The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Category Archives: Terrible Anime Challenge

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.

Terrible Anime Challenge: Asking Questions of the Stars in Hensuki

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Parsons and Lee, Enter The Dragon

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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