The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Terrible Anime Challenge

Terrible Anime Challenge: Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Or, Every Breath I Take Without Your Permission Raises My Self-Esteem

“They’ll just send in some special ops douchebags with pussy-ass heartbeat monitors on their guns, instead of us.” –Terrence Sweetwater, Battlefield: Bad Company 2

After university student Kazuya Kinoshita is dumped by his girlfriend, Mami Nanami, he falls into a depression and signs up for a rental girlfriend programme via smartphone app. He is assigned Chizuru Mizuhara, a kindhearted and beautiful girl, but when he realises that the date felt hollow, rates her poorly. The next date they go on, Chizuru takes Kazuya to the woodshed, but things are cut short when Kazuya learns his grandmother was hospitalised. He brings Chiruzu with him and inadverdently creates a misunderstanding in which his grandmother, and Chizuru’s grandmother, assume the pair are dating. The pair try to break things off while at the same time, remain tactful to their grandmothers, who would be heartbroken to learn that their relationship was a scam. However, things become increasingly complex when other rental girlfriends appear and begin falling for Kazuya, who’s come to genuinely fall in love with Chizuru, who took up the rental girlfriend post to better prepare for her aspiration of being an actress. This is Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-A-Girlfriend, literally “I’d like to rent a girlfriend”), an anime that aired during the summer of 2020, and whose very presence had been lambasted to Hel and back by irate viewers who found the premise outlandish, the progression implausible, and Kazuya himself was infuriatingly single-minded and dense. Based purely on the voice of internet critics, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is an anime that would, on first glance, seem consigned to failure: over the course of twelve episodes, Kazuya continues to grovel at Chiruzu’s feet, disregarding the fact that Ruka and and Sumi have fallen head over heels for him. These critics argue that Kazuya is blind to his realities, and for acting in a way they’d certainly never act in, Kanojo, Okarishimasu has therefore failed as an anime. After all, folks watch stories to get inspired, and to see how people overcome their setbacks to become stronger and better learned, but Kanojo, Okarishimasu seemingly offers none of this. Week after week, Kazuya pursues Chizuru, hoping that his persistence and sincerity might one day change her mind, all the while trying to keep the lie from breaking their grandparents’ hearts and fending off suitors who’ve become attracted to Kazuya following his acts of kindness.

Unfortunately, the picture that some of the anime community’s most well-known members paint, with their tweets and MyAnimeList reviews, would have individuals believe that, on the basis that Kazuya isn’t acting in a rational way (i.e. how’d they’d react), the series is therefore unrealistic and not meritorious of being watched. The criticism that characters act differently to how the individual might given a set of circumstances is one I’ve often seen thrown around, although this approach is one lacking validity. A work of fiction is intended to convey a particular theme, and consequently, if a given character were to respond to something in a way that was rational, or conforming with what might be considered common sense, there’d be no lesson to learn, and no theme to convey. Kazuya’s lengthy list of shortcomings and mistakes drive Kanojo, Okarishimasu, and supposing that he enters the story with a modicum of confidence and self-respect, there’d be nothing to present, and no journey to embark on. The fact that he lacks these is what gives the series a reason to present his story. It is common knowledge that giving credence to internet critics, is the quickest way towards developing an incorrect, cynical and bitter view of the world: these individuals conveniently forget that Kanojo, Okarishimasu portrays a Kazuya at the beginning of his journey, someone indecisive, weak-willed and utterly lacking in confidence, that we see. In the knowledge that this series is to continue, then, there is always the prospect of a pay-off from watching Kazuya navigate the world of relationship and slowly improve his own sense of self-worth as he chases after the sharp-tongued Chizuru: the internet critics are inevitably too hasty in their judgement, and a second season will likely show a Kazuya who is better prepared to impress Chizuru, having learnt from his earlier mistakes. While perhaps a gross exaggeration of an unwillingness to date, Kazuya’s choices after Mami dumps him is not implausible, and his confidence is shaken to the core. It therefore stands to reason that a series of (hilarious) misunderstandings to help Kazuya understand why he desires a relationship, well beyond the physical aspects.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll preface the discussion with the suggestion that, were such a service to exist in reality, I would be torn between using it and doing things the old-fashioned way. On one hand, being able to basically buy a guided tutorial on how to properly date would be great practise for when the moment comes where said experience would be helpful, but on the other hand, it’s not as though people fall into a list of procedures, and what works in one scenario may utterly fail in another. Relationships and dating requires finesse on a case-by-case basis, although I suppose that periodically shelling out the cash for this experience isn’t too different than practising one’s interviews.

  • With this in mind, I imagine that were I ever to write a mobile app for the purpose of connecting people with rental girlfriends, I likely find myself rejected by Apple’s review team for violating section 1.1.1 of their App Store Review Guidelines under objectionable content: what happens to Kazuya and Chizuru in Kanojo, Okarishimasu might be amusing for viewers, but such misfortune in real life would be very unfortunate. Further to this, my job description as an iOS developer does not entail wrecking peoples’ lives or making them unnecessarily complicated, so such an app would be outside the boundaries of what I’d consider to be ethical.

  • For this Terrible Anime Challenge post, my verdict is “the negative reception to Kanojo, Okarishimasu anime is greatly exaggerated, and while I did not see enough merits in this anime to readily recommend it to my readers, I do not agree with the vitriol that was directed at the series was necessary, either”. In other words, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu isn’t going to be the next CLANNAD (or anything approaching thus), I see no need to belittle the authors or studio for having produced the anime. I had a moderate amount of fun watching this series and have an inkling of where it’s headed. It also helps that Chizuru is voiced by Sora Amamiya (KonoSub‘s very own Aqua and Akemi Sōryūin from Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru?).

  • Kazuya reminds me of Rick and Morty‘s Jerry Smith, being excessively insecure and cowardly, while at the same time, being also kind-hearted and loyal to a fault. However, Jerry is only a secondary character, and his mistakes are typically contained to a given episode’s subplot. Conversely, Kazuya is the lead in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, and I’ve got my answer as to what would happen were Jerry to take a more active role in Rick and Morty. Having said this, much as I am optimistic that writers will have Kazuya undergo enough growth so Chiruzu no longer steps on him, I would hope that Rick and Morty‘s fifth season, at the very least, lessens the frequency where Jerry is made to act as the series’ punching bag: his misadventures are not funny.

  • Mami Nanami proved to be an interesting character: after chucking Kazuya for unknown reasons, she ends up developing a possessive streak a mile wide and forces her way back into his life, becoming genuinely frustrated that Kazuya seems genuinely infatuated with Chiruzu. I usually don’t take joy in watching characters suffer, but seeing Mami go yandere because of jealousy always puts a smile on my face.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu would disintigrate in the blink of an eye if Kazuya had any backbone: the reason why the series is able to create wild scenarios is because, out of concern for his and Chizuru’s grandmother, telling them the truth about their bogus relationship would be inconsolably disappointing for both, and he doesn’t have it in them to break their hearts in this fashion. Chizuru agrees to keep up with the façade for similar reasons, and while she plays her role as the girlfriend well when on duty, off-duty, she’s blunt, foul-mouthed and poor-tempered wherever Kazuya is concerned.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu certainly takes the pains of reminding viewers every so often how hot Chizuru is, to the point where Mami, herself sporting a good figure, becomes intimidated by Chizuru’s assets. With Kazuya’s personality, a part of me wonders if it would’ve been more effectual to have Kazuya fall in love with Chizuru on personality alone, since this could indicate that he was maturing past looking at a relationship as being purely for physical contact. Having different variables in play can serve to help a series make its point clear, but if too many variables exist, it becomes difficult to ascertain where a series intends to go.

  • One aspect about Kanojo, Okarishimasu that did strike me as a bit strange was the fact that the art quality would shift frequently, and inconsistently. While I understand the use of simplified, chalk-like background artwork for moments where Chizuru is kicking Kazuya’s ass, it becomes a bit more jarring when the lower-quality visuals are seen in more serious moments. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kanojo, Okarishimasu does demonstrate that it can have above-average artwork as well – this is most noticeable during the beach episodes, where the backgrounds and skies are of a much higher standard.

  • Like any drama, trouble is amplified when Ruka joins the party. Initially, Kazuya is surprised that his friend, Shun Kuribayashi, also seemingly has a girlfriend. Kanojo, Okarishimasu presents most of the males in Kazuya’s circle as being inexperienced with relationships but eager to pursue them for their own reasons, not fully understanding that a proper relationship is built on trust and stability over flashier things – I view a partner as someone whose presence makes me an even greater, more empathetic and understanding individual, someone who I can count on and be relied upon by, whom I listen to and offer suggestions for, and someone who would listen to me and offer me advice where needed.

  • Consequently, when Kanojo, Okarishimasu presents relationships in this shallow manner, it suggests that, at least at this point in time, Kazuya and his friends are not sufficiently mature to find someone who can offer that for them. I imagine that this is why Kazuya got burned by Mami prior to the series’ beginning – Mami had not been looking for the emotional parts of things and in fact, is suggested to mess around with men for kicks. Conversely, when Ruka is introduced, and she immediately deduces that Chizuru is a rental girlfriend, things get tricky for Kazuya real fast.

  • Kazuya is put into a bit of a bind when it turns out Ruka is in love with him: despite expressing open hostility towards him after their first meeting, after Kazuya saves her from a bad fall, Ruka begins to see the real Kazuya. I appreciate that the idea of anyone falling in love with someone as indecisive and cowardly as Kazuya can seem outlandish, but at the same time, the Kazuya we see just took a beating after Mami dumped him, so it is understandable that he would feel like he’s walking on eggshells around women.

  • My choice of page quote comes from Ruka and her unique heart condition: Kazuya’s been the only person able to elevate her heart rate, and for this, Ruka suspects that Kazuya’s special to her, worthy of pursuing. Of course, the joke here is that in a relationship, one doesn’t exactly need a heartbeat monitor to determine if they’re in love or no: it’s a very specific feeling that one would know when they’d experience it – if it were not apparent, I’d also spent the past long weekend playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2: it turns out that after reinstalling my OS, I’d lost my old save files, and so, I resolved to unlock everything again. I still occasionally revisit Bad Company 2‘s campaign for nostalgia’s sake, so I figured it be nice to have all the levels unlocked for that purpose.

  • While I’d love to share my Bad Company 2 adventures anew, this is a Kanojo, Okarishimasu post, and here, after Ruka demonstrates to Kazuya and Chizuru her feelings are authentic, Chiruzu suggests that he at least spend time with Ruka to see where things go. Despite her dislike for Kazuya, Chizuru does care for his well being and promises to keep an eye on him until he can get a proper girlfriend and finally be truthful to his grandmother. This scenario, however, imposes additional challenges for Kazuya: he’s fairly confident that he’s in love with Chizuru and feels it unfair to be leading Ruka on when he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings.

  • I imagine that Chizuru wants Kazuya to first regain his confidence around women, which is why she agrees to let Ruka spend time with him: for her, the best case is that Kazuya comes to appreciate Ruka and can stand on his own two feet. Of course, what this will really do is to help Kazuya rediscover his own confidence and face Chizuru better: Kanojo, Okarishimasu has made it quite clear that there’s a long and difficult road to Chizuru, and that every step of the way, Kazuya’s determination to set things right with her will lead her to come around.

  • With this in mind, there is a limit to what persistence can do, and in reality, if the magic isn’t there, it isn’t there. Fiction is fond of suggesting that enough grit can turn things around, but this is wishful thinking: relationships have an intangible component to them that isn’t readily quantified, and it can be difficult to put this in words. Consequently, I do feel bad for Ruka: she’s genuinely in love with Kazuya, but as the story dictates, heartbreak will likely await her. Ruka is voiced by none other than Nao Tōyama, whom my readers should know as Shimarin from Yuru Camp△ and Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō, amongst other well-known roles.

  • Late in the series, Sumi Sakurasawa is introduced to Kanojo, Okarishimasu. Despite being uncommonly shy, she decides to take on the rental girlfriend job to prepare herself for a career as an idol and figures doing this would get her more comfortable with people. At Chizuru’s behest, Sumi goes on a few trial dates with Kazuya to better her skills. Their first date is fraught with challenges, including a couple of shady guys hassling her, and then Mami’s sudden arrival. In spite of Kazuya’s feeble efforts in fending them off, the sincerity of his actions convince Sumi that Kazuya’s the real deal.

  • Another familiar face from KonoSuba returns: Rie Takahashi (Megumin) voices Sumi. I also know her previous roles as Yuru Camp△‘s Ena Saitō. Altogether, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu does have a setup that could yield a worthwhile payoff later down the line, the challenge this series faced during its run is the fact that Kazuya’s growth happens very slowly: there’s no indicator that he’s more confident in himself by the series’ end, as he even ditches a date with Ruka to tail Chiruzu closer to Christmas when she hangs out with a coworker. A Kazyua coming to his own would have a little more faith in Chizuru and not do such things.

  • With everything in mind, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is very much an incomplete work, and the series would’ve likely worked better as a full-cour series spanning twenty four episodes, rather than be split into two seasons. This would’ve presented a much more complete picture than the current setup did, and while some words folks have thrown at Kanojo, Okarishimasu are unreasonably harsh, I appreciate that this series has been uncommonly frustrating owing to its pacing and Kazuya’s apparent lack of growth. However, it’s not all bad news bears for Kanojo, Okarishimasu: other viewers, likely those who empathise with Kazuya and his situation, found the series relatable.

  • As for where I sit on things, I would tend to believe that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a series where viewers would be better served if they waited for the second season before beginning their journey, although as I’ve noted earlier, I did find some enjoyment out of this chaotic, hectic series. While I concede that this series is not for a majority of viewers who are looking for a meaningful or moving romance, the series certainly doesn’t merit the insults directed at it, either. Concerning those who feel strongly about anime opinions enough to resort to such crude means, this post’s title is representative of my response to them, in addition to acting as a metaphor for Kazuya’s journey throughout Kanojo, Okarishimasu after Mami dumped him.

  • The line is inspired by a moment from Rick and Morty‘s fourth season, during which Rick begrudgingly attends a heist movie themed convention and publicly insults a figure known for heists in-universe during a panel. When the crowd boos him, Rick responds with this gem of a line: it is a clever and hilarious stab at certain fandoms, where some of the more vocal individuals vehemently object to any opinion not in alignment with their own. In this sense, my whole blog’s existence is an insult to them, and very much like Rick, every breath that I take without their permission raises my self-esteem. Moreover, said individuals’ criticisms of the anime that I find passable or enjoyable mean nothing, for I’ve seen what makes them cheer 😛

Unsurprisingly, twelve episodes is clearly not sufficient a timeframe to properly illustrate everything: at this point in time, it remains too early to determine whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu is worth watching. On one hand, watching Kazuya’s failures is fairly challenging: he acts in a way contrary to what one would expect, but on the flipside, the fact that there will be a second season somewhere in 2022 means that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is by no means complete, and to review the series at this point would be akin to discussing a hockey game when one team is leading 4-1 after two periods of play. Much as how anything can happen in the final period (most recently, the Edmonton Oilers were handed a devastating blow when they blew a 4-1 lead against the Winnipeg Jets and lost in overtime), anime can occasionally still find ways of surprising people. Kanojo, Okarishimasu is not an exception to this rule, and while at present, I would not give the series a glowing recommendation or suggest folks watch it out of curiosity (unless one is uncommonly tolerant, or looking for a good laugh), I’m also not going to stop them from checking the series out. In an anime dominated by Kazuya’s bad decisions, there are a handful of genuinely heartwarming moments, seeing Chizuru’s foul personality outside of her duties is always hilarious, and Mami’s yandere-like traits make seeing her recoil in jealousy in response to what Kazuya does is made all the more satisfying. Whether Kanojo, Okarishimasu manages to right itself by the second season and really focus on Kazuya’s pursuit of Chizuru remains to be seen, but at this point in time, it’s still early to be passing a verdict on whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu is, in the words of the internet critics, a train-wreck. In more civilised words, whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu paints a compelling picture with its theme is something that will require further exploration, and this, for better or worse, remains a ways off.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Kamisama ni Natta Hi and The Path To Pursuing What Counts

“History isn’t kind to men who play God.” –James Bond, No Time To Die

When a mysterious girl proclaiming herself God appears in front of high school student Yōta Narukami and declares that the world will end within a month, Yōta is skeptical. However, the girl, calling herself Hina Sato, manages to convince Yōta of her power by correctly deducing the outcome of a horse race, and she offers to help him pursue his feelings for Kyōko Izanami. While Yōta is initially irritated by Hina’s pompous and all-knowing attitude, he is shocked that his parents would allow Hina to stay with them. Over the course of the summer, Yōta comes to follow her suggestions as he tries to impress Kyōko and set in motion the events to help her accept her mother’s death, helps to revitalise a failing ramen shop, participate in Sora, his younger sister’s, film, attend a summer festival and even win a mahjong competition. Yōta learns that Hina had been abandoned as a child because of an untreatable neurodegenerative disorder, but her adoptive grandfather moved heaven and earth to create a quantum neural control interface that gave Hina a normal life, and moreover, his parents had agreed to look after Hina. Quite separately, Hiroto, a foreign computer systems prodigy, learns that Hina possesses a unique device far surpassing anything available to humanity, and when denied the opportunity to study it, realises he was being used and elects to help Hina. While Hina is captured towards the end of Sora’s filming project and taken away for surgery, Yōta is unable to move on and ends up pursuing a lead from Hiroto. Against all odds, he is able to find Hina, who is living at an assisted care facility. While he is initially unable to elicit a reaction from Hina, his unorthodox methods leads Hina to demonstrate that she still possesses memories of their time together during the previous summer. After Hina returns home, they watch Sora’s film together, and Yōta promises to be together with Hina no matter what challenges cross their path. This is Kamisama ni Natta Hi (The Day I Became a God), P.A. Works’ title for the fall season of 2020. With its intriguing premise and Ayane Sakura in the leading role, Kamisama ni Natta Hi drew my interest, only to drop off my radar as I became swamped with other matters and hit a roadblock with the introduction of mahjong. Kamisama ni Natta Hi thus fell to the back of my mind, and for the longest time, I simply lacked the motivation to carry on. However, the anime community I’m a part of wouldn’t hear of this and suggested that I continue. On their suggestion, I continued watching Kamisama ni Natta Hi, learning in the process that beyond the barrier of mahjong and Hiroto’s initially-disagreeable traits, Kamisama ni Natta Hi was in fact, right up my alley.

At its core, Kamisama ni Natta Hi is classic Jun Maeda, who is best known for his stories that deal with an appreciation for the ordinary, and treasuring the time that one spends with those important to them. While Maeda’s themes invariably focus on how having memories and moments to reflect fondly on give individuals the strength to overcome seemingly-insurmountable challenges, his stories differ in terms of background and context. Angel Beats! is probably the closest of Maeda’s previous works to Kamisama ni Natta Hi; both stories deal with the significance of being able to live a normal life and participate in the things that youth typically would. While these things are easy to take for granted, folks afflicted with medical conditions or live in difficult circumstances are denied these luxuries: Maeda’s works all share this theme, and it becomes clear that to Maeda, there is no greater treasure than normalcy. However, Angel Beats! had placed the characters in a new world to give them a second go at things, while here in Kamisama ni Natta Hi, Yōta is dropped into a situation where Hina’s origins and claims are initially unclear. However, like Angel Beats!‘ Yuzuru Otonashi, Yōta quickly learns of the significance of what Hina had intended to accomplish, and in the aftermath, is able to appreciate what lies beyond the deadline that Hina continued to mention. With this strength in him, Yōta is able to summon the strength to continue caring for Hina: in this way, Hina becomes Kamisama ni Natta Hi‘s Yui, and Yōta is an amalgamation of Yuzuru and Hideki Hinata’s characters. While the contexts might differ wildly, the end message is the same: as people spend time together and come to appreciate one another, the ensuing bonds that form are resilient. Yōta’s words parallel that of Hideki’s, with the two promising that no matter what the distance, they’d always find a way to be together. When it became apparent that Kamisama ni Natta Hi intended to take this path, my enjoyment of the series skyrocketed, and I found myself feeling foolish to have considered dropping the series. Kamisama ni Natta Hi initially opens with events that seem disjointed and unrelated, but as the series progresses, it becomes clear that there is a reason behind the choices made within the series.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My initial decision to watch Kamisama ni Natta Hi was almost entirely motivated by the fact that Hina is voiced by Ayane Sakura, who I know best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto, and for the fact that I’d not seen something from P.A. Works since 2018’s Iroduku: The World in Colours. The series had been a little slow to start for me, with Hina’s energy and enigmatic presence being the primary driving force behind my interest in the series. Smug, conceited and possessing the powers to match her mouth, Hina is an interesting character, resembling Angel Beats!’ Yui.

  • Yōta, on the other hand, is an ordinary high school student. He’s reluctant to believe that the world could end in thirty days, and continues to study for his entrance exams after Hina’s arrival. I was quite intrigued to see what this entailed – Kamisama ni Natta Hi didn’t seem like a series to deal in large-scale cataclysms that could trigger an extinction-level event, and being set in the real-world, one wonders about Hina’s true origin.

  • All of Jun Maeda’s works follow a very well-defined pattern, utilising over-the-top, excessive humour in the beginning to give viewers the sense that we were dealing with distinct characters whose traits would bounce off one another. Of course, this would inevitably mean that the story will, at some point, take everything away from the protagonists. Maeda is famous for this approach, and while they were very successful with things like AIRKanon and CLANNAD, audiences have become very divided his works owing to how little variety there is: since the method was used originally, reusing it means that viewers inevitably know what to expect.

  • I happen to be in the camp of folks who enjoy Maeda’s approach – his exaggerated portrayals of mirth and sorrow speak to the spectrum of emotions people can experience in life, and the juxtaposition between melancholy and joy has always been something I found to bring his works to life. Early in Kamisama ni Natta Hi, almost everything is nonsensical as Hina settles in with the Narukami family. Sora doesn’t really get along with Hina all that well in the beginning, being nonplussed at Hina’s mannerisms.

  • I personally found Hina to be adorable, doubly so for the fact that Sakura voices Hina the same way she did Cocoa and Iroha. Here, Yōta and Hina share watermelon together – like Angel Beats!Kamisama ni Natta Hi places a large emphasis on the mundane, and something like enjoying watermelon is something to be celebrated. However, despite giving the impression that she’s here to make the most of the 30 days remaining, Hina also pushes Yōta forwards, determined to help him make his feelings known to childhood friend Kyōko.

  • Kyōko had known Yōta since they were children, but after her mother passed away, she became withdrawn. Yōta’s persistence is impressive, and with Hina’s predictions, he is able to set up scenarios to get closer to Kyōko, although more often than not, he feels like he’s cheating and backs down, frustrating Hina. While Kyōko continues to reject Yōta’s kokuhaku, he persists, and it turns out that she does have feelings for him. Here, as Yōta performs a song of Hina’s design, he does manage to impress Kyōko, who takes over. The incidental music in Kamisama ni Natta Hi is reminiscent of Angel Beats!, featuring a combination of more unremarkable pieces as well as the more poignant songs that are of an exceptional quality.

  • When Sora’s friend, Hikari, shows up at the Narukami residence and explains she’s in debt, Hina uses her powers to elevate a local ramen joint to prominence, blowing the loan shark troubling Hikari in the process. The first few episodes of Kamisama ni Natta Hi are all over the place, and when the fourth episode dealt with richi mahjong, as well as formally introducing Hiroto and his investigation into one Shuichiro Korogi, I was thrown off. I decided to take some time to regroup, but with both GochiUsa BLOOM and Road to Berlin demanding episodic reviews, I subsequently fell further and further behind.

  • After GochiUsa BLOOM and Yuru Camp△ 2 ended, however, I ended up developing Cocoa withdrawal. I thus hopped onto Discord and received feedback from the community I’m a part of: folks encouraged me to give Kamisama ni Natta Hi another go, and I resolved to finish the series. I therefore pushed through the fourth episode, doing my best not to worry about the arcane mahjong terminology, and at the end, was met with a hilarious reward: lawyer Kako Tengan had taken a liking to Yōta, who participated in the tournament at Hina’s behest so he could meet a role model, but ends up getting more than he bargained for when Kako tries to seduce him.

  • Once the fourth episode was past, Kamisama ni Natta Hi really began to hit its stride. When Yōta learns that Kyōko is more reserved than usual, he resolves to get her father out of the house to visit his wife’s grave. With Hina’s help, Yōta manages to show Kyōko’s father how much the world’s changed when he develops an interest in new restaurants, and he finally opens up. Armed with the knowledge that Kyōko’s mother had left video messages for the two of them, Hina arranges to mimic a call with Kyōko as her mother and does a profoundly good job, causing Kyōko to realise what needs to be done.

  • As father and daughter watches these videos, in which Kyōko’s mother implores them to push onwards with life and live as fully as they can, they come to understand that clinging to the past would be to disrespect her wishes. Both Kyōko and her father come to accept this, and for the first time in Kamisama ni Natta Hi, Kyōko smiles. This episode is classic Maeda, and it was here that I finally felt the motivation to continue watching to see what would happen next. This was the single turning point in Kamisama ni Natta Hi – from the fifth episode onwards, I realised that beyond the blocker that was mahjong, and Hiroto’s yet-to-be-determined significance, what the series required from me most was patience.

  • The magic moment in Kamisama ni Natta Hi lay past the three episode mark, and while three episodes is a widely-adopted practise, different people set store by different standards when it comes to anime. Being a hobby, I have no consistent rules for when I drop a series. I do, however, vehemently disagree with the idea that an anime necessarily needs to make its central theme clear within the first three episodes; themes are something that must be built out over time, and the payoff comes from seeing the whole journey and the context of the individual moments.

  • At Kamisama ni Natta Hi‘s halfway point, Yōta’s able to assemble an impressive group to bring Hina to the summer festival: even Kako attends, despite sparring with Hina almost immediately after meeting up. Here, Hina munches on a festival delicacy that impresses everyone in the group when they try it. Between her facial expressions and the fact that she sounds like a brattier (but still adorable) version of Cocoa, Hina’s been the life and soul of Kamisama ni Natta Hi thus far. Like Yui, who was noisy and annoying, but charming in her own right, Hina brings a great deal of life into the series.

  • What led to the inevitable comparisons between Kamisama ni Natta Hi and Angel Beats! was the sixth episode, during which Yōta manages to save Hina from being shipped off to Tokyo in a freezer truck after she grows jealous of Yōta and Kyōko seemingly grow closer. Hideki had died with regret in his hear about a baseball game, and wonders if he’d find peace in catching a pop fly. Asura has this part of Hideki in him: after sustaining an injury, he was never able to play basketball quite the same way again, and here, implores Yōta to make the jump that he couldn’t. In the end, the misunderstanding is cleared up, and Hina is moved that Yōta cares for her to this extent.

  • As Kamisama ni Natta Hi progressed, I became increasingly engaged with the series and found it to become more enjoyable, the further I went in. However, I’ve heard that reception to Kamisama ni Natta Hi in some segments of the community became increasingly cold with the passage of time to the point where Jun Maeda disappeared off social media from the sheer volume of hate mail and threats he received. Rather than Kamisama ni Natta Hi, this speaks poorly of the community and speaks to their misplaced sense of entitlement.

  • A respectable anime fan would never resort to detestable means such as vilifying a show or its creators incessantly on social media, and those who spent week after week doing so cannot count themselves as someone I would liaise with willingly, much less accept. I have no qualms with those who disliked Kamisama ni Natta Hi: everyone is permitted their own thoughts on the series, but I hold in contempt those who go out of their way to degrade a show with this level of fervor: this is the lowest of the low, beneath even those who’ve gone to lengths of creating hundreds of false accounts to give an anime a poor rating or downvote opinions contrary to their own. As it stands, I was pleasantly surprised by Kamisama ni Natta Hi, and the series hits its stride by the time Sora kicks off her film.

  • What I particularly liked about Sora’s project was that by this time, Kako and her bodyguard are active, willing participants, and even the loan shark who’d troubled Hikari earlier had reformed entirely, being an affable sort of character. Sora’s film gives everyone a chance to be their best, and these changes mirror Maeda’s thoughts that people can be redeemed with patience and understanding. Those who we are quick to judge are simply those we’ve not given fair chance to. With this in mind, I began to see even Hiroto in this light: despite having found him arrogant and disagreeable early on, Kamisama ni Natta Hi would help me to understand where he’s coming from, similarly to how Angel Beats! did the same for Ayato.

  • No longer burdened by her mother’s passing, Kyōko is positively radiant as she helps out with the film. It is not lost on me that Kamisama ni Natta Hi is set in Kofu, Yamanashi: Sora decides to capitalise on the spaces at Fuefuki Fruit Park as her filming location, and the stone patio overlooking Kofu, seen in Yuru Camp△ as the place where Aoi and Chiaki catch their breath after ascending the path up to their campsite, is also where Sora shoots her footage. Unlike Haruhi, Sora is actually a competent directory and script-writer: she has a clear vision for her film, and with Kako’s resources, filming proceeds very smoothly.

  • The change in Yōta’s attitudes towards Hina is apparent, and while he initially brushes her off in pursuit of his studies, he finds that this past summer has been very memorable thanks to Hina. As Kamisama ni Natta Hi steps into its penultimate act, the deadline Hina prophesises suddenly doesn’t seem so intimidating: were the world to end here and now, Yōta appears to have lived his summer very fully, achieving numerous things that certainly wouldn’t have been possible were it not for Hina.

  • The secondary story with Hiroto and the enigmatic CEO is that they’re pursing one Shuichiro Korogi’s research. This is related to Hina, and it turns out that Korogi had independently developed a quantum microprocessor in a bid to free Hina, who’d been born with a condition that left her immobile. The quantum microprocessor gave Hina a normal life in an unexplained mechanism, and the organisation Hiroto is drafted into intends to hold onto this discovery to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. In retrospect, this is a noble choice, as quantum computers could be used to trivially circumvent computer security if malicious actors got access to them.

  • On a hot summer’s day, Yōta decides to take Hina to visit her biological parents after learning from his parents that she’d been abandoned and Korogi had taken her in, as well as making the request that the Narukamis look after Hina after he was gone. The pair thus take a bus deep into the Japanese countryside. While the trip opens with enthusiasm, it is also surrounded by melancholy. There is a charm about the inaka that invites this set of emotions, and it is therefore fitting that the visit to Hina’s biological parents would send the pair out into the rural areas of Japan.

  • It turns out that, unable to bear the thought of having brought Hina into a world only to have her suffer, her father ultimately left Hina and wanted to restart, distancing himself from a problem he imagined was completely outside his power to save. While perhaps understandable, this only serves to demonstrate that Hina’s original father was also weak-willed. While Yōta might be more naïve in his decision, his heart’s in the right place, and the series ultimately vindicates his decision. With the truth in the open, Yōta becomes closer to Hina than before, and as the two overnight in a ryōkan, it does feel like a date of sorts.

  • As Hina’s deadline approaches, she reveals that she deemed the end of the world to be the point where she could not see beyond, and indicates that she never meant the entire world would blink out of existence. On a rainy day during filming, shadowy agents show up to take Hina in and retrieve the quantum computer embedded in her brain after a council decides that Korogi’s technology would threaten humanity at present. Despite Yōta’s efforts, the agents catch up to him and overpowers him easily, separating the two. In the aftermath, Hina is operated on and sent to live at a remote facility.

  • While Yōta does his best to move on with his life as term starts, he cannot help but remember Hina. When Hiroto transfers to his school and attempts to subtly befriend Yōta, the latter remains so distracted that he is unable to see that Hiroto’s interest in activities parallels those of Hina’s. It turns out that Hiroto, intending to atone for his past, wants Yōta to see Hina again. I was surprised at this turn of events, and it typifies Maeda’s characters to become allies once the time is right. However, like CharlotteKamisama ni Natta Hi suffers from the same problems: too much occurs towards the end, and Hiroto’s character is never given time to develop.

  • Seeing Hina lethargic and completely lacking the vigour she previously had was a sobering moment, but it speaks to the genuineness of Yōta’s feelings that he intends to bring her home anyways. Armed with a fabricated identification, Yōta has two weeks to accomplish his goals. The path is fraught with setbacks, and initially, Hina rejects Yōta. The paediatrician tending to Hina, Shiba, dismisses Yōta and explains that post-operation, Hina has developed a fear of men. In spite of this, Yōta pushes on. Much as how Charlotte saw Yū embark on a worldwide tour to save others with unique powers and lost his memory in the process in the final episodes, Kamisama ni Natta Hi only had two episodes depicting Yōta’s efforts to bring Hina back home.

  • Shiba is initially presented as cold and indifferent to Yōta: however, it is revealed that after losing her own daughter, she took up the posting to help other children and spare them her daughter’s fate. In spite of this, when she notices that Yōta’s reports do not align with what he’d been doing with Hina, she alerts security. Up until now, Yōta had actually made some progress with Hina, who vaguely recalls her love for JRPGs. Yōta is ultimately escorted off facility grounds, and as a final act of kindness, Shiba takes Hina out to watch Yōta leave.

  • Out here, Hina suddenly begins expressing a desire to be with Yōta. Shiba had argued earlier that Hina’s personality and traits were likely a product of the quantum computer’s processes, but the fact that Hina still remembers Yōta, enough to reject an image of him because she wants the real deal, indicates that the computer had simply been ampifying what was already there. Through Kamisama ni Natta Hi, then, it is suggested that regardless of their sophistication, computers will not be able to replicate something as sophisticated as emotions for the foreseeable future. In their haste to dismiss this series as a “dumpster fire” (a phrase that I regard as indicative of someone whose arguments have no merit), folks skate over some of the topics that Maeda wished to cover in his latest work.

  • As it becomes clear that Hina still remembers Yōta and her feeling for him, Yōta is overjoyed and rushes off to embrace her, leaving Shiba and the security staff in shock. This revelation convinces Shiba to authorise Yōta to take her back home, having proven that Hina had indeed responded positively to him. The symbolism here is clear enough: it’s a new start for Hina and Yōta, and what lies ahead for Yōta will be difficult. However, the moment also shows what Hideki would’ve done for Yui had they met earlier or realised their feelings for one another sooner. Maeda had always been fond of the idea that love can take many forms, and Kamisama ni Natta Hi is no different in this regard.

  • With Hina back, the old crew finish off their movie, and one evening, Yōta takes Hina to the viewpoint at Fuefuki Fruit Park overlooking Kofu. Nadeshiko had shared a photo with Rin here during their simultaneous camping trips, as a sign that their hearts were drawing closer, and to have Yōta and Hina up here suggests something similar. Yōta’s found his calling in life at this point, promising to go into medical research so that Hina may one day be fully cured and able to live freely again.

  • Sora’s movie is shown at the end of Kamisama ni Natta Hi, and unlike Haruhi’s movie, which barely worked in spite of the troubled production, Sora’s film is well-produced, well-written and well-made. It acts as a reminder of the time Yōta and Hina spent together, and how these memories will always be with him no matter what, giving him the strength to pursue the future in the knowledge that their happiness was very much real. This was the overarching theme I got out of Kamisama ni Natta Hi, and since at the heart of every Terrible Anime Challenge is whether or not there was a coherent theme, the fact that Kamisama ni Natta Hi has one (regardless of what more popular folks than myself assert) means that the series deserves a passing grade in my books.

  • Altogether, Kamisama ni Natta Hi exceeds my expectations for the series. In this terrible anime challenge, the yardstick were my own expectations coming in and the overwhelmingly negative impressions on anime Twitter. I am pleased to say that both were soundly proven wrong, and I had fun with Kamisama ni Natta Hi, more than I originally thought. While the series leaves a great deal unexplored and would’ve benefitted from a more extensive runtime, I nonetheless find that the series did succeed with its core messages. As a result, this one earns a B grade (3 of 4, or 7.5 of ten) in my books: the merits outweigh the shortcomings, and the presence of a unifying, cohesive message tied everything together in a satisfactory fashion. With this post in the books, it’s time to head out into a snowy May day and grab my Pfizer vaccine: booking’s been a nightmare in my side of the world, with my age group eligible, it’ll be nice to finally kick things off.

Consequently, Kamisama ni Natta Hi becomes yet another reminder that patience is oftentimes a virtue in anime: this series did not really hit its stride until its fifth episode, when Yōta manages to set in motion the events that help Kyōko and her father to reconcile. I note that while I found Kamisama ni Natta Hi to be an entertaining and worthwhile series, it is by no means perfect; the series possesses the same pacing as 2015’s Charlotte, starting out slowly and then accelerating wildly towards the end. Similarly, both Kamisama ni Natta Hi and Angel Beats! leave several elements unresolved in favour of ensuring that the central characters reach their resolution as a result of their short runtime. The existence of quantum neural control interfaces would typically result in all sorts of interesting discussion, and the CEO of the unnamed organisation curious in pursuing this research wind up being tangential to the discoveries that Yōta makes. In addition, while Hiroto is similar to Ayato Naoi and Takeyama, being a character viewers could come to sympathise with and playing a major role in setting Yōta with a shot at getting Hina back, his screen time and backstory is minimally explored. The series definitely would’ve benefited from an increased runtime, which would better flesh out the secondary elements that were relevant to the story. Despite these limitations, Kamisama ni Natta Hi matches my own expectations going in, beats the expectations I had of the series following the fourth episode and vastly exceeds the impressions I got of the series from reading the inevitable and unavoidable snippets from well-known but disreputable figures in the community, who were quick to dismiss the series as being forced drama. As the prize for listening to the community I’m a part of and not giving any credence to the unsavoury people on social media, I come out with another solid experience.

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 posted her opinions to MyAnimeList’s forums a few days before the finale aired, and it subsequently received undeserved praise). My attempts to understand Kolpakova’s perspectives, and those who agreed with her, were completely unsuccessful over the years; my persistence was motivated by a wish to convince readers not to agree with someone who was all but insulting them. I’ve never received any feedback here for the rebuttals I’ve written over the years, and I was never provided with justification for why people agreed with Kolpakova even when she’d clearly been insulting other readers and telling them what to think. Similarly, my rebuttals never got the same number of upvotes or shares that Kolpakova’s “analysis” did, despite mine being superior in every way (that, and I don’t insult my readers). Having exhausted all other efforts to try and persuade those who agreed with Kolpakova to at least see things from a different perspective, I was ultimately forced to employ more dramatic measures.

  • I ended up using bit of social engineering to convince a Redditor who’d popularised Kolpakova’s “analysis” to strike mention of it from their post, which had received 115 upvotes. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this bit of skulduggery worked. While this comes way too late to make an appreciable difference (those who agree with Kolpakova are unlikely to change their minds), any new readers coming into the thread won’t see Kolpakova’s misleading claims attached to 115 upvotes. 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 pursuing 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.

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.