The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Mirai no Mirai: A Review and Full Recommendation

“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring – quite often the hard way.” –Pamela Dugdale

Accustomed to being showered with love and adoration, Kun is a four year old boy who lives in Isogo-ku,Yokohama, spending his days with Yuuko (the family dog) and his train sets. When his parents welcome Mirai into the family, Kun grows jealous of the attention his baby sister is receiving. After one tantrum, Kun runs into the courtyard and finds himself face to face with Yuuko in human form: he learns that Yuuko has been left behind somewhat ever since he was born, and subsequently passes along to his parents that Yuuko should be better treated. Each of the more substantial tantrums that Kun throws activates the tree in the courtyard that sends him to another time. He comes face-to-face with a middle school-aged Mirai, who warns him about mistreating her and enlists his help in putting away dolls the family has set up for Girls’ Day. Kun also is transported back in time to when his mother was around four after refusing to put his toys away and learns that she too was scolded for making a mess of things. After Kun’s father focuses his attention on a crying Mirai at the park while they were originally set to help Kun learn to ride a bike, Kun grows angry and runs off. Here, the tree in the courtyard transports him to his great-grandfather’s workshop. His great-grandfather suggests to him that the key to overcoming fear on any vehicle is to look ahead. Later at the park, Kun manages to learn how to ride a bike on his own. When the family prepares to go for a trip, Kun refuses since his favourite pants are unavailable. He is seemingly left behind, finds himself at a train station and boards a train despite an older boy’s warnings. Arriving at a vast station, he grows fearful and tries to find his parents, but the attendant remarks that without verification to his identity, he is unable to help and sends Kun to a train that sends him to Lonely Land. Seeing the baby Mirai about to board the train, he acknowledges his identity as Mirai’s older brother, having refused to do so until now, and the older Mirai retrieves him. She then takes him on a journey through the family history, and when Kun returns to the present, he decides that the pants suddenly don’t matter so much anymore, cheerfully joining his parents and Mirai for their day trip. Mirai no Mirai (literally “Mirai of the Future”) is a film that released in July 2018 and is notable amongst the 2018 anime films for being the first anime film that is not from Studio Ghibli to receive a nomination as Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

Running for an hour and forty minutes, Mirai no Mirai is a fanciful and vivid tale of discovery, acceptance and understanding. In particular, this is a film that all older siblings will connect to: the arrival of a new sibling in a family and the shift in attention is an occurrence that all older siblings must go through, and the feelings of jealousy, resentment and loneliness are universal regardless of one’s culture. Children’s media, such as Arthur and The Berenstain Bears each have their own portrayals of this topic, presenting the transition and gradual acceptance of a new sibling in families as a journey. In Arthur, D.W. comes to accept Kate as her sister after running away but realising that Kate needs an older sister to show her the things that only sisters get. The Berenstain Bears‘ Sister is shown a family video of her as a baby and learns that every baby is given a great deal of attention, coming to terms with how her new sister, Honey, is an integral part of the Bear Family. Both presentations are very down-to-earth, and Mirai no Mirai stands out in applying these lessons with a twist: the film utilises bold visuals to express the tumultuous thoughts in one’s mind during childhood. Whether its a bustling train station or luxuriant garden, Kun’s lessons seem come from within: his own discoveries act as the lessons that push him towards accepting Mirai and his parents. The generous use of these flights of fancy indicate that children are very complex and capable of finding their own answers; whether it be Arthur, The Berenstain Bears or Mirai no Mirai, no adult explicitly explains why babies draw attention away from the older sibling. Instead, the older sibling, through their experiences and observations, comes to terms with things on their own. It’s a journey that has a bit of mystery to it: children are observant and bright, but may have trouble articulating their thoughts, and so, with its imagery, Mirai no Mirai aims to both show how remarkable families are, as well as make tangible something that we otherwise might take for granted. It is a story of the extraordinary amidst the ordinary, and so, Mirai no Mirai is very enjoyable to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Mirai no Mirai is set in Isogo Ward of Yokohama, the largest individual city in Japan by population (with 3.7 million people). Attesting to the film’s incredible visuals, the ward and Yokohama’s downtown area are faithfully reproduced, to the point where it was a trivial exercise to find this spot using Google Maps. The view zooms in on Kun’s house: because his father is an architect, they live in a rather unusual house on a narrow lot, with a courtyard and lone tree visible. This post will have thirty screenshots, and I note that thirty is not enough of a space to cover off everything.

  • Kun and Mirai are the only named human characters in Mirai no Mirai: their parents are only known as “mom” and “dad”, reminiscent of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. Watterson explains that their names aren’t needed because from Calvin’s point of view, his parents are mom and dad. Similarly, in Mirai no Mirai, Kun’s parents are only referred to as such because the film is told from his perspective. Kun is a play on the honourific for boys, and is equivalent to The Berenstain Bears‘ Brother Bear, who was known as Small Bear before Sister was born. One wonders how names work in Bear Country, and curiously enough, everyone else has standard names.

  • Kun’s mother is an executive of an unnamed company: the couple leads a busy life that only becomes more hectic as they raise two children, and this chaos is conveyed to viewers right from the start. I’m sure that parents will immediately connect with this; Mirai no Mirai‘s portrayal of a baby and four-year-old child as being tricky to look after has its basis in reality. I’m told that when I was four, my curiosity made me a bloody nightmare to deal with. Up until I was seven, I was constantly in trouble for going out of bounds and doing who-knows-what. My second year primary instructor wondered if I could channel this towards reading, and instead of exploring the world physically, I took to counting on books to sate this curiosity. The “me” of the present day is a consequence of this.

  • Kun experiences a mixture of curiosity at the new baby and also jealousy that attention has now left him. On several instances, he causes Mirai to cry, landing him in hot water. This is one of the hazards about having two children very closely together. While some rivalry might exist if there’s a three to four year gap, the older child is generally more independent and therefore is less prone to jealousy. In the case of Mirai no Mirai, it would appear that Kun’s jealousy is more consistent with a two year gap; his age is presumably chosen so that we have a protagonist with more independence and a larger vocabulary, as well as the attendant personality. It’s not particularly implausible, and Kun is described as being somewhat spoiled.

  • Whenever Kun gets into trouble, the tree in their courtyard begins glowing, and he is taken into an alternate world. Initially, I was not sure of who the scruffy-looking man was, but when he introduces himself as a former prince, the only individual that came to mind was Yuuko, who would’ve been previously the only individual Kun’s mother and father would have looked after. Flights of fancy in Mirai no Mirai, such as Kun becoming a dog after stealing Yuuko’s tail, give the film a more fantastical feeling that elicits a sense of magic in how children might approach the world.

  • Now that I’ve made the Calvin and Hobbes comparison, it does feel like the case that Kun’s mother and father are parallels of Calvin’s mother and father in terms of appearance. Both Calvin and Kun’s father have black hair and glasses, while Calvin and Kun’s mother both have brown hair. The similarities end here: Calvin’s mother is a stay-at-home parent, while Calvin’s father is a patent attorney. I’ve long been a fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and having gotten one of the special collections for a birthday years ago, I gained a unique insight into how Bill Watterson created his comics.

  • Mirai is voiced by Haru Kuroki, and as a baby, Kaede Hondo provides her voice. While I’ve not seen Kuroki’s other works, Hondo has also been Comic Girls‘ Koyume Koizuka and Kohaku Tsukishiro of The World in Colours. Despite the film being named for Mirai, Kun’s development forms the bulk of the story, and I am left wishing that Mirai had a more substantial role. However, it seems that rather than being a direct source of guidance for Kun, Mirai acts more to nudge him along and help him make his own discoveries.

  • At dinner with Kun’s grandparents, his parents discuss how their great-grandparents met. It’s a nostalgic story: the great-grandfather was a mechanic who was injured during the Second World War and convinced the great-grandmother to a foot race; she stipulates that if he can best her, then he may have her hand in marriage. Moments like these show that in every family, there is a great deal of history in the past, of triumphs and trials.

  • Taking care of the housework when one is accustomed to working with a keyboard is definitely a bit of a change: Kun and Mirai’s father is shown to struggle initially, leaving him quite unable to have any time left for Kun. Closeups of his work are shown, and he runs a MacBook Pro: most anime have a pear rather than an apple to indicate an Apple computer. From my end, I treat housework as almost a break of sorts: my mind wanders while I vacuum, iron or cook to some extent.

  • After Kun puts crackers on a sleeping Mirai’s face out of boredom, he is whisked away into a tropical conservatory, coming face-to-face with an older Mirai. She’s come from the future with the aim of getting their father to put the dolls away, citing that each day they’re not properly stowed is another year her marriage will be delayed. There are a great many superstitions in East Asian cultures: attesting to this is that each year, my parents explain to me a superstition about Chinese New Year that I did not know previously.

  • Mirai and Yuuko manage to get everything put away without their father noticing, and Kun helps by providing a distraction. Later, when their mother returns, Kun remarks that he’d helped out, befuddling their father, who’s unsure as to how everything managed to work out. The events of Mirai no Mirai are quite implausible, but they provide a very solid visual representation of how children might see the world. I am inclined to believe that these highly vivid sequences are a highly stylised metaphor.

  • Mirai resembles Mitsuha of Your Name to some extent. Originally, my expectations entering Mirai no Mirai was that Mirai’s older self would have a much more substantial role in the film than what I eventually experienced. However, from a thematic perspective, this makes sense: the future Mirai is more of a guide who helps Kun make his own discoveries. In this way, Mirai no Mirai strongly suggests that self-discovery is a major part of growing up, and that some things can’t be taught.

  • Visuals in Mirai no Mirai are impressive: while perhaps not quite as grand as those seen in Maquia, artwork and animation are still of a superb quality. From large-scale settings to something as simple as pancakes decked out in blueberries and strawberries, everything in Mirai no Mirai is impressive to look at. It suddenly strikes me that we’re now in February, and it’s been the coldest few days of the year so far: temperatures yesterday bottomed out at -29°C, with a windchill of -40°C. Winter has set in now, and ahead of this on Friday, a friend and I got together at one of the best barbecue places in town to catch up. Amidst conversation, I enjoyed a hearty plate of prime rib beef bones (smokey and flavourful, especially with their in-house sauce), plus a side of yam fries, fried green tomatoes and cornbread; this is something I’ve not had since the summer Your Name came out, and a good plate of smoked ribs is precisely what one needs to stay warm in the true Canadian winter.

  • I again fall back on anecdotal evidence for what I was like as a child when it came to cleaning my room. I know that this is a chore for some children, but as far as I can tell, I was always (and still are) a stickler for organisation. My younger brother found it hilarious when I dumped our toys wholesale from their containers, but we’d always clean up afterwards: I think that it was a fear for getting an earful that motivated this, but this eventually became a habit: it’s much easier to find the stuff one’s looking for if everything is nice and tidy (齐整, jyutping cai4 zing2, as I’m fond of saying).

  • Kun’s tantrum over cleaning sends him on a journey into the past, where he runs into his mother as a little girl. At this point in time, she’s fond of cats and remarks that she’d get one; she’s writing a letter and placing it into her mother’s (Kun’s grandmother) shoes, feeling that it could help her wish come across. As it’s raining, the two take off for his mother’s place, where Kun learns that his mother was once as free-spirited as he was. They proceed to make a bloody mess of things.

  • Kun’s mother sends him on his way after her mother returns, and she’s made to endure a tongue lashing. Kun later realises that his mother was once similar to him and realises she’s probably going through a great deal at present. I’ve heard that one’s shortcomings as children will manifest again in their children, which means that in the future, I should probably grit my teeth and find a way to best manage the curiosity in any child of mine.

  • Because Kun’s father is preoccupied in looking after Mirai, Kun grows angry that no one is giving him the attention to ride a bike. I’ve never been much of a physical individual as a child and did not learn how to ride a bike until I was twelve: after my brother expressed a desire to learn, I figured that I probably should, as well. On the second day of his lesson, I joined my parents and within a half hour, figured it out. After that, I took to biking around the neighbourhood during the summer, and found a profound joy in coming home exhausted after a good bike ride.

  • Running off and finding solace in the tree once more, Kun encounters his great-grandfather. His advice is to focus on something in the distance, citing that horse, bike or plane, the principles are the same. This scene is exceptionally well done, fluidly showing a post-war Yokohama as his great-grandfather knew it. Kun notices that he walks with a limp here, and the latter shrugs it off, saying that it’s something he’s come to accept. Later, it is shown that after an Allied bombing during the Second World War, his will to live drove him to swim for safety.

  • To me, biking came somewhat intuitively: I’m not sure I can explain how I learned it, except that after half an hour, I was zipping up and down the neighbourhood. I subsequently got too excited and zoomed down a hill, crashing the bike and landing in some bushes. Kun recalls his great-grandfather’s suggestion, and soon after, manages to figure out the basics. The other children are impressed and invites him to ride along with them.

  • In this moment, Mirai no Mirai‘s theme is abundantly clear: that learning is a very natural process and sometimes can occur without us even realising it. In spite of this, it’s something to be celebrated, and much as how Kun has learned to ride a bike, Kun’s father has acclimatised to taking care of Mirai, who no longer cries when he holds her. I’m told that as a baby, I largely could get along with anyone who held me, whereas my brother could only be held by my parents. The opposite seems true these days: my brother is more outgoing than I am and is more adept at taking the initiative in conversation with people, whereas I am inclined to listen more than I talk.

  • While I cannot speak for all children, I can say that I probably had a few moments like these at Kun’s age. Looking back, it’s pretty foolish, but at the time, I imagine that choice of favourite clothing did make all the difference in the world. Kun’s latest antics indicate that he acts up for attention’s sake, and my parents note that children are rather cleverer than they look: they are fond of sharing the classic story of seeing a little girl throwing a tantrum at a mall, right in the middle of a major area. The parents of that particular child were undeterred and said, “it’s cool, we’re heading off”. Realising that her show had no effect, she packed it in and ran off to join her parents, who’d diffused a situation without raising their voices, embarrassing and inconveniencing no-one.

  • The vast scale of the train station is impressive, bringing to mind the interior of fantastical locations like Platform 9 ¾ in Harry Potter. The golden tones convey a sense of warmth, a world far removed from the extreme colds of today. The weather is expected to persist into the Chinese New Year: tonight was Chinese New Year’s Eve, and I celebrated with the family. We had crispy pork, char siu, roast duck, pork leg, beef tripe, white-cut chicken abalone, pan-seared shrimps, and fat choy with winter mushroom and lettuce, closed off with a refreshing lotus root soup. Each of the items is phonetically similar to something fortuitous and chosen so that when eaten, good fortune follows.

  • Despite the older boy’s warning, Kun gets on the train and is initially awed by the sights. However, when he realises that he is lost, he seeks out an attendant. Without more identifying information (unlike database entries, people don’t exactly have primary keys or UIDs that they memorise off the top of their heads), the attendant is unable to help him and sends him down to what is more or less Hel. I recall that when I was much younger, I got lost at a mall and went to one of the people at the information desk to ask them to make an announcement for my parents to come to the information desk. To this day, my parents are still whiskey tango foxtrot about that particular incident.

  • Kun barely escapes the force pulling him into the dæmon train set to take him to Hel, and when he notices Mirai about to be pulled in, he pushes her out of the way, as well. Wishing none of this had happened, and openly declaring that he’s her older brother, Mirai vanishes before his eyes, reappearing in middle-school aged form. With the powers of flight, Mirai takes him out on a flight out into the city above, rescuing him from a terrifying fate.

  • It turns out that the tree in his family’s yard represents a record of his family’s history: the animators have gone to great lengths to create the family history in a manner reminiscent of the Tree of Life: here, I refer to the biological sciences construct that describes the evolutionary distance between all organisms. Its complexity is deliberate to suggest at the nature of family histories, and while such things might be seen as above Kun’s comprehension, I again stress the wonders in the mind of a child, and a tree is not an unintuitive way of describing family history.

  • It turns out that Kun’s great-grandmother threw the race because she reciprocated the great-grandfather’s feelings. Mirai comments on how everything that has happened now was the result of numerous small decisions coming together, and how it is important to make sure one always does their best to make these decisions so that a better path to the future is paved. During this travel, it is shown that Kun’s father was physically weak and took a while to master the bike, while his mother developed a dislike for cats after a cat killed one of the birds. Many things happen in our lives that shape who we are, and Kun comes to understand that he does have a choice here.

  • A part of growing up is taking increasing ownership and responsibility for one’s decisions and actions. As we push through our daily lives, we often forget just how far we’ve come from our days as children, and films like Mirai no Mirai, which return us to the side of childhood not characterised by rose-tinted memories, are reminders that as children, we each have our own triumphs and failures that help us learn and understand others better. I’m probably not the first blogger to say so, and I certainly won’t be the last – I have numerous flaws, as well.

  • One thing I never captured in this talk were the numerous “funny faces” various characters exhibit, whether it be from anger, stress or joy. I’ve opted to stick to more conventional moments and leave readers with experiencing the hilarity of beholding such moments for themselves. Here, an older Mirai and Kun share a short conversation, giving insight into how Kun is as a teen: he’s more reserved and distant, but given Mirai’s interactions with him, he’s also probably been a reliable older brother, as well. This is what motivates the page quote – older siblings can grow accustomed to protect and look after their younger siblings, making them quite observant and mindful of those around them.

  • The greatest strength in Mirai no Mirai is that it is able to capture the imagination of children and drive a story from the perspective of a four-year-old without losing the viewer’s interest. After his return from the latest journey, the most profound change in Kun is observed: he fully accepts Mirai as his younger sister and begins playing with her as an older brother would. This is the conflict that Mirai no Mirai resolves, and now that Kun is genuinely happy to have Mirai as his sister, the film can come to an end. One of my peers found it to be an abrupt ending, but now that I’ve crossed the finish line, I can see why Mirai no Mirai may end like this: life isn’t characterised by hard stops, but rather, a series of milestones. Mirai no Mirai shows a few notable milestones in Kun’s life that shape who he is, and accepting Mirai is a pivotal point in his life – the film is showing how he comes to reach this stage.

  • The reader who’s gone through this entire post will have learned quite a bit about myself, perhaps more than they would’ve liked or expected – this speaks to the strength of Mirai no Mirai, as it was able to evoke these memories and recollections that I might otherwise not consider in discussions about other series. With seven months between its theatrical screenings and home release, there was a bit of a wait for this movie, and I feel that the wait was worth it: it’s a solid movie that’s earned an A grade. February is a solid month for movies: I will be writing about Penguin Highway in the near future, and Non Non Biyori Vacation is coming out towards the end of the month, so I intend on writing about this in March. Finally, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown released on PC last Thursday, and it is a solid game worthy of all the praise it’s gotten: I naturally will be sharing my experiences here, as well.

Mirai no Mirai is a visceral representation of the sorts of emotion that older siblings go through with the arrival of a younger sibling. As an older sibling myself, I only have the vaguest recollection of what things would have been like: if my parents’ recollections were anything to go by, I was fairly mild (read “not anywhere as vociferous as Kun”), and I certainly cannot remember what the turning point was. What I do know is that the sort of friendship in some siblings can be very strong, and as such, stories like Mirai no Mirai are particularly moving to watch. Mirai no Mirai also deals with Kun’s father initially struggling to do housework and look after the children; his attempts at cooking and cleaning are fraught with accidents, and he’s unable to hold Mirai without her crying. As time wears on, he figures things out and becomes more proficient over time. Mirai no Mirai‘s portrayal of a husband and wife continuing to learn gives the movie additional depth and is another reminder that parenthood is a time of adjustment and discoveries for the parents, as well. It was rewarding to see Kun’s father going from bumbling through household tasks to having more competence: by the film’s end, he’s holding Mirai without any trouble. Themes of family and learning permeate Mirai no Mirai, and in conjunction with the movie’s solid visual component, it’s easy to see why the film has earned a nomination for an Oscar. Even if the film does not win (I expect that Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse will win the Best Animated Feature category), Mirai no Mirai remains an excellent film that offers a refreshing take on families as seen from the perspective of a four-year-old, and for this, I have no trouble recommending this film to readers.

A New Family’s Beginning in the Summer, Departure by a Cruel Winter’s Storm: Revisiting Tomoya and Nagisa’s Marriage in CLANNAD ~After Story~ At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Of course I’ll stay with you. No matter what happens, forever and ever.” –Nagisa Furukawa

Akio refuses to discuss with Tomoya the latter’s intent to marry Nagisa; he stipulates that Tomoya must hit a baseball in a manner that Akio finds satisfactory before he will even consider speaking with Tomoya, and so, Tomoya determinedly practises his hits. Nailing one after lengthy practise, he implores for Akio to accept his marriage to Nagisa. Nagisa graduates shortly after; in the company of her friends, she receives her diploma and marries Tomoya, taking a job as a waitress at a local family restaurant. Tomoya and Akio visit Nagisa while she is working, and fend off some customers accosting her. Later, Nagisa learns that she is pregnant and develops morning sickness, requiring that she take bedrest. Their friends visit, and Sanae hires a midwife to help deliver their child when Nagisa expresses a wish to give birth at home. Because of Nagisa’s frailty, there’s a risk that she may not make it, but both Tomoya and Nagisa decide to go ahead with the birth. Tomoya learns from Akio that after that one day where Nagisa lost consciousness while waiting in the snow for him and Sanae to return home, he carried her to a meadow and begged the gods to spare her. Akio recounts this story to reiterate the value of family and how he and Sanae will support Tomoya and Nagisa. Nagisa and Tomoya decide to name their child Ushio. By winter, Nagisa goes into labour during a fierce blizzard; conditions preclude taking Nagisa to a hospital, and so, she gives birth to Ushio at home. The combined pressure on her body from childbirth and her illness results in her death, devastating Tomoya and ending his dream of raising Ushio with Nagisa. From the highest highs to the lowest low, this arc in ~After Story~ is a difficult one to watch. Having gone through so much, this couple reaches a point where they can make a new start, raising a child and pushing on into the future, but at the last second, this is cruelly taken from Tomoya, who is now made to endure new challenges.

Weather and lighting, having long played a major role in earlier stories within CLANNAD, now come out in full force in ~After Story~. It is no surprise that the symbolism of the different seasons is utilised to its fullest effects to convey emotional tenour as Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage occurs. In spring, shortly after Nagisa graduate, she and Tomoya marry. Spring is a season characterised by new beginnings and renewal: vegetation and animal life begin returning into a warming world as days lengthen. Having finally reached one milestone in her life, Nagisa is quite ready to walk a new road with Tomoya, and their marriage in the spring reinforces that something new has bloomed. This is a time of hope and optimism, to step into the future and make the most of things. Life is at its apex in the summer, when days are longest and the weather is hot. Lengthy days fill people with energy and vigour, instilling a sense of adventure. It is here that Nagisa announces that she is pregnant; a new child represents this adventure, as raising a child is a completely new journey for couples. Filled with spirit and vitality, the summer is a time of exploration and excitement, which is mirrored in the joy Tomoya and Nagisa experience when they begin preparing to welcome their child into the world. Positive imagery abounds in the early stages of Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage: colours are vivid, and the mood light as the characters bounce off one another. However, winter sets in. With its greys and whites, winter is bleak, a time of cold and darkness. It is here that Nagisa perishes while giving birth to Ushio, unable to access medical facilities because a blizzard has rendered dangerous travelling on roads. The winter contributes to Nagisa’s death, and it becomes very clear that ~After Story~ regards winter in a negative light – winter isn’t just an ending to light and warmth or about dormancy, it is the embodiment of death and suffering, of loss and uncertainty.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tomoya’s determination to make his point clear to Akio is such that he is willing to commit every free moment available to gearing up to make a hit. This is one of Tomoya’s strongest suits: when he feels something is worth fighting for, he will move heaven and earth to accomplish his goals. Viewers have wondered why baseball is so prominently featured in CLANNAD: besides being a national pastime in Japan, it is also symbolic, acting as a visual metaphor for effort.

  • During one Christmas celebration, Nagisa gets hammered after one sip of sake and immediately accosts Tomoya, wondering if he would find Sanae more attractive. Tomoya is cornered, leaving audiences with a good laugh. Moments such as these do much to humanise the characters: we tend to relate to people more strongly if they demonstrate a wider range of emotions, and such moments serve to make the sorrowful moments even more poignant.

  • Nagisa’s frailty becomes more apparent as ~After Story~ wears on, and she falls ill again. However, it is fortunate that Nagisa’s illness does not cause her to miss a protracted amount of class. As winter transitions into Spring, Nagisa finally graduates, having completed the requirements needed to earn her diploma.

  • Under the beautiful spring skies, Nagisa receives her diploma as sakura blossoms flutter about. The colours of this scene parallel those seen when Tomoya first met her, and the idea that spring is a time of new beginnings; with Nagisa finally done her high school education, she and Tomoya can move ahead and embrace their future together.

  • When I last watched ~After Story~ some five years ago, I was gearing up for an MCAT and had not even finished my undergraduate programme yet. Going through CLANNAD was a bit of an eye-opener – the series shows a world beyond the familiar environment of school and steps into the realm of what adulthood entails. In the full knowledge of what unfolds in CLANNAD, I can say that real life can sometimes be as unforgiving and unfair as CLANNAD. Such unknowns cannot always be easily foreseen, but now, armed with five years of additional experience, I can say that the real key to handling life’s problems is to triage, divide and conquer even when said problems adamantly refuse to take a number and queue up.

  • Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage is not depicted, and is implied to be a very simple one. One thing that I greatly respect CLANNAD for is its portrayal of love in a very clean manner. When people think weddings, expensive gowns, exquisite dinners and an exotic honeymoon usually come to mind, but ultimately marriage is the affirment that two people are committed to one another, for better or worse. Whether one takes on a fancy wedding or a simple one, the end result is a declaration of this commitment and faithfulness to one another.

  • With Tomoya and Nagisa now husband and wife, Akio is Tomoya’s father-in-law and Tomoya becomes Akio’s son-in-law. When they address one another informally, the embarrassment mounts to the point where Tomoya is reduced to banging his cranium against the wall, while Akio writhes in agony on the table. CLANNAD excels in taking ordinary moments and driving humour from them, although I’m not too sure if the equivalent in Western culture would be as funny – some jokes only work becuase they are plays on aspects unique to Japanese culture. For instance, as Taki, Mitsuha refers to herself as atashi and boku erroneously, but in English, people only say “me” or “I”, so the joke has no such equivalent.

  • After an eventful day, the newly-weds return home as husband and wife for the first time. Tomoya looks as he always does, but with her hair in a bun, Nagisa looks a ways more mature. With Tomoya and Nagisa now married, I exit the part of CLANNAD that I can speak about from personal experience; beyond this point, my remarks are largely anecdotal rather than something I’d previously experienced.

  • One thing that characterises marriage is sharing a bed, although more couples sleep apart nowadays, too. There are benefits and drawbacks to both; proponents of sharing a bed say that it encourages communication and acts as a reminder of closeness, bolstering the release of oxytocin and reduces cortisol (reduces stress), while those favouring sleeping apart cite better sleep as reasons to do so.

  • Tomoya and Naigsa’s marriage is presented as being another stage in life, filled with the joyous, mundane and challenging: it is a broad spectrum of experiences that allows ~After Story~ to captivate audiences. Even if the series does come across as being more melodramatic in some moments, when everything is said and done, CLANNAD stands head and shoulders above most anime for its sincere portrayal of life, both in terms of the lowest of lows, highest of highs and the everyday moments folk tend to take for granted.

  • Tomoya recounts the legend of the light orbs, which are said to represent people’s wishes and manifest when people do something benevolent. Tomoya asks if Nagisa would wish for anything, and she replies that she’d like a child. Even from this perspective, both are blushing furiously, and no more is said of the matter for the time being. Having children is a major commitment and investment for any couple; it is unsurprising that whether or not to have a child can be a very difficult discussion to have for a couple. As I’ve noted earlier, this is something I’m completely out of my depth in; beyond stating that I would be quite happy to have a child, I will also say no more of the matter.

  • To step away from a difficult topic, ~After Story~ cleverly transitions to Tomoya and Akio dropping by the family restaurant that Nagisa works at. This particular unfolding of events represents a masterful use of flow to mimic what happens when uncomfortable topics are brought up; the anime does not yet wish to disclose what Tomoya’s response is, so it immediately pushes audiences to a scene of comedy with Akio at the helm with the intent on having them smile and laugh, while the question of whether or not Tomoya will agree with Nagisa’s wish being put on the back-burner for now.

  • After Tomoya orders a parfait worthy of Adam Richman, two guys enter the restaurant and accost Nagisa. Without use of force, Tomoya and Akio manage to drive off these two ruffians, but then the manager asks to speak with Tomoya and Akio. Akio bolts, but as it turns out, the manager is very understanding of the situation and remarks that Nagisa is a hard worker who does her job well. During this excursion, Akio’s brought a camera and manages to capture an inordinate number of shots, citing the uniforms as being a motivator. From my perspective, those uniforms seem quite impractical despite being stylish: at restaurants I frequent, staff wear something more practical to move around in.

  • Although the Okazaki family might live in an older apartment, their regarding it as a home becomes more apparent with the passage of time following their marriage – Tomoya and Nagisa keep their quarters clean, gradually acquire more furnishings that make the apartment really feel like home. From the notes on the refrigerator, to a kettle boiling on the stove and a water filter, the changes in their home are subtle but notable indicators that Nagisa and Tomoya are settling into their new lives.

  • Like real life, urgent and important matters are not so easily dismissed, and it turns out that Tomoya and Nagisa did end up making love: while Tomoya and Akio look through the pile of photographs, Nagisa tests positive on a pregnancy test. These work by picking agents that react to human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to produce a pigment; while reliable, there are cases where interference from other chemicals or circumstances can create false positives. In ~After Story~, we accept that the test results are a true positive so the story can proceed.

  • Akio is simultaneously disgusted and impressed that Nagisa is pregnant (with the not-so-subtle implication that Tomoya needed to get down with Nagisa freshly baked into his mind) – he is torn between congratulating and throttling Tomoya, while Nagisa looks on in pure embarrassment. This marks the beginning of another stage in life for the Okazaki family: through everything thus far, Akio and Sanae have been present at each step for the young couple, offering support, guidance and humour.

  • It is not lost on me that it’s been six-and-a-half years since I last watched CLANNAD in full, and in that time, I’ve passed through several milestones in life, but meeting someone special has not been one of them. The reality is that I am becoming old: most folks at my age are married, and here I am, with only the faintest idea of how to begin meeting those people who might be willing to tolerate or accept my numerous limitations and eccentricities. While it’s fine to enjoy my current liberty, I would eventually like to meet someone, settle down and the other things that come with family.

  • With Nagisa expecting a child, a midwife is hired help out with the process. Yagi fulfils this role: her appearance conveys experience and professionalism, providing the young couple with reassurance that stands in contrasts with the risks of birth. CLANNAD has placed numerous obstacles down in front of Tomoya and Nagisa: even after all of their efforts, delivering their child is not expected to be an easy task. The profession is a regulated one: in Japan, midwives must pass a certification exam, and Canadian midwives hold a medical license.

  • Some series portray marriage as the end-goal, a destination to be reached, rather than a milestone. Love Hina is one such example, with Keitaro’s efforts to gain admission to The University of Tokyo and marry the girl he’d made the promise to years previously as the core narrative. Being a romance comedy, Love Hina is a world apart from the likes of CLANNAD and admittedly, represents a genre that I’ve not viewed too many series from. Here, we have another beautiful screenshot capturing the details present in ~After Story~; elements in the environment give a sense of hope, with the choice of colours creating an optimistic feeling even as news becomes increasingly difficult.

  • Because of Nagisa’s health, Sanae expresses to Tomoya her concerns about Nagisa’s decision. In spite of this, she leaves the decision to Nagisa and Tomoya, respecting their choices. Nagisa decides to proceed, a flash of her old resilience and stubbornness coming through. Assessing risk in the situation and then making a decision with the knowledge available brings to mind the sequence in Apollo 13, where Flight Director Gene Kranz ordered a circumlunar option over the direct abort because of uncertainties surrounding whether the command module’s main engines could still be safely used. While a free-return trajectory would take longer, it gave ground crews more time to assess the situation and not subject the command module’s crew to risk of explosion from a faulty engine.

  • Akio expresses frustration at the destruction of a wooded area at will be developed into subdivisions and retail. Change is one of the themes that are a part of CLANNAD – the series suggests that change is inevitable save for family, the one absolute pillar of support and love that individuals need to get through challenges. It is hinted that changes to the landscape are correlated with Nagisa’s illness, and Akio explains to Tomoya what happened that fateful day – it appears that in exchange for Nagisa’s life, her very life-force is bound to the world such that changes will disrupt her health.

  • By binding Nagisa’s health to the presence of natural spaces, ~After Story~ subtly mirrors J.R.R. Tolkien’s lament for the loss of natural areas as people continued to industrialise: as the town in CLANNAD grows, forests and meadows are covered over to make way for developments, and the land that once held a magic suddenly becomes mundane, unremarkable. Tolkien viewed the desecration of nature as an evil, and this theme is prevalent in his works: Mordor and Isengard, as well as the Scouring of The Shire represent this. In ~After Story~, the loss of nature has a more subtle but present impact on Nagisa, foreshadowing her fate.

  • In a tender moment, Tomoya and Nagisa decide that their child’s name is to be Ushio. Ushio (汐, jyutping zik6, “tide”) was chosen to share the same radical氵(representing 水, derived from the Oracle bone script for the shape of a river) as Nagisa’s (渚, jyutping zyu2, “beach”). The choice of naming is deliberate: Ushio is meant to represent the waves on a beach, connecting her to her mother. I share a personal story here: per my parents’ recollection, when I was born, I was premature and therefore, my parents did not yet have a name for me in either English or Chinese.

  • As another Christmas nears, the Okazaki family prepare for Ushio’s arrival. The passage of time is relentless, and as ~After Story~ wears on, time intervals widen. While time may have seemed constant during Nagisa and Tomoya’s time as high school students, things suddenly pick up after both graduate, begin working, get married and gear up to welcome Ushio into the world. This is precisely the feeling I’ve been getting since I’ve graduated: days blaze by in the blink of an eye, and time seems to be accelerating as I grow older.

  • After Christmas, old friends show up in town to visit the Okazakis for the New Year. Time has evidently been kind to everyone: Kyou, Ryou, Kotomi and Youhei have not aged a day since we last saw them, and everyone’s doing well. With everyone together, it’s like old times again as conversation begins. Of note is Youhei, who is sporting his natural hair colour: he’d dyed it blonde as a student, and returning to his original hair colour seems to signify that he’s gotten his game together. Tomoyo is noticeably absent from the events, but she’s sent a card and appears to be doing well.

  • After the small talk, Youhei wonders what Tomoya must be feeling to be a father, and Tomoya’s response, that he’s really still not thinking about it, seems to be the norm. I’ve long felt that my parents simply had their game together and knew precisely how to be parents, but it sounds like for most families, parenthood is a learning experience, as well. In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin’s parents remark that they’re essentially ad libbing parenthood: Kyou and the others feel that Nagisa and Tomoya are pulling ahead in life, as they have a home and family now, but everyone is also focused on their own futures, too. While their gathering is a warm one, the anime uses the incidental piece “Snow field” as background music, foreshadowing what’s to come.

  • Kotomi suggests the existence of parallel universes and alternate dimensions, supporting Ryou’s remark that life is mysterious. In Steven Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell, the notion of branes are used to describe the existence of other dimensions, and that the reality we are familiar with is merely one of these branes (with higher dimensions being such that we cannot perceive them). This foreshadowing also seems to indicate ~After Story~‘s eventual outcome, but back in the present, the presence of low saturation and washed-out lighting, plus overcast skies, indicate that things are about to become more difficult.

  • In February, Tokyo averages around 5 centimetres of snow. A snowfall of this level is quite rare, and in ~After Story~, shuts down enough of the roads so Nagisa cannot be taken to a hospital, right as she goes into labour. I’ve long hated snow, and I still do: despite blanketing the landscape in a gentle white blanket and covering familiar features to create a wonderland of sorts, but it also disrupts transportation. In literature, snow represents mortality, indiscriminately covering everything as mortality affects all life, and visually, snow is used to visually denote hardship, suffering and desolation.

  • With no other options available, Yagi prepares to help deliver Ushio at home. It is an agonising day for Tomoya, who never leaves Nagisa’s side: time seems to slow to a crawl for him as Nagisa writhes in pain. Finally, at one in the morning, Ushio is born, and Tomoya is elated: the worst seems over for Nagisa, and she is able to gaze upon Ushio with her own eyes for the first time. The page quote is chosen from a promise Nagisa makes to Tomoya, but shortly after giving birth to Ushio, Nagisa perishes from the toll on her body. Audiences are left to pick up the pieces with Tomoya, whose dreams for starting a family are decimated: in this moment, the world around Tomoya vanishes.

  • With this post in the books, I will be returning next month to write about a world five years later, and how Ushio returns to Tomoya’s life in a big way that helps him finally come to terms with everything he’s experienced. Ushio’s arc in ~After Story~ is what made CLANNAD a masterpiece in my books, and upon watching it for the first time, I had no words to describe how moving and meaningful it was.  In my next post, I will be articulating why Ushio’s arc was so powerful; covering so much ground in such a short time, Ushio’s arc is directly responsible for giving ~After Story~ the impact that it did, and I wish to do it justice.

As ~After Story~ steps away from clearly-defined arcs and delves into Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage, the series enters a realm that is exceedingly difficult to write for. Marriage is a completely different world for people, and there are so many aspects to consider that CLANNAD would doubtlessly have needed another twenty episodes to adequately portray it faithfully. Instead, ~After Story~ masterfully utilises imagery and the symbolism inherent to the seasons themselves to concisely and succinctly convey to audiences the emotions and feelings, the unspoken things that can happen in marriage. CLANNAD has long made use of weather and lighting to convey emotions in a moment; the seasons themselves take on a much more substantial role in ~After Story~ to further communicate the atmosphere of a given moment to viewers. Spring is about new beginnings, summer is a time to explore what a new family entails, and winter is viewed as a season to be hated, bringing death and suffering to those caught in its frigid confines. Viewers can tangibly feel the cold as Nagisa succumbs, and are made to understand just how devastating this is for Tomoya, having seen every step in the journey he has taken, and the efforts he has made towards building a future for Nagisa and Ushio. While it seems unnecessarily cruel to put Tomoya in such a situation, Nagisa’s death has a critical role to play for Tomoya; he’s spent much of ~After Story~ forging ahead into the future. It is therefore clear that his intentions is to forget his past, but this loss now forces Tomoya to look inwards: winter is also a time of self-reflection, and light eventually returns to the world ~After Story~ takes this route to remind audiences that, unless one is able to make peace with their past, there is no future to pursue. Thus, Nagisa’s death is necessary to pull Tomoya back and force him to understand his past. There is no other easy way of putting this, even if it is callous to suggest such a thing – beyond this suffering, there is more that ~After Story~ strives to convey to readers.

Hibike! Euphonium: Liz and the Blue Bird (Liz to Aoi Tori) Movie Review and Reflection

We’ve such a golden dream
Such a golden dream can never last
My burden lifted
I am free

–Cage, Aimer

After an encounter in middle school led to friendship developing between Nozomi Kasaki and Mizore Yoroizuka, the two joined Kitauji High School’s Concert Band. Energetic and outgoing, Nozomi plays the flute while the reserved, taciturn Mizore plays the oboe. When the concert band picks Liz and the Blue Bird as a piece, Mizore and Nozomi are selected to perform the suite’s solo. At the same time, Nozomi and Mizore are forced to consider their futures; Mizore is recommended a music school, and Nozomi decides to follow her, but realises that her skill with the flute is not comparable to Mizore’s oboe. Meanwhile, Mizore envies Nozomi for being able to connect with others so easily, and at the same time, longs to be closer to Nozomi. After a conversation with Reina, Mizore performs the solo with her fullest effort, bringing some of the concert band’s members to tears. The two share a heartfelt conversation after, promising to remain friends even if their paths diverge in the future. Liz and the Blue Bird premièred in April 2018, focusing on secondary characters; the choice to tell a deeper story about the friendship between Nozomi and Mizore is motivated by the impact they had on Kitauji’s concert band in the events prior to the start of Hibike! Euphonium; the driven and determined Nozomi spearheaded an exodus after realising that Kitauji’s band was a raggedy-ass group disinterested in competing seriously. Mizore ended up staying behind, and Nozomi’s return during the events of Hibike! Euphonium 2 formed the basis for the conflict during its first half. The depth behind each of the characters in Hibike! Euphonium meant that a myriad of stories about concert band’s members could be told, and on first glance, the story between Nozomi and Mizore is one of interest, dealing with two polar opposite personality types, their friendship and how the two each deal with thoughts of parting ways in the future.

Liz and the Blue Bird‘s primary themes is a familiar one – deliberately chosen for the characters’ involvement in Kitauji’s incident, it shows the extent of Nozomi and Mizore’s friendship. Having long admired Mizore’s skill with the oboe, Nozomi’s charisma and fiery personality has a major impact on the band, but it now appears that she went to these lengths to give Mizore a chance to shine. Liz and the Blue Bird thus explores the difficulty both encounter as their time in high school comes to an end. The film is so named after the færie tale that frames the narrative: a girl named Liz finds a bluebird who transforms into a girl. As they get to know one another, Liz comes to enjoy her time with the bluebird. However, when Liz finds that the bluebird periodically sneaks out to fly at night, she realises that she cannot keep the bluebird forever and lets her go to rejoin her winged companions. It is a tale of parting, with both Mizore and Nozomi realising that they’re struggling to part with one another. In the end, though, it is precisely by letting go that allows the blue bird to reach her full potential; Nozomi must learn to let go of Mizore so she can pursue her career in music, and Mizore must let go of Nozomi so she can continue to direct her unparalleled passion and energy towards leading others. Liz and the Blue Bird proceeds as one would expect: by the film’s end, Nozomi and Mizore find their solutions, accepting that they will one day part ways, but this does not preclude their continued friendship.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Liz and the Blue Bird‘s segments with Liz feel distinctly like a watercolour brought to life, attesting to the sophistication of animation. By bringing sound and motion to such scenes, it is possible to really capture a particular aesthetic. The story of Liz and the Blue Bird is a fictional one, being written specifically for Liz and the Blue Bird; I could not find any reference to the story outside of the context of Hibike! Euphonium, even when doing a search for its German name (Liz und ein Blauer Vogel).

  • Unlike Hibike! Euphonium, which is vivid, rich in colours and bursting with life, Liz and the Blue Bird is much more subdued and gentle with its hues. Differences in the animation style are apparent; Liz and the Blue Bird tends to focus on subtle, seemingly trivial details, whether it be the bounce in Nozomi’s ponytail, the girls shifting their chairs together or assembling their instruments. Small moments are lovingly rendered, and while not of thematic significance, shows that Hibike! Euphonium is intended to convey a very human story in that no journey or experience is too trivial for consideration.

  • Old characters make a return in Liz and the Blue Bird; Kumiko, Reina, Midori, Hazuki, Natsuki and Yūko appear as secondary characters. The flatter art style means that everyone looks different from their usual selves, and this reduction in detail has the very deliberate and calculated effect of forcing the viewer to focus on what’s happening to the characters. While the characters do not stick out unreasonably from their environments, their motions and voices immediately draw the viewer’s attention to them.

  • I would imagine there is another reason to utilise a more subdued palette: because Liz’s story is rendered with watercolours, an inherently soft and gentle medium, had Liz and the Blue Bird stuck with the style seen in the series proper, the contrast would’ve been too jarring. Hibike! Euphonium is vivid to convey that music is immensely colourful, and Kumiko’s performances have always been very spirited as Kitauji strove to further their performances.

  • The short of the færie tale is that a young woman encounters a girl with blue hair following a strong storm and takes her in. Over time, the two become close as friends and live their days together happily. However, the blue bird’s nature means that she occasionally sneaks out at night to stretch her wings. Liz notices this and begins to realise that the blue bird longs to fly again. In this context, the bird is taken to represent freedom, and in particular, blue birds have traditionally been regarded as harbingers of happiness and joy.

  • The blue bird in Liz and the Blue Bird, then, suggests to viewers that happiness is found in freedom, and applying this to Nozomi and Mizore, the girls cannot be said to reach or discover their full potential unless they have the freedom to do so. Nozomi and Mizore both see themselves in the story; while Mizore actively wishes her eventual parting with Nozomi will never come, Nozomi puts on a brave front and expresses a desire to perform the piece, hiding her own doubts behind a veneer of confidence.

  • I’m sure that numerous of my readers will have their own memories of picture books from their childhood that stand out. When I was a primary student, I predominantly read science books, and at the age of six, I knew about all of the planets and their compositions. I have a particular fondness for non-fiction and so, did not read very many picture books. However, I do recall greatly enjoying The Berenstain Bears, as well as David Bouchard’s If You’re Not From The Prairie, a beautiful book about things only those living in the grasslands of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba might appreciate.

  • The sharp contrasts between Nozomi and Mizore are immediately apparent; people flock to Nozomi and her energy, and here, she befriends fellow fluatists, connecting with them and becoming a part of their energy. I’ve always found the pronunciation to be a little strange (“flaut-ist”, IPA: flaǔtist), having heard about it while listening to a radio programme about flutes following a concert band practise during my time as a middle school student. It may surprise readers to know that once upon a time, I was a clarinet player and also performed for my school’s jazz band.

  • As a part of the old concert band at my middle school, we went on to perform well in several competitions around the city. The jazz band was strictly an in-school activity, and I learned trumpet on my own to give that a go. After entering high school, I stopped with music, but I have no regrets about both performing in a band, and then choosing to explore other avenues. Here, on the left-hand side, we have Ririka Kenzaki, a new addition to Hibike! Euphonium. She’s a first year oboist who is voiced by Shiori Sugiura and does her best to befriend Mizore, stating that it’d be good for section cohesion if everyone got to know one another a little better.

  • Every event in Liz and the Blue Bird parallels the events Mizore and Nozomi have experienced: the time Liz and Blue Bird spend together are moments of bliss during which both Liz and Blue Bird are living in the moment. However, all things eventually come to an end, with the færie tale foreshadowing Blue Bird’s longing to soar in the skies again, and how this mirrors Nozomi and Mizore’s situations.

  • Mizore’s shyness is her weak point; at several points in Liz and the Blue Bird, Mizore expresses a desire to be physically closer to Nozomi. For much of the movie, circumstance prevents anything from happening. I’ve received numerous complaints about my lack of focus on yuri in my discussions. In general, my counter-arguments are that making the distinction between close friendship and yuri does not alter the conclusion that I reach: in the case of Liz and the Blue Bird, whether or not I chose to count Nozomi and Mizore’s as yuri, the theme invariably is that separation is a real concern for the two, but that they manage to move past it.

  • With almost three quarters of a year having elapsed since Liz and the Blue Bird premièred in theatres, it is unsurprising that discussion about the movie has been very limited of late. As is the case for every anime movie, folks with the time, resources and commitment would’ve watched this movie as it screened in Japan. In a rare turn of events, I agree with most early reviews of the film; these reviews citing the film’s imagery and message as its strengths, and its pacing and outcomes as being weaker.

  • However, an old nemesis appeared amidst the discussions: Verso Sciolto, who’d previously plagued the Your Name discussions, arrived and claimed that folklore and fairytale references were essential to appreciating both Liz and the Blue Bird as well as Hibike! Euphonium, believing that symbolism in the film will “inspire people to re-watch and re-examine the two seasons of the TV series as well”. The correct answer is that if people choose to revisit Hibike! Euphonium, it will be to see the character dynamics, rather than any non-existent literary symbols Verso Sciolto has fabricated.

  • Verso Sciolto goes on to claim that “Ishihara embellishes whereas Yamada distills” in comparing Hibike! Euphonium‘s TV series with Liz and the Blue Bird, and that the latter is an example of minimalism. Both are wrong: Hibike! Euphonium is richer in detail because the details and colours serve to reinforce the idea that music is more than the sum of its parts. It is unfair to grossly reduce a director’s style into one word. I noted earlier that Liz and the Blue Bird deliberately takes its style so it can more seamlessly transition between Nozomi and Mizore’s stories and that of Liz and the Blue Bird.

  • It is of some comfort, then, that this Verso Sciolto has been banned from a variety of avenues for discussion for forcibly injecting psuedointellectual remarks, pointed questions and a know-it-all attitude into discussions wherever they went. While having some influence on discussions, especially surrounding Your Name, their absence will be welcomed, especially now that Makoto Shinkai has announced that his next work, Tenki no Ko (Weathering with You), will hit theatres in Japan on July 19 this year.

  • Over the course of Liz and the Blue Bird, Ririka’s persistent but gentle efforts to befriend Mizore yields results when Mizore consents to help her prepare reeds. Ririka’s personality blends a kind and gentle nature with innocence, and it was rewarding to see the beginnings of a friendship form as she spearheads the effort to create more cohesion among the double-reed instruments.

  • Back in Liz and the Blue Bird, tensions begin growing between Mizore and Nozomi when Mizore mentions that she plans to go to music school. Lacking any idea of what to do with her future, Niiyama sensei suggests that Mizore apply for music school owing to her skill with the oboe.  Mizore is the sort of individual who seems uncertain of her future, but when she applies herself towards making her dreams a reality, she does so with her full efforts. After joining concert band in middle school on Nozomi’s suggestion, Mizore put her all into playing the oboe to keep from being separated from Nozomi.

  • After Reina arrives and bluntly remarks that Mizore seems to be holding back, Yūko, Natsuki and Nozomi see Reina and Kumiko performing the solo with their respective instruments. Noting the emotional intensity but also the balance between the two, Nozomi realises the strength of Kumiko and Reina’s friendship as well as their musical prowess. The precise relationship between Reina and Kumiko was the subject of no small debate when Hibike! Euphonium aired: this particular aspect of Hibike! Euphonium seems to overshadow everything else, even though the point of the anime was to see a raggedy-ass group come together and realise a shared dream.

  • While my school days are long behind me, I still vividly recall all of the instructors who helped inspire and encourage me: at each level, there are a handful of mentors and instructors who stood apart from the rest, and it is thanks to them that I ended up making the most of each choice that I took. Whether it be offering new ways to think about problems, or providing words of encouragement, their contributions helped make me who I am, and to this day, I am still in contact with some of my old mentors.

  • Nothing is truly infinite; in Liz and the Blue Bird, separation soon comes up, as well. When the time comes for Blue Bird to leave Liz, it is a difficult moment. A quote whose source has been difficult to pin down states that one must let go of something if they love it; its return heralds that things were meant to be. It seems counterintuitive, but in Cantonese, there’s a concept called 緣份 (jyutping jyun4 fan6, “fate”), that supposes that if something was meant to be, then it will show up in one way or another.

  • I disagree that Liz and the Blue Bird is a minimalist film from a visual and thematic perspective; numerous closeup of everyday objects are presented to show that despite the simpler artwork, elements are nonetheless present in the environment. They form a bit of a visual break, causing the eye to pause for a moment while one continues listening to the dialogue. Liz and the Blue Bird is simple, but not minimalist: simplicity is something easy to understand and natural, while minimalism is a deliberate design choice that aims to do more with less. Simplicity is not equivalent to minimalism, and in Liz and the Blue Bird, the anime is not doing more with less, but rather, being very precise about what its intents are.

  • While Mizore speaks to instructor Niiyama, Nozomi speaks with Yūko and Natsuki: both come to the realisation that they must learn to let the other go in this dialogue, for holding into the other is to deny them of exploring the future. This is the turning point in the film where the tension rises: for Mizore, she decides to be truthful with her feelings, while Nozomi is a bit more stubborn. I admit that Nozomi is my favourite character of Hibike! Euphonium – for her fiery spirit and figure.

  • In the færie tale, Liz eventually ends up allowing Blue Bird to take flight and join her fellow birds in the sky. Cages form a part of the symbolism in Liz and the Blue Bird: representing security in the present and also constraining the future, Mizore expresses a wish that she’d never learned to open the cage. This imagery is mirrored in Aimer’s “Cage”, a beautiful song that was used during the unveiling of the life-sized Unicorn Gundam at Diver City in Odaiba.

  • We’re now a ways into 2019, and the year’s already been quite busy as I acclimatised to a new workplace. I wake up much earlier than I did before to make the bus ride downtown, and while I greatly enjoy what I do, I admit that weekends have become even more valuable as time to sleep in a little (I get to wake up at 0720 rather than my usual 0600, or 0530 on days where I lift). This past weekend, after karate, I enjoyed the first dim sum of the year: their special included two different kinds of noodles as well as a flavourful salt-and-pepper fried squid.

  • While Liz and the Blue Bird might deal predominantly with Nozomi and Mizore’s friendship, music is still very much a part of the narrative. During one practise, the band reaches the solo, and Mizore begins playing her part with such sincerity and emotion that it brings several of the band members to tears, including Nozomi. It is in this moment that Nozomi realises that she needs to allow Mizore to go free and pursue her future.

  • In a manner of speaking, Mizore and Nozomi are simultaneously Liz and Blue Bird: both long to prolong a friendship with someone special, but both also need to let the other go for the future’s sake. Mizore’s performance shows that she is committed to her decision in enrolling in a music school, and understanding their gap, Nozomi ultimately decides to pursue studies at another institution. She is shown studying diligently for her entrance exams later on.

  • While Hibike! Euphonium is ultimately simple in its themes and all the stronger for it, discussions surrounding this series is much more complex and involved than strictly necessary. Taking a step back and enjoying Hibike! Euphonium in a vacuum, I find a genuine series whose enjoyment comes from being able to empathise with the characters over time and gradually coming to root for them.

  • The film’s climax occurs in the science room by the day’s last light; Mizore and Nozomi open up to one another about their feelings and intentions for the future. Much as how Nozomi envies Mizore’s skill with an oboe and how her musical talents will allow her to accomplish great things, Mizore is jealous of Nozomi’s ability to take charge, influence and get along with numerous people. They voice their dislikes about the other, and with their feelings out in the open, tearfully embrace.

  • The sum of their understanding is mirrored in the environment, which takes on a warm glow as red and pink hues seep in, displacing the cooler and more distant yellows. Kyoto Animation excels at use of light and colour to convey emotions: they are particularly strong in using subtle details to complement the dialogue, and I find that understanding the choice of colours in a given scene contributes more substantially to one’s enjoyment of their works, rather than focusing on objects that end up being red herrings.

  • I’ve lasted thirty screenshots without mentioning thus: the necks of Liz and the Blue Bird were never a visual distraction that some felt it to be. With this post, I’ve finally caught up with Hibike! Euphonium, and the next major instalment will be another film releasing in April 2019. Titled Oath’s Finale, it will deal with the national competition and return things to Kumiko’s perspective. Given release patterns for Hibike! Euphonium and my own habits, I anticipate that I’ll be able watch and write about Oath’s End somewhere this time next year – anyone who’s still around by then is clearly a champion.

Standing in sharp contrast with Hibike! Euphonium‘s televised run, Liz and the Blue Bird has a much simpler, flatter art style. Although environments are still gorgeously animated, the characters’ own conflicts take the forefront: the deliberate choice to create more subdued backgrounds is to place focus on the characters and their challenges, reducing emphasis on the world around them. The story of Liz and the Blue Bird itself is also distinctly animated: Kyoto Animation succeeds in bringing a water colour to life and creates a very compelling style that, while distinct from the events of Liz and the Blue Bird, also integrate elegantly into the story. The choice to use a different visual style than Hibike! Euphonium‘s exceptionally rich colours and details is not a strike against Liz and the Blue Bird; although they might look different, the characters retain their personalities in full. The end result is a very concise, slow-paced story of parting and its difficulties; music still has its focus, and perhaps because of this art style, the music of Liz and the Blue Bird‘s concert band movements also has a much more singular attention on the flute and oboe solos, in a parallel of how the film is about Mizore and Nozomi. Altogether, Liz and the Blue Bird is an enjoyable addition to Hibike! Euphonium; helmed by Naoko Yamada (who’d previously directed K-On! The Movie and Koe no Katachi), Liz and the Blue Bird shifts away from the politics of high school clubs as seen in Hibike! Euphonium and employs Yamada’s preference of returning things to the basics, crafting a story about the intricacies of interactions between individuals. Admittedly, I prefer this approach, as it is much more sincere and meaningful in exploring people; Yamada has succeeded in Liz and the Blue Bird with giving Mizore and Nozomi’s friendship a more tangible sense, making the film a different but welcome addition to Hibike! Euphonium.

A Reader’s Guide to Anime Analysis: Comparing Traits of Effectual and Ineffectual Analysis, and A Case Study in Glasslip

“You know me?”
“I do. You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.”
“My only curse is you.”

―Tony Stark and Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War

As of late, it would appear that controversies surrounding anime analysis have become commonplace, with leading criticisms suggesting that far too many have bought into these analysis and acting as proponents for them when there is little evidence to suggest that the analysis are in fact, meritorious of consideration. The end result is a large number of people supporting positions without being fully aware of what they support is in fact, incomplete, ill-argued and unprofessional. The realm of analysis is and should not be an enigmatic one conducted by a selected few. Literary analysis is a familiar and integral aspect of literature class – the aim is to understand the elements in a work and how they fit together to create a certain effect or impact. To this end, literary devices and symbols are studied to determine what the author’s intent was: for some well-known works, understanding a work and why the author has opted to use the elements in their text can offer insight into their society. For instance, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was a commentary on the excesses of the Roaring Twenties and that the American Dream had costs attached to it through displays of wealth and Gatsby’s pursuit of the impossible. Similarly, the dangers of recklessly pursing scientific progress are outlined in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was composed on an outing with her and fellow authors. Discussions varied from the Enlightenment to reanimation, and Shelley, who believed that scientific progress could be beneficial, also felt that rampant progress could undo society. Themes of forbidden knowledge thus enter Frankenstein, and the dread of what unbridled technological advancement is explored in H.G. Wells’ War of The Worlds, whose martian invaders possess technology far exceeding our own was a warning that society’s faith in our technology was folly. Each of these works are some examples of literature that provide instruction on society at a given point in time, although it is certainly the case that modern literature and fiction can also provide equal insights on things that are otherwise taken for granted. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion deal with issues relevant to contemporary society (e.g. racism, discrimination, environmental destruction) and speak of challenges facing our society. Analysing a work, then, can determine the messages an author has about humanity, and this is where the value of fiction comes from. By escaping into another world, readers can gain a new perspective, from that of an observer, and might be able to see problems they themselves face in a new manner.

The relevance of literary analysis within the realm of anime is a contentious one: broadly speaking, anime is less of a genre and more of a medium, and so, it is more appropriate to say that anime encompasses a range of genres, some of which are more conducive towards literary analysis than others. For example, the slice-of-life series that I am so fond of usually end up presenting different variations on a theme, indicating that there are many ways to live life, find happiness and fulfilment. More serious series speak of the dangers of power, social problems and the like. The diversity of genres in anime, coupled with the ability to freely express oneself in electronic media such as blogs and forums, results in individuals being able to convey how they interpret a series to others with unprecedented ease. That some series have more to analyse and discuss have not dissuaded viewers from finding noteworthy points to discuss in series with fewer symbols or complexity, and consequently, the internet has a near-limitless number of analyses on most anything. The challenge for a reader then becomes a matter of which analyses are useful, and which ones accomplish little. Choice of language and length are often-times misleading indicators of quality and value, and so, the aim of this discussion is to look through what makes an anime analysis one that holds its weight for me. To spare readers the tedium of going through the remainder of the post should time be something in short supply, there are three elements that determine whether or not an anime analysis posted somewhere, whether it be a forum, personal blog, YouTube channel or anime news website: clarity, completeness and execution. To explore each of these items, I will be doing a compare and contrast on two different analyses that were written for the infamous Glasslip. These reviews were deliberately chosen to provide juxtaposition: IBlessAll of Mage in a Barrel provides an insightful, precise and focused talk on transience through the different imagery, while Soulelle of My Anime List supplies a lacking review that struggles to suggest that the sum of the events of Glasslip boil down to a fear of loneliness. IBlessAll and Soulelle reach dramatically different conclusions about Glasslip, but of the two perspectives, Soulelle’s is not meritorious of either praise or serious consideration, whereas IBlessAll’s analysis succeeds in conveying a specific idea to the reader.

Clarity

Clarity refers to the focus of an analysis: what was the author trying to say within their passage? How well can they stick with that idea and relate all of the evidence brought up in their discussion to this idea? A clear analysis makes a very clear statement or claim, and then deals with the “so what” openly. In this case, the “so what” pertains to what a particular observation or claim does for a given work, whether it be to enhance the strength of its message or offer insight into nuances that further one’s enjoyment. This message persists through the analysis, tying everything together. A good analysis can wander, but there is a single message, and more importantly, the conclusion follows from the choice of evidence that the author chooses to use: everything seen in the anime is carefully selected so that it is relevant to the final message the writer intends to convey.

I say Glasslip is about impermanence and transience, not change, and I say so deliberately. Glasslip is far less about the changes that occur in the lives of it cast and far more about the fundamental condition that lies beneath them. Life passes us by—is always passing us by—and yet we are so often unaware of its slow and constant ebb. Even those of us who have apprehended its motions are rarely always conscious of this reality.

For Glasslip, the answer lies in trusting in the significance of the moments that come our way, while striving to never tie ourselves to them completely. Although our moments always replaced by the forward momentum of the next realization, the next change, the next step forward, or the next moment, they are not insignificant. They mean something. They represent the pivots on which our worlds and our experiences of them turn. Kakeru departs at the end of Glasslip, but his doing so does not negate the fact that he was there, nor does it erase the impact his presence—however brief—made.

IBlessAll’s entire analysis, though never mentioned by its name, is centred around the distinct notion of wabi-sabi, a Japanese concept that characterises beauty as something transient, flawed; specifically, that beauty is to embrace imperfection as a part of what gives something value. Nothing lasts forever, wabi-sabi posits, and that the fact that something is so fleeting is what gives it value. By IBlessAll’s account, the temporal nature of young love and snapshots in one’s life each have worth. This argument forms the remainder of the discussion, with IBlessAll drawing on the various events of Glasslip in order to demonstrate that transience is a major part of the show. While IBlessAll lapses into sentimentality over Tōko and Kakeru’s short time together, and favours a verbose, logorrheic style over brevity, everything presented is clearly tied to transience and the associated beauty. In this analysis, each short moment in Glasslip that others might have found inconsequential act to show the worth of the different, subtle stages in life. In the end, readers coming out of this review have no doubts as to what IBlessAll intended to say; the evidence IBlessAll logically motivates the conclusion, and readers gain the sense that Glasslip‘s portrayal of fleetingness could have been a deliberate choice. Life is chaotic, after all, and hardly as structured as we would like.

Because of their love, because of their fears, and because of their sensitive nature, Touko and Kakeru experience and share their emotions through imagination, otherwise known as “fragments of the future”. It has nothing to do with alternate worlds, fates, other dimensiona [sic], timelines, or other bullshit – it’s just their vivid imagination. They learn about each other and about each other’s feelings and emotions this way.

Soulelle’s discussion occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, being incoherent and unfocused. Opening with the supposition that the chickens in Glasslip are of utmost importance, the review leads readers to anticipate that the conclusion will be related to the chickens. Soulelle suggests that Kakeru’s desire is to put down roots somewhere, envious that even the chickens have a fixed home. Then, Tōko’s fear of being separated from her close friends leads her to fear that like a chicken, Kakeru will eventually leave her behind, too. That chickens are meant to be a metaphor for freedom is a tepid one at best: most chickens cannot fly to the same extent as other birds do owing to their physiology, but even allowing for this to be overlooked, the distinct concerns that Tōko and Kakeru each have do not overlap, and as such, do not give them any common ground. It is therefore illogical to reach the conclusion that the sum of the events in Glasslip were a consequence of a shared sense of imagination, when very little has been established to illustrate the similarities between the two in Soulelle’s claims. Moreover, the chickens have now vanished from the discussion. They end up being a red herring, misleading readers who are then left to wonder how Kakeru’s desire for routine and his decision to be with Tōko allows him to vividly see the same thing that Tōko sees, when her worries centre around losing those dear to her, and her doubts about whether or not Kakeru intends to stick around for the long term. Unlike IBlessAll, Soulelle’s conclusion cannot be rationally reached from the premises established, and so, it becomes very difficult to see the merit in the idea that loneliness is the driver for Glasslip‘s events.

  • Four and a half years have passed since Glasslip, but the anime remains etched in my mind as an example of what happens when a story meanders. If Glasslip intended to be successful, it would’ve needed to focus on how the glass beads and “fragments of the future” are related, rather than driving rifts amongst the characters. Had this been done, and Kakeru was in less of a mysterious and vague role, Glasslip could have been considerably more enjoyable.

  • Despite my praises for IBlessAll’s discussion, it may come as a surprise to readers that I personally do not agree with IBlessAll’s final conclusion about transience being the central theme of Glasslip. My rationale is that Glasslip had enough glass imagery to suggest that there were other themes at play, and while the fleetingness of a moment is a part of Glasslip, it is by no means the entire story.

  • I further add that wabi-sabi is a decidedly Japanese mindset – if viewers from Japan were not able to immediately spot this, it is clear that Glasslip did not do a satisfactory job of conveying transience to the viewers. In spite of the many shortcomings in Glasslip, the anime is not a washout. Aside from beautiful visuals, the lessons from Glasslip would go on to build a superior anime in The World in Colours, which was successful in integrating magic with a meaningful and engaging story of self-discovery.

  • If I were to grade IBlessAll’s analysis as I once did assignments during my time as a graduate student, I would score the resulting passage an A-. The basis for this score is that, while focusing purely on transience and not accounting for the imagery of glass, Glasslip is an inherently tricky anime to write for since the writers were not coherent. As such, for the results that were reached and how they were reached, I saw a thoughtful and logical flow to things. Even if I don’t agree with the result, I did think that this is how more analysis should be done; writers should always take the pain to explain themselves clearly and focus purely on their intended thesis statement.

  • In the end, it feels like Glasslip was an attempt to take on the elements that made Nagi no Asukara successful, create a more minimalist story and then add a supernatural factor with the aim of conveying how tricky love and the future is. The inclusion of supernatural elements in a love story usually acts as a metaphor for how some things are difficult enough so that even with assistance, in the form of magic, things can still be tricky.

Completeness

Completeness is another aspect important in an analysis – this refers to how much of a work the writer references in their discussion. An effective analysis draws upon examples and expand on their relevance in the context of the entire work. In order for a conclusion to be meaningful, events and evidence from the exposition to the conclusion should be considered, and then the most relevant of these are chosen to motivate an argument. In contrast, an ineffective analysis cherry-picks examples, using them to explain an argument without considering the examples’ place in a larger context. In the absence of a big-picture context, some examples might even end up contradicting the author’s conclusion. As such, one cannot ignore elements to suit their analysis, and this is why in general, analysis on anime is most useful for a reader when the author has seen a work in full: messages are still being developed, and ideas explored when a series is underway. Trying to analyse a series for its meaning when not all outcomes are known results in an incomplete picture that diminishes a conclusion. However, when a writer choose to deliberately omit details to fit a conclusion despite the full story being available, they commit what is formally known as a fallacy of incomplete evidence.

Nearly every episode of Glasslip returns to the image of a train on the tracks, coming and going…Yukinari Imi and Yanagi Takayama. From the very start of the show, Yana (the member of the initial group most inclined towards motion through her desire to become a model) has been riding the train daily to her various lessons—it is her river of time.

The town itself—seen frequently from an aeriel [sic] view at different times of day—is associated with the sickly Sachi Nagamiya and the boy who loves her, Hiro Shriosaki. Together, these two embody the spirit of the town: far less dynamic and drastic in its slow march through time, but no less incessant. It fits these two perfectly. While Sachi is too physically weak to ever effect momentous change (even her attempt to upset the love affair of her best friend fails due to her condition), Hiro is correspondingly glacial in his movements due to his insecurity. And yet, both of them inch forward. “For tomorrow” becomes the shared catchphrase of their eventual mutual affection, a emblem of their slow-moving, but never still relationship. There are no bursts of motion, there is only steady, constant change—like the gradual turning of the day.

Time flows, but its motion is not the same for all.

While Glasslip may have predominantly dealt with Tōko and Kakeru, it also introduced Sachi Nagamiya, Hiro Shirosaki, Yanagi Takayama and Yukinari Imi. Friends of Tōko’s, their worlds are rocked when Tōko dissolved the no-relationship clause, setting in motion the chain of events that impacted their friendship. Feelings come out and are hurt, new, more intimate friendships are born, and in it all, IBlessAll finds its relevance to transience and time. Visual elements act as metaphors for the passage of time, whether it be the discernible movement of trains standing in for the motion that Yanagi and Yukinari find themselves in, or the gradual but consistent pacing in the developing relationship between Sachi and Hiro. Although they might be vastly different, everything is related by time. IBlessAll discusses how transience impacts not just Tōko and Kakeru, but also extends it to her friends. The idea that time creates fleeting moments applies to everyone, and so, each character serves to portray a particular aspect of this fleetingness. By considering everything, IBlessAll’s analysis avoids the fallacy of incomplete evidence, and succinctly defines that time is an overarching theme within Glasslip.

And THIS is what this show is about. Everything that happens around them is just a romantic slice of life setting that drives this dramatic world. People meet, fall in love, some have their feelings unrequited, some have to fight for and win their love, etc. The actual drama is however between the two main characters – will they stay together or not, will Kakeru find his home with Touko or will he leave till [sic] better times, will Touko find the way to see the fireworks all together or not? These are the questions raised by the anime.

On the other hand, Soulelle discards Yukinari, Yanagi, Sachi and Hiro entirely, focusing solely on Tōko and Kakeru. There is a reason for their presence in the show, otherwise, Glasslip would have only Tōko and Kakeru present if their story was indeed the only contributor to the narrative. To callously discard their contributions in Glasslip means that Soulelle’s discussion is incomplete, and one suspects that this was also deliberate. Yukinari and Yanagi do not experience the same conflicts as Tōko and Kakeru, nor do Sachi and Hiro; Yukinari and Yanagi both deal with unrequited love, while Sachi and Hiro cautiously and gently begin exploring the extent of their feelings for one another. Neither are directly relevant to notions of home, departure or loneliness that Soulelle posits as being Glasslip‘s main theme; were Yukinari, Yanagi, Sachi and Hiro mentioned in Soulelle’s passage, the inadequacies would immediately be apparent: even if we accepted that loneliness creates a vivid sense of imagination in Tōko and Kakeru, it is not possible to apply this for everyone else. Soulelle’s argument and conclusion fails on the virtue of selective attention, and therefore, cannot be said to say anything meaningful for a reader.

  • By comparison, Soulelle’s analysis would be an D – utterly failing in making a point and defending it, it also insults the reader and is only saved by suggesting that Kakeru’s refusal to live outside of a tent hints at his fear of settling down and losing people again. It came as quite a surprise to me that Soulelle’s analysis can be considered as “inspired” or deserving of a +109 score on Reddit. As it turns out, Soulelle had one important advantage over other interpretations: this analysis was the first detailed one written, and readers flocked to it on the virtue that no one else had yet provided their thoughts on what Glasslip was about. Presently, I have not seen Soulelle attempt to analyse The World in Colours the same way as Glasslip, suggesting to me that The World in Colours is much more straightforwards to understand (and therefore, below Soulell’s level).

  • I have heard that Soulelle has not returned to defend or rationalise the analysis that was provided: this post-and-fade behaviour is reminiscent of one Dani Cavallaro, who is known for publishing volume after volume of dense, unoriginal and oftentimes, error-filled analyses on anime, but otherwise refuses to be contacted or communicated with. I’ve previously written two rebuttals to Soulelle’s arguments myself, but received no response, either.

  • I personally would find it quite interesting if I did hear from Soulelle; gaining some insight into the reasons behind the rudeness would help me understand how some folks reach their conclusions and why they structure things the way that they do even when their chosen method does not conform with best practises. With the amount of time that has elapsed, however, I’d say this is going to be quite unlikely: Soulelle’s modus operandi seems to be dropping patronising analyses and never sticking around to explain them further.

  • Being first past the post has a huge potential to shape prevailing opinions for better or worse: even in academia, the first research group or author to publish a result will get the credit for a discovery, and the first cohort to make an innovation will be consigned to history as the discoverers of something new, even if other similar research and developments were occurring concurrently. In retrospect, because Soulelle had the only effort on explaining Glasslip, the community immediately would have been impressed by this review despite its numerous and severe flaws.

  • IBlessAll’s analysis did not come out until a year later, and while counted as a solid talk, never did quite have the same impact on providing folks with an alternative perspective on Glasslip as did Soulelle’s talk. The consequences of being first manifest here, and this is something that plagues those who write about anime time and time again: it is frustrating to see well-rationalised arguments from lesser-known individuals be discarded in favour of illegible babble from “authorities” simply because the latter was able to push their opinions out first.

Execution

A technically excellent analysis with solid arguments, a logical conclusion that takes into account the big picture can still be unconvincing to readers if it is syntactically poor, filled with spelling mistakes, or presupposes the reader’s disposition. Analyses with spelling or grammatical errors show that the author does not have the care to polish their work and therefore, lacks conviction in their own conclusions. However, these are not as severe as making assumptions about the reader – if one supposes that the reader can follow their thought process, then gaps are left behind in their analysis, and it may not be clear as to how a conclusion might follow from a series of arguments. Worse yet, if one openly states that the reader is lacking something fundamental, and that the conclusion of their analysis should be obvious, they have essentially insulted their readers. A good analysis assumes nothing, explains everything in full detail, walking people through every step of the thought process, and never criticises the readers for supposedly missing something “obvious”.

My goodness, people, I don’t understand what is so complicated about this show that everyone has troubles [sic] comprehending. Everything’s very, VERY simple.

IBlessAll’s analysis is professional and thorough: it is detailed and takes the effort to explain everything in sufficient depth so that readers are always able to follow where the argument is headed next. There are few spelling mistakes, and the post is well-formatted. Evidently, IBlessAll has put in an effort, telling readers that they have conviction in their arguments, and that things are worth considering. However, Soulelle comes across as rude to readers: opening the analysis with the claim that everything is simple and implying that everyone is missing something basic, readers are greeted with hostility. Soulelle immediate sets the tone that their position is not up for discussion, that readers must listen to them, and those who disagree with what follows are not lacing in some way. This approach is not only immature, but also conveys that the author has no faith in the strength of their arguments. Rather than counting on a logical, well-justified series of arguments leading to a conclusion and that which invite discussion, Soulelle conveys exasperation, asking if people understand why things are the way they are. The passage places the burden of proof onto the reader by asking them to do their own research, dismisses other perspectives with a casual “believe it or not [my perspective is the right one]” and reduces Glasslip‘s meaning to a question the readers must answer for themselves because the answer is “obvious”. By mocking readers and their abilities, implying that other perspectives are wrong and generally coming across as confrontational, weaknesses in Soulelle’s analysis are immediately apparent.

  • Of late, controversies at Anime News Network have arisen because their authors have published perspectives on shows such as The Rising of the Shield Hero that are quite politically-charged, intended to evoke outrage, and moreover, have taken to labelling anyone who opposed their perspectives. These early posts have the potential to influence opinions on an anime and even dissuade viewers from continuing on with a series. The impact of being first is not to be understated, and Anime News Network’s writers appear to understand this; readers may view them as an authority on anime and therefore hold that their opinions have more weight than is warranted, which in turn means that Anime News Network could use their influence to discourage people from watching otherwise excellent series or films.

  • Anime films are particularly vulnerable to this: one of their writers states that “this is the reason why there’s no issue with me reviewing films” – because of the long delay in when a movie is screened in Japan and when its home release comes out, Anime News Network’s writers can monopolise a perspective on movies. The end result is that any movie not consistent with their tastes will be given a negative review, and then readers will enter the film with these preconceptions, diminishing their experience and creating a positive feedback loop where the film will be less enjoyable.

  • This phenomenon has already occurred with Gundam: Narrative and Non Non Biyori Vacation; until these movies come out on BD, I will not be able to refute claims made in their reviews, and by then, my discussions are likely to be ignored because the community already has established their opinions based entirely on earlier perspectives. This is an occupational hazard of being a casual blogger, but for me, I write for reasons beyond trying to enforce an opinion on entertainment: this blog exists for me to simply record my thoughts and share them with interested individuals.

  • As such, while I get that it is infuriating to be ignored or to have the impression that one’s thoughts are being ignored, the true joy of writing is to write for oneself and for those readers who have come to enjoy the blogger’s contents. This post is predominantly for the reader looking to see if a writer is worth listening to, and from a writer’s perspective, one should always strive to be honest, genuine and polite in their writings, doing everything possible to help a reader find reason to enjoy one’s works.

  • I expect my readers to be constantly exercising their own judgement when reading my posts; everything I’ve said here also applies to my writing, as well. If I am making assumptions about the reader, failing to be complete or have not said anything meaningful in a post, then that was not a good post, and the reader should not take it to have weight. Similarly, readers who find a post clear, comprehensive and fun to read are free to draw more from it.

Altogether, the two different analyses that I’ve used as examples here illustrate the vast disparity between what makes an effective analysis, as well as what relegates an analysis to being unfit for consideration. A good analysis is clear, focused, covers all relevant points and thoroughly explains things for readers while maintaining a professional tone. Simply, any analysis (or presentation of an opinion in general) that does not do an adequate job with these elements usually is lacking; whether it be an incoherent argument or lack of evidence, weak analyses will instead aim to obfuscate, obscure and insult in an attempt to cover up its short-comings. This is how I determine whether or not a position merits consideration. While I’ve picked two older analyses as motivating examples, the same rubric can be applied to determine if reviews and analysis, even those from Anime News Network, deserve to be counted as being useful. Similarly, some of the more well-known YouTube channels (especially those claiming to have “analysis”) are not exempt from this criteria: if a YouTube persona cannot say anything useful as to enhance the viewer’s experience, or be civil with their viewers, then their thoughts have no weight. Having a clear set of criteria for whether or not something holds weight translates to deciding whether or not a controversy really is thus, or if it is merely being blown out of proportions. The reality is that there are numerous pieces out there worth reading or watching, but there are an equal number of pieces where the author might not have the conviction to stand by their perspectives. This shows in their writing, and regardless of whatever their reasons for putting out such a talk might be, I appreciate that the readers’ time is valuable; knowing when to dismiss an opinion (and its proponents) is often preferable to confronting those who aren’t looking for anything logical. Such individuals cannot be reasoned or negotiated with, and truthfully, life’s too short to be spent dealing with these folks: I would rather my readers pursue the things that bring them happiness and positivity with the time that they do have, and leaving this post, I hope that my readers find this useful as one of many different means of assessing whether or not something holds value, to the extent where one should spend their time giving it consideration.

Anima Yell!- Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Let’s go, Kaminoki! Go for win!” —Kaminoki High Cheer

The Cheer Association begins gaining momentum, as Kohane and the others farmiliarise themselves with basics. They are asked to cheer in a variety of venues for their classmates, including at several basketball games, an opening ceremony for a festival and for Uki’s younger brother’s soccer match. After wondering why Uki would join the Cheer Association, Kana joins the Cheer Association after standing in for Uki during a routine, who’d become injured. With the required five members, the Cheer Association becomes a full-fledged club. The girls recruit Ms. Inukai as their advisor and make Kohane the president, partake in a training camp on the beach and use their new funds to purchase upgraded uniforms. Kohane and the others sign up for a cheer-leading tournament, as well. Here, Hizume learns that her old teammates are glad to find her and wish that she were still with them; they nonetheless wish her the best, and in their performance, everyone comes together to keep Kohane going after she became worried about Hizume. Despite not qualifying in the preliminaries, the girls have a wonderful time and resolve to continue practising for their upcoming events, as well as for another tournament in the future. Anima Yell! was the fall season’s Manga Time Kirara series, and for better or worse, these invariably end up on my watchlist. After three episodes, Anima Yell! gave the distinct impression of simply being Yuyushiki with cheer-leading, but as the series progressed, there was considerably more enjoyment as the Cheer Association began picking up their activity and explored aspects of cheer-leading that made it worthwhile for each of Kohane, Uki, Hizume, Kotetsu and Hanawa.

Anima Yell! ends up being a fun romp through the world of cheer-leading and high school life, as is the case for almost all adaptations of manga published to Manga Time Kirara. However, there was a bit of a surprise for me; I was not anticipating that the series would have something discernible in the way of a theme: Anima Yell! has Kohane and her boundless energy at the forefront. With her cheer and desire to help those around her, Kohane’s presence is strong enough to overshadow the other characters, even the highly experienced Hizume. Anima Yell! is, upon first glance, about Kohane channelling her energy towards helping others through cheer-leading and over time, realising that she’s got support from her friends, is willing to put an effort towards overcoming her acrophobia. However, each of Hizume, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa have their own challenges that cheer-leading helps them tackle. In particular, Hizume learns to appreciate cheer-leading from a smaller group, really allowing her to know everyone better. Initially dismissed from her old cheer-leading team for being a non-team player, Hizume comes to realise that she was more focused on the technical details of her performance, than paying mind to those around her, and so, while excelling as a cheerleader, failed as a team member. Working in a smaller team forces Hizume to train Kohane and Kotetsu, as well as organise things with Uki and Hanawa. In doing so, Hizume opens up naturally to her new-found friends and overcomes her own doubts about being alone. Through Anima Yell!, it is shown that the small-team dynamic provides an opportunity to really get to learn about one’s teammates better, and the ensuing friendship can have a profound positive impact on an individual.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Anima Yell! will receive a shorter post, featuring only twenty screenshots taken from various points in the show. In the beginning, a lack of funds means that Kohane and the others need to get creative – their uniforms are hand-made, as are their pom-poms. Their status as an association ends up being a boon for the club, resulting in actions that indicate ingenuity and a chance to take the characters in directions otherwise unexplored were they permitted club status.

  • Kohane’s first objective is to get Kotetsu to join the club, and after much manoeuvring, succeeds in convincing her; their performance in cheering the basketball team sees each of Uki, Kohane and Hizume deliver enough energy to allow the team to win, and inspired, Kotetsu agrees to join.

  • It turns out that Kohane’s acrophobia stems from an incident in her childhood, where she’d fallen out of a tree while attempting to help someone. While the physical pain did not deter her, the fear of worrying those around her had a long lasting impact, and since then, Kohane’s concern about troubling those around her means that she cannot be in high places. With time and effort from the club, Kohane gradually begins to overcome these fears, and she’s able to act as the top of some rudimentary formations.

  • Hanawa is Anima Yell!‘s Sharo Kirima rolled in with Love Lab!‘s Yuiko Enomoto; fiercely protective of Hizume, Hanawa becomes greatly flustered in her presence and reveres her. She is initially disapproving of the Cheer Association, wondering why Hizume went from being a top-tier cheerleader to participating in a club where it is nowhere near as serious as the sort of organisation Hizume might’ve been in before.

  • Uki explains the situation to Hanawa on the school rooftop, but sprains her ankle when she catches a falling Hanawa. Feeling responsible for the situation, Hanawa decides to act as the substitute for Uki when the basketball team requests the Cheer Association perform for their match. During the course of their presentation, Hanawa witnesses firsthand Hizume’s enjoyment, and also rediscovers her own love for cheer-leading. She reluctantly decides to join the Cheer Association, bringing its membership to five and officially giving the group club status.

  • Inukai sensei is the stereotypical instructor, being quite lazy and unmotivated. She refuses the post of advising for the Cheer Club, but the girls manage to persuade her. Like every advisor for clubs that come before her, Inukai sensei is not usually willing to expend energy to help the club out, but when the moment calls for it, she will pull through. In addition, she also supports the girls’ aspirations from the sidelines, revealing that for her laziness, she genuinely does care for the club’s members.

  • Uki suffers from a conundrum when it turns out the Cheer Club is set to perform at her younger brother’s soccer game. Uki’s younger brother, Akane, is not particularly appreciative of cheerleaders, saying they are quite distracting and contribute little to the game, but also remarks that he’s cool with Uki. Struggling to reveal she’s a member of the Cheer Club and will be making an appearance, Uki finally snaps when Akane mentions his dislike stems from cheerleaders flashing their pantsu during some stunts, and reprimands him, saying that cheerleading is far removed from exhibitionism.

  • On the day of the match, Akane finds himself unexpectedly impressed with Uki and the Cheer Club’s energy and stamina; they spur him on, and the coach takes notice, putting him in the starting line for the game’s second half. As the girls continue their cheer, Akane’s resolve strengthens and he scores the game-winning goal. He thanks the Cheer Club and begrudgingly admits that cheerleaders are not so bad after all.

  • Hanawa switches from loud and obnoxious to Kohane, to submissive and flustered when Hizume appears. Having seen so many anime with such a character, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Uki and the others managed to turn things around and help Hanawa overcome her own doubts. As such, where I may have felt an annoyance previously, I now wait for the character to grow and mature. Watching Hanawa become increasingly close with the Cheer Club was rewarding, and in the end, she is Anima Yell!‘s Sharo Kirima, whom I’ve come to appreciate for her role in GochiUsa.

  • While we’re into winter now, Anima Yell! takes things into summer when the Cheer Club goes on a training camp. Although Hizume insists that their objective is practise, and the girls do get a respectable amount of practise in, there is a focus on what everyone does on the beaches under beautiful summer skies. For me, deep azure skies is a hallmark of the summer season in anime, conveying a sense of warmth that the longest days of the year bring.

  • During the training camp, Hizume notices that Hanawa seems to have trouble interacting with her, and is quite unaware that Hanawa’s got a crush the size of a planet on her. Being the most reasoned of everyone, Uki offers Hizume advice, to take things one step at a time, helping the two close their distance. The training camp of Anima Yell! is not particularly fanservice-oriented, and has the characters coming out both on better terms with one another, as well as better equipped to face their challenges.

  • Times change, and most of the folks who’ve previously analysed shows like Anima Yell! in forums have ceased. It’s been a year since we’ve been treated to seminar-style discussions of minutiae in Manga Time Kirara series, such as how economics work in Urara Meirocho, the exam procedures of Hanayamata or whether or not older PCs can run drawing software in Stella no Mahou. I cannot say that I miss these these divergences – they contributed nothing to discussions about the show, but now that they’re gone, it also means I have no need to shoot them down and explain why these individuals misunderstood or misinterpreted something. In each and every case, the answer to their questions was simple and could be explained in two or fewer sentences.

  • Of course, at least one individual has been left with analysing the kanji in everyone’s names and concluded that everyone’s names has roots in an animal name, but watching through the whole of Anima Yell! finds that this has no impact on the story whatsoever. I’ve long found that analysing names has not done me any favours in understanding a show: names like Jack Ryan or Samwise Gamgee do little for helping me gain a deeper understanding of a story. Back in Anima Yell!, the girls’ training camp draws to a close with another successful and fun performance.

  • Having club funds means being able to afford new uniforms, and after spending an entire day at the cheerleading speciality shop, the girls finally agree on a uniform that works for everyone. They encounter twin sisters who were formerly Hizume’s teammates, whose personalities are reminiscent of cats. Their cordial conversation with Hizume foreshadows what her former teammates think of her.

  • On the day of the Cheer Tournament, the whole club has gathered and exhibits nerves to some level. Kohane varies between pure excitement and total fright – between her concern for Hizume’s well-being and her own ability to perform, fear slowly creeps into her day. She ruins a few group photos, and despite her insistence that everything is fine, audiences are keenly aware that Kohane’s not her usual self.

  • As it turns out, Hizume’s old teammates found themselves in disarray after she left and wanted her back, but slowly pulled together and then found their way. Admitting that she’s happy to have seen this change as a result of Hizume’s departure, they also understood just how important Hizume was to them and are happy to see that she’s found her own way again. For Hizume, working with a smaller team has really forced her to be mindful of her teammates, and she apologises to her old team for not being more aware of them. They part on friendly terms and wish one another luck in the tournament.

  • When their performance starts, Kohane immediately falls. Their performance in jeopardy, Hizume, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa step in to support Kohane, who realises that her friends will catch her. Her cheering spirit restored, Kohane comes back to help her teammates put on a performance that, despite not having the technical depth of finesse of a more experienced team, one that captures the amount of fun everyone is having in the moment.

  • In the end, the enjoyment that each of Hizume, Kohane, Uki, Kotetsu and Hanawa experiences is very visible, and watching the Cheer Club advance was one of the biggest draws in Anima Yell!: my enthusiasm for the show was waning at the halfway point, as the mid-sections of this series was unremarkable and even dull in a few places, but once Hanawa joins, Anima Yell!‘s spirit is rekindled, prompting me to push through to the end. I’m glad that I did.

  • If and when I am asked, Uki is my favourite character of Anima Yell! – she’s well-rounded, being skilful enough to keep up with Hizume and Hanawa, but is also able to reign in Kohane and Kotetsu. As seen from her reaction to failing to qualify, Uki is also very serious and committed to what she does. Despite this, the girls remark that yes, things were very memorable. Having seen where cheerleading could take them, they resolve to work hard and see just how far into the next tournament they can progress.

  • When everything is said and done, Anima Yell! would earn a B, a 7.5 on the 10 point scale (3.0 of 4) – despite being strictly average, Anima Yell! has plenty of heart, and for me, this counts for something. With this post in the books, I’m officially done with writing about the anime I watched for last year: there are many titles I’ve invariably passed on, and I could return to them at some point in the future (I still need to see if Aobuta lives up to its praises, for example), but for now, with the winter season upon us, a few shows have caught my eye. At this point in time, I express an interest in writing for Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai – only one show is on the plate for the present, as my free time has lessened and I’d like to allocate what’s available to blasting bad guys in things like Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash and Battlefield V in addition to writing.

Audiences familiar with the Manga Time Kirara world would seen this countless times in other series; while Anima Yell! may not be particularly novel or exceptional, it is honest, and the end result is a fun story that picks up considerably once the series is under way. The energy and spirits that each of Kohane, Uki, Hizume, Kotetsu and Hanawa bring to the table livens up Anima Yell!; the girls’ cheer-leading performances are surprisingly polished in spite of Kohane and Kotetsu’s inexperience, and while the girls never get to doing the more sophisticated stunts, watching Hizume return to the basics and help bring everyone up proved to be a warming experience that is always a joy to watch for the journey everyone takes to reach the endgame. As such, in spite of Anima Yell!‘s average visuals and aural aspects, the story itself keeps things compelling enough for this one to be watched to completion. Anima Yell! is the sort of anime for Manga Time Kirara fans looking for something relaxing and comforting; beyond this, the nature of Anima Yell! means that it is unlikely to appeal to audiences with a different set of preferences. Finally, I imagine that Anima Yell! will not be seeing a continuation; while the manga is ongoing, I’ve not heard anything that suggests that Anima Yell! is as well-received as something like Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? or Kiniro Mosaic — this series is not particularly stand-out with its execution or premise, but what Anima Yell! does have is a fun story about growth and being appreciative of those around oneself.