The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru? Review and Reflection After Three

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounan Desu ka? Review and Reflection After Three

“You sweat, you die” –Les Stroud

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • I am certain I will enjoy this movie, and hope that it’ll see a shorter delay in the gap between the theatrical première. With this being said, I am certain that certain review sites, like Anime News Network. will unnecessarily waste resources to see this movie for the singular purpose of pushing out a review first. Until the rest of the world gets to see the movie, I suggest that reviews appearing at Anime News Network, and anywhere else, should not be regarded as a credible assessment of the film. I realise that I’ve been writing considerably less as of late, as well: real life obligations has meant that I’ve less time to write in general these days. Having said this, I am definitely going to be offering my thoughts on Tenki no Ko once it is available, and in the near future, I am also doing a talk on I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, a solid film whose home release became available earlier this month.

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

Endro! Review and Reflections After Three

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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