The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: First Impressions

Terrible Anime Challenge: Asking Questions of the Stars in Hensuki

“I hate to break it to you, but what people call ‘love’ is just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed. It hits hard, Morty, then it slowly fades, leaving you stranded in a failing marriage. I did it. Your parents are gonna do it. Break the cycle, rise above, Focus on science.” –Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

When high school student Keiki Kiryū finds a love letter and a pair of pantsu accompanying it one day following his calligraphy club activities, he enlists the help of his best friend, Shōma Akiyama, to determine who this might be. As Keiki works through the clues based on the timing of who happened to be in the club room at the time, he deduces that the pool of candidates must be limited – senior Sayuki Tokihara, the assistant librarian Yuika Koga, Nao Manjō or student council vice president Ayano Fujimoto. Intending to find the girl behind the love letter, Keiki spends more time with each of Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Ayano, only to learn that each possesses a unique perversion that makes them quite unappealing. When Keiki runs afoul of third year Koharu Ōtori, he decides to help her become closer to Shōma and ends up finding her to be helpful in seeking out the girl behind the unknown letter: with help from Shōma and Koharu, Keiki ultimately eliminates Ayano, Nao, Yuika and Sayuki as candidates. It turns out that Keiki’s younger sister, Mizuha, had sent the letter, having long been in love with him: she had been adopted after her own parents’ passing, and while Keiki’s regarded her as a sibling, she’d always seen him as something more. While Keiki struggles to accept Mizuha’s feelings, the two do reach a resolution at the series’ end. This is Kawaikereba Hentai demo Suki ni Natte Kuremasuka? (English title Are You Willing to Fall in Love with a Pervert, as Long as She’s Cute?) or Hensuki for brevity, an anime that had aired during the summer. Hensuki‘s outlandish and deviant premise means that one would be hard-pressed to find instructive discourse on the series: discussions elsewhere have drawn dubious references to Japanese law and psychology to make sense of the character’s actions, and end up yielding little in the way of a useful outcome relevant to Hensuki – while I suppose that some viewers go to great lengths to use intellectualism as a cover for some of the series that they watch, it should be evident that requisite knowledge of psychology and law are strictly not needed to figure out what Hensuki was aiming to accomplish with its raunchy story.

At its core, Hensuki draws upon hyperbole to present the idea that falling in love is unpredictable and commands its own price: Keiki is presented as being quite interested in pursuing a relationship with someone, and actively dreams of a romantic experience, so when he receives the initial love letter, he is ecstatic. However, as he delves into figuring out who’d sent the letter, he comes to understand more about Sayuki, Yuika and Nao: Keiki is also subject to each of the girls’ unique and terrifying whims. Sayuki desires nothing more than to be treated as a pet, while Yuika aims to dominate Keiki. Nao has no interest in a relationship and is head-over-heels about yaoi. Spending time with each exacts a toll on the hapless Keiki, who desires nothing more than a storybook romance with an ordinary girl. Hensuki thus acts as a bit of a cautionary tale about relationships, warning viewers to be mindful of what they wish for. In Keiki’s case, Saiyuki, Yuika and Nao are rather more than he’d initially expected, bringing with them their own unique perversions that they expect him to fulfil, and while each of their tendencies are greatly exaggerated, it does act as a rather colourful representation of the idea that entering a relationship extends beyond displays of affection and courtship: one must also be prepared to accept eccentricities about their partner. Keiki ultimately decides that the extremities that Nao, Sayuki and Yuika command simply isn’t worth it, and he laments having spent an entire summer single despite the female attention on him. Hensuki ultimately conveys these learnings through comedy: as viewers watch Keiki suffer, the message becomes quite apparent.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While Hensuki has its shock moments, the central premise of Keiki trying to work out who was responsible for the unknown love letter proved to be engaging enough for me to watch this series at a reasonably smart pace. Keiki’s initial attempts in figuring out this mysterious party’s identity gives Hensuki a bit of a thriller vibe, and the entire crux  of the series is focused on the sorts of discoveries and experience Keiki has after it is shown that members of the Calligraphy Club have feelings for him to varying extents.

  • Keiki’s reaction of shock and disgust whenever Sayuki and Yuika force themselves on him is perhaps more of a plausible reaction: reserving physical intimacy for a much closer relationship is a sacrosanct component of relationships, and how forward Sayuki and Yuika are with Keiki ends up creating him much discomfort. Sayuki is a masochist of sorts and longs to be treated as a pet. She knows that her ample bust is something that Keiki is partial to and constantly exploits this whenever competing with Yuika for Keiki’s attention.

  • In the Terrible Anime Challenge schema, Hensuki fits under the “it was enjoyable, contrary to expectations” category: this series certainly is not going to be for everyone, and there are some moments that certainly can be a bit over the top. With this in mind, simply because I got a few good laughs and a good message out of Hensuki does not mean others will share this experience. However, this is no reason to bring in an incomplete knowledge of the belief–desire–intention model to figure out the character’s end goals, as everyone’s objective is simple enough: get close enough to Keiki to satisfy their own goal functions.

  • Since Yuika might not have the same figure as Sayuki, she resorts to even more direct methods of forcing Keiki to have eyes for none other than herself: after Keiki takes her on a proper date to see if she’s the person behind the love letter, Yuika manages to corner him at school, and then forces him to eat pantsu, causing him to pass out. Sayuki is voiced by Ayana Taketatsu (K-On!‘s very own Azusa Nakano, Fū Sawatari of Tamayura, Oreimo‘s Kirino Kōsaka, Ayana Taketatsu from Kiss X Sis, and even Hotaru Shidare from Dagashi Kashi), while Yuika is voiced by Rina Hidaka (Rinon from Ano Natsu de MatteruKantai Collection‘s Kisaragi and Ako Tamaki from And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online?).

  • While Nao seems the most normal of everyone in the calligraphy club, it turns out that she’s into yaoi and wants to get closer to Keiki purely so she can gain new story ideas for her work, which has Shōma and Keiki as the lead characters for a manga. Despite being disinterested in a relationship, she is quite attuned to pushing Keiki’s buttons and initially, in the absence of knowledge surrounding Nao’s interests, viewers do initially believe that Nao could be a viable candidate. Iori Nomizu plays Nao: besides her role as Upotte!‘s Funco, I’m not familiar with her other roles.

  • Sayuki and Yuika use Nao’s work to extort attention from Keiki, intending to show it to Mizuha and ruin her opinion of him should he fail to comply with their absurd requests. While Keiki appears to have average willpower and abstains from doing anything too questionable unless he’s cornered, he greatly cherishes his role as older brother for Mizuha and fears that she might be corrupted by the others’ actions.

  • While contemplating the order of events at the calligraphy club’s room, Keiki saves student council vice president Ayano Fujimoto from falling off the stairs, and she quickly takes an interest to him, luring him into the student council room and crafting an atmosphere that leads Keiki to fall asleep so she can collect his scent. The characters of Hensuki are intentionally exaggerated to make clear the point that relationships have their pluses and minuses.

  • One of the leading complaints about Hensuki outside of its setup was the suggestion that the art and animation here are substandard compared to other series. While Hensuki uses simpler artwork than other series, there are no moments that are so blatantly poor that they come to mind. While the quality of animation and artwork do impact my thoughts on a series, I am not going into each and every work expecting a Makoto Shinkai or Kyoto Animation level experience. As long as things are sufficiently smooth and consistent as not to distract from the characters and their experiences, this aspect earns a pass from me.

  • I find criticisms of Hensuki in the community unconvincing, with some folk enforcing their own perspectives on what a proper relationship should look like and then dismissed Hensuki as implausible or even as a form of wish fulfilment. While analysing the individual episodes yielded little more than “could have, should have” suggestions towards what Keiki should do in his situation and critiquing the story for being a “cop out”, my own approach means that I tend to look at the series from a wider perspective. Rather that studying Keiki and the others’ actions, it is the sum of all character interactions over the course of the series that matter: this lead me to a different conclusion about what message Hensuki aims to present.

  • Overall, I would say that of everyone in Hensuki that isn’t Mizuha, Sayuki is probably the individual who would be most easy to accept and tolerate as far as her preferences go. Nao’s focus on yaoi means that pursuit of anything there wouldn’t be particularly fruitful, and Yuika’s tendencies border on the realm of nightmarish. The post title comes from a line in Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King when Gandalf speaks of the decline of Gondor. Asking questions of the stars can be taken to mean astrology, a pseudoscience that supposes future outcomes can be foretold by astronomical patterns and is known for its wildly inaccurate outcomes.

  • Astrology does have one legitimate stake in history: interest in tracking stellar and planetary motions formed the basis for astronomy and led to developments such as Kepler’s Laws and Newton’s Theory of Gravitation, the outcomes of which can be found in the form of six lunar landers on the lunar surface. Because Mizuha and Keiki are often seen watching a television channel programme that does horoscopes, it seemed appropriate that, in conjunction with the task Keiki is presented with, the sense of uncertainty he encounters does seem like he’s relying on something as unreliable as astrology to figure out who the unknown sender of the love letter was.

  • Conversely, the page quote is sourced from Rick and Morty, and while it may not look it at first glance, it does appear that the theme in Hensuki, considering all of the trouble Keiki goes through for the want of spending his days together with someone ordinary, is that relationships aren’t always as they appear. When things work well, they work really well, but when things go south, they can get ugly very quickly. Rick certainly seems to believe this: despite having conquered every unknown and every challenge known to infinite realities and timelines, love is something that even Rick does not fully understand or have control over.

  • When Ayano receives a free day pass to the municipal pool, she is unable to go. Ayano thus gives the ticket to Keiki, who invites everyone and plans to unveil who had written the original love letter. He provides commentary on everyone’s swimsuits, and is particularly impressed with Mizuha, whose figure is surprisingly, only second to Sayuki’s. Mizuha’s been largely a background character up until the final segments of Hensuki, offering support to Keiki where needed, but otherwise had more of a quiet role. Mizuha is voiced by Kaede Hondo, whom I know best as Urara Meirocho‘s Kon Tatsumi, Koyume Koizuka from Comic Girls and Iroduku‘s Kohaku Tsukishiro.

  • After a day spent frolicking about at the municipal pool, the girls are enrolled into a kokuhaku competition that sees Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Mizuha compete in. Each of the girls end up presenting a confession that mirrors their own reasons for being interested in Keiki, but ultimately, it is Mizuha who wins. This foreshadows who the love letter’s sender was, and as it turns out, Keiki already had an idea of who it is going into the penultimate episode.

  • Mizuha is revealed to be Keiki’s secret suitor: having spent most of the series watching from afar and offering him advice on how to best get along with Yuika, Sayuki and Nao, Mizuha herself had housed feelings for Keiki for most of her life. She and Keiki are not related; after her parents had died from unknown causes, she was adopted into Keiki’s family. Keiki had always viewed her as a sister, and even after recalling this fact, his view on Mizuha has not changed at all.

  • Hensuki‘s remaining episode is spent dealing with this revelation, and up until now, Hensuki had been proceeding at a smart pace. I admit that this took me by surprise: Mizuha being quite unrelated to Keiki came completely out of left field, and for me, is an instance of what is called cutting the Gordian Knot. Hensuki had created a love tesseract that immobilised Keiki: between Sayuki, Yuika, Nao and Ayano, Keiki is troubled by their perversions, but they each intend to seduce him and have him for themselves. By having Mizuha be the suitor, this defied all expectations.

  • Keiki’s reaction to Mizuha’s romantic feelings for him has him becoming lethargic and confused. He eventually gets caught in the rain and develops a cold after leaving home to gather his thoughts, and eventually succumbs to his cold, forcing him to return home. Sayuki and Yuika come to visit him and end up sparring with one another: while it is completely off-mission, it seems that Yuika’s desire to dominate others would actually mesh well with Sayuki’s desire to be dominated. Keiki eventually comes to terms with Mizuha and the two resume their lives as siblings, although Mizuha’s flirting becomes more brazen.

  • Overall, for having a surprisingly relevant theme wrapped with a seemingly frivolous premise, and for the amount of hilarity I got from watching Keiki suffer at the hands of Sayuki and Yuika, Hensuki earns a solid B-, a 7.0 of 10 or 2.7 of 4.0. I entered Hensuki with the singular aim of watching Sayuki mess with Keiki in the way that only she can, but ended up with a quasi-whodunit mystery that also had an unexpected message about relationships and a twist I didn’t see coming. I appreciate that everyone won’t see this series the same way, so it’s more than acceptable if there are folks who didn’t like Hensuki.

  • Of everyone, Mizuha looks the most normal, being soft-spoken and having skill with housework, but perhaps unsurprisingly, she has a”thing”: exhibitionism. Outwardly resembling a more voluptuous Miho Nishizumi and having a voice reminiscent of SaeKano‘s Megumi Katō, Mizuha was the last person I’d expect to be the letter’s sender, and Keiki refuses to see her as a romantic partner as Hensuki draws to a close. With this, my post on Hensuki draws to a close, and I hope that this will partially make up for my lack of content over the past few weeks. With the delay in Hibike! Euphonium: Chikai no Finale, I actually have no more conventional posts scheduled for this month beyond the halfway point impressions for Kandagawa Jet Girls, so one of my challenges will be to find stuff to write about and not spend all of my available free time in Battlefield V.

The question of who the unknown suitor is ends up being a lingering question throughout Hensuki, and after numerous red herrings and Chekov Guns that distract and foreshadow the suitor’s identity, after much comedy viewers share at Keiki’s expense, Hensuki reveals that this suitor is none other than Mizuha. This ramifications of this outcome are irrelevant, but its impact on the story simply serves to show that one does indeed miss the forest for the trees: this outcome was completely unexpected, and Keiki notes as much, having decided that the odds of Mizuha sending the letter were zero. Hensuki thus ended up being a bit of a surprise to watch, and while it might be a bit of a depraved series to watch, Hensuki manages to command a certain amount of curiosity that Keiki experiences as he works towards figuring out the love letter’s sender. In conjunction with some moments that are truly outrageous (Yuiki forcing her pantsu into Keiki’s mouth, to name one), Hensuki ends up being a romance-comedy-thriller that gives viewers reason to stick around. Underneath its perversions is a surprisingly relevant and straightforward theme, and ultimately, Hensuki did turn out to be modestly engaging: folks looking for a good laugh from Keiki’s misfortunes might find Hensuki to be a worthwhile title, although for most viewers, Hensuki isn’t going to be particularly meaningful to watch. Irrespective of whether one chooses to watch Hensuki or not, one thing should be abundantly clear: endlessly psychoanalysing the characters to predict their actions and intents is a Sisyphean task, clouding one’s perspective from the broader narrative. I’ve stated this before, but it is worth reiterating that the reductionist approach’s limitations are quite evident in the realm of anime: knowing how a character reacts to certain stimuli is completely insufficient towards working out what a story’s aims are. Hensuki is ultimately something simple that can elicit a few laughs with its straightforward theme, and folks looking to give this one a go should at least know they are not obligated to have a professional understanding of psychology to enjoy this one.

Terrible Anime Challenge: An Etymological Examination of Style in Blend S

“What’s your shtoyle?”
“My style? You could call it the art of fighting without fighting.”

–Parsons and Lee, Enter The Dragon

In order to provide funds for her desire of studying abroad, Maika Sakuranomiya decides to take on a part time job. She is turned away from several places owing to her sadistic-looking smile, but a chance encounter with Dino, an Italian fellow who runs Café Stile, results in her working at this unique café whose staff take on character archetypes from anime. Here, she meets Kaho Hinata, a bubbly and friendly waitress who is fond of video games and has a tsundere role, Mafuyu Hoshikawa, whose role as an energetic younger sister conceals a stoic personality, and chef Kōyō Akizuki. While Maika initially has trouble adjusting to customer service and consciously strives improves her smile, her unintentional lapses into sadism is a hit with customers. All the while, Dino deals with his crush on Maika, who is blissfully unaware of his feelings for her, and his attempts to get closer to Maika usually end up backfiring. Together, Blend S presents a wonderfully light-hearted, hilarious story of life at Café Stile and Maika’s becoming closer to the team there as she is joined by doujin writer and older sister figure Miu Amano, as well as the cross-dressing Hideri Kanzaki, who aspires to be an idol. Being outwardly an amalgamation of key moments in Maika’s time at Café Stile, Blend S shows that there is a place for everyone, and that in the right company, one can nonetheless find acceptance and worth. Maika might unintentionally be sadistic in appearance, but her heart is genuine and kind, so being able to show her true self at Café Stile helps her grow and, while working towards her dreams of studying abroad, also experience a different sort of journey that broadens her worldview.

While Blend S might be a Manga Time Kirara adaptation, its premise and employment of darker humour led some to folks to decide that a better understanding of Machiavellianism (a personality trait that gauges one’s willingness to manipulate others, be emotionally cold and indifferent to others) was mandatory towards understanding the series. Maika’s unique personality left some wondering whether or not her actions were deliberate or accidental. Maika’s treatment of Café Stile’s customers ventures into realm of torture: she verbally denigrates those who visit, and even waterboards a customer, and so, it seemed logical to delve into personality psychology to figure out how Maika fit into things. As it turns out, Maika’s actions, and those of Café Stile’s other staff, are simply optimised for humour. Maika is merely a naïveté in the ways of the world, and her well-meaning intentions to helping improve customer experience backfires in her eyes whenever she makes a mistake. While Maika may be disheartened, her customers appear to enjoy her service the point of returning to Café Stile for the experience. Consequently, because Maika is intrinsically kind and wants to be effective in her role, Maika would likely score low on the Mach IV survey (which gauges Machiavellianism) – her sadism traits are purely intended for humour rather than for harm, and as such, discussions on Machiavellianism do not particularly apply to Blend S, where the humour and setup is consistent with that of a Manga Time Kirara series, through and through; this allows one to enjoy Blend S as one would something like GochiUsa or Kiniro Mosaic.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As long as there are anime that I procrastinate in watching, there will be material for the Terrible Anime Challenge series: Blend S originally aired two years ago alongside Kino no Tabi and Girls’ Last TourYūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter and Wake Up Girls! Shin Shou. I was already flooded with shows at the time and while Blend S looked up my alley, I never got around to watching the series. When the fall season ended, Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start kicked in. It was only when I gave Yuri Kuma Arashi a whirl that I found the time to pick up Blend S, and here we are.

  • On the categorisation of Terrible Anime Challenge shows, Blend S is a series that meets expectations of being an enjoyable slice-of-life series. Neither great nor terrible, Blend S‘ strength lies in the contrasting personalities amongst the characters, both between one another and the differences between their role at Café Stile and their usual selves. It’s a series that I can recommend to Manga Time Kirara and comedy fans. Conversely, Blend S is not for folks who prefer clearly defined stories, and I further remark that anyone looking for an intellectual journey would be disappointed.

  • One of the comedic aspects of Blend S comes from Maika’s unintentional mistreatment of customers despite her efforts to give them a good experience. Far from dissuading them from returning, some customers have become fond of the sadism that Maika brings to the table. Over time, Maika becomes acclimatised to her role, and it turns out that the level of sadism from Maika we’ve normally seen can actually be ramped up several notches, resulting in server who’d likely be bad for business.

  • When a customer drops an R-rated doujin, the staff struggle to find its owner and learn that it belongs to Miu, an older patron who resembles GochiUsa‘s Blue Mountain in manner and style. Kaho becomes deeply embarrassed when reading it and reacts strongly to the ideas that Miu has. Kaho herself is an amalgamation of GochiUsa‘s Rize and Himouto‘s Umaru, being very fond of games while at once retaining a cheerful personality. Mafuyu reminds me of Sansha San’yō‘s Shino Sonobe. With its colourful cast, there are no dull moments in Blend S, a series that further has the distinction of two male leads.

  • The page quote comes from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon, when a man decides to bully the others on board a ship. When he faces off against Lee, Lee manages to win the fight without lifting a finger, citing his style as “fighting without fighting”. It is a play on Sun Tzu’s remark that the greatest victory is achieved without fighting – by outwitting the man, Lee shows that martial arts is about more than just fists, it is a matter of discipline and creative thinking. Café Stile certainly has no shortage of shtoyle, and while Stile itself refers to a small passage consisting of steps, I imagine that Café Stile itself is merely a deliberate misspelling of style for shtoyle points.

  • With respect to Blend S, I have definitely been fighting without fighting – while the folks who believe themselves to be more intellectual have pored hours into trying to figure out whether or not Blend S possesses the characteristics of a Manga Time Kirara series, I came in much later with the goal of merely enjoying the series as it was. Rather than arguing with individuals who intend to lecture rather than learn, I’d rather wait them out and then counter their points once a series has concluded, when I have the big picture. It should therefore be no surprise that after finishing the series, Jungian archetypes and Machiavellianism do not figure at all in my discussions beyond me doing a beat-down on why it shouldn’t figure in discussions.

  • I have stated this previously, but my main reason for not involving psychology and philosophy in anime is because most of the principles that fans gravitate towards have in fact, been discredited or else have not been properly applied to the series. A work that requires functional knowledge of these elements must have a good reason for incorporating them, and while a series with a particular theme or story may find these more complex elements useful, they invariably have little relevance in slice-of-life series, where the goal is simply to share a few laughs and watch characters develop.

  • Instead, more nuanced and enjoyable discussion on slice-of-life series stems from understanding what different characters get out of their experiences, and then relating these to one’s own experiences and values are. The successful slice-of-life anime will allow a viewer to reflect on their prior knowledge, and even add additional perspectives on how one may approach life. My thoughts are likely considered heretical by some: I find that those who attempt to inject philosophy, psychology or politics into something as simple and harmless as Blend S usually are those who reject life’s lessons.

  • While Blend S might deal with Maika’s life at Café Stile, the team is shown in settings commonly seen in other slice-of-life series set in a high school environment. When the summer rolls around, after Dino takes Maika shopping for a new swimsuit, the staff decide to host a river-side barbeque and then visit the beach. It is here that Kōichi’s embarrassment whenever gazing upon Kaho’s ample bust becomes apparent, and he later develops a pronounced overreaction whenever Kaho is around.

  • If I had to single out one moment in Blend S that made the series worthwhile, it would be when Dino decides to transform the entire café into a jungle setting. The foliage is so dense that Maika gets lost in here, and Mafuyu takes on the roll of an energetic imouto dressed as a monkey. The visual humour is top-notch and hilarious, but also remarkably well-balanced. When the staff begin experiencing challenges with the artificial jungle, Dino decides to restore the café to its former glory.

  • For some, the most controversial moment of Blend S involves Hideri, a new hire who fulfils the idol archetype. Despite dressing like a lady, Hideri is actually a guy, leading to endless, cyclic speculation on his orientation and whatnot. Because Blend S doesn’t focus on the other characters’ acceptance of him, this is shown to be a given, leaving the series to instead portray the humour that accompanies such a character. I’ve never gotten the whole fuss with such characters: if they are well-written into and contribute to a series as Hideri does, I have no issues. I similarly have no qualms about individuals of all sorts in real life: I judge and respect people based on not who they are, but what they do.

  • Maika has an older sister and older brother, both of whom dote on Maika and worry that she’s got no friends. When they learn that Maika’s working at Café Stile, Maika’s older sister decides to swing by for a visit. While her older siblings can be somewhat intimidating, Maika herself can frighten them into standing down. Such setups in reality would not be accepted as normal, but the realm of fiction allows for outrageous situations to be presented in a lighter fashion.

  • Once Maika’s settled into her position at Café Stile and becomes more comfortable with serving customers, Blend S takes time to explore the other characters’ interactions. Kaho and Mafuyu is one such combination: when Kaho fails an exam, Mafuyu agrees to tutor her, and over the course of an episode, Kaho manages to learn the ropes and succeeds on her replacement exam. All of the characters in Blend S are likeable, and while I had entered the series wondering if this was going to be untrue, this was, to my pleasure, not a problem at all.

  • One wonders what my beef with Jungian and Freudian principles are: I have no issue with studying derelict or discredited theories, since they are the stepping stones towards contemporary knowledge. The theory of spontaneous generation and a geocentric model of the universe are such examples, and I have no qualms with the origins of their theories. The problem lies in the application of such theories within trying to enjoy fiction, and when folks telling others that characters and their interactions should be interpreted a certain way using an outdated theory that sounds intimidating, I cannot say I am fond of this behaviour.

  • Towards the end of the series, the relationship between Dino and Maika are explored in more depth: having long been shown to be head-over-heels for Maika, Dino’s efforts to be closer to her inevitably end up in failure, partially a consequence of his own ineptitude and thanks to intervention from Mafuyu. When the two are permitted a moment to themselves, they get along swimmingly: when visiting a dog park with owner (a dog that Dino ends up adopting), others assume Maika and Dino to be a couple.

  • Because this is a Terrible Anime Challenge post, it means I get a bit of liberty with respect to choosing what screenshots I feature, and I think by this point in time, even though I’d not mentioned it explicitly, Kaho is my favourite character for many reasons. Readers who’ve seen my earlier Terrible Anime Challenge posts may have noticed that all posts in this series have rather long or unusual titles. For Blend S, the title comes from one individual who demanded an etymological examination of whether or not we should refer to Blend S (originally ブレンド・S in katakana) with a hyphen simply because Crunchyroll did so.

  • Focusing on these details is foolish to the point of hilarity, and talking about this sort of thing is unproductive: arguing about pointless semantics detracts from one’s enjoyment of a given show. Similarly, I don’t particularly care that Blend S is etymologically derived from the pun between a brand of coffee some shops blend and “Do-S” (which supposedly means DoSadism): knowing that adds nothing of value to one’s enjoyment of the show, and yields no insight about the themes of Blend S. Good discussion is about being inclusive, not about dropping random details to show the depth of one’s knowledge.

  • As such, when such serious discussions were conducted surrounding Blend S, I wondered if I would enjoy this series, since my own knowledge on Japanese products and colloquialisms are certainly not that extensive: I can tell the difference between genuine maple syrup and normal pancake syrup, as well as different varieties of TimBits, but I am not familiar with things in Japan to the same extent. Time and time again, the answer I get from simply watching a show is clear: the sciolists don’t possess more knowledge that are necessary to enjoying a show.

  • Towards the end of Blend S, the Café Stile crew go on a team vacation to the mountains for skiing. Here, Dino attempts a kokuhaku on Maika while teaching her to ski, but ends up failing in a hilarious manner. While anime is often filled with implausibility, challenging these elements results in disappointment: the whole point of fiction is to abstract out systems and removing some constraints of the real world so specific ideas can be explored. Blend S is no exception, and while not particularly noteworthy, good comedy carries the series through from a strong start to a satisfying finish.

  • Overall, Blend S scores a solid B+ from me (3.3 of 4.0, or 8 out of 10) for being able to consistently create humour with its unique setup. With Blend S now in the books, I’m just in time for the entry into November. While I am officially supposed to hold the announcement, the release of Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre content has prompted me to move my schedule up. My announcement is that I am going to be hosting Jon’s Creator Showcase for the month of November. I’ll have more details on this come the first, and in the meantime, I will be enjoying Iwo Jima and Pacific Storm thoroughly.

Having established that a working knowledge of personality psychology is not required to optimally enjoy Blend S, the next item to attend to is what makes Blend S so enjoyable. At the heart of Blend S lies a cast of characters whose job at a cosplay café requires they adapt a different personality than their usual selves, and this aspect is deployed in a spectacular manner to create humour. Maika might be sweet and kindhearted, but as a server, her sadistic tendencies rivals those of outlandish villains seen in other series. Kaho is excellent with the tsundere personality, but beyond this is a cheerful and approachable manner. Mafuyu’s imouto personality fits her appearance more so than her usual mien, that of a jaded and quiet college student. Hideri might be an idol concerned with all things cute, but when flustered, he reverts to a boyish mindset. Despite conveying the air of an older sister while working, Miu makes Blue Mountain look like a rank amateur when it comes to lewding characters for story ideas. The sum of these dynamics means that Blend S never has a dull moment, and all of this is in conjunction with Dino’s genuine, but ultimately unsuccessful attempts to court Maika. Blend S consistently maintains its comedy, resulting in a show that is sure to amuse. While Blend S may lack a single theme that drives its events, and is average from an audio-visual perspective, the setup at Café Stile means that the characters and their interactions are the series’ biggest draw. One only need to sit back while everyone bounces off one another to enjoy Blend S, and so, for the folks who figured that a more serious discussion involving psychology was needed to get the most out of things, I take a leaf from Bruce Lee’s playbook and suggest that that they don’t waste themselves.

Rifle is Beautiful, or The Chidori RSC: Review and Reflection After Three

“Bolt actions speak louder than words.” –Craig Roberts

Having participated in target shooting since primary school, Hikari Kokura enrolls at Chidori High School when she learns that there was a shooting club, but to her surprise, a lack of members means that the club was disbanded. She decides to recruit new members of restarting the club, including her best friend Izumi Shibusawa, the competitive and dedicated Erika Meinohama, and Yukio Igarashi, a quiet but studious girl. Erika is dismayed to learn that the scatter-brained Hikari was the one who bested her the previous year in a shooting competition, and initially joins to get her revenge, but after seeing Hikari’s determination to reach national-level competitions, the girls decide to pick up the sport. It turns out that Hikari had no uniform, and they visit Erika’s place, where she has a few spare uniforms. The girls later set about practising, and when Hikari fails her exams, Izumi helps her study so that she might pass. Between club activities, Erika and Yukio develop a bit of a competitive streak – Yukio had scored higher than Erika on exams, and the latter seeks to even things out, beating Yukio in softball. In order to help Hikari and Izumi improve, Erika arranges for a practise competition with Asaka High School, which has a strong target shooting team. This is Rifle is Beautiful, which is referred to as Chidori RSC (Rifle Shooting Club) in some places, a rather quiet and benign series about Hikari’s desire to become more consistent as a shooter as she becomes closer with the RSC’s club members. Unremarkable but gentle in its execution, Rifle is Beautiful is a simple and straightforward series that uses the premise of the 10 metre air rifle Olympic Event at its core: with the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics fast approaching, it is natural that an interest in the Olympics is ramping up, and although Hikari is unlikely to reach such a level of proficiency, Rifle is Beautiful nonetheless stands to be this season’s show to relax to.

When Rifle is Beautiful first began airing, viewers were introduced to the use of electronic rifles and targets: 10 metre air rifle shooting is typically done with a 4.5mm air rifle and paper targets, but for safety and cost effectiveness, specialised electronic rifles are becoming more widespread. These work on the same principles as light guns and simulate the air rifles being used in competitions. Other aspects of the sport, from scoring rules to the special clothing that participants are outfitted with to improve stability and reduce the prevalence of lower back injuries from the shooting position. With the sport being well-established, Rifle is Beautiful spends time between the girls’ club activities and their everyday lives. Having been around the block for slice-of-life series, Rifle is Beautiful offers nothing particularly novel or exciting with its setup; even rifle shooting appears a little dull. Instead, it appears that the series’ main draw really is watching the characters bounce off one another and grow as they spend more time together. The fiery Erika and her love of competing with everyone offers consistent comedy, while Yukio is more or less Rifle is Beautiful‘s incarnation of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan‘s Yuki Nagato, retaining the same taciturn but mischievous personality. Izumi’s gentle and soft-spoken nature makes her a grounding implement for the other characters’ eccentricities. With character archetypes that are quite unlike those I’ve come to see in numerous other slice-of-life anime, Rifle is Beautiful provides a different sort of humour that is refreshing in its own manner.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Rifle is Beautiful has very little in the way of discussion: forums are quiet about this one, and blogs have nothing to say, either. I was actually originally set to write about Rifle is Beautiful after its first episode aired, but found that I didn’t have enough thoughts on things to write a reasonable post. After three episodes, there’s enough for me to write about, and I am enjoying this series, although the community’s lack of enthusiasm for the series has persisted.

  • While Hikari and Izumi are thrilled to have secured the requisite number of members for their shooting club, Erika and Yukio stare one another done. The closest equivalent in personalities I can think of is The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s Haruhi, and the incarnation of Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, who is rather more sardonic and expressive then her normal counterpart. This dynamic adds a bit of hilarity to Rifle is Beautiful.

  • While Hikari may not look it, she’s actually better-endowed than most everyone in the rifle shooting club: this leads to much rage from Yukio, who’d figured that she and Hikari shared a similar figure. Erika’s jealousy of her comes from Hikari having bested her previously in a shooting competition, and while Hikari may have had experience in shooting, her air-headed tendencies means that during practise, she tends to perform quite poorly.

  • The first episode’s pacing was quite unusual: most anime tend to space out the club’s development over two episodes, but Hikari manages to secure the number of members in no time at all. The remainder of the episode is given to introducing the sport of 10 metre rifle shooting, which is one of the few shooting sports that the Olympics recognises. Right off the bat, viewers are immediately familarised with what the sport entails and with it, have a clear idea of what Hikari is getting into.

  • A quick glance through the rules and regulations of 10 metre air rifle shooting shows that Rifle is Beautiful is very faithful to the real sport, meaning that more experienced shooters like Erika will be able to provide viewers with a good picture of things like scoring and equipment. While the real sport uses air rifles that fire a specialised wadcutter (flat-head) pellet, the club at Chidori uses “beam” rifles that emit an infrared beam for a sensor to detect. Depending on where the photons land, a computer then computes a score. The girls remind viewers that these aren’t the beam rifles mobile suits from Gundam series wield.

  • Yukio enjoys rifle shooting greatly, and right away, smiles warmly. In The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, Yuki never smiled, and it was only in The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi that a smile was seen, leading to a major reaction from the community. It suddenly strikes me that I’ve not actually written about either the TV series or the movie here; while the TV series did not live up to the hype the community created by putting it onto a pedestal, the movie far exceeded my expectations.

  • While Yukio resembles Yuki, Erika is a tsundere and is more similar to Haruhi in mannerisms: she is quicker to anger and grows frustrated with the other club members’ lack of drive. However, beyond this is a side of her that cares for the others, as well: when Hikari reveals that she doesn’t have a suit, Erika decides to invite everyone over to her place and lets Hikari pick her suit of choice.

  • When Hikari begins to smell the Erika’s old suit, she causes Erika to quickly become embarrassed. Once Hikari’spicked out a suit that she likes, the girls step out to a convenience store, where the closeness between Hikari and Izumi becomes apparent, and Erika begins to yearn for friendship of a similar calibre. This aspect will likely be a part of Rifle is Beautiful as each of Erika, Yukio, Hikari and Izumi become closer as a result of their sport: while treading on a well-worn road, the themes of Rifle is Beautiful will nonetheless offer a relaxing experience even if the setting and world-building is very conventional.

  • The rifles used in Rifle is Beautiful are of a make I’m not familiar with. Whereas the manga shows each of Yukio, Erika, Hikari and Izumi sporting different rifles, the anime has everyone using the same training rifles for their club. Compared to the shooting I’ve seen elsewhere, 10 metre rifle shooting involves hitting a very small target very precisely, and only allows participants to shoot standing up. In competitive shooting, shooters pin their non-dominant elbow against their body to reduce sway, but rather than using an open hand, some shooters may form a fist and use their other hand as a platform for holding the rifle steady.

  • This is a marked departure from the combat stances I’m more familiar with: unlike the military, where mobility also comes into play, competitors in a 10 metre rifle shooting match are only concerned with hitting their targets with precision. On the flip-side, rifle shooting as a sport means Rifle is Beautiful is much more laid-back in nature compared to a series where real firearms are used and also side-steps the rather dodgy issue of firearms violence elsewhere in the world.

  • Some folks insistently refer to Rifle is Beautiful as Chidori RSC, which is an alternative name based on Chidori high school’s rifle shooting club. The new title has absolutely nothing to do with Ribeyrolles, Sutter and Chaucha, who designed the semi-automatic RSC M1917 rifle, which was one of the first semi-automatic rifles introduced into service. The RSC M1917 featured in Battlefield 1 as a semi-automatic weapon for the medic class and had high damage to offset its small magazine, while in Battlefield V, the RSC returns as a weapon for the recon class and exchanges reduced muzzle velocity for being able to leave an extra round in the chamber, making it able to theoretically drop three enemies before requiring a reload.

  • When Hikari wonders what her objective with the rifle shooting club should be, Erika immediately suggests international level skill, but Hikari loses interest once Izumi brings out apple pie to share. Hikari’s poor performance prompts Erika to get in touch with her contacts and arrange a training session. While Erika is initially reluctant to do so, she nonetheless follows through with the request and sets up a practise match with Asaka High school.

  • On the day of the practise match, Hikari and the others meet Asaka’s rifle shooting club. A dedicated, serious club with more members, Asaka’s club is more akin to what Erika was expecting from a rifle shooting club. I’ve heard that the practise was supposed to be similar to Ooarai taking on St. Glorianna in Girls und Panzer, but it becomes very clear that because of the vast difference in the sport being used, Rifle is Beautiful simply does not have the same atmospherics: the chosen sport and setup means that there is little opportunity to present more colouful settings

  • I will eventually need to learn the name of Asaka’s students, but for the time being, they’re only present for the practise round. It turns out that Erika knows Akira Shinonome, their club president, which is how they were able to arrange for the practise match, and Erika has dirt on her. One of the other club members begins to listen in, but before anything interesting is discussed, Yukio’s sharpshooting catches everyone’s attention.

  • I’ve become rather fond of Izumi: she reminds me a little of Girls und Panzer‘s Rukuriri in appearance, but unlike Rukuriri, she’s soft-spoken and supportive. Reliable and present for Hikari, Izumi’s main goal in joining the rifle shooting club is to lose weight by sweating it off: the suits the girls don to shoot don’t particularly breathe well. However, losing weight is not this simple, and naturally, Izumi finds that this goal is actually less attainable than Hikari’s aim of competing at a national level.

  • Hikari’s wildly inconsistent performance is discussed, and while she is overall a poor shot, Akira wonders if Hikari’s the sort of person who does better when they’re in the moment. Whether this will be the case or not is left as a matter for future episodes to resolve, although I’m going to hazard a guess that since Rifle is Beautiful is a slice-of-life anime, Hikari probably has a clumsy archetype that leaves her unable to perform unless the moment really calls for it, purely as a comedic device rather than anything more substantial.

  • After Hikari and Izumi finish their turns, they prepare to head home, only to be reminded that Erika actually still needs to go. Gentle moments like these are the norm in Rifle is Beautiful, and while the series is not conducive towards more interesting talks where I can quickly draw upon a multitude of subjects to keep things going, series that are much quieter have their merits, as well. I am looking forwards to spending Sunday mornings watching this after training at the dōjō.

  • Hikari connects with Karen Sakashita, a novice shooter from Asaka who similarly scored poorly during the practise run. The two immediately get along, and this, together with the fact that Erika is related to Akira means that Asaka’s club members could become recurring characters in the show.

  • Learning that Akira is a skilled marksman inspires Hikari to look on. When she picks up her rifle, Akira remarks that it’s been a while since she’s shot an electronic rifle, having grown accustomed to using air rifles. I wonder if air rifles will be introduced later in Rifle is Beautiful: while the beam rifles are fine for training basic technique, an air rifle would also allow Hikari to become familiar with recoil control and reloading techniques.

  • With the day over, Chidori’s girls find their session with Asaka a useful one, where Hikari both meets a new friend and gains inspiration to continue practising and improving. For the time being, I have no plans to write about Rifle is Beautiful until the finale, but I am looking forwards to watching this one every week: with the world a chaotic and unfriendly place, it is reassuring to know that there are small things to look forwards to each week, and in between Battlefield V‘s Pacific Theatre chapter, I think that Rifle is Beautiful will fill the role of helping me unwind for the remainder of the Sundays. We’re now rapidly nearing the end of October, as well, and while there are a handful of posts to look for in November (including the Hibike! Euphonium and Aobuta‘s movies) I do have one more post I’d like to roll out for Blend S before the end of the month.

This season, it is quite apparent that there is a bit of a disconnect between an anime’s enjoyment factor and my ability to write for them: like Azur Lane, I am enjoying what I’ve seen in Rifle is Beautiful thus far, and after three episodes, I will be continuing to watch this one for the relaxing atmosphere the anime exudes. However, with 10 metre air rifle shooting being a rather uninteresting sport, and the technical elements being quick to grasp, Rifle is Beautiful offers very little for me to write about. Admittedly, when Rifle is Beautiful drew my eye, I had anticipated a series involving live firearms and a fictionalised variant of the Olympic sport: as it currently is, Rifle is Beautiful‘s use of standardised electronic rifles means that things like firearm maintenance and customisation, ballistics and recoil management no longer come into play. As such, writing about Rifle is Beautiful at regular intervals will see me encountering considerable difficulty in keeping readers engaged. With this being said, I see no problem with Rifle is Beautiful as a whole, and I do look forwards to seeing the sorts of activity that the shooting club will partake in to improve their skills, as well as whether or not the progress that is made will allow the club to fulfill their goal of reaching a national-level competition before the series comes to a close. I remark that just because a series is not conducive of conversation does not necessarily mean the series is lacking in any way, and so, I will be returning once Rifle is Beautiful concludes to focus primarily on what Hikari and the others have learned through their time together, as well as seeing whether the payoff from their journey was a meaningful one.

Azur Lane: Review and Reflection After Three

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” -Steve Jobs

In the aftermath of the battle, the Azur Lane begin repairs on their facility. Meanwhile Kaga and Akagi meet with Prinz Eugen, an Iron Blood ship girl, before sending Zuikaku and Shoukaku to ambush a seaborne Azur Lane fleet. Z23 and Ayanami are also deployed in this engagement, and while they have the upper hand initially, a partially repaired Enterprise appears to engage Zuikaku and Shoukaku, but failing equipment prevents her from landing a decisive blow. While Cleveland escorts the damaged vessels, the Royal Navy’s fleet, led by Queen Elizabeth, arrives. Belfast prevents Enterprise from taking a fatal hit, and the Red Axis forces retreat. While the others return to the base and relax, Unicorn shares a word with Enterprise, learning that she sees no joy in the oceans. While Belfast confronts Enterprise about her nihilistic beliefs, a distress signal is sent out. A small fleet is deployed, and Enterprise finds a pair of damaged Dragon Empery cruisers. She begins engaging a Siren, but Belfast ultimately saves her and upon realising that Enterprise fights for those around her, resolves to make a proper lady out of her yet. This is Azur Lane after three episodes, which slowly begins to establish that Enterprise is the silent protagonist whose seeming lack of emotion and unerring combat prowess conceals a more fragile, human personality. While she may be the top-performing ship in Azur Lane, her tendency to take on battle independently even when she is not at full condition constitutes a personality flaw, and it appears that the anime will be setting out to show how Enterprise begins to place more trust in her companions, rather like how contemporary carrier groups operate with an escort fleet to provide support for the aircraft carrier.

Three episodes in, Azur Lane‘s main challenge lies in its juxtaposition of themes surrounding warfare and the necessity of conflict with messages of friendship and trust. This manifests as a sharp contrast the other ship girls’ exuberant, easy-go-lucky mannerisms and Enterprise’s cold, emotionless approach towards her duty. Said contrast creates a disconnect in what Azur Lane aims to do with its story, and thus, this can seem quite disconcerting. However, determining what Azur Lane‘s intended atmosphere should be is not a particularly difficult task: given that it is only Enterprise with the cold, detached outlook, and each of Laffey, Unicorn and the others are friendly ships who express little concerns about the horror and desolation of war, it becomes clear that the light-hearted antics of the latter group, of the ship girls and their unique idiosyncrasies and colourful personalities, are what characterise Azur Lane. As such, it would be grossly unfair to dismiss Azur Lane simply because of the series’ contrasting atmosphere and lack of adherence to historical authenticity: after three episodes, Enterprise’s development as a ship girl looks to be Azur Lane‘s priority. As she spends more time with the other vessels, Belfast in particular, she’ll come to discover a new reason for fighting and help the Azur Lane properly hold back the Red Axis’ machinations. Having established this, Azur Lane sets the expectations for the episodes upcoming, and I anticipate that the series will likely take on Kantai Collection‘s slice-of-life focus as it follows Enterprise learning more about her teammates, and through the course of both the ordinary and combat, she may come to appreciate what she means to everyone beyond being the Eagle Union’s top aircraft carrier.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the aftermath of the Red Axis attack, the Azur Lane forces are left to clean up and repair their base. At least one reviewer stated that this was intended to have parallels with Pearl Harbour, before mentioning Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Date that will live in infamy” speech and how the light mood in Azur Lane precluded anything meaningful from happening. Given the initial setup of Azur Lane, such a comparison is inappropriate, and such expectations are unreasonable.

  • The reviewer in question claims that there are too many unanswered questions in the anime, and while this is true, we are still early on in the season. Ultimately, their post goes on to label Azur Lane as “stupid”, dismissing it as something one should “turn their brain off while watching”. I’ve not seen this poor of a review from the blog Random Curiosity in a very long time, and while I have no qualms about negative reviews, this reviewer later argues in their comments that enjoying the show equates to letting one’s “feelings block analysis”.

  • In this case, the original post is not what analysis looks like, and it is a positive sign that Random Curiosity’s readers are pushing back on the reviewer’s approach. Had the individual taken the time to understand the contrast between Enterprise and the other ships, it would have become clear that Azur Lane is not meant to be serious despite Enterprise’s mannerisms. With that bit of foreword done, I return to discussion to Azur Lane proper, and deliberately choose to feature the same moment of Javelin accidentally being stripped after Laffey pulls down her shirt upon falling asleep.

  • Traces of Siren technology can be seen amongst the Iron Blood ship girls: alien-looking appendages can be seen on Prinz Eugen, who arrives to meet a recovering Kaga and Akagi. The interactions between the Iron Blood and Sakura Empire ship girls seems unnecessarily stiff and formal, perhaps indicating at their dislike for one another despite being allies. By comparison, the Eagle Union and Royal Navy ship girls get along much more naturally.

  • Enterprise is voiced by Yui Ishikawa, who I know best as Violet Evergarden‘s Violet Evergarden and Eromanga Sensei‘s Tomoe Takasago, as well as China Kousaka from Gundam Build Fighters. Laffey is played by Maria Naganawa: there are no surprises here, as Laffey sounds very similar to Kanna from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and Slow Start‘s Kamuri Sengoku. Seeing familiar voices return into new series is one of the joys of having been around the block for a while.

  • I yield that moments like these would be what makes writing about Azur Lane interesting, and I’m certain that readers would concur. With this being said, posts consisting purely of T & A cannot be very conducive towards interesting discussion: moments such as this fine view from behind the USS Helena naturally do not invite conversation about more noteworthy topics, such as performance and tactics.

  • Enterprise’s promptness to deploy into the battle does initially suggest a disregard for her own safety, but as I’ve mentioned in my anniversary post, I don’t assess characters for their personalities, decisions and actions at the start of a series. Instead, it is the sum of their growth throughout the series that counts. As such, while Enterprise’s serious personality very much puts her in sharp contrast with the other characters, I do not feel that this is a flaw that will continue to remain with her as Azur Lane continues.

  • Hornet of Azur Lane is modelled after the USS Hornet (CV-8), considered to be the younger sister of the Enterprise. Both are Yorktown-class carriers, and in particular, the Hornet was best known for its involvement in the Doolittle Raid during 1942, which marked the first time anyone had reached the Japanese islands and struck them. While the damage caused was minimal, it showed that the United States was capable of retaliating. The Hornet would later participate in the Battle of Midway and Solomon Islands campaign, where she would be sunk by Japanese destroyers after sustaining damage from dive bombers.

  • In combat with Zuikaku, Enterprise finds herself evenly matched only because her equipment begins to fail. Her desire to immediately enter a situation with the aim of doing good is an admirable one, but this haste to deploy means that while she might always be ready, her gear isn’t and thus, fails at inopportune times. While I share Enterprise’s sense of urgency when asked to do something, I always make certain that the outcome of whatever I am engaged in does not fall down to whether or not my equipment was ready. For example, in most games, I always make it a point to enter new missions with the best possible gear and fully-stocked consumables, and similarly, in real life, I do not typically approach something until I am satisfied that I can do what my assignments are.

  • While the Red Axis forces prove to be formidable, the arrival of the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth and her escorts prompts the Red Axis to retreat. Queen Elizabeth is modelled after the 1913 dreadnought battleship, which was commissioned in 1914 and served in the European theatre early in World War Two, before joining the Pacific theatre in 1943. The ship was given major upgrades in between the two world wars: her armour was increased, and additional guns were added along with new safety measures.

  • Even from a distance, the damage on Enterprise is visible: cracks appear on the large carrier deck-like shield. Unlike Kantai Collection, there does not yet appear to be any sort of consistency with respect to how the different costume pieces work out, and for my sanity, it would probably be easier to suppose that the ship girls of Azur Lane work more similarly to magical girls rather than mecha musume.

  • The page quote for this discussion is from Apple’s co-founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs: it mirrors my belief that trying to make sense of something only works when one is afforded with the big picture, or at least, hindsight. This is why I feel that Random Curiosity’s reviewer reached a conclusion with faulty reasoning that was based on emotion rather than analysis: two episodes in is too early to be dismissing the entire series on a few observations. I further note that the more mature, analytical approach would’ve simply be to say that the series was not to their liking, provide an example of another series that does it in a style they agree with, and then abstain from using historical references as the precedence for what Azur Lane should be.

  • In short, it is sufficient to say one didn’t like something, but it is not necessary to count those who did like something as having “tweet-length attention spans and don’t care about storytelling”. Broadly categorising those whose opinions are contrary to one’s own is a sign of weakness, and I’ve long argued that those looking for intellectual and philosophical discussion in anime featuring moé anthropomorphism are either being elitist or else lead a dreary existence where their intellect is not sufficiently challenged. Here, Belfast appears to save Enterprise from sustaining fatal damage, prompting Zuikaku to retreat.

  • For me, Azur Lane provides a fun experience, and while I do not particularly have many thoughts on the series’ events to the point where I can consistently write about it, I nonetheless do intend to continue watching Azur Lane. Outside of combat, the ship girls behave as ordinary youth might, preferring to lounge around and relax. One aspect of Azur Lane I’m enjoying is a subtle one: almost all of the screenshots feature incredibly azure skies, giving the anime a very warm, summer feeling. I’m particularly fond of Hornet’s expression here, and note that while I’m a newcomer to Azur Lane, I’m increasingly becoming fond of Hornet.

  • Such an atmospheric is especially welcome, now that the milder days of autumn are past and the nights have become increasingly long. The girls’ day at the beach is more typical with the atmosphere that Azur Lane projects. While some of the ship girls play beach volleyball, their match is disrupted when San Diego is attacked by a shark, leading to much hilarity as the others immediately transform and intervene with shells. The entire commotion is a noisy, turbulent and fun affair that shows what Azur Lane is about.

  • Funny facial expressions are typically absent in whole from serious anime, and moments like San Diego attempting to escape the maw of a shark mirror Hornet’s remarks, that the ship girls are more than combat units. On the topic of sharks, I’m reminded of the presence of the megaladon in the Battlefield series, an Easter egg I’ve never bothered spending the time to find. The last time I went hunting for an Easter Egg was for the Escalation skin in Battlefield 1.

  • Unicorn thanks Enterprise for having saved her, and expresses a love for the ocean that Enterprise does not share. Her cold presentation of the ocean prompts Unicorn to ask her if she fears the ocean, but she does not get a proper response. Enterprise’s bleak outlook stands in contrast with Hornet, but when asked what my favourite ships of the Second World War are, I would probably have to go with the USS Enterprise CV-6 or the USS Missouri BB-63 for their instrumental role in the Pacific Theatre.

  • A rainstorm blows in and ruins what was otherwise a flawless day at the beach, forcing everyone to take cover and dry off. Laffey shakes the water out of her hair in a hilarious manner, similar to that of a dog. However, while dogs can remove up to seventy percent of the water in their fur with one shake thanks to their having looser skin (and many mammals can excise water from themselves on a short order), humans don’t have this ability owing to the fact that our skin is relatively tight. Instead, our ingenuity allows us the luxury of towels, hair driers and other implements for removing water.

  • Belfast confronts Enterprise and informs her that the latter’s way of life is ultimately self-destructive. Enterprise has no response for Belfast, either, but a sudden distress call forces her to sortie along with a handful of available ship girls. When Enterprise arrives, she finds two damaged Dragon Empery cruisers. After making sure they are out of harm’s way, she makes to engage the damaged Siren battleship on her own, but when her gear fails yet again, Belfast arrives to bail her out.

  • Having seen why Enterprise fights, Belfast decides that Enterprise is worth keeping a closer eye on, and this brings the third episode to an end. After three episodes, I am having fun watching Azur Lane, but as I’ve stated on a few occasions, the route this series is likely to take means that there isn’t much that I can do in the way of writing about it every few episodes. Instead, I will be returning to write about Azur Lane as a whole once the finale airs in December. Similarly, having seen Rifle is Beautiful, I do not feel that there is much to write for there despite the series’ warm and easygoing mood. I will cover my thoughts on Rifle is Beautiful once the third episode airs and then do a whole-series talk on it come December. This leaves Kandagawa Jet Girls as the anime that has won extended coverage from me this season: I will be writing about the series at its halfway and three-quarters point once those milestones have been reached.

While Azur Lane looks exciting as a series to follow, the nature of the story also means that progression will have to take place incrementally: Enterprise will need to spend time both on and off the battlefield with her allies in order to learn things like trust and companionship. In conjunction with Azur Lane‘s deviation from historical events and authenticity in favour of a highly colourful cast and wacky antics, this means that Azur Lane looks to be a series that will be difficult to consistently write for: with realism and authenticity not figuring prominently, there is no reason to bring in historical details surrounding the ships themselves, or the battles that they fight in, and there is an upper limit to what I can do with everyday life at the Azur Lane base and smaller-scale battles that bear no resemblance to their real-world counterparts. As such, I will be returning once Azur Lane has concluded to look at the series in greater detail and see whether or not it succeeded in delivering a meaningful story over the course of its run. The verdict that I reach on this series will primarily be motivated by whether or not character growth and world-building occur to a satisfactory extent. My decision to not do a more extensive set of discussions for this series is not related to my enjoyment of the anime: so far, Azur Lane has proven to be quite entertaining because of the dynamics amongst the ship girls, and furthermore, the Red Axis’ presence and motivations are intriguing. I am looking forwards to seeing what their relationship with the Siren are, as well as whether or not Azur Lane will delve into more details surrounding their universe.

The Kandagawa is Calling: Kandagawa Jet Girls First Episode Impressions

“To achieve anything in this game, you must be prepare to dabble in the boundary of disaster.” –Stirling Moss

Rin Namiki decides to move from the countryside to Asakusa Tokyo to pursue her dreams, transferring to Asakusa Girls’ High. Shortly after her arrival in Tokyo, she is taken aback at the crowds and very nearly forgets about registering at the dormitory that she will stay at during her time in Tokyo. When a thief makes off with her bag, Rin chases after him, running into Misa Aoi, who stops the thief cold in his tracks. When Rin finally makes it to the dormitory, she is surprised to learn that Misa is there, and moreover, that she will be roommates with Misa. The next day, Rin does her best to befriend Misa, who coldly rebuffs her. When one of Rin’s classmates asks her about jet skis, Rin reveals that she’s fond of riding jet skis. Later, Rin finds Misa fishing by a pier, and when students of Musashino Girls High School appear, claiming the pier and river to be their turf, Rin boldly accepts a challenge from Kaguya Shinjūin and Kuromaru Manpuku, two of the school’s racers. Misa later reveals that she has a jet ski dubbed the Orcano. On the day of the race, Rin and Misa take an early lead, but Kaguya and Kuromaru even things up when one of the latter’s shots blows off Misa’s skirt during the race. This is Kandagawa Jet Girls after one, an anime that was launched to promote a PlayStation 4 title of the same name. Produced with Senran Kagura‘s very own Kenichirō Takaki, this series has already begun showing elements that are common to Senran Kagura, featuring gratuitous closeups of the characters’ bodies and might be seen as using jet ski racing as a thinly-veiled attempt to wrap a story around what is ultimately an exercise in anatomy lessons. However, looking past these aspects, some familiar elements of sportsmanship and competition are also present: Kandagawa Jet Girls, being more or less a slice-of-life anime with sports components, could also deliver thematic elements common to such series, dealing with topics such as rivalry and personal improvement as Harukana Receive and Girls und Panzer did.

Kandagawa Jet Girls drops viewers straight into how Rin comes to take up jet ski racing, the sport that her mother once participated in as a professional competitor. The entire premise is built around jet ski racing, a sport that has become very widespread in Kandagawa Jet Girls. In order for viewers to follow along, the mechanics and rules of jet ski racing would need to be explained. So far, the particulars of jet ski racing have not yet been established to any major level of detail – while audiences know that racing involves a driver and gunner, victory conditions, penalties and other specifics have not been defined. This makes Rin and Misa’s race with Kaguya and Kuromaru rather more harrowing: besides not knowing the outcome of this race with any certainty, viewers also will not know what Rin and Misa must do during their race. While seemingly illogical, the choice to not outline how jet ski racing works has the effect of forcing the story to focus on the dynamic that builds up between the cheerful, impulsive Rin and stoic, reserved Misa. It is shown that Rin already has some experience with operating a jet ski and comes from a family background familiar with jet ski racing. Misa, on the other hand, is implied to have been a competitor in jet ski racing but dropped out for reasons unknown. As such, the characters’ meeting and Rin’s immediate choice to accept a challenge is meant to suggest that the characters, rather than the sport, form the core of Kandagawa Jet Girls; jet ski racing itself is merely a means to an end, and consequently, I expect that Kandagawa Jet Girls will deal with how Rin and Misa will develop as a team through training and competition, with a healthy dose of papilla mammaria and crotch close-ups to be the norm, if the first episode was anything to go by.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Rin and Misa are briefly shown as a full-fledged team at Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ beginning, which means that the series will be about the journey rather than the destination. Out of the gates, the series feels like an amalgamation of Senran Kagura‘s ecchi elements with Harukana Receive‘s partner setup, the high tech of Rinne no Lagrange and Sora no Woto‘s characters. That such a comparison is being made gives a hint as to how long around I’ve been in the anime blogging game for.

  • When Rin arrives in Tokyo, she’s immediately overwhelmed by the sights and sounds, promptly getting distracted from her goal of locating the dormitory that she will reside at while in high school and running into a variety of colourful characters, including other jet ski racers. She soon finds herself robbed by an unknown thief, and is remarkably slow on the uptake, reflecting on her rural background. However, despite a delayed reaction, Rin nonetheless manages to keep up with the thief, who is bewildered at her stamina.

  • Things turn around when Misa trips the thief, and subsequently proceeds to give him a death glare worthy of Mordor since her shins still smart from kicking her VR simulator earlier. It turns out that Rin’s bag is carrying a large stuffed dolphin that she’s is fond of, and she notes that she can’t sleep without it. I surmise that this particular stuffed dolphin is special to Rin because it’s a momento of her mother; the same dolphin is seen in Kandagawa Jet Girls‘ beginning scenes.

  • Rin is blown away by Misa’s appearance – the camera takes special care to highlight Misa’s features. She has characteristics of a bishōjo, standing in stark contrast with the decidedly more plain-looking Rin. Their introductions are cut short when Rin is distracted by a pair of jet ski racers practising in the river canal below. The combination of Misa’s dissatisfaction with the racing simulator and her cold reception to the racers suggests that she is not fond of the sport.

  • While Rin is fawning over the racers, Misa leaves. They encounter one another again later at the dormitory, and when Rin warmly greets Misa, the other residents squeal in excitement. As it turns out, Misa’s the only one at the dormitory who doesn’t have a roommate, and so, Rin is assigned to share a room with her, much to Misa’s displeasure.

  • The presence of T ‘n A in anime is something of a point of contention in the anime community. In general, I am not bothered by it when it does not interfere with the flow of the story. Rin and her short shorts here is one such example: while her pantsu might be visible, it’s not slowing down Kandagawa Jet Girls in any way. Conversely, if an anime takes the time to create scenarios that are low probability (such as face planting into someone’s chest from a collision), then that does detract from the flow somewhat.

  • The next day, Rin bothers Misa to no end, even following her to the bathroom on one occasion. Rin is presented as being more of a country bumpkin, unaccustomed to the high-tech and fast-paced world that is Tokyo. She also has a pronounced accent: official translations give her rendering of “cute” as “adorbs”, which viewers have taken kindly to. Rin’s voice is provided by Yū Sasahara, a relatively new voice actress whose first role as a lead character was Akari Amano of Tonari no Kyūketsuki-san.

  • With her open and cheerful personality, Rin quickly becomes closer to her classmates, one of whom feel that Rin’s bothered by something. While Rin generally puts on a smile for those around her, it seems that Misa’s cold reception has weighed on her mind. She reveals to her classmate that she used to use a jet ski to get between school and home, greatly enjoying the experience. Misa overhears the conversation and heads off.

  • Rin later finds Misa fishing at a dock and messes with her. While trying to strike a conversation with Misa about fishing, students from the Musashino Academy appear and ask the two to vacate the area. These students are possibly from the area of the same name, which is around twenty one kilometres away from Asakusa and the Sumida River. Misa promptly peaces out, clearly not wishing for a confrontation.

  • However, Rin, not familiar with anyone, confronts Kaguya and accepts her challenge to a jet ski race despite having no experience in a formal race. This is akin to Haruka challenging Ayasa and Narumi in Harukana Receive, not knowing that the pair were Japan’s top-ranked volleyball pair. In Kandagawa Jet Girls, Kaguya and Kuromaru’s stats as jet ski racers are not known, but give their smug attitudes, one must surmise they are of a reasonable calibre.

  • After accepting the challenge, Misa and Rin change into the attire required for racing in a small shack on the river that also housed Misa’s simulation rig. The separation seems to indicate that Misa dislikes the sport because of her performance in it. I believe this is the second time that I’ve featured papilla mammaria openly here: depth of field and blur meant that I decided to only feature one of Misa. When Rin is changing, it’s a little too blurry for a sharp screenshot, and I will have to rectify this later.

  • The suits for jet ski racing seem rather sophisticated, being capable of adjusting itself to the wearer’s morphology and zipping themselves automatically. Given what Kandagawa Jet Girls presents, I imagine the suits to be at least a little more advanced than Tony Stark’s earlier suits, which required stationary machinery in order to fit the suit: Stark’s later Iron Man suits are capable of assembling themselves dynamically, and the versions seen in Infinity War and later use nanomachines.

  • When Rin’s suit has trouble fitting itself to her chest, an irate Misa manually overrides it. Misa’s envy is not well-justified, since the character sheets give Rin’s specs as 89-56-80 to Misa’s 84-58-87. Conversely, the two racers from Musashino are clearly bigger than Rin: Kaguya is 96-59-89, and Kuromaru given as 111-70-97, making them the most full-figured of anyone in Kandagawa Jet Girls.

  • When the race starts, Misa responds to the trash talk from Kuromaru with the remark that they might be disappointed with the outcome of their race. Given Kuromaru and Kaguya’s determination to face off against Misa, one can surmise that Misa was once a great jet ski gunner who bested them at every turn, rather similar to Kanata Hiiga of Harukana Receive. Like Kanata, Misa ended up quitting her sport of choice from unknown reasons, and it is only with the introduction of an optimistic, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer character like Haruka and Rin to get them back into the game.

  • A bit of digging into supplementary materials finds that Kaguya and Kuromaru form Team Dress, with Kaguya being the driver and Kuromaru being the gunner. Said resources mention Kaguya as being from a wealthy background, while Kuromaru appears to have a bodyguard position and is trained in ninpō. The latter carries a long-range rifle for marksman shooting.

  • When the race begins, Rin appears quite unconcerned with winning, marvelling at the Orcano’s acceleration and handling. She and Misa take an early lead as Rin figures out the mechanics behind operating this jet ski, which is probably much higher performing than the smaller jet ski she’d previously used to get to school. The setup brings to mind both Gundam Unicorn, where Banagher is able to operate the Unicorn Gundam within minutes of getting into the cockpit, as well as A New Hope, where Luke finds the X-Wing’s flight controls to be similar to the T-16 Skyhopper and immediately acclimatises to the starfighter’s properties.

  • With Rin at the wheel, Misa is the gunner. Unlike Kuromaru, Misa uses a submachine gun style weapon modelled after the Heckler and Koch MP5-A3. Submachine guns and PDWs are smaller calibre weapons that form the gap between intermediate cartridge firing weapons and pistols: being more compact in nature, such weapons are lightweight, have controllable recoil and are relatively straightforwards to use. Misa thus appears to prefer close quarters engagements, and could hold the advantage over Kuromaru if the two teams are to remain in close range.

  • So far, I admit that I am enjoying Kandagawa Jet Girls, although a cursory search on Google finds that more biased sites have already gotten their perspectives onto the first page. In these reviews, it is claimed that the fanservice piece is “exhausting”. I wonder why folks would deliberately watch anime clearly outside of their interests with the goal of telling people not to watch it, as well as attempting to inject identity politics into things as justification why one should listen to such balderdash.

  • I’ll never tell readers what to think, and note that if Kandagawa Jet Girls is not up your alley, that is totally fine: there are plenty of other series out there that suit different tastes, after all. Back in Kandagawa Jet Girls, as Rin pulls ahead, Kuromaru aims for Misa’s backside, and after two shots, blows her shorts off. Again, why this is a mechanic has not yet been explored yet, and I am hoping that jet ski racing will be explained so viewers can follow along come later episodes.

  • After one episode, Kandagawa Jet Girls has me curious to see more about the jet ski racing, and while the animation is inconsistent in places, the world overall is rendered in a colourful manner. While I originally intended to write about Rifle is Beautiful, after watching the first episode, which aired yesterday, I conclude that at present, there isn’t enough material to do a first episode impressions on. The anime itself is still quite enjoyable, and I’m sure I’ll have thoughts on it after three episodes have passed.

As Kandagawa Jet Girls progresses, I imagine that more mechanics behind jet ski racing will be presented, making it easier to follow along in the races and root for Rin and Misa. The two lead characters, and their meeting, feel distinctly similar to how 2010’s Sora no Woto opened, with a cheerful and somewhat scatter-brained protagonist becoming enamoured in the sights and sounds of a new locale before coming across someone serious who knows the area and winds up making their acquaintance. Sora no Woto had Kanata become delayed by the Water Festival and encountering Rio, who turned out to be her superior officer with an initially cold personality. In Kandagawa Jet Girls, Rin takes on Kanata’s role: both sport an optimistic personality and possess an open mind, becoming easily distracted by things in their world. Arriving in Tokyo, she wastes no time in getting lost amongst the crowds and even loses her bag in the process, before running into Misa, who gets her out of a bind. Kanata had similarly been bailed out when Rio finds her drenched in the dyed water during the Water Festival, and pulled her aside for a bath and reprimand. In terms of appearances, Rin is a shapelier version of Kanata, and Misa shares Rio’s long, dark hair and severe expressions. The parallels between Kandagawa Jet Girls and Sora no Woto are, in short, quite striking – while the premise of jet ski racing might be new, seeing familiar characters means that I had no difficulty in feeling at home in Kandagawa Jet Girls. I am curious to see Rin and Misa develop and grow as Kandagawa Jet Girls continues: the anatomy lessons notwithstanding, Kandagawa Jet Girls is something that could end up being surprisingly enjoyable because of the combination of character growth, in conjunction with a vibrant and vividly depicted world. Of course, this is all speculation – for the time being, the outcome of Rin and Misa’s race with Kaguya and Kuromaru remains anyone’s guess and will continue come the second episode.