The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

A Place Further Than The Universe: Review and Reflection at the Halfway Point

“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” –Drake

Mari Tamaki is an ordinary high school student in her second year. She constantly longs to do something exciting during her youth but has the propensity of backing down before embarking on any adventures. When she finds an envelope containing a million yen, she learns that it belongs to one Shirase Kobuchizawa, who intends to travel to Antarctica in search of her missing mother. Inspired by Shirase’s resolve, Mari resolves to support Shirase, and she takes up a part-time position at a convenience store to raise the funds required to travel. She befriends Hinata Miyake, who had overheard Shirase and Mari’s plans and yearns to accompany them. When they attempt to participate in a meeting for expedition members, Kanae Maekawa and Yumiko Samejima catch on. They learn of Shirase’s aspirations and decline her requests to join. Later, Shirase, Mari and Hinata encounter Yuzuki Shiraishi, a young actress who is trying to worm her way out of going to Antarctica. Yuzuki, having spent her life acting, never made any friends and so, longs for a normal life, but when Mari invites her to hang out, she realises that she’s found friends among Mari and the others. She decides to accept the Antarctica assignment on the condition that Mari, Shirase and Hinata accompany her. The girls attend a training camp, where they meet captain Gin Todo, who knew Shirase’s mother, and later, Mari and Shirase receive a proper send-off from their school. Megumi reveals that she’d grown jealous of Mari, who’d become more independent since the Anarctica trip materialised, and Mari promises that she’ll return. Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki travel to Singapore for the first leg of their journey, where Hinata seemingly loses her passport. When it turns out that Shirase had taken it for safe keeping, an irate Mari and Yuzuki force Shirase and Hinata to eat a whole durian as recompense.

A Place Further Than The Universe, or Sora Yorimo Tōi Basho, is perhaps this season’s most unexpected anime: earnest and forward in its portrayal of a journey motivated by multiple factors, precise in its presentation of detail and striking a balance between the comedic and dramatic, there’s been no shortage of discussion on A Place Further Than The Universe out there. From the minute details in geolocation using waypoints and flags, to the portrayal of Singapore, A Place Further Than The Universe is an anime that invites praise discussion and scrutinisation. However, par the course for anime discussions wherever real-world details and drama are involved, folks often forget about the overarching themes within the narrative, which is akin to understanding how an engine works but not know what an engine is used for. There is a much bigger picture in A Place Further Than The Universe than what is presented at the halfway point, but for the present, the simpler and more immediate theme A Place Further Than The Universe aims to present is that the journey matters as much as the destination. This accounts for why, despite being presented as an anime about high school girls visiting Antarctica, the entirety of the first half deals with the preparations Mari and the others undertake before this dream can become a reality. From Mari summoning the courage to carry out one of her long-standing wishes of doing something worthy of remembrance and Shirase’s determination pushing her to continue her initially-futile goal of visiting Antarctica, to the fateful turn of events that bring Yuzuki into their group, A Place Further Than The Universe makes every effort to show the human aspects that transpire to turn Shirase’s pipe dream into reality. How the girls’ dreams begin, and their efforts to realise this dream, matter more than the end goal: Shirase’s seemingly-unattainable and foolish dream has the effect of bringing people together, and unified, the girls set out to Antarctica, each with their own reasons for undertaking this journey.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Featuring a bawling Mari is probably a strange way to open up a post, but I think I understand how Mari feels about having not done anything in her youth. Now that I’m no longer a carefree youth, the opportunity to go out and do something is rarer, and in Mari’s case, the cure to what she feels is to summon the courage and resolve to do something, picking something that balances what is feasible with what is memorable, and then executing. This forms the basis for the whole of A Place Further Than The Universe, which sees Mari’s world turned upside down once she encounter Shirase.

  • Mari is voiced by Inori Minase, who by now, is a well-known voice actress with numerous leading roles. In A Place Further Than The Universe, her delivery of Mari’s lines is such that Mari bears very little resemblance to GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu or Girls’ Last Tour‘s Chito. She’s speaking animatedly to Megumi Takahashi, a friend she’s known for a considerable period. Of the two, Megumi is the more level-headed and usually offers Mari advice.

  • After stumbling across an envelope containing one million yen (about 11550 CAD), Mari manages to find the owner; she encounters her crying about it in the bathroom, and after returning the money, learns that the money belongs to Shirase, who is somewhat infamous for her persistent attempts to go to Antarctica. Long ridiculed by her classmates, Shirase longs to fulfil her dream in order to find her missing mother, as well as to stick it to all of the naysayers who dismissed her dreams as impossible. Shirase mentions to Mari that everyone who initially displayed interest in her endeavours eventually backed down, but Mari, having long wanted to break out of her perpetual habit of backing away, decides to commit to and support Shirase’s goal of reaching Antarctica.

  • A stern-looking girl, Shirase begins smiling more once she encounters Mari and finds that Mari is serious about helping her. One of Shirase’s strong and weak points is her single-mindedness; once her sights are set on a target, there’s no shaking her from seeing things through to the end, and she’ll endure ridicule because she understands that it’s what she believes, rather than those against her, that matters the most. However, it also alienates her from those around her – Shirase is quite unwilling to deviate from a plan or find alternative solutions when things don’t work out, leading to conflict.

  • Without any clear plan of how to join the civilian-crewed expedition, Mari initially decides to start small, and takes on a part time job at a convenience store to earn some money to fund her travels. She is employed at the same store as one Hinata, who has been listening to Mari and Shirase’s conversations with great interest. The two strike off a friendship while working together, and two become three. Hinata spends most of her time working and studying independently, having long felt herself to be uncomfortable in the high school environment.

  • While in the Kabukicho district of Tokyo, trying to sneak into a meeting with the expedition members, Hinata suggests using their powers to “convince” male members of the team to allow them in. Hilarity and chaos results – it turns out that Shirase is the equivalent of K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama. Aloof, stoic and serious, she’s also the most stacked of everyone and is prone to fits of immaturity. Hinata, with her energy and spirits, resembles Ritsu Tainaka, while Mari is similar to Yui Hirasawa, being quite lacking in direction but is surprisingly reliable when the situation calls for it. Like Mio, Shirase seems to be humiliated quite a bit, and here, Hinata and Mari attempt to haul her into meeting up with the expedition members. Their endeavours backfire, but Shirase is afforded an audience with expedition members. Yumiko and Kanae, who decline Shirase’s assistance.

  • On a hot summer’s day, Yuzuki encounters Hinata kicking Shirase’s ass while Mari looks on. A child actress, Yuzuki was originally assigned as the high school student who would accompany the civilian expedition team to Antarctica as a part of her duties, but longing for nothing more than friendship and an ordinary high school experience, Yuzuki has no interest in going. Tamiko, her mother and manager, overrule this, but seeing Yuzuki’s resistance and the spirit amongst Shirase, Mari, and Hinata, she decides that if they can manage to convince Yuzuki to go, then they may accompany her.

  • Up until this point, I’ve been reasonably disciplined with “funny faces”, but the time has come to throw caution into the wind. Here, Hinata and Mari attempt to convince Tamiko that Shirase is a suitable replacement for Yuzuki. While Shirase may be styled after the Japanese hime, Tamiko asks if Shirase can sing, dance and act, essential skills in Yuzuki’s line of work, but Shirase evidently lacks experience here, hence her embarrassment.

  • Despite her strict mannerisms, Shirase will cave like a stack of dominos when pressured sufficiently. After finding Yuzuki, Mari and the others settle themselves down with her and begin speaking with her about Antarctica – Yuzuki deduces that they’re here because of her mother, and while Mari manages to betray little of the truth, Yuzuki manages to learn the truth from Shirase’s reaction. It is here that Yuzuki’s story is presented, and later, after a dream where she accepts Mari’s friendship, Yuzuki decides to hang out with Mari and her friends: their first time spending a day together sees the girls visit a museum with an Antarctica exhibit.

  • Seeing Mari, Shirase and Hinata’s warmth and companionship lead Yuzuki to reach a decision: she will accept her assignment provided that Shirase, Mari and Hinata can accompany her. Logically equivalent to her mother’s requirements, it’s a win-win for everyone. Accustomed to acting and performing, Yuzuki resembles Wake Up, Girls! Mayu Shimada in terms of background and appearance. She prefers practical, comfortable clothing over excessively ornate designs, and I cannot help but wonder if Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! would have benefitted from having a well-known studio work on its animation: Madhouse has legends such as Chobits, The Princess and The Pilot and Rideback in its repertoire.

  • After Mari forges her mother’s signature on a form, her parents somehow find out, and Mari gets her face kicked in. She notices something is off when her mother presents a variety of Antarctica-related items, and in the prelude for what awaits Mari is one of history’s most amusing funny faces. A large amount of the comedy in A Place Further Than The Universe are the exaggerated facial expressions, which give Shirobako a run for its money. As punishment for having forged a signature, Mari must pass all of her exams in order to be granted permission to ship out to Antarctica, and on top of this, she’s got a summer training camp to prepare her for her journey.

  • I’m concurrently watching and writing about Yuru Camp△, and while the latter has more emphasis on easy-going camping, A Place Further Than The Universe deals with a journey that might involve an actual survival situation. As a result, Mari and the others attend a training camp to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations required for safety. Les Stroud has never done any Survivorman episodes in Antarctica because of the extreme dangers and remoteness of the southernmost continent: it’s the last continent that humanity has explored, and its population extends only to researchers studying the continuent’s biota.

  • The closest approximation of Antarctica in a Survivorman episode would be when Les Stroud visits the Arctic Tundra near Pond Inet. Back in A Place Further Than The Universe, the girls begin with a geolocation and waypoint setting exercise. In the absence of familiar terrestrial landmarks, researchers make use of flags and GPS to ensure they don’t get lost amongst the vast ice sheet covering the southernmost continent. The girls are subsequently tasked with camping out, and unlike the gourmet cooking of Yuru Camp△A Place Further Than The Universe is rather more focused – when Mari tries to get some conversation going, the others remind her to stay on-mission.

  • Gin later is seen speaking with Yumiko about Shirase, remarking that Shirase is strikingly similar to her mother in terms of personality. After Shirase makes her story known, the others give her some space and step out into the chilly night, seeing the Milky Way and what a true night sky might look like. Staff at headquarters radio in to check up on Mari and the others; Hinata reports that the situation is normal, and the girls turn in for the night.

  • The next morning, Mari awakens to find Gin nearby and asks her about Shirase’s mother, before gazing at a majestic sunrise. Animation in A Place Further Than The Universe is of a very high standard: the characters may look a little unusual, but their design is by choice, made to accommodate a unique brand of expressiveness that very few series can convey with just facial characteristics. The end result is that characters stand out amongst the exceptionally detailed landscapes and interiors.

  • During a publicity event for the Antarctica expedition, Shiease has trouble presenting her goals in front of an audience, and Mari inadvertently evokes Yuzuki’s displeasure by implying that Yuzuki is familiar with public speaking. As it turns out, Shirase might be able to speak with absolute resolve and clarity when it’s to disprove others who doubt her, but when this opposition is not present to motivate her, she falters and reverts to a shy, easily flustered manner. This is probably Shirase’s true self, with the tough, strict persona being more of a façade.

  • It stands to reason that Mari ended up passing all of her exams, since she’s preparing for her trip here. While a bit weak-resolved, Mari’s undergone a considerable change in the space of six episodes, and here, she wonders what she’s allowed to bring with her. Equipment from Les Stoud’s usual survival loadout, which include a multi-tool, hatchet or knife, and a harmonica, are noticeably absent from the girls’ inventories: his gear is designed to help him survive in most areas except for the Arctic and Antarctica.

  • After the school sees them off, Mari receives a bouquet from her classmates. Later, Megumi warns Mari that resentment is growing amongst the student population, leading Shirase to vehemently declare a desire to root them out. Hinata suggests that they visit a karaoke bar to decompress. Shirase ends up screaming into the mic; this brings to mind Reina’s actions back in Hibike! Euphonium, and it’s supposed to be a release for stress. Known formally as primal scream therapy, I find that kiai in karate is similar in function, so rather than acting like Reina, I destress while doing kata and other exercises.

  • On the eve of the expedition, Mari’s parents and sister make her favourite meal: omelette rice with an egg tart pudding. I suppose now is a good time as any to note that Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki are all voiced by voice actresses that I’m familiar with. Shirase is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Garden of Words‘ Yukari Yukino and Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Sonoko Nogi), Hinata is voiced by Yuka Iguchi (Mako Reizei of Girls und Panzer and Tamayura‘s Norie Okazaki), and Yuzuki is voiced by Saori Hayami (Aoyama Blue Mountain of GochiUsa and Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita).

  • It turns out that all of the ills affecting Mari, from some students finding out about Shirase’s million Yen and her parents discovering the truth about her forged signature, to the alleged rumours, were a part of Megumi’s desperate bid to keep Mari at home. She reveals that in Mari’s absence, she will become lonely and has long depended on Mari being around so she could help her. Wanting to end their friendship here, Megumi is ultimately consoled by Mari, who declines Megumi’s request.

  • While I don’t hate flying per se, the pressure differentials does make me a bit uncomfortable on long-haul flights. On average, a flight from Tokyo to Singapore, the layover on the girl’s trip to Fremantle in Australia, lasts around seven hours and forty minutes. Mari’s excitement at being at the airport evokes memories of the K-On! Movie, and while A Place Further Than The Universe initially feels far removed from the easygoing adventure that Yui and the others take while trying to find a suitable graduation gift for Azusa, the travels that both groups experience end up sharing the commonality of enriching the girls’ world views and create unique memories that they will treasure long after they return home.

  • The reason why airline food is the subject of so many comedic jokes has its roots in science: the lower pressure and cool, dry environment inside the airplane cabin dries out our olfactory systems and also lessens the sensitivity of our taste buds. In conjunction with the food preparation methods, which reduces the freshness of the ingredients and dries them out, folks have long found airline food to be a cut below conventional food. With this being said, advances in food preparation and our understanding of what’s going on mean that airlines have begun experimenting with modifying the flavour profile of foods. By using savoury ingredients and creative preparation, more enjoyable airline meals can be made. Of course, on long flights, I’m too exhausted to give a crap, and I’ll eat to replenish my energy.

  • Paralleling Yui and Ritsu’s antics whenever they travel, Mari and Hinata immediately hit up an ice cream stand in Singapore and attempts to haggle with the operator. It strikes me as strange that Mari did not bother exchanging her Yen for local currency, reinforcing the idea that she’s green to travel. This had me a bit worried, since inexperience could get her into trouble. While I don’t travel with a high frequency, I count myself as being quite lucky in having travelled before. Besides ensuring my passport is in good shape, one of the first things I do when travelling is visit the currency exchange to have the proper money: as much as I love the Canadian money, it’s bloody useless outside of Canada.

  • One’s passport is the single most important document they have while travelling: it allows one to enter and exit a foreign nation, and return home to their own nation. As such, every traveller’s worst fear is losing their passport: Hinata finds herself in a bit of a bind when her passport goes missing. It’s a lingering question even as the episode progresses, and the girls correctly identify the solution as visiting the local embassy to get a new passport. To help with procedure in the event that such an incident occurs, it’s also recommended that one keep a backup image of their passport with them: as phones are now widespread, and good PDF (or photo) apps are commonplace, there’s really no excuse not to scan one’s passport ahead of one’s travels and load it onto the phone’s local storage (I say this because WiFi is not a sure thing).

  • The anime community in Singapore is large, and when viewers from Singapore saw their hometown being depicted, they immediately set about matching all of the locations seen in A Place Further Than The Universe to their real-world equivalents. What they found was an impressive degree of realism, and this sets the precedence for what is to come. If A Place Further Than The Universe is anything like Yuru Camp△, then the Antarctica sections will similarly be faithful to how things work out in the real world.

  • Ordering dinner at hotel restaurants is always a bit more pricey than eating out, primarily because of the fact that hotels have stricter regulations on the quality of their ingredients, and also as a consequence of service costs. As well, there’s also factors related to the table turnover in hotels, which are lower than that of other restaurants. While Yuzuki and Hinata look through the menu, Mari laments the lack of Japanese options at the restaurant; they end up ordering gargantuan fried rice dishes from misunderstanding how Chinese restaurants serve food, thinking it’s individual portions.

  • By nightfall, the girls visit the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck, and Mari wonders if they can access the pool. Admissions are around 19 CAD for adults, and the pool is open between 0930 and 2200 (2300 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday). As it’s a Saturday, they could have visited had they chosen, although they likely would not have swimwear, and so, they spend the evening looking over the Singapore skyline, with Mari commenting on how it’s amazing that there are so many people out there living their lives. It’s a thought that flits across my mind when I travel, and I’m certain that other folks travelling likely entertain similar thoughts, as well.

  • After Hinata’s missing passport comes out into the open, the girls struggle to decide on what the best course of action is. In a time of crisis, the characters’ attitudes are presented to the audience and also to one another. Hinata reveals that she hates folks who put others ahead of themselves, while Shirase refuses to leave anyone behind. She eventually uses her million yen to purchase the next set of tickets to Fremantle, so as to allow Hinata enough time to get a new passport from the embassy.

  • For better or for worse, the girls resolve to stick together, and Hinata is moved by her friends’ companionship. It’s a bit of a turning point for her, having been on her own previously, seeing what real friendship is like here moves her to tears. We’re nearly done with this post, and with this, I’m now completely caught up on A Place Further Than The Universe. It seems I’ve picked a good spot to do the half-way point impressions: the girls will continue their journey to Antarctica in upcoming episodes, and it’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen from here on out.

  • However, as it turns out, Hinata’s passport was with Shirase the entire time, having handed it to her for safekeeping after exiting customs. Yuzuki is able to get a refund for the tickets, and as a result for having caused this bit of skulduggery, Shirase and Hinata are made to eat durian. I’ll say this openly: forget XKCD‘s grapefruit,  fuck durians. I might be okay with eating blood tofu and chicken feet, but the overwhelming taste of durians means that this is one food I’m not ever trying. With my complaints about durians out of the way, posts after this one will include the halfway point talk for Slow Start and a post for CLANNAD, where Tomoyo and Kyou’s arc will draw to a close ten years ago as of Wednesday.

While I was late to the party in both starting and writing about A Place Further Than The Universe, I’ve caught up with the show, and I note that I’ll do two reviews on this anime in total. From a technical perspective, A Place Further Than The Universe is impressive: the artwork and animation are of a solid quality, as is the voice acting and aural components. Of note in A Place Further Than The Universe are the distinct character designs: each of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki have facial expressions that definitely contributed to my enjoyment of A Place Further Than The Universe. I refer to these as “funny faces”, and in A Place Further Than The Universe, these are plentiful, conveying precisely to audiences what the characters are feeling. In conjunction with voice talents from some of the industry’s best, emotions in A Place Further Than The Universe are vividly conveyed to viewers, from the most hilarious of moments to those where things become more subdued and serious. As the anime pushes forward, it’s evident that reaching Antarctica will be A Place Further Than The Universe‘s end goal. At this point, it’s still early to be speculating as to whether or not Shirase will reunite with her mother or not (from what I gathered about the main theme in A Place Further Than The Universe, I’ve not been able to make a well-reasoned prediction yet), but what is clear is that the journey ahead of Mari, Shirase, Hinata and Yuzuki will put strain on their friendship and leave them with stronger bonds with one another than before. This journey will undoubtedly have a profound effect on each individual, and it will be interesting to see how the Antarctica expedition will help each of the girls mature through their mutual experiences.

Mount Fuji and Curry Noodles- Yuru Camp△ First Episode Impressions and Review

“Alright, magic: a little steel wool, a battery, and we got fire.” –Les Stroud

During a cold autumn’s day, Rin Shima bikes to Koan Campground on the shores of Lake Motosu, where she encounters a girl sleeping on a bench in front of a public washroom. Feeling this individual might get a cold, Rin pushes the girl out of her mind and turns her attention to setting up camp, from pitching her tent to preparing all of her cooking gear. With the beautiful view in front of her, Rin feels that there is no better time than the off-season to go camping, when she can have the entire site to herself. As the chilly autumn winds pick up, Rin relents and builds a campfire, collecting both kindling and firewood to maintain her fire. Evening sets in, and Rin encounters the girls who had been sleeping earlier. After a chase results from a misunderstanding, the girl introduces herself to Rin, who shares with her some instant noodles. It turns out that the girl had gotten lost while biking, and with Rin’s help, manages to get in touch with her sister, who picks her up. Before she departs, she leaves with Rin her phone number and name: Nadeshiko Kagamihara. When classes resume, Nadeshiko makes her way to her new school, which happens to be the same one that Rin is attending. Slice-of-life anime can present seemingly ordinary activities in an extraordinary fashion, and for this season, Yuru Camp△ is doing so with camping: the first episode introduces veteran camper Rin, whose shown to be no stranger to setting up equipment and enjoying the sights of Mount Fuji. Accustomed to camping alone, her chance meeting with Nadeshiko sets in motion things that will eventually lead her to meet new friends with which to share in adventures into some of the most beautiful parts of the Japanese countryside.

I remark partially in jest that Yuru Camp△ is merely an anime version of Les Stroud’s Survivorman featuring high school girls in place of a Canadian survival expert and outdoorsman; the contents of Yuru Camp△ indicate that the anime’s main theme will be friendship and how adventures shared are more memorable than those undertaken alone. However, there is some truth in calling Yuru Camp△Survivorman The Anime” – the first episode goes to considerable lengths to showcase some of the smaller details that Rin is familiar with in camping. From her setting up shelter while it’s still light out, to the process of gathering both forest duff and firewood for her campfire, the writers have evidently done their homework on the basics of the outdoors. The anime also takes the pain of explaining to audiences Rin’s actions to familiarise them with camping essentials: Rin’s collection of a dry, easy-to-ignite agent to warm up the fire and careful stoking of the fire to ensure that she doesn’t accidentally blow it out are consistent with what outdoorsman guides recommend. In getting the details right, Yuru Camp△ does indeed feel like Survivorman, where Les Stroud explains his actions in a survival situation, and while Yuru Camp△ is unlikely to put the girls in a situation where they must survive for seven days without a consistent supply of food and water, the first episode does set the precedence for what audiences could expect from Yuru Camp△ – a combination of heartwarming moments between a group of friends, and what might be considered an introduction to the fundamentals of camping.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • From left to right, we’ve got Nadeshiko Kagamihara, Ena Saitou, Aoi Inuyama, Chiaki Oogaki and Rin Shima: the first scene of Yuru Camp△ has all of the girls roasting marshmallows together by a campfire. The composition suggests a reasonable familiarity with both one another, as well as the fundamentals of camping: this is something audiences will see later in the series. For now, however, viewers will require an introduction to where things first began.

  • The scenery of the lakes and hills in the Yamanashi Prefecture are spectacular. During my visit to Japan last year, while I did not pass by Lake Motosu on my travels, I did visit Mount Fuji’s Fifth Station and had a fantastic yakinuku at a restaurant on the shores of Lake Yamanaka. Yuru Camp△ does a fantastic job with the scenery, and the locations within the first episode are all derived from their real-world counterparts.

  • There’s an indescribably endearing and amusing feeling that stems from watching Nadeshiko sleep. She’s described as being an avid cyclist despite her appearances, and while the first episode focuses on Rin, promotional images and artwork feature her as the central character. It is therefore not a particular surprise to know that Yuru Camp△ will be told from her perspective: while the season previews make no mention of this, Nadeshiko is new to the area, which is intended to correspond with viewers who are similarly watching the anime for the first time.

  • My cursory Google-fu finds that admissions cost 1000 Yen per stay if one is pitching a tent at Koan, and parking is an additional 1000 Yen: spaces are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, and reservations are not accepteed. The public facilities Nadeshiko sleeps outside of is a hundred metres to the northeast of the Koan Cental Lodge, where Rin purchases her admission to the Koan campground. A further 315 meters’ walk is required to reach the spot where Rin has set up camp, so on each occasion where Rin answers the call of nature, she would take a 415 metre walk (which would take roughly 5 minutes one way), which some folks have found a bit inconvenient.

  • Koan campground is very popular and so, this is why Rin’s chosen to go camping in November: the lack of crowds means that she has the entire area to herself. A quick glance at reviews of the Koan campground find that visitors are generally satisfied: the facilities and grounds are well-maintained, and the scenery is naturally one of the draws. Folks interested in visiting should note that there are no grocery stores or convenience stores nearby, so anyone looking to have a cookout here would need to bring their food in advance, and from what I’ve heard, the coin-operated showers leave something to be desired.

  • Exceptional attention is paid to replicating the surroundings of the Koan Campground, right down to the placement of the chain cordoning off the path leading to the campground and the sign on the roadside from the 709 route. The extent that Yuru Camp△ reproduces real-world environments will almost certainly result in a large number of anime fans in Japan paying the area a visit, and suggests that other locations that the girls visit in Yuru Camp△ will likely get a similar treatment.

  • Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: the shores on the opposite end of Lake Motosu stand adjacent to Aokigahara, a undisturbed, pristine forest whose trees have grown very dense thanks to the volcanic soils, and deep in the heart of the forest, fauna and flora thrive in the absence of human activity. The location is better known for being home to yūrei, Japanese ghosts from the spirits of those who have perished there either by choice or against their wills.

  • In fact, Aokigahara is the second most popular suicide site in the world, and officials are tasked with removing bodies from the forest as they are found. Of course, such a macabre topic is better suited for a horror novel rather than the likes of Yuru Camp△, and so, I’ll return the discussion to the point in the episode where Rin begins debating whether or not she should build a campfire. While she’s initially against it, already having settled in with her book and not feeling inclined to smell smokey, the brisk wind changes her mind.

  • Whereas Rin uses pine cones to light her fire, Stroud often uses a variety of materials, from cotton lint to punky wood, to light a fire. After the fire is started, Yuru Camp△ and Survivorman both continue applying larger branches to the burning fire. One of the key differences is that Rin’s not in a survival situation and so, is able to use matches to light her fire, while Stroud often is dropped into a survival situation with few or no matches. One of the more clever actions Stroud has used include starting a fire with nothing more than chocolate and an empty soda can, and he recommends splitting matches in half to double one’s stock of quick fire starters. I’ve heard from some folks that pine cones don’t work as fire starters, but it is more likely the case that individuals with this experience were attempting to light pine cones that had a bit of moisture in them.

  • The shores of Lake Motosu are beautifully rendered, and it is here that Rin finally settles down, messaging a friend and reading a book under the cool autumn skies. Lake Motosu is one of the Fuji Five Lakes, being the middle of the pack in terms of surface area and have the greatest maximum depth. One of the lake’s more interesting attributes is that its temperatures do not drop below freezing, allowing the lake to stay unfrozen even during the winter.

  • Evening begins setting in over Lake Motosu: by November, temperatures remain in the positives, but when the breeze picks up, it can become quite chilly, and so, Rin’s decision to set up a campfire turns out to be a wise decision: Stroud usually will go about setting up a fire immediately after his shelter is prepared, and cites a good fire as being important for maintaining warm when temperatures plummet during the night, helping in keeping insects and other animals away, and providing a psychological boost with its light.

  • On one trip to the bathroom, Rin notices that the sleeping girl has taken off and turns around, coming face-to-face with a crying Nadeshiko. Frightened out of her wits, Rin drops her torch and runs off, with Nadeshiko in close pursuit. However, it turns out to be a misunderstanding, and after hearing Nadeshiko’s situation, Rin tries to work out a way of getting her back with her family. The situation isn’t quite so hilarious in reality, but in anime such as Yuru Camp△, one cannot help but feel bad for characters who suffer misfortune.

  • The weather where I am has been remarkably warm as of late, reaching as high as a balmy 9°C: it’s a testament to my Canadian spirit that I consider -16°C “warm”, and anything above zero during this time of year reminds me of spring. However, forecasts are stating that as of tomorrow, winter is going to be back in full force, with a daily high of -20°C. The colder weather certainly does amplify feelings of hunger, and evolutionary theory suggests that it’s a trait we developed to survive colder weather, using the extra calories to keep warm: mid-conversation in Yuru Camp△, Nadeshiko certainly feels the effects of hunger, and fortunately, Rin’s on hand to assist with some instant ramen.

  • Nothing beats hot food on a cold night, and while Nadeshiko enjoys her ramen with what J.K. Rowling would describe as “indecent enthusiasm”, I met up with a friend and former colleague from my graduate student days at BIg T’s BBQ, a local institution. Amidst conversation about just how radically different the lab’s been since I graduated, conferences, thesis papers and games, I enjoyed a beef short rib with spicy Andouille Sausage, fried green tomatoes and yam fries. Their BBQ never fails to impress: the meat fell off the bones and was smoked to perfection, being tender and tasty, while the sausage was spicy enough to give a much-needed kick on a cold winter’s night. The Flames game tonight against the Minnesota Wild was being shown, and we’d gotten our first goal of the night shortly after I finished off the last of my fries – the game ended in overtime with a Flames victory.

  • Of course, eating ribs in a warm restaurant is a world apart from eating hot ramen under the star light: with Nadeshiko introduced now, I inexplicably feel as though Nadeshiko is supposed to be Yuru Camp△‘s version of Cocoa or Yui. Much like how military-moé anime feature a protagonist sharing similar features, slice-of-life anime do the same, and while some viewers are quick to dismiss these characters as generic, I’ve long held the perspective that such characters provide grounding for viewers, encouraging (or allowing) them to focus on the world the story is being presented in.

  • Nadeshiko’s original goal was to bike to the “nearby” Lake Motosu so that she could see for herself the beautiful scenery of Mount Fuji, having been inspired after seeing it on a 1000-yen bill. having tired out and fallen asleep, Nadeshiko found herself in the darkness and panicked. However, with Rin’s help, she’s able to view Mount Fuji under an autumn’s moon and get in touch with her sister: a quick glance at moon phase calendars finds that Yuru Camp△ took the care to get the moon phase correct, as well.

  • From the first episode of Yuru Camp△ alone, it’s quite tricky to gauge the characters’ personalities properly, so Sakura’s physical beating of Nadeshiko might just be a one-off rather than something that happens frequently. With this being said, I have a feeling that what I colloquially refer to as “funny faces” will be seen in Yuru Camp△ with a non-trival frequency. For the folks who’re new around these parts, one of the things I’ve come to enjoy in slice-of-life anime are exaggerated facial expressions that are a world apart from their usual characteristics.

  • In frustration, Sakura throws Nadeshiko bodily into the back of her SUV, but Nadeshiko later gives Rin some kiwis as thanks for the instant ramen from earlier, along with her phone number. In meeting Rin, Nadeshiko’s interest in camping is kindled, and she asks Sakura whether or not they have any camping supplies at home. While both Nadeshiko and Sakura are named for flowers, I’ve long felt that focusing extensively on names in an anime is not particularly conducive towards understanding what the anime’s messages are, and imprudent analysis certainly isn’t a requirement for a show to be enjoyed.

  • With the excitement of the evening over, Rin returns to her camping trip. I’ve heard folks say that the scenery in Yuru Camp△ is not quite up to snuff against anime with truly spectacular artwork, but overall, Yuru Camp△‘s art is of a good quality in general. With this first episode post out the gates, I remark here that even though only Rin, Nadeshiko and Sakura appear, I’ve tagged everyone in preparation for future posts, and further to this, I will be referencing Les Stroud and Survivorman frequently as I talk about Yuru Camp△. This is intended to drive discussions down a more interesting direction.

  • Nadeshiko’s bike ride to school really showcases the Yamanaka region’s beautiful landscapes: besides Lake Yamanaka and the fifth station on Mount Fuji, I also visited Oshino Village, Fuji Busshari Heiwa Park at Gotemba and stopped briefly on the shores of Lake Kawaguchi’s eastern end before heading north towards Shirakawa Lake. I occasionally wonder what it would be like to live in Japan close to their mountains, and I’m sure that there are folks in Japan who would wonder what it’d be like to live an hour away from the Canadian Rockies: Japanese tourists love Banff, and this is evident in the Japanese language signs and number of Japanese staff who work there. This is the consequence of a Japanese soap opera that made the location a popular one to visit, which speaks to the power of how fiction can drive up tourism in an area.

The meeting between Rin and Nadeshiko ended up being a riot to watch: despite her quiet nature, Rin is a caring individual. By comparison, Nadeshiko feels to be a bit of a klutz, which suggests that she could be Yuru Camp△‘s main protagonist (this seems to be the trend for a non-trivial number of manga run in Manga Time Kirara). Taken in conjunction with Yuru Camp△‘s focus on details of camping, loving portrayal of the scenery surrounding Mount Fuji and a fitting soundtrack that captures the splendour in nature, Yuru Camp△ is this season’s anime for catharsis. Similar to Slow Start, this season’s other Manga Time Kirara adaptation, things in Yuru Camp△ are taken very slowly, encouraging viewers to take in all of the small elements that are present while Rin is camping. Such anime are not everyone’s cup of tea, but considering the speed of the world that I live in, casual, carefree anime represent the suitable form of relaxation that I’m certain I’ll need as this year progresses. Unlike Slow Start, however, the topic of camping and outdoors activities in Yuru Camp△ is conducive towards some interesting discussion, and as such, I will be writing a bit more frequently for Yuru Camp△: it’s not every day that we have what is essentially Survivorman The Anime, and as I greatly enjoyed watching Survivorman, it’ll be curious to see what sort of parallels exist between the two.

The First Butterflies: Slow Start First Episode Impressions and Review

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” —Helen Keller

On her first day of high school, Hana Ichinose timidly introduces herself to her new classmates. When her instructor, Kiyose Enami, mentions that this first day of classes also happens to be Hana’s birthday, three of the other girls that Hana had spotted earlier, Eiko Tokura, Kamuri Sengoku and Tamate Momochi, wish her a happy birthday and gift her some ema. They later take the initiative to speak with her and bring her out to gaze at the blooming sakura blossoms near the train station; on the way there, Hana learns more about Tamate and Kamuri’s names. Later that evening, Shion is pleased to learn that Hana’s made new friends, and the next day, Hana properly introduces herself to her newfound friends. While the first episode did not mention thus, Hana had missed her entrance exams the previous year on account of being afflicted with mumps, and so, is a year older than those around her. Being separated from her peers, Hana feels a bit out of place and envies those who know others in her year, but after the first day, she finds herself in friendly company. Slow Start was originally a four panel manga from Manga Time Kirara, and as its brethren in this magazine, possesses the same sort of atmosphere and premise; there’s nothing novel or stand-out in Slow Start, but in this case, simplicity is Slow Start‘s greatest draw right now. While the manga began running in 2013, I’ve not had a chance to read it, and so, going into Slow Start this season, I’ll be entering without a priori knowledge.

Befitting of its name, Slow Start is slow to start, placing a particular emphasis on the minute details and happenings that precipitate a new friendship. From the moment that Hana enters school, her attention is caught by the same three individuals who are the most quick to befriend her: this fateful meeting sets in motion the beginnings of a companionship that will be endearing to behold. Out of the gates, Slow Start possesses the same atmosphere as GochiUsa, conveying a sense of calming that I’ve greatly come to value in shows that I watch. The characters immediately feel familiar despite their novel characteristics: the quiet Hana occupies the protagonist’s role and, despite playing the same role as Cocoa, also exhibits Miho Nishizumi’s shyness. The two share circumstances, and both girls are approached by fellow classmates who will grow to become close friends. As Hana Isuzu and Saori Takebi do for Miho in Girls und Panzer, Eiko and Kamuri do the same for Hana in Slow Start. The role of Yukari Akiyama is then fulfilled by Tamate, who is similarly energetic. Familiar characters mean that the anime immediately feels inviting; moving ahead, one wonders when Hana’s background will be made known to the others. Until then, Slow Start does not appear to have too many surprises in store for viewers: standard-issue high school activities and adventures will likely follow Hana and her friends as we move further into the season.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I realise that I said I would write about Yuru Camp △ soon, but an error of logistics occurred that resulted in my taking a look at Slow Start first: for one reason or another, I somehow got it into my head that Slow Start would begin airing tomorrow, not today, so I’m going to push back Yuru Camp  by a few days. Kicking things off in Slow Start, Hana receives her school uniform in a pristine state, and her cousin, Shion, is rather excited to see Hana in it.

  • The simple colours and textures of Slow Start make it apparent that, like Yuyushiki, the anime is intended to focus on the characters. This is not to say that the visuals of Slow Start are substandard in any way: they are fitting of the atmosphere in the anime. The incidental music is also of a reasonable quality, fitting the overall mood within Slow Start. With the basics covered off, the main focus of the discussion can then be directed towards the characters.

  • Besides Miho Nishizumi and Cocoa Hoto, one other character that Hana resembles is CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa, who similarly is behind a year owing to an illness. That Hana seems to draw features from characters in anime that I’ve seen previously could easily be written off as derivative, lazy writing, although I’m a bit more lenient than most anime bloggers and so, will chalk these comparisons as a consequence of the fact that I’ve been watching anime for close to eleven years now.

  • While making her way to Class 1-2, Hana sees two friends reuniting for the first time since primary school and feels that high school would be less intimidating if she were to have a few people that she were familiar with. I begin reminiscing about my first days of university: of all my friends, only I enrolled for the health sciences programme and so, I had no friends accompanying me into the program. However, I befriended a handful of the folks early during orientation week, and through our shared experiences with the challenging courses that constitute the honours degree, I became familiarised with over half of my graduating class over my four years in the health sciences programme.

  • Having long been friends with Eiko, Kamuri is intimidated by Tamate, who knows Eiko from middle school. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere in the world, but in Canada, school assignments are based on geographical locations rather than academic performance, and so, I remained with most of my friends during primary and secondary education. Of course, some folks, I’m still friends with even if at present, we’re all occupied with our careers and the like, as opposed to spending lunch breaks and classes together each and every day.

  • This is, then, the joy of being a student: as we age and mature, more of our time is spent on other things. Back in Slow Start, Hana introduces herself to Class 1-2. So far, instructor Enami has only made a short appearance and going strictly from appearances, is a no-nonsense individual who is voiced by Manami Numakura, who’s also played roles in anime such as Hibike! Euphonium (Mamiko Oumae), Rail Wars! (Aoi Sakurai), Love Lab (Riko Kurahashi) and Dagashi Kashi (Saya Endō).

  • Before I push any further into Slow Start, I will remark that Slow Start has absolutely nothing to do with the TCP congestion control strategy of the same name: slow starts are used to avoid network congestion. Since TCP and computer networks are hardly the focus of Slow Start, it stands to reason that the title itself refers to the delay that Hana’s had getting into high school.

  • Each of Kamuri, Eiko and Tamate give Hana a phone strap-sized ema that is intended to provide luck in safety while travelling. While three times the ema should hypothetically confer three times the safety, I’m not sure of this is quite how it works. One way or another, the friendliness exhibited by each of Kamuri, Eiko and Tamate sets in motion the events of Slow Start. While four characters were introduced right off the bat, I’ve experienced no difficulty in remembering everyone’s names.

  • Excitable like Girls und Panzer‘s Yukari Akiyama, and being similar to Tamayura‘s Norie Okazaki in both appearance and manner, Tamate prefers to be called by her nickname. Eiko is a bit more mature than the others but seems to be fond of jokes, while Kamuri’s speech patterns is reminiscent of both Chino and Renge’s. It is therefore unsurprising to learn that Kamuri is voiced by Maria Naganawa, who provided Kanna’s voice in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. On the topic of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, I’ve not actually watched it, and while I’ve been hearing positive reception for the anime, I’m still wondering if it’s my cup of tea.

  • Slow Start was originally announced seven months ago, and was confirmed for this anime season in July 2017. Looking around, excitement on this series has been limited discussions as to whether or not Slow Start is something that A-1 Pictures should be working on, rather than the anime’s content itself. The manga has also been quite challenging to find, making it difficult to gauge what Slow Start would entail prior to its airing.

  • Tamate feels that her full name is a bit embarrassing on account of it being derived off 玉手箱 (Romaji tamate bako); 玉手 yields “beads” in a direct translation, whereas “Tama” alone (玉) can be seen as referring to a treasure of sorts. In Chinese, 玉 is “Jade” (jyutping “juk6”), and the last character of my name is a derivative of this, being meant to symbolise “double Jade”. Its character “珏” is read “gwok3” in jyutping, although hilariously, it’s rare enough so that most folks do not know the pronunciation for the character in Cantonese, and the jyutping dictionary I use returns nothing when I do a search for the character.

  • Arriving at the sakura trees near the station, Hana and the others arrive to find the trees in full bloom. It’s a beautiful sight, and one that I was a month too late for last year when I visited Japan: sakura blossoms are best viewed in April, which is also when the academic term starts in Japan, but my visit there was in May. In spite of this, the trip stands as being one of the most enjoyable (if not the most enjoyable) I’ve been on, and I’ve got plans to return in the future.

  • Hana’s simmilarities to Miho become more pronounced here as she admires the blooming sakura, and one could easily suppose that Slow Start is what would have resulted had we taken the Panzer out of Girls und Panzer. Unlike Girls und Panzer, which was concealing one hell of a ride, however, I think that there won’t be any surprises in Slow Start, and strictly speaking, that’s fine, as well.

  • The conversation topic soon turns to food, and it is here that Hana reveals that she’s not from the area, having moved here recently, so she’s not too familiar with local shops or specialties. Her dialogue hints as the fact that she’s late by a year, but owing to the fact that she doesn’t really know Eiko, Kamuri and Tamate yet, she’s not ready to disclose this yet. They likely have missed this moment and view it as Hana being a bit shy around them. Listening to Hana’s voice further brings to mind Miho: while Miho is voiced by Mai Fuchigami, Hana is voiced by Reina Kondo, who’s a relative newcomer in the voice acting industry.

  • Shion’s mannerisms bring to mind those of Mocha Hoto; she’s Hana’s cousin, as well as the landlady for the apartment that Hana lives in, and here, the two celebrate Hana’s birthday in style with a fancy dinner that has prawns and egg roe on rice with peppers, mushrooms and lotus rhizome (蓮藕). Sashimi can also be seen, as well. Now that I’m back home, sashimi is not likely to be on the home menu; things like today’s lunch of homemade honey-garlic sausage dog infused with double cheese and tomato sauce, or tonight’s Louisana-style breaded wings for dinner, are more of the norm. It’s been a bit of an eventful day for Hana, and one she’ll likely remember for a while. On my end, today was a quieter one compared to last week, and I spent it shredding bosses in The Division, before watching the Flames humiliate the Anaheim Ducks – with only sixteen seconds left on the clock, Dougie Hamilton scored to put the Flames up 3-2.

  • While Kamuri earlier expressed a desire to get Hana a birthday cake, Shion buys a proper cake and gifts to Hana an umbrella styled after a leek. Being older than Hana, Shion also seems to be this series’ provider of fanservice, given the placement of camera angles, and seeing as the other characters don’t seem well-suited for that sort of thing. With this in mind, it’s quite clear that Slow Start is not about unnecessary focus on mammaries or posteriors, although audiences may be subject to such moments if the oft-utilised hot springs or beach episode is present later in Slow Start‘s run.

  • On a phone call with her parents, Hana assures them that everything is fine, and they seemed immensely relieved to learn that Hana’s fitting into her new environment. Unlike Miho, whose relationship with Shiho was a quite cool at the start of Girls und Panzer, Hana’s on excellent terms with her parents, so I imagine that she moved to get away from the stigma associated with missing a year and gain a fresh start. I further imagine that what Hana did during the year in between missing the exam and her present enrollment at Hoshio Private Girls’ Academy will be the topic of a later episode.

  • The apartment that Hana lives in is a small one that looks well-maintained. With A-1 running the party, the animation quality of Slow Start‘s been of a good quality, and as this post draws to a close, I note that for Slow Start, I’m bypassing the three episode rule and committing to this show for the season. Reviews will come out at the halfway point and the finale, simply because shows of this category, while immensely effective at being relaxing, may not always be conducive for interesting discussions. Writing for shows of this sort usually takes me more time as I try to figure out what to say, so the fewer ideas I have, the longer the post takes.

  • It turns out that Hana’s new friends do not quite remember her name yet, recalling her as the birthday girl. However, their warm welcome suggests that the events of yesterday are not a one-off. Encouraged by this, Hana introduces herself formally to them, setting the table for the remainder of what’s upcoming this season. While an unassuming anime, Slow Start‘s looking quite encouraging, and while it won’t be a world-changer as far as moral implications or thematics go, sometimes, easygoing entertainment is precisely what one needs after a long day’s work.

  • With Slow Start in the books, I’m going to begin setting up the post for Yuru Camp △ soon, as well as turn my attention towards Episode Zero of The New Colossus.  As I’m also closing in on level twenty in The Division, I will be dropping by to write about that experience, as well. That’s pretty much it for now, and looking ahead, the winter anime season looks to be quite a good one for someone of my uncommon interests. Finally, there’s a CSI Miami reference in this page somewhere for readers to search for, if this post’s contents were not sufficiently exciting for readers.

The slower pacing and content of Slow Start means that I’m unlikely to write about this series at a higher frequency, although this isn’t to say that Slow Start is lacking in any way: in fact, I found the first episode of Slow Start immensely enjoyable. However, with this being said, even with my proficiency with English, there is an upper limit to how many variations of “this is adorable” one can say before it becomes stale. I imagine that the heartwarming moments of Slow Start will continue with its current frequency, making Slow Start another excellent show for folks seeking to relax in this upcoming season; the anime itself is visually appealing, with simple, clean environments and expressive characters that contribute to the lively atmosphere in Slow Start. Folks who’ve enjoyed GochiUsa and Kiniro Mosaic will be right at home with Slow Start, and while I might not be doing a large number of posts for Slow Start, readers can reasonably expect me to drop back in at the halfway point and once more at the finale, where I can offer more comprehensive thoughts on the anime once additional episodes have been aired and gain a better insight as to what’s really going down in Slow Start.

Girls’ Last Tour (Shōjo Shūmatsu Ryokō): Review and Reflection After Three

“If one wants to talk about the end of the world, the apocalypse, you’re talking about the world itself. It’s not Southern California breaking into the sea. The story is global, and it requires that kind of approach.” –David Seltzer

In the aftermath of a devastating war, Chito and Yuuri are left to survive in the remains of human civilisation. At the series’ beginning, Chito and Yuuri navigate the bowels of a derelict factory, and manage to find an exit after Yuuri inadvertently begins sucking on Chito’s hand whilst sleeping, using the saliva to pick out a breeze in the air. When they return to the surface, they marvel at the brightness and set about finding supplies in a crashed bomber. Later, the girls seek refuge from a snowstorm and manage to find hot water, enjoying a bath in the process. Chitose grows angry when Yuuri burns one of the books that she’d collected to fuel their fire, and the next day, the girls cook a fish after encountering it while washing their clothing. Continuing on with their journey, Chito and Yuuri encounter cartographer Kanazawa while trying to figure out a way to reach the higher echelons of the great city. They locate an elevator and mid-journey, it begins tilting, causing Kanazawa to lose his maps. Yuuri manages to restore his spirits, and he resolves to continue making new maps, leaving the girls with his camera. Yuuri and Chito decide to make their way to the bright lights in the distance. Girls’ Last Tour is prima facie the union of Metro 2033 and Yuyushiki; in its premise, Girls’ Last Tour follows Chito and Yuuri’s adventures as they try to eke out existence in a world long after it was ravaged by an apocalyse of unknown nature. Intriguing, yet minimalist, Girls’ Last Tour‘s greatest strength at present is how the pacing really allows for their world to be explored. The stills of ruined cityscapes and abandoned facilities contribute to the storytelling with the same magnitude as does the dialogue between Chito and Yuuri.

While seemingly trivial in nature, reflecting on its source material being from a four-panel manga, the interactions between Chito and Yuuri seamlessly move from lighthearted conversation topics to more serious ones, such as the worth of existing in a world devoid of other people, what constitutes as war and trying to make sense of the artifacts that the older civilisation left behind. Gaps in their knowledge become apparent through their conversations, and through their general lack of familiarity with some aspects of the older civilisation and nature, Girls’ Last Tour suggests two notions. The first is that a complex society is one whose constructs can be non-trivial to understand: if humans were to vanish tomorrow, some of our more sophisticated contraptions would be very difficult to reverse engineer and replicate. Computers and contemporary medicine are examples of just how far we’ve come, requiring expertise in order to design, mass produce and distribute. This is the reason why fiction commonly depicts post-apocalyptic worlds as regressing: most technologies past the Industrial Revolution require specialised knowledge to replicate and engineer. The second point in Girls’ Last Tour is that human understanding of the physical and natural world comes from knowledge that is, proverbially, built on the shoulders of giants. With the giants gone, Chito and Yuuri can only rely on their own experiences and Chito’s limited reading ability to figure out the world around them. Things such as why the sky is blue or the origins of fish remain a mystery to them. By stripping away access to existing knowledge and learning, the very essence of our civilisation’s sophistication is removed. This forces Chito and Yuuri to learn by their own experiences, driving the day-to-day events that the constitute the manga.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Girls’ Last Tour is one of the most minimal anime I’ve seen in design and character count: in the first three episodes, there is only one other character introduced besides Chito (left) and Yuuri (right). Chito is the more serious and quiet of the two: she’s literate, a skilful mechanic and handles driving of the Kettenkrad. Yuuri is easygoing and versed with firing rifles. Yuuri is voiced by Yurika Kubo (Urara Meirocho‘s Koumei Yukimi and Rin Shiretoko of Hai-Furi): Kubo played a minor role as one of the female students in Yuyushiki. I’ve heard comparisons between Yuuri and GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto and find that this one barely holds true.

  • Chito is voiced by Inori Minase, whom I best know for her role as GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu, and in Girls’ Last Tour, Minase’s delivery of Chito’s lines makes her sound very much like Chino. Indeed, Chito is very similar to Chino in manner, being soft-spoken and prefers the company of books. She’s also quick to be irritated by Yuuri’s antics – her mannerisms bring to mind Yuzuko’s role of Yuyushiki, and here, a vivid dream leads her to begin sucking on Chito’s hand. While initially annoyed, Chito works out how to escape the labyrinth they are navigating at the series’ beginning.

  • Food is a scarce resource, and leaving the factory leads Yuuri and Chito to indulge in a can of hot soup before resting under the stars: the bowels of the factory were sufficiently dark so that even the night sky is bright. Countless stars are visible, suggesting the absence of light pollution – my home town has replaced most of its street lamps in an effort to combat light pollution, the wasteful use of energy to illuminate our environments by night is said to degrade our health, has a noticeable impact on ecosystems and is considered a nuisance by astronomers. However, in a world without an intact civilisation, lighting is reduced and allows the girls a fantastic view of the night sky.

  • Yuuri operates the Arisaka Type 38, which is derived from the Type 30.Introduced in 1905, the Type 39 remained the main service rifle of Imperial Japanese forces until World War Two ended. Other pieces of World War Two-era technology include a Panzer III, but as even Chito lacks the know-how and desire to restore the Panzer III, Girls’ Last Tour is certainly not Girls und Panzer by any stretch, and after three episodes, it is also inappropriate to compare it to Sora no Woto given the vast differences in thematic elements. At the time of writing, no one’s taken to suggesting existentialism as the main theme in Girls’ Last Tour – I’m not fond of the notion that this can be used as a catch-all for describing themes in anime set in a post-apocalyptic world.

  • This moment captures the desolate surroundings awaiting Yuuri and Chito on the surface: the combination of derelict military equipment under a fresh winter’s snowfall. The soundtrack in Girls’ Last Tour is highly appropriate in capturing the atmosphere within the anime. I’m not familiar with Kenichiro Suehiro’s work, but his compositions in Girls’ Last Tour contribute substantially to the tones within the anime. I’ve got no figures on how many tracks and disks will be in the soundtrack, nor do I have any idea of how much the soundtrack will cost, but what is known is that the soundtrack will release on December 20.

  • Yuuri and Chito find a propeller-powered plane and decide to investigate. Chito’s height makes it difficult to board the aircraft, and she struggles until Yuuri helps her out. In this moment, Chito resembles Chino, and in a curious turn of events, Girls’ Last Tour is animated by White Fox, who had previously done the first and second seasons of GochiUsa; one might consider Chito merely to be a dark-haired version of Chino in a different environment.

  • It would appear that technology in Girls’ Last Tour encompass technology leading up to the end of World War Two: rotary machine guns remained in the prototype stage during World War Two, and the iconic M134 only appeared during the Vietnam War. While it is commonly depicted as a man-portable weapon in fiction, the weapon’s high firing rate and requirement of a power supply to rotate the barrels mean that the weapon cannot be used in such a manner, hence Chito’s decision to refuse Yuuri to bring the weapon along with them.

  • Aside from a cache of weapons, Chito also encounters rations and explosives, which will prove useful in aiding their survival. The girls’ search and scavenging for resources brings to mind the likes of the Metro video game series, where resource collection and management played a large part of the game. The idea of a snowy surface and numerous underground passages in Girls’ Last Tour are the reason why I draw the comparison between the anime and Metro; I received Metro: Last Light complementary with my GPU back when I built my current rig back in 2013 and have since gone back to play through Metro 2033. This is a series I have enjoyed, and so, I do have an eye on the upcoming Metro: Exodus.

  • Among the supplies found are a cache of chocolate bars. While chocolate drinks derived from Cocoa beans have been around since at least 1900 BC, modern chocolate comes from innovations made during the Industrial Revolution, and milk chocolate dates back to 1875. It is more than likely that by the events of Girls’ Last Tour that the means to mass produced chocolate no longer exist, making it a relic of an older age.

  • In a surprising turn of events, Yuuri holds Chito at gunpoint and answers a conversation topic from earlier, when the question of what war is was posed. At its core, warfare is conflict between two parties, motivated by scarcity of resources, ideological differences: warring actors usually engage in fighting with the aim of achieving some sort of benefit, and in the case of Girls’ Last Tour, fighting over a chocolate bar owing to its scarcity is a highly effective, if simplified, explanation of war: because Yuuri has the weapons here, she makes the calls, and if Chito had her own weapon, a stalemate would result, forcing the two to negotiate or else risk death to achieve their end goal. It’s a tense moment and a dramatic demonstration of an idea, but as I’ve heard that Girls’ Last Tour is laid-back in nature, one does not expect any violence to actually break out.

  • While Chito resembles Chino, it’s a little trickier to see Yuuri as Cocoa. When Yuuri takes the moment to scarf down the remaining chocolate, Chito kicks her ass (Chino’s never kicked Cocoa’s ass in GochiUsa, for one), causing the two to expend even more energy than anticipated. Even in such moments, the atmosphere in Girls’ Last Tour never strays far from a gentle calm. In the aftermath of their fight, Yuuri eats some snow to rehydrate, prompting Chito to do the same. Humans have long consumed snow or melted it into water, and while contaminants can make snow unsafe to eat, freshly-fallen snow is safe for consumption despite low levels of atmospheric pollutants and heavy metals. In Girls’ Last Tour, on the other hand, the absence of industry might mean cleaner air.

  • Amidst a fierce snowstorm, Yuuri and Chito seek shelter, finding themselves inside an old factory with running water. They’re operating the SdKfz 2 light tractor, more commonly known as a Kettengrad (“track motorcycle”). Widely used in World War Two by German forces, Kettengrads were first used in 1941 as service vehicles. The choice of a tracked vehicle allows the two to traverse steep terrain and haul more equipment. Chito remarks that their ride is special, but one of their constant challenges is keeping the vehicle fueled up.

  • After setting up their bath, Yuuri and Chito melt in the comfort of having hot water, a welcome respite from the cold outside. Similar to Yuyushiki, where the characters heads can deform to indicate their state of being, I’ve found that Girls’ Last Tour to be highly unconventional in its design, making the most of the post-apocalyptic world and the possibilities for exploration to  tell a highly unique and easygoing story.

  • There are folks who would argue that Girls’ Last Tour represents what the community commonly calls “wasted potential” in that there is an incredible world constructed in Girls’ Last Tour, and yet, the characters only are to go about their day-to-day adventures in favour of presenting to audiences an opportunity to learn more about the setting. In the case of Girls’ Last Tour, I would counter that the simplistic conversations and unexplored world present plenty of opportunity to reflect on our current society and its complexity: in particular, I feel that Girls’ Last Tour is a fantastic example of what impacts that specialised knowledge might have on our ability to recover from global scale disasters.

  • After their bath, Chito and Yuuri relax by a fire. The perspective of this image captures the sense of scale of the structures seen within Girls’ Last Tour: many of the structures that we presently take for granted, including stadiums, opera halls and other large-scale buildings, are the result of accumulated engineering knowledge. When this knowledge is lost, it must be re-discovered: a common theme in fiction is the presence of precursor civilisations that leave behind incredible artefacts, whether they be Halo‘s Forerunners or the Celestials in Star Wars. J.R.R. Tolkien does something similar in the Lord of the Rings legendarium, where the works created in the First Age far surpass anything in the Second Age, and where works of the Third Age are pale imitations of the works of the Second Age.

  • This seems contrary to civilisation as we know it, however: while architects and engineers of old have constructed structures of incredible sophistication and durability (the Pyramids of Giza, Great Wall of China and Forbidden City come to mind), the modern world has some incredible advances in transportation and communication that would seem like magic to ancient civilisations. The reason for our advances is precisely because we learned to record our knowledge, and in Girls’ Last Tour, Chito is fond of books precisely for this reason; she’s literate and regularly writes in her journal.

  • When Yuuri burns one of the books after being asked to add more fuel to their fire, Chito becomes very displeased, enough to do this to her. In reality, our skulls are certainly not able to be deformed in this manner without serious injury and death resulting, but in something like Girls’ Last Tour, this is apparently harmless. Yuuri spends a bit of time wondering if Chito is still angry with her, but Chito later replies that her journals are the most precious, being records of their own experiences.

  • The colour in Girls’ Last Tour is of a low saturation, with only a limited selection available in a scene’s palette at any given time. Colour combinations associated with growth and life are largely absent, and in its place are hues that reinforce the idea that mirror the desolate environments. In spite of this, the dynamics between Yuuri and Chito seem to offset the coldness in the environment: since Yuuri and Chito have one another, their journey becomes much less lonely. Les Stroud in Survivorman mentions that loneliness can be one of the biggest impediments to survival.

  • The second episode deals primarily with water: Yuuri and Chito encounter a reserviour of fresh meltwater here below a ruined dam. The amount of blue in this scene stands in contrast with the barren whites, grays and browns of earlier settings, suggesting that there still are beautiful places left in their world to discover and explore. After climbing down a flight of steps, the girls discover that the water is quite cool, and proceed slowly, with the aim of washing their clothes.

  • Uncertain about the currents, Chito dons a helmet for protection and ties herself to Yuuri, whose desire to explore leaves Chito in the water. I recall a scene in GochiUsa where Chino is pulled by the current in a fast-flowing river while trying to retrieve Cocoa’s hat, and Minase’s delivery of Chito’s dialogue is done very similarly. Yuuri wonders why the sky is blue here, and Chito erroneously responds that it’s a reflection of the ocean. The blue wavelength comes about due to Rayleigh scattering, and the properties of a nitrogen-oxygen gas mixture increases scattering of photons of a shorter, blue wavelength.

  • Occasionally, Les Stroud encounters animal remains on his survival journeys and capitalises on them, such as when he found a fish in Alaska; when Yuuri and Chito see the same, they set about cooking the fish. Les Stroud usually cooks his food to destroy any pathogens and parasites, although he remarks that it is possible to eat most things raw when in a survival situation. Conversely, meat that has been packaged and processed absolutely must be cooked to at least 60ºC to 75ºC, depending on the meat, to ensure it is safe for consumption. There’s a longstanding debate as to whether or not raw food or cooked food is better. While it is true that cooking will destroy some nutrients, cooking food preseves anti-oxidants such as K-On!!‘s lycopene and also was the reason that we evolved larger brains: cooking the food improved digestibility and releases nutrients, allowing us to spend less time eating.

  • H. sapiens‘ ability to cook means we don’t spend nine hours a day eating, leaving us to do other things, such as communicate and socialise. Back in Girls’ Last Tour, Yuuri and Chito take turns enjoying their freshly-cooked fish. I’m generally big on seafood, and fish is no exception: the slightly sweet flavour of fish goes well with soy sauce, green onions and ginger. After their meal, Chito and Yuuri wonder where fish come from: any primary student will immediately point at bodies of water as places to fish, although their question could also be interpreted from an evolutionary perspective.

  • If we were to answer the question this way, the earliest fish (organisms with gills and fins) date back to the Cambrian period. Of course, delving into too many details is beyond the scope of this discussion, so I return things to Girls’ Last Tour, where Chito and Yuuri rest after their meal under a brilliant blue sky. While the colours may be less saturated in the anime, the moments where the landscapes are highlighted really shine. In the quiet of this moment, I will take a moment to reflect on the fact that a year ago, well-known anime blogger Chizumatic kicked the bucket. I personally felt he was better suited for political blogging rather than anime blogging: his posts were jejune, unoriginal and uninformative, and it is therefore surprising that people can claim that readers “aren’t getting such insights anymore and the animeblogging has become poorer for that”, especially when one compares Chizumatic to the content that’s still available, such as what is presented here.

  • While trying to figure out a way across the chasm, Yuuri and Chito run into Kanazawa, who uses explosives to bring down a skyscraper to form a makeshift bridge. Yuuri immediately holds him at gunpoint, fearing hostile action. Their initial suspicions of him slowly evaporate once he presents his interest in cartography, and when he helps them get the Kettengrad up and over the building.

  • It is shown that the urban areas of Girls’ Last Tour are built in layers, similar to Hengsha from Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The result in Girls’ Last Tour are densely packed cities whose edges drop away into an abyss. Such a concept isn’t too implausible: as land become scarce, density must increase, and sufficiently advanced engineering will make it possible to layer cities on this manner, although there are also social implications of denying lower layers of a city access to light, meaning that wealthier residents will move to upper levels as they are built. Even in an environment without levels, such as in the ecumenopolis of Coruscant, super-tall buildings eventually block out light at lower levels.

  • With help from Kanazawa’s maps, the girls find a fuelling station and continue towards an elevator tower. Kanazawa remarks that a century ago, humans found themselves unable to operate the elevators and ended up rigging makeship elevators to the towers to ascend. The implications of this are that humanity once held a great civilisation that collapsed, and a newer, more primitive society formed subsequently but similarly collapsed.

  • On the ascent, the elevator stalls and tilts, leading Kanazawa to lose all of his painstakingly created maps. He falls into a depression, and with Chito’s acrophobia kicking in, it’s up to Yuuri to fix the elevator to get things rolling. Their ascent is marked by darkening skies leading to a beautiful sunset, and as they reach the top, the skies have darkened sufficiently for the street lamps to turn on. The sight is a beautiful one to behold, and it is this that the third episode’s final segment is named after. That the lights still come on suggest an area better maintained than the levels below.

  • In Traditional Chinese, street lamps are 街燈 (in Cantonese, gai1 dang1). The equivalent in Japanese is 街灯 (Gaitō). Most modern street lamps have a photocell that detects ambient light levels and will activate or shut off automatically. In my area, Cobra-head lamps used to be common, although in the early 2000s, they were replaced by full-cutoff street lamps. In the past year, the sodium-vapor lamps have since been replaced by energy-efficient LEDs, and these have been quite effective at lowering light pollution: the areas lit on the ground are brighter, but all around, it looks much darker, to the point where I can resolve some magnitude 2 and 3 stars without the help of binoculars.

  • Yuuri and Chito share a chocolate bar with Kanazawa, reassuring him and helping him realise that setbacks are not the end of the road – inspired by their example, he decides to create new maps on the new level they’ve arrived at and departs on a high note. I’m rather fond of his character; it would be nice if he returns in later episodes. Heading their separate ways, Chito and Yuuri decide to head towards a bright light in the distance.

  • I’m quite impressed with how Girls’ Last Tour has presented its world and characters insofar; its simple premise notwithstanding, the anime has offered no shortage of conversation topics. Just from this post alone, I’ve touched on topics as diverse as human evolution and cooking, development of culture through written language, warfare and even amateur astronomy. While expectations were not quite so high for Girls’ Last Tour to impress this season, after three episodes, it is clear that this anime’s a pleasant surprise that I will look forwards to watching every week.

Chito and Yuuri’s naïveté in Girls’ Last Tour do not preclude them from learning and figuring out their survival strategy, nor does it appear to slow down their ability to slowly work out answers to some of their questions. As such, while seemingly a disconnected series of adventures, Girls’ Last Tour nonetheless presents an adventure that’s worth following; as their experiences over time accumulate, Chito and Yuuri will end up drawing their own conclusions about the world that they live in and discover their own reasons to continue surviving. Moving ahead, folks familiar with the manga will know that Girls’ Last Tour remains within the realm of catharsis rather than exploring darker or more philosophical themes, and this is admittedly an appropriate direction – I’ve never been fond of fiction that forces its characters to needlessly suffer for the sake of half-heartedly discussing philosophy (or the community’s associated need to regard this as the apex of “good writing”). By choosing a more relaxing approach, Girls’ Last Tour will likely illustrate how its unique setting notwithstanding, Yuuri and Chito will nonetheless develop a routine and survival pattern that lets them make the most of their world, illustrating the strength of the human spirit and reminding viewers of our capacity for resilience during difficult times. There is one additional bonus: the anime’s soundtrack holds a cathartic and ethereal quality to it. The strength of the music in Girls’ Last Tour, composed by Kenichiro Suehiro, is comparable to the likes of Yuki Kajiura and Hiroyuki Sawano, doing much to add an additional dimension to Chito and Yuuri’s adventures.

Your Name (Kimi no na wa) Home Release Set for July 26

“Anyways, this is a good movie. I was genuinely moved by the displays of courage and sacrifice in the name of what they felt was right. So Mitsuha and Taki can have their moment, I’ll give them that, because at the end of the day, you win some, and you lose some. And today, they are about to win some, big time! The Blu-Rays are about to come out, and we are about to take them on a test run! Believe! Believe that!” –Kylo Ren on the announcement

Update: The release date of July 26 has been officially announced as of May 10. 

I open with the remark that there has been no official announcement yet: this information is relatively recent, and its authenticity is unverified. Derived from a lower-resolution photograph of a promotional poster that was handed out with some stores accompanying purchases, it seems that Your Name will be available for purchase on July 26, 2017. Continuing with translation of the poster finds that there will be four tiers of the film available for purchase: the basic DVD will cost 3800 yen (46.56 CAD) and the standard edition BD will be 4800 yen (58.81 CAD). The special edition BD will include two bonus disks (likely containing the behind-the-scenes and other materials), plus a special booklet and artwork. This one will retail for 7800 yen (88.21 CAD). Finally, the ultimate collector’s edition BD will go for 12000 yen (147.02 CAD). The ultimate collector’s edition is notably less than the price of Battlefield 1: Ultimate Edition, which costs 165 CAD, and two dollars more than picking up Battlefield 1 and Battlefield 1 Premium Pass separately at current exchange rates: at the top-tier, consumers will get five disks in total (two for the movie, and three for behind-the-scenes features), plus a one-hundred page booklet and all-new visuals. Of note is the fact that there is going to be a 4K version: a resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels, such a version of Your Name will look fabulous on screens ranging from 4K monitors to the iPad Pro tablets.

  • Unlike Girls und Panzer Der Film, as I’m no longer a student, I cannot spend a full day writing a larger review: that post took twelve hours over the course of a day to write, and taking a day off work for an anime movie review makes no sense. With this in mind, having seen the movie previously, I’ve got a very good idea of what to write about going into the projected BD release date: I will aim to have the review (likely eclipsing even Girls und Panzer Der Film‘s review and discussion in size) out on the same day that my copy of Your Name arrives.

This news comes five years after I learned of the K-On! Movie‘s release, which was also set to be in July. The three month timeframe between the announcement and actual release is consistent with the K-On! Movie, as well as Girls und Panzer Der Film (which was also announced roughly three months before release) both cases, so while the July 26 release date is presently unconfirmed, I imagine that official news will be appearing quite soon. Further to this, the soundtrack for Your Name released on July 26, 2016, a month before the movie itself premièred in Japanese theatres. Finally, I’ve heard that Your Name‘s theatrical run in Japan drew to a close last week. The sum of these observations point in a direction to support the authenticity of this news; should Your Name indeed be released on July 26, the wait for this movie, however arduous it has been for the past several months, will have been worth something. At the minimum, Your Name will not be as elusive as Half-Life 3 or Half-Life 2 Episode 3. It will be fantastic to be able to watch Your Name in proper HD on my own screens.