The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

Sakura Quest: Review and Impressions After Three

“I felt the need to be more open and expressive of my feelings, not just about the hills and the countryside, but about the daily life.” –Donald Hall

Faced with the challenges of finding full-time employment as her graduation draws near, Yoshino Koharu finds herself offered with an unusual position: to become the Queen of Manoyama, a small town in rural Japan far removed from Tokyo, to promote tourism to the area. While this offer turns out to have been made on the basis of mistaken identity, Yoshino learns that Manoyama was the town where one of her fondest memories of being crowned were made: she nonetheless is displeased with prospects of staying for a year, attempting the impossible task of selling a thousand boxes of manjū on the condition that she be released from her contract on success. Despite failing, she draws upon her resources and know-how to try and bolster sales with the friendly Shiori Shinomiya, Ririko Oribe (Shiori’s friend with a profund knowledge of the occult), ammeter actor Maki Midorikawa and the web developer Sanae Kōzuki, becoming closer to them in the process. Later, during a televised competition to promote Manoyama, Yoshino realises that, following her attempts to learn more about the town and its residents, she genuinely wants to make a difference, and to Ushimatsu Kadota, head of Manoyama’s Tourism Board, she agrees to stay the year and help out on the condition of being able to work with Shiori, Sanae, Maki and Ririko. I am all smiles when watching Sakura Quest, and there is little doubt in my mind that this is going to be one of the strongest anime on my table for this season: wielding both sincerity and comedy, Sakura Quest is a reminder that P.A. Works is at their finest when they work with original anime set in the real world to showcase the trials and tribulations of people. Hanasaku Iroha, Tari Tari and Shirobako were each excellent works, firmly about challenges and adversity in life, as well as making the most of what one is dealt to ultimately craft a highly compelling story whose characters audiences can empathise with.

Hanasaku Iroha dealt with Ohana learning about the worth of hard work and dealing with her feelings for her friend, Kō, Tari Tari follows a group of friends seeking to create an opus magnum before their halcyon days in high school draw to a close, and Shirobako sees Aoi Miyamori settle into her job as a production assistant at an anime studio, being later promoted to production manager as she discovers her own talents in the position. Each of these anime were highly engaging, and in Sakura Quest, P.A. Works’ talent for depicting real-world stories continues. Yoshino’s predicament in trying to help Ushimatsu drive tourism to Manoyama parallels the struggles that towns in Japan’s inaka, or rural Japan, face: their populations aging, and with youth like Yoshino being drawn to the city for its greater opportunity, populations in the inaka are declining along with economic prospects. However, in some places, settlements and towns in the inaka are making a resurgence, brought on by the people’s desires to escape the manic pace of the city or as a result of increased promotional efforts. This social issue is captured in Sakura Quest, and despite a healthy dose of comedy present, Sakura Quest is very open about the challenges that inaka communities, such as the fictional Manoyama, face in their futures. Consequently, Sakura Quest‘s upcoming depiction of Yoshino’s journeys with her newfound friends in Manoyama will certainly be one that is as much about her own personal discovery as it is about how a group of friends can indeed make a difference in a a part of Japan that seems stubbornly set in its ways even in the face of decline.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I will mention this again later: Sakura Quest has twenty five episodes in the works, meaning that I will be returning at some intervals to discuss how the anime is progressing. I also open with the remark that I’m up to speed with Sakura Quest, and that of the numerous discussions I’ve seen so far, none have delved into the societal elements of Japan that drive the narrative of Sakura Quest. Population aging and decline is a very real issue facing the countryside, and programs incentivising citizens to move to or stay in the countryside definitely exist.

  • Yoshino Koharu is Sakura Quest‘s Aoi Miyamori, the reluctant hero who finds herself thrown into situations she’s initially uncomfortable with handling. Yoshino is voiced by Ayaka Nanase, a relatively new voice actor for whom this is her first leading role. After arriving in Manoyama, Yoshino is greeted by the tourism board, who immediately note that she’s not the person they’re expecting. In a bit of dark irony, the individual they were expecting had died some years back, and consequently, they’re ready to see if Yoshino might be a fit.

  • The interior of the Manoyama Tourism Board’s office will undoubtly be a location that audiences can expect to see more of in the upcoming episodes, being their base of operations. Its depiction in high detail here complete with one of the employees playing Go on their laptop, is a reminder of the level of quality that P.A. Works places into its anime. In general, their anime strike a balance between highly intricate and organisation in its environments that create a detailed, yet clean setting.

  • Shiori is a Manoyama native roughly around Yoshino’s age. Being friendly and kind, she’s a member of the tourism board with a genuine interest in bolstering tourism around the Manoyama area and is extremely knowledgeable about the region. Shiori is voiced by Reina Ueda, whom I’ve seen previously as Kuromukuro‘s Sophie Noelle and Shizune Takatsuki of Infinite Stratos². I finished Kuromukuro in December, some three months after it finished airing, and the reason why I never did write a review for it was because I had mixed feelings about it after the conclusion.

  • After Yoshino accepts her position, she has dinner with some of the more senior members of the Tourism Board. While food and drink is partaken, I take advantage of the moment to steal a cursory glance at my archive for this month: I’ve got a fair number of gaming posts out as a result of having pushed through Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered. I’ve still yet to actually write about Titanfall 2: the past while’s been busy in real life, and yesterday, I returned to the CYSF as a judge. After a light pastry and apple juice, I stepped out into the fair to begin my adjudication of the student’s projects.

  • The last science fair I participated in was eleven years ago; it was a rainy day, and I’d struggled to get my trifold to the exhibition venue. My project, outlining the implications of genetics research, went reasonably well, earning me a bronze medal and a small cash prize: looking back, it was a fun experience. Presently, it was an equally fun and meaningful experience to approach the science fair from the judge’s perspective, encouraging young minds to explore science. Back in Sakura Quest, Yoshino meets Maki for the first time, who irritates her to no end with her abuse of the word “normal” (普通, futsū).

  • If time permits, I may go back and continue to judge science fairs as a volunteer. For the present, I return my attention to Sakura Quest and share with the reader a cruel laugh at Yoshino’s expense: she learns that her contract is to be a year rather than a day, choosing to flee for her life rather than honour it. However, Manoyama’s remoteness makes escape next to impossible – the train station is closed. It brings to mind the gulag of the Kolyma region; these were sufficiently isolated and located in frigid lands such that escaping was pointless, as escapees would simply freeze to death.

  • P.A. Works might be known for a variety of things, but for me, I know them best for their exceptional “funny faces”: Shirobako featured Aoi wearing a variety of hilarious expressions, and one of my goals this season for Sakura Quest will be to capture as many funny faces as I can in the reviews that I do for this series. So far, it’s been pretty disciplined, but I’m hoping that we see Yoshino with some Aoi Miyamori-level facial expressions soon. Here, Yoshino flees after a “Chupacabra” appears. Refusing to use a special sword to dramatically take it out, Yoshino winds up injuring Ushimatsu instead.

  • A thousand boxes of manjū are delivered in error, and Ushimatsu decides that Yoshino is free to go if she can sell of all thousand boxes within a week before their “best before” date. This is a Sisyphean task: Manoyama’s entire population is around fifty thousand, and Ushimatsu pegs it a test of Yoshino’s resolve. Her initial efforts are unsuccessful, and she decides to figure out a means of marketing their presence to the locals, recruiting the local web developer and blogger Sanae to help.

  • Demonstrating her knack for creative solutions, Yoshino suggests that they try to capitalise on the chupacabra sightings in the area to create a sense of intrigue around the manjū; they speak with Ririko here to learn more. Sakura Quest spells the chapacabra as “chupakaura”, the katakana form for the cryptid. Life in the inaka is said to be remarkably quiet, and outside of work, there is not too much to do. Surprisingly, life in suburban Canada without a vehicle is rather similar – folks suggest picking up a good hobby, and armed with a powerful internet connection and a sense of adventure, I would imagine that, besides a significantly longer commute, my life in the inaka would probably not be too different than it is now: I would spend weekends exploring the countryside via hikes on days with pleasant weather and game or write if the conditions is unfavourable.

  • Yoshino’s resourcefulness drew me into Sakura Quest, and it is quite clear that despite her numerous rejection from jobs in Tokyo, she has a unique skillset as a result of her studies in Tokyo. Simply because companies might not count her as being a qualified candidate does not mean that Yoshino lacks skills, and it is reasonable to imagine that her experiences in Manoyama change her in appreciable ways, either setting her up to stay in the countryside or equipping her with marketable skills in order to gain an offer.

  • With sales of the manjū doing quite poorly even after a few days, Yoshino further resolves to create a short movie to capture the novelty around them, hoping to motivate sales. Even this proves unsuccessful, but the exercise accomplishes several important functions, such as bringing Yoshino, Ririko, Sanae and Maki closer to one another. It is often through failure that critical learnings are attained, and the value of these learnings can become much more valuable than the success itself. It is around the events of the second episode where Sakura Quest truly begins shining, providing viewers with an iron-clad incentive to continue enjoying this anime.

  • Although dejected, Yoshino tries a manjū, learns that it is exceptionally good, and suddenly realises that her time with the others has been an enjoyable one. They decide to stick together long enough for Yoshino to check out the sakura blossoms in the area one week from this point: fate itself continues to draw Yoshino back to Manoyama, and despite her reluctance, Yoshino slowly will come to appreciate the different features and pacing of the inaka. While I speak as though there is source material, Sakura Quest is an original anime; my speculations (and confident delivery of such) is motivated by my familiarity with outcomes in such narratives. Knowing what happens, however, is not where the fun lies – the real enjoyment comes from watching how a narrative’s events progress.

  • It typically takes me some time to become acclimitised to all of the characters and their names, but in the case of Sakura Quest, I’ve become familiarised with all of the major characters at the third episode mark; there’s no need for me to look at an external reference in order to determine how to spell their names or identify who they are. This is a solid start to Sakura Quest in the exposition component, introducing enough characters to get things started without overwhleming the viewers.

  • Shiori and Yoshino meet Maki’s brother, who is trying to convince her to return home. On top of being easy to remember, the characters of Sakura Quest are (perhaps with the exception of the cold townspeople) immediately likeable – this presentation seems to suggest that the anime will be about the tourism board trying to rally the town behind them to Make Manoyama Great Again℠. While long associated with the presidential campaign of 2016, the phrase “Make America Great Again℠” originates with Ronald Regan’s campaign in 1980.

  • Despite being the Queen of Manoyama, Yoshino realises that she has very limited background on Manoyama and its people. Here, she’s preparing for a televised interview about Manoyama, and promptly botches it despite support from Shiori. Ever-supportive and cheerful, Shiori and Yoshino get along remarkably well: Shiori is the first to begin supporting and encouraging, Yoshino, who finds her own feet with the conclusion of the third episode’s events.

  • While idealists have grand visions in their minds about bringing about change, the largest impediment to change is the fact that for the most part, people are unaccustomed to change and prefer the status quo. This is why disruptive forces, such as new technologies, often do not take off until on particular approach to the technology catches on for its convenience and ease of use. The smartphone is a fantastic example of this: the IBM Simon Personal Communicator was the first-ever smartphone, being able to make calls and receive emails. Introduced in 1992 and retailing for 1099 USD, the device had a touch screen. However, these devices remained uncommon and largely used by businesses until 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone. The concept of a device that could do mobile computing in conjunction with acting as a phone was nothing new by that point, but Apple succeeded in creating a smooth, enjoyable user experience that subsequently changed the face of electronic communications forever.

  • It would be quite unrealistic (and unfair) to expect Yoshino to streamline a concept or process in order to revitalise Manoyama’s economy, but to see what she makes of her situation is what will make Sakura Quest fun to watch. When a costume mishap leads to #TeamManoyama nearly missing their allocated time slot in a competition, Yoshino steps in and orders for them to combine the two costumes, then proceeds to deliver a heartfelt speech that, while not scoring any points with the judges, conveys her own conviction in helping Make Manoyama Great Again℠.

  • While on hanami with the others, Yoshino comes to realise that she’s found four fantastic friends in Manoyama. She comes to a conclusion, making a request to Ushimatsu to work with them, and her decision thus sparks the remainder of the story that will be presented in the upcoming weeks. I’ve always been fond of origin stories, and seeing how things begin – Sakura Quest is no exception, and I look forwards to seeing how things proceed in this twenty-five episode anime. The opening and ending songs, Morning Glory and Freesia, respectively, are set to release in May 17. Overall, the visuals and direction in Sakura Quest have been solid, but the soundtrack’s been a bit lower-key so far.

  • After lifting weights, I spent most of the day playing through Battlefield 1 and went for a walk to acquire the Earth Day challenge on Apple Activities. It was an overcast evening that I stepped out to for dinner; besides a special fried rice with garlic shrimps, we also had Thailand-style chicken, sweet and sour pork, a stir fry and fried fish balls. With the “after three” post for Sakura Quest in the books, I will be looking at Saekano♭ after three episodes in the near future. In addition, with Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act available now, another post for that will be rolling off the runway in the very near future. This is about it for the anime I’ve got lined up to write about in the foreseeable future – Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1 Premium are the other two posts that are on the list of things I aim to finish before April is out.

Immensely relatable right out of the gates, Sakura Quest seems an anime that audiences in my age bracket will relate with quickly: the uncertainties associated with making that transition between school and work is a frightening one, and sometimes, opportunities can arise from the most unlikely of circumstances. This is precisely what happens to Yoshino, whose career in the tourism industry begins with a mistake arising from illegible handwriting. This opening reflects on how reality itself can play out in the most unusual of ways, and for those persistent enough to stick things out, the journey can prove to be a rewarding one. With this remark, I have an inkling that I may have with reasonable accuracy, described Sakura Quest‘s main thematic element already, but like all of its predecessors, it is this journey whose worth makes the anime worth following. Sakura Quest is slated to run for twenty five episodes – such a number corresponds with an adequate time frame to really capture Yoshino’s experiences, and consequently, it would not be mistaken to surmise that Sakura Quest could be as captivating and entertaining to watch as its predecessors set in the real world.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Fan Service of Love and Pure Heart Review and Reflection

做個好漢子、每天要自強。
熱血男子、熱勝红日光!
林子祥, 男兒當自強

Eriri and Megumi book accommodations at a hotel with Utaha’s help in order to help design artwork for their game further, but their efforts decay as Izumi and Michiru show up. After being subjected to various incidents up on the pool deck, Tomoya tries to take off by evening, but Utaha manages to haul him off with the intent of spending the evening alone with him. These plans are foiled, and Michiru shows off the music she’s composed for their game so far. Later, Megumi and Tomoya share a moment together, promising to continue working on their game in order to make it a success. This pre-season episode marks the beginning to Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭ (read “Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata Flat“, Saekano ♭ for brevity), a series that follows aspiring doujin game developer-to be Tomoya Aki and his raggedy-ass team as they aim to release a full-fledged visual novel in time for the upcoming Comiket event. While excelling at nothing in particular, Saekano’s first season remains memorable for its self-referential humour and array of unfortunate events that befall Tomoya as Utaha, Eriri and Michiru vie for his heart even as they strive to put their best into the development work and complete their game ahead of their deadline.

As its predecessor had before it, Saekano ♭ opens the season with a prelude set midway into the season and development cycle, presenting an episode that establishes the dynamics amongst the individuals of Blessing Software. As unrealistic as these interactions are, watching Tomoya try to worm his way out of difficult situations with the more assertive ladies in his group is remarkably entertaining. With this in mind, this is probably the strongest point about Saekano; the previous season depicted a team coming together against their own initial assumptions, working towards a shared goal. However, Saekano as a whole chose to abstract out the game development component: Blessing Software only has two dedicated developers, with Tomoya himself running the Visual Novel Engine and Megumi learning the software to be of assistance. Utaha, Eriri and Michiru are involved in the other aspects of the game. I was initially curious to see how software development would figure in Saekano, hence my picking it up but the first season made it clear that this aspect would be secondary to the elements over top, namely, the narrative, artwork and audio aspects. It’s an interesting (and not misplaced) perspective on games, suggesting that cutting edge engines, the latest rendering techniques and proper software practises alone do not make a game (as both DICE and Activision are discovering as of late). Ultimately, I chose to continue watching Saekano because the events the characters finding themselves in proved to be quite entertaining, offering a different (although not revolutionary) take to a genre that has been saturated with clichés.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I open the figure captions with a lame joke: Battlefield 1‘s Sinai Desert should be called the Saenai Desert (explanation: さえない directly translates to “dull” or “unremarkable”). Lame Battlefield 1 jokes aside, it feels fantastic to be working on a post with twenty screenshots rather than thirty: twenty has been the standard here for quite some time, and represents a fine balance between having enough screenshots to make the post a bit more substantial, without taking too much time to complete. Here, Eriri, Megumi, Michiru and Utaha take things easy while Tomoya is hanging out in the background, trying to come up with means of capturing a particular mood in his game without distractions.

  • The last time I wrote about Saekano was back in 2015; the first episode released during January, right after I returned home from my vacation in Taiwan. I managed to get the first episode’s talk out nearly a month later, and at the time, was experimenting with a new posting format that has since been applied to all the posts I do. The reason why there’s a Saekano post at all for the zeroth episode is for two reasons: the first is that I forgot Saekano has a bit of an unusual release pattern, and the second is my site metrics showing a large number of searches for fanservice and Saekano.

  • Hence, I decided to push this post out so that individuals doing searches for Saekano‘s latest material would not be disappointed: this post has one of the highest ratio of fanservice-to-standard images. There is a bit of an irony in the choice of page quote: it’s taken from George Lam’s “A Man Should Strengthen Himself”, a famous song based off the Chinese folk song On the General’s Orders (將軍令) that became associated with martial artist Wong Fei-Hung owing to their usage in movies featuring him. It’s completely irrelevant to the comings and goings in this episode, but the song’s been stuck in my head for the entire day, ever since I finished implementation of a feature at work and the song came up on my playlist.

  • At Tomoya’s house, Megumi and Eriri discuss a swimsuit scene in their game as requiring some proper inspiration, hence their decision to visit a pool. Eriri insists that it’s to properly capture the effects required to make the scene stand out, and it appears that of everyone, Eriri seems to get along best with Megumi. In the background, a poster for Ao no Kanata Four Rhythm, which ran last year during the winter 2016 anime season, is visible.

  • The entire first half of this episode is fanservice, and were I to feature all of the screenshots acquired during this episode’s run, there’d be a total of seventy-two, which would require upwards of six hours to properly caption: while it may be entertaining for the readers, I remark that finding something informative, witty or useful to say while the entire screenshot is a closeup of anatomy is not something I’m particularly skillful at. Then again, I could always fall back on talking about things that are completely unrelated, such as when it is appropriate to use inheritance against composition in software, and why inheritance is not always the best way to ensure re-usability of code.

  • I imagine that Tomoya most certainly is not enjoying this, to be physically dominated by his cousin at almost every turn they meet. There is a bit of irony in how easily he’s wiped out, standing in stark contrast with the lyrics of George Lam’s song, which states that to be a man is to continue training to become stronger and become as hot as the sun itself. It’s definitely vivid imagery, and from the looks of things, Tomoya does not lift weights or partake in much exercise to speak of. Given the choice of camera angles, it’s quite plain that Michiru enjoys every second of doing this to Tomoya.

  • Izumi, a middle school student, is also invited, appearing unexpectedly much to Eriri’s displeasure, and on the low-coefficient-of-friction floors of the pool, she knocks him flat in a hug, also knocking him out in the process. Earlier, Eriri describes the image she’s trying to capture of the female form, and the visuals depict Izumi, who’s less flat than Eriri in a literal sense. Ever since the events of Saekano‘s first season, there’s been something of a rivalry between Eriri and Izumi to see who’s the superior artist.

  • From a personal standpoint, I’m a Megumi fan through and through: despite being the most unremarkable of the girls amongst Tomoya’s development team, her quiet personality and straightforward remarks also means she’s the best complement for the loud, energetic Tomoya. Further, to trounce remarks that Megumi’s figure is merely “average”, I present this image and the image below as counterarguments.

  • Here, Izumi and Eriri react as Utaha moves in to give Tomoya “CPR” following his being rendered unconscious. Of the girls, Utaha is the most brazen in her advances, leading to much disgust from Eriri. Eriri herself tries to get close to Tomoya by reminding him of the old memories they share together, and Michiru justifies their own closeness with the fact they’re cousins. These three get quite jealous where Tomoya is concerned. Conversely, Megumi only seems mildly interested in all of this.

  • After Tomoya comes to, the team assembles in a lounge to decide the evening’s plans. Tomoya attempts to peace out, with Michiru and Eriri mentioning to Izumi that his presence could make things more interesting. He takes off, but a phone call from Utaha sends him back. Saekano is now very much a B- in my books (7.0 of ten points: my old “recommendation” becomes a “weak recommendation” with the passage of time), primarily because things meandered at times even with the central motivation of making a game. However, one of the reasons why I stuck around was because I see shadows of myself in Tomoya.

  • In appearances, one might say that Tomoya is a splitting image of myself (albeit a less fit version), but in spirit, Tomoya shares my sense of determination and work ethic, being someone who gives everything they’ve got to whatever task they undertake and making to look after those around them. With this in mind, folks like myself are reasonably common in personality, so it’s not too much of a stretch that there there could be a highly fictionalised version of myself in an anime. Unlike Tomoya, I tend to stay on mission when I’m working on something, preferring to take breaks and indulge in distractions at pre-set times.

  • The visuals in Saekano are above average: not anywhere as detailed as some of the most stunning anime out there, the environments and settings are nonetheless crafted with a reasonable level of quality. Here, Eriri and Megumi stop to admire the cityscape by nightfall: this opening pre-season episode features several stills of the hotel and its surroundings, beautifully illuminated by colourful night lighting.

  • I’ll leave readers a pleasant look uprange of Michiru while I look through my site’s archives. Saekano‘s first season drew to a close back in March, and I followed up a few days later with a look at the whole season early April. During this time, I was very much up to my eyeballs in building a multi-agent rescue robot simulation, and was contemplating the transition of my thesis project from Unity to Unreal. Looking back, it’s a little surprising as to how much time has passed by: Saekano ♭ was announced back in May 2015, and was originally slated for Fall 2016.

  • However, Saekano♭ultimately would release two seasons after the original slated time: the shot of the girls in their hotel room here brings to mind my travels a year ago to Laval and later, Cancún, for a pair of conferences. In the time between Saekano and Saekano♭, I’ve transitioned from university to society, published three more papers and continue to wonder how much faster time will get. With this being said, the entire season of Saekano♭ is ahead of us. Looking into the future, I plan on following the same format as I did for the first season, with a post after three episodes and one more when the season’s concluded.

  • The urgent business that Utaha calls Tomoya back for is a quiet, one-to-one meeting that ultimately allows her some alone time with him. In the previous season, she went as far as to stage a photograph of the two in a manner as to imply the two had a memorable evening together, mostly frustrating Eriri. I remark that, while Saekano does not appear to have aged gracefully, I will nonetheless be entering Saekano♭ with an open mind – software conventions will not be considered as a component to be assessed for this season now that I know what to reasonably expect.

  • While Utaha insists they are toasting with ginger ale, Tomoya remains suspicious owing to her previous track record of messing with him. Although family, friends and co-workers understand my status as a teetotaler on account of my genetic dispositions, my friends and co-workers will occasionally wonder what would happen if I imbibed alcohol. The answer is that I will talk more more vividly, then develop a headache and fall asleep. There isn’t anything beyond this, so as to what kind of drunk I am, the answer is “none”.

  • Despite presenting a cool, detached demenour about her as befitting of her exceptional academic skills on top of her abilities as a writer, there are moments when Utaha loses her composure. Of the characters, she’s second in my books as far as “most interesting character” goes owing to just how direct she is with Tomoya: here, she’s trying to wrest Tomoya’s phone from him, plainly indignant that her plans of keeping Tomoya to herself have been thwarted.

  • The source of the interruption is a valid one: Michiru reveals that she’s composed ten of the background songs for the game, creating something well-written that evokes similar imagery in Eriri, Utaha and Tomoya. A good song can bring to mind very vivid images, and a song that lead several individuals to think of the same thing is one that has been honed well. I am a very big fan of soundtracks for the emotional tenour they convey, and as such, greatly enjoy listening to film and video game music.

  • While Megumi notes that she does not see Tomoya in that light here, the light novels eventually follow the same path that I speculated would follow logically given the events of Saekano: Tomoya gradually develops feelings for her, seeing her as someone who’s been with him through many dangers. Similarly, in spite of his eccentricities, Tomoya is genuinely kind and considerate of those around him – it is this side of him that Megumi finds herself drawn to.

  • Similar to the pre-season fanservice episode of Saekano, I’ve chosen to conclude this talk on Saekano♭‘s pre-season opener with Megumi smiling and promising to help Tomoya out, even though the episode ends with Eriri and Izumi openly making their rivalries known to one another in a hilarious fashion. As this post comes out of the blue, we will return to the scheduled programming: the upcoming post will deal with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered now that I’ve finished the second act, and I still need to wrap up the talk on Gabriel Dropout.

Hence, looking forwards into what Saekano♭ will offer, I imagine that the continuation will be more of the same as the first season, although there will be an opportunity to craft new situations as Tomoya finds the deadline nearing. With this in mind, the rewards of game development are plainly secondary in Saekano: the main draw of this anime stems from Tomoya and his unique group of developers that have become closer as friends, even if they do bounce off one another more often than not. This invariably leads to the question of whether or not Tomoya will end up in a relationship with any one of the female leads; typically, writers tend to avoid this in order to avoid drawing negative reactions. However, protracting this causes the story to drag out, and further results in interactions that come across as static, unnatural. Hence, it will be interesting to see whether or not Saekano♭ will take things in a new direction within the span of this season and have him enter a relationship with Megumi (minimally, becoming closer to her than the others), or if the status quo will be preserved. I look forwards to seeing what happens in Saekano♭ as things progress: even if nothing substantial comes out of it, minimally, there will likely be opportunities to see Utaha and Michiru mess with Tomoya in ways that could never occur in reality.

Nyanko Days: The Pinnacle of Human Achievement

“Sometimes science is a lot more art, than science. A lot of people don’t get that.” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Anatomically modern humans have been around for around two hundred thousand years, and human civilisation itself extensively making use of agriculture and other implements only dates back around twelve thousand years. In a comparatively short period, the advancement of technology in our civilisation has progressed at a dazzling speed: throughout our history, there have been several inventions of particular note: the compass, printing press, wheel, incandescent lamps, the telephone, internal combustion engine, powered flight and penicillin stand in history as several of the most influential, far-reaching inventions. Coupled with the scientific process and notions of a production line, substantial advances in the past century has allowed humanity to split the atom and land on the moon. We’ve managed to construct a means of nearly-instantaneously communicating with one another in the internet, and with the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices now, wearable technology and augmented reality stand poised to shape the way we interact with one another and the world as we move into the twenty-first century. However, there is a magnum opus that stands to eclipse all of humanity’s achievements: known as Nyanko Days, this anime depicts the combination of the human genome with that of the Felis catus. Every discovery, advancement and discovery has lead to this single moment, demonstrating our species’ mastery of fiction and the nature of our progress as a form of intelligent life.

Nyanko Days depicts the life of one Yūko Konagai with her “Nyanko”, the fusion of H. sapiens and F. catus genes, results in a novel organism that shares traits both their original species. The anime goes into exceptional detail surrounding the science behind Nyanko, being more similar to a biology textbook than a work of fiction. Anatomically, Nyanko resemble miniature humans, with the distinct addition of F. catus-like ears and a tail; similar to those of F. catus, Nyanko can subtly convey their emotions through the position of their tails. In addition, they are proficient with bipedal locomotion, although as the need arises, they can also move about as quadrupeds. Their dietary requirements are more consistent with those of F. catus than H. sapiens, preferring items high in protein and may find H. sapiens sustenance unpalatable. Most notable is their exceptional intelligence and ability to interact with humans: besides being able to understand human emotions in laughing and crying, Nyanko can also speak Japanese with a very high fluency, and even interact with human implements, such as television remotes, although for some tools, such as a mechanical pencil, their understanding remains rudimentary. The conceptualisation of a novel species with intellect, memory and reasoning capacities similar to that of a human is perhaps a testament to how advanced our society has become in the past hundred years alone: although we have yet to find a clean energy source, resolve the NP-Complete problem or develop faster-than-light travel, our superior understanding of biology and fiction has allowed us to speculate about intelligence and sentience in species beyond ourselves. This is truly a momentous accomplishment for our species, setting the stage for grander, more influential discoveries – for this reason, Nyanko Days is a series that will forever act as a record of this world-changing innovation, a true masterpiece that reflects on the growth and progress of humanity.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The shy protagonist of Nyanko Days, Yuko Konagai is a high school girl who’s got a particular fondness for cats. She resembles Kantai Collection‘s Fubuki and Locodol‘s Nanako Usami in physical appearance, and while quiet at school, she takes on a much lighter demeanour when in the company of her three cats.

  • From left to right, z-ordering independent, we have Shii, Rō and Maa. Shii is modelled after a Singapura cat with a relaxed personality, while Rō is the most serious, being a Russian Blue. Maa is a Munchkin and is fond of messing around. Their days consist of hanging around while Yūko is at school, while Yūko yearns to be with her cats more often.

  • While playing a game on her phone, Yūko finds herself losing when Maa shows up and starts nibbling on her fingers. Pets who’ve bonded with their owners are very affectionate and will enjoy being petted, although as Yūko finds out, Maa can often show up at inopportune moments. In spite of this, she’s very understanding of her cats’ behaviours.

  • Small animals in bowls have always been appealing for folks viewing them, and here, Maa enters a bowl, rocking around for the heck of it. Of the cats, she’s the most child-like, finding joy in most everything and acting with little thought for the consequences later. Maa is voiced by Ibuki Kido; she plays minor characters in OreGairu and OreImo, but otherwise, I’m quite unfamiliar with her voice roles.

  • After Maa creates a mess, Rō steps in to clean up; she’s voiced by Mikako Komatsu, whom I know best for her roles as Sora no Method‘s Shione Togawa and Amifumi Inko of Aldnoah.Zero. Mikako will also be voicing Sanae Kouzuki in the upcoming Sakura Days, a P.A. Works anime I’m interested in following for its Shirobako-like premise. To round things out, Shii is voiced by Erii Yamazaki: like Ibuki, I’ve not seen any of the works she plays a role in.

  • Despite only lasting two minutes in length each, the artwork in Nyanko Days is of a high standard: here, Yūko takes a walk with her cats around town and reach a scenic viewpoint that shows the cityscape below. The atmosphere around a pleasant summer day is captured in this moment: it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to go on afternoon walks owing to my work schedule, where things have begun picking up as of late.

  • A chance meeting with Azumi Shiratori and the subsequent discovery that she’s also a cat person allows a friendship to develop between the two. A girl with a wealthy family, Azumi is admired by many at her school; after meeting Yūko, she spends more time with her as the two get to know one another and share their thoughts on raising cats.

  • At an upscale café that her family owns, Azumi and Yūko share a conversation over some rather expensive pancakes. Naomi Ōzora provides Azumi’s voice: the other of her roles that I know of is as Gabriel Dropout‘s Satanachia McDowell Kurumizawa, a rather amusing character whose precise place in the sun is quite worthy of a separate discussion.

  • Elsa is Azumi’s Turkish Angora: proud, haughty but also yearning for friendship, she wonders what Yuūko is like. Elsa spends her days alone at Azumi’s residence while the latter is at school. Initially, I mistook Elsa’s breed for the same breed as Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s cat, which is a Persian Cat: the breed is not of note, since the scriptwriters merely needed a white cat to match Ian Fleming’s novelisations, standing out to provide visual focus for a character who was initially without a known face.

  • On a quiet day, Shii, Maa and Rō try to amuse themselves, first by trying their hand at drawing, then subsequently decide to read books. Rō is quite into reading and has remarked on several occasions that she wouldn’t mind going to school and learning: the cats’ intellect are on par with those of a human in Nyanko Days, although their dexterity is not quite as well-developed, as seen in their attempts to draw.

  • Things quickly devolve when boredom hits a new high: Rō and Maa have different interests as far as television programming goes. While the latter prefers shows tailored for cats, Rō is looking to watch the news. A fight breaks out: rather than hard to watch, it actually ends up adorable – compare and contrast Jerome Iginla’s fight with Deryk Engelland’s during a showdown between the Calgary Flames and L.A. Kings just a few days ago. Fired up by the fight, Iginla would go on to get a Gordie Howe hat trick against the Flames, depriving them of a shot at clinching a playoff spot. That game was amusing but had too many fights for my liking: yesterday’s game against the San José Sharks was rather more appropriate, and with a 5-2 win, we’ve clinched a place in the playoffs.

  • Back in Nyanko Days, when Yūko arrives home, a tearful Shii describes the events that had unfolded earlier, and her lack of success in getting them to reconcile. However, Yūko has other means of rectifying the situation, in the form of a new toy, that let the two make up quickly.

  • One of the things that don’t seem to make sense from a biological perspective about how cats are depicted in Nyanko Days are the thin necks relative to head size. This is something in chibi-type artwork that, while conferring a degree of cuteness, also is strictly unfavourable: our necks are designed to withstand the motions of our head, and there is no way to fit a cervical vertebrae, esophagus and trachea in a neck of a small diameter. Hence, the cats in Nyanko Days must be engineered using means that exceeds all previous technology, as well as possibly, some future technologies.

  • Arashi Iketani is another one of Yūko’s classmates, who constantly competes with Azumi in all areas but finds herself outclassed. During a marathon for physical education, she initially takes the lead but is stopped cold in her tracks when she comes across a cat. She reminds me a bit of Sharo Kirima from GochiUsa in appearance.

  • The biology of the cats in Nyanko Days notwithstanding, I do have a legitimate criticism of the anime – it is remarkably short, and the entire season’s runtime is close to twenty-four minutes. While I am aware that there is only so much one could do with this premise, and that there are only two volumes of the manga out at present, Nyanko Days could be used to present an interesting story akin to that seen in GochiUsa: in fact, one thing that I would like to see is a version of GochiUsa where all of the characters are rendered as anthropomorphic rabbits.

  • In fact, the blissful world of GochiUsa leads to the question: could all of the anime’s events be the result of rabbits imagining themselves to be humans? With this being said, if such an incarnation of GochiUsa were ever to be made, it must never see the light of day: even with our level of sophistication, humanity as a whole is not quite ready for something like that yet. We thus return to Nyanko Days, where Yūko brings her cats to a summer festival, where she will meet up with Azumi.

  • Maa is excited when she sees goldfish in the legendary goldfish-scooping challenge, but the others let her know that the goldfish are not for eating. Fired up, Maa decides to compete with Elsa to see who can catch the most, but before they know it, Yūko, Azumi and the others have left, leaving them alone.

  • I’ve explored the evolutionary origins of our reaction to things we consider cute, whether it be babies or small animals in earlier posts and remarked that a general aversion to cuteness would be detrimental to evolutionary fitness. With that being said, different people find different things adorable, and for some, Nyanko Days probably won’t do anything. This is perfectly alright, but for the folks who did enjoy Nyanko Days, I have a challenge: how long can you stare at this image of Elsa crying before your heart melts away entirely, leaving you with nothing but feelings of bliss?

  • Despite their predicament, Maa manages to find a solution: they are united Yūko and the others on a short order. In the aftermath of their misadventures, Maa and Elsa become friends, with Elsa off-handedly remarking that she’s okay with hanging out. This brings Nyanko Days to an end.

  • With this post finished, I resume my usual programming soon: there’s a handful of things on the horizon that will be written about, but for the present, I am trying to push further into Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remaster. This is an endeavour compounded by the fact that Battlefield 1 is hosting the DICE 25ᵗʰ Anniversary Battlefest event, with its double XP event that will help me push my scout class closer to level ten, when I can unlock the Kolibri and mess with people.

Owing to its exceptional content, and the implications that the creation of Nyanko entail, I would give Nyanko Days a strong recommendation for all scientists as inspiration for their research. With its detailed depiction of Nyanko, above-par artwork, average soundtrack and unremarkable human characters… so the jig is up; I can’t lie well enough to continue. For those who have not noticed, today is April Fool’s Day, and in the spirit of good fun, I decided to create a post that would be in the spirit of April Fool’s Day. I offer my apologies if I misled or confused anyone with this post’s contents. With this being said, most of the contents in the figure captions are true: I haven’t made up anything about the voice actors, or the events in the anime. Similarly, the Flames did indeed clinch a playoff spot yesterday. Overall, Nyanko Days‘ concept of anthropomorphising cats and their adventures with Yūko form the bulk of the anime, with episodes running for around two minutes each. It’s a fun short series, but its length also runs against things: episodes are hilarious while they run, but they end too suddenly, leaving little time to develop the characters further. With this being said, Nyanko Days stands as one of the most adorable things I’ve seen in a while. It’s probably not enough to warrant a strong recommendation, but I personally enjoyed this anime, for providing two minutes of heart-melting Nyanko antics in most of its episodes every week. Hopefully, the unusual content of this post should have alerted you to the possibility that this was not a serious review; if you’re interested in checking out something light-hearted and frivilous, Nyanko Days will deliver, otherwise, you won’t stand to lose too much if you choose not to watch this anime. Regular programming resumes with this post’s conclusion, so have a good one!

Urara Meirocho: Reflection and Review After Three

“I need a credit card! Epps, where’s your wallet?”
“Pocket!”
“Which pocket?”
“MY BACK POCKET!”
“You got, like, ten back pockets! ”
“LEFT CHEEK! LEFT CHEEK! LEFT CHEEK!”

—Captain Lennox and USAF Tech Sergeant Epps, Transformers

Raised in a remote mountainous region, Chiya arrives in the town of Meirocho with the aim of finding her mother. After a rough start in the town, she encounters Koume Yukimi and Kon Tatsumi, two aspiring Urara: they incur the wrath of Captain Saku Iroi of the Bloque 1 Patrol Unit and are banished, but Nina Natsume arrives and manages to defuse the situation, introducing herself as a Rank 5 Urara who runs the Natsumeya teahouse, as well as to her younger sister, Nono. When Chiya discovers that a rank-one Urara might be able to help her, she tries to sneak in to the portion of town restricted to higher ranking Urara, only for Saku to stop her; she encourages Chiya to strive for rank one herself, and later, following an exercise in fortune-telling by means of paper lanterns, Chiya and Kon resolve to reach the top of the ranking system. However, while on an errand to retrieve a package for Nina, Kon accidentally breaks a crystal ball at the Benten divination store to compensate Benten, the owner for costs. After learning that it would take a minimum of a year to offset the costs, Chiya agrees to a gamble with Benten: if they should win, Benten will overlook the damages. As it turns out, Benten rigged the bet after seeing Chiya’s resolve to become a Urara. Later, Chiya’s hair is caught in Koume’s buttons, and the two are stuck together until Koume realises that she knows nothing about Chiya, rips off her shirt buttons and openly declares that they’re friends, which entails learning more about one another.

While Urara Meirocho‘s premise and characters are a familiar sight to audiences who have been watching anime (or reading manga) of its genre, offering nothing novel by ways of dynamics and interactions, what makes Urara Meirocho interesting is the unique combination of its setting in a detailed, fictional town with its own organisational system and laws, in conjunction with the details surrounding how Urara work within the universe. The market is saturated with content falling under the moé category, and admittedly, my efforts to watch some of the adaptations from Manga Time Kirara and its subsets have been met with failure: I’ve previously made an attempt to watch Sansha San’yō, Anne Happy and Stella no Mahou and have found them to be quite unremarkable after three episodes. However, in setting Chiya et al.’s misadventures in a distinct town, and through explaining to audiences how divination works within their universe, Urara Meirocho offers something new by means of the location and attendant possibilities to create a different, distinct atmosphere: here, Urara Meirocho is similar to Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?, in counting on the combination of the setting and characters to create a slice-of-life comedy that is memorable from the others of its classification.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While it may prima facie seem that I would confuse Chiya of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and Urara Meirocho‘s Chiya, inspection of the Kanji shows that this won’t be the case: here, Chiya’s name is 千矢 (lit. “A thousand arrows”), against GochiUsa‘s Chiya Ujimatsu, whose given name is 千夜 (lit. “A thousand nights”). This is in reference to arrows flying true and striking their targets. While Chiya (of Urara Meirocho) seems far removed from humanity and can even be feral in nature, similar to Mowgli of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, she’s actually raised by a woman named Setsu, hence her basic knowledge of human traits.

  • When she falls on top of Kon while trying to escape Saku, Chiya apologises by lifting her shirt up. It’s certainly a strange action, perhaps alluding to how some animals roll over onto their backs and expose their vulnerable undersides to indicate submissiveness. Being bipedal, it would be quite uncomfortable to lie down on the ground and roll over: humans exhibit submissiveness by lowering their heads and covering their chest to defend it (dominant postures amongst people include making oneself more visible, denoting confidence and a lack of fear towards possible confrontation.

  • After the commotion is cleared up, Chiya introduces herself to Kon and Koume: the former is a proper girl who wears a ribbon in her hair, giving her the semblance of a fox, while the latter is an energetic girl who enjoys wearing intricate clothing. Chiya is voiced by Sayaka Harada, a newcomer in the voice acting scene who I know best as Tawawa on Monday‘s Ai-chan (it’s a small world, it seems). Yurika Kubo provides Koume’s voice (Hai-Furi‘s Rin Shiretoko, who was very fond of Mashiro), and Kon is voiced by Kaede Hondo, a voice actress whose roles I’m completely unfamiliar with.

  • After being arrested by Saku, Nina Natsume arrives to explain the situation. Voiced by Ai Kayano, Nina is reminiscent of GochiUsa‘s Mocha Hoto in manner and grace. Her younger sister, Nono, is voiced by Haruka Yoshimura (Koharu Shiihara of Sora no Method and Ema Yasuhara from Shirobako): incredibly shy, she carries a doll around with her that was a gift from her mother. Named Matsuko, Nono performs ventriloquism with her doll and is very attached to her doll, describing various scenarios that the others find unnerving.

  • There’s a hilltop overlooking Meirocho (“Labyrinth City”) that the girls visit shortly after receiving their entry-level license papers. The scenery and art style in Urara Meirocho is very stylised, offering a very distinct feel to things; the light texturing in the background is reminiscent of the style used in Valkyria Chronicles. While I would have liked to provide more screenshots in this post of the scenery, Urara Meirocho is about its characters, hence my decision to make all twenty images featuring characters.

  • After a failed lesson to do tea-leaf divination when Chiya drains all of the tea, the girls decide to step out. Even as early as the first episode, there’s a sweets shop that the girls are likely to make their primary hangout spot for the remainder of Urara Meirocho: they are fond of visiting it to unwind after a long day and enjoy the confectionaries that would not seem out of place in Ama Usa An.

  • I’ve actually been looking for an excuse to use Epps’ “LEFT CHEEK! LEFT CHEEK! LEFT CHEEK” from Transformers for quite some time. Hence, when the girls are scuffling with one another by morning after Chiya makes off to explore the town and figure out where her mother is, I figured this would be it; both Koume and Kon end up tugging on Chiya’s face as punishment. Saku soon arrives to inform everyone that trying to make a divination with no a priori information is a challenge even for the town’s top Urara.

  • Perhaps this is unique to me, but I’ve found that Nono and Nina respectively resemble Itsuki and Fū Inubozaki of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, while Kon is similar to Mimori Tōgō in appearance. While Yūki Yūna is a Hero was somewhat polarising, I personally enjoyed it, and there seems to be a continuation set for release in Fall 2017, alongside an adaptation of a light novel set in the same universe.

  • Gentle, kind and a rank five Urara, Nina runs the Natsumeya teahouse and serves as a mentor to the other Uraras. I’ve heard discussions that the economic structure of Meirocho must be an interesting one, provided that the sheer number of Urara would result in market saturation. However, these individuals seem to making some rather large subjective leaps in their considerations: their first incorrect assumption would be that Meirocho is the only economic centre in their world, and the second is the notion that Urara are incapable of performing in other tasks, such as shopkeeping, law enforcement and so forth.

  • As one who is totally aligned with the scientific method, I cannot say that I am particularly keen on divination, astrology or other forms of predicting the future — while practitioners purport to use supernatural methods that are effective, the fact is that predictions are so broad and general that they can hold true to almost anything, giving the impression that they are effective. Similarly, the exercise here, to predict a yes/no answer by determining if any holes in a paper lantern survive after burning it for 12 seconds, can be approximated by implementing a variation of Conway’s Game of Life (one that would be much less interesting). We create an n by m grid of cells and place twelve points (we call these “marked” grids here) at random on this grid. Then, we seed a set of cells for the fire to begin, and use the ruleset:
    1. Every cell on the grid has three states: “normal”, “on fire”, and “burnt out”
    2. Cells have a secondary property,”marked” and “unmarked”
    3. A cell on fire at time step t will have some probability P (where 0 ≤ P ≤ 1) of burning out at time t + 1
    4. In the Moore neighbourhood of a cell with fire at time t, each cell has some random probability P (where 0 ≤ P ≤ 1)  of igniting at t + 1
    5. Only normal cells can burn, and cells on fire can only become burnt out. A burnt out cell cannot burn again, nor can they become normal again. Cells on fire cannot become normal again.
    6. If a fire overlaps with a marked cell point at time t, and at t + 1, if the fire still overlaps with said cell, the marked cell becomes destroyed, and the total number of marked cells is decremented

  • The approach stipulated is much less fun, a bit more technical, and requires familiarity with a programming language, but also has the advantage of not setting one’s home or hair on fire when executed. Furthermore, this would represent a fun opportunity to implement a variation of Conway’s Game of Life. In the approach, if a single marked grid survives, then the answer is “yes”. Back in Urara Meirocho, Koume tucks in to a platter of sweets. While delicious-looking, it hardly seems worthy of Adam Richman’s Man v. Food challenges with respect to scale; of the desert challenges Richman has taken on, pancakes, milkshakes and ice cream are the ones that come to mind, and he only managed to win in the ice cream challenge.

  • While Chiya tries out a dish of curry rice, Ōshima and Shiozawa look on, hopeful that Saku will feed them, as well. Her subordinates, these two patrol officiers are totally devoted to their service and hold a crush on Saku that the latter seems unaware of. While outwardly serious and focused, audiences gain insight into their minds and hear that they are rather enamoured with Saku to a very high degree, although ironically, while Saku is totally committed towards maintaining a wholesome and safe environment around town, her own mind drifts immediately towards the impure at slightest provocation, causing her to blow her stack.

  • Because the others have displayed a tendency to go off mission quite frequently, Kon ropes everyone together so that they may visit Benten’s shop and acquire a special bowl for divination upon Nina’s request without becoming distracted by the sights and sounds in Meirocho. Ironically, Kon herself becomes enthralled when she sees the diversity of equipment for divination at Benten’s shop, picking up a crystal ball, only to drop it when Benten, the shop’s owner, materialises out of nowhere.

  • So far, the idea of a currency unit has not been provided in Urara MeirochoBenten requires that the four work at her shop for a year to cover the damages, and while providing no solid figure on what the crystal ball is worth, something that has the price of a year’s salary would be of a high value. Kon introduces stones for creating sparks to customers here, after being singled out to wear a maid’s outfit: with her long, dark hair and serious personality, she looks quite similar to K-On!‘s Mio Akiyama here.

  • I’m actually not too sure what a diviner would do with a high-end sword, but in RPG games, different weapons and apparel can be enchanted to boost a user’s stats. While a very natural-seeming mechanic in a video game, it would come across as being quite strange in real life; consider the notion of wearing a necklace or wristwatch that bolstered your intellect during an exam, or a t-shirt that enhances one’s strength only when worn.

  • To the far right is Benten herself: the owner of the shop in question, she’s old-fashioned and strict, but also is understanding, deliberately losing a gambling game to allow Chiya and the others to walk free. While a gambler probably on par with James Bond or Han Solo, she sees the resolve in Chiya and her friends, allowing their debt to slide on the basis that they might make fine Urara in the future, even if they are as careless as C (Spectre).

  • When Chiya and Koume are literally stuck together because Chiya’s long hair gets caught in her buttons, the two realise that being bound to one another might not be so effective at bonding. The concept of being tethered together is not new, and has been utilised liberally in many works before Urara Meirocho, usually with the intent of depicting the comedy surrounding the scenario. I note that my usage of “literally” and its variants are only used in the correct manner: the word is intended to describe something word per word rather than as a hyperbole. For instance, “stuck together” usually means “bound to one another by a circumstance” rather than “held together by a constraint”, but in this case, since Chiya and Koume are being held together by a physical bond, it is a literal usage of the phrase.

  • I hear the word “literally” thrown around so frequently in common conversation that I will literally become physically ill if I hear it again. Jokes aside, back in Urara Meirocho, the impasse is broken when Koume realises that she knows next to nothing about Chiya, and makes it known that she’s become friends with her. She pulls her shirt apart, freeing the pair, but also exposes herself. I remark that Urara Meirocho has a great deal of indecent exposure and the like relative to something like GochiUsa, but rather than having the effect of exciting viewers in that manner, it merely serves to be a part of the comedy within the anime.

  • What exactly does Urara mean? A cursory search yields “麗” (“beautiful” in both Chinese and Japanese), but in the context of Urara Meirocho, it’s the name for the occupation of being a fortune teller, rather similar to how gondoliers of the real world are known as undine in ARIA, named after the water elementals from Paracelsus’ texts.

  • Chiya’s fear of getting her hair cut stems back to her childhood, which led her to believe that getting her hair cut would result in copious amounts of blood spraying out. Biologically impossible, it results in Chiya becoming animal-like whenever she fears her hair is about to be cut, and this results in hilarity. One of the reasons I will continue watching Urara Meirocho will be just how squeaky things get whenever chaos prevails: the aural characteristics of the girls’ screams begin approaching those of ultrasound, exceeding what we can hear.

Insofar, I am finding Urara Meirocho to be quite enjoyable, despite my initial reservations; this is because the setting of Meirocho allows for familiar jokes to be presented in a new manner. I will continue following Urara Meirocho for this season, and look forwards to seeing what misadventures await Chiya, Koume, Kon and Nono as they study the way of the Urara with the aim of reaching the top tiers and fulfilling the different dreams that each of the characters have; such series usually aim to depict how everyone’s experiences with one another can induce change in the characters, so one element I will be looking out for is seeing how Chiya and the others mature as the series progresses. While moé anime are oft-criticised for having static characters who learn little from their comings and goings, there have been fantastic examples where friendships and time have given characters new depths (GochiUsa is an excellent example, for instance). As such, it will be interesting to see if Urara Meirocho can do something similar — I look forwards to taking a gander at what this series will have done by the time its conclusion has arrived.

Shelter: Reflections On A Collaborative Music Video Between Porter Robinson and A-1 Pictures

“Collaboration is important not just because it’s a better way to learn. The spirit of collaboration is penetrating every institution and all of our lives. So learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.” —Don Tapscott

Shelter is a six-minute short that illustrates a small section of seventeen year-old Rin’s life in a simulated reality. Although her life is one of infinite tranquility, it is also an immensely lonely experience. As she creates worlds through a tablet, the simulator gradually exposes Rin’s own memories: she was seven when a moon-sized celestial body is discovered to be on a collision course with Earth. Her father, Shigeru, constructs a spacecraft to preserve Rin’s life, while making the most of their remaining time on Earth together. Despite its short length, Shelter is quite haunting: this effect is a consequence of the stunning visuals in the short. As Bill Watterson had done with his Calvin and Hobbes comics, Shelter is able to tell a succinct story in the absence of dialogue. An entire world and its story is conceived and explored in the space of six minutes — in fact, the possibilities of such a world have resulted in some viewers yearning for a longer feature that more completely describes Rin and her experiences. Through the visuals alone, Rin is infinitely creative and inquisitive, crafting the wonders of the world to explore as she passes her solitary days. Whether it be vast fields of verdant grass as far as the eye can see or an Aurora Borealis filling the skies, Rin counters her loneliness through creativity. This would be the theme that lies at the heart of Shelter: individuals can create highly compelling works when they are alone, and this act gives them hope, allowing them to find fulfillment in an alternate avenue.

While Rin’s situation seems to be one of melancholy, a bit of reasoned speculation, coupled with Porter Robinson’s upbeat performance, suggests that Shelter is not meant to depict Rin as the last human alive. The music’s lyrics, speaking of how people can be together even if they’re not physically together, plus the overall tone the song conveys, is meant to be a positive one. Consequently, it yields an optimistic tone that permits discussion to wander in a direction that suggests Rin’s loneliness is not infinite. Such a perspective is further augmented by scientific elements: the music video plainly depicts a moon-sized object on the verge of impact with Earth. There are presently few objects of that size in the solar system (the largest object is the dwarf planet, Ceres, which has a diameter of 945 kilometers), and as such, any object with a collision course with Earth would be readily spotted. This in turn allows Earth’s inhabitants a substantial window to prepare, and in a science fiction setting, it is very unlikely that a population would idly allow their species to go extinct, knowing that such an object exists. Barring the more outlandish course of action (i.e. destroying the object), humanity could construct spacecraft and organise a mass exodus from the planet prior to its destruction. Assuming this to hold, there are likely other survivors in this universe, and so, the possibility that Rin is found would be non-zero.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • One of my friends remarks that the possibility for missing out on examples of superb animations is a botheration, although I’ve remarked to him that it’s more about chancing upon the good ones that make things worthwhile. For this talk on Shelter, I’ve got the usual twenty screenshots, and that comes out to around 3.3̅… screenshots per minute, which isn’t quite as high compared to something like Utopia or Cross Road.

  • One of the questions that were fielded by other views is whether or not Shelter could have worked if the individual in the simulation were male rather than female. The answer is “yes”, since the concepts about creativity and loneliness, as well as parental love, transcend gender. These are universal values people share, so whether or not the protagonist is male or female wouldn’t change the fact that Shelter would have solid animation and music that brings out the moods.

  • One of the reasons I’ve grown fond of anime is because of the fact that landscapes and worlds are so vividly created: through the course of the six minutes, a range of locations, both abstract and extraordinary, are shown. These worlds, created through Rin’s tablet, are fluidly created: the control that she has over these worlds is akin to playing an ultra-high fidelity version of Minecraft or similar.

  • With technology’s pacing, I would not be particularly surprised if virtual and augmented reality technologies capable of creating images that the mind do not reject become commonplace within the next decade. The release of increasingly powerful graphics hardware, coupled with decreasing power costs and efficient algorithms for rendering and shading means that there could be a future where phones and wearable headsets carry GPUs surpassing even the modern-generation GTX Titans in performance while allowing for extended periods of wireless usage.

  • I watched Shelter about a week ago, but things have been rather busy: I was able to do my weekly discussion for Brave Witches owing to a fortuitous break in my schedule, and then on Friday, I attended a stand-up comedy evening with my coworkers, enjoying both the smoked ribs and fries dinner as well as the show itself. I spent most of yesterday playing through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and finished the Golem City story mission before visiting a local Chinese restaurant for dinner (beef short ribs in a pepper sauce, Peking-style pork chops and crispy chicken, among other dishes). As such, yesterday saw limited motivation to write.

  • However, I’m back in full force today, and so, this review will be done before I forget about it. Back in Shelter, in a beautiful field stretching as far as the eye can see, Rin recreates a single tree with a swing on it, then vaguely recalls getting hurt on a swing. Her old memories start manifesting as she begins recalling memories of a distant past, and hints that her reality is not what it seems begin appearing via flashbacks.

  • For the most part, reception to Shelter has been positive, and I am in the camp that believes that Shelter is worthwhile. I’ve come across a particularly asinine review from “Zergneedsfood” that purports Shelter to be “utterly trite” for “undermining” the viewers with its supposed lack of “emotional resonance”. From a personal perspective, that was never the point of Shelter to begin with, so the review becomes rather disingenuous for trying to academically critique something for a theme it does not intentionally portray. Compare the chap who wonders why he cannot fulfill the role of a counter-sniper with a shotgun.

  • How does one differentiate an honest review from one that is psuedo-intellectual in nature? The answer is surprisingly straightforwards: a psuedo-intellectual review is excessively critical, with a propensity for sesquipedalian loquaciousness. In short, a psuedo-intellectual author believes that a complex vocabulary somehow elevates their argument’s value. When writing, one should not require a dictionary every five words because the author had multiple tabs to Thesaurus.com or were using Microsoft Office’s built-in thesaurus to replace terms in their prose. These individuals hide behind a veneer of sophistication, forcibly enforcing their own narrow world-view upon others with the intent of impressing or intimidating other readers.

  • Whenever such nonsensical reviews are encountered, I make it a point to remind readers that the opinions of someone with a blog or an uncommonly diverse vocabulary do not confer any additional weight towards their argument. This probably is the reason why this blog gets the same traffic in a day as theirs does over a month. This goes both ways: if I say something that does not align with your own views, that’s perfectly fine. Back in Shelter, Rin strolls through an abstract field of trees adorned with emissive cube ornaments.

  • I’ve often joked that I could be quite happy with any size of home provided I’ve got a stable power supply and powerful internet connection, since when I’m at home, I tend to be hanging out on a computer of sorts. On pleasant days, I take to the parks nearby for a stroll, preferring to enjoy the sunshine and blue skies (or minimally, a lack of temperature extremities or precipitation). One of the strongest features of my city is the relatively large number of pathways and parks.

  • Admittedly, for me, the music in Shelter was sometimes eclipsed by the visuals: I’m very much a visual person, having a fondness for figures, diagrams and charts. I learn fastest when a procedure is illustrated step-wise as a diagram, and as such, when it comes to most entertainment, I also keep my eyes on the visuals. Smooth and well-done, the animations in Shelter were produced by A-1 Pictures, who also did work on Garakowa: Restore The World (accounting for the similarities in style and atmosphere).

  • While the first half of Shelter is illustrating Rin’s everyday life as she passes the time creating new worlds to explore, the second half arises after old memories begin manifesting: she recalls events that happened in her childhood as the simulation taps into her mind. I recall reading a text about the limitations of human intelligence, and one postulate put forth the idea that humans do not universally have eidetic memories is because that such a capacity would allow one to recall highly painful memories with ease.

  • This could be detrimental, and I count myself as thankful that I cannot recall with a high precision all of the negative things I’ve experienced (usually, just the lessons associated with them). This is merely a theory, and from an evolutionary perspective, the practical reasons why humans cannot be more intelligent (assuming a common definition of intelligence to exist, of course) is that a larger mind would make passing through the birth canal more difficult: infants are born with their heads very nearly at adult sizes.

  • Rin receives a stuffed bear from her father as a gift during Christmas. It strikes me that, after the Remembrance Day long weekend and my convocation, I will need to begin Christmas shopping. I glance at the calendar and remark that already, a week of November has very nearly elapsed. Daylight Savings ended yesterday evening, requiring that clocks be rolled back an hour, and I got an extra hour’s worth of sleep. The skies are noticeably darker now than they were a week ago, and winter will nearly be upon us.

  • Rin traversing her old memories brings to mind how the Pensieve in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter operates. An apparatus for storing memories, such a device could be quite useful for recalling different memories and giving the brain additional storage. While initially a curiosity, Pensieves become a major element within the novels, as Harry utilises them to understand Voldemort, as well as Snape.

  • As this moon-sized object draws closer, its interactions with the Earth’s atmosphere would cause the surface to heat up considerably well before it contacts the planet, accounting for why it looks more like a gas giant than a rocky object. An object of such size would hit with enough force to displace the whole of the lithosphere and generate enough heat to create a world-wide firestorm. Volcanic activity would increase on the surface, and once the debris settles, the entire planet would be seen as one large lava field from orbit.

  • To ensure that his daughter survives, the scientist creates a specialised spacecraft, to send her off. It’s a tearful farewell. Owing to the scope of Shelter, nothing else is shown, but this premise has been mentioned to be an excellent starting point for an OVA or even a full-fledged movie. Like countless viewers before me, it would definitely be worth checking out if a full length narrative was to be created, although similar to Star Wars Madness and Cross Road, I imagine that this probably won’t be the case.

  • This image shows the object colliding with the Earth’s surface, and the results are consistent with those seen in an animation portraying the effects of a hypothetical body of 500 kilometers in diameter impacting the Earth. While such scenarios are often used in science fiction, that there is intelligent life on Earth is the surest sign that such objects are rare in the Solar System: in the Earth’s early history, impacts would have been very common, but as the planets coalesced, the number of smaller objects decreased in number as they were absorbed into larger entities.

  • The end of the music video is viewed by some to be on the pessimistic side, since the final shot is that of Rin tearing up while in the spacecraft. It may have been more fitting to conclude with search lights shining upon her in the pod, which could have lessened or even eliminated the ambiguity, but other than that, this was a rather fun music video.

  • I’ll be resuming regular programming shortly after: ahead of time, I’ll be doing a talk on Mankind Divided now that I’ve finished talking with Talos Rucker. There will be some special post coming out later this week related to Remembrance Day, as well as a short reflection on my convocation from graduate school, in addition to the scheduled post for Brave Witches.

Fluidly animated and remarkably well-produced, Shelter is a visual treat to behold: Robinson’s performance complements the visual components, although there are points where the visuals seem to even eclipse the song. This collaborative project was a remarkably enjoyable watch despite its short length, and as remarked by countless others, its biggest shortcoming seems to be its short length, wondering whether or not there could be a more substantial story that carries on the narrative in the future to either show more of Rin’s backstory or her future experiences. It’s not very often I do standalone talks for music videos, but Shelter‘s execution is quite remarkable. As a collaboration between Eastern and Western artists, some audience members have remarked that Shelter could be an exciting beginning for international works. In light of some articles, such as one at Anime News Network discussing whether or not Japan’s projected population decline, these individuals feel that cooperation is very much welcomed to both bolster creativity and address the unsustainable aspects of the Japanese animation industry. Both components are quite important, and I very much welcome prospects of increased collaboration.