The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Terrible Anime Challenge

Worst Anime Challenge? Gaining New Insight In A Revisit To The World Heritage Girl At RDG: Red Data Girl’s Decennial

“A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.” –Steve Berry

When Izumiko Suzuhara, a reclusive girl with the power to channel the ancient Himegami, expresses a desire to live in the city, her parents arrange for her transfer to Hōjō Academy. Izumiko is shy and struggles to interact with others, but because of her lineage, her guardian, Yukimasa Sagura, assigns his son and yamaboshi apprentice, Miyuki, to look after her. Miyuki initially regards Izumiko coldly and only does the minimum required of him. After an incident where Izumiko’s Familiar, Wamiya, runs amok, Miyuki has a chance to see how Izumiko does indeed have talents of her own, and he subsequently agrees to transfer to Hōjō Academy with her. Here, Izumiko and Miyuki learn that amongst the student body, a complex battle is being waged as different factions covet Izumiko’s powers for their own ends. Izumiko makes fast friends with Mayura Sōda and her brother, Manatsu, but also becomes weary of the smooth-talking Ichijō Takayanagi, a top student who employs shadowy operatives in a bid to control Hōjō Academy. Along the way, Izumiko also learns more about her glasses and relationship with the Himegami, a goddess with the power to eliminate humanity. While trying to navigate life at school and her own place in the world, Izumiko becomes more confident in herself and in the process, finds enjoyment in things like school trips and culture festivals even as she becomes more aware of the Himegami and her significance. Produced by P.A. Works and airing during the 2013 Spring season, RDG: Red Data Girl is named after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species, known as the Red Data Book for brevity, and during its twelve episode run, a broad spectrum of topics are covered – RDG: Red Data Girl is a coming-of-age story that speaks to a range of topics surrounding youth and their discoveries as they are given a chance to learn their own strengths. However, despite a premise and setup that had seemed promising, RDG: Red Data Girl is also counted as one of P.A. Works’ worst productions: the series’ short run and complex world had meant that twelve episodes was too little of a time-frame to adequately explore everything, and the series had made the assumption that viewers would be familiar with elements of Japanese mythology and Shintoism. With many elements only being given a minimal explanation, the flow of events in RDG: Red Data Girl is not always clear, leaving viewers without a clear picture of what the series had intended to convey.

After the Shinto and mythological piece of RDG: Red Data Girl are abstracted away, the anime ends up being a story of growth as a result of peer support. Izumiko begins her journey extremely shy and soft-spoken; she’s quite easy to push around and lacks any sort of drive. At her original middle school, Izumiko does have a few friends in her corner, and while they do treat her kindly, Izumiko never stands up for herself. This infuriates Miyuki, but despite Izumiko’s numerous shortcomings, it is revealed that even she has a few redeeming traits: she’s an excellent dancer who feels that traditional dance is the best way to clear her mind and express herself. This aspect of her character is what drives Miyuki to stick with Izumiko, and in turn, by remaining at her side, Izumiko always has someone to count upon even as she begins exploring the web of social interactions at Hōjō Academy. As things spiral out of control during Hōjō Academy’s culture festival, Izumiko realises that Miyuki’s support is what had allowed her to get through difficult moments earlier, and that there was no need to shoulder things on her own. Similarly, despite his aloof and often callous manner, Miyuki eventually comes to understand that there is value in helping out and being wanted. Hearing Izumiko asking for his help specifically is what allows him to reunite with her during the climax of the culture festival, after she’d unconsciously tapped into the Himegami’s power and banished herself into another plane out of anger at Ichijō’s actions. Without a means of getting back, Izumiko would come to learn the importance of being able to count on one another, and it is this that helps her to push forwards in life with more conviction: it is okay to try one’s strengths and explore the unknown, as well as making mistakes along the way, so long as one can fall back on support and advice from friends. At an individual level, this is what RDG: Red Data Girl deals with – messages of support and companionship are by no means new to coming-of-age stories, and while RDG: Red Data Girl initially does appear to be about anything but, a bit of patience for the characters finds that at the end of the day, whether one is dealing with Himegami and yamaboshi or ordinary students, no individual is an island.

At a larger scale, RDG: Red Data Girl speaks to the idea that modern Japan is becoming increasingly disconnected from older values. Izumiko is said to be the last vessel for the Himegami, and when she does manifest, the Himegami indicates that the world hurtles down a path that is difficult to watch, increasing her own desire to unleash her full power and punish humanity. Shinto beliefs, in animal gods and spirits that exude every part of nature, are an integral part of Japanese culture, and for much of their history, the Japanese belief of striving to maintain harmony and balance with nature has made their existence a sustainable one. In the present, industrialisation and urbanisation erodes at the beauty of nature, as well as compelling people to move away from the countryside and into the cities as they search for opportunity. As traditions and values are forgotten, the very fabric of Japanese culture, rooted in the harmony between man and nature, slowly diminishes. By the time of RDG: Red Data Girl, Izumiko is suggested to be an endangered species because she is a representation of humanity’s connection with the older gods, and here in the context of RDG: Red Data Girl, Miyuki comes to represent the average member of society: he starts out his journey with an adamant refusal to act as Izumiko’s guard, reflecting on how people today do not demonstrate a willingness to familiarise themselves with older values and traditions. However, as Miyuki sees more of the Shinto world and events that unfold surrounding Izumiko, he comes to understand that there are things that shouldn’t be lost or forgotten. His developing feelings for Izumiko therefore acts as a metaphor for how even with all the changes in society, traditions and older values still have their merits. In this way, RDG: Red Data Girl doubles as a story about how there is value for people to learn about their own culture and heritage, allowing these elements to be preserved even as society hurtles along. As a result, even though RDG: Red Data Girl‘s limited episode count was ultimately to the story’s detriment, leaving many elements feeling quite rushed, unexplored and ambiguous, the series should still be commended for making a brave stab at conveying much more than just the elements of a coming-of-age story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • RDG: Red Data Girl piqued my interest purely because P.A. Works had produced it, and with Sayori Hanami voicing Izumiko, I had been quite curious to see what directions the anime would take. Previously, Hanami had voiced Tari Tari‘s Sawa Okita, and there were some similarities between Izumiko, Sawa and Hanasaku Iroha‘s Nako Oshimizu. P.A. Works does have a tendency give their lead characters similar traits, and this commonality, although seen as a detriment by some, does serve the purpose of providing some grounding.

  • In RDG: Red Data Girl‘s case, Izumiko is an ever shier and more reserved version of Nako, with a much more hesitant inflection in her voice. However, there is no doubting that it’s Hanami voicing Izumiko, since Hanami’s portrayal here gives the smallest hint of her style when she performed as GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain, and Yor Forger of Spy × Family. I began my journey into RDG: Red Data Girl ten years ago to this day: although the anime had begun running back in April 2013 as a part of the spring lineup, April was the month for my undergraduate defense.

  • As much as I would’ve liked to have go into vacation mode the second my defense ended, following this was three more exams (databases, software engineering and statistics), so there was no time to unwind and take it easy. By that point in time, I hadn’t been terribly worried, since I had a reasonable grasp of the material, and in this way, when exams arrived, I sat down and wrote them with a confidence that had come partly from knowing the concepts, and partly from how to take on exams as a result of having gone through the MCAT. As memory serves, databases and statistics had traditional, registrar-scheduled written exams, while software engineering was an oral exam.

  • On paper, oral exams are always tricky, especially for folks like myself, who have difficulty with public speaking. However, preparing for an oral exam is no different than preparing for the questions to a defense, and having practised the methods extensively for my thesis, I was able to pass my software engineering exam by preparing in a similar method. By that point, four years of practise with presentations meant I developed a way to prepare, and in this way, I became more proficient with public speaking. The me of a decade earlier, however, had not been sufficiently learned as to spot this, and this is one of the reasons why RDG: Red Data Girl had not initially been enjoyable for me.

  • Once my exams ended, I found myself with what had felt like unlimited leisure time. Convocation was still more than a month away, and as a bit of a celebration, my classmates in the health sciences programme wanted to put a yearbook of sorts together. I volunteered to help out with layouts: in secondary school, I was part of the Yearbook Committee and in my final year, had more or less single-handedly put the yearbook together with one more committee member after the remainder of the members dropped off. In the quiet days after exams, I turned my powerful new PC to use, and in no time at all, I assembled a yearbook that impressed my health science classmates.

  • Ten years earlier, as a gift from my parents for having reached the milestone of convocation, I got a new desktop. Armed with the i5 3570k and a GTX 660, this machine was originally designed as a budget gaming machine with enough longevity to get me through whatever lay ahead, whether it had been medical school or graduate school. Indeed, when I ended up enrolling in graduate school, that computer served me extremely well: it had enough graphics horsepower to run both Unity and Unreal Engine, which powered the biological visualisation models that I worked on. After I finished graduate school, I upgraded to a GTX 1060, and this desktop went on to serve for another seven years.

  • The story of this custom desktop will be left as an exercise for a later date, but at this point a decade earlier, I was thoroughly enjoying my new machine and, in between using it to work on the health science yearbook for the Class of 2013, I also began my journey in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and started watching RDG: Red Data Girl. I would have only been a few episodes behind at this point, and found myself catching up in no time at all. Right out of the gates, I had found the story quite confusing, especially since there were numerous references to elements from Japanese folklore and Shitoism. This negatively impacted my impressions of RDG: Red Data Girl early on, and the further addition of a student council that seemingly took itself too seriously only served to complicate things.

  • On this revisit, however, it turns out I was mistaken on both counts – once I stopped worrying about the factions as though this were a Tom Clancy novel, and decided that the Shinto elements weren’t as significant to Izumiko’s growth as her interactions with those around her, RDG: Red Data Girl ended up being more enjoyable than I remember. In particular, I became very fond of Mayura – when she wears her hair in a ponytail, she resembles Tari Tari‘s Wakana Sekai (and readers may have noticed that I have a fondness for ponytails). Even though she covets Izumiko’s power and ends up luring Izumiko and Miyuki into a trap to test the extent of the pair’s capabilities, she’s also shown to be kind and caring. As a result, it became easy to spot that RDG: Red Data Girl is plainly trying to sell viewers on the idea that Mayura is genuinely trying to be friends with Izumiko.

  • Manatsu feels like a cross between Atsuhiro and Nagi no Asakura‘s Hikari, sporting a cheerful demenour. When the moment calls for it, he can be serious, but he’s otherwise quite easygoing. On the other hand, Miyuki feels like a more foul-mouthed and mean-spirited version of Taichi. Initially, Miyuki’s unpleasant manner had made RDG: Red Data Girl difficult to watch, but revisiting the series now, I’ve come to understand that P.A. Works, especially in their coming-of-age stories, tend to use the story as a means of showing how characters change over time. In every P.A. Works series I’ve seen, once unpleasant characters have a chance to grow, viewers understand their circumstances better and no longer view them unfavourably.

  • In retrospect, I had treated RDG: Red Data Girl quite unfairly, stating that “there was no discernible theme that I could pick out”, and that “all of the factions at Hōjō High School had ulterior motives that were inadequately explored and interfered with what would otherwise be ordinary high school events”. This conclusion was made based on my recollection of RDG: Red Data Girl and had been written two years after I finished. Without a fresh set of eyes on things, I went off my memories. The end result was a highly biased perspective of things, one in which I was being being quite unfair to P.A. Works and the staff that had worked on producing RDG: Red Data Girl.

  • Occurrences like these are why I made the decision to return and give shows like RDG: Red Data Girl a proper second chance: over time, my opinions of a given show may shift as I approach them differently, and additional life experience allows me to see things that I had previously missed, allowing me to draw a conclusion that is more comprehensive and fair. Revisiting anime therefore becomes an exercise I’m fond of – the only “opponent” is myself, and looking at what I’ve said previously, versus what I’m about to say, becomes an exercise that allows me to see how things change over time.

  • In the present day, the single most important metric I typically use to gauge my enjoyment of a given coming-of-age or slice-of-life work is whether or not the story has a cohesive and clear message that results from the characters’ journey as a result of disruption. Generally speaking, if the characters gain something tangible as a result of this, then I will have found the experience to be a worthwhile one. The main exception to this rule are comedies: in things like Joshiraku or Lucky☆Star, the intention isn’t to see the characters grow or mature, and instead, the interplay between everyone creates a self-contained experience every episode. Different genres demand different approaches, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method for reviewing fiction.

  • It takes a measure of patience to get through an anime like RDG: Red Data Girl, and looking back on this particular revisit, I’m certainly glad to have done so because this time around, because armed with ten more years of life experience, I was able to notice details I missed originally. Seeing Izumiko becoming more comfortable with Mayura was probably the element that I came to appreciate the most – Mayura is quite knowledgable on the lore and possesses powers of her own, and despite her own vested interest in turning Izumiko, she genuinely treats Izumiko well and looks out for her. As a result of this, even though Mayura does arrange for people in her corner to test Izumiko and Miyuki, it’s hard to hold this against them.

  • During the first evening, the Sagura family hosts a barbeque; this is a Japanese summer tradition that typically features yakitori skewers. Barbeque is a form of cooking that’s practised all over the world – regardless of culture, all cooking originates from the art of cooking meat over a fire or smoking it, and as a result of its evolutionary origins, there is something inherently appealing about eating something that was grilled over direct heat. Japanese barbeque is characterised by the presence of more vegetables and the use of soy sauce, whereas over here in North America, dry rubs and sweet sauces are preferred.

  • Izumiko finds herself inexplicably drawn to a fruit punch, and when she begins acting out of character, the others quickly spot that she’s become intoxicated, since there’d been some alcohol in the punch. Izumiko subsequently passes out and awakens some time later. Moments like these are seemingly inconsequential, but they do hint at the changes Izumiko is undergoing: freed from her usual inhibitions, Izumiko is a little more expressive. After I got further into RDG: Red Data Girl, it became clear that Saori Hanayami does a wonderful job of voicing Izumiko’s different facets – although Izumiko might be Nako in appearance and share the same voice as Sawa, she lacks Sawa’s confident and forward manner.

  • Over time, more to Izumiko’s character is shown; and whether it be her over-indulging on the fruit punch, or expressing fear regarding the Himegami, Izumiko is a complex individual who’s defined by more than her typical timid nature. I remember Izumiko best for how RDG: Red Data Girl had initially presented her, and owing to the fact that it has been ten years since I originally watched RDG: Red Data Girl, I find myself wondering if I’d actually watched RDG: Red Data Girl all the way through back then, or if I’d rage-quit along the way. Viewers have my assurance that for this revisit, I have indeed finished RDG: Red Data Girl completely; it wouldn’t be fair to form a conclusion about anything based on incomplete evidence, after all.

  • My favourite surprise comes with Izumiko’s pouty attitude: in the presence of people she’s comfortable with, Izumiko is more expressive, and here, she speaks with Masumi. The third of the Sōda siblings, Masumi had died as a child, but his spirit endures. He occasionally is able to manifest and lends his power to Mayura and Manatsu, but on his own, Masumi admits that he’s fallen in love with Izumiko. It speaks to Izumiko’s comfort around her friends that she’s able to sass Masumi a little, revealing an unexpected side to her character and reminding viewers that even the shy Izumiko can change.

  • In the aftermath of RDG: Red Data Girl, I recall reading a heated discussion regarding whether or not anime series are obligated to have a clear, coherent narrative and themes. When one individual argued that anime must necessarily have easy-to-follow storylines, other participants in that discussion immediately jumped in and claimed that anime with seemingly-confusing storylines have often have intellectual merit and demand that viewers make an effort to figure things out for themselves, whereupon the worth of said work will become self-evident. This is, strictly speaking, untrue – if a given story is unclear, it is not because the work was especially insightful or brilliant, but rather, because critical elements were omitted or not explored in depth. I am reminded of a remark from Richard Feynman, who believed that if one could not explain a complex idea in simple terms, that individual likely did not have a deep knowledge of a given topic.

  • An author can present intellectually-stimulating ideas without obfuscating a work’s plot, and as such, it is appropriate to say that being confusing is not a necessary or sufficient condition for a work to be thought provoking. Intellectual content (e.g. philosophy, psychology and sociology) can be integrated into a work, but its presence is usually secondary – if a work doesn’t deal with things like Freud or Kant, but manages to captivate the viewer, it’s still succeeded. Conversely, if a work is confusing, the presence of more advanced concepts is irrelevant. In the case of RDG: Red Data Girl, there is no doubt that the story was confusing, and this came about as a result of the fact that viewer were dropped right into a story heavy with Shinto elements and very little in the way of explanation.

  • Throughout RDG: Red Data Girl, Izumiko is shown as being quite sheltered and lacking in knowledge. In a manner of speaking, RDG: Red Data Girl could be said to be overwhelming viewers with Shinto elements so we empathise with how Izumiko must’ve felt. From a certain point of view, this is an effective storytelling technique, since viewers are made to experience what Izumiko experiences, but at the same time, RDG: Red Data Girl also fails to provide a more intuitive explanation of the concepts. This problem could be remedied simply by giving RDG: Red Data Girl more episodes of runtime to work with, and now, looking back at things, I believe this was ultimately RDG: Red Data Girl‘s biggest shortcoming – if the series had more time to explore and explain things, the Shinto elements would’ve become easier to follow, since the story could cover precisely as much as was necessary to bring Izumiko up to speed.

  • For my part, I went about RDG: Red Data Girl this time around by abstracting out all of the Shinto elements and treating them as events the characters can respond to. By not concerning myself with specifics about how the Himegami work, or the different kinds of spells and magic available to yamaboshi, I was able to instead look at how Miyuki nad Izumiko handle the various challenges that they encounter. With this being said, some background would have been helpful: a given work cannot assume that viewers already have innate familiarity with something or expect that the viewers will look things up for themselves. In Tom Clancy’s novels, for instance, Clancy makes numerous references to government structure and details in how the hardware works, but on top of this, also goes into detail in explaining how the pieces fit together so viewers can plainly spot why something is important to his stories.

  • RDG: Red Data Girl doesn’t quite need to go to Clancy levels of detail, but it would have benefited from at least some explanation of how the magic and folklore come together. Here, Izumiko sports a look of surprise after she and Miyuki share a conversation that begins to suggest that the latter might be developing feelings for the former – Miyuki raises a valid point about how Wamiya outwardly resembles Ichijō and wonders if this is because Izumiko is drawn to guys similar to Ichijō. Even with the full serious behind me, I’m not too sure if this is significant beyond showing that Miyuki might be a little jealous, and that things between Miyuki and Izumiko have reached a point where they can talk candidly about this sort of topic.

  • By the time of Hōjō Academy’s culture festival, Izumiko and Mayura’s become integral parts of the planning committee. Knowing what I was walking into made it easier to pick things out, and this time, by paying a little more attention to the dialogue, I discerned that Mayura ended up earning the covetted seat as the Student Council President, infuriating competitor Ichijō Takayanagi. Ichijō had approached Izumiko early on with the hope of swaying her, but Izumiko gravitated towards Sayura, and in conjunction with Sayura taking the seat, Ichijō has since sought revenge. The factions within RDG: Red Data Girl only appear complex at first, but taking a step back and setting aside the Shinto elements, it’s easy to see a simple rivalry between students, albeit students with uncommon powers.

  • In this way, my old claims about multiple conflicting factions turned out to be completely incorrect – at Hōjō Academy, it’s ultimately Ichijō vs Sayura, and while both students do have access to some external resources, the pair end up fighting most of their battles on their own. I do remember being infuriated by Ichijō, whose calm demeanour contrasts the underhanded methods he resorts to. For the culture festival, Ichijō summons ancient spirits, places curses and wires up an observation balloon with the aim of disrupting things for Sayura. At first glance, Ichijō is a contemptible individual, but in the present, a shift of perspective meant the gravity of the situation isn’t quite as serious as it’d felt a decade earlier: secondary students do take their social circles seriously, as they are at the age where their identity is tied to their status, and so, one can interpret Ichijō’s actions as being motivated by insecurity, rather than anything truly malicious.

  • During the course of the culture festival, Izumiko gets roped into various events, and against Miyuki’s protests, she finds herself helping out. It is during the festival that Izumiko learns the truth about the Himegami: Izumiko is the last individual the Himegami can manifest as and is implied to be the one and the same. From what RDG: Red Data Girl communicates to viewers, the Himegami is the manifestation of an ancient force with incredible power, enough to wreck destruction at a scale that surpasses all knowledge. Such a revelation shakes Miyuki to his core, and when the Himegami appears mid-festival, she ends up sharing a bit of a private conversation with Miyuki. Again, it is important not to worry too much about the actual scope of the Himegami’s powers here.

  • The main outcome of the Himegami’s interactions with Mikyuki serves to draw out the fact that, whether he cares to admit it or not, Miyuki has come to care for Izumiko more, and further to this, the Himegami’s existence and the resulting conflict this creates for Izumiko speaks to the question of what one’s identity is defined by. Identity has always been a hotly-contested topic, since it shapes one’s perceived place in their society. Some people mistakenly define themselves based on their traits (e.g. labels) and other people’s expectations for them: I’ve heard that it’s because it helps one to feel less alone in a given society and simplifies the fact that people different to oneself can exist. I will receive flak for this, but I do not believe labels have any merit in defining an individual’s identity – one’s actions define them far more strongly than any expectations labels might create.

  • After learning the truth, Izumiko becomes doubtful about who she really is, but RDG: Red Data Girl smoothly handles this – Izumiko herself certainly doesn’t desire for the world to end, and has frequently expressed the want for a normal life. With support from Mayura and Miyuki, Izumiko does end up finding a renewed faith in what she wants. Moments like these make it clear that Ichijō never really stood a chance in converting Izumiko and served to reaffirm that viewers should place their faith in the Sōda siblings. Having a constant source of support outside of Miyuki was one of the biggest agents of growth for Izumiko, and since the Sōda siblings don’t share the same deity-protector relationship that Izumiko and Miyuki have, they are able to be a little more forward about how they feel.

  • Izumiko does end up being more confident as a result of her friendships, and for the culture festival, she has no trouble in helping out. Here, a classmate flips some of the yakisoba noodles for their class’ stall – said classmate resembles Glasslip‘s Yanagi Takayama, a girl who aspires to be a model and, of everyone in Glasslip, was given the short end of the stick as far as relationships went, even though she was the most open and friendly of the group. P.A. Works’ use of familiar characters is a recurring trend in most of their coming-of-age anime, and here, I remark that P.A. Works has produced both my most favourite anime, as well as the anime I’ve regarded the most poorly. In the case of RDG: Red Data Girl, having now gone back through and making a more serious attempt to see what this was about, I answer the post’s question: RDG: Red Data Girl is no longer the worst anime I’ve watched.

  • This leaves Glasslip as the worst anime I’ve watched. These extremes from a studio that tends to produce more hits than misses got me thinking: RDG: Red Data Girl and Glasslip could very well be P.A. Works’ way of experimenting with different ideas, and while both series were definitive misses in their execution, learnings from Glasslip and RDG: Red Data Girl would influence the execution of later successes like in The World in Colours and The Aquatope on White Sand. With this revisit of RDG: Red Data GirlGlasslip becomes the most poorly-regarded anime in my books, and with the ten-year anniversary to the latter approaching, it might not be a bad idea to see if my methods here, which render RDG: Red Data Girl a little clearer than I’d previously found it, may also help me to see Glasslip in a new light.

  • Giving Miyuki and Izumiko that second chance means that I presently understand them to a much better extent than I had ten years earlier, and so, when Miyuki breaks out laughing at how Izumiko has stuffed her signature braids into the odango style. Such a moment of levity speaks to the fact that both Izumiko and Miyuki have become quite comfortable in one another’s presence, enough to share something that is commonplace among ordinary classmates. While it’s easy to dismiss the me of a decade earlier as being unlearned and lacking the requisite life experience to discern what RDG: Red Data Girl had been aiming to convey, one of the reasons why RDG: Red Data Girl was not something I made an effort to understand was also a consequence of everything that had been going on at the time.

  • At this point in May, when RDG: Red Data Girl first began airing, I was busy both with the health science yearbook and laying down the groundwork for my summer project. Against all odds, I managed to land an offer for an NSERC USRA, which is counted as the single most prestigious undergraduate-level award a student can win: I had put forward a proposal to build a distributed biological model using my renal system and a cardiovascular system one of the developers at the lab had constructed, and now that the summer was here, it was time to realise this proposal and bring it to life. May had therefore become quite busy, and I wound up watching RDG: Red Data Girl on the side. Convocation followed in June, and by the time the finale aired, I only had the vaguest idea of what I’d finished watching – the Great Flood of 2013 had swept through the area and threw everything off.

  • With everything that went on, I didn’t have much of an inclination to watch anime, and so, RDG: Red Data Girl fell to the back of my mind. I remember leaving the series disappointed and never returned to write about it in full. Back in RDG: Red Data Girl, on the final day of the culture festival, Izumiko and Miyuki keep in touch by means of cell phones. Izumiko’s aversion to electronics had hinted at her supernatural background, and so, when she is able to use a phone, it speaks to her growth. After learning of how Miyuki had spent the previous evening with the Himegami, Izumiko becomes pouty again and shows that even she can be jealous of other women monopolising Miyuki’s time. Pouty Izumiko is surprisingly adorable, and Hanami does a very convincing job of showing this side of Izumiko.

  • Things come to a head when Ichijō pulls Izumiko aside and places her under a spell of sorts in order to compel her to join his side, but when Izumiko remembers her promise to Miyuki, she sees right through Ichijō and goes ballistic. In the chaos, she unconsciously transforms Ichijō into a dog and disappears within another plane, hoping that if she vanishes from the world, then no harm will come to it. The last act of RDG: Red Data Girl has Miyuki pushing into this barrier with the goal of bringing Izumiko back. A decade earlier, it was quite tricky to find anything insightful on RDG: Red Data Girlviewers were deeply polarised as to whether or not RDG: Red Data Girl was an incoherent mess that failed in telling a meaningful story, and proponents unconvincingly tried to argue that the show was actually simple, given that “[their] daughter, who just turned 13, watched the show when it came out and she didn’t have ANY trouble following the plot or figuring out what was going on”.

  • Between those who hated RDG: Red Data Girl, and those who enjoyed the series but struggled to articulate themselves convincingly, a more balanced outlook on things was difficult to find. Random Curiosity’s Cherrie came the closest to providing a fair assessment of this anime, stating that RDG: Red Data Girl “gears more towards a story about adolescence in a supernatural setting and dealing with your own identity”. I award this answer partial credit, since RDG: Red Data Girl is significantly more than just “dealing with your own identity” – it’s about learning to accept oneself by opening up to others. Cherrie’s conclusion is typical of blogs of the late 2000s/early 2010s. Back then, bloggers were able to identify elements in a theme, but at the same time, consistently missed the “so what” aspect: being able to point out a basic idea isn’t the same as firmly ascertaining what an author intended to say about that idea.

  • Here in RDG: Red Data Girl, the story was meant to show the importance of having people in one’s corner as one works out their identity, since the presence of different perspectives can guide people down a path of their choosing. This is how Miyuki is able to determine his path forwards regarding Izumiko, and how Izumiko herself comes to terms with her ties to the Himegami. Similarly, although only touched on, the complex dynamics amongst the Sōda siblings also becomes clarified as each sibling realises that they won’t always be there for one another, but in spite of this, they can still support one another as best as they can. This is ultimately what RDG: Red Data Girl had sought to convey, and having now revisited the series, I am glad to have done so, since I feel that I got considerably more this time around.

  • With this being said, I still won’t recommend RDG: Red Data Girl to most readers: it takes a bit of manoeuvring and patience to see what the anime was getting at, and the short runtime, coupled with frequent references to Shintoism and Japanese mythology, results in inconsistent pacing that can frustrate viewers. However, folks who do give the series a shot may yet find a story that still says something, and all of this is wrapped up in a technically superior production – the artwork, animation and soundtrack are all top-shelf, typical of something produced by P.A. Works. When everything is said and done, RDG: Red Data Girl earns a C- grade (1.7 of 4.0 on the four point scale, or 5.5 of ten points), up substantially from the F grade that I assessed the anime ten years earlier.

  • One of the factors that had tilted RDG: Red Data Girl from a curiosity into a wholly unfavourable experience can be chalked up to how the anime had coincided with a more eventful period of the summer – between convocation and the Great Flood of 2013, I was quite preoccupied and therefore, did not have as much time to sit down and focus on the anime as I was able to for this revisit. Between this and reduced life experience, I can understand why so much of RDG: Red Data Girl seemed like a fog to me at the time. Looking back, both convocation and the flood were both milestone moments of the summer a decade earlier, and while I’ve alluded to both periodically in my posts, I do believe the time has come for me to tell those stories in full here and consolidate my thoughts on those events.

  • I appreciate that these sorts of posts aren’t what readers enjoy reading, but the reason why I’m going to go ahead with these topics is because it’s helpful for me to revisit these memories in a journal format. Journaling is, incidentally, something that experts count as being an effective means of helping one to manage their mental health because it allows one to organise one’s thoughts and vent in a secure environment, free of judgement. Looking back, I never allowed myself to be honest with what had run through my mind and express how I felt during the Great Flood of 2013. One could say that, in spite of all of the things I’ve gone on to do, a part of me remains trapped in the summer of a decade ago, and with journaling being a proven way of helping one to gather their thoughts, I figured the time has come for me to do a little bit of reflection.

  • By the end of RDG: Red Data Girl, after seeing that Miyuki is going to be in her corner for better or worse, Izumiko comes to terms with her relationship with the Himegami and performs a dance that lifts the spell she’d placed on Ichijō. In the process, the barrier she raised is dispelled. Izumiko is not particularly confident in herself, but one thing she does well is dance; in understanding this about herself, Izumiko is able to move ahead and embrace the future with greater conviction. Izumiko’s mother and Yukimasa fly overhead in a helicopter, observing what goes down, and Izumiko’s mother notes, with a hint of pride in her voice, that Izumiko has passed her test.

  • With this, a journey that was ten years in the making comes to an end. I’ve long wished to give RDG: Red Data Girl a proper rewatch, and this desire only increased when, during my revisits of other anime, I found that I ended up with a more complete experience than I had previously. Having now watched RDG: Red Data Girl with an open mind, I add one more anime to the list of shows that I was wrong about: it goes without saying that my old remarks on RDG: Red Data Girl aren’t correct, and this does lead me to wonder if a revisit of Glasslip would result in something similar. This is an exercise I’ll leave for next summer – Glasslip released in 2014, and next year will mark the ten year anniversary to its release. In the meantime, I’ve finished watching Kimi wo Aishita Hitori no Boku e, and will be looking to share some thoughts on this film in the near future, as well as watching the companion film Boku ga Aishita Subete no Kimi e.

RDG: Red Data Girl‘s rushed and inconsistent pacing, coupled with numerous references to Shintoism and Japanese mythology, meant that the series had, at first glance, appeared to be significantly more complex and nuanced than it is. For instance, the factional conflict between Mayura and Ichijō’s camp at Hōjō Academy gave the impression of being deep enough to involve adults and external organisations. When RDG: Red Data Girl did not cover this, viewers would be left with impression that the world building had not been sufficiently thorough. However, the seemingly all-consuming factional conflict in RDG: Red Data Girl can be interpreted in a different manner – the series is deliberately presenting it as being a serious situation because to Mayura and Ichijō, maintaining their status is important as a part of the social hierarchy that form amongst secondary students. The shadows and uncertainty that Izumiko faces can similarly be thought of as social anxiety. By viewing a given story from a character’s perspective, one can abstract out the more complex elements to reveal a narrative that is straightforward and unambiguous. Here in RDG: Red Data Girl, the Shinto elements and seemingly-complex factions are simply metaphors. By focusing on how these metaphors impact Izumiko and Miyuki, it becomes much easier to work out what RDG: Red Data Girl had sought to convey. There is no need to have a formal background in Shintoism or ecology because Izumiko and Miyuki’s journey can stand even if the context were changed (e.g., Izumiko learning to depend on others, and Miyuki becoming more respectful of tradition could still work with a different premise). The same approach can be applied towards almost any anime: while a given work may deal with highly complex matters, such as politics, sociology, morality and philosophy, all of these elements are, at the end of the day, intended to frame a given character’s experiences. If one can empathise with the characters and identify what they are supposed to learn as a result of their experiences, then more nuanced topics end up being a supplement, rather than necessity, to the conclusions. Complex-looking anime oftentimes appear more intimidating and dense than they are, and generally speaking, fiction is meant to convey what a given author has to say about an idea through the characters’ experiences. Once a work’s themes are known, things like philosophy and psychology end up either supplementing (or detracting from) the author’s messages.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Lycoris Recoil and Remarks on Parfaits With A Side of Politics

“I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you.” – Bruce Wayne to Ra’s Al Ghul, Batman Begins

The Lycoris are a secret group of assassins tasked with maintaining peace in Japan by taking out targets of note and concealing the fact. After Takina Inoue is relived from active duty following her actions during an operation to secure a shipment of illegal firearms, she’s transferred over to the café LycoReco and works with Chisato Nishikigi, a Lycoris with a seemingly supernatural disposition for evading bullets. Chisato’s easy-go-lucky attitude is grating on Takina, who initially desires to return to active service with the Lycoris, but as she and Chisato learn more about the terrorists behind the illegal firearms, the pair also become closer together. The terrorists are led by one Majima, who shares similar origins as Chisato as Alan Institute test subjects, and as the pair close in on Majima, they also learn about how Shinji Yoshimatsu had saved Chisato with the intention of turning her into the perfect weapon. While Chisato rejects Shinji’s expectations for her, she and Takina are instrumental in stopping Majima’s plan to destroy, Enkobou, a new tower in Tokyo to replace the Tokyo Skytree, which was damaged in a previous terrorist attack. Although Lycoris Recoil is widely regarded as the top anime during the summer season last year owing to the touching dynamic between Chisato and Takina, critics expressed disappointment at the anime’s moral ambiguity and inappropriate use of slice-of-life elements in dealing with what are typically counted as more serious topics. In typical fashion, the reality is that Lycoris Recoil exists somewhere in the middle. Chisato and Takina’s interactions are not especially revolutionary, and the idea of a cheerful, bubbly individual balancing out someone who’s more stoic and reserved has been seen in countless series (Cocoa and Chino of GochiUsa, and Rin and Nadeshiko of Yuru Camp△ are two examples that come to mind). Similarly, the question of morality is actually clearly presented, but it is not done from a political standpoint. Instead, Chisato’s individual remarks and actions throughout Lycoris Recoil speak to her worldviews, and by extension, the messages that Lycoris Recoil seeks to convey. In an anime where morals are deliberately ambiguous and vague, Chisato’s unwavering stance on leaving her opponents alive provides consistency, the anime together as it touches on a range of topics, binding things together in a way that keeps viewers engaged with her experiences.

The very existence of an outfit like Lycoris, and their portrayal as heroic keepers of the peace, is something that is seemingly contradictory with the ideals in a liberal democracy – a sub rosa government agency that has authority to execute lawbreakers might keep the peace within a society (and indeed, for law-abiding citizens, such an agency is not nominally a threat), but at the same time, Lycoris is no different than secret police agencies that have been employed to suppress and silence citizens. From a certain point of view, Majima’s views are actually more in keeping with the belief that no one agency or group should have judicial and executive powers within a government. Lycoris Recoil‘s ending suggests that the collective good of preserving the peace matters more than individual liberty, and this creates an unusual clash. At first glance, these contradictions mean that Lycoris Recoil isn’t successful in conveying its messages. However, this is untrue, and Chisato is the reason why. Although she is counted as a top-tier operator, Chisato refuses to kill any of her targets. In operations, she prefers to incapacitate using rubber bullets, and even goes out of her way to treat any injuries she may have caused. Chisato’s compassion stems from her respect for life – having received an artificial heart to sustain her life, Chisato believes that no one should have the authority of deciding who lives, and who dies. In this way, Chisato’s beliefs mean she’s incompatible with the operational protocol with Lycoris’ Direct Action (DA) unit, and while the other characters undergo growth as a result of their time spent with Chisato, Chisato herself remains steadfast in her beliefs. In remaining a static character, Chisato provides grounding for Lycoris Recoil and suggests that there is merit to compassion, of cherishing life and finding value in the ordinary, whether it be messing around with the uptight Takina or serving Café LycoReco’s patrons with unique parfaits. No matter how chaotic the world gets, or what expectations on her become, Chisato’s consistency outlines the importance of regarding others well. In this way, even if Majima and Lycoris’ clashing ideologies seem to be at odds with real-world beliefs, Chisato’s belief in a life of moral simplicity, and her enjoyment of common, everyday moments mean that Lycoris Recoil speaks to the idea that in a world of ambiguity and conflict, there is merit in focusing on doing what one can for the people around oneself. Lycoris Recoil‘s focus on life at LycoReco clarifies the anime’s aims, and in doing so, the morals and themes here are neither ambiguous nor vague.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Lycoris Recoil is an anime I’ve been recommended on numerous occasions: whether it be the previous (and final) #TheJCS, comments here or on Twitter, folks have expressed an interest in seeing what I made of one of 2022’s most well-known anime. The main reason why I did not watch it during its airing was because Luminous Witches had been airing at the same time, and I did not wish to divide my attention between the two series. By the fall season, Yama no Susume: Next Summit had occupied the whole of my attention, so I didn’t find the time to watch Lycoris Recoil. In this way, we entered the new year by the time I’d gotten around to watching things.

  • The plus side about watching Lycoris Recoil at my own pace is that, by this point in time, all of the episodes are out, so I was spared of the need to ensure cliffhangers, and for the most part, avoiding spoilers isn’t too tricky an endeavour. Before delving further into Lycoris Recoil, the first thought that came to mind was that Takina resembles Hibike! Euphonium‘s Reina Kōsaka and SSSS.Gridman‘s Rikka Takarada, but curiously enough, Chisato’s voice actress, Chika Anzai, had actually played Reina. On the other hand, Shion Wakayama, Takina’s voice actress, is a relative newcomer whom I know best as Her Blue Sky‘s Aoi Aioi. This dynamic duo forms the core of all things in Lycoris Recoil, offering a grounding perspective for a world that is clearly detailed, but also one that is simultaneously messy.

  • Chisato’s happy-go-lucky mindset stands in stark contrast with the duties and expectations placed upon Lycoris operators, and to accentuate this, Lycoris Recoil renders Chisato with exaggerated facial expressions during moments of levity. Upon its conclusion, Lycoris Recoil was widely regarded as a highly satisfying anime: Jusuchin of Right Wing Otaku complements the series as “perfect as a one-cour anime series” which “left a lasting impression on people” owing to striking a balance between the political thriller and slice-of-life aspects, while Crow’s World of Anime paints the series as being a superb emotional experience, with the finale being “as satisfying and enjoyable an ending as [one] could have hoped for”, before characterising this series as one where it is not necessary to seek out “the flaws in this episode and the series as a whole”.

  • Similarly, Random Curiosity’s Choya concludes that Lycoris Recoil “operates best as a visually-impressive action anime with an engaging cast of characters” and comments that the more serious elements “might not stand up to scrutiny”, but in spite of this, the “should still prove to be a good time” for those who can get past the social and ethical implications of such a world. All three reviews share in common the sentiment that, while the world of Lycoris Recoil has inconsistencies and limitations, strong writing for the series’ lead characters meant that overall, things remained positive.

  • As it was, Lycoris Recoil is certainly at its best when focused on the gradual changes towards Takina’s attitudes: she starts her journey dedicated to finishing the mission at any cost, using any means necessary, whereas her superiors believe in following orders and remaining as a cohesive unit. Seeing Chisato allows her to see how there are alternative ways of getting things done, and moreover, that finishing a mission doesn’t always doing something by-the-book, in the most efficient manner possible. Character dynamics are more important in Lycoris Recoil than the political piece, and the anime wastes no time in establishing this.

  • The presence of Café LycoReco and its utility as a gathering place for everyone provides a reliable meeting spot for characters to bounce off one another, swiftly lightening up more serious moments and providing the backdrop for humour one might expect in GochiUsa. As a result of this, I was hard-pressed to see Lycoris Recoil as a Tom Clancy-esque story; a café and a lead character similar to Cocoa Hoto meant that it felt more appropriate to see Lycoris Recoil as a slice-of-life with action-thriller elements, rather than an action-thriller with a café in it.

  • The positive reaction to Lycoris Recoil was such that Crunchyroll determined this series was 2022’s best show. However, while I am in agreement with the strength of Takina and Chisato’s friendship as being the main draw behind Lycoris Recoil (in this post, I will not be speaking about equipment, weapons and tactics because one could switch things out entirely, and the anime’s themes would remain unchanged), it is a audacious claim to suppose that Lycoris Recoil is without peer. This is because 2022 saw the airing of several excellent series, with Spy × Family being what comes to mind as being the top of the class for telling a consistent story on top of world-building and character growth. This is ultimately why I’ve chosen to look at Lycoris Recoil from the “Terrible Anime Challenge” perspective: in terrible anime challenges, I watch a series to see if my impressions of a series is consistent with existing reception.

  • In this case, although the premise world-building is outlandish, enough for me to not be fully convinced by the setting or count this as worthy of being 2022’s best anime, Lycoris Recoil lives up to expectations as being an excellent tale of character development in a setting that otherwise would not, at first glance, appear suited for such a tale. For this reason, I found the anime enjoyable. At first glance, the dynamic between Chisato and Takina is similar to how GochiUsa had presented growth in Chino as a result of Cocoa’s arrival; while Chino had been taciturn and reserved previously, after Cocoa joins Rabbit House, Chino slowly becomes more adventurous and open-minded despite expressing frequent annoyance at Cocoa’s antics

  • Lycoris Recoil has the same occurring with Takina and Chisato: although Chisato’s mannerisms do initially rub Takina the wrong way, over time, Takina comes to see the reason behind why Chisato is always striving to make the most of every moment. Despite the dramatically differing settings, both GochiUsa and Lycoris Recoil actually end up with a similar message and intention, and this is the main reason why it’s so difficult to see the latter as a serious portrayal of sub rosa operators and their implications on society. To accentuate this, both protagonists and antagonists in Lycoris Recoil are portrayed with funny faces and dramatic overreactions. In a series where the intention had been to convey an idea about a more serious topic, the characters would be more stoic and reserved (such as Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins).

  • In an anime where Chisatao spends a bulk of an episode trying to help Takina find more appropriate undergarments, only to succumb to curiosity and see what Takina was going on about before getting busted, it’s evident that Lycoris Recoil is meant to be easygoing, first and foremost. This is what motivates my title: Lycoris Recoil is more about personal growth than it is about making a political statement owing to its design choices and aesthetic, and the choice to utilise a more serious topic against a backdrop more consistent with slice-of-life shows how, politics or not, individual development and decision-making is ultimately what matters most.

  • This is why I strongly disagree with Anime Feminist’s Caitlin Moore’s suggestion that Lycoris Recoil‘s weakness is a “tonal dissonance and continued lack of clarity as to its moral or political positions on the subject matter of state violence”. I understand that Moore’s statement was made four episodes into Lycoris Recoil, which means that at the time of writing, Moore would not have had the entire picture in mind when making this remark. However, the aesthetic of Lycoris Recoil meant that this is ultimately irrelevant: if the anime had intended to discuss the implications of an off-the-books wet team, it would not have spent so much time portraying Chisato and Takina at LycoReco.

  • The so-called “tonal dissonance” that Moore brings up comes about because Chisato’s cheerful mannerisms and optimism appear to stand in stark contrast with what being a Lycoris entail. On closer inspection, this actually is not an issue in any way: Lycoris Recoil establishes that Chisato lives life on her own terms because of what had happened in her past, and after disobeying orders during an assignment, Takina is reassigned. While Takina had desired to return to active duty, being with Chisato leads Takina to reevaluate what matters most for her, and over time, Takina comes to realise there are other priorities in her life.

  • For this reason, the messages throughout Lycoris Recoil are not inconsistent in any way, and in fact, the existence of the Lycoris, as well as how seriously they’re portrayed as taking their assignments, is meant to provide a juxtaposition with Chisato’s world views. Lycoris Recoil is poking fun at how seriously some organisations take themselves when they know full well that their duty entails contradiction and actions that can be seen as immoral. As such, while I concede that Moore’s reception applies only to the series after four episodes, I do not find that such remarks should be treated as valid criticisms of Lycoris Recoil as a whole.

  • Following a string of attacks on Lycoris operators, Takina decides to live with Chisato. In any other series, the mood would be grim, but speaking to this series’ commitment to the positive, Chisato relishes at the possibility of living with a friend. Her safehouse is shown here – it’s a comfortable and well appointed space located beneath an empty unit that Chisato enters to throw off any tails she may have picked up. A glance around shows that while Chisato keeps most of her place clean, she can be a bit of a slob, too, and this is something Takina means to fix.

  • Assigning a schedule initially fails, and Chisato ends up deciding it’d be more fun to use scissors-stone-cloth to see who does what. Owing to her style, Chisato dominates Takina, resulting in the latter being assigned every task. Takina’s look of horror is hilarious, as is Chisato’s smug little smile. Later down the line, Mika and Mizuki will inform Takina that there is a way to beat Chisato in scissors-stone-cloth because Chisato has a certain tell that she does. Moments like these serve to humanise the characters; it’s a common enough approach that anime use, and by showing viewers what everyone’s like in happier times, tragedies and drama only hit harder.

  • As memory serves, Cocoa sported a similar outfit during GochiUsa‘s first season – Chisato mentions at one point that Lycoris are only “on duty” when wearing their uniforms, but when they’re out of uniform, they’re technically not permitted to act. One evening, Chisato decides to head out, and amidst the chaos, Mika and Mizuki learn that Kurumi had been the one who compromised the Lycoris’ AI system, Radiata. After Kurumi came under fire from hostiles, she had sought the Lycoris’ protection and in the present, is more than happy to help Lycoris bring the perpetrators to justice. Widely thought of as being completely secure, Radiata is Lycoris Recoil‘s equivalent to The Division‘s SHD Network.

  • The usage of computers and AI in Lycoris Recoil is current with the times, with both Kurumi and her rival, Robota, using a combination of desktops, tablets, internet connections and AI to achieve their goals remotely. While such tools are doubtlessly powerful, they are also vulnerable – Lycoris Recoil joins a long list of fictional works, including Tom Clancy and Skyfall, in suggesting that the world’s dependence on computer networks has become society’s Achilles Heel. I say this with some degree of irony because I’m in the technology-related field of mobile development, and any sort of disruption to the complex network of systems that keep things running mean that, should anything fail, I’d be in trouble.

  • Despite Karumi’s actions, the others are quick to forgive her: after Takina saves Chisato from an ambush, upon reviewing the footage, Karumi learns that their foe is a shadow named Majima, and she promises to keep working with Chisato and the others until he’s brought to justice. In the meantime, after Chisato receives a checkup, Takina tries to play Chisato in another match of scissors-stone-cloth. Using the tricks she’s previously learnt, Takina manages to beat Chisato and earns the right to live with her for a bit longer, resulting in an adorable dance.

  • One thing I’ve noticed about anime like Lycoris Recoil is that, whenever cute girls and guns are involved, discussions tend to become very serious – people tend to analyse every word the characters speak, review their every action and offer a biting critique of what they should’ve done instead and delve deeply into the characters’ choice of equipment in an effort to see if they can correctly deduce the outcome of a given event. This approach has applicability in some series; if a work is committed to realism and the aim of said work is to offer a message about a political or social issue, then using real-world knowledge is helpful.

  • Conversely, if a work is more light-hearted or makes use of supernatural abilities (e.g. Chisato can dodge bullets through intuition), then real-world knowledge becomes less helpful. In the case of Lycoris Recoil, knowing that Chisato rocks a modified Detonics CombatMaster, or that Takina’s preferred sidearm is the Smith & Wesson M&P outfitted with an Ospray 9 suppressor, won’t help viewers to predict what happens. The reason why knowing the weapons in Lycoris Recoil won’t aid one in figuring the story out is because the guns themselves perform only as well as the operator, and since ballistics isn’t an issue here, small differences in how a CombatMaster handles against something like Majima’s Makarov is irrelevant.

  • Things begin shifting when viewers learn that Chisato’s been living on borrowed time: it turns out as a child, she was afflicted with a heart condition of unknown nature, and the Alan Institute had provided her with an artificial heart in exchange for her becoming involved in wet work, courtesy of Shinji Yoshimatsu. Chisato’s refusal to kill her opponents means she’s not effective as an assassin. In retaliation, during a routine checkup, one of Shinji’s goons sabotages her heart, limiting her time to two months. Questions of talents are brought up in Lycoris Recoil, and while Shinji believes that people have an obligation to society to utilise whatever skills they’ve got, Chisato believes she should be free to choose the path she desires.

  • In doing so, Chisato answers the question of whether or not collectivism or individualism is the better choice, and by extension, whether or not a government-run shop should have the power to utilise lethal force in the name of maintaining social order. Since Chisato picks her own path over the path Shinji had prescribed for her, Lycoris Recoil is also suggesting that the Lycoris’ methods and existence is not wholly ethical, either. Although the events of Lycoris Recoil do eventually see Takina reinstated, her experiences with Chisato eventually lead her to question if this is what she’d desired.

  • Towards the end of Lycoris Recoil, things escalate wildly when Majima carries out his grand plot to draw out Chisato into a one-on-one with her to see who’s the superior combatant, as well as expose the Lycoris to the world. In these moments, Takina, Chisato and the remainder of the DA’s convictions are put to the test as Majima appears to be one step ahead of everyone, and Chisato must decide whether or not she can continue to uphold Shinji’s expectations for her even if it means failure to do so will result in her own death. While this is quite dramatic and a far cry from the emotional tenour of Lycoris Recoil‘s earlier episodes, as well as making the story a ways busier, the fact that Lycoris Recoil firmly establishes Chisato and Takina’s characters means that there is grounding: all of the action and conflict is present for a reason.

  • In the end, Chisato remains steadfast in her refusal to kill, and while Takina is desperate to save her, even if it means shooting Shinji in front of Chisato, Chisato eventually gets her to stand down: thanks to Majima’s machinations, the other Lycoris team is in mortal danger as another outfit, the all-male LillyBell, have been dispatched to neutralise Sakura and her team. I’m a little curious to know the reasoning behind this name – in reality, special forces have names that are synonyms with efficiency and professionalism, and LillyBell lacks the same intensity and focus that real-world special forces, such as SAS, Navy SEALS and Delta Force, convey. A name like Shadow Company or Spectre Team would’ve sufficed.

  • I realise that in this post, there are a host of topics I’ve not been able to cover – there’s a lot going on in Lycoris Recoil, and I remark here that just because something was not mentioned does not mean it is trivial or of lesser significance. I have noticed that during its run, some folks were able to review Lycoris Recoil in an episodic fashion, and this is one of those cases where it really would’ve been beneficial to look at each individual episode and see what it brings to the table. In my case, because I’m writing about the series after all episodes have aired, I’ve chosen to focus more on the big picture, with the obvious caveat that not every detail can be covered.

  • I’ve not introduced Sakura or Fuki in this post until now – while both are important players in that they’re full-fledged Lycoris operators, and Fuki has a bit of history with Takina, my aims here were to determine whether or not this series met expectations the community have set. The community had largely indicated that Chisato and Takina makes the story worth following, and after viewing this anime for myself, this is a sentiment I agree with. With this in mind, Lycoris Recoil has not done enough to displace Spy × Family simply on the virtue that the world the former is set in a world that isn’t quite as plausible or consistently written.

  • Further to this, one could make the case that Lycoris, Kusonoki and Shinji are the true villains of Lycoris Recoil, and Majima’s presence never gave off an aura of menace to the same extent as well-written antagonists would, whereas in Spy × Family, the story actually suggests that the real enemy in society is bias and misunderstanding, things that can be overcome with diplomacy and patience. The gap in character motivations and goals is why I hold that suggestions of Lycoris Recoil being the top anime of the year is a lofty one. However, I do not deny that Lycoris Recoil was fun: the fight scenes between Chisato and Majima never felt life-or-death, and instead, resembled a sparring match between old friends, even though Majiima was shooting to kill.

  • In the end, Majima is defeated, and Lycoris manages to regain control of the situation. Chisato is saved after Mika kills Shinji and recovers his artificial heart, but she escapes to another part of Japan. Takina is sent to recover her, and the pair get into an adorable scuffle before Chisato explains the rationale for her choices. A tearful reunion results, and Chisato expresses her desire to go to Hawaii in the aftermath, with the aim of starting fresh and seeing the world. With this, Lycoris Recoil comes to a close. Fans of the series, however, were pleasantly surprised to learn that a second season is set to air in the future.

  • Lycoris Recoil had ended on a positive note and didn’t necessarily need a second season, but at the same time, the series also turned out to be unexpectedly popular and from a financial standpoint, it is logical to capitalise on the series’ popularity and keep things going to pull in a profit. At present, I’ve got no idea what a second season of Lycoris Recoil could entail, but a prequel story or side story detailing Mika, Shinji, Kusonoki, Sakira or Fuki could be enjoyable, allowing for more insight to be provided on this universe without denying Takina and Chisato their chance at enjoying a more ordinary life. With this, I hope to have conveyed, in a reasonable fashion, my thoughts on one of 2022’s hottest anime. I certainly won’t claim to have covered all of the details, but from a big-picture standpoint, Lycoris Recoil does more well than it butchers – this was sufficient for me to have a good experience with the series.

The presence of slice-of-life elements in an anime that deals with politics and thriller elements should make it clear that Lycoris Recoil was always intended to present a more optimistic view of things, even in a world where guns, arms-trades and terrorism are routine problems. It is unrealistic to expect anything else from an anime predominantly set at a cheerful and well-respected café – Chisato’s own actions and beliefs indicate that it is counterproductive to become too involved in politics and the nitty-gritty behind why others continuously scheme and plot. This particular mindset is especially important in a world where it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. After Majima’s plan to bring down the Enkobou tower fails, Lycoris utilise their information control to pass things off as a publicity stunt, and while the implications are that the world won’t know the truth, Chisato and Takina are portrayed as caring little. In fact, Chisato has empathically stated that the politics in the world don’t concern her because all she wants to do is help the people she wishes to help, and make things better for the people around her. While some people hold that expressing their beliefs vocally and frequently make them appear more connected and concerned with the world, the reality is that idle talk is ineffectual. On the other hand, Chisato is concerned with the here and the now: she lives in accordance to her own values, and this manifests as helping run a café, as well as conducting her assignments with the absolute minimum of casualties. This is why Lycoris Recoil ends up being more about the unusual-looking parfaits Takina makes during a budget-saving crisis, than it is about politics, and why this anime, in being remarkably frank about where it stands on things, is respectable. The slice-of-life aspects allow Lycoris Recoil to constantly keep things between Chisato and Takina at the forefront of the story, and through Chisato, Takina also ends up loosening up a little. Regardless of the context or setting, it’s always nice to see two individuals of opposite dispositions helping to complement one another, and this is where Lycoris Recoil excels most: through Chisato, Lycoris Recoil suggests that individuals demonstrate moral fibre not in what they claim to believe in, but rather, in how they act.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Extreme Hearts and Rising to The Top, Plus A Faceoff With Luminous Witches and Remarks on Invalid Comparisons

“There is a prison in a more ancient part of the world – a pit where men are thrown to suffer and die. But sometimes, a man rises from the darkness. Sometimes, the pit sends something back.” –Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight Rises

Hiyori Hayama is a student and solo idol whose career is quite unsuccessful. After her contract ends, she decides to hedge her bets on Extreme Hearts, a hyper-sports competition for idols. Although Hiyori is quite unskilled in sports, she is joined by Saki Kodaka, a soccer player, and Sumika Maehara, a basketball player. Saki had been a fan of Hiyori’s, and Sumika becomes intrigued to help Hiyori out. Over time, the three form RISE, an indie group, and begin making a splash in the realm of hyper-sports. Along the way, Yukino Tachibana, a kendōka, and Lise Kohinata, a martial artist, join RISE. Between competing in hyper-sports against other idol groups and training together, RISE ends up winning the Kanagawa tournament and make a name for themselves. At its core, Extreme Hearts is more of a sports anime than an idol anime, with competition, the will to win and overcoming one’s internal obstacles lying at the heart of the series’ aims. Although RISE is unified by their desire to help Hiyori reach her goals, and hyper-sports retains notions of sportsmanship amongst competitors, the very nature of hyper-sports results in an anime that comes across as extremely busy. Hiyori, Saki, Sumika, Yukino and Lise have different backgrounds, and while their unique experiences allow them to contribute to RISE in their own way, constantly switching the sports up and providing players with augmentation gear means that RISE is never able to commit to a sport for the sake of improvement. This helps to keep Extreme Hearts‘ focus on the characters and their path; while the stakes in Extreme Hearts are not especially compelling (everyone’s driven by a desire to see what their best can offer), and Hiyori’s aspirations aren’t particularly unique, this anime does have heart. In a vacuum, Extreme hearts represents a moderately entertaining watch as the summer season’s other anime with an idol piece.

While Extreme Hearts does attempt to meld futuristic athletics with musical performances, at least one individual has seen it fit to compare Extreme Hearts with Luminous Witches, with the rather outrageous claim that differences in animation (Luminous Witches did have moments where the performances distinctly used computer rendered elements) and a shift in paradigms away from Strike Witches‘ more crass aspects rendered Luminous Witches the inferior choice to Extreme Hearts. For this individual, animation and clinging to an outdated approach matters more than storytelling: such superficial views of anime are hardly worth consideration, but if we were to take this premise, that Extreme Hearts is superior to Luminous Witches, as having validity, then one must first start by considering what Extreme Hearts and Luminous Witches‘ respective aims are. Both Extreme Hearts and Luminous Witches portray a disparate group of individuals coming together and doing what they can as a team to accomplish things that wouldn’t be feasible alone. However, whereas Extreme Hearts is motivated by RISE’s efforts to try their best and see what the outcomes are, Luminous Witches shows the significance of using music to raise morale and give people in war-torn areas hope. Hiyori ends up inspiring her friends and is instrumental in bringing RISE to the championships, but this victory is ultimately for Saki, Sumika, Yukino and Lise. In Luminous Witches, the LNAF Band use their songs to encourage humanity to endure, to maintain their resolve, and to give their fellow Witches the strength to keep fighting. The stakes in Luminous Witches are much larger, and the reason for incorporating a musical element is far stronger than it is in Extreme Hearts: were the musical piece of Extreme Hearts to be removed entirely, and Hiyori were given another background, the anime still would have succeeded in conveying its theme. In Extreme Hearts, music is a secondary, dispensable element, whereas in Luminous Witches, music becomes essential to the story. On these grounds, Luminous Witches has the stronger thematical piece, and while it is the case that the performances in Extreme Hearts are superior, visuals alone do not make an anime.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Par the course for a Terrible Anime Challenge, I’ll open by stating that on its own, Extreme Hearts earns a B grade (3.0 of 4, or 7.5 of 10): “not quite as good as expectations resulting from community reception, but reasonable in its own right”. When graded on a curve against Luminous WitchesExtreme Hearts would score a C (2.0 of 4, or 6 of 10). The grading becomes significantly harsher because Luminous Witches had been thematically excellent, and the performances’ impact had a clear, tangible objective in boosting morale during a time when humanity needed  something to uplift their spirits. By comparison, the stakes in Extreme Hearts are much lower, being focused around Hiyori’s desire to continue performing despite her lack of success as a solo idol.

  • When Hiyori speaks with her most dedicated fan, Saki (left), she also ends up drawing the interest of Sumika (middle). The characters in Extreme Hearts are familiar archetypes: Saki reminds me of Haurkana Receive‘s Akari to some extent, while Sumika is High School Fleet‘s Moeka. On the other hand, Hiyori herself resembles Koisuru Asteroid‘s Mira. Archetypes aren’t a problem for me in anime, and what matters more is how everyone gathers. Once Hiyori’s initial team assembles, the series begins accelerating in its pacing.

  • I had originally intended to save Extreme Hearts for a rainy day: watching idol-like anime (series with a performing arts component added onto another premise) is something  I tend to save for quieter moments between seasons. However, after claims of Extreme Hearts being superior to Luminous Witches began appearing, I decided to push my way through Extreme Hearts to get a feel for the anime and see for myself whether or not such claims had any merit. These claims originate from one individual at AnimeSuki, someone whom I do not get along with to any capacity: we’ve clashed on Super Cub and The Aquatope on White Sand previously.

  • The individual making these claims has a history of being snide and patronising in their Twitter-length reactions to anime, oftentimes belittling the creators and suggesting they could do better than said creators, but in spite of these inadequate reactions, people still agree with them. When I disagreed with this individual, moderators removed my responses, calling my counterarguments “personal attacks”. This isn’t exactly a healthy environment for discussion; I expect people to always think for themselves and call out poor conduct where it is observed.

  • However, when this individual suggested that Extreme Hearts was superior to Luminous Witches after the latter finished airing, I was in no position to counteract them, having not seen Extreme Hearts for myself. I therefore steeled myself for one of the fastest I’ve ever gone through an anime. I found in Extreme Hearts an unremarkable series that employed familiar approaches and convention. Unexpected setbacks occur, but the lead characters, who form the group RISE, always find a way to prevail against all odds. Over time, their group grows, with members deciding to join after experiencing internal conflict in deciding whether or not they wish to join.

  • Despite being a paint-by-numbers series, Extreme Hearts does have heart, and one does find incentive to cheer for the lead characters as the show wears on. With this in mind, I found that the notion of hyper-sports diminishes the investment into the characters; use of specialised equipment to greatly enhance one’s abilities undermines the notion that sport is something people must invest time into such that they can improve. Here in Extreme Hearts, sports from soccer, to American flag football, baseball, futsal and volleyball, are all shown.

  • I appreciate that this was likely done to showcase as broad of a range of sports as possible to suggest that as idols, the characters must be familiar in a range of fields, but the idea of using equipment to boost one’s performance stands contrary to the idea that improvement must come from one’s own resolve. As an idol, Hiyori’s singing and performing come as a result of her efforts, and when Saki and Sumika join her, they put in the effort to improve, as well: on stage, there is nothing else to help them along besides what they bring to the table.

  • While RISE is shown practising extensively for their events, I found that ignoring the hyper aspect of hyper-sports and doing a mixed sports tournament without the gear would’ve still yielded a similar emotional impact. From a storytelling standpoint, adding this special equipment is two-fold: it helps separate Extreme Hearts from reality and accentuate the fact that this is a world somewhat unlike ours, as well as offering the animators a chance to show their stuff. Here, Yukino prepares to compose music for RISE: an excellent baseball player and kendo practitioner, Yukino felt obligated to pass on RISE’s offer to join them so she could tend to the family dōjō. Her grandfather convinces her there’s more than one way to uphold family tradition, and Yukino ends up contributing to RISE’s latest win.

  • While out and about, Saki encounters Lise, a former martial artist who quit after she accidentally injured a friend during competition. Saki manages to convince Lise that she’s amongst peers, and that in hyper-sports, there’s a chance for her to be herself and put in her best. Such elements are woven into Extreme Hearts in a satisfactory manner: unlike Luminous Witches, whose unique universe created opportunities to simultaneously advance character growth and world-building, things here are much more familiar.

  • The main element that Extreme Hearts has over Luminous Witches is in its performances: everything is still hand-drawn, but in spite of this, the dancing remains smooth and synchronised. However, visuals alone don’t make an anime: similarly to games, where graphics alone don’t make any one game superior to another. While life-like textures, real-time lighting effects and photorealistic details contribute to immersion, games are worth playing because of the experience they confer, and this means things like gameplay mechanics, design and narrative count more than the visuals.

  • Similarly, while Extreme Hearts has better performances than Luminous Witches, the visuals elsewhere in Luminous Witches aren’t egregiously poor. Coupled with the fact that the stakes were more compelling, I would argue that dismissing Luminous Witches on account of the performances being a little rougher around the edges is akin to dismissing a triple-A steak dinner simply because the butter than accompanied the complimentary bread was actually margarine. The individual from AnimeSuki also supposed that Luminous Witches “wasn’t Strike Witches” because of the lack of fanservice.

  • At this point, it became clear that this individual was complaining for the sake of complaining and totally lacked any understanding of what Luminous Witches was doing (or otherwise, was so convinced of their own correctness that they were forcing themselves to overlook certain truths): over the years, Strike Witches had stepped away from gratuitously crotch-shots in favour of world-building, and this has actually contributed to improving Strike Witches. Besides opening the universe to more compelling stories, it also showed that the Strike Witches universe could stand on the merits of its stories and character dynamics, rather than gimmicks.

  • As Extreme Hearts reached its finale, episodes put the pedal to the metal as things heated up. However, when RISE squares off against Snow Wolf, even though the competition was anticipated to be exceptionally challenging, Hiyori would strike up a friendship with Snow Wolf’s Michelle Jaeger and Ashley Vancroft, who were robotics engineers and mechanics first, and performers second. Despite their fearsome reputation, RISE ends up getting along with Michelle and Ashley on excellent terms. The idea of sportsmanship in Extreme Hearts is nothing new, but it does accentuate the idea that competitors can still cooperate and support one another when the moment calls for it.

  • During the championship match against May-Bee, Hiyori sprains her foot while exerting herself for everyone’s sake: May-Bee is the defending champion and puts up an impressive showing, building a massive lead that spectators comment as being demoralising. However, undeterred, RISE manages to catch up, thanks in part to Hiyori’s determination spurring her teammates on even despite her injury. Michelle ends up pulling Hiyori aside to get a better look at the latter’s injury, and reluctantly allows Hiyori to return to the match. In reality, injuries are taken seriously, and it was through the story’s requirements that Hiyori was able to pull through.

  • I am willing to overlook these aspects of an anime in the knowledge that they are deliberately chosen to advance the story, and consequently, have no trouble accepting RISE’s win over May-Bee. Having been around the anime community for almost a decade-and-a-half now, I still find it perplexing that people would fixate on small details and maintain the belief that one gaffe is sufficient to render an anime unwatchable. I’ve never managed to gain a proper understanding of the rationale behind this brand of thinking and therefore, continue to remain confused by such a mindset.

  • Following their victory, RISE is slated to conclude their performance. Hiyori is allowed some time to recuperate, and spends most of her time handling administrative details: RISE has become quite popular as a result of their successes, and there’s quite a bit to deal with. It is clear that thanks to the championships, RISE is experiencing a rise in popularity. The correlation behind how this happens is never really explored in Extreme Hearts, certainly not to the same extent that the stakes were shown in Luminous Witches, but this is a consequence of the dramatically different settings. The LNAF Band sing for those who are fighting and doing their best to survive, while RISE performs for one another initially and learns of how much of an impact they’re having as a result of their efforts.

  • The comparison between Extreme Hearts and Luminous Witches is ultimately insincere, since both anime have different aims. While I’ve made an effort to compare elements that can be validly compared in this post and found that Luminous Witches had a better raison d’être overall, just because I found it to have superior execution in its character growth, world-building and settings doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun watching Extreme Hearts: watching anime isn’t some zero-sum game where one has a limited quota of shows they’re allowed to enjoy in a given season.

  • As it was, the ending concerts were quite entertaining to watch, and RISE stole the show with a spirited performance, intricate outfits, and a moment where Hiyori, whom the others had mentioned to have remained composed and professional up until now, suddenly stops and breaks down in tears mid-performance. This had been a dream of sorts for Hiyori, and Extreme Hearts joins a long list of anime in showing how teamwork makes the impossible achievable: for Hiyori, seeing the audience in front of her, and a team she’s come to love, respect and trust backing her, Hiyori allows herself to give in to the moment.

  • With this post, an impromptu detour of sorts, in the books, I return to my regular programming: I will be doing a set of thoughts on Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury; being my first full-length Gundam series that I’ve watched live since Gundam 00 back in 2007/2008, I’m quite excited to see where this one goes. Further to this, I had planned to write about Ace Combat 7‘s super-planes after watching Top Gun: Maverick and found myself seized with a desire to fly virtual aircraft in reckless, dangerous ways. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II open beta caused that post to be postponed, and I’ll aim to get that one done soon so that, when the Steam Winter Sale comes about, I can pick up the TOP GUN: Maverick Aircraft Set for Ace Combat 7.

While comparing one anime against another is an oft-utilised approach amongst reviewers, it’s a method that requires some finesse in order to be fair and useful. In order for comparisons to be valid, they must be made based on elements common to the two works being discussed. Here in Extreme Hearts and Luminous Witches, it’s the thematic elements and how well both anime tie in their respective messages together with its premise. Luminous Witches and Extreme Hearts both speak to the importance of counting on one another and use music as a part of their story. However, music is incidental to Extreme hearts, and Luminous Witches uses music to really bring people together, whether it be the LNAF Band or their audience, during times of adversity. Because Luminous Witches is tighter from the thematic standpoint, it was the series I enjoyed more. Maintaining consistency in comparisons is important, and in the case of the individual claiming that Extreme Hearts has superior animation to Luminous Witches, this is an instance of a faulty comparison because it is incomplete. Ignoring the fact that the hand-drawn scenes in Luminous Witches and using this supposition to say that every scene is superior in Extreme Hearts is a fallacy. While it is true that Extreme Hearts‘ performance sequences are cleaner and more consistent with the aesthetic seen elsewhere in the anime compared to Luminous Witches, it is also the case that Extreme Hearts makes extensive use of stills during action sequences. The difficulty in comparing Luminous Witches to Extreme Hearts arises from the requisite need to do a very extensive breakdown, and at the end of the day, animation is one of several components in both anime. For these reasons, it is invalid to dismiss Luminous Witches merely because the performances sequences weren’t quite as polished as those in Extreme Hearts, especially when the animation is only one component of both series. Overall, I would suggest that while Extreme Hearts is worth watching for those who’ve got some availability and an interest in a variation of sports anime, if one’s time were limited, forcing them to choose between Luminous Witches and Extreme Hearts, Luminous Witches would be the superior choice on the grounds that its musical piece is better related to the series’ themes, and that there is a stronger reason for why music is to be celebrated and cherished.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Kanojo, Okarishimasu Season Two, Or, I’m Going To Need a Beer To Put These Flames Out

“You told me not to think!” –Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, Top Gun: Maverick

After Chizuru is unsuccessful in an audition, Kazuya vows to do everything he can to support her dreams and promptly arranges for another rental date. He learns from Chizuru’s grandmother that beneath her tough exterior is someone who’s trying to do everything on her own and despite her appearances, needs someone to lean on. Ruka ends up swinging by and cooks for Kazuya, but when a typhoon sweeps into their region and shuts down all mass transit, Ruka happily stays the night. She tries to seduce Kazuya and fails, but despite this, cheerfully announces they’d spent the night together the next morning. While Chizuru seems unperturbed, but Kazuya remains bothered and decides to rent out Sumi to see if he can gain some insight into what might make a suitable birthday gift – he ends up gifting to her some pickled plums. When Kazuya and Chizuru inadvertently end up being invited to the same drinking party, he ends up overdoing things to help Chizuru out. She and Kazuya end up going on another rental date, where Chizuru reveals she’s auditioning for another role. When Kazuya’s grandmother learns Chizuru’s birthday party has already passed, she decides to host a combined party. Ruka ends up accompanying Kazuya, and while she does her best to make a positive impression, after Chizuru arrives, she’s frustrated at being bested so quickly. She ends up ambushing Kazuya and kisses him passionately, saying she doesn’t want to have any regrets. However, Chizuru’s grandmother’s condition worsens, cutting the party short, and Chizuru decides it’ll be easier to leave their false relationship where it is so her grandmother won’t die with the knowledge that Chizuru has no one in her life. Later, Sumi has a request for Kazuya; she’s been wanting to try taking the lead in a rental date so she can be more effective in her role and to this end, has planned out an itinerary for Kazuya. In the process, Kazuya becomes inspired as to what he should do for Chizuru. Chizuru learns that her latest audition was unsuccessful and recalls why she’d gone into acting: she wanted to fulfil her late grandfather’s dream after he died in a vehicular accident when she was still in high school. When it feels as though despair is total, Kazuya knocks on her door with an ambitious goal in mind – he wants to crowd fund an independent film she’ll star in and complete it for Chizuru’s grandmother. This is Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season, continuing on from the story the first season had begun. In its execution, Kanojo, Okarishimasu has become a very busy anime – it simultaneously seeks to be a drama and comedy, only revealing the background for Chizuru’s singular drive for success in the second season’s finale. However, once this reason becomes established, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s thematic elements become significantly clearer.

While Chizuru’s attitude towards Kazuya suggests otherwise, and Kazuya’s lingering weak sense of self-esteem continues to be a constraint, Chizuru’s flashback ends up providing answers to the questions surrounding Kanojo, Okarishimasu. Kazuya continues to lack any sort of confidence in his decisions and keeps second-guessing himself. He is indecisive, fickle and short-sighted. However, in being optimistic to a fault, Kazuya actually conveys the same sort of dogged persistence and support that Chizuru’s grandfather had when she announced her desire to be an actress. Chizuru’s grandfather had provided a constant source of encouragement and praise, expressing his desire to one day see her on the silver screen. There are numerous parallels with Kazuya’s single-minded wish to see Chizuru achieve her goals, and seeing this may yield a modicum of insight into why Chizuru is so distant with Kazuya, insisting that they remain at arm’s length – Chizuru has been stated to be quite observant and astute, so it follows that she sees a bit of her grandfather in Kazuya. Despite his clumsy attempts to help her, Kazuya’s motivations are sincere (even if he does display some lust where Chizuru is concerned), and after losing her grandfather, it is probably the case that Chizuru wanted to avoid a repeat of things. However, towards the end of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Kazuya takes a hitherto unexpected step for Chizuru’s sake in suggesting a crowd-funded movie, and, moved to tears by the offer, decides to accept Kazuya’s help so that she can fulfil her dreams. In doing so, Chizuru has begun to do what her grandmother had wished for – having tried to do everything on her own until now, seeing Kazuya’s dogged persistence leads her to, however reluctantly, accept help from someone else. In this way, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season indicates that, despite all of the detours taken until now, Chizuru is the real star of the show. By opening up, acknowledging her vulnerability and realising that a little help from others can go a long way, Chizuru’s proven to be the most dynamic character of Kanojo, Okarishimasu. This aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu is the series’ strongest, and although it firmly establishes the series direction, my main gripe is that this thematic piece is sufficiently well-written such that the other aspects, such as the love tesseract Kazuya’s entangled in, feels quite unnecessary – from a thematic standpoint, because Kazuya’s desire to support Chizuru is, in effect, a continuation of what her grandfather had done, despite objections from Chizuru, it follows that Kazuya and Chizuru remain the best match in Kanojo, Okarishimasu.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the site archives, the last time I wrote about Kanojo, Okarishimasu was back in May of last year because I had struggled to coherently discuss the series. Right after the first season had ended, the second season was announced, and here at the second season’s conclusion, a third season was immediately announced. Using the existing timeframe as precedence, I would estimate that season three will come out in July 2024. The first season began airing in July 2020, and there is a two-year gap between the two seasons, hence, two years from now appears to be a fair guess.

  • Typically, anime receive continuations based on sales, so Kanojo, Okarishimasu comes across as a bit of a surprise for me: while from a storytelling perspective, the anime is quite inconsistent and does some things better than others, I have heard that in Japan, this work is wildly popular, enough so that merchandise sales and other sources of revenue offset the poor BD sales. I am not one to deny that this series must be successful, since Kanojo, Okarishimasu ended up receiving a live-action drama adaptation, which is no mean feat, considering that Yuru Camp△ also received a live-action adaptation on account of how the overwhelmingly positive reaction for its anime counterpart.

  • The main reason why Kanojo, Okarishimasu was so tricky for me to write about is that the story is wildly inconsistent. One moment, viewers see Kazuya trying to persuade Chizuru to persist and fight on in a moment of emotional build-up, only for something to interrupt said moment. Kanojo, Okarishimasu swings constantly between comedy and drama, which takes away from both aspects; had the series been written to focus on either one, things would’ve ended up stronger for it. For instance, if Kanojo, Okarishimasu purely showed Kazuya’s ineptitude in romance through comedy, then the fun would come from seeing how misfortune slowly helps to improve his game.

  • Conversely, if Kanojo, Okarishimasu had been intended to be about a drama from the start, it would be able to accentuate Chizuru’s story and indicate how her perspectives of Kazuya change over time as she sees bits of her old family in him. This facet was easily the best part of the second season, and I felt that had the story been allowed to focus on this, it would be able to both show Chizuru’s growth as she learns that it’s okay to rely on others, as well as Kazuya’s growth by showing how relationships are more than just the physical piece, and the shared emotional journey with Chizuru would give him fulfilment in ways that his old relationship with Mami could not.

  • With this being said, it is not quite so easy to discard the other characters; Mami had set Kazuya on a course to meeting Chizuru by dumping him, and Ruka is able to help Kazuya see aspects of a relationship that are both good and bad. Sumi, on the other hand, is someone whose shyness requires Kazuya to take the lead. Everyone does help push Kazuya forward in their own way, although things happen at a glacial pace. Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a series that demands patience from the viewers to watch: the second season’s strongest moments and aims are only shown in the finale.

  • I imagine that this design choice was deliberate, meant to establish the dynamics amongst the characters and giving them a chance to bounce off one another before the series really hits its stride. However, this meant that many of the intermediate moments leading up to the finale lacked a good context and as a result, could be infuriating to watch. My favourite example of this in Kanojo, Okarishimasu is how Ruka’s role was portrayed. She’s head-over-heels for Kazuya and goes the extra mile to impress him, but these attempts are always doomed to failure because Kazuya has his heart set on being with Chizuru.

  • Without knowing Chizuru’s story and why she’s so cold towards Kazuya, the logical route would be to turn around and play things pragmatically: rather than pursue Chizuru, it would outwardly seem the better decision for Kazuya to focus on Ruka instead and allow things to progress. Romance and love can come unexpectedly, and while some stories give the impression that doggedly sticking to one’s guns is a measure of heroic resolve, in reality, things don’t always work out so neatly. Having said this, even in the knowledge of Chizuru’s story, I myself are more of a Ruka fan.

  • The reasoning behind why Ruka is my favourite among the main cast is because I empathise with her the most: because of how Kanojo, Okarishimasu is written, and what outcomes must occur in order to convey the story’s main themes, Ruka is predestined to lose Kazuya. Kanojo, Okarishimasu has already shown that she’s madly in love with him and was heartbroken during the first season after it was shown that Kazuya didn’t return her feelings. A sort of status quo is reached after Chizuru asks him to go out with Ruka, feeling that this experience may help him to get over Mami and also stop pining for Chizuru, as she doesn’t return his feelings.

  • While Ruka is my favourite character, in reality, I’m not sure how well I’d get along with someone like Ruka. On one hand, I’m fiercely loyal and commit to wholly to whatever I do, but Ruka also has a bit of a jealous streak about her, as well. Dealing with this might be tricky, but over time, a bit of communication and trust could sort that out, and from what’s shown in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Ruka’s someone I prefer: she’s quite forward about how she feels and despite being of a smaller stature, has a figure that rivals Chizuru’s. In any other story, anyone who decided to accept what’s in front of them and pick Ruka would not be “settling” by any stretch.

  • On the other hand, Sumi is a bundle of joy, and despite her shy disposition, has no qualms about Kazuya: Chizuru had introduced the two so Kazuya could act as a practise date for her of sorts. While Sumi is shy and struggles to speak at times, her intent with taking up a rental girlfriend position was to gain the confidence she needed to become an idol. At first glance, Sumi and Ruka are secondary to Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s main story, but looking more closely, their presence serves to drive Kazuya forward by giving him experiences in communicating with women.

  • One trap that Kanojo, Okarishimasu avoids is the indecisive protagonist: back when Infinite Stratos was running, viewers were livid about how Ichika always danced around the question of which of Houki, Cecilia, Charlotte, Lingyin, Laura or Tatenashi caught his fancy, and this created enough dissatisfaction amongst those who watched Infinite Stratos such that the series became quite reviled. Infinite Stratos is said to have become entangled in additional controversy after Izuru Yumizuru got into trouble with Media Factory, resulting in the light novels being expunged from all listings: if the rumours are to be believed, Yumizuru engaged in flame wars with Japanese readers on Twitter who’d been critiquing the series, and Media Factory decided to cut ties with him.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu doesn’t have quite as controversial of a story (at least, for the time being), and moreover, Kazuya has made it clear that he only has eyes for Chizuru, eliminating the problem of ambiguity. Kazuya’s tendency to second-guess himself is his largest shortcoming: although kind-hearted and acting in good faith, Kazuya always overthinks things. Being with Ruka and Sumi has dailed this back somewhat by Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season, and with the second season in the books, Kazuya’s single-minded determination in helping Chizuru to achieve her dreams leads Chiruzu to wonder why men are so fixated on doing what’s impossible.

  • Curiously enough, I do have an answer for this. There is an evolutionary piece at work here, to show a prospective partner of one’s qualities and traits, and this is why folks go to extraordinary lengths to impress the people they’re interested in. One of my favourite fictional examples is Top Gun‘s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who is a brilliant fighter pilot, but also cocky, immature and a non-team player. Mitchell outwardly is the opposite of Kazuya, being self-assured and smooth, but this actually is a façade: Mitchell flies as recklessly as he does because he lost his father in the Vietnam War, and when Mitchell’s wingman, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, is accidentally killed during a training exercise, Mitchell loses his confidence to fly for a stretch before regaining his game during a combat situation.

  • Despite their personalities being polar opposites, Kazuya and Mitchell both demonstrate what happens when one tries too hard to impress those around them, but both also have the requisite stubbornness and perseverance to do what they think is best to achieve their goals. Much as how Mitchell would demonstrate to his students in Top Gun: Maverick that it was possible to perform the mission within the tight parameters he’d specified, Kazuya’s grit opens Chizuru’s eyes to the fact that, even though her latest audition failed, and her grandmother’s time is short, they’re not out of options yet. Attitude issues notwithstanding, Mitchell and Kazuya both demonstrate that they are capable of showing, rather than being limited to telling.

  • Unbeknownst to Kazuya, this is why Ruka and Sumi both develop feelings for him. He might be clumsy and inept, but his actions show what’s in his heart. Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season ends up leaving Mami in the dust: a relic of a bygone era, Mami had dated Kazuya briefly before dumping him. The light novels indicate that Mami’s story is a bit of a tragic one, leading her to willfully manipulate those around her in a diabolical sort of game: she doesn’t get along with her family, who had arranged her marriage and forced her to break up with her first partner.

  • While Mami’s actions in Kanojo, Okarishimasu are unjustifiable, knowing her story helps one to understand why she’s keen on manipulating people and taking a wrecking ball to their relationships. These details aren’t shown in the anime, and instead, come later in the light novel. Because the light novel has a lot of moving parts in it, when adapted into the anime format, things do seem to drag on for viewers. I do find it amusing whenever Mami’s eyes dull and she takes on the traits of a yandere, although I also cannot help but wonder what sort of effort and process would be involved in helping people to heal from their past.

  • Between having the whole of Kanojo, Okarishimasu in the books and reading supplementary materials, I do feel as though I’ve got a better measure of what this series is trying to accomplish now. I had been quite ready to send this series an F grade and admit that those who hate Kanojo, Okarishimasu with every fibre of their being might have a point, but it is bad form to throw in the towel early and acquiesce to the opinions that more popular anime reviewers hold without making one’s own call on things. Had Kanojo, Okarishimasu actually failed in my books, I would not be writing about it.

  • I’ve been called out before for only writing positively of the things I experience, and there’s two simple reasons for this. Firstly, I’m not a professional anime critic and have no obligation to sit through series I dislike: if I drop something, I will do so without fanfare, and I won’t write about it. Secondly, at least according to readers, I’ve developed something of a reputation for finding positives even in series that ruffle my feathers. This is where the “Terrible Anime Challenge” series comes in, and in the case of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, while it was the case that I spent eleven episodes of the series in a state of either bemusement or annoyance, the finale suddenly led me to add two and two.

  • While the journey was a tumultuous one, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season did end in a manner I found satisfactory, and tied together all of the loose ends that had been bothering me. Scenes that prima facie appeared without purpose were now with meaning, and this meant that my irritation vanished on the spot. However, one aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season that didn’t sit so well with me was the prevalence of scenes like these, where a large amount of text is present on screen to denote asides the characters are having. I appreciate that these are here to give voice to the character’s thoughts, but they also create visual clutter and come across as being overly sarcastic. These were absent during the first season, which allowed the viewer’s attention to focus on the characters’ interactions and movements, but in the second season, they’re distractions.

  • Luckily, during the most pivotal moments of Kanojo, Okarishimasu, these asides are absent. For instance, there’s no text to distract from the scene where Ruka kisses Kazuya. The entire scene conveyed a sense of desperation and resignation in Ruka: she says so as much, and similarly to how Yui broke into tears during the events of Oregairu‘s third season, it is communicated to viewers here that Ruka doesn’t really stand any sort of chance. One must admire Ruka for how direct she is about how she feels about things, and this entire evening could not have been easy for her.

  • Kazuya’s grandmother is thoroughly convinced that she will be welcoming Chizuru into the family and gifts her a family heirloom as a result. Throughout Kanojo, Okarishimasu, Kazuya had entertained the idea of telling her grandmother and parents the truth about Chizuru, that they’re a phony couple, but over time, the lie endured because it became increasingly difficult to come forward, especially in the knowledge both Chizuru and Kazuya’s grandmothers were thrilled that their grandchildren would be family.

  • In the end, it’s Chizuru, who makes the call to perpetuate the lie for a little longer; her grandmother is dying, and she feels that it would be unfair to spring this news on her. At this point in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, glimpses of the series’ real story began appearing, and I found myself wishing that this is the direction the series had taken from the start. I understand the comedic detours are meant to humanise the characters, but because Kanojo, Okarishimasu is limited to twelve episodes per season, the series simply doesn’t have the luxury of slowly fleshing things out. Love stories take time to explore, and this is why more time is almost always needed to tell a compelling, convincing tale.

  • As Kazuya agonises over things during a make-up date with Ruka, Ruka takes a photograph of her gourmet pancake before digging in. Smartphone technology has come quite a long way: although Japan had been a front-runner in feature phones, the industry was disrupted in far-reaching ways when Apple introduced their iPhone back in 2007. Fifteen years after its introduction, the iPhone line has advanced into an industry-leading standard, and I am excited to receive my iPhone 14 Pro because it’s going to be a substantial upgrade over my current iPhone Xʀ. The iPhone Xʀ already takes excellent food photographs, so I’m curious to see how five years’ worth of advancement impacts my food photography, which has become something of a hobby for me.

  • After Kazuya’s birthday passes, Sumi decides to create a customised date based on his interests. Knowing that Kazuya is a big fan of marine life and aquariums, she takes him to the local marine park on an eventful and fun day. Sumi is outfitted in a school uniform, thinking that Kazuya was into that sort of thing after spotting him and Chizuru on a date in their school uniforms earlier. As the day draws to a close, Sumi brings Kazuya to a beautiful lookout providing a view of the city skyline, and to Kazuya’s surprise, happy couples can be seen everywhere.

  • Kazuya’s imagination goes into overdrive, and while it does appear as though Sumi is struggling with a kokuhaku, it turns out she’d been working up the courage to give Kazuya his birthday gift. Subsequently, Kazuya tries his hand at explaining his situation with Chizuru to her (in an indirect manner), and the pair share tears before Sumi does her best to reassure him. The pair part ways on a good note, and in this moment, Kazuya determines what his next move regarding Chizuru is.

  • Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season ends the way it began by covering Chizuru’s latest ambitions to a career as an actress, and she’s unsuccessful in her most recent audition. Flashing back to her time as a middle school student and her decision to become an actress after watching a film starring her grandmother, the specifics behind Chizuru are finally shown to viewers. These moments are the most critical parts of Kanojo, Okarishimasu because they give Chizuru proper exposition, and once her story is known, every part of her character, and her general attitudes towards Kazuya, become logical.

  • With this story in the open, I felt that the reason why Chizuru has been keeping Kazuya at a distance was simply because his determination and optimistic spirit has similarities with her grandfather’s: he was always one to believe that anything is possible, and that specifics can be worked out later. Since her grandfather’s death, Chizuru felt compelled to succeed on her own merits, without any assistance, which leads her to turn down Kazuya’s help. Ordinarily, dusting oneself off and trying again is what’s required, but Chizuru’s on one hell of a deadline because her grandmother’s health is rapidly declining, and she feels duty-bound to succeed to show her grandparents that their wishes for her were also fulfilled. Because of the timelines involved in auditions, Chizuru begins to feel that it might not be possible.

  • This is where Kazuya comes in: typically, his timing and lack of tact earns him admonishment from Chizuru, but because things had reached this point, Chizuru realises that it’s either she cling to her pride and attempt to do things the old-fashioned way, which would certainly mean her grandmother will never see her act, or she accept Kazuya’s help. Chizuru is initially surprised and wonders if it’s even possible for him to pull things off, but Kazuya reminds her that he’s in business administration, and therefore possesses the skills needed to run such a project. Kanojo, Okarishimasu may have presented Kazuya as a loser of sorts up until now, but the series has never once mentioned that his pursuit of Chizuru’s heart (and the collateral damage that tends to accumulate) ever had an impact on his studies.

  • It therefore stands to reason that, where relationships and romance aren’t concerned, Kazuya can hold his own, but since Chizuru was so absorbed in her own world, she never saw this side of Kazuya. In fact, now that I’ve entertained the thought, it does feel as though Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s portrayal of Kazuya is entirely consistent with how Chizuru sees him, and in this way, it is fair to say that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is every bit as much Chizuru’s story, as it is Kazuya’s. For the first time, Chizuru is flustered, and one hopes that, as Kazuya puts his best forward for her, Chizuru’s opinion of Kazuya will improve, as well.

  • In the event I weren’t being clear, Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season proved a pleasant surprise. I had remained unimpressed with the series during its run, and was quite ready to mark it as a write-off, a series not worth saying anything about, but the finale tied up enough of the loose ends so that all of the lead-up to the finale now had a reasonable context. With Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s directions now clear, I can say that this series is therefore better than I had anticipated. It does have its moments, and I am glad to have had the patience to sit things through to completion. To be sure, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a B- (2.7 of 4.0): this series isn’t going to displace any of my favourites, and it doesn’t alter how I see the world, but things cannot be considered to be waste of time, either. While the anime still leaves much to be desired in pacing, the story does appear to be hitting its stride now, enough for me to retain a modicum of interest in where things land. This is a win in my books.

I had been an episode away from pulling the plug on Kanojo, Okarishimasu: until the finale, the series had meandered, unnecessarily creating conflict by returning Mami into the fray even as Ruka tried to pry Kazuya’s eyes from Chizuru. However, in the eleventh hour, Kanojo, Okarishimasu suddenly turned around – this anime adaptation exemplifies why I tend to stick around until the very end, because anything can happen. In the absence of Chizuru’s background, her motivations remain unknown, and Kazuya’s determination to help her appears little more than an unwarranted and unhealthy fixation. Similarly, without knowing why Chizuru wanted to become an actress, Kazuya has no reason in trying to court Chizuru beyond maintaining a promise with his grandmother, and Chizuru’s grandmother. With this additional revelation, additional weight is given to both Chizuru and Kazuya’s reasons for being. The second season had certainly taken its time to reach this point, but now that this is known, it becomes clear that Ruka has no chance at all. This aspect of Kanojo, Okarishimasu is written in stone, necessary for the story to progress, but one cannot help but feel poorly for her. Ruka’s feelings are legitimate, and while she’s clingy, her take-charge personality does seem to be a suitable fit, at least for the present, for Kazuya. His biggest weakness is indecision, and spending time with Ruka has also given Kazuya a glimpse as to what a relationship entails, both in good and bad. While seemingly relegated to heartbreak, Ruka’s role in Kanojo, Okarishimasu is an unfortunate, but necessary one – it provides Kazuya with the stepping stone he needs to press on ahead and show Chizuru that he’s committed to her. This appears to be something that could be covered in the upcoming third season as Kazuya strives to make the crowd-funding project a success for Chizuru. Overall, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu‘s second season had not impressed during most of its run, seeing its conclusion provides a decisive answer as to why things are happening the way they did. This remains a difficult anime to recommend because seeing things unfold at such a pace is frustrating, but for folks with patience to weather this storm, the series does set the stage for what could be a touching story yet. Ultimately, I would probably suggest that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is still a series that should be watched once it’s hit completion – individually, episodes can be painfully slow and drag out longer than they should, but the overarching story winds up being touching enough in spite of the series’ shortcomings. Occurrences such as these are why I am reluctant to drop anime: much as how hockey teams can manage to tie a game after pulling the goaltender with only seconds left in third period and subsequently win in overtime, anime can sometimes find ways to surprise viewers. Similarly, I do hope readers have gone all the way through this post, rather than reading just the title and immediately drawing conclusions on what I made of things – for Kanojo, Okarishimasu, my beer can stay right where it belongs, since this series is not, in the terms  of internet reviewers more popular (but less eloquent and, if I may, more vulgar than myself), a “dumpster fire”.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! and Finding A Path Amidst Adversity Through Family

“Grit is that ‘extra something’ that separates the most successful people from the rest. It’s the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality.” –Travis Bradberry

After an air accident results in his sister and her husband’s deaths, university student Yūta Segawa decides to take in his sister’s children, Sora, Miu and Hina, and raise them himself to keep them from being separated. Although the journey is a desperately tricky one, thanks in no small part to Yūta’s small apartment and limited budget. Despite his struggles, Yūta is determined to keep Sora, Miu and Hina happy – he takes on several jobs to help make ends meet, allows the girls to modify the apartment so they can have a modicum of privacy, and accompanies the girls to pick up some of their belongings back home. Summer vacation soon draws to a close, and Yūta’s friends, the statuesque Raika Oda, smooth but caring Kōichi Nimura, and the uncouth Shuntarō Sato also begin helping out in their own way. Although Yūta’s relatives are disapproving of the arrangement, after Yūta manages to convince them of his commitment to Sora, Miu and Hina’s well-being, they approve of his decisions and, to help him along, transfer his sister and her husband’s old house to his name, allowing everyone to continue living together. This is 2012’s Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! (Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!, and from here on out, PapaKiki! for brevity), an anime that had caught my eye for its premise – despite its approach raising some eyebrows, I was met with an anime that proved unexpectedly heartwarming. However, for the past decade, I had trouble writing about this series; the themes here had been simple enough, and PapaKiki! had shown how raw determination in the face of adversity was sufficient to overcome all obstacles. This message is most evident in the sheer effort Yūta directs towards looking after each of Sora, Miu and Hina, but at the same time, it also speaks to the lingering feelings that Sora has for Yūta. Determination and grit alone do not cut it – where individual effort fails, the classic message of accepting help from others comes into play. Raika helps Sora on several occasions, teaching her how to cook and encouraging her to do her best, leading her to continue with her club activities, and Hina quickly captures the hearts of the community. Kōchi manages to help Miu rediscover her spirits after she becomes depressed when classmates begin pitying her situation. In spite of how clear the themes are, aspects of PapaKiki! lingered on my mind, and in conjunction with an impending MCAT, I ended up putting off a discussion of this series.

Upon revisiting PapaKiki!, it turns out that there had been a subtle, but constant sense of melancholy throughout the anime. Although Sora, Miu and Hina find joy in their everyday lives, and Yūta is happiest when everyone is living their lives fully, the question of handling Yuri and her husband’s death hangs over every moment. It isn’t until the series nears its conclusion that this point becomes addressed – Sora breaks the news to Hina, and while Hina is visibly saddened, she resolves to continue smiling for those around her. At her age, children like Hina do not have a full concept of what death is, and instead, may instead hold themselves accountable for things. To see Hina swiftly turn things around and promise to not cry, and instead, smile, was therefore heartwarming in that it shows just how important Yūta and her sisters are to her. Despite the loss of her parents, Yūta, Sora, Miu and the entire neighbourhood have her back, and Hina appears to be aware of the fact that being respectful to her parents simply means being kind to those around her and making sure everyone around her continues to smile. In this way, PapaKiki! becomes more than a mere story about Yūta’s efforts to look after a family despite being in a tough spot, his love for his sister’s children is strong enough to help them remain strong and in the end, accept that while their parents aren’t returning, they can still live their own lives fully and honour their parents’ wishes for them. Together with help from Raika and Kōchi, as well as voice actress and neighbour Kurumi Atarashi, and practically the whole neighbourhood, Hina thus is able to make a new family and shows to Yūta’s aunt and uncle that, beyond any doubt, everything he’s done for Sora, Miu and Hina has been genuine and effective. Looking past the superficial elements, such as the camera’s focus on Raika’s assets, Shuntarō’s perverse traits or the fact that Yūta has ill timing whenever Sora is concerned, PapaKiki! succeeds in dealing with a challenging topic in a mature and thoughtful way. This is where PapaKiki! excels, and in conjunction with a touching story about Yūta’s determination, as well as Sora’s efforts to get Yūta to notice her as more than just a child, PapaKiki! ends up being superbly enjoyable, covering a considerable amount of territory over a short run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • PapaKiki!‘s first two episodes betrayed nothing about what the remainder of the series would deal with, and this contributed to the surprise of what happens after Yuri and her husband take off for a longer trip. I still vividly recall starting my journey to PapaKiki! in the university’s library block on a quiet summer’s morning while awaiting the start of my MCAT course. Back then, I’d picked up an iPad, and was able to watch anime with a much greater freedom than before. During summers, campus is far quieter than it typically is, and I practically had the entire floor to myself.

  • That’s about the extent of what I remember; looking back, I have no idea how I was able to finish the whole of PapaKiki! while studying for the MCAT. However, I do remember thinking to myself that I would have liked to write about the whole series once I did wrap up. The journey in PapaKiki! was quite gripping; what had begun as a run-of-the-mill comedy suddenly took a turn for the serious after the aircraft Yuri and her husband on crash with no survivors. Yūta is suddenly thrown into the deep end, and while he’s able to get along with Sora, Miu and Hina well enough, what happens next does push things to the limit.

  • What made PapaKiki! difficult to write for was the fact that, a decade earlier, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why things felt a little “off”. In the present, I’ve experienced enough to conclude that this feeling is a consequence of the fact that Yūta, Sora and Miu are trying to put on a brave front for Hina. While it is clear everyone’s devastated by their loss, Hina’s innocence and happiness means that the others do their best for her. To the me of ten years ago, it did feel as though they were trying to push the issue under a rug, but now, it’s quite plain that this choice was meant to keep Hina happy: Yūta, Sora and Miu find it difficult to figure out how to best convey news of their parents’ death to Hina.

  • Yūta’s apartment is a far cry from the Takanashi residence, and while he’s done a good enough job of keeping the place clean, the close quarters means that Yūta runs into trouble with Sora and Miu’s requirements for space. However, problems invite solutions, and over time, Yūta works out how to go about his routine without accidentally walking in on Sora or Miu. Of the two, Sora is more bashful and quick to anger, while Miu is more patient and, while still exasperated by Yūta’s seeming lack of knowledge about young women, does her best to walk him through things.

  • While revisiting PapaKiki!, it suddenly dawned on me that the character designs felt familiar. Sora looks a great deal like Da Capo‘s Nemu Asakura, and Miu reminds me of Sakura Yoshino. As it turns out, Feel produced PapaKiki!, and some seven years earlier, they were responsible for Da Capo: Second Season. I watched Da Capo and Da Capo: Second Season in 2016 as I worked on my graduate thesis, and while the series had been quite enjoyable, I similarly encountered considerable difficulty in writing about it because it was, in effect, an anime adaptation of a visual novel that hadn’t offered me anything especially novel to discuss.

  • However, the visual similarities between Da Capo and PapaKiki! are superficial: both series are dramatically different in their premise and themes. One aspect that became increasingly visible as PapaKiki! went on was how, through Hina, Yūta, Sora and Miu also become more connected with their community. Although Hina is only three, she brings with her a seemingly indefatigable sense of joy and innocence that wins over the hearts of everyone around her. Here, after neighbour and voice actress Kurumi Atarashi learns of Yūta’s arrangements, she becomes quick friends with Hina, who’s a big fan of the show that Kurumi works in.

  • Throughout PapaKiki!, a recurring element was Sora’s unrequited feelings for Yūta. It turns out that, after Yūta had provided reassurance and comfort to Sora when they’d first met, she’s since seen him as a reliable and dependable fellow, even if he occasionally comes upon her while she’s changing. For Yūta, Sora goes the extra mile, hoping that he’ll come around and notice her feelings. When Yūta leaves his phone at home after taking off for work, she offers to bring the phone to him and dresses especially nicely for the run. Miu is fond of teasing Sora about things, and PapaKiki!‘s original run left things quite ambiguous.

  • As the deep summer sets in, Yūta takes Sora, Miu and Hina back to their old house, which has sat unused since the incident that claimed Yuri and her husband’s lives. It would appear that Yūta’s relatives must be looking after the property, since the utilities and insurance are still being paid for: when everyone arrives, the power is still on, and while the girls pick up their belongings, Yūta dozes before setting about cooking dinner. Being home creates a precipitous situation where Hina begins wondering about when her mother will come back, but tact from Yūta and the others’ part alleviates things for the time being.

  • As a result of Shuntarō’s demands, Yūta ends up having Kōichi and Raika over for dinner. Times are good, although I’ve long felt that Shuntarō is a character PapaKiki! could’ve done without. It’s not often that I say that an anime can do without a character, but his exaggerated traits and mannerisms contribute nothing to the series; in the occasional moment where he pulls through and helps out, the same could be done by Kōichi. The odd laugh may result from Raika striking him with a paper fan when his behaviour crosses the line, but beyond this, Shuntarō does not play a meaningful role in the series.

  • Conversely, Raika’s affection for Hina, Miu and Sora comes across as being motherly; Raika might be blunt and stoic, but her actions speak far more loudly than her words do. She agrees to teach Yūta how to improve his cooking, and after meeting Hina, Miu and Sora, is more than happy to spend time with Yūta because it also means being able to see the three. Raika is voiced by Yui Horie, a famous voice actress with iconic roles like Love Hina!‘s Naru Narusegawa, Kanon‘s Ayu Tsukimiya, KonoSuba‘s Wiz and Kotori Shirakawa of Da Capo.

  • The moé aesthetic has changed considerably over the years: PapaKiki! inherits elements from the Da Capo era, as characters have sharper facial features and more angular eyes. Nowadays, characters are rendered with softer lines and rounder facial traits, and at least for me, the Da Capo era designs create a sense of melancholy that is indescribable. This is compounded by the fact that musicians like CooRie create music that, while sounding happy overall, is also permeated by a sense of longing. In the present, music to moé is far more energetic and spirited, lacking the same yearning older songs convey.

  • When Yūta’s work schedule means he’s unable to stick around, Sora decides to pick up the slack and learns to cook in his stead. Although Sora starts out a terrible cook and burns most everything, over time, she becomes increasingly competent with cooking. This ends up being a wonderful metaphor for Sora: she lacks confidence in herself, and initially views Raika as a rival that she stands no chance against. However, as Raika rightly states, no one gets it right in the beginning, and that it is with practise that one becomes a deft hand in their craft. For viewers, this can be interpreted as being a metaphor for how Sora is still young, and therefore, has time to cultivate her skills, as well as do what she can to convince Yūta to see her in a different light.

  • I had originally picked up PapaKiki! because I had been curious to see more of Raika and how things between her and Yūta would unfold. At the beginning, when Sora, Miu and Hina still have their parents, PapaKiki! felt like the conventional romance-comedy, but once the plane crash occurs, things turned around completely. With the benefit of hindsight, while Yūta has a bit of a crush on Raika, and the pair do get along quite well, there doesn’t appear to be any romantic tension. Yūta occasionally becomes flustered by Raika’s blaise attitude about things, but in more ordinary moments, the two regard one another more as friends. As it was, once PapaKiki! hit its stride, the series became worth watching for seeing how Yūta handles the surprises that he encounters as a result of his choices.

  • While PapaKiki! strives to convey positivity, numerous hurdles continue to throw Yūta in for a ride. His landlady, sore about Yūta violating the terms of his lease, decides to evict him, and this sends Yūta into a desperate search for a new place. Although his friends pull through and manage to find several candidate properties to rent based on Yūta’s requirements for price and space, they all come with their own caveats, from being located inconveniently for Hina, Sora and Miu, to one property that is allegedly cursed.

  • In the end, it turns out the landlady is the older lady Hina runs into, and the younger woman, Sawako, is the landlady’s daughter. Talking things through, Sawako decides to allow Yūta to keep living here on the condition that he update his lease agreement, and also that he allow Hina to visit her from time to time. Anime may seem overly idealistic about how opening up and listening is the key to resolving difficult problems, but I have found that all too often, people jump to conclusions and assume the worst of others, creating conflict unnecessarily. Although people will criticise my approach as being unfeasible for larger scale differences such as those that entail foreign affairs, I maintain that at an interpersonal level, these things matter.

  • Sora and Miu’s respective resemblances to Da Capo‘s Nemu and Sakura is especially pronounced here, as the pair rush off for their respective schools. PapaKiki! had begun during the summer, when Yūta had all the time he needed to work part time jobs and earn enough to keep up with living expenses now that he’s got three more people with him. This was already quite taxing, so when term begins again, Yūta would presumably run into more trouble as he attempts to keep up with his studies on top of making enough money to keep everyone together. This stress, while Yūta had never meant for it to do so otherwise, would transfer over to Sora and Miu – both are old enough to be aware of what Yūta is going through and do their best to help.

  • Despite Mui retaining a cheerful demeanour around her classmates, said classmates take pity on Miu. This bothers her greatly – she’s used to being kind around everyone, and this change is quite jarring. Fortunately, Kōichi is around to help out, and he offers to take her on a date of sorts. Although Kōichi is a womaniser who’s fond of dating women for kicks, he is legitimately kind, doing everything he can to help those around him. After spending a day with Miu, Kōichi takes her to a shop to get her shoe repaired, and the day ends at an observation deck. Here, Miu is able to realise that she should continue to be herself, and she’s glad that Yūta allowed her to take some down time.

  • PapaKiki! shows the importance of being able to gain some perspective on things, and once classes resume, the series begins to place a greater emphasis on problems the girls are facing now that they’re back in school – during the summer, they spent their days at home and around the neighbourhood, being able to look after Hina and tend to housework with increasing efficiency. Although a work of fiction, PapaKiki! absolutely gets right just how busy life is once housework becomes a part of one’s routine, and how demanding a student’s schedule is.

  • When Sora’s singing takes a hit, she decides to resign from the choral club so she can devote her time to helping Yūta keep up with everything, even though she’d loved to sing. While feeling this was for the best, Sora herself is guilt-ridden at the decision, and moreover, both she and Miu’s grades have suffered as a result of how busy they are. One’s studies and extracurricular activities are indeed full-time activities, and looking back, I am immensely appreciative of the fact that my parents allowed me to pour all of my effort into my schooling and related activities when I was a student. During the route to the MCAT, I was able to study without worrying about housework, although I still helped out around the house as a means of taking it easy.

  • In the present day, doing the housework becomes my means of unwinding after a solid eight hours of software development, and looking back, I feel that life as a full-fledged member of society is, in some ways, more straightforward than it had been as a student. This is because I have full agency to make my own decisions (and with it, the requirement that I own any mistakes I make), whereas as a student, decisions were often made for me and I would be held accountable for the consequences. This is why, while Kurumi is going through difficulties of her own, I felt that she would be able to find her way again – her old contract had expired, and she’s having trouble finding work. However, once she has a chance to think about things, and with a swift kick to the rear from Sora, Kurumi is able to find her footing anew.

  • Sora herself needs a kick in the rear, but unlike her blunt approach to Kurumi, support from Raika and Yūa is more reassuring – like Yūta, Sora feels that their problems are theirs to bear alone. However, over the course of PapaKikI!, Yūta experiences how assistance from Raika, Kōichi and even Shuntarō has taken some of the pressure off him. In this way, Yūta is able to impart the same wisdom on Sora, and after giving things some thought, Sora decides she’s not quite ready to call it quits just yet. Like numerous other series I’ve watched, PapaKiki! makes extensive use of lighting to capture the emotional tenour of a moment. Harsher colour contrasts mirror stress, and gentler gradients convey comfort. The series has long summer days to communicate the feeling of a tranquil life together, and storms to similarly remind viewer of challenges the characters must overcome.

  • In the end, Sora needn’t have worried – the choral club’s president had faith in her, and hung onto Sora’s resignation letter, but never actioned it. It typifies PapaKiki!‘s ability to present challenges that characters face, and while the problems Miu and Sora encounter are dealt with promptly, one can imagine how being in their situation, things would still be quite difficult. Sora may have resolved one issue with the choral club, but her grades continue to suffer, and there’s no real way to fix this unless she were afforded the time to study.

  • As luck would have it, Kurumi manages to land another voice acting role, and Sora is overjoyed to hear this. However, the lingering problem of trying to keep up with her schoolwork and extracurricular activities, while at the same time, helping Yūta out, has proven quite taxing. Yūta’s relatives do eventually step in and offer a recourse – his uncle is looking at taking Sora, Miu and Hina in so the three can remain together, looking after the sisters in Yuri and her husband’s stead. This would allow the three to live a more structured and organised life, while at the same time, giving Yūta a chance to finish his studies.

  • In any other setting, this should have been the first course of action that was taken, and there would have no discussion as to whether or not Yūta would be able to take Sora, Miu and Hina in. However, this would completely wipe the story out, and PapaKiki!‘s purpose is to show what might unfold if things had been allowed to progress the way they did. This is the whole point of fiction, and if one can accept that standing beside a first-aid kit can heal bullet wounds, then allowing for a universe where Yūta is given a chance isn’t that much of a stretch.

  • Entering PapaKiki!‘s final act, both Sora and Miu’s problems are sufficiently resolved so that things can turn towards Yūta’s relatives finally stepping forward and asking him to consider allowing Sora, Miu and Hina to live with them, promising that they’ll keep the three together. From a practical sense, this was the most feasible route to take, and external observers (i.e. the viewers) would likely conclude that were they in Yūta’s position, this would be the best possible option. From a storytelling standpoint, however, what makes Yūta admirable is his refusal to give up. This helps to drive PapaKiki!‘s themes, even though in reality, such a course of action would be deleterious in the long term. Reconciling this gap and acknowledging that some things need to be fudged is one of the reasons behind how I enjoy anime whose premises are engaging, even if they aren’t the most sound.

  • The lingering question of when Hina would find out about her parents is finally answered when Sora breaks the news to her. This happens right on the edge of Hina’s preschool putting on a singing performance, and I was a little surprised to see how quickly Hina recovers from things. Dramatic revelations are a common storytelling element, utilised to increase tension and accelerate a given story towards the climax, and initially, it appears that Hina loses her usual vigour and spirits. However, she recovers very quickly: Miu overhears Hina talking to her stuffed rabbit, promising to smile and do her best no matter where her parents are. This speaks to Hina’s uncommon maturity; despite only being three, I imagine her experiences have led her to grow more quickly and become mindful of those around her.

  • While paying resects for Yuri and her husband, Yūta and Sora run into Yūta’s aunt and uncle, who admit that their initial reluctance to take in Sora, Miu and Hina was the consequence of their regret at having not done more when Yūta and Yuri had lost their parents. This led Yuri to do precisely what Yūta has done in PapaKiki!: she was successful in looking after Yūta despite the odds being stacked against her, and now, Yūta intends to do the same because he is motivated by his own experiences. Putting two and two together, it becomes clear as to why Yūta is pressing on with his goal of taking care of Sora, Miu and Hina: he wants to return the favour to Yuri as an expression of gratitude. As such, even when presented with an option that would help his own situation, Yūta declines.

  • The preschool play has Yūta attending alongside Raika, Kōichi, Sora, Miu and practically the whole neighbourhood. Throughout PapaKiki!, Hina’s adorable manner has won over everyone around her, and this is one of the reasons why Hina is able to recover so quickly; although saddened by her parents’ passing, Hina also knows that she can make people smile, and in this way, gains a much larger family by becoming a vital part of the community. This was the missing piece of PapaKiki! that made it a little trickier to write for, but at present, with a little more life experience, I was able to coherently write out what made this anime work for me.

  • I originally concluded that PapaKiki! is an excellent series, one that lives up to expectations and would earn a recommendation from me. In Terrible Anime Challenge terms, “PapaKiki! is as good as the community had made it out to be. Having gone through with a revisit, I’ve found that my thoughts about PapaKiki! have not changed dramatically, and so, a full decade after I wrote about the first episode, I return to offer a more detailed set of thoughts surrounding what I felt this series to excel in doing. However, this time around, there is no MCAT on the horizon to deal with.

  • As such, ten years after I first picked up PapaKiki!, my verdict has not changed, and I still would recommend this series on its merits. Since PapaKiki! is done in full, and since I’ve watched the series front-to-back, including the OVAs, at present, I do not believe I’ll be returning to write about this again, unless there is visible interest in my thoughts on the OVAs. With this post in the books, I’ll be returning soon to write another revisit about one of K-On!!‘s lesser-known, but nonetheless important surprises, as well as my thoughts on Luminous Witches once we pass the third episode.

When I had finished PapaKiki! for the first time, I had wondered if the story would have succeeded in conveying its messages had Yūta been a salaryman rather than a university student. Finances and housing were two of the biggest problems he had to deal with; buying enough food and essentials for four, on top of making a small apartment work, cannot have been easy on his part time jobs, forcing him to take on more work to ensure there was enough money to keep the lights on. This results in Yūta spending less time with Sora, Miu and Hina, to the point where his relatives do begin worrying about whether or not he can maintain his studies on top of his duties as a guardian. Towards the end of PapaKiki!, Yūta’s aunt and uncle arrange for him to take possession of his sister and her husband’s old home – while Yūta would still need to deal with property tax, utilities and insurance, having a place to decisively call his own would doubtlessly be a game-changer. Sora, Miu and Hina return to a familiar home, and Yūta no longer needs to worry about rent or a mortgage, freeing up his finances for other things. In PapaKiki!, Yūta’s struggles with funds contribute to a part of the story; taking this problem away would likely have diminished the story, and so, in retrospect, it was appropriate to have Yūta be a university student. A series where Yūta was already a salaryman with some financial stability would take away from the effort, and while there’d still be the matter of handling his sister’s death and communicating this to Hina, much of the conflicts in the series would be lessened. Yūta’s uncle and aunt would be less hesitant to let him keep acting as Sora, Miu and Hina’s guardians, and Yūta himself would actually spend more time with everyone, avoiding some of the misadventures that arose in PapaKiki!. Altogether, while the setup in PapaKikI! cannot be said to be realistic, the story was set in such a way so that the deck is stacked against Yūta, giving viewers more reason to root for him, and the series’ outcomes become more satisfying as a result. In this way, PapaKiki! shows how works of fiction may need to use contrived and unrealistic scenarios to convey their message – series that are more realistic may come at the expense of impact, and for this reason, I hold that realism isn’t always an important metric on which works of fiction should be judged against.