The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Terrible Anime Challenge

Terrible Anime Challenge: Bakuon!! and Addressing Uninformed Responses to a K-On! Parody

“He’s got a brand new car,
Looks like a Jaguar.
It’s got leather seats,
It’s got a CD player”

—Buck Rogers, Feeder

Hane Sakura becomes interested in motorcycles after seeing one effortlessly ascend a hill on her way to school, and she soon joins her high school’s motorcycle club, meeting Onsa Amano in the process. Hane subsequently obtains her motorcycle license, develops a liking for Honda motorbikes and also befriends the motorcycle club’s longstanding member, Raimu Kawasaki, as well as the wealthy but mischievous Hijiri Minowa. This merry band is occasionally accompanied by Rin Suzunoki, who has a strong love for all things Suzuki. The girls discover the joys of hitting the open road on bikes, various intricacies surrounding motorbike regulation and maintenance, and later, are joined by Chisame Nanako, a skilful racer who is very conscious about her short stature. Running concurrently with Hai-Furi, Bakuon!! (onomatopoeia for “roar”) was an anime that I originally intended to watch, but after being unimpressed with the first episode, I shelved plans to continue – I was wrapping up my thesis at the time and so, my time was not unlimited. However, with the introduction of the Terrible Anime Challenge, I decided to give Bakuon!! another shot. In doing so, I found a mildly entertaining anime whose execution is quite plainly a call-back to the styles and eccentricities of K-On!. I thoroughly enjoyed K-On! and count it a masterpiece: K-On! is the iconic forerunner to the current presence of slice-of-life genre in which there is a small cast whose member share gentle, heartwarming moments with one another with the aim of bringing catharsis to audiences. My reasons for counting K-On! as a masterpiece will be left as a story for another time. Bakuon!! is rather more outrageous – the dynamics amongst the cast and their unusual world means that rather than relax, Bakuon!! is more suited towards eliciting a few laughs from viewers who are familiar with the likes of K-On! and series following its approach.

Differing from K-On! in its niche and use of bikes in place of music, Bakuon!! is nonetheless conceptually similar to K-On!. The similarities are numerous. Hane’s familiarisation with the basics parallel those of Yui learning to play the guitar. Hijiri mirrors Mugi’s desire to experience the sorts of things that she would not otherwise as a result of her wealthy background. Onsa clashes with Rin, similarly to how Ritsu and Mio share a rocky but ultimately deep friendship, and finally, Chisame is outright a carbon copy of Azusa. The narrative begins with Hane’s introduction to bikes and participation in a tour of Hokkaido, school race and presentation for new students, while in K-On!, Yui similarly becomes learned in guitar and performs at a school concert, spends time with her friends at a training campo and with Houkago Tea Time, inspires Asuza to join the light music club. However, Bakuon!! is no mere K-On! knock-off – the characters and world of Bakuon!! are clearly intended to exaggerate what was seen in K-On!. The characters accentuate extremities from K-On!‘s cast for comedy: Hane is excessively optimistic and innocent, while Rin is a more shameless version of Mio. Hijiri is not hesitant to pull resources from her family to make certain things possible; these are even more outlandish than anything Mugi did in K-On!. Onsa is much more expressive than Ritsu, and her fights with Rin are more vocal. Chisame plays to Azusa’s small frame and proficiency, poking fun at Azusa’s serious nature in K-On!. In conjunction with its ridiculous setups, from talking motorcycles and puppet-like instructors, to a senior with no dialogue, it is apparent that Bakuon!! is intended to act as a parody of K-On! and illustrate the incredible, even ridiculous setups that are presented in the latter if they were taken to their logical conclusion.

Whether or not Bakuon!! succeeds as a parody is another aspect that this series shares with K-On!K-On! was a polarising anime when it aired. Its proponents enjoyed the easy-go-lucky environment that was presented; free from conflict, it was simply something that encouraged relaxation in viewers. Detractors cite K-On! as being detrimental to the industry for promoting entertainment with no academic worth. Bakuon!! has similarly created two camps of viewers. There are folks who found Bakuon!! to have taken the weakest aspects of K-On! and using these to define the series’ characters, and at the opposite end of the spectrum are the people who feel Bakuon!! could be compared to the classic Azumanga Daioh! for its subtle depiction of the passage of time. Both perspectives are ill-suited for describing Bakuon!!. The point of a parody is to accentuate features to the point of exaggeration for comedic reasons, and Bakuon!! succeeds in creating a whacky world where the lack of sense is a part of its charm. Once I got past the initial strangeness of Hane’s world and accepted it, I saw a series with a unique brand of humour that I’ve not seen anywhere else. On the flipside, the comparison of Bakuon!! to Azumanga Daioh is not a reasonable one: Azumanga Daioh illustrated how friendships form and mature over time as people move towards a goal of sorts. Bakuon!! has no equivalent path: it is most comparable to K-On!‘s first season, where the aim of the narrative was simply to establish the characters in their world. K-On!‘s second season began presenting the manga’s main message, but without a continuation to decisively illustrate (or disprove) this, Bakuon!! remains a spirited effort at poking gentle fun at the setup folks have seen in K-On!.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • When I first watched Bakuon!!, I had just wrapped up my graduate programme and was acclimatising to a post-school world. The transition was relatively smooth, but during this time, I found it difficult to get into anime, so that season, I ended up dropping a lot of shows. Bakuon!! was one of them, and I still remember watching the first episode, where Hane struggles to bike up a steep hill and marvels at the prospect of using a motorcycle.

  • It took some prodding for me to resume watching Bakuon!!, especially when Baita was introduced: the surrealism was a bit much. Once Hane gets her license with some visually-pleasing help from Hijiri, I had enough motivation to push forwards. Another motivating factor for my continuing is a consequence of my coming across some rather ill-informed statements about Bakuon!! while looking around for materials related to Hai-Furi and Girls und Panzer. Extremities in reactions to Bakuon!! range from some feeling it to be one of the best anime of Spring 2016, to being an atrocity against anime, is the reason why this Terrible Anime Challenge post is longer than usual.

  • Once Hane gets her license, her next target is buying a bike. She winds up purchasing a Honda CB400SF Hyper VTEC Spec III (known informally as a Super Four), the third revision of the Super Four that Hane rode in biking school. Like Yui’s Gitah, Hane is very much in love with her new wheels, and this is what motivates the page quote: I’ve been wanting to use lyrics from Feeder’s Buck Rogers for some time, and an anime about new wheels seemed an appropriate place for things. Of course, having watched Behind Enemy Lines previously, I also cannot help but think of a carrier-based F/A-18 launch when I hear Buck Rogers.

  • Being the central protagonist who fulfills a very similar role to K-On!‘s Yui Hirasawa, Hane is the focus of Bakuon!!, and the story is told around her perspective. Both Hane and Yui share personality traits (kind-hearted and warm), are quite new to technical aspects surrounding their newfound hobby and optimistic despite being prone to moments of misfortune; here, Hane runs out of gas on her Super Four while taking it for a test run. Hane is voiced by Reina Ueda: I know Ueda best as Sakura Quest‘s Shiori Shinomiya and Sophie Noelle of Kuromukuro, as well as Naru Sekiya of Hanayamata (which, incidentally, might also be looked at for a future Terrible Anime Challenge).

  • Rin Suzunoki is supposed to be the equivalent of Mio Akiyama, but comes across being a more full-figured and aggressive incarnation of Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujo. The similarities are accentuated by the fact that Rin is voiced by Nao Tōyama. Onsa Amano, on the other hand, feels like a cross between Ritsu Tainaka and Yukari Akiyama – she’s the foil to Rin and knowledgeable about motorbikes, being voiced by Yumi Uchiyama (Kiniro Mosaic‘s Yoko Inokuma). Hijiri Minowa is modelled after Tsumugi Kotobuki, being of a similarly wealthy background and desiring to experience youth as ordinary people would. Hijiri’s voice is provided by Rikako Yamaguchi, and I am not familiar with her other roles.

  • After Hane gets her license, she and the motocycle club begin doing their first motorcycle tour, setting their sights on Hokkaido. It’s a trip of firsts that parallels Yui’s first ever training camp, and the girls’ tour in Bakuon!! lead them to Ooarai, Home of Girls und Panzer. This particular detail has largely gone unnoticed: Bakuon!!‘s manga predates Girls und Panzer, so when Hane and the others arrive in Ooarai, it’s still the quiet seaside town that it was prior to the explosion in popularity the area received following Girls und Panzer‘s televised run.

  • Four episodes in, and according to period discussions, there were already complaints directed at Bakuon!!., stating it to be “…unbelievably stilted, and… progressively more irritating, too.” This comparison holds no weight, especially as it comes from someone claimed that K-On! was an “accidential [sic] masterpiece”: K-On!‘s strength lies in being able to encourage audiences to slow down and enjoy the mundane, subtle things in life. Bakuon!! is not a mere imitator of K-On!, but more appropriately, it takes a jab at the setup in K-On! with the aim of evoking some laughs from viewers, and Bakuon!! accomplishes exactly this.

  • The wide open spaces of Hokkaido are a world apart from reminiscent of the southern Alberta foothills: while still quite mountainous, Hokkaido’s plains mean that it is host to a fourth of Japan’s arable land, and as such, agriculture plays a major role in Hokkaido’s economy. Grassy plains allow for cattle farming, along with other products, and the farmland regions of Hokkaido are nowhere near as cramped as the rural areas of Japan built between the valleys, such as the valleys of Niigata.

  • Onsa and the others reach their destination in Cape Sōya, the northernmost point on Hokkaido, just in time for a swift sunset. While not mentioned in Bakuon!!, Cape Sōya has at least ten monuments here as memorials to incidents that historically occurred near the area, and just north of the area, some forty-three kilometres away, is Cape Crillon in Russia. Under fair conditions, the cape is visible.

  • Inspection of satellite imagery find that the monument here actually juts out into the sea a little to really give it the position of “northernmost anything” in Japan, but in this instant, Onsa and the others find something a bit further north: instructor Enko Saruyama attempts to bike into the ocean at this northernmost part of Japan after one of her relationships go south. Unlike Sawako Yamanaka of K-On!, who is merely single, Enko is rather more unlucky.

  • On the topic of relationships, I suppose now is a good time as any to mention Facebook’s latest endeavour – they’re attempting to challenge Tinder as a dating service. This was only a matter of time, since Facebook has had access to all sorts of data. While they allege that the process is going to be opt-in only, nothing’s stopping them from quietly crawling the data in the back and then use a variety of clustering algorithms and regression analysis, amongst other techniques, to match all people for fun. It would then only take a bad leak to expose to the world the dating preferences of a large percentage of its users.

  • I suppose that I chould add “anime” to my set of interests so that if the day comes where Facebook can suggest a suitable partner to me with reasonable accuracy, then at least I’ll be paired with someone who accepts my hobbies, especially when it’s begun to encompass something like Bakuon!! 😛 Jokes aside, we return to Bakuon!!, where a drunk Enko manages to mess with everyone in the room (even Hijiri) before passing out. Like Sawako, Enko is eventually strong-armed into becoming the advisor for the motorcycle club.

  • Dialogue surrounding the idea that “what happens in Hokkaido stays in Hokkaido” is corny, cheesy and also surprisingly fitting: in its presentation, Bakuon!! is evidently aware of what it is parodying, and so, comes across in being deliberate in the characters’ choice of words and actions. Here, Hane releases her “memories” into the night sky; being a rambunctious romp through life, Bakuon!! indicates to viewers that this is not an anime to take seriously.

  • While some folks consider Bakuon!! a fanservice anime, only Rin is subject to unnecessarily oscillations for the most part, and personally, I’m actually not too big on Rin. After their tour of Hokkaido, the girls decide to give their bikes a good cleaning, and the approach that Hane take subsequently has Raimu Kawasaki take point on future washings to ensure that everyone’s bikes are carefully looked after. Raimu holds the distinction of being the only character to lack a voice actress and her origins are a mystery. She’s been around for quite some time to look after the students and depicted as an uncommonly skilful rider, but beyond her biking, I did not particularly find Raimu’s presence to contribute to my enjoyment of Bakuon!! to the same extetn that others have found.

  • Readers then pose the question, if Rin’s not doing it for me, then what about Bakuon!! did? The answer is Hane: a part of her appeal lies in her character. Friendly and warm, Hane’s the most ordinary of the motorcycle club’s characters and of everyone in the motorcycle club, also has the most appealing stats (82-58-87). During the bike wash, Hane takes a rather unconventional approach, citing it to be more effective and also indicative of her love for her Super Four. Jealous, Rin proceeds to attempt the same bit slips off her bike.

  • The last value is why Hane is able to wash her bike more effectively than Rin, whose specs are 91-56-81 (recall the relationship between surface area and the size of a boundary). Before I get an inordinate number of people flooding to explain to me what those numbers mean, I’ll stress that I’m aware of what the three measurements are, and that they’re quite unrelated to the three measurements of central tendency. The medium of text is one where I cannot count on intonation or body language to convey a joke, but it sure as heck hasn’t stopped me from cracking really bad jokes about fanservice where the moment arises.

  • For a series that’s supposedly dense on fanservice, Bakuon!!‘s actually more tame than expected, and in this Terrible Anime Challenge, only a sixth of the screenshots have anything interesting in them. The remainder of them are fairly mundane in nature. Here, the motorcycle club’s members wander around their school during their culture festival. In K-On!, Houkago Tea Time’s first performance was at the school festival, and the concert was by all definitions, a smash hit. Folks will best remember it for Mio’s tripping on stage and mooning half the audience: the anime was more implicit about what happened, whereas in the manga, Mio’s shimapan is made visible for the whole world to check out.

  • Hane’s customisations add an obscene about of turn signals and wing mirrors to her bike, while Onsa and Rin both tune their bikes and outfit them with modified parts to bolster their performance. The school race starts out slowly, but intensity ramps up, and Raimu participates. Despite an impressive comeback, Raimu suffers a catastrophic incapacitation that knocks her from the race, leaving Rin to win. The audience, fellow students, begin fighting one another over the race’s outcomes, moving Hane, Onsa and Rin to tears about how people ended up caring about their bikes.

  • Of everyone, only Hijiri lacks a motorcycle license, being shy of the age of sixteen: she rides in a sidecar with Hayakawa, her butler. Hijiri’s displays of wealth is perhaps even more outrageous than Tsumugi: Hayakawa consistently calls in airlifts to replace his destroyed bikes, and Hijiri managed to convince her father’s company to develop an apparatus that reduces engine temperatures by a means not yet discovered by science when one passes over it. Here, the girls gear up for Christmas, and while tea time is not an integral part of the motorcycle club like it was for K-On!‘s light music club, its presence is another indicator of Bakuon!!‘s roots.

  • If and when I’m asked, Hijiri comes in as my second favourite character in Bakuon!!. Although quite cheerful for the most part, Hijiri has a hitherto unseen side to her personality. On her way to a motorcycle license, she encounters considerable difficulty in riding one of the bikes and proceeds to demolish try and it in a fit of rage, only to learn that the bike was still operational. Conceding, Hijiri resolves to double down and eventually earns her license.

  • While never officially a member of the motorcycle club, Rin’s interactions with Onsa and the others means she’s a member in all but name. Here, Hane delivers a Christmas gift for Rin, who’s working on Christmas eve. I mention here that I’ve deliberately chosen not to focus on the Jebus*-like character: occasionally intervening to aid Hane, his presence is otherwise quite limited, being only for the audience’s benefit. I would imagine that biker-Jebus is probably a parody of Yui’s unexpected talent of having perfect pitch.
    • *- This is a reference to The Simpsons.

  • With the new year in full swing, the logical next step is to introduce some junior students and the possibility of new recruits joining the club. To inspire other students, the motorcycle club brings out Raimu, who performs some tricks with her bike here, although Hane’s actions dissade some of the prospective students from joining. The one and same blogger who compared Bakuon!! to Azumanga Daioh, insisted on referring to Raimu as “Lime”. While well-known amongst some circles and considered to be “brilliant, insightful, inspiring and always right”, I’ve found their content to be trite and pedestrian – one’s blog posts should never be carried by one’s reputation alone. This is why all of my posts are as lengthy as they are: opinions are only worth making known if they are properly expressed and a clear effort was made to rationalise them.

  • The “always right” aspect is laughable – Azumanga Daioh and Bakuon!! are about as different as apples and oranges.  Back in Bakuon!!, the sheer ludicrousness of the motorcycle club putting on a live performance in front of the entire school and the new students is a whole new level of entertaining. Their antics amuse their fellow students and the audience, but also embarrasses one Chisame Nanako enough for her to come onto the stage to set them straight. The end result is that Chisame humiliates herself further in the process.

  • Because Bakuon!!‘s story progresses as K-On!‘s did, it is not unexpected to see Chisame join the motorcycle club. Chisame fulfils the same role as Azusa did, and the two even share the same family name. Like Azusa, Chisame has prior experience in motorcycles, as Azusa did with music. Both are frustrated that their seniors are so eccentric and laid-back, and in particular, Chisame is very sensitive about her stature, which makes it difficult for her to ride a street-worthy motorbike. Instead, she is highly talented with racing bikes and regularly dominates in competitions.

  • In appearances, Chisame is more similar to Girls und Panzer‘s Alisa – Chisame’s defining trait is the ardent belief that bikes were meant purely for racing rather than as a mode of transport, but upon joining the club, learns that bikes can be accommodated to modify all kinds of riders. She decides to go for her license alongside Hijiri, but because her instructors imagine her to be proficient with everything, she learns very little and ends up failing. Like Azusa, Chisame has a tough exterior and a sensitive interior: she bursts into tears after crashing during a test.

  • At the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks who were personally offended by the very existence of Bakuon!! and after three episodes, announced their intention to drop a series. At this point, I think it is appropriate to discuss my approach towards reviewing anime: longtime readers will be well aware of the fact that I predominantly focus on writing about the things I enjoyed, and so, if an anime is being written about at the three episode mark, then I will likely continue to write about it in some capacity. At the beginning of a given season, I pick a few shows up and watch them. If the show has promise, then I will continue to watch it, while shows that are uninspiring or dull will quietly be dropped. I’ve never believed the need to announce to the world my intention to drop a show.

  • The only case where I might announce dropping a show is if I picked up an anime with high expectations, the series delivered past episode three and did something before the end-game that caused it to be dropped. Should that happen, I will probably do it subtly in another post or on Twitter, and I will do it to prevent readers from being disappointed. While changing, Chisame notices some markings on Hijiri’s body. It turns out she’s using what is known as a GP Training Harness to help her maintain posture and the like. Somewhat unnecessary, the moment nonetheless provides audiences a good look at Hijiri, whose stats are similar to that of Hane’s. This is the last fanservice-type image of this post, and readers have my word on this, primarily because we are nearing the end of said post.

  • With May’s first post kicked off in style, this month will be seeing the release of Gundam: The Origin‘s sixth and final instalment, GochiUsa: Dear My Sister and Kimi no Koe wo Todoketai (Your Voice). I have plans to write about all of these. Back in Bakuon!!, after contact with Rin’s saliva somehow turns Onsa into a Suzuki fan, it takes a bit of alchemy to bring Onsa back to her old self. Onsa and Rin constantly spar over their choice of brand, but despite their intense vitriol, exhibit a degree of concern for one another when the chips are down. Bakuon!!‘s brand loyalty is presented in a hilariously unrealistic manner, to the point where pathogens are suggested as the cause for Rin’s love for the Suzuki line of motorbikes.

  • Chisame eventually decides to go with a Honda PCX 150 Scooter once she gets her license, allowing her to join with the others in their travels while simultaneously conforming with her beliefs that full motorbikes are not suitable for roads. I realise that there are a large number of things in Bakuon!! that I’ve not covered, including the half of an episode dedicated to taking jabs at cyclists and another half-episode where Hane dreams about a world where motorcycles never existed, but owing to certain constraints (i.e. my being too lazy to do a longer talk), these topics have been left out.

  • Overall, Bakuon!! ends up scoring a B- grade in my books. It’s certainly not bad – despite lacking a message and being somewhat unorthodox in some places, the series does manage some humour with its characters. As a result, I find that both Bakuon!!‘s staunchest and most dissatisfied viewers did not contribute any useful thoughts to the discussion: Bakuon!! is strictly a middle-of-the road anime, and that’s about it. For my next Terrible Anime Challenge post, I’m thinking of writing for Hanayamata, which some of Tango-Victor-Tango’s finest consider “K-On! done wrong”. Let’s see if that comparison holds up, and if not, it’ll be hilarious for everyone (except the individual making that remark) when I go to town on them for being wrong.

As a clear K-On! parody, the remaining question is what I thought of Bakuon!!, and to this, I answer that I found a reasonably entertaining series that did succeed in eliciting a few laughs, with the ludicrous situations that Hane and her friends end up encountering at every turn of their adventures together. While Bakuon!! is not likely to revolutionise any genres any time soon with its execution, what it does bring to the table is a bit of comedy that is quite well-done. With reasonable animation quality and solid sound (especially for the motorbikes) in conjunction with being a parody, Bakuon!! is a clear reminder that there are merits to watching an anime for three episodes before deciding whether or not the series is worth continuing with – while the first episode did not work well with me, Bakuon!! managed to draw my interest after three episodes, in being able to parody different aspects on K-On! effectively. This is a series that I recommend to the more open-minded K-On! fans; folks with no keen interest in motorbikes or K-On! will certainly do better to spend their time watching other series. With Bakuon!!‘s manga ongoing, some of the anime’s proponents have wondered if a second season and movie are possible. While there are limits to what a parody can do to keep the viewer’s attention before the humour starts becoming derivative or ineffectual, I am not adverse to watching more Bakuon!!, especially if viewers would get to see Hane washing her bike again.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Eromanga Sensei and A Simplified Journey of Discovering Happiness Anew

“Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been.” —Alan Alda

Written by Tsukasa Fushimi of OreImo notoriety, Eromanga Sensei has nothing to do with the Eromanga Basin or Eromanga in Queensland, Australia. Rather than referring to a windy plain, Eromanga Sensei follows high school student Masamune Izumi, a light novel writer whose publications are illustrated by one Eromanga Sensei. When Masamune discovers that his younger sister, Sagiri, is Eromanga Sensei, he attempts to get her to open up to the world after she became a recluse. In the process, he meets fellow light novel authors Emily Granger (better known as Elf Yamada) and Hana Umezono (referred to by her pen name, Muramasa Senju), both of which are highly successful authors who also develop feelings for Masamune. Because of its origins, Eromanga Sensei is prima facie a front for the sort of relationship story that characterised OreImo; during the course of its run, it retains a tried-and-true approach in its narrative, but as the series progressed, watching the dynamics between all of the characters made it clear that Eromanga Sensei is rather lower-key, more restrained than OreImo. Masamune himself proved to be more likeable than his counterparts in OreImo and SaeKano, primarily because his motivations for writing, however tacky they might be, touches on a rather more interesting topic that is worth discussion. Had Eromanga Sensei done away with Fushimi’s signature approach, this particular theme would’ve resulted in a story that is far more moving and meaningful than Eromanga Sensei provides – this is not to say that Eromanga Sensei was completely unenjoyable, but I would have liked to see this particular topic explored in greater detail, since Eromanga Sensei does end up being a story of recovery and rediscovery at its core.

After his mother’s death, Masamune fell into a depression. When he picked up writing, he found himself finding happiness in being able to craft worlds for others. The joy associated with making other readers smile formed a powerful motivation for him to continue, inspiring Sagiri to become more proficient in her drawing. With a nontrivial prevalence in the world, depression is a major mental health issue – an estimated 350 million people have depression, and contemporary awareness programs have aimed to push non-clinical approaches as means of helping people recover. Social support and rediscovery are amongst two of the solutions recommended; Eromanga Sensei presents a success story in Masamune’s case. Inspired by Sagiri’s enjoyment of his work, Masamune writes to continue making his readers happy, and in doing so, he was able to accept his mother’s passing. After Sagiri joins the Izumi family, her mother dies of an unknown cause, sending her into a depression that sees her withdrawing from the world. When Masamune realises Sagiri finds happiness in drawing, his own experiences lead him to try and help Sagiri recover and open up. This takes the form of a light novel project that ends up being quite successful, and by Eromanga Sensei‘s end, Sagiri begins to show signs of improvement. Eromanga Sensei thus illustrates that social support and the rediscovery of doing something that one loves can have a positive impact on those suffering from depression – this is naturally more complex in reality, and Eromanga Sensei is only a superficial abstraction of what recovery could look like.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Why I watched OreImo some years ago eludes me, and if I had to hazard a guess, I would suppose that I was curious to see what all of the commotion about the series was. I provided no definitive verdict on whether I would recommend the series. If I go off of my recollections alone, I would count it as a neutral series, just like Eromanga Sensei, in that it is entertaining enough, but offers no satisfactory outcome for viewers. In Eromanga Sensei, my favourite characters are, curiously enough, none of the leads: Tomoe Takasago is one of them.

  • At the start of Eromanga Sensei, Sagiri is withdrawn, shy and unable to hold a conversation face-to-face, resorting to alternate means of communication in order to speak with Masamune. It is when Masamune notices how joyful Sagiri is while drawing that he makes a serious effort to try and get her to open up to those around her, and slowly but surely, a change is observed as Eromanga Sensei progresses.

  • Without its other characters, Eromanga Sensei would not have enough content for twelve episodes, and so, the likes of Emily “Elf Yamada” Granger grace the show. The classical ojou-sama, Emily is a fellow light novel writer and is quite well-known. She clashes frequently with Masamune, but as they spend more time working on novels, Emily begins to develop feelings for Masamune.

  • One of Sagiri’s classmates, Megumi Jinno, brings her entire class out to the Izumi residence with the aim of bringing Sagiri back to school, but Masamune drives them off. A former model, Megumi’s a bit mischievous and enjoys messing with Masamune; it turns out that she’s big on being with others and creating a joyous atmosphere, and so, while she feigns interest in Masamune, her main goal is to bring Sagiri back to school.

  • Quiet, bashful and somewhat resembling GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu in nature, save a perverse interest in drawing cartoonised female anatomy and a tendency to beat Masamune with very specific objects, Sagiri is much more likeable as a character against the likes of Kirino Kousaka. To Sagiri, Masamune is the reliable older sibling who tirelessly looks after her, over time, longing to help her face the world once again. His determination to help her is what drives his motivation to write light novels, and while he expresses a romantic interest in Sagiri, he constantly strives to be a supportive older sibling first and foremost.

  • In order to help her know Sagiri better, Masamune suggests to Megumi that she read some light novels and better understand the sort of world that Sagiri illustrates. When arriving at the bookstore that Tomoe works at, Megumi inadverdently offends Tomoe, calling them “creepy otaku novels” and seeks revenge by giving her recommendations for series that are still in progress. By my admission, I am not big on light novels – their English counterparts, even when given professional translations, sometimes lose something in the process, and as a result, I feel as though I’m missing something.

  • While Megumi is not one of the female leads, I rather liked her inclusion in Eromanga Sensei. She’s present to support Sagiri, and also has a few interesting moments in the anime. Her reasons for wanting to befriend Sagiri are not shown in the anime, but one assumes that she’s going for a perfect run – having befriended everyone she’s run into, it seems that Megumi considers it a personal challenge to try and become familiar with everyone in her year. As such, she views Sagiri as a particularly worthwhile bit of conquest, hence her trying to understand Sagiri’s worldview better. The end result is that Tomoe gets her revenge: after finishing the novels, Megumi is left wanting more.

  • Sagiri agrees to meet with Megumi to use her as a model, in exchange for lending her some light novels, and in the events following, Sagiri pulls down Megumi’s pantsu. To show the moment would likely cause my blog to be de-indexed, so I’m not going to do that. Readers then pose the question: if I do not like light novels, then what do I read? I am big on J.R.R. Tolkein and Tom Clancy for fiction, and have since continued reading Mark Greany’s continuation of the Jack Ryan Jr. universe. Outside of fiction, I read books that deal with evolution, cosmology and the like – while I’m not a technical expert on those things, I do like exploring topics that are outside of my speciality.

  • Masamune runs into difficulty securing a publisher for his project with Sagiri, despite having worked tirelessly to complete the manuscript. Emily decides to help him out, and goes on a “date” with him that frustrates Sagiri. From an external perspective, Emily seems to be the best match for Masamune to a much greater extent than Sagiri.

  • Masamune learns that there will be a competition held, in which the winning entry will be published. This addresses the challenge that Masamune is facing, but when it turns out that his competition is none other than one Hana Umezono, a veritable juggernaut whose got more sales than Emily and Masamune combined. She vows to crush him in competition, but later loses on the basis that she was over the word count. Writing concisely was somewhat of a challenge for me during my time as a student, and I still recall struggling to get an eight page paper down to four pages for my first-ever conference publication.

  • As it turns out, Hana became a light novel writer, emulating Masamune’s style because she was greatly moved by one of his works and became disappointed that his genres changed. She thus hoped to destroy him in competition so that he might give up his own path and help her write novels she enjoyed, citing the rush of inspiring readers as the reason why she took to writing. However, Masamune is resolute on bringing happiness into Sagiri’s life and so, remains steadfast in his own goals.

  • I’ve chosen to refer to everyone by their real names rather than pen names for two reasons: the first is that this is simply how I do things, and second, “Masamune” and “Muramasa” are very similar that it took me a few episodes to get used to things.

  • In the aftermath of the competition, the authors celebrate together before setting out to watch the fireworks, leaving Masamune to watch the fireworks with Sagiri. The conflict in Eromanga Sensei is rudimentary at best and lacks the same divisiveness that OreImo brought to the table, and as a result, reception to Eromanga Sensei around the English-speaking community is mixed. More favourable reviews found the series a modestly engaging one, although not without its flaws, while folks who did not enjoy the series cite it as being predictable and a rehash of OreImo. In a rare case, I agree with both camps.

  • On the whole, I did not find watching Eromanga Sensei to be a complete waste of time, partially because we get to see moments such as an embarrassed Hana in a swimsuit ill-suited for swimming and primarily because of the fact that Eromanga Sensei could’ve explored a completely new direction beyond the tired imouto setup. I did not watch this anime when it aired owing to a lack of interest, and it was a Battlefield 1 emblem that led me to wonder what this anime was like.

  • Emily’s confession to Masamune was an enjoyable one to watch: it speaks volumes to what she thinks of him when she brings him to the same spot where her father proposed to her mother. One of Fushimi’s most prominent approaches within his narratives is to drive things in such a way so that all of the central female leads develop feelings for the male lead, but the male lead only has eyes for the imouto archetype. This approach means that folks who would see Masamune ending up with anyone else will be disappointed. I’ve heard that some folks from Japan were sufficiently dissatisfied about OreImo‘s outcomes that they issued threats to Fushimi subsequently paid a high price for their overreaction.

  • If I did not enjoy Eromanga Sensei to the same extent as I did for shows I do enjoy, one wonders, what kept me continuing even when my ordinary modus operandi is to not write about shows I don’t like? The answer lies in the thematic elements that I managed to distill from my watch of the show, which is the point of the Terrible Anime Challenges – if I can find even a semblance of a coherent theme in a show that prima facie has little purpose, then I will write about it. Anne Happy was something that tried to tell a story and only succeeded partially, while Sansha San’yō ended up being quite enjoyable. Terrible Anime Challenge posts thus can end with one of three conclusions:
    1. The show exceeded my expectations and had a theme worth telling, or
    2. The show failed to distinguish itself and be worthwhile, but also had a theme that was at least serviceable, or
    3. The show was not enjoyable and did not attempt to have a coherent message

  • Eromanga Sensei joins the likes of Anne Happy in being in the second group. For my next Terrible Anime Challenge, I’ve got Bakuon!! lined up. As well, I will also go through Hanayamata and Stella no Mahou: all of these are shows that I watched one episode of, lost interest and did not continue watching with their respective series’ progression. The Terrible Anime Challenge series has given me incentive to go back and revisit these anime, and one of the more fun aspects about Terrible Anime Challenge is that I can take a look at other opinions out there for a given show, see how closely they align with mine and then, if they do not, I may proceed to shred them purely for entertainment value.

  • OreImo‘s Kyousuke, Kirino, Ruri and Saori make an appearance towards the end of Eromanga Sensei after Masamune’s novel comes out. This was a particularly fun moment, to watch the OreImo crew return to this blog after nearly five years – my old OreImo posts are somewhat maligned by folks who felt my stance on the conclusion was unwarranted. I was enjoying things throughout OreImo‘s first season and second season until the true end aired, after which things became a little difficult to accept. A few readers thought this was an “immature” response and proceeded to spam my comments section with long-winded arguments about my various and numerous shortcomings as a person, et cetera.

  • For its shortcomings, Eromanga Sensei is technically passable with respect to animation and sound quality. There’s a context behind this screenshot that will take a bit of explanation to reach, so I’ll leave readers to enjoy another moment of Hana in an interesting situation while I recount what happened to those errant commenters. I ended up wiping their comments, since they were contributing little to the discussion. I usually leave comments up regardless of whether or not they disagree with me, and there’ve only been one other instance where I deleted a comment for ad hominem attacks.

  • The final episode involves Sagiri’s attempts to draw real Eromanga (sorry, folks of Eromanga, Queensland!), and ends up with Sagiri totally botching male anatomy, leading her and Emily to try and use Masamune as a model to learn what a gizmo looks like in reality. Eromanga Sensei merits a C+ in my books, and with this done, my third Terrible Anime Challenge post to a close, and regular programming resumes soon: I will be looking at both Amanchu! Advance and Comic Girls after three episodes have passed. As well, for readers who’ve played Valkyria Chronicies, I’ve also got a talk on my experiences with the campaign-driven DLCs, now that I’ve gotten off my rear and finally went through them.

Overall, because Eromanga Sensei attempted to take a different approach than did OreImo while retaining some familiar elements, opportunity to explore its themes of recovery further is eschewed in favour of more conventional jokes, self-referential humour pertaining to the light novel industry and free anatomy lessons. These elements are to be expected: from the glass-half-full perspective, we can say that Eromanga Sensei provides a story that is a bit more meaningful than that of OreImo‘s – there’s a reason that Masamune enjoys writing and why he directs considerable effort towards helping Sagiri open up once more. Beyond this, I am largely neutral about Eromanga Sensei – folks who are looking for something more meaningful in their anime beyond what Eromanga Sensei intrinsically offers would do better to look elsewhere, and those who are looking for something similar to OreImo might find Eromanga Sensei worthwhile. In fact, I might go so far as to consider Eromanga Sensei and OreImo to be the difference between Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in that both are separated only by minute differences, with one having a slightly stronger theme than the other. While it does step in a different direction and features a protagonist whose existence does not irritate audiences, Eromanga Sensei continues to inherit the same traits as its predecessors. Beyond this, Eromanga Sensei offers little that make it particularly standout. Having said this, one thing is certain, though: folks who enjoyed the show will have enjoyed for their own reasons, and this is perfectly okay.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Sansha San’yō and The Making of Magic From The Ordinary

“Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.” –Francis Bacon

Yōko Nishikawa hails from a once well-to-do family whose fortunes fell when her father’s businesses succumbed to bankruptcy, leading her to live a frugal lifestyle. While eating lunch on her own, she encounters Futaba Odagiri and Teru Hayama, two of her classmates: Futaba has become lost while trying a shortcut, and Teru was pursuing a cat. This happenstance meeting allow the three individuals, unrelated in all manners save their sharing the kanji for ‘leaf’ in their names, to become friends, and over the course of Sansha San’yō (Three Leaves, Three Colours, or Tripartide Trefoil), Yōko, Futaba and Teru share in many misadventures with one another. From the rivalry between Teru and Serina Nishiyama, to the various antics of Yōko’s former staff (such as Sonobe Shino and Mitsugu Yamaji), the main cast’s interactions with an array of secondary characters to give the Sansha San’yō world a more colourful, lively feel; as the seasons pass by, Yōko comes to deeply appreciate her friendship with Teru and Futaba, accepting their eccentricities as she shares with them everyday life at school, working at a confectionary shop that Sonobe owns, relaxing during the summer and taking in the festivities of the Christmas season. Conveying the notion that friendships transcend creed and socio-economic status, Sansha San’yō‘s unusual set of characters come together to create a surprisingly enjoyable and amusing story that entertains audiences by creating the ridiculous out of the ordinary.

When placed with the likes of Flying Witch, Hai-Furi and Kuromukuro, the Spring 2016 season proved to be a very busy one, compounded by the fact that I was gearing up to finish my graduate thesis and attend two conferences to present my research. Anime like Anne Happy and Sansha San’yō, which prima facie look to be shows that might capture my interest, were quickly placed on the backburner. While Anne Happy proved somewhat disappointing, Sansha San’yō ended up being unexpectedly fun to watch. What is more unexpected about Sansha San’yō is the fact that its original manga run began in February 2003 – while the anime adaptation modernises the look and feel for each of the characters, the fact that Sansha San’yō dates back some fifteen years means that its brand of humour and characterisation is different than what might be seen from more modern 4-koma series. Each of Yōko, Teru and Futaba have distinct attributes that make them memorable; none of the characters conform to the archetypes that anime such as K-On! have set the groundwork for, and consequently, watching highly unique characters bounce off one another creates comedy that is refreshing to watch. The age of Sansha San’yō‘s source material makes it stand out from other 4-koma series (especially Anne Happy, which it aired alongside), and more impressively, the conversations and jokes in Sansha San’yō have withstood the test of time. Whether it be Yōko’s fall from grace and yearning to return to her old life, Futaba’s insatiable love for food or Teru’s haraguroi personality, the elements seen in Sansha San’yō are quite timeless and remain entertaining even after fifteen years.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As a Terrible Anime Challenge post, this talk on Sansha San’yō features twenty images, and will not go into some scenes or elements in the same detail as a conventional post. Sansha San’yō‘s opening episodes are largely set in the quiet and inviting grounds of the school that Yōko attends, where her budget forces her to subsist on bread crusts as a lunch. A happenstance meeting allows Yōko to meet Futaba and Teru. While the source manga far predates the likes of Locodol, I cannot help but notice that Futaba and Teru are similar to Locodol‘s Nanako and Yukari in terms of appearance. Their personalities, however, are anything but. Yōko herself seems to have formed the basis for Anne Happy‘s Ruri, as well as GochiUsa‘s Rize and Sharo.

  • The story behind my experience in Sansha San’yō is that I took a look at the first episode, was somewhat interested by the setup, and then proceeded to forget about the show because I had my hands tied with Hai-Furi‘s first episode: the unexpected turn of events, in conjunction with deliberate misinformation about this anime, made it difficult for viewers and readers to differentiate who was stating facts and who was fabricating information for brownie points. Hai-Furi‘s conclusion and two subsequent OVAs later, things have settled down considerably, leaving the way clear for me to return to Sansha San’yō.

  • A former maid of the Nishikawa family, Shino Sonobe is a bit of an amusing character whose matter-of-fact deliveries and penchance for doing outrageous things drive comedy, exasperating Yōko and her friends to no end. However, she does end up offering Yōko a part-time position at her bakery, and Yōko comes to enjoy both being able to have an income, as well as interact with others to better gain a sense of how ordinary people might live.

  • One aspect that Sansha San’yō nails in its delivery is the fact that the characters, while each with their own unique features, are never overshadowed by them. Yōko might be from a wealthy background and retains her mannerisms, but is approachable and friendly. Teru might have a heart blacker than coal, but she’s only really malevolent when pushed. Futaba enjoys eating challenges, but also has the cooking skills to back up her love for food: when she surprises Teru and Yōko with this revelation, she also explains that it’d be bad news bears if she only knew how to eat, and here, helps Yōko cook Kobe beef, creating with the others a fantastic memory.

  • Serina Nishimiya is Futaba and Teru’s classmates, and engages in fierce competition for supremacy in all things academic with Teru. In spite of her efforts, she ends up on the losing side.Despite the feelings of animosity between Serina and Teru being mutual, the two share a love of small animals. Her dislike for Teru is exploited by Shino, who coerces her into working at her bakery, and in time, she and her friend, Asako Kondō, spend more time with Yōko and the others, even if they do not necessarily count one another as friends.

  • Without the additional premise of “misfortune” or “bad luck” driving things, Sansha San’yō is the more enjoyable of the two Manga Time Kirara Adaptations of the Spring 2016 season. Produced and animated by Doga Kobo, which worked on Yuru Yuri‘s first two seasons, both seasons of New Game! and Himōto! Umaru-chan, it is not particularly surprising that Sansha San’yō has high quality with its art and animation: the summer beach here is inviting, and the vivid blue colours do much to capture a mid-summer feel, when the days are long and suited for doing things of one’s choosing.

  • Sakura (Futaba’s cousin) and Yū Takezono square off here: the latter is from a family close to the Nishikawas, while the former has a remarkably detailed plan for life and openly makes her feelings for Yū known. They appear occasionally, but the point of this screenshot is not to highlight their interactions, which are infrequent. Instead, the point of this screenshot is so I don’t have to spend a thousand words explaining why Yōko is my favourite of the characters in Sansha San’yō.

  • Because Sansha San’yō is an older manga, elements of yuri are non-existent – it’s one more element that made the anime considerably more enjoyable. Bill Watterson elaborated in an interview that Calvin and Susie were written to have mutual crushes on one another in Calvin and Hobbes, but found that this was difficult to work in, so he eventually wrote the characters to bounce off one another instead, leading to stories that were more dynamic and entertaining. Sansha San’yō benefited from this approach, illustrating that yuri is not an end-all for slice-of-life anime.

  • The straightforwards approach of Sansha San’yō meant that this anime would’ve been quite difficult to write for had I chosen to blog about it back while it was still airing. Most period discussion on the anime dealt primarily with the interactions – character drive anime are typically quite rudimentary in their thematic elements, and the main enjoyment in watching them stems from watching stuff happen. This is why things like why Mitsugu’s providing only yogurt and puddings to Yōko is skated over in my discussions: as as systems-level kind of guy, I don’t have much patience for folks who dreg up minutiae because they feel the constant need to validate their intellect (or possibly, lack thereof).

  • In answering the above, a perfectly rational individual would surmise that either Yōko is fond of those particular products, or they’re what Mitsugu has the easiest time accessing. I remark that I’ve a disproportionate number of screenshots from the beach episode, and this is a consequence of not doing a full on review of the series. Here, Yōko speaks with Sasame Tsuji, sister of  Hajime Tsuji; she’s dissatisfied that Futaba keeps kicking her brother’s ass in food challenges, and is conflicted when she learns that Yōko happens to be friends with Futaba. Her desire for friendship wins out, and she will later spend more time with Yōko and the others as Sansha San’yō continues.

  • Time makes fools of everyone – while Teru and Serina might not admit it any more than Sasame, Yōko, Futaba and Teru’s increasing presence in their lives, and their corresponding increase in time spent together means that for all intents and purposes, a friendship of sorts begins to form. Here, Futaba gives Serina a ticket to a pet zoo so she may attend with Teru, and despite their hostilities, the two manage to run into one another at every turn, reflecting on the fact their love for kittens is mutual. Were it not for Serina’s attempts in goading Teru past the point of endurance, things might’ve gone smoothly; both characters exhibit flaws that preclude a cordial relationship with one another.

  • It’s rare to see Adam Richman’s equal in anime: Futaba’s appetite and enjoyment of food challenges is second to none, and she’s never seen suffering from the food walls that Adam Richman hits in Man v. Food where quantity challenges are involved. However, excessively spicy food will best her, whereas Richman is actually quite strong in all of his showings against spicy foods: save one challenge in Saratosa against the “Fire-in-your-Hole” wings, Richman has conquered every other challenge. After Futaba gets burned by ultra-hot curry, she realises that dialed back, the curry would be perfect for a culture festival event.

  • As Sansha San’yō wears on, I became acclimatized to the antics of Teru and Futaba. Initially, it was a bit unusual to see Yukari and Nanako look-alikes in this anime, but in time, I grew to greatly enjoy Sansha San’yō – this is the motivation for the page quote. I was motivated to pick up the anime again on a recommendation from one of my readers, and I’m happy to say that the further I got into the anime, the more I liked what I was seeing. I’m all smiles when watching Sansha San’yō, so a warm thank you to DerekL of Apprentice Mages for getting me back into this one is on order.

  • Futaba is often referred to as the Human Black Hole, and it is her suggestion that her class does a curry café. On the topic of black holes, renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of seventy six, coinciding with the birth date of Albert Einstein. His work on black holes was revolutionary, and he was one of the first to suppose that general relativity and quantum theory were connected in some way. I have Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell; both are fantastic and informative works that explain immensely complex topics in an approachable manner.

  • Christmas in Japan is quite different than what folks from North America and Europe would be accustomed to. Rather than emphasis on family and generosity, Christmas in Japan emphasises couples. Anime typically depicts it as a time of year when friends gather to share a meal together: the bucket of fried chicken on the table, and Futaba’s insistence on having fried chicken at Christmas is a callout to the fact that fried chicken, especially Kentucky Fried Chicken, is an immensely popular Christmas dinner in Japan. With its origins in a 1974 marketing campaign, it codified a Christmas tradition for everyone that has endured into the present.

  • In the eternal struggle between Serina and Teru, Teru always comes out on top. Their friends can only watch in amusement as things go down, and here, Serina is blown away by the fact that Teru’s birthday is on Christmas, feeling offended that celebrating Christmas is to implicitly celebrate Teru’s birthday, as well. As icing on the cake, Locodol‘s Yukari, whom I noted to share some similarities with Teru in appearance, also has a Christmas birthday, as well. I am positive that this bit of information did not cross my mind during my initial watching of Sansha San’yō.

  • While the snowfall is used purely for comedy’s sake in Sansha San’yō, there is nothing remotely amusing about the snow that has fallen in my area: with 43.3 cm of snow falling in the past month, we’ve broken a record of sorts, and after shovelling the snow, we’ve got piles of snow on the lawn deep enough for me to pull off what Shino’s got going here. One aspect of Sansha San’yō that I’ve got no screenshots of, but loved seeing, was Teru exploding in anger after Futaba visits her house and shouts out, inviting Teru out to chill, rather than using the doorbell.

  • A lot of sources translate the title 三者三葉 literally as “Three-person trefoil”, after the L. corniculatus, a flowering plant with a distinct three-leafed flower, but looking at the title more closely, “Three people, three leaves” is the better direct translation. In English, Sansha San’yō is known as “Three Leaves, Three Colours”, evidently after the fact that there are three main characters with the kanji 葉 in their name and that each of the girls has distinct personalities and traits, hence the colours. This is the best translation possible.

  • Discussions of Sansha San’yō have remained quite limited and concise: this is unsurprising, considering that from a big-picture perspective, the anime follows a tried and true convention presenting a story about friendship. Most of the anime’s joys come from, as Bill Watterson put it, watching the characters bounce off one another, and I personally find that it’s more than okay to enjoy shows such as these, even when not much conversation can be had about events within the aforementioned shows. To put things in perspective, discussions on Sansha San’yō at Tango-Victor-Tango, a place known for folks that count episode summaries as analysis and where people attempt to turn minor details into something of academic significance, stopped at episode eight.

  • The finale of Sansha San’yō has Shino recounting a vivid dream to Yōko and the others, before Yōko learns that her father has found new employment. While things begin turning around, Yōko laments that she has not changed too dramatically since meeting Teru and Futaba, but her friends disagree, feeling that the Yōko now is more sociable and connected with those around her, no longer encountering difficulties in conversing with people of a different background than herself. Because my upcoming posts for the second half of March should be well-known (or at least, easy to infer), I’ll wrap up this talk by noting that Sansha San’yō exceeded my expectations and earns a well-deserved A (9.0 of 10).

Unlike Anne Happy, which I would not recommend to viewers, my verdict on Sansha San’yō is quite different: this one is worth watching for the fact that the characters are distinct both within the context of Sansha San’yō, as well as when compared against newer 4-koma adaptations. While being quite conventional as far as thematic elements go, the main draw in Sansha San’yō are the characters and each of their unique personalities – unlike any modern archetypes, they are quite novel, setting Sansha San’yō apart from similar anime. From a technical perspective, Sansha San’yō is also respectable; with satisfactory animation, artwork and sound, it is nice to see an older manga given a modernised adaptation. While enjoyable for what it is, one lingering question is whether or not we could see more Sansha San’yō in the future: there is plenty of material to adapt, as the manga is still running, so a continuation’s viability will depend on sales of home releases and the studio’s interest. While nothing official has been announced yet, it appears that general interest in the series (Japanese viewers warmly received Sansha San’yō) and the animator’s response to this reception means that a sequel should not be ruled out. If such a continuation, either in the form of a second season or OVA, is to be reality, I would likely watch it, so in conjunction with everything else I’ve mentioned in this Terrible Anime Challenge, I would conclude that Sansha San’yō most certainly is not a terrible anime by any definition, only being granted this misnomer on account of the fact that I had a bit of difficulty getting into things when it first began airing back in the spring of 2016.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Anne Happy, Unhappy♪- Perspectives on What Constitutes as Luck, and Dispelling Notions of Anne Happy Being Pity or Discrimination Moé

“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Centred around Ruri Hibarigaoka, who constantly finds herself entangled in the woes of others, Anne Happy (known alternatively as Unhappy♪) deals with her everyday life after she is enrolled at the prestigious Tennomifune Academy’s “Happiness Class”, where she spends her days with the eternally hapless but equally optimistic Anne Hanakoizumi, the frail and pessimistic Botan Kumegawa, the directionally-challenged Hibiki Hagyū and Ren Ekoda, who has the misfortune of attracting female animals to her in the most inopportune of moments. Through instructor Kodaira’s lessons, the girls learn to try and overcome their misfortunes, discovering along the way that friendship seems to be the greatest countermeasure against bad luck. As the girls spend more time with one another, ill events become flipped around as Ruri and the others slowly begin figuring out how to make the most of a moment; whether it be a “punishment” assignment leading the girls to a wonderful day searching for a flower, the series of mishaps that lead the girls to the school rooftop for a better view of the fireworks than expected, or their failure to complete an event resulting in a warm soak in the onsen followed by a calm evening camping under the stars, Anne Happy consistently drives home the point that the gap between misfortune and the best of luck can sometimes be separated by one’s point of view. Anne is the embodiment of this particular way of thought: no amount of disaster seems to faze her, and the sum of her outlook on things, in conjunction with time spent with her newfound friends, conveys this idea to those around her.

At least, this is ostensibly what Anne Happy deals with in its thematic elements: other members of the anime community, the so-called “Manga Time Kirara experts”, have supposed that Anne Happy would devolve into a much darker, grim setting where misfortune would be represented in the absense of the easygoing approach expected for anime of Anne Happy‘s design. In this supposition, Anne Happy would follow Anne, Ruri and the others as their mental health declined, which of course, is no laughing matter. Mental health is a serious issue; proper care and treatment involves individuals with formal training in psychology, medicine or psychiatry. The topic certainly should not be left to the armchair experts who contend that they’re both right in making the claim that Anne and the others are “mental ward patients”, as well as in dismissing remarks from others that their claim was, in fact, tasteless. Fortunately, when Anne Happy is watched to its conclusion, it is the case that this gloomy, dark outcome never materialises for Ruri and her friends: the anime deals entirely with the misadventures the girls find themselves entangled in, and how their experiences allow them to turn things around and view things in a different light to create a pleasant memory out of what initially seemed to be unlucky. Simply put, Anne Happy is definitely not discrimination moé, nor is it pity moé (whatever that means) – it’s a bit of a more slapstick outlook on how changing one’s point of view is central to besting bad luck.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this post is the first of its kind, I will spend some time explaining what the “Terrible Anime Challenge” is. Inspired by Matimi0’s “Terrible Weapon Challenge”, where he runs with lower-performing weapons or impair weapons with bad attachments or setups to see if they can be made to work effectively in various Battlefield games. From using buckshot rounds for the M320 to using the Uzi with a high-powered scope on single fire in Battlefield: Hardline, this video series was hilarious, and it was superbly entertaining to see just how well some set-ups worked.

  • Thus, the “Terrible Anime Challenge” is a series of blog posts where I’m going to go through a slice-of-life anime that I skipped, and see if I can find some sort of enjoyment from watching it, as well as to see if I can figure out what messages or themes are present in the show. Anime done for the Terrible Anime Challenge are not necessarily bad, but are those that initially did not catch my interest. Besides working out whether or not my initial impressions of an anime were fair, I will also discuss whether or not prevailing thoughts on the anime were appropriate. For Anne Happy, I received some requests to take another look; the individual requesting this post informed me that some people came in with the expectation that the show would illustrate “who among [Anne Happy‘s] little bags of dysfunction will crack FIRST?”.

  • Thus, I decided to look through the impressions I was linked to of Anne Happy from start to finish, and figured that it was time I finally got my controversial “Terrible Anime Challenge” series off the ground. This is the first close-up of three of the five main characters: from left to right, we’ve got Ruri, Anne and Botan. Ruri is the most normal-seeming of the three, but finds herself drawn into ill situations. Botan has low self-esteem and has osteogenesis imperfecta of varying severity: the bones in her hand shatter with a normal handshake, and her teeth crack from eating ordinary foodstuffs, but she has a high ability to treat herself, negating this damage. On the other hand, Anne is downright stricken with all sorts of trouble, falling into open manholes and sees frequent animal attacks.

  • In spite of all this, Anne seems deliberately accepting of her circumstances and resolves to make the most of everything, finding a way to turn negatives into positives at every turn. Finding a theme in Anne Happy was a relatively straightforward endeavour: the point is iterated through in each and every episode. Here, the girls spend time together on an assignment to find a flower in a garden and learn that where their treasures, their hearts are there as well.

  • In its essence, Anne Happy really is about the sorts of misadventures that Ruri and the others find themselves on as as result of their friendship with Anne. Her Japanese name, 花小泉 杏, is romanised as properly “Hanakoizumi An”, but some folks have been quite hung over by the fact that the translations consistently present her name as “Anne”.  Done purely for convenience and to facilitate a pun anime’s subtitle of “unhappy”, there’s not much to be gained from trying to figure out how Anne’s name impacts the anime’s theme.

  • The wacky misadventures Ruri and the others find themselves embarking in are a part of her high school’s “Happiness Class”, which is aimed at helping the so-called unfortunate students. While Anne Happy suggests that the class itself does nothing to change the students’ propensity towards ill-luck, but rather, helps them consider other ways of approaching their situations to make the most of things. In general, the uncommon setup in Anne Happy is obviously indicative of a show whose outrageous situations are intended purely for comedy, so it is quite baffling that folks elsewhere, most notably at Tango-Victor-Tango, took to nitpicking and tried to rationalise certain aspects of Anne Happy for the sake of, for the lack of a more eloquent term, sounding smarter than they are.

  • Among one noteworthy gripes from one individual include how Botan shouldn’t be able to faint from bleeding gums (which done for humour’s sake) or how Anne’s misfortune should be considered similar to Huntington’s Disease. Insensitive, tasteless and irrelevant to the discussion at hand, the individual claiming this intended to showcase their medical knowledge. This is the same individual who attempted to demonstrate that they have substantial knowledge of the C++ compiler and unit testing methodologies back when New Game!! was airing. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with drawing on various topics to drive anime discussion (that’s what I do here), I do take exception when individuals present themselves as authoritative on disciplines and act in a manner to intimidate others into accepting their claims as the truth even when it is erroneous or misleading.

  • Back in Anne Happy, Hibike and Ren are introduced. Hibiki’s plagued with an ill sense of direction, while Ren unintentionally draws mammals of all species towards her. Right from the start, Hibike takes exception to Ruri and finds herself being reigned back by Ren. Hibike gradually becomes more accepting of the friendship that Anne and the others extend her, and over time, while still competing with Ruri, is content to work with the others on their shared quest to find happiness. Here, Hibike shows off some art she’s created.

  • There are numerous points of incredulity in Anne Happy that do make the show amusing, far more than the suffering that the characters go through: fantastical structures and constructs, such as a vast casino underneath the school, a fully-immersive VR environment, and a remotely-controlled robot capable of operating what is Anne Happy‘s equivalent of the Gundam Dendrobium’s “Orchis” system. These constructs serve to drive up the over-the-top scenarios that Ruri and her friends find themselves in: here, Ruri deflects an attack during a VR exam that leads the girls to ultimately engage their instructor and fail the exam, although feeling that the girls have learned satisfactorily what the Happiness Class seeks to teach, she allows them to enter their summer break with no remedial lessons.

  • Ruri’s main form of misfortune is being hauled into situations against her will; despite having managed to improvise during their home economics class, Ruri accidentally spills a shake into their other contents, leading Saginomiya, the other instructor, to remark that the Happiness Class is unnecessary. A quick glance at high school curricula indicates that the mere notion of a Happiness class is unlikely to ever be feasible, offering its students no practical value in society, and the very presence of such a class in Anne Happy is met with some resistance, indicating that Anne Happy might also be a parody of supernatural or science fiction anime set in high schools – in such anime, entire institutions are dedicated to unusual or uncommon disciplines that do not offer youth any marketable skills upon convocation (e.g. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei or Infinite Stratos).

  • When a thunderstorm appears out of the blue, threatening to subject the students to Mace Windu’s fate at Darth Sidious’ hands in Revenge of the Sith, Botan and Ruri stay behind to help save Anne, who found herself stuck in the pool. Their devotion to friendship demonstrates to Saginomiya remarking that there might be some merit to the Happiness Class’ existence. The logistics behind how the Happiness Class might work in reality is evidently irrelevant to the thematic elements that I’ve drawn from the anime, and I hold that folks will gain the most enjoyment from the show by looking at things at face value.

  • Anne Happy marks one of the quickest I’d ever finished a series: the reason why I did not watch the anime back during its airing or write about it was two-fold: the first is that the premise was unremarkable, and when I watched the first three episodes, I did not find the humour quite to my liking. Coupled with the fact I was doing episodic reviews of Hai-Furi at the time, there simply was not the time to watch this anime, figure out what I could enjoy about it and then capture that in a blog post.

  • As summer vacation comes into full swing, Ruri and the others enjoy the standard-issue of summer activities, from relaxing on the beach and swimming to exploring a summer festival and watching fireworks together. By this point in Anne Happy, Hibike and Ren have joined Ruri, Anne and Botan in their everyday activities: misfortune has brought them together, but aside from what can be considered as inconveniences, the girls’ fateful meeting is a positive one that allows them to share in happiness.

  • If and when I’m asked, Ruri is my favourite of the characters in Anne Happy. She resembles GochiUsa‘s Rize Tedeza and Sansha Sanyou‘s Yōko Nishikawa in appearances, being the more level-headed of the group. Her caring attitude, plus comedic attraction to the construction sign and one additional factor, leads to this decision. While she and Hibike (who reminds me of YuruYuri‘s Sakurako) race under water, both get knocked out. Hibiki is later resuscitated by Ren. Hibiki is flustered, although I never found Hibike’s feelings for Ren worthy of discussion.

  • The colours and sounds that anime present summer festivals in does much to bring them to life: Anne Happy chooses a set of warmer colours that dominate the palette to create a joyous environment for each festival. Different anime go about portraying summer festivals differently with respect to the choice of colours, from the more subdued colours of the summer festival in Yosuga no Sora to the yellow-golds of the one seen in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, and the orange lighting of the festival seen in Yoshino’s hometown of Sakura Quest, I imagine that the selection of hues is probably more of an artistic choice: the more intense the colours, the more relevant it is to the narrative, drawing the audiences’ attention towards the festivities as much as the characters.

  • The summer festival demonstrates the notion that “bad luck” can transmute into a pleasant memory: after the girls are separated from one another after they attempt to return to the rally point, they regroup after being chased through the school hallways, ending up on the rooftop. Here, they are afforded with a spectacular fireworks show, and while unexpected, everyone enjoys it immensely.

  • In addition to the reasons provided earlier, this is another reason why Ruri is my favourite character. The final two episodes of Anne Happy deal with Ruri, Anne and the others as they attempt to survive an outdoors school activity. They finish in the basement, which entails the punishment of being made to sleep outside and find their own food. In the process, the girls nearly kicking the bucket when the ground caves in around them, but as it turns out, the collapse also reveals a hot springs below.

  • With their familiarity in improvisation, Hibike, Ren, Anne, Botan and Ruri use their misfortune to turn things around in their favour, allowing them to catch fish and set up camp outside. A quick glance at old conversations show that viewers of this anime ended up wondering what the whole point of Anne Happy was, wondering if their instructor was “forcing suffering on her students to somehow drain them of bad karma so they won’t be as unlucky in the future”. The themes presented in this post answer this question: the answer is no, the point of the Happiness Class is to teach the students how to improvise and adapt so ill fortune is turned around and how from a certain point of view, some forms of misfortune can be seen as good fortune, lending itself to the page quote.

  • Suffering together has brought each of Anne, Ruri, Botan, Hibiki and Ren together in ways they did not expect. This brings my post very nearly to its end, and in the penultimate figure caption, I will address one more elephant in the room. The misunderstanding from above arose because of an insistence on terminology: 不幸 (fukō, approximating to “unhappiness” or “misfortune”) describes Ruri and the others’ status in the original manga, but because some translations give their circumstances as ‘karma’, this led to folks assuming that the girls’ circumstances were the consequence of causality.

  • Anne Happy is a C on my grading scale: certainly not something I would recommend, but not quite bottom of the barrel, either. I conclude that Anne Happy is a show that I probably didn’t miss out too much on if I did choose to skip it, but having watched it, it does have its moments. That’s pretty much it for this Terrible Anime Challenge, and upcoming, at some point in the future, will be a talk on Sansha Sanyou, which I similarly skipped over because the scheduling conflict and how I initially found it difficult to watch the show as the summer rolled in because of my schedule. Terrible Anime Challenge posts will be published as I find the time to do them, and recommendations are accepted, provided that they are for slice-of-life anime. Other shows I’ve considered doing Terrible Anime Challenges for include Isshuukan Friends and Koufuku Graffiti.

Overall, while Anne Happy does not have a particularly novel message, and humour is derived from moments where audiences wince as the characters are made to suffer, the overall execution means that Anne Happy isn’t entirely a waste of time, and there are a few moments here and there that are genuinely heartfelt in nature. However, Anne Happy is something I would not recommend to viewers: even if many of the events happen for comedy’s sake, most of it becomes difficult to accept. I’ve generally not been fond of shows where one character is made to suffer unnecessarily, so an anime whose entire premise is to stack the deck against the characters for the purpose of viewers laughing at them for a better part of the season was somewhat difficult to watch. I myself am neutral about Anne Happy: on one hand, the premise is a bit contrived, designed to create a world solely where the unfortunate can aggregate for our supposed amusement, but on the flipside, watching the girls bond as they work hard to overcome these challenges was welcoming. While the source manga is ongoing, I won’t be too bothered if Anne Happy does not get a continuation; there are numerous anime of a similar aesthetic and atmospheric that are at least as heartwarming, but without the jarring aspects of misfortune.