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Category Archives: Terrible Anime Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • It is almost impossible to have a discussion about Glasslip without mention of Helene “Soulelle” Kolpakova, whose Glasslip “analysis” became widely accepted as the single most definitive and authoritative interpretation of the anime, despite being incorrect and incomplete (Kolpakova had posted her opinions to MyAnimeList’s forums a few days before the finale aired, and it subsequently received undeserved praise). My attempts to understand Kolpakova’s perspectives, and those who agreed with her, were completely unsuccessful over the years; my persistence was motivated by a wish to convince readers not to agree with someone who was all but insulting them. I’ve never received any feedback here for the rebuttals I’ve written over the years, and I was never provided with justification for why people agreed with Kolpakova even when she’d clearly been insulting other readers and telling them what to think. Similarly, my rebuttals never got the same number of upvotes or shares that Kolpakova’s “analysis” did, despite mine being superior in every way (that, and I don’t insult my readers). Having exhausted all other efforts to try and persuade those who agreed with Kolpakova to at least see things from a different perspective, I was ultimately forced to employ more dramatic measures.

  • I ended up using bit of social engineering to convince a Redditor who’d popularised Kolpakova’s “analysis” to strike mention of it from their post, which had received 115 upvotes. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this bit of skulduggery worked. While this comes way too late to make an appreciable difference (those who agree with Kolpakova are unlikely to change their minds), any new readers coming into the thread won’t see Kolpakova’s misleading claims attached to 115 upvotes. Kakeru’s preference for sleeping in a tent is intended to mirror his unwillingness to call any one place home, a consequence of having moved around all his life and the corresponding fear of forming attachments because of their potential to be lost. However, this isn’t the central theme of Glasslip – instead, Kakeru’s eccentricities were likely intended to illustrate just how important Tōko is to him, given that he’s willing to pursue a relationship (i.e. attachment) with her despite his initial desire to stay as detached from places and people as possible. The visual metaphors of Glasslip were never complex or difficult to understand, and a common misconception is that “unlearned” people dislike the anime because the symbols and metaphors were in over their heads, that those unsatisfied with Glasslip were “used to stories being spoon-fed to them”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrible Anime Challenge: An Unexpected Journey in Machikado Mazoku

“In those days, I was always on time. I was entirely respectable, and nothing unexpected ever happened.” –Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

When high school student Yūko Yoshida awakens with horns and a tail one day, she learns that she’s the latest descendent in a family of dæmons that was cursed to poverty by the forces of light. Yūko learns from Lilith, her ancestor that, in order to break free from this curse, she must defeat the area’s magical girl, Momo Chiyoda. However, things don’t go quite so smoothly: Yūko has limited magical prowess but no physical strength whatsoever, and her efforts to thwart Momo invariably end up in failure. Over time, Yūko begins to grow concerned for the stoic and unsociable Momo: despite being enemies officially, the two gradually come to care for one another. When Momo falls ill, she inadvertently wipes away some of Momo’s blood with a cloth that comes into contact with the statue of her ancestor, fulfilling the terms of the prophecy and lifting the curse on the Yoshida family. This comes at a cost to Momo, whose powers diminish, and she asks for Yūko’s help in defending their city. Yūko thus begins training under Momo more frequently, meets Mikan, another magical girl, and over time, develops a genuine desire to learn more about Momo. In the process, she discovers the truth behind her family’s situation, and confronts Momo about it. Momo reveals that she’s long been wanting to search for her older sister but is bound to her duty. While Yūko proposes swaying Momo to the Dark Side, Momo refuses on the condition that Yūko has yet to properly best her. Machikado Mazoku (The Demon Girl Next Door) was originally a four-panel manga running in Manga Time Kirara Carat and was adapted into an anime in the summer of 2019.

Shortly after I began watching Machikado Mazoku, I found myself superbly bored: Yūko resembles the comic villain with no discernible method towards achieving her goal, and early in the series, she suffered endlessly for comedy’s sake. However, as Machikado Mazoku progressed, my boredom gave way to engagement, and then enthusiasm as I watched the dynamic between Momo and Yūko mature. When everything is said and done, Machikado Mazoku is about the unexpectedness of life, and how things can still work out in curious ways despite the path being quite crooked and uncertain. For Yūko, her initial assignment of obtaining blood of a magical girl and offering it to Lilith seems daunting owing to how weak she is. However, rather than the traditional route of training having any tangible impact, Yūko’s sense of compassion and empathy allows her to take a different approach in fulfilling her task. Her success ultimately comes when she least expects it, and she “defeats” Momo no through strength of arms alone, but rather, through kindness. By taking the well-worn concept of light-versus-dark and inverting it, Machikado Mazoku shows that long-standing grievances and conflicts may no longer make sense after generations, paving the way for a new approach Yūko can take even in spite of her decidedly-inferior combat capabilities. In doing so, Yūko ends up doing something her ancestors could not: become friends (in all but name) with her mortal enemy. The end result is incredibly heart-warming, and fits Machikado Mazoku‘s endearing theme – friendship and kindness is far more effective of a tool than force and hostility, leading Yūko to a solution that had, until now, been difficult to resolve, giving Yūko a new status quo to learn and navigate.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I did Machikado Mazoku as a part of the Terrible Anime Challenge because I had procrastinated on watching it, and therefore only knew of the series that it was a particularly well-received one. However, when I started, the anime felt a bit weaker, counting on gag humour like Momo’s nanosecond transformations and Yūko’s endless low-level misfortunes to carry the humour throughout each episode.

  • However, as Machikado Mazoku continued, the series became increasingly engaging: the early episodes are deliberately slower simply because the time is used to give viewers a good measure of Yūko and Momo’s characters. As it stood, neither would clash in a titanic battle that Yūko’s ancestor, Lilith, envisioned, and viewers would need to get used to this fact, as well: Machikado Mazoku is an adaptation of a Manga Time Kirara work and therefore, bears the hallmarks of other series in this category, possessing lovable characters and situations that evoke a sense of pathos.

  • Yūko is voiced by Konomi Kohara, who is currently voicing Koisuru Asteroid‘s very own Chikage Sakurai (one more reason why I’ve taken such a fondness to her character). Besides Yūko and Chikage, Kohara has also voiced Azur Lane‘s HMS Sheffield and Domestic na Kanojo‘s Miu Ashihara. Kindhearted and caring for those around her, Yūko’s greatest weakness is her general lack of physical and mental prowess, leaving her quite unable to take the fight to magical girls as she’d hoped. Her family is cursed and unable to make and spend more than 40000 Yen (538 CAD at the time of writing) per month; this curse is what motivates Yūko to live up to her ancestry and lift the curse once and for all.

  • One of the most hilarious parts of Machikado Mazoku is the little statue that Yūko carries around with her: it is the vessel for Lilith, her ancestor’s spirit, and this statue, like Yūko, is subject to all sorts of misfortune, being dropped, thrown, kicked and used as a paperweight in spite of its status as an heirloom. In such times, Yūko pitifully shouts out gosenzo-sama! in response, although owing to the statue’s properties, Lilith never suffers from any lasting damage.

  • Lacking the strength to face Momo in a one-on-one, Yūko considers use of weapons or magic to assist her, but these are so shoddily constructed they would not even harm ordinary humans. This was probably meant to show that conventional means will not be effectual in Yūko’s situation, but it doubles as a moment of comedy, as well. Most of Machikado Mazoku‘s early episodes follow Momo’s misinterpretation of Yūko’s actions as a desire to get stronger, and as such, feature hilarious incidents surrounding Yūko’s weak abilities, many of which end with her running off in frustration, shouting out to Momo that things aren’t over yet.

  • When Yūko takes on a part-time job to help make ends meet, she learns of Momo’s poor lifestyle choices and recommends that she pick up some of the cocktail wieners. The next day, Momo reveals her lunch will consist solely of these cocktail wieners and hot dog buns. Surprised at how Momo lives, Yūko begins to take a greater hand in looking after Momo, and while she outwardly asserts that this is to have a fair fight when the time is right, the reality is that Yūko’s kind heart influences her decision-making more so than her ancestry and its associated obligations.

  • The Yoshida family is ultimately an adorable one: after Momo lends Yūko a laptop so that her younger sister, Ryoko, can learn the art of image processing and editing, Yūko barely manages to get home, but then spills a foreign liquid on the laptop. The entire family dissolves into a panic, but it turns out Momo had foreseen this and protected the laptop with a shock, impact and liquid resistant case. Such is life with the Yoshida family, whom, in spite of their misfortunes, are very happy people.

  • When Momo falls ill, Yūko pays her a visit to ensure she’s alright. She ends up cooking for Momo, and when Momo sustains a small cut, Yūko helps her clean this wound up. Unbeknownst to her, this blood comes into contact with Lilith’s statue, and from this point on, the curse afflicting the Yoshida family is lifted. It marks a major shift in Machikado Mazoku, and it was here that my interest in the anime shifted from one of moderate interest, to full engagement. The effect of something this subtle has non-trivial effects on Momo, who becomes weaker from the experience overall.

  • With the curse gone, the Yoshidas celebrate with onokonomiyaki, with Yūko treasuring the moment. Throughout the anime, I’ve long felt that Yūko’s mother, Seiko, bears a strong resemblance to Non Non Biyori‘s Hotaru Ichijo in manner and appearance: doing her best for Yūko’s sake, she’s soft-spoken and gentle in disposition. Once Yūko is given a bit more agency, Machikado Mazoku becomes much more fun to watch, and it is here that the slower, more repetitive jokes of the first half give way to a more spirited series.

  • While out for work, Yūko encounters another magical girl, Mikan. With Momo’s remark about the existence of magical girls more powerful than herself, Yūko immediately panics, fearing that Momo’s weakened state has caused the Light Clan to send in someone to clean up the mess. Mikan, of course, is not heavy cavalry, and simply happens to run into Yūko, growing worried about her in the process. Yūko becomes a moment away from relieving herself, and engages her 危機管理 (Hepburn kiki-kanri, jyutping ngai4 gei1 gun2 lei5, literally “Crisis Management”) form in a desperate bid for freedom.

  • Yūko’s entry into the transformation is adorable: shouting 危機管理 when she’s distressed will start what is one of the most fun transformation sequences I’ve seen in any anime, featuring an adorable piece of incidental music. The end result is that Yūko is given a slight boost in all of her attributes at the expense of leaving her in an immodest outfit. This renders her about as physically and mentally capable as the average person (consider the parallel in that, for the rotund Jedi, his Force Leap is your regular jump). The phrase “crisis management” is awkward-sounding in English, as it has six syllables to the original Japanese’s four, but after it was introduced, I came to look forwards to seeing the circumstances that would compel Yūko to transform.

  • While Mikan and Yūko start on the wrong note, they do get along with one another, even though one of Mikan’s core eccentricities is that she causes localised disasters to manifest whenever she becomes flustered. Highly unique traits to an individual are a commonality in Manga Time Kirara works, and I remember a time when these traits formed the basis for the discussion throughout the course of a series. I’ve never been too focused on these elements, since exaggerated personal characteristics and idiosyncrasies are mean to accentuate the idea that everyone in a series is unique.

  • Mikan’s arrival in Machikado Mazoku adds life to the series, keeping things fresh: the dynamic between Yūko and Momo have reached a sort of equilibrium now, with the two helping one another out where they can, and while this remains endearing, Mikan shuffles things up a little. Over time, Yūko begins to get closer to Mikan as well, spending a day with her at the movies to help her reign in her curse.

  • The joy of watching Manga Time Kirara adaptations is that such series are inevitably relaxing, and from a big picture perspective, almost always have a heartwarming but relevant life lesson to convey. Machikado Mazoku‘s is that one’s path in life is uncertain, and unexpected things can happen, but the unexpected isn’t necessarily bad, and moreover, can lead to positive things happening, provided one maintains an equally open-minded outlook on things. There is a very famous example, of course, on how the unexpected can be a good thing in the long run: J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit is about this, and the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, comes away from his quest to help dwarves take back Erebor a different Hobbit, indirectly setting the stage for his nephew, Frodo, to save Middle Earth from Sauron’s influence and usher in a new Age of peace.

  • Yūko herself resembles a pet or small child in mannerisms, and one cannot help but feel simultaneous pity and happiness whenever she encounters a setback. However, Machikado Mazoku manages to up the ante when the girls attempt to give Lilith a physical body to inhabit. Done purely out of vain curiosity, the resulting product is so cute that screenshots and words are insufficient to describe what goes down. When Lilith realises she has mobility, she begins plotting Momo’s downfall, only to learn that Momo’s caught every word, and the link they share is apparently bidirectional. As punishment, Momo has Lilith perform dances.

  • Ryoko is highly astute and mature for her age, doing her best to support Yūko in her duties through means of research and scientific approaches. In spite of this, she’s absolutely convinced that Yūko is far more successful than she is, viewing Yūko’s friendship with Momo and Mikan as a sign that she’s got control over two magical girls. Yūko, Momo and Mikan only agree to keep things up for Ryoko’s sake, but from a certain point of view, the dynamic of friendship amongst the three can be seen as an exercise of soft power in that, should the need arise, Yūko could call in a favour or two from Momo and Mikan as friends. The unconditional trust and understanding in a friendship is more powerful than the relationship in the sort of master-slave dynamic that Ryoko imagines.

  • In Machikado Mazoku, Yūko is typically referred to as “Shamiko” (Shadow Mistress Yūko) for short, a consequence of Momo shortening her full title into something that rolls off the tongue more casually. Yūko initially rejects this nickname, but as she spends more time with Momo, her objection to this nickname dissipates. Lilith is referred to as “Shamicen”.

  • Towards the end of Machikado Mazoku, it is revealed that Momo’s older sister was directly responsible for the Yoshida’s circumstances: to ensure Yūko had as healthy of a childhood as possible despite the curse, she intervened and exchanged their father’s existence for Yūko’s health. Their father is now the box in the centre of this screenshot, and the girls suddenly realise that this box is extraordinarily durable. Momo believes that Yūko does have every right to hate her, but instead, Yūko wants nothing more than to talk things out with Momo.

  • In talking to Momo, Yūko learns that Momo’s biggest desire is to find her now-missing sister, and offers to sway Momo over to the Dark Side of the Force: if Momo were to turn away from being a magical girl, then she’d no longer have those obligations and be free to do as she wished. Momo considers this, but ultimately rejects it, feeling the tradeoff to be too costly and noting that Yūko still has a ways to go yet before she can be leading anyone. This one moment shows the impact of soft power, that Yūko and Momo’s friendship has grown to the point where Yūko can at least get someone like Momo to consider joining the Dark Side: such a feat would have been impossible at Machikado Mazoku‘s beginning.

  • Overall, Machikado Mazoku lived up to expectations: the community painted it as an excellent series (at least, the community that isn’t Tango-Victor-Tango and their small-minded critics), and while this is not apparent early in the series, having the patience to continue on is met with a strong payoff. This anime is not terrible by any stretch, and using the scoring system, I have no trouble giving Machikado Mazoku a solid 8.5 of ten, an A- (3.7 of 4.0). With this post in the books, a look ahead at the calendar shows that we are nearing the end of the winter season, meaning I will be focusing on Koisuru Asteroid‘s final two episodes, Magia Record after its finale airs, Heya CampΔ and Azur Lane‘s remaining two episodes.

The unexpected directions and twists in Machikado Mazoku, in conjunction with an engaging cast of characters, made the journey through this series worth it. In particular, Yūko’s character was particularly well-written: she is designated as the show’s punching bag and therefore is prone to an uncommon level of suffering relative to the other characters. This typically comes to a series’ detriment; any time a character is made to suffer unnecessarily, it detracts from the comedy. However, for Yūko, her misfortunes are minor, setbacks are temporary, and over the long run, Yūko sees several minor wins that, while seemingly inconsequential, have a knock-on effect on her life for the better. Consequently, the misfortunes Yūko encounters, and her ensuing reactions, are not so different than gently teasing a small child or pet and watching their endearingly heart-melting responses. Owing to its execution and outcomes, Machikado Mazoku is a series whose charm lies in its ability to demonstrate how even polar opposites may coexist in hitherto unexplored ways, and moreover, is a shining example of the virtues of patience: while I had been unimpressed with Machikado Mazoku after three episodes, the series really picked up and kept me excited as it continued. Had I followed through with my usual approach of watching three episodes to decide on a series’ worthwhileness, I would have likely missed out on something phenomenal, so I am glad to have stuck this one through.

Terrible Anime Challenge: On Poor Decisions and Pushing the Limits of Viewer Endurance in School Days

有敬酒唔飲飲罰酒 –Cantonese Idiom

Makoto Ito grows enamoured with Kotonoha Katsura after running into her every morning on the train, and shares with Sekai Saionji, a spirited classmate who agrees to help him get closer to Kotonoha. However, as Sekai provides tips and creates situations that push Makoto and Kotonoha (who returns Makoto’s feelings) together, Sekai begins to develop feelings for Makoto. After a few dates where his advances are deemed hasty, Sekai offers to provide “lessons” to Makoto. After a group outing to the local water park, Makoto begins to grow listless and begins pursing a relationship with Sekai. The two manage to keep this secret until Kotonoha overhears Sekai declaring her love to Makoto. She refuses to believe it, even in spite of having caught the two kissing earlier. However, with Sekai spending more time with Makoto, Setsuna, Sekai’s best friend, begins to believe that Makoto is dating Sekai. She wants Kotonoha out of the picture, but Makoto, feeling remorse at having left Kotonoha alone, promises to dance with her at the school’s culture festival. When the culture festival comes, Makoto learns that Setsuna never really forgot about how’d they met, and after a day’s work, Setsuna kisses an exhausted Makoto while Kotonoha sees this go down. On the second day of the culture festival, Otome, a classmate of Makoto who’d known him since middle school, takes him to a special “break room” where she forks Makoto’s branch. As the culture festival, Makoto regenes on his promise to Kotonoha and dances with Sekai instead. However, Setsuna is not convinced that Makoto is separated from Kotonoha and aggressively kisses him in front of her. When Sekai sees the secretly-captured footage, she demands to see Makoto, but runs into a depressed Kotonoha. Sinking into a depression herself, Sekai begins skipping school, while Makoto boffs Hikari. Soon after, Otome’s friends begin taking Makoto on a twelve-city all-percussion concert. When Sekai develops nausea and vomits, she assumes she’s pregnant with Makoto’s child and announces it to the class. Makoto’s so-called friends-with-benefits distance themselves from him, and while out looking for someone to shag, runs into Kotonoha. Realising the hurt he’s caused her, he apologises and tearfully embraces her. Kotonoha and Makoto go out for dinner, and upon returning to his apartment, he encounters Sekai. They fight, and Kotonoha forcefully kisses Makoto, prompting Sekai to leave. Pressured by Kotonoha and Makoto to abort the unborn foetus, Sekai seeks to talk with Makoto, but recalling the pain he’s caused, she stabs him to death instead. When Kotonoha arrives, she’s driven over the edge by Makoto’s corpse. Kotonoha calls Sekai out to the school rooftop, where she executes Sekai and disembowels her, learning Sekai had lied about being pregnant. Taking Makoto’s remains with her, Kotonoha rides into the sunrise on a sailboat and proclaims she can spend eternity with Makoto. This is School Days, an anime whose reputation preceded it, and a series I had adamantly refused to watch until the Twitter anime community compelled me to do so. For my troubles, I was rewarded with a series whose thematic elements is about as subtle as a brick through a window.

“All hail the conquering hero. Let us remember him as our protector and not the one who gave us…this. As our saviour, and not our betrayer! Let us see him forever as you, and not as you. All hail the conquering hero, the one who was supposed to save us all! But now, I must save us…from you.” -Kotonoha Katsura, #TeamKotonoha

“This…is this what you wanted? Is this what you were looking for? Was everything you’ve compromised, everything you’ve done, worth it? Was it? Your relationship is over, Makoto. Mine is just beginning.” –Sekai Saionji, #TeamSekai

Despite its rather nasty and brutish reputation owing to its ending, through its rather vivid and overt imagery, School Days‘ core theme ultimately speaks to the price of indecision, infidelity and a lack of faith. Makoto begins his journey as being infatuated with Kotonoha, but Sekai’s interference causes his heart to waver, and throughout School Days, he devolves from a caring and kind individual into someone who cares little for those around him beyond the pleasures of the flesh. In its original form as a visual novel, School Days allowed players to take Makoto on a moving story where he chooses someone and cultivates a meaningful and honest relationship, or make enough mistakes that would cost him everything. However, mirroring the knife’s edge that life sometimes is, mistakes hit and hit hard: the anime adaptation of School Days shows just how perilous of a dance relationships are: the possibility for error lies around every corner, and when one ill turn deserves another, Makoto ends up paying the ultimate price for building multiple, simultaneous relationships around lust and lies. The visceral conclusion of School Days therefore acts as a grim warning to those who lack the commitment and ability to take responsibility for their actions. Throughout School Days, Makoto is shown as making the decisions that consistently worsen his situation, and while his actions might be seen as being so poorly placed that one might have to consciously be aware of them to make them willingly, this aspect of School Days is one that is forgiven on the virtue that Makoto, Kotonoha and Sekai, whose age means that their frontal lobes have not yet been fully developed, are being driven by their hormones and irrational desire rather than a mediated course of action rooted in reason. As such, School Days covers off this particular aspect that may come across as jarring; younger characters with a propensity towards decisions that adults will find irrational means that there is little benefit to attempt an analysis on why Makoto chooses to act in the way that he does. The answer to this lies with the narrative: in order to convey the costs of unfaithfulness and lies, Makoto necessarily must act in a way that allows the story to both highlight the consequences, as well as showcase what kind of outcomes can exist in the visual novel. At the expense of portraying Makoto as a degenerate piece of scum, School Days succeeds in its original function.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • What starts out as a basic romance-drama very quickly devolves into a tragedy brought on by hubris and a complete disregard of the consequences: one episode into School Days, the viewer with no familiarity would not be aware that the anime would venture into territory that would evoke a strong sense of revulsion in viewers. At the story’s beginning, Makoto is spurred on by Sekai to pursue a relationship with Kotonoha, and things start out with a sort of innocence and excitement that brings to mind the atmosphere seen something like Da Capo.

  • As a Terrible Anime Challenge, School Days falls into the camp of “it lived up to existing expectations set by the community”: the anime is infamous, and this reputation is well-earned. However, having now seen the entire series, the outcome where Makoto pays the ultimate price for his lack of commitment does not seem so outrageous, and in fact, the challenge I faced in watching this series ended up coming from how Kotonoha was treated, and the generally flippant attitude Makoto was portrayed as having as the series wore on. Encouragement from the Twitter community was ultimately what led me to keep going.

  • I never would have watched School Days of my own volition, but a challenge from the anime Twitter community led me to join a group of anime bloggers in watching this series. Over the course of the discussion, I’ve seen attempts to rationalise Makoto’s behaviour, but I never really found them satisfactory, since Makoto’s actions seem to be guided by baser instinct rather than anything resembling logic. Freud is similarly irrelevant here since, even if we take his theories to hold true, there is no conflict between the id, ego and super-ego as Freud would have envisioned – Makoto is all about plowing as many people as he can get his grubby mitts on, even in the knowledge he is going to hurt Kotonoha in the process.

  • The page quote I’ve chosen for this talk, comes from a Cantonese idiom “有敬酒唔飲飲罰酒” (jyutping jau5 ging3 zau2 m4 jam2 jam2 fat6 zau2, literally “refusing to drink wine offered to you, and drinking the cursed wine instead”) that roughly approximates to “refusing a favourable offer only to take punishment”. In Mandarin Chinese, the phrase is rendered as “敬酒不吃吃罚酒” (pinyin jìng jiǔ bù chī chī fá jiǔ, where one “eats” the wine rather than drinks it): I’ve using colloquial Cantonese in mine simply because it’s more amusing that way.

  • How does the page quote fit in with the themes of School Days, one asks? The answer is simple enough: Makoto is given a perfectly good setup and the path forwards seems clear, but he ends up picking the set of decisions that end up being the worst for him. Hence, instead of taking something favourable, he takes the cursed route instead. With that cleared up, I offer a screenshot in lieu of a lengthier explanation as to why I’m on #TeamKotonoha, in the knowledge that this is probably not an adequate reason. From this moment alone, I knew that I was watching the uncensored version of School Days and would be getting the full experience later down the line.

  • While Freud is useless throughout School Days, Makoto’s actions are probably best described as a very visual and tangible description of the shortcomings of greedy algorithms. These algorithms work by trying to do what’s best at the current step with the aim of finding some global optima. Further to this, greedy algorithms are designed make whatever choice seems best in the moment, and then solve any problems that arise later. However, in practise, greedy algorithms typically fail to find the global optima, usually get stuck on some local optimum instead, and may even find what’s known as a “unique worst possible solution”, which is the worst possible outcome (e.g. in a travelling salesman problem, the longest path that can be taken to hit all of the vertices in a graph).

  • Makoto’s behaviour mirrors that of a greedy algorithm in that at some point in School Days, he acts in a way that satisfies his biological urges in that instant, which is a local optima. Whenever the situation changes, Makoto acts in such a way as to ensure that he can continue sating his desires in the moment, without considering the consequences of his actions. This is evident in how Makoto jumps between Sekai and Kotonoha early in the series, falling on Sekai to fix any problems that arise with Kotonoha, and then eventually growing “bored” of Kotonoha enough to openly mess around with Sekai.

  • In practise, greedy algorithms are usually frowned upon because they don’t provide a global optima as a result of not knowing all of the data available. However, there are some scenarios where they are utilised. In particular, networking solutions often have made use of greedy algorithms to reasonable success, and greedy algorithms are generally faster from a time complexity perspective, making them acceptable for approximating solutions. I’ve now given readers the elevator pitch equivalent to greedy algorithms: School Days captures what the risks of using greedy algorithms are in an anime format spaced out over twelve episodes, and while one might not recall all of the terms, this is how I’d describe a greedy algorithms to folks who don’t have a computer science background.

  • Of course, for folks looking to learn more, there’s plenty of materials out there, and I won’t bore readers any further with what belongs in a university, rather than an anime blog. Makoto’s infidelity initially has limited fallout: he’s struggling to choose between Kotonoha and Sekai. The problem is compounded by the fact that Sekai’s friends, Setsuna and Hikari among them, seem to think that Makoto is dating Sekai. Sekai’s initial desire to help Makoto does not have any altruistic motives: she hopes that over time, Makoto will break up with Kotonoha and then be with her.

  • The topic of altruism is a challenging one, and this was one of the papers that I wrote for my second university course on research methods and the fundamentals of logic in persuasive writing. One of the biggest strikes against evolutionary altruism was the idea that altruistic acts, seemingly selfless, actually help the individual committing it to begin with, and the individuals knows this, hence their decision to do something that may lower their fitness in the short term. This may take the form of reciprocal altruism (i.e. “if I help you, you’ll help me”). From Sekai’s perspective, School Days supposes that true altruism does not exist, and she’s clearly expecting some form of payoff in the long term.

  • After the culture festival, School Days takes a nose dive and sends Makoto on what would be known as a “non-recoverable” path: once Setsuna kisses him and reveals her desire to have him be with Sekai, as well as recalling that she did have feelings for him to some extent, Makoto’s moral compass takes a total leave of absence, and Makoto’s decisions become increasingly poor, making it impossible to sympathise with him: while he’d been agonising over whether Sekai or Kotonoha was a better partner and was subject to difficult choices early in School Days, after this point, any sympathy a viewer may have had for him disappears entirely.

  • The other two quotes on this page are from Halo 5‘s #HuntTheTruth marketing campaign. Both quotes are chosen to mirror the different factions’ thoughts on Makoto: Sekai seems less literate and would talk in blunt terms, while Kotonoha is well-read and would therefore be more poetic. There are some who believe Sekai is the better choice for Makoto, and others (like myself) who hold that Kotonoha is the winner. The latter would vote #TeamKotonoha, and the former would back #TeamSekai. My reasons for being on #TeamKotonoha are simple enough: Kotonoha’s loyalty and unwavering feelings mean that she embodies commitment, a trait I admire and respect in people. In the end, Sekai comes across as being an interfering busybody who created her own demise.

  • As School Days wears on, Kotonoha begins to be neglected and mistreated, both by those around her and the circumstance that Makoto’s put her in. Feeling bad for Kotonoha becomes an inevitability, doubly so owing to the fact that viewers have seen Kotonoha’s younger sister, Kokoro, and the joy that she expresses at the thought of Makoto becoming Kotonoha’s partner. Thus, even without actively knowing, Makoto will end up hurting Kokoro, as well, with his decisions. Having not played School Days myself, I cannot say for sure whether or not it’s possible to save Makoto with good decisions if we’ve already gone down this path: perhaps one would need to mod the Infinity Stones into School Days in order to save Makoto from himself.

  • Of course, if we consider things from a more rooted perspective, Makoto is quite beyond salvation. Seeing Kotonoha in this state was particularly difficult, and it was ultimately this piece, coupled with Makoto’s blinding arrogance and stupidity that made School Days a difficult series to watch: School Days never got to a point where I felt an inclination to stop watching, but I’ve never done well with seeing good people made to experience terrible things. Kotonoha’s suffering only really began after she met Makoto, and when Otome learns of this, she does everything in her power to make life difficult for Kotonoha, as well.

  • Towards the end of School Days, Makoto begins getting it on with everyone within arms’ reach: during the culture festival, he and Otome end up screwing one another in the secret “relaxation lounge”, which was subsequently filmed and broadcast for the whole world to check out. It’s a crippling blow to Sekai, and coupled with Setsuna’s sudden departure for France, proves too much to handle: she begins skipping school wholesale after.

  • Before we enter the final stages of this School Days discussion, I’ll provide a brief overview of the community initiative that sent me down this path: it’s called AniTwitWatches, and involves watching older anime in real time to discuss them. The criteria for inclusion is that the anime must be available by legal means, and each Monday, participants will offer snippets of their thoughts on that week’s episode. The programme is a relatively new one, having started in July 2019, and I joined the School Days party later on the game, motivated by a friendly group of participants and a desire to see what would happen if I pushed myself through a show I had adamantly refused to watch.

  • The outcome of this was a host of bad jokes and wisecracks that I’m sure alienated the community. In spite of this, I am still invited to participate on the next one, so I’ll have to reassure the others that I’ll play a little nicer. Girls’ Last Tour appears to be the anime of choice, which is an excellent one. This series, I remember best for its surprisingly deep and meaningful messages despite a seemingly simple setup. I will have much more to share with AniTwitWatches on this one than just bad jokes.

  • Once Kotonoha is spurned, her eyes take on a dull character that became iconic of all yanderes in later works; she spends several episodes in a right state, exhibiting signs of delusion as she acts as though she’s still with Makoto. When Makoto realises the extent of the damage his actions have caused, he takes her back. Life returns to Kotonoha’s eyes. Entering the final episode, whose outcome is so infamous that it is no longer counts as a spoiler, I admit that I was glad to watch this one reach its conclusion.

  • While I’ve no qualms showing blood, guts and gore on this blog (see my DOOM and Wolfenstein posts), intuition tells me that, were I to show Sekai killing Makoto and leaving him to bleed out, or Kotonoha disemboweling Sekai, the search engines would not take to that too kindly. I’ve stated this before, but I’ve never had any trouble with over-the-top violence in video games, whereas in anime, gore nauseates me. I’m not sure why this is the case, but primarily for my own sanity (and a lack of desire to see this blog scrubbed from search engines), I’ve therefore left the most explicit moment of School Days out and leave the curious reader to check the series out for themselves.

  • Par the course for a Terrible Anime Challenge post, I’ll need to provide a scoring summary of School Days. I think it would be fair to assess this series a B- (7 of 10, or 2.7 on a 4-point scale): having a very clear story and message works in School Days‘ favour, and Kotonoha is hawt. However, between all of the characters who come across as little more than assholes, I saw no incentive to follow anyone to see them improve over time: I believe School Days marks the first series I’ve seen where characters regress as time passes. There’s no reason to root for anyone save Kotonoha, and viewers feel a perverse sense of satisfaction when the characters suffer (again, save Kotonoha). I’m not about this life, and I’m much happier seeing people make discoveries that make them better for their troubles.

Prior to the Twitter community’s decision to watch School Days, this anime had admittedly been on my list of shows to never watch during my lifetime by reputation alone. Besides the ending that became infamous owing to the finale’s coincidental timing with a murder in Japan, and a protagonist that was impossible to get behind, School Days‘ theme and goals are the polar opposite to those of the shows that I do choose to watch. With School Days in the books now, my opinion of the show remains quite unchanged: it excels at its intended objective, but remains quite difficult to watch. In particular, the anime’s treatment of Kotonoha is disturbing. Despite being a sweet and kind girl who’s into books and exhibits loyalty to a fault, she’s cheated on by Makoto, bullied by Otome and her circle of friends and betrayed by Sekai. Suffering misfortune after misfortune following her decision to date Makoto, her reactions to the events of School Days were an inevitability with a terrifying implication, that in people, there is a potential for great evil if one is pushed far enough. Supposing this to be the case, School Days has one more additional message for viewers: that there is nothing to be gained through acts of bullying. Despite having now sat through an anime that remains quite notorious even a full thirteen years after its airing, I find that School Days and other similar series remain quite outside the realm of shows I would willingly watch. Makoto’s stupidity and the suffering that Kotonoha endured, coupled with Sekai’s interference, means that going through the episodes proved to be even more of a test of patience than Glasslip, which is saying something. While I was able to discern School Days‘ theme and objectives, this series nonetheless remains one that is remarkably difficult to stomach, and in the end, I only endured thanks to a combination of the support of a friendly segment of the anime Twitter community and a limitless pool of bad jokes.