The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

  • Yuuri operates the Karabiner 98K, which is derived from the Gewehr 98 rifle. The 98K remained the main service rifle of German forces until World War Two ended, and is characterised by a shorter barrel compared to its predecessor. Other pieces of World War Two-era technology include a Panzer III, but as even Chito lacks the know-how and desire to restore the Panzer III, Girls’ Last Tour is certainly not Girls und Panzer by any stretch, and after three episodes, it is also inappropriate to compare it to Sora no Woto given the vast differences in thematic elements. At the time of writing, no one’s taken to suggesting existentialism as the main theme in Girls’ Last Tour – I’m not fond of the notion that this can be used as a catch-all for describing themes in anime set in a post-apocalyptic world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 June 7. 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

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!