The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

Worst Anime Challenge? The Themes of Glasslip Explained (Yet Again), and Revisiting P.A. Works’ Parvulum Opus

“By some need to appear intellectual, non-thinkers will instantly, and without question, subscribe to the opinions of those they feel other people think are educated.” –Criss Jami

In their final summer break as high school students, high school girl Tōko Fukami suggests to her group of friends, Hiro Shirosaki, Kakeru Okikura, Sachi Nagamiya, Yanagi Takayama, and Yukinari Imi, that the no-relationship agreement be lifted after she runs into the enigmatic Kakeru Okikura following the local summer festival. The aftermath has Yukinari attempt a kokuhaku with Tōko, only to be shot down, while Yanagi herself struggles with her unrequited feelings for Yukinari. Meanwhile, Sachi and Hiro begin a slow, awkward and measured relationship, exploring things one step at a time. All the while, Tōko struggles to understand her unusual feelings surrounding Kakeru, who claims to be in love with her and shares her ability to glimpse briefly into the future. As the friends explore new territory, their old friendships begin drifting apart. Glasslip is ostensibly a love story, one that deals with how relationships can unequivocally and irrevocably alter the dynamic amongst a group of once-close friends. Further to this, Glasslip sought to demonstrate that relationships and romance are a fickle dance and can progress in any way, from a gentle pacing seen in Sachi and Hiro, to the challenge that Yanagi faces. In particular, Tōko and Kakeru’s ability to perceive the future, idiosyncratically referred to as “fragments of the future”, would suggest that even with a bit of foresight, relationships are so dynamic that knowing what’s about to happen isn’t necessarily of any benefit – the so-called “fragments of the future” serve to help Tōko and Kakeru very little, leaving them in the same spot as Hiro, Sachi, Yanagi and Yukinari. This is what Glasslip is about, given what the anime had presented during its thirteen episode run. However, Glasslip never quite connected with the viewers, who felt shafted by the anime’s poor execution and unsatisfying conclusion – to this day, Glasslip is widely regarded as P.A. Works’ worst, (parvulum opus can be thought of as a “deficient work”), leaving viewers with more questions than answers.

The main reason why Glasslip‘s reception was so frigid lies primarily in poor lead characters, and the subsequent lack of impact the so-called “fragments of the future” had on the storyline. Tōko is indecisive, uncertain and meanders in her feelings, desiring to keep her old friendships while pursuing a relationship with Kakeru. Meanwhile, Kakeru acts as though he has a grasp on the phenomenon, talks down to the other characters and acts (perhaps willfully) oblivious to the turmoil he causes amongst the small group of friends. It becomes difficult to empathise with Kakeru and his pursuit of Tōko. Similarly, Glasslip had intended to suggest how foresight may not be of much benefit in something as tumultuous as romance; the viewers’ expectations going in would be that an increasing awareness of this phenomenon would allow Kakeru and Tōko to be more truthful with one another. Instead, the two continue to pursue the “fragments fo the future” seriously, which lead the pair to continue stumbling. Rather than coming to terms with how they feel, both try to rationalise their experiences as a consequence of the magic, whose limitations and extents are never satisfactorily defined. The end result of this is that for their troubles, Tōko and Kakeru do not learn anything of note from their experiences. They leave their final summer of high school with a fractured group of friends in their wake: Yukinari, Yanagi, Sachi and Hiro’s futures are just as uncertain, filled with doubt. Glasslip has its characters experience heartbreak and romance, but there is no helpful lesson the characters walk away with, and no payoff for the viewers that makes this journey worthwhile. Because viewers cannot connect with and support the characters, Glasslip‘s themes become lost amidst a tangle of irrelevant, ill-conceived symbolism that ultimately contributes little to the anime, acting as detours and red herrings rather than legitimate metaphors for describing the characters’ experiences.

“An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – becoming a better person.” –Leo Tolstoy

The consequence of Glasslip‘s execution results in an unsatisfying experience – after thirteen weeks, no adequate resolution is reached, and the mechanics in Glasslip ultimately impede, rather than assist, the story in conveying its theme. This is what creates the frustration amongst viewers: Japanese and English-speaking viewers alike did not find Glasslip to be satisfying or rewarding to watch, not for any deficiencies on their part, but because the anime had failed to convey what precisely its aims were. For an anime of such deplorable showing, one must wonder if there was any way for P.A. Works to have salvaged Glasslip. As it turns out, the root of Glasslip‘s problems lie entirely with how Kakeru is characterised. Stoic, aloof and arrogant, Kakeru is ill-suited as the male lead of Glasslip – despite appearing to possess deeper understanding of the so-called “fragments of the future”, Kakeru does not give up their mysteries so easily, even to Tōko (and by extension, the viewer). While this is a deliberate choice to depict his fear of attachment, it also impedes with the larger narrative. By acting as though he is superior to the others because of his limited precognition, Kakeru quickly alienates Tōko’s friends, and makes it difficult to close the distance between the two. This is easily remedied by having Kakeru be more open about his power, as well as treating Tōko’s friends more cordially. A Kakeru more willing to speculate on and talk through the “fragments of the future” with others would be able to give viewers a better understanding of why precognition is relevant to the story. This would certainly help Tōko understand where his feelings are coming from and make their relationship more plausible. Further to this, were Kakeru more aware of social convention, Tōko’s friends would be more willing to accept his inclusion in their tightly-knit group. Together, this would allow Kakeru to act as a relatable character who can guide Glasslip‘s progression, and help keep Tōko’s group of friends together even as they explore new directions. Ultimately, this one simple change would have completely altered the course of Glasslip, enough to render it a satisfactory experience; this demonstrates the importance of having well-written characters that viewers can get behind.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In a vacuum, Glasslip is an anime that would earn a 4 of 10 points on the ten-point scale: the solid music and opening sequence merit two points, the superb artwork adds another, and finally, since I am able to discern what Glasslip was trying to go for, we add another point for that. Previous reviews had me assign Glasslip a paltry 3 of 10. However, even with an additional point, this still corresponds to an F grade (0 points on the 4-point scale): the conclusions reached in Glasslip do not correspond with the path it took to get there, and while there’s nothing particularly deep or complex about the series, it does take some effort to determine what the series intended to leave its viewers with.

  • The reason why I say “in a vacuum” is because one’s Glasslip experience degrades significantly should they read analysis or interpretations from the community: a lot of the analysis out there contains reference to obscure symbolism and metaphors that only obfuscate the anime’s meaning, making it even trickier to get a bead on what the anime is about. Consequently, in conjunction with the detailed and “matter-of-fact” tone these analyses have, reading too extensively into what others are saying can give one the impression that they were missing something obvious even though they are not. Conversely, my answer to “what is Glasslip about?” is straightforward – it’s a story of how relationships inevitably create rifts in friendship, and how even with magic, there are some things about romance that cannot be so readily addressed.

  • I further remark that viewers who struggled to get a handle on what Glasslip was saying, are not lacking in any way or missing anything “simple”: the unusual usage of imagery (especially the stills and glass beads), plus Kakeru’s metaphors and enigmas, would mean that it was Glasslip that struggled to convey its messages effectively to viewers. Again, reading analysis out there too seriously would severely diminish one’s experience for Glasslip further; if I were to watch Glasslip on the basis that it is in intellectual’s work that acts as an analogy to The Myth of Sisyphus or deals exclusively with wabi sabiGlasslip would score an F- (which corresponds to a negative score), because I would be immediately branded a knuckle-dragger for not having immediately understood what was supposed to be “self-evident”.

  • I’ve found that all of the analysis out there reached conclusions based on incomplete evidence: many of those partaking in the analysis ignored aspects of Glasslip, namely, the so-called “fragments of the future”, because these were inconvenient towards their conclusion. As such, while they might say something interesting about what Glasslip was attempting to convey, there remains the fact that the so-called “fragments of the future” are never accounted for. If Glasslip had purely been about wabi sabi, the anime could have conveyed the same theme without the “fragments of the future”: the stills that dominate the anime, seemingly of pivotal (but ultimately trivial) moments, was a rather visceral way of forcing the viewer’s attention towards a moment. Similarly, Kakeru’s arrival and the consequences it has on Tōko’s group of friends would have worked without the “fragments of the future”.

  • However, since the “fragments of the future” are such an integral part of Glasslip, any discussion of the anime must account for them. After revisiting Tari Tari earlier this month, my thoughts lingered towards Glasslip, and I wondered if I had been too harsh on this series. Doing a revisit of Glasslip ultimately allowed me to better describe what I think the series to be about, and I reached a new conclusion as to why I found the series to be so disagreeable. With this being said, I still find myself wishing Glasslip had been about a girl who wanted to pursue a career in glass-blowing and ends up making glass beads for someone she likes instead.

  • As it turns out, it boils down to characterisation, specifically how Kakeru’s character was presented and utilised. The mystery of the “fragments of the future” in Glasslip needed to be explained in order for viewers to connect it to the story, and Kakeru was supposed to be the agent for this. However, Kakeru’s personality and single-minded pursuit of Tōko meant that the supernatural piece of Glasslip was never adequately explained, or even speculated upon, leaving both Tōko and the viewers in the dark. This simple change would’ve made all the difference, and so, I am left wondering why the decision was made to portray Kakeru as an aloof know-it-all. In fact, I’ve noticed that a lot of the people behind the more widely-circulated analysis out there bear a resemblance to Kakeru’s negative tendencies.

  • This could be why so many disagreeable people painted Glasslip as a work of art that required a certain intellectual threshold to appreciate, but I digress. In retrospect, each of Tōko, Yanagi, Hiro, Sachi and Yukinari were reasonably well-written characters with their own challenges and aspirations. Hiro and Sachi represent the couple who progresses through things slowly, while Tōko, Yanagi and Yukinari are in the midst of a love triangle with no easy resolution. Even without Kakeru and the “fragments of the future”, Glasslip would’ve told a compelling coming of age story surrounding a group of friends whose foray into relationship leaves a nontrivial impact on their friendship.

  • In many ways, Glasslip is to P.A. Works what Battlefield V was to DICE: both had an infinitely better-received predecessor that served as inspiration (Nagi no Asukara and Battlefield 1, respectively), and both did enough well as to leave people wondering what on earth had happened. Battlefield V had the best weapon mechanics and traits of any game in the franchise, as the weapons were entirely skill-based. The gunplay in Battlefield V was therefore immensely satisfying. However, from a faulty marketing campaign, to a poorly-executed plan for post-launch support that resulted in a lack of content, and bizarre periodic changes to core mechanics meant the game suffered continuously throughout its lifetime.

  • Glasslip is similar in many regards: it had some of the best music and visuals of anything P.A. Works had done up to that point, and conceptually, a story about romance during the final summer vacation of high school could have very much captured on feelings of yearning and melancholy to create a moving tale. Instead, a few bad design choices (namely Kakeru) caused Glasslip to vastly under-deliver. Overall, I still found Battlefield V enjoyable despite its flaws: while many practises were poor, the gunplay alone encouraged me to return. Glasslip similarly convinced me to stick around each week: while Kakeru was as unlikeable as can be, Tōko, Yanagi, Hiro, Sachi and Yukinari kept the anime going where Kakeru did not, and I was interested to see how things would unfold among this group of friends as their summer wore on.

  • If Glasslip was indeed so poorly done, one would wonder if there is any audience I could recommend this anime to. Surprisingly enough, there remains a group of people who would enjoy Glasslip: folks who enjoy watching anime for exceptional visuals would not be disappointed, provided that they not think too deeply about the story. Like Battlefield VGlasslip took visuals to a new level, and the visual effects are stunning. By comparison, the real world version of Fukui, where Glasslip is set, looks absolutely drab by comparison. Even today, very few anime have had quite the same eye-popping aesthetics as Glasslip did. Similarly, the music in Glasslip was of a superb quality – besides the inclusion of classical pieces and string to create a feeling of chaos amidst the romance, Glasslip also features a song titled “Sudden, expected loneliness” that summarises everything that Kakeru and Tōko experienced throughout the anime. The song itself is excellent in all regards, and during its nine minute runtime, puts into music what Glasslip was intended to be about. The remainder of the incidental pieces on the soundtrack are varied, capturing melancholy, whimsy and everything in between.

  • It is almost impossible to have a discussion about Glasslip without mention of Helene “Soulelle” Kolpakova, whose Glasslip “analysis” became widely accepted as the single most definitive and authoritative interpretation of the anime, despite being incorrect and incomplete (Kolpakova had written her opinions a few days before the finale aired to MyAnimeList’s forums). My attempts to understand Kolpakova’s perspectives since have been completely unsuccessful, since she’s clearly not interested in having a conversation about Glasslip. This particular “analysis” is detrimental to one’s ability to understand and enjoy Glasslip to the maximum extent possible, so I am considering a course of action that will, at the very least, help those who are looking for Glasslip interpretations. I understand that my course of action will not likely persuade those who’ve already agreed with Kolpakova’s “analysis” to change their minds, but at the very least, this will hopefully reduce the visibility of her “analysis”, leaving people free to pursue other interpretations that are less patronising, and better written.

  • Kakeru’s preference for sleeping in a tent is intended to mirror his unwillingness to call any one place home, a consequence of having moved around all his life and the corresponding fear of forming attachments because of their potential to be lost. However, this isn’t the central theme of Glasslip – instead, Kakeru’s eccentricities were likely intended to illustrate just how important Tōko is to him, given that he’s willing to pursue a relationship (i.e. attachment) with her despite his initial desire to stay as detached from places and people as possible. The visual metaphors of Glasslip were never complex or difficult to understand, and a common misconception is that “unlearned” people dislike the anime because the symbols and metaphors were in over their heads, that those unsatisfied with Glasslip were “used to stories being spoon-fed to them”.

  • I would therefore contend that the hostility towards Glasslip stems from a combination of the anime failing to deliver a satisfying, emotionally meaningful story and the pseudo-intellectual attitudes some have taken towards approaching the anime. One individual wrongly argued that the “fragments of the future” were actually insights into Tōko’s own mind, that she neglects her friends and do not see them as people, hence her fear of losing them. This is untrue, since the phenomenon would not be named “fragments of the future” if they dealt with the present: Glasslip utilised this phenomenon to show Tōko the consequences of pursing a relationship and the rifts it would cause. This separation is supposedly what leads Tōko to value her friends more than before. However, this is not what Glasslip is about: the time spent on Yanagi, Yukinari, Sachi and Hiro shows otherwise (if the anime had been about Tōko, it is completely unnecessary to build out the other relationships).

  • One subplot in Glasslip I found meaningful was the newfound friendship between Yanagi and Tōko’s sister, Hina: after she’s indirectly rejected by Yukinari, she begins to take up running to take her mind off things. Yanagi’s route takes her by the pool that Hina and her friends swim at, and with her model-like appearance, Yanagi soon draws the swimming team’s interest. Hina, in particular, becomes friends with Yanagi, showing how the unexpected can occur from detrimental events: had Yanagi not been rejected, she would’ve not become closer to Hina, who sees her as an older-sister like figure with a distinct air of coolness.

  • The sheer number of different interpreting of what Glasslip was about, is an indicator that Glasslip had failed as a story. A good story is able to transcend linguistic and cultural barriers to convey a consistent theme that viewers can walk away with. For instance, in The Rolling Girls, despite being very busy, leaves viewers with a message about how ordinary people can make a difference. In the Twitter anime community I am a part of, viewers of different backgrounds and styles each came to this conclusion independently. With Glasslip, however, the central themes have been concluded to be wabi sabi, a desire for a home and attachment to a place, transitions in life, and valuing what’s around oneself, but each of these conclusions result from massive subjective leaps during analysis that conveniently skip over things in Glasslip.

  • While good art is indeed open to multiple interpretations, such interpretations necessarily consider all aspects of a work, and not just the parts that allow one to draw the conclusion of their liking. Those who say Glasslip is about home (through the presence of Kakeru’s tent and chickens) ignore the relationship dynamics between Sachi, Hiro, Yukinari and Yanagi. The idea that Glasslip is about wabi sabi through stills fails to account for the “fragments of the future”. A story purely about friendship would similarly not have had such an emphasis on romance. This is why a lot of the analysis on Reddit and MyAnimeList are outright incorrect and not worth consideration: good analysis must involve all parts of a work, not just the aspects that conveniently line up with one’s conclusions.

  • When all of Glasslip‘s elements are properly considered, the anime ultimately ends up being a show of how relationships can be disruptive to friendships, and that they are unfixed, ever-mutating. It is not the case that Glasslip was intrinsically difficult to understand that resulted in the dislike against the series, but rather, an unlikeable character whose actions are unlikeable and motivations are never properly shown, in conjunction with the fact that the anime left many questions unanswered. Real life is never as neatly packaged as a story, but it is expected that a successful story leaves viewers with some sort of pay-off (e.g. Tōko pursues a relationship with Kakeru and accepts that her old friendships are permanently changed as everyone matures).

  • What I hope readers take away from this post, is that one should always exercise their own judgement and never just blindly accept someone else’s interpretation of any work of fiction as fact. To do so would be to do oneself a serious disservice: instead of exercising one’s own judgement, one would be showing deference to someone who may only outwardly appears to understand something and possessing an above-average ability to express it. The willingness to follow, rather than lead, is responsible for some of the worst excesses in human history, and more often than not, asking the right questions and following one’s own judgement is the best way to go – had a few more people stood up to history’s despots and liars, atrocities and calamities might have been lessened or mitigated.

  • It is uncharacteristic for me to do so, as I never presume to tell people what to think or do, but Glasslip is one of those rare exceptions where I will caution readers against placing faith in the various analyses and interpretations out there on Reddit and MyAnimeList. I do not, and will not, hold it against people who enjoyed Glasslip for the things that this series did do well, but people should not force themselves to say they enjoyed Glasslip because of a fallacious analysis. Similarly, those who disliked Glasslip should not feel any obligation to alter their stance simply because someone out there had put together an undergraduate term paper explaining why those who did not get the series were missing something “simple”.

  • I’ve deliberately timed this post to coincide with the sixth anniversary of Glasslip‘s finale. It is actually curious that two of my least favourite anime are from P.A. Works, a studio that has also produced my most favourite works. Having dubbed Glasslip as a contender in my “Worst Anime” category, my next move will be to rewatch RDG: Red Data Girl to determine whether this, or Glasslip, holds the title of being the worst anime I’ve ever seen. With this post done, that’s enough negativity out of me: I’ll be returning on short order to write for Oregairu‘s third season, after it ended yesterday, as well as SaeKano: Fine, which recently became available.

While Glasslip is ultimately a failure that offers nothing substantial to its viewers, the series also acts as a resounding lesson that P.A. Works would take to heart. Glasslip had been intended as a condensed romance that drew elements from its infinitely more enjoyable (and successful) predecessor, Nagi no Asukara, the same way Tari Tari had drawn from Hanasaku Iroha to create a more concise experience. However, by failing to write Kakeru as a character viewers could be sympathetic to, Glasslip alienated its characters and viewers alike. P.A. Works would later revisit the concept of using magic to help an individual come to terms with their past and move forwards into the future in The World in Colours. In this anime, Hitomi is sent back sixty years to spend time with Kohaku, her grandmother, as a youth. In the process, Hitomi becomes more confident, as well as accepting of her magic, which had caused her mother to abandon her. While possessing competence with magic, similarly to how Kakeru had some existing knowledge of the “fragments of the future”, Kohaku is the opposite of Kakeru. She is outgoing, cheerful and does her best to look after those around her. However, she is also aware of her own limitations and actively studies to improve herself. Kohaku’s positive influence on Hitomi means that audiences are assured that Hitomi will gain something from her experiences, which results in a much more engaging story. It is evident that writers would not fall to the same mistakes that afflicted Glasslip in The World in Colours; having an approachable mentor figure with an amicable personality made all the difference, resulting in a very touching story of discovery and acceptance. In retrospect, it is quite conceivable that Glasslip may have ended up a more compelling story; although Glasslip remains unenjoyable on its own merits, it nonetheless did pave the way for 2018’s The World in Colours, demonstrating that in the event that P.A. Works ends up producing a terrible anime, they are also able to apply these learnings to regroup and create superior works in the future.

Terrible Anime Challenge: How The Quintessential Quintuplets Avoided Hitting the Bricks by Hitting the Books

“Peace is present when things form part of a whole greater than their sum, as the diverse minerals in the ground collect to become the tree.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When Futaro Uesugi receives an offer to take up a position as the tutor with a good pay, he accepts: despite being highly studious, he comes from a difficult background and lives frugally as a result. As it turns out, Futaro is set to look after not one, but five students. These quintuplets come from a wealthy background, but all of them are disinterested in academics and have poor grades as a result. However, determined to ensure their success, Futaro presses forwards despite their initial hostility towards him, and over time, manages to turn them around: the girls gradually begin to see merits in Futaro’s methods and accept him while their grades begin improving. This is The Quintessential Quintuplets (Go-Tōbun no Hanayome, literally “Five Equal Brides”), an anime adaptation of Negi Haruba’s manga, which was serialised to Kodansha between 2017 and 2020. With its interesting premise, the anime proved an unqualified success, and a second season is set to air in 2021, now that the manga has concluded. The positive reception thus prompts the question: what about the series made it particularly successful, even in the eyes of those who are critical of the genre? The answer is almost immediately apparent; The Quintessential Quintuplets‘s success comes from doing things well on a broad spectrum of categories, from its animation and artwork, to top-tier voice acting from an all-star cast, and above all, likeable characters in conjunction with a genuine curiosity to see what methods Futaro uses to help each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki find success. The journey is a warm and rewarding one: while it is evident that The Quintessential Quintuplets was to be a love story out of the gates (the anime opens with a wedding ceremony), it manages to keep things exciting by making it tricky to ascertain who Futaro ends up marrying in the end, as well as presenting another, rather unexpected theme as a result of Futaro becoming the quintuplets’ tutor.

The Quintessential Quintuplets is a romance, but thanks to the premise of Futaro taking up his post initially to help his family pay off a debt, and the fact that Futaro himself is remarkably studious, the anime demonstrates that individuals, however similar they are, each have their own unique style. Consequently, in order to get to each of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki, Futaro must first understand the girl as a person before he can decide how to best motivate them. This aspect of The Quintessential Quintuplets became visible with Miku: she’s the first to open up to Futaro and reveals an interest in Japanese history, specifically, surrounding the Sengoku era. Once Futaro realises that he can motivate Miku by matching her in knowledge and showing her that, were she to approach history the same way she approaches the Sengoku, she can pick up the materials quickly. Miku, Yotsuba and Ichika thus warm up to Futaro when he begins taking a more personalised approach to things, while Nino adamantly refuses, and Itsuki persists on her own out of pride. However, as The Quintessential Quintuplets‘ continues, it becomes clear that everyone’s slowly begun to warm up to Futaro because he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and use adaptive, flexible approaches in coaching the girls: rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, his personalised approach allows him to motivate each of the quintuplets according to their own circumstance and interests. This is something I’ve noticed during my time as a student and instructor: everyone has their own background and corresponding way of learning, and the way that schools approach teaching is not really the most optimal approach for everyone. As Futaro discovers, sometimes, the best means of understanding someone comes outside the academic setting, where people are truer to themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • From left to right, the quintuplets are Yotsuba, Miku, Ichika, Itsuki and Nino. Each of the girls are named after numbers in order of their birth (Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki), and out of the gates, this screenshot captures everyone’s reception to Futaro: Yotsuba and Ichika seem the most receptive, while Miku’s gaurded. Itsuki outright rejects him, and similarly, Nino meets Furaro with open hostility. Ichika is voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s Shirase Kobuchizawa), Ayana Taketatsu plays Nino (Azusa Nakano of K-On! and Hana Uzaki of Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out), Miku Itō is Miku (Locodol‘s Nanako Usami and Maple of Nekopara), Ayane Sakura plays Yotsuba (Cocoa Hoto from GochiUsa and Oregairu‘s Iroha Isshiki), and Itsuki is voiced by Inori Minase (GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu and Danmachi‘s Hestia).

  • In the Terrible Anime Challenge series, the goal is for me to see if a given anime meets the expectations that the community has established. The Quintessential Quintuplets is well-received and enjoyed by many, so entering, my expectations for the series was for it to excel: per some of the harshest critics around, The Quintessential Quintuplets is “nothing revolutionary, but does a lot of basic things well”. This constitutes as high praise from a site whose reviewers frequently draw theory from undergraduate gender studies textbooks to tear down a given work. Exiting The Quintessential Quintuplets, I was impressed with the series for being able to strike a balance between comedy and drama, which really pulled me in.

  • As a result, The Quintessential Quintuplets is an anime that matches the expectations that the community had set, being superbly enjoyable. This was apparent from episode one of The Quintessential Quintuplets, as Futaro does his best to get through to a group of girls who are adamantly disinterested in studying. After seeing for himself just how tricky things are, Futaro discovers that Miku has a hidden interest for the Sengoku era based on her love for a mobile game, and decides to verse himself in the period’s history to motivate Miku. For his trouble, Futaro is successful, and Miku begins to accept his tutelage. For me, Japanese history is not my forte, and I much prefer reading about the Cold War and World War II.

  • Yotsuba has little objections with Futaro, but her busy schedule leads her to ditch most of their early sessions, typically leaving Futaro alone with Miku. Futaro’s attributes bring to mind my own mannerisms back in the day: as a high school student, I was among the top of my year in academics, but was also a real piece of work in retrospect. Some of my favourite moments include outperforming my chemistry instructor on a practise standardised exam we were giving a whirl ahead of our final exams, and drew scores with my social studies instructors on those exams. For the actual exams themselves, if memory serves, my scores were: 90 for English, 95 for social studies, 98 for mathematics, 96 for biology, 98 for chemistry and 94 for physics. Together with my extracurricular activities, secured me a spot in the university’s undergraduate health sciences programme.

  • Once university arrived, I performed well enough in my first year, but second year saw me fall to just a tenth of a grade point above satisfactory standing. This experience was remarkably humbling, and since then, I’ve viewed grades differently: my old performance back during high school isn’t particularly noteworthy at present. One of the possible outcomes of The Quintessential Quintuplets, then, could be that the girls help Futaro to enjoy life a little more and strike a balance between striving for excellence, as well as spending time with those important to him. Back in The Quintessential Quintuplets, Ichika is the next of the quintuplets to begin opening up to Futaro. Itsuki is insistent on pushing forwards on her own and only reluctantly allows Futaro to help her sisters because she’s met Raika, Futaro’s younger sister. Nino goes to great lengths to push Futaro out: on their first session, she spikes his water, causing him to fall unconscious.

  • While The Quintessential Quintuplets is about Futaro doing his best to motivate the girls, a series purely about studying would be rather dull. Solving quadratic equations, balancing a stoichiometric expression and reviewing English grammar does not lend itself to more colourful moments, and folks looking to experience that would do better to pick up a textbook. Instead, The Quintessential Quintuplets shows the time that Futaro spends with the quintuplets outside of their sessions. At the summer festival, Miku is the first to explain the significance of the fireworks event to Futaro: she’s the first to develop feelings for him.

  • The Quintessential Quintuplets is a visually impressive anime: while not particularly standout compared to the best of something like Kyoto Animation or P.A. Works, Tezuka Productions has nonetheless done a solid job with background artwork and character animations. The fireworks sequences were particularly impressive, although the girls wind up being separated after a failure to communicate. It is here that Futaro learns of Ichika’s secret ambition of becoming an actress; an audition had coincided with the night of the festival, and Futaro encourages her to pursue what she feels to be important. This action causes Ichika to begin accepting Futaro.

  • I always found it interesting that of everyone, Yotsuba has the least resistance towards Futaro. Even shortly after meeting, she’s the first to speak with him of her own volition, and never openly objects to anything he suggests when it comes to studying. I will remark that at this point in time, I’ve not read the manga and therefore do not know which of the five quintuplets ends up marrying Futaro. With this being said, The Quintessential Quintuplets manages to keep the viewer guessing right up until the end, and since there is a second season, I am rather looking forwards to seeing this outcome.

  • Consequently, I will be most displeased if anyone should spoil the ending for me: a part of the thrill in The Quintessential Quintuplets is the fact that any one of Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba or Itsuki could potentially be the special person for Futaro. The first season suggests that Ichika, Yotsuba or Miku are more likely, given that they immediately open up to him, but this raises the possibility that Itsuki or Nino are viable, as well, since there’d be a bit of a journey for Futaro to get to a point where they trust him, and in doing so, this would help Itsuki and Nino appreciate the sort of person Futaro is beyond his love of studying.

  • With midterms on the horizon, the quintuplet’s father issues Futaro an ultimatum: should any of the girls fail, he will be dismissed from his post. This pushes Futaro to make a more honest effort in helping the girls study, although he finds it difficult to convey this news to the others. He attempts to tell Itsuki, but instead, Nino hears the news. One recurring gag in The Quintessential Quintuplets is that the quintuplets all look similar enough so that they can be mistaken for one another, and in the anime, everyone is given a distinct colour scheme so that viewers can easily differentiate them.

  • For viewers, it is remarkably easy to warm up to Miku, Yotsuba and Ichika even though their disinclination to study is no better than Itsuki and Nino’s. In an attempt to encourage them, Futaro will grant them them concessions in exchange for studying: since the girls became curious to hear what his preferences in women are, he decides that for some milestone they reach, he’ll reveal one of three: these end up being 1) a cheerful disposition, 2) skillful at cooking and 3) cares for her older brother. The last one is a curveball: Futaro won’t easily give up his secrets, but the anticipation shows that everyone has begun to take an interest to Futaro in some way.

  • Futaro notices that Ichika is always the most composed and mature of the quintuplets, someone who won’t hesitate to give him advice on how to best manage this rowdy, rambunctious bunch. Recalling her advice earlier about kindness, he acts on it and pets Ichika, causing her heart to skip a beat. By The Quintessential Quintuplets‘s halfway point, it becomes clear that both Miku and Ichika have feelings for Futaro despite is disinterest in pursing a relationship.

  • If and when I’m asked, Miku is my favourite of the quintuplets: her quiet and shy disposition brings to mind the sort of traits that I’m fond of. It’s difficult to describe what about these characteristics are so appealing for me. I found myself rooting for Miku early on, and despite her hesitant nature, she gradually becomes more forwards about how she feels towards Futaro, even climbing into bed with him during one overnight study session, and later admitting that while their mother had always taught them to see one another as equals, she wouldn’t hold back where Futaro was concerned.

  • When the midterms come, each of the girls pass in precisely one subject and fail the others. Futaro steels himself for the inevitable, only for Itsuki to brazenly lie about everyone having passed. On some technicality, if each quintuplet is a fifth of a whole, then together, they pass, but this reasoning is a non sequitur. For the sake of The Quintessential Quintuplets, however, the girls’ father accepts this as the truth, allowing Futaro to retain his post for a little longer, and given the outcome, it stands to reason that Futaro is successful in mentoring the girls. Because the girls getting their grades up is a foregone conclusion, this leaves The Quintessential Quintuplets free to explore things beyond studying.

  • Inori Minase’s done an excellent job of portraying the tsundere Itsuki: Itsuki sounds nothing like Chino or Chito, which attests to her skill. Conversely, since Yotsuba is a happy-go-lucky sort of individual, Ayane’s chosen to voice her in the same style as Cocoa and Iroha: it is rather difficult to see Yotsuba as anyone other than Cocoa, and in conjunction with OreGairu, it’s suddenly struck me just how much I miss GochiUsa. Fortunately, with GochiUsa BLOOM on the horizon and set to air on October 12, Thanksgiving Long Weekend for me, I am looking forwards to seeing what adventures await Cocoa, Chino and the others.

  • As the first season draws to a close, Futaro is convinced to join on a class camping trip into the mountains. On the eve of the trip, the girls take him shopping for new gear so he looks a little less shabby, but when Raika falls ill with a fever, Futaro looks after her instead and is prepared to skip the trip. However, Raika recovers, and the girls pick him up instead. When a snowstorm brews and creates a traffic jam, the group ends up lodging at a ryōkan for the night.

  • Ryōkan, traditional Japanese inns, are not inexpensive by any means: they can run for anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five thousand yen (186-312 CAD) per person per night, but in exchange, offer unparalleled service and an experience in Japanese hospitality. Most ryōkan serve guests with a full Japanese breakfast that renders lunch almost unnecessary, and full kaiseki ryori courses for dinner that showcase Japanese cooking at its finest. Some ryōkan also have an onsen on premises, allowing guests to fully relax.

  • The camping trip could have merited an entire post on its own, seeing an eventful day where Futaro helps Yotsuba with a test of courage and ends up getting locked in a storeroom with Ichika. Prior to the trip, another fellow interested in Ichika had tried asking her out to the bonfire dance, which is rumoured to help a couple stay together if they are holding hands at its conclusion. However, this “Ichika” was actually Miku, creating a bit of a misunderstanding. The other fellow eventually meets another girl thanks to Futaro’s help on the test of courage.

  • Ichika falls ill from the previous night’s events, but mysteriously reappears the following morning for the skiing event. Meanwhile, Itsuki has gone missing. Futaro manages to deduce that “Ichika” is actually Itsuki, and while trying to escape Yotsuba and Nino, runs into Miku. The Quintessential Quintuplets has begun setting the stage for a love tesseract, and in any other series, this has the potential of devolving into an unsolvable problem. However, since the series has made it exceedingly clear what the outcome is, this leaves it clear to simply explore the story in between. It is a brilliant bit of writing on Negi Haruba’s part: his decision to break with some conventions and stick with what makes for a clean story in the manga eliminates the problem that plagues most series with multiple female protagonists.

  • At some point, one of the quintuplets will walk the isle with Futaro, and the other four will have made peace with this fact despite being in love with him themselves. How this comes to be will likely be what season two deals with, and as season one draws to a close, the anime does not readily give up the manga’s mysteries as each of the girls hold Futaro’s hand during the finale of the bonfire dance before waking him up accidentally, resulting in much commotion. Overall, The Quintessential Quintuplets earns an A- (3.7 of 4.0, or 8.5 of 10): it matches expectations going in, uses a clever setup to avoid pitfalls of other, similar series, and has be excited about its continuation.

What The Quintessential Quintuplets particularly excels at in, during its first season, is creating anticipation: it is known ahead of time that Futaro will marry one of the quintuplets, and as such throughout the whole of the anime, watching Futaro interact with Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba and Itsuki leads the viewer to wonder, which of the five ends up tying the knot with Futaro? Is it the girls who open up to him earliest, or is it going to be those who most vehemently oppose the idea of him helping? Seeing the dynamics Futaro has with everyone thus makes the series quite captivating, as it represents the journey to the wedding altar that began with mistrust and doubt. With a second season on the horizon, I expect that The Quintessential Quintuplets will continue to portray this particular story, stepping slowly away from the studying piece and more towards the sorts of experiences that will eventually lead Futaro accept one of the girls as his bride. The Quintessential Quintuplets has demonstrated that it earns the praise it received; the positive reception for this anime is not misplaced, and considering that even the more difficult-to-please critics view The Quintessential Quintuplets favourably, it speaks to the strengths of the series to stay focused. Altogether, given the strengths in the first season, it is reasonable to say with confidence that the second season will continue to impress, and I am rather looking forwards to seeing how the anime chooses to wrap things up.

Remarks on Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out or: How I Learnt To Ignore Virtue-Signalling and Enjoy Comedy

“Just so you know, this is Kane’s place. You’re welcome to stay as long as it takes to kill you, which, by the way, will not be long!” –Kane, Titanfall 2

Shinichi Sakurai is a university student who is content to spend his leisure time on his own, but when Hana Uzaki discovers this, she sets about trying to coerce Shinichi into spending more time with her in an attempt to show him the merits of doing things together. Despite Shinichi’s objections, Hana manages to force herself into every aspect of his life. While he typically winds up annoyed at Hana, there have been a few moments where he appreciates what Hana does for him, whether it be looking after him when he falls ill, or when she spends an afternoon with him playing Minecraft. On paper, Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out appears to be an unremarkable series, treading on well-worn territory of an energetic girl attempting to get a stoic and seemingly-cold guy to open up. However, in practise, Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is proving to be unexpectedly entertaining, capitalising on the stark contrast between Shinichi and Hana to drive the humour. From exaggerated facial expressions, to Hana’s extensive rants about the joys of mint chocolate ice cream, or the lengths that Ami and Itshuhito attempt to meddle in Shinichi and Hana’s interactions for their own ends, this anime distinguishes itself from similar series with its honest, biting portrayal on two opposite personalities and how for better or worse, such contrasting attitudes can prove surprisingly compatible and heartwarming. At the very least, this is where Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out stands amongst the reasonable viewer, whose intent is to enter the series and watch it for amusement: Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is hilarious, but owing to its premise, does not particularly offer much to write about under ordinary circumstances.

While I would be content to leave the discussion here, Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out has found itself at the centre of a controversy of late. It turns out that a subset of the population, individuals I refer to as virtue signallers, finds Hana’s physical appearance to be offensive. Virtue signallign entails the espousing perspectives that ostensibly have a basis in moral value, but with an intention that usually is more selfishly motivated: to elevate their status in the eyes of others. In the case of Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out, these individuals argue that Hana is too well-endowed than is realistic petite frame, which has resulted in her being misidentified as a grade-school student. In their eyes, Hana should not be accepted because in conjunction with the manga and anime’s events, her existence promotes child abuse, which is illegal. Virtue signallers insist on dismissing the idea that Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is a comedy and argue that anyone who is enjoying the series is engaged in what is tantamount to a criminal offense. However, this is a flimsy argument: Hana was designed as a university student, and Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out was written as a comedy about the lengths Hana go to haul Shinicihi out of his solitude, as well as the antics that result from Hana’s meddling. While Shinichi does find himself in the occasional dubious moment with Hana, the series is not intended to promote anything illicit, and Shinichi is shown to be very conscious about not doing anything to Hana. As it stands, it is to be disingenuous to ignore the creator’s intentions when interpreting a series – the core message of what a work of fiction intends to convey is dependent on what the author’s intents were at the time of writing, and in Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out, the anime has insofar been devoted to drawing laughs from its viewers at how irritating Hana is, as well as how this is offset by the fact that she genuinely cares about Shinichi.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open with the admission that Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is, while a fun anime at its core, is a very tricky series to write for on the grounds that the theme is already out in the open from the first episode: Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is about the merits of open-mindedness and specifically, how a preference for solitude and doing group activities are not mutually exclusive.

  • I particularly relate to Shinichi and his love of doing things alone. Rather than counting him as a longer, I consider Shinichi to represent a more extreme example of someone who enjoys solitude. Individuals tending towards an introverted personality typically prefer alone time as a means of regrouping and recharging themselves from a mental capacity. In quiet environments, introverts have better focus and concentration, allowing them to clear their minds.

  • While Shinichi’s scowl is said to be intimidating, he’s not unkind, and he does have his moments where he does laugh, as well. After meeting with Hana on campus for the first time, Shinichi decides to take up Hana’s invite to go check out a movie, and the two visit an electronics store later, where the two test out a new virtual reality headset. I’m the proud owner of an Oculus Quest VR headset, and while I don’t have Beats Sabre or Vader Immortal, the flagship apps for the headset, I do have Superhot VR and Wander (a Google Maps viewer modified to run on the Quest). The Oculus Quest uses a pair of wireless controllers to track hand motions, as opposed to the headset Shinichi and Hana try out.

  • Because of the fact that this fictional headset is wireless and uses a controller, I’m going to hazard a guess that it is roughly similar to the Oculus Quest in hardware specifications and therefore, performance. On this assumption, I am confident that the Oculus Quest cannot simulate touch, so Shinichi’s “accident” comes across as doubly amusing. Hana is remarkably tolerant about this sort of thing and typically will do her best not to embarrass Shinichi further.

  • Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out shares commonalities with Dagashi Kashi and Magical Senpai, two anime shorts that feature a similarly energetic (and irritating) female lead who is quite shameless, as well as a stoic male lead who would much rather live his life in tranquility. While each of Hotaru, Senpai and Hana might be annoying, they’re not detestable by any terms: despite making fun of the protagonists or putting them in a tough spot at every turn, the respective female leads of Dagashi KashiMagical Senpai and Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out have good intentions and never cause any long term harm.

  • When Hana gets stuck in some bushes while chasing a cat, Shinichi extricates her, but to two women passing by, Shinichi’s actions look like he’s doing anything but rescuing Hana. Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out employs these sorts of jokes frequently as a core part of its comedy, and while they can be a bit over-the-top, the series never means any harm from them. This is what the virtue signallers miss – comedy can exist in all forms, and moreover, that fiction is a realm for exploring ludicrous situations that have a near-zero probability of occurring in reality. I’ve long noticed that virtue signallers are some of the most conceited, self-absorbed people around: under the guise of being offended by something, their beliefs imply that they know better than others and that for other people, taking in “problematic” media eventually results in a desire to emulate fiction.

  • Such a belief stems from the delusion of superiority, and a desire to control others. However, in the case of anime, those who enjoy a series are simply content to take it all in as observers: there’s a clear delineation between reality and fiction, and virtue signallers believe that everyone not in their social clique are susceptible losing sight of this, hence their “duty” to prevent others from straying; this is frankly, an insulting assumption to make. Once Ami and her father are introduced, viewers get the sense that we are, in essence, Ami and her father: as we do, Ami and her father find Hana and Shinichi’s dynamics amusing, and are content to simply watch as things go down.

  • While Hana can be as annoying as an uninvited swarm of sandflies at a picnic, she genuinely cares for Shinichi and his well-being. After he falls ill from being caught in the rain with her, she decides to help him out while he fights off a cold. Her cooking is unexpectedly good, and Shinichi does appreciate her actions. This creating a heartwarming moment that is a payoff for the viewers, showing another side to Hana’s character beyond her usual desire to push Shinichi outside of his comfort zone.

  • The mature, healthy human mind would focus on these aspects of Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out; these are the core components of the series, after all. However, I’m told that the reason why virtue signallers have exhibited such an adverse reaction to the series is because Hana’s appearance makes them uncomfortable, ashamed of themselves. To this end, these individuals would see Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out altered or banned to spare themselves of any discomfort. However, because “I didn’t like it” isn’t something that’s likely to draw attention, the virtue signallers fall back on the old standby of appealing to morality in an attempt to have their voices heard. This is a moralistic fallacy, an invalid form of reasoning which assumes that some moral necessarily holds true.

  • These people are the most vocal on Twitter, although an old nemesis, Anime News Network, has also taken to criticising Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out. Their current reviewer writes sarcasm-filled reviews about the anime’s events, declaring it to be “mediocre” (the sign of an unversed writer), and their team appears intent on finding all of the shortcomings in the anime for their own gratification. In a passage that sounds like it was torn straight from elitist anime blogs of the late 2000s, Nick Creamer claims that “there’s basically nothing to recommend about this first episode at all”, and “[Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is] also completely lacking in ambition or excellence, and frankly a pretty dull experience”. Well, reading Creamer’s pseudo-academic tone was a dull experience for me.

  • Similarly, James Beckett believes that he “[has] no idea who this show is for”, Nicolas Dupree swiftly declares that “[Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is] is definitely a wash”, and Rebecca Silverman cannot take her mind off Hana’s mammaries, shoehorning her displeasure of them into every sentence. It is evident that Creamer, Beckett, Dupree and Silverman are inferior writers: they fixate on a few negatives in the series and otherwise, resort to making generic, cookie-cutter complaints about the series, as well as actively telling viewers what to do in skipping this series. This is, incidentally, the mark of a poor reviewer: a good reviewer only makes recommendations and never tries to make the reader feel bad for having opinions contrary to the review. Had Anime News Network not presumed to tell people what to do or guilt readers into agreeing with them, I would’ve simply walked away with a “they didn’t like it, and that’s fine”.

  • With due respect, Anime News Network’s writers are unlearned in their craft, their content is nowhere near the “emotionally intelligent media analysis” they claim to have, and as such, their opinions should not be given more weight simply because they were published to a larger anime site. Altogether, Anime News Network and Twitter’s vitriol-filled rants about Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out ends up being little more than noise that can be ignored. Having said this, I appreciate that Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is not for everyone, and this is perfectly okay. However, demeaning and guilt-tripping those who do enjoy the series is an unacceptable practise, and it perhaps shows just how out of touch Anime News Network is with anime in general: their poor writing speaks volumes to the fact that their staff would be rather writing about politics and imposing their own world-views on others at a more reputable media outlet.

  • When Hana echoes my sentiments, that it’s okay to dislike something, but not okay to dislike others for liking or disliking something, the Twitter community exploded into chaos. I turn a blind eye to these individuals and pay no heed to their constant posturing – to constantly be on the back foot in attempting to set these people straight is an exercise in futility, since the people who engage in unproductive actions also happen to be those with the free time to do so. As it stands, giving them no attention and no exposure is the best approach towards handling these individuals.

  • I’ve heard that the reason why folks are so vociferous about Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out and any anime dealing with verboten topics like false victimisation syndrome is because they intend to control what Japanese creators and studios produce to suit their own world-views. To this end, aggressive negative publicity, they reason, is one way to compel the Japanese studios and creators to fall into line, by suggesting that they can be deprived of Western profits if they should fail to comply. Historically, anime has always been written with the Japanese market in mind, and Western reception does not typically impact anime to as significant of an extent as one might imagine.

  • If I had to guess, I would say that the individuals that make the most noise about anime like Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out would also be those who have the least control in their lives. Thus, people resort to attempting to control what they feel like they can as a coping mechanism. There’s a complex bit of cause-and-effect here, and observation has found that speaking with these individuals is about as useful as trying to douse an oil fire with a turkey baster. Again, the best solution is to ignore these people and make one’s own decisions, as well as accepting the fact that different forms of entertainment appeal to different people.

  • The page quote, sourced from Titanfall 2, is a joke on the idea that, since this is my blog, I call the shots here. Because this post deals with an active and somewhat contentious topic, I feel it necessary to remind folks intending to comment that there are guidelines to follow: ad hominem attacks, use of slurs and insult-slinging will not be tolerated. I’m quite willing to hear out all sides of the argument, but there is a minimum level of civility that commenters are expected to observe.

  • I concede that from a technical perspective, Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out is unremarkable, but this isn’t to say that the aural and visual aspects of the anime are poor by any stretch. The anime is serviceable, sufficiently well put-together that one can focus on the dynamics between Shinichi and Hana. The dynamics between the two are the main draw, and Amu and Itsuhiro’s intents for the pair are equally as amusing.

  • Whereas I’ve focused on the Western angle of the so-called “controversy” Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out has faced, the series actually saw a minor controversy in Japan when Hana’s image appeared on a Red Cross promotion for blood donation back in October 2019: Unseen Japan’s Jay Allen ended up kicking off a flame war by sending an image of the poster to Japanese lawyer Ota Keiko, who ended up taking a leaf from cancel culture’s playbook and attempted to get the Red Cross to stand down. In retrospect, this shouldn’t be too surprising: Unseen Japan has a history of virtue signalling, as well – one of their goals is to impose Western progressive values onto those who watch anime, and they’ve recently been rattling the sabre by attempting to get a Love Live poster removed, as well. Given Unseen Japan’s checkered reputation, I will remark that one reaps what they sow, and starting controversies for retweets (or backing the wrong side of history) means that they are unworthy of consideration.

  • Back in Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out, the test of courage was my favourite moment in the series thus far. While Hana is typically irritating and forces Shinichi out of his comfort zone, she’s aware enough to know when she’s crossed the line. After said test of courage goes bad, Hana coaxes Shinichi back to the cabin, where he falls asleep in exhaustion. The next morning, Shinichi feels that he’s had the best sleep in a while, and Hana decides not to tell Shinichi’s what’s happened. Beyond their frequent, noisy quarrels, Shinichi and Hana complement the other nicely: I would liken their dynamics as being similar to that of Haruhi and Kyon’s, where a taciturn guy and an energetic girl manage to have adventures and experiences that would not have otherwise been possible in the other’s absence.

  • Overall, Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out scores a B- grade (2.7 of 4.0, or 7.0) for its comedy in my books: it’s not great, but not terrible, either. Having said this, the rudimentary themes and evens of Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out means there isn’t really much to talk about, making it difficult to write for the series. This post was additionally tough to write, since I don’t particularly enjoy dealing in controversies and talk about a subset of the population I’d rather ignore. With this being said, I do feel that it is important to remind people that they should always make their own decisions, and never allow the voices of a vocal minority to sway one’s perspectives.

Virtue signalling is nothing new, and those who engage in it typically seek validation from others: to them, all publicity is good publicity, as long as their message is spread. Consequently, as tempting as it may be to dust off Munson and Black’s The Elements of Reasoning and take these virtue signallers to school, I have a counterproposal: pay them no mind. Virtue signallers spend an unreasonable amount of time on social media sites, soapboxing their views, and inevitably find agreement in other individuals. The average person simply doesn’t have this kind of time available, so wisdom would suggest that ignoring the virtue signallers would be sufficient – denying these individuals of an audience diminishes the reach of their messages. Fortunately, there is a simple truth: angrily pulling incomplete theory and definitions from a junior level sociology textbook in a bid to tell others how to conduct themselves does one no favours, and if anything, reveals the inadequacies and insecurity of those whose entire existence is devoted to farming retweets and upvotes. Such individuals can be ignored. In the case of Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out, then, my recommendation is that for individuals who are enjoying the series, they can and should be free to do so without coming under scrutiny from others. The so-called “moral” arguments the virtue signallers push can be dismissed without further consideration. Similarly, those who find Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out disagreeable can elect to skip the anime: there is no obligation to continue watching something one does not like, and it’s not exactly healthy to devote one’s life to hatred and anger. Finally, I will note that unless there is a good reason for changing things up, I do not have any plans to continue writing about Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out: as entertaining as the series might be, there generally isn’t a whole lot to think or write about in Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out, meaning posts like these take an inordinate amount of time to complete.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ and A Forgotten Feeling of Nostalgia For Older Times

“Drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression, a species of writing: it reveals, better than does painting, his true personality.” –Edgar Degas

Sora Kajiwara is a high school student with an affinity for sketching. A member of her high school’s art club, Sora’s days are spent in pursuit of a memorable drawing or petting the neighbourhood cats. Classmates Natsumi Asō and Hazuki Torikai accompany her occasionally, along with the other, colourful members of the art club and its spirited but immature advisor, Hiyori Kasugano. Together with the art club, Sora goes on various adventures around Fukuoka, enjoying the slow scenery and a mug of her favourite tea, as well as participate in the unusual experiences that Hiyori concocts. Over time, as she continues to draw with those around her, Sora begins to open up to others and become less shy in the presence of unfamiliar faces. Originally a manga, Sketchbook was adapted into an anime, Sketchbook ~Full Colours~, that ran from October to December of 2007, and its run is characterised by a deliberately languid, laid-back atmosphere that conveys an infinitely peaceful sense, telling the story of how even the most unremarkable of experiences can shape an individual, and over time, drive subtle but noticeable changes as people open up to their others and find camaraderie amongst those with a shared set of interests. Without a more intricate narrative or deeper objectives, Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ (stylised as ~Full Colour’S~, or for American readers, ~Full Color’S~) is a series that typifies slice-of-life anime in its purest form, emphasising an appreciation of the mundane sights of everyday life, and finding joy in the small things, such as a good cup of tea or a minor deviation from one’s usual routine.

My curiosity in checking out Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ stems from a claim made by one of the harshest slice-of-life critics around, who had asserted that Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ was a series without peer that ostensibly surpassed the likes of other anime of its time. However, Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ remains quite unknown, and the stylistic choices seen in this anime have not been widely adopted by contemporary slice-of-life series. The most memorable slice-of-life series share in common a very clear, distinct path for the characters to follow. This is something that series from K-On!, which released two years after Sketchbook ~Full Colours~, to Yuru Camp△ and Gochuumon wa Usagi desu Ka?, all excel in – characters in each of these series are driven by a desire to experience something in full, and in doing so, come to better themselves. By comparison, Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ feels distinctly drab: Sora’s classmates never mature or make new discoveries, and their roles appear limited to providing comedy. Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ does not possess the same journeythat make the most influential slice-of-life series memorable, and consequently, the series has become consigned to be forgotten amongst the other bolder, more spirited series of its generation. However, while Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ remains quite obscure, it is by no means a poor anime and possesses a unique set of merits that made it fun to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Out of the gates, I found myself rather fond of Sora’s character – she’s rather shy, marches at the beat of her own drum and can appear quite scatter-brained, inattentive. However, she’s also a skilful artist and of everyone in the art club, enjoys sketching the most. The series is named for the fact that Sora carries a sketchbook wherever she goes. Sora is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, who had been in the early stages of her career: Hanazawa would later voice Angel Beats! Kanade Tachibana, Charlotte Dunois of Infinite Stratos, Manaka Mukaido from Nagi no AsukaraA Place Further Than The Universe‘s Shirase Kobuchizawa and Yukari Yukino in Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words and Your Name.

  • Hazuki and Natsumi are best friends, and because of their approachable nature, are the first to befriend Sora after she joined the art club. Hazuki is polite and well-adjusted, if frugal, while Natsumi is easygoing and enjoys using hand puppets to convey her thoughts. They frequently accompany Sora on her adventures, but also will occasionally leave her to explore on their own. Beyond Sora, Natsumi and Hazuki, I’ve not directed much focus towards the other characters of Sketchbook ~Full Colours~, since the series is largely about Sora and her experiences.

  • Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ originally aired in October 2007, some thirteen years ago: I am not terribly familiar with the more obscure titles from this era, but I do remember 2007 as the year that giants like Gundam 00 and CLANNAD aired. School Days also ran in 2007 – when I think about it, Sora does bear some resemblance to Kotonoha Katsura in appearance, but beyond superficial similarities, the differences between Sora and Kotonoha are night and day. Kotonoha’s personality was never really fleshed out beyond her obsession with Makoto, whereas Sora’s love of the arts and fondness for routine and tea are made very clear in Sketchbook ~Full Colours~.

  • 2007 also was a major year for gaming: Halo 3Call of Duty 4: Modern WarfareCrysisPortalHalf-Life 2: Episode 2 and World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade released. The video games industry has since lost much of its magic, and most publishers these days use business models that are increasingly cumbersome, favouring micro-transactions for cosmetics over gameplay. As a result, most modern titles no longer hold the same engagement as games from an older time, and for this reason, I am glad to have The Master Chief CollectionHalo 3 was released earlier this week, and at the time of writing, I’ve just completed the campaign, so I will be looking to write about this in the near future.

  • In 2007, I was in secondary school, and had just picked up Gundam 00 on the behest of a friend, who wanted to introduce me to the Gundam franchise and have someone who could chat with him about mobile suits. As well, another friend had just spun up a Ragnarok Online private server, and was considering putting together a private server for World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade as well. The latter would be realised early in 2008, and I spent many an hour levelling a Gnome mage while partying with a friend who was a Night Elf rogue: even now, I still remember pushing myself to understand course materials and finish assignments expediently so I could play World of Warcraft.

  • Despite its simple visuals, Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ has numerous moments of great beauty, such as when Sora accompanies Nagisa on an outing to sketch things. Because the day had been rainy, only Sora ended up going, with everyone else choosing to skip. The rain does eventually materialise, but Sora makes the most of it to sketch a misty, rainy landscape. When she finishes, the sun breaks through an opening in the sky at the day’s last light, creating a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Sora, who is glad to have shown up.

  • The origins of this Terrible Anime Challenge has a rather petty beginning: I’d been planning to watch Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ ever since I was looking around Behind The Nihon Review’s ill-bred and uninformed discussions of K-On! and came across their post on the top anime of the 2000s. Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ was one of the entries, and Sorrow-kun had written that in the anime, “[the] mood is lovely, the characters unforgettable, the comedy satisfying…definitely [something that will] brighten up your day”. This was high praise indeed, coming from someone who spent thousands of words tearing K-On! apart, and this piqued my curiousity to see what Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ was about.

  • As summer passes, the art club’s outing gets pushed to the end of the break owing to unforeseen circumstances. The art club’s budget is limited, and instructor Hiyori ends up setting their trip at school. This completely defies the expectations for what is normally expected of a summer trip, but even amidst such familiar scenery, Sora and the others end up creating pleasant memories as they hunt for the perfect subject to draw, enjoy curry and light fireworks together. Hiyori feels to be the precursor to the anime teacher archetype seen in K-On! and subsequent anime, bearing traits from Azumanga Daioh‘s Yukari Tanizaki, but in appearance, I found her similar to Chiaki from Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story.

  • At Sketchbook ~Full Colours~‘s halfway point, Kate is introduced. A Canadian with some familiarity in Japanese, but lacking any knowledge of kanji, she’s a precursor of sorts to Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō, speaking broken Japanese and producing kanji that completely butcher meaning. After her introduction, Natsumi spends an entire episode trying to figure out how to help Kate’s kanji improve, and ultimately, after Sora finds Natsumi’s hand-made guidebook, Kate realises this and thanks Natsumi for it.

  • Sorrow-kun suggests that Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ is a revolutionary slice-of-life anime that makes exemplary use of situational humour to give common viewers a smile, and further rewards knowledgeable viewers for understanding obscure Japanese puns or linguistic references. However, having now finished Sketchbook ~Full Colours~, I found that its main draw does not lie in its humour. I further found that aside from Sora, Natsumi and Hazuki, the other characters were not particularly memorable. Instead, it is the presentation of how Sora sees her world, though the minimalist artwork and a pleasant soundtrack, that makes Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ an enjoyable series: a cross between Azumanga Daioh and ARIA, the anime uses Sora’s love of the arts to present a very unique and laid-back view on the world, one unfettered by the hustle and focus of busier minds.

  • Per the Terrible Anime Challenge programme, I would count it as a “did not live up to the expectations that existing reception has set”.  This is not to say that Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ was poor anime by any stretch; what I mean here is that the anime did not deliver humour to the extent Sorrow-kun had suggested the series would. Rather than comedy, I found the biggest draw about Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ to be its atmosphere: the series has no single focus or objective, but instead, creates a slow-paced journey where one is compelled to follow Sora and her everyday adventures.

  • The music of Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ is noteworthy, consisting of a combination of jazz fusion, relaxing piano and other elements that capture the tenour of a moment. I’m particularly fond of the opening and ending themes: Natsumi Kiyoura’s Kaze Sagashi (“Finding the Wind”) is a gentle, cathartic piece that evokes memories of the ARIA soundtrack with its vocals and acoustic guitar, while Yui Makino’s performance of the ending songs creates a charmingly sentimental tone for wrapping up each episode. The use of trumpet and horns is similar to how The Carpenters and some of Rie Tanaka’s songs incorporated warm tones to create a nostalgic, “thinking of you” feeling in their songs.

  • As summer passes and autumn sets in, Hiyori decides to have the art club find things to sketch in and around campus. One of the things I’ve failed to mention up until now are Daichi’s temper tantrums: I initially thought that he was voiced by Sōichirō Hoshi, who plays Gundam SEED‘s Kira Yamato and Keiichi Maebara of Higurashi, but it turns out he’s voiced by Hiro Shimono (Gundam Unicorn‘s Takuya Irei and Takashi Yamada of Sakura Quest). Sora is initially afraid of him, but over time, comes to find amusement in his outbursts.

  • Out of the gates, Sora encounters Minamo Negishi, Daichi’s younger sister, in a vacant lot. The Sora viewers see at the beginning of Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ is shy to the point of being unable to properly return a greeting to strangers. Minamo is presented as being the anti-thesis of Sora: whereas Sora prefers sketching, which is a painstaking process that demands attention to detail and takes time, Minamo uses a digital camera that instantly captures a snapshot of a moment. Minamo is also outgoing and friendly: she’s a middle-school student, and over time, Sora opens up to her.

  • Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ is set in Fukuoka: the 47.65 metre tall Winding Tower of Shime Mine is visible from a range of scenes in the anime, forming a part of the backdrop as Sora and the others go about their daily lives. This tower was originally used by the Shime Mine to house the cables needed to bring up buckets of coal from a 430 metre-deep shaft below, and is composed of reinforced concrete: the Shime Mine operated between 1889 and 1964. The tower itself is about three-and-a-half kilometres from Fukuoka Airport, and in Sketchbook ~Full Colours~, the high school Sora and her friends attend is shown to be in a relatively quiet area with some open fields.

  • It just wouldn’t be a slice-of-life anime without the obligatory “sick from the cold” episode: when Sora falls ill one day, she spends her time at home, wishing she was with the art club. However, her friends all swing by to bring her gifts to help her out. These range from various remedies to hand-puppets, and Sora is grateful. Her younger brother, Ao, sees her friends as unusual, but ultimately, caring: level-headed and diligent, Ao occasionally worries about his sister and her absent-mindedness. After Sora recovers, she hears the plights of the neighbourhood cats and gives them fresh fish rather than the expired stuff for the first time: a handful of episodes are focused on the comings and goings of cats, giving insight into a world that even Sora misses.

  • As evening sets in now, the heat is beginning to recede, and I’m going to see if I can catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE later tonight. Of late, I’ve really focused on enjoying the small things, knowing that even those shouldn’t be taken for granted. Even something as simple as throwing a little bit of honey into my usual peppermint tea has offered a interesting flair on things. As I am, Sora is very fond of her tea, and she also seems to be big on routine. Throughout Sketchbook ~Full Colours~, she also comes to realise that small deviations from routine can be welcome, and in time, comes to savour those unexpected moments.

  • Towards the end of Sketchbook ~Full Colours~, Sora decides to paint the photograph of the art club that Minamo had taken, and Hiyori comments that it’s one of those few times that Sora’s done something in colour, capturing the members of the art club as they appear. This signifies the positive impact everyone’s had on her, and for me, this was the main pay-off for watching Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ all the way through. While Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ lacks an objective for characters to work towards, the anime instead feels like it is showcasing highlights that contribute to Sora’s growth over time.

  • At the end of Sketchbook ~Full Colours~, Sora’s grown and has become a little more expressive, being able to overcome her shyness to properly introduce herself. When everything is said and done, Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ earns a B grade (3.0 of 4, or 8 of 10): the anime may not be particularly revolutionary, but it represents an immensely cathartic and heart-warming journey portraying joys in the ordinary. While Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ did not deliver the comedy as I expected entering, this series ended up being quite fun in its own right. It marks the first time for Terrible Anime Challenge where I enjoyed an anime that did not meet expectations, finding something completely different in the series than what I imagined coming in.

The central element that Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ excels at conveying in its run is nostalgia: the minimalist, clean art style of Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ creates a storybook-like sense, and as Sora explores her world, it evokes a feeling of wistfulness and yearnings for a simpler life where a good day would consist of strolling around the neighbourhood and sketching a cat out on its adventures. The simple artwork in Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ forces the viewer’s attention to the characters. Viewers are drawn to the characters, listening to their conversations and watching their experiences, viewers gain a measure of the unusual and eclectic cast that comprises the art club, which may bring to mind the colourful folks one may have encountered during their own time as a student. Sketchbook ~Full Colours~‘s slow progression is accompanied by a soundtrack that sounds like a fusion between the calming melodies of ARIA, and Vince Guaraldi’s distinct jazz and bossa nova, as well as vocal pieces utilising the trumpet in a manner evocative of both the Carpenters and some of Rie Tanaka’s albums. The sum of the visual and aural aspects within Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ are meant to remind viewers of a simpler time when responsibilities and obligations were fewer, and one will invariably find Sketchbook ~Full Colours~ to be a very tranquil, laid-back experience during its run should they choose to give it a go.

Breakwater Club: Houkago Teibou Nisshi First Episode Review and Impressions

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” –Henry David Thoreau

After moving to a small coastal town, Hina Tsurugi had looked forwards to the start of high school and planned to join a handcrafting club, which is her hobby. While out to pick up a few things, Hina notices a girl swaying about on the breakwater. She rushes off to help, fearing the girl has heatstroke, but trips in the process. The girl introduces herself as Yūki Kuroiwa and explains that she’d been looking for marine life underneath the waves. Her fishing reel had also been tangled, and she was struggling to untangle it; thanks to Hina’s experience with knots, she straightens things out. Impressed, Yūki invites Hina to try fishing out, and Hina ends up pulling an octopus out of the water. She agrees to join the Breakwater Club on condition that Yūki removes the octopus from her sight, and when school starts, she decides to rescind her application. However, when classes end, the Breakwater Club’s headquarters is empty, and only one other girl is seen: this is Natsumi Hodaka, whom Hina had once been neighbours with. Soon after, Yūki arrives with one other club member, Makoto Ōno. When they hear of Hina’s wish to join another club, they ask her to give fishing one more shot before making a decision. With Natsumi’s help, Hina begins fishing for Japanese Horse Mackerel fry, and learns that with their fishing rods, can catch several at a time. Makoto ends up using a portable stove to fry these fish, and Hina is amazed at how well it tastes, although when she makes to clean up and finds the container for bait filled with insects, she panics. This is Houkago Teibou Nisshi (“After-school Embankment Journal”, English title Diary of our days at the Breakwater) after one episode, which is this season’s easygoing slice-of-life series that follows Hina and her journey into the world of fishing.

In dealing with fishing, an activity that requires skill, equipment and patience to enjoy, and a profession that is demanding and dangerous on those who are employed in it, Houkago Teibou Nisshi approaches fishing from a completely different angle, being more of a laid-back activity that allows one to appreciate the oceans and its bounty. Thematic elements will present themselves as Houkago Teibou Nisshi continues, but immediately, the anime wastes no time in establishing its intentions through its settings and atmosphere. Hina’s new home in the seaside town is a quiet, relaxing place with a beautiful view of the ocean and endless skies that invite exploration. The incidental music captures the languid, peaceful tenour of the town; in spite of Hina’s entomophobia, the seaside town is ultimately a peaceful place that will allow Hina to grow and make discoveries at her own pace. The slow pacing Houkago Teibou Nisshi conveys means that for viewers, the intricacies and nuances of fishing will also be presented in a way as to ensure viewers can follow along; Hina is the stand-in for the viewer, and the explanations of different techniques and equipment will help viewers to follow along as Hina learns more about the activity that she’s compelled to pick up now. Unlike last season’s Koisuru Asteroid, where I had prior background in both astronomy and geology to follow along, fishing is something that I am not versed in, and so, it will be interesting to see how Houkago Teibou Nisshi presents fishing to viewers.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi wastes no time in establishing Hina as being someone who is kind-hearted, but who is initially in love with handicrafts. Yama no Susume‘s Aoi Yukimura is similar to Hina in almost every way: both love crafts and knitting, are soft-spoken and not particularly good with speaking their minds, have a phobia and a childhood friend who’s energetic and would love nothing more than to get them into a new activity. Shortly after arriving in town, Hina runs into Yūki, who speaks with a rural dialect and is quite experienced at fishing.

  • One thing leads to another, and Hina ends up picking up the reel to give things ago, at Yūki’s encouragement. Hina is able to pull an octopus from the water, sending her into hysterics, and I am reminded of Survivorman, where Les Stroud found a squid on the beaches of Tiburón island and after some consideration, cooks it as a survival food. Octopus is popular in Japan, being used in a variety of dishes (takoyaki is one of the better known ones), although to the best of my knowledge, octopus is not as common in Cantonese cuisine: while we have steamed squid with curry as dim sum, and calamari is a delicious when deep-fried with salt and pepper or in a stir-fry, I’m not too familiar with any dishes with octopus.

  • That Hina is able to catch something within a few minutes of picking up the reel shows that whether she likes it or not, she does seem to have a bit of affinity for fishing: the only time I’ve ever fished was during a class trip to the Pacific coast during middle school. I remember filling out a fishing license that was good for a few years and then spent a few hours with classmates out on the inside passage on a boat. While I wasn’t able to catch anything, one of my classmates caught something, and that was cleaned and fried for everyone to enjoy. We also had a pile of Dungeness Crab; some of my classmates had been a bit squeamish in helping to prepare the crabs for eating, but having grown up watching the preparation of live crab, I remember enjoying that experience and participated with gusto.

  • Capitalising the moment, Yūki agrees to pull the octopus off Hina provided she joins the Breakwater Club. Elsewhere, I’ve heard people call Yūki out for taking advantage of Hina’s phobia to coerce her into joining their club and use this as the basis for why the Breakwater Club is so short on members, but this is a rather pessimistic way of thinking, and generally speaking, is not a method that is particularly applicable towards slife-of-life series, which are oriented around friendship and discovery. Yūki’s actions are to be taken as nothing more than done for the sake of comedy, and does not speak poorly to her character.

  • Hina eventually faints from the stress, and comes to in the Breakwater Club’s headquarters, a small but well-appointed shack by the seaside. She finds Yūki gutting the octopus and preparing it for cooking: upon seeing the octopus’ entrails, she faints again. The nonchalant way that Yūki prepares the octopus shows her experience, and I am again, reminded of Les Stroud during Survivorman, where he often shows the preparation of freshly caught fish on camera: he shows some of the cleaning on screen with fish, such as during his Arctic Tundra episode, although for animals like rabbit and squirrel, he does most of the preparations off screen for sensibility’s sake.

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi is made by Doga Kobo, which handled last season’s Koisuru Asteroid, but there is a bit of a gap in visual quality between the two: Koisuru Asteroid was passable in its visuals, but never particularly impressed with its landscapes, whereas here in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the scope and scale of environments is more impressive. Here, a view of Sashiki, Kumamoto is shown: like numerous slice-of-life series before it, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is based off a real-world location, and the town itself is located along the Hisatsu Orange Railway. With a warm and rainy clmate, Sashiki is known for its farmer’s market, as well as the ruins of Sashiki Castle and the Shiroyama Skydome.

  • Upon hearing some classmates disparage the Breakwater Club, Hina’s resolve to rescind her application increases: Yūki had seemed intimidating enough, and fishing wasn’t something that Hina felt herself to be too interested in. In any other situation outside of anime, the likelihood of Hina standing down would mean she would end up joining the handicrafts club, and then there’d be no anime: like MythBusters, fiction stacks the deck in order to accommodate a story and its intended message.

  • For international visitors interested in visiting Sashiki, the easiest way to do so would be to take a flight to Fukuoka Airport, and then hit Hakata Station. One will need two sets of tickets: the first is to go from Mizuho to Kumamoto via bullet train (2860 Yen, a 32 minute journey), and then from Kumamoto to Yatsushiro (a 29 minute journey). Upon reaching Yatsushiro, one will need to buy a two-way ticket for Sashiki: this will cost 770 Yen one-way, but it is recommended one gets the two-way ticket, since the station in Sashiki won’t sell tickets. This final leg of the journey is around 39 minutes in length, and leads one to Sashiki Station, the destination. All in all, the journey will cover about 129 kilometres and take about three hours and twenty minutes in total.

  • Like Aoi and Hinata, whose reuninion had been marked by a moment of awkward silence as Aoi tried to remember who Hinata was, Hina and Natsumi’s reunion begins with Hina struggling to remember who Natsumi is. However, Hina does remember after all, having played with Natsumi when they were younger. If Hina is Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s Aoi, then Natsumi is Hinata: boisterous, energetic and with a love of fishing, Natsumi is overjoyed to have Hina back in town.

  • It turns out that Natsumi had also forgotten about Hina, but Yūki mentioned her to Natsumi. Because the two are close, Natsumi is fond of calling Yūki her older sister even if the two are not related, much to Yūki’s annoyance. I’m not too familiar with Kanon Takao, who voices Hina, but Yūki is voiced by Yū Sasahara, who plays Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ very own Rin Namiki.

  • Makoto Ōno is a second year student who is a member of the Breakwater club, and despite her appearance, is actually kind and gentle in manner. She resembles an amalgamation of Azumanga Daioh‘s Yomi Mizuhara and Sakaki: the former for her glasses and temperament, and the latter in appearance. Satomi Akesaka plays Makoto: I know of her as Lucky Star‘s Matsuri Hiiragi and Reina Suzuki from Wake Up, Girls!.

  • While Hina intends to join the handicraft club, Yūki and Natsumi have one final request for her: they are intending to fish again today, and invite Hina to join them again so that she can make her decision after a proper experience. Being of a rural background, some translations have elected to render Yūki as speaking a very accented form of Japanese, and while I can hear subtle differences in her dialogue compared to someone like Hina’s, it’s not as apparent as a Midwestern or Appalachian English accent compared to standard English.

  • Hina is introduced to the members of the Breakwater Club. I’ve heard unsubstantiated claims that the reason why the Breakwater Club is short on members is because of her personality, and I disagree on this because such characters would create conflicts that impede the ability for a series to make its message known. However, because we are only one episode in, I can take this theory to school after all of the episodes have aired: it’s a bit early for that sort of thing, and one episode usually is not enough for one to take an accurate measure of a character’s traits.

  • For this round of fishing, the girls use a custom bait composed of breadcrumbs, krill and saltwater: the krill has a very distinct smell, and is a common food for marine life. Hina initially fears to touch it for its strong odour, and inwardly wonders what sort of things rural people do, while Natsumi thinks to herself that urban life has rendered Hina weak. I imagine that in upcoming episodes, the disparities between Hina’s urban background and Natsumi’s rural background will be something that will be addressed as a part of the story.

  • The page quote was chosen for this opening talk to Houkago Teibou Nisshi because while the anime is going to use fishing as its core activity, what Hina will get out of things will be much more than delicious fresh-caught fish. Slice-of-life series tread very well-worn paths in this regard, delivering similar messages of exploration and friendship, but what make them uniquely worth watching is the presentation of a world that viewers might otherwise take for granted or skate over. As such, while people may fish, there is more that they can gain from fishing beyond the fish itself.

  • Unlike the incident with the octopus, Hina’s first fish caught on a rod spells joy and excitement for her. While the Breakwater Club’s activities seem foreign even in a coastal town, it is not lost on me that fishing is a very relevant and applicable skill: at an individual scale, it ranges from being an enjoyable pastime to being a critical element of survival, and at scale, it is a perilous profession. Houkago Teibou Nisshi will be the first anime I’ve watched that deals with fishing in a relaxed and carefree manner – I’ve watched the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch on a few occasions, as well as Les Stroud fish in Survivorman, and both series portray things as being rather more serious, so Houkago Teibou Nisshi will be a nice change of pace.

  • One thing Houkago Teibou Nisshi excels at out of the gates is its soundtrack: it’s not often that I notice the incidental music to a series after one episode, but Houkago Teibou Nisshi‘s done a strong job with its music to augment its atmosphere. The use of woodwinds is reminiscent of the music from Yuyushiki, which acted to create a picture of a peaceful sunny day in the mind’s eye, and here in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, the soundtrack has a very similar feel. Having said this, the soundtrack’s release date is not known at this time, and the only music for this series with a known release date is the opening theme, “Sea Horizon”: it was originally slated to be released on April 29, but the current world health crisis has pushed things back to July 22.

  • After Natsumi suggests to Hina that she hold the line for longer to attract more fish, she manages to get a killtacular: four fishes on one line. Hina is all smiles here, and one could easily imagine that she’s starting to come around: they’re catching Japanese Horse Mackerel (Trachurus japonicus) fry here. At maturity, the Japanese Horse Mackerel can reach up to 50 cm in length, and lengths of 35 cm are not uncommon. Japanese cuisine typically sees these fish deep-fried, and in Korea, the Japanese Horse Mackerel is also grilled or fried. Curiously enough, the Japanese Horse Mackerel isn’t a true mackerel, only being given that common name owing to its physical resemblance to a mackerel.

  • I admit that I was procrastinating on Houkago Teibou Nisshi more than I should have: we’re actually just under a half-day from the second episode’s airing, and it was in part thanks to the Easter long weekend where I had an opening to check the first episode out. Because we had turkey, it means that today, we also got to make turkey congee and youtaio with the remaining turkey bones for lunch. This fusion dish combines the North American turkey roast with Chinese rice porridge: because the turkey fat and juices from the bones infuse with the congee, it’s absolutely delicious, and gives the bones one more utility before they are discarded. Making the most of food is something I believe in, and this is something that we could see in Houkago Teibou Nisshi: Les Stroud eats the heart and liver of the fish, using the intestines and other entrails for bait, so we could see Hina and the others get creative with their fishing as well to minimise waste.

  • Houkago Teibou Nisshi is off to a good start, and I am rather looking forwards to the second episode. I know I’ve put a reduced emphasis on Hina’s entomophobia here, but that’s because it is a smaller part of her character for the time being, and I expect that this is one of those things that will be addressed as the anime continues. For now, I have plans to write about this series at a quarterly interval (i.e. every three episodes), and it is here that I note that I will not be writing about Tamayomi for the season: even though it is a Manga Time Kirara adaptation, I don’t have enough functional knowledge of baseball to do anything meaningful, even compared to fishing. As such, Houkago Teibou Nisshi will be the only series I will be actively writing about, for the current anime season, in the foreseeable future.

While I possess no background in fishing, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is immediately captivating owing to a combination of its atmospherics and characters: with a beautifully-depicted town that has a warm, summer feeling to it that stands in stark contrast with the miserable remnants of winter still periodically afflicting this side of the world, Houkago Teibou Nisshi conveys a sense of warmth and vibrance. In conjunction with a lively cast of characters, each with their own unique traits and likeable in their own fashion, Houkago Teibou Nisshi is off to the right foot – I am excited to see what experiences and new discoveries await the indoors-oriented Hina, who admittedly resembles Yama no Susume’s Aoi Yukimura. In Yama no Susume, Aoi reunites with the energetic and outdoors-oriented Hinata Kuraue, and here in Houkago Teibou Nisshi, Natsumi fulfils that role, being the loud and boisterous friend who enjoys the outdoors. With familiar characters given a new setting, Houkago Teibou Nisshi has the opportunity to portray the joys of fishing to folks like myself, who’ve never caught a fish previously, much less picked up a fishing rod, and with this in mind, I am looking forwards to seeing how this series plays out.