The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Kouko Nosa in a Pinch!?- High School Fleet (Hai-Furi) OVA Part Two Review and Reflection

“‘…and the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.’ Christopher Columbus.”
“Welcome to the New World, Captain.”

— Captain Ramius and Jack Ryan, The Hunt For Red October

After relaying here concerns to Mashiro and Akeno, Kouko is tasked with gathering everyone in the Harekaze class for a general assembly. Rather than idling, Kouko decides to initiate a petition to save the Harekaze, and sets out to find her classmates at their usual hangouts. From the conversations shared by the various classmates, all of the students are troubled by their purported situation and sign onto Kouko’s petition, which also doubles to restore her spirits. On the day before their sealed orders can be opened, the Harekaze’s crew put on a festival with the hope of raising more awareness to the cause with help from Moeka and Wilhelmina’s fellow classmates. Despite a slow start, the festival sees a large number of attendees who sign onto the petition. Their event is successful, with their petition gathering a large number of signatures, and on the morning the students are permitted to open their orders, the Harekaze’s crew learn that they are to remain together under Akeno’s command, operating the Okikaze, a new vessel outfitted with operational gear from the Harekaze. Principal Munetani remarks to Akeno that the vessel can be re-designated the Harekaze, and with their new home in order, Akeno sets sail on their next adventure together with her classmates. Thus, the second of the Hai-Furi OVAs comes to a close, wrapping up in a manner that was quite welcomed even if it was foreseeable.

In spite of the melancholy ending of its precursor, the second of the Hai-Furi OVAs manages to maintain a very cheerful atmosphere. Kouko’s fears from the previous OVA turned out to have been from confirmation bias, and my speculation turned out quite close to the actual events — I had suggested that teamwork could make up a large portion of the second OVA and would result in the crew working towards bringing back the Harekaze by repairing the original vessel. Although not true in its entirety (the original Harekaze is destined to be scrapped), the Harekaze is reborn and brought back in a manner of speaking. The events of the OVA continue to build on the thematic aspects seen in the TV series, and serve a twofold purpose. The strength of the bonds amongst the Harekaze’s crew allow them to now function quite cohesively, and their faith in Akeno as a captain only serves to augment their capability. Far from being the ship that was home to the misfits, the Harekaze’s students have proven time and time again that they can pull through together to get the job done. This is not diminished even with the revelation that the Harekaze’s crew would not be disbanded: the implications were that, petition or not, their exemplary actions are worthy of praise and noticed by their command. There was never any threat or risk that they would be disbanded; how the girls responded to circulating rumours merely serves to reiterate the points raised in Hai-Furi‘s original run.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve been noticing a great deal of inbound searches for the second Hai-Furi OVA, so as stipulated, here I am writing the discussion for the second Hai-Furi OVA. Like the previous Hai-Furi OVA post, I will feature thirty screenshots fresh from the OVA, which released on BD on May 24. Despite Kouko’s entering the OVA with a subdued mood, it appears that a combination of a night’s sleep and a conversation with Mashiro, who promises to inform Akeno, lightens her up sufficiently so that she’s back up to her usual self.

  • Still inundated with paperwork, Akeno is given an update, and Mashiro reluctantly decides to help her finish. Armed with fresh resolve, she begins filling out the smaller forms at a faster pace. It’s been a shade under a week since I flew back home from Hong Kong now, and while time has resumed moving at breakneck pace since I returned to work, I was quite happy to take the vacation that I did; time flowed a little more slowly, allowing me to really enjoy the moment and take in the sights and sounds of a world away from home.

  • With a few days left until their sealed orders can be opened, Kouko shares a bold plan with Megumi and Tsugumi, intending to create a petition to convey the feelings that she and her classmates have regarding the Harekaze. Kouko references Tōgō’s actions from the Battle of Tsushima, where he ordered his fleet into a U-turn to take the same course as the Russian vessels they were engaging, at the same time preventing the Russians from launching broadside volleys. While the Japanese fleet sustained hits from the Russian ships, the Japanese gunners returned fire, hammering the Russian ships and managed to sink the Oslyabya, a Russian vessel.

  • At Tsushima, the Russians lost all of the battleships and suffered a loss that was quite shocking to the rest of the world. Kouko is referring to this battle here, to continue with a difficult course owing to the long-term outcome, and sets in motion the idea of a petition to save the Harekaze. The Battle of Tsushima was the turning point in the Russo-Japanese war and reaffirmed to the British that large caliber weapons would be instrumental to naval combat. This way of thinking precipitated the creation of larger battleships, and the belief in the battleship’s might endured until the Second World War.

  • I note that searching for the “Tougou Turn” as it appears is not too instructive: it turns up some music videos. Conversely, using “Tōgō” in place of “Tougou” brings up the Battle of Tsushima, which is more relevant to the discussion at hand. The gunnery team is initially open to the idea of a transfer to a different ship, relishing the idea of firing more powerful weapons, but their friendship with one another draw them back, coupled with the prospect of giving up having Akeno as a captain, lead them to reconsider. They sign Kouko’s petition.

  • A visit to the engineers results in additional signatures being added to Kouko’s petition. I’ve seen several forms of spelling for the character names around the ‘net – each character has a nickname, as well, and most venues for anime discussion prefer the nicknames because they are faster to type. Kouko is thus referred to as Coco. Having said this, I prefer referring to the characters by their given name: this did lead to some challenges earlier on, where I was mixing up Shima and Tama to be different people.

  • Elsewhere, Shima and Mei continue on with their own game. While Mei has consistently schooled Shima during the previous OVA and appears to be dominating the game here, Shima manages to turn the tables on her in a hilarious moment. I’m not sure if this was a budgetary constraint or a stylistic choice, but some of the backgrounds in the Hai-Furi OVAs appear to be done in the style of a watercolour painting. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, it does appear a little out of place compared with the other backgrounds, which are more consistent in style.

  • While signing a petition certainly won’t alter one’s physical appearance or likely improve their grades, Kouko manages to inspire the Navigation team to sign the petition. They had been the most visibly shaken by the news in the previous episode: it took all of Kouko’s willpower to assuage their fears without bursting into tears herself, but here, the total of Kouko’s dialogue, music and lighting seem to be insinuating to audiences that their so-called dissolution might not be what it appears, and for a supposedly-serious situation, the Hai-Furi OVA’s second half is surprisingly laid-back in emotional tenour.

  • High spirits in spite of what appears to be sobering news dominates the second Hai-Furi OVA’s first half. In the time since the first half aired, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Hai-Furi official Twitter, where build-up to the OVAs have been presented every so often. Since the OVA aired, their channel has gone quiet, and I remark that discussions surrounding both OVAs have been surprisingly minimal, with only one claim that stands out: that the first OVA was “…probably weaker than any other episode of the main series”. Such remarks can only come from a mindset that OVAs are generally frivolous, and such a belief is incorrect especially for things like Girls und Panzer and Hai-Furi.

  • The rationale for my position, that OVAs can be enjoyable and offer insights into characters, is that OVAs that are light-hearted relative to their TV counterparts provide opportunity to explore another side of the characters to more fully flesh them out. Seeing characters out of their duties and observing their interactions in a more relaxed environment, if done properly (which Hai-Furi has) can also serve to reinforce thematic elements in a show. It is for this reason that I am so fond of OVAs, and here, the navigation team continue on their photoshoot with Machiko as their subject, although their ploy to draw the crowd’s interest is unsuccessful, prompting Kouko to move on.

  • Encountering Kaede near the harbour again, Kouko learns that Kaede was contemplating leaving briefly to attend an Opera Ball, a social event where debutantes present their eligibility for marriage. She has no plans to leave long-term, at least, not until her education is complete at age eighteen, meaning that Kouko’s assumptions in the previous episode are false. With more indicators that her concerns might not come to fruition, the overall tone in the OVA shifts subtly as Kouko continues on her quest.

  • Aspects of Kaede and her aristocratic background, represents a fine example of where an OVA is able to present aspects of characters the TV series itself is not able to. Similarly, we’ve seen very little of Tsugumi and Megumi in the series proper, so giving them a bit more screentime in the OVA allows audiences to appreciate that the Harekaze’s crew are a unique, diverse group. This is why it is not always appropriate to hastily dismiss OVAs, being the rationale for why I myself enjoy anime OVAs to the extent that I do. It is also here that I remark that Megumi looks a bit like Da Capo Second Season‘s Aisia, a magician-in-training whose resolute belief in magic being used for the good of all precipitates the events of Da Capo Second Season‘s later segments.

  • I finished watching Da Capo and Da Capo Second Season a year ago. While quite unremarkable with respect to story and concept in its anime incarnation, Da Capo and its second season did manage to nail the unusual atmosphere surrounding Hatsunejima. Similarly, I rather liked Nemu Asakura and Kotori Shirakawa. My interest in Da Capo came from me coming across a collection of CooRie songs a friend had sent me years ago, and I decided to see the anime that made use of Akatsuki ni Saku Uta as its ending song. I don’t see enough positives in Da Capo or its second season to recommend, hence the lack of a review. Back in Hai-Furi, Kouko encounter Minami, obtains her signature for their petition and learns that she enjoys the hover-board because it mimics the rise and fall of the sea.

  • The Harekaze’s crew put on a grandoise festival in order to raise awareness for their cause, and despite the amount of effort they’ve put in (even recruiting Moeka and Wilhelmina to assist), the day is off to a slow start with low attendee numbers. Disappointment reigns supreme, but things quickly turn around when Akeno shows up – the profound change in morale amongst the students is nothing short of remarkable.

  • Stepping into the open-air stage, Akeno and Moeka perform a live song that turns things around: although her role in the OVAs has been primarily restricted to dealing with paperwork while Kouko’s been out and about, she now carries with her the same presence as Miho of Girls und Panzer, as well as the great heroes from Lord of the Rings: when folks like Aragorn, Legolas or Gimli stepped onto the battlefield, characters and audiences alike knew that the situation would be well in hand as extraordinary folk went to work. The similarities between Miho and Akeno are noticeable: both are capable leaders who believe in leading by example, each motivated by an event in their past, and over time, earn the respect of their classmates with their actions.

  • Following the live concert performance, attendance at the festival skyrockets, and the Harekaze curry being sold is depleted. Other students step up to the plate and bring in supplies to make festival foods such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and all sorts of things, like, such as that. During my last day in Japan, at the Kansai International Airport, I had Botejyu’s seafood okonomiyaki – an authentic taste of Tamayura, it was absolutely delicious, featuring succulent prawns and cuttlefish in a flavourful batter, topped with a hearty sauce. I subsequently explored the airport’s shopping outlets and purchased the Kimi no na wa movie guide while waiting for baggage check-in to open.

  • It’s been a week since my final day in Hong Kong, which I spent shopping at Taikoo Shing Cityplaza. I came across Ian Lambot and Greg Girard “City of Darkness”, running for about 110 CAD. Tempted though I was to buy it, the book was very bulky and would have presented considerable challenges to bring in my carry-on. We stopped for lunch at a Pizza Hut at Cityplaza, ordering a Seafood pizza (scallops, prawns and pineapple toppings with a sausage-cheese crust), before continuing to explore Hong Kong University and Central. The evening was rounded out with a family dinner. At present day, a week after returning to routine, I enjoyed another family dinner at the T. Pot China Bistro much closer to home: the Cantonese cuisine back home is of the same standard of that in Hong Kong, being of an excellent quality. Elements inspired by Vietnamese, Thai and Canadian elements make their way into dishes here: our dinner tonight encompassed wonton soup, sweet and sour pork, roast crispy chicken, yi mein and shrimps in a savory sauce.

  • Back in Hai-Furi, Hiromi, Kouko and Maron admire a fireworks display rounding off their festival; despite a sluggish opening, combined efforts from everyone make the event an unqualified success. Numerous signatures are gathered as attendees visit to enjoy Akeno and Moeka’s singing, the curry and other festival foods. The effort the Harekaze’s crew places into the festival move the attendees, prompting them to sign Kouko’s petition, allowing them to accrue a large number of signatures.

  • Later that evening, Akeno, Mashiro and Kouko carry the signatures to their superior officers, resolute on illustrating that they do not wish to go separate ways with a crew that has accomplished so much during a crisis. The course of this meeting is not shown, although it is not unreasonable to suppose that their higher-ups will simply commend them on their resolve, tell them to leave the petition with them and that a decision will be reached in the morning, when everyone is finally cleared to open their sealed envelopes.

  • The skies are pleasant on this June day when everyone assembles. The atmosphere is tense as the Harekaze’s crew await the instructions allowing them to open their documents. While certainly not something I would recommend or personally do, there is a way to open adhesive-sealed envelopes in a reasonably difficult-to-trace manner. The process is quite simple and was used in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector: place the envelope in a freezer for around an hour, and carefully cut at the interface where the sealant is with a sharp knife. Cooling makes the sealant brittle, allowing it to be cut without tearing the paper. Once the document is inspected, re-sealing the envelope is as simple as letting the envelope thaw.

  • When the order is issued, each of the Harekaze’s crew apprehensively open their letters, learning they are to be transferred to a new vessel. Seemingly confirming Kouko’s fears, it turns out that she, and everyone else present, is to be moving to the vessel Y-469. These are transfer orders as Wilhelmina had predicted, but far from what Kouko was expecting – everyone is moving together into a new vessel after the Harekaze was found to have sustained excessive damage, and as such, will be sticking together as a class. Principal Munetani and other members in command have found the Harekaze’s actions to be commendable, and impressed with their abilities as a team, permits them to stick together.

  • Kouko’s relief and happiness is written all over her expression here; it’s a beautiful sight to behold. Because the sealed envelopes had been printed and issued well before Kouko was aware of their existence, it would appear that the Harekaze’s crew were never in any risk of being separated from one another. A secondary theme in the Hai-Furi OVAs, then, is that there are occasions when fear of bad news drives individuals to worry needlessly, and that it might have been to simply wait for the news before making any decisions. With this being said, had Kouko acted as common sense might dictate, there would have been no Hai-Furi OVA to enjoy.

  • Designated Okikaze (literally “Flourishing Wind”), Akeno climbs into the bridge of the vessel Y-469 and finds Garfield Isoroku sitting on the instruments. She realises that all of the equipment is familiar, right down to the binoculars, compass, wheel and fire control systems: the other bridge crew marvel at this seeming miracle, as well, feeling as though they are reuniting with an old friend after a long separation.

  • Elsewhere on board the Y-469, the different crews make similar discoveries in that much of the Harekaze’s equipment seems to have been transferred wholesale onto the new vessel. From the engine room to navigation and everywhere in between, familiar traces of home are found. What the girls are feeling is probably best approximated with the real-world analogue of restoring a new iPad or iPhone to a backup after an accident that totals one’s older device. Thanks to iCloud backups, users can rapidly restore data and settings to new devices should they lose an older device, and in this day and age, our data’s value grows to be much more valuable than the physical device itself.

  • Miran Irako, the Harekaze’s head cook, hugs her beloved rice cooker upon learning that it has been restored and placed in the Y-469’s galley. The rice cooker was one of the first items to be listed in the damage report, being dented during the skirmish in the first episode, and became the subject of no small discussion. I remarked that the rice cooker should still work, since its walls did not appear to be compromised, but discussions elsewhere were much lengthier. To see this reaction from Miran is a reminder that Hai-Furi does pay attention to the details in its characters, and I smiled at this moment.

  • Outside, the weapons team admires their vessel’s 12.7 cm/50 Type 3 naval gun in a single mount configuration, and this weapon was originally fit to Fubuki-class destroyers. On the note of Fubuki and destroyers, I’ve heard unverified rumours that KanColle: The Movie will see a home release on August 30. I felt that the anime, for all of its impressive visual effects and masterpiece of a soundtrack, did not compel me to try Kantai Collection or move me with its story. Having said that, I am still interested to see what the movie is like, and I might drop by to review this movie as time permits.

  • Back on the bridge, Principal Munetani explains that Y-469, Orikaze, was a new vessel laid down and intended to be an addition to the fleet, but in light of circumstances, they took the unfinished vessel and fitted its interior with equipment from the Harekaze. This course of action suggests that the original Harekaze’s internal structures must have sustained extensive damage beyond repair even if the hull appeared to have been damaged minimally. She allows Akeno to re-christian the Y-469 as the Harekaze, and if there is to be a continuation of Hai-Furi, I will refer to Y-469 as Harekaze II on account of all of the trials the original Harekaze went through.

  • In a cruel bit of irony, Moeka is taken aside for questioning, having been involved with a confidential matter. One would imagine that the repercussions are not too severe in nature: its military setting and unexpected narrative direction notwithstanding, Hai-Furi is, at its best, a tale of human team spirit and cooperation. Something more severe would not be consistent with the message that Hai-Furi has aimed to send since its plot began to materialise in Hai-Furi‘s televised run.

  • In life, folks win some, and they lose some; today, Akeno and her friends win some, big time. Here, the bridge crew prepare to take the Harekaze II on a test run. This is the end of the two Hai-Furi OVAs, and my final verdict is that I enjoyed them, as they add a bit more to the characters that were not frequently seen during Hai-Furi itself. The OVAs are definitely worth watching for that reason, and a new Harekaze opens the possibility for new adventures. It seemed a shame to waste a finely-crafted world, and if Hai-Furi goes down the same route as Brave Witches, a continuation could prove worthwhile to watch.

  • In news quite unrelated to Hai-Furi, it turns out that my preorder for Your Name‘s novel incarnation, which was set for release on May 23, arrived on May 16, a full week before the release date. It speaks to Canada Post’s efficiency and just how on their game that Chapters-Indigo is for deliveries. As we move into the final few days of May, the biggest posts on the horizon will deal with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I finished the game today, and will be looking to write a final impressions post on it, plus some reflections on Modern Warfare Remastered in the new future. As for anime-related posts, the largest planned post is a revisitation of Garden of Words: it will have been four years since I watched it, and I do wish to look at this film again before diving into a full-scale discussion of Your Name come July.

The second of two OVAs is now in the books, and was an enjoyable addition to Hai-Furi. I have remarked that the outcomes are predictable; there was never any doubt that Kouko and her classmates would be separated, especially with their previous role in saving the Musashi in mind. However, I place less emphasis on the outcome and more on the journey taken, so seeing the events of this second Hai-Furi OVA unfold and progress was most entertaining. More so than the first OVA, this OVA portrays the commitment and unity shared universally amongst the Harekaze’s crew. To see them take the initiative and, within legal bounds, do what they can to save their vessel was admirable. To see the entire crew unify and undergo a dramatic improvement in morale when Akeno appears was moving — this is the mark of a good leader, to be able to single-handedly lift spirits simply by making an appearance. Viewers are given an opportunity to see Akeno sing when she performs a song for her classmates and the festival’s attendees with Moeka. With all of these elements in mind, one must wonder about what a continuation could entail; a Tweet from the official Hai-Furi Twitter account strongly hints at a future project, stating that “Planning and policies for various projects are under way. Please look forward to it”. While we’ve heard little since then, having Hai-Furi go through a more involved narrative, possibly featuring a plot to destroy the Blue Mermaids, and the Harekaze’s involvement in thwarting this scheme, could definitely be something that I would be interested to watch.

My First Time on a Company Vacation: New Game! OVA Review and Reflection

“讀萬卷書不如行萬里路” —Chinese Proverb

Despite her initial fears about skiing during a company vacation, Aoba discovers that she enjoys skiing and overcomes her fear in the process. Meanwhile, Kō becomes sick and Rin looks after her. After a speedy recovery, Kō takes to drinking and goads Umiko into a drinking contest while Aoba and Hifumi relax in the onsen. The OVA for New Game! comes as a bonus for individuals who had bought each of the six home release volumes and submitted their proof-of-purchase stubs: despite early materials strongly suggesting that this would be a hot springs episode, the actual OVA turns out to be set at a ski resort, being a faithful adaptation of the manga’s story. Despite being a bonus episode set in the aftermath of Eagle Jump’s successful release, the simple tale of how Aoba manages to find enjoyment in something that she initially is initially apprehensive about serves as the episode’s message, acting as an analogue to her experiences with taking on a new job. Though doubtful, Aoba manages to find enjoyment in a new activity because of her interactions with her co-workers, as well as with her own resolve to make the most of things. Although simplistic, it’s a fitting element for the New Game! OVA that subtly mirrors the thematic elements seen in the anime proper. Fun, relaxing and fitting for New Game!, the OVA is something for all viewers who enjoyed New Game!, although folks should not be missing out on too much should they pass over the OVA.

The contents of the New Game! OVA bring to mind my own recent experiences. Having just returned from a two-week long vacation to Japan and Hong Kong, of which a week was spent in Japan, the time is also fresh to look back on my first-ever setting foot upon the Land of the Rising Sun; I do not quite feel up to the task of writing about this fantastic vacation just yet, primarily because so much was seen, done and eaten over the past two weeks. However, I will recount the second evening in Japan, during which the itinerary saw me visit the Hotel Heritage in Kumagaya. Set just a short ways outside of Tokyo, it’s located in a quiet area with beautiful scenery, although upon arrival, darkness had already settled over the land, hiding the landscape. After checking in, we sat down to an exquisitely prepared Japanese dinner: a personal-sized nabe with rich cuts of beef, katsu with shredded cabbage, sashimi and bento, along with snow crab. This was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and upon its conclusion, I soaked in the onsen. Despite living only an hour from the Banff Upper Hot Springs, I’ve never actually gone to a hot springs before, so this was a wonderful experience. I found the onsen empty upon arrival and had the bath to myself; after cleaning up, I stepped into the bath and marveled at the water’s warmth. After ten minutes, however, I began feeling light headed and exited to cool off. All in all, this was superlative, and I left with a sense of relaxation. These elements are seen in numerous anime, ranging from The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan and Urara Meirocho to K-On! and Yūki Yūna is a Hero: to have experienced the same first-hand is quite unlike merely watching from behind a screen, and it continues to impress me the extent that anime in the slice-of-life genre capture elements in Japan.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’m back, baby! It’s been a shade over twenty days since my last post, and while it may have appeared that I unceremoniously stopped writing for my blog, the truth is that I was on vacation. Superbly enjoyable, I saw, hiked and ate my way through the trip in all of its glory. I mentioned earlier that I would be writing about the second Hai-Furi OVA, but the contents of the New Game! OVA were more closely aligned with my vacation experiences, so I figured that I would do a post that was one part anime discussion and one part a short discussion on my vacation.

  • The page quote, a Chinese proverb, translates directly to “it is better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books”, and my experiences in Japan definitely confirm this: it was something to watch in anime the sorts of things Japanese people do for recreation, but quite another to have actually experienced it for myself. As is the custom, this talk will feature twenty screenshots, although like the Non Non Biyori OVAs, the images are captured from a DV PAL source and so, are of a lower resolution than my usual posts. When fit into a 640 by 360 form, the fuzziness is minimised and the image quality becomes acceptable for a blog post.

  • The start of the New Game! OVA sees a raging snowstorm that blankets the land in white. I’ve seen more than my share of snow during the past winter, which had been a bitterly cold one, and in a bit of irony, a powerful low pressure system swept into Alberta today, bringing with it powerful wind gusts reaching 100 km/h and copious amounts of rain. It even snowed while I was at work. In Hong Kong, a Black Rain Advisory was issued earlier today, and news reports of waist-deep flooding in places like Shau Kei Wan have arisen.

  • Aoba savours the moment as she prepares to tuck in to breakfast. One of the things that I enjoy most about travelling and staying in larger hotels is the fact that breakfasts are quite large, featuring all manners of baked goods such as bread, croissants, muffins and pancakes, as well as eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, vegetables, fruits, cereal and yogurts. In general, having a good breakfast is essential for keeping energy up for the day, and this goes double for travelling, which can be quite exhausting on account of all the listed activities: I typically have continental breakfasts or something quick at home, since I need to roll off for work on short order.

  • However, when I travel, there is invariably the opportunity to eat what is known as an American-style breakfast: the combination of simple and complex sugars, plus proteins means being able to maintain reasonable energy throughout the day. Diverse selections available at breakfast buffets means that I will also pick fruits, as travelling means reduced availability of fresh fruits. Here at breakfast, Aoba remarks that she’s more inclined to relax at the hotel rather than go skiing with the others. Midway through breakfast, Aoba notices that Kō’s not touched her food, and it turns out she’s developed a minor fever.

  • Rin looks after Kō to ensure that the latter makes a speedy recovery, and here I am, in the aftermath of my vacation, rocking a sore throat and cough. My health remained solid through the trip, but on the flight back home across the Pacific, I noticed that I was feeling a bit drier than usual, and drinking water did little to alleviate the sand in my throat. A bit of sleep the day after proved helpful, although I’m still coughing at the time of writing. Having said that, my headache has vanished, and the jet lag seems to be abating. Being sick while on vacation is unpleasant, but Kō’s choice to rest will allow her to recover.

  • While preparing for their ski run, the art team runs into Umiko, who is outfitted in winter gear and enjoying some time practising survival game drills in the snow. Between the choice of joining Umiko or skiing, Aoba decides to bite the bullet and remain with her colleagues. I’ve only ever gone skiing once: back during January 2012, I visited the mountains with friends from the Health Sciences program. My friends plainly overestimated my ability, and after a single hour of basic training, they decided to take me out to the “beginner” hills.

  • While I managed to hold out and make it for most of the track, there was a steeper hill that I was quite unprepared to deal with. Poor technique and inexperience saw me fly down the hill; I eventually hit a bump, did a front flip and landed back-first in the snow, winded, stopping just meters from some trees. In New Game!, Aoba’s colleagues seem a little more understanding and give her a bit more time in basic training.

  • Owing to the hazards associated with flying down a slippery, snow-covered slope on two thin pieces of wood, folks tend to wear helmets when they ski where I come from, so it does come across as a bit strange that the characters of New Game! are seen without helmets whilst skiing (especially Aoba, who’s about as much of a novice at the trip’s beginning as I am now). I am content to overlook this, since in fiction, characters are not subject to the laws of physics quite as vigorously as people would in reality 😛

  • Aoba crafts a number of miniature snowmen throughout the course of the OVA, giving them numeric designations, subjecting them to “tortures” by bringing them into the warmth and sending one to Kō to wish her a speedy recovery. She’s also heard making some snow-related puns during the episode, something that Hifumi notices but fails to give comment on. This playful side of Aoba’s personality, though not commonly seen during New Game! proper, is not unexpected, given that she is still quite young.

  • Aoba’s friend, Nene, reacts to a message from Aoba while studying on campus. Closer inspection of this image shows a large number of sticky notes in Nene’s textbooks and notes — it’s a common technique to allow one quicker access to important materials, but during my time as a student, I preferred creating notes anew for finals. This was motivated by the fact that I would be forced to revisit all the materials again to distill out core concepts to build a summary, allowing me to better recall things. As it turns out, after two days, Aoba’s become rather more familiar with skiing and is able to traverse the basic slopes without much difficulty, keeping up with the others.

  • As the evening sun sets in, Aoba’s perspective on skiing has done a full one-eighty. An open mind and willingness to learn has allowed her to become sufficiently skilled in skiing to enjoy it, and it is this that forms the basis for the OVA’s theme. Typically, OVAs do not offer much in the way of an overarching idea owing to their short length, but in supplementing the events of an anime proper, they can offer additional insights into the characters’ beliefs and values. Sometimes, these insights can be quite surprising, which is why I enjoy looking at OVAs and seeing what new perspectives they can provide viewers with about characters in a given show.

  • Yun, Hajime and Aoba relax in the outdoor bath with Kō and Rin. At the Hotel Heritage, there were indoor and outdoor baths, although the outdoor bath was for mixed use and required purchase of a special swimsuit. That evening was modestly warm, certainly more comfortable than the sub-zero conditions of New Game!, but despite being of the True North Strong and correspondingly accustomed to cold, I could not bring myself to go outside out of fear that I would catch the chills. The indoor bath, on the other hand, allows for folks to bathe without any sort of bating attire.

  • I stepped into the indoor bath only after thoroughly cleaning myself; the day had, after all, included a lightning tour of Tokyo, and we’d been rained on at some points. The bath was surprisingly quiet, and save for two other fellows, I had the place to myself. Back home, I’m quite bashful about walking around without clothes despite being modestly fit (a reminder of social norms in North America), but at the onsen, those reservations disappeared pretty quickly. Any more information and this post will become R-rated, so I will leave readers with an aesthetically pleasing view of Hifumi resting in the onsen.

  • Having recovered from her cold, Kō is back in business and challenges Umiko to a drinking contest even as they order different dishes at the hotel restaurant, including sea urchin and sashimi, which Kō enjoys tremendously. While a Japanese delicacy, and a part of dinner during my stay at Hotel Heritage, I was still in the early stage of my vacation and had no intention of taking the risk, however minor, of contracting food-borne illnesses — being the wet blanket that I am, I dipped the sashimi into the nabe pot and soon had myself some cooked fish that tasted delicious, on top of giving the broth a bit of extra kick.

  • If there were to be a single image in this entire post that captures how I felt while immersed in the soothing warmth of the onsen, Aoba’s expression here would be it. The indoor bath at Hotel Heritage, compared to New Game! and most anime, differ greatly; the particle density is lower (i.e. less steam) and water details are much greater (the water is clear, having no obscuring properties). Having Frostbite or CryEngine-level visual effects in anime dealing with hot springs is typically reserved for BD releases, and with this in mind, while New Game! is certainly playing it safe in its OVA, I would not have minded seeing this OVA (and Hifumi) on ultra settings. 

  • Whil Aoba plays with a snowman and simulates killing it, Hifumi partakes in some sake. I speak strictly for myself when I say that I would not have done this; I’m already pretty bad with alcohol, and after some ten minutes of sitting in the onsen, I was beginning to feel a little light-headed. Sake would have almost certainly kicked my ass, although Hifumi is plainly enjoying hers. Closer inspection of this image finds that Aoba’s snowman has become a pile of mush from prolonged exposure to the warmth, a clever touch; I now understand why folks are depicted drinking a glass of milk after leaving the onsen. Feeling thoroughly content but a little dizzy after my soak, I took a bottle of cold water after returning to my hotel room.

  • In this post, I have taken advantage of the events of the New Game! OVA to recount one of my experiences while on my trip to Japan. Naturally, there were numerous others, and this will be the subject of a future post (most likely, soon, before I forget everything) — it was a thrilling journey, and I wish to do it justice. Here, as we near the end of the post, I remark that discussion on the New Game! OVA has been surprisingly minimal: even Tango-Victor-Tango’s self-appointed 3D modelling and computer hardware expert seems to have little to say about the OVA. Having said that, I am certain that things will change, and discussions will grow more lively, in the very near future.

  • Umiko recovers from her drunkenness rather abruptly, all the while insisting that she’s fine, after having one drink too many following Kō’s challenge to up the ante and take on something more potent. Contrary to what might be imagined, I never feel left out when I am at a social gathering and choose a soft drink over something like a beer: for one, the taste is better, and with ever-conflicting research about whether or not alcohol has health benefits or increases the risk of cancer, I think that trading in my ale for a ginger ale isn’t all that bad.

  • The New Game! OVA is in the books, and this means I’m fully back, both to work and to routine. For the folks who were hoping for my demise, I must apologise, today is not it: coming on the horizon will be a talk on the second Hai-Furi OVA, which released today, and before May draws to a close, I will be aiming to wrap up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Koe no Katachi is also out now, and I will be watching that as I make the time to. It feels great to return, and for folks who are wondering what else my vacation entailed, I will (probably) write about it in due course.

With the OVA finished, there is a second season of New Game! in the works, set for release in the summer 2017 anime season. Continuing on with where the first season left off, four new characters will be introduced. I enjoyed New Game!‘s first season for being able to capture the eccentricities of a game company’s artistic team; the anime exceeded expectations in being able to strike a balance between humour and character growth, as well as for integrating minor details to enhance the authenticity surrounding the 3D modelling and asset creation process. While I was less pleased with some aspects of the community for taking the anime a bit more seriously than warranted (driving discussions down a drier path, debating minutiae about whether or not Eagle Jump was using Dell computers, for instance), on the whole, New Game! itself was solid, and it is a most pleasant surprise to learn that a second season would be coming out so soon. For me, the anime does not need to be realistic to succeed, and so, looking ahead to the second season, I enter with an open mind and the expectation of more humour as the four new characters interact with the existing team.

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭: Review and Reflection After Three

“Interesting fun fact: Moynihan and Piece of Toast hate each other. Apparently they’ve got some real creative differences.” —Rick Sanchez, Rick and Morty

Following their sojourn to the hotel, Tomoya and the others resume their development cycle, to typical results: Utaha and Eriri find themselves at odds again. It is revealed that their enmity with one another stems from a combination of their feelings for Tomoya, as well as their own creative differences and raison d’être for creating. In spite of these differences, both begrudgingly hold respect for one another, and back in the present day, both reluctantly agree to sign autographs for both Tomoya and Megumi. Later, Utaha asks Tomoya to spend a day with her, before presenting an alternative ending to their game. Deeply moved by the alternative ending, Tomoya finds himself at an impasse. He later meets up with Iori and Izumi; Izumi reveals that she’s throwing her weight behind Rouge en rogue with the aim of competing mano-a-mano with Eriri. Later, Tomoya tackles the problem of choosing an ending for the game, enlisting Michiru’s band-mates to help out with the grunt work of developing the software. When he looks through the finished result, he realises that the endings will not work for the game and requests a re-write, conveniently avoiding to implicitly choose between Megumi or Utaha. This is what Saekano ♭ has presented thus far after three episodes, being a combination of both amusing to watch for the back-and-forth between the characters, especially Megumi, who’s a bit more colourful than might initially be apparent. With this in mind, however, Saekano ♭ also conveys the sense that the narrative is going to take itself more seriously than in the first season: the biggest draw about Saekano was that it remained light hearted, with Tomoya’s over-the-top antics driving the humour in some areas to remind audiences that their journey is intended to be a fun one.

With the increasing threat presented by Rougu en rogue and Tomoya’s determination to make his game successful ostensibly driving him to decide on an alternative ending, the attendant conflict that may likely arise will put Blessing Software through one of its more difficult challenges yet: on top of denying Utaha a straight answer, it also means additional work that Utaha and Eriri must go through. When everything is said and done, it is quite surprising that Tomoya has maintained an attrition rate of zero with his development team. Having said this, shifting requirements and schedules are par the course in reality, and it is up to the individual to deal with these challenges as they are encountered. That Utaha, Eriri, Michiru and Megumi have stuck it out for this long despite their own differences suggests that everyone has a stake in this project, and their dedication to both their own values, plus a respect (or even unspoken feelings) for Tomoya contribute to their staying. Moving forward, the question that remains is how the internal dynamics in Blessing Software will continue to impact their development cycle and Tomoya’s goals. In addition, the biggest questions on most viewers’ minds is who Tomoya ends up with and what happens to the others with this choice: the light novels are on-going, and it will be interesting to see just how far Saekano ♭ goes. All of these points in consideration, it would be preferable if Saekano ♭ were to stick to a lighter route — striking a balance between comedy and drama would be a superior fit for Saekano ♭ compared to drama alone.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • What better way to kick off Saekano ♭ than to have Utaha and Eriri tearing at each other’s throats while Tomoya and Megumi look on? That was a rhetorical question, by the way: jokes notwithstanding, we’re now formally past the three episode mark of Saekano ♭, and in this post, I will have the twenty usual screenshots detailing elements that would not otherwise fit with the discussions above. Having said this, I do not agree that there is a deeper philosophy to the characters that is worthy of an exercise: the dynamics between Utaha and Eriri form the basis for the first episode, and despite the appearance of complexity, is ultimately a simple result of yin and yang.

  • Utaha and Eiri’s first meeting is dramatised, taking place in a stairwell by the evening’s light. Surprised that Utaha is Metronome of Love‘s author, Eriri initially cannot believe it that such a loathsome individual could generate something so moving. Later, Utaha decides to drop by Eriri’s personal studio and learns of the latter’s talents in producing artwork. The two definitely respect one another’s skills in an unspoken manner, and it is the fact that both have feelings for Tomoya that lead to their conflict.

  • This conflict manifests in the form of each trying to dismiss the others’ skill as being motivated by the wrong reasons (Utaha feels that Eriri’s artwork is an act of revenge against the world for having separated her and Tomoya’s path, while Eriri finds that Utaha’s writing is purposefully manipulating the audiences and aimed at pleasing Tomoya). These differences form the motivation for the page quote, again, sourced from Rick and Morty. This particular quote comes from the first season, where Rick explains to Morty that in the alternate dimension where their television signal is coming from, the two mentioned figures have a significant creative differences but presumably work together to create the fictionalised work featured in Rick and Morty.

  • The balance between their animosity and respect is what prevents Blessing Software from outright disintegrating; the first episode draws to an end with Tomoya and Megumi requesting autographed works from both Utaha and Eriri. Despite her quiet nature, Megumi has a very sharp tongue and will not hesitate to speak her mind when required, adding an edge to her character that is quite far removed from how she was presented during Saekano‘s first several episodes – one of the elements that is making Saekano ♭ worthwhile is to see different aspects of Megumi’s character.

  • With the game’s full script finished, Utaha asks to spend time with Tomoya in what is a date in all but name. They spend some time at a bookstore on their first stop; I am quite fond of bookstores, doubly so now that the public libraries in my area appear to have diminished with respect to the number of interesting books they have that are worth checking out. On several weekends, I’ve found myself visiting the local bookstores, which have a solid selection of books that I can lose myself in. I’ve long enjoyed reading, and this is only matched by my enjoyment of writing, although unlike Utaha, I’m better suited to writing discussions rather than fiction.

  • Eriri, ever-jealous that Tomoya is spending so much time with Utaha, decides to tail them and pulls Megumi into things. Here, they unwind at a café following a movie that was so moving, it led Eriri to tears. It takes considerable effort to make mine eyes water: Ah! My Goddess The Movie, Chobits and Inside Out are the only titles to have done so. When Marnie Was There did the same, but it counts not because I was on a flight to Cancún last year; apparently, the lessening of psychological stressors, coupled with the realisation that this was my first ever time travelling completely alone, and the stimulus in the form of a movie culminated in my shedding a single tear, followed by several more individual tears, during my flight.

  • Utaha reveals that she’s to attend post-secondary quite far from here, which would invariably lead to the end of Blessing Software as they now lack a writer. Her choice of words and delivery serve to probe Tomoya to see where is genuine feelings lie, being very direct, stand in sharp contrast with how someone disinterested might respond and, were it not apparent previously, makes it clear that she’s interested in Tomoya.

  • If one ever were to require counter-surveillance measures to throw off a persistent tail, they need not fancy field-craft or evasion techniques. All one really needs is Megumi Katō, who’s well aware of Eriri’s intentions and cleverly becomes distracted along the way, throwing them further and further off mission. Here, Megumi manages to convince Eriri to try out clothing at a retailer, and even openly remarks that their actions might be considered those of a stalker if they were to continue. Of the girls in the group, Megumi seems the best suited for dealing with Eriri, and the two have become friends over the course of the first season.

  • Understanding that Tomoya is indecisive and lacks the will to do what is necessary where romance is concerned, as were his counterparts in almost all other anime of Saekano‘s category, Utaha decides to make Tomoya’s decision on his behalf by means of a subtle choice: he can either pick the new ending and implicitly show his desire to be with her, leading her to choose a nearby university for her studies, or he can choose the original ending, showing that he prefers Megumi. In order to make a fresh start, Utaha would then attend a faraway university. The moment is quite clear about how Utaha feels, but Tomoya seems quite unaware of the decision’s implications.

  • No game has ever made me cry before. While seemingly a mark of my own imperturbability, the truth is that my game library largely consists of first person shooters, puzzle games and simulators. It is perhaps the constant exposure to death in fiction that I never felt much in the way of strong emotion when Harry Potter‘s Sirius Black or Dumbledore died, nor did I react substantially to the death of various characters in anime. My tears usually arise as a result of watching characters reach profound understanding as a result of their experiences, so deaths in fiction alone do not elicit much from me.

  • After they enter his house, Megumi and Eriri find Tomoya blubbering in front of his computer. She’s beating him with her twin-tails here out of frustration – it’s an aspect of her personality that can be seen in Saekano‘s first season, and she’s often rendered with some amusing facial expressions whenever flustered.

  • A highly dramatic meeting with Rouge en Rogue’s staff, the siblings Iori and Izumi, leads Tomoya to wonder what kind of competition that Blessing is going up against in the Winter Comiket. From the words exchanged, it seems that Rouge en Rogue is further ahead in development than Tomoya’s crew, and it is here that Izumi’s rivalry with Eriri comes out in full force after the more lighthearted presentation during the season opener. Things blow over in a one-on-one fight that sees Eriri exchange blows with Izumi.

  • Utaha and Megumi share a conversation here, with Utaha all but declaring that Megumi should stand down. Her minimal but reliable presence in Saekano means that Megumi would fulfil the role of a support character who assists and enables the main characters on their activities, but Saekano ♭ presents her as being much more multi-faceted than viewers are initially allowed to see. This chance meeting unearths yet another side to her character.

  • That Megumi is so intently pursuing the script suggests that she’s picked up on Utaha’s feelings for him, as well as her own doubts in what would happen if Utaha actually reached home base. Unsure of whether or not this would be good, Megumi seizes the initiative and suggests to Tomoya that he ought to implement both endings to see which one would move him the most, sufficiently to make it into their final product as an ending. Despite her quiet demenour, Megumi has always shown very subtle signs of accepting Tomoya for who he is beyond his hobbies and interests, valuing the determination and spirit underneath; while she’s stated that she’s not interested in a relationship with him, the things that she likes about him also happen to be the foundations that a meaningful relationship is built upon.

  • I’ve heard that Tomoya simply shifts his mind elsewhere whenever Michiru kicks his ass in suggestive ways, as opposed to being completely ignorant or unaware of the implications. One of the disadvantages for readers who are interested in seeing my views on Saekano ♭ will be that, in each post, there should be at least one image of Michiru doing funny things to Tomoya simply because 1) these moments can be fun to write for and 2) at least some readers are probably wondering what I think of said moments.

  • Tomoya asks Michiru for a favour, bringing her band mates to assist with hastily implementing the new route in the game. Apparently, everyone has some background in computers, although from the subtitled descriptions, no one has (or can be reasonably expected to have) familiarity with scripting languages or the fundamentals of programming. With their reluctant help, the project is under way, with the girls running into difficulties in both the scripting logic and common computer errors such as a non-responsive program. On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy with work, doing as much as I can before I leave for a two-week vacation: this is the big event I’ve alluded to vaguely in earlier posts: I am going to Japan in early May and visiting Hong Kong after. Consequently, I’ve been going pedal to the metal with my iOS development work.

  • Even hardcore programming merits a break of sorts: the break took the form of poutine, motivated by the fact that tomorrow marks the end of Poutine Week. Excitement had built around the office for a second poutine day since Sunday, so we had planned to visit another nearby restaurant participating in Poutine Week. The Kensington Pub was our destination, offering a creation dubbed “KP Yolo Fries”. This poutine featured their house fries are covered with a uniquely-flavoured cheese-gravy of double smoked cheddar and Whistler Black Tusk Ale, with succulent chunks of ham hock on top and a side of horseradish aioli. A hearty lunch, this poutine reminds me distinctly of well-made macaroni and cheese. I enjoyed it thoroughly for the rich flavours and the tang the aioli offers — it was most welcoming to know that the proceeds will be going towards the Mealshare organisation, and with this, my Poutine Week participation doubles from last year. 

  • The coding party also shows that Megumi, for all of her other positive attributes, has a sharp eye and at this point, a reasonable knowledge of the scripting language, enough to debug something that Tomoya’s missed. This is, incidentally, a common way that bugs are detected: a peer or coworker might be able to find the logic errors that we miss. Back in Saekano ♭, it is always pleasant to see Megumi supporting Tomoya in whatever ways possible – she’s a true jack-of-all-trades, being able to help technically, support the others and handle the other characters whenever they fly off the handle.

  • I’ll conclude the coding party with a rather pleasant image of Michiru dozing off. After a full weekend’s efforts, Tomoya and the others succeed in implementing a full version of the ending. He reaches the conclusion that neither ending are appropriate for release, suggesting that by the events of Saekano♭, he’s slowly beginning to understand the perspective of a creator rather than that of a consumer. This shift is a profound one and is something that software developers face: designing, implementing, testing and deploying software is significantly more involved than merely being an end-user who might have suggestions for improving the app.

  • The third episode leaves Utaha’s reaction unknown, meaning it will be in the upcoming week that audiences learn of what will happen as a consequence of Tomoya’s decision. With this final figure caption finished, I also wrap up the Saekano♭ after-three talk. Rounding out April will be a talk on Titanfall 2, and as we enter May, things will probably slow down a little until my vacation is over, and I get back into the flow of things.

The intensity of Saekano ♭ has certainly picked up, and with three episodes in the books, Saekano ♭ has certainly drawn my attention and leads me to wonder where things will go. I’ve received suggestions to check out the light novels for myself, but there is a caveat: when translated into English, the flow of the narrative in the light novels seem choppy, disorganised compared to novels written natively in English. Consequently, I find it much more difficult to read light novels than standard novels, and the Saekano novels look to be a bit of a challenge. This is not to say that light novels are poor, but rather, that their style makes them a little less immersive for me. Hence, when I am watching the anime adaptation of Saekano, I am coming in with limited previous background and knowledge. With this in mind, my expectations are that Saekano ♭ follows through with the situations that Tomoya finds himself facing: either he finds a plausible way to address his problems, or else he must fail in a manner befitting of his experience and personality. It will be interesting to see where exactly Saekano ♭ goes in this season, and if things proceed in a credible fashion, Saekano ♭ could prove to be quite amusing to watch. As a closing remark, I will not be looking through the more technical aspects of making a game, besides noting that visual novels, being text-based branching game with scripted sequences, are nowhere near as complex as even a basic app that uses REST API calls in its implementation. If I can use ResearchKit to build full-functioned, complex branching questionnaires and store that data within a few hours, Tomoya should have been able to finish his assignment independently without any assistance over a weekend.

Spirit- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part Two Review and Reflection

“And then, there’s the last ten minutes of the movie. A display so powerful it merits the price of admission, and all future admission prices.” —Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One

Taking a leaf from the Auralnauts’ “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”, first off, obviously, this discussion will contain spoilers. If you do not already know that Gin dies in the end, then you should leave right now. Following another training session, Sumi, Sonoko and Gin are presented with unexpected news – they assigned some vacation time, during which they spend a day together at the pool and prepare an orientation for first-year elementary students. Although going overboard with their daily calisthenics routine and landing themselves in hot water, the girls have fun with their presentation, coming to deeply treasure their time spent together. Sumi and Sonoko also meet Gin’s parents for the first time during their break. When term resumes, the girls share a productive day at their school’s training camp, promising that there will be many more treasured memories in the days coming. When the camp concludes, a pair of Vertices appear. In the fierce fighting, Sumi and Sonoko are knocked out of combat. Gin promises to deal with the Vertices on her own, and, spurred on by her own determination to share a future with her friends, manages to defeat both. However, in the process, she sustains grievous wounds and succumbs to her injuries. Grief-stricken at their friend’s sudden departure, Sonoko and Sumi dissolve into tears. This is the short of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, the turning point where Gin’s friendship with Sonoko and Sumi is cut short; to see the dramatic contrast in the second act’s first and second halves was quite jarring even though it was quite apparent as to what would be happening when the Vertex did finally appear.

The idea of presenting an episode of contrasts is not a novel one – in portraying the characters’ ordinary lives and everyday activities, audiences have a chance to see what extraordinary individuals might do outside of their duties. To see them in normalcy, going about their business and sharing precious memories together reinforces the notion that everyone is human, each with their own experiences that give them drive. Consequently, when audiences have seen for themselves how far each of Sumi, Sonoko and Gin come to know one another, as well as the strength of their friendship, the death of a character is intended to evoke some level of response in viewers: empathy, the ability to understand another being’s emotions, is a cognitive function that evolved in social animals. Writers utilise it to convey a particular mood strongly, and in the case of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, to develop a friendship in such detail (Washio Sumi Chapter’s second acts open up in a light-hearted, even irreverent, tone), only for Gin to be killed during combat, is intended to convey to audiences the extent of the loss that Sonoko and Sumi feel. Friendship, something that takes a considerable amount of effort and time to cultivate, can be destroyed in an instant by external forces. Effective in emphasising this point as its main message, Act Two of Washio Sumi Chapter has raised the stakes for its final part; to be a hero previously meant accepting the risk of personal injury in the line of defending their world. In death, Gin shows the hazards of this duty, and if the documentation holds true, her death serves as the catalyst for changes the Taisha make to their Hero system. The final act of Washio Sumi Chapter will presumably deal with this, along with how Sumi and Sonoko take the loss of a dear friend.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post on Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part will have thirty screenshots such that there is sufficient room to properly discuss things. Irreverent, whimsical and quite unlike anything Yūki Yūna is a Hero veterans expect, the first part of this movie was immensely cheerful, almost to a fault. When their instructors announce the girls are to have some downtime in preparation for their future operations, Sonoko comes to pick up Sumi, where they subsequently listen to music together, and even the normally collected Sumi begins singing along to the music in her own manner.

  • The sheer number of facets to Sumi’s personality drives the comedy in the movie’s first half: after donning some of the dresses in the style that Sumi is fond of, Gin finds herself being photographed mercilessly, leading her to pout. Sumi’s nose explodes with a shower of blood; this was a rather unexpected reaction. Apparently, the nosebleed is an indicator that the character suffering from one is visually stimulated in some manner. While our blood pressure does elevate in the presence of something that excites us, there is no scientific basis for such a reaction happening.

  • Conversely, Sumi becomes quite bashful when asked to wear a Western-style dress. The tables have turned, and Gin photographs herself with Sumi. The scene cuts away to Sumi purifying herself at home later in the evening, who remarks that she’s failed as a Yamato Nadeshiko; this phrase refers to an abstraction of what is considered to be the proper Japanese lady, both dignified, graceful and beautiful, but also resolved and responsible in disposition. The second chapter of Washio Sumi Chapter presents Sumi as a personification of almost all things Japanese.

  • It turns out that Sonoko is an author who spends her spare time working on novels, and longs to write one about her friends. Sonoko’s existing works are well-received, and when Sumi, motivated, tries to write her own history texts, finds herself assailed by online critics. Here, the girls share a moment after drawing on the whiteboard: Sumi’s rendition of the Zuikaku is visible on the blackboard in the background. Like the Nagato, the Zuikaku survived most of the Second World War and was only sunk at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1945.

  • When Sonoko receives a love letter, Gin and Sumi’s reactions simply must be watched to be believed. Fearing curses, Sumi procures a large number of shide (paper streamers) to purify and bless Sonoko, but as it turns out, the letter is actually from a female admirer. Sumi herself later receives a letter, asking her to “bring it down”. Angered by the letter, Sumi promptly burns it while chanting ominously.

  • While Sumi’s warm-up exercises may seem excessive to Gin and Sonoko, there is a good reason for stretching before swimming: the motions of swimming cause the muscles to contract in ways the body may not be accustomed to. Cramps result when the body attempts to rectify this, resulting in pain. Warming up increases circulation that allow the muscles to prepare for the motions ahead, and in other anime, such as Girls und Panzer during one of the OVAs, cramps do indeed occur when the first years hop into the water, forcing the student council to save them.

  • As a worthy precursor to Yūna’s Hero Club, Gin here puts on a show for the entering first year primary students in order to welcome them to their school. Anime have always skewed ages, and while only eleven, Gin, Sonoko and Sumi feel much older than their ages would otherwise suggest. As a part of their performance, the play gives way to a scripted event that Sonoko and Sumi present for the students. A highly patriotic song that screams nationalism, a part of me feels as though there is a bit of propaganda here, although chances are that it’s done primarily for comedic purposes.

  • While I have a moderate understanding of Japanese history, I am not intrinsically familiar with this particular dress style, which brings to mind the likes of Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi. If and when I’m asked about my own sense of national pride, I am Canadian, and the things that I like most about the True North is our multiculturalism, politeness, majestic wilderness, hockey and maple syrup. With that being said, I also greatly respect my heritage: of Cantonese descent, I carry with me a hybrid of Western and traditional values. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the performance that Sumi and Sonoko perform land them in hot water.

  • Scattered intermittently through Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part’s first act are Sonoko’s dreams, which are surreal and somewhat uncanny to behold. Here, Sonoko comes to after dreaming that she’s now banned from eating Udon as punishment for having overdone their orientation presentation. Upon waking up, her friends reassure her, and audiences are left to wonder if they were really disciplined for their performance.

  • On a pleasant day, the girls get together to hang out: it is here that Sumi and Sonoko meet with Gin’s parents and family formally (the events in the previous movie do not count, as Sumi and Sonoko had followed Gin without permission). Gin has remarked that one of her own personal goals is to become a good bride, owing to her love of looking after others and ensuring their happiness. When she jokingly remarks that Sumi could be a bit of a difficult girl for whomever chooses to marry her, she also says that perhaps it would take someone like her to look after Sumi.

  • Having spent all night writing and binding their class activity guides, Sumi presents them to Sonoko and Gin, noting that she’s also given them an electronic version. The size of the volumes are unrealistic: the printing company at campus has a hard limit on the number of pages they bind into a volume, and something with this many pages (I estimate around 600 to 700 assuming the same thickness of paper as used in my thesis). With that being said, I’ve got no idea what the rock-like object Sumi holding is.

  • Events of the training camp proceed nominally as the girls complete their exercises. Gin and Sumi complete theirs with flair, and it is Sonoko who grows pensive. However, with some encouragement, she manages to finish the course and is petted by Gin. Feeling left out, Sumi endearingly forces her way between the two and is petted in return. I certainly was not expecting this from Sumi, but it demonstrates her desire to be a part of the friendship that all three of them share.

  • On a high from the day’s activities, Gin falls from a climbing apparatus when her grip falters. The events’ possible inclusion as a bit of foreshadowing notwithstanding, Gin promises to take it down a peg when Sonoko and Sumi express concern, but when the girls begin cooking lunch for the others, she quickly returns to her usual cheerful self. Grilling meats and vegetables on skewers is a longtime staple featured in anime, associated with summer: the searing of meat always seems to produce a distinct flavour that is remarkable. This flavour comes from concurrent Milliard reactions, which create aromatic rings in the constituent molecules that make up the meat.

  • Sumi and Sonoko take on simplified eyes when the former notices an Allomyrina dichotoma (common name Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle) on her shoulder. Distributed in Japan, Taiwan and Eastern China, these beetles are popular in Japan as pets. Sonoko seems unbothered, whereas Sumi is not particularly fond of insects, and sees Sonoko as being covered with the beetles. Pleasant is the weather in Washio Sumi Chapter a far cry from the skies around my city, where it seems spring has not fully ignited yet – trees are only beginning to bud, and a cold overcast sky dominates the area. While I lament the poor weather ahead in the forecast, the skies today became sunny and pleasant just in time for me to partake in this year’s Poutine Week challenge. A charity programme in which a participating restaurant will donate a meal to someone in need for every poutine sold, Poutine Week happens every April.

  • The girls’ instructor here struggles to eat a green pepper. I’m not a picky eater by any definition and love trying new dishes out. High on the list of things I like are exotic poutines: for Poutine Week this year, I visited the Midtown Café to enjoy the Philadelphia Cheese Steak poutine – a classy poutine decked out in roasted cuts of beef, beef demi-glace, sautéed onions and marinated chilies drizzled in a horseradish aioli, garnished with mustard microgreens, this is perhaps one of the most fancy poutines I’ve ever had. The heavier flavours of the demi-glace, fries, cheese kurds and beef were offset by the bite the chilies provided, and there was a bit of a kick coming from the aioli that gave the poutine a very complex flavour.

  • After lunch, we went back to the office space to host a small 007 GoldenEye Source LAN party. This was immensely entertaining, and after warming up with some TDM hosted locally, we hopped onto a public server whose main game mode was gun master. Aside from some colourful language from other players, we had a fantastic time. The clouds returned in force by the time I returned home, and the rain began falling as the evening set in. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the girls take a break atop the bell tower, having completed their assignment for the training camp. Up until this point, there are no Vertex, and Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act presents the precious moments that Sumi, Sonoko and Gin spend together.

  • When the Vertex do arrive, however, this instalment of Washio Sumi Chapter takes on a much grimmer tone. There is actually quite a bit to consider during the combat, which makes up the last ten minutes of the instalment and led indirectly to the page quote sourced from the Auralnauts video “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”. As will become apparent, the final ten minutes of this episode of Washio Sumi Chapter is a moving display. Viewers are treated once more to the full transformation sequence. While Sumi’s segment is most pleasing to the eye, Gin’s is pleasing to the ear: perhaps I might be one of the only viewers out there who enjoyed listening to Gin’s small grunts as she swings her blades around in preparation for combat.

  • As the fighting begins, the girls learn that they are taking on a pair of Vertices, but the situation worsens when a third appears. Taking their learnings, Sumi stays back to provide covering fire while Gin and Sonoko engage each Vertex at close quarters. Sumi’s aim is true; both Gin and Sonoko land hits against the Vertex, but they soon unleash a powerful counterattack. Sumi and Gin take cover under Sonoko’s umbrella to weather out the storm of missiles the Vertex launch, but are swatted by a scorpion-like tail.

  • The impact is so ferocious that Sonoko and Sumi suffer internal injuries, taking them out of the fight. The girls had previously left combat with minor scratches and bruises, and earlier in this act, Sumi experiences a furious nosebleed when seeing Gin in a dress, but the comedy and slapstick vanishes: the injuries and damage here are very real. A closer inspection of this post will find that almost half of the screenshots deal with their fight against the Vertex; the proportion of combat time to time spent depicting the girls’ everyday lives is a deliberate choice, setting the stage for the message that this second episode aims to convey, and goes to show that friendships, constructed lovingly over a period of time, can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

  • With the destruction of the Shinju an unacceptable alternative, Gin is forced to engage the Vertex on her own when she sees the state that Sonoko and Sumi are in. The Vertex seen in Washio Sumi Chapter do not appear to have a core as did the ones seen in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and fall after sustaining enough damage. Given this change, it stands to reason that the Vertex appear to be constructs that arise from aberrations in their world, which, in conjunction with how the second act’s opening is presented, gives credence to the notion that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is set in a simulated reality.

  • Promising to fight in their steed and return to them, Gin sets off against overwhelming odds. It’s the last time audiences see Gin smile, and from here on out, it’s all business. Earlier, Gin had promised her brother that she would return to give him a souvenir from her trip, and this is the bit of foreshadowing that hints at her eventual fate. Still in reasonable shape, and with her blades doubling as shields, she takes off with the intent of taking out both Vertices and fulfilling her promise.

  • The differences in scale here simultaneously serve to suggest the odds that Gin is going up against, as well as her own persistence. Abstract entities that are dubbed “Ugly”, “Admiral Aimbot” and “Walrus Face”, the Vertex are described in the opening narration as being the “Pinnacles” of something, a rather ironic description considering the dangers they pose to the Shinju. A point worth bringing up here, is that Vertices in plural will invariably be brought up as Yūki Yūna is a Hero progresses: while Vertex in plural can be spelt as “vertexes”, “vertices” is the much more widely-used variation, hence my choosing to spell it in this manner. Having said this, “vertexes” might be more appropriate in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, considering their unusual nature.

  • Despite having closed the distance between herself and the Vertex in order to enter melee range, Gin is punctured by the energy-like projectiles that leave large holes in her body. The damage she sustains does little to stop her: she manages to shear off the tail from one of the Vertices and slashes a hole in another with her blades. However, the onslaught is simply too much for one individual to negotiate: projectiles punch through her foot and other parts of her body, knocking her down.

  • Absolutely refusing to give up, Gin feels that her spirit, love for her family and friends, and a determination to fulfil her promises to each, makes her stronger than her opponents. This is the basis for the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s name. However, unlike typical stories where willpower and love for those important to one triumph totally, Gin’s efforts end with her death, whose sacrifice is total as she fights to fulfil her duty to the Shunju and people in her life.

  • Gin’s defeat and passing is a plausible outcome for her situation, or, as some might say, “realistic”, similar to how it was implausible for the Calgary Flames to defeat the Anaheim Ducks during the playoffs. While I am a fan of plausible outcomes and to a lesser extent, realism, I feel that these elements should not impede the presentation of a narrative’s thematic elements. There are cases where realism is favoured over consistency, leading a work of fiction to feel jarring on the virtue that the events of a finale are not in keeping with the message the work aimed to make clear. In the case of Washio Sumi Chapter, Gin’s death is necessary to advance things, rather than being included for drama’s sake.

  • Here, Gin pushes one final charge that will deal a killing blow to the Vertex, at the expense of her own life. I contend that dark themes and events are similarly related to realism, that realism is not positively correlated with darkness, and it is folly to think that a darker story is automatically more thought provoking. The best stories accomplish several things: they lead us to challenge our own views of the world, vividly experience things that would otherwise be quite unlikely or dangerous, and/or inspire us in some way. Fiction need not be nihilistic and dark to accomplish this, and in the excess, can cause a work to come across as being quite superficial in quality. Madoka Magica and Yūki Yūna is a Hero feature such elements to varying extents, but their success in moving an audience comes because viewers care for the characters rather than because the characters are made to suffer for the sake of drama.

  • This is the sight that Sonoko and Sumi are presented with when they come to and reach Gin. Her weapons lying on the battlefield, and standing totally still, the two are initially relieved that Gin is still apparently in one piece. It was mentioned earlier that the girls’ hero outfits provide some degree of protection against the Vertex’s assault, and this does seem to hold true: no one’s had their internal organs blown out or their entire body bifrucated as in Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan as of yet despite the terrifying power the Vertex can wield.

  • In the eerie still, Sumi and Sonoko soon realise that Gin’s right arm is missing. Unlike Imran Zakhaev, who survived the loss of his arm despite the blood loss and resulting shock, the damage done to Gin is beyond survival. It is here that Sumi and Sonoko’s fears come to pass. The injuries shown openly on screen might be too much to show on television; if the televised broadcast of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is going to censor the blood and carnage, however, it might also lessen the impact of this moment.

  • Sonoko and Sumi let out wrenching sobs in light of the loss of their best friend that match the impact imparted by Hikari back during the days of Brave Witches and then some. The film draws to a close here, leaving audiences with a preview of what the final act of Washio Sumi Chapter entails. Moving into the finale, I am hoping for further details on the Vertex: it is difficult to consider Yūku Yūna is a Hero without them, and knowing about their beliefs, desires and intentions will add weight to the Heroes’ fight against the Vertex.

  • Before I wrap things up, for those wondering, I’ve been around the block long enough to be blunted towards tears: although quite moving, I did not shed any tears, much less several individual tears, at the episode’s conclusion. Thus ends another post on Washio Sumi Chapter. I will be returning to write about the final act in July, and for the present, note that discussion on the Washio Sumi Chapter has been surprisingly minimal. This will likely change in the near future once Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season is aired, but for now, the quiet isn’t such a bad thing.

In spite of the opening narration redacting some elements about the Vertex and Taisha, the information that is provided seems to align with the idea that this Yūki Yūna is a Hero occurs within a simulated reality: the Vertex are suggested to be anomalies within the system, and the Heroes would therefore serve as a sort of anti-virus or anti-malware platform for defending the Shinju, the operating system, from threats arising within the programming. The spontaneous creation of Vertex as an antagonist hints at instability in the system, and there is a limit to what speculation can accomplish: there’s still quite a bit of background about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that audiences are not privy to. While not presenting the complete picture, having these dialogues and fragments of information is infinitely preferable to the absence of exposition. Until more documentation becomes available to support or refute my guesses, I will continue to go with the idea that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is the mahou shoujo take on The Matrix. With the second act of Washio Sumi Chapter in the books, the stage is now set for the final movie, which is set for release on July 8. I am very curious to see the intermediate story between Sumi’s transition to Mimori, as well as the difficult path that Sonoko chooses to defend her world. Yūki Yūna is a Hero might have been met with a lukewarm reception at best for dropping viewers into the middle of things, but the Washio Sumi Chapter films have been a modest attempt at addressing the background behind this world so far. If the third movie can explain more about the Taisha and Vertices’ respective natures, and the Hero Chapter of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season can explore how Yūna’s team handles their knowledge following the events of the first season, the world presented in Yūki Yūna is a Hero will feel more complete, and the girls’ actions, more consistent.

Friends- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part One Review and Reflection

“Make ten men feel like a hundred.” —Cassian Andor, Rogue One

Before she met Yūna Yūki, Mimori Tōgō was known as Sumi Washio. She is assigned, with her classmates Sonoko Nogi and Gin Minowa, as heroes to defend the Shinju from the Vertex. Despite still lacking the requisite training to be effective in combat, they are pressed into an engagement with a Vertex that presents them with a considerable challenge. In the end, it is the combination of brute force and a team effort that allow them to claim their first kill. Following this battle, their instructor assigns Sonoko to be the team leader, while Sumi struggles to summon the courage to become friends with Sonoko and Gin, all the while lamenting how the other two do not seem very serious or dedicated about their roles. Successful, the group of friends take on their second vertex and only manage a narrow victory over it; their instructor decides to give the girls a training camp, where they hone their ability to coordinate as a team. While improving as heroes, Sumi notices that Gin is consistently late for school, and one day, after tailing her with Sonoko and learning that Gin seems to be drawn into helping others, the third vertex appears. Faltering when Sonoko and Gin engage it, it is with their encouragement that Sumi opens fire on the Vertex, creating an opening that allows Gin to neutralise it. Sumi realises that despite her own determination, she is likely to be holding the team back and dissolves in tears, resolving to strengthen herself. So ends the first part of the Washio Sumi Chapter, the prequel to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, which sets the stage for exploring Mimori’s background as a hero. Veterans have noted that Yūki Yūna is a Hero lacks a formal exposition, dropping viewers directly into the universe without much in the way of explanation. While Yūki Yūna is a Hero managed to present a coherent, well-defined theme, the anime’s original run in 2014 also left audiences with questions: unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which thoroughly explained their universe’s mechanics, very little about the Taisha and Shinju are known even after twelve episodes.

In Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part, the focus is on Sumi’s growth as a character, learning that beliefs and attitudes are only half the battle: when the time comes, action becomes just as important, and discipline during peace time may not necessarily correspond to acting appropriately during an operation. Although Sumi tries to remind herself time and time again that her own self-reliance will mean that she’s looking after Sonoko and Gin, when taking on the Vertex in combat, Sumi freezes up and stops thinking when her mode of attack, taking the form of a magical bow, proves ineffectual. Her ranged weapons have a low travel speed and are easily disrupted by turbulence the Vertex can conjure; these limitations in combat compared to the seemingly more effectual weapons that Sonoko and Gin wield appear to weigh on her mind. Instead of seeing herself as being useful in providing long-range support for her close quarters oriented teammates, Sumi concludes that she must improve to support her friends in new ways, rather than making the most of the loadout she’s got to assist Sonoko and Gin. These elements sum up to present Sumi as being a very consistent but rigid-minded individual, constrained by her own analysis and understanding of a situation; ever interested in studying history and its lessons, Sumi’s love of knowledge is her greatest asset, but both in Washio Sumi Chapter and the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, it also becomes an impediment. Thus, right from the beginning, in establishing Mimori’s personality, audiences gain a better sense of what drives Mimori throughout much of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to the strength of Sumi’s belief in her own self-reliance, it is reasonable to suppose that the remaining parts of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s contents will deal with her gradually opening up, only to be sent back to square one as events unfold.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been around eight and a half months since I last wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and the anime itself aired between October and December in 2014. As memory serves, I was starting out on my journey as a graduate student back then; Sword Art OnlineSora no Method and Amagi Brilliant Park were the two anime I watched that season. In this post, I include thirty images of the Washio Sumi Chapter and open with the remark that Sumi Washio will be referred to as Sumi throughout this post even though she is re-christened Mimori Tōgō later on.

  • From left to right, Gin Minowa, Sumi Washio and Sonoko Nogi prepare for battle against their first Vertex. Mysterious beings whose origins are never explained and whose goals seem restricted to “destroy the Shinju”, they act as the antagonists that drive the protagonists together. One of the things that proved quite entertaining about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was that Hero duty is facilitated for by a suite of apps on the girls’ smartphones. Even in the short span since I watched Yūki Yūna is a Hero, smart phone technology has already increased in complexity: the new iPhone 7s do not have a physical home screen button and rely on Force Touch for interactions, and the iPhone 8 is expected to be even more sophisticated, leaving the iPhone 6 that I (and Taki of Your Name) wield in the dust.

  • As per tradition of any mahou shoujo anime, the girls undergo a lengthy transformation sequence when it is shown for the first time. Sumi’s sequence remains unchanged from its successor in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although when one factors into consideration that she’s only eleven here, the question of whether or not there’s any point at all in focussing the camera on her chest and posterior comes to mind. This might cross the line for some, and I’m not ready to consider the ramifications of Sumi’s transformation. However, I am quite ready to discuss her initial loadout as a hero: a magical bow that fires arrows dealing damage to the Vertex but is constrained by low projectile speed and as a result, suffers from serious projectile drop.

  • Gin is equipped with a pair of stylised blades with a rocket engine of sorts to boost her power. Confident, cheerful and easygoing, Gin prefers charging into combat with little semblence of a plan and is voiced by Yumiri Hanamori: a relative newcoming as a voice actor, I’m not familair with her other roles beyond those of Anne Hanakoizumi in Anne Happy, which I’ve yet to watch, and Remo of Garakowa: Restore the World.

  • Gentlest of the heroes but also a natural leader, Sonoko wields a trident that can transform into an umbrella-like shield during combat to cover her teammates. She is one of the longest serving heroes and loses much of her body in the fight against the Vertex as a result of activating her NT-D mankai in excess of twenty instances, later informing Yūki of the fate that awaits heroes. Sonoko is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, a veteran voice actor who’s also played Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and Your Name.

  • Lacking any sort of combat experience, the girls improvise a plan but find themselves overwhelmed by the Vertex’s water-element attacks. The homing water bubbles overwhelm Gin, who demonstrates resourcefulness by drinking down the entire thing and remarking that while it tasted quite poor, it was a necessary move. Gin’s description suggests that the Vertex is using pure, distilled water free of any minerals: our taste receptors can pick up ions in water, giving water a minor taste, and distilled water will be unusually flat. While some folks consider distilled water the best to drink for its lack of contaminants, the lack of minerals can be detrimental to the body.

  • Ultimately, Sumi is able to shoot off one of the Vertex’s weapons, and Gin capitalises on this opening to slice-and-dice the Vertex, causing it to disintegrate and creating a phenomenon that is visualised as a shower of flowers. Gin and Sonoko celebrate their first victory together, and the world is restored. The soundtrack in Washio Sumi Chapter seems unchanged since its presentation in Yūki Yūna is a Hero: composed by Keiichi Okabe (of Nier Automata and Wake Up, Girls!), there is an ethereal quality to his performances that rival those of Yuki Kajiura, who wrote the music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

  • The architecture in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is less visually distinct than those seen in Madoka Magica, speaking very little about the characters’ internal feelings. Structures featuring more conventional designs, and there are no major cities with skyscrapers, although some large structures, such as the suspension bridge, have unique features that make them unlike those of the real world: here, a large ring can be seen on one of the suspension bridge towers, and a close-up of the bridge reveals small charms attached to the bridge’s cables.

  • I’m gearing up to help judge at the Calgary Youth Science Fair this Friday, and will be in attendance of an orientation tomorrow evening. Despite being done school, things have remained quite busy, engaging. My reason for helping out with the science fairs is that I’m actually quite curious to see what young minds out there are doing these days. I still recall my participation in the science fair during my second and third year of middle school: on both occasions, I did a research project and won bronze in my category. Looking back, it definitely was a fun experience, and it will be quite exciting to see things from the other side of the fence.

  • Sumi turns luminescent when Sonoko asks her to share her gelato here, after they visit a local place to celebrate their first victory and also commemorate their friendship. It’s not quite as intense as Kon of Urara Meirocho, whose entire body turns pink out of embarrassment. I’ve noted before that Kon and Mimori/Sumi strongly resemble one another, similar to how Itsuki and Nono share some similarities in appearance and manner.

  • The second vertex Sumi and the others face project a powerful windstorm that makes movement nearly impossible. The abstract designs of the spaces the Vertex and Shinju occupy in Yūki Yūna is a Hero lack the same imagery of those seen in Madoka Magica, lacking distinct features of the Witches’ labyrinths. This is because the Witches’ labyrinths are spaces the Witches create to hide in and can provide an approximation of the Witches’ former character (for Oktavia von Seckendorff, her labyrinth is characterised by a fixation on Sayaka’s crush, Kyōsuke, and his musical talents), whereas in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the heroes fight in an alternate space to minimise damage to the real world.

  • While doubtlessly not short with respect to the cool factor, arrows are a very limited weapon against the Vertex, who can deflect them without much effort. Sumi’s weapons are further constrained by the need of a charge time to be effective: they appear to deal their maximum damage only after all of the pedals in the holographic flower are lit. Charged weapons are a feature of some first person shooters (Team Fortress 2‘s snipers, the Gauss rifle’s siege mode in DOOM and the plasma railgun in Titanfall come to mind): a charge mechanic allows support players to deal massive damage in the support role, requiring patience. A good sniper hangs out in the back and targets their opponents from a distance, and it appears that Sumi does not fully understand her role on the hero team.

  • Gin’s melee weapons are oriented entirely for offense, while Sonoko’s trident suggest an intermediary role, allowing her to provide offense and defense as required. While the girls have the basic ranges and roles covered, a part of their limitation owing to their limited experience means that no one really capitalises fully on their abilities even in their second battle: as their instructor remarks, Gin’s final destruction of the second Vertex is more brute force than finesse. A team in touch with one another would see Sumi sit back from direct combat and use her ranged capabilities to provide covering fire. Sonoko would get herself and Gin close to the vertex and engage with their respective offensive weapons.

  • Following their second battle, their instructor decides that Sonoko should be the team leader; Sumi is presented as being arrogant to an extent, supposing that Sonoko was selected on virtue of background rather than skill, but nonetheless resolves to work hard and support the team as best as she can. Like Gin, I’ve never been particularly good with leadership roles and prefer to be in the passenger seat, helping a driver make decisions and provide support, although as the need arises, I can and will lead a team. This trait carries over to Battlefield and other games, where I prefer being a gunner rather than a driver.

  • Transforming her trident into a beach umbrella as a shield, their instructor’s exercise is to storm a beach, working as a team to reach a capture point without getting hit. In the beginning, the exercise is unsuccessful as each of Sonoko, Gin and Sumi act independently. However, when they work as a team as stipulated earlier, with Sumi providing covering fire from the rear and Sonoko shielding Gin long enough for her to close the distance and enter melee range, they complete their task splendidly. Besides practical training, the girls also hone their minds, busying themselves with study and even meditating, although Gin cramps up and falls over during meditation. I’m stupidly inflexible, and it takes all of my willpower to prevent my leg from cramping while I meditate.

  • After Gin tries to mess with Sumi’s assets, their instructor comes in to bring an end to things and restore the peace, promptly blowing Sumi and Gin away when she proves to be bigger…for them, resulting in the reaction here. Although Yūki Yūna is a Hero does have its serious moments, it is not devoid of comedy. Exaggerated facial expressions and reactions are present in the anime, and while there are themes of betrayal, trust and doubt as a part of the story, the overall tone is rather more optimistic than those of Madoka Magica.

  • The events of Madoka Magica were unexpected, coming out of left field and blew away audiences. If word is to be believed, it was the very learnings from Sora no Woto of the Anime no Chikara Project that were utilised in Madoka Magica to create a work that was both entertaining and surprising. The Anime no Chikara project is erroneously assumed to have been discarded after failure, and I myself assumed this to be the case until my recent Sora no Woto posts: looking into things, I learned that the program was intended to only run for a year.

  • Generally reserved, Sumi becomes rather more animated whenever history is mentioned: she wastes no time in conveying her enthusiasm for Japanese history and mentions the battleship Nagato. Constructed in 1910, modernised during the mid-1930s and serving as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s flagship for a period, the Nagato survived WWII, having seen very little in the way of direct combat and survived several attacks compared to other vessels. However, despite their intimidating looks, I myself are a much bigger fan of aircraft carriers over battleships.

  • I’m what is considered a wet blanket, since when I’m out, I tend to try and maintain a sleep pattern as close to that of home as possible so I have enough energy to get through the day’s main events, rather than staying up into the late hours of the evening. I’ve never been a night person, and typically, I get most of my work done between nine and three: in the afternoon, I grow tired, and productivity declines. This stands in stark comparison with some of my friends and coworkers, who work their best as the evening turns to night, at the expense of not being morning people.

  • After returning from their training camp, Sumi grows frustrated that Gin is late yet again, and decides to get to the bottom of things. She uses a periscope here to peer over some cover, with Sonoko in tow, learning that Gin’s propensity to help others seems to be something that can’t be helped. Very much a Japanese concept, Shikata ga nai (仕方が無い) is supposed to be the Japanese spirit of endurance, maintaining face in light of challenges; this stands in contrast with views in the West, where prevailing thought is to figure out a solution to that problem sooner rather than later (“don’t get mad, get even”).

  • Gin quickly becomes my favourite character of the Washio Sumi Chapter: ever ready to help those around her and carrying an inextinguishable spirit as a result of having to look after her siblings, she tends to help everyone along her way to school, explaining why she’s always late for school. Like Madoka Magica‘s original TV run and home release, the backgrounds of  Yūki Yūna is a Hero are quite simple and clean, compared to the more intricate backgrounds of the Madoka Magica movies.

  • The unusual setup of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero leads me to wonder if their world is not unlike of that of The Matrix, being a highly sophisticated simulated reality. In such a world, whoever is running this simulation would have their own reasons for keeping the characters occupied (perhaps similar to how Rick has an entire world inside his battery in the Rick and Morty episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”), and also would account for how things freeze as the girls take the Vertex on in combat. Of course, the presence of a microverse in something like Yūki Yūna is a Hero would be one of the biggest plot twists of the century.

  • Audiences should be safe, however: for the time being, there are few indicators beyond my own enjoyment of Rick and Morty that would lead to the potential conclusion that the Yūki Yūna is a Hero universe is set inside someone’s battery. Of course, that would also open up the possibility for someone to develop a miniverse and teenyverse battery, ad infinitum. For now, we return to Washio Sumi Chapter, where the third of the Vertexes appear.

  • In spite of Sumi’s belief in her own abilities, during the third engagement, she locks up after seeing the Vertex taking flight to evade her arrows and fears for Gin. Despite facing an adversary they seemingly cannot beat, Sonoko takes charge and creates a stairwell for Sumi; the elevation allows her projectile to hit, dealing some damage. Meanwhile, Sonoko draws its attention off Gin and is blown away.

  • With its attention divided, the stage is set for Gin to exit her defensive stance and go on the offense. With her rocket-propelled blades, she annihilates the Vertex. It’s a gruelling battle, and the girls sustain a nontrivial number of scratches during the course of this engagement. In keeping with mahou shoujo tradition, the transformation sequence for this battle is much shorter than the initial one: the thrill of the first launch or transformation is always at its maximum, and subsequently, they become a bit of a drag to sit through. In Gundam, for instance, launches shorten as the series progresses, but may become lengthier if the protagonists are about to set out on a pivotal battle, either for better or worse.

  • Rather than reacting to any dangers her team was in, Sumi here laments her combat inefficiency and that she was dependent on a teammate to help her out, rather than the other way around. The whole point of teamwork is that no single person carries an unreasonable burden, and it is with teamwork that great achievements are made. This forms the basis for my page quote: inspired by Rogue One, where the Rebels rally around Cassian’s clear instructions. The end result of a good team, with a good leader, has a synergy in which the team is able to achieve more than the sum of the outputs of the individuals together.

  • With the Vertex neutralised for the present, the girls find themselves back in their ordinary world. The large suspension bridge in the background, when viewed from a particular angle, also appears to have a cable-swayed component to it that brings to mind the Tsing ma-Ting Kau bridge in Hong Kong: their combined span is around 1.4 kilometers in length. At present, Tsing Ma bridge is the world’s eleventh longest single-span suspension bridge. It was finished in 1998 and connects Hong Kong International Airport to the Hong Kong.

  • The contrast of blues and greens in Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part offset the mood after Gin and Sonoko notice Sumi weeping. The colours suggest the late summer period, a time of calm and where things are unhurried. A glance at the calendar shows that it is now exam season: I’ve been out of school for around eight months now, having formally finished at the end of August last year. It still feels a little unusual to know that it is the midst of exam season, and yet, I’ve got no exams on my plate. On some occasions, I still dream about “forgetting” to do assignments or being late for class; there is no single interpretation of what this actually means, but I do know that I do not have any assignments left for the present.

  • On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy as always, writing and testing iOS apps in Swift 3. Outside of work, I’ve been gaming and generally taking it easy: I’ve suddenly realised that my last four posts have been about games, so it’s high time I broke that streak and posted something about anime. This is how the Washio Sumi Chapter post came to be, as I was planning on writing about it later, but since there’s an opening now, I’d figure I’d take it.

  • These are the faces of two excellent teammates, and straight away, I feel as though Sonoko and Gin are as valuable as Fū, Itsuki, Karin and Mimori were to Yūna despite their having known Sumi for a shorter period of time. The second part of the Washio Sumi Chapter was released just last weekend, on April 15, and I’ll be getting around to watching that quite soon. Before that, however, I will be looking at Sakura Quest after three episodes, as well as wrapping up my journey through Titanfall 2. In the meantime, it’s time for me to kick back and see if the Flames can stave off total defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. If we’re to lose, I hope that we at least put up a good showing and go out in style.

There are three parts to Washio Sumi Chapter, and the upcoming second season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is broken up into two parts; the first part will be a televised broadcast of the Washio Sumi Chapter, which is presently covered as theatrical releases. The second half, titled Hero Chapter, will be a proper continuation of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to this unconventional setup, it means that when the fall 2017 anime season rolls around, I will likely drop by and discuss Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter quite separately. For the time being, the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter released mid-April, and I’ve set my sights on watching this one. So far, Washio Sumi Chapter isturning out to be solid addition to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although one of the things high on my wishlist in the second season’s Hero Chapter is a bit more explanation into what the Taisha are and how the Shinju came into being, as well as what the origins of the Vertex are. Unlike Brave Witches, whose complex world-building and Witches are quite separate from the Neuroi, meaning the precise nature of their origins become a lesser concern, the Vertex and Taisha are the reason why there are heroes to begin with in Yūki Yūna is a Hero; to have the characters go through their experiences without properly equipping them with a reason to fight is to limit the series. In the meantime, I will look forwards to seeing what the remaining parts of the Washio Sumi Chapter have in store for audiences.