Lane to a greater extent than I did will have to explain what the Unicorn familiar is about. It appears that some of the Ship Girls of Azur Lane exhibit animal-like traits, similar to the Witches of Strike Witches. Here, Unicorn, Javelin and Laffey share a conversation with Ayanami: they are unaware of her affiliation and immediately take to her, but Ayanami suddenly vanishes having been whisked away by aircraft to a secure location. Here, she apologises for what is to come next and signals that the time has come to begin combat operations.

  • Whereas Kantai Collection presented Kaga and Akagi as refined, calm carriers, their Azur Lane counterparts are more villainous in nature, relishing the idea of combat and dealing damage to their opponents. At this point in time, I much prefer the Kantai Collection incarnations of Kaga and Akagi. Azur Lane‘s versions both sport fox tails here and share an unusually close bond with one another.

  • When enemy aircraft resembling the YF-23 appear in the skies, Cleveland suits up and begins to return fire. The equipment configurations and setup are nearly identical to those seen in Kantai Collection, although the transformation process is distinct in that the girls transmute the material properties of their respective ships into infantry-sized gear pieces that they wear into combat. The precise mechanics of both Kantai Collection and Azur Lane don’t make much sense when scrutinised, so I’ve resolved to simply enjoy them as they are.

  • My perspective on Azur Lane is that of a beginner: I have no intrinsic familiarity with the game beyond the quarter-hour I spent playing it on my iPhone. With this being said, I would count myself as being sufficiently well-read as to understand why the analogues of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are the antagonists in Azur Lane. Contrary to the supposition that the show was written with political implications in mind, I counter-argue that the choice to have the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood oppose the Eagle Union and Royal Navy is simply intended to both provide a setup where Ship Girls fight one another purely for fanservice’s sake.

  • From a story perspective, having other Ship Girls as enemies simply allows Azur Lane to explore whether or not the risks of forbidden knowledge (the Siren technology) is an acceptable tradeoff for a more powerful and effective weapon against an enemy whose intentions and full capabilities remain unknown. Sino-Japanese relationships did not figure in the design of Azur Lane, and I’d wish that folks lacking the requisite background in this area would cease their emotionally-driven prating on how the contrary is true. Such discussions are wearisome and inane, accomplishing little except showing just how uninformed the participants are.

  • Similarly, the absence of ordinary civilians and an equivalent of Kantai Collection‘s admiral are not relevant to the discussion. This becomes apparent when Unicorn summons a familiar that allows her to soar through the battlefield – Azur Lane dispenses realism and waltzes into the realm of magic with its use of familiars, so it is reasonable to suppose that this series is supposed to be about visually exciting things happening in battle over everything else. Watching with the intent of having fun is how I’m going to roll, and I’m going to be dismissive of any “serious” discussions, since the original goal of Azur Lane‘s mobile game is fun, first and foremost.

  • If I do decide to push forwards with Azur Lane in the quarterly review format, I will be making a more conscious effort to include more pantsu purely for the sake of my own amusement as well as the reader’s. I typically focus on scenery screenshots, since I have little to offer in the way of discussion when the frame is focused on someone’s pantsu at close range, but I think that it wouldn’t be such a mad idea to mix things up every so often. I invite the reader to provide feedback here as to whether or not this is something you might tolerate from this blog.

  • The first battle the Eagle Union and Royal Navy fight against the Sakura Empire’s Kaga and Akagi implies that a Ship Girls’ combat performance is impacted by game mechanics like level and specialisations. While Cleveland is able to intercept the fighters sent against them, she and the other Ship Girls are slowly overwhelmed once Kaga gets serious and summons a wolf familiar similar to Fenris from Thor Ragnarok.

  • The combat sequences of Azur Lane seem to be flashier and more dynamic than those of Kantai Collection, featuring a much greater range of motion from the Ship Girls themselves. Javelin reluctantly engages Ayanami in combat, forcing the former to do a flip into the air that, in Kantai Collection, would be counted as impossible. While Azur Lane is off to a good start, I admit one of the things I will need to master is my own constant inclination to spell Azur as “azure”. With this in mind, there are plenty of azure skies in Azur Lane.

  • Enterprise is a higher-tier Ship Girl modelled after the USS Enterprise (CV-6): a Yorktown-class, the CV-6 Enterprise was commissioned in 1937 and was absent from Pearl Harbour in 1941. The ship would participate at the Battle of Midway, the Guadalcanal Campaign, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, becoming the most decorated ship in the navy at the time. In Azur Lane, Enterprise is a highly skilled and powerful aircraft carrier, capable of fighting Kaga to a standstill without any apparent effort.

  • Because it’s so early in the game, the full scope of the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood Ship Girls remains unseen and therefore, something the series could potentially explore as time wears on. For now, the first episode has suggested to me that use of Siren technology allows the Sakura Empire and Iron Blood ships to possess more brute strength than their Eagle Union and Royal Navy equivalents, but in exchange, the veteran ships on the Allied side will likely possess better combat experience and/or tactics, playing on the Axis ships’ arrogance and faith in Siren technology.

  • This is, of course, speculation, since I am not at all familiar with Azur Lane. Here, Enterprise launches a point-blank shot at Kaga after closing the distance, surprising Kaga. The results of a close-range shot damages Kaga, and she reluctantly complies with Akagi’s request to retreat. I remark here that the phrase “point-blank” is often abused: it means “the range where the trajectory of a projectile is sufficiently flat so it experiences no drop, so that aiming directly at a target without adjusting for gravity will allow one to hit the target”. For instance, some rifles have a point blank range that extends out to 300 metres. The media and film take the phrase to mean “at close ranges, often just short of being a contact shot” – while technically correct, since there is no bullet drop at this range, it’s also a bit of a misnomer, since it excludes the idea that a pistol shot that hits its mark at 15 metres is also in point-blank range.

  • Ayanami retreats from the battle, wondering what will happen next. I’m certainly intrigued by the series’ setup, although Azur Lane will have to work hard in the episodes upcoming to newcomers such as myself on the characters and their objectives. For folks who’ve felt I’ve not adequately discussed the series, I present fellow blogger Jusuchin’s reflections of Azur Lane‘s first episode. Despite his modesty about such matters, Jusuchin is markedly more knowledgeable than myself on all things military and also has extensive background in things like Kantai Collection, so those looking for more information will find his perspectives to be valuable.

  • With Azur Lane‘s first episode in the books, I am going to experiment with a slightly different approach this season and write about the first episodes to the series I will be writing about in some capacity, and then pick one series to follow in greater length. Kandagawa Jet Girls and Rifle is Beautiful vie with Azure Lane for more writing time. In the meantime, my focus turns to writing about Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Sing For You~ and Star Wars Battlefront II‘s campaign. The latter, I beat last month, and the former, I’ve been waiting to write about since last September. I expect that, for Sing For You, I remain on target to have the internet’s first and most useful review of.

Overall, with its uncommonly sharp visuals and animation, Azur Lane is off to a solid start, presenting a far livelier world than the one that was presented in Kantai Collection‘s anime. The character count and lack of a central perspective so far has been the main shortcomings of the first episode, but with a strong premise and engaging battles, Azur Lane could prove to be a reasonably enjoyable series as time wears on. One additional aspect that makes Azur Lane worthwhile are its incidental pieces; like Kantai Collection, orchestral pieces are employed, and in the case of Kantai Collection, the music was masterfully performed to really convey the might of the navy, the gentle and frivolous days the Kan-musume spend together, and the enmity of the Abyssals. From the soundtrack that’s been heard in Azur Lane so far, it appears this series will be following suit in its use of music to create a very specific atmosphere. Taken together, I am curious to see how Azur Lane plays out: I had downloaded the game for iOS and gave it a whirl prior to the anime starting, and while it is unsophisticated compared to the titles I am accustomed to, Azur Lane‘s increased accessibility and substantial gameplay component means that between it and Kantai Collection, I would prefer to play Azur Lane over Kantai Collection‘s luck-based approach. With this being said, for the time being, I am much more familiar with and prefer the style of Kantai Collection‘s characters, so Azur Lane‘s anime adaptation is going to need to put in some effort in order to sell me its story and encourage me to follow the Ship Girls’ adventures and experiences.

Worst Anime Challenge? How to Have Fun in Yurikuma Arashi, or, A Response To Invalid Methodologies In Existing Discussions

“You could not live with your own failure, and where did that bring you? Back to me. I thought by simplifying half of the symbolism from Yurikuma Arashi discussions, the other half would thrive, but you’ve shown me that’s impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist.”
“Yep. We’re all kinds of stubborn.”
“I’m thankful, because now, I know what I must do. I will shred Yurikuma Arashi down to its last pixel, and then, with the symbols you’ve collected for me, create a new discussion teeming with value that knows not what it has lost, but only what it has been given. A meaningful discussion.”
“Born out of lies.”
“They’ll never know it, because you won’t be alive to tell them.”

–Thanos, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, Avengers: Endgame

When bears turned against humanity following the destruction of a far-off planet, humanity constructed a massive wall to defend themselves. However, Ginko Yurishiro and Lulu Yurigasaki infiltrate this wall and masquerade as people, registering as students of Arashigaoka High, with the aim of getting closer to one Kureha Tsubaki, who’d lost her memories long ago after befriending Ginko and made the ultimate sacrifice to turn her into a human after seeing her suffering in the realm of bears. As Kureha and Ginko remember their shared past, those around them begin to oppose their friendship, regarding it with hostility. Fighting against the norms of society, Kureha and Ginko end up demonstrating the strength of their love for one another. The deities recognise the two’s love as authentic and whisks them away to an unknown location where they spend the remainder of their days in happiness, while society continues forwards. This is Yurikuma Arashi, a rather curious title directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, known for his distinct approach in his anime. Airing in 2015, Yurikuma Arashi is ultimately about the costs of love, what potentially can be if one stays true to their conviction in one another and also the absurdity of a society accustomed to maintaining normalcy. Using vivid imagery in the form of bears, and a long-standing conflict to show how individuals on opposite ends of the spectrum still share commonality, Ikuhara illustrates that true love can manifest between most anyone regardless of station, background or appearance, being something that is both fragile and resilient like a flower. By comparison, the students of Arashigaoka High, members of the Invisible Storm, are presented as an unaccepting, closed-minded group whose xenophobic attitudes and devotion to their search of evil are ludicrous; the series is an open criticism of the inherent irrationality of intolerance and hate. While presented with a highly turbulent structure, Yurikuma Arashi ultimately shows the outcome of tolerance, acceptance and open-mindedness in society, suggesting that relationships between anyone are to be celebrated and not feared even if they are not conventional. From a technical perspective, with consistent animation, a curious setting making use of construction implements and walls to show the absurdity of keeping out the unknown, and a soundtrack that captures the tenour of Yurikuma Arashi exceedingly well, the series does manage to deliver its messages despite being riddled with idiosyncrasies and repetition that impede the narrative’s flow. At least, this is what my assessment of Yurikuma Arashi would be in a sane world – there was nothing sane about the discussion and reception in the anime community concerning Yurikuma Arashi that subsequently followed.

In a vacuum, Yurikuma Arashi tells a rather heartfelt story, albeit one that is a bit turbulent in places and a little too forwards at times, but existing discussions promoted the series as being an “intellectual fantasy” whose journey demands an uncommon knowledge of the symbols that Ikuhara uses and where the message is supposed to be obfuscated by Ikuhara’s style to the point where one should consult a friendly neighbourhood analysis to follow along. The symbolism in Yurikuma Arashi, not the characters and their interactions, are supposed to tell the story, and these obscure elements are argued to be essential to the experience. An old nemesis from my Glasslip days, Helene “Soulelle” Kolpakova, argues that the key themes in the series are about the gap between sexual and platonic romance, and how the wall is supposed to represent a separation of the two, dividing one so that it falls into the natural order and excluding the other from consideration. Through the events of Yurikuma Arashi, Kolpakova claims that the bears themselves are “beneficial to humanity”. To this end, yin-yang is argued to be critical in the series, speaking of the divide that separates chaos from order, and moreover, that Sigmund Freud’s Ego and Id are relevant to discussion. This, Kolpakova states, is essential to understand why the wall becomes a major symbol and why the Lily Court exists, to sort out whether or not one’s feelings are legitimate. Striking a balance between the Id of desire and the more rational Ego, the Super Ego is allegedly equivalent to Abraxas, a being independent of good and evil in Hermann Hesse’s Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth. This novel deals with duality and how both sides of a spectrum are necessary: Abraxas rules over the good as well as evil in the world, hence the necessity of accepting both. From Kolpakova’s perspective, the absence of this knowledge renders Yurikuma Arashi without its meaning, and so, even ahead of messages of determination in love and the absurdity of exclusion, Yurikuma Arashi is to be about duality. For the folks who have not studied the Bildungsroman literary genre, then, Yurikuma Arashi remains inaccessible, out of reach and meaningful only to a limited few. This particular brand of thinking is not unique to Kolpakova, and others have since followed suit in composing obtuse, pedantic discussions of the supposedly complex and obscure symbols of Yurikuma Arashi, with the most gratuitous being a seventeen-part talk that ends up being about nothing useful. While the sheer number of analysis pieces out there imply that Yurikuma Arashi is indeed an intellectual’s journey that remains out of the scope of what common folk must understand, this is evidently not the case. Yurikuma Arashi‘s native story, and Ikuhara’s heavy-handed use of repetition actually does the opposite, making the thematic elements quite plain even if it does interfere with the series’ delivery of said themes.

“In all my years of discussion, reviews, reflection, it was never personal. But I’ll tell you now, what I’m about to do to your stubborn, annoying little analysis, I’m gonna enjoy it: very, very much.” – Thanos, Avengers: Endgame

While it may seem that a Herculean tasks lies ahead for refuting the analysis pieces, there is actually no need for such an endeavour: each of these makes the flawed assumption that literary allusions in a given work are meant to represent, one-to-one, the the themes and ideas of the works being alluded to. Allusions are employed to encapsulate complex themes and symbols from another work with the aim of drawing a comparison and further the author’s own work. Allusions may take different forms, but are primarily done either to apply a particular context to a new situation or else is used as an opposition to a particular idea. However, allusions are never meant to be viewed as a sign that a work has completely adopted an idea from another source whole-sale. For example, in Frankenstein, Mary Shelly alludes to Prometheus, a Greek Titan who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity, his creation. He was sentenced to have his liver consumed by an eagle for his troubles, and is intended to be viewed as a symbol of intelligence. Subsequent Western Classical works viewed Prometheus to be a representation of the price of scientific progress, and Frankenstein’s monster in particular was intended to illustrate this notion. However, Frankenstein and Prometheus differ wildly: whereas Prometheus sought to help his creations, Frankenstein condemned his out of guilt and horror. This contrast is merely one instance where an author uses an allusion to rapidly establish a particular idea, but then subsequently goes on to use their own characters and setting to convey their intended message. It is then ludicrous to suppose that simply because an allusion to Freudian or Hesse’s duality might be vaguely present, the concept of Id and Ego, or themes of Demian, must necessarily be mirrored in Yurikuma Arashi. Ikuhara may use imagery from these works to establish a certain idea, but the trials that Ginko and Kureha experience tell a very different story about themes of persistence in love and resistance society offers where forbidden romances are involved. Duality is only used to motivate the theme (rather than forming the entire theme as Kolpakova suggests), and Freudian notions are far removed from what Yurikuma Arashi portrays. The premises that Kolpakova and others utilise is therefore incomplete or false, and one cannot soundly establish that the premise results in the conclusions seen; while the conclusion may or may not be true, it does nothing to prove the premise. The outcome is similar to making use of a flawed methodology in a scientific experiment that results in data that may or may not be trustworthy, invalidating the outcomes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this post is a bit on the wordy side, I’ll provide an elevator summary of things – existing analysis can be misleading or incomplete because they presuppose that the symbols here match up 1:1 with usage in their original context, and contrary to expectations, Yurikuma Arashi does have merits of its own independent of the “intellectual” piece. There are multiple ways of approaching Yurikima Arashi beyond a strict academic mindset, and I do not suggest drawing on any one discussion as being more or less valid than another. However, starting an argument with a false premise results in a conclusion whose truthfulness is unknowable, and in this post, I aim to show that Yurikuma Arashi is both enjoyable in the absence of an academic mindset and that most academically-styled discussions out there invariably end up committing a fallacy of incomplete evidence.

  • With that out of the way, this talk on Yurikuma Arashi is categorised as a “Terrible Anime Challenge” post, meaning I need to provide a verdict on whether or not the show met expectations or not. If I were to approach it purely as an anime, then the answer is yes, Yurikuma Arashi provided a coherent theme and story worth watching, that matches reception set by parts of the community I consider reliable. From this perspective, I would score Yurikuma Arashi a C grade (2.0 of 4.0, corresponding roughly to a 6 of 10) – not great, but not terrible, either. Conversely, if I were made to regard Yurikuma Arashi as the “intellectual fantasy”, I would not have fun because I would be unable to reach the same conclusions as those reached by the analysis in the community, and this score would drop down to an F grade.

  • What Yurikuma Arashi does well is that it sets the initial precedence that bears are supposed to be the antagonists, and that humanity are the protagonists, but then these boundaries are quickly shattered. Ginko’s forwardness with Kureha immediately shows that these initial assumptions do not hold true: if it were the simple case that bears consume humans, then Ginko would have already destroyed Kureha. The narrative in Yurikuma Arashi is linear but filled with flashbacks and recollections, which the anime helpfully makes clear is the case.

  • The exclusion rituals carried out are done so with a mindless synchronisation, and the animation itself speaks volumes about how exclusion is absurd in a society where acceptance ought to be the norm. One element that is seen frequently are prints evocative of Maurits Cornelis Escher’s prints, which are known for their repetitive mathematical patterns. Kolpakova argues that the seagull motifs (yurikamome, specifically, Chroicocephalus ridibundus) are supposed to represent the dark side of yuri, when in fact, seagulls are commonly used to signify resourcefulness. In this case, the mathematical patterns imply the determination and lengths that the Invisible Storm members will go to exclude others.

  • How did I end up having fun watching what was supposed to be a test of the limits of my powers of reasoning? I ended up watching Yurikuma Arashi with my mind on the bigger picture, with also an appreciation for the art style, use of familiar anime facial expressions and more conventional comedic approaches. Despite its highly distinct setting, unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, some visual traits from more light-hearted series do appear in Yurikuma Arashi, relaxing the atmosphere. Kureha ended up being a character I could get behind and learn more about, along with Ginko and Lulu – Yurikuma Arashi provides no shortage of exposition so everyone’s goals and stories are out in the open.

  • Escher’s famous work does suggest duality, but this is not a theme in and of itself as Kolpakova suggests. Instead, the transformation from fish to seabirds foreshadows Yurika Hakonaka’s hidden nature. Despite being a teacher at Arashigaoka, she’s actually a bear who knew Kureha’s mother and ate her out of jealousy. Similarly, the filing cabinets do not represent a cage, but instead, Yurika’s own desire to preserve that which is good. Symbols in a literary work are meant to be used to succinctly indicate a particular concept or idea, and so, while they are useful for foreshadowing or augmenting a theme, they are by no means the single element that must be examined to understand a work. It is for this reason I am not inclined to say that Kolpakova’s conclusions, or the seventeen-part analysis out there, are particularly valuable for anyone seeking an explanation of Yurikuma Arashi.

  • The main issue that I do have with Kolpakova’s psychoanalysis of Yurikuma Arashi is that the Court of Severance’ judges are supposed to represent Freudian principles of Id, Ego and Super-Ego. Sigmund Freud proposed that the human psyche had three interacting pieces that governed one’s actions, and while radical for his time, Freud’s speculations remain little more than pseudoscience on the virtue that there is no testable (and therefore, refutable) hypothesis, or any vigourous application of the scientific method, for that matter. Introductory psychology classes open with arguments refuting Freud, and his claims are regarded with the same respect as the theory of spontaneous generation, which supposed that living matter could arise from non-living matter (it is now accepted as fact that micro-organisms produce the observations).

  • Knowing that Freud’s propositions are largely incorrect and incomplete should be sufficient in discouraging folks from using them in an argument: anyone arguing for spontaneous generation would be swiftly destroyed in argument with overwhelming evidence for microorganisms and their properties. However, especially amongst the anime community, Freud remains popular for conducting any sort of “intellectual” discussion because behind the jargon, Freud’s concepts are actually very rudimentary and quick to pick up, while simultaneously being obscure enough to give the impression of being well-read. For this reason, some light novel authors (such as Nagaru Tanigawa, who wrote The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi) use fundamentals from Freud to quickly reference something.

  • While it is not the Tanigawa’s (or any author’s) intent to suggest Freud is correct, mere suggestion of an older philosophical concept, regardless of merit, causes some to gravitate towards using it in their own discussion. Kolpakova is one example, and while the Court of Severance might initially appear to be personifications of the Super-Ego, Ego and Id, the fact they reach the same conclusion every time illustrates how where love is concerned, the results are deterministic because love is irrational, and therefore, cannot properly demonstrate the interactions between the concepts Freud postulated to be true. With a false premise, claims that Freud is relevant and applicable to Yurikuma Arashi are incorrect, and I’ve long felt that folks who fall back on Freud end up accomplishing little more than indicating that they wish to appear smarter than they are.

  • If everything in Yurikuma Arashi is a symbol, then do the bullets and rifles mean anything? The answer is probably not, beyond illustrating the extent of the prejudice that the humans have against the bears. The Remington 750 Woodsmaster that Kureha and the other members of the Invisible Storm use is a semi-automatic rifle that was produced between 2006 and 2015. I expect that the Invisible Storm version of the rifle, which is outfitted with a ten-round magazine and 4x optics, is chambered for the .30-06 Springfield round, which has reliable stopping power against bears at medium ranges.

  • Contrary to the initial expectation that a profound understanding of German literature and Freudian psychology was integral to an enjoyable Yurikuma Arashi experience, I ended up finding aspects of the series enjoyable for completely different reasons. The character design and exposition gives viewers reason to back Kureha, Ginko and Lulu, while the distinct architectural elements create the same sense of distance that Puella Magi Madoka Magica was able to create. Like the isolation that Madoka, Homura and Sayaka experience from their world, Kureha is noticeably isolated from her surroundings. This allows for her interactions with Ginko and Lulu to be emphasised, while simultaneously reminding viewers that she’s very much excluded from other humans.

  • The music of Yurikuma Arashi is particularly strong: the incidental music bears some similarity with Yuki Kajirua’s compositions for Madoka Magica, and Bonjour Suzuki’s haunting, ethereal performance of the opening theme, Ano Mori de Matteru, brings a ecclesiastical quality to what’s happening in Yurikuma Arashi. This is accentuated by the church bells and prayer-like delivery of the first few lines, after which Suzuki delivers the line zutto (absolutely or always) with a seductive, sexy voice before delving into a higher-paced stanza. The music in Yurikuma Arashi is exceptionally strong, contributing to the story as well as the visuals do.

  • Ultimately, Yurikuma Arashi is an anime whose reputation precedes it – because it is described as an “intellectual fantasy”, the series drew viewers with a particular mindset to it, and their resulting response to Yurikuma Arashi gave the impression that anyone reaching a conclusion that deviated from what was established by these individuals were lacking. Ergo, the intent of this post was partly to look at some discussions out there and illustrate that they are not as airtight as their tone and style might otherwise suggest; viewers should trust their own judgement over those presented elsewhere – everyone has their own interpretation of a given work, and to suppose otherwise is counted a form of gatekeeping.

  • The so-called Wall of Severance is always seen to be under construction. As a physical barrier between humanity and bears, the wall itself is presented as being perpetually ineffectual thanks to the special portal; that it is constantly being expanded shows the ineffectiveness of intolerance. Yurikuma Arashi‘s setting design and in particular, use of the school rooftop as a significant setting, is similar to how Madoka Magica‘s similarly set Mami, Sayaka and Madoka’s conversations on the school rooftop, creating a sense of distance and isolation that forces viewers to focus on the characters.

  • While Kureha spends the first section of Yurikuma Arashi stating her hate for bears and declaring her intent to “ruin” bears (破壊, hakai, literally “destroy”), Kureha’s feelings are actually locked behind removal of her memories. Once the extent of her old friendship with Ginko is recalled, she does everything in her power to realise her feelings, even if it means pushing Ginko and Lulu away for their own safety once the Invisible Storm begin ramping up their extermination efforts – they somehow procure a particle beam weapon that is absolutely lethal against the bears.

  • The white lily is supposed to represent purity and innocence in both Western and Japanese culture, but became used as a term referring to girls love fiction in the 1970s. The contrast between the purity these flowers signify, and the decidedly more lewd aspects of love form a jarring comparison, reminding viewers that love is simultaneously pure and not pure. The flowers themselves can be eaten and in Chinese cuisine, are said to have medicinal properties: the Cantonese, for instance, add 百合 (jyutping baak3 hap6) to 木瓜糖水 (jyutping muk6 gwaa1 tong4 seoi2, a kind of papaya sweet soup), although personally, this is definitely not to my liking.

  • In the end, Kureha and Ginko’s love win out over the opposition from society: Kureha transforms into a bear and delivers unto Ginko the “promised kiss”. Yurikuma Arashi is very insistent with its terminology, which is beaten into viewers at every turn. Similarly, idiosyncrasies such as kuma shock and yuri dark appear far more often than is necessary – viewers get that something is going down, and it’s obvious even without the extra help. Enduring past these eccentricities, however, is rewarding for being able to see the outcome of Ginko and Kureha fulfilling a longstanding promise.

  • The Invisible Storm are shocked that such a phenomena could manifest, and in its aftermath, the leader hastily declares a mission success. Of the Invisible Storm, Uchiko Ai stood out to me: after the events of the finale, she begins to question the Invisible Storm and finds Konomi in a box marked “defective”, befriending her. Even more so than Kureha and Ginko’s love, the newfound friendship between Uchiko and Konomi moved me greatly. Overall, while themes of duality are present in Yurikuma Arashi as Kolpakova suggests, duality is meaningless in and of itself: Yurikuma Arashi shows that the for superficial differences, seemingly different sides of a coin are actually more similar than we realise and cannot exist without the other.

  • Because I come so late to the party, I doubt that my recommendations here, namely, to always use one’s own judgement towards a work and to be skeptical of opinions on the internet, will be regarded as being useful by anyone looking to make heads and or tails of Yurikuma Arashi at present. Shortly after Yurikuma Arashi‘s airing, the sheer volume of discussion claiming to “explain” Yurikuma Arashi that developed was unreal: anime convention panalists even hosted discussions on the series’ contributions to academia and society. It took me considerable effort to push through this series, and I only gained momentum to finish once I was halfway through, although once things picked up, I’m glad to have stuck the course this time around (I’d dropped the series three times before).

  • Because this was not a conventional post, I meandered and wandered quite a bit. Bringing things back together as we draw to the end, I personally found that in the absence of any sort of intellectual expectation, Yurikuma Arashi exceeded my initial expectations – while the repetition dulled my enjoyment somewhat, the honesty of the story, together with the sound and visual elements made it rather more fun to watch. However, I stand by my beliefs that Yurikuma Arashi does not represent a significant contribution to contemporary understanding of society or philosophy, nor does the series require an extensive appreciation of classical literature and psychology to appreciate. Watching Yurikuma Arashi demonstrates that for the most part, I can find positivity in the things that I do. The next post I have lined up for the Terrible Anime Challenge series will deal with Blend S, which I’m told is a deep psychoanalysis on work culture and is supposed to be superior to GochiUsa; those there are fighting words, and I look forwards to seeing if these lofty assertions hold true.

With this in mind, it is not the objective of this post to refute everything Kolpakova and others have stated: from a certain mindset, there could be merit in their conclusions. Instead, the goal is to note that their conclusions are not made with sound methods or a full appreciation of literary analysis, and that there is actually more to Yurikuma Arashi than just analysing the symbols and themes from older works. In fact, true literary analysis is a very broad field, and any analysis can be conducted from a variety of angles, all of which are equally valid. I typically look at a work based on its ability to speak to matters of personal growth or the implications an author has made about science and technology using their work because that is my background, while others might choose to approach from a social perspective. Others may view a work as being insightful into the political or economic state the author strives to convey, while some individuals may choose to discard the author’s intentions outright and view it from their own perspectives. This is why my own conclusions about Yurikuma Arashi should not be regarded as being the only one available, and similarly, the conclusions Kolpakova and others reach are not necessarily the only way to approach this anime (or others, for that matter). The premise that Yurikuma Arashi is an “intellectual fantasy” ultimately comes across as being more than a gimmick to sell the fact that Yurikuma Arashi is very fanciful in its use of imagery, and for the numerous flaws the series possesses, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that underneath all of the obscure symbols, sometimes-inane repetition and unsteady fæirytale-like presentation, there is a rather touching story about the strength of love and how it can prevail over prejudice. In short, one does not need an extensive understanding of philosophy or classical literature to enjoy Yurikuma Arashi. While I would not recommend this anime to readers who are accustomed to my usual realm of interests, folks who greatly enjoy the yuri genre or enjoy series with a great deal of imagery may find Yurikuma Arashi worthwhile. Finally, as to whether or not Yurikuma Arashi lives up to the question posed by this post, the answer is going to be either a relief or disappointing – P.A. Works’ Glasslip and R.D.G. Red Data Girl remain in the unfortunate throne of being the second worst and worst anime I’ve seen to date.

Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? Review and Reflection After Three

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounan Desu ka? Review and Reflection After Three

“You sweat, you die” –Les Stroud

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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