The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

Terrible Anime Challenge: Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Or, Every Breath I Take Without Your Permission Raises My Self-Esteem

“They’ll just send in some special ops douchebags with pussy-ass heartbeat monitors on their guns, instead of us.” –Terrence Sweetwater, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

After university student Kazuya Kinoshita is dumped by his girlfriend, Mami Nanami, he falls into a depression and signs up for a rental girlfriend programme via smartphone app. He is assigned Chizuru Mizuhara, a kindhearted and beautiful girl, but when he realises that the date felt hollow, rates her poorly. The next date they go on, Chizuru takes Kazuya to the woodshed, but things are cut short when Kazuya learns his grandmother was hospitalised. He brings Chiruzu with him and inadverdently creates a misunderstanding in which his grandmother, and Chizuru’s grandmother, assume the pair are dating. The pair try to break things off while at the same time, remain tactful to their grandmothers, who would be heartbroken to learn that their relationship was a scam. However, things become increasingly complex when other rental girlfriends appear and begin falling for Kazuya, who’s come to genuinely fall in love with Chizuru, who took up the rental girlfriend post to better prepare for her aspiration of being an actress. This is Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-A-Girlfriend, literally “I’d like to rent a girlfriend”), an anime that aired during the summer of 2020, and whose very presence had been lambasted to Hel and back by irate viewers who found the premise outlandish, the progression implausible, and Kazuya himself was infuriatingly single-minded and dense. Based purely on the voice of internet critics, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is an anime that would, on first glance, seem consigned to failure: over the course of twelve episodes, Kazuya continues to grovel at Chiruzu’s feet, disregarding the fact that Ruka and and Sumi have fallen head over heels for him. These critics argue that Kazuya is blind to his realities, and for acting in a way they’d certainly never act in, Kanojo, Okarishimasu has therefore failed as an anime. After all, folks watch stories to get inspired, and to see how people overcome their setbacks to become stronger and better learned, but Kanojo, Okarishimasu seemingly offers none of this. Week after week, Kazuya pursues Chizuru, hoping that his persistence and sincerity might one day change her mind, all the while trying to keep the lie from breaking their grandparents’ hearts and fending off suitors who’ve become attracted to Kazuya following his acts of kindness.

Unfortunately, the picture that some of the anime community’s most well-known members paint, with their tweets and MyAnimeList reviews, would have individuals believe that, on the basis that Kazuya isn’t acting in a rational way (i.e. how’d they’d react), the series is therefore unrealistic and not meritorious of being watched. The criticism that characters act differently to how the individual might given a set of circumstances is one I’ve often seen thrown around, although this approach is one lacking validity. A work of fiction is intended to convey a particular theme, and consequently, if a given character were to respond to something in a way that was rational, or conforming with what might be considered common sense, there’d be no lesson to learn, and no theme to convey. Kazuya’s lengthy list of shortcomings and mistakes drive Kanojo, Okarishimasu, and supposing that he enters the story with a modicum of confidence and self-respect, there’d be nothing to present, and no journey to embark on. The fact that he lacks these is what gives the series a reason to present his story. It is common knowledge that giving credence to internet critics, is the quickest way towards developing an incorrect, cynical and bitter view of the world: these individuals conveniently forget that Kanojo, Okarishimasu portrays a Kazuya at the beginning of his journey, someone indecisive, weak-willed and utterly lacking in confidence, that we see. In the knowledge that this series is to continue, then, there is always the prospect of a pay-off from watching Kazuya navigate the world of relationship and slowly improve his own sense of self-worth as he chases after the sharp-tongued Chizuru: the internet critics are inevitably too hasty in their judgement, and a second season will likely show a Kazuya who is better prepared to impress Chizuru, having learnt from his earlier mistakes. While perhaps a gross exaggeration of an unwillingness to date, Kazuya’s choices after Mami dumps him is not implausible, and his confidence is shaken to the core. It therefore stands to reason that a series of (hilarious) misunderstandings to help Kazuya understand why he desires a relationship, well beyond the physical aspects.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll preface the discussion with the suggestion that, were such a service to exist in reality, I would be torn between using it and doing things the old-fashioned way. On one hand, being able to basically buy a guided tutorial on how to properly date would be great practise for when the moment comes where said experience would be helpful, but on the other hand, it’s not as though people fall into a list of procedures, and what works in one scenario may utterly fail in another. Relationships and dating requires finesse on a case-by-case basis, although I suppose that periodically shelling out the cash for this experience isn’t too different than practising one’s interviews.

  • With this in mind, I imagine that were I ever to write a mobile app for the purpose of connecting people with rental girlfriends, I likely find myself rejected by Apple’s review team for violating section 1.1.1 of their App Store Review Guidelines under objectionable content: what happens to Kazuya and Chizuru in Kanojo, Okarishimasu might be amusing for viewers, but such misfortune in real life would be very unfortunate. Further to this, my job description as an iOS developer does not entail wrecking peoples’ lives or making them unnecessarily complicated, so such an app would be outside the boundaries of what I’d consider to be ethical.

  • For this Terrible Anime Challenge post, my verdict is “the negative reception to Kanojo, Okarishimasu anime is greatly exaggerated, and while I did not see enough merits in this anime to readily recommend it to my readers, I do not agree with the vitriol that was directed at the series was necessary, either”. In other words, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu isn’t going to be the next CLANNAD (or anything approaching thus), I see no need to belittle the authors or studio for having produced the anime. I had a moderate amount of fun watching this series and have an inkling of where it’s headed. It also helps that Chizuru is voiced by Sora Amamiya (KonoSub‘s very own Aqua and Akemi Sōryūin from Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru?).

  • Kazuya reminds me of Rick and Morty‘s Jerry Smith, being excessively insecure and cowardly, while at the same time, being also kind-hearted and loyal to a fault. However, Jerry is only a secondary character, and his mistakes are typically contained to a given episode’s subplot. Conversely, Kazuya is the lead in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, and I’ve got my answer as to what would happen were Jerry to take a more active role in Rick and Morty. Having said this, much as I am optimistic that writers will have Kazuya undergo enough growth so Chiruzu no longer steps on him, I would hope that Rick and Morty‘s fifth season, at the very least, lessens the frequency where Jerry is made to act as the series’ punching bag: his misadventures are not funny.

  • Mami Nanami proved to be an interesting character: after chucking Kazuya for unknown reasons, she ends up developing a possessive streak a mile wide and forces her way back into his life, becoming genuinely frustrated that Kazuya seems genuinely infatuated with Chiruzu. I usually don’t take joy in watching characters suffer, but seeing Mami go yandere because of jealousy always puts a smile on my face.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu would disintigrate in the blink of an eye if Kazuya had any backbone: the reason why the series is able to create wild scenarios is because, out of concern for his and Chizuru’s grandmother, telling them the truth about their bogus relationship would be inconsolably disappointing for both, and he doesn’t have it in them to break their hearts in this fashion. Chizuru agrees to keep up with the façade for similar reasons, and while she plays her role as the girlfriend well when on duty, off-duty, she’s blunt, foul-mouthed and poor-tempered wherever Kazuya is concerned.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu certainly takes the pains of reminding viewers every so often how hot Chizuru is, to the point where Mami, herself sporting a good figure, becomes intimidated by Chizuru’s assets. With Kazuya’s personality, a part of me wonders if it would’ve been more effectual to have Kazuya fall in love with Chizuru on personality alone, since this could indicate that he was maturing past looking at a relationship as being purely for physical contact. Having different variables in play can serve to help a series make its point clear, but if too many variables exist, it becomes difficult to ascertain where a series intends to go.

  • One aspect about Kanojo, Okarishimasu that did strike me as a bit strange was the fact that the art quality would shift frequently, and inconsistently. While I understand the use of simplified, chalk-like background artwork for moments where Chizuru is kicking Kazuya’s ass, it becomes a bit more jarring when the lower-quality visuals are seen in more serious moments. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kanojo, Okarishimasu does demonstrate that it can have above-average artwork as well – this is most noticeable during the beach episodes, where the backgrounds and skies are of a much higher standard.

  • Like any drama, trouble is amplified when Ruka joins the party. Initially, Kazuya is surprised that his friend, Shun Kuribayashi, also seemingly has a girlfriend. Kanojo, Okarishimasu presents most of the males in Kazuya’s circle as being inexperienced with relationships but eager to pursue them for their own reasons, not fully understanding that a proper relationship is built on trust and stability over flashier things – I view a partner as someone whose presence makes me an even greater, more empathetic and understanding individual, someone who I can count on and be relied upon by, whom I listen to and offer suggestions for, and someone who would listen to me and offer me advice where needed.

  • Consequently, when Kanojo, Okarishimasu presents relationships in this shallow manner, it suggests that, at least at this point in time, Kazuya and his friends are not sufficiently mature to find someone who can offer that for them. I imagine that this is why Kazuya got burned by Mami prior to the series’ beginning – Mami had not been looking for the emotional parts of things and in fact, is suggested to mess around with men for kicks. Conversely, when Ruka is introduced, and she immediately deduces that Chizuru is a rental girlfriend, things get tricky for Kazuya real fast.

  • Kazuya is put into a bit of a bind when it turns out Ruka is in love with him: despite expressing open hostility towards him after their first meeting, after Kazuya saves her from a bad fall, Ruka begins to see the real Kazuya. I appreciate that the idea of anyone falling in love with someone as indecisive and cowardly as Kazuya can seem outlandish, but at the same time, the Kazuya we see just took a beating after Mami dumped him, so it is understandable that he would feel like he’s walking on eggshells around women.

  • My choice of page quote comes from Ruka and her unique heart condition: Kazuya’s been the only person able to elevate her heart rate, and for this, Ruka suspects that Kazuya’s special to her, worthy of pursuing. Of course, the joke here is that in a relationship, one doesn’t exactly need a heartbeat monitor to determine if they’re in love or no: it’s a very specific feeling that one would know when they’d experience it – if it were not apparent, I’d also spent the past long weekend playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2: it turns out that after reinstalling my OS, I’d lost my old save files, and so, I resolved to unlock everything again. I still occasionally revisit Bad Company 2‘s campaign for nostalgia’s sake, so I figured it be nice to have all the levels unlocked for that purpose.

  • While I’d love to share my Bad Company 2 adventures anew, this is a Kanojo, Okarishimasu post, and here, after Ruka demonstrates to Kazuya and Chizuru her feelings are authentic, Chiruzu suggests that he at least spend time with Ruka to see where things go. Despite her dislike for Kazuya, Chizuru does care for his well being and promises to keep an eye on him until he can get a proper girlfriend and finally be truthful to his grandmother. This scenario, however, imposes additional challenges for Kazuya: he’s fairly confident that he’s in love with Chizuru and feels it unfair to be leading Ruka on when he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings.

  • I imagine that Chizuru wants Kazuya to first regain his confidence around women, which is why she agrees to let Ruka spend time with him: for her, the best case is that Kazuya comes to appreciate Ruka and can stand on his own two feet. Of course, what this will really do is to help Kazuya rediscover his own confidence and face Chizuru better: Kanojo, Okarishimasu has made it quite clear that there’s a long and difficult road to Chizuru, and that every step of the way, Kazuya’s determination to set things right with her will lead her to come around.

  • With this in mind, there is a limit to what persistence can do, and in reality, if the magic isn’t there, it isn’t there. Fiction is fond of suggesting that enough grit can turn things around, but this is wishful thinking: relationships have an intangible component to them that isn’t readily quantified, and it can be difficult to put this in words. Consequently, I do feel bad for Ruka: she’s genuinely in love with Kazuya, but as the story dictates, heartbreak will likely await her. Ruka is voiced by none other than Nao Tōyama, whom my readers should know as Shimarin from Yuru Camp△ and Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō, amongst other well-known roles.

  • Late in the series, Sumi Sakurasawa is introduced to Kanojo, Okarishimasu. Despite being uncommonly shy, she decides to take on the rental girlfriend job to prepare herself for a career as an idol and figures doing this would get her more comfortable with people. At Chizuru’s behest, Sumi goes on a few trial dates with Kazuya to better her skills. Their first date is fraught with challenges, including a couple of shady guys hassling her, and then Mami’s sudden arrival. In spite of Kazuya’s feeble efforts in fending them off, the sincerity of his actions convince Sumi that Kazuya’s the real deal.

  • Another familiar face from KonoSuba returns: Rie Takahashi (Megumin) voices Sumi. I also know her previous roles as Yuru Camp△‘s Ena Saitō. Altogether, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu does have a setup that could yield a worthwhile payoff later down the line, the challenge this series faced during its run is the fact that Kazuya’s growth happens very slowly: there’s no indicator that he’s more confident in himself by the series’ end, as he even ditches a date with Ruka to tail Chiruzu closer to Christmas when she hangs out with a coworker. A Kazyua coming to his own would have a little more faith in Chizuru and not do such things.

  • With everything in mind, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is very much an incomplete work, and the series would’ve likely worked better as a full-cour series spanning twenty four episodes, rather than be split into two seasons. This would’ve presented a much more complete picture than the current setup did, and while some words folks have thrown at Kanojo, Okarishimasu are unreasonably harsh, I appreciate that this series has been uncommonly frustrating owing to its pacing and Kazuya’s apparent lack of growth. However, it’s not all bad news bears for Kanojo, Okarishimasu: other viewers, likely those who empathise with Kazuya and his situation, found the series relatable.

  • As for where I sit on things, I would tend to believe that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a series where viewers would be better served if they waited for the second season before beginning their journey, although as I’ve noted earlier, I did find some enjoyment out of this chaotic, hectic series. While I concede that this series is not for a majority of viewers who are looking for a meaningful or moving romance, the series certainly doesn’t merit the insults directed at it, either. Concerning those who feel strongly about anime opinions enough to resort to such crude means, this post’s title is representative of my response to them, in addition to acting as a metaphor for Kazuya’s journey throughout Kanojo, Okarishimasu after Mami dumped him.

  • The line is inspired by a moment from Rick and Morty‘s fourth season, during which Rick begrudgingly attends a heist movie themed convention and publicly insults a figure known for heists in-universe during a panel. When the crowd boos him, Rick responds with this gem of a line: it is a clever and hilarious stab at certain fandoms, where some of the more vocal individuals vehemently object to any opinion not in alignment with their own. In this sense, my whole blog’s existence is an insult to them, and very much like Rick, every breath that I take without their permission raises my self-esteem. Moreover, said individuals’ criticisms of the anime that I find passable or enjoyable mean nothing, for I’ve seen what makes them cheer 😛

Unsurprisingly, twelve episodes is clearly not sufficient a timeframe to properly illustrate everything: at this point in time, it remains too early to determine whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu is worth watching. On one hand, watching Kazuya’s failures is fairly challenging: he acts in a way contrary to what one would expect, but on the flipside, the fact that there will be a second season somewhere in 2022 means that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is by no means complete, and to review the series at this point would be akin to discussing a hockey game when one team is leading 4-1 after two periods of play. Much as how anything can happen in the final period (most recently, the Edmonton Oilers were handed a devastating blow when they blew a 4-1 lead against the Winnipeg Jets and lost in overtime), anime can occasionally still find ways of surprising people. Kanojo, Okarishimasu is not an exception to this rule, and while at present, I would not give the series a glowing recommendation or suggest folks watch it out of curiosity (unless one is uncommonly tolerant, or looking for a good laugh), I’m also not going to stop them from checking the series out. In an anime dominated by Kazuya’s bad decisions, there are a handful of genuinely heartwarming moments, seeing Chizuru’s foul personality outside of her duties is always hilarious, and Mami’s yandere-like traits make seeing her recoil in jealousy in response to what Kazuya does is made all the more satisfying. Whether Kanojo, Okarishimasu manages to right itself by the second season and really focus on Kazuya’s pursuit of Chizuru remains to be seen, but at this point in time, it’s still early to be passing a verdict on whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu is, in the words of the internet critics, a train-wreck. In more civilised words, whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu paints a compelling picture with its theme is something that will require further exploration, and this, for better or worse, remains a ways off.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Kamisama ni Natta Hi and The Path To Pursuing What Counts

“History isn’t kind to men who play God.” –James Bond, No Time To Die

When a mysterious girl proclaiming herself God appears in front of high school student Yōta Narukami and declares that the world will end within a month, Yōta is skeptical. However, the girl, calling herself Hina Sato, manages to convince Yōta of her power by correctly deducing the outcome of a horse race, and she offers to help him pursue his feelings for Kyōko Izanami. While Yōta is initially irritated by Hina’s pompous and all-knowing attitude, he is shocked that his parents would allow Hina to stay with them. Over the course of the summer, Yōta comes to follow her suggestions as he tries to impress Kyōko and set in motion the events to help her accept her mother’s death, helps to revitalise a failing ramen shop, participate in Sora, his younger sister’s, film, attend a summer festival and even win a mahjong competition. Yōta learns that Hina had been abandoned as a child because of an untreatable neurodegenerative disorder, but her adoptive grandfather moved heaven and earth to create a quantum neural control interface that gave Hina a normal life, and moreover, his parents had agreed to look after Hina. Quite separately, Hiroto, a foreign computer systems prodigy, learns that Hina possesses a unique device far surpassing anything available to humanity, and when denied the opportunity to study it, realises he was being used and elects to help Hina. While Hina is captured towards the end of Sora’s filming project and taken away for surgery, Yōta is unable to move on and ends up pursuing a lead from Hiroto. Against all odds, he is able to find Hina, who is living at an assisted care facility. While he is initially unable to elicit a reaction from Hina, his unorthodox methods leads Hina to demonstrate that she still possesses memories of their time together during the previous summer. After Hina returns home, they watch Sora’s film together, and Yōta promises to be together with Hina no matter what challenges cross their path. This is Kamisama ni Natta Hi (The Day I Became a God), P.A. Works’ title for the fall season of 2020. With its intriguing premise and Ayane Sakura in the leading role, Kamisama ni Natta Hi drew my interest, only to drop off my radar as I became swamped with other matters and hit a roadblock with the introduction of mahjong. Kamisama ni Natta Hi thus fell to the back of my mind, and for the longest time, I simply lacked the motivation to carry on. However, the anime community I’m a part of wouldn’t hear of this and suggested that I continue. On their suggestion, I continued watching Kamisama ni Natta Hi, learning in the process that beyond the barrier of mahjong and Hiroto’s initially-disagreeable traits, Kamisama ni Natta Hi was in fact, right up my alley.

At its core, Kamisama ni Natta Hi is classic Jun Maeda, who is best known for his stories that deal with an appreciation for the ordinary, and treasuring the time that one spends with those important to them. While Maeda’s themes invariably focus on how having memories and moments to reflect fondly on give individuals the strength to overcome seemingly-insurmountable challenges, his stories differ in terms of background and context. Angel Beats! is probably the closest of Maeda’s previous works to Kamisama ni Natta Hi; both stories deal with the significance of being able to live a normal life and participate in the things that youth typically would. While these things are easy to take for granted, folks afflicted with medical conditions or live in difficult circumstances are denied these luxuries: Maeda’s works all share this theme, and it becomes clear that to Maeda, there is no greater treasure than normalcy. However, Angel Beats! had placed the characters in a new world to give them a second go at things, while here in Kamisama ni Natta Hi, Yōta is dropped into a situation where Hina’s origins and claims are initially unclear. However, like Angel Beats!‘ Yuzuru Otonashi, Yōta quickly learns of the significance of what Hina had intended to accomplish, and in the aftermath, is able to appreciate what lies beyond the deadline that Hina continued to mention. With this strength in him, Yōta is able to summon the strength to continue caring for Hina: in this way, Hina becomes Kamisama ni Natta Hi‘s Yui, and Yōta is an amalgamation of Yuzuru and Hideki Hinata’s characters. While the contexts might differ wildly, the end message is the same: as people spend time together and come to appreciate one another, the ensuing bonds that form are resilient. Yōta’s words parallel that of Hideki’s, with the two promising that no matter what the distance, they’d always find a way to be together. When it became apparent that Kamisama ni Natta Hi intended to take this path, my enjoyment of the series skyrocketed, and I found myself feeling foolish to have considered dropping the series. Kamisama ni Natta Hi initially opens with events that seem disjointed and unrelated, but as the series progresses, it becomes clear that there is a reason behind the choices made within the series.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My initial decision to watch Kamisama ni Natta Hi was almost entirely motivated by the fact that Hina is voiced by Ayane Sakura, who I know best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, and for the fact that I’d not seen something from P.A. Works since 2018’s Iroduku: The World in Colours. The series had been a little slow to start for me, with Hina’s energy and enigmatic presence being the primary driving force behind my interest in the series. Smug, conceited and possessing the powers to match her mouth, Hina is an interesting character, resembling Angel Beats!’ Yui.

  • Yōta, on the other hand, is an ordinary high school student. He’s reluctant to believe that the world could end in thirty days, and continues to study for his entrance exams after Hina’s arrival. I was quite intrigued to see what this entailed – Kamisama ni Natta Hi didn’t seem like a series to deal in large-scale cataclysms that could trigger an extinction-level event, and being set in the real-world, one wonders about Hina’s true origin.

  • All of Jun Maeda’s works follow a very well-defined pattern, utilising over-the-top, excessive humour in the beginning to give viewers the sense that we were dealing with distinct characters whose traits would bounce off one another. Of course, this would inevitably mean that the story will, at some point, take everything away from the protagonists. Maeda is famous for this approach, and while they were very successful with things like AIRKanon and CLANNAD, audiences have become very divided his works owing to how little variety there is: since the method was used originally, reusing it means that viewers inevitably know what to expect.

  • I happen to be in the camp of folks who enjoy Maeda’s approach – his exaggerated portrayals of mirth and sorrow speak to the spectrum of emotions people can experience in life, and the juxtaposition between melancholy and joy has always been something I found to bring his works to life. Early in Kamisama ni Natta Hi, almost everything is nonsensical as Hina settles in with the Narukami family. Sora doesn’t really get along with Hina all that well in the beginning, being nonplussed at Hina’s mannerisms.

  • I personally found Hina to be adorable, doubly so for the fact that Sakura voices Hina the same way she did Cocoa and Iroha. Here, Yōta and Hina share watermelon together – like Angel Beats!Kamisama ni Natta Hi places a large emphasis on the mundane, and something like enjoying watermelon is something to be celebrated. However, despite giving the impression that she’s here to make the most of the 30 days remaining, Hina also pushes Yōta forwards, determined to help him make his feelings known to childhood friend Kyōko.

  • Kyōko had known Yōta since they were children, but after her mother passed away, she became withdrawn. Yōta’s persistence is impressive, and with Hina’s predictions, he is able to set up scenarios to get closer to Kyōko, although more often than not, he feels like he’s cheating and backs down, frustrating Hina. While Kyōko continues to reject Yōta’s kokuhaku, he persists, and it turns out that she does have feelings for him. Here, as Yōta performs a song of Hina’s design, he does manage to impress Kyōko, who takes over. The incidental music in Kamisama ni Natta Hi is reminiscent of Angel Beats!, featuring a combination of more unremarkable pieces as well as the more poignant songs that are of an exceptional quality.

  • When Sora’s friend, Hikari, shows up at the Narukami residence and explains she’s in debt, Hina uses her powers to elevate a local ramen joint to prominence, blowing the loan shark troubling Hikari in the process. The first few episodes of Kamisama ni Natta Hi are all over the place, and when the fourth episode dealt with richi mahjong, as well as formally introducing Hiroto and his investigation into one Shuichiro Korogi, I was thrown off. I decided to take some time to regroup, but with both GochiUsa BLOOM and Road to Berlin demanding episodic reviews, I subsequently fell further and further behind.

  • After GochiUsa BLOOM and Yuru Camp△ 2 ended, however, I ended up developing Cocoa withdrawal. I thus hopped onto Discord and received feedback from the community I’m a part of: folks encouraged me to give Kamisama ni Natta Hi another go, and I resolved to finish the series. I therefore pushed through the fourth episode, doing my best not to worry about the arcane mahjong terminology, and at the end, was met with a hilarious reward: lawyer Kako Tengan had taken a liking to Yōta, who participated in the tournament at Hina’s behest so he could meet a role model, but ends up getting more than he bargained for when Kako tries to seduce him.

  • Once the fourth episode was past, Kamisama ni Natta Hi really began to hit its stride. When Yōta learns that Kyōko is more reserved than usual, he resolves to get her father out of the house to visit his wife’s grave. With Hina’s help, Yōta manages to show Kyōko’s father how much the world’s changed when he develops an interest in new restaurants, and he finally opens up. Armed with the knowledge that Kyōko’s mother had left video messages for the two of them, Hina arranges to mimic a call with Kyōko as her mother and does a profoundly good job, causing Kyōko to realise what needs to be done.

  • As father and daughter watches these videos, in which Kyōko’s mother implores them to push onwards with life and live as fully as they can, they come to understand that clinging to the past would be to disrespect her wishes. Both Kyōko and her father come to accept this, and for the first time in Kamisama ni Natta Hi, Kyōko smiles. This episode is classic Maeda, and it was here that I finally felt the motivation to continue watching to see what would happen next. This was the single turning point in Kamisama ni Natta Hi – from the fifth episode onwards, I realised that beyond the blocker that was mahjong, and Hiroto’s yet-to-be-determined significance, what the series required from me most was patience.

  • The magic moment in Kamisama ni Natta Hi lay past the three episode mark, and while three episodes is a widely-adopted practise, different people set store by different standards when it comes to anime. Being a hobby, I have no consistent rules for when I drop a series. I do, however, vehemently disagree with the idea that an anime necessarily needs to make its central theme clear within the first three episodes; themes are something that must be built out over time, and the payoff comes from seeing the whole journey and the context of the individual moments.

  • At Kamisama ni Natta Hi‘s halfway point, Yōta’s able to assemble an impressive group to bring Hina to the summer festival: even Kako attends, despite sparring with Hina almost immediately after meeting up. Here, Hina munches on a festival delicacy that impresses everyone in the group when they try it. Between her facial expressions and the fact that she sounds like a brattier (but still adorable) version of Cocoa, Hina’s been the life and soul of Kamisama ni Natta Hi thus far. Like Yui, who was noisy and annoying, but charming in her own right, Hina brings a great deal of life into the series.

  • What led to the inevitable comparisons between Kamisama ni Natta Hi and Angel Beats! was the sixth episode, during which Yōta manages to save Hina from being shipped off to Tokyo in a freezer truck after she grows jealous of Yōta and Kyōko seemingly grow closer. Hideki had died with regret in his hear about a baseball game, and wonders if he’d find peace in catching a pop fly. Asura has this part of Hideki in him: after sustaining an injury, he was never able to play basketball quite the same way again, and here, implores Yōta to make the jump that he couldn’t. In the end, the misunderstanding is cleared up, and Hina is moved that Yōta cares for her to this extent.

  • As Kamisama ni Natta Hi progressed, I became increasingly engaged with the series and found it to become more enjoyable, the further I went in. However, I’ve heard that reception to Kamisama ni Natta Hi in some segments of the community became increasingly cold with the passage of time to the point where Jun Maeda disappeared off social media from the sheer volume of hate mail and threats he received. Rather than Kamisama ni Natta Hi, this speaks poorly of the community and speaks to their misplaced sense of entitlement.

  • A respectable anime fan would never resort to detestable means such as vilifying a show or its creators incessantly on social media, and those who spent week after week doing so cannot count themselves as someone I would liaise with willingly, much less accept. I have no qualms with those who disliked Kamisama ni Natta Hi: everyone is permitted their own thoughts on the series, but I hold in contempt those who go out of their way to degrade a show with this level of fervor: this is the lowest of the low, beneath even those who’ve gone to lengths of creating hundreds of false accounts to give an anime a poor rating or downvote opinions contrary to their own. As it stands, I was pleasantly surprised by Kamisama ni Natta Hi, and the series hits its stride by the time Sora kicks off her film.

  • What I particularly liked about Sora’s project was that by this time, Kako and her bodyguard are active, willing participants, and even the loan shark who’d troubled Hikari earlier had reformed entirely, being an affable sort of character. Sora’s film gives everyone a chance to be their best, and these changes mirror Maeda’s thoughts that people can be redeemed with patience and understanding. Those who we are quick to judge are simply those we’ve not given fair chance to. With this in mind, I began to see even Hiroto in this light: despite having found him arrogant and disagreeable early on, Kamisama ni Natta Hi would help me to understand where he’s coming from, similarly to how Angel Beats! did the same for Ayato.

  • No longer burdened by her mother’s passing, Kyōko is positively radiant as she helps out with the film. It is not lost on me that Kamisama ni Natta Hi is set in Kofu, Yamanashi: Sora decides to capitalise on the spaces at Fuefuki Fruit Park as her filming location, and the stone patio overlooking Kofu, seen in Yuru Camp△ as the place where Aoi and Chiaki catch their breath after ascending the path up to their campsite, is also where Sora shoots her footage. Unlike Haruhi, Sora is actually a competent directory and script-writer: she has a clear vision for her film, and with Kako’s resources, filming proceeds very smoothly.

  • The change in Yōta’s attitudes towards Hina is apparent, and while he initially brushes her off in pursuit of his studies, he finds that this past summer has been very memorable thanks to Hina. As Kamisama ni Natta Hi steps into its penultimate act, the deadline Hina prophesises suddenly doesn’t seem so intimidating: were the world to end here and now, Yōta appears to have lived his summer very fully, achieving numerous things that certainly wouldn’t have been possible were it not for Hina.

  • The secondary story with Hiroto and the enigmatic CEO is that they’re pursing one Shuichiro Korogi’s research. This is related to Hina, and it turns out that Korogi had independently developed a quantum microprocessor in a bid to free Hina, who’d been born with a condition that left her immobile. The quantum microprocessor gave Hina a normal life in an unexplained mechanism, and the organisation Hiroto is drafted into intends to hold onto this discovery to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. In retrospect, this is a noble choice, as quantum computers could be used to trivially circumvent computer security if malicious actors got access to them.

  • On a hot summer’s day, Yōta decides to take Hina to visit her biological parents after learning from his parents that she’d been abandoned and Korogi had taken her in, as well as making the request that the Narukamis look after Hina after he was gone. The pair thus take a bus deep into the Japanese countryside. While the trip opens with enthusiasm, it is also surrounded by melancholy. There is a charm about the inaka that invites this set of emotions, and it is therefore fitting that the visit to Hina’s biological parents would send the pair out into the rural areas of Japan.

  • It turns out that, unable to bear the thought of having brought Hina into a world only to have her suffer, her father ultimately left Hina and wanted to restart, distancing himself from a problem he imagined was completely outside his power to save. While perhaps understandable, this only serves to demonstrate that Hina’s original father was also weak-willed. While Yōta might be more naïve in his decision, his heart’s in the right place, and the series ultimately vindicates his decision. With the truth in the open, Yōta becomes closer to Hina than before, and as the two overnight in a ryōkan, it does feel like a date of sorts.

  • As Hina’s deadline approaches, she reveals that she deemed the end of the world to be the point where she could not see beyond, and indicates that she never meant the entire world would blink out of existence. On a rainy day during filming, shadowy agents show up to take Hina in and retrieve the quantum computer embedded in her brain after a council decides that Korogi’s technology would threaten humanity at present. Despite Yōta’s efforts, the agents catch up to him and overpowers him easily, separating the two. In the aftermath, Hina is operated on and sent to live at a remote facility.

  • While Yōta does his best to move on with his life as term starts, he cannot help but remember Hina. When Hiroto transfers to his school and attempts to subtly befriend Yōta, the latter remains so distracted that he is unable to see that Hiroto’s interest in activities parallels those of Hina’s. It turns out that Hiroto, intending to atone for his past, wants Yōta to see Hina again. I was surprised at this turn of events, and it typifies Maeda’s characters to become allies once the time is right. However, like CharlotteKamisama ni Natta Hi suffers from the same problems: too much occurs towards the end, and Hiroto’s character is never given time to develop.

  • Seeing Hina lethargic and completely lacking the vigour she previously had was a sobering moment, but it speaks to the genuineness of Yōta’s feelings that he intends to bring her home anyways. Armed with a fabricated identification, Yōta has two weeks to accomplish his goals. The path is fraught with setbacks, and initially, Hina rejects Yōta. The paediatrician tending to Hina, Shiba, dismisses Yōta and explains that post-operation, Hina has developed a fear of men. In spite of this, Yōta pushes on. Much as how Charlotte saw Yū embark on a worldwide tour to save others with unique powers and lost his memory in the process in the final episodes, Kamisama ni Natta Hi only had two episodes depicting Yōta’s efforts to bring Hina back home.

  • Shiba is initially presented as cold and indifferent to Yōta: however, it is revealed that after losing her own daughter, she took up the posting to help other children and spare them her daughter’s fate. In spite of this, when she notices that Yōta’s reports do not align with what he’d been doing with Hina, she alerts security. Up until now, Yōta had actually made some progress with Hina, who vaguely recalls her love for JRPGs. Yōta is ultimately escorted off facility grounds, and as a final act of kindness, Shiba takes Hina out to watch Yōta leave.

  • Out here, Hina suddenly begins expressing a desire to be with Yōta. Shiba had argued earlier that Hina’s personality and traits were likely a product of the quantum computer’s processes, but the fact that Hina still remembers Yōta, enough to reject an image of him because she wants the real deal, indicates that the computer had simply been ampifying what was already there. Through Kamisama ni Natta Hi, then, it is suggested that regardless of their sophistication, computers will not be able to replicate something as sophisticated as emotions for the foreseeable future. In their haste to dismiss this series as a “dumpster fire” (a phrase that I regard as indicative of someone whose arguments have no merit), folks skate over some of the topics that Maeda wished to cover in his latest work.

  • As it becomes clear that Hina still remembers Yōta and her feeling for him, Yōta is overjoyed and rushes off to embrace her, leaving Shiba and the security staff in shock. This revelation convinces Shiba to authorise Yōta to take her back home, having proven that Hina had indeed responded positively to him. The symbolism here is clear enough: it’s a new start for Hina and Yōta, and what lies ahead for Yōta will be difficult. However, the moment also shows what Hideki would’ve done for Yui had they met earlier or realised their feelings for one another sooner. Maeda had always been fond of the idea that love can take many forms, and Kamisama ni Natta Hi is no different in this regard.

  • With Hina back, the old crew finish off their movie, and one evening, Yōta takes Hina to the viewpoint at Fuefuki Fruit Park overlooking Kofu. Nadeshiko had shared a photo with Rin here during their simultaneous camping trips, as a sign that their hearts were drawing closer, and to have Yōta and Hina up here suggests something similar. Yōta’s found his calling in life at this point, promising to go into medical research so that Hina may one day be fully cured and able to live freely again.

  • Sora’s movie is shown at the end of Kamisama ni Natta Hi, and unlike Haruhi’s movie, which barely worked in spite of the troubled production, Sora’s film is well-produced, well-written and well-made. It acts as a reminder of the time Yōta and Hina spent together, and how these memories will always be with him no matter what, giving him the strength to pursue the future in the knowledge that their happiness was very much real. This was the overarching theme I got out of Kamisama ni Natta Hi, and since at the heart of every Terrible Anime Challenge is whether or not there was a coherent theme, the fact that Kamisama ni Natta Hi has one (regardless of what more popular folks than myself assert) means that the series deserves a passing grade in my books.

  • Altogether, Kamisama ni Natta Hi exceeds my expectations for the series. In this terrible anime challenge, the yardstick were my own expectations coming in and the overwhelmingly negative impressions on anime Twitter. I am pleased to say that both were soundly proven wrong, and I had fun with Kamisama ni Natta Hi, more than I originally thought. While the series leaves a great deal unexplored and would’ve benefitted from a more extensive runtime, I nonetheless find that the series did succeed with its core messages. As a result, this one earns a B grade (3 of 4, or 7.5 of ten) in my books: the merits outweigh the shortcomings, and the presence of a unifying, cohesive message tied everything together in a satisfactory fashion. With this post in the books, it’s time to head out into a snowy May day and grab my Pfizer vaccine: booking’s been a nightmare in my side of the world, with my age group eligible, it’ll be nice to finally kick things off.

Consequently, Kamisama ni Natta Hi becomes yet another reminder that patience is oftentimes a virtue in anime: this series did not really hit its stride until its fifth episode, when Yōta manages to set in motion the events that help Kyōko and her father to reconcile. I note that while I found Kamisama ni Natta Hi to be an entertaining and worthwhile series, it is by no means perfect; the series possesses the same pacing as 2015’s Charlotte, starting out slowly and then accelerating wildly towards the end. Similarly, both Kamisama ni Natta Hi and Angel Beats! leave several elements unresolved in favour of ensuring that the central characters reach their resolution as a result of their short runtime. The existence of quantum neural control interfaces would typically result in all sorts of interesting discussion, and the CEO of the unnamed organisation curious in pursuing this research wind up being tangential to the discoveries that Yōta makes. In addition, while Hiroto is similar to Ayato Naoi and Takeyama, being a character viewers could come to sympathise with and playing a major role in setting Yōta with a shot at getting Hina back, his screen time and backstory is minimally explored. The series definitely would’ve benefited from an increased runtime, which would better flesh out the secondary elements that were relevant to the story. Despite these limitations, Kamisama ni Natta Hi matches my own expectations going in, beats the expectations I had of the series following the fourth episode and vastly exceeds the impressions I got of the series from reading the inevitable and unavoidable snippets from well-known but disreputable figures in the community, who were quick to dismiss the series as being forced drama. As the prize for listening to the community I’m a part of and not giving any credence to the unsavoury people on social media, I come out with another solid experience.

Yakunara Mug Cup Mo: Review and Reflections at the Halfway Point

“The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind.” ―Kiran Desai

Himeno Toyokawa moves to Tajimi in Gifu with her father after he decides to quit his job and opens a café. Tajimi is where Himeno’s late mother, a legendary potter, is from, and Himeno is now attending her mother’s old high school. While Himeno is reluctant to take up pottery, she is spurred on by classmates Naoko Naruse and Mika Kukuri to join the Pottery Club, where she is convinced to see the joys of being able to craft something with her own hands that others will find useful. As Himeno picks up the basics, she also learns that different potters have different styles – when the energetic Mika and club president Toko Aoki spar over the former’s inability to focus, Toko recalls that Mika is at her best when given the space to be creative after she’s had a chance to cool down, and later reconciles with Mika. After Himeno accidentally breaks her father’s favourite Ochazuke cup, she sets about creating a new one upon learning that her mother had created that cup. However, in spite of her efforts, Himeno is heartbroken when her father doesn’t react to it as warmly, and begins to lose her interest in pottery. Naoko and Mika decide to take her on a day trip to help her regroup, but they end up tailing their instructor, Mami Koizumi, when they believe she’s going on a date. After they’re caught, and Himeno explains how she’s been feeling, Mami suggests that taking detours every now and then isn’t so bad. She shares in a spectacular summer sight with Himeno, Mika and Naoko – fireflies illuminating the gentle night sky. As the summer settles in, Himeno decides to participate in a pottery contest, but struggles to decide on what to make. When Mami asks Himeno to help out with the pottery museum’s setup over her day off, Himeno comes across a sculpture her mother made, and discovers her mother’s old notes in the museum’s archive. Realising the extent her mother could influence others with her work, Himeno decides to pursue her own brand of pottery and make something that she can be proud of.

Besides Super Cub, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo (literally “If planning to fire (pottery), mug cup too”, English title Let’s Make a Mug Too) is this season’s other slice-of-life series about Mino-ware pottery, an industry that has over a millenia of history and originates from the Toki and Minokamo regions of Gifu prefecture. Archeologists have found evidence of kilns dating back to the seventh century, and during the seventeenth century, Katō Yosabei and his sons opened potteries in the area, cementing the region’s reputation for fine pottery. Part tourism promotion and part cute-girls-doing-cute-things, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is a curious series that is split cleanly down the middle – the first half of each episode is an animated segment that follows Himeno as she picks up the basics surrounding pottery and in doing so, comes to appreciate the craft her mother had excelled at, while the second half is a live-action that presents specialities and features from the area. With the series hybridising animation and live-action, the story piece to Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is about the same length as the average Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! episode. However, the condensed runtime allows Yakunara Mug Cup Mo to be very focused in its presentation, and it becomes clear that Himeno’s journey into the world of pottery will consist of both honing her craft, pursuing her own approach towards pottery and presumably, coming to terms with her mother’s passing as she makes worthwhile discoveries and learnings with her new friends. To this end, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is simultaneously energetic and contemplative, portraying life at both ends of the spectrum to indicate to viewers that sorrow and joy necessarily co-exist, for without sadness, happiness cannot be understood.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Pottery and the creating of earthenwares is a discipline that is well outside the area of my expertise: unlike camping and recreational fishing, which I could pick up and enjoy at a hobby level with a bit of time commitment and the right instruction, or amateur astronomy, where having a solid pair of binoculars and a good guidebook will send one on their way to enjoyment, pottery is a skill that demands skill and attention to detail. Consequently, for Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, I won’t be commenting on the quality of Himeno’s works.

  • Right out of the gates, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo has Himeno headed to school with her friend, Naoko. Having moved to Tajimi in Gifu, Himeno’s father opens his own café after being laid off from his office job. Despite the cheerful atmosphere seen in the typical slice-of-life series, however, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo does seem to suggest at the melancholy and sadness that surrounds the Toyokawa family after Himeno’s mother passed away. This balance creates the lingering sense that pottery is going to act as the catalyst for something bigger,

  • On the first day of classes, Himeno and Naoko run into Mika, a spirited and energetic girl whose mannerisms can seem a little off-putting to some. Naoko and Himeno are certainly taken aback by how forward Mika is, and the pair secretly hope that their paths won’t cross again. Of course, anime create these chance encounters precisely because different personalities serve to help the protagonist grow in some way. Much as how Nadeshiko and Rin end up meeting despite Rin wishing otherwise early in Yuru Camp△, Himeno and Naoko do end up befriending into Mika owing to their interests in pottery.

  • As a part of her introductions, Himeno tries to advertise the fact that her father runs a café, but what really draws her classmates’ (and instructor’s) attention are the mugs that she brings in. Mika immediately falls in love and attempts to recruit Himeno to the pottery club, and while Himeno does not possess her mother’s innate talent for pottery, she does decide to give things a whirl after learning that her mother had been an alumni of this very school (and pottery club). In the end, Himeno feels that pottery might be something she could take up, although her father wonders if Himeno’s choice of activity might bring back memories of Himeno’s mother.

  • It does feel like there’s a subtle conflict here in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, but such moments seem to be dispersed by the fact that episodes generally possess a very upbeat feeling: it’s hard to be weighed down by past doubts when there’s so much to learn about pottery. Yakunara Mug Cup Mo spends a bit of time explaining to viewers the bit of background behind the different types of pottery, which helps viewers to appreciate the intricacies and nuances in pottery. It turns out that Tajimi’s pottery is known as Mino ware (美濃焼, Hepburn Mino-yaki), which is futher subdivided into four categories based on its colour.

  • Pottery is a big deal in Tajimi, a city with a population of 110000 in Gifu Prefecture. Weather here is generally pleasant, although it gets very hot and humid in the summers. The area has historically been critical in ceramic production, although more recently, with manufacturers located elsewhere, Tamiji’s ceramics industry is more focused on trade and wholesale. A few manufacturers do remain within city limits to continue on with the area’s traditions.

  • To bolster Himeno’s interest in pottery, MIka and Toko decide to bring her around town and show her some examples of local Mino ceramics: well beyond tableware and tiles, ceramics are also used in things as varied as insulators and public works of art. The reason why ceramics are chosen as electrical insulators is because of their mechanical strength, and other insulators, like glass, are comparatively brittle and difficult to cast. Their distinct disk shape, known as sheds, ensures that the leakage area stays dry. Ceramics in statues, on the other hand, are a bit easier to understand: treatment of nonmetallic minerals with heat causes them to assume a tough, corrosion resistant form, but before heat treatment, they’re malleable and can be readily shaped into whatever the user intends.

  • Mami is Himeno’s homeroom instructor and also happens to be the pottery club instructor. She’s fond of swinging by the Toyokawa café and here, checks up on Himeno, who notes that she’s got some large shoes to fill. The idea of the new generation working in the shadows of their forerunners is not new, and for the most part, those who start their journey quickly discover that while their predecessors might’ve accomplished some impressive achievements, their own work is nothing to sneeze at, either.

  • While conflicts are not terribly common in slice-of-life anime, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo does have Mika clashing with Toko after the former displays a very blasé, unconcerned attitude about pottery and creates a commotion with Naoko when goofing off. It turns out that Mika’s talent in pottery comes from the fact that she’s so carefree and spirited, and while it might take her a while to come up with the inspiration, once she’s got it, she’s more than capable of making unique, colourful works. Toko realises this after Himeno picks up a cup that Mika had made, and shortly after, Mika and Toko reconcile.

  • It turns out that Himeno’s father had been hard at work trying to bring new visitors to his café, and determining that offering curry might help bring in new customers, he decides to try out a range of recipes. The pottery club end up enjoying all of them, and even if they aren’t necessarily new recipes, still bring something to the café’s table. This subtle lesson is likely a bit of foreshadowing for Himeno: as she’s still a novice to pottery, she wants to make something worthy of those around her, and as a result, is often bogged down by details.

  • This comes to light when Himeno attempts to craft a replacement ochazuke bowl for her father after accidentally ruining the original, and she sets off to create a new one. I’ve not done any sort of pottery since my time as an elementary student: back in the day, instructors would give us clay to work with, and after we were finished, they would send them off to be baked. The pieces I’d made back then are still around, and compared to even Himeno’s first works, are crude.

  • Ochazuke is a dish of steeped tea and rice in a single bowl topped with salmon, seaweed and other savoury ingredients. It is most commonly enjoyed as an after-meal accompaniment or as a slightly heartier alternative to a snack. Himeno’s father has his ochazuke down to a science, attesting to his love for the dish (and likely, the associated memories with Himeno’s mother).

  • Himeno ends up running into the pottery club while out working on a design: they share with her some pickled plums, which Toko supposes could be an excellent accompaniment for ochazuke. Mika also ends up giving one of Toko’s bowls to Himeno to act as a stand-in for the one that her father hda lost: when her father tries the bowl out, he immediately takes a liking to it. Seeing the sort of bowl her father likes gives Himeno the inspiration to finally get started.

  • Himeno supposes that the ideal bowl would be able to hold onto the proper quantity of ochazuke and thus decides on a deeper, heavier bowl. With the design settled on, it’s time to start crafting them. Himeno ends up making no fewer than fifteen, and seeing the work-in-progress indicates to me that such bowls would be better suited for ramen.

  • While excited at the prospect of finalising the bowls and painting them, learning that her father’s original Ochazuke bowl has had some three decades immediately drives the pressure up: Toko had made the replacement bowl at around Himeno’s age, and Himeno’s grandmother notes that the original bowl had also been made when Himeno’s mother was of that age. The original bowl was skillfully made, and this suggests that Himeno’s mother had a talent for creating the right shape for a given function, as well as the fact that Toko probably has a similar style to Himeno’s mother.

  • For the first time, Himeno finds herself absolutely absorbed in her project and looks forwards to finishing it so that she can see her father’s reaction. However, a part of her also worries about the outcome, and she describes the feeling as being comparable to entering high school. This speaks volumes to Himeno’s personality: she doesn’t like to do things halfway and she cares very much about her father. This is reminiscent of Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Hina Tsurugi, who similarly becomes hooked on fishing because of her disposition for trying until she succeeds. As such, it stands to reason that setbacks won’t hold Himeno back for long.

  • While Himeno’s father says nothing negative per se about the ochazuki bowl Himeno had made for him, she immediately notices that he’s not enjoying things quite to the same extent that he had with Toko’s bowl, and immediately becomes disheartened. This moment was meant to indicate that Himeno, being a novice in pottery, has not yet learnt to eyeball a work’s intended purpose and instead, has gone for style over functionality. With this in mind, it is understandable that at this point in time, Himeno’s feeling nothing but disappointment and promises to improve her craft.

  • The episode’s contribution to Yakunara Mug Cup Mo is to give Himeno a tangible objective, and as such, was a necessary one given the series’ composition. In any other series, this decidedly more serious approach might be seen as overkill. In the words of lesser writers, I believe this is known as “forced drama”, a phrase whose usage is indicative of inadequate understanding, but Yakunara Mug Cup Mo had established that it’s not going purely for the light-and-fluffy route. One other thing that had irked me about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo discussions was that at least one viewer felt compelled to claim that Himeno was a novice for not following a more conventional design, and moreover, that her decoration was “pretty bad, not to mention unnecessary”. Viewers such as these, who try to stand above the characters have never made for good discussion, and I see little reason to place much stock in whatever they say.

  • I’ve never understood why people feel compelled to criticise and correct what the characters are doing in a given slice-of-life anime – the intent of having Himeno making these mistakes was precisely to show she’s still new to pottery. Had Himeno made the logical decision, it would show that she’s experienced, and there’d be no point in having the anime. In Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, Himeno’s disappointment and disillusionment with pottery leads her friends to take her on an outing that quickly turns into a classic tailing exercise. When the girls pass by a station with Hime in its name, Naoko and Mika are quick to tease Himeno about it. I found this adorable – I have similar tendencies, and make puns with people’s names often if I know said people well.

  • It turns out that Naoko and Mika become intrigued in what Mami is doing after they overhear her on the phone, speaking with a friend. The single teacher archetype in anime is one that people consider clichéd, but I’ve long asserted that this is a deliberate choice to maximise the adventures the characters can have with an adult’s assistance. Teachers who are married and home with the family in their personal time won’t be able to drive the students around or help them with various events. The prospect of Mami breaking up with her partner intrigues Naoko and Mika, who decide to tail her through the Gifu countryside.

  • The end result is a delightful day hike that sees Himeno live a little in the moment with her friends, and under the calm of a beautiful summer’s day, the girls eventually tail Mami to a shrine of sorts. They lose her here, and while taking a break, Himeno finally admits that after her father’s less-than-enthusiastic response to her bowl, she began losing her interest in pottery, feeling guilty that she was actually looking forwards to a break in club activities. However, what had weighed heavily on Himeno’s mind don’t bother Naoko and Mika at all.

  • While their heart-to-heart talk helps Himeno to gain some perspective, it also leaves the girls open to discovery – shortly after, Mami shows up, bringing the girls’ attempt to tail her to an end. The classic foot follow is a bit of tradecraft that involves tailing someone, and following someone undetected varies in difficulty. Against most people, keeping a moderate distance will do the trick, although folks familiar with countermeasures will make changes to their route or make unexpected stops and changes to their pacing, looking to see if their followers react in any way. In slice-of-life anime, foot follows always end up in failure for comedy’s sake.

  • Par the course, it is clear that they would’ve gotten a straight answer had they just asked. It turns out that Mami wasn’t talking about her partner, but instead, was talking to a friend about taking some downtime to check out something with her. She had planned going for herself even though her friend had been busy, but with her students now around, Mami figures she’d share with them what she had intended to see.

  • The surprise turns out to be two different species of fireflies chilling in a rural pond – one species emits a green light, while the other emits a yellow light. Here, Mami mentions that today’s adventure is why one should always keep moving forwards even if the way ahead isn’t clear, as something wonderful can await. For Himeno, even though she had been unsure about pottery, until she gives it her best effort, there’s no telling what new discoveries could await her. Under a gentle rural evening, the girls watch the fireflies, and Himeno is encouraged to enjoy pottery in her own way.

  • With the pottery competition coming up, I imagine that this competition will be the motivating factor behind Himeno really honing her craft, as she strives to put out a work that represents who she is. While a competition can still be stressful, the reduced emotional pressure means that Himeno has the space to create something of her own choosing, and so, preparations for the competition will help Himeno to discover her own approach towards pottery.

  • Since the Toyokawa café opened, Mami’s become a regular patron and is enjoying some fried chicken and a salad here. Earlier today, I sat down to a delicious grilled chicken burger and shoestring fries. Chicken, being leaner than beef, has a much lighter flavour, and it strikes me as to just how good a homemade chicken burger is: I typically go for fried chicken burgers when out and about because they tend to be juicier (grilled chicken is a little drier than I’d like). It turns out that Mami isn’t here just for the food – there’s something she needs a little help with over the weekend, and Himeno accepts, curious to check out the pottery museum behind their school.

  • It turns out that the way to the museum takes one along a hillside path that offers a spectacular view of Tajimi that Himeno had previously not known about. As she follows the kappa sculptures deeper into the woods, Himeno also discovers a sculpture of great beauty, one that conveys a sense of windiness. Having Himeno come up here on her own acts as a metaphor for how she’ll come to determine her style in pottery: it’s a combination of exploring and drawing inspiration from her predecessors.

  • The incidental music used in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo had been quite unremarkable, but upon hearing the song that plays when Himeno comes across this sculpture, I’ve suddenly become quite keen to check out the soundtrack for this series. The only thing I know about the soundtrack is that it  is composed by Tomoki Hasegawa and will release on July 28 as a part of the BD set. The opening song, Tobira o Aketara, is a spirited and sincere-sounding song performed by the voice actresses, Minami Tanaka, Yu Serizawa, Yūki Wakai, and Rina Honnizumi. The ending song is performed by Aya Uchida and will release on June 2.

  • The lady curating the pottery museum is surprised to learn that Himeno is the daughter of the artist who’d  created the sculpture on the way up to the museum, and reveals that Himena had been a very free spirit whose determination was actually what convinced the city to leave the museum running. In the museum’s archives, Himeno finds her mother’s notes on why she created things the way she did, and reading these notes proves inspirational to Himeno, who is ready to take her first step towards discovering her own style in pottery.

  • I’m sure that a lingering question on some viewers’ minds will be why the title is “Mug Cup”, when “mug” or “cup” on its own would’ve gotten the message across. As it turns out, マグカップ (magu kappu) is a wasei-eigo term, borrowed from English. The literal translation of the title refers to the act of firing up a kiln and making a mug, as well. The English title is a simplification of this and translates the intent clearly, but for visibility’s sake, I’ve chosen to go with the Japanese title. It goes without saying that I am finding Yakunara Mug Cup Mo to be quite enjoyable; while I don’t have any background in pottery, I am looking forwards to seeing what awaits Himeno in the series’ second half.

Slice-of-life series have always found ways to make unique topics memorable: from fishing, hiking and camping, to pop music and astronomy, series in this genre strike a balance between advancing the characters’ growth through their chosen field and presenting mundane moments to depict how this change occurs over time. While such series are charming, the progression ends up treading along familiar paths each and every time. Consequently, when Yakunara Mug Cup Mo chose to mix things up by having a more concise animated segment and then incorporating a live-action piece to make the series part story, part travel show, the series has now found a novel way of showcasing the extent of Mino ware pottery in Tajimi in full. Being able to see the real-world inspiration for what is seen in the anime reminds viewers of the level of attention paid to details within the manga, and this in turn accentuates the idea that Himeno’s journey is going to be a meaningful one. At the same time, the live-action component solidifies the idea that Tajimi is a place worth visiting, both for its extensive pottery industry, and for attractions that only the locals know about. While my posts have chosen to focus on the narrative and thematic aspects of Yakunara Mug Cup Mo, I will note that the live action piece has also proven to be immensely enjoyable for highlighting things about Tajimi that might otherwise go unnoticed by foreign visitors. For the time being, in Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s animated segment, it appears that Himeno has, in discovering an important piece of her past, come to accept what she can do for herself in the episodes upcoming: it would appear that the pottery competition is what will lead Himeno to better her craft and perhaps close the distance between her and what happened with her mother. As it stands, I look forwards to seeing what Himeno ends up making for the competition as she comes to terms with her past and uses this strength to embrace her future.

86 EIGHTY-SIX: Review and Reflection After Three

“I hate prejudice, discrimination, and snobbishness of any kind – it always reflects on the person judging and not the person being judged. Everyone should be treated equally.” –Gordon Brown

When war erupts between the Republic of San Magnolia and the Empire of Giad, San Magnolia begins folding under the Empire’s automated machines. San Magnolian engineers claim to have developed their own autonomous machines, leading the public to believe that this war is purely fought between automaton, but in reality, San Magnolia has the Colorata people, an ethnic minority in San Magnolia, pilot these machines, Juggernauts, while the Alba majority live their lives idly. Major Vladilena Mirizé is an Alba with the military, and at the age of sixteen, is a handler for Colorata squadrons. Unlike her compatriots, she treats her units kindly and possesses a fierce desire to end the discrimination the Colorata, informally, the 86, have received. She accepts an assignment to lead the Spearhead unit, which is infamous for having driven previous handlers insane. Vladilena quickly realises that Spearhead is worthy of their reputation, and desires to learn more about them, including unit leader Shinei. The Colorata soldiers, on the other hand, find Vladilena curious at best and untrustworthy at worst: a handful of Spearhead begin to speak more freely with Vladilena, Kaie among them, but Kurena refuses to open up because the Alba had executed her parents. WiShineig to help Spearhead improve their combat efficiency, Vladilena finds a new map with engineer and researcher, Henrietta Penrose, to better improve her awareness of the terrain, but during an operation, Kaie’s Juggernaut gets bogged down in a marsh, and she’s killed in action. Theoto, one of the surviving pilots, accuses Vladilena of putting on a front about caring for those she commands into combat, and claims that Vladilena hadn’t even bothered to learn everyone’s actual names. After three episodes, 86 EIGHTY-SIX has proven to be an intriguing anime, covering a range of intriguing topics through its world building: while there are moments that lighten the mood up considerably, 86 EIGHTY-SIX on the whole

Out of the gates, the dystopian world is rife with relevant social issues of segregation and discrimination, and the protagonists represent dramatically different viewpoints on the war. The treatment of the Colorata, the 86, as non-humans, is despicable, and 86 EIGHTY SIX makes this discrimination clear out of the gates with an Alba handler verbally abusing the Colorata soldiers as they enter combat. After Vladilena is introduced, she enters a military office filled with inebriated officers who seem completely disinterested in their duties. It becomes clear that the Alba are no saints, and that their world is a fabrication. Vladilena, however, is different: she regards the Colorata as humans to the bemusement to those around her, and while other Alba lecture her for her seemingly naïve perspectives, Vladilena’s beliefs make her easily sympathetic to the audience. What appears as electronic signals on her screen, are, after all, people, and 86 EIGHTY-SIX subsequently switches the perspectives out to show the Colorata as they fight in combat against an unfeeling enemy, as well as their lives outside of battle. The Colorata are human, experiencing joy, sorrow, mirth and melancholy as acutely as any Alba (if not more so). Meals are enjoyed together, jokes are shared, amongst the Spearhead soldiers, and Vladilena plainly understands this, even if she’s not on the battlefield herself. Hoping to lead her soldiers to survival and eventual return to San Magnolia, Vladilena immediately becomes a likeable character: three episodes in, viewers have reason to support Vladilena and hope that her sincerity reaches those who fight under her guidance.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve always been fond of anime with an interesting world and mecha: 86 EIGHTY-SIX looks like an amalgamation of Sora no Woto and Warlords of Sigrdrifa at first glance, with Vladilena benig 86 EIGHTY-SIX‘s counterpart to Warlords of Sigrdrifa‘s Claudia. Both are devoted to their duties as soldiers, but have a more friendly side to them, as well. Upon reaching the military headquarters, Vladilena is disgusted to see her fellow officers lazing around after what must’ve been a wild party. In this moment, it became apparent that in San Magnolia, very few care about doing their duties properly.

  • Consequently, I developed an immediate sense of respect for Vladilena. Vladilena’s battle station is a dark room with large displays and an uplink to real-time data that allows her to spot enemies and direct her units to proper points on a map. While it makes sense that even automated systems have human controllers, that Vladilena is speaking with the machines hints at the fact that the Juggernauts aren’t, in fact, autonomous. Fighting from behind the safety of a screen, and the comfort of a good chair, Vladilena nonetheless feels connected to the names on a screen, whereas other mission controllers, dubbed Handlers, view their units as disposable.

  • When Vladilena is given command of an elite squad, she immediately accepts. Vladilena is an idealist, speaking to things like equality, fairness and nondiscrimination: these topics have never been more relevant, with current events constantly highlighting the mistreatment of minorities and need to contain racial discrimination. As a visible minority myself, I’ve experienced discrimination, but it also speaks to a bit of luck where I’ve opportunity to overcome whatever barriers this presents on virtue of effort and merit alone. In 86 EIGHTY-SIX, however, the Alba’s systemic discrimination against the Colorata is such that the Colorata don’t even have this chance. Vladilena therefore becomes a character viewers will rally behind, as she’s completely opposed to San Magnolia’s treatment of the Colorata, and does what she can to raise awareness of this issue.

  • I suppose that it is a hallmark of this decade’s anime, where cutesy mannerisms and facial expressions find their way even into anime with a more serious premise: Vladilena melts when Henrietta convinces the former to stick around for tea, as she’s made cream puffs and cakes with real eggs and cheese. The implication is that there’s a food crisis going on, and while San Magnolia’s citizens seem to be living in reasonable comfort, their world also seems artificially clean, manufactured. This stands in stark contrast with the Colorata, the 86’s, world, which is rundown, gritty, but also possessing a human touch to it.

  • Unlike the Alba, which all have silver hair and blue eyes, the Colorata are a very diverse group of individuals, sporting a range of complexions, hair and eye colours. Having grown up in a multi-cultural nation, I’m accustomed to seeing people of all sorts, and I fully embrace the idea that different cultures share one thing in common: everyone has noteworthy customs, traditions and above all, food. Despite their poor treatment at the hands of the Alba, Spearhead squad is a spirited and energetic group: ironically, they feel more human than the Alba do, even though the Alba claim that the Colorata are non-human.

  • Between the devastated world outside of the San Magnolia walls, military emphasis, spider-tanks and general aesthetic, 86 EIGHTY-SIX distinctly feels like Sora no Woto. It’s been ten years since I first watched Sora no Woto, and admittedly, since then, I’ve had a fondness for the sort of world-building that Sora no Woto presented. Here in 86 EIGHTY-SIX, it is no small compliment when I say that this series is comparable to Sora no Woto as far as creating intrigue and excitement to see what happens next. However, unlike Sora no Woto, which I watched after its airing (and therefore, could watch the episodes at my own pace), watching 86 EIGHTY-SIX as it’s airing means that I’ll have to wait a week should any episode end on a cliffhanger.

  • Whereas the Alba eat artificial foods, with actual food being hard to come by, Spearhead appear to have access to fresh peaches and cherries, as well as real eggs and flour. Even though their lives are far tougher, and death is always a real threat, one could make the case that the Colorata are living more fully than their Alba counterparts. Here in this screenshot, I’ve just got Shinei, the male protagonist of 86 EIGHTY-SIX. Brutally efficient and skilled, Shinei is a taciturn, stoic individual, and in fact, reminds me greatly of Gundam 00‘s Setsuna F. Seiei.

  • Assuming this to be the case, I feel that 86 EIGHTY-SIX will likely have Shinei become more expressive and honest with his feelings as he gets to know Vladilena better. Shinei is voiced by Shōya Chiba (B Cell from Cells at Work! and Yuito Aoi of Iroduku: The World in Colours). Shinei is notable because of his devotion to duty and attendant combat efficiency. When one of his squad-mates is injured in combat and asks Shinei to put him out of his misery, Shinei does so without hesitation: in most situations, one would at least stop and hesitate a little, so such an action speaks volumes about Shinei’s mindset.

  • Despite not expressing his emotions often, Shinei is often seen reading books when off-duty. I read primarily to lose myself in other worlds, and I therefore imagine that books are probably Shinei’s way of coping with the things he’s seen and done on the battlefield. Further to this, while Shinei isn’t particularly vocal, I imagine that there could come a point in 86 EIGHTY-SIX where Shinei loses his cool: in Gundam 00, flashbacks to his past, brought on by Ali Al-Saachez and a return to the Krugis republic, causes Setsuna to fight with a wild abandon.

  • Spearhead and the other Colorata soldiers use the M1A4 Juggernaut, a manned spider tank armed with a single 57 mm smoothbore cannon and depending on the configuration, either a pair of oscillating cutters or 50-calibre machine guns. Juggernaut pilots are called Processors to create the illusion that the Juggernauts are autonomous, unmanned machines, whereas in practise, the Juggernauts resemble Star Wars‘ TIE Fighters, which were built to overwhelm enemies with numbers and lack any notable safety features.

  • By the second episode, viewers have a chance to see what sort of enemies San Magnolia are fighting, and it’s explained that Spearhead and other Colorata pilots are engaged in a battle with the Empire’s Legion, fully autonomous machines that overwhelm enemies with their numbers and ability to sustain casualties without concern. It is briefly mentioned that the Empire might not be in full control of their machines, which attack based on some failed algorithm, and as a result, San Magnolia’s war with the Empire is set to conclude in two year’s time, when Legion machines reach their operational limits and shut down.

  • With this in mind, the Colorata become human sacrifices, fighting to keep the Legion busy while the Alba wait things out. I’ve heard that this already precipitous setup will be further disrupted in the future as more of the world becomes presented to viewers, although having very little familiarity with the source material, I think I’ll stick to an anime-only perspective of 86 EIGHTY-SIX so that any new revelations can have a greater impact. While I’ve long been neutral or tolerant of spoilers, of late, I’ve had an increased inclination to avoid spoilers as to have a more thorough and complete experience.

  • Vladilena’s convictions become reinforced to viewers when she’s invited as a guest speaker for a lecture and promptly goes on to say that the Colorata, the 86, are fully human, and that it is only with San Magnolia’s mistreatment and misclassification of them that allow the country to claim a zero-casualty war against the Empire’s Legion. Ordinarily, characters with a predisposition towards supporting a cause can come across as being quite irritating because of indecisive writing, so it speaks volumes about Vladilena’s character that hearing her bring awareness to the Colorata’s situation serves to increase my respect for her: the series is able to get viewers to rally behind Vladilena because the other perspective (i.e. those of the Colorata’s) is clearly presented, leaving no ambiguity that with few exceptions, the Alba are being unreasonable.

  • To communicate with Spearhead, Vladilena uses what’s called a PARA-RAID, a VoIP system that Henrietta had a hand in developing. Spearhead finds her calls unusual, since most mission controllers regard the Processors as expendable. While initially reluctant to open up, a few of Spearhead do eventually warm up to Vladilena, who goes by the call-sign Handler One. Here, she asks Shinei to produce better combat reports so that she may better support them: while Processor teams are ostensibly supposed to write reports for this exact reason, unofficially, most mission controllers have no regard for the Processor’s well-being and thus, never read them, so Spearhead’s taken to submitting the same one every time to save effort.

  • There’s actually quite a bit of terminology in 86 EIGHTY-SIX that takes some getting used to, but fortunately, after three episodes, I believe I’m a little clearer now. A Handler is a mission controller, an Alba who sits behind a screen to direct the Processor, human pilots running the M1A4 Juggernaut spider tanks. To ensure a line of communications, the PARA-RAID system is used. The Legion refer to the autonomous war machines the Empire has created, and I think that’s everything.

  • Here, in between operations, the women of the team decide to frolik in a nearby stream, and after hunting a boar, some of the guys figure it’s a good idea to cop a look. They get busted almost immediately, and in the chaos, Kurena accidentally lets slip that she has feelings for Shinei, which leads to all sorts of good natured teasing subsequently, causing Kurena to puff up her cheeks in indignation. The use of visual elements such as puffed-up cheeks is unusual for a series of this premise, and I recall that Warlords of Sigrdrifa did something similar, with exaggerated facial expressions. I come from a time where serious anime had serious, consistent facial artwork, so seeing these elements always suggest to me that a given series, whether it’s 86 EIGHTY-SIX or Warlords of Sigrdrifa, is reminding viewers not to take things so seriously all the time.

  • Of everyone in Spearhead squad, I immediate took a liking towards Kaie: friendly and outgoing, she’s very forward and direct, as well as possessing a greater understanding of the Alba and Colorata’s history. As with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s Kyon, I’ve long had a thing for ponytails, and despite 86 EIGHTY-SIX being a new anime, I felt that Kaei looks very familiar, even though can’t quite put my finger on which anime character. Kaie is voiced by Haruka Shiraishi, whom I know as Himouto! Umaru-chan‘s Kirie Motoba, Ruri Hibarigaoka from Anne Happy! and Hanawa Ushiku from Anima Yell!.

  • By evening, Vladilena uses the PARA-RAID to contact Spearhead. One aspect I particularly liked about 86 EIGHTY-SIX was the fact that the same moments would be portrayed from Vladilena and Spearhead’s perspective as the two converse, which really accentuates the idea that there’s two sides to the coin here. Although the only thing connecting them is voice comms right now, 86 EIGHTY-SIX will almost certainly go down a route where Vladilena’s conviction in equal rights and fair treatment of the Colorata will have her show up on the frontlines, which would show Kurena and the others that Vladilena means business.

  • After retrieving a map from the archives with Henrietta’s help, Vladilena is confident that she’ll be of greater help to Spearhead. However, things quickly go pear-shaped when Spearhead is ambushed by the Legion, and in the chaos, Kaie’s Juggernaut becomes stuck in a marsh that the maps did not denote. She becomes a sitting duck for the Legion’s guns and is subsequently destroyed. Theoto subsequently lashes out at Vladilena, and while his words come from the heat of the moment, there’s truth in them. Vladilena doesn’t know the horrors of the battlefield. As accusation after accusation comes in, Vladelina loses composure.

  • Three episodes into 86 EIGHTY-SIX, and I’m sold on the premise; there’s a lot of moving parts in this anime, and correspondingly, much to consider. I could be here all day discussing various ideas, as 86 EIGHTY-SIX offers food for thought on many fronts. However, I also appreciate that there will be a smaller set of themes this series will likely wish to focus on as it progresses. To give 86 EIGHTY-SIX a fair chance to explore the themes its author had intended the work to convey, I’ll close things off here and note that with this post, I’ve now established all of the anime I’m actively watching and writing about this season. I’ll take a look at Yakunara Mug Cup mo in another week: because the series is broken up into an animated and live-action component, there’s only the equivalent of a half episode each week, so I figured I’d best wait to see more of the series before sitting down to write about it. In the meantime, it’s time to catch up with the fourth episode: I’d deliberately held off on watching it so this after-three talk was not impacted by knowledge of future events.

Beyond social matters, 86 EIGHTY-SIX also speaks to the disconnect between the Alba handlers and Colorata soldiers. Theoto’s grief-filled rant carries this message plainly; while Vladilena may care for those around her, all she sees on the screen is a series of pixels representing a soldier. She’s not present to know how losing a comrade feels, or see the battlefield painted with allied blood with each and every death. 86 EIGHTY-SIX thus indicates that there exists a gap between leadership and the foot soldiers in general: leaders often have sight of the bigger picture, but are blind to the experiences (and sufferings) of those with boots on the ground, and short of visiting the frontlines themselves, will have very little idea of what individual soldiers see and feel. At the opposite end of the spectrum, foot soldiers have their concentration focused on getting the next objective done, and without a connection to leadership, can find it easy to lose sight of what they’re fighting for. When one loses their best friend, or a squad mate, the overarching objectives of a war become secondary: someone dear to them is gone, and achieving victory won’t bring them back. As Vladilena and Shinei get to know one another better through both conflict and whenever Vladilena contacts the Spearhead, 86 EIGHTY-SIX is clearly set on reconciling these two differences, both closing the gap between leaders and soldiers, and also set in motion the events that will see the Colorata receive equal rights, and perhaps reconciliation to demonstrate that irrespective of one’s appearance, ethnicity, beliefs or creed, everyone is human, with rights to life and security. 86 EIGHTY-SIX has covered a considerable amount of territory thus far, and this series could prove to be immensely enjoyable if all of these elements are brought together to accentuate the idea that at the end of the day, even seemingly-disparate people are more similar than unlike.

Hige o Soru. Soshite Joshi Kōsei o Hirou.: Review and Reflections After Three

“You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” –Sam Keen

After his kokuhaku is shot down by supervisor and coworker Airi Gotō, Yoshida wanders off into the night after downing a few too many drinks, and encounters a high school girl under a lamp post. She introduces herself as Sayu Ogiwara and makes him a proposal: in exchange for letting her crash at his place, she’ll boff him. Shocked, Yoshida immediately declines, but allows her to stay anyways. The next morning, he learns that Sayu has made him miso soup, claiming that he’d been talking in his sleep. With the effects of the alcohol gone, Yoshida wonders what to do next, since Sayu is a runaway from Hokkaido who’d been going from place to place, trading her body for a place to stay. Worried about Sayu, he reluctantly lets her stay with him until she can go back home, on the condition that she help him with household tasks and not make any advances on him. Yoshida’s coworker, Hashimoto, hears about this situation and promises to keep quiet about it. At work, junior Yuzuha Mishima’s inexperience causes a project to go off schedule, and Yoshida sticks around to help her rectify her mistakes. She repeats a rumour floating around Yoshida, wonder if he’s got a girlfriend now that he’s looking well-kept. As a result of working overtime, Yoshida decides to pick up a mobile phone for Sayu, and explains that it’s to help them keep in touch should anything arise. Later, after spotting Yoshida with Yuzuha, Sayu becomes jealous and runs off. She coincidentally runs into Yuzuha, who offers her some advice before Yoshida arrives to bring her home. Sayu tries to seduce Yoshida again, wondering why he’s been so kind to her, and he explains that ever since she’s arrived, his life’s become more colourful, making him look forwards to coming home each day. Hige o Soru. Soshite Joshi Kōsei o Hirou., or Higehiro for brevity, has been a very curious series insofar: its premise was certainly attention-grabbing, and as Yoshida is quick to comment, opens the floor for disaster if not handled properly.

While Higehiro appears to be walking a tightrope with its content, the series immediately sets about conveying a story of emotional closeness over physicality: Yoshida immediately spots this about Sayu, and openly states that he’s into older, well-endowed women. He rebuffs Sayu for even considering seducing him, and constantly warns her not to do so. At the same time, he treats Sayu kindly as a result of his own nature; at work, Yoshida always picks up after the messes his coworkers leave behind in addition to getting his own work done. Yoshida is someone who wants what’s best for those around him, even if there’s a cost to him, and as a result, his actions for Sayu are strictly that of a friend’s. Indeed, Yoshida is an admirable character, although his manner means that, similar to myself, he’s not attuned to what’s around him. Yoshida is someone who knows what he wants and is confident in stepping up to the challenge, but when things blindside him, he’s unable to regroup. This makes his character immediately relatable, and while he certainly doesn’t see Sayu as a love interest, he does come to greatly value the warmth and companionship that Sayu brings into his life. In this area, Higehiro excels; Sayu seems to represent what most anime would do given such a premise, and then in the opposite corner, Yoshida represents what any reasonable person would go when placed in such a scenario. Where the two opposing approaches clash is something that Higehiro presents as a part of the journey, sometimes heartwarming, sometimes poignant, and sometimes humourous. I am therefore pleased with how the series has chosen to handle a most unlikely meeting and its consequences, as the story is moving in a direction that creates a very pleasant sense amongst viewers: Sayu is in a better place and can take the first step towards her recovery, while Yoshida now has something in his life to look forwards to beyond his work, and as a result of Sayu entering his life, Yoshida will undergo change that will help him to move on from his failed kokuhaku.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Higehiro‘s opening begins in a manner I’ve bore witness to: Yoshida is a hardworking and successful individual, but lacks luck in his love live. After working up the courage to make a kokuhaku to his senior and supervisor, Airi, he is shot down in a most painful manner. Unlike Yoshida, however, I tend to drown my sorrows in a good book or game – my acetaldehyde dehydrogenase enzymes are less effective than that of the average person’s, and since I glow in the dark after drinking a few, I choose not to drink at all if I can help it. I joke to my peers that my weak enzymes mean that my sorrows have learned to swim. Further to this, unlike Yoshida, who runs into Sayu after getting wasted, I’d previously slept things off and woke up the next day with the resolve of bettering myself.

  • If Yoshida’s life had run the same way as mine, however, there’d be no Higehiro, and as such, we’ll allow highly improbable events to run their course to accommodate the story. Almost immediately after Yoshida and Sayu return to his apartment, Sayu attempts to get the party started, only for Yoshida to fall asleep immediately and groggily mumble that he’d totally be down for some miso soup. The next morning, Yoshida is shocked to find a high school girl in his apartment: he’d been so drunk he’d had no recollection of anything, and Sayu takes the time to explain what had happened the previous night.

  • Things thus get to an awkward start, since Yoshida is at a loss for what to do next after hearing Sayu’s story. However, her miso soup proves to be excellent, and despite entering Higehiro with no a priori knowledge, that Yoshida takes a liking to Sayu’s soup foreshadows what will happen next. It sounds like despite his physical attraction to Airi, Yoshida had also desired a deeper connection to her. Thus, when Sayu whips up the same miso soup he’d expect Airi to make, Higehiro suggests that despite a rough start, Sayu and Yoshida will develop the sort of emotional connection that the latter had most wanted from a relationship. This is what I seek from a relationship – I wish most to be depended on, reliable and there for someone at all times.

  • In the absence of a partner, I work hard for those around me so I can pursue my one great love, of giving back. While Higehiro is very much about the emotional aspects of a relationship, Sayu has very little understanding of this and initially, believes that her only way of repaying Yoshida’s kindness is with her body. She comments that she’s got very nice figure for someone of her age and would have no objections to Yoshida seeing if she’s comparable to Airi. Naturally, Yoshida declines to comment and settles on a solution – as long as she doesn’t try anything funny with him, he’ll allow her to stay while they determine what Sayu’s next steps are.

  • At the office, Yoshida seeks counsel from Hashimoto, his coworker and friend: unlike the serious Yoshida, Hashimoto has a more laid-back personality, although he is every bit as competent and efficient as Yoshida is. Yoshida trusts Hashimoto a great deal – he’s the first person Yoshida gripes to after losing Airi, and he confides in Hashimoto about the whole Sayu situation. Hashimoto suggests keeping quiet for now and seeing what he can do to get Sayu back home to Hokkaido. Unfortunately for Yoshida, Sayu’s mere presence induces a slight change in him: he begins shaving regularly, and his female coworkers notice that his shirts are now ironed. They suggest that Yoshida must’ve found a girlfriend of sorts, which could become problematic if the truth got out.

  • For me, I shave every morning, even on weekends, mainly because I hate the feeling of facial hair, and I iron my own shirts and pants. In Yoshida’s position, I imagine even the most eagle-eyed individual wouldn’t be able to notice the difference, since I tend to have a pretty good poker face about such things. After noticing that Sayu’s posture has worsened, he decides to get her a futon. Sayu is perplexed by Yoshida’s kindness: previously, to keep the men who’d taken her in happy, she put on a fake smile and offered her body as payment for lodging, but with Yoshida, she cannot see why he’s doing this for her without expecting something in return. Sayu’s reaction to Yoshida’s looking out for her is actually a saddening one, suggesting that despite her friendly personality and dazzling smile, she’s got a bit of emotional baggage coming in.

  • Consequently, Higehiro would do well to show how kindness and openness is a powerful tool on the path to healing. The ten-year gap between Sayu and Yoshida means that Yoshida sees Sayu as a child. He treats her as a teacher might a troublesome student, going the extra mile to keep an eye on her and as often as he can spare them so she can get back on her feet. He picks up moisturiser for her here and contemplates getting her a phone so he can reach her in event of emergencies, but she declines the phone, feeling it to be a burden and also fearing it will put her in further debt with Yoshida.

  • Because of Sayu’s beliefs about repaying debts and the fact that Yoshida can see through her fake smiles, I expect that Higehiro will eventually cover how Yoshida will begin helping Sayu to understand that debts incurred between individuals can and should be dealt with by way of returning favours, rather than through sex. This really speaks volumes to how rough Sayu’s had it, and even without her explaining what had led her to run away from home, it’s clear that she’s made a series of poor decisions. Yoshida, however, indicates that running away shows that she’s probably spoiled – someone with the resilience and faculties to deal with situations when things don’t go as one would hope wouldn’t run away, but seek to solve their problems. However, given what Sayu’s gone through, being with Yoshida is something I imagine will kick start her recovery: despite all she’s done and gone through, Sayu’s still kind at heart.

  • Yoshida’s junior, Yuzuna, is the typical ditz who barely manages to get by, but despite her comparatively poor work ethic, she respects Yoshida and is competent enough when the moment calls for it. After Yuzuna submits a build riddled with bugs before a release, Yoshida makes her stay after hours to iron out the issues. In exchange, he buys her dinner from a nearby convenience store. While Yoshida works for an IT company, and he and Yuzuna are seen working with an IDE, it’s hard to pin down whether they’re in IT or software – any software company using Agile will likely have a CD/CI system and QA teams, so that things are pushed and tested thoroughly before reaching customer hands. Fortunately, how software companies work do not figure in Higehiro, and I’ll accept that their work is similar enough to mine, but inconsistencies will not impact overall thematic elements for me.

  • After returning home late from work, Yoshida finds that Sayu’s prepared dinner for him. While Sayu feigns anger at his coming home late, she reveals that she’s not actually mad at him, and finds his reactions amusing. He promises to eat in the morning, and here, I note that Yoshida’s on the money when he notes that Sayu is more like a child than a peer, naïve in the ways of the world, and also cute in her own right.

  • Initially, I thought this moment, of Airi and Yoshida having dinner together, was a flashback, but it turns out that Airi is curious to know how Yoshida turned around so quickly. The truth would violate several laws, and Yoshida notes that nothing interesting had happened. In exchange for having answered her questions, Airi allows Yoshida to ask her any one question, and Yoshida immediately asks what Airi’s bust size is. Airi consents to answer, revealing that in this area, Sayu’s completely beat.

  • After Yoshida gives Sayu a phone, the two exchange contact information. For Sayu, this is a symbolic moment, indicating a fresh start and a chance to learn things anew (such as how to properly express gratitude). While Sayu can come across as a spoiled brat who is ignorant in the way of the world at times, Higehiro has done an excellent job with the characters insofar, and I find everyone likeable, respectable enough for me to hope that they make those critical discoveries that will help them along.

  • Sayu begins feeling uneasy with the arrangement she has with Yoshida: whereas previously, men had immediately jumped on the “benefits” piece of such an arrangement, Yoshida’s done nothing of the sort, and instead, simply has her keep busy around the house while he’s at work. Her insecurities kick in here, and she wonders if Yoshida will soon see her hit the bricks if nothing should happen. This is, of course, contrary to the sort of person Yoshida is, but it also says a great deal about how much Sayu’s gone through. At the third episode’s beginning, there’s a flashback (or perhaps a dream) in which an unknown individual is getting it on with Sayu, but Sayu’s eyes are completely lifeless.

  • While Yoshida’s other coworkers have no qualms about the unexpected changes in his style, Yuzuha is taking exception to all of the rumours, and it’s clear that she’s smitten with him. Of course, Yoshida sees Yuzuha as an unreliable but well-meaning junior who needs more supervision, seemingly oblivious to her feelings. Of course, this infuriates Yuzuha, who kicks Yoshida in frustration. Yuzuha is voiced by Kaori Ishihara, whom I know best as Rinne no Lagrange‘s Madoka Kyono and The World in Colours‘ Hitomi Tsukishiro.

  • As thanks for having bailed her out again, Yuzuha invites Yoshida out for a movie. However, while out and about, Sayu spots Yoshida with Yuzuha. Consumed with jealousy, she runs off – while Sayu had initially thought that Yoshida was at most, an acquaintance and therefore wouldn’t be attached to him, as she had with the previous men she’d stayed with before they’d evicted her, the sight of Yoshida with Yuzuha elicits a different response.

  • Yuzuha meeting Sayu is pure coincidence, and her words to Sayu suggest that she should step her game up. Yoshida catches up soon after, and it was a bit of a tense moment, as I wondered whether or not things could get out of hand here. However, I imagine that Yuzuha sees the relationship between Sayu and Yoshida as that of family: she doesn’t ask questions at all or even suspects anything, so I conclude that at least, for the time being, nothing crazy will happen. It is conceivable that the truth could get out towards the end of the season, but whether or not that happens will be a bridge to cross once we actually get there.

  • Sayu’s actions can therefore be thought of as a manifestation of her own lack of confidence and insecurities. She’s desperate to know why Yoshida seems resilient to her advances, but eventually stands down and explains that this is how she came to scratch a living after running away from home. There’s a desperation in her voice, and in this moment, Yoshida understands where Sayu’s coming from.

  • Yoshida’s hugging Sayu is more an act of compassion more than anything: with this embrace, he’s saying that he gets where Sayu is coming from. With this being said, he’s not in love with her, and that certain acts are reserved only for people he’s genuinely in love with. With this in mind, assuming that Higehiro will go with a route that resembles reality, I would think that the best possible end goal for this season would be to eventually see Sayu return home and make amends, then get her life in order. Once this is resolved, I’d be okay with whatever ending the author goes with, as emotional closure would’ve been achieved.

  • Because Yoshida is resolute and strong-willed, the same traits that allow him to succeed at his job allows him to convince Sayu that her advances are probably not coming from the right place. She subsequently realises that Yoshida is as truthful as can be about what he thinks of her: Yoshida’s life has become much more pleasant, as he’s able to look forwards to something beyond work. Yoshida’s remarks speak to the idea of appreciating the ordinary, and that in a world that is as hectic as we know it, knowing that one can come home to a quiet conversation and meal is very reassuring indeed.

  • Realising that she can be true to herself, Sayu notes that while she and Yoshida might be lonely and pathetic, they’re now lonely and pathetic together. Even in spite of himself, Yoshida concedes that Sayu’s real smiles are cute. With this, my talk on Higehiro after three draws to a close. Ever since I’d read about the premise, I’d been curious to see how this one turned out, and thus far, I am not disappointed. With this post in the books, I intend to write about Yakunara Mug Cup Mo at the halfway point and may do the same with 86 EIGHTY-SIX. In the meantime, it’s time to go file my taxes, hang out with some mates via ZOOM (or whichever tool of their choice is), and then kick off my Modern Warfare 2: Remastered experience.

As I am a complete novice where Higehiro is concerned, I have no idea as to what will happen next. However, what Higehiro has done in its first three episodes is establish that this is going to be a story about understanding one another, the idea that togetherness is more about the mental aspects than the physical, and that unexpected events in life oftentimes help people to contemplate their past stumbles and come out stronger for it. Together with an immensely likeable cast, Higehiro has proven to be remarkably entertaining and encouraging. Rather than go down a slippery slope, Higehiro instead chooses to explore the human side of relationships, of things like trust, conflict resolution and honesty: having established that Yoshida has integrity, viewers can be reasonably assured that Higehiro will not likely devolve into crude jokes, and instead, draw humour from the interactions between a man and high school girl as they strive to make their current arrangement work. In doing so, both Yoshida and Sayu are expected to learn more about one another, as well as themselves: this is about all I can say with reasonable confidence with what I’ve seen insofar, and I’ve got no idea of where Higehiro actually ends up going beyond my own guesses. With this being said, as long as Higehiro stays true to the route it’s already established, this could prove to be an entertaining series with interesting insight as to what romance and relationships entail, well beyond the physical components. As such, I’m looking forwards to what happens next in Higehiro; this setup is as every bit as outlandish as what was seen in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, but three episodes in, Yoshida has proven to be a much more reliable and relatable male lead than Kazuya Kinoshita, whose indecisiveness and weak will was to that series’ detriment. Of course, my thoughts on Kanojo, Okarishimasu will be a story for another time.