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Category Archives: Anime: Reflections

Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas): Movie Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” –Sir William Wallace

While at the hospital, the introverted Haruki Shiga encounters an unusually-titled book, “Living with Dying”. He picks it up and leafs through it, before coming face-to-face with its owner, Sakura Yamauchi. It turns out that Sakura is afflicted with a pancreatic disease that will in time, result in her death. After Haruki promises to keep her secret, Sakura recruits him to spend time with her, feeling that he represents a balance between the normalcy that her parents want her to experience, and the reality that she must face given her condition. Unlike her doctors, who give a stark view of her life expectancy, and her parents, who are overcome with emotion whenever Sakura mentions her disease, Haruki is seemingly far removed from things to help Sakura live life normally and experience everyday things. While Haruki is initially hesitant, Sakura is persistent; she takes up a position at the library he works at, and later invites him out to a yakiniku restaurant. Sakura is determined to make the most of her remaining time, and drafts a bucket list of things to do before she dies. As the two spend more time together, classmates become suspicious of Haruki. Sakura later books a trip out of the blue, and during this excursion, Sakura and Haruki learn more about one another. After returning home, Sakura’s best friend, Kyoko, confronts Haruki, wondering what’s going on between the two. Later, Haruki visits Sakura to borrow a book from her and leaves following a misunderstanding. He runs into Takahiro, Sakura’s ex, who demands to know what’s going on and knocks him to the ground. Sakura finds Haruki, and after helping him clean up, asks him to return the book that he’s borrowed within a year. Sakura and Haruki push into her bucket list as summer break continues, although one day, she is admitted to the hospital. While they play cards, Sakura reveals that her outlook on life and socialisation is than one’s interactions with others is what made life worth living, and later, she sneaks out of the hospital, taking Haruki to a hill to watch some fireworks. Here, Haruki realises the extent of the impact that she’s had on him, and now, he has a genuine desire for her to keep living. He agrees to Sakura’s request to go to the beach, but when she misses their date, Haruki heads home, where he learns that Sakura was stabbed. Devastated, he does not attend her funeral, but later visits Sakura’s mother and pay respects to Sakura. Here, Sakura’s mother gives him “Living with Dying”. Haruki learns that Sakura had been curious about him and admired him after meeting him. Despite their short time together, Sakura was deeply moved by Haruki’s choice to stick by her. Haruki promises to Sakura’s mother that he will return to visit along with Kyoko, and also passes Sakura’s final words to Kyoko. Despite refusing to accept this initially, Haruki persuades Kyoko to give him a second chance. A year later, Kyoko and Haruki visit Sakura’s grave, before heading off to the Yamauchi residence.

The unusually-titled Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, which is what I’ll refer to the film for the remainder of this talk) is a journey about life that began as a web novel authored by Yoru Sumino, was adapted into manga and then made into a live-action movie. The animated film was produced by Studio VOLN and released in September 2018. Dealing with themes of what life means, and how opposites introduce dramatic changes in one’s world-view, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a sincere and genuine glimpse into what living is about. Haruki begins as an antisocial individual who prefers the company of books over people, but a chance encounter with Sakura changes all of this. Her seemingly boundless energy and optimism despite her imminent death initially has little impact on the stoic Haruki, but as he spends more time with her, he comes to enjoy her company. However, this route has both its ups and downs. Encountering emotions that he had previously been unaware of, Haruki is conflicted by these new experiences; while he becomes closer with Sakura, he must also deal with Kyoko’s refusal to accept him and Takahiro pasting him onto the pavement, Haruki only handles these with a taciturn outlook. However, seeing Sakura’s experiences eventually leads him to realise that he’s now emotionally close with Sakura, and that for everything she’s done for him, he desperately wants her to live. Sakura’s upbeat, outgoing personality stands in contrast with Haruki’s quiet, reserved one, and these polar opposites do much to bring change to Haruki, who begins to understand that life is about interacting with, and caring for people around oneself. While Haruki feels he’s given nothing to Sakura in return, it turns out that being there for her, however reluctantly it was early on, Haruki showed to Sakura that there was someone out there who would come to genuinely care for her, making her feel special and fulfilled. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas reiterates that, time and time again, bringing people together, that are seemingly polar opposites, can result in a synergy that brings about undeniable and profound change in their lives as they come to empathise with one another.

While the topic of Sakura’s death is ever-present in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, the movie is about what life means. That life is finite and fragile serves to give it all the more value – the answer to the meaning of life is infinitely varied and diverse. For Sakura, and by extension, Sumino, life is defined by the meaningful relationships that one forms with others. Whether it be caring for others, giving them joy or support, life is to be treasured because one has the potential to make someone else happy. The emphasis on life, rather than death, is emphasised in every aspect of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Sakura is full of life, with her boundless optimism and acceptance of death driving her to make the most of each day. Despite her days being more limited than most, Sakura is resolved to make each second count. The film’s animation and artwork are deliberately crafted to reflect this – scenes are vividly rendered, and every moment is filled to the brim with colour. In this manner, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas reminds viewers that there’s value in all life, that all one really has to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to them. Even in death, Sakura’s optimistic spirit endures, providing Haruki the motivation to continue living – a year after her death, Haruki has undergone a profound change and nominally gets along with Kyoko, showing just how far he’s come of his own volition since being motivated by his fateful meeting with Sakura. The film’s title gives insight into the sort of effect that Sakura and Haruki have on one another; early in the film, Sakura mentions that some cultures will eat certain organs to heal a related physiological function or take up its strength. Both Haruki and Sakura, by spending time with one another that becomes highly treasured, eat one another’s pancreas in a metaphorical sense, imbibing the traits from the other that help them mature.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I Want to Eat Your Pancreas opens in April, under the blooming of cherry blossoms. It is a foregone conclusion that Sakura will be dying in the movie – Haruki is shown at home, still in grief after her death. However, there is a considerable journey taken to get to this point, and this is what I Want to Eat Your Pancreas showcases. After a chance meeting at a hospital, Sakura takes a keen interest in Haruki, and the movie’s events thus begin. I’ve got a longer talk for I Want to Eat Your Pancreas because there is a bit of ground to cover, and consequently, this talk will have forty screenshots.

  • Sakura explains the film’s title as coming from an ancient belief that eating a particular organ will help alleviate illnesses. She suffers from a pancreatic disease of unknown nature: besides this disease, Sakura is otherwise completely healthy, and in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, is shown to be unaffected by other symptoms that are found in pancreatic conditions (e.g. pain, nausea and vomiting in pancreatitis). Her condition is left ambiguous because it is not relevant to the story; the condition and its fatal nature is more relevant. Despite his initial reservations, Haruki reluctantly agrees to join Sakura to a yakiniku restaurant, where they grill a variety of variety meats.

  • Despite claiming to not be interested in Haruki in a romantic manner, her persistence in bringing him along to finish her bucket list has parallels with Your Lie in April‘s Kaori, who similarly pushed Kousei back into music despite ostensibly not being interested in him. Similarities between Your Lie in April and I Want to Eat Your Pancreas are inevitable, although the latter abstracts away the music component in favour of a more direct message about what living means. Eating well is a part of living, and while we take it for granted at times, being able to enjoy good food adds a considerable amount of joy to life. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas places a great deal of emphasis on food moments for this reason.

  • Sakura is every bit as spirited as Karoi, and while walking through the shopping district, they encounter a worker who is bullying an elderly lady after his wares are knocked over. She intervenes, pointing out that the worker is at fault; bikes are not permitted here. After the shopping district’s patrons and vendors’ attention is drawn, Sakura cans the worker before running off, leaving beat cops to arrest the worker.

  • The artwork and animation in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is of a high quality; settings are simply but vividly coloured, bring every moment to life. The film maintains its colourful scenery when Sakura and Haruki are together, emphasising that each moment is a memorable one for the two even in spite of Haruki’s generally gloomy and pessimistic outlook. Being taciturn and unsociable, Haruki would very much prefer to read books, engrossing himself in the admittedly rich and exciting worlds within them rather than spending time with others.

  • Haruki believes that minimising social interactions with others is the simplest way to live: caring very little about those around them thinks of him, he is content to be ignored and not deal with others. In a manner of speaking, Haruki is the embodiment an extreme – I myself find happiness in solitude, whether it be reading, walking on my own and the like, but I’ve also come to appreciate and respect the importance of close social relationships. No man is an island, and having people to fall back on when things get difficult can mean the difference between suffering and finding enough alternate outlooks to approach problems differently.

  • Use of space as a visual brake is a common element employed in visual arts. Towards the beginning of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, there is a spatial gap between Haruki and Sakura whenever they meet up. As the film advances on, the time that the two spend at opposite ends of the frame is lessened, indicating to viewers that the two have become very close despite Haruki’s seeming lack of interest in getting to know Sakura better early on. These cues are immensely valuable in giving viewers subtle hints as to what’s going on; Bill Watterson utilised space as a way of conveying an idea in Calvin and Hobbes, where the medium was static and therefore, even mire dependent on placement.

  • Kyoko is very close to Sakura and is disapproving of Haruki, viewing him as an outcast unworthy of Sakura’s time. Sakura’s optimistic and level-headed approach in dealing with Kyoko’s reactions shows that she views both Sakura and Haruki as important: she chooses neither over the other and simply does her best to make things work, befitting of her outlook on life. Sakura is unfazed, and presses on ahead: after running into Kyoko at the desert café, she brings Haruki to the beach.

  • Sakura’s jacket, in conjunction with the subdued hues, suggest a cooler spring evening. It’s much too early to be enjoying warmer waters, but here, Sakura asks Haruki to spend additional time with her and mentions that on her list of things to do before she snuffs it is to become closer to a guy in a romantic fashion. Sakura teases Haruki from time to time about it; from Haruki’s perspective, Sakura’s intentions are ambivalent, and audiences will similarly be unsure of whether or not she’s teasing Haruki or not because he’s so unresponsive. By leaving audiences to guess what’s going on, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas compels the audience to keep watching.

  • Sakura convinces Haruki to take an excursion with her to Fukuoka. With a population of 1.6 million, Fukuoka is the sixth largest city in Japan. While Haruki is initially set up for a day trip, it turns out that Sakura had intended for an overnight stay and arranged for accommodations to be made so their absences could be explained away. En route to Hakata Station, Sakura asks for Haruki’s name, and I suppose now is a good time as any to mention that this entire discussion is one big spoiler – I understand that the choice of names underlies the theme of connectedness and fate in the movie, hence the decision to keep his name unknown, but for discussion, it would have been difficult to mention Haruki without his name.

  • Hakata Station is the largest in Kyushu; with over 120000 passengers a day, it acts as the access point from Kyushu to Honshu. The station seen in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas was built in 2011 to replace an older station, and even has its own department store. It forms the starting point for Sakura and Haruki’s trip, the point in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas where Haruki’s character slowly begins changing. After the warm-up, things begin accelerating as Haruki gets to know Sakura better.

  • While exploring Fukuoka, Sakura and Haruki stop at a ramen shop, having what I eyeball to be a Hakata ramen, which features cuts of pork in a milky white broth and thin noodles. The food in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is rendered in great detail, and one feels as though they were there with the two. On the topic of food, Poutine Week is in full swing right now, and last Saturday, I stopped by a steakhouse downtown to try their Big Smoke poutine: this poutine consists of smoked brisket, a special in-house gravy, crunchy bacon, truffle mushrooms, jalapeño, and Chimichurri sauce. The richness of the gravy, brisket and bacon pieces was complemented by a tang from the Chimichurri, as well as a mild spice from the jalapeño. This poutine was accompanied by a refreshing ginger beer, and I subsequently stepped out to pick up Marie Kondo’s The Manga Guide to Cleaning Up.

  • Enjoyment of the smaller things in life is one of the reasons why I can be happy with an afternoon spent browsing through a book store. I feel that amongst my peers, I stand as being a bit unusual in that I believe that experiences and memories (something that Millennials greatly value) can be found even while doing the ordinary. There is value in everything, no matter how trivial, and different scales of an experience simply confers different kinds of happiness, which is ultimately happiness all the same. The montage of Sakura and Haruki exploring Fukuoka shows various snapshots of the two having a good time, with Sakura taking the lead in all of the frames.

  • As the evening wears on, Sakura and Haruki walk through a yatai (night market) – Fukouka’s night markets are known for their food, being counted as one of the best in Asia, and the stalls serve a diverse array of foods, from Japanese street food to French items. Night markets have an exhilarating atmosphere: I went to Kaohsiung five years ago and walked through their night market, which was a spectacular experience for the sights and smells alone. At the time, my constitution was not at full health, and so, I did not eat anything – one of my longstanding goals will be to go back to Taiwan, for the singular purpose of eating the grilled squid at their night markets. While I’m there, I would also love to rent a scooter and overnight through Huadong Valley, waking up in a countryside inn and finding a swift sunset awaiting me.

  • An error in booking results in Sakura and Haruki sharing the same room. Haruki immediately decides to sleep on the couch, giving the bed to Sakura, but Sakura counter-argues that a bed this nice must be experienced. I imagine that some minds immediately wander towards what could go down next, but the context of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, something like that was never going to happen. It was interesting to see how Haruki immediately picks his course of action and how this parallels mine.

  • Sakura and Haruki stay at the Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk: facing west, the Fukuoka Tower is visible, with its distinct profile standing tall in the Fukuoka skyline. Standing at 234 meters, it is two meters shorter than The Bow, the second tallest building in Calgary, but unlike The Bow, Fukuoka Tower has an observation deck, and its glass façade gives the impression that it’s a full office building: the tower only resembles an office building, and actually has no floor space for offices. Rated for magnitude seven earthquakes and 233 km/h winds, the Fukuoka Tower was completed in 1989.

  • It turns out that Sakura’s managed to buy alcohol, and the two immediately set about playing “Truth or Dare”. Haruki presses his turns to learn more about Sakura out of curiosity, while Sakura is a bit more coy and asks questions that gauge Haruki’s impressions of her. Haruki’s choice of questions shows his concern for her, which grows after he helps her grab a bottle of shampoo from her bag; the quantity of medications and needles is a powerful reminder of how serious her condition is, but from her happy-go-lucky attitude, this is not always apparent.

  • Eventually, bored with how straightforward Haruki is, Sakura puts a “rock and a hard place” option onto the table: either put into words what he finds attractive about her, or bridal-carry her to the bed. Haruki goes with the latter option, and they wind up sharing a brief conversation before retiring. The next morning, an irate Kyoko calls, and threatens Haruki with a physical beating if anything happened to Sakura.

  • The excursion to Fukuoka marks a turning point in Haruki and Sakura’s friendship: Haruki’s reluctance to hang out with Sakura evaporates, now that he’s gotten to know her better and also understands the extent of her condition. On the train ride back home by sunset, there’s a sense of melancholy, of departure and longing: I’ve got a sizeable collection of anime wallpapers portraying nearly empty trains, and there’s a certain appeal to them.

  • While I am a PC gamer with a respectable level of skill, on console, I am terrible by all counts, and I’m sure that most anyone could take me out in even shooters. Sakura schools Haruki here in a game while he’s visiting her, on the promise of picking up a book. Sakura is surprised to learn that Haruki’s not read a certain book and decides to lend him a copy on the promise that he finish and return it to her in a timely fashion.

  • Sakura’s feelings towards Haruki is probably tempered by the fact that she doesn’t really feel as though they’ve connected yet, hence her sending mixed signals to him. Confused by this, Haruki is at a loss and responds with frustration, but being kind at heart, he never crosses the line, and runs off into the rain. Here, he runs into Sakura’s ex, whose jealousy prompts him to strike Haruki. Haruki is not the sort of individual to fight back, and Sakura arrives to find Haruki on the ground. After angrily telling her ex off, Sakura reassures Haruki, who comes to understand what Sakura is feeling.

  • After returning to her place to dry off and retrieve the book, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas shifts into high gear as summer vacation kicks in. There’s still a large number of items on Sakura’s bucket list, and with classes over, the two turn their time towards making the most of summer, when long days and beautiful weather make everything seem possible. I’ve always wondered why people, especially those in newspaper comics dealing with workplaces, called them bucket lists – I initially thought they were buckets in a hash table, data entries in a fast-access location, but as it turns out, it refers to “list of things to do before kicking the bucket”, where “kicking the bucket” itself stems from a 17th-century euphemism for dying.

  • Being Good Friday, I had a day off today to really sleep in and regroup: I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn for work, and so, opportunities to sleep in are rare, so when they happen, I aim to make the most of them. Having time off means being able to take a day on more slowly, but as it happens, today is also the second last day of Poutine Week here at home. Hence, I spent a bit of the morning working from home, validated my taxes and then geared up to head downtown.

  • I’m getting up there in the years now, and high on my list of things to do is to spend a brilliant summer day with someone special, even if the probability of something like this happening as I grow older lessens. This moment captures what that might look like in a succinct manner. Besides enjoying various food, Sakura and Haruki bowl, partake in karaoke and eventually, make plans to visit the beach together.

  • I entered I Want to Eat Your Pancreas with no existing knowledge of what to expect, and having avoided all spoilers for the film. This resulted in a more complete experience, and I appreciate why folks are so adamant about avoiding spoilers – not knowing what to expect means that one can get a much more authentic experience. I am generally more tolerant of spoilers in video games and for series I do not have a strong interest in, but for films, I prefer finding things out for myself. Keeping clear of spoilers for anime movies like I Want to Eat Your Pancreas is a relatively easy task, since there’s next to no discussions of it elsewhere, but I imagine that for something like the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, it will be a considerable challenge.

  • While hospitals are typically quite saddening places to be, there’s a calm here as Haruki visits Sakura, who’s been admitted after some tests showed a false positive that her condition was worsening. She’s still optimistic and joyful: even a hospital cannot dampen her spirits, and the two continue on with Truth or Dare here. During this game, Haruki learns that Sakura believes life to be worth living based on the time one spends with others, and the emotional worth of the relationships one builds up. For Haruki, this is a bit of an epiphany moment, wherein he comes to realise that being with Sakura has allowed him to open up for the first time and learn about the importance of forming meaningful connections with others.

  • For Sakura, being with someone who is willing to follow her to the ends of the earth in her desires made her feel particularly special, and one evening, having snuck out of the hospital to watch the fireworks, the two share an embrace that captures the warmth and gratitude that they feel towards one another. This is the apex of their friendship; Sakura and Haruki both understand one another now, and both their lives have changed dramatically as a result of the fateful meeting that brought them together.

  • The changes in Haruki’s character are apparent when he accepts gum from his friendly classmate while en route to the beach. Having declined up until now, accepting gum visually represents accepting friendship. It’s an uplifting moment that makes it clear how far Haruki has come since the beginning of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and audiences will invariably want to see what happens next. This, of course, foreshadows what occurs next; Sakura is late, but she exchanges messages with Haruki that keep him in the loop.

  • Haruki decides to stop at the teashop he’d first visited with Sakura, but as afternoon turns to evening, he heads home and learns that Sakura was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. Earlier in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, news of a violent criminal in the area was presented, and it is likely this same individual perpetrated the crime. While the authorities capture the suspect, it is too late for Sakura, who succumbs to her injuries. Haruki is left in shock and grief in the aftermath, missing Sakura’s funeral.

  • I ended up skipping over those moments in the immediate aftermath of Sakura’s death for this talk, primarily because I had very little to say on said moments. This was one of the toughest parts of the movie to watch: Sakura’s death came out of left field. Having spent much of the movie building up to the inevitable, audiences are initially expecting Sakura to die from her illness, and so, seeing her life end at the hands of some petty criminal was completely unexpected. The aftermath of this is that Haruki eventually regroups and heads off to the Yamauchi residence to pay his respects.

  • Speaking with Sakura’s mother, Haruki is given Sakura’s diary, and reading through the entries, Haruki reaffirms that Sakura was optimistic and a free spirit akin to Kaori Miyazono. However, after the entries come to an end, it turns out there’s an epilogue. Rather like how Kaori left Kōsei a letter, Sakura’s letter explains that she’d long admired him for his dedication to books, and the quiet sense of mystery he evoked in her that compelled her to learn more about him.

  • While most romances and feelings go unfulfilled, Sakura’s condition drove her to live life fully, and this included getting closer with Haruki. Thus, when fate made it so that the two could meet up and talk for the first time, rather than watching from a distance, Sakura seized the moment and set about fulfilling one of the biggest items on her list. The result of this nascent friendship made Sakura feel wanted and cared for, which deepened her feelings for Haruki. Meanwhile, Haruki feels his first emotional connection with someone, and views Sakura as the agent for this change. To have had all of this occur, and then crueley wrested from him made this part emotionally intense.

  • The quote for this post is from Sir William Wallace, a Scottish Knight who was the Guardian of Scotland until being defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. Seven years later, he was captured and executed, but in death, he became a larger-than-life symbol. His quote simply means that not everyone truly lives their lives in a fulfilling manner, even though death is inevitable for everyone.

  • While Sakura believed that life was defined by the quality of relationships with others, I personally believe that a meaningful life is defined by what positive impacts one can bring about in their relationships with others – I am at my happiest when I am doing something meaningful for someone else, and for better or worse, I’m drawn to helping people out. Having said this, I have less patience for people who act in their own interests even with the knowledge that doing some will come at someone else’s expense.

  • Understanding the extent of Sakura’s feelings for him, and the extent of his impact on her, Haruki allows himself to cry in sorrow and grief for her. He thanks Sakura’s mother for bearing with him, and she makes a request of him: to bring Kyoko over, as well. The final part of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas has Haruki doing his best to honour his promise to Sakura’s mother and reconcile with Kyoko.

  • The reason why Haruki’s name is not given until I Want to Eat Your Pancreas‘s denouement is because taken together, Haruki’s given name in kanji is 春樹 (“Spring tree”), and Sakura’s given name is 桜良 (“Beautiful cherry blossom”). When one puts them together, the names are related to one another: Haruki can be seen as the tree from which cherry blossoms bloom during spring, and this is meant to tie the two characters together by fate. Spring is when cherry blossoms bloom, and they bloom from a tree. A tree looks much more beautiful with the blossoms, and the blossoms depend on the tree: this symbiotic dynamic mirrors how Haruki and Sakura mutually benefited from their friendship, however short their time together was.

  • Kyoko is initially resistant, even hostile, towards Haruki’s request, and becomes embittered when she reads Sakura’s diary, wondering why Sakura would keep it from her. Running off, she rejects Haruki’s explanation, but Haruki pushes on, managing to catch her before she takes off. From here, a reluctant friendship develops, and the changes in Haruki serve to make him more sociable and attuned to those around him.

  • A year later, Haruki and Kyoko visit Sakura’s grave to pay their respects before visiting Sakura’s mother. While Kyoko is still somewhat disapproving of Haruki, they get along much better than they had during the course of I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Haruki has evidently turned over a new leaf: his new haircut gives him a cleaner, more mature look, and he astutely responds to Kyoko when she asks him whether his words are a kokuhaku. It turns out that Kyoko’s become interested in the friendly fellow who frequently asks Haruki if he’d like any gum, and has also begun finding her own happiness.

  • The greens and blues in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas‘ final scene create a peaceful mid-morning that shows two individuals who’ve come a long way since the film’s beginning. While I shed no tears during the film, I won’t deny that I enjoyed this one immensely: movies dealing with life lessons can come across as being melodramatic if emotions are too forcefully conveyed, but I Want to Eat Your Pancreas manages to keep everything consistently believable. Between this and the character dynamics, growth and technical excellence, this film was definitely worth the wait.

The setup in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, and Haruki and Sakura’s characters are by no means unique; Your Lie in April‘s Kōsei Arima and Kaori Miyazono met in similar conditions, with Kaori suffering from an unknown disease and sharing Sakura’s desire to be closer to the quiet, taciturn male protagonist. However, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas abstracts out the musical component and simply has the characters interacting in the absence of a common, shared hobby: Haruki and Sakura do not particularly align or have any common interests, allowing their personalities to be the sole factor in driving their dynamics, and in this way, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas can be seen as a more general perspective on the themes explored in Your Lie in April. The end result of this is a highly relatable film not dependent on music, that is unique and moving in its own right. As a story, and as a film, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas stands firmly on its own merits, telling a profoundly moving tale of life, of carpe diem and ultimately, what makes life worth living. In addition to a cohesive, focused story, the production values in I Want to Eat Your Pancreas are also of a high standard: landscapes are beautiful, and the sakura blossoms are animated with great detail to convey a mystical sense for audiences. In conjunction with a collection of strong incidental pieces, the movie’s audio and visual components bring to life a story that I’ve been waiting quite some time to watch I Want to Eat Your Pancreas. Having sat down to finally see it, I can decisively say that the film was well worth the wait: I can easily recommend this film to all viewers, who will walk away from I Want to Eat Your Pancreas with a reaffirmed sense of what living really means.

Domestic na Kanojo: A Review and Reflection

“一听惊惊今次整定煲要掟” –許冠傑, 追求三部曲

Natsuo Fujii is a high school student and aspiring writer with feelings for Hina Tachibana. He attends a mixer with the intent of burying his feelings and ends up banging Rui Tachibana when she asks him to sneak out of the mixer with her. Later, Natsuo’s father reveals that he wishes to remarry, and that his partner happens to be the mother to Rui and Hina. Natsuo subsequently struggles to deal with his lingering feelings for Hina, joins the literature club and later, reaffirms his desire to be with Hina. When their relationship is discovered, Hina agrees to quietly transfer to another school for a fresh start; Natsuo is devastated and pours his heart into writing a novel which subsequently wins a literature prize. With Hina absent, Rui admits to Natsuo that she’s fallen in love with him, and that she’s now free to pursue her own feelings towards Natsuo. This is the short of what goes down in Domestic na Kanojo, a series that turned out rather unexpected: I had entered with no expectations and ended up being compelled to see what would happen with Natsuo each week as his social circle and circumstances entangled him in situations that tested his resolve. In Domestic na Kanojo, I found a series whose setup was improbable to the point of absurdity, and in spite of this, managed to stick the landing in its finale, resulting in a series that truthfully, exceeded my expectations going in. The odds of something akin to Domestic na Kanojo‘s setup occuring in real life is much smaller than the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field, but the premise aside, themes of relationships, resolve and growth were developed to a surprisingly satisfying extent.

Whereas I originally anticipated Domestic na Kanojo to be incoherent in its themes, Natsuo’s enduring resolve to be with Hina throughout the series proved to give a constant reminder of what the series was about. Meandering into realms of infidelity, unrequited love and the dangers of entanglement in situations beyond one’s understanding, all of these elements are relevant to the turbulent, but single-minded nature of love: Natsuo’s determination to court Hina is admirable to an extent, and despite moments that pull him away, Natsuo remains committed to Hina, regardless of the consequences. This persistence corresponds with Natsuo becoming emotionally invested with Hina, and after such a build-up, sets the stage for his tribulations once the school discovers his relationship with Hina. In the manga, all of this build-up sets the stage for Natsuo exploring different relationships and finding them unsatisfactory; in the anime, it is also shown that Natsuo channels his frustrations and pain into a new novel that is written from the heart. From a manner of speaking, Domestic na Kanojo suggests that the most powerful works are written from raw emotion, as readers may empathise with the author’s honesty about how they feel. For Natsuo, it also represents catharsis, and creates an opportunity to start his career on a solid footing. The events of Domestic na Kanojo lead up to this and provides a host of experiences that drive how Natsuo himself chooses to handle things, and overall, while Domestic na Kanojo is rough around the edges, the rawness seen in Natsuo’s work is reflected in the anime itself.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Twenty screenshots is not adequate a space to showcase all of the most risqué or relevant moments in Domestic na Kanojo, which was admittedly quite restrained in its portrayal of skin considering its genre, but for the sake of brevity, is the size I’ve opted to go with. The first episode opened with Natsuo plowing Rui purely for the experience, and this seemingly emotionless action creates a bit of lingering tension throughout the series. This seemingly one-off decision sets in motion events that cannot be undone, and admittedly, was the reason why I started watching Domestic na Kanojo to begin with.

  • The odds of something happening in real life the same way it happened in Domestic na Kanojo is probably much smaller than the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field: at 3720 to 1, this means that there is to be one successful attempt per 3720 attempts, or 0.0269 percent (to three significant figures). Assuming the asteroid field odds, it means given 3720 students of Natsuo’s age, demographic and location, there would be one case where the student’s father remarries a woman with precisely two children, one of which coincidentally happens to be his instructor, and whose younger sister is the person he had a one-night stand with. Assuming these odds, things out there would be a mess: this isn’t the case, so we can conclude the probability of something like this going down in real life is considerably smaller.

  • While not daydreaming about Hina’s style, Natsuo sets about trying to help Rui socialise more with others, hangs out with his friends or otherwise, can be seen writing his novels. An aspiring novelist, Natsuo is remarkably sensitive and thoughtful, ever mindful of what those around him are feeling. While he might be entangled into various situations, his feelings for Hina never waver, and in a series that could easily devolve into one where Natsuo’s feelings are ambiguous, Domestic na Kanojo portrays Natsuo as being singularly focused on pursuing Hina.

  • Of course, there are some situations that Natsuo himself is not prepared for, and he usually abstains when unsure of his feelings in that moment. Hina is 23 at the beginning of Domestic na Kanojo, while Natsuo is 17 – it strikes me that I’m now a ways older than Hina herself and consider her perspectives on “adult” matters to be remarkably immature. This stems from the benefit of hindsight, and thinking back, I do not feel too much more mature at 23 than I did at 17. With this in mind, when I sat through the Otafest volunteer orientation a few days ago and found myself amongst students, I definitely did feel an age gap there.

  • Rumours abound that Hina is seeing someone: Natsuo takes this particularly hard and decides to tail Hina, learning that she’s dating a man named Shū Hagiwara, her former instructor and a biology researcher at a university. Rui accompanies him, although their fieldcraft is terrible and would almost certainly lead to their being burned had Hina even the slightest trace of counter surveillance know-how. Here, they run into Fumiya Kurimoto, Natsuo’s best friend: Fumiya helps Natsuo adopt a new appearance for high school and is always there to support him. He works at a local café run by Masaki Kobayashi.

  • Learning the truth from Shū does little to help Natsuo, and in the heat of the moment, an irate Rui douses him with ice water. Shū does not deny what what he does is wrong, and attempts to placate Natsuo: such moments show that despite his relative naïveté, Natsuo’s black-and-white view on things helps simplify complex situations such that they are appropriately framed for the narrative. Highly intricate, complex stories with unexpected plot twists can grow tiresome, and while some may find these enjoyable, I personally prefer keeping to simpler stories.

  • As Domestic na Kanojo continues, new characters are introduced into the story. Momo Kashiwabara makes an appearance: she’s someone who gets around, but despite this, is a capable student. As it turns out, Momo grapples with loneliness and isolation, seeking companionship in relationships that invariably crumble because of her partner’s lack of understanding. These misunderstandings, coupled with a well-developed figure that draws male gaze, causes Momo to be held in disdain by her female classmates. Rui befriends her in spite of her classmates’ warnings and the two get along cordially.

  • Holding feelings for Natsuo, who views her differently than other boys would, Momo attempts to get closer to him. However, when Natsuo learns of her past suicide attempts and her family situation, he realises that a sexual relationship with Momo wouldn’t help her. He instead opts to cook for her, and decides to support her in a different manner. It’s a rather well-chosen solution that illustrates Natsuo’s character, and also shows audiences that Domestic na Kanojo has no intention of dealing in ambiguity.

  • I admit that I was a bit surprised to learn that Maaya Uchida (Gochumon wa Usagi desu ka?‘s Sharo Kirima and Rei from Vividred Operation) voices Rui, with Yōkō Hisaka (Mio Akiyama of K-On!) providing Hina’s voice. From what I gather, the anime adaptation of Domestic na Kanojo only deals in the earlier events: three years’ worth of content is found in the manga, following everyone’s stories after high school. Immediately, CLANNAD comes to mind, having taken the same approach by portraying Tomoya and Nagisa’s life after high school, but I cannot say that I found Domestic na Kanojo anywhere nearly as compelling as CLANNAD.

  • When Natsuo first meets Miu Ashihara, the literature club’s only member, he sees Reiji Kiriya close to her and assumes they are kissing. However, this turns out to be a misunderstanding, and Reiji, sensing Natuso’s spirits, compels him to join the literature club. Momo and Rui end up joining, as well: this gives Natsuo something else to focus on, as he concentrates on writing short stories to hone his craft as an author.

  • Natsuo’s determination to court Hina comes across as foolish, but his stubborn refusal to stand down is integral for the story: in the absence of this determination, Domestic na Kanojo would quickly decay and unravel, resulting in a series that would be quite devoid of drama. The reduction or even absence of common sense in fiction is something that I am willing to tolerate because it drives the story: characters who act rationally might do so in such a way as to resolve a situation more quickly, shortening the story.

  • I’m pretty sure that all of my readers would unfollow me, or even report me, if I were to go the whole nine yards and show Hina engaged in onanism, even if Domestic na Kanojo doesn’t go the whole nine yards with its portrayal. I am reminded of a similar scene in Yosuga no Sora, where Haruka is horrified to see Sora doing so while calling out his name. Domestic na Kanojo deals with the awkwardness that follows: Hina is almost certain that Natsuo spotted her in the fact.

  • Admittedly, I entered Domestic na Kanojo wondering if it could be a contender for “most interesting anime” when compared with the likes of something like Yosuga no Sora: the verdict I have is that while Domestic na Kanojo goes in an interesting direction, it is not anywhere near as interesting as Yosuga no Sora – I don’t mind admitting that after watching Yosuga no Sora, I’ve been wanting to see another anime that is as raw and visceral, but so far, I’ve not found anything quite like it.

  • During the summer festival, Hina showcases her lack of maturity by wrecking her phone, and then pouting when Natsuo attempts to talk to her and manages to bring Masaki to the table. After seeing Rui kissing Natsuo, Hina announces that she is moving away with the aim of acclimatising to everyday tasks, and it takes a bit of effort for Natsuo to learn of the reason behind it. During this time, Natsuo frequently visits Hina, even when he breaks his leg in an accident. Rui does her best to support him, but later learns that he’s been spending a bit of time with Hina. Distraught that she’s been lied to, Rui runs off, and Natsuo manages to find her.

  • The page quote comes from one of Sam Hui’s songs: “追求三部曲” (jyutping zeoi1 kau4 saam1 bou6 kuk1, “Pursuit Trilogy”) is a comedic song about romance that just goes wrong, with the end result that the suitor is unceremoniously dumped. The Cantonese expression “煲” (jyutping deng3 bou1) is slang for breaking up; while literally meaning “to throw the pots and pans”, I imagine it was picked because of the commotion surrounding break-up, which can be as noisy as throwing kitchenware around. Machine translators cannot pick up this subtlety.

  • Domestic na Kanojo‘s interpretation of Okinawa is nowhere near as intricate or personal as Non Non Biyori Vacation‘s presentation: Okinawa forms the backdrop for a school trip here, during which Natsuo gives Hina an inexpensive engagement ring as a placeholder for when he’s able to have a relationship with her without the associated stigma. However, during their last night, the two succumb to their temptation and their relationship subsequently becomes known amongst the high school’s staff: someone photographed the pair in the aftermath.

  • In order to avoid exposing Natsuo, Hina agrees to quietly transfer schools. The decision is not one that is taken lightly, and Hina does so with utmost secrecy, leaving her address and contact information unknown. This is done to keep Natsuo from the consequences, and in the aftermath, he is unable to accept what’s happened, falling into a depression. Fumiya later slaps sense into Natsuo, who attempts to move on by putting his experiences to paper as a story.

  • Readers have likely become accustomed to me writing about slice-of-life, military-moé and other series with a strong life lesson component, rather than shows with a stronger dramatic element. It’s fun to occasionally step out of my comfort zone to watch and write about shows where my familiarity is lower. It is not lost on me that I have a lot of “theoretical” understanding about romance despite next to no field experience, and as such, my thoughts are not likely be considered as having weight. For those in a relationship, how idealistic, improbable or downright foolish are my thoughts?

  • In the end, Natsuo submits his finished manuscript and meets with his friends, having somewhat made peace with what’s happened. This story later wins an award, and Natsuo is introduced to one of Reiji’s colleagues: things for his career have turned around as a result of the emotional rollercoaster he experienced with Hina, and Natsuo constructively channels this into writing. It was a welcome turn-around in that, whereas some series have the protagonist wallow, Natsuo ends up taking this curse and turning it into a blessing. While his feelings for Hina don’t waver, he ends up recovering.

  • Domestic na Kanojo managed to be the anime that took off, had an engine shutdown mid-flight and then managed a safe landing nonetheless. For exceeding my expectations, I feel that the series has earned a B grade (3.0 of 4): while rough around the edges and implausible by all counts, it is also honest in its portrayal, with the characters learning something through their experiences. With this post done, and the remainder of April looking quite busy, the only posts I can really assure readers of this month will be for Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai (I want to eat your pancreas) and my initial impressions of Valkyria Chronicles 4, after I’ve made it a quarter of the way into the campaign.

Overall, Domestic na Kanojo was not something I had expected to write about, but for a series whose setup is implausible, the portrayal of internal and external conflict, where relationships are concerned, were genuine despite being unrefined. By making use of these implausible situations, Domestic na Kanojo explores directions and elements of romance that would otherwise be unexplored: it is, in a manner of speaking, similar to MythBusters in that conditions are very finely manipulated to determine if a particular myth can occur. Rather similar to how Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman create outrageous scenarios to see if certain things can happen as claimed, Domestic na Kanojo does the same with relationships, lining up the circumstances to create situations that allow romance and desire to be explored in ways that more natural setups cannot replicate. Fiction is a realm where such occurrences are possible; with exaggerated circumstances and characters present, the series ends up being unexpectedly rewarding to watch. Having said this, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this to all audiences, especially those looking for a more natural relationship. This series does require some suspension of disbelief to enjoy, and the characters’ actions can seem illogical, even foolish, at times. However, while Domestic na Kanojo may have its flaws, I remain reasonably satisfied with how things did turn out, and would not really consider watching it to be a poor use of time. I’m not certain on whether a continuation is possible, but the manga continues to detail what happens to Natsuo, Rui and Hina later on; folks interested in seeing what happens next will likely find that to be satisfactory.

Endro!- Final Review and Reflections

“No resurrections this time.” –Thanos, Avengers: Infinity War

Yūsha, Fai, Seira and Mei travel to a tropical island during summer break, where their misadventures allow them to complete their summer assignments. When term resumes, Princess Rona Pricipa O’Lapanesta arrives, eager to meet the new hero, and while she’s surprised to learn the new hero is a girl, she nonetheless becomes enamoured with Yūsha after Yūsha helps save Mao from an irate monster. Mao later becomes sick, so Yūsha and her friends go to help look after her. Rona later longs to learn more about Yūsha’s friends, and accompanies Fai on a trip. She also asks Mao to help draw out heroics from Yūsha, but learn that Yūsha’s more concerned with her friends. Later, Mei receives an invitation to attend the Cartado Festival in Tarka Village. Participating in a hunt for Cartado, Mei only manages to find an extraordinarily large Cartado, but ends up winning the competition. While on a quest in the mountains, the girls are caught up in a snowstorm, and Seira manages to wake everyone up when a Cartado-eating monster puts everyone in a deep sleep. Mao decides to invite Yūsha and the others over for dinner, but her awful cooking ends up being too much for everyone. Even Chibi-chan regurgitates dinner, which includes Mao’s old golem, Meigo. Fearful that Meigo may reveal her identity as the Dæmon Lord, Mao opts to keep an eye on her, but afer Rona uses a Cartado to unlock everyone’s memories and suggests taking Meigo back with her, Mao finally snaps, reveals herself as the Dæmon Lord and kidnaps Rona. The girls manage to track down Mao, but Meigo informs Yūsha that she is close to ending the Dæmon Lord’s power. The girls are conflicted between ending the cycle and being made to kill off Mao, who they’ve come to regard as a friend. In the end, Yūsha refuses to compromise her principles and destroys her sword by having Chibi-chan consume it, while Meigo throws Mao into Chibi-chan’s mouth. It turns out that there’s a pocket dimension inside Chibi-chan, and entry into this space removes an aspect about a character. When Mao is regurgitated, she no longer possesses her Dæmon Lord powers, and everyone is able to continue on their days together in peace. As class begins the next day, Yūsha expresses a desire to be a hero. Thus ends Endro!, this season’s unexpected surprise that proved to be consistently entertaining and warm.

While seemingly an easy-going anime about a group of adventurers, Endro! does have a theme that is appropriate and relevant towards the show: underneath the warmth and joy the show projects through Yūsha and her friends’ misadventures, as well as everyday life, Endro! frequently reminds its viewers that for a given problem, there’s always another solution. This much was presented with Yūsha’s first adventure in a dungeon; they might have gotten lost thanks to Mao’s intervention, but by adapting to the situation, manage to locate the Hero Sword and finish their assignment. Fai and Rona similarly win a melon-eating contest when Rona adapts to the situation and helps an engorged Fai eat one melon, propelling them to victory. When Mei participates in the Cartado hunt, her finding a large Cartado ends up allowing her to win the competition, against her expectations. In the final battle, Yūsha refuses to fight, and instead, casts her weapon away – Chibi again comes to play a significant role in helping liberate their world from an ancient curse, having earlier played a role in defeating a lesser evil. Admittedly, Endro! is very optimistic with its messages; finding alternative answers to problems and making the most of things is not a trivial task, although the presence of cheer and joy in a world under the constant threat of annihilation is intended to show that every cloud has a silver lining. When Endro!‘s conclusion is reached, it is a decisive one, leaving viewers with no doubt that, by simply pushing for other solutions than the ones presented, Yūsha is able to end an age-old curse plaguing Naral Island, paving the way of a peaceful future. It’s a fine ending to a series that was very entertaining and endearing to watch.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Endro!, I had finished three episodes and found myself modestly impressed with how relaxing the show was. With the rest of the episodes in the books now, this series proved to be a very pleasant surprise, and admittedly, just being able to watch things at my own pace enhanced the experience: Endro! is not the sort of show that demands watching on a timely basis and I ended up watching episodes based on when I had time.

  • The forth episode is set on the beaches of a tropical island, and after some standard shenanigans, the girls run into Mackerel-people, whose homeland was conquered by an evil god. During their fight, the girls are outmatched, but Yūsha’s status as a hero allows her to destroy the god’s physical form. Reduced to a small but still potent spirit, the god escapes, only to be consumed by Chibi.

  • I realise that for March, I’ve not actually written all that much about anime, either; we are now on the last day of the month, and this weekend also was the last one that one of my friends was back in town. We went to get sushi (I ended up ordering less sushi and had tempura udon, a piping hot takoyaki and even tried salmon sashimi) before playing Carcassonne for the first time. Despite this being my first ever game, I managed to win, having finished a massive city that scored me forty-two points. Yesterday, I started building the MG Dynames that I ordered at the beginning of the month, and finished earlier today. It’s a solid model with a new frame that gives the kit tremendous posability and stability.

  • Princess Rona is of royalty and able to summon considerable amounts of resources to execute her goals: upon learning that Yūsha is the current generation hero, she puts a carnival for Yūsha, and later, comes to love Yūsha deeply for her heroic spirit. Having read about the exploits of past heroes, Rona has encyclopaedic knowledic of the past heroes: the number of similarities she draws between the heroes and their companies of old suggest at the similarities that people inevitably share.

  • When Mao falls ill, Yūsha and the others go to look after her. In the process, the learn that Mao’s place is a bit of a mess, and help her clean up, before cooking her dinner. The dynamic between Mao and her students is blurred, and Endro! wastes no time in setting up the recurring joke where Seira’s ability for housework is so poor that the others prohibit her from helping out.

  • Rona’s introduction into Endro! livened things up considerably, and I’m rather fond of her character’s place in the series. She’s voiced by Momo Asakura, who also has performed as Charlotte‘s Ayumi Otosaka, Koharu Shirahane of Kuromukuro and High School Fleet‘s Mikan Irako. I was originally intending to write about Charlotte but after procrastinating, lost the resolve to do so, while for Kuromukuro, I never found a strong theme in the series that motivated me to write about it.

  • Introducing Rona into Endro! meant being able to explore character dynamics that are typically left to second seasons: when Rona desires to know Yūsha’s friends better, she accompanies them on their usual activities. Seira and Mei are a bit duller, but Fai’s wilderness excursions creates an opportunity to learn more about Fai; up until now, all viewers know of Fai is that she excels at close-quarters combat and loves food.

  • As it turns out, Fai is from the wilderness and as such, has unparalleled survival skills: her navigational abilities in the forest are exceptional, as is her resourcefulness in making use of natural implements for survival. Endro!‘s wild run means that it has a bit of everything in it, and this ends up giving viewers a much deeper insight into Fai’s character well beyond food. Until this point, both Seira and Mei have been characterised; Seria is booksmart and is nearsighted, while Mei simply loves Cartado and will not hesitate to gush about its applications and history.

  • While Rona may not like melons, she takes one for the team to help Fai win an eating contest. While she may have appetite that is nearly insatiable, this episode shows that even Fai has her limits. The soundtrack for Endro! is quite nice, capturing both the fantasy setting motifs as well as everyday life for Yūsha and her friends. I have not found a tracklist or release date for the soundtrack and surmise that any music will probably be released with the Blu-Rays.

  • When Rona wishes to see Yūsha do heroic things, Mao helps her setup a ploy that entails creating a “fake” Dæmon Lord for Yūsha to fight after Rona “convinces” her to do so. Unbeknownst to her, Mao is actually the Dæmon Lord, and after realising that screwing with Yūsha and her friends could result in a time loop manifesting again, Mao decides to live life peacefully as a teacher. On her first day as a student, Rona’s words to Mao frightens the latter, who wonders if Rona’s secretly figured out her background.

  • Yūsha is frequently counted as being quite unheroic in manner and appearance: her resemblance to Yuru Camp△‘s Nadeshiko Kagamihara is probably deliberate, and the manga, serialised in Comic Fire, began its run in August 2018. That Endro! has characters resembling other Manga Time Kirara characters, in conjunction to its timing, suggests that author Izumi Minami may have drawn on familiar characters to see how a mish-mash of them in a different setting might fare. The answer is simple enough: Endro! works and is very enjoyable.

  • When Mei learns from Tarka that she’s been invited to a Tarka Cartado Festival, she’s enthralled: it’s the equivalent to being invited to Apple’s WWDC or Facebook’s F8 conference, and therefore difficult to get in. Yūsha, Seira and Fai immediately take a liking to the Tarka, and he allows them to join in, as well. When the girls arrive in the Tarka’s world, they find Cartado literally growing on trees; the Tarka guiding them says it’s alright for the girls to grab a few, and it takes Fai’s full efforts to restrain an ecstatic Mei from going wild.

  • Endro! is highly disciplined with its fanservice moments; the girls changing into Tarka clothing is one of them, and Seira is made the subject of another joke when her flat features means that she fits into her initial outfit without any issue. Mei’s similarities to GochiUsa‘s Chino Kafuu stem entirely from the fact that she’s voiced by Inori Minase, and for me, every one of Mei’s lines reminded me of Chino. The similarities end briefly whenever Mei is excited by Cartado, but this is no less endearing.

  • The aim of the Cartado hunt is to find wild Cartado of high rarity; the girls’ search prove quite fruitless, and when they locate a legendary rare (which I imagine would be equivalent to the exotics from The Division), it slips through their fingers. While Mei had been intent on finding one, she feels that just by being at the Cartado Festival, she’s experienced something marvelous and chooses to make the most of it.

  • Mei looks thoroughly unimpressed with the large Cartado that they find here, as it’s a mere common, but Seira, Fai and Yūsha are impressed, having never seen one that large before. This is enough to win the competition, and the Tarka running the show shares this remark. The Tarka burn the Cartado at the end of the festival, leaving Mei torn: she is sad to see Cartado go up in smoke, but also accepts that Cartado has a very clear tradition that must be respected.

  • The tenth episode was focused purely on Seira going into everyone’s dreams to save them from being lost on their own fantasies and freezing to death amidst a snowstorm. Her stubborn will turns out to be an asset: she knows that she’s unlikely to maintain a clean room or have a full figure and is able to overcome the spell that a Cartado-eating monster placed on everyone, whereas everyone else succumbed to their fantasies.

  • After the girls defeat a griffon in a field, they feel as though they’ve improved. Despite the progress they’ve made, they still appear quite weak compared to full-fledged adventurers. This moment captures the sort of scenery that is typical to Endro!: the art and animation are nothing remarkable, but it’s also very clean and smooth. The girls bring news of this quest back to Mao and ask for a more difficult challenge, but Mao declines.

  • While I was writing this talk on Endro!, the Calgary Flames prevailed over the San Jose Sharks 5-3, with goals from Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Mark Jankowski, Sean Monahan and Dalton Prout. Johnny Gaudreau netted two assists, and goaltender Mike Smith had a relatively easy evening, making 12 saves. Three of our goals came within two minutes of the first period, and with this win, the Calgary Flames have won the Division title for the first time in thirteen years, and have also clinched the conference title, as well. This is superbly exciting – we will be starting the playoffs with home ice advantage.

  • Unlike Bender’s cooking in Futurama, which looks as awful as it tastes, Mao’s cooking looks quite nice but manages to put everyone, even Fai, on the floor. Lethal cooking is a commonly employed humour device in fiction: anime typically employs the effect a poorly-cooked meal has on individuals, although I hold that employing visual humour to indicate the cooking’s lack of edibility, is also effective; in Futurama, Bender drops a tray of “drinks” that melt a hole in the floor, showing that stuff like that has no place in a stomach.

  • Even Chibi-chan regurgitates its stomach’s contents: because Chibi-chan is a higher-dimensional being, its stomach is a pocket universe with unusual properties. This is employed as comedy early on, but will later serve a more important purpose in creating Endro!‘s ending. Like a game of Where’s Waldo, I invite readers to find all of the characters amongst the mess, which is probably one of the more detailed moments in Endro! that leads me to wonder if Studio Gukomi expended a sizeable chunk of their budget in creating such a scene.

  • Meigo is a name of Yūsha’s invention, a portemateau of Maid and Golem; Mao’s golem was created to serve her and proved to be an exceptionally effective servant, but somehow ended up in Chibi-chan’s pocket universe. After returning to this world, Mao decides to look after Meigo primarily out of fear that she may accidentally be exposed as the Dæmon Lord, but also finds Meigo’s autonomy a little unusual.

  • In the end, when Rona appears to try and restore Meigo’s memories, she successfully brings back the memories that Yūsha, Seira, Fai and Mei lost after their botched spell. Meigo’s memories are also restored, but she chooses to keep them close and keep Mao safe. Rona suggests taking Meigo back with her, but Mao draws the line here, transforming into the Dæmon Lord and taking Rona back to her castle. The girls are shocked at this revelation and find themselves at a loss for what their next move is.

  • The female knight instructor with a clear-and-present crush on Mao appears, giving the girls a Cartado to find Mao. As they make their way to Mao’s castle, Mao is shown chilling in her usual manner: it turns out that her child-like avatar is her native form, and that she takes on the appearance of a male dæmon purely for theatricality’s reason. Even in this form, Endro! never comes across as being dark, grim or intimidating.

  • Upon arrival, Meigo informs the girls of the story: after nine hundred and ninety eight resurrections, the opportunity to take out Mao for good is at hand, and that even with their lack of experience, Mao’s been weakened with the constant resurrections. This information leaves Yūsha at a crossroad: she’s become fond of Mao as their instructor and cannot bring herself to fight a friend even if the world hangs in the balance.

  • The girls decide to return to the school and figure out why’d they chosen this path to begin with. This is easily the most serious moment in Endro!, but even then, audiences are left with no doubts as what will happen next. Meanwhile, Mao is frustrated at the turn of events and decides to go back to the school to meet her destiny, having grown tired of being alone: as a teacher, she was able to experience the joys of imparting knowledge and the company of others. Feeling that this is preferable to becoming a fully-powered Dæmon Lord, she asks Yūsha to finish it.

  • Making tough choices and being put on the spot, however, is not how Endro! rolls, and when Yūsha decides to take a third option, it stuns everyone. After it is explained to her that deliberately casting aside the hero means allowing Mao to resurrect fully again, Yūsha recoils in horror. However, this is not the end: Meigo chucks Mao into Chibi-chan’s waiting maw. Moments later, she is promptly spat out.

  • As it turns out, Chibi-chan is actually a three-dimensional representation of abstract, high-dimension dragons; when Yūsha used the time spell, it drew the spirits’ attention. Meigo entered the space inside Chibi-chan and lost her golem attributes. Realising this, she acted with the knowledge that having Chibi-chan “eat” Mao would also clean her of her Dæmon Lord powers. The end result is hilarious, and also creates a conclusion befitting of Endro!. The page quote is drawn from Avengers: Infinity War, referring to Loki’s fate after Thanos kills him, but is applicable here in Endro!, as well: with Mao’s Dæmon Lord powers gone, there’s no chance that a Dæmon Lord could appear again.

  • In the end, Endro! merits an A grade simply because it was consistently entertaining each and every week. Not all anime need to have world-changing themes or high-tier artwork to be worth watching, and while Endro! initially looked to be something that I imagined I would enjoy somewhat, it ended up exceeding expectations. Endro! ended up being the only anime I had any inclination to write about this season owing to how busy it’s been.

  • Having wrapped up this post on Endro!, I enter the spring season with my eyes on Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshinshimasu (Strike Witches, 501st Unit Launching!). This series will consist of shorter episodes spanning some 15 minutes each, and I will be writing about it in some capacity. I’m not too sure what other shows in the upcoming season I will be watching just yet and will have a better idea of what my schedule will look like a few weeks into April.

Aside from a positive theme, Endro!‘s greatest strength lies within its setting and how the characters interact with this setting. Whereas a number of series in a fantasy setting tend to feature characters from another life, Endro! treats its world as a self-contained entity whose inhabitants reside there without having any connections to previous lives in alternate universes. As a fantasy world, Naral Island plays host to monsters, settings and phenomenon that accommodate wild adventures, but because Yūsha and the others are fully immersed in their world, they are free to experience (and square off against) its various aspects in a natural way. While Endro! may have chosen to take a slice-of-life approach, anime of different genres can do well to follow Endro!‘s example and return to their roots, forgoing past lives in favour of creating individuals who were born and raised entirely in a fantastical setting. This results in experiences and adventures that are much more authentic and genuine, strengthening the messages a series can convey. With Endro! now over, and the threat of the Dæmon Lord removed permanently, Endro! comes to a decisive conclusion: I find it difficult to suppose that there could be a continuation because of how well loose ends are wrapped up, but if there ever were to be a continuation, I would not have any qualms in following Endro! again. This is a series for folks who enjoy series such as those from Manga Time Kirara; Endro! applies the setup here and utilises the fantasy setting to create unique, but adorable sequences that are a breath of fresh air.

Small Palms: A Swan Song in Revisiting CLANNAD ~After Story~ At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to me. You made me so happy. I don’t want you to be lost, or afraid, or anything like that. From here on out, I know things might be hard sometimes. But no matter what happens, please don’t regret meeting me.” –Nagisa Furukawa

The Girl in the Illusionary World is unable to continue on her journey, having failed to construct an operational aircraft and the robot regrets having encouraged her in this undertaking. She reveals that they knew one another in a previous world, and as she hums Dango Daikazoku, the world begins fading away. Tomoya appears on the hillside road lined with cherry blossoms and chases after Nagisa, promising that he’ll never let go. Nagisa is glad that he’d called out to her, and Tomoya reawakens prior to Ushio’s birth. Nagisa has survived delivering Ushio, and Tomoya prepares to bathe her for the first time. Outside, a miraculous phenomenon can be seen – orbs of light are floating into the sky. The couple sing Dango Daikazoku to Ushio, and begin their journey of raising her together as a family no longer bound to their doom. Five years later, Kyouko is taking Fuuko to the hospital for a check-up, but Fuuko runs off into the nearby woods, where she encounters Ushio sleeping peacefully under the shade of a tree. This marks the end to a journey spanning a year and five months: from CLANNAD‘s first episode, where Tomoya and Nagisa met, to the conclusion resulting from a well-deserved miracle that allows the Okazakis to finally find happiness, CLANNAD has come to an end, and with it, my own journey of revisiting the series ten years after its original airing. In this seventeen-month long journey spanning a total of forty-four episodes, CLANNAD has explored an incredible range of themes, encapsulating this in a story that is engaging, humourous and poignant manner. The characters are multi-dimensional, complex and human; in conjunction with a vividly-portrayed world where attention is paid to detail, weather and lighting that augments every emotion and a sublime soundtrack, CLANNAD represents anime at its very best, telling a compelling and genuine story that viewers of all backgrounds and experiences can connect with.

For me, CLANNAD is a veritable masterpiece among masterpieces for its exceptional execution and presentation of life lessons essential for most everyone. However, the series has not impacted all viewers quite to the same extent, and in particular, the finale left viewers feeling that deus ex machina was employed to provide Tomoya with a happy ending. In effect, these individuals contend, Tomoya is given a free pass and it would take a considerable suspension of disbelief to accept such an ending. Such a reaction can only arise from individuals who’d perhaps forgotten the presence of the light orbs and their function as a visual representation of the strength of individuals’ wishes: ~After Story~ is a very lengthy story, after all, and there are numerous details that foreshadow the possibility of Tomoya being given a second chance. To deny Tomoya this happiness is to contradict the expectations that ~After Story~ have set; Tomoya’s acts of kindness permeate the whole of CLANNAD, and the series does, on top of its other themes, strive to convey that 好心得好報 (jyutping hou2 sam1 dak1 hou2 bou3, literally “good heart, good repayment”, and most similar to the English expression “what goes around comes around”). Having been made to suffer, and in spite of all this, coming out stronger and a better man for it, Tomoya has earned a happy ending with Nagisa and Ushio ten times over for having put everyone ahead of himself throughout CLANNAD. His selflessness and altruism cost him, but Tomoya never complains, never expects repayment and simply does his best for those around him, even when faced with his own challenges, and as such, the forces that are recognise this. Leaving a trail of mended dreams and lives in his wake, even as he struggles to find happiness for Nagisa and Ushio, to deny Tomoya a happy ending would be the epitome of cynicism – the visual novel provides a more detailed explanation of why this is allowed to occur, and in the anime, the end result is identical. Viewers are treated with closure to a very lengthy and very rewarding journey; there is no doubt that Tomoya and Nagisa can share a peaceful and normal future with Ushio. This is the ending that viewers deserve and needed for such a powerful series which indubitably left a profound change in my life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • We come to it at last, the ending of a great journey that spanned seventeen months. The page quote is an extended version of Nagisa’s words to Tomoya after they meet again on the path to school; Tomoya had come to regret meeting Nagisa and bringing suffering upon them both, but she found the limited time they’d spent together to be the happiest she’d known. Naigsa and Tomoya here still retain their memories, having been transported into a pocket universe of sorts where they come to terms with everything that’s happened. After cashing in on the wishes carried in each light orb, Tomoya reunites with Nagisa and his consciousness is transported back to the real world.

  • In this reality, Nagisa survives labour and successfully gives birth to Ushio without any complications, bringing an end to the curse that had lingered. When I first watched this, I found that even in the absence of a complete understanding of the light orbs, the outcome still followed logically from the sum of the acts of kindness Tomoya carried out. To Tomoya, the stress of labour would have dulled his sense of time, and he might have experienced five years’ worth of events in his mind’s eye while tensely waiting for Nagisa to give birth. Of course, this is the scientific approach to things that disregards the light orbs, and the fact is that the light orbs very much have a tangible presence in CLANNAD, acting as the catalyst that allows Ushio to wish for a happy, normal life with her parents.

  • After bathing Ushio for the first time, Tomoya tenderly holds her while Nagisa, the Furukawas and the midwife looks on. The worst is clearly over, and we enter one of the longest, most well-executed dénouements to be shown in any anime I’ve seen. When I first watched CLANNAD seven years previously, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was gearing up for the first of its crossover films with The Avengers, and only two of the Infinity Stones were showcased. The reality and time stones were not introduced until later: of the Infinity Stones, these two could prove useful in creating the realm that Tomoya is returned to.

  • The Infinity Gems were originally conceived in 1972 and since then, have been wielded by a variety of characters, with Thanos being a particularly notable user for having united them to wipe out half the life in the universe. A common joke is that the stones can be used for more mundane purposes, and CLANNAD definitely seems like one such instance. Having said this, the ending strictly does not count as deus ex machina as some have asserted: there is a very well-established basis in how the happy ending came to be. Here, the phenomenon of light orbs rising into the sky can be seen as a sign, a lifting of the curse.

  • Large snowflakes resembling these light orbs are also seen in Kanon, Kyoto Animation’s precursor to CLANNAD. I would very much like to revisit Kanon at some point in the near future. For the time being, as ~After Story~ wraps up, Nagisa and Tomoya sing “Dango Daikazoku” to a sleeping Ushio. The song transitions into Lia’s “Palm of a Tiny Hand”, a highly poignant, but optimistic and uplifting song that accompanies the montage of Ushio growing up. This song is one of the other songs in my library that I typically avoid listening to while out and about: besides “Natsukage” (also by Lia) and “Ichiban no Takaramono”, it’s one of the few songs that can make me cry.

  • Moments of normalcy dominate the montage as viewers watch Ushio grow up with a loving family. From being held, to learning to walk, the ending montage shows Ushio doing the sorts of things that young families do. My parents inform me that I learnt to talk before I could walk, and filled the house with babble before I was going all over the place. Some parents wonder about the correlation between talking early and intelligence, although there is a massive variation in when babies develop linguistic skills on account of things like their environment. For instance, babies who are talked to a great deal will learn to mimic speech earlier.

  • Common, everyday events are a source of joy, and the montage goes through the effort of depicting these moments. Here, Ushio falls after being surprised by a shiba inu after trying to pet it: these spitz breeds are very independent, love being clean and were originally bred for hunting. One of my friends of old has a shiba inu, and I was able to play with this dog as a puppy. It may come as a surprise to some that I’m actually quite fond of smaller dogs, but then again, readers should not be so surprised, since I’ve often expressed that I would like to look after rabbits.

  • Ushio celebrates her fourth birthday at home. I have a photograph of me with a muffin and a candle stuck on it for my earlier birthdays: having celebrated with relatives ahead of time, my parents decided to do something simple on the actual day of my birthday. There’s actually a fairly funny story behind this – I’m told that at the age of two, I was afraid of candles and wouldn’t get near the flame to blow it out.

  • Akio is an avid baseball player, and Tomoya managed to win Nagisa’s hand in marriage after succeeding in hitting a baseball: with the role that baseball has had on Tomoya, it stands to reason that Ushio also begins learning to play baseball. Here in Canada, ice hockey is the national pastime, although it’s an expensive one from a financial and time perspective, so I never got into it. Instead, I took swimming lessons and did karate: today, I still retain basic knowledge about swimming, and I’m a nidan.

  • One summer, Tomoya and Nagisa decide to take Ushio out into the countryside for a vacation of the same one that Tomoya had done in the other timeline. The observant viewer will note that Tomoya is wearing a similar button-up shirt as he did in the Ushio arc, but here, said shirt is buttoned-up and ironed properly. Such a minor detail might easily be missed, but it plainly shows the difference between the Tomoyas seen in the different timelines.

  • The key difference ~After Story~‘s finale shows is that with Nagisa present, Tomoya’s true nature is much more prominent as he devotes his energy towards raising Ushio with Nagisa. The two have differing personalities that complement one another, and having gone through so much together, Tomoya and Nagisa understand one another better than anyone else. The same trip they take with Ushio here is much more relaxed, and taken under much happier circumstances.

  • After watching Super Sonico‘s “Star Rain” episode, I longed to explore somewhere that was nearby, and in the five years following, I have realised this particular dream in a manner of speaking, having capitalised on the summer weather to do hikes and other things. Having said this, I still can’t help but wish that there was a more extensive train and bus service that would allow me to reach the far corners of my province: while driving is fun, so is sitting back and admiring the scenery passing by.

  • Under the same flower field, Ushio runs with a look of pure bliss on her face. There are no meadows where I live, but there are plenty of parks where children have space to hang out and run to their heart’s content. The countryside of CLANNAD is portrayed as a magical location far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city: in Japan, space is at a premium, and such locations are rare in cities. By comparison, Canada is the land of open spaces and beautiful parks are everywhere.

  • Tomoya and Nagisa are probably my favourite anime couple. Despite the extraordinary events they experience, both are down-to-earth and pragmatic. Their relationship is characterised by finding happiness everyday things. If I had to pick a second-favourite couple, Ryuji Takasu and Taiga Aisaka tie for second with Your Lie in April‘s Kōsei Arima and Kaori Miyazono. I have indeed watched Toradora!, having finished the series three years ago and loved every second of it for its natural development of a love story, as I did the developments of Your Lie in April. My favourite love stories involve characters who discover an unexpected love for one another as a result of their objectives bringing them together over a period of time.

  • While my age means that meeting that special someone underneath the cherry blossoms or in a classroom by evening is now relegated to little more than a distant dream, an impossibility, I know that love can come from anywhere, anytime. Rather than pursue something for the sake of being in a relationship, I am going to continue doing me, and then make the most of wherever that will take me. Life is a journey, and the folks who pace themselves for a marathon invariably will find their way in the world.

  • After Ushio is seen joyfully exploring the flower field while her parents look on, the montage transitions over to the what that the other characters have made of their time since graduation. These scenes are functionally similar to the “where are they now” segment of Animal House, which showcases the protagonist’s futures, and which was parodied in Futurama‘s “Mars University”, but in ~After Story~, serve to communicate to viewers that everyone’s found their own path following graduation.

  • Audiences already know that Kyou has become a kindergarten teacher and gets along well with her students. Being able to work with groups of children, while prima facie a fun and joyful job, doubtlessly also has its challenges, and it takes a certain mentality to be successful in this career. I have nothing but respect for my kindergarten teacher, as well as all of my primary school teachers, who were made to put up with my curiosity and the attendant trouble that is supposed to have brought.

  • Ryou is a nurse, and the visual novel further shows that she finds romance, as well. Nursing is a respectable profession, and I have a friend who’s in nursing. I encountered him while visiting a new health campus and was initially wondering if it was indeed him, but thought better of greeting him in case I was wrong. The next day, during karate class, it turns out it really was him, and he was wondering if I was really me, or someone else.

  • Kotomi went overseas to study cosmology in an American university, and is devoted to continuing her parents’ research in M-theory and higher dimensions, an integral part of parallel universes. Her work would likely put her in contact with research from giants like Steven Hawking and Brian Greene. Alternate realities did end up playing a role in CLANNAD ~After Story~, although their precise mechanisms are deliberately left unexplored because they are secondary to the narrative: what matters is that there does appear to be some elements that accommodate the ending that Tomoya ended up getting (and deserving).

  • Youhei pursued a career in modelling, and has reverted to his natural hair colour, indicating a return to the right path. He’s shown screwing up in a road test, and after apologising to his instructor, focuses on continuing with the course. Because Youhei has found a path to pursue, Mei, also has become more cheerful; no longer worried about her older brother’s future, she is free to pursue her own dreams whole-heartedly and is seen hanging out with her friends here.

  • Tomoyo’s future is a bit more uncertain: she’s shown to be gazing out at a sunset on a beach. Many viewers associated this with melancholy and felt that Tomoyo’s future was less positive than they would have liked: in CLANNAD, her main objective was to preserve the cherry trees for her younger brother, and not much more about her aspirations were presented in ~After Story~, but supplementary materials suggests that she is able to realise other accomplishments and find happiness.

  • One question that the epilogue does not explicitly cover, is whether or not Tomoya comes to terms with his father in this new timeline. In the original timeline, Ushio’s presence eventually compels Tomoya to understand his father and make amends. I imagine that Nagisa’s continued presence, her gentle influence and desire to see Tomoya happy would eventually see her encourage Tomoya to make amends, allowing a similar outcome to be reached. It is not inconceivable for a happier, more empathetic Tomoya to undertake such a course of action: they are visiting a town here close to where Tomoya originally met his grandmother, and it could be implied that the whole family is here to catch up with Tomoya’s father and grandmother.

  • If and when I am asked, CLANNAD ~After Story~ is my favourite anime series. I have seen numerous series both before and after, but few have compelled me to care for the characters and their journeys quite to the same extent that CLANNAD ~After Story~ had. In conjunction with superb artwork that looks amazing even a decade later, strong writing, a colourful cast and a soundtrack that adds atmospherics to a scene sufficiently well so that the music itself might be considered a character, I have next to nothing negative to say about ~After Story~.

  • The soundtrack in particular incorporates a range of instruments and composition styles: besides Dango Daikazoku and its variations, the pieces are all appropriate for different moments in the series. It worth mentioning that the incidental pieces in CLANNAD are not all found on the original soundtrack: a handful of pieces with a more distinctly Irish component is included with the Mabinogi soundtrack, itself named for a collection of Welsh prose known as the Mabinogion. The Mabinogi soundtrack is very heavily influenced by Irish elements, giving it a very distinct and unique sound, while the original soundtrack is more conventional in composition, making extensive use of piano to capture emotions.

  • The name “Clannad” is derived off the Irish word for family, “Clann”, and was first used by a family band of the same name that was formed in 1970. Originally known as “Clann as Dobhar”, their name was later shortened to Clannad. Clannad is known for their eclectic musical style, performing folk music and rock with Celtic elements, smooth jazz and even Gregorian chants. Jun Maeda eventually saw this name while writing out the story for CLANNAD and imagined it to be the Irish word for family, giving the series its name.

  • In the epilogue, Fuuko and Kyouko are headed to the hospital for Fuuko’s checkup. Fuuko’s unusual way of thinking gives rise to non sequiturs that make no sense even to Kyouko, and Kyouko can only play along. It’s a gentle ending to what was a highly poignant and emotional journey, and returning Fuuko briefly to the spotlight is a callback to the first season, where Fuuko ends up being the first individual Tomoya helps out, and the first person to feel that Tomoya and Nagisa was a couple. Folks wondering whether or not I will go back and write about the OVAs will be disappointed: I’ve already covered them in some capacity and admittedly, writing about CLANNAD is very taxing.

  • The settings of CLANNAD are based in Mizuho, a town located on the western edge of Tokyo. Its name is never given in CLANNAD, but the city is referred to as Hikarizaka (lit. “Hill of Light”) amongst the fans. As we draw to the close of a revisitation project that spanned seventeen months, I note that even in this time frame, a great deal has happened. CLANNAD captures the idea that the flow of time is relentless, and life is what we make of it: when I first began this journey, it was an October evening that coincided with a pleasant Mid-Autumn festival, I remarked that I would be curious to see whether or not my thoughts would change on this series.

  • My verdict is that, like a fine wine, or a good steak, CLANNAD has become even more enjoyable with age. It’s a timeless series whose messages continue to remain relevant, and I am very glad to have revisited it. When I finished the revisitation for the first season, I asked readers if they would be interested in a continuation. One reader stands out to me for having made the request, and I continued into CLANNAD ~After Story~ for them: if even one reader wishes for me to explore something, I will do my best to honour their request. I understand that this particular is very busy at present, but I do hope that they would have the chance to take a look at these later posts when time allows them to: we both share commonalities in our background, and I greatly enjoyed hearing new perspectives on experiences I have also encountered.

  • This is one of the joys of blogging that has given me the inspiration to continue writing: being able to really connect with readers and share experiences gives both me and the readers a sense that we’re not really alone in this vast world. On the flipside, I am admittedly a little curious to also hear from those who may have not found CLANNAD as moving as as I have; at the end of the day, mine is just an opinion (no matter how well-defined, thoughtful, insightful and detailed it may be), so I would like to see also why some folks did not enjoy CLANNAD. As ~After Story~ draws to a close, Fuuko runs off after feeling something special in the woods nearby: she encounters the Girl from The Imaginary World, who turns out to be Ushio, sleeping peacefully under the shade of a tree.

  • The final still of ~After Story~ shows that in the end, the sum of good deeds, genuine compassion and empathy in CLANNAD has allowed the very city itself to accept its citizens. That Ushio is sleeping in an untouched grove adjacent to a modern hospital shows that humanity and nature can co-exist, much like how people of different backgrounds, experiences and station can co-exist. With this, I have fully finished my revisitation of CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~ in full. Even though these posts have been very difficult to write for, I think the journey itself was well worth it, and I hope that for the readers, these posts have clarified what CLANNAD means to me. Everyone will have their own stories as to which series have had a profound impact on them, and for me, CLANNAD occupies a very special place in my heart, being something that lifted me through challenging times and also broadened my perspective on family.

While a decade may have passed since CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~‘s airing, that the anime remains relevant, moving and engaging in the present is no small feat. With its universal themes of family, friendship, kindness and resolve, CLANNAD is a timeless anime that deals in matters that are common to all of humanity. It is for this reason that CLANNAD is peerless as an anime – touching so many elements that are involved with being a decent human being, the sorts of thing I know in my tongue as 做人道理 (jyutping zou6 jan4 dou6 lei5, literally “principles of being human”), the series forces viewers to introspect and consider what matters most to them. While CLANNAD may not deal with academic, social or philosophical matters that some echelons of the anime community feel to be more important in what counts as a “good” anime, I personally find that the anime that are most relatable and relevant, happen to be those that deal with life lessons ubiquitous to all people. At the end of the day, regardless of one’s station, education and occupation, everything boils down to how one treats those around them. In the contemporary world, it is disappointing and disheartening that so many have forgotten these fundamentals: people no longer look out for one another and put themselves ahead of others with greater frequency, and as such, anime such as CLANNAD can act as very subtle reminders that life is more than the self; happiness is found in being there for others, for putting time into things far greater than oneself. Despite its themes being at the forefront of most everything in CLANNAD, the series never preaches these messages to viewers, leaving them to draw their own conclusions after everything has wrapped up, and subtly inspiring audiences to do good, put in an honest effort and appreciate their blessings. I am certainly glad to have watched CLANNAD: this is a series that pushed me to explore what love is and allowed me to find the strength to face down the MCAT. For everyone who’s been reading these posts every step of this seventeen-month-long journey, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for having accompanied me all this way, as well as for putting up with what I would imagine to be increasingly sentimental and soppy posts.

Non Non Biyori Vacation: A Movie Reflection, Full Recommendation and Perspectives from Travelling to Okinawa

“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

After Suguru wins plane tickets to Okinawa in a shopping mall lottery, Renge, Hotaru, Komari, Natsumi, Kazuho, Kaede, Hikage and Konomi prepare for a vacation in the southern islands. Upon arrival, the girls set off for their inn and check in. Here, they encounter Aoi, the eleven-year-old daughter of the inn’s managers, and after settling in, spend a day on the azure beaches of Okinawa. That evening, the whole group enjoys a delicious Okinawan-style dinner at the inn, and after dinner, Natsumi encounters Aoi practising badminton on her own later, and the two strike up a friendship. Before turning in, Natsumi suggests grabbing some instant noodles, saying that the absence of adults makes things taste more intriguing. The next day, the group goes snorkelling. Renge and Kaede see a stingray, while Hikage is stricken with motion sickness. When they go canoeing, Komari and Hotaru are ensnared by a branch; Kazuho rescues them, and later, they climb up to a waterfall. On the spur of the moment, Kazuho jumps into the pond and is soaked. Later, the girls take photographs by a lighthouse as evening sets in, and spend time with Aoi, who mentions that she is available the next day. To help her out, the girls clean their room that morning. They end up visiting Aoi’s school, and she takes them around lesser known spots around Okinawa, including an ice cream shop, a secluded beach and a viewpoint providing a beautiful view of the island. When night falls, Aoi brings the girls to the beach, where they admire the star-filled skies and frolic in the phosphorescent waters. When their vacation draws to a close, Natsumi is saddened to leave, and she bids farewell with Aoi, asking her to stay in touch. The group return home as evening sets in, and Renge announces that she’s back. Released on August 25, 2018, Non Non Biyori Vacation brings Non Non Biyori to the silver screen for the first time, and during its seventy-minute-long run, brings back the familiar elements that made Non Non Biyori such an enjoyable run, while simultaneously providing a new setting that broadens the girls’ everyday experiences.

Despite being a slice-of-life series, Non Non Biyori excels with its focus on the subtle details of everyday life that often are ignored or taken for granted. Non Non Biyori Vacation continues in the path of its predecessors, detailing the wonders found in the ordinary. In this film, Non Biyori focuses on the different aspects of a vacation. The girls (and Suguru) first experience the highlights of Okinawa from the perspective of a tourist, relaxing on the beach, as well as joining a group to go canoeing and snorkelling in the warm, inviting waters of Okinawa. Besides these more tourist-oriented activities that showcase the best of Okinawa, the girls also befriend Aoi, a girl roughly their age who helps out at her family’s inn. In doing so, they are able to gain a much more personalised experience of Okinawa from a local. Having grown up in Okinawa, Aoi knows all of the ins and outs of the island, and so, is able to bring Natsumi, Hotaru, Komari and Renge on an intimate tour of spots she’s enjoyed. The ice cream shop and viewpoint would not be on the list of destinations for a tour group; the girls thus learn that life on Okinawa is both quite distinct, but also quite similar to their homes. This is the joy of travelling that Non Non Biyori Vacation aims to convey to viewers: being able to travel means being able to experience for oneself the different ways of life people have in different corners of the world, but also appreciate that there are also many similarities in how people live. At the end of the day, we are all human and therefore, part of a global community; sharing many commonalities while at once, having unique cultural aspects that are all immensely valuable. Non Non Biyori Vacation presents both sides of this coin in a concise package: for Natsumi, Komari, Hotaru and Renge, going to Okinawa shows them both what is special about the southern island long considered to be Japan’s Hawaii, as well as the aspects of their lives that are not so different.

At the end of Non Non Biyori Vacation, the film portrays two conflicting different angles on the conclusion of a vacation: one is simultaneously yearning to stay for longer and continue exploring, while at the same time, also begins looking forwards to sleeping in their own bed once again. Natsumi channels the former, having had a much better time in Okinawa than she had originally anticipated, and having made a new friend in Aoi, feels saddened that they can’t spend more time together. Conversely, the other characters have had a similarly enjoyable experience (except maybe Hikage, who was beset with an unexpected number of minor grievances during the trip), and while satisfied, are also growing a little exhausted. The feelings of travel are captured well in Non Non Biyori Vacation, and at the film’s end, Renge expresses what I’m certain everyone feels upon returning home. The film strives to and succeeds in capturing the different facets of travel – these elements are accompanied by visuals that are incredibly life-like. Non Non Biyori Vacation bears the traits of an anime movie, featuring impressive visuals that are vivid and photorealistic. Audiences feel as though they are there beside the cast as they travel Okinawa, feeling the intense heat of summer, refreshing cool of the ocean and everything in between. The exceptional artwork is complimented by a very well-done collection of incidental pieces: the soundtrack for Non Non Biyori Vacation incorporates elements of Okinawan music into its composition, but at the same time, sounds distinctly like the Non Non Biyori soundtrack. This further accentuates the movie’s theme, that travel highlights both the uniqueness of another region, as well as the similarities despite our differences, and as such, acts as a solid accompaniment for the film.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Non Non Biyori Vacation opens up in Asahigaoka, a small rural village located in the heart of the mountains and sporting some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in any anime set in the inaka, which is saying something, considering that shows like Ano Natsu de Matteru also have solid artwork. For this post, I’ve given it the full silver screen treatment: besides an extended discussion, I also have sixty screenshots, each of which can be viewed in full 1080p – the movie is gorgeous from a visual perspective, and I absolutely intend to convey this to readers.

  • I’ve opted to spend less time at the shopping mall that everyone visits because this is a post about going to Okinawa, but have chosen to mention it in some capacity: the film establishes for viewers that Suguru manages to win a vacation while the girls explore a local mall. Because Asahigaoka is a small village, going to a mall such as this would be a very exciting experience. The mall itself is named “Weather” (hiyori is also pronounced biyori, 日和 in kanji), and the series’ name seems to be “non non weather”, a reference to Non Non Biyori‘s often nonsensical but genuine humour in everyday life.

  • Character-defining moments are also set early in the film: Komari is very sensitive about her short stature and diminutive figure, being quite jealous of Hotaru, who is seen here looking at belts and unintentionally embarrassing Komari to no end, who is under the impression Hotaru is looking at undergarmets. The dynamic between Komari and Hotaru is a hilarious one, and created some unique humour during the TV series. In Non Non Biyori, such antics are decidedly fewer, being condensed into the film’s opening moments.

  • Natsumi ends up purchasing a game console with Suguru, having pooled some of their saved money to do so. Despite purchasing a last-generation console, Natsumi remains quite excited and is looking forwards to giving it a go. I’ve never been much of a console gamer: the newest consoles I have are a PlayStation 2 and a GameCube. Despite my being a PC gamer through and through, I am well aware of the merits of a good console: for one, being able to play split-screen with friends means that multiplayer experiences are top-tier.

  • Komari is visibly still hot and bothered from the events of earlier, but when Suguru wins a mall lottery, all thoughts suddenly turn towards their impending trip to Okinawa. Non Non Biyori Vacation follows the structuring of the manga faithfully: the events in the OVA “We’re Going to Okinawa” are original and deal primarily with the preparations leading up to the trip, but scenes of the girls and Suguha at the airport are sourced from the manga.

  • It suddenly strikes me that four and a half years has elapsed since I wrote about that OVA, and presently, it’s great to see Non Non Biyori continue along its run. In that time, I’ve flown to a handful of conferences, went out of country for work-related matters and realised my dream of travelling to Japan for the very first time. While the time frames between anime releases are extremely long, and their waits can seem quite unreasonable, individuals with busy, productive lives will find that time passes in the blink of an eye: it only seems like yesterday that I wrote about the first Non Non Biyori OVA while taking a break from developing the Giant Walkthrough Brain.

  • After Renge takes off to grab some food, Hikage begs Kazuho and Kaede to allow her to accompany them on the trip to Okinawa, admitting that she was acting nonchalant to play it cool in front of Renge. Unfortunately for Hikage, Renge saw everything go down. Moments of exaggeration such as these form the joy in watching Non Non Biyori, and it also speaks to the characters’ familiarity with one another when Kazuho remarks that she’s already got a ticket for Hikage.

  • For the remainder of this post, I will be focused on Hotaru and company’s time in Okinawa: the OVA had covered everything up to their flight, so I’ve jumped ahead to everyone’s arrival in Okinawa. The temperature and humidity is immediately apparent: while the skies are precisely the same shade of vivid azure as they were in Asahigaoka, and the vegetation just as verdant, the tropical vegetation and ambient sounds create a sense of warmth that is not seen in Asahigaoka.

  • The long pauses allow Non Non Biyori Vacation to capture the atmospherics and sights around Okinawa: these visual gaps are intentionally chosen to mirror those of the stills from Asahigaoka, reminding viewers what while Natsumi and Renge are in Okinawa, there are some things that are similar to the sorts of things they might encounter back home. This dichotomy forms the basis for the theme in Non Non Biyori Vacation: travel might be about experiencing new things, but it also provides an opportunity to really see for oneself that there are similarities across the globe in how people live their lives, as well.

  • Upon arriving at their inn, Kazuho and the others check in. They are greeted by Aoi, an eleven-year-old who is the same age as Natsumi. Aoi is unique to the film and was not present in the manga. She is voiced by Shino Shimoji, an Okinawa native who previously played Stella no Mahou‘s Marika Shimizu and Aki from Girls und Panzer. Despite being the same age as Natsumi, Aoi actively helps her family run the inn and Natsumi’s friends point out that despite their ages, the two seem quite disparate as far as maturity goes.

  • After settling into their rooms, Renge decides to show the Okinawan landscape her drawing of home. After Natsumi tampers with the air conditioning (this is a perfectly natural choice of action, and I typically do the same while travelling, since unoccupied rooms usually have their units switched off to save power), the girls subsequently don their swimsuits and hit the beach, kicking Suguru out while they change. The manga has everyone lodging at a more modern hotel, but in the film, the choice to go with a more traditional style inn gives a more distinct character to things.

  • The water effects in Non Non Biyori Vacation are top-tier, comparable to the water seen in the Cry Engine and Frostbite. It looks photorealistic and captures all of the warmth that tropical waters possess. Years previously, I was in Cancun for a conference on artificial life, and during mornings, I would walk the beaches, marvelling at the fact that the water was not bitterly cold. I rather enjoyed that experience, and after delivering a pair of successful talks, one of which was for a colleague’s project, I sat down and sipped a lemon daiquiri under the evening sun.

  • Komari is not particularly skilled at swimming, and while Hotaru is enjoying the water, Komari hesitates to step further out. Everyone is shown as enjoying the beach in their own manner of choosing: Renge sips a fruit cocktail while Kaede watches her, while Natsumi and Konomi play in the waters. Suguha and Kazuho end up resting on the beachside. In Non Non Biyori, the taciturn Kaede is often seen watching over Renge, and despite her disposition, she seems to enjoy keeping an eye on Renge.

  • While it may seem like a paradise that remains confined to the realm of fiction, the beaches of Okinawa do look this nice. Non Non Biyori‘s Okinawa is more vivid and detailed than Harukana Receive‘s Okinawa: here, the setting itself is a character in its own right, while in Harukana Receive, the Okinawa setting was chosen because the warm climate accommodates beach volleyball nicely. Harukana Receive‘s setting is beautiful and well done, but it was secondary to watching Haruka and the others mature – it naturally does not hold a candle to the Okinawa of Non Non Biyori Vacation, whose surroundings are so well done that it does feel like I’m there with everyone else.

  • While it’s a tropical paradise equivalent to China’s Hainan and America’s Hawaii, Okinawa was the site of some of the fiercest fighting during the later days of World War Two. The American forces had advanced via island-hopping to the doorsteps of Japan in 1945, and in April, began a massive offensive to capture the islands. Casualties were staggering, totally some 160000, and by late June, the Allied forces had secured the islands. With ninety percent of the island levelled, and massive civilian casualties, the Allies would convert the island into an airbase from which offensives could be launched against the home islands.

  • Today, the United States maintains an air force base in Okinawa, and the islands have been redeveloped, making it a paradise. Okinawans are among the longest-lived people on earth as a result of their diet and lifestyle, and the karate that I practise, Okinawa Gōjū-ryu originates from Naha. As a result, I would very much like to visit the birthplace of the “hard-soft” style that I practise, and the karate whose principles subtly impacted many aspects of my life. Here, Renge does a sketch of the scene she’s seeing unfold before her: it is pure bliss.

  • This post actually would’ve come out a bit sooner, but this past week has been quite busy, and I’ve had not time to blog: the post about CLANNAD ~After Story~ was written back in mid-February. On my itinerary was a company retreat that saw me visit the mountains with the entire team, and despite being overcast, the weather was very warm. Aside from doing team-building exercises and pushing on with polishing an app for deployment, we visited a frozen-solid Lake Minnewanka, saw more wildlife than I’d ever seen in the National Parks (big-horn sheep and a herd of elk, including one with 12-point antlers), ascended Sulfur Mountain and reached the top as a break in a snowfall occurred, and took a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Lake Louise, where we saw an ice-waterfall.

  • For those wondering, ostrich is quite tough and chewy, with a dull flavour. Kangaroo resembles a very rich, gamy and flavorful steak, while the shark meat I tried is not dissimilar to cod. Alligator meat resembles turkey in texture but has a more fishy flavour overall. The Grizzly House is a Banff institution, although I think that it is only with more adventurous folk, such as my team, that we’d try these: my family would very much prefer a classic cut of AAA prime rib. Tonight, I hit the roads again to visit a local Chinese style buffet, and will need to diligently hit the gym to ensure the food doesn’t defeat me.

  • Following dinner, Natsumi encounters Aoi practising badminton, and then helps Aoi hide this when her mother comes out to check on her. Seeing that Aoi is not so different than herself, Natsumi strikes a quick friendship with her. This particular aspect was absent from the manga, but it adds an additional degree of depth to Non Non Biyori Vacation‘s theme: the story told in the manga alone merely depicts Renge and the others visiting Okinawa for fun, but the movie juxtaposes the differences and similarities of different places to create a much more compelling message.

  • Natsumi decides to pick up some cup ramen after dinner, commenting that no adults around means being able to do the sorts of things they might not normally do otherwise. Her sense of adventure is boundless, and Natsumi is certainly more bold than I am – supervision or not, I tend to be highly rigid, disciplined and quite unwilling to do things that deviate from what I’m used to for the most part. The singular exception is when I am in an environment that allows me to loosen up a little, and I decide that there is no major risk to lightening up a little.

  • Slice-of-life anime prima facie appear to have little by ways of conflict and story, but I’ve found them to be fantastic vehicles for exploring life lessons in a cathartic manner. This is why I have nothing but positive things to say about shows like Non Non Biyori, and why I might be seen as more lenient about such series than most. I particularly enjoy considering personal values and life lessons that these shows bring about: while action-oriented shows might have a more tangible message for its viewers, subtleties in slice-of-life shows make them worthwhile in their own right.

  • Hotaru is ecstatic to be sleeping in the same bed as Komari, but then realises that she always asks her mother for extra time when sleeping in, and then worries Komari might see this side of her. It turns out that she does exactly thus, and then bolts up in embarrassment. Meanwhile, Hikage sleeps on the floor, as they’d run out of beds, and finds herself dissatisfied with the arrangements.

  • For their second day in Okinawa, Kaede and Kazuho take the crew snorkelling and canoeing. They depart the inn under breathtaking weather conditions: the rich colours in Non Non Biyori Vacation give a very visceral sense of being in Okinawa, and I continued finding myself impressed with the artwork, the further I went into the movie. The stunning artwork in this movie is precisely why each and every screenshot can be viewed at full resolution.

  • While Renge and Kaede enjoy the sights of the ocean, even spotting a stingray, Hikage suffers from motion sickness and is unable to explore to the extent that she’d like. It appears that Hikage runs into minor misfortune after minor misfortune during this trip to Okinawa – while this device is employed as a means of comedy, I admit that I am not keen on witnessing people experience low-level problems on a frequent basis: the occasional moment of surprise is what keeps things fresh, and after a while, one would come to feel pathos for individuals like Hikage rather than experience any humour.

  • After snorkelling, the girls join a canoe trip. Komari immediately requests a two-person canoe, citing the reduced risk of falling into the water, but when she boards the canoe, immediately falls in to the water. Dramatic irony and situational irony are abundant in Non Non Biyori: despite its gentle atmosphere, the series is very fond of placing the characters in a series of unfortunate situations to remind viewers that life can sometimes simply be unfair, but in spite of this, there’s plenty of good things, too. Portraying minor misfortunes as something to laugh off, Non Non Biyori shows that looking past these small ills means being able to enjoy things that are truly spectacular.

  • Hotaru and Komari pair up in a canoe and begin to make their way downriver, but while admiring the mangroves, they lodge their canoe in the roots of one of the mangroves. Canoeing down the river of mangroves is a quintessential experience in Okinawa, and the river’s course is smooth enough so that anyone ages three and over can participate. Hence, viewers cannot help but feel a twinge of pity mixed in with their laughs when Komari and Hotaru get stuck and begin panicking in an adorable manner.

  • Movies oftentimes give characters a chance to shine, and in Non Non Biyori Vacation, Kazuho has such an opportunity. Her students can evidently be a handful, and despite her laid-back, lax manner, as well as her tendency to sleep during work hours, she’s actually quite attentive and is mindful of her students. When Kazuho arrives and hears the pair’s calls for help, it’s just another day at the office: she helps Komari and Hotaru extricate themselves from the branches, allowing them to continue on with their adventure.

  • Despite having left their tea and bread in the car from excitement, Kazuho has noticed this earlier and brought the provisions that Komari and Hotaru have left behind. Being able to see another side of some characters in an anime movie serves to enhance the viewer’s ability to relate to them, showing that everyone is multi-faceted. I find that the joy of slice-of-life anime is precisely in seeing characters react and interact under different conditions, revealing a more complex character than one might have otherwise expected. Over time, these interactions shift gradually and the characters mature, mirroring how individuals in reality slowly change over time, as well.

  • After their canoeing adventure, the girls climb a trail leading to a beautiful waterfall. On the spur of the moment, Kazuho jumps into the water, feeling invigorated. It is here that everyone’s adventure begins transitioning from more tourist-oriented activities into a more personalised, self-guided one: Non Non Biyori has long conveyed that the best adventures are often those that occur unexpectedly, and the beautiful scenery surrounding this waterfall gives the cast a chance to explore on their own.

  • Konomi is a third-year high school student who had limited appearances in the TV series: being a ways older than the others, she’s looked up to as a role model and is voiced by Ryōko Shintani, whom I know for her roles in Saki and Love Lab. She takes a photograph of Komari, Hotaru and Kazuho in the water here. In the manga, Kazuho does not jump into the water, and her energy simply results in her crashing subsequently, whereas in Non Non Biyori Vacation, she tires out from a combination of heat and being soaked.

  • As evening sets in, Renge, Natsumi, Hikage and Kaede enjoy the cooling air and darkening skies by the Cape Zanpa Lighthouse. This thirty-metre lighthouse is located in a particularly picturesque area and is suited for photography. Renge sketches the lighthouse here, before joining Natsumi and Hikage in a photograph. The purples of the sunset convey a unique sense of distance to the day’s end: in Asahigaoka, sunsets predominantly have colours in the oranges and reds, but the Okinawan sunsets feature more purples and pinks. This is likely to hint at the different feeling that a tropical sunset might evoke.

  • The page quote for this talk is from J.R.R. Tolkien, whose perspectives on adventure and travel coherently and succinctly mirror my own personality. Being very literal and straightforward, I rather enjoy Tolkien’s style, and in this quote, he simply means to say that knowing there is a home to go back to makes all adventure and hardship more bearable. I admit that I am not much of a traveller; unlike others of my generation, I do not believe that travelling is the sole means to enrich oneself. Justifications for why people of my generation travel include notions that exploring the world is the single most effective way to become a better person, and to this end, travel frequently. While travel does broaden one’s horizon, it is also an endeavour that requires a time commitment. For me, I would much rather put my time into work, developing my interpersonal and technical skills to positively impact the lives of others in a tangible way.

  • While travelling would help me connect with people better, I still would need to prove it with my work experience, and as such, travel is a lesser priority compared to contributing to something much bigger than myself through my work. At the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my friends ended up moving to Japan after meeting someone there while doing a home-stay program, leaving behind family, friends and a prospective career. I don’t think I could pull off something like this: I’m rather like a Hobbit in many ways, preferring the comforts of home and a good routine. Having said this, I am okay with adventure in moderation, and at any rate, moving somewhere to pursue matters of the heart is not exactly a good ROI if things should go south.

  • After arriving back at the inn after a day’s worth of adventure, Natsumi greets Aoi. The gentle purple-pinks of the evening skies become more pronounced, and gives a magical quality to Natsumi’s growing friendship with Aoi. Despite different backgrounds, Natsumi finds that she shares similarities with Aoi, as well. I was quite surprised to learn that Natsumi is voiced by Ayane Sakura, whom I know best as GochiUsa‘s Cocoa Hoto: if one listens carefully, a bit of Sakura’s kawaii voice can be heard in Natsumi.

  • Another evening in Okinawa means another scrumptious dinner. Entering this month, the weather was still brutally cold, and as the work week began, I sat down to a hot and tasty fried chicken ramen with miso-sesame broth, charred corn and snap peas, plus a soft-boiled egg at a local pub. Their fried chicken stands as some of the best I’ve had, being crisply fried while maintaining juicy chicken on the inside. In moderation, good food during a cold day is the perfect countermeasure, and after a meal such as this, even -20ºC weather is not quite so cold. Of course, things are now warming up again, and I am quite glad to see the worst of winter behind us.

  • After dinner, the girls invite Aoi to hang out with them, where Renge shows her some of the drawings that she’d made. It turns out that Aoi is free the next day, and she offers to take them around different spots in Okinawa that are far removed from tourists. This is the side of the world that Rick Steves promotes in his series, Rick Steves’ Europe: taken the path less travelled, Steves highlights local cuisines and sights that often go missed by travellers in favour of more well-known attractions. Having a local guide who knows the area helps greatly and serves to create a more authentic experience: folk of my generation wish to experience this in particular, and I cannot fault them for that.

  • The next morning, Aoi wakes up bright and early to meet up with Natsumi and the others. Even at this early hour, the Okinawan heat is apparent: with the temperature averaging highs of 26ºC throughout the year, the humid sub-tropical climate of Okinawa is a world apart from the winters in my area. This year, winter came later: January was unusually mild, and then the bitter cold slammed the city with five straight weeks of cold. Forecasts are showing warmer weather incoming, and this will be a breath of fresh air, to finally be able to walk outside without a scarf covering my face.

  • Mirroring Aoi’s thoughtfulness, Hotaru and the others have given their room a cleaning so that she is not burdened with the task, and this makes it speedier for everyone to go on their day’s adventures. Simple gestures like these show that for their occasional misadventures, the cast of Non Non Biyori are ultimately good people. Some individuals have stated that this creates the impression that Non Non Biyori has no conflict, and in turn, this prevents the characters from developing. However, I find that exploring characters over time and portraying different sides in an individual is equivalent to character development, so it is inappropriate to dismiss Non Non Biyori on the basis that there are no conflicts in a traditional sense.

  • The soundtrack for Non Non Biyori Vacation is a well-composed one, integrating traditional Okinawan elements (such as the Sanshin) into the incidental music. Familiar motifs from Non Non Biyori also make a return, and together, this is meant to accentuate that Non Non Biyori Vacation is about the fusion of the familiar and unfamiliar. I greatly enjoyed listening to the music for this reason: it evokes imagery of Okinawa in the mind’s eye, while at once being distinctly Non Non Biyori in tone, and as such, the soundtrack is a perfect aural representation of the film’s thematic elements.

  • Aoi takes the girls to her school, where she briefly meets up with a friend before showing them around the grounds. Again, minute details in the environment, such as the stains in the walls surrounding the school and cracks in the pavement, give the environment a more realistic, worn sense. This stands in contrast with the near-flawless infrastructure of Harukana Receive – highly clean environments provide less visual clutter, which is excellent where the focus is on the characters. In something like Non Non Biyori, including these details immerse viewers in the environment.

  • While summer in the inaka often evokes feelings of melancholy in something like Yosuga no Sora, Ano Natsu de Matteru and Please! Teacher, the same colours and atmosphere in Non Non Biyori creates a sense of excitement and adventure. A similar palette was used in CLANAND ~After Story~ to great effect: long days are perfect for adventure, and skies of deepest blue that seem to stretch on forever might be seen as acting for a visual representation of this unlimited possibility. What effect the sky has is affected by the nature of an anime, and seemingly unending skies can also signal uncertainty, as is often the case where romances are involved.

  • Aoi gives everyone a chance to play badminton, and after Natsumi plays Komari, an irate Komari asks Aoi to play Natsumi after she’s beaten. With her experience, Aoi tramples Natsumi without much effort, and Natsumi is utterly exhausted after the fact. However, there’s little time for a rematch, as Aoi’s got an exciting itinerary planned for Hotaru and company. I know the excitement of stuff occurring: things have been hectic as of late, and earlier this week, I had the opportunity to go attend a live-event featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama. In his talk, he emphasised the importance of innovation, cooperation and above all, optimism. I greatly enjoyed the talk, and Obama is a very charismatic, presidential speaker: the reality is that in a world ruled by enmity and discord, we overcome it by showing equal bonds of friendship and trust.

  • This is why I am so insistent about optimism and positivity in whatever I do, whether it be in real life or for my blog. Back in Non Non Biyori Vacation, one subtle touch that I found to be pleasant is the fact that each of Hotaru, Renge, Komari, Natsumi and Aoi have different hats that mirror their personalities. Hotari has a simple but elegant sun hat, while Komari’s hat has a ribbon on it. Both Aoi and Natsumi have ballcaps, and Renge has a bucket hat. Having a good hat is essential in places like Okinawa, where the sun is intense and so is the corresponding UV index. While folks often associate pleasant weather with a high UV index, in places with a higher elevation, there can be a high UV index even when it is overcast.

  • Aoi takes the girls to a shop that sells hand-made Okinawan accessories. In a subtle call-back to Komari’s being perceived as a child, the others notice that a pendant looks sharp on Hotaru, who is more mature for her age. Viewers are largely dependent on dialogue to expose this fact: except for Renge and Kazuho, who have a distinct eye shape, the characters in Non Non Biyori have the same facial features. Barring their hair styles and eye colour, they look very much alike, and I have gotten into the pitfall of mixing characters up. In particular, I find that Hotaru looks very similar to Konomi.

  • After visiting an ice-cream shoppe and savouring sundaes, Aoi brings everyone to an observation point looking over Okinawa. While ice cream had previously not been something I was too interested in, I’ve come to realise that it actually boils down to the hardness and flavour of the ice cream; I’m fond of softer ice cream, and maple ice cream in particular hits the spot. During this past week, I had the chance to try a beaver-tail maple ice cream, which is about as Canadian as ice creams can get.

  • Having local knowledge of an area means being able to take in sights away from the crowds: Aoi brings the girls to a quieter beach, where they enjoy the sights of a calm, rocky beach that is quite far removed from path better travelled. I’ve long had a fondness for exploring the more hidden corners of my homeland and discovering local gems that I normally pass over. For instance, it was taking a second look for holes in the walls that I came across the 514 Poutine in Canmore.

  • In the manga, Renge decides to take a shell home, but in Non Non Biyori Vacation, Aoi suggests that the girls take some white sand home with them, having bought small glass vials with her. This is a wonderful souvenir of what was an immensely relaxing and enjoyable vacation, and also brings to mind a vial of sand from Cancún that I bought. This vial also has a few small seashells within, and the vial is stoppered by a glass ball to keep the sand from coming out.

  • By evening, Aoi takes the girls to the beach where, away from the effects of light pollution, Natsume, Renge, Hotaru and Komari are treated to a stunning view of the night sky, with the Milky Way plainly visible. This is perhaps a more optimistic view of the night skies in Okinawa; most of the island is as bright as Cochrane, which is around 36 kilometres from the city center. While the night skies at this distance are more pronounced than they are in the suburbs of Calgary, it’s still bright enough so the Milky Way would not be easily spotted. As Non Non Biyori Vacation is fiction, this is forgiven.

  • Aoi’s brought the girls here to show them a spectacular phenomenon: Noctiluca scintillans exhibit bioluminescence and when stimulated, will emit a blue light. The girls frolic in the water in a truly magical setting, and similar to a moment in Non Non Biyori Repeat, where Kazuho takes the girls to a pond to watch fireflies, Non Non Biyori Vacation sets one of its most magical moments under the night sky.

  • For me, Non Non Biyori represents a film where, despite the lack of a unifying conflict or an end goal, messages about life are nonetheless present in full. The film is working within the constraints of the manga, which presented the trip to Okinawa as a detour from their routine. There is not supposed to be a conflict or explicit lesson: life simply has breaks in it, and the movie has certainly succeeded in capturing this particular concept, bringing it to life with first-rate visuals and sound. Silver Link has done a phenomenal job on the movie, and presently, with an impressive collection of anime in their profile, I am happy that the studio has continued to find a way.

  • While the manga had Natsumi crying for no discernable reason, the film allows this moment to carry more weight: she’s clearly saddened to leave such a beautiful place, but also is saddened because she’s not able to spend more time with Aoi. The format in Non Non Biyori Vacation allows the film to do things that the manga could not, and this creates a more solid story that can be touching, as well as comedic.

  • For better or worse, the time has come to depart, and Aoi bids everyone farewell. Natsumi promises to write her, and improve on badminton in the meantime. A part of every vacation is the part where one must leave for home, and in my experience, this is usually a mixed bag. On one hand, being in another country engenders a desire to continue exploring, but on the other hand, being elsewhere also amplifies one’s appreciation for their own home. There’s nothing quite like sleeping in one’s own bed after a vacation.

  • While Natsumi is probably the rowdiest of the group, seeing her grow in Non Non Biyori Vacation was probably one of the strongest elements. Despite being unscholarly in manner, Natsumi is shown to have a strong knowledge of the outdoors and is also quite active. She tends to create trouble for others, but at heart is caring for those around her. The film offered Natsumi an opportunity to develop in a manner that the manga did not, and by taking advantage of this, helps viewers like myself warm up to her further.

  • The palm trees and pristine beaches of Okinawa give way to the rolling hills and endless fields of Asahigaoka as the group returns home. The deliberate choice of lighting here, with purples and pinks dominating the evening sky, mirror the sunset of the second day; this was done to remind audiences that while everyone might be back in Asahigaoka, they’re still under the same skies as Okinawa, similarly to how Aoi and Natsumi have commonalities.

  • Having the characters walking apart as they wave goodbyes for the present creates a visual break here. While everyone is parting ways for now, they’re still planning on hanging out in the time that is left before summer is over. I imagine that this film segues into Non Non Biyori Repeat: the manga seems to portray things as taking place after Hotaru arrives in a linear manner, but the TV series’ second season suggests that it’s set in between the episodes seen in the first season. With a third season announced, one wonders where it will fit in the timeline.

  • After arriving home, Hotaru shares her experiences with her parents. Non Non Biyori presents the girls as living in a more old-fashioned environment, and so, do not have access to things like smartphones. I usually communicate with my parents while travelling to inform them that I’ve arrived safely by means of WhatsApp. While I prefer iMessage and Skype in every way, I usually aren’t too picky about the choice of tool I have to use.

  • At the Koshigayas’, Komari recounts her experiences in Okinawa to her mother, while Suguru chills. Natsumi is seen in her room, fondly hanging up the image that Renge had drawn of her and Aoi. Everyone’s gotten something unique out of their experience in Okinawa, and come away with what will be memories to treasure for a lifetime. I note that for the most part, Suguru has not been mentioned to any real extent in my discussions: he’s unique in that he has no voice actor, and his presence is quite minimal.

  • When the Miyauchis arrive home, Renge immediately runs into their house and declares that they’re back. Earlier, Renge wonders if they’ll be able to go back to Okinawa, and Kazuho remarks that such a vacation is too pricey to be doing on a regular basis. Renge decides that in the future, she’d like to go back again anyways. Simple details in conversation give great insights into the characters, and I found that while still having a secondary role in the film, Kazuho was given a few moments that present her as being attentive, mindful of those around her and astute, leaving audiences with the sense that she’s qualified to look after elementary and middle school students despite her lethargic appearance.

  • For my readers, I’m also back in full now: I’ve been writing less so far because my priorities have been on work-related matters. With one major milestone now in the books, I look forwards to continuing on with my work, but for the present, this means that I will be blogging with at least a better frequency than I have in the past several weeks. I’ve long anticipated Non Non Biyori Vacation with enthusiasm, and having finished this post, which is this year’s largest (having some seven thousand four hundred and seventy-six words), I look to the future. I have one final post left for CLANNAD ~After Story~, and will be writing about Ace Combat 7 now that I’ve passed the halfway point. Endro!‘s ending is coming later this month, and I still have one more post on Battlefield V‘s campaign, as well. Finally, I do have (tentative) plans to write about Nagi no Asukara. I would like to thank the reader who’ve stuck around long enough to read this entire post.

Taken together, Non Non Biyori Vacation is an excellent film that capitalises on the silver screen format to deliver a bolder, larger-scale theme while simultaneously remaining very faithful to the structuring and atmosphere seen in the original TV series. Like the themes the film conveys, Non Non Biyori Vacation is both familiar and different relative to the TV series. Watching all of the characters sightsee and experience a more personal side of Okinawa was superbly enjoyable. Non Non Biyori has long excelled at conveying subtle lessons on life in its gentle, cathartic run, and Non Non Biyori Vacation continues on in the same manner its predecessors did. This is a movie that I can easily recommend to anyone who enjoyed Non Non Biyori, and for folks who are looking for something relaxing, Non Non Biyori Vacation fits the bill even if one is unfamiliar with the series. Granted, there are some jokes that require some background in the series to fully appreciate, but the film itself is reasonably standalone such that one could enjoy it even without having seen the TV series or read the manga. It’s been a shade over six months since Non Non Biyori hit the theatres in Japan, and presently, having had the chance to see the movie for myself, I find that this is something that viewers should definitely experience for themselves. Finally, looking ahead into the future, I’ve heard that a third season of Non Non Biyori is in the works, and this is exciting news: Non Non Biyori‘s success comes from being committed to its ability to do more with less. By utilising a simple moment and then drawing the fun from the ordinary, Non Non Biyori shows the merits of taking a step back to smell the roses when the world constantly seeks to accelerate – this is something that is most welcome in my books.